Fellow investors,

Thanks for joining me this week on PowerTalk. I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits.  

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. 

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.

It’s no secret that job growth has been a disappoint during the current economy recovery. No matter how you look at it and irrespective of the metric you choose, it’s been consistently and persistently weak recovery compared to others.  With wages under pressure, millions of American out of work and thousands continuing to drop out of the work force each month, it can be a depressing picture. That’s before factoring in the millions of American that have ballooned the food stamp program. Worse yet, some economists are even saying the current recovery is getting a little long in the tooth. 

It may look a little bleak out there, but there’s reason to think there is some hope for job creation in this country. 

This week I had the pleasure of speaking with Beth Solomon, the President and CEO of the National Association of Development Companies (NADCO). Development companies take several forms and work with different financing types including working capital loans, asset based financing and private equity. Examples of companies that do that include Main Street Capital Corp. (MAIN), Apollo Investment (AINV), and PennantPark Investment Corp. (PNNT) among others. The National Association of Development Companies or NADCO as it’s known is the trade association for companies certified by the Small Business Administration to provide financing for small businesses under the SBA 504 program.

Beth hammered home the fact that small businesses are the lifeblood of job creation. Despite the industry providing more than $6 billion in capital during 2012 to nearly 10,000 U.S. small businesses, access to capital remains the greatest challenge to small businesses and job creation. In the franchise industry alone, that resulted in 94,000 jobs not being created last year. 

While many think restaurants like Subway and the like when they hear the work “franchise”, you’d be surprised to learn that assisted living, child care, retailers and hotels are others account for a big portion of the franchise industry. That means companies like Hilton, Marriott International (MARR), RadioShack (RSH), Assisted Living Concepts (ALC), Sunrise Senior Living (SRZ) and others.

While commercial banks like Citigroup (CITI), Bank of America (BAC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and others are seeing their credit freeze start to thaw, Beth and I talk about a number of programs and other initiatives that small businesses can tap into right now to get the capital they need and put Americans back to work. 

Direct download: 03-13-13_NADCOPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:25pm EDT

Fellow investor,

Thanks for joining on this edition of PowerTalk, where I, Chris Versace - editor of the PowerTrend Profits investing newsletter, dish with good friend Keith Bliss of Cuttone & Co. from the floor of the NYSE. Each week we’ll be breaking down the latest goings on in the market and talking about what’s moving it. We also share what data and events we’ll be keeping our eyes on next week. 

This past week was an interesting one to say the least. From the start of the sequester and the would be snowquester on the east coast to the latest economic data that points to a firmer domestic economy. Despite a better than expected February Employment Report, there are reasons to be think that this could be an outlier rather than the real thing. Not only did the Challenger Grey Job Cuts report point to a 37% increase in job cuts during February, but sifting through this week’s Fed Beige Book reveals restrained hiring given the implications of the Affordable Care Act. Factor in the expected impact of the sequester on defense companies and related contractors and odds are job creation in March will abate. 

That’s not to say the February Employment Report was all bad. The pick up in construction jobs boosts the case for homebuilders, like Toll Brothers (TOL), Ryland Group (RYL) and Lennar Corp. (LEN) among others as well as homebuilding materials companies like USG (USG) and Sherwin Williams (SHW)

Amidst all of this, the stock market continued to grind its way higher this week with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing at a new high and the S&P 500 not far behind. One concerning point in this move higher is that the leaders have not been the ususal suspects. That is, it’s not tech, financials or consumer discretionary that are leading the way, but rather defensive sectors like consumer staples, utilities and the like. 

On our radar next week is the February economic data that will start to reflect the jump in gas prices. More specifically that’s inflation figures a la the consumer and producer price indices as well as retail sales figures. Already a number of companies including Rite Aid Corp. (RAD), Ross Stores (ROST), Zumiez (ZUMZ), The Buckle (BKE), Fred’s (FRED) and Cato Corp. (CATO) have announced negative February same store comparisons. With gas prices up 11% on average for the month and a hefty 14% year to date, odds are there will be more disapponting retail figures to be had. 

Be sure to come back next week, when Keith and I will be break it all down again as we wrap the week and look ahead. 

Direct download: Versace_Bliss_03082013.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:17pm EDT

Thanks for joining me again this week on PowerTalk. If your new to the show, 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. 

I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits 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.

There’s been a lot of bluster over the recently enacted sequester spending cuts, which are really cuts in the rate of spending growth than true reductions in dollars spent. While there will be sectors of the economy that feel the impact more than others -- defense and government contractors like Lockheed Martin (LMT), Northrop Grumman (NOC) and others -- the underlying economy is in far better shape given the rebound in the housing and manufacturing economies. 

