Category: ECONOMY

Wealthy Families Are Adding Forests to Their Portfolios

Tom Crowder spent much of his two-year career in the NFL running away from men who weighed upwards of 300 pounds. These days? He worries about bears and snakes. As a senior vice president at Bank of America Corp., Crowder spends most days in the woods, from the evergreen forests of New England to the wetlands of the Carolinas, scouting U.S. timberland assets for people with a net worth of at least $100 million and a minimum of $10 million to invest.

Continue reading “Wealthy Families Are Adding Forests to Their Portfolios”

S&P 500 closes at new record…

Stocks rallied on Thursday, led by strong gains in tech and energy shares, as Wall Street cheered the possibility that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates next month.

The S&P 500 surged 1% to 2,954.18, a record close. The broad index also hit an intraday record of 2,958.06. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 249.17 points higher at 26,753.17. The Nasdaq Composite gained 0.8% to end the day at 8,051.34.

Continue reading “S&P 500 closes at new record…”

Lululemon shutters men’s only stores

Despite success in its men’s business, including a goal to double revenues in the men’s business by 2023, Lululemon seems to be backing down from pursuing standalone men’s concepts.

A company spokesperson pointed to Lululemon’s test-and-learn mentality with regards to the concept, saying the retailer believes having men’s and women’s co-located, rather than independent, will help to drive growth in the men’s business.

Continue reading “Lululemon shutters men’s only stores”

Elephant in the room: student loans reach $1.5 TRILLION

student loans

Whenever I bring up student loans with a co-worker or friends they get a sad look on their face, like they’re f***ed. Most will be f***ed their whole life because they can’t manage debt properly and that 10-year student loan will turn out to be a 30-year mortgage. Unfortunately, there are 44 million people with student loans (30-year mortgages) that total a whopping $1.5 trillion according to this Forbes report.

Continue reading “Elephant in the room: student loans reach $1.5 TRILLION”

Cord cutting continues as consumers cut cable in record numbers

cord cutting

More bad news for the network liars. According to this Fortune report, more and more people are cord cutting forcing companies like AT&T and Comcast to raise their rates.

The rate of consumers dropping their cable and satellite TV packages hit the highest level ever in the last three months of 2018. And for the first time in a few years, the losses weren’t more than offset by people signing up for Internet TV subscriptions.

Continue reading “Cord cutting continues as consumers cut cable in record numbers”

Will Tesla become the next Amazon?

Tesla

I ran across an interesting article at cnbc.com that claims Tesla is the next Amazon. This is one of those times I wish I had some “f*ck you” money lying around to invest. Elon Musk, in my opinion, is an enigma. He’s an entertaining CEO who is willing to give the establishment the middle finger. Even more important is the fact that Musk is a disrupter, something the legacy media and corporations despise.

Continue reading “Will Tesla become the next Amazon?”

Philadelphia vetoes CASH ban…retailers must accept greenbacks

cash

A small win in the war on cash.  According to this USA Today report Philly businesses will no longer be able to ban cash.

To retailers who say ‘no cash,’ Philadelphia’s city council is saying no dice.

Philadelphia’s city council voted Thursday to require most local businesses to accept cash as payment, pushing back on a growing trend in which restaurants and retailers accept credit and debit cards only.

Continue reading “Philadelphia vetoes CASH ban…retailers must accept greenbacks”

Worst retail sales drop in 9 years is ‘every bit as bad as it looks’

retail sales

More bad news for retail. According to this Yahoo report retail sales dropped 1.2% month-over-month in December, the largest drop since September 2009, according to data from the Census Bureau.

The retail sector took a blow in the final month of 2018, adding to a list of consumer economic casualties amid year-end turmoil in the financial markets and a protracted U.S. government shutdown.

Continue reading “Worst retail sales drop in 9 years is ‘every bit as bad as it looks’”

Top 50 US Office Deals of 2017: Chinese Clampdown Makes Way for South Korean Buyers

One year ago, we did a round-up of the 50 largest office sales to close in the U.S. during 2016. Our analysis showed a slight slowdown in office sales activity compared to the previous year, but buyer interest remained strong. In keeping with tradition, we’re doing the same thing this year, to see if that interest waned during 2017.

Continue reading “Top 50 US Office Deals of 2017: Chinese Clampdown Makes Way for South Korean Buyers”

Welcome to BALTIMORE: America’s Inner City Hellhole

Long ago Baltimore was once considered the place to be on the east coast. The city was vibrant due to a busy port and an abundance of manufacturing jobs; now you can’t find a single fortune 500 company in Baltimore, let alone the greater Baltimore region.

 

I often joke with my wife that she is the only good thing that has come out of Baltimore in the last 30 years. She grew up in Towson, a suburb right outside of the City, and when we go back to visit her family even she has trouble believing what has become of her hometown.

A ride through Baltimore usually consists of locking your doors, rolling up your windows and having your head on a 360-degree swivel. Baltimore faces the same challenges as many other inner cities: rotting infrastructure, thousands of abandoned homes, potholes that haven’t been fixed in almost a decade, and trash littered everywhere on the side of the road. These are just the basic things your tax dollars should be taking care of. On the flip side, Baltimore has more pressing problems like a skyrocketing murder rate, a  police force that’s gone rogue, a heroin and opioid epidemic that is ruining the city, violent street gangs, a school system that is failing to teach kids the basic like reading and math, economic woes and a city Government that is always involved in a scandal.

I’m no Republican, but isn’t it ironic that most inner city S***holes a mismanaged by Democrats?

If you want to get a feel for Baltimore, look at some of these insane videos that showcase the highlights of a fallen city.

If those video’s don’t do it for you just read some of these headlines from the past year. One has to wonder how much further can Baltimore sink?

The police department has officially gone rogue and turned into a band of armed thugs who are just as bad as the criminals.

