WORK-LIFE BALANCE / SEP. 23, 2015
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5 Global Business Headlines From Last Week (Sept. 14 to 20)

After months and months of speculation, the Federal Reserve finally announced it would be delaying any increase to interest rates. Millions of Americans tuned in for the second Republican Party primary debate (will Donald Trump get the flowers from CNN executives?). Many consumers have started their Christmas shopping ahead of schedule. McDonald’s is shunning the food campaigns in favor of leading the migrant aid campaign. And BlackBerry is betting on its long list of patents to turnaround the company. 

See Also: 5 Global Business Headlines From Last Week (Sept. 7 to 13) 

These are the final biggest global business headlines from last week.

1. Federal Reserve Holds Off on Rate Hike

Journalists had their articles prepared. Markets took a deep breath. Financial analysts had their eyes glued to the television screen. On Thursday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen confirmed that the United States central bank would not be raising interest rates as was expected. 

The Fed Chair cited the jobs market, low inflation levels, weak global economic data and the situation in China as reasons why the central bank once again put off on any rate hike. The Fed hasn’t raised interest rates since 2006 and they have remained unchanged since 2006. 

The committee anticipates that it will be appropriate to raise the target range for the federal funds rate when it has seen some further improvement in the labor market and is reasonably confident that inflation will move back to its 2 percent objective over the medium term,”

the Fed said in a statement shortly after the meeting concluded. 

The only dissenting voice on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) was Richmond Fed Bank President Jeffrey Lacker. He wanted to hike rates by 25 basis points, which was a number that was floated around for quite sometime, prior to last week’s meeting. 

The next two FMOC meetings will take place October 27-28 and December 15-16. 

No longer are the unemployment or inflation rates measures for Fed action. It turns out Yellen and the 17-member FOMC are looking at the Shanghai stock markets, the U.S. dollar’s value, the price of oil and several economies around the world. 

As markets look to the two remaining FOMC meetings, some say that zero percent interest rates are here to stay. And even if the Fed does decide to hike rates, many argue that it doesn’t matter in the end because the central bank has created numerous distortions across the economy. 

One such person is Marc Faber, editor and publisher of the Gloom, Boom and Doom Report and one of the prognosticators of the last economic collapse. He told Bloomberg TV in an interview last week:  

They cut interest rates to zero in December 2008, so in three months time we will have the anniversary of almost seven years of almost zero interest rates. What I’m saying is that this has created a lot of distortions in the system, and I believe we’re going to pay for it…” 

Other central banks may follow suit and keep their rates at near zero, zero or in negative territory (hello European Central Bank).

2. Millions Tune in For CNN GOP Debate

The first Republican primary is still a few months away, but that hasn’t stopped some networks from holding GOP debates before the first day of fall. 

CNN hosted a prime time Republican primary debate Wednesday, and it turned out to be the most-watched program on the network’s history. The three-hour debate averaged 23.1 million viewers, while the 6 p.m. debate, which featured four candidates at the bottom of the polls, generated 6.3 million viewers on average. 

Here is an hourly breakdown of the CNN debate 

  • 6 p.m.: 4.8 million viewers 
  • 7 p.m.: 7.2 million viewers 
  • 8 p.m. 20.7 million viewers 
  • 9 p.m.: 24.7 million viewers 
  • 10 p.m.: 22.5 million viewers 
  • 11:15 p.m.: 20 million viewers 

In most instances, presidential primary debates draw anywhere from one to three million viewers. Many attribute CNN’s massive success to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump and Fox’s first GOP debate in August. 

Just to put it into context, CNN’s most-watched debate prior to Wednesday’s was the Democratic debate on Jan. 31, 2008, which generated an average of 8.3 million viewers. The network’s most-watched overall program was a "Larry King Live" special episode in 1993, which had Al Gore and Ross Perot debate the merits of NAFTA. This episode brought in 16.8 million viewers. 

Indeed, the Republican debate easily eclipsed both programs. 

Despite CNN’s record breaking event, it still fell short of Fox’s Republican debate. The Ohio-based debate averaged 24 million live viewers, while its earlier debate had about 6.1 million viewers. 

One of the reasons why CNN may have been beaten was because its debate was three hours long, compared to two hours that Fox booked. However, the three-hour length is better for candidates because it gives them more time and exposure.

