Uh Oh Canada: Trump Starts Up With Our Neighbors to the North; Marissa Mayer Walks Away Golden; Nasdaq Yowza!

Good Tariffs don’t make good neighbors…

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As if things weren’t awkward enough between the President and Mexico, now it’s the U.S.’s relations with Canada that are getting the Trump treatment. This time it’s Canada’s lumber industry that’s getting caught up in the import debate as the President’s plan calls for a tariff of up to 24% on Canada’s lumber products. Canadian lumber companies are pretty ticked off and Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is itching to fight back. Just how remains to be seen. In case you didn’t know, Canada is the world’s largest soft-wood lumber exporter and the U.S. is its biggest customer, reportedly importing $6 billion worth of the resource just in 2016. But here’s where things get dicey, well for the U.S. anyway – shares of home-building companies took a very unwelcome dive on the soft-lumber dispute, as Wall Street realized raw materials could get a whole a lot pricier. That will likely end up leading to a very unpleasant domino effect on other related industries. If you’re looking to buy a home, take note that this Canada lumber is issue is sending home prices up as well. Incidentally, Canada is going to stop importing U.S. dairy products, as a sort of retaliatory action. Sort of. But basically, this means dairy farmers are getting screwed here too. And don’t you hate when that happens? On the flip side, U.S. lumber producers said that cheap lumber imports from Canada, which are they say are unfairly subsidized by the Canadian government, have put a major crimp in their business and these tariffs will give the domestic lumber industry a much needed reboot.

What color is your parachute?

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Yahoo might have gone bust but Marissa Mayer will be walking away from the entity with $186 million lining her pockets. That’s even after Verizon agreed to buy the  beleaguered company. She’s sitting on 4.5 million shares of the failed internet company and she’ll get that substantial wad of cash once she pays to exercise her options. That $186 million is based on Monday’s closing price, in case you were wondering, and while Mayer may not have had the best run at Yahoo, the stock still tripled during her five-year CEO stint there. And as Verizon plunks down $4.5 billion for Yahoo, Mayer will take in another $3 million as part of her golden parachute. That’s besides the fact that last year she lost out on her bonus following the massive data security breaches that affected one billion Yahoo accounts.

Making a break for it…

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The Nasdaq broke the 6000 mark with a lot of help from big corporate gains and, believe it or not, even President Donald Trump. That’s because the President has big “tax reform and reduction” plans which involve reducing the United States’ onerous corporate tax rate from a whopping 35% to a more corporation-friendly, and globally competitive, 15%. Plans like that could mean a big boost all-around on Wall Street. Companies including Apple, Microsoft and McDonald’s, to name a few, reported impressive gains, sending the Nasdaq all the way up to 6034.74. If you’re finding Trump’s contribution hard to swallow, consider that the result of France’s Presidential election also factored into that 6000 point breakthrough. French Presidential Candidate Emanuel Macron’s first-round victory helped matters, probably because of his centrist politics, which apparently Wall Street digs. It wasn’t since March 7, 2000, that the Nasdaq broke the 5,000 barrier. But alas, that remains nothing but a very distant memory.  The Nasdaq, incidentally, is up over 10% since the beginning of the year and up way over 20% in the last twelve months.

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Trump-y’s Bumpy Budget Plans; McDonald’s Unknowingly Picks Fight with President; The Goose is Loose: Luxury Coats Hit Wall Street

Did you say…trillion?

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There’s nothing like a $1.1 trillion budget proposal to perk up a Thursday. The big winner in Trump’s plan is defense, which gets a $54 billion boost if the President gets his way. Losers of the $54 billion corresponding cuts include  – but are not limited to – the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency – which you had to have seen a mile away. The National Endowment for the Arts, legal aid for the poor and low-income heating assistance would also be history. Because why bother helping poor people pay for heat when you can spend $1.5 billion on a down payment to build a wall along the Mexican border. Wasn’t Mexico supposed to foot the bill for that one, by the way?  In any case, the outline was described as a “hard power budget” – if you have to laugh, then g’head – by Mike Mulvaney, the President’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. In case it wasn’t painfully obvious, it means that this plan caters to defense and building up the military, while foreign aid and diplomacy can go suck it. Sort of. Naturally, the Democrats are just not that into this budget and are wondering how smart it is to cut spending in areas that work with defense to facilitate diplomacy in more volatile parts of the world. On the bright side, the plan calls for slashing funds to the United Nations. If the President could find away to turn all that pricey UN real estate into affordable housing, then we’d really be onto something. But now it’s up to Paul Ryan to get that budget passed in Congress, which is not likely, though, since rumor has it that this plan is Dead On Arrival.

Speaking of greasy of food…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For some inexplicable reason, at 9:16 this morning,  McDonald’s official Twitter account unleashed this little gem:”@realDonaldTrump You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have @BarackObama back, also you have tiny hands.” Sure the message was deleted 25 minutes later but not before it was retweeted more than 600 times. Interestingly enough Trump is a mega fan of McDonald’s, and even starred in a commercial for the fast-food chain a few years ago. McDonald’s was initially mum on the incident but later said Twitter notified the company to say that its account had been compromised and the situation is currently being investigated. Incidentally, Barack Obama’s former press secretary and campaign adviser, Robert Gibbs, is McDonald’s head of communication. Not that that had anything to do with this particular tweet, mind you. However, my question is, if this Tweet boosts business, will they keep tweeting more insults to the President? Hmmm.

Warm and fuzzy…

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Snapchat look out. There’s a new Wall Street darling today and its one that actually warms hearts. Literally. Luxury Canadian coat maker Canada Goose made its much anticipated New York stock market debut, with 20 million shares being unleashed to the tune of $18 a pop. Initially priced at closer to $12 a share, the apparel company came out swinging raising a very impressive $255 million and hitting a market valuation of $1.88 billion. And why shouldn’t that be the case? After all, the coat maker scored close to $300 million in revenue for 2016 with a $27 million profit, proving that people really do dig the Canadian brand. Of course, no party is complete without a few crashers and for Canada Goose it was PETA, who were there to protest Canada Goose’s use of coyote fur on some of its offerings. The animal-rights organization even purchased $4,000 worth of shares, which might seem completely at odds with its mission. However, that $4,000 investment affords PETA the opportunity to submit its own letter to shareholders and buys it admission to Canada Goose’s annual shareholder meeting, where, presumably, the organization plans to up its protest game.

 

 

Nike’s Sales Bruised By Yeezy; McDonald’s Gets Busted for Over-Valuing Value-Meal; Lookout! There’s A Lot More Walgreens/RiteAid Coming Your Way

Yeezy breezy…

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Nike’s quarterly profit might be up 7% thanks to strong demand in China and the United States, but that doesn’t mean everything is coming up roses at the athletic apparel company. Fierce competition from Under Armour and Adidas have been hammering away at Nike’s sales, partly because Adidas knocked it out of the park this year, thanks to Kanye West (it’s okay, I cringed too) and his Yeezy line, which saw sales go up 62%. Under Armour’s Stephan Curry’s shoe and apparel line definitely stole plenty of Nike’s mojo too. So Nike has been in quest mode to find all sort of ways to boost sales from, improving online sales features to cutting prices on some of its more popular offerings. One of Nike’s divisions that took a beating this quarter and fell short of expectations was its ever-important basketball division.  Apparently, consumers weren’t feeling the love for LeBron James and Kevin Durant sneakers when they were sporting a $200 price tag. Nike is banking that a $150 price tag will have people biting a little more. The company is also working on a faster supply chain dubbed “express lane” to bring products to market within weeks instead of months. In an effort to set itself apart from the competition, Nike’s come out with self-tying lace-up shoes. If you’re that lazy, they might actually be worth the $720 price tag. Profit from Nike came in at $842 million, with revenue of $8.18 billion and 50 cents added per share. That’s especially good since Nike’s stock has fallen 17% in the last year and Wall Street only expected $8.1 billion and 43 cents per share. Last year at this time the company posted $785 million  in profit and added 45 cents per share.

