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from Expert Zone:

Food prices matter: here’s why

(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

Investors are cautiously starting to examine the topic of food price inflation once again. The United States recently saw a sharp rise in producer price food inflation. Further down the economic development ladder, producer prices for the food manufacturing industry of China have been steadily creeping higher from the lows reached two years ago.

A vendor weighs potatoes for a customer at a vegetable wholesale market along a roadside in the old quarters of Delhi April 15, 2014. REUTERS/Anindito MukherjeeFood prices in Japan have increased at the fastest pace in four years, helped by the weaker yen. Korean producer price inflation for food products has been rising for a year. Food producer price inflation for Malaysia has edged up.

So far only the United Kingdom and the Euro area have clearly defied this drift towards higher prices. In the Euro area, the economic recovery is still relatively weak so labour costs and consumer demand are both subdued. The stronger Euro has also helped to lower agricultural commodity prices in Euro terms. That combination suggests more subdued domestic food price inflation. The United Kingdom does not have quite the same situation (although the pound sterling has been relatively strong), but food price restraint receives the added incentive of a general election next year - food pricing is a politically sensitive topic.

from Breakingviews:

Wal-Mart can win leading the way on minimum wage

By Daniel Indiviglio
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Wal-Mart Stores can win by leading the way on the minimum wage. The mega-retailer’s labor costs would rise significantly if the U.S. government were to increase the national pay floor. But the company also has far more low-wage customers than it does employees. That would translate into a net gain in earnings, according to a Breakingviews analysis.

from Breakingviews:

China’s “biggests” come early, late or not at all

By Ethan Bilby and John Foley
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

China collects superlatives. In 2013, it added biggest goods trader, top red wine consumer and number one oil importer. Some “biggests” are a sign of investment potential, but others suggest inequality and inefficiency. Meanwhile, some of the most meaningful, like having the world’s dominant currency, still look a long way off.

from Breakingviews:

China’s Singles’ Day shows market power of one

By John Foley

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

China’s retail sector is about to be plunged into collective madness. On Nov. 11, online shoppers are likely to snap up over $4 billion of goods when prices halve in celebration of “Singles’ Day”. Billed as a celebration of unmarried people, the event is actually a cue for massive online discounting. Consumers benefit, but the best deal goes to Alibaba, which reinforces the dominance of its Tmall and Taobao online marketplaces while leaving sellers to do the heavy lifting.

from The Great Debate:

With unemployment high, France forces stores to close early

The French like to refer to the Champs Elysées in Paris as “the most beautiful avenue in the world,” and 300,000 people stroll up and down it every day to see for themselves, many of them tourists looking to shop. No surprise, then, to find that retailers from Nike to LVMH are willing to pay premium rents for space on the avenue, which runs in a straight line from the Place de la Concorde up to the triumphal arch at Etoile.

Just don’t try to buy anything in the evening. This week a Paris court of appeal ordered the cosmetics chain Sephora to close its flagship store on the avenue at 9 p.m., rather than staying open until midnight during the week and until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It was the latest ruling over store-closing hours that has already forced several other big name retailers in Paris both on and off the avenue to close early, including Apple, France’s Monoprix and the Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo. Two other stores on the Champs Elysées, Abercrombie and Fitch and perfumer Marionnaud, are also facing legal action.

from Global Investing:

‘Ivanovs’ keen on new cars despite high inflation – Sberbank

Sberbank's hypothetical Russian middle-class family metric - the 'Ivanovs'- shows the average Russian family is concerned about high inflation, though that is still barely denting some peoples' aspirations of getting behind the steering wheel of a new car.

April's Ivanov index, a survey of more than 2,300 adults across 164 cities in Russia with a population of more than 100,000, notes people are still concerned about persistently high inflation, which in Russia is at around 7 percent.

from Breakingviews:

Where did Apple’s missing market value go?

By Richard Beales
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Mr Market has slashed Apple’s market value by $260 billion in six months. Meanwhile, the combined worth of a wide group of smartphone and tablet rivals has added less than half that. If investors think Apple is fading, the competing Android complex could be worth far more - to someone.

from Breakingviews:

Japan tensions rewrite China shopping lists

By Katrina Hamlin

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

China’s buying habits have taken on an air of the patriotic, at least where Japan is concerned. As tensions rose last year over who owns a group of remote islands, sales of Japanese cars and arrivals of Chinese tourists showed a marked slowdown. Even Chinese acquisitions of Japanese companies fell in the last quarter of 2012.

from Global Investing:

Russia’s consumers — a promise for the stock market

As we wrote here last week, Russian bond markets are bracing for a flood of foreign capital. But there appears to be a surprising lack of interest in Russian equities.

Russia's stock market trades on average at 5 times forward earnings, less than half the valuation for broader emerging markets. That's cheaper than unstable countries such as Pakistan or those in dire economic straits such as Greece. But here's the rub. Look within the market and here are some of the most expensive companies in emerging markets -- mostly consumer-facing names. Retailers such as Dixy and Magnit and internet provider Yandex trade at up to 25 times forward earnings. These compare to some of the turbo-charged valuations in typically expensive markets such as India.

from Breakingviews:

Americans can’t feel better than companies forever

By Daniel Indiviglio
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Consumers are feeling better than companies these days, but that might not last long. Cheerier shoppers splashing out more cash could transform business’s bad attitude. But gloomy executives may be more likely to pour cold water on enthusiastic Americans if their pessimism leads to slower hiring.

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