Dow Chemical Co. reported a 10 percent increase in its fourth-quarter earnings, beating Wall Street forecasts.

The company posted a profit of $1.03 billion, or $1.06 a share, for the October-December period, up from $929 million, or 99 cents a share, in the year-ago period.

Dow Chemical, which produces plastics, specialty chemicals and agriculture products, said it had quarterly sales of $10.94 billion, a 31 percent increase from $8.33 billion a year ago.

Agriculture sales were up 10 percent to $758 million in the fourth quarter, led by high demand for fungicide in South America and insecticide to combat locusts in West Africa. The company said it also was seeing growth from products launched in Brazil and India.

The company said cost controls in administration, sales and research also helped increase profits. Expenses fell to 6 percent of sales for the quarter, compared to 7 percent in 2003 and 10 percent in 2002.

"This has been another solid and encouraging quarter for Dow," Andrew Liveris, Dow's president and chief executive, said in a statement.

For the year, profit was $2.8 billion, or $2.93 per share, up from $1.7 billion, or $1.87 per share, a year ago.

Source: Yahoo News