Desperate retailers: come get free stuff!

JC Penney, one of America’s big traditional retailers, sent out “savings certificates” in early December offering $10 off a single in-store purchase of $10 or more. There were exclusions, including cosmetics, electronics, cookware, and small appliances, but even so there must be plenty of small items like gloves and sox, that would be less than $20, for a discount of >50%.

JC Penney has slipped in the Fortune 500 ratings of America’s largest corporations, from number 74 in 2005, to 126 in 2008.

The Top Ten for 2008?

1. Wal-Mart Stores

2. Exxon Mobil

3. Chevron

4. General Motors

5. ConocoPhillips

6. General Electric

7. Ford Motor

8. Citigroup

9. Bank of America

10. AT&T

AT&T has been buoyed by merging with Cingular and others, and by the success of the Apple iPhone. The oil companies are doing very well, but all the others on this list are reeling from the end of the finance bubble, except for the only retailer: Wal-Mart. It’s our giant conduit between the US and China—jobs go out, Chinese landfill fodder comes in. What do we fill those ships with for their return voyages? Oh yes, dollars and T-bills.

Developed nations circling the drain

In a related note, io9 summarizes a news item in the journal Foreign Policy:

Remember back when you knew you were in the so-called developed world because the economy was doing better than the so-called developing world? Well times are changing. Today the International Monetary Fund announced that, for the first time since World War II, the world’s developed economies would be shrinking by 0.3 percent in 2009 and America will decline by 0.7 per cent. American unemployment is at a 25-year high. When the globe emerges from this economic shakedown, membership in the “developed” club may have changed dramatically. [via Foreign Policy]

A few more cheery predictions:

Japan’s estimate [of growth, by the International Monetary Fund] was trimmed to 0.5% growth this year and a 0.2% contraction next, compared with the previous estimate for growth of 0.7% in 2008 and 0.5% in 2009.

Forecasts for emerging and developing economies were adjusted even more sharply, with the 2008 growth estimate falling to 6.6% from 6.9% and the 2009 forecast dropping to 5.1% from 6.1%.

“Among the most affected are commodity exporters, given that commodity price projections have been marked down sharply, and countries with acute external financing and liquidity problems,” the report said, while noting that China and other countries in East Asia are generally in better financial and economic shape.

China’s 2008 forecast was left unchanged at growth of 9.7%, while the 2009 estimate was cut to 8.5% from 9.3%. [Wall Street Journal blog, Nov. 6, 2008]

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