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5/12/2006

EU Will Cancel Tariff Plan If U.S. Scraps Tax Rule

Filed under: — 6:13 pm

Europe will cancel plans for punitive tariffs on U.S. imports, if Congress repeals legislation that grants tax breaks to U.S. companies such as Boeing Co.

The European Union’s decision could end one of the most contentious and costly trans-Atlantic trade disputes. It also could warm relations strained by stalled global trade talks.

If signed into law, the measure would end a U.S. tax break that the World Trade Organization ruled illegal despite numerous revisions. It also would cut short a lengthy phase-out plan that the WTO also ruled illegal. Sometimes called the foreign sales corporation export subsidy, the rule has been in dispute for decades in various guises.

Source: WSJ

Trade Deficit Narrowed in March

Filed under: — 3:50 pm

The U.S. trade deficit narrowed sharply by surprise during March, but analysts predict mounting oil prices will widen the gap going forward.

The U.S. deficit in international trade of goods and services shrank by 5.6% to $62 billion from $65.64 billion in February, the Commerce Department said Friday. Exports rose, but the value of imports fell as oil prices dipped, Commerce data showed.

The $62 billion gap was the smallest since $58.46 billion in August 2005. A separate report Friday, though, showed petroleum import prices surged last month. That could cause the trade deficit to resume rising.

Friday’s trade report showed U.S. exports increased by 1.9% to a record $114.66 billion in March from $112.52 billion in February.

Exports increased by $510 million for capital goods, including industrial machines and computer accessories. Exports rose by $181 million for consumer goods, like diamonds and toys. Sales of industrial materials like fuel oil were up $1.25 billion. Exports of foods and beverages increased by $213 million. Foreign sales of autos and parts fell $377 million.

Imports fell by 0.8% to $176.66 billion.

Source: WSJ

10/11/2005

The Power of Personalization

Filed under: — 11:45 pm

I mentioned before that I feel the perfect iPod-killer would be the customizable MP3 player. Heck, if we can change our cars why not our $300 gadget? Music is one of the largest ways to demonstrate our unique personalities, desires, tastes. Why would the corresponding device be the same for everyone?

Anyway, my point is we get so much content tailored to our desires these days. RSS allows it. Even though many users don’t know what RSS is, their online subscription to the NY Times is powered by it! We pick what we want. Even though people are watching plenty of TV these days they’re TiVo’ing it and MCE’ing it. That way we can go back and watch what we want when we want it.

I was re-introduced to Yahoo! Music the other day. I’ve used LAUNCHcast to check out some music videos and stuff but lately I realized how powerful the customizable radio station is. After listening to music all afternoon (and a goofy ad here and there) I’ve started to teach Yahoo! what I really enjoy. I just listen through a song and give the song and artist a star rating. In a few more days I’ll have the perfect Devin-station. It has a little rap, a little rock, some pop, a mix of alternative. Yahoo understands me! This is perfect! I wish I could take it in the car with me!

I realized Amazon was one of the first to understand this. I hop onto the front page and I see the new Family Guy DVD. Heck yes I wan’t to order it and what else? Yes Amazon, I do want a copy of Seth Godin’s new book, too. Brilliant.

Sources: Amazon.com, Yahoo! Music

9/21/2005

Black is The Color of Gadgets This Year

Filed under: — 11:22 am

I was reading Fortune and it said Samsung will release something like 6 new phones in black this year. Om also points out T-Mobile’s releasing a black sidekick. Engadget even says sales weighted heavily towards black 4GB nano.

Black is the consumer’s choice of color this year. It’s all those people trying to stand out… just like everyone else.

9/16/2005

XBOX 360 Coming in November

Filed under: — 1:57 am

…in case you cared. The new console from Microsoft will cost $400 (without accessories, games, etc) and will be available on November 11th.

6/18/2005

GM Discounts Help Sales

Filed under: — 8:35 pm

WSJ: GM’s heavily promoted offer of “employee discounts” to all buyers is sharply boosting the No. 1 auto maker’s U.S. retail sales, according to preliminary June sales figures released by the Power Information Network.

…what did you call ‘dibs’ on?

“You don’t need an employee discount to get a great deal from us,” say Chrysler’s ads.

…fair enough, but numbers talk and GM is grabbing market share and definitely seeing an increase in sales.

1/5/2005

CES is here again

Filed under: — 9:19 pm

Time for the nerds to impress each other, thats right, Las Vegas hosts the Consumer Electronics Show this week. Tons of people will be there, from bloggers(Engadget) to government officials (Congress, FCC). For those who are unfamiliar, this is much more important than a show like Comdex. The CES is everything technology related. Plus, its huge! With over 2,500 companies the show will take up over “11 New York City blocks”.For many, its an exciting time to give previews of whats to come and talk about whats going on. Key speakers this year will include Bill Gates, Craig R. Barrett, chief executive of Intel, and Carleton S. Fiorina, chairwoman and chief executive at Hewlett-Packard.

We’ll see how the next few days progress. They will certainly set the pace for consumer electronics and the technology sector this year.

(NY Times)

1/3/2005

Volkswagon to offer free insurance

Filed under: — 7:59 pm

Instead of giving out free flowers or iPods in their new cars, VW has decided to give something that everyone can enjoy: a year of free car insurance. Starting tomorrow, the purchase of a new Golf or Beetle will be rewarded with a free year of coverage. The promotion will end March 31st and the results will watched with curiosity. Why make a move like this? Besides its originality and ground-breaking appeal, VW says 23 percent of potential car buyers don’t make a purchase due to the cost of insurance.

