Saturday, February 25, 2012

5 Great Stocks In December 2012

The best performing stocks in the S&P 500 in July 2012 benefited from mergers and acquisition activity and positive earnings surprises, proving that momentum is still a force to be reckoned with in investing. (When major corporate transactions have a big impact on the currency markets, you can benefit.

5 Great Stocks In December 2012:PIMCO California Municipal Income Fund III (PZC)

 PIMCO California Municipal Income Fund III is a close ended fixed income mutual fund launched and managed by Allianz Global Investors Fund Management LLC. It is co-managed by Pacific Investment Management Company LLC. The fund invests in fixed income markets. Its investment portfolio include California municipal bonds, and other municipal bonds and notes; California variable rate notes and other variable rate notes; California variable rate demand notes and other variable rate demand notes; U.S. treasury bills; and call options written and put options written. Allianz Global Investors Fund Management LLC serves as an investment Manager to the fund. PIMCO California Municipal Income Fund III was formed in 2002 and is based in New York City.

5 Great Stocks In December 2012:BCB Bancorp Inc. (NJ) (BCBP)

 BCB Bancorp, Inc. operates as the holding company for BCB Community Bank that provides banking products and services in New Jersey. It offers various deposit products, including interest-bearing demand deposits, NOW accounts, savings and club accounts, non-interest bearing accounts, money market accounts, individual retirement accounts, and term certificate accounts, as well as certificates of deposit. The company also provides commercial and multi-family real estate loans, one- to four-family residential mortgage loans, construction loans, home equity loans and home equity lines of credit, commercial business loans, secured and unsecured consumer loans, and loans collateralized by new and used automobiles. In addition, it offers retail and commercial banking services, including wire transfers, money orders, traveler?s checks, safe deposit boxes, night depository, federal payroll tax deposits, bond coupon redemption, and automated teller services. BCB Bancorp operates through three branches in Bayonne and Hoboken, as well as an executive office in Bayonne. The company was founded in 2000 and is based in Bayonne, New Jersey.

5 Great Stocks In December 2012:Willamette Valley Vineyards Inc. (WVVI)

 Willamette Valley Vineyards, Inc. engages in the production and sale of wines in the United States. It offers wines under the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling and Oregon Blossom, Oregon's Nog, Edelweiss, Semi-Sparkling Muscat, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, The Griffin, and Viognier brand names. The company markets and sells its wines directly at its winery; directly and indirectly through its shareholders; through self-distribution to local restaurants and retail outlets in Oregon; directly through mailing lists; and through distributors and wine brokers outside Oregon. Willamette Valley Vineyards, Inc. was founded in 1983 and is headquartered in Turner, Oregon.

5 Great Stocks In December 2012:Jarden Corporation (JAH)

 Jarden Corporation manufactures, sources, markets, and distributes consumer products worldwide. Its Outdoor Solutions segment provides consumer lifestyle products, including camping and outdoor equipment, such as air beds, camping stoves, coolers, foldable furniture, gas grills, lanterns and flashlights, propane fuel, sleeping bags, tents, and water recreation products, such as boats, kayaks, and tow-behinds; fishing equipment; team sports equipment for baseball, softball, football, basketball, field hockey, and lacrosse products; skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and in-line skating products; water sports equipment, personal flotation devices, and all-terrain vehicle gears; and technical and outdoor apparel and equipment. The company?s Consumer Solutions segment offers clippers and trimmers; electric blankets, mattress pads, and throws; household kitchen appliances, such as blenders, coffeemakers, irons, mixers, slow cookers, toasters, toaster ovens, and vacuum packaging machines; personal care and wellness products, including air purifiers, fans, heaters, and humidifiers; hospitality products; and scales for consumer use. Its Branded Consumables segment provides household staples, including arts and crafts paint brushes, children?s card games, clothespins, collectible tins, cord, rope and twine, fencing, fire extinguishing products, firelogs and firestarters, home canning jars and accessories, kitchen matches, other craft items, plastic cutlery, playing cards and accessories, safes, security cameras, security doors, smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, storage organizers and workshop accessories, toothpicks, and window guards and accessories. Jarden Corporation offers its products through department, mass merchants, sporting goods and outdoor recreation, club, drug, grocery, home improvement, and craft stores, as well as through wholesalers, company-owned factory outlet stores, and the Internet. The company was founded in 1991 and is headquartered in Rye, New York.

5 Great Stocks In December 2012:Waters Corporation (WAT)

 Waters Corporation, an analytical instrument manufacturer, designs, manufactures, sells, and services high performance liquid chromatography, ultra performance liquid chromatography, and mass spectrometry (MS) instrument systems and support products primarily in the United States, Europe, Japan, and Asia. Its liquid chromatography systems are used in various industries to detect, identify, monitor, and measure the chemical, physical, and biological composition of materials, as well as to purify a range of compounds; and MS instruments are used in drug discovery and development, including clinical trial testing, the analysis of proteins in disease processes, food safety analysis, and environmental testing. The company also designs, manufactures, sells, and services thermal analysis, rheometry, and calorimetry instruments, which are used in predicting the suitability of fine chemicals, polymers, and viscous liquids for various industrial, consumer goods, and healthcare products, as well as for life science research. In addition, it develops and supplies software-based products that interface with instruments. The company?s products are used by pharmaceutical, life science, biochemical, industrial, food safety, and academic and governmental customers working in research and development, quality assurance, and other laboratory applications. Waters Corporation was founded in 1958 and is based in Milford, Massachusetts.

Next 1 Interactive Acquires Minority Interest in RealBiz Media (NXOI)

Next 1 Interactive Inc. (OTC: NXOI), a multi-faceted media company engaged in Travel and Real Estate, this week announced that it is acquiring a minority interest in RealBiz Media. RealBiz is the company�s real estate partner.�
NXOI and RealBiz agreed that it is in their best interest to turn operating loans into minority interests in RealBiz. The agreement further strengthens the two companies� relationship.�

RealBiz and Next 1 Interactive have been working together for over a year now to develop and roll out the Home Tour Network, Real Estate Video on Demand (VoD) Network. The real estate marketing technology platform brings together the power of the Internet and television and offers a single automated marketing solution for real estate professionals. The network has already been launched in San Diego, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Hartford and Providence. The network includes 1,100 residential home listings per city.

Home Tour Network has been designed to provide significant revenue from multiple sources including advertising, listing, imaging solutions and referral fees.�

Commenting on the agreement with Next 1 Interactive, Steve Marques, CEO of RealBiz Media, said this week that the company is encouraged by the foresight of NXOI who understands that to be successful in the near future a media company will need to deliver video assets with consumer centric content onto multiple media platforms.�

Marques said that RealBiz Media will take full advantage of the coming media convergence and is already positioned for success with its ability to efficiently produce and publish video assets to the web and television.�

Bill Kerby, CEO of Next 1 Interactive, said that after 18 months of working together, NXOI is pleased to strengthen its joint venture with RealBiz by way of ownership.�

Next 1 Interactive shares have been gaining momentum since! the com pany announced that it secured a minority interest in RealBiz. In today�s trading, the stock is up 20%, taking its gains in the last three trading sessions to nearly 58%.�

Green automakers shares on track despite power interruption

The Holy Grail for a car company is to make a high-performance, all-electric vehicle that�s cool to own with both the green set, and the car-guy enthusiast set. Enter California automaker Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA). I count myself among the enthusiast group, although my work with Tobin Smith on Billion Dollar Green afforded me an opportunity to dig deep into the clean-tech wave.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I have a friend who owns a Tesla Roadster, and another friend who actually works for the company. I�ve driven a Tesla, and I must say the car is quite the silent rush as you accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in under 4 seconds with little more than a high-pitch hum. However, what is even more impressive to me is Tesla�s not-so-silent share price surge.

Click to Enlarge Tesla stock is up 53% since it plunged to its Jan. 13 year-to-date low. One look at TSLA’s chart shows the big January selloff that was followed by even bigger buying. So, what caused such a volatile voltage swing in such a short period?

The selling started after news leaked that two key engineers working on the company�s new Model S sedan had unexpectedly resigned. That put a fright into traders, who understandably saw the situation as a potential Solyndra scandal in the making. According to my source at Tesla, the resignations were definitely not unexpected — but unfortunately, the Street didn�t get the memo.

Realizing that he had to address the issue, Tesla�s genius CEO Elon Musk, the man who created PayPal, took steps to correct the record after the shares plunged. Initially, Musk and his PR team simply said the news of the two engineers� resigning were no big deal. Of course, it was a big deal to traders, and Musk�s initial words failed to placate Wall Street.

That�s when Tesla took the bull by the proverbial horns by holding an hourlong call with financial media and analysts to set the record straight. Apparently, that work! ed quite well, and the share price surge ever since is evidence of just that.

More importantly for the long-term success of the company was the recent earnings report. Last week, Tesla reported a wider-than-expected loss for its fourth quarter of 69 cents per share; however, the company beat on the top line with revenue of $39.4 million, much better than the $37.6 million the Street was expecting.

The company also announced it was in development with other automakers to develop new models. German luxury automaker Daimler (PINK:DDAIF) has a deal with Tesla to produce an electric Mercedes-Benz that uses the Tesla power train. Toyota (NYSE:TM) also has a deal with Tesla to develop an electric version of the Japanese automaker�s RAV4 model.

The bottom line here is that Tesla is trading higher on expectations for future revenue from partnerships, as well as future sales of its Model S sedan and its Model X SUV. Already, the company has seen big-time sales interest in each, with buyers already plunking down up to $5,000 just to reserve the Model S, and $4,000 to have first dibs on the Model X.

