The latest financial statistics from Jewelers Board of Trade offer some encouragement in a tough market. For the first quarter of 2008, the total number of U.S. bankruptcies—combined totals among retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers—declined by 15 percent compared with the first quarter of 2007.

The total number of new retail businesses in the first quarter of 2008 grew slightly, 1.7 percent, over the first quarter of 2007. For retailers, it appears the money is headed south, as all gains in new retail businesses happened in the Sunbelt. New jewelry businesses in the Southwest leaped 150 percent, the South Central region posted a 20 percent gain in new retail businesses, the Southeast a modest 7.1 percent gain. Meanwhile, snow is out—the Northeast, North Central, and Northwest regions all showed significantly higher declines in the number of new jewelry businesses opening this year vs. the same period last year. (Note: These figures indicate the number of new jewelry retail businesses opening in the quarter, not the total number of businesses in the region for the quarter.)

The number of new wholesale businesses grew 60 percent in the same period, but these increases were offset by a decline in the number of new manufacturing businesses, which posted a 75 percent decline from first-quarter 2007 figures. Overall, the number of new jewelry businesses in all three categories declined slightly, by 2.5 percent, in the first quarter of 2008 over the same period of 2007.

JBT reports 9.4 percent fewer claims placed with its collections department in the first quarter of 2008 vs. the same period in 2007, however, the average amount per claim grew 24.6 percent, from $6,583 last year to $8,203 this year.

Total Number of U.S. Jewelry Businesses

Source: Jewelers Board of Trade
Manufacturers 3,400
Wholesalers 4,573
Retailers 22,948

1.6% decrease for petroleum-based energy, with gas prices at $4 a gallon in some areas

The Consumer Price Index, which measures the price of goods and services and serves as an indicator of inflation, showed a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent increase in April. But the big surprise number was a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent decrease for petroleum-based energy, which is hard to believe with gas prices at $4 a gallon in some areas. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, gasoline prices are expected to rise every April, only this year they didn’t rise as much as other years. Although for the first four months of 2008, all items are up 3 percent year-over-year, seasonally adjusted, meaning consumers are still feeling the pinch on their discretionary income.

Spot prices per ounce for key precious metals
[at press time]

Gold $880.50
Silver $16.83
Platinum $2,077.00
Palladium $442.00
Rhodium $9,485.00


Consumer Confidence Index in April, down from 65.9 in March

Source: The Conference Board

10 Stocks to Watch
[For publicly held jewelry companies, at press time]

*at press time, trading at $0.03; notice was given of removal from exchange as of May 22, 2008.
Zale (NYSE: ZLC) $21.49
Signet Group (NYSE: SIG) $14.11; (LSE: SIG.N) £7.18
Tiffany (NYSE: TIF) $47.92
Lazare Kaplan (NYSE: LKI) $9.25
Charles & Colvard (NASDAQ: CTHR) $1.34
House of Taylor (NASDAQ: HOTJ) $0.03*
Finlay Enterprises (NASDAQ: FNLY) $0.68
Richemont S.A. (SWX: RICHEMONT) SF 68.40
Whitehall (OTC BB: WHJH) $0.45
Collectors’ Universe (GCAL, AGL) (NASDQ: CLCT) $9.93