Monthly Archives: March 2017

The groundbreaking app turning millennials into stock traders is now said to be worth more than $1 billion


Robinhood, the app that lets you trade stocks without paying any fees, is reportedly now valued at $1.3 billion, according to a report in TechCrunch, citing sources.

The new round of funding is reportedly led by Yuri Milner’s investment arm, DST Global, and values the investing app at over $1 billion. That makes it a “unicorn” in Silicon Valley terms.

Robinhood declined to comment on the new funding round. Fortune previously reported that the startup was looking to raise at a valuation over $1 billion, after going out to raise new venture capital earlier in the fall.

Robinhood launched in December 2014 and quickly became a favorite among younger people looking to invest without paying the $7 per trade demanded by established firms. The app itself is stylish and simple, which helped lure the first-time stock traders that made up Robinhood’s first big wave of users.

According to TechCrunch, investors were excited by the success of its new Robinhood Gold subscription plan, which launched in September. While the main service does not charge fees to trade stocks, Robinhood Gold subscribers pay $10 a month to get an extra 2.5 hours of trading, an extra line of credit, and bigger instant deposits of up to $2,000 into their bank account.

Even before the addition of Robinhood Gold, the app had become a favorite especially for millennials to dip their toes in stock trading. The company’s low-cost, easy-to-use platform – users can start trading within minutes of opening an account – has cemented its popularity among a younger, phone-first generation. The company has more than a million users, who combined have transacted over $25 billion on the platform, according to the firm.

In February, Robinhood told Business Insider that most popular stocks by percentage of ownership of its users include Apple, Twitter, GoPro, and Facebook.

Top Democrat on House Intel committee says he saw the documents at the center of an uproar in the Trump investigation

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee released a statement Friday after visiting the White House to view intelligence documents shared with his Republican counterpart a week ago.

The classified information shared with House Intelligence chairman Devin Nunes sparked an uproar when Nunes then briefed President Donald Trump on the documents and left his colleagues on the committee out of the loop.

Schiff on Friday slammed the White House’s handling of the information, saying “If the White House had any concern over these materials, they should have been shared with the full committees in the first place as a part of our ordinary oversight responsibilities.”

Schiff also called on the White House to explain why it initially shared the documents with only Nunes, rather than all of the interested parties.

Nunes’ visit to the White House nearly stalled the committee’s investigation into alleged contacts between Trump associates and Russia during the election. Nunes had asserted that the information suggested members of the Trump transition may have been caught up in routine surveillance operations after the election.

Trump had taken that revelation as vindication for his debunked claim that former President Barack Obama had Trump wiretapped during the transition.

In viewing what Schiff said where the same documents shared with Nunes, Schiff said on Friday: “Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures.” Schiff called for the full contents of the documents to be shared with all members of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

Read Schiff’s full statement below:

“Today my staff director and I reviewed materials at the White House. It was represented to me that these are precisely the same materials that were provided to the Chairman over a week ago. While I cannot discuss the content of the documents, if the White House had any concern over these materials, they should have been shared with the full committees in the first place as a part of our ordinary oversight responsibilities.

Nothing I could see today warranted a departure from the normal review procedures, and these materials should now be provided to the full membership of both committees. The White House has yet to explain why senior White House staff apparently shared these materials with but one member of either committee, only for their contents to be briefed back to the White House.”

Fox News’ Eric Bolling just inadvertently gave a dynamite endorsement of the Obama presidency

Fox News commentator Eric Bolling took a look Friday at the economic track record of President Donald Trump at the end of the first quarter to 2017, compared to his predecessor Barack Obama.

Bolling held up a white board that showed various economic data points, from unemployment to consumer confidence to average home price.

Here’s the board, via a tweet from White House senior adviser Dan Scavino:

The board is actually a great endorsement of the Obama presidency. The former president took over in the depths of the worst recession since the Great Depression, as people worried the economic system as we knew it was collapsing. In eight years, Obama handed off an economy with a strong labor market, low unemployment, a huge housing recovery, vastly improved consumer confidence, and a tick up in average hourly earnings.

The board provides a good look at just how solid the recovery was under Obama.

$2 billion startup GitHub has officially won over Microsoft

GitHub co-founder and CEO Chris Wanstrath
Flickr/by DaveFayram

Today, Microsoft announces via blog entry the shutdown of CodePlex, its 11-year-old site where programmers could host and share the code for their software projects.

When it was founded in 2006, CodePlex was one Microsoft’s biggest steps into the world of open source software – where any programmer, anywhere can download and tweak the code to their liking. At the time, Microsoft saw free open source software, including the Linux operating system, as a major competitive threat.

In that blog, Microsoft Corporate VP Brian Harry writes that the CodePlex shutdown is because the world of open source has almost entirely moved over to GitHub’s very similar service. GitHub, a $2 billion San Francisco startup, rose from humble origins in 2008 to becoming known as the “Facebook for programmers.”

“Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of amazing options come and go but at this point, GitHub is the de facto place for open source sharing and most open source projects have migrated there,” writes Harry in that blog.

In fact, as Harry points out in his blog post, Microsoft has moved to GitHub in a big way, too: Back in September 2016, GitHub released stats showing that Microsoft beat out Facebook to become the company with the most programmers contributing to open source software on the platform.

CodePlex will officially vanish as of December 15th, 2017, writes Harry, but Microsoft will be providing tools to get existing code off of the platform.

Back in 2015, Google shut down its troll-ridden Google Code, too, as the world moved to GitHub. That means that, in a material way, GitHub has emerged victorious in a long but not particularly dramatic battle with Google and Microsoft. And, for Microsoft’s part, it’s another sign that the company is willing to place nice with others’ technology nowadays.

Trump aide Sebastian Gorka on surveillance: ‘Just because you go into a mosque does not mean you’re safe’

Sebastian Gorka.
Screenshot / YouTube

Sebastian Gorka, a controversial White House national security aide, suggested in an interview published Friday that mosques aren’t necessarily spaces that are protected from government surveillance.

The Telegraph noted that President Donald Trump has proposed surveilling Muslim communities and mosques in the US and asked Gorka, who is a deputy assistant to the president, about a possible Muslim registry that Trump previously said he wouldn’t rule out.

“The Muslim registry, no, that’s hyperbole,” Gorka told The Telegraph. “With regards to the other approaches: I’m sorry, just because you go into a mosque does not mean you’re safe from the national security practitioners of America.”

Mosque surveillance wouldn’t be new in the US. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the New York Police Department established methods of surveilling the city’s Muslim communities and mosques. The city settled multiple lawsuits relating to the police department’s surveillance of Muslims.

Critics have called Gorka an Islamaphobe, but he insists that he just wants to be honest about threats to US national security. He insists on using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” from which the Obama administration shied away.

“Look, our struggle, our war – I’m going to use the word war – is with what I call the global jihadi movement,” Gorka said. “It’s rooted in the politicized version of Islam.”

Trump walked out of an executive-order signing ceremony without signing the executive orders

President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony of executive orders on trade, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence (C) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (R) at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 31, 2017.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Donald Trump walked out of an executive-order signing ceremony Friday, without signing the orders.

The two executive orders were aimed at tackling trade abuses.

Trump gave brief remarks in front of a gaggle of reporters and cameras in the Oval Office and then began walking out of the room as a reporter asked whether he would direct the Justice Department to grant immunity to Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser.

Vice President Mike Pence appeared to try to direct Trump to his desk as the president gestured to him from the doorway and walked out.

Politico posted video footage of the exchange, which shows Pence picking up the executive orders from the president’s desk and carrying them out of the room. Trump eventually signed the orders later.

Watch the moment below:

US stocks might be switching gears


As we get ready to close the March quarter and as we discussed on this week’s Cocktail Investing Podcast, domestic stock market indices have switched gears as the euphoria and hope that filled the market post-election has given way to sobering data that the domestic economy is once again slowing.

While some focus on the modest bump higher in 4Q 2016 GDP, to us it means the current quarter is slowing a tad more than we thought and that is poised to weigh on earnings expectations as are a number of other headwinds.

With real average weekly wage gains dipping in February, rising bank card and subprime auto delinquencies rising, and banks once again tightening loan purse strings, there are a number of reasons to suspect GDP expectations for the coming quarters are likely to be revised lower.

Today the Atlanta Fed’s GDP now forecast was revised back down to again sit at 0.9 percent for the first quarter – not exactly a rip-roaring economy. The fact that automotive companies are trotting out more and more incentives to goose demand, especially General Motors, is a tad worrisome to us.

Also too, let’s not forget the now increasingly expected push out in infrastructure spending and tax reform, all of which is likely to take some of the hope out of corporate forecasts in the coming weeks. This should make for an interesting March quarter earnings season as hope and optimism come face to face with the stark reality of the economy at a time when market valuations are stretched well into historically very high levels.

Federal Reserve Chair Yellen speaks during a news conference in Washington
Thomson Reuters

Already we see gold trade higher, and financials trade off, which while somewhat confirming also raises questions about the Fed’s ability to continue to boost interest rates in the coming months. It wouldn’t be the first time the Fed embarked on a rate hike cycle at the wrong time.

All this while the latest data from the New York Stock Exchange shows cash borrowed to buy shares, better known as margin debt, hit a record $528.2 billion in February, up from its prior high of $513.3 billion in January.

Again, this is happening at a time when stock valuations are stretched, and earnings expectations are confronting a far slower economic backdrop. All that buying on margin just means that any significant pullback has the potential to be a lot more volatile as that leverage works in both directions.

