Saturday, January 31, 2009

Blog on hold ???? Not completely

Sorry for the lack of posting lately but, with taking down Christmas stuff, dealing with a move and being in Vegas for a bachelor party, the blog got put onto the backburner.

In the next few weeks you will see some changes. Let me know what you think about them. I think you'll find them refreshing and necessary at the same time.

Anyway, for those that didn't see Obama's inaguration here is a good speech.

Dan Ross

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 Investment Predictions - Great videos/article

Another person concerned about the fall of the U.S. dollar this year and deleveraging. Todd Harrison, Jim Cramer's former partner/trader, is a bright guy folks. He was VERY right in 2008!

In this follow up video, Harrison talks about S&P 500 levels at 600. Here are Harrison's 10 investment themes for 2009.

Folks, my thoughts mirror Harrison's so that is why I just included the videos :) Many of the things he writes about or talks about are things I have written about in the last few months, like underfunded pension funds.

Here is his article on his top investment themes for 2009

Dan Ross

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Commercial Real Estate - Updated Posts

March 2008 I talk about a slowdown that is being seen in that sector of the market

October 2008 I discuss how the slowdown is impacting malls

In late November I talk about the commercial real estate markets tanking and Ross Perot, a multi-billionaire based here in Dallas, getting impacted as one of the funds he invested in was hit. Then he got hit the following week or two in ANOTHER fund that closed due to redemptions.

Here is a 12/2008 observation of mine re: commerical real estate.

Finally, my take today.....

1) I've seen a few restaurants NOT opening in the Plano area that were scheduled to.
2) I have heard of a restaurant chain that was opening 2 restaurants a week in early 2008 scaling back to 1 or so by 2009.
3) I don't see strip centers filling up at the same rate they used to.
4) I've heard from friends/associates in the industry (or friends of them) that TONS of deals aren't happening. People can't get access to the capital, which is a good thing in my opinion. We need to "fill in" the capacity we have (open store sites), re-model what is already outstanding and then FIND NEW tenants for the locations that will inevitably end up closing in 2009. All we have to do is look around to see the impact.

The commercial real estate market of the last few years was driven by consumers being on a HUGE spending binge. The consumers are more leveraged than ever, their credit is being cut off and that reduced spending is going to work its way "through the system." Some spending will happen but I think we are talking about a MAJOR seismic change for 2009. Fast growing areas will see new projects but ALOT of businesses will be impacted as the U.S. consumer pulls back and tries to save $$$ vs. spending more than they make, going into debt galore :) I think, at a minimum, that is a 20% shift in consumer spending. Think of negative savings vs. 4%-5% savings. That alone is nearly a 10% swing and then, if you take into account that consumers must begin paying off their debt in 2009 (As Oprah/Suze Orman are proposing to their viewers) than you could easily see spending cut by 10% just to PAY off previous spending.

Dan Ross

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Solar Buildings Become Reality?

Check out the link below:

Suntech (NYSE: STP) has built in solar panels into their front facade of their new HQ. The array, which can generate up to 1 MegaWatt, is plugged into the local electrical grid. The company claims to be the world's largest photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer and I think they are today.

Just something to think about as the green revolution starts to take hold in the next few years. Architechts will have the capacity to build buildings that will generate MORE power than they use as technological advances in solar power will enable this to occur. Obviously having such a large solar exposure helps. This probably wouldn't be as beneficial in NY, NY :)

Dan Ross

Monday, January 12, 2009

Top 10 Retailers by Conversion Rates

Interesting statistics: Office Depot and Staples are in the top 10. ProFlowers,,,Lands End, LL Bean, and Ebay are amongst the others.

Basically what this looks at is the percentage of people that received email during the month vs. purchased goods from the online retailer. Could the e-mails convert the list into sales? That is what this tracks....

Dan Ross

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Handbook of Online China

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:
Handbook of Online China
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: trends ppt)

Unemployment passes 7%, next stop 8% +

Wow, these guys are starting to bring up 9%-10% unemployment now.

I posted my thoughts on 9%-10% unemployment months ago here. People just did NOT understand how bad it was out there in the business world and now they are starting to see the negative stuff slice through the economy.

I still think we have quite a few more people that need to get on the bandwagon that unemployment is a LAGGING indicator.

I'll say it again til I am blue in the face....
This economic cycle and downturn is being caused by something NOT SEEN IN 80 years! This is a CREDIT CRUNCH / devaluation cycle and it will take quite a bit of time to work through the system. It can happen quickly or slowly. That is the choice of politicians and policy makers. Either way, I think it will be painful for many Americans. I hate writing it but I think that is the way it plays out.

