Saturday, November 24, 2012

Natural Gas ETFs: The Basics

After I wrote an introductory series on investing in natural gas, a lot of Fools had questions about natural gas ETFs. Namely, what are they and are they worth investing in? This article aims to outline the natural gas ETF basics for interested investors.

Exchange-traded funds are typically funds composed of a variety of stocks you can buy and sell shares of on one of the exchanges. They've been around since the early 1990s but have become more popular recently. There are many reasons to buy or not buy ETFs in general, but natural gas ETFs come with their own specific set of pros and cons.

Natural Gas ETFs
Unlike most ETFs, most natural gas ETFs reflect the price of the commodity instead of the performance of a group of stocks. One of the most popular natural gas ETFs is the United States Natural Gas Fund (NYSE: UNG  ) , which measures the changes in natural gas futures contracts traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The price of natural gas has declined significantly since 2008, and futures trade for less than $4 per MMBTU. The year-to-date return of this particular ETF is a loss of 24.8%. A similar ETF, iPath Dow Jones-UBS Natural Gas Subindex Total Return ETN (NYSE: GAZ  ) , is down 17.6% this year.

Bird of a different feather
There is another option for ETF-inclined investors, however. The First Trust ISE-Revere Natural Gas Index Fund (NYSE: FCG  ) is made up of equities instead of futures. Thus, the fund's performance is tied to the performance of actual companies and not related at all to the monthly price of futures contracts.

The companies below are the top 10 holdings in the fund and account for 36.25% of its assets.


ETF Percentage


ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM  ) 3.91% 7.73%
Questar (NYSE: STR  ) 3.83% 8.17%
ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP  ) 3.77% 10.06%
Statoil (NYSE: STO  ) 3.71% 15.23%
Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) 3.69% 5.03%
Range Resources (NYSE: RRC  ) 3.56% 51.81%
Southwestern Energy (NYSE: SWN  ) 3.55% (1.87)%
Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE: APC  ) 3.45% 13.20%
Ultra Petroleum (NYSE: UPL  ) 3.40% (32.71)%
Cabot Oil & Gas (NYSE: COG  ) 3.38% 115.02%

Source: ETFDB and Yahoo! Finance.

The 52-week performance of these stocks varies widely, which is part of the appeal of ETFs. This ETF is only down 3.6% this year.

To fully grasp the disparity between an equities-based ETF and a futures-based ETF, consider the performance of UNG and FCG together over the past year.

United States Natural Gas Fund Stock Chart by YCharts

The downsides to futures-based commodity ETFs include contango and the weather. Contango is a term that refers to the rollover of futures contracts. Fool Dan Caplinger explains it pretty clearly:

The culprit is the futures market. These ETFs rely on futures, rolling into new contracts every month as the old contracts approach expiration. But because new contracts in these markets tend to have slightly higher prices than the old ones -- a condition known as contango -- each roll costs the ETF a bit extra. Those bits add up over time to create a huge drag on performance.

On top of that, things like the weather will affect these funds as well. A warmer-than-usual autumn on the East Coast has also affected gas prices: East Coasters aren't using nearly as much gas to heat their homes, driving prices down further.

Foolish takeaway
There are many ETFs out there that are worth taking advantage of, but generally speaking, when it comes to natural gas, good old-fashioned equities are the way to go.

For more information about ETFs, click here to check out The Motley Fool's Special Free Report "The Shocking Can't-Miss Truth About Your Retirement."

Insiders Trading STZ, CSII, CWTR, VMI

Which insiders are selling and buying chunks of stocks?

See if (STZ) is in our portfolio

Below are lists of the top 10 open-market insider purchases and sales filed at the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday, October 20, 2011 as ranked by dollar value. Company executives and directors are in the best position to assess the attractiveness of their firms' shares, and here is how many of them are voting their wallets! Please note, however, that these are factual lists, not buy and sell recommendations. Dollar value is only one metric to assess the importance of an insider transaction.

