Where’s the next boom? Maybe in `cleantech’

October 6, 2009

Energy breakthroughs could be the next big thing, but how many jobs can they generate?

By Jordan Robertson, AP Technology Writer
9:33 pm EDT, Tuesday October 6, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Our economy sure could use the Next Big Thing. Something on the scale of railroads, automobiles or the Internet — the kind of breakthrough that emerges every so often and builds industries, generates jobs and mints fortunes.

Silicon Valley investors are pointing to something called cleantech — alternative energy, more efficient power distribution and new ways to store electricity, all with minimal impact to the environment — as a candidate for the next boom.

And while no two booms are exactly alike, some hallmarks are already showing up.

Despite last fall’s financial meltdown, public and private investments are pouring in, fueling startups and reinvigorating established companies. The political and social climates are favorable. If it takes off, cleantech could seep into every part of the economy and our lives.

Some of the biggest booms first blossomed during recessions. The telephone and phonograph were developed during the depression of the 1870s. The integrated circuit, a milestone in electronics, was invented in the recessionary year of 1958. Personal computers went mainstream, spawning a huge industry, in the slumping early 1980s.

A year into the Great Recession, innovation isn’t slowing. This time, it’s better batteries, more efficient solar cells, smarter appliances and electric cars, not to mention all the infrastructure needed to support the new ways energy will be generated and the new ways we’ll be using it.

Yet for all the benefits that might be spawned by cleantech breakthroughs, no one knows how many jobs might be created — or how many old jobs might be cannibalized. It also remains to be seen whether Americans will clamor for any of its products.

Still, big bets are being placed. The Obama administration is pledging to invest $150 billion over the next decade on energy technology and says that could create 5 million jobs. This recession has wiped out 7.2 million.

And cleantech is on track to be the dominant force in venture capital investments over the next few years, supplanting biotechnology and software. Venture capitalists have poured $8.7 billion into energy-related startups in the U.S. since 2006.

That pales in comparison with the dot-com boom, when venture cash sometimes topped $10 billion in a single quarter. But the momentum surrounding clean energy is reminiscent of the Internet’s early days. Among the similarities: Although big projects are still dominated by large companies, the scale of the challenges requires innovation by smaller firms that hope to be tomorrow’s giants.

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Apple, Dell, HP laptop owners sue Nvidia over faulty graphics

July 27, 2009

Five plaintiffs join forces to demand class-action lawsuit
By Gregg Keizer
May 11, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld – Owners of Apple (AAPL), Dell (DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) laptops have combined their lawsuits against Nvidia (NVDA) in an attempt to force the graphics chip maker to replace allegedly flawed processors, according to court documents.

If granted class-action status, the case could involve millions of laptop computer owners, the plaintiffs said.

The five plaintiffs, including a Louisiana man who bought an Apple MacBook Pro a year ago, filed an amended complaint last week in a San Francisco federal court, accusing Nvidia of violating consumer-protection laws.

Nvidia admitted to the problem in July 2008, when it said some older chipsets that had shipped in “significant quantities” of notebooks were flawed. In a subsequent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the company argued that its chip suppliers, the laptop makers and even consumers were to blame.

Nvidia later told the SEC that it would take a $196 million charge to pay for replacing the graphics processors.

Apple, Dell and HP have all told users that some of their laptops contain faulty Nvidia chipsets. Apple, in fact, essentially said that Nvidia had misled it. “Nvidia assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected,” Apple said in a support document posted last October. “However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers … may be affected.”

Although Apple promised it would repair any defective MacBook Pro for two years after its purchase date, whether it was in warranty or not, HP and Dell first issued BIOS updates designed by Nvidia that boosted fan speed. The increased fan speed was intended to ward off chip failure. Later, however, both companies also extended warranties for the affected laptops, and in some cases offered free repairs.

