In addition, we remain encouraged by innovation plans, as we feel confident in our ability to meet or exceed our annual goal of 3 points of incremental sales from innovation, driven by products launched last fall as well as those coming out in the next month or so.
With that, I'll turn it over to Steve Robb.
Stephen M. Robb - SVP and CFO: Thanks Steve and welcome everyone. As Steve mentioned we grew sales on top of a challenging comparison to the year ago quarter, when sales increased 9%. In the current quarter excluding the impact of foreign currencies sales were up 2.3%.
Turning to diluted earnings per share from continuing operations. For the quarter the 5% decline compares to a strong 18% growth in the year ago period which included a gain of $0.03 from the sale-leaseback of our Oakland headquarters building. Unfavorable foreign currencies also impacted the current quarter results by about $0.05.
With that I'll take you through the details of our second quarter financial results and then discuss our outlook for fiscal '14.
In the second quarter, we grew sales about 0.5 percentage point reflecting more than a point of volume growth and about 2 points of pricing benefit. These factors were partially offset by about 2 points of foreign currency declines across multiple countries.
Gross margin for the current quarter came in at 41.9% a decline of 60 basis points. For the quarter we delivered $20 million in cost savings or 150 basis points and about 70 basis points from pricing primarily in international markets. These benefits were offset by nearly 140 basis points of commodity cost primarily from resin as well as more than 120 basis points of higher manufacturing and logistics cost due to continued high inflation in international markets, particularly Venezuela and Argentina.
Selling and administrative expense for the second quarter was 15% of sales a slight improvement versus year ago quarter, primarily driven by lower employee incentive compensation cost savings and lapping infrastructure related investments. These results were partially offset by the impact of inflation in international markets and one-time costs associated with the transition to new IT service providers. Advertising spending for the current quarter was more than 9% of sales as expected, reflecting increased support for our brands globally with our U.S. retail business spending at about 10% of sales.
Our second quarter tax rate of 35.6% on earnings from continuing operations was more than 1 point higher versus the year ago quarter, reducing diluted earnings per share by $0.02. We continue to anticipate a tax rate of about 34% for the full fiscal year. Net of all of the factors I've discussed today, in the second quarter, we delivered diluted net earnings per share from continuing operations of $0.88.
Turning to cash flow, year-to-date free cash flow was $149 million versus $223 million in the same period a year ago. This decrease is the result of higher tax payments, as well as the Company's funding of liabilities under certain non-qualified deferred compensation plans, partially offset by lower capital expenditures.