Coldwater Creek (CWTR)Pence Dennis CCB,CEODIR,BO8,235,000$6,999,750
Cardiovascular Systems (CSII)Discovery Group IBO62,447$477,872
Platinum Underwriters (PTP)Mitchell H ElizabethPR,CEO14,000$420,615
Valhi (VHI)Simmons Harold CCB,DIRBO5,500$323,500
Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND)BVF PartnersBO14,100$196,024
Technology Applications Intl (N/A)Scimeca Charles JCEO,PRTR,DIRBO101,800,000$101,800
TCW Strategic Inc Fund (TSI)Kane SteveO14,110$70,127
First Horizon National (FHN)Jordan D BryanPR,CEODIR10,000$66,900
Strategic American Oil (SGCA)CW NavigationBO555,000$61,685
Strategic American Oil (SGCA)KW NavigationBO560,000$59,277
Valmont Industries (VMI)Robert B Daugherty Charitable FoundationBO73,000$6,091,181
Constellation Brands (STZ)Sands RichardCB,DIRBO192,600$3,902,638
Constellation Brands (STZ)Sands RobertPR,CEODIR,BO175,800$3,562,434
Dominos Pizza (DPZ)Scout Capital Management LlcBO80,000$2,274,612
Apple (AAPL)Williams Jeffrey EVP5,332$2,149,557
Oasis Petroleum (OAS)Newton H BrettVP57,000$1,767,000
Liquidity Services (LQDT)Mateus Tique JaimeDIR40,000$1,266,400
Jabil Circuit (JBL)Morean William DDIR40,400$796,494
Body Central (BODY)Rosenbaum JerroldDIR30,420$609,995
Kellogg (K)Kellogg WK FoundationBO10,000$550,000
Key to Titles:A=Assistant, AI=Affiliated Investor, AO=Accounting Officer, BD=Business Development, BO=Beneficial Owner, CAO=Chief Accounting Officer, CB=Chairman, CCO=Chief Compliance Officer, CEO=Chief Executive Officer, CFO=Chief Financial Officer, CIO=Chief Information Officer, CO=Compliance Officer, COO=Chief Operating Officer, CT=Controller, CTO=Chief Technology Officer, DIR=Director, EVP=Executive Vice President, F=Founder, FO=Financial Officer, GC=General Counsel, HR=Human Resources, IO=Information Officer, IR=Investor Relations, LO=Legal Officer, MD=Managing Director, O=Officer, OO=Operating Officer, PR=President, PT=Partner, REL=Relative of an insider, SEC=Secretary, SH=Shareholder, SO=Sales Officer, TO=Technology Officer, TR=Treasurer, TT=Trustee, VCB=Vice Chairman, VP=Vice President, X=Ex Officer or other title displayed.

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How the JOBS Act Will Revolutionize IPOs

Last week, the U.S. Senate passed the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act by a 73-26 vote. The legislation will make it much easier for companies to raise money and go public, and it also will allow individual investors to participate in early-stage financings.

The bill has been sent back to the House for another vote — but this is likely to be a formality, considering it originally passed the House on an easy 390-23 vote, and President Barack Obama has said he�ll sign the legislation.

Still, like much legislation, there’s a bit more to the bill than what the name would imply. So let�s take a look at some of the JOBS Act’s key provisions:


Crowdfunding involves using the Internet to allow early-stage companies to raise money. The practice actually has been around for several years, as seen with companies like Prosper. Prosper is platform where a company or even a person can borrow money — with a limit of $25,000 — by posting a profile on the site. Registered users will then bid on it.� Once the money is borrowed, Prosper will manage the loan and send payments to the registered users.

But under the JOBS Act, companies will be able to use crowdfunding to sell a maximum of $1 million worth of shares to the public.

Crowdfunding certainly will be a big boost for companies, but with that comes serious risks for investors. Keep in mind that early-stage investments often go bust or essentially become “zombie” companies.

To deal with some of the risks, the JOBS Act still will require some basic disclosures, such as the names of the directors, officers and holders of 20% or more of the outstanding shares. The company also will have to provide a description of the business and its financial status. Other requirements are based on the amount of capital raised:

  • $100,000 or less: A company must disclose tax returns and a financial statement. The CEO must certify the disclosures.
  • $100,001 to $500,000: A company must provide financial statements that are reviewed by an independent public accountant.
  • More than $500,000: A company must have audited financials.
Gutting Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX)

SOX came about as a result of the accounting scandals of Enron and WorldCom. The landmark legislation essentially bolstered the regulatory requirements for public companies — including the sign-off of the financials from the CEO and CFO, as well as stiff fines and even jail terms for violations of the law.

As a result, it became much tougher for companies to come public. Instead, it has been mostly later-stage operators — such as Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA), LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) and (NYSE:CRM) — that have been able to pull off IPOs.

But the JOBS Act will roll back the most onerous part of SOX, which is section 404(b). This requires a registered public accounting firm to attest to a company�s internal controls, which is an expensive process. But under the JOBS Act, this will not be necessary for five years after a company goes public (so long as the company’s revenues are less than $1 billion).

This regulatory change also could be dangerous for investors. The 404(b) requirement is a strong safeguard against corporate accounting fraud because it mandates a strong financial accounting system that has powerful checks and balances.

Shareholder Limits

The JOBS Act will expand the number of pre-IPO shareholders from 500 to 1,000. Once a company exceeds the limit, it will have to register with the SEC.

The rule change will allow a company to�remain private for much longer. It also will likely spur more trading on secondary markets like SharesPost and SecondMarkets, which handle transactions for pre-IPO shares.

Again, there are some risks. The secondary markets often have little disclosure of financial information, which makes it tougher for investors to evaluate the investment, and the SEC previously has cracked down on these marketplaces.

Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog�IPO Playbook, a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He also is the author of��The Complete M&A Handbook”,��All About Short Selling��and��All About Commodities.��Follow him on Twitter at�@ttaulli�or reach him via�email. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

Cramer: The Dreamliner Lifts Component Makers

How much skepticism was there that the Dreamliner would ever launch? How much disbelief was there that Boeing(BA) would ever get it right?

