Trump Does Nothing for Twitter; Take That Trump! Tequila Goes Public; Whole Foods Whole Lotta Trouble

(Sigh…)

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The good news from Twitter’s latest earnings report is that its monthly active users increased by 2 million to 319 million accounts.  Although forecasts were for 319.6 million. Just saying.   Revenue also grew 10% to 717.2 million. However, that’s about all the good news there was, because the company missed estimates for revenues of $740.1 million, as ad revenues were lower, falling about .5% from last year’s $710 million to $638 million. In fact, Twitter experienced its slowest quarterly revenue growth since its IPO in 2013. To make matters infinitely worse, shares fell almost 12% on the news, and Twitter can’t afford to lose any more value from its shares. But CEO Jack Dorsey asked for patience, as the company he heads is making some investments into machine learning and figuring out exactly how to engage its advetisers. Seems like a prudent plan. But the bigger story is that President Trump’s tweeting did absolutely nothing for the company. Zero. Nil. Nada. Sure, the world got to see the kind of havoc that can be wreaked with just 140 characters. Unfortunately, that’s about all it did as his tweeting as Twitter reported that it actually experienced slower growth in the quarter that included the election.  According to Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer, Anthony Noto, you can’t expect a “single person to drive sustained growth.” Meaning, Trump had no effect, President or not. The one bright spot – if you can call it that – is that Twitter earned 16 cents a share when estimates for 12 cents.

 Mas tequila, por favor!

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Mexico had its first IPO since President Trump won the election back in November. The lucky IPO was tequila maker Jose Cuervo. The world’s biggest tequila company raised $900 million, with shares priced toward the top of the range at 34 pesos. That translates to roughly $1.67 per share. It’s pesos. What did you expect? The IPO had actually been put on hold twice, thanks to Trump, because his anti-NAFTA ambitions and wall-building enthusiasm kept weakening the peso. Interestingly enough, unlike other products, demand for tequila is not based on price. However, its price could get higher if Trump gets his way by slapping some major tariffs on the lime-friendly beverage. A move like that could put a major dent into Jose Cuervo, which gets 64% of its’s $1.165 billion in sales from the United States and Canada. At least Jose Cuervo always had the luxury of enjoying strong dollar-base earnings. That’s got to count for something, right? Problem is that the new expected U.S. protectionist measures could end up hurting that $1.165 billion. But maybe not. Because, after all, this is tequila we’re talking about. So maybe Americans will be willing shell out a few extra dollars.

 

A Whole lotta nothing…

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Whole Foods is looking anything but with its announcement that it will be closing nine stores. It’s the first time in almost a decade that the company had to resort to such measures as this quarter saw sales drop 2.4% when analysts only predicted a drop of 1.7%. Yikes. Whole Foods initially had a plan to open over 1,200 stores, but alas it was not meant to be as increasing competition and higher food prices led to the company’s sixth straight quarter of decreasing same store sales. The chain gained 39 cents per share which is was about what analysts expected, but as for its forecast, things aren’t exactly looking up. Whole Foods still operates 440 stores and believe it or not, six new stores are still expected to open, with another 80 stores in the planning stages.

Billionaire Gets Booed Over Trump Support; Pes -Oh No! Clinton Investigation Hurts Chances and Currency; Lumber Liquidators Low on Liquid

Are you sure about that?

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Tech billionaire Peter Thiel s taking a lot of heat for his support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. People are enraged that Thiel, who happens to be a PayPal co-founder, had nothing better to do with his money than throw $1.25 million into Trump’s campaign coffers. In fact, there are some who would like to see Thiel ousted from his board positions at Facebook and Y Combinator. However, Mark Zuckerberg has already said he wouldn’t do that and while Y Combinator CEO Sam Altman can’t stomach Donald Trump, he also has no plans to boost Thiel despite his political leanings. “What Donald Trump represents isn’t crazy, and it’s not going away,” Thiel said during his speech at the National Press Club in Washington where he griped about all the problems that America continues to face. From not benefitting from free trade, to watching taxpayer money go down the toilet to fund overseas conflicts, to raging about America’s over-priced healthcare system, Thiel’s speech had all the makings for a Trump rally. Well, except for assaulting women and imposing bans on Muslims entering the U.S. At least Thiel does not agree with all of Trump’s statements and sentiments and he even finds Trump’s comments about grabbing women “clearly offensive and inappropriate.” And that is oddly reassuring.

Trump-ed Up Currency…

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Speaking of the election…The peso, while maybe not the preferred currency for many, is actually a fairly reliable gauge of how the markets feel about our Presidential candidates. Today, the Mexican currency was down as the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer continues to rear its ugly inconvenient head. The Peso favors Hillary and when she does well, it goes up. Following the debates, the peso experienced a nice boost, as it was not keen on Trump’s plans to build a wall along the Mexican border and renegotiate NAFTA with terms more favorable to the United States. Back in September, the peso hit a record low when Trump began making considerable gains in the election. But alas, it was news of this latest FBI investigations that sent the peso tumbling to its worst fall in seven weeks. On the bright side, if you can call it that, today the dollar rebounded signaling that the investigation isn’t affecting the U.S. currency. It also presumably means that the dollar would like to see Clinton installed in the White House.