Crime is spiraling out of control.

The heroin and opioid epidemic has reached crisis level.

Judges and Politicians are 100% of the problem in Baltimore, the city has a long history of corruption.

Baltimore City schools are an epic failure.

Baltimore’s economic woes.

P/C YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT


Thomas Dishaw is the editor and creator of Govtslaves.com. You can follow Gov’t Slaves on TwitterFacebook and GAB or contact us by email at govtslaves@protonmail.com. 

This article is Creative Commons and can be republished in full with attribution. You can also view my catalog of  writings at Naturalnews.com.

Desperation? Simon Property Group (the biggest mall owner in America) sues Starbucks over Teavana closures

Simon Property Group

Simon Property Group, the largest owner of malls in the United States has filed a lawsuit against Starbucks according to this USA Today report. The announcement comes on the heels of Starbucks announcement to abruptly close down all 379 Teavana locations.

Simon Property Group has filed a lawsuit in Marion County against the Starbucks Corp. over for its plans to shutter all of the Teavana stores operating in Simon malls nationwide.

In the lawsuit filed Aug. 21, Simon officials argued that their shopping centers rely on each of their tenants fulfilling their lease obligations, including  continuously operating in the space for the entire lease term.

But when Starbucks announced July 27 that it would be closing all 379 of its Teavana stores, including the 78 stores in Simon shopping centers, the company “put its stock price above its contractual obligations, the viability of Simon and its Shopping Centers, other retailers and consumers who count on the Teavana stores.”

The lawsuit also noted that Starbucks made the decision “unilaterally, without prior consent from Simon.”

During the July 27 announcement, Starbucks officials said the Teavana stores will be closed by next spring and the 3,300 employees will be able to apply for jobs in Starbucks stores, where it is expected to create 68,000 new jobs in the next five years.

Simon, the Indianapolis-based shopping mall giant, is now seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction to keep Starbucks from closing the stores early, as well as all appropriate relief as a result of this legal action.

“Starbucks does not contend that Simon breached any lease or that Starbucks cannot remain viable if it continues to honor its promises in its leases for stores in Simon’s Shopping Centers,” the lawsuit states. “Instead, Starbucks simply believes it can make more money if it violates the leases than if it honored the contractual promises and obligations.”

Cancer and diabetes rates to EXPLODE as McDonald’s unveils plan to open 2,000 more stores in China

China, once known for having some of the lowest cancer and disease rates throughout the world has quietly been sieged by ‘unhealthy’ Capitalism. Pizza Hut, Burger King, Taco Bell, Coca-Cola and finally McDonald’s are aggressively expanding into this untapped market leaving a deadly trail of cancer, diabetes, and disease for future generations to deal with.

According to this South China Morning Post report, McDonald’s will more than double their presence in China bringing the total number of stores to 4,500 by the year 2022.

McDonald’s said on Tuesday it would almost double the number of stores in mainland China by 2022, slightly more than was expected, as part of its strategic partnership with state-backed conglomerate CITIC Ltd and the Carlyle Group.

Earlier in the year, the US fast food chain agreed to sell most of its China and Hong Kong business to CITIC and Carlyle for up to US$2.1 billion. The new partnership had planned to add 1,500 restaurants in the two areas over the next five years.

But McDonald’s, which is betting the partnership will help it expand in the world’s No 2 economy without using much of its own capital, said it expects to increase the number of stores in mainland China to 4,500 by the end of 2022, from 2,500 now.

The company said it was targeting a double-digit annual sales growth in mainland China over the period, and was aiming to add 500 stores annually by 2022 versus 250 stores this year.

“China will soon become our largest market outside of the United States. We are excited to join forces with CITIC and Carlyle for better localised decision-making to meet changing customer demands in this dynamic market,” Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s chief executive, said.

P/C MIKE MOZART

Drones are quietly taking the jobs of Insurance Inspectors

Insurance Inspectors

Insurance Inspectors are the latest casualty of the much-anticipated tech takeover. According to this WSJ, report drones are becoming the norm as 40% of car insurers no longer use employees to physically inspect damage in some cases.

When Melinda Roberts found shingles in her front yard after a storm, her insurer didn’t dispatch a claims adjuster to investigate. It sent a drone.

The unmanned aircraft hovered above Ms. Roberts’ three-bedroom Birmingham, Ala., home and snapped photos of her roof. About a week later a check from Liberty Mutual Insurance arrived to cover repairs.

“It took a lot less time than I was expecting,” Ms. Roberts said.

Drones, photo-taking apps and artificial intelligence are accelerating what has long been a clunky, time-consuming experience: the auto or home-insurance claim.

Traditionally, an insurance claim associated with minor home damage or fender-bender auto accidents started with a phone call from a customer and ended days or weeks later with a mailed check. In between the insurer often would send an inspector to investigate the situation in person.

But about four in 10 car insurers no longer use employees to physically inspect damage in some cases, according to a LexisNexis Risk Solutions survey of insurance executives. Claims that rely on greater automation can be handled in two to three days compared with 10 to 15 days for a more traditional approach that involves an in-person visit, according to the survey.

Under Armour announces LAYOFFS as sales SLIDE

More bad news for retail. According to this CNBC report Under Armour has announced hundreds of layoffs as sales slide.

Under Armour plans to cut about 2 percent of its global workforce as it restructures its business in the face of slumping sales.

On Tuesday, the sports apparel company reported a narrower-than-expected second-quarter loss, but shares fell as the company trimmed its sales forecast for the year.

Continue reading “Under Armour announces LAYOFFS as sales SLIDE”

Best Buy’s Geek Squad to Eliminate 399 Jobs

Best Buy’s Geek Squad is the latest to announce layoffs. According to this Fortune report the company will be eliminating 399 jobs.

Best Buy is eliminating 399 Geek Squad positions, but is expected to offer those employees positions within the company.

