UPS Gets Hacked; Dollar Store Battles: Short on Glamour, Long on Drama; Housing Hits It

Do I need to sign for that?

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

UPS now joins that distnguished, tadly crowded field of hacking victims. Between January 20 and August 11, over 100,000 transcations may have been affected by a data breach. But lucky for UPS that it is nothing like the Target behemoth, whose own data breach affected some 70 million customers. That’s because UPS stores are not interconnected, but rather individually owned. Hence, of the over 4,500 UPS locations, only a little over 50 stores in 24 states were affected. How convenient. Sort of. Anyways, UPS, which now became the 58th largest company, taking out a not-so-smug-anymore Eli-Lilly & Co., will offer customers affected by the breach free credit monitoring and identity theft protection for a whole year. How convenient. Sort of. Anyways, after that you’re on your own.

The buck stops here…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the drama-packed world of dollar stores, the latest episode has Family Dollar rejecting a $9 billion buyout offer from Dollar General. Instead, the dollar chain store is thought to be seriously considering another offer from contender Dollar Tree not so much because it’s offering more money – because it is not. Dollar Tree offered only $8.5 billion. Rather, because the deal from Dollar Tree would likely allow Family Dollar CEO Howard Levine to keep his day job. The deal from Dollar General would probably have Levine taking LinkedIn resume workshops by now. Apparently there are also some anti-trust issues associated with a deal from Dollar General. Allegedly. Back in June, activist investor Carl Icahn had a hefty 9.4% stake in Family Dollar. These days his stake is around 3.6%. What that tells us could be a lot. Or nothing at all. But probably a lot. And while all this talk about dollar stores might seem funny to you, just know that there is nothing funny about the tens of BILLIONS in cash that these discount stores rake in.

Home sweet affordable home…

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s been an exciting July. Maybe not for you. But for the housing market it sure has been. And yes, the words housing market and excitement can go hand in hand, especially since July marks the fourth straight month that existing home sales increased – a sure sign that the housing market is headed in the right – up – direction. Unfortunately, as I have written several times, the housing recovery just hasn’t been happening quick enough. Sure, sales were up 2.4%, but that percentage is still way down from where it should be in a truly healthy market. Right now, it’s like the housing recovery is at the end stages of a cold, still some coughing and a slightly runny nose.  However, home construction surged a very impressive  15.7%. That and the fact that interest rates are low and there’s more inventory coming up should make for an equally riveting August. We hope.

BofA Boffo Payout; Nyet to Big Macs; and HP’s Big Little Surprise

Would you like that in small bills?

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bank of America just set a new record but they probably wont be bragging about this particular accomplishment. The bank officially (as of tomorrow, anyways) holds the dubious distinction of having to pay the largest settlement ever to settle a number of allegations brought by Federal and state authorities over its sales of mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. That magical number weighs in at a monstrous $17 billion easily surpassing the paltry $13 billion that JP Morgan Chase had to pay to settle similar allegations. The money will be divided with $7 billion going towards consumer relief and the rest going towards paying back Uncle Sam for all the misery it caused. But that’s not all. As part of the deal, BofA actually has to admit – ADMIT – wrongdoing. Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch will also be held to the task as the bulk of bad mortgages came courtesy of them when BofA acquired them in 2008. Of course no actual heads will roll. Or will they? One Los Angeles US attorney filed a civil suit against Countrywide co-founder Angelo Mozilo. While BofA must not have been too happy about the settlement, Wall Street sure was as shares of the bank took a little climb following the news.

No need to supersize that just yet…

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You know Russia is royally ticked off at the US when McDonalds starts to suffer. Of course that wasn’t the official line coming out of the Kremlin, mind you. But it is true that four McDonald’s in Moscow were just shuttered for “sanitary reasons.”  One of the “temporarily” shuttered eateries happens to have been one of the most frequented McD’s in the world. In fact, Russia is one of the biggest markets for McDonalds. When asked if the closures had anything to do with the sanctions, officials referred to the “sanitary” statement without actually answering the question. Hmmm. However, there are still well over 430 McDonalds in Russia. For now, anyways.

