Under Armour announces LAYOFFS as sales SLIDE

More bad news for retail. According to this CNBC report Under Armour has announced hundreds of layoffs as sales slide.

Under Armour plans to cut about 2 percent of its global workforce as it restructures its business in the face of slumping sales.

On Tuesday, the sports apparel company reported a narrower-than-expected second-quarter loss, but shares fell as the company trimmed its sales forecast for the year.

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Venezuela is ready to EXPLODE as VOTERS stay away from polls

Venezuela is a complex issue that cant be summed up in one article. According to this AP report many Venezuelans have stayed away from polls to protest government vote.

Venezuelans stayed away from the polls in massive numbers on Sunday in a show of protest against a vote to grant President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling socialist party virtually unlimited powers in the face of a brutal socio-economic crisis and a grinding battle against its political opponents and groups of increasingly alienated and violent young protesters.

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Best Buy’s Geek Squad to Eliminate 399 Jobs

Best Buy’s Geek Squad is the latest to announce layoffs. According to this Fortune report the company will be eliminating 399 jobs.

Best Buy is eliminating 399 Geek Squad positions, but is expected to offer those employees positions within the company.

The affected positions come from Geek Squad’s “Covert Team,” who work remotely to provide technical support to customers. Best Buy says it is transitioning many of them from remote agents to roles in stores or making house calls.

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Neiman Marcus to cut 225 jobs, assess Last Call’s future

Neiman Marcus is in BAD shape. According to this Dallas news report the company will be laying off 225 and reevaluating the future of their discount imprint ‘Last Call’.

Neiman Marcus said Wednesday that a reorganization of its business to reflect changing customer shopping habits will include a reduction of its workforce. The Dallas-based retailer also said it’s assessing its Last Call outlet division.

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The Retail Apocalypse has DESTROYED these 14 companies

According to this Business Insider report, the retail apocalypse has essentially crashed the share price of these 14 major retailers. I guess these are the lucky ones as many have been put out of business completely.

Shares of Amazon multiplied by a factor of ten since 2009. Shares of Wal-Mart are flat over the past five years but are up 30% since the beginning of 2016. Since mid-2015, shares of Best Buy are up 58%, Home Depot 28%, and Costco 10%. These and other retailers like them saw their share prices rise because they managed to navigate the new retail environment.

Many online retailers and online operations of brick-and-mortar retailers are thriving. Other retailers are thriving because, like Home Depot, they’re in a segment that is booming. So not all brick-and-mortar retailers are melting down. But many are, including the samples in the list below. The percentage denotes the crash in share prices over the past two years:

  • Sears Holdings -65%
  • Macy’s -68%
  • Target -35%
  • Bed Bath & Beyond -59%
  • Hudson’s Bay (owns Saks and Lord & Taylor) -61%
  • Nordstrom -39%
  • American Eagle Outfitters -32%
  • Tailored Brands (formerly Men’s Wearhouse) -81%
  • Boot Barn -80%
  • Christopher & Banks -68%
  • Express -64%
  • Urban Outfitters -47%
  • Foot Locker -32%

And they’re the lucky ones among the brick-and-mortar meltdown lot; others have already filed for bankruptcy, and their shares have become worthless. Yet some of those on the list will likely join the bankruptcy filers over the next 12 months.

Rahm Emanuel speaks on Chicago’s pension crisis: “Our hard work is paying off….It has stabilized the city’s finances”

I don’t know what planet Rahm Emanuel lives on (Israel)  but his latest comments regarding Chicago’s pension crisis reveal he is nowhere near planet earth. According to this Sun Times report Emanuel claims they are stabilizing Chicago’s finances.

Standard & Poor’s surveyed pension obligations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego, San Jose, San Antonio, Phoenix, Jacksonville, Dallas, Houston, Columbus, Indianapolis and Austin.

Chicago performed the worst across the board — registering the highest annual debt, pension post-employment benefits costs as a percentage of governmental expenditures and the highest debt and pension liability per capita.

The burden in Chicago is $12,427-per-person, double New York city’s $6,115-per-person.

Chicago also had the lowest weighted pension fund ratio, the worst pension contribution vs. required level and the lowest funded return for a single fund.

That dubious distinction went to the Chicago Police Annuity and Benefit Fund, which had assets to cover just 25 percent of its liabilities in fiscal 2015, down from 26 percent the year before.

The report noted that the “median weighted pension funded ratio of 70 percent” for the 15 cities “underlies a wide range of positions with Chicago only 23 percent funded across all plans and Indianapolis the most well-funded at 98 percent.”

