Updated from 6:45 p.m. ET Friday

Retailers continue a flurry of earnings reports this week. This morning, home improvement retailer

Lowe's

(LOW) - Get Report

kicked off the reporting week by beating the Street's earnings estimate for the first quarter. It also gave an improved outlook for the full year.

The retailer said it earned $225.3 million, or 58 cents a share, up from the $187.1 million, or 49 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Twenty analysts polled by earnings tracker

Thomson Financial/First Call

expected Lowe's to earn 54 cents a share. In February, the company said it should earn 56 cents to 58 cents a share for the quarter.

"We expect the five interest rate cuts since the beginning of the year to begin to positively influence consumer spending in the coming months, and we approach the balance of the year with cautious optimism as reflected in our Lowe's business outlook," the company said. In the second quarter, the company expects total sales to increase by 15% compared to year-ago totals.

For the full year Lowe's expects total sales to increase about 17% to 18% compared to 2000, when it counted 53 weeks in its results. Comparable store sales are expected to increase by about 2% with earnings of $2.45 to $2.48 a share. The Street is calling for earnings of $2.43 for the fiscal year.

Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures

Procter & Gamble

(PG) - Get Report

is buying

Clairol

from

Bristol-Myers Squibb

(BMY) - Get Report

for $4.95 billion in cash. Procter & Gamble said it expects the deal to contribute about $1.6 billion in sales.

Weyerhaeuser

(WY) - Get Report

today said it would be willing to increase its bid for rival

Willamette Industries

(WLL) - Get Report

.

"If Weyerhaeuser is prepared to negotiate a definitive merger agreement promptly, Weyerhaeuser is willing to increase its offer to above $50 per share," Weyerhaeuser said in the letter, which was placed as an ad in

The Wall Street Journal

.

Weyerhaeuser, which is based in Federal Way, Wash., increased its bid from $48 a share to $50 a share earlier in the month. It plans to launch a proxy fight at Willamette's annual meeting on June 7 to gain control of three seats on the company's board. Willamette recently described the $50-per-share bid as not even being "in the ballpark." Weyerhaeuser said that if its nominees are not elected at the meeting, it will withdraw the takeover bid.

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Earnings/revenue reports and previews

The Limited

(LTD)

said its earnings met the Street's projections for the first quarter, but it warned that its upcoming financial results would be lower.

The retailer said it earned 7 cents a share, which is in line with the Street's expectations and half of the 14 cents it brought in during the same period last year. Net income totaled $30.7 million, down from $63 million in the year-ago period. Operating income fell to $62.8 million, from $127 million in the previous year's period.

The Columbus, Ohio-based retailer said revenue increased slightly to $2.127 billion, up from the $2.125 billion in the equivalent period last year. Comparable store sales fell about 2% in the period. And the company said it expects earnings to be down significantly in the second quarter and slightly lower for the full year.

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Offerings and stock actions

After Friday's Close

Life insurer

MetLife

(MET) - Get Report

filed with the

Securities and Exchange Commission

to sell up to $4 billion in debt securities and preferred common stock. It plans to use the proceeds for general corporate purposes.

The

Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group

tightened the estimated range of its planned initial public offering to $8 to $10 per share from the $7.50 to $10.50 a share it had previously given. The restaurant owner and operator also increased the size of the offering to 5.03 million shares from 4.95 million shares.

This is the second revision since the company filed for the IPO with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The offering could raise up to $45 million. The company said the proceeds from the IPO will go to the development of new restaurants, to repay debt and to provide working capital. The company is expected to be listed on the

Nasdaqunder the symbol SWRG.

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Miscellany

After Friday's Close

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

said on Friday it had renegotiated a deal it had with two major cable companies that hold shares of the AT&T-controlled Internet-over-cable operator

Excite@Home

(ATHM) - Get Report

.

Cox

(COX)

and

Comcast

(CMCSK)

will hold on to their shares in Excite@Home -- but AT&T will give them shares in AT&T anyway.

Under terms of an earlier agreement, AT&T had been obligated to buy shares in Excite@Home as early as January of this year from Comcast and Cox. Both offer Excite@Home's service to their subscribers.

AT&T had agreed to pay $48 a share. Excite@Home's shares closed Friday at $3.94. Because the cable operators owned approximately 60.4 million Excite@Home shares, AT&T would have ended up paying a total of $2.9 billion for shares that were worth as little as $268 million in January.

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