Whole Foods store sales accelerate, shares rise

AUSTIN, Texas, Wed May 8, 2013 — Whole Foods Market Inc. said store sales have rebounded as it expands efforts to lower prices and reach beyond its core of upscale shoppers by adding more locations, and its shares rose more than 8 percent after hours.
The news from the largest U.S. natural and organic grocery chain dispelled concerns that its store sales were slowing due to competition and sluggish U.S. economic growth.
Same-store sales, a key gauge of performance for retailers, rose 6.9 percent for Whole Foods’ fiscal second quarter that ended April 14. So far this quarter, those sales are up 9.4 percent.
“The demand for fresh, healthy foods continues to grow,” John Mackey, co-founder and co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market, said in a statement.
About three weeks into the second quarter, Whole Foods had said its same-store sales growth had cooled to 6.4 percent, dampened by winter storm Nemo and a shift in the day of the week of Valentine’s Day. Analysts also attributed the slower growth to the U.S. payroll tax increase that lowered take home pay.
This quarter’s sales results got a 200 basis point boost from Team Member Appreciation Double Discount Day, but still showed the kind of improvement investors were seeking.
“Even though the 9.4 (percent gain) is more like a 7.4 (percent gain), it’s still a pick up,” BB&T Capital Markets analyst Andy Wolf said.

March home prices see biggest yearly gain in 7 years: CoreLogic

NEW YORK, Tue May 7, 2013 — Home prices rose in March, marking the biggest annual increase in seven years, in the latest sign of strength for the recovering housing market, a report from CoreLogic showed on Tuesday.

CoreLogic’s home price index jumped 1.9 percent from the previous month and accelerated by 10.5 percent compared to March last year.

That was the biggest year-over-year increase since March 2006, CoreLogic said.

Prices were even stronger excluding distressed sales, rising 2.4 percent from February and 10.7 percent from the year before. Distressed sales include homes that are in danger of foreclosure and properties that have already been seized by lenders.

Home prices have been rising since last year, helped by investor demand and tighter inventory. The top five states with the biggest gains in prices were Nevada, California, Arizona, Idaho and Oregon.

Prices likely continued to rise in April, CoreLogic said, though at a slower pace. Prices are seen rising 1.3 percent for the month and 9.6 percent on an annual basis.

Mortgage applications rebounded last week as rates fell: MBA

NEW YORK, Wed Mar 27, 2013 — Applications for home mortgages rebounded last week as interest rates pulled back for the first time in three weeks, data from an industry group showed on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, rose 7.7 percent in the week ended March 22.

The index has declined for six of the past nine weeks as rates have pulled higher. Still, interest rates remain low on a historical basis, kept down by the Federal Reserve’s efforts to boost the economy by buying bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

The seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications jumped 8 percent, while the gauge of loan requests for home purchases, a leading indicator of home sales, gained 6.7 percent.

The refinance share of total mortgage activity was unchanged at 75 percent of applications.

Fixed 30-year mortgage rates averaged 3.79 percent in the week, down 3 basis points from 3.82 percent the week before.

The survey covers more than 75 percent of U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, according to MBA.

Gauge of investment plans flat, orders for durables up

WASHINGTON, Thu Oct 25, 2012 – A gauge of planned business spending was flat in September, a sign that heightened uncertainty is weighing on factories although new orders for long-lasting manufactured goods increased during the month.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday that non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, was unchanged last month at $60.3 billion. That was short of economists’ expectations for a 0.7 percent gain.

Many economists believe companies are holding back investments due to fears the U.S. Congress could fail to avert sharp tax hikes and spending cuts in 2013, which threaten to send the U.S. economy back into recession.

The reading on investment plans was part of a larger report on long-lasting factory goods, which showed new durable goods orders posting their biggest gain last month since January 2010.

New orders for durables rose 9.9 percent, partially reversing a sharp loss in August. Wild fluctuations in aircraft orders have generated much of the volatility.

Economists polled by Reuters had expected orders for durable goods – items from toasters to aircraft that are meant to last at least three years – to rise 7.1 percent.

Boeing received 143 orders in September, up from just one in August, according to information posted on the plane maker’s website.

Private sector adds 162,000 jobs in September: ADP

NEW YORK, Wed Oct 3, 2012 – Companies added 162,000 jobs in September, more than economists expected but still pointing to slow improvement in the labor market, data from a payrolls processor showed on Wednesday.

Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast the ADP National Employment Report would show a gain of 143,000 jobs.

The increase in private payrolls in August was revised down to 189,000 from the previously reported 201,000. July’s rise was also revised down, to 156,000 from 173,000.

The report is jointly developed with Macroeconomic Advisers LLC.

“This is consistent with a moderate pace of job growth and we still haven’t made much headway with the losses during the downturn,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

“We would like to see growth on the order of 200,000 to 250,000.”

U.S. stock index futures added to gains immediately after the data, while the dollar edged higher against the yen.

The ADP figures come ahead of the government’s much more comprehensive labor market report for September due on Friday, which includes both public and private sector employment.

That report is expected to show job growth improved slightly, with employers adding 113,000 jobs. Private payrolls are seen rising by 130,000.

