Business News Archives for 2015-04

Oil Rebound Continues

Last trading day of April and the S&P is up 2.2% for the month and the NASDAQ is up 2.7%.  The international index is up 4.7% in April. (Yahoo Finance)
March personal income rose 0.0% and consumer spending was up 0.4%.  Both were a little lighter than expectations. (CNBC)
Exxon Mobil announced first quarter profits of $4.9 billion, compared with $9.1 billion last year. During the quarter, ExxonMobil produced 4.2 million barrels per day; an increase of 97,000 barrels per day over the first quarter of 2014.The oil giant also increased its dividend by 6% to 73 cents a share. Exxon's stock has dropped 13% in the past 12 months. (Business Wire)
Oil company Royal Dutch Shell reported better-than-expected profits, though sales were hammered by the drop in global energy prices. First-quarter profits rose 7%, thanks to a good performance in the refining division. Revenue plunged to $65.71 billion from $109.67 billion a year earlier. (AP)
Wal-Mart (WMT) plans to open 115 new stores in China by 2017-expanding its store count there by more than 30%. But the retailer will also close some under-performing locations in China. (Reuters)

GDP Growth Slows More Than Expected

The first estimate of first quarter Gross Domestic Product says the US economy grew at a 0.2% rate. Personal consumption was up 1.9% during the quarter. That was a tough winter. (Bloomberg)

Kraft Foods, which is merging with ketchup maker H.J. Heinz, reported its fourth straight decline in quarterly profits, hurt in part by low demand for its meals and desserts. Kraft’s sales growth has been hit by the need to raise prices to offset the higher cost of dairy products and meat. Kraft’s net income fell 16% and revenue fell slightly to $4.35 billion. (Fortune)

Cadbury chocolate and Oreo cookies maker Mondelez International reported a 10.2% drop in quarterly profits as net revenue in Europe, its biggest market, fell for the third straight quarter. Total revenue fell to $7.76 billion, falling for the sixth straight quarter.

The consumer confidence index dropped to a four-month low of 95.2 in April. Americans said jobs were less plentiful, and the higher cost of filling up at service stations meant extra cash was harder to come by. Plans to take a vacation or buy automobiles and appliances also took a step back this month. (Bloomberg)

Samsung has regained its crown as the world's top smartphone vendor after losing serious ground to Apple last year. But the South Korean tech giant posted a sixth consecutive quarterly decline. (CNBC)

Ford F-150 in Short Supply

BP reported a fall in profits, as the plunging price of oil continues to hit revenues for the sector. The Company posted a quarterly profit of $2.1 billion from $3.48 billion a year earlier. (Zacks)

French oil major Total reported a profit decline as its strongest production in a decade partially offset the impact of the oil-price collapse. Profit for the first three months of the year totaled $2.66 billion as compared with $3.34 billion a year earlier. Total increased production by 10%. (Energy Journal)

The big brown truck, United Parcel Service reported a higher quarterly net profit, which rose thanks to price increases and productivity improvements. The world's largest package delivery company posted a first-quarter profit of $1.03 billion, up 10% from $911 million last year. (Reuters)

The only domestic auto manufacture not to be bailed out by tax payers, Ford,  earned $924 million in the first quarter, down almost 7% from a year ago with greater losses than anticipated in South America and tight inventories of the profitable F-150 pickup. The automaker reported revenue of $33.9 billion, down $2 billion from a year ago. North American operations earned $1.3 billion, below last year's $1.5 billion. (USA Today)

Big News Week A Coming

This could be a market moving event this week. Tomorrow, Fed policymakers kick off their two-day monetary meeting as the guessing-game on when they might increase interest rates continues. (CNBC)


On Wednesday we will get the first read of how much the US economy grew during the first quarter.  Economists are expecting gross domestic product to grow by just above 1%.  It is projected about a full percentage point of growth in Q1 is related to bad winter weather. (Reuters)


The average price of regular-grade gasoline in the United States rose about 5% in the past two weeks to $2.58 per gallon. The 13 cent per gallon increase brought U.S. gasoline prices to their highest point so far in 2015. Still, prices are substantially lower than one year ago, when gasoline cost around $3.69 per gallon. (Reuters)