The affected positions come from Geek Squad’s “Covert Team,” who work remotely to provide technical support to customers. Best Buy says it is transitioning many of them from remote agents to roles in stores or making house calls.

Continue reading “Best Buy’s Geek Squad to Eliminate 399 Jobs”

Neiman Marcus to cut 225 jobs, assess Last Call’s future

Neiman Marcus is in BAD shape. According to this Dallas news report the company will be laying off 225 and reevaluating the future of their discount imprint ‘Last Call’.

Neiman Marcus said Wednesday that a reorganization of its business to reflect changing customer shopping habits will include a reduction of its workforce. The Dallas-based retailer also said it’s assessing its Last Call outlet division.

Continue reading “Neiman Marcus to cut 225 jobs, assess Last Call’s future”

The Retail Apocalypse has DESTROYED these 14 companies

According to this Business Insider report, the retail apocalypse has essentially crashed the share price of these 14 major retailers. I guess these are the lucky ones as many have been put out of business completely.

Shares of Amazon multiplied by a factor of ten since 2009. Shares of Wal-Mart are flat over the past five years but are up 30% since the beginning of 2016. Since mid-2015, shares of Best Buy are up 58%, Home Depot 28%, and Costco 10%. These and other retailers like them saw their share prices rise because they managed to navigate the new retail environment.

Many online retailers and online operations of brick-and-mortar retailers are thriving. Other retailers are thriving because, like Home Depot, they’re in a segment that is booming. So not all brick-and-mortar retailers are melting down. But many are, including the samples in the list below. The percentage denotes the crash in share prices over the past two years:

  • Sears Holdings -65%
  • Macy’s -68%
  • Target -35%
  • Bed Bath & Beyond -59%
  • Hudson’s Bay (owns Saks and Lord & Taylor) -61%
  • Nordstrom -39%
  • American Eagle Outfitters -32%
  • Tailored Brands (formerly Men’s Wearhouse) -81%
  • Boot Barn -80%
  • Christopher & Banks -68%
  • Express -64%
  • Urban Outfitters -47%
  • Foot Locker -32%

And they’re the lucky ones among the brick-and-mortar meltdown lot; others have already filed for bankruptcy, and their shares have become worthless. Yet some of those on the list will likely join the bankruptcy filers over the next 12 months.

Rahm Emanuel speaks on Chicago’s pension crisis: “Our hard work is paying off….It has stabilized the city’s finances”

I don’t know what planet Rahm Emanuel lives on (Israel)  but his latest comments regarding Chicago’s pension crisis reveal he is nowhere near planet earth. According to this Sun Times report Emanuel claims they are stabilizing Chicago’s finances.

Standard & Poor’s surveyed pension obligations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, San Antonio, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Dallas, Houston, Columbus, Indianapolis and Austin.

Chicago performed the worst across the board — registering the highest annual debt, pension post-employment benefits costs as a percentage of governmental expenditures and the highest debt and pension liability per capita.

The burden in Chicago is $12,427-per-person, double New York city’s $6,115-per-person.

Chicago also had the lowest weighted pension fund ratio, the worst pension contribution vs. required level and the lowest funded return for a single fund.

That dubious distinction went to the Chicago Police Annuity and Benefit Fund, which had assets to cover just 25 percent of its liabilities in fiscal 2015, down from 26 percent the year before.

The report noted that the “median weighted pension funded ratio of 70 percent” for the 15 cities “underlies a wide range of positions with Chicago only 23 percent funded across all plans and Indianapolis the most well-funded at 98 percent.”

Chicago also had the lowest bond rating among the nation’s fifteen major cities, at BBB-plus with a stable outlook. Every other big city had at a bond rating of AA-minus or better. Austin, Columbus and San Antonio have a triple-A bond rating.

Given weak market returns in 2016, funded ratios reported in fiscal 2016 are likely to look worse for most cities, the report states.

“Pension liabilities are a clear credit weakness for Chicago, which stands out with the highest pension liability per capita and the lowest weighted funded ratio among peers,” the report states.

“Chicago’s combined debt service, required pension and actuarial [post-employment benefits] contributions represented the highest share of budget among the largest cities at 38 percent of total governmental fund expenditures in 2015. Of that amount, 26.2 percent represented required contributions to pension obligations.”

S&P noted that Chicago “only made 52 percent of its annual legally required pension contribution” in fiscal 2015.

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2017 budget contributes more toward employee pensions, amounts budgeted still fall significantly short of the actuarially determined contributions levels,” the report states.

The rating agency noted that dedicated funding sources have now been identified for all four city employee pension funds. But, Emanuel’s plan to save the municipal and laborers pension funds is still awaiting the governor’s signature.

The Illinois House unanimously approved the plan, only to have the governor declare his intention to veto the bill that locked in employee concessions and authorized a five-year ramp to actuarially required funding.

“Notably, the city is unable to change pension benefits for its existing employees due to state constitutional constraints, but has increased contribution requirements for new employees,” the report states.

The mayor’s office had no immediate reaction to the S&P report.

Last fall, Standard & Poor’s affirmed Chicago’s bond rating at three levels above “junk” status, but changed the city’s financial outlook from “negative” to “stable,” thanks to Emanuel’s plan to slap a 29.5 percent tax on water and sewer bills to save the largest of four city employee pension funds.

At the time, S&P said Chicago was “gradually moving in the right direction toward stabilizing its budget and pension plan contributions” and that the utility tax, “coupled with adjustments to benefits offered to new hires” were “tangible steps that forestall credit deterioration” in the near term.

“However, in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of its pension contributions and continued credit stability, we believe that the city will need to identify additional measures to address its mounting pension contributions within the next two years,” that report said.

Emanuel called the outlook upgrade a well-earned recognition of the work that he and the City Council have done to reduce the city’s structural deficit by “more than $600 million” while identifying permanent funding sources for all four city employee pension funds.

