DuPont, the nation's third-largest chemical maker, said yesterday that first-quarter earnings grew sharply from a year ago as improved margins...

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DuPont, the nation’s third-largest chemical maker, said yesterday that first-quarter earnings grew sharply from a year ago as improved margins offset increased energy and raw-materials costs, but still missed Wall Street estimates.

Net income rose to $967 million, or 96 cents per share, for the quarter ended March 31 from $668 million, or 66 cents per share, a year ago. Total revenue fell to $7.83 billion from $8.21 billion in the first quarter of 2004.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for the company to post earnings of $1.01 per share on sales of $7.71 billion in the latest quarter.

DuPont reaffirmed its 2005 outlook for earnings per share of between $2.65 and $2.85, while analysts are predicting full-year profit of $2.78 per share, on average.

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Separately, the company announced that it raised its second-quarter common stock dividend by 6 percent to 37 cents per share.

Shares of DuPont, one of the 30 Dow Jones industrials, fell $1.55 to close at $47.03 yesterday.

American Express

Strong card business drives 19 percent gain

American Express, the consumer finance and travel company, reported a 19 percent increase in earnings for the first quarter, driven by strong growth in its card business.

The company said yesterday that profit totaled a record $946 million, or 75 cents a share, in the January-March period, up from $794 million, or 61 cents a share, a year earlier. The year-ago total had been reduced by a charge for a change in accounting.

Revenue rose 10 percent to $7.57 billion from $6.91 billion a year earlier.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had expected earnings of 75 cents a share on revenue of $7.55 billion.

Shares of American Express, a Dow industrial, rose after the results were announced, advancing 58 cents to close at $51.55.

Lockheed Martin

27 percent increase lifts profit forecast

Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, said yesterday that first-quarter earnings rose 27 percent from a year ago and raised profit and sales guidance for fiscal 2005.

Net income grew to $369 million, or 83 cents per share, in the January-March period from $291 million, or 65 cents per share, a year ago. Sales edged up 2 percent to $8.5 billion from $8.3 billion last year.

The first-quarter results include a gain of $31 million for the sale of the Intelsat investment and a loss of $19 million related to an impairment in the value of a single telecommunications satellite. On a combined basis, these items increased first-quarter 2005 earnings by $12 million, or 3 cents per share.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for the company to post earnings of 75 cents per share on sales of $8.75 billion in the latest quarter.

Lockheed Martin raised its 2005 outlook. Earnings are now expected to range between $3.35 and $3.55 per share on sales of $36.5 billion to $38 billion. Analysts are predicting full-year profit of $3.34 per share on sales of $37.16 billion.

Lockheed shares rose 9 cents to close at $59.84 yesterday.

Compiled from The Associated Press