I think Amazon is a great company and Jeff Bezos is a great leader. I sold the stock I had in Amazon hoping that prices would fall and I could buy it back (I sold a small portion held in my 12 stock for 10 year portfolio). So far that hasn’t worked. The latest earnings from Amazon were more of the same. Very good revenue growth (up 38% to $9.86 billion). Very large increases in spending. And bad earnings news (net income down 33% year over year). I think this is due to smart choices by Amazon (I would be a bit more focused on current earnings but I understand the vision of Bezos and it is very wise and support it).
Normally the stock market punishes this type of pattern. Even Google, that has a similar pattern (but with much better earnings growth), has a stock price that has been held back much more. This quarter investors again punished Google for good earning growth but also high expense growth. Amazon avoided that response, even with shrinking earnings and guidance of lower earnings. Jeff Bezos wrote about these decisions to invest in increasing expenses in Amazon’s shareholder letter
All the effort we put into technology might not matter that much if we kept technology off to the side in some sort of R&D department, but we don’t take that approach. Technology infuses all of our teams, all of our processes, our decision-making, and our approach to innovation in each of our businesses. It is deeply integrated into everything we do.
And we like it that way. Invention is in our DNA and technology is the fundamental tool we wield to evolve and improve every aspect of the experience we provide our customers. We still have a lot to learn, and I expect and hope we’ll continue to have so much fun learning it. I take great pride in being part of this team.
Operating cash flow increased 9% to $3.03 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $2.78billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2010. Free cash flow decreased 18% to $1.90 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $2.32 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2010.
Operating income was $322 million in the first quarter, compared with $394 million in first quarter 2010. Net income decreased 33% to $201 million in the first quarter, or $0.44 per diluted share, compared with net income of $299 million, or $0.66 per diluted share, in first quarter 2010.
I continue to think Amazon is being a bad corporate citizen by fighting efforts to have Amazon play its proper role in the collection of sales tax. Ethics mean doing the right thing even if it costs you something personally. Amazon continues to act as an organization that fights what is right for society for their own greedy reasons. This is the worst behavior Bezos continues to push and does indicated a refusal to accept the responsibilities of participation in a society. Overall I believe Bezos does many great things but this disrespect for our society is a serious ethical problem.
Most people know living without health insurance is very risky (and shouldn’t be done). But people are much less aware of the importance of long term disability insurance. The census bureau estimates that you have a 20% chance you will be disabled in your lifetime. A disability can decrease your earning power and also can increase your expenses (to cope with your disability). In my opinion your emergency fund is best used for short term disability insurance.
One of the most important things you can do is be sure you have disability coverage. In the USA about 50% of the jobs provide coverage. If your job does not you should get insurance yourself. Many companies may not pay for disability insurance but may allow you to pay for it (this often can be the best option as the company can gain a better price than individuals but you have to check out the details). Also social security includes some disability insurance coverage but it is very limited. Relying on social security alone is not wise. For one thing it does not protect you from being unable to do your current job but will only pay benefits if you are unfit to do any job.
There are numerous factors to consider for disability insurance. Normally a long term disability insurance policy will pay 50-60% of your salary (be sure to check and see, and check if there is any cap). The terms of the policy will also determine how long you will be paid, being paid until at least 65 is what I would suggest – but some only pay for a limited number of years.
Often policies will offer pro-rated benefits if you earning power is reduced by a disability but you are still able to earn something. So you may have a policy that pay 60% of your original salary but if you make 50% of your previous salary then the payout is reduce to say 20%. So if you originally made $80,000 and now, due to a disability (not just losing your job), you could no longer do your job but could do one that paid less – say $40,000. You would then get your new salary of $40,000 + $16,000 in disability payments or $56,000.
Another detail you should check is whether the payments you will receive are indexed to inflation. In addition, make sure the policy is guaranteed renewable. You also want to buy from a reputable insurance company (check AM Best, Moody’s, Weiss rating agencies). It doesn’t help to have a guaranteed renewable policy if the insurance company goes out of business.
Another thing to consider is buying additional disability coverage. For example, if your company provides a 60% coverage policy it is often possible to purchase addition coverage (to provide additional benefits of 10% or 20% or more of your current salary).
A rough guide is disability insurance will cost 1-2% of the income replaced. For example, a policy replacing $50,000 per year of annual salary would cost about $1,000 per year. Of course, the older or sicker you are the higher the cost. Premiums are based on risk factors, so if you have health risks that will cost more. And, as age is a significant disability factor, the older you are the higher the cost will be.
Remember if you have disability insurance through work, and lose you job you need to get your own disability insurance. This is yet another reason to have an adequate emergency fund.
Gold and Silver at up dramatically in the last year. Food prices are up dramatically.
The World Bank Development Prospects Group shows food price changes Q1 2010 to Q1 2011
If food is 10% of your expenses and food overall has inflation of 30% that only increases your expenses 3%. If food is 50% of your income and goes up 30% that increases your expenses 15%. In the USA people spend about 10% disposable income on food (much of that though is really processing the food not the raw material). Spending in Japan on food is 19%, France 16%, China 33% and India 46%. 50% if what most of the people in the world spend. Those people are poor and don’t have the resources to pay more. This is why food prices are so critical. Governments fall from such rises in basic food prices. Also remember even in a country like the USA, where the average is 10% nearly 30% of people spend over 20% of disposable income on food. There are large variances not only between countries but within countries.