“Our hard work is now paying off. . . . It has stabilized the city’s finances,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.

But, the mayor agreed with S&P that the job is not done.

He has openly acknowledged that the city’s largest pension fund would still be left with a gaping hole in 2023 — even after the utility tax is fully phased in. That hole will require “more revenue” to honor the city’s ironclad commitment to reach 90 percent funding over a 40-year period.

Chicago taxpayers have paid a heavy price for easing the city’s $30 billion pension crisis.

Home ownership plummets as renting becomes the new norm

More bad news for the bankers. According to this Newstarget report, home ownership rates are plummeting across the United States reaching levels not seen since 1965.

Analysis of the Center Bureau housing data revealed that from 2006 to 2016, the total number of households headed by renters had increased by 36.6 percent, a number which almost beats the record high jump of 37 percent in 1965. Authors at the Pew Research Center who published this report concluded that the lingering effects of the recent housing crisis has influenced buying strategies. They noted that the number of people who opted to buy a home had remained stagnant for a decade, with more young professionals (aged 35 and younger) choosing to rent. Researchers also observed that the trend is evident even among demographic groups known to not rent, including whites and middle-aged adults.

Continue reading “Home ownership plummets as renting becomes the new norm”

Hermès Birkin handbags found to be a better investment than top stocks and gold

Interesting article coming from Baghunter.com. According to their research luxurious handbags have outperformed stocks and gold.

In light of recent record-breaking sales involving Hermès Birkin handbags at auction in both Asia and Europe, along with increased interest and record sales on Baghunter, we have performed additional research to offer an update of our original study discussing investment opportunities. This update takes into account the occurrences over the past 18 months since our initial study was published and looks at whether the Birkin bag continues to offer a sound investment option, how it has compared to the S&P 500 and gold over this period and any other relevant factors which have occurred during this time.

Continue reading “Hermès Birkin handbags found to be a better investment than top stocks and gold”

50% Of U.S. Shopping Malls expected to close by 2023

The end of an era is quickly approaching. According to this Guardian report, 50% of U.S. shopping malls are expected to close by 2023.

Twenty-five years ago this August, the Mall of America, America’s largest shopping mall, opened its many, many doors for business. The Minnesota mall is currently wrapping up a year of celebration at the dizzyingly vast temple to consumerism. It’s a celebration that comes, ironically, as America’s malls are dying. But not the Mall of America.

Once the epicenter of American retail, malls are in crisis. Pictures of dead malls, their hollow shells left like abandoned sets for a George Romero zombie movie, are rapidly replacing pictures of decaying Detroit as the go-to image for dystopia USA.

Continue reading “50% Of U.S. Shopping Malls expected to close by 2023”

FedEx Canada set to close ALL retail office locations, HUNDREDS of jobs lost

Shipping giant FedEx has announced they will be closing all 24 FedEx office stores throughout Canada. According to this City News report, hundreds of jobs will be lost.

FedEx is closing its Office stores in Canada after 32 years in the country.

Spokeswoman Stacey Sullivan says FedEx Office will close its 24 stores, a manufacturing plant in Markham, Ont., and its head office in Toronto.

The move will result in the loss of 214 jobs, but will not affect FedEx’s shipping business in Canada, she said, adding the decision was made after assessing current and future business prospects.

Eighteen of the stores are in Ontario, five in B.C. and one in Nova Scotia. The closings are to begin in August.

FedEx Office shops offer a range of business services including copying and printing, sign making, office supplies sales and packaging services.

The stores are also used as pick-up and drop-off sites for FedEx shipping.

Is the ELD Mandate Going to Destroy Small Trucking Businesses

The infamous ELD mandate the government proposed made quite an impact on the trucking industry before it was even implemented. If you are a company trucker or own your own business you are likely already familiar with the term. The industry is experiencing a significant growth with a tendency for improvement (as you can learn here: http://gotruckcapital.com/uncategorized/interesting-facts-us-trucking-industry/). However, truckers fear ELD mandate might change the positive predictions regarding the industry.

The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) is a piece of technology that is supposed to log the truckers’ hours electronically, replacing the log books truckers used up until now. The mandate requires all truckers to switch to ELDs by mid-December.

Many truckers fear how this change might impact the rates, the capacity, service levels and the trucking industry in general. Small trucking business owner particularly fear the ramifications of this new mandate, as this technology means a tighter grip on their working hours. Small truckers were largely independent up till now, but suggest that this mandate might mean the government will have a tighter grip on their operations.

How Do ELDs Work?

Truckers are already familiar with the procedure of logging their working hours and submitting these to the authorities if asked. This system is set to make sure drivers don’t go out on the road for more than 10 hours per day, as it may compromise their safety.

This mandate was completed in early 2016, giving truck owners almost two years to adapt to the changes. The ELDs are linked with the truck’s computer. This allows them to monitor the engine and whether it’s running or at rest. Therefore, the concept of ELDs is aimed towards keeping the drivers safe.

At least, that’s the official version.

Why Are Drivers Opposing This Mandate?

Medium and large companies are already working on implementing the new logging devices into their fleets, and so far the results are positive. However, it’s the small companies and owner-operators that take issue with this system.

The main issues small companies have with the mandate are the cost of adding ELDs to their trucks, as well as numerous privacy concerns. Adding an ELD to a truck costs around $600 and has a monthly subscription fee. This means more monthly expenses for truckers who try to make ends meet after paying for repayment rates, maintenance, and other fees.

The ELD will also limit their hours of operations, which will impact their earnings. Owner-operators tend to work longer hours to deliver a haul, and with ELD that will not be possible.

How Will It Affect the Trucking Industry?

Since the mandate was first presented, a lot of owner-operators threatened to hang their keys before they switch to ELDs. This will definitely make the truck driver deficit that’s plaguing the industry even worse.

