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?

Greece’s Chance to Save Itself; BofA Banks Big; It Figures: IRS Numbers Need Work

Come on Greece, you can do it…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras isn’t down with the reforms proposed by Greece’s creditors in order to get his country the financial aid it so desperately needs. Tsipras even went so far as to call the reforms “irrational.” But you know what’s actually irrational? Letting your country’s banking system collapse as your homeland dives head-first into financial ruin. So instead Tsipras has decided to take one for the team, embracing the strict reforms and urging his MP’s to the same.  Aw. Isn’t that sweet of him? What a guy. Those reforms, which are putting frowns on the faces of many Greeks, include imposing higher taxes on just about…everything. Early retirement would not only now be off the table, but the retirement age would also go up to 67. And while Tsipras may do his political best to get his MP’s to agree to these measures, he’s already getting some heated opposition from the Syriza Party who have no intention of allowing the reforms to easily pass.

Legal-ease…

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bank of America is having a very good day. Make that a very good quarter. After some unimpressive quarters, the bank had a major rebound in large part because it doesn’t have to pay as much money to a bunch of lawyers anymore.  Because of the bank’s sketchy role in the 2008 fiscal crisis, BofA already had to fork over $13 billion to both federal and state regulators. That was just for the settlement. The bank’s legal fees this time last year were a staggering $4 billion. However, this quarter, those fees went down to only $175 million. It probably would have been a whole lot cheaper for Bank of America to just admit its shifty involvement from the get-go. But, oh well. BofA took in close to $5 billion in profit this quarter, with $22 billion in revenue and 45 cents per share, when analysts only expected 36 cents a share. What is down from a year ago are delinquent mortgages. Those fell by more than half to an almost respectable 132,000.  And nobody is complaining about that drop.

In case you were wondering…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

U.S. taxpayers filed a whopping 126 million tax with 94 million of those filers even having health insurance. $249 billion were awarded in refunds to 92 million filers. The average refund came in at $2,711.  A total of 7.7 billion in subsidies was claimed and 6.6 million taxpayers paid an average of $190.00 in fines for not having insurance. As for the IRS’s customer service, or lack thereof, the agency received 50 million calls, although 8.8 million of those calls were disconnected by the IRS. Oops. 20 million filers requested to speak to a real live person at the IRS and 37% actually got to do just that. They only had to wait an average of 23 minutes. Clearly they possess the virtue of patience.

Take That Tsipras! Greece Agrees to Terms. Well, Maybe; Big Retailer Black Friday Smackdown; The New Campaign to Get Young Americans Work

What would Plato do…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Stocks all over the world went back up and all seems right in the universe once again now that the Greeks don’t have to bail on the euro anymore – well, for now anyways. $95 billion in even more aid is headed to the government in Athens. But boy are the Greeks in for it. In exchange for this, dare I say it,  bailout, major reforms are in the works for the country’s pension system. And then there all those taxes they’re going to have to pay. Well, you gotta pay that money back somehow right? Maybe some sort of debt relief will come in the form of reduction, extended payments or even – don’t let the Germans see this one – partial forgiveness. But all of this is still talk, despite some verbal agreements from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, since Greece’s Parliament sill needs to give its official thumbs up. In any case, at least the country’s banking system isn’t expected to come crashing down anytime soon. So yay.

Beating the holiday rush…

Image courtesy cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wal-Mart wants in on the Black Friday fun and is making sure Amazon’s Prime Day doesn’t get all the retail glory. The world’s largest retailer will also be slashing prices on thousands of items this week. Except Wal-Mart calls these discounts “rollbacks.” Just sayin’. Unlike Amazon, you don’t have to buy a special membership in order to get its great deals. “We just don’t believe you should pay a fee to get a better price,” Walmart’s Ravi Jariwala graciously explained. As if that wasn’t enough, free shipping comes with a just a $35.00 minimum, as opposed to the $50.00 minimum it usually requires. Wal-Mart has been losing a lot of ground to Amazon’s e-tail dominance in recent years and knows it has to up its “A” game. Which is all good news for consumers who get to reap the rewards here. Wal-Mart does have plans in the future to offer a similar membership program like Amazon’s Prime, but it will be half the price. As for the other big retailers gearing up for some Black Friday fun, Target and Best Buy will be joining in so get ready to whip out your plastic.

