Coach Gets Quirky With Kate Spade; Warren Buffett’s Latest Thoughts; It’s Kumbaya for Comcast and Charter Communications

Luxury quirk…

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Image courtesy of Sicha Pongjivanich/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Coach is about to get a whole lot more accessorized now that it announced it will be buying Kate Spade. The $2.4 billion price tag on the deal means Coach will be plunking down $18.50 per share, which ends up being a 9% premium over Kate Spade’s Friday closing price. Analysts are digging the merger, thinking it’s a good fit and news of the deal set Wall Street tongues wagging, subsequently sending shares of both companies up.  In fact, ever since Kate Spade brass decided on a sale back in December, the stock has been on the rise. Which is weird because before that the stock was flagging over increased competition and decreased traffic and sales. Much of the enthusiasm over the sale is because people think Coach will have an opportunity to up its street cred with millennials. After all, Kate Spade’s quirky merchandise tends to resonate with that finicky demographic. And when something actually resonates with millennials, companies want in and are quick to figure out how to make a lot of money in that arena.  In fact, 60% of Kate Spade sales come from millennials while only 15% come from outside the U.S. Go figure.

It’s all about the tapeworm…

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Image courtesy of  Mnonchan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It was that time of year again where one of the wealthiest men in the world imparted his financial wisdom onto his shareholders, and also regular people. Sort of. At the annual Berkshire Hathaway meeting held in Omaha this past weekend, Warren Buffett and his partner, Charlie Munger, shared their isights on several topics including Wells Fargo, Amazon and even the Republican healthcare bill.  On Wells Fargo, Buffett said there were three huge mistakes, but the biggest one was not acting on the problem when they first heard about it. On the Republican healthcare bill, he shared this pearl: “Medical costs are the tapeworm of economic competitiveness.” Got it? Tapeworm. Also,  he messed up royally by not ever owning shares of Amazon.  He admits he never anticipated Jeff Bezos going as far as he did. Apparently Buffett’s oracle skills failed him on that one. On a different note, he said that if he dies tonight, he’s convinced shares of Berkshire Hathaway would go up tomorrow. Warms the heart now, doesn’t it.

Well isn’t this precious…

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Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Comcast and Charter Communications are joining hands in the spirit of fighting against the dreaded and unflagging power of wireless carriers. Apparently when it comes to fighting wireless carriers, there is an inherent safety in numbers. So together the two companies will join hands and tackle such things as customer billing and device ordering systems. Also, they made a deal with each other that neither one would attempt to buy any other wireless companies and to consult one another before either one would make related deals,. They want to avoid increasing competition between the two companies. A move like this allows them to develop wireless services for their own companies without worrying over competition from each other. So its’s a little kumbaya and a little self-preservation.  And bonus: The two companies have said the plan could have the potential of lowering costs for its customers. However, that remains to be seen so don’t hold your breath.

 

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In: Charter Spectrum, Out: Time Warner Cable; So Over-time; Has the Fed Finally Made Up its Mind?

Thanks for the memories…

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As the Charter Communications $55.1 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable comes to a close, we can now bid a final adieu to the latter. And that’s no great loss since Time Warner Cable had the dubious distinction of earning the worst customer service score according to a survey done by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Yet, strangely enough, TWC still managed to pick up some 32,000 video subscribers and another million high-speed internet users in 2015. In any case, this acquisition joins Charter’s other recent acquisition of Bright House Networks LLC to the tune of $10.4 billion. Charter will scrap the Time Warner Cable name, which nobody is likely to miss, and the newly formed company will be named “Charter” while its products and services will be sold under the name “Spectrum.” Catchy, no?  With that, Charter Spectrum becomes the second largest cable operator in the country, picking up 27.5 million new customers and playing second to Comcast Corp. As for Time Warner Cable’s outgoing CEO, Rob Marcus, he can wipe away his tears with his $92 million severance package, while trying to polish up his LinkedIn profile.

