While much has been said about the benefits of Bernanke's wealth effect to the asset-owning "10%", just as much has been said about the ever deteriorating plight of the remaining debt-owning 90%, who are forced to resort to labor to provide for their families, and more specifically how their living condition has deteriorated over not only the past five years, since the start of the Fed's great experiment, but over the past several decades as well. However, in the case of America's "servant" class, Al Jazeera finds that their plight is now worse than it has been at any time over the past century, going back all the way to 1910!
For Shawndraka Mack, a 100% pay rise from her current $7.60 "would do just fine." While some employees turn to blood plasma donation, and most are on food stamps (and other benefits), the mother of two teenagers (on Medicaid) told Bloomberg Businessweek, “I love what I do, but I don’t want to work for nothing." Between the 40 hours a week she works and the benefits, Mack explains, “I work at McDonald’s and I can’t afford to eat there. It’s crazy.” Of course, McDonalds has 'tips' for surviving on their state-subsidized wages but once again, despite Harry Reid's extrapolated charts, the reality of raising the minimum wage is lost on most who never stop to think of where the 'money' comes from; and besides employees have little to no leverage as we explained here.
The difficulty of US workers to obtain "desirable" jobs has been noted here previously. Recall in 2012 when Delta received 22,000 applications for about 300 flight attendant jobs in the first week after posting the positions outside the company (which was an improvement from 2010, when the Atlanta-based carrier received 100,000 applications for 1,000 jobs when it last hired flight attendants in October 2010). Or when in 2011 McDonalds hired 62,000 minimum wage applicants out of one million total applicants. However, that is nothing compared to the job seeking frenzy in China, where as AFP reports, more than one million people took China's national civil service exam at the weekend in a modern version of an age-old rite, but faced huge odds against clinching one of the few government jobs available. A total of 1.12 million took the National Public Servant Exam, according to figures from the State Administration of Civil Service figures. How many total job openings were there? A tiny 19,000 according to China's Global Times, meaning less than 1 on 50 would be successful.
Back in July, we highlighted a ridiculous and insulting campaign that McDonalds ran with Visa in which the company tried to help its impoverished employees plan a budget. The only thing the campaign did was embarrass the company by proving that you can’t survive working there. Well the company is right back at it in time for the holidays, with several pieces of advice for its legions of serf employees through its ”McResource” website. Three of the more insulting pieces of wisdom include...
As we have pointed out previously, in the context of corporations that have given up on growing the top line (as virtually all free cash goes into stock buybacks and dividends and none into growth capex), and in pursuit of a rising bottom line, employee wages are the one variable cost that corporations will touch last of all. But what's worse, these same unionized employees have zero negotiating leverage. Perhaps nowhere is this more visible than in the recent strategy of smoothie retailer Jamba Juice, which in order to battle a 4% drop in Q3 same store sales has decided to radically transform its entire retailing strategy by getting rid of labor, cheap, part-time or otherwise, altogether. Presenting the biggest threat to minimum-wage restaurant workers everywhere: the JambaGo self-serve machine that just made the vast majority of Jamba's employees obsolete. Coming soon to a fast-food retailer near you.
It was as if a million Warren Buffetts cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. That is an artist's impression of what happened overnight following news that McDonalds would, after 40 years of serving the red tomato paste in its global restaurants, drop the use of Heinz ketchup from its stores. The apparent reason: executive bad blood due to the appointment of Bernardo Hees, the former CEO of biggest rival Burger King, as the current head of Heinz following the Berkshire purchase of the company in February, in the process making the John Kerry estate even richer.
And the hits just keep on coming for McDonalds. An animal rights organization is urging McDonald’s Canada to take a firm stand against what it calls “shocking animal cruelty” captured on a graphic video it says was taken at two Alberta farms, which shows dead hens rotting in the cages, and chicks being covered in feces. . As The Globe and Mail reports, McDonald’s, however, says while it does get eggs from Burnbrae along with many other Canadian companies, it says its eggs do not come from the farms referenced in the W5 story.
It takes a lot of courage to go against the crowd. Whether in investing, or acknowledging that your country is heading towards an epic fiscal crisis, it isn’t easy to stand alone... especially when everyone else is betting the other way. After more than a decade of positive returns, many investors have abandoned their precious metals positions. The conventional wisdom says that gold is ‘finished’. After all, the dollar price is falling... so it must be a bad ‘investment’. Others, however, are looking at where gold is right now, where it probably will be a few years from now, and thinking that it’s a hell of a bargain.
As fast-food workers of the world unite under a common banner of "higher minimum 'livabale' wages", one can't help but reflect on the terrible jobs data this morning and the potential inability of workers to get anything but a low-skill 'part-time' job flipping burgers. But most importantly, these workers may soon not be able to afford the product they manufacture. Concerns over rising wage costs can be put aside for now as it is the soaring costs of beef (as we discussed here previously) that are causing "Dollar Menu" items to be adjusted upwards. "You can't sell a burger for $1 anymore because the cost of beef has gone up so much," and sure enough, as Bloomberg reports, McDonalds is testing a new version, dubbed 'Dollar Menu and More', that includes items selling for as much as $5. As one analyst notes, the industry's "definition of value has moved up from the Dollar Menu to $1.50 or $2.”
