Delta and Northwest formalize merger

The boards of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines approved the $17.7 billion merger of the two carriers, creating the largest U.S. airline and No. 2 in the world, after Air France-KLM. The combined airline will be called Delta, headquartered in Atlanta, and headed by Delta CEO Richard Anderson. (MarketWatch) The merger faces potentially tough political and antitrust battles, and two of Northwest’s biggest unions immediately opposed the deal. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) The airlines said the deal would save $1 billion a year. But with “higher prices and less service” likely, said University of Portland professor Richard Gritta, “It’s good for them, but it’s bad for all of us.” (Los Angeles Times, free registration)

U.S. home foreclosures jump 57 percent

U.S. home foreclosure filings rose 57 percent and bank repossessions shot up 129 percent in the 12-month period ending in March, according to RealtyTrac. A total of 234,685 properties, or 1 in 538 single-family households, were in some stage of foreclosure in March, as people struggled to make mortgage payments on resetting adjustable-rate loans. (Reuters) The resetting mortgages will peak in May and June, RealtyTrac said, and between 750,000 and 1 million bank-owned houses will hit the market this year. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) “We’re not near the bottom of this at all,” said Kenneth Rosen of Rosen Real Estate Securities. “The foreclosure process will accelerate throughout the year.” (Bloomberg)

British supermarket Tesco beats expectations

Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain, reported a better-than-expected 12 percent rise in annual profits, to $4.2 billion. The retailer booked unexpectedly strong U.K. sales, but growth was led by a 23 percent increase in international sales. (Bloomberg) Tesco said the rollout of its first U.S. stores, called Fresh & Easy, was going better than forecast, despite a decision last month to suspend U.S. expansion. The much-criticized U.S. move cost Tesco about $120 million last year. (MarketWatch) “Tesco have coming storming back after all the recent criticism, with strong vibes about trading both in the UK and the United States,” said Pali International analyst Nick Bubb. (Reuters)

The art of the haggle

People still want to buy stuff, but with today’s economy they don’t want to pay full price for much of anything. Stores, of course, want to sell things. So shoppers and merchants are reviving the art of haggling. A survey by America’s Research Group found that 67 percent of shoppers have haggled in the past three months, up from 55 percent three months ago. And the practice is migrating to big chain stores from independent retailers. But it is an art—talk in a low voice, do your homework—and most Americans are still novices. “A lot of people are squeamish about haggling,” said Christine Silvestri at Urban Shopping Adventures in Los Angeles. “It’s not built into our culture.” (Los Angeles Times, free registration)