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Germany and France discussing a 2T euro rescue fund

October 18, 2011
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This is being reported in the Guardian and I have been emailed this from tape watchers. If it is true and the plan gets confirmed it would be a set up for a lift-off.  

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Big Blue (IBM) Posts Solid Q3 Results – Adamant That Macro Isn’t Slowing Meaningfully

October 18, 2011
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Big Blue (IBM) Posts Solid Q3 Results – Adamant That Macro Isn’t Slowing Meaningfully

IBM posted a solid third quarter result that exhibited 16% earnings per share growth and enabled the company to slightly raise full year guidance (from $13.25 to $13.35). IBM has been beating quarterly consensus results by some 2-4% in consistent fashion. The 1.8% beat for the third quarter is likely causing most of the sell-off in the after-market (shares down 4.5% from yesterday’s close). I watch IBM closely because their tentacles stretch deeply into the global economy and the stock is one of the largest weights in the Dow Jones which is a price weighted index. IBM’s quarter saw solid constant currency sales growth in both major markets (developed) and growth markets (emerging). The developed markets grew 1% in constant currency but emerging markets grew 13% at constant FX....

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Germany Wants To Go At Their Own Pace – Implications for Financial Markets

October 17, 2011
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Germany Wants To Go At Their Own Pace – Implications for Financial Markets

German leaders are coming out with comments that indicate there will not be a sweeping fix to the Eurozone financial crisis when leaders meet at a summit on October 23rd. Angela Merkel has been credited as saying “dreams that are taking hold again now that this package will be solved and everything will be over on Monday won’t be able to be fulfilled”. To me that is a pretty clear statement by an important leader. Moreover Wolfgang Schaeuble is echoing these sentiments this morning in the Financial Times. There are two approaches to crisis management, the American style approach which entails bringing out the bazooka, implementing a broad, sweeping, and immediate fix and worrying about many of the finer details and legal issues later on down the road. There...

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Google Q3 Earnings Surge – Demonstrates The Power of Innovation and Focused Investment

October 14, 2011
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Google Q3 Earnings Surge – Demonstrates The Power of Innovation and Focused Investment

Q3 earnings were reported after the close of market as earnings seasons kicks off. Google’s stock price has been volatile based on market fluctuations, Department of Justice concerns, fears about losing focus after the announced deal to acquire Motorola, and fear that a recession would slow search and display revenues. The above fears have failed to materialize and Google has continued to excel in terms of internet related innovation and vision. Wall Street estimates were much too low for the current quarter and Google beat pro-forma EPS by about $1 or 10%. The Q3 earnings conference call is worth a listen for all investors. The shares closed at $559 but quickly traded up to $595 in after-hours trading. Starting with the top line revenues, Google reported the strongest revenue...

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A Guide for Q3 Earnings Season – What I’m Looking For

October 13, 2011
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A Guide for Q3 Earnings Season – What I’m Looking For

Earnings season officially gets started this week as reports have been released from Alcoa, Pepsi, JP Morgan and a few others. Tonight Google will be reporting after the close – a stock I continue to view favorably. Next week the reports will pour in at a much faster rate and by the end of next week we’ll have a pretty good feel for the tenor of US Q3 earnings. It is an important quarter because the market started to price in an abrupt slowdown around the world which would naturally be expected to negatively impact earnings in subsequent quarters. It now appears the market got way ahead of itself with negativity and bearishness as the S&P 500 approached 1,100. Since the past couple weeks couldn’t produce evidence of a...

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Analysis of the Fed Minutes – Dovish Tone Remains

October 12, 2011
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Analysis of the Fed Minutes – Dovish Tone Remains

The Fed minutes released today at 2:00pm didn’t provide anything that was too much of a surprise. The general impression I felt after reading the 12 pages was that the Fed remains exceptionally dovish. Economic growth, while not rolling-over, remains disappointing, so the Fed is looking to remain accommodative. Inflation was discussed in dovish terms. Early in the minutes, it’s mentioned that consumer prices appeared to have moderated since earlier in the year. Later in the minutes, the statements go further mentioning that participants agreed that inflation had moderated, though not as substantial as some participants had expected, and that inflation was expected to decline moderately over time. The possibility of QE3 was mentioned early on and “a number of participants” were considering this as a policy option. In...

