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The Nasdaq closed over 5,000 for the first time in nearly 15 years, sparking both optimism and worry. Investors still remember the Nasdaq bubble bursting and a tumble down to the 1,114 level, while others look to more realistic valuations and actual revenue and profit among the companies involved. (CNBC)

Manufacturing grew in February at its slowest pace in a year, limited by weaker growth abroad and a work slowdown at West Coast ports. Manufacturing growth has slowed, but it’s still expansionary.  (Bloomberg)

U.S. consumer spending fell for a second straight month in January, by 0.2%, as lower gasoline prices continued to weigh on receipts at service stations. Personal income rose 0.3% percent in the month, a strong number. (Reuters)

U.S. consumer sentiment fell from an 11-year high in February, weighed down by an unusually severe winter.  (Reuters)

Left for dead?  Not so quick. BlackBerry will release four new phones this year, including a touchscreen model called the Leap, a keyboard handset, and a curved-screen device with a slide-out keyboard. The 5-inch Leap will cost $275. (Re/code)

Dick's Sporting Goods netted a fourth-quarter profit of $155.5 million on sales of $2.16 billion. Dick's shares have increased 12% since the beginning of the year and risen slightly more than 3% in the last 12 months. (AP)
 

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Wells Fargo, one of the largest subprime car lenders, is pulling back from that raging market, a move that is being felt throughout the auto industry. Amid signs that the market is overheating, Wells Fargo has imposed a cap for the first time on the amount of loans it will extend to subprime borrowers. The bank is limiting the dollar volume of its subprime auto originations to 10% percent of its overall auto loans. (New York Times)

Berkshire Hathaway the insurance, ice cream, underwear and train business saw its Q4 net profit decline 16.7% to $4.16 billion. Full-year net profits were up 2% to $19.87 billion. Berkshire's 2014 book value grew 8.3% after taxes to $146,186 per share. (Seeking Alpha)

If you use a credit card to pay for those purchases at Costco you know American Express will go away in April of 2016.  Taking its place will be the Citi Visa card.  Terms of the exclusive deal between Citi and Costco were not announced. (CNBC)

The average price of a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high, $4.24 per pound, in the United States in January. In August 2014, the average price for a pound of all types of ground beef topped $4 for the first time. Five years ago, the average price of a pound of ground beef was $2.28 a pound. The price has since climbed by $1.96 per pound, or 85.8%. (CNSNews.com)

The S&P 500 is flat and the NASDAQ is up 9.  The MSCI International Index was up 0.03% Friday.
 

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As we end the second month of the trading year let’s take a look at the numbers.
The S&P 500 is up 2.5% year to date.
The NASDAQ is up 5.32%.
The MSCI International index is up 6.95%.

The second reading of Gross Domestic Products for the last quarter of 2014 was revised down to 2.2%. About what was expected.  For all of 2014 the economy grew by 2.45%. (Bloomberg)

Confidence in the U.S. economy among chief financial officers has moved up sharply in the span of just a few weeks. Twenty-five percent of U.S.-based CFOs believe the U.S. economy is strongly improving. (CNBC)

Saturday will be the release of the 50th edition of Warren Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders. You can join Tyler in being one of the first readers by going to http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/ (Reuters)

New research shows that more than half of Americans are unprepared for financial emergencies and either spend more than they make or break even. Meanwhile, a third says they have no savings. (CNBC)

Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus Radio when Tyler and I will give you a double helping of information from our wealth building buffet.

The S&P 500 is down 2 and the NASDAQ is down 5.  The MSCI International Index was up 0.10% yesterday.

Oil is up 96 cents at $49.11 a barrel. Whether U.S. crude can avoid its eighth straight monthly drop comes down to today's trading. The number to watch is $48.24 per barrel. (Reuters)
 

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Durable goods orders climbed 2.8% in January, better than expected.  Consumer prices fell 0.7% in January with oil falling and food rising. (Commerce Department)

Sears reported a narrower quarterly loss of $159 million as it slashed costs and will launch a planned property trust by June, raising at least $2 billion for the struggling U.S. retailer. Sales at comparable stores dropped 4.4%, with Sears showing a 7% decline and Kmart stores a 2% drop.  (Reuters)

Kohl's reported a 10.5% rise in quarterly profits, helped by higher sales of apparel and accessories in the holiday shopping season. Net sales rose 4%. (Reuters)

Shop local? China has dropped major global tech brands-including Apple, Cisco, and Intel from its approved state purchase lists, while approving thousands of local vendors. (Reuters)

Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world's largest brewer, raised its dividend 46% and announced $1 billion share buyback program. It forecast improved beer sales, particularly with the growth in emerging markets of higher priced premium brands such as Budweiser, 60%of which is now sold outside the United States. (Reuters)

The S&P 500 is up 1 and the NASDAQ is up 4.  The MSCI International Index was up 0.10% yesterday.

Oil is up 98 cents at $50.01 a barrel, after settling up 3.5% yesterday and snapping a five-day losing streak on improved views on global oil demand. (Reuters)
 

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Home prices in largest 20 US cities appreciated at a faster pace in December, a sign that a limited supply is forcing up property values. Prices rose at a 4.3% annual rate in 2014. (Bloomberg)

 

China's manufacturing sector expanded for the first time in four months in February-surprising investors who were expecting a third period of contraction after stalling in November. (Associated Press)

 

Lowe's, the No. 2 U.S. home improvement chain, saw same-store sales rise 7.4% last quarter as lower gas prices and an improving job market encouraged Americans to spend more on home renovations. Profits climbed 47% from a year earlier.  Lowes stock is up 58% from a year ago. (Reuters)

 

Hewlett Packard delivered quarterly profits 2% higher than last year, but sales came in down 5%. The computing giant forecast weak second-quarter results, citing currency headwinds. HP posted a surprise beat on PC revenue last quarter as notebook sales rose 8%. (CNBC)

 

More than 16,900 federal employees took home in excess of $200,000 in base salary in 2014, according to a federal salary database. The number of workers earning more than $200,000 represented about 1.6% of employees on the list. Most of the high earners worked as medical officers at the Veterans Affairs Department. (National Journal)

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The direction of the markets may be influenced by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony on Capitol Hill today and tomorrow. Investors are hoping for greater clarity on interest rates and the economy. (CNBC)

U.S. home resales fell sharply to their lowest level in nine months in January amid a shortage of properties on the market. The National Association of Realtors says existing home sales declined 4.9% to an annual rate of 4.82 million units. (Reuters)

Home Depot, the world’s No.1 home improvement chain, reported same-store sales rose 7.9% in the fourth quarter and said it would buy back $18 billion of its shares. Home Depot’s profits rose 36% to $1.38 billion. The company also raised its dividend 11%. (Fortune)

Northwest based fitness equipment maker Nautilus reported fourth quarter sales of $94.9 million, a 23% increase from last year. For the quarter, the company had a profit of nearly $10.4 million. Nautilus sells about 60% of its products directly to consumers, through phone or web sales, and about 40% through retailers. (Oregon Live)

The tech laden NASDAQ is on a tear to start the year, but just 5 stocks are contributing all the 218 point gain in the NASDAQ 100.  Those are:

Net Flix                         - 10 points
Gilead                           - 15 points
Biogen                          - 17 points
Amazon                        - 35 points
Apple                          - 141 points (CNBC)
 

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Refining not oil supply is driving gas prices. The largest U.S. refinery strike in 35 years enters its fourth week workers at 12 refineries accounting for one-fifth of national production capacity are walking picket lines. The refinery work stoppage began on February 1st. The work stoppage now includes the nation's largest refinery at Port Arthur, Texas. (Reuters)

Another media hit by the digital age. The world's largest coffee-house chain, Starbucks, will stop selling CDs at the end of March in its 21,000 stores worldwide. CD sales nationally have been declining; they dropped another 15% in 2014. The company is expected to replace the CD racks with smaller racks that hold plastic digital download cards, similar to the iTunes card, that are Starbucks branded.(USA Today)

Last night’s Academy Awards were the most watched TV other than post-season football all year.  So you know it has huge economic impacts so here are some facts. (Forbes)

In 2014 the price for ad time increased for the fifth consecutive year. The average cost for a 30 second ad in 2014 was $1.76 million and total ad volume was $95 million. (Kantar Media)

In 2014 the Oscar telecast on average had 10 minutes and 58 seconds of advertising time each hour, the highest it had ever been. Nonetheless, the commercial load for a typical prime time hour on broadcast television is in the 14-16 minutes range. (Kantar Media)

The top five advertisers for the Oscar telecast over the past five years have been JC Penney ($50.8 million), Hyundai ($44.9 million), Samsung ($43.4 million), Coca-Cola ($31.1 million) and American Express ($28.8 million). Over the five years, these five advertisers have spent nearly $200 million on the show accounting for 49% of total ad volume for the show. (Kantar Media)

Since 1978 there have been three films to win both Best Picture Oscar and gross over $300 million in the U.S. Titanic $600.8 million released in 1997, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King $377.0 million released in 2003 and Forrest Gump $329.7 million released in 1994.  American Sniper will be the fourth.  (Box Office Mojo)
 

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It is a run on the banks as the EU and Greece try to come to terms. Greek depositors have been pulling money out of banks in record amounts over the last few days. As much as $28.4 billion has left Greek banks since the end of December. (CNBC)

The big green machine, farm equipment maker Deere earned $1.12 per share for its latest quarter, well above the consensus estimate. Deere however, highlighted the difficult global market conditions and said it expected a 17% drop in equipment sales for 2015. (CNBC)

Nordstrom reported earnings that fell short of expectations, while revenue basically matched estimates. The retailer's full-year outlook was well below forecasts. Nordstrom has been increasing its investment in technology upgrades, and promotional activity at the Rack . (CNBC)

McDonald’s continues its efforts to right the ship. The Golden Arches is testing a new addition - flavored McNuggets.  McDonald's began testing seasoning flavors that customers can shake on nuggets, including zesty ranch, chipotle BBQ and garlic parmesan, this week. In the nugget category, McDonald's has faced heightened competition from rival Burger King, which is currently promoting 10 pieces for $1.49 as a limited-time offering. (CNBC)

Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus, your smart money radio, when Tyler and I will have a new shame of the week.
 

