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Weight Watchers stock to rally thanks to influencers

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J.P. Morgan added Weight Watchers to the firm’s list of “overweight” stocks, saying the weight loss company is poised for “outsized” growth as it looks to add more big-name celebrities through its partnership with Oprah Winfrey.

“Management stabilized the trajectory … by revamping its points program, significantly improving the mobile platform, and recruiting pivotal social media influencers,” J.P. Morgan analyst Christina Brathwaite wrote in a note.

“Winfrey is and will continue to be a key advertising partner [as the company expands] by broadening its social media influencer base,” Brathwaite said, adding that Weight Watchers this year signed record producer DJ Khaled, chef Eric Greenspan, comedian Kevin Smith and singer Hélène Ségara as influencers.

Shares of Weight Watchers rose more than 5 percent in early trading Tuesday. The stock was up 96 percent in the past year through Monday’s close at $86.90. J. P. Morgan’s price target of $105 a share is 21 percent higher than that closing price.

Partnering with Winfrey was one of “three key events” in 2015 that “helped stabilize sales” in 2016, Brathwaite wrote. Combined with the other two key events – overhauling its points program and the new WW mobile application – Weight Watchers is now heading steadily toward is annual revenue target of over $2 billion by 2020, according to Brathwaite.

Winfrey, who owns about 8 percent of Weight Watchers’ stock and is on the board of directors, signed a promotional deal that lasts until October 2020. Her role as a Weight Watchers spokeswoman is a critical asset “for the company given her marketing clout in the U.S.,” Brathwaite wrote.

J.P. Morgan said it believes the company benefits from “Winfrey’s wide network of influential senior leaders across companies in the U.S.”

The company reaches members as they follow the progress of celebrity endorsers who are going through weight loss and health improvement programs. It aims to increase engagement with specific demographics through the steady sharing of information on social media “rather than traditional weight loss ads” depicting before and after pictures, Brathwaite wrote.

It also has been trying to expand beyond a distinct customer demographic, as the average member is dominantly female, white and about 50 years old. Instead of marketing specifically toward men, Brathwaite wrote that J.P Morgan believes that Weight Watchers’ rebranding as “WW” showcases the company “as a lifestyle brand,” while the addition of male influencers like Khaled and Greenspan will also help increase male membership.



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Harvard professor Roland Fryer faces reports of sexual harassment

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Harvard University professor Roland Fryer speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Sept. 25, 2008.

Ramin Talaie | Corbis Historical | Getty Images

Harvard University professor Roland Fryer speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Sept. 25, 2008.

A prominent Harvard University economics professor is being investigated for sexual harassment, according to a new report.

Roland G. Fryer Jr., a 2011 MacArthur “Genius” fellowship recipient, is the one of the latest powerful men to get flagged amid the #MeToo movement, which took hold last year. More than 200 men have lost their jobs or major roles as a result, the New York Times said in October.

A Harvard investigator found that Fryer was involved in “unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” with four women who worked at Fryer’s research lab, the New York Times reported on Friday. The investigator learned that one person who made an accusation about Fryer took disability leave in response to Fryer’s behavior, according to the report.

Allegations about Fryer came to light earlier this year but Friday’s New York Times article provides new details.

One woman who worked in the lab reportedly said that Fryer regularly made inappropriate comments about women, but that his reputation for being vindictive made it difficult for people to speak up. And two women told the investigator they disapproved of how Fryer had put his crotch in the face of a woman at the lab by placing his foot on her desk, the article said.

Read the full article here.



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Goldman says U.S.-China not likely to reach trade deal by March and more tariffs are coming

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President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

President Donald Trump (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping walk together at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017.

Goldman Sachs economists said it’s more likely than not that U.S.-China trade negotiators will not reach a deal in time to head off higher tariffs on March 1, and importers could rush to order their goods in January and February ahead of the deadline.

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to hold off on further tariffs until March 1 so the two sides could negotiate a trade agreement. China also agreed to remove new auto tariffs on U.S. imports, and Washington reported that Beijing is fulfilling another promise to purchase American soybeans, with its first significant order in six months, amounting to 1.13 million tons.

But they have to show some progress by the March 1 deadline in order to delay further action. “While we think it is a close call, we believe it is slightly more likely that negotiations will fall short of what is necessary for a further delay,” wrote the Goldman economists.

Goldman said international trade data reflect the front-loading of goods ahead of the last round of tariffs, and also the fact that soybean purchases had fallen off dramatically.

The October trade data were the first look at what happened after tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese goods and on $60 billion of U.S. goods went into effect in September. Goldman said imports and exports were both pulled forward before the $200 billion tariff round went into effect Sept. 24, and they both fell after tariffs were implemented, just as they had done after the first round.

Over the summer months, the U.S. had also implemented 25 percent tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese imports, and China responded in kind.

The effect was a widening in the U.S. trade deficit. “Declining exports along side modestly increasing imports pushed the trade deficit with China to an all-time high in October,” the economists wrote.

U.S. imports from China are about $5 billion lower on an annualized basis and exports are about $15 billion lower, due to seasonal factors surrounding soybean exports to China. The economists said there have been sizable shifts in a few large categories, which includes the impact from soybeans. About 60 percent of annual exports of soybeans to China are in the fourth quarter, about 25 percent in October alone.

“Excluding soybeans, exports to China are only modestly lower on a seasonably adjusted basis,” they wrote. As for imports, U.S. imports of electronic circuits and memory components rose ahead of the second round of tariffs and fell sharply after they were put in place

If there is no agreement by March 1, tariffs are scheduled to rise to 25 percent from 10 percent on $200 billion in Chinese goods.

WATCH:How big Harley-Davidson is and why it’s a trade-war target



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‘We are tired of people asking us about target prices’  

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In November, Lee cut his price target from $25,000 to $15,000. A key driver for the revision was bitcoin’s “break-even” point, the level at which mining costs match the trading price.

Bitcoin is closing out a miserable trading year. The cryptocurrency is down 75 percent since January, trading near $3,324 on Thursday, according to data from CoinDesk. From its high near $20,000 in December, the cryptocurrency has lost more than 82 percent of its value.

For bitcoin to stage a price rebound, Lee said user adoption needs to increase, and it needs to be embraced as a real asset class.

But looking out longer term, if the amount of bitcoin users approached even 7 percent of Visa’s total 4.5 billion currently, Lee’s regression model would place fair value at $150,000 per bitcoin.

“Hence, the risk/reward is still strong,” Lee said. “Given the steep discounts of [bitcoin] to our fair value models, the excessive bearish sentiment about fundamentals does not seem warranted.”

Still, Lee said technicals remain important in cryptocurrency trading and as long as bitcoin remains below its 200-day moving average, investors will likely still stay bearish.



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