All posts by todeidei

24Apr/17
US rig count pressure oil prices

U.S. Rig Count Puts Pressure on Oil Prices

By mid 2015, oil prices had climbed as high as approximately $105 a barrel. In just a matter of months, the price took a nosedive, hitting as low as the mid $20 range by mid-2016. Due in large part to that drastic drop, oil companies in the U.S. reacted by shutting down oil and natural gas rigs in record numbers. By June of 2016, the number of operational oil rigs had gone from a record of 1,600 (late April 2015) to just above 350.

The volatility of oil and natural gas prices is well documented. For a number of reasons, the world had a front row seat to watch the wildest pricing ride in history. In the process of the drop, oil and gas companies had enormous write-offs as they recorded record losses that amounted to hundreds of billions worldwide. Fortunately, prices found stable ground by the end of 2016.

Today, oil prices seemed to have stabilized at around $50.00 a barrel. With oil prices poised to inch higher, U.S. oil and natural gas concerns are in the mood to reopen oil and natural gas rigs. Over the past 14 weeks, the number of oil rigs has increased by more than 200 to a current level of 688. Likewise, gas rigs have increased to 167.

With the addition of so much more oil activity in the U.S., the price of oil seems to be destabilizing. As of April 22, 2017, the price sat at $49.32 per barrel with continuing downward pressure throughout the world.

From this point forward, it becomes a real balancing act as U.S. firms attempt to create more supply without adversely affecting the market. With the threat of war on so many fronts, the global economic system is already jittery. It won’t take much to topple all the recent gains in oil prices, which is something the wold can ill-afford at this point in time.a

06Apr/17
Card skimming rise

Card Skimming is on the Rise

If any of the recent data is truly indicative of the degree of the problem, it would seem thieves are gaining an edge on the security used to detect skimmers. Skimmers are small devices inserted into the slot of an ATM machine. They are used to record data off a credit card or debit card’s magnetic strip. By also using a tiny, strategically placed camera to record a customer’s pin number as they enter it, thieves can duplicate the card and start using it for purchases and ATM withdrawals.

Some recent data released by FICO Card Alert Services indicates there was a 70% increase in the number of cards compromised by skimmers in 2016. Furthermore, there was a 30% increase in the number of cards that were hacked. These increases are attributed to technological advancements that are making it more difficult to detect skimming devices.

Even more alarming was this comment by T.J. Horan, FICO’s vice president of fraud solutions: “As the last few years have proven, skimming technology and know-how have improved and are more accessible to the general population. So we will continue to see increases in compromises and the speed at which they occur.”

As consumers, there are a few steps we can take to prevent a collective loss of billions of dollars to criminals.

1. Don’t use remote ATMs and point-of-sale terminals in poorly lit, low traffic areas. It’s better to stick with machines at major banks or with major department stores.

2. Try to shake the slot area of a ATM machine before using it. If it wiggles or is lose, tampering may be possible.

3. Use your other hand to protect your pin number from cameras as you enter it.

4. Only use credit and debit cards made with chip technology.

5. Check your card or bank statement frequently. The sooner you catch issues, the sooner you can stop cards and minimize your exposure.

29Mar/17
Apple Disney rumblings

Apple / Disney Rumblings

Apple has created a war chest that is second to none. With over $200 billion in cash invested all over the planet, Wall Street has often made comments about what the company is going to eventually do with all this money.

In recent months, Wall Street rumblings have sent Disney’s stock up over 7.75%. Some of this increase could be due to rumors that Apple could be on the verge of buying the Entertainment giant for a large chunk of the company’s cash reserves. This isn’t a rumor that has been mentioned once or twice. In fact, this is a rumor that keeps popping up and peaking the interest of investors.

On the surface, one would have to wonder what these two mega giants have in common. The answer is content. They are both huge brand names that have derived a great deal of its success from the company’s content. While Apple sells the latest in technology, Disney uses this technology to provide the latest and greatest in entertainment.

When asked what he thinks of these rumors from Disney’s perspective, RBC analyst Steven Cahall had this to say: “Bulls think it portends well for a swan song exit via a sale to a giant like AAPL.”

