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Strong December sales, year outlook lift TJX

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of TJX Cos. rose Thursday after the discount retailer posted strong sales in December and lifted its outlook.

THE SPARK: The company's revenue at stores open at least a year increased 6 percent last month, when analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a 2.3 percent gain.

This figure is a key measure of a retailer's health because it excludes revenue at stores recently opened or closed.

TJX, which runs the T.J. Maxx and Marshalls clothing chains, now expects profit of $2.50 or $2.51 per share for the fiscal year ending on Feb. 2. It had previously predicted earnings of $2.45 to $2.48 per share. Analysts expect $2.50 per share.

THE BIG PICTURE: Several major U.S. retailers reported December revenue that was better than had been feared after a tough holiday shopping season. November and December are critical for retailers, as these months can make up as much as 40 percent of stores' annual revenue.

Annual net income at TJX has risen by a double-digit percentage every year since 2009 as its discounts draw value-oriented shoppers.

SHARE ACTION: TJX Cos.' stock gained $1.51, or 3.5 percent, to $44.68 in afternoon trading. Over the past 12 months, shares have gained about 40 percent.