NEW YORK (AP) — Target Corp. said Thursday a key sales figure rose a better-than-expected 7.3 percent in March, helped by warm weather.

The discounter, with headquarters in Minneapolis, boosted its first-quarter earnings outlook based on solid results.

The sales results were above analysts’ expectations for a 5.4 percent increase, according to Thomson Reuters. The figure is based on revenue in stores opened at least one year. The metric is a key gauge of a retailer’s health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

Total sales during the five-week period ended March 31 were $6.43 billion, an increase of 7.9 percent from $5.96 billion in the year-ago period.

“March sales were well above our expectations, reflecting a healthy underlying trend combined with the benefit of an earlier Easter and favorable weather this year,” said Gregg Steinhafel, chairman, president and chief executive of Target in a statement.

During a prerecorded call Thursday, Target said that strong performers included food, household essentials, clothing and health care items. Electronics products were among the weakest areas.

The company said that it expects revenue at stores opened at least a year to rise anywhere from 5 to 6 percent for the first quarter.

Target now believes that earnings per share will be in the range of $1.04 to $1.10 per share, up from prior guidance of 97 cents to $1.07 per share. Analysts had expected 98 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Shares of the company added 72 cents to $58.54 in morning trading.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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