However, it is mainly truckers near retirement who are less likely to meet the new mandate. While this is certainly a great loss for the industry, there are still a lot of young truckers willing to embrace the change and make it work for them.

Furthermore, as the number of companies producing ELD increases the price is going to be more affordable for the average driver. The FMCSA also announced that they are working on developing a mobile app that can be used instead of the ELD. Both will significantly reduce the impact the new mandate has on a trucker’s budget.

SLOW DEATH: Sears inks $200 million credit line from CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund

Sears, the company that refuses to die has secured a $200 million dollar lifeline according to this CNBC report.

Sears Holdings has landed a fresh line of credit, valued at $200 million, from its CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund, according to a Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

On July 13, Lampert’s ESL Partners entered into a short-term line of credit loans, which carry a maturity date of 151 days and a fixed interest rate of 9.75 percent per year, Sears said.

“This facility is intended to provide the Company with the flexibility to generate additional liquidity on an as-needed basis,” Sears CFO Rob Riecker said in a statement.

“This adjustment to our capital structure demonstrates that Sears Holdings will continue to take actions to generate liquidity and manage our business while meeting all of our financial obligations.”

Sears’ stock surged 9 percent higher Monday morning following this news. Shares are now up more than 32 percent from one month ago. This, compared with a loss of nearly 40 percent over the past 12 months.

In 2017, Sears has been trimming its real-estate portfolio — shuttering unprofitable stores — and making moves, such as opening smaller locations that only sell mattresses and appliances, to stay afloat.

Dwindling foot traffic across American malls is dragging many department stores down with it.

Earlier this year, media shy CEO Lampert sat down for an interview with the Chicago Tribune in which he said the retailer is “fighting like hell” to battle negative headlines and pessimism regarding Sears’ ability to continue.

Average FICO score hits an all-time high

When it comes to credit, Americans are faring better than ever.

For the first time, the average national credit score has reached 700, according to FICO, developer of one of the most commonly used scores by lenders. FICO scores range from 300 to 850.

Your credit score plays a big role in daily life. It can determine the interest rate a consumer is going to pay for credit cards, car loans and mortgages — or whether they will get a loan at all.

Average credit scores most recently bottomed out at 686, during the housing crisis when there was a sharp increase in foreclosures. They have steadily ticked higher since then, according to Ethan Dornhelm, vice president for scores and analytics at FICO. Now scores are at an all-time high.

Continue reading “Average FICO score hits an all-time high”

Sears to close 43 more stores

Sears is closing another 43 struggling stores.

Sears Holdings — the parent company of Sears and Kmart — announced on Friday that it will shutter eight of its namesake Sears department stores and 35 Kmart locations, adding to the list of 236 stores Sears has announced plans to shut down in 2017.

With the newest round of closings, Sears Holdings is poised to close down about 20% of its locations.

The company said in a blog post that the store closures are part of an ongoing effort to “focus on our best stores and return to profitability.”

“This is part of a strategy both to address losses from unprofitable stores and to reduce the square footage of other stores because many of them are simply too big for our current needs,” Chief Executive Officer Eddie Lampert said in the post.

Continue reading “Sears to close 43 more stores”

As Amazon sales soar and retail bankruptcies rise, industry execs remain ‘bullish’

While the retail industry has largely shifted to online in recent years, Tom McGee, CEO of the International Council of Shopping Centers, believes there is room for different kinds of product consumption.

“I think in a couple years we’ll stop talking about online vs. physical and we’ll talk about retail and retail will be you know multiple channels but they’ll really operate in a really synergistic way,” McGee said during an appearance on the FOX Business Network Monday.

At the forefront of the industry is Amazon (AMZN), which is launching its third annual Prime Day from 9 p.m. Monday to 3 a.m. Wednesday – a 25% longer window than it was last year.

Despite Amazon’s success, McGee says it does not completely dictate the industry’s future.

“Amazon has had incredible success but you know Amazon’s an $80 billion retailer in North America…$80 billion compared to almost $5 trillion of retail sales, I mean there’s a huge amount of sales that happen in this country that don’t happen because of Amazon but Amazon is clearly influencing the industry and driving it to change.”

Continue reading “As Amazon sales soar and retail bankruptcies rise, industry execs remain ‘bullish’”

Here’s How Far Sears Holdings Has Fallen in 5 Years

When Sears Holdings (NASDAQ:SHLD) reported its first-quarter 2012 results, it saw a drop in overall sales, a decline in same-store sales, and negative earnings. The company reported that revenue decreased $270 million to $9.3 billion while same-store sales declined by 1.3% — 1% at Sears and 1.6% at the company’s Kmart locations. The company lost $0.31 per share from continuing operations, but offset that by selling $233 million in assets, producing $189 million in profits.

Selling off assets to make up for sales and revenue shortfalls would become standard operating procedure for the chain over the next five years, but in 2012, then-CEO Lou D’Ambrosio probably had no idea that the worst was yet to come. In fact, in the Q1 2012 earnings release he made comments that sound a lot like what current CEO Eddie Lampert says about each quarter now.

Continue reading “Here’s How Far Sears Holdings Has Fallen in 5 Years”

Is Uber Killing the Limo Rental Industry?

The all popular app has created a kind of chaos in the transportation industry. All of the sudden just anyone could offer driving services at lower prices that registered and professional organizations and individuals ever could. This left a big mark on the transport industry as a whole, as reported by The Washington Post.

The number and the stringency of regulation which are in place for regular limo services cannot be compared to next-to-nothing regulation Uber is subjected to. This is why limo companies need to be smart, to adapt in order to survive this difficult time. Here are some useful tips which could ensure that your limo business stays afloat and competitive.

