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Monday, November 30, 2009

Black friday web traffic ! (AMZN) was the most trafficked retail Web site on Black Friday for the second straight year, according to Experian Hitwise.

Here is the Hitwise list of the top 20 most trafficked retail sites on Black Friday, with their share of traffic among the top 500 retail sites: (AMZN), 13.55%
Walmart (WMT), 11.18%
Target (TGT), 5.65%
Best Buy (BBY), 4.62%
Sears (SHLD), 2.95%
JC Penney (JCP), 2.53%
Toys R Us, 2.47%
Kohl’s (KSS), 1.94%
Kmart, 1.90%
Dell (DELL), 1.62%
Macy’s, 1.52% (OSTK), 1.49%, 1.27%
Home Depot (HD), 1.12%
Lowe’s (LOW), 1.10%
Apple (AAPL), 1.08%
Staples (SPLS), 0.99%
Old Navy, 0.98%
GameStop (GME), 0.95%
Fandango (CMCSA), 0.92%

Saturday, November 28, 2009

X Mas - holiday shopping has some gem & some coal in your shopping stockings ?

Early shopping tally: Some gems, some coal
Store sales up only slightly from last year, according to tracking firm. But signs of strength seen at some merchants, in West and online.

) -- Although malls around the country reported a rush of shoppers and filled parking lots throughout Black Friday, total sales for the day only saw a slight - and not a robust - improvement over last year.
Retailers registered about $10.66 billion in sales Friday, up 0.5% from a year ago, according to a report Saturday from sales and traffic tracking firm ShopperTrak.
Regionally, the firm said year-over-year Black Friday sales rose 4.7% in the West, increased 1.3% in the Midwest, edged up 0.6% in the South, but declined 4.9% in the Northeast, where there was rain in many sections.
"With Black Friday's performance it looks like November will be a positive month for retailers compared to last year, which is an encouraging sign," ShopperTrak co-founder Bill Martin said in the report.
"Friday's relatively strong performance isn't always a bellwether for the entire season, but we believe the 1.6% increase we originally predicted for the holiday season remains intact," he added.
The firm said it did not yet have data on how many consumers hit stores on Black Friday, even as retailers opened their doors early again Saturday in their continuing effort to lure customers.
Taubman Centers -- which operates such malls as the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill., and the Stamford Town Center in Connecticut -- said a majority of its centers reported year-over-year sales increases Friday, with steady traffic into the evening hours.
"The hot categories throughout the evening included apparel, electronics, shoes and boots, and bath and beauty predominantly," said Karen Mac Donald, Taubman's communications director, in an e-mail.
J.C. Penney said Saturday that sales were strong at stores across the country on Black Friday. Top sellers included gemstone and gold jewelry, luggage sets, women's cashmere-blend pea coats and a device that projects TV images onto a blank wall.
Sales with a click
It was a stronger picture for Internet retailing. The average online order on Black Friday rose 35% from last year, to $170.19, according to online retail analyst Coremetrics -- an indication that people may be looking to buy gifts after a year of economic woes.
"The healthy jump in the average amount of money people are willing to spend online this year suggests consumers have adjusted their shopping patterns to the reality of the economic downturn," said John Squire, chief strategy officer, Coremetrics, in a statement. "They're thriftier, they're savvier and every one of them wants to be the best bargain hunter out there."
While people spent more online, Coremetrics said they were spending less time browsing, indicating that they know what they want, and how much they want to pay for it.
Online shopping will garner more attention Monday -- the so-called Cyber Monday -- when many Americans will take advantage of computers at work to shop for gifts.
Although Black Friday seemed to be missing the usual mayhem associated with it, the good news for merchants was that shoppers eagerly spent money on toys, cashmere sweaters, Snuggie blankets and gadgets at juicy discounts .
"What I've noticed so far is that [consumer] traffic is on par with last year, but people are buying more," said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst with market research firm NPD Group.
"They are going into stores with the pure intention of spending money. They have their stores, products and prices all picked out," he said.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) is expected to release its report Sunday estimating how much shoppers spent over the Black Friday weekend and where they shopped.
Compared to previous years, Cohen said the Black Friday atmosphere appeared to "be more tame."
