Salt Lake-based American Stores Co. reports its fiscal first-quarter earnings rose 29 percent despite a small decline in sales. A spokesman said the earnings reflected a decline in interest expenses.

The company reported earnings of $36 million or $1.04 per share for the three months ended May 4 up from $27.9 million or 81 cents per share a year earlier.Total revenues in the quarter declined slightly to $5.41 billion from $5.42 billion a year ago. Operating profit fell to $143.7 million from $145.9 million in the year-over period

Interest expense for the first quarter declined to about $73.4 million from $90.9 million a year ago due to lower interest rates and a reduction of the company's outstanding debts, officials said.

American Stores operates 1,840 retail food, drug and combination food-drug stores in 35 states.