Offsetting those favorable economic factors are the impact of higher gas prices and the January tax increase that is putting less money in the average paycheck. Another factor that I am closely watching is the impact of the Affordable Care Act, which is better known as ObamaCare. We knew it would have an impact on business and this week’s Fed Beige Book, which tracks anecdotal economic information from the Fed’s 12  districts, confirms that. In my experience, rising costs -- be it fuel or healthcare costs or both at the same time -- can restrain business investment and hiring. 

Discussing all of that and more with me this week on PowerTalk is Stephen Moore, an editorial board member and senior economics writer at the Wall Street Journal. I’ve enjoyed his editorials in the Journal for a long time and it was a pleasure to speak with him. Even though we talked over a number of issues from overhauling the tax code, the rampant use of food stamps and tax inspired migration to Texas and other states from California, Stephen expressed his long-term optimism for the United States and its economy. All that and we also touched on his new book Who’s The Fairest Of Them All? 

Stephen and I both agree that the political conflict in Washington has held the U.S. economic engine in check at a time when the Federal Reserve is supply low cost gas to get the economic fire going. Near-term, the average consumer will continue to be The Cash Strapped Consumer that is found in my Rise and Fall of the Middle Class PowerTrend. 

Direct download: 03-06-13_STEPHENMOOREPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:54pm EDT

Fellow investors,

Thanks for joining on this edition of PowerTalk, where I, Chris Versace - editor of the PowerTrend Profits investing newsletter, dish with good friend Keith Bliss of Cuttone & Co. from the floor of the NYSE. Each week we’ll be breaking down the latest goings on in the market and talking about what’s moving it. We also share what data and events we’ll be keeping our eyes on next week. 

This past week was an interesting one to say the least. From the Italian elections and sequester to the essentially flat 4Q 2012 GDP revision, it paints a picture of increasing risk. Yet, the major indices continued to move higher and in some cases closing in on all time highs. As we saw with today’s Personal Income and Spending data, however, we are only beginning to see the impact of the payroll tax exemption expiration and higher gas prices. With gas prices continuing to climb, it’s a pretty good bet that the consumer and retailers like J.C. Penny (JCP) and casual dining restaurants like Red Robing Gourmet (RRGB) and others will feel it on the chin in the coming weeks. 

For the stock market, while most pros expect a pullback in the coming weeks, don’t expect a massive correction as the Fed has overtly stated that they will keep the ‘punch bowl’ filled for as long as it takes to get unemployment down below 6.5% (February employment situation will be reported on March 8th); which has the effect of keeping asset markets frothy.  But beware, at some point weak economic data will begin to trump fed action.  A weaker consumer may just be the first indication that there is danger ahead for the U.S. economy…and the U.S. equity market.

While the sequester is on investor minds this week -- and it should be given that those automatic cuts are set to take effect at 11:59 PM tonight -- there is another shoe to drop. That is the March 27th deadline to raise the country’s debt ceiling. Put it all together and March is shaping up to be a far more volatile month than January or February combined. 

Listen to Keith and I break all this and more down - 

  • A number of companies announced higher dividends this week, like The TJX Companies (TJX), and that follows big dividend increases from the likes of Walmart (WMT) and Coca-Cola (KO) last week. 
  • The 2013 Mobile World Congress was held and a number of new mobile products and services were announced. One of the most interesting ones to me was Qualcomm’s (QCOM) Wi-Fi enabled coffee pot. Talk about a compelling set up for the connected home. 
  • This morning we learned that factory activity in China slowed during February as the official PMI reading slipped to 50.1 from 50.4 in January.
  • Apple (AAPL) held its annual shareholder meeting and to much chagrin the company did not announce any new initiatives to use is $137 billion cash war chest. 
  • Struggling daily deal company Groupon (GRPN) announced the departure of CEO Andrew Mason. Even though the shares rallied after the announcement, Keith and I both agree this was a decision that was long-time coming. 
  • There were some bright spots in the domestic economic data this week. There was strength in housing and below the durable goods headline -- machine tool orders up 13.5% in January. That means good things for homebuilders like Toll Brothers (TOL), Ryland Group (RYL) and others as well as key suppliers, such as USG (USG), Sherwin Willliams (SHW),   and service providers like ADT Corp. (ADT). 

Be sure to come back next week, when Keith and I will be break it all down again as we wrap the week and look ahead. 

Disclosure: Subscribers to PowerTrend Profits were alerted to add shares of USG (USG) and ADT Corp. (ADT) at $29.19 and $46.54, respectively.

