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Wal-Mart wins 1Q battle over Target; also: UnitedHealth Group, Caribou Coffee

We’ve been spending less money lately on stuff we don’t need, and that’s bad news for Target. Our hometown big-box retailer reported today a “softer-than-expected sales performance” during the first quarter of the year. Profits dropped 7.5 percent, compared with the same three months last year. Target makes about 60 percent of its money on so-called discretionary items. Stock analysts told MarketWatch today that as shoppers rein in their spending, they’re also choosing Wal-Mart for its perceived lower prices. Wal-Mart’s first-quarter profits were up 6.9 percent, compared with last year.

A John McCain presidency might revive
the fortunes of HMOs like Minnetonka-based UnitedHealth Group, claims “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer in his latest New York magazine column. “If you like [McCain’s] chances, you should like WellPoint, Humana, and UnitedHealth Group, too,” Cramer writes. “They’ll get the ten-count under Obama, who views them as a major obstacle to better, cheaper health care.” Does that mean we should read this as an election prediction: Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway company has added 400,000 shares of UnitedHealth to its holdings, according to the Business Journal.

Free coffee! Caribou Coffee recently won the Specialty Coffee Association’s 2008 Roasters Choice Tasting Competition Gold Award for its Ethiopian Organic Yirgacheffe blend. To celebrate, the coffee chain is giving away samples through Wednesday — the award-winning stuff and its “sister blend, the lighter-roasted Ethiopia Sidamo,” according to a press release. The Rainforest Alliance also recently presented Caribou with a Corporate Green Globe Award for its use of Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. 

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