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Retailers, consumers and prices

Check Out Line: Food companies serve up tasty results


hershey1Check out the better-than-expected results being served up by food companies.

Chocolate maker Hershey posted a quarterly profit above analysts’ expectations, said it was on target to meet its 2010 earnings forecast and boosted its dividend. The company also said it would boost advertising to try to sell more candy, including Almond Joy and York peppermint patties.

Meanwhile, Archer Daniels Midland, one of the largest processors of corn and soybeans, saw its profit slip 2 percent, but the results still topped analysts’ forecasts, and Pepsi Bottling also topped Wall Street’s view as productivity improvements offset a dip in sales. Fruit and vegetable producer Dole Food reported a higher fourth-quarter profit and paid down debt.

Outside the food and beverages sector, Whirlpool’s profit more than doubled on cost cuts and improving sales and the world’s biggest appliance maker offered a stronger-than-expected 2010 forecast. Women’s clothing retailer Ann Taylor said its fourth quarter earnings would top expectations.

Nevertheless, investors have been giving overall U.S. earnings a big yawn up to now, and consumers are saving more and spending less according to the IMF. On the plus side, global employment services company Manpower reported a higher-than-expected profit and said job trends were improving around the world, suggesting the economic recovery would be sustained.