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Pandora’s Latest Moves Offer Flexibility… High Potential

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Pandora has been on a bit of a rollercoaster lately. The stock has been all over the place, with shares currently down after the music streaming service barely missed revenue estimates by just $2 million. Last year, Pandora rejected a buyout offer from SiriusXM parent company Liberty Media Corp., but now Pandora looks like they’re ready to make a deal — kind of

What is Pandora’s Latest Move?

Pandora was a revolutionary concept almost two decades ago when the streaming music company launched its music genome project to match listeners with music that would appeal to them based on thumbing songs up or down to update preferences. In fact, their algorithm worked so well that the first song they input, a Bee Gees song, came back with a match for a Beatles song. While the team was initially dismayed, it turns out that the Bee Gees performed quite a few Beatles cover songs, meaning the project worked better than they expected.

Since then, countless music services have come about. Competitors include Spotify, its clone from Apple called Tidal, Soundcloud, and so many more. As these new services launch, Pandora, once so far ahead of the game, finds itself falling behind the curve as other companies focus their attention towards on-demand radio, letting users pick and choose what they want to hear. As such, Pandora has been dealing with financial troubles. Now, though, there might be a perfect match brewing between Pandora and one time suitor SiriusXM. But if Pandora rejected an offer from Sirius last year, what’s changed to make now a better time for a deal?

Liberty’s offer to buy Pandora came while Pandora was down. Now, it seems the tables have turned. Sirius needs to find some reliable, profitable out-of-car products to expand its revenues and support an ad-supported model, which the company has stated it wants to do. Without an acquisition, that becomes difficult for Sirius. Pandora already has an existing user base, as well as a reliable ad-supported platform. It would be cheaper (and easier) for Sirius to acquire Pandora rather than create a new platform from the ground up.

From Pandora’s side, revenues are down as are shares. However, subscribers are up 20 percent year over year in Q1. As Pandora premiers its Pandora Premium on-demand service, expectations are high as trial subscriber numbers grow. However, listening hours are down, and while those subscribers grow, paying members are stagnant. In fact, Pandora announced that it would lay off 7 percent of its workforce in January to offA deal with Sirius would provide an influx of cash for Pandora to invest in new offerings and features, and more targeted marketing.

But does Pandora really need the money?

It seems faith in Pandora has been restored by the company securing a $150 million investment from highly respected investment firm KKR. That money would help Pandora’s balance sheet, and could go up to $250 million. But before that money comes in, Pandora will explore strategic alternatives, including a sale.

Watch the video from CNET as they review Pandora’s ‘Pandora Plus’:

Put simply, Pandora has options now. And whether the company sells or accepts KKR’s stake in the company, expect shares of Pandora Media, Inc. (P) to rise up.

Learn where the smart money is in trading tech with Guy Cohen right here.

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Why You Should Consider Filing For Social Security At Age 62

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Why You Should Consider Filing For Social Security At Age 62

Earlier this week we discussed four common regrets that retirees have when they look back at their golden years. One of the most common regrets was filing for Social Security benefits at 62, the earliest possible age. According to the Social Security Administration, about 1 out of 3 people apply for benefits at that age.

The regret is that if they had waited longer to file for their benefits, their monthly check would be much larger. For example, by delaying filing for Social Security until age 70, your monthly benefits can be as much as 75% larger than someone who filed at age 62. That’s because benefits grow by a guaranteed 5% to 8% each year that you delay your claim.

But there are always two sides to a coin. Today we wanted to discuss the benefits of filing for Social Security as soon as possible. With this, you can decide which approach you believe will benefit you the most.

The Case For Filing Social Security Early

The earliest you can file for Social Security benefits is age 62, but each month you file before reaching your full retirement age (FRA) cuts your monthly benefit amount. As an example, if your full retirement age is 67 and you start your claim at age 62, your monthly check will be reduced by approximately 30%.

Despite the reduced monthly benefit that comes with filing early, tens of millions of Americans make that decision every year. And it boils down to one line:

We have no idea what the future holds.

The financial benefits of waiting until age 70 to claim Social Security make complete sense. But we don’t know how long we will live, so we don’t know if the trade-off is worth it. If we knew we would live a long, healthy life until age 100, we would all delay filing until age 70 and reap the maximum reward.

But if you decided to wait until age 70 to claim, and unfortunately passed away before that, you would have foregone all the retirement income from age 62 on.

Waiting to file is a gamble, but so is giving up guaranteed monthly income starting at age 62.

Deciding when to claim your benefits requires serious thought and shouldn’t be a hastily made decision. And we aren’t saying that filing Social Security immediately at 62 or waiting until age 70 is the right choice. Every situation is different. If you are still healthy and working, waiting a few years passed 62 to claim but not all the way to 70 might be a good compromise. You’ll get a larger check than had you claimed right away, and your regular working income can make up for some of the reduced benefit amount since you didn’t wait until age 70.