Here is a link to my post on what happens when we have to deleverage

Dan Ross

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Inflation coming back - Impact to the markets?

Another bearish call on the U.S. dollar

As we print $$$ to finance our deficits (because we likely won't be able to sell all of the bonds we need to finance our national debt/deficits) it will cause the U.S. dollar to fall in value.

The problem with this is that it will commodies like corn, oil, etc to rise in price since they are priced in U.S. dollars. The major commodity markets of the world are based here in the U.S. and have been priced in $$$ for years :)

A falling dollar will, in turn, keep interest rates from declining more.

I was optimistic re: lower rates this year, due to continued weakness in the U.S. economy as we try to deleverage the system. We hit the 4.5% interest rates I thought we would hit in the market (I know folks that got rates as low as 4 3/8% and 4.5% with 1 point down on 30 year fixed notes) but I think that might be the bottom.

With the dollar collapsing interest rates will get FORCED upwards by the market, thereby eliminating the refinancing market in mortgages that is EXTREMELY strong right now. I hope it doesn't happen but that is what my gut is saying will happen.

What are your thoughts on the market? Let me know in the comment section.

Dan Ross

How to invest in Chinese Online Growth

An S&P 500 company provides some insight into how we would invest in the sector.

Baidu, The9 and ShandaInteractive are his 3 recommendations.

The9 is based on "World of Warcraft" licensing for China. They have more users than any other country in the world for that game and have exclusive rights in China. The stock, according to the analyst, that is trading near cash.

Shanda Interactive

3 Others they are looking at are GIGM (BUY), KONG (not buy) and JRJC.

My take is that Shanda and The9 are very interesting to look at:

1) The9 trades at cash levels so, as long as they get their license renewed this year from Blizzard-Activision (probably at higher terms like the analyst said) the stock could make a healthy run upwards.

2) Shanda Interactive is a developer of MMORPG games (massively multi-player online role-playing games) and casual online games in China. Below is a link to some of their press releases in the last twelve months.

Dan Ross

Titans of Tech (Napster, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle)

Great 2 minute tidbits of insight. Steve Jobs is the best interview of them all....

Shawn Fanning and Napster

Microsoft Bill Gates

J Allard (creator of Xbox)

Steve Jobs

Larry Ellison

Hope everyone enjoyed those!

Dan Ross

Friday, January 9, 2009

Economy is slumping....Now what?

So here is what we have seen in the last week:

The ISM Manufacturing Index hit its lowest level since 1980 (and manufacturing surveys in Europe and China also nosedived).

U.S. consumer confidence fell to a record low in December, as reported Wednesday.

Also Wednesday, the Case-Shiller Index registered a record 18% drop in October vs. year-ago levels, bringing the decline from housing's peak to 25%.

So here are my predictions for 2009:

Continued declines in mortgage rates. Only so many people can refinance and only so many have current values greater than the appraised value that will happen. When many are asked to add equity (ie. invest more $$$ to refinance) many people won't have the cash to do it. I think 4.5% rates on 30 year notes will happen and be quite the norm as the Federal Reserve tries to revive the U.S. Economy

Many people will be looking for work and having a tough time finding it in 2009. I see unemployment going to 10% if the auto companies go belly up. Given that we have now sunk $10-$15 billion into them we'll probably sink another $25 billion into them later, throwing good money after bad.

Will inflation hijack 4.5% interest rates? It is possible that the U.S. dollar could fall more than ever, which could drive inflation through the roof and take interest rates HIGHER vs. lower. We have to borrow $$$ from people to finance our debt and they might charge us (as a country) MORE to get that cash given our slowed growth, higher leverage ratios, etc.

The stock market will continue a downward slide of 15%-20% as EPS estimates for 2009 begin to get ratched downward. I think S&P 670-700 is a very reasonable level for the index. Just my 2 cents. Due your DD there and read/view some of the opinions I've posted here from others over the last few months. Look at other Dan Ross Forecast posts.

Dan Ross

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Future of movie theater experience?

Cinemark Theatres, one of the innovators of multiplex stadium type theatres, is testing a new concession and ticketing experience in their Plano Texas location (right next to their corporate HQ building).

Basically the concession experience is more of a "help yourself" approach to candy and drinks, at the end of the line, and the popcorn, at the front of the line, is clearly like a giant "cattle call" where herds of folks are moved through one long, hopefully fast moving line.

I endured the training glitches the first weekend they launched it and it was a disaster (butter problems with popcorn) but, as they fixed the bugs and agreed to layer people's popcorn with butter as they moved through the "cattle chute" I've warmed up to it.

The company has a VERY large waiting area on the left side of the theatre. They cell ice cream, coffee, etc. but I have yet to see anyone utilize this nice seating area (great lighting/padded chairs, etc.)

