Showing posts from October, 2014

oil producers reining in spending

Top U.S. oil producers, which already were reining in spending before crude prices started to slip in June, are now looking to trim more fat from their budgets while reminding investors they must spend to grow.
Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) on Friday it would keep its current spending plan intact, though it is about 15 percent less than 2013. ConocoPhillips (COP.N) said it will spend less money next year, and Chevron Corp (CVX.N) said it is looking for budget "flexibility."
Crude oil prices have slumped 25 percent since June as global supplies grow and demand weakens.
Exxon, which sets budgets using a long-term horizon, still expects to spend a little bit less than $37 billion a year from 2015 to 2017, an executive told investors on Friday on a conference call.
"We always are mindful of what's happening in the near future but I keep on pulling back that we are a long-term investor," said Jeff Woodbury, Exxon's head of investor relations.
Exxon tests projects &qu…

long cable car in the world’s largest cave

Phong Nha Ke Bang, Quang Binh, Vietnam (Photo credit: Wikipedia) A Vietnamese resort company has been granted approval to begin surveys to build a 10.6 kilometer (6.6 mi) long cable car in the world’s largest cave, the UNESCO-listed Son Doong in north-central Quang Binh province in Vietnam. If completed it would make it the longest cable car ride in the world, ahead of Tianmen Shan in China.
Vietnam has a fondness for cable cars. They pop up in many tourist spots, from the Ba Na hills in the center of the country to provincial spots popular with domestic tourists such as Nui Ba Den (Black Lady Mountain), south of Saigon. However, the prospect of this cable car, to be built by the large Sun Group (which owns the InterContinental Hotel in Danang and built the Ba Na hills cable car system), has upset environmentalists, the cave’s original discoverers and inspired an online petition.
The proposed $212 million cable car system would travel through Tien Son and Phong Nha caves (the latter w…

rapid-fire investors get access to market-moving documents

Hedge funds and other
English: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission headquarters located at 100 F Street, NE in the Near Northeast neighborhood of Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) rapid-fire investors get access to market-moving documents before other users of the Securities and Exchange Commission's system for distributing company filings, giving them a possible edge on the rest of the market, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing two independent studies.
The two sets of researchers have been examining when paying subscribers receive SEC filings compared with when they become available on the agency's website, the newspaper reported.
They found a wide variation in the lag time, from no delay to one lasting more than a minute. The ability to get the information before it is on the SEC website can give traders extra seconds to act on the news, WSJ said.
The studies focus on the SEC's Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis and Retrieval system, or Edgar, whic…

AT&T fined again

Logo of the United States Federal Communications Commission, used on their website and some publications since the early 2000s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The FTC said on Tuesday that the second-largest U.S. cellular phone network charged its customers for "unlimited data," but nevertheless reduced their browsing speeds. In some cases, speeds dropped by close to 90 percent.
Filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California [PDF], the federal agency charged with protecting consumer's rights said the company had performed a "deceptive failure" to disclose its mobile throttling plan.
FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez summed up her sentiment in three words: "Unlimited means unlimited."
She added: "AT&T promised its customers 'unlimited' data, and in many instances, it has failed to deliver on that promise."
Here's the nutshell to the FTC's complaint.
The FTC said despite "unequivocal promises" by the company to its …

McDonald’s showing a 3.3 per cent drop in customer traffic worldwide

English: McDonalds' sign in Harlem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)The Coca-Cola logo is an example of a widely-recognized trademark representing a global brand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Some of the biggest companies serving consumers are showing signs of stress this week, with McDonald’s showing a 3.3 per cent drop in customer traffic worldwide and worldwide sales by Coca-Cola flat.

A more discriminating and health-conscious consumer is eating into profits at both companies, and the strategies they’ve taken to change their product offerings have not caught on as hoped.

In the case of McDonald’s, a significant misstep in China also hurt its prospects throughout Asia

Sales there are down 9.9 per cent after a McDonald’s supplier based in China was shown on TV repackaging expired beef.
Reputation hurt in China
McDonald’s previously had a reputation for quality control, consistency and safe food in China, a country that has an uneven record on food safety. It seemed modern and Western in a…

Web sales dipped for PetMed Express Inc.

