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Earnings preview: 3M

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- 3M has already tempered expectations for 2013. So investors may be happy if the diversified manufacturer just says it will meet its modest sales growth forecasts when it reports fourth-quarter results on Thursday.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: 3M has said it expects organic sales — meaning revenue at business it currently owns — to rise 2 percent to 5 percent this year. Its long-term goal for such growth is 4 percent to 6 percent. But with the world's economy so slow, growing that fast is tough.

WHY IT MATTERS: 3M's businesses include a little of everything — office supplies like Scotch tape, the granules in roofing shingles, tapes, coatings, films that coat TV screens. And it's a worldwide company, with only about one-third of its revenue coming from the U.S. So its fortunes closely track the world's economy.

3M doesn't hesitate to buy businesses that will help it grow. It also employs platoons of engineers who invent many of its products in-house.

3M's innovation-driven growth model remains strong, with sales from new products accounting for a third of its estimated 2012 sales, Deutsche Bank analyst David Begleiter wrote last month. However, he said that with global growth remaining subdued he thinks the shares are fairly valued and has a "Hold" rating on them.

WHAT'S EXPECTED: A profit of $1.41 per share on revenue of $7.17 billion, according to analysts surveyed by FactSet.

LAST YEAR'S QUARTER: A profit of $954 million, or $1.35 per share. Revenue was $7.09 billion.