See if (BA) is in our portfolio

Obviously a ton, if you look at the stocks that are really rocking today. First, there's Allegheny Technologies(ATI), which is one of the best horses to play in the Boeing race. Allegheny Tech makes the finest titanium, which is used principally for aircraft. The stock has been kept down forever, but I simply need to remind you that when the last aerospace cycle took off in 2005-6, you had a remarkable run in this stock. In fact it was, at one point, the best-performing stock in the S&P 500. It has a very, very far distance to go to get to where it used to be.Second is Precision Castparts(PCP). Here's the best-run aerospace play, having made a ton of money even when the Dreamliner was looking just like a dream. It is a name best played with deep-in-the-money calls, as it has virtually no dividend. The caveat is that the stock is expensive, selling at almost twice its growth rate, but I believe the numbers are way too low in the out-years, now that Boeing is shipping.Here's an oddity: UBS downgraded Hexcel(HXL) to sell last week, on the basis of worries about production cuts for both Boeing and Airbus. I don't buy it. I think the cycle is intact. Hexcel is a very important composites play for the Dreamliner, which, of course, is built with composites, which happened to be the big hold-up to the construction. That could be right, given the pressure on the downside that the sell call generated.I like BE Aerospace(BEAV) as a play on the seating of all new aircraft, and by the way, this is the stock that got upgraded when UBS downgraded Hexcel. I think both are buys. Normally I would be suggesting Goodrich(GR), but United Technologies(UTX) obviously was thinking ahead with what looks to be a way too generous bid. That said, if the Dreamliner takes off, a dilutive acquisition for 2012 might turn out to be a terrific acquisition in 2013.

1 2 Next › Last »

And of course, there are the conglomerate plays. Honeywell(HON) has been crushed here, and the Dreamliner is important to forward earnings and to the company's five-year plan. I think it can be bought, but not just because of the Dreamliner.

General Electric(GE) needs the Dreamliner, but it is more levered to the world's economic recovery, or lack thereof. And I would put Alcoa(AA) in the same place. While short-sellers don't like that these are not aluminum planes, they seem to forget that Alcoa has built up its fastener business, and those fasteners are used in abundance in the Dreamliner. Alcoa has been pummeled. Any good news has to help.

The Dreamliner is a big deal. How big? It even matters to the GDP, that's how big. And given the order profile, this production run could be an important keystone for all of these companies' future earnings. It's funny, the disappointment has been so traumatic for this company and its ship dates that it seems that people have given up on the component makers. That's where the bargains come in.At the time of publication, Cramer was long AA.

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Friday Options Recap


Stock market averages are sporting modest losses and showing some resilience midday Friday. The table was set for a morning sell-off on Wall Street after the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy added just 54,000 jobs last month. Although ADP’s report Wednesday, which showed a modest 38,000 increase in May private sector payrolls, was a harbinger for a disastrous jobs report, economists were looking for today’s headline number to show an increase of about 170,000. Those estimates proved far too optimistic, however, and April numbers were also revised down. The rate of unemployed ticked up .1% to 9.1%. Economists were looking for the unemployment rate to hold steady at 9%. On a brighter note, the latest ISM Services Index improved to 54.6 in May, from 52.8 the month before and better than the 53.3 that economists had predicted. The Dow Jones Industrial Average had found some support heading into the ISM and continued to climb off session lows once the news hit the wires. With about two hours left to trade, the industrial average is down 67 points and 77 points off session lows. The tech-heavy Nasdaq is down 25.5. CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX) is off .62 to 17.47 now that this week’s economic news is out. However, trading in the options market remains defensive, with 5.3 million calls and 5.8 million puts traded across the exchanges thus far.

Bullish Flow

Dryships (DRYS) adds 34 cents to $4.17 and options are busy today after Goldman Sachs upgraded the stock to Buy from Neutral. 32,000 calls and 8,260 puts traded on the dry bulk shipper. The top trades are part of a three-way spread after 5,000 Sep 3.5 puts traded at 17 cents while the Sep 5 - 6 call spread traded at 12 cents, 5000X. All three legs traded on the ISE, where sentiment data suggest puts were sold to finance the call spread. If so, the strategist is opening a position and probably looking for shares to drift beyond $5 through the September expiration.

Yahoo (YHOO) loses 12 cents to $15.89 and and the Jan 12.5 – 20 risk-reversal trades at 2 cents, 10000X on PHLX. Like yesterday, calls were bought, puts sold (see 6/2 recap). Today’s open interest data indicate that yesterday’s bullish combo was opening. Today’s trade probably adds to it.

Bearish Flow

Medco Health Solutions (MHS) loses $1.34 to $58.25 and an MHS July 60 – 65 – 70 call fly is sold at 75 cents, 24000X. It probably closes out a position opened in mid-March when the same spread traded at $1, 24000X (see 3/16 report). Shares are up 2.7% since that time, but the gain has not been sufficient enough and the spread is being closed out for a 25-cent loss. Moreover, shares tumbled 9% on 5/27 on news CVS (CVS) has won a Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield Government-wide pharmacy benefits contract. Today’s spread trader is probably throwing in the towel on hopes for a move back toward $65 through the July expiration.

