Consumer

Ford, Nissan, GM Put Tesla Under Pressure with Electric Vehicle Announcements

Ford, Nissan, and GM announced new moves into the world of electric vehicles, creating further competition for Elon Musk’s Tesla. CNBC reports that Tesla shares fell by 3.7 percent this week as auto manufacturers across the world revealed a new interest in electric car manufacturing. Ford chairman Bill Ford stated that the company plans to invest $11 billion in electric vehicles by 2022, hoping to add 40 different hybrid and electric vehicles to their current vehicle lineup. Ford CEO Jim Hackett discussed this with CNBC’s Phil LeBeau at the Detroit auto show on Sunday, saying: “We talked about a huge investment in electric vehicles. We have 16 models that are in design and development. We have a pretty big surprise coming next year.” Similarly, the CEO of General Motors, Mary Barra, told investors before the auto show that the company was working on a fully electric version of their popular Cadillac car, which is reportedly expected to be an SUV model. Nissan revealed that all future models from their “Infiniti” luxury brand will be “electrified,” meaning that they will either be entirely electric or a plug-in hybrid model. At CES in Las Vegas last week, Nissan also debuted their new electric car called the “Leaf Plus” which is set to be available for purchase in early spring and will drive approximately 226 miles per charge of its lithium-ion battery. Over the course of the Detroit auto show, Ford shares rose by 1.9 percent while GM’s rose 1.3 percent, Nissan faced technical difficulties when debuting one of their new cars on stage – their share price remained flat. Tesla recently announced that the company will no longer be taking orders for the popular 75 kWh battery version of their Model S and Model X vehicles, with the 100 kWh battery version becoming the standard model. At the same time, CEO Elon Musk promised that future models of their Roadster vehicle would be able to literally fly.

Prices Fell in December, Tariffs Are Not Pushing U.S. Prices Higher

Prices fell in December, indicating U.S. businesses are not passing on the costs of tariffs to consumers. The Labor Department said Wednesday that its Producer Price Index fell in December. Compared with the month, prices were down 0.2 percent. Economists had forecast a slight price gain for the month. The index for final demand goods–which are those most likely to translate into consumer prices–moved down 0.4 percent in December, the same as in November. Food prices rose. Absent food and energy, final demand prices rose 0.2 percent. One reason for the very tame inflation data is the steep drop in the price of oil. Absent the volatile food and energy categories, prices of goods fell just 0.1 percent. Gasoline prices fell 13.1 percent in December and overall final demand energy prices dropped 5.4 percent. Inflationary pressures have been easing. Producer prices advanced 0.1 percent in November and 0.6 percent in October. On an unadjusted basis, prices were up 2.5 percent compared with December 2017. That is a move down from the year-over-year price gain of 2.7 percent recorded in November and it matches what was recorded in December of last year. In other words, the December price gains were no higher than what was recorded before the Trump administration’s tariffs on steel, aluminum, and China imports were imposed. Price levels have held remarkably steady on most categories of goods in 2018, defying predictions that American households would be squeezed by tariffs on steel, aluminum, and around $250 billion of goods made in China. On Monday, China’s commerce ministry announced that it ran a trade surplus with the U.S. last year that was the highest on record. The U.S. collected around $8 billion in tariffs in the October through December period, around 83 percent more than the period a year prior. Price increases are more noticeable lower down in the production chain of materials and components that go into making final goods, although recent data show that rise has moderated or reversed. Steel mill products, for example, fell 0.6 percent for the month but were up 18.5 compared with a year ago. Prices of materials used in durables manufacturing—which are those most likely to be affected by the tariffs on steel and aluminum—fell 0.2 percent on a monthly basis, the third consecutive monthly declined.

Polaroid. Walkman. Palm Pilot. iPhone?

