Black Coffee: Why a Million Apples a Day Couldn't Keep the Sellers Away

It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe

Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…

I’ve got a few things I have to do this weekend, so I need to get right to it, folks. As a result, there will be no snarky comments and bad jokes for my highlighted blogs of the week.

Please. Don’t get too excited. The torture will resume next week.

And, no … after two months we still haven’t caught the damn rat — but thank you for all your clever suggestions. I’m now beginning to lean toward this one: moving away.

The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed

From March 2009:

Evaluate Your Options Before Selling Your Gold Jewelry – I’m sure you’ve all seen companies advertising on late-night TV that claim they’ll pay “top dollar” for your gold jewelry. Don’t believe it. There are often better options.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy

Afford AnythingKnow Your Buyers: My $2700 Mistake

Hope to Prosper -Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be

Lazy Man & Money -Unemployment Adventures: Jobs Aren’t the Same Anymore

Budgets are SexyLiving Life as a Mortician

KrantcentsI Will Never Retire!

Credits and Debits

Debit: To borrow a quote from a famous English author of days gone by, here in the US it is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. It just depends on whether the street you work on is named Wall, K, or Main.

Credit: On Friday the S&P 500 closed at 1502.96, marking the first time that index has finished above 1500 since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. In all, the S&P 500 is up 121% since the market bottom was reached in March 2009.

Credit: And it’s not just the S&P 500 that has been on a tear over the past half-decade. After closing on Friday at 13,895, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up more than 108% since touching the March 2009 market bottom.

Credit: Add it all up and — just three weeks into the new year — the Dow is up 6%, the S&P 500 is up 5.4% and the Nasdaq is 4.3% higher. Of course, that’s leading some people to suggest that the bull market is now in an exuberance phase that typically signals the party is almost over.

Debit: The party certainly seems to be over for Apple. After company officials announced disappointing earnings results, the stock market darling plunged 12.5% on Thursday — and then shed another 2% on Friday to close at 439.88. That’s just off its 52-week low.

Debit: The massive sell-off in Apple stock allowed Exxon to reclaim bragging rights as the world’s most valuable company. Since peaking at $705.07 last September — on the day the iPhone 5 was released — Apple’s stock price has declined 38%.

Credit: Speaking of precipitous declines, union membership is now at its lowest point since the 1930s. Today, only 11.3% of all workers belong to a union — that’s down sharply from the 1950s when almost 33% of all workers were unionized.

Debit: If it wasn’t for public sector gains, union membership would be even lower. Although only 6% of the private sector is unionized today, 51% of all government workers now belong to a labor union. Even FDR knew that unionizing the public sector was a terrible idea.

Debit: Meanwhile, here on Main Street, American optimism has hit its lowest point since Jimmy Carter was president. How can that be?

Debit: Actually, it makes a lot of sense considering that, despite the soaring stock market, this is officially the worst recovery from a recession in US history, when measured in terms of GDP growth.

Debit: It also doesn’t help that the percentage of Americans in the labor force hasn’t been this low since Jimmy Carter was in office. No, that’s not a coincidence.

Debit: So how come the people in Washington DC and Wall Street are doing so well while the folks on Main Street are struggling to make ends meet? Well … It’s because the Fed is artificially propping up the stock market with its seemingly endless quantitative easing (money printing) campaigns.

Debit: The big question is: What’s going to happen when the Fed finally takes away the crack pipe? The result is never pretty after an addict gets cut off from his drug of choice and ends up going cold turkey.

Debit: In the meantime, all that money printing by the Fed will continue to erode the value of the US dollar at an accelerating pace — and rob Americans living on Main St. of their modest wealth and purchasing power.

Debit: Of course, it will also continue to expand the fortunes of those on and around K Street. Massive government spending is a big reason why Washington DC’s economy expanded five times faster than the rest of the nation between 2007 and 2011.

Credit: So you can insist that it’s the best of times — or the worst of times. But there should be no disagreement that the financial machinations continuing to be undertaken by the Fed and our leaders in Washington DC — from both parties — are absolutely criminal. Hey … I ain’t sayin’. I’m just sayin’.

By the Numbers

Apple’s stock may be down, but the company is far from out. Here are a few numbers to back that up:

1 million On average, the approximate number of Apple products sold every day last quarter.

47.8 million iPhones sold in the last quarter alone.

$30.66 billion The latest quarterly revenue from just iPhone sales. (Microsoft’s total revenue last quarter was “only” $21.46 billion.)

$54.5 billion Apple’s total 4th quarter revenue in 2012.

22.9 million iPads sold between October and December 2012. They also sold 12.9 million iPods over the same period.

