Ahead of the Bell: Specialty retailers

–(www.FinancialNewsUSA.com)– 01/04/2010 – Most Popular industry news provided by Financial News USA. The new year could be brighter for luxury retailers, as improving stock markets and economic conditions pave the way for a potential recovery, an analyst said Monday.

While shoppers remained budget conscious in 2009 and flocked to discount retailers, Randal Konik of Jefferies & Co. said luxury retailers like Tiffany & Co. and Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance Inc. will be among those that could see improved business in 2010.

Konik also said in a client note that increased cost pressures will push down operating leverage during the second half of the year, leaving retailers that rely on sales growth to achieve higher earnings.

The analyst cut American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Chico’s FAS Inc. and Gap Inc. to “Hold” from “Buy” and reduced AnnTaylor Stores Corp., Ross Stores Inc. and TJX Cos. to “Underperform” from “Hold.”

Oil prices climbed to near $81 a barrel Monday on optimism that a gradual U.S. economic recovery in 2010 will boost demand for crude.

Cold weather in the eastern United States and gains by other currencies against the dollar also helped support prices.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude for February delivery was up $1.55 to $80.91 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added 8 cents to settle at $79.36 on Thursday. Trading was closed Friday for the New Year holiday.

Oil has flirted with the $80 level the last two trading days after jumping from $69 a barrel last month on signs the U.S. economy may be improving. The unemployment rate fell to 10 percent in November from 10.2 percent in October, and the government is scheduled to announced December’s results later this week. [Read the full article]

The Treasury Department said last Thursday that with the injection of $29.3 million into 10 banks it has wrapped up its taxpayer-funded bailout program for banks. 

The fund comes from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) initiated by the government after enduring extraordinary shocks in 2008. The government had taken this step to stabilize the financial system. We believe that the worst of the credit crisis is now probably behind us. 

According to the treasury, the latest capital injection in 10 banks is its last step to support banks under the TARP. 

The 10 banks receiving support are: South Carolina-based Atlantic Bancshares Inc., New Mexico-based Union Financial Corp., Pennsylvania-based Mainline Bancorp Inc., Colorado-based FBHC Holding Co., Illinois-based Western Illinois Banc-shares Inc., Mississippi-based DeSoto County Bank, and Mississippi-based Lafayette Bancorp. [Read the full article]

Beginning Monday, air travelers flying into the United States from Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Yemen and other “countries of interest” will be subjected to enhanced screening techniques, such as body scans, pat-downs and a thorough search of carry-on luggage.

Additionally, all passengers on U.S.-bound international flights will be subject to random screening, the Transportation Security Administration announced Sunday. Airports were also directed to increase “threat-based” screening of passengers who may be acting in a suspicious manner.

The TSA said anyone traveling from or though nations regarded as state sponsors of terrorism — as well as “other countries of interest” — will be required to undergo enhanced screening. [Read the full article] About Financial News USA

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