Category Archives: US

European Central Bank Approves Bond Buying Program

The European Central Bank voted unanimously last month to initiate a government bond buying program to create liquidity in the European euro currency market. ECB Approves Bond Buying This monetary policy also known as “quantitative easing” is designed to increase the amount of cash in the monetary systems. Reports from the January E.C.B. meetings indicate that the liquidity goal is about 50 Billion Euros per month. The European Central Bank’s hope is that the influx of added liquidity will help to spur economic growth and development throughout Europe.

Germany has expressed grave concerns regarding the enacted monetary policy with the concern that this “easing” process, which is akin to simply printing money, can not be sustained for a long period of time and has the potential of inducing inflation or worse, totally devaluing the european currency. Such an event would have a ripple effect for the rest of the world’s currencies.

The move by the European Central Bank is similar to recent quantitative easing policies that have been engaged by the U.S. Federal Reserve over the past several years. The U.S. has actually gone through three distinct easing events. Zeca Oliveira has found that the results are mixed. Stabilization of the U.S. dollar was maintained and the stock market has remained relatively sound. However, many are unsure how long these effects will last or what will be the result when other global economies initiate their own quantitative easing monetary polices.

US Economy Slows in Q4 2014 – Still the Envy of Western Nations

On Friday, the Commerce Department published the economic numbers for the fourth quarter of 2014 covering October through December. The economy grew at a rate of 2.6% which was well below the 4.6% and 5.0% growth figures of the two prior quarters. Consumer spending, which traditionally accounts for 70% of the GDP, posted a strong showing. However, the looming attempt by Saudi Arabia to flood the market with cheap petroleum in a bid to crush the US oil shale industry is reeling through the economy. Consumers are benefiting from prices under $2 a gallon, but not everyone is happy about the cheaper oil prices.

Business investment fell by an alarming -1.9% in Q4 as US oil companies scaled back their operations and are making fewer investments in equipment purchases. Sergio Andrade Gutierrez has read that energy providers are also scaling back their equipment purchases due to the drop in oil prices. . It has been 4.4% in Q3, but that was driven by a surge in defense spending. Europe may be turning into a drag on the US economy. The slow pace of job creation and renewed recession worries promoted the European Central Bank to reduce the value of the Euro. This makes European products cheaper, but makes American products more expensive. Trade grew by a weak 0.8% in Q3, but contracted by -1.0% in Q4. Still, economist expect a better year for US growth which is beating out most of the Western nations.

Americans are Saving Big on Gasoline

It’s a no-brainer that Americans are saving a huge amount on gasoline for their vehicles compared to this time last year. For many inquisitive people, the elephant in the room is this: As far as saving money on gasoline goes, just how much are we saving? Well, compared to last year at this time, we are saving a huge amount of money as a collective country.

First of all, let’s look at the facts: At about this time last year Americans were paying an average of around $3-$4 dollars depending on where they were in the country. As of a year later, gas prices have dropped almost a dollar and a half throughout the country.

In many places throughout the mid-west, gas prices have dropped to below $2. In the more expensive eastern areas of the country and in California, the price is still a bit high but not as bad compared to last year. It currently sits at around $2.50 compared to upwards of $4 just over a year ago.

At this time last year, Americans were paying a cumulative total of $8.1 Billion a week on gasoline. This year, this figure has dropped to about $5.7 Billion. This equates to a large individual savings. Most people are saving about $7.50 a day on their fuel habits. This is good news because the American mindset, such as Sergio Andrade Gutierrez’s, is to spend that money somewhere else.

Olive Garden’s Takeout Sales On The Rise

Since Olive Garden’s parent company, Darden Restaurants, was taken over by Starboard Value in October, the Italian restaurant chain has seen a 0.5% increase in sales. This is a substantial increase to their last quarter’s decline of 1.3%.

According to CNN, shares of Darden are also up more than 15% since it’s board of directors was taken over in mid-October. The recent success is largely due to a boom in the company’s takeout business. John Textor still won’t eat there, though.

