PowerTalk (general)

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_EAKINPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:14am EST

Joining me this week on PowerTalk to discuss the growing threat we all face - cyber attacks -- as well as a set of new solutions to combat them is Martin Roesch. Martin is not only a founder of cyber security company Sourcefire (FIRE), but also its chief technology office and a Board Member. 

With cyber attacks growing not only in volume, but with them happening to companies like Google (GOOG), Bank of America (BAC), Northrop Grumman (NOC), Microsoft (MSFT), Yahoo (YHOO), AOL (AOL), LinkedIn (LNKD), Tumblr, the Reuters news service and the BBC to name a few, it’s a cause for alarm. 

Earlier this week I was talking with some folks at the American Chamber of Commerce and they pointed out several of the key concerns that are on the minds of its more than 3 million members. Those businesses that comprise the Chamber’s constituents -- from mom-and-pop shops and to leading industry associations and large corporations -- cyber security is increasingly on their mind. 

How can it not be? 

Symantec’s (SYMC) Internet Security Threat Report, Volume 18 published this past April revealed a 42% surge during 2012 in targeted attacks compared to the prior year. Designed to steal intellectual property, these targeted cyberespionage attacks are increasingly hitting the manufacturing sector as well as small businesses. While it may raise some eyebrows to those not in the know, you may be surprised to learn that 31% of all targeted attacks aimed at businesses with less than 250 employees.

During the course of my PowerTalk with Martin Roesch, we talk about why the bad guys have a leg up on cyber security companies and what Sourcefire is doing to fix that; how security differs from a good defense;  the state of the cyber security industry, including recent consolidation activity and what’s next. Martin also shares details about some of the new products that Sourcefire is rolling out, which sets the stage for a new model of cyber security. 

Direct download: 06-10-13_SOURCEFIREPOWERTALK_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:14am EST

Thanks for joining me for another edition of PowerTalk - I’m  your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits. Joining me today to take you behind the scenes and in the know today is Tom Breitling, the co-founder and chairman of Ultimate Gaming. 

As you may have noticed over the last few years, gambling has grown from being only in Las Vegas, Nevada and Atlantic City, N.J to a number of other states -- Maryland, West Virginia, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to name a few. 

At the same time, technology has had a tremendous impact on our lives and has resulted in the increasing shift toward what I call an Always On, Always Connected Society. It’s hit certain industries hard  for example newspapers and The New York Times (NYT); classifieds, coupons and want ads all of which can be viewed with Monster.com, Groupon (GRPN) or on Valpak.com and more; we communicate less through postal mail and increasingly through email as well as other social media sites like Facebook (FB), Google’s (GOOG) Google + and more. 

Although it’s had its issues, gambling has not been immune to this transformation. While Congress banned online gaming in the U.S. in 2006, that changed recently as tax-hungry states like Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware relaxed the rules. Flash forward to this past April, UltimatePoker.com went live, becoming the first legal, real-money poker site in the U.S. Since then Caesars Entertainment Group said it plans to go live this summer with an online poker site in Nevada.

With more than 10 other states looking at online gaming, be it for poker or for “full blown casino gaming” that was approved in New Jersey, we wanted to get the skinny on the return of online gaming. That’s why I was very excited to talk with Tom - and if anyone should know about the intersection of the Internet and gaming, it’s Tom Breitling given his leadership at Travelscape.com and the Golden Nugget. In case you missed it, he sold both companies and made a ton of money.

How big can online gaming get? Morgan Stanley predicts U.S. online gambling will produce over $9 billion in revenue by the year 2020. That $9 billion figure is the same revenue generated by Las Vegas and Atlantic City markets combined.

As you’ll hear from Tom, this new path for online gaming can help spur not only jobs and taxes, but a number of technologies that make online gaming secure. Tom also shares an interesting perspective on the legislative environment and what it means for business, trust me you won’t want to miss it.

Direct download: 06-03-13_ULTIMATEPOKERPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:08am EST

Joining me on PowerTalk this week is Michael Vivio, President of Cox Target Media. Now you may be scratching your head going, what company is that....but as you’ll soon learn, its the company behind that blue Valpak envelope you get each week in the mail. Each and every week, it’s packed with coupons, discounts and other offers that are designed to help you save money, while driving revenue at those establishments. 