If Tesla can continue to prove its ability to keep selling its all-electric vehicles, we�re liable to continue seeing TSLA shares retain their charge for some time.

As of this writing, Jim Woods did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

Oxford Financial Group Buys Crowe Wealth Management

Oxford Financial Group Ltd. has completed the acquisition of the remaining stake in Crowe Wealth Management, the firm announced Monday.

Crowe Wealth Management was formed in 2003 as a joint venture between Oxford and Crowe Horwath LLP as a way to offer Crowe's existing clients access to Oxford's investment advisory services.

With the completed acquisition, all personnel and clients have merged into Oxford's Indianapolis and Chicago offices. Former Crowe Wealth Management personnel in Grand Rapids, Mich., will continue to operate from their existing location until they move into a new Oxford location.

"We believe the acquisition of Crowe Wealth Management provides tremendous benefits to clients by gaining access to a broader team of investment advisory personnel and a more streamlined delivery of the outstanding counsel and service they already receive," Jeffrey Thomasson, chief executive and managing director of Oxford Financial Group, said in the statement.

All clients will continue to be serviced by their existing client relationship directors, according to the announcement. It said the merger has brought another $1 billion in assets and an additional 60 individual, family and institutional clients to Oxford.

Oxford Financial Group, Ltd. is a multi-family office and an RIA with oversight of more than $13 billion in assets (including assets under management) for approximately 550 clients in 34 states. Crowe Horwathis a public accounting and consulting firm with 26 offices and 2,400 personnel.

Oil Sector Expert Kent Moors Sees Tough Times, Stricter Regs For BP After Oil Spill

Energy expert Dr. Kent Moors is angry. And the main target for that anger is BP PLC (NYSE ADR: BP).

At its core, the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill is a human tragedy: 11 workers were killed, others were injured and now many Gulf Coast residents will end up losing their homes and livelihoods.

But that's not all that has Dr. Moors seeing red: The accident that resulted from BP's incomprehensible risk-taking has killed an energy bill that could have set the U.S. economy on a course for energy freedom, and is going to summon the heavy hand of government in a way that will cost American consumers dearly while also keeping regular U.S. investors from reaping green.

In short, energy-sector profits will be much tougher to come by, both for companies, and for investors, says Moors, a well-connected international-energy-industry consultant who is also the editor of the Oil and Energy Investor advisory service.

"I'm pretty angry and BP is the focus of that ire," Moors said in an interview with Money Morning yesterday (Wednesday), shortly before he appeared on the Fox Business Network. "It has guaranteed that the drilling environment in the U.S. will undergo significant change. There will now be government overreaction, but leaving the production of new crude oil to the whims of [corporate] bottom lines is no longer an option."

What really rankles Dr. Moors, however, is that "this could have been avoided."

In the Money Morning interview, Dr. Moors also said that:

  • He doesn't expect to see the oil spill abate until August, which is the earliest possible point when BP will be able to have "relief wells" drilled. And it could take longer, he noted.
  • One expert's proposal to deploy a nuclear devi! ce at th e bottom of the ocean to shut down the spigot that's continuing to spew thousands of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico by the hour is a "terrible idea" that will only make matters worse.
  • New government regulations he expects will reduce profits for companies and for investors, and will also reduce the amount of oil extracted.
  • Capitol Hill insiders will have to return to the drawing board to craft a new U.S. energy plan.
  • He spent the entire Memorial Day weekend evaluating Washington's response to the growing disaster and then briefed analysts and other sector insiders in New York City early this week.
  • And Wall Street's recent newfound bullishness for BP's shares was far too premature.
According to Dr. Moors, "my latest take on the spill implications [is that] there are additional fissures, someas a result of the blowout in the vicinity of the wellhead.The lower marine riser platform(LMRP) approach currently underway has a low probability of success, but will put more crude oil in theGulf."

The upshot, according to Dr. Moors: "We now have no realistic alternative to the relief wells [and those won't be] on line until at least mid-August. That is, of course, if BP even has this reservoir mapped correctly [which wasn't the case when it] attempted to begin commercial drilling and the explosion resulted."

According to news reports, energy sector pundit Matthew R. Simmons - founder of the Houston-based energy-sector investment bank Simmons & Co. International, and author of the peak-oil best-seller "Twilight in the Desert" - told interviewers that it was time for the U.S. military to take over the oil-spill operation. Simmons also said it was time to consider deploying a nuclear device down into the well and detonating it to seal off the oil flow.

Simmons claimed that the Russians have done this to halt an underground oil-well fire, and that they've deployed tactical nuclear weapons as mining tools, according to publi! shed rep orts of the interview.

According to Dr. Moors, "the nuclear option is a terrible idea. Yes, the Russians have tried it - to put out an underground fire in an oil field several years ago. The fire continues, but itnow also involves irradiated oil."

Moors said any such effort would require an ultra-precise knowledge of the "reservoir, geological structure, pressure, volume and temperature considerations ... before even thinking about detonating."

Furthermore, Moors said that "there is absolutely no reason to suspect that it would stop this leak. Irradiated oil moving into the Gulf does not improve the situation. Irradiated oil remaining below seabed level and migrating, as oil does, does not improve anything either. We do not even have weapons designed to do this."

The strict regulatory environment that Dr. Moors expects to emerge from this crisis "will require that companies focus on developing safer fields."

But there will be a cost.

"That could also mean fields of lower output, closer to existing production or located in basins that have a documented extraction record," Dr. Moors said. "Certainly, drilling offshore U.S. will move to the back burner, even while it expands elsewhere."

This new reality also means that the "current energy bill in DC is dead, thanks to the Deepwater Horizon explosion and the millions of gallons of crude oil approaching the U.S. coastline." That will send the Obama administration back to "Square One," in its bid to craft a national energy plan that includes "green technology" and that also reduces the U.S. reliance on foreign oil. That will take time, Dr. Moors said.

Finally, Dr. Moors expressed some surprise that analysts were upgrading BP's shares last week.

For instance, Oppenheimer & Co. analysts upgraded BP shares to "Outperform" from "Perform" last Thursday, contending that the stock had fallen too far following a sell-off that had sheared the company's market cap! by 30%, or $55 billion. They set a target of $55 for BP's shares, which were trading in the $42 range when the upgrade call was made.

On Tuesday, BP shares took an additional $20 billion hit - equal to 15% of the company's market value - with the dual revelations that the so-called "top kill" plan to stop the leak had failed, and that the company faced a possible criminal probe.

BP's shares closed yesterday at $37.66.

When asked about the Wall Street upgrades late last week, Dr. Moors said the ratings improvement was "far too premature ... even if the 'top kill' plan holds, BP is hardly out ofharm's way. There will be more restrictive regs on the way, and BP has otherrigs with very questionable specs. This is the worstoil spill in U.S. history. BP cannot count on the liability cap becauseit will be rescinded."

[Editor's Note: The sinking of the BP PLC Deepwater Horizon platform off the Louisiana coast has been, first and foremost, a human tragedy. But the disaster has also single-handedly derailed a crucial energy bill on Capitol Hill, prompted every governor considering offshore drilling to do an abrupt about-face, and revised how both public opinion and the market will look at oil production for years to come. In his latest video interview, Dr. Kent Moors explains the full impact of the oil spill - on both the environment and your money. You can watch the video here.]

Friday, February 24, 2012

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014

One of the hallmarks of improved investor sentiment is when folks are willing to pay ever greater premiums for equities in expectation of future profit growth. And since the market started rallying from its early March lows, it's clear that sentiment seems to be improving, at least in certain corners of the market.

One indicator of improved sentiment is the rise in forward price-to-earnings multiples. Forward P/E is derived by dividing a company's share price by analysts' average estimate for future earnings per share; for the 500 stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX), this ratio has risen to 16 from 13 in March, according to The Wall Street Journal Market Data Group.

Such growth is a clear indication that investors are starting to shake off the shock of last year's meltdown and have regained some appetite for risk, says Hank Smith, the chief investment officer of equity at Haverford Investments in Haverford, Pa.


As risk appetite grows, Smith says, many bigger, "safer" shares have been left in the dust; that's keeping a lid on the Dow Jones Industrial Average ($INDU). The forward P/E on this bastion of the bluest of blue-chip stocks is less than 14, down from nearly 18 in March, according to Dow Jones Indexes. In other words, as the broader market has gotten more expensive, the Dow has become cheaper.

Such low valuations could lead one to believe that the Dow is just chock-full of blue-chip bargains. In some cases, that's true. But sometimes cheap stocks are a steal, and sometimes they're cheap for a reason.

