99 Cents Only Stores said it will raise its top price for the first time in 26 years to a fraction under $1 in response to "dramatically rising costs and inflation."

The 0.99 cent increase to a maximum price to 99.99 cents will take place at its 277 stores later this month, said the City of Commerce-based retailer in a statement after Monday's market close.

"This nearly one cent price raise will help 99 Cents Only Stores offset some of the increased costs of doing business including higher fuel and commodity costs, while still maintaining its leading position as America's inflation fighter," said Chief Executive Eric Schiffer in a press release.

The discount retailer last month reported a net loss of $1.5 million (2 cents per share) in its 2009 fiscal first quarter, compared to net income of $3 million (4 cents) a year ago.

The increase was less than had been speculated about after the chain disclosed this summer that it was considering raising prices on some of its more costly items, such as milk and eggs.

Shares of 99 Cents Only closed up 45 cents, or 5 percent, to $9.53 on the New York Stock Exchange, with no immediate movement in after-hours trading.

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