Harley-Davidson 4Q earnings fall but edge profit forecasts

Harley-Davidson's fourth-quarter earnings slipped as a stronger U.S. dollar hurt the motorcycle maker's bottom line, which still topped analyst expectations.

The Milwaukee company said Thursday that operating income from its motorcycles segment dropped 41 percent to $35.9 million in the final quarter of 2014 mainly due to the impact of foreign exchange rates.

A stronger dollar can hurt companies that do business overseas because sales in other countries translate back into fewer dollars. Several other companies, including consumer products maker Procter & Gamble Co. and drugmaker Pfizer Inc., also have reported hits in the quarter from exchange rates.

Overall, Harley earned $74.5 million, or 35 cents per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That compares to net income of $75.4 million, or 34 cents per share, in the final quarter of 2013, when the company had more shares outstanding.

Analysts expected, on average, earnings of 33 cents per share, according to Zacks Investment Research.

The motorcycle maker posted revenue of $1.03 billion in the period, which fell short of Street forecasts for $1.06 billion.

Harley-Davidson Inc. shares climbed 71 cents to $63 in premarket trading Thursday 30 minutes before the market open. The stock had dropped 5.5 percent since the beginning of the year, as of Wednesday's close, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index was down almost 3 percent.

Elements of this story were generated by Automated Insights (http://automatedinsights.com/ap) using data from Zacks Investment Research. Access a Zacks stock report on HOG at http://www.zacks.com/ap/HOG.