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Harley-Davidson's 1Q Earnings Triple

Harley's earnings more than tripled, but it still fell short of Wall Street expectations, with the U.S. economy proving to be a persistent drag on sales.

MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Harley-Davidson's first-quarter earnings more than tripled, but the company still fell short of Wall Street expectations Tuesday, with the U.S. economy proving to be a persistent drag on sales at home.

Harley posted a net profit of $119.3 million for the quarter Tuesday, up from $33.3 million a year ago. But the 51-cent-per-share earnings fell short of analyst expectations for 55 cents. Harley earned 14 cents a share in the first quarter last year.

The income, the company said, was driven by its financial services division, which saw revenue rise more than 150 percent.

Global sales rose 3.5 percent, helping to offset a weak performance in the U.S., where sales fell 0.5 percent from the first quarter of last year.

The company reported motorcycle sales revenue of $1.06 billion, compared with $1.04 billion in 2010. That just edged out the expectations of most analysts.

CEO Keith Wandell said Harley was pleased by growth worldwide "even as we continue to encounter some headwinds in the U.S. related to the challenging macroeconomic conditions."

Harley's earnings also were hit by difficulty in restructuring the company's manufacturing operations in York, Pennsylvania. The restructuring will continue to affect Harley's finances in the coming quarters until it is completed next year, Wandell said.

"When this manufacturing transition is completed next year, we will have a best-in-class, flexible, lean operating structure that we expect will yield substantial ongoing savings," he said.

Shares in Harley-Davidson Inc. fell 21 cents to $39.50 in premarket trading.

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