Consumer confidence rebounds in February
Consumer confidence rebounded in February, reversing three straight months of declines, according to The Conference Board, a private research group. The Conference Board’s closely-watched Consumer Confidence Index stands at 69.6, up from 58.4 in January. Economists had expected 60.5, according to research firm FactSet.
It was the highest reading since November’s 71.5 metric.
"Consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions is more positive than last month,” said the group’s director of economic indicators, Lynn Franco. “Looking ahead, consumers are cautiously optimistic about the outlook for business and labor market conditions. Income expectations, which had turned rather negative last month, have improved modestly."
Consumers’ assessment of present day conditions improved in February. Those claiming business conditions are “good” rose to 18.1% from 16.1%, while those stating business conditions are “bad” decreased to 27.8% from 28.4%. Consumers’ appraisal of the labor market was mixed. Those saying jobs are “plentiful” increased to 10.5% from 8.5%, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” edged up to 37.0% from 36.6%.
Consumers were more optimistic about the short-term outlook this month. Those expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 18.9% from 15.6%, while those expecting business conditions to worsen declined to 16.5% from 20.4%.
Sears narrows its losses in Q4
Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears Holdings posted sales declines for both its fourth quarter and full year, but the retail icon narrowed its losses significantly.
The company’s net loss for the fourth quarter was $489 million, compared with a loss of $2.4 billion in the year-ago quarter. For the full year, the company narrowed its loss to $930 million from $3.1 billion.
"Sears Holdings made progress in 2012 improving the profitability of our business, but we know there’s more work to be done in 2013," said Edward Lampert, Sears Holdings’ chairman and CEO.
Sales, however, declined, in several major metrics.
The retailer posted fourth-quarter sales of $12.3 billion, down 3.4% from the same period a year ago, as domestic comp-store sales declined 1.6%. For the full year, sales declined 5.3% to $39.9 billion. Comp-store sales were negative 2.5% for the year.
Decreases in comparable-store sales at Sears Domestic of 1.4% for the year were driven by decreases in consumer electronics, lawn and garden and home appliances, as well as at Sears Auto Centers.
These decreases were partially offset by increases in apparel and home, the company said. The Kmart decline in comparable-store sales of 3.7% reflects decreases in a majority of its categories, most notably the consumer electronics, pharmacy, grocery and household and drug store categories.
Lampert maintained a stay-the-course approach.
"Our focus continues to be on our core customers, our members, and finding ways to provide them value and convenience through Integrated Retail and our SHOP YOUR WAY Membership platform. We have invested significantly in our online e-commerce platforms, our membership rewards program and the technology needed to support these initiatives."
WDMA points to concerns over Energy Star Version 6.0
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asked for comments. The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) has several.
In response to an action by the EPA seeking additional comments on proposed draft Energy Star Version 6.0 criteria for skylights, WDMA is calling on the agency to address additional concerns the industry has about the skylight criteria, the proposed window and door criteria and the overall direction of the Energy Star program.
"Yesterday’s action by EPA proposing some changes to the skylight criteria is a good first step toward addressing our concerns about product feasibility, availability and cost effectiveness for consumers, but we are still disappointed EPA has not addressed them fully, nor has it provided an explanation why," said WDMA president Michael O’Brien. "It is also still uncertain how EPA will respond to the same concerns raised by WDMA for proposed window and door specifications currently under consideration by the Agency."
WDMA, which has been actively engaging EPA on the revision of Energy Star criteria for windows, doors and skylights, believes the latest revisions make the qualification criteria for skylights more reasonable for much of the country, but that they still fall short and should be improved further.
In a letter sent yesterday by EPA to Energy Star stakeholders announcing the latest revisions to the skylight criteria, the Agency stated the intent of the revisions is to ensure tubular daylighting devices (TDD’s) and more double pane skylights will be able to qualify for the Northern climate zone, and to address concerns over the feasibility and affordability of Energy Star-qualified skylight products in other parts of the country as well.
However, while the latest revisions are significant improvements in the skylight U-factor criteria for the Energy Star Northern climate zone and Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC) in the Northern, North-Central and Southern climate zones, they still fall short of fully responding to industry concerns on the whole for skylights with respect to product feasibility, availability and cost effectiveness.
"WDMA has voiced significant concerns with proposed Energy Star Version 6.0 criteria since it was first proposed by EPA last year. The proposed criteria also underscores broader concerns WDMA has with the direction the program appears to be headed in general," said O’Brien. "It appears EPA is more concerned about market share of Energy Star products rather than recognizing efficient products that are most affordable and cost effective for consumers."
WDMA maintains that the proposed Version 6.0 criteria, which is based largely on a market share approach, is counter to EPA’s guiding principles for the Energy Star program and resulting in proposed criteria that is less feasible for manufacturers to meet and less affordable and cost effective for consumers.