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The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Wal-Mart, Costco, Limited Brands, Zumiez and Clear Channel Outdoor

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For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL – March 2, 2012 – announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include Wal-Mart ( (WMT - Free Report) , Costco (COST - Free Report) , Limited Brands ( , Zumiez (ZUMZ - Free Report) and Clear Channel Outdoor ( (CCO - Free Report) .

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Here are highlights from Thursday’s Analyst Blog:

Plethora of New Info – Most of It Good

Fed-watch aside, investors have two broadly positive economic releases this morning in the Jobless Claims and Personal Income & Outlays reports. The monthly Personal Income & Outlays report for January was a tad shy of expectations, but pointed to continued positive improvement in the economy.

Wednesday’s favorable revision to the fourth quarter GDP, driven mostly by the Personal Income & Outlays component, is pointing towards positive momentum coming into the first quarter. The income strength is particularly noteworthy, as it is likely reflecting more resilience in the labor market than captured by the official payroll data.

We will get the official February jobs numbers on Friday next week, but all indicators are pointing towards momentum building in the labor market. This morning’s Jobless Claims data is just the latest in that regard, which will likely get further confirmation by the employment component of today’s ISM report.

Initial Jobless Claims came in better than expected – down 2K to 351K vs. expectations of a modest rise. The prior week’s tally was modestly revised upwards to 353K from the originally reported 351K. The four-week average, which smoothes out the week-to-week fluctuation, dropped 5.5K to 354K, the lowest level since March 2008. This key data series has been consistently moving favorably in recent weeks, contrary to initial skepticism on the part of some in the market, pointing to a steadily healing U.S. labor market.

In corporate news, we got a 9% dividend hike from Wal-Mart ( (WMT - Free Report) this morning. We are also getting February same-store sales numbers from a host of retailers this morning, with better than expected results from Costco (COST - Free Report) , Limited Brands ( and Zumiez (ZUMZ - Free Report) . Shares of Clear Channel Outdoor ( (CCO - Free Report) will be in the spotlight today following the company’s announcement this morning of a special dividend for its Class A and B shares.

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