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U.S. crude stocks rose by 14.3 million barrels last week. At the same time, production from the world's biggest exporter Saudi Arabia may be increasing to near 10 million barrels per day. (Reuters)

While the supply of oil is rising, refinery capacity in the US is limited.  There were 142 operable petroleum refineries in the United States. The newest complex refinery with significant downstream unit capacity began operating in 1977 in Louisiana. So the explosion and fire that ripped through a gasoline processing unit at an Exxon Mobil refinery near Los Angeles could lead to higher gasoline prices. (Reuters)

Think China is not important to US companies?  Hershey is projecting a nearly 60% increase to $4.3 billion in chocolate sales in China by 2019-driven by demand from the growing urban population. (Reuters)

The amount of auto loans taken in the fourth quarter of 2014 climbed by $86 billion dollars. The strongest growth came from borrowers with the highest credit ratings. (CNBC)

They ran a leader into the ground and now they get a bonus.  RadioShack has asked the bankruptcy court to allow it to allot $3 million for retention bonuses to give eight executives and 30 other employees’ financial incentive to stay on board. The bonuses would range from $88,000-$650,000 for eight executives. (Money)

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Prices at the manufacturing level fell 0.8% in January after falling 0.3% in December. Lots of that is the due to the falling price of oil.   Overall inflation is virtual non-existent in the US economy. (Bloomberg)

Mortgage rates rose to 3.93%, for a 30-year fixed rate, its highest level since the beginning of this year, and loan volume fell 13.2% last week. But total applications were still 14% above a year ago, when interest rates were considerably higher. (CNBC)

Garmin, maker of GPS-based devices, reported a 5.7% leap in quarterly revenue, helped by strong sales of its fitness products. The company's profits increased to $210.2 million in the fourth quarter. Sales rose to $803.3 million. (Reuters)

Big boy toy maker Caterpillar is being investigated by authorities regarding the movement of cash among its U.S. and overseas subsidiaries. The heavy equipment maker disclosed the probe in an SEC filing. (Reuters)

Yesterday it was talk of an electric car today it is a watch. It is reported Apple could sell as many as 20 million of its new smartwatches in the first year. Up to 6 million watches are said to have been ordered for the April launch. Looks like it might fare better than Google Glasses. (USA Today)
 

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Michele Ferrero, the founder and patriarch of the Italian Nutella empire, died on Saturday. He was 89. He was "the richest candyman on the planet," according to Forbes, which put his wealth at $23.4 billion. (Money)

Grocer Haggen is about to expand from 18 stores in the Pacific Northwest to 164 throughout the West Coast and will for the first time be in California, Arizona and Nevada. The expansion is part of the divestment process resulting from the merger of Albertsons and Safeway. The conversion starts this Thursday. The bulk of the new Haggen stores will change over by July, with one to 12 converting each week. (Oregon Live)

American Express and Costco are ending their 16-year relationship. The unusual partnership, in which Costco exclusively accepted AmEx cards, had driven a significant chunk of business to the New York card company. In the past decade, Costco has more than doubled its annual revenue to $112.6 billion and nearly doubled profits to $2.06 billion. (Wall Street Journal)

What could be next for Apple?  An electric car? That may be enough to silence the tech giant's critics who question whether the company can produce another major revenue center beyond the iPhone. (CNBC)

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Green shoots in Europe as the 19-country bloc's combined economy grew by 0.3% in the final three months of the year,  better than expected. Region-wide growth was driven by the euro zone's largest economy, Germany, which expanded by 0.7% during the quarter. In 2014 as a whole, the German economy grew by 1.6%. (CNBC)

US retail sales fell last month as gas prices plummeted and auto sales slowed. Retail sales dropped 0.8% in January, following a 0.9% decline in December. The dollar value of gas station sales plunged 9.3%, the largest drop in six years. Auto dealer sales also fell for the second straight month after big gains in the fall. Outside those categories, sales ticked up 0.2%. (Associated Press)

Old things become new again. The iconic View-Master stereoscopic photo viewer you had as a kid is catching up to the digital age. Mattel is teaming up with Google on an upcoming virtual reality-based View-Master. Mattel will make the announcement today at the annual Toy Fair trade show. The original View-Master dates back to the 1939 New York World's Fair.  (USA Today)

Mortgage rates rose this week, but remained near historically low levels. The nationwide average for 30-year mortgages rose to 3.69%, while 15-year loans increased to 2.99%. (USA Today)
 

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West Coast ports are shutting down again today, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday-in the latest disruption in a bitter labor dispute. The seaports, handle some $1 trillion in trade per year. (CNBC)

The number of U.S. properties in foreclosure rose 5% in January, driven by a jump in bank repossessions.  A total of 37,292 homes were repossessed in January, a 15-month high. Overall, 119,888 properties were at some stage of the foreclosure process, still down 4% from a year earlier. (Reuters)

Kellogg reported fourth quarter 2014 sales of $3.5 billion, an increase of 0.3% from 2013. The company reported a loss of $422 million, driven by a significant non-cash mark-to-market adjustment of $822 million, which was primarily driven by the impact that changes in interest rates had on pension plans. (PR Newswire)

American Express Co., long the envy of the industry for its wealthy clientele, is fighting to retain its grip on affluent cardholders. As AmEx seeks to diversify by pursuing tech-savvy millennials and underbanked Americans, the risk of eroding its brand, and its biggest source of revenue, is rising. AmEx is the most widely held card among high-net-worth households, or those with $1 million or more of investable assets. Fifty-nine percent of wealthy households had a card issued by AmEx last year, while those holding a Chase-issued card rose to 58%. Among households making at least $125,000 annually, Chase surpassed AmEx two years ago. (Bloomberg)
 

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U.S. small business optimism fell in January amid worries over the near-term outlook, but a strengthening labor market should keep the economy on solid ground early in the year. The National Federation of Independent Business said its Small Business Optimism Index fell 2.5 points to 97.9 last month, reversing December's gains, which had taken the index over the 100 threshold for the first time in eight years. (Reuters)

Portland-based aviation services firm Erickson Inc. will lay off 150 employees as it moves to restructure. The layoffs will affect field, factory and office locations. Most layoffs will affect the Oregon manufacturing operations in Medford. (Portland Business Journal)

Apple has become the first U.S. company to have its stock close with a market value above $700 billion. Apple’s share price has risen 23,639% from its first trading day on December 12, 1980. It is more than double the size of rival Microsoft, the second-biggest US company. (Market Watch)

US job openings climbed to more than 5 million in December, up 181,000 from November, in a further sign that job creation is quickening. The quits rate, a measure of the number of people who leave their current employer and often viewed as an indicator of optimism of available jobs, was unchanged at 1.9%. (Financial Times)

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Coca-Cola reported a 55% plunge in quarterly profits as a stronger dollar hurt revenue from international markets. Profits fell to $770 million. Net operating revenue fell 2% to $10.87 billion. (Reuters)

Home Depot, the nation's largest home-improvement retailer, is hiring more than 80,000 workers for the spring selling season. The positions include both part-time and full-time positions.  Typically, more than half of Home Depot's spring seasonal workers stay on. Home Depot, operates 2,269 stores in all 50 states and employs more than 300,000 associates.  (Associated Press)

U.S. West Coast port operations resumed on Monday after shipping companies halted loading and unloading this weekend. The 29 ports affected handle nearly half of all U.S. maritime trade and more than 70% of Asian imports. Port slowdowns have trickled through the U.S. distribution chain, disrupting shipments of a wide range of goods affecting agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and retail. (Reuters)

Cigarette maker Reynolds American Inc. says its fourth-quarter profit fell 49% on pension charges and other costs. The maker of Camel and Pall Mall cigarettes said the number of cigarettes sold by its subsidiaries fell about 5% during the quarter to 14.9 billion, compared with an industry decline of 2%. (Associated Press)

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Ports along the west coast were temporarily shut down Saturday in light of continued union slowdowns. The Pacific Maritime Association announced that weekend vessel loading and unloading operations would be temporarily suspended, as they would no longer pay union workers overtime for their slow productivity. (LA Times)

RadioShack operates a dense retail network that more closely resembles a drugstore chain than an electronics retailer. As part of its bankruptcy, the company plans to shut down nearly half of its roughly 4,000 stores. Seven of those closings are in Oregon – all on the I-5 corridor.  All three Central Oregon stores are slated to stay open. (Wall Street Journal)

Consumers increased their borrowing in December by $14.8 billion, pushing consumer debt to a record $3.31 trillion. It could be a sign that consumer spending will accelerate as strong jobs gains give shoppers more confidence about taking on debt. Total debt is up 6.9% in the past year. The category covering auto and student loans is up 8.2%, while the credit card category has risen 3.5%. (Associated Press)

The S&P 500 is down 6 and the NASDAQ is down 12.  The MSCI International Index was down 1.25% Friday.

Oil is up 78 cents at $52.47 a barrel. OPEC sharply raised its forecast of demand for its own oil in 2015, saying the fall in prices would slow production in the U.S. and other countries faster than previously thought. (Reuters)

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Greece is moving markets again as a strong Wall Street rally faded yesterday on the ECB's decision to cancel its acceptance of Greek bonds as collateral for loans. More today as talks between Greece and its neighbors take place today, as the Greek and German finance ministers meet for the first time. (CNBC)

The number of planned layoffs by U.S. employers rose to a nearly two-year high in January as the energy industry slashed jobs in the face of falling oil prices. Employers planned to let go 53,041 jobs up 63% from last month. About 40% of layoffs were directly related to oil prices. (Challenger, Gray & Christmas)

The global icon of American cuisine, beef is about to fall another spot on the meat scale. For the past two decades, chicken has outranked beef as the most produced meat, and now pork is about to surpass it as well. Hog herds have rebounded and pork output in 2015 will jump 4.6% to an all-time record. Beef production is headed for a 22-year low. (Bloomberg)

Could this be the British chocolate equivalent of the New Coke blunder? Mondelez International will no longer use Cadburys signature Dairy Milk chocolate in its recipe for Cadbury Creme Eggs that has been used since the eggs were first “hatched” in 1971. Adding insult to injury, Mondelez is reducing the number of Creme Eggs sold in a package from six to five, while keeping approximately the same price. (Market Watch)

 
 

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Bank of the Cascades reported fourth-quarter profits of $5 million on revenue of $25.6 million. For 2014, the company reported profit of $3.7 million, on revenue of $85.3 million. The company's shares closed at $4.71 yesterday. A year ago, they were trading at $4.96 a share.  (AP)

The pace of growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector slowed in January. Most components of the ISM index declined, suggesting a slowing in the pace of growth in the factory sector, though the 53.5 reading marks the 27th consecutive month of growth in manufacturing. Construction spending rose less than expected in December, with private outlays barely rising amid declines in investment in power and transportation projects. Construction spending rose 0.4% to an annual rate of $982.1 billion.  (Reuters)

Staples and Office Depot are in advanced merger talks, in what would be a major step toward consolidating the office-supply market.  Staples has a market value of about $11 billion, while Office Depot, which in 2013 absorbed rival OfficeMax, has a market value of about $4 billion.  (Wall Street Journal)

RadioShack will be delisted by the New York Stock Exchange, which has suspended trading in the stock. The electronics retailer may sell some of its stores to Amazon and Sprint. (Bloomberg)
 

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Happy Ground Hog Day.  Investors are happy to be turning the calendar, with the S&P 500 coming off its second consecutive January selloff, posting its biggest monthly losses since January 2014. (CNBC)

It was an exciting Super Bowl and last night Americans consumed1.25 billion chicken wings.  The total price tag for food for the big game was over $14 billion. (Market Watch)

December personal income increased 0.3% as spending declined 0.3%. That means Americans saved a little. (Bloomberg)

Costco plans to return $2.2 billion to shareholders through the payment of a special dividend. The $5-a-share distribution will be funded from existing cash and additional borrowings. (Bloomberg)

Consumers started the year feeling very upbeat about the economy, with the sentiment index hitting its highest level since 2004. The preliminary January reading of the University of Michigan/Thomson Reuters consumer-sentiment index jumped up to 98.2. (Reuters)

The S&P 500 is up 5 and the NASDAQ is up 7.  The MSCI International Index was down 1.58% on Friday.

