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All eyes on oil: What will OPEC do this week?

In Uncategorized on November 23, 2014 at 3:09 pm
energy stocks lookahead
Low gas prices have beaten up energy stocks but the sector is a key one to watch.


While Americans are chomping down on turkey and pie this week, everyone involved in the energy world will be closely watching the Thanksgiving Day meeting of the OPEC in Vienna, Austria.

Oil prices have tumbled dramatically in recent weeks. Oil now trades below $80 a barrel and most Americans can buy gas for their cars for under $3 a gallon.

The question is how OPEC will respond. So far, energy producing nations and companies haven’t scaled back product even though it’s pretty clear there’s an over supply of oil on the world market.

Experts who follow OPEC and the oil market closely are evenly split over in their bets on whether OPEC will vote to cut product. It will almost certainly come down to Saudi Arabia, which has refused to scale back production because it wants to squeeze its regional nemesis Iran, which is reeling from sanctions over its nuclear program.

Related: These countries are getting killed by cheap oil

All of this geopolitics makes it a strange time to be an energy investor. Many oil and gas company stocks have been pummeled as prices drop. But as any good investor knows, when others flee, it can be an ideal time to pick up a bargain buy.

Gas stations: Perhaps the best way to invest in energy despite weak oil prices is to buy shares of gas station retailers. Tom Kloza, an analyst with the Oil Price Information Service, asserted that when drivers see bargain gas prices posted, they usually figure the gas station business is suffering.

But in fact, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, since gas retailers are usually buying fuel at even cheaper wholesale prices, he pointed out.

Even more, when gas prices are low, people drive more.

Related: BMW i3 named 2015 Green Car of the Year

Investors have taken notice. Gas station companies CST Brands (CST) has soared 20% in the last month and Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC)is up 14%.

“I’d imagine fourth quarter results for gasoline retailers are going to be the most spectacular they’ve been in a long time,” said Kloza.

Oil prices to rise soon?: While the OPEC cartel has certainly lost significant clout in recent years thanks to internal squabbling and ramped up energy production in the United States, it could still drive up oil prices if it agrees to cut production.

“They’ve got their work cut out (for) them,” said Kloza of OPEC. “There’s a question of whether they can come up with something that at least stops the hemorrhaging at the moment.”

The world market has also been surprised by the resilience of the energy boom in North America, which has continued to grow even as prices have dropped, explained Lars Eirik Nicolaisen of Rystad Energy.

Oil prices 'scary' for Saudi Arabia 

Hedge funds love energy: If you follow the “smart money,” energy isn’t a bad place to invest. The top 10 largest stock-focused hedge funds plowed $4.4 billion into energy stocks last quarter, according to SP Capital IQ.

While it’s hard to say what their exact thinking was behind the move, they’re likely looking at energy as a good long-term opportunity, since most of these firms tend to hold onto stocks for a solid chunk of time, noted Pavle Sabic, the SP Capital IQ analyst who correlated the hedge fund data.

Prices may remain depressed for another year or two, but that’s unlikely to last forever.

MA Boom: Then there’s the mega $35 billion merger last week of oil services giants Halliburton (HAL) and Baker Hughes (BHI). The acquisition agreement, though still subject to government approval, set off a wave of speculation that more deals could be in the pipeline as the industry is forced to consolidate amidst persistently low energy prices.

Related: Botox maker bought for $66 billion in biggest deal of 2014

But investors need to be on the right side of those deals. Baker Hughes has soared 25% this month, while Halliburton is off by 8%.

Consumer stocks: Another way to possibly profit off energy right now is to buy retail stocks. The holidays are right around the corner, and low gas prices are seen as an extra stimulus for consumers and the economy.

Walmart (WMT)specifically said this much in its earnings report this month.

The holiday hopes are already pretty high on Wall Street. After dragging its feet for most of the year, the SPDR SP Retail ETF (XRT) has jumped 8% in the past month.

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/q2wjcF2-JBc/index.html

Why I quit JPMorgan to start a jetpack business

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Adventures in jetpacking  

In 2011, Dean O’Malley walked away from a high-paying job with no plans for the future, other than to escape the world of finance.

His IT job at JPMorgan Chase (JPM) had survived the financial crisis, but he had no desire to stick around for the next one. O’Malley had grown tired of the crazy hours, increasing regulation and negative stigma.

