Target 3Q profit falls 24 percent in tough economy

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Discount retailer Target Corp. said Monday that a difficult retail environment and weak results from its credit-card segment led to a 24 percent decline in third-quarter earnings.

Profit for the three months ended Nov. 1 fell to $369 million, or 49 cents per share, from $483 million, or 56 cents per share, last year. That was just above the average of 48 cents per share predicted by analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

Revenue rose 2 percent to $15.11 billion from $18.4 billion last year, falling short of the $15.24 billion analysts expected.

The retail sector has been hit hard as consumers pull back on spending amid a deteriorating economy and shaky job market. Discounters such as Target and its chief rival, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., have benefited somewhat as consumers trade down and hunt for bargains, but Target has been helped less by this trend since more than 40 percent of its revenue coming from nonessential such as trendy fashions and housewares.

Chief Executive Gregg Steinhafel said in a statement that the results "reflect the significant macroeconomic challenges facing our retail and credit-card segments."

Sales were helped by new-store expansion, but that was offset by sales in stores open at least one year, which fell 3.3 percent during the quarter.

Profit in its credit-card business fell 83 percent to $35 million from $202 million last year, because of Target's lower investment in the portfolio, a decline in the portfolio's overall performance because of higher bad-debt expenses and lower interest rates.

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