All posts by jingnanhuo2017

Palette & Chisel serves art community for 120 years

by Jingnan Huo

Palette & Chisel Academy of Fine Arts was started in 1895 by a group of Art Institute night students who needed a place to paint during the day. Each Sunday, the students would hire a model they could draw or paint in natural daylight.

In 1921, the artists bought a run-down Italian mansion on Chicago’s Gold Coast and named it their home. The Academy remains in the mansion, thanks to the non-profit property tax exemption granted by Cook County.
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U.S. tax, healthcare changes won’t distract Monroe Capital

By Jingnan Huo

Chicago-based business development company Monroe Capital Corp. (NASDAQ: MRCC) is expected to maintain strong growth in 2017, analysts say. Policy changes in healthcare and tax breaks and intensifying competition in the business development arena will not have a heavy impact on the company’s business, nor will it affect the company’s conservative investment approach, management said.

The company just reported $22.5 million of net investment income for 2016, up 20.1 percent from previous year. Net investment income per share fell 5 cents to $1.55 from $1.60. Net investment income in the fourth quarter rose 7.4 percent to $5.4 million from $5 million in the year-earlier quarter. Net investment income per share was 32 cents, down from 39 cents. In June and July, the company issued a total of 3,565,000 common shares, raising in aggregate $52.5 million.

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Fidus Investment Corp.’s strong performance continues

By Jingnan Huo

Evanston-based business development company Fidus Investment Corp. (NASDAQ: FDUS) late Thursday reported strong performance in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31 reaching net investment income of $7.8 million, or 39 cents per share, rising 9.3 percent from $7.2 million, or 44 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Net assets from operations per share increased to 62 from 48 cents.

The company declared a quarterly dividend of 39 cents per share.

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Blockchain 2017: experimentation abounds, Illinois hopes

By Jingnan Huo

It has been a busy winter for Moran Cerf, Northwestern University professor in business and neuroscience and a self-described former hacker. From November to January, Cerf said, each month he has been invited to speak to around 20 Illinois companies, mostly in Chicago, about blockchain.

“So if you don’t count the holidays, it amounts to almost one company per day” over the three months, Cerf said.

Hailed as a technology as disruptive as the internet was in the 1990s, blockchain is on the precipice of its first flagship application, according to those in the industry. Once that happens, blockchain will be unstoppable, its boosters say.

Blockchain, also known as “distributed ledger technology”, is a way of storing, encrypting and sharing data that is easy and quick, and prohibitively costly for hackers to tamper with, at least so far. It’s the technology behind the digital currency bitcoin.

Bloq Inc., a Chicago-based blockchain service provider, is seeing interest from across the board–insurance, management and real estate, said Lexy Prodromos, research and marketing strategist at Bloq Inc., in an interview. The company said its revenue doubled in 2016, and it has partnered with Deloitte LLP, PwC LLP and others to provide blockchain solutions for companies.

“Investors have pumped some $1.4 billion into equity investments in companies developing the technology since 2013,” according to a Pitchbook.com report from October 2016. “This doesn’t include the individuals and groups pouring resources into the technology’s supporting hardware, which in aggregate holds 8x the processing power of the world’s 500 fastest supercomputers.”

Last year marked a milestone for blockchain since its genesis in 2008, as it captured mainstream attention, Cerf said. “Before, it was just a thing for hackers and programmers, a small thing for people who care.”

blockchain interest google
Interest of blockchain since birth of bitcoin as based on Google search results. (Jingnan Huo/MEDILL)

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Lawyers spring into action for immigrants at O’Hare

by Jingnan Huo

While protesters against President Trump’s immigration ban rally outside Terminal Five of O’Hare International Airport, inside the terminal, by McDonald’s, on rows of tables, are about 20 lawyers working to help families and friends of immigrants who have had trouble at the border.

Lawyers immigration rule
Lawyers from different organizations gather at O’Hare to help immigrants trapped at the border. (Jingnan Huo/MEDILL)

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Arthur J. Gallagher reports gains, sees acquisitions ahead

By Jingnan Huo

Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. reported late Thursday fourth-quarter net earnings attributable to controlling interests of $95.1 million, a 52.6 percent jump from the year-earlier $62.3 million. Diluted net earnings per share were 53 cents compared with 35 cents.

Revenues grew 3.8 percent to $1.39 billion, 0.5 percent less than the estimate, from $1.33 billion.

The company’s principal segment, insurance brokerage, reported growth in organic revenue, which excludes acquisitions and currency exchange, of 3.6 percent. That was above estimates, said Paul Newsome, equity analyst at Sandler O’Neill and Partners, in an interview. The growth was boosted by international markets, notably in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Bermuda, said President and CEO J. Patrick Gallagher in a conference call.

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U.S. trade deficit for goods narrows in December

by Jingnan Huo

The U.S. international trade deficit for goods narrowed to $65 billion in December from $65.3 billion in November, seasonally adjusted, according to an advance report released by the U.S. Census Bureau Thursday.

Economists were expecting no change in the deficit.

Exports grew 3 percent to $125.52 billion from $121.85 billion in November, with capital goods such as aircraft jumping by 7.3 percent. Imports grew 1.8 percent to $190.52 billion from $187.15 billion, with automotive vehicle imports rising 5.4 percent. Wholesale trade inventories grew by 1 percent.

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Manufacturing and wages growing in the Midwest, Fed says

by Jingnan Huo

The Midwest saw robust manufacturing growth and a tight labor market with increasing wage pressures at the end of 2016, in line with national trends, according to a Federal Reserve report issued Wednesday.

The report, known as the beige book, is a collection of anecdotal data from all 12 Federal Reserve district banks and will be used by Fed officials to prepare for the next interest rate policy meeting in two weeks.

Survey respondents in the Midwest reported continued strong growth in auto and aerospace industries, and moderate growth in most other industries. Higher wages were noted in particular for jobs that require highly skilled workers. Many respondents also pointed to rising health care costs.

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