3. Ready, Set, Go...Christmas Shopping

We may whine and moan when we see department stores and retail outlets dusting off the old Christmas decorations and advertising holiday sales before we purchased our first pumpkin latte, but it’s only because we demand it. No, really! We do, says a recent poll by a credit cards website. 

According to a new survey by CreditCards.com, close to 32 million Americans have already started their holiday shopping, while more than four million consumers have finished their holiday shopping list. With three months to go and consumers have already completed their Christmas shopping! 

The poll discovered that parents are twice as likely to have begun their holiday shopping, compared to those adults without any children.  

We love to complain about stores putting up holiday displays earlier and earlier each year," said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, in a statement. "But the truth is that millions of Americans start holiday shopping long before the first Christmas tree appears in a store." 

Why are Americans shopping so early? Some of the reasons consist of wanting to stay within budget, not wanting to be rushed and the Internet provides a lot of great deals before the big day. Also, what may be a lot more important to a majority of people, the early birds reduce their stress levels by shopping early. 

4. McDonald's Leads Migrant Aid Efforts

Remember when Burger King wanted to broker a peace deal between itself and McDonald’s last month? Well, the home of the Big Mac turned down the offer. Instead, the company is focusing on leading efforts to do their part in the global migrant crisis. 

Rather than facilitate a peace deal between Burger King and McDonald’s, the latter wants world peace. The company announced Sunday it is leading a multi-million-dollar advertising campaign to promote the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and help refugee victims of conflicts in the Middle East. 

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook, who declined the Burger King invitation, ran a 30-second TV and online ad to promote the cause. It will air in 38 countries and be cross-promoted on digital platforms everywhere starting this week. It is being called "Symbols." 

If anyone can help an international effort to help feed refugees and the fight against hunger, it’s us,"

Easterbrook said in a statement on Sunday. 

McDonald’s may have won this brief tiff with its multi-decade rival. Ultimately, Burger King teamed up with Denny’s, Krystal and Giraffas. The company announced they would hand out 1,500 mashup burgers Monday at a pop-up store in Atlanta, Georgia. 

As Burger King tries to promote a burger, McDonald’s is looking to save lives. Who’ll win?

5. BlackBerry Betting on Patents for Turnaround Success

Since 2007, the Canadian-based BlackBerry has really fallen from grace. The smartphone maker was on the world stage, its stock was trading around $200 per share and it was destined for greatness. Fast forward to today, its market share is around two percent, its stock is barely registering at $10 per share and it’s struggling to survive. 

John Chen, CEO, has done a lot of great things for BlackBerry in the past year alone. One of these includes having the company focus on enterprise software and security - ostensibly, executives, managers and government officials still utilize BlackBerry because it’s safe to use. 

Speaking at the Waterloo Innovation Summit on Thursday, Chen explained that its massive portfolio of 44,000 patents will be the important element to ensure its turnaround strategy is successful. And the proof is already in the pudding. 

The company’s fiscal first quarter results were impressive because of its monetization of its intellectual property as its software and licensing revenues jumped more than 150 percent to $137 million. 

We have today about 44,000 patents. The good thing about this is that we also have one of the youngest patent portfolios in the entire industry, so monetization of our patents is an important aspect of our turnaround,"

Chen told an audience in Waterloo, Ontario. 

According to Chen, the biggest challenge it faces is between balancing safeguards of its patents through lawsuits or monetizing them with licensing agreements. He referred to the former as being a "patent troll," a very lucrative business as HBO’s John Oliver pointed out this past summer. 

If you want to go about monetizing your patents in a non-aggressive, legal way then it takes time, and in a turnaround time is one of the key commodities you don’t have, so balancing those two is very difficult".

In the end, Chen committed to BlackBerry’s innovation and remaining a key leader in communications security, a niche that the firm is hoping to dominate.

See Also: 5 Global Business Headlines From Last Week (Aug. 24 to 30) 

Fed Chair Janet Yellen said no rate hike is coming anytime soon. CNN made a killing off of the GOP primary debate that was won by Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina. Consumers are already gearing up for Christmas, even with three months to go. McDonald’s wants to help the refugees as part of the migrant crisis. BlackBerry believes it can return to prominence through its thousands of patents. 

Are there any other important headlines that we missed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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