Footwear maker Skechers USA Inc on Tuesday said it swung to a fourth quarter profit of $2.1 million versus a net loss of $12.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2003.

David Weinberg, the company's chief financial officer attributed the improvement "to the sale of more in-line products, less markdowns and returns, and the careful management of expenses."

Earnings also benefited from a $4 million tax gain due to better than expected results.

Net sales for the fourth quarter ended 31 December 2004 were $206.5 million, up 17.8 per cent on the $175.3 million reported in the fourth quarter of 2003. Gross margin for the quarter grew to 39.9 per cent from 33.7 per cent in the prior year.

Fiscal year 2004 net earnings were $23.6 million versus a net loss of $11.9 million in 2003.

Net sales were $920.3 million for the year, as compared to net sales of $835.0 million in 2003.

The company now expects first quarter 2005 net sales to be in the range of $235 million to $245 million and diluted earnings per share in the range of $0.21 to $0.26 per share.