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Roll On

“Roll on highway, roll on along. Roll on daddy till you get back home.”
Roll on bankers, roll on along. Roll on Geithner till you get back home. Roll on Debtor Nations, roll on through. Roll on Obama like I asked you to do. And roll on banker bonuses, roll on…
Not to be confused with the Crimson’s Tide’s recent version of “Roll Tide Roll”, these are my new lyrics of an old favorite that I used to play on my boom-box as I was riding junior hockey buses in the northern parts of Canada (Alabama’s 1984 rendition of Roll On Eighteen Wheeler).
The SP500 continues to roll on. Yesterday made 2010 six-for-six, with the SP500 making another higher-high, closing at 1146 - its sixth consecutive day of positive returns. At the same time, bankers around the world continue to call this an economic recovery that they can dump a generationally high level of debt onto.
Take some of the men formerly known as Lehman brothers over at Barclay’s word for it. Mark Bamford, head of global fixed-income syndicate at Barclays Capital told Bloomberg this morning that, “We’re telling our clients to get into the markets now… “get some of your financing done now”… “don’t leave it all for later in the year because it could be more difficult to finance”…
Roll on Mark, roll on along. Keep them banker bonuses coming until we get this all wrong. Roll on debt Daddy, roll on through. Roll on global bankers like Bernanke asked you to do. And roll on banker bonuses, roll on…
In conjunction with the US Dollar going down yesterday, so did the short end of the yield curve. The yield on 2-year US Treasuries is 0.92% this morning. That’s still a few basis points above our intermediate term TREND line of 0.90% and feeding the widest Piggy Banker Spread ever.
The yield spread (10-year minus 2-year Treasury yields) is +284 basis points wide this morning. That’s only 2 basis points away from the best financing American Savers have ever provided Investment Banking Inc.. Or is that Bernanke that’s feeding the pig? Ah, who cares at this point America – roll on!
Globally, there continues to be a massive amount of sovereign debt being rolled onto the global highways of finance. If the American citizenry doesn’t mind $83/barrel oil, and India’s consumer don’t mind the latest +18.2% reading (December) on wholesale food inflation, why not keep that debt a rollin’ in? Roll on Big Government Debt Daddy, roll on along!
In the last week, we have seen the following sovereign debt issuers come to market:
1.      Philippines

2.      Turkey

3.      Indonesia

4.      Poland

5.      Greece

6.      Mexico

No, no, Momma. These are not the three little pigs. These are the first six big ole 2010 tractor trailers full of sloppy sovereign debt to roll into town, taking that ole brother Lehman advice, “get some of your financing done now”!
Mexico is actually smart enough to spread the Debtor Nation love around the world. They’ve opted to issue another $2.4B in bonds via Japan and Europe this morning. Don’t worry about it, this is the good kind of Mexican debt folks. This is the kind that Robin Williams talked to Charlie Rose about the other night:
“like a bunch of junkies who have relapsed… listen my man, I just need some liquidity… I just ran into some bad subprime… I will not screw you again – this is not like the other time. I’ll pay you back!” (You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JuFnzNsz3sc  )
Look on the bright side, this week’s Polish $4.3B sovereign debt issue doesn’t have 69 dead from an overnight Mexican drug war to deal with this morning. For Poland, this is the largest debt issuance in the last 4 years. Pile that debt upon debt boys; get those bankers their bonus, and roll on!
Marked-to-market equity trading in some of the more obvious sovereign debt laden countries (Greece and the United Arab Emirates) doesn’t like all of this debt and country music stuff. The Athex Composite in Greece is trading down -2.2%, while the DFM Index in the UAE is trading down more than -2.4%.
Oh, and in response to this mounting global debt speculation, China is raising rates on domestic debt for the 2nd time in 2 weeks this morning. Additionally, they are raising the reserve requirement for domestic banks by another 50 basis points.
Roll on Debtor Nations, roll on.
My immediate term TRADE lines of support and resistance for the SP500 are now 1134 and 1153, respectively.
Best of luck out there today,

XLK – SPDR Technology
Buying back Tech after a healthy 2-day pullback. Next to Healthcare, this remains our favorite sector in the SP500.