Here is a look at the Dow's cheapest stocks, as measured by forward P/E, including an assessment as to whether these inexpensive bets are likely to become investor darlings or dogs in the next 12 to 18 months.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:America First Mortgage Investments Inc. (MFA)

 MFA Financial, Inc., a real estate investment trust (REIT), primarily invests in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) that include hybrid and adjustable-rate MBS. MFA Financial has elected to be taxed as a REIT and would not be subject to federal corporate income taxes if it distributes at least 90% of its taxable income to its stockholders. The company was formerly known as MFA Mortgage Investments, Inc. and changed its name to MFA Financial, Inc. in January 2009. MFA Financial was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in New York, New York.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:Inventure Foods Inc. (SNAK)

 Inventure Foods, Inc. engages in the development, production, marketing, and distribution of snack food products and frozen berry products to grocery retailers, mass merchandisers, club stores, convenience stores, and vend distributors in the United States and internationally. The company manufactures and markets various healthy/natural and indulgent specialty snack food products under its own and licensed brand names. Its healthy/natural food products include the Rader Farms brand frozen berries; the Jamba brand smoothies; and the Boulder Canyon Natural Foods brand snack chips, including kettle cooked potato chips, rice and bean snack chips, and hummus tortilla chips. The company?s indulgent specialty foods comprise the T.G.I. Friday?s brand snacks; the BURGER KING brand snack products; the Poore Brothers brand kettle cooked potato chips; the Bob?s Texas Style brand kettle cooked chips; the Tato Skins brand potato snacks; and the O?Boises brand potato snacks. Its products also include multi-grain puffs, no salt kettle cooked potato chips, cheddar crunchy bites, zesty ranches, and blend-and-serve smoothie kits. In addition, the company manufactures and distributes private label and co-branded fruit and snack chip products for grocery chains and natural stores. Further, it purchases and resells snack food products, including pretzels, popcorn, dips, and meat snacks manufactured by others in Arizona. The company was formerly known as The Inventure Group, Inc. and changed its name to Inventure Foods, Inc. in May 2010. Inventure Foods, Inc. was founded in 1986 and is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:Continucare Corp. (CNU)

 Continucare Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, provides primary care physician services on an outpatient basis in the United States. It provides medical services to patients through physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician?s assistants. The company also provides practice management services, including assistance with medical utilization management, pharmacy management, and specialist network development to independent physician affiliates (IPAs). As of June 30, 2009, the company operated a network of 18 medical centers, and provided practice management services to IPAs at 21 medical offices in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Hillsborough counties, Florida. In addition, Continucare Corporation operates and manages sleep diagnostic centers at 13 locations in South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Colorado, and Ohio. These centers conduct sleep studies to determine whether patients suffer from sleep disorders and the severity of the condition. The company was founded in 1996 and is based in Miami, Florida.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:KKR Financial Holdings LLC (KFN)

 KKR Financial Holdings LLC, together with its subsidiaries, operates as a specialty finance company with expertise in a range of asset classes. It primarily invests in financial assets consisting primarily of below investment grade corporate debt, including senior secured and unsecured loans, mezzanine loans, high yield corporate bonds, and distressed and stressed debt securities; marketable equity securities; and private equity. The company also invests in other asset classes, including natural resources and real estate. Its corporate debt investments are held in collateralized loan obligation (CLO) transactions that the company uses as long term financing for these investments. The senior secured notes issued by the CLO transactions are owned by third party investors, who are unaffiliated with the company and it owns the majority of the mezzanine and subordinated notes in the CLO transactions. KKR Financial Advisors LLC serves as the manager of the company. KKR Financial Holdings LLC was founded in 2004 and is based in San Francisco, California.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:Kid Brands Inc. (KID)

 Kid Brands, Inc. designs, imports, markets, and distributes infant and juvenile consumer products. It offers infant bedding and related nursery accessories and d�cor, such as blankets, rugs, mobiles, nightlights, hampers, lamps, and wall art under Kids Line and CoCaLo brands; cribs, mattresses, and other nursery furniture under Babi Italia, Europa Baby, Bonavita, Graco, and Serta brands; and developmental toys, as well as feeding, bath, and baby care items for infants primarily under the Sassy brand. The company sells its products primarily to retailers. It sells its products directly, as well as through a distribution network in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia; and through independent manufacturers? representatives and distributors internationally. The company was formerly known as Russ Berrie and Company, Inc. and changed its name to Kid Brands, Inc. in September 2009. Kid Brands, Inc. was founded in 1963 and is based in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:NGP Capital Resources Company (NGPC)

 NGP Capital Resources Company is a business development company specializing in investments in small and mid size and middle market companies. The firm typically invests in acquisitions, buyouts, growth and development, revitalization, restructuring, recapitalizations, and special situations. It invests in energy companies with a focus on oil and gas exploitation, development, and production business; upstream businesses that acquire, develop, and produce oil, natural gas, and coal; midstream businesses that gather, process, store, and transport oil and natural gas; power generation and distribution; oil field services and other energy services; and alternative energy and other similar energy related businesses. The firm primarily invests between $10 million and $100 million in its portfolio companies. It invests in the form of secured, senior, and subordinate debt; convertible debt; preferred equity; project equity; production payments, net profits interests, and similar investments; and mezzanine loans and may receive equity investments in portfolio companies in connection with such investments. The firm makes asset and project based investments in private companies and can also invest in public companies. NGP Capital Resources Company was founded in 2004 and is based at Houston, Texas. It is a subsidiary of NGP Energy Capital Management.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:Dreyfus Strategic Municipal Bond Fund Inc. (DSM)

 Dreyfus Strategic Municipal Bond Fund, Inc. operates as a diversified, closed-end management investment company in the United States. It primarily invests in long-term municipal investments. The Dreyfus Corporation serves as the investment advisor of the fund. Dreyfus Strategic Municipal Bond Fund was founded in 1989 and is based in New York City.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:IEC Electronics Corp. (IEC)

 IEC Electronics Corp. provides electronic manufacturing services (EMS) to technology companies in the United States. It involves in the custom manufacture of circuit cards, system level assemblies, and an array of custom cable/wire harness assemblies. The company also provides electronic manufacturing services primarily for wireless communication systems, test diagnostic equipment, military and defense systems, transportation products, and medical instrumentation. It serves military, governmental agencies, aerospace, communications, medical, computing, and other industrial markets through direct sales force and a network of manufacturers? representatives. The company was founded in 1965 and is based in Newark, New York.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:Jewett-Cameron Trading Company (JCTCF)

 Jewett-Cameron Trading Company, Ltd., through its subsidiaries, engages in the warehouse distribution and direct sale of wood products and specialty metal products to home centers and other retailers primarily in the United States. It operates in four segments: Industrial Wood Products; Lawn, Garden, Pet, and Other; Seed Processing and Sales; and Industrial Tools and Clamps. The Industrial Wood Products segment processes and distributes industrial wood products; and provides treated plywood to boat manufacturers and the transportation industry. The Lawn, Garden, Pet, and Other segment wholesales wood products, including fencing and landscape timbers; and manufactures and distributes specialty metal products comprising dog kennels, proprietary gate support systems, perimeter fencing, and greenhouses. The Seed Processing and Sales segment processes, distributes, and sells agricultural seeds to distributors. The Industrial Tools segment imports and distributes products, including pneumatic air tools, industrial clamps, and saw blades. The company was founded in 1953 and is headquartered in North Plains, Oregon.

10 Best Cheap Stocks To Invest In 2014:Aerosonic Corporation (AIM)

 Aerosonic Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the design, manufacture, and sale of aircraft instruments worldwide. It offers mechanical and digital altimeters, airspeed indicators, rate of climb indicators, microprocessor controlled air data test sets, and other flight instruments. The company also produces mechanical and electro-mechanical cockpit instruments, angle of attack stall warning systems, digital cockpit instruments, integrated flight display systems, aircraft sensors and monitoring systems, and integrated multifunction probes, such as integrated air data sensors. It markets its products to manufacturers of corporate and private jets, contractors of military jets, the United States government, and private aircraft owners. The company sells its products directly through its sales personnel, as well as through distributors and commissioned sales representatives who resell to aircraft operators. Aerosonic Corporation was founded in 1953 and is based in Clearwater, Florida.

Top Value Stocks To Hold In 2013

In mid-September, stocks broke through the top of a trading range that had stubbornly resisted both buyers and sellers for five months. But instead of the breakout being accompanied by high volume with emphasis on blue-chip stocks, the rally has lacked volume and is currently being led by lower-quality stocks. This conundrum has perplexed even the most experienced technicians and fund managers.

September turned the best performance in 71 years, with the major indices rising over 8%, but stocks now appear to be grossly overbought. Investors should consider locking in their gains by selling or using options strategies to stabilize their holdings. This is no time to be a hero by buying at the top. However, despite the short-term overbought nature of the market, there are always bargains to be found if you look hard enough. The six stocks to buy listed here represent extraordinary value even in the current market condition.

Top Value Stocks To Hold In 2013:DISH Network Corporation (DISH)

 DISH Network Corporation, through its subsidiaries, provides direct broadcast satellite (DBS) subscription television services in the United States. It offers programming that includes approximately 280 basic video channels, 60 Sirius satellite radio music channels, 30 premium movie channels, 35 regional and specialty sports channels, 2,800 local channels, 250 Latino and international channels, and 55 channels of pay-per-view content. The company also offers local HD channels in approximately 160 markets and 215 national HD channels; and receiver systems, including a small satellite dish, digital set-top receivers, and remote controls. In addition, it provides, which enables DISH Network subscribers to watch 150,000 movies, television shows, clips, and trailers; DISH Remote Access that enables subscribers to remotely manage their DVRs using compatible mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops through their broadband-connected receiver; and Google TV that enables DISH Network subscribers to search the Internet, check email, interact with social media, and find additional online programming content while simultaneously watching television. As of March 31, 2011, the company had approximately 14.191 million customers. DISH Network provides receiver systems and programming through direct sales channels; and independent third parties, such as small satellite retailers, direct marketing groups, local and regional consumer electronics stores, nationwide retailers, and telecommunications companies. The company was founded in 1980 and is headquartered in Englewood, Colorado.

