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Retailers having LULU of a time as sales peter out

Shoppers at Somerset Collection shopping mall in Troy, Mich.
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Shoppers at Somerset Collection shopping mall in Troy, Mich.

Weakness in the retail sector is continuing into January. We all knew about the weakness in December: after Thanksgiving, traffic deteriorated more than most retailers expected. That in part is because many consumers waited until close to Christmas to finish their shopping.

Retailers responded by initiating deep discounts and extending those promotions for longer periods. Still, the softness is creeping into January.

Consider the following:

1) Lululemon cut its earnings and revenue guidance for the current quarter. CFO John Currie said, "Since the beginning of January, we have seen traffic and sales trends decelerate meaningfully."

2) Express cut its current quarter outlook after seeing a deeper than anticipated drop in customer traffic. Express CEO Michael Weiss said "January traffic to date has been weak and we have remained promotional and expect to maintain this stance throughout the month."

3) PVH reaffirmed its full year earnings outlook but cut its fourth quarter and full year revenue guidance, due to discounting during the holiday season.

This follows on other cuts in earnings guidance last week from Bed Bath & Beyond, Signet Jewelers, Pier One, American Eagle and Family Dollar.

Elsewhere

1) General Motors, even as it announced it was recalling 370,000 pickups for a fire issue, is trading slightly up as CFO Dan Ammann said the auto maker is "the closest it has ever been" to reinstating a dividend. This is good news, as many institutional companies will be able to buy it once they start paying a dividend.

By the way, kudos to GM for winning North American car AND truck of the year…for the Corvette and the Silverado. Corvette is sold out, GM says. Wow.

2) Most of Asia traded up today, but Japan's market was flat. The yen is weaker today, at a roughly one-month low against the U.S. dollar.

3) Tale of two restaurants: fast-food chain Wendy's jumps after raising its 2013 earnings outlook and giving its fourth quarter view, which is above analyst expectations. Noodles, however, falls after reporting preliminary Q4 results below the Street's view.

Wendy's upped its 2013 earnings per share (EPS) estimate from 29 cents to 30 cents, above its prior guidance of 25 cents and higher than analysts' $0.25 expectation. The company sees Q4 EPS of $0.10 to $0.11, which exceeds Wall Street's 6 cent view. The burger chain sees Q4 revenue of $592 million, which is below analysts' $611 million estimate.

Noodles announced preliminary sales results below Wall Street's expectations. Recently public NDLS estimates Q4 revenue of $91.5 million versus analysts' $92.7 million forecast. Meanwhile, CEO Kevin Reddy highlighted "significant weather headwinds" in many of NDLS's markets.

4) Suntory acquiring Beam for $14 billion ex-debt. $83.50 a share, a 25 percent premium over Friday's close.

Beam was created over the breakup of Fortune Brands in 2011, and has gone nowhere but up since then, largely on takeover speculation.

By CNBC's Bob Pisani

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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