Greek Banks Open for Business Again. Sort of.; Avengers: Age of Ultron Beats the Street; Morgan Stanley Profit Beat

Bank on it…

Image courtesy of patpitchaya/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patpitchaya/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After one long, fiscally painful week where Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras begrudgingly agreed to terms for a bailout with Greece’s creditors, the country’s banks are finally back up and running. It only took three weeks to get to this point. But at least now both the IMF and ECB can look forward to getting some of their money back and Greece gets to stay in the euro. It’s a win-win. Sort of. And while here in the states, running to the bank can be nothing short of a tedious errand, in Greece, that one act is now reason enough to celebrate. Of course with the sales taxes in Greece increasing so dramatically  – from 13% to 23% –  celebrating such an event might become prohibitively expensive. But like I said, at least Greece gets to stay in the euro. As these austerity measures take effect, Greeks will now be able to make deposits, access their safety deposit boxes and above all else, make withdrawals. Only now, they aren’t limited to daily withdrawals of $65 per day anymore. Instead, Greeks can actually withdraw a whopping max of 420 euros ($455 bucks)  a week. As for transfers abroad…those are gonna have to wait.

Dinosaurs, Avengers and Star Wars – oh my!

Image courtesy of  Dr Joseph Valks/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Dr Joseph Valks/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s been a super-hero kind of a quarter for Hasbro whose earnings had a major boost from Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World and perennial classic, Star Wars. The toy company actually posted a smaller than expected decline. Yes, you read that right. But what’s really weird – in a good way – is that the toys typically favored by boys were the big winners/earners this quarter. Usually, its the female driven categories that hog the earnings glory. Only this time, that category that includes Nerf Rebelle and My Little Pony took a 22% hit in net revenue. But, the company’s revenue didn’t go down as much as analysts thought it would. And that’s why everyone seems to be so stoked about the $779 million in revenue Hasbro did bank. That’s a welcome difference from the estimated $773 million Hasbro was expected to take in. And because it’s the cool fiscal thing to do these days, the strong dollar/foreign exchange rates took some flack for the drop in the toy company’s revenue. Otherwise, profit was a cool $41 million adding 33 cents per share when Wall Street only expected a paltry 29 cents per share.

They got the beat…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Morgan Stanley’s profit fell by 8.5% over last year’s results. But no one’s too upset. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Nobody’s whipping out the champagne (that I know of) but the bank still managed to score some impressive gains in all three of its main businesses so hope isn’t exactly lost. With a little help from brokerage fees and increased trading, Morgan Stanley banked a $1.8 billion profit adding 79 cents per share – after a tax benefit. Analysts only expected the bank to earn 74 cents per share. However, not be a downer but last year at this time the company scored a profit of $1.9 billion with 92 cents per share. However,  Morgan Stanley does get bragging rights – for this quarter anyway – as it had the biggest revenue increase out of all six major U.S. banks,  pulling down a whopping $9.7 billion. Last year at this time that figure was closer to $8.6 billion.The question is, can they keep pulling that trick off?

Bling it On: Tiffany’s Earnings Shine; Michael Kors Earnings Do Not Shine: Did Someone Say Snapchat IPO? Sort of.

You paid how much?!

Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of MR LIGHTMAN/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shares of Tiffany & Co. shot up over 12% to $95.68 – the most in almost six years and, well, why not? After all the high-end bling company scored some epic digits in its latest earnings report, proving once again that people really do like expensive jewelry. I mean, was it ever even a question? Even though the declining euro against the dollar seems to be messing with everybody else’s earnings Tiffany & Co. seemed to emerge from the quarter virtually unscathed. Sadly, I was not the recipient of any high-end Tiffany & Co. pieces lately, but plenty of other lucky consumers were as it was the high-end collections that drove sales for the luxury retailer this past quarter. Those pricey accessories took in $962.4 million in revenue, with profits of $104.9 million and 81 cents per share. Analysts only predicted 69 cents per share. Sort of impressive, except that last year Tiffany & Co. pulled down $1 billion in revenue with $125.6 million in profits and 97 cents per share. Those shares, by the way, are down 20% for the year. But considering that the company just increased its forecast, those stock prices might be making a comeback.

