November 2017


AMP is set to make its mobile web bow sooner rather than later

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google News is set to feature Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) articles, after the format made its bow on mobile search results earlier this year. Google News on major platforms like iOS and Android, as well as News on Web will soon feature AMP articles that provide a much faster reading experience.

Google News and Weather app, as well as the mobile site will feature AMP-enable articles marked by a thunderbolt icon in the bottom-left corner. A host of new AMP articles will be updated every now and then on News, which won’t hog all the data while providing the lightweight version of the original webpages optimized for reading.

When a user taps on an article in AMP-enabled format, the same conventional interface will be displayed with just the articles featured in the interface bearing the green lightning bolt sign to indicate that they are AMP-enabled.

AMP is considered to be up to four times faster than normal webpages and conserves up to 10 times less data than similar sites. The project is being headed by the Mountain View firm, with a whole host of other companies and major stakeholders of the industry. Google feels that thousands of publishers are putting their work online in AMP format every day, and the adaptation of the format would take place swiftly.

The AMP format is indeed an initiative which seeks to revolutionize mobile web, while not taking anything away from the full-fledged experience. Like self-driving cars, this is another project which Google feels will make a lot of difference to how we live our lives every day and how we use the internet. Facebook has also made strides with its Instant Articles format, which provides a text-rich, sleek reading experience while keeping a leash on the mobile data.

A quick review of all the latest reports about the possible release of the next models of the Mac Pro, MacBook Air, and the MacBook Pro

With the end of 2016, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) users will be eagerly awaiting all the major devices which the tech giant will be rolling out during the upcoming year. Although the Cupertino-based company has remained very secretive regarding its upcoming projects, that has not prevented rumors from speculating about the release of the next-gen devices. Hence, here’s a quick review of all the latest reports about the possible release of the next models of the Mac Pro, MacBook Air, and the MacBook Pro.

Mac Pro: It has been almost four long years since Apple rolled out its current Mac Pro. The once futuristic-looking device is currently perceived as nothing more than an outdated piece of equipment which has been consistently bypassed by generations of Intel processing chipsets. However, Apple is yet to announce the death of its Mac Pro which gives users some hope that the tech giant is still planning on rolling an update for the current model. A few rumors have marked Apple’s upcoming March event as a possible release date for the next-gen Mac Pro.

MacBook Air: With recent release of the 12-inch MacBook and the super-slim 13-inch MacBook Pro 2016, things are not looking too bright for the current line of MacBook Air. Also, Apple has already confirmed that it will no longer be updating the 11-inch MacBook Air which might as well be the tech giant’s way of saying that it is ready to give up on its MacBook Air brand altogether. With the release of the super-sleek version of the new MacBook Pro, it would make sense if the Cupertino company has no plans to refresh its MacBook Air lineup in the immediate future.

MacBook Pro: Although Apple has only recently released the latest models of its MacBook Pro, such devices are not powered by Intel’s latest and greatest processing chipset, also-known-as Intel Kaby Lake. Also, it is no secret that Apple’s biggest rivals, especially Microsoft will be looking to incorporate Intel’s seventh-generation Kaby Lake processor in their upcoming devices. Hence, it is only logical to assume that Apple has planned on launching a Kaby-Lake powered MacBook Pro by the end of 2017.

General Motors reported an 18% slump in sales during May, while Ford and Fiat sales were slightly up

This week, United States’ largest automotive manufacturer General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) along with its peers Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV (NYSE:FCAU) reported sales for the month of May 2016.

GM’s sales for the month of May dipped steeper than what analysts at Wall Street had expected, while Ford also experienced a slump in sales. On the other hand, the third peer amongst the Detroit-three, Fiat, managed to trump with a 1.1% jump in sales for the month.

Overall, the broader automotive market saw a slowdown and keeping that in view, The Country Caller discusses if a stall in United States’ automotive sales is worrisome.

Ford sold 235,997 vehicles during May, translating into a decline of 6% against the same month of 2015. The drop in sales can be attributed to the 25% plunge in passenger car sales, which is deemed to be lackluster across the automobile industry. However, Ford’s F-Series pickup’s sales rose 9% during the month and the sales of Ford Vans peaked at their best since 1978. Ford Transit sales jumped 16% at 13,640 vehicles, which basically lifted the overall Ford Van results by 7%.

Ford Escape sales surged 6% at 30,681 Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) sold. The month of May also witnessed Ford Brans SUVs totally to 324,475 vehicles, reflecting a 9% hike and the best-ever start for this segment in the company’s history.

