Pork prices plunge, threatening “the greatest collapse”

By Yasufumi Saito

The price of lean hogs—the name of butchered pork in commodity markets—has plummeted drastically from its peak last summer, reaching a record low due to a loss of equilibrium in  supply and demand. Experts warn of “the greatest collapse” in pork prices if the trend continues. Continue reading

Ulta pulls a blowout performance in latest numbers

By Bethel Habte

In line with expectations, Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance Inc. posted strong fourth quarter and annual earnings Thursday afternoon.  The stock popped.

Ulta made $87.26 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $70.68 million in the year earlier quarter. The company’s earnings per diluted share widened to $1.35 from $1.09.

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WSJ columnist’s new book explains fashion, celebrity relationship

By Mallory Hughes

“This is the end of fashion!”

Teri Agins, veteran fashion columnist for The Wall Street Journal and author of two books about the business of fashion, said this in 1999 after Giorgio Armani produced the first collection of men’s suits without lining to make them more comfortable.

In October, roughly 16 years later, Agins, The Wall Street Journal’s first fashion reporter, published her latest book, “Hijacking the Runway: How Celebrities Are Stealing the Spotlight from Fashion Designers” (Penguin Random House, $28). In it she explains how celebrities have simultaneously revolutionized and marginalized the art of style.

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Retail sales decline for three months straight

By Yasufumi Saito

U.S. retail sales dropped unexpectedly for the third consecutive month in February, most likely due to consumer prudence and bad weather.  Continue reading

Chicago workers show concern over wages

By Lucy Ren

The U.S. labor market is showing great momentum for recovery as the unemployment rate dipped to a seven-year low of 5.5 percent in February. Nevertheless, wages remain stagnant, and that is a concern for a sampling of working people in downtown Chicago.

Evelina Juarez, sales manager at the Fannie May candy store in the Loop, declared, “people have been saying that wages will go up for the longest, but I don’t think it will actually happen.”

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Economists support Yellen’s caution

By Lucy Ren

Speculation about how much lower the unemployment rate can go has been upgraded by last week’s report showing 5.5 percent, which supplied the public with more hope for achieving full employment. So why is the Federal Reserve still holding back from an interest rate hike? A random sampling of economists finds considerable support for Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s caution.

“Slack means that there are significantly more people willing and capable of filling a job than there are jobs for them to fill,” explained Yellen in a speech in March 2014. She declared that “judging how much slack there is in the labor markets” is one of the most important questions that the Fed officials consider when making monetary policy decisions. She reiterated that priority in Congressional testimony late last month.

The recent unemployment rate matches the lower bound of some economists’ concept of “full employment.” In the Fed’s latest economic projections released in December, 17 Fed officials projected the longer-run normal unemployment rate to be in the range of 5 percent to 5.8 percent. The threshold is significant as it represents the nonaccelerating inflation rate of unemployment, or NAIRU–the rate below which the economy puts upward pressure on wages and thus on the cost of living. Continue reading

Ulta set for solid fourth quarter results with eye on making-over stores

By Bethel Habte

Ulta Salon, Cosmetics & Fragrance Inc. doesn’t need to cover up. The 25-year-old retailer based in Bolingbrook, Illinois is poised to produce another strong earnings report Thursday.

Reflecting robust performance, the stock has ranged from $83.54 to $143.69 in the past 52 weeks and closed near its peak on Tuesday at $140.47. The stock’s price-to-earnings ratio is a potent 37.56 compared to the S&P 500’s 20.50.

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GMOs: The scarlet letters of the grocery aisle?

By Shanley Chien

You walk down the aisles at Whole Foods spotting milk, cookies, pasta, and a variety of other products with the “Non-GMO Project Verified” label. The label tells you the foods don’t contain genetically modified organisms  – GMOs.

But the image of a butterfly sitting on a blade of grass shaped like a check mark subconsciously reassures you that this product is “safe.” After all, if it’s safe enough for a butterfly, it’s safe enough for you and your family. You put it in your basket, perhaps because people like Dr. Oz and food blogger Vani Hari of Food Babe tell you GMOs are unhealthy.

GMOs add to the nutritional value and preservation of foods and most scientists vouch for their safety. But critics abound.

“We have the whole government working against us,” Hari said in an interview on the Carolina Connection Talk Radio. “They don’t want Americans to figure out that these could be causing health issues, that they haven’t been tested, and they are increasing pesticide and herbicide use.”

Organizations and advocacy groups such as the Non-GMO Project, Dr. Oz, Food Babe, and other anti-GMO crusaders say GMOs are unnatural and unhealthy, according to their websites. Continue reading

Small plates trend remains strong

By Alysha Khan

Sometimes big trends come on small plates.

Over the past decade, the concept of small plates has expanded from a curiosity to a strong trend that is currently spreading to everything from coffee shops to national chains.

Small plates are shareable portions that give customers a chance to sample more menu items and chefs more culinary freedom.

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Illinois Tool Works prospects dampened by slow revenue outlook

By Meredith Wilson

Analysts are confident that Glenview-based Illinois Tool Works Inc. will continue to post profits in the coming years, but are concerned with the long-term feasibility of the company’s current growth plan, a reversal of its historic rapid-acquisition policy.

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