“We want Prime to be such a good value, you’d be irresponsible not to be a member” — Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, in his annual letter to shareholders. It’s clear Bezos thinks quite highly of Amazon’s video, music and two-day shipping service. But hey, you can’t blame him—Prime membership grew by 51% in 2015 alone.
- U.S. stocks posted big gains yesterday, boosted by biotech’s largest gain in seven years, along with cautious comments from the Fed regarding April’s rate hike
Alternatives to Watch
- Oil leapt 5%—its biggest jump in three weeks—after a surprising decrease in crude stockpiles (compared to analyst expectations of record highs)
- Valeant Pharmaceuticals continued Tuesday’s trend, skyrocketing 19% and bringing the total to 30% in two days—its largest jump in 20 years. How? Bullish comments from minority shareholder and activist investor Bill Ackman led a rally that earned him $170 million
Not Oil’s First Victim, Not Its Last
Yesterday, Angola bit the bullet and asked the International Monetary Fund for help. It’s nothing out of the ordinary: like most developing countries in Africa, Angola has been struggling to cope with the recent fall in oil prices. This is the second time in seven years that it has turned to the IMF for help, and it’s actually still trying to pay back its initial loan. So what’s different this time? Angola’s Prime Minister claims that it’s going to use the money to shift the country’s dependence away from oil to diversify its economy. Not a bad idea.
Big Business, Bigger Government
We probably don’t have to tell you, but we’re going to anyway: it has been an absolutely brutal month for big business. The series of unfortunate events all trace back to the death of Justice Scalia, a die-hard business advocate, followed by this week’s corporate inversion ruling that led to the break-up of Pfizer and Allergan. Now, it’s Uncle Sam playing “trust-buster” with the merger between oil-field services giants Halliburton and Baker-Hughes. Why’d the government go and do that? Falling oil prices have led to many oil companies biting the dust, and a merger that comprises 16% of the oil industry’s market share just didn’t sit right with the American spirit of capitalism.
Facebook Does It Live
Facebook is bringing a new vantage point to your feed: live videos. Zuckerberg and Co. have been very careful to roll out Facebook Live, its live streaming feature that puts it squarely in competition with Twitter (through Periscope) and YouTube, as it has limited the rollout to public figures before releasing it to the public. Why? In case you didn’t notice, Facebook users have a history of reacting negatively to change (remember “what the heck is a timeline?”). Imagine the possibilities for a second—you can live broadcast the birthday party of your baby brother, and Steph Curry can broadcast his work ethic behind the scenes…all on Facebook. Let’s just hope you didn’t broadcast that party you went to last Friday night.
Huawei Brings It
Introducing the P9 smartphone—Huawei’s answer to Apple and Samsung. Consider it brought. Despite its standing as the world’s third-biggest smartphone manufacturer with an 8% market share, the Chinese telecom giant still trails well behind Apple and Samsung. In other words, the Chinese company has something to prove. Enter the P9, which represents a serious shift in strategy from cheap, unbranded phones—proving that Huawei can make a mean premium product as well. The only thing missing is the premium price tag: the company will still sell the phone at below competitor prices to accelerate sales.
- Domino’s now lets you order pizza just by launching an app
- Yahoo expects 2016 revenue to drop about 15%
- Wal-Mart pledges to sell only cage-free eggs by 2025
- Nokia to cut thousands of jobs following Alcatel deal
- Monday: Factory Orders (-)
- Tuesday: Walgreens (+/-), Darden Restaurants (+) Earnings; International Trade; ISM Non-Manufacturing Index (+); Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (+)
- Wednesday: Bed Bath & Beyond (+), Monsanto (-), Constellation Brands (+) Earnings; Fed FOMC Minutes
- Thursday: Rite Aid, Ruby Tuesday; Weekly Jobless Claims
- Friday: Wholesale Trade Data
SPEAK SOFTLY AND CARRY A VERY EXPENSIVE STICK
It’s no secret that the U.S. defense budget is…we’ll call it generous—but the rest of the world has beefed up in a hurry. Global military spending in 2015 totaled $1.7 trillion, an increase of 1% from 2014. 1% may not sound like much, but it’s actually the first increase in several years. Here’s the breakdown:
- The U.S. is still way ahead of the pack, with $596 billion in defense spending in 2015. The next big spender was China, at $215 billion. Saudi Arabia came in third, at $87 billion—double what it spent in 2006. Someone’s in a hurry.
- But Saudi Arabia is a walk in the park compared to Iraq’s insane pace of growth. The embattled nation spent five times what it did in 2006, with a budget of $13.1 billion. Why? You can thank the need to rebuild the Iraqi army after America’s withdrawal coupled with the rise of ISIS.
- The ramping up of the fight against ISIS has had weapons manufacturers raking in the dough: Qatar signed a $7.6 billion deal with France to buy 24 fighter jets, and the U.S. made $33 billion in sales to its Gulf allies. $33 billion, by the way, is more than the annual military spending of Israel and Canada combined.
INTERVIEW QUESTION OF THE DAY
Albert and Bernard want to know when Cheryl’s birthday is. She lists 10 possible dates: May 15, May 16, May 19, June 17, June 18, July 14, July 16, August 14, August 15 and August 17. Cheryl tells Albert the month of her birthday and Bernard the day of her birthday. Albert: I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know that Bernard doesn’t know either. Bernard: At first I didn’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know now. Albert: Then I also know when Cheryl’s birthday is. When is Cheryl’s birthday? (Answer)
BUSINESS TERM OF THE DAY
Undercast — A forecasting error that occurs when estimating items such as future cash flows, performance levels or production. Undercasting produces an estimation that is below the realized value.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
$1,302: the amount of money charged to GOP representative Duncan Hunter’s campaign credit card linked to payments for Steam games. Hunter claims it was a simple mix-up by his son.
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