Implied Volatility Mover

EBIX (EBIX), an Atlanta-based business software company, is back under pressure and implied volatility is rallying Friday. Shares are down $1.62 to $17.06 and options volume includes 5,950 puts and 1,190 calls. The top trade is a 168-lot of Sep 15 puts at the 90-cent ask price. 507 traded. June 15 and 16 puts are the most actives. Looks like players are bracing for additional downside and implied volumes in EBIX are up 75% to 77. No news on the ticker today. Shares were slammed in late-March on a negative Seeking Alpha article related to the company’s accounting and financials (see 3/24 color).

Unusual Volume Movers

Bearish activity detected in Adobe Systems (ADBE), with 7802 puts trading, or 6x the recent avg daily put volume in the name.

Bullish flow detected in Eldorado Gold (EGO), with 7943 calls trading, or 4x the recent avg daily call volume in the name.

Bullish flow detected in GT Solar International (SOLR), with 5567 calls trading, or 6x the recent avg daily call volume in the name.

Increasing volume is also being seen in Brocade (BRCD), Lowe’s (LOW), and Harmony Gold (HMY).

Dow May Gain as Spanish Banks Are Downgraded

LONDON -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) looks set to open a fraction higher this morning following yesterday's 138-point tumble. During early pre-open trading, the futures market indicated the benchmark U.S. index would start the session with a gentle 0.3% recovery.

On the domestic front, the Case-Shiller home-price index for April and the Consumer Board's consumer index for June could provide mixed news for today's traders. The previous two Case-Shiller reports have shown month-on-month gains -- the best run since 2010 -- although the figure from the Consumer Board is expected to stay around a five-month low.

Among individual stocks, News Corp (Nasdaq: NWS  ) could be active at the open, following reports chairman Rupert Murdoch may split his media business into separate publishing and entertainment companies. News Corp's Australian-traded shares rallied 2% overnight on the rumors.

General trading today may be led by Europe, where indexes started higher but were trading by as much as 0.5% lower later in the session. The renewed selling appeared as the Mediterranean island of Cyprus joined the queue of European nations asking for a bailout.

The decision by Moody's Corporation to downgrade 28 Spanish banks did not help sentiment. The ratings agency now reckons at least a dozen banks in Spain have "junk" status due to the country's economic difficulties and property-market slump. Banco Santander lost 0.3%, while Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria slipped 0.7% on the finer details.

In the U.K., the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE  ) kept broadly flat as government figures showed the British economy moving further into the red. During May, tax receipts fell 7% year on year, while public spending increased by 8%. A notable FTSE casualty today was Royal Bank of Scotland (NYSE: RBS  ) , which slid 3% as ongoing software problems continued to plague millions of customers.

Among other European movers, Finnish handset manufacturer Nokia (NYSE: NOK  ) extended yesterday's 11% plunge with a further 1% loss this morning. Monday's fall was prompted by reports of Microsoft developing its own smartphone. Following a catalog of awful results this year, Nokia's shares currently trade at levels last seen in 1994.

However, Nokia is not the European blue chip that has attracted stock-picking supremo Warren Buffett to invest more than $1 billion. The legendary investor recently bought a famous European name with global expansion potential. And, like Nokia, it too has suffered this year and seen its share price slump. You can discover the identity of Buffett's purchase and the price he paid in this special free report.

Are you looking to profit from this uncertain economy?�"Ten Steps To Making A Million In The Market" is The Motley Fool's latest report. We urge you to read it today -- your wealth could be transformed.�Click here now�to request your�free, no-obligation copy. The Motley Fool is�helping Britain invest. Better.

Further investment opportunities:

  • Why American Investors Should Buy British Shares
  • Eight Stocks Held By Britain's Super Investor
  • The Market's Top Sectors

Friday, November 23, 2012

3 Stocks Near 52-Week Highs Worth Selling

Three consecutive months of jobs growth and fewer worries from Europe have again produced multiyear highs on all of the indexes. For optimists, these rallies may seem like a dream come true. For skeptics like me, they're opportunities to see whether these companies have actually earned their current valuations.

Keep in mind that some companies deserve their current valuations. Cirrus Logic (Nasdaq: CRUS  ) , a maker of audio chips, has seen a significant bump in sales and profits thanks to Apple's iPhone and iPad. With the unveiling of the new iPad, it seems only logical to think that longtime parts supplier Cirrus has its audio chip in this Apple product as well.

Still, other companies might deserve a kick in the pants. Here's a look at three companies that could be worth selling.

Going vertical
Health products and home accessory online and catalog retailer Blyth (NYSE: BTH  ) released fourth-quarter earnings that had its stock heading to the stratosphere yesterday. The company posted a 23% rise in fourth-quarter sales thanks largely to its ViSalus weight-loss products and forecast that 2012 EPS could rise by 39%. These seem like pretty strong figures, but let me explain why I'm not as enthused.