“Banking was one of those industries where we were seen as the root of all evil. I felt like I wasn’t really doing any positive work,” the Southern California native told CNNMoney.

Just two weeks after leaving his Vice President of Technology post, O’Malley ran into a friend who opened up a very different career path.

Her family was launching a business based on jetpacking, an emerging extreme water sport that lets riders fly above the water James Bond-style.

Jetpack Dean O'Malley

Even though he thought jetpacks looked crazy at first, O’Malley eventually agreed to run day-to-day operations and invest in the new business, which launched in Newport Beach, California.

Three years later, O’Malley is loving life as president of Jetpack America, a business he’s led to $1 million in annual gross revenue. He’s making just a fraction of what he took home at JPMorgan, but O’Malley said he’s in it for the long haul.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t thank myself for walking away from the old job,” said O’Malley, who is 38 years old. “My satisfaction is infinitely higher and I have a passion for what I do.”

Jetpack America eventually expanded to San Diego and more recently Las Vegas. Now it’s looking to open seasonal spots in San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver.

Jetpack extreme sports Dean

Up-and-coming water sport: O’Malley describes jetpacks as the “perfect mix between jet skiing, parasailing and even scuba diving.” Riders are propelled by water that is sucked up by a jet ski or a pod and then shot to the jetpack through a hose.

Not only can jetpack riders zoom 30 feet into the sky, but they can dive underwater and then shoot back to the surface.

This extreme experience made the new job lots of fun for O’Malley. Still, he faced a number of obstacles in the beginning.

After 14 years in the regulation-heavy banking industry, the jetpack business felt like the Wild West. He was in the unnatural position of having to invent many of the processes and structures.

O’Malley and his staff also needed to figure out how to make riders feel comfortable doing something foreign and potentially dangerous. They created an extensive training video to show guests and opted to give riders helmets with earpieces that allow them to hear their instructors.

Water jetpack put to test 

Related: Jetpacks are real. And they’re awesome.

And then there’s the sticker shock of trying to build a business around jetpacks that at one point cost $100,000 each.

Recently prices have plunged, but O’Malley said the business is still “not killing it by any means.”

He was able to deal with all of these challenges in part due to the business skills he honed over a decade in finance.

“I bring the banking world here,” O’Malley said.

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/nTSLeN-yIF4/index.html

The power broker of Silicon Valley

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 2:22 am
ozy powerbroker
Jana Rich—one of Silicon Valley’s top recruiters—has more connections than a switchboard.


When I ask Jana Rich to work her magic on me, I have the warm yet affirming sensation of being in a nurturing therapist’s office.

She leans forward across the light-wood conference table, clasps her hands together, and asks me: Why did you move across the country for that job? What is it you really wanted to do? And what about that other dream? Occasionally she interrupts, as though testing my storytelling abilities as much as my professional narrative, to clarify, to draw me out.

It makes sense that Rich, in another universe, imagined herself getting a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. Where she has ended up is cushier: She is one of Silicon Valley’s top recruiters, with a hot roster of clients. “Who’s your favorite person to name-drop?” I ask her. “Sheryl Sandberg,” she says with an almost girlish giggle. (Sandberg’s a friend, not a former client, but, y’know … six degrees.) On Rich’s client list, past and present? Jack Dorsey and Dick Costolo of Twitter, Larry Page and Sergey Brin of Google, Dropbox, Uber, Square, Eventbrite.

Related: Study abroad, get married

Still, because those big companies are reluctant to dig too deep into the startup world, says Andreessen Horowitz partner Matt Oberhardt, it’s a pretty open market for someone like Rich. And there are possibly huge payoffs: During the first tech boom, executive search firm Heidrick Struggles bought into Google as part of its agreement to place the company’s new executive chairman (Eric Schmidt). After the company’s initial public offering in 2004, a spokesman said, Heidrick sold its Google shares, netting the company $128 million. No surprise, then, that Rich Talent Group wants equity as part of its fee “whenever possible,” Rich writes over email — which makes her especially hungry for early-stage clients.

Rich is high-flying amid these amazingly fast-growing companies and exorbitant evaluations; she is the insider’s insider, and yet she is obsessed with giving self-defined misfits a way in.

