James Hardie posts wider fiscal-year net loss
(7:24 PM ET) SYDNEY (MarketWatch) -- Building material group James Hardie Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201411224/delayed AU:JHX -0.45% /zigman2/quotes/208464270/delayed JHIUF +9.52% said Thursday that its fiscal-year net loss widened to $347 million, or 80 cents a share, from $84.9 million, or 20 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Sales totaled $1.17 billion, from $1.12 billion in the same period a year ago, in the twelve months to March 31. Although asbestos-related adjustments fell to $85.8 million, from $224.2 million, the firm's tax charge rose to $443.6 million, from $66.2 million in the year-earlier period. The firm said that activity in the U.S. residential housing sector is expected to remain relatively flat in both the construction and the repair and remodel segments for the company's 2012 financial year. At the same time, increases in mortgage interest rates in Australia have continued to dampen activity in the sector, although the market is expected to remain relatively robust, the firm said.
NY Times encouraged by paid model, shares rise 7%
(3:04 PM ET) NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- New York Times Co. /zigman2/quotes/202090840/composite NYT -0.14% shares rose 7% to $7.67 on Wednesday, after the company updated analysts about its move to charge subscriptions for online content and said the effort is going well. Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, CEO Janet Robinson said the media company is "very encouraged" by subscriptions for NYTimes.com. So far, The New York Times has signed up more than 100,000 subscribers. Plus 728,000 home delivery subscribers have linked their accounts to their digital accounts to assure them of free access. "We're seeing some very, very strong results," Robinson said, according to a transcript of the event from FactSet Research. "And it's important to note that we took a long time preparing for our paid model. We're very glad we did because I think the results are reinforcing that preparation has paid off."
Deere shares fall as profit growth slows: analyst
(10:16 AM ET) NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Deere & Co. /zigman2/quotes/207941296/composite DE -0.59% posted a 65% jump in fiscal second-quarter profit on Wednesday and raised its outlook, but it barely matched the Wall Street consensus and raised concerns the manufacturer's profit growth was decelerating. "This is a company that's been beating and raising its numbers consistently, but today they posted an in-line quarter, after you back out of the lower tax rate, and the raise only gets you to where the consensus is now," Jefferies & Co. analyst Stephen Volkmann told MarketWatch. After accounting for the lower tax rate, Deere earned $2.05 a share, according to Volkmann, while analysts surveyed by FactSet Research were looking for earnings of $2.06 a share, on average. Shares of Deere fell more than 2% to $85.
Energy stocks rise, led by oil service shares
(9:41 AM ET) NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Energy stocks rose Wednesday, but shares of oil producers traded near their lowest levels since January. The NYSE Arca Oil Indexrose 0.1% to 1,273. The NYSE Arca Natural Gas Indexrose 0.3% to 663. The Philadelphia Oil Service Index /zigman2/quotes/210598360/realtime OSX -2.72% rose 0.8% to 261.
Allstate paying $1 billion for Esurance; Answer
(8:24 AM ET) NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- The Allstate Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201974803/composite ALL -2.89% said Wednesday it would buy Esurance and Answer Financial from White Mountains Insurance Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/207094146/composite WTM -3.67% in a deal valued at $1 billion. Allstate said the price includes $700 million plus the tangible book value of the entities acquired at close. Allstate said Esurance is the third-largest provider of online auto insurance quotes. Answer Financial is targeted at consumers who seek a choice among insurance companies. Allstate expects to close the acquisition in the fall. The purchase is expected to be non-dilutive to Allstate earnings in the second full year after the deal closes, Allstate said.
Crude oil rebounds from 12-week low
(7:35 AM ET) NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Crude oil futures rose on Wednesday, bouncing back from losses in the previous session. West Texas Intermediate crude oil for June deliveryrose $1.36, or 1.4%, to $98.32 a barrel in electronic trades on the New York Mercantile Exchange. In the previous session, crude oil futures fell 46 cents, or 0.5%, to $96.91 a barrel, the lowest settlement since Feb. 22.
BJ's Wholesale Club profit climbs
(7:25 AM ET) NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- BJ's Wholesale Club Inc. /zigman2/quotes/203668982/composite BJ +3.20% said Wednesday its first-quarter profit rose to $33.67 million, or 62 cents a share, from $26.1 million, or 49 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Sales rose 10% to $2.77 billion. Wall Street analysts expected BJ's to earn 56 cents a share, on revenue of $2.77 billion, according to a survey by FactSet Research. For the second quarter, the retailer expects earnings of 74 cents to 78 cents a share, compared to the analyst target of 73 cents a share. BJ's said it expects 2011 earnings of $2.68 to $2.88 a share, versus the Wall Street expectation of $2.80 a share.
