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Consumer confidence up in United States, global economy still dark cloud

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — The Conference Board Leading Economic Index for the United States increased 0.5% in November to 118 (baseline based on 100 in 2004), following a 0.9% increase in October, and a 0.1% increase in September, the Conference Board announced Thursday.

“November’s increase in the LEI for the U.S. was widespread among the leading indicators and continues to suggest that the risk of an economic downturn in the near term has receded," stated Ataman Ozyildirim, economist at the Conference Board. "Interest rate spread and housing permits made the largest contributions to the LEI this month, overcoming a falling average workweek in manufacturing, which reversed its October gain. The CEI also rose on improving employment and personal income although industrial production fell in November.”

"The LEI is pointing to continued growth this winter, possibly even gaining momentum by spring," added Ken Goldstein, also an economist at the Conference Board. "For the second month in a row, building permits made a relatively strong contribution and there is a chance that the long decline in housing is finally slowing. However, this somewhat positive outlook for the domestic economy is at odds with a global economy that appears to be losing steam. In particular, a deeper-than-expected recession in Europe could easily derail the outlook for the U.S. economy.”

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Eastman Kodak sells Eastman Gelatine subsidiary

BY Allison Cerra

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — In an effort to focus on its digital growth initiatives and accelerate its transformation to a digital company, Eastman Kodak said it is selling its Eastman Gelatine business to Rousselot, which is part of the Vion Food Group.

Eastman Gel develops gelatin primarily for use in photographic movie film and paper emulsions, but has expanded its business into pharmaceutical, edible protein and food/confectionary categories, Kodak said. The acquisition of the business by Rousselot will help strengthen the latter’s position in both growing pharmaceutical markets and its current position in North America, Vion vice chairman Dirk Kloosterboer said.

Financial details of the deal, which is subject to customary closing conditions, were not disclosed. The transaction is expected to close within 30 days.

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Shopatron predicts factors that will impact retail shopping in 2012

BY Allison Cerra

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — An e-commerce solution for branded manufacturers has released a new forecast on how retail shopping will be influenced by the Internet, in addition to mobile and social networking.

From January to December 2011, the percentage of visits to Shopatron brand partner stores from mobile devices grew from 6.5% to 12.2%, the company said, adding that it has projected that number will grow 18% to 20% by the end of next year. Additionally, Shopatron also predicted social networking will have a stronger influence on retail purchasing behavior in 2012, with the number of Shopatron clients using the company’s online marketing services to invest in Facebook ads or Facebook shops will increase from about 50% to 70% to 75% by the end of 2012.

"We have seen rapid growth in mobile this year, with visits to our mobile optimized client stores approaching double what we saw at the beginning of the year," Shopatron online marketing manager Greg Squires. "And we expect that number to nearly double again in 2012. With this level of traffic, we recommend that brands pay special attention to their mobile presence and mobile marketing tactics in the coming year."

Added Shopatron SVP marketing Mark Grondin said, "There’s an undeniable shift happening. Consumers are being conditioned to expect that they can shop anywhere, anytime and any way they like. Not just in stores, but also on their computers, their phones, their tablets, their TVs and soon on their refrigerators. Brands and retailers that don’t accommodate them are going to lose sales and loyalty."

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