DuPont Co. reported a 16 percent increase in first-quarter earnings yesterday as strong performance in its agricultural unit helped offset sluggish demand for products in the domestic housing and automotive markets.

The Wilmington chemical company also benefited from increased pharmaceuticals income, productivity gains, and favorable currency rates.

It reported net income of $945 million, or $1.01 per share, compared with $817 million, or 88 cents per share, in the first quarter of 2006.

Excluding a one-time charge of $52 million, or 6 cents a share, related to an antitrust litigation reserve, earnings totaled $1.07 per share, compared with 93 cents a year earlier.

Revenue increased 6 percent to $8.16 billion from $7.67 billion last year.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial expected earnings of $1.03 per share on revenue of $7.77 billion.

DuPont shares were up 67 cents, or 1.36 percent, to $49.86 on the New York Stock Exchange.

"I am pleased with our results in the first quarter," said chairman and chief executive Charles Holliday Jr., adding that he was particularly encouraged by the company's record seed-corn sales, continued growth in sales of its Kevlar and Nomex protective fibers, and earnings improvement in packaging and engineering polymers.

The gain in revenue reflected 2 percent volume growth, 2 percent higher local currency selling prices, and a 2 percent currency benefit.

Volume was down slightly in the United States, but rose 8 percent in Canada and Latin America, which matched Europe with sales growth of 11 percent.

DuPont also reaffirmed its 2007 earnings outlook of about $3.15 per share, excluding the 6-cent-per-share charge for elastomer antitrust litigation.