Shares of PetSmart, Inc. (NASDAQ: PETM) touched a new 52-week high of $43.39 on Thursday. The company reported a 20 percent growth in fourth quarter earnings on Tuesday, helped by more customer transactions and a strong holiday season.

The Phoenix, Arizona-based pet products retailer reported fourth quarter earnings of $90.28 million or 77 cents a share, compared to $75.03 million or 61 cents a share last year. Sales rose 8.1 percent to $1.52 billion. Analysts had expected profit of 74 cents a share on revenue of $1.51 billion.

For the quarter, comparable store sales, or sales at stores open for at least a year, grew 6.3 percent benefiting from comparable transactions growth of 4.4 percent. This is considered a key metric of a retailer's financial health as it excludes stores that open or close during the year.

Merchandise sales rose to $1.36 billion from $1.26 billion, while services sales grew 7.2 percent to $151.88 million. Other revenue was $8.53 million for the latest quarter.

Looking ahead into the first quarter, the company expects earnings of 52 cents to 56 cents a share, while the Street predicts 54 cents a share. The company anticipates first quarter comparable store sales of low- to mid-single digits.

For the fiscal 2011, PetSmart projects earnings of $2.23 to $2.35 a share and sales growth in the range of mid-single digits, while Street analysts predict profit of $2.32 a share on revenue of $6.0 billion. The company predicts comparable-store sales to grow in range of 3 percent to 4 percent.

The company said it released its earnings a day earlier than scheduled as some of its results had been mistakenly published on its investor relations website briefly after the market closed Monday.

Wedbush Securities reiterated Thursday its rating at outperform while raising its price target to $51 from $43, as it believes PetSmart is the best-positioned specialty pet retailer when more discretionary pet spending resumes with a recovering economy, as well as strong execution.

We see a number of factors to drive the company’s business, including compelling new products, the reset of the hard good and consumables areas, and improving sales of seasonal, hard goods, and services. The company’s long-term EPS growth plan is working out despite the challenging macro environment, said Joan Storms, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

Our thesis is that initial guidance looks conservative based upon solid execution as well as slowly recovering sales trends in hard goods. PetSmart has a strong balance sheet and cash flow leading to ongoing share repurchases, said Storms.

Wedbush raised its 2011 EPS estimate for PetSmart to $2.32 on revenue of $5.978 billion from $2.25 on revenue of $5.977 billion, while introducing its 2012 estimate of $2.65.

PetSmart stock gapped open sharply higher March 3 at $41.92, compared to Wednesday's close of $41.44. The stock touched a new 52-week high of $43.39 during the trading.

The stock closed Thursday's regular trading up 2.70 percent at $42.56 with a volume of 1.54 million shares on the NASDAQ stock market. The stock traded between $28.88 and $43.39 during the past 52 weeks.