Greece continues to demonstrate that it can teeter almost indefinitely between austerity and the grant of aid packages without a short-term resolution to its sovereign debt crisis. The latest development is that the ruling coalition has agreed to cut 15,000 public jobs. Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has set yet another meeting to get the nation’s most powerful politicians to agree to new government cost reductions. The European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund continue to say that time is up. But none of them, either individually or as a group, has taken any action to show the deadline for a Greek budget agreement has passed.
BP Fights On
The crisis at BP (NYSE: BP) due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster seems long gone. It is not. BP signaled an improvement of its financial health with a dividend increase. At almost the same time, the UK-based firm said it would “vigorously” contest suits against it because of the spill. That vigorous defense of actions will take years. The first major suits against it will be filed this month. Large liability cases brought by governments and private enterprises against major companies before indicate that the process of trial and settlement talks can drag on seemingly forever.
Toyota (NYSE: TM) announced the start of an unexpectedly rapid comeback from recall problems and the shuttering of many of its plants due to the Japanese earthquake of last March and more recent interruptions of its supply lines due to floods in Thailand. Toyota made $1.1 billion in the quarter that ended in December. Toyota raised forecasts for net and operating profit. The company still has to regain market share in the U.S. and gain on Volkswagen and General Motors (NYSE: GM) in China, the world’s largest car market. Its market share in the U.S. reached almost 18% four years ago, and it briefly moved ahead of Ford (NYSE: F). Its portion of the market is down to about 12%, and its has competition from resurrected GM and Chrysler, as well has rapidly selling new cars and light trucks made by South Korean manufacturing behemoth Hyundai.
Lumia 900 Launch
Nokia’s (NYSE: NOK) Lumia 900, its new flagship product, is about to go on sale in the U.S. The launch carries with it the hopes of a comeback for the world’s largest handset maker and its software partner Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). Microsoft has had terrible trouble as it struggled to sell its mobile OS against Apple’s (NASDAQ: AAPL), as well as smartphones that use the Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android platform. The recent history of smartphone launches shows that the fate of products usually is determined in the first few days they are available. Reports of strong sales bring new customers into stores. Reports of weak sales cause analysts and the press to label a new product DOA.
Douglas A. McIntyre