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Business

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Briefs

Fed weighs strategy to raise rates

The Federal Reserve has begun to discuss the tools it could use to finally pull back the extraordinary stimulus it’s provided the U.S. economy since 2008. But Fed officials plan further discussions and have set no timetable for any increase in interest rates.

Minutes of the Fed’s April meeting released Wednesday show that officials discussed how to unwind the support they’ve given the economy once they decide to begin raising the Fed’s key short-term rate. That rate has remained at a record low near zero since December 2008.

The minutes stressed that the discussion should not be viewed as a signal that an increase in short-term rates is imminent. Because the economy is still recovering, most analysts don’t think the Fed will start boosting rates before the second half of 2015.

Target profit falls as breach takes toll

Target cut its annual profit outlook Wednesday and said its first-quarter earnings fell 16 percent as it took another hit from last year’s massive customer data breach and a troubled expansion in Canada.

The third-largest U.S. retailer, based in Minneapolis, also issued a second-quarter profit projection below analysts’ expectations. Target also said it doesn’t expect its six straight quarters of traffic declines to reverse this year in what analysts say is the most tumultuous time in its history.

Target also faces uncertainty about costs related to a pre-Christmas data breach. The company said it incurred $18 million of net expense in the first quarter of 2014, reflecting $26 million of expenses partly offset by the recognition of $8 million in expected insurance reimbursement.

For the first quarter, Target says it earned $418 million, or 66 cents a share, in the quarter ended May 3. That compares with $498 million, or 77 cents a share, a year earlier.

eBay urges users to change passwords

E-commerce site eBay is asking users to change passwords after a cyberattack compromised a company database containing customers’ names, encrypted passwords, email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth.

The company said Wednesday that there is no evidence that any financial or credit card information was stolen and no sign that the breach has resulted in unauthorized activity for its 145 million active users.

eBay says its investigation is active and declined to reveal the specific number of accounts affected, saying only that the number could be large.

Cyberattackers stole a small number of employee log-in credentials that gave access to eBay’s corporate network, the company said. The San Jose, California, company is working with law enforcement to investigate the attack.

Lowe’s results rise but fail to reach goal

Home-improvement retailer Lowe’s fiscal first-quarter net income rose 16 percent, bolstered in part by a lower tax rate.

But revenue and profit adjusted to exclude the effect of one-time items missed analysts’ estimates as poor weather kept customers from stores during the beginning of the key spring selling season.

Nonetheless, the company raised its full-year earnings forecast Wednesday.

For the three months ended May 2, Lowe’s Cos. earned $624 million, or 61 cents a share. A year ago, the company earned $540 million, or 49 cents a share.

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