Surprise surprise…

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jannoon028/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

HP surprised everyone today, perhaps even itself, as it reported increased revenue in its earnings. While it was a modest 1% gain, it was nothing to scoff at. The increase was due in large part to its personal computer division which took in a plump 12% increase. The company is currently undergoing a major overhaul. Which is kind of ironic as my brand new HP laptop (I purchased it in February) is also undergoing a major overhaul at Geek Squad headquarters –  that is after already spending lots of quality phone time with several Geek Squad technicians over the last few months – but I digress. Profits came in at just under a billion which might seem impressive. But it’s not since last year at this time the HP reported $1.4 billion in profits.

 

 

Bieber Fever Doesn’t Smell Like Profit; Home Depot Keeps Improving on Wall Street; and Dick’s Sporting Goods Scores Without Golf

What’s that smell?

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Justin Bieber isn’t as marketable as previously thought. Oddly enough neither is Taylor Swift. And Nicki Minaj and…Celebrity fragrances put a major crimp in sales at Elizabeth Arden causing its shares to drop 24% on news of its stinky earnings. In fact, the company hasn’t seen earnings this bad since August of 2010. Hmmm. How old was the Beebs then? The drop in sales for celebrity fragrances was even bigger than expected. While the company pulled in $191.7 million in sales, expectations were over $241 million. That’s a big stininking gap, alright. Shares of Elizabeth Arden dropped $1.04 per share which was almost three times the loss that was predicted. That’s on top of the fact that shares already dropped 58% this year. Yikes. But the comapny has plans this year to focus on stabilizing its business – which I can only assume means less Justin Bieber.

Earnings beat…

Image courtesy of Kookkai_nak/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Kookkai_nak/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On the heels of yesterday’s good news about the improving  housing sector, Home Depot came out with earnings today that easily beat analysts’ expectations. The nations largest home improvement company pulled in $23.8 billion in second quarter revenue, an almost 6% increase from this time last year. Wall Street expected a mere $23.5 billion. The company also pulled in net income of $2.1 billion, gaining $1.52 a share, and coming  in $.08 above expectations. By George,  that’s more than a 22% increase over the same time last year. While some feel that Home Depot’s earning’s success is tied to improvements in the housing market, others feel Home Depot would have gone up no matter what. So there.

Fly away birdie…

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dick’s Sporting Goods announced its earnings with some mixed results. The company pulled in $1.7 billion in second quarter revenue, which happens to be a 10% increase over the same time last year. The company also scored a $69.5 million profit. Sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately that figure was more than 17% less than the same time last year. However, the sporting goods chain did gain $.67 per share, instead of the predicted $.65 per share. So where is all this money coming from anyways? Well it’s not coming from golf. And hunting. But definitely not golf.  It is coming from women’s and youth apparel.  The company consolidated its golf division which also includes its Golf Galaxy chain, and yeah, some people were given their walking papers with this “restructuring.” But at least it will free them up a little to play some profit-sucking golf while pondering their next career move.

GM Gets Buffet-ed, Great Earnings Are Beautiful and Missed Earnings = Score for Killer Whales

Warren Buffet auto know…

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s no denying GM had nothing short of a disastrous year. Not quite as disastrous as it was for the victims of their faulty ignition switches, of course. But as far as Wall Street was concerned their earnings were a fiscal nightmare (and deservedly so for not being on its safety “A” game). But despite GM’s lousy earnings and even lousier – make that non-existent profits – Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA) holding company picked up 3 million shares of the embattled auto maker, according to an SEC regulatory filing. Laugh all you want but they don’t call him the Oracle of Omaha for nothing. The stock is at what you would call a “discount” and Warren Buffet loves himself a good discount. The man knows a thing or two about investing, seeing as how his company’s stock just hit  $200,00 a share. He also happens to think GM CEO Mary Barra is friggin’ awesome. Just don’t expect a quick turn-around as Mr. Buffet is known for holding onto stocks for the long-term. And in this case, that term might just be longer than usual.