Diversify

Limo companies which only have cars and limos have been hit the hardest by the rise of Uber. Some others, like Presidential Limo DC, have a diverse fleet of cars, transporter vans and buses. This helped protect these companies from the worst of the impact. Most limo companies have had to adapt since and diversify into new markets and find new sources of revenue. Creating or using the niche markets such as dedicated wine or beer tours or shuttle services is a good way to power through the turbulent period.

Create a Mobile App

Limo companies are facing a mobile app, so the outdated phone or website-based approach is no longer enough. People live fast and use their smartphones for just about everything. If they are planning to go somewhere, they are much more likely to pick up their phone and tap an app a few times, rather than googling a website of a limo rental company, visiting the website and then finally ordering a car. Simplicity and speed are the key advantages of dedicated apps, and it is the advantage Uber has had from the start. Some limo companies are investing money into their own apps in a bid to increase visibility and revenue.

Play your strengths

Limo rental services should to their best to emphasize the advantages of renting a limo over hiring an Uber. For a start, traveling in a limo brings a certain level of class and luxury which Uber cannot hope to match. Most vehicles in the fleets of limo rental agencies are equipped with a full bar, entertainments systems and other amenities. Even the cumbersome regulations imposed by the federal government may serve as an excellent marketing point. These vehicles must be safe, whereas with Uber you can never know how roadworthy the car is. The same applies to the drivers. Professional drivers go through rigorous training and testing, something Uber drivers are not obligated to do.

Make cancellation simpler

With most traditional limo services, cancellation is notoriously difficult and it requires notification hours in advance. Uber, on the other hand, offers instant cancellation, quickly and effortlessly. This is just another example of how Uber is in tune with the new lifestyle of people. When you are constantly on the move, your plans can change quite rapidly. You do not want to be anchored down by the obligation to know hours in advance when and where you will go. Some limo rental companies have gotten the message and have significantly shortened the obligatory cancellation time to under an hour, which makes it much more accessible.

The rise of Uber is nothing more than an example of how capitalism works. A revolutionary new technology has appeared, and everyone else needs to adapt or ultimately fail. Fortunately, limo companies are resilient and their management and owners have stepped up to the challenge and they have begun to incorporate some of Uber’s strategies into their business models, ensuring the continued survival of limo rental industry.

Reach out to Presidential Limo DC at:
2100 M St. NW # 170-193 Washington DC 20037
703-347-6900

The running list of 2017 retail apocalypse victims

It’s no secret the retail industry is undergoing a transformational period that has many scaling back physical operations, shuttering stores, reorganizing mounting debt loads and in some cases ending up in bankruptcy court.

Distressed bond issuers in the U.S. retail and apparel markets are nearing recession levels, tripling in the past six years, according to a report released by Moody’s Investors Service. The report found 13.5% of Moody’s retail and apparel portfolio is distressed, compared to 16% during the Great Recession. Debt maturities are also headed toward record levels over the next five years and retailers are filing for bankruptcy at a record rate.

Continue reading “The running list of 2017 retail apocalypse victims”

U.S. auto sales fall for fourth straight month in June

According to this Reuters report auto sales have fallen for the fourth straight month.

Major automakers on Monday reported a fourth consecutive month of lower U.S. new vehicle sales for June and came in below analyst expectations, despite hefty consumer discounts and looser loan terms, providing fresh evidence that 2017 will fall short of last year’s record year for the industry.

Automakers’ shares rose, however, as retail sales to consumers were relatively stable at the U.S. automakers, with General Motors Co (GM.N) asserting that the industry was set for a stronger finish to the year.

Industry consultant Autodata put the industry’s seasonally adjusted annualized rate of sales at 16.51 million units, which was the lowest rate since February 2015. It came in below Wall Street expectations of 16.6 million vehicles and 2 percent lower than the June 2016 figure.

U.S. consumers continued to shun passenger cars in favor of larger pickup trucks, SUVs and crossovers. Passenger car sales were also hurt as some automakers, including GM, have moved to reduce relatively low-margin sales to rental agencies.

The U.S. auto industry has been bracing for a downturn after hitting a record 17.55 million new vehicles sold in 2016. A glut of nearly new used vehicles poses competition for new vehicle sales and automakers have relied increasingly on consumer discounts and loosened lending terms.

Microsoft to lay off THOUSANDS in global reorganization

More bad news for Microsoft. According to this Tech Crunch report the company is ready to lay off thousands of workers.

Microsoft is poised to layoff thousands of employees worldwide in a move to reorganize its salesforce.

A source with knowledge of the planned downsizing told TechCrunch that the U.S. firm would lay off “thousands” of staff across the world. The restructuring is set to include an organizational merger that involves its enterprise customer unit and one or more of its SME-focused divisions. The changes are set to be announced this coming week, we understand.

Microsoft declined to comment.

Earlier this weekend, the Puget Sound Business Journal, Bloomberg and The Seattle Times all reported ‘major’ layoffs related to a move to increase the emphasis on cloud services within Microsoft’s sales teams worldwide. Bloomberg said the redundancies would be “some of the most significant in the sales force in years.”

The reorganization looks to be a result of a change of leadership this past year. Executives Judson Althoff and Jean-Philippe Courtois took charge of Microsoft’s sales and marketing divisions following the exit of long-serving COO Kevin Turner last summer. Althoff, for one, has been public in his criticism of previous sales approaches, and he is keen to make Azure a central part of the focus.

Cities where student loan borrowers struggle with debt the most

CREDIBLE–If you’re struggling under a load of student loans, you already know how hard it is to make ends meet.

So it’s important for borrowers, especially recent grads, to think about the best places to live — the cities in which they’re not only likely to find a well-paying job, but also where rents and other living expenses aren’t so exorbitant so as to add to their pile of debt.

