ADM reports soaring profits

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Archer Daniels Midland Co. reported that its third-quarter profit soared to more to $421 million from just $3 million in the same period last year, with global demand for biofuels boosting the company's corn processing business.

The company, based in Decatur, Ill., said that it earned 65 cents per share, compared with zero cents per share last year.

ADM reversed last year's loss in bioproducts thanks to lower corn costs and better margins on ethanol. Ethanol producers were hit hard during the recession as job losses and canceled vacations slashed demand for all fuel.

ADM shipped the first commercial product from its joint-venture Mirel bioplastics plant as well.

ADM said global demand for grains has finally shown signs of strengthening. Profit increased $44 million to $165 million at the company's agricultural services unit, which includes shipping.

Overall revenue at ADM rose 2 percent, to $15.1 billion, from $14.8 billion last year.

But agricultural services profit is still down $521 million for the nine months ended March 31, compared to last year.

Factory orders surprise analysts

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A surprisingly busy month for U.S. factories and a surge in home buying are the latest signs that the economic recovery is picking up.

Orders to U.S. factories rose 1.3 percent in March, the Commerce Department said May 4. That was much better than the 0.1 percent decline analysts had expected. Excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders gained 3.1 percent, the biggest increase since August 2005.

Widespread activity in many industries offset a big drop in commercial aircraft. The increase offers further evidence that U.S. manufacturers are helping drive the recovery.

A separate report showed that more people signed contracts on previously owned homes in March than was expected. The jump was in large part the result of tax incentives that have propelled the housing market this spring.

U.S. car sales start to sputter

DETROIT (AP) -- U.S. car shoppers took a wait-and-see approach in April. They eased up on purchases as the lure of big incentives faded and hoped summer would bring a new flurry of deals.

The industry stayed on the road to recovery in April, with sales up 20 percent over last April's dismal numbers and most major automakers seeing double-digit gains, according to AutoData Corp. But sales slipped 8 percent from March, when Toyota launched record-high incentives after a series of safety recalls.

Toyota's sales rose 24 percent for April but slowed 16 percent from March, a steeper decline than some others reported.

Ford's April sales rose 25 percent. Ford said F-Series sales jumped 42 percent thanks to the new Super Duty truck. GM also reported an 8 percent jump in full-size pickup sales.

Reports: Workers' income stagnant

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. factories are churning out more goods. Consumers are spending. Government aid is fueling construction activity. But stagnant pay and weak hiring will likely restrain the economic rebound in coming months.

That cautionary picture emerged from a series of economic reports May 3.

Consumers stepped up their spending in March by the largest amount in five months. Yet the increase was financed out of savings. Incomes rose only slightly.

Unless employers boost pay and ramp up hiring, economists say consumer spending will likely taper off and dampen the recovery.

The construction industry remains a concern, too. Industry spending rose 0.2 percent in March, the first increase in five months, Commerce said. But all the strength came from government activity -- much of it related to temporary stimulus money that's expected to run out soon. By contrast, construction by the private sector fell to the lowest level in a decade.

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