Wal-Mart to shutter 269 stores, 154 of them in the US

NEW YORK, Rabi’II 06, 1437, January 16, 2016, SPA — Wal-Mart is doing some rare pruning, according to AP.
The world’s largest retailer is closing 269 stores, including 154 in the U.S. that includes all of its locations under its smallest-format concept store called Wal-Mart Express. The other big chunk is in its challenging Brazilian market.
The stores being shuttered account for a fraction of the company’s 11,000 stores worldwide and less than 1 percent of its global revenue. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said the store closures will affect 16,000 workers, 10,000 of them in the U.S. Its global workforce is 2.2 million, 1.4 million in the U.S. alone.
The store closures will start at the end of the month.
The announcement comes three months after Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Doug McMillon told investors that the world’s largest retailer would review its fleet of stores with the goal of becoming more nimble in the face of increased competition from all fronts, including from online rival Amazon.com.
“Actively managing our portfolio of assets is essential to maintaining a healthy business,” McMillon said in a statement. “Closing stores is never an easy decision. But it is necessary to keep the company strong and positioned for the future.”
Michael Exstein, an analyst at Credit Suisse, described the moves as “baby steps” in his report published Friday, but he believes they are positive ones. He noted that this is the first mass closing that Wal-Mart has announced in at least two decades.
“It is a sign that Wal-Mart has begun the process of dealing with unproductive locations in a much more tangible and coherent way,” he wrote.” But we continue to believe that Wal-Mart needs a much larger restructuring of its store base in order to narrow its focus as it seeks to improve its sales and returns, especially internationally.”
Wal-Mart has seen sales perk up for a key revenue measure for the last few quarters in its U.S. business. But it warned last October that its earnings for the fiscal year starting next month will be down as much as 12 percent as it invests further in online operations and pours money into improving customers’ experience in the stores. The company has been building bigger fulfillment centers devoted to e-commerce orders and expanding online services.
Of the 154 store closures in the U.S., 102 of them are under the Wal-Mart Express name, which were opened as a test in 2011. Wal-Mart operates more than 4,500 stores in the U.S.
Wal-Mart Express marked the retailer’s first entry into the convenience store arena. The stores sell essentials like toothpaste. But the concept never caught on as the stores served the same purpose as Wal-Mart’s larger Neighborhood Markets: fill-in trips and prescription pickups.
Also covered in the closures are 23 Neighborhood Markets, 12 supercenters, seven stores in Puerto Rico, six discount stores and four Sam’s Clubs.
More than 95 percent of the stores set to be closed in the U.S. are within 10 miles of another Wal-Mart. The Bentonville, Arkansas, company said it is working to ensure that workers are placed in nearby locations.
Wal-Mart will now focus in the U.S. on supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, the e-commerce business and pickup services for shoppers.
The retailer said it also closed 60 loss-making locations in Brazil, which accounts for 5 percent of sales in that market. Wal-Mart, which operated 558 stores in Brazil before the closures, has struggled as the economy there has soured. Its Every Day Low price strategy has also not been able to break against heavy promotions from key rivals.
The remaining 55 stores are spread elsewhere in Latin America.
Wal-Mart said that it’s still sticking to its plan announced last year to open 50 to 60 supercenters, 85 to 95 Neighborhood Markets and 7 to 10 Sam’s Clubs in the U.S. during the fiscal year that begins Feb. 1. Outside the U.S., Wal-Mart plans to open 200 to 240 stores.
The financial impact of the closures is expected to be 20 cents to 22 cents per share from continuing operations, with about 19 cents to 20 cents expected to affect the current fourth quarter. The company is scheduled to release fourth-quarter and full-year results on Feb. 18.
Shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. fell $1.13, or 1.8 percent, to close at $61.93 amid a broad market sell-off.
–SPA
00:47 LOCAL TIME 21:47 GMT
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Venezuela data shows inflation at historic high

CARACAS, Venezuela, Rabi’II 06, 1437, January 16, 2016, SPA — Venezuela on Friday released its first economic data in more than a year Friday, showing an economy in shambles and inflation at a historic high, according to AP.
The Central Bank for the first time acknowledged what analysts have long said: That annualized inflation has surged into triple digits.
The bank said the economy contracted by 7.1 percent during the quarter that ended in September 2015, and inflation reached 141.5 percent.
Ahead of the surprise data release, President Nicolas Maduro said he would declare an economic emergency giving him 60 days to unilaterally enact sweeping reforms. The decree will be debated in the newly-seated opposition congress next week.
The announcements came just hours before he was expected to deliver his annual state of the nation report.
Interest in the speech is high because it will be the first time in 17 years of socialist rule that a president delivers his annual remarks here to a congress controlled by the opposition.
Venezuela, which has the world’s largest oil reserves, has suffered enormously as the price of oil has crashed from above $90 a barrel two years ago to just $24 today. Analysts say that means Venezuela is getting dangerously close to just breaking even on the oil it produces, which accounts for 95 percent of export earnings.
The country’s newly-appointed economic czar has written that “inflation doesn’t exist in real life.”
In its press release, the bank officials blame a widely-used website that tracks the black market rate of the Bolivar and other participants in an “economic war” for the soaring inflation rate.
–SPA
00:12 LOCAL TIME 21:12 GMT
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U.S. Retail Sales Fall on Lower Gasoline Prices

