Wal-Mart’s profits up, Home Depot’s down
Wal-Mart reported a greater-than-expected 7.9 percent rise in quarterly profits and raised its earnings forecast for 2008. Higher profits from U.S. stores helped, as the retail giant got a jump start on holiday sales. (The Wall Street Journal) With higher energy prices and a housing slump, “price is mattering more and Wal-Mart is positioning itself to win,” said Goldman Sachs analyst Adrianne Shapira. (MarktetWatch) Home-improvement retailer Home Depot reported a 27 percent drop in quarterly profits, to $1.1 billion. Home Depot is spending $2 billion this year to spruce up its stores to stem market share loss to rival Lowe’s, especially as the weak housing market erodes demand. (Bloomberg)
Gore joins ’green’ venture capital outfit
Former Vice President Al Gore said he is a new partner in prominent Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The position will allow him to invest millions in alternative energy and other clean technology start-ups. The U.S. green tech sector drew in $892 million in venture capital in the first half of 2007, a 70 percent increase over the same period in 2006. (Los Angeles Times, free registration required) Venture capitalist Paul Kedrosky said that Gore can help steer start-ups through political issues. “Anyone who thinks this is happening because Al has fantastic clean-tech entrepreneurial chops is fooling themselves,” he added. (The New York Times, free registration required)
Oil drops slightly on IEA forecast
The price of oil dropped about $1 early today, to $93.47 a barrel in New York, after a key OPEC member said the cartel would discuss raising output and the International Energy Agency lowered its demand forecast. (AP in Yahoo! Finance) The IEA cut its estimate of global oil consumption for the rest of 2007 and 2008, amid signals that $100-a-barrel oil and weaker economic indicators from the U.S. and Eastern Europe are dampening demand. (MarketWatch) Meanwhile, the U.S. Energy Department estimated that the price of gas should rise as much as 20 cents a gallon in the next few weeks to catch up with soaring oil prices. (USA Today)

An Emily Post for the business traveler
Brandishing the mantra “We have earned the term ‘Ugly Americans’,” etiquette consultant Ann Marie Sabath is working to improve the table manners of business travelers in the increasingly global economy. She has taught more than 80,000 students and executives worldwide, and she doles out toll-free emergency advice to former clients. Tom Kozicki, the head career adviser at UC Irvine’s business school, hired Sabath to give a workshop to his students after seeing a Chinese student mangle eating a burrito. “More and more companies are differentiating on the basis of etiquette and appearance,” he said. “EQ is as important as IQ.” (Los Angeles Times, free registration required)