NEW YORK — Breaking a 22-quarter slump, Levi Strauss & Co. eked out a third-quarter sales increase — its first since 1996 — and touted it as a key step in its long-awaited turnaround.

President and chief executive officer Phil Marineau, who was brought on board in 1999 to right the flailing company, described the quarter as an inflection point. He said the San Francisco-based jeans maker expects to see flat sales in the fourth quarter and to resume consistent growth next year.

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