Filling in the O

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Oprah has, over the course of the last two decades or so, amassed an empire that few would’ve thought possible originally. Her TV show, television network, magazine, and other holdings are worth billions. However, she is finally retiring from her show and it is other companies that are worrying about the dip in consumer interest. This article highlights many of the companies and industries that depend upon Oprah to drive interest and sales numbers up. The most interesting part of the article to me, by far, concerned the publishing industry:

Publishers around the country are also voicing concern. According to Nielsen, Oprah’s Book Club has contributed to the sale of 22 million copies of books in the last decade. “It’s a bummer for publishers,” confides Mary Glenn, an associate publisher at McGraw-Hill. “When she recommends a book it skyrockets. Publishers will miss her general support of reading.”

To me, this is the single most astounding figure in the article. Twenty-two million books? Oprah could move some paper. I have no doubt that she will continue to move paper, too, but that is an amazing amount of literature. It’s true that Oprah’s recommendation was like a golden seal of approval–it could make you a millionaire. It will be interesting to see how this collection of side-industries weathers the lack of Oprah.


Spit and Hope

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The President of auto manufacturer Toyota Motor Corp. issued a apology on behalf of the company Monday to Chinese consumers, whom the company depends upon heavily. They make up a very large and important market to Toyoto, if only because of proximity and population.

Despite troubling recalls in recent months, Toyota reiterated it’s sales goal in China for 2010, 800,000 units. That is a tall order for a company which has suffered massive damage to its public brand.

In January, the auto maker issued a recall notice for 75,552 RAV4 sport-utility vehicles in China. The company is recalling 8.5 million vehicles worldwide for problems including unintended acceleration related to gas pedal flaws.

Mr. Toyoda reiterated that the RAV4 is the only model in China affected by gas pedal flaws.

We’ll see if those sales predictions hold up. My grandfather used to tell me, “You can spit in one hand and hope in the other–I’ll tell you which one fills up faster.”


On the Upswing

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One of the worst economic recessions in decades has plagued the world in 2009. The year’s stock market has been marked by continued decreases in the market. Luckily, things are starting to look better as the year closes. This will always be remembered as a bad year, but the final week looks to be an improvement. This should give hope to many investors and consumers who want 2010 to be a better year. Steady improvement since March has led to an optimistic forecast for 2010.

Even though no “all clear” has been sounded for the U.S. economy, equity strategists said stocks were poised to add to recent gains this week and build a base for a solid start to 2010 as optimism about the recovery grows.

Let’s hope that the recovery is indeed right ahead of us. A decent week in the market could be just what the economy needs to really start climbing.


Credit Cards Schmedit Schmards.

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It is the first time in over a decade that the credit card delinquency rate has fallen according to a new report. It seems counter-intuitive that in the middle of a recession would be the first time consumers were paying down their credit card debt. A drop from 1.17% to 1.1% is the largest, and indeed only, decline that has occurred in quarterly reporting since 1999.

The part that was truly shocking to me was that this survey was conducted by randomly sampling over 27 million credit card files, which is only 10% of the population that has credit card debt. While Alaska had the highest raw number of debt per person, $7699, Nevada had the nation’s largest rate of delinquency, at nearly 2%.

This sort of heavy downshifting in debt signals that consumers know that credit card debt is not good to have in a depressed economy, and that there is no reason they should be paying interest on money they owe–it is a waste.