Business News Archives for 2015-03

Time to plan a trip to Europe

Today’s trading marks the last day of trading for the first quarter.  Earnings season is just around the corner.  

The dollar index, a measure against a basket of currencies, is on pace for its third quarterly gain in a row. Against the euro, which was down this morning, the dollar was up about 10.5% in 2015 . (Reuters)

As they work to reinvent themselves IBM is investing $3 billion in a unit centered on the Internet of Things. The unit's first partnership is with the Weather Channel's parent to move its data services into the IBM cloud. (AP)

As if you did not have enough drink choices. Starbucks has a new line of smoothies, priced at $5.95 for a 16-ounce size. This is part of a partnership with the maker of Dannon yogurt. (Reuters)

Could this be the future? McDonald's is introducing table service in Germany, while testing all-day breakfast in San Diego, as the fast-food chain tries to reinvent itself under new leadership. (Reuters & CNBC)

Colorado-based Vail Resorts is buying Perisher Ski Resort, the largest mountain destination in Australia for $136 million, in its first international acquisition. The deal gives Perisher season pass holders access to all of Vail's U.S. resorts. (CNBC)

The S&P 500 is down 13 and the NASDAQ is down 21. The MSCI international index was up 0.06% in yesterday’s trading.

Oil is down $1.11 at $47.57 a barrel. U.S. crude prices have lost more than 8.5% in the first three months of 2015-tracking for a third straight quarterly loss for the first time since 2003. (Reuters)

Cars and Higher Personal Income

February US Personal Income rose 0.4%, above expectations.  Consumer spending was up 0.1% showing American are saving some money.

Volvo will invest $500 million in its first U.S. assembly plant, plugging a longstanding gap in the carmaker's manufacturing base as it pursues a global comeback under Chinese ownership. The location of the new plant has not been announced. The plant will serve export markets as well as the United States. (Reuters)

Just because you retire does not mean you are not relevant. Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has launched his own economics blog. The first post is on low global interest rates. (WSJ)

Business economists says the US economy will be shrugging off a winter economic slowdown, predicting 3.1% GDP growth this year, the best performance in a decade, according to a poll from the National Association for Business Economics.

As they continue their claw back to relevance, Best Buy will consolidate and close stores in Canada.  The move will cost the electronics retailer up to $280 million in restructuring charges this year. (CNBC)

Thirteen years after the last Lincoln Continental rolled off the assembly line, Ford is bringing the car back, with a production version on sale next year. (AP)

US economy continues to chug along

The final read of fourth quarter GDP says the economy grew at a 2.2% rate.  About what we expected. (AP)

The average price of a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high in February, hitting $4.238 per pound. A year ago, the average price for a pound of ground beef was $3.555 per pound. Since then, the average price has increased 19.2 %. Since February 2010, the average price of a pound of ground beef has climbed by 86.1%. (Bloomberg)

The newest weapon in the breakfast wars is a biscuit shaped like a taco. Taco Bell is launching a "biscuit taco" this week and ditching its "waffle taco," which last year was included in the chain's breakfast menu.

The swap comes as the chain tries to build on its year-old breakfast business by once again going after the dominant player in the mornings: McDonald's. (Fox Business News)

The world’s biggest energy companies have sold record amounts of debt this year, taking advantage of historically low interest rates to plug cash shortfalls with borrowing, after a 50% plunge in oil prices.

The total debt raised in the first two months of 2015 by large US and European oil and gas companies has jumped by more than 60%. It outstrips the previous quarterly record set six years ago after the last price collapse. (Financial Times)

Oil Spikes

The fear trade is on this morning as investors wring their hands looking everywhere for something to worry about.