Make-up retail wake-up….

Image courtesy of keakguru/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of keakguru/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apparently the quest for beauty is well…priceless. Estée Lauder Companies Inc. released really good and very attractive earnings, especially considering lots of other retailers posted less than glamorous earnings and the US Department of Commerce reported that July retail sales were virtually flat, effectively spooking plenty on Wall Street. Estée Lauder Companies Inc. also owns MAC, Clinique and La Mer (famous as much for the cost of its products as it is for the products themselves). The $28 billion make-up company pulled in $2.73 billion in revenues. Wall Street clearly underestimated the love for make-up and had pegged estimates at $2.66 billion. As for net income – it more than doubled coming up to $257.7 million. The company’s guidance also expects some nice growth hopefully adding a little height to a very unsightly, flattened retail graph.

A whale of tale…

Image courtesy of bandrat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bandrat/FreeDigitalsPhotos.net

Nothing like some bad earnings to get killer whales some new and much bigger digs. Following its really bad earnings the other day, with shares of SeaWorld falling 35%, the amusement park company is pledging $10 million for killer whale research and ocean health. Its CEO is also hoping that doubling the size of its Orca tanks will attract more people to its park and boost revenue. SeaWorld attributed some of its losses to the unflattering film “Blackfish” which SeaWorld called a “propaganda film. Two California lawmakers are hoping get a ban on killer whale performances. Of course PETA entered the fray telling whoever that a “bigger prison is still a prison.”

It’s Worth How Much?! Coca Cola Gets Energized and Not Banking on Terrorism

Buy high, sell higher…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

They don’t call him the Oracle of Omaha for nothing. Shares of Berkshire Hathaway, helmed by the prescient Warren Buffet, hit a new, very high, milestone. For the first time shares of the most expensive stock trading in New York hit and even surpassed the $200,000 mark going up to $201,720 a share. Yep. For a couple hundred grand you too can own a single share of Berkshire Hathaway. Mr. Buffet feels that by not splitting the stock, as most companies would have done by now, Berkshire Hathaway gets a better class of investor. By better, he means investors who are more focused on long-term results, rather than other investors who make emotional trades. My emotions would be very happy to own a few of those shares. If you were looking for a more wallet-friendly option, you could always buy B class shares of Berkshire Hathaway which trade at a little over $130.  Berkshire Hathaway’s earnings, by the way, pulled in $6.4 billion in profits. Why, that’s almost a $3,900 gain per share – for the A class shares.

Enjoy a Coke…with a Monster Beverage

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Coca Cola (KO:US) just got a bit more monstrous now that it picked up an almost 17% stake in Monster Beverage (MNST:US) for over $2 billion. It’s all part of Coca Cola’s grand plan to take equity stakes in companies that have new emerging promising brands. In May, Coca Cola did a similar move with Keurig Green Mountain Inc. Shares of Monster Beverage went up 26% to around $90 a share. Not quite Warren Buffet territory but still not too shabby.

Would you like that in small bills?

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jordan-based Arab Bank is not sitting pretty in court as it stands accused of being one of the official banking institutions for terrorism. Not exactly the kind of clientele you want associated with your bank. A lawyer for a group of American terror victims said the bank funneled lots of money ear-marked under a file labeled “martyr operations” for certain designees related to terrorists and suicide bombers. These files contained a list of people who were slated to receive $5,300 a pop (definitely no pun intended). Lawyers for the bank, however, argue that the bank followed all regulations and none of the names listed were flagged by any international law enforcement organization. That probably had more to do with the fact the names linked to accounts were (intentionally?) misspelled. The transactions took place at branches in the West Bank and Gaza and the list came from the Saudi Committee for Supporting Al Quds Intifada. Arab Bank now holds the dubious distinction of being the first bank on trial under Anti-Terrorism Act.

Not-So-Splashy Earnings for SeaWorld, Retails Fails and Cisco’s Mixed Messages

Tanked…

Image courtesy of tor00722/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tor00722/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shares of SeaWorld (SEAS) appear to be evaporating by 33% today after the amusement park company forecasted a decline of 6-7% with a lot of help from the very unflattering docu-drama “Blackfish.” The film, which takes a look at how killer whales in captivity are treated, seemed to put a damper on traffic to SeaWorld, especially at its San Diego location. The film had its debut just two months before SeaWorld’s IPO. Coincidence? Hmm. This marks the first time “Blackfish” has actually been mentioned with respect to SeaWorld’s earnings. Wall Street had predicted the company would pull in revenues of $447 million. But no such luck as revenues came in closer to the $405 million mark. To make matters worse, revenue was $415 million this time last year.

July retail blues…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when things were starting to look up, leave it to the month of July to put a damper on our fiscal spirits. That’s because, according to the US Commerce Department, US retail sales disappointed. How much did they disappoint? Well…they flat-lined. Sales flatlined despite jobs growth. Yes all that exciting job growth that we have been seeing the last few months could not pull July out of its lousy retail funk. Apparently, even all those people cashing in all their brand new employment checks still need a bit more time before they decide to part with their funds. The other little issue at play is that even though sales did grow in the clothing, personal care and, of course, groceries categories, those gains were offset by losses in other retail sectors. Let’s just hope (and spend) that this was a minor hiccup in a major fiscal recovery and not some evil sign of things to come.

Speaking of unemployment numbers…

Image courtesy of xedos4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of xedos4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

IT provider Cisco came out with its fourth quarter earnings and actually beat analysts’ estimates. The company pulled in about $12.4 billion in fourth quarter revenue while Wall Street expected $12.1 billion. But. There’s always a but isn’t there? This one is about the company also announcing its plans to cut 8% of its workforce. In case you were wondering, that translates to 6,000 soon-to-be ex Cisco employees who will need to redo their LinkedIn profiles.

Not So Sweet Earnings, Uber-Lyfting and Not So Spade-tacular

Crushed by Wall Street…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

King Digital Entertainment Plc., as you may have heard, is the maker of Candy Crush Saga, the game in which you have apparently lost interest, at least judging by its just released earnings. The mobile game maker missed expectations for its second quarter sales and its daily average users (you, me etc) took a major hit as this quarter saw about 138 million gamers while last quarter 143 million users were depleting their cellphone batteries playing games. The Dublin-based company has been watching its stock deflate by 19% since its much anticipated March debut of $22.50 a share. Net income rose to over $165 million from around $126 million a year earlier. Revenue for the company was over $593 million when $606 million was the number Wall Street wanted to see. And if you are amongst the chosen few, expect to see nice little “special” one time $150 million dividend. “Special” not because you are a high scorer on level 266, but special because you are among the directors, execs and investors. What? You’re not one of them?

Ride-Sharing Service smackdown…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s Uber vs. Lyft in the ultimate ride-sharing smackdown. The two companies have been hard at work making thousands of  reservations and canceling them on each other. They have been even harder at work blaming one another. Uber’s got about 177 employees who are being accused of booking and canceling over 5000 rides on Lyft. But apparently Lyft upped the ante by booking 13,000 trips. Also at play is the allegation that Lyft’s investors are trying to get Uber to buy Lyft. Hmmm. Too much time on their hands, I wonder?

Un-trending?

Image courtesy of John Kasawa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of John Kasawa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kate Spade, once dubbed the poor girl’s Prada has had an interesting Wall Street ride. The stock fell 23% on the very untrendy news that sales for the brand are slowing down. Oddly enough, revenue for the company was up a very healthy 49% to $266 million, easily topping Wall Street’s expectations of $243 million and easily trumping last year’s revenue of $178.9 million. And the stock lost only $4.4 million compared with last year when the brand ate over $43 million in losses. But on Wall Street, especially for a brand like Kate Spade, it’s all about the future and in this case it’s not as cheerful as the brand’s accessories.