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Sears to close 41 more stores; Walmart seeks watchdog approval for Flipkart deal

TOP NEWS

* Sears Holdings Corp. is expected to close at least another 41 outlets, comprising 31 Sears locations and 10 Kmart stores, across 24 states, Business Insider reported, citing a new list confirmed by multiple Sears employees and local news reports. Most of the stores Sears plans to close reportedly will be shut down in July and August, cutting down the company's locations by 50% in the last five years. The struggling department store chain also put 16 of its stores up for auction in February.

* Walmart Inc.'s proposed purchase of a majority stake in e-commerce company Flipkart Online Services Pvt. Ltd. "does not give rise to competition concerns," the big-box retailer said in its filing seeking approval from fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India. Walmart pointed out in its filing to the CCI that it is engaged in wholesale business-to-business transactions in India, while Flipkart is involved in wholesale cash and carry of goods, as well as online retail.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* French apparel company Etam Group agreed to sell its ready-to-wear business in China, which includes four women's brands with 1,600 points of sales across 300 cities, to Hong Kong-based investor and Jaoboo Fashion Group International CEO Jinguo Zhou, effective immediately. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

* French luxury goods maker Hermès International Société en commandite par actions opened its 34th store, a boutique that mixes state-of-the-art technology and traditional craft, in the U.S. at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* Marks & Spencer Group PLC CEO Steve Rowe is expected to announce the closure of another 100 stores, after previously shutting down as many as 20 outlets, before the company reports its annual results May 23, The Guardian reported. The U.K. department store chain, which is undergoing restructuring amid declining profits, recently closed its distribution center in Hardwick, a village in the county of Cheshire, England, a move that placed 450 jobs at risk. Meanwhile, M&S appointed former Dixons Carphone PLC U.K. and Ireland CEO Katie Bickerstaffe as nonexecutive director to its board, along with Pip McCrostie, who was a former executive of professional services firm Ernst & Young.

E-COMMERCE

* U.S. President Donald Trump personally urged Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the U.S. Postal Service's shipping rates for online retailers such as Amazon.com Inc., The Washington Post reported, citing three people familiar with the matter. According to the sources, Brennan repeatedly explained to President Trump that contract arrangements between companies and the USPS are reviewed by a regulatory commission. Amazon has drawn Trump's ire for allegedly taking advantage of the USPS, which has led to him issuing an executive order to review the Postal Service's operations and finances.

HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS

* Procter & Gamble Co. is disclosing the ingredients in most of its products amid growing customer and retailer sentiment for greater transparency from consumer goods manufacturers to ensure that products are safe to use, The Wall Street Journal reported. Shoppers can use SmartLabel, a digital tool that provides customers details about a wide range of consumer goods, to expand the ingredient list for P&G's products.

HOUSEHOLD DURABLES AND SPECIALTY RETAIL

* Hasbro Inc. trademarked the scent of its Play-Doh clay brand with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. According to Jonathan Berkowitz, Play-Doh's senior vice president of global marketing, trademarking the product's smell, which remains largely unchanged since its creation in 1956, enables the company to protect the connection between the brand and the fans.

* The Indian arm of consumer electronics retailer Sony Corp. will manufacture its televisions and smartphones locally after the government increased import duties on overseas products to 20%, The Economic Times of India reported, citing the unit's managing director, Sunil Nayyar. Nayyar reportedly said Sony is in the final stages of deciding whether it will set up its own plant in the country or expand its third-party manufacturing, which includes Foxconn Technology Co. Ltd.'s site in India.

* Mattel Inc. rejected the offer of Isaac Larian, CEO of Bratz Dolls maker MGA Entertainment Inc., to merge his company with the rival toymaker, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing correspondence reviewed by the publication and people familiar with the matter. The proposal, with undisclosed details and financial terms, was made by Larian in an April 25 letter, less than a week after Mattel replaced CEO Margo Georgiadis with Ynon Kreiz following the company's sales slump, the Journal said. Mattel reportedly replied to Larian's letter, saying that the offer, which would place him at the head of the combined companies, was not in the best interests of the company and that it is not interested in further discussions with Larian.

* IKEA Group stopped the development of its Cuerden store in Lancashire, England, after experiencing an almost 40% drop in U.K. profits for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2017, The Guardian reported, citing government filings. Richard Rands, property manager for IKEA's U.K. and Ireland arm, reportedly attributed the halt of the project to "increased development costs and delays outside of IKEA's control."

* Troubled retailer Steinhoff International Holdings NV expects to report a post-tax loss for the first half of 2018 due to costs related to restructuring, losses on asset sales, impairments and litigation. Following a meeting with lenders, the South African retailer said its retail operations revenue is expected to rise 1% year over year to €9.4 billion in the six months ended March 31. Steinhoff also provided the creditors with a restructuring plan and sought a three-year extension on its outstanding debt, which stands at €9.6 billion.

The day ahead

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

In Asia, the Hang Seng was up 0.60% to 31,234.35. The Nikkei 225 added 0.31% to 23,002.37.

In Europe, as of midday, the FTSE 100 rose 0.80% to 7,841.15, and the Euronext 100 advanced 0.64% to 1,088.32.

On the macro front

The Chicago Fed National Activity Index is due out today.

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