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  • Greek shares plunge 23% after market reopens [View news story]
    PR has one of the same big issues that Greece does -- an inflexible currency peg that is inappropriate to its situation. Add to that (IIRC) PR is subject to the same employment laws (e.g. minimum wage) that mainland US is, although it has a very unproductive "environment" -- so businesses don't want to invest there.

    To date, lots of people thought its status as US Territory gave it the best of all worlds. But we're starting to see the dark side of the arrangement.
    Aug 4, 2015. 02:14 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Whole Foods Market increases focus on value brand [View news story]
    Hi Bruce,

    I hear what you are saying and don't disagree with much of it. And by no means am I engaging in any hyperbolic "WFM is going to 'disappear'". There is a role for them. But my point is that,for investors, they are going to be hemmed in by the headwinds for profit growth.

    It seems there are different customer segments/use cases for WFM.

    1. They'll probably keep the "passionate about sustainable lifestyle" crowd, the kind that will buy "sustainable/responsible" cleaners, HBA, paper goods, etc.

    2. I agree that they'll keep some of the dine in crowd -- I used to go on cheap dates w/ the wife all the time at WFM, would only do that at the flagship HEB.

    3. But where they are probably losing more customers, as well as losing out on opportunities for gaining new customers, is the segment of "I'm not so much an environmentalist but do associate 'organic' with quality and healthy".

    My overall thesis is that there isn't enough profit growth in 1 and 2 to overcome the impacts of 3. I'm generally a fan of the company and its role in the world, but won't be buying their stock.

    Aug 2, 2015. 12:14 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Whole Foods Market increases focus on value brand [View news story]
    My comment stands, even with the consideration of the 365 line -- IIRC, which only covers some packaged goods? That does not address produce, meat or baked/ready-to-eat goods. And the 365 line does not address the issue that a typical WFM store does not sell as extensive a line-up of items that a household might need.

    So for my big weekend runs, I'll go to HEB because I can get the vast majority of items that I'd buy at a WFM + more. The trips to WFM become less frequent over time. I have family in the northeast/mid Atlantic and they're displaying the same behavior, with Wegmans winning more of their shipping dollars -- very large line of organic fresh goods (at better prices), and all the other things a household wants/needs.

    I fully credit WFM with starting a "movement". But that movement has now been undertaken by competitors who have some formidable weapons that WFM doesn't. That + their pricing policies will work against them.
    Aug 2, 2015. 11:11 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Whole Foods Market increases focus on value brand [View news story]
    I live in San Antonio TX and moved here from Austin (WFM hometown, as you know). My personal takes...

    I will still occasionally go to a Whole Foods, but those occasions are getting less frequent as time goes along.

    Down here, we are lucky to have the HEB grocery chain, which leverages the great food growing areas in "the Valley" south of here. So I can get a lot of the organic produce at lower prices. Even in the situation where WFM has reasonable prices compared to alternatives (e.g., milk), I'll go to HEB because they carry grocery store basics that WFM doesn't carry. The higher end formats for HEB carry just as good a wine/beer selection. And the prices on some things at WFM, like baked snacks, are so ridiculously high as to be "like, dude, are you kidding??!!"

    I'll still go for an occasional eat-in, or if it's the nearest store to another errand I'm running and I only need a few things. But never for my big weekend shopping runs.

    That said, if any of you ever get a chance to visit its glorious flagship store in downtown Austin -- it's worth a side trip and lots of dine-in options. I still do that if I'm up there nearby on business.
    Aug 2, 2015. 09:27 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Wall Street Breakfast: Anthem To Buy Cigna For $54.2B [View article]
    I realize that the subject of income inequality is too complicated and nuanced a subject to try to tackle on a message board that favors pithy talking points that can fit on a bumper sticker.

    So I will merely recommend that anyone truly interested in learning something on this subject seek out (amongst other worthy sources, no doubt) a special in The Economist on this subject. Was very educational and thought provoking.

    As with other things in life, there are a lot of factors and it comes down to a balance, not ridiculously simplified "straw man" arguments.

    I don't see any serious voices advocating "equality of OUTCOME" (where everyone makes exactly the same amount no matter their talent, risk taking and work ethic). Where the concern starts is when the results of any particular system start to concentrate wealth/income to the point where it begins to threaten equality of OPPORTUNITY. And the Economist article pointed to measures showing that economic mobility (indicator of such equality of opportunity) has really slowed down in the US.
    Jul 24, 2015. 10:42 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Wall Street Breakfast: Anthem To Buy Cigna For $54.2B [View article]
    A lot of factors play into the price you pay at the pump. When the price of oil drops, those other factors get magnified. Many of the factors, indeed some of the biggest ones in CA, are self-inflicted.

    Most powerful force in the universe = the law of unintended consequences
    Jul 24, 2015. 09:27 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is a Ukraine default next? [View news story]
    Please list ANY American opposition politicians or journalists killed in the US, even suspected of being killed by POTUS.
    Jul 19, 2015. 02:57 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Is a Ukraine default next? [View news story]
    Please list the opposition politicians and journalists ordered killed by any POTUS within your lifetime (well... since Nixon).
    Jul 19, 2015. 02:24 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Is a Ukraine default next? [View news story]
    Sweden is a dictatorship? Please do expand on that one...
    Jul 19, 2015. 02:07 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • A New Deal For Greece [View article]
    Yeah... I don't believe that. The troika wants balanced budgets which includes taking in more taxes. So stories that "they won't allow taxes on the rich" sound like conspiracy myths.
    Jul 19, 2015. 09:13 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Secret IMF report: New Greek deal won't work [View news story]
    @Lucky. Yep
    Jul 14, 2015. 11:16 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Geopolitical Risks Are Rising - Is A Debt Crisis Far Behind? [View article]
    Well before those events, we'll have another Ice Age, mantle plume eruption or massive asteroid/comet impact.

    Happy dreams, sleep tight!
    Jul 13, 2015. 12:14 AM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Oil advances as Iran nuclear talks miss deadline [View news story]
    @Watermellon56 -- hat tip for the thoughtful analysis.
    Jul 12, 2015. 03:48 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Greek crisis talks head into day two [View news story]
    The present value of a cashflow to be received in 40 years at any decent discount rate is rather unappealing.
    Jul 12, 2015. 12:55 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Greek crisis talks head into day two [View news story]

    "what's going on is Schauble is marking time to 7/20 when Greece will miss its ECB payment forcing the ECB to end ELA, closing the banks, and forcing the Grexit"

    To me, your hypothesis does fit the data, particularly (given the circumstances) the fairly nonchalant pace at which Germany is responding to all this.
    Jul 12, 2015. 12:53 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment