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Monthly Archives: February 2013

$GOOG Looks to $AAPL’s Playbook for Building an Electronics Consumer Brand

“Google Inc. has been developing plans to launch retail stores in the U.S., said people familiar with the matter, in another sign the company is studying Apple Inc.’s playbook for building a consumer-electronics brand.

The stores would likely sell Google-branded hardware, these people said. But it isn’t clear when or where any stores would open, and one of the people said the Internet giant might not move forward with the plan this year.

Apple’s stores have been a big factor in the success of the company’s iPhones and iPads, and Microsoft Corp. has also opened its own retail outlets. Inside Google, the idea of opening retail stores has long been debated as the company has become a major player in mobile devices, said people familiar with the discussions.

Google’s interest in retail stores was reported earlier by the 9to5 blog network.

Such a move may represent a change of heart in the two years since Google co-founder Larry Page became the company’s chief executive. Following Google’s short-lived attempt in 2010 to bypass brick-and-mortar stores to sell the Nexus One smartphone via its website, Mr. Page didn’t express much interest in opening retail stores whenever the possibility was discussed, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

Yet Google’s expansion beyond Web services and software into mobile hardware makes a move into retail seem more logical….”

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Boomers and Gen Y Now Share the Same Credit Card Profile

“Sandy Harsh never expected to find herself with $16,800 in credit-card debt and her retirement dreams drifting farther away.

Harsh, an IT professional from Tuscola, Illinois, is 62, around the age at which a lot of people start actively planning to retire to a white-sandy beach with a frozen margarita in hand.

Harsh’s debt snuck up on her as she helped her two daughters with college and living costs. She went back to school after a divorce and dealt with unexpected expenses such as big dental bills. Now she has about $300 a month in minimum payments, spread across three credit cards, and the balance never seems to go down because of all the interest she is paying.

“I totally did not think this was what my future held,” says Harsh. “I don’t want to leave debt to my daughters. I guess I’m going to have to work until I die at my desk.”

Harsh is not alone in her predicament. According to new figures from the New York City-based policy research organization Demos, Americans over 50 are struggling with a surprising amount of credit-card debt. Low- and middle-income households of older Americans who owed credit-card companies for three months or more have racked up an average of $8,278 in debt, according to Demos.

“What was surprising was older Americans were carrying so much more credit-card debt than younger people,” says Amy Traub, a senior policy analyst at Demos, noting that those under 50 who had debt for at least three months had accumulated an average of $6,258. “It’s a troubling development, and it says that the tough economy has been taking a toll on American households.”


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Will the Union for $BA Go on Strike?

“The union for Boeing’s engineers and technical workers is counting ballots Tuesday on a contract offer and whether to authorize a strike.

The union, Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, is recommending that members reject the offer because it would not provide pensions to new employees. They would have a 401k retirement plan instead. The union calls that unacceptable….”

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$AAPL Says They Were Hit With Malware

“Apple said Tuesday that Mac computers were the target of a cyber attack conducted by the same hackers that targetedFacebook last week.

(Read MoreFacebook Reveals Hack Attack, Says User Data Not Compromised )

“Apple has identified malware which infected a limited number of Mac systems through a vulnerability in the Java plug-in for browsers. The malware was employed in an attack against Apple and other companies, and was spread through a website for software developers. We identified a small number of systems within Apple that were infected and isolated them from our network. There is no evidence that any data left Apple. We are working closely with law enforcement to find the source of the malware,” the company said in a statement to CNBC.

In separate hacking attacks Tuesday, Jeep’s Twitter account was also breached.

The hackers took over Jeep’s account and sent unofficial tweets. The hackers also wrote on Jeep’s Twitter account that the company was being sold to Cadillac.

Cadillac said in a tweet shortly after the attack on Jeep’s Twitter account that it was not connected to the hack…..”

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Is Obama’s EU Trade Agreement a Path to Higher Natty Gas Prices ?

“Last week, President Obama mentioned signing a free trade agreement with the European Union in his state of the union address.

As with anything, the benefits of such an agreement comes with its costs.

Morgan Stanley commodities analyst Adam Longson believes that the this is the path to higher natural gas prices.

Longson writes in a note today that opening up a new market would be a boon for natgas producers as prices rise with the new demand….”

