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Ross Stores boosts 1Q profit, March sales rise
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PLEASANTON  (AP) — Clothing retailer Ross Stores Inc. says that mild weather helped drive March sales in stores open at least a year up 10 percent, and it's raising its forecast of first-quarter profit.

The company said Thursday that after better-than-expected sales in February and March, it expected to earn between 89 cents and 91 cents per share in the quarter ending April 28. Ross had predicted earnings of 82 cents to 86 cents per share.

Analysts expected 88 cents per share, according to a FactSet survey. A year ago, the company earned 74 cents per share.

The increase in same-store sales beat analysts' expectation of a 4.6 percent gain, according to a Thomson Reuters survey.

Revenue at stores open at least a year is a key indicator of retail strength because it excludes swings caused by opening new stores or closing old ones.

Ross said total sales for the five weeks ended March 31 grew 15 percent to $955 million from $828 million a year ago.

Juniors, children and shoes were the strongest categories, and the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Florida were the best regions, the company said.

Ross left unchanged its April forecast — same-store sales increase of between 1 and 2 percent — citing uncertainty due to the Easter holiday falling two weeks earlier this year.

Ross shares rose 57 cents to $58.94 in morning trading.