Related: Company culture from IBM to Google

Right smack in the middle of this frenzy is the friendly yet seemingly unremarkable Jana Rich, a 47-year-old headhunter with an uncanny skill for connecting. Her work is “touchy-feely,” as she puts it — she doesn’t hunt down coding whizzes but rather charismatic and public-facing leaders in the C-suite: chiefs of executive, marketing, public relations, people operations. In person, she is professional (duh) and warm, with auburn coiffed hair; but she keeps a long jacket on the whole time we speak, and a young member of her team hangs nearby at all times, as though waiting to jump in if I ask the wrong thing. Rich’s touchy-feely work is an $11 billion industry worldwide, according to the Association of Executive Search Consultants. And Peter Felix, president of the organization, explains that an industry like this one, which is dependent on wealthy clients doing well, has benefited from the tech boom.

Every day, Rich, the sole partner of Rich Talent Group, based in San Francisco, uses those psychoanalyst-style questions not just on ambitious individuals hankering for a new corner office but on the growing companies themselves. “Sometimes founders don’t know what they really want, or they think they know but it isn’t really what they need,” she tells me. A case study is when top dogs at Twitter, including Costolo and Dorsey, she says (and Twitter confirms), came to her undecided about what they wanted in a marketing hire — a product marketer? A PR whiz? It was up to her to get it, to figure out not only what the three of them wanted and what a potential hire wanted but also what the company itself, breathing entity that it is, needed. Warby Parker’s Blumenthal adds that while she searches, Rich is a kind of behind-the-scenes executive coach, which, for young founders like Blumenthal, is a nice security blanket.

Related: Is being fat good for you?

And though being a startup adds a nice sheen of cool to the operation, it isn’t scrappy. Rich is already profitable and is certainly well-paid for the touchy-feely. Recruiting experts say Rich’s fees could be cheaper than the hundreds of thousands most search firms charge per placement; her group is small and should have low overhead. Generally, recruiters are paid a retainer and may also take a third or more of the future hire’s first year salary (a strategy some, like Blumenthal, say is awkward, because headhunters are also involved in salary negotiations). Rich says she follows the retainer model and won’t tell me how much she’s taken in or talk specifics — but says the group is already profitable.

The risk could explode in her face. Executive search is one of many peripheral industries in the Valley; if the tech boom continues, Rich and others will keep raking it in. If it doesn’t, it could blow up; lower-level human resources professionals struggled after the first bust and the financial crisis. “Many search firms consider high-tech very risky and don’t put all their eggs in one basket,” Felix said. That said, there are some competitors, like Daversa Partners (which made some high level placements at companies like Uber); then there are companies with storied corporate histories like Russell Reynolds, Rich’s old stomping ground, or Spencer Stuart.

Related: A soothsayer for the digital age

Entrepreneurs are snobbish about working only with other entrepreneurs.Luckily, San Francisco is mecca for former weirdos, geeks and nerds turned powerful. The latest outsider-turned-insider is Jonathan Mildenhall, the new chief marketing officer of Airbnb, whom Rich calls the placement she is most excited to have made — “if it works out” (he started in May). Mildenhall, externally, like Rich, is no outsider. He came to Airbnb from Coca-Cola, a marketing machine if ever there were one. But on closer inspection, he too seems like an unconventional fit. He jumped from the corporate world to the startup one, from Atlanta to San Francisco. He’s a gay black man in an interracial partnership who knew he wanted to head to the left coast; and Rich more than understands that itch. (Airbnb’s press team declined multiple requests for comment.)

Rich’s own itch to strike out alone might be more aptly described as persistent pebble-in-shoe syndrome, borne out of her sense of her own pariah status. “Everyone wants to find their unicorn — and she’s sort of the ideal unicorn hunter,” says Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of the eyeglass startup Warby Parker, who’s retaining Rich to hire a VP of human resources. He adds: “And the other thing is, she just knows every single person.”

Related: Ron Conway and his blown billions

“Sometimes founders don’t know what they really want …”

That’s kind of important these days, in the land of money and opportunity. Perhaps no stretch of town is as red hot — economically speaking — as Silicon Valley, from San Francisco to Oakland to San Jose. Remember that crazy startup activity that launched the greatest tech boom (and don’t forget bust) in history? According to job growth figures from Santa Clara and San Francisco counties, the Valley is right back where it was back then, and even surpassing the first time around. Plus, there’s some $17 billion in venture capital funding out here — compared with $3.9 billion in New York, according to data from the National Venture Capital Association.

