Solar Jobs Have the Power; Michael Kors Sings the Retail Blues; GM Sets a Record, But Profit Disappoints

Sunshine days…

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The sun is where it’s at these days as the amount of jobs in the solar industry jumped 25% in the last year, now employing over 260,000 workers. According to The Solar Foundation, the reason for the job growth in this field has to do with a massive decrease in cost to install solar panels, combined with rising demand. A perfect fiscal storm – but in a good way.  The solar industry is projected to grow significantly  as solar capacity  continues to grow. It’s actually looking like solar power will end up becoming the most widely used power source.  The U.S. Department of Energy, in its own study, found that there are more Americans working in the solar power industry, compared to the 187,000 employees toiling away at natural gas and coal power plants. In fact, one out of every fifty new jobs in 2016 was in the solar industry, and the number of solar jobs increased in 44 out of 50 states.  Women represent 28% of the solar workforce and that number is expected to climb.  In case you were thinking of switching careers, the  industry is expecting to add about 51,000 jobs in 2017.  And with a median wage of $26 per hour, that might not be such a bad idea.

It’s in the bag…

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No matter how much Michael Kors wants to blame department stores for its dismal performance, it can’t. Because it just wasn’t their fault. Entirely. The fact is, there were just a lot less shoppers at both department stores and at Michael Kors stores.  Shares of the company fell almost 15% as it announced that it earned $1.64 per share. That should seem impressive, since analysts forecasted that the company would gain $1.63 per share. However, the 6.4%  drop in sales was just too much to bear, especially because a 5.4% drop was anticipated. So you can imagine the collective disappointed sigh on Wall Street. Revenue for the quarter dropped 3.2% to come in at $1.35 billion, when estimates were for $1.36.  For the full year, the company now expects to take in sales of $4.48 billion, when it previously had its sights set on $4.55 billion. As for the $4.71 billion in sales Michael Kors took in last year, well, that’s now a sweet distant memory, isn’t it? As part of a big plan, Michael Kors’ brass explained that it’s going to scale back on its offerings in wholesale stores. With too much inventory and major discounts eating substantial chunks into its margins, the company has even decided not to participate in friends and family sales.  The theory is that by ditching these deep discounts, the brand will somehow get reinvigorated and finally gain back some of its value and prestige. Too bad it’s taking so long to find out if this plan will actually work.

It’s a record…

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General Motors just came out with its fourth quarter earnings bumming out Wall Street with news that its profit dropped $1.8 billion and earning $1.28 per share. Nothing says disappointing quite like a 71% year-over-year drop, which is exactly what this profit was. But apparently, that drop isn’t as tragic as it seems, since that figure was the result of a $4 billion tax gain from a one-time accounting change. Too bad that bit didn’t stop the stock from taking a 4.7% hit. Revenue for the quarter came in at $44 billion, an 11% increase over last year, even though estimates were for just over $40 billion and $1.17 per share. A year ago, revenues almost hit $40 billion, taking in $1.39 per share.  The big joyful news, though, is that GM scored a record $166.4 billion in revenues for 2016, a 9% increase from last year that brought in a profit of $9.4 billion and added about $6 per share. Estimates were for $163.5 billion. As for GM’s 52,000 hourly workers, they can look forward to a $12,000 bonus this year, up from last year’s $11,000. This little initiative will set GM back by $624 million, but hey, those folks deserve it, no? And while GM sold 10 million vehicles globally, Wall Street’s still uneasy about the company’s 845,000 ownerless cars that were sitting around at the end of 2016.

GM Invests in US. Trump Takes All the Credit (Again); Tiffany & Co. Credits Trump for Quarterly Loss; No Trump-ing Mattel with New CEO

Pressure cooker…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

GM just announced that it is throwing a whopping $7 billion into several of its U.S. plants in order to bring back thousands of jobs, in addition to the 56,000 hourly workers it already employs here. Naturally, Trump is taking credit for these actions and it’s kind of weird that he would since GM said these plans were already in place for months. Who you choose to believe doesn’t matter because Trump already tweeted about it:”With all of the jobs I am bringing back into the U.S. (even before taking office), with all of the new auto plants coming back…I believe the people are seeing ‘big stuff.'” Nothing says POTUS quite like the term, “big stuff.” But just so you know, GM didn’t exactly deny that Trump didn’t have something to do with its newly announced plans either. Although, General Motors did mention something to the effect of “this was good timing.” Feel free to read into that however you want since it’s no secret that Trump was gunning for GM over its manufacturing of the Chevy Cruze south of the border, and then bringing it back into the country tax-free. Incidentally, GM CEO Mary Barra is part of a panel of CEOs who are advising Trump on economic policy. Also incidentally, Mary Barra is expected to attend the President-elect’s inauguration.

