Upscale department store chain Nordstrom Inc posted on Thursday a 32 percent drop in quarterly net profit that was above Wall Street's estimates and raised its 2009 profit outlook, sending its shares up nearly 4 percent.

Gains in gross profit and credit card revenue, offset in part by bad debt expense, were behind the raised 2009 earnings outlook, Nordstrom said.

Nordstrom's net profit fell to $81 million, or 37 cents per share, in the fiscal first quarter that ended May 2, compared with $119 million, or 54 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding a 6 cents-per-share gain related to the closure of a 2007 federal tax return audit, the company earned 31 cents per share. That was above the 26 cents per share expected, on average, by analysts, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales fell 9.2 percent to $1.71 billion, with same-store sales tumbling 13.2 percent, as reported previously.

Nordstrom, like rival Saks Inc and even mid-priced stores like Macy's and J.C. Penney Co Inc , has endured declining sales for months as thrifty shoppers in the downturn have cut back on purchases.

For fiscal 2009, Nordstrom said it now expects to earn $1.25 to $1.50 per share, assuming a same-store sales decrease of 10 percent to 15 percent.

In February, Nordstrom had given an earnings range of $1.10 to $1.40 per share on the same sales decline.

Last quarter, the retailer said it would stop issuing a quarterly outlook due to economic uncertainty.

Nordstrom shares rose to $21.72 after closing at $20.95, up 3.4 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Richard Chang)