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US DOJ bans all forms of online gambling; Whole Foods scraps 365 store expansion


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US DOJ bans all forms of online gambling; Whole Foods scraps 365 store expansion


* The U.S. Justice Department ruled that all forms of online gambling, not just sports betting, are illegal under federal law, adding that the limitation was previously "incorrectly interpreted." The decision, which is a reversal of its 2011 position that only sports betting is prohibited, comes after the Office of Legal Counsel's contention that the 1961 Wire Act bans all "bets or wagers of any kind, even those unrelated to sports." The new interpretation of the statute will be tested in court as judges may entertain challenges to the scope of the law, the Justice Department said.

* Whole Foods Market Inc. will no longer pursue its plan to open more stores under its 365 banner, which uses a smaller format than the retailer's traditional stores, Yahoo Finance reported, citing an internal email from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. In the email, Mackey reportedly said the company will no longer open new Whole Foods 365 stores as the price distinction between regular Whole Foods stores and the smaller store format "has become less relevant." According to the report, the Inc.-owned grocer will concentrate on growing the core Whole Foods Market brand. Amazon and Whole Foods did not immediately respond to requests for comment from S&P Global Market Intelligence.


* Lululemon Athletica Inc. raised its sales and earnings projection for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2018, ending Feb. 3, on the back of "strong" sales throughout the holiday season. The Canadian sportswear retailer said it expects EPS to fall in the range of $1.72 to $1.74 for the quarter, an increase from the previously projected range of $1.64 to $1.67, the company said in a Jan. 14 news release. The company also anticipates net revenue to be between $1.14 billion and $1.15 billion, up from the prior guidance of $1.12 billion to $1.13 billion.

* LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE's venture arm took a minority stake in Gabriela Hearst LLC, Women's Wear Daily reported, citing a statement from the luxury accessories maker. The investment, the third made by LVMH Luxury Ventures, reportedly will be used by Gabriela Hearst to support its ongoing global expansion. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, the report said.

* H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB-owned fashion brand COS is set to launch in Reykjavík, Iceland, later in 2019 and will announce further details regarding the rollout "in due course."

* American Eagle Outfitters Inc. reported "another record holiday season" as fourth-quarter comparable sales to Jan. 13 increased 6%, versus 8% in the year-ago period. The apparel retailer maintained its diluted EPS guidance of 40 cents to 42 cents for the fourth quarter of 2019.

* Authentic Brands Group LLC teamed up with New York-based K&S Outerwear to create and sell women's outerwear under the Juicy Couture brand, Women's Wear Daily reported. The first collection will be rolled out in the fall of 2019 with items priced between $198 and $498.


* Marks and Spencer Group PLC revealed the locations of the next 17 stores it plans to close as part of the U.K. retailer's transformation plan that will see it shutter more than 100 outlets by 2022, BBC reported. The latest wave of closures, on top of 30 stores previously closed and eight that have already been named, reportedly puts 1,045 jobs at risk. "Proposing to close stores is never easy, for our colleagues, customers or the local community, but it is vital for the future of M&S," Sacha Berendji, the company's director of retail, operations and property, reportedly said.


* Ananth Narayanan, CEO of Flipkart Online Services Pvt. Ltd.-owned retail platforms Myntra and Jabong, has stepped down, the executive announced on Twitter. Fashion e-commerce retailer Myntra said Flipkart executive Amar Nagaram will succeed Narayanan in the role and will report directly to Flipkart Group CEO Kalyan Krishnamurthy, according to a report by The Economic Times (India).

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. has no plans to export its brick-and-mortar supermarket chain Hema to international markets and will focus instead on bringing international products to Chinese consumers, a company executive told a retail conference in New York. Xulin Guo, chief of staff to Hema's CEO, speaking at the National Retail Federation's The Big Show event, touted the potential for the company's China-centric strategy.

* Online fashion retailer Boohoo Group PLC reported that total revenue for the four months to Dec. 31, 2018, rose 44% year over year, or 43% in constant currency, to £328.2 million. During the holiday period, the company saw revenue increase across all its regions and brands, in particular, its PrettyLittleThing unit grew 95% year over year to £144.2 million. Boohoo also raised its revenue growth outlook for the year ending Feb. 28 to between 43% and 45%, from its prior guidance range of 38% to 43%.


* Avon Products Inc. partnered with startup Rappi to launch a two-hour delivery service for over 100 of its products in São Paulo, Brazil, as well as in the cities of Bogota and Medellin in Colombia. The pilot is expected to expand to other Brazilian cities and to other locations in Argentina, Chile and Mexico during the first half of 2019.


* CVS Health Corp. and recently acquired insurer Aetna Inc. are pumping $100 million into U.S. communities over the next five years to offer free health screenings and nonprofit assistance, CVS CEO and Director Larry Merlo said during an address at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "This effort means more free health screenings and more funding to tackle public health challenges, including tobacco and opioid use. It means more investments to address the social determinants of health," Merlo said.


* Walmart Inc. will open its first automated consolidation center in Colton, Calif., in July to support the retail giant's supply chain. The 340,000-square-foot high-tech facility will receive general merchandise items, such as toys and kitchen appliances from suppliers, consolidate the shipments in a full truckload and ship them to regional distribution centers, similar to consolidation centers in Walmart's network.

* Carrefour SA will use artificial intelligence software from advanced analytics developer SAS to optimize its supply chain, making it the first French retailer to make such a move. The AI solution, SAS Viya, is expected to "collect and process data from stores, warehouses and e-commerce websites to better predict demand and refine supplier orders."

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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 2.02% to 26,830.29, while the Nikkei 225 rose 0.96% to 20,555.29.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased 0.022% to 6,856.51 and the Euronext 100 was up 0.42% to 933.19.

On the macro front

The PPI-FD index, Empire State Mfg Survey and Redbook index 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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