You can read and organize email from just about anywhere these days.
Gmail has announced a system for organizing email by importance, not by the order in which it arrived.
Ever since e-mail first came along, we've been beset by the tyranny of the digital: how to handle the vast and growing number of e-mails that pour in everyday.
Some, like Quest Means Business producer Gayle, use complicated colors, stars on prioritizing lists. They use labels to sort out their e-mails and then they load them into different folders to keep track of them.
Other people spend hours sifting through the barrage, hunched over their computers like battery chickens.
Then there are those of you who use the ignore method, you know, if it's that important, it will come back again.
Now, I don't have a system. I just look at the e-mails. I answer some. I ignore others. And I forward loads to my colleagues. It's called the Richard Quest passing the buck method. It works, a treat!
So will you use Gmail's new system? Another system? Or no system at all? Let me know in the comments section below.
Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it's profitable.
- Richard Quest
QMB viewers are familiar with the Q25 – the exercise we conduct each earnings season, to see if we can spot the prevailing trend in the health of major companies. In the Q25, good results earn a green balloon, while a red is what we give for a disappointing report.
When we last did the Q25 there were far more greens than reds – which gave great hope that the world's big corporations were back on track.
In the first days of this earnings season there is a great deal of dismay at the results. Even though economists had warned that there was a slowdown, now we are seeing the evidence.
Earnings expectations may have been set too high, but companies are warning that things are still very tough and not getting much better. In the past week a wide range of companies warned of more difficult times ahead.
We have many more companies to add before we can come to any conclusions from our Q25. There is still a long way to go in this reporting season, but the early signs are not good.
Atlanta - Much of last week was spent in the U.S. southern city of Atlanta, at CNN Center, our Global headquarters. After my rather gloomy Profitable Moment last week, I’d hoped moderate temperatures and the southern outlook would be more palatable. In some ways it was.
The southern fried chicken I enjoyed at a local restaurant was delicious. And the bread pudding for dessert required hours at the gym afterwards. I really should have asked for the recipe, even though making it would be way beyond my culinary skills. The sputtering economy in the south, however was not quite as tasty. I am sorry to report, it was still tinged with the bitter tastes.
My good friend, who is in real estate, was relieved to tell me that, properties were at last coming onto the market, but at unrealistic prices. Even when there were potential buyers, they could not obtain mortgages. The lending crunch is still strong for all except the most creditworthy. He is working twice as hard to make half as much.
Having heard his anecdotes, I was not surprised to see this confirmed with figures showing sales of previously owned homes falling 7.2 percent in January to the lowest level since last summer.
Other friends, who work in retail, told me that the year had started off badly. Without discounts shoppers were not shopping. Looking at the week’s numbers, this was confirmed by consumer confidence data from the Conference Board (a fall back to levels seen last April) and the Michigan consumer sentiment numbers – both of which revealed an increasing concern about the future.
It was not all doom and gloom however, the U.S. did revise upwards its growth numbers for the fourth quarter, from 5.7 percent to 5.9 percent, so the end of last year was better than first thought. I tend to pay little notice to this number for several reasons. The revision was relatively small, the number is firmly rear-view driving and crucially, it covered the holiday season. The concern has now firmly shifted to what is happening now! The first quarter can do much more damage than what happened three months ago.
It is obvious that today’s forward-looking indicators like consumer sentiment, are showing Americans are not comfortable about the direction of the recovery. They are putting off buying things. The recovery is tepid.
Some of you will be wondering how I square this circle with the fact that the Dow Jones Industrial’s showed a gain of 2.6 percent in February. This was the market’s best performance since November. If things are that bad, why didn’t the Dow fall? Good question.
The U.S. is currently doing the economic equivalent of dancing two steps forward … one step back. Some months, it is the opposite, and no progress is made. It is a brave person who is prepared to say that the direction is full steam ahead anytime soon.
My short trip finished as it began, being hit by another storm in the northeast. Record levels of snow have disrupted life and there may well be another storm next week too. This will take its toll on the first quarter's numbers although it should be mitigated as things get back to normal and increased activity compensates.
Either way – my short trip to the U.S. showed that things are rocky on the economic front. As for that delicious bread pudding in Atlanta, if you have a favourite dessert recipe, do drop me line. No matter how dire the economy, there is always room for dessert!
Next week, my dispatch comes from the much warmer climate of Bahrain as I get ready to present Quest Means Business each evening as part of CNN's iList week.
New York - This week’s "Profitable Moment" is being written in New York where I am on assignment. It is interesting to see how those who live in the world’s financial capital are dealing with coming out of a recession. Much of what I report to you now is observational and anecdotal; often the best way to gauge the real economy and what is going on.
My initial impression was of a city still going through the economic grinder. A ride on the subway showed me passengers that were glum. Faces looked tired. The dark clothes of winter are still being worn and for good reason. Winter has made its ferocity felt in recent weeks, with the city digging out of record-breaking levels of snow. And temperatures still are cold, even if the sun shines. There is a muted air about New York. Chatting to friends and contacts and it is clear there is more going on than just winter.
Just this past weekend the New York Times lead its Sunday edition with the headline :“Despite Signs of Recovery, Chronic Joblessness Rises,” which wrote about how “the unemployed face years without jobs, exhausting savings and benefits.” According to the Bureau of Labour statistics, quoted in the article, 6.3 million Americans have been unemployed for more than six months – the highest number since records began. It’s not surprising people are still looking glum.
People feel economically battered and bruised and can see no real light at the end of the tunnel. Across the city, stores that closed early in the recession remain shut and have yet to find new tenants.
In a city which likes to boast that it welcomes the world, many international tourists are thinking twice before coming here, especially those from the Euro zone. The Euro has fallen 5 percent against the dollar since the start of 2010. Even that old-standby - the UK tourist – isn’t offering much succour. Cheap hotels and bargain fares can only go so far against a falling pound, higher taxes at home and worries about jobs.
My hotelier told me his aim was keep the hotel as full as possible, even if that meant heavily reducing the rate. January and February are traditionally slow months, but this year he said business from Europe was down around 40 per cent. Only Fashion Week and a few conventions have saved the months.
Some may wonder when it will get better, for others it already has. The bankers of the city are clearly feeling the benefits of a stock market volatility and bonus time. I had coffee with an overseas banker who was also visiting New York. His business was getting back to pre-recession levels. Deals are being done, fees are being earned. It left me realising the gap between the beneficiaries and sufferers is getting larger.
To test my theory I went to the shops on Fifth Avenue. At the flagship Diesel store there were T-shirts costing more than $100 each and cardigans at $150. Lovely clothes but clearly expensive in troubled times. Perhaps some can still pay these prices.
A trip to the more modestly priced H&M also on Fifth Avenue revealed a different picture: colourful T-shirts selling at $5, long-sleeved shirts at $19 and a store doing brisk business. Guess where I spent my dollars converted from pounds?
None of this is should surprise anyone. The global economy is still recovering from the drastic surgery of the last 18 months. Like any patient it is going to take time to recover. My overriding impression from the Big Apple is that the recovery is not here just yet. Next, I am visiting the mothership of my television network; the headquarters of CNN in Atlanta. It will give me a chance to report back to you whether the glumness of New York is unique to the United States.
Whatever you may be up to in the week ahead, I hope it’s profitable.
About Business 360
CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.