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Ruby Tuesday – Highlights Value in the Restaurant Space

October 12, 2011
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Ruby Tuesday – Highlights Value in the Restaurant Space

Ruby Tuesday (RT) is one of the largest players in the US bar and grill segment. The restaurant chain consists of 841 restaurants with the vast majority of the restaurants company operated and 95 franchised. The secular trends have been working against the bar and grill segment based on healthy lifestyle trends and consumers moving away from burgers and fries towards lower fat options. Moreover the bar and grill space boomed in the 1990s and became over stored. Some bar and grill chains went bankrupt during the financial crisis and some chains have converted to other concepts. Despite the negative headwinds, Ruby Tuesday remains standing with decent operating metrics but with limited ability to grow from here. The result has been a company run largely for cash flow. The...

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China’s Golden Week Retail Sales Remain Strong – No Hard Landing

October 11, 2011
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China’s Golden Week Retail Sales Remain Strong – No Hard Landing

China’s Golden Week is one of two major 7-day national holidays in China. The two holidays are the Lunar New Year which begins sometime in January or February and Golden Week which starts in early October. The idea of a week long holiday is to provide an opportunity to take time off from work and travel. Although businesses and government officials have a holiday, the retail sector stays open during both of these holidays which make them important for retail sales. Lunar New Year is more important because there is a gift giving tradition associated with Chinese New Year but Golden Week is a very important fall shopping week as well. A number of companies have come out in China and provided indications of strong sales during the week....

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A Commitment to Recapitalize European Banks is Bullish for US Financials

October 10, 2011
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A Commitment to Recapitalize European Banks is Bullish for US Financials

The Euro has rallied 2% today against the USD which is causing a sharp reversal of crisis-fearing “risk off” trades which have been working against all financial markets around the world. The Euro has rallied based on indications that France and Germany are going to work seriously towards recapitalization of the European banking sector. This has been one of the two necessary conditions for the confidence to return to Europe: 1)  Sovereign debt crisis needs to be contained by capping interest rates for countries like Italy, Belgium, and Spain. This was the easy part because for now the ECB has the authority to buy the debt to cap rates. Eventually the EFSF will be expanded and debt will be purchased through this vehicle. 2)  The financial system in Europe...

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Occupy Wall Street – Part Protest, Part Woodstock, Part Circus

October 9, 2011
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Occupy Wall Street – Part Protest, Part Woodstock, Part Circus

Occupy Wall Street is part protest, part Woodstock, and part circus act, but none of it has anything to do with Wall Street. I live in Manhattan and figured I would check out the scene this weekend not quite sure of what to really expect. There has been plenty of financial press calling the protest full of imbeciles and there have also been coverage of arrests and hard core protesting. After seeing the spectacle in full splendor most of the media coverage has been sensationalized. Upon arriving to Zuccotti Park early on Saturday morning I was immediately struck by the sanitation aspect of things. The downtown Manhattan park was something one would expect after a humanitarian crisis like Katrina or a camp for displaced refugees fleeing an oppressive dictator...

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Crying Wolf – False Recession Calls Brutally Hurt Returns

October 7, 2011
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Crying Wolf – False Recession Calls Brutally Hurt Returns

The ECRI has come out and caused a stir from continually touting their “unavoidable recession” forecast. In addition, ECRI co-founder, Lakshman Achuthan has been continually highlighting their 3/3 track record without forecasting a false positive. While this track record is impressive, Crackerjack Finance would like to highlight a term from our disclaimer; “past performance is no guarantee of future results”. At economic inflection points the investment stakes are doubly heightened. I thought it worthwhile to review and quantify S&P 500 investment returns when investing in an environment of recession fears that does not materialize into a recession. Reviewing the numbers clearly demonstrates that if you are not invested during the time of a false recession fear you miss out on out-sized excess returns over the next 12 months. Of...

