There is speculation in the air about whether Ford will retain its majority ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover as the formerly 2nd largest car manufacturer announced it will no longer be the majority share holder in the Aston Martin luxury brand. Some analysts feel the time may be right for Ford to get an attractive bid for its luxury brands.
Japan’s GDP grew at a very nice 1.3% in the last quarter of 2006. Japan’s economy was in the doldrums for over a decade and in the last few years has started to perk up. In the early 1970’s the term “Japan Inc” was coined, as it appeared the Japanese were going to dominate the globe with their business and manufacturing acumen. But “Japan Inc” turned into “Japan Red Ink” as Japan experienced a severe real estate bubble and faced increasing competition from Korea and China.
It turns out some of the eggheads who were playing with their electronics kit while you were trying to make it to the 10th level of the Legend of Zelda may have stumbled across something. It’s called a low inductance decoupling capacitor. And no, it’s not a device you can hook up to a DeLorean to go back in time.
The U.S. trade deficit declined 3.8% from December to January. The trade deficit decline was mostly a result of higher exports. While imports did decline, it was only slightly. The trade deficit with China continues to widen — clocking in a 12% change from December to January.
A team of corporate leaders from Exxon Mobile (XOM) met with the president of Guyana this week as the oil companies try to elbow and box out their competitors. It is expected border disputes with neighboring Suriname will be cleared up by the UN shortly, and this will clear the way for companies to invest in off shore drilling.
In a video interview yesterday, Jim Cramer (videoplayer.thestreet.com) analyzed several of Warren Buffet’s stock positions. Cramer stated, “There are two Warren Buffet’s. There is the Warren Buffet pre-three years ago… Where if you bought on the announced date what he was buying, you made a lot of money. In the last three years, if you bought what he bought, you under performed.” Cramer supposed Buffet has either lost his edge or he is taking an even longer-term view.
In an article in the Wall Street Journal (online.wsj.com), John Bogle predicts moderate returns over the next decade, on the order of 7% annually. At this point an investor may be saying “so what, who’s John Bogle, and why should I care?” Mr. Bogle was the founder of the Vanguard Group, the company with the famous family of no-load/low-cost mutual funds. Additionally, Mr. Bogle accurately predicted the stock market’s demise in 2000 and the stock market’s recovery in 2002.
The stock prices of companies manufacturing and selling fertilizer have been blasting off over the previous year. When most people hear about fertilizer they think about the smelly byproduct stuff from animals. But a large majority of fertilizer is manufactured from natural gas and the price of natural gas is cheaper than it was a year ago. Fertilizer manufacturers have benefited from the lower prices for natural gas.
U.S. productivity slowed in the fourth quarter of 2006 and labor costs were on the rise. Nonfarm productivity increased only 1.6% the last quarter of 2006, significantly down from the original estimate of 3%. Unit labor costs increased 6.6% in the last quarter, significantly up from previous estimates of 1.7%. This bodes well for the temporary staffing industry. As the labor market tightens and labor costs rise, companies will shift to staffing with more temporary labor. And when the economy slows down, as it always does, temporary staffing will allow companies to more easily reduce their workforces.
Regulators announced late last week their intention to begin a crackdown on subprime home mortgage lenders as two major lenders are having difficulties with large losses.