Yes, Christmas Season Has Begun On The Yonder 40

Yonder 40Retail stores all over the nation reported weaker same-store sales this September compared to last year. The solution at Wal-Mart? Start Christmas in October!


Yonder 40While the major stock indexes were up (barely) for the week, the Yonder 40 dropped (barely). The Daily Yonder’s index of 40 stocks that reflect the rural economy was down by just half a percent for the week ending October 12.

Twenty-five of the Yonder’s 40 stocks lost ground last week.

The Dow Industrials, the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ were all up less than a percent. Since July 1, these major indexes have shown good gains. The Dow has risen just over 5 percent since July; the NASDAQ has risen 7.8 percent and the S&P 500 has grown by just under 4 percent.

In that same 15-week period, however, the Yonder is very slightly down, by less than a quarter of a percent.

This week most retail outlets reported low same-store sales — and several retailers specializing in rural America were doing worse than the national average. Cato Corp., which operates a string of women’s clothing stores in small towns, saw its stock drop over ten percent this week after reporting slow sales. September same-store sales were down 7 percent from last year.

Cato wasn’t alone. Target and J.C. Penny cut their earnings expectations last week. Family Dollar, also a member of the Yonder 40, reported same-store sales in September that rose only half a percent over 2006. That increase was less than half what analysts had expected from the community five-and-dime outlet.

Wal-Mart, meanwhile, reported September same-store sales below expectation — 1.4% increase instead of the high forecast of 3% — but raised its third-quarter earnings outlook despite its mediocre same-store sales report.

Wal-Mart is already cutting prices for the holidays. Yes, Wal-Mart is beginning the Christmas season earlier than ever (a horrifying prospect for those of us here at the Yonder). The retailer cut prices up to 50% on its “Top 12 Toys of Christmas" and said other reductions were coming.

Not all rural retailers did poorly. Stage Stores, which owns Bealls, said its September sales rose 2.3% over last year. Analysts had expected sales increases only half that amount. Stage's stock price still dropped by a percent this week.

In other Yonder 40 news:

“¢ ConAgra voluntarily recalled all its pot pies late in the week — at least the frozen pies containing chicken. The company is conducting an investigation into a salmonella outbreak at its Marshall, Mo., plant. ConAgra makes Banquet products.

“¢ Investors loved Monsanto this week, even though the company posted a larger loss in its latest quarter than anticipated and gave a weak forecast for the full year. But stock buyers believe agricultural markets will remain strong, and they bought the St. Louis maker of genetically modified seeds and ag chemicals. Monsanto was up over 7.5% for the week.

Monsanto has benefited from a greater international demand for grain, used as either food or fuel. U.S. corn production this year is expected to be 26% over 2006 levels — and investors seem to believe those increases will continue.

“¢ Smithfield Foods was off by nearly 7 percent for the week. There is now a growing supply of hogs in the market, driving down prices.

Below, see how the entire Yonder 40 fared in the week of October 8-12:

Companies Ticker Price October 12 Price Change for Week Percent Change for Week
Alico Inc. ALCO $49.32 -$0.86 -1.7%
Andersons Inc. ANDE $47.39 -$0.14 -0.3%
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. BNI $83.56 -$3.22 -3.7%
Berkshire Hathaway BRKB $4,233.90 $204.90 5.1%
Bassett Furniture BSET $10.53 -$0.13 -1.2%
Peabody Energy Corp. BTU $51.22 $2.43 5.0%
Cabela's Inc. CAB $22.30 -$1.82 -7.5%
ConAgra Foods Inc. CAG $24.80 -$0.96 -3.7%
Cato Corp. Cl A CTR $19.27 -$2.24 -10.4%
Citizens Communications CZN $13.74 -$0.53 -3.7%
Deere & Co. DE $154.22 $6.95 4.7%
Dean Foods Co. DF $26.33 -$0.71 -2.6%
DIRECTV Group DTV $26.18 $0.18 0.7%
Family Dollar Stores Inc. FDO $27.41 $0.12 0.4%
Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. FLE $9.58 $0.02 0.2%
FairPoint Communications FRP $19.26 -$0.08 -0.4%
Gaylord Entertainment Co. GET $53.27 -$0.95 -1.8%
Hormel Foods HRL $36.06 -$0.29 -0.8%
International Speedway Corp. ISCA $47.50 -$0.30 -0.6%
Lee Enterprises LEE $17.36 -$0.07 -0.4%
Mohawk Industries Inc. MHK $82.34 -$2.09 -2.5%
Monsanto Co. MON $93.54 $6.61 7.6%
Mine Safety Appliances Co. MSA $47.52 -$1.45 -3.0%
Southwest Bancorp OKSB $20.83 $0.47 2.3%
Plum Creek Timber REIT PCL $41.91 -$2.21 -5.0%
Penn Virginia Corp. PVA $45.58 $0.23 0.5%
Ralcorp Holdings RAH $56.64 -$0.19 -0.3%
Regions Financial Corp. RF $29.56 -$1.45 -4.7%
Sturm Ruger & Co. RGR $18.22 -$0.29 -1.6%
Smithfield Foods SFD $29.36 -$2.17 -6.9%
Skywest Inc. SKYW $26.94 $0.74 2.8%
Southern Co. SO $36.65 -$0.08 -0.2%
Stage Stores Inc. SSI $18.81 -$0.21 -1.1%
Tractor Supply Co. TSCO $48.15 -$0.15 -0.3%
Tyson Foods TSN $18.16 $0.47 2.7%
UST Inc. UST $50.24 $1.29 2.6%
Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. WDR $27.21 -$0.59 -2.1%
Walter Industries WLT $29.68 $0.91 3.2%
Wal-Mart Stores WMT $47.06 $1.69 3.7%
Cimarex Energy XEC $38.41 $0.31 0.8%