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November 27, 2012

Cyber Monday starts early this year

Filed under: Uncategorized, term — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 am

Post-Thanksgiving online discounts were once relegated to Cyber Monday — but these days, websites are launching deals even before Black Friday. And the resulting shopping frenzy is expected to set records.

IBM Benchmark reported total online sales for Black Friday were up nearly 21% from last year. On Thanksgiving, sales rose more than 17% compared to 2011. Black Friday was the stronger of the two days, eclipsing Thanksgiving by 4:10 p.m. ET.

And a long list of retailers — including , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500), , Fortune 500) and ) — unveiled “pre-Black Friday deals” even before Thanksgiving. , Fortune 500) posted its one-day online shopping discounts on Black Friday, as did beauty brand MAC Cosmetics.

“We’ve absolutely seen this whole weekend turn into one big promotional event,” said Jay Henderson, strategy director for IBM Smarter Commerce. “Black Friday deals are no longer just for the [brick-and-mortar] store, and Cyber Monday deals are no longer just for Monday.”

Cyber Monday’s original appeal, as the first weekday after Thanksgiving, was access to quick Internet speeds while at work. But now broadband at home is ubiquitous, and consumers can also shop on a slew of mobile devices.

And so retailers’ online deals stretch well ahead of Cyber Monday — in some cases, nearly a full week before.

“Retailers are trying to draw consumers in earlier, and one way to do that is to stagger the deals: Pre-Thanksgiving, some on Thanksgiving Day, another set over the weekend, and finally the big bang to close it out on Cyber Monday,” Henderson said.

Mobile devices have become increasingly important during that week before Cyber Monday creditreport. The number of consumers using their mobile device to make a purchase on Black Friday this year increased by nearly two-thirds from 2011, IBM data show.

Apple’s iPad made up nearly 10% of online shopping traffic on Black Friday this year, according to IBM, while the iPhone brought in almost 9% and Android devices comprised 5.5%.

And IBM said shoppers are taking advantage of the technology to find better deals. Despite spending more overall, the average online order fell 4.7% to $181.22, and the number of items in each order decreased 12% to 5.6.

Retailers are taking note. Companies like , Fortune 500) and , Fortune 500) developed special Black Friday mobile apps featuring exclusive deals and store maps.

Still, despite the expanded schedule, Cyber Monday itself remains an important part of the holiday shopping season.

Andrew Lipsman, an industry analyst at data tracking firm ComScore, said he expects sales for the one-day Cyber Monday shopping event to be around $1.5 billion this year. That’s up from his calculations of $1.3 billion in 2011.

It will be a few weeks before full details on Thanksgiving week’s sales are made clear, but last year both Black Friday and Cyber Monday broke records. Total spending over the four-day weekend after Thanksgiving 2011 reached a record $52.4 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.

Black Friday 2012 was shaping up to be robust, with shoppers turning out even on Thanksgiving Day at stores including Toys R Us and , Fortune 500).


October 9, 2012

California gas prices hit record

Filed under: Uncategorized, canada — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 5:56 pm

Gas prices across California have soared to record highs, shooting up 50 cents a gallon in just the last week.

But even as prices are expected to rise slightly before falling, the spike is not likely to spread to other parts of the United States, experts say.

The average price of a gallon of regular gas in California edged up another 0.3 cent Tuesday, according to AAA’s latest reading, setting a record at $4.671.

It stood at around $4.17 on Oct. 1 but has risen every day since then. The biggest increase was a 17-cent spike Friday, followed Saturday by a 13-cent increase.

On Sunday, California environmental regulators, acting on a request from Gov. Jerry Brown, agreed to allow refineries to start making a cheaper, winter blend of gasoline as soon as possible — a move that could solve shortages of the more expensive summer blend that sparked the price spike.

Normally, refineries wouldn’t start making the winter blend until the end of October.

Most of the country makes the transition from the cleaner summer blends of gasoline to the cheaper winter blends on Sept. 15. California, with warmer average temperatures and the nation’s strictest air pollution rules, makes the transition six weeks later.

The cleaner gasoline is used in the summer to mitigate against the smog that accompanies warmer temperatures.

The switchover can often cause shortages of the summer blend and a temporary rise in prices. Refineries and stations don’t want to have an inventory of the more expensive gas when it is time to start selling the cheaper gas.

Refining capacity is also an issue. Tom Kloza, chief analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, which compiles prices for AAA, said a major refinery in Richmond, Calif., owned by , Fortune 500), still hasn’t returned to operation since an August fire.

More recently, California refineries owned by , Fortune 500) and , Fortune 500) were also off line for maintenance, although the Exxon refinery came back Friday, while Gov. Brown said the Tesoro refinery is due back in operation this week.

But Kloza said supplies are so tight that those latest disruptions caused wholesale gas prices to spike by $1.12 a gallon to $4.15 a gallon between Sept. 25 and Oct. 4.

He said the wholesale prices have already started to fall, dropping 47 cents on Friday and 10 cents Monday.

