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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights:Costco Wholesale, Target, Wal-Mart Stores, Limited Brands and Hanesbrands

CHICAGO, Nov. 6, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Zacks.com announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Costco Wholesale Corporation (Nasdaq:COST), Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT), Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT), Limited Brands Inc. (NYSE:LTD) and Hanesbrands Inc. (NYSE:HBI).

(Logo:  http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20101027/ZIRLOGO)

Get the most recent insight from Zacks Equity Research with the free Profit from the Pros newsletter: http://at.zacks.com/?id=5513

Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

Costco Posts Healthy Comps

Costco Wholesale Corporation (Nasdaq:COST), one of the leading U.S. warehouse club operators, recently posted sales data for the four-week period ended October 28, 2012 that betters analysts' expectations. Sales for the month were positively impacted by inflation in gasoline prices and favorable foreign currency fluctuation.

After an ascension of 6% in September, Costco's comparable-store sales for October climbed by 7%, reflecting comparable sales growth of an equivalent percentage at its U.S. locations and 9% at international outlets. In the prior-year period, the company delivered comparable-store sales growth of 9%.   

Costco's comparable-store sales for nine-week period ended October 28, 2012 rose by 7% buoyed by a 6% and an 8% jump in comparable-store sale in the U.S. and international locations.                     

Excluding the effects of gasoline prices and foreign currency fluctuations, Costco's comparable-store sales for October augmented 5% with U.S. and international comparable-sales elevating by a similar rate. For the nine-week period, the company witnessed comparable-store sales growth of 5%, with U.S. sales increasing by an equal rate and international sales rising 6%.

Total net sales for October jumped 9% to $7.67 billion from $7.01 billion in the year-ago period. Costco's sales for nine-week period increased 9% to $16.98 billion from $15.62 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Costco continues to be a dominant retail wholesaler based on the breadth and quality of the merchandises it offers. The company's strategy to sell products at heavily discounted prices has helped it sustain growth amidst beleaguered economic conditions, as cash-strapped customers continue to reckon Costco as a viable option for low-cost necessities.

A differentiated product range enables Costco to provide an upscale shopping experience to its members, resulting in market share gains and higher sales per square foot. Moreover, the company continues to maintain a healthy membership renewal rate.

Costco also remains committed to opening new clubs in domestic and international markets. The company's diversification strategy is a natural hedge against risks that may arise in specific markets.

However, Costco faces stiff competition from Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT) and Sam's Club, a division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT), which follows a similar business model that pushes through high volumes of merchandise at low prices in membership-only warehouse clubs. Thus, aggressive pricing to gain market share and drive traffic amid stiff competition may depress sales and margins.       

Costco expects to open 10 new warehouses before December 31, 2012. It currently operates 612 warehouses, comprising 442 warehouses in the United States and Puerto Rico, 83 in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 22 in the United Kingdom, 13 in Japan, 9 in Taiwan, 8 in Korea and 3 in Australia.

Going by the pulse of the economy, we believe that budget-constrained consumers will remain watchful on their spending and look for discounts. Consequently, we could see more competitive pricing, compelling products and innovative ways to attract shoppers. What further concerns us is the recent Hurricane Sandy that led to the temporary closure of several warehouses and this could dent the sales results for November.

Currently, we maintain our long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock. However, Costco holds a Zacks #2 Rank that translates into a short-term Buy rating and well defines the company's consistent comparable-store sales growth. 

Limited Brands Comps Rise

Limited Brands Inc. (NYSE:LTD), a specialty retailer of women's intimate and other apparel, beauty and personal care products, posted comparable-store sales results for the four-week period ended October 27, 2012 that fell short of analysts' projection.

The owner of Victoria's Secret Direct and La Senza chains did sustain its growth momentum, however, rate of increase decelerated sequentially. Limited Brands' comparable-store sales for October 2012 rose 3% following an increase of 5% in September and 8% in August. In October 2011 the company had registered a comparable-store sales growth of 6%.

For November, management expects comparable-store sales to rise in the low single-digits, and hinted that Hurricane Sandy did adversely impacted sales at the beginning of this month, as the stores remained closed.

Comparable-store sales for October increased 3% at Victoria's Secret Stores & Victoria's Secret Beauty and 5% at Bath & Body Works & The White Barn Candle Co. but dropped 2% at La Senza. Sales at Victoria's Secret Direct fell 3%.     

Limited Brands, which competes with Hanesbrands Inc. (NYSE:HBI), said that net sales for October fell 6.3% to $611 million from $652.4 million posted in the comparable prior-year month. The prior-year period sales included $74.4 million from a third-party apparel sourcing business that was sold in November 2011. 

Want more from Zacks Equity Research? Subscribe to the free Profit from the Pros newsletter: http://at.zacks.com/?id=5515.

About Zacks Equity Research

Zacks Equity Research provides the best of quantitative and qualitative analysis to help investors know what stocks to buy and which to sell for the long-term.

Continuous coverage is provided for a universe of 1,150 publicly traded stocks. Our analysts are organized by industry which gives them keen insights to developments that affect company profits and stock performance. Recommendations and target prices are six-month time horizons.

Zacks "Profit from the Pros" e-mail newsletter provides highlights of the latest analysis from Zacks Equity Research. Subscribe to this free newsletter today: http://at.zacks.com/?id=5517

About Zacks

Zacks.com is a property of Zacks Investment Research, Inc., which was formed in 1978 by Leon Zacks. As a PhD from MIT Len knew he could find patterns in stock market data that would lead to superior investment results. Amongst his many accomplishments was the formation of his proprietary stock picking system; the Zacks Rank, which continues to outperform the market by nearly a 3 to 1 margin. The best way to unlock the profitable stock recommendations and market insights of Zacks Investment Research is through our free daily email newsletter; Profit from the Pros. In short, it's your steady flow of Profitable ideas GUARANTEED to be worth your time! Register for your free subscription to Profit from the Pros at http://at.zacks.com/?id=5518.

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