Why Big Lots, Inc. Shares Rallied Big Today

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 closeout retailer Big Lots  (NYSE: BIG  )  soared 20% today after its quarterly results and outlook topped Wall Street expectations.

So what: The stock has been battered ever since management announced its exit of the Canadian market in December, but today's Q4 revenue beat -- $1.64 billion versus the consensus of $1.61 billion -- coupled with market-topping guidance suggests that things aren't as bad as Wall Street thinks. So while earnings plunged 30%, same-store sales sank 3%, and gross margin slipped 150 basis points during the quarter, the not-so-nightmarish outlook is giving Wall Street plenty of good vibes over its turnaround prospects.

Now what: Management now sees full-year adjusted EPS from continuing U.S. operations of $2.25-$2.45. "This guidance is based on U.S. comparable store sales in a range of flat to up 2% and total U.S. sales in the range of flat to slightly down," wrote the company in a statement. "From a real estate perspective, we expect to open 30 new stores and close 50 existing locations in the U.S. during fiscal 2014. We estimate this financial performance will result in cash flow (defined as cash provided by operating activities less cash used in investing activities) of approximately $165 million." When you couple Big Lots' still-fragile competitive and financial position with today's massive rally, however, waiting for a much wider margin of safety seems prudent. 

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