November 11th, 2011
05:06 AM GMT
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New York (CNN) – I have never met anyone who was shot nine times at point blank range.

I wasn't sure what to expect from rapper 50 Cent. I went to interview him about his new energy drink Street King. 50 Cent has linked the product to the United Nations World Food Program, promising to donate one meal for every bottle sold. It is an ambitious goal, but then Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson is an ambitious man.

Ambitious and, as I discovered, very nice. Yes, nice. In fact, it was hard to reconcile the scowling ripped rapper whose album “Get Rich Or Die Tryin'” went multi-platinum, with the soft-spoken, suit-wearing CEO sitting in front of me.
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October 17th, 2011
03:39 AM GMT
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New York (CNN) – Can Apple make you rich? That is what John Vons hopes.

An architect by professional, Vons was laid off three years ago. Frustrated and running out of options Vons decided he needed to reinvent himself.  Inspired by the design and popularity of Apple's products, Vons created an iPhone accessory he calls the yofo.  It is a small suction device that allows you to cradle the iphone on your shoulder or stick it on a surface to more easily watch content.

As he and his partner, Genie, made the rounds to secure funding, the feedback was good, but would-be backers shied away due to the shaky economy.   A friend finally came up with enough to pay for the first batch, but there is little left over for marketing.
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September 29th, 2011
03:10 AM GMT
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New York (CNN) – Amazon didn't just light a fire to the tech world Wednesday, it threw out an atom bomb –  a tablet for $199, less than half the price of the cheapest iPad. Not only that, CEO Jeff Bezos also announced a new line-up of better, cheaper Kindles ranging from $149 for a 3G Kindle Touch to $79 for the most basic model (versions without ads are slightly more).

When those prices were unveiled at the press event in New York, the jaws of even the most skeptical tech journalists dropped. FULL POST



August 25th, 2011
07:01 PM GMT
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Is it easy to understand why investors are getting paranoid. On any given day this summer stock markets seem to rally or plummet hundred of points in the matter of minutes for no apparent reason. Today it was the German DAX. Who is to blame? Market veterans increasingly say high frequency traders. This group use super fast, sophisticated computers that chart stock relationships and look for an opportunity to profit. They trade thousands of stocks each day, holding them for only minutes at a time. Fund managers say this churn and reliance on super-computers is feeding the outsized volatility that is spooking all of us and wrecking havoc on our retirement funds.

Or is it?

I went to New Jersey to speak to one of the few high-frequency traders who will talk to the press, Manoj Narang of Tradeworx. He says the idea that high-frequency firms are behind the huge moves is ludicrous. By definition high-frequency traders buy and sell the same amount of stocks each day. They do not make big bets in one direction. If a stock, like a bank stock for example, does sell off substantially it is very likely their computer programs would most likely guess the stock is statistically more likely to rebound and trigger buying of the stock, thereby providing liquidity.

So if they aren’t to blame who is? Narang does acknowledge technology is playing a bigger role and that the changes are disruptive and at times unnerving. But computer-driven trade should not be confused with high-frequency trading strategies. Everyone, including hedge funds and standard pension funds, relies on computers. It appears regulators are not keeping up with what can happen when sell orders cascade.

Narang has voluntarily sat down with the SEC and other regulators to try and clear the air. He says regulators have been receptive, but he worries the environment of blame is counter-productive. As for the fund managers who are pointing the finger of blame his way? "The oldest trick on Wall Street is to find a scapegoat when you can’t explain your own performance."



June 30th, 2011
12:43 AM GMT
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New York (CNN) – Can an old dog learn new tricks?  That is the question facing tech giant Microsoft.

Once a must-have growth stock, Microsoft shares have been stuck in the mid $20 range.  While Apple has surged 391% in the past five years and Google has risen 28%, Microsoft shares are down 8%.

I caught up with Steve Ballmer at the launch of Office 365, the cloud version of its popular software package and a product the company hopes will dispel the image that they are trapped in the past.

He acknowledged the company suffers from a perception problem.  “It is hard to understand.  Half of the world’s inboxes are on Hotmail.  We have maybe 50, 100% more customers than Gmail.  We are not newbies.