Economists often refer to the ADP report to fine-tune their expectations for the payrolls numbers, though it is not always accurate in predicting the outcome.

Mortgage applications rose as rates hit new lows: MBA

NEW YORK, Wed Sep 26, 2012 – Applications for U.S. home mortgages rose last week as interest rates dropped to record lows in the wake of the Federal Reserve’s latest stimulus efforts, data from an industry group showed on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, rose 2.8 percent in the week ended Sept 21.

The MBA’s seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications climbed 3.3 percent, while the gauge of loan requests for home purchases, a leading indicator of home sales, added 0.7 percent.

The refinance share of total mortgage activity increased to 81.2 percent of total applications, the highest share since early August.

Fixed 30-year mortgage rates tumbled 9 basis points to average 3.63 percent, the lowest level in the history of the survey.

The drop in rates followed the Fed’s announcement it will purchase $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities every month until there is improvement in the labor market.

The survey covers over 75 percent of U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, according to MBA.

U.S. mortgage refinancing applications rise as rates hit record low: MBA

NEW YORK, Wed Sep 19, 2012 – Applications for home mortgages dipped last week, though demand for refinancings rose as mortgage rates fell to a record low, an industry group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, edged down 0.2 percent in the week ended Sept 14.

The seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications gained 0.80 percent. The gauge of loan requests for home purchases, a leading indicator of home sales, tumbled 3.8 percent.

The refinance share of total mortgage activity rose to 81 percent of applications from 80 percent the week before.

Fixed 30-year mortgage rates fell 3 basis points to average 3.72 percent, the lowest rate in the history of the survey.

The survey covers more than 75 percent of U.S. retail residential mortgage applications, according to MBA.

Gasoline, autos boost retail sales in August

WASHINGTON, Fri Sep 14, 2012 – Retail sales rose for a second straight month in August, boosted by automobiles and high gasoline prices, but the underlying tone pointed to modest economic growth in the third quarter.

Retail sales increased 0.9 percent, the largest increase since February, the Commerce Department said on Friday, after a downwardly revised 0.6 percent rise in July that was previously reported as a 0.8 percent advance.

While the gain last month was above economists’ expectations for a 0.7 percent rise, details of the report pointed to an only modest increase in consumer spending this quarter after sluggish demand restricted the economy to a 1.7 percent annual growth pace in the April-June period.

That suggests third-quarter economic growth would still be insufficient to cut into high unemployment, which on Thursday prompted the Federal Reserve to launch a third round of bond purchases and push its pledge to hold interest rates near zero through at least mid-2015 from late 2014.

The rise in sales last month was led by gasoline stations, reflecting a 28 cents per gallon increase in the pump price. Gasoline sales surged 5.5 percent, the largest increase since November 2009, after rising 0.4 percent in July.

Automobile sales increased 1.3 percent, the most since February, after gaining 0.1 percent in July.

Excluding gasoline and autos, retail sales edged up 0.1 percent after rising 0.8 percent the prior month.

U.S. new-car sales in August seen up as much as 20 percent

DETROIT, Tue Sep 4, 2012 – U.S. auto sales are expected to increase by as much as 20 percent in August as better financing deals and an improving housing market encouraged consumers to replace aging cars and trucks.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expect an annual selling rate for new cars and trucks in August of 14.2 million vehicles, which would mark the third straight month above 14 million. Analysts expect sales to rise in the range of 16 to 20 percent from a year ago.

However, U.S. sales in July came in weaker than expected, so analysts will be watching when automakers report results on Tuesday to see whether high unemployment and weak consumer confidence will dent demand.

“The strength in August light-vehicle sales takes some of the pressure off expectations for the balance of the year, but a high level of risk lingers,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president at LMC Automotive. “We expect the current seesawing in auto sales to continue for the foreseeable future, but the overall picture in 2012 remains positive.”

Auto sales, which offer an early snapshot of consumer demand, have been one of the bright spots in the U.S. economy, and car companies expect a second-half sales increase spurred partly by the introduction of a slate of new models.

Cisco shares rise as dividend hike eclipses sales worries

SAN JOSE, Calif., Thu Aug 16, 2012 – Shares of Cisco Systems Inc. looked set to open up 7 percent on Thursday after the network equipment maker’s dividend hike overshadowed a lackluster quarterly sales performance and prompted several brokerages to raise their price targets on the stock.

Shares of the company, which closed at $17.35 on the Nasdaq on Wednesday, rose to $18.49 in premarket trading on Thursday. The stock had fallen 11 percent after Cisco reported a weak third-quarter profit in May.

Cisco said on Wednesday it will raise its quarterly dividend by 75 percent to 14 cents per share after reporting fourth-quarter revenue largely in line with analysts’ estimates. It also said it bought back $1.8 billion worth of shares in the quarter.

Barclays Capital analysts said the higher dividend suggested a significant shift in direction and placed Cisco near the high-end of its large-cap IT tech peers such as Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp. in terms of dividend yield and free cash flow.

“The 75 percent increase in dividend and commitment to return at least 50 percent of free cash flow in dividend and buybacks was not expected given high offshore cash balance and should be rightly viewed as sign of overall confidence on part of Cisco,” said Citi Investment Research analyst Kevin Dennean.