Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) is doing about as well as can be expected in these difficult times, judging by the company's fourth-quarter tidings. However, it did beat analysts' expectations, which gave investors something to hinge some optimism on.

The electronics retailer's fourth-quarter net income dipped 3.4% to $737 million. If you're wondering why its earnings per share actually increased 10% to $1.71 per share, bear in mind the company has been buying back shares. Also note the fourth quarter last year included an extra week.

Best Buy's total sales increased 4% to $13.4 million, while its same-store sales dipped 0.2%, up against a strong 5.9% jump this time last year.

The retailer's quarterly earnings beat analysts' expectations for earnings of $1.65 per share. Also, Best Buy gave guidance for earnings of $3.25 per share to $3.40 per share for fiscal 2009, since it expects the second half of this year to pick up some steam despite near-term consumer weakness. Analysts had expected earnings of $3.33 per share for fiscal 2009.

Best Buy's fourth quarter wasn't really all that thrilling, especially since its EPS number was helped along by the reduced share count and its gross and operating profit margins dipped (plus, Best Buy said gross profit will be unchanged this coming year). However, despite near-term challenges in a difficult macroeconomic environment, I far prefer Best Buy to several of its electronics rivals that are in turnaround mode, such as Circuit City (NYSE: CC) and RadioShack (NYSE: RSH).

I think long-term investors have little to fear with Best Buy, given its customer-centric approach to electronics retail (which is often so glaringly lacking in its rivals). It's also recently loaded up on some initiatives that should help still more, like offering both Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Dell (Nasdaq: DELL) computers in its stores.

I can see why some cautious investors might prefer to see whether the near-term macroeconomic challenges might present a better price on Best Buy, and that may be a thought, but I think this is a quality company for the long term, looking pretty reasonable trading at 14 times earnings.

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Best Buy and Dell have both been recommended by Motley Fool Stock Advisor and Motley Fool Inside Value. Apple is also a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.