Business News Archives for 2014-11

Oil Falls Off A Cliff - May Help Shoppers

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.

A Feast Of Economic Data

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)

Never Had a Budweiser?

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.

Good Economic Data

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.

Shopping Just a Week Away

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)

Another Record Close

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)

Business News

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.

How Low Can Oil Go?

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)

Oil Continues to Gush Lower

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)

Thank you for all who Served !!!

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)

Markets at New Highs

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)

Jobs Continue to Grow Nicely

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)

Job Lay-offs Surge But From Record Lows

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)

Gold Gets Crushed

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 in Free Fall

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)

Starting November At Record Highs

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)


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