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April 27, 2012

Starbucks brews up 18 percent profit jump

Filed under: marketing, news — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 8:08 pm

Starbucks Corp. perked up its net income by 18 percent in its fiscal second quarter, as more customers visited its cafes in most parts of the world. The Seattle-based company also raised its forecast for the year on the better-than-expected results.

But its stock slid 5 percent in after-market trading as sales showed weakness in parts of Europe

The coffee giant said Thursday that it earned $309.9 million, or 40 cents per share, for the three months ended April 1. That’s compared with a profit of $261.6 million, or 34 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Revenue for the latest quarter rose to $3.2 billion, up from $2.79 billion a year ago. Analysts on average expected a profit of 39 cents per share on revenue of $3.18 billion, according to FactSet.

Starbucks said it expects earnings per share to be in the range of $1.81 and $1.84, representing 19 percent to 21 percent growth from a year ago. Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.86 per share.

The company expects the increase to be driven by a mix of increased revenue at cafes, new store openings and gains in the packaged goods that it sells in supermarkets and other retailers.

For the quarter, Starbucks said global revenue at stores open at least a year increased by 7 percent, as a result of more customers and higher spending per visit. The figure is a key metric because it excludes the impact of newly opened or closed stores.

The gains were strongest in the China Asia Pacific region, where the figure rose 18 percent payday loan. The region is a critical expansion area for Starbucks; by 2014, the company says China will become its second largest market behind the U.S.

Revenue at cafes open at least a year rose 8 percent in the Americas but slipped 1 percent in the region encompassing Europe, Middle East, Russia and Africa.

Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead said the dip was largely the result of select regions of Europe that were hard hit by economic turmoil.

“It’s not unlike what we experiences in the U.S. a few years ago,” he said.

Alstead said the company is taking similar measures in those markets as it did at home, such as introducing loyalty programs and improving service to boost sales. The coffee giant is also focusing on adapting its offerings to local tastes. In France, for example, Alstead noted that the company added a second espresso option in response to consumer demand.

Also contributing to the company’s strong quarterly performance was its expanding mix of consumer products, such as its ice cream and Tazo-branded K-Cup portion packs. Revenue from that division rose to $321.5 million, up 57 percent from a year ago.

Starbucks said it will accelerate new store growth this year to about 1,000 net new stores globally.


April 26, 2012

Burger King to use eggs from cage-free hens

Filed under: loans, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:40 am

Breakfast at Burger King is about to get more humane.

The nation’s No. 2 fast food chain announced an agreement Wednesday with the Humane Society of the United States to switch to eggs from hens not kept in cages, and to only use pork products from pigs also not kept and bred in small cages.

While rivals McDonald’s, Wendy’s and other food-service companies already have policies or agreements with the Humane Society on the humane treatment of pigs, Wednesday’s announcement was the first by a major chain that it would switch to cage-free eggs.

"What this does is send a clear message to these industries that their customers and the public don’t want animals confined for their entire lives in cages. They will have to make changes," said Matt Prescott, food policy director for the Humane Society.

Burger King is privately held, but is planning an initial public offering later this summer.

McDonald’s (, Fortune 500) did not have an immediate comment on move. Wendy’s () spokesman Denny Lynch said his company doesn’t sell breakfast at most locations, so it is concentrating on implementing more humane rules for slaughtering chickens for their meat than on the treatment of egg-producing hens.

"You can’t focus on everything," he said.

Burger King going public again

The United Egg Producers, an industry trade group, says that cage-free eggs make up only 5% of the U.S. market, and have some environmental downsides, including a larger "carbon footprint" because the hens require more water, acreage and cropland than caged chickens.

It said uncaged chickens can have more health problems and a shorter lifespan than those that are caged.

It also said that cage-free eggs typically have a retail cost more than triple that of traditional eggs — $1.18 for eggs from caged hens compared to an average of $3.59 for cage-free eggs. A 2009 UEP study found that banning cages for hen-laying eggs would raise production costs by 25%, or $2.7 billion annually.

But Prescott said that a 2006 study done for UEP showed a much lower cost increase. He doubts that Burger King will have to pay significantly more for its cage-free eggs.

"If retailers are jacking the price up for people who want cage-free eggs, that’s not representative of the costs," he said. "I think what Burger King is doing is going to open the market up for cage-free producers and consumers who want that product."

Prescott said he doubts the UEP claims that caged chickens are healthier or more environmentally sound.

"It doesn’t take a scientist to look at five to eight animals crammed into a cage the size of a file cabinet drawer and say this is wrong," said Prescott.

