Monday PM November 26th, 2007

"Cyber Monday" follows post-Thanksgiving holidays sales...Lawyers who recovered $7.2 billion in settlements for Enron investors seek $700 million in fees...British newspaper says NatWest Three are nearing plea agreement in return for lighter sentence...

The online holiday shopping season officially kicked off today. The Monday after Thanksgiving is tagged "Cyber Monday'' by the National Retail Federation. It marks the first big online shopping surge for many merchants, as consumers go back to their work computers. A number of retailers are hosting one-day sales or special offers for the occasion. Toys "R'' Us is holding a one-day online sale. Rival eToys.com will launch a two-day sale. For its part, Wal-Mart kicks off five days of online-only sales. Target, Circuit City, Sears, Crate & Barrel and Overstock.com are among dozens of retailers offering free shipping. A National Retail Federation survey found that nearly one third of retailers are having special one-day sales for Cyber Monday. In fact, the number of retailers hosting online deals for the Monday after Thanksgiving has surged to 72 percent of those polled--from 42 percent just two years ago.

The nation's retailers got the holiday season off to a strong start this past weekend. That's according to national research group Shoppertrak, which found total sales rose 8.3 percent on the day after Thanksgiving--compared to the same day a year ago. Shoppertrak found that total sales were about $10.3 billion on Friday, compared to $9.5 billion on the same day a year ago. Shoppertrak had expected an increase of no more than four percent to five percent. A spokesman called it "a really strong number.'' As Shoppertrak's co-founder put it, "you can't have a good season unless it starts well.''


Lawyers who recovered about $7.2 billion in settlements for Enron investors are seeking $700 million in fees, or 9.5 percent of the money recovered, according to court filings. Attorneys for Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins are entitled to seek as much as ten percent of recovered funds, according to an agreement with the University of California Regents, who are the lead plaintiffs in the case. The fees request requires the approval of a federal judge in Houston. Investors accused former executives Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of disguising debt as loans. They say Enron financed fraudulent energy trades and used off-the-books partnerships to hide losses and inflate revenue. Investors say they lost more than $40 billion with Enron's collapse in 2001.

The so-called "NatWest Three" are nearing a plea agreement that could involve an admission of wrongdoing in return for a lighter sentence, according to British newspaper The Guardian. A hearing is set for Wednesday for David Bermingham, Giles Darby and Gary Mulgrew, accused of embezzling $7.3 million from their former UK bank employer in an Enron deal. The hearing before U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein is a re-arraignment, since the new charges would be significantly different than the original ones. The three have been on bail for the last 16 months, restricted to a curfew and prevented from leaving the Houston area.


There are plenty of economic reports on tap this week, beginning Tuesday, when the Conference Board releases a report on Consumer Confidence, with a decline expected. On Wednesday, realtors release October figures on sales of previously-owned homes. The following day, the report on new home sales is due from the government. Also on Thursday, the Commerce Department releases a revised look at third quarter growth, expected to come in at a strong 4.8 percent. The previous estimate a month ago put GDP expanding at an annual rate of 3.9 percent.


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