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P&G Outlook Disappoints

The consumer-products giant says commodity costs will hit margins.

Procter & Gamble (PG) - Get Report reported a 14% jump in first-quarter earnings, at the high end of expectations, as sales grew across each of its segments.

But the consumer-products giant offered a slightly softer-than-expected outlook for the current period, noting that higher costs and investments may weigh on margins. Shares of the Cincinnati-based


component were slipping 3% in early trading.

For the quarter ended Sept. 30, P&G earned $3.08 billion, or 92 cents a share, up from $2.7 billion, or 79 cents a share, a year earlier. The results included a 2-cent-a-share tax benefit.

P&G's guidance called for earnings of 88 cents to 90 cents a share. Analysts projected earnings of 89 cents a share, according to Thomson Financial.

Sales climbed 8% to $20.2 billion from $18.79 billion the prior year, in line with Wall Street's $20.23 billion forecast. Organic sales -- which exclude the effect of acquisitions, divestitures and foreign exchange -- rose 5%.

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The company said its fabric and home care, baby and family care and grooming segments led its growth. Brands including Charmin, Pampers, Pringles and Tide had double-digit sales rises.

Gross margins in the quarter inched up 10 basis points to 52.9% of sales, as higher prices, cost savings and volume leverage offset a jump in commodity costs.

For the December quarter, P&G anticipates earnings of 95 cents to 97 cents a share, compared with analysts' 97-cent estimate. The company said its gross margins are expected to be temporarily lower because of higher commodity and energy costs and investments in its laundry division. Operating margins are expected to improve "modestly."

The company said it expects gross margins to improve in the second half of the fiscal year, due to pricing, the benefits of its plan to compact its laundry packaging and cost savings from restructuring moves.

For the fiscal year, P&G lifted its earnings forecast by 2 cents to a range of $3.46 to $3.49 a share, excluding the tax benefit. The company expects operating margins to improve by 50 to 100 basis points for the year.

Analysts, on average, target full-year earnings of $3.47 a share.

Shares of P&G were down $2.73 to $69.10 early Tuesday.