Percolating…

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Howard Schultz found a way to rebound from his last poorly received social campaign. But this time around, people will agree he got it right. Dubbed the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, the goal is to take 16-24 year olds from low-income areas, who are neither studying nor working, and give them gainful employment opportunities. In fact, there are about 3.5 million jobs up for grabs that don’t require a college degree and Starbucks, along with other more than a dozen other top U.S. companies, including Microsoft and Alaska Airlines, are eager to fill them. Like now. There are approximately 5.6 million young Americans who this initiative is targeting and who are eligible for these opportunities which range from full-time positions to internships and everything in between. Wall Street certainly digs Howard Schultz’s idea as well. Shares of Starbucks hit an all time high today.

NYSE Gets Be-Glitched; Jobless Benefits Rise, But Nothing to Worry About. Yet; IMF Blames US Over World’s Slow Growth

Not such a NYSE day…

Image courtesy of  cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Move over Greece and figure it out already. The outage glitch at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) is now taking center stage. The trouble is believed to have started Tuesday night when an upgrade was in progress. Problem is, by 7:00 am the next morning the issues seem to have not been resolved and traders were having difficulty connecting. At 11:00 am a warning was issued that the tech problems were being investigated. But, by 11:32 am, NYSE figured it would be a good time to halt trading. Good thing trading was able to shift seamlessly to other exchanges, as the US enjoys a system where there’s a lot of overlap in its financial markets. (Take that IMF: see below). As for NYSE, trading transferred to a back-up unit in New Jersey. So don’t bother making fun of anybody from there for a really long time. However, it still didn’t go unnoticed that it was the biggest outage in two years, that happened to coincide with technical glitches by United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal. Some suspect that it was no coincidence that all three of those systems experienced glitches. Even FBI Director James Comey said, “We’re not big believers in coincidence either. We want to dig into that part.” Although, at this point in time there’s no way to know what caused the glitches and if they’re at all related.

Speaking of glitches…

Image courtesy of xedos4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of xedos4/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well it’s not really a glitch…maybe just a hiccup – a summer hiccup.  The Labor Department released its numbers and well, it’s sort of a bummer. Turns out that applications for jobless benefits rose this week by 15,000 applicants to a total of 297,000 people. That is the highest number it’s been since February, when that awful figure hit a very unpleasant 327,000. However, there is a silver lining here, I kid you not. Most of those applications came from Michigan and Ohio and are likely due to auto-plant shutdowns who are in the midst of retooling its models for the next year. At least that’s what the experts think and well, they’re probably right. Anyways, it’s a lot more reassuring than any other reason experts can think of. As it stands, 2.33 million people are receiving jobless benefits (I’m pretty sure there’s an oxymoron somewhere in there), and while that figure may seem rather high, it is still 10% less than last year at this time. Besides, last week unemployment hit a seven year low and the number of folks applying for jobless benefits on a weekly basis has remained under 300.000 for over four months. All the more reason to breathe a sigh of relief. Sort of.

Blame it on the United States, why don’t you…

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Maybe they’re just bitter because the American Women’s Soccer team won the World Cup Finals, but according to the International Monetary Fund, the United States is to blame because the rest of he world is experiencing slow growth. The IMF is predicting that the world’s growth will grow at a pace of 3.3%, .2% less than what it predicted back in April. And that, my friends, is what you call a downgrade. That is apparently the slowest growth pace since 2009, when there was a recession in effect and the economy didn’t grow but, in fact, shrank. Because the United States economy is apparently the biggest one in the world, and because we had a particularly frightful winter, fiscally speaking, the economy shrank .2% between January and March. When the the U.S economy shrinks, it drags down the rest of the world. So they say. Meanwhile, Greece’s inability to balance its books has been dominating financial news, yet its troubles are predicted to have a limited impact on the rest of the world. Even China, which happens to have a gargantuan economy, is walking away unscathed despite the fact that its stock market plunged. According to Mr. pish-posh IMF research chief Olivier Blanchard, “We don’t see it as a major macroeconomic issue.” Whatever.

