Price of Beef on the Rise – KFBK


The price of beef is going up, causing some sticker shock for both consumers and restaurant owners.

The growing export demand from other countries and the dwindling number of cattle, have caused the average retail cost of fresh beef to climb to five-dollars-28-cents a pound in February.

And prices will likely stay high for a couple years as producers rebuild their herds and wait for rain to replenish pastures.

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Best Buy’s Discounting Failed to Help Holiday – Wall Street Journal

Best Buy Co.’s U.S. holiday sales were weaker than a year earlier, raising concerns that months of effort to improve operations aren’t gaining traction where it counts. The company’s shares plunged more than 30% in early trading on the news.

The company’s discounting strategy appeared to blow up in its face. Best Buy indicated it cut prices aggressively to compete with Wal-Mart Stores Inc., but those moves reduced the overall value of sales and squeezed profits. In addition, the discounting appeared to do nothing to persuade shoppers to buy more electronics. Instead, they just reduced the price of what was sold.

“The highly promotional environment has not led to higher industry demand,” Chief Executive Hubert Joly told analysts during a morning conference call.

Best Buy shares had soared last year on hopes new Chief Executive Hubert Joly would get the big-box retailer back on its feet, amid concerns that its stores were becoming little more than a testing ground, or showroom, for products that ultimately would be bought elsewhere, particularly on Amazon.com. The holiday results indicated Best Buy’s challenges may be harder to fix than many thought.

In the nine weeks leading up to Jan. 4, Best Buy’s sales excluding newly opened or closed stores fell 0.9% in the U.S. The company said the discounting also took a heavy bite out of its operating margins for the current quarter. Shares fell to $26 from Wednesday’s close of $37.57.

The company said it would respond by more aggressively cutting costs, following similar moves by Macy’s Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. and pointing to further shrinkage for a retail industry that has effectively trained customers to only buy when discounts are deepest.

Best Buy boosted its promotions to compete with other retailers during the holiday season and warned in November that its fiscal fourth-quarter margins could take a hit as a result. The company was among a long list of retailers that opened most of its doors on Thanksgiving Day in an effort to attract more shoppers. Best Buy also extended its hours in the days leading up to Christmas.

The company said the moves helped it win market share over the holidays, but that didn’t move the top line higher.

Mr. Joly said holiday revenue was hurt by factors including supply constraints for key products, significant traffic declines during the middle of the holiday season and a “disappointing” mobile-phone market.

Same-store mobile phone sales rose 3.2%, a relatively weak improvement that Chief Financial Officer Sharon McCollam attributed to a lack of “newness” in the category. But the company also blamed shortages of some high-end tablets and mobile phones for the stumble.

Results were weak enough to prompt Chairman Emeritus Richard Schulze, the store founder who shook up the company last year with a buyout proposal, to release a statement backing its executives.

“I have complete faith in the long-term strategy and I am confident that management is taking the steps required to win and position the company for a successful future,” he said.

Best Buy now expects its operating income will decline in the fourth quarter. The slump follows weak guidance earlier this month from electronics and appliances retailer HHGregg Inc. and GameStop Corp.

Larger rivals Amazon.com Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. haven’t yet released quarterly results. Ms. McCollam said the company will invest more in online marketing and customer databases this year to catch up with its competitors’ more advanced techniques.

“We were out-competed from an online marketing standpoint,” she said.

Write to Drew FitzGerald at andrew.fitzgerald@wsj.com and Tess Stynes at tess.stynes@wsj.com

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In Symbolic Step, Obama Enrolls in Health Exchange – ABC News

In a symbolic step, President Barack Obama has quietly signed up for health coverage through the new insurance exchanges, showing solidarity with Americans still struggling to figure out what Obama’s signature health care law means for them.

As commander in chief, the president receives his health care through the military, so his new coverage will go unused. Rather, the move fulfills a commitment to personally participate that Obama made in 2010, when he signed into law the Affordable Care Act requiring millions of uninsured Americans to buy insurance or face a penalty.

