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Wednesday January 7, 2015 Economy & Business News

Eurozone inflation turns negative, hopes of government stimulus; December consumer prices dropped for 1st time in 5+ years. Unlike other fast food competitors, Sonic stock up 10% - strategy? menu variety, slick marketing, and stably low prices. Monster audio-equipment sues Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, claiming Beats cheated them from return on large, initial R&D. Hundred of thousands of Indian union coal miners (80% of coal) strikes over gov's plans to privatize the non-competitive industry. US trade deficit at an 11-month low, with increase in private payroll. AP survey of 8 mobile credit card readers and costs involved, including fee schedule. Thanks to T-Mobile-started trend, AT&T will now let you rollover unused data. Ailing teen fashion brand Wet Seal closing 338 stores, nearly 4,000 employees laid off. Boeing: record sales and plane deliveries in 2014, 75 more than 2013, another record. Following 2008 pipeline leak, Shell to pay $83.5m reparation to Nigerian village. Monsento's Q4 numbers show 34% drop in profits due to less corn planted and shift-timing some sales; less than expected. A few facts about Allan Landon, the retired Bank of Hawaii CEO that Obama wants on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Russia's foreign reserves evaporating at unsustainable levels to prevent capital flight and shore up the ruble ($26bn in 2 weeks). Bonds on the up as stocks sink (falling oil prices worry investors that global economy may seriously be slowing down). By the numbers: quick look at Dish Network's new offering, Sling TV. After Safeway, "99 Cents Only" stores fined $2m for improper pharma waste handling. GOP to use "dynamic scoring", whereby tax cuts include growth boost estimates in CBO accounting (vs. just a revenue loss). Sony Entertainment's movie "The Interview" makes $31 million online, becoming the bestselling online movie of all time. Following US appeal to WTO, why did China really scrap own quotas on its rare earth exports (used in most electronics)? JC Penney stocks shoot up 16% after results from Q4 numbers (2-4% up YOY). NYC: city rakes in over half a billion dollars worth of parking tickets last year. Pittsburgh restaurant ditches tips, gives workers higher wages, health benefits, plus increasing stock ownership in the business. To encourage development of hydrogen-fueled vehicle, Toyota opens access to its fuel-cell patents to all its competitors.

Tuesday January 6, 2015 Economy & Business News

Potatogate: after Japan, now Venezuela McDonald's stopped serving french fries, still due to union disputes on US West Coast.2015 will be largest-ever gathering of power players at World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland - over 2,500 attendees.Where are most working women in the US? Much more complex snapshot than for men.CNBC (regularly ranked with low ratings) chooses to opt out of Nielsen ratings.Personal story: man goes from $8 to $25/hr. - thousands of well paying jobs lost in recent weeks due to ever falling oil prices.Xoom (online bank transfer platform) stock takes nosedive as $31 million of its money is transferred to thieves' bank accounts.Airbus delivers record number of planes in 2014, still struggling to deliver on time.Mercedes relocates US headquarters from NJ to Atlanta, citing cost-of-living and taxes.Exploding sales for Walgreen in Dec., due to severe flu season; +14% pharma sales.Alibaba wannabe Wanda E-commerce raises $161m from Chinese funds.Apple to sell unlocked iPhone 6 / 6 Plus (consumers pick carrier without contract).Federal mediator steps in to help squash West Coast port / ship operators dispute.UK: cargo ship containing over $100 million of luxury cars near capsizes off the coast of Isle of Wight; beached to prevent sinking.Safeway supermarket chain to pay ~$10 million hazardous waste settlement (sending batteries and drugs to local landfills).BMW retakes from Mercedes top spot as most popular luxury brand in the US.Dish Network launches Sling TV, a web streaming bundle of channels for $20/mo.Fired Morgan Stanley employee stole data on 35k clients - ongoing investigation.GM OnStar's "AtYourService" feature lets you book the hotel room you forgot to book!2014 top 10 selling car makers in the US: GM, Ford, Toyota, Fiat/Chrysler, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Subaru, and VW.US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB, created after 2007 crisis), to start curbing payday ("shark") loan services.Unwillingness to cut wages during recession could explain current wage stagnation.Between sluggish global economy and flat inflation, Fed might not raise rates in 2015.