At Russell Reynolds, being an outsider meant loving startups more than big corporations. At Stanford Business School, it meant being part of the group that called themselves “the poets”; they cried after math exams together in the middle of campus. And before all that, it was being gay in the “backwoods” Maine town of Norway where she grew up. Adopted by a 45-year-old bank teller mother and a machinist father who passed away when Rich was 6, she said she “always knew I was different.”

Today, Rich is married — has been for five years; they’ve been partners for 18 — to Jill Nash, a communications exec whom Rich met on one of her first search jobs ever, as a junior recruiter working on a placement for Charles Schwab. “At first, when I met her, I thought: country club, conservative Republican,” she laughs. An ironic lapse in judgment for someone whose job it is to judge personality.

Related: Small towns, young politicians

She looks at home in casual attire at her office, located in a white cabinlike building inside San Francisco’s impossibly beautiful Presidio Park; a deck looks out toward the Golden Gate Bridge and a pen of horses — yes, horses. (Rich tells me: “It’s so nice, if you’re having a bad day or something, you just go talk to the horses a little!”) The office is entirely well-coiffed women (all white, on the day I’m there) puttering away in front of Mac screens and big windows. It looks like a chic, wealthy summer camp.

Rich’s real advantage, though, isn’t her years of experience or her Rolodex or her fashionable “outsider” label. It’s that entrepreneurs are snobbish about working only with other entrepreneurs. They want fewer lawyers in the way, quicker movements, all the stuff of the “move-fast-and-break-things” economy. Which means she had almost no choice in the matter: To work with startups, you’ve gotta be a startup.

This article originally appeared in Ozy. CNNMoney and Ozy are partnering to tell stories from the “Real Economy.

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/ogxB51dLSPA/index.html

Iran nuclear deal could spur rapid growth

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 2:21 am

Is Iran an opportunity for investors? 

Companies and global investors are sizing up Iran’s economic potential in anticipation of a deal that could end years of isolation.

Iran and world powers are meeting in Vienna this week in an attempt to reach agreement on reconfiguring its nuclear program before a November 24 deadline.

It’s far from certain that a deal will be done, but businesses are eager to move quickly to tap the potential of Iran’s energy resources and highly-educated population of 80 million.

Related: These countries are getting killed by cheap oil

When he was at Goldman Sachs, emerging market strategist and author Jim O’Neill had Iran on his list of “Next 11″ countries — those offering the best opportunities for sustainable growth.

Oil and gas reserves

Iran’s energy sector has been starved of technological know how. A return to the fold could change all that, and the potential is enormous. “The Iranian gas production can explode,” said Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman of FACTS Global Energy. “It can supply huge amounts of gas and that gas has not been developed.”

Iran sits on 33 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, or 18% of global reserves, according to the 2014 BP (BP) World Energy Report. With its giant South Pars field, Iran ranks number one in the world ahead of Russia and Qatar.

Western firms prepare for Iran to open up 

There’s plenty of oil too. Iran has the second largest proven reserves in the Middle East, behind only Saudi Arabia. At 157 billion barrels, those reserves account for more than 9% of the global total.

Playing catch up

Sanctions have done major damage. Iran’s gross domestic product has shrunk by a quarter over the past three years. But at $1.2 trillion, it’s still the world’s 18th largest economy.

Investment strategists say allowing Iran’s banks to trade in dollars again would give the economy a huge shot in the arm.

“The growth potential is enormous because you have had an economy which, to a great extent for the past 35 years, has been cut off from the world,” said Eddie Kerman, board member at Turquoise Partners, an investment firm based in Tehran.

“That’s been particularly the case for the past seven years [in banking],” he said.

A hot stock market

Iran’s mature stock market is often overlooked. It is the second biggest in the region by market capitalization (behind Saudi Arabia), and gained 130% last year on hope that sanctions would be lifted following a change of government.

Foreign investors looking to jump on the bandwagon will find established companies, particularly in manufacturing.

Unlike economies such as Myanmar and Zimbabwe, which have seen their industrial sectors crumble due to a lack investment, Iran sustains a large manufacturing base.