UUP – PowerShares US Dollar Index Fund
We bought the USD Fund on 1/4/10 as an explicit way to represent our Q1 2010 Macro Theme that we have labeled Buck Breakout (we were bearish on the USD in ’09).

XLV – SPDR Healthcare
Buying back the bullish position Tom Tobin and his team maintain on the intermediate TREND term for the Healthcare sector.

VXX - iPath S&P500 Volatility The VIX broke down to our immediate term oversold line on 1/6/10, prompting us to add to our position on VXX.

EWG - iShares Germany Buying back the bullish intermediate term TREND thesis Matt Hedrick maintains on Germany. We are short Russia and, from a European exposure perspective, like being long the lower beta DAX against the higher beta RTSI as well.

EWZ - iShares Brazil
As Greece and Dubai were blowing up, we took our Asset Allocation on International Equities to zero.  On 12/8/09 we started buying back exposure via our favorite country, Brazil, with the etf trading down on the day. We remain bullish on Brazil's commodity complex and believe the country's management of its interest rate policy has promoted stimulus.

CYB - WisdomTree Dreyfus Chinese Yuan
The Yuan is a managed floating currency that trades inside a 0.5% band around the official PBOC mark versus a FX basket. Not quite pegged, not truly floating; the speculative interest in the Yuan/USD forward market has increased dramatically in recent years. We trade the ETN CYB to take exposure to this managed currency in a managed economy hoping to manage our risk as the stimulus led recovery in China dominates global trade.

TIP - iShares TIPS The iShares etf, TIP, which is 90% invested in the inflation protected sector of the US Treasury Market currently offers a compelling yield. We believe that future inflation expectations are mispriced and that TIPS are a efficient way to own yield on an inflation protected basis.


FXE – CurrencyShares Euro
We shorted the Euro ETF on strength on 1/11/10. From an intermediate term TREND perspective we remains bullish on the US Dollar Index.

GLD – SPDR GoldAs the gold price inches up toward the immediate term resistance line of $1137/oz, we’re going to take the other side of a long-standing bullish position.

RSX – Market Vectors Russia
We shorted Russia on 12/18/09 after a terrible unemployment report and an intermediate term TREND view of oil’s price that’s bearish.

EWJ - iShares JapanWhile a sweeping victory for the Democratic Party of Japan has ended over 50 years of rule by the LDP bringing some hope to voters; the new leadership  appears, if anything, to have a less developed recovery plan than their predecessors. We view Japan as something of a Ponzi Economy -with a population maintaining very high savings rate whose nest eggs allow the government to borrow at ultra low interest levels in order to execute stimulus programs designed to encourage people to save less. This cycle of internal public debt accumulation (now hovering at close to 200% of GDP) is anchored to a vicious demographic curve that leaves the Japanese economy in the long-term position of a man treading water with a bowling ball in his hands.

XLY - SPDR Consumer Discretionary We shorted Howard Penney's view on Consumer Discretionary stocks on 10/30/09 and 12/2/09.

SHY - iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bonds
If you pull up a three year chart of 2-Year Treasuries you'll see the massive macro Trend of interest rates starting to move in the opposite direction. We call this chart the "Queen Mary" and its new-found positive slope means that America's cost of capital will start to go up, implying that access to capital will tighten. Yields are going to continue to make higher-highs and higher lows until consensus gets realistic.


The MACRO calendar in the USA has been very light over the past two days and earning season did not get kicked off until last night.  Until AA performance last night, consensus expectation for the upcoming earnings season was upbeat, especially given the easy comparisons.  While comparisons are easy, expectations have increased too.  That means it’s never really EASY, as it’s always hard to live up to expectations!     


While the S&P 500 is up for six straight days, overall yesterday performance can be better characterized as mixed with volume very light as the breadth of the market continues to narrow. 


