Why Shares of Haverty Furniture Cos. Jumped

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of Haverty Furniture (NYSE: HVT  ) were looking sturdy today, climbing as much as 15% after a strong fourth-quarter earnings report.

So what: The specialty furniture retailer said earnings per share improved from $0.30 a year ago to $0.42, beating the $0.39 estimate. Sales increased 7.6% to $195.2 million on a 9.5% jump in comparable-store sales, both better than expectations. Management said the same-store sales increase was led by a 7.8% increase in average ticket as it focused on higher-price-point products, allowing the company to expand gross margin by 120 basis points to 54%. 

Now what: While a comparable-store sales increase of 9.5% is certainly impressive, I'd prefer to see the improvement coming from increased traffic rather than a higher average transaction. Management can only boost the price tag of its products so often, but customer count can always grow. The company said same-store sales are up 3.6% in the current quarter, meaning we're unlikely to see a repeat performance of 2013, when comps jumped 11%. Gross margin and new store additions are also expected to be essentially flat this year, meaning Haverty seems like just an average stock at this point.

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