Top Value Stocks To Hold In 2013:Presidential Life Corporation (PLFE)

 Presidential Life Corporation, through its subsidiary, Presidential Life Insurance Company engages in the marketing and sale of various fixed annuity, life insurance, and accident and health insurance products in the United States. The company offers various annuity products, which include single and flexible premium deferred annuities, single premium immediate annuities, and special annuities. It also provides life insurance products, such as graded benefit whole life, simplified issue whole life, and group life policies, as well as other life insurance products, such as universal life, whole life, and term life. In addition, the company offers accident and health insurance policies, including New York statutory disability benefits, which are short-term disability contracts issued to employers of one or more employees in New York State. Further, it provides products, which include medical stop loss, group dental insurance, individual impaired risk disability, hospital indemnity products, and accident products. The company distributes its annuity and life insurance products through 1,273 independent general agents. Presidential Life Corporation was founded in 1965 and is headquartered in Nyack, New York.

Top Value Stocks To Hold In 2013:Access National Corporation (ANCX)

 Access National Corporation operates as the bank holding company for Access National Bank that provides commercial credit, deposit, and mortgage services to middle market businesses and associated professionals primarily in the greater Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area. Its deposit products include time deposits, savings accounts, money market deposits, and certificates of deposit. The company?s lending activities comprise commercial loans, commercial real estate loans, commercial and residential real estate construction loans, residential mortgage loans, home equity loans, and consumer loans. It also offers Internet banking, automated clearinghouse transactions, remote deposit capture, and courier services for commercial clients. In addition, the company, through its subsidiary, Access National Capital Trust II, issues redeemable capital securities. It operates from five banking centers in Chantilly, Tysons Corner, Reston, Leesburg, and Manassas, Virginia. Access National Corporation was founded in 1999 and is headquartered in Reston, Virginia.

Top Value Stocks To Hold In 2013:Ball Corporation (BLL)

 Ball Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, supplies metal packaging to the beverage, food, and household products industries worldwide. It offers aluminum and steel beverage containers for producers of beer, carbonated soft drinks, mineral water, fruit juices, energy drinks, and other beverages. The company also provides two-piece and three-piece steel food containers and ends for packaging vegetables, fruit, soups, meat, seafood, nutritional products, pet food, and other products, as well as aerosol cans, paint cans, custom and specialty containers and decorative steel tins. In addition, the company provides various aerospace systems comprising spacecraft, instruments and sensors, radio frequency and microwave technologies, data exploitation solutions, and other aerospace technologies and products, as well as offers technical services and products to government agencies, contractors, and commercial organizations for a range of information warfare, electronic warfare, avionics, intelligence, training, and space systems needs. Ball Corporation was founded in 1880 and is headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado.

Top Value Stocks To Hold In 2013:Bemis Company Inc. (BMS)

 Bemis Company, Inc. manufactures and sells flexible packaging products and pressure sensitive materials in the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, and Australasia. The company operates in two segments, Flexible Packaging and Pressure Sensitive Materials. The Flexible Packaging segment manufactures multilayer flexible polymer film structures and laminates for food, medical, and personal care products, and non-food applications utilizing vacuum or modified atmosphere packaging. It also offers blown and cast stretch film products; carton sealing tapes and application equipment; custom thermoformed plastic packaging; multiwall paper bags; printed paper roll stock; and bag closing materials. The Pressure Sensitive Materials segment manufactures pressure sensitive adhesive coated paper and film substrates comprising label market products, such as narrow-Web rolls of pressure sensitive paper, film, and metalized film printing stocks used in printing and die-cutting. This segment also provides graphic market products consisting of pressure sensitive films used for decorative signage through computer-aided plotters, digital and screen printers, and photographic over laminate and mounting materials, including optical films with built-in UV inhibitors; and technical market products, such as micro-thin film adhesives used in delicate electronic parts assembly and pressure sensitive applications. Bemis Company, Inc. distributes its products primarily through its direct sales force to food and beverage, chemical, agribusiness, medical, pharmaceutical, personal care, electronics, automotive, construction, graphic industries, and other consumer goods markets. The company was formerly known as Bemis Bro. Bag Company and changed its name to Bemis Company, Inc. in 1965. Bemis Company, Inc. was founded in 1858 and is based in Neenah, Wisconsin.

Top Value Stocks To Hold In 2013:Chubb Corporation (The) (CB)

 The Chubb Corporation, through its subsidiaries, provides property and casualty insurance to businesses and individuals. Its Personal Insurance segment offers insurance products, such as automobile, homeowners, and other personal coverage products, as well as supplemental accident and health insurance. The company?s Commercial Insurance segment provides multiple peril, casualty, workers? compensation, property, and marine insurance products. Its Specialty Insurance segment offers professional liability coverage and surety products for privately and publicly owned companies, financial institutions, professional firms, and healthcare organizations. The company distributes its products through independent insurance agents and brokers in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, Latin America, and Asia. The Chubb Corporation was founded in 1882 and is based in Warren, New Jersey.

Top Value Stocks To Hold In 2013:Chemed Corp. (CHE)

 Chemed Corporation, through its subsidiaries, provides hospice care, and repair and cleaning services in the United States. The company operates in two segments, Vitas and Roto-Rooter. The Vitas segment offers hospice services to terminally ill patients. This segment provides hospice services in the areas of routine home care, general inpatient care, continuous care, and Medicare cap. It also offers spiritual and emotional counseling to patients and their families through its team of doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, clergy, and volunteers. The Roto-Rooter segment provides repair and cleaning services, including sewer, drain, and pipe cleaning, as well as plumbing repair to residential and commercial customers through its network of company-owned branches, independent contractors, and franchisees. The company was founded in 1970 and is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Orbitz Worldwide, Inc after earnings announcement traded higher but did not maintain green ending OWW

Orbitz Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE:OWW) shares were transacted unexpectedly with a volume of 1.82 million shares as compared to its average volume of 0.323 million shares. OWW opened at $3.86 scored -9.50% closed $3.62. Its 52 week price range is $3.55 - $7.64.

OWW has earnings of $1.80 million and made $750.12 million sales for the last 12 months. Its quarter to quarter sales remained 4.00%. The company has 102.31 million of outstanding shares and 101.29 million shares were floated in the market.

OWW has an insider ownership at 1.10% and institutional ownership remained 97.54%. Its return on investment (ROI) for the last 12 month was 0.20% as compare to its return on equity (ROE) of 0.89% for the last 12 months.

The price moved down of-24.35% from the mean of 20 days, -31.92% from 50 and went down 32.48% from 200 days average price. Company�s performance for the week was -24.74%, -29.02% for month and yearly performance remained -48.87%.

Its price volatility for a month remained 5.04% whereas volatility for a week noted as 7.76% having beta of 2.51. Company�s price to sales ratio for last 12 months was 0.49 while its price to book ratio for the most recent quarter was 1.40 and its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) remained 140.69 million for the past twelve months.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Here's How Pfizer May Be Failing You

Margins matter. The more Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) keeps of each buck it earns in revenue, the more money it has to invest in growth, fund new strategic plans, or (gasp!) distribute to shareholders. Healthy margins often separate pretenders from the best stocks in the market. That's why we check up on margins at least once a quarter in this series. I'm looking for the absolute numbers, so I can compare them to current and potential competitors, and any trend that may tell me how strong Pfizer's competitive position could be.

Here's the current margin snapshot for Pfizer over the trailing 12 months: Gross margin is 77.6%, while operating margin is 23.3% and net margin is 14.8%.

Unfortunately, a look at the most recent numbers doesn't tell us much about where Pfizer has been, or where it's going. A company with rising gross and operating margins often fuels its growth by increasing demand for its products. If it sells more units while keeping costs in check, its profitability increases. Conversely, a company with gross margins that inch downward over time is often losing out to competition, and possibly engaging in a race to the bottom on prices. If it can't make up for this problem by cutting costs -- and most companies can't -- then both the business and its shares face a decidedly bleak outlook.

Of course, over the short term, the kind of economic shocks we recently experienced can drastically affect a company's profitability. That's why I like to look at five fiscal years' worth of margins, along with the results for the trailing 12 months, the last fiscal year, and last fiscal quarter (LFQ). You can't always reach a hard conclusion about your company's health, but you can better understand what to expect, and what to watch.

Here's the margin picture for Pfizer over the past few years.


Source: S&P Capital IQ. Dollar amounts in millions. FY = fiscal year. TTM = trailing 12 months.

Because of seasonality in some businesses, the numbers for the last period on the right -- the TTM figures -- aren't always comparable to the FY results preceding them. To compare quarterly margins to their prior-year levels, consult this chart.


Source: S&P Capital IQ. Dollar amounts in millions. FQ = fiscal quarter.

Here's how the stats break down:

  • Over the past five years, gross margin peaked at 84.7% and averaged 81.4%. Operating margin peaked at 34.4% and averaged 29.5%. Net margin peaked at 17.3% and averaged 15.6%.
  • TTM gross margin is 77.6%, 380 basis points worse than the five-year average. TTM operating margin is 23.3%, 620 basis points worse than the five-year average. TTM net margin is 14.8%, 80 basis points worse than the five-year average.

With recent TTM operating margins below historical averages, Pfizer has some work to do.

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Vornado Realty Trust posted a Year Record Price - NYSE:VNO

Vornado Realty Trust (NYSE:VNO) achieved its new 52 week high price of $98.77 where it was opened at $97.23 UP 1.33 points or +1.37% by closing at $98.60. VNO transacted shares during the day were over 1.14 million shares however it has an average volume of 1.12 million shares.

VNO has a market capitalization $18.17 billion and an enterprise value at $29.06 billion. Trailing twelve months price to sales ratio of the stock was 6.23 while price to book ratio in most recent quarter was 3.10. In profitability ratios, net profit margin in past twelve months appeared at 29.00% whereas operating profit margin for the same period at 34.62%.

