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Business News Archives for 2014-02


4th Quarter GDP Revised Down on Second Reading


It is the last day of trading for February and the S&P 500 sits at all-time highs. As of yesterday the S&P 500 is up a little over 5% for the month and is just above the flat line for the year. (Seeking Alpha)

The second reading of Gross Domestic Product for the fourth quarter came in at 2.4% lower than the first reading of 3.2%.  Not a bad number just not as good as we had originally thought. (Bloomberg)

A poll of Chief Financial Officers says 67% of those polled thought the economy was improving at least modestly down from 82% in December.  Six percent think the economy is getting worse.  Thirty-three percent thought weather was to blame for the current soft patch. (CNBC Global CFO Council)

Nationally banks made more money on less income during the fourth quarter.  Profits for the 6,812 banks was $40.3 billion up 17% from last year. Helped mostly be a reduction in loan loss reserves.  Reduced mortgage lending pulled revenues down 2%. (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation)

Dinner maybe getting more expensive. The US cattle herd is at 63-year lows (that’s 1951 for you who don’t want to do the math) and US production of beef will be down 5.3% this year, the lowest since 1994.  Prices are at their highest levels since tracking was started in 1964. (Bloomberg)
 

Oregon Losses More Jobs With Anti-Biz Policies


Northwest equipment maker Nautilus saw sales increase 19% in Q4 as profits jumped 13%. CEO Bruce Cazenave says the company expects good growth in 2014 as they continue to expand their product lines. (Business Wire)

Home price growth slowed in the second half of the year, not a bad thing, but still logged a 13.4% increase in 2014 nationally according to the S&P/Case-Schiller Home Price Index.

Oregon barge and railcar maker Greenbrier is moving dozens of senior level positions and 150 manufacturing jobs from Oregon to the Midwest and South. While the company says they will not be moving their headquarters they were critical of crime in Portland and the State’s anti-business attitude and tax policy. (Portland Business Journal)

Target says its fourth quarter profits fell by 46% to $520 million.  Canadian operations losses made up the lion’s share of the company’s profit reductions.  Most Canadian stores were rolled out last year.  Impacts of the Christmas security breach were not apparent in the numbers. (Market Watch)

The amount of US farmland and farmers continues to shrink.  Over 72-million acres of farmland have been lost to other uses since 1982 according to the US Department of Agriculture. The average age of a farmer has steadily increased since 1982 and now sits at 58 years.
 

Earnings Season Wraps Up


Triple-A reports the average for a gallon of regular is just above three-34, up nearly a penny from yesterday.  It's also nearly a nickel a gallon above the average of a week ago.

Yesterday’s big rally put us just below all-time highs on the S&P 500 and levels not seen on the NASDAQ since 2000. For the year markets are essentially flat. (Market Wire)

Home Depot sales dipped a meager 1% in Q4 as weather hampered shoppers. Profits were also flat.  The company is raising its dividend 21% and said 2014 is not going to be as good as analysts expect. (Associated Press)

Macy’s sales climbed 1.4% last quarter.  Sales were lower than expected due to weather with 244 stores being closed at some time during January. Profits were up 16% in 2013 its fifth straight year of double digit profit growth. (Business Wire)

Hillsboro-based TriQuint Semiconductor is merging with its North Carolina rival RF Micro Devices.  The all-stock deal will equally value each company and will result in a new name.  TriQuint employees 900 people in Oregon and for the current time those jobs do not appear at risk. (Breifing.com)

 

DirecTV is buying back $3.5 billion in stock.  Sales in Q4 rose 6.7% and profits fell almost 16%.  In the US the satellite provider added 93,000 new subscribers and 231,000 in Latin America. (Bloomberg)

 

Companies Raise Dividends


The world’s largest publically held companies paid out more the $1 trillion in dividends last year for the first time ever.  That is a $310 billion increase since 2009.  That is a 49% increase over 5 years. The top 10 companies, oil and bank dominated, accounted for 10% of all dividends paid. (BBC News)