Good fences?

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Guess who else is not happy with Trump? Okay, I guess that list is kind of long so I’ll just tell you: Tiffany & Co. The jeweler, which happens to own a flagship store that is adjoined to Trump Tower, reported a 14% drop in sales at that very store on Fifth Avenue. To be fair, the iconic jeweler was expecting a drop thanks to Trump. Only this one was worse than expected, citing “post-election disruptions.” Roughly translated, that means that in addition to the many many anti-Trump protesters, potential shoppers also had to contend with heightened security, courtesy of the secret service and NYPD, not to mention journalists and hoards of tourists eager to see if they could catch a glimpse of the President-elect. So just how bad were Tiffany & Co.’s sales? Well, in the US, those numbers only came in at $483 million, with comparable store sales down 4%.  And the luxury retailer isn’t very hopeful about those numbers going up in 2017.  But because Trump isn’t everywhere, global sales of Tiffany & Co. came in at $966 million, which was just a tad bit higher than last year at this time.

Don’t toy with her…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Barbie is getting a new boss as Mattel gears up for its second CEO since 2015. Enter Margaret “Margo” Georgiadis, whose last gig, for the past six years, was over at Google. She was President of Google Americas and oversaw commercial operations and ad sales for the U.S., Canada and Latin America. So, it’s safe to say she’s (over?) qualified for the job. She is among just 27 top ranking female executives at Fortune 500 companies. Georgiadis, who also worked at Groupon and Discover Financial Services, begins her role at Mattel on February 8, where she will also sit on the board of the company. She’ll be tasked with coming up with new, and hopefully ingenious ways to boost sales in a climate that has kids hypnotized by mobile devices. Unfortunately, these nefarious electronic gadgets have been putting a dent into the sales of not only Mattel, but Hasbro and Lego as well. However,  given that Georgiadis has a reputation for successfully building brands, boosting sales of Fisher-Price, Hot Wheels and the American Girl line should be easy as pie. Well, hopefully.

Trump Tweets Threats of Big Taxes to GM Over Small Cars; Ford Rearranges Plants Much to Trump’s Delight; Trump’s Trade Pick China’s Worst Nightmare?

Small-fry…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Trump is tweeting again, this time going after General Motors. The President-elect wants to slap some big ugly taxes on the auto company because it imports Chevrolet Cruzes from Mexico instead of making them in the United States. But here’s where things get dicey: According to GM, only the hatchback version of the car is made in Mexico, and are meant for global distribution. The sedans, however, are made in Ohio. Ohio. In fact, of the 172,000 Cruzes sold last year, only 4,500 of them came from Mexico.  Even the United Auto Workers Union doesn’t care if GM does assemble those cars in Mexico since the Ohio factory isn’t equipped to make the hatchbacks. (Incidentally, over 1,000 employees at this plant are getting laid off soon.)  Besides, it’s alot of fuss to make about a car whose sales were down 18% in November.  The fact is, low gas prices are leading to higher sale of of SUV’s and trucks.  And the Chevrolet Cruze doesn’t figure in very nicely here.  Which all probably explains why this latest Trump tweet didn’t even harm the stock.  While it did lose some juice early on, it rebounded into positive territory very very quickly.

Adios…

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In the meantime, just hours after Trump used his social media account to lash out at GM, Ford announced that it is officially scrapping plans to build a $1.6 billion assembly plant in Mexico. But that doesn’t mean its ditching our neighbor to the south. Instead, Ford will continue making Ford Focus compact cars in an existing plant there while taking $700 million from that budget to upgrade a plant in Michigan for building electric cars. And bonus: 700 jobs would be added to the mix for that Michigan plant. It’s all part of a bigger $4.5 billion plan that Ford had in place to manufacture 13 new models of both electric and hybrid cars. A win-win, no?  There are plenty who think it’s just a win for Trump, who made it clear that he’s not into NAFTA and that manufacturing cars in Mexico only hurts the U.S. economy.  They also think Fields scrapped his original plans in an effort to make nice with the incoming President, not to mention, avoid tariffs. However, Fields said he was planning to make this move anyway, whether Trump was elected or not. Which doesn’t explain why construction on the new plant already started in May. But anyway, you needn’t cry for Mexico…just yet. The existing plant in Mexico will be adding 200 jobs there as well, so that country doesn’t come out a total loser either. While shares of Ford rose on the news today, can you guess what happened to the peso? It took a .9% hit against the dollar.  How do you say “ouch” in Spanish?