The plaintiffs in the combined lawsuit said that anything other than a replacement of the flawed chips was insufficient. “This is a grossly inadequate ‘remedy,’ as it results in additional manifest defects, including, without limitation, further degraded battery life, system performance and increased noise in the Class Computers,” the complaint read.

“Worse, this ‘remedy’ fails to solve the actual problem. Instead, this measure only ensures that the Class Computers will fail after the OEM’s express warranty period expires, potentially leaving consumers with a defective computer and no immediate recourse,” the lawsuit continued. “Finally, even after this purported ‘update,’ video and system performance is still degraded due to unacceptably high heat and part failures.”

Todd Feinstein of Louisiana was the one plaintiff who had purchased an Apple laptop. After buying a MacBook Pro in April 2008, the computer ran hot, periodically shut down without warning and displayed only gray or black at times, Feinstein said.

He sent a letter to Nvidia in September 2008 demanding that the company fix his MacBook. “Nvidia has failed to respond,” he said in the complaint.

Other plaintiffs who live in California, Illinois, New Jersey and New Mexico bought Dell or HP notebooks.

The lawsuit requests the case be granted class-action status, and if it prevails, that Nvidia replace the faulty chips and pay unspecified damages.

Last September, a New York law firm sued Nvidia, accusing the company of breaking U.S. securities laws by concealing the existence of a serious defect in its graphics chip line for several months before admitting the problem. That case has been put on hold awaiting a decision by an appellate court.


Breakout or Fakeout?

June 16, 2009

The S&P 500 celebrated its great technical accomplishment highlighted in our last note by doing exactly nothing. Maintaining a tight 32 point range from top to bottom, the S&P 500 netted just over 3 points from our previous note to the closing price last Friday, June 12. This week has changed the tune, giving up more than 34 points in just two days. Surrendering initial support in the 925-930 area designated by the May highs, the SPX is once again bearing down on the 200 day moving average, this time from above.  Additional support of the 50 day moving average is also moving into the area, just 15.5 points below the 200 day as of today, and rising.  The lows from May, which are also the highs from April and February, mark another major support level in the 875-880 range.

spx06.16.09 intraday

Both the MACD and the daily 13/34 exponential moving average indicator have signaled a negative divergence by not confirming the new highs in the price of the average.  With the January highs holding as resistance, the head and shoulders bottom we discussed in Still overbought, but over first resistance also is still in play.  As we noted, “…finishing the inverse head and shoulders bottom should happen somewhere around the end of June time wise to produce a symmetrical pattern. At this point, it looks like the January highs need to hold as resistance to keep the inverse head and shoulders pattern in play. This is also the approximate level of the 200 day moving average currently and the 200 day stopped the SPX multiple times from 2001-2002, plus twice early in 2003. The first test early in 2003 led to the formation of the right shoulder in the bottoming pattern and the second test required a test of the 50 day moving average as support before breaking out and leaving the 200 day well behind.”  With the 50 and 200 day moving averages relatively close together this time, plus the support of the recent lows/previous highs around 875-880, this market has plenty of candidates for a right shoulder not far from current prices.  A convincing move back below 875 would signal a deeper correction with targets as low as 741 still completely valid.

spx06.16.09

Which brings us to the market leading NASDAQ Composite.  Since our last note highlighting the breakout by the COMP, a brief rally has fizzled out with the last two trading days completely erasing the gains and setting up a quick test of the breakout point as support.  The rally stopped short of filling the gap opened on the way down in early October 2008, but did manage to bring the 50 and 200 day moving averages into a bullish golden cross.  Plenty of support exists for this market, but it doesn’t come into play until 60-120 points below the breakout point at 1785 if the breakout fails to hold.  Targets as low as 1500 do not invalidate the uptrend if the SPX makes a run toward the 2002 lows or even 741.  The MACD is also showing a negative divergence here by not confirming the new high in price and the ROC shows a failure to build momentum on the breakout.

comp06.16.09

We are again returning to our short positions, including SH, after precautionary stop outs proved unnecessary and untimely.  Our position in SH specifically was re-entered exactly at the stop out price (see Security Growth for details).