“I don’t want to say the coast is clear but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Kloza said. California retail prices are likely to top out at about $4.75 a gallon and then start to decline, he said.

The spike in California comes while gas and oil prices have remained relatively stable in the rest of the country. The national average for a gallon of regular gas has kept to a narrow range of between $3.78 and $3.82 during the last week. It edged 0.3 cent lower Tuesday, remaining around $3.82 a gallon.


September 28, 2012

Fiscal cliff: Payroll tax cut may not survive

Filed under: Uncategorized, loans — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 9:56 am

For all the uncertainty over how lawmakers will handle the expiring tax cuts under the fiscal cliff, there seems to be growing clarity surrounding at least one measure: the temporary 2% payroll tax cut.

Bottom line: It’s likely toast.

“Nobody is a champion for it,” said Sean West, the U.S. policy director for the Eurasia Group.

That isn’t necessarily surprising, since the payroll tax cut — worth 2% of one’s wages up to $110,100 — was intended to be a temporary way to boost the economy. It was put in place for one year in 2011 but was then extended for this year.

During that time, the measure has saved most of the country’s 160 million workers anywhere from $700 to $1,800 a year.

The payroll tax funds Social Security. The tax cut costs roughly $120 billion a year, but rather than let Social Security funding suffer, the Treasury Department has made the program whole with money from general funds. Translation: It’s adding to the country’s deficit.

At the same time, letting it expire will take money out of workers’ paychecks while the economic recovery is still tempered.

The Congressional Budget Office has noted that the payroll tax cut’s expiration, in combination with the end of extended unemployment benefits, would represent “significant sources of fiscal tightening” next year. (Related: CBO warns of fiscal cliff recession)

And a majority of economists recently surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics indicated they do favor another year-long extension Online payday loans.

But on Capitol Hill, no one from either party has really pushed for another year of the tax cut.

And the White House has been noncommittal. “We’ll evaluate the question of whether we need to extend it at the end of the year when we’re looking at a whole range of issues,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in early September.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did allow last week that she won’t advocate for an extension and said it’s time to think about reforming the tax code.

But, she added, “I could be convinced if [a payroll tax cut extension] was part of something that advanced our economy down the road.”

As big a tax break as the payroll tax cut may represent to individuals, it pales in political magnitude to the pending expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which promise once again to suck up most of the oxygen when Congress returns to work in mid-November.

“Perhaps there’s a small chance [President] Obama would take a payroll extension as a sweetener in a deal where he gets re-elected with a weak mandate and can’t get other things he wants,” Eurasia Group’s West said. “But that’s a lot of ifs.”


August 1, 2012

Manchester United IPO ranks team world’s most valuable

Filed under: Uncategorized, loans — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 10:28 am

The British soccer team Manchester United has filed for an initial public offering that would cement the team’s standing as the world’s most valuable sports franchise.

The IPO would trade at $16 to $20 a share and value the team at $2.6 billion to $3.3 billion. Overall, the IPO would value the team well above the $1.47 billion paid by its owners in a debt-financed takeover battle that concluded in 2005.

Shares are expected to start trading next week on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MANU.

Despite the team’s popularity and success, the company was not very profitable last year. The stock would trade at a valuation even pricier than the IPO of Facebook ().

One expert, Francis Gaskins, president, called the IPO price tag "awfully high" considering that the company’s revenue is growing only 6% annually in recent years. He said the valuation is one commonly associated with a fast-growing tech company.

"I wouldn’t buy it," he said.

The values of sports franchises are often inflated by owners willing to overpay for the glory of controlling a team.

The Los Angeles Dodgers, which Forbes estimated was worth $1.4 billion, was recently bought out of bankruptcy for $2.15 billion. ManU is already the world’s most valuable sports team, estimated to be worth $1.9 billion, just ahead of a $1.85 billion estimates for both the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys high quality business cards.

And the few teams that have been publicly traded in the past have not been great investments. The stocks of the Boston Celtics, the Cleveland Indians and the Florida Panthers all performed badly during their brief runs in public markets.

ManU is already taking steps to increase revenue and profits. On Monday it signed a seven-year deal with General Motors (, Fortune 500) to have its players wear the Chevrolet logo on their uniforms for a reported £27 million a year, starting in 2014, up from the £20 million annually that insurer Aon (, Fortune 500) is paying for the current deal.’s soccer coverage

The team intends to use much of the proceeds it expects to raise in the IPO to reduce its debt, which are one of the biggest drags on a company’s earnings.

But only about half the shares are being sold by the club; the other half are being sold by the Glazer family, the American owners of the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers who bought ManU in a debt-financed takeover battle 2005.

ManU’s American owners are very unpopular with many of the team’s fans. That has made the IPO, especially the decision to trade in New York rather than London, extremely unpopular with fans as well. 


July 20, 2012

U.K. Budget Deficit Widens, Casting Doubt on Fiscal Targets - Bloomberg

Filed under: Uncategorized, canada — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 6:28 pm

Britain had a bigger budget deficit than economists forecast in June, casting fresh doubt on whether Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne can meet his full- year fiscal goals.