A month ago we reported that US fast food workers in several US cities, namely New York City, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Mo., and Flint, Mich., walked out Monday in a one-day strike demanding a doubling of their pay. Not unexpectedly, even though the president himself has been a strong proponent of rising the minimum wage, the corporations balked and the strikers achieved nothing and just in case there is some confusion, there is a lot of minimum skills, minimum wage applicants (not to mention robots) out there which translates into two words for the strikers: no leverage. However, these concepts may be foreign to a fast-food labor force that probably just wants a day out in the nice weather and to take a break from hard work for a change.
- Critics Decry Risks Posed by Link Between China's Banks and Bonds (WSJ)
- U.S. retailers say uneven recovery keeps consumers cautious (Reuters) - er, what recovery?
- Easy Credit Dries Up, Choking Growth in China (NYT)
- Fed's Bullard Floats Idea of Small Cuts to Bond Buying (WSJ)
- EU wants one definition of bad loans for bank tests (Reuters) - because in Europe they can't even agree what an NPL is...
- Nagasaki Bomb Maker Offers Lessons for Fukushima Cleanup (BBG)
- With Gmail Overhaul, Not All Mail Is Equal (WSJ)
- Snowden downloaded NSA secrets while working for Dell, sources say (Reuters)
- Apollo co-founder buys into New Jersey Devils (FT)
- Republicans to vote on debate boycott because of Clinton programs (Reuters)
- J.C. Penney Heads for Ninth Quarter of Plunging Sales (BBG)
Between fast-food staff demanding higher wages, weather-related excuses, central-bank-impacted energy/feed costs, and protectionist policies, consumers (rich and poor) of beef in the US could soon face dramatically higher prices. As Bloomberg reports, US beef production is expected to plunge to 21-year lows (falling for the fourth year in a row) and the 'herd' on July 1st was the smallest for that date since at least 1973. Wholesale beef buyers from McDonalds (facing their own wage-cost demand pressures) to Ruth Chris are facing input prices rising at the fastest rate in almost 2 years even as agricultural commodities have dropped 18% this year. While the situation is not about to get better anytime soon, scientists in Holland are about to grill the world's first laboratory-grown in-vitro burger - forget Sirloin; Soylent Orange anyone?
Plunging Chinese manufacturing and an 11 month low PMI got you down? Don't worry: there's a Europe for that, which overnight reported that manufacturing and service PMI in Germany and, don't laugh, France soared far above expectations (German Mfg and Services PMIs of 50.3 and 52.5, up from 48.6 and 50.4, and above expectations of 49.2 and 50.8; French Mfg and Services PMIs of 48.3 and 49.8, up from 47.2 and 48.4 and an 11 and 17 month high, respectively, blowing away expectations of 47.6 and 48.8). The result was a composite Eurozone Manufacturing PMI of 50.1, above 50 for the first time since February of 2012, up from 48.8 and at a 24 month high - reporting the largest monthly increase in output sunce June 2011, as well as a composite Services PMI of 49.6, up from 48.3, and an 18 month high. In other words, European Composite PMI is expanding (above 50) for the first time since January 2012.
It must have been the weather: at least that is what we expect McDonalds will blame the latest (in a long series) of Q2 revenue misses, but also earnings as moments ago the fast food giant reported $1.38 EPS in Q2 earnings, while revenue of $7.08 billion missed expectations of $7.09 billion. The internals were just as ugly: Q2 comp sales rose 1% on expectations of a +1.5% print; Europe was down -0.1% with the bulk of the hit coming strangely enough from Germany and France. The rest was in line, with global comp sales up 1% vs Exp. 1%, however this being the weakest of all categories it is hardly offsetting what is becoming increasing a weak lower-end consumer story, as well as one of FX headwinds with forex eating into Q2 EPS by $0.02. Sadly, after reading the press release it appears the neither cold or hot spring/summer weather was at scapegoated fault (as it was for Coke and Google): "McDonald's results for the quarter reflect our efforts to strengthen our business momentum for the long-term," said McDonald's President and Chief Executive Officer Don Thompson. "We remain strategically focused on the global growth priorities that help us better serve our customers. While the informal eating out market remains challenging and economic uncertainty is pressuring consumer spending, we're continuing to differentiate the McDonald's experience by uniting consumer insights, innovation and execution." Innovation in the $1 meal? Good luck. More importantly, someone actually told the truth about end-demand, and the fact that consumer spending is deteriorating. Unpossible.
Don't look now but futures are up as usual, driven higher by both good and bad news. The biggest event of the weekend, if largely priced in, was the victory by Abe's coalition in the upper-house leading to the following seat breakdown. Of course, judging by the Yen and market reaction, which barely managed to eek out a gain: its first in four trading days, the event was largely of the "sell the news" type despite such bold proclamations: "Abe’s victory in the upper house is bullish for Japanese equities and the Japanese economy as a whole, as the removal of political headwinds bolsters the government’s ability to press forward with all ‘three arrows’ of its growth strategy," John Vail, Tokyo-based chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management Co., which manages $162 billion, wrote in an e-mail. Elsewhere in Europe, Portugal bond yields have plunged by roughly 60 bps on news that the Portuguese President Silva has backed the centre-right coalition government, consequently ruling out snap polls. Well, what else is he going to do? This also comes on the heels of a Goldman report that said a second bailout for the country will be necessary and will likely be discussed in the fall. That too is bullish. What also was bullish in Europe apparently is that government debt hit a new record high of 92.2% of GDP. Remember: debt is wealth so just buy more futures. Looking forward to the US, the market will focus on the latest existing home sales data, the Chicago Fed activity index, as well as earnings report releases from McDonalds, Texas Instruments and Halliburton and a bunch of other companies that will beat EPS and miss revenues.