McDonald’s European Tax McMess; OPEC Member Smackdown; Unemployment Ups and Downs

Did the Hamburglar do it?

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Hold on to your McMuffins because the Golden Arches are under investigation by European regulators. Apparently McDonald’s neglected to pay taxes on its franchise profits earned in Europe and Russia since 2009. The EU says that 250 million euros made just in 2013 wasn’t  even taxed and McDonald’s had an unfair advantage over its competitors. Gasp. McDonald’s European franchise office is based in the teeny tiny country of Luxembourg. The trouble seems to have started when authorities in Luxembourg decided that McD’s was exempt from paying taxes on its profits because the U.S. was also taxing them on those profits.  McDonald’s, however, says the allegations are false and that it paid over $2 billion in corporate in taxes, besides other taxes, between 2010 and 2014. Starbucks, Fiat and Apple also faced similar investigations and Starbucks and Fiat ultimately found themselves forking over $34 million each in back taxes and penalties.

Can’t we all just get along?

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OPEC members just can’t seem to get along these days which is a bit unsettling considering they control a trillion dollar oil supply. Because of the oil glut and the fact that oil prices are so low –   a barrel closed at $42.49, the lowest price since 2009 – Venezuela is finding itself cash-strapped as oil is a big chunk of the country’s bread and butter. Together with a few other cash-strapped countries, including Ecuador and Algeria (don’t laugh), they want Saudi Arabia to cut back on its oil production output to help bring prices back up and make them less cash-strapped. Saudi Arabia doesn’t want to, but might consider doing so if Russia and Mexico do the same. Saudia Arabia, by the way, is the world’s largest oil exporter and is not cash-strapped so they don’t really feel the need to cut back. Saudi Arabia also said it would listen to what the other countries have to say. Which is nice and all. But it still intends to do what it wants. Like it always does. Russia also has no plans to cut back since it does not see a point in doing so. And besides, who tells Russia what to do? Iran wants OPEC to reduce output just so that it can make room for its re-entry into the wonderful lucrative world of petroleum production. But to be clear, Iran has no intention of capping its own output to help out with the current oil glut. Maybe, just maybe, Iran will agree to cap its oil production once it reaches its pre-sanction levels. After all, its gotta make up for lost times, you know?  OPEC pumped over 32 million barrels a day in November. Once Iran and Indonesia (yes, that country’s back, too) return, expect that number to be much much higher. While annual revenue for OPEC was $550 billion last year, in the five years prior, the organization was pulling down $1 trillion annually.

You say that’s a good thing?

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Applications for unemployment benefits rose to 269,000 applicants, gaining 9,000 newbies from last week and apparently that’s good news. Well, maybe not to the 269,000 applicants, but we won’t go there just yet. And even though that means that there are now approximately 2.16 million Americans right now collecting unemployment benefits – is that term an oxymoron? – unemployment is still considered to be at historically low levels. Believe it or not, this report actually points to a healthy job market. And why shouldn’t it? The number of unemployment benefit recipients is 9.3% less than it was a year ago. An average of 206,000 jobs have been added per month in the last year with a whopping 270,000 jobs added just in October. Even average hourly earnings are up 2.5% in the last twelve months. You can be sure the Fed will be considering this latest report as it mulls its decision to raise interest rates, which by the way, is more than likely to happen in about two weeks.

 

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Employment Numbers Crunch; Nothing Sour About Lululemon; Radio Shack Over and Out?

It was good while it lasted…

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Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The number of people picking up unemployment checks took an unwelcome climb to over 300,000 claims – 315,000 to be a bit more accurate. That number was about 11,000 higher than the previous week and it’s a bit of a bummer since numbers that high haven’t been seen since June. But the fact that unemployment filings were up for the week ending September 6, which included the holiday weekend suggests…well not much. Labor Day, ironically, tends to play tricks on those pesky unemployment numbers. Besides, those numbers are still well below pre-recession levels and on average down over 7% from where they were last year at this time. Now if they could just do something to plump up those wages faster than inflation then we’d be set.

 Who would’ve thunk it?

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Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lululemon scored nicely this quarter, especially considering all the corporate and see-through-yoga-pants drama it experienced in the last year. And yes, the earnings were better than expected sending shares of the stock up 15%. The company, famous for its hip athletic apparel pulled in revenues of over $390 million earning $0.33 a share compared to the same time last year where it earned $344 million. Also, the chain has big plans to outfit men in yoga pants. With a stand alone men’s store already gracing its home country of Canada, New York City is about to debut a Lululemon men’s store to call its very own. If you were in the market for see-through yoga pants, though, look elsewhere. The company ironed out that kink ages ago.

No frequency radio…

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Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like bankruptcy is on the horizon for embattled electronics retailer, Radio Shack. In fact, the company said that by the end of September their funds could run dry. It’s holding out hope that somewhere out there the financing gods will smile upon them and lift them up from that fiscal well of despair. Until then, Radio Shack is hoping that the services they offer in store will help them stay relevant in a marketplace that has seen brutal competition from the internet. It is also in the process of trying to close hundreds of stores out of the thousands it has, and cut costs in other areas. But it remains to be seen if these measures will be enough or if Radio Shack is a sinking ship. The company reported second quarter losses of over $137 million. Last year at this time it’s losses were just over $52 million.

Mother Nature’s Allegedly Messing With Employment, Wham! Bam! Thank You Wall Street and Back Off My Guacamole, Global Warming!

Give mother nature a new job…

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Image courtesy of Grant Cochrane/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While 139,000 might seem like large healthy figure to you, on Wall Street that number is paltry at best. Especially when we’re talking about the amount of jobs added to the private sector. Maybe you or someone you know did score a job in the last few months, but analysts on Wall Street were hoping for a much bigger number. And just like everything else this fiscal quarter, it’s mother nature who is once again being blamed – at least partly – for the villainous role she’s playing in our slowed economy. With that, unemployment is expected to hold steady at 6.6%.

Is it all about control?

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Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No matter how you feel about guns, if you think more gun control is going to reduce the number of firearms purchases, you might want to rethink that logic. Shares of  Smith & Wesson, the hand gun maker, shot up 10%, shooting way past Wall Street’s expectations. Firearms enthusiasts stocked up on weapons because of the possibility of stricter gun control regulations on the horizon. Other firearms manufacturers had similar gains as well. The gun maker took in a third quarter profit of $20.8 million.

Holy moly…

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Image courtesy of pakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Big Chipotle fan, are ya! The mouth-watering guacamole that keeps you coming back to the tasty Mexican grill uses 70 avocados to make a batch. That translates to 97,000 pounds of the largely California grown produce. But you better get your fix in while you still can because if global warming lives up to its hype then those tangy salsas and mouth watering guacamoles might become nothing more than a dream you once had. In its annual report, Chipotle ominously suggested that “Increasing weather volatility…could have a significant impact on the price or availability of some of our ingredients.” And if that drought in California doesn’t let up soon, you can say adios to your guacamole.