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Wachovia Upgrades AnnTaylor Stores

Wachovia upgraded AnnTaylor Stores (ANN) to outperform from market perform.

Analyst Lyn Rhoads Walther says there is a good chance of better-than-expected earnings per share in the second half. She cites the look and focus of new merchandise, new depth in merchandising team (including Jerome Jessup from Gap (GPS)), and outlook of a better economy.

She says another EPS jump in fiscal year 2004 (January)-- after a record high $1.72 EPS in fiscal year 2003 -- could drive ANN above the all-time high trading level seen in fiscal year 2000. Says stock could trade up to $32 to $36. She says the risk-reward is favorable given a good chance for improving EPS in the second half.

She raised her EPS estimate from 40 cents to 41 cents for the second quarter, driven by higher operating margin, and increased her $1.77 fiscal year 2004 forecast to $1.82.

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