Wal-Mart, which saw Black Friday 2008 tainted by the death of a temporary worker in a shopper stampede in Valley Stream, N.Y., said the day passed without much incident -- although in Upland, Calif., was forced to shut its doors after shoppers got a bit too rowdy.
"We've heard of a few scuffles among customers, but overall it has been a very safe event," a Wal-Mart spokesman said.
"Look, retailers have been educating consumers for days before Black Friday on what their deals are going to be and on what items," said Cohen. "That's partly why we're not seeing the frenziness."
Power tools and Snuggies selling out
Sears (SHLD, Fortune 500) spokesman Tom Aiello said he thought Black Friday crowds outside its stores were "a little bit more than last year."
The department store chain reported an average of 300 to 400 shoppers lined up for its 4 a.m. opening Friday.
The top sellers at Sears included a Craftsman drill set for $39.99, down from its original price of $79.99, as well as home-related goods such as luggage, comforters and the Snuggie blanket.
"Snuggies are selling fast for $9.99 at out Kmart stores," Aiello said. "And our layaway section is jammed. People are buying the special deals and putting them on layaway."
Jim Fielding, president of Disney Store Worldwide, said Black Friday was a big day for his company's 205 U.S. retail stores. He said hot sellers were toddler dolls, classic dolls, Buzz and Woody action figures from "Toy Story" and $10 plush toys.
"I would say that shoppers are focused on value," said Fielding. "But you could find value at $10 or at $50."
This year, more retailers opened their stores at midnight instead of the typical 5 a.m. Black Friday openings.
Fielding said the extra pre-dawn hours of business worked for Disney stores. "We're able to better manage the demand and spread [customer] traffic throughout the day," he said. "This may not become the norm for Black Friday for all retailers, but I think we will continue to be committed to it for the foreseeable future."
Elsewhere, Zhu Zhu, the electronic pet hamster, was flying off shelves at Toys R Us and emerged as the frontrunner for this year's must-have toy. (Black Friday shoppers hear the call of Zhu Zhu)
Toys R Us, the nation's leading specialty toy retailer, opened its stores at midnight on Thanksgiving. CEO Gerald Storch told that about 1,000 people lined up on average at his company's stores.
In addition to Zhu Zhu, Storch said other hot sellers included Princess Tiana dolls, from the new Disney (DIS, Fortune 500) animated movie "The Princess and the Frog," as well as video games and crafts products such as the Paperoni 3-D picture set.The retailer has been aggressive in price cutting this season as it does battle with discounters Wal-Mart and Target. "History has shown that economic downturns are a great time for those who are aggressive, so we're very aggressive this year," Storch said.
Tough challenge for merchants
The day after Thanksgiving is dubbed "Black Friday" because it traditionally marks the day of the year when retailers finally move out of the red, indicating losses, and into the black, representing profits.
But despite the hype surrounding Black Friday as the "unofficial" start to holiday gift shopping, it's not the busiest shopping day of the year. That day invariably is the Saturday before Christmas, which is Dec. 19 this year.
Still, for retailers, November and December are crucial sales months because the combined period can account for half, or more, of their sales and profits for the full year.
Although retailers know that they're facing an uphill battle to grow sales amid a tepid spending environment, the hope is that this year's holiday season will at least be an improvement from the previous year.
The NRF expects holiday sales to decline 1% versus a 3.4% drop in holiday sales the previous year.
The group maintains that even though many Americans have had a year to adjust to the recession, continued job losses and stagnant income growth are forcing many consumers to restrain their shopping impulses and shop only for necessities.
Overall, more bargain hunters are expected to hit stores on Black Friday and the weekend. The total is expected to be about 134 million, up from 128 million a year ago, according to the NRF.
"More shoppers will come out today than a year ago," said Britt Beemer, a retail industry expert and chairman of America's Research Group. "But consumers are so concerned about money that if and when the deals are gone, so are they."
-- staff writers David Ellis and Aaron Smith

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dubai debt fears hit world markets hard - dollar slide hit world stock markets hard

World stock markets fell sharply Thursday as investors fretted over the debt problems at Dubai World, a government investment company, and the continued fall in the dollar.

