Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday's $hit

How do you start your day? 

Sometimes you just feel a compelling urge that is unstoppable, and that is why you are getting this post this morning. Let me explain.

"Holiday spending is up, and online shopping was a winner" by Sarah Halzack Washington Post  December 28, 2015

WASHINGTON — The holiday shopping season isn’t quite over for retailers, with millions of customers expected to hit stores and websites this week to redeem gift cards and to treat themselves to steeply discounted goods. But a study has found that, so far, the holiday season has shaped up to be a relatively healthy one for the retail industry.

Oh, no. They just told us 5 days ago it was lackluster, all the economic evidence points to it, and now they come out with this steaming swirler. The gift cards, btw, are money already spent and accounted for (watch, they will tell us January that economy surged with spending).

Retail sales were up 7.9 percent between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, compared to the same period last year, according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which studies transaction and survey data on purchases made with credit cards, cash, and checks. That figure excludes sales of automobiles and gasoline.

You know, one of the things about lying and $ending mixed me$$ages is to not jump the shark with these enormous swings in the daily trowel of $hit-$hoveling (sorry for the verbiage, but this "journali$m" is far more offensive).

They have all this information at their fingertips, or so they claim, and yet it's a constant swirl of wrongne$$ explained away with lame a$$ excu$es!!

MasterCard SpendingPulse found that e-commerce provided crucial momentum this holiday season, with sales up 20 percent in that channel.

Yeah, hide all that nonexistent economic growth online!! Still didn't spend at the stores, nor went to the food court, gassed up the car, impulse bought, you get the drift. It's time to face facts: the Globe bu$ine$$ section is nothing but agenda-pu$hing self-adulation or a crock of crap lies. Why am I wasting my time (and yours)? 

The strength in online shopping was consistent with many forecasts for the season, which predicted e-commerce would post greater sales growth than brick-and-mortar stores.

But that much?

And it reflects the shopping patterns from the season’s unofficial Thanskgiving-weekend kickoff: Brick-and-mortar stores saw a 10.4 percent decline in sales during that time frame, while online sales hit record levels on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.

It's all a myth, folks. 

They were wrong then, huh? Then why would they be right now?

It stands to reason that Amazon was a key beneficiary of the surge in online shopping this holiday season, because of the company’s overall e-commerce market share.

It stands to reason, huh? That means no real facts or evidence. Just $tands to rea$on sayeth my lying, war-promoting, corporate po$ paper!

RelatedAmazon holiday shipping, Christmas Eve deliveries set record

Yeah, everybody cut it close and chewed fingernails with a just-in-time delivery, right, C'MON! 

Amazon’s report issued on Monday covers trends and percentage changes in its shipments, but doesn’t give sales figures or the number of items it shipped. In response to an Associated Press request for details, Amazon.com Inc. said that it isn’t sharing additional information.

Then there is no way of verifying it, is there? Just take Amazon's word!

Or a Slice of Intelligence:

For example, a study by Slice Intelligence found that some 36 percent of total online sales on Cyber Monday were rung up by Amazon. Meanwhile, a poll conducted by CNBC this holiday season found that about 49 percent of shoppers say they ‘‘always’’ or ‘‘most of the time’’ browse Amazon when they shop online.

(Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, owns The Washington Post.)

Aaaaaaaah! This is all a big pile of $elf-$erving public relations you-know pa$$ing it$elf off as news reporting (watch Amazon's stock zoom!)

Indeed, the Seattle e-commerce company announced Monday that it added more than three million customers to its Prime membership program in the third week of December alone and said it shipped a record number of packages with Prime.

Ah, indeed.

The retailer said its own hardware devices were among the best-selling products on its site this season, with the Fire tablet ranking as its biggest seller and the Fire TV Stick ranking as its third-biggest seller.

In addition to the strength in online shopping, MasterCard SpendingPulse found that furniture was a bright spot this holiday season. Sarah Quinlan, the head of market insights for MasterCard Advisors, said that solid spending in this category, which includes many big-ticket items, is a sign that consumers are plenty willing to open their wallets for purchases they’ve carefully researched. In an interview before the release of this latest data, Quinlan said that furniture sales generally may be getting a boost from millennials as they form their own households.

This as we have been told -- and as the data show, or so I was told -- millennial are delaying marrying and purchasing of homes because of lagging student loan debt. 

Of course, three days later I'm told the opposite. I mean, it's whatever crock of crap is needed at a given time. Forget consistency, just let the diarrhea stream. 

