Friday, May 6, 2011

Morning Brief: Commodity prices fall as investors fear worsening recession; RIM says 'Amateur hour is over'

The latest jobless claim numbers were surely a sign to many investors that their hopes that a strengthening economy would increase demand were going to be in vain, as a result many starting dumping their holdings in commodities, driving down the price of oil, silver, sugar and coffee. The price of oil, for instance, fell below $100 for the first time in two months.

“Pop goes the bubble,” Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, was quoted in the New York Times.

Jobless claims grew by 43,000 to 474,000 in the last reporting week, a sign that the economy continues to struggle. Another factor weighing on commodity prices were comments made by the head of the European Central Bank who stated that interest rates overseas would not be rising until later this year, leading to a weakening of the Euro. This lead to gains by the dollar, forcing down the price of many commodities priced in dollars.

(This morning, however, the Labor Department reported that the economy added 244,000 new jobs – a pretty strong report.)

So what does this mean for ad dollars here in the States. My own contacts have been telling me that the ad picture has gotten more and more gloomy as oil prices have risen, in part because some producers, such as food, are so sensitive to transportation costs. As a result, ad budgets were being tightened in response. Any move downward in oil prices would be considered helpful in easing fears among executives thus preventing further cuts to marketing budgets.

In any case, 2011, which has shown modest to healthy revenue recovery for some consumer publishers has been at risk lately. B2B publishers, meanwhile, continue to see very little growth. The Q2 numbers will be a very important indicator for whether the year as a whole will be a good one.

Speaking of advertising: have you see this ad on the NYT website?


I don't know what the headline is referring to, do you? But the ad itself is pretty cool. The ad opens up to a fullscreen shot and is very inspired by, if I should say, iPad design. Ironic, huh?

In any case, RIM is spending big dollars trying to tramp down all the bad reviews it has received for its BlackBerry PlayBook. I could say that it won't work, but, you know, I am a big believer in advertising!

Most of yesterday was spent trying to get my iPad to work properly. Any attempt to back-up the device after being plugged into my computer failed. This system failure has never occurred before and began to happen immediately following two events: the installation of iOS 4.3.3 and my downloading the latest version of Adobe Creative Suite (5.5, which I have not opened up yet).

Restoring my iPad did not solve the problem so I began to look elsewhere for a cause. That was when another symptom appeared: my Time Machine back-ups to an external hard drive were also failing. One wouldn't think that the two things would be related but it turns out that they were. (At first I thought that the external hard drive was failing, but I could read and write to the drive with no problem. But any attempt to delete a file there literally took hours to accomplish.)

I was very close to reinstalling my Mac OS, something that I really didn't want to do, when I came upon an online chat between two people who were discussing a solution to his Time Machine woes. The online conversation turned to doing this: turning off Time Machine, switching the back-up drive to "none", and reformatting the external hard drive – then turn TM back on. Voila!

What was the problem? Probably a corrupt file in the Time Machine back-up folder. Starting from scratch was like unplugging a drain. Once that occurred my computer could deal with back-ups, in general. Strangely, though, I wasn't experiencing any problems with my iPhone back-ups.

Update: Ugh! My iPad problems continue. Clearly this is an iOS issue since this problems started with the last update, and now I know my computer is functioning fine.