Afternoon Coffee: Blood Diamonds, Amazon Supply, Dreamliner Fire, Rents Keep Rising

"Individual stones can change hands up to a dozen times over a matter of weeks in polishing houses that grab from piles of legal and illegal stones like mix-'n'-match candy bins."
Rough Cut -- In Antwerp, Belgium, which for 500 years served as the world's diamond headquarters, old money, rigorous documentation, and high security epitomized the business. But nearly 6,000 miles away in Surat, I discovered legitimate merchandise mingling openly with undocumented diamonds in a trading free-for-all. Indeed, so-called conflict diamonds -- illicitly mined stones that fund conflicts in the world's war zones -- are for sale by everyone from small-time street hustlers to the Indian government itself. And the entire system is protected by an intricate familial society of brokers and middlemen that operates almost exclusively on the black market.

Look out for e-commerce.
Amazon's Coming after Your Customers -- Aside from aggressively pursuing the retail market, Amazon and other e-commerce giants like eBay are shifting their thinking toward wholesale distribution in industrial markets. Historically prominent "bricks and mortar" distributors are beginning to see that it is truly only a matter of time until e-commerce companies gobble up their market share.

New product woes.
More nightmares for Boeing after fire on Dreamliner -- U.S. officials are investigating a fire aboard a Boeing 787 Dreamliner in Boston after a Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo, Bloomberg News has reported. Flames about two feet high shot out of an avionics bay in the jet's belly and there was a small explosion on January 7 as the plane sat at a gate in the Boston airport before its next departure. Japan Airlines, which has seven 787s, won't reportedly ground other Dreamliners.

Still a buyer's market.
Apartment Rents Continue to Rise As Vacancies Fall -- Apartment landlords continued to impose hefty rent increases as 2012 drew to a close, although there are some early indications they could be losing their leverage with tenants. The average nationwide monthly apartment rent was $1,048 in the fourth quarter, up 0.6% from the third quarter and up 3.8% from a year earlier, according to a report set to be released Tuesday by real-estate research firm Reis Inc. The year-over-year increase was the largest since 2007 and a sign that landlords still have the upper hand they regained in 2010.

- Sheena Moore

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