Microsoft Cuts Even More Jobs; Greece Banking on Another Bailout; Barclays Boots its Chie

NO-kia…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s not exactly a good day at Microsoft today  (or Greece, for that matter but we’ll get to that a bit later). The tech firm just announced that 7,800 more layoffs are coming down the pike, on top of the 18,000 layoffs the company announced last year. It seems the Windows maker just isn’t at the forefront of the latest tech era and its hitting the company in its portfolio. Microsoft had already sold off its online advertising business to AOL but a lot of their latest ills are courtesy of its $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia. As luck would have it, that not-so-little purchase to make headway into the smartphone market wasn’t all that smart. Microsoft now has plans to write down $7.6 billion on the Nokia unit. The company just couldn’t seem to make strides against the reigning competition from Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android. Microsoft’s smartphone market share was just an abysmal 3% – a major letdown from a company who had so often dominated tech realms.

Here we go again…

Image courtesy of africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, Greece finally whipped out its big grand plan which definitely loses points for lack of originality. Like a teenager who doesn’t seem to want to learn from his or her mistakes, the cash-strapped, debt-infused country has asked for yet another bailout. This time around, Greece asked for a three year bailout from the annoyed eurozone’s rescue funds. However, Greece is promising to implement pension and tax reforms. To be fair, no real details were actually given. Hmmm. Greek officials said they would map out a “comprehensive and specific reform agenda” by tomorrow. We’ll see about that. Now all those eurozone finance ministers have to decide if they’re going to give in to Greece. And while Greece’s Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, wants to reach a deal with creditors that needs to be fair on both sides, he also warned that his peeps need to be on board. Otherwise, no dice. What Tsipras and the fine people of Greece don’t dig are austerity measures. Any whiff of austerity and chances are no deal will be reached and more fiscal chaos will ensue. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew finally commented on the situation stressing that Europe ought to help Greece restructure its debt. Which would be super-great because maybe then stocks all over the world will finally cooperate and go up instead of taking bad financial cues from Greece.

The skills to pay the bills…

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of biosphere/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Major drama coming out of Barclays today, where Chief Executive Antony Watkins received an unwelcome surprise – he got the boot. Fired. Shown the door. In a statement, Barclays, which has seen its share of scandal in the last few years, said “a new set of skills” was needed for the individual who will take the reins at the company. Ouch. Apparently, officials at the bank thought Watkins wasn’t doing enough to dig Barclays out of its scandal-laden pit. Board chairman, John McFarlane, will serve as interim chief until a more permanent replacement can be found –  one who presumably possesses that much desired skill-set. Barclays, Britain’s biggest bank, is currently staring down the wrong end of fines and investigations over its role and manipulation of London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) as well as its other un-flattering role in foreign exchange rate manipulation. Nice, huh?

Greece Needs a Man With a Plan; Cruisin’ to Cuba; Starbuck$-ing Your Coffee

Ode to a Grecian fiscal burn…

Image courtesy of  jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today is yet another day where the world gets to sit back and cry as stocks all over the globe continue to go south because the Greeks just can’t seem to get their debt crisis under control. The mood might have improved had Greek officials bothered to come up with some sort of plan to help ease the situation. But as more than one eurozone official put it, they have “no concrete proposals.”  However, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has a plan…to address the European Parliament on Wednesday, much to the irritation of many a European official, who aren’t eager to bail out Greece, yet again. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande also have a meeting planned with Tsipras. But both leaders have very different ideas about how to handle Greece. The Germans do not want Chancellor Merkel to give in to the Greeks, once more, and would even like to see Greece out of the eurozone altogether. In fact, one German official would prefer if Merkel would just completely reject negotiations. France doesn’t see the benefits of these actions but doesn’t exactly want to pony up the cash either.

Bienvenido….