US regulators have scuttled another merger. Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron have given up plans to merge in a deal that would have been worth more than $10 billion, citing problems getting approval from U.S. antitrust regulators. (CNBC)

Google Rallies

Amazon first-quarter revenue grew more than expected as rising sales in North America and its burgeoning cloud-computing services unit offset new business investments. Amazon reported a loss of $57 million. Amazon's sales from North America rose 24% to $13.4 billion and the international unit, which accounts for about 35% of total sales, remained a drag, with sales slipping 1.77% to $7.75 billion. (Reuters)

Google posted first-quarter profits of $3.59 billion. The Internet search leader posted revenue of $17.26 billion. Google shares have increased slightly more than 5% since the beginning of the year. (AP)

Microsoft beat Wall Street's expectations for quarterly sales and earnings by a wide margin. But it was still the company's second straight quarter of declining earnings and single-digit sales growth as sluggish PC sales continue to drag on the software leader. For the quarter, Microsoft earned 61 cents, down 10% year over year, on sales of $21.73 billion, up 6%. (Investor's Business Daily)

The icon of women entering the US workforce was “Rosie the Riveter”.  The model for that Norman Rockwell painting – Mary Doyle Keefe - has died at age 92. (AP)

Join us Saturday at 10am for Financial Focus when we will dissect this big week of earnings season.

Caterpillar Profits Way Up

Sales of previously owned homes jumped in March by the most in four years. Purchases increased 6.1% to a 5.19 million annualized rate. Houses were snapped up in 52 days on average, the fastest since July. Realtors say that 40% of homes sold in March were on the market for less than a month. (Bloomberg)

Caterpillar reported a higher quarterly profit despite a dip in revenue, citing a boost from the strong U.S. dollar on imported goods, especially from Japan, and a gain from the sale of a business. The world's largest construction and mining equipment maker reported profits of $1.11 billion, up 20% from a year earlier. (Reuters)

3M reported first-quarter profits of $1.2 billion. The maker of Post-it notes, industrial coatings and ceramics posted revenue of $7.58 billion. The stock has risen 19% in the last 12 months. (AP)

Procter & Gamble reported a quarterly profit of $2.15 billion. The world's largest consumer products maker posted revenue of $18.14 billion in the period. P&G shares have dropped nearly 9% since the beginning of the year. (AP)

Ten years ago today, YouTube was born, when co-founder Jawed Karim uploaded and starred in the site's first ever video, titled: "Me at the Zoo." (

Tarnished Golden Arches

Coca-Cola posted better-than-expected profit and revenue in its first quarter, despite stiff foreign-exchange headwinds and a 6% decline in Diet Coke volumes. Coke said its world-wide soda and noncarbonated beverage volumes both grew 1%. Sprite volume grew 4% and Coke Zero 5%. Shares of Coke, down 6.9% over the past three months, added 2.5% in premarket trading. (WSJ)

Boeing reported first-quarter profits of $1.34 billion. The airplane builder posted revenue of $22.15 billion. Boeing expects full-year earnings in the range of $8.20 to $8.40 per share. (AP)

The Golden Arches are very tarnished this morning. McDonald’s reported profits, excluding charges of $1.01 per share. Same-store sales fell 2.3% which the company said reflected "negative guest traffic in all major segments." In the US, same-store sales fell 2.6%, while same-store sales declined by 0.6% in Europe. Same-store sales were down by 8.3% in its APMEA (Asia Pacific/Middle East/Africa) region in the first quarter.

McDonald's revenue in the first quarter totaled $5.96 billion. (Business Insider)

Buyers are returning to the housing market in ever growing numbers. Total mortgage application volume rose 2.3% last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. (CNBC)


Turkey Prices Under Pressure

DuPont delivered quarterly profits higher than anticipated, but revenue, hurt by a stronger dollar, was lighter than expected. The chemical company posted profits of $1.34 per share, down from $1.58 a share a year ago. Revenue fell to $9.2 billion. DuPont also boosted its quarterly dividend to 49 cents a share. (CNBC)

IBM reported first-quarter profits of $2.33 billion on sales of $19.59 billion. Sales declined for the 12th straight quarter. New initiatives such as cloud computing and data analytics accounted for 27% of the business last year. That’s not enough to make up for revenue lost through divestitures and falling sales for older software and services. (AP)

