Legg Mason upgraded Dollar General (DG ) to buy from market perform.
Analyst Sally Wallick says fourth-quarter earnings per share results were well above her estimates and the Street's consensus of $0.23, mainly because of better than expected gross margin. She notes the strongest merchandise categories include highly consumable goods, with fourth-quarter sales growth of 10.5%; hardware and seasonal saw sales growth of 26.2%.
Wallick set $0.77 EPS for fiscal 2003, and $0.89 estimates for fiscal 2004 (Jan.). She believes the stock's historical trading range may not be a good indicator of likely near-term valuation as the SEC investigation and EPS restatement constrained the stock's multiple last year. She set a $19 price target.