Ahead of the Bell: Tiffany

Analyst lifts Tiffany rating, price target due to gross margin recovery

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- An analyst is raising her rating and price target for Tiffany & Co., citing its gross margin recovery.

Laura Champine of Canaccord Genuity said in a client note that the high-end jewelry company has experienced "notable" margin expansion the past two quarters after they contracted for seven straight quarters. Gross margin measures the percentage difference between revenue and the cost of goods sold.

The analyst said that her previous gross margin forecasts for the fourth quarter and beyond were probably conservative due to lower metal and diamond costs and price hikes that are just starting to be realized by the business.

Champine said diamond and metal costs were 19 percent below their mid-2011 peak at the end of the third quarter, but that it takes about a year for this to impact results, on average.

"We believe product cost deflation and pricing will remain the notable catalysts behind gross margin expansion through 2014, but we believe the company will be able to add incremental margin growth through a recovery in silver and through improved fixed cost leverage over the long haul," the analyst wrote.

Champine boosted Tiffany's rating to "Hold" from "Sell" and increased its price target to $83 from $65.

Tiffany shares rose 89 cents to $90.20 in premarket trading. They are up 56 percent so far in 2013.

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