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Weaker sales in its key industrial markets caused Columbus McKinnon’s profits to tumble by 17 percent during the first-quarter, although the earnings still were stronger than analysts were expecting.

The company was stung by weakness in its U.S. and European markets, where sales volumes declined.

Despite the weakness during the spring quarter, Timothy T. Tevens, Columbus McKinnon’s president and chief executive officer, said he expects its domestic markets to improve in the coming months, while Europe also has shown early signs of strengthening.

“We expect the U.S. to grow modestly during the remainder of the fiscal year,” he said. “Europe continues to be weak, but we’re starting to see some positive signs in quoting and bidding activity in that part of the world.”

Columbus McKinnon said Friday that its profits fell to $7 million, or 35 cents per share, from $8.4 million, or 43 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts had expected the company to earn 33 cents.

The company’s sales fell by 9 percent to $139 million during the quarter that ended in June, down from $153 million a year ago, as lower volumes offset the impact of higher prices. The sales were weaker than the $148 million in revenues that analysts were forecasting.

Columbus McKinnon’s U.S. sales, which account for 59 percent of its overall revenues, dropped by 9 percent to $82 million, with more than half of the decline stemming from the sale of a crane business last August. The company’s international sales dropped by 10 percent to $56.9 million.

The company’s backlog of orders shrunk by 7 percent to $92 million at the end of June from $99 million at the end of March.

After the earnings report was released Friday morning, analysts at CJS Securities downgraded Columbus McKinnon’s stock to “market perform.”

email: drobinson@buffnews.com