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Amazon, Target, and Showrooming

by @ 10:47 pm
Filed under: financial,internet,law — Tags: , ,

Last week came the news that Target stores will no longer carry Amazon's Kindle readers. The bold move was basically a retaliatory reaction by Target to what is known as showrooming.

Showrooming is how Amazon encourages its users to visit various physical stores, check out or even try out various merchandize and then go back to Amazon to order them for cheaper prices. In a sense Amazon uses the physical stores as showrooms for free and that creates an unfair advantage in favor of Amazon.

Sure, people can visit Amazon's site too to shop around but a page visit costs Amazon a tiny fraction of a penny while a shopper roaming the isles of a store, and specially inspecting and trying various items could cost the stores multiple dollars.

Target may feel good about removing Kindles from its shelves but that maneuver will be but a blip on Amazon's bottom line. Making the playing field fair will be tall order but for starters Amazon should be required to collect sales taxes on all items sold. If there's heavy resistance, then stores should be exempt from collecting sales taxes as Amazon is.

Paying sales taxes on Amazon purchases will not be popular, but if Amazon is allowed to push physical stores out of business through the unfair loopholes, that will result in a monopoly and there's little doubt that its pricing policy will not favorable by any measure once the competition is wiped out.

Speculators of Futures

by @ 11:09 pm
Filed under: financial — Tags: ,

There's little doubt that speculators, specifically commodity players, have a huge hand in the price swings of the items we use every day. The below article link suggests that as much of a quarter of the price of gasoline is due to speculators driving up the price of oil. That's not so hard to believe.

While the paper commodity market (aka futures) can be useful in some instances, for example to insure companies against price swings or smoothing out price fluctuations, it's ironic that most of the swings and fluctuations are likely caused by the futures themselves.

I'm not sure what can be done about the commodities markets. The capitalist nature of the markets is always resistant to regulation and control, instead placing its confidence in the markets' ability to self-regulate and self-correct.

Maybe so, but can vital and essential material necessary for life be entrusted to the vicissitudes of markets that are easily manipulated and corrupted? The prices of oil, rice, wheat, oranges, and pork bellies are so easily relegated to trading pits and people that never come in contact with what they buy and sell. But what if that self-correction doesn't come in time?

Ban ‘Pure’ Speculators of Oil Futures - NYTimes.com

Amazon’s Humbling Moment

by @ 5:34 pm
Filed under: financial — Tags:

Two days before amazon announces earnings, it gets glowing remarks from a bunch of analysts with price targets of $280, give or take.


Then amazon announces dismal earnings last night and takes a plunge down to around $200 today. What were these analysts thinking? So they just induce a bunch of people to sink money into amazon only to wake up to heavy losses two days later.

There’s really no need to wonder about where these analysts get their info. The answer is that the good ones throw darts, and the other ones, let’s just say, have other motives.

Patents attack Android

by @ 2:29 pm
Filed under: financial,google,law,microsoft,technology — Tags: ,

I'm not naive to the point of believing that Google is all good and no evil, but in this case I side with Google.

What the big patent trolls like Oracle and Apple and Microsoft are doing by burying Android in lawsuits and threats is stifling innovation and taking away choice from consumers.

I'm all for protecting new ideas, but patents are no longer used in the way they were envisioned. They no longer protect ideas and innovation, but are used as weapons against anyone who can be leeched for money. And the leeches are typically not the original patent holders either, but sleazy patent trolls and patent mills.

Official Google Blog: When patents attack Android

The Mystery Chart

by @ 8:20 pm
Filed under: financial,money — Tags: , ,

Quick, when you look at this chart what's the first thought that pops into your head?

Courtesy Wikipedia

A crashing stock? Dwindling numbers of an endangered species? An almost eradicated disease? Whatever it appears as to you, it's pretty sobering and alarming.

Let's not keep you guessing any longer. It's the value of the US dollar versus the Japanese yen for the last 6 decades. To all those who think the news of the dollar's demise is greatly exaggerated, think again. Does this look like a healthy currency to you? Mind you, Japan isn't exactly firing on all cylinders either.

The US deficit and national debt must be addressed soon and hard choices must be made. Enough wait-and-see already.

Middle-Class Squeeze

by @ 10:44 am
Filed under: financial,politics — Tags: , ,

I haven't looked at the details of the latest tax agreement reached between Obama and the Republicans, but judging by its face value, it's yet another jab at the middle-class who's always the punching bag of everyone else.

So let's get this straight. The super-rich get to keep their unfair tax advantages squirreling away their monies in their foreign accounts and gold and enhancing their hedonistic lifestyles. In other words they'll just keep richer and filthier. The unemployed continue to receive their unemployment checks well beyond the reasonable term the unemployment insurance was meant for. In other words they'll just get lazier and keep coasting along on other people's dime.