Volatility is getting crushed here in early 2010.  The VIX declined 3.2% yesterday and is down 19% so far this year.  As we said yesterday in a note to clients the VIX is in what we call a Bearish Formation. That’s when the long term TAIL sits above the intermediate term TREND; and the intermediate term TREND line sits above the immediate term TRADE line.  The VIX is much more a concurrent indicator than a leading one. We would be long volatility here on weakness.


The global MACRO calendar provided some momentum to the RECOVERY trade in the wake of better-than-expected December trade data out of China, although the MATERIALS (XLB) was the worst performing sector yesterday.


China reported that exports jumped 17.7% year-over-year in December, above the 5% growth expected by the market and the first positive reading since November of 2008. Machinery products, textiles and furniture were the groups that saw the biggest increase in exports in December.  In addition, imports surged 55.6% year-over-year last month, up from the 26.7% increase in November.


Overnight China’s central bank sold one-year bills at a higher yield for the second time in a week, increasing the chance that higher interest rates in the first half of the year are a near certainty.  


The industrial (XLI) was the best performing sector yesterday.  The Transports was a key driver after rallying more than 2% last Friday.  Specifically, UPS rose 4.4% as JPMorgan added the stock to its focus list following the company's upside surprise last week. Additionally, Machinery stocks were also strong driven by the better-than-expected trade data out of China, which put some momentum behind the global recovery theme.


The Technology (XLK) cannot seem to find a bid.  The software stocks continue to be one of the worst performers within the XLK.  Additionally, hardware names were also sluggish with RIMM, IBM and AAPL among the laggards.  The semis were also weaker today with the SOX down 0.2%. 


The record drop in consumer credit continues to put focus on consumer deleveraging concerns as the Consumer Discretionary (XLY) was one of the worst performing sectors yesterday.


The range for the S&P 500 is 19 points or 0.6% (1,153) upside and 1.0% (1,134) downside.  At the time of writing the major market futures are trading lower.    


Yesterday the CRB declined 1.3% on the back of a big decline in orange juice, corn and wheat.  Aluminum, Sugar and Gold were the best performing commodities in the CRB yesterday. 


In early trading today Copper is trading lower on the stronger dollar.    The Research Edge Quant models have the following levels for COPPER – buy Trade (3.38) and Sell Trade (3.50).


In early trading today Gold Is little changed as it continues to trade near a one month high.    The Research Edge Quant models have the following levels for GOLD – buy Trade (1,126) and Sell Trade (1,160).


In early trading Crude oil is trading down for the second day in a row.   The Research Edge Quant models have the following levels for OIL – buy Trade (81.32) and Sell Trade (84.52).


Howard Penney

Managing Director















We won’t know the full details until early February but Q4 was decent for Starwood, all things considered.  2010 numbers still look high but let’s review Q4 first.





We think HOT will beat its guidance for Q4 of $0.17-0.21.  Surprised?  Don’t be.  It’s called sandbagging and it happens every quarter.  Management will also likely walk down expectations for 1Q2010, the front end of the sandbagging exercise.  We do think consensus estimates for all of 2010 need to come down, primarily due to margins, and we’ll have more on that in a coming post.


Our Q4 EBITDA and EPS estimates are $203MM and $0.22, respectively, which compares to guidance of $190-200MM and $0.17-0.21 and consensus of $199MM and $0.21.



Given the favorable FX tailwind, we estimate an 8.5% RevPAR decline for branded operated hotels worldwide vs guidance of -9 to -11%.  We estimate that Owned RevPAR will decline 11.8%.  For  owned hotel margins, we are projecting a 520 bps decline (not same store).


Management, Franchise fees and Other Income

We estimate a 9% decline y-o-y, compared to guidance of an 8-10% decrease.  Below are our assumptions:

-          Base fees down 7%

-          Incentive fees down 25%

-          Franchise fees down 4%

-          Amortization of gains & termination fees +15%

-          Bliss & Miscellaneous income -12%


Similar to MAR’s revised guidance, we expect timeshare income to come in slightly above guidance.  HOT will also recognize a $15MM gain and proceeds of $166MM on a note securitization, in excess of the $125-150MM guidance.





