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Deloitte reports inflation of prices, drop in spending index

BY Allison Cerra

NEW YORK The Deloitte Consumer Spending Index dipped slightly in December primarily due to a decline in real wages, but it remains near its highest level since 2004.

“The most notable shift in the index results from inflation, primarily due to rising energy prices, which is undermining the gains in real hourly earnings,” said Carl Steidtmann, chief economist with Deloitte Research, a subsidiary of Deloitte Services, and author of the monthly index. “This increase in prices is offsetting the improvement in other components of the index that boost consumer purchasing power, including a steadily falling tax burden, a sustained drop in initial unemployment claims over the past several months and signs of stabilization in the housing market.”

The index, comprising four components — tax burden, initial unemployment claims, real wages and real home prices — slipped to 4.63%, from an upwardly revised gain of 4.66% a month prior.

“Inflation can significantly change the pricing environment for retailers, particularly at a time when consumers are already closely monitoring their spending levels,” said Stacy Janiak, vice chairman and Deloitte’s U.S. Retail leader.  “Retailers that have been focused on lowering product costs and preserving margins should keep their foot on the pedal to maintain and accelerate those efforts given the prospect for continued inflationary pressure. Efforts to seek out less-costly product and supply alternatives, grow private-label offerings and identify greater supply chain efficiencies should remain high on retailers’ lists of resolutions for the new year.”

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Bayer with an easy-to-open cap

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK Bayer has introduced its own easy grip cap for arthritis users, diabetics or people with carpal tunnel.

And with the low-dose 81-mg aspirin for the prevention of a second heart attack or stroke, disease states that still skew older than younger, the new caps ought to be well received among Bayer’s low-dose aspirin core users.

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CVS Caremark reports 15% quarterly dividend

BY Antoinette Alexander

WOONSOCKET, R.I. CVS Caremark announced on Tuesday that its board of directors has approved an increase in its quarterly dividend of approximately 15%, to 8.75 cents per share on the common stock.

The increase is payable Feb. 2, 2010, to holders of record on Jan. 22, 2010, and translates into an annual rate of 35 cents per share, up 4.5 cents per share from the previous rate of 30.5 cents.

“An annual review of our dividend is an essential component of our company’s capital allocation strategy, and I’m pleased to note that this marks our seventh consecutive year of dividend increases,” stated Dave Denton, EVP and CFO. “This considerable increase reflects our continued strong financial performance, our optimism with respect to future growth and our significant cash generation capabilities. It also reflects our ongoing commitment to enhancing total returns for our shareholders.”

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