So how do you wrap furniture anyway? Anybody you know get furniture, or am I truly reading a 1% pos publication talking to itself here?

Another encouraging sign for retailers in MasterCard’s data was its finding that apparel sales saw ‘‘high single-digit growth’’ during the season. Coming into the holiday rush, apparel sales had been soft at many retailers, with chains from Macy’s to Target to Dick’s Sporting Goods saying that unseasonably warm weather appeared to be keeping consumers from scooping up boots, coats, and other cold-weather gear.

As warmer temperatures hung on through December, there were reports that apparel retailers were missing out on millions in clothing sales. However MasterCard’s data suggest that consumers ended up ponying up for clothing after all.


MasterCard found that women’s apparel sales saw robust growth, while sales of men’s clothing declined, dragging down the growth rate for the category overall.

Anybody $melling a $tench?

MasterCard said in its report that low gas prices were probably a factor in spurring consumers to spend more this holiday season.

The National Retail Federation found in a survey that 65.9 percent of holiday shoppers said they are planning to shop the week after Christmas, so retailers are continuing to try to squeeze more dollars out of them with big clearance sales.

Why, if business was so good over the holidays? Why would they have inventory, and why would people who bought online now wast time going to stores after everyone takes a deep breath after the mandated Xmas spending poot? 

And why did I even bother going and getting a Globe? For this $hit?


Now for the fart:

"FedEx says late orders contributed to holiday woes; Surge of gifts, weather made deliverer miss holiday deadline" by Michael Sasso Bloomberg News  December 28, 2015

ATLANTA — FedEx Corp. on Monday attributed its failure to deliver some Christmas packages to volumes that “far exceeded all previous records” after warning last week that bad weather would be to blame for some gifts showing up late.


“An unprecedented surge of last-minute e-commerce shipments” flooded in ahead of the holiday, FedEx said in a statement, going beyond the company’s focus on storms in a Dec. 24 forecast of tardy Christmas deliveries. United Parcel Service Inc. reported completing all the deliveries it had promised ahead of Dec. 25.

There is a flood of something in my Globe bu$ine$$ section all right. Put on your waders. 

Looks like those that chose FedEx f***ed up, huh?

Operations have returned to normal after the deployment of thousands of workers on Christmas Day, FedEx said.

Cleaned it all up in one day, huh? 

All that efficiency after being so inefficient!

FedEx didn’t give details on how or why or how its network of jets, sorting facilities, and delivery vehicles was unable to handle the last-minute increase in business.

(Blog editor's chin slumps to chest as he shakes head)

Shoppers came out in force in mid-December after a slow start to the holiday season, said Craig Johnson, president of consultant Customer Growth Partners. It was a much-needed boon for retailers but a strain for delivery companies amid a shift toward online purchases.


“My take on it is UPS was much better prepared to handle it than FedEx was,” said David Huckeba, a partner at logistics consulting firm Intelligent Audit. “I just don’t think they were ready or able to handle the volumes they got.”

The Express unit, which offers expedited delivery, also expanded Saturday service on Dec. 26 to handle late parcels as well as normal business, according to FedEx.

Aside from tornadoes and other storms that plagued the South around Christmas, heavy rains in the Northeast probably weighed on FedEx, said Satish Jindel, whose ShipMatrix Inc. tracks on-time rates.

That is where my print copy ended. 

Tired of the excu$es yet?

FedEx Express operates an air hub in Newark, N.J., and some states surrounding that hub had on-time delivery rates of less than 80 percent on Dec. 23 following the storms, Jindel said.

Weather, not operational problems, probably deserves most of the blame, Jindel said. 

This guys are something else!

“If God decides to dump weather challenges, the safety of FedEx workers should take priority over people getting packages on time,” Jindel said.

FedEx made that point on Dec. 24, when it said some employees would work Christmas Day to finish deliveries.

“Due to the severe weather yesterday, we made operational adjustments to keep our team members safe and to avoid major service disruptions,” FedEx said then.

Weather challenges aside, Huckeba said some of his shipper clients grumbled about delays with FedEx’s low-cost delivery program, called SmartPost. 


FedEx transports SmartPost packages for most of the journey and passes them to the US Postal Service for final drop-off at customers’ homes. Some companies complained that their packages sat idle for extended periods within the SmartPost system, Huckeba said. 

Yes, when I mailed a package last week the teller at the Post Office was telling me about a gift she had ordered for her husband being stuck in the FedEx system.

John Haber, an Atlanta-based logistics consultant, also heard of delays in the SmartPost program. But SmartPost lacks the service guarantees that come with FedEx’s more expensive delivery programs, so those users may have little room to complain, he said. 

