PowerTalk (general)

Joining me this week on PowerTalk is Lauren Fifield, Senior Health Policy Advisor at Practice Fusion. Practice Fusion is one of the fastest growing electronic health record community in the US. Founded in 2005, the company has 150,000 physicians and practice users using Practice Fusion’s EHR across all 50 states. At Practice Fusion, Lauren manages government relationships and monitors an ever-changing landscape of legislation, regulation, and health industry antics. 

Many citizens and business owners are concerned over the increasing costs associated with the Affordable Care Act -- better known as Obamacare. A study from the the nonpartisan Society of Actuaries estimates that because of higher risk pools, insurance costs will rise 32% on average nationwide within three years. Even Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters that, “Some people purchasing new insurance policies for themselves this fall could see premiums rise because of requirements in the health care law.”

In talking with Lauren, it became clear that there is another shift in Obamacare worth noting. More specifically, the carrot that was a part of the High Tech Act passed in 2009 that incentivizes doctors to move to electronic medial records (EMR) becomes a stick at the end of 2014. And by stick I mean that docs will be see their medicare and medicaid payments penalized until such EMR systems are enacted.

Regulatory requirements and associated deadlines make for great catalysts when it comes to investing. I’ve seen this time and time again be it with new truck engine emissions standards or other new mandates in heavy trucks and other equipment. The deadline tends not to be some line in the sand that gets redrawn several times a la the famous Bugs Bunny-Yosemite Sam cartoon. Instead its a firm line that sparks strong demand ahead of that compliance deadline, and that is good news for a particular set of companies. 

Direct download: 09-02-13_PRACTICEFUSIONPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:34am EST

Joining me this week on PowerTalk is Alice Joe, Executive Director, Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Alice and I talk about not only  about The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,  but many of the issues it creates and the ensuing uncertainty. For example, did you know that certain aspects of Dodd-Frank could alter the way companies like McDonald’s, The Hershey Company and Starbucks conduct their business? Not only that but when Alice and I spoke, she shared with me that roughly one-third of the 400 new rules to be put forth by Dodd-Frank across more than 10 agencies in DC had yet to be proposed.  

Those two examples describe just some of the uncertainty that Dodd-Frank is creating in the business community. Dodd-Frank aside, there’s plenty of uncertainty to go around  these days -- new data shows the average American household is earning less than when the Great Recession ended four years ago. In a letter to congressional leaders, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warned they will have to raise the debt limit by mid-October -- sooner than previously expected and that ups the ante between raising the current raise the debt ceiling vs. shut the government imbroglio that is under way in Washington, D.C. Recently U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons against civilians was a "moral obscenity," delivering the clearest indication yet that the Obama administration contemplating military action against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Add to that the tapering question after a weak July durable orders report and there is ample uncertainty to be had. 

 With something as big as Dodd-Frank, you probably think there’s more than just a few points of uncertainty, particularly since more than one-third of the rule have yet to be passed. You’d be right and that’s exactly what Alice and I talk about in this edition of PowerTalk. Luckily, Alice has some suggestions as to how this mess can be fixed and uncertainty can be minimized if not removed. 

Direct download: 08-27-13_CHAMBERCOMMERCEPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:24pm EST

Joining me on PowerTalk this week to talk about the economy, the outlook for small business and job creation prospects as well as the availability of credit is Jay DesMarteau, Head of Small Business, SBA, Restaurant, & Government Banking at TD Bank. 

Each week on PowerTalk, we go behind the scenes to put you in the know - this time we’re talking about the lifeblood of job creation here in the U.S - small business. Based on the recent July employment report, which disappointed on several levels,  it seems that small business is only moving at half speed. The weakness in hiring is not all that surprising given some of the data that Jay shared with me -- only 17% of small businesses  planned to hire at least one new employee, down from 32% six months ago. However, more than three-quarters of small business owners intend to keep staffing levels the same, up from 59% in December.

If you or someone you know owns a small business or is looking to start one, then you know that access to credit or business loans is key. Whether your a new business, one that is trying to get off the ground by a veteran or a entrepreneur or its an an existing one business that is looking to expand to another location, add another product line, bid on another project or maybe even expand your hours of operation, access to capital is needed in order to grow that business and put more people to work.