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Gualberto107/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You can now add Carnival Cruise Lines to the list of operators making their way down to Cuba. “All of our research suggests there is huge pent-up demand for the Cuba experience,” a company spokesman noted. As part of the line’s “fathom” brand, travelers eager to visit the island nation will now have the chance to book that dream trip for a mere $2,990 per person – plus taxes and port fees. However, don’t bother bringing extra cash for gambling or booking reservations for snorkeling expeditions. Passengers aboard the Adonia ship, which carries just 710 passengers, will be required to spend eight hours of each of their trip days immersed in Cuban cultural experiences instead. If that sort of trip doesn’t appeal to you, then take it up with the U.S. government as this is all part of its rules and regulations in order to travel to Cuba.  At least you’ll have plenty of time to pack as the ships don’t set sail for the island nation until May of 2016. The tourism industry in Cuba generates more than $2.6 billion and plays a significant role in the nation’s economy. With the U.S.’s entry into the fold, you can expect that role to get even bigger.

Buzz-worthy?

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of foto76/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Good news for Starbucks. But not for you. Coffee futures fell. A lot. But that cup of coffee you just picked up from the Seattle-based chain just got pricier as Starbucks started charging up to 20 cents more for its brew. The price per pound of coffee was over $221 back in October. But since then the price has fallen 44% to about $124.70 per pound. Overhead is the magic word here as Starbucks has a lot of it, from employee benefits, to rent to..well…coffee.  In fact, 88% of its costs come from goods sold – as in coffee . So, in keeping with corporate spirit, the coffee company has passed those price increases onto its customers. Funny how that works out. If you find yourself just a tad bit irritated by the price hike, then head on over to your local grocery store. and pick up some coffee products from J.M. Smucker. That company owns Folgers and has actually been cutting the cost of its coffee products since the price of coffee has been declining.

Is a Fiscal Greek Tragedy Looming?; American Apparel’s Un-Trendy Legal Woes; Curing the Black Friday Blues

What would Socrates say?

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of koratmember/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Greeks let its creditors know exactly how they feel about their austerity measures and voted resoundingly against them. But at least Greece’s Foreign Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, resigned announcing via his blog “Minister No More,” much to the delight and merriment of many a Eurozone finance minister. This resignation has even got some folks mildly optimistic that the financial crisis in Greece isn’t completely unsalvageable. But these very same finance ministers are all still in a tailspin about how to avoid a fiscal disaster as Greece already defaulted on a 1.5 billion euro payment to the International Monetary Fund while another payment is due to the European Central Bank for 3.5 billion euros on July 20. If a sovereign, in this case Greece, defaults on its loans, well then, bad things will just get worse as the banks become insolvent – as in, tapped out, dry etc – and then get nationalized. Once they get nationalized a brand new currency is introduced – a change which would be very bad for so many reasons. As for those Greek banks which are staring down the wrong end of nationalization and insolvency, they’re likely to run out of cash by the weekend.  In case you haven’t noticed, Greece’s fiscal turmoil has been causing even more turmoil in the global markets. So yeah, it’s in everybody’s best interest that Greece gets its fiscal act up and economically running.

Clearance…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things are looking pretty ugly for embattled clothing retailer American Apparel. The company has a $30 million cost-cutting plan in the works and that could mean an under-performing American Apparel store near you might be closing its doors forever.  The chain has 239 stores and 10,000 employees whose heads are currently on the chopping block. American Apparel is also undergoing an image makeover after ousting founder and CEO Dov Charney. New CEO Paula Schneider would like to see the company sell actual clothes, as opposed to body parts. Sounds fair. This $30 million plan will hopefully rectify some of the other problems afflicting the clothing line and reverse those “steep losses.” However, many think it’s going to take a lot more cash than that. Some of that might have to do with the over 20 lawsuits looming courtesy of the booted Dov Charney and his associates. Of course, the brass at American Apparel has called the lawsuits “meritless.” The stock, which is down over 55% for the year and is currently hovering at a dismal 45 cents per share, has a market value of about $90 million. That’s a far cry from its $540 million market value it enjoyed just five years ago.

Prime deal…

Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Iamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you are eagerly pining away for the chaos that comes with Black Friday that is still an endless five months away, then you’re gong to love this next one. Amazon is throwing its very own birthday party on July 15, dubbed “Prime Day,” and has invited you to come. Amazon wants presents. It wants you to spend your hard-earned money on deals that will be featured on Amazon – deals that you usually only see on Black Friday, and as the case may be, cyber-Monday. And while you don’t necessarily need to rsvp, you won’t walk away with any ridiculously-reduced items unless you subscribe to Amazon Prime – which by the way, will set you back $99 a year. But hey, at least you’ll get instant video streaming, free two-day shipping, Prime music and maybe even some really great bargains.