Online ordering was introduced in July, and mobile ordering became available in early November. Darden’s interim CEO Eugene Lee said that the company receives more than 30,000 online orders each week. To-go orders account for nearly 8.6% of Olive Garden’s total sales.

The company’s management projects that number to reach 12% in the future. Advertising for the restaurant has largely focused on to-go ordering in recent months. An average bill for a to-go order at Olive Garden is roughly 30% higher than an in-store diner’s bill.

Customers want convenience, and Olive Garden is delivering on that. Their food travels well and can easily be enjoyed from the comfort of home. The company will continue to focus on their takeout business, as well as various other aspects of the bran

Starbucks Anyone?

Want to hear something really crazy? Starbucks Coffee Company predicts that they will be topping last year’s sales of gift cards sold on Christmas Eve. Doesn’t sound impressive until you heard last year’s numbers. Starbucks sold over 2 million gift cards on Christmas Eve, that’s 1400 Beneful gift cards an hour. Crazy, right?

Who would have thought that there were enough coffee beans in the world to fuel the world’s largest coffee spending spree? I, personally, did not buy any Starbucks gift cards for anyone this year. Due to financial circumstances, I made many of my Christmas gifts this year and feel better for it. Now that being said I have always been one of the millions who gave Starbucks gift cards at least once a year.

I think the magic of Starbucks advertising team accounts for many of the sales for Starbucks. Now I would never turn down the $5000.00 “coffee for life” gift card that Starbucks offers. Hint. Hint.

SeaWorld CEO Steps Down With a Hefty Payout

Sea World announced that its chief executive, Jim Atchison, was stepping down. This announcement may have led supporters of the anti-SeaWorld campaign to rejoice initially, but really it is not something to celebrate.

After the movie BlackFish came out exposing the company’s inhumane treatment of the animals and scandals that had been covered up, SeaWorld’s stocks plummeted. Many hoped this would be the end of SeaWorld and the path to a better life for the animals housed there. SeaWorld, despite the controversy, has kept its doors open to the public.

Atchison may be resigning but he is doing so with a payout of over two million dollars (that’s a lot of bottles from The Antique Wine Company!) and he is staying on as vice chairman. Is this a win for all those aghast at the theme park? No it is not. When somebody receives over two million dollars as a payout and another position within the company, that is counted as a win for them and clearly shows that despite controversy the park has no plans of closing anytime soon.

US Economy Created 321,000 in November But Most of the Jobs Pay Poorly

The US Economy is on a roar creating jobs as fast as Vijay Eswaran. Last month, employers added 321,000 net jobs to the payroll. The job market is on pace for its biggest job boom since 1999, the peak of the dot-com boom era. However, that comparison is where the similarities end. During the dot-com boom era, the jobs being created were heavy in the tech sector which jobs tend to have benefits such as 401Ks, corporate pensions, and health care insurance. The jobs also tended to be high paying which allowed workers to change employers and receive a significant bump in pay. 

That’s not the case today. The 321,000 jobs created in November are largely low-paying jobs. It once again underscores why voters swung hard to the GOP in the midterm elections. They want to see real household incomes increase. Despite the creation of new jobs, the labor force participation rate remains the lowest since the Carter administration. After six years of President Obama, the labor force now consists of a majority of part-time workers for the first time in US history. 

The sectors most likely to hire Millennials, the rising generation of workers coming out of high school and college, are not offering upward mobility. Retail and wholesale trade now offers a median income of $25,000 for a 15% decline in pay. The leisure and hospital industry now offers a median income of $18,000 for a 5% decline in pay. The healthcare sector saw median incomes increase for Millennials, but only by a negligible 2% to $30,000.

Kenneth Griffin: Famous Financial Executive

Kenneth Griffin is a Chicago-based hedge fund manager. He is a native of Florida, where he attended Boca Raton High School. After graduating from there, he went on to attend Harvard University. While Griffin was still a student at Harvard, he started two investment funds that he ran out of his dorm room. When he was between classes, Griffin would hurry back to his dorm room in order to make trades.