No kidding…

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Speaking of things that make you sick, we now shift our attentions to Lumber Liquidators and its ongoing saga over its formaldehyde-laced flooring.  Investors had hoped the stock would rebound right about now. But those hopes were dashed when the company reported its third quarter earnings with the stock taking a 14% hit. The company posted an $18.4 million net loss, losing 68 cents per share, which was way over the expected 21 cents per share loss. The worst part of that figure was that the loss was larger than expected as legal fees continue to plague the company and no timeline has been established for when the company will finally settle its litany of lawsuits.  Interestingly enough, sales were actually up and hit $244 million, beating expectations of $232 million. Who would have thunk it? In the meantime, the company saw half its value go down the proverbial toilet since the scandal broke out in March, courtesy of “60 Minutes” and its relentless investigative journalism.  At least the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ended their investigation back in June, issuing no recall. Shares closed at $15.51.

Peso: 1, Trump: 0; Trump Gets Shut Down – Just Not the Right One; How Nobel! Contract Theory Gets Props

Adios…

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The peso is rising and ironically, Mexico has Donald Trump to thank. Who would have thunk it? The more Donald’s chances for the presidency dwindle, the higher the peso goes.  There is an O’Henry novel in there somewhere. The peso, in fact, had hit a record low just hours before the first debate on September 26 after falling 9% against the dollar this year.  Then this weird thing happened: the Mexican currency rebounded when Hilary Clinton went into full-court debate/attack-mode; or maybe from the negative momentum spewing from Donald’s Trump’s mouth – you decide. However, the peso did lose some of its gains when Trump began attacking Clinton’s use of her private e-mail server and all of her own shifty activities. But over the weekend the peso has been enjoying some new impressive gains and even surged to a one-month high, at least in part owing to Trump’s 2005 “Locker Room Talk” video which viscerally offended…everyone. Of course, we mustn’t rule out his performance at Sunday night’s debate. His showmanship seemed to just about clinch the demise of his presidential aspirations and also presumably helped the peso gain some much needed mojo. I guess that’s what they call karma. After all, he did say that if he wins, he’s going to slap some hard-core tariffs on Mexican imports and that’s a scary thought for a country who sees 80% of its exports going to the U.S. Trump wants to chuck NAFTA, or at the very least, renegotiate the terms so that they are more favorable to the U.S. That’s besides having our neighbor to the south foot the bill for a wall to keep out immigrants.

Loser…

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In other Trump news, the Trump Taj Mahal closed its doors…for good. Wish you could say the same of the candidate with the same name, huh? Trump opened the Trump Taj Mahal in 1990, and billed it as “The eighth wonder of the world.” Try not to throw up in your mouth. It was one of the largest casinos in the world and held the dubious distinction of having gone through multiple bankruptcies. Talk about the Trump theme song. In case you were hoping this closure puts a ding in Trump’s armor, don’t bother. He hasn’t owned it for years. He lost his share to bondholders and then resigned as chairmen. The property belongs to activist-investor Carl Icahn, and after massive losses and a breakdown in negotiations with unions, 3,000 employees now find themselves out of work.  Not that the news came as any great shock seeing as how the closure was announced in July. A thousand union members went on strike back then, in part angered that they only saw 80 cents per hour in raises for the last twelve years. Believe it or not Trump hadn’t even owned the casino for much of that time. So we don’t get to completely blame him. Meanwhile, the cost of living in the A.C. went up 25% for the same period so things weren’t adding up for all the casino’s employees. Union members wanted healthcare and pension benefits. Icahn said his last bid offered medical benefits, though the union still didn’t bite. Keeping the casino open would have meant more than $100 million in losses, that would have been in addition to the $350 million that the casino lost in the last few years. And nobody I know likes to lose money. Especially when there are so many commas involved.

Winner winner…

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Now let’s move on to two people who actually make the world a better place. Too bad neither one of them is running for President. Oh well. But I guess winning the Nobel Economics Prize probably means you’re over-qualified for the position anyway. In any case, congrats are in order for MIT’s Bengt Holmstrom and Harvard University’s Oliver Hart. Their work on “contract theory” is so impressive that it seems only fair to hand them the prestigious award, which also comes with a $928,000 cash prize. As for contract theory, it deals with how to best design contracts, taking into consideration human behaviors in business. Whether you like it or not, contract theory has played a big part in executive pay. It helps out in all kinds of situations like how to effectively run corporations, dole out corporate compensation and even formulate bankruptcy legislation. It also studies the implications of workplace pay, like whether managers should get bonuses or stock options, or if teachers and healthcare workers should be paid a fixed rate or a salary that is performance-based. Contract theory also examines whether certain institutions, like schools hospitals and prisons, would fare better if they were privatized. Although, I find it somewhat disconcerting that prisons were lumped with hospitals and schools. Just saying.