Friday's Early Headlines
- Retail Sales Hotter-Than-Expected in February -- The Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.3% in February, surprising economists who had expected a 0.2% decline. January's 0.5% increase was revised lower to a 0.1% rise. Excluding autos, retail sales were up 0.8% last month, which was also better than economists had expected. Sales excluding autos, gasoline and building materials increased 0.9%, building on January's 0.6% rise. Reports on consumer sentiment and business inventories are expected later Friday.
- Citigroup Continues to Rise -- Citigroup (C) shares finished above $4 Thursday and were up 1% in early trading, one day after CEO Vikram Pandit the bank "is well-positioned to return to sustained profitability." His comments came during a company-sponsored investor conference, where Pandit set a future goal for a return on assets of between 1.25% and 1.5% vs. the return of 1.15% over time. Pandit also backed a view for a 5% compounded annual growth rate in assets.
- Lehman Insolvent Weeks Before Bankruptcy:Examiner -- A court-appointed examiner found that Lehman Brothers had been insolvent for weeks before it filed for bankruptcy in September 2008. While the firm used accounting gimmicks, examiner Anton Valukas, chairman of law firm Jenner & Block, said there was not extensive wrongdoing. Valukas said in his report that some of Lehman's management's decisions "can be questioned in retrospect," although those responsible for the firm had used their business judgment and were largely not liable for the firm's collapse, according to a Fox Business News report.
- Apple iPad Available for Preorder -- Apple (APPL) began taking preorders for its new iPad tablet device on its Web site. The Wi-Fi only models will be available first on April 3, with 3G wireless versions to be released later in April.
- Video Game Sales Drop Again -- Video game sales tumbled 15% to $624.4 million in February, according to NPD Group, a market research firm. Overall the market raked in $1.26 billion during the month, compared with $1.48 billion last year. Sony (SNE) saw a 31% surge in sales of its PlayStation 3, and Microsoft (MSFT) reported a 9% increase in its Xbox 360. Still, sales of consoles tanked 20% to $426.4 million, with Nintendo's Wii plunging 47% during the month.