Bliss Sale

  • Announced the deal in Q4 and closed in early January
  • $100MM of proceeds, $85MM of TTM revenues, and TTM EBITDA of $5.3MM
  • 2010 Impact:
    • Loss of $80-85MM of revenues from the Mgmt & franchise fees, other income (specifically “Other (2)” line on the “Management Fees, Franchise Fees, and Other Income” supplemental table
    • SG&A will decrease by $78-80MM, since all Bliss associated expenses were lumped in SG&A


St. Regis Retail Sale

  • On November 5th HOT closed on the sale of the retail space in the St. Regis NY
  • HOT will collect proceeds of $117MM in the 4Q09 and lose $5.85MM of NOI or gross profit
  • Retail revenues have a very high margin – usually over 80% assuming that HOT doesn’t operate its own retail space.  This implies a loss of $7.3MM of revenues and $1.5MM of expenses from owned hotel revenues and expenses
  • Since the transaction closed in the middle of the 4th quarter, the impact will be nominal (roughly $1.4MM of revenue impact)



  • Starwood cuts its annual dividend to $0.20 from $0.90 in 2009, implying a cash outflow of only $36-40 million in 1Q2010


Debt issuance and tender

  • Starwood issued $250MM of 7.15% notes at 97.559% raising gross proceeds of $244MM on November 5th
  • On December 7th, HOT completed its tender offer retiring $195MM of the 7.875% Notes due 2012 and $105MM of its 6.25% Notes due 2013
  • Net debt reduction, excluding bank debt in the 4th quarter, should be $56MM with $1MM of incremental interest expense associated with the new notes (due to timing)
  • This transaction will reduce interest expense by $4MM in 2010


Timeshare Securitization

  • Earlier this week, HOT completed the securitization of $200MM timeshare mortgages with a $15MM pre-tax gain recognizable in 4Q09
  • The terms of this issuance, similarly to MAR’s, are materially more favorable than the deal HOT completed in June 2009.
    • Advance rate of 83% vs. 69%, interest rate of 5.8% vs 8%, and no interest to the residual for the initial 12-24 months
    • The sale will be cash flow positive, decreasing inventory by $166MM and thereby benefitting working capital

Hedgeye Statistics

The total percentage of successful long and short trading signals since the inception of Real-Time Alerts in August of 2008.

  • LONG SIGNALS 80.51%
  • SHORT SIGNALS 78.32%

Getting Bearish on Natty

Cold weather is good for the price of Natural Gas, we definitely get that.  We also get that the idea of cold weather is becoming a solidly consensus notion.  Consider the following headlines that are currently posted on the drudgereport.com:

  • Cold Stuns Floridians, causes deaths elsewhere;
  • Arctic air has invaded the south;
  • Cold kills 100,000 tropical fish in S Florida;
  • Chill Map;
  • Cold snap death toll rises across Europe;
  • Global cooling may set in for 20 – 30 years; and
  • Feds: December was 14th coldest in 115 years.

We get it.  It is abnormally cold out there.  And, undoubtedly, these headlines are largely priced into the price of natural gas, as news headlines are typically not a leading indicator.


On the storage front, there continues to be a surplus of natural gas in storage.  As of 1/10, natural gas storage in the domestic U.S. was 10.1% above 2009.  Natural gas stocks are also more than 10% above the 5-year average.  Importantly, despite these storage numbers, natural gas is, on a two week moving average, trading above last year’s levels.  In December of last year, natural gas averaged $5.87 per mcf and by January 1st of 2010 natural gas was trading above the $6 level.


In the past week, we have seen a correction in the price of natural gas, which is outlined in the chart below. This of course followed the massive rally from the ~$4.50 level in early December of 2009 (last month) to almost $6.00 by the end of the month.  Currently, our Buy Trade line is at $5.45 and Buy Trend is at $5.07. 


