Wal-Mart Brings it Home with Great Earnings; A New Pew Study is Out and the Results May Surprise You; SEC Takes a Swing at Golfer Phil Mickelson

Sweet…

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Wal-Mart showered us with the news of its higher than expected quarterly profits and that’s a good sign since Wal-Mart’s success is a barometer of the economy and how well it’s behaving. Wal-Mart, in case you weren’t aware, is considered to be less upscale than its rival, Target. Because Target did not do so well this quarter and Wal-Mart did, experts are quick to point out that those in a more modest income bracket are still spending, at Wal-Mart anyways, and that is always a welcome occurrence in a healthy economy. Wal-Mart can thank an increase in drug prices, which is not as bad as it sounds. Hey, people need their medicines. But that’s just one small reason for the impressive digits. Warm weather helped keep Wal-Mart’s utility costs lower, which also contributed to those welcome numbers. Don’t laugh. Any little bit helps, even if it does involve the thermostat. A profit is a profit and Wal-Mart’s was $.304 billion. That figure is actually less than last year’s $3.34 billion, but its because of investments to improve the retailer and not because of any negative reasons. The retailer shelled out $2.7 billion to increase entry level pay and that also helped out with some of that profit. The company added 98 cents per share when analysts expected only 88 cents per share. And who doesn’t like it when analysts get it wrong, right?   As a result of the fiscally delightful news, shares of Wal-Mart made a nice little jump today, which is especially good since shares had gone down over 20% in the last twelve months.

The gig is up…

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The Pew Research Center just released the results of its latest study, this time tackling the ever-popular “sharing economy.” For whatever reason, the center wanted to know what 4,787 U.S. adults think about Uber and Lyft, Kickstarter and Airbnb, to name a few. Turns out that 72% of U.S. adults have used at one of 11 different shared/on-demand platforms.  73% responded that they’d never heard of the term “sharing economy.” But that’s nothing compared to the 89% who didn’t know what a “gig economy” is. Then things started to get dicey. 15% of the people surveyed said they’d used shared and on-demand services like Uber and Lyft, yet 30% said they’d never heard of those apps. Household income and age played a big role in who used the apps. 41% of U.S. adults with annual incomes of more than $100,000 had used at least four of the services, which was more than three times that of adults whose annual incomes were less than $30,000. 39% of college graduates used at least four of the services. Not nearly so much for those who don’t have higher degrees. For those in the 50+ range, 44% said they’ve used at least four of the services. But of the 65 and above set , only 5% used the services. While ride-sharing apps were – no great shock – used primarily by young adults in big cities, middle aged adults were the primary users of services offered by apps like Airbnb. And even though Kickstarter and other crowd-funding apps have only been around since 2009, 22% of U.S. adults apparently gave donations through them. Yet 61% of those who responded said they’d never heard of the term “crowd-funding.”

Inside out…

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Pro-golfer Phil Mickelson is under investigation and it has nothing to do with sports. The SEC has set its sights on the five time major winner for insider trading. Apparently, Mickelson scored almost a million bucks and the SEC wants him to pay it all back…with interest. To be fair, Mickelson is classified as a “relief defendant” which means he hasn’t been officially accused of…anything. He does, however, still have to pay back his insider trading profit of $931,738.12, not to mention another $105,291.09 in interest. But hey, it’s better than doing time, a possibility for the two men who supplied him with the non-publicizied information. And those two men happen to be well known sports gambler Billy Walters and former chairman of Dean Foods, Thomas Davis. It’s no mistake that the “ill-gotten gains” were from Dean Foods. Which explains why Walters and Davis are now both facing criminal charges, while Mickelson’s attorneys get to call their client, who currently ranks 17th in the world, an “innocent bystander.”

