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American Eagle reaffirms 4Q earnings forecast

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- American Eagle Outfitters Inc. reaffirmed its fourth-quarter earnings forecast, citing a stronger merchandise assortment, better inventory management and restraint on promotions.

But it also said Thursday that a key revenue metric has grown at a much slower pace so far this quarter than it did a year ago. Its shares fell more than 4 percent in morning trading.

The clothing company still expects earnings between 54 cents and 56 cents per share. Analysts surveyed by FactSet predict earnings of 56 cents per share.

Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key gauge of a retailer's health, is predicted to increase by a mid single-digit percentage rate. This figure excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

For the quarter to date, American Eagle said total revenue rose 5 percent. Revenue at stores open at least a year climbed 4 percent, including its online results. Stripping out the online performance, the figure was up only 1 percent.

This is slower growth than a year ago, when the metric climbed 13 percent including online revenue and rose 12 percent excluding online results.

CEO Robert Hanson said in a statement that the Pittsburgh company has seen an increase in business since Christmas and that shoppers are responding well to its spring merchandise.

American Eagle, which runs more than 1,000 stores in North America, will report its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results on March 6.

Its stock fell 93 cents, or 4.5 percent, to $19.70 in morning trading. Its shares are down from a 52-week high of $23.94 in mid-September. But they are up from a low of $12.86 almost a year ago,