Nordstrom fell short in the fourth quarter as profits slipped 6% on a sales gain of 2.2%.  The company says Christmas season discounting and increased expansion costs at its Rack stores were to blame. (Associated Press)

New foreclosures in the US hit 8 month lows in the fourth quarter as rising prices erase negative equity. Foreclosures have moved back to historical norms with most of the loans still needing to be worked out being very old.  Seventy-five percent of delinquent loans originated before 2007. (Bloomberg)

This morning Men’s Wearhouse has boosted its takeover offer for Jos. A. Banks by 10% to $63.50 a share. (CNBC)

Nike produced 554 patents in 2013 a record for the company as they continue to lead innovation in the apparel and shoe industry.  New patents include glasses that track golf balls, shoe improvements and a new golf bag base. (Portland Business Journal)

Economy Continues to Heal


Jeld-Wen has a new CEO at the helm.  Kirk Hachigian is taking over and will also be chairman of one of Oregon’s largest privately held companies.  Jeld-Wen recently moved its corporate headquarters to North Carolina. (Associated Press)

Safeway has put out the for sale sign, as the nation’s second largest grocer says it is in talks with potential buyers.  The company has about 1335 stores across the nation. (Bloomberg)

S&P 500 companies are exceeding sales forecasts by the most since 2012 this quarter. The earnings beats have been led by the bank, utility and pharmaceutical sectors. (Bloomberg)

The founder of hunting and fishing retailer Cabela’s has died.  Richard Cabela was 77.  He founded the company in 1961 with his wife and brother.  Cabela’s sells from its website and 50 stores about $3.2 billion in goods each year. (Bloomberg)

 

The index of leading economic indicators climbed in January as we look three to six months into the future. The index was up 0.3% with 5 of the 10 components rising.  Hiring and factory production both improved. (Bloomberg)

 

Will interest rates go up? Yes, one day they will


Markets took a nose dive yesterday when minutes from the Federal Reserve meeting showed they were thinking interest rates may go up mid-year 2015.  Why this was a surprise to investors is one of those cosmic mysteries. (Market Watch)

 

Factory production in China fell to 7-month lows in January.  This data point renews trader fears that the world’s second largest economy could be struggling. (Reuters)

 

Same stores sales at the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart, fell 0.4% in Q4 and profits slumped. Overall revenue was up 1.4%.  Of most concern was a lower than expected management forecast for the rest of the year. (Reuters)

 

Bankrupt Redmond outdoor gear maker Altrec looks like it will be scooped up by Minnesota based Active Boarder Corp in bankruptcy court. The proposed price was not listed in court documents.  Today has been set as the date Altrec will be auctioned to the highest bidder.  (Oregon Live)

 

Portland based Columbia Sportswear saw sales increase 6% last quarter as cold weather grips the nation.  The $533 million in sales was a record. Profits however slipped 7%.  The company raised their dividend by 12% to 28 cents a share. (Market Wire)

Markets Approaching Record Levels


At 11am we get the Federal Reserve meeting minutes from their January get together.  This could move markets. (CNBC)
 
New housing starts for last month fell 16%.  Can you say weather?  (Bloomberg)

Inflation at the manufacturing level, also known as PPI, was up 0.2%, last month.  A little hotter than expected.   (Fox Business News)

Mortgage applications, both refinancing and new purchase, fell 4.1% last week.  Loans for an original home purchase fell 6.3% to its lowest level since September 2011. (Mortgage Bankers Association)

Renewable energy mandates come at a cost. Portland General Electric is asking for a 4.6% rate increase to cover the cost of its new $500 million wind farm.  This comes on top of the 7% rate increase that kicked in the first of the year (Associated Press)

Nike is raising its dividend by 14% to 24 cents a share.  The company has plenty of cash to cover the increase with $5.1 billion in the bank.  The new dividend will mean a $214 million payout to shareholders. (Market Wired)
 