Kimberly-Clark had profits of $468 million in the first quarter, compared with $538 million last year. The consumer goods giant said sales fell 4% to $4.7 billion.  Performance benefited from organic sales growth, cost savings and a lower share count. Negative impacts included unfavorable foreign currency exchange rate effects and a higher adjusted effective tax rate. (Market Watch)

That turkey could cost more come Thanksgiving. Hormel says its turkey supply chain has been significantly disrupted due to avian flu outbreaks in Minnesota and Wisconsin, expecting results for fiscal 2015 toward the lower end of its previously projected range. (AP)

Consumer Confidence Grows Stronger

Consumer confidence improved in April to the second-highest level in more than eight years as Americans held more favorable views of the economic outlook and inflation. The University of Michigan index of sentiment climbed to 95.9 this month from 93 in March. (Bloomberg)

Hasbro turned in very strong quarter led by Transformers sales and other toys for boys. The toymaker, weighed down by the strong U.S. currency and battling a shift toward video games and other non-traditional toys reported a 17% percent drop in profits compared to a year earlier. But that included an income tax expense of almost $8.5 million. Revenue rose 5%. (AP)

Morgan Stanley says its quarterly profit surged 60% as revenue from trading stocks and bonds lifted the investment bank's results. Profits rose to $2.3 billion. Revenue for the quarter rose to $9.9 billion. (AP)

Costco increased its quarterly dividend 12% to 40 cents per share, and also announced a new stock repurchase program of up to $4 billion, replacing an existing $4 billion authorization with about $2.5 billion left. (CNBC)

We still can’t imagine why he is not in jail, but Jon Corzine, the former boss of bankrupt MF Global, is considering starting his own hedge fund, with cash from the ex-governor's personal funds and some outside investors. (WSJ)

Deflation at the consumer level

Inflation at the consumer level rose 0.2% in March, lower than expected.  For the last 12 months we have deflation of 0.1%. (Bloomberg)

General Electric posted an enormous overall loss resulting from its recently-announced sale of its finance subsidiary. Costs associated with the sale pushed the company to an overall loss of $13.57 billion in the quarter, down from a profit of $3 billion during last year's first quarter. (Associated Press)

American Express, the world's largest credit card issuer, reported a 6.3% rise in quarterly profit, helped by higher spending by card holders and an increase in net interest income. Profits rose to $1.51 billion for the first quarter. (Reuters)

Oil technology and equipment provider Schlumberger cut an additional 11,000 jobs, which brings the total number of cuts to 20,000. The company reported first-quarter revenue of $10.25 billion, down 9% percent year-over-year. (CNBC)

Mattel reported its sixth straight fall in quarterly worldwide sales as it focuses on turning around its business and launching toys to make up for plunging demand for its Barbie dolls. The toymaker's net sales fell about 2.5% to $922.7 million. Their net loss widened to $58.2 million (Reuters)

Good Earnings Report

Tax day has passed but it is interesting to note in grim coincidence of Abraham Lincoln having both created the income tax and perishing from his fatal wounds on April 15, 1865. Americans paid a record $1.4 trillion in income tax in 2014.

Smith & Wesson shares soared as the company announced that firearm orders are picking up. The company forecasts sales of about $179 million for the quarter. That's up 8% from its projection just six weeks ago. Smith & Wesson gun sales hit a record of $626.6 million last year. (CNN)

Goldman Sachs posted quarterly profits of $2.75 billion, up 41% from 2014. Revenue rose to $10.62 billion, up 14% from a year ago. Revenue from trading fixed income, currencies and commodities rose 10%. Goldman's stock has risen 30% in the last 12 months. (Reuters)

Philip Morris International reported first-quarter profit of $1.8 billion. The seller of Marlboro and other brands outside the US posted revenue of $6.62 billion. Both numbers were roughly equal to last year.  Cigarette shipment volume climbed 1.4%.  Philip Morris does all of its business overseas, the company has to navigate changes in currency values. A stronger dollar cuts into revenue generated overseas when it's translated back into dollars. (Associated Press)

Japan has overtaken China to become the leading holder of U.S. Treasuries for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis. (Bloomberg)

Holy Tax Day!

