How Trump Is Dulling Tiffany & Co.’s Sparkle; Just Another Multi-billion Dollar Monday; Oil Vey! OPEC Squabbles Over Oil Cuts

Occupying 5th Ave…

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Despite occupying some of the the best real estate in the world, Tiffany & Co.’s New York flagship store is having some sales troubles no thanks to president-elect Donald Trump,  whose nearby police barricades, protests and secret service detail have taken a big chunk out of the store’s traffic. And that’s a huge problem, especially because the U.S. is Tiffany & Co.’s biggest market, and its Manhattan store accounts for 8% of the company’s sales. At least there’s China and Japan, whose currency fluctuations allowed consumers in those regions to take advantage of a strong yen that had them picking up all kinds of nifty goods from the iconic jeweler. Mainly because of that, the company posted a surprise 1.2% sales increase – the first sales rise in eight quarters. Same store sales didn’t fare as badly either, even though experts thought they would. Instead of declining an expected 2.8%, they fell just 2%. In the United States, presumably in locations where Trump does not reside, Tiffany & Co. experienced a smaller than expected drop, falling just 2% compared to last year at this time. The luxury jeweler scored a $95 million profit, pulling down 76 cents per share on sales of $949.3 million. Analysts only expected 67 cents to be added to shares with sales totaling $923.7 million.

Shattered…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Move over $3.36 billion. Move over $3.39 billion. The original sales estimates for cyber-Monday proved no match for the actual numbers. Adobe Digital Insights whipped out the results for this year’s post-Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza, which blew estimates out of the water and came in at a whopping $3.45 billion – over a 12% increase from last year’s cyber-Monday purchases. But what’s super weird is that apparently there were less deals on cyber-Monday than on Black Friday. However, Black Friday’s numbers were looking awfully green as well, setting a record with a 22% increase over last year and coming in at just $110 million less than cyber-Monday. Some analysts were a bit concerned that the abundance of web sales on Thanksgiving would put a dent in cyber-Monday’s digits. But wouldn’t you know it? That didn’t happen. Purchases made using Wall-Mart’s app jumped 150% while Amazon is expecting to report its best cyber-Monday. Ever. But you’re just going to have to take their word for it. As for losers, look no further than Macy’s. Perhaps it was karma for opening its doors at 5:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day, but the company experienced outages on its website that kept a lot of shoppers from making a lot of purchases on the company’s site. The amount of money the retailer likely lost was probably not enough to offset the fact that it opened its doors on Thursday. Boohoo.

Why can’t we oil just get along?

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The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, also known as OPEC, is having a big fancy meeting in Vienna tomorrow. At issue is the problem that there is way too much oil floating around all over the world. This oil glut is making oil prices low which makes for really good prices at the pump. However, the countries that produce all this oil don’t like that one bit and are trying to agree on how to fix it so that prices go up again and they can start making cold hard cash. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq are the biggest oil producers and the logical step would be for each country to cut their production. But none of them want to do that. There’s a lot of ego involved. It’s like color war, but with actual valuable commodities at stake, besides national pride. Saudi Arabia is proposing cuts of 1.2 million barrels per day. However, Iran’s not down for making any cuts because it feels it needs to make up for lost time from all those years of Western sanctions it faced – and totally deserved – and still does deserve. Iraq is using ISIS as a very convenient, if somewhat legit excuse since it is, after all, fighting a war against a psychopathic terrorist organization, and the money it gets from selling oil helps fund that lofty endeavor. Rumor has it that Iran and Iraq are coming around but no word on whether Saudi Arabia will play ball. So stay tuned to see if and when more OPEC drama plays out, and how this drama will affect your wallet and your green car aspirations.

 

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Oil Vey 2: The Wrath of Iran; Virtual Company with Real Billions; Dr. Pepper’s Outlook Fizzing Out

Double double oil and trouble…

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Oil surged 6% today. Yay. It finally finally went above $30 a barrel today. Another yay.  But maybe you’re thinking that positively sucks as you notice that you have a quarter of a tank of gas left in your car. However, in the grand scheme of things, a very grand scheme which does not fit in this blog today, a gradual price increase in gas is a healthy economic indicator. Plenty of folks on Wall Street are attributing this healthy surge to some conversations that were held recently between OPEC and non-OPEC members. Namely, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Oh yeah, Qatar and Venzuela were also allowed to participate. The deal is that these oil producers will cap their crude production – just as long as other major producers follow suit. The last time an  OPEC/non-OPEC “deal” was made was 15 years ago. And like the one 15 years ago, this one is not expected to do much, except act as a starting point. How reassuring. Now, guess which country has NO plans to cap, curb or freeze oil production? Iran, of course.  Sure, the totalitarian-run country thinks it’s a bummer that oil prices are so low, but its leaders are so hell-bent on re-grabbing its market share after all those pesky international sanctions it had to endure for the last 30 years, that it has no intention of curbing production. By the way, conspicuously absent from any talks was Canada, a country that just happens to have the third largest oil reserves, and China, the world’s fourth largest oil producer. Hmmm. Wonder what we ought to take away from that?

