Can You Afford Not to Care? Gettin Riggy With It and McCoffee=McFree

Do you even (Obama) care?

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case you haven’t heard, though judging by the media bombardment I don’t know how that would even be possible, today is the very last day to sign up for open enrollment of Obamacare…whoops! I meant affordable health care on Healthcare.gov. It should be duly noted, however, that after passing the Affordable Care Act, I have yet to speak to anyone who finds their health care remotely affordable. If you’re just now getting around to it then good luck. You’re going to need it. Earlier today the site was down for almost four hours. Fraught with a variety of glitches, Healthcare.gov enrollees encountered a “virtual waiting room” while others were told to leave their email addresses and would get “invited back” to enroll. I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Then there were lots more who couldn’t even log on to the site. Oh so many many jokes and so very little time. I would love to hear some of yours. If you think the tax penalty is way more affordable than the alleged affordable care – $95 per adult and $47.50 per child –  just know that the penalty could also be 1% of your applicable income which can translate to a very unaffordable number for you.

The Stock Market’s what?!

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Stock market’s rigged,” says author Michael Lewis, whose explosive new book “Flash Boys” accuses a group of Wall Street insiders of rigging the stock market. “Flash Boys” tells the story of how high-frequency traders make billions via computerized trading. But how is this trading different from all other trading? For instance, these flash traders, are able to manipulate the market by figuring out what you’re going to buy, drive the price up and then sell it to you. Kind of like fortune telling except the fortunes are real (and so is the telling, for that matter) and you’re not the one making the fortune. All this takes place in seconds – actually less. But is it legal? Yes, but only because it’s so complicated. If it weren’t so complicated, it probably wouldn’t be allowed. Go that? Neither did I.

Bring on the McBattle…

Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cbenjasuwan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It matters not how you feel about McDonald’s but rather how you feel about coffee since they are giving it away in April. It’s part of the first-ever National Free Coffee Event. It’s also probably part of the National Fast-Food Breakfast Wars (I made that one up) as McDonald’s and Taco Bell battle it out to feed you in the mornings. Taco Bell has a new breakfast menu that they’ve been heavily promoting and McD’s is a bit worried about it (not that they’ll ever admit that). So to take a big bite out of that south of the border momentum, McD’s is hoping to lure you with free coffee and then reel you in for breakfast. But you better hurry for your McD’s buzz as the promotion ends April 31.

Big Spenders? Wal-Mart/Visa Smackdown and Back In BlackBerry?

Consumer spending…It’s electric…

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Oh consumers, how you’ve been spending. It’s always a good thing when Americans spend spend spend. The economy grows and everyone is happy…sort of. Yes, the economy did grow by a mere .3%. And that does make Wall Street spend-happy. But the big question is on what exactly have consumers been spending their hard earned money ? The answer: Services. Not services for your Tesla or on mud facials and goldfish pedicures but rather services that provide you with electricity and water. Yes, the bulk of consumer spending lately has gone toward paying utility bills. Not exactly riveting stuff but at least it’s something.

Say it isn’t so, Visa…

Image courtesy of hin255/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hin255/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Two of the biggest companies this side of the Atlantic are about to go at it and things will get ugly. Mega retailer Wal- Mart filed a $5 billion civil suit against credit card company Visa accusing it of all kinds of naughty things. Wal-Mart says Visa is guilty of violating anti-trust laws like conspiring with banks to illegally fix and inflate swiping fees. Back in 2012 Visa and MasterCard had to fork over $7 billion to settle similar allegations with other retailers. Don’t think this has nothing to do with you. Those fees get passed on to the consumers – and have been costing a mind-blowing $350 billion – none of which can go towards paying utility bills.

Remember the time we had those rally great BlackBerries?

