Black Friday Offers “Creep-y” New Sales Trend: Visa Vis your Wallet; Defensive Save for the GDP

On your mark, get set, shop!

Image courtesy of Feelart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Feelart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Black Friday keeps coming sooner and sooner. Expect to see Kohl’s, JC Penney and Macy’s all unlocking their doors while your still trying to pry yourself out of your chair, post turkey. In fact, Kohl’s is opening at six pm, two hours earlier than last year. But that’s nothing compared to Amazon which is starting its Black Friday deals on Saturday. This Saturday, November 1, nearly four weeks before the actual “Black Friday.”  This trend even has a name. It’s called “Black Friday Creep.” How clever, sort of. You can thank the recession we endured a few years ago for all this Thanksgiving retail interruption. Several retailers aren’t too thrilled with their sales forecasts and are hoping those added shopping hours and Thanksgiving day will give their sales a much needed boost. But don’t bother standing on line at Gamestop or Costco. Those companies feel Thanksgiving should be spent with families. However, GameStop will be flinging it’s doors open at midnight. Not sure how that fits into the quality-family-time equation. Costco, however, strongly feels its employees need time with their families and that they work especially hard during the holiday season. So what does that say about how Walmart executives feel about their employees, whose stores will be open all day on Thanksgiving?

Speaking of transactions…

Image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Michelle Meiklejohn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Visa reported its fourth quarter earnings and how do you think the largest credit and debit card company did? I am being rhetorical. The company reported $3.23 billion in revenue, a whopping 9% increase over the same time last year. Analysts expected only $3.19 billion. Net income for the company came in at $1.4 billion which came out to a sweet $2.18 per share. That pretty little figure was 17% higher than last year’s fourth quarter and $0.07 higher than what Wall Street predicted. One of the reasons these numbers are so darn plump has to do with Visa’s growing payment volume. The company processed almost 17 billion transactions with about $1.2 trillion changing hands. Note the use of the “t.”  For the year, the company can already boast almost 70 billion transactions. That’s nothing to sneeze at, I am sure you know. All eyes are always on Visa, which is seen as a barometer of our collective spending habits and other financial aspects of our lives.

Growing, growing not gone…

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Our fourth quarter grew at 3.5%. Economists only predicted a growth rate of 3% How ’bout that? But don’t pop open the champagne just yet because it didn’t grow as much as the previous quarter’s 4.6% rate. But it’s not fair to compare the quarters. After all, we were just coming off a brutal and fiscally inconvenient winter so the economy did have a jump of rebound there. So what kinds of things contributed to this quarter’s growth? One of the big contributors, whose spending frenzy helped growth is the government. Yes, in this case, major government spending proved to actually be healthy for the economy. But it wasn’t just any kind of government spending that sent our GDP into upward glee. For that we need to give a big shout out to defense spending, which played a prominent and much appreciated role in our economy this quarter.

 

 

Facebook Fright; Hershey’s Not So Sweet Earnings; Lowe’s Looking to R2D2 for Inspiration?

Not liking this…

Image courtesy of FrameAngel/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of FrameAngel/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Facebook just can’t be beat. Or can it? Hmmm. For its sixth straight quarter it toppled Wall Street expectations. It’s third quarter pulled in $3.2 billion which was a 59% whopper of an increase over last year’s equally impressive $2 billion. Wall Street analysts predicted only $3.1 billion. Ha! What do they know. Even its daily active users are up 19% to 864 million. I bet Twitter wouldn’t mind seeing some digits like that. Apparently 30% of us get caught up on our current events via Facebook. Then Facebook earned a hefty $0.43 per share, $0.03 more than what was expected. So how, you ask (and I know you are), is it even remotely possible that the stock took an 11% dive today? For that we can thank Facebook CFO David Wehner, who said some rather fiscally upsetting things during the company’s earnings call. For instance, Facebook costs will increase by a not so modest 55%-75%. Wall Street doesn’t care for stuff like cost increases. It tends to put a damper on things. If the cost increases weren’t upsetting enough, Mr. Wehner also had the audacity to spook Wall Street by mentioning that revenue will slow down. Yikes.

