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Commercial and consumer finance company

CIT Group

(CIT) - Get CIT Group Inc. Report

reported fourth-quarter earnings that easily topped Wall Street's estimates, and the firm offered an optimistic profit forecast for 2006.

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The New York-based company earned $248.3 million, or $1.21 a share, for the latest quarter, up from $203.8 million and 95 cents a share last year. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were looking for earnings of $1.04 in the fourth quarter.

For this year, CIT is targeting a profit of $4.75 to $4.85 a share, before estimated stock option expenses of 8 cents to 10 cents, whereas analysts are calling for earnings of $4.70. CIT earned $4.44 a share in 2005.

Shares of CIT closed Tuesday at $52.98.