On the rig count front, which is leading indicator for future production, we have seen a steady build in rigs since literally the middle of 2009.  Conversely from mid 2008 to the end of 2008, we saw a decline of rigs.  Also for the first time since Q1 2009, rig count in the U.S. is above the 1,200 level.  Higher prices of both oil and gas are clearly driving rig activity and if these activity levels sustain, production will see a commensurate increase.


From a longer term perspective, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced some reforms last week, which appear to take direct aim at oil and gas companies and their ability to permit land for exploration.   According to Salazar:


                “The difference in the prior administration was that the oil and gas industry essentially were the kings of the world.  Whatever they wanted to happen essentially happened and the department essentially was the handmaiden of the oil and gas industry.”


On one hand, it is sad that politics is clearly entering the policy decision making of the Department of Interior.  Regardless, to the extent that the Interior makes it more difficult for oil and gas companies to acquire acreage to explore it will have a negative impact, at least on the margin, for future domestic production.


We are waiting for an entry point one the short side given the consensus view of weather and the well-above-normal storage levels.


 Daryl G. Jones

Managing Director


Getting Bearish on Natty - Natty


Chart of The Week: Crushing Volatility

Volatility is getting absolutely crushed here in early 2010.


That’s a different setup than those we saw in both early 2008 and early 2009 (when the VIX moved higher). In the chart below, we put the latest down move in the volatility in context. Relative to the expectations of equity market bears, volatility has effectively vanished in the last 15 months.


Last week, the VIX dropped a whopping -16% week-over-week. To kick things off this week, the VIX took a peek at the 17 level, trading down another -3%, as the SP500 attempted making another higher-high.


How long can higher-highs in equities and lower-lows in volatility last? Well, on the volatility side of that answer, the immediate term price momentum is finally running out of downside. My immediate term (3 weeks or less) oversold line for the VIX is 17.21.


Any rally in volatility that is not able to eclipse the intermediate term TREND line (23.01, outlined by the red line in the chart), will keep the VIX in what we call a Bearish Formation. That’s when the long term TAIL sits above the intermediate term TREND; and the intermediate term TREND line sits above the immediate term TRADE line.


May of 2008 was the last time we saw VIX prices this low. Obviously it paid to buy volatility back then. The VIX is much more a concurrent indicator than a leading one. We would be long volatility here on weakness, but only for an immediate term TRADE to the upside – unless, of course, we were to see a closing VIX price above 23.01.



Keith R. McCullough
Chief Executive Officer


Chart of The Week: Crushing Volatility - VIX11


R3: FL: #1 on Strategic Wish List...Check


January 11, 2009


With the first of our strategic wish list initiatives for Foot Locker announced Friday, don't be surprised to see some combination of the remaining strategies announced when the company reports 4Q results. We continue to warming to the name as a big idea in 2010.





Back on December 17th we posted our “Wish List” of strategic moves that we'd like to see Foot Locker execute to positively fix the business under the new leadership of Ken Hicks. The first bullet highlighted right-sizing the store base and optimizing the portfolio by brand. After Friday's announcement that it expects to close 120 net stores in Q4 and will begin consolidating elements of the Lady Foot Looker and Kids Foot Locker concepts we can check off #1 on the strategic wish list.


With a 30+ point margin spread between the least profitable and most profitable stores, this is a key point to enhancing long-term profitability. Additionally, with 1.7 Lady Foot Lookers for every Kids Foot Looker the opportunity to right-size the Lady portfolio appears compelling (see our "FL: Close 'Em or Suffer" on 1/6 for more detail).  


So what’s next? Hicks is expected to unveil his plan in the Spring, with the reporting of 4Q results. We won’t be surprised when some combination of the remaining "Wish List" strategies will be employed to begin the turnaround. Neither should you. The question here is not what ideas will be communicated but rather if and how well they can be executed. We continue warming to the name and suggest now is the time to dust off the old file for what could be one of our key names in 2010. 




