Money Minute: Wintry Weather Worries Retailers; Diet Soda Sales Fizzle

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The weather rains on retailers' parade.

There are now just two weekends left before Christmas for holiday shoppers, and retailers are starting to get nervous -- especially after snow and ice in many areas of the country reduced the traffic at stores. So far, analysts say this has been a disappointing season for most brick-and-mortar retailers.

Severe Weather
Brandon Wade/APCrews spray deicing solution onto an American Airlines 737 before departure at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport.
The weekend storms also played havoc on airline schedules and on package delivery services UPS (UPS) and FedEx (FDX). Airlines were forced to cancel thousands of flights over the weekend, especially American Airlines flights coming and going from Dallas.

Better news for American on the merger front, as it completes the deal to merge with USAirways (LCC). Changes for fliers will come slowly, as both brands will continue to exist for at least another year.

Ski resorts might appreciate the snow, but middle and lower-income skiers are getting priced out of the sport. CNBC reports that a number of the most popular slopes -- Vail (MTN), Jackson Hole, Sun Valley and others -- are charging $100 or more for lift tickets at peak times.

Health concerns are causing more and more people to cut back or give up on diet soda. The Wall Street Journal says in-store sales of diet brands have plunged nearly 7 percent over the past year. For many, there are new concerns about the health impact of aspartame and other artificial ingredients used by Coca-Cola (KO), Pepsi (PEP) and Dr. Pepper (DPS).

Here on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) fell 0.4 percent last week and the Standard & Poor's 500 index (^GPSC) edged just slightly lower. Both snapped streaks of 8 straight weekly gains, despite Friday's huge rally. The Nasdaq composite index (^IXIC) edged a bit higher for the week.

Market watchers will be paying attention to a series of speeches today by Federal Reserve governors. Everyone is looking for new clues about when the Fed will start tapering on the massive bond-buying program that's been one of the key drivers behind the market's big rally this year.

-Produced by Drew Trachtenberg.


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