First, ViSalus sales accounted for almost the entirety of Blyth's fourth-quarter sales boost. The company's PartyLite segment saw sales drop 7%, while its direct selling division witnessed an even worse 11% decline in sales. In short, Blyth appears wholly reliant on its ViSalus line to drive growth. Second, consumers lack loyalty in the weight-loss and supplement sector.

It's been a point I've touched on for multiple weeks now: Weight-loss stocks are a highly cyclical sector, and trends can turn on a dime. After yesterday's pop, I'm calling for a weight loss in terms of the stock's price.

The cloud is out of control
Enthusiasm about cloud computing is getting out of hand. This week's case in point: Equinix (Nasdaq: EQIX  ) . The company, which provides data center services to enterprises and financial services companies throughout the world, has seen its stock rise north of $140 despite posting what I would deem less-than-stellar quarterly results.

In the fourth quarter, Equinix posted a profit of $0.35 on a 23% rise in sales to $431 million. Not only did EPS come in $0.09 light of what analysts had been expecting, but expense growth outpaced revenue growth (26.6%-24.9%). Although its cash gross margin rose by 300 basis points, the company's frivolous spending and high levels of debt are worrisome. I know everyone wants in on the cloud-computing craze, but at 41 times forward earnings, I'm certain there are better values elsewhere.

Cloudy judgment
That's right, a second cloud play! At least Equinix makes money, which is more than I can say for my next contestant in this series, inContact (Nasdaq: SAAS  ) .

Just like Equinix, inContact is sprouting like a weed in summer. Sales in its most recent quarter grew 26% as licensing software added the biggest boost to revenue. But here's where the rubber meets the road: inContact's full-year loss for 2011 grew by more than sevenfold, to $0.23 from $0.03. Higher expenses related to investments in its business continue to be the primary culprit in inContact's losses.

Keep in mind that not every cloud-computing play has to come from a software aspect. Hardware play Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , which I highlighted over the weekend and which last week debuted its Xeon E5-2600 cloud server chip, is going to play a crucial role in transforming the data-sharing landscape. In the meantime, there are just too many mouths and not enough food to feed them all. Until these cloud plays can rein in spending, I'm not going to be a fan of many of them.

Foolish roundup
This week was all about companies that can't seem to keep spending, and in some cases their debt, under control. Prudent fiscal management is one aspect to hone in on when searching for successful companies; without it, you're asking for trouble. I'm so confident in my three calls that I plan to make a CAPScall of underperform on each one. The question now is: Would you do the same?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below and consider using the links below to add these three stocks to your free and personalized watchlist so you can keep track of the latest news with each company. Also, to avoid investing in stocks like these, consider getting a copy of our special report "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." In it, our chief investment officer details a play he dubbed the "Costco of Latin America." Best of all, this report is free for a limited time, so don't miss out!

  • Add Blyth to My Watchlist.
  • Add Equinix to My Watchlist.
  • Add inContact to My Watchlist.

Fastenal Beats Analyst Estimates on EPS

Fastenal (Nasdaq: FAST  ) reported earnings on Jan. 18. Here are the numbers you need to know.

The 10-second takeaway
For the quarter ended Dec. 31 (Q4), Fastenal met expectations on revenues and beat expectations on earnings per share.

Compared to the prior-year quarter, revenue expanded significantly, and earnings per share increased significantly.

Gross margins dropped, operating margins improved, and net margins grew.

Revenue details
Fastenal chalked up revenue of $698 million. The eight analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ predicted a top line of $696 million. Sales were 22% higher than the prior-year quarter's $574 million.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Dollar amounts in millions.

EPS details
EPS came in at $0.30. The 11 earnings estimates compiled by S&P Capital IQ predicted $0.30 per share. GAAP EPS of $0.30 for Q4 were 36% higher than the prior-year quarter's $0.22 per share.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Figures may be non-GAAP to maintain comparability with estimates.

Margin details
For the quarter, gross margin was 51.2%, 80 basis points worse than the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was 20.2%, 160 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Net margin was 12.5%, 110 basis points better than the prior-year quarter.

Looking ahead
Next quarter's average estimate for revenue is $754 million. On the bottom line, the average EPS estimate is $0.33.

Next year's average estimate for revenue is $3.2 billion. The average EPS estimate is $1.43.

Investor sentiment
The stock has a three-star rating (out of five) at Motley Fool CAPS, with 785 members out of 844 rating the stock outperform, and 59 members rating it underperform. Among 282 CAPS All-Star picks (recommendations by the highest-ranked CAPS members), 270 give Fastenal a green thumbs-up, and 12 give it a red thumbs-down.

Of Wall Street recommendations tracked by S&P Capital IQ, the average opinion on Fastenal is hold, with an average price target of $39.57.

  • Add Fastenal to My Watchlist.

Why Access Control Systems in NYC

The greatest tool for controlling access to a particular area along with blocking the right to use a specific area by someone in authority is Access Control Systems NYC. Access Control Systems NYC is great for security and is generally seen as 2nd layer in a system of security.

