Friday, May 26, 2017

Mixed Me$$ages

"Stocks climbed for the sixth day in a row Thursday as strong first-quarter results from retailers led indexes to record highs. That offset weakness in energy stocks caused by a plunge in oil prices. The Nasdaq composite joined the Standard & Poor’s 500 in setting record highs. While retailers that run stores jumped, their online rival Amazon also made a sizable gain as its stock price approached $1,000 for the first time. Kate Warne, an investment strategist at Edward Jones, said she doesn’t think Thursday’s retail earnings are a sign that business for traditional retailers is getting better. ‘‘It’s probably not something investors should take as a sign of improvement in the retail landscape,’’ she said. ‘‘Consumer spending is actually strong, but consumers are spending in places other than traditional retailers.’’

Then why did retail stocks jump? Seems like a total di$connect.

"US home equity is back, so why aren’t more people borrowing?" by Christopher S. Rugaber Associated Press  May 26, 2017

WASHINGTON — Americans have long borrowed against the ownership stakes in their homes to buy cars, build decks, and renovate houses. That borrowing helped accelerate consumer spending, the US economy’s primary fuel — until the housing bust struck a decade ago and shrank home prices, but prices have recovered yet borrowing against that equity has barely budged from post-recession lows, which helps explain why consumer spending remains weak eight years after the Great Recession ended.

(Blog editor starts shaking head)

On Friday, the government is expected to estimate that the economy grew at an annual rate below 1 percent in the January-March quarter, thanks in large part to anemic spending.

That's treading water if not feeling like a rece$$ion.

The main problem, according to consumer surveys and banking analysts, is that despite low interest rates, it’s become harder to borrow. The web of lending regulations that was tightened after the financial crisis has yet to be eased. Many households would like to borrow more through home equity credit lines or cash-outs from loan refinancings. But having been burned by defaults during the financial crisis, banks are demanding nearly pristine credit.

Plus they don't really want to loan the money.

‘‘It’s harder to do a cash-out refinancing or get a home equity line of credit than it used to be,’’ said Karen Dynan, who was a chief economist at the Treasury Department in the Obama administration. ‘‘That has dampened the housing wealth effect’’ — the tendency of households to spend more when home values rise.

Stricter lending rules aren’t the only factor restraining borrowing. Younger and less affluent Americans are less likely than before the recession to own a home, for example, or to have much equity to borrow against if they do own. These are people who have historically been most inclined to borrow and spend.

Partly as a result, Americans have increased spending an average of just 2.3 percent a year since 2009, when the recession ended, just two-thirds of the historical norm. Because consumer spending drives about 70 percent of the economy, that weaker pace has hobbled growth.

I was told economy great. Yeah, I know slightly more people sought US unemployment benefits last week, but many of you do not even count.

‘‘The previous behavior of using housing debt to finance other kinds of consumption seems to have completely disappeared,’’ William Dudley, president of the New York Fed, said in a speech earlier this year. ‘‘People are apparently leaving the wealth generated by rising home prices ‘locked up’ in their homes.’’

People don't want to gamble with the only thing they have that actually has value. That's what the Fed puke is describing there.


I'm also told there is  ‘‘a whole class of [people] that are no longer getting loans.’’ 

Even the Fed knows it is $h**ting the bed.

"Americans spent only slightly more last month at retail stores compared with January, a sign of consumer caution despite rising optimism about the economy. The Commerce Department said Wednesday retail sales ticked up a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent in February, after a much bigger gain of 0.6 percent the previous month. January’s gain was revised higher. Economists note that spending was likely held back by delays in tax refund payments. A new law has required tougher scrutiny of a tax credit claimed by lower-income taxpayers. Walmart said last month that the delay had slowed sales at its stores in February. Other retailers have reported similar concerns."

Excu$es, excu$es.

Also see:

Novartis will cut 11 jobs in Cambridge
Tiffany sold too few baubles in the first quarter

Hey, if the richers ain't buyin'....

