Monthly Archives: December 2015

Oil Prices Plunge After Iran Announcement

In the wake of a report stating that Iran intends to increase oil imports when economic sanctions are lifted, global oil prices plummeted by about 3 percent overall.

North America’s main oil blend benchmark price fell by over 3 percent, going for $37 per barrel on Monday. As a result, the Canadian dollar fell under 72 cents to the US dollar. West Texas Intermediate oil traded hands at $36.80 a barrel, falling 3.4 percent on the first trading day after last week’s mini rally.

A report stated that Iran intends to add 500,000 barrels of oil per day once sanctions on its trade are lifted as a result of the nuclear deal passed last summer. That just adds more oil to an already flooded market which has over 1 million barrels more oil everyday than the world consumes. The oversupply is keeping prices down as the buyer’s market is maintained.

The bad news for oil sellers is also bad news for Canada’s dollar. Canada’s currency is strongly linked to the price of oil.

The Business of Art and Auctions

Those in the art world wait every year for the Art+Auction’s annual guide to the most noteworthy people who are shaping the art trade. As the editors of the The Power 100 of 2015 explained, “To acknowledge power’s diverse sources, we have also included some familiar names simply for their sheer scope of influence or because they demonstrate that perfect execution of traditional business models can bring success, even in times of accelerating change.”

Here is a list of just a few of the noteworthy people shaping the art world today.

Craig Appelbaum: This former attorney launched the avant-garde Industry Gallery in Washington DC in 2010, and made waves doing so. He also opened a branch in the Los Angeles Pacific Design Center in 2011. He’s a pioneer in 21st century design and is showing work by designers such as Elana Manferdini, Tejo Remy, Tom Price and others.

Ali Aboutaam and Hicham Aboutaam: These second-generation antique dealers run Phoenix Ancient Art in New York and Geneva. They opened a second gallery space in Geneva recently geared towards younger collectors and are keeping their prices there until $21,000. They are continuing to develop their web portal and have recently partnered with New York gallerist Helly Nahmad for a special and quite unusual exhibit. The exhibit has paired their ancient antiques alongside the canvases of Giorgio de Chirico.

John Auerbach: This international managing director of e-commerce at Christie’s actually didn’t have a background in art before joining the house in 2012. He moved to Christie’s from the luxury shopping website Gilt Groupe and is one worth watching. His hire is part of the shift at Christie’s toward luxury goods being sold online.

Caroline Baumann: As the Museum Director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, she has been credited with transforming the museum and leading the three-year renovation. The museum space now incorporates technology like touch-screen tables and a stylus that lets visitors save information and create their own virtual collections to take with them.

Trend Away from Home Broadband

Millennials are today’s trendsetters, and they seem to be voting for less at-home internet and more smartphone usage, at least according to a new Pew Research Center poll.

Young people today are asking themselves why they should pay for broadband services if they are doing most of their browsing with their phones? And the answer is coming back more, that they aren’t.

Compare this preference to the shift from landlines to cellular phones over the past ten years. In 2005 90 percent of US homes were equipped with regular landline phone service. Today that number is only 50 percent, according to Statista which based their survey on data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Pew survey found that the percent of 18-29 year-olds without home internet and only smartphones rose by 7 percent in the past two years.

Pinterest Continuing on the Road to Monetization

Photo courtesy of mkhmarketing

Photo courtesy of mkhmarketing

Beginning in January 2016 Pinterest will allow any US company to purchase its “promoted pins” advertising product. This is one more in a series of steps to monetize the company and make it profitable.

Pinterest is one of the tech world’s fastest rising stars, designated as a ‘unicorn’ it is hoped that it can build up its advertising business to eventually match its $11 billion valuation.
Earlier in 2015 Pinterest, which was launched in 2010, began to test a self-serve advertising system. It was designed for small to medium-sized businesses so that they can create their own promoted pins in the same way that giant consumer brands do now. According to Tim Kendall, head of Pinterest’s monetization division:

“The business is scaling very rapidly.”

Pinterest is a Cinderella company from Silicon Valley; one of the most successful venture capital backed start-ups in the world. For the best part of five years they concentrated on creating new features for the site and getting the word out to build up its clientele, leaving the making-money part to later.

The time to make money for Pinterest has arrived. Over the past year the company has been getting into full-monetization mode, getting its advertising business up to par with such giants as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. They are especially looking to find users on their mobile devices.

November’s Job Growth Higher than Expected: Bodes Well for Interest Rate Hike

November added 211,000 more jobs to the economy, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate is staying close to its five-year low at 5 percent.

Job increases were seen in several sectors, including food services and retail. The good stats for job growth will hopefully make it easier for the Federal Reserve to raise the interest rates. If that happens it will be the first rise in interest rates in almost ten years. The US central bank puts a high value on the labor market when it considers what to do with interest rates.

The Fed will be meeting on December 15 and 16, and will decide then what to do with interest rates.

Christians and Jews Unite to Help Israel

In what many might see as an unlikely combination, Christians are stepping up in the thousands to support Israel during the recent upswing in terrorist attacks targeting Israeli civilians and soldiers. Many of the Christians are helping through donations to the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, a non-profit organization founded by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein.

Jerusalem, as well as many other cities and towns all over Israel have been plagued with knife attacks, car rammings, stones thrown on cars, and even several deadly drive by shootings, resulting in at least 22 dead and over 200 injured.

The money raised by the IFCJ is given to boost security services in Israel with more and better equipment which will be used to counter the upsurge in terrorist violence. So far the ICFJ has been able to donate 4,100 specially equipped backpacks to the Border Police valued at about $200,000.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein explained that much of the money also goes directly to help the many victims of terror. Approximately $1,040 is given to each terror victim to help cover medical expenses and lost wages. Since the beginning of the recent round of violence in October the ICFJ has helped over 60 people who have been wounded by stabbings and car attacks, totaling $64,000.

“The IFCJ is at the forefront of those who seek to safeguard the welfare and security of Jerusalem’s residents,” Rabbi Eckstein said. “When we began our operations in Israel 15 years ago, Jerusalem was suffering daily terror attacks. Since that day, the IFCJ has worked tirelessly to bolster Israel and the City of Jerusalem’s rescue and medical services with life-saving equipment and emergency vehicles. I am proud to represent hundreds of thousands of Christian donors throughout the world who continually remind Israelis that they are not alone and who support the country during its most difficult hours.”


US Will Work with China, India, on Climate Change Agreement

PM Modi during the state visit of the President of the Republic of Singapore to India, 2015. Photo by Narendra Modi

PM Modi during the state visit of the President of the Republic of Singapore to India, 2015. Photo by Narendra Modi

In a response to the statement by Indian Prime Minister Narendar Modi declaring that climate change is “not our fault,” President Obama signaled that he is ready to work with India and China to piece together an ambitious agreement on climate change.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters in Paris that the US president had a few “very constructive” meetings on Monday with Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at sideline meetings during the Paris Climate Summit.

“Now, today, very deliberately, President Obama wanted to send a signal with his meetings that we were going to work with China and work with India to pursue an ambitious agreement here in Paris,” Rhodes said.

He reiterated that the US has been pushing for “a truly global effort” during the past seven years, recognizing that “we needed to bring together the entire world, including major emerging economies like China and India.”

“Given the fact that they are more and more the source of carbon emissions, clearly we have felt throughout the course of this administration that China and India need to be a part of the solution,” he said.

“I think you heard Prime Minister Modi reiterate with the President his commitment to pursuing an ambitious agreement,” Rhodes said. “India has put forward its own targets.”