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June 22nd, 2011
05:21 AM GMT
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New York (CNN) – In just over a week Ben Bernanke and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve will turn off the life support system that has kept the U.S. economy alive for the last two years. How will the markets respond? It’s anyone’s guess.

Optimists, like former White House Advisor Laura Tyson, say the economy - though still fragile - has healed enough to breathe on its own. The Fed has been clear about its intentions to end its program of buying treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities, the market had time to prepare and the withdrawal of quantitative easing should end without much drama.

But executives at Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund, disagree. CEO Mohammad El-Erian is sticking by the firm’s bearish and controversial call that the end of quantitative easing will spark a sell-off in U.S. treasury bonds. I talked with both Tyson and El-Erian ahead of the Federal Reserve’s June meeting and he gave the following assessment.

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May 20th, 2011
01:23 AM GMT
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New York (CNN) – There was a lot of cheering in the New York offices of LinkedIn – with good reason. On its first day of trading shares of the social networking site for professionals soared over 100%.  That kind of price action raises a lot of questions.

Can the company like up to the hype?  Do people only use Linkedin when they are looking for a job?  Did they leave too much money on the table by not pricing the IPO higher?

I put some of these concerns to Jeff Weiner the CEO.  He wouldn’t address the valuation directly but he did tell me they were very focused on finding investors who were focused on the long-term.  It was his primary concern in this IPO.  Weiner is very clear that he and his team are planning on plowing most of their profits back into the company.  They may not even be profitable next year.

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April 15th, 2011
02:02 AM GMT
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New York (CNN) –
When Eric Schmidt announced he was stepping aside as CEO of Google he famously tweeted, “Day-to-day adult supervision no longer needed!” But investors aren’t so sure about that. In the weeks since Schmidt announced he was stepping aside as CEO, the stock has fallen 9 percent.

Larry Page, the founder and now CEO has a reputation as a brilliant innovator, a non-conformist and an introvert. Those attributes work for entrepreneurs, but often do not translate into good CEO’s.

I had a chance to sit down with Steven Levy, a veteran technology journalist who has just released a new book about Google, “In the Plex,” and asked whether Page has the ability to lead the company.

“He is a smart guy...we know he has a great vision of the future,” Levy said. “Larry has to step up not only in terms of great products, great vision, take on Facebook, but also make people feel okay about Google and not be scared of it.”

Page takes the reins at a critical time for Google. It is still making pots of money, but growth rates are not anywhere near the meteoric 40% pace of years past. Google has missed the rise of social networking. In his book, Levy details Google’s “Facebook panic,” describing how concerned they are about the vast information Facebook now controls.

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April 1st, 2011
07:31 PM GMT
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New York (CNN) - Honeywell CEO David Cote may be a fan of blues music, but he is unequivocally upbeat about the company’s prospects.

After years of battling problems related to past acquisitions, asbestos liabilities and unfunded pension obligations, Honeywell finally seems to be hitting its stride. The stock just hit a 52-week high and Cote has affirmed the industrial conglomerate is on track for sales of $35-36 billion dollars this year.

The secret? Being boring pays! Honeywell’s businesses involve energy efficiency, safety and security and engine systems to name a few. Not exactly sexy areas, but they are essential, especially in developing economies. Honeywell gets 50% of its sales outside the U.S.

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February 18th, 2011
05:53 AM GMT
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New York (CNN) – We knew it was coming.

Sooner or later the austerity protests that swept through Athens, Madrid, Paris and London were bound to show up here in the U.S. and they have.  Thousands of teachers and supporters stormed on the state house in Madison, Wisconsin on Thursday to protest deep spending cuts.  The scene, which lit up Twitter (#Wisconsin) and social media, may just be the spark that inspires public employees across the country to take to the streets.

Why now?  It is budget time and officials in cities and states coast to coast are proposing huge cuts and higher taxes in order to try and close a collective $125 billion budget gap.  On the chopping block this time were areas traditionally off limits: Teachers, firemen, police and garbage collection.  We profiled a town in New Jersey caught in this very budget squeeze.

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CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.

 
 
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