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Most Chipotle restaurants hacked with credit card stealing malware

The company first acknowledged the breach on April 25. But a blog post on Friday revealed the kind of malware used in the attack and the restaurants that were affected.

The list of attacked locations is extensive and includes many major U.S. cities. When CNNMoney asked the company Sunday about the scale of the attack, spokesman Chris Arnold said that “most, but not all restaurants may have been involved.”

Chipotle (CMG) said in its blog post that it worked with law enforcement officials and cybersecurity firms on an investigation.

The breaches happened between March 24 and April 18. The malware worked by infecting cash registers and capturing information stored on the magnetic strip on credit cards, called “track data.” Chipotle said track data sometimes includes the cardholder’s name, card number, expiration date and internal verification code.

The company said there is “no indication” that other personal information was stolen.

“During the investigation we removed the malware, and we continue to work with cyber security firms to evaluate ways to enhance our security measures,” the blog post reads.

A list of the restaurants and times they were affected can be found on Chipotle’s website.

The company recommended that customers scan their credit card statements for potentially fraudulent purchases. It also said victims should contact the Federal Trade Commission, the attorney general in their home states or their local police department.

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5 lessons from Fed speeches this week

Lesson #1. The Fed went into last week’s meeting not knowing how the vote was going to come out.

Markets are upset that the Fed did not telegraph in advance of the September meeting that there would be no taper. Several Fed officials said the vote was “close.” This means “too close to call ahead of time” and “too close to telegraph.”

Key quote:

“That was a borderline decision,” James Bullard, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, said last Friday on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg Surveillance.” “The committee came down on the side of, ‘Let’s wait.’

Lesson #2. The deciding factor? The economy is wobbling, not powering ahead.

So with one camp in the Fed’s policy committee urging a taper and the other wanting to hold off, what was the deciding factor? It looks like it was the data since July, which came in weaker than expected and those expectations were not strong to begin with.

Key quote:

“Is America losing its economic mojo? There is some evidence to the affirmative,” said Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart.

Lesson #3. Don’t bet your mortgage on an October taper

A natural question is whether the Fed will move at its next meeting on Oct. 29-30. Fed officials never say never, but officials don’t seem to be leaning in favor of a move.

Key quotes:

“In the short time between now and the October meeting, I don’t think there will be an accumulation of enough evidence to dramatically change the picture” about where the economy now stands, Dennis Lockhart, the president of the Atlanta Fed Bank, said.

“It could be hard to do it (tapering) in October without losing face, but I don’t see why we couldn’t do it,” said Jeffrey Lacker, president of the Richmond Fed, according to Reuters.

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JCPenney to sell 84 million shares of stock

JCPenney said it will sell 84 million shares of stock in a secondary offering.

Shares fell 5 percent following the news. (What’s the stock doing now? Click here for the latest after-hours quote.)

The retailer said it would use the proceeds for general corporate purposes.

Penney shares fell 15 percent on Wednesday after Goldman Sachs said it expects the retailer’s sales to improve more slowly than expected. The stock rebounded slightly Thursday.

The cost for insurance against a J.C. Penney default has shot back to near record-high levels over the last week.

The company, which has a “CCC ” credit rating from Standard & Poor’s, reflecting a substantial risk in owning its debt, has about $2.6 billion of outstanding bonds.  The company’s benchmark 5-year credit default swap contract price surged by more than 13 percent on Wednesday, according to Markit data.  Read More

Continuous Improvement

As Rant4u continues its improvement on exploring new ideas, we came up with a new possibility, that is going to be available for everyone.  Learning and studying for graduate students, undergraduate students, and high school students.  This page is going to be dedicated for questing regarding any type of study.  If this idea works for the community of Rant4u followers, we will later change the page into a suitable selection.  For now, if you have a question that you want to ask, relating to school of any type, feel free to ask.  If you have a response to a question feel free to respond.  Lets teach our community that learning is important and the backbone for the world.

Fannie, Freddie making billions—why shut them down?

On a Monday morning five years ago this week, thousands of employees at mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac went to work to find a new boss: The federal government.

Crushed under the weight of thousands of defaulted mortgages and bleeding cash, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were put into government conservatorship.

Now, a short five years later, the two are making billions of dollars in profit—profit that goes straight to the U.S. Treasury. Against this backdrop, lawmakers are setting the stage for an epic debate on the future of U.S. housing finance, a future that will likely mean the end of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“Everyone gets so caught up in their profitability, but everyone forgets that profitability is tied to their direct government support,” said Jaret Seiberg of Guggenheim Partners.

