Job outlook boosts confidence

NEW YORK (AP) -- Americans' confidence in the economy rose in May for the third straight month, fueled by growing optimism about future job prospects.

Still, many worry improvements in shoppers' mood and spending may be reversed because of sharp declines on Wall Street fueled by fears that a debt crisis in Europe could hammer global growth. Already, there are signs pointing to a weakening business at stores in May after a solid spring season.

The Conference Board, based in New York, said that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 63.3, up from a revised 57.7 reading in April.

The increase was boosted by consumers' outlook over the next six months, one component of the index, which soared to 85.3 from 77.4, the highest seen since it reached 89.2 in August 2007, before the economy entered in a recession.

Poultry firm's profit soars

LAUREL, Miss. (AP) -- Poultry producer Sanderson Farms Inc. boosted its fiscal second-quarter profit by 34 percent, easily exceeding analysts' forecasts, the company reported May 25.

For the January-through-March period, Sanderson Farms earned $35.1 million, or $1.62 per share, compared with year-ago earnings in the second quarter of $26.2 million, or $1.25 per share.

Revenue rose from $426.8 million to $487.1 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, had forecast per-share earnings of $1.44 and revenue of $489.5 million for the latest quarter.

Obama pushes for tax changes

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama called on Congress May 25 to pass a package of tax changes, credits and loans designed to help the small businesses that he called the "driving force behind this recovery."

In a Rose Garden event, Obama lobbied lawmakers for help as he honored the small-business owners of the year.

Obama is pushing the House and Senate to adopt a package that includes eliminating capital gains taxes for those making long-term investments in small businesses and expanding Small Business Administration loans. It would also create a lending fund that would target only community banks and a small-business credit program for states that have had to cut back on their own lending programs.

"This should not be an issue of big government versus small government," Obama said. "This is an issue that involves putting our government on the side of the small-business owners who create most of the jobs in this country."

Small businesses lost 2.4 million jobs from the middle of 2007 through the end of 2008, Obama said.

ConAgra affirms $1.73 per share

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- ConAgra Foods Inc. says it continues to expect to earn around $1.73 per share for the year, up from 2009 but slightly short of Wall Street's expectations.

Omaha-based ConAgra, which owns such brands as Chef Boyardee, Swiss Miss and La Choy, also said May 24 that it continues to see its annual revenue growing 3 to 4 percent and its net income per share growing 8 to 10 percent over the long term.

ConAgra first said in December that it expected full-year earnings of $1.73 per share in 2010. Before that, it forecast earnings of $1.70.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters are forecasting that ConAgra's net income for the year will be $1.75 per share on revenue of $12.4 billion.

In 2009, it earned $1.52 per share on revenue of $12.7 billion.

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