AGORDO, Italy -- Luxottica Group SpA reported net earnings for the first quarter ended March 31 climbed 26.4 percent, to $18.1 million (30.4 billion lire), as sales gained 23.3 percent, to $123.9 million (208.8 billion lire) from 24.1 billion lire.

A year ago, the eyewear manufacturer posted net profit of 24.1 billion lire on sales of 169.3 billion lire.

Currency translations for the report are provided by Luxottica, based on average exchange rates for the period.

U.S. sales accounted for 32.9 percent of total revenues. Designer frames represented 53.6 percent of total sales in the quarter, compared with 43.7 percent a year ago.

Leonardo Del Vecchio, founder and chairman, noted that demand has been growing in the European market, which might signal an easing in the European recession.

Del Vecchio stated that while sales in Italy jumped 28 percent, sales for the North American market were below expectations, up only 1.6 percent. He attributed the weak results to the combination of bad weather and the California earthquake. The company expects demand to increase in the next few months, he added.

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