Posts by Elizabeth Trotta
While many people might fantasize about owning their own restaurant or bar, few actually do it -- and fewer still do it successfully. About four years ago, Lawrence Chan and Hudson Tang took a chance and purchased struggling Manchester Pub in New York City; today it's filled with regulars and makes enough money to be profitable. Now Chan and Tang are looking to grow the business even more.
From finance to tavern
In the fall of 2007, Chan was entering the subway when his former high school mate Tang called from a ski lift in Salt Lake City. “He said, ‘remember that bar we were in? They’re selling it, and this is what they’re selling it for,’” says Chan. “And I said, ‘I’m in.’”
The current owners were struggling and didn’t want to do it anymore. “They were looking for someone who could keep spirit of Manchester, who appreciated the bar for what it was worth," says Chan.
It matters what's on tap
A better menu
Especially as the recession took hold, Manchester aimed to be “the best inexpensive meal and drink in the area, so customers would come back," he says. “I think we were successful at that."
Multiple data points over recent months have suggested a housing market that’s recovering. Earnings from government-controlled mortgage heavyweight Fannie Mae on Tuesday offered the latest support for that observation; Fannie turned a profit of $17.2 billion for 2012, vs. a net loss of $16.9 billion for 2011. Its 2012 profit marks its biggest ever gain and the first in six years. Fannie said it was able to pay $11.6 billion in dividends to the U.S. Treasury Department last year and that it expects to remain profitable "for the foreseeable future."
Historically low mortgage rates have been attracting buyers and, particularly, refinancers in recent years. So far in 2013, the 30-year rate is up 0.23 -- at 3.57% last week, from 3.34% in the first reading of the year. It’s stayed above 3.5% since January. For perspective, even at 3.57% it’s still down from 3.99% a year earlier.
[Read More: Here Comes a Millennial Housing Boom: PulteGroup]
Lover.ly, a New York City based business started by Kellee Khalil, at first glance looks like a Pinterest for weddings. But on this site, you don’t just discover ideas -- you also find items to buy and people to hire. Even the simplest weddings are spun out of a massive, often chaotic business. Massive: More than $50 billion is spent on weddings in the U.S. annually, according to The Wedding Report. Chaotic: See New York City sidewalks littered with exhausted brides standing in line ahead of a sample sale, or the classic “Running of the Brides” event at Filene's Basement. Khalil's goal with Lover.ly is to stop the insanity and make wedding planning a prettier business. The site aims to be “the intersection of inspiration and transaction,” says Khalil, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs. You don’t "pin" or "like" a dress – but you do love it, bundle it, rent it or buy it. As you do on Pinterest, you search for highly specific combinations, such as “blue lace bridesmaid dress” or “1920s style veil." Then you can purchase those things if you so choose. Lover.ly carries more than 1,300 brands and also features the who’s who of wedding bloggers in the “love notes” section. And on April 2, it's launching an iPhone app. Problem and solution
It’s almost here. The basketball, the sweat, the tears, the celebrations, the brackets and the highlighters that are March Madness. Selection Sunday is March 17th, and after that, the NCAA tournament will kick off with the first set of four games on March 19-20 in Dayton, Ohio. That will be the initial stop for basketball fans on a magical road to the Final Four in Atlanta, culminating with the championship game on April 8. The stops along the way include the second and third rounds, March 21-24, in Auburn Hills, Mich.; Lexington, Ky.; Salt Lake City; San Jose, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Dayton; Kansas City, Mo.; and Philadelphia. Before closing the 2013 tournament in Atlanta, the four regionals will be held in Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Indianapolis, and Arlington, Texas. Those locations will determine which teams will see their seasons end in Georgia, and most importantly, the one squad that will head home with the banner. What could be better than seeing it firsthand? We asked online ticket vendor SeatGeek.com founder Jack Groetzinger and Director of Communications Will Flaherty for a few tips to keep your March Madness ticket search from driving you insane. Here's what they had to say: Yahoo Finance: When do fans need to start buying March Madness tickets? SeatGeek: One thing we’ve noticed is that, on average, prices tend to drop on the secondary market as the events approach. You would expect prices go up, but the data show otherwise, so we encourage people to wait until the week before the event, if possible. Of course, that can be tricky because people will be traveling. [If you’re worried about tickets selling out] the nice thing is there’s a lot of liquidity for the games, so it’s unlikely you'll get squeezed out entirely. Editor's note: As with any trend, you accept the risk of finding the exception. The charts below show average prices leading up to the NCAA tournament games and for strip tickets for the last two years. YF: Are any of the locations leading up to the championship more expensive than others? SG: There's a lot of variability depending on hometown favorites. The higher the seed, the more likely they'll be playing closer to home. That's why Kansas City, with the Jayhawks likely to pull a high seed, and Lexington, convenient for Louisville fans, are likely driving up more demand than Austin, for instance. We're still quite early on and demand won't fully flesh out until selection weekend, but in general you can expect higher prices in locations that are in near geographic proximity to top tournament teams.