Natural Gas Supplies Fall


The cold winter weather has had its impact on natural gas supplies.  Natural gas storage is at 10-year lows after high demand in the mid-west and east. (CNBC)

Coca-Cola saw profits drop 8.3% in the latest quarter as the company spun off bottling operations in Brazil and the Philippines.  Sales were down 3.6%. (MarketWatch)

Oregon’s Lithia Motors continues to expand their operations.  Recently the company acquired a Honda dealership in Maui and a Volkswagen dealership in Stockton.  Lithia is now the 9th largest auto retailer in the US with 28 brands in 12 states. (Market Wired)

Clackamas Oregon based Oregon Iron Works will be building the next generation watercraft for the military’s Special Operations Command.  The actual size of the contract was not disclosed, but the company said it would mean the addition of a “significant number” of new jobs. (Oregon Live)

There were 3,699 permitted breweries in the US in 2013 according to the Beer Institute, 948 of those were started last year alone. One third of all breweries are located in four states – California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon. Many of the breweries are small and centered around an existing pub.
 

Stocks Roll Into New Week


Traders this week will likely focus on the Federal Reserve and a few economic reports.   The Central Bank releases details about its most recent policy making meeting on Wednesday but today stays dark due to the Presidents Day holiday.  Earnings season is virtually over but the economic reports include housing starts, existing home sales and consumer price inflation.  The markets are coming off their first back to back weekly gains of the year.

 

The path is being cleared for licensed marijuana companies to do business with the government.  The Justice and Treasury departments have come up with guidelines on banks dealing with the operations in states such as Colorado.  The rules are geared towards helping banks boost the availability of banking services to pot shops that usually deal in cash.  They will also reduce the threat of prosecution for money laundering and related crimes if banks meet a series of conditions.  Colorado is the country’s first state to operate retail outlets that permit marijuana to be sold for recreational use.  More than a dozen and a half other states and the District of Columbia allow marijuana for medicinal purposes.

 

A debt limit extension is in place.  President Obama signed the package over the weekend, which gives a one year extension to the government's borrowing authority.  The President also signed into law a measure that restores a one-percent cut in military pensions.  Obama signed both bills near Palm Springs, California where he spent the weekend.

Snow storm does not stop trading


In the old days before computers Wall Street would have come to a standstill during winter storms like we are seeing in the east. But today trading goes on even if many people are working from home. (CNBC)

Subprime mortgages are back !!!  Wells Fargo, the largest US mortgage lender, is now offering subprime loans as it tries to stem its decline in revenues and mortgage lending volume. Banks are struggling and cutting as the refinancing boom comes to an end.  Bank of America is cutting 450 west coast mortgage jobs, 10 of which will be in Oregon. (Reuters)

In a victory for free speech in business, the owner of Cast Iron Farms in McMinnville won a lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Agriculture saying their ban on her advertising the sale of unpasteurized milk was unconstitutional. She sells her milk for $14 a gallon. (OregonLive)

It could change an industry, which in Oregon, still operates like the Prohibition era of the 1920’s. Fred Meyer president Lynn Gust has filed an Oregon ballot initiative that would end the state’s monopoly sale of hard liquor.  Signature gathering could start next month for the November ballot. (Associated Press)

Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus Radio when Don Klipeness of Health Insurance Strategies will be our guest to talk about making sure you have signed up for Obama Care.
 

Lots of Red before Valentines Day


January retail sales were down 0.4%, take out auto sales and the number was flat.  These are disappointing numbers and will most likely be blamed on the weather. (Bloomberg)

Oregon is number six in tech exports in the US.  Oregon companies exported $6.4 billion in products overseas in 2012.  That is down from $8 billion in tech exports in 2008. Top purchasers of Oregon products are Malaysia, China, Costa Rica and Vietnam. (TechAmeica Foundation)

US home owners behind on their mortgage payments are at their lowest levels in five years.  Those behind more than two months fell to 3.85% in the last quarter of 2013 down from 5.08% a year earlier. The Oregon delinquency rate is 3.25%.  (Associated Press)

