HANOVER, Germany (Oct. 29)—Continental A.G. is raising its earnings forecast for fiscal 2003 based on "gratifying gains in volume" during the third quarter and despite slight declines in vehicle output in North America and Europe, according to Chairman Manfred Wennemer. Projected operating earnings for 2003 of $872 million would be 7 percent ahead of 2002. Third-quarter operating profits increased 11 percent to $304 million, pushing the nine-month earnings up 20.7 percent to $768 million, or 7.8 percent of sales. At the same time, Conti has reduced its net debt by $916 million, dropping its debt gearing ratio (net indebtedness/shareholders' equity) to 93 percent. Continental Tire North America Inc. suffered a loss in the passenger tire business and lower commercial tire earnings.