WET SEAL STOCK RISES ON EARNINGS FORECAST

NEW YORK — Wet Seal Inc., the junior specialty retailer, set a new 52-week high during early trading Tuesday after announcing it expects to report fourth-quarter earnings substantially above analysts’ forecasts.
The Foothill Ranch, Calif.-based company said it expects to post earnings of 96 to 98 cents a share for the quarter ended Feb. 3. Analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial have on average been expecting earnings of 74 cents. In the year-ago period, Wet Seal earned 27 cents.
For its just-ended fiscal year, Wet Seal said it expects earnings of $1.52 to $1.54 a share, compared with First Call’s consensus estimate of $1.35 and $1.11 earned in the year ago period.
Wet Seal shares closed up $2.63 to $33.38, an 8.5 percent increase. The company set a 52-week high of $34.94 in morning trading.
The company said it has more than $100 million in cash and investments at the end of the fiscal year, and no long-term debt.
The 552-unit junior specialty chain reported net sales for the five-week period ended February 3 rose 58 percent to $44.2 million compared to $28 million the 4-week period ended January 29. January comparable-store sales increased 23.3 percent.
Wet Seal will report earnings results on March 21, before the market opens.

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