Stocks climb…China says czar will sign trade deal…Kohl’s, Penney report holiday sales declines
NEW YORK (AP) – Stocks are climbing in morning trading on Wall Street as investors cheer confirmation from China that its top trade official will head to Washington next week to sign a preliminary deal. The “Phase 1” deal is the opening step on a possible path toward a more inclusive agreement between the nations. Every major U.S. index is on track for a record. Technology and financial stocks led the gains. Energy stocks slumped as crude oil prices fell. Several retailers, including Bed Bath & Beyond and Kohl’s, fell after reporting weak sales in December. Bond prices fell, sending yields higher.
BEIJING (AP) – China’s government says its economy czar will travel to Washington next week for the signing of an interim trade deal. The Commerce Ministry announcement was the first official confirmation of expectations Vice Premier Liu He would attend the signing. The ministry said Liu would be in Washington from Monday to Wednesday. Under the “Phase 1” deal, China agreed to buy more American farm exports and Washington postponed additional planned tariff hikes on Chinese imports. The two sides have yet to release details.
NEW YORK (AP) – Mall-based retailers like J.C. Penney and Kohl’s face continued challenges from online rivals after a group of iconic names reported weak holiday sales. J.C. Penney says sales at stores opened at least a year dropped 7.5% for November and December, while Kohl’s posted a 0.2% decline. At L Brands, which operates Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, the figure dropped 3%. The sales declines come one day after Macy’s reported a small sales drop for the holidays. Overall retail sales are expected to have increased for the holidays, boosted by a strong economy.
UNDATED (AP) – Grubhub may put itself up for sale with competition in the online delivery business growing increasingly intense. Shares jumped almost 13% after The Wall Street Journal first reported late Wednesday that the company is exploring its options. Shares before the opening bell Thursday are rising. Grubhub was a pioneer in the sector, but it’s since been joined by Uber Eats, DoorDash and Postmates. The companies are finding that customers jump freely between services to find the best deal, making it more difficult to deliver stable sales numbers. In October, Grubhub slashed its revenue projections.
LONDON (AP) – Britain is set to pass a major milestone on the road to Brexit today, when the bill authorizing the country’s departure from the European Union receives final approval from the House of Commons. Lawmakers are set to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and the comfortable majority won in last month’s election by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party means it is certain to pass. The bill paves the way for the U.K. to leave the EU on Jan. 31. Britain and the EU will then launch into negotiations on their future relationship, and officials in the bloc are warning that sealing a new deal will be tough.