Cramer: This market is filled with seller’s remorse

The market rallied on Thursday, and Jim Cramer said the reason was seller’s remorse. The same stocks that were clobbered when they reported earnings are now roaring higher because investors have either forgotten the bad news, overlooked it, or decided it wasn’t as bad as they thought.

“I often marvel at how short term people’s thinking can be when it comes to earnings, and how they should think so much longer-term if they story is really unchanged or actually better,” the “Mad Money” host said.

Kimberly-Clark reported earnings recently, and, in Cramer’s opinion, the numbers reflected fantastic growth and a lot of cost reductions. But regardless of the CEO’s positive outlook, the stock still plummeted.

Stressed man in front of a computer

Image Source | Getty Images
Stressed man in front of a computer

“I threw up my hands and stopped trying to shoehorn why people sell and proclaimed my own bafflement, too!”-Jim Cramer

Cramer read the analysts’ notes and listened to the conference call. And while Kimberly-Clark had a lot of good things to say, it was hurt by currency, as so many other companies were, and had some on-time issues that obscured the good quarter.

“It seemed so obvious if you had actually done the homework,” Cramer said. (Tweet This)

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Sure enough, Kimberly-Clark soared to $133 a share and hit an all-time high on Thursday. The sellers were just plain wrong.

Another example was Allergan, when it reported what Cramer considered to be the best quarter of any pharmaceutical company in 2016. The company’s FDA approval rates were strong, and its merger with Pfizer was on track to close the second half of the year.

When Cramer asked Allergan CEO Brent Saunders why the stock was hit so hard lately, he said he was “baffled” and had no explanation for the weakness.

“I threw up my hands and stopped trying to shoehorn why people sell and proclaimed my own bafflement, too,” Cramer said.

Turns out, Cramer and Saunders had a right to be baffled, because the stock is up more than 6 percent in the past five days. Cramer thinks there are many more cases out there, just like Kimberly-Clark and Allergan.

“All of these are examples of fear and panic trumping rationality. But, fortunately, the panic is now receding,” Cramer said.

Keep in mind these instances that the first judgment might not always be the best judgment, as worry could be keeping investors from making money.

[“source-gsmarena”]

So is daily fantasy gambling or not?

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Tuesday ordered DraftKings and FanDuel, the biggest daily fantasy sites, to stop accepting bets from New Yorkers. Schneiderman said the activity was gambling rather than a skill-based game and therefore illegal under New York law.

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The cease-and-desist is a major blow to the young industry that allows users to pay for fantasy sports on a weekly basis. Schneiderman’s office has for about a month been investigating the sites to see whether insiders were using proprietary information for personal gain.

“It is clear that DraftKings and FanDuel are the leaders of a massive, multibillion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country,” Schneiderman said. “Today we have sent a clear message: not in New York, and not on my watch.”

The operators of daily fantasy sports sites have been arguing that their products are skill-based games, not gambling. But that hasn’t quieted all the controversy — and recent government scrutiny. Fantasy sports are legal — for now — because laws in most of the country has it defined as a skill game. If it gets treated as gambling, then immediately it’s illegal in almost every state.

So what is it? A skill game? Gambling? Can it be both? One way of measuring this is to consider how well a random average participant would fare in daily fantasy, contrasted to the huge but largely illegal game of online poker.

Pro poker player Andy Frankenberger believes daily fantasy is much more like gambling than online poker.

“A daily fantasy pro’s competitive edge over a beginner is nothing compared to the edge of a poker pro versus a first-time poker player. Your decisions in daily fantasy can’t be that bad when players’ prices are efficiently set by the sites,” he said.

Frankenberger spent 14 years on Wall Street trading equity derivatives before becoming a two-time World Series of Poker champion and World Poker Tour player of the year. “It’s similar to how there’s no bad pick in sports betting if the lines are set efficiently,” he said. “But in poker, players assign their own values to each hand, and as such, the skilled player stands to gain from making better decisions.” In addition to poker, he’s played fantasy sports since the 1980s, and daily fantasy for several years.

“It’s a joke that between online poker and daily fantasy, poker is the one that’s widely prohibited in this country,” said Frankenberger. “Anyone who thinks poker is not a game of skill probably hasn’t played much poker.”

Poker chips gambling

Michael Fernahl | E+ | Getty Images

Frankenberger concedes that a pro who enters a daily fantasy tournament has some edge over a nonpro, but that edge is far less than in poker. The reason pros currently dominate daily fantasy is because they submit hundreds — or thousands — of entries. “Any single entry from a top daily fantasy pro is only marginally likely to beat a nonskilled player,” he said. “But when they submit hundreds of entries, of course they are more likely to win, just as a person who buys 200 lottery tickets is more likely to win than someone who buys just one.”