AP - A Tokyo money dealer looks at a memo as the U.S. dollar is traded at 86.64 yen on ...
Markets are usually relatively quiet when Wall Street is closed for a holiday, as it is Thursday for Thanksgiving Day -- not so today.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 116.65 points, or 2.2 percent, at 5,248.16, having been out of action earlier for over three hours because of technical problems.

Germany's DAX fell 129.45 points, or 2.2 percent, to 5,673.57 while the CAC-40 in France was 85.17 points, or 2.2 percent, lower at 3,723.99.

Earlier in Asia, the Shanghai index tanked 119.19 points, or 3.6 percent, to close at 3,170.98, its biggest one-day fall since August 31, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.8 percent to 22,210.41.

Sentiment in stocks has been dented by the news that Dubai World, which is thought to have debts totaling around $60 billion, has asked creditors if it can postpone its forthcoming payments until May. That has stoked fears of a potential default and contagion around the global financial system, particularly in emerging markets.

"Certainly the Dubai debt debacle and the uncertainty that it has created has had a severe knock on effect," said David Buik, markets analyst at BGC Partners.

Investors were also keeping a close eye on developments in the currency markets as the dollar slid to a new 14-year low of 86.27 yen, while the euro pushed up to a fresh 15-month high of $1.5141. By mid afternoon London time, the dollar had recouped some ground and was trading at 86.72 yen, down 0.7 percent on the day, while the euro was 0.6 percent lower at $1.5046.

The continued appreciation in the value of the yen continues to dent Japanese stocks as investors worry that the rising currency will have a detrimental effect on the country's exports. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average fell 58.40 points, or 0.6 percent, to 9,383.24.

Kit Juckes, chief economist at ECU Group, said the developments in Dubai and in the currency markets are related as the fall in risk appetite has pushed money into government bonds and into safe haven currencies such as the Swiss franc and the yen.

This, he said, is "testing the tolerance of central banks to see their currencies cause further damage to their economies."

Already there has been unconfirmed talk in the markets that the Swiss National Bank has intervened to buy dollars to prevent the export-sapping appreciation of the Swiss franc.

Meanwhile, Japanese Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii tried to assure the market he was closely monitoring the situation and would "take appropriate steps if foreign exchange rates move abnormally." But that did little to ease investor worries.

Across all markets, there is a growing awareness that investors may use the upcoming year-end to lock-in whatever profits have been made over the last 12 months.

Gold, one of the biggest high-flyers over the last few months, continued to rise as it garnered renewed support from its safe haven status. It hit a new record high of $1,196.8 an ounce, before falling back modestly. By mid afternoon London time, gold was down 0.1 percent at $1,186.30 an ounce.

Oil also fell alongside stocks -- the two have traded alongside each other for much of this year. Benchmark crude for January delivery was down 92 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $77.04 a barrel. On Wednesday, it rose $1.94.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gm to repay us government billions of dollers back ??

General Motors will announce later today plans to repay the U.S. government some $6.7 billion in loans ahead of its initial due date of July 2015. The payments are expected to begin as early as next month, with $1 billion paid each quarter until the full sum is paid -- although that doesn't cover the total $50 billion the taxpayers have "invested" in the automaker after it declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

However, as the Washington Post points out, the amount the government will get back from GM depends on the value of the General's stock. With $6.7 billion in debt, $2.1 billion preferred stock and a 61 percent stake in the automaker, the $50 billion total is a long way off from being paid in full. And when GM reports its financial results tomorrow, it's not expected to show a profit, although the overall picture could be slightly better than anticipated.

[Sources: Washington Post, Detroit New

does 3-Niaspan tops Zetia in new setback for Merck drug?