The one part of a possible deal that doesn’t seem to fit is Disney’s ownership in the all-sports ESPN network. While both Apple and Disney are huge players in the international arena, ESPN is very much a U.S. domestic interest. To make this deal more fascinating, there are analysts who believe it would be in both company’s best interest to sell off the Broadcast Network as part of a mega-deal.

For now, all of this would seem to be nothing more than rumor and conjecture. With that being said, all eyes figure to be on both companies over the next few months.

15Mar/17
Trump new government

Old Government Versus New Government?

Since his election as President of the United States, Donald Trump has been under siege on a number of fronts. The anger directed towards his shocking victory over Hilary Clinton has come from Democrats, the left-leaning media and in some cases, his own party.

In recent weeks, there has been a growing concern that former President Barak Obama’s loyalist are creating issues from right inside the White House. These are individuals who hold major positions given while within Obama’s administration, and who have yet to be replaced by the new administration.

While all of the claims are alleged at this point, there does seem to be some credence to the notion that insiders might be trying to disrupt President Trump’s attempt to undo some of the laws and policies put in place by his predecessor. There has been enough information leaked from within the White House to warrant scrutiny. This past week, even President Trump went so far as to suggest that Obama resorted to ordering wiretaps to keep and eye on Trump’s election.

Whether or not any of these alleged actions have merit, it’s enough of a concern that the country is even discussing these things less than two month’s after Trump has taken office. In his inner circle, they are using the term “deep state” to refer to rogue individuals who still occupy government positions while being loyal to the cause of their former boss.

In a press conference this past weekend, press secretary Sean Spicer stated, “Well, I think that there’s no question when you have eight years of one party in office that there are people who stay in government … and continue to espouse the agenda of the previous administration. So, I don’t think it should come as any surprise that there are people that burrowed into government during eight years of the last administration and, you know, may have believed in that agenda and want to continue to seek it. I don’t think that should come as a surprise to anyone.”

This overriding feeling within President Trump’s administration might be related to a rash of firing this past week. It might be an attempt to clean the bugs out of the White House.

13Mar/17
Trump skinny america first budget

Trumps “Skinny” Budget Targets Campaign Promises

President Donald Trump’s vision for American has never been more apparent than what can be found in his “America-first Budget.” This new budget proposal is being offered up for the fiscal year beginning Oct 1st, 2017.

With each new incoming President, the prospects of putting together an expansive budget proposal within the first few months is a daunting process. Traditionally, the first budget proposal sent to Congress is referred to as a “skinny” budget. The purpose of the skinny budget is to give Congressional leaders a clear idea of the direction the President wants to take the country.

Developed as his campaign montra, the Trump America-first Budget focuses on the things that are most important to the country in the President’s view. As evidence, President Trump is requesting an increase of $54 billion in defense and border security spending, of which $2 billion is being targeted towards the energy department. All of these budget areas saw significant cuts while under the Obama administration.

In order to pay for the increases while lowering the overall budget, cuts are being proposed for the Environmental Protection Agency for environmental issues, welfare programs like public housing, various medical research programs and the Arts and Humanities. For the latter, President Trump has long been an advocate of those areas being covered by private funding resources.

Other important costs covered by the new budget proposal show $1.5 billion being earmarked for the border wall with Mexico, foreign aid cuts of about $10.1 billion (most of it running through the State Department) and significant cuts of about 13% for Housing and Urban Development, which will directly affect the poor.

As a long time advocate of taking care of the veterans who serve this country by risking their lives, Trump’s budget proposal shows a healthy increase of $4.4 billion for the Veteran Affairs Administration.

10Mar/17
Obamacare repeal replace

Obamacare Repeal and Replace is Underway

While the US GOP party has finally unveiled its plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the first step has been taken to start the dismantling process.

Against the wishes and warnings of the Democratic party and healthcare industry concerns like the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association and AARP, House Republicans have pushed a bill through the Ways and Means Committee that abolishes the tax penalty levied on U.S. citizens who fail to purchase insurance. Historically, this is the part of Obamacare that the GOP has most furiously opposed. The notion people would be forced to purchase insurance goes against the fabric of capitalism.