Dan Ross

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gas Tax Coming??? No problem....

This is essentially a user-based tax. Those that travel more and put more wear and tear on the roads pay a higher amount. Now, I think that a bus wears down a road more than a car so the tax needs to be higher on diesel vehicles. I think it is but I am not sure about that.

The bottom line is that every study seems to indicate we have SIGNIFICANTLY underinvested in our countries infrastructure. Our gas taxes are some of the lowest in the industrialized world so why not increase taxes. This is a NO BRAINER tax that people should just suck up and deal with.....and I HATE higher taxes!

Dan Ross

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My Horoscope for 2009

I've never been a person that is into astrology but I do look at it, from time to time, for amusement.

Here is the Pisces Outlook for 2009, according to If you like what you read or are curious go out and check out yours today!

2/19 – 3/20

Year 2009 Overview
In 2009, Pisces will enjoy swimming in new dimensions, as the highly charged Aquarius energy allows you to dream big and manifest your ideas. Your imagination soars, awakening a deep desire to seek spiritual truth and meaning in your life -- and in the world.

Your awareness and new perception helps to serve others. You are able to live freely in the world of transformation, and this encourages others to do the same. They feel supported by your wisdom and understanding. Your inspirational qualities are a large part of your purpose in the world -- your ability to heal and inspire.

At times, it may be difficult for you to live in this world of concrete realities, and conversely, sometimes it's hard for others to understand that all you want to do is live in a world of endless possibilities. As you learn to balance these polarities, harmony prevails.

Dan Ross

Ed hardy past hip now?

When Ed Hardy sweatshirts are found at Sams club they are clearly no longer "exclusive." Does this damage the brand name due to the retailer selling them and making the product affordable ? Is exclusivity part of the brand? I think so but what are your thoughts?

Dan Ross

Monday, January 5, 2009

Best Internet Retailers by Satisfaction in 2008?

What is intriguing is that and are in the top 2 positions by a good margin. These companies are SOLELY online and don't have a physical prescence at all.

Dan Ross

Sunday, January 4, 2009

New Year Resolution Success Rates Are VERY POOR!

From January 2009 Success Magazine:

Tony Robbins indicates that 80% of people forget their resolutions within one week and 98% have failed or forgotten their new year resolutions within six weeks.

1%-2% of people that attain them know why they want it, they put together a plan, then they execute it. They also model other successful people and take daily steps towards those goals. They measure their results versus their goals and keep them visible or engrained in their mind throughout the days/weeks until they accomplish their goals.

Dan Ross

Starbucks failing forward? A busted business decision?

Tonight, while coming home at 9:20 p.m., I stopped at a Starbucks with my girlfriend and noticed a car in drive thru, lights out at the store and workers walking out the front doors at the same time. Since we wanted to stop for a hot coffee & hot chocolate to enjoy while watching some rental movies we decided to go to McDonalds and enjoyed lower prices (reasonable) and a good product. Now, in our opinion, McDonalds is a more viable option as we had a pleasant experience with their hours/product and it was cheaper to boot! Starbucks new hours encourages people to try McDonald's McCafe coffees. I believe other consumers will agree with us on this.

Has Starbucks strayed from the image of their brand as a consumer friendly coffee hangout to one of "corporate coffee?" Will they end up with a new brand image and just be relegated to "that expensive coffee store" and will their brand get re-shaped by the competition via press/P.R./buzz. So far I haven't seen a big negative effect but I think there should be a high degree of concern.

The reason Starbucks ran into problems was due to cannibalizing sales from other stores, ridiculous overexpansion, not measuring store profitability, etc.

Longer hours may have hurt profitability but it helped them connect with their customers, some of whom read books, met with friends, etc. Now Starbucks is playing defense. They are no longer the hunter; they have become the prey. Customers are being met by dark stores and late night lattes are no more....Every choice has consequences and I think Starbucks EXTREME focus on profitability may have swung the pendulum too much towards short-term profitability vs. long-term success.

What are your thoughts? Has the profitability pendulum swung too far at Starbucks and have their recent decisions risked future profitability too much? Have they alienated any customers with their hour changes?

Dan Ross

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Web 2.0 - Reviews Intregal to Online Sales

Great article/info. today on

According to NielsonOnline "Eight in ten online shoppers (81%) have read consumer-written product or retailer reviews when doing their holiday shopping this year........Customer reviews are an important research tool for online consumers, with 71% agreeing that consumer reviews make them more comfortable that they are buying the right product, Nielsen found."

This basically indicates that the power of web 2.0 (consumer's opinions posted online as an example) is growing.

Dan Ross