Guess it’s Not Payback Time for Greece; Brit Wants to Save the Fiscal Day for Greece; diSinging the JetBlue-s for Baggage Fees;

Greece frightening…

Image courtesy of africa/FreeDigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of africa/FreeDigitalphotos.net

Will the third time be a charm? Fiscally-challenged Greece has asked for yet another bailout, this time to the tune of $27 billion. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has indicated that repayment for $1.8 billion of a $270 billion tab is not gonna happen, much to the dissatisfaction of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission who all ponied up the cash for the cash-strapped European nation. In fact, Greece isn’t even getting the customary 30 day grace period. There are those in Greece who weren’t down with suggestions made by its creditors who called for “austere” measures and a more stringent repayment schedule. Lucky for Greece, however, the country is still not expected to officially go bankrupt. Phew. There’s also that other payment due July 20 in the not-so-small amount of $3.9 billion. That’s probably not going anywhere either. As for Alexis Tsipras and his July 5 referendum, he subtlety indicated that he’ll bow out – as in, resign – should the Greek people decide to vote in favor of the measures, for which he does not care. What a guy.

Oh and one more thing…

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you’re heart goes out to Greece and you feel the need to help the country in its loan repayment – because you don’t know how else to spend your disposable income – then you’re in a luck. A British man found a way for you to throw out your hard-earned money by donating to a fund that would “help” mitigate the European nation’s fiscal woes. Out of the goodness of his heart, or maybe because it seemed funny at the time, Thom Feeney established an Indiegogo account to help raise 1.6 bullion euros. He reasoned that if every European chipped in three euros, then the people will have sorted out this mess instead of leaving it to those pesky “European ministers flexing their muscles.” Laugh all you want but Feeney has so far raised over 250,000 euros from over 16,000 contributors.

And then there was one…

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just when you thought JetBlue really was different than all the others, the airline with a relatively decent customer satisfaction rating went ahead and broke our consumer hearts by announcing that, it too, would start charging to check bags. This leaves Southwest Airlines as the only airline who has not jumped on the baggage fee bandwagon. Well, at least not yet. Beginning today, if you book a ticket with JetBlue, and it happens to be the cheapest ticket, expect to pay a $20 fee for that first checked bag. If you aren’t a light packer and find yourself needing to check an additional bag, expect the price to go up to $35. If you have more than that, well, maybe you should reconsider air travel. In any case, that $20 fee is only for those checking their bags online or through a kiosk. Once you decide to check that bag at  a counter via an actual living and breathing human being, watch the price go up by $5. If you’re fotunate enough not to have to book the lowest tier ticket, then congrats. You can continue to get that first checked bag on the house – or rather, aircraft.

Greece’s Finances are Messing Everybody Up; Puerto Rico’s in a Debt “Death Spiral”; Housing Up and About

It’s all Greek to me…

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

They gave us philosophy and high-protein yogurt. But now Greece is giving us nothing but global fiscal chaos as its banks are on the verge of collapse while the country prepares to maybe give a big fat default on its loans tomorrow. That is assuming it doesn’t pony up a $1.8 billion re-payment. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gave a very unwelcome surprise to Greece’s creditors on Friday when he called for a referendum to take place on July 5 on whether or not Greece should follow the plan that the creditors have in store – which is, basically, good old-fashioned austerity and some deep deep spending cuts. Greeks will have plenty of time to ponder all this as they wait on endless lines just to withdraw about $60 bucks. That is, if the ATM’s still even have cash in them, since hundreds are already empty. Too bad the banks will be closed for the next six days. As for the question surrounding the “Grexit,” as in, Greece’s potential ugly exit from the European Union…well that remains to be determined. But, I’m guessing those creditors really want Alexis Tsipras to think long and hard about that 240 billion in euros the country has been getting since 2010 and how much they would really appreciate getting it back. Actually, I’m guessing everyone wants Alexis Tsipras to do something, as the situation in Greece is messing with financial markets all over the world.

