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Walmart-owned Sam’s Club Raises Annual Membership Fee for the First Time in Nine Years

Rebekah Fuller

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A sign hangs outside a Sam’s Club store on January 12, 2018 in Streamwood, Illinois.
Scott Olson |Getty Images

Walmart-owned Sam’s Club said Wednesday it will raise its annual fees this fall, as the warehouse club’s membership hovers at a record high and inflation-pinched shoppers seek deals on bulk items.

Fees will increase to $50 from $45 for club members and to $110 from $100 for members of its higher-tier level, “Plus,” which includes some additional perks. The changes take effect Oct. 17.

It marks the first fee hike in nine years for the entry-level membership. Sam’s Club has not raised the price of the “Plus” membership since it debuted in 1999.

That brings Sam’s closer in price to rival Costco, which charges $60 a year for its basic membership and $120 for its higher-tier “Gold” membership.

Sam’s Club is hiking annual fees as warehouse clubs benefit from budget-conscious customers. Shoppers turned to Costco, BJ’s Wholesale and Sam’s Club during the early months of the Covid pandemic to stock up on huge packs of toilet paper, household cleaners and cans of soup. In recent months, those shoppers have sought relief from inflation by seeking out cheaper gas and high volume discounts.

At the same time, inflation may make the increase sting. In a note to members Wednesday afternoon, Sam’s Club CEO Kath McLay said the company is “mindful of the financial pressure on wallets right now.”

With that in mind, she said, Sam’s Club will pick up the tab this year by reimbursing the fee increase in Sam’s Cash that can be used at its stores.

Investors have speculated about a potential hike in Costco’s fees, too. The club last raised its fee in June 2017 and has historically bumped it up every 5 1/2 years, which would put it on track for this year.

Costco CEO Craig Jelinek shook off talk of an increase on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” in July. “I can tell you that we think about it every year, but right now, in terms of the membership fee it’s not on the table right at the moment,” he said. “I’ve made it very clear. I don’t think it’s the right time.”

Sam’s Club has almost 600 stores across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. It does not disclose its membership count, but said in the most recent quarter that it is at an all-time high. Membership income increased 8.9% in the quarter that ended July 31.

Its sales growth is outpacing other parts of Walmart’s business. Same-store sales at Sam’s Club grew 9.5% in the most recently reported quarter versus 6.5% at Walmart U.S.

Chief Member and Marketing Officer Ciara Anfield said Sam’s Club decided to make the move because of investments it’s made in recent years, from elevating the quality of merchandise on its shelves to adding new and convenient ways to shop.

In recent years, it has added curbside pickup at stores, offered same-day home delivery, refreshed its Member’s Mark private brand and launched Scan & Go, a smartphone app that people can use to ring up items as they walk through aisle. It has started carrying brands such as Eddie Bauer, La Mer and Banana Republic. And even some of its bakery treats have gotten a gourmet spin, such as cinnamon rolls made with a French baking technique.

She compared the rollout of those new perks to building a house or spending money on renovation projects.

“There’s an expectation that after you invest in this home, it will be worth more,” she said. “We’ve made investments and we believe our proposition, our membership is now worth more.”

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Original Article: cnbc.com

Business

Disgraced Rep. Santos Defiant After Local GOP Officials Call for ‘immediate’ Resignation Over Campaign Lies

Rebekah Fuller

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(The press conference is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. ET. Please refresh the page if the above video doesn’t start at that time.)

The Nassau County Republican Committee and dozens of local elected GOP officials from New York are making a “major announcement” on Wednesday about freshman Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y. who is under scrutiny by federal and local lawmakers for embellishing key elements of his resume.

The Republican county political committee, which is chaired by Joseph Cairo, said in press release announcing the event that Santos is a “disgraced” member of Congress, but he did not provide details on the upcoming remarks. Santos has been caught embellishing and, at times, outright lying, about his past, including his claims that he worked on Wall Street.

Santos has apologized to anyone “disappointed by resume embellishments,” but he vehemently denies committing any crimes.

Cairo has previously said that Santos has “broken the public trust by making serious misstatements regarding his background, experience and education, among other issues.” As a member of Congress, Santos represents parts of Queens and Nassau County, a region of Long Island in New York. House Republican leadership have been quiet regarding Santos since he’s been sworn into Congress.

“Obviously, he’s addressed some of the concerns that we’ve had. In New York, they’re having a lot of internal conversations too. But at the end of the day, you know, he was seated, nobody objected to him being seated,” House Republican Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., told CNBC on Wednesday after being asked whether Santos will serve his full two-year term.

Santos has said that all he’s guilty of is embellishing his resume and has committed no crimes.

The lies and embellishments he told during the election have also led to scrutiny from prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York who are examining Santos’ finances, including potential irregularities involving financial disclosures and an over $700,000 loan Santos made to his campaign while he was running for Congress during the 2022 midterms, according to NBC News.

