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Martin posts weak 1Q but sees improvement ahead

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- Martin Marietta Materials Inc., which sells granite, limestone, sand and gravel, reported a smaller loss for its first-quarter as higher prices helped partially offset lower shipments for the period.

The Raleigh, N.C., company's total shipments declined 8.8 percent from the first quarter last year. The prior year benefited from an unseasonably warm winter, which accelerated the start of construction projects in many markets.

Martin Marietta, however, increased its pricing and that helped its results for the period. The company said improved pricing bodes well for its future performance as shipments pick up during the remainder of the year for its aggregates business. Additionally, its specialty products business benefited from a new lime kiln completed in the fourth quarter of 2012.

President and CEO Ward Nye said that improved housing starts, construction employment and highway obligations should benefit the company. It reaffirmed its expectations of gains in both its aggregate and specialty products businesses.

The company posted a loss of $27.8 million, or 61 cents per share, for the quarter. That is compared with a loss of $36.7 million, or 81 cents per share, in the prior year. The prior period includes a 34 cent per share charge for business development expenses.

Martin Marietta's total revenue slipped to $385 million from $394 million a year earlier.

Analysts polled by FactSet, on average, were expecting a smaller loss of 37 cents per share on lower revenue of $360.2 million for the period.

Shares of the company increased $2.19, or 2.2 percent, to $100.65 in afternoon trading. Its stock is at the high end of its 52-week trading range of $63.64 to $106.57.