Monday January 5, 2015 Economy & Business News

After strong December US car sales, 2014 was the best year since at least 2006.Despite being the smallest of Detroit's "Big Three", Fiat / Chrysler best auto stock.2015 tax season likely worst in year: for IRS, because of underfunding; for taxpayers, because of ever more complicated tax code.NYC rent-control laws expiring in June; lawmakers pondering whether to renew them, and whether to strengthen or weaken them.China, dragged to WTO by US for effective monopoly on rare earths, relaxes export controls (despite name, these metals aren't rare, but not worth extraction costs - they're used in pretty much any electronic device).Gold remains relative safe-haven, while most other commodities go nowhere; its price has an inverse relationship with the US dollar, the world's reserve currency. Some recommend 5% portfolio invested in gold."Food porn" trend: chefs increasingly cater to Instagram (social photo sharing site) addicts by improving presentation.Genius: OnStar-equipped GM vehicles (location aware) will now start offering discounts, using websites RetailMeNot and Entertainment Book as source.High-cost stocks worry investors, but bonds look worse: record-low yields mean record-high bond prices, but near-zero-interest rates for cash are even less attractive.China's first private online bank WeBank makes first loan - one of 5 such banks approved by the country's regulators.Club Med, struggling with weaker demand and high costs, expected to accept Chinese offer after Italian rival declines up-bidding.Economists: alcohol-prohibition laws could lessen liquor consumption, but would likely increase that of meth (relatively cheap).American Airline pilots union tentatively accept contract that includes 23% raise.

Sunday December 4, 2015 Economy & Business News

Fun real estate agents' stories: when home sellers take with them the essentials - from light fixture or tree, to the kitchen sink.Energizing Detroit's home market (40k vacant homes), by repurposing shipping containers to lure millennials back into town.Dish Network to pay $2 million fines to settle complaints for misleading customers about fixed-for-two-years pricing.US Manufacturing in December grew at its slowest pace in six months, due partly to weak international markets & strong dollar.Boston Fed Reserve Bank president: US economic progress relatively modest, and despite new stress tests, wholesale funding represents looming risk (temporarily using money besides deposits to finance various operations and investments).Clear Channel UK boss: digital advertising in bus stops to supplant traditional billboards; they are interactive, and can interface with consumers' mobile devices; company already the largest in that market with over 150 digital screens around London.German government increasingly confident that Eurozone would cope fine if Greece exited it; concerns brought up as Greek election will likely increase the anti-EU, radical left's grip on power.Low-level employees, easily struggling to find work, are increasingly hired under multi-year, non-compete contracts (workers can't work for a competitor), which have ended up in court as unfair and/or unrealistic.Former UK bank exec regrets the free-checking-account move, which has several (overall) bad consequences: it drives smaller banks out of business, limits liquidity for the remainder, and replacement income from high fees (overdraft, etc.) are permanently under scrutiny from regulators for being hard to understand -or expect - for consumers.Candy and sweets makers increasingly going after the luxury end of the market, targeting adults instead of / in addition to kids; as a result, the industry has grown ~10% over the past four years. Concerns over youth obesity and diminishing household sizes made this switch a near-necessity.

Saturday January 3, 2015 Economy & Business News

Comcast & Time Warner Cable hike cable modem monthly fees up to 33%; most customers not notified until last minute. You can buy one that will pay for itself in a matter of months, if you are willing to deal with the tedious, but one-time, setup process.After 1-year delay, Obamacare is now enforced for companies with over 100 full-time workers: at least 70% of all employees must be offered by "affordable" coverage; non-compliant businesses will be fined up to $261/month for each uncovered worker.Bipartisan-support for new types of home loans that prepay interests from the start, designed for low- to moderate-income borrowers & reasonably priced homes.Shake Shack, NY-based premium burger franchise, files its IPO this week, generating both excitement and skepticism.Eurozone deflation brings down bond yields to rates not seen since Black Death in 14th-century medieval Europe.The Telegraph's 10 warning signs of a 2015 market crash, from overvalued US stocks to rising US credit risk and Treasury yields.WaPo's gov wishlist from US companies, ranging from solid aims (JOBS Act passes, businesses can crowdfund; corporate tax reform not favoring big corps), to downright utopian ones (bipartisan majority passes 2016 budget, Obama ready to sign).Economic growth pulls millions out of poverty, but new research suggests that, in real terms, the poorest ones were brought just above poverty level ($1.25/day, adjusted for inflation), and that poor masses plight hasn't improved that much over the years.Bloomberg optimistic about Greece, with both former PM George Papandreou's new party, and the fact that current infighting is more about politics than debt sustainability.SEC filing: construction of green(er) power plant in Kemper county, eastern Mississippi, goes up another ~$50 million, just after last October's increase of $496 million.Quick news briefs:
Indian finance minister calls for banking regulations overhaul to make the sector more competitive.
Strong dollar reaches 9-year high, helped by worldwide volatility (seen as safe haven currency).
US interest rates hike likely in first half of 2015.
Experts say that grim global outlook won't hamper US growth.

