By Jetta! 800,000 More VW’s Offend; B(u)y Jeep-ers! U.S. Auto Sales Don’t Offend; Call of Duty About to Get a Whole Lot Sweeter

This thing just keeps growing and growing…

Image courtesy of  fantasista/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of fantasista/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when you thought it was okay to start thinking about buying a Volkswagen, the company announced that yet another 800,000 vehicles are getting caught in the toxic wind of the company’s emissions probe. This revelation was the result of an internal probe and while those cars are currently out and about, Volkswagen wants to reassure the public that the cars are still safe to drive. Just don’t breathe around them. The auto company set aside close to $7 billion hoping that amount will be enough to cover the repairs and lawsuits. It won’t be. It’s estimated that there are 11 million Volkswagens worldwide that currently have the illegal software installed. Now it’s up to newly crowned CEO Matthias Mueller, who came over from Porsche, to help save the embattled car company, which already lost a third of its value and reported its first quarterly loss in 15 years.

Speaking of cars…

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But on this side of the pond, car companies are having a much better day than Volkswagen. In fact, GM and Fiat Chrysler are currently in the wonderful throes of their best two month stretch. Ever. Well, in 15 years anyway. Even if you weren’t one of the lucky ones to have purchased one of those vehicles, it’s still good news since increased automobile sales indicate that the U.S. economy is in fairly decent shape. Ford did okay and Nissan did a little better. But nothing like GM, whose sales were up a nice beefy 16%, even though analysts only thought its sales would increase 12%. The company did especially well with a little help from its pricey truck lines and SUV’s. Fiat Chrysler’s sales were up a very respectable 15%, selling over 195,500 cars just last month. However, the company had a humongous boost from its Jeep brand which saw a massive 33% increase. This makes it the 67th consecutive month of increased sales for Fiat Chrysler. But, what exactly, is the reason why all these people are running out and buying up cars? If you answered low gas prices, then score one for you. The national average gas price hit a new low of $2.20 a gallon, 85 cents less than last year at this time.  But low interest rates and a slew of manufacturer incentives in order to move out the 2015 inventory also helped matters. A lot.

Call of Candy Crush Duty…

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What happens when you cross the “Call of Duty” with a bunch of confections? You get the biggest acquisition of a mobile-game. Ever. Even bigger than the much-hyped Microsoft acquisition of Mojang, maker of the very beloved “Minecraft.” That’s right, Activision Blizzard, video-game maker of perennial fave games, including “Call of Duty” and “Skylanders,” scooped up King Digital Entertainment, the force behind the highly addictive “Candy Crush,” for a whopping $5.9 billion. Activision Blizzard is getting the mobile confection game maker for $18 a share, a premium over its $17.84 closing price and $4.50 less than its $22.50 IPO.  But many are wondering if Activision’s purchase will pay off. On the one hand, this is a great way for Activation to get into the $20 billion mobile gaming industry. On the other hand, King Digital failed to impress with Candy Crush follow-ups, Farm Heroes Saga and Pet Rescue, leaving many to wonder if the company’s got anything left to show.  After all, its third quarter earnings weren’t exactly sweet and monthly active users came in at 474 million, down from last year’s 495 million.

Oil-Vay! Barrels Hit a New Low; Edward Jones Gets Called Out; Candy Crush Saga’s Earnings Not So Sweet;

How crude…

Image courtesy of krishna arts/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of krishna arts/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The price of a barrel of oil has hit a new low and that’s good news. Or bad. It all depends on where you’re coming from. Literally. For the bargain price of $41.92, you could get yourself a whole barrel of oil. A year ago that same barrel of oil would have set you back $100. That is definitely good news for drivers. Not so much for places like Texas and North Dakota where hundreds of thousands of people there are employed by the industry and where there have been a lot of job cuts as a result of the dropping energy prices. By the way, according to the AAA, the national average for a gallon of gas is $2.62. Enjoy it while it lasts. Problem is, there is way more supply than demand. Despite the large supply of oil, OPEC insists on continuing to pump out its stash that won’t be needed. But OPEC’s freaking out and thinking this is the best course of action. Then there’s the shale boom right in the United States. Again. More energy. Declining demand. Which brings us to Iran. Now that the U.S. is playing nice with the human rights-violating country, you can expect Iran to unleash its supply, as well. But wait. There’s more. Maritime surveillance seems to be indicating that Iran has been hoarding its oil supply. It’s thought to have 50 million barrels, instead of the previously estimated 40 million barrels. Once Iran complies with nuclear demands it gets to unleash its stash and make an ungodly amount of money of it. Which is just what you want to happen to an authoritarian regime, with terrorist ties, that doesn’t recognize the rights of women, gays and other religions and ethnic groups.