McDonald’s: No more tiny cages for pregnant pigs

It will take Burger King five years to make the switch to entirely cage-free eggs.

He said the Humane Society focuses primarily on treatment of hens and pigs — instead of cattle, which are even more widely used by the fast-food chains — because they suffer from the most inhumane conditions.

"The larger animals are, the harder it is to put them in a cage where they can’t ever move," he said. "[Hens and pigs] are the animals that have it the worst in all of industrial agriculture." 


April 24, 2012

China leader under scrutiny shows still in control

Filed under: legal, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:20 am

A top Chinese leader connected to a major political scandal has called for Communist Party unity in a prominent essay that shows his authority holding despite the investigation.

The editorial signed by Zhou Yongkang calls for the party’s legal organs to closely follow policies set by president and party head Hu Jintao. It appeared Tuesday in the ruling party’s main newspaper, People’s Daily.

The editorial was replete with party jargon and repeatedly mentions Hu’s signature “scientific development” doctrine bad credit payday loans.

Zhou is the party’s security boss and its No. 9 ranking official. He has been closely associated with former party official Bo Xilai, who was suspended over a scandal involving his wife’s alleged participation in the murder of a British businessman.


April 22, 2012

Treasury 10-Year Yield Drops for 5th Week on Europe, Data - Bloomberg

Filed under: canada, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:04 pm

Treasury 10-year note yields fell for a fifth week, the longest stretch since June, as concern Europe

April 21, 2012

McCarthy Building Companies is building Student Services Building at SIUC

Filed under: economics, loans — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 12:20 am

Ladue-based McCarthy Building Cos. was chosen as the construction manager for a $30 million, four-story Student Services Building under construction at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The new 95,000-square-foot building is scheduled to be completed in August 2013. It will house the university’s central admissions, records, registration and financial aid departments. McCarthy also will build a new visitors parking lot to serve the building.

The architect on the project is White and Borgognoni Architects PC.


April 19, 2012

World markets rise on Spain debt news, China hopes

Filed under: news, technology — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:24 am

World stock markets rose Thursday as Spain saw good demand in a key bond auction and as investors hoped China would take more steps to prop up its slowing economy.

Spain managed to sell off more debt than it had targeted, although it had to pay a higher premium, in an auction that was a test of confidence in Madrid’s ability to get a handle on its borrowings as its economy enters a recession.

The yield on the 10-year bond auctioned was 5.7 percent, up from 5.3 percent at the last auction on April 4. Demand was more than double the amount sold.

Traders focused on the strong demand, which suggests that Spain will continue to be able to easily tap financial markets to fund itself. That is crucial for the rest of Europe, as Spain would likely be too big to bail out.

Worries about Spain have in recent weeks seen a flare-up in Europe’s debt crisis, adding to ongoing worries about global economic growth just as China’s economy, the world’s second-biggest, slows.

Markets are anticipating some monetary loosening by China, possibly this weekend, to help ensure its slowdown isn’t too abrupt, said Jackson Wong, vice president of Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.

Last week, China reported that its first-quarter economic growth was the weakest since the second quarter of 2009. The world’s No. 2 economy grew by 8.1 percent, down from the previous quarter’s 8.9 percent.

“China’s GDP is slowing down faster than a lot of people were thinking, and Premier Wen Jiabao said the government would act accordingly if the economy is deteriorating fast. So that pretty much is the hint,” Wong said.

Markets are hoping that Beijing will lower the ratio of deposits that banks must hold as reserves, a move that would boost lending, he said.

Overall, the news helped push European markets higher. Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.6 percent to 5,781.04 while Germany’s DAX added 0 business card templates.6 percent to 6,773.94 and France’s CAC-40 gained 0.8 percent to 3,266.67.

Wall Street also looked set for gains, with Dow Jones industrial futures rising 0.6 percent to 13,030 and S&P 500 futures adding 0.5 percent to 1,385.80.

Traders were more ambivalent in Asia, where Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average slipped after the country _ which for decades has blanketed the world with its exports _ posted its biggest annual trade deficit ever.

The benchmark index fell 0.8 percent to close at 9,588.38 after the Finance Ministry said the trade deficit for the year was 4.41 trillion yen ($54 billion). With all but one of Japan’s 54 nuclear power reactors offline in the aftermath of last year’s nuclear disaster, the country has been forced to rely on imported oil and gas to generate electricity.

South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.2 percent to 1,999.86. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng held onto its gains, rising 1 percent to 20,995.01 while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3 percent to 4,362.70.