Jay and I talk about TD Bank, one of the 10 largest banks in the country and what’s is doing to help small business, but also the size and scope of Jays’ team of 150 small business relationship managers and more than 1,300 TD Bank store managers. We also touch on the economy and what Jay and his team are seeing from small business owners. Even though deposits are high, small businesses remain on the sidelines when it comes to taking on new credit, expanding and hiring. 

Jay shares some of the challenges facing small business owners including growing their business, the economic environment and cash flow. In addition to all of that and talking specifically about what he and his team is seeing in the restaurant, healthcare and government markets, Jay also introduce us to some very specific efforts from TD Bank and the International Franchise Association to help veterans find jobs and start businesses - the SBA Veterans program. 

Direct download: 08-12-13_TDBANKPOWERTALK_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:02am EST

Joining me this week on PowerTalk to talk about the Moto X and Motorola’s re-shoring of jobs is Mark Randall, Motorola Mobility’s Senior Vice President of Supply Chain and Operations. 

We all now recognize the July 2013 Employment Report not only fell short of expectations with only 162,000 jobs added during the month, but sifting through the details it can easily be labeled a low quality report:

  • The unemployment rate fell only because more Americans left the labor force than the total number of jobs created during July
  • Where we saw job growth was primarily at low-paying and part-time jobs
  • Wages remain under pressure.

The news is also a buzz over the latest and greatest new device be it a new smartphone, tablet or streaming device that attaches to the back of your TV.  We as a people are connecting and interacting with each other more than ever thanks to the explosion in smartphones. Almost 230 million smartphones were shipped the June quarter alone and while that sounds like a lot, industry data points to more than 3.2 million mobile subscriptions. That says the shift from mobile phones to smartphones is far from over.

One company that is looking to tackle both of these is Motorola Mobility, which is owned by Google. Not only did the two entities announce the Moto X -- the first jointly developed smartphone between the two companies last week, but the device will be manufactured here in the U.S. 

That’s right....Motorola Mobility is re-shoring jobs to the tune of 2,200 when the Moto X smartphone is at full production. 

During my PowerTalk with Mark, we talk about what it takes to make the Moto X such a high customizable device and why domestic manufacturing can compete with China and other low cost manufacturing alternatives. With a facility in Fort Worth, Texas that spans more than 500,000 square feet, I suspect Motorola is just getting started with the Moto X and that’s good for not only Google, but for American jobs. 

Direct download: 08-05-13_MOTOROLAPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:10pm EST

This week on PowerTalk, I’m doing a deep dive on a subject that is literally ripped from the headlines -- insider trading. Over the last few years, a number of government agencies including the Securities Exchange Commission, the Justice Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation among others, have targeted hedge funds, expert networks and other sources of insider information.

Over the last three years, the SEC has filed more insider trading actions (168 in total) than in any three-year period in the agency's history. Last week, headlines were rampant over insider trading and what it may mean for the SAC Capital, one of the most successful hedge funds around, and its leader Steve Cohen.

Joining me to take you behind the scenes and in the know on these efforts over the last few years is award winning journalist and author of the new book Circle of Friends, Charles Gasparino. I’m sure your more than familiar with Charlie and his reporting on the Fox Business Network and the Fox News Channel, where he focuses on major developments in the world of finance and politics. What you may not know is Charlie has won a number of awards for his work, including the prestigious Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for his book The Sellout

After reading Circle of Friends, I can easily say that if you liked or loved Barbarians at the Gate, Den of Thieves, or Liar’s Poker then Charlie’s new book is a must read. The only bigger thrill than reading Circle of Friends was talking with him about it.

Direct download: 07-29-13_GASPARINOPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:36am EST

Water - so simple and something that, if your like me, you tend to take for granted. But a report recently released from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed that $384 billion in improvements are needed for the nation’s drinking water infrastructure to continue to provide safe drinking water. But as you’ll soon learn, that $384 billion is only a drop in the bucket when it comes to what’s ahead for water and the water industry.

It’s a big topic and its the focus of PowerTalk this week. I’m your host Chris Versace and once again we’re taking you behind the scenes and in the know -- this time on water and the looming water crisis.  It’s a big issue and huge pain point -- so much so that it’s been a key theme in my investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits. 

