Posts by Aaron Task

  • Apple shares slump: 4 factors behind the fall

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 23 days ago

    For Apple, the hits just keep on coming. Unfortunately, they're not the kid of "hits" people are accustomed to but hits to the company's stock. At Tuesday's intraday low, Apple shares were down 14% from the April 28 high of $134.46 and heading for its fifth-straight daily loss and tenth in past 11 trading days. More importantly from a technical perspective, Apple stock has fallen below its 200-day moving average of just below $121, and done so on heavy volume.

    Two caveats. First, Apple is an incredibly profitable company and its stock remains relatively cheap based on pretty much any valuation metric. Second, stocks don't need a "reason" to fall and Apple may merely be in a consolidation phase after a phenomenal 2-year run that saw the stock appreciate nearly 75% vs. a mere 24% gain for the S&P 500. Apple's performance over the past 5- and 10-year periods is even more extraordinary and this "correction" may prove to be yet another buying opportunity.

    Aaron Task is Editor-at-Large of Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at atask@yahoo-inc.com.

  • Gold: The best hope for beleaguered bulls

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 25 days ago

    The gold rout accelerated in July, with the yellow metal hitting its lowest level since 2010 and suffering its worst monthly decline since 2013. Speculators are now net short gold for the first time since the government began tracking data in 2006, Bloomberg reports, and holdings in gold ETFs like the GLD are at the lowest level since 2009. About the best thing that could be said for gold right now is that recent action shows signs of capitulation, which often occurs near major bottoms. But whether gold will find a floor or keep falling isn't the most important think, according to Juan Carlos Artigas, Director of Investment Research at the World Gold Council. "What is really important is to think about the role for gold and what gold brings to investors," Artigas says. "The main purpose for gold in a portfolio is risk mitigation [and] diversification. Over a long period of time [gold] smooths out the ride for investors so whenever they need liquidity they are not only linked to the cycle of equities." To his credit, Artigas has been consistent with this 'diversification' message -- he recommends investors hold 2% to 10% of assets in gold -- and doesn't make public forecasts on gold prices, saving him from the rhetorical jumping jacks other gold bulls have been doing lately. (Jim Rogers, who does forecast prices, told me in April that he'd be a big buyer if gold falls below $1000.) "We don't focus on price forecasting, we try to better explain [gold's] role as a strategic asset," he says. That said, Artigas does offer his perspective on the recent decline in gold prices and why the consensus may be off on a few points. According to the World Gold Council, four major themes explain gold’s recent decline:

  • Epicurious, Bon Appetit recipes: Point, click, cook

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 28 days ago

    'Farm-to-table', meet 'browse-to-buy.' From Amazon.com to Uber to Pinterest, everyone these days is trying to deliver the goods faster and better connect with digitally savvy consumers. To that list you can now add the ingredients to your favorite recipes. This week, the parent of Bon Appétit and Epicurious announced that 35,000 recipes from the widely popular food sites are now instantly "shoppable."  Yes, anyone hungry or planning to be can purchase all the ingredients to a given recipe (or recipes) with a single click. "We are in a 'click right now culture'. Click and get it today or tomorrow. We expect it," Adam Rapoport, Editor-in-Chief of Bon Appétit and Editorial Director of Epicurious, explains in the accompanying video. "When this deal came up with my publisher...it was 'why would we not do this?'. It's so obvious. It's just where we're at right now." Indeed, the concept seems like a no-brainer -- especially for busy people who prefer a home-cooked meal but don't have the time to do all the planning, shopping and prepping that has to occur before you even get to the stove. "This takes out that crucial middle step" of going to the store, Rapoport says, suggesting it will particularly appeal to working parents. "The biggest challenge is time to do my job, go to the grocery store and feed my kids." As with all great ideas, execution will be key. For this deal, Conde Nast is partnering with Popcart, which provides a widget to connect users with its grocery distribution partners FreshDirect, Peapod, and Roche Brothers. (Update: According to a Conde Nast spokesman, Popcart is "a button integrated directly into our content – not a widget, which is an overlay" as is the case on other sites.)

  • America's infrastructure crisis: One step forward, two steps back

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 1 mth ago

    New York took a big step forward this week to address America's infrastructure crisis even as Congress took (another) two steps back. The Empire State stepped up and stepped forward with Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing plans for a $4 billion project to redesign LaGuardia Airport, featuring a unified terminal which will partially be redeveloped by Delta Air Lines (DAL). “New York had an aggressive, can-do approach to big infrastructure in the past – and today, we’re moving forward with that attitude once again,” said Gov. Cuomo. “We are transforming LaGuardia into a globally-renowned, 21st century airport that is worthy of the city and state of New York. Gov. Cuomo was joined at the event by Vice President Joe Biden, who once famously said: "If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you'd think, 'I must be in some third-world country.'" "Third World" might be a stretch, but America's infrastructure certainly isn't first class. The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the U.S. a D+ in its2013 report on the state of U.S. infrastructure, estimating it would take $3.6 trillion to upgrade the country's roads, bridges, tunnels and dams by 2020. In related news:

  • Crashed cars, garage fires and drones: Inside Travelers' Claim University

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 1 mth ago

    You probably know Travelers is one of the nation's largest multiline insurance companies, a Dow component and can often be seeing sporting a red umbrella. You might even know Travelers wrote life insurance policies on the crew of the Apollo 11, the first-ever policies for space travel. But you might not know the company is also in the business of higher education. Specifically, Travelers operates its own Claim University in Windsor, CT. There's no football team, no leafy commons with undergrads debating philosophy and no Spring Break. But they do have a year-round student body of 7500 at the roughly 200,000 square foot facility, as well as online classes that add up to about 300,000 hours of training annually. Claim University is "focused on ensuring that all of our claim professionals have the right skills and expertise to support our customers in their time of need," says Travelers senior vice president Pat Gee, who says nearly all of the company's roughly 12,000 adjusters come through the facility -- some more than once.

