No Churning Back: France Needs Your Butter!; The New “It” Couple; Americans Are Spending! Yay.


Très mal…

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Nothing screams “It’s time to panic!” quite like a butter shortage in France. Oui oui. The country is in the throes of a shortage of the stuff that dreams and croissants are made of, primarily because the cost of the creamy spread has gone up and the supermarkets aren’t forking over the euros to pay for it. So how exactly does an entire country find itself in the midst of such a supply shortage? First, France has been dealing with some bad weather which has somehow affected the supply of cow feed. Don’t ask me the mechanics here because I have no idea. Then we get to New Zealand. Yes, New Zealand. Did you know that New Zealand is a leading butter producer? Neither did I. New Zealand, with its own issues, has been decreasing its exports of the stuff, which in turn has contributed to France’s shortage and price increases.  However, the all-time proverbial buzz-killer/price-increaser is basically an overall global increase in demand for butter. When the whole world is eating more of the stuff, the price magically, and inconveniently goes up. In fact, butter went from $2,800 per ton in April 2016, to $8,000 per ton this past September. Crazy, right? And like Americans stockpiling batteries and water before major storms, the French have been stockpiling…butter. I dare you not to laugh. Out loud. In any case, if you don’t believe me, just check out Twitter for all sorts of French/butter humor. You won’t believe how many jokes this is churning out – sorry, had to do it.

Let’s get together…

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Image courtesy of Zuzuan/FreeDigitaPhotos.net

There are some things in life that are just meant to be. For instance, peanut butter and jelly, macaroni and cheese, and of course, beer and cannabis. Hence, Corona beer maker Constellation Brands just scooped up a 10%, $191 million-stake in Canopy Growth Corp, a Canadian company that makes cannabis and medical-marijuana products.  As for Constellation Brands, a company valued at $42 billion, it now has the dubious distinction of becoming the very first major company that specializes in wine, beer, and spirits to invest in this budding – no pun intended –  pseudo-legal industry.  The fact is, the issue of legalizing marijuana seems to be on the table in the U.S. and Canada, and not just for medical use. But Constellation really isn’t planning on doing anything major with its stake. Just yet, anyway. It plans on maybe just starting to produce some cannabis-infused drinks. Interestingly enough, the more marijuana gets legalized, the less alcohol gets consumed. For Constellation Brands, it was a pre-emptive move, positioning itself at the forefront of the industry, enabling it to take advantage of the all the opportunities that await once legalization, on the federal level, is securely in place. Nice little fun-fact: Canopy Growth Corp’s ticker symbol, which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange is…wait for it…WEED. Catchy, huh?

You “auto” know…

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U.S. consumer spending went up quite impressively last month – a whopping 1% (yes, that is whopping) –  in large part because of the auto industry.  That’s especially important since consumer spending accounts for 2/3  of the U.S. economic output.  And who doesn’t love strong economic output, right? Yes, spending rose a lot, the most since August 2009, because there seemed to be a major increase in consumers buying cars. Sadly, that surge in car-buying was helped by the two recent major storms that ravaged a large swath of the United States and effectively destroyed a ton of vehicles. Incidentally, August 2009’s rise in spending was also attributed to the auto industry. At the time the government put out a program called “cash for clunkers” that fueled its own surge in pending.  Along with that nifty bump in consumer spending came a 0.4% increase in personal income. And bonus: wages increased by the same amount.

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​Big City Woos: It’s All About Amazon’s HQ2; Weinstein’s Ship Might Be Sinking But You Won’t Believe Who Might Come to its Rescue; Nords​trom’s Holding Out for a Santa Save

Pick me! Pick me!

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Image courtesy of lekkyjustdoit/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As a Thursday deadline looms, a heated race is on for cities across the United States (okay, and Canada too) as they toss away all their dignity in desperate attempts to woo Amazon and its latest project. The e-commerce giant announced about a month ago that it wants to set up a second headquarters, dubbed HQ2 and now there’s a mad dash from Atlanta to Grand Rapids and beyond to claim that glory, not to mention the $5 billion investment that comes with it. The fact that a project of this magnitude would also create around 50,000 jobs is the icing on this proverbial fiscal cake. Of course, Amazon’s got its own formula for picking the winning city and it’s got very little to do with Tucson delivering a 70 ft. saguaro cactus to Amazon’s Seattle door or Birmingham erecting giant replicas of Amazon boxes and strategically placing them around the city. For Amazon, it will probably boil down to which city will offer up the best tax incentives and breaks from local and state governments. In fact, the company has earned quite the reputation for being able to secure those tax breaks, whether through the promise of job creation or other financial packages that would have any major city’s mouth watering. Besides financial incentives for Amazon, any city that legitimately stands a snowball’s chance is also going to have to be in close proximity to a major airport,  possess the infrastructure to support the project, have easy access to mass transit and a population that boasts at least a million people to readily fill tens of thousands of jobs. That right there puts the kibosh on a bunch of contenders. But you know which cities analysts are expecting to see on the short list? Atlanta, Denver and Pittsburgh. As for Tucson and its aforementioned cactus, well you can visit the rejected botanical specimen at the Desert Museum.

