If there is one thing that the militarized warzone with the weapons ban (and which makes east Ukraine look like a kindergarten) namely Chicago, did not need in order to fall further into social chaos and disarray, it is a new tidal wave of unemployment: people freshly without jobs who for lack of better options would likely join the daily survival of the fittest routine on the streets of the windy city. And a tidal wave of unemployment is precisely what Chicago is likely to get if, as a group of Chicago aldermen have proposed, the minimum wage in the nation's third-largest city is nearly doubled to $15 an hour. Why $15? Because according to recently striking McDonalds line cooks, it's only fair, and is the minimum pay that fast-food workers have sought during national protests.
The inevitable shuttering of at least 3 billion square feet of retail space is a certainty. The aging demographics of the U.S. population, dire economic situation of both young and old, and sheer lunacy of the retail expansion since 2000, guarantee a future of ghost malls, decaying weed infested empty parking lots, retailer bankruptcies, real estate developer bankruptcies, massive loan losses for the banking industry, and the loss of millions of retail jobs. Since we always look for a silver lining in a black cloud, we predict a bright future for the SPACE AVAILABLE and GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign making companies.
Another company which relies on the viability of the global consumer for its profits reports, and sure enough another company that misses: namely McDonalds. Moments ago the fast-food giant reported Q1 revenues of $6.70 billion, missing expectations of $6.72 billion (pushing the number of companies that have missed revenue estimates this earnings season once again into the majority), and also missing EPS estimates of $1.24, printing at $1.21, which however will not be a surprise to those who have been following our reporting on MCD's same store sales growth, or lack thereof, in the US. But while the collapse of the US consumer is well-known, and will hardly be an embarrassment for McDonalds management to reveal its exposure to it, what does the CEO blame the miss on? Why the weather of course.
A few weeks ago, when the US announced the first set of sanctions against Russia, we jokingly commented that among the possible retaliations would be a Russian explusion of that global US permastaple, McDonalds. As it turns out, yet another "joke" may be on its way to becoming the truth.
As the cost of living increases around the globe, wage protests and strikes have become commonplace, particularly in the emerging market space:
The situation with Russia should give investors and traders a reason to brush up on their history, as current events take root in things that happened 50, 100, and 200 years ago. To understand this, can provide perspective, during an information war, where it's not easy for some to separate facts from beliefs and propoganda (on both sides). The relationship between US and Russia has always been interesting, as we shall explore.
The cultural divide
So much for de-escalating:
RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN SIGNS ORDER ON RECOGNITION OF CRIMEA AS SOVEREIGN STATE - RIA
Surely to precede Putin's own executive order recognizing Crimea as the latest member of the Russian Federation. And as for those "crippling" sanctions, via the FT, here is the locals reall think and why the Russian stock market is soaring as we reported earlier.
Moments ago McDonalds reported its latest monthly comp store sales numbers. Printing at -1.4% for the US, this was a nearly double miss to expectations of a 0.6% decline, and was the 4th consecutive monthly drop in annual sales - the longest such stretch in the past decade and likely longer. Looking at this data, there are two observations: i) Americans, courtesy of record obesity rates, are finally getting serious about their health, and have shunned the infamous 99 cent deep fried meals or ii) courtesy of the Fed's "Fed's recovery", the average American can no longer even afford sub-$1 deep fast food.
If our inner self, our essence, is not centered and at peace, at best we will be ineffective and at worst just a miserable person.
It may not be as sleek and intimidating as Robocop (or Skynet's Terminator) but California-based Knightscope's recently unveiled line of K5 robots will “predict and prevent crime with an innovative combination of hardware, software and social engagement.” While everyone from Jamba Juice to McDonalds is looking at robotizing their workforce away from minimum-wage-hike-demanding, bathroom-break-needing, healthcare-expecting, sleep-requiring humans, it seems everyone from your local mall cop to replacing police in neighborhood watch is now under threat as the automation of the American workforce moves from science fiction to science fact.
While joking about potential terrorist plots is below us, the fact that New Jersey police are investigating the appearance of suspicious white powder at several hotels near the site of the Superbowl was too close to an "Onion" headline for us to ignore. As AP reports, the FBI is investigating the substance (found in envelopes - which we suspect were not marked with player's names). No injuries or overnight bouts of unexplained euphoria have been reported.
While we are sure it is hard to make ends meet on the minimum-wage-paying positions at fast food restaurants these days; the lengths that one McDonald's employee in Pittsburgh went to subsidize her income could be a little much. As CNN reports, Shantia Dennis, 26, would drop a handy baggy of heroin in drive-thru customers' boxes if they uttered the secret phrase "I'd like to order a toy" with their food order. Police recovered over 50 bags of heroin and a small amount of marijuana... brings a whole new meaning to the term "Happy Meal".
This chart shows the year over year change in a very important data series. Guess what it is.
Following last night's surprise event, which was China's HSBC PMI dropping into contraction territory for the first time since July, which in turn sent Asian market into a tailspin, the most relevant underreported news was a speech by International Monetary Fund Deputy Managing Director Naoyuki Shinohara who said that "As long as steady progress is being made toward the 2% target, we do not see a need for additional monetary accommodation in Japan." He added that while exit from unconventional monetary policy "is still very likely some way off for the euro area and Japan, I believe that the moment to start planning is now." This warning - an echo of prcisely what we said yesterday - promptly roiled the Yen, sending it far higher and sending the EMini futures sliding by over 10 tick in no time: a drop from which they have not recovered yet.
One of Warren Buffett’s greatest investment ideas concerned “economic moats.”