The Wall Street Journal
Obama wrestles with NSA overhaul. What a crock. If Bush was doing this, he would be impeached. Today on NPR, the 4:45 a.m. segment or about that time, NPR had what sounded like a news story, but if one listened closely, it was a public service announcement supporting Obama's plan to listen in on all Americans. I have no dog in that fight. I turn off my cell phone -- it's a 1990's clam shell model that I bought in 2009 or thereabouts -- I don't think it has the stuff necessary for the NSA to track, especially when it's turned off.
I talked about this yesterday: retailers confront new world of reduced shopper traffic. Brick-and-mortar stores (Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, particularly) are show-rooms for Amazon. I spent more than usual this past Christmas on gifts for my younger daughter and her husband, and 95% was spent "at" Amazon.
Best Buy Co. on Thursday became the latest retailer to chime in with weak holiday results. Like other chains, the electronics retailer blamed the race to offer the deepest discounts, a game of brinkmanship that hurt profit margins and held back revenue.
But there is a deeper malaise at work: A long-term change in shopper habits has reduced store traffic—perhaps permanently—and shifted pricing power away from malls and big-box retailers.
Consumers' rush to e-commerce is a challenge that brick-and-mortar retailers have wrestled with for years. Across a number of retailers, their defensive strategies don't seem to be panning out. Best Buy, for example, overhauled its store layouts and marketing in the past year, even inviting shoppers to "showroom" the electronics retailer—co-opting the term for people who try out products in stores and then buy them for less online.I have the answer for Barnes and Noble but I doubt they will listen. I've posted it for those interested. My wife does not agree. She's wrong. But don't tell her I said that: life would be less pleasant if she knew I said that. On the blog.
Wow, I have to listen to some Shirley Bassey:
America's eating habits are turning healthier, study finds. Yes, I've switched to bagels instead of donuts at Starbucks.
I don't believe it. The Wall Street Journal has the story that I posted yesterday: where to marry a millionaire -- North Dakota.
Welcome to North Dakota, which jumped 14 spots in the annual ranking of millionaire households per capita released by Phoenix Marketing International. There were roughly 53,000 more millionaire households in the U.S. last year than in 2012, for a total 6.15 million, according to Phoenix, which derives its figures from the Federal Reserve, Census Bureau and polling firm Nielsen Co. That means 1 of every 20 U.S. households has more than $1 million of investible assets. Those figures don't include the value of real estate. Large movements by many states made the latest ranking unusual.
Maine climbed 11 spots over a single year to No. 25 in 2013. Louisiana jumped 10 spots to No. 32. Meanwhile, Nevada fell 20 places to No. 39. Arizona, Florida, Idaho and Michigan all fell by more than 10 positions. From 2011 to 2012, no state changed its rank by more than two slots.CBR to make safety changes.
The line for Starbucks coffee now stretches almost to the door.
Target breach was part of a large, sophisticated attack; hit multiple retailers. Unfortunately, Target took the brunt. Be that as it may, I canceled my Target account, not because of the breach per se, but how it responded. It was a week or so before Target acknowledged the breach and initially denied personal information was stolen. Some two to three weeks later we learn from other sources that much personal information was stolen and Target finally acknowledged that. I was unable to reach Target in the early days following the breach and I could not access my on-line account. I finally reached Target, after a 45-minute hold. As soon as I told the male Target representative I wanted to cancel my account, the line went dead. Others blogged the same thing. I had more success calling Target's automated line to report a stolen card. I never spoke to a human but succeeded in canceling my account. Or so I thought. They "canceled" that account but sent me a new card with a new number. Now that things have settled down, I will cancel this account.
Speaking of which, I will also cancel one of my three other credit cards. The credit card companies response to this attack: monitor your accounts daily. Well, I can't do that very easily if I have multiple credit cards, so I will go to two credit cards: one for gasoline and one for "emergencies," like refilling my Starbucks card.
Blackrock fourth-quarter income rises 22% in fourth quarter. I still haven't found the fourth quarter results for North Dakota's "Legacy Fund."
The Los Angeles Times
My wife told me the fire was so bad in Pasadena yesterday that her car was covered with ash in south Los Angeles (San Pedro). Apparently the fire was started by one of three homeless folks starting a fire to keep warm. Five houses destroyed. The Times:
More than 700 firefighters battle the blaze, which burns 1,700 acres and destroys five homes. Three men are arrested on suspicion of starting the fire.About 30% contained as of last night.
"New" Ohio execution method took 15 minutes to kill first inmate. Well, that's not going to last, is it?
Are JC Penney's turnaround moves wise or foolish?
It's not looking pretty for J.C. Penney.
The Plano, Texas, company said this week that it plans to close 33 under-performing stores around the country by early May and shave 2,000 jobs off its books. Chief Executive Myron Ullman called the move — designed to save the company $65 million a year — a key step in J.C. Penney's "progress toward long-term profitable growth."
Several analysts, however, say it's a sign that the retailer's turnaround may be more like a turndown.
"J.C. Penney's rebirth is unfolding, but the huge issue is that it's moving extremely slowly, causing inefficiencies at the store that diminish the promotional and marketing initiatives being undertaken by management to rebuild customer relationships," Brian Sozzi, chief executive of Belus Capital Advisors, said in a note to clients.
Sozzi characterized the company as "a large, burning ship going full steam to reach dock before it sinks."
BNY Mellon reports EPS in-line: Reports Q4 (Dec) earnings of $0.54 per share, excluding after-tax loss of $115 mln, or $0.10 per diluted common share, in-line with the Capital IQ Consensus Estimate consensus of $0.54.
A reminder: today's RBN Energy post is a must read. It concludes:
So, while Spectra and NextEra’s Sabal Trail is clearly an important project (it will boost Florida’s ability to receive gas inflows by 1.1 Bcf/d, or roughly 25%), Williams’ Atlantic Sunrise plan may well have a much bigger effect on gas markets and gas pipeline operations.
In the next episode in this series, we will delve into detailed information Williams is providing about changing gas-flow trends on the Transco mainline, and into projections Williams is making on how the mainline will operate very differently as it becomes bi-directional through zones 4 and 5. Fair warning: That discussion will take us back to what we’ve called “the most arcane of our natural gas flow terms,” the pipeline flow “null point,” sometimes called the “floating null.” As we said in “Upside-Down: Natural Gas Pipeline Backhauls, Reversals and Null Points,” a floating null occurs when you start injecting a lot of gas at what had historically been the market end of a mainline, and reverse enough compressors so that some of the pipeline can flow gas one way and another part of the pipeline can flow gas the other way.
More next time on Transco’s coming transformation into a floating null system, in which system demands and operations will determine how far Marcellus gas flows south and how far Mid-Continent gas flows north.One word: fascinating. The "floating null."