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Moody's results beat analysts' expectations

NEW YORK - The credit ratings agency Moody's (MCO) fourth-quarter net income rose 29 percent, helped by lower operating expenses, a tax benefit and a comparison to year-ago results that included an impairment charge. Its earnings outlook for 2014 suggested it could beat Wall Street forecasts.

The performance topped Wall Street's view, and Moody's shares climbed to an all-time high in morning trading on Friday.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, Moody's Corp. earned $206.7 million, or 94 cents per share. That's up from $160.1 million, or 70 cents per share, a year earlier. The prior-year period included a goodwill impairment charge of $12.2 million.

Stripping out a legacy tax benefit, earnings were 85 cents per share in the latest quarter.

Analysts, on average, expected earnings of 76 cents per share, according to a FactSet poll.

Operating expenses fell to $467.3 million from $494 million.

Revenue rose 3 percent to $779.2 million from $754.2 million. This topped Wall Street's estimate of $744 million.

Shares of Moody's gained $4.11, or 5.4 percent, to $80.88 in morning trading after rising earlier in the session to an all-time high of $85.70.

Full-year net income increased 17 percent to $804.5 million, or $3.60 per share, from $690 million, or $3.05 per share, in the previous year. Annual revenue climbed 9 percent to $2.97 billion from $2.73 billion.

Moody's foresees 2014 earnings between $3.90 and $4 per share. Revenue is expected to climb by a high-single-digit percentage rate. Analysts predict full-year earnings of $3.90 per share.

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