What Is Important in the Financial World (4/2/2013)

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High European Unemployment

Eurostat reported that unemployment in 17-nation euro area continues to hover at 12%. It is worth remembering that, at the depths of the recession, U.S. joblessness barely topped 10% during the worst months. Europe shows no sign of a recovery, based on the Eurostat numbers and others from Markit, which measures PMI.

Eurostat put unemployment in Greece and Spain at more than 26%, a figure that continues to approach that of some months during the Great Depression. Indications are that, among the young, the jobless rate is closer to 50% in the nations most badly damaged economically. Europe already has a lost generation as these people move into adulthood with no means of support and, therefore, no purchasing power or way to save. Eurostat reports:

Eurostat estimates that 26.338 million men and women in the EU27, of whom 19.071 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in February 2013. Compared with January 2013, the number of persons unemployed increased by 76 000 in the EU27 and by 33 000 in the euro area. Compared with February 2012, unemployment rose by 1.805 million in the EU27 and by 1.775 million in the euro area.

Among the Member States, the lowest unemployment rates were recorded in Austria (4.8%), Germany (5.4%), Luxembourg (5.5%) and the Netherlands (6.2%), and the highest in Greece (26.4% in December 2012), Spain (26.3%) and Portugal (17.5%).

And:

In February 2013, 5.694 million young persons (under 25) were unemployed in the EU27, of whom 3.581 million were in the euro area. Compared with February 2012, youth unemployment rose by 196 000 in the EU27 and by 188 000 in the euro area. In February 2013, the youth unemployment rate was 23.5% in the EU27 and 23.9% in the euro area, compared with 22.5% and 22.3% respectively in February 2012. In February 2013, the lowest rates were observed in Germany (7.7%), Austria (8.9%) and the Netherlands (10.4%), and the highest in Greece (58.4% in December 2012), Spain (55.7%), Portugal (38.2%) and Italy (37.8%).

American Greetings Goes Private

American Greetings Corp. (NYSE: AM) has surrendered to the fact that the age of the paper card are over. The company never created a business online to make up for its disappearing business. The family that founded it will take American Greetings private. The company announced:

Under the agreement, American Greetings Class A and Class B shareholders, excluding the Weiss Family and related entities, will receive $18.20 per share in cash, and, if declared by the Board of Directors, one regular quarterly dividend of $0.15 per share declared and payable in a manner consistent with the Company’s past practice.  If the transaction closed in July 2013, the targeted closing date, the total cash amount shareholders would receive would be $18.35 per share.  The total value of the transaction is approximately $878 million, including the assumption of the Company’s 7⅜% notes due 2021, which will remain outstanding after the transaction, the repayment of borrowings under the company’s revolving credit facility and the settlement of stock options not held by the Weiss Family.

For a dying business, shareholders got a good price.

Ghost of Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is still not dead, at least so far as new products introduced by Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) are concerned. There are rumors that the next two versions of the iPhone have his fingerprints on them, which means they were in development almost two years ago. It is hard to see how even a visionary could see that far. According to CNET:

The late co-founder may have been involved in the development of the next two versions of iPhone, according to a report in the San Francisco Examiner. That information was supposedly imparted to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón by Apple’s government liaison, Michael Foulkes, during discussions with Apple regarding the growing problem of mobile phone theft.

And:

[T]hat would seem to suggest that Jobs was involved with concept and design discussions about several future models not long before his death in October 2011.

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