Image courtesy of James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of James Barker/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maybe the only blackberries you’ve been into lately have come from the produce section but remember the smartphone BlackBerry? Remember how having one virtually guaranteed your place in the universe? Nowadays having a BlackBerry may still determine your place in the universe – only it’d be at the wrong end. My how the tide has shifted.  Big news from the company, however. Wall Street predicted they’d lose $0.56 per share but wouldn’t ya know it – the company only lost $0.08 a share. Boom! And wouldn’t ya know it again? Shares of the stock started to go up because the analysts’ prediction was so far short of accurate. Double boom! CEO John Chen put in some new cost-cutting measures trying to morph BlackBerry into a software company while scrapping the smartphone component. Sadly, for BlackBerry anyway, it was the first time since 2007 that the company’s revenue fell under $1 billion.

Citigroup Just Can’t Handle the Stress, Microtastic! and Turning Lululemon Into Lemonade

Citigroup fail!

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shares of Citigroup fell 5% today because it failed the Federal Reserve’s “Stress Test.” The US government feels Citigroup has “a number of deficiencies” and wouldn’t be able to handle another economic downturn, like the one from 2008 that keeps rearing its ugly face. The Fed also doesn’t want to have to bail Citigroup out  – again. The Fed has what they call “qualitative concerns” about Citigroup and some other banks that have over $50 billion in assets. For people like you and me that means they need more money on which to fall back should economic disaster strike and they need to up their business practices A game. They have ninety days to fix these problems. Or else….I don’t know what else. I guess they just get another deadline. Other banks that also failed the stress test include HSBC North America, RBS Citizens Financial Group and Santander Holdings USA.

iPad…therefore iMicrosoft…

Image courtesy of twobee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of twobee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

iPad users the world over can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Microsoft Office for the iPad has arrived. Phew! Microsoft chief Satya Nadella finally FINALLY made the big announcement today. But apparently Wall Street knew way before and was very excited because shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) began climbing last week. Probably the $1.4 billion in projected revenue helped the Street’s enthusiasm. You can go to the Apple App store and get the free download. But if you actually want to create and edit, you’re going to have to purchase an Office 365 subscription.

These lemons aren’t so sour after all…

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lululemon Athletica clearly has some great karma. Despite hitting a major snag this year with see-through yoga pants, the athletic wear company struck its best warrior pose and beat Wall Street’s fourth quarter estimates by going up 7%. Lululemon (NASDAQ:LULU) sales hit $521 million when it was expected to only reach $515 million. Newcomer CEO Laurent Potdevin, who also worked at TOM’s and Burton Snowboards, has big plans for bringing Lululemon to the rest of the world. Wall Street loves talk of expansion, especially global expansion. And it also loves it when companies beat expectations.

Why Is This Coin Different From All Other Coins, It Was the Cover-Up, Stupid and Literacy Literally Pays Off

All is not certain in bitcoin EXCEPT taxes…

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bitcoin, the hottest most talked about virtual currency since..well, ever, has been officially deemed NOT a currency. According to the taxman, bitcoins are property, for tax purposes anyway, and will be treated as such. Instead, the IRS defines crypto-currency as “convertible currency” which probably sounds a lot cooler than it actually is. Got a virtual stash of coins? You could – if you really wanted to – exchange them for US dollars and you wouldn’t have to worry about them being taxed as a foreign currency gain or loss. If you trade the coins, expect a capital gains tax. If your paycheck is being paid with bitcoins (I guess that’s a thing now), that information needs to be reported on your W-2.  And if your accountant is not bitcoin savvy, then get a new accountant.

In the grand Ponzi scheme of things…

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sdmania/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It comes as no great surprise that Bernie Madoff did not single-handedly pull off one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in history. Yesterday five of his former employees were finally convicted of a very very very long list of offenses, including conspiracy to commit fraud. US Attorney Preet Bharara said “These defendants each played an important role in carrying out the charade, propping it up and concealing it from regulators, auditors, taxing authorities, lenders and investors.” Now it’s up to a judge to determine their prison sentences which could last decades. Something tells me they wont be missed.

It pay$ to read…

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There was a reason why you were always encouraged to READ READ READ and today that mantra might literally pay off for you – but only if you are a regular e-book subscriber. Turns out a court ruled that publishers were a tad bit greedy by inflating prices and taking advantage of avid e-readers like you. So to make it up to you, or rather reimburse you, you can expect a credit. Are you one of the lucky recipients of the $166 million settlement? Check your account and details of the settlement at www.sagsettlements.com.

