Sep 28, 2011

Amazon on the Move

September 28, 2011

Durable goods orders were slightly better than expected, although down from July. Orders declined by 0.1% vs. an expected decline of 0.2%, and the results were the same for both the headline number and the number ex-transports. Remember that in July the headline orders were up 4.1%, driven by orders from Boeing. Nondefense capital goods orders (ex-defense) rose by 1.1% vs. expectations of a 0.4% increase.

Greece has moved further along in their austerity program. Yesterday the parliament passed a very unpopular property tax. There are concerns that modest income property owners will be unable to pay the tax.

Amazon (AMZN) announced plans to sell a new, $199 tablet call the Kindle fire. The tablet is expected to have a 7” display and help drive commerce to Amazon’s site. AMZN is attempting to take a bit out of the myriad of tablet competitors. In other tablet news, Facebook may be launching a long-awaited iPad app at the upcoming iPad developer’s conference.

I had a conversation with the finance manager of a major recreational products company. He mentioned that business had really slowed since mid-summer, typically a high point in their year. His exact words were “business fell off a cliff about eight weeks ago.” That’s only a single data point, but not a great one.

The “Occupy Wall Street” protest continues as a few hundred people camp out in the parks in lower Manhattan. You haven’t heard about it? Very few people have, probably because there isn’t a coherent message coming from the group. Protesters have said that they aren’t concerned with achieving a goal other than “ushering in a long-term shift in consciousness.” OK. While speaking with an analyst yesterday, I asked if had seen the protest. He said “are you kidding? Do you think people in New York would notice more people sleeping in a park?”

Have states in the US ever defaulted on its debt before? The answer is yes. In 1841 there was a terrible depression, and eight states as well as Florida (which was still a territory) defaulted on their debt. According to China, America has already defaulted on their debt by printing too many dollars:

A Chinese ratings house has accused the United States of defaulting on its massive debt, state media said Friday, a day after Beijing urged Washington to put its fiscal house in order.

“In our opinion, the United States has already been defaulting,” Guan Jianzhong, president of Dagong Global Credit Rating Co. Ltd., the only Chinese agency that gives sovereign ratings, was quoted by the Global Times saying.

Washington had already defaulted on its loans by allowing the dollar to weaken against other currencies – eroding the wealth of creditors including China, Guan said.

KSL has announced plans to merge Squaw Valley with Alpine Meadows to create new super resort. This comes on the heels of a California ski season that was down 12% last year. Pre-season pass sales are up 10% YTD.

There are unconfirmed reports that Google had the highest bid for Hulu, but that they had conditions that the sellers may not agree to. Dish reportedly had the second highest bid, which was roughly 50% of GOOG’s $4 billion bid.

States have been raising unemployment-insurance taxes in an effort to repay federal loans used to cover unemployment benefits. US businesses, already struggling with a weak demand environment, continue to get pressure from all sides.

The Economist characterized the Fed’s strategy as the “who-knows-what-they’re doing strategy”.

In MLB action the Red Sox finally won a game to remain tied with the surging Rays for the AL Wildcard spot. Both teams play today, the final day of the regular season. Should they tie, there would be a one game playoff to determine the wildcard. Now that the Angels are out, I’m done with baseball and focused on football (and of course soccer).

Have a great afternoon


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