Chinese Econ Data, McDonald's Un-Tasty Earnings, and Starbucks' Caffeiney Earnings

Chinese Econ Data, McDonald's Un-Tasty Earnings, and Starbucks' Caffeiney Earnings

The big news on Wall Street on Thursday was this investment banker's crazy/hilarious Seamless restaurant rant over a mediocre roast beef panini. The other drama came out of Asia -- The Dow plummeted 176 painful points Thursday on some not-sweet, very-sour Chinese econ news.

1. Chinese manufacturing takes a hit
China's manufacturing sector shrank for the first time in six months. The Purchasing Managers' Index of China came in at 49.6 for January (anything below 50 indicates contraction). China's economy has buzzed at a whopping 7%-10% growth for many years now and would make General Tso proud, and this ugly blemish on the growth record caused broad losses for U.S. stocks.

China is still the growth engine of the global economy -- it's like Beyonce driving Destiny's Child record sales. Trillions of dollars of cheap goods -- and whatever fancy technology you're reading this on -- are all manufactured across the Pacific, so the news could indicate weakening demand from more developed countries. That's a bad sign for stocks relying on profit growth.

The Red Plague spread across all markets. Investors in global markets switched into lock-down mode, i.e. sell your risky stuff and buy safe stuff. Stocks and assets in emerging markets lost value Thursday in the sell-off, and safe-havens like U.S. government bonds gained value.

2. McDonald's ends 2013 with tasteless earnings

Investors just aren't lovin' it. The french-fry king McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) reported disappointing earnings Thursday, as revenues rose just 2% in the last quarter of 2013 from the same time the previous year. Maybe people are finally getting creeped out by Ronald.

Where's the beef, McD? Despite the addition of 1,500-calorie, artificial looking smoothies, the temporary return of the cult classic McRib sandwich, and a streamlined Dollar Menu, the megachain's creative menu changes in 2013 didn't sit well with consumers' stomachs.

The takeaway is that while sales rose in Europe last year, sales declined in the U.S., Africa, the Middle East, and were even flat in China -- all these are supposed to be growth markets. So looking forward, McD's New Year's resolution is to open 1,500 new restaurants and "modernize" 1,000 more in 2014. All we want are adult Happy Meal toys.

3. Starbucks profits get caffeine boost

Starbucks profits jumped 30% from last year, according to the after-hours earnings report from Thursday. Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) pulled in a record $4.2 billion revenue in the three months ending 2013, and the stock climbed 1% in after-hours trading Thursday.

It's opening 1,000 stores in 2014, so you better get the Starbucks app to speed up your purchase, or the whole world will hate you. Starbucks is doing so well, people are buying Starbucks gift cards more than ever, with $1.4 billion of the $4.2 billion revenues put on gift cards.

Starbucks sales jumped in the fourth quarter like clockwork. Traditionally, holiday shoppers needed their Starbucks double-shot espressos in seasonal red cups to push them across the finish line. Online shopping, though, dulled this spike in fourth-quarter sales. The CFO wasn't thrilled about this new development hampering coffee demand, but assured investors that "you can't buy a cup o' Starbucks online."


  • Fourth Quarter earnings from Samsung and Kia

MarketSnacks Fact of the Day: Half of all US jobs could be replaced by robots within 20 years.

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