Laboring on…

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Image courtesy of saphatthachat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Labor Department’s got some new rules headed your way, but you might not want to try breaking these, particularly if you find yourself working plenty of overtime. Because if you earn less than $47,476 a year, then congrats…sort of. You will now qualify for overtime and a half if you work more than forty hours a week. That’s a far cry from the $23,660 that served as the previous threshold. The reason for nearly doubling that threshold, by the way, is that the Labor Department hadn’t changed the rules since 2004. So I guess it’s kind of making up for lost time.and now has plans to change the numbers up every three years. In any case,  4.2 million workers will be positively affected by these new changes, with a big chunk of that being the millennial demographic. The new rules, however, could have unintended negative consequences. For instance, employers might decide to limit the amount of hours employees can work in order to avoid having to pay them overtime. Employers also might wish to start giving out raises. That might, at first, seem like a very good thing. However, it would be so that they can pay employees more than the $47,476 in order to, once again, avoid paying overtime. But then there are the “highly compensated employees” who may become eligible for overtime as well. By highly compensated, I mean getting paid at least $134, 004. In order for these highly compensated employees to get their overtime paid,  they must pass a “minimal duties test.” Problem is the Labor Department isn’t entirely clear about that part and is leaving it to the discretion of the employers. And before you start slaving away on all those extra hours, know that these rules wont take effect until December 1.

To hike or not to hike…

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It’s official. Or not. The minutes of April’s Fed meeting were released and the would-be experts think there will indeed be a rate hike in June of .25%-.50%. Members of the Fed were pinning their hopes and dreams on finding some hard-core data that the economy is growing. It seems they got it. For one, inflation is headed in the right direction towards that 2% target rate the Fed has its sights on. And unlike George Soros, the Fed is not as freaked out by the prospects of an economic slowdown. Throw in a good labor market, respectable consumer spending and even more respectable manufacturing output numbers and you just might be witness to a June rate hike. News of the likely hike sent the dollar to a seven week high and had markets all over the place. But there is that little issue about April’s disappointing jobs data which came out so inconveniently after the Fed had its meeting. Despite the fact that the labor market is looking fairly decent, those April digits can spook even the most optimistic of economists. So it’s still entirely possible that a rate hike might also get nixed.

Home Short Supply Home; Fast-Food Chains are Losing Their Artificial Appetite; Cabling Up

Home-y don’t play that…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s no place like home, that is, if you can actually get your hands on one. Homes in the U.S. seem to be in short supply, causing the ones that are already for sale to increase in value. Great news if you’re selling but bad news for buyers who are watching those prices rise because of that limited supply. The demand, however, is still there and people are continuing to buy up those homes as evidenced by the 5% increase in homes sales for the month of April. Experts thought that number would go up only 4.6%. Who can blame these eager buyers willing to shell out a few extra (thousand) bucks for a place to rest their heads. A decent job market and low interest rates are making this limited home supply that much more attractive. According to the ever informative Commerce Department, 517,000 homes were sold last month which was 6.8% more than last year at this time. Again, analysts only anticipated that 508,000 homes would find new owners. March saw only 484,000 new homes being sold. If you happen to be in the market for some new digs, take note that the median price for a house has gone up 8.3% over the last year to $297,300.

All the cool kids are doing it…

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Artificial out. Natural in. And so it begins for both Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, two chains that have decided to throw in the artificial towel and kick the offending ingredients to the curb. It’s actually quite a big undertaking as this will affect 95% of their menus. But don’t worry about feeling it in your wallets. As least that’s what the people in charge are saying. The chains, which both happen to be owned by the same parent company, Yum Brands, are losing the fun colors and preservatives that you’ve come to expect in your fast-food cuisine. Your nacho cheese may not look as yellow by the end of July as Taco Bell gets set to say adios to the ingredient dubbed “yellow number 6.” And prepare yourself, diners, as you get set to munch on actual black pepper in it, as opposed to black pepper flavoring. Imagine that. Real black pepper. Who would’ve thunk it? Perennial offenders high-fructose corn syrup and palm oil will also be making an exit from the menu as well, and something tells me they won’t be missed.