There’s no love lost between political parties this Valentine's Day as lawmakers edge closer to the automatic cuts in federal spending referred to as sequestration.
Those reductions, an agreed-upon provision formulated during previous debt ceiling negotiations, are set to kick in March 1 if no resolution is reached, and they would carve $85 billion out of the government’s budget in the next seven months. President Obama and Democrats in the Senate are expected to unveil legislation Thursday to avoid sequestration. But the proposal, which reportedly includes items such as a minimum tax rate on those with earnings above $1 million, is not expected to make it through Republicans.
[Read More: Democrats to unveil bill to replace budget cuts]
The end toll is about a quarter of a point from JPMorgan’s previous projection for this year, with most of the pullback occurring in the second half. Feroli still expects growth of 1.5% in the first half of the year. However, he's now looking for 1.9% real GDP growth in the fourth quarter of 2013 from the fourth quarter of 2012, vs. 2.1% prior.
Would a rose (or Research in Motion) by any other name smell as sweet -- or better? We will find out as the plans that Research in Motion laid out Wednesday unfold. The company unveiled two new mobile devices and used the occasion to announce that it's changing its name to BlackBerry and its ticker symbol to BBRY.
Research in Motion, now Blackberry, isn't the first company to change its name. Some have done it outright and others have spun off into a companies with new names. Here are a few we've thought of.
Can you think of any more examples? Add them in the comment section below!
Elizabeth Trotta at Breakout 1 yr ago
While fund flow numbers have been weak for the mutual fund industry this year, investors have poured money into exchange traded funds (ETFs), and are now positioning optimally for 2013.
According to ETFtrends.com, ETF assets are up 26% or $273 billion so far this year. This easily surpasses the $119 billion total seen in 2011 and is on track match the record set in 2008, according to Morningstar.
Despite more dollars in the space, there was a burst of smaller providers who "realized they can't keep products out there," says Todd Rosenbluth, developer of S&P Capital IQ ETF research and ranking methodology, which ranks 750 ETFs.
While there were 170 new ETFs and ETNs this year, there were 98 that closed as of December. In fact, so many failed that some dubbed it "The Year of the ETF Closure."
What else is there to think about in 2013? Here are three more considerations:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ key monthly jobs report was one of the most anticipated economic data releases throughout 2012. Reaction to the numbers ran the gamut from disappointment and pleasant surprise to pure befuddlement. The data served as an indicator for the economic recovery and helped fire up a contentious debate ahead of the presidential election. So is America getting back to work? With data on all but the final month of the year out, it's clear the economy is growing, slowly and deliberately -- slowly perhaps being the key word. One way to look at it: in the first half of the year, the U.S. averaged an addition of 146.6K jobs each month. In the second half (minus December data), it averaged 167.6k new jobs per month. But on a monthly basis, the U.S. started out 2012 on a jobs growth note it was unable to match for the rest of the year, with 275,000 jobs added in January. From there, the numbers went downhill and in April hit a span in which the economy mustered just 200,000 jobs total across a three-month-period. Most economists would like to see consistent jobs growth in excess of 200,000 each month for a healthy recovery. "Unemployment is still elevated and job growth has been slow, nonetheless unemployment has been coming down, and over 1.5 million jobs have been created this year, consistent with a slow but steady economic expansion," says JPMorgan chief economist, Michael Feroli. One major issue is that it's been considerably tough for those who have lost jobs to find new ones. "While rates of layoffs and discharges have been low, so too have hiring rates, so while one is less likely to lose their job now, if you do lose a job, it will be difficult to find another one," says Feroli. Conspiracy Theory You can't discuss jobs in 2012 without mentioning the now infamous tweet of former General Electric CEO Jack Welch. In response to the better-than-expected September jobs report released on October 5, which was the final release before the election, Welch tweeted: "Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything…can't debate so change the numbers." Soon followed a media frenzy about Welch's conspiracy theory regarding the Obama administration cooking the books. "Having followed these numbers for 25 years and knowing the people who put them out, it's absolutely bizarre; it's outrageous," said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, on YFinance's Daily Ticker. "The data [are] based on surveys of tens of thousands of