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Best Buy posts better-than-expected earnings

The largest electronics retail outlet's gains seem to indicate consumer spending isn't as off as suspected.

Best Buy reported its fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday and the results were surprisingly good.

The largest consumer electronics retailer in the U.S. posted earnings of $737 million, which comes out to $1.71 per share. Analysts were expecting $1.65 per share. Fourth-quarter earnings per share were also significantly better than the $1.55 posted the same quarter a year ago.

For the fiscal year, revenue was also up 11 percent over a year earlier to reach $40 billion, which Best Buy said was aided by the opening of 137 new retail outlets worldwide.

Wednesday's results sent Best Buy shares up 8 percent in pre-market trading, but they fell back down the same day that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said a U.S. recession "is possible." But for CE makers and analysts watching consumer spending habits, Best Buy's earnings must be somewhat comforting since it appears, at least through the end of March, that people are still shopping for what are essentially luxury goods--TVs, GPS systems, cameras, phones, and notebook PCs.

But it's only a slight comfort because Best Buy's chief competitors aren't handling the current situation nearly as gracefully. Circuit City is having a rough time of it, and CompUSA was killed off late last year, only to be resurrected in January by Systemax.

Best Buy does have some things going for it that its rivals don't. For one, it's cornered the market as the place to shop for a PC at retail. It's the only big-box retailer that offers every single major PC brand--Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Lenovo, Apple, Sony, Toshiba, and Acer.