Liz Claiborne Shares Popped: What You Need to Know

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 fashionista Liz Claiborne (NYS: LIZ) were strutting their stuff today, gaining as much as 15% in intraday trading after the company reported fourth-quarter earnings.

So what: Though the company's income from continuing operations per share of $2.04 was a spectacular leap from the $0.13 that it earned a year earlier, that tally is a bit misleading. In the final quarter of 2011, Liz Claiborne completed the sale of its namesake brand as well as the Monet and Dana Buchman brands. All told, those sales brought in a whopping $271 million.

After backing out the brand sales, the bottom line showed a 29% YOY drop in adjusted earnings per share, from $0.14 to $0.10. That $0.10 did match the estimates of Wall Street analysts following the company.

Now what: Liz Claiborne's results in 2011 were hurt by the continued struggles of its Juicy Couture line as sales fell 15% from 2010. Looking ahead, it appears that there may be some glimmer of hope for the segment as direct-to-consumer comparable sales fell just 8% in January and a more moderate 2% in February (to February 25).

More encouragingly, the company's other two major brands -- Lucky Brand and kate spade -- showed some really good momentum in the first two months of the year. For Lucky Brand direct-to-consumer comparable sales shot up 29% in January and increased 21% in February through the 25th of the month. The numbers for kate spade were 30% and 16%, respectively.

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