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MSC shares fall on weak forecast

MELVILLE, N.Y. (AP) -- MSC Industrial Direct Co. Inc. on Thursday reported a gain in first-quarter profit on stronger sales and lower costs, but the metalworking company said that demand has softened and issued a weak forecast for its second quarter.

Shares were down sharply in midday trading.

MSC earned $63.2 million, or $1 per share, in the quarter that ended Dec. 1. That compares with $59.8 million, or 95 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago. After adjusting for $1.3 million in one-time costs, it made $1.01 per share in the recent quarter.

Revenue rose to $577.5 million from $545.7 million in the same period the year before.

Analysts polled by FactSet expected the company to earn $1.01 per share on revenue of $583.9 million.

CEO Erik Gershwind said that he was pleased with the company's revenue growth amid eroding demand, which he attributed to customer caution ahead of the fiscal cliff. He said that both demand and pricing have softened and the impact of fiscal cliff issues has yet to be fully resolved and digested by customers.

MSC expects to earn 86 to 90 cents per share on an adjusted basis for its second quarter on revenue of $563 million to $575 million. Analysts forecast earnings of $1.02 per share on revenue of $597.8 million.

MSC, based in Melville, N.Y., makes supplies for metalworking maintenance and operations for industrial customers across the U.S.

Shares fell $3.47, or 4.5 percent, to $73.53. The stock has traded between $61.39 and $84.76 in the past 52 weeks.