Oil is up 17 cents at $48.15 a barrel. Union leaders called strikes at nine U.S. refineries-accounting for more than 10% of U.S. capacity-in a bid to pressure oil companies to agree to a new national contract covering workers at 63 plants. (Reuters)

Gold is down $5 at $1274 a Troy ounce.

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Markets went diving down yesterday as the Federal Reserve says it will remain "patient" on raising interest rates and indicated it sees the U.S. economy getting stronger. The Fed also sees inflation declining, and it may decline further. But it expects inflation to increase over the medium term as the labor market improves and the temporary effects of low energy prices fade. (CNBC)

In what could be another death shudder, Sears laid off 115 corporate workers, including 100 employees at its headquarters effective immediately. Sears hasn't had a profitable quarter since fourth quarter of 2012. (CNBC)

Qualcomm stock fell more than 7% in after-hours trading when the company lowered its chip guidance. The technology firm said it lowered the outlook on its semiconductor in part because of lower demand by manufactures. Qualcomm's Snapdragon processor has a major buyer in Samsung, and the lowered outlook may reflect Apple's share gains in the smartphone market. (AP)

The S&P 500 is down 2 and the NASDAQ is down 20.  The MSCI International Index is up 0.24% in early trading.

Oil is up 4 cents at $4 a barrel. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported U.S. crude stocks rose by 8.9 million barrels last week to 407 million barrels, the highest level since records began in 1982. Gasoline stocks fell by 2.6 million barrels while distillate stocks, which include diesel and heating oil, fell by 3.9 million barrels. Refined product demand continues to be the sole source of strength for the petroleum market.  (Reuters)

 
 

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Orders for long-lasting manufactured goods dropped sharply in December, dragged lower by a big decline in demand for commercial aircraft. The Commerce Department says orders for durable goods fell 3.4% in December following a 2.1% decline in November. The weakness was led by a 55.5% plunge in the volatile category of commercial aircraft. (CNBC)

Sales of new U.S. homes accelerated strongly in December.  New home sales climbed 11.6% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 481,000. The gains were not enough to offset essentially flat home-buying over the course of 2014. Just 435,000 new homes were bought last year, a modest 1.2% improvement from 2013. (Associated Press)

U.S. consumer confidence shot up in January to the highest level since August 2007. Americans are feeling better about current economic conditions, including the job market. They are also more optimistic about business conditions over the next six months. (Associated Press)

Hillsboro-based Lattice Semiconductor is buying Silicon Image for $600 million. Lattice will pay a nearly 24% premium for the company.  Lattice will have to issue debt to complete the deal. (Oregon Live)
 

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Mattel released Q4 results and sales fell 6% to $1.99 billion and a poor holiday sales period. After reporting, Barbie-maker Mattel's CEO Bryan Stockton got fired and will be replaced by Christopher Sinclair, a long-time board member and former Pepsi executive. There's more bad news ahead: Mattel is losing its merchandising license for the wildly popular Disney animated film "Frozen" to rival Hasbro next year. (CNN Money)

Construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar reports lower profits of $757 million, down nearly 25% from $1.03 billion a year earlier. The decline is due primarily to the recent drop in the price of oil and lower prices for copper, coal and iron ore. (Reuters)

Procter & Gamble, the world's largest household products maker, reported an about 31% fall in quarterly profit, hurt by a stronger dollar. The maker of Pampers diapers and Tide detergent said net sales fell 4.4% to $20.2 billion, but sales rose 2% on an organic basis. P&G derives roughly two-thirds of its revenue outside the United States. (Reuters)

3M, the maker of Scotch tape and Post-it notes, reported a 7% increase in fourth-quarter profit as sales rose across its businesses and the company reaffirmed financial targets for 2015. Sales rose 2% to $7.72 billion. (Reuters)

 
 

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Many ask why China is important to US companies. Apple is expected to announce that it has sold more iPhones in China than the US for the first time last year. Tim Cook, Apple CEO, said in 2013 that he expected China to overtake the US as Apple's single largest source of revenue. The iPhone already accounts for more than half of Apple's total sales and an even larger share of its profits. (Financial Times)

A significant number of American companies plan to raise worker pay in the next three months, the latest National Association for Business Economics quarterly survey found, bolstering expectations of acceleration in wage growth this year.

Cereal maker Post is acquiring privately held rival MOM Brands. Post, the maker of Raisin Bran and Honey Bunches of Oats, will pay $1.05 billion in cash and issue 2.5 million shares to the owners of MOM Brands. MOM Brands' ready-to-eat food and cereal brands include Malt-O-Meal, Frosted Mini Spooners, Golden Puffs, and Cinnamon Toasters. (Reuters)

Less means more for Coke and Pepsi.  With people drinking less soda, soda makers are pushing smaller cans that contain fewer calories and those cute little cans can cost more than twice as much per ounce. Soda hit its peak in 1998, when Americans drank an average of 576 cans a year. That figure was down to about 450 cans a year in 2013. A regular 12-ounce can of Coke sells for 31 cents. By comparison, a 7.5-ounce mini-can sells for 40 cents. That translates to 2.6 cents-per-ounce for a regular can, versus 5.3 cents-per ounce for the mini version. (Associated Press)
 



US Stocks saw their best gain in 2 weeks yesterday and turned positive in 2015 after the European Central Bank announced their long-awaited plan to initiate a bond buying program, in what has become affectionately known as Quantitative Easing, in an attempt to revive the slumping Eurozone economy.  The ECB announced they will start buying $60 billion euros worth of bonds from different Eurozone countries starting in March.  That news sent the Euro to a new low of $1.12 versus the dollar.

Shares of Starbucks traded sharply higher after the company reported earnings that were in-line with Wall St estimates.  Sales rose 13% over the same period last year and the company increased their forecast for 2015 earnings.  That news sent the stock 4.5% higher @ $86.50/share.

McDonald's is seeing their stock traded lower after the company reported earnings that were 21% lower over the same period last year, which ends a dismal year for McDonalds.  The company also announced they expect a slow January and plan to slow spending to improve their balance sheet.  McDonald's has been working to rejuvenate its business in recent months after posting some of the worst monthly sales figures in more than a decade.

Shares of GE are higher after the company posted higher than expected 4th quarter earnings.  GE has done the best job of any major industrial company managing lower oil prices and a slump in Europe and still growing earnings.

And speaking of Oil.  Crude inventories in the US are higher than they have been in over 80 years.  US supplies currently stand at 390mm barrels which is a big reason the price of crude oil is down 58% from its peak last summer.
 



International investors are the most bullish they've been on the U.S. markets in more than five years according to Bloomberg. The poll says 54% of subscribers say the US will be among the markets offering the best returns over the next year. That's a five-point jump from the previous poll in November and the highest rating for any country since the survey began in October 2009.

Groundbreaking for US single-family homes rose in December to the highest level in more than 6-1/2 years and permits surged. Single-family housing starts, the largest part of the market, jumped 7.2% to an annual pace of 728,000-units - the highest level since March 2008. (Reuters)

Where did that gas savings go? Consumers increased their gas consumption by 6%, but even with that 2-gallon-per-month increase, the cost savings were real, $18 per month. That $18 did not go to  savings. Cardlytics' data showed overall spending was up 2.3%, with a 5.3% increase just in retail and restaurants. Consumers spent more in total even after spending all of their gas savings. The $18 in gas savings was more than offset by a $45 jump in all other spending. (CNBC)

Melvin Gordon, CEO of Tootsie Roll Industries recently died at age 95. He ran the company, with a $1.2 billion market cap, for 53 years. The company's other brands include DOTS, Charms, Junior Mints, Sugar Daddy and Charleston Chew. (AP)
 



IBM easily beat earnings expectations on Tuesday, but shares fell as the company handed in a disappointing outlook for 2015. The company posted fourth-quarter earnings of $5.81 per share, down from $6.13 a share in the year-earlier period. Revenue decreased to $24.11 billion from $27.70 billion. (CNBC)

December 2014 was a bad one for Oregon homeowners unable to hold onto their homes. According to Gorilla Capital, there were a total of 753 judicial and non-judicial foreclosures filed in December the second highest total in 2014.

For 2014, there were 7,075 foreclosures compared to 13,446 in 2013.

In a blow to the traditional TV viewing model a US district court judge has rejected 21st Century Fox's claims against Dish Network. Fox had been trying to prevent Dish from selling its "Hopper" DVR, which lets viewers skip past commercials. (Reuters)

Mortgage application volume jumped 14.2% last week. Total volume is now 41% higher than a year ago. Applications to refinance increased 63% from a year ago. Applications to purchase a home are 3% higher than one year ago. (Mortgage Bankers Association)
 



Johnson & Johnson announced fourth quarter sales of $18.3 billion, a drop of 0.6% as compared to last year.  The negative impact of currency was 4.5%. Profits for the fourth quarter of 2014 were $2.5 billion.  