The White House said Obama’s decision to enroll demonstrated his support for the exchanges, the cornerstone of a sweeping health overhaul whose rollout has been marred by cascading delays and widespread technical problems. But Obama’s enrollment experience offered little resemblance to that of most Americans who have shopped for plans through the glitch-prone HealthCare.gov website.

Obama, who is vacationing in Hawaii, did not personally enroll himself in a plan, and didn’t go through the website. Instead, staffers enrolled the president in person through the Washington, D.C. exchange, the White House said.

Despite the effort to show Obama was taking a personal stake in the health law, he was signed up in private, without reporters present. Obama was enrolled over the weekend and the White House announced it on Monday.

White House officials noted that for security reasons, the president’s personal information is not readily available in government databases that the exchanges use to verify identities and check eligibility for tax subsidies.

“Like some Americans, the complicated nature of the president’s case required an in-person sign-up,” the White House said.

Millions of other Americans have faced website glitches that made signing up through the exchanges difficult or impossible, particularly in the initial weeks before massive fixes to the site were put in place.

Obama selected a “bronze” plan, the least-expensive plan available for someone his age. The White House said the plan Obama chose will cost him less than $400 a month. The president’s wife and daughters, who already have health care, did not enroll.

Obama’s enrollment in the exchange came just before Monday’s deadline for Americans to sign up for insurance and still receive coverage starting Jan. 1. But even that deadline came with a caveat, underscoring the degree to which the implementation of Obama’s top legislative achievement is still a work in progress.

Anticipating heavy website traffic by those looking to beat the deadline, the Obama administration effectively extended it by a day, giving people in 36 states a one-day grace period to select a plan. The White House said a vacationing Obama received a detailed update on Sunday about preparations for that and other deadlines, and would continue to be briefed throughout his stay in Honolulu.

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Reach Josh Lederman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joshledermanAP

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EU and China reach deal in solar panel dispute – BBC News








Chinese solar panelsThe EU had threatened to impose anti-dumping levies on Chinese solar panels


The European Commission says it has reached “an amicable solution” with Beijing in a row over imports of Chinese solar panels.

Both sides have agreed a minimum price for the panels, EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said.

The dispute erupted after the Commission – the EU’s executive arm – imposed temporary anti-dumping levies on the imports.

It argued that Chinese firms were undercutting rivals.

China is the world’s largest producer of solar panels. Its exports to Europe totalled 21bn euros ($27bn; £18bn) in 2011.

“After weeks of intensive talks, I can announce that I am satisfied with the offer of a price undertaking submitted by China’s solar panel exporters,” Mr De Gucht said on Saturday.

“This is the amicable solution that both the EU and China were looking for.”

He added that the agreement would “lead to a new market equilibrium at sustainable prices”.

The anti-dumping case was the biggest ever undertaken by the Commission.

In June, the EU accused China of “dumping” solar panels in Europe – selling them at below cost to steal market share – and then said it would impose import tariffs of up to 47.6% on them.

China said EU farm subsidies had resulted in European countries “dumping” wine on China, and warned it may respond in kind.

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Japan downplays anxiety over bond price spike – Telegraph.co.uk

Mr Kuroda and Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, have launched a vast
stimulus programme, promising in April to inject $1.4 trillion into the
economy in less than two years through quantitative easing, to jolt the
Japanese economy out of a 15-year deflationary malaise and lift inflation to
2pc.

The policy triggered a massive stock market rally. But a surge in bond yields,
which means bond prices have fallen, has threatened to make government
borrowing expensive.

Domestic banks could be forced to take losses on their large holdings of
Japanese government debt.

Mr Kuroda said that the Bank of Japan was watching for any signs of
overheating in asset prices and would take “appropriate action” if financial
imbalances emerge, suggesting it might unwind its ultra-loose policy.

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