Since was named president of Cox Target Media in December 2010. Within a year, Michael has taken Valpak and Valpak.com to new heights with a newly re-launched website that has seen online traffic increase 400%, and new partnerships that doubled the amount of online coupons to 40,000.

I don’t know about you, but at my house we go not only go through it each week, but I use the app on my iPhone religiously and I get to load great deals into Passbook. As I look at it right now, I can see coupons for Gold’s Gym, local dry cleaners, a bunch of restaurants that we go to and a bunch of other services. 

As you’ll learn in a few minutes not only is that emphasis on local is a key differentiator for Valpak, but the company has hundreds if not thousands of companies that it works with each week. Just because its local doesn’t mean its just small business - quite the contrary, Valpak works with businesses of all size to drive revenues by giving consumers the deals they need. 

There’s a growing amount of data that suggests the global economy is headed once again for a Spring swoon. Worse yet, two engines for the domestic economy -- one being the consumer and the other small business -- are coming under pressure. In particular, more Americans have been falling out of the labor force, are on food stamps and have seen their disposable dollars disappear. That’s at the heart of what I call the Cash Strapped Consumer. That said, identifying and dealing with a pain point makes for a great business.

We talk about all of that as well as what sets Valpak apart from the daily-deal group of companies like Living Social, Groupon (GRPN), Google Offers (GOOG) and more. We also talk about how Valpak is gearing up for the push to mobile commerce, which includes not only payments, but also couponing. 

Whether your looking to save more than a few dollars each week, curious as to how Valpak is positioning itself for the future, or why Groupon is on the ropes, those answers are all found in this week’s PowerTalk. 

Direct download: 05-27-13_VALPAKPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:20am EST

Folks - 

As you know there’s a lot going on in the press these days -- the IRS targeting conservatives, the AP scandal and Benghazi to name a few. Another is immigration and immigration reform. Joining me this week on PowerTalk to sort through the issues on immigration is former Secretary of Commerce under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009, Carlos Gutierrez. Before he was the Secretary of Commerce, Secretary Gutierrez was the Chairman of the Board and CEO of the Kellogg Company (K).


As PowerTalk friend economist Douglas Hotlz-Eakin recently wrote “Immigration reform resulting in net population growth and an increase in employment-based immigration would likely have wide-reaching economic benefits, and would provide a boost to the housing sector.” Companies poised to benefit include not only the homebuilders like Toll Brothers (TOL) and D.R. Horton (DHI), the nation’s largest homebuilder, but also furniture, paint and appliance vendors like Ethan Allen Interiors (ETH), Sherwin Williams (SHW) and Whirlpool (WHR).

It’s not just housing that would benefit from a revamped immigration policy. Consider that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s (FB) co-founder and chief executive, pulled together an impressive roster of tech executives to advocate for immigration reform.

Why?

To the U.S. technology industry, there's a dramatic shortfall in the number of Americans skilled in computer programming and engineering that is hampering business.

According to data from the Society for Human Resource Management:

  • 65% of organizations hiring full-time employees say they are having difficulties recruiting for specific job openings.
  • Half of organizations said candidates do not have the right skills for the job, while 42% said candidates lacked the needed work experience.

As former Secretary of Commerce Gutierrez tells me, if we want to get the country back on the growth path we need, we need to revisit immigration. He would know, after-all in 2004 he was the person that Fortune Magazine dubbed “The Man That Fixed Kellog.”

Direct download: 05-19-13_SECGUTIERREZPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:57am EST

This week on PowerTalk not only am I excited to talk to someone who is truly informed and that means a great conversation to take you behind the scenes and in the know, but  we get an answer to a question that many have been wondering if not asking - based on what we’ve seen over the last few years, how would President Obama fare if he were the CEO of a publicly traded company?
Answering that question is none other than Steve Forbes, Chairman and Editor in Chief of Forbes Media. I’m sure many of you have seen Steve on TV, read his widely followed Fact & Comment column in Forbes magazine or on Forbes.com or consumed his book “Freedom Manifesto: Why Free Markets Are Moral and Big Government Isn’t.”
As you might expect Steve a fantastic guest and we cover a lot of ground -- the U.S. economy, what’s going on in Europe, growth vs. austerity, tax reform, Obamacare, and big government. We also touch on how Steve has revamped the business model at Forbes given the challenges faced by the traditional publishing business model. It’s a great conversation, and I think  you’ll really want to hear is Steve’s answer to that question and a number of others.