But why are the pros submitting so many entries? “Right now people are taking advantage of the overlay.” In daily fantasy tournaments today, prize guarantees often exceed the total funds collected. That means each entry is actually worth more than the price paid. As long as each entry has positive expected value, it’s in a deep-pocketed pro’s best interest to submit as many entries as possible, especially if they feel they have a competitive edge in drafting their teams.

The overlays are a sign of the times: start-ups focused on gaining market share over profitability. “It’s like Lyft or Gett offering $5 or $10 rides anywhere in Manhattan, even though they lose money on each ride,” said Frankenberger. “It reminds me of the Internet boom in 2000 when companies like Kozmo.com provided a free one-hour delivery service that seemed too good to be true. We all know how that ended.”

But if daily fantasy continues to grow as it has, it will be well worth the money they’re giving away in overlays today. “At some point the overlays will turn into cash surpluses as tournaments fill up and the overlays are a thing of the past,” said Frankenberger. “That is, if they don’t run into legal hurdles.” In the meantime, Frankenberger is convinced daily fantasy requires less skill for an average player than online poker.

Ed Miller, an independent games consultant, recently published a dataset showing how the profits of daily fantasy games are soaked up by sharks — the professionals who are the biggest players. Notice that the absolute biggest sharks only have a 7 percent return on investment. The next biggest group of sharks actually saw a higher return, while betting fewer total dollars.

Miller pointed out a very interesting fact about why so many professional poker players have moved over to daily fantasy. “There’s an army of smart 18-year-old kids in Siberia doing nothing all winter but getting better at poker. It’s hard to squeak out a profit these days because the level of competition is very hard.” Those players who used to spend time on poker have moved over to daily fantasy in huge quantities.

As a financial example, think about a newly emerging market — where pioneering traders can jump in and take advantage of big spreads, mispricing, and information asymmetry. Eventually the markets mature, spreads tighten, profits shrink — and the traders move on to something else that’s hot. It was online poker a decade ago, and it’s daily fantasy right now.
[“source -pcworld”]

Freedom 251 is a $4 smartphone that packs in quad-core CPU and runs Android Lollipop

India’s Ringing Bells has unveiled what is being touted as the country’s most affordable smartphone. Dubbed Freedom 251, the Android-powered device carries a price tag of INR 251, which translates into just under $4 at current exchange rates.

For that much, you get a handset that is powered by a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, and sports a 4-inch qHD IPS display. It comes with 1GB RAM and 8GB internal memory, which can be expanded up to 32GB via microSD card.

In terms of camera, the Freedom 251 features a 3.2MP rear unit and a 0.3MP front shooter. The phone runs Android 5.1 (Lollipop), and packs in a 1,450mAh battery. Connectivity options include 3G, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, and GPS, while color options include white.

Ringing Bells says the phone is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for “empowering India to the last person, transforming India’s growth story.” It will be available to order from a dedicated website (Source link below) starting 6:00 AM tomorrow (February 18). India’s Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will officially launch it later today.
[“source -cncb”]

Is your dividend plan on track? Answer these 4 questions

Dividend stocks tend to outperform when the stock market is uncertain. It’s been true historically, and it’s been the case again in 2016. There’s safety in stocks that have had strong balance sheets and reward shareholders with regular cash payments.

Case in point: The S&P 500 is down 6 percent this year, trailing by a wide margin the S&P Dividend Aristocrats Index (-1 percent) and S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrats Index, which is flat.

“It’s a very uncertain market, and you don’t know where returns will come from, but you can expect they will be lackluster,” said Neena Mishra, director of ETF research at Zacks Investment Research. “For sure, investors will be better off to get some dividends and high-quality companies with a history of cash on the balance sheet,” she said.

Dividends

Zimmytws | Getty Images

The Federal Reserve may still talk about raising rates this year, but rates don’t seem likely to go up as far or as fast as the market once assumed. That means the argument that dividend-rich sectors would become less attractive relative to rates doesn’t have much weight behind it, especially since many classic dividend stock niches are also “flight to safety” sectors. Wondering why utility stocks are actually up 6 percent this year amid the stock market rout? There’s your answer.

When the markets are a mess, dividend stocks need to be on the radar of investors, experts said. And with global growth slowing, C-suites don’t have much to offer investors to get their stocks moving up beyond cash reward programs: Look at Apple’s recent bond offering, taking advantage of the low rates and ability to use bond proceeds to increase dividend payments.

“The market believes there will not be a rate hike or just one, and dividends have been outperforming based on that belief,” Mishra said.