  •  In an effort to recapture women’s interest, Sperry Top-Sider has officially succeeded with an Authentic Original 2-Eye boat shoe designed and sold through exclusively through J. Crew…in platinum gold. The shoe has completely sold out and is now on backorder until March at the earliest (just try ordering online!). While the financial benefit is likely to be muted with shoes already out of stock, the value from a branding perspective should not be understated with Sperry now one of the hottest trends at one of the most relevant fashion retailers.
  •  With the Retail Big Show kicking off this morning in NYC, a rather startling fact is the number of retailers registering for the show this year up 27% over last year. I think we can safely state this increase is not demand driven, but I suspect it's symptomatic of the recent wave of new designers entering the market following the extinction of many storied and tired brands/designers over the past year.
  • After saying relatively under the radar, the court case between VFC and The South Butt has become higher profile after the defending company called for dismissal last week. Brand protection has to be respected, however, there is a point at which it's just silly...this is one such example. The exposure from this case is arguably more detrimental to the TNF brand than had they just gone about their business. That said, the company's been looking for an acquisition for a while now, why not buy out the 2-year old bootstrap operation and call it a day.




Iconix Sues Merrill Lynch - Iconix Brand Group Inc. filed a lawsuit against Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. on Thursday accusing the financial adviser of fraud over the sale of $13 million in devalued auction rate securities. Iconix engaged Merrill as a financial adviser in 2006 as the fashion group began to acquire its portfolio of home and apparel brands. In its complaint, filed in a Manhattan federal court, the company said its adviser encouraged it to invest in auction rate securities as part of its capital management plan. Lawyers for Iconix wrote that Merrill represented the securities to be safe and highly liquid. Auction rate securities, or ARS, are long-term interest-bearing instruments of varying credit risk traded at auctions where their interest rates are reset. Prior to the subprime mortgage crisis, they were attractive to some investors who could ideally liquidate them at such auctions, which usually occurred weekly, biweekly or monthly.  <wwd.com>


La Go Go’s Growth Shows China Consumer Spending Power - Beijing office worker Wang Hong holds up a $44 black blouse at Chinese clothing store La Go Go and smiles. “It’s like getting a foreign brand at local prices,” said the 33-year-old Wang, standing in front of racks of clothes at the Jiamao mall. By offering prices as much as 25 percent less than international retailers Esprit and Mango, La Go Go parent Ever- Glory International Group Inc. is transforming itself from a supplier to Levi Strauss & Co. into a Chinese fashion chain. The retail unit’s sales climbed 153 percent in the third quarter from a year earlier. Ever-Glory chairman Edward Kang started La Go Go stores in 2008 to capitalize on rising local affluence and counter a drop in exports. The Nanjing-based company now has 154 La Go Go outlets and plans to open as many as 1,000 by 2015.  <bloomberg.com>


Prada Said Tapping François Kress as U.S. Chief - The company is about to name François Kress president and chief executive officer of New York-based Prada USA, according to a source familiar with the situation. Kress, the former managing director of Bulgari’s jewelry, watch and accessories division, will replace Graziano de Boni, who left Prada in late October to head up the newly formed Reed Krakoff division at Coach Inc. Kress left Bulgari in September. Until Kress’ appointment, which is said to be effective today, Prada SpA chief operating officer Sebastian Suhl had taken on the additional responsibilities for the U.S. Prada could not be reached for comment. <wwd.com>


Kellwood Acquires ISIS - Kellwood Co. on Friday closed on its acquisition of ISIS, a women’s outdoor performance and casual apparel firm. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, except that the acquisition was completed through Kellwood’s American Recreation Products subsidiary. Sources familiar with the transaction said Kellwood’s owner, private investment firm Sun Capital Partners Inc., provided monetary assistance for the purchase of ISIS. “We’re pleased to have ISIS as part of the Kellwood group of brands, and we look forward to announcing more acquisitions throughout 2010,” said Michael W. Kramer, president and chief executive officer of Kellwood. Kramer said last month the firm was on the hunt for more acquisitions, and has been in deep discussions with several firms about possible purchases.  <wwd.com>


