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Express stock jumps on strong Black Friday sales

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Express Inc. jumped Wednesday after the clothing retailer said it rebounded from a weak third quarter with record sales on Black Friday.

Express sells casual and work clothing meant to appeal to men and women in their 20s. During the third quarter the company said customer traffic fell sharply, but Express said it has taken a series of steps to strengthen its business. Those moves included clearer price and promotional strategies and lower-priced items in key sales categories. Express said those helped it record strong sales on Nov. 23, which is considered the start of the holiday shopping season.

"As we begin the fourth quarter, we are pleased to report that our clear promotional messaging contributed to a record Black Friday performance that exceeded our expectations," said Chairman and CEO Michael Weiss.

For the third quarter ended Oct. 27, net income fell by almost half, to $17.4 million, or 20 cents per share, from $32.7 million, or 37 cents per share. Revenue slipped 4 percent, to $468.5 million from $486.8 million, and sales in stores open at least a year — a key metric of a retailer's health — fell 5 percent.

Analysts expected net income of 17 cents per share on $468.9 million in revenue, according to FactSet.

The Columbus, Ohio, company cut its third-quarter estimates at the beginning of October because of the decrease in shopper traffic and increased discounts. The results the company reported on Wednesday met those reduced expectations.

Express said it experienced good results from its men's business, solid e-commerce sales, and met its store expansion goals.

At the end of the quarter Express operated 618 stores, including locations in the U.S. and Canada and franchises in the Middle East and Latin America. The company plans to have 625 stores at the end of the current quarter.

Looking ahead, Express expects to earn between 62 and 68 cents per share in the fourth quarter. Analysts expect 57 cents per share on average. The retailer forecasts that sales in stores open at least a year will fall in the low single digits.

Shares of Express rose $1.45, or 11.2 percent, to $14.44 in morning trading. In early trading the stock rose as much as 14.1 percent. Express stock has lost about 44 percent of its value since the company announced its first-quarter results in late May. Shares are down 13.5 percent since Oct. 2.