Strong sales of guns, ammo help drive up Cabela’s profit

Cabela’s says strong sales of guns and ammunition helped drive its profit up 73 percent in the first quarter, surpassing expectations and briefly driving its shares to all-time highs Thursday.

The retailer operates stores that sell gear for hunting, fishing and outdoor sports.

Consumer demand for firearms has surged in recent months on worries about the possibilities of increased regulation or bans of certain kinds of weapons in the wake of the December slayings of 20 first-graders and six adult staffers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

A bill to expand background checks for gun purchases was introduced in the Senate, but it was voted down last week.

Sidney, Neb.-based Cabela’s Inc. said net income rose to $49.8 million, or 70 cents per share, in the January-March quarter, up from $28.8 million, or 40 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter. Analysts expected 59 cents per share, according to FactSet.

Financial options exchange opens trading after outage

Trading on the biggest exchange for financial options resumed Thursday after an outage caused by software problems.

The Chicago Board of Options Exchange failed to open at its regular time of 9:30 a.m. Eastern, then reopened at 12:50 p.m. with trading of options on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, according to CBOE spokesperson Gail Osten.

Trading of other options resumed 10 minutes later, according to the CBOE’s Twitter feed.

Options give the holder the right, but not the obligation, to buy and sell stocks or other financial assets.

The CBOE is the largest U.S. options exchange. Many of the most frequently-traded stock options are bought and sold on its exchange.

Time Warner Cable reports losing phone customers

Time Warner Cable Inc., the country’s second-largest cable company, Thursday said it lost phone subscribers for the first time, after years of poaching them from phone companies.

Time Warner Cable executives attributed the net loss of 22,000 phone subscribers to households opting to go wireless-only, and said it had changed its plans to make it less likely that households would sign up for phone service if they didn’t need it. They also hinted that the company might cut prices to keep subscribers.

The New York-based company also reported weak trends in TV subscriptions, with a loss of net 118,000 cable TV customers in the quarter, to end with 12.1 million. Cable TV subscriptions have been declining across the industry for years, as viewers shift to satellite and phone-company TV services.

Jason Bazinet at Citigroup said higher-than-expected decline appeared to be due to customers leaving after signing up in late 2011 to aggressively priced packages. Cable companies usually provide heavily discounted prices for the first year of service.

Rate on 30-year mortgage falls closer to historic low

The average U.S. rate on the 30-year mortgage fell closer this week to its historic low and the 15-year rate marked a record low. Low rates are increasing the affordability of buying homes and refinancing.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for the 30-year fixed loan slipped to 3.40 percent from 3.41 percent last week. That’s near the 3.31 percent rate reached in November, which was the lowest on records dating back to 1971.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage fell to 2.61 percent from 2.64 percent last week. That’s below the previous record low of 2.63 percent in November, the lowest since the 1990s.

Low mortgage rates are helping drive a housing recovery that began last year. Home prices are rising. Sales of new and previously occupied homes are up this year. Builders broke ground on homes in March at the fastest annual pace in nearly five years.

– From news service reports