Carrier to soon begin laying off 632 workers in Indiana

Did it when Trump was overseas and not looking, and his budget includes money to deepen the
Port of Boston.


Meanwhile, over at Logan:

"Finally, beer may start tasting good at 30,000 feet. Airlines, which usually get a bad rap for bad food and so-so drinks, are starting in earnest to plug the sensory gap. They are aided by the knowledge that noise, low pressure, dry air, plastic cutlery and cups are also largely to blame for meals that taste less than appetizing. Studies have shown that those factors alter the way we taste things at high altitude compared to when we’re on the ground. On Wednesday, Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong carrier, introduced on some flights a beer brewed to taste good while the flier is miles above the earth. It contains honey and “dragon eye,” a fruit that tastes like lychee. Background noise on the plane suppresses sweet and salty taste, said Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University who advises airlines on food and is set to publish a book on “gastrophysics” this month...."

RelatedUnited earned $2.3 billion last year.

It has reduced delays, canceled fewer flights, and lost fewer bags

Looks like they got bumped up, huh?

When you land you can head straight to Costco:

"Alcohol sales boost quarter for Costco" by Molly Smith Bloomberg News  March 17, 2017

The holidays didn’t go well for Costco Wholesale, whose profit during the period missed analysts’ projections by the most in at least a decade. But there was something to raise a glass to: booze.

Alcohol sales have surged at the warehouse-club chain, lifted in part by the cult status of Costco’s Kirkland Signature-branded liquors. Many customers swear by the private-label products, and some are even convinced that the spirits are actually top-shelf liquors such as Grey Goose and Tanqueray hidden behind Costco packaging.

That has helped set Costco’s beverages apart from other private-label fare, said David Schick, lead retail analyst at Consumer Edge Research. ‘‘They use very high-end producers — premium all the way up to super-premium and beyond,’’ he said.

Alcohol brought in $3.8 billion for Costco in its latest fiscal year, with wine sales accounting for almost half of the total. The category has grown 46 percent during the past five years, outpacing the company’s broader food and sundries segment, according to Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti.

Kirkland Signature has been key to its success. The retailer began selling wine under the brand in 2003, followed by spirits in 2007. It also has a line of craft beers. Emphasizing private-label products has lowered Costco’s average retail prices, but surging demand has offset that impact on sales, Galanti said.

‘‘Private label continues to grow as a dominant strategy in retail — especially when it migrates from being a ‘label’ to more of a ‘brand,’ which Kirkland has done,’’ said David Bassuk, managing director at consulting firm AlixPartners in New York. ‘‘Now it’s a well-known name and gives the consumer a perception of value and a good deal.’’ 

And with the world falling apart there is nothing to do but get drunk.

The sources of the beverages remain a mystery. Kirkland Signature items are produced by ‘‘various manufacturers,’’ said Annette Alvarez-Peters, who manages Costco’s beverage alcohol division, without naming providers.

Schick and other analysts calculate that Costco’s markup on its alcohol is in the range of 10 percent to 14 percent — extremely low by industry standards. In contrast, most retail liquor stores add from 25 percent to as much as 45 percent, especially for premium items, according to Schick.

‘‘They’re doing the opposite of looking to cut corners,’’ he said. ‘‘They’re looking for maximum quality and minimum markup to drive value for the member.’’

It’s a bright spot at a challenging time for Costco. Industrywide food deflation and higher gas prices have brought a double whammy to the retailer. Even a highly anticipated membership fee increase did little to placate investors....

Give 'em another drink!


WhereTF are we?


"Canada Goose Holdings Inc., the maker of $900 parkas worn by celebrities from Toronto rapper Drake to Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista, is seeking to raise as much as $240 million in its initial public offering. The Toronto-based retailer and its backers, which plan to list shares both in the company’s home city and in New York. Canada Goose is backed by Bain Capital, which will continue to own a controlling interest in the company following the IPO, according to the filing...."

"With $900 parkas, Bain’s Canada Goose goes public" by Beth Healy Globe Staff  March 16, 2017

Thursday was a very good day for Bain Capital.


