Shares of Macy’s, Merck & News Corp Achieve Annual Stock Price Highs

The following stocks reached 52-week highs during the trading day on Thursday.

Macy’s Inc (NYSE:M): The shares closed up 3.89 percent to $33.92. The stock’s 52-week trading range is $21.69 to $33.98.

During the all-important holiday season, Macy’s same-store sales rose 6.2 percent in December, surpassing analysts’ five percent estimate. According to MarketWatch, Macy’s said total sales for the five weeks ending Decembe 31 increased 6.6 percent to $4.93 billion.

From the better than expected season, the company increased its fourth quarter earnings per share guidance to $1.55-$1.60 from the previous estimate of $1.52-$1.57. It also doubled its quarterly dividend to $0.20 percent share and approved a $1 billion stock buyback.

Merck & Company (NYSE:MRK): The shares closed up 1.04 percent to $38.74.  The stock’s 52-week trading range is $29.47 to $39.00.

After a tough first year, Merck’s CEO Ken Frazier said to analysts at Goldman Sachs’ (NYSE:GS) Healthcare CEO’s Unscripted conference on Thursday that he expects a better 2012, pointing to key new drugs on the horizon and pursuing deals for others in late testing.

Erik Gordon, analyst and professor at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, saw a red flag with the late testing, according to Reuters. Gordon said, “Looking for late-stage deals is not a sign of confidence in the internal late-stage pipeline. Nothing is more expensive than a late-stage deal.”

News Corp. (NASDAQ:NWSA): The shares closed up 1.48 percent to $18.49. The stock’s 52-week trading range is $13.38 to $18.52.

News Corp.’s stock rose after RBC upgraded it to Top Pick, saying in 2012 it offers the best combination among big media firms with its “operating momentum, return of capital potential, company-specific catalysts and reasonable valuation.”

RBC’s research note also cited a potential for the company to see $15 billion in dividends and stock buybacks, ratings growth at FX and a syndication deal if  the TV show The Simpsons, ends its long run.

Ross Stores (NASDAQ:ROST): The shares closed up 5.88 percent to $50.42. The stock’s 52-week trading range is $30.08 to $93.83. Ross Stores reported same-store sales for December rose 9 percent on sales of $1.15 billion, surpassing analysts’ estimates of  4.2 percent.

From the strong numbers, the company revised its quarter two earnings per share guidance to $0.82-$0.83, up from its previous estimate of $0.77-$0.80.

TJX Companies Inc. (NYSE:TJX): The shares closed up 2.92 percent to $66.31. The stock’s 52-week trading range is $42.55 to $66.55.  TJX Companies reported its December sales for the five-week period ending December 31, 2011 was $3.3 billion, up eight percent. This beat analysts’ estimates of 2.6 percent.

The company’s fourth quarter fiscal ’12 earnings per share remained at $1.19-$1.23.

Featured reading:  Home Depot and Chipotle Top 52-Week Stock Price Highs Thursday>>