Business briefing

The daily business briefing: December 27, 2017

Record holiday spending boosts department-store shares, home prices reach highest level in a decade, and more

1

Department store shares jump after record holiday shopping

Department store stocks surged on Tuesday after Mastercard reported that shoppers spent a record of more than $800 billion during the holiday season. J.C. Penney shares jumped by 7.6 percent on Tuesday, while Kohl's and Macy's rose by 5.8 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively. Mastercard's SpendingPulse report said that the accelerating rise in sales this year was led by an 18.1 percent increase in online sales. "But that's probably only 11 or 12 percent of total retail sales ... the bulk of sales still is very much in stores," said Sarah Quinlan, head of market insights for Mastercard Advisors. "There's growth, don't get me wrong, but we still love that experience of being in store."

2

Home prices rise to highest level in more than a decade

Average U.S. home prices have reached levels not seen since 2006, according to the latest Standard & Poor's CoreLogic Case-Shiller index, released Tuesday. The average home price was nearly $200,000 in October, compared to a little more than $175,000 in 2006. Between October 2016 and October 2017, the average price rose by more than 6 percent across America's nine "census divisions." All 20 metropolitan areas tracked by Case-Shiller saw an increase, although the rates varied, with Seattle (12.7 percent) and Las Vegas (10.2 percent) seeing the highest rates of increase since October 2015, while Washington, D.C.'s 3.1 percent increase was the smallest.

3

South Korea prosecutors request longer jail term for Samsung heir Lee

South Korean prosecutors on Wednesday asked a court to extend Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Jay Y. Lee's prison sentence for corruption to 12 years from five. The request came at the close of Lee's appeal of the original sentence for his conviction in the influence-peddling scandal that brought down former President Park Geun-hye this year. A lower court found the 49-year-old billionaire heir to South Korea's Samsung Group guilty of bribing Park Geun-hye to firm up his control of the company. Lee and his lawyers denied he tried to buy government help. "The special prosecution has severely distorted the truth, and that distortion is reflected in the jail term they sought," said Lee In-jae, Lee's lawyer, in response to prosecutors' request for a longer jail term.

4

China economy expected to overtake U.S. in 15 years

China's economy is expected to be larger than the American economy for the first time in 2032, according to a report from the Center for Economics and Business (CEBR) Research in London. The CEBR also predicts significant economic growth for India, which will leap past the U.K., France, Germany, and Japan to go from seventh to third by 2032, a decade after it overtakes China to become the world's most populous country. China's population is currently about 1.38 billion, more than four times the United States' 323 million. Even with a larger aggregate economy, per capita income and standard of living in China will remain significantly lower than in the U.S. for some time.

5

Holiday shopping returns expected to reach $90 billion

U.S. consumers will return roughly $90 billion worth of goods this holiday season, according to an estimate by Optoro, which estimates shopping return shipments. Gift returns represent a potential windfall in business for FedEx and UPS as online sales rise, partly by making drop-off locations convenient. "Being able to return is now a competitive tool," said Bruce Cohen, head of strategy and private equity for retail and consumer products at consulting firm Kurt Salmon, a unit of Accenture. "If it's a pain for customers to return items, they will go elsewhere."

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