business news in context, analysis with attitude

With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

•  The Wall Street Journal reports that "sales at U.S. retail stores, online sellers, and restaurants rose by a seasonally-adjusted 0.3% in November from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That was a slowdown from October’s robust 1.8% increase.

"Broadly consumer demand is strong, and is well above last year’s levels. Retail sales rose 18.2% in November from a year earlier, showing low unemployment, rising wages and savings from stimulus payments are giving Americans the capacity to spend more this year.

"Barriers stand in their way, however, with inflation at a 39-year high and supply chain and labor issues causing shortages of goods and depleted capacity in the service industry."

•  The Washington Post reports that "colleges around the country are worrying about outbreaks of the coronavirus, leading some to pivot online and cancel events, and others to abruptly change rules on campus in the waning days of the fall semester.

"At Cornell University, where cases of the omicron variant have been confirmed and many more are suspected, more than 1,100 students tested positive for the virus this week. The spike led school officials to switch final exams online, close libraries, and call off activities, including a ceremony for December graduates.

"In the nation’s capital, George Washington University officials announced on Wednesday that all in-person social gatherings and events were canceled effective immediately, and remaining exams for the semester would be held online starting Friday. The school had said a day earlier they would require booster shots after the omicron variant was detected.

"Across the country, many colleges are grappling with the fear of worsening pandemic conditions as they wrap up final exams and prepare to send students home for the holidays. And as they look ahead to the spring semester, many school officials are pledging to be agile as more data emerges worldwide about the rapid spread of the omicron variant."

•  From the Financial Times:

"European supermarket chains J Sainsbury, Carrefour and Ahold Delhaize will stop selling several Brazilian meat products after an investigation found they contributed to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

"Pressure to halt deforestation has ratcheted up since last month’s COP26 climate summit in Glasgow.

"It resulted in more than 100 countries pledging to end by 2030 meat production supported by livestock reared on land where rainforests and savannahs had been cleared — a main source of carbon emissions.

"As the world’s biggest beef exporter, Brazil’s meat’s processing industry has long faced scrutiny over its supply chain and its impact on climate change.  The decision by Sainsbury’s, the UK’s second-largest supermarket chain, the Belgian stores of Carrefour, the French retailer, and Albert Heijn, the biggest chain in the Netherlands and part of Ahold Delhaize, follows an investigation by environmental campaigners Mighty Earth and NGO Repórter Brasil, which was published on Thursday."

•  McDonald's has announced that it plans to open 200 new locations in Italy over the next three years, a significant increase from the 630 that it currently has there.

"Italy is seen by the group as one of the markets with the greatest potential on a global scale," says Dario Baroni, who runs McDonald's Italian business.

An MNB user sent this story to me yesterday, asking whether the McDonald's approach to food is consistent with Italy's culinary tradition.  The answer to that, obviously, is no … even if McvDonald's were to offer something like McArancini.  But that doesn't mean that it won't be successful in its growth plans there.  I sort of gave up hope when a McDonald's opened on the Champs-Élysées.