L.L. Bean to lay off 200 workers

PORTLAND, Maine - Outdoors outfitter L.L. Bean Inc. notified employees Friday that it plans to lay off 200 to 240 workers in Maine because of lagging sales.

In a letter to its 5,400 full- and part-time workers, the Freeport-based retailer said voluntary retirement incentives announced in February have helped reduce the number of layoffs but were not sufficient to eliminate the need for job cuts.

The letter from President and CEO Chris McCormick, obtained by The Associated Press, played down hopes for a quick turnaround as unrealistic.

The privately held company said last month that revenue for the fiscal year that ended in February totaled $1.5 billion, down 7.8 percent from the previous year. It was only the third annual drop in revenue since 1960. L.L. Bean does not release earnings.

Worst may be over for new homes

WASHINGTON - After a staggering 74 percent decline from the peak in July 2005, new U.S. home sales appear to be bottoming out.

The pace of home sales, which hit a record low in January, jumped in February and was flat in March, the Commerce Department said Friday. At the same time, the inventory of new homes for sale dropped a badly needed 5 percent from February levels.

'We believe that the bottom is at hand and that sales will begin turning in the second half of this year,' wrote IHS Global Insight economist Patrick Newport. 'As previous recessions show, demand for new homes does not evaporate altogether, even in the hardest of times.'

Treasury lends $2 billion to GM

WASHINGTON - Taxpayers invested another $2 billion in General Motors Corp. this week as the struggling auto giant continued efforts to restructure and avoid bankruptcy court.

The Treasury Department said Friday it lent the additional money to GM on Wednesday to provide working capital. The loan pushes the total amount of GM's government aid to $15.4 billion after the company said it would need more money in the second quarter to stay afloat.

A government report revealed earlier this week that the Treasury was prepared to provide GM with up to $5 billion more in federal loans and Chrysler with up to $500 million more in bailout support as they race against deadlines to restructure.

GM has until June 1 to complete restructuring plans that satisfy the government's auto task force.

Ford posts $1.4 billion loss

DEARBORN, Mich. - Ford Motor Co. reported a first-quarter loss of $1.4 billion Friday and said it depleted less of its cash, emphasizing that it doesn't expect to seek any of the government assistance that is keeping the rest of the Detroit Three alive.

The nation's second-largest automaker said it spent $3.7 billion more than it took in during the first three months of the year, far less than the $7.2 billion it spent in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Ford shares climbed 69 cents, or 15.5 percent, to $5.18 in midday trading.

Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth said the company is confident that it will slow the drain on its cash even further this year, and he said Ford will make it through 2009 without needing government aid.