Direct download: 05-12-13_STEVEFORBESPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:11am EST

In recent weeks, we’ve heard from a number of cable companies like Comcast (CMCSA), Charter Communications (CHTR), Time Warner Cable (TWC) and others. All in all, it’s been a message that reinforces the increasing degree of what I call the Connected Society - WiFi, the Cloud, high speed Internet and on demand programming. Mix in the shift toward smartphones and tablets, and we find the notion of appointment TV viewing is nearly gone save for sporting events. 

Those cable companies are battling with mobile operators, such as AT&T (T), Verizon (VZ) and others for consumer dollars. As they do this, the operators have made it more expensive for consumers to utilize their services even though new technologies have made it cheaper for those companies to deliver said services. Just this past December, Charter Communications instituted a price increase on its high-speed Internet service. At Comcast, price increases on video service and customers upgrading to HD packages and digital video recorders (DVRs) helped boost the company’s first quarter profit by 17%.

For those wondering why I’m up on all of this, the growing Connected Society is a key  part of my Always On, Always Connected PowerTrend

Joining me on PowerTalk to discuss why this and what it means is Susan P. Crawford author of the new book “Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age.” Ms. Crawford is a law professor who served as special assistant to President Obama for science, technology and innovation policy. 

It’s a terrific conversation and not only is Susan an ace on the subject matter but doesn’t pull any punches. Some of the key insights that Susan and I discussed on this edition of PowerTalk include:

  • How after years of deregulation and a wave of mergers, there has been little to competition nor adequate oversight when it comes to high-speed Internet access.
  • Verizon Wireless and AT&T, who together account for about two-thirds of U.S. wireless subscribers, can raise prices with impunity and often appear to act in lockstep. Their average revenues per household or per user continue to climb. By comparison, in Europe, where wireless carriers face much more competition, average revenues per user have fallen by 15% over the last few years.
  • Despite high-speed Internet access offerings from AT&T and Verizon -- Uverse and Fios, respectively -- those two companies have stopped expanding these offerings and are focusing on their wireless services. As Susan points out, this leaves the cable companies and Comcast in particular in the cat bird seat when it comes to high speed Internet access and related services. The industry leader, Comcast continues to invest in network infrastructure to ensure product leadership in video and high-speed internet, as well as the expansion of new services that generate attractive returns like business services and XFINITY Home.
  • From an investor’s perspective, Comcast has several competitive moats about its business especially since the purchase of NBC Universal, While many see Comcast’s competitors being the other cable companies as well as AT&T and Verizon, Susan points out and I agree with her that post Comcast’s acquisition of NBC Universal its real competitors are companies like The Walt Disney Company (DIS), a content company that owns theme parks and ABC; Viacom (VIA), which owns CBS; and News Corp. (NWS).

 

Direct download: 05-08-13_SUSANCRAWFORDPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:10pm EST

Welcome back to PowerTalk - I’m your host Chris Versace and I’m taking you behind the scenes and in the know with conversations I’m having each week with CEOs and key business. If your new to PowerTalk, we’re going deeper into some of the key issues of the day to help sharpen your view when it comes to investing. 
Last week we got the latest rash of economic data that shows that while the U.S. economy is not falling off a cliff, it’s not exactly lighting the world on fire. In recent weeks, we’ve gotten figures that point to more people falling our of the work force, heard more about cyber attacks and watched the tragedy in Boston while the issue of gun control percolates in Washington. 
We’ve also started to realize what the true cost of Obamacare will be when its fully implement in 2014. Even The New York Times ran a story recently with the headline “Democratic Senators Tell White House of Concerns About Health Care Law Rollout”
It also seems that many across the pond in the Eurozone are realizing that austerity is not the solution. After years of insisting that the primary cure for Europe’s malaise is to slash spending, the champions of austerity, most notably Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, find themselves under intensified pressure to back off unpopular remedies and find some way to restore faltering growth to the world’s largest economic bloc.
Joining me this week to make some sense of all of this is Dr. John Lott, economist and author of the new book “At The Brink.”  In his new tome, John talks about how the Obama stimulus was the most expensive failure in history, why debt will continue to grow under Obama and why you can expect soaring health care costs.
It’s a book that Kevin Hassett, Director of Economic Policy Studies and senior fellow  at the American Enterprise Institute says is “chock full of sober, fact driven analysis that is must reading for anyone who wants a glimpse of our near future.”
Not only is it that but John Lott has a number of charts and graphics that crystalize the central points. After hearing that you may be excited to see the book, but just wait until you hear what he tells me.
Direct download: 04-28-13_JOHNLOTTPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:18pm EST

Thanks for joining me this week on PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits. If you’ve been here before, welcome back! As you know my goal with PowerTalk is to let you listen in on some of the conversations I’m having each and every week and to take you behind the scenes and in the know.

