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W.R. Grace reported 4.5 percent increase in earnings

W.R. Grace & Co. reported Thursday that its first quarter earnings rose 4.5 percent despite falling oil prices and the strengthening on the U.S. dollar.

The Columbia-based specialty chemical maker made $52.7 million in the three months ended March 31, up from $50.4 million a year earlier. Per share earnings rose to 72 cents from 64 cents.

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Grace's $720.6 million of sales in the January-to March period were 3.2 percent lower than in the first quarter of 2014. While sales volume increased, shifting exchange rates acted as a drag on the value of those sales.

"We are on track to meet our 2015 goals," said Fred Festa, Grace's chairman and CEO. "We achieved good earnings growth and very good cash flow growth. Our team is managing the volatility in oil prices and currencies well, and turning it into competitive advantage where we can."

While the earnings fell below Wall Street estimates, Grace shares slipped just 14 cents in Thursday trading to $96.96 each.

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