FINANCE

Consumer confidence falls to nine-month low

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — A report released Friday found that confidence among American consumers declined in April to a nine-month low. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary index of consumer sentiment declined to 72.3 in April from 78.6 a month earlier, lower than Bloomberg’s earlier estimates that called for a flat reading.

The decline reflects consumer pessimism about the economy and continuing effects from the increased payroll tax.

“If this weakness persists, then I think it will likely temper spending in coming months,” said Millan Mulraine, director of U.S. rates research at TD Securities USA LLC in New York. “The rollback on payroll taxes is beginning to have an impact on consumer spending activity and consumer confidence.”

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FINANCE

WSJ: Hedge fund pressures Jones Group to sell parts of portfolio

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — A report by the Wall Street Journal on Friday said that hedge fund Barington Capital Group is pressing Jones Group Inc. to slim down by divesting parts of its portfolio.

Citing an unidentified source, WSJ said that Barington – in a meeting earlier this month – urged Jones to hire financial advisers to analyze many of the company’s 35-plus to pare down the portfolio and focus on its core and emerging brands.

The New York-based retailer is in the throes of a turnaround, led by CEO Wesley Card. Last year, Jones Group posted a $55 million loss on sales of $3.8 billion, well below pre-recession sales of $4.7 billion in 2006.

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OPERATIONS

The Bon-Ton Stores to close Michigan furniture gallery

BY Staff Writer

York, Pa. — The Bon-Ton Stores will close its Younkers Furniture Gallery in the Lakeshore Marketplace in Muskegon, Mich., in June. The closing will affect approximately 20 associates at the location.

The Bon-Ton acquired the leasehold interests in the Muskegon Furniture Gallery store when it acquired Elder-Beerman in 2003. Bon-Ton does not expect the furniture gallery’s close to affect operations at the Younkers department store located in The Lakes Mall.

“We are very grateful for the devoted Younkers Muskegon Furniture Gallery store associates and are committed to providing assistance to these associates,” said Brendan Hoffman, president and CEO.

The affected associates in the Muskegon Furniture Gallery location will be offered the opportunity to interview for available positions at other Younkers stores or receive career transition benefits, including severance, according to established practices and state employment service support.

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