Unstructured Finance

Grains insight for the week of Feb. 26

February 24, 2007

stebbins_2.jpgInflation worries and forecasts for a dry U.S. summer sent shivers through CBOT markets this week, with corn reaching a 10-year high and soybeans at 2-1/2 year top.

Watch out eBay — Amazon is coming

February 20, 2007

amazon.jpgEBay may have the online auctioneering game covered, but it should be looking over its shoulder at competitor Amazon.com, according to a recent consumer report.

That $50 Fendi purse looks tempting, but what’s its real cost?

February 16, 2007

   fendi.jpg                                        Admit it, you’d be tempted to buy that fake Louis Vuitton bag.
    But what about fake food? Medicines? How about a Europe trip on an airplane that may be flying on fake parts?
    According to law firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, counterfeit goods today extend beyond perfumes and handbags, and are increasingly showing up in daily-use products like food, medicines, household products and even auto and airplane parts.
    So although it may seem harmless when you flaunt that nearly-original-looking handbag, but not as much fun when you end up with a stomach ache after swallowing what you thought was real, FDA-approved medicine.
    The New York-based law firm, which co-sponsored the Third Annual Global Congress on Combating Counterfeiting and Piracy in late January, outlined a few statistics about counterfeit goods at the meeting:
    — The World Health Organization estimates that $35 billion worth of counterfeit pharmaceuticals are sold each year.
    — The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration estimates that 2 percent of the 26 million airline parts installed each year are fake.
    — 5.2 million fake foodstuff, drinks and alcohol are seized at EU borders each year.
    The risk may escalate to a level where in the next five years, one in every five people may be using counterfeit medicine, said Pfizer‘s Senior Vice President Robert Mallett at the meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland.
    “If you think you can avoid these counterfeit and pirated goods simply by avoiding flea markets and other such stores, you’re wrong,”  said Mark Mutterperl, a partner in Fulbright’s New York office.
    As for fake airplane parts – the FAA calls them “suspect unapproved parts” and has set up a special office in Washington D.C. to coordinate its efforts to identify and remove such parts from aircrafts, according to a report on the FAA Web site.
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration created the Counterfeit Alert Network in February 2004 to warn health professionals and consumer groups about counterfeit drugs and to inform consumers about exposure and recall information.
    Besides just proving bad for trade, counterfeiting also costs people jobs and results in tax and revenue losses and higher spending to fight it, according to Fulbright’s study.
    Besides increasing consumer awareness, other ways to stem counterfeiting include tightening existing laws and devising special ones for free trade zones and for Internet piracy, said Mutterperl. 
    But for those who still really crave that $50 fake Fendi — think beyond the bargain, he says.

Toy makers look to spark sales with MP3-playing toys

February 15, 2007

Reuters Toy Fair2.jpgAs children increasingly put down traditional toys at earlier ages for flashier, higher-tech gadgets like Apple Inc.‘s iPod, toy makers appear to have reached the following conclusion: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. 

Retail’s Winter Wonderland

February 8, 2007

That blast of winter that has turned much of the U.S. into Ice Station Zebra proved to be a boon for many U.S. retailers. Most retailers posted January sales that beat expectations, as gift-card wielding consumers, buoyed by lower gas prices, swept up the sweaters and scarves that stayed in store shelves during the unseasonably warm holiday shopping season.

Pre-orders rise as Harry prepares to vanish

February 2, 2007

Book sellers are champing at the bit for the July 21 release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” the seventh and final installment of J.K. Rowling’s wildly successful fantasy series, which has sold 325 million copies worldwide.