Web sales accounted for 80% of the retailer’s sales but decreased 3.6% from the second quarter of fiscal 2014. Web sales dipped for PetMed Express Inc. in the second quarter of fiscal 2015 compared to the same quarter last year, though e-commerce accounted for a higher percentage of the company’s declining sales.
PetMed Express sells prescription and non-prescription pet medications and other health products for dogs and cats online at and over the phone at 1-800-PetMeds.
The second quarter was especially rough, said Menderes Akdag, the chairman, president and CEO, on the company’s Q2 earnings conference call because flea and tick season started late, possibly decreasing sales of medication designed to keep dogs and cats free of the pests. Despite that, the average order size was up to $75 compared to $73 in the same quarter last year.
The company’s advertising cost of acquiring a customer rose to $45 for the quarter and $50 for the first six months, Akdag said. That’…

Professor Ballmer shows up on Tuesday and Thursday mornings to teach

Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) The truth is that Ballmer is a thoughtful man who operates not in one mode but four or five modes. Most of us oscillate among different flavors of our personalities, depending on the situation. Ballmer, I think, has more extreme shifts.
There’s the bombastic guy everyone knows: He’s the Ballmer now running the Los Angeles Clippers, the guy we profiled in this week’s cover story. Then there’s the man in the Stanford office–much more on him below–who paces around and tugs at the window shade chain and pokes me in the shoulder and makes wild gestures, all while speaking in mostly measured tones. That Ballmer showed up at a lot of Microsoft meetings. There’s also the guy at the steakhouse who is calm, analytical, fun to talk to, and deft at hopping from subject to subject. And, of late, there’s Professor Ballmer, more self-aware than people would imagine and contemplating his future with the same vigor his students bring to mullin…

Tesla store on opens today

The Tesla store on opens today, offering a Model S for nearly $170,000.
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Tesla Motors Inc. began taking online orders for its Model S electric car in China today, joining General Motors Co. and Volkswagen AG in selling vehicles through Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s online shopping mall.
Buyers can place a 50,000-yuan ($8,200) deposit for the electric car through Alibaba’s, according to Tesla China spokeswoman Peggy Yang. “Tmall offers us an opportunity to reach out to general customers,” she said by telephone.
[The full price of this limited-edition Model S is about 1 million yuan ($170,000), Tesla says. A customer pays the balance at a physical Tesla location in China. In the United States, the Tesla Model S starts at $69,900. The price in China includes transportation and import duties.—Internet Retailer]
Tesla, led by billionaire Elon Musk, began deliveries of the Model S to the world’s largest auto market in April. The automaker is seeking …

Netflix’s total revenue tops $1.4 billion

In a quarter that included a major European expansion, Netflix’s total revenue tops $1.4 billion, but fewer than expected new consumers signed up. Netflix Inc. revenue climbed 27.5% and net income 86% in the third quarter, but the video streaming company fell short of its forecast for new customers. The e-retailer reported today that it added 3.02 million new customers in Q3; its forecast was 3.69 million.  
Most the customers who signed up, 2.04 million, came from outside the United States. International streaming revenue grew 89% year over year and accounted for 28% of total revenue. In September, Netflix launched streaming services in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg.
In their letter to shareholders, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and chief financial officer David Wells also addressed the competitive threat HBO plays. News broke today that HBO will begin to offer HBO as a streaming service separate from any cable or satellite company. “It was inevitable and …

consumers may do more of their spending online

U.S. consumers may do more of their spending online than ever before this holiday season, adding pressure on shopping malls already struggling to lure traffic.
44% of the average consumer’s shopping will be on the web, compared with about 40% last year, according to a survey released today by the National Retail Federation. That proportion, which includes browsing sessions where shoppers don’t make a purchase, is the highest since at least 2006, when the NRF first asked the question.
“Online has done a much better job of captivating the consumer with prices and early promotions,” Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at consulting firm NPD Group Inc., said in an interview. “The more people spend online, the less people are in the stores, and the less the impulse purchasing.”
U.S. retail sales are expected to rise 4.1% to $617 billion in November and December, the most in three years, according to an earlier report by the NRF. Employment gains are lifting consumer confidence and giving…