The company made a return on asset of 3.09% in past twelve months and return on equity of 9.63% for similar period. In the period of trailing 12 months it generated revenue amounted to $2.92 billion gaining $15.95 revenue per share. Its year over year, quarterly growth of revenue was 5.30% holding 92.30% quarterly earnings growth.

According to preceding quarter balance sheet results, the company had $618.36 million cash in hand making cash per share at 3.36. The total of $10.69 billion debt was there putting a total debt to equity ratio 124.10. Moreover its current ratio according to same quarter results was 0.74 and book value per share was 31.83.

Looking at the trading information, the stock price history displayed that its S&P500 52 Week Change illustrated 21.98% where the stock current price exhibited up beat from its 50 day moving average price $93.64 and remained above from its 200 Day Moving Average price $90.60.

VNO holds 184.24 million outstanding shares with 167.72 million floating shares where insider possessed 9.82% and institutions kept 87.10%.

GBP-USD Set to Extend Weakness

The GBP-USD pair sold off strongly on Thursday suggesting further downside weakness is likely.

This is coming on the back of a failure ahead of the 1.5770 to 1.5779 levels. The focus has now shifted to the December low of 1.5359 with a loss there setting the stage for a move further lower toward the October low of 1.5270. Below here will extend further weakness toward its big psycho level at 1.5000. Its daily RSI is bearish and pointing lower supporting this view.

Alternatively, a firm break and close above the 1.5770 to 1.5779 levels will have to occur to reverse its current bear threats and then bring further upside offensive toward the Nov. 18 high of 1.5885. A breach will aim at the Oct. 31 high of 1.6161.

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On the whole, GBP's downside vulnerability remains as long as it continues to trade and hold below the 1.5770 to 1.5779 Levels.

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Why Cambrex May Be About to Take Off

Here at The Motley Fool, I've long cautioned investors to keep a close eye on inventory levels. It's a part of my standard diligence when searching for the market's best stocks. I think a quarterly checkup can help you spot potential problems. For many companies, products that sit on the shelves too long can become big trouble. Stale inventory may be sold for lower prices, hurting profitability. In extreme cases, it may be written off completely and sent to the shredder.

Basic guidelines
In this series, I examine inventory using a simple rule of thumb: Inventory increases ought to roughly parallel revenue increases. If inventory bloats more quickly than sales grow, this might be a sign that expected sales haven't materialized. Is the current inventory situation at Cambrex Corporation (NYSE: CBM  ) out of line? To figure that out, start by comparing the company's inventory growth to sales growth. How is Cambrex doing by this quick checkup? At first glance, pretty well. Trailing-12-month revenue increased 14.5%, and inventory decreased 0.7%. Over the sequential quarterly period, the trend looks worrisome. Revenue dropped 13.7%, and inventory dropped 3.2%.

Advanced inventory
I don't stop my checkup there, because the type of inventory can matter even more than the overall quantity. There's even one type of inventory bulge we sometimes like to see. You can check for it by examining the quarterly filings to evaluate the different kinds of inventory: raw materials, work-in-progress inventory, and finished goods. (Some companies report the first two types as a single category.)

A company ramping up for increased demand may increase raw materials and work-in-progress inventory at a faster rate when it expects robust future growth. As such, we might consider oversized growth in those categories to offer a clue to a brighter future, and a clue that most other investors wi! ll miss. We call it "positive inventory divergence."

On the other hand, if we see a big increase in finished goods, that often means product isn't moving as well as expected, and it's time to hunker down with the filings and conference calls to find out why.

What's going on with the inventory at Cambrex? I chart the details below for both quarterly and 12-month periods.


Source: S&P Capital IQ. Data is current as of latest fully reported quarter. Dollar amounts in millions. FY = fiscal year. TTM = trailing 12 months.


Source: S&P Capital IQ. Data is current as of latest fully reported quarter. Dollar amounts in millions. FQ = fiscal quarter.

Let's dig into the inventory specifics. On a trailing-12-month basis, work-in-progress inventory was the fastest-growing segment, up 16.2%. On a sequential-quarter basis, work-in-progress inventory was also the fastest-growing segment, up 14.0%. Cambrex may display positive inventory divergence, suggesting that management sees increased demand on the horizon.

Foolish bottom line
When you're doing your research, remember that aggregate numbers such as inventory balances often mask situations that are more complex than they appear. Even the detailed numbers don't give us the final word. When in doubt, listen to the conference call, or contact investor relations. What at first looks like a problem may actually signal a stock that will provide the market's best returns. And what might look hunky-dory at first glance could actually be warning you to cut your losses before the rest of the Street wises up.

I run these quick inventory checks every quarter. To stay on top of inventory and other tell-tale metrics at your favori! te compa nies, add them to your free watchlist, and we'll deliver our latest coverage right to your inbox.

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The breakup pact forced AT&T to pay T-Mobile $3 billion in cash and $1 billion worth of spectrum

When a merger collapses, there’s often a downside for the company being acquired, particularly if the company had debt or competitive issues prior to the agreement. But AT&T��s (NYSE:T) failed bid to buy USA T-Mobile, the U.S. wireless arm of Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY), not only has given T-Mobile new life but has made it a stronger rival to AT&T in some markets.

When regulators shot down AT&T��s proposed $39 billion acquisition of T-Mobile late last year, AT&T was forced to pay T-Mobile $3 billion in cash and $1 billion worth of spectrum, per the terms of T-Mobile��s breakup-fee agreement. The payout was largely responsible for AT&T��s fourth-quarter 2011 loss.

Before the merger announcement, T-Mobile already had the largest coverage capability in 4G, which provides higher speeds for downloading video and websites faster. But its reach was limited. Now, with the pending spectrum expansion it will get from AT&T, T-Mobile takes ownership of an additional 128 cellular markets, including 12 of the top 20 U.S. markets. The deal also gives T-Mobile a 3G roaming agreement with AT&T.

The upgrades put even more pressure on Sprint (NYSE:S) to become more competitive. Now, Sprint could look to restart merger talks with T-Mobile, though pulling it off would be expensive for Sprint since the two carriers operate on different networks.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile looks more attractive to any suitor, largely because the spectrum expansion will give T-Mobile a better chance to lure customers in some major markets with a new generation of smart-phones, more affordable plans and free services.

Earlier this month, T-Mobile introduced Bobsled, a group-messaging application that lets users make free calls to Facebook friends from any landline or mobile phone — including Apple‘s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone — in the U.S., Canada or! Puerto Rico. T-Mobile says it also expects Windows-platform-based phones to play an important role in its 2012 portfolio, beginning with the Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Lumia 710, which retails for $49 after a $50 rebate and qualifying two-year service agreement. While adoption of the Windows Phone operating system is far from widespread, Nokia��s sale of some 1 million smartphones running Windows Phone by the end of 2011 was better than analysts had expected.

That said, T-Mobile��s competitive woes are far from over. Not only does it remain the only major U.S. carrier without the iPhone, its coverage is still spotty in many areas of the country. No doubt, T-Mobile will continue to be a tough sell to customers who want the latest and greatest in cellular and broadband service. But after AT&T’s failed bid, at least more people will be listening.

Shares of Baidu – "China's Google" – Surge

Last week's $33 billion-plus of new corporate bonds saw new record lows for interest rates and a new record for an emerging-market U.S.-dollar issue.

Petrobras (NYSE: PBR  ) drilled into $7 billion of new cash with four bond offerings ranging from three to 30 years. That's the biggest U.S.-dollar emerging-market issue since 1995, when records started being kept. The SEC filing lists use of proceeds as "general corporate purposes." The Brazilian driller is planning on spending $225 billion to increase production over the next several years, so it's a good bet that's where the money is headed.

IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) issued $2.25 billion in three- and five-year paper. The three-year paper's 1% coupon rate is the lowest ever issued. Even when borrowing big bucks, Big Blue didn't tell us anything beyond "general corporate purposes" for the use of proceeds.

Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) scrubbed up $2 billion with two- and 10-year issues. The longer paper's 2.3% coupon rate set a new record low for 10-year corporate debt. What's P&G doing with the money? You guessed it, general corporate purposes.

McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) half-billion of 30-year debt definitely wasn't on the dollar menu. The 3.7% coupon set a new record low for 30-year corporate paper. $250 million of 10-year debt was also on the menu. General corporate purposes was a popular phrase last week.

At least one company was willing to add just a bit of color to its plans for the new money. Praxair's (NYSE: PX  ) press release included, "The company anticipates using the proceeds of the offering to repay short-term debt, to fund share repurchases under the company's share repurchase program and for general corporate purposes." I'm not ! ready to make a CAPScall on Praxair, but the combination of a rising dividend, decent valuation, and confidence to finance a share buyback with debt calls for more research and possibly a follow-up article.

Corporations continue lining up to take advantage of low interest rates and have been announcing plans to fund share buybacks with debt. Foolish investors should think very carefully before taking the other side of that trade.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Stocks to watch Tuesday: Exxon, Mattel

Among the stocks that could see active trade in Tuesday��s session are Exxon Mobil Corp., Mattel Inc. and Pfizer Inc.

Exxon Mobil XOM ?is slated to report its fourth-quarter results before the opening bell. The energy behemoth is expected to earn $1.98 a share on revenue of $118.8 billion, according to the average estimate of analysts polled by FactSet Research.

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U.S. stocks pare steep losses

Stocks pared losses Monday but still finished in the red as investors focused on the standoff between Greece and its private creditors and a surge in Portugal's borrowing costs.

