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Retail Sales Dips in February

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Much the way we saw on Friday morning, a “new” economic read hits the tape ahead of today’s opening bell. That is, the news isn’t really “new;” it’s a February read on Retail Sales, posted at a delayed date due to the 5-week U.S. government shutdown early this year. The good news is that these delays are now shorter than the initial delayed economic reads we’d seen earlier.

The bad news is that Retail Sales for February came in much lower than expected: -0.2% was the headline number, compared to the +0.3% expected. Subtract volatile gasoline prices and we see this figure sink even further, to -0.4%. Ex-autos was also -0.4%, compared to the +0.4% expected and the +0.9% we saw in January.

Thus, we are seeing less robust consumer activity than we had been anticipating, at least from roughly a month ago. The silver lining here is that the half-point we lost on the February headline we gained on the revision to January’s headline — from +0.2% on the original report to +0.7% this morning.

Keep in mind these winter months often have weather-related issues that push or pull their monthly econ data, and today’s Retail Sales looks like a nice illustration of this. And pre-market futures do not seem to be at all negatively impacted by this read: shares on the Dow in early trading are +200 points, looking to pick up where March left off.

Kellogg (K - Free Report) Sells Keebler, Famous Amos

Consumer non-durables giant Kellogg Company (K - Free Report) has agreed to sell its Keebler, Famous Amos and fruit snacks brands to Italian confectionery company Ferrero Rocher for $1.3 billion, beating out Twinkie-maker Hostess Brands (TWNK - Free Report) which had also bid on the brands. The deal will bring some welcome liquidity to the Zacks Rank #4 (Sell)-rated Kellogg, while continuing to build out Ferrero’s portfolio. The European candy maker already owns well-known brands such as Nutella.

The deal also includes Girl Scouts cookies, which takes ownership out of American ownership for the first time in history. The companies expect this deal to be completed by July of this year.

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