Un-happy meal…

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McDonald’s is staring at the wrong end of a lawsuit for 41 cents. 41 cents. Turns out the value meal is anything but since it would be 41 cents cheaper to buy the items individually than to buy the bundled package for $5.90 in certain locations. Enter plaintiff James Gertie who discovered this mathematical irregularity at two McDonald’s restaurants in the Chicago area.  The restaurants in question are operated by Karis Management and Gertie wants the suit to get class-action status for consumer fraud and deceptive practices. He says the lawsuit is about principle and is seeking a refund for any customer who purchased the meal at a McDonald’s restaurant operated by Karis. Those 41 cent refunds could add up to a lot of cash as Karis operates ten restaurants in and around Chicago. In the meantime, Karis has yet to comment on the case or the price discrepancy.  As for other McDonald’s all over the world, well, you’re just going to have to do your due diligence to see if their numbers add up or not.

Urge to merge…

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Walgreens Boots Alliance and RiteAid will finally get their way now that they sold off some 865 RiteAid stores to retail chain Fred’s. That’s what the two companies had to in order to appease the Federal Trade Commission so that it could go ahead with its $9.4 billion merger. Together, the new entity will still have over 12,000 locations from which to choose and will effectively become the largest drug store chain in the United States, effectively taking up 46% of the market. Fred’s currently has almost 650 discounted general merchandise stores and is looking to become the third largest drug store chain in the United States.  It’s also trying to reinvent itself by ditching its former name of Fred’s Super Dollar.  Fred’s had to borrow a whopping $1.65 billion in order to get those 865 stores, but it also had to pledge, as collateral, just about everything it has in the form of assets, and maybe even throw in a few bodily organs as well, to secure that loan.  The stores actually cost $950 million but other expenses, operating and otherwise, necessitated the full $1.65 billion. It should prove to be well worth it, however, as the deal will more than double Fred’s size.  Plus, the deal sent shares of Fred’s surging a mind-blowing 85% to $20.75. And who doesn’t like an 85% surge in shares, right?

EU Wants to Take a Big Tax Bite Out of Apple; Google Takes On Uber. Sort of; Abercrombie & Fitch Teen Ditch

Bite me…

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The EU commission is coming down hard on Apple by slapping the world’s most valuable company with a $14.5 billion bill for back taxes. The EU felt Apple illegally received tax aid in the form of a sweetheart tax deal from Ireland. However, both Apple and Ireland deny that allegation and contend that everything they did was totally legit. More than 700 U.S. companies currently have some type of business set up in Ireland where they enjoy a reduced corporate tax rate compared to that of the U.S. The EU however says that rate is too reduced and says Apple pays much MUCH less than the 12.5% corporate tax rate in the country. Companies can set up tax structures that allow them to pay even less.  EU officials charge that Apple did just that and Apple paid only a .005% rate on its profits in 2014.  I’d love to meet Apple’s accountants who set that one up. Just saying. The U.S treasury isn’t happy about the situation either and feels U.S.firms are being unfairly targeted and that such investigations are unfair. Senator Chuck Schumer even called this latest judgement a “cheap money grab.” Don’t expect to bump into him on your next European vacay. According to the treasury, judgements of this type could undermine U.S. investments in Europe. Starbucks already got hit with a $33 million back-tax deal while Amazon and McDonald’s are currently staring at the wrong end of their own EU investigations. The government believes that U.S. taxpayers will likely bear the brunt of the EU’s very inconvenient decision because Apple would basically deduct the $14.5 billion from taxes that it owes to the U.S. government.

