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Black Friday U.S. Shoppers Brave Cold, Long Lines in Hunt For Deals

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  • Black Friday U.S. Shoppers Brave Cold, Long Lines in Hunt For Deals

U.S. shoppers formed long lines at store checkout counters on Black Friday to snap up deep discounts on clothing and electronics, offering evidence that a healthy economy and rising wages are translating into stronger consumer spending at the start of retailers’ make-or-break holiday season.

“I am spending more, the mood generally is more upbeat,” said Sharon Neidert, 57, visiting New York City from Ohio. “My daughter moved out this year so I have more disposable income,” said Neidert, a manager at a software company.

One of the busiest shopping days of the year was off to a strong start, said Neil Saunders at GlobalData Retail.

“More people have already shopped than at this point last year, and their average spend is higher,” said Saunders. The average spend of those who already shopped on Black Friday was $407.20, up 2.1 percent over last year, he said. Early shoppers tend to buy bigger ticket items, such as electronics or furniture.

Retail stocks were mixed. Target Corp (TGT.N) fell 2 percent and Kohls Corp (KSS.N) fell 3 percent, shares of Macy’s Inc (M.N) lost 1 percent, while L Brands (LB.N) rose 3 percent. Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) and Best Buy Co Inc (BBY.N) were flat; Walmart Inc (WMT.N) gained slightly.

The S&P 500 retailing index .SPXRT dipped 0.2 percent, bucking a 0.4-percent drop for the broader stock market.

The National Retail Federation forecast U.S. holiday retail sales in November and December will increase between 4.3 and 4.8 percent over 2017 for a total of $717.45 billion to $720.89 billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.9 percent over the past five years.

About 38 percent of American consumers plan to shop on Black Friday this year, and six in 10 of those shoppers anticipate making at least half of their holiday purchases on that day, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed last week.

DEAL FRENZY

Shoppers picked up big-ticket items such as TVs, Apple Inc (AAPL.O) iPads and Watches at Target, while phones, toys, gaming consoles and cookware were top sellers at Walmart Inc (WMT.N).

Some of the deals:

– An H&M store (HMb.ST) in Manhattan offered 30 percent off everything in-store and online.

– Macy’s in Herald Square, Manhattan, sold a Coach designer wallet, originally $225, for $53.

– At a Chicago-area Pandora, which makes popular charm bracelets that can cost up to $1,000, jewelry was 35 percent off before 10 a.m. and 25 percent off for the remainder of the day.

– A sign in the window of a Gap Factory Store in Jackson Heights, Queens, promoted “60 Percent Off Everything.”

– Walmart was selling a Roomba WiFi robot vacuum online or for in-store pickup for $100 off at $194.

– Buy one, get one free pajamas at Victoria’s Secret (LB.N).

Charlotte Jackson, from London, come to New York with her mother for Black Friday shopping.

“Black Friday isn’t as big of a deal back home,” Jackson, a 27-year-old tax adviser, said while shopping for lingerie and pajamas at Victoria’s Secret.

MORE TOYS AT TARGET, JC PENNEY

Many retailers, reacting to the bankruptcy of the Toys ‘R’ Us chain, are catering to parents.

Target said in October it planned to dedicate nearly a quarter of a million square feet of new space to its toy business across 500 of its stores. The discount chain’s customers will also be able to shop for more than 2,500 new and exclusive toys, Mark Tritton, Target’s chief merchandising officer said.

Department store JC Penney Co Inc (JCP.N), known for its mid-priced apparel, has also made a push into toys.

Sabrina Wengert, a 38-year-old homemaker, picked up a Discovery Art set and a Ned’s Head guessing game for her 9-year-old daughter.

“The toy section at JC Penney looks good and they have stocked more toys at Target too, but Toys ‘R’ Us going out of business is a big loss,” she said. “We are shopping for toys on Amazon this year as well.”

Shortly before 6 a.m. on Friday, shoppers were banging on the door at a Bath & Body Works in the Waterfront Mall in Pittsburgh, lining up for discounted candles, soaps and lotion, while long lines formed at checkout counters in a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in the mall.

There was little evidence of the delirious shopper frenzy of Black Fridays from past years, in other parts of the country, especially the Northeast, where crowds were thin due to record-setting cold weather.

An Athleta clothing store in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, was offering hot chocolate with marshmallows to women in line for the dressing room.

‘SO FAR, SO GOOD’

Shoppers spent $1.75 billion online by 5 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day itself, with smartphone sales lifting overall online spending by 28.6 percent from a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which tracks transactions at 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers.

“So far, so good,” said Shawn Kravetz, president of Esplanade Capital. “Online (and) email solicitations (are) off the charts – have to get up an hour early just to digest and delete them.”

Consumers in San Francisco led the rest of the country with over 2.3 million online transactions, followed by over 954,000 in New York City, according to payments processor First Data Corp (FDC.N), which collects data from about 1 million U.S. merchants.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Crude Oil

Nigeria Pumps 236.2 Million Barrels in First Half of 2024

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Nigeria pumped 236.2 million barrels of crude oil in the first half of 2024, according to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC).

This figure represents an increase from the 219.5 million barrels produced during the same period in 2023.

