Business news briefs
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Gap's 1st-quarter

profits up 43%

After years of struggling, Gap is back in style. Gap Inc., which owns the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic clothing chains, reported a 43 percent increase 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 Gap also reiterated its full-year earnings outlook.

Japan gyrations

show vulnerability

Japan's financial markets fluctuated wildly Thursday, underscoring the shakiness of its economy and loss of investor confidence as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attempts "shock monetary easing" to end two decades of stagnation. A spike in interest rates, along with fresh data showing China's recovery is faltering, led to a 7.3 percent tumble in the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index, its worst drop since the March 2011 tsunami disaster.

Big stores sue

over card accord

Some of the country's largest retailers, including Target Corp. and Macy's Inc., filed a lawsuit against MasterCard and Visa, rejecting a settlement reached last year over alleged fee-fixing. A larger group of 19 trade associations and retail companies originally filed suit against the card processing companies in 2005, claiming that they conspired to fix the fees they charge stores for handling payments made with credit cards.

Birth control rule

up for an appeal

In the most prominent challenge of its kind, Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. asked a federal appeals court Thursday for an exemption from part of the federal health care law that requires it to offer employees health coverage that includes access to the morning-after pill. The Oklahoma City-based arts-and-crafts chain argues that businesses — not just exempted religious groups — should be allowed to seek exception from that section of the health law if it violates their religious beliefs.

With 1Q, Sears'

losses deepen

Sears Holdings Corp. reported a steeper-than-expected loss for its first quarter, with the beleaguered retailer blaming a cooler spring for falling sales. The operator of Sears and Kmart stores also said it's considering strategic options for its service-agreement business, such as selling it off, to raise cash. The steep loss drove Sears' shares down more than 11 percent in after-hours trading.

New home sales

up 2.3 percent

U.S. sales of new homes rose in April and nearly matched the fastest pace in five years, driving the median price to a record high. The gains suggest the housing recovery is strengthening. The increase in new-home sales follows a report Wednesday that sales of previously owned homes rose in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.97 million, the highest level in 3½ years.