Over the last week, we’ve had a huge reminder of how important water is -- I’m talking about the heatwave that hit the Easter United States. But like I said, that was just a reminder as to how bad the drought situation is here in the U.S.

While we tend to think of water as abundant, it’s not -- in fact only a small percentage of the world’s water is reachable and usable -- to me that says it’s really a scarce resource.

Joining me to day to talk about this is Debra Coy, Principal at Svanda & Consulting and an advisor at XPV Capital. While those are Debra’s current titles, she been following or involved with the water industry for more than 25 years as an equity analyst at firms such as Janney Montgomery Scott, The Washington Research Group, HSBC Securities and others. 

Debra’s give a great overview on the water industry and its many facets -- from equipment companies like Xylem (XYL) to water utilities such as American Water Works (AWK) and Aqua America (WTR) to name a few. . We also talk about the looming water crisis, water’s role not only in the home but in industrial and other manufacturing uses (such as semiconductor manufacturing and pharmaceuticals), and how more and more companies around the globe are making critical decisions, such as where a new facility may or may not be located. That’s right, access to water is becoming a key consideration in economic development and that means jobs.

While water may be something you’ve have taken for granted, the looming water crisis is something you can’t afford to ignore any longer.

Direct download: 07-22-13_COYWATERPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:20pm EST

Investing can be fun and profitable at times, but it can also be a tricky thing. There are hundreds if not thousand of companies to choose from in dozens and dozens of industries. Some are new and thriving like wireless, broadband and social media. That’s great for companies like Qualcomm (QCOM), Entropic (ENTR) and Facebook (FB) and their shareholders. Others like newspapers such as the NY Times (NYT), book publishers and retail book stores like Barnes & Noble (BKS) are feeling the pain as their industry adapts to what I call the Always On, Always Connected society. 
The economy and industry fundamentals are not the only thing to watch and listen to with your investing eyes and ears. One other aspect is the regulatory environment and more specifically new regulations. As we know, business has been saddled with a number of them over the last few years, but none have the ability to impact a businesses’s cost structure like the Affordable Care Act. You know that far better as Obamacare. 
We’ve done a few PowerTalks already that have looked at the implications of Obamacare and other regulations. This week, we’re taking a different take and talking about how you can profit from these regulations. 
Joining me this week on PowerTalk are George Abraham and Sumesh Sood of Veda Healthcare Partners  Veda is a hedge fund that has been in operation for more than two and a half years and invests in healthcare. From biotech and pharmaceuticals to managed care and generic drugs, these guys are looking at all of it with an eye toward delivering profits for their investors. 
Healthcare investing can be a tricky thing, but when we look around and see just the shifting demographics -- living longer, a heavier population, nutritional concerns and more -- it’s apparent that there are a number of pain points to be had. Pain points mean opportunity for the prepared investor.
Let’s listen to what George and Sumesh see as remedies for not only these issues but also for your wallet. 
Direct download: 07-15-13_VEDAHEALTHCAREPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:18am EST

Joining me this week on PowerTalk is Ron Shaich, the Co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Panera Bread (PNRA). As tends to be the case with these 1-1 conversations, we cover a lot of ground during our time together including the strategies that has led to strong growth in Panera’s revenues and stock price over the last several years. Focusing on the customer experience, transparency, and as Ron says simply “doing it right” are some of the strategies that led to that significant growth at a time when most competitors like Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Inc. (BAGL), Cosi (COSI) and others were been struggling. Ron and his team also successfully navigated the rise of many alternative eating styles -- Atkins, Paleo, raw and others -- by offering the customers a wide selection of products, including my favorite -- bear claws.

Besides being a leader in the business community, Ron is  an advocate for getting our political leaders to work better together. He’s a part of No Labels, a growing citizens’ movement of Democrats, Republicans and everything in between dedicated to promoting a new politics of problem solving. Their slogan is a great one -- Stop Fighting, Start Fixing.

If your tired of nothing getting done in Washington, frustrated by the lack of progress and the blame game in DC or want to learn more about how Ron and his team delivered over the last few years, get a bear claw and listen up. 

Direct download: 07-08-13_PANERABREADPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:51am EST

This week we’re going on a ride. Not a magic carpet ride but rather a plane ride with the Founder, President and CEO of BlackJet, Dean Rothchin, to talk about how his company is helping change the aviation industry. 