The Boston-based investment firm took Canada Goose Holdings Inc. public on Thursday. After its first day of trading, the maker of $900 parkas worn by celebrities from Toronto rapper Drake to Hollywood Oscar-winning actress Emma Stone was worth almost seven times its value when Bain invested a little more than three years ago.

Shares jumped 40 percent at the open on both the New York and Toronto stock exchanges, and ended the day up about 26 percent.

I'll check the price later.

Canada Goose’s chief executive, Dani Reiss, whose grandfather founded the company’s predecessor company 60 years ago, also is an owner.

Ryan Cotton, a managing director in Bain’s private equity group who worked on the deal, believes Canada Goose can survive ups and downs in the economy because people seek out its cold-busting parkas.


We are in the age of global warming.

“People who are professionally cold turn to Canada Goose to keep them warm,” Ryan said, from polar explorers to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

“I’ve had cab drivers in London tell me they saved up their pounds to go buy one,’’ he said.

Fashionistas and 20-somethings with cash in their pockets have flocked to the brand as well, prompting some to wonder whether Canada Goose is too trendy, and costly, to last.

‘‘Plans to expand its direct-to-consumer channel should support superior growth,’’ Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Maja Rakic wrote in a note Thursday. ‘‘The company needs to make further investments soon, which could weigh on profit. Keeping tight cost controls while driving sales will be key.’’

Canada Goose was founded in a small warehouse in Toronto in 1957 as Metro Sportswear Ltd., specializing in woolen vests, raincoats, and snowmobile suits. It was originally a contract manufacturer, which Reiss took over in 2001, and expanded it into a luxury retail brand.

For the nine months ended Dec. 31, Canada Goose reported nearly $270 million in revenue and $34.5 million in net income.

The company sells its coats in major department stores and last year opened retail stores under its own name in New York and Toronto....


See: O Canada!

Related: Jack and J.Jill Went Up the Hill....

"J.Jill’s IPO doesn’t excite investors" by Megan Woolhouse Globe Staff  March 09, 2017

The clothing chain, which specializes in upscale apparel for women 40 and over, is the first clothing retailer to go public since 2015, according to Bloomberg, but it comes at a time when some mall-based retailers like Sears and J.C. Penney are shuttering locations as the growth of e-commerce threatens to further upend the industry.

It’s the second IPO for J.Jill, which first went public under a different name in the 1990s and remained publicly traded until 2006, when Hingham-based rival Talbots Inc. beat out Liz Claiborne in a bidding war for it. The deal turned out to be a disaster as the retail market sharply declined during the financial crisis. Within three years, Talbots unloaded J.Jill to private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital for $75 million.

Golden Gate in 2011 sold a majority stake in the company to a division of Arcapita, a Bahrain-based investment firm, and four years later, J.Jill’s value rebounded when TowerBrook Capital Partners of New York bought it for $396 million, according to the company’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

J.Jill, which has been profitable in recent years, says its customers are primarily college-educated women with an annual household income above $150,000.....



"Target is counting on Victoria Beckham (right) to spice up sales. The pop-star-turned-designer teased looks this week, highlighting hot-pink pants suits and whimsical black-and-white dresses. It’s the first foray into children’s wear for Beckham, the former Spice Girl who launched her namesake fashion brand in 2008. ‘‘I wanted to offer a collection of clothes to women who either couldn’t afford designer prices or didn’t want to pay designer prices,’’ Beckham said. ‘‘Target is about being inclusive and that is something that is very important to me as a brand as well.’’ Target announced the collaboration in October, and the items will be available April 9. The Beckham launch comes as the Minneapolis-based chain is trying to rev up sales and traffic after its reinvention lost momentum. Target has been sprucing up its fashions and its home furnishings, but it’s wrestling with stiffer competition and an increasing shift to shopping online.....

And that's final!

