Bugging Out Over VW Settlement; Trump Thinks He Can Do It All; Time to Buy a Keurig?

Buggin’ out…

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Image courtesy of emptyglass/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

VW is getting set to pony up some $4 billion in settlement money after agreeing to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and obstruct a federal investigation. To break it down, the company will cough up $2.8 billion in criminal fines and another $1.5 billion in civil penalties. With that settlement, the company achieves the dubious distinction of having the largest penalty ever levied by the U.S. government against an automaker. Pretty classy for Europe’s largest car manufacturer. But I guess that’s what happens when you get busted for trying to cheat on emissions tests. VW had initially insisted that the scheme was the work of a few isolated employees. But now, lo and behold, six German execs are now facing charges, and the arrests probably won’t stop there. While Oliver Schmidt was already arrested in Florida this week, the others are still biding their time in Germany, with no guarantee that they’ll meet with justice courtesy of the United States judicial system. And even though VW swears it’s changed its naughty ways and is cooperating fully with authorities, it’ll still be watched for the next three years – just to be sure. Shares of the company rose as much as 4% today, it’s highest price since the scandal first erupted. But that doesn’t mean that this unfortunate episode has come to an end as there are still plenty of other countries that could also very well pursue action against Volkswagen.

Not so sure about this…

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Image courtesy of winnond/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Trump’s not going anywhere. Not even away from his business empire. The President-elect, in a news conference today, discussed that he will not be selling off his global empire and put his liquid assets in a blind trust. However, his assets will still be placed into a different type of trust that will keep him from making decisions that would personally benefit him.  According to Trump’s flack, a blind trust wasn’t even a realistic option for Trump anyway since real estate can’t just be sold off so easily as stocks and other assets can.  Instead, he will remove himself from all business dealings, resign from all his positions and hand-off control to his two sons. It’s just not clear when he’ll actually stick to that plan since just this weekend he turned down a $2 billion development deal in Dubai. Speaking of which, his company will not enter into any new business deals abroad until after his term ends. How gallant of him. Domestic deals, however, are a whole other story. They’ll be permitted as long as they are met with approval from an ethics adviser hired to work specifically for the Trump organization. See how that works out? Ethics watchdogs aren’t down with Trump’s plan since they feel it will do little – if nothing – to prevent conflicts of interest. But ethics or not, the fact is, a President is not required by law to even avoid conflicts of interest. Donald Trump also stated that he could run both the White House and his business except that he won’t because it doesn’t look nice. Ya think?

Are you ready for this jelly?

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Image courtesy of nalinratphi/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Savor that cup of coffee now because it’s about to get a bit more expensive. Well, that’s assuming it’s packaged coffee. The biggest coffee roaster in the U.S., J.M. Smucker Co – yes, the one that makes jelly – decided to raise the prices on its packaged coffees, including its Folgers, Dunkin’ Donuts and Cafe Bustelo brands. I did say a bit because that increase, on average, will only be about 6%, since the costs involved in producing green coffee have gone up as well.  But don’t bother blaming the jelly company execs. Blame Arabica coffee futures. Or rather, Mother Nature, since coffee futures have gone up 30% in the last year due to drought conditions in several coffee-producing regions. In all fairness, J.M. Smucker Co. actually decreased the price of its coffee last May courtesy of a Brazil oversupply. So I suppose things are just kind of even-ing out. Incidentally, K-cup pods are excluded from the price increase. So if you haven’t bought one of those nifty machines yet, now might be a good time to scoop one up.

William Shatner Wants $30 Billion for Water; Harley-Davidson’s Wall Street Hits and Misses; Under Armour Needs to Bulk Up Projections

Rain rain don’t go away…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Leave it to Star Trek legend William Shatner to take California’s drought emergency straight to Kickstarter. The 84 year old actor and Priceline shiller wants people to beam him up some cash – $30 billion’s worth, to be exact – so that a  four foot above ground pipeline can be built from Seattle to Nevada’s Lake Mead. The fact that Seattle doesn’t have a surplus of water to really be giving out to California, which is in its fourth year of drought, doesn’t seem to bother Shatner much. I’m guessing he didn’t ask officials in Seattle their thoughts on the idea. California Governor Jerry Brown has already issued a drought emergency and apparently there is about a year’s supply of water left. Mr. Shatner isn’t entirely convinced himself that he can even raise the $30 billion needed to build the pipeline but he is hoping to raise awareness on the issue. “If I don’t make 30 billion, I’ll give the money to a politician who says, ‘I’ll build it.’ I don’t think that last part is the best idea Mr. Shatner has ever had, but its sure to get a few people talking.

Not so hog wild…

Image courtesy of dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of dan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Profits for iconic Hog maker, Harley Davidson, are up thanks to a somewhat reduced tax rate. So why the sad faces on Wall Street over the price of its shares? Because those very shares took a 6% hit today over revenue that fell 3.4% to $1.51 billion, down from $1.57 billion a year ago. The bike makers also revised forecasts that have less bikers getting on those legendary two-wheeled machines. Harley-Davidson initially expected to deliver between 282,000 – 287,000 Hogs this year. But now that range is looking closer to 276,000 – 281,000 orders. Some of that, of course, can be attributed to that annoyingly strong U.S. dollar that seems to be sucking the fun from just about every company’s earnings these days. But Harley-Davidson has also had to deal with competitors  – hard to believe that anyone can compete with a Harley – who have been offering better discounts and totally messing with the motorcycle company’s earnings. The good news is that the motorcycle brand still took in $270 million and $1.27 per share, even though analysts only expected $1.24 per share. Can someone please get those analysts on a Harley? A year ago the Hogs pulled in about $265 million at $1.21 per share.

Dude, what gives?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Under Armour came out with earnings today and informed those that matter that it hit its revenue targets and raised its outlook. The Maryland-based athletic company even has PGA Masters Winner Jordan Spieth shilling for it. Under Armour also pulled in 5 cents per share on revenues of $805 million when analysts only called for $802.5 million. The apparel division grew 21% while the footwear division grew 41%. So why are investors still not satisfied with the athletic apparel company’s earnings? Here’s where things get dicey. Even though Under Armour raised its outlook for revenues from $3.76 billion to $3.78 billion, investors, analysts and others who throw large sums of money at the company expected higher projections of $3.82 billion in revenues. That $.o4 billion difference put a damper on the morning for many investors. Hence the stock took a bit of a hit this morning. Nothing major, just a few percentage points, but enough to put several Wall Street-ers in a bit of a snit.