Hey, look. You are at the whim and mercy of corporations in 21$t century America. Some might even call it fa$ci$m.

“You can’t say it’s all FedEx’s fault,” said Haber, chief executive officer of Spend Management Experts. FedEx and Postal Service spokesmen didn’t have any immediate comment about SmartPost operations. 

Why not?

UPS completed its deliveries on Christmas Eve, and customer feedback suggests everything was delivered on time, spokesman Glenn Zaccara said Monday by e-mail. UPS struggled early in the holiday season, with an on-time delivery rate of 93 percent in the week following Black Friday. However, the company was able to catch up as the holiday approached, he said.

Late online orders and bad weather forced UPS to miss some Christmas deliveries two years ago, spotlighting Americans’ increasing embrace of e-commerce and the struggles of shipping companies to match capacity to consumers’ demand.

Nothing about brick-and-mortar malls and Main Street missing out (I didn't go to either this year, and I usually made at least one trip to both. Viewed Main Street as a civic duty. not this year.)


So what's in your wallet (if anything)?

"Markets snapshot: S&P 500 slips as year nears end" Bloomberg News  December 28, 2015

Gains by Amazon.com and Walt Disney Co. helped the US stock market mute its declines on Monday as the S&P 500 struggled to advance for the year.

Do I even need to type it?

The index slipped 0.2 percent at the close, whittling down an earlier 0.8 percent decline. This week is shortened, with markets closed for New Year’s Day on Friday. Oil led a retreat among commodities on Monday, sliding more than 3 percent from a three-week high as Iran repeated its goal of boosting exports after sanctions on the country are lifted. A drop in Chinese industrial profits also weighed on sentiment for raw materials. That’s a turnaround: The S&P 500 surged 2.8 percent last week, buoyed by gains in this year’s least-loved companies. Commodity producers posted their best weekly rise since October amid a rally in crude and metals prices. That helped the equity benchmark recoup most of a two-day rout following the Federal Reserve’s rate increase on Dec. 16 and briefly reclaim gains for the year. A report last week showing that consumer spending buoyed the economy in the third quarter added to optimism that growth can accelerate even as interest rates rise. Stocks are still defying the historical trend of gains in the final month of the year. Amid a series of sharp rallies and sell-offs, the S&P 500 is heading for its worst December since 2002, down 1.2 percent."

Took me more than ten minutes to do my doody.


Home builders chase millennials by moving down price scale

Do you $ee what the pre$$ considers cheap?

S&P 500 is back in the black for 2015

"To shield their fortunes, the wealthiest put tax system to work; Top earners pay less than in past" by Noam Scheiber and Patricia Cohen New York Times  December 30, 2015

WASHINGTON —With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes.

They did; they gave even more to the wealthy and borrowed all $700 billion -- while the ma$$ media were full of fear and terror.

Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists, and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.

In recent years, this apparatus has become one of the most powerful avenues of influence for wealthy Americans of all political stripes, including hedge fund magnates Daniel S. Loeb and Steven A. Cohen, who give heavily to Republicans, and liberal billionaire George Soros, who has called for higher levies on the rich while at the same time using tax loopholes to bolster his own fortune.

Ah, the chosen ones, and he's as much of a hypocrite as Buffett ($ee the light yet), and hey, talk is cheap. They look like the "good elite" even when they know nothing will ever come of it.

All are among a small group providing much of the early cash for the 2016 presidential campaign.

Operating largely out of public view — in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions, and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service — the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them. The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans.

Are they telling us anything we don't already know?

The impact on their own fortunes has been stark. Two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was elected president, the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to IRS data. By 2012, when President Obama was reelected, that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually, when payroll taxes are included for both groups.

And now?

SeeAmerica’s 20 wealthiest people own as much as the bottom 152 million 

Yes, 20 people own as much as HALF of the rest of the country.

The ultra-wealthy “literally pay millions of dollars for these services,” said Jeffrey A. Winters, a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies economic elites, “and save in the tens or hundreds of millions in taxes.”

Some of the biggest current tax battles are being waged by some of the most generous supporters of 2016 candidates. They include the families of hedge fund investors Robert Mercer, who gives to Republicans, and James Simons, who gives to Democrats, as well as options trader Jeffrey Yass, a libertarian-leaning donor to Republicans.

Enjoying the $how?

