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Unilever Delivers In Europe, Homesick in US


Dutch company beats forecasts, but struggles against American competition.

Minyan Morning Memo

One to watch: Early this morning while you were sleeping, Anglo-Dutch consumer products company Unilever (UL) reported earnings. Though the results appeared to be in the eye of the beholder -- subsequent headlines ranging from "Sales beat forecast" to "Q2 profit down" -- the shares are voting with their feet, up at a ten month high in Amsterdam.

Currency fluctuations can make the maker of Lipton and Breyers a complicated proposition for American investors, and Unilever faces formidable competition from Nestle and Procter & Gamble (PG). But restructuring undertaken by its new CEO seems to be bearing fruit and the sales growth reported today in its mature Western European market is especially impressive in a recession. Seems hot weather helped revenues at Ben and Jerry's. Yes, Ben and Jerry's - everyone's favorite Vermont hippies sold out long ago and are now nestled in the corporate bosom of one of the world's largest conglomerates.

What just happened: Stocks slipped yesterday in uninspiring market action even as financials rallied strongly. Luxury retailer Polo Ralph Lauren (RL) and discounter Dollar Thrifty (DTG) both scored good gains; go figure. Administration officials from the president to the commerce secretary hit the road to talk up the economy, to the extent a $188 trillion economy is amenable to jawboning. Platinum hit an eight week high. And hard on the heels of Plaxico Burress the Giants seemed to shoot themselves in the foot again by awarding Eli Manning, owner of a 3-4 playoff record, a $97.5 million contract extension.

What's happening: In Asia Japanese stocks posted solid gains, though the 64th anniversary of Hiroshima provided proper perspective. European markets are up after central banks stood pat on interest rates. Here at home equities have opened higher.

What will happen: In economics, at 8:30AM Eastern the Labor Department announced weekly jobless claims dropped a greater than anticipated 38,000 to 550,000. Retail chains reported lackluster July sales ahead of the critical back to school season. Beazer Homes (BZH), Blackstone (BX), CBS (CBS), Comcast (CMCSA), Computer Sciences (CSC), Crown Media (CRWN), DirecTV (DTV), El Paso (EP), EOG Resources (EOG), Lenovo, MBIA Inc (MBI), Nasdaq OMX (NDAQ), Nvidia (NVDA), Public Storage (PSA), Sirius XM Radio (SIRI) and Wendy's/Arby's (WEN) all hope to post quarterly results which exceed their Thomson Reuters estimates. As will, presumably, Thomson Reuters (TRI), which is out with earnings of its own today.

Happenstance: At a time when so many professions are shedding workers, it's good to know the world's oldest is held in such high esteem.
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