March 12, 2018 Market Outlook

Whole Foods Calls for a Summit with Key Vendors

Key vendors are not happy with the way things are happening at Whole Foods Market since being acquired by Amazon. The grocer is moving to centralize its merchandising. Whole Foods has been attempting to shift from a local orientation to a national one, without sacrificing the selection and relations that distinguishes it from larger grocers like Albertsons and Kroger.

They called for a summit with the vendors on March 19 to discuss the proposed system. The vendors are worried that it would hurt relationships with their brokers. They are also complaining of the higher fees to be charged if Whole Foods takes over the merchandising duties of the brokers. 

China Faces Risk of Banking Crisis

The published quarterly review of Bank of International Settlements (BIS) published on Sunday identified economies at risk of a banking crisis. BIS named China as exhibiting early signs of a banking crisis. They highlighted the country’s debt that surpassed an amount that could eventually lead to system fallout.

Aside from China, BIS included Canada and Hong Kong to the list of three countries facing vulnerability. However, the report doesn’t necessarily mean that the economies of the three are certainly heading into a crisis. BIS measures the sign by a credit-to-GDP gap which is the difference between an economy’s percentage of debt and its long term trend.

A higher number suggests debt is growing at a pace that may be unhealthy for the economy. What adds to the vulnerability of China’s banking system is the high level of debt servicing ratio. As for Canada and Hong Kong, part of the vulnerabilities point to rising property prices.

Crypto Scammers Dupe Investors of $2 Million

Based on an incident reported by CNBC, scammers seem to have carried out a fake initial coin offering (ICO) and carted off with more than $2 million worth of cryptocurrency.

An individual or group used a fake LinkedIn profile and copied pictures from another user’s Instagram to create a false identity to attract more than 1,000 investors into the ICO called Giza.

The ICO appeared legitimate until warning signs began unraveling – a falling out with the company’s sole supplier, lack of correspondence from its supposed founders, and failed attempts to recover the invested funds. The scam was well-orchestrated and centers on a mysterious person called Marco Fike, the COO of Giza.

CNBC interviewed eight investors, partners, and former employees of Giza and all of them claim they have never seen the face of Marco Fike. The scam was carried out last January.

All Toys “R” Us Stores in the U.S. Might Close This Week

Several reports are coming out that bankrupt retailer Toys “R” Us may shut all its U.S. stores as early as this week. The news is a big blow to Hasbro (HAS) and Mattel (MAT), two of the biggest publicly traded toy companies.

Shares of both, along with smaller toy company Jakks Pacific (JAKK), already fell last Friday. The shares of Canada’s Spin Master, owner of the popular line of Hatchimals toys, went down too on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

European toy giant Lego is also taking a hit in the toy industry. Early last week, they reported for the first time in 13 years a drop in sales. Based on recent regulatory filings, Toys “R” Us accounted for nearly 10% of Hasbro’s and Mattel’s overall sales.

Toys “R” Us is the last megastore dedicated to toys. In its absence, toymakers will find it extremely difficult to promote anything but their most popular items.

Elon Musk Sees First Cargo Mission to Mars in 2019

Audience at the annual South by Southwest tech and culture festival were awed by the revelation of Elon Musk on Sunday. The Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder announced his timeline for sending a space vehicle to Mars. The initial cargo mission to the red planet could happen early next year and mark its first milestone.

In September 2017, the privately-funded venture said the first mission to Mars would be by 2022. The ultimate objective of SpaceX is to plant the seeds to put a human colony on Mars. Musk said, “We are building the first Mars, or interplanetary ship, and I think we’ll be able to make short trips, flights by first half of next year.”

SpaceX’s BFR rocket system is expected to have capabilities for interplanetary travel and be fully reusable. Each flight could cost $5 to $6 million which is less compared with the initial Falcon 1 flights.

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