U.S. manufacturing output rose modestly in December by 0.3%. That marks the fourth straight month of growth. Mining output jumped by 2.2%, reflecting an increase in oil and gas extraction, although a drop in drilling and well-servicing activity tempered the gains. (Reuters)

Consumers started the year feeling very upbeat about the economy, with the sentiment index hitting its highest level since 2004. More consumers cited increases in their household incomes in early January than any time in the past decade, and more households reported unprompted references to favorable employment prospects. (CNBC)

Thai Union Frozen Products, the world's biggest producer of canned tuna, has agreed to buy US peer Bumble Bee Seafoods for $1.5 billion as part of a plan to double revenue through overseas acquisitions. The purchase will give Thai Union control of some of North America's most well-known seafood lines—including two of the three biggest canned tuna brands in the United States. Thai Union's Chicken of the Sea is the third-biggest tuna brand in the U.S. behind Bumble Bee. The top brand, Starkist, is owned by South Korea's Dongwon Industries. (Reuters)
 



U.S. producer prices in December recorded their biggest fall in more than three years on tumbling energy costs. The producer price index declined 0.3% in December with wholesale energy prices dropping a record 6.6% after falling 3.1% in November.  For 2014 inflation at the manufacturing level increased 1.1%. (Reuters)

At the consumer level inflation fell 0.4% in December. For all of 2014 consumer inflation ran at 1.6%.

Accelerating the sell off this week is retail investors pulling $4.1 billion out of US stocks, the second straight week of net outflows.  (Lipper)

Cuts in the oil patch are taking a toll as Schlumberger cuts 9,000 jobs, or about 7% of its workforce. (Reuters)

The 10-year Treasury stands at extreme lows of 1.70% as investors flee to safety of the dollar.

The euro is just above an 11-year low at $1.159, to the dollar, as the European Central Bank looks to start large-scale bond buying.

Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus Radio Saturday at 10 a.m. when our mortgage expert, Peri Henderson of Directors Mortgage will be our guest.



CSX, the third-largest U.S. railroad, reported higher Q4 profits and expect a strong increase in its freight business and double-digit earnings growth during 2015. Profits rose on the back of an 11% rise in coal shipments and a 5% increase in agricultural, chemical and construction product shipments. CSX said the main driver for the rise in its chemicals business came from crude oil shipments to East Coast refineries due to increased supply of crude oil from domestic shale drilling activity. (Reuters)

Holiday sales rose 4.0% to $616.1 billion according to the National Retail Federation. It marked the first time since 2011 that holiday sales increased more than 4%. On average, holiday sales have grown 2.9% over the past 10 years.

US December retail sales fell 0.9% as gas prices plummet.  Declining gasoline prices weighed on service station sales, with receipts falling 6.5% the biggest decline since December 2008. (CNBC)

The yield on the U.S. 30-year Treasury bond fell to record low and the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield fell below October lows to hit a full-year low on Wednesday. The yield on the 10-year bond briefly touched 1.784%—its lowest level since May 2013. The yield on the government's 30-year bond fell to a record low of 2.395%, surpassing the previous record low of 2.443% set in July 2012. (Tradeweb)

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The stock markets dramatic reversal yesterday from a gain of as much as 1.5% to big losses reflected the lack of conviction and confidence among investors as crude oil’s unabated slide stoked fears of global deflation. The steep downdraft came as the market was enjoying a rally underpinned by better-than-expected earnings from Alcoa, and hopes that ECB is close to providing quantitative easing. (CNBC)

JPMorgan Chase, the biggest U.S. bank, reported a 6.6% drop in quarterly profits, hit by legal costs of nearly $1 billion. The bank's profits fell to $4.93 billion in Q4 from $5.28 billion last year. Revenue fell 2.8% to $22.51 billion. (Reuters)

The National Federation of Independent Business’s small-business optimism index increased in December to its highest point since October 2006.

The gain in December was broad-based with the only subindex to decline was expected business conditions. It fell after a big November gain. (Wall Street Journal)



Earnings season is out of the gates as Alcoa swung a 4th quarter profit of $159 million after losing $2.34 billion last year, thanks to strong growth in its aerospace and automotive businesses and a rebound in prices for raw aluminum. Sales rose 14% to $6.38 billion. (Wall Street Journal)

Another sign the sun maybe close to setting. Salus Capital Partners is making an unsolicited offering to loan $500 million to RadioShack in a kind of debtor-in-possession loan used by companies to fund operations in bankruptcy. RadioShack, whose sales have been dropping since 2010, said in September that a bankruptcy filing was a possibility. (Wall Street Journal)

Burgers are the “largest dine-out segment” in the U.S., with more than $72 billion in sales last year. That makes it twice the size of the pizza market, the next largest category. Burgers are “the quintessential American meal,” but are also popular overseas, with an estimated global market size of over $135 billion. (Wall Street Journal)

Oil is down $1.41 at $44.63 a barrel.  The price fall is a result of rising output, especially of U.S. shale oil. At the same time, producers from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have not cut output, instead offering discounts to customers in an attempt to defend market share. The downward pressure on prices is so big that even record Chinese crude imports for December. (Reuters)
 



Borrowers who took out auto loans over the past year are missing payments at the highest level since the recession. It’s clear that credit quality is eroding. More than 2.6% of car-loan borrowers who took out loans in the first quarter of last year had missed at least one monthly payment by November. The uptick comes amid an increase in subprime auto loans, raising concerns that car buyers may have taken on more debt than they can handle. (Wall Street Journal)

Some take aways from that big jobs report on Friday.
The U.S. added more jobs in 2014—an average of 246,000 per month—than in any since 1999.

Over the last 12 months, the 2.9 million jobs added is the most for a 12-month stretch since the middle of 2000.

The unemployment rate fell to 5.6% in December, down from 6.7% one year earlier.

Unemployment is 8.6% among those without a high school diploma, it’s only 5.3% among high school graduates, 4.9% among those with some college or an associate’s degree and 2.9% for college graduates.

Private-sector employees saw their average weekly earnings rise 2.5% from a year earlier as hours worked increased.

Payrolls grew 2.1% last year, led by gains in the private sector. State and local government hiring edged up 0.6% last year and federal payrolls edged down 0.6% last year. (Wall Street Journal)
 



The US Labor Department says the US economy added 252,000 jobs in December.  That lowered the unemployment rate to 5.6%. Over 2.9 million jobs were added to the economy in 2014.

Coca-Cola plans to layoff about 1,800 employees globally in the next few months. The move is a part of the beverage giant's effort to cut $3 billion in costs. The world' largest soft drink company employs about 130,000 workers worldwide. (CNBC)

JC Penny gave another death shudder on Thursday announcing it will close about 40 stores in 2015.  About 2,250 jobs will be lost. The only Oregon store closing will be in North Bend. (Huffington Post)

Despite the improving economy and rising financial markets it turned out to be a lousy year for private pension funds. After gradual progress rebuilding the funds they need to pay retirees, the average private pension fund held about 80% of what it needs to cover those payments. That's down from 89% at the end of 2013 and represents an overall deficit among large corporate plans of about $343 billion, nearly double the shortfall a year earlier. (Reuters)

Join Tyler and me on Saturday at 10am for Financial Focus when our guest will be Don Klippenes of Health Insurance Strategies.  
 



The U.S. 10-year Treasury note yield climbed to 2% after closing at 1.95% on Wednesday, following December's Federal Reserve meeting minutes that indicated inflation would not have to climb from current levels for the central bank to begin raising interest rates. (CNBC)

The nature of work is radically changing. Millennials are poised to become largest demographic in the workforce in 2015 and will compromise 75% of all workers by 2030. This tech-savvy generation thinks differently about earning a living. They care more about the content and impact of their toils than how much money they earn. They want to pursue the work they’re interested in while maintaining flexibility. Indeed, a recent study shows that 79% of them would consider quitting their traditional job to freelance. (Forbes)

These are trends that could change economies. Global life expectancy has increased by about 6 years over the past two decades. The rise in life expectancy is the result of dramatic advances in health care. Global deaths from infectious disease dropped by about 25% while the number of deaths linked to noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes has jumped by about 40%. (Wall Street Journal)

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The US Stock market endured another day of selling yesterday with the S&P 500 extending its losing streak to 5 straight days.  The DOW if off to its worst start to the year since the financial crisis in 2008.

The crude oil price collapse continued yesterday with WTI Crude closing below $48/barrel for the first time since April 2009.  Traders are concerned about a weakening economy in Europe, a stronger dollar, and a global supply glut all combining to push oil prices lower.

The payroll company ADP is out this morning with a look at the labor market in December.  According to ADP the private sector added 241,000 jobs in December which is a number that is much better than expected by economists.  The service sector added the most jobs, and ¾ of those jobs were created by small businesses, those with 50 or fewer employees.

And it looks like we are finally starting to see improving sales at JC Penney.  The company said sales increased 3.7% during the holiday season.  They also said they expect to hit the high end of their earnings range as they continue to focus on profitable sales growth.  Shares of JC Penney are trading over 20% higher on that news.
 



The yield on the 10 Treasury fell below 2% in early trading and stands at 1.98%. Monday was the bonds sixth straight drop in yield as investors run to safety on increasing worries about Greece may possibly quit the euro zone. (Reuters)

2014 was a blockbuster year for the auto industry. According to TrueCar, combined new and used auto sales will rise 8.3% to $1.1 trillion in the U.S. alone. Americans purchased 54 million new and previously owned cars, trucks and crossovers. But it's not just volume that's driving the revenue boost. Thanks to a slowly improving economy and a drop in gas prices, automakers have been able to raise prices at a time of strong demand. (CNBC)

BMW is taking advantage of strong sales to raise prices for 2015. Given that it's selling luxury vehicles with prices to match, the increases are not likely to present much of a jolt to its well-heeled buyers. Prices will increase about 1.4%.  BMW calls them "modest inflationary" increase. (USA Today)

North Korean hackers may not be the biggest worry you should have in protecting your sensitive personal data.  Morgan Stanley has fired one of its stock brokers after accusing him of stealing account data on about 350,000 clients and posting some of that information online. (Wall Street Journal)
 



The euro hit a nine-year low against the dollar last night trading below $1.20 for first time since June 2010.  The Euro slumped to as low as $1.186 last night, the weakest since March 2006. That is drop of 1.2%.  Your trip to Europe this spring just got a lot cheaper. (Bloomberg)

The merger between Greensboro-based RF Micro Devices and Hillsboro-based TriQuint Semiconductor was completed on New Years Day.  The merger is expected to create a top competitor in the wireless component industry. The combined company, Qorvo, is trading on the NASDAQ under the symbol QRVO. (Portland Business Journal)

The pace of growth in the U.S. manufacturing sector slowed more than expected in December. The Institute for Supply Management said its index of national factory activity fell to 55.5 from 58.7 the month before. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in the manufacturing sector. In a separate report, U.S. construction spending fell in November, held back by a drop in government outlays and by less money spent by businesses on projects other than homes.

