Improving results in Latin America and Europe plus the falling dollar will propel Avon ( AVP) to a much better-than-expected first quarter, the company said Thursday.

Avon expects to earn 59 cents in the first quarter, up from 42 cents a share last year, on a 19% jump in overall sales, which comes to roughly $1.76 billion. Analysts had been forecasting earnings of 51 cents a share on sales of $1.67 billion in the quarter.

On the Instinet premarket session, Avon was recently up $2.18, or 3.1%, to $72.75.

About 9 percentage points of the expected sales gain will be attributable to foreign currency translation, with the rest reflecting surging sales of makeup and a recovery in Brazil. Earnings are being driven by "strong operational performance across every geographic region, with exceptional strength in Latin America and Europe." Avon also cited a lower net interest expense, the dollar and a lower tax rate.

For all of 2004, the company now expects to earn $3.18 to $3.20 a share compared with analysts' estimates of $3.13 a share.

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