Business Briefs – January 10, 2019

Strong Economy Does Little to Lift Department Store Sales

NEW YORK (AP) – It was supposed to be a great year-end shopping season. Many investors had expected department stores to enjoy robust sales in light of a U.S. economy buoyed by low unemployment, higher wages, strong consumer confidence and cheap gas.

So when Macy’s and Kohl’s reported lackluster numbers on Thursday, they were taken aback, sending retail stocks into a tailspin and calling into question whether such mall-based chains can compete in a changing landscape where shoppers are shifting more of their spending online.

Macy’s saw only a slight increase of 1.1 percent in sales during November-December at stores opened at least year. And while sales were strong during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the company said sales fell off noticeably afterwards.

Meanwhile, Kohl’s reported a small sales growth that showed a dramatic slowdown from a year ago. Comparable sales rose 1.2 percent, versus 6.9 percent in the previous year.

U.S., China Leave Next Steps For Trade Talks Unclear

BEIJING (AP) – The United States and China gave no indication of their next step after wrapping up talks aimed at resolving a tariff fight that threatens to chill global growth.

The two sides will “maintain close contact,” China’s Ministry of Commerce said Thursday. But they announced no agreements or date for meeting again during the 90-day truce declared on Dec. 1 by Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping in their fight over Beijing’s technology ambitions.

That uncertainty dampened Asian investor sentiment. Stock markets in Germany, France, Japan and China fell back after rising Wednesday following Trump’s comment on Twitter that the talks were “going well!”

Negotiators focused on China’s pledge to buy a “substantial amount” of agricultural, energy, manufactured goods and other products and services, the U.S. Trade Representative said.