Iran is the 15th largest steel producer in the world, and its auto industry accounts for 10% of GDP, making twice as many cars each year as Turkey.

Related: Will Congress kill an Iran nuclear deal?

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/5NFLYXZv2OE/index.html

You’re organizing your closet all wrong

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 2:21 am
organize closet
Time to get it together


If your closet is bursting at the seams and putting together an outfit is a daily treasure hunt, it’s time to get your wardrobe organized.

“If you can’t get dressed in a smooth and easy manner in the morning, that can throw your entire day off,” said professional organizer Stacey Agin Murray.

The first step to establishing an efficient closet is taking stock and clearing out unworn inventory. Here’s the reality: Most of us only wear 20% of our closet.

Don’t dump your entire closet on your bed. “Do it section by section to avoid getting overwhelmed,” Murray advised. Create three piles: keep, donate and try on. Once you have everything sorted, go through the try on pile to see what stays.

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Once you’ve whittled down your wardrobe to items you actually wear, it’s time to get them organized. Here’s your cheat sheet:

Organize by silhouette, not color. “No one wakes up saying, ‘I am having a purple day,’” said Amy Salinger, a personal stylist. “It’s more about who you will be seeing that day, how you’re feeling and the weather.”

She recommended organizing a wardrobe based on silhouette and then by style. So all the pants go together and then that section is broken down by type: skinny, wide leg, trouser, etc.

Hanger choice matters. Each organization pro fancied a different hanger, and your choice depends on your tastes and space limitations.

Beth Levin, professional organizer, favors velvet Huggable Hangers because they save space, while Murray prefers Crystal plastic hangers for their durability.

“You don’t want to ruin a $50 blouse because they have permanent dents in the shoulders from cheap hangers,” said Murray.

Experts agreed on two rules: make sure they match, and never (ever) use wire hangers. “Take off dry cleaning bags immediately,” Salinger said.

Allocate real estate properly. Keep frequently-worn clothing toward the middle of the closet.

“The clothing you wear during the week should be right in front and easy to reach,” said Murray. “Weekend attire, cocktail dresses and jackets could be off to the sides.”

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Leave some breathing room. There should be some space between hangers to make it easier to find garments and keep them wrinkle free.

Don’t store shoes in their boxes. Shoes should either be kept on a storage rack or in clear plastic boxes with a picture of the shoe on the front.

“The key is to make everything as visual as possible,” said Salinger. “When your items are out in the open you are more likely to use them and you get more wear out of your wardrobe.”

Hang your pants by the waist. If space permits, hang pants vertical.

Folding them over a hanger can leave a line, said Murray. “I’ve seen corduroy pants get destroyed by a permanent creases being created by getting hung over a hanger.”

If you have to fold pants over a hanger, use a sturdy hanger and fold them on the pleat. “Never hang pants with a texture over a hanger”

Put the right items in drawers. Sweaters (particularly heavy ones), t-shirts, tank tops and jeans should be stored in drawers on folding on shelves.

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closet organization folded clothes
See all your shirts at once with this drawer organization

Ditch the stack. After folding your t-shirts, don’t stack them on top of each other and place them in a drawer.

Levin advised folding the shirt normally, then folding it in half again and lining them up in the drawer one behind the other so you can see each shirt.

Don’t ignore socks and underwear. To avoid wearing navy socks with black pants, Murray suggested buying or making dividers to separate socks by color.

Underwear drawers should be arranged by style, she added. “Being able to find the right type of underwear in three seconds means you look good and save time.”

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/9b3EA81skf4/index.html

Opinion: Four other ways Uber is ethically challenged

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 2:21 am
uber ethics
Uber is under fire for an executive’s controversial remarks.


Bruce Weinstein is the public speaker known as The Ethics Guy. His forthcoming book is, “The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities of High-Character Employees,” and he maintains the website, TheEthicsGuy.com.

Last Friday, Uber Vice President Emir Michael reportedly suggested a way of stifling the company’s critics that would violate the most basic standards of business ethics. For those who missed the story, Buzzfeed reported that Michael had suggested “hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media.”

The report understandably sparked outrage. But even before that, this wildly popular car-sharing service had raised several disturbing ethical issues:

1. Multitasking Drivers. Uber’s main selling point — that nearby drivers are notified immediately of your desire to get a ride — is also its chief drawback, at least from a safety perspective. After all, how does a driver learn about your need in the first place? By checking a mobile device in the car. But doing so dramatically increases the rate of having an accident.

