Morning Money Memo…
While Wall Street may be celebrating new record-highs for the stock market, Main Street is in a far more gloomy mood. The nation’s biggest retailer is offering a downbeat forecast for the Christmas shopping season. WalMart is reporting its third straight quarter of disappointing sales. With a shaky job market and years of flat or even falling living standards, many consumers are very cautious about their spending plans. “Their income is going down while food costs are not,” says William Simon, one of WalMart’s top executives. Kohl’s department stores also reported weak quarterly results and says it reduced its inventories ahead of the holidays.
A new Gallup poll added to evidence that sales at many retailers could fall short of expectations. The average amount that Americans expect to spend on Christmas gifts was about $704, according to a poll carried out in early November. The estimate was down from $786 in an October poll. The number is below how much Americans planned to spend a year ago.
McDonalds admits customer service has suffered and that it may be the result of introducing too many new menu items too quickly. “The pace of product introduction in my opinion: too fast,” said Jeff Stratton, president of McDonalds USA. The Wall Street Journal reports investors were told “the fast pace of the new-product introductions created challenges for the restaurants,” adding to the complexity of operations, and in some cases slowing down the delivery of food.
Overseas stock markets and New York futures are mostly higher today after the 37th record close of the year for the Dow Jones Index. The Dow rose 54 points Thursday to 15,876. The S&P 500 was up 8. The Nasdaq is getting close to 4,000.
America’s largest public utility is closing eight coal-fired boilers at plants in Alabama and Kentucky. The Tennessee Valley Authority relied on coal to generate a majority of its electricity for decades, but at a board meeting in Mississippi CEO Bill Johnson said he hopes to reduce coal to just 20 percent of the utility’s portfolio over the next decade. It currently stands at 38 percent. Johnson said the change is needed because power demand is down and environmental regulations are becoming stricter. With the boom in natural gas production and shale oil output, coal has become less competitive. It is also a major source of carbon emissions.
Richard Davies Business Correspondent ABC News Radio abcnews.com Twitter: daviesnow