Oregon chipmaker TriQuint Semiconductor has hired Goldman Sachs to help it deal with attacks by activist investor Starboard Value. The company has struggled with capacity and growth issues over the last couple years.  Goldman will help the company review their options including plant closings and possible sale. (Forbes)

US employers posted fewer job openings in December, but openings remain at five and a half year highs.  There were almost 4 million open jobs posted in the US during December.  New unemployment claims for last week climbed 8,000 to 339,000.  (Associated Press)
 

Business News


The S&P 500 closed just above the flat line yesterday, but it was enough to paste together a three day winning streak.  Today new Fed Chair Janet Yellen goes to Capitol Hill for her first public testimony. (Fox Business News)

The National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Optimism Index moved higher for a third straight month.  Outlook for increasing sales was up 15% and hiring was at its highest level since 2007 up 12%. (NFIB Report)

Oregon computer chip equipment maker Electro Scientific Industries continues to struggle posting flat sales and a loss of almost $5 million last quarter.  In addition the company downgraded its sales expectations for 2014 by 20%. (Business Wire)

Mercedes posted record US sales in January.  The luxury automaker sold 22,604 cars up 103 autos from last year. (Bloomberg)

Big union vote this week at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee as the UAW tries to organize their first plant south of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Auto producers have built 23 plants in the south since 1990 and none are organized. (Wall Street Journal)
 

Business News


Thursday and Friday saw the first two day back-to-back rallies of greater than 1% since the last trading day of 2012 and first trading day of 2013. (CNBC)

McDonald’s says global sales rose 1.2% in January.  Sales in the US fell by a little over 1%.  On Saturday the first golden arches opened in Vietnam. (Reuters)   

Companies won two important unanimous rulings before the Supreme Court recently. The first involved US Air saying they could not be sued when they report security threats to the TSA.  The other involved US Steel saying companies in many cases don’t have to pay workers for time spent putting on and taking off safety gear for work. (Bloomberg)  

As demand for gold coins increases mints are ramping up.  Austria’s AG mint has added a third 8-hour shift to keep up with demand and Australia’s Perth mint saw demand raise 20% this year.  In an example of investors emotional tendencies sales by the US Mint posted their best month since April 2013 in January.  Last Spring the bling plunged into a bear market and prices were over 30% lower. (Bloomberg)  

First there was the football bowl shortage of Velveeta Cheese now comes reports of shortages of Kraft string cheese. The shortage comes amid a recall of millions of packages from a plant in upstate New York. (Associated Press)

Business News


The Department of Labor says the economy added 113,000 jobs in January. The private sector added 142,000 and government cut 29,000 jobs.  Big gains were in construction and manufacturing jobs and big losses were in the retail sector. The unemployment rate stands at 6.6%, the lowest since October of 2008. (Department of Labor)

Oregon programmable chipmaker Lattice Semiconductor posted sales 36% higher than last year and turned last year’s loss into a $6.5 million quarterly profit.  Lattice has been restructuring and reinventing itself over the last couple years and it is starting to pay off.  Sales in 2014 are expected to grow in the double digits. (Market Wire)

Ever since the Federal Reserve slowed its bond buying program interest rates have been surprisingly falling.  That has driven a 30-year fixed rate mortgage to 4.23% at the end of January.  That is the 3rd straight month of decline. (Associated Press)

Nordstrom will close two long-time northwest locations.  The Vancouver Westfield Mall and Lloyd Center locations will close by January of 2015. That will mean the loss of 220 Oregon jobs.  The company said while the stores were profitable they did not generate revenues robust enough to warrant the costs of needed remodeling. (PR Newswire)

Join us Saturday at 10 for Financial Focus when we will talk about the recent market downturn and our outlook for the economy.
 

Business News


There is lots of economic data today and more corporate earnings.  All a run-up to the big government jobs report tomorrow.