Those changes include constantly updating technology and adapting to investors’ growing taste for passive index funds, which electronically track groups of stocks like the Standard & Poor’s 500, rather than relying on human judgment. BlackRock is a big indexer, but, like Fidelity, is finding that demand for its more profitable active funds is shrinking. Meanwhile, Abigail Johnson is throwing down the gauntlet on fees, in a street fight to win customers at the nation’s fourth-largest investment firm..... 

BlackRock Inc., the world’s largest money manager, reduced annual employee bonuses by an average of 2 percent to 4 percent for last year, the first such cut since 2011, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Bonuses were flat overall a year earlier, according to people briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. Payouts vary with each individual and group depending on performance. Farrell Denby, a spokesman for New York-based BlackRock, declined to comment on the payments. The asset-management business is under increasing pressure as money flows from active strategies into cheaper passive offerings. In 2016, BlackRock saw its first decline in annual revenue since 2009 as performance fees fell by more than half, according to Bloomberg Intelligence....."

That's it for their $e$$ion.

 "Financial AI software earns Kensho $50m investment" by Curt Woodward Globe Staff  March 01, 2017

President Trump’s pledge to significantly increase military spending, delivered Tuesday night in his first speech to Congress, seems like the kind of statement that would send defense stocks soaring.

At the Cambridge offices of Kensho Technologies Inc., the data said otherwise. Kensho’s software found that, in the last five such speeches by new presidents, shares in big Pentagon contractor Northrup Grumman Corp. tended to drop over the next few days.

Sure enough, after opening higher Wednesday, shares of Northrup ended down almost 1 percent on a day that most stocks rallied.

“You might expect defense stocks to rally, but it turns out that, historically, that isn’t true,” Kensho operating chief Adam Broun said. “It’s interesting that it seems to be following the same pattern again.”

That’s an example of the quick insights Kensho provides to Wall Street trading desks, part of an emerging trend toward using artificial intelligence and other types of advanced software to perform some of the same tasks that have long been assigned to high-priced analysts and other white-collar workers.

Bankers are responding by opening their checkbooks. Kensho confirmed Wednesday that it has raised a new investment round of $50 million, valuing the company at about $500 million. Forbes was the first to report the financing.

The investment was led by S&P Global Inc., a major financial information provider, which also will provide data to Kensho and offer the startup’s software service to clients. Also investing are Cambridge venture firm General Catalyst and most of Wall Street’s heavyweights: Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Citicorp, and Wells Fargo.

Broun said the money will allow Kensho to add to its approximately 80-person workforce, which is spread among its headquarters in Cambridge, a New York office, and a new outpost outside of Washington, D.C. The financing also could help Kensho expand into new industries and foreign countries.

“When you have the ability to raise money in an environment like this, it allows you to have a lot more flexibility,” Broun said. “If we were constrained simply by future revenue, we wouldn’t be able to innovate at the pace that matches the demand of our customers and beats out our competition.”

It’s a significant funding round for a Boston startup and follows $25 million the company raised in a pair of venture rounds in 2014. Goldman is also one of Kensho’s clients, and the company said it counts “the largest global investment banks” among its customers.

But there are still significant questions about how quickly artificial intelligence software will be able to upset the old ways of doing things on Wall Street. Craig Le Clair, an analyst for Forrester Research Inc., recently reported that AI innovation in financial services seemed to be stalling amid “confusion and vendor adolescence.”

The uses that Kensho has shown so far are definitely interesting, Le Clair said, such as the ability to quickly determine what effect federal job reports might have on the stock markets. But he doesn’t expect that high-profile analysts will be looking over their shoulders just yet in fear of being replaced.


So WHEN WILL THEY? After all us scrubs have been put out of work by the robots and are long gone? Or does the privileged and well-connected elite cla$$ simply have dollars showered upon it in perpetuity?

“The people who have to be the most worried right now are the lower-value tasks,” such as back-office information processing and call centers, he said. “The more intelligent tasks, I think, are safe for a while.”

He just answered my question.


