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Target's 3Q results to offer consumer clues

NEW YORK (AP) -- Target Corp. is expected to report third-quarter financial results Thursday that should offer insight into its sales for the holiday, the biggest shopping period of the year.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Target, which sells cheap, trendy clothes and home decor under the same roof as toothpaste and cereal, is expected to offer clues as to how the holiday shopping season might shape up for the discounter. The period, which runs roughly from November through December, is a time when retailers can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue.

During a media conference last month in New York, Target's CEO Gregg Steinhafel said he was optimistic about the holiday season. He cited a number of new initiatives.

Among them, Target's decision to match prices that customers find on identical products at some online competitors this holiday season, including Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Bestbuy.com, Toysrus.com and babiesrus.com. The price match program, which covers the period from Nov. 1 through Dec. 16, is an attempt to combat the "showrooming" trend in which shoppers use their smartphones while they're in stores to browse for products at cheaper prices. Other retailers have rolled out similar programs this season.

Target also launched its first holiday campaign on TV in mid-October, a month earlier than last year. The discounter also has teamed up with luxury merchant Neiman Marcus to offer a limited collection spanning from fashion to sporting goods. More than 50 products from 24 designers, including Oscar de la Renta and Diane von Furstenberg will be available at both stores and on their websites starting Dec. 1 until they are sold out.

WHY IT MATTERS: Target's size, its sweep across American consumer markets and its broad offerings make it a barometer of consumer spending, which is an important part of the U.S. economy.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: For the third quarter, analysts on average expect the Minneapolis-based chain to report 78 cents per share on revenue of $16.92 billion, according to FactSet.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: A year ago, Target earned 82 cents per share on revenue of $16.36 billion.