* Niaspan leads to reduction in artery wall thickness

* No meaningful change seen with Zetia

* 5 times as many serious adverse events seen with Zetia

* Journal editorials cite several limitations of study (Adds analyst comment, AHA comment on Zetia safety)

By Bill Berkrot and Ransdell Pierson

ORLANDO, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories' (ABT.N) Niaspan appeared to be more effective and safer than Merck & Co's (MRK.N) Zetia as a supplementary cholesterol treatment to statins, according to a small study that is likely to further tarnish Merck's damaged cholesterol franchise.

The damage, however, may be limited by the limitations of the study itself, which included data from just 208 patients and was criticized in a major medical journal.

"Niacin is the clear winner and led to very clear reductions in the amount of atherosclerosis that patients had," Alan Taylor, the study's lead investigator who will present the data on Monday at the American Heart Association scientific meeting in Orlando, Florida, said in an interview on Sunday.

Atherosclerosis, which occurs when there is a build-up of dangerous plaque in the arteries, can lead to heart attacks.

Two earlier studies had led to questions about the value and effectiveness of Zetia and a related Merck drug, Vytorin, after which sales of the medicines plunged, although it remains a $4 billion a year franchise.

"This trial doesn't quite put the nail in the coffin for ezetimibe, but it pushes it way down on the list of medications for cholesterol-lowering therapy," Anthony DeMaria, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, said in a statement, using the chemical name for Zetia.

Jon LeCroy, an analyst with Hapoalim Securities, said the study could have a sharp negative effect on Merck's cholesterol franchise.

"This is a huge negative because the excess heart attacks raise significant concern, and front-page headlines will cause worried patients to call their doctors," LeCroy said. He speculated U.S. sales of Zetia and Vytorin could fall another 10-15 percent on the news.

The study tested the effect on carotid artery wall thickness of adding either Niaspan, a long-acting niacin that raises good HDL cholesterol, or Zetia, which lowers bad LDL levels. It involved patients who had heart disease or high risk of heart disease whose LDL was already at target levels from taking statins -- the first-line treatment for high cholesterol -- but who had low HDL levels.

Increases in thickness of the artery wall could be an indicator of build-up of dangerous plaque that causes atherosclerosis, while a decrease could indicate regression of the disease.

The 14-month, 363-subject study sought to determine whether a patient on statins in need of additional therapy would benefit more from further driving LDL down or raising HDL. "This is a question that clinicians are faced with every single day," Taylor explained
Even though the study was halted early, with 14-month data available for only 208 patients, "Niaspan turned out to be clearly superior to ezetimibe," Taylor said.

Niaspan patients had an average reduction in carotid artery wall thickness -- known as intima-media thickness -- of 0.014 millimeters compared with no real change in the Zetia group.


Perhaps of more concern was the five times difference in major adverse events, defined as heart attack, death from heart disease, need for artery-clearing procedures or hospitalization for acute coronary syndrome, although the numbers were small.

There were nine major adverse events in the Zetia group of patients, or 5 percent, compared with two with Niaspan, or 1 percent.

Taylor recommended that doctors refrain from using Zetia in patients until data becomes available that shows it definitively prevents heart attacks and strokes. Merck is currently conducting a large study it hopes will prove just that.

AHA spokesman and former president Robert Eckel said the independent safety monitoring board for the large Merck study "has not seen any safety signal surface." Therefore, Eckel said, "I see no reason to be concerned about using Zetia for LDL lowering."

"The American Heart Association is driven by science, and at this time there is no evidence the drug does harm," he said.

But Taylor said, "To assume that a drug is OK just because LDL goes down is no longer an assumption you can make."

A pair of editorials in the New England Journal of Medicine, however, questioned Taylor's study and its conclusions.

"Unfortunately, the premature termination of the trial, the small number of patients studied and the limited duration of follow-up preclude us from conclusively declaring niacin the adjunctive agent of choice," one editorial concluded, adding that the result "does not necessarily merit changes in our lipid-lowering guidelines at this time."

