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Smithfield Foods'


second-quarter earnings rose 61% from a year ago, boosted by strong demand for hogs.

The livestock farmer and processor earned $58.4 million, or 52 cents a share, in the three months ended Oct. 31, compared with earnings of $36.2 million, or 33 cents a share, last year. The latest quarter included a charge reflecting legal and closure costs. Sales rose 32% from a year ago to $2.72 billion.

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Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting earnings of 52 cents a share on sales of $2.71 billion.

Smithfield said pork sales rose 62% from a year ago to $1.88 billion while beef sales fell 20% to $527.2 million. The former reflected both higher prices and higher production and a 30% increase in export volume. Sales from hog production rose 73% to $526.5 million and the segment's profit doubled, driving the earnings gain.

"The futures markets indicate that hog production profitability should be strong for the remainder of the fiscal year," CEO Joseph W. Luter, said in a statement. "We are moving into the third quarter, which is, traditionally, our best quarter on the pork processing side and, while this year seems to be different from tradition, I believe the combination of hog production and pork processing will result in a very good third quarter. I also expect that the fourth quarter will be strong."

The stock closed at $27.90 Monday.