Ben Johnson, director of global ETF research at Morningstar, said that these type of companies typically have strong, steady earnings and a clean balance sheet. “They’re profitable and healthy,” he said. “And they have a sustainable competitive advantage to keep competitors at bay.” It’s become apparent to investors that dividend investments, including ETFs, have been resilient in “what has been a brutal downdraft for equities.” He added: “This is their time to shine.”

If you’re already a dividend investor, it’s time to check that your approach is set correctly. If you’ve been neglecting dividends, it’s time to consider a plan.

Here are four questions to make sure you make the most of dividend investing.

1. Is it better to buy individual dividend-rich stocks or dividend funds and ETFs?

The best way to answer this question is by looking at the overall size of your investment portfolio, said Charles Sizemore, a financial advisor at Sizemore Capital Management in Dallas. “If your portfolio is a few tens of thousands of dollars, just buy an ETF or a few ETFs and be done,” he said. “ETFs will pay a decent yield, and the risk is so low. If you own a dividend stock or two and they blow up, it can sink your entire plan.”

Sizemore said only investors with several hundred thousands of dollars should be picking individual dividend stocks.

The ETFs are a low-cost, diversified way to own dividend-paying companies of all stripes, Morningstar’s Johnson said.

“For the vast majority of investors, one steady, high-quality, core low-cost U.S. equity income fund is more than sufficient,” he said.

Either way, it is important to remember that an ETF, even one with a high yield, is not a bond investment. “Dividend-growth ETFs can bounce around a lot,” Sizemore said. “These are stocks, not bonds.” But most of the ETFs in this category are focused on holdings that “have survived Armageddon. So they’re a valid way to play dividend growth,” he added.

2. What sets dividend stocks and funds apart is the yield, but is absolute yield the most important factor in selecting a dividend investment?

Yes, yield is what distinguishes dividend stocks, but the further an investor stretches for income through high-yield ETFs implies “a sacrifice of quality,” Johnson said.

The Morningstar ETF expert said it is important not to look at yield in isolation. “Yield is market-dependent,” he said, referring to the fact that as a stock declines in value, a yield will increase. But it’s more important to look at the stability of the cash-flow stream of a company. Consider the energy sector, where yields have been going up as stock prices go down, but cash flow is not safe, given the sector free fall amid low oil prices.

It is more important to see cash flow growing over time rather than yield in isolation, Johnson said. Investors do want to see a yield that is steadily growing at a pace that outstrips inflation.

Johnson also provides a handy study of maximum drawdown in dividend ETFs — it provides investors with a sense of what a worst-case scenario would look like for various ETFs if they had declining dividends.

“See how their dividend stocks performed in the last recession,” Sizemore said. “Yield by itself is relevant, but not the most relevant.”

The Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG) is a Morningstar favorite. It tracks an index composed mostly of large companies that have raised their dividends for at least 10 straight years. And most of the 179 holdings aren’t the usual dividend-heavy stocks, like REITs or utilities. Stocks include consumer goods and industrial stocks, which can plug into economic recovery. The expense ratio is only 0.10 percent.

“This Vanguard ETF has great dividend growth,” Sizemore said. “You’re buying a portfolio of bullet-proof companies that have increased dividends consistently.”

“The market believes there will not be a rate hike or just one, and dividends have been outperforming based on that belief.”-Neena Mishra, director of ETF research at Zacks Investment Research

3. Does the length of years a stock has been paying dividends, and maybe increasing them, matter in selecting a dividend investment?

Reliability of cash flow and dividends over a number of years is essential, but how many years, exactly? This could be the most important question when it comes to choosing a dividend ETF, specifically.

The Schwab US Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD) is another favorite of ETF experts. It tracks companies that have raised dividends for at least a decade. It’s also a low-cost ETF, with a fee of only 0.07 percent. “The less fees you pay, the better,” said Todd Rosenbluth, director of ETF and mutual fund research at S&P Capital IQ.

But more important in this case may be the fact that the Schwab ETF gets 20 percent of its exposure from the tech sector, Rosenbluth said. He owns stocks like Microsoft and Intel, while also holding more traditional dividend sectors, such as industrials.

Sizemore said S&P Dividend Aristocrats Index, the basis for a ProShares ETF (NOBL), only includes stocks with a 25-year history of raising dividends. While that means the dividends are “close to bulletproof,” the downside is investors don’t get the tech-sector names like Apple or even Microsoft, which have emerged as some of the fastest-growing dividend payers.

“You’re getting a core of old consumer staples and old industrials that have been around forever,” Sizemore said. “It’s not bad, but those stocks are kind of expensive.” In his view, with the stock market in the latter stages of a bull market run, sectors like consumer staples aren’t trading at prices that Sizemore sees as being a good entry point. “I don’t want to overload on these sectors,” he added. “They won’t have to cut dividends, but the problem is, the stock prices aren’t that compelling.”

The SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY), which tracks the S&P High Yield Dividend Index, tracks a benchmark that holds the highest-yielding companies that have increased their dividends for at least two decades. Nearly a quarter of the ETF’s 99 holdings are financial stocks, and it has much fewer technology stocks.

But length of years tracked can be deceiving: A shorter dividend history as a basis for an ETF doesn’t always mean more tech. The iShares Core Dividend Growth ETF (DGRO) was just launched last year. Its benchmark index shoots for stocks with at least five years of straight dividend growth and high payout ratios. Top holdings include Microsoft and GE. But Sizemore said even though it’s limiting its holdings to the past five years of dividend history, “you’re not getting the fastest-growing companies.”

Tech represents 13 percent of this ETF. “The ETF has a low expense ratio of 0.12 percent, and it’s pretty diversified,” Mishra of Zacks Investment Research said.

Vanguard’s VIG ETF also has 13 percent exposure to tech and Microsoft as its top holding, but a 10-year requirement for dividend payment history.

Overall, “10 years is a nice round number,” Sizemore said. “As an investor, you can figure that in any 10-year window, the companies have seen one recession. Clearly, it takes a high-quality company with substantial staying power and cash flow to generate and grow a dividend over 25 years, but what an investor also might miss out on is emerging dividend players.”

Sizemore said for “gobs and gobs of cash flow being returned to shareholders, it’s been tech in the past five or so years.”

4. The energy sector has been great for dividends, yet more dividend cuts from energy companies are coming. Will it be a huge drag on dividend income indexes and funds that are benchmarked to them?

Energy is the most vulnerable sector to big dividend cuts. In the past week alone, two big U.S. oil and gas companies, ConocoPhillips andAnadarko Petroleum, slashed dividends.

Johnson said not all dividend ETFs are created equal, and energy-sector exposure is of particular concern, given the “meaningful cuts” to blue chips in the energy space. “Every eye is on ExxonMobil now,” he said.

But he added that most of the core dividend ETFs do not have enough sector exposure to energy for the cuts within the sector to be a serious red flag for ETF investors. Vanguard’s VIG has 1 percent exposure, while ProShares NOBL ETF has 3.8 percent exposure,

“If the energy sector is 1 percent of a high-quality dividend ETF, it won’t move the needle,” Johnson said. “And it would have to be much greater than 6 or 7 percent also.”
[“source -pcworld”]

Why Snapchat is better than Facebook

In CNBC’s social media on campus series, we asked editors at college papers across the country: What social media platforms are hot? Are any of them dead or just for old people? This installment is by Sonali Seth, a sophomore at the University of Southern California.

Sonali Seth

Source: Mimi Nguyen
Sonali Seth

We, millennials, have fallen out of love with Facebook for exactly the same reason we fell in love with it: its unapologetic ubiquity.

Like so many other social networks, its increasing publicity of our online presence has forced us to grapple with new questions about what it means to exist on a screen and in person.

While the ability to tell our hundreds of Facebook friends minute details of our lives — whether it be through constant status updates, wall posts or charmingly low-quality photos — used to be both socially acceptable and embarrassingly fun, the presence of parents, teachers and future employers on Facebook means that millennials’ actions on the network have social consequences.

So, while Facebook’s marketing to expand beyond young people may have increased the breadth of their user base, it has come at the expense of the image of Facebook as THE social network for millennials.

Today, we have adopted it as more of an established base of interconnections that allows us to virtually stalk anyone we’ve ever known than a platform to communicate with friends on a daily basis.

It’s not that the usage of Facebook by young people has declined — 87 percent of online adults 18 to 29 use Facebook, according to a Pew Research poll — but rather that its utility has evolved.

Millennials post less now and about less trivial things. Perhaps this is because we’re older and more mature, but it’s also because Facebook’s omnipresence has given everyone we’ve ever known access to our lives. This has forced us to create and maintain a public persona: We’re less likely to broadcast all of our lives authentically, and more likely to engage in selective sharing.

We’re all Photoshopped now

Meanwhile, Instagram, which a lot of our friends are on but not as many family members as Facebook, has given us the use of filters and photo manipulation to create a photo-sharing network that is more visually perfect — and unreal — than ever before.

The University of Southern California (USC) campus.

Getty Images
The University of Southern California (USC) campus.

Instagram star Essena O’Neill highlighted the false sense of reality that social media creates when she unexpectedly quit social media after amassing 700,000 Instagram followers, explained that it had made her “miserable.” She recaptioned her photos with captions like “NOT REAL LIFE — took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good.”