"Women CEOs earn big pay, but few of them have the top job" by Joseph Pisani Associated Press  May 25, 2017

NEW YORK — Women CEOs earned big bucks last year, but there are still very few of them running the world’s largest companies.

The median pay for a female CEO was $13.1 million last year, up 9 percent from 2015, according to an analysis by executive data firm Equilar and The Associated Press. By comparison, male CEOs earned $11.4 million, also up 9 percent.

But the number of women in CEO roles has barely budged. Just 6 percent of the top paid CEOs in the United States last year were women, according to the analysis, a slight increase from about 5 percent in 2015 and 2014.

I'm tired of the elite cla$$ pushing their divisions on us to deflect from wealth inequality. The privileged elite are plenty diver$e!

The highest paid woman was Virginia Rometty of International Business Machines Corp., bumping out Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer from the top spot.


Rometty earned $32.3 million last year from the technology company, a 63 percent jump from the year before, mainly due to $12.1 million in stock option awards she didn’t receive in 2015.

Mayer earned $27.4 million last year, making her the second-highest paid woman. But she may be out of a job after Yahoo Inc. completes the sale of its websites and e-mail services to Verizon Communications Inc. in June. She’s not expected to join Verizon, and Yahoo has said Mayer will receive a $23 million severance package if she departs.

Third on the list was Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo Inc., the maker of Mountain Dew soda and Lay’s potato chips. She earned $25.2 million, up 13 percent from 2015. She was followed by Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors Co., who earned $22.4 million.

At the bottom of the list was Susan Story of American Water Works Co., the utility company, who earned $4.1 million.

To calculate pay, Equilar added salary, bonus, perks, stock awards, stock option awards, and other types of compensation. Equilar looked only at companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index that filed proxy statements with federal regulators between Jan. 1 and May 1, 2017. And it included only CEOs who have been in their roles for at least two years in order to exclude sign-on bonuses. Of the 346 CEOs in that group, just 21 were women.

The only black woman on the list, Xerox’s Ursula Burns, left the CEO role in January after the document management company split in two. Burns, who earned $13.1 million as CEO last year, retired as chairman of Xerox Corp.’s board this week.

Gracia Martore, who earned $8.5 million last year, announced earlier this month that she will retire as CEO of Tegna Inc., the TV station owner and operator. Her replacement is a man.

Experts say companies need to do more to get women into CEO roles.

Janice Ellig, the co-CEO of executive search firm Chadick Ellig, says ‘‘unconscious bias’’ in the workplace is keeping women from getting opportunities that will put them on track to for top roles.

Companies need to ‘‘start recognizing that gender inequality exists,’’ say Ellig, who is also chairperson of the Women’s Forum of New York.

‘‘If you don’t recognize a problem, you can’t solve a problem,’’ she says.

And $quabbling at the top isn't one of them that needs solving.

Yeah, you poor ladies. Culture of victimhood never ends!


They look like they are doing pretty good to me!

Now for the companies they run:


"Profitable companies, no taxes: Here’s how they did it" by Patricia Cohen New York Times  March 10, 2017

NEW YORK — Complaining that the United States has one of the world’s highest corporate tax levels, President Trump and congressional Republicans have repeatedly vowed to shrink it.

Yet if the level is so high, why have so many companies’ income tax bills added up to zero?

That’s what a new analysis of 258 profitable Fortune 500 companies that earned more than $3.8 trillion in profits showed.

Although the top corporate rate is 35 percent, hardly any company actually pays that. The report, by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a left-leaning research group in Washington, found that 100 of them — nearly 40 percent — paid no taxes in at least one year between 2008 and 2015. Eighteen, including General Electric, International Paper,, and PG&E, incurred a total federal income tax bill of less than zero over the entire eight-year period — meaning they received rebates. The institute used the companies’ own regulatory filings to compute their tax rates.

How does a billion-dollar company pay no taxes?

Companies take advantage of an array of tax loopholes and aggressive strategies that enable them to legally avoid paying what they owe. The institute’s report cites these examples:

Multinational corporations like Apple, Microsoft, Abbott Laboratories, and Coca-Cola have ways of booking profits overseas, out of the reach of the IRS. (Those companies were not among the 258 whose rates were calculated by the institute, which said it could not verify the breakdown of their profits between the United States and other countries.)

