Shares of Big 5 Sporting Goods Corp. soared 34 percent Friday, a day after the sporting goods retailer released first quarter earnings and a second quarter outlook that exceeded Wall Street expectations.

The El Segundo company late Thursday reported first quarter net income of $2.8 million (13 cents a share), compared with $4.1 million (19 cents) a year ago. Net sales fell 1 percent to $210 million.

While profits were down 33 percent, the company's earnings were more than double what analysts were expecting. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected per share earnings of 6 cents on revenue of $201 million.

Big 5 said it expects per share earnings of 10 to 18 cents the second quarter, with sales coming in flat or increasing by the low single digits. Analysts expect earnings of 1 cent per share on $201 million in revenue.

Needham & Co. analyst Sean McGowan upgraded the company's shares from "hold" to "buy," saying the report showed signs that financials were improving. While sporting goods retailers have been hurt by lower consumer spending, Big Five said tight cost controls and its emphasis on low prices are helping results.

"The positive sales trends that we experienced in March have continued in the second quarter," said Chief Executive Steven G. Miller in a statement. "Although we recognize that the overall consumer environment remains very challenging, we are encouraged by our recent sales performance and remain confident in our strategy to weather the current economic climate."

Big 5 shares closed up $2.83, or 34 percent, to $11.06 on the Nasdaq.

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