Fitness financials: Deloitte Research predicts solid holiday season for retail, plus Nautilus, Nike

Deloitte Research: Increase in wages, low energy prices position market for solid holiday season. Analysts weigh in on Nautilus. Nike promotes four to vice presidents.

Deloitte Research: Increase in wages, low energy prices position market for solid holiday season
The Deloitte Research Leading Index of Consumer Spending rose sharply this month, due to the strongest growth in real hourly earnings in four years.

"This month's increase in real wages is the largest we've seen in some time," said Carl Steidtmann, chief economist with Deloitte Services LP's Deloitte Research and author of the monthly index, in a statement. "The labor market remains strong, energy prices continue to come down, and housing prices have stabilized and even increased. All of these factors suggest a solid holiday season, as well as a much improved outlook as we enter 2007."

Deloitte said the index, composed of four components -- tax burden, initial unemployment claims, real wages and real home prices -- rose sharply to 3.61 percent, from a revised gain of 3.08 percent a month ago.

"After a strong Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend, consumers still have much shopping left to do," said Pat Conroy, a vice chairman of Deloitte & Touche USA and national managing principal of its Consumer Business industry practice, in the release. "According to our recent survey, only 6 percent of consumers had completed all of their holiday shopping at the end of November. In fact, a third (33 percent) of consumers have not yet begun holiday shopping, and almost 4 in 10 (37 percent) still have 10 or more gifts to buy. The most successful retailers will continue to focus on converting shoppers into buyers through excellent customer service, in-stock merchandise and streamlined store navigation."

Deloitte's Consumer Business practice previously reported that it expects holiday sales, excluding autos and gasoline, to increase 7 percent during the November-to-January period. That is less than last year's 7.8 percent increase, but still above the past decade's average growth rate, it said.

To read Deloitte's 21st Annual Holiday Survey, click here.

Analysts weigh in on Nautilus
On Dec. 18, Matrix Research reported that it downgraded Nautilus (NYSE: NLS) from "sell" to "strong sell" -- one of three downgrades and two upgrades in the last seven months. DA Davidson upgraded the company on June 28 from "neutral" to "buy," and Wedbush Morgan upgraded the company on May 4 from “hold” to “buy.” In addition to Matrix, downgrades in the second part of the year came from Merriman Curhan Ford and BB&T Capital Markets.

Nike promotes four to vice presidents
Nike (NYSE: NKE) has promoted four employees to vice presidents in corporate and brand roles. Dermott Cleary becomes vice president of sport culture and category marketing, and will also take responsibility for category brand marketing for Nike. Diana Crist is now global apparel vice president of merchandising operations. Larry Harper becomes vice president of U.S. geographical business units. Bob Woodruff is now vice president and treasurer.

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