According to research by the American Automobile Association’s Foundation for Traffic Safety and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, taking your eyes off the road is potentially deadly for drivers and others nearby. Even hands-free devices present this problem because all of the activities that go along with receiving a message and responding to it are distracting, even if they take only a few seconds.

Related: Taxi rival bills itself as ‘non a-hole’ Uber

Uber has not addressed this issue, as far as I can determine, but perhaps that’s not surprising. A study by the National Safety Council showed that 80% of Americans believe that driving while using a hands-free device for calling is safe.

Still, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Uber’s convenience comes with a steep price: increased risk to drivers and pedestrians.

Does Silicon Valley have a sexism problem? 

2. Passenger Safety. Several Uber drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting passengers, according to a recent report by Farhad Manjoo in The New York Times, among other sources. When was the last time you heard of a registered cab driver doing that? Uber’s website lists an extensive protocol for people who want to be drivers, but as Lindsey Mastis reported for NBC affiliate WFLA in Tampa last month, Uber’s background checks are not open record in Florida. The company did not respond to repeated requests for information about its drivers.

Related: Uber sorry for ‘hot chick’ 20-minute ride promo

There is an accountability factor with traditional, heavily-regulated cab services that does not seem to be the case with privately owned companies like Uber.

3. Privacy. On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), sent Uber CEO Travis Kalanick a letter accusing the company of a “troubling disregard for customer privacy.” Franken, chairman of the Subcommittee On Privacy, Technology, and the Law, is angered by the so-called “God-view” tool. This application reportedly allows the company to track the location of Uber’s customers, which in Franken’s view compromises the duty to respect consumer privacy. As of this writing, Kalanick has not publicly responded to the letter.

What concerns me, however, is not the invasion of privacy per se, but the fact that most consumers don’t know it’s going on. Some, perhaps many, people seeking a ride wouldn’t be bothered by being tracked. In our post-9/11 world, city governments have cameras in an increasing number of public places.

Related: Peter Thiel says Uber is ‘most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley’

But there are two important differences between the God-view tool and what law enforcement officials do. First, most of us recognize that the police force’s policy is an attempt to protect the public from harm. Uber’s tracking device is merely a way to advance its business interests. Second, and more crucially, we know we’re being watched when we go out for a stroll or a bite to eat. Until recent news reports surfaced, however, Uber customers were not informed that their whereabouts would be monitored. That’s a moral difference that matters.

Uber is misogynistic, says targeted journalist 

4. Leadership. It was upsetting enough when Michael made his crack about digging up dirt on journalists who dared to criticize the company. But CEO Kalanick’s response suggested lax leadership. “Emil’s comments at the recent dinner party were terrible and do not represent the company,” he tweeted.

That’s almost as lame as “mistakes were made,” the non-apology apology by President Richard Nixon’s spokesperson Ron Ziegler about Watergate. Castigation without consequences is meaningless. As Andrew Keen suggested Thursday on CNN.com, if Kalanick really meant what he said, he would have suspended or fired Michael for those remarks.

Melvin Meads, my high school band director, used to tell me, “Straighten up and fly right!,” after I acted up. Recently, when a group I was with used Uber to summon a ride, I was impressed by how quickly a car appeared, and how easy the service is to use, since no money exchanges hands. But such convenience isn’t enough to negate the above concerns.

Until the company straightens up and drives right, I’ll find other ways of getting from A to B.

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/T9D_7z01gnQ/index.html

Stocks rise. Investors are thankful…. for central bankers

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 2:21 am
turkey thanksgiving stocks


Thanksgiving arrived a week early on Wall Street.

Stocks climbed higher on Friday in response to a surprise rate cut by China’s central bank and hints of more emergency action by the European Central Bank.

“Both the ECB and PBoC got out the bazookas overnight and fired them resolutely,” Michael Block, chief strategist at Rhino Trading Partners, wrote in a note to clients.

An early burst of buying carried the Dow 175 points higher and above the 17,800 level for the first time ever. It lost some momentum, but still closed 91 points in the green and at another all-time closing high.

The SP 500 advanced 0.5% and notched its 45th record close of 2014, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.2%.