The payroll processor and human-resources services provider Paychex reported a quarterly profit of $169.4 million on revenue of $704.3 million. Payroll service revenue increased 2% and human resources revenue leapt 19%. Paychex shares have increased 11% since the beginning of the year, while the stock has climbed 21% in the last 12 months. (AP)

ConAgra the Omaha, Nebraska-based maker of Reddiwip, Swiss Miss and Banquet posted a quarterly loss of $952.7 million after reporting a profit in the same period last year. Total sales were $3.88 billion for the period. ConAgra shares have decreased nearly 4% since the beginning of the year, but have increased 16% over the last 12 months. (AP)

American Express may cut jobs if it can't keep clients who got their Amex cards through a relationship with Costco. The 16-year deal between the two parties will expire next year and Costco has already signed a deal with Visa and Citigroup to replace the American Express deal. (CNBC)

Where's the Investor's focus?

Stocks sold off modestly yesterday led lower by transportation stocks.  Investors are focused on the economic data out later this week to get an idea about when the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates.

The price of buying or renting a home continues to rise squeezing consumers which is starting to dampen the housing market.  The median price of a house nationally hit $20,600 last month which is 7.5% higher than February of last year.  Home affordability whether renting or buying continues to decline especially when incomes are growing at less than 2% per year.  The number of first time home buyers in the US is also at a record low.

The recent drop in gas prices has encouraged Americans to get out on the road at record levels.  American motorists drove more miles in 2014 than in any year since they starting tracking the data 69 years ago.  The average American spends the equivalent of 5 days in their car every year.

The Labor Department reported this morning that the consumer price index rose .2% in February which was in-line with forecasts.  That is the first time the CPI number has risen in 4 months as gas prices, and the cost of food and shelter have increased again.  The CPI data is being watched closely by investors as it is one of the data points the Federal Reserve uses when setting interest rate policy.  Even though the inflation rate rose in February, it is essentially unchanged over the last 12 months.

Stocks Up last week

US stocks enjoyed their first weekly gain in four weeks friday, and the dollar had its biggest five-day drop since 2011 as the Federal Reserve's dovish midweek commentary continued to reverberate around the markets.  Treasury bond prices resumed their upward momentum, equity prices in Europe and Japan reached fresh highs, and crude oil staged a strong end-of-week rally. (WSJ)

The number of rigs drilling for oil in the US declined again by 41 to a total of 825 to end last week, according to the weekly count published by oilfield services company, Baker Hughes. The pace of decline is slower than the previous week, when 56 rigs were taken offline.  West Texas Intermediate, the US oil benchmark, had its best day in a month on the news. (FT)
RadioShack's fate hangs in the balance today when a bankruptcy auction kicks off, pitting companies that want to liquidate the remaining assets against a hedge fund that has pledged to keep about half the chain's stores open. Hedge fund Standard General LP is now the sole hope of survival for the company. (CNBC) has won approval from U.S. federal regulators to test a delivery drone outdoors, as the e-commerce company pursues its goal of sending packages to customers by air.  The Federal Aviation Administration said it issued an experimental airworthiness certificate to an Amazon business unit and its prototype drone, allowing test flights over private, rural land in Washington state. (WSJ)



The party continues!

Yesterday’s early losses turned into strong gains on indications from the Fed that an interest rate hike could come later rather than sooner. The bottom line is no one took away the punch bowl. Many economists had expected the Fed to move in June, while more had expected September. But now, the fed funds futures suggest the odds of a first hike in October. (CNBC)

Foreclosure activity in the United States fell last month to the lowest rate in nearly nine years as banks started the process on fewer homes and scheduled fewer auctions. A total of 101,938 properties across the United States are at some stage of the foreclosure process. Foreclosure activity is down 9.4% from year. (Reuters)

Bank of America must allow shareholders to vote on a proposal that calls for the company to consider spinning off its investment banking business.  The company has fought putting the idea on their shareholder proxy ballot.  The SEC says shareholders must be allowed to weigh in. (Reuters)

Streaming music services such as Pandora have eclipsed CD sales, and are closing in on digital downloads as the largest source of revenue for the U.S. music industry's. (Financial Times)