Others, like American Electric Power, Con Ed, and Comcast, qualified for accelerated depreciation, enabling them to write off most of the cost of equipment and machinery before it wore out.

Facebook, Aetna, and Exxon Mobil, among others, saved billions in taxes by giving options to top executives to buy stock in the future at a discount. The companies then get to deduct their huge payouts as a loss. Facebook used excess tax benefits from stock options to reduce its federal and state taxes by $5.78 billion from 2010 to 2015, the institute found.

End of Zuckerberg for president.

Individual industries have successfully lobbied for specific tax breaks that function as subsidies: for instance, drilling for gas and oil, building NASCAR racetracks or railroad tracks, roasting coffee, undertaking certain kinds of research, producing ethanol, or making movies (which saved the Walt Disney Co. $1.48 billion over eight years, the report says).

Yeah, daily fantasy sports is big bu$ine$$.

Why do some industries make out better than others?

These industry-specific subsidies mean that the goodies were not evenly distributed. Utilities logged an effective tax rate of just 3.1 percent over the eight-year period. Industrial machinery, telecommunications and oil, gas and pipeline companies paid roughly 11.5 percent. Internet services paid 15.6 percent. In just two sectors — health care and retail — companies paid more than 30 percent of their profits in federal income tax.

“One of the things that jumps out pretty starkly is there’s a real gap between the tax rates paid by different industries,” said Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the institute and a co-author of the study. “When the biggest companies aren’t paying their fair share, that means the rest of us are left to pick up the slack. It means small business and middle-income families are paying more.”

That's our $y$tem, and it is the greatest one ever invented in all hi$tory.

Tax reformers have long argued that the nominal 35 percent federal rate on corporate profits more often than not functions like a strike-through price — an artificially inflated number that sounds high but rarely applies. Thanks to a variety of loopholes and tax-dodging methods, those 258 corporations paid an average rate of 21.2 percent. (Other studies, including a new one by the Congressional Budget Office that compares corporate income tax rates in various countries, have found that average and effective US rates are lower than the nominal rate.)

Who are the biggest beneficiaries?

Companies with the biggest tax subsidies over the eight years, the institute’s report said, included:

■ AT&T ($38.1 billion)
■ Wells Fargo ($31.4 billion)
■ JPMorgan Chase ($22.2 billion)
■ Verizon ($21.1 billion)
■ IBM ($17.8 billion)
■ General Electric ($15.4 billion)
■ Exxon Mobil ($12.9 billion)
■ Boeing ($11.9 billion)
■ Procter & Gamble ($8.5 billion)
■ Twenty-First Century Fox ($7.6 billion)
■ Time Warner ($6.7 billion)
■ Goldman Sachs ($5.5 billion)

OMG, look at 'em all! 

Republicans say their tax overhaul will eliminate some of the biggest loopholes, although critics counter that the substitute will end up further reducing companies’ tax bills.



"Banks were the biggest gainers amid heightened expectations that an improving economy will lead to higher interest rates....."

"The average Wall Street banker bonus came to slightly more than $138,000 in 2016. That’s according to data from the New York State Comptroller’s Office. The major banks set aside $23.9 billion for bonuses in 2016, or $138,210 per worker, up 2 percent from a year earlier. Bonuses remain well below than the levels they were in their heydays before the financial crisis, when the average bonus was $191,360. While most Wall Street bankers make a salary, the vast majority of their compensation comes in the form of annual bonuses."

I was told they were skyrocketing, so WTF?

"General Electric Co. chief executive Jeffrey Immelt, under pressure from activist investor Trian Fund Management to boost profit, is giving shareholders little reason for optimism. Trian, one of GE’s largest shareholders, has called on Immelt to reduce expenses and improve operations. In a spirited exchange during the presentation’s question-and-answer portion, Immelt defended GE’s performance...." 