The twisted logic is that by making the super-rich even wealthier, they'll be motivated to hire more people thereby spurring job growth. An the other end of the twisted logic the longer the unemployed receive checks, the more they're encouraged to spend thereby spurring economic growth. The flaw in both arguments is that neither case has been able to definitively prove its intended results.

What's proven is that these reckless policies have helped balloon the country's deficit to unsustainable levels. Soon enough the US will not even be able service its debt and guess who'll have to dig the country out of the mess, the shrinking middle-class.

What the US needs real bad right now is a good dose of austerity. That means some new taxes (yes, for the rich people too), and spending cuts (yes, for the unemployed too). But the gutless politicians are too craven or too connected to the special interest to even try it. Keeping the pressure on the middle-class is hardly a formula for economic success, it's fast-track to economic ruins.

Gold Keeps Rising

by @ 12:07 am
Filed under: financial,money — Tags: ,

goldIt seems like there's no way of stopping gold from its upward march. Even with the stronger dollar today, gold surpassed $1,410 an once, setting a new price record.

Clearly the market is nervous about the world economy and the dollar's viability, so it keeps pouring money into gold. As with everything else, at some point, if not already, gold will become a bubble and it will crash. Of course that threshold is unknown, it could be next week or next year. It could start deflating now or it may continue to $2,000 an ounce before it implodes.

Right now, as things appear, gold seems to be a safe bet, so chances are that it will keep on climbing. But beyond $1,500, it could be considered over-bought and the risk of collapse becomes a real concern.

Credit Card Replacement Game

by @ 6:12 pm
Filed under: financial — Tags:

Credit CardEvery so often my bank cancels my existing credit card and issues a new one. This is such a big hassle. First of all I have no idea when I'm supposed to receive the new card and when I'm supposed to stop using the current one. Every time I go to make a payment there's the
fear that the current card could be rejected.

Then I have to remember to change the card number with all the vendors who have it on file. If I miss one, I could risk losing a service. Finally the number change completely messes up my memory. Just as I begin to remember a card number, I have to drop it from memory
in favor of another one. And the cycle keeps repeating itself.

This card replacement merry-go-round is done to ostensibly protect me against the bad guys who may have somehow gained access to my account. At least that's what I thought. The truth however is that this practice is nothing but a marketing ploy and with the Credit Card Act going into effect soon, limiting potential gains for the card companies, we may see more of this happening.

The banks have done their homework and obviously this ploy produces great returns which is why they keep re-issuing cards. More than likely no account information has been leaked and there are no risks, but issuing a new card forces the customer to call and activate the account. What better way to peddle their junk services on a mandatory inbound call.

There are high pressure pitches on balance transfers, payment protection plans, and credit monitoring programs among many others and the customer is forced to listen to them all before the rep on the phone declares the account activated. All these services are useless waste of money designed to make the card companies richer and us poorer.

So the next time you call to activate your account, tell the rep that you're not interested in any of their junk services. If they must put us through the credit card recycling game, they should just activate the damn cards and let us be. We'll call them if we have money to throw away, promise.

Amazon Spoils The Party

by @ 12:28 am
Filed under: financial,internet — Tags: ,

Amazon.comI don't know, maybe it's poetic justice or just karma that Amazon should report disappointing results tonight with earnings well below estimates. Why? After I was labeled a cheater and was terminated from the Amazon Associates program, I had hoped for a little payback. I certainly did my part by vowing never to buy anything from Amazon and as much as I dislike Apple, rooting for iPad to crush Kindle.

Okay, enough vendetta venom. The fact is that Amazon does not have it as easy as it once did. Its marketplace is still solid, but poor economy and competition from the likes of eBay have been eroding its dominant position. Amazon's valuation is currently twice that of eBay.

Then, by Amazon's own admission, more people are buying digital editions rather than actual books. How can this be good news for Amazon? Such a shift to digital format lowers the barrier to entry for other competitors who would no longer need warehouses and shipping centers. Apple can start selling books for iPad right on the iTunes platform.

Finally, cloud computing hasn't turned out to be the golden goose it was once thought to be. Amazon certainly was a pioneer in cloud computing, but the early momentum has somewhat moderated now and competition from Microsoft and Google (which offers a free version) have probably had a dampening effect on Amazon platform's adoption rate.

Amazon shares are currently down some 10% in after-hours trading and it appears that its disappointing financial results will have a nauseating effect on the market on Friday. Even Microsoft's better-than-expected results may not be able to change that sour mood.

Google Down, Apple Up, BP Plugs

by @ 11:31 pm
Filed under: financial,google — Tags: , ,

After missing the expected earnings and profits numbers, Google's shares are down 4% in after-hours trading. Apple's shares however are up by 1% in reverse sympathy.

Google Android is beginning to look like a real contender for Apple's ubiquitous iPhone, so the companies are now regarded as serious rivals. Bad news for one parlays into good news for the other.

With the options expiration tomorrow combined with the Google's earnings release, Apple's iPhone 4 antenna press conference, and BP's capping of the oil leak, the market should expect a busy and volatile day.

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