Complaining about the stronger dollar

It will be all about the Federal Reserve today as they end a two day policy meeting. The Fed policy statement is due out at 11 (PT), along with the central bank's economic projections. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is set to hold a news conference also. (Bloomberg)

Package delivery company FedEx reported quarterly profits of $580 million on revenue of $11.72 billion driven by higher package volumes. The company said fuel expenses were reduced by 30% due to lower oil prices but its international business was hurt by the strong dollar. Package volumes internationally  were up 4% and U.S. ground package delivery rose 7%. (AP)

General Mills, maker of Bisquick and Betty Crocker cake mixes, reported lower sales for the sixth straight quarter, hurt by a stronger dollar. The company expects to eliminate about 800 jobs, primarily in the United States, this year. General Mills is raising its quarterly dividend by 7% to 44 cents per share. (Reuters)

A tiny pullback in interest rates did nothing to improve mortgage application volume. The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 59% of total applications, the lowest level since October 2014. Refinance applications are up nearly 11% from a year ago, but are down 15% in the last month. (CNBC)

GM Accused of Cover-up

U.S. manufacturing output fell in February for the third straight month as automobile production tumbled, pointing to slower economic growth in the first quarter.

Factory production slipped 0.2% last month. Mining output dropped 0.2% and utilities production jumped 7.3%as a cold snap boosted demand for heating. Manufacturing capacity slipped to 77.3% last month from 77.6% in January. (Reuters)

GM is facing some serious allegations of cover up in the faulty ignition switch issue. Sealed documents produced by Delphi Automotive indicate higher-level GM execs knew safety issues with ignition switch existed. The conclusion contrasts from the GM-sponsored report which tied the ignition switch problems to ineffectiveness from lower-level employees. (Seeking Alpha)

The largest company in the world by market cap, Apple showing how important the iPhone is to them. They are planning to launch a new trade-in program to allow non-iPhone users to trade in their non-Apple device for a gift card that can be used to purchase an iPhone. (9to5Mac)

Burlington Coat Stores reported Q4 profits of $94.9 million. The discount retailer posted sales of $1.5 billion. Burlington Stores shares have climbed 21% year-to-date and has more than doubled in the last year. (AP)

Oil Hits New Lows

European stock markets are on the rise, with the European Central Bank's quantitative easing process offsetting wider worries about Greek debt talks and hawkish monetary policy in the US. The mood boosted Germany's DAX Index over 12,000 for the first time, up 1.3% on the day. (Reuters)

The euro recouped its earlier losses after briefly touching a new 12-year low against the dollar this morning. Further slides in the currency look likely given the diverging monetary policies in the eurozone and U.S. (Seeking Alpha)

Market moving news could come from this week’s Federal Reserve meeting.  Nearly all now believe that Fed policy setters will remove the word "patient" from their statement, opening the door for a potential interest rate increase in June. (Bloomberg)

U.S. consumer confidence was down in early March. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's preliminary March reading on the index was 91.2. It was down from the previous month's reading of 95.4. Consumer optimism was down for lower and middle income households although the reading improved for those with incomes in the top third. (CNBC)

Oil Glut Worsens

U.S. business inventories were unchanged in January and further declines in sales pushed the number of months it would take to clear shelves to 1.35 months the highest since July 2009. In January, business sales fell 2.0 percent, the biggest decline since March 2009, after falling 1.0 percent in December. (Reuters)

The NFIB Small Business Optimism Survey for February rose 0.1 points to 98, a solid result despite unfavorable winter weather conditions.  Of the ten components, owners reporting hard-to-fill job openings was the largest gain increasing three points to a 29 which is a nine year high. This is the third highest reading since early 2007 with only November and December of 2014 trumping.  (NFIB)

Think the world is not healing from the Great Recession?  Think again. Household net worth rose by $1.5 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2014 to a record $83 trillion. Gains were driven by a surging real estate market. Household real estate holdings rose to their highest level since 2007, when they last peaked. (CNBC)

