Morning business news - August 23

Updated: Friday, 23 Aug 2013 10:10

US RETAILERS RESULTS SHOW THAT US IS NOT YET SEEING A BROADBASED RECOVERY - Shares in fashion retailer Abercrombie & Fitch shed 18% after the company reported a fall in quarterly sales and profit. Abercrombie was one of a number of US retail groups to report disappointing figures in recent weeks despite the apparent pick-up in growth in the US economy.

Barry Dixon, head of research at Davy, has examined the US earnings results - and the rest of the week's earnings news - in detail. Mr Dixon says the results from the likes of Abercrombie, Sears, Wal-Mart and Barnes & Noble are not tallying with the more robust economic news coming from the US. While retailers like Lowe and Home Depot reported strong second quarter sales, the analyst says the contrasting results show that the US is not experiencing a sustained, broadbased recovery yet. He says that investors are concerned that the US Federal Reserve may act too soon before a full recovery takes place and may reduce its stimulus programme too early.

On the Nasdaq trading halt, Mr Dixon says that 2,500 firms were affected and the outage does not inspire confidence. But he says that the exact cause of the technical glitch has yet to be found, pointing out that trading on Wall Street was halted in 1994 when a squirrel chewed through some wires. He says the Nasdaq did react quickly to the glitch yesterday, and shut down the entire exchange when the extend of the problem was realised. That, at least, meant that no firm listed on the Nasdaq had an unfair advantage compared to another one.

On the recent profit warning from CRH, Mr Dixon says that shareholders were disappointed with the company's reduced guidance for the second half of the year. But he says that CRH's management is good ''at telling it how it is'' and reads the markets in which it operates well. He says he believes that CRH management is being conservative about its future figures.

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MORNING BRIEFS - Mortgage arrears figures for the second quarter of the year are due to be published by the Central Bank later this morning. Ahead of that the Irish Independent reports this morning that the figures will show 98,000 residential mortgages are now 90 days or more in arrears. That would be a 2.6% increase on the figure at the end of March. The rate of increase over the previous quarter -from the end of December - had been 3.5%.

*** The latest newspaper circulation figures show sales of both daily and sunday papers continuing their slide. Half year figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation show daily newspaper sales were down 6% overall and Sunday sales down 7%. The figures show that The Irish Daily Star suffered a 12% fall in circulation to just over 60,000 a day. The Daily Mail held firm at 50,000 and its sales actually picked up 3.5% compared to the second half of 2012 though they were flat year-on-year. The Sunday Business Post, which successfully emerged from examinership recently, posted a 6.7% decline. The Sunday Independent remains the biggest seller with an average weekly circulation of 232,500 down 2.6% compared to the same time in 2012.

*** The Nasdaq exchange suffered a three hour outage yesterday evening due to a technical breakdown. Trading in shares of 2,500 companies worth a combined $5.4 trillion was completely frozen. The fault seems to have been in the processor which transmits quotes and prices for the listed companies. It is the second embarrassing technical hiccup for Nasdaq in just over a year after the botched flotation of social network Facebook. That one cost Nasdaq $62m in compensation to affected investors.

*** Shares in Abercrombie & Fitch fell 18% yesterday after a disappointing set of results from the retailer. Abercrombie, which is known for its loud in-store music and half-naked models, reported a slide in like-for-like sales over the most recent financial quarter. Its profit also halved as a consequence of sales and discounting to entice customers. Abercrombie chief executive Mike Jeffries has in the past boasted about how the brand deliberately courts "beautiful, popular kids" to shop and wear its clothes and how it pursues a self-consciously exclusionary marketing strategy. Now it looks like excluding customers is becoming a problem.