Business briefs

Gasoline reached new records in the futures market and the Seattle and national marketplaces Wednesday after an Energy Department report showed gas supplies had fallen a million more barrels than expected. Gas moved to $3.65 a gallon in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area. The national average of $3.533 per gallon also set a new record, rising more than 2 cents a gallon. Diesel, used by trucks, trains and ships, rose to its own new national record of $4.214 a gallon.

Good spring sales don’t save Amazon

Web retailer Inc. said Wednesday that its first-quarter profit rose 29 percent, helped by solid sales in the U.S. and abroad. But seemingly lower operating income estimates for the full fiscal year pushed shares down $3.70, or 4.6 percent, to $77.30 in after-hours trading. The stock had closed up $1.40 at $81. Quarterly earnings climbed to $143 million, or 34 cents per share, from $111 million, or 26 cents per share, in the same period last year. Those results beat Wall Street’s expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had forecast a profit of 32 cents per share.

Starbucks warns of poor earnings

Starbucks Corp. warned Wednesday that its second-quarter earnings would fall short of analysts’ expectations due to the weak U.S. economy and the cost of its turnaround plan. The world’s largest coffee retailer said it expects second-quarter earnings of 15 cents per share on a 12 percent revenue increase, down from earnings of 19 cents per share a year earlier. Analysts polled by Thomson Financial were predicting a profit of 21 cents per share for the quarter ended March 30. Starbucks also warned yearly earnings could fall below the 87 cents per share reported for fiscal 2007. Analysts were expecting a profit of 97 cents per share this year. The company plans to release a full quarterly financial report April 30. The news sent Starbucks shares tumbling in after-hours trading. They fell to $16, down 10 percent from their regular-session close Wednesday of $17.85.

UPS feels effects of weak U.S. economy

UPS Inc., the world’s largest shipping carrier, said Wednesday its profit rose 7.5 percent in the first quarter, though it was affected by the weakening U.S. economy. The company lowered its earnings expectations for the year. The results reported for the most recent quarter were in line with Wall Street expectations. The Atlanta-based company said it earned $906 million, or 87 cents a share, in the January-March quarter, compared with a profit of $843 million, or 78 cents a share, during the same period of a year ago.

Winter loss claims slam Allstate profit

Allstate Corp. said Wednesday its first-quarter profits fell a greater-than-expected 77 percent on bigger investment losses and heavy claims from winter tornados. The Northbrook, Ill.-based insurer said profits for the January-through-March period were $348 million, or 62 cents per share, down from $1.5 billion, or $2.41 per share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were expecting earnings of $1.63 per share on revenue of $8.87 billion.

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