Lost among most of the discussions about the health of Venezuela’s president-for-life, Hugo Chavez, as he moves toward what seems will be an imminent death is the future of the nation’s oil exports. Chavez has changed the industry in the South American nation via a series of nationalizations of crude production. And the efficiency with which Venezuela finds and refines oil has slowed. Chavez has fed much of the region with cheap oil, which has helped some national economies — particularly that of Cuba. By many measures, Venezuela is first among all nations based on proven oil reserves, just ahead of Saudi Arabia. That means any disruption of its exports could drive crude prices higher, at least temporarily. Alternatively, if a new government elects to export larger quantities of oil to fill the national treasury, global oil prices could drop substantially. Chavez may be dead in a week, and with him Venezuela’s long-term oil strategy.
Samsung vs. Apple
Samsung is not only the world’s largest handset company; it may soon become the most dominant one in smartphones. That means it must take more market share from Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL). Based on Apple’s share price, investors fear, among other things, Samsung’s success with Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android-based phones. According to Reuters:
Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is expected to widen its lead over Apple Inc in global smartphone sales this year with 35 percent growth, helped by a broad product lineup, according to market researcher Strategy Analytics.
This will take place as the overall market explodes:
Global smartphone shipments will jump 27 percent to 875 million this year, slowing from last year’s torrid 41 percent pace as growth is easing in many key markets such as North America, China, the developed economies of Asia, and Western Europe.
The Strategy Analytics does not offer much hope to the industry’s other players beyond Apple and Samsung.
Top Luxury Cars
The luxury car sales race in the United States in 2012 was won by BMW, with Mercedes second and Toyota Motor Corp.’s (NYSE: TM) Lexus in third. The two American luxury brands, Ford Motor Co.’s (NYSE: F) Lincoln and General Motors Co.’s (NYSE: GM) Cadillac, did not make much of a showing. According to Bloomberg:
Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW)’s BMW sales surged 39 percent in the U.S. in December to top Daimler AG (DAI)’s Mercedes-Benz in luxury-auto deliveries for the year as U.S. light-vehicle sales reached the highest level since 2007. Enlarge image BMW Overtakes Mercedes With U.S. Auto Sales Best Since ’07.
With a 72 percent increase in 5 Series deliveries last month, Munich-based BMW boosted its annual total by 14 percent to a record 281,460, edging out Mercedes for a second straight year.