That’s why the debate over government involvement in the mortgage market is so fierce. Lawmakers are eager to protect taxpayers, but they also need to keep home finance afloat. How do you “wind down” two entities that now back two thirds of the U.S. mortgage market? And how do members of Congress reconcile that goal with the fact that the two are now huge cash cows? In order to look forward, it is essential to understand how we got here.  Read More

3 Signs the Market Is Near a Top

We may be closer to a major market top than most investors think.

That at least is the conclusion that emerged when I compared the current market environment to what prevailed at major market tops of the past century.

To be sure, there are some dissimilarities as well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re not peaking. No two tops are exactly alike. As Mark Twain famously said, even if history does not repeat itself, it does rhyme.

With that thought in mind, I examined all 35 bull market tops since the 1920s. I searched for patterns in the performance of not only the market itself, but of various internal market factors, such as earnings and price/earnings ratios. I was also interested in how small company stocks tend to perform in the months leading up to a top, both in their own right and relative to large-cap stocks. Likewise, I searched for patterns in the relative returns of growth and value stocks.

I relied on several extensive databases: Yale University Prof. Robert Shiller’s database of Standard & Poor’s 500 earnings and P/E ratios, as well as a database showing the relative performances of small- and large-cap stocks, as well as of the growth and value styles, maintained by Eugene Fama of the University of Chicago and Ken French of Dartmouth. To determine when bull and bear markets have begun and ended, I relied on the precise definitions employed by Ned Davis Research, the quantitative research firm.

Here’s what I found.

Market rises steeply before bull dies

The typical bull market comes to an end following a period of extraordinary performance. In other words, some of a bull market’s best returns are produced right before it dies.

This is important to know if you thought that this bull market would, before it breathes its last, begin to slow down and go through a period of modest performance. That’s not typically the case: On a price chart, the average market top looks more like a pointed mountain peak than a plateau.

While it is of course possible that the next market top is more like a plateau, it would be the exception rather than rule: Since the 1920s, the average bull market has gained more than 21% over the 12 months prior to a top — more than double the long-term average.

Interestingly, the stock market recently has produced a return that is quite similar to this average 12-month gain prior to market tops: The S&P 500 over this period is up nearly 23%.  Read More

Stocks, bonds extend slide as China adds to market fears of Fed stimulus pullback

 A day after the Federal Reserve roiled Wall Street when it said it could reduce its aggressive economic stimulus program later this year, financial markets around the world plunged. A slowdown in Chinese manufacturing and reports of a squeeze in the world’s second-biggest economy heightened worries.

The global selloff began in Asia and quickly spread to Europe and then the U.S., where the Dow Jones industrial average fell 353 points, wiping out six weeks of gains.

But the damage wasn’t just in stocks. Bond prices fell, and the yield on the benchmark 10-year note rose to 2.42 percent, its highest level since August 2011, although still low by historical standards. Oil and gold also slid.

“People are worried about higher interest rates,” said Robert Pavlik, chief market strategist at Banyan Partners. “Higher rates have the ability to cut across all sectors of the economy.”

The question now is whether the markets’ moves on Thursday were an overreaction or a sign of volatility to come. What is becoming clearer is that traders and investors are looking for a new equilibrium after a period of ultra-low rates, due to the Fed’s bond-buying, which spawned one of the great bull markets of all time.  Read More

Gold, Silver ETFs Routed After Fed

SPDR Gold Shares (NYSEArca: GLD) was down 4% and iShares Silver Trust (NYSEArca: SLV) plunged over 6% Thursday morning Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank may pull back on economic stimulus this year if the economy and job market continue to improve.

Gold prices fell below $1,300 an ounce for the first time in nearly three years.

“The combination of Fed tapering, a spike in nominal yields and a stronger dollar has put gold under some considerable pressure,” said Ole Hansen, the head of commodity strategy at Saxo Bank, in a Bloombergreport.

GLD, the largest bullion-backed ETF, was down nearly 20% year to date, as of Wednesday’s close. The gold ETF traded twice its normal daily volume on Wednesday, “something you don’t see very often in a name like that,” said Chris Hempstead at WallachBeth Capital.

