Wal-Mart Stores to offer cheaper laptops

A move by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to offer more and lower-priced laptops could give it an edge over key rival Best Buy Co. in the struggle for back-to-school electronics business.

The world’s largest retailer announced Thursday that it was increasing its assortment of affordable laptop computers — some in limited supply — with the aim of becoming a computer destination for college and high school students.

A key offering to be available starting Sunday is a $298 notebook from Hewlett-Packard Co. with 3 gigabytes of memory and a 160-gigabyte hard drive. The price is more typical of the smaller and less powerful laptops known as notebooks.


Volkswagen advised not to alter Porsche

The best thing Volkswagen AG can do when it carries through its proposed merger with Porsche is this: Leave Porsche alone and reap the revenue from a glossy brand with loyal, rich customers, analysts say.

Having emerged Thursday atop a power struggle among members of the Piech and Porsche families — who control Porsche Automobil Holding SE — that cost Wendelin Wiedeking his job as Porsche chief executive, Volkswagen is left to gather the spoils, namely the marquee Porsche name that will soon be counted with Audi, Bentley and Lamborghini, already among its stable of luxury brands.


Starwood earnings top Street forecasts

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc. managed to beat Wall Street profit forecasts Thursday, despite posting a disappointing decrease in per-room revenue for the second quarter.

For the three months ended June 30, Starwood earned $134 million, or 74 cents per share. That’s 28 percent more than a year earlier.

Excluding the benefit of one-time items, which included a $90 million gain from an Italian tax incentive program, Starwood earned 22 cents per share from continuing operations. That’s down from 56 cents last year, or $105 million.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, who typically exclude one-time items, expected the White Plains, N.Y.-based company to post a profit of 17 cents per share.

Revenue fell 22.9 percent to $1.21 billion from $1.57 billion, but beat Wall Street’s forecast of $1.19 billion.

Hospitality association says leadership shifts

The Las Vegas Hospitality Association, a nonprofit Las Vegas tourism industry organization, on Thursday said Linda Ness, a chairwoman and past president of the group, has resumed the role of president.

In a statement, the group, which comprises nearly 500 hospitality industry professionals, said the move was prompted by current President Ce Ce Knapp’s move to Florida.

Ness will finish out the year as president and again be board chairman in 2010, the group said.

Ness works as the national sales director, West Coast region, for Freeman Audio Visual Solutions. Knapp was vice president of hotel operations for Hooters before her move.


Ford Motor Co. earns $2.3 billion in quarter

Ford Motor Co. on Thursday cemented its position as the healthiest U.S.-based automaker by reporting a surprise $2.3 billion net profit in the second quarter, mainly due to $10.1 billion in debt reductions that cut annual interest payments.

The nation’s second-largest automaker also cut 1,000 more blue-collar jobs with buyout and early retirement offers.

Ford’s second-quarter results got a boost from lowering its debt load. Earlier this year the company swapped stock and cash to reduce its loan and bond debt by $10.1 billion, cutting its interest payments by more than $500 million.

But excluding special items, including the debt reduction, Ford would have lost $424 million, or 21 cents a share. Those results still beat analysts’ expectations of a per-share loss of 50 cents on revenue of $24.7 billion.


Push to spend less on shipping hurts UPS

Consumers are sending fewer, lighter packages, businesses are urgently trying to spend less on shipping orders, and it all spells bad news for United Parcel Service Inc.

For the three months ended June 30, UPS reported a profit of $445 million, or 44 cents a share, compared with a year-ago profit of $873 million, or 85 cents a share.

Revenue fell 16.7 percent to $10.83 billion from $13 billion.


McDonald’s earnings hurt by stronger dollar

McDonald’s Corp. said Thursday that even though more consumers chowed down on its burgers, fries and drinks in the second quarter, the stronger dollar and a year-ago gain led profit to dip 8 percent.

The Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast-food chain said net income fell to $1.09 billion, or 98 cents per share, from $1.19 billion, or $1.04 per share, in last year’s quarter.

Excluding a 10-cent-per-share gain a year ago from the sale of McDonald’s minority interest in Pret A Manger, the company earned 94 cents per share in the 2008 quarter.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expected profit of 97 cents per share. Analysts typically exclude special items.


Copper price dip hurts Newmont Mining

Newmont Mining Corp. said Thursday its second-quarter profit sank 40 percent as copper prices fell 39 percent, its tax bill jumped significantly and it purchased a stake in an Australian gold mine.

For the March-June period, Newmont reported a net profit of $162 million, or 33 cents per share, compared with $271 million, or 59 cents per share, a year ago.

Revenue grew 7 percent to $1.6 billion from $1.5 billion.


Gasoline futures jump though supplies grow

Gasoline futures jumped Thursday even though U.S. fuel supplies have been building for six straight weeks, with consumers and businesses cutting back on spending.

Benchmark crude for September delivery added $1.76 to settle at $67.16 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

At the pump, retail gasoline prices added less than a penny overnight to a new national average of $2.465 a gallon, according to auto club AAA, Wright Express and Oil Price Information Service.

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