What matter most is local food prices, but global food prices impact the prices in countries. Though many governments subsidize food prices – when food costs more than 30% of people’s income I think not doing so (when prices rise dramatically) would be crazy. When food costs 5% the government really doesn’t need to be involved.
Inflation is a serious threat to economies in the next few years. Food inflation for non-rich countries is a huge problem now.
Related: Food and Energy Costs July 2008 – Food Price Inflation is Quite High – You Can Help Reduce Extreme Poverty – Creating a World Without Poverty – Ethanol: Science Based Solution or Special Interest Welfare
Google again had some pretty spectacular earnings. Google reported revenues of $8.58 billion for the quarter ended March 31, 2011, an increase of 27% compared to the first quarter of 2010. GAAP net income in the first quarter of 2011 was $2.30 billion, compared to $1.96 billion in the first quarter of 2010. Non-GAAP net income in the first quarter of 2011 was $2.64 billion, compared to $2.18 billion in the first quarter of 2010.
Operating expenses, other than cost of revenues (which are essentially just a revenue split with sites showing Google ads), were $2.84 billion in the first quarter of 2011, or 33% of revenues, compared to $1.84 billion in the first quarter of 2010, or 27% of revenues. The growth in expenses and reduction in the profit margin is the biggest concern for invests and why Google’s stock is down 6% today.
GAAP operating income in the first quarter of 2011 was $2.80 billion, or 33% of revenues. This compares to GAAP operating income of $2.49 billion, or 37% of revenues, in the first quarter of 2010. Non-GAAP operating income in the first quarter of 2011 was $3.23 billion, or 38% of revenues. This compares to non-GAAP operating income of $2.78 billion, or 41% of revenues, in the first quarter of 2010.
Google-owned sites generated revenues of $5.88 billion, or 69% of total revenues, in the first quarter of 2011. This represents a 32% increase over first quarter 2010 revenues of $4.44 billion. Google ads on other companies web sites grew at a 19% rate. Revenues from outside of the United States totaled $4.57 billion, representing 53% of total revenues in the first quarter of 2011, compared to 52% in the fourth quarter of 2010 and 53% in the first quarter of 2010.
From 2006 to 2010 Google’s revenue grew at a 29% annual rate, as did net income. The price of the stock was $460 on December 31, 2006. For 2006 per share earnings were $9.94. At the end of 2010 Google sold at $594 and in 2010 earnings per share were $26.31. Today the price is $535. Yes it is likely earnings will not grow at a 29% annual rate over the next 5 years (and this quarter they grew at 17% – so slower than the previous 4 years). 17% is hardly a bad performance.
USA consumers pay huge fees on debit cards not found in most other rich countries. Other countries provide debit cards with much cheaper fees than USA banks mandate now given their anti-competitive oligopolistic pricing power. I haven’t seen anyone (that isn’t in the pay of banks) arguing for keeping excessive fees in place. But there are lots of people being paid by the banks (including most likely, “your” representative).
David Frum, special assistant to President George Bush, is exactly right.
[banks] are lobbying hard to repeal the cap on debit card fees in advance of the July date when Dodd-Frank goes into effect… Congress is not swayed by arguments. It is swayed by clout — and on this issue, it is the banks who have the clout.
Based on that experiment, economist Robert Shapiro of Sonecon estimates that about 56% of the value of reduced swipe fees will reach the final consumer. That’s the basis for his calculation of savings of $230 per household. That’s also the basis for his further calculation that reduced swipe fees will translate into a one-time gain of 250,000 new jobs.
The new Republican House majority appropriately mistrusts government regulation. But if the financial crisis taught us anything, it should have taught that financial regulation is different from other forms of regulation. Invisible charges imposed by a financial cartel is not my idea of a free market.
The caps were part of the huge bailout taxpayers gave banks and were meant to be a partial watering down of a few of the smaller favors their bought and paid for politicians had given them over the years (as “punishment” for their misdeeds).
The very frustrating aspect of the broken health care system in the USA is that it has been an enormous problem for decades. It isn’t that we have just discovered we have a fatally poor health care system in the last few years. The broken system has been obvious for decades and keeps getting worse. Thankfully in the last few years more and more of those with clout in the current economic system are standing up to demand improvement.
Costs need to be removed from the system. Hundreds of billions a years should easily be removable by reducing paperwork and reducing waste in the system. As you say some reduction will also have to come in limiting spending that is being done now for worthwhile and worthless procedures. That should also easily save hundreds of billions a year. However in the decades of allowing this broken system to get worse and worse, it is not at all certain that merely taking $500 billion a year out of the costs will be enough.
It might well require eliminating even more medical work and reducing the income of those that are taking from the system now. My guess is the most logical places for reducing income come from massively overpriced drugs, overpaid specialists, overpaid executives in insurance companies. I suppose some might think nurses should be paid less, that isn’t my belief, but we will see what happens.
