TODAY WE LEARNED
That ice cream in TV advertisements is actually mashed potatoes, and milk is often replaced by white glue or shampoo. Nothing quite like a bowl of Pantene and Fruity Pebbles to kickstart your day.
- Although the Dow slipped for a fifth day on Wednesday, gains in the technology sector fueled the broader U.S. market as stocks stabilized following their largest down day of the year
- Housing data revealed a substantial drop in sales of previously-owned homes in February. The housing market remains constricted as low inventory continues to drive up prices
- Back in action: following a post-IPO decline of nearly 17%, shares of Snap, Inc. (+7.07%) rallied on an analyst's optimistic report about the company's future
Baristas for Hire
...Starbucks (+0.63%) to create 240,000 jobs by 2021. Well, it seems that our caffeine addictions are paying off, as the coffee chain plans to add 68,000 American jobs and open 3,400 stores in the U.S. over the next five years. The company is also pledging to hire 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2025. We'll raise a glass to that. And for all you Starbucks lovers out there, get ready to witness the future of ordering coffee. Sbux announced that its voice-ordering feature, which incorporates Amazon Alexa, will go nationwide by the end of this year-and that the feature will even be integrated in some Ford vehicles. Keep brewin' you.
Google's Ads Under Pressure
…Again. Several large clients have pulled ad spending from Google (-0.04%)after a report last week showed ads inadvertently being placed next to controversial content like terrorism videos. That's a no-no––the scandal highlights the dangers of algorithmic digital ad networks and the difficulties in sufficiently screening content to place ads on. Google has publicly stated its intention to fix these problems, but it hasn't stopped giants like AT&T, Verizon, L'Oréal and more from pulling the plug.
...With Trending Storylines. LinkedIn, the social network for professionals (that's now part of Microsoft (+1.28%)), is debuting a new feature that will highlight personalized news clusters. The feature-aptly titled "Trending Storylines"-will leverage content from inside and outside of LinkedIn. An algorithm will evaluate who users follow, their connections and relevant stories that are gaining traction, ultimately curating an individualized set of links. This new feature is set to hit the U.S. first and will mainly focus on business news (like technology, healthcare and finance)-with plenty more in the pipeline.
...You don't look well. In its latest 10-k report filing, Sears Holdings disclosed substantial doubts related to the company's ability to continue. The company behind Sears and Kmart has seen declining sales over the years and hasn't struck a profit since 2010. How bad could it be? Well, its market cap is now below $1 billion, even with $22 billion in sales. And this comes after its $900 million sale of the Craftsman brand back in December. Yikes. Hedge fund manager and Sears CEO Eddie Lampert not only has a large equity stake in the company, but he has also provided much of its debt financing. The magic question: what's next? A restructuring program, which includes the integration of Sears and Kmart….or bust.
What We're Reading…
- Instagram hits one million monthly advertisers, 5x more than a year ago (more to come on Insta)
- Dunkin' Donuts says goodbye to the Coffee Coolatta––always tough to see a Brew go
- Google Maps will now let you share your location with friends and family
- Notre Dame will consider selling its commercial rights for the first time ever
- Wednesday: Accenture (+) Earnings; Existing Home Sales (-)
- Today: Gamestop Earnings; New Home Sales
- Tomorrow: The Finish Line Earnings; Durable Goods
International box office revenue has been growing for several years, acting as a support for Hollywood when domestic sales aren't doing their share. That all changed in 2016: according to a report released Wednesday from the Motion Picture Association of America, box office sales grew domestically but fell internationally:
- Overseas box office revenue was $27.2 billion in 2016, down $100 million from the previous year. This drop was thanks largely to China, the number two movie market in the world. Box office revenues in China actually fell $200 million in 2016, meaning other countries picked up some slack.
- Luckily for Hollywood, domestic box office rose enough to offset the net decline overseas. Ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada hit $11.4 billion in 2016, up 2%. Although the number of tickets sold didn't increase, ticket prices rose 22 cents to $8.65.
- The ticket sales for 2016 were very top-heavy: the 10 highest-grossing movies were responsible for one-third of all North American ticket sales. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story took home the top prize with $530.8 million in domestic sales.
- So how does 2017 look? Analysts are pretty bullish, and for good reason: according to ComScore, the domestic market is up 5.3% so far this year.
Interview Question of the Day
At a party, everyone shook hands with everybody else. There were 66 handshakes. How many people were at the party? (Answer)
Business Person of the Day
Ray Dalio is the founder, chairman and co-CIO of Bridgewater Associates, the world's largest hedge fund. For a sense of size, Bridewater managed about $103 billion as of mid-2016. On Wednesday, Dalio and his fund published a 61-page research paper on populism, which it considers to be the most important issue in the world today.
Food for Thought
Yes, Instagram will help you book a haircut. The social service said it will soon add an option to book appointments by visiting a company's profile. Instagram is determined to make shopping a mainstay feature, and appointment-based business is a logical extension of that.