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: Women's clothier AnnTaylor (NYSE: ANN) rang up a 10% share price gain this morning after reporting strong improvement ($0.41 per share) over last year's anemic $0.03 Q3 earnings.

So what: Sales were up 9% overall, with same-store sales rising nearly 12%. The most surprising factoid in today's news, though, was the surprising strength of the company's upmarket AnnTaylor stores, which beat the pants off Ann's cheaper Loft brand, scoring a 21.9%-to-4.5% advantage in comparable sales.

Now what: And it gets better. Ann predicted mid-to-high-single-digit comps gains for the holiday quarter to come, echoing bullish sentiment at Target (NYSE: TGT) earlier this week -- and contradicting a dourer assessment at Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT).

After two years of doom, gloom, and malaise, it appears that consumers are feeling frisky again, buying more stylish duds, and willing -- nay, eager -- to pay up for the privilege. Specialty retailers Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF) and Urban Outfitters (Nasdaq: URBN) spread similar good cheer earlier this week.

And yet, with a stock priced at 35 times earnings today, it almost looks like the good news has been baked into this stock price already. It gets a Fool to wondering ... maybe the best way to play this news is to take a position in a cheaper stock such as J. Crew (NYSE: JCG) or Tiffany (NYSE: TIF), before they report next week to try and anticipate the good news, rather than chase it. Thoughts, anyone?

Post 'em below.

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Fool contributor Rich Smith does not have any position in any company named above. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. Wal-Mart Stores is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Wal-Mart Stores is a Motley Fool Global Gains choice. The Fool owns shares of Wal-Mart Stores. Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.