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Diversified chemicals manufacturer and Dow-30 component DuPont (DD Free DuPont Stock Report) has reported fourth-quarter results. The company posted sales of $7.33 billion for the December period, which roughly matched the prior-year figure (excluding the Performance Coatings line, which is pending divestiture). (Our fourth-quarter estimate called for sales of $7.37 billion.) The stock traded slightly higher, buoyed by the company’s outlook for 2013.

Higher overall volumes were offset by unfavorable currency movements and modestly lower portfolio returns. Healthy top-line growth in the Agriculture business was largely offset by weakness in the Performance Chemicals line, which experienced a decline in both prices and volumes. This was due to lower demand for fluoropolymers in the United States and Europe, as well as soft titanium dioxide pricing. The Performance Materials line posted a moderate sales decline on pricing weakness, but operating earnings here benefited from rising volumes and lower feedstock costs. All told, expenses increased in the final quarter of 2012, and companywide earnings from continuing operations came in at $0.11 a share, versus the year-earlier tally of $0.35 and our forecast of $0.19. For the full year, sales and share net were $34.80 billion and $3.52, respectively.

Looking forward, the company anticipates sales of $36.00 billion in the year just started, with earnings per share likely coming in between $3.85 and $4.05. We’ve adjusted our respective 2013 estimates accordingly, from $37.50 billion to $36.00 billion, and from $3.85 a share to $3.95. It's worth noting, however, that operating earnings are liable to decline modestly in the first half of 2013, though bottom-line growth for the full year ought to be driven by favorable comparisons in the back half.

As a diversified manufacturer of chemicals, DuPont remains vulnerable to the global economic vagaries. Although the operating environment in the United States is looking a little brighter, the country's unemployment rate is still elevated (7.8% in December), and Europe remains a source of real concern.

Regardless, DuPont is well positioned in its markets, and should benefit from growth in the global economy over the long term. This issue earns good marks for Safety and Price Stability, and the company has a high Financial Strength rating. The stock has good total return potential for the coming years, considering its healthy dividend yield.

About The Company: DuPont is engaged in science and technology in a range of disciplines, including high performance materials, electronics, safety and security, and biotechnology. The company operates on a global scale, manufacturing a wide range of products for distribution and sale to many different markets, including automotive, construction, agricultural, medical, protective apparel, electronics and nutrition.

At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.