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, the nation's biggest life insurer, upped its earnings estimates for the fourth quarter and the coming year.

The New York-based insurer said Monday it expects to earn between 81 cents to 85 cents in the soon-to-be-completed fourth quarter. Before the update, Wall Street analysts were expecting MetLife to earn 82 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.

MetLife also gave an upward nudge to 2005 earnings estimates. The firm expects to earn between $3.50 to $3.65 a share.

The analyst consensus estimate has MetLife earning $3.58 a share next year. The estimates from 22 analysts range from a low of $3.40 a share to a high of $3.67 a share.

Shares fell 77 cents, or 1.9%, to $39.71.