The iPhone is arguably the most valuable product in the world, representing the backbone of Apple Inc.’s AAPL -1.03% half-trillion-dollar hardware business and undergirding its software-peddling App store. It remains the envy of consumer-product companies world-wide. If history is any indication, though, America’s favorite handheld device will someday take up residence with the digital camera, the calculator, the pager, Sony’s Walkman and the Palm Pilot in a museum. Although it’s hard to imagine the iPhone dying, change can sneak up rapidly on contraptions that are deeply entrenched in American culture. Consider it was as recently as the mid-1990s when I spent an hour a day during my senior year in high school in a room full of electric typewriters learning to type. Today, I spend most of my working hours using that skill to bang away on a keyboard, but I have rarely touched an actual typewriter in 25 years. “Over time, every franchise dies,” said Nick Santhanam, McKinsey’s Americas practice leader in Silicon Valley. “You can innovate on an amazing mousetrap, but if people eventually don’t want a mousetrap, you’re screwed.” Kodak, Polaroid and Sears are all examples from the recent past of companies that held too tightly to an old idea. Today’s tech giants, ranging from Netflix (having already reinvented itself to be dependent on advertising-free streaming video) to Google parent Alphabet Inc. (counting advertising as 86% of revenue), should take note of those painful demises to avoid the same fate. Apple’s mousetrap is anything but broken. Representing 60% of Apple’s revenue, the iPhone outsells 96% of the companies on the Fortune 500. The phone carries the bulk of the $545 billion valuation that Morgan Stanley assigns to Apple’s wider hardware business. Apple, for the better part of the 2000s, was the master of the next big thing: the iPod, the MacBook Air, the iPad, the iPhone. Apple wasn’t always first, but its products were easier to use, thinner, cooler. With the success of the iPhone since it arrived on the scene, the next big thing has been harder to find. Apple has had no breakthrough on TV, a modest success with its watch, a stumble in music and a lot of speculation concerning its intentions for autonomous cars or creating original programming. Now, as in a comic-book movie, we’re all left to wonder whether Apple’s greatest strength could be its biggest weakness? Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook acknowledges the latest iPhone delivery trends indicate his company faces a potential inflection point. “Apple has always used periods of adversity to re-examine our approach,” Mr. Cook said in a Jan. 2 letter to investors. Apple has a legacy of invention, Mr. Cook says. That’s something the Cupertino, Calif., company is eventually going to need. In a CNBC interview Tuesday, he pointed to rapid growth in services and “wearables”—such as watches or ear buds—as reason for optimism. Someday, Apple will be known more for its contribution to health care than its sleek gadgets, Mr. Cook says. Whatever shape it takes, Apple’s evolution will be closely watched if only because reinvention is so hard to pull off. A decade ago, Nokia’s dominance in handheld devices evaporated after executives failed to create a compelling operating system to make their pricey smartphones more user-friendly. Finnish executives have told me on several occasions that Nokia knew it needed to rapidly change, but lacked the urgency and resources to do it. There are success stories, to be sure. The Model T almost entirely underpinned Ford Motor Co.’s rise a century ago, when the Detroit auto maker owned roughly half of the U.S. car market. Without “The Universal Car,” Henry Ford likely would have been forgotten. A closer parallel to Apple is Microsoft Corp. Its best-known product, Windows, was so dominant that it drew extreme regulatory scrutiny while vaulting the Seattle software company atop the personal-computer market before cloud computing existed. Both Ford and Microsoft adapted and survived. Iconic vehicles like Ford’s Mustang coupe or F-150 pickup prove companies can live a productive life after the initial hit product fades. Microsoft’s transition to cloud computing with its Azure product, meanwhile, has vaulted the company back near the top of the race for the title of world’s most valuable company. Still, it’s a slog. “It’s hard to be a two-trick pony,” former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told me Thursday. “It’s amazing to do one. It’s super amazing to do two. Doing three? I have a lot of respect for a company that can do three tricks. … It’s just hard to come up with concepts that can make that happen.” He said Apple’s line of Mac products is one trick and the so-called i-Series (iPhone or iPod) was a second. “If they had stopped with the iPod, where would they be?” They succeeded because “they pushed beyond” with a phone. By all accounts, the iPhone’s run—nearing the dozen-year mark—has been remarkable, especially when you consider the average company in the S&P 500 remains in the index for only 15 years. Mr. Cook’s legacy, however, hinges on how well he pulls off Apple’s next act.

Indeed…  Thanks to John D. Stoll for that reality check.

Do you have Netflix face? How the blue light from your phone, laptop and iPad is ruining your skin

Look away now, because blue light from your mobile phone, laptop and other devices could be causing damage, premature aging and hyperpigmentation to your skin. According to experts, spending hours each day online could be having a drastic impact on the health of our skin – and it’s all to do with blue light. How long do you spend each day looking at a screen? From mobile phones to staring at our computer screens and tablets, we’re clocking up hours upon hours of time exposing our skin to blue light (otherwise known as high-energy visible light). According to Glamour, it’s having a detrimental impact on our skin, with 79 percent of us checking our smartphones before bed. Added to that, 28 percent of us will reach for our phones in the five minutes before we turn out the lights and over half of us check our devices within 15 minutes of waking up. According to Dr. Sweta Rai, a spokeswoman for the British Association of Dermatologists, light from your screens can “cause some pigmentation problems.” “They can give you a falsely aged appearance, we see that often in darker skin people,” she explained. “If you look at a pristine face and put brown spots on it it will look aged from sun damage. “There is some truth to the fact that blue light penetrates deeper into the skin compared to UV light. “And that is being studied at the moment as to what effect it does have.” The effect of blue light on our skin has led to several beauty brands launching blue light-fighting products. Earlier this year, dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at New York University Shari Marchbein, told Allure: “Visible light, especially in the blue wavelength, has become a hot topic in skin care, as there is mounting evidence that supports its contribution to photo-aging, including wrinkles, worsening skin laxity, and hyperpigmentation.” And it seems other practicing dermatologists have noticed a growing trend in accelerated hyperpigmentation. Dr. Engelman, consulting dermatologist for Elizabeth Arden told Glamour: “Women in their early twenties come into my office with heightened pigmentation.

