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Costco's March sales at stores open at least a year rise 5 percent, top analysts' expectations

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ISSAQUAH, Washington — Costco's sales at stores open at least a year rose 5 percent in March, beating Wall Street's forecast.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected a 3.5 percent increase. Its shares rose in early premarket trading.

This figure is a key indicator of a retailer's health. It excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.

In the U.S., the metric climbed 6 percent for the five weeks ended April 6. It gained 4 percent overseas.

Costco said that the five-week period included one extra day compared with the year-ago period due to the timing of Easter.

Removing lower gas prices and foreign currency fluctuation, sales at stores open at least a year increased 7 percent. The figured climbed 6 percent in the U.S. and rose 9 percent internationally.

Total monthly revenue climbed 8 percent to $10.43 billion.

Costco Wholesale Corp. said Thursday that year-to-date sales at stores open at least a year increased 3 percent. The metric rose 4 percent in the U.S. and edged up 1 percent abroad.

Excluding lower gas prices and foreign currency fluctuation, sales at stores open at least a year climbed 5 percent. The figure also climbed 5 percent in the U.S. Internationally, the metric rose 7 percent.

Total revenue increased 6 percent to $64.65 billion.

Costco, based in Issaquah, Washington, currently runs 650 warehouses, including 462 in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, 87 in Canada, 33 in Mexico, 25 in the U.K., 19 in Japan, 10 in Taiwan, 9 in Korea and five in Australia. Last month the company reported that its fiscal second-quarter profit missed analysts' estimates due to softer sales of some non-food items, weaker gross margins in its fresh foods business and the impact of weaker foreign currency exchange rates on its international results. The year-ago period was also helped by a tax benefit.

Costco shares rose $1.60, or 1.4 percent, to $114.65 in premarket trading about three hours ahead of the market opening.

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