updated 3/21/2006 4:57:43 PM ET 2006-03-21T21:57:43

Nike Inc. on Tuesday reported third-quarter profit rose 19.2 percent as the world’s top athletic shoe maker realized strong sales in its core U.S. market.

The company — which owns the Converse, Cole Haan, and Bauer Nike Hockey brands — reported a profit of $325.8 million, or $1.24 per share, up from $273.4 million, or $1.01 per share, in the year-ago period.

Sales increased to $3.61 billion from $3.3 billion last year. Revenues in the Americas region increased 41 percent to $203.1 million, an improvement from $143.7 million in the year-ago period.

Results surpassed the average Wall Street projection for earnings of $1.10 per share on $3.52 billion in sales, according to Thomson Financial.

“We’re very pleased with the performance of the Nike brand and our Nike Inc. portfolio, both for the quarter and year to date,” said President and Chief Executive Mark Parker in a statement. “The strength of our product pipeline, brand portfolio and global reach is enabling us to balance continued challenges in markets such as Western Europe and Japan with strong momentum in other key markets and regions.

In January, the company named Parker — then its Nike brand president — as its CEO, replacing William D. Perez, who resigned over differences with Nike founder Philip H. Knight.

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