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Tiffany is upbeat on holiday sales

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November 30, 2006|From Bloomberg News

Tiffany & Co., the world's second-largest luxury jeweler, said Wednesday that holiday sales were exceeding expectations, and the company raised its annual profit forecast thanks to demand for $20,000 rings and other high-priced baubles.

The retailer's shares surged $2.29, or 6.4%, to $38.22, and gave a lift to stocks of other sellers of luxury goods.

Tiffany Chief Financial Officer Jim Fernandez said the New York-based company expected U.S. holiday same-store sales percentage growth in the "high single digits." Tiffany boosted its earnings projection for the year by 2 cents a share to a range of $1.79 to $1.84.

"This is going to be a good barometer for the rest of high-end retail," said Arun Daniel, an analyst with ING Investments Management. "The holidays are going to be great."

Shares of Coach Inc., the biggest U.S. leather-goods maker, jumped $1.07 to $42.91. Saks Inc., owner of the Saks Fifth Avenue department stores, gained 53 cents to $20.39.

Tiffany issued its forecast after reporting a 23% rise in profit for the quarter that ended Oct. 31, to $29.1 million, or 21 cents a share. Sales rose 9.5% to $548 million.

Luxury retailers such as Tiffany may get a boost from record bonuses expected to be paid on Wall Street this year amid booming takeover activity and a powerful rally in stock and bond markets in recent months.

Tiffany's upbeat outlook contrasts with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s warning over the weekend that its November sales would be the weakest in a decade.

"We are in an environment now where the high end is doing especially well," said analyst David Abella, who helps manage $2.2 billion at Rochdale Investment Management in New York. "As the economy's starting to slow down, that's hitting the lower end a little bit more."

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