General Motors reported sluggish sales as well, as it dropped by 18% to 240,450 for the month of May. The press release on General Motors’s monthly sales spooked investors who have been looking out for the loopholes in the cyclical automotive sector – a sector which has been on the upswing post Great Recession era. The decline in GM’s sales came on the heels of slowing production at three of the company’s production plants which manufacture sedans.

Fiat Chrysler was triumphant during the past month as it posted an increase of 1.1% in sales, which came on the back of a 14% rally in sales of its Jeep brand. The automaker’s Chrysler, Dodge and Fiat brand sales dipped year-on-year.

The industry experts believe that a stagnant automotive industry in the United States may be worrisome. This is because the other markets across the globe are now shrinking or still trying to recover from the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. Amongst the international automobile markets, the performance of Brazilian and Russian markets remains lackluster. The Chinese government has been offering sales-tax discounts in order to stimulate the sales while the European car market regained momentum to pre-financial-crisis volumes in April of this year.

The case dates back to 2011 when Hewlett Packard alleged Oracle of violating its contract

A judge in Silicon Valley has ordered Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) to pay $3 billion in damages to Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. (NYSE:HPE), pronouncing victory for the computer maker. The damages are related to HP’s loss of high-end computer demand.

The case dates back to 2011, when HP alleged that Oracle had violated a contract as it discontinued production of its database for Intel’s Itaniuum processors. Oracle also said that it would now focus on its x86 microprocessors.

However, HP said that it had a written agreement in which Oracle promised that its support for Itanium would continue. HP Enterprise EVP Mr. John Schultz said: “Oracle’s decision to stop future software development on the Itanium server platform in March of 2011 was a clear breach of contract that caused serious damage to HP and our customers.” 

Meanwhile, Oracle said that it would contest the Jury’s decision as Intel itself had decided to stop supporting Itanium. However, Intel denied the assertion. However, if Oracle loses on its plea, then it would be the second biggest defeat for the ERP software provider. The last case Oracle lost was when Alphabet Inc. was allowed to use Java, as that did not violate copyright laws.

Considering Oracle Corporation’s nearly $175 billion market capital, we expect that even if it loses on the case, it would not dent its financial position much given its strong operations and more than $20 billion cash reserves. The fact that the company is performing really well has prompted equity research firms such as JP Morgan and Jefferies to improve their ratings on the stock. Moreover, the strong Q4 earnings released last month have also added to analyst optimism. It remains yet to be seen if Oracle corporation has some substance to defend its case. Oracle shares closed up 0.94% at $40.93 yesterday.

Oracle cloud revenue shows signs of improvement

Oracle Corporation (NYSE:ORCL) is expected to announce its quarterly results for the second quarter of the fiscal year 2017 on December 15. The earnings call will be held right after the closure of the day’s central trading session. Jefferies analyst John DiFucci has commented that the company was able to accelerate its cloud revenue considerably during the quarter and it would not be a surprise if the company beats the consensus estimates fairly easily.

After being stranded heavily after the decline in traditional software business, the company has been able to readjust itself in the industry and has shown great flexibility in reorganizing itself to move its offerings from traditional DB to cloud computing. Oracle’s cloud adoption has been increasing as of late and the solutions provided by the company get more sophisticated. Mr. DiFucci expects the company to post strong results for Q3 and provide the investors with all the reasons to invest in the stock. There might be some weakness in other areas of the business but strength in cloud will most likely offset the weakness in other segments.

The analyst’s channel checks are in conformance to his thesis of strong cloud revenue, which the he believes is driven by recent contracts that the business has been able to pull. A large number of deals that were finalized were pending since the first quarter and have closed now because of the newly introduced cloud components that have made the offerings look far more attractive.

Jefferies analyst reaffirmed Buy rating for the stock with a price target of $51. He believes that Oracle will most likely sustain execution in the next quarter. The ratings include 8 Buy, 12 Outperform, 12 Hold, and 3 Underperform. The stock currently trades at a price of $40.44 and has gained 0.24% since the open of market.

The firm raised the price target to $38.00 (from $36.00), following the company’s Q3 earnings report

As the fiscal third quarter earnings report of Shake Shack Inc (NYSE:SHAK) came in, Jefferies weighed in on the Q3 numbers and raised price target on SHAK stock from $36 to $38. This calls for a 3.23% potential upside over the recent closing price of $36.81. Not only did the Q3 results breeze past the Street’s estimates, but the company also raised its guidance. As a result, Shake Shack was on the surge in Thursday’s trading and closed 10.64% up. Jefferies maintains a Hold rating on SHAK stock.

