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Shares of CarMax Inc. (KMX - Analyst Report) hit a 52-week high of $41.94 on Mar 15. Shares of the company started escalating buoyed by its impressive fiscal third-quarter results, aggressive store expansion strategy, fast recovery in the auto industry and recent extension of its share buyback program. The company's previous 52-week high was $41.69.

CarMax is one of the largest retailers of used vehicles. The company pioneered the used car superstore concept with the inauguration of its first store in 1993. It operated around 117 used car superstores in 58 markets as of Dec 20, 2012. It has a market cap of $9.5 billion.

CarMax benefits from its focus in the used-vehicle market, which will help outgrow peers. Moreover, the company’s inventories are closely aligned with sales trends, which optimize gross profit per vehicle sold while offering great value to customers. Currently, it retains a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

CarMax reported a 13.9% rise in earnings per share to $0.41 in the third quarter of fiscal 2013 ended on Nov 30, 2012 from $0.36 in the year-ago quarter. Earnings surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 39 cents per share.

The company’s net sales and operating revenues for the quarter climbed 15.1% to $2.6 billion from $2.3 billion in the third quarter of fiscal 2012. Revenues also beat the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $2.5 billion.

In the first nine months of fiscal 2013, the company opened 8 superstores. CarMax plans to open 10 superstores in fiscal 2013.

Last month, the board of directors of CarMax approved an extension of its existing share repurchase program to $500 million from $300 million due to its confidence in the business and ability to deliver its growth objectives. The extended authorization will expire on Dec 31, 2014.

On Oct 17, 2012, CarMax’ board authorized the repurchase of up to $300 million of its common stock, which was supposed to expire on Dec 31, 2013. As of Nov 30, 2012, the company repurchased 1.7 million shares of its common stock for an average price of $34.53, leaving $239.8 million available for repurchase.

Auto sales in the U.S. rose modestly by 3.7% year over year to 1.19 million vehicles in February. This translated into a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR) of 15.4 million units for the year, up about 2% from 15.1 million units registered in the same month of 2012.

Sadly, the growth rate in sales came at the lower end of the 4%–6% projection made by and This can be attributable to rising gas prices (up 36 cents to $3.78 per gallon in February) and turbulence in the stock market. However, improving construction market, cheap financing and strong pent-up demand kept the recovery in the U.S. auto industry on track.

Besides CarMax, other stocks in the auto retailers industry that are currently performing well include Lithia Motors  Inc. (LAD - Snapshot Report), Penske Automotive Group, Inc. (PAG - Analyst Report) and Sonic Automotive Inc. (SAH - Snapshot Report). These stocks carry a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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