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Aetna Fourth-Quarter Profit Rises, Meeting Forecasts

Health insurer Aetna said Thursday that fourth-quarter profit rose, helped by higher enrollment.

The No. 3 U.S. health insurer reported net income of $434.1 million, or 80 cents a share, compared with $416.3 million, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier.

Operating earnings were 76 cents per share, excluding the severance charge and reserves from prior periods. Analysts on average expected 76 cents per share.

The Hartford, Connecticut-based company's shares have been volatile in response to its recent earnings reports, including two quarters where medical cost trends disappointed investors.

Aetna shares have fallen more than 8% in the past year, compared with a drop of about 2.5% for the S&P Managed Health Care index, but has risen about 2% in 2007.

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