Yass’ firm is litigating what the IRS deemed to be tens of millions of dollars in underpaid taxes. Renaissance Technologies, the hedge fund Simons founded and which Mercer helps run, is currently under review by the IRS over a loophole that saved their fund an estimated $6.8 billion in taxes over roughly a decade, according to a Senate investigation. Some of these same families have also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservative groups that have attacked virtually any effort to raises taxes on the wealthy.

Oddly, I am with them in this re$pect: this government doesn't need any more money. It already wastes what it gets, and when they do raise taxes its not on these people. They just got $700 billion dollars (with a few thousand in chump change kicked in for the rest of us, money that will lose its value to the point of becoming a negative over time) in tax loot.

In the heat of the presidential race, the influence of wealthy donors is being tested. At stake are the Obama administration’s limited 2013 tax increase on high earners — the first in two decades — and an IRS initiative to ensure that, in effect, the higher rate sticks by cracking down on tax avoidance by the wealthy. 

Yeah, Obama's efforts as the income gap has yawned during his administration.

"In 2013, Pearl discussed his proposal to end tax breaks for hedge fund managers and to require companies to disclose all political spending at the White House, where he met in the Roosevelt Room with members of Obama’s economic team. They expressed sympathy for his proposals, but said the time wasn’t right to push for them."

Sick of the $how yet?

“There’s this notion that the wealthy use their money to buy politicians; more accurately, it’s that they can buy policy, and specifically, tax policy,” said Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities who served as chief economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. “That’s why these egregious loopholes exist, and why it’s so hard to close them.”

His boss helped the divide (flashback to to two years ago, folks).

Each of the top 400 earners took home, on average, about $336 million in 2012, the latest year for which data are available. If the bulk of that money had been paid out as salary or wages, as it is for the typical American, the tax obligations of those wealthy taxpayers could have more than doubled.

Instead, much of their income came from convoluted partnerships and high-end investment funds. Other earnings accrued in opaque family trusts and foreign shell corporations, beyond the reach of the tax authorities.

That's our $y$tem, and it is the be$t one ever devi$ed by man -- or so I've been told by the $ame people who.... HEY!!!

The well-paid technicians who devise these arrangements toil away at white-shoe law firms and elite investment banks, as well as a variety of obscure boutiques. But at the fulcrum of the strategizing over how to minimize taxes are so-called family offices, the customized wealth management departments of Americans with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars in assets.

Family offices, many of which are dedicated to managing and protecting the wealth of a single family, oversee everything from investment strategy to philanthropy. But tax planning is a core function. While the specific techniques these advisers employ to minimize taxes can be mind-numbingly complex, they generally follow a few simple principles, like converting one type of income into another type that’s taxed at a lower rate.

Meant to be that way and I think you know the rea$on.

Loeb, for example, has invested in a Bermuda-based reinsurer — an insurer to insurance companies — that turns around and invests the money in his hedge fund. That maneuver transforms his profits from short-term bets in the market, which the government taxes at roughly 40 percent, into long-term profits, known as capital gains, which are taxed at roughly half that rate.

Isn't that kind of a conflict of intere$t?

Organizing one’s business as a partnership can be lucrative in its own right. Some of the partnerships from which the wealthy derive their income are allowed to sell shares to the public, making it easy to cash out a chunk of the business while retaining control. But unlike other publicly traded corporations, they pay no corporate income tax; the partners pay taxes as individuals. And the income taxes are often reduced by large deductions, such as for depreciation.

The wealthy can avail themselves of a range of esoteric and customized tax deductions that go far beyond writing off a home office or dinner with a client. One aggressive strategy is to place income in a type of charitable trust, generating a deduction that offsets the income tax. The trust then purchases what’s known as a private placement life insurance policy, which invests the money on a tax-free basis, frequently in a number of hedge funds.

Yes, charities should be run more like corporations. 

Did you $ee where the tax-exempt money was linked?

The person’s heirs can inherit, also tax-free, whatever money is left after the trust pays out a percentage each year to charity, often a considerable sum.

“We do have two different tax systems, one for normal wage-earners and another for those who can afford sophisticated tax advice,” said Victor Fleischer, a law professor at the University of San Diego who studies the intersection of tax policy and inequality. “At the very top of the income distribution, the effective rate of tax goes down, contrary to the principles of a progressive income tax system.”

Don't let that ruin the $tench of conventional narratives shoveled by politicians and the ma$$ media.


I was about to run off and get a paper when I got stuck doing this.

RelatedDu Pont to slash 1,700 ahead of merger

You are not really missing anything else, readers, other than the $ame old $hit.