A look at developments in the financial markets over the festive period.

Companies

Apple and Apps Dominated Christmas 2014
Flurry examined device activations over the Christmas period to understand what types of devices consumers are buying, and what apps they installing on them.
To put this in perspective, for every Samsung devices that was activated, Apple activated 2.9 devices. For every Microsoft Lumia device activated, Apple activated 8.8 devices.

Shake Shack Files for IPO That Could Value Burger Chain at $1 Billion
Like Chipotle and other “fast casual” chains, the company is benefitting from consumers’ changing tastes to healthier dining. Despite its 41% revenue growth in the 39 weeks to Sept ’14, there are concerns over the $1 billion valuation as net profit for the same period fell almost £1 million to $3.5 million.
SHAK… comes close to checking all the boxes in that sense, so it would be a potential rule-breaking investment.”

Interview: Catherine Doran, CIO, Royal Mail
Royal Mail has been in the news for all the wrong reasons since it’s sale by the UK government last year. This interview gives some insight into an area where the company finds itself woefully outmatched by competitors: technology.
Today, when you listen to [Royal Mail chief executive] Moya Greene speak, technology is referred to as being at the heart of everything, and the changes being made in the business are tech-driven – it just feels like a completely different place.

Weight Watchers shares fall 13.3 percent
While there is no consensus as to why the price dipped so sharply on Friday, the company continues to battle falling membership numbers and competition from, amongst other things, free apps. Management is seeking to refresh the brand and introduce new channels, while at the same time improve the companies financial position by paying down its considerable debt.
WTW is not a value stock.

A Handful of Blockbuster E-Commerce Acquisitions That Could Happen in 2015
A list of possible commerce and payments deals for 2015, including “Walmart buys PayPal“.

Markets

U.S. Easing of Oil Exports Challenges OPEC’s Strategy
As the US continues to frack itself towards energy independence, the price of oil continues to decline. Now the government is rethinking the ban on oil exports, providing further incentives to nimble, low-cost US domestic producers at the expense of their foreign competitors .
The Obama administration’s move to allow exports of ultralight crude without government approval may encourage shale drilling…  further weakening oil markets.

One of the Best Business Opportunities in the Next Decade
The “Internet of Things” and its potential to enable companies to sell products in new and better ways.
GE… aims to convert its airplane turbine business from selling aircraft engines at a fixed cost with maintenance fees, to selling hours of flight time.

Wow! What the Jump in U.S. Growth Means
Just before Christmas, the third-quarter number for U.S. economic growth was revised upward from the prior estimate of 3.9 percent to 5 percent – the strongest growth in 11 years.
Growth came across the board with business investment, consumer spending, housing, exports and government spending all showing signs of strength.

Long reads

Some longer, topical reading.

Howard Marks, Oaktree Capital: The Lessons of Oil
Mark’s memos are a must for any investor. In this one, he discusses the impacts of the recent oil price drop and lessons we can take from them.
For the first time in that span, with the arrival of some disarray and heightened risk aversion, events tell us it’s appropriate to drop some of our caution and substitute a degree of aggressiveness.

Goodnight. Sleep Clean.
Why do we need so much sleep?
As your body sleeps, your brain is quite actively playing the part of mental janitor: It’s clearing out all of the junk that has accumulated as a result of your daily thinking.

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