To figure out which cities student loan borrowers struggled the most in, we took a look at the top 23 most populous cities in the U.S. based on U.S. Census data. We then compared the average income of our borrowers in each of those cities with the average monthly housing payment and their average monthly student loan payment, to see how affordable student loan payments actually are for borrowers across the country.

The key indicator for affordability was how much of a borrower’s monthly income would go towards their student loan payments and monthly housing costs.

In the cities that topped our ranking for the most affordable cities for recent grads —  Dallas, Jacksonville, and Houston — borrowers have more of their income left over after paying their monthly loan and housing bills as compared to the other cities on the list.

But even in these cities, nearly 27 percent of borrowers’ average monthly income is eaten up by their monthly housing payment and their monthly loan payment alone. That doesn’t even take into account other expenses such as taxes, food, or transportation.

That’s not all that different from the cities at the very bottom of our list — San Jose, Fort Worth, and Boston — where more than 30 percent of borrowers’ average monthly income is dedicated to loan and housing payments.

The following are the average monthly loan payment, monthly housing payment, and annual income for the nearly 9,000 borrowers in the cities we analyzed:

Where borrowers struggle the most – compare all cities

The chart below visualizes the differences among all 23 cities we analyzed. Toggle through the metrics to see each city’s average borrower monthly payment, average monthly housing payment, average annual income, and average student loan and housing costs as a percentage of income.

The average student loan debt load among those who borrow is $37,173.

Among the cities that are the least affordable, monthly housing costs do tend to be slightly higher as compared to the other cities, but not by much. This makes sense — while affordability might be one factor that grads take into account when choosing where to live, a lack of affordability doesn’t necessarily prevent people from flocking to cities like San Jose, Fort Worth and Boston, where jobs are plentiful.Additionally, recent grads are likely to take into account a variety of other factors when moving to a new city. Smaller cities like Columbus or Jacksonville are less likely to be (or be near) hotbeds of industry or cultural attractions.

Seventy percent of college grads borrow to obtain their degree, and the average debt load among those who borrow is $37,173, according to Cappex.com publisher Mark Kantrowitz.

Credible offers borrowers the opportunity to compare student loan refinancing offers from multiple lenders with a simple, free tool. Borrowers who have refinanced their loans through Credible save an average of nearly $19,000 over the life of their loans.

Cities with highest student loan debt burden

RANKING* CITY AVERAGE BORROWER MONTHLY STUDENT LOAN PAYMENT AVERAGE BORROWER MONTHLY HOUSING PAYMENT AVERAGE BORROWER ANNUAL INCOME STUDENT LOAN & HOUSING COSTS AS A PERCENTAGE OF MONTHLY INCOME
1 San Jose, California $572 $1,661 $85,129 31.47%
2 Fort Worth, Texas $548 $1,209 $67,042 31.45%
3 Boston, Massachusetts $689 $1,226 $73,186 31.40%
4 Los Angeles, California $690 $1,383 $79,630 31.24%
5 Denver, Colorado $636 $1,231 $71,847 31.18%
6 New York, New York $831 $1,629 $94,806 31.14%
7 Indianapolis, Indiana $597 $812 $55,041 30.71%
8 San Diego, California $614 $1,340 $78,333 29.92%
9 San Antonio, Texas $579 $1,168 $70,630 29.69%
10 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania $701 $1,020 $69,757 29.61%
11 Seattle, Washington $638 $1,353 $81,293 29.39%
12 Phoenix, Arizona $528 $1,115 $67,431 29.24%
13 San Francisco, California $798 $1,684 $102,987 28.92%
14 Washington, District of Columbia $674 $1,461 $88,819 28.85%
15 Nashville, Tennessee $550 $1,047 $66,843 28.68%
16 Memphis, Tennessee $549 $980 $65,206 28.13%
17 Chicago, Illinois $694 $1,167 $80,198 27.85%
18 Charlotte, North Carolina $534 $963 $64,522 27.85%
19 Austin, Texas $587 $1,187 $76,478 27.84%
20 Columbus, Ohio $663 $956 $70,977 27.38%
21 Houston, Texas $628 $1,247 $83,528 26.94%
22 Jacksonville, Florida $671 $1,083 $78,982 26.65%
23 Dallas, Texas $688 $1,237 $88,001 26.24%

*Cities are ranked from highest to lowest student loan & housing costs as a percentage of monthly income (i.e. highest to lowest student loan and housing costs burden).

Methodology

To conduct the analysis above, we used actual (but anonymized) data submitted by 8,981 applicants living in the 25 largest U.S. cities seeking to refinance student loan debt through the Credible platform.

We only considered borrowers with a monthly student loan payment of between $50 and $10,000, a monthly housing payment of less than $10,000, and those with an annual income between $1,000 and $300,000.

We limited our analysis to the 25 largest cities in the U.S. El Paso, Texas and Detroit, Michigan were omitted from our analysis due to insufficient student loan borrower data.

Etsy to slash hundreds of jobs

More bad news for the economy. According to this CNBC report online retailer Etsy will be cutting hundreds of jobs.

Etsy, the online market for handmade, vintage and craft items, will cut 15 percent of its workforce.

It’s the second wave of job cuts. Combined with a round in May, the reductions amount to about 22 percent of the staff, according to a press release.

About 230 jobs will be eliminated in the two cuts. Most layoffs this round will primarily be in the marketing, product management and general and administrative departments out of the company’s Brooklyn headquarters.

Etsy expects the latest severance charges and other exit costs to total $6 million to $8.8 million, according to a press release. It said the May cuts cost about $6.5 million to $8 million.

GOLDMAN SACHS: The death of malls will fuel ‘degentrification’

According to this Business Insider report there is a bright side to the death of malls…could we see a mom and pop comeback?

As nationwide chains gobbled up retail space across the country, they did so at the expense of smaller mom-and-pop shops.

But now, as the brick-and-mortar chains die a slow and painful death, small businesses could make a comeback by filling the void, according to two Goldman Sachs executives.

