Staples (SPLS) reported third quarter earnings of 40 cents per share, up from 37 cents a year ago.

Sales rose slightly to $6.5 billion, Staples said in a statement. Sales at stores open at least one year fell 1%.

"Our growth initiatives in North America continue to gain traction, and we're making great progress improving the profitability of our International business," CEO Ron Sargent said.

For the fourth quarter, Staples expects sales growth in the low single digits compared with the fourth quarter of 2009. The company forecast earnings per share in the range of 38 cents to 40 cents.

For 2010 as a whole, Staples forecast sales growth in the low single digits and earnings per share in the range of $1.22 to $1.24.

Staples forecast earnings per share of $1.50 to $1.60 in 2011.

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