It’s all a matter of perspective…or is it?

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Weinstein Co. may be getting a much-needed cash-infusion to stay afloat in the wake of co-founder Harvey Weinstein’s ever-growing sexual harassment scandal. The cash-infusion could come from a private equity firm called Colony Capital, headed by an individual named Tom Barrack. If the name Tom Barrack rings a bell that’s because he served as chairman of President Trump’s Private Inaugural Committee and his name is being been bandied about as a pick for the White House Chief of Staff.  That’s right! Harvey Weinstein, an ardent Hillary Clinton supporter and staunch Democratic donor is probably getting a bailout from a Trump ally. But for Barrack, it’s all in a days work since he has a habit of picking up distressed companies in the entertainment realm, making all sorts of deals for the assets still in its clutches and making a mean mint in the process. Perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that there’s a good chance that this bailout will actually mean the Weinstein name disappears from the company, along with some of its honchos, because apparently, they knew about Harvey Weinstein’s sickening behavior for a long time. A sale could also mean that the Weinstein company, sans the name which is now synonymous with lechery, harassment, and abuse, could be restored to its former glory as a powerhouse of independent film and television production.

Let it snow let it snow let it snow…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We may still have Halloween ahead of us but Nordstrom is already gearing up for Christmas. The retailer, which has seen its share of loss in the last few quarters – along with every other retailer in the U.S. – previously had plans for the founding namesake family to take the company private. There’s talk that the family, who controls a third of the shares, was trying to team up with private equity firm Leonard Green Partners to achieve this goal. However, now those plans are on hold to until after the holiday shopping season because rumor has it, the Nordstroms have been experiencing some issues borrowing cash at a respectable rate, whatever that means. Interestingly enough, while the company isn’t faring as well in terms of same-store sales, its e-commerce is alive, well and thriving quite nicely.  Still, Wall Street didn’t much care for the news and sent shares plummeting over 6%  Those shares, by the way, are over 30% lower than its 52-week high of $62.82.

Uh Oh Canada: Trump Starts Up With Our Neighbors to the North; Marissa Mayer Walks Away Golden; Nasdaq Yowza!

Good Tariffs don’t make good neighbors…

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As if things weren’t awkward enough between the President and Mexico, now it’s the U.S.’s relations with Canada that are getting the Trump treatment. This time it’s Canada’s lumber industry that’s getting caught up in the import debate as the President’s plan calls for a tariff of up to 24% on Canada’s lumber products. Canadian lumber companies are pretty ticked off and Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is itching to fight back. Just how remains to be seen. In case you didn’t know, Canada is the world’s largest soft-wood lumber exporter and the U.S. is its biggest customer, reportedly importing $6 billion worth of the resource just in 2016. But here’s where things get dicey, well for the U.S. anyway – shares of home-building companies took a very unwelcome dive on the soft-lumber dispute, as Wall Street realized raw materials could get a whole a lot pricier. That will likely end up leading to a very unpleasant domino effect on other related industries. If you’re looking to buy a home, take note that this Canada lumber is issue is sending home prices up as well. Incidentally, Canada is going to stop importing U.S. dairy products, as a sort of retaliatory action. Sort of. But basically, this means dairy farmers are getting screwed here too. And don’t you hate when that happens? On the flip side, U.S. lumber producers said that cheap lumber imports from Canada, which are they say are unfairly subsidized by the Canadian government, have put a major crimp in their business and these tariffs will give the domestic lumber industry a much needed reboot.

What color is your parachute?

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Yahoo might have gone bust but Marissa Mayer will be walking away from the entity with $186 million lining her pockets. That’s even after Verizon agreed to buy the  beleaguered company. She’s sitting on 4.5 million shares of the failed internet company and she’ll get that substantial wad of cash once she pays to exercise her options. That $186 million is based on Monday’s closing price, in case you were wondering, and while Mayer may not have had the best run at Yahoo, the stock still tripled during her five-year CEO stint there. And as Verizon plunks down $4.5 billion for Yahoo, Mayer will take in another $3 million as part of her golden parachute. That’s besides the fact that last year she lost out on her bonus following the massive data security breaches that affected one billion Yahoo accounts.

