What’s Important in the Financial World (5/11/2012) China Slows, Bing and Facebook

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There are signs of economic trouble in two pillars of the developing world, a signal that the global slowdown has caught up to what were among the most robust countries. Industrial output fell 1.5% in India in March. China’s factory production rose only 9.3% in April, the National Bureau of Statistics reported. Either demand for China’s exports has cooled because of problems in Europe, or internal demand for goods has dropped. Worse, both factors could have been contributors. Most forecasts of global growth in 2012 assumed strength in the two nations. That hope can no longer be counted on.

Mother’s Day Spending

Spending for Mother’s Day is expected to rise 8% from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Either people love their mothers more than last year, or the forecast is a sign that the American recovery has not faltered as much as feared. The association reports:

According to NRF’s 2012 Mother’s Day consumer spending survey conducted by BIGinsight, the average person celebrating the holiday is expected to spend $152.52 on gifts, up from $140.73 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $18.6 billion.

The purchasing level has moved close to prerecession levels. The NRF was quick to point out that the numbers were particularly good because gas prices are relatively high. Despite that, trips to stores will be unaffected.

A New Bing

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Facebook have created an odd joint venture to help get the Bing search engine more use — at Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) expense. Bing results will be married with related posts from user Facebook accounts along with personal data from Twitter. Somehow, that way the opinions of friends and family members will influence the value of the search results. It is possible to see how the system would distort them, or at least make them less objective, thus undermining part of the beauty of search. The Microsoft team described the new product this way:

Now it’s possible to do more than find pages with search. You are able to share nearly everything you do, including where you are and who you are, in real-time. From rich multimedia content to real-time streams to social conversations to applications that let you take action in the real world, digital connections are created that present the opportunity to do something. This presents an unprecedented opportunity to rethink how search should work. Suddenly an index of documents that does not embrace these changes is insufficient.

“Insufficient” only so far as what people say about data brought back by algorithms matters.

Facebook IPO

Reuters reports that the Facebook IPO is already oversubscribed. That means the upper end of the projected price range of $28 to $35 may be raised soon. In turn, Facebook could then raise more than the $10.6 billion expected. The data could also be a sign, although an unpredictable one, that shares will rise once the IPO is complete. Obviously, the worries about slow ad growth and a lack of revenue from the social network’s mobile initiatives have been trumped by expectations of how much a company with 900 million potential customers can expand.

Douglas A. McIntyre