Sales at U.S. retailers increased 0.9%, the first gain in four months, after a 0.5% drop in February, Commerce Department figures showed. Americans remain focused on using the savings at the gas pump to shore up finances even as employment and confidence firm and interest rates remain low. Cars and light trucks sold at a 17.1 million annualized rate in March, matching the strongest pace since August. (Bloomberg)

The producer price index rose 0.2% in March. Over the past 12 months, wholesale costs fell 0.8%. The PPI excluding food and fuel also climbed 0.2% from a month earlier. (Bloomberg)

Being tax day the following is due for individuals:
·       Your returns and/or Extensions, with payments of balances due.

·       2014 Roth or Traditional IRA contributions.

·       2014 Oregon 529 plan contributions.  

·       2015 first quarter Estimated Tax Payments are also due.  

For Businesses:
·       The annual $150 OR Minimum Tax payment for all LLCs & S-Corps.

·       Oregon partnership tax returns must be filed or extended. (Fowler & Co.)

Earnings Season Cranks Up

Earnings season begins in earnest this week, with profits in a real decline for the first time in six years. Big players to report include JPMorgan, American Express, Intel, and Johnson & Johnson. (CNBC)

The World Bank trimmed its 2015-2016 growth forecast for developing East Asia, citing a continued slowdown China, where exports surprisingly tumbled in March ahead of first quarter growth figures due on Wednesday. Chinese exports tumbled 14.6% from the year-ago. (CNBC)

Sears has struck a 50/50 joint venture with Simon Property Group designed to unlock the real estate value in the 10 properties the retailer will contribute. This follows a similar deal with another mall operator, General Growth Properties, earlier this month. Sears is struggling to survive after three years of big losses. (WSJ)

In the online world of media piracy can have a big impact. Game of Thrones is already the most pirated television show in 2015, research shows, as new episodes were leaked over the weekend ahead of Sunday's official fifth season debut on Time Warner's HBO. (CNBC)

The S&P 500 is down 2 and the NASDAQ is up 2.

In the oil patch there are tentative signs of demand improving and rig counts fell to the lowest level since 2010. On the other hand U.S. inventories are swelling and Saudi Arabian output marked a record high last month. Oil is up 76 cents at $52.48 a barrel. (Reuters)

It is all about Oil

Let the oil patch consolidation race begin. Royal Dutch Shell is acquiring British oil and gas company BG Group for $70 billion.  The acquisition will be the largest in 15 years. BG Group took a roughly $8.9 billion write down in February on its oil and gas assets to reflect the past year's sharp fall in oil prices. (Wall Street Journal)

McDonald's is trying out premium burgers again-adding third-pound sirloin patties to its U.S. menu for a limited time. It's the latest move by the new CEO to revive sales at the struggling fast-food chain. (WSJ)

Loan applications to purchase a home rose for the third straight week. Purchase applications are now 12% higher than the same week one year ago. (CNBC)

The FTC informed Dollar Tree that it must divest 340 stores before it can complete its $8.5 billion takeover of rival discount retailer Family Dollar. Dollar Tree said it expects almost all of those divested stores to be current Family Dollar locations. (CNBC)

The S&P 500 is up 1 and the NASDAQ is up 4. The MSCI international index is flat.

Oil was up 3.5% yesterday but is down this morning after the API said weekly crude stocks rose 12.2 million barrels. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reported record output in March. Oil services company Baker Hughes says the average U.S. rig count for March was 1,110, down 238 from February and down 693 from a year ago. Oil is down $1.27 at $52.75 a barrel. (Reuters)

Growing Manufacturing

The pace of growth in the U.S. services sector fell in March to its lowest level in three months but exports rose to the highest level in over two years, according to the Institute for Supply Management.  The rise in the exports index came despite the U.S. dollar's surge against a basket of major currencies of more than 20% since last May. A strong dollar typically crimps demand for U.S exports and reduces the value of overseas sales when they are translated back into U.S. dollars. (Reuters)

In March, Americans' daily spending averaged $86, level with the March 2014 average of $87, but below the averages for many months in 2014. Last month's figure, however, is up slightly from February's $82. (Gallup)

Looking to expand globally, FedEx plans to buy Dutch rival TNT Express in an all-cash $4.8 billion deal. Two years ago, UPS tried to buy TNT, but was denied by competition regulators. (CNBC)

Samsung Electronics today reported earnings guidance that beat expectations, in what analysts say could be the "first glimpse of a turnaround" for the struggling tech giant. (CNBC)

A Weak Jobs Report

U.S. stock markets are lower in early trading, with investors getting their first chance to react to Friday's weaker-than-expected March jobs reports. The stock market is set to resume normal hours this morning after the long holiday weekend. (CNBC)

The economy added 126,000 jobs in March.  The unemployment rate stays at 5.5%, but average hourly earnings accelerated to a 2.1% growth rate. About 182,000 people were unable to work due to bad weather during the month.  March follows 14 months of 200,000 per month in job gains.  This report is just a blip in strong job growth and should not cause much long-term concern.  One month does not make a trend. (LPL Research)

The dollar is under some pressure today, after the weak jobs data persuaded many market watchers that the Fed may wait until the second half of 2015 before raising interest rates. (Reuters)

In the online gaming sector Walt Disney is investing $250 million in DraftKings, putting the value of the online fantasy sports business at roughly $900 million. (WSJ)

Toy maker Mattel Inc. has laid off 107 employees at its headquarters, a few months after its chief executive abruptly resigned following a disappointing holiday season. (LA Times)

The S&P 500 is down 14 and the NASDAQ is down 30. The MSCI international index is up 0.87%.

Oil is up $1.01 at $50.14 a barrel. Oil is higher, after Saudi Arabia raised prices for crude sales to Asia for a second month, signaling stronger demand in the region. (Reuters)

Farmers Have New Crop

The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is charging that Kraft Foods and Mondelez manipulated wheat futures and cash wheat prices. Kraft said it did not expect the matter to have a financially material impact and that Mondelez would predominantly bear the costs of the matter. (Reuters)

Big Wall Street paychecks are back in the news. Morgan Stanley Chairman and CEO James Gorman has received a 25% pay increase in 2014-taking home $23.3 million, up from $14.4 million the prior year. (Reuters)

U.S. employers announced 36,594 layoffs last month, up 6.4% from March 2014. Industrial goods manufacturers led reductions in March with 9,383 cuts. The energy patch let go just 1,279 employees, compared with more than 16,000 in February. Target accounted for 6,640 retail sector cuts in March. (CNBC)

U.S. farmers are turning to a little-known grain called sorghum for relief from a two-year slump in agriculture prices. Native to Africa, sorghum has three things going for it right now: it’s cheap to plant; it holds up better in drought-like conditions than other crops; and, demand is soaring in China, where farmers feed the plant to their hog herds, and moonshiners make it into a whiskey. Corn, soybeans and wheat slumped into bear markets last year amid a global supply glut, sorghum prices have held stable. (Bloomberg)

First Quarter is in the books

US Stocks closed the first quarter with sizeable losses yesterday.  The Dow was down in the 1st quarter, while the S&P 500 and NASDAQ finished the quarter slightly higher.  Investors are eagerly awaiting first quarter earnings season which starts next week.

The Case-Shiller home price index which measures house prices in 20 major US cities rose 4.5% year over year last month.  Charlotte, Miami, and San Diego all saw the largest price increases.  A combination of low interest rates, strong consumer confidence, cheap oil, and low inflation continue to support further increases in home prices.

An index that measures the confidence of the US consumer surged in March because Americans think the economy will continue to improve over the next 6 months.

The US Dollar had its largest quarterly rise in the 1st quarter since 2008.  The dollar rose 9% against the Euro based on diverging monetary policies.  The US Fed is going to start to tighten monetary policy, while the ECB is losing their monetary policy.  The good news is it keeps getting cheaper to travel to Europe.

The payroll company ADP is out this morning with their March employment report showing US employer's added 189,000 jobs last month which is the lowest increase in monthly jobs in 14 months.

Ford and General Motors are out this morning with their March auto sales numbers.  Both companies saw year over year declines in sales of about 3.5% in March.  Both companies pointed to inclement weather in much of the country as reasons for weak sales numbers.


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