Here at PowerTalk, each week I bring you my 1-1 conversations with not only CEOs of public and private companies, but also those from the up and coming companies and disruptive apps that are likely game changers. That makes them potential disruptors in the world that I call PowerTrends. We’ve seen this time and again and that’s why I keep a close eye not only on publicly traded companies, but also venture and private equity backed ones as well. 

If your a frequent traveler or even just an occasional one, you already know what a hassle traveling has become. Getting to the airport hours before your flight to face long lines and or flight delays or cancellations are just the start of it. It seems the airlines like American Airlines (AAMRQ), United Continental (UAL), Delta Air Lines (DAL), US Airways (LCC), Spirit Airlines (SAVE) and others are nickel-and-diming you all the way. 

Want to check a bag? Pay more.

Want to get a snack on the flight? Pay more.

Want to watch a movie? Pay more.

There’s even talk of passengers having to pay to bring carry-on luggage on board the aircraft.

Don’t forget, you still have to get there hours ahead of time so you can have some up close and personal time with the TSA. 

Did you know that there are a number of smaller airfields that have private plans flying in and out of them all the time?

Often times, those private planes aren’t full and that means the operator is leaving money and profits on the table.

That’s where BlackJet comes in. 

Through its app and website -- BlackJet.com -- the company matches excess seating on private planes with those folks that are looking for a better way to travel. That’s just the start, as CEO Dean Rothchin explained to me there’s far more flexibility when traveling with BlackJet than with a conventional airline. Some have called it the Uber of the airline industry, 

While some may scoff at this, I can tell that BlackJet is gaining ground and a following. I know this because the company is launched in five cities -- San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, South Florida and Las Vega -- and is expanding to five more -- Chicago, Boston, Dallas, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

After listening to this PowerTalk with Dean, you’ll not only see how BlackJet is turning the aviation industry on its head, you’ll understand there are alternatives out there that can make you feel like your worth a few million dollars even if you don’t have that much.

Direct download: 07-01-13_BLACKJETPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:50am EST

Ever since Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke hinted that the Fed could begin tapering its stimulating efforts, volatility returned to the stock market. There has been much discussion about when and how the Fed will deal with the sugar stimulus-addicted economy. The concern is if the Fed acts too quickly, much like a child on too much sugar, it will crash. This has led to the return of volatility to the stock market over the last several weeks. 

My view, which I discussed this past weekend when I appeared on The Wall Street Report as well as with subscribers to PowerTrend Profits and ETF PowerTrader, is that the Fed is not likely to taper near term. Data collected over the last few weeks and as recently as earlier this week confirms the U.S. economy has once again entered yet another spring swoon. Just yesterday, the New York Fed's own Empire Manufacturing Survey for June boosted the case for no near-term tapering:

• "The new orders index slipped six points to -6.7, the shipments index fell twelve points to -11.8, and the unfilled orders index fell eight points to -14.5."

• "Labor market conditions worsened, with the index for number of employees dropping to zero and the average workweek index retreating ten points to -11.3. Continuing the trend seen in the past few months, indexes for the six-month outlook declined, suggesting that optimism about future conditions was weakening further."

That’s doesn’t paint a pretty picture, but while its easy to get overly downbeat as I’ve shared with subscribers to PowerTrend Profits there are pockets of strength in the economy. 

In one of this week’s two PowerTalks, Douglas Holtz-Eakin and I talk about those pockets of strength as well as what can be done to help stimulate growth further without adding to the debt burden that we are increasingly putting on further generations.  For those not familiar with Doug, he’s President of the American Action Forum and recent Commissioner on the Congressionally-chartered Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. Prior to that, Doug was the Chief Economist of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers from 2001-2002. As you’ll hear, he’ll share his view that there is much to go in the auto and housing rebounds, and  the need for a tax overhaul if we really want to jumpstart the U.S. economy.

Weighing in on that last point and others is Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research as well as a contributing editor of RealClearMarkets.com and a columnist for the Washington Examiner, MarketWatch.com, and Tax Notes. Diana and I touch on the downside of over regulation as well as how the government’s role in backing certain companies and technologies like those found at Solyndra practically almost guaranteed their failure. It’s also why Diana says, the Affordable Care Act is “built to fail.” 

Direct download: 06-17-13_ROTHPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:19am EST