In other Trump business news…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The President-elect has set his sights on his pick for the U.S. Trade Representative post. Enter Robert Lighthizer, a Reagan administration alum, who has spent the last thirty years representing major companies in anti-dumping and anti-subsidy cases. Presumably, he was incredibly successful in that aspect of his career, or else Trump might not have looked in his direction.  According to Trump,  Lighthizer has made some very effective deals that protected significant sectors and industries in the U.S. economy. Yowza. Trump’s banking that Lighthizer will do something about “failed trade policies which have robbed so many Americans of prosperity.” That’s a definite plus for working in the Trump administration. As Trump’s top trade negotiator, one of Lighthizer’s major duties will be to try and reduce that pesky trade deficit and apparently, he has a knack for making deals that do just that. Lighthizer doesn’t care for the trade policies we have in place for China, so be sure to watch the drama that unfolds as he goes after one of the world’s largest economies. You can expect some big changes in that arena and damned be the Word Trade Organization rules if it comes to that. Which it just might considering Lighthizer’s not that into the WTO.

Ya-Oops! Internet Biz Breach; Tesla Calling Out Wolverine State; Budget Beauty Goes IPO Glam

Out of breach…

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As if things couldn’t get any dicier at Yahoo, the company is now facing the wrong end of a security breach with roughly 500 million Yahoo accounts caught in the fray of the company’s core internet business. And all this as Yahoo hopes to close a $4.8 billion deal with Verizon so the telecom giant can acquire those compromised core internet assets. It seems talk of a breach surfaced way back in August when a story broke out about a hacker, who goes by the name “Peace,” sold a ton of personal info that included birthdates, usernames, scrambled passwords etc. for the price of three bitcoins. In case you were wondering, because I know you were, that’s around $1,800. The question of the day is should Yahoo have come clean about the breach sooner and been a bit more proactive? After all, there are laws regarding breaches in 48 states that stipulate that companies must alert affected customers within a certain amount of time. But Yahoo might be in the clear since no social security numbers or other financial information was supposedly involved.  For those who have Yahoo accounts and want to take additional precautions, besides changing passwords, they can visit http://www.identitytheft.gov.

Denied…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tesla’s not very happy with Michigan right now as evidenced by the lawsuit it filed against the state and its Governor Rick Snyder. Tesla is screaming foul, calling a 2014 Michigan law unconstitutional, because it seems to have been designed to protect auto titan and Michigan darling, General Motors. Apparently, the Great Lake state doesn’t take kindly to automakers selling their cars directly to (gasp!) consumers and refuses to issue a dealership license to the maker of the pish-posh battery-operated cars. Car salesmen find Tesla’s business model positively odious because it has the car company selling its motorized wares directly to the folks who will ultimately be driving them, thereby cutting out the middleman i.e. car salesmen. Tesla, which is also suing Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Secretary of State Ruth Johnson – her department officially rejected Tesla’s license application – is hoping a judge strikes down the the law because it impedes commerce between states. Tesla is currently barred from selling and repairing its cars in Michigan, as well as not being licensed to sell them in Connecticut, Texas and Utah.

IPO glam…

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There’s a new darling on Wall Street and this time it’s one that has very little to do with tech. Enter e.l.f. beauty  – which stands for eyes, lips, face (duh!) – a cosmetics company with 9 stores in the New York area, two stores in the L.A. area and is also sold in 19,000 retail locations including Walmart and Target, of course. E.l.f., which trades on the NYSE exchange under the ticker symbol ELF, is positively fabulous if only because of its super-special price point: it’s considerably lower than other brands with most of its products selling for $6 or less. Backed by private equity firm TPG, the IPO was set to debut between $14-$16 a share, but was then later priced at $17 per share with 8.3 million shares up for grabs.  None of that seemed to matter when it opened this morning at $24 a share and then soared 59% to $27.09. That gave the company a value of over $1 billion which is not bad for a company that sells a bargain product in a very crowded $57 billion global cosmetics industry.

GM Earnings Not So Revved Up; Wall Street Goes Dunkin’ DoNUTS ; Its Girl Scout Cookie Time – All the Time

Unstoppable?

Image courtesy of olovedog/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of olovedog/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

General Motors came out with its quarterly earnings and you’d hardly know all the fiscal trouble it was dealing with just a year ago. Except for the fact that it reported a glaring $1.7 billion drop in revenue, not to mention all those charges to compensate victims of the recall debacle. The auto company earned $945 million and 86 cents a share this quarter when a year ago GM was staring down the wrong end of a $1.2 billion recall and a paltry profit of just $125 million. GM, incidentally, missed expectations by 11 cents. Try not to get too worked up over that. The automaker did pretty well in the U.S. as fuel prices continued their downward trend sending subliminal messages to consumers that it’s okay to buy all those hunky trucks and SUV’s. But those numbers would have been much higher were it not for a pesky higher tax rate and a strong U.S. dollar. Of course, it wouldn’t be right not to mention Russia and all the fiscal problems it has been causing GM in that part of the world. So there, I mentioned it.