Get Your Candy Game On, You Bet Icahn and Cisco Wants Some Cloud Cover

Sweet sweet news…

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As you’re waiting to get some new lives on Candy Crush know that the New Stock Exchange is about to get a whole lot sweeter this week. King Digital, the maker behind the insanely popular game, Candy Crush Saga, is set to make its Wall Street debut on Wednesday. A single share – of the 15.5 million being offered – could fetch as much as $24. The company is expecting to net about $326 million off the IPO. King Digital made about $1.88 billion in 2013 – ten times more than it did the previous year. After you’re done reading today’s post, assuming you’re still waiting for those lives to kick in, check out King Digital’s new, equally addictive and very similar new game Cookie Jam. Sorry Android users, but you’ll have to wait a bit longer for that one to hit your marketplace.

In this week’s episode of the Herbalife saga…

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The smackdown continues between billionaire Carl Icahn and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman. Icahn nominated three new board members who “are made of a much harder metal and mettle than those being replaced,” according to Robert Chapman, Herbalife investor at Chapman Capital LLC. Ackman is convinced Herbalife is nothing short of a pyramid scheme and bet against it in 2012. Icahn disagrees. Vehemently.  And now Mr. Icahn is toying with the idea of suing Mr. Ackman and his Pershing Square Capital Management for spreading not nice things that simply aren’t true, according to Mr. Icahn. The mood at the company has been described as a war zone. The FTC is involved. But today shares of the stock shot up anyway almost 7%. Go figure. To be continued…

Do computer clouds have silver linings too?

Image courtesy of fotographic1980/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of fotographic1980/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Make way for Cisco who is plunking down a hefty sum to enter the constantly evolving cloud computing arena. The tech giant already offers cloud related services so developing Cisco Cloud Services is just a mere hop skip and $1 billion jump away. How convenient. Amazon is already one of the biggest players. “We’re absolutely not competing with AWS (Amazon Web Services),” said Mike Riegel, Cisco Cloud’s vice president of marketing. That’s because Cisco plans on being the biggest player in this field – so take that Amazon! Hey, go big or go home.

Tiffany Is Not Feeling Blinged, Lost and Found and A Shot With Your Espresso?

Swatch out!

Image courtesy of Boykung/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Boykung/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tiffany & Co. and their little blue boxes suffered a major blow to their bling today following a spectacular third quarter. Their pretty yellow diamonds and $1.3 billion in revenue weren’t enough to outshine the losses they suffered this quarter. Because what began as a $200 million profit quickly turned to a $100 million loss owing to a gigantic settlement with Swatch. Tiffany & Co. CEO Michael Kowalski said, “We are proud of our performance this past year. Sales and operating earnings (excluding the arbitration-related charge) rose to record levels.” Uh-huh. Back in 2007, the two companies started a joint venture that went south four years after. Swatch sued. Tiffany & Co. counter-sued. They went for arbitration. $473 million later, Tiffany & Co. has to pony up to Swatch. Talk about killing time.

Mt. Gox marks the spot?

Image courtesy of stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Don’t you just love it when you find an old wallet and there’s still money in it. The same thing happened with Mt. Gox recently and now the former bitcoin exchange is slightly less bankrupt today. 200,000 bitcoins were (not so) mysteriously “discovered” in disused electronic wallets. The coins, which were originally thought to be stolen are worth approximately $120 million.  Now if they could just figure out where those other 650,000 coins went…

Barista or bartender? You decide…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.netH

If you already love Starbucks now, you’re about to love it a whole lot more. Come for the coffee stay for the alcohol. The coffee seller is gearing up with a new concept called “Starbucks Evenings” where they will be offering a variety of alcoholic beverages and gourmet food to complement them. Spokesperson Lisa Passé explained, “The concept is a natural progression for Starbucks Corporation as we seek to create a new occasion for customers to gather, relax and connect with each other in the evenings.” That just might be the case but this new concept also has to do with the fact that Starbucks is aiming to hit the $100 billion mark in market value and offering up alcohol is sure to do the trick. Whatever the motive, I, for one, can’t wait.

