Oil-Vey! Glut Messing with Global Economies; Apple Sets its Sights on India; Who Will Represent the “World’s Most Hated Man”?

Dow-n and out…

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The Dow took a nasty 400 point fall today fueled (a little pun intended) in large part because of the oil glut that’s got barrels of the not-as-hot commodity trading at about $27.50 a pop – a very low low price. The S&P also fell as stocks were trading much lower. In fact, more than 1,000 New York Stock Exchange stocks hit 52 week lows, while on the other side of the pond, European and Asian markets followed suit, performing just as badly on seeing oil hit thirteen year lows. Experts (I am not one of them) are thinking we’re on the threshold of bear market territory – a nasty fiscal phase where market index prices are falling so much that people just want to sell off what they’ve got. Considering that the MSCI All Country World Index (which is basically a global market index mash-up) fell 2.4%, that just might be the case. China’s flailing economy and the United States’ strong dollar aren’t helping matters. Even Royal Dutch Shell is expecting profits to tank 42% to around $1.6 billion – a brutal cry from the $3.3 billion it reported last year at this time. But box-office fave Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t crying for Shell, or any other oil producers for that matter. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where the A-lister was receiving some award, he graciously lashed out at big oil and corporate greed calling them, “Those entities with a financial interest in preserving this destructive system…covered up the evidence of our changing climate.” Hey! Maybe he’ll use that in his Oscar acceptance speech…

An Apple a day…

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It took awhile but Apple is now working to bring its tech magic to India where the Cupertino, California-based company finally finally filed an application with the Indian government to set up shop there. No word yet on how many stores it plans on opening or even how big of an investment it’s going to be. Of course, Apple products are already available in the country that boasts the second largest telecom market in the world. But in order to buy those products, consumers purchase the merchandise through a network of Indian-owned distributors. There are some who feel that Apple had been willfully ignoring India since it took this long to make the leap there. But Apple argues otherwise saying that restrictions on foreign investment in the retail sector weren’t exactly winning them over. India typically requires a single brand  – in this case, Apple – to locally procure 30% of its goods sold in the country. But rumor has it Apple brass had a little conversation with the Indian authorities to ease up on things.  Also India, unfortunately, doesn’t have the boffo spending power of say, China, where people pounced on iPhones from day one. In India, cheaper alternatives dominate the smartphone market while Apple only has about a 2% market share on the devices.  Apple, however, had been trying to make its products more affordable by offering buyback programs, installment programs and giving discounts on older phones. And then something wonderful happened – Apple sales in India crossed the $1 billion mark back in March and the tech company presumably began to see things differently.  The fact that India has the fastest growing smartphone market and is poised to take over the number two spot from the United States (China is first, duh) in 2017 might also have something to do with the change of heart.

Dumb and dumber…

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Martin Shkreli aka “Pharma bro”is switching lawyers though, why exactly remains a mystery. Marcus A. Asner, an attorney at the soon-to-be-ex firm of Arnold & Porter did not give an explanation as to why the change was being requested but he was probably not broken up that he will no longer represent what many call the world’s most hated man. Shkreli, 32, by the way, takes exception to that moniker, as he mentioned in a recent interview. But considering he raised the price of a life-saving drug by 5000% – well, what else are you gonna call him?  Perhaps we should give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he needed the extra cash so that he could buy the only known copy of a Wu-Tang Clan Album for $2 million. Just kidding. He has multiple accounts at multiple brokerage firms. Shkreli says that the lawyer switcheroo has nothing to do with the interview he did with The New York Times and called the explanation  a “dumb theory.” But you know what’s really dumb? Raising the price of a single pill from  $13.50 to $750.00. Shkreli, who is charged with blowing investors’ cash on some bad trades and then taking money out of his pharmaceutical company to pay for those trades said “the government’s case is fictitious.” He has pleaded not guilty to securities fraud and conspiracy.

Unfit IPO Debut for Planet Fitness; Lost That Lovin’ Feeling…For Shamu?; If it Looks Like an Engineer, and Quacks Like an Engineer…

Fit to be fried…

Image courtesy of marcolm/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of marcolm/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Planet Fitness made its New York Stock Exchange debut but it looked more like Planet Fizzle as the stock, which tried to open at the high end of its range, stumbled on its very first day of trading. The company, notable for its $10 gym membership fees, offered 13.5 million shares and managed to raise $216 million despite its less than impressive open. The company, however, tried to give a good showing on Wall Street today, cleverly handing out all sorts of yummy, unhealthy goodies while engaging the crowds with games like musical hand chairs. That was not a typo. Laugh all you want, but Planet Fitness has over 7 million members, 1 million of whom joined within the last twelve months. Its membership is up over 24% from last year. There are very few companies who pulled that off recently. By the way, the company has 33 straight quarters of growth under its svelte fiscal belt, and saw $280 million in revenue. Add that to its 976 stores in 47 states, Puerto Rico and Canada. and that 9% hit the stock took today doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Was it something I said…

Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Liz Noffsinger/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Things just keep getting fiscally uglier for Shamu and all his water-loving pals as Seaworld Entertainment cranks out yet another soggy quarter. Despite big promotions and a whale of a marketing campaign, attendance at the marine theme parks continued their downward slide. Brass at the company admitted they are continuing to deal with “brand challenges” which is basically code for the negative publicity the company suffered as a result of the very unflattering 2013 documentary “Blackfish.” And just how bad is attendance? Under 6.5 million people stopped by to hang out with the sea creatures, which was a 2% drop from the same time last year. Revenue, which was $391.6 million, is also down 3% from a year ago. But it’s the 85% plunge in profit, down to $5.8 million, that’s really got me questioning if people just don’t dig acrobatic dolphins and comedic sea lions.

If looks could kill…stereotypes…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what exactly does an engineer look like? Just ask 22 year old Isis Wenger. She’s got big plans to show the world on a billboard in San Francisco after some very rapid, enthusiastic crowd-funding. It all started when some people naively felt Wenger didn’t look like a “traditional” engineer. She then started the buzz-worthy hashtag #ILookLikeAnEngineer only to discover that there was a whole universe of engineers who also…look like engineers. 75,000 tweets later, including one from engineer and GM CEO, Mary Barra, not to mention a slew of other high-ranking female engineers from some of the world’s top companies, Wenger, together with engineer Michelle Glauser, started an Indiegogo campaign to put up a billboard in San Francisco featuring the diverse engineering community and its stereotypical misconceptions. Hoping to raise $3,500, they instead raised over $7,800…in less than 24 hours.

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…

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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…

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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.

Etsy is Full of Surprises on Wall Street; Party City’s Reason to Celebrate; Netflix Wants to do the Splits of

Profit shmofit!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So what if Esty hasn’t made a profit. Why should that minor detail keep it from doubling its IPO? Wednesday night, the company was all set to make its big Wall Street debut with shares priced at $16 a pop. Many considered that to be at the high end of its range, but Esty offered up 16.7 million shares. Then, wouldn’t ya know it, the shares opens up at a whopping $31, giving the company a very robust $1.8 billion valuation. With that kind of money floating around you’d think there’d be some profit in there somewhere but…nah. The Brooklyn-based company pulled in some very crafty revenues, though, of $195.6 million in 2014, a 56% increase over the previous year. Too bad that came with a  $15.2 million loss. Some wonder about the company’s ability to pull in those big Wall Street-pleasing numbers considering its B-Corp status. That basically means it’s a company that truly cares about and promotes social and environmental business practices and causes. But shareholders tend to get a little worried that money-making takes a back seat to such practices. Potatoes puh-tatoes. In any case, the crafty company has about 1.4 million sellers with about 20 million active buyers. Esty makes its cash by charging their craft sellers a fee for all the nifty items they sell.

Raise the roof…

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Esty is not the only company to make its big board debut. Party goods retailer Party City joined the New York Stock Exchange today at $20.50. While it wasn’t nearly as impressive as Esty’s debut, it was still 21% higher than its IPO price of $17 a share and the company sold close to 22 million shares. The chain currently has 860 stores in North America with 40 more in Canada. And if that’s not enough partying for you, then look out because Party City has plans to open yet another 350 more superstores.  I guess that explains why Party City is the largest party supply store in the country.  Under the convenient ticker symbol “PRTY” the company has a very impressive valuation of $2 billion. If that’s not cause for celebration then I don’t know what is.

Green is the new black…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And if anyone has a reason to party it’s Netflix whose shares jumped 15% after reporting it added a whopping five million new subscribers in the first quarter, giving the company a grand total of 62.3 million subscribers. Clearly analysts don’t watch House of Cards because they predicted the streaming entertainment subscribing service would only pull in 4 million new subscribers. The company also took in revenues of over $1.57 billion, up 24% from a year ago, while taking 38 cents per share and $23.7 million in profits. Incidentally, profits were down by more than 50% from a year ago when the company pulled in over $53 million at 89 cents per share. But it doesn’t seem like Netflix is too concerned about that since it is looking to do a 30:1 stock split. Got some shares of Netflix? How lucky for you, considering the stock is trading at around $560 a pop.