Perhaps, then, the drawback of creating online personas lies in an inability to distinguish between public and private life. Given that Instagram, as well as most major social media, is so heavily visual, it’s easily subject to visual manipulation. And though we’ve always been used to models Photoshopped on magazine covers and billboard ad campaigns, social media allows us to Photoshop ourselves — not just with Instagram filters and comprehensive photo editing apps available at our fingertips, but also with selectively choosing memories to share, distorting the way others see us and the way we see ourselves.

Where we get real

It’s the infiltration of the gross pressures of socialization in our online lives, then, that most contributed to a need for an unfiltered, unadulterated and more direct sharing app.

“Snapchat lets millennials broadcast their lives only to people that they care about.”

Enter Snapchat, which allows users to send snaps for up to 10 seconds, after which they disappear. Since users have to tap each person they’d like to send it to, only a few of which are convenient to send to at a time, Snapchat lets millennials broadcast their lives only to people that they care about.

There’s no sense of warped virtual validation that arises via Facebook “likes” or Instagram “hearts” and no social pressure to conform to a public persona. Snapchat avoids the traps of Facebook and Instagram by keeping private lives private — a social network that isn’t too social.

Despite what some in the generations that came before us may think, social media won’t be the death of us. Millennials won’t become a homogenous group of narcissistic food photographers who can’t-for-the-life-of-them put down their phones to decide between Hudson and Valencia (Instagram filters) and avoid walking into telephone poles.

In order to be truly introspective, we will have to navigate social politics as it enters our virtual lives, all while we come closer to deciphering who we are, who we want to be and how we want the world to see us. Generations before us have lived through this struggle. But what’s different for us is that we have to figure it out online, too. “Like” it — or not.

Commentary by Sonali Seth, a sophomore studying political science and policy, planning, development at the University of Southern California. She is also the editorial director of USC’s Daily Trojan. You can find her musing about national and Los Angeles politics on Follow her on Twitter @sonalers.

In CNBC’s social media on campus series, we asked editors at college papers across the country: What social media platforms are hot? Are any of them dead or just for old people? This installment is by Sonali Seth, a sophomore at the University of Southern California.

Sonali Seth

Source: Mimi Nguyen
Sonali Seth

We, millennials, have fallen out of love with Facebook for exactly the same reason we fell in love with it: its unapologetic ubiquity.

Like so many other social networks, its increasing publicity of our online presence has forced us to grapple with new questions about what it means to exist on a screen and in person.

While the ability to tell our hundreds of Facebook friends minute details of our lives — whether it be through constant status updates, wall posts or charmingly low-quality photos — used to be both socially acceptable and embarrassingly fun, the presence of parents, teachers and future employers on Facebook means that millennials’ actions on the network have social consequences.

So, while Facebook’s marketing to expand beyond young people may have increased the breadth of their user base, it has come at the expense of the image of Facebook as THE social network for millennials.

Today, we have adopted it as more of an established base of interconnections that allows us to virtually stalk anyone we’ve ever known than a platform to communicate with friends on a daily basis.

It’s not that the usage of Facebook by young people has declined — 87 percent of online adults 18 to 29 use Facebook, according to a Pew Research poll — but rather that its utility has evolved.

Millennials post less now and about less trivial things. Perhaps this is because we’re older and more mature, but it’s also because Facebook’s omnipresence has given everyone we’ve ever known access to our lives. This has forced us to create and maintain a public persona: We’re less likely to broadcast all of our lives authentically, and more likely to engage in selective sharing.

We’re all Photoshopped now

Meanwhile, Instagram, which a lot of our friends are on but not as many family members as Facebook, has given us the use of filters and photo manipulation to create a photo-sharing network that is more visually perfect — and unreal — than ever before.

The University of Southern California (USC) campus.

Getty Images
The University of Southern California (USC) campus.

Instagram star Essena O’Neill highlighted the false sense of reality that social media creates when she unexpectedly quit social media after amassing 700,000 Instagram followers, explained that it had made her “miserable.” She recaptioned her photos with captions like “NOT REAL LIFE — took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good.”

Perhaps, then, the drawback of creating online personas lies in an inability to distinguish between public and private life. Given that Instagram, as well as most major social media, is so heavily visual, it’s easily subject to visual manipulation. And though we’ve always been used to models Photoshopped on magazine covers and billboard ad campaigns, social media allows us to Photoshop ourselves — not just with Instagram filters and comprehensive photo editing apps available at our fingertips, but also with selectively choosing memories to share, distorting the way others see us and the way we see ourselves.

Where we get real

It’s the infiltration of the gross pressures of socialization in our online lives, then, that most contributed to a need for an unfiltered, unadulterated and more direct sharing app.

“Snapchat lets millennials broadcast their lives only to people that they care about.”