Anything you can do Google can do better…

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Search engine giant, Google, is now offering its own ride-sharing app to San Francisco residents. If you’re thinking Google’s encroaching on Uber and Lyft’s turf then…you might be right. Sort of. Google began a pilot program back in May that allows commuters to carpool at cheaper rates then Uber and Lyft. Much cheaper. In fact, the rates are so cheap – think 54 cents per mile – that there is no incentive to even become a taxi driver. What’s more is that Google doesn’t even take a cut. Yet. By using Waze, which Google acquired back in 2013, commuters connect with other commuters headed in the same direction. Uber, which is currently valued at around $68 billion might begin to take issue with Google’s latest plans, assuming they’ll expand. And they will. Ironically, Google invested $258 million into Uber back in 2013. The situation between the two companies has gotten quite dicey as Google exec David Drummond recently resigned from Uber’s board given all the conflicts that are rising from these latest developments.

Smells like twenty-something spirit…

 

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Abercrombie & Fitch, purveyor of trendy teen clothing, has officially posted its fourteenth straight quarter of losses. The company saw a decline of a 4%, which was more than what was expected. A&F posted a net loss of $13 million, which was a brutal change from last year’s same quarter loss of $810,000. Net sales fell to $783, a far cry from last year’s $818 million. Naturally, as with all bad earnings reports, a tumble in shares ensued, with shares of the trendy retailer taking a 20% hit. Besides a strong dollar, the chain can’t compete with the likes of H&M, Zara and a whole bunch of other clothing sellers. Back in May, the company had predicted an improvement. But that didn’t happen and now A&F isn’t even expecting one in the near future. Which might explain why the company will reshift its focus from teens to bona-fide money making twenty-somethngs who can afford the clothes A&F is selling. Considering that more than 50% of A&F’s customers are adults over the age of 20, this seems like a prudent move. So if you find yourself at one of A&F’s 744 locations – of which 60 of them will be closing –  you might not want to be so quick to walk away as the company attempts to rebrand itself as the “iconic American casual luxury brand.” I don’t know why that just made me think of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. But it did.  The clothing company will be selling clothes for actual grown-ups who once upon a time were the same teens who spent their parents’ hard-earned cash at this very establishment.

 

 

UnderArmour Gets a Chink; McDonald’s Deserves a Break Today; Rate a Minute! No Hike in Sight

Fit to be bit…

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Under Armour seems to have suffered a chink in its earnings as its profits took a particularly brutal 57% dive. The primary culprit is Sports Authority, a company that is thisclose to becoming retail history, but was also one of Under Armour’s biggest retailers carrying tons of its merchandise. Hence, Under Armour took what’s called an impairment charge, and impairing it was, to the tune of $23 million. Last year at this time, the Maryland-based company hauled in an impressive $14.8 million profit. This year, however, that profit was a very disappointing $6.3 million. On the bright side, Under Armour is headed to Kohl’s 1,100 department stores next year. Apparently, it’s a way to connect with female consumers. Who knew. Under Armour brass think this new foray into Kohl’s will make women’s sales hit the $1 billion mark. Besides, since Nike, Under Armour’s biggest competitor, also happens to have a strong – very strong – presence in Kohl’s,  Under Armour hopes its new endeavor will take a big chunk out of the competition’s sales. But if Under Armour’s numbers still fail to impress next quarter, it might have to do with the exorbitant real estate it just leased in New York City – the renowned FAO Schwarz toy store. The rent on that baby ought to set the company back. But the athletic apparel company is banking heavily that the location location location will more than compensate by bringing in some boffo sales.

Mac-attacks need not apply…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Golden Arches seemed to have lost their luster this quarter with worse than expected earnings and profit falling over 9% to $1.1 billion. But how could that be if you and everyone you know was there all the time dining on its delectable all-day breakfast selections? And herein lies the problem. Well, part of it anyway. You see, McDonald’s breakfast offerings skew cheaper than the rest of its menu items. Apparently consumers really like having the option to eat breakfast for lunch…and dinner. And they did. A lot. Instead of the pricier items. Incidentally, Dunkin Brands Group Inc, Starbucks Corp and Wendy’s, to name a few, also reported unsavory earnings and shares of McDonald’s took a nasty tumble, bringing along the rest of the industry with it. It seems McDonald’s menu prices also had a negative impact on earnings. The cost of food went down in grocery stores and because of it, more would-be diners chose to eat at home. The curious thing is that the cost of food also went for McDonald’s, which ought to mean that its selections should have been cheaper, or at any rate, stayed the same price. Except that they didn’t because McDonald’s had to increase menu prices to compensate for increased labor costs.

