CINCINNATI — Kroger Co. last week surprised observers by posting quarterly earnings that exceeded Wall Street estimates, saying a focus on cost controls and sales growth despite moderating inflation sparked the upside. The retailer here summarily increased its earnings guidance for the year, and said it had authorized a $1 billion stock buyback. Net earnings of $439.4 million, or 78 cents a share, exceeded consensus estimates of 72 cents and were sparked by cost reductions and ...

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