Duke Energy ( DUK) reaffirmed its 2003 earnings targets and dividend rate at its annual conference today, saying that it has taken "decisive steps" to preserve its financial position and ensure growth. The Charlotte, N.C., energy company said it expects to earn $1.35 to $1.60 a share in 2003, excluding the cumulative effect of accounting changes. Duke also said it expects to fully fund the $1.10 annual dividend. On average, analysts polled by Thomson First Call expect the company to earn $1.42 a share in 2003. "We had a good first quarter and are seeing some promising indicators," the company said in a press release. "It's beginning to feel like we've rounded the toughest curves." Shares of Duke Energy were gaining 39 cents, or 2%, to $19.34 in recent New York Stock Exchange trading.