Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday Morning

US stocks are just slightly positive this morning. ADP reports that the private sector shed 169,000 jobs in November, a bit more than the 155,000 expected losses. Gold is hitting yet another record high, trading at about $1,212 per ounce.

One utility is making a serious monetary bet about the future of natural gas prices, as well as the anti-coal regulatory environment.

WASHINGTON — A large Southern utility said Tuesday that it would close 30 percent of its North Carolina coal-fired power plants by 2017, a step that represents a bet that natural gas prices will stay acceptably low and that stricter rules are coming on sulfur dioxide emissions, which cause acid rain.
“Some of these plants are quite old,” said Bill Johnson, the chief executive of the company. But, he added, “They have a lot of useful life left in them, absent the need to put emissions control units on them.”

As Fritz Henderson steps down from the CEO post at General Motors, Bloomberg examines the role Ed Whitacre, former AT&T Chief and now GM's chairman of the board, has had in the auto maker's turnaround.

"Whitacre suggested to Mark Reuss, vice president of GM global engineering, that he and his top executives call every customer who initiates the return of a GM vehicle through the automaker’s 60-day money-back guarantee program. Starting in November, the executives have been charged with interviewing the customers to see why they returned the vehicle and what they purchased instead, Reuss told reporters last month."

November's retail sales turned out to be significantly better than a year ago.

"The top-performing sectors last month were retail e-commerce (up 12.3 percent, compared with November 2008), electronics (up 6.6 percent), jewelry (up 4.6 percent) and appliances (up 3.5 percent), according to SpendingPulse, an information service of MasterCardAdvisors. Sales of luxury goods tumbled 7.3 percent, clothing declined 5.7 percent and footwear dipped 2 percent."

Some big investments in Whiskey plants are slated by people who are certain it's an "under-developed" market.

“We can make so much more of malt whisky as an industry,” said Thomson, 54, who submitted plans for local government approval on Nov. 12. “We haven’t even begun to tap into the potential interest.”
“The Chinese have bought into Scotch whisky,” Gavin Hewitt, chief executive officer of the association, said at his office in the Scottish capital. “There’s a huge new middle class and they want to make a statement about themselves.”

A look at the assets that might be up for sale (or fire-sale, to be more accurate) as Dubai World deleverages to pay back debt.

Many analysts have questioned the fate of Barneys New York, the luxury retailer that Dubai World acquired two years ago for $942 million. Barneys has been working withPerella Weinberg Partners (which counts Dubai as one of its stakeholders) on its options for restructuring. It isn’t clear yet what lies ahead for Barneys, although two of its biggest debtholders, Perry Capital and Ronald Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies, may seek control of the retailer soon, according to The New York Post.

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