Mainland Chinese shares fell. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.9 percent to 2,378.63 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.2 percent to 954.27.

Looking ahead, on traders’ radar were U.S. quarterly financial results. Reports are expected later Thursday from Bank of America Corp., Microsoft Corp., DuPont Co. and Morgan Stanley, among others.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 51 cents to $103.18 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract declined $1.53 to finish at $102.67 per barrel on Wednesday.

In currency trading, the euro was up 0.1 percent at $1.3138 while the dollar rose to 81.58 yen from 81.24 yen late Wednesday in New York.


April 17, 2012

Your taxes are due!

Filed under: Uncategorized, legal — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:16 pm

Unless you’ve filed for an extension, today is the last day to get your taxes turned in to the IRS.

Once the clock strikes midnight, those who owe will start accruing penalties — which can range as high as 25% of your total tax bill.

Quiz: What the rich really pay in taxes

Tuesday also happens to be Tax Freedom Day, the day when the average American has worked enough days in the year to be freed from their tax burdens, according to the Tax Foundation’s annual report. That means most Americans had to work 107 days just to earn enough money to pay their tax bills this year, and the average taxpayer has spent an average of 29% of their income on federal, state and local taxes in 2012.

Taxpayers were given two extra days to file their taxes this year. While there will surely be a wave of last-minute procrastinators, most taxpayers have already filed. The IRS has received 99 million tax returns so far this season, according to the agency’s latest filing statistics. That’s a 2% increase from this time last year.

8 tax apps for filers on the go

Of those taxpayers, about 86 million, or 87%, filed electronically — a 3% jump from last year. Most electronic filers, or 62%, used tax preparers, while 38% filed their taxes on their own.

As more people file, refunds have been slipping. The average refund is $2,794 so far this season — down about 3.5% from last year.

Craziest tax deductions

But depending on the credits you’re able to claim, your refund may wind up being much larger than that. The adoption tax credit, for example, gives qualifying taxpayers up to more than $13,000 per adopted child. Meanwhile, the Earned Income Tax Credit gives tens of millions of taxpayers who have low-paying jobs a credit of up to nearly $6,000 based on their income and the number of children they claim as dependents.

There are also several tax perks available for job seekers. If you lost a job or were unemployed during the year, make sure you claimed all of your job search-related expenses, including travel, resume printing and the cost of hiring a headhunter.

Beyond job hunting expenses, taxpayers have been successful at deducting some very unusual items — like carrier pigeons, fake eyelashes and a security bulldog — as business expenses. Just be careful about how far you go when deciding what to deduct. Other attempted write-offs — like a "Playboy" magazine subscription and pole dancing classes — weren’t given the green light.

If the IRS sees something unusual on your return, you could become a prime target for an audit. Red flags include claiming suspiciously high charitable contributions, taking the home office deduction and reporting high levels of income.

11 tax audit red flags

While the overall chance of being audited is very low, at 1.1%, your odds of getting hit with an audit rise dramatically the more income you report. The IRS dealt audits to 21% of taxpayers with income between $5 million and $10 million, and 30% of the nation’s highest earners — reporting income of $10 million or more.

And, if you’re flirting with the idea of not turning in your taxes at all, you may want to think twice before using what the IRS considers to be "frivolous" tax evasion arguments, like claiming that tax forms contain the "mark of the beast" or that your state isn’t technically part of the United States. The IRS does not find these amusing, and you could end up going to court and being slapped with big penalties. 


April 16, 2012

S. Africa pushing for more World Bank, IMF reform

Filed under: economics, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:20 am

South Africa’s finance minister, appearing braced for disappointment in the World Bank’s choice of a new leader, says he seeks more international financial institution reforms.

Pravin Gordhan spoke Monday, hours before the World Bank’s board is expected to vote on its president. The candidates are Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, supported by African and other developing countries, and Dartmouth University President Jim Yong Kim, the U.S. nominee.

Kim is expected to win instant personal loans guaranteed. The bank’s presidency has always gone to an American, while the International Monetary Fund’s has always gone to a European. Developing nations say the choices should be based on merit.

Gordhan says he wants greater say for the developing world in World Bank and IMF policymaking.


April 14, 2012

Diplomats: Iran nuke talks show progress

Filed under: marketing, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:04 am

Nuclear negotiators for Iran and six world powers were making encouraging progress in bridging differences that have doomed previous meetings meant to reduce fears over Tehran’s atomic program, diplomats close to the talks said.