The gold fund currently holds 99.9.6 metric tons of gold, or $44.1 billion of assets. It started the year with about 1,351 metric tons of gold and $72.2 billion of assets. [Gold ETFs Fall to Key Support Level Before Fed]

GLD’s holdings fell below 1,000 tons on Wednesday for the first time in four years, according to Reuters.

On Wednesday, a huge trade in the $8.2 billion iShares Gold Trust (NYSEArca: IAU) caught the attention of ETF traders late in the session, according to Dow Jones Newswires. “One block of 1.4 million shares hit the tape at 3:50 p.m,” it said. Read More

6 Key Marketing Do’s and Don’ts For Your Startup

Marketing is everything these days. You can have the best technology, but if customers don’t know you exist, or they don’t know how your technology solves a real problem for them, your startup will fail. Yet I see many entrepreneurs that focus on the basics of marketing too little and too late.

They skimp on the design of their website, procrastinate on the rollout to make sure the product is perfect, and get so excited about technology features that they forget about creating value for customers. In fact, this article was driven by a startup press release I just saw today, highlighting a startup’s “geo-fencing technology” as a new basis for discount coupons. How many customers will have any idea what this means to them?

On the marketing side of the equation, there are so many “marketing gurus” and “marketing resources” out there, the real challenge for most of us is to sort out the basic do’s and the don’ts that apply to startups. I found some help from marketing coach David Newman’s new book “Do It! Marketing,” which provides some pragmatic marketing advice for all small businesses as follows:

  1. Don’t tell customers how great you are. Parroting a generic message that you have great service, great value, and a great selection says you have nothing unique. You need to clearly convey what makes your startup the only choice for your customers. Give yourself the “So-what?” test and check for a compelling value-based answer.
  2. Don’t fall into the marketing-speak trap. Don’t fall for the temptation to make big claims, empty promises, and mind-boggling jargon. Learn to speak a new customer-specific dialect based on current research and homework. Go directly to the source – your real live customers, and get their priorities, issues, pressures, and challenges.
  3. Don’t waste your time networking with strangers. Start networking smarter and smaller. Invite key people for coffee or lunch one-on-one, and get to know them and their business. Aim first and foremost to make them a friend, and the connections to others will come naturally. Working the circuit of big groups of strangers is minimally productive.
  4. Don’t waste your time following up. If you are focused exclusively on prospects who are actively seeking to solve the problem you are positioned to solve, you won’t need five or seven attempts to get their attention. Craft a no-follow-up sales letter, after you have positioned yourself as the right expert, with powerful testimonials. They will call you back.
  5. Don’t dumb it down for social media. Many entrepreneurs fear giving away their very best insights, strategies, or tools via social media – it might diminish the demand and the profit. In fact, when customers perceive real value in what you give away, they begin to imagine how much more they might get as a real customer.
  6. Don’t put all your faith in passion. Passion is necessary, but not sufficient to grow your startup. Be passionate about what you do, but develop a really strong plan, and a strong plan B too. The more you think ahead of failure, and think beyond failure, the better your chances for success are.

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Markets Eager for Something – Anything – New from Fed

Federal Reserve, FOMC, Ben Bernanke, Fed chief, monetary policy, beige books

So much anticipation for a Federal Reserve Board statement not likely to be markedly different from any so far released in 2013.

The Federal Open Markets Committee, which sets most Fed monetary policy, is meeting Tuesday and Wednesday and will release a statement on their most recent forecasts and potential policy shifts early tomorrow afternoon, followed by a press conference with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. (Most analysts agree the real news will likely come during Bernanke’s Q&A with reporters.)

This is pretty much the FOMC’s monthly routine.

As has also been their monthly routine for the past six months or so, Bernanke and his colleagues will undoubtedly acknowledge some recent economic stumbling blocks – namely a leveling off of manufacturing activity in the first half of 2013 and the stubbornly high 7.5% unemployment rate.

In the same statement, however, the FOMC is widely expected to reaffirm its commitment to tapering its easy money stimulus programs, possibly as soon as September, depending on the broad trajectory of economic data between now and then.

Three rounds of bond buying programs, or quantitative easing, since the recent financial crisis have expanded the Fed’s balance sheet to more than $3.1 trillion in assets from less than $1 trillion in mid-2008, a concern to those who wonder what the impact will be when the Fed begins to unwind those assets.

The only difference between tomorrow’s message and those of the past six months is that we’re now getting closer to an actual announcement by the Fed that it will start gradually scaling back its $85 billion a month in bond purchases. That proximity seems to heighten investor anxiety.

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