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Continental profit beats Street as production surges

(Adds earnings comparison, stock movement)

Feb 21 (Reuters) - U.S. shale oil producer Continental Resources Inc posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday, helped by rising production and surging crude prices.

The results reflect the broader push in the industry to boost output only when profitable. Continental easily exceeded that mark during the quarter, with executives vowing to continue to boost production not only in its core North Dakota acreage but in shale formations in Oklahoma.

"We expect even stronger performance in 2018 with both significant production growth and robust free cash flow," founder and Chief Executive Harold Hamm said in a statement.

Continental posted fourth-quarter net income of $841.9 million, or $2.25 per share, compared with $27.7 million, or 7 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding impairment charges and other one-time items, the company earned 41 cents per share. By that measure, analysts expected earnings of 32 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Production rose 37 percent to 286,985 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Shares of Continental rose 1.3 percent to $53.25 in after-hours trading.

Continental executives plan to discuss the quarterly results on a conference call with investors on Thursday morning. (Reporting by Ernest Scheyder in Houston; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Tom Brown)