updated 8/11/2005 9:05:43 AM ET 2005-08-11T13:05:43

Discount retailer Target Corp. on Thursday posted a steep decline in second-quarter profit from a year-ago period inflated by a hefty gain, but strong sales carried the company’s results ahead of Wall Street estimates.

Net income fell to $540 million, or 61 cents per share, from $1.41 billion, or $1.53 per share, the year before, when the sale of its Marshall Field’s chain boosted earnings by $1.11 per share. On a continuing operations basis, Target’s earnings grew 50 percent over last year’s $360 million, or 39 cents per share.

Revenue in the latest quarter totaled $11.99 billion, up nearly 14 percent from $10.56 billion a year earlier, driven by a 6.7 percent rise in sales at stores open at least a year, as well as store expansions and higher credit sales.

Minneapolis-based Target’s quarterly results topped the average estimate for earnings of 59 cents per share and sales of $11.95 billion from analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Target shares rose $1.15, or 2.1 percent, to $56.69 during pre-market activity. The stock has been trading in a 52-week range of $40.03 to $60.

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