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Prada to form advisory council on diversity; Kroger CFO to retire

TOP NEWS

* Italian fashion house Prada SpA is setting up an advisory council on diversity issues following criticism over its Pradamalia product line that was pulled from shelves after the items were linked to racist imagery. "We will learn from this and we will do better," the company said in a statement released on Twitter. The company said it will donate the proceeds from the products to a New York-based organization dedicated to fighting for racial justice.

* The Kroger Co. said CFO Michael Schlotman will retire from the company in December 2019. The supermarket chain said Schlotman will remain CFO until April 3, 2019, and will stay with the company as an executive vice president until Dec. 28, 2019, to facilitate a seamless transition period. Kroger appointed Gary Millerchip as senior vice president and its new CFO, effective April 4, 2019.

TEXTILES, APPAREL AND LUXURY GOODS

* The European Commission has fined U.S. apparel retailer Guess? Inc. €40 million for illegally restricting cross-border sales and advertising in Europe. The investigation, which began in June 2017, revealed that the company's distribution deals with authorized retailers limited them to use the Guess brand names and trademarks for online search advertising, as well as preventing them from independently deciding on the retail price of the Guess products. The competition commission added that the retailer received a 50% fine reduction due to its cooperation in the investigation.

MULTILINE RETAIL

* U.S. retailer Target Corp. said it will offer guaranteed free delivery by Christmas Eve for eligible orders placed through its website by 11:55 p.m. CT on Dec. 20.

* Department store operator Saks Fifth Avenue Inc., owned by Hudson's Bay Co., is closing its women's store, while keeping the men's section operational, at Brookfield Place in New York, CNBC reported, citing a company spokesperson. The retailer added that it plans "to transfer as many sales associates to new roles as possible."

E-COMMERCE

* German labor union Verdi asked Amazon.com Inc. workers in the country to stage a strike at two of the company's logistics centers as part of the group's ongoing demand for higher pay and better working conditions, Reuters reported. The group asked employees to hold a strike at an Amazon warehouse in Werne on Dec. 17 and continue through Christmas Day at another warehouse in Leipzig, the newswire said.

* China's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. said its logistics arm Cainiao Smart Logistics Network Ltd. signed a memorandum of agreement with Russian air-freight carrier Volga-Dnepr to strengthen its cross-border delivery services. Under the contract, Cainiao will be able to access Volga-Dnepr's network and fleet of 41 airplanes. It also named the Moscow-based company as its preferred carrier for airlifting and logistics services.

HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL PRODUCTS

* Italian eyewear company Marcolin SpA signed a licensing agreement with specialty retailer L Brands Inc. to make sunglasses for the Victoria's Secret and Victoria's Secret Pink brands, Women's Wear Daily reported. Marcolin will begin the global distribution of its eyewear collection, while the licensing agreement will expire at the end of 2023, the report added.

FOOD AND STAPLES RETAILING

* Canadian convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. and motor fuel distributor CrossAmerica Partners LP said they have entered into an agreement for a series of asset exchanges expected to occur over a period of two years. Couche-Tard agreed to sell 192 company-operated Circle K convenience and fuel retail stores in the U.S. to CrossAmerica for approximately $184.5 million. In turn, CrossAmerica will sell assets amounting to $184.5 million to the Canadian retail group.

HYPERMARKETS AND SUPERCENTERS

* Japanese retail company Aeon Co. Ltd. will team up with Alphabet Inc.-backed ride-hailing startup PT Go-Jek Indonesia on a range of consumer-focused initiatives, including digital payment and home delivery, the Nikkei Asian Review reported, citing company sources. From mid-December, Aeon will use Go-Jek's Go-Pay digital money to accept payments at its two malls in Jakarta, with plans to expand to three new outlets after 2019, the report said. Aeon also will offer home deliveries through Go-Jek's network of delivery drivers.

* Russian hypermarket operator Lenta Ltd. signed a strategic agreement with Hong Kong-based consumer goods sourcing company Li & Fung Ltd. to upgrade the grocer's nonfood private label ranges and improve the efficiency of its nonfood supplies. Under the agreement, Li & Fung will help with product development and organizing shipments from Asian countries.

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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 fell 1.05% to 25,814.25, and the Nikkei 225 dropped 1.82% to 21,115.45.

In Europe as of midday, the FTSE was down 0.39% to 6,746.86, and the Euronext 100 fell 0.30% to 929.32.

On the macro front

The housing starts report and the Redbook index for retail sales 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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