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Ahead of the Bell: Dollar General

NEW YORK (AP) -- An analyst from Citi Investment raised her price target for Dollar General on Tuesday as the discounter's fourth-quarter profit beat analysts' expectations.

On Monday, Dollar General Corp. reported quarterly earnings of 97 cents per share. Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of 90 cents per share.

Deborah Weinswig of Citi Investment Research said in a client note that the earnings topped her estimate of 91 cents per share, with the results helped by gross margin improvement. Gross profit margin is a measure of how much of each dollar of sales that the company gets to keep.

Dollar General also gave a forecast for 2013 adjusted earnings between $3.15 and $3.30 per share. Wall Street expects $3.27 per share, while Weinswig is looking for $3.30 per share.

The analyst said that the Goodlettsville, Tenn., company's growth in sales and earnings per share should get better as the year progresses as sales of goods such as tobacco, beer and liquor and other efforts begin to kick into high gear. Weinswig said that Dollar General also tends to be conservative with its outlook.

The analyst boosted Dollar General's price target to $67 from $65 and maintained a "Buy" rating.

Dollar General shares slipped 8 cents to $51 in trading 2 ½ hours ahead of the market opening on Tuesday. It rose $1.01 to finish at $51.08 on Monday.