Fed-up…

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In case you were holding your breath to see if the Fed is going to raise rates, you can let it out now. It won’t. At least not before September. Or maybe even December. Apparently the money experts want hard-core evidence of a pick-up in inflation before the Fed decides to make any changes. The Fed wants to see a 2% inflation rate, which might seem like an incredibly minuscule number, yet it’s one that carries incredible weight.  Then there’s the not-so-slight issue of the relatively healthy U.S. economy in the face of the not-as-healthy global economy. Even as the markets here reached new highs, with a labor market that saw an impressive 287,000 jobs added in June, experts – me not being one, mind you –  expect maybe one rate hike this year. From the Brexit to China and other assorted EU drama coming down the pike, the Fed’s not too eager to put in for any hikes until the rest of world cooperates they way it ought to, fiscally speaking anyway. After tomorrow, the Fed’s got three more meetings this year to decide its next move, so sit tight. Or don’t.

Starbuck$$$ Coffee Buzz Gets Pricier; JPMorgan Ups the Minimum Pay Game; Drop in Job Openings Bums Out Economists

And then it happened…

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If there’s one thing you can rely on at Starbucks, besides the quality of their coffee, it’s that come July, the company will raise its prices. Today, the company did just that for the third year in a row. What Starbucks dubs as a “small price adjustment” shouldn’t be too bad. Well, that is, depending on what you purchased. Hey, if you don’t like it, blame rising coffee costs. And Starbucks, too, I suppose. The amount of Americans who drink coffee is expected to rise by 1.5%. The more people drink, the more the beans cost. Just another case of supply and demand, my friend. Prices went up between 10 cents to 20 cents on its brewed coffee, and between 10 cents and 30 cents on its espresso beverages and tea lattes. However, the price increases vary depending on which region you find your local Starbucks. In the grand scheme of things, purchases only actually increase by about 1%. Plus, the price went up on only 35% of its beverages. Which means that 65% of its beverages remain unchanged, price-wise, for those of you who shun change. But in all fairness, Starbucks is giving its employees a 5% raise come fall, not to mention doubling stock awards for employees who have been there for two years or more. Not that their raises and stock awards had anything to do with boosting the price of your chai latte, mind you.

Dimon in the rough…

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Starbucks isn’t the only company who is giving its hardworking employees a raise. Enter JPMorgan, the second most profitable company in the United States, who is about to give 18,000 of its employees a much appreciated boost in their paychecks. And this time, the employees aren’t even the ones who regularly rake in big bonuses. JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon will be raising the company’s minimum pay by 18% for employees who are mostly bank tellers and customer service representatives. These employees currently receive $10.15 per hour, but over the next three years will see increases of $12 per hour and then $16.50 per hour, depending on several factors. The company is also beefing up its in-house training programs as well, to the tune of $200 million, that will train thousands of entry level employees who work in consumer banking. Mr. Dimon says the new initiative is all about addressing concerns over income inequality, an issue that’s been getting a lot of negative attention, usually directed at Mr. Dimon and his peers. He also says it’s a way to attract and retain talent – an idea that company’s like Walmart, Target and McDonald’s have already started putting into practice. But leave it to the skeptics to whip out their negative spin and question if Dimon’s motives have more to do with a shrinking labor pool, and if JPMorgan is just getting ahead of an issue that might pose a problem in the future. The cost of raising the minimum pay by 18% will cost JPMorgan just about $100 million, which is just $7 million shy of the total 2015 compensation for Jamie Dimon and his four top-named executives.

