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Merrill Upgrades Aeropostale to 'Strong Buy'

Merrill Lynch upgraded Aeropostale (ARO) to near-term strong buy from buy.

Analyst Mark Friedman says the company is well positioned to sustain strong back-to-school sales momentum from a favorable response to its fall products, and its ability to chase sales. Friedman says the company's lower price points and promotional brands mitigate any downside risk in a difficult retail environment.

Friedman raised the fiscal 2003 (Jan.) earnings per share estimate by a penny to $1.05 (pro forma; GAAP, $0.94), and upped the fiscal 2004 estimate by a penny to $1.34 (pro forma & GAAP). Friedman says the company is trading at 9.8 times the fiscal 2003 earnings per share estimate, about a 61% discount to the estimated 25% growth rate. He has a $20 12-month target, and rates the shares as long-term strong buy.

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