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Holiday Sales Look Better; One Financial Looks Weak

1) Retail sales looking strong no matter who you talk to. The National Retail Federation raised its holiday sales forecast last week. Custom Growth Partners says there is strength right across the board, from luxury to midtier to value..they estimate that based on November sales up 8.3 percent, Christmas sales could be the strongest since 1999's 8.8 percent growth.

One disappointment: TV sales, where 3-D TVs have been unable to revive soft markets. Sony said TV sales would likely fall short of targets this year.

2) Sarah Lee trading down 2 percent pre-open; on Friday, the WSJ reported that Sarah Lee was weighing a breakup of the company and that Brazilian-based protein processor JBS has been in talks to buy the company. Other reports say there may be a snag over the price. It may be the first of several such transactions; Credit Suisse noted that "We expect consumer goods companies from powerful emerging markets likes Brazil and from China to continue to search the western markets for acquisitions."

3) Carl Icahn has built up a 5.8 percent stake in Chesapeake Energy .

4) American Express downgraded to hold from buy at Stifel Nicolaus: "the Fed's surprisingly harsh initial draft on the Durbin Amendment has broad ranging negative implications for the payments industry."

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