Toymaker Mattel��s MAT ?results are also up in the morning, and it��s seen earning $1.01 a share with sales of $2.23 billion for the fourth quarter.

Also, Pfizer PFE ?will report its latest financials and should record a profit of 47 cents a share with revenue of $16.61 billion if Wall Street��s best guess is on the mark.

Other companies due to report quarterly numbers include Tyco International Ltd. TYC ?, United Parcel Service Inc. UPS ?and Archer Daniels Midland Co. ADM ?

Sh ares of RadioShack RSH ?came unglued in after-hours action Monday, losing 19% after the electronics retailer said that its fourth-quarter profit would be cut by 75% and come in well below Wall Street hopes.

10 Disastrous PR Moves by Companies

The business world will always have loose cannons -- executives who stray from their crafted bullet points to say cringe-worthy things.

There are also decisions made at the top that no public relations expert would ever condone. When AIG(AIG) was spared from extinction with an $85 billion federal bailout from the government, its clueless leadership didn't think twice about spending nearly a half-million dollars on a luxurious spa retreat and golf outing for executives.

Executives for the "big three" automakers made a political miscalculation by flying into Washington, D.C., hat in hand for a bailout -- on corporate jets. Chastened by the response, they later overdid things by driving themselves in hybrid cars.

In looking at some of the biggest PR miscues in recent years, we discounted thick-headed blunders such as these. No matter how good internal or external PR departments are, they can be no match for a CEO gone rogue.

Instead, we focused on situations where a company's public response amid controversy was either too little, too late or dishonest and it was the spinmeisters themselves making the unforced errors. The following are 10 examples of when spin control spun out of control and a PR strategy only made matters worse:

Detroit (expletive) City
So, you work for a firm that gets hired by Chrysler(DAI) to help build its social media presence.

If you read the newspapers, you may realize that the company had battled to stay alive, resorting to a government bailout to stay afloat. You should also be aware that the government loan riled up conservatives, despite supporters maintaining it was needed to save U.S. jobs, particularly in Michigan.

If you know anything about your big client, you might also know Chrysler had! unveile d a series of dramatic commercials, some featuring rapper and Detroit native Eminem, to show the world that the hardworking character of that city's workforce should be a source of American Pride and optimism.

You should have known all that. Instead, an employee of New Media Strategies, a Virginia-based marketing firm retained by Chrysler, went on the company's Twitter feed, @ChryslerAutos, and posted: "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to f***ing drive."

(In the tweet -- accidentally posted to the company site instead of a personal feed -- the expletive we censored was actually spelled out.)

Accidents happen and, really, the tweet was not that bad. But in the world of social media, never the company and personal should meet. Given the company's Detroit Pride message, the posting was even more of a wreck.

Fortunately, Chrysler shook aside the flurry of unwanted media attention.

The firm, however, lost the gig.

As for the staffer who made the mistake, last month he started work on the social media initiatives of another company -- this time Ford(F).

A&F offends Asians; says critics think dirty thoughts
It is hard to know whether the brain trust at Abercrombie & Fitch(ANF) is inept or brilliant.

The latter, and a calculated move to maximize publicity, might be the only explanation for some of the hard-to-believe ways the company has responded to controversy.

Back in 2002, the retailer was under fire for T-shirts seen as reinforcing negative Asian-American stereotypes. One shirt shows cartoon Chinese laundry worker caricatures -- complete with slanted eyes and conical "rice-paddy" hats -- with the slogan "Wong Brothers Laundry Service: Two Wongs Can Make It White."

Amid charges of racism and nationwide protests and boycotts, the company fi! nally of fered an apology -- sort of.

"We're very, very, very sorry," a spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle. "It's never been our intention to offend anyone."

Then came the head-scratching coda: "We personally thought Asians would love this T-shirt."

The response to a later controversy -- selling thong underwear for children adorned with images of cherries and the words "kiss me" and "wink, wink" -- had the same bizarre mix of contrition and glibness.

The official statements to the media included such gems as "It's not appropriate for a 7-year-old, but it is appropriate for a 10-year-old" and "The underwear for young girls was created with the intent to be lighthearted and cute; any misrepresentation of that is purely in the eye of the beholder."

Laying out its case for what age it is OK to start sexualizing young girls was scurrilous enough, but the kicker accusing critics of harboring their own dirty thoughts broke just about every PR and crisis control rule ever written.

Toyota Steers into the skid
Remember the Disney(DIS) movies featuring Herbie, a sentient Volkswagen Beetle that could start, stop and steer all on his own?

In real life, it is not so much fun when your car seems to have a mind of its own.

Toyota had the misfortune of balancing a growing PR crisis with the legal imperative to cover its bumper. The two didn't mix well.

As Toyota(TM) would learn, silence doesn't work. Nor does blaming the motor skills of drivers when the sheer volume of incidents, some of them fatal, seem to indicate that's not the case.

Are we really, even now, 100% sure what was happening with the sudden acceleration? Although the problem seems solved, many questions remain.

What we do know is that Toyota's public relations response was a textbook case in what not to do when they dodged and denied the! problem for months before issuing an apology and potential mechanical fix.

Brian Dobson, a crisis PR expert, says Toyota was "flat-footed" and slow to respond.

"If brand managers don't engage the media from Day One, then crisis reports get driven by critics, competitors and pundits who dominate news with negative comments," he said last year in comments about the issue. "Toyota lost ground trying to minimize its troubles as competitors pounced to capitalize."

Facebook vs. Google
Facebook seems to always be under attack by one disgruntled party or another, usually about its ever-changing, sneaky approach to a privacy policy. Bottom line: A company that give you a service for free in exchange for mining data is never going to be too keen on shielding your data from prying eyes.

It does seem Facebook suffers a disproportionate share of scorn regarding this topic than the bigger potential threat to personal privacy that is Google(GOOG).

Still, Facebook crossed a line when PR firm Burson-Marsteller was tasked with trying to spread privacy-related vitriol about Google and plant news stories and blogs that prodded writers to make the case for them, even offering to help write these pieces. The targets ranged from influential blogs to USA Today.

In one of the emails leaked by an unwilling blogger, Google is described as having "a well-known history of infringing on the privacy rights of America's Internet users."

PR firms always try to influence stories -- it's what they are paid for. What made these efforts such a failure is that the firm refused to reveal it was working for Facebook. Here's the other miscalculation: The public often has a finely tuned hypocrisy detector. A suitable defense for Facebook when its lackadaisical approach to user privacy is denounced really needed to be more than "They started it!"


Rest in peace, Steve Jobs. We would be doing Apple's(AAPL) late genius a disservice, however, if we didn't include one of the most famous examples of his sometimes caustic management style.

When a design flaw was uncovered in the 2010 iPhone 4 -- touching certain areas killed reception -- Apple initially avoided the topic with a companywide cone of silence. Jobs didn't help matters by chastising users, in one of his many off-the-cuff email answers, that they were holding it wrong.

Ignore the problem. Blame the customer. Refuse to apologize. Those approaches never work.

Cooler PR heads eventually prevailed, and Apple instead spent $175 million sending cases to owners to resolve the issue. (Even now there may be questions about the problem. AntennaSys, an antenna design and consulting firm, did tests and told PC World that "all the hype has been just hype ... It's not any more sensitive to hand position that was the first-generation iPhone -- and probably many other phones on the market.")

LeBron James' bad decision
LeBron James has a lot to carry on his broad shoulders. There is the six-year, $110 million investment the owners of the Miami Heat have in him. There are basketball fans to appease. And there are big-name sponsors who have shelled out big bucks to associate themselves with the top NBA star, among them McDonald's(MCD) and Nike(NKE).

For most of his career, James was one of the few young phenoms who seemed to pan out, entering the league straight from high school. He was young, likable and talented -- a native of Cleveland who played for the hometown team.

But James' decision to pursue free agency left Ohio residents hanging. It was very likely their hometown hero would pack his bags.

While t here would surely be a fair share of Cavaliers fans who would never forgive their prodigal son, James certainly had the opportunity to exit gracefully and with at least muted good wishes. Many of his critics, deep down, would be thankful for the resurrection of the team he ruled and admit they too would switch employers for a few million more dollars a year.

But James let his consultants and handlers pitch him on making the whole contract process a spectacle. Notable was a disastrous, hourlong, ESPN special called The Decision, in which cities vied for his services as though they were reality show contestants.

In trying to create drama and build upon James' reputation, all they did was ruin it. James is now one of the more reviled and mocked figures in sports (aside from another classic PR bungler, Tiger Woods).

Alaska Airlines and the diaper incident
The inevitable bit of bad service on an airline (or a grumpy passenger) make for easy headlines. Southwest Airlines(LUV), for example, had to deal with the weighty fallout when they angered filmmaker Kevin Smith by saying he was too fat to fly with a one-seat ticket.

All a company's PR department can do in a situation such as that is straddle the line between apologizing and defending their actions. With any luck, short memories will prevail and everyone moves onto a new villain. (Thankfully, airlines always have the TSA to steal away the attention.)

Alaska Airlines(ALK) had every opportunity to douse a publicity fire when a family was stuck in Las Vegas because the man's wife, tending to a baby's diaper needs, was kept from boarding the plane because, in the alleged words of an employee, she was "one minute late."

The airline certainly sounds heartless. To be fair, however, time is of the essence when boarding a plane. With all due sympathy for a mom h! aving to deal with a child, once the plane door closes, security measures dictate that no one boards. People are stuck on standby every day because a connecting flight was a few minutes off schedule.

But Hell hath no fury like a "mommy blogger" scorned, and an online attack on the airline's handling of the incident titled "Alaska Airlines Hates Families" got widespread exposure and was reported in mainstream media.