12/30/2004

Unwanted gift cards have an outlet

Filed under: — 4:17 pm

A new type of website has emerged: swap-sell websites. For those of you who feel trapped when someone gives you a crummy gift card, think again. Sure, the cards liberate you from having to deal with a return, but what if you don’t want anything from JC Penny’s? Simple: sell or swap your gift card. Sites like SwapAGift.com and CardAvenue.com provide an online marketplace where you can barter or even sell your cards. eBay, of course, provides nother outlet to sell your cards (but no trading). Some people even find bargins! A Denver man bought a $25 Target card for $17. Who can argue with $8 off at Target?

As I mentioned earlier, gift cards play a huge role in post-holday sales. Those people who leave the cards in their wallets never to be used just hurt themselves. Sure, the company can write the money off later, but people need to realize that unused cards are just money wasted. Don’t waste money. :-(

12/28/2004

Consumer confidence increased in December

Filed under: — 3:25 pm

From the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. consumer confidence jumped sharply in December, after four months of decline, amid an improvement in consumers’ assessment of the labor market, a private research group reported today.

Economists were expected a more “modest” increase, but December ended up haveing the highest confidence level since July. Simply, this can be attributed to recent economic expansion and and job growth. Why is this such a good thing: consumer spending makes up nearly two-thirds of all economic activity in the United States.

12/27/2004

Amazon’s record sales, stock soars

Filed under: — 7:24 pm

More proof that post-Holiday sales are extremely important to a (web) retailer:

Amazon.com Inc. said on Monday it set a one-day selling record this year as it logged its busiest holiday shopping season in its 10-year history, news that sent shares up nearly 9 percent. (Reuters)

The articles goes on to break down some sales figures. On average, Amazon sold 32 units per second on that day (which day, Amazon wouldn’t say). Another interesting statistic: nearly a half-million gift certificates were purchased from Amazon this season.

Internet research from comScore Networks says that online holidays sales are expected to rise 28 percent from last year. Can you say… signs of recovery?

12/26/2004

Post-holiday sales may be up

Filed under: — 9:47 pm

Well, it’s the day after Christmas. Did you survive the madness? Don’t get too excited, yet. As we all know, the holiday rush isn’t quite over. Reuters reports:

“In past years, the week after Christmas has accounted for 10 percent of holiday traffic. Now it’s worth about 20 percent because gift cards play such an important role,” Krugman said.

Granted, heating bills, job cuts, and oil prices have put a damper on holiday sales. Yet, retailers are anticipating a large wave of post-holiday purchases. Gift cards and discounts are a large contributer according to the Associated Press. But, Reuters says nobody will be cutting prices nearly as much as last year. Many stores are keeping their inventory levels tighter in order to avoid the need to slash prices. One may ask, why would gift cards be an important sales-metric? Simple: retailers don’t record their sales as revenue until they are redeemed.

In any case, retailers are expecting shoppers to re-flood their stores this week and into January. Even luxury sales are thriving (see: Dichotomy in retail).

12/25/2004

Weak dollar helps tourism

Filed under: — 10:51 pm

Certainly one has already heard about the “weak dollar” our economy is facing. The USD is nearing record lows against currencies like the yen, pound and euro. The thing is, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As in any market, the deficiencies are made up elsewhere. International countries have greater purchasing power in the United States and will, thus, do more business with American companies. As Reuters reports the “phenomenal exchange rates” drive demand; especially for tourism.

East coast cities have seen a dramatic rise in travel and hotel sales. The article goes on to report that the Travel Industry of America has seen its first increase in inbound travel since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. This may be a key factor, the dwindling fear of terrorism has encouraged travelers to come and do their Christmas shopping in America. With the airfare and exchange rate many visitors still come out ahead. It appears as if travel and tourism may be rebounding.

Las Vegas plans to expand

Filed under: — 10:26 pm

…well, it may not be the city that’s planning on expanding, but the New York Times reports that James Murren, President and CFO of MGM Mirage, has plans to develop 66 acres on the strip into a “mini-Manhatten”. What’s this plan all about? Murren is aiming at the goods and services that provide better margins…

“If you were to look at our company - putting all the pieces of it together - 10 years ago about 65 percent or maybe more of our revenue would have been from gaming and 35 percent would have been everything else,” Mr. Murren said. “Today, only about 44 percent is gaming. And I bet that if you give us less than 10 years, the whole thing will have completely reversed: 35 percent will be gaming and 65 percent will be nongaming.”

Thus, expect to see “condominiums, boutiques, restaurants and movie theaters” in the near future. That’s right, if all goes to plan, Las Vegas may no longer be merely a weekend stop.

But, raise your hand if you didn’t see this coming. As the article hints at, do you see Mr. Trump putting in new slot machines? The casino market is more than saturated. Think about the future implications: can you say urban sprawl? I really hope they get traffic sorted out between now and then.

12/24/2004

Dichotomy in retail

Filed under: — 5:06 pm

The other day I stopped by our local SoundTrack store to pick up a cordless phone. I had worked at Sears with two guys who later transferred to this store (we were sick of the ‘bottom-of-the-pyramid’ sales approach, ie: Walmart). One of them mentioned how sales were going pretty well this season but overall people were buying up many more smaller things. In other words, people use their purchasing power to buy more “stuff” (as David Wolfe would say). Surprisingly, this isn’t what other people are seeing. BusinessWeek mentions:

While many U.S. retailers are cutting prices to draw crowds and bolster holiday sales, upscale U.S. retailers are having amerry time meeting strong demand for luxury gifts.

This is, perhaps, beginning to illustrate a paradigm shift in retail. While the ‘bottom-of-the-pyramid’ stores stil prosper, the article mentions how Walmart’s growth is slowing (4.3% last year compared to 1-3 in the future). Wolfe attributes this shift partly to the aging consumers who focus more on quality than quatity. Does this emotional shift mirror your shopping attitude?

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