Chicago also had the lowest bond rating among the nation’s fifteen major cities, at BBB-plus with a stable outlook. Every other big city had at a bond rating of AA-minus or better. Austin, Columbus and San Antonio have a triple-A bond rating.

Given weak market returns in 2016, funded ratios reported in fiscal 2016 are likely to look worse for most cities, the report states.

“Pension liabilities are a clear credit weakness for Chicago, which stands out with the highest pension liability per capita and the lowest weighted funded ratio among peers,” the report states.

“Chicago’s combined debt service, required pension and actuarial [post-employment benefits] contributions represented the highest share of budget among the largest cities at 38 percent of total governmental fund expenditures in 2015. Of that amount, 26.2 percent represented required contributions to pension obligations.”

S&P noted that Chicago “only made 52 percent of its annual legally required pension contribution” in fiscal 2015.

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2017 budget contributes more toward employee pensions, amounts budgeted still fall significantly short of the actuarially determined contributions levels,” the report states.

The rating agency noted that dedicated funding sources have now been identified for all four city employee pension funds. But, Emanuel’s plan to save the municipal and laborers pension funds is still awaiting the governor’s signature.

The Illinois House unanimously approved the plan, only to have the governor declare his intention to veto the bill that locked in employee concessions and authorized a five-year ramp to actuarially required funding.

“Notably, the city is unable to change pension benefits for its existing employees due to state constitutional constraints, but has increased contribution requirements for new employees,” the report states.

The mayor’s office had no immediate reaction to the S&P report.

Last fall, Standard & Poor’s affirmed Chicago’s bond rating at three levels above “junk” status, but changed the city’s financial outlook from “negative” to “stable,” thanks to Emanuel’s plan to slap a 29.5 percent tax on water and sewer bills to save the largest of four city employee pension funds.

At the time, S&P said Chicago was “gradually moving in the right direction toward stabilizing its budget and pension plan contributions” and that the utility tax, “coupled with adjustments to benefits offered to new hires” were “tangible steps that forestall credit deterioration” in the near term.

“However, in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of its pension contributions and continued credit stability, we believe that the city will need to identify additional measures to address its mounting pension contributions within the next two years,” that report said.

Emanuel called the outlook upgrade a well-earned recognition of the work that he and the City Council have done to reduce the city’s structural deficit by “more than $600 million” while identifying permanent funding sources for all four city employee pension funds.

“Our hard work is now paying off. . . . It has stabilized the city’s finances,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times.

But, the mayor agreed with S&P that the job is not done.

He has openly acknowledged that the city’s largest pension fund would still be left with a gaping hole in 2023 — even after the utility tax is fully phased in. That hole will require “more revenue” to honor the city’s ironclad commitment to reach 90 percent funding over a 40-year period.

Chicago taxpayers have paid a heavy price for easing the city’s $30 billion pension crisis.

Home ownership plummets as renting becomes the new norm

More bad news for the bankers. According to this Newstarget report, home ownership rates are plummeting across the United States reaching levels not seen since 1965.

Analysis of the Center Bureau housing data revealed that from 2006 to 2016, the total number of households headed by renters had increased by 36.6 percent, a number which almost beats the record high jump of 37 percent in 1965. Authors at the Pew Research Center who published this report concluded that the lingering effects of the recent housing crisis has influenced buying strategies. They noted that the number of people who opted to buy a home had remained stagnant for a decade, with more young professionals (aged 35 and younger) choosing to rent. Researchers also observed that the trend is evident even among demographic groups known to not rent, including whites and middle-aged adults.

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Cash is quickly becoming obsolete in China

The war on cash continues. According to this NY Times report, cash is quickly becoming obsolete in China.

There is an audacious economic phenomenon happening in China.

It has nothing to do with debt, infrastructure spending or the other major economic topics du jour. It has to do with cash — specifically, how China is systematically and rapidly doing away with paper money and coins.

Almost everyone in major Chinese cities is using a smartphone to pay for just about everything. At restaurants, a waiter will ask if you want to use WeChat or Alipay — the two smartphone payment options — before bringing up cash as a third, remote possibility.

Just as startling is how quickly the transition has happened. Only three years ago there would be no question at all, because everyone was still using cash.

“From a tech standpoint, this is probably one of the single most important innovations that has happened first in China, and at the moment it’s only in China,” said Richard Lim, managing director of venture capital firm GSR Ventures.