Clothing retailer Ross Stores posted better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Tuesday while issuing a cautious forecast for the coming year, citing “uncertainty in the political, macro-economic and retail climate.”

The company — which operates discount clothing chains Ross Dress for LEss and dd’s Discounts – said that earnings per share were up 17 per cent during the three-month period ending January 28 compared to a year earlier, at 77 cents, better than the 75 cents that analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had expected.

Net earnings for the quarter were $301m, versus expectations of $294m, and revenue for the quarter came in at $3.5bn, posting an 8 per cent improvement year-over-year and squeaking past expectations for $3.45bn.

Comparable store sales — a key industry metric — were up 4 per cent during the past quarter, compared to the 3 per cent that analysts expected.

Chief executive Barbara Rentler said she was pleased with the results, given the highly competitive and promotional holiday season. “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,” she said.

The company also announced a new $1.75bn stock buyback programme over the next two fiscal years and a 19 per cent boost to its quarterly cash dividend.

Despite the earnings beat, Ross issued a conservative forecast for the coming fiscal year, predicting comparable store sales growth of 1-2 per cent, compared to the 4 per cent posted for FY 2016, and earnings per share in a range of $3.02-$3.15, just 7-11 per cent higher than the $2.83 posted in 2016.

In addition to broader forces affecting the overall retail climate in the US, Ms Rentler said the company was also tempering its enthusiasm because of the “challenging sales and earnings comparisons” it faces in the coming year. “Thus, while we hope to do better, we believe it is prudent to remain somewhat cuatious in planning our business for the 2017 fiscal year.”

Ross shares, which have risen 23.8 per cent over the past 12 months, dipped 1.5 per cent in after-hours trading.

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