Noble Energy Inc, a U.S. oil and gas producer, reported a quarterly profit that topped Wall Street expectations, helped by higher-than-expected production and prices.

Noble, which has operations including in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Marcellus Shale in the United States, also raised its full-year production forecast on Thursday, citing strong results in all areas.

Noble shares climbed nearly 3 percent in late morning New York Stock Exchange trading.

While worries about the health of the economy have knocked crude oil prices off the year's high of more than $100 per barrel, third-quarter prices were still 18 percent higher than a year ago.

Noble delivered another strong quarter, with Israel volumes and pricing again bolstering results, Bernstein Research analyst Bob Brackett wrote in a note to clients. We are encouraged by the again-increased production guidance and believe fourth-quarter into 2012 will see continued good news for this company.

A number of projects, including Galapagos in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, will begin production in the current quarter or the first quarter of next year, company executives told analysts on a conference call.

Third-quarter earnings rose to $441 million, or $2.39 per share, from $232 million, or $1.31 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding hedging gains and other items, Noble earned $1.24 per share, well above the $1 that Wall Street analysts expected, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Oil and gas output was 224,000 barrels of oil equivalent (boe) per day, down from 230,000 a year earlier, but above some estimates and the company's forecast.

Noble said natural gas sales in its key market of Israel set a quarterly record because of strong seasonal power generation demand and lower imports.

The company expects its 2011 production to range from 220,000 to 222,000 boe per day, up from a prior forecast of 215,000 to 218,000.

Capital spending is still expected to come in around $3 billion for the year, Chuck Davidson, Noble's Chief Executive Officer said on the conference call.

Noble shares were up $2.21 at $86.35 on the NYSE. The stock outperformed a flat ARCA index of natural gas companies .