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US Inflation Dwarfed By Asia Jump

Think inflation here in the U.S. is a problem? Take a look at what's happening over in Southeast Asia. Singapore's January CPI grew 5.5 percent year-over-year, its greatest jump since December 2008. The country's statistics agency cited higher car, fuel, housing and food costs for most of the increase. Singapore's Straits Times index is now down over 9 percent from its November high and is now sitting at its lowest level in nearly 6 months.

Elsewhere:

1) Home improvement: it's getting better...slowly. Lowe's reported Q4 results of $0.21, 3 cents better than consensus, and 50 percent better than last year's Q4 results of $0.14. Revenues of $10.48 billion about in line with consensus. Comp store sales were up 1.1 percent, that's an improvement over the decline of 1.6 percent for the same quarter last year but below Home Depot's comp increase of 3.9 percent. 2011 guidance of $1.60-$1.72 brackets the consensus of $1.66.

2) Home builder Toll Brothers reported Q1 earnings of $0.02, but analysts note that the operating profit was about a loss of $0.10 if a 12 cent ($20 million) tax benefit is excluded. The Street was expecting a loss of $0.07 (they have been losing money for many quarters). The good news is that cancellations were much lower than expected, there were more deliveries than expected (though still a decline), and delivery prices increased about 7 percent.

The bad news is that the commentary was...not very enthusiastic. CEO Doug Yearly said, "The market is still tough; the home buyer is still wary…so far the market is not generating the positive momentum that creates urgency among buyers."

3) Hewlett-Packard falls 9 percent despite its better-than-expected Q1 earnings ($1.36 vs. $1.29 consensus). Top line growth was a problem, as revenues fell short of estimates on weak sales at its services (down 2 percent) and personal computer (down 1 percent) divisions. The tech firm's outlook also disappoints the Street, with current quarter earnings seen between $1.19-$1.21 (vs. $1.25 consensus) on weak sales. Sales guidance for the year was cut, and is now a bit below estimates.

Other retailers continue to report, with mixed results:

4) Luxury retail remains strong: Saks beat estimates ($0.14 vs. $0.08 consensus). Results were encouraging as comps jumped 8.4 percent (more than the company had expected) and margins expanded from more full-price selling and less promotional activity.

The upscale department store is "cautiously optimistic" ahead, with full year comps seen growing at a mid single digit growth rate and margins continuing to improve.

5) TJX falls 2 percent despite topping Q4 estimates ($1.05 vs. $1.02 consensus). The off-price retailer saw higher traffic, but sales were a bit disappointing, with comps growing just 2 percent.

Guidance is more problematic with Q1 and full-year guidance falling below Street expectations. In the current quarter, TJX sees earnings of $0.75-$0.82 (vs. $0.87 consensus) and cautions that comps could fall in the range of down 1 percent to up 2 percent because of more difficult year-over year comparisons.

6) RadioShack fell short of Wall Street estimates ($0.51 vs. $0.53 consensus) despite seeing sales rise 3.8 percent (inline with expectations). The problem for the electronics retailer: deterioration of margins due to weak product offerings from T-Mobile, greater promotions and higher sales of lower-margin products. 2011 guidance of $1.60-$1.90 is largely inline with $1.80 expected by the Street.

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