Construction spending fell 0.3%, the first decline since June, to an annual rate of $975 billion. (CNBC)

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It has been a two-day rally that has raised markets 4.2%, the biggest two-day jump since November 2011. As we face a quadruple witching Friday we are in line for day three of the rally.  (CNBC)

Nike futures orders rose 13%, its slowest pace in four quarters, indicating potential weakening demand for the sportswear maker's products in emerging markets and western Europe. Nike said profits rose 23% to $655 million as sales rose 15% to $7.38 billion. (Reuters)

The index of U.S. leading indicators rose in November for a third straight month, a sign the economy is gaining traction heading into 2015. The biggest challenge remains, more income growth. However, with labor market conditions tightening, we are seeing the first signs of wage growth starting to pick up. (Bloomberg)

The U.S. services sector expanded in December at its slowest rate since February as growth in employment and new business slowed.  The Purchasing Managers Index hit 53.6 in December, down from November's final reading of 56.2.  A reading of 50 or more means the sector is growing. (Reuters)

Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus Radio when we will talk about tying up those loose ends before the first of the year.



Inflation at the producer level fell 0.2% in November; a lot of the decline is driven by falling oil.  No inflation on our horizon. (Bloomberg)
 
 
 
The National Retail Federation says consumers are on track to meet its forecast for 4.1% sales growth this holiday season. The growth forecast comes despite a 5% decline in Black Friday sales.
 
 
 
American consumer confidence reached a seven-year high last week as job gains and plunging fuel costs propelled the economy and boosted spirits. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index increased to 41.3, its highest since December 2007.
 
 
 
There could soon be one less place to shop soon. Activist investor Starboard Value wants to merge rival office-supply chains Staples and Office Depot. Analysts and investors say a merger between the two companies could generate anywhere from $1.4 billion to $2 billion in increased profits.  (CNBC)
 
 
 
Household net worth declined in the third quarter for the first time since the third quarter of 2011 according to the Federal Reserve. Net worth declined $141 billion to $81.35 trillion.  Declining stock prices were offset by a $214 billion rise in the value of real estate holdings.  Total debt rose 4.4%.
 
 
 
Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus radio when we talk about the dark side of declining oil prices. 
 


Markets sold off for the 3rd straight day on Wednesday as the lack of economic growth overseas and the ripple impact of collapsing oil weighed heavy.  But you have to break things down to understand what is really going down.  In the last three trading days the Dow Jones Index is off just a little over 2% from its all-time highs.  Half the decline is due to just three stocks-- Exxon Mobile, McDonalds and Boeing.  This tells us so far this minor correction is shallow and contained. (CNBC)

November retail sales were up 0.7%, much better than expected. Lower gas prices are helping the consumer. (Bloomberg)

Costco posted quarterly profits 16.7% higher than last year on impressive comparable-store sales. Sales and membership fees climbed 7.4%. Costco currently operates 671 warehouses, with 474 in the US and Puerto Rico, 88 in Canada, 34 in Mexico, 26 in the United Kingdom, 20 in Japan, 11 in Korea, 10 in Taiwan, 7 in Australia and 1 in Spain. (Zacks)

Yum Brands, owners of Pizza Hut and KFC, lowered its profit forecast for the year for the second time, hurt by slower-than-expected sales recovery in China. The company expects full-year profit growth to be in mid-single-digits for 2014 and 10% growth in 2015. (Reuters)
 



Americans plan to spend more on gifts this Christmas than in any holiday season in the past five years as economic optimism hits a post-recession high. The average American plans to spend $765 this year, up 12% versus last year. Behind the Yuletide cheer is an improved outlook for expected home values, wage gains and stocks—all three are at or above their highest levels since the 2008 recession. (CNBC) 
 
The U.S. economy is picking up speed. That's the view of a panel of business economists, whose latest growth forecast calls for a 3.1% advance in U.S. gross domestic product in 2015—up from a 2.2% expansion this year. Global growth is seen rising 3.4% next year, with China slowing to a 7% annual pace, Europe expanding by 1.2% and Japan eking out 1% gain in GDP. (National Association for Business Economics)
 
When workers pass up an offer of essentially free money with no strings attached, it's hard to identify a scapegoat other than those workers. More than 56,000 Boeing employees collectively left $98 million on the table in 2013 by not taking advantage of matching funds in the company's 401(k) plan. Approximately 8,400 Boeing employees declined to participate at all in the program last year, and another 48,000 didn't contribute enough to receive the maximum company match. 
 
Obesity is now a threat to the world economy.  Taking together the costs of healthcare, of lost productivity and other spending needed to mitigate its impact, the annual cost of obesity now tops $2 trillion, or 2.8% of global economic output. That compares with an estimate of $2.1 trillion for war and terrorism, and for smoking, and is way ahead of alcoholism ($1.4 trillion).  (Fortune)
 


U.S. small business optimism surged in November to its highest level in nearly eight years, the latest indication the economy is positioned for faster growth in 2015. Owners are very bullish about business conditions over the next six months. They are also upbeat about sales and earnings, but continue to hold back on capital spending and hiring. (Reuters)

The future of McDonald's fast food may be slowing it down. Responding to declining same-store sales, falling stock prices and a shrinking base of younger customers, the world's largest fast-food chain will expand its "Create Your Taste" program. Create Your Taste lets customers skip the counter and head to tablet-like kiosks where they can customize everything about their burger, from the type of bun to the variety of cheese to the many, gloppy toppings and sauces that can go on it. (USA Today)

A growing number of Americans in their 20s and 30s are helping reverse a three-decade decline in agriculture's supply of young farmers. The number of Americans younger than 35 who are running farms as their main occupation increased 10% to about 55,000 between 2007 and 2012. The average age of principal farm operators is 58, and about 40% are 65 and older. (USA Today)

It was a global rout last night on international markets led by a 5.3% decline in Chinese equities and Greek stocks crashed 11% percent on political strife.
 



Those golden arches are not shinning very bright today. McDonald's global same-store sales decreased 2.2% in November.  US performance was down 4.6%, Europe down 2.0% and Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) down 4.0%. (Reuters)

Banks are urging some of their largest customers in the U.S. to take their cash elsewhere or be slapped with fees, citing new regulations that make it onerous for them to hold certain deposits. The banks include JPMorgan, Citigroup, and Bank of America.  Clients whose cash they don’t want include large companies hedge funds, insurers and smaller banks. (Wall Street Journal)

As ski season just gets started Vail Resorts reported a quarterly loss of $64.3 million on sales of $128.3 million. Vail Resorts shares have increased 22% since the beginning of the year. (Zacks)

As the media industry continues to change Time Warner’s HBO plans to offer online-only service in the US next year, letting viewers without a cable or satellite-TV subscription tune into their programing. The number of US households that pay for broadband but not TV has climbed to 10 million and is still growing, half of those homes do pay for a streaming service online. (Bloomberg)
 



The Labor Department says factory productivity expanded at a 2.3% annual rate in the third quarter.  The trend in productivity, however, remains relatively weak. Productivity rose 1.0% compared to the third quarter of 2013.

Compensation measures were revised sharply lower as unit labor costs, the price of labor for any given unit of production, fell at a 1.0% rate in the third quarter. Compared to the third quarter of last year, hourly compensation rose 2.2%. (US Department of Labor)

A gauge of growth in the U.S. services sector rose more than expected in November even as its employment component dipped. The Institute for Supply Management said its services index rose to 59.3 last month, just below the post-recession high of 59.6 hit in August. A reading above 50 indicates expansion in economic activity.

WiseTech Global, has announced an integration partnership with Bend, Oregon based VelaTrack. VelaTrack tracks containers in near real-time from all major ocean carriers worldwide. The integration will allow container information from VelaTrack to automatically flow into WiseTech.  VelaTrack , CEO Chris Mergenthaler says this partnership is important for growth of his firm. (WiseTech Global Press Release)
 



ADP report says the private sector produced 208,000 jobs in November. The service sector and small businesses lead the strong jobs growth.     

Chief executives at the largest U.S. companies surveyed by the Business Roundtable said 40% of its members plan to hire more workers, up from 34% in the third quarter. Nearly three-quarters project their sales will keep growing in the next six months. (Associated Press)

With soda sales sagging, Coca-Cola is moving into the dairy business. There new “Fairlife” milk is being sold as a premiumized product that tastes better and will cost you twice as much as the milk your used to buying. The milk which is being produced in venture involving 92 family-owned farms will contain 50% more protein and 30% less sugar than regular milk. A filtering process will also make it lactose-free. (USA Today)

A 30-year fixed rate mortgage printed at 4.15% last week.  But that is doing little to boost borrowing on a home.  Refinancing volume is down 16% this year and new purchase mortgages are down 4% in volume for the year. (Mortgage Bankers Association)

The digital wave just keeps coming. Viewership of traditional TV dropped nearly 4% last quarter, as online video streaming jumped 60%, according to a new report from Nielsen. (Wall Street Journal)



Although still reasonably strong, the pace of US manufacturing sector slowed in November to its lowest rate of growth since January, while gauges of new orders and output also fell. Global manufacturing activity expanded at its weakest pace in over a year in November, with new orders rising at their slowest rate since July 2013. (Reuters)

Just 23 days till Christmas and Wal-Mart says online sales broke company records, with more than 1.5 billion pages viewed over the holiday shopping period.  Mobile sales accounted for about 70% of traffic. (CNBC)

Broadly US online sales grew a smaller-than-expected 8% on Cyber Monday, with some consumers taking advantage of Internet promotions before and during the Thanksgiving weekend. Data over the weekend showed a 32% rise in online orders on Thanksgiving and a 26% increase on Black Friday. Cyber Monday sales continued to be driven by mobile traffic which grew 38.3% this year, even as the average order value remained flat at $131.66.
(Reuters)

The average price for a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high -- $4.16 per pound -- in October.  A year ago the average price for a pound of ground beef was $3.39 per pound. That is a 22.6% jump in one year. Five years ago the average price for a pound of ground beef was $2.18. (CNSNews.com)
 



The U.S. stock market closes at 10am today in a shortened holiday trading session. As oil prices plunge oil stocks are falling and airlines are soaring.

It is still 27 days till Christmas but OPEC is giving everyone an early present at the pump.  On Thursday OPEC decided not to cut oil output to support prices. Oil stands at its weakest levels since July 2010 and is headed for its steepest monthly decline since November 2008, after falling more than 15% this month. (Bloomberg)

Your Christmas tree likely will cost a little more this year. Six years of decreased demand and low prices have put many growers out of business. Growers this year will see about $20 per tree, $2 more than the last several years.  (Associated Press)

That turkey may have cost you more yesterday as production is at its lowest level in nearly three decades and wholesale prices are at an all-time high. This year's anticipated stock is 235 million turkeys — the lowest since 1986. October wholesale prices for live turkeys jumped 12% from 2013. (Associated Press)

Before the big Civil War Game on Saturday join us at 10 for a brand new edition of Financial Focus Radio.  A great way to start your holiday weekend.
 



