Last Update on May 24, 2013 07:30 GMT
BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stocks continued to retreat today after being routed the day before by unexpectedly weak Chinese manufacturing and fears the Federal Reserve will start withdrawing its monetary stimulus.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index, which plummeted more than 7 percent Thursday, reversed a big morning gain and shed 0.7 percent to 14,391.74 as the yen strengthened against the dollar. South Korea's Kospi gained 0.1 percent to 1,971.23.
The Nikkei's dramatic fall Thursday was attributed on the spike in the interest rate on the country's benchmark 10-year bond to above 1 percent for the first time in a year, which came after Fed meeting minutes showed some of its policy makers want the U.S. central bank to start scaling back its monetary stimulus.
The swing in Japanese bonds unnerved investors at a time when Japan's already overburdened government finances are vulnerable to rises in interest rates.
Benchmark crude oil fell below $94 per barrel. The dollar rose against the euro and weakened against the yen.
EARNS-PROCTER & GAMBLE-CEO
Procter & Gamble brings back A.G. Lafley as CEO
NEW YORK (AP) -- Procter & Gamble Co. is bringing back its former CEO, as the world's largest consumer-products maker tries to spur global growth.
In a surprise move, P&G said Thursday that former CEO A.G. Lafley, a 33-year industry veteran, is returning to the Cincinnati company's helm.
Lafley replaces CEO Bob McDonald, effective immediately. McDonald, who will retire June 30 after a transition period, has served as CEO since 2009.
Lafley, who led P&G from 2000 to 2009, also is taking the president and chairman titles.
The 175-year-old company's Tide detergent, Crest toothpaste and other products can be found in 98 percent of American households. But it is struggling to grow under increased competition and global economic challenges.
NEW YORK (AP) -- It was another ugly quarter for Sears Holdings Corp.
The beleaguered department-store chain reported a steeper-than-expected loss for its first quarter on slumping sales.
It also announced that it is considering selling its protection-agreement business in an ongoing effort to raise cash as it struggles to reverse its fortunes. The unit runs the part of the business that sells customers service contracts that guarantee to fix or replace appliances if they break within a certain timeframe.
The steep loss drove Sears' shares down more than 12 percent in after-hours trading.
Like many retailers, Sears' business in the first couple of months of the year was hurt by poor weather and new economic pressures on its customers, including rise in the payroll tax. But the latest results show that Sears' path toward profitability will be more elusive than the chain may have thought. Critics say that Sears still has not given shoppers a compelling reason to spend money there.
NEW YORK (AP) -- After years of struggle, Gap is back in style.
Gap Inc., which owns The Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic clothing chains, on Thursday reported a 43 percent jump 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 results are welcome news for customers and investors who had watched the one-time industry darling flounder over the past several years. Gap's performance shows that efforts by the chain to attract customers with brightly colored fashions and lively ads are helping to boost sales.
It's been a long uphill slog for Gap. After turning basics like T-shirts and khakis into must-have fashions in the 1990s, the San Francisco-based retailer fell out of favor with customers after the turn of the century. Poor fit, boring fashions and drab colors hurt the company's flagship brand for most of the past decade.
These days, Gap is striking the right note with customers. The company has overhauled management, launched new ads and formed partnerships with other designers. It's also hired new talent: The Banana Republic division brought in fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez, who began serving as an adviser to the brand starting with the fall 2013 collection.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Internet radio company Pandora Media Inc. reported higher-than-expected revenue in the latest quarter, with losses in line with analysts' forecasts, as the number of subscribers who pay for ad-free listening more than doubled to exceed 2.5 million.
Pandora predicted that it may break even in the current quarter after adjusting for one-time costs, and it predicted annual earnings and revenue that exceeded Wall Street forecasts. Its stock jumped in after-hours trading.
The upbeat results reported Thursday are a positive sign for the Internet startup as competition in digital music gets tougher. Google Inc. launched a paid subscription plan called All Access last week, and Apple Inc. is expected to unveil a free radio streaming plan later this year.
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's top leaders are defending the economic strategies championed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, though the central bank chief acknowledged a need for better communication with financial markets, a day after Tokyo shares suffered their worst loss since the 2011 tsunami disaster.
Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda acknowledged Friday the need for careful handling of aggressive monetary policies aimed at breaking the world's third-largest economy free of deflation and for stronger "communication and dialogue" with financial markets.
But, Abe and other officials said they will stick to the policies, which have brought unusual volatility to Japan's government bond market and contributed to the 7.3 percent drop in the benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index on Thursday.
The Nikkei had gained 1.2 percent by early afternoon Friday.
CAMPBELL SOUP-PLUM ORGANICS
NEW YORK (AP) -- Campbell Soup said it's buying Plum Organics, which makes food for babies and kids, for an undisclosed amount as it looks to move into faster-growing categories.
The company, which also makes Prego pasta sauces and Pepperidge Farm cookies, had been struggling to grow sales of its canned soups in recent years as people increasingly look for foods with a fresher feel. To diversity its stable of products, Campbell also recently purchased Bolthouse Farms, which makes premium juices, salad dressings and bagged carrots.
Campbell Soup Co. said Thursday the premium and organic baby food market has been growing at an annual rate of 43 percent. Baby food is a $2 billion category in the U.S., with Plum holding the No. 4 position in the market, according to the company.