Spending edges up, savings at 6-mth high in Dec

Consumer spending rose slightly less than expected last month as savings jumped to a six-month high, indicating that households remained too cautious to spend despite an improvement in incomes.
The Commerce Department said on Monday spending rose 0.2 percent after increasing by an upwardly revised 0.7 percent in November. Consumer spending in November was previously reported to have climbed 0.5 percent. It was the third straight monthly gain in spending.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected consumer spending, which normally accounts for over two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, to rise 0.3 percent last month.

“The December spending numbers were revised up, so the weaker numbers for January are not so bad,” said Gary Thayer, chief macrostrategist at Wells Fargo Advisors in St. Louis.

Stock index futures rose slightly after the data, while government bond prices were steady at lower levels. [Read the full article]

According to Life University, a leading chiropractic college and vital health university, Millennials (ages 15-27), are overly optimistic about their own health, despite admitting to the same unhealthy habits that have caused chronic illness in previous generations.

On a scale of 1-10, a vast majority (84%) rate their own health higher than a seven and more than a third (38%) rate their health as high as a nine or ten. Millennials also believe that they are healthier than other generations” one in four say they are healthier than their parents now and 61 percent think they will be healthier when they are their parents age than their parents are today.

However, even though Millennials think they are healthy, their actual habits predict otherwise. [Read the full article]

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Food supplier Sysco Corp. said Monday fiscal second-quarter profit rose 13 percent as cost cuts help offset lower revenue.

The company’s revenue has been hindered by lower food prices, but the supplier of food to restaurants and other food-service operations said that appears to be moderating.

Profit for the three months ending Dec. 26 rose to $268.3 million, or 45 cents per share, from $237.7 million, or 40 cents per share last year.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, on average, predicted earnings of 42 cents per share on revenue of $8.83 billion.

“While the business environment remains challenging, deflation pressures appear to be moderating from highs we saw early in the quarter and case volume trends continue to improve,” CEO Bill DeLaney said.

Food cost deflation hurts the company’s ability to raise its selling prices to offset weak demand. [Read the full article]

Health insurer Humana Inc. posted a 44 percent jump in fourth-quarter profit Monday as its continued robust Medicare Advantage business drove sharply higher government income, offsetting a slumping commercial segment dragged by the sluggish economy.

Louisville-based Humana also raised its earnings projection for 2010 to a range of $5.15 to $5.35 per share, up from its previous estimate of $5.05 to $5.25.

The higher guidance mainly reflects a temporary contract extension in the Southern U.S. to administer Tricare benefits to some active-duty soldiers and their dependents, along with retired service members and their families, the company said.

Humana said its fourth-quarter profit rose as expenses related to prescription drug plans declined.

The company’s pivotal government segment posted pretax income of $452.3 million in the fourth quarter, up from $267.3 million a year ago. [Read the full article]

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