Blog Posts by Aaron Task

  • The Supreme Court’s decision to take up the question of whether retailers can charge more when shoppers use credit cards has put it in the middle of a growing international debate.

    Merchants in markets from Chicago to Australia are sparring with lawmakers and their own customers over efforts to defray the fees levied by card companies by tacking surcharges on to customers’ bills. Ten U.S. states and some countries ban the practice outright. The Supreme Court agreed Thursday to decide whether those bans are legal.

    The debate is taking place internationally. The European Union says retailers can’t discriminate among customers based on payment method and will ban surcharges on consumer credit cards starting next year. Regulators in Australia this month also clamped down on surcharging for credit-card payments by setting limits on how much they can tack onto a bill. The move followed widespread complaints from consumers about surcharges being placed on everything

    Read More »from [$$] The Biggest Debate in Retail: Should You Pay More to Use a Credit Card?
  • [$$] Costco Earnings Get Boost From Switch to Visa

    Costco Wholesale Corp.’s June switch to Visa Inc. is paying off.

    The warehouse club chain reported higher quarterly profit Thursday boosted by lower credit card fees and other terms from its new deal to accept Visa-brand cards, replacing a long-term alliance with American Express Co.

    For the quarter ended Aug. 28, Costco’s profit rose 1.6% to $779 million despite higher wages, lower gasoline sales and deflationary pressure on food items including meat and eggs. Those expenses were “offset in particular with everything related to this credit card transition,” Chief Financial Officer Richard Galanti said on a conference call.

    He said some 11.4 million co-branded American Express cards, representing about 7.4 million accounts, had been transferred to new Visa Citi cards, and about 85% of those accounts have now been activated with Costco. Another 1.1 million members have applied for the new card since June 20.


    Read More »from [$$] Costco Earnings Get Boost From Switch to Visa
  • Car Makers Rev Up Push Into Electric Vehicles

    PARIS—Elon Musk has long had the stage to himself as he championed zero-emission vehicles, and his upstart company, Tesla Motors Inc., became the touchstone for battery-powered cars.

    When nearly half a million Tesla fans paid $1,000 each this spring to reserve the company’s next-generation Model 3 ahead of its late-2017 launch, many auto executives scoffed.

    “Let’s see if they can build them,” Thomas Weber, board member in charge of research and development at Daimler AG, said at the time.

    Now, the enormous hype around Tesla’s Model 3 preorders, slowly rising consumer demand and looming emissions regulation appears to have jolted conventional auto makers into action.

    At the Paris Auto Show, which begins this week, major auto makers unveiled plans to accelerate development of electric vehicles over the next few years.

    Volkswagen AG, still reeling from its emissions cheating scandal sought to show it had cleaned

    Read More »from Car Makers Rev Up Push Into Electric Vehicles
  • [$$] Mitsubishi Jet Completes First Trip to U.S. for Testing

    TOKYO—The Mitsubishi Regional Jet touched down in Washington state Wednesday afternoon following two unsuccessful attempts last month to ferry the aircraft to the U.S. for testing.

    The progress of the twin-engine jet, built by a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., has been closely followed in Japan because it seeks to be the first Japanese-built civilian aircraft to carry passengers in decades.

    Mitsubishi Heavy has a long history in military aircraft but hasn’t produced a civilian aircraft since the 1970s, and development of the Mitsubishi Regional Jet has been plagued by delays.

    The plane arrived at Grant County International Airport in eastern Washington after a 68-hour journey from Nagoya, Japan. The jet made stops in northern Japan and Russia before hopping across the Bering Sea to Anchorage, Alaska, and then Moses Lake, Wash.

    Two previous attempts were aborted after Mitsubishi discovered issues with sensors attached to

    Read More »from [$$] Mitsubishi Jet Completes First Trip to U.S. for Testing
  • Less than three months after being acquired by a major Hollywood talent agency, the UFC is going A-list.

    Twenty-three celebrities, including Ben Affleck, Adam Levine and Serena and Venus Williams, are investing in the rapidly expanding sports league, the UFC and its new majority owner WME-IMG said on Thursday.

    Bringing on the celebrity investors who can provide promotional muscle for the brutal and fast-growing sport known as mixed martial arts is the most significant business move for the organization since being acquired for $4 billion by WME-IMG and a group of investors in July.

    Mixed martial arts is a combination of kick boxing and wrestling practiced in octagonal cages by male and female fighters, who usually end their bouts bruised and bloodied.

    The UFC is the leading provider of such events, which can attract thousands of on-site spectators and can generate large pay-per-view audiences.