Enter Snapchat, which allows users to send snaps for up to 10 seconds, after which they disappear. Since users have to tap each person they’d like to send it to, only a few of which are convenient to send to at a time, Snapchat lets millennials broadcast their lives only to people that they care about.

There’s no sense of warped virtual validation that arises via Facebook “likes” or Instagram “hearts” and no social pressure to conform to a public persona. Snapchat avoids the traps of Facebook and Instagram by keeping private lives private — a social network that isn’t too social.

Despite what some in the generations that came before us may think, social media won’t be the death of us. Millennials won’t become a homogenous group of narcissistic food photographers who can’t-for-the-life-of-them put down their phones to decide between Hudson and Valencia (Instagram filters) and avoid walking into telephone poles.

In order to be truly introspective, we will have to navigate social politics as it enters our virtual lives, all while we come closer to deciphering who we are, who we want to be and how we want the world to see us. Generations before us have lived through this struggle. But what’s different for us is that we have to figure it out online, too. “Like” it — or not.

Commentary by Sonali Seth, a sophomore studying political science and policy, planning, development at the University of Southern California. She is also the editorial director of USC’s Daily Trojan. You can find her musing about national and Los Angeles politics on Follow her on Twitter @sonalers.

[“source -cncb”]

Kabam is blowing up with help from Jedis and superheroes

Video game developer Kabam has seen the future of mobile gaming, and it looks a lot like a galaxy far, far away.

Kabam, the gaming darling with a billion-dollar valuation and the backing of Alibaba, this year said it would focus solely on creating console-quality games in what it called a “Fewer, Bigger, Bolder” strategy. A significant part of the push to put more resources into fewer games is licensing highly recognizable intellectual property like “Star Wars.”

For the most part, the plan seems to be panning out.

Kabam has partnered with some of the most lucrative franchises in pop culture: Universal’s “Fast & Furious,” Warner Bros.’ “The Hobbit,”Lionsgate’s “Hunger Games,” and Disney’s Marvel superheroes and “Star Wars.”

Read MoreWith Star Wars relaunch, the Force is with Electronic Arts

Games based on those five franchises have earned a combined $433.4 million in revenue on Apple iOS and Google Android platforms from their launch through September, according to monthly metrics gathered by SuperData Research. “The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth,” which debuted in November 2012, accounts for about two-thirds of that total.

It’s latest game, “Star Wars: Uprising,” debuted Sept. 10 and earned $1.9 million in revenue from iOS and Android devices in its first weeks in app stores.

By leveraging recognizable properties, Kabam is leaping one of the highest hurdles developers face: Attracting new players at a time when gamers have more options than ever and the cost of acquiring users is marching steadily higher.

Star Wars: Uprising

Source: App Store

But while brand recognition goes a long way in app stores, it comes at a cost. Kabam is investing $5 million to $15 million dollars to make premium mobile games. Standard advances baked into licensing deals for mobile games typically run between $5 million and $10 million.

Read MorePoland’s video game sector powers up

Shave off a standard royalty rate — usually 10 to 15 percent — and subtract app stores’ cut, and it’s clear that licensed games need to put up big numbers.

“If you don’t make a game that’s great, you’re not making anything back,” Kabam Chief Operating Officer Kent Wakeford told CNBC. “As a game developer, with any major IP, you are taking risk.”

Iconic properties

To mediate that risk and create games that can keep earning, Kabam is focusing on iconic properties that stick in the popular consciousness and reappear regularly in theaters and living rooms, Wakeford said.

Disney will release at least one “Star Wars” movie per year and has more than a dozen Marvel films planned through 2020. Universal has been turning out “Furious” films every other year.

Read MoreMarvel expands movie slate with ‘Ant-Man’ sequel in 2018

“There’s multiple beats to these franchises that we can then tap into and build off of — potential story lines, plot lines, characters,” Wakeford said. “It allows us to really think about investing for the long term behind these games.”

This year, Kabam has taken advantage of Marvel’s growth across platforms, introducing new playable characters to “Contest of Champions” to coincide with film and streaming TV debuts and major comic book events.

When “Avengers: Age of Ultron” hit theaters in May, Kabam released a number of tie-in characters, as well as new gameplay modes and features. That month, iOS App Store revenue surged nearly 70 percent to more than $10 million, according to CNBC analysis of figures provided by SuperData Research.

Marvel Contest of Champions

Source: Marvel.com

That in-game spending has made “Contest of Champions” Kabam’s fastest-growing game by revenue ever. Monthly revenue reached $11.3 million in September following the rollout of new gameplay.

At the moment, “Contest of Champions” seems to be “defying gravity,” said Joost van Dreunen, CEO of SuperData Research.