The most important thing, whether you file at 62 or 70, is to find enjoyment in your golden years.

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Mnuchin: Next Stimulus Coming By End of Month, No More Extra Unemployment Money

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Mnuchin: Next Stimulus Coming By End of Month, No More Extra Unemployment Money

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the next stimulus bill will be much more targeted than previous bills. He also said the goal is to get the next bill approved between July 20 and the end of this month. That time is when Congress will return from their holiday break and before they leave for August recess.

On Broad Stimulus Measures

It appears the White House will not support the type of broad stimulus measures of the previous bills. Instead, it will focus on direct payments to Americans. In an interview with CNBC yesterday, Mnuchin said “we do support another round” of stimulus checks to individuals. This mirrors the $1,200 payments that the government sent out as part of the $2 trillion rescue legislation passed in March.

Mnuchin didn’t mention whether he supported the idea of a $40,000 income cap to receive a check that has been floated by GOP lawmakers. The income cap for the first stimulus check was $75,000. He did say that he spoke with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He also mentioned the “level and criteria” for checks would be discussed when lawmakers return to Washington.

Any new stimulus bill would likely not include proposals from the Democrats that include hazard pay for essential workers. It likely won’t include a longer extension of strengthened unemployment benefits, mortgage and rent relief, and support for state and local governments, too.

Mnuchin reiterated that the White House isn’t in favor of more relief money for states and municipalities to make up for lost revenue. Some state and local governments are considering trimming essential services as costs balloon and revenues drop. He said the administration does not want to “bail out” states that were “mismanaged” before the virus hit.

On Unemployment Benefits

Another critical topic the lawmakers will tackle the end of the enhanced unemployment benefits on July 30. They will do so when they return to Washington D.C.

Mnuchin said the White House has no interest in extending the enhanced benefits any further. Instead, he said it wants to change how they pay benefits. He did not give details. However, he did hint that unemployed workers shouldn’t be able to earn more money compared to full-time employees

“You can assume that it will be no more than 100%” of a worker’s usual pay, Mnuchin said. This echoes many Republicans who argue the additional benefits are preventing some from returning to work. These workers do this so that they make more at home than they would at their jobs.

While Mnuchin says the White House isn’t in favor of extending unemployment benefits, it is extending the Paycheck Protection Program that provides loans for small businesses. Earlier this week the Trump administration released a list of companies that received loans from the government. With that, backlash ensued as numerous businesses tied to wealthy individuals were found to have requested funds. Of the $130 billion remaining in the program, Mnuchin said he wants new relief to be “much, much more targeted” than past rounds of funding.

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Kudlow: Economy Doing Great, Second Shutdown ‘Really Big Mistake’

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Kudlow: Economy Doing Great, Second Shutdown ‘Really Big Mistake’

White House Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow says that the country is squarely in the middle of the “v-shaped” recovery that everyone had hoped for, and despite reports of coronavirus hotspots popping up, shutting down the economy for a second time would make the “solution worse than the disease.”

Kudlow spoke on “Fox and Friends” yesterday and said that the White House is monitoring the jump in new coronavirus cases in states like California, Arizona, Texas and Florida, but added that as a country we now know what works to stop the spread, and just need to work together.

“We know the right mitigation, which has worked, and if we use that wholeheartedly and respect each other, I think we’ll get out of this pretty well and it will not stop the V-shaped recovery.”

On A Second Shutdown

He added that a second shut down would be a “really big mistake.”

“Another shutdown, in itself is controversial,” and would “do more harm than good,” said Kudlow before adding, “It would harm everyone. Not just businesses — the V-shaped recovery would give way. It would harm kids, we saw numbers on depression, drinking and so on… that solution would be worse than the disease.”

Kudlow highlighted the job growth in the last two months, and pointed out that jobs are being added back so quickly, workers are now quitting jobs to search for new, higher-paying ones.

He said there existed a “tremendous burst of jobs in May and June” and “tremendous record hiring rates. People are starting to quit their jobs again, which is extraordinary, in order to shop around for better jobs and wages.”

All those workers looking for jobs should bring down the unemployment rate to as low as 7% iby the end of the year, according to St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard.

That would be quite a rollercoaster ride for the job market, which has swung from a 50-year low unemployment rate of 3.5% earlier this year, to a post-WWII high of 14.7% in April.

U.S. Economy Doing “Very Well”

Appearing on “Closing Bell” yesterday, Bullard said “I think we’re tracking very well right now. Seems to me like by the end of the year you can get down certainly to single digits, probably even below 8%, maybe 7% by the end of the year.”

A surge in new cases could slow the re-hiring of workers across the country, but Bullard believes that wearing a mask will become standard and that will help bring back jobs and boost the economy.

“If we get to that situation, we’ll have the disease under control,” he said. “What I like about that scenario is it does not rely on a vaccine coming or a therapeutic coming. We can use simple, easy technology that we have today, get a good situation, get most of the production back to normal.”

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