Northrop Grumman ( NOC) was inching lower after the company affirmed its forecast and said it expects earnings from continuing operations of $3.80 to $4.20 a share for 2003.

Sales should be $25 billion to $26 billion this year, the defense contractor said. Shares of Northrop were down $1 at $86.49 in recent New York Stock Exchange trading.

Segment operating margin for 2003 should be in the mid-7% range. Before a tax payment, cash from operations for 2003 is expected to be between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion.

For 2004, Northrop is looking for sales of $28 billion to $29 billion, with operating margins again in the mid-7% range. The company projected cash from operations of about $1.5 billion.

The company hopes to expand revenue to between $30 billion and $32 billion, with cash from operations of about $2 billion, in 2005.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expect revenue of $25.5 billion this year, $28.2 billion next year and $30.3 billion in 2005.

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