While this was another solid quarter reported by the burger flipper, Jefferies analyst, Andy Barish commented, “Nevertheless, with SSS at “just” 2.9% (on top of 17.1%) there is lessening likelihood of significant upside surprises from here with increasing labor/G&A investment.” Additionally, the analyst highlighted the increased outlook for the fiscal 2017, which appears robust on SHAK revenue.

Thus, in order to reflect the company’s strong current position, Mr. Barish raised the price target back to where it was before the Q2 earnings report, i.e. $38. His price target assumes a valuation multiple of 25 times the estimated 2017 EV/EBITDA ratio. Shake Shack reported earnings of 15 cents per share this quarter, ahead of the $0.14 EPS estimated by the firm and the consensus. Since the company went public, it has beaten the consensus on bottom line in all the seven quarters reported. However, rest level margins were slightly lower this time at 28.8%, reflecting 25 percent year-on-year growth.

Shake Shack revenue rose 40% YoY to $74.6 million versus the consensus that projected $69.3 million revenue this time. Although same store sales exhibited only a modest growth at 2.9 percent but was better than expected. The company reported a double-digit surge in a year ago comp sales but it has been iterating for several quarters that comps would be relatively moderate.

Crude production in China surged by 3.4% to 3.93 million barrels per day in November

Just as when the OPEC members rejoiced from news of oil price surge, a negative development from China erodes all the gains as the commodity trades in red yet again. Crude production in China surged by 3.4% to 3.93 million barrels per day in the month of November, as the output recovered from a seven-year-low level. The Country Caller believes that this development will have a negative impact on the stock prices of oil producers such as Freeport Mc-MoRan Inc. (NYSE:FCX). The impact of this development is already visible in the market, as the oil producers stock closer lower at $15.04 yesterday.

TCCs skeptical views on the commodity are proving their worth, as each development outweighs the other. Although many oil producers have confirmed to initiate their supply cuts by the start of 2017, the pullback pressure on prices does not allow them to go higher. Iran’s oil minister Zanganeh had already said that he does not view commodity prices going beyond $55 mark.

Should the scenario persist, it will be a huge dent for major oil producing countries such as Saudi Arabia, as it is relying on supply reduction for increased prices. The middle eastern oil producer is already going a crisis like situation and suffer if oil does not climb despite the recent accord. Going forward, we are viewing a few major blows to the commodity, they are likely to come from the US side. Apart from that, the conflicts among the members of the organization are also very debatable.

Iran has already been allowed an exemption from the production cut, as it seeks to match its pre-sanction production levels. Moreover, Putin may also ask for certain considerations going in the near term. Let’s see what’s more to come in this regard. TCC will continue to update readers on the major developments in the energy sector.

Google has revamped its music streaming service, Google Play Music, and will roll out with the latest version in 62 countries

The Verge confirms that search engine giant Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) has totally revamped its streaming service. Google Play Music’s fresh overhaul aims to make the platform more simple and convenient for users. Judging by the recent additions, it is evident that Google Play Music will now function based on contextual recommendations.

The company’s blog site reveals that the overhaul introduces “a fresh take on our music streaming service that is smarter, easier to use, and much more assistive.” The new version will be made available in 62 countries for Android, iOS, and web users.

It seems that the service incorporates machine learning algorithms the same way as Google Now. With these algorithms, the search engine company can efficiently observe and analyze users’ listening habits and preferences in order to roll out with song references in the future based on their interests. Furthermore, users will notice that Google constantly continues to refresh the app to generate results according to users’ moods.

“To provide even richer music recommendations based on Google’s understanding of your world, we’ve plugged into the contextual tools that power Google products. When you opt in, we’ll deliver personalized music based on where you are and why you are listening.”

Considering that music streaming is slowly becoming the norm, it’s no surprise that the search engine giant is looking into ways to make its service more appealing. Since many users remain hooked to using Spotify, it is evident that platforms such as Google Play Music need to constantly make sure that their services continue to offer something distinct in order to stay in the race of music streaming.

While Spotify remains the main rival, Google Play Music’s other opponents may also include Apple Music. Since these industry giants seem increasingly determined to invest in their own version of streaming services, we believe that Google’s decision to revamp its platform has mainly been a subtle marketing stunt to gain more attention.

Furthermore, since Amazon unveiled its Music Unlimited Service in the UK with Echo support, it is somewhat essential for Google to buck up its socks. We believe that with Google’s decision to offer a more personalized user experience along with clever options such as an offline playlists curated from users’ preferences, the overhaul might help the streaming service lure in more users.