Lots of economic data: (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

US Durable Goods, a measure of company equipment investment was up 0.4%, but if you take out planes and cars was down 0.3%.

October personal income was up 0.2% and consumer spending was also up 0.2%.

Applications to refinance a mortgage decreased 4% and applications to purchase a home fell 5% last week.  Purchase application volume is now off 10% from a year ago. The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($417,000 or less) decreased to 4.15%. Americans who lost their homes to foreclosure will be able to buy them back at current market value if the properties are owned by housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. (CNBC)

Deere & Co. projected a 20% decline in farm equipment sales in 2015, warning again that lower commodity prices and falling farm incomes are putting pressure on demand for agricultural machinery. In the most recent quarter, equipment sales fell 6.7% from a year earlier to $8.04 billion, while operating profit dropped 14% to $1.17 billion. (Wall Street Journal)

The S&P 500 is up 3 and the NASDAQ is up 8. The MSCI, a measure of international markets is up 0.17%.

Oil is flat at $74.13 a barrel. OPEC leader Saudi Arabia signaled today it's unlikely to push for a major change in output at the oil cartel's meeting tomorrow, a day after Russia refused to cooperate in any production cut. (CNBC)
 



Worldwide business confidence slumped to a five-year low, with company hiring and investment intentions at or near their weakest levels in the post-global financial crisis era. The number of companies expecting their business activity to be higher in a years' time exceeded those expecting a decline by 28%. This was below the net balance of 39% recorded in the summer, the Markit Global Business Outlook Survey showed. (CNBC)

In the wake of 10 Barrel Brewing selling to Anheuser-Busch InBev, we find some 44% of 21- to 27-year-old drinkers today have never tried Budweiser, according to the company. After years of developing advertising and marketing that appeals to all ages, AB InBev plans to concentrate future Budweiser promotions exclusively on that age bracket. (Wall Street Journal)

With just 30 days left till Christmas here are some tech facts that show some wild macro trends.  (US Chamber of Commerce)

The amount of data generated in two days is as much as all data generated in human history before 2003. In 1985 it cost $100,000 to store a gigabyte of data.  It costs 5 cents today.



US stocks, gold, and oil got are getting a big boost today, as ECB President Mario Draghi recommitted to   monetary easing to spur growth in Europe.  Then China’s central bank added more fuel to the fire when it announced a surprise interest rate cut to keep their economy growing above 7%. (Fox Business News)

Consumer sentiment in the US advanced to its highest level since January 2008 as Americans grow more optimistic about their financial well-being. While the monthly measure tracking the economic outlook fell in November from a two-year high, the share of respondents saying the economy is improving matched the second-highest since June 2013. (Bloomberg)

Inflation remained very tame in September as the Consumer Price Index rose 0.1% during the month.  For the year inflation is running at a 1.8% rate.  Falling gas prices should apply even more downward pressure in coming months. (Reuters)

The leading economic indicators index, used to predict the future of the economy's health in the next 6-9 months, rose 0.9% in October, topping the 0.7% increase in September.  (CNBC)

Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus Radio when we will talk about portfolio diversification and China.
 



Best Buy reported quarterly earnings with profits up almost 78% on sales that were essentially flat. Same store sales were up 2.2%. (Reuters)

With 35 days till Christmas and Black Friday only a week away, 31.6% of shoppers say they will wait to see if the deals are worth it before they decide to shop, up 2% from last year. Over 60% of consumers who are not planning to shop on Black Friday may change their mind if the Thanksgiving Day newspaper inserts grab their attention. It is expected 140 million people will shop on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday. (CNBC)

Falling oil prices may cut investment in U.S. shale oil by 10% next in 2015. US oil production has risen by 1 million barrels per day over the past year with the boom in shale oil production through fracking. Production is set to grow by an additional 963,000 barrels per day in 2015. (Reuters)

Oregon has fewer mortgage and nonmortgage loan brokers than it has had at any time during the last 13 years, and less than a third that were employed at the peak of the housing bubble. Currently there are about 1000 mortgage brokers in Oregon. (Oregon Live)

Over the past 100 years, the best three-month stretch for stocks has been November through January. On average, the S&P 500 since 1928 has risen an average 3.4% over the three months, nearly double its 1.86% average gain for three-month periods in general. (Wall Street Journal)
 



Wall Street continued its string of record highs yesterday with the Dow chalking up its 26th new high of the year and the S&P 500 registering its 43rd record close of 2014. (CNBC)

Lowe's, the nation's No. 2 U.S. home-improvement retailer, raised its full-year profit and sales forecast as home owners boosted spending on renovations. The company posted third-quarter earnings up almost 26% on sales of $13.70 billion. Same-store sales were up 5.1%. (CNBC)

Target’s third-quarter profits slipped 3.5% as sales rose 2.7% to $17.73 billion. Target has 1,801 stores in the US and 133 in Canada and is expected to hire 70,000 workers for the holiday shopping season. (Reuters)

Total mortgage applications rose 4.9% this week. The increase was driven almost entirely by applications to purchase a home – a turnaround from recent months. Purchase applications leapt 12% to the highest level since July. (CNBC)

The private equity owners of Hostess Brands are planning to put the maker of Twinkies and Ding Dongs up for sale in early 2015, potentially valuing it at more than $1.7 billion.  They bought the company out of bankruptcy for $410 million in 2013.  Hostess Brands currently has annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization of around $170 million. (Reuters)
 



Stocks barely squeezed out gains yesterday but the gains were enough to push the S&P 500 to a 42nd record close for the year.

Oil Field Service Company Halliburton plans to spend $35 Billion to buy rival Baker Hughes.  Without this merger and oil prices at $75/barrel both companies would have to shrink their workforce to react to the lower spending of their customers.  The combined company is expected to save $2 Billion per year because of synergies.

OPEC knows it must cut production to lift oil prices but it is far from clear whether its individual members will agree.  Saudi Arabia doubts that the 11 other countries will actually cut production.  A production cut would certainly boost oil prices, but most OPEC members cannot afford to limit production.  So OPEC members are in a stand-off while oil continue to decline.  This has certainly been good news for the US consumer.  For every $1 that gasoline prices go lower Americans have $100 Billion more in the collective pockets.

Home Depot reported earnings this morning that beat analysts' expectations sending the stock higher.  The company said sales rose 5.4% in the latest quarter driven by sales of bigger ticket items.  The company did warn that future costs will be higher in the aftermath of a widespread customer data breach.  

And shares of Tyson foods fell more than 4% after the company reported 4th quarter earnings that were half of what Wall St. had been expecting.  The company pointed to higher costs after their merger with Hillshire Brands.
 



For the optimist on this snowy day.  In in 1972 the Dow Jones Index first crossed 1000.  It fell back and it took 10 years to get there again.  Yesterday the Dow closed at a record 17652.79, some 17 times larger than 42 year ago.  (CNBC)

The latest figures on U.S. monthly hiring are at their highest level since 2007. Both hires and separations increased in September, to 5.0 million and 4.8 million respectively. The number of quits increased from 2.5 million in August to 2.8 million in September. This represented the country's highest level of quits since April 2008. The job market continues to get stronger. (CNBC)

Mortgage applications to purchase a home are 11% below year-ago levels. A bright spot in the mortgage market appears to be from veterans. Loans guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs rose to 11% of total applications. VA loans require no down payment in most cases, and do not require mortgage insurance. (CNBC)

More than five years after the foreclosure crisis began, the number of borrowers losing their homes is rising again. October saw a 15% increase from September, the largest monthly gain since the peak of the crisis in March of 2010. Foreclosure activity usually spikes in the months before the holiday season, as banks want to get as many done before implementing holiday moratoria. (CNBC)
 

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The world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, posted a profit of $1.15 a share on revenue of $118.01 billion during the last quarter driven by strong back to school shopping. Overall U.S. same-store sales rose 0.5%, ending a six-quarter streak of flat or declining same-store sales. (CNBC)

Kohl's reported third quarter earnings and revenues short of expectations after the market close yesterday. The company posted profits down 14% on sales of $4.37 billion, which was essentially flat compared to last year. Kohl’s says e-commerce sales should continue to provide a bump to the top line and rise more than 30% this year. (CNBC)

Can they make a full recovery?  Struggling retailer JC Penny saw profits increase 62% from last year on sales that climbed 4.3% so far this year. Margins for the company increased 7.1% year-over-year. (Global Newswire)

US wholesale inventories rose more than expected in September, increasing 0.3% during the month after a 0.6% gain in August. Inventories are a key component of gross domestic product changes. Restocking by businesses is important and shows confidence that the economy continues to improve. (Reuters)

Berkshire Hathaway announced Thursday it has acquired the Duracell battery business from Procter & Gamble. Terms of the deal are not yet known. (Fox Business News)

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Another record day Monday for the Dow and the S&P 500. The Nasdaq closed at its highest level since March 2000.  Stock markets are open but the bond market is closed on this Veterans Day holiday.(CNBC)

Microsoft is rolling out its first Lumia phone without the Nokia name this month. The Lumia 535, which will contain the Windows Phone 8.1 operating system, will be priced at approximately $137. (AP)

U.S. small business optimism rose in October as more owners said they planned to invest in their companies and were having a harder time filling job openings. Twenty-six percent of business owners said they planned capital outlays, which are investments in things like machinery and land. That was the second highest reading since early 2008. (Reuters)

Once a staple of consumer banking, unsecured personal loans became notorious for saddling struggling borrowers with steep interest rates and hefty fees. But the loans are moving upscale as banks offer attractive rates to borrowers with high credit scores. The change is due to increased competition among lenders to lure customers who are seen as less likely to default. Banks are encouraging consumers to use personal loans to pay off credit-card and other types of debt that carries a higher interest rate. Lenders originated $34.5 billion of personal loans during the first six months of the year, up 8.7% from the same period a year earlier. (Wall Street Journal)



The Dow and the S&P 500 finished the past week at new highs, amid expectations economic data will continue to support gains, interest rates won't move much higher, and earnings will continue to improve. Retail sales Friday is the most important piece of new US data in the coming week. (CNBC)

In a move that does not bode well for future retirement, the typical millennial investor holds more than half of their portfolio's assets in cash. In fact, the millennials' fear of stocks more closely mirrors that of the World War II generation than it does either Generation X or baby boomers. About 4 in 10 young investors said that cash is their preferred way to invest.  (CNBC)

Pizza Hut is recharging its domestic business, the Yum Brands unit, is undertaking a massive menu expansion and a revamped digital experience. Consumers are looking for new flavors, wanting more customization and mashups of flavors, akin to what's available on the trendy food truck scene. The consumer is also expressing interest in lower-calorie pizza. The Chain has seen sales fall 2% this year. (CNBC)

A growing number of Americans is delaying their golden years. American workers, most notably men, are entering the workforce later and staying on the job longer. In 2013, nearly a quarter of men over age 65, were in the workforce. This compares with 17% in 1990. Among women, the labor force participation rate of those over 65 in 2013 was 15%, up from the 9% in 1990. (LifeHealthPro)



The S&P 500 and Dow both hit new highs again yesterday.  The NASDAQ is just 400 points from its all-time closing high it hit almost 15 years ago during the dot com bubble. (Fox Business News)

The US economy added 209,000 new private sector jobs in October and the government added 5000 jobs. The unemployment rate in October fell to 5.8% the lowest since July of 2008. (Labor Department)

Apple continues its march to take over the world. Apple's Macs now enjoys its highest-ever market share in the United States. The Mac is the third-largest PC seller in the U.S., with a 13% share. Apple still trails domestic-market leader Hewlett-Packard, with a 28% share of the PC market in the U.S., and second-place Dell, with a 24% share.  (Recode)

Walt Disney increased profits 15% and sales 7% in the latest quarter, helped by growth in the media and studio units. Disney says a fourth “Toy Story” movie will be released in 2017, and principal photography has been completed on "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." (CNBC)

Many McRib fans are going to be out of luck this year. Only about three quarters of McDonald's U.S. locations are bringing back the McRib cult classic sandwich. Introduced in 1982, the boneless barbecue pork sandwich has been one of the rare limited-time offerings in the fast-food industry that returns annually to great fanfare. (Bloomberg)

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We start the day at record highs on both the S&P 500 and the Dow.  But we may move lower as economic conditions in Europe are weighing down early trading. (Fox Business News)

The number of planned layoffs by US employers surged nearly 70% in October after falling to a 14-year-low in September. Employers planned to cut 51,183 jobs in October, the second highest reading this year. The retail sector led the job losses with 6,874 planned layoffs. (Challenger, Gray & Christmas)

The pace of growth in the US services sector slowed in October, hitting its lowest level in six months. The final services sector Purchasing Managers Index slipped to 57.1 in October from 58.9 in September. (Reuters)

In the aftermath of last year’s monumental data breach Target has decided to close 8 stores in May, including two stores in the Las Vegas area and two stores in Ohio. This week, Target announced it will be closing 11 more stores in the U.S., including two Chicago-area locations and three Targets in Michigan. None of the closings are in Oregon. (Money)

Another past time struggles. Sixty million Americans bowled at least once this year, but many serious bowlers are taking up other sports, Today, there are only 4,666 certified bowling alleys in the U.S., down from roughly 11,000 in the 1960s. (Wall Street Journal)



Markets are in rally mode this morning as the balance of power changed in the US Senate as a result of yesterday’s elections.

ADP says the private sector increased jobs by 230,000 in October.  Gains were very broad based with most of the job growth coming from small businesses.  

New orders for US factory goods fell for second straight month in September by 0.6%. The almost broad-based decline in orders, which was led by aircraft, machinery, capital goods and computers and electronic products, is likely to be short-lived. (Reuters)

Toyota raised its full-year profit forecast by 9.1%, driven by the declining value of the yen. The Japanese automaker also posted double-digit profit increases in the latest quarter. (CNBC)

Even if you’ve socked plenty of money away in your 401(k) plan and invested it carefully, some of your toughest decisions lie ahead. Strategies for drawing down lump-sum accounts in retirement -- more important than ever in the 401(k) era. That’s challenging because the standard formula for squirreling retirement savings into bonds or certificates of deposit doesn’t necessarily work in an era of increased longevity.  American men who reach age 65 will live another 17.9 years on average, while women will live 20.5 years. ( Bloomberg)



Oil prices are tumbling but so are the stocks associated with it.  There is a ying and a yang to declining prices when it comes to the gas tank and your investments. But overall declining prices at the pump are a positive for your wallet.  (Fox Business News)

The domestic economy is improving, employment is growing and home prices are recovering, but first-time homebuyers are not returning to historical levels of homeownership. First time buyers, generally younger Americans, fell to the lowest level in nearly three decades—just 33%this year, down from 38% a year ago. The long-term average, dating back to 1981, shows that 4 out of 10 purchases were by first-time buyers. (National Association of Realtors)

The US manufacturing sector slowed in October to its lowest rate of growth since July. But a solid rate of manufacturing job creation was sustained in October, which provides an early indication that domestic labor market conditions have continued to strengthen. (Bloomberg)

Elections will determine an important Nanny State issue today.  Berkeley and San Francisco are trying to pass a ballot measure establishing a tax on sugary drinks; no American city has ever done that. The U.S. soda industry has spent $11 million in those two California cities to defeat the measures. (Reuters)



We start the month of November trading at all-time highs on both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500. To think just two weeks ago many were panicking about the mini correction that is now a distant memory. Now we wait to see what tomorrows elections bring. (Fox Business News)

In another reminder you can’t keep the USA down. Thirteen years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the new World Trade Center is again opening for business, with publishing giant Conde Nast starting to move in today.  (Associated Press)

Diageo is nearing a deal with Jose Cuervo that would give the British liquor company full ownership of Don Julio tequila in exchange for its Bushmills whiskey label. The deal would enable Diageo, the world's biggest maker of spirits, to boost its presence in the high-end tequila segment after its efforts to buy Jose Cuervo outright fell apart nearly two years ago. (Wall Street Journal)

Procter & Gamble had its operations in Argentina suspended after the country accused the consumer products giant of tax fraud. Argentina said P&G funneled currency abroad and hid income that was subject to tax in that country. (CNBC)

Just 52 days till Christmas and Americans are expected to buy a record $89 billion worth of gifts online this holiday season.  That is a 13% increase over last year. (New York Times)
 



Stocks traded higher yesterday on the back of some good earnings reports and some good economic data propelling the DOW 220 points higher.

This morning we are seeing a global rally in stocks after the bank of Japan shocked financial markets around the world last night when they announced they would provide their economy with another round of stimulus.  That news send the Japanese stock market 5% higher.

Shares of GoPro rose over 10% yesterday after the bell after the company's earnings results easily topped Wall St. earnings estimates.

Shares of Starbucks fell 4.5% after the coffee house giant reported disappointing 4th quarter sales and a lower 1st quarter outlook.  The decline in sales comes as the company once again try's to diversify away from their traditional coffee business be adding more packaged products and food.  Stick to what you are good at!

Personal income in September was .30% higher
Consumer Spending in September was .20% lower which was the first decline in 8 months

This is an interesting story.  The polling firm Ipsos Mori polled Americans and asked them what they thought the unemployment rate is in America in the month of September.  The average guess was that the American unemployment rate is 32% in this country vs the actual number of 5.9%, which certainly explains why people look at me like I am crazy when I tell them the recession ended 5 years ago and the economy is getting better.
 



Stocks snapped a 4 day win streak yesterday to close marginally lower.  The Federal Reserve ended their 2 day policy meeting yesterday and announced the end of Quantitative Easing.  They also said that they could raise interest rates sooner than expected if conditions in the labor market continue to improve, which caught investors off guard.

Yesterday after the bell Visa reported 3rd quarter earnings that beat expectations.  The company earned $2.18/share when wall st. had been expecting them to earn $2.10/share.  That news sent Visa's stock 4.6% higher.

The world's largest smartphone maker by volume, Samsung, reported 3rd quarter earnings that were 60% lower than over the same period last year.  Earnings at Samsung were the lowest they have been in 3 years as their mobile division continues to shrink.

The US Department of Labor reported this morning that jobless claims last week rose 3,000 to 287,000, which is a number that will continue to push the unemployment rate lower.

OPEC isn't happy about falling oil prices, but Americans sure are.  The average price of a gallon of gas nationwide is $3.06/gallon and it is certainly headed below $3/gallon.  For the average family that buys 90 gallons/month to fill up 2 cars they will save $720/year at current prices, which is like a big tax cut for the American consumer.

And we got our first look at 3rd quarter GDP this morning and it appears the US economy grew at a 3.5% rate which was better-than-expected.



US Stock investors bid up prices yesterday ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting that ends today.  The Dow rallied to reclaim the 17,000 point level and all of the major equity indexes turned positive for the month.

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to announce the end of the 2008-era bond buying program also affectionately known as Quantitative Easing.  The Fed is also expected to keep short-term interest rates at zero for a considerable period to come.

Facebook reported earnings yesterday after the bell that easily beat expectations.  The company said 3rd quarter earnings rose 90% as the social network continued to show more evidence of its growing strength in mobile advertising.  Facebook's monthly active users grew to 1.35 billion and the percentage of advertising dollars that came from mobile devices increased to 66%.  The stock has sold off sharply though after the company also said they expect to see slower growth in the future and an increase in operating expenses.

The Consumer Confidence Board reported that after slumping in September, consumer confidence rose sharply in October as people feel better about the job market and better business conditions.

And shares of Twitter are 10% lower after the company reported earnings that were in-line with expectations, but the company reported declines in user engagement which will affect future earnings negatively.



