UPDATE 1-Sanderson Farms beats estimates on higher poultry prices
* Fourth-quarter earnings $0.41/share vs est $0.32/share
* Fourth-quarter revenue $648.4 mln vs est $635.8 mln
* Says to hold down production through fiscal 2013
Dec 18 (Reuters) - Sanderson Farms Inc, the No. 4 U.S. chicken producer, posted better-than-expected quarterly results, helped by higher prices, and said it would hold down production through fiscal 2013 until feed costs stabilize.
The worst U.S. drought in more than half a century earlier this year boosted animal feed costs, leading chicken and meat producers to reduce production.
Higher prices are expected to continue into 2013 and more production cuts are likely.
Sanderson Farms said in August it would cut poultry production by 2 percent. This followed a 4 percent cut announced in January.
Bigger rival Pilgrim's Pride Corp said in October that U.S. chicken production would likely fall 2 to 3 percent in 2013.
Market prices for whole chickens rose about 7.7 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, Sanderson said.
Net income was $9.3 million, or 41 cents per share, for the quarter ended Oct. 31, compared with net loss of $21.56 million, or 97 cents per share, a year earlier.
Net sales rose about 16 percent to $648.4 million.
Analysts on average had expected earnings of 32 cents per share on revenue of $635.8 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Shares of Laurel, Mississippi-based Sanderson Farms closed at $49.77 on the Nasdaq on Monday.