All in a maze work…

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Image courtesy of Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At least virtual reality doesn’t bite. Swiss-based company MindMaze, a neural virtual reality platform – which is just as cool as it sounds – now has a pretty amazing valuation. After scoring $100 million in its latest round of funding, the company upped its valuation to over $1 billion. The company’s technology uses virtual and augmented reality and sells electronic headsets to hospitals in order to help rehabilitate stroke patients. The company also has plans to use its rehabilitation features for other injuries, and even amputations. Of course, since we are talking virtual reality, or VR as the cool kids call it, other versions will be available for video gaming as well. In an effort to boost profitability, the company is toying with the idea of selling the hardware separate from the software. It is the fifth start-up company of its kind, and joins the ranks of Oculous VR and Magic Leap. Apparently, investors dig the technology too, seeing as how they have dumped around $4 billion into various VR companies since 2010.

I’m not a Pepper…

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Dr. Pepper Snapple Group posted their fourth quarter earnings and there’s good news…and not so good news. Of course, the good news is the company’s profit. The beverage company, which also makes Canada Dry and A&W Root Beer, among other products, scored a $185 million profit, adding a buck per share and shooting down analyst estimates of 98 cents per share. Last year at this time the company earned $150 million with 77 cents added per share. The Texas-based company also pulled down $1.55 billion in revenue, a nice little boost from 2015’s $1.51 billion. But when we turn to the company’s outlook, we then find the not so good news. Despite people’s thirst, Dr. Pepper’s outlook is weak, expecting just a 1% increase in net sales. Even in 2015, the company took in a 3% increase. The company is figuring it’ll earn somewhere between $4.20 to $4.30 per share for the full year, even though predictions were for $4.34. Dr. Pepper may not be blaming the oil glut on the weak outlook, but there is another culprit – the ever blame-worthy strong dollar, which even managed to sully the beverage industry’s numbers.

Oh!-PEC Ready to Talk; Cry Me a River: Minecraft Creator’s Got the Blues; Listeria Out. Blue Bell In.

To heck with the Prius…

Image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stoonn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hope you enjoyed that cheap gas while it lasted because OPEC is now ready to dig deep inside itself to talk about the current oil situation – news that sent oil prices surging 8.8% today to almost $50 a barrel. That, my friends, is the biggest 3 day gain in 25 years. OPEC, as in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (they have a magazine!) is ready to put the brakes on its output just as the U.S. also revised numbers its own estimates of oil production. (The Energy Information Administration came up with a new way to calculate U.S. oil production and that resulted in a 13 million barrel difference from the previous method. Talk about your margin of error.) OPEC’s willingness to talk stems from its desire to achieve “fair and reasonable prices.” Which basically means, OPEC isn’t enjoying the low price of oil – due to the glut – and wants to get those prices right back up again. I suppose that since it produces 40% of the world oil output its entitled to feel this way.  Of course, Saudi Arabia, an OPEC member has to be willing to play ball too. However, some experts don’t think that’s going to happen. OPEC is also hoping that these low oil prices will get people to consume more of it and maybe buy some gas-guzzling SUV’s to facilitate this idea. OPEC is estimating that oil use will rise to 1.3 million barrels per day, up from 2014’s 92.7 million barrels per day.  So…about that hybrid…

Poor little rich boy…

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Image courtesy of ddpavumba/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“The problem with getting everything is you run out of reasons to keep trying, and human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance.” So tweeted Minecraft creator Marcus “Notch” Persson over the weekend as he lamented over his obscene wealth.  He then tweeted how he feels unappreciated by his former employees: “When we sold the company, the biggest effort went into making sure the employees got taken care of, and they all hate me now.” Boo hoo. Good thing he sold his company to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. He can use all that money to blow his nose and wipe away his tears as he wallows in his $70 million, 23,000 square foot home in one of Los Angeles’ best zip codes. He also attributes his women troubles to his immeasurable wealth: “Found a great girl, but she’s afraid of me and my life style and went with a normal person instead.” And that’s totally understandable. To want to be with someone normal. See where I’m going with this? Thought so. By Monday, however, Persson’s spirits seemed to have lifted since he tweeted: “fwiw, while there are articles about my depression because I had a bad day and vented on a trend I saw, I’m sitting here having a nice day.” Good because I, for one, was worried. Maybe now he can sit around and find a solution for the oil glut?

We all scream…

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Order has been restored as Texas-based Blue Bell Ice Cream hits the freezer shelves once again. And this time the ice cream is presumably listeria-free! According to the Centers for Disease Control, the deadly virus found in the ice cream was responsible for three deaths and several illnesses and the dairy company’s products were yanked from stores. The 108 year old company now has to pull out all the stops to recover – and not just fiscally.  The company laid off and furloughed thousands of employees and upgraded or is in the process of upgrading its various facilities. But if you really want your Blue Bell fix, make sure you’re in Texas or Alabama, as the cold creamy confection is only available in those parts. Stores are even betting that the demand for the stuff will be so great that some chains have limited purchases of Blue Bell products to four per person.