In January, Nigeria produced 44.2 million barrels of crude oil while February saw a slight dip to 38.3 million barrels, with March following closely at 38.1 million barrels.

April and May production stood at 38.4 million barrels and 38.8 million barrels, respectively. June’s output remained consistent at 38.3 million barrels, demonstrating a stable production trend.

Despite the overall increase compared to 2023, the 2024 production figures still fall short of the 302.42 million barrels produced in the same period in 2020.

This ongoing fluctuation underscores the challenges facing Nigeria’s oil sector, which has experienced varying production levels over recent years.

On a daily basis, Nigeria’s crude oil production showed some variability. In January, the average daily production peaked at 1.43 million barrels per day (mbpd), the highest within the six-month period.

February’s production dropped to 1.32 mbpd, with a further decrease to 1.23 mbpd in March. April saw a modest increase to 1.28 mbpd, which then fell again to 1.25 mbpd in May. June ended on a positive note with a slight rise to 1.28 mbpd.

The fluctuations in daily production rates have prompted government and industry leaders to address underlying issues.

Mele Kyari, Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), has highlighted the detrimental effects of oil theft and vandalism on Nigeria’s production capabilities.

Kyari emphasized that addressing these security challenges is critical to boosting production and attracting investment.

Kyari also noted recent efforts to combat illegal activities, including the removal of over 5,800 illegal connections from pipelines and dismantling more than 6,000 illegal refineries.

He expressed confidence that these measures, combined with ongoing policy reforms, would support Nigeria’s goal of increasing daily production to two million barrels.

The Nigerian government remains focused on stabilizing and enhancing oil production. With recent efforts showing promising results, there is cautious optimism that Nigeria will achieve its production targets.

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Oil Prices Steady Amid Mixed Signals on Crude Demand

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Oil prices remained stable on Thursday as investors navigated conflicting signals regarding crude demand.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, settled at $85.11 a barrel, edging up by 3 cents, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude dipped by 3 cents to $82.82 a barrel.

The stability comes as the U.S. economy shows signs of slowing, with unemployment benefit applications rising more than expected.

Initial claims increased by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 243,000 for the week ending July 1, prompting speculation that the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates sooner than anticipated. Lower rates could boost spending on oil, creating a bullish outlook for demand.

Fed officials suggested that improved inflation and a balanced labor market might lead to rate cuts, possibly by September.

“Healthy expectations of a Fed rate cut in the not-so-distant future will limit downside,” noted Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

However, rising jobless claims signal potential economic easing, which could dampen crude demand.

John Kilduff of Again Capital highlighted the impact of a slowing economy on oil consumption despite a significant drop in U.S. crude inventories last week.

Global factors also weighed on the market. China’s economic policies remain steady, though details are sparse, affecting investor sentiment in the world’s largest crude importer.

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank maintained interest rates, citing persistent inflation.

An upcoming OPEC+ meeting in August is expected to assess market conditions without altering output policy, according to sources. This meeting will serve as a “pulse check” for market health.

Overall, oil prices are caught between economic concerns and hopes of a rate cut, maintaining a delicate balance.

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Crude Oil

Oil Prices Slide on China Demand Concerns, Brent Falls to $83.73

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Oil prices declined on Tuesday for the third consecutive day on growing concerns over a slowing Chinese economy and its impact on global oil demand.

Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, dipped by $1.12, or 1.3% at $83.73 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude dropped $1.15, or 1.4%, to close at $80.76.

The dip in oil prices is largely attributed to disappointing economic data from China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Official figures revealed a 4.7% growth in China’s GDP for the April-June period, the slowest since the first quarter of 2023, and below the forecasted 5.1% growth expected in a Reuters poll.

This slowdown was compounded by a protracted property downturn and widespread job insecurity, which have dampened fuel demand and led many Chinese refineries to cut back on production.

“Weaker economic data continues to flow from China as continued government support programs have been disappointing,” said Dennis Kissler, Senior Vice President of Trading at BOK Financial. “Many of China’s refineries are cutting back on weaker fuel demand.”

Despite the bearish sentiment from China, there is a growing consensus among market participants that the U.S. Federal Reserve could begin cutting its key interest rates as soon as September.

This speculation has helped stem the decline in oil prices, as lower interest rates reduce the cost of borrowing, potentially boosting economic activity and oil demand.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell noted on Monday that the three U.S. inflation readings over the second quarter “add somewhat to confidence” that the pace of price increases is returning to the central bank’s target in a sustainable fashion.

This has led market participants to believe that a turn to interest rate cuts may be imminent.

Also, U.S. crude oil inventories provided a silver lining for the oil market. According to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures, U.S. crude oil inventories fell by 4.4 million barrels last week.

This was a much steeper drop than the 33,000 barrels decline that was anticipated, indicating strong domestic demand.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also weighed in, suggesting that while the global economy is set for modest growth over the next two years, risks remain.

The IMF noted cooling activity in the U.S., a bottoming-out in Europe, and stronger consumption and exports for China as key factors in the global economic landscape.

In summary, while oil prices are currently pressured by concerns over China’s economic slowdown, the potential for U.S. interest rate cuts and stronger domestic demand for crude are providing some support.

Market watchers will continue to monitor economic indicators and inventory levels closely as they gauge the future direction of oil prices.

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