Business News Archives for 2014-12

A Monster Bounce Back

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.

No Inflation as Far as the Eye Can See

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. 

Three Stocks Account for Half the Dows Decline From Records

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)

Business News

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)

A Global Sell Off

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.

Tarnished Arches

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)

More Good Economic News

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)

Coke Does Milk

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)

Where's the Beef?

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.

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. (


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