updated 3/16/2004 10:54:27 AM ET 2004-03-16T15:54:27

Diversified manufacturer 3M Co., widely seen as a bellwether for American industry, Monday boosted its profit estimates for the first quarter and full-year.

The maker of Post-It notes, Scotch tape, respiratory masks and pharmaceuticals said results would be boosted by strength in its display and graphics business, the weaker dollar and better growth across many of its industrial-based businesses.

St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M said it now expects first-quarter earnings of 86 cents to 88 cents a share, up from its previous estimate of 80 cents to 82 cents.

Revenue growth in U.S. dollars is expected to exceed 10 percent in the first quarter, aided by continued strength in its display and graphics segment, 3M said. The weaker dollar was expected to contribute about 5 percent to first-quarter sales growth, it said.

"Similar to some of their competitors, 3M's business is benefiting from a slow and steady recovery in the industrial economy," said Aaron Skloff, analyst with Pittsburg Research Inc., which does no investment banking for 3M.

In addition, 3M's health care masks business should benefit from increased regulation and worker knowledge of airborne disease risks, said Skloff, who rates the stock "outperform" and does not own the shares. He also expects improved sales of electronics products, especially in Asian markets.

For the full year, 3M increased its per-share earnings target range to $3.52 to $3.62 from $3.46 to $3.52. Full-year sales volume growth should be "toward the higher end" of its previously projected range of 5 percent to 8 percent, 3M said.

Analysts on average had expected 3M to earn 82 cents a share in the first quarter and $3.52 a share for the full year, according to Reuters Research, a unit of Reuters Group Plc.

Shares of 3M rose in after-hours trading to $76.85 on the Inet electronics brokerage from its close of $74.87 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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