Brokerages behaving badly…

Image courtesy of  hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of hywards/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today, instead of banks behaving badly, we bring you brokerages behaving badly. This time we turn pour attention to St. Louis-based Edward Jones, a firm that boasts 7 million clients, 13,000 of whom got bilked by the firm between 2009 – 2012. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, these 13,000 customers had the bad fortune of getting overcharged by the 93 year old firm when they purchased new municipal bonds. So not cool. The United States’ muni-markets is an estimated $3.7 trillion market. Edward Jones now has the dubious distinction of becoming the first defendant in a case where the SEC comes against an underwriter for pricing-related fraud in the municipal securities market. So congrats, Edward Jones. That’s quite an achievement. Clients were overcharged by a whopping $4.6 million for these new bonds and now Edward Jones gets to pay it back. And then some. The firms has to pay $20 million in a settlement including returning $5.2 million to the affected customers (some of whom have already left the firm). Also named in the settlement was Stina Wishman, who headed the firm’s muni-bond desk at the time clients were over-charged. She received a $15,000 fine and is barred from working in the securities industry for at least two years. Can’t wait to see how she updates her LinkedIn profile.

Cavities…

Image courtesy of  debspoons/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of debspoons/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just because you’re sitting at you desk procrastinating by playing Candy Crush, doesn’t mean the rest of the world is. King Digital, the company behind the addictive mobile games just released its second quarter profit and they were anything but…sweet. The company’s quarterly profit took a 28% beating down to $119.3 million and 38 cents per share on $489.5 million revenue. Analysts predicted the company would score $134.3 million at 42 cents per share on $482.4 million in revenue. At least the revenue take-in wasn’t as brutal. But last year at this time the company raked in much better digits when it saw $165.4 million in profits with 52 cents added per share. It didn’t help that King Digital’s monthly unique visitors fell 7% to 340 million. That and a strong dollar sent shares down over 8% today.

Volvo’s Heads for U.S. Shores; Etsy’s Coming Unglued; Apple Looks for Greener Pastures…in China?

They’re boxy…but safe…

Image courtesy of  Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Volvo’s got big news. Yes. Volvo. Big. News. The car once known for its safety record, not to mention, its boxy style, is setting up shop on American shores. The Swedish auto manufacturer, which is now owned by Chinese company Geely Holding Group, will be plunking down $500 million for a facility in South Carolina.  Apparently, the master plan to is to rekindle the love Americans once had for the car, which has seen its market share in the US dwindle steadily. In fact, the new American Volvo plant is expected to be able to roll out some 100,000 cars a year – which seems a bit high considering the car maker only managed to sell about 56,000 of them in the last year. The new plant is expected to create some 2,000 jobs and you can start driving your American-made Volvo by 2018. But the move has got a lot of people scratching their heads as to why Volvo opted to go to South Carolina as opposed to Mexico where it’s so much cheaper to produce…well, everything. But South Carolina doesn’t seem to be complaining about it and apparently it’s the place to be as the state is home to some 250 car makers. So welcome to America, Volvo.

Not so crafty after all…

Image courtesy of  franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of franky242/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It made for a bedazzling IPO, but Etsy’s glitter is not gold as a Wall Street analyst said that as many as 5% of goods on the crafty website could be fakes. So just how many items is that exactly? About 5 million, give or take. Can you guess where the stock went after that damning little analysis? The stock made its much-heralded IPO opened last month at around $30. As I write this, the stock is hovering at $20.67, down about 9% just from today.  Researchers over at Wedbush say that NFL, Louis Vuitton, Disney and Chanel (to name, but a few) could theoretically make some very ugly copyright infringement cases against the online retailer. That’s more than enough to send investors running. Even though analysts say there’s a chance Etsy could avoid getting directly blamed, the issue of fakes could still make big, bad, fiscal problems by causing reduced fees, the big Etsy money generator. As for that stock price, which had many wondering if it wasn’t just a bit too high to begin with, well Wedbush seems to think that the stock is going to come down a lot and settle in to a more realistic price point of $14 per share.

