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Ahead of the Bell: Tractor Supply

NEW YORK (AP) -- An analyst raised his rating and price target for Tractor Supply on Thursday, saying the company is likely to see its sales and earnings climb over the long term.

David Strasser of Janney Capital Markets lifted Tractor Supply Co.'s rating to "Buy" from "Neutral" and increased its price target to $125 from $97. In a client note, the analyst said that the retailer for farmers and ranchers has strong business momentum and a skilled management team in place.

Late last month the company reported that its first-quarter profit rose 9 percent as it opened more stores and saw continued strong sales of products such as animal and pet food. And on Thursday Tractor Supply said that it raised its quarterly dividend 30 percent to 26 cents per share. The dividend will be paid on June 4 to shareholders of record on May 20.

Going forward, Strasser said he's confident in Tractor Supply in part because of initiatives like private brand expansion, regionalization and expense control and inventory management efforts.

Tractor Supply said that it is their standard practice not to comment on analyst reports.

Its shares finished at $105.33 on Wednesday. They have traded in a 52-week range of $75.46 to $113.22.