*Japan's Seven & i Holdings Co. Ltd. reported that net profit for the first nine months of fiscal 2020 increased 8.8% year over year to ¥169.97 billion from ¥156.27 billion, driven by the performance of its local convenience stores. Diluted EPS came in at ¥192.23, compared to ¥176.53 a year prior. Seven & i maintained its forecast for the fiscal year ending Feb. 29 for attributable net income to increase 3.4% to ¥210 billion, while net income per share is expected to amount to ¥237.63.
* Food delivery service provider Grubhub Inc. has hired financial advisers to help evaluate strategic alternatives for the company, including a possible sale or an acquisition, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing anonymous sources. Grubhub told S&P Global Market Intelligence in an email that it does not comment on rumors or speculation.
FOOD RETAIL & DISTRIBUTION
* Kroger Co. introduced a plant-based meat range called Emerge, under its vegan label Simple Truth.
* Walmart Inc. has settled a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit over allegedly discriminatory hiring practices against uniformed personnel. The lawsuit was filed Oct. 30, 2019, following a complaint by Naval Petty Officer Third Class Lindsey Hunger that Walmart violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. In an emailed statement to S&P Global Market Intelligence, Walmart described the incident as "an unfortunate situation" and that it was glad to resolve the case with Hunger and the Justice Department.
* Wal-Mart de México SAB de CV said consolidated sales for December 2019 climbed 3.1% year over year to 73.65 billion Mexican pesos from 71.43 billion pesos a year ago. As of December 2019, the Mexican arm of Walmart Inc. has 2,571 stores in Mexico and 836 stores in Central America.
* Walmart introduced an autonomous warehouse system called Alphabot that will help the retailer improve its online grocery pickup and delivery process for both employees and customers. The system, developed by robotics startup Alert Innovation Inc., will allow customers to place orders closer to pickup time as well as reduce the wait time when picking up an order.
* Costco Wholesale Corp. posted a 10.5% year-over-year increase in net sales for December 2019 to $17.04 billion, compared to $15.42 billion.
* U.K. department store chain Marks & Spencer Group PLC recorded a 0.2% increase in like-for-like sales in fiscal 2019-2020 third quarter, driven by sales growth of 1.5% in its food business. The retailer added that the segment delivered a "standout performance" during the two-week Christmas period. M&S maintained its full-year guidance but expects gross margins to be around the lower end of its guidance.
* Food retailer Tesco PLC reported a 0.9% year-over-year drop in like-for-like sales during the fiscal third-quarter as slight growth in its domestic market was outweighed by weaker performance abroad. Group revenue for the 19 weeks to Jan. 4 fell to £21.03 billion. Sales in the U.K. and Ireland rose 0.4% to £16.81 billion, which included a 0.4% negative impact from general merchandise as Tesco adjusted its product mix.
* Bangkok-based oil and gas company PTT PCL has denied reports that its retail unit, PTT Oil and Retail Business Co. Ltd., will be joining the bid for Tesco PLC's operations in Asia, Reuters reported. An earlier report by Reuters said PTTOR will participate in the first-round bids alongside other Thai conglomerates Charoen Pokphand Group Co. Ltd. and The Central Group.
* British grocer Waitrose Ltd. posted like-for-like sales growth of 0.4% during the Christmas trading period. However, the John Lewis Partnership PLC unit saw gross sales, excluding fuel, decline 1.3% year over year to £1.03 billion. Meanwhile, online sales rose 16.7%, and grocery orders were up 23.4% in the week leading up to Christmas.
* Canadian bottled water provider Cott Corp. said it has hired a financial adviser to evaluate strategic options for its S&D Coffee and Tea segment, including a potential sale, to transition into a pure-play water solutions company.
* The Kraft Heinz Co. said Campbell Soup Co. executive Carlos Abrams-Rivera will become its new president for the U.S. zone, effective Feb. 3. Abrams-Rivera will step down from his role as executive vice president and president at Campbell Snacks on Feb. 1.
*Chicken restaurant chain Wingstop Inc. promoted Mahesh Sadarangani to COO, effective immediately. Sadarangani, previously the company's senior vice president of channel strategy, replaces Larry Kruguer.
* McDonald's Corp.'s Canadian arm said it is expanding the trial of its plant-based P.L.T. burgers, featuring Beyond Meat Inc.'s plant-based patties, across 24 new locations in southwestern Ontario. The expansion, which starts Jan. 14 and will run for 12 weeks, will enable the fast-food restaurant chain to assess customer preferences and offer variety on its menu.
* Catering and outsourcing services provider Sodexo SA said it expects fiscal 2020 organic revenue to grow 4%, after its fiscal first-quarter revenue increased 7.1% year over year to €6.08 billion from €5.67 billion. In organic terms, the revenue grew 3.8%.
* McDonald's is said to be creating a new digital customer engagement team as part of its strategy to drive sales growth using technology initiatives, according to messages obtained by CNBC. The team's responsibilities will reportedly include digital ordering, personalization, payments, loyalty and delivery.
* Two African American senior directors at McDonald's sued the fast-food restaurant chain, alleging that they suffered "systematic but covert" racial discrimination, The Guardian reported. Vicki Guster-Hines and Domineca Neal were reportedly demoted to senior director from vice president in July 2018. They also claimed in their lawsuit that the number of high-ranking African American officials dropped to seven in 2019 from 42 in 2014. McDonald's reportedly said in a statement that it disagreed with the claims in the lawsuit, adding that 45% of its corporate officers and all of its field vice presidents are people of color.
* Beijing is expected to increase its pork imports and release more pork from state reserves to ensure stable supply and prices ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday period, Reuters reported, citing Chinese commerce ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
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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 by 1.68% to 28,561.00, while the Nikkei 225 was up 2.31% to 23,739.87.
In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 increased by 0.55% to 7,616.24, and the Euronext 100 increased by 0.49% to 1,161.09.
On the macro front
The jobless claims report, EIA natural gas report, 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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