Going down down down…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unfortunately for Michael Kors, his fashion company took a nasty beating over the declining euro. But it wouldn’t be right to blame all the company’s bad earnings on the strong dollar as other factors also caused the company’s stock to plunge. While it may be hard to believe, it was just a few months ago that the stock hit an all time high of $97.60. Today, however, the stock is teetering at just under $46, its lowest point since December 2012 when it first made its IPO. Besides the strong dollar, same store sales were down a very uncool 6%. That may not seem like such a big deal but for Michael Kors it’s huge, especially when you take into consideration that the retailer also reduced its earrings outlook. Coach and Kate Spade are definitely giving Michael Kors an unwelcome run for its money, as well. When the dismal earnings for Michael Kors were announced, though, those two companies also saw their shares take a beating, as investors wondered whether bad earnings for fashion companies would be trending. Another culprit behind Kors’ earnings was Apple. No joke. While accessories tend to be hot sellers and profit drivers for companies like Michael Kors, the Apple watch is putting a major chink in those sales. After all, if you’re already spending that kind of cash on your wrist, why not have an Apple watch perched there?

Bubble burster…

Image courtesy of arztsamui/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of arztsamui/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Is there an IPO on the horizon for messaging app Snapchat? Maybe. Except CEO Evan Spiegel declined to elaborate on some key details during an interview with Re/code’s Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. For instance, the 24 year old founder wouldn’t even drop an itty bitty hint as to when Snapchat might make its big ticker debut. Speigel also dished out his thoughts on several other topics including his feelings that our current tech bubble is going to burst. Which is informative and all but really, when’s this Snapchat IPO coming at us? With 100 million users sending out around 700 million pics a day, the company has picked up funding and is valued at around $10 billion to $15 billion – depending on whom you ask, of course. But about that Snapchat IPO…

Target: Canada, We’re Out!; Let’s Be Franc; Caesar’s Busted House

You call that neutral?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Swiss National Bank did something today that had epic ramifications no matter how far away you are from the purifying air of the Swiss Alps, the amazing epicenter of fine chocolate and the home offices of Swatch. You see, up until today the Swiss had a cap on its currency, the franc. This cap was (is?) meant to keep the franc from going too high against the Euro. While it might seem like a good thing for a currency to be high, it’s actually problematic on so many levels. If you’d like to know all about it, then I suggest you Google the issue as it is a long megilla and I like to keep this blog on the short side. In any case, this cap was in place for three very peaceful fiscally pleasant years, since the European debt crisis back in 2011. And then POOF! The bank removed it just like that further weakening an already fickle Euro and sending Swiss stocks plummeting. Companies there who rely on exports are up in arms. Then there are those very justifiably upset folks in other parts of Europe who just discovered their mortgages got a whole lot pricier because they are in francs. In general, major market shake-ups, in any part of the world are not appreciated. Stability is much appreciated. Lack of stability and seismic shifts suggest people are about to – if they haven’t already – lose copious amounts of money, no matter where they reside on the planet.

Oh, goodbye, Canada…

Image courtesy of digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/freedigitalphotos.net

It just wasn’t meant to be between Target and Canada. Like several other US based retailers, including BestBuy and Big Lots Inc., Target is packing up and heading back south of the Canadian border. The Minneapolis-based company has already begun liquidating its 133 stores just four years after it announced plans to head on over to our very polite neighbors to the North. Signs that the expansion might be a miss became clear in 2013’s third quarter earnings when Target saw a huge 46% drop in company wide profit. Growth was much slower than what was expected and the numbers from this holiday season were just not as good as they could and should have been. The clincher came when CEO Brian Cornell had an analysis done which indicated, much to everyone’s fiscal horror, that it would take this very costly endeavor six years before it would turn a profit. Experts believe that unloading this Canadian project gone awry will eventually turn Target’s earnings back in the right (as in, up) direction. As to the fate of some 17,600 Canadian Target employees, the company has graciously asked to set up a $59 million contribution into an employee trust that would provide all those folks 16 weeks of compensation.