You gotta give him credit, he's got heart (and now $he wants Aetna to come here).

"Staples Inc. has rejected a takeover offer from Cerberus Capital Management as too low, leaving Sycamore Partners in the running to acquire the office-supplies retailer, according to people familiar with the matter. No final decisions have been made and past bidders could reemerge along with new ones, the people said. Representatives for Cerberus, Sycamore, and Staples declined to comment. New York-based Cerberus, led by billionaire Steve Feinberg, manages more than $30 billion in private equity holdings, distressed debt and other credit assets, as well as real estate, according to the company’s website...."

He's got John Snow and Dan Quayle as front men.

"Roger Crandall, chief executive of MassMutual Financial Group of Springfield, received a 21 percent raise in 2015, upping his salary to nearly $12 million, from $9.8 million the previous year. John Cusolito, a spokesman for the company, pointed out that Liberty Mutual’s operating profits rose by 16 percent for 2014, which was used to determine his salary last year. Crandall, whose base pay was unchanged at $1 million, also earned most of his pay package from bonuses and additional incentives, the company disclosed on Monday. His perks included use of the company’s aircraft for board-approved personal travel. MassMutual on Monday also announced plans to nearly double its workforce of agents and financial advisers by acquiring MetLife Inc.’s US retail adviser group for $300 million....."

RelatedLiberty Mutual laying off 360 technology workers in Mass., N.H.

I may have missed that in my other $e$$ion.

Also seeFormer ABC News employees urge strong stand against Trump

Wasn't it Fox whining the other day?

Now about those frackers:

"OPEC, fighting market forces, extends production cuts" by Stanley Reed New York Times  May 26, 2017

VIENNA — A sense of déjà vu pervaded the latest meeting of oil-exporting countries. While production cuts have again bolstered oil prices, the optimism may fade, as US shale producers jump back into the market and the rise of renewables dims prospects for demand.

The move follows a decision this month by Saudi Arabia and Russia to do so.

See: Saudi-Russian Oil Alliance Cemented 

What will happen when the EUSraeli Empire wages war on Iran?

“OPEC is being caught in a pincer movement of technology and policy that will, over time, erode oil use,” said Bill Farren-Price, chief executive of Petroleum Policy Intelligence, an advisory firm for hedge funds and other investors. “This meeting is more about forestalling an oil price collapse than driving prices higher.”

Oil prices that topped $100 a barrel as recently as 2014 may have helped plant the seeds that are now weakening OPEC. Back then, US companies took advantage of the high prices, learning to produce huge quantities of oil from shale rock in a process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The technique, which involves extracting energy by drilling long horizontal wells, then loosening oil from the rock, has transformed the United States into what is known as a swing producer, able to adjust production rapidly to match changes in the market.

But fracking has required substantial investment. When oil prices plummeted in 2015 and 2016, output from shale in the United States fell about 900,000 barrels a day, equivalent to almost 1 percent of the global supply.

And the banks then extended their loans because they couldn't make payment.

The US shale industry today, however, is far more efficient. And unlike in previous years, it has an array of sources of capital to finance the drilling of new wells, including advance sales of oil, bank and private loans, and high-yield bonds.

Yeah, going deep in to debt is a great idea.

When prices are down, that money dries up. But when prices tick up around $52 a barrel, activity ramps up quickly, according to Roger Diwan, a vice president at IHS Financial Services, which advises investors.

Then the earthquakes and burning water can begin again, great.

Khalid A. al-Falih, the Saudi energy minister, said on Thursday that he foresaw a healthy comeback for US shale production, but he played down its effect on OPEC’s efforts.

Still, the bloc’s biggest worry is such a revival, presenting it with a thorny problem as it considers its own market moves.

“The higher the price goes, the more shale operators accelerate production, and the more OPEC has to cut,” said Diwan, who forecast that US shale operators would increase their output by about 900,000 barrels a day this year, soaking up much of OPEC’s production cuts.