Bad news for the father of two girls. The average cost of a wedding, excluding the honeymoon, reached an all-time high of $31,213 in 2014. (CNBC)

More signs of a strong job market

US employers advertised the most jobs in 14 years in January, and more workers quit, both signs of a steadily strengthening job market. The number of Americans earning paychecks has jumped nearly 3.3 million in the past year, the best 12-month gain since March 2000. (AP)

Vail Resorts, the company that out maneuvered Mt.  Bachelor parent company Powdr Corp to buy the Park City, UT crown jewel, reported profits of $115.8 million for the quarter representing a 95.3% increase compared last year.  Total lift revenue increased $43.9 million, or 22.5%. They will increase their annual dividend by 50% to 62.25 cents per share. (PR Newswire)

Good news for those on drugs. The entry of copycat biotech drugs into the U.S. market could cut prices of expensive medications by 40% to 50% according to CVS. (Reuters).

The Euro rose against the dollar for the first time in two weeks, recovering from a 12-year low hit earlier today. (Reuters)

The dollar gets stronger

During yesterday’s emotional market sell-off the S&P 500 lost all their 2015 gains. The Nasdaq is still up about 2.5% on the year. The euro is under more pressure trading at 12-year lows at under $1.06. (CNBC)

Final results of the Federal Reserve’s annual stress tests are expected to be released after the market closes. Major banks such as JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America are expecting to win Fed approval to increase dividends and buy back more shares. (WSJ-subscription)

A sharp jump in mortgage rates last Friday took its toll on home lending, leaving mostly high-end home buyers on the playing field. Total mortgage application volume fell 1.3% last week. Mortgage applications to purchase a home are two percent higher than a year ago. (CNBC)

So you know you have a problem, now what do you do about it? Investors feel they need an average of $2.5 million in retirement to maintain their lifestyles, That's about $2.2 million more than the average retirement account balance. On average investors spend an hour and 20 minutes worrying about money each day. That's 475 hours, or nearly 20 full days, of financial hand-wringing a year. (CNBC/Legg Mason)

Markets down on potential of rising interest-rates

Today is the 15th anniversary of the Nasdaq's all-time high. The index will open about 200 points below the all-time closing high of 5048. (Seeking Alpha)

In an example of appeasement of activist investors run amuck the General Motors CEO and Board agreed to buy back $5 billion in stock, and put forth a new capital allocation plan. In exchange, activist investor Harry Wilson has agreed to drop his bid to join the GM board. GM was bailed out by taxpayers in 2008, costing us collectively billions of dollars. (CNBC)

Qualcomm has announced a $15 billion stock buyback plan. The chipmaker has also decided to raise its dividend by 14% to 48 cents per share.  The stock is up over 2% in early trading. (Reuters)

Climbing stock markets and rising real estate values helped create nearly 500,000 new millionaires in the U.S. in 2014. There are now 10.1 million households in the U.S. with $1 million or more in investable assets, excluding the value of their primary residence.

That's up from about 9.6 million in 2013, and tops the prerecession peak of 9.2 million in 2007. (Spectrum Report)

The Nanny State has inflicted another causality. Burger King has dropped soda from its children's menus, following similar announced moves in recent months by McDonald's and Wendy's. (USA Today)

New Super Markets Open in Oregon

Today marks six years since the 2009 stock market crash bottom. If you bolted from a well-diversified portfolio then you sold low and bought higher missing some spectacular returns.  Since March 9, 2009 when the S&P hit 666, the S&P 500 has added more than 206% percent and the NASDAQ has gained more than 288%.  (AP)

Those ‘golden arches’ seem to have lost their shine. McDonald's reported February global and U.S. sales that were much weaker than analysts expected. Global comparable-store sales fell 1.7%, and U.S. comparables fell 4.0%. European same-store sales rose 0.7% percent, as positive performance in the U.K. and Germany was partly offset by negative results in Russia. (CNBC)

Grocery chain Haggen will take ownership of the Albertsons stores in Bend in May.  The stores will close down early one evening and Haggen will take ownership of the store at midnight and begin the conversion. Both interior and exterior signage will change the store interior will receive a fresh coat of paint.  Then two days after the closure, the store will opens as Haggen. (

The S&P 500 is up 3 and the NASDAQ is up 12.  The MSCI International Index was down 0.12% on Friday.

