Three questions for the week, plus a new opportunity for profit growth in the technology market . . .
1. What Will the Fed Do? - The Federal Reserve is in a fragile position, as is the economy. With the Fed scheduled to announce its next move on interest rates tomorrow morning, what will they do? Raise rates and risk further slowing the economy? Or lower rates and open the door for higher inflation? Most likely it will do neither, but even that could have a big impact on investors.
2. Yahoo's Jerry Yang Safe at Home - The much anticipated Yahoo shareholders meeting last Friday turned out to be anticlimactic. Firebrand shareholder Carl Icahn was a no-show, the Microsoft deal is officially off, and embattled CEO Jerry Yang and the Yahoo board were both given votes of confidence by shareholders. But Yahoo isn't out of the woods yet - not with potential suitors like Google and AOL still out on the horizon. Investors still need to proceed with caution when it comes to Yahoo. I fear a false sense of security now that the dust seems to have settled. Will Yahoo investors rush in too soon and get pummeled?
3. Tax Rebates Come and Gone - What Will Consumer Spending Look Like? - The consumer spending numbers come out this morning, and most analysts say that the June numbers will be lower thanks to an end to government tax rebate checks. What's the consumer spending landscape like right now? Will lower oil prices compensate for the end in tax rebate checks? If the great American spender remains on the sidelines, this economy - and the stock market - won't be moving forward anytime soon.
A note from The Boston Globe this morning that new Apple iPhone users downloaded 25 million applications from the company’s new App Store – all within 10 days of the release of the new G3 iPhone. Apple may be breaking new ground here, as historically it was the telecom carriers calling the shots on cell phone downloads. Problem was, carriers like AT&T, Sprint and Verizon were pretty close-minded about what apps could be downloaded.
The Apple iPhone release may be changing all of that. Says the Globe “AT&T has no control over the applications downloaded to the iPhones, which AT&T offers exclusively. But the proliferation of new applications and the realization that they only make cellphones more popular has convinced executives there to give consumers more freedom.”
That should translate into higher profits for telecom providers, as well as cell phone makers.
“The industry, of course, has selfish reasons for promoting openness. Applications spur the use of higher-priced wireless data plans and the purchase of more expensive smartphones. "What is most important for us is to have a customer sign up for a plan," said Ralph de la Vega, who is in charge of AT&T's wireless unit. "We think we can have multiple ways to make money."
Consequently, cell phone applications are becoming a hot item for investors, especially as the market moves from the business community to the mainstream user. In the first six months of 2008, venture capitalist investments in the category rose 90%, to $383 million. That leaves a lot of room for growth – and a lot of room for opportunity.