Here is a look at more of Thursday's top business stories:
Clorox earnings more than double
OAKLAND, Calif., May 8 (UPI) -- Clorox Co. said its fiscal third-quarter net income more than doubled, helped by cost cuts and a shift to sales of more profitable products.
The company also said it expects sales and earnings to continue to grow through fiscal 2004.
The consumer products giant said for the third quarter ended March 31 its net income climbed to $110 million, or 50 cents a share, from $46 million, or 20 cents a share during the same period a year earlier.
The company noted its latest results included a charge of $7 million for a stock-performance incentive plan.
For the year-earlier period, the maker of Clorox household products and Kingsford Charcoal booked net charges of $67 million, including a $100 million goodwill-impairment charge for its Argentina business, offset by a $33 million gain on divestitures.
The latest results were in line with the company's own estimate for third-quarter earnings of 49 cents to 52 cents a share, as well as Wall Street's estimate of 50 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.
Sales were virtually unchanged at $1.02 billion.
Craig Sullivan, chairman and chief executive officer, said: "We're very pleased with Clorox's third-quarter and year-to-date performance.
"Positive trends across our business have been driven by the organization's focus on growth, margin expansion, cost savings and working capital management," Sullivan said.
Clorox has been working to reduce costs, resulting in a number of plant closings, divested assets and staff reductions.
Clorox also reiterated its February forecast for fourth-quarter earnings of 67 cents to 70 cents a share.
In the fiscal 2002 fourth-quarter, Clorox had earnings of $145 million, or 63 cents a share.
For fiscal 2003, Clorox said it expects to earn $2.22 to $2.25 a share, compared with February guidance of $2.21 to $2.27 a share.
For fiscal 2004, Clorox expects earnings of $2.47 to $2.57 a share, in line with its previous long-term expectations for double-digit earnings-per-share growth and 3 percent to 5 percent sales and volume growth. Wall Street predicts the company will earn $2.55 a share in 2004.
In fiscal 2002, Clorox earned $322 million, or $1.37 a share, including charges.
The company expects first-quarter fiscal 2004 net income of 57 cents to 63 cents a share, compared with 65 cents a share in the fiscal 2003 first quarter.
Clorox anticipates significant spending to launch new products as well as higher raw-material costs and research and development investments to hurt first-quarter results.
However, the company expects volume growth and increased cost savings from the year-earlier quarter. Clorox earned 65 cents a share in the first quarter of 2003.
Pier 1 Imports lifts earnings forecast
FORT WORTH, Texas, May 8 (UPI) -- Pier 1 Imports Inc. has raised its first-quarter earnings expectations to 19 cents to 22 cents a share from prior guidance of 16 cents to 22 cents a share, and reported its April same-store sales fell 2.6 percent.
Analysts on Wall Street had expected the retailer to report a decline in same-store sales in April of 5.1 percent, according to Thomson First Call.
Pier 1 said total sales for the four-week selling period ended May 3, rose 5 percent to $120.6 million from $114.8 million a year earlier.
The company attributed its increased first-quarter outlook to "improving sales trends," and added that April sales improved over March sales after the conclusion of the Iraq war. Pier 1 claims the positive sales trend has continued in early May.
Analysts on Wall Street expect the company to post first-quarter net income of 19 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call. A year ago, the company earned $22.2 million, or 23 cents a share in the first quarter.
Year-to-date sales rose 4 percent to $270.7 million from $260.3 million last year, and same-store sales declined 4.4 percent.
The company plans to report May sales on June 5 and first-quarter results on June 17.
Jo-Ann Stores lowers outlook
HUDSON, Ohio, May 8 (UPI) -- Jo-Ann Stores Inc. has lowered its first-quarter earnings outlook to the low-end to mid-point of its guidance as promotions boosted April sales but drove down gross margins.
The fabric and craft retailer estimated first-quarter earnings before charges at 32 cents to 34 cents a share, lower than Thomson First Call's expectation of 36 cents a share.
In March, Jo-Ann projected earnings of 32 cents to 37 cents a share for the quarter ended Saturday.
Jo-Ann said same-store sales rose 3.5 percent in April, better than First Call's prediction of a 1.7 percent increase.
Total sales grew to $119.2 million from $117.2 million, aided by aggressive seasonal and clearance product promotions.
Same-store sales for the entire first quarter increased 2.6 percent, and total sales rose to $374.8 million from $372.4 million a year earlier.
The company repurchased $46 million of its senior notes during the quarter, and will record a first-quarter pretax charge of $3.4 million on the debt repurchase.
In the year-earlier first quarter, Jo-Ann earned $8.7 million, or 43 cents a share, on $372.4 million in sales.
Jo-Ann said it will release its first-quarter results May 19.
Sales rise at Big Lots
COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 8 (UPI) -- Big Lots Inc. said its same-store sales during April rose 7.3 percent and revised its second quarter guidance down slightly, mainly from a reduction in one advertising circular.
The company said, however, it was comfortable with analysts' earnings expectations of 8 cents a share for the first quarter ended May 3. In last year's first quarter, Big Lots earned 11 cents a share.
For the second quarter, Big Lots said it expects to report a loss of 4 cents a share to breakeven, down from its original outlook of a range between breakeven and earnings of 4 cents a share.
Analysts on Wall Street expected the retailer to earn 1 cent a share in the second quarter, according to Thomson First Call. Big Lots earned 3 cents a share in last year's quarter.
The company's same-store sales growth in April topped Wall Street's expectations of a 5.3 percent increase.
Big Lots reported April retail sales of $305.2 million, up 11.5 percent from $273.7 million last year. The company cited the shift in the Easter holiday for improved sales in April. It also noted strong sales in lawn and garden merchandise, home furnishings and food.