As sensible management of the system is adopted, over time, increasing the saving from eliminating waste should grow. Unfortunately we have wasted decades and so counting on us acting responsibly and adopting a focus on eliminating waste can’t be expected until we show a good 10-15 years of systemic effort on that front.
In response to: Paying for health care
Related: USA Spends Record $2.5 Trillion, $8,086 per person 17.6% of GDP on Health Care in 2009 – articles on improving the health care system in the USA – Broken Health Care System: Self-Employed Insurance – Health Insurers Propose Pricing and Coverage Without Respect to Health
Effective rents, or what tenants actually pay, increased in 75 of the 82 markets Reis tracks, to an average $991 a month from $967 a year earlier and $986 in the fourth quarter. Landlords’ asking rents also climbed, to $1,047 from $1,027 a year earlier and $1,043 in the previous quarter, according to the report.
San Jose, California, had the most growth in effective rents during the past year, with 5.2 percent, followed by suburban Virginia and New York City, according to Reis. Effective rents declined 1.5 percent in Las Vegas during the year and grew the least in Orlando, Florida; and Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Rents have been slowly recovering the last year, after the economic shocks of the credit crisis. People, moved back into parents house and more people started sharing apartments and houses in the last few years as people where thrown out of jobs due to the after effects of the financial actions by large financial institutions. Slowly the economy has been recovering and jobs have been slowly growing and as a result the rental market has been strengthening .
Also the decline in construction the last few years has decreased the normal addition to supply. At the same time the population has continued growing. Some areas of the country seem to still have a large overcapacity in housing but areas that are adding jobs (such as Northern Virginia and New York City) are seeing increasing rents.
Related: Landlords See Increase in Apartment Rentals (July 2010) – USA Housing Inventory Puts Pressure on Prices (Sep 2010) – Apartment Rents Rise, Slightly, for First Time in 5 Quarters (Apr 2010) – It’s Now a Renter’s Market (Apr 2009) – Housing Rents Falling in the USA (Feb 2009)
A huge problem with current practices at American companies is that senior executives believe they personally are due what the company earns. The repeated ethical lapses perpetrated by the senior executives and supported by their well paid board continues to undermine the economy of the country.
Two events last week illustrate the level of disconnection with reality the current crop of ethically challenged senior executives.
First, we have the senior executives at the too big to fail financial institutions that did fail and were bailed out by taxpayers. We all know the economic calamity caused by these executives, throwing millions of people out of work, adding huge burdens to already overburdened future taxpayers with the huge spending governments engaged in, in order to successfully avoid what would have been a depression. Fewer people realize the government has been systemically transferring money to these large, too big to fail financial institution from millions of savers with policies directly providing billions in profits to all the large financial institutions that had failed.
So what did the senior executives that failed as spectacularly as anyone has ever failed economically in history do last week? They paid themselves tens of millions of dollars, paid for by all those who have received artificially lowered rates (through action by the Federal Reserve in order to save the economy and reward their member banks) on their savings which provided billions in profit to the failed large financial institutions. Just like 5 years ago, as they were doing their best to take such detrimental actions that would cause a depression (but for the government saving us from that outcome) they again use the excuse that they are just doing what all their colleagues are doing.
The lack of honor of these men is amazing. And the lack of honor of those who continue to treat these people as anything but pariahs is amazing. That we continue to pursue policies that enable and enrich too big to fail financial companies on the backs of those that save and in so doing provide billions in profits for the executives to treat as their personal bank accounts is sad.
The compatriots of those senior executives at Transocean showed the same disregard for honor, accuracy and truth. First, who is Transocean?
So with what was one of the worst (if not the worst) economic safety failures ever and 11 deaths in the explosion, this is what Transocean senior executives say, in their SEC filings:
“As measured by these standards, we recorded the best year in safety performance in our company’s history, which is a reflection on our commitment to achieving an incident free environment, all the time, everywhere,” it adds.
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 216,000 in March, and the unemployment rate stands at 8.8%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Revisions for January and February were very small (adding 5,000 jobs to the January totals and 2,000 to February). Since a recent low in February 2010, total payroll employment has grown by 1.5 million.
This is more good news though the economy needs to add jobs more quickly to make a significant dent in the jobs lost since the misdeeds of large financial institutions precipitated the credit crisis and threw so many people out of work.
Job gains occurred in professional and business services, health care, leisure and hospitality, and mining. Employment in manufacturing continued to trend up.
Household Survey Data
The number of unemployed persons (13.5 million) and the unemployment rate (8.8%) changed little in March. Since November 2010, the jobless rate has declined 100 basis points. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates are, for adult men, 8.6%; adult women, 7.7%; and for teenagers 24.5%.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 6.1 million in March; their share of the unemployed increased from 43.9 to 45.5% over the month. In November of 2010 they accounted for 41.9% of the unemployed. In March of 2010 there were 6.5 million, which was 44.1% of all unemployed.
In March, the civilian labor force participation rate held at 64.2%, which was down from 64.9% in March of 2010, and 65.8% in April of 2009.
Establishment Survey Data