Direct download: Versace_Bliss_03012013.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:51am EDT

Fellow Investors,

Thanks for joining me again this week at PowerTalk. If you’re new to the show, this is the place where I have one-on-one conversations with CEOs of public and private companies as well as other key people in business, politics and any sector that could impact our investing decisions. 

I’m your host Chris Versace, editor of the investment newsletter PowerTrend Profits and my goal with PowerTalk is to take you behind the scenes and in the know.

Can we count on the CEO?


I always get a bunch of questions from subscribers to PowerTrend Profits or at my public speaking engagements. But the one question that tends to crop up rather frequently is what do I think of this CEO or that CEO? Are they doing a good job running the company? Can we count on them?

My answer is that over my 20+ years of dissecting industries and companies, I’ve found that there are some great CEOs out there, but there are also some that should be gone. Take it from me,-- someone who sat across the table from a number of CEOs -- there are some who get it and then are some who don’t see the writing on the walls. 

Like many, I hold Steve Jobs the former CEO of Apple (AAPL) in high regard as well as A.G. Lafley, former CEO of Proctor & Gamble (PG), Jim Bezos at Amazon.com (AMZN) and Howard Schultz at Starbucks (SBUX) and a number of others.  

Each of these gentlemen have done fantastic jobs at each of their companies and I would argue that in their own right each recognized the power of PowerTrends to transform their companies.  

  • Steve Jobs clearly saw the impact of being Always On, Always Connected when he and his team were developing the iPod, iPhone, iPad and iCloud;
  • Howard Schultz is targeting growth outside the U.S. by capitalizing on The Rise and Fall of the Middle Class;
  • Naren K Gursahaney, the CEO of ADT Corp. (ADT) a Safety & Security company is seeing his business benefit from the rebound in housing, but is also looking to the future by bringing to market a number of connected services that will sweeten ADT’s revenue per customer. 

 Unfortunately for you and me, for each really good CEO out there, there are a number that, well, let’s face it -- need to go. Two examples in my view are Steve Ballmer at Microsoft (MSFT) and Andrew Mason at Groupon (GRPN). It seems that no matter what these CEOs do, the companies don’t seem to get any traction and that's not good for shareholders.

CEO’s and what you Need to Know


As you can imagine, evaluating a CEO and his or her team is necessary, if not crucial, for me to have a high degree of confidence in the team’s strategy and its ability to execute.  

If you can’t get behind what the management team is doing, you can’t get behind the stock. It’s a deal breaker plain and simple.

 That’s why I was thrilled to talk with Bob Kelleher, author of Creativeship, and founder of The Employee Engagement Group. Over the years, Bob has worked with Shell, the TJX Companies (TJX), Prudential, Abbot Labs (ABT), Fidelity, the Center for Disease Control, Balfour Betty, Unocal and dozens of others.  

Over the course of our PowerTalk, we discuss a number of key issues when it comes to being a successful leader and Bob shares his quadrant view on company performance, leadership and employee engagement. All told, Bob shares ways to identify those CEOs and others that are true leaders and charting the course ahead. 

As I mentioned earlier, identifying the CEO that can not only talk the talk but walk the walk is key.

Here are some other nuggets from my PowerTalk with Bob Kelleher:


  • It’s not just technology companies like Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) that are innovators. Proctor & Gamble (PG), Nike (NKE), General Electric (GE) and even well known denim company Levi Strauss are great examples of how a company can bring new products to market in and many cases create new product categories. I agree with Bob whole heartily on this and that’s why each of those companies are contenders for different PowerTrends. 
  • Innovation needs to be sustainable and not simply a one hit wonder like we saw at Motorola, now owned by Google, and Sears (SHLD). While a new product can create some great excitement at a company, if there is not follow up and follow through all that excitement can simply flame out.
  • We need to avoid those companies that are not recognizing the sand shifting under their feet. Bob mentions Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL) as two examples and as subscribers to PowerTrend Profits, I have voiced my concern over the direction of those two companies that lack a smartphone, tablet and connected device strategy. 


Yep, there’s a lot of ground to cover in this week's PowerTalk with Bob Kelleher so let’s get to it.


Direct download: 02-28-13_CREATIVESHIPPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:57pm EDT

 Fellow Investor,

We've been busy here at PowerTalk, sharing my conversations with key players at public and private companies as well as other institutions of influence. I started PowerTalk to share with you the kinds of conversations that mutual fund and hedge fund players are having with the same  kinds of people. In other words, I wanted to bring you behind the scenes and in the know on some of the key topics of the day that investors and traders are facing.

It's been so successful that listeners have been asking for more. And that's what we're about to do.