“Every time there’s a movie release … they up the ante by just improving the game a little bit, and I think that’s what’s benefiting the bottom line,” he told CNBC.

Read MorePro video gamers to be drug tested

Kabam has also been wary of creating games that hew too closely to the source material. For its companion game to the new “Star Wars” trilogy, Kabam situated the action 30 years prior to the story in the upcoming “Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens.”

“Sometimes going too close to an actual movie puts constraints around creativity, imagination and direction,” Wakeford said. “We’re trying to find something where it fits the game, it fits the genre, but creates a story line that we can run with a little bit.”

Licensing games is not a bulletproof strategy, though. Kabam has seen monthly iOS and Android revenues for “The Hunger Games: Panem Rising” decline about 91 percent from more than $650,000 at launch in November to just under $54,000 last month. The company attributes the falloff to “the general volatility” of the video game business.

Conquering China

Another box that Kabam is looking to check: global resonance. The developer is looking to expand its presence in the lucrative Asian market, and is currently developing a version of “Contest of Champions” for China.

While Kabam faces many challenges in the country, many of its games feature brands that have been hits with Chinese consumers.

Read MoreThe hottest video game genre around is cooling off

“Furious 7” is the second-highest grossing film in Chinese box office history, and the market typically generates the largest ticket receipts for Marvel Studios films outside the United States.

As for whether the force will be strong with China, Wakeford said, “I would put money down on it that ‘Star Wars’ will have that same impact.”

[“source -cncb”]

Google is donating $1 million to UNICEF to fight Zika

Google is collaborating with one of the world’s leading aid organizations for children, UNICEF, to lead the fight against the world’s latest health threat, the Zika virus.

A biologist works on putting blood on iron plates, to feed the females of the nursery that produces genetically modified mosquitoes.

Victor Moriyama | Getty Images News | Getty Images
A biologist works on putting blood on iron plates, to feed the females of the nursery that produces genetically modified mosquitoes.

The tech giant has provided a $1 million grant to the United Nations’ program, to help raise global awareness, while supporting vaccine development and prevention efforts against Zika’s transmission, Google announced Thursday.

Google is also sending top engineers, data scientists and designers to work with UNICEF, so they can analyze data and visualize where potential virus outbreaks may come from.

If successful, Google hopes it will help UNICEF, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments to come up with the most effective strategies and find the most appropriate resources to tackle Zika. The technique could then be used in future emergencies, the firm added.

“Fighting Zika requires raising awareness on how people can protect themselves, as well as supporting organizations who can help drive the development of rapid diagnostics and vaccines,” Jacquelline Fuller, Google.org director, said in an official blog post.

“We also have to find better ways to visualize the threat so that public health officials and NGO’s can support communities at risk.”

The Zika virus disease is trigged by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, with possible symptoms including skin rash, mild fever, muscle and/or joint pain.

In recent months, reports suggest that the disease has spread through women – reported predominantly in Brazil – who have given birth to babies with microcephaly, a birth defect that involves incomplete brain development and an abnormally small head.

A recent study published in medical journal The Lancet, suggested that Zika “might cause” Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), a serious nervous system disorder. In the study, 42 patients who were diagnosed with GBS during a Zika virus outbreak in French Polynesia, carried Zika-like symptoms.

Consistent and definitive scientific proof however has yet to be proven on both accounts. No vaccination or treatment has been found yet.

On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization declared a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” over the Zika virus. The disease has been reported in several countries, many of which are from the Caribbean and South America.

Since November, the tech giant has seen over a 3,000 percent increase in search interest of the virus worldwide, and is launching a web-based initiative to increase awareness.

The search engine is adding detailed information online about the virus worldwide, which will be available in 16 different languages. Alongside general information, Google users will have access to public health alerts.

“We hope these efforts are helpful in fighting this new public health emergency,” said Fuller, adding that they hope to “continue to do (their) part to help combat this outbreak.”

[“source -cncb”]

A vexing question for Watson: Why is IBM surging?

A sign marks the entrance to IBM headquarters in Armonk, New York.

Here’s a vexing question for artificial mega-brain Watson: Why is IBM stock surging?

Big Blue’s market value rose about $6 billion after the computer giant agreed on Thursday to buy Truven Health Analytics for $2.6 billion. Giving IBM’s artificial-intelligence platform more data to chew on is useful, but investors’ glee over an opaque addition to an enigmatic business effort is confusing.

Big Blue’s top line has been shrinking steadily for nearly four years. In the fourth quarter of 2015, all major divisions had declining sales, with overall revenue falling 8.5 percent compared with the same period a year earlier. Clients need less of IBM’s hardware, and its software and consulting businesses are faltering in competition with rivals’ cloud-based versions.