Will Anyone Care if Indiana’s Economy Tanks?; It’s Go Time for GoDaddy; New Craft Beer Gets Crowned

The consequences of actions…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Indiana’s economy just might tank but…oh well. Ever since its Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act six days ago, basically giving businesses a “license to discriminate” against gays, lesbians etc…corporate CEO’s, businesses, politicians and celebrities have gotten involved, mostly to voice their anger and disgust with the action. Nine CEO’s wrote an open letter to Gov. Pence over their objections to the bill. Apple CEO Tim Cook called it a “very dangerous … wave of legislation.” Indiana literally ticked off Apple. Is there any state that would want to be on Apple’s bad side? Seriously. Angie’s list had plans for a $40 million expansion in Indianapolis. That’s on hold over this bill, as well. The NCAA is majorly “concerned” and analyzing the situation carefully, wondering what to do ahead of next week’s Final Four. Several mayors have already banned city-funded travel to Indiana and 49 governors nixed unnecessary travel to the state. Hashtag #BoycottIndiana has been making the rounds getting upwards of 200,000 hits. Seeing as how the backlash has only gotten precipitously worse, Gov. Pence said he wants a clarification and a fix. Just so we’re clear, that doesn’t mean he wants to get rid of the bill. Perhaps once the state’s economy is in the toilet, he might reconsider.

Who’s your GoDaddy?

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Image courtesy of mistermong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s time to welcome GoDaddy to the ranks of the New York Stock Exchange. The web-hosting, domain name registration company just came out with its IPO this morning to a much larger than expected debut. Under the ticker symbol “GDDY,” GoDaddy offered up 23 million shares at $20 a pop. But then, lo and behold, it opened over 30% higher at $26.15 per share. Not bad for a company that’s not profitable. Yes, I did just write that. GoDaddy took a net loss of $143.4 million in 2014 and also has about $1.5 million in debt. To be fair, however, the company’s revenue went up 23% to $1.39 billion. This is not the first time the eighteen year old company attempted an IPO. Back in 2006, Go Daddy was all set to make its big Wall Street debut, only to then decide otherwise, saying the market was in a bad place. However, there are those who think there were internal factors and management shake-ups that affected GoDaddy’s decision to go public. If you’re wondering who the next pretty face will be to grace the company’s campaigns, don’t bother. After stints with race car driver Danica Patrick and Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, the company is looking to revamp its image.

Foamy…

Image courtesy of Photo by Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Photo by Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Samuel Adams is out. Yuengling is in. The Brewers Association has crowned Pottsville, Pennsylvania’s Yuengling as this year’s number one craft beer, taking out the Boston Beer Co. who makes Samuel Adams. So how did America’s oldest brewery finally manage to nab top honors? Actually it had nothing to do with anything the beer companies did or didn’t do. Rather, the Brewers Association slightly altered the criteria for what can be considered a legit craft beer. It gets technical so I’ll leave the complicated stuff to a beer-savvy blogger. What I can tell you is that Yuengling was considered a non-traditional beer, because corn is one of the ingredients used to brew the beer, and therefore not eligible for the beer crown all these years. As for overall U.S. brewers, Anheuser-Busch, Miller-Coors and Pabst took the top spots. Yuengling and Boston Beer Co. rounded out the fourth and fifth place spots. Unlike regular beers, craft beers sales are up and have a 19% hold on the beer market. In 2014, $19.6 billion worth of craft beer was sold, up 14% from 2013.

Standard & Poor’s Overrated Ratings Settlement; Spirited Numbers for Whiskey and Bourbon; Who Will Radio in on RadioShack?

Poor ratings system…

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s shaping up to be an expensive week for Standard and Poor’s, the ratings company owned by McGraw Hill Financial Inc. After two years of legal wrangling, where the Department of Justice accused the S&P of defrauding investors, S&P agreed to pay for $1.5 billion in a settlement. According to the lawsuit, S&P made sub-prime mortgages sound way better than they actually were, generously over-rating them during the height of that hard-to-forget financial crisis of 2008. One of the juicy little highlights from the lawsuit, as taken from an excerpt from an instant-messaging exchange between two of its analysts, goes a little something like this: “It could be structured by cows and we would rate it.” So what were they trying to say about our friends in the bovine community? Hmm. While S&P gets to avoid admitting actual wrongdoing, as per the terms of the settlement, it will be shelling out $687.5 million to the DOJ and another $687.5 million to 19 states and the District of Columbia. S&P said the DOJ was only coming down on them because it downgraded the US sovereign debt from AAA all the way down to AA+, but the DOJ says NOT! In a separate lawsuit, S&P  reached a settlement with pension fund, Calpers (California Public Employees Retirement System), also a victim of S&P’s too-generous sub-prime mortgage ratings system.

