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Dial, Avon Post Solid Results

Dial (DL) and Avon (AVP) posted a jump in earnings Wednesday, as Americans snapped up personal products in the second quarter.

Sales of liquid hand soap and food products helped Dial post a net profit of $35.5 million, or 37 cents a share, better than analysts' estimates, and up from $33.4 million, or 35 cents a share, a year earlier.

"Overall, we achieved favorable results for the second quarter in a challenging economic and retail environment," said Herbert M. Baum, the company's chairman, president and chief executive.

The company also raised its outlook for full-year 2003 earnings by 2 cents a share to $1.33, while revenue growth is expected to be around 3% this year.

Separately, Avon said its earnings exceeded the company's forecast, with the help of a weaker dollar, lower tax expenses, growth in product sales and a larger team of salespeople.

The cosmetics merchant posted earnings of $171.5 million, or 71 cents a share, up from $155 million, or 64 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Analysts had expected Avon to post a profit of 69 cents a share. Net revenue rose 8% to $1.64 billion in the quarter.

Avon forecast 2003 earnings of $2.65 a share, above analysts' projections of $2.57 a share. But third-quarter profit is expected to fall slightly short of Wall Street estimates of 55 cents a share.

Chairwoman and CEO Andrea Jung said that "2003 is shaping up as our fourth consecutive year of meeting or exceeding our financial targets." She added, "Our operations around the world continue to perform very well ... based on strong fundamentals of our business."

After reacting positively to the news early Wednesday, shares of both companies were losing ground amid weakness in the broader market. Dial shares were down 25 cents, or 1.3%, at $19.06, while Avon shares were down 15 cents, or 0.2%, at $63.55.

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