Mid-day Update

PODCAST: Rising food prices boost inflation, L.A. fires S&P

Daryl Paranada Aug 17, 2011

Here are today’s top headlines from the Marketplace Morning Report and from around the web.

President Barack Obama is preparing a detailed deficit-cutting plan that goes beyond the $1.5 trillion target a congressional committee is aiming for, White House officials said Wednesday.

A look at inflation is out this morning. The Commerce Department’s Producer Price Index for July was slightly higher, by 2-tenths of a percent, in part due to a rise in food prices.

A lot of big earnings reports out today: the warehouse chain BJ’s Wholesale Club says same store sales last quarter were up 8 percent from last year — Abercrombie and Fitch showed strong sales as well. Plus we heard from Target, which reported a bigger-than-expected profit and an increase in sales last quarter. But the world’s biggest retailer Wal-Mart said yesterday that its U.S. sales were down. Finally, Staples reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on currency benefits and sales to its business customers in North America, prompting the largest U.S. office supply chain to raise its profit outlook.

Applications for U.S. home mortgage refinancing rose last week as interest rates eased further, but demand for purchase applications fell amid economic uncertainty, an industry group said Wednesday.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that Standard & Poor’s lowered the U.S. credit rating. Shortly after that, S&P docked the ratings of cities and local governments too, saying their investments rely heavily on U.S. securities. The city of Los Angeles’ $7 billion of investments were downgraded as well. So L.A. fired back, announcing it won’t be paying S&P to rate its investment fund and that it didn’t want to be associated with the agency anymore.

To the pet economy. According to the largest pet insurance company in the U.K., plastic surgery claims have gone up 25 percent over the last three years — plastic surgery for pets, that is. In fairness, most of it is medical, and not cosmetic. But not all. Some dogs have undergone chin-lifts to curb excessive drooling, and facelifts to help with eyelids that droop too much.

Retailer to thin young people, Abercrombie and Fitch said today it’s doing pretty well despite the sluggish recovery. But the retailer is not only is it worried about the retail climate — Abercrombie is worried about its customers, as in whether its attracting the wrong kind. The brand is reportedly paying Mike “the Situation” Sorrentino from MTV’s Jersey Shore reality show to NOT wear its clothing, saying he harms Abercrombie’s image and distresses its fans.

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