The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog, filed an ethics complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Santos on Monday for allegedly violating campaign finance laws. Santos told reporters that he’s done nothing unethical.

Santos’ fundraising efforts during his successful 2022 run was also based, in part, on some of the false claims he’s made about his past. He would suggest to donors that he was Jewish when he was not and falsely told people he worked at Wall Street banks that don’t have any record of his employment. A Santos campaign staffer impersonated as Kevin McCarthy’s chief of staff in order to raise money for the campaign, CNBC and The Washington Times reported.

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Article: cnbc.com

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Business

Bed Bath & Beyond Jumps 50% to Lead ‘nonsense’ Rally in Meme Stocks; AMC Gains 16%

Rebekah Fuller

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BBBYAMCGME

A “Store Closing” banner on a Bed Bath & Beyond store in Farmingdale, New York, on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023.
Johnny Milano | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A group of highly speculative stocks rallied double digits on Wednesday as retail investors pushed meme names up again in the new year following a dismal 2022.

Bed Bath & BeyondGameStopAMC Entertainment

Meme stocks rallying one more time

Stock Short interest % float Wed. Gain % off 52W high Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY)48.9%60%-89%AMC (AMC)21%15%-78%GameStop (GME)21%8%-62%
Source: FactSet

The rally in Bed Bath & Beyond was initially triggered by news that it would lay off more employees in an attempt to reduce costs and stay in business.

The home goods retailer told employees that it is eliminating the chief transformation officer role, which is held by Anu Gupta, on the same day it reported disappointing fiscal third-quarter results. Bed Bath & Beyond is approaching a potential bankruptcy, as its sales decline and losses grow.

“We don’t love the strength in nonsense stocks like AMC, CVNA, GME, BBBY, PRTY, etc.,” said Adam Crisafulli, founder of Vital Knowledge. “This just means people are blindly chasing.”

During early 2021, a band of retail traders joined forces on social media to bid up a slew of heavily shorted stocks, creating massive short squeezes that inflicted high pain on short sellers. These meme stocks experienced big pullbacks last year when risk sentiment shifted amid aggressive rate hikes. GameStop fell 50% in 2022, while AMC tumbled 75% and Bed Bath & Beyond plunged 82%.

While the short interest in these names has come down from its peak after the jaw-dropping episode, it still remains much higher than average.

About 48% of Bed Bath & Beyond’s float shares are sold short, compared with an average of 5% short interest in a typical U.S. stock, according to S3 Partners. For GameStop, the short interest stands at 21%, down from more than 100% at the height of the meme stock mania in 2021, according to FactSet. AMC has also 21% of shares sold short.

A short squeeze happens when a stock jumps sharply higher, it forces short sellers to buy back shares in order to limit their losses. The short covering tends to fuel the stock’s rally further.

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Article: cnbc.com

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Crypto Exchange Binance Plans 15%-30% Hiring Spree in 2023 Even As Rivals Slash Jobs

Rebekah Fuller

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Zhao Changpeng, founder and chief executive officer of Binance, attends a conference at Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France June 16, 2022.
Benoit Tessier | Reuters

Binance is planning a hiring spree in 2023, CEO Changpeng Zhao said Wednesday, taking a somewhat contrarian view as crypto firms lay off huge swathes of staff amid continued pressure on coin prices.

Zhao said Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, said the company increased head count in 2022 from 3,000 people to “almost” 8,000.

In 2023, Binance plans to increase the number of staff by between 15% and 30%, Zhao said at the Crypto Finance Conference in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Rival exchanges have been forced to cut large parts of their workforces after nearly $1.4 trillion was wiped off the crypto market in 2022 and major digital currencies including bitcoinether

In November, Kraken announced it was laying off 30% of staff, and this year Huobi and Coinbasesecond round of job cuts for Coinbase in the last year.

Zhao said Binance needs to get the company “well-organized” ahead of the next crypto bull run and admitted the exchange is “not super efficient.”

“We will continue to build and hopefully we will ramp up again before the next bull market,” Zhao said.

The industry was plagued last year by collapses of major projects, liquidity issues, bankruptcies and the high-profile failure of crypto exchange FTX. Sam Bankman-Fried who founded FTX has been charged with eight criminal counts by U.S. prosecutors, including fraud. He has pleaded not guilty.

Binance had a big role to play in FTX’s collapse. In November, Binance offered to buy FTX’s non-U.S. businesses which were facing liquidity issues but then later backed out of the deal. Zhao said publicly his company was selling its holdings in FTX’s native token, FTT, which exacerbated the collapse of that digital coin, adding to FTX’s downward spiral.

Zhao has said he “did not master plan” the collapse of FTX.

In response to a CNBC question on the sidelines of the CFC St Moritz conference, the Binance CEO said the “actual damage is not that high” on the crypto industry from the FTX collapse. He said FTX “is not a big player, they just make a lot of noise.”

“There’s definitely damage [but] the industry will be fine,” Zhao said.

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Original Post: cnbc.com

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