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DEUTSCHE BANK: The Fed Will Probably Start Winding Down QE By June

“With talk of “tail risks” – like a hard landing in China, the U.S. going over the “fiscal cliff,” or a country exiting the euro – fading from the collective discussion, arguably the biggest open question for markets right now is when the Federal Reserve will begin to tighten monetary policy.

Deutsche Bank economist Joe LaVorgna thinks the central bank could be ready to start slowing its quantitative easing program as early as June.

In a note to clients today, LaVorgna writes:

The Fed unexpectedly began discussing when to diminish and terminate QE at last December’s FOMC meeting. These deliberations no doubt continued at the January meeting for which we get the minutes today. We do not expect the minutes to suggest the Fed is quite ready to slow the pace of its $85 billion per month of open-ended Treasury and mortgage purchases. After all, policymakers did not have the February employment report when they met in late January, which showed decent job growth—nonfarm payrolls were up +157k—and sizeable upward revisions—the level of December 2012 employment is now about 650k higher than what was first reported.

Simply put, not enough changed in the economic outlook between December and January to constitute a material change in the Fed’s economic and financial assessment. However, based on our GDP, unemployment and inflation forecasts, we believe policymakers will eventually announce their intention to slow the pace of QE by June and to halt QE altogether by the end of December….”

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Horse Meat Is Not the Real Scandal

[youtube://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk-7PaPc0LI 450 300]

Link for iPhone users: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uk-7PaPc0LI

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Fears at Fed of Rate Payouts to Banks

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US Federal Reserve officials fear a backlash from paying billions of dollars to commercial banks when the time comes to raise interest rates.

The growth of the Fed’s balance sheet means it could pay $50bn-$75bn a year in interest on bank reserves at the same time as it makes losses and has to stop sending money to the Treasury.

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Officials at the US central bank fear it could create a public-relations nightmare after the Fed was lambasted for rescuing banks during the financial crisis. It is one factor prompting some inside the Fed to reconsider the eventual “exit strategy” from easy monetary policy.

In an interview with the Financial Times, James Bullard, president of the St Louis Fed, said: “If you think of the profitability of the biggest banks, if you’re going to talk about paying them something of the order of $50bn – well that’s more than the entire profits of the largest banks.”

Mr Bullard said that neither interest paid to banks nor possible losses on exit made any difference to the substance of monetary policy.

“I think it’s more just a question of the optics, and how you’re going to play the optics,” he added, referring to the perception of losses by the central bank. “And since it shouldn’t matter in a monetary policy sense you might as well play the optics in a better way than the one we’ve got planned.”

All banks hold reserves at the Fed. The central bank has boosted its balance sheet to more than $3tn as it buys assets to drive down long-term interest rates through its programme of quantitative easing.”

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How to Profit From Disorder (Tech)


“Nassim Taleb is well known for his work as a trader and professor, as well as the author of the book “ Black Swan.” He often concentrates his work on market volatility and the likelihood of extreme situations or occurrences that can radically move stock prices. The 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center were a black swan event, devastating and totally unpredicted. His new book “Antifragile” focuses on things that gain from disorder. Are there tech stocks that can gain from disorder as well?

The tech analysts at UBS A.G. (NYSE: UBS) decided it would be interesting to apply some of the principles of Taleb’s book to tech stocks they cover. They point out in their report released today that Taleb advises using optionality to your advantage in finding situations with limited downside but undetermined upside. What matters is not the frequency of being right but the magnitude when you are correct. Also, to favor a barbell approach, both in specific companies that avoid the mushy middle of markets and in your portfolio by mixing low and high-risk assets.

Fragile things hate volatility and uncertainty, while the antifragile thrives on it. The UBS team believes that technology stocks, especially large caps, are inherently fragile, given that the industry structure changes every 15 years or so. They looked for companies riding emerging trends, and point to VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) and Salesforce.com Inc. (NYSE: CRM) as examples.”

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Portfolio Considerations: Infrastructure Build Out Favors a Number of Stocks


“It has been estimated that $2.75 trillion will need to be invested in America’s aging infrastructure by 2020 to get our crumbling roads, bridges, highways, water systems and power grids back up to par. We have already offered up our own list of 11 companies that will win from the infrastructure rebuild. Now we have found a new list of infrastructure winners, and the overlap is minimal.

Many politicians in Washington, D.C., have howled over the lack of infrastructure spending, despite almost $1 trillion in stimulus being thrown at the economy since the Great Recession started in 2008. Did the president finally hint in last week’s State of the Union speech that long-awaited funding may be headed to infrastructure repair soon? Despite political posturing, both parties concede that infrastructure spending is a necessity.

