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this morning posted third-quarter earnings of $1.10, well above the 12-analyst expectations of 90 cents, but down from its year-ago earnings of $1.21.

The nation's largest health insurer said earnings fell 14% because of lower profits at its managed care business. Also, Aetna said its U.S. Healthcare division had an 84% decline in operating earnings, citing higher medical costs for commercial and Medicare HMO products.

Brother, heal thyself. Aetna said that its exiting of about half of its Medicare HMO markets on Jan. 1 should result in improved results for that unit.

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The company's operating earnings exclude capital gains or losses and a $5.2 million after-tax charge related to a shareholder litigation settlement agreement. Last year's earnings reflect inclusion of results from its acquisition partner

Prudential HealthCare

from Aug. 6, 1999 forward and also include $14.1 million in after-tax year 2000 costs.

has been tracking

third-quarter earnings.