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Lazard Freres Ups Jones New York Rating

Jones Apparel (JNY) posted $0.85 3Q EPS (pro forma). Lazard Freres upgraded the shares to buy from hold.

Analyst Todd Slater says while he does not see any major improvement in the retail environment, the company's sales were 7% above expectations, with some categories outperforming in a tough environment. He notes the balance sheet is improving; a charge taken to lower inventory levels reduces forward risk in an uncertain environment. He says bookings were in line with guidance. Slater believes estimates next year could prove conservative if consumer spending improves in the second half of 2002. He raised his $2.22 2001 EPS estimate to $2.30 and his $2.55 2002 forecast to $2.60. He also hiked his target to $32.50.

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