Slumping sales give Sears worse loss than expected

It was another ugly quarter for Sears Holdings Corp.

The beleaguered department-store chain reported a steeper-than-expected loss for its first quarter on slumping sales.

It also announced that it is considering selling its protection-agreement business in an ongoing effort to raise cash as it struggles to reverse its fortunes. The unit runs the part of the business that sells customers service contracts that guarantee to fix or replace appliances if they break within a certain timeframe.

The steep loss drove Sears’ shares down more than 12 percent in after-hours trading.

Like many retailers, Sears’ business in the first couple of months of the year was hurt by poor weather and new economic pressures on its customers, including rise in the payroll tax. But the latest results show that Sears’ path toward profitability will be more elusive than the chain may have thought. Critics say that Sears still has not given shoppers a compelling reason to spend money there.

Procter & Gamble returns former CEO to its top post

There’s a new head of household products giant Procter & Gamble.

The company is bringing back former CEO A.G. Lafley, a 33-year industry veteran, to its top post in a surprise move as the world’s largest consumer products maker tries to improve its results globally.

Lafley, 65, replaces CEO Bob McDonald, effective immediately. McDonald, who will retire June 30 after a transition period, has served as CEO since 2009. Lafley, who also is taking the president and chairman titles, previously held the role from 2000 to 2009.

The change at the helm comes as the 175-year-old company whose Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste and other products that can be found in 98 percent of American households, struggles to grow under increased competition and global economic challenges.

Gap Inc. reports 43% jump in first-quarter net income

After years of struggle, Gap is back in style.

Gap Inc., which owns The Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic clothing chains, on Thursday reported a 43 percent jump in its fiscal first-quarter net income, as the company continues to reap benefits from the turnaround plan that it began early last year.

The results are welcome news for customers and investors who had watched the one-time industry darling flounder over the past several years. Gap’s performance shows that efforts by the chain to attract customers with brightly colored fashions and lively ads are helping to boost sales.

New federal labeling rules for cuts of meat take effect

Shoppers in the U.S. will soon have more information about where their meat comes from after new federal labeling rules went into effect Thursday.

The rules require labels on steaks, ribs and other cuts of meat to say where the animal was born, raised and slaughtered.

Earlier U.S. Department of Agriculture rules only required that countries of origin to be noted, so a package might say “Produce of U.S. and Canada.”

Now, the label will specify “Born in Canada, raised and slaughtered in the United States.”

Ralph Lauren sees stock fall despite increase in profit

Ralph Lauren Corp. reported a 35 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit as the luxury retailer benefited from lower cotton prices and cost controls.

But the seller of Polo and other brands saw its stock fall Thursday because its revenue fell below Wall Street expectations amid the move to eliminate some businesses and focus on the most profitable ones.

The results show how the New York-based luxury company is still navigating the rough patches of a choppy global economy.

- From news service reports