Washington, Rabi’II 05, 1437, January 15, 2016, SPA — U.S. retail sales fell unexpectedly in December as unusually warm weather cut sales of winter clothing and cheaper gasoline limited revenue at service stations, the government reported Friday, adding to signs that economic growth slowed sharply in the fourth quarter.
The Commerce Department said retail sales fell 0.1 percent last month to $448.1 billion after climbing a solid 0.4 percent in November. For all of 2015, retail sales rose 2.1 percent, the weakest performance since 2009, after rising 3.9 percent in 2014.
Receipts at gasoline stations fell 1.1 percent last month after dropping 1.3 percent in November. Auto sales were unchanged after rising the previous month. Sales at clothing stores fell 0.9 percent, and sales at online retailers rose 0.3 percent.
Retail sales excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials, and food services fell 0.3 percent in December after a 0.5 percent increase the previous month. Such core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer-spending component of gross domestic product (GDP).
The drop in core retail sales last month and the downward revision to the November figure could prompt economists to reduce their fourth-quarter GDP growth estimates, which currently range between annual rates of 0.5 and 1.4 percent.
The mixed retail-sales report joins weak data on construction, manufacturing, and export growth to suggest that economic activity cooled significantly in the final three months of 2015.

–SPA
20:36 LOCAL TIME 17:36 GMT
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U.S. Business Inventories Post Biggest Decline Since 2011

Washington, Rabi’II 05, 1437, January 15, 2016, SPA — U.S. business inventories in November posted their biggest decline in more than five years as businesses intensified efforts to reduce stockpiles of unsold merchandise, the government reported Friday in the latest sign that economic growth slowed sharply in the fourth quarter.
The Commerce Department said business inventories fell 0.2 percent, the largest decrease since September 2011, after a 0.1 percent drop in October. Business sales fell 0.2 percent in December after declining 0.3 percent the previous month.
Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product (GDP). Retail inventories excluding autos, which go into the calculation of GDP, rose 0.2 percent in November after a 0.3 percent gain the previous month.
Record-high inventory accumulation in the first half of 2015, which grew faster than demand, left businesses with excess unsold goods and little incentive to order more merchandise, contributing to a sharp slowdown in manufacturing activity.
Inventories subtracted 0.71 percentage point from third-quarter GDP, limiting the growth in output to a 2.0 percent annualized rate. Fourth-quarter GDP growth estimates range between a 0.5 and 1.4 percent pace.

–SPA
19:58 LOCAL TIME 16:58 GMT
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أودي في الصف الأول في سباق التحمل Hankook 24H بدبي

دبي، الإمارات العربية المتحدة، 15 يناير 2016/PRNewswire/ — شهدت جولة التأهل في سباق التحمل Hankook 24H في دبي يوم الخميس منافسة قوية للحصول على أفضل المراكز في خط الانطلاق. وقد حازت 100 سيارة على أسرع المراكز في تسع فئات مختلفة. إطارات سيارات السباق Ventus Premium من Hankook تضمن لكم أعلى مستوى ثبات وتحكم وتبدأ سياراتا […]

Greek reform review will most likely start next week – EU's Dombrovskis

ATHENS, Rabi’II 5, 1437, Jan 15, 2016, SPA — Greece’s European lenders will probably start a review of the country’s reform programme next week, though talks on the debt relief that Athens craves may be several months away, Reuters cited a senior official as saying.

To start those talks, Greece needs to successfully conclude a first review of reforms agreed last summer under its third bailout programme by its lenders, which will include both the EU executive and the International Monetary Fund.

“We are ready to start the review as soon as possible, most likely next week. But we are not setting any time limit for when the review should be concluded,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in an interview with Greek daily Kathimerini published on Friday.

Dombrovskis said that, to secure a positive progress review, Greece should implement the pension reform, set up a new privatisation fund and find measures to achieve primary budget surpluses for 2016-2018.

Greece and some euro zone officials have said the first review could be concluded next month, though the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, said on Thursday “it would rather be months than weeks.”

Dombrovskis said the Commission was working on the assumption that the IMF would continue to be part of the Greek bailout programme. The fund offered financing for Greece’s first two bailouts in 2010 and 2012.

–SPA
12:17 LOCAL TIME 09:17 GMT
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