The Kroger Co., the nation's biggest traditional supermarket operator and the parent of Utah-based Smith's Food & Drug, reported net income of $461.5 million, or 88 cents per share, for the fourth quarter. It noted sales at stores open at least a year, a closely-watched indicator of retail health, rose 3 percent for the period.
Icahn offers Dell
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has proposed an alternative to Dell's plans for a $24.4 billion buyout that would take the PC maker private. He said the company should offer shareholders a special dividend totaling $9 per share if they reject the buyout offer. If the board declines to promise that, Icahn wants Dell to combine a shareholder buyout vote with its annual meeting to elect new directors.
Retailers are reporting modest sales gains for February as consumers, uninspired by cool weather and worried about the economy, shopped cautiously for spring merchandise. Overall, 15 retailers reported revenue at stores open at least a year a key indicator of retail health rose an average of 1.7 percent. That was down from the 4.5 percent rise in January.
The number of Americans seeking unemployment aid fell 22,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 344,000 and the four-week average of applications dropped for the first time in three weeks. Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. When they decline, it suggests companies are cutting fewer workers and may be more willing to hire.
The U.S. trade picture dimmed at the start of this year as exports fell back and American imports rose more than most expected. On both sides, it was all about oil. The result was a sizable widening of the trade deficit in January, to a seasonally adjusted $44.4 billion from a revised $38.1 billion in December.
SEC eyes tougher
U.S. stock exchanges could be subject to tighter oversight of automated trading under a federal proposal. The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 4-0 to seek comment on rules requiring routine testing of trading systems. Exchanges would also be required to notify the SEC about problems, including systems comprised by hacking.