MOLINE, Ill. (AP) _ Deere & Co. on Tuesday reported that higher sales and cost reductions helped boost its earnings by 50 percent in its first quarter, but the results still fell short of analysts' expectations.

The agricultural machinery manufacturer earned $56.4 million, or 24 cents per share, in the three months ending Jan. 31, up from $37.7 million, or 16 cents per share, a year earlier.

But analysts surveyed by First Call/Thomson Financial expected earnings of 27 cents per share for the latest quarter. On Tuesday, Deere shares rose 44 cents to close at $42.15 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Revenues for the quarter increased 15 percent to $2.7 billion from $2.3 billion in the same period last year.

``Our improved financial performance is a reflection of favorable customer response to our many new and innovative products and is especially gratifying in light of the economic weakness affecting our major markets,'' said Robert Lane, Deere chairman and CEO.

Deere also said cost-cutting measures were working and pension and post-retirement benefit costs were down.

Deere is one of the world's largest manufacturers of agricultural machinery, including John Deere tractors. It also manufactures and distributes equipment for construction, forestry and public works and produces a variety of commercial and consumer equipment.

___

On the Net:

Deere site: http://www.deere.com