Making a break for it…

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The Nasdaq broke the 6000 mark with a lot of help from big corporate gains and, believe it or not, even President Donald Trump. That’s because the President has big “tax reform and reduction” plans which involve reducing the United States’ onerous corporate tax rate from a whopping 35% to a more corporation-friendly, and globally competitive, 15%. Plans like that could mean a big boost all-around on Wall Street. Companies including Apple, Microsoft and McDonald’s, to name a few, reported impressive gains, sending the Nasdaq all the way up to 6034.74. If you’re finding Trump’s contribution hard to swallow, consider that the result of France’s Presidential election also factored into that 6000 point breakthrough. French Presidential Candidate Emanuel Macron’s first-round victory helped matters, probably because of his centrist politics, which apparently Wall Street digs. It wasn’t since March 7, 2000, that the Nasdaq broke the 5,000 barrier. But alas, that remains nothing but a very distant memory.  The Nasdaq, incidentally, is up over 10% since the beginning of the year and up way over 20% in the last twelve months.

Oil Vey 2: The Wrath of Iran; Virtual Company with Real Billions; Dr. Pepper’s Outlook Fizzing Out

Double double oil and trouble…

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Oil surged 6% today. Yay. It finally finally went above $30 a barrel today. Another yay.  But maybe you’re thinking that positively sucks as you notice that you have a quarter of a tank of gas left in your car. However, in the grand scheme of things, a very grand scheme which does not fit in this blog today, a gradual price increase in gas is a healthy economic indicator. Plenty of folks on Wall Street are attributing this healthy surge to some conversations that were held recently between OPEC and non-OPEC members. Namely, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Oh yeah, Qatar and Venzuela were also allowed to participate. The deal is that these oil producers will cap their crude production – just as long as other major producers follow suit. The last time an  OPEC/non-OPEC “deal” was made was 15 years ago. And like the one 15 years ago, this one is not expected to do much, except act as a starting point. How reassuring. Now, guess which country has NO plans to cap, curb or freeze oil production? Iran, of course.  Sure, the totalitarian-run country thinks it’s a bummer that oil prices are so low, but its leaders are so hell-bent on re-grabbing its market share after all those pesky international sanctions it had to endure for the last 30 years, that it has no intention of curbing production. By the way, conspicuously absent from any talks was Canada, a country that just happens to have the third largest oil reserves, and China, the world’s fourth largest oil producer. Hmmm. Wonder what we ought to take away from that?

All in a maze work…

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At least virtual reality doesn’t bite. Swiss-based company MindMaze, a neural virtual reality platform – which is just as cool as it sounds – now has a pretty amazing valuation. After scoring $100 million in its latest round of funding, the company upped its valuation to over $1 billion. The company’s technology uses virtual and augmented reality and sells electronic headsets to hospitals in order to help rehabilitate stroke patients. The company also has plans to use its rehabilitation features for other injuries, and even amputations. Of course, since we are talking virtual reality, or VR as the cool kids call it, other versions will be available for video gaming as well. In an effort to boost profitability, the company is toying with the idea of selling the hardware separate from the software. It is the fifth start-up company of its kind, and joins the ranks of Oculous VR and Magic Leap. Apparently, investors dig the technology too, seeing as how they have dumped around $4 billion into various VR companies since 2010.

I’m not a Pepper…

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Dr. Pepper Snapple Group posted their fourth quarter earnings and there’s good news…and not so good news. Of course, the good news is the company’s profit. The beverage company, which also makes Canada Dry and A&W Root Beer, among other products, scored a $185 million profit, adding a buck per share and shooting down analyst estimates of 98 cents per share. Last year at this time the company earned $150 million with 77 cents added per share. The Texas-based company also pulled down $1.55 billion in revenue, a nice little boost from 2015’s $1.51 billion. But when we turn to the company’s outlook, we then find the not so good news. Despite people’s thirst, Dr. Pepper’s outlook is weak, expecting just a 1% increase in net sales. Even in 2015, the company took in a 3% increase. The company is figuring it’ll earn somewhere between $4.20 to $4.30 per share for the full year, even though predictions were for $4.34. Dr. Pepper may not be blaming the oil glut on the weak outlook, but there is another culprit – the ever blame-worthy strong dollar, which even managed to sully the beverage industry’s numbers.

