All Eyes on Retailers and Airlines

Retail stocks are in focus after much of the East coast was blanketed by a blizzard Sunday.

However, retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's may get a slight boost as people looked to purchase snow equipment including shovels and snow blowers in preparation of the storm over the weekend.

While storms will likely take a bite out of sales, most analysts noted that the holiday sales season was a far.

"With markdowns now in place, we watch to see who gives in first—between retailers further lowering prices or consumers turning up to shop," a Morgan Stanley analyst wrote over the weekend.

Still, with widespread confidence that holiday sales were strong, retail stocks have had a good run for the second year in a row. The S&P Retail Index is at a new 3-year high, up 25 percent year-to-date, doubling the S&P 500's 12.7 percent return this year.

One name has been mentioned several times this morning: Abercrombie & Fitch, which appears to be continuing to win market share. Ann Taylor and Limited also mentioned positively by several analysts.


1) Meanwhile, attention will turn to the airlines as most flights along the East coast were cancelled yesterday and this morning. Airlines are waiving their change fees, but many passengers whose flights were cancelled and are stranded at the airports, and may not be able to fly until later this week.

2) The Shanghai Composite closed down 1.9 percent to its lowest level since the begining of October as China announced a 25 basis point increase in the benchmarke lending rate (to 5.81 percent), the second in the last two months.

3) H&R Block falls 8 percent after the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency prohibited HSBC from offering refund anticipation loans. That's a problem for H&R Block since HSBC provides the funds for the tax preparer's refund anticipation loans - a vehicle that's very profitable for H&R Block. As a result of this development, H&R Block warned that it will be "difficult for us to put alternative products in time for the early part of the 2011 tax season."

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