For the first quarter ended May 3, Big Lots same-store sales rose 1 percent while total sales rose 4.9 percent to $934.3 million from $890.3 million last year.
Looking ahead, Big Lots said it expects a low to middle single- digit increase in second-quarter same-store sales with May up in the low single digits.
Big Lots added that sales trends in spring decorative merchandise have been disappointing and continued to fall below expectations. The company now plans to set a more aggressive promotional strategy for this merchandise, that will hurt second quarter earnings.
The company added that its guidance for the third and fourth quarter remain unchanged.
Big Lots expects to report a loss of 3 cents to earnings of 1 cent a share on a mid-single-digit increase in same-store sales for the third quarter. The company reported a loss of 4 cents a share last year.
In the fourth quarter, the company expects to earn 64 cents to 69 cents a share, compared with earnings of 57 cents a share last year.
Dean Foods posts profit
DALLAS, May 8 (UPI) -- Dean Foods Co. said it posted a first-quarter profit against a loss in the year-earlier period, which included a charge for an accounting adjustment. The company also reiterated its upbeat 2003 outlook.
Dean Foods reported first-quarter net income of $63.2 million, or 65 cents a share, vs. a net loss of $29.6 million, or 23 cents a share during the same period a year earlier.
Excluding a $1.7 million gain from the sale of a plant in Michigan, the company said its earnings grew 12 percent to $62.2 million, or 64 cents a share.
On that basis, most analysts on Wall Street had expected Dean to post net income of 63 cents a share, according to Thomson First Call.
Gregg Engles, chairman and chief executive, said: "We again saw strong performance across all of our business units."
Sales slipped 3.7 percent to $2.14 billion from $2.23 billion, primarily because of lowered selling prices stemming from reduced raw-material costs.
The 2002 quarter included a charge of $85 million to write down trademarks and goodwill after adoption of accounting rules governing goodwill impairment. Excluding that item, as well as $1.2 million in restructuring charges related to a closed dairy plant in Michigan and a $700,000 benefit from discontinued operations in Puerto Rico, Dean earned $55.4 million, or 56 cents a share in last year's first quarter.
"Given the strength of our underlying businesses, we are excited about our future as a leading food and beverage company," Engles said.
"We are confident about the balance of the year, and we are re-affirming our prior earnings per share goal for 2003," he added.
When it reported fourth-quarter results in February, Dean Foods said it expects to earn between $3.11 and $3.16 a share for 2003. Wall Street's mean estimate for 2003 is $3.13 a share, according to First Call.
Dean Foods also announced a 3-for-2 stock split, payable June 9 to stockholders of record as of May 23.
Claire's Stores lifts outlook
PEMBROKE PINES, Fla., May 8 (UPI) -- Apparel and accessories retailer Claire's Stores Inc. raised its first-quarter earnings outlook after reporting a 15 percent jump in same-store sales for April, results that topped the 10.5 percent improvement expected by analysts on Wall Street.
Claire's Stores said the sales gains, led by comparable-store sales gains in the low 20s for Claire's Accessories North America, far exceeded internal expectations, prompting the retailer to boost its first-quarter earnings outlook to between 24 cents and 26 cents a share from continuing operations.
Claire's had previously put first-quarter earnings from continuing operations at 21 cents a share, while Wall Street is looking for the company to post a profit of 22 cents a share in the period.
Total sales in April rose 21 percent to $81.9 million from $67.9 million last year. The sales gains came across all departments, with no particular item driving sales, the company said.
Sales for the fiscal year to date, comprised of February, March and April, rose 14 percent to $239.6 million from $210.5 million last year.
Sales decline at Charming Shoppes
BENSALEM, Pa., May 8 (UPI) -- Charming Shoppes Inc. said its same-store sales fell 5 percent in April.
Analysts on Wall Street expected the retailer to report same-store sales increased 1 percent, according to Thomson First Call.
The women's plus-size apparel retailer reported that total sales for the four week selling period ended May 3 declined 9 percent to $187.9 million from $206.3 million a year ago.
Same-store sales for the 13-week period ended May 3 declined 6 percent from the year-earlier period. Overall sales for that period fell 11 percent to $562 million from $630.6 million.
Charming Shoppes said March and April sales should be combined for a more appropriate year-to-year comparison because Easter fell in April rather than March this year.
The company operates 2,245 stores in 48 states under the names Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Fashion Bug Plus, Catherine's Plus Sizes, Monsoon and Accessorize.
Payless ShoeSource cuts guidance
TOPEKA, Kan., May 8 (UPI) -- Payless ShoeSource Inc. has lowered its first-quarter guidance after reporting lower-than-expected sales in April were hurt by unfavorable weather and a weak retail market.
The footwear retailer said it now expects first-quarter earnings of 20 cents to 22 cents a share.
In April, Payless cut its first-quarter earnings guidance to 25 cents to 30 cents a share from a prior forecast of 38 cents to 42 cents a share. The company cited, at the time, lower March sales, the war in Iraq and the potential for further unseasonable winter weather.
Analysts on Wall Street expect the retailer to report net income of 26 cents a share in the first quarter, according to Thomson First Call. Payless earned 35 cents a share a year earlier.
Payless also reported April same-store sales fell 4.8 percent, far below a Thomson First Call consensus decline of 0.5 percent.
Total sales for the four-week selling period ended May 3 declined 5.2 percent to $251.5 million from $265.4 million a year earlier.
First-quarter same-store sales fell 6.2 percent, while total sales for the first three months declined 5.5 percent to $697.7 million from $738.2 million last year.
The company, which operates 5,003 stores, expects to release first-quarter results on May 14.