Diversified chemicals manufacturer DuPont & Co. (NYSE: DD – $59.46) has reported results for the fourth quarter with sales of $7.7 billion and adjusted share earnings of $0.59, far above year-earlier levels of $0.11 as volume increased 9% on across-the-board gains, including 14% from agriculture – by far the company’s biggest business by revenue. Analysts forecasted earnings of $0.55 per share on sales of $7.78 billion. Against the backdrop of a gradually improving global economy, the better performance was driven by greater volumes and increased productivity and the strength was fairly broad-based. For 2014, DuPont predicted operating earnings of $4.20 to $4.45 a share, compared with Wall Street estimates of $ 4.31 a share, so pretty much in line with consensus views. The Wilmington, Delaware-based company has separately announced a multiyear $5 billion stock-repurchase program that ought to benefit earnings per share in the coming years. DuPont may appeal to conservative income-oriented investors, as the company is highly regarded for its overall safety and financial strength. The shares are reasonably priced at 13.7 times anticipated 2014 results and the $1.80 annual dividend, currently yielding 3%, should grow modestly and improve the share’s total return potential out to late decade.