Corporate earnings are on pace to post 8% to 9% gains in the 3rd quarter.  That is pretty good.  (LPL Research) The Federal Reserve starts a two day meeting this morning where they are widely expected to shut off their bond buying program. (Fox Business News)

September durable goods declined 1.3% following an 18.4% plunge in August. This index is very volatile, but this number will disappoint the market.   (Bloomberg)

DuPont, the biggest US chemicals producer, reported a 52% jump in profits as operating margins rose in five of its seven businesses.  Sales increased to $7.87 billion from $7.74 billion a year ago. (CNBC)

The luxury handbag maker Coach reported quarterly profits of $119.1 million on sales of $1.04 billion. Coach shares have dropped 36% since the beginning of the year, while the S&P 500 has increased 6%. The stock has decreased 28% in the last 12 months. (Associated Press)

Wal-Mart announced the launch of a certified preowned video game program in 1,700 stores nationwide, finally putting those games it has been offering store credit for over the last seven months back up for sale. Certified preowned games from the retailer will carry an average cost of $12 to $30 vs. a new title for today's consoles which can cost $60 or more. (CNBC)



US stocks look to open lower this morning, following the best week of the year for the markets. The results of Brazil's presidential election and bank stress tests in Europe did little to sway the markets. (CNBC)

Bad news out of Europe just keeps coming. Twenty-five out of 130 European banks have failed a key stress test of the region’s financial system.  Those banks failing the test would have a nearly $32 billion shortfall on their books during a financial crisis. (CNBC)

It won’t be all smooth sailing for the new Apple Pay system.  CVS and Rite Aid are blocking the new mobile Apple Pay system in their stores. The drugstore chains are supporting a rival payment system. (NY Times)

The U.S. dollar has been getting stronger relative to other currencies. The dollar has risen steadily for over 12 weeks and that’s the longest winning streak for the dollar since our currency became free-floating in 1973. The rising dollar can affect your wallet. The strong dollar affects the price of crude oil driving prices and imports lower.  If you are going to travel abroad or export goods your costs will be going up. (Market Watch)

With just 59 days till Christmas, three of the biggest insurance firms for Sears suppliers are seeking to reduce coverage, prompting at least one medium-sized vendor to halt shipments to the department-store chain. Sears has been unloading assets to generate cash after nine straight quarters of losses. (Bloomberg)
 



We are in the thick of earnings season.  So far S&P 500 companies have increased profits over 5% from last year. (Fox Business News)

Caterpillar says there was “a reasonable likelihood” that global growth could improve next year, as the world’s largest maker of heavy equipment raised its 2014 earnings forecast. Caterpillar reported profits of $1.02 billion for Q3, up 8% from last year. (Financial Times)

Procter & Gamble, makers of Scope mouthwash and Tide laundry soap, reported quarterly profits in line with expectations. The consumer products giant said it would split off its Duracell battery business into a separate company. Profits were up 3% from last year on sales of $20.79 billion. (CNBC)

Microsoft Corp reported higher-than-expected quarterly profits, helped by stronger sales of its phones, Surface tablets and cloud-computing products for companies. Microsoft's quarterly profits fell 13%, largely due to an expected $1.1 billion charge related to mass layoffs announced in July. Microsoft shares, which have climbed 33 percent over the past year.  (Reuters)
 



US Stocks snapped a 4 day win streak yesterday after early morning gains gave way to red on Wall Street with stocks closing at session lows.

Shares of Boeing fell 4.5% yesterday despite beating earnings estimates because the company plans to spend more CAPEX in the coming year to spur growth for years to come which will have a negative short-term effect on earnings per share growth.

 Shares of General Motors are higher this morning after the company reported better than expected earnings in the 3rd quarter.  GM earned $1.5 Billion in the quarter.  North America saw big increases in sales for the company, but the company continues to lose money in Europe.  Shares of GM are 2.6% higher in early trading.

Caterpillar posted stronger than expected earnings this morning sending their shares and the DOW higher this morning.  CAT also raised their profit outlook for the next 12 months.  The company has been able to successfully raise prices globally to offset tepid sales in Asia.  Shares of CAT are 4% higher.

And the one part of the economy we are seeing inflation is in housing, including the rental market.  Over the last year shelter costs in the US rose 3% which is the fastest pace since 2008.  Dramatic increases in rents over the last year has been the major contributor to the overall increase.

And weekly jobless claims came in at 283,000 this morning.  Any number under 300,000 will push the employment rate lower.



Markets snapped back for the third straight day on Tuesday as good earnings reports fuel belief in an improving economy. (CNBC)

U.S. home re-sales jumped to their highest level in a year in September, the latest indication that the housing market recovery is gradually getting back on track.  The National Association of Realtors said on Tuesday existing home sales rose 2.4 percent to an annual rate of 5.17 million units, the strongest reading since September of last year.

Shares of Coca-Cola sunk on Tuesday, down more than 5% after the Atlanta-based beverage company reported a third quarter profits drop of 14% to $2.1 billion from $2.45 billion one year ago. Revenue fell to $11.98 billion in the third quarter from $12 billion a year earlier.  Coke's case volume for the quarter fell below estimates and the company issued a warning of currency headwinds impacting its profits.  (The Street)

Shares of McDonald's were down yesterday by over 2% after the company reported a decline in its 2014 third quarter earnings results.  The fast food restaurant chain said profits for the most recent quarter was $1.06 billion, down 29% from the same time last year. McDonald's sales fell 3%. (TheStreet)



Markets have new been in rally mode the last two days driven by strong corporate earnings.  Apple blew out earnings making a profit of $8.5 billion in the latest quarter on sales of $42.1 billion.   Sales of the new iPhone boosted sales. (The Wrap)

US housing starts and permits rose in September, a signal the market's modest recovery is supporting what appears to be growing strength in the broader economy.  Groundbreaking rose 6.3% to an annual 1.02 million-unit pace.   New housing starts for single-family homes, the largest part of the market, rose 1.1% in September, while the more volatile multi-family homes segment jumped 16.7%.(Reuters)

The number of supertankers sailing toward China’s ports surged to a nine-month high amid speculation an oil-price slump is encouraging the world’s second-biggest crude importer to accelerate purchases.  On Friday there were 80 very large crude carriers, the industry’s biggest ships, sailing toward the Asian country’s ports, according to Bloomberg. That’s the highest since Jan. 3. Average shipments are 2 million barrels.

U.S. consumer sentiment rose in October to the highest in more than seven years, boosted by views on personal finances and the national economy. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary October reading on the overall index on consumer sentiment came in at 86.4, the highest since July 2007.



Goldman Sachs turned in significantly better third-quarter results than expected, thanks to a long-awaited improvement in trading conditions for Wall Street banks.

Goldman’s profits rose to $2.24 billion, up 47% from the third quarter of 2013. The bank’s total sales rose 25%, to $8.39 billion. (Reuters)

Mattel Inc's revenue fell for the fourth straight quarter as demand for its billion-dollar brands, Barbie and Fisher-Price, slipped further, increasing pressure on the toymaker as it heads into the holiday shopping season. Barbie made her debut in 1959, but the doll has fallen out of favor with fickle-minded young girls, who are reaching for electronic toys such as tablets. In 2009, Barbie held more than a quarter of the market share in the dolls & accessories category in the United States, but that fell to 19.6% in 2013.  (Fox Business News)

There is a downside to lower oil prices we will pay for later.  The global crash in crude prices is reverberating through the oil and gas industry, pressuring producers to curtail investment to protect profits and avoid cuts to dividend payments.  Projects in the Canadian oil sands, offshore fields in Norway and drilling-intensive U.S. shale deposits are among the most vulnerable as oil prices come perilously close to production costs. The world’s largest oil companies have rarely spent so much for so little reward. (Bloomberg)

Just how bad a job have we been doing saving for retirement? A majority of U.S. seniors would be poor if Social Security were excluded from their incomes, according to a report on poverty released by the Census Bureau on Thursday.  If the Census were to exclude Social Security benefits from income, the poverty rate for American seniors would jump from 14.6% to a whopping 52.6%—roughly 23.4 million people. The nation’s overall poverty rate would rise to 24.1% from 15.5%. (Wall Street Journal)



The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to a 14-year low, a positive signal that could counter doubts over whether the economy is shifting into a higher gear.  Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 264,000, its lowest level since 2000, the Labor Department said on Thursday. This suggests the labor market is gaining steam. (Reuters)

Industrial production in the U.S. rose in September by the most since November 2012, driven by a surge in utilities and a rebound in manufacturing.

The 1% advance in output at factories, mines and utilities exceeded the highest forecast. Utility production was the strongest since May 2012, while factories made strides even as motor vehicle output fell for a second month. The fact that we can get a 1% increase in production when you have a decline in the auto sector is striking. (Bloomberg)

Goldman Sachs turned in significantly better third-quarter results than expected, thanks to a long-awaited improvement in trading conditions for Wall Street banks. Goldman’s profits rose to $2.24 billion, up 47% from the third quarter of 2013. The bank’s total sales rose 25%, to $8.39 billion. (Reuters)

Philip Morris International's third-quarter profits dropped 8% as cigarette sales fell in the overseas markets that it serves and it was hurt by foreign exchange rates for the U.S. dollar. The seller of Marlboro outside the United States earned $2.15 billion, down from $2.34 billion, a year ago. Cigarette shipments fell less than 1% to 222.3 billion cigarettes.  Shipments fell 2% in Latin America and Canada and 1.3% in Asia. Shipments were up less than 1% in the company's region that encompasses Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as well as in the European Union. (Associated Press)



The market continues its correction. But even with this correction the S&P 500 is essentially flat for the year. Not that bad. (Fox Business News)

The Commerce Department says business inventories increased 0.2%, the smallest rise since June 2013. Business sales fell 0.4% during the month, and at August's sales pace it would take 1.29 months for businesses to clear shelves, this is unchanged from July.

U.S. retail sales declined in September even when factoring out weakness at auto dealers and gasoline stations, providing a surprisingly cautionary sign for the strength of consumer demand. Total retail sales dropped 0.3% during the month, according to the Commerce Department. Drops in receipts at gasoline stations and auto dealers dragged on the reading.

Prices received by U.S. producers fell in September for the first time in over a year, a potentially worrisome sign for the economy in that inflation appears to be failing to gain traction.  U.S. producer prices slipped 0.1% last month, according to the Labor Department.

The US dollar has been getting stronger relative to other currencies recently. The dollar has risen steadily for over 11 weeks and that's the longest winning streak for the dollar since our currency became free floating in 1973. Rising dollar can affect your wallet. The strong dollar affects the price of crude oil driving prices of imports lower. If you're going to travel abroad or export goods your cost will be going up. (Market watch)
 



Oil continues to fall as oil gushes out of the ground in both the United States and Canada, and much of it is coming from places they don't have a pipeline infrastructure. So it's being shipped by rail. In 2008, around 9,500 carloads of crude oil were transported by rail in the US. By 2013, that number topped 400,000 according to the Association of American Railroads.

Death rates are declining worldwide. In almost every country, mortality rates fell during the last four decades. The biggest falls were among young children, twice the rate of decline was experienced by those age 5 to 49. The biggest absolute declines occurred in poor and low to middle income countries. (Economist)

More investors are taking out loans against their 401(k)s, and that could hurt their retirement income by hundreds of dollars a month. The number of investors borrowing from their 401(k)s has been steadily increasing for more than a decade with more than one in five people, borrowing against their retirement savings, up from 18.7% in 2000. More than 2 million investors have outstanding loans, and nearly 1,000,000 took out loans in the past year.  (USA TODAY)

Nearly one in for millennial's, those born from 1980 to 2000, say they trust no one for money advice. About a third said they trust their parents most for information on money, but many reported a real lack of communication with their parents about their finances. Almost half reported never receiving financial advice from their parents. (CNBC)



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