The upshot is a falling share price. It has dropped about 25 percent in the past four years, while the S&P 500 has risen about 40 percent

[“source -cncb”]

‘Simple’ data is the key to economy: UBS economist

Upbeat economic data haven’t made for upbeat markets in 2016. Much of the focus, according to Drew Matus, deputy chief U.S. economist at UBS, has been on GDP. But his key to the U.S. economy is diving into “simple data” like weekly jobless claims.

“If claims don’t go up, nothing bad is happening,” Matus told CNBC’s “Worldwide Exchange” on Thursday. “If something bad happens, someone’s going to get fired. That’s the key to my forecasting right now.”

Claims are increasing, however, in the energy sector. Oil and gas companies continue to scale back production amid a global crude glut and record-low prices. This bleeds into jobless data.

Read MoreOil production freeze deal is questionable

“Absent energy, claims would be at even lower levels,” Matus said. “People aren’t being laid off anywhere else.”

Equities have suffered along with oil this year. Matus said the markets are unwilling to believe positive economic data. Instead of GDP and production, he’s measuring U.S. economic health with “simpler” data like bank loans, weekly jobless claims and ISM surveys.

“It doesn’t require a Ph.D. to interpret the numbers,” Matus said. “They’re easy, people have been doing them since the 1940s.”

He’s also looking to the consumer and U.S. consumer services as a lynchpin for the economy.

“If consumers have jobs, and they’re seeing even marginal wage gain, then consumption will hold up,” Matus said. “If consumption holds up then we’re fine.”

Half of U.S. GDP is spending on services, which Matus says offers stable growth, and is “basically the U.S. economy on autopilot.”

Banks were the worst performing sector last year. Matus pointed to worrisome credit conditions that could feed into the real economy, but said increased bank lending is a positive theme. Mortgage loans, commercial industrial lending and consumer loans are all expanding.

Read MoreWhy banks won’t cut off energy’s ‘drunken sailors’

“What [Ben] Bernanke would have called the core loan growth, loans that show the real economy, are all expanding,” Matus said. “And on a year-over-year basis are the highest it’s been in a long time.”

[“source -pcworld”]

Obamacare is main roadblock to cancer ‘moonshot’

President Barack Obama has promised a “moonshot” to cure cancer, but the biggest obstacle to that goal could be his major healthcare achievement – The Patient Care and Affordable Care Act.

Obama said in his final State of the Union speech that vice presidentJoe Biden will push researchers to cure cancer within five years. It’s a worthy ambition. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1.69 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and 596,000 U.S. people will die of it. Only heart disease kills more Americans.

President Barack Obama delivering the State of the Union address on January 12, 2016 in Washington.

Ricky Carioti | The Washington Post | Getty Images
President Barack Obama delivering the State of the Union address on January 12, 2016 in Washington.

There is, however, no single, silver bullet that will cure cancer. Cancer encompasses more than 200 diseases that are best cured by innovative precision medicine strategies.

The good news is that last year Obama embraced personalized medicine with a $215 million initiative. In his 2015 State of the Union speech, Obama announced “a new precision medicine initiative” that promises a “new era of medicine, one that delivers the right treatment at the right time, every time, to the right person.”

Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act works against advancing personalized medicine to cure cancer because it forces doctors to employ one-size-fits-all, “evidence-based” generic therapies. That approach promotes interventions that may only be effective for patients similar to those in research studies – and that is the exact opposite of personalized medicine.

Precision medicine methods, beyond cancer therapies, include measuring unique biomarkers, and monitoring trends within an individual over time, taking into account genetics, lifestyle, and family history. Treatment models that have developed under The Affordable Care Act encourage significantly fewer tests. For instance, women who want mammograms before the age of 50 might have to pay more than before because of updated guidelines.

And genetic testing is permitted only for rare cases. The result is that the wealthy get the tests and treatments they need while middle and lower class Americans might only get the most basic of tests, which will not reveal the dangers already lurking in their body or in their genetics.

The modern war on cancer began in 1971 with President Richard Nixon’s National Cancer Act. Scientists embarked on two paths. The first approach was to identify and kill cancers; the second path was to better understand cancer at the genetic and molecular level.

Advances in understanding cancer, prompted Andrew von Eschenbach, then the director of the National Cancer Institute, to pledge in 2003 to “eliminate suffering and death from cancer by 2015.” His bold promise would only be realized through personalized medicine, he said.

“Genomics, proteomics, and emerging technologies are enabling us to profile not only diseases but the persons who bear those diseases. We can thus understand the genetic and molecular differences so that we can begin to personalize intervention strategies,” von Eschenbach said in a 2005 speech to the Center for Medical Progress.

[“source -cncb”]