Not sweet on this…

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The second largest, publicly traded confectioner just reported its earnings and you can bet they weren’t nearly as sweet as Facebook’s (but then again, what is?). I am talking about Hershey’s of course, maker of everybody’s favorite something or other. For me it’s the classic bar with almonds. Just saying. As for Hershey’s earnings, sales were up 6%. I am sure I assisted in that. Its market share stands at an impressive 31%, having grown .2% this quarter, yet again. But the company sadly missed analysts’ estimates. First of all, the company had revenues of $1.96 billion, which many would find to be a very respectable number. But not for Wall Street who strongly felt that revenue for Hershey’s should have been $1.97 billion. Yes missing that $10 million was kind of a drag. Then there was the earnings per share issue. The candy company gained $1.05 per share. Yet that wasn’t enough to satisfy Wall Street’s craving for $1.08 per share.

How’s that for customer service?

Image courtesy of digital art/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digital art/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Attention humans: Your employment days might be numbered, thanks to Lowe’s. The home-improvement/hardware chain is testing out the use of robots to help customers in its stores. If you happen to be in San Jose, California, you might want to check out four of the new R2D2 wannabes, dubbed OSHbots at the Orchard Supply Hardware. No word on how much this little endeavor is costing and its cost effectiveness over real people. Lowe’s stock, however, is up 11% for the year, so far. Equipped with 3D cameras, screens and other doodads and knick-knacks, the OSHbots can help you find whatever it is you are looking for in the store. Just not an actual human being.

Analysts Not Atwitter Over Twitter; Apple and Alibaba Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore; No Seven Year Itch for Consumer Confidence

Tweetered out…

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Twitter earnings were all the rage yesterday. However, they weren’t much more than that. The micro-blogging site posted better than expected numbers for its third quarter revenue. But that $361 million figure and $0.01 profit the social media site pulled in was just not enough to turn Wall Street’s attention away from the negative, which is: slow user growth. Analysts are more than a bit concerned that it lacks a certain something. That something being broad mainstream appeal. While user growth was up to 284 million from 271 million in the second quarter, the pace at which it grew was simply too slow. It also doesn’t help that actual usage –  as in people who were already members – slowed as well. Users are just not spending as much time On Twitter as analysts would like. Basically, analysts feel that…I hate to say it…that it’s just not Facebook. There. I’ve said it. Don’t hate me for it.

No fear of commitment…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What happens when a US tech giant and a Chinese e-commere giant start gushing all over each other? Well for one, the e-commerce giant hits a pricey milestone. In this case, I’m talking about Alibaba topping the $100 mark yesterday all because of talk of potential. Really. As in the potential for things to happen. At the WSJD global tech conference, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alibaba CEO Jack Ma entertained a little lovefest over each other and the potential opportunities that could potentially occur from potential partnerships from the two companies – particularly with regard to Apple Pay. All this talk of potential set Wall Street tongues wagging. Jack Ma said of Apple and Cook, “I hope we can do something together.” How touching. How touching that the mere “hope” of something coming out of a union between Apple and Alibaba caused stock prices to increase. But Tim Cook took the gushing to new heights when he said of Jack Ma and Alibaba, “We’re going to talk about getting married later this week.” How potentially beautiful.

It’s all about the confidence, baby…

Image courtesy of sheelamohan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sheelamohan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Feeling confident, are we? Well, actually we are, at least according to the handy dandy Consumer Confidence Conference Index, that good old barometer of all things fiscally confident, (or lack thereof). October’s reading was a very robust 94.5, which just so happens to be the highest reading in seven years and a far cry from September’s paltry 89. Experts had expected a number in the 86 range, but what do they know? Actually a lot, but let’s move on. So what exactly is making us so confident these day? It’s the not so little things like a strong labor market and low gas prices. If those things aren’t enough to boost your self-esteem, then I don’t know what is. Now if we could just keep riding this fiscal wave…

 

Brazil Companies Bananas for Chiquita: Another Valeant Effort for Allergan?; Cruisin for an iBruisin’

Top banana…

Image courtesy of Aduldej/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Aduldej/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As you were sitting at the edge of your seat waiting for weeks now to find out who would be victorious in the corporate battle to acquire Chiquita (yes – the banana people), you can now relax as a winner has emerged. Actually two of them. Brazilian companies, The Safra Group and Cutrale Group, both of which happened to be owned by two of the wealthiest men in Brazil, scooped up the fresh fruit seller to the ripe number of $681 million. But, alas, what became of Irish company Fyffes, who was also bidding on Chiquita, and which many thought would get the fresh fruit company? Well, it wasn’t the luck of the Irish but rather the votes of the shareholders who preferred the Brazilians’ offer. You see Fyffes was offering up stock in exchange for Chiquita. But with Safra/Cutrale’s offer, shareholders get to see more cash up front. And who doesn’t like a little cash up front? Besides, the inversion appeal of Fyffes wasn’t going to net Chiquita all that much to make the transaction worthwhile for Chiquita. But don’t feel too bad for Fyffes. The Irish firm stands to gain a break up fee worth as much as $23 million.

