Retail profits give stocks slight gains

NEW YORK -- Stocks ended a seesaw day with a modest gain Wednesday after investors found some pluses in retail earnings reports.

The Dow Jones industrial average and other major indexes fluctuated throughout the day before closing with slender gains. There was little news to motivate investors a day after a stream of improving economic numbers restored some enthusiasm for stocks and sent the Dow up 103 points.

But retailers continued reporting second-quarter earnings and investors found a few positives.

Target's profit up, but it remains cautious

NEW YORK -- Target is counting on driving customers into its stores in the coming months with two weapons, a 5 percent discount for its store credit card holders and an emphasis on food. Even so, the company offered a conservative outlook as a slowing economy weighed on expectations.

Wednesday's cautious view comes as Target reported a double-digit increase in income, as improved business in its credit card division, cost-cutting and strong demand for its fashions overcame disappointing sales.

Net income was up 14 percent to $679 million, but revenue was below expectations at $15.53 billion, up 3 percent. Revenue at stores open at least a year rose 1.7 percent.

Ltd. Brands says profit rose sharply

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Limited Brands says its second-quarter net income rose sharply as more Americans shopped at its mall stores, Victoria's Secret and Bath and Body Works, and it recorded several one-time gains.

The company also raised its full-year outlook.

The company said Wednesday it earned $178.7 million, up from $74.3 million in the same quarter last year. Revenue rose nearly 9 percent to $2.2 billion, meeting expectations.

J&J creates position to oversee quality

New Brunswick, N.J. -- Johnson & Johnson said Wednesday it has created a new position to oversee companywide quality, manufacturing and compliance issues and appointing chief quality officers for each of its three major business units.

The move comes as the health care giant's once-stellar reputation for quality is being tarnished by repeated recalls of nonprescription medicines.

Since September, Johnson & Johnson has announced eight recalls, covering tens of millions of bottles of pain relievers Tylenol, Motrin and St. Joseph aspirin, allergy drug Benadryl, heartburn tablets Rolaids and Simply Sleep pills.

North American sales drive profit at Deere

NEW YORK-- Deere & Co. said Wednesday its third-quarter profit grew 47 percent because American and Canadian farmers bought enough of the company's large equipment to offset a sharp downturn in Europe, but Deere kept its forecast for the year conservative.

The company reported $617 million in net income. Global revenue spiked 16 percent to $6.84 billion, and agricultural equipment sales in the U.S. and Canadian markets increased 19 percent in the quarter.