Check This List, Toning Up and Pandora Rocks?

What’s the value of values?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You can feel a whole lot better next time you chow down your Fruit Loops knowing that Kellogg Co. was voted one of the world’s most ethical companies. I swear I did not make this up. The Ethisphere Institute is an independant research institute that promotes and recognizes business ethics. “Companies that truly go beyond making statements about doing business ethically and translate those words into action,” according to a statement by Ethisphere, make it onto the list.  This is Kellogg’s sixth time on it. So break out a Pop Tart and celebrate. Some of the other companies that made the list include Google, Petco and Gap Inc. Now if they could only do something about those used car salespeople…

That’s printastic…

Image courtesy of frankie_8/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of frankie_8/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At its annual shareholders meeting, HP CEO Meg Whitman said it’s “like watching ice melt.” Obviously, she was discussing the current batch of 3D printers that could and should be doing oh so much more. Good thing Ms. Whitman thinks she, and HP, of course, have found the solution. Unfortunately that solution won’t be presented until June. Rumor has it, though that HP plans to speed up the printing and improve the quality. To be competitive they will have to price the printers at the $5000 point. That’s great news – as long as your employer is footing the bill.

Not exactly music to your ears…

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Boians Cho Joo Young/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re still on the fence about getting that Pandora subscription now would be a really good time to make that decision. A federal judge just ruled that the streaming music service should be subject to a higher royalty rate than radio stations. Pandora One, the premium service from the music streamer, Pandora, is about to raise its price. They’re also scrapping their yearly subscription model. If you are already a subscriber, the price stays at $3.99. For now. Otherwise, procrastinators can expect to fork over another buck for the premium ad-free service. The new rate takes effect in May. Or you could just listen to your favorite music and your not so favorite ads for free.

Wall Street: Ugh! Rate Hikes, Reading Oprah Tea Leaves and Doggone Expensive

Not in our best interest?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Anxiously gnawing on its finely manicured fingernails, Wall Street not very patiently waited to see just how close newly appointed Fed chairwoman Janet Yellen would stick to the policies of her predecessor and mentor Ben Bernanke. Much to the chagrin of Wall Street, her remarks hinted at the possibility that she plans to raise interest rates sooner than expected. If you think you’re the only one who doesn’t appreciate this news, you’re not alone. Wall Street didn’t like the news either and let Ms. Yellen know it by taking a tumble. So there!

Ugh! Is there anything she can’t do?

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Suat Eman/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reigning queen of media Oprah Winfrey has a new gig. She might not be the new barista at your local Starbucks but you sure can expect her presence behind the counter. At their annual shareholders meeting, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz sat with the iconic talk show host sipping tea as they unveiled Teavana Oprah Chai tea. Tea is a $90 billion market. For every Oprah Winfrey tea product, sold a donation will be made to the youth education charities. That can turn into a very large sum very quickly as tea is only second to water in terms of consumption. Winfrey said,”Starbucks is about nurturing the human spirit.” You can pay for that nurturing via the handy dandy Starbucks app (and tip your barista too).

You paid how much for that doggie in the window?!

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Look out Westminster Kennel Club, there’s a new mastiff in town, but not just any mastiff. A Tibetan Mastiff  just sold in China for close to $2 million. The breeder said the dog has lion’s blood. Whether or not that’s even remotely possible, the 200 pound long haired canine will now become the companion to an obviously very successful property developer. Tibetan mastiffs are considered a status symbol among China’s elite and are apparently compared to their “nationally treasured pandas.” Except, I’m guessing Tibetan mastiffs prefer steak to bamboo. Well for that price, I hope the dog is house-trained.

Get Your Wal-Mart Game On, GM Was Slow On the Fix and Arrrgh!!! Take That Pirates

Attention Gamers…

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’ve already saved the princess, won the kart race and completed your Call of Duty, then you’re in luck. Because the economy has been playing games with their declining sales, Wal-Mart started looking for ways to boost and reboot their revenue. Now you’ll be able to take your played-out video games you have sprawled out all over your floor and – assuming they’re in good condition – trade them in at Wal-Mart for some always handy store credit. Yes, you read that right. Wal-Mart is upping its gaming game. They had been offering this sort of thing online but now you can do it stores. The fun begins March 26.