$137.1 billion Apple’s cash on hand. To put that in perspective, that’s more than Vietnam’s nominal GDP.

17.7 Percentage revenue increase from the year-ago quarter. Even so, that wasn’t able to stop Apple’s stock from diving more than 14% after the latest earnings were announced.

Contributing Sources: TechCrunch; MG Siegler

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Last Week’s Contest Winner

Congratulations to AuntJenny7, who won a $20 Starbucks gift card! She was one of three people who correctly guessed that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the highest grossing film from 2008 that I’ve never seen — and probably never will.

Aunt Jenny’s name was pulled in a random draw among all the correct guessers.

Thanks to everyone who participated. I’ll have another contest soon.

Other Useless News

Hey, despite ticking off a lot of people every weekend, I’m approximately 25 Facebook “likes” away from reaching the 1000 milestone. If you haven’t liked Len Penzo dot Com yet, I’d love it if you stopped by and clicked the like button! Thanks!

Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 3476 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):

  1. Essential Tips for Lowering Your Grocery Bills (Part 1)
  2. What It Really Feels Like to Be a Billionaire
  3. Essential Tips for Lowering Your Grocery Bill (Part 2)
  4. Essential Tips for Lowering Your Grocery Bill (Part 3)
  5. Are You an Unwitting Financial Time Traveler?

Each month I post some of the more curious search terms visitors entered into Google’s search engine that (according to Google Analytics) led them, somehow, some way, to Len Penzo dot Com:

  • how do you make told [sic] nestle toll house cookies more spongy?
  • if walmart [sic] doesn’t offer eye exams why do they have an optometrist in their commercial?
  • how do you fire your buying real estate agent after she showed us a house we are interested in?
  • i babysit all day long and they want the baby to spend the night how do i say no without feeling guilty?
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Letters, I Get Letters

Every week I feature the most interesting question or comment – assuming I get one, that is. And folks who are lucky enough to have the only question in the mailbag get their letter highlighted here whether it’s interesting or not! You can reach out to me at: Len@LenPenzo.com

This week I got a thank you note from R. Castle:

Thanks for nothing Penzo …

Gosh, you’re very welcome! I only wish the Honeybee were as easy to please as you.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.

7 comments to Black Coffee: Why a Million Apples a Day Couldn’t Keep the Sellers Away

  • Learned

    Sorry about the persistent rat. We once had the entire family of gerbils run loose in the house, make that inside the walls. Ugh. Took an exterminator to rid us of our former pets. Sad but true.

  • Apple is down but certainly not out. I don’t particularly like their business model although their products are good. But a better comparison is with the international reserves of various countries – after all that’s what a cash mountain is.

    From this list, Apple has more cash reserves than the United Kingdom. Which since their chief designer is British and the phones/ipads/ipods etc use ARM-powered chips, shows what useless management we have on this island! (BTW before you start smirking on your side of the pond, the US is not much better off at $148bn and Vietnam has $16bn or so :-))

  • I just finished a nice cappuccino on this cold evening in southern California. Hmmm! Thanks for the links, I am in good company.

  • KIM

    Okay Len, I feel for ya. Here’s how I caught mine. Find out where it lives. Then you have to construct, independently, the mechanism. You will need a 5 gallon bucket. A rod or stiff string/wire. A pop can.
    Drill 2 holes near the top, on the opposing sides, of the 5 gallon bucket. Drill 2 holes in the middle, on the opposing sides, of a pop can. Do you say soda or pop?
    Slip the rod/wire/string through the bucket, and then through through the pop can, and out the other side of the bucket. You will have a “trapeze” for your rodent. Make sure the pop can sways freely and moves back and forth with ease. Tippy is what your looking for. Fill the bucket 1/4 full with water.
    Add a dab of bacon grease or peanut butter to the top of the tippy pop can and down the sides. Make it smell delicious.
    Take a 2×4 or anything that will provide a ramp up for this creep! Set this beautifully constructed trap where you know he lives and goes.
    You will find this vermin–drowned dead—soon.
    And if you do—I get a starbucks gift card! You follow me?

    • Len Penzo

      Thank you, KIM. I’ve had a couple folks send me the same suggestion. Unfortunately, the rat is bedding down in one section of the wall behind my refrigerator. I see no signs of him anywhere else in my house anymore, so I don’t think the bucket idea will work. My challenge right now is to figure out how he is getting in and out of the house. As I mentioned here a few weeks ago, I found his original sneaky entrance and sealed it up — but he has clearly since found or created a new one.

  • Thanks Len for the very useful resources, other blog post. They’re truly outstanding.

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