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Reuters reports that “hopes for a supermarket recovery have been pushed back yet again while Wall Street rethinks earnings expectations as food costs rise, unemployment remains high and consumer spending stays fragile.

“The shares of Supervalu Inc., Safeway Inc., and Whole Foods Market Inc. were among the stock market's biggest losers on Tuesday after investment firms cut ratings on them ... Investors had hoped 2011 would usher in a big improvement in supermarket earnings, but such optimism is being dashed by costs, the jobless economic recovery and other factors, including a long-running price war and stiff competition from general merchandise retailers ranging from dollar stores to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.”

• Consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas reports that “after reaching a seven-year high in 2009, downsizing activity in 2010 fell to its lowest level since 1997, as employers announced plans to eliminate 529,973 positions.  The year came to a close with the lowest monthly job-cut total since 2000.

“Planned layoffs totaled 32,004 in December, down 34 percent from 48,711 in November, according to the 2010 year-end job-cut report released Wednesday ... December job cuts were 29 percent lower than the same month a year ago when 45,094 cuts were announced.”

The report goes on: “The December decline marked a fitting end to 2010.  The 529,973 job cuts announced during the year were 59 percent fewer than the 1,288,030 layoffs recorded in 2009, the largest downsizing year since 2002 (1,466,823).  The 2010 total was the lowest since 434,350 job cuts were announced in 1997.”

• The Los Angeles Times reports that IKEA no longer will sell or stock incandescent light bulbs in its U.S. stores, but rather will only offer longer-lasting and energy-efficient bulbs. The move comes ahead of federal legislation takes effect that will mandate more energy efficient light bulbs.
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