- Shopping for a new kitchen without visiting a showroom…
- More than just better video games: How virtual reality is changing everything
- When Wall Street analysts foul up, it can be an instant $280 in your pocket
- Tax Freedom Day… and how taxes cost more than life’s necessities
- The no-drama Fed minutes… how long before “everything” is a criminal offense?… the “reverse interest raid”… and more!
Before we start the clock today: Our sister franchise Laissez Faire’s Living Well is planning a live event titled America’s Growing Brain Health Epidemic.
According to them, as many as 121 million Americans could fall victim to a brain health threat that’s getting very little media attention. Even worse, it has the blessing of the government, and certain agencies within the medical establishment are working to make sure anyone 40 or older is exposed.
That means your editor — ahem — certainly qualifies. Which is why I’ll be paying attention to what they have to say. You might want to as well. During this event, Living Well’s chief health officer, Brad Lemley, and researcher Jasmine LeMaster will reveal exactly what this brain health threat is and how to avoid it.
The good news is they’re putting on this event just a few days from now, free of charge. You can watch from the comfort of your favorite recliner at home. Click here for the details.
Shopping will never be the same again.
Ikea — the go-to place for hipsters who need furniture and don’t mind assembling it themselves if it keeps the price down — is dabbling in a virtual-reality shopping experience.
Yep. Strap on a pair of VR goggles and you’re there in an Ikea-outfitted kitchen. You can walk around the room, open drawers, put a frying pan on the stove, change the finishes on cabinets. You can even adjust your virtual height so you’ll know how the room would feel to your 3-foot-high grandchild.
Well, it makes sense, right?
As convenient as Internet shopping is, sometimes you just don’t have a sense of the item you’re considering unless you see it in person. But in the case of Ikea, that entails a schlep to a far-flung store where you walk through endless sections of stuff you’re not looking for, navigating a sizeable crowd.
Wouldn’t it be nice to avoid the hassle but still check out the goods in a more “tangible” way than looking at a computer monitor or smartphone screen?
The two-dimensional surface on which you’re reading The 5 doesn’t do the experience justice…
“While the app is pretty limited in what it can offer to the user,” says a story at the techy site BGR, “future versions of such Ikea software might one day help you redecorate your entire home in VR. That way, you’ll know exactly whether everything fits before you order, and you’d be able to test various colors and designs before settling on a final product.”
This is the future of shopping. Just as a smartphone has dedicated apps from your favorite retailers, VR headsets will have their own apps. The Ikea VR app is designed for one of the hot headset models right now, the Vive, from the Taiwanese electronics giant HTC.
By the way, Samsung is working on a way to pay for your VR purchases “in app.”
“Some conversations we have been hearing about [are] how great would it be if you could enter a store with your VR headset and you browse the store in VR,” Samsung’s Nathalie Oestmann tells CNBC — perhaps with the Ikea app in mind. “You can click and pick what you want.
“I would like to be the payment mechanism behind that.”
Our point is this: The virtual-reality revolution isn’t only about more realistic and “immersive” video games — even if that’s what gets all the publicity.
It might even change the way your grandkids learn. A hint of this emerged on Wednesday at the Australian Museum in Sydney.
Guests at the museum put on Samsung Gear headsets and watched two documentaries hosted by the legendary naturalist David Attenborough. David Attenborough’s First Life VR gave viewers a 360-degree tour of the first creatures to inhabit the Earth. And David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef Dive VR does likewise with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
“You turn around and you’re literally sitting on David Attenborough’s knee, it really is just fantastic,” says Australian Museum CEO Kim McKay. “I hope these [documentaries] will take visitors to a new place and a new level of understanding.”
“The learning potential isn’t just a high-tech field trip,” says Ray Blanco of our science-and-wealth team.
“A company called Learn Immersive is developing software that uses VR to help you learn a new language. Right now you can just walk through a digital environment featuring everyday objects labeled in a foreign language. But it’s not hard to imagine the software improving the point where you can have a conversation with a virtual native speaker that’s almost as good as actually visiting the country itself.
“The potential market for VR and its cousin called ‘augmented reality’ is huge,” Ray goes on.
“One market analysis predicts it will be as large as $5.2 billion by 2018. Another believes VR and AR markets will grow as large as $150 billion by 2020.”
Consider that early last year, Business Insider projected the size of this market at a mere $37 million. Even if it’s “only” a $30 billion market by 2020 — that’s a projection cited by Fortune — that’s an 81,000% increase.
“Right now not one in 10 of your friends and neighbors even knows what this is or that it exists,” says Ray — “much less how to act on it and profit from it.”
But Ray does. And it’s not with global giants like the aforementioned Samsung or HTC. Ray’s found how to get in on the ground floor. He’ll lead the way when you follow this link.
Let’s turn our attention to the markets, shall we?
Yesterday’s release of the minutes from the Fed’s March policy meeting was full of the usual ifs and maybes. But markets are betting against an April rate hike. Futures markets place an April rate hike at 3%, down from a dizzying 5% at the beginning of the week. A June hike has an 18% probability, in case you were wondering.
One theme we’ve covered around here is how bad news is often good news for the market. That’s because bad economic news means the Fed will keep a lid on interest rates, putting wind in the sails of the stock market.
But today markets seem to be reverting to “bad news really is bad news” form. The Dow is off 160 points at writing, over investor fears of a weakening global economy and concerns that central banks are running out of bullets. That’s today’s story, anyway. The S&P’s also down 20, while the Nasdaq’s 63 points in the red.