Deere profit climbs 65%; shares rise
(7:18 AM ET) NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Deere & Co. /zigman2/quotes/207941296/composite DE -0.59% said Wednesday its fiscal second-quarter net income rose to $904.3 million, or $2.12 a share, from $547.5 million, or $1.28 a share, in the year-ago period. Sales jumped to $8.33 billion from $6.55 billion, driven by overseas demand and a favorable currency translation. Analysts surveyed by FactSet Research were looking for earnings of $2.06 a share, on average, with sales of $8.12 billion. For the third quarter, the agricultural-machinery provider forecast year-over-year sales growth of 20%. Shares of Deere were up about 1% in premarket trading.
Staples cuts outlook as results miss expectations
(6:24 AM ET) LONDON (MarketWatch) -- Office-supplies retailer Staples Inc.reported weaker-than-expected quarterly results Wednesday and cut its profit outlook for the year. The group said fiscal first-quarter net profit rose 5% to $198.2 million, or 28 cents a share, from $188.8 million, or 26 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue for the quarter ended April 30 rose 1.9% to $6.17 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet Research had been expecting earnings of 32 cents a share on sales of $6.2 billion. Chairman and Chief Executive Ron Sargent said Staples is making good progress on its growth initiatives, but that this was coming "at a cost to our bottom line" as the company invested in order to gain market share in North America. For 2011 the group now expects earnings to be in a range of $1.35 to $1.45 a share, down from its previous forecast of $1.50 to $1.60 a share. Analysts had, on average, been forecasting earnings of $1.53 a share for the year.
Europe stocks higher, led by financials, resources
(3:10 AM ET) MADRID (MarketWatch) -- European stock markets opened firmer on Wednesday, supported by financials and resource stocks, with the latter gaining on a rebound for commodity prices. The Stoxx Europe 600 indexrose 0.6% to 278.96, led by a 4.4% rise for Land Securities Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/207145631/delayed UK:LAND -4.03% which announced full-year results. In Paris, shares of BNP Paribas SA /zigman2/quotes/206351084/delayed FR:BNP -1.48% rose 1.5% and Total SAadded 1.4%. In Germany, shares of Deutsche Bank AG /zigman2/quotes/205584254/delayed DE:DBK -1.77% added 1.6%. The CAC 40 index /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 -0.24% rose 1.2% to 3,985.33, while the German DAX 30 index /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX -0.46% added nearly 1% to 7,332.14. In London, the FTSE 100 index /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX +0.03% rose 1% to 5,916.05, with mining shares up across the board and oil major BP PLC /zigman2/quotes/202286639/delayed UK:BP -0.73% /zigman2/quotes/207305210/composite BP -2.92% up over 1%.
Experian '11 net off 3.2%, revenue up 9.3%
(2:47 AM ET) TEL AVIV (MarketWatch) -- Experian PLC, /zigman2/quotes/204348666/delayed EXPGF +0.69% /zigman2/quotes/210252954/delayed UK:EXPN +1.87% the provider of credit information, reported that fiscal 2011 net income attributable to shareholders fell 3.2% on 9.3% higher revenue. For the year ended March 31, attributable earnings were $581 million against $600 million in fiscal 2010. Earnings per share eased to 57 cents from 58 cents. Earnings from continuing operations were 50 cents a share versus 56 cents. Adjusted earnings were 70 cents against 64 cents. Revenue reached $4.24 billion from $3.88 billion.
Icap profit up 61%
(2:37 AM ET) LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.K. interdealer broker Icap PLCsaid Wednesday that its fiscal-year net profit rose 61% to 187 million pounds ($303.9 million) as revenue grew 8.5% to 1.74 billion pounds. The company's bottom line results were helped by lower taxes and by the non-recurrence of a loss from discontinued operations in the prior year. The group said revenue was boosted by rising volumes in its fixed income and foreign-exchange electronic trading platforms, which more than offset a drop in revenue from equities trading. The group said it will pay a final dividend of 14.68 pence a share, up from 12.44 pence a year earlier.
Land Securities profit up; sees market recovery
(2:33 AM ET) MADRID (MarketWatch) -- Land Securities Group PLC /zigman2/quotes/207145631/delayed UK:LAND -4.03% on Wednesday announced profit for the year ended March 31 of 1.24 billion pounds ($2.08 billion), against 1.09 billion pounds. The group said the rise in profit was due to the valuation surplus on the investment property portfolio and profits on investment property disposals. Revenue for the group fell 16% to 701.9 million pounds, while net asset value per share rose 18% to 885 pence. The final dividend for the year will rise to 7.2 pence from 7 pence. "We remain of the view that our markets are in recovery mode and we see particularly strong growth prospects in London over the next few years," said Francis Salway, Chief Executive of Land Securities. "We may continue to see ripples in prices, but we go into the new financial year confident in our plans and well positioned to address growth opportunities." The company also said non-executive directors Christopher Bland and Bo Lerenius will step down as of July.