I'll start with the highlights of the quarter as shown on Page two of the conference call slide presentation. Third quarter sales increased 3% to $6.5 billion underlying sales growing 6% as robust growth in process management was driven by strong energy in markets in recovery of sales deferred from the Thailand flooding and supply chain disruption.
The strong US dollar particularly against the euro reduced growth by 3%. Gross profit margin improved 80 basis points from the prior year to a record of 40.5%. Operating profit margin of 19.9% increased 180 basis points from the prior year, benefiting from strong sequential operating profit leverage of 55%. Earnings per share of $1.04 increased 16% from the prior year achieving a record for the third quarter.
Today Emerson’s Board of Directors approved a fourth quarter dividend payment completing 56 consecutive years of dividend increases. The third quarter reflected solid results with strong operational execution despite slowing of the global economy.
Next slide, P&L summary. Again net sales increased 3% and underlying sales grew 6% with mixed demand among end markets and regions. Operating profit margin of 19.9% improved to 180 basis points to prior year benefiting from a strong volume leverage, cost reduction benefit and recovery of process management of sales and profit from the Thailand flooding..Earnings growth of 13% along with the repurchase of 4.4 million shares drove an EPS increase of 16%. Next slide undergoing sales by geography. Underlying sales in the US grew 6%, Europe was flat, Asia grew 9%, Latin America grew 19%, Canada grew 10% and Middle East and Africa grew 5%. Total underlying sales grew 6%, currency translation deducted 3% with net sales increasing 3%. Moving to slide 5, profitability detail. Gross profit margin of 40.5% improved 80 basis points and achieved a record level. Lower SG&A as a percent of sales drove further margin improvement as operating profit margin expanded a 180 basis points.