Tue, 1 October 2013
Trucking - The Lifeblood of the Economy with Chris Burruss, President of the Truckload Carriers Association
Joining me on PowerTalk today is Chris Burruss, President of the Truckload Carriers Association and we talk about the trucking industry, what its responsible for, and what the key issues are facing the industry.
When most people talk about the economy, we tend to think of manufacturing, retail, restaurants and other industries that require goods be they finished products or key parts and assemblies.
We all know we need these, but how often do you think about how products and parts get where they need to be?
No deliveries means there is nothing to sell and nothing to buy. How does our economy work in that environment?
Even before I started my investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits, as part of near 20 years keeping tabs on the U.S. economy as an equity research analyst on Wall Street, I kept an eye on transport activity -- trucks, rails and intermodal activity. For those not familiar with intermodal, it’s when something is shipped by truck to rail or rail to truck.
Think about it, if goods are not getting shipped to and fro it means factories are not producing and demand from the consumer or business is weak. That means trucking is a key barometer of the domestic economy. While that was true decades ago, it’s even more true today given the shift toward just in time manufacturing.
Simply put if trucks are not rolling, the economy is not moving. That’s something think about every time you drive down I-95, 40, 70, 80, the 5 or another interstate highway. If you don’t see many trucks, don’t be shocked if the economy isn’t that strong.
Tue, 24 September 2013
Joining me on PowerTalk today to discuss the e-reader market, it’s new line of Android tablets that are designed with readers in mind as well as how it works with small book retailers and more is Mike Serbinis, the CEO and founder of Kobo.
If your like me, your an avid reader. Books, newspapers, magazines and all sorts of reports be it from companies like Gallup or the Congressional Budget Office. As the old say goes reading is fundamental.
Much like many other industries, the publishing industry has been rocked by technology -- how we consume information has changed and that means how people read has changed as well. Print continues to cede ground to digital publications that can be read on e-readers, tablets, smartphones and even on your computing desktop. We’ve seen magazines, like Newsweek, shift from print to only digital and newspapers such as The New York Times (NYT) try to figure out a pay-wall solution for its content. We’ve seen once prominent bookstore chains go out of business or in the case of Barnes & Noble (BKS) shrink its footprint.
Now when most people think of reading digitally, they tend to think of either the Apple (AAPL) iPad or Amazon.com’s (AZMN) Kindle e-reader and Fire tablet. While those are viable solutions there is another out there.
The Wall Street Journal named the Kobo Aura HD the “best e-Reader” beating out Amazon’s Kindle and the Nook from Barnes & Noble. I have to say I have been trying out the Kobo Aura and it’s great and it’s online bookstore has 4 million books to choose from as well as newspapers, magazines and more.
Mike shares a number of insights to where all of this is headed and he reviews some of the strategic moves that Kobo is making to be ahead of the curve.
Tue, 17 September 2013
When most people think of hanging out with family and friends it tends to involve one of my favorite subjects -- food. According to The Bureau of Economic Analysis, on average the U.S. consumer spends $6,129 or 9.81% of their paychecks on food each year. That makes the food industry, which includes eating at home and eating out, a big big business.
Joining me to talk about the success as well as the challenges that Domino’s Pizza (DPZ) faces is Lynn Liddle, Executive Vice President, Communications, Legislative Affairs and Investor Relations at Domino’s. Lynn’s been with the company since 2002 and has seen the good, the bad and the ugly along the way.
Like any business, the food industry has its ups and downs -- new products and better service to tighter consumer spending and cut throat competition to rising input costs and potential regulations. Despite those and other challenges, people need to eat, which means balancing demand with consumer tastes that sometimes shift based on the diet trend du jour.
With $1.6-$1.7 billion in annual revenues and more than 9,700 company owned and franchised locations, it’s a player in pizza and more. Lynn and I talk about all of that as well as break down the company’s key cost items and discuss some potential regulation that is winding its way through Washington, D.C. that could take a bite out of small businesses. You’ll even learn what the number one pizza toppings are in Japan and India. Here’s a hint, they aren’t what you think they might be.
Mon, 9 September 2013
Joining me on PowerTalk to peel the onion on a number of issues that we face in our broadband centric lives is former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell. He recently left the FCC after 7 years, and while his is not a household name Broadcasting & Cable magazine said he “gained a reputation of a statesmanlike conservative who can find common ground with his opposition without compromising his principles.” He was kind enough to spend some time with me as he heads to Hudson Institute’s Center for Economics of the Internet as a visiting fellow.
If your the average American, I’m sure you enjoy your cell phone, smartphone, high speed internet, cable programming and so on. In fact, you probably semi-addicted to it. What you probably don’t enjoy is stroking that ever increasing check each month when you pay your bill to AT&T, Verizon, Comcast or some other service provider.
While we tend to think of the device we are using -- smartphone or set top box -- and the network that enables it, there’s far more going on behind the scenes not only at those companies, but in Washington, D.C.
In this edition of PowerTalk, Robert McDowell and I discuss issues facing broadcasters, such as Aereo; the impact of rising smartphone competition, particularly from Huawei; the future of wireless - for those who think the smartphone and tablets are it you have a rude awakening coming. We also talk about some of the pain points facing the industry, including the spectrum shortage, which is interesting considering the government is sitting on a ton of it.
Tue, 3 September 2013
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.
Tue, 27 August 2013
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.
Mon, 19 August 2013
This week on PowerTalk I’m serving up our late summer reading list. That’s right, the last few weeks of August tend to be filled with cookouts, vacations and lounging by the pool. If your doing those things, or if your like me and your not, you still need a good book or two to get your through the dog days of summer. With that in mind, I’m bringing you two books that are great reads in general, but make for great end of the summer reads.
The first is Niall Ferguson’s latest book - “The Great Degeneration.” Odds are you’ve heard of his other books -- "The House of Rothschild", "The Pity of War", "The Cash Nexus" and many others including "The Ascent of Money", which was the basis for a PBS series that won the International Emmy for best documentary. In The Great Degeneration, Niall tackles the decay in four key institutions -- representative government, the free market, the rule of law and civil society -- that he argues have been the key to success in Western Civilization. We talk about whether or not its over for us as a people and I think you’ll be surprised by what he has to say.
The second is Conrad Black’s “Flight of the Eagle” and its another great read that traces America’s evolution, discussing key events, strategies and problems along the way. Conrad’s perspective is insightful and informative, but that’s something to expect from him considering that by the late 1990s, he had more than 500 publications under his banner as he headed the world’s third largest newspaper group and the largest print-only media operation. Aside from his new book, Conrad shares his outlook on the publishing industry and what he would do if today if he was charged with fixing a major newspaper like The New York Times or The Washington Post. Much like in "Flight of the Eagle", Conrad’s unique perspective on this doesn’t disappoint.
Tue, 13 August 2013
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.
Mon, 5 August 2013
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 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.
Tue, 30 July 2013
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.