Jhane Barnes Sells Stake to AW Chang - After months of searching for new business partners, Jhane Barnes has struck a deal with AW Chang Corp., which has acquired a 50 percent stake in the business. Terms were not disclosed. Under the partnership, AW Chang will manufacture and market Jhane Barnes collection sportswear, neckwear, dress shirts and hosiery through its men’s apparel division, Excalibur, a vertically integrated company that produces neckwear and dress shirts under license; Barnes will continue to head design. The business will now be known as Jhane Barnes Collection. The deal ends a period of uncertainty for the company, which had been looking to restructure since early last year. Over the summer, Barnes said she was looking for stakeholders, and was considering bids from two different parties. At that time, Excalibur was named as the licensee for Jhane Barnes neckwear and ties. “But we soon learned that our company had the financial, sourcing and manufacturing capabilities to give Jhane what she needed,” said Warren Katz, president of both the new Jhane Barnes Collection and Excalibur.  <wwd.com>


A new e-reader will give Borders.com’s new e-book store top billing - Spring Design’s Alex e-reader, which will launch Feb. 22, will prominently feature Borders Group Inc.’s new e-book store when the site launches in the second quarter, the companies announced. Although shoppers will be able to buy and read books from the entire Internet, Borders.com will receive top billing on the e-reader as it will appear on its initial screen, says a Borders spokeswoman. The Alex e-reader device enables users to download any book or document that conforms to the ePub format using Adobe Inc.’s anticopying DRM software—a combination gaining support among many e-book sellers apart from Amazon.com Inc., which uses its own format developed for its Kindle e-book reader. The Alex reader can also display content in .txt or HTML formats. <internetretailer.com>


Apparel Retailers Cut Jobs - Apparel retailers across the country cut 5,900 jobs in December, reversing gains reported in November as stores hired extra help for the holidays. In the height of the holiday season, department stores cut 5,600 positions to employ 1.51 million people, while specialty stores eliminated 300 jobs to employ 1.42 million, the Labor Department said Friday. Declining employment levels at stores in December “tells us retailers were very cautious about the holiday season,” said John Lonski, chief economist for Moody’s Investor Services. “The continued weakness of the labor market warns against expecting more upside surprises for consumer spending.” As long as the labor market stays slack, the better-than-expected holiday comparable-store sales results reported Thursday are no guarantee consumer spending will make a robust recovery in early 2010, Lonski said. The job situation is more likely to show signs of improving in the spring, he said. <wwd.com>


China Exports Rise 17.7 Percent - Reversing a 13-month pattern of decline, China’s exports rebounded and rose 17.7 percent in December, lending weight to conventional wisdom that its economy has recovered from the global downturn. Yet economists cautioned that much of China’s recovery has come on the back of a massive government spending plan that sought to pour $586 billion into economic development, primarily through creating new infrastructure like roads and railways. “We are seeing good signs in the new data, especially for December,” said He Weiwen, a Beijing-based trade analyst with the World Trade Union. Figures released Sunday by China’s General Administration of Customs showed imports in December surged by 55.9 percent over the previous December. In all, China’s exports for 2009 declined by 16 percent to $1.2 billion, while imports fell by $1 billion, or 11 percent. China’s contentious trade surplus shrank significantly last year, contracting by 34 percent to a total of $196 billion.  <wwd.com>


E-commerce deal-making picked up in the fourth quarter - Merger and acquisition activity rose significantly in the fourth quarter among digital media companies, led by increased action in e-commerce companies, says the latest Deal Notes report from investment banker Petsky Prunier. The digital media segment also includes comparison shopping, social media, local search and classified sites as well as shopping portals. Investors in that segment completed 54 deals in Q4 2008 with a value of about $2.0 billion compared to 50 deals worth $1.15 billion in the same period a year earlier. The dollar value of deals jumped 74% compared to Q4 a year ago while the total number of deals was up 8%. E-commerce was the most active digital media subsegment, with 17 transactions valued at $784 million.

The second-most active segment was interactive advertising, which includes interactive agencies, ad networks, digital video, mobile advertising, e-mail services, and search engine marketing and optimization companies, as well as affiliate networks, with 47 transactions worth $1.2 billion.  <internetretailer.com>

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