GM’s attempt to apologize?

Image courtesy of bigjom/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bigjom/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In her first press conference following GM’s epic debacle, GM CEO Mary Barra said she is sorry for “everything that has happened.” While it was nice (and expected) that she apologized, and nobody doubts the sincerity of GM or Ms. Barra, it did leave many feeling that the apology was nothing short of meaningless. That’s because GM admitted to knowing about their faulty ignition switches – that were responsible for twelve deaths – for the last eleven years and then dragged their heels to fix the problem. Among the questions she did and didn’t answer, she also introduced a “global vehicle safety position”, or as you and I would say, a safety czar in hopes of avoiding future dangers. Too bad they didn’t think of this sooner.

Ahoy downloader…

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thanks to online streaming and smart phones, music lovers are more law-abiding. Sweden’s music industry’s IFPI reported that 90% of Spotify subscribers stole less. Go you! “The big success for piracy was the accessibility it gave,” said Carl Vernersson, from the Swedish artist rep company At Night Management. Yep. Going to the record store and paying for it was becoming soooo annoying. Stealing/illegally downloading was just soooo much easier. In the comfort of your own home/dorm room/coffee house, you could just rip off musicians while still wearing your pjs. And yes, that does make you a klepto if you did just that. Services like Deezer and Spotify jumped 51% this year surpassing the $1 billion mark. But downloading still continues to be the favorite way to PURCHASE music.

IP Whoa! A Bit of a Situation and Tesla Fizzles In the Garden State

What happens in China doesn’t necessarily stay in China…

Image courtesy 1shots/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy 1shots/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You might MIGHT not have heard of Alibaba only because it’s not based in the United States. But you should get to know them. I mean really get to know them. The Chinese based e-commerce site carries more goods than eBay and Amazon combined. What’s more is that it’s expected to be the biggest IPO since Facebook’s auspicious debut setting all sorts of fun and expensive records. But the decision to take the IPO to the US has made Hong Kong a smidgen unhappy since Alibaba controls about 80% of all e-commerce in China. US based Yahoo also owns about a 24% stake in the company. And six of the most powerful banks in the US have all got their tongues wagging hoping to get a nice slice of the underwriting pie.

Just a bit of a discrepancy?

Image courtesy of ratch0013/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ratch0013/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In the soap opera we call bitcoin, Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto continues to deny that he is the man behind über hot cyber currency, bitcoin, despite being fingered as the creator by Newsweek magazine. He even issued a statement via his attorney. In it he laments that he had to discontinue his internet service “due to severe financial distress” and hasn’t had steady work in a decade. Something tells me he could use a couple of those bitcoins right about now. The person believed to be the creator is said to own about $400 million worth of bitcoins. Bitcoin creator, whoever you may be, wherever you may be, (assuming you are not Dorian Satoshi Nakamoto, that is) it would be really cool, if you could throw a bit of coin Mr. Nakamoto’s way for all the trouble he’s going through just because he shares a name with you.

New Jersey is soooooo not with the current…

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you were thinking about going into one of those really cool Tesla stores to discuss purchasing one of its automobiles, just know that in New Jersey, my electric car-loving friend, they’re just talk. At least they’re going to be. No more Tesla showrooms. The correct term shall be galleries. Auto dealers in New Jersey (and Texas and Arizona) do not want you buying products directly from Tesla. They want you to go through a middleman/woman/person to purchase your vehicle because they’re deeply concerned and want to protect you. Oh, the oxymoron! Perhaps it’s because Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk just didn’t shell out enough cash for his esteemed politicians that he had his business model uprooted in the Garden State. After all, auto dealers forked over about $140 million for local, state and federal elections because they care. Mr. Musk ponied up a little less than $500,000. Who knew that working tirelessly to create a state of the art, environmentally conscious automobile that wins Consumer Reports Best Overall Car means you just don’t care?