A few years ago, high energy prices were sustained by a belief that the supply of oil was reaching a peak, but demand — driven by fast-growing economies like China and India — would keep rising.

I wonder what higher prices would mean for Venezuela.

The trends are shifting, and fast. Not only does there seem to be a major new source of oil from shale, but growth in demand is slowing.

In particular, the increasing number of electric vehicles is playing a role in limiting demand for oil. Their impact may grow with the development of cars run by computers.

In the past, an OPEC decision to curb or increase production had wide consequences and would move markets.

That is no longer the case.

“OPEC has used Band-Aids to get through crises of the moment,” said Bhushan Bahree, an OPEC analyst at the research firm IHS Energy. “It’s not clear they are willing or able to address the larger issues of the global market.”


Did you know Equatorial Guinea was one of Africa’s largest producers?

And look what just arrived?

"We tried Amazon’s one-hour delivery service. Here’s what happened" by Janelle Nanos and Adam Vaccaro Globe Staff  March 22, 2017

If same-day delivery wasn’t snappy enough, Amazon is now offering its one-hour delivery service in Boston.

After much debate, Globe reporters decided to purchase all the strange things we were craving, like pretzels, ice cream, and gummy bears (don’t judge us on our snacking habits). Then we added a few slightly more obscure items, like a 35 pack of pool noodles, for those moments when an impromptu beach party breaks out and you need a flotation device.

Honestly, I've had my fill of elite condescension.

Not everything on Amazon is available for one-hour delivery. But the random assortment that does make the cut is a fairly representative cross section of the site —- diapers and detergent, Nerf guns and Uno sets. And yes, a giant pack of pool noodles.

That was their "job" for the day, huh?

The order was placed at exactly 11 a.m. The driver left the South End warehouse within 10 minutes and arrived at the Globe’s Morrissey Boulevard headquarters just 34 minutes later (rush-hour traffic did make us wonder whether the one-hour window is as feasible throughout the day).

Using the Prime Now app, it was possible to track her movement and reach out to arrange a drop-off point. The driver, Inelida Fernandes, said she took the Amazon Prime Now gig because “she didn’t want to do boring office stuff,” and said that her delivery to the Globe was her first in Boston.

As she struggled to retrieve the pool supplies from the trunk of her SUV, we tested the ice cream — Cherry Garcia — and yes, it was still cold.

In 2015, Amazon introduced free same-day delivery for Prime members in parts of Boston. A year later, the company was criticized for offering the same-day service to the entire city, except for the majority-minority neighborhood of Roxbury. A few days after the controversy errupted, Amazon announced it would expand the service into Roxbury.

Prime Now debuted in parts of New York in 2014 and has since spread to other cities across the country. In Boston, users are required to place a minimum order of $20. Amazon also recommends a tip. It is available from 8 a.m. to midnight daily.

After midnight, you’re on your own when it comes to pool noodles.


Life is so good for elite pre$$.


Must have been delayed at the factory:

"Lowell sewing factory to pay $1.2 million to settle alleged wage violations" by Beth Healy Globe Staff  March 10, 2017

A Lowell sewing factory has agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle with state and federal authorities over alleged wage violations affecting 550 workers, including two who were fired in retaliation for cooperating with the investigation.

Under the agreement, UnWrapped Inc. and its owner, Stephen Katz, will pay $293,170 for allegedly failing to provide minimum wages and earned sick time to hundreds of low-paid workers, according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office.

In a related settlement with the US Department of Labor, Katz agreed to pay another $890,021 for allegedly failing to pay 327 of the workers overtime wages as required by federal law, and for at one time having illegally employed an 11-year-old.


I'm wondering how many were illegal, period.

The alleged violations took place between April 2014 and April 2016 at a factory where hourly workers primarily sewed reusable cloth grocery bags that were sold to supermarket chains. Many of the workers were employed by staffing agencies, Healey said, but that did not relieve UnWrapped of the duty to ensure they were properly paid....

No biggie.


Time to clock out.

So much for the American Dream, huh?