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It was another flat day for stocks, as the markets dropped in the late afternoon once again, leaving the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) with a gain of just 8 points, or 0.05%. On a low-volume day in a holiday-shortened week, Wall Street's eyes looked toward retail, which begins its key holiday selling season on Friday.
Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), the world's biggest retailer, named a new CEO this morning, tapping Doug McMillon, the head of its International division, to replace current CEO Mike Duke. Duke has led Wal-Mart for nearly five years, receiving mostly middling marks from analysts during his tenure. Since he took over the retailer, shares have gained 69% versus a broad market improvement of 118%, and the company has continued to be the focus of scandals like the recent bribery allegations in Mexico as well as a criticism for its labor practices in the United States, which again came under the spotlight when an Ohio store started a food drive for its own employees. Duke will remain on as chairman and will yield the CEO post to McMillon in February. In its press release, Wal-Mart called McMillion "uniquely positioned" to lead the company, having worked there since 1990, holding a wide variety of senior leadership positions during that time.
Elsewhere on the retail front, Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) shares jumped 7.3% on a report in the New York Post that the aging retailer was looking to sell its Sears Canada subsidiary, in which it holds a 51% interest. Sears put out a press release this afternoon denying the Post's report, saying that CEO Eddie Lampert is not "in talks with investment bankers about Sears Canada." It also reiterated a statement last month that it "will work with the board and management of Sears Canada with the goal of increasing the value of our 51% interest." The cryptic release said Sears hold sold five store leases north of the border but did not seem to rule out further liquidation, as the Post report implies. Notably, the market ignored Sears' rebuttal, as the stock continued to climb toward the ending bell. The stock has charged higher in recent weeks on hopes that the company will continue to "unlock value" for investors, but as the operating losses pile up, investors may want to question the wisdom of Sears as a long-term investment.
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