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US Economy Demonstrates Resiliency – Retailer Comp Sales Strengthen in September

October 6, 2011
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US Economy Demonstrates Resiliency – Retailer Comp Sales Strengthen in September

Despite massive uncertainty stemming from the manner in which Europe is handling its financial crisis, a gut wrenching stock market sell-off (the S&P 500 was down 7.2% last month), negative headlines almost every day, and predictions towards the end of the month that the US economy is now “in a recession”, the US consumer continues to spend at a healthy rate. Perhaps the savings rate is now high enough at 5% which is leading to more stability in retail sales than many predict. Stability with the growth rate of retail sales is one of the most important inputs towards GDP growth. With personal consumption expenditures as a % of GDP still above 70%, a 4% growth rate in PCE makes it all but impossible to be in a recession....

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Yum! Brands – Results Indicate Strong China Consumption Growth Continues

October 5, 2011
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Yum! Brands – Results Indicate Strong China Consumption Growth Continues

Yum! Brands (YUM) released results after the close of market yesterday. Yum is the world’s second largest quick service (fast food) restaurant after McDonald’s and operates the KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Long John Silver, and A&W Restaurant franchises. Yum is an important company I follow because of the exceptionally strong gearing to China that the company has in place. This year, over 45% of the company operating profits will come from China. The positioning that Yum has in China is the result of decades of investment, brand building, and restaurant openings. There are 4,187 company-owned restaurant units in China which is over half of the company owned store base. Yum chooses to own the restaurants units, as opposed to franchise, because the restaurant profitability is so high. Yum...

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Excesses Cause Recession – A Comparison of 2008 and 2011

October 4, 2011
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Excesses Cause Recession – A Comparison of 2008 and 2011

Recessions are typically caused by some sort of an excess. Real economic activity stretches too far and the subsequent unwind causes a retrenchment via a sudden and abrupt change in business and household behavior. There have been a number of excesses that have built up in the global economy over the past couple of decades. Japan had a speculative bubble in terms of corporate borrowing and real estate investment at stratospheric prices in the late 1980s. The US and world saw a technology driven CAPEX boom in 1999-2000 which was unsustainable and created the lead-in to the 2001 recession. 2008 saw the culmination of two decades of loose credit expansion which fed into the US housing market bubble. Ex-post the cause of the retrenchment is often clear. Today, most...

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Financial Conditions are Driving all the Market Fears

October 3, 2011
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Financial Conditions are Driving all the Market Fears

Positive data and developments on the real economy front are being ignored while increases in financial stress are being focused on. The pervasive gloom in the financial markets is a result of growing fears of another financial crisis. If this were to unfold, the financial crisis would surely cause a global recession but I’m remaining in the camp that a global recession can be averted if financial conditions stabilize.  Financial conditions fully reflect the jitters of market participants or investors. Numerous sets of survey data reflect low levels of investor confidence which are being reflected in yield spreads, short-term funding markets, and stock markets around the world. While the stress is nowhere close to the degree it hit during the Lehman event, it is worrisome nonetheless. The source of...

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China PMI – No Evidence of a Hard Landing

October 2, 2011
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China PMI – No Evidence of a Hard Landing

China’s official PMI was released over the weekend (after financial markets closed on Friday) and the September data point came in slightly higher than last month and slightly higher than expected. The total manufacturing PMI index came in a 51.2 which is the strongest month of the past 4-months. As important as the slight uptick, the gains were broad with improvements in the key categories. Total PMI rose to 51.2 (50.9 in Aug) Output rose to 52.7 (52.3 in Aug) New Orders rose to 51.3 (51.1 in Aug) Export Orders rose to 50.9 (48.3 in Aug) Backlogs rose to 48.9 (47.6 in Aug) Employment rose to 51.0 (50.4 in Aug) In short there was some modest yet broad improvement across the board. While a PMI reading of 51.2 is...

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China Hard Landing Fears – The Reality and The Preposterous

September 30, 2011
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China Hard Landing Fears – The Reality and The Preposterous

Slowdown fears in the market have shifted to China. The past two days has seen the start of a shift in sentiment with China exposures viewed more as risk than as opportunity. There is clearly some slowing in China, and there should be, because the government has been trying to slow the economy to help contain inflation for the past year. China starting to slow is a positive because it helps inflation remain under control which is a key element towards China achieving its multi-year economic plans.  Over the latter half of this week, the fear has shifted that the slowdown is no longer orderly and that it is accelerating towards a hard landing in China. If this were to be true, it would dramatically increase the chances of...

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