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Robert Half rises as 3Q profit top Street's view

NEW YORK -- Shares of Robert Half International rose more than 6 percent Friday after the staffing company's third-quarter earnings beat analyst estimates.

THE SPARK: Robert Half earned $57.4 million, or 41 cents per share, for the period ended Sept. 30. That's up from $43.6 million, or 31 cents per share, a year ago.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet predicted earnings of only 39 cents per share.

During a conference call the company said that it expects fourth-quarter earnings of 38 cents to 43 cents per share on revenue between $1.01 billion and $1.06 billion. Wall Street foresees earnings of 39 cents per share on revenue of $1.04 billion.

THE ANALYSIS: William Blair's Timothy McHugh said that Robert Half's third-quarter earnings were helped by a lower-than-expected tax rate, but also got a lift from a better-than-expected profit margin.

While revenue growth slowed a bit, the analyst said that it was not as bad as some had believed it would be. McHugh said that Robert Half benefits in part from limited exposure to Europe and improving hiring trends in the professional job categories it concentrates on.

Jeffrey Silber of BMO Capital Markets said that the company's fourth-quarter forecasts were solid and that it will benefit from easier comparisons in the period.

Both McHugh and Silber maintained "Outperform" ratings.

SHARE ACTION: Robert Half International Inc.'s stock gained $1.76, or 6.8 percent, to $27.69 in midday trading. The shares have traded in a 52-week range of $23.81 to $32.32.