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IN BRIEF

Southwest Gas seeks approval to cut rates

Southwest Gas Corp. on Thursday filed for regulatory approval to lower rates in Southern Nevada because prices it pays for natural gas declined.

The typical residential customer would pay 47 cents, or 1.6 percent less in the summer, making the monthly bill $29.68. In winter months, when residential customers use gas for space heating, the monthly bill would decline by 2 percent, or $1.53, to $76.63.

The rate case would be effective Nov. 1.

The company proposes to lower Northern Nevada rates by 3 percent on the average residential summer bill and 3.7 percent for the average winter bill.

Southwest Gas shares rose 15 cents, or 0.49 percent, Thursday to close at $30.95 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Carmaker, union reach deal to avert strike

General Motors Corp. reached an agreement that would end a four-week strike by about 3,000 union workers at a Michigan factory that produces its newest sport-utility vehicles.

The accord with United Auto Workers Local 602 at the Lansing/Delta Township plant came at about 3 a.m. Thursday, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. Workers will start voting on the deal today and may be back on the job as early as Monday if it’s approved, said Doug Rademacher, the local’s president. Neither side would give details of the proposed contract.

A UAW local at a GM metal-stamping plant in Ontario, Ohio, removed a strike threat this morning and is continuing talks to try to reach an accord, Flores said in an interview. About 1,700 workers from UAW Local 549 had said they would walk out Thursday at 10 a.m. New York time over local work issues.

DALLAS

Better domestic sales lift Blockbuster profits

Blockbuster said Thursday it swung to a first-quarter profit on lower expenses and improved domestic sales, bolstering the movie rental company chairman’s belief that a turnaround plan is working.

The Dallas-based chain said its earnings after preferred dividends totaled $42.6 million, or 20 cents per share, in the three months ended April 6. That reversed a loss of $51.8 million, or 27 cents per share, a year earlier.

A 2.9 percent increase in same-store sales in the U.S. included a jump of nearly 20 percent in merchandise sales, the sort of revenue the company had in mind when it proposed last month to buy electronics retailer Circuit City Stores.

Tiffany raises dividend after profit tops guess

Tiffany & Co., the world’s second-largest luxury jewelry retailer, said first-quarter profit exceeded a previous forecast and boosted its dividend 13 percent, causing the shares to rise the most since March.

First-quarter profit probably surpassed a previous projection of about 39 cents a share, New York-based Tiffany said in a statement.

The retailer will pay a 17 cent-a-share dividend on July 10 to investors who hold the stock on June 20.

MILWAUKEE

Retailers report drops in quarterly earnings

Department store stalwarts Nordstrom, Kohl’s and J.C. Penney Co. all reported steep drops in first-quarter profits on Thursday as Americans snub apparel to focus on basic necessities at discounters in a challenging economy.

J.C. Penney posted the worst drop with a 7.4 percent dip. It also saw the worst earnings of the department stores on Thursday, as it reported first-quarter profit was halved.

Net income fell to $120 million, or 54 cents per share, from $238 million, or $1.04 per share, a year ago, the suburban Dallas-based retailer said.

Total sales fell 5 percent to $4.13 billion from $4.35 billion.

Kohl’s, based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., said it earned $153 million, or 49 cents per share, during the quarter that ended May 3, down from $209 million, or 64 cents per share, a year earlier.

Sales rose 1.5 percent in the quarter to $3.6 billion.

Nordstrom, the Seattle-based luxury retailer, said it earned $119 million, or 54 cents per share in the quarter ended March 31, down 24 percent from $157 million, or 60 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 3.6 percent to $1.88 billion from $1.95 billion.

MILWAUKEE

Stand up, sit down fight fight fight

Industry giant Bemis Manufacturing Co. isn’t about to take toilet-seat misrepresentation sitting down.

The Wisconsin-based firm, the self-described world’s largest manufacturer of toilet seats, is suing a small Canadian company over what Bemis says is patent infringement and false advertising.

Among the issues: The descriptions by Centoco Plastics Ltd. of its model numbers 700 and 900, a pair of relatively inexpensive seats fashioned from molded wood and plastic.

Centoco, Bemis alleges in a lawsuit filed recently in federal court, has claimed in its advertising “that Centoco toilet seats were superior or equal to Bemis toilet seats.”

Bemis says the Canadian firm hasn’t backed that up, and that Centoco’s seats are inferior to Bemis products.

NEW YORK

Treasury prices rise amid economic news

Treasury prices rose Thursday after government reports said the economy remains under pressure, lowering chances that the Federal Reserve will be able to lift interest rates in the near term.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 0.81 points to 100.44 and yielded 3.82 percent, down from 3.92 percent late Wednesday, according to BGCantor Market Data.

Bond prices move in the opposite direction of yields.

The 30-year long bond rose 1.03 points to 97.06 and yielded 4.55 percent, down from 4.62 percent late Wednesday.

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