NYSE Gets Be-Glitched; Jobless Benefits Rise, But Nothing to Worry About. Yet; IMF Blames US Over World’s Slow Growth

Not such a NYSE day…

Image courtesy of  cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Move over Greece and figure it out already. The outage glitch at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is now taking center stage. The trouble is believed to have started Tuesday night when an upgrade was in progress. Problem is, by 7:00 am the next morning the issues seem to have not been resolved and traders were having difficulty connecting. At 11:00 am a warning was issued that the tech problems were being investigated. But, by 11:32 am, NYSE figured it would be a good time to halt trading. Good thing trading was able to shift seamlessly to other exchanges, as the US enjoys a system where there’s a lot of overlap in its financial markets. (Take that IMF: see below). As for NYSE, trading transferred to a back-up unit in New Jersey. So don’t bother making fun of anybody from there for a really long time. However, it still didn’t go unnoticed that it was the biggest outage in two years, that happened to coincide with technical glitches by United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal. Some suspect that it was no coincidence that all three of those systems experienced glitches. Even FBI Director James Comey said, “We’re not big believers in coincidence either. We want to dig into that part.” Although, at this point in time there’s no way to know what caused the glitches and if they’re at all related.

Speaking of glitches…

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Image courtesy of xedos4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well it’s not really a glitch…maybe just a hiccup – a summer hiccup.  The Labor Department released its numbers and well, it’s sort of a bummer. Turns out that applications for jobless benefits rose this week by 15,000 applicants to a total of 297,000 people. That is the highest number it’s been since February, when that awful figure hit a very unpleasant 327,000. However, there is a silver lining here, I kid you not. Most of those applications came from Michigan and Ohio and are likely due to auto-plant shutdowns who are in the midst of retooling its models for the next year. At least that’s what the experts think and well, they’re probably right. Anyways, it’s a lot more reassuring than any other reason experts can think of. As it stands, 2.33 million people are receiving jobless benefits (I’m pretty sure there’s an oxymoron somewhere in there), and while that figure may seem rather high, it is still 10% less than last year at this time. Besides, last week unemployment hit a seven year low and the number of folks applying for jobless benefits on a weekly basis has remained under 300.000 for over four months. All the more reason to breathe a sigh of relief. Sort of.

Blame it on the United States, why don’t you…

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Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maybe they’re just bitter because the American Women’s Soccer team won the World Cup Finals, but according to the International Monetary Fund, the United States is to blame because the rest of he world is experiencing slow growth. The IMF is predicting that the world’s growth will grow at a pace of 3.3%, .2% less than what it predicted back in April. And that, my friends, is what you call a downgrade. That is apparently the slowest growth pace since 2009, when there was a recession in effect and the economy didn’t grow but, in fact, shrank. Because the United States economy is apparently the biggest one in the world, and because we had a particularly frightful winter, fiscally speaking, the economy shrank .2% between January and March. When the the U.S economy shrinks, it drags down the rest of the world. So they say. Meanwhile, Greece’s inability to balance its books has been dominating financial news, yet its troubles are predicted to have a limited impact on the rest of the world. Even China, which happens to have a gargantuan economy, is walking away unscathed despite the fact that its stock market plunged. According to Mr. pish-posh IMF research chief Olivier Blanchard, “We don’t see it as a major macroeconomic issue.” Whatever.

Deutsche Bank CEO’s are Leaving Early and No One is Shedding Tears; McDonald’s Numbers Not Totally Horrible; Smack Talk at the G7 Summit

You’re Fitschen kidding me…

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Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case you were wondering how Wall Street feels about Deutsche Bank’s outgoing co-CEO’s Anshu Jain and Juergen Fitschen, then just look at the company’s stock price. Shares of Deustche Bank gleefully shot up over 8% at one point, on the news that the two men would be ditching their digs even earlier than planned. However, those gains weren’t just from the sheer joy of those early departures but also because investors totally dig their replacement, British banker John Cryan, who also happens to have a pretty decent track record. Cryan is what the cool kids call a “takeover specialist” which is something Deutsche Bank could use now more than ever seeing as how Jain and Fitschen couldn’t seem to stem the tide of legal issues that have been plaguing the bank, including a massive $2.5 settlement claim the bank had to fork over after some traders very rudely – and illegally, I might add – rigged some benchmark interest rates. In fact, most of Deutsche Bank’s troubles and scandals seemed to to come out of its investment bank, which coincidentally, was/is under Jain’s watch. The question remains as to whether or not Cryan can pull the largest German bank out of its funk. Except, first he’s got to come up with a plan. At least he speaks German. So score one for Cryan.

