Dollar General Corp posted higher-than-expected holiday-quarter earnings and sales as more shoppers came into its US discount stores and spent more per visit, and it expects its momentum to continue this year. Shares of Dollar General, which packs a variety of general merchandise into thousands of small stores, rose 4.1 per cent to $46.59 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Analysts were generally pleased with the results, with profit and sales both exceeding Wall Street expectations. Dollar General’s forecast for the current fiscal year appears “readily achievable and potentially on the conservative side,” said Bernstein Research analyst Colin McGranahan. Still, JP Morgan analyst Matthew Ross said that within the “robust” dollar store sector he prefers Family Dollar Stores Inc over Dollar General right now, as Family Dollar is earlier in its turnaround and has a relatively new chief operating officer, Michael Bloom, leading those efforts. Dollar General, which prices most of its merchandise below $10, has generally done well as high unemployment, gas prices and food prices push those on very limited budgets to cut back on spending. However, shoppers have focused on buying essentials such as food, crimping sales of clothes and discretionary items. During the fourth quarter, more shoppers visited its stores and they spent more when they shopped, although Dollar General said some of that increased spending was due to inflation. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 6.5 per cent and beat the company’s forecast of a 5 per cent increase in same-store sales. The company’s sales gains outpace those of key rivals. In their most recent quarters, same-store sales at Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s Walmart US chain and Family Dollar rose 1.5 per cent and 4.1 per cent, respectively. Dollar General’s profit rose to $292.5 million, or 85 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Feb.3, from $222.5 million, or 64 cents per share, a year earlier. Adjusted earnings per share, which exclude certain expenses, rose to 87 cents from 65 cents and exceeded analysts’ average forecast of 82 cents, according to Thomson Reuters.