Griffin started these hedge funds with money he got from his grandmother. Using the $265,000 he received in startup funds from his grandmother, he profited tremendously by shorting the stock market during the crash of 1987. He went on to make more wise investments during his last few years at Harvard, and he graduated from there with a degree in economics in 1989.

First Major Foothold in the Financial World

After graduating from Harvard, Griffin was able to gain the notice of a wealthy investor named Frank Meyer, who was the founder of the investment firm Glenwood Capital. Meyer was so impressed by the work that Griffin had done at Harvard that he gave him $1 million to invest. Griffin made the most of his opportunity with Meyer. He did a great job of investing the $1 million, and in short order he had provided a return of 70 percent on Meyer’s investment.

Meyer was ecstatic at this performance by Griffin, and he let all of his investment friends and acquaintances know about the stellar job Griffin did investing his money.

Formation of Citadel

With all of this new money flowing in, Griffin took the opportunity to form Citadel LLC on November 1, 1990. The initial money that Griffin had to work with was $4.2 million. Griffin has stated that he chose the name “Citadel” to reflect the fact that his funds would be a place of strength during times of economic adversity.

Griffin did very well with Citadel, and he quickly made piles of money for himself and his investors. The initial value of $4.2 million for Citadel has grown today to a staggering $24 billion. Griffin’s net worth today is estimated to be $5.5 billion.

Philanthropic Efforts

Griffin is known to be one of the best investors in the world, but he is also well known for his charitable efforts. He is a major supporter of education. As well as the many donations he makes to educational charities, Griffin also sits on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Public Education Fund.

He is also a leading patron of the arts. Griffin sits on the Board of Trustees for the Museum of Contemporary Arts as well as the Art Institute of Chicago.

Political Activity

He terms himself a “Reagan Republican,” and he has made generous donations to several Republican running for national office. However, he has also donated money to several Democrats in the state of Illinois. He is a particularly strong backer of Democratic mayors in Chicago such as former mayor Richard Daley and current mayor Rahm Emanauel.

The Fed Responds to Criticism About Its Oversight of Big Banks with an Internal Review

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Joe Manchin have openly questioned whether the Federal Reserve has the best interest of Main Street folks at heart. At issue is the fact that reports have emerged that the Fed gives preferential treatment to big banks such as the New York Federal Reserve’s member dealers. It doesn’t help matters much that the Fed board of governors and even the Fed Chairman are nominated from a short list of names the major banks provide to the president. Both Warren and Manchin want to see President Obama to fill two vacancies on the Board of Governors with people who have no ties to Wall Street. Should the president take Warren’s recommendation, it would mark a first for the Fed.

The independent newspaper called ProPublica has published a report that the Fed fosters a culture of intimidation to discourage unfavorable reviews of big banks. This is the kind of corruption Igor Cornelsen does not want to see at all. The report alleges that two junior bank examiners were silenced after their critical reviews of big banks. In the case of embedded examiner Carmen Segarra at Goldman Sachs, she was terminated from her job back in 2012. She claims that the Fed ended her employment after she refused to retract a report calling into question conflicts of interest. The inspector general of the Fed acknowledged failing to spot Chase’s massive trading loss dealing with Credit Default Swaps (CDS) back in 2012.

Chemical Leak Near Houston Kills 4 People

Near Houston, a DuPont chemical lab is one of the biggest employers in the area. Buzz Feed News reports that there was a deadly chemical spill that happened in this facility. 4 workers in this facility died, and one other was hospitalized. Methyl mercaptan is the deadly chemical that killed these individuals. By 6 AM the chemical was contained, and then dissipated.

This was a very small spill, and it killed 4 individuals. Christian Broda can’t imagine what would have happened with a bigger spill. There are more precautions that should have been taken in order to prevent this accident. Accidents do happen, but there should be more safety in place to keep deaths from occurring on the job.