By Jetta! 800,000 More VW’s Offend; B(u)y Jeep-ers! U.S. Auto Sales Don’t Offend; Call of Duty About to Get a Whole Lot Sweeter

This thing just keeps growing and growing…

Image courtesy of  fantasista/

Image courtesy of fantasista/

Just when you thought it was okay to start thinking about buying a Volkswagen, the company announced that yet another 800,000 vehicles are getting caught in the toxic wind of the company’s emissions probe. This revelation was the result of an internal probe and while those cars are currently out and about, Volkswagen wants to reassure the public that the cars are still safe to drive. Just don’t breathe around them. The auto company set aside close to $7 billion hoping that amount will be enough to cover the repairs and lawsuits. It won’t be. It’s estimated that there are 11 million Volkswagens worldwide that currently have the illegal software installed. Now it’s up to newly crowned CEO Matthias Mueller, who came over from Porsche, to help save the embattled car company, which already lost a third of its value and reported its first quarterly loss in 15 years.

Speaking of cars…

Image courtesy of bplanet/

Image courtesy of bplanet/

But on this side of the pond, car companies are having a much better day than Volkswagen. In fact, GM and Fiat Chrysler are currently in the wonderful throes of their best two month stretch. Ever. Well, in 15 years anyway. Even if you weren’t one of the lucky ones to have purchased one of those vehicles, it’s still good news since increased automobile sales indicate that the U.S. economy is in fairly decent shape. Ford did okay and Nissan did a little better. But nothing like GM, whose sales were up a nice beefy 16%, even though analysts only thought its sales would increase 12%. The company did especially well with a little help from its pricey truck lines and SUV’s. Fiat Chrysler’s sales were up a very respectable 15%, selling over 195,500 cars just last month. However, the company had a humongous boost from its Jeep brand which saw a massive 33% increase. This makes it the 67th consecutive month of increased sales for Fiat Chrysler. But, what exactly, is the reason why all these people are running out and buying up cars? If you answered low gas prices, then score one for you. The national average gas price hit a new low of $2.20 a gallon, 85 cents less than last year at this time.  But low interest rates and a slew of manufacturer incentives in order to move out the 2015 inventory also helped matters. A lot.

Call of Candy Crush Duty…

Image courtesy of foto76/

Image courtesy of foto76/

What happens when you cross the “Call of Duty” with a bunch of confections? You get the biggest acquisition of a mobile-game. Ever. Even bigger than the much-hyped Microsoft acquisition of Mojang, maker of the very beloved “Minecraft.” That’s right, Activision Blizzard, video-game maker of perennial fave games, including “Call of Duty” and “Skylanders,” scooped up King Digital Entertainment, the force behind the highly addictive “Candy Crush,” for a whopping $5.9 billion. Activision Blizzard is getting the mobile confection game maker for $18 a share, a premium over its $17.84 closing price and $4.50 less than its $22.50 IPO.  But many are wondering if Activision’s purchase will pay off. On the one hand, this is a great way for Activation to get into the $20 billion mobile gaming industry. On the other hand, King Digital failed to impress with Candy Crush follow-ups, Farm Heroes Saga and Pet Rescue, leaving many to wonder if the company’s got anything left to show.  After all, its third quarter earnings weren’t exactly sweet and monthly active users came in at 474 million, down from last year’s 495 million.


Oil-Vay! Barrels Hit a New Low; Edward Jones Gets Called Out; Candy Crush Saga’s Earnings Not So Sweet;

How crude…

Image courtesy of krishna arts/

Image courtesy of krishna arts/

The price of a barrel of oil has hit a new low and that’s good news. Or bad. It all depends on where you’re coming from. Literally. For the bargain price of $41.92, you could get yourself a whole barrel of oil. A year ago that same barrel of oil would have set you back $100. That is definitely good news for drivers. Not so much for places like Texas and North Dakota where hundreds of thousands of people there are employed by the industry and where there have been a lot of job cuts as a result of the dropping energy prices. By the way, according to the AAA, the national average for a gallon of gas is $2.62. Enjoy it while it lasts. Problem is, there is way more supply than demand. Despite the large supply of oil, OPEC insists on continuing to pump out its stash that won’t be needed. But OPEC’s freaking out and thinking this is the best course of action. Then there’s the shale boom right in the United States. Again. More energy. Declining demand. Which brings us to Iran. Now that the U.S. is playing nice with the human rights-violating country, you can expect Iran to unleash its supply, as well. But wait. There’s more. Maritime surveillance seems to be indicating that Iran has been hoarding its oil supply. It’s thought to have 50 million barrels, instead of the previously estimated 40 million barrels. Once Iran complies with nuclear demands it gets to unleash its stash and make an ungodly amount of money of it. Which is just what you want to happen to an authoritarian regime, with terrorist ties, that doesn’t recognize the rights of women, gays and other religions and ethnic groups.