Sweet tooth…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dunkin’ Donuts also released earnings which were positively scrumptious. Well, duh. Have you been in one of their stores lately. I have. This morning, as a matter of fact. And, as usual, I had to wait on a long line. So there. Anybody who patronizes their donuts shops could have told you those donuts were gonna pull off some impressive earnings. So what were those magical numbers, you might be wondering. Dunkin’ Donuts pulled in 40 cents per share, easily topping analysts’ estimates of 35 cents per share. Not bad for a company that sells donuts for a little over a dollar each. As for revenues, well those sugary confections pulled down close to $186 million, once again beating predictions of $180.65 million. Apparently, much of that success was attributed to the wildly caloric and ridiculously tasty croissant donuts.  Dunkin’ Donuts Chief Nigel Travis said the chain managed to pull off these impressive digits despite a nasty winter. But I suspect, in my most humble, unprofessional opinion, that perhaps, those numbers were because of it. Think about it: a hot beverage and a sweet treat. What better way to spend a wintery morning? Well, flying to Hawaii is one way, but I digress. If its earnings weren’t sweet enough for you, then how about the fact that the donut chain also raised its outlook on revenue growth from a previously estimated 5% – 7% to a revised 6% – 8%. Can we say sprinkles on top?

Sweeter tooth…

Image courtesy of  pupunkkop/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pupunkkop/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No need to wait anymore for one of your co-workers to hit you up to buy Girl Scout cookies from their daughters on the same day you start your diet. Now you can sabotage your diet goals all year round as the Girl Scout Organization has announced it will be offering a Do-It-Yourself version, easily accessible from your local Wal-Mart, Target or Toys R Us stores beginning this summer.  In fact, it’s so easy, 8 year olds can do it. By themselves. Literally. The Easy-Bake Oven it is not, as Hasbro has the licensing deal for that one. But this new toy is sure to give Hasbro a run for its money as the Girl Scouts of America teamed up with Wicked Cool Toys to offer the latest way for small children to learn the fine art of capitalism. And baking And just eating cookies. The oven toy will sell for about $60 a pop and and comes with one pack of cookies. But just how this new enterprise will affect the 200 million boxes of cookies sold each year remains to be seen.

GM’s Future Is Looking Green, Big Mac Selfie Time and the Airline Industry Is Full of Surprises

Unstoppable…

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

File this one under things that make you hmmm…Following a horrific year and quarter, GM and its CEO Mary Barra  came out…on top! Even after a massive recall fiasco that put a gaping $1.3 billion hole in General Motors financials, the automaker was still seeing green today. Profits for the company were down 85% yet it still beat the Street’s expectations by $0.02. Yes two cents, as in General Motors does in fact have two cents to rub together…and more. GM’s earnings were up by $0.06 cents a share when Wall Street only expected it to rise by $0.04. General Motors CEO Mary Barra, who has only been at the helm since January and took a brutal Congressional beating over GM’s disastrous recall debacle that cost several lives, was also just named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people.

Not just clowning around…

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Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Selfies…here I come.” No that wasn’t Miley Cyrus! But guess who is finally joining the Twitterverse? None other than everyone’s favorite big-mac shilling red-headed clown, Ronald McDonald. The official face of the Golden Arches is also getting a stylish (I’m being generous here) new makeover – replete with cargo pants, a striped rugby shirt and banging new red blazer. If that doesn’t scream Abercrombie & Fitch model, I don’t know what does. The clown’s last makeover was nine years ago and many suspect this new look has a bit to do with Taco Bell and its new campaign to corner the fast-food breakfast arena. Incidentally (or not), Ronald McDonald’s new look was unveiled a day after McDonald’s announced lower than expected sales and profits. You can find Ronald McDonald invading social media at the #RonaldMcDonald hashtag and @McDonaldsCorp.

Wingin’ it…

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Photo courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

American Airlines scored huge when they announced their first quarter earnings beating the Street by almost $0.20 a share. Wall Street predicted they’d come in with earnings of $0.46 a share but (audible gasp) they came in at $0.65 a share! And if you’ve flown with American Airlines recently then you know that is nothing short of miraculous. They posted first quarter revenue of $10 billion and net income of $480 million. Last time I flew American (August), they still hadn’t updated their aircraft fleet and if you wanted to watch television you had to do so on their antiquated drop down televisions with lousy picture quality. A Snickers bar on the flight cost almost as much as the flight itself. So I suppose the numbers  do add up. Delta also pleasantly surprised Wall Street with a nice first quarter profit even though it had to cancel a whopping 17,000 flights due to severe weather. JetBlue and UnitedContinental, despite having newer fleets and presumably better…everything (than American Airlines) didn’t fare as well.