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Corporate earnings

Morgan Stanley said its profit fell 83 percent in the third quarter as the Wall Street firm took a $1 billion charge to write off the value of its aircraft financing business. For the quarter ended Aug. 31, Morgan Stanley earned $144 million, or 13 cents per share, compared to $837 million, or 76 cents per share, in the third quarter of 2004. Revenues climbed to $6.95 billion, a 29 percent increase from $5.39 billion in the third quarter a year ago. Without the one-time charge, Morgan Stanley would have earned $1.74 billion, or $1.09 per share.

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A.G. Edwards Inc., the St. Louis-based brokerage with more than 700 U.S. offices, said second-quarter profit rose 23 percent to $49.8 million, or 64 cents a share, from $40.6 million, or 52 cents, a year earlier. Net revenue rose 10 percent to $672.5 million.

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General Mills Inc. reported its first-quarter earnings rose almost 38 percent, but it said earnings for the year will come in below earlier expectations, citing higher fuel prices. The company reported a profit of $252 million, or 64 cents per share, for the three months ended Aug. 28, up from $183 million, or 45 cents per share, during the same period last year. Revenue rose to $2.66 billion from $2.59 billion a year ago.

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ConAgra Foods Inc. said first-quarter earnings more than doubled, reflecting a large gain from selling its remaining shares in Pilgrim's Pride Corp. as well as solid performance in several areas of the business. The maker of Butterball turkeys and Chef Boyardee foods said net income surged to $352.1 million, or 68 cents per share, in the three months ended Aug. 28, from $134.7 million, or 26 cents per share, a year ago. Sales ebbed to $3.36 billion from $3.38 billion last year. Excluding the extraordinary gain, as well as 4 cents per share of asset impairment and plant closure costs, and a penny per share of earnings from discontinued operations, ConAgra would have posted profit of 31 cents per share in the latest quarter, compared with year-ago operating earnings of 28 cents.

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Rite Aid Corp., the nation's third-largest drugstore chain, reported a second-quarter loss, reversing its profit from a year ago due to sluggish sales growth and higher costs. For the three months ending Aug. 27, Rite Aid said its loss attributable to common shareholders was $17.1 million, or 3 cents per share. In the same period a year ago, the company reported a gain of $1.3 million, or break-even per share. Revenue in the second quarter increased slightly to $4.13 billion from $4.12 billion a year ago.

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Bed Bath & Beyond, the largest U.S. home furnishings retailer, said second-quarter profit rose 18 percent on sales of back-to-school items. Net income increased to $141.4 million, or 47 cents a share, from $120 million, or 39 cents, a year earlier. Revenue in the period ended Aug. 27 climbed 12 percent to $1.43 billion.

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FedEx Corp. earned $339 million, or $1.10 per share, for the three months ended Aug. 31, up from $330 million, or $1.08 per share, last year. Setting aside a one-time charge from changing its lease accounting, earnings would have been $1.25 per share. Quarterly revenue totaled $7.71 billion, up 10 percent from $6.98 billion a year earlier. FedEx posted double-digit increases across its shipping segments, while revenue at its Kinko's document services unit rose 6 percent.

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AutoZone Inc., the auto-parts retailer, earned $206.6 million, or $2.66 a share, on sales $1.88 billion in the fiscal fourth quarter ended Aug. 27. Excluding a one-time tax benefit of $6 million, AutoZone earned $2.59 a share in the most recent quarter. In the same period a year ago, it earned $209.4 million, or $2.53 a share, on sales of $1.84 billion.

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Circuit City Stores Inc., the nation's second-biggest consumer electronics chain, earned $1.4 million, or 1 cent a share, in the quarter ended Aug. 31, compared to a loss of $11.9 million, or 6 cents per share, in the year-earlier period. Circuit City's sales rose almost 8 percent to $2.56 billion in the quarter from $2.38 billion in the year-earlier period. Same-store sales -- or revenue at stores open at least a year -- increased 5.3 percent.

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Best Buy Co. earned $188 million, or 37 cents per share, for the three months ended Aug. 27 compared with $150 million, or 30 cents a share, reported a year ago. The company's latest results included expensing stock-based compensation and were 47 percent above the $127 million, or 26 cents per share, that it would have earned a year ago if those results also reflected such expensing. Revenue rose 10 percent to $6.7 billion from $6 billion a year ago, bolstered by new store openings. Sales in stores open at least one year -- a key retail measure known as same-store sales -- rose 3.5 percent.

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