Starting today, I'm adding a second weekly installment to PowerTalk that will share my conversations about the latest happenings over the last several days that are driving the stock market. Be it economic data, politics, or specific company news that is driving the stock market higher or pushing it lower, I'll be talking about it each week with Keith Bliss, Senior Vice President of Cuttone & Company, right from the floor of the New York Stock Exchanges

This week Keith and I dish on the rise in both gas prices and taxes and what it means for the consumer following Walmart's (WMT) weak start in February; the most recent Federal Reserve minutes that hint at a back peddling in QE3; the pick up in M&A activity; and of course what the sequestration could mean for the economy and investors. 

As tends to be the case with PowerTalk, there's a lot of ground to cover so let's get to it.

Chris Versace
Host, PowerTalk
Editor, PowerTrend Profits
Editor, ETF PowerTrader 

Direct download: Versace_Bliss_02212013.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00pm EDT

Fellow Investor,


In the PowerTalk series, I speak with a number of prominent figures from the CEO of Smith & Wesson (SWHC) to key players at General Motors (GM) and the Consumer Electronics Association and others. The goal is to bring you behind the scenes and in the know when it comes to some of the key issues on investors minds. 

I’m at it again this week when I talk about currency and the much discussed currency war that we may or may not be in at the moment. Joining me to talk about this and more is Bernard Lietaer, who was named “the world’s top currency trader” in 1992 by BusinessWeek. Bernard has also been central banker, a fund manager, and a university professor. He has recently added author and has a new book out -- “Rethinking Money: How New Currencies Turn Scarcity Into Prosperity.” 

The interview stems from how over the last few months, finance ministers from Russia, Thailand, Turkey, South Korea and other countries have been pointing their collective fingers at what they call a “currency war.” This time those folks are not pointing at China, but rather at Japan as it has devalued the yen in order to jump start its economy. And how during the 2012 US Presidential Debates, Mitt Romney labeled China a currency manipulator just as some countries like Brazil and others have complained about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s easy money policy saying it will unleash a “monetary tsunami.”

Over the course of my conversation with Bernard Lietaer, we discuss:

  • the realities of what currency really is and how there are more forms of currency than just money;
  • the economic drivers behind a currency war; and
  • Bernard’s view that a new concept of money and currency, not the redistribution of wealth, increased conventional taxation, bond measures or enlightened self-interest from corporate entities, will stop the race toward “global self-destruction”.  


From an investor’s perspective, I drew several conclusions from my PowerTalk with Bernard:

The devaluation in the yen bodes well for US imports of Japanese products, such as autos from Toyota (TM) and Honda (HMC) as well as heavy construction equipment manufacturer Kubota (KUB). That means a tougher environment for US based companies such as Ford (F), General Motors (GM), Caterpillar (CAT) and Deere & Co. (CAT)

A strong US dollar on a relative basis will have a negative impact on US exports or foreign imports of US goods and services. That was one of the factors that curbed growth in the US economy last quarter. The impact of recent currency devaluation combined with higher gas and food prices, the payroll tax holiday expiration and sequestration related cuts will drive continued slow growth in the first half of 2013. 

Lastly for world travelers, a relatively stronger US dollar buys more imported goods and services here at home, but also lowers the cost of international travel for Americans. That is likely to be good for companies like Priceline (PCLN) and Starwood Hotels and Resorts (HOT) that has been expanding its footprint in Asia and Latin America. The flip side of that is it makes travel to the U.S. more expensive for foreign visitors and that could be additional pressure on retailers like Coach (COH), Guess? (GES), Aeropostale (ARO) and True Religion (TRLG) among others.

Subscribers are sure to notice how the interview touches on several of the PowerTrends found in my newsletter PowerTrend Profits and how it prepares us all for more successful investing.

Direct download: 02-20-13_BERNARDLIETAERPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:58pm EDT

Fellow investor,

Over the last year or so, you've probably heard a lot about “the cloud” but ask anyone what it is and you get a half baked description. The reality is there’s a lot to consider when you put our digital content in the cloud and choose a cloud provider be it for music, movies, personal documents or ones for work. Whether its Apple (AAPL) and iCloud, Microsoft (MSFT) and Skydrive, Google (GOOG) and its Drive solution or DropBox, there are shortcomings with each of them. Because the cloud is a key aspect of my Always On, Always Connected PowerTrend I wanted to do a deep dive on the subject with a mover and shaker in the space.


Joining me this week on PowerTalk as I discuss all things cloud with Yorgen Edholm, CEO of Accellion, a leading enterprise cloud file sharing company. We particularly focus on security concerns and how mobile technology will transform the cloud. Because Accellion serves more than 11 million customers across 1,700 of the world’s leading companies like Proctor & Gamble (PG), Kaiser Permanente, the U.S Securities & Exchange Commission, but the company is also profitable, Yorgen is a person worth talking to about the cloud, its drivers and benefits  as well as its short comings.


