L Brands, owner of Victoria's Secret, says key sales figure rose 9 percent in March

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NEW YORK — L Brands reported a better-than-expected rise in a key sales figure for March, thanks to an earlier Easter.

The company behind Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works said Thursday that sales at stores open a year rose 9 percent in the five weeks that ended April 4, compared with the same month a year ago. Analysts expected a 6 percent rise, according to Thomson Reuters.

Sales at stores open at least a year is a key indicator of a retailer's health. It excludes potentially distorting results from stores recently opened or closed.

Total sales in the month rose 6 percent from a year ago to $981.2 million.

L Brands Inc., based in Columbus, Ohio, operates nearly 3,000 around the world. Its other brands include lingerie retailer La Senza and high-end department store Henri Bendel.

Its shares rose $1.32, or 1.4 percent, to $95.80 in premarket trading Thursday about an hour before the market open. Its shares are up more than 60 percent in the last 12 months.

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