Book of jobs…

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Even though JPMorgan and Starbucks are giving its employees more money to attract and retain great employees, the Bureau of Labor Statistics paints a very different employment picture. According to its latest report, job openings dropped to a five month low in May, with just 5.5 million jobs up for grabs, even though that same month also saw 5 million people getting hired. Not to be a downer, but that was the lowest rate since November 2014. At least voluntary quits fell to a 4 month low, with just 2.9 million leaving their jobs, presumably for better opportunities. Yet in April, job openings were at an all-time high. All these mixed numbers might just mean that the economy is not as healthy as we think it is. The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, a.k.a JOLTS, is the division of the Bureau of Labor Statistics that tracks job openings, hires and separations. The Labor Department, which reports just on job creation and unemployment, reported that employers only managed to create 11,000 new jobs in May. In case you’re wondering why that’s a bad thing, then consider that those 11,000 jobs were 25 times less than the amount of jobs created in May of 2015. At least the number of layoffs and firings in May fell to a ten month low of 1.67 million. Economists, however, still think these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. Which is easy for them to say since they seem to be gainfully employed.

Jumping the Twitter Ship; Coffee, Tea or Nukes? Air Iran Might Be Headed Our Way; McD’s CEO Really Does Deserve a Break Today

And then there were six…

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Twitter just got a whole lot lighter – except not in a good way. Four top executives are jumping ship from the social networking site, in addition to a top member over at Twitter-owned Vine. The news was tweeted (naturally) last night when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posted that all five people had “chosen” to leave and “will be taking some well-deserved time off.” That’s awfully sweet but it still begs the question as to why those folks chose to leave in the first place – especially because those four executive departures constituted 40% of Twitter’s top brass. Don’t bother looking up any job postings for the newly vacated positions. Dorsey seems to have at least one of them filled, apparently by a high-profile executive in the media industry. No word yet on the other positions but rumor has it they’ve also been filled. Not that any of this is news to those at Twitter. When Jack Dorsey returned to the top spot he did, after all, say that the board will eventually have to be replaced. Incidentally, upon Dorsey’s return, shares of Twitter have fallen about 50%.  Shares are now hovering below the IPO price as the company continues to struggle to find ways to attract more users.

Blackout dates…

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Because nothing says romantic vacation getaway like hopping on a plane to Tehran, Iran is on a mission – not even a nuclear one! – to boost tourism and get back in the good graces of just about every country in the western hemisphere. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is in Europe this week and just might strike (no pun intended) a deal with Airbus to purchase some 500 aircraft so that you can book your next vacay to the radically ruled country. Rumor has it that Boeing might also supply Iran with some aircraft too, and it would mean that it’d be the first time in 36 years – ever since that pesky Islamic revolution – that travelers could hop on a direct flight to a country that’s hostile to United States citizens. Looks like British Airways is itching to be among the first of the commercial airlines to start taxiing on an Iranian tarmac. Apparently, some analysts are expecting a bona fide economic boom – I SAID ECONOMIC! – to occur in Iran now that sanctions have been lifted in exchange for shelving its nuke fantasies.  And because banking sanctions have also been lifted, Iran will even be able to pay for the aircraft. And so much more…

Comeback kid…

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Attention naysayers: McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook’s turnaround plan seems to actually be working. How ’bout that. McDonald’s served up some tasty earnings with a special boost from its all-day breakfast offerings.  A big show of gratitude also goes to China where, as it turns out, diners continued to opt for the Golden Arches’ fast-food fare despite the nasty food safety scandal that erupted during the summer of 2014. Same store sales took a 5.7% jump and wouldn’t you know it, shares jumped on the news, especially because, after two years of little to no growth, the company finally experienced that wonderful sensation, posting its best quarter in four years. McDonald’s pulled down a profit of $1.21 billion, an almost 10% increase, while adding $1.28 per share. That’s a nice little smack down to analysts’ estimates of just $1.23 per share. And while a strong dollar did send revenue a bit south to $6.34 billion, it was still above and beyond expectations of $6.22 billion. The only bummer in the earnings was in France, where terrorist attacks have kept too many would-be McDonald’s patrons from enjoying the cuisine.