Here are some tidbits from my conversation with Yorgen: 

  • He sees mobile and the shift toward bringing your own device (BYOD)  to work as key drivers of cloud adoption;
  • Yorgen is a firm believer in the death of the PC, which means bad things for Dell (DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), and he sees no slowdown in businesses adopting Apple’s devices, particularly the iPad.
  • Security features and other tools in the cloud environment will be the key differentiators between those cloud providers that are successful and those that are not be it with individual or enterprise customers. 
  • Amazon’s (AMZN) Web Service is a key partner for Accellion, which should serve as a reminder that there is more to Amazon than just Internet based shopping;
  • Lastly, there are a number of cloud providers out there and not only does Yorgen sees a wave of consolidation coming, but we talk about what you should consider when choosing your cloud solution.

From an investor’s perspective, I drew several conclusions from my PowerTalk with Yorgen. First, demand prospects for data center companies will remain robust as people and companies continue to shift into a cloud-based environment. That confirms my thesis behind adding Digital Realty Trust(DLR) to the PowerTrend Portfolio last October. Second, it affirms that demand for Apple’s mobile products -- smartphones and tablets -- remains strong. That not only vouches for my long-term view on Apple and its shares, but makes me feel even more comfortable about adding more shares to the portfolio over the last several weeks. Lastly, it confirms something that I have suspected for some time - there is little reason to own shares of either Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) or Dell (DELL) as neither has figured out how to monetize let alone compete in the non-PC world of smartphones and tablets. 

Direct download: 02-13-13_ACCELLIONPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:38pm EDT

Fellow Investor,

This week’s PowerTalk  is with Tom Stemberg, the founder and former CEO of Staples and the Managing General Partner of the $300 million Highland Consumer Fund.  He’s also a member of the Job Creators Alliance.

It’s no secret that job creation has been challenging - 155,000 per month on average over the last 25 months - frustratingly slow.  As we learned recently, the January unemployment rate ticked back up to 7.9% With gas and good prices climbing, plus the expiration of the payroll tax holiday - it doesn’t paint a favorable picture for consumers, particularly those that have been part of the long-term unemployed.

Now we’re hearing that tax revenues are back on the table when it comes to solving the country’s debt problem. As it stands today, there’s more than $52,000 in debt per citizen and more than $146,000 debt per taxpayer. 

All of this plays right into the Rise and Fall of the Middle Class PowerTrend that subscribers to my PowerTrend Profits newsletter hear me talk about so much.

In the interview Tom and I discuss unemployment and the January jobs data.  We also take a look at why Congress and the President are struggling to create jobs (hint: they can’t get out of their own way), the impact of regulation on small and medium sized businesses, what to expect from consumer spending in 2013, the types of companies Tom sees delivering growth in this economy and more!


Chris Versace
Editor, PowerTrend Profits
Founder & Host, PowerTalk 


Direct download: 02-07-13_STEMBERGPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:22pm EDT

Fellow Investor,

Welcome to another edition of PowerTalk, where we bring you insightful conversations with key business people and other subject matter experts that take you behind the scenes and in the know. As always the goal is to arm you with an informed perspective and data points that lead to better investing decisions.  

I’m your host Chris Versace, Editor of the investing newsletter PowerTrend Profits - be sure to check out ChrisVersace.com for more on that and be sure to sign up for my free weekly e-letter while your there.

Joining me this week is NY Times best-selling author Daniel Pink. You’ve probably read his best selling books Drive or A Whole New Mind or caught him on CNBC, CNN or another network. Today we’re going to talk about his new book - To Sell is Human Not only is it a great read, but Dan brings together an astonishing amount of data and presents it in a clear and crisp fashion. Whether its talking about how we are all salespeople in one form or another or how technology -- smartphones and the Internet for example - are changing the role of sales and sales people, Dan addresses it all. He even has rechristend that famous Alec Baldwin saying in the hit movie Glenn Gary, Glenn Ross from “A - Always, B - Be, C - Closing” to “Attunement, Buoyancy and Clarity.” All that and we also touch on what all of this means for companies like Tupperware (TUP), Herbalife (HLF), Nu Skin (NUS) and Avon Products (AVP) among other sales organizations.  

As always, we cover a lot of ground so let’s get to it and remember to pick up Dan’s new book -- To Sell is Human at a bookstore near you or download it from Amazon or Apple’s iBooks.

Direct download: 01-31-13_DANIELPINKPOWERTALK.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:39am EDT