Home Short Supply Home; Fast-Food Chains are Losing Their Artificial Appetite; Cabling Up

Home-y don’t play that…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There’s no place like home, that is, if you can actually get your hands on one. Homes in the U.S. seem to be in short supply, causing the ones that are already for sale to increase in value. Great news if you’re selling but bad news for buyers who are watching those prices rise because of that limited supply. The demand, however, is still there and people are continuing to buy up those homes as evidenced by the 5% increase in homes sales for the month of April. Experts thought that number would go up only 4.6%. Who can blame these eager buyers willing to shell out a few extra (thousand) bucks for a place to rest their heads. A decent job market and low interest rates are making this limited home supply that much more attractive. According to the ever informative Commerce Department, 517,000 homes were sold last month which was 6.8% more than last year at this time. Again, analysts only anticipated that 508,000 homes would find new owners. March saw only 484,000 new homes being sold. If you happen to be in the market for some new digs, take note that the median price for a house has gone up 8.3% over the last year to $297,300.

All the cool kids are doing it…

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Mister GC/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Artificial out. Natural in. And so it begins for both Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, two chains that have decided to throw in the artificial towel and kick the offending ingredients to the curb. It’s actually quite a big undertaking as this will affect 95% of their menus. But don’t worry about feeling it in your wallets. As least that’s what the people in charge are saying. The chains, which both happen to be owned by the same parent company, Yum Brands, are losing the fun colors and preservatives that you’ve come to expect in your fast-food cuisine. Your nacho cheese may not look as yellow by the end of July as Taco Bell gets set to say adios to the ingredient dubbed “yellow number 6.” And prepare yourself, diners, as you get set to munch on actual black pepper in it, as opposed to black pepper flavoring. Imagine that. Real black pepper. Who would’ve thunk it? Perennial offenders high-fructose corn syrup and palm oil will also be making an exit from the menu as well, and something tells me they won’t be missed.

Un-Charter-ed territory…

Image courtesy of manostphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of manostphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You may not care about this next piece of merger news as it may not affect you at all, especially if Netflix is your main provider of quality entertainment (in which case, I totally get it). But in the not-so-glamourous world of mergers and acquisitions, the fact that Charter Communications is scooping up Time Warner Cable is quite epic. It’s big news because 1.) two huge companies are coming together 2.) it will make Charter Communications the second biggest television and internet provider in all the land (of the United States, that is) and 3. there’s a ton of money being exchanged – over $55 billion or roughly the equivalent of the GDP for like a dozen developing countries combined (I may have exaggerated that one a little – but only a little). Interestingly enough, Time Warner Cable is much bigger, but that’s not stopping Charter from offering to shell out $195.71 per share to take on the company and bring its total customer base to 24 million. Of course, it’ll be no Comcast Communications, who comes in first with 27.2 million customers, but for now, it’s still a big – make that huge – step up for Charter.

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Pier 1 Coming Up Short; Pizza Hut Getting Skinny or Skimpy?; Lincoln Logs Makes Its American Re-Debut

Down but not out…

Image courtesy of Keerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Keerati/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pier 1 Imports took a beating on its second quarter earnings. Not because it didn’t earn a profit, which it did. But because the profit just wasn’t good enough – make that high enough. Net income – or as the simple people like me say, profit, – came in at $9.2 million which amounted to $0.10 per share. That’s nice and all but earnings of $0.13 per share would have been a lot nicer according to those hard to please analysts. Especially since last year the company pulled in a $17.8 million profit. Revenue for the company was $418.6 million. But once again, that figure just wasn’t enough to please those Wall Street analysts who were looking to see numbers closer to $427 million. Shares of the Texas-based chain have been down 32% since the beginning of the year. Not exactly encroaching disastrous Radio Shack territory but still, the company is looking to close some of its 1000 plus stores. Though how many is still not clear. There will also be a little less coupon clipping for the store as those will now be yanked, although perhaps not entirely. The question remains, however: Where have all those shoppers gone who used to grace those stores with their presence and credit cards? Hmmm.

The new skinny…

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of suphakit73/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Pizza Hut has got big plans to make you skinny. Okay that’s a stretch but the chain is unveiling (which sounds so much more dramatic than it actually is) it’s latest plan to gain back some market share in the contentious food turf war that it has been losing as of late. Dubbed the “Skinny Slice,” Pizza Hut’s latest menu addition is, in fact, not sold by the slice. Also, it should be duly noted that this new slice also uses the same exact ingredients as in a regular slice – just less of them. Pizza Hut diners in Ohio and Florida will be among the first who get to sample the new fare. Pizza Hut is hoping to attract those finicky Millenials who seem to prefer chains like Chipotle and Panera bread that apparently serve up healthier, higher quality fare. Go figure.

Quit toying with me… 

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sattva/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Arguably a classic in the Canon of America toys (I made that up), Lincoln Logs, whose license is owned by another classic-in the making, K’NEX, makes its way back to the shores of the US all the way from China (where else?). Created almost a century ago by John Lloyd Wright, one of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s children, the toy will now, once again, be manufactured in the United States – well 80% of it anyways. Naturally, the other 20% will still be made in China (again, where else?). Pride Manufacturing, located in Burnham, Maine,  the company that will manufacture 80% of the Lincoln Logs, conveniently enough, already makes wooden toys. The new move will create between 5-10 jobs in the US.