The party started overnight in China, which unleashed its first rate cut in more than two years. The move is aimed at energizing the world’s second-largest economy, which has slowed decidedly after years of rapid growth.

Recent indicators show that factory output has stalled and the real estate market continues to weaken. China’s third-quarter GDP slowed to the weakest pace since the financial crisis.

Dow thanksgiving China

Related: 5 reasons to worry about the world economy

Super Mario’s on the case: Not to be outdone, ECB President Mario Draghi sparked a rally in European stocks by suggesting more aggressive action is coming to fight off deflation.

Draghi spoke about an “increasingly challenging” inflation outlook for the eurozone and promised the ECB will do “what we must to raise inflation and inflation expectations as fast as possible.”

The comments raised hopes among investors that the ECB will start to buy government bonds, an escalation of the central bank’s emergency efforts. It’s not clear how much that will help the economy though because European bonds are already trading at historically low levels.

Still, European markets zoomed higher on the news, with the Stoxx 50 Europe bouncing 2.2% and France’s CAC 40 surging 2.7%.

Related: Not worried about a recession? Buy these stocks

Now what? Friday’s market action highlights the bizarre twist that a struggling economy can sometimes be good for the stock market.

Central bankers in China and Europe are only acting in response to lackluster growth numbers, but the aid is welcome on Wall Street.

By contrast, the U.S. continues to chug along. That’s why the Federal Reserve has halted its bond-buying exercise and is preparing to raise interest rates sometime next year for the first time since June 2006.

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/FQt52ecTRdc/index.html

Burger mania hits Wall Street

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 2:21 am

This is a tasty burger ... stock 

Where’s the beef? You might want to check the stock market.

Shares of West Coast-based burger chain Habit Restaurants (HABT) surged nearly 120% in their market debut Thursday! Why all the fuss for a hamburger joint? This isn’t some sexy tech stock like GoPro (GPRO).

Habit is relatively small, with just 113 Habit Burger Grill restaurants. The majority of them are in California.

But it is growing rapidly. Sales were up nearly 50% in the first three quarters of the year compared to the same period of 2013. It’s also profitable. Net income soared more than 60%.

And apparently it makes a ridiculously good burger.

In fact, the readers of Consumer Reports named Habit the best fast-food burger chain in the country this summer.

McDonald’s (MCD) had the worst. Burger King (BKW) and Wendy’s (WEN) fared poorly as well. So the strong performance for Habit could be bad news for the big chains. Consumers don’t just want cheap burgers. They want them to taste good too.

The top of the Consumer Reports list was dominated by smaller companies that make so-called “better” or “gourmet” burgers, including California cult favorite In-N-Out Burger, Smashburger and Five Guys Burgers Fries.

Cheeseburgers in paradise. So don’t be surprised if Habit’s success leads to a wave of burger initial public offerings in 2015. Smashburger has been rumored to be considering an IPO for some time. There are also reports that drive-in chain Checkers is mulling one. And Shake Shack, the chain started by New York restaurant legend Danny Meyer, has reportedly already picked bankers for an offering,

These three companies, like Habit, all have backing from prominent private equity firms. That increases the chances that they may one day go public.

cash burger
Burgers are all the rage with consumers … and investors.

Aaron Allen, a global restaurant consultant, added that there is a lot of appeal for many of these burger chains in international markets. Shake Shack already has locations in London, Dubai, Istanbul and Moscow. So an IPO could be one way to help fund international expansion.

It also helps that investors seem to have an insatiable appetite for “fast casual” restaurant stocks these days. Mediterranean restaurant chain Zoe’s Kitchen (ZOES) and grilled chicken franchise El Pollo Loco (LOCO) are two of the hottest IPOs of 2014.

Still, we are just talking burgers and fries here. There’s tons of buns out there. A saturated market can be as unhealthy to an investor as saturated fat is to your body.

In addition to all the companies I’ve mentioned, consumers and investors have many other burger options on their menu.

Jack in The Box (JACK) has been a hit on Wall Street this year … but that’s more due to the success of its Chipotle (CMG) competitor Qdoba. Its burger business is reporting much slower growth. And it finished second-to-last in the Consumer Reports rankings.

Three other burger stocks, Steak n Shake owner Biglari (BH), Fuddruckers parent Luby’s (LUB) and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers (RRGB), are all down this year.