The shortfall, which excludes government support for banks, was 14.4 billion pounds ($23 billion) compared with 13.9 billion pounds a year earlier, the Office for National Statistics said in London today. The median forecast of 20 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey was for a deficit of 13.4 billion pounds. Revenue rose 3.6 percent and spending declined 0.8 percent.

With the economy struggling to climb out of a double-dip recession, concerns are mounting that Osborne will miss his target of cutting the deficit to 120 billion pounds in the current fiscal year.

June 22, 2012

U.K. Retail Sales Rise More Than Forecast After April Slump - Bloomberg

Filed under: Uncategorized, online ads — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 1:44 am

U.K. retail sales rose more than economists forecast in May, recovering some of the ground lost the previous month when poor weather damped demand.

Sales including auto fuel gained 1.4 percent from April, the Office for National Statistics said today in London. The median forecast of 20 economists in a Bloomberg News survey was for a 1.2 percent increase. Retail sales fell a revised 2.4 percent in April, curbed by the wettest April on record. Excluding fuel, sales increased 0.9 percent in May.

While easing inflation is easing the squeeze on Britons

June 18, 2012

Australia Has Scope to Respond to Europe Turmoil, Parkinson Says - Bloomberg

Filed under: Uncategorized, money — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 11:20 pm

Australia has scope to respond to an economic shock emanating from Europe, where

June 8, 2012

Canada Jobs and Housing Data Signal Economic Weakness - Bloomberg

Filed under: Uncategorized, mortgage — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 4:04 pm

Weaker Canadian job creation and slower housing starts, along with falling exports, add to evidence growth in the world

May 31, 2012

Find value in funds: Invest for the long run

Filed under: Uncategorized, marketing — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 3:20 pm

Over the past 10 years, the Yacktman fund has delivered 11% annualized gains, putting it in the top 1% of its peers (and attracting a flood of money).

But the strategy of buying quality businesses with big cash cushions and beaten-down stock prices has led to lean stretches too.

Yacktman () languished from 2004 to 2006 and ranks in the bottom 5% of similar funds over the past six months.

Co-manager and fund president Donald Yacktman is unfazed. "Our approach won’t work every quarter or every year," he says, "but over 10 years it will."

Stocks for the long run

Patient with his picks, Yacktman doesn’t sell holdings often.

Once Yacktman and his co-managers — his son Stephen and Jason Subotky — add a stock to the portfolio, it settles in for a long stay, even during rough patches.

The second-largest holding, News Corp. (, Fortune 500) (8% of assets) has been in the fund since 2008. When Britain’s phone hacking scandal sent shares down last summer, Yacktman picked up more.

Money 70: Best mutual funds

Morningstar analyst Kevin McDevitt cautions investors who have recently piled in — assets top $7.6 billion today, up from less than $300 million in 2008 — to channel Yacktmanesque patience during dry spells. But, he adds, "long term, there is no question this is a great fund." And because the fund favors shares of big companies, the managers are well positioned to handle the growth.

Courage of convictions

Yacktman managers mostly traffic in fortress-like multinationals with rock-solid balance sheets, plenty of free cash flow (what’s left after covering operating costs), and compelling valuations based on risk/reward projections for the next 10 years. Typically that leads them to established firms with impressive market share, such as PepsiCo (, Fortune 500) and Procter & Gamble (, Fortune 500).

Yacktman tends to take bigger stakes than average payday lenders. More than one-third of the portfolio is in consumer staples, nearly triple the weight of that defensive sector in the S&P 500. That big bet paid off in the third quarter last year. Yacktman Fund fell 9%, compared with a 16% drop for the average large-cap value fund.

Yacktman also owns fewer stocks than average — meaning a big bet on the favorites. More than half of the fund’s total assets are in its top 10 holdings. The average large-cap value fund has 31.5% of its total assets in its top 10 holdings, according to Morningstar.

Value surprises

When the team can’t find quality at an alluring price, it doesn’t buy. In early 2008 more than a third of the fund was in cash, allowing Yacktman to load up on blue chips that had been washed out with the tide.

Protectors of individual investors

Today the fund’s cash stake is 13%, pretty bullish for Yacktman, who says he’s not hurting for places to put his money: "It’s unique to have such high-quality firms selling at such compelling relative values."

Yacktman took heat in the 1990s for not buying tech, but now he has a combined 9% riding on Cisco Systems (, Fortune 500) and Microsoft (, Fortune 500). Tech shares make up 16% of the portfolio — because the price is right.

Just as Warren Buffett warmed up to IBM (, Fortune 500) last year, Yacktman found these "old techs" had morphed into his sort of investment: big market share, gobs of free cash, and low prices.

Sources: Morningstar, Standard & Poor’s

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May 28, 2012

CP Rail strike: We need to get the trains running, Labour Minister Lisa Raitt says

Filed under: Uncategorized, management — Tags: , , , — Snowman @ 7:24 pm


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