November 2010 - Money Morning - Only the News You Can Profit From
We Want to Hear From You: Is Appealing to Online Shoppers the Key to U.S. Retailers' Survival?
U.S. retailers are learning an important lesson this holiday season.
And it has nothing to do with the prices they set for Barbie dolls, video games or HDTVs.
The lesson being learned is that the successes of future Black Fridays won't be solely keyed to "door-busting discounts," or luring shoppers to stores at 3 a.m. In fact, as this year's Cyber Monday proved, U.S. consumers like to shop online. And that means that the merchants with the most enticing deals and most convenient Web sites will win the race for the dollars that U.S. shoppers drop on their online purchases.
Cyber Monday: The "Online Black Friday" Signals Shift in U.S. Holiday Shopping Trends
U.S. retailers are hoping consumers' growing shift to online shopping will carry Black Friday's spending momentum through this week, which kicked off with Internet-only deals and discounts on yesterday's "Cyber Monday."
The Monday after Thanksgiving in the past few years has evolved into one of the biggest online shopping days of the year. The number of Cyber Monday shoppers has almost doubled in the past five years, from 59 million in 2005 to an estimated 106.9 million in 2010, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
Last year, shoppers spent $887 million on Cyber Monday, according to research firm comScore Inc. (Nasdaq: SCOR), and analysts expect a higher turnout this year.
U.S. Economy Forecast: Five Ways to Profit in 2011 – Even With a Double Dip Recession
It's been a dull year for the U.S. economy.
But don't expect a repeat in 2011.
In fact, as we enter the New Year for the U.S. economy, investors face some major risks. Should the U.S. Federal Reserve opt to maintain its record-low-level of interest rates, it's very likely that we'll see the kind of virulent inflation that will send commodity prices skyward, and inflict some real long-term damage in the process.
With higher rates, the U.S. economy could experience its second downturn in three years, the kind of "double-dip" recession that would boost an already scary jobless rate – while also sending U.S. stocks into a bearish tailspin.
With uncertainty the watchword for the New Year economy, U.S. investors need to position themselves to cash in should the currently anemic U.S. advance continue, while at the same time making sure to protect themselves against a potential downturn.
As contradictory as that might sound, it is possible to do both.
Don't Let the Third-Quarter GDP Revision Sour You On Stocks
There has been a lot of hand wringing and tongue clucking about the latest revision to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). But the reality is that the third-quarter U.S. GDP data isn't as important as most people think.
In fact, there are plenty of reasons to remain bullish on stocks.
The second read on third-quarter GDP growth came in at 2.5%. That is nothing like the 9% growth of China, the 8% of Singapore or the 5% growth of Thailand. It's not even like the 4% growth that we expect from of a full-strength U.S. economy.
However, forward indications of economic growth suggest the economy is stabilizing.
With $2.3 Billion Deal, Thailand Joins Asian Rush For Canadian Oil Sands
Thailand last week joined the crush of Asian countries rushing to acquire a stake in Canada's giant oil sands projects when its PTT Exploration & Production Public Co. Ltd. (OTC ADR: PEXNY) agreed to buy 40% of Statoil ASA's (NYSE ADR: STO) Canadian oil sands project for $2.3 billion.
PTTEP, the exploration and production unit of state-owned PTT PCL, is making Thailand's first foray into Canada's oil sands, the largest source of crude oil outside the Middle East.
Norway's Statoil will keep majority ownership and remain the primary operator in the Kai Kos Dehseh project in northern Alberta, which it bought in 2007, according to the deal announced on Tuesday.
Buy, Sell or Hold: Six Reasons That VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) Shares Are Poised for a Breakout
I've always been a hands-on kind of person. And that includes information-technology (IT) projects. While it has been a number of years since I was involved in a serious IT project – with most of that work having been done before I started and ran my hedge fund – I have worked on Website projects for a number of S&P 500 companies in the past.
I am comfortable around large IT projects, so I was a bit shocked when I realized how much VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) had changed the basic structure of the game while I was gone. That point was driven home when I volunteered to head a major IT project for a local city; it turned into a project-manager job that has involved making director-level decisions.
It didn't take long for me to realize that the city needed to deep-six its computer system and start over: Hardware from the late 1990s and early 2000s just won't cut it in a world that's on the doorstep of 2011. The key to this future is the virtualization of operating systems. This virtualized operating system also serves as a basic building block of the new "cloud-computing" technology that everyone seems to be talking about in the land of IT.
Retailers Report Disappointing Increase in Their In-Store Black Friday Sales, Despite Solid Jump in Online Results
Steep discounts in November and a surge in online purchases meant that retail sales moved only slightly higher on the opening day of the 2010 holiday shopping season – despite a nice increase in the number of shoppers who crowded retail stores.
Retail spending hit $10.69 billion on Black Friday, the traditional start of the holiday shopping season, a 0.3% increase from the $10.66 billion in sales recorded on the day after Thanksgiving last year, reports ShopperTrak, a Chicago-based retail firm that tallies sales in more than 70,000 retail locations around the country.
However, ShopperTrak said the sales total was still a Black Friday record. The researcher is standing behind its prediction that holiday-season spending will rise 3.2%.
Are Mid-Cap Stocks Set to Lead the Market Higher?
Stocks struggled over the past week as investors managed to shrug off an escalating conflict in Korea only to have renewed sovereign debt troubles in Europe slug them in the face. The Dow Jones Industrials and S&P 500 both closed half a percent lower while the Nasdaq closed half a percent higher. The European exchanges all closed 3% to 5% lower.
Yet some sectors thrived. Best groups for the week were retailers, semiconductor makers and Internet software and hardware makers, all up 3% to 5%. Major damages were mostly in large-cap banks and materials producers.
Despite the trouble, some positive patterns emerged in the United States. In my reports two weeks ago, I mentioned that the S&P 500 Index had a shot at making a "cup with handle" continuation pattern if the decline stopped immediately at 1,080. It actually did, then fell back and tested the 1,080 level again this week.
Gold Price Forecast: Four Reasons the "Yellow Metal" Will Hit $1,900 an Ounce in 2011
Gold investors are a happy bunch. Those with the luck or foresight to have boarded the golden railroad back in 2001 made a fivefold investment in the “metal of kings.” That works out to compounded return of better than 20% a year.
Such a torrid performance has evoked claims that this is just another financial bubble – one that’s soon to burst.
But the reality is that anyone who classifies this bull market in gold “nothing more than a bubble” simply hasn’t looked at the market fundamentals, doesn’t understand them, or has some ulterior motive to throw off other investors.
- U.S. Retailers Hoping Black Friday Sales, Smartphone Apps Fuel Strong Holiday Shopping Season