Ironing out the wrinkles…

Image courtesy of artemisphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artemisphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Canadian company Valeant Pharmaceuticals still so very badly wants to takeover Irvine, California-based Allergan. And why not? Allergan makes everybody’s favorite wrinkle-smasher Botox. Allergan also happens to make Latisse, another invaluable, behind the counter, yet highly-essential beauty cosmetic, in my opinion. It also helps that Allergan reported net income of $312.5 million on $1.8 billion in revenue. The stock nearly doubled over the past year. In fact, Valeant wants Allergan so so so badly, that it is once again upping its offer from $179 per share to around $200 per share. And if it has to happen hostilely, then so be it. Which it probably will, mind you. A  “special” shareholder’s meeting is taking place on December 18 where replacing board members will be the theme of the day (in particular, the ones opposing Valeant’s offer). Besides Valeant, Bill Ackman, of Pershing Square Capital Management LP would also like to see a “few” changes made to Allergan’s board as he has a hefty stake in the Botox-making company and would be tickled pink to see Allergan gobbled up by Valeant.

Maybe it’s not you after all…

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Technology is grand. But maybe not so much in your new car. At least according to Consumer Reports 2014 Annual Auto Reliability Survey. Turns out all those really cool super awesome electronic features that you absolutely have to have are putting a damper on the overall quality of your ride. There are 23 million of us out there who have internet “savvy” cars. By 2020, that number will hit 152 million users. But the problem now, in 2014, is that in-car electronics defects logged the most complaints in 17 categories of the survey. In fact, the problem was called, ahem, “a growing first year reliability plague.” Ouch. Drivers start to question the overall quality of their vehicles when electronic issues begin to arise. Want the most reliable car? Lexus took the number one spot. The Infiniti Q50 sedan, however, took a big hit plunking down to the number 20 spot.

 

 

Swiss Market Offers Up Fascism With Coffee; GM Earnings Put the Brakes on Recall Issues; Airline Industry Earnings Show No Signs of Ebola

How do the Swiss say “Oops”?

Image courtesy of amenic181/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of amenic181/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Migros, a major Swiss supermarket, is having a bad, embarrassing week. All because of some coffee cream containers. Except they weren’t just any coffee cream containers, unless of course you’re used to seeing Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini gracing food packaging. “Usually the labels have pleasant images like trains, landscapes and dogs,” a spokesperson said. Yeah. Just not today. I guess someone’s getting fired. Migros called it an “unforgivable blunder” when customers began to complain about the portraits of murderous fascists glaring back at them faces as they poured cream into their coffee. Migros, however, is blaming a subsidiary that designed the series of 55 motifs that ended up in scores of restaurants, cafes and kiosks.

Recall debacle? What recall debacle?

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Despite its disastrous mess of a year, thanks to its ignition switch recall, auto company GM still managed to crank out some insanely impressive earnings. Apparently the U.S. and China are either very forgiving or willing to look past the all company’s scandals and recalls because strong sales in those regions helped GM rake in $1.38 billion or $0.81 per share. Those numbers are nearly double the $698 million $0.45 per share earnings the company hauled in last year at this time. Over 880,000 GM vehicle were sold in North America alone. Russia and Europe weren’t feeling the love for the US car company but no worries because worldwide the company sold close to 2.5 million vehicles. But it’s those trucks I tell you, that consumers are totally digging as GM carries a 24% market share of those babies.

You are free to roam about the cabin…

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Their passengers may not always be healthy but their profits sure are. Indeed the airline industry as a whole has been seeing solid earnings across the board and it’s not their lucky stars they can thank but rather the price of fuel, which as I mentioned yesterday has been going down. JetBlue, Souhwest and United Airlines all rocked their earnings announcements. Even American Airlines added another record quarter of  $942 million, way over the $289 million it pulled in last year at this time. The airline also reported a staggering $11.1 billion in revenue. Considering my awful experiences on American Airlines, those numbers are nothing short of miraculous. As for Ebola scaring off travelers? Well, it’s not. ‘Nuff said.