employers and households every month." What happened: The Bureau of Labor Statistics' reported the U.S. added 171,000 jobs and the unemployment rate fell to 7.8% in September, down from 8.1% a month earlier. It also reported that the civilian labor force rose by 578,000 to 155.6 million. On October 9, Welch penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal titled, "I Was Right About That Strange Jobs Report." In it, he compared the backlash of criticism that ensued post-tweet to how people were treated in Soviet Russia or Communist China, reiterating his stance that the 7.8% unemployment rate was "downright implausible." A month later, the jobs growth figure was revised down by 33,000. And the November report showed people were leaving, not joining, the labor force. But the unemployment rate for October was unrevised, and we learned the unemployment rate for November fell even lower, to 7.7%. The Problem With the Unemployment Rate The final employment data released inside the 2012 calendar year, reflecting the job situation in November, is a perfect example of why it's a bad idea to rely on the unemployment rate to understand what's happening in the economy. On the surface, it would seem very positive. The rate dropped to 7.7%, its lowest level since 2008. However, the reason the rate dropped is because of an exodus of people from the "pool of available workers" -- 542,000 additional adults chose not to look for work. That's not good. And it’s part of why Jerry Webman, OppenheimerFunds’ chief economist, would rather people focus on the jobs growth figures, not the headline unemployment rate. [Read more: Unemployment Rate Falls, More Adults Discouraged, Quit Looking ] What's Next Jobs growth in 2013 will come from the private side, and the good news is it has already been coming from there, says Webman. "If you compare it to other post-recession periods, there's no question that employment levels have stayed lower longer, which is exactly what you'd expect in the aftermath of a crisis,” he says. “It takes much longer for economies to recover and begin to expand." One area that's not likely to see growth is government employment. Any sort of grand bargain to avert the “fiscal cliff” is expected to come with cuts somewhere. "We talk about cuts in entitlement but there will be cuts in government programs, and those carry jobs," says Webman. As for the unemployment rate, "the economy would have to add about 12.8 million jobs over the next three years—about 356,000 each month—to bring unemployment down to 6 percent," writes Peter Morici in an op-ed for YFinance. That would require GDP growth in the range of 4% to 5%, he adds. For perspective, JPMorgan's Feroli expects the economy to grow at an annualized rate of a little under 2% in 2013 -- although he would like to see much faster growth. Barring any knee jerk reaction to a fiscal cliff deal, or lack thereof, 2013 may turn out to be not so very different than 2012, with jobs growth mirroring a slow economic recovery.
Elizabeth Trotta at Daily Ticker 1 yr ago
A crucial jobs issue hangs on the "fiscal cliff" negotiations: will lawmakers extend unemployment benefits for millions of Americans?
Jobless benefits for the roughly 2.1 million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months will expire at the end of December. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that an extension of these benefits would cost the government nearly $30 billion.
Lawmakers already cut back federal jobless benefits to a maximum of 73 weeks, from 99 (although some states, such as New York, ultimately still offered a combination of benefits totaling 99 weeks for those who exhausted all available emergency unemployment compensation). In general, states provide 20 to 26 weeks of benefits for eligible workers and then federal benefits cover up to 47 more weeks. The extent of federal benefits varies based on each state's unemployment rate. The higher the rate, the greater the number of weeks.
The Upside and Downside
Some argue that the downside, other than the price tag, is the possibility that some individuals will lose incentive to look for work.
Elizabeth Trotta at The Exchange 2 yrs ago
Merriam-Webster announced on Wednesday the top 10 words of the year, based on how many times they were looked up at Merriam-Webster.com. The list "sheds light on topics and ideas that sparked the nation's interest in 2012."
Two words shared the top spot:
"Socialism" and "Capitalism"
"Socialism saw its largest lookup spikes during coverage of healthcare but also saw peaks in the days following both conventions and each of the presidential debates," according to a release. "Capitalism, although looked up somewhat less often, rode the same waves of interest."
What can we conclude from that? "A very sarcastic answer would be 'Democrat' or 'Republican,'" says Paul Nolte, managing director of Dearborn Partners. "Unfortunately, the search indicates very little in the way of middle ground where compromises actually happen."
Perhaps one doesn't have to read too many fiscal cliff headlines to know what he means.