A second editorial said not including data from all 363 patients was a missed opportunity to enhance the study's precision.

Despite the study's "several limitations," it said "the primary results are likely to be correct, although the magnitude of the difference between the treatment arms may be overestimated."

But Merck research chief Peter Kim defended his company's drug, calling Taylor's study, "scientifically inadequate."

"It would be inappropriate in my opinion for physicians to be taking (this) data and making any changes in their clinical practice with regard to these drugs. It would not be good for public health," Kim said. (Editing by Leslie Adler)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stocks Rally higher , jobs lost , less than expected

Stocks continued rallying just before the closing bell on Thursday, with the Dow dancing on both sides of 10,000 once again, after investors digested better-than-expected jobless claims data and productivity numbers reached a six-year high.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which surged over 200 points earlier to top the five-figure mark, was recently up 189 points, or 2%, at 9,991. The S&P 500 gained 18 points, or 1.7%, at 1064, and the Nasdaq was up 45 points, or 2.2%, to 2101.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest since January. First-time claims fell by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 512,000 last week vs. a consensus forecast of 522,000. That's also down from the prior week's revised 532,000. Continuing claims fell to 5.75 million from a revised 5.82 million.
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Boosting markets further were macro figures showing nonfarm productivity grew by an annual rate of 9.5% in the third quarter vs. consensus estimates at 6.5%.
"In these numbers today, we have those that are focused on long-term fundamentals and those that are focused on the short-term trading opportunity both looking for a positive day," says Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist for Cantor Fitzgerald.
In the afternoon, all stocks on the Dow were in positive territory. But Cisco(CSCO Quote), which was adding 3% today following an earnings beat, helped boost the markets. The tech bellwether reported adjusted earnings at 36 cents a share vs. a consensus estimate of 31 cents. In an earnings call, CEO John Chambers gave a hopeful, but cautious, assessment about the economic recovery that had Wall Street cheering.
"John Chambers was successful in calling the bottom last quarter in his markets," says Art Hogan, chief market analyst for Jeffries. "This quarter, he was much more upbeat, not just about the bottom markets but about the middle markets."
Tech stocks were rising in kind, with the NYSE Arca Tech 100 Index adding 2.1% in the afternoon. IBM(IBM Quote) was up 1.2%. Chipmaker Intel(INTC Quote) was ticking higher by 1.8%.
On Friday morning, employment data will again be in focus, as the markets await highly anticipated nonfarm payroll and unemployment rate figures. Analysts anticipate the rate will move higher to 9.9% from 9.8% in September, with 175,000 jobs slashed. With initial claims and ADP figures already in the books, one expert says investors are gaining confidence about what's in store.
"I think part of the selloff from yesterday was about lingering concerns," adds Pado. "So to get some numbers this morning that are supportive of where you had your projections is important."
"Anything over 200,000 [job cuts] isn't going to sit well with people," adds Kenny Landgraf, President of Kenjol Capital Management, speaking of Friday's jobs figures. "It's going to be a volatile day."
CVS Caremark(CVS Quote) was the S&P's biggest decliner, down 21%. Though it beat forecasts in posting earnings at 65 cents a share, the drugstore concern lost billions worth in contracts in its pharmacy benefits segment.
The S&P Retail Index was up 1.5% after a mix of same-store sales numbers came in, highlighted by high-end operators like Nordstrom(JWN Quote) and Saks(SKS Quote) topping expectations.
In other earnings news, Toyota(TM Quote) surprised with a second-quarter profit, while Time Warner Cable(TWC Quote) reported net income of 76 cents a share. Analysts were expecting 75 cents.
Overseas, the Bank of England maintained its key interest rate at 0.5%. After a slide before the announcement, stocks in Europe turned positive. The FTSE in London grew 0.4%, while the DAX in Frankfurt added 0.7%. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.6%, as Japan's Nikkei fell 1.3%.
Crude oil slid 78 cents to settle at $79.62 a barrel. Gold gained $2 to settle at $1,089.30 an ounce.

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