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Ahead of the Bell: Vera Bradley shares climb

NEW YORK (AP) -- Vera Bradley's stock rose in premarket trading Wednesday after the handbag and accessories seller's upbeat fourth-quarter forecast, which includes the critical holiday shopping season.

The company raised its profit outlook by a penny, to 56 to 58 cents per share, for the three months through late January. It lifted its revenue guidance range by $2 million, to $149 million to $154 million.

Analysts polled by FactSet forecast earnings of 57 cents per share and revenue of $151.9 million.

The company said that customer traffic in its stores fell short of expectations during the quarter, but sales were strong elsewhere. Vera Bradley Inc. sells through other retailers and its website as well as in its own 64 shops and 11 outlets.

The updated forecast shows that Vera Bradley's growth trends remain on track, said Jefferies analyst Randal Konik, despite investor worries. The stock has dropped 31 percent over the past 12 months, closing Tuesday at $23. Konik has a "Buy" rating on Vera Bradley shares and a $35 price target — that means he's predicting shares will rise 52 percent.

Before the opening bell Wednesday, shares added $1.70, or 7.4 percent, to $24.70.

The Fort Wayne, Ind., company expects to report full financial results for the fiscal fourth quarter and year on March 14.