Business News Archives for 2015-02

US Economy Grows in 2014

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 (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)

Deflation Remains the Rule

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)

China Good News

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)

Watch That NASDAQ

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)

Media Monday

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)

Greece Still Leading the Parade

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.

Refineries not oil supply drive gas prices

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)

Manufacturers see some deflation

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)

Greek Headlines Push Markets Around

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)

Retail sales give a head fake

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)

Home Foreclosures Jump

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)

Oil Slips Lower

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)

Port Operations Resume

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)

Ports Reopen After Weekend Shutdown

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)

Greece and Oil Rule

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)


Oil on a Tear?

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)

Down January - New Hope for February

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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