“Americans are always going to eat hamburgers. But there needs to be shakeout,” Allen said. “Everyone on the field is chasing the same ball. There are too many companies in the burger market competing for the same consumer.”

So should investors break their bad “Habit” of buying restaurant IPOs? Probably. It’s very risky. Just like fashion. What’s trendy in the food business now may no longer be hot in a few years .

Look at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (KKD). It’s the poster child of food fads. The stock had an amazing run for a few years after it went public in 2000. But the stock is now 60% below its all-time high from 2003.

That’s not a tasty return on your investment.

Speaking as a child of the nineties… A quick Name that Tune reader shout-out. While getting ready to write this story, I decided to tweet the following song lyric and asked for the band and album the song was on. “Never thought you’d habit.”

The winner is @count_dressula for correctly identifying it as Pearl Jam from the underrated No Code album.

And off he goes.

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/oHwXLmbnuvk/index.html

‘Hunger Games’ aims to top 2014′s box office

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 2:21 am

The Hunger Games: Catching box office fire 

At the box office this weekend, the odds are ever in favor of “The Hunger Games.”

Lionsgate’s “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1,” the first act of the final installment of the “Hunger Games” series, opens this weekend along with big expectations.

The film is projected to have a huge box office weekend somewhere between $130 million and $150 million. That would make it the biggest opening weekend ofany film this year.

The film is also targeting the top overall box office of 2014.

In fact, if “Mockingjay – Part 1″ follows the same box office trajectory as last year’s “Catching Fire,” which reportedly took in $380 million in a month, it will top 2014′s current top film, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which has grossed $330 million.

“‘Mockingjay – Part 1′ is a part of a franchise that seems to have a never ending supply of audience,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst for Rentrak.

hunger games box office
“Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1″ takes aim at “Guardians of the Galaxy,” 2014′s highest grossing film.

If the movie is the biggest of 2014, it speaks to not only the popularity of the series, but just how lackluster the year has been for the film industry.

This year had a dismal summer movie season that saw the U.S. box office numbers down 20%, making it the worst North American summer movie season in 17 years.

While the fall season has rebounded somewhat with a steady string of hits, like Fox’s “Gone Girl” and Disney’s “Big Hero 6,” the rest of the year shouldn’t be much competition for the heroic Katniss Everdeen.

The holidays are traditionally slated with critically acclaimed but not blockbuster films. The only potential blockbuster is Warner Bros.’s final “Hobbit” film which wraps up on December 17th, but the top film in that series only made $303 million domestically.

The film’s production company, Lionsgate (LGF), should also be watching “The Hunger Games’” performance closely this weekend.

“Mockingjay – Part 1″ represents the tail end of one of its most popular and profitable franchises. However, the company could possibly expand the franchise, much in the same way it’s doing with its plans for its short “Twilight” films on Facebook.

Related: Why Hollywood’s dismal summer won’t matter

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/2PmCWN8Dpb8/index.html

Square will soon accept Apple Pay

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2014 at 2:21 am

Square wants you to send cash over Snapchat  

The mobile payments company Square is planning to accept Apple Pay.

Square founder Jack Dorsey — who also famously launched Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) — told CNN that he wants to help businesses accept all forms of payments, and Apple Pay is no exception.

Apple Pay and Square have generally been viewed as competitors in the mobile payment space, but Dorsey doesn’t see it that way.

“We’re not building a credit card. We’re not building a payment device. We’re building a [cash] register, and this register accepts all these forms of payments,” Dorsey told CNN in an interview.

Square plans to begin accepting Apple Pay sometime in 2015.

As it stands now, Square’s hardware allows businesses to accept credit card payments via iPads and iPhones, with customers swiping their cards through a tiny square device. But the technology is not currently equipped to accept Apple Pay.

The hardware will have to be reworked to be compatible with the Apple Pay system, allowing for potentially seamless transactions from one mobile device to another.

Apple Pay is currently only operating in the United States and is accepted by a number of large retailers and restaurants, including Macy’s (M) and McDonald’s (MCD). It launched in October.

Square also announced Friday that it is launching its app globally. The Square Register app will is now available in multiple languages in more than 100 countries.

Article source: http://rss.cnn.com/~r/rss/money_latest/~3/c6IKVHtTBso/index.html