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Nike beats Wall Street estimates in profitable first quarter

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Nike Inc. reported a better-than-expected 25 percent increase in first-quarter profits on Monday, helped by its strongest U.S. orders in more than seven years.

For the three months ending Aug. 31, the sneaker and athletic apparel manufacturer earned $1.21 per share, or $326.8 million, compared with 98 cents per share, or $261.2 million, at the same time a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had predicted $1.11 a share.

In trading Monday morning, Nike shares were up $1.36, or 2 percent, at $77.92 on the New York Stock Exchange.

``It really was an earnings surprise _ they beat us by 10 cents. I really can't remember when the company beat us by that margin in the past,'' said Mitch Kummetz, senior equity analyst for D.A. Davidson & Co. in Portland.

He attributed much of the results to an improved relationship with retailer Foot Locker, and a renewed interest in performance footwear because of the Olympics.

First-quarter sales were up 18 percent to $3.56 billion from $3.02 billion a year ago.

Worldwide orders jumped nearly 10 percent, with less than 1 percent of the growth due to changes in currency rates.

Beaverton-based Nike also reported a large increase in its U.S. orders, which rose 12 percent to $1.4 billion _ reversing a declining trend in the national shoe market over the last several years.

``We're off to a great start,'' said Philip H. Knight, Nike's chairman and chief executive, noting that domestic orders are their highest level in more than seven years.
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