Oil has also fallen 2%, to $36.98, this morning, in continuance of a general pattern this year. When oil’s risen, so have stocks. And vice versa.
Meanwhile, the Midas metal surged about $18.00, to $1,241, this morning on investor belief that global weakness will delay a Fed rate hike. Lower for longer, in other words. The dollar, we should mention, fell to an 18-month low against the yen. That should light a fire under Japanese exports. Poor Japan.
“If a pilot is always looking around for what is beside or above his plane, he could miss what’s right in front of his nose,” says our income specialist Zach Scheidt — offering up a profitable analogy.
“It’s incredibly important to know what’s going on around you,” he elaborates. “But you should never forget to watch where you’re going.
“Last week, Wall Street pilots took their eyes off the landscape in front of them and spent too much time looking at an issue that doesn’t really matter.”
The upshot was a false warning for airline stocks. “Next week, Delta is scheduled to release its first-quarter earnings report,” Zach explains. “Investors expect earnings of $1.27 per share, which is more than 180% higher than the company’s first-quarter earnings last year. Delta is benefiting from much lower fuel costs thanks to lower oil prices.
“But instead of focusing on the company’s strong earnings, Wall Street pilots (or the analysts in charge of steering mutual funds and institutional allocations) are looking out the side window at an inconsequential ‘danger.’ These analysts are worried about potentially lower revenue for every mile that Delta flies. This is likely a function of lower ticket prices.
“Here’s the thing,” Zach goes on. “It makes perfect sense for Delta to have lower ticket prices. Since fuel costs for all airlines are falling, the airlines can offer their passengers discounted tickets and still make plenty of profit. That’s why Delta’s profits are continuing to climb.
“But last week, when Wall Street analysts focused on the wrong thing, it sent DAL shares temporarily lower.”
Earlier this week, Zach’s premium subscribers jumped on a chance to exploit this goof — not by buying DAL shares but by collecting $280 in instant income, applying Zach’s perpetual income strategy. In fact, his readers have had the chance to collect $962 in income from Delta this year alone.
If you’re still not clued in to this strategy, one of its most passionate evangelists is our publisher, Joe Schriefer. He walks you through it in a video that’s gaining a certain degree of, ummm, infamy online. Check it out right here.
Hooray — only 17 more days till Tax Freedom Day!
That’s “the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year,” says the Tax Foundation — which performs this calculation annually. “Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income.”
On average, Americans will work 46 days this year to pay federal, state and local income taxes… 26 days to cover payroll taxes… 15 days for sales and excise taxes… 11 days for property taxes… nine days to cover corporate income taxes… and seven more to cover “other” taxes.
Result? The government’s take exceeds what Americans will spend this year on food, clothing and shelter.
Tax Freedom Day falls a day earlier than it did last year — mostly because federal tax collections are likely to be a bit smaller as a share of the U.S. economy. The latest Tax Freedom Day ever fell was on May 1 in 2000.
Of course, your mileage may vary — not least because of the state in which you live. Wait till you see how that breaks down in tomorrow’s 5.
“Increasingly, the government is holding people guilty of something unless they prove themselves innocent, especially in financial matters,” a reader writes of the war on cash and other recent topics.
“The various agencies often can’t even say what the crime is, but you must be guilty if you can’t satisfy them with an explanation.
“This, of course, is contrary to our Constitution, but the bureaucrats don’t care. How long before everything we do is a criminal offense without redress in law, just because some ‘official’ doesn’t like it?”
The 5: As long as only a limited number of people are ensnared in a certain way.
Or so we conclude from new polling data on the topic of civil asset forfeiture. We’ve written about it regularly for years, but most people have still never heard of it. (If you’re a newer reader, here’s just one aspect of how it might affect you.)
A poll in Utah finds 77% of those surveyed never heard of it. Once it was explained to them, 83% opposed it. The situation is similar in Florida, where 84% oppose it.
Nine percent of those polled in Utah and 8% in Florida said they knew someone who had their property seized by police even though they weren’t charged with a crime. That’s not a large enough constituency to get outraged and change the law, although the governor in Florida signed a bill recently that’s a step in the right direction.
On the other hand, law enforcement agencies and police unions are a powerful constituency.
“In a 2001 survey of 1,400 law enforcement executives,” writes The Heritage Foundation’s Jason Snead, “40% of respondents reported that they considered forfeiture revenues to be a necessary component of their budgets. Since 2008, 298 police and sheriff’s departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20% of their budgets each year.”
“Everywhere I go,” writes our final correspondent, “anyone who has a bank account is talking about and is concerned about negative interest rates and banks or the government grabbing parts of our savings, CDs or checking accounts, or even stock or option trading accounts getting raided by banks, big money institutions and the government.
“I hope your newsletters and The 5 will make statements or even suggest investments to escape these ‘reverse interest raids.’”
The 5: We’re partial to gold, for reasons Jim Rickards explains in his newest book. But we recognize you shouldn’t go “all in” with any asset class.
Our income specialist, the aforementioned Zach Scheidt, shares your concern. We’ll bring you his thoughts on the matter sometime next week.
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. We’ve heard from some readers that Jim Rickards’ latest video goes too far.
In that video, he exposes the next major attack against the U.S. dollar.
Maybe that’s not so shocking. Here’s what is: Jim believes this attack will come from one of America’s sworn allies.
If you can stomach it, we urge you to watch right away.
Click here to watch Jim’s controversial presentation.