In The News:

No Clear Signal…

The much anticipated August monthly employment report, the Non-Farm Payroll (aka NFP), was released Friday. The report, a closely watched barometer of economic health, showed 169,000 jobs were added in August. However, economists had expected businesses to add 180,000 jobs; therefore, it met the criteria used for the disappointing category. The unemployment rate did tick down to 7.3%, which did inch closer to the Fed’s mandate.  The improvement should not be taken as a positive sign. The “drop” is attributed to a greater number of people feeling discouraged and leaving the job seeking for others to undertake.

August report was billed as the “job number report of 2013″.  Everyone was betting on the number giving the world a clear signal that taper would begin in September.  Bottom Line… The taper guessing game will continue on for another couple weeks until the Fed’s September meeting gives us our next clue.

You’re dumped, kinda

International Business Machines Corp (IBM) will move around 110,000 retirees off the company- sponsored health plan. Instead, it is giving each retiree eligible for Medicare a payment to buy coverage on the health-insurance exchange Extended Health.  The move will affect anyone who is eligible for Medicare on Dec. 31, 2013. Instead of subsidizing the retiree health premiums directly, the company will now give retirees an annual payment via a health retirement account. The account can be used by retirees to buy Medicare Advantage plans and supplemental Medicare policies on the exchange, as well as pay for other medical expenses. However, if the retirees don’t enroll in a plan through Extend Health, they won’t receive the subsidy. IBM is careful to point out the growing cost of care has made its current plan unsustainable without big premium increases and the move is not to be mistaken for cost cutting.

Bottom Line: Time Warner also announced over the weekend it would introduce the same type program. Both companies won’t be the first or last big company to turn to third parties as an alternative for Medicare eligible retirees.

 

Meeting Adjourned..

World Leaders met in Russia Thursday and Friday for the G-20 summit. Despite being over shadowed at times by the issue of Syria, the leaders did make progress on their agenda focus: growth and jobs. In a 27- page statement outlining the meeting, the leaders promised to regulate global hedge funds, close global tax loopholes and put national finances on a sustainable path.

Despite the good intentions of the G-20, many leaders left the meeting in St. Petersburg to face problems at home, which could make executing the group’s goals a little bit challenging. High on the list of potential future bumps: how will the US Fed’s taper, whenever it does come along, affect the global economic picture.

Play Fair…

As punishment for its part in an e-book price fixing conspiracy, Apple will have to abide by a few new restrictions.

  • Apple is prohibited from entering any agreement with publishers that limits its ability to set or alter the retail price for any e-books for at least two years.
  • An external monitor will evaluate and report on Apple’s training reforms and antitrust compliance.
  • The publishers of the e-books, not Apple, will set the retail prices for e-books.
  • Apple is prohibited from entering into most favored-nation agreements with any e-book publisher, which would allow the publisher to match the lower price of competitors for best sellers and other books.

Apple was charged by the Justice Department and found guilty last month of pricing fixing eBooks with 5 publishers. The judge in the case, Denise L. Cote of Federal District Court in Manhattan, did reject some of the measures sought by the Justice Department, including extensive government oversight over Apple’s App Store.

Needless Markup seeks buyer..

The luxury retailer Neiman Marcus is close to an agreement with Ares Management LLC for a reported $6 billion. The company had filed for an IPO in June. Neiman’s owners, who paid $5.1 billion in 2005, will go through with the IPO process should a deal not get finalized. Revenues have not returned to the level seen prior to the 2008 financial crisis. Neiman Marcus, a century old department store chain based in Dallas, also owns high-end retailer  Bergdorf Goodman, NM Last Call Outlet Stores,  Horchow its home-furnishing catalog and an e-commerce site.

In The Markets:

Asia:

Asian markets roared out of the gate in their first trading session of the week. Improving China data and Tokyo winning the 2020 summer Olympics boosted markets.

Europe:

European markets closed higher Friday after a roller-coaster ride for investors. Stocks moved off intraday highs after Russian Vladimir Puttin he would support Syrian even if other countries launched military strikes against the country.

US:

US stocks closed mixed after having a version of a roller coaster ride. Markets were up on the disappointing job numbers, heading south after Putin’s Syrian comments, and recovering most of the markets losses in its final hours. DJIA: 14922.58 -14.90, NASDAQ: +1.22 3660.01  S&P: +0.08 1655.16

In Dinner or Drink:

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • Ingredients
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
    • 1 cup light brown sugar
    • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
    • 1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

 

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds).
  • Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.
  • In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.
  • Using a 1-ounce scoop or a 2-tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies