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Stewart Information Misses 4Q Forecast

February 17, 2006

Earnings Shortfall From Stewart Information Services Sends Shares Lower

HOUSTON (AP) -- A sizable earnings shortfall from Stewart Information Services Corp. sent shares sharply lower on Thursday.

The insurer and real estate information services firm said fourth-quarter profit fell by more than half, to $9.1 million or 50 cents per share, from $20.3 million or $1.11 per share last year.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had forecast earnings per share of $1.41.

Quarterly revenue also fell short of estimates, rising almost 2 percent to $622.6 million from $612.3 in 2004. Analysts had expected sales of $653 million.

Investors sent Stewart Information shares down $2.51, or 4.9 percent, to $48.84 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares earlier traded as low as $48.49, and volume was more than double average daily volume.

Stewart Information blamed the lower results on higher employee costs and related operating expenses due to increased technology spending.

For the year, the company reported an 8 percent increase in net income to $88.8 million or $4.86 per share, on revenue of $2.4 billion.

Stewart Information did not offer financial guidance for the current quarter or 2006.

Coopyright 2006 Associated Press

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