Fourth quarter US manufacturing productivity climbed a strong 3.2% and per unit production labor costs fell by 1.6%.  These number as good for consumer costs and product affordability, but is not a positive sign for more robust job growth. (Bloomberg)

Corporate layoffs were up 12% from last year to 45,107 jobs in January. The numbers show a structural shift rather than a weakening economy.  Big box retailers are making adjustments to the new “brick and click” retail environment. (Challenger Report)

Oregon electron microscope maker FEI posted unexpectedly strong profits of $41.2 million up 35% from last year.  The company posted record sales in 2013 and projects 10% growth in 2014.  The stock gained almost 100% last year.  (Seeking Alpha)

Oregon chipmaker TriQuint Semiconductor lost almost $9 million in the fourth quarter, more than twice what they lost last year.  For 2013 sales were up 7.7%.  The company has struggled to breakout from the base product they make for iPhones to other mobile applications and are currently under pressure from activist investors. (Business Wire)

Radio Shack will be closing 500 stores nationwide. The company says they will announce which stores in March.  (Bloomberg)
 


Volatility is back for equity markets so far in 2014 as we are having another see saw week.  Despite record earnings for the S&P 500, weather impacted economic data is having the bigger impact on the markets. (Fox News)

The ADP jobs report says the private sector added 175,000 jobs in January.  Most of the strength was job additions in the small business sector. Weather did have a small downward impact on the number. (CNBC)

Mortgage applications were essentially flat last week.  The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is at three month lows standing at 4.47%. (Mortgage Bankers Association)

Wal-Mart will spend almost half a billion dollars in their continued push into the Canadian grocery market.  The company plans to add 35 supercenter stores in Canada during 2014. The company currently has 360 stores in the great white north. (Market Watch)

Microsoft, the company that made more last quarter than Google, Facebook, Amazon and Cisco Systems combined, says they will stop supporting Windows XP in April. The operating system is now 12 years old.  The biggest impact will be felt by banks.  An estimated 95% of ATMS use Windows XP.  (CNN Money)
 


Yesterday’s big sell off puts the S&P 500 5% below where we started the year. The first trading day of February was off 2%, the worst start to the Valentine month for the S&P 500 since 1933. (CNBC)

 

In a forward looking sign of improvement small business lending in the US reached its highest level in seven years in December. Small business loans were up 5% from a year earlier. (Reuters)

 

US cattle inventories were down 2% in January compared to the year before. That is the lowest inventory number for January since 1951.  Cattle numbers started falling four years ago as drought and high feed costs pushed ranchers to trim their herds.  (Associated Press)

 

The ISM Manufacturing index showed continued but slowing growth at factories in January.  The index reached its lowest level in 8-months as cold winter weather slowed demand and production. This lower number is most likely a weather blip and is seen as an outlier number. (Bloomberg)

 

Global defense spending is on pace to increase this year for the first time since 2009.  The defense industry is led by the spending of the US ($582 billion), China ($139 billion) and Russia ($69 billion). These spending increases are leading US contractors to project increased sales and profits (Bloomberg)


Markets continue to be skittish on overseas news.  China reported their manufacturing sector slowed to a 6-month low in January, but was still showing expansion.  Later today we get lots of economic data. (CNBC)

Food giant Sysco posted a 4.1% increase in sales during the quarter but profits fell 5.3%. The company says business continues to be challenging in the casual dining sector of the economy. (Global Newswire)

The number two US mobile provider, AT&T, says they are cutting prices on large data plans in an attempt to regain ground on Verizon and T-Mobile. The company added 566,000 new net subscribers last quarter. (Reuters)

Jos. A Bank is reportedly in talks to buy retailer Eddie Bauer. In the meantime Men’s Warehouse has sweetened their offer to buy Banks, in a hostile takeover bid.  (Reuters)

The Chinese love luxury goods. BMW is introducing a limited Lunar Year of the Horse M-Class sedan.  The cars will sell for prices up to $458,000 per car.  Sales of BMW climbed 20% last year in China.  (Bloomberg)
 

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