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Holiday retail sales up 3.4% YOY; Amazon delivers 'record-breaking' season

TOP NEWS

* Retail sales in the U.S. from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 rose 3.4% year over year, excluding automobiles, according to a Mastercard Inc.'s SpendingPulse report. E-commerce sales, which grew 18.8% from the year-ago period, accounted for 14.6% of total retail sales. "Due to a later than usual Thanksgiving holiday, we saw retailers offering omnichannel sales earlier in the season," Mastercard senior adviser Steve Sadove said in a statement.

* Amazon.com Inc. said customers shopped at "record-breaking" levels during the holidays as worldwide unit sales for mostly small and medium-sized businesses grew double digits year over year. The company did not disclose figures. The toy, fashion and beauty categories were the most popular segments, with more than 500 million items ordered. Amazon also said it now has 750,000 employees worldwide.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* U.S. prosecutors said lawyer Michael Avenatti was more than $15 million in debt when he allegedly tried to extort more than $20 million from Nike Inc., Reuters reported, citing a court filing. Avenatti, who pleaded not guilty to the indictment, reportedly called the prosecutors' claim "completely bogus, ludicrous and absurd." The case is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 21, 2020.

* Fast Retailing Co. Ltd.'s Uniqlo chain will open its first store in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the spring/summer season of 2020, following the launch of the brand in Ho Chi Minh City.

* LVMH Moët Hennessy - Louis Vuitton SE bought a minority stake in Italian tannery Masoni Industria Conciaria SpA from founder Fabrizio Masoni through its LVMH Métiers d'Art subsidiary, FashionNetwork.com reported, citing a joint press release. The Masoni tannery employs 60 workers and is based in the town of Santa Croce sull'Arno. Under the deal, Masoni reportedly will sit as chairman of the tannery's board, which will include two LVMH Métiers d'Art representatives.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* J. Front Retailing Co. Ltd. posted diluted EPS of ¥80.19 for the nine months to Nov. 30, down from ¥84.35 in the year-ago period, while sales revenue climbed 8.4% year over year to ¥361.77 billion from ¥333.61 billion. The Japanese department store chain also launched a tender offer for the shares it does not currently own in Parco Co.Ltd. for ¥1,850 each, or a total of ¥65.8 billion. J.Front holds a 64.98% stake in local peer Parco, which reported that diluted EPS came in at ¥52.64 for the nine months to Nov. 30 as operating revenue rose 32.8% year over year to ¥88.03 billion.

* Central Retail Corp., a unit of Bangkok-based conglomerate Central Group, priced its IPO at 40 Thai baht to 48 baht per share, in a bid to raise up to 81.1 billion baht, Reuters reported, citing a company filing. Central Retail reportedly plans to use the proceeds to expand its domestic and international footprint and to pay off debt. As part of its listing plans, Central Group will delist its Robinson Public Co. Ltd. subsidiary, the report added.

E-COMMERCE

* Rakuten Inc.'s U.S. unit agreed to sell its e-book subsidiary OverDrive Holdings Inc. to investment firm KKR & Co. Inc. for an undisclosed amount. OverDrive is based in Cleveland, and employs 359 workers. Rakuten expects to record a gain of ¥40 billion in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the sale. The transfer of shares is expected to be made at the end of January 2020.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* LG Electronics Inc. named Thomas Yoon as president and CEO of its North American arm, effective Jan. 1, 2020. Yoon will also be president and CEO of LG Electronics USA Inc. Yoon succeeds William Cho, who has been promoted to global chief strategy officer.

* Tiffany & Co. reported that preliminary worldwide net sales grew 1% to 3% for the interim holiday period between Nov. 1 and Dec. 24, driven by its performance in China. Preliminary net sales rose 2% to 4% in the Americas, and 3% to 5% in Europe. Meanwhile, Asia-Pacific sales increased by 5% to 7%, while Japan sales dropped 9% to 11%.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Nikkei 225 was up 0.60% to 23,924.92. The Hang Seng was closed.

In Europe, most markets were closed for the Christmas holiday.

On the macro front

The MBA mortgage applications report, the jobless claims report, the state street investor confidence index, the Fed balance sheet and the money supply report 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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