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St. Jude says improving market boosts 4th-qtr results

Jan 13 (Reuters) - St. Jude Medical Inc said on Monday that fourth-quarter results were better than it expected as new product launches and an improvement in the market for medical devices bolstered sales.

Its shares rose 2.5 percent to $67.62 in early-afternoon trading after its preliminary report.

Medical device makers have struggled to revive growth since the weak economy hampered demand for healthcare.

Analysts said St. Jude's 6 percent sales growth in the fourth quarter, excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, represented the strongest level since 2010, and was a good indication for sector.

"The broad-based nature of the beat suggests to us that the underlying markets may have stepped up further in the fourth quarter, which would bode well for the other cardiovascular companies," Bernstein Research analyst Derrick Sung said in a note to clients.

The company said it expects earnings in a range of 97 cents to 99 cents per share, 2 cents above its previous range on the both the bottom end and the top end. That excluded about 55 cents per share in restructuring costs and other charges.

Sales are expected to be $1.42 billion, up from $1.37 billion a year earlier, it said.

Analysts estimated earnings of 96 cents per share on revenue of $1.38 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company is due to report earnings on Jan. 22.

The company makes medical devices including pacemakers and implantable defibrillators, artificial heart valves, devices to treat atrial fibrillation, stents and neurological products.

St. Jude, which competes against Medtronic Inc and Boston Scientific Inc in selling implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), had lost market share due to lingering concerns about problems with the lead wires that connect its devices to the heart.