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Chip Stocks Enjoy Upgrades Today

” It was not that long ago that we saw a research report from Credit Suisse calling the chip sector at an “irresistible cyclical bottom.” Now we have a slew of analyst reports driving shares higher in the semiconductor sector on Tuesday. Chip stocks are responding well, as you will see.

Altera Corp. (NASDAQ: ALTR) was reiterated with a Buy rating and the price target was raised by $4 to $42, based on demand recovery and the possibility of a higher dividend. Shares are up 1.8% at $36.39, against a 52-week range of $29.59 to $40.31.

Atmel Corp. (NASDAQ: ATML) was raised to Buy from Hold at Needham with a price target of $10 on the stock. Shares are up 1.8% at $7.30, against a 52-week range of $4.37 to $10.73.

Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NASDAQ: CY) was raised to Buy from Hold by Needham, and the price target is $13.00 per share. The upgrade is based in part on valuation and in part due to improving conditions in the SRAM chip market. Shares of Cypress are up 5% at $10.35, against a 52-week range of $8.70 to $18.70.

Full report

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Most Health Insurers Recover, $HUM Still off 7% From Proposed 2014 Medicare Rates

“Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM) is leading the large health insurance providers lower as the week gets off to a start. The news hit going into the weekend that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Ruling has been announced for preliminary 2014 Medicare Advantage benchmark payment rates. The long and short of the matter is that Humana sees a mid-single-digit decline in its benchmark monthly rate.

While shares are being hit hard this morning, investors should know that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has invited public comment on these preliminary rates before releasing final rates on April 1, 2013. This is the equivalent of an appeal period in a legal case, although that appeal period also can be commented on by noninsurance parties as well.

The SEC filing on Tuesday said:

In the Company’s earnings release call for the fourth quarter of 2012 held on February 4, 2013, management expressed confidence in the Company’s ability to grow both Medicare membership and earnings for 2014, based upon management’s stated expectation that the base Medicare Advantage payment rate would be flat to slightly down. The Company believes the preliminary base rates included in the CMS notice would result in a mid-single-digit decline in its benchmark payment rates (excluding the impact of the industry premium tax, county rebasing and risk factor recalibration – which are anticipated to be discussed in the final rate notice). Therefore, Humana is closely analyzing all operational avenues available to address those preliminary rates and the related impact upon the Company’s ability to grow both its Medicare membership and its earnings for 2014….”

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How Bad is Food Stamp Usage?

“I’ve seen a common theme in the comments section from the “America is falling into an abyss” crowd – the recent rise in food stamp usage.  Without getting political, I figured I’d take a look at the raw data and see what we could conclude.  Here goes nothing.

First of all, food stamp usage ALWAYS rises in a recession so the recent surge is not remotely surprising.  As you can see in Figure 1 below, every recession since the 1970′s (when this data is first available) has seen a sharp increase in food stamp usage.  I used a year over year rate of change in order to compare the current environment on an apples to apples basis with past events.  It’s too easy to look at the “record high” or the headline figure in food stamps and simply conclude that things are worse than they’ve ever been.  The reality is that food stamps rose at about a 20% year over year rate at the worst point in the current recession and has since declined to a 4.25% year over year pace.   So, the rate of change is still positive, but it’s come way down from its worst levels….”

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Analyst are Still Perplexed by $5 Gasoline

“As gasoline prices rise above $5/gallon in LA, analysts are puzzled. Gasoline prices have been on the rise for the past 31 days, which is highly unusual for this time of the year. Typically prices begin rising in March or April as the driving season kicks off.

The price increases are particularly puzzling, given the fact that US gasoline markets have been well supplied relative to historical levels (see figure 1).

Certainly the recent increases in crude oil prices have been a large part of the explanation. Some have suggested that increased demand due to stronger global economic activity is to blame. Other reasons have been proposed as well.

CNN: – What’s behind the higher prices at the pump? It’s a confluence of factors, from rising crude oil prices, to production cuts and refinery closings.

“Right now, things are tight worldwide,” said Ray Carbone, president of New York commodities trading firm Paramount Options. “Refineries going down, unanticipated maintenance, and higher demand … going into driving season.

Gasoline futures trading on NYMEX (CME) have been rising almost daily, pointing to even higher prices at the pump in the spring (see figure 2)….”