  • Commodities slump: Is there trouble ahead for the global economy?

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 1 mth ago

    Updated from July 23

    There's gobs of money chasing assets these days but there's no "bubble" in commodities, which are tanking. It's not just gold, which gets a lot of headlines; nearly all major global industrial commodities are back to 2009 levels -- including coal, gas, oil, iron ore and copper. Agricultural commodities such as wheat, coffee and sugar have also fallen on hard times. The dollar's rally has certainly been a factor in the price action, with the greenback advancing versus other major currencies amid speculation the Fed will start raising rates sometime this year. The other big story is China, which reported better-than-expected second-quarter growth of 7% last week, a development that notably didn't change the downward trend for commodity prices. (Update: Commodities slumped again on Friday after  Markit reported July manufacturing PMI for China below expectations and at the lowest level since April 2014.)

  • Danny Meyer 'copied me' but this restaurateur has no regrets

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 1 mth ago

    It seems like a great time to be a restaurateur: In March, Americans spent more money eating out vs. at grocery stores for the first time since the government started tracking the stats in 1992. And the restaurant sector remains hot, with investors still searching for the "next Chipotle" (CMG) and currently loving names like Papa John's (PZZA), Sonic (SONC) and Zoe's Kitchen (ZOES). Steve DiFillippo, founder of Davio's Northern Italian Steakhouse, might look at this environment as an opportunity to take his concept public. While small, with only seven east coast locations (and LA coming in 2016), Davio's has annual revenue of $50 million and the kind of culture --  quality, handmade food and a hyper attentiveness to guests and employees -- that today's discriminating diners demand. In addition to Davio's, DiFillippo also owns Yankee Trader Seafood, which sells food products in over 4,000 stores and on QVC, producing annual revenue of $20 million. He says business is booming.

  • China tightens grip on market but can't stop private sector's rise: Edward Tse

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 1 mth ago

    China's stock market crash has been halted -- at least for the moment -- but the government's response with 'overwhelming force' has raised questions about the Communist Party's commitment to reforming China's economy. Some have even questioned whether the government reaction is hurting the credibility of the ruling party and President Xi Jingping, who in 2013 famously declared an intention to let the market play a "decisive" role in China's economy. Some have even go so far as to declare that "the government’s muddled response [to the selloff] has raised questions about Mr. Xi’s authority and judgment," as The New York Times declared. "Across China, many of the millions of middle-class investors have been asking why the party and the government talked up the market in the months leading up to the recent plunge, and then bumbled in their efforts to prevent the rout." That is "a little overreaction," says Edward Tse, founder and CEO of Gao Feng Advisory Group, former Chairman for Greater China at Booz & Co and author of, most recently, China's Disruptors. "The whole process is a big experiment for the Chinese government who have not seen this kind of crash. They're very inexperienced...trying different things to rectify the market. In the process they did some good, some bad." The key question for Tse is whether the market slide and the government's ham-fisted response will slow China's reformation toward an economy driven by the private vs. public sector. There will be some short-term impact, Tse admits, most notably the ban on IPOs restricting access to capital for some up-and-coming firms. But the long-term story remains intact, he says. "China's entrepreneurs will be the ones driving the nation forward in the coming decades," Tse writes, noting total revenues for China's state-owned industrial companies rose roughly sixfold from 2000 to 2013 vs. an increase of 18 times for those in the private sector. So what companies does Tse see as having the greatest potential to "disrupt" the global economy? Watch the accompanying video to find out.

  • U.S. Consumers poised for liftoff

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 1 mth ago

    For U.S. consumers, everything is coming up roses. You wouldn't know it from this week's retail sales numbers but a number of indicators suggest U.S. consumers are primed to give the economy a major boost, should they choose to go on a spending spree. U.S. consumers have "completely recovered from the financial crisis [and] recession," says David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of Standard and Poor's Index committee. "The consumer, financially, is in pretty good shape." Some data points supporting that view:

    'Very Challenged' and 'Behind the Curve'

    "Conditions are right for an acceleration in household consumption," says Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at McGladrey.

    So why are retail sales so punk? Retail sales fell 0.3% in June and May's gain was revised down to just 1%.

    A 'Fragile' Boom

    Aaron Task is Editor-at-Large of Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at atask@yahoo-inc.com.

  • China, Greece put market's faith in "omnipotent" policymakers at risk: Sonders

    Aaron Task at Yahoo Finance 1 mth ago

    After rattling global markets last week, China and Greece have receded from the financial headlines -- at least for the moment. This pause provides an opportunity to assess the potential implications of all the drama, both in the present and going forward. In a recent report, Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab, broke the potential "contagion" risks into four categories: market, financial, economic and confidence.

    Aaron Task is Editor-at-Large of Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at @aarontask or email him at atask@yahoo-inc.com.