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New York/Chicago: Nike Inc., the world’s largest sporting-goods maker, posted fourth-quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates as running and basketball gear drove sales in North America.

Net income in the quarter ended May 31 rose 5.4% to $698 million, or 78 cents a share, from $662 million, or 73 cents, a year ago, the Beaverton, Oregon-based company said on Friday in a statement. The average of 26 analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg was 75 cents.

Nike is benefiting from consumers increasingly buying athletic apparel and gear for everyday wear, not just when working out or playing sports. The trend has helped the company generate growth in mature markets such as North America, where sales gained 10% to $3.29 billion last quarter, topping the $3.13 billion average estimate from Consensus Metrix.

“Everything from Nike Free to their running business to the basketball business remains very solid," Brian Yarbrough, an analyst with Edward Jones and Co. in St. Louis, said in an interview. “They continue to innovate and bring products to the marketplace."

Yarbrough has a hold rating on the shares.

Orders for the Nike brand for delivery from June through November rose 12%, excluding the effects of foreign-currency exchange-rate fluctuations. Analysts estimated an 11.7% gain, on average, according to Consensus Metrix, a researcher owned by Wayne, New Jersey-based Kaul Advisory Group. The measure, known as futures orders, is closely watched because investors view it as a proxy for future sales.

Shares rise

The shares rose as much as 4% to $79.96 in late trading in New York. Nike had fallen 2.3% this year through the close of regular trading, compared with a 5.9% increase for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Total sales rose 11% to $7.43 billion. Analysts projected $7.34 billion, on average.

Revenue in Nike’s Greater China division increased 3.5% to $702 million, topping analysts’ $666.4 million average estimate. The company had been struggling to maintain growth in China, its second-largest market, as shoppers there became choosier about which brands they buy. Futures orders in the unit advanced 6%, more than double analysts’ 2.5% projection.

In March, Nike said sales would increase at a high single-digit percentage rate, with results hampered by a strong dollar that reduces the value of its international sales. The strength of the US currency also would weigh on earnings growth, the company said at the time. Nike said on Friday that currency reduced pretax income by $30 million in the quarter.

Digital strategy

Nike has been revamping its digital strategy, scaling back its wearable hardware offering and instead focusing on its activity-tracking software. The company recently cut or transferred most of the people who worked on its FuelBand sensor-equipped bracelet. While CNET reported this year that Nike plans to stop making the device, the company has said that it will continue to sell and support the latest version, Nike+ FuelBand SE, for the foreseeable future.

The company earlier this month added EBay Inc. chief executive officer John Donahoe to its board to bring e-commerce experience. Bloomberg

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