In its annual rundown of the worst PR blunders, the San Francisco-based Fineman PR explained what the airline did wrong.

"While Alaska Airlines social media manager Elliott Pesut did respond promptly in the blog's comment section, he did so without compassion, citing rigid policy and offering a future travel voucher for less than half the family's losses," the PR firm wrote.

The lesson learned: when you are under the harsh light of a full-on media attack, swallow some pride and a few bucks by going beyond normal procedures to make things right. A little contrition can go a long way.

FEMA's fake reporters
What if they threw a press conference and nobody came?

That was the scenario when FEMA scheduled a 2007 press conference to update media on efforts to combat raging wildfires in California.

To reporters, press conferences are a necessary evil in covering big stories for which a public official has to efficiently answer questions or detail talking points, and they know they must separate spin from facts. But delivering the trut is harder when a press conference is missing one very important element -- the press.

Instead of letting reporters grill executives, FEMA filled the room with staffers and agency officials. It was a make-believe press conference!

In a memo to all FEMA employees Oct. 29, 2007, administrator R. David Paulison said that "without intending to deceive," the FEMA external affairs staff "nevertheless lost perspective of the core imperative that they preser! ve the c redibility of our agency." He described the fake press event as among "a series of serious mistakes and extremely poor decisions."

Among the issues Paulison cited is that media who did get to take part in the conference off-site were restricted to a "listen only" capability, which kept them from stepping on the toes of the fake reporters who did get to ask questions.

An earlier statement from FEMA's vice admiral, Harvey Johnson, missed the point: "The real story -- how well the response and recovery elements are working in this disaster -- should not be lost because of how we tried to meet the needs of the media in distributing facts."

Forex Trading Volume Drops for First Time Since 2009 – Wall Street Journal

Business Recorder
Forex Trading Volume Drops for First Time Since 2009
Wall Street Journal
By STEPHEN L. BERNARD NEW YORK��Global foreign-exchange trading volume dropped for the first time since the financial crisis, according to data released Monday by four major central banks. Average daily trading volume in October totaled .470 trillion
Global forex volumes dip, up in N.AmericaReuters

all 13 news articles »

{forex} – Forex News

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to Create a Holiday Glow When Your Budget is Low

Decorating your home for the holidays is a tradition that sets the stage for a festive feel, indoors and out. Left unmanaged, holiday decor can also eat into your holiday budget before you��ve even started to shop for gifts. (A recent LivingSocial deal for a holiday light installation package was recently offered for a whopping $399��marked down from the standard price of $799!) Here are some scrooge-free decorating ideas that will deliver a warm and festive holiday feel, while going on easy on your budget and the environment.

Add outdoor oomph

Even though the effect is beautiful, showcasing holiday lights outside your home can be a pricey endeavor. If you choose to hang lights, make sure to use the LED version. Not only are they durable (the string won��t go out when bulb burns), they are more energy-efficient (using about 0.04 watts per bulb) when compared to traditional incandescent lights, which use as much as ten watts per bulb. Seek out local recycling programs at hardware stores and grocery stores, like Whole Foods, that will recycle your old lights for you. You can even find savings through sites like, which offers a 25% off coupon to shoppers who mail in old lights for recycling. Home Depot also has a limited-time recycling program early in the holiday season that rewards customers with a store coupon.

Planning your outdoor light display in advance can help maximize the visual impact, while minimizing the impact on your budget. Instead of decorating every tree, shrub and structure, you can conserve money and energy by featuring one focal point with LED icicle lights and then support the glow with a strand or two of LED lights as an accent. Plan non-lighted d��cor in tandem, so that your lights showcase all of your decorations, but aren��t left to do all the heavy lifting. Set an automatic timer so your lights will power off when the neighborhood has gone to bed. The reasoning behind this is to protect the safety of your home, maximi! ze cost- efficiency, and to save energy.

Bob and Cortney Novogratz, from HGTV��s Home by Novogratz, suggest creating your own outdoor display with items you find around the house. Spray metal planters and cans with green paint and fill them with branches that you have sprayed red, silver or gold. Garden gnomes can easily be transformed into elves with silver spray, too. Buy giant ornament balls and hang them on a small outdoor tree for a holiday statement that does not require illumination.

Bring warmth indoors

The Novogratz duo says that creating holiday magic indoors can also be easily executed with just a can of gold and silver spray paint.? Pick a single item, like pinecones, fruits, rocks, or leaves, spray each, and fill different glass containers with them. Display the containers around the house and on mantels. They also suggest shredding sheet music (either original or printed from the web) into paper ribbons and adding to hurricane glasses or clear vases that you have sprayed with shimmery paint for a classic holiday touch.

Becky Mallar, innkeeper and decorator of The 1785 Inn & Restaurant in New Hampshire, says the key to a lush holiday mantle is creating depth. Start with lots of greens (preferably ones that you��ve gathered from outside or from the trimmings of your tree). Build three layers of greens and secure them to the mantle. Place a mirror that you have adorned with an inexpensive accent, like glittery holiday wired ribbon, above the mantel to add fullness. Adorn with energy-efficient flameless LED candles for a warm glow and sprinkle in creative adornments like pine cones, ornament balls, candies and nuts. If you prefer to use ��real�� candles, choose those made of soy, beeswax or a vegetable base.

Interior designer Christine Schwalm recommends using your wrapped holiday gifts to serve as double-duty d��cor by placing them in a basket that will provide a pop of holiday color. Stick to solid color and chic stripes so you can use the leftover ! paper fo r occasions other than the holidays, and try to find paper made of recycled materials. Cut out images from old holiday cards for hand-made gift tags.


If you��re hosting, you can also create your own tablescape using resources from the outdoors��and your produce section. Gina Samarotto of Samarotto Design Group?suggests using artichokes, apples, pears and pomegranates tucked into a few evergreen branches and displayed on a cake plate. Not only is it a visually appealing, it’s an eco-friendly way to spruce up your table and you can eat later! Schwalm suggests placing a small wreath flat on a cake stand, placing a large pillar candle in the center and dressing it up with ribbons for an instant centerpiece.

If kids are attending your holiday gathering, the Novogratz team recommends tapping into their creative energy with an interactive tablescape. Ask your butcher for a large piece of butcher paper that will cover the kid’s table for an instant giant coloring sheet. Fill containers with holiday colored crayons and sparkly markers so they can design their own holiday scene. For inspiration they can draw from, fill little present bags with pictures of holiday items and holiday words.

Strapped for cash? Take a “Fakecation”

Now more than ever you’re lusting after a vacation that will take your mind off all the gloom and doom in the news. The trouble is you just can’t afford it. But exotic travel doesn’t have to be expensive. That is if you’re willing to suspend disbelief and consider a variety of travel alternatives that can stand-in for the real thing. There are some real deals on the fake deal.

If you want to go to Spain, fake yourself out with St. Augustine, Florida.


You’d like to be baking in the sun off the coast of Spain in oversized sunglasses which reflect the villas lining the beach, a glass of sangria in hand. Go to St. Augustine Florida instead. The minute you feel those rays bearing down on you, you’ll be glad you got away and the feel of the place will quickly transport you to another time and place. Since the Spaniards were the first explorers to set foot in the US, it only makes sense that the oldest US city’s got that distinct flair; it was settled on the heels of Juan Ponce de Leon’s 1513 landing.

Why you will be transported: The balconies overlooking narrow streets in the Old City smack of Barcelona. Stop by the whitewashed Basilica of St. Augustine, a great example of old-school Spanish Colonial architecture. Grab a pint at the ancient Taberna de Gallo, where you can listen to Spanish folk tunes by torch or candlelight-this place is so staunchly old school that they’ve shunned electricity, too. If it is the posh beaches that you still dream of, there are plenty to go around in the nearby national parks, which you can get into for just $6. For a more close-up and personal encounter with Spanish history, check out the ghost tours, including the Ghost of the Matanzas boat tours.
All that and you’ll also get: A sip from the very Fountain of Youth the Ponce de Leon was looking for when he set out on his expedition. Oh, of course it’s here, in an orange grove with men in tights.
How much yo! u’ ll save: Buckets. Hotel rooms are very reasonable, as are the things to do. You’ll save many hundreds on the air ticket alone.

If you want to go to Paris, fake yourself out with Quebec City.


An elegant French city is so just magical, especially when its prize is rich, decadent food. You’ll eat just as well as you would in Paris in the bejeweled, second largest French-speaking city in the world-and it’s not even in France.
Why you’ll feel transported: Sometimes the best part of traveling to another country is not understanding a thing, making up your own back story and marveling at being a complete outsider. You’ll find plenty of that in Quebec City, where over 95 percent of people are originally from France, and most speak French as their first language. The skyline of the Old City is marked by the opulent Le Chateau Frontenac. (Though it looks like a fairytale castle, you can stay there, for a price.) Check out the pristine old chapel at the Musee de la Civilisation , which is a generally good starting point for making sense of it all. Get lost in the narrow, charming St-Jean-Baptiste neighborhood. Still, you can’t die without seeing the Eiffel Tower, so check the Paris Grill for a replica of the real thing. All that and you’ll also get: Boites �� chansons, the wonderful Celtic-influenced Qu��b��cois folk music.
How much you’ll save: The main savings will be on airfare. It’s especially cheap to fly into Maine, New Hampshire, or New York and rent a car or take the train the rest of the way in.

If you want to go to Japan, fake yourself out with Hawaii.