Cupertino, it ain’t…

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apple is teaming up with the World Wildlife Fund and has plunked down an undisclosed amount of money for…forests…in China. As part of an environmental initiative on Apple’s part  – not necessarily China’s – the company behind the iPhone and iWatch wants to “power all its operations worldwide on 100 per cent renewable energy.” That is so friggin’ noble.  As you sit there playing Candy Crush on your iPad, the powerhouses behind that electronic marvel will be busy protecting about 1 million acres of forest in an effort to responsibly manage a geographical area that houses all kinds of useful natural materials that everyone needs.  And it’s all so ironic considering that China isn’t exactly a beacon of light for environmental causes. In fact, it holds the dubious distinction of being the number one environmental offender in the world. But since most of Apple’s products are manufactured there anyway, it made sense to take part in such an endeavor. Well, sort of.

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.

Disney Is Heating Up With Frozen, Alibaba Is Coming to Town and Candy Gets Crushed

The cold never bothered Disney anyway…

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Previewjscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you want to build some profit? Net income for Disney (DIS) soared 27% this quarter thanks in big BIG part to their animated feature Frozen. And also to Captain America. And because of increased spending at theme parks and then there was all that money made at ESPN and then…but mostly because of Frozen. In fact it was one Disney’s best quarters ever. Frozen pulled in a cool $1.2 billion and is the highest grossing film ever. It’s also the best-selling Blu-ray and digital download. Ever. Disney gained over a dollar per share. Analysts, however, only expected a $0.96 gain per share. But what do they know anyways when it comes to princesses and snowmen?

Biggest IPO ever. Ever?

Image courtesy of arztsamui/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of arztsamui/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Alibaba, the online retail service that powers 80% of all online commerce in China and has more active users (231 million) than Amazon and eBay combined is gearing up to become the biggest IPO in the US. Ever. It’s expected to raise at least $16 billion, looking to surpass what Facebook raised. It’d be the largest Chinese corporation to be listed on a US exchange and the Chinese government is over- eager to see one of their homegrown enterprises make a big entrance into the big league tech game. But oh the irony as Facebook and Twitter aren’t even allowed to operate in China. The same goes for Youtube. Alibaba was founded by its chairman Jack Ma, fifteen years ago, in a one room apartment in China. He is currently ranked by Forbes as the fifth richest person in China.

Candy Crushing…

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

King Digital, the force behind the supremely addictive mobile game Candy Crush released its first earnings report since its much (overly)hyped March debut. Its first quarter revenue jumped – really really high – with profits of $127 million which was a 142% increase over the same time last year. Yes that was a triple digit percentage gain. In fact King Digital had triple digit percentage gains all over the place. Those numbers were due in large part to their just released Farm Heroes Saga which helped triple their numbers from $205.9 million to $606.7 million. But – and this is a big sugar coated but, Wall Street is definitely losing its sweet tooth for the game as growth slowed and shares of King Digital took a very unappetizing tumble because the number of unique monthly visitors has begun to decline.

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.

KING Crush, New $tarbuck$ App and Wall Street’s On A High Note

I know who you have a crush on…

Image courtesy of idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of idea go/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Attention Candy Crush fans – and well…who isn’t?  The maker of the wildly addictive game is getting set to roll out 22 million shares for its initial public offering.  Got about $24.00 to spare? That just might land you a single share of the stock. While Candy Crush isn’t the only game King makes (I, myself am a fan of their game, Pet Rescue), the saga has been a major driver for this company pulling in a $568 million profit. Shares, if you are fortunate enough to pick up a few, will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol KING. And it’s good to be just that.

Buzz tipping…

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Because you just weren’t shelling out enough cash for your lattes, Starbucks has graciously unveiled a new way to tip your barista. About 10% of Starbucks customers already use their nifty app to pay for their caffeine infusions by swiping their smartphones. But now they can update that very same app and use it to tip as well. Ain’t technology grand? Tips from this app range from $.50 to $2.00. So instead of those tip jars staring you in the face imploring you to pony up in front of that long snaking line of people behind you, you can just get that same feeling by looking at your smartphone. How super convenient for you – and for Starbucks.

Wall Street’s latest high…

Image courtesy of sheelamohan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sheelamohan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s a reason why securities industry employees are occupying Wall Street a lot longer than some of you tried to – they can afford it. The average bonus received by any number of Wall Street Securities industry employees for 2013 was $164, 530. Why that’s a 15% increase from last year! Good grief! Aren’t you in the least bit curious to know what they did to earn these record bonuses? Well get on line. If you’re seething (with jealousy?) at these huge numbers, try and take comfort in the fact that 2013 was only the third highest year for bonuses. 2006 took the top spot with the average bonus coming it $191,360. And if that still doesn’t calm your nerves, you know what they say: If you can’t beat ’em join ’em.