Full article and charts 

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Lunch Break: The 25 Best Burger Joints in America

For my money i must know that the place grinds their own meat from reputable cuts of meat. I still have a pink slime issue.

“As Adam Berger travels from town to town recruiting hockey players, he also seeks out the best hamburgers wherever he goes.

“There is nothing better than a simple char-grilled burger with cheddar cheese and fresh-cut fries,” says Berger, the assistant hockey coach at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vt. “It’s always interesting to try the different grinds and creations.”

A puck of beef means a lot to the aptly named Berger and to many other frequent business travelers. A well-made burger is not only tasty, but is often a quick meal for a tight schedule and easy on a travel budget.

Next time burger-loving business travelers crave a fix, why not head to a place considered among the best?

Restaurant guidebook and online publisher Zagat makes that possible by identifying for USA TODAY the top burger joints in or near 25 cities.

Nearly all are inexpensive, and many may not be suitable for entertaining a client. They were selected for their mouthwatering burgers. And at some, be prepared for rude or surly service, only counter service, no dinner hours and no credit cards. There is no bathroom at Zagat’s choice in Boston, for instance, and its selection in Las Vegas is a food truck.

In Atlanta, Zagat’s top-rated burger joint, the Vortex Bar & Grill, has its own unique vibe.

Besides delicious “food-coma-inducing burgers” and an “amazing selection of beers and single-malts, the restaurant has a “vintage Goth décor, a sexy biker vibe” and “customer-isn’t-always-right service from a punk-rock staff,” Zagat and its reviewers say.

In the Kansas City area, the “bustling” vibe at Burger Stand at the Casbah, a “cool” Lawrence, Kan., joint, “feels vital without being obnoxious,” Zagat and its reviewers say.

The joint has “outstanding gourmet burgers and the best sides,” including truffle and duck-fat fries.

The secret is out

New York’s top hamburger restaurant, the Burger Joint, is an anomaly, and, according to Zagat and its reviewers, the city’s “worst-kept secret.”

It’s a “burger speak-easy hidden behind a giant curtain” in the luxurious lobby of the Le Parker Meridien hotel, where the daily room rate exceeds $325. The speak-easy “flips damn-fine patties in tacky digs,” lacks service, has long lines and a cash-only policy, Zagat and its reviewers say….”

Full article and list

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Two Thirds of All Mutual Funds Recover 2007 Highs

“While the Dow Jones industrial average is still about 1% below its October 2007, two-thirds of all stock mutual funds — 2,576 — have posted new highs since then, according to Lipper, which tracks the funds.

One reason: The Dow doesn’t include reinvested dividends. If you include dividends, the Dow is up 14.8% from its 2007 peak. By contrast, the average diversified U.S. stock fund is up 10% since then….”

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$MSFT is Gunning for Gmail

“SAN FRANCISCOMicrosoft (MSFT) is so confident it has the Internet’s best email service that it is about to spend at least $30 million to send its message across the U.S.

The barrage begins Tuesday when Microsoft’s twist on email, Outlook.com, escalates an assault on rival services from Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., AOL Inc. and a long list of Internet service providers.

As part of the process, all users of Microsoft’s Hotmail and other email services operating under different domains such as MSN.com will be automatically converted to Outlook.com by the summer, if they don’t voluntarily switch before then. All the old messages, contacts and settings in the old inboxes will be exported to Outlook.com. Users will also be able to keep their old addresses.

Email remains a key battleground, even at a time when more people are texting each other on phones.

People still regularly check their inboxes, albeit increasingly on their smartphones. The recurring email habit provides Internet companies a way to keep people coming back to websites. It gives people a reason to log in during their visits so it’s easier for email providers to track their activities. Frequent visits and personal identification are two of the keys to selling ads, the main way most websites make money.

That’s why Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have been retooling their email services in recent months….”

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Corporate Governance Test Show Large Banks Fail Miserably

“Large banks took a corporate governance test – and failed miserably.

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency rated the 19 largest national banks on five factors, revealing the scorecards to bank directors at a closed door meeting, according to American Banker magazine, which obtained the results.

Not one met the regulator’s requirements for internal, auditing, risk management or succession planning, American Banker reported. Only two met requirements for defining the bank’s appetite for risk-taking and communicating it across the company. Only two banks have boards of directors willing to stand up to their CEOs….”

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