Un-Charter-ed territory…

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Image courtesy of manostphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You may not care about this next piece of merger news as it may not affect you at all, especially if Netflix is your main provider of quality entertainment (in which case, I totally get it). But in the not-so-glamourous world of mergers and acquisitions, the fact that Charter Communications is scooping up Time Warner Cable is quite epic. It’s big news because 1.) two huge companies are coming together 2.) it will make Charter Communications the second biggest television and internet provider in all the land (of the United States, that is) and 3. there’s a ton of money being exchanged – over $55 billion or roughly the equivalent of the GDP for like a dozen developing countries combined (I may have exaggerated that one a little – but only a little). Interestingly enough, Time Warner Cable is much bigger, but that’s not stopping Charter from offering to shell out $195.71 per share to take on the company and bring its total customer base to 24 million. Of course, it’ll be no Comcast Communications, who comes in first with 27.2 million customers, but for now, it’s still a big – make that huge – step up for Charter.

Elon Musk’s Mighty Tweet-ful; Confident Are We? Yes We Are; Cable Companies Unite

Surprise!

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tesla shares continued its climb today all because of one itty bitty tweet Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted yesterday. It helped, by the way that he has close to two million followers and the tweet in questions was re-tweeted thousands upon thousands of times. The tweet went as follows: “Major new Tesla product line – not a car – will be unveiled at our Hawthorne Design Studio on Thurs 8pm, April 30.” Hmmm. Whatever could that be?, thought everybody on Wall Street, and beyond. The top guess is a battery for buildings that stores energy from a home’s solar cells. Definitely a useful item, provided it works. Incidentally/conveniently, Mr. Musk is chairman of Solar City. His tweet-timing was impeccable, as pre-suspense-filled tweet, shares of Tesla were hovering around $181.80, which might seem impressive, just not for Tesla. Shares of the company had been going south on news that competition is fierce and things in China aren’t going as smoothly as thought. Post-suspense-filled tweet, shares went upwards of $192.

In confidence…

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

More jobs. More money from those jobs. Americans are confident that these pleasant things are in store for the U.S. economy and if you don’t believe me you can just check out the latest reading from the Consumer Confidence Index. Americans aren’t just a little confident, either. They’re a lot confident. A lot more confident than they were last month and a lot more confident than the 96.4 predicted by analysts. A year ago, that reading was a paltry 83.9. Last month’s reading stood at a respectable 98.8, and analysts expected little if any change to these digits. Instead, the reading took a major jump to 101.3, the second largest reading since December 2007. Americans are sure that spending will improve and increase when and if the weather (ever) gets better. I did say if, mind you. According to the Commerce Department, spending didn’t change much in February but since it accounts for 70% of the economy, everything really will be awesome (thank you, Lego movie) if and when it goes up, according to our confident expectations.  Interestingly enough, when polled, a majority of consumers confidently said they were in the market for a car. Just not so much a house. Or a major appliance for the house. Or a even a vacation to get away from their house. Maybe next month they’ll feel differently.

Charter this…

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Image courtesy of ratch0013/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So cable companies are finding themselves in a bit of a bind lately because non-cable entities are putting a huge damper on their sales. By non-cable entities, I do mean companies such as Netflix, Amazon’s version of television and other purveyors of finely produced, amply-entertaining, award-winning, nail-biting, binge-worthy fare. So what’s a cable company to do? Well lately, several of them have begun merging/buying/joining with each other in an effort to pick up subscribers and soften the blow to their sales figures. Today’s latest deal involves the fourth largest cable company in the U.S., Charter Communications. Charter is looking to pick up Bright House networks, the sixth largest cable company in the U.S, to the tune of $10.4 billion. For this lofty sum of money, Charter will pick up 2 million more subscribers and become the second largest cable company in all the land. Because Bright House has all these customers in Central Florida, Alabama, Michigan, Indiana and California, it’ll give Charter a nice big hold on those areas, provided the deal goes through, of course. News of the deal sent shares of Charter north. As for Bright House, well, it’s a privately held company.