Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.
The much talked about wealth gap is showing in retail purchase patterns, and could affect retail strategies and earnings if the division holds for long. Purchasers are polarizing, buying similar items like T-shirts at heavy discounters like Wal-Mart, or at higher-end stores like Barney's, where a designer model might cost 10 times as much. Deep discounters like Dollar Store are winners in this trend, which could be bad news for traditional department stores and other retailers aimed at the middle class.
"Looking to get back to the gym before the holidays? The 1 percent may go for Lululemon's $98 yoga pants... but the 99 percent probably is more prone to scoop up the $14.99 product at Target. "—CNBC's Allison Linn
"We don't really expect people to go back to pre-recession behavior any time in the predictable future."—David Rabkin, senior vice president of consumer lending for American Express
Black Friday starts ... now?
When we talked a while back about Christmas shopping starting on Labor Day, we were joking. But any minute now isn't out of the question. Wal-Mart said today it's going to start Black Friday deals a week early. This Friday, that is. Last week, Wal-Mart said it would start only a day early, on Thanksgiving itself, but the chain now it feels compelled to match its eager-beaver rivals Sears and Kmart. Retailers face a shorter-than-usual Thanksgiving to Christmas period and modest sales projections. In fact, Best Buy shares ended the day down by more than 10 percent after the firm, while announcing a nice earnings bump, vowed to compete in the increasingly aggressive holiday discounting battle. A National Retail Federation study found that 53.8 percent of consumers had already started their holiday shopping last week.
"If our competition is in fact more promotional in the fourth quarter, we will be too, and that will have a negative impact on our gross margin."—Best Buy chief financial officer Sharon McCollam
A CEO success story
Home Depot shares rose a tad today after the chain beat profit and sales estimates, saying the rebounding housing market has encouraged homeowners to spend on improvements. Home Depot has cut costs, improved distribution and tailored its merchandise and marketing to local conditions.
"Good sales growth, good expense management, good buybacks. ... Under the leadership of Frank Blake this is a much better-run company."—Brian Nagel, Oppenheimer & Co. analyst
Bigger than the Internet
The fascination with bitcoin continued today, as investors struggle to make heads or tails of big swings in the newfangled currency's value. At one point, bitcoins traded at an astounding $900 each, up 6,440 percent since January; a bit later bitcoins fetched a mere $502. While it's tempting to write this off as a typical bubble, it's worth noting that there was bubble talk when bitcoin spiked to $141 in April, up 360 percent in a month. True believers were encouraged when federal agencies indicated at a Senate hearing Monday they will not try to block growing use of digital currencies.
"Bitcoin does have some compelling things ... that allow for it to be quite intriguing—but in terms of the price it's got way ahead of itself here in the short run."—David McAlvany, CEO of McAlvany Financial
"There will be lots of ups and downs along the way, but bitcoin is the most important invention… since the Internet."—Roger Ver, director of business development at BitInstant, a service that provides fund transfers between and into bitcoin exchanges
—By Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com