by Brian Lipton

RossCalifornia-based retailer Ross Stores, Inc. has reported financial results for the fiscal year and fourth quarter ended January 28, 2017.

For the fourth quarter, earnings per share we $.77, up 17 percent from the prior year, on net earnings that rose 14 percent to $301 million. Sales for the fourth quarter grew 8 percent to $3.5 billion, with comparable store sales up 4 percent.

For the fiscal year, earnings per share rose 13 percent to $2.83, while net earnings increased 10 percent to $1.1 billion. Sales for the 2016 fiscal year grew 8 percent to $12.9 billion, with comparable store sales up 4 percent.

“We are very pleased with our better-than-expected sales and earnings results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year, especially given our strong multi-year comparisons and the highly competitive and promotional holiday season,” said Barbara Rentler, the company’s CEO. “Our results continued to benefit from our ability to offer customers great values on a wide assortment of gifts and fashions for the family and the home.”

Looking ahead for this fiscal year, which ends on January 27, 2018, Ross is forecasting same store sales to grow 1 to 2 percent. For the 53 weeks ending February 3, 2018, earnings per share are projected to be $3.02 to $3.15, up 7 to 11 percent.

In addition, the company’s board of directors has authorized a new program to repurchase $1.75 billion of its common stock over the next two fiscal years. At recent stock prices, this new repurchase program represents about 6 percent of the company’s total market value and a 25 percent increase over the prior two-year $1.4 billion

“Our larger two-year $1.75 billion stock repurchase authorization as well as the substantial increase in our quarterly cash dividend demonstrate our ongoing confidence in the company’s ability to generate significant amounts of cash after funding our growth and the other capital needs of our business,” said Rentler.