You deserve a break today…

Image courtesy of  atibodyphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of atibodyphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things at McDonald’s weren’t nearly as bad as everyone thought they were going to be. They weren’t great but we’ll get to that. The Golden Arches saw same store sales drop .3% , which is definitely not good. However, at least those sales didn’t drop by .9%, the figure expected by all those super-educated analysts. To that I say booyah.  And then there was Europe. While everywhere else on the planet McDonald’s saw sales fall, McDonald’s needs to give much danke to Germany, France and the UK who showed the burger chain some major love in the form of a 2.3% gain. Analysts only expected Europe to bring in a tres  modest .6% gain. So you see, Chipotle, Panera and Shake Shack haven’t taken over the fast-food world. Yet. McDonald’s is in the midst of bringing about a “turnaround plan” which apparently includes offering breakfast all day. Except that’s only in – where else? – Southern California. Also, as part of the plan to reclaim its rightful place in the fast-food kingdom, CEO and President Steve Easterbrook has big lofty plans to rebrand McDonald’s as “a modern, progressive burger company.” Did you get all that?

Back at the G7 Summit…

Image courtesy of bplanet/Freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/Freedigitalphotos.net

There seems to be a bit of confusion coming from the G7 Summit. A French official told reporters that President Obama said the strong dollar is a “problem.” Then, the dollar slid against the euro. However, President Obama insists, “I did not say that.” But, still, the dollar still slipped, for the first time in three days, against the euro. In any case, other important stuff was presumably discussed at the conference where world leaders from the United States, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Japan and even Canada talked about fiscal issues that are plaguing the world. But who doesn’t love a good “he said, he said,”  especially during a super important meeting between the world’s most powerful people. I could really see this one playing out on South Park.

Lumber Liquidated CEO; Best Buy’s Earnings Electrifying; Home Sweet Lack of Homes

Gee I wonder why…

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Image courtesy of iosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you find yourself up for a challenging career change, look no further than embattled Lumber Liquidators, who now has a job opening…for a new CEO. After months of scrutiny and criticism following a scathing “60 Minutes” report about its dangerously high-levels of formaldehyde-laced flooring, Lumber Liquidators CEO Robert Lynch threw in his corporate towel. He officially resigned from the company and stepped down from the board of directors. Shares of the company took a 16% hit before the market even opened following the news of Lynch’s resignation, adding to the slide that Lumber Liquidators has been taking for months now. In fact, its stock is down more than 60% for the year. However, in Lumber Liquidator’s defense, 97% of its products found in its flooring already installed in customers’ homes was found to be within protective guidelines. As for that other 3%…well, I suppose that explains why the company is under federal investigation.

Best ever?

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Best Buy managed to score some impressive earnings with a big fiscal shout out to big-screen tv’s and “iconic” smart-phones. In case it wasn’t obvious, CEO Hubert Joly deems the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 “iconic.” Other money-makers for the company were home appliances, which makes perfect sense since the housing market is easing up  (sort of, see below) making it easier for people to actually afford their homes, which they then need to fill with super convenient items like ovens and refrigerators. Just try living without them. Shares of the stock gleefully went up 7% before the market opened as the company announced it pulled in a profit of $129 million with 36 cents per share added, even though Wall Street only expected the electronics giant to post a 29 cent per share gain. A year ago the company pulled in a $461 million with $1.31 per share added, except that was all because of a tax change, so the year-over-year comparison is almost a moot point. The company saw revenues of $8.56 billion which was actually a slight drop from last year. But again, no one is too concerned because a.) analysts predicted revenues of only $8.46 billion b.) Best Buy is saying au revoir to 66 stores in Canada (yes, just like Target) so a loss of revenue was expected.  Oh, Canada. c.) the strong dollar has been messing with very company’s earnings and why should Best Buy be any different.

Is it? Or isn’t it?

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Once again, leave it to the housing market to toy with our fiscal emotions.  April proved to be nothing short of a bummer as sales of existing homes dropped, according to the National Association of Realtors. The culprit, it seems, is the fact that there are not as many listing, and the prices for homes are higher. Supply and demand, I tell you. Arghh!!! Just a little over 5 million homes were sold in April representing a 3% drop. And nobody likes a drop. Part of the problem is that people aren’t listing their homes. Maybe they just like the ones in which they are currently living. Maybe they don’t see listings that they like. In any case, the median price for a home these days is hovering around $219,000, almost 9% more than a year ago.  Of course building more homes is a logical way to fix this housing inventory issue.  And builders are doing just that, as evidenced by the rise in new building applications recently reported. But the problem is that building a new home can take about a year and who wants to wait that long to see some housing recovery?