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CORPORATE-EARNINGS

Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest bookseller, re ported a narrower loss for its first fiscal quarter, beat ing analysts' expectations that were steadily reduced over the past couple of months because of sluggish sales. The chain, helped by strong gains at GameStop, said Thursday that its loss was $2.03 million, or 3 cents pre share, for the three months ended May 3, com pared with a loss of $16.32 million, or 25 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Sales were $1.185 billion compared with $1.13 billion a year ago. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected a 9 cent loss for the quarter. Barnes & Noble's bookseller division, which include sales at Barnes & Noble and B. Dalton, generated sales of $864 million in the quarter versus $862 million a year ago. GameStop, the nation's larg est video game entertainment software specialty re tailer, reported revenue of $321.7 million for the quar ter, an increase of 18.5 percent. Same-store sales were up 3.5 percent, on top of a 28.7 percent increase a year ago. The company's share of GameStop's earn ings for the first quarter -- based upon Barnes & No ble's basic ownership interest of approximately 63 per cent -- was $4.2 million, or 6 cents per share.< Gap Inc. registered a dramatic improvement in its first-quarter profit Thursday, providing another sign of the once-ailing retailer's rejuvenation. The San Francisco-based company earned $202.5 million, or 22 cents per share, during the three months ended May 3. That was more than five times higher than Gap's net income of $36.7 million, or 4 cents per share, at the same time last year. The results were a penny per share higher than the consensus estimate among analysts polled by Thomson First Call. First-quarter sales totaled $3.35 billion, a 16 percent improvement from last year. In a more telling measure of the retailer's recovery, Gap's same-store sales climbed by 12 percent. Same-store sales, which measure the performance of outlets that have been open at least a year, are regarded as the best barometer of a merchant's health. Gap's Old Navy chain powered the comeback during the first quarter with a 16 percent increase in same-store sales. Besides Old Navy chain, Gap also runs the flagship chain bearing its name and Banana Republic.

Borders Group, the nation's second-largest bookseller behind Barnes & Noble, swung to a wider-than-expected loss in its fiscal first quarter, reversing a year-ago profit, because of sluggish sales. The company reported a $4.8 million loss, or 6 cents per share, during the quarter ended April 27, compared with income of $3.9 million, or 5 cents per share in the year-ago period. Analysts polled by Thomson First Call expected a loss of 5 cents. Sales in the quarter amounted to $751.4 million, virtually even with the $751.7 million generated a year ago. Borders Group closed six underperforming Waldenbooks stores in the first quarter, ending the period with 774 locations.

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