Albemarle ( ALB), a highly engineered specialty chemicals manufacturer, said its second-quarter earnings rose 34.9% from the year-ago period, boosted by strong sales and improved margins. The company earned $43.3 million, or 89 cents a share, in the quarter, compared with $32.1 million, or 67 cents a share, a year ago. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting earnings of $33.7 million, or 71 cents a share. Second-quarter revenue rose 13.1% from a year ago to $568.8 million. Analysts were expecting revenue of $574.6 million in the most recent quarter. ''We had a strong first half of the year, and while we recognize the expected deceleration in the domestic economy, we expect demand and pricing for our products to remain robust in the second half of the year," the Richmond, Va.-based company said. Second-quarter gross profit rose 24.9% from a year ago to $131.4 million and gross margin increased 218 basis points to 23.1%. Operating income for the quarter rose 26% to $58 million and operating margin jumped 104 basis points to 10.2%. By segment, second-quarter revenue from polymer additives segment rose 11.8% from a year ago to $228.6 million and revenue from catalysts segment increased 31.7% to $194.0 million. However, revenue from chemicals segment fell 3.2% from a year ago to $146.2 million.