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Altria backs 2013 earnings forecast

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Tobacco company Altria Group Inc. on Tuesday backed its earnings forecast for 2013, which remains in line with analyst expectations.

The owner of the country's biggest cigarette maker, Philip Morris USA, expects to earn $2.35 to $2.41 per share, excluding one-time items, this year. That's up from $2.21 in 2012.

Analysts polled by FactSet, on average, predicted that Altria would earn $2.39 per share for the year.

Altria owns tobacco brands such as Marlboro, Copenhagen and Skoal. It also owns an alcohol business, including the Ste. Michelle and Columbia Crest wine brands.

The Richmond, Va., company's shares added 39 cents, or 1.1 percent, to close at $34.77. Shares remain near the higher end of their 52-week trading range of $29.43 to $36.29.