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Sears may proceed with auction; CVS to debut new store concept


* A bankruptcy court gave another chance to Sears Holdings Corp. Chairman Eddie Lampert to buy the retailer out of bankruptcy. Sears will advance with its planned auction Jan. 14 if Lampert deposits $120 million by Jan. 9, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Sears bankruptcy lawyer Ray Schrock.

* The first version of CVS Health Corp.'s one-stop health services shop is set for a February opening in Houston, the company's top official said. Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, CEO and Director Larry Merlo said the store will feature a "care concierge" to refer customers to an expanded range of services, such as in-store blood draws and new screenings for chronic diseases. Merlo's comments offer additional clarity on the services that CVS plans to provide as a result of its acquisition of insurer Aetna Inc.


* Superdry PLC's chief product officer, Brigitte Danielmeyer, resigned from the U.K.-based apparel retailer, and a search for her replacement is underway.

* LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE-owned personal care and beauty store chain Sephora SA appointed Jean-André Rougeot as the CEO of its U.S. unit, effective Feb. 4, Women's World Daily reported. Rougeot — CEO of Benefit Cosmetics LLC, also a subsidiary of LVMH, for 12 years — will replace Calvin McDonald, who was named Lululemon Athletica Inc.'s CEO in July 2018.


* Neiman Marcus Group Inc. agreed to pay a fine of $1.5 million to settle an investigation over a data breach that compromised customer payment card data at 77 of the department store chain's outlets in 43 states and the District of Columbia. The company also agreed to comply with a number of data security policies to prevent similar incidents in the future.

* Temasek Holdings (Pte.) Ltd. is expected to cut its 24.9% stake in CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.-owned A.S. Watson (Health & Beauty UK) Ltd. by selling a minority shareholding in the health and beauty company as part of the Singaporean sovereign wealth fund's regular portfolio restructuring, a source told Reuters. Both CK Hutchison and Temasek declined to the news agency's request for comment.

* J. C. Penney Co. Inc. said its comparable sales fell 3.5% on an adjusted basis during the nine-week period ended Jan. 5. The retailer also reaffirmed its fiscal 2018 outlook to generate positive free cash flow and reduce inventory in excess of $225 million or 8%. The company expects to end fiscal 2018 with liquidity in excess of $2 billion.

* Mothercare PLC reported that like-for-like sales at its U.K. stores in the 13-week period ended Jan. 5 declined 11.4% year over year, mainly due to "challenging" market conditions and continued disruption from the company's planned store closures.


* Inc. pulled a number of doormats, bath mats and other items deemed offensive to Muslims following a request from the Council on American-Islamic Relations whose members have reached out to the civil rights and advocacy organization to complain about the products. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, said it reached out to Amazon on Jan. 3 to flag the offered items by seller Emvency that are "offensive to Muslims because the Quranic verses and other Islamic references would be stepped-on or otherwise disrespected by customers." An Amazon spokesperson told S&P Global Market Intelligence in an email that the products are being taken down.

* Amazon is sending free product samples to certain customers to help them "discover" items from new and established brands after the e-commerce company discontinued a somewhat similar program for its Prime members. According to the Seattle-based retailer's page, customers who have an active account, including non-Prime members, are eligible to receive free samples of products, including pet food, grocery items, health and wellness products, and beauty and household products. The initiative follows Amazon's now-defunct Prime Samples, an exclusive program that lets members buy product samples and receive credits equal to the price paid for samples to be used for a later purchase of full-size items.


* Herbalife Nutrition Ltd. CEO Richard Goudis resigned after the company discovered comments he made that were "inconsistent" with the company's expense-related policies and business practices. The company did not disclose Goudis' comments, which were made prior to his role as CEO, but said they were "inconsistent with Herbalife Nutrition's standards and do not reflect the company's culture." Michael Johnson, Herbalife's executive chairman, will reassume the role of CEO on a temporary basis.


* Albertsons Cos. Inc. completed the sale of five of its distribution centers to an unaffiliated entity for about $660 million, net of closing costs. The food and drug retailer also entered into an agreement with the purchaser to lease the distribution centers for 15 to 20 years for an initial annual rent payment of approximately $38 million for all properties.

* J Sainsbury PLC's total retail sales, excluding fuel, slid 0.4% year over year after taking a 2.3% hit in general merchandise sales. "Retail markets are highly competitive and very promotional and the consumer outlook continues to be uncertain," CEO Mike Coupe warned. Meanwhile, grocery sales rose 0.4%, driven by a 6% growth in online grocery sales and 3% increase in sales from convenience stores.


* Walmart Inc. is working with autonomous vehicle startup Udelv to test the delivery of groceries in Surprise, Ariz. through self-driving cargo vans. Burlingame, Calif.-based Udelv offers last-mile delivery through autonomous cargo vans that have compartments connected to mobile apps for easy and secure access.

* Wal-Mart de México SAB de CV reported that consolidated sales for December 2018 increased 5.6% year over year to 71.43 billion Mexican pesos. The Mexican unit of U.S. retail giant Walmart Inc. said total sales in Mexico rose 5.8% year over year to 58.79 billion pesos during the month, while Central America total sales grew 4.7% year over year to 12.64 billion pesos.


* A bill was introduced in the California Assembly that would require retailers in the state to offer digital receipts as the default to customers, beginning Jan. 1, 2022, making California the first to push for such a mandate.

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The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a higher opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, the Hang Seng increased 2.27% to 26,462.32, while the Nikkei 225 increased 1.10% to 20,427.06.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 1.02% to 6,931.58 and the Euronext 100 was up 1.05% to 939.02.

On the macro front

The MBA mortgage applications, EIA petroleum status report and Federal Open Market Committee minutes are due out today.

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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