Oil is down 12 cents at $49.49 a barrel. Gasoline is up 21 cents in the past two weeks on the back of refinery strikes and capacity constraints. Prices bottomed out January 23rd, but they're still nearly $1 lower than a year ago. (Reuters)

Gold is up $8 at $1173 a Troy ounce. Gold suffered its biggest single-session drop on Friday since December 2013.

Super Jobs Report

It is jobs Friday and the Department of Labor says the US economy added a super-sized 295,000 jobs, 288,000 private sector and 7000 government jobs, in February. The 245,000 for the three-month trend, is the strongest pace of hiring since the 1990s. The unemployment rate fell to 5.5%.

After the European Central Bank announced its massive quantitative easing campaign would start Monday, the Euro has dropped below $1.10 for the first time since September 2003. (CNBC)

Big Lots reported fourth-quarter profits of $94.4 million on sales of $1.59 billion. Big Lots shares have increased 19% since the beginning of the year and are up 64% in the last 12 months. (AP)

In another sign summer is coming early and winter was never really here. Government Camp based Skibowl will be opening some of its summer attractions on March 7th. That will include the bungee jump tower, zip line and Malibu raceway. They also hope to get the alpine slide and mountain bike park ready to go by Spring Break. (KGW TV)

Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus Radio when our guest will be Linda Baker, editor of Oregon Business Magazine.

Costco Crushes It

China has set its Gross Domestic Product growth target at "around 7 percent" for 2015, the lowest in 11 years, focusing on quality over quantity as it overhauls its growth model. (CNBC)

As the landscape of media, especially TV viewing evolves two leaders may be teaming up.  Apple and HBO are closing in on a deal to include HBO's streaming service on Apple TV. (WSJ)

Employers cut fewer jobs, 50,579, in February than in the previous month, but total layoffs remained high compared to a year ago as the energy sector continues to slash employment, according to a report by Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The Reinhart family is doing their part.  Costco reported quarterly profits up over 29%, boosted by a tax benefit related to its special cash dividend.  Overall sales rose 4.8% and same-store sales rose a better-than-expected 8%. (Reuters)

Mining equipment manufacturer Joy Global reported first-quarter profits of $23.6 million on sales of $704 million.  The results missed Wall Street expectations. Joy Global shares have dropped slightly more than 9% since the beginning of the year and are down 23% in the last 12 months. (Associated Press)

What Goes Up...

Stocks sold off yesterday with the NASDAQ retreating below the 5000 level after trading above 5000 for the first time in 15 years.  Investors did some profit taking after data came out that car sales in the US last month were weak after much of the country experienced bad car shopping weather.

Shares of Target traded higher yesterday after the company announced they would eliminate several thousand jobs and told investors digital business is a top priority.  The company said they will spend $1 Billion this year on e-commerce.  

American CEO's announced $104 Billion in stock buybacks last month.  That is the largest amount of stock repurchases by companies since they began tracking that data.  CEO's either think their stocks are cheap or they have no other way to grow their earnings per share.

The payroll company ADP is out this morning with their private sector employment report showing the US economy added 212,000 jobs in February.  That number is down from the 250,000 jobs added in January.

And the 3 most popular breweries in the state of Oregon as judged by Oregonians are: @ number 3 the Eugene based Ninkasi brewery, #2 the Bend based Deschutes brewery, and at #1 the Portland based Widmer brothers.


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)

Citi Visa is the New Costco Card

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%. (

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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