As you get ready to buckle up for potentially turbulent market waters, we continue to follow our investing north star – ourthematic perspective. Looking in and around our daily lives, we continue to find confirming data points for these multi-year tailwinds.

Case in point, for our Food with Integrity investing theme, Starbucks is embracing gluten-free food, and Chipotle Mexican Grill is removing artificial additives in a bid to offer a cleaner food much like Panera Bread. We found a Verifone mobile payment reader at an Exxon Mobil gas pump and used Apple pay to fill up our tank – a new application for Cashless Consumption, and one that even Verifone didn’t realize was released “into the wild.”

We’ve heard quite a bit about brick & mortar retail pain, but the wide earnings miss from must-have yoga pants company Lululemon that shared mall traffic is weak means it’s more than just Payless, Bebe, Gap, Macy’s and JC Penney that are feeling the pinch.

On the podcast we discuss a new wrinkle to the mall pain – more people working multiple jobs likely means those consumers have no time to visit let alone shop at the mall, another reason for the pick up in digital commerce where bargain shopping for those Cash-Strapped Consumers is so much easier. Yet one more reality supporting our view that headwinds abound for mall REITs, like Simon Property Group.

TRUMP: Mike Pence has ‘one hell of a good marriage’

President Donald Trump speaks during a signing ceremony of executive orders on trade, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence (C) and U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross (2nd R) at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., March 31, 2017.
REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Donald Trump extolled the virtues of his vice president’s marriage on Friday in the wake of a controversy over a comment Mike Pence made over a decade ago about a rule he has for dining with women.

During an executive order signing ceremony, with Pence standing beside him at the podium, Trump said Pence had “one hell of a good marriage.”

“Our vice president, I think I’m speaking for both but I’m not 100% sure,” Trump said in an apparent reference to Pence and his wife, to which Pence replied, “Yes you are.”

“I will tell you one thing, he has one hell of a good marriage going,” Trump continued.

Trump made the comments about Pence’s marriage in light criticism stemming from a Washington Post profile of his wife, Karen, that was published earlier this week. The controversy surrounded one sentence in the story: “In 2002, Mike Pence told the Hill that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side, either.”

Some critics called Pence’s rule sexist because it could exclude women from certain professional opportunities. Others, however, have rallied behind Pence as an example of a man determined to preserve his marriage.

The Post profile detailed Pence’s close relationship with his wife.

Watch video of the moment below:

Mylan is recalling EpiPens in the US

Mylan is recalling EpiPens in the United States.

The voluntary recall comes just 10 days after Mylan issued a recall of more than 80,000 devices from around the world.

“This recall is being conducted as a result of the receipt of two previously disclosed reports outside of the U.S. of failure to activate the device due to a potential defect in a supplier component,” Mylan said in a statement.

“The potential defect could make the device difficult to activate in an emergency (failure to activate or increased force needed to activate) and have significant health consequences for a patient experiencing a life-threatening allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). “

Mylan said it’s extending the lots included in the recall as a precautionary measure. The devices, manufactured by Meridian Medical Technologies, were made between December 2015 and July 2016.

Mylan was called out in August 2016 for raising the price of the EpiPen to $608.61 from $93.88 over the past decade. It caught the nation’s attention because parents were refilling their kids’ prescriptions, and some found that they were on the hook for hundreds of dollars for the device. The recall doesn’t include the authorized generic version of the EpiPen that Mylan introduced in December.

Mylan said in a release that the EpiPens that are recalled will be replaced at no cost.

Here are the lots impacted by the recall:


The Senate just got ever closer to a ‘nuclear’ fight

Claire McCaskill.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri on Friday brought the Senate closer to a “nuclear” fight over President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

In a Medium post published Friday, McCaskill, a moderate Democrat, said she would vote no on a procedural vote for Gorsuch, indicating that she would join a Democratic filibuster against the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals judge.

“This is a really difficult decision for me,” McCaskill wrote. “I am not comfortable with either choice.”

“While I have come to the conclusion that I can’t support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court – and will vote no on the procedural vote and his confirmation – I remain very worried about our polarized politics and what the future will bring, since I’m certain we will have a Senate rule change that will usher in more extreme judges in the future,” she continued.

McCaskill’s announcement came one day after fellow moderate Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia announced they would support Gorsuch’s nomination and vote in favor of the judge.

That brought the total number of votes to confirm Gorsuch to 54. But with Democratic leaders almost certainly set to enact a filibuster, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely have to invoke the “nuclear” option and rewrite the Senate rules to kill the filibuster on Supreme Court nominees for Gorsuch to be confirmed. It’s an option McConnell has previously expressed little desire to do.

To reach 60 votes, McCaskill was key. Along with Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana – all of whom hail from states carried by Trump in last year’s election – McCaskill was viewed as a necessity in order to obtain the necessary votes to crush a filibuster.