Alibaba offers two insights into China economy

January 28, 2016

The e-commerce giant’s third-quarter revenue rose 32 pct, above expectations. It shows China shifting to more consumption. But it also shows that Alibaba, like China, needs new ways to grow. Forays into local services and the cloud make it a less useful proxy for the consumer.

JPMorgan results offer compelling case for fintech

January 14, 2016

Jamie Dimon’s bank is lending more and reducing drags on capital. Yet Q4 return on equity was only 9 pct and relied heavily on one-offs – and the bank is a top performer in the industry. Rising interest rates won’t help much, but new technology could boost revenue and savings.

Cox: Quarterly reporting to get a major rethink

November 17, 2015

From BlackRock’s Larry Fink to presidential contender Hillary Clinton, “quarterly capitalism” has become a four-letter word. Big publicly traded asset managers could change habits by abandoning their own three-monthly results. Watch for that in the coming year.

Time Warner leaving gate ajar for Fox return

November 4, 2015

Boss Jeff Bewkes thwarted Rupert Murdoch’s $80 bln takeover bid with some bold stand-alone projections. A year later, the HBO owner’s results are failing to impress. Its stock trades below Fox’s offer price and at a discount to peers, making it vulnerable to a fresh approach.

Exxon pumps up position in world of cheap oil

October 30, 2015

The $340 bln energy giant is standing firm despite $50-a-barrel crude, avoiding the kind of writedowns and job cuts that tarnished results at Shell and Chevron. An iron-clad balance sheet and strong cash flow leave Exxon primed to acquire assets as weaker producers falter.

Conoco shows flexibility in oil’s awful year

October 29, 2015

The $66 bln crude producer cut capital-spending plans yet again as it reported a $1.1 bln loss in the third quarter. Low oil prices have yet to hit output, though. And CEO Ryan Lance is cutting other costs, too. Investors can take comfort from all that, but should still watch their dividends.

Google and Amazon grapple happily with maturity

October 22, 2015

Alphabet, the new holding company for the search giant, is returning cash to shareholders. Amazon delivered profits. Both operations are growing so fast, and throwing off so much cash, that they can act as responsible stewards of capital while still chasing the next big thing.

Banks need more than Fed’s help to boost earnings

October 19, 2015

Execs and shareholders alike place a lot of faith in rate hikes improving the bottom line. Lenders’ stated benefits of an upward move, though, aren’t just unrealistic - they also won’t do much for returns. Higher borrowing costs also tend to hit banks with unforeseen problems.

Morgan Stanley Q3 casts doubt on low-risk strategy

October 19, 2015

The bank’s $740 mln profit equates to a 3.9 pct ROE, the worst of any big bank. Adding back one-offs takes that only to the 7 pct Goldman managed. CEO James Gorman promised a safer and more solid enterprise than its rival. On this showing, it’s more boring without the benefits.

Memo to Netflix: Card swipe may not connect

October 16, 2015

Plastic purveyors are hitting back after the video-streaming site blamed new chip-enabled credit cards for subpar Q3 subscriber growth. Netflix’s reason sounds weak. More worrying, companies using spurious-sounding ways to rationalize problems sometimes have bigger concerns.