Shares of Ross Stores Inc. fell late Tuesday after the retailer beat quarterly earnings expectations but said it remained "cautious" in the months ahead. Ross also said its board of directors authorized a two-year, $1.75 billion stock buyback program and a 19% increase in the company's quarterly dividend, to 16 cents a share. Ross said it earned $301 million, or 77 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, compared with $264 million, or 66 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Sales rose 8% to $3.5 billion in the quarter, from $2.35 billion a year ago, and comparable-store sales were up 4%, the same gain as last year's period. Analysts polled by FactSet had expected earnings of 75 cents a share on sales of $3.5 billion for the quarter. The retailer struck a cautious note for near-term sales, however. "There continues to be uncertainty in the political, macro-economic, and retail climates, and we also face our own challenging sales and earnings comparisons," CEO Barbara Gentler said in a statement. "Thus, while we hope to do better, we believe it is prudent to remain somewhat cautious in planning our business for the 2017 fiscal year." Ross forecast same-store sales to grow 1% to 2%, compared with 4% last year, and 2017 earnings between $3.02 a share and $3.15 a share.
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