Oil Slips, Delta Flies, and RadioShack Gets Unplugged on Wall Street's Biggest Day of 2014

Good morning, good lookin'. Here are the three things you need to know on March 5.

Mar 5, 2014 at 7:00AM

While you were busy waiting in multi-block long lines to claim IHOP's National Pancake Day goods, Wall Street was stuffing its face with a maple syrup-fueled stock-buying binge. Just after plummeting for its worst loss in a month, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) rebounded 228 points Tuesday for its best day of 2014, while the S&P 500 reached a record high -- mostly thanks to Russian President Vladimir Putin's easing of tensions in Ukraine.

1. Oil prices slip back from war-sparked highs
Sorry, Cold War junkies, but the battle's still off. Classic Rocky-style East vs. West tensions rocked stock and commodities markets Monday as investors worried about Russia's push into Ukraine's Crimean peninsula -- but oil and other commodity prices took a chill pill Tuesday after Putin finally spoke to the press, making it pretty clear he's not interested in war right now. 
War -- what is it good for? Supply disruptions. Ukraine feeds the world with lots of potash, wheat, and (indirectly) oil. It's Russian gas and oil that flows through centrally located Ukrainian pipelines to Europe, and fears of an escalating conflict drove prices up to six-month highs Monday. But Putin knows how important his state-owned oil business is -- without oil money, Russia would just be a big frozen desert with an often bare-chested president.
Europeans are thirsty for Russian oil, and Putin's their No. 1 supplier. So France and Germany spoke softly and diplomatically Tuesday, while Putin said he doesn't want to annex Ukraine (he plays enough of the board game Risk already). The news smoothed the previously ruffled feathers of oil traders worldwide, and the price of barrels of crude slicked back somewhat. MarketSnacks will keep you updated as economics continues to subtly drive geopolitical conflicts.

2. Radio Shack earnings pull the plug on 1,100 stores
Nobody beats the Wiz, but everyone seems to be beating "The Shack." Shares of Radio Shack (NYSE:RSHCQ), the electronics retailer where you bought your first Nintendo Game Boy, fell 17% Tuesday after an even worse-than-expected earnings report -- a 19% drop in same-store sales caused a 20% loss in revenues from last year, down to $935 million over the last quarter.

What unplugged Radio Shack last quarter? Santa. While retail sales were lower than forecast at retailers nationwide, Radio Shack's "intense promotional activity" with price-slashed electronics still failed to gain buyers during the peak holiday season. Given the coal-worthy news, Radio Shack execs also announced in the earnings report that they'll be closing 1,100 stores in underperforming markets faster than you can order a computer from Amazon.com.

The takeaway is that as recently as early February, investors had some hope for The Shack. Following the Super Bowl, the stock surged 7% thanks to its self-deprecating "The '80s Called: They Want Their Store Back" ad that got Wall Street wondering if consumers would rethink their lack of respect for The Shack. Looks like they didn't.

3. Delta Air Lines stock soars to all-time high
We'll spare you all the "cleared for lift-off" airplane metaphors. Nonetheless, shares of Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) rose 5.7% Tuesday to their highest point since it exited bankruptcy in 2007. Maybe now they'll stop charging us for the mid-flight peanuts we crave.

Why the sky-high number? Traffic rose 2.4% in February for the world's second-largest airline, with a notable 21% jump in mid-winter travel to Latin America (thanks, polar vortexes). Most impressively though, revenue for each seat flown 1 mile jumped 4% from last year, meaning Delta either managed to cram more people on each flight or pump up prices (or both).

Most interestingly of all, the brutal winter weather that's pounded the U.S. economy and all other airlines shockingly kind of helped Delta. While competitor United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) slashed a whopping 12.9% of its flights in the past two months, Delta cut only 4.5% of its flights.

  • The Federal Reserve's "Beige Book" gives us the central bank's assessment of the U.S. economy.
  • ADP's February Employment Report previews the big monthly jobs report due Friday.
  • Fourth-quarter corporate earnings: Adidas reports.

MarketSnacks Fact of the Day: Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp last month was more than the entire annual funding of NASA ... and the entire world music industry.

As originally published on MarketSnacks.com

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A Financial Plan on an Index Card

Keeping it simple.

Aug 7, 2015 at 11:26AM

Two years ago, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack wrote his entire financial plan on an index card.

It blew up. People loved the idea. Financial advice is often intentionally complicated. Obscurity lets advisors charge higher fees. But the most important parts are painfully simple. Here's how Pollack put it:

The card came out of chat I had regarding what I view as the financial industry's basic dilemma: The best investment advice fits on an index card. A commenter asked for the actual index card. Although I was originally speaking in metaphor, I grabbed a pen and one of my daughter's note cards, scribbled this out in maybe three minutes, snapped a picture with my iPhone, and the rest was history.

More advisors and investors caught onto the idea and started writing their own financial plans on a single index card.

I love the exercise, because it makes you think about what's important and forces you to be succinct.

So, here's my index-card financial plan:


Everything else is details. 

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