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Merrill Upgrades Foot Locker to 'Buy'

Merrill Lynch upgraded Foot Locker (FL) to buy from neutral.

Analyst Virginia Genereux says she upgraded on improved sales momentum heading into four quarters of extremely easy sales comps. She thinks the consumer will marginally surprise on upside in the back-to-school season. Genereux says there's a growing likelihood that Foot Locker will get some of Nike's key products for Spring 2004 -- a key driver of the critical urban customer.

She sees long-term margin expansion, which is rare in her universe; she also sees 15 basis points to 25 basis points margin expansion each year on international sales contribution. Genereux notes the improving balance sheet, and growing cash flows. She sees $1.23 fiscal 2004 (Jan.) earnings per share (GAAP), and $1.40 in fiscal 2005. Also, Genereux set a $20 target.

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