XTO's ( XTO) second-quarter earnings rose 179% from a year ago as the energy independent recorded a divestiture gain and benefited from higher volume and prices. XTO earned $597 million, or $1.62 a share, in the quarter, compared with $220 million, or 60 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding items including a $292 million gain related to the distribution of its stake in Hugoton Royalty Trust, XTO earned $320 million, or 87 cents a share, in the quarter, beating Wall Street estimates by 4 cents. Sales rose 42% from a year ago to $1.07 billion. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were forecasting sales of $1.03 billion. XTO reported second-quarter production of 1.516 billion cubic feet of equivalent per day, up 16% from a year ago. Its average realized gas price for the second quarter increased 15% to $6.99 per thousand cubic feet. Natural gas liquids prices averaged $38.53 per barrel for the quarter, 27% higher than the 2005 quarter. The second quarter average oil price was $62.25 a barrel, up 44% from a year ago. "In short, our key performance metrics -- production growth, earnings and cash flow -- all exceeded expectations," XTO said. "Moving ahead, we are raising our production growth target for the year to 13% to 14%, which does not include the 3% of production associated with the Hugoton Royalty Trust distribution in May. Our inventory-rich property base will continue to provide growth in production and reserves for years to come, fortifying the value of XTO for our shareholders." Recently, the stock gained $1.24, or 2.9%, to $43.66.