Brokerages behaving badly…

Image courtesy of  hywards/

Image courtesy of hywards/

Today, instead of banks behaving badly, we bring you brokerages behaving badly. This time we turn pour attention to St. Louis-based Edward Jones, a firm that boasts 7 million clients, 13,000 of whom got bilked by the firm between 2009 – 2012. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, these 13,000 customers had the bad fortune of getting overcharged by the 93 year old firm when they purchased new municipal bonds. So not cool. The United States’ muni-markets is an estimated $3.7 trillion market. Edward Jones now has the dubious distinction of becoming the first defendant in a case where the SEC comes against an underwriter for pricing-related fraud in the municipal securities market. So congrats, Edward Jones. That’s quite an achievement. Clients were overcharged by a whopping $4.6 million for these new bonds and now Edward Jones gets to pay it back. And then some. The firms has to pay $20 million in a settlement including returning $5.2 million to the affected customers (some of whom have already left the firm). Also named in the settlement was Stina Wishman, who headed the firm’s muni-bond desk at the time clients were over-charged. She received a $15,000 fine and is barred from working in the securities industry for at least two years. Can’t wait to see how she updates her LinkedIn profile.


Image courtesy of  debspoons/

Image courtesy of debspoons/

Just because you’re sitting at you desk procrastinating by playing Candy Crush, doesn’t mean the rest of the world is. King Digital, the company behind the addictive mobile games just released its second quarter profit and they were anything but…sweet. The company’s quarterly profit took a 28% beating down to $119.3 million and 38 cents per share on $489.5 million revenue. Analysts predicted the company would score $134.3 million at 42 cents per share on $482.4 million in revenue. At least the revenue take-in wasn’t as brutal. But last year at this time the company raked in much better digits when it saw $165.4 million in profits with 52 cents added per share. It didn’t help that King Digital’s monthly unique visitors fell 7% to 340 million. That and a strong dollar sent shares down over 8% today.

Not So Sweet Earnings, Uber-Lyfting and Not So Spade-tacular

Crushed by Wall Street…

Image courtesy of digitalart/

Image courtesy of digitalart/

King Digital Entertainment Plc., as you may have heard, is the maker of Candy Crush Saga, the game in which you have apparently lost interest, at least judging by its just released earnings. The mobile game maker missed expectations for its second quarter sales and its daily average users (you, me etc) took a major hit as this quarter saw about 138 million gamers while last quarter 143 million users were depleting their cellphone batteries playing games. The Dublin-based company has been watching its stock deflate by 19% since its much anticipated March debut of $22.50 a share. Net income rose to over $165 million from around $126 million a year earlier. Revenue for the company was over $593 million when $606 million was the number Wall Street wanted to see. And if you are amongst the chosen few, expect to see nice little “special” one time $150 million dividend. “Special” not because you are a high scorer on level 266, but special because you are among the directors, execs and investors. What? You’re not one of them?

Ride-Sharing Service smackdown…

Image courtesy of digitalart/

Image courtesy of digitalart/

It’s Uber vs. Lyft in the ultimate ride-sharing smackdown. The two companies have been hard at work making thousands of  reservations and canceling them on each other. They have been even harder at work blaming one another. Uber’s got about 177 employees who are being accused of booking and canceling over 5000 rides on Lyft. But apparently Lyft upped the ante by booking 13,000 trips. Also at play is the allegation that Lyft’s investors are trying to get Uber to buy Lyft. Hmmm. Too much time on their hands, I wonder?


Image courtesy of John Kasawa/

Image courtesy of John Kasawa/

Kate Spade, once dubbed the poor girl’s Prada has had an interesting Wall Street ride. The stock fell 23% on the very untrendy news that sales for the brand are slowing down. Oddly enough, revenue for the company was up a very healthy 49% to $266 million, easily topping Wall Street’s expectations of $243 million and easily trumping last year’s revenue of $178.9 million. And the stock lost only $4.4 million compared with last year when the brand ate over $43 million in losses. But on Wall Street, especially for a brand like Kate Spade, it’s all about the future and in this case it’s not as cheerful as the brand’s accessories.