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Stocks to Watch: Alcoa, Yum!, Chevron, FedEx

Joseph Woelfel

NEW YORK -- Alcoa AA kicked off the third-quarter earnings season on Tuesday by delivering a surprise profit.
Excluding one-time items, the aluminum giant posted earnings from continuing operations of $32 million, or 3 cents a share, in the quarter ended Sept. 30. Sales totaled $5.83 billion, down from $6.42 billion a year earlier.
Analysts were expecting breakeven results on a per-share basis on sales of $5.54 billion. The above-consensus sales beat came despite a sequential decline in realized aluminum prices of 5%.
Alcoa said it remains "on track" to meet its financial and operational targets for 2012.
Alcoa Delivers Surprise Profit

Yum! Brands YUM , the restaurant operator whose brands include Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, lifted its outlook for the full year to adjusted earnings of at least $3.24 a share after beating analysts' expectations in the third quarter.

Chevron CVX said third-quarter earnings would be "substantially lower" than in the second quarter as oil production declined in the first two months of the quarter and it received a lower price from the sale of oil.
The oil giant said production took a hit from a fire at its refinery in Richmond, Calif., and disruptions from Hurricane Isaac.
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FedEx FDX set a goal Tuesday of improving profit by $1.7 billion over the next three years, largely by cutting costs at its underperforming express air division.
Details of the plan, unveiled by CEO Fred Smith at an investor meeting Tuesday, are expected to be disclosed at a meeting at 9 a.m. EDT Wednesday.

Costco Wholesale COST , the warehouse retailer, said Wednesday that fiscal-fourth-quarter net income rose 27%.
Costco earned $609 million, or $1.39 a share, up from $478 million, or $1.08, a year earlier. Net sales in the quarter were $31.52 billion compared with $27.59 billion. Including membership fees, revenue in the quarter was $32.22 billion.
Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.31 a share from Costco in its fiscal fourth quarter ended in September on revenue of $31.69 billion.
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Wells Fargo WFC was sued by the federal government, which accused the bank of misrepresenting the quality of thousands of loans in order to be eligible for federal loan insurance.
The suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan, seeks to recover "hundreds of millions of dollars" that the Federal Housing Administration paid out after borrowers defaulted on Wells Fargo mortgage loans.
Wells Fargo denied the allegations and said it would defend itself against the charges.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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