Speaking of debt-laden countries…

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Puerto Rico seems to be inadvertently channeling Greece’s debt problem as its Governor, Alejandro Garcia Padilla, said the island’s debt is “not payable” and even asked for help to be pulled from its fiscal “death spiral.” His words. Not mine. Puerto Rico’s debt is a lot less than Greece’s but no less daunting with its $72 billion price tag. One of the problems facing Puerto Rico is that because it’s not a state, it doesn’t even get to file for bankruptcy. This puts the territory in quite the pickle. So like any other borrower, Puerto Rico is going to attempt to restructure some of those loans and see about getting some deferments. Otherwise, fiscal disaster looms and it could be years before it climbs its way out of that menacing “death spiral.”

And not in Greece or Puerto Rico…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Housing recovery is…recovering. At least based on the number of pending sales from previously owned homes. But hey, we’ll take it. That figure, brought to us courtesy of the National Association of Realtors, is up .9% for May and up to 112.6. And bonus: that was the fifth straight gain. And more bonus: it’s at its highest point in nine years. And who doesn’t like straight gains and high points? Better employment, (slightly) increasing salaries and lower borrowing costs are all helping in this arduous recovery process. Interestingly enough, those higher sales came from the markets located in the Northeast and West part of our country. Not so much from points in the Midwest and South which actually took a bit of a hit. A teensy one. Well, teensy enough that it was over-shadowed by those impressive gains in other parts of the land. In case you were wondering, the median price for a home these day is $228,700, almost 8% higher than last year.

Wild Things at the ECB Conference; Google Gets Antitrust Slapped by EU; Smith & Wesson’s Shares Shoot Up

Think you’re having a bad day?

Image courtesy of noppasinw/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of noppasinw/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank just might be having an even worse day than you, this April 15. And he didn’t even have to file his taxes. As Mr. Draghi was speaking at a conference in Frankfurt, Germany today when a female protester literally jumped onto the table from which he spoke and threw a stack of papers and confetti at him screaming, “End ECB dictatorship!” Now folks have been known to take intense issue with what they consider to be measures that are just a bit to harsh for fiscally challenged European countries, especially Greece and Spain, but if I didn’t know any better, I’d say Ashton Kutcher was somewhere in the room telling Mario Draghi he’d just been punk’d. But…Ashton wasn’t there. Alas, if only the rest of the conference had been as exciting. Instead the ECB President went on to discuss the less riveting topics surrounding the state of the European economy, how it’s allegedly improving and that the $1.2 trillion quantitative easing program is apparently working. In case you were wondering just what on earth is quantitative easing, or QE, as the cool kids call it, it’s a super special type of monetary policy used when the regular one doesn’t seem to be working properly (the details of which I will not delve so as to maintain my audience). As for the protester, Josephine Witt, who managed to pass through multiple security checks posing as a journalist, she gleefully tweeted: “I would say, the #ecb ‘s security service is just as good as putins.”

Speaking of Europe…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Google’s not having the best day in Europe either. The all-mighty search engine is getting called out by the European Union for abuses of power. The EU is handing Google a “Statement of Objections,” with an antitrust complaint that accuses the company of favoring and promoting its own services and products over competitors in user search results and comparison shopping. Google has a 90% share in Europe’s search engine market and 35% of Google’s ad revenue comes from Europe. The United States also began a similar investigation but dropped it after Google graciously agreed to make some changes. The changes, however, weren’t enough for companies like Microsoft, Yelp, Expedia etc., who are happy about this probe since they feel that Google’s search engine dominance is making for a very uneven playing field. The EU is also investigating whether Google forces mobile device companies to use them and whether or not those companies are even allowed to tweak Android software.

Shoot ’em up…

Image courtesy of Surachai/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Surachai/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Firearms: Love ’em or hate ’em matters not when there’s money involved. Shares of gun maker Smith & Wesson saw a 13% increase on shares today as the company announced that orders for firearms are picking up.  In fact, the stock hit a high today of $14.75 and is up over 50% since the beginning of 2015. Last year the company took in over $626 million in sales, a record for the company. Even though sales aren’t expected to come close to that figure this year, Smith & Wesson is still expected to rake in between $546 – $550 million dollars –  and no one seems to be taking issue with that. Well, at least not on Wall Street.