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UPDATE 1-Troubled education group Pearson nudges profit target higherGÇï

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LONDON, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Pearson said it expects its full-year operating profit to come in at the top half of its forecast range, in the first positive news on trading for the British education group in recent years.

Pearson, which has been hit by the shift to digital from paper textbooks, said it now expected 2017 adjusted operating profit to come in between 576 million pounds ($763.14 million) and 606 million pounds. The previous range was set at 546 million pounds to 606 million pounds.

The improvement in trading comes after a string of profit warnings and thousands of job cuts at a company that has been hit by a shrinking U.S. education market and a trend for students to rent or go online for textbooks, rather than buy.

In a nine-month trading update, Pearson said sales in U.S. higher education courseware fell by 1 percent on an underlying basis, within its full-year range of up 1 percent to down 7 percent.

It also revised its guidance on taxation, expecting its 2017 rate to be around 16 percent against a previous expectation of 21 percent, helping its finance costs.

"We expect tough market conditions in our biggest business to continue over the next couple of years," said Chief Executive John Fallon.

"We're focused on being the long-term winner in digital learning and creating sustainable value for our shareholders." ($1 = 0.7548 pounds) (Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Paul Sandle)