* The Kroger Co.'s third-quarter earnings missed analyst expectations as the company confirmed its outlook for the remainder of its 2019 fiscal year. The Cincinnati-based grocer's adjusted EPS of 47 cents missed the S&P Global Market Intelligence estimate for normalized EPS of 49 cents.
* The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new National Youth Tobacco Survey revealed that about 6.2 million middle and high school students in the U.S. used one or more tobacco products in 2019. The CDC said the survey found that about one in three high school students and about one in eight middle school students have used some type of tobacco product in the last 30 days. E-cigarettes were the most commonly used product among high school and middle school students for the sixth consecutive year, according to the survey.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer Group PLC said it completed the installation of vertical farms, developed by InFarm - Indoor Urban Farming GmbH, at six more locations across London. The companies partnered in September with the installation of a vertical farm at M&S' Clapham Junction store.
* Wal-Mart de México SAB de CV said total consolidated sales for November grew 7.7% year over year to 60.93 billion Mexican pesos. Walmex, Walmart Inc.'s Mexican unit, reported that comparable store sales in the country increased 6.9% year over year.
* Australia's Woolworths Group Ltd. named Peter Hearl as chairman-elect for Endeavour Group, which will be formed by merging the food retailer's beverage and hospitality divisions. Woolworths shareholders are slated to vote on the company's restructuring plan Dec. 16.
* Woolworths Group Ltd. said it has begun working on the expansion of its Townsville regional distribution center with an initial investment of A$12 million, which forms part of its broader A$20 million investment plan for local store and supply chain network. Separately, the food retailer announced the opening of its "most sustainable supermarket," which will operate using 100% renewable energy, in a Melbourne suburb.
* Brown-Forman Corp., owner of the Jack Daniel's whiskey brand, reported diluted EPS of 59 cents for the second quarter of fiscal 2020, marking a 14% change from the same period a year ago. The mean consensus estimate for the company's normalized EPS was 52 cents, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence. The company also trimmed its underlying operating profit guidance for growth to 2% to 4%, down from the previously projected growth of 3% to 5%.
* Australia's Treasury Wine Estates Ltd. appointed Ben Dollard as president of its operations in the Americas, effective Jan. 13, 2020. Dollard replaces Angus McPherson, who notified the company that he could not relocate to the U.S. due to personal circumstances. McPherson will be appointed to a revised role based in Melbourne.
* Agricommodities trader Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. opened a new animal nutrition technology center in Illinois to focus on the development of pet foods, pet treats and aquaculture feeds.
TOBACCO & SMOKING PRODUCTS
* Tobacco company Philip Morris International Inc. said its board declared a quarterly dividend of $1.17 per share, payable Jan. 10, 2020, to shareholders of record as of Dec. 19.
* The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that lung injury cases linked to vaping increased to 2,291, as of Dec. 4. The CDC added that 48 deaths have also been confirmed.
* Oreo-cookies maker Mondelez International Inc. declared a quarterly dividend of 28.5 cents per share, payable Jan. 14, 2020, to shareholders of record as of Dec. 31.
* Beyond Meat Inc. confirmed that it will begin selling its plant-based burgers at some Costco Wholesale Corp. stores, including those in Texas, Florida and New York, Reuters reported.
* Nestlé SA will be expanding its meatless offerings in the U.S. with the launch of vegan DiGiorno pizza and Stouffer's lasagna, made with its Sweet Earth Awesome plant-based ground beef.
* Associated British Foods PLC Chairman Michael McLintock reiterated the company's fiscal 2019 outlook, saying that ABF expects "strong profit and margin growth" from its grocery division. Meanwhile, its sugar division will benefit from high prices in the EU and planned cost reductions, the chairman said in a statement ahead of ABF's annual general meeting.
* Packaged food company The J. M. Smucker Co. issued a voluntary recall of specific lots of its Special Kitty wet cat food, citing health and safety concerns due to ingredients that are believed to have failed its standards.
* Specialty coffee retailer The Second Cup Ltd. agreed to acquire Ottawa-based Bridgehead Coffee for C$9.5 million. The deal, subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close by December-end.
* McDonald's Corp. began selling vegetable-based burgers in New Zealand with patties fried in the same oil used to cook chicken products, The Guardian reported, citing David Howse, general manager for McDonald's New Zealand. Howse reportedly added that the new veggie burger variant is "intended for flexitarians."
* The U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority said pub operator Stonegate Pub Co. Ltd.'s proposed £1.27 billion acquisition of counterpart Ei Group PLC does not raise competition concerns on a U.K.-wide basis but may result in increased prices and lower quality of products and services in 51 local areas. Slug and Lettuce pub operator Stonegate acknowledged the competition watchdog's findings and said it will put forward proposals to address the concerns.
* China is working on exempting certain imports of U.S. products, including soybeans and pork, from retaliatory tariffs imposed on American goods, citing applications by relevant enterprises, the country's finance ministry said in a statement.
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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 was up 1.07% to 26,498.37, and the Nikkei 225 inched up 0.23% to 23,354.40.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 rose 0.81% to 7,195.32, and the Euronext 100 gained 0.50% to 1,119.24.
On the macro front
The employment situation report, the consumer sentiment report, the wholesale trade report, the Baker-Hughes Rig Count and the consumer credit 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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