Oh craps!

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Caesars Entertainment Corp, the largest US casino, and the one with the white Bengal tigers went bust. Oh the irony! The house goes bust. With $18.4 billion in debt, the casino is looking to dump $10 billion of it and so has decided to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy. Again, cue the irony sentiment. Not everybody agreed on the bankruptcy plan. Junior noteholders stand to make back less than 10% of the many many millions they are owed and have filed a petition to get Caesars to go into involuntary bankruptcy so that they’d get better terms. The casino said it has every bit of intention of continuing to pay its suppliers and the casino will still remain open so as to give gamblers ample opportunity to go bankrupt, themselves. No word on how the tigers feel about all this.

 

Marijuana Score With Venture Capital Firm; Global Economic Issues Make For Happier Borrowers; Is Yahoo CEO’s Head on the Chopping Block?

Gone to pot…

Image courtesy of Paul/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Paul/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It just keeps getting better and better for Marijuana. Privateer Holdings, a private equity firm whose focus happens to be on the cannabis industry, just got a major cash infusion from a venture capital firm. But this is not just any venture capital firm, either. The one and only Peter Thiel, billionaire, and partner at venture capital firm, Founders Fund, just handed Brendan Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of Privateer Holdings millions upon millions of dollars to be a part of the cannabis magic.  Privateer Holdings, if you recall (and it’s okay if you don’t) scored a huge 30 year licensing deal with the family of Bob Marley to manufacture Jamaican cannabis strains and hemp-infused products for the Marley Natural brand. It’s an epic move by Founders Fund, and an even better one for Privateer Holdings because it marks the first time a major institutional investor invests in the marijuana industry. Recognizing that this is a relatively new industry with countless untapped resources and opportunities, and marijuana legalization occurring in 23 states and counting, Founders Funds figures its a great strategic move. I suspect Founders Fund knows what they’re doing seeing as how it invested in a few other companies you might have heard about including Facebook, Airbnb and SpaceX.

 Mortgage sweet mortgage…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Not that it’s polite to rejoice at the expense of our overseas friends and their fiscal shortcomings  – a veritable global schadenfraude – but their fickle unreliable little Euro and falling oil prices are doing wonders for our mortgage rates over here. Indeed, mortgage rates are dropping because other parts of the world are experiencing economic issues, and those issues are making investors eager to cozy up to the relative warmth and fuzziness of US government bonds. When investors start cozying up to these bonds, mortgage rates keep falling and falling and…In any case, if you’re looking to take out a mortgage, this week you can get one at a rate of 3.73% on a 30 year fixed. That’s not only down from 3.87% the week before but it’s the lowest rate it’s been in over a year and a half. Looking for a 15 year instead? How does 3.05% sound. That figure is also down from last week’s 3.15%. Clearly a lot of potential homebuyer’s are getting the memo on these falling mortgage rates as loan applications were up by 11% last week.

Can’t you take a hint?

Image courtesy of digital art/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digital art/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In a not so subtle hint, Starboard Value Chief Jeff Smith told Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer in a letter that, “Should you instead choose to proceed down a different path … such actions would be a clear indication to us that significant leadership change is required at Yahoo.” The path to which Mr. Smith is referring is if Ms. Mayer decides to pick up CNN or another cable outlet instead of taking his suggestion of merging with AOL for the benefit of the “cost synergies” this merger would bring. By the way, Starboard owns 7.7 million shares of Yahoo. Also, by the way, Starboard owns shares of AOL, as well. Lastly, by the way, Starboard famously (notoriously?) chucked the board of Darden Restaurents, of Olive Garden fame, last year.