Sears to Accelerate Store Closings as Struggles Continue
Sears Holdings revealed on Tuesday it will accelerate the closing of some 50 retail stores this year and work on selling off other assets as the company's Sears and Kmart chain continue to struggle. The compnay explained the moves by revealing that holiday sales were well below expectations. In its latest guidance, the Hoffman Estates, Illinois retailer said it expects fourth quarter sales of $7.3 billion, down sharply from an $8 billion final quarter in 2015 and below analyst estimates calling for revenue of $7.4 billion. The company officially reports fourth-quarter numbers on February 25th. The company expects to report that sales at US Sears and Kmart stores open for a year or more dropped 7.1 percent as poor performance in their apparel divisions dragged down overall store performance. A spokesman said that the poor showing was in part due to unseasonably warm weather in many markets and "intense competition."
San Diego Vows to Transition to 100% Renewable Energy by 2035
San Diego this week became the nation's first city to make a pledge to transition to all renewable energy. The move comes on the heels of a historic agreement reached in Paris last week, where 195 world leaders vowed to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Other cities like New York and San Francisco have said they intend to increase their use of renewable energy, but San Diego is the first to make it legally binding. In a unanimous vote, members of the City Council passed a measure requiring the city to use 100 percent renewable energy sources by the year 2035. The measure also mandates that half of the city's automobile fleet will be electric in five years. To reach its goal, a spokesman said, the city will count on residents installing solar panels on their homes to reduce their use of coal-powered electricity.
Apple Plans for Pay TV Service Placed On Hold
Apple is putting its plan to launch a pay TV service on hold, according to multiple reports. The plan was first reported by the Wall Street Journal in March, with an initial launch date in September, to coincide with the release of the Apple TV smart television. According to reports, Apple encountered difficulty signing agreements with content providers and will table the idea for now. Apple had intended to offer a service for between $30 to $40 per month, prompting skepticism from other pay TV providers that charge more than twice that for basic packages. The company also wanted to include local stations in the service, but found out quickly that acquiring local content can be costly because many local stations are franchised or owned through an affiliate system. A spokesman for Apple declined to comment on whether the pay TV service was being shelved temporarily or canceled altogether.
Joe's Crab Shack To Begin Testing No-Tipping Policy
Joe's Crab Shack this week began testing a no-tipping policy in 18 of its 130 restaurants across the country, paying servers a higher hourly rate, raising prices to compensate and removing the tip line from credit card receipts. The move makes the company the first national chain to test a no-tipping policy after a handful of smaller, local chains have tried the concept. Servers typically earn $2.13 per hour plus tips, but that federally-mandated minimum hasn't been increased since 1991. Most recently, New York-based Union Square Hospitality Group did away with tipping at its 13 New York eateries, including the Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Cafe. A spokesman for the company said that menu prices would increase about 20 percent as a result of the move.
IBM Acquires Weather Channel Digital Assets
IBM announced Wednesday that it has agreed to purchase several digital assets from Weather Company, the organization that runs the Weather Channel and Weather Underground. The purchase includes the Weather Underground app and website, as well as the Weather Channel app and website, but does not include the Weather Channel television network. As part of the deal, Weather Channel staff will license weather forecasts and anayltics from IBM under a long-term contract. The sales price for the digital assets was not disclosed.
Target Reaches $67 Million Settlement with Visa over 2013 Data Breach
Target Corp. has reportedly agreed to pay as much as $67 million to banks that issue Visa credit cards in a settlement over a 2013 incident in which hackers stole personal information for millions of card holders. The agreement only covers Visa-related firms, and Target is working on a similar agreement with Mastercard-issuing firms. The size of the two agreements should approach the $100 million settlement paid out by Heartland Payment Systems over a similar breach in 2008. In all, the breach at Target exposed some 40 million credit and debit cardholders during the 2013 holiday shopping season.
Another Court Rules that Eyeo's Adblock Software is Legal
The makers of AdBlock plus scored a key victory in court this week when a judge ruled in their favor in Germany. Marketed as the world's most popular ad blocking tool, AdBlock Plus allows users to block display ads when browsing the Internet. RTL Interactive and ProSiebenSat1, a pair of German broadcasters, filed a lawsuit claiming that blocking ads was illegal. The companies also took issue with Eyeo, the company that makes AdBlock, and its white-listing service for ads. Under Eyeo's Acceptable Ads policy, publishers are required to follow certain guidelines and often pay pricey fees in order to have their ads white-listed, meaning they wouldn't be blocked under normal use of the AdBlock product. Of course, AdBlock users can still opt to block all ads, meaning white-listed ads wouldn't even appear for those users.
US Home Prices Rise for 35th Straight Month
US home values continued to rise in March, surging 5 percent from the same month a year earlier, according to the S&P.Case-Shiller index of home prices, issued Tuesday. Of the 20 cities tracked by the measure, San Francisco showed the biggest price gains, at 10.3 percent, followed by Denver. The Colorado capital saw prices rise 10 percent from March 2014, narrowly edging out the price growth in the number 3 city, Dallas. Prices also rose from February, edging up 0.8 percent across the 20 cities, and San Frnacisco again led the way with a 3 percent surge in home prices. Home prices have now risen for 35 consecutive months, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index, and each of the 20 cities tracked by the measure have posted year-over-year gains in every month since the end of 2012.
US Trade Imbalance Surges to post-Recession High
The US Commerce Department reported Tuesday that the nation's trade deficit reached its highest level since the recession as a resolution was found to a labor standoff. Negotiations over a new labor contract for unionized longshoreman have been ongoing for months as billions of dollars in imports have sat on the docks at Los Angeles and Long Beach, the two US ports that handle the most imported goods. March's massive jump was essentially a recovery from the prior month, when the trade gap plummeted to a six year low. Both fluctuations were anomalies caused by the labor stoppage and the resulting delays in processing imports. According to the Commerce report, US imports rose 7.7 percent last month, easily a record for one-month growth in the category.
AT&T Bumped from Dow in Favor of Apple
Apple was accepted into an elite club on Friday when it was announced the tech giant will replace AT&T on the Dow Jones industrial average. The change is scheduled to take place on March 19th, and is not expected to affect the overall value of the 30-stock index. S&P Dow Jones Indices, which manages the Dow, said the move is in response to a planned stock split by VISA. The scheduled four-to-one split will reduce VISA's stock price by 75 percent, thus reducing the weight of the information technology sector on the index. Bringing in Apple, the index manager said, will help offset the loss of value caused by VISA's stock split.