Zale soars thanks to holiday sales results

DALLAS (AP) -- Zale's stock jumped Friday after the jewelry company posted strong holiday sales.

Zale announced that sales at stores open at least a year rose 2 percent at constant exchange rates for the two-month holiday period.

That's above the 1.6 percent increase that it reported a year earlier.

Sales at stores open at least a year is a key indicator of a retailer's health because it excludes the volatility typical of stores recently opened or closed.

Oliver Chen of Citi Investment Research said in a client note that the rise in the key sales barometer was better than expected and encouraging given that the company was likely hurt by the bad winter weather and soft traffic that plagued many retailers during the holiday season.

Sales at Zales stores open at least a year — which includes Zales Jewelers and Zales Outlet — climbed 4.4 percent. Sales at Peoples stores open at least a year rose 2 percent on a constant exchange rate basis.

Piercing Pagoda's sales at kiosks open at least a year fell 5.1 percent.

Zale Corp. said that all of its results for sales at store open at least a year include related online sales for those businesses.

Total revenue for the November-December period fell to $556 million from $567 million, mostly due to fewer stores and a drop in the Canadian exchange rate. Chen was undeterred by the performance, saying that Zale's store base is now healthier.

The analyst reaffirmed a "Buy" rating and $17 price target.

Zale has about 1,680 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Its stock climbed $1.89, or 13.4 percent, to $16.04 in afternoon trading.