    Terms of the

    Read More »from [$$] The UFC Goes for a Knockout, With Celebrity Investors in Its Corner
  • [$$] FCC Postpones Vote on TV Set-Top Box Plan

    Federal regulators Thursday delayed a vote on a proposal to overhaul the market for TV set-top boxes, dealing a setback to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler on one of his top priorities for the year.

    The delay, coming so close to a presidential election that will usher in a new administration, represents a major blow to the proposal. But FCC members pledged to keep trying, and there were indications an agreement remained possible, if less likely.

    In a joint statement, Mr. Wheeler and fellow Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn said they had made “tremendous progress” on the issue and are still working toward an agreement.

    Mr. Wheeler’s planned overhaul is aimed at opening up the market for set-top boxes, dominated for years by cable TV companies. He would require the companies to make their television feeds available as apps to other potential device manufacturers, such as Apple Inc. and Alphabet

    Read More »from [$$] FCC Postpones Vote on TV Set-Top Box Plan
  • [$$] Promontory Financial Group Signs Up With IBM

    Promontory Financial Group, one of the best-connected and most powerful financial consultancies, is selling out.

    The Washington-based firm has agreed to be bought by International Business Machines Corp., which plans to set up a new unit combining Promontory’s consultants with its own artificial-intelligence technology to advise clients on financial regulation.

    Privately held Promontory was founded in 2001 by Eugene Ludwig, a former U.S. Comptroller of the Currency, and has hired a small army of former senior regulators and government officials. Banks and government agencies use the firm as an adviser, but also as a sort of outsourced regulator, which sometimes performs jobs the government doesn’t have the resources to do. Regulators, for example, might hire Promontory to monitor a financial firm’s compliance with the terms of a settlement.

    The sale comes a year after a run-in with New York regulators who alleged Promontory watered down reports

    Read More »from [$$] Promontory Financial Group Signs Up With IBM
  • Americans seem to feel much better about the economy than the commentary in this week’s presidential debate would lead one to believe.

    Or do they? That answer depends largely on who is doing the questioning.

    Confidence surveys have yielded starkly conflicting results of late, with polarized political views playing a significant part in the outcomes. But they matter for the outcome of the election which, of course, matters to investors.

    In the span of just a few weeks, a Conference Board survey showed consumer confidence surging to a nine-year high, while at least two other surveys showed many more Americans thinking the economy is getting worse rather than improving.

    Investors might want to take a glass-half-full approach. Next up is the University of Michigan’s long-running consumer-sentiment survey, out Friday. Results should be decent. Economists expect the sentiment index this month to tick

    Read More »from [$$] Americans Are More Optimistic About the Economy Than You Might Think
  • [$$] PepsiCo Boosts Earnings Forecast as Results Top Views

    PepsiCo Inc. raised its 2016 profit outlook after revenue surged in key overseas markets like China and as the U.S. beverage business picked up steam in the third quarter.

    The maker of Lay’s potato chips and Tropicana juice said Thursday it now expects adjusted earnings per share to grow 10% instead of 9% this year, the second straight quarter it has raised guidance as a cost-cutting push also helped lift the bottom line.

    Chief Executive Indra Nooyi said the global economy remains “troubled,” but the snack and beverage giant is “cautiously optimistic” about developing and emerging markets after seeing recent improvement.

    “Whether they last at this point we don’t know, but they are looking pretty good,” Ms. Nooyi told analysts on an earnings conference call.

    Organic revenue rose 8% in developing and emerging markets after stripping out currency swings in the quarter ended Sept. 3. That included 11% growth in China and

    Read More »from [$$] PepsiCo Boosts Earnings Forecast as Results Top Views
  • CHICAGO—It took a posse of aspiring criminologists to help United Continental Holdings Inc. track down the 10-ton jet bridges causing most of the damage to its arriving planes.

    Collegiate interns at the nation’s No. 3 airline by traffic also helped identify a cause of costly rotator cuff tears in some baggage handlers. Troubleshooting those and other findings have helped United’s new data visualization project cut injuries among its 85,000 employees by almost a quarter and damage to its aircraft on the ground by nearly a third since 2014.

    “Data is data, regardless of whether you’re looking at arrest reports or accident reports,” says JJ DeGiovanni, a managing director in United’s corporate safety department.

    Airlines have long collected reams of data on injuries, maintenance, airport operations and more. United managers used to receive inscrutable spread sheets of incidents on their turf; the information rarely revealed trends.

    Now, the

    Read More »from [$$] United Taps Criminology Students to Uncover Patterns in Accident Data


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