Friday January 2, 2015 Economy & Business News

By the numbers: great collection of 14 charts on various aspects of income inequality. Take-aways: get college degree, invest in stocks, don't sell them when market falls.Armenia joins Eurasian Economic Union (Russia, Belarus & Kazakhstan), an EU-like free market facilitating free flow of goods and services; no single currency for now.In trying to defeat major oil-producing rivals Russia and the US, Saudi Arabia plays a risky game, likely to alienate ally gulf states (keep pumping, willing to let price fall as low as $20/barrel, which would bankrupt just about every competitor). Influential, domestic opposition is already growing; despite colossal cash reserves, the kingdom is heavily dependent on imports, and 90% of its gov's revenues come from oil. But if strategy pans out, the country will have much greater control over oil prices & production.After banks (3 major ones rescued in past 2 weeks), Russia pumping money into private businesses, cash-starved in large part by western sanctions on Crimea annexation.With complicated new rules, Obamacare (ACA) enrollees don't know what to expect from their federal tax return / penalties.GM recalls 92,000 full-size trucks and SUVs for (minor) ignition lock founder: patents, as currently licensed and enforced, stifle businesses' growth and efficiency, and create logistical nightmares; the number of patents, and their vagueness, makes it hard to know what needs to be licensed, how, and through whom.Timberland, 6-year flat income and losing US market share, increases revenues 15% -an industry exception in 2014- by turning to data science for marketing and new products, after completing the transition from family-run business to VF Corp acquisition.Though most jobs since recovery are full-time, ~7 million are part-time not by choice - much higher than pre-recession.Sales of #5 carmaker Hyundai / Kia's grow at slowest pace in 12 years, but confident company builds two new factories in China.Australia: Qantas and China Eastern airline alliance comes under scrutiny as combined market share grows; China passed UK in 2013 as second largest tourist nationality.Tennessee regulators (one example) struggle with sites like Airbnb that let people rent their home to strangers for a fee; currently, this market isn't regulated - and booming.Quick news briefs:
Despite Libya (multiple oil fields under siege, on fire), oil prices fall to 5.5-year low ($56/barrel).
2014 Russian oil output (2/3 of exports) in post-Soviet high, mostly thanks to small producers.
US manufacturing growth in December falls to 11-month low (same trend in Europe & Asia).
US construction slips 0.3% in November, mostly due to decrease in related gov spending.
Euro at 4-year low after Mario Draghi (EU Central Bank pres.) hints at quantitative easing.

Thursday January 1, 2015 Economy & Business News

California's high living costs, especially real estate, push low- and middle-income workers to move to other states, many to Texas.UK, 2014: music downloads (like iTunes) fell for first time as online music streaming services like Spotify grow 65%.2015 as year-of-the-dollar bad news for (parts of) the world; US Treasuries (doubled yield since October) steer currency markets; BRICS and other emerging markets hold debts in dollars; Eurozone will be in deflation by February, with debts rising faster than GDP, quickly leading to a compound-interest trap; half of big US companies' earnings come from abroad (stronger dollar means more expensive imports from the US). The S&P 500 has seen double-digit growth, helped by big companies buying back their own stock, often with borrowed money.Increase of dollar value concern for borrowers of dollar-denominated debt - top of the list: China, Brazil, Russian Fed.Detroit might regain some of the midsize pickups market, mostly dominated by Toyota and Nissan, by re-introducing the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon (discontinued in 2012).Associated Press' breakdown of market moves in 2014, from energy to finance.Tip for identity-theft victims: even if offered new one, keep old social security number.West Virginia increases min. wage to $8/hr (+$0.75) and ditches business franchise tax.France's ineffective, as it turns out, 75% super-tax for incomes above ~$1.2 million is retired; outcry that socialist pres is anti-business; high-profile celebs and business leaders have since left the country, switching nationality in some cases. Official rate is now 50% of taxable income.Quick news briefs:
Digital currency Bitcoin plummets 58% in 2014.
French economist Thomas Piketty declines Legion d'honneur: not gov's role to decide who is honorable.
Dubai passes UK's Heathrow to become the world's busiest airport.
2014 closes the sixth straight year of gains in the stock market.
Kansas: $15m less taxes than expected for December; governor's tax cuts probably too aggressive.
Guam passes tax incentive for hotel expansions: tax abatement + rebate of 10% construction costs.
Oil price falling: billionaire oil tycoon wants to revise divorce agreement he can no longer afford.
Boeing delivers 111 787-Dreamliners in 2014, one above its target.

Last month's business news summaries: December 2014 Business News Summary ›

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