UPS ( UPS) shares gained early Thursday after the shipper managed not to disappoint on fourth-quarter earnings after slashing guidance two weeks ago. The Atlanta-based shipper earned $866 million, or 76 cents a share, vs. $856 million, or 75 cents, a year ago. Adjusted earnings -- which includes a $66 million tax benefit but excludes various charges -- were 82 cents per share, up 17% from the prior year's 70 cents. Analysts expected the shipper to earn 76 cents a share, based on the Thomson First Call consensus. Just two weeks ago, the company warned about its fourth-quarter results, saying it expected to earn 75 cents to 76 cents a share because of a sharp drop in domestic shipping volume in the last week of 2004. Revenue rose 10.2% to $9.84 billion. Worldwide package volume rose 3.7% to $963 million. Growth was led by international export volume (up 13.5%) and U.S. Next Day Air, which increased 4.1%. U.S. ground volume grew just 1.5%. "We have a long-term strategy that uniquely positions us to capitalize on the growth of global commerce, and we're taking steps now to address our domestic growth and cost issues," the company said. Looking ahead, UPS reiterated guidance, saying 2005 EPS will increase 13% to 17% over 2004's adjusted $2.90. UPS expects EPS of 70 cents to 75 cents compared with 67 cents it earned a year ago. The consensus estimates are for $3.36 and 75 cents, respectively. Shares hit $76.36, a gain of 86 cents, or 1.1%, in the premarket.