Strong global demand continued in the quarter as both mature and emerging markets delivered high-single digit underlying growth. Emerson’s trailing three-month underlying orders growth remained in the 5% to 10% range throughout the quarter, with June three-month underlying orders up 9%.
All profitability measures improved in the third quarter. Gross profit margin of 43.7% improved 220 basis points compared with the prior year, driven by leverage on higher sales and the benefit of prior year restructuring actions. Both pretax margin of 17.2% and EBIT margin of 18.1% improved 180 basis points. GAAP earnings per share from continuing operations increased 78% to $1.12, and were $0.88, up 40%, excluding a one-time tax benefit related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Operating cash flow from continuing operations was $924 million in the quarter, up 19% compared with the prior year, and free cash flow from continuing operations was $804 million, up 20%. Year to date operating cash flow from continuing operations was up 5% to $1.9 billion and free cash flow from continuing operations was up 5% to $1.6 billion, reflecting approximately 100% conversion of net earnings from continuing operations.
“Our third quarter results reflect broad-based momentum across our end markets and the strength of our global competitive position, as Emerson continues to be the clear industrial partner of choice,” said David N. Farr, chairman and CEO. “This quarter marks our fifth consecutive quarter of strong net and underlying sales growth and sixth quarter of positive underlying orders, pointing to a steady trend that we believe sets Emerson up for a strong fourth quarter and start to fiscal 2019.”