Home Depot won't abandon professional installation

ATLANTA - The Home Depot Inc. doesn't expect future growth for its professional in-home installation service, but the company's chief executive vowed Thursday that the struggling business would not be abandoned either.

Later, he told reporters that Home Depot isn't thinking about further acquisitions as it focuses on its existing retail stores, and it has no plans to sell the company as part of its efforts to create shareholder value. He did not rule out further job cuts in corporate functions.

Customers have complained about the quality of work done by the people Home Depot hires to do home installation of kitchen appliances, flooring and other items.

Retailers report May shopping results above expectations

NEW YORK - Tax rebate checks gave consumers a little extra money in their pockets during May, but most were still spending conservatively, buying necessities such as food and gas and shying away from splurging on clothing or furniture. The result was some better-than-expected sales for the nation's retailers, with lower-priced merchants like discounters and wholesale clubs showing the strongest gains.

Accordingly, Costco Wholesale Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. were among the strongest performers, but fewer rebate dollars made their way to the mall, and retailers such as Gap Inc. and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. missed expectations.

'It was a great month for discount retailers, but the rest of retail is struggling to capture a share of the consumer's wallet,' said Patricia Edwards, a portfolio manager and retail analyst at Wentworth, Hauser & Violich in Seattle.

Stocks rise following jobs report

NEW YORK - Wall Street surged Thursday as investors looked past a sharp rebound in oil prices and focused on comforting news about the economy - better-than-expected retail sales and a drop in the number of laid-off workers seeking unemployment benefits.

The Dow Jones industrials rose almost 214 points, posting its biggest daily point gain since April 18.

The market got an additional boost from word that Verizon Wireless will acquire Alltel Communications LLC for $5.9 billion in cash and the assumption of $22.2 billion in debt.

Not all of Thursday's news was positive, however. Even though the Labor Department said applications for unemployment benefits declined last week by 18,000 to 357,000, its four-week average rose to a four-month high.

Foreclosures hit a record high

WASHINGTON - The foreclosure hammer is hitting ever harder. People lost their homes at the highest rate on record in the first three months of the year, and late payments soared to a new high, too - an alarming sign that the housing crisis and its damage to the national economy may only get worse.

Dumping more empty homes on an already glutted market also is likely to put a further drag on home prices - extending a vicious cycle.

Slumping home values are being blamed in large part for the rising tide of foreclosures. Troubled borrowers are left owing more to the bank than their homes are worth. They can't sell without taking a huge financial hit, so they just walk away.