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Wall Street Is Sour On Lulu, Phil Mickelson In the Clear and Sale Away

Namistakes…

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Master isolated images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shares of Lululemon (LULU) went sour today after the company announced its quarterly earnings. While the athletic apparel company barely beat Wall Street’s predictions by $0.02 a share, its profits fell to a very un-zen $19 million from over $47 million a year ago. Its see-through yoga pants debacle certainly helped bring in those awful numbers. But it wouldn’t be right not to mention and wonder if some of these earnings come courtesy of Lululemon’s founder (no longer, chairman) and biggest shareholder Chip Wilson. Wilson idiotically remarked that heavy – and even not so heavy women – should steer clear of his company’s merchandise. An ignorant statement like that – see-through yoga pants or not – ought to help destroy a company’s earnings. Besides that, the company is staring at some fierce competition from Gap’s Athleta brand and Under Armour. Shares of the company went downward dog by 35% in the past twelve months.

SEC no longer teed off at Phil?

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Image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pro-golfer Phil Mickelson is happily teeing off now that SEC is pulling back from its investigation into whether he might have been involved in insider trading. Apparently the eleventh ranked golfer in the world wasn’t buying Clorox, shares of it that is, while billionaire Carl Icahn was planning to buy the company. However, the Feds are still curious about some “well-timed trades” by Mickelson and his buddy, pro-gambler Billy Walters back in 2012. While Phil Mickelson scored a million bucks on those trades, Walters allegedly notched a whopping $15 million on shares of Dean Foods.

Where o’ where does the economy stand?

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Image courtesy of jscreationzs/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The economy once again is toying with our emotions as it continues to pull in numbers with very mixed messages. The good news is that retail increased. The bad news is that it didn’t increase enough gaining only by 0.3% instead of the 0.6% predicted (and hoped for) by some supremely intelligent economists. Then there’s our fickle little job market. The good news: In May we say 217,000 jobs added. It’s been five years since the country has seen monthly job growth of over 200,000 per month. Yippee, right? No because the bad news: The number of people filing for unemployment went up to 317,000 last week. However, that number is still less than the yearly average so a slight yippee can be uttered. Then there’s the issue of wage growth. The issue being that wages aren’t doing that much growing.

Phil Mickelson Teeing Off the Feds? Million Dollar Dream Date and Donut Downer

The Bleachers (No. Not the band. But they do have an amazing song you should check out)…

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Image courtesy of nuttakit/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Phil Mickelson’s got bigger problems than his flailing golf game. The Feds are investigating the golf great for insider trading. It should be duly noted that there are no official allegations yet. It all began in 2011 when Carl Icahn developed a thing for cleanliness and started buying up copious amounts of shares of Clorox (CLX). Oh the irony of Carl Icahn buying shares of something he’s likely never used. He then went for a takeover bid. So the stuff you use to clean your bathroom is making major financial headlines. In any case, shares of the company rose a lot as they tend to do under these circumstances. But before there was mention of a takeover bid, Mickelson and Las Vegas Sports bettor William Walters also bought lots and lots shares. Which kind of made the Feds and the SEC start to wonder if the golfer and bettor knew about the impending takeover from the investor. And that, my friends, is a very big problem.

Whose picking up the check?

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Image courtesy of KEKO64/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How much would you pay for a dream date? What if that dream date was with the very dreamy Warren Buffet? It may not be what you had in mind but people are willing to shell out millions of dollars to spend some quality dining time with the Oracle of Omaha. Bidding has begun for the much sought after lunch date with the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA). Proceeds go to the San-Francisco based Glide Foundation, an organization that provides numerous invaluable resources for the homeless. In 2012, the winning bid was almost $3.5 million. Last year’s winning bid was only just over a million dollars. This year’s bidding is currently up to just over $350,000. But you needn’t fret. There are still three days left to cast your winning bid for what had better be the ultimate dining experience.

Krispy Krummy…

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Witthaya Phonsawat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Krispy Kreme’s (KKD) stock is going to mush. The ultimate in donut perfection, surprisingly, shockingly, horrifyingly, missed its earnings forecast. The maker behind one of America’s greatest innovations pulled in $121.6 in first quarter revenue and you might think that’s a lot of donuts. But Wall Street was expecting over $126 million – which is a bit harsh, if you ask me. Maybe Wall Street needs to spread some donut love. Naturally, the harsh winter was blamed. Curse you winter of 2014 for causing our beloved donut to be fiscally tarnished!