 

Inflation Elation; Home Sweet Home Loans; Feeling 1.7 % More Secure

Get your motors running…

Image courtesy of kongsky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of kongsky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief now that the numbers are telling us how stuff like inflation and the cost to live on this planet, at least our part of it, didn’t really change, as in go up, down etc. Well, it did. Slightly. But nothing that would require any action from those money experts at the Federal Reserve. This means interest rates get to stay nice and low.  For now, anyways. But it should be duly noted that the Feds would prefer to see inflation actually go up. A bit, anyways. Because apparently that would be healthier for the economy, according to people who qualify as experts. What has also become a rather pleasant occurrence is the price of gas these days, which has been going down to an average of $3.09 per gallon. Now who doesn’t love a drop in gas prices? Never a bad thing, in my most humble opinion.

The rates are falling! The rates are falling!

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Look out for new neighbors with mortgage rates falling down all over the place.  According to the very insightful index of the very insightful Mortgage Bankers Association, or MBA for those in the know, all these new nifty low borrowing costs have resulted in a major increase in mortgage applications. We’re talking an 11.6% increase in applications. Numbers that big haven’t been seen since January. The week before saw a 5.6% increase. Thinking of going for the plunge on a 30 year fixed loan? Well those rates went down to 4.1%. Or perhaps you are mulling over a 15 year fixed rate mortgage? The interest rates on those babies dropped to 3.28%.

Social security butterfly…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case you will be wondering (and why wouldn’t you be?) what happened to over 6.2% of your paycheck towards the end of fiscal 2015, look no further than the Social Security tax. Around 10 million Americans will be shelling out over $7,300 towards that “fund” next year. The cap on that figure, by the way, is $118,500 for 2015. Fret not, taxpayer as that is but a mere 1.3% increase over 2014’s $117,000 cap. But wait, there’s more. The millions upon millions of retirees receiving social security benefits will receive  1.7% fatter checks in 2015 thanks to the Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA , for those in the know (and not to be confused with any beverages, mind you). For the average retiree, that amounts to about $22 more per month on a monthly check of $1,328. If you think that number is, shall we say, unimpressive, then consider the fact that in 2010 and 2011 there was a 0% increase. Z-E-R-O.

Breach of Staples; McBummer Earnings; Coke’s Earnings Fizzing Out

You can’t take my stapler…

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now let us welcome Staples into the not-so-exclusive-ranks of the breached – data breached, that is. The world’s largest office supply supplier becomes the latest corporate cyber-attack victim. The company is currently conducting an investigation after banks began noticing a strange pattern of fraudulent activity among a specific group of consumers, presumably ones who have swiped their plastic at Staples. Before Staples, Sears was making headlines for its data breach. But no word yet if this breach will be as epically huge as those that Home Depot and Target had to endure.

This meal’s not so happy…

Image courtesy of KEKO64/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of KEKO64/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Despite its best efforts to wage breakfast wars and valiant campaigns against pink-slime infested meat, McDonald’s third quarter earnings had no beef to stand on. Revenue, shares and all those fiscal details that make up a Big Mac were nothing short of dismal with earnings tanking 30%. The fast food chain pulled in a $1.07 billion profit which might seem nice, at first. But when you consider that McDonald’s earned $1.52 billion a year earlier then it’s easy to see why the earnings were particularly McLousy. CEO Don Thompson also blamed “unusual events” in Europe and Asia for the bummer quarter. Perhaps he was referring to that pesky “expired meat” issue in China. Or maybe all that stuff with Russia. But let’s not forget to also point the finger at those Millennials who have the nerve to prefer healthier, higher-quality alternatives like those being offered up at Panera and Chipotle (which, by the way, had a really great quarter).

Cola’s going flat…

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apparently not enough consumers are sharing a Coke as evidenced by Coa Cola’s just released earnings that seemed to have lost their bubbles. In fact, it’s lost the most in six years. Profits fizzed out 14% with net income down to $2.1 billion. A year ago people were still drinking Coca Cola to the net income tune of $2.4 billion. Revenue was but a mere $11.97 billion. Sounds like a lot, huh? Well, Wall Street would have preferred more. Like more than $2 billion.  So what gives? Apparently consumers are turning to healthier alternatives and Coca Cola is still in the midst of improving and expanding its healthier alternatives.