Harry & David still struggles

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) -- In the six months since Wasserstein & Co. appointed him chairman and chief executive officer, Steve Heyer has pruned, weeded and fertilized Harry & David Holdings Inc. with an eye on stemming the tide of annual losses.

Heyer reduced the number of executive vice presidents and increased outside sales managers. The bloodletting this spring didn't have the impact salary and benefit cuts did in past years. The total payroll, excluding temporary employees, this year is $95 million, compared to $96 million last year.

The company lost just under $40 million in the fiscal year ending June 26. "I'm not going to snap my fingers and the world will be different for our investors, employees and the economy," Heyer said. "We've had to work on so many fronts. It was a garden that was untended and now we have a whole team tending it."

ConAgra reports income decline

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- ConAgra Foods Inc. reported a disappointing first quarter Sept. 21, saying intense discounting and higher costs pushed the food maker's net income down 12 percent.

The maker of Banquet, Chef Boyardee, Peter Pan and other packaged foods reported that it earned $146.4 million, or 33 cents per share, for the quarter. That's down from $165.9 million, or 37 cents per share, in the same quarter last year.

ConAgra's revenue fell 2 percent to $2.82 billion.

The results missed analysts' average expectation for earnings of 39 cents per share on revenue of $2.96 billion, and ConAgra's shares fell sharply.

"Make no mistake about it, I am disappointed in our performance," Gary Rodkin, ConAgra's CEO, said during a conference call with investors.

Fed waits out economy

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve signaled that it's worried about the weakness of the recovery and is ready to take further steps to boost the economy if needed.

Fed officials said Sept. 21 they are also concerned that sluggish economic growth could prevent prices from rising at a healthy rate.

But at the end of its meeting, the Fed announced no new steps to try to rejuvenate the economy and drive down unemployment. Instead, it hinted that it's prepared to see if the economy can heal on its own.

The meeting is the last for the Fed's chief policymaking group before the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

It comes as voters are focused on the economy and the jobs crisis. Polls show they are likely to punish Democrats in Washington for the sluggish economy.

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