eBay cuts outlook

EBay Inc (EBAY.O) on Wednesday joined Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) in cutting its outlook for the all-important holiday season, suggesting that the fourth quarter may turn out to be weaker than some analysts predicted as recently as last week.
The warnings from two of the retail industry's most influential players comes as investors re-assess the state of the global economy after weak data this week from the two largest countries, the United States and China.
EBay and Wal-Mart blamed divergent factors such as food stamp reductions and unfavorable search-engine optimization for the lower outlooks.
Both complained about the stronger dollar putting the skids on their forecasts, lowering the value of overseas sales once converted into the U.S. currency.
But analysts say stagnant incomes are also prompting U.S. consumers to curtail spending.
"EBay, especially on the marketplaces side, is actually suffering from company-specific setbacks," Wedbush Securities analyst Gil Luria …

Netflix Inc signed up fewer video streaming subscribers

Netflix Inc signed up fewer video streaming subscribers than forecast for the quarter that ended in September as its U.S. growth slowed markedly, sending its shares plunging as much as 27 percent.
The company blamed a $1 price hike to $8.99 a month for discouraging new sign-ups. It lured 3.02 million new streaming customers globally, versus the 3.69 million it projected in July.
Netflix attracted about 980,000 new customers in the United States, its largest market, down from 1.29 million in the same period a year earlier.
The news came after Time Warner Inc's HBO said on Wednesday it will offer new competition next year with a streaming service that does not require a pay TV subscription.
"Year-on-year net additions in the U.S. were down," Netflix said in a quarterly letter to shareholders. "As best we can tell, the primary cause is the slightly higher prices we now have compared to a year ago."
Shares of Netflix fell 25 percent to $333.53 in after-hours tr…

Cyber-criminals have infected ATMs in Russia, Europe, United States, India, and China

Kaspersky Lab (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Cyber-criminals have infected ATMs in Russia, Europe, United States, India, and China with malware to empty cash stored in the machines, Kaspersky Lab researchers said this week.
Attackers unlock the ATM case, possibly with a default master key, and use a bootable CD to infect the machiene with the Tyupkin malware, Kaspersky Lab researchers said in a post on SecureList Tuesday. The malware is designed to accept commands in the middle of the night Sundays and Mondays, and quiet the rest of the week, making it difficult to detect.
Malware's PathOnce the malware is loaded onto the ATM, attackers can see how much money is still in the cassettes in the machine. The attacker has to be physically in front of the ATM to enter a specially generated six-digit PIN generated by the malware in order to withdraw money. They can take up to 40 bills at a time without having to swipe an ATM card or enter any account information, Kaspersky Lab said. Approximat…

World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is working to develop open standards

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is working to develop open standards that will enable companies and individuals to make secure payments over the web. Today (Wednesday 15 October) it launched a Payments Interest Group, which it hopes will attract industry participants from banks and card providers, e-commerce companies, merchants, the suppliers of browsers and digital wallets, telecoms operators and other interested parties, including regulatory bodies.
The W3C says its payments platform will cover "international low-value remittances, general retail payments, bill payments, and utility payments. The group will study the current gaps in Web technology regarding usability, security, and privacy, and recommend new work to fill those gaps."
It has no plans to develop its own digital wallet, and so on. However, it will develop open standards that enable different products to interoperate. It recognises that some industry giants already have payments systems — including Apple a…

