Supreme Court Destroys Aereo, First-Quarter GDP Worst Since '09, General Mills Falls

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Jun 25, 2014 at 11:00PM

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) rebounded from its previous loss, gaining 49 points Wednesday as investors ignored poor GDP news.

1. Supreme Court ruling kills TV-disruption company Aereo
The jig is up for up-and-coming Internet TV company Aereo. The Supreme Court (yeah, those nine old people wearing black robes that you can't name one of) ruled that Aereo's business model was illegal -- basically stealing live network TV to resell to young people who hate cable TV plans.

"Cutting the cord" is what every young person living in Brooklyn's Williamsburg has already done -- opting for laptop-based video streaming for your favorite shows instead of subscribing to an expensive cable plan. The problem is, live programming on those network channels -- ABC, Fox, CBS (NYSE:CBS), NBC -- isn't available.

The rare hipster NFL fan can't watch a live game on CBS without a TV -- that is until Aereo made tiny antennas that take CBS' broadcast signal and quickly send the signal to your computer via the cloud. Their options were awesome and cheap -- like $1-a-day deals and per-channel choices.

You know you've made it in business in America when you get sued. Those networks sued Aereo for copyright infringement and won with Wednesday's Supreme Court decision. Entrepreneurs are ticked off that the court sided with the big guys and potentially stunted innovation in the streaming TV area. But others are certain that networks and Time Warner Cable are bound to lose their tight grip on your live-TV-seeking eyeballs. CBS rose 6% Wednesday, and other conventional TV networks rose, too. Aereo can kiss its business goodbye.

2. GDP officially shrinks at 2.9% rate in Q1
From bad, to worse, to worst since the recession. The broadest measure of our economy's awesomeness is its gross domestic product, and the Commerce Department reported finally that the U.S. economy shrank at an annualized 2.9% rate in the first quarter. Case closed: The first quarter was a big, fat lemon.

Horrible weather isn't a typical cause of a recession, but the brutal winter of 2014 is halfway to that infamy (a recession is two straight quarters of negative growth). Typical drivers of growth were neutralized across the board by bitter cold and your fear of slipping on ice and embarrassing yourself in front of strangers in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Not only did consumer spending suffer considerably, but business investment, health-care spending, and even our exports were also literally frozen by multiple polar vortexes.

Economists will tell you that the fact that some snowstorms can bring our economy to its knees is an alarming sign about its greater health. Shrinkage of 2.9% is the worst since Q1 2009's devastating Great Recession decline of 5.9%, but investors aren't too worried.

The first reading was 0.1% (but it was way off), then -1% growth was almost there in last month's revised estimate, but this final reading of -2.9% by the government will go down in the history books. Investors had largely already written off the first quarter as dead at -1%, so they ignored this report like it was old news. Besides, pent-up demand should make this quarter hot as a pig in a blanket.

3. General Mills proposes $40 million cost-cutting plan
The Lucky Charms are magically delicious, but the quarterly performance wasn't. Shares of cereal icon General Mills (NYSE:GIS) fell more than 3% Wednesday following a bad-tasting earnings report. Not only did revenue fall 2.9% from the same period last year to $4.28 billion, but CEO Ken Powell also referred to sales as "disappointing."

Investors are always after their lucky charms (aka profits), so General Mills has had to react. That's why the company also introduced its "cost-cutting plan" to save $40 million over the next year by altering its North American manufacturing and distribution network. It's too bad they can't just add more marshmallows to cereal to boost sales.

The takeaway is that General Mills also owns brands Green Giant vegetables and Betty Crocker cake mixes, and it's not the only packaged-food company facing sales problems right now. Competitors Heinz and Campbell Soup have also slashed costs to pump up profits -- they're closing factories, laying off workers (and bad brands), and even limiting their executives' first-class travel.

As originally published on


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