Speaking on the firm’s podcast, Kim Posnett, head of internet investment banking, and Kathy Elsesser, head of the healthcare and consumer and retail investment banking divisions, explained how exactly ecommerce is effecting physical retail stores.

“I think there will become a degentrification, for lack of a better word,” says Posnett. “We will see the rents come down, and mom and pops shops will come back in a much more curated, personal way that goes along these lines of creating great service and a sense of community, and a desire to support your community.”

Dying malls across the US are being transformed into churches

More bad news for retail. According to this Kate Taylor report dying malls are being turned into churches.

As the retail apocalypse sweeps the US, hundreds of malls are being deserted. But a blessed few are being transformed into something entirely different.

Empty and out-of-use malls are being revamped as fitness centers, offices, public libraries, movie theaters, medical clinics, and even churches.

“Only so many consumers are going to malls, and they will flock to newer ones,” June Williamson, a City College of New York architecture professor and the author of “Retrofitting Suburbia,” told Business Insider. “If developers build a new mall, they are inevitably undercutting another property. So older properties have to get re-positioned every decade, or they will die.”

Worshipping at a mall might sound strange but it’s a reality that thousands of people across the US are living.

Another Week, Another 1,000 STORES CLOSE…

More bad news for retail. According to this PE report another 1,000 stores set to close.

This hasn’t been a happy Monday in the retail world with the news that major retailers may close as many as 1,000 stores.

Children’s clothing and accessories chain Gymboree will close 375-450 of its 1,300 stores after filing for bankruptcy over the weekend according to news reports.

Ascena Retail Group, owner of Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant, Dress Barn and others, is also expected to 250-650 stores in two years.

Neither company has announced locations.

Gymboree has stores in the Galleria at Tyler, Riverside; the Shops at Los Lagos, Corona; Promenade Temecula; and Victoria Gardens, Rancho Cucamonga. It has outlet stores in Ontario Mills and the Outlets at Lake Elsinore.

Ann Taylor has a factory store in Ontario Mills and a location at Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon.

Outlet and factory stores are considered to be a bright spot in retail as more people seek bargains and buy clothes online.

There are Lane Bryant stores in such cities as Riverside, Corona, Redlands, Rancho Cucamonga and Menifee.

There are Dress Barns in Mira Loma, Moreno Valley, Corona, Redlands and Fontana.

Class A shopping centers, the kind that serve wide regions such as Ontario Mills and Promenade Temecula, are considered safe by many retail experts because they have the ability to adapt and attract trendy tenants.

Cumulus Media is on the brink of a total collapse

According to this NYP report Cumulus Media is on the verge of collapse.

As turnarounds go, this one is a disaster.

At radio giant Cumulus Media, things have gone from bad to worse. A quick look at the stock price tells the tale.

When former Chief Executive Lew Dickey exited in September 2015, the stock was already an anemic $5.45. On Friday, Cumulus shares closed at 52 cents.

Back in the halcyon days of early 2014, Cumulus stock was trading at $64.04. Now things are in tatters, and a Nasdaq delisting looms — as does a possible bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, current CEO Mary Berner keeps receiving bonus payments, which are now being paid on a quarterly basis instead of the typical end-of-year cycle, perhaps learned from her two bankruptcies with Reader’s Digest.

“Cumulus continues to make tremendous progress in our multi-year turnaround, having reached a financial inflection point driven by ratings share growth, stabilization of the operations, and sustained outperformance against peers despite a tough market environment,” the company told On The Money.

Cumulus owns hundreds of radio stations and syndication company Westwood One, and competes with the likes of iHeart and CBS Radio, now in the hands of Entercom.

VIX Hits Historic Low in More Than Two Decades

Does history repeat itself? That seems to be the case with the CBOE VIX index.

The VIX which measures market volatility of the S&P 500 has gone past the ‘historic floor’ marker following a series of events that resulted in high market tranquility. VIX rates have been hovering between 9 and 10 in the past few days indicating its lowest closing levels since the 1990s. Recorded rates included a 9.84 and even a 9.72.

The Financial Times reported that the results of the French election brought indices to its current rates and mentioned that the European market has been experiencing the same. European equities faced losses as investors were hung up evaluating situations over speculations of Macron’s victory following the first round of voting last month. As a result, most European stock gauges plunged.

The good news for US investors is that local equities proved to be unaffected even though the VIX experienced a historic decline. Bloomberg shared market data showing that the S&P 500 achieved its third weekly gain and projections even point to a raise in interest rates from the Federal Reserve next month.

If that’s the case, then what does low VIX levels actually mean for the stock market?

Looking at the bigger picture, Schaeffer’s Investment Research explained that valuations remain high. This is an indicator that the performance of the stock market will be good long-term. Profit margins of S&P 500 companies are beating expectations and estimations for the remainder of the fiscal year lean on the positive side.

However, this does not accurately reflect the short-term periods. That’s where measurement tools like the VIX come in. The VIX looks at projections of the market’s performance within the next 90 days and for short-term traders, low levels are almost usually a cause for concern. Stock trading company Teramusu specified that major indices such as the S&P 500 are benchmarks of global markets and leading stocks values shift constantly which creates opportunities for profit. But when the market is tranquil, these opportunities decline in proportion to the decreasing rates of measurement gauges. This is why the VIX is also known as the ‘fear gauge’.

Nevertheless, using comparisons with previous incidences of VIX plunges, it was observed that the underperformance doesn’t last. There were usually low returns over the following week up to the three-month marker, but the market flipped back to positive levels around 80% within six months. One year later, the performance returned to 100% which was before the decline.

Hence, low VIX rates don’t necessarily mean a major dive in the stock market. There may be a high tendency to have poor returns within the coming weeks, but as active as the stock market is today, you can expect that it will bounce back as it always does.