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POSTED: Friday, May 01, 2009

Safeway profit falls 25 percent

PORTLAND, Ore. » Grocery store operator Safeway Inc. said yesterday that weak consumer spending, the stronger dollar, lower fuel prices and the late Easter holiday caused its first-quarter profit to fall 25 percent.

The Pleasanton, Calif.-based company also lowered its full-year outlook due to the weak environment but raised its dividend to 10 cents from 8.28 cents.

Safeway's profit fell to $144.2 million, or 34 cents a share, from $193.4 million, or 44 cents a share, a year ago.

The results missed analysts' estimate of 40 cents a share.

Revenue fell 8 percent to $9.24 billion.

Starwood earnings beat forecasts

NEW YORK » Deep cost-cutting helped Starwood Hotels & Resorts Inc. deliver first-quarter results yesterday above Wall Street's expectations, and the lodging company echoed comments by rivals that hotel demand is beginning to stabilize.

But its first-quarter earnings report wasn't pretty: It booked an 81 percent drop in profit, effectively withdrew its full-year profit guidance and forecast second-quarter earnings short of analysts' forecasts.

Like others in the sector, Starwood, which owns or manages more than a dozen properties in Hawaii, has been slashing expenses to contend with a sharp drop in business and leisure travel during the recession. A stronger dollar also hurt its quarterly earnings. Starwood's brands include the W, St. Regis, Westin and Sheraton chains.

The White Plains, N.Y.-based company's first-quarter profit slid to $6 million, or 3 cents a share, from $32 million, or 17 cents a share, a year ago.

Revenue dropped 24 percent to $1.12 billion.

Kodak posts loss, suspends dividend

ROCHESTER, N.Y. » Eastman Kodak Co. scrapped its dividend and trimmed the salaries of top executives yesterday, blaming the global economic downturn for a wider first-quarter loss and sliding sales of digital cameras and other photography products.

The photography pioneer lost $353 million, or $1.32 a share, compared with a loss of $115 million, or 40 cents a share, a year earlier.

Sales plunged 29 percent to $1.48 billion from $2.09 billion a year ago, hit by a sharp slowdown not only for chemical-based film.

30-year mortgages tie record low

WASHINGTON » Rates on 30-year mortgages tied a record low this week, spurring refinancing activity as the troubled housing market moves closer to possibly hitting the bottom, Freddie Mac said yesterday.

Average rates on 30-year fixed mortgages slid to 4.78 percent from 4.8 percent, Freddie Mac said. Last year at this time, the average rate on a 30-year mortgage was 6.06 percent. The all-time low of 4.78 percent was recorded the week of April 2. Freddie Mac's annual survey dates back to 1971.

The average rate on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.48 percent this week, unchanged for the third straight week.

Average rates on one-year, adjustable-rate mortgages fell to 4.77 percent from 4.82 percent last week.