The Fed said because wage-and-price hikes remain low and growth continues at a moderate pace, interest rates will stay at historic lows for a "considerable time."
When was the last time you thought about Radisson Hotels? Probably about a day ago, when the company pulled its sponsorship of the Minnesota Vikings.
What about before that? Hmm.
Turns out the hotel is already benefiting hugely from its decision, getting them more attention than they've had in a while.
According to research firm Amobee Brand Intelligence, Radisson got "enough social, Web and mobile impressions to account for 58 percent of its total online consumption (impressions plus mentions) for the last three months," Adweek reported.
That's a long time.
Football season had a rough start this year.
Former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on tape knocking out his fiance and Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse, putting a spotlight on how the NFL handles domestic violence. Many fans haven't liked what they've seen, and now they're joined by another group the league may have to listen to: its sponsors.
McDonald's, Visa, Campbell's Soup, CoverGirl: A growing list of NFL sponsors have come out with statements applying pressure to the league. Anheuser-Busch, which has a $1.2 billion, six-year contract with the NFL, used some of the harshest language, saying: "We are disappointed and increasingly concerned by the recent incidents that have overshadowed this NFL season. We are not yet satisfied with the league's handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code."
"The NFL here is a multibillion-dollar business," says Gabe Feldman, director of the sports law program at Tulane University. "If some of those billions start to get threatened, I think the NFL is going to stand up and take notice."
But so far, sponsors have stopped short of publicly threatening to tear up their contracts with the NFL. Radisson hotels ended its limited sponsorship with the Minnesota Vikings, but when it comes to individual teams and players, the stakes are lower. But the costs — like having the Radisson logo in the background at press conferences responding to child abuse allegations — are higher.
"There's a lot of sports properties but there's only one NFL," says Kenneth Shropshire, director of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative.
The sheer size and engagement of the NFL's audience may insulate it from criticism more than the NBA, which banned former Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life following racist remarks, but only after companies such as State Farm, CarMax and Virgin America withdrew their sponsorship from the Clippers.
"[The NFL is] a $10 billion-a-year industry. The next closest sports are $3 [billion], $4 billion behind. So it's astronomically larger, even though we don't think of it as such," says Shropshire.
He thinks major NFL advertisers are more likely to apply pressure behind the scenes than publicly break ties.
But there could still be looming financial implications for the sport. "I think if you were a sponsor right now contemplating an investment in NFL, you'd probably wait," says Kent Atherton of sports media firm Atherton Communications.
And if more damning details emerge, big money advertisers could do more than just talk.
The electric utility that serves the Duluth region is mothballing four coal-powered generators, and not because the Environmental Protection Agency told it to.
No, Minnesota Power is idling these generators for three months because the railroad isn’t delivering enough coal. Railroads are crazy busy— carrying oil from North Dakota for one thing— and the delays are driving their customers nuts.
Al Rudeck is the vice president of strategy and planning for Minnesota Power. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad has delivered the utility’s coal for decades. I asked him: Has this kind of thing happened before?
"This is unprecedented," he said. "We’ve never had to shut our units off because we can’t get the coal we need. This year they’ve had a lot of challenges on the rail system, in terms of congestion, weather, and a lot of business."
Railroads have also had a lot of unhappy customers. Farmers can’t get a bumper crop to market. On some days, according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, car-makers have had as many as 200,000 vehicles sitting outside factories, waiting to be picked up by trains.
The group, which represents most of the auto industry, sent its top lobbyist, Shane Karr, to testify before the U.S. Senate in September. "This is the first time the industry has been out there publicly, saying, 'We need the railroads to pay attention to our problems,'" he says.
Professor Allan Zarembski runs the railroad engineering program at the University of Delaware. "On some of the high-demand routes, railroads are reaching capacity," he says. "And so railroads have to now start increasing capacity. The downside of that is that increasing capacity is not something you do in a couple of hours."
If a railroad already has a right-of-way, he says, laying new track could take a year... or three. Meanwhile, it’s not like those customers have other options. No other railroad even serves Minnesota Power.
Which is why it’s such a great time to be in the railroad business: Profits are way up. "It's a renaissance in the railroad industry," says Eric Marshall, a portfolio manager for Hodges Mutual Funds, which has been investing in railroads for more than ten years.
"The barriers to entry are high," he says. "You and I couldn’t go out and start a railroad today, regardless of how much money we had, because we couldn’t get all the easements to build a railroad across the country."
So, for now, Minnesota Power is stockpiling the coal it can get, hoping to build up a supply for the winter.
When the Labor Department released the Consumer Price Index numbers for August, Janet Yellen got a shock.
Everybody expected the CPI to come in just shy of the Fed’s goal of 2 percent inflation. But the actual number was 1.7 percent.
Inflation is just not being cooperative.
“CPI is a little bit like the puppy that refuses to get housebroken and is spoiling the Fed’s carpet,” says Jonathan Lewis, who, yes, is in the midst of training a stubborn puppy, but is also Chief Investment Officer at Samson Capital Advisors.
He says today’s inflation numbers are a mess for the Fed – a warning flag.
“The low inflation numbers are a symptom of weakness in the economy," says Mark Gertler, who teaches economics at New York University. "The economy is still not as strong as we would like."
That’s a problem for the Fed because it can’t raise interest rates when the economy is weak, and the Fed can’t keep rates near zero forever.
But there is a bright side.
“The lower inflation is actually giving them quite a bit of breathing room," says Gennadiy Goldberg, U.S. Strategist for TD Securities. "There’s very little pressure on the Fed to hike interest rates now.”
And everybody expects inflation to get up to where the Fed wants it, eventually.
As asset manager and dog lover Jonathan Lewis puts it, puppies will get trained sooner or later. It just takes some longer than others.
Alibaba—the huge and profitable Chinese e-commerce site—debuts on the U.S. stock market under the ticker symbol "BABA" on September 19, with an initial public offering expected to price at $66-$68 per share. That would deliver proceeds of approximately $25 billion, making Alibaba the world's biggest IPO ever.
A principal beneficiary of the IPO is Yahoo, which owns 22.4 percent of Alibaba, and is now divesting of a portion of that holding. After taxes, Yahoo will likely net in excess of $6 billion. The company has indicated that roughly half of that will go back to shareholders in the form of dividends, said internet equity analyst Scott Kessler at S&P Capital IQ.
But, given that Yahoo has had virtually no growth in years, Kessler thinks the company should use some of its windfall to make a bigger splash in the market.
“To significantly move the needle in terms of how people think about Yahoo and how it’s positioned,” said Kessler, “we think a bigger, bolder strategy makes sense.”
Kessler suggested Yahoo could make additional billion-dollar-plus acquisitions, as it did last year with Tumblr, especially in the fast-growing mobile market. Yahoo’s recent acquisitions have mostly been smaller deals designed primarily to scoop up engineering talent from promising startups.
Technology analyst Carl Howe at 451 Research said Yahoo might buy up more Chinese internet companies as it divests of some of its Alibaba stake. He also expects a strong push into the mobile-payments market. Howe added that the company might also invest more to compete for eyeballs and online ads with rivals Google and Facebook.
“Buy into some sort of big content deal with another source of traffic—for example, Netflix or HBO—boosting business by driving more traffic,” Howe said.