With the meeting just breaking for lunch, the diplomats cautioned against premature optimism about the outcome. But they said the unfolding dialogue between the two sides suggested they would find enough common ground for a second round in several weeks’ time.

Iran is under four sets of U.N. sanctions for refusing to stop uranium enrichment _ which can be used both to make reactor fuel and the fissile core of nuclear warheads _ and the international community continues to demand that Tehran stop the activity.

But the last set of nuclear talks broke up without result more than 14 months ago after the Iranian team had refused to even discuss enrichment. The six, thus had come to Saturday’s meeting with more modest expectations. Diplomats said before the meeting began that even general Iranian readiness to accept the need to discuss its enrichment program would be considered enough of a success to warrant a follow-up round.

One of the diplomats, who demanded anonymity because he was sharing information from a closed session, said the Iranians appeared to be moving toward that goal, engaging in discussion about the peaceful use of nuclear energy and the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

He said the Iranian team had mentioned supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “fatwa,” or prohibition, of nuclear weapons for Iran, in the course of the plenary discussions. After lunch the meeting would go into bilateral sessions, he said _ a setup that will be closely watched to see if the Americans meet directly with the Iranians.

Such encounters are rare and would indicate a further thaw in tensions at the talks.

“I would say there was a very constructive atmosphere compared to last time … generally a positive vibe,” he said. “The principle seems to be there for future negotiations.”

Another diplomat described the just-completed session as a “useful morning’s work,” saying the Iranians appeared to be looking for a “serious process” at the talks. He too demanded anonymity because his information was privileged.

Iran insists it has no nuclear weapons ambitions, but the international community fears it could use its uranium enrichment program not only to make reactor fuel but also the fissile core of nuclear weapons.

Ahead of the meeting, European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, who is the facilitator for the six nations engaging Iran, expressed hope that it will be “the beginnings of a sustained process,” in a statement whose language reflected the meeting’s main goal _ establishing enough trust to keep the process going.

“What we are here to do is to find ways in which we can build confidence between us and ways in which we can demonstrate that Iran is moving away from a nuclear weapons program.”

For his part, chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili said the talks “will serve the dignity of the Iranian nation, as he walking into the talks Saturday at one of Istanbul main conference venues overlooking the Bosphorus.

Officially, the international community’s long-term goal remains what it was when nuclear negotiations began eight years ago _ persuading Tehran to stop all uranium enrichment and thereby relieve fears that it will use that program to create the fissile core of nuclear warheads. Tehran has long denied any weapons-related nuclear goals.

A senior diplomat involved in the talks said however, that influential Western nations now are increasingly agreed that Iran should be allowed to keep some enrichment activity “under the right circumstances” _ sometime in the future, if all fears about possible Iranian plans to make nuclear weapons are put to rest. He demanded anonymity because his information was confidential.

The West’s strongest bargaining chip is linked to its sanctions on Iran, penalties that have been tightened in recent months as the U.S. and EU have taken aim at Iran’s main cash cow: oil. At the talks, it may specifically probe whether Tehran is ready to halting uranium enrichment at a level higher than it needs to make reactor fuel because higher-level material can be turned more quickly into warhead material.

Iranian officials have suggested scaling back on uranium enrichment while continuing to make nuclear fuel and ahead of the talks, Jalili, the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator, vowed to present new initiatives, without specifying what they might be.

“There have been signals that suggest to us they are more serious than the last time,” said Ashton spokesman Michael noting that Jalili’s letter to Ashton setting up the talks indicated Iran now was ready to talk about its enrichment program.

Preliminary encounters between the two sides reflected the relatively positive atmosphere unfolding at the talks, in an Istanbul conference center overlooking the Bosphorus.

Ashton and Jalili met for more than three hours over dinner Friday evening, in what participants who demanded anonymity because they were relaying confidential information said was a relaxed atmosphere.

They said discussions did not focus on nuclear issues. A member of the Iranian delegation told The Associated Press that when Jalili was reminded that the dinner had been planned for a shorter period, he replied, “we need to continue.”


April 12, 2012

Unemployment Claims in U.S. Rises to Two-Month High - Bloomberg

Filed under: money, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:44 pm

More Americans than forecast filed applications for jobless benefits last week, reinforcing concern among Federal Reserve policy makers that the labor-market recovery will be slow to develop.

Unemployment claims increased 13,000 in the week ended April 7 to 380,000, the highest since Jan. 28, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey called for 355,000 claims. Other reports showed consumer confidence held near a four-year high and the trade gap narrowed more than projected.

The claims data, coming on the heels of last week

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