The S&P 500 closes above the 200 day moving average

June 1, 2009

The NASDAQ leads the market higher; leaves the 200 day behind

The S&P 500 accomplished something today, trading above the 200 day simple moving average for the first time in over a year. It was last call in May of 2008 at the 200 day for the SPX before dropping over 50% to the lows of this past March (the SPX hasn’t actually closed above this trend line since late 2007). Today also marks a new high for 2009, some 42% above those March lows in less than three months! Year-to-date the SPX has gained just over 4%.

SPX for 6/1/09

The NASDAQ is the real star leading the markets higher and breaking free from the recent consolidation range. The NASDAQ is also some 8% above its 200 day simple moving average and almost 10% above the early January highs. Sitting on a year-to-date gain of 16% and almost 45% above the March lows, large cap techs are showing investors’ renewed interest in risk.

COMP for 6/1/09

At this point, we are exiting the position in SH with a small loss on this renewed strength (see Security Growth for details).


Buffett boosts wealth to top Gates on Forbes list

October 10, 2008

Fri Oct 10, 2008 2:28pm EDT
By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is again the richest American, deposing Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates, after Forbes magazine recalculated the fortunes of some of the 400 wealthiest Americans.

The magazine took another look at the fortunes of some of the billionaires on its Forbes 400 list to assess the effect of the worst financial crisis since the 1930s Depression and released a select list naming some of those hit hard.

But while 17 billionaires on Forbes list lost more than $1 billion in the past month, Buffett managed to boost his wealth by $8 billion to $58 billion, pushing him ahead of Gates, whose fortune fell to $55.5 billion from $57 billion.

Gates had been ranked No. 1 on the Forbes 400 list for the past 15 years with his Microsoft fortune.

Buffett made his money by building his company Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRK.a) into a $199 billion conglomerate that invests in undervalued companies with strong management. Late last month his company said it would invest $5 billion in Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS).

“We chose to focus on some of the more high-profile billionaires on The Forbes 400, and print a sampling of those who lost over $1 billion during the month of September,” said Forbes senior editor Matthew Miller.


Leaders starting to crack

September 5, 2008

Large technology stocks in the QQQQ (PowerShares NASDAQ 100 Index ETF) had an awful day on the largest volume since bottoming in mid July.  All of the short term indicators are on sell signals and the relative strength against the S&P 500 is in danger of turning down.  If support at the July lows fails, a move back to the March lows is almost guaranteed and there is a significant chance they will not hold either.  These stocks are already oversold so a bounce from support is possible, but the heavy selling we have seen since returning from the holiday does not bode well for the worst month of the year.  Losing support from the leading sectors of tech and small caps would suggest the bear market has more room to go on the downside.  The NYSE Composite Index (NYA) found new lows today and is the first major index to do so.  The action in the techs and small caps will go a long way in deciding if the other major averages are to follow the lead of the NYA.

The small caps as represented by the IWM (iShares Russell 2000 Index Fund ETF) are holding up a little better.  This is more than likely a result of the strong dollar, but we have to consider this a small positive for the moment.  After failing at the June highs in early August, IWM pulled back and tested first support in the 71-72 area.  After a second attempt to rally fell short on low volume, we have returned to the 71-72 level again.  Volume has been lower in distribution than that of the rally off of the July lows, and both the 50 and 200 day moving averages have provided support so far.  Relative strength against the S&P 500 has also been maintained unlike the big techs above.  The negative divergence signaled by the MACD histogram in our last note did in fact foreshadow weakness at the old highs and this indicator has yet to change.  In addition, the MACD itself has followed the histogram by producing a sell signal of its own.

These ETFs must strengthen soon to keep their leadership status intact.  Without their help and guidance, the market as a whole could be in for another bloody September/October.


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