(Jeff Kubina)

There aren’t many places in the world that can stand in for Japan. Japan’s culture is simultaneous! ly both ancient and bleeding edge modern which is one reason it remains an otherworldly fascination for so many people. But Hawaii can help you understand much about Japan without your having to dive headfirst into that culture.
Why you will feel transported:
Hawaiian language is peppered with Japanese words directly lifted from the diaspora. (Have some anpan, a Japanese sweet red bean treat or musubi, a rice ball “sandwich.”) In June, go to a traditional matsuri festival, a unifying summer celebration of identity for places, large and small, all over Japan. The state is dotted with Japanese religious shrines, including Byodo-in, a Buddhist temple which is a recreation of one in Japan, with a serene 12-foot bronze Buddha. Also check out Shirokiya, a Japanese department store in Honolulu that can really make you feel like you’re a part of the everyday in Japan and not a tourist. Go late in the day to pick up that days fresh sushi at half price, just as the Japanese do in Japan. Or pick up the latest consumer electronics, straight outta Akihabara.
All that and you’ll also get: The stunning, lush natural landscape of Hawaii.
How much you’ll save: Tourism is way down in Hawaii so there are lots of bargains to be had. Stay away from the big resorts and rent a condo with a group of friends. Shop for groceries at Costco and cook at home. Spend your days at the beach or in the free public parts. Do these things and a vacation in Honolulu can be almost as inexpensive as staying at home.

The excellent tourism site includes videos and searchable databases for each island.

If you want to take a trip around the world, settle for a weekend in Las Vegas.


Each of the unreal casino-states offers its own charming brand of escapism.
Why you will feel transported: At the Venetian, you can enjoy lunch al fresco at a replica of St. Mar! ks Squar e or take a ride on a gondola. Paris has its own versions of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc De Triomphe along with an approximation of European caf�� culture. It’s even possible to get an authentic New York deli sandwich at New York New York. Monte Carlo attempts the haute glitz of a real Monaco city-state, minus the yachts. If you can’t get to the pyramids and great Sphinx, you’ll might can be easily fooled at the Luxor, a famed larger than larger-than life Egyptian-themed casino. Another thought: If you don’t sleep for the entire weekend, which is very possible, you will even feel like the vacation is much longer than it really was…
All that and you’ll also get: To either double or lose your life savings in your spare time.
How much you’ll save: Thousands, and a few months of vacation time.

In conclusion, save the right to take the trip of your dreams for the moment you lose your job. Hey, there’s never been a better time to remind yourself why it’s great to be alive.

Cascade Passes This Key Test

There's no foolproof way to know the future for Cascade (NYSE: CASC  ) or any other company. However, certain clues may help you see potential stumbles before they happen -- and before your stock craters as a result.

A cloudy crystal ball
In this series, we use accounts receivable and days sales outstanding to judge a company's current health and future prospects. It's an important step in separating the pretenders from the market's best stocks. Alone, AR -- the amount of money owed the company -- and DSO -- the number of days' worth of sales owed to the company -- don't tell you much. However, by considering the trends in AR and DSO, you can sometimes get a window onto the future.

Sometimes, problems with AR or DSO simply indicate a change in the business (like an acquisition), or lax collections. However, AR that grows more quickly than revenue, or ballooning DSO, can also suggest a desperate company that's trying to boost sales by giving its customers overly generous payment terms. Alternately, it can indicate that the company sprinted to book a load of sales at the end of the quarter, like used-car dealers on the 29th of the month. (Sometimes, companies do both.)

Why might an upstanding firm like Cascade do this? For the same reason any other company might: to make the numbers. Investors don't like revenue shortfalls, and employees don't like reporting them to their superiors.

Is Cascade sending any potential warning signs? Take a look at the chart below, which plots revenue growth against AR growth, and DSO:


Source: S&P Capital IQ. Data is current as of last fully reported fiscal quarter. FQ = fiscal quarter.

The standard way to calculate DSO uses average accounts receivable. I prefer to look at end-of-quarter receivables, but I've p! lotted b oth above.

Watching the trends
When that red line (AR growth) crosses above the green line (revenue growth), I know I need to consult the filings. Similarly, a spike in the blue bars indicates a trend worth worrying about. As another reality check, it's reasonable to consider what a normal DSO figure might look like in this space.


LFQ Revenue


?Cascade $138 57
?Astec Industries (Nasdaq: ASTE  ) $215 43
?Actuant (NYSE: ATU  ) $403 52
?Alamo Group (NYSE: ALG  ) $155 94

Source: S&P Capital IQ. DSO calculated from average AR. Data is current as of last fully reported fiscal quarter. LFQ = last fiscal quarter. Dollar figures in millions.

Differences in business models can generate variations in DSO, so don't consider this the final word -- just a way to add some context to the numbers. But let's get back to our original question: Will Cascade miss its numbers in the next quarter or two?

I don't think so. AR and DSO look healthy. For the last fully reported fiscal quarter, Cascade's year-over-year revenue grew 28.5%, and its AR grew 15.3%. That looks OK. End-of-quarter DSO decreased 10.3% from the prior-year quarter. It was down 3% versus the prior quarter. Still, I'm no fortuneteller, and these are just numbers. Investors putting their money on the line always need to dig int! o the fi lings for the root causes and draw their own conclusions.

What now?
I use this kind of analysis to figure out which investments I need to watch more closely as I hunt the market's best returns. However, some investors actively seek out companies on the wrong side of AR trends in order to sell them short, profiting when they eventually fall. Which way would you play this one? Let us know in the comments below, or keep up with the stocks mentioned in this article by tracking them in our free watchlist service, My Watchlist.

  • Add Cascade to My Watchlist.
  • Add Astec Industries to My Watchlist.
  • Add Actuant to My Watchlist.
  • Add Alamo Group to My Watchlist.

Stubbornly High Unemployment Shows U.S. Economy Still Plagued by "Jobless Recovery"

While a surge in corporate profits reflect an improving economy, several government reports show that the United States continues to be plagued by a lingering "jobless recovery."

Most analysts, including President Barack Obama, are predicting a strong May jobs report due out today (Friday) with more than 500,000 new jobs added to the U.S. economy.

"We expect to see strong jobs growth in Friday's report." Obama predicted in a speech in Pittsburg on Wednesday.

Still, the numbers are likely to be inflated due to temporary hiring by the U.S. government for the 2010 Census, and overall unemployment isn't expected to ease significantly.

Most economists expect the unemployment rate to stubbornly hover around 10%, reflecting the disparity between an overall economy that shows signs of solid growth and a job market that continues to struggle.

According to a national employment report published Thursday by payroll giant Automatic Data Processing Inc. (Nasdaq: ADP) and consultants Macroeconomic Advisers, private-sector jobs in the U.S. increased by 55,000 last month.? Economists had expected ADP to report a job gain of 75,000 in May.

Separately, the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell last week by more than expected, but not by enough to signal the job market is on the path to recovery.

The government said in its weekly report Thursday that initial claims for jobless benefits fell by 10,000 to 453,000 in the week ended May 29. Economists who were surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had predicted claims would decrease by 5,000.

Despite this latest drop, the four-week moving average - which aims to smooth volatility in the data - rose by 1,750 to 459,000. Total claims lasting more than one week also rose.

"Claims would suggest the underlying state of the job market remains somewhat fragile," Joh! n Herrma nn, senior fixed-income strategist at State Street Global Markets LLC in Boston told Bloomberg News. "There is a disconnect given the improvement we are seeing in economic growth."

The disconnect may have several sources, Richard Berner, co-head of global economics at Morgan Stanley & Co. in New York, wrote in a May 28 note.
One reason is the extension of benefits - up to 99 weeks in some states - raises the incentive to file. While half the claims are typically rejected, the jump in claims in March and April may reflect more ineligible filers.

An increase in filings by construction workers and by temporary government employees who are helping with the census may also be boosting claims, Berner wrote.

Another report released by the Labor Department earlier this week showed hundreds of metropolitan areas faced tougher job prospects in the month of April compared with one year ago. The unemployment rate was higher in 291 of the 372 metropolitan areas covered by the report.

Companies continued to cut costs at the start of the year even as the economic recovery gained momentum, meaning they got more from existing work forces.
Even though worker productivity figures for the first quarter were revised downwards yesterday, new Labor Department figures showed that efficiency climbed 6.1% over the past four quarters, the biggest 12-month gain in nine years.

At the same time, unit labor costs - a key gauge of where prices are heading - declined at a 1.3% pace, showing employers squeezed more from remaining staff to control expenses.

The productivity gains should help keep prices in check, allowing the Federal Reserve to keep short-term interest rates at or near zero to support the economy and give unemployment time to come down.

As the uneven economic recovery works its way through different segments of the business landscape, some companies are adding workers while others are shedding them.
Low e's Cos. Inc. (NYSE: LOW), the second-largest U.S. home improvement retailer, said it is adding more than 1,400 positions for employees to visit customers' homes to sell them windows, doors and other products, and will fill those jobs internally and by taking on new employees.

Meanwhile, Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), the world's largest personal- computer maker, plans to eliminate about 9,000 jobs and retool its computer-services business. The Hershey Co. (NYSE:HSY), the 116-year-old chocolate maker based in Hershey, Pennsylvania, may cut 500 to 600 jobs from a historic plant that produces chocolate Kisses.

News & Related Story Links:

  • Money Morning Archives: Jobless Recovery Category
  • Wall Street Journal:
    Data Indicate Slow Jobs Recovery
  • Bloomberg: Jobless Claims in U.S. Decreased by 10,000 to 453,000
  • Fort Liberty: Obama Leaks May Jobs Report Data