If your a new listener to PowerTalk, this is the place where I bring you my 1-1 conversations with CEOs of public and private companies as well as other key people in business, politics and wherever else might be impacting the stock market and our investing decisions. 

A few weeks ago, subscribers to my investment newsletter, PowerTrend Profits, were told about the opportunities to be had in the shares of Nuance Communications (NUAN), a voice and speech recognition technology company. Since then legendary Carl Icahn disclosed a sizable position in Nuance and the company went on to announce several new wins. At the same time, we’ve seen a number of other activities and interests surrounding speech technology in recent months

  • General Motors (GM) is working to integrate Apple’s (AAPL) Siri offering into its infotainment system;
  • Google (GOOG) recently acquired DNN Research to improve its Voice Search solution;
  • Amazon (AMZN) acquired text-to-speech and voice recognition company IVONA Software for an undisclosed sum;
  • iSpeech, a Newark, N.J.-based startup that specializes in lifelike text-to-speech apps and previously rolled out voice technology for the connected home, launched a platform to help publishers quickly and inexpensively convert books and articles into audio;
  • Microsoft’s (MSFT) Research and Development teams have been working on something voice based of their own.

And that’s just the short list. Yep it looks like speech technology is becoming THE interface for connected devices. That’s why I’m really jazzed to talk with Paul Musselman, the CEO of Carnegie Speech this week. When we talked, Paul was at the ASU/GSV Education Summit in Arizona, but he made some time to talk with us about the opportunities to be had with voice and speech technology, what it means for the education market and how Carnegie Speech is changing both how students learn to speak English. 

You may not realize it, but as you’ll hear speech technology has will change not only the way we learn and have an impact on Immigration, it could potentially alter the gaming industry as we know it. 

Direct download: 04-21-13_CARNEGIESPEECHPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:09pm EST

Fellow investors,

Thanks for joining me this week on PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits. If you’ve been here before, welcome back! As you know my goal with PowerTalk is to let you listen in on some of the conversations I’m having each and every week and to take you behind the scenes and in the know.

If your a new listener to PowerTalk, this is the place where I bring you my 1-1 conversations with CEOs of public and private companies as well as other key people in business, politics and wherever else might be impacting the stock market and our investing decisions. 

One of my Great 8 PowerTrends is Always On, Always Connected. That refers to the pervasive nature of the Internet and the connected society we live in today. You see this first hand day in and day out as we use our smartphones and tablets to read email, message our family and friends, check the latest on Facebook (FB) or LinkedIn (LNKD), stream a movie from Netflix (NFLX). With mobile carriers looking to grow their mobile data revenues beyond smartphones and tablets, they are starting to target other applications. One example is the recent teaming of AT&T (T) and General Motors (GM) to turn the car into a connected hot spot. Another is bevy of services being shown by AT&T (T) and other carriers as part of their attack on the home. 

All told, these two markets -- The Connected Home and The Connected Car -- are expected to account for more than $120 billion in revenues this year alone. It’s such an opportunity that I devoted my entire May issue of PowerTrend Profits to those two topics. Think about it,  if carriers like AT&T and Verizon are only now starting to aggressively target these opportunities, it says 2013 is just the start of these new connected services. 

Joining me to talk about this and the larger role of machine to machine communications is James Nolan, Executive Vice President of Research & Development at InterDigital (IDCC). For those unfamiliar with InterDigital, the company is a technology development and licensing company that counts many of the who’s who in smartphones as customers for their wireless technologies. Aside from helping steer InterDigital’s technology path and therefore keeping a close eye on what’s going on in the industry and where it’s going, wait until you hear what we talk chat about when it comes to new smartphones, the Connected Car and The Connected Home and key topics like security and mobile operating systems.

After listening to this PowerTalk, I think you’ll find some things are not what you think they might be. 

Direct download: 04-11-13_JIMNOLANPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:01am EST