updated 4/24/2006 9:43:32 AM ET 2006-04-24T13:43:32

Caterpillar Inc. reported Monday that first-quarter profit rose 45 percent on stronger sales and relatively flat material costs, helping the maker of construction and agricultural equipment to beat Wall Street estimates.

Net income grew to $840 million, or $1.20 per share, from $581 million, or 81 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue rose 13 percent to $9.39 billion from $8.34 billion last year on higher prices and sales volume, the company said.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected earnings of $1.05 per share on sales of $8.7 billion.

The company raised its 2006 earnings per share forecast to a range of $4.85 to $5.20, from a previous range of $4.65 to $5, and kept its revenue forecast at about $40 billion.

Analysts estimate earnings of $4.99 per share on revenue of $38 billion.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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