I’ll drink to that…

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of artur84/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s been a very good year for bourbon and whiskey as exports of these spirited spirits topped the $1 billion mark. Even here in the US, sales for Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey grew, with revenue for both rising 9.6% to $2.7 billion and 19.4 million cases of the stuff being scooped up. 19.4 million cases? Who are you people drinking all this? But it’s the premium selections that are really hitting it big with drinkers…er, consumers, as revenue in that category is up over 19%. All this while beer seems to be experiencing a decline on the whole by 4% in the last five years, with Budweiser losing 28% for that same time frame, despite those super Superbowl ads. Craft beer, however, tells a different story as that tasty category is experiencing an uptick. Some analysts are even thinking all these increasing numbers come courtesy of millennials, who seem to prefer high-quality spirit versus the stuff their parents enjoy. By the way, it should be duly  – and might I add, fondly – noted, that Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon supply. Go Kentucky!

Shacked out…

Image courtesy of cool design/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cool design/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rumors are swirling as to who will emerge and scoop up RadioShack as bankruptcy looms near for the company that was just never able to compete with the behemoth that is e-commerce. The New York Stock Exchange had suspended trading of the 94 year old company on Monday, with shares tanking down to $0.14 a share in after hours trading. So will it be Sprint who decides to take up some of RadioShack’s retail leases? The company has 4,300 stores in the US, alone. Or will Amazon add the chain to its arsenal and increase its brick-and-mortar presence in the world? Word on the street is that Jeff Bezos might do just that as a way to showcase some of the gazillions of products that Amazon has to offer, for the right price, of course.

Bitcoin Makes its Stateside Debut; Bad Day for Barbie; Fruity Pebbles Gets Some Company

It’s a bit time…

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The first US regulated bitcoin exchange has made its US virtual debut. San Francisco-based Coinbase raised $106 million with some of that backing coming from Andreessen Horowitz and even the New York Stock Exchange. Which must mean that this whole crypto-currency thing is super legit, despite the fact that there is no government backed regulation for it, nor is it backed by the FDIC. But no worries as Coinbase, which already has 1.9 million users, 2.2 million accounts and 40,000 companies signed up with it, says it is insured against hacking, internal theft and accidental loss.  How very forward-thinking. Especially considering that earlier this month, European bitcoin exchange, Bitstamp, suffered a hack attack that cost it about $5.2 million. Of course, nobody will forget how Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox was forced to call it quits after getting brutally hacked…to bits. Coinbase is currently allowed to conduct business in 25 states and makes its money by taking 0.25% of Bitcoin transactions. How very industrious. But the exchange doesn’t take its cut for the first two months after opening an account because Coinbase very thoughtfully felt this would be a good gimmick to attract more business. Hey, sign me up. Now if I could just get myself some Bitcoins…

Just not that into you anymore…

Image courtesy of ratch0013/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of ratch0013/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Big changes are taking place at Mattel, the toy company famous for the ever-evolving “Barbie Doll.” Barbie is, in part anyways, the reason for the major power shift at Mattel. It seems girls are just not that into her anymore. Sales of the doll worldwide have been falling for the past few years with this last quarter, which included the holiday shopping season, ending on a particularly dismal note. Barbie, her friends and that malleable Malibu Dream House just can’t compete anymore with Disney’s Frozen dolls. Barbie also can’t seem to compete with electronic devices (and really, what can?). Mattel earned close to $150 million and $0.44 a share, which seems decent, unless of course that is a 60% drop from what the company pulled in last year. Mattel also said that because the dollar was so strong against other currencies, it affected sales. Except the dollar’s strength against other currencies didn’t seem to affect sales of the aforementioned Disney Frozen dolls and electronic devices.  Hence, Bryan Stockton, who up until this morning was Mattel’s Chairman and CEO, will be replaced by Christopher Sinclair , who will become interim chairman and CEO.

Man that’s a lot of cereal…

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Post Holdings Inc., which is best known, in my most humble opinion anyways, for Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles, has decided to pick up MOM Brands to the crunchy tune of $1.15 billion. MOM Brands is best known, in my most humble opinion for Malt-O-Meal hot cereal – and perhaps, even better known for its seventies/eighties era commercial with that kid who asks for some more Malt-O-Meal, which was supposed to send our mothers into a tizzy to run out and buy boxes of the low-in-sugar breakfast (it should be duly noted that I didn’t fall for it). I wonder what became of him. In any case, MOM Brands is also known for ripping off other cereals and selling them for less, or as they say in the land of marketing, value brands. Laugh all you want, but those value brands brought in revenue of $760 million and $120 million in profit. This new crunchy company combo will take an 18% bite out of the market share for cereal, with General Mills and Kellogg’s still taking 30% of market share.