Among the changes outlined in the GOP’s plan are cuts to medicaid programs throughout the country. These cuts are at the heart of what employers and the healthcare industry say will result in millions of Americans being kicked off insurance plans.

Not surprisingly, America’s Health Insurance Plans, representing insurers, was quick to stand behind the tax cuts that would be handed out to the healthcare industry, but still warned Medicaid changes “could result in unnecessary disruptions in the coverage and care beneficiaries depend on.”

While this is but the first step in what figures to be a long and contested repeal process, it’s an important step because it gets momentum rolling in the direction of the campaign promises made by US President Donald Trump. At this point in time, there’s enough opposition from some GOP Representatives and Senators to keep the repeal process heavily in the news for months to come.

As leader of the House, Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters: “This is what good, conservative health care reform looks like. It is bold and it is long overdue, and it is us fulfilling our promises.” The lines are being drawn in the sand and the battle is on.

01Mar/17
Academy awards protest platform Michael Fox

Hollywood Using Academy Awards as Protest Platform

At a time when the movie industry is usually focused on giving due credit to the amazing accomplishments of its actors and technicians, it would appear that The Academy Awards have been kidnapped. This has seemingly been done in favor of well meaning, if not misguided, celebrities, who have decided the industry’s most important night belongs to them and their chance to attack the President of the United States, Donald Trump, and espouse their very own political views and social ideology.

Never mind that many Americans would just as soon hear the announcement for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture. This is what America has come too. The conservative factions in the country have no voice while the liberal media continues to put microphones in the faces of celebrities they know support their ideologies.

In place of the usual pre-Oscars party by Hollywood’s United Talent Agency, several high profile celebrities used the usually happy go-lucky event to lay down their very own anti-Trump rhetoric. Leading the protest rally was two-time Academy-Award winning actress Jodie Foster, who called for liberal supporters to rise up in protest against those who have conservative values.

She was eventually joined on stage by Michael J. Fox, who had this to say, “I believe that when so much good has been done unto you, it’s natural to feel a sense of civic or even global responsibility. I consider myself an optimist and that can be a tall order at times for me personally, and more as I see a growing intolerance and lack of compassion and empathy in the world around us.”

The question is not one of whether or not these celebrities have a right to express their opinions. The question is, “were the Academy Awards ever intended to be anything more than the celebration of accomplishments in the world’s favorite entertainment industry?”

20Feb/17
Surge equity market officials weigh

Officials Weigh in on Reasons for the Surge in the Equity Markets

As the U.S. stock market continues its surge, pundits and politicians are trying to hand out explanations for the market’s longest winning streak since the late 1990s. Of course, U.S. President Donald Trump would like to take credit for the recent rally, citing his impending fiscal policies and tax cuts as the primary reason for investor confidence.

While President Trump might in fact be due some level of credit, there are other possible reasons why the Dow currently sits at 20,624 and the NASDAQ is currently flirting with the 6,000 level. One such reason was recently laid out by current Fed Chairman Janet Yellen.

In her recent testimony in front of the House Financial Services Committee, Yellen was asked to discuss the latest trends in the financial markets, which have been coined as the Trump rally. According to Yellen, the answer is quite simple. She stated, “I think market participants likely are anticipating shifts in fiscal policy that will stimulate growth and perhaps raise earnings.”

Since Trump took office, the economy has continued to improve in many areas. While some of the credit should go to the Obama administration, Trump and his people have done nothing to decrease fiscal confidence across the nation. With all the recent improvements expected to continue, Yellen has made clear the Feds may be poised to increase rates as soon as its next meeting in March.

In the past, such an announcement would send some investors into profit taking mode. Such has not been the case up to this point in time. Investors and consumers remain confident that any changes brought about by Trump’s administration will only serve to make the U.S. economy even stronger.

Indeed, the corporate outlook looks very good in most sectors. With impending tax reforms and an emphasis on home grown products, the U.S. economy looks to be in full recovery mode after too many years stagnation.