HBO will offer a stand-alone streaming service

english: This is the american HBO brand logo. ® 2008 Home Box Office, Inc. All Rights Reserved. português: Este é o logotipo da marca estadunidense HBO. ® 2008 Home Box Office, Inc. Todos os Direitos Rervados. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) HBO will offer a stand-alone streaming service to customers in the U.S. next year, removing a big brick from the shaky foundations of the cable-TV industry. ”It’s time to remove all barriers to those who want HBO,” said HBO Chief Executive Richard Plepler at Time Warner’s (TWX) investor meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 15.
Specifics are practically nonexistent. Plepler didn’t say how much such a service would cost, whether it would include a full slate of content, or even how people would buy it. A spokesman for HBO declined to give any additional details. But his remarks should be enough to strike fear into the likes of Comcast (CMCSA) and Cablevision (CVC), whose business models are based on maintaining barriers to highly coveted cable programming.
The bigg…

Volatility in the market

Volatility has suddenly returned to U.S. stocks, and for the first time all year it doesn't appear that the weakness in equities will go away quietly in the span of a few days.
While the S&P 500 is still up 3.1 percent for the year, the index is off about 5 percent from its record high reached in mid-September, and closed out this week at the lowest level since May 23.
"We're still in a bull market, but in the near term things are a little bit dicey, and I don't think the decline is over with yet," said Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg, Florida.The S&P also posted back-to-back intraday moves of more than 40 points this week for the first time in three years. Wall Street's fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index .VIX, ended at 21.24 on Friday, its highest level since early February.
Investors said they were concerned about the eventual end of Federal Reserve stimulus, as well as weak growth overseas …

Pimco had total assets under management of $1.973 trillion

Pacific Investment Management Co., whose co-founder Bill Gross stunningly departed on Sept. 26, said late Friday that the Newport Beach, Calif.-firm had assets under management of $1.876 trillion as of Sept. 30, a 5 percent drop in the third quarter.
Pimco had total assets under management of $1.973 trillion as of June 30, 2014 and total assets under management of $1.92 trillion as of Dec. 31, 2013.
In a statement on its website, Pimco said "changes in AUM (assets under management) are a function of a number of factors, including portfolio returns, currency changes and net client flows."
Gross, one of the bond market's most renowned investors and the former manager of the flagship Pimco Total Return Fund, quit Pimco for distant rival Janus Capital Group Inc (JNS.N).
According to two sources familiar with the matter, he was expected to be fired the next day from the firm he helped launch more than four decades ago and built into a $2 trillion investment powerhouse.
Since …

More security breaches

Retailer Sears Holdings Corp said the payment data systems at its Kmart stores had been compromised, the latest in a series of computer security breaches to hit U.S. companies in recent months.
The U.S. Secret Service confirmed it was investigating the breach, which occurred in September and compromised the systems of Kmart, which has about 1,200 stores across the United States. The breach did not affect the Sears department store chain.
Sears said it believes hackers made off with some credit and debit card numbers but that the personal information, debit card PIN numbers, email addresses and social security numbers of its customers remained safe.
Security professionals said they were not surprised to learn that yet another major retailer was reporting a breach, adding they believe many big merchants do not have adequate systems for detecting cyberattacks, which means they still remain easy prey for hackers.
“This is going to continue indefinitely until people change their practices…

Venezuela must pay Exxon Mobil Corp around $1.6 billion

A World Bank arbitration tribunal has determined Venezuela must pay Exxon Mobil Corp around $1.6 billion to compensate for a 2007 nationalization, the award posted on the ICSID website on Thursday showed.
The award is far below the amount of up to $10 billion Exxon had originally sought and also the $6 billion at which the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) capped the case, excluding a tax claim.
A separate decision by the Paris-based ICC in 2012 ordered Venezuela state oil company PDVSA pay Exxon $908 million.
There will be no double compensation for the nationalization of the large heavy crude project in the Orinoco region, the tribunal added.
"The Tribunal takes note in both cases of the Claimants’ representation that, in the event of favorable award, the Claimants are willing to make the required reimbursements to PDVSA. Double recovery will thus be avoided," the ICSID award said.
Still, the decision comes at a bad time for cash-strapped …

Canada risks being left behind in clean energy

The shift to clean energy is producing huge economic gains, but Canada risks being left behind if the federal government doesn’t get on board, a new report warns.
That’s the message from energy and climate think tank Clean Energy Canada, which paints a picture of a world increasingly embracing – and investing in – green energy alternatives.
Clean energy is now “business as usual, it is not boutique any more,” said Merran Smith, director of Clean Energy Canada. “This is where the puck is going … The world has changed and there is no going back.”
The report, to be released Monday on the eve of the United Nation’s global climate summit in New York, says that thanks to government support and dramatic increases in private investment, “companies, countries and whole economies are steadily reducing their dependence on fossil fuels and embracing clean and renewable energy.”
It cites China, for example, where new renewable energy plant construction has now surpassed investments in coal generat…

Cross border shopping

Cross-border shopping by Canadians in the U.S. rose 72 per cent between 2006 and 2012, but still represents less than two per cent of Canadian retail sales, indicate statistics released today.
Duty-free budget changes concern business ownersNew duty-free limits will challenge Canadian retailersA study by Statistics Canada estimates Canadians spent about $8 billion Cdn in cross-border shopping in 2012, up from $4.7 billion in 2006.
In 2006, the Canadian dollar fluctuated between 85 and 90 cents US; in 2012, it went from 99 cents US to $1.03 US.
That change in the value of the loonie made retail goods in the U.S. less expensive in 2012 than at any point in the previous six years.
56 million visits About three-quarters of Canadians live within 160 kilometres of a border crossing and take advantage of shopping opportunities in the U.S. with single-day and overnight trips.
In 2012, Canadians made almost 56 million visits to the U.S., up 38 per cent from 2006.
Gasoline and groceries, which a…

decreasing income among retired women

Social mobility is often thought of as a challenge facing children and working-age adults, but sharp drops in income are a real threat for millions of elderly Americans. Widowhood and divorce are often the culprits behind this downward intragenerational mobility—especially for women. The 2012 elderly poverty rate for widowed and divorced women was nearly three times that for married women and the elderly poverty rate for divorced women stood at nearly twice that for divorced men.

Losing a Husband, Then Losing Benefits

Two facts help to explain this risk: men earn more, but women live longer. Higher lifetime wages  for men, and the associated retirement assets and benefits, mean that divorce is more of a poverty risk factor for women than for men. Longer life expectancy can also disproportionately impact women who spend down family assets to care for a sick husband or who find their household retirement benefits cut when their spouse dies. 

Declining marriage rates have of course redu…

Party politics seems set to trump concerns about the competence and suitability

English: This image shows Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg. He is talking with students of the University of Aachen (RWTH) in Germany, one day before receiving the International Charlemagne Prize of the city of Aachen. According to the legal situation in Germany, I asked the University of Aachen for permission before taking this photo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Party politics seems set to trump concerns about the competence and suitability of several candidates for the European Commission when lawmakers pass judgment on Jean-Claude Juncker's most controversial nominees this week.
The European Parliament has flexed its muscles by recalling Britain's Jonathan Hill for a second hearing on Tuesday on his fitness to be in charge of banking and financial services.
The French, Hungarian and Czech aspirants are being forced to take written re-sits. Parliament's lawyers are scrutinizing the financial statements of Spain's nominee for the energy and climate…

World policymakers gather in Washington later this week

World policymakers gather in Washington later this week to ponder how to sustain economic recovery at a time when the United States is about to turn off its money taps.
Given the same G20 finance ministers and central bankers met in Australia only two weeks ago it is not hard to guess how the debate will go: most of the western world will urge the euro zone to do more to foster growth and Germany will warn against letting up on austerity.
That debate has circled within the G20 for three years and is fizzing now in Europe with France, Italy and others pressing for a loosening of fiscal strait-jackets to allow time for economic reforms in defiance of Berlin's wishes.
"Existing flexibility within the rules should allow governments to address the budgetary costs of major structural reforms, to support demand and to achieve a more growth-friendly composition of fiscal policies," European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said on Thursday after a monthly policy meeting.
The …