Nike

(NKE) - Get Report

swooshed past Wall Street's expectations by 2 cents a share Thursday, reporting a 17% increase in profits on the strength of international sales of its shoes.

Investors liked the results. The company's shares gained 2 3/4, or 8%, to 35 3/4, with most of that increase coming in after-hours trading following the earnings release.

Nike, which is based in Beaverton, Ore., said it earned $145.3 million, or 52 cents a diluted share, in the third fiscal quarter, compared with $124.2 million, or 44 cents a share, in the year-earlier quarter. Analysts surveyed by

TheStreet Recommends

First Call/Thomson Financial

had projected earnings of 50 cents a share.

"Our international business is robust, showing constant dollar revenue growth in every region outside the U.S. and an international futures

purchase orders increase of 20%," said Philip H. Knight, chairman and chief executive, in a statement.

U.S. sales were not as impressive. While sneaker sales increased 4%, to $858.9 million, athletic apparel sales declined 12%, to $251.8 million. Overall, U.S. futures orders -- those purchases scheduled for delivery between March and July -- fell 6%.

European futures orders increased 17%, Asia Pacific increased 19% and the Americas grew 11%. Total worldwide futures orders totaled $3.9 billion, 4% higher than the year-earlier period. Those numbers were in line with analysts' projections.

Nike's stock has been under pressure in the last month, falling 10%. The company's management reduced earnings guidance for fiscal 2000 last month by about 4 cents a share because of a greater-than-expected reduction in retail square footage for athletic footwear and the euro's weakness. Analysts expect the company to post 2000 earnings of $2.08 a share.