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Ahead of the Bell: Susquehanna upgrades Skechers

NEW YORK (AP) -- A Susquehanna analyst on Wednesday raised his rating for Skechers USA Inc. to "Positive" from "Neutral," saying that the shoe company's sales are improving and should continue to do so next year.

Skechers sells its shoes in its own stores and through other retailers. It has struggled in recent years to compete for customers and shelf space with larger competitors, and had flooded the market with too many toning shoes, driving down prices. The weakening economy in Europe has also hurt its international division.

But now the Manhattan Beach, Calif., company appears to be on the upswing, with retailers liking its new shoe styles, said Susquehanna analyst Tom Haggerty. He also said he thinks that Skechers is doing a better job managing its expenses, which could boost profits.

The company said last month that revenue from other retailers and its own stores was improving, and it was on track to grow profitably in 2013.

The Manhattan Beach, Calif., company posted a loss of $67.5 million last year, and analysts polled by FactSet expect that the company will barely break even in 2012. They predict $44.7 million in net income next year.

Haggerty predicted that Skechers will a profit of 88 cents per share next year. He set a $22 price target on the stock. Shares closed Tuesday at $16.96, already up 40 percent this year.