Wow..  I guess we’re all screwed.  For more on this depressing article, click on the text above.

4 ways to protect yourself from credit card fraud

Unless you avoid using credit cards altogether, no one can fully prevent credit card fraud. The Federal Trade Commission says in 2017, credit card fraud was the biggest type of identity theft in the United States with over 133,000 cases reported. The problem is only getting worse. People with existing credit card accounts filed 20% more fraud reports in 2017 compared to the year prior. “The amount of credit card transactions that occur every day, it creates a larger opportunity for the bad guys to get a hold of that information,” says Trevor Buxton, fraud communications manager at PNC Bank. He says there are four ways consumers can protect themselves from credit card fraud. Click here to learn more.

🙂

These are the best and worst states for middle-class Americans

The economy may be strengthening, but affordability remains a concern for many middle-class Americans – in some states more than others. In a new study from GOBankingRates researchers found that South Dakota is the best place for middle-class individuals to live. The state has a college graduation rate of more than 48 percent, while in-state tuitions and fees for the 2017-2018 school year were about $8,450. The median list price for a home was $229,500 and the home ownership rate is about 69 percent. Iowa was ranked second among the top destinations for individuals earning an average income. Home values in this state have increased 3.9 percent since 2013, while the median list price is about $181,900. The number of middle-class households in Iowa, however, has declined by more than 2 percent over recent years. Florida, which has no state income tax, is next on the list of best states for the middle class. As of 2014, the average resident considered to be a part of the middle class was earning about $70,100. In-state college tuition costs $6,360, on average, down 4 percent over the past five years. Wyoming and Mississippi ranked fourth and fifth, where the average individual belonging to the middle class earns about $75,800 and $71,400, respectively. Also in the top 10 were Nebraska (6), West Virginia (7), North Dakota (8), Washington (9) and Idaho (10). On the other hand, Hawaii was found to be the worst state for middle-class Americans. Middle-class income in the state has declined by more than 3.6 percent throughout recent years, while home values have risen by 6.8 percent. Louisiana occupied the second spot on the list of worst states for the country’s middle class, where the cost of in-state college tuition has risen 48 percent over the past five years. Alaska followed Louisiana, a state with a college graduation rate of just 32 percent. Connecticut ranked fourth, where the median list price of a house was about $325,000 and the cost of in-state tuition has risen 20 percent over the past five years, to $12,390. Rounding out the top 10 are New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Virginia, California and Colorado. GOBankingRates’ study examined a range of different factors in order to determine which states are best, and worst, for the middle class, including change in median household income over time, change in the number of households earnings middle class income, college graduation rates, the cost of in-state tuition and median home values, among other factors.

Ford to drop slow-selling sedans from lineup by 2020

Ford announced on Wednesday that it will stop selling sedans in North America, saying the Mustang and a new crossover will be the only survivors in a reduced lineup of passenger cars. The Dearborn-based automaker, which reported better first-quarter earnings and revenue than expected, said it will transition to a truck- and SUV-focused lineup over the next few years as a result of declining consumer demand for small cars. The segment also generates weaker profit margins for manufacturers. The revamped Ford car portfolio in North America, the company’s largest market, will be comprised of the Mustang sports coupe and Focus Active, a crossover scheduled to launch next year. Ford’s current lineup of passenger cars includes the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion and Taurus sedans. The company didn’t share any new details about the model lineup at its luxury brand, Lincoln. “The key to success is focusing on where your customers are and where your strengths lie, and for Ford doubling down on trucks and SUVs could be just what the brand needs,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds. “But this move isn’t without risk: Ford is willingly alienating its car owners and conceding market share in segments that, while declining, are still relevant to some buyers.” Ford earned net income of $1.74 billion during the first quarter, up from $1.59 billion in the same period a year earlier. Per-share earnings rose three pennies to 43 cents, beating Wall Street’s estimate of 41 cents. Revenue climbed 7% to $41.96 billion, which also beat forecasts for $37.2 billion. Ford’s bottom line benefited from a lower income tax rate. In an interview on FOX Business’ “After the Bell,” Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks said Ford held its costs in check, despite an increase in commodity prices. Ford plans to achieve $25.5 billion in cost cuts and efficiencies by 2022, an increase of $11.5 billion over its prior estimate. It also expects to boost profit margins to 8% by 2020, two years sooner than it previously expected. CEO Jim Hackett, who took the reins of the automaker last year, has led an effort to improve its financial “fitness” by cutting costs and shifting resources to profitable trucks and SUVs. Ford recently said it would reallocate $7 billion in cash from cars to SUVs Opens a New Window. , which are projected to account for half of the U.S. market by 2020. Ford shares were up 2.6% at $11.40 in after-hours trading Wednesday.

Wow..  If you want your Fusion or Taurus, better get it while ya can!