Other than this, you will be able to get both physical as well as digital access control systems when it comes to regulating or restricting the right to enter a particular network.

Normally, you will find these types of access control systems in building where there is a need to communicate and has a large number of people who enter and exit the building. The type of Access Control Systems NYC you decide to install will be dependent on the size of the area you want access over and your needs.

The key part of any ACS is the software installed in it. It basically ensures the tracking of each and every movement with the components integrated with it. Furthermore, anyone who does not have the authority to enter the building is not allowed to do so, for example a person with an expired card will not be granted access if you did Install Access Control Systems NYC.

Now there are a number of people who are of the view that just having security guards is enough to restrict access and there is no need to Install Access Control Systems NYC. Well the simple answer to this is that guards can only stop those whom they see however, on the other hand, each and every person who needs to get into or out of a particular building will have to pass through your Access Control Systems NYC. This means that the Access Control Systems NYC will make the works of guards more efficient and effective. With the help of Access Control Systems NYC, the guards will be able to better concentrate on making sure that other aspects of building security are well in place since they would be assured of the fact that no unauthorized person will be able to gain access to the building.

Learn more about Access Control Systems NYC. Stop by Al Holbert’s site where you can find out all about Access Control Systems New York and what it can do for you.

Boom! Dollar Rebounds Vs. Euro

Despite decent economic data this morning — consumer sentiment and October home price declines — that should keep the dollar under pressure, the greenback reversed course in late morning trading versus the Euro. DJ Newswires pegs the rebound to Moody’s downgrade of the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank’s credit rating to A1 from Aa3.

Whatever. The dollars now up slightly at $1.4341 per Euro after spending much of the morning in the $1.44 territory. That’s a slight appreciation for the dollar from yesterday’s $1.4378. Futures, too, are pointing to a stronger dollar, with the ICE U.S. Dollar Index futures contract for March up 0.3% at 78.22.

So much for the “Dollar Falls as Risk Appetite Grows” headlines.

Fodder for bull and bear, no doubt. Bloomberg runs a piece quoting pundits Marc Faber and Barton Biggs, who both see a strong U.S. dollar in 2010, up as much as 10%. “I don�t see any reason why we can�t have a further rally in the dollar,” Biggs told BB television, “and a further rally in stocks. And my guess is that the next move in both could be on the order of 10 percent.”

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Video Game Sales Plummet in August: Are Smartphones to Blame?

Following flat sales in the month of July, video game sales plunged in August, according to market research firm NPD Group. NPD does not include sales from PC games in its monthly game sales data.

Overall US revenues decreased 10.0% year over year to $818.9 million, in sync with analysts’ expectations. Overall revenue dipped from $846.5 million in July and $1.1 billion in June. This was the worst performance recorded in August since 2006. Industry sales in the US are down 8%, year to date.

Hardware sales were down 5.0% year over year to $282.9 million. Handheld device sales fell 25.0% year over year, while console decreased 6.0%. We believe stiff competition from Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) iPod Touch and a higher number of smartphones caused the massive decline in the handheld segment.

Among the handheld devices, Sony Corp.’s (SNE) PlayStation sold 79,400 units in the reported month, down from 84,000 units in July, and 140,300 a year ago. Nintendo DS sold 342,700, down from 398,400 units in July, and 552,900 a year ago.

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) Xbox 360 was the top-selling console in August for the third consecutive month. Xbox 360 sold 356,700 units, down from 443,500 in July, but up from 215,400 a year ago. The new slim format of Xbox 360 has gained immense popularity among video game players.

We anticipate further transitioning from old systems to new ones as the holiday season sets in, driving strong sales in the latter half of 2010.

Nintendo's Wii attained the No. 2 position while Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 came third. Sony PlayStation 3 sold 226,000 units, up from 214,500 in July, and 210,000 a year ago. Nintendo Wii sold 244,300 units, down from 253,900 in July, and 277,400 a year ago.

Software weakened further, with sales declining 14.0% year over year to $403.5 million. Accessories sales were down 6% year over year to $132.4 million.

Electronic Arts Inc's (ERTS) recently released Madden NFL 11 topped the best-selling video game chart for the month. Madden NFL 11 sold 920,800 units for the Xbox and 893,600 units for PlayStation 3.

Recently, Electronic Arts pre-released a portion of Medal of Honor. The Open Beta version allows players to play the game for three days through today, October 7.

Our Take
Although most industry analysts apprehend flat-to-negative growth for 2010, we beg to differ on the basis of a plethora of new releases in the second half of 2010 from Activision Blizzard Inc. (ATVI) and Electronic Arts, which are likely to drive sales in the second half.

We believe third-party publishers such as Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard enjoy a healthy product portfolio. Electronic Arts is scheduled to release a new Medal of Honor in October and Activision Blizzard’s new Call of Duty: Black Ops will hit the market in November. Both the games are in the action genre with a strong fan following and have received satisfactory pre-release reviews.

In our opinion, the video game industry needs a blockbuster from either ERTS or ATVI to deliver strong sales in the near term. The second half has traditionally been a peak season for this industry. However, whether seasonal strength is sufficient to drive results this year remains something to look out for.

We believe this backend-loaded nature of growth adds to the risk of investing in video game companies, as underperformance of any single title would skew results, with sales and earnings missing expectations. Moreover, cut-throat competition, lack of price discounting opportunities in the holiday season and a higher cost of new game development make us cautious in the near term.

Globecomm Systems Beats Up on Analysts Yet Again

Globecomm Systems (Nasdaq: GCOM  ) reported earnings on Feb. 8. Here are the numbers you need to know.

The 10-second takeaway
For the quarter ended Dec. 31 (Q2), Globecomm Systems beat expectations on revenues and beat expectations on earnings per share.

Compared to the prior-year quarter, revenue grew significantly, and GAAP earnings per share grew significantly.

Gross margins shrank, operating margins improved, and net margins improved.

Revenue details
Globecomm Systems recorded revenue of $95.2 million. The three analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ predicted sales of $89.3 million on the same basis. GAAP reported sales were 36% higher than the prior-year quarter's $70.2 million.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Dollar amounts in millions. Non-GAAP figures may vary to maintain comparability with estimates.

EPS details
EPS came in at $0.41. The three earnings estimates compiled by S&P Capital IQ predicted $0.16 per share. GAAP EPS of $0.41 for Q2 were 413% higher than the prior-year quarter's $0.08 per share.

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Non-GAAP figures may vary to maintain comparability with estimates.

Margin details
For the quarter, gross margin was 24.2%, 60 basis points worse than the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was 8.4%, 130 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Net margin was 9.7%, 730 basis points better than the prior-year quarter.

Looking ahead
Next quarter's average estimate for revenue is $100.3 million. On the bottom line, the average EPS estimate is $0.20.

Next year's average estimate for revenue is $374.8 million. The average EPS estimate is $1.11.

Investor sentiment
The stock has a five-star rating (out of five) at Motley Fool CAPS, with 192 members rating the stock outperform and 10 members rating it underperform. Among 46 CAPS All-Star picks (recommendations by the highest-ranked CAPS members), 43 give Globecomm Systems a green thumbs-up, and three give it a red thumbs-down.

Of Wall Street recommendations tracked by S&P Capital IQ, the average opinion on Globecomm Systems is outperform, with an average price target of $17.33.

The game is changing for makers of communications equipment, and some of the old guard may not make it. Where will Globecomm Systems fit in? Who's going to lead going forward? Check out "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution." Click here for instant access to this free report.

  • Add Globecomm Systems to My Watchlist.

Beazer (BZH) Earnings Prompt Homebuilder to Cut FY2010 Guidance

Just two weeks before the end of its 2010 fiscal year, Beazer Homes USA, Inc. (NYSE: BZH) has warned that the company’s target for new home orders for the full fiscal year is in jeopardy. Beazer had projected that FY2010 orders would surpass FY2009 orders of 4,205 new homes. To meet that projection, Beazer needed to receive 767 orders in its fourth quarter which ends September 30. The company now says that it expects 700-800 new home orders in the quarter, “resulting in year-over-year new home orders that may be above or below Fiscal 2009 results.”

It’s risky to estimate how this announcement will affect the rest of the homebuilders. In the past month, Beazer’s shares have risen 26%. Shares of Pulte Group, Inc. (NYSE: PHM) have risen 8%, and shares of Toll Brothers Inc. (NYSE: TOL) have risen more than 13% while shares of KB Home (NYSE: KBH) are up more than 16%.

The forces behind these rising share prices appear to be low mortgage rates and lower home prices. Those forces have presumably combined with pent-up demand from buyers and a belief that the federal government will do something to jump-start the housing market.

Clearly low mortgage rates and more reasonably priced houses is not doing the trick. If there is pent-up demand, it has not been released. And if the government is going to send in the cavalry, there’s no sign of it yet.

Beazer’s announcement today may cool the homebuilders a little, but the overall bullishness of the last month had no good reason to start and, thus, it has no real reason to stop. The reasoning might be that at worst Beazer may just remain flat with last year. After quarters of losses, that’s not so bad, so let’s keep buying.

To be fair, Beazer expects to close about 4,600 sales in FY2010, up from 4,330 in the previous year. That’s good, as is the reiteration of the company’s expected gross margin of 11.7%, excluding impairments and abandonment charges, and Beazer’s end-of-year-cash balance of more than $500 million.

The company is also planning to spend less on land acquisition for the 2010 fiscal year. Previous estimates were set at $200-$220 million, but the company now expects to spend less than $200 million. That makes sense, too, because there’s no sense in buying more land, even if it’s cheap, when the company can’t sell what it has.

Beazer’s shares are off more than 3.5% in early trading this morning. KBH shares are down more than 2%, PulteGroup shares are down more than 1.5%, and Toll Brothers shares are off less than 1%.

As of this writing, Paul Ausick did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.

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Visa Raises Dividend by 47%

Visa (V) boosted its dividend payout for the third year in a row, boosting it to 22 cents from 15 cents, a 47% increase. The stock now yields about 0.9%.

“Visa has a long-standing commitment to deliver value to its shareholders,” said Chairman and CEO Joseph Saunders in a statement. “By authorizing a significant dividend increase for the third consecutive year, the board of directors is delivering on that commitment and demonstrating their ongoing confidence in the strength of the business.”

Visa stock is up 33% this year. The stock opened flat this morning.

Tuesday Options Recap


Stock market averages are holding modest gains late-Tuesday. Weakness across Eurozone equity markets and another dip in the euro set the table for cautious morning trading on Wall Street. France’s CAC 40 Index paced the decline in Europe with a 1.9 percent loss and the euro gave up .7 percent on the buck after stubbornly high bond yields in Italy kept worries alive about the still spreading debt crisis. Yet, stocks strayed from their usual pattern and, in contrast recent trends, there was a clear disconnect between trading in Europe and in the US. Domestic economic news seemed to help after Retail Sales rose .5 percent in October and .1 percent more than expected. The PPI fell more than expected and the NY Empire Manufacturing Index showed modest improvement. For whatever reason, stock market averages had recovered losses through midday and strengthened in afternoon action. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is now up 73 points and the tech-heavy NASDAQ added 35.8. CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX) slipped .56 to 30.57. Trading in the options market is beginning to pick up heading into this week’s expiration, with 7.9 million calls and 6.3 million puts traded across the exchanges so far.

Bullish Flow

Serious call volume in Sirius XM (SIRI) as some players are seizing Mar 2 calls on the satellite radio operator. One player pay 13 cents per contract, 19700X. Shares are flat at $1.68 and more than 40,000 traded against 16,000 in open interest. Implied volatility in SIRI is up 11 percent to 56 and today’s options order flow on the stock seems bullish ahead of a presentation at a Liberty Media conference Thursday.

Sunoco (SUN) loses 25 cents to $36.54 and a 5000-contract block of Nov 36 puts is sold-to-open at 33 cents on ISE. Data indicate a customer initiated the trade. 6,930 traded against 953 in open interest. The contract is 1.5 percent OTM with a -.35 delta and expiring in three days. The underlying has been drifting lower lately, down 4.1 percent since earnings were reported on 11/3.

Bearish Flow

FMC Technologies (FTI), a Houston-based provider of IT services to the energy industry, is up $1.60 cents to $48.94 and options volume is 7.5X the average daily for the stock, driven by downside put buyers. Dec 45s are the most actives. 1,639 traded, including a multi-exchange sweep of 596 contracts for $1.25 when the market was $1.10 to $1.25. Sentiment data is reporting an opening customer buyer. Another sweep of 1,334 Nov 45 puts traded at 16 cents when the market was 10 to 15 cents. 1,370 traded. Meanwhile, implied volatility in options in FTI is up 10 percent to 47 and the bearish trading might be in reaction to a presentation at a BofA Merrill 2011 Energy Conference scheduled for today.

Implied volatility Mover

Transocean (RIG) offshore is under fire Tuesday afternoon and implied volatility in the options on the oil driller is up sharply after Reuters reported that the company's CEO was asked about prospects for settling with BP over the Macondo incident, and he said that the focus is on preserving its indemnity. Shares are down $2.59 to $47.12 and Nov 47.5 puts, which are now in-the-money heading into this week's expiration, are the most actives. 7,413 traded. Nov 45 puts, Nov 47.5 calls and Nov 50 calls on RIG are actively traded as well. Players are jockeying for position for the next move in the underlying and implied volatility in the options jumped 30 percent to 58.

Stocks Gain On Eurozone Debt Progress

Stocks jumped on Wednesday after European leaders made some breakthroughs on stemming the eurozone debt crisis with China possibly helping the effort.

After gyrating throughout trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished with a gain of 162 points, or 1.4%, at 11,869. The S&P 500 advanced 13 points, or 1.1%, to close at 1242, while the Nasdaq settled up 12 points, or 0.5%, at 2651.

Find out what stocks Link and Cramer are trading before they trade them

The statement that resulted from a highly anticipated summit between European Union leaders remained thin on details for a comprehensive debt plan. But Germany's agreement to back an initiative to lever up the region's emergency bailout fund was a balm to nervous investors. European Union leaders agreed to recapitalize the region's financial system but remained in deadlock over the size of write-downs on Greek debt. Italy pledged to reform its pension system as part of a plan to balance its budget deficit, suggesting that the country was trying its best to meet the demands of its eurozone neighbors. Later in the day, stocks rallied further on news that China may help to bolster the eurozone rescue fund. French President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to talk with Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday.The dollar index, a measure of the dollar's value against a basket of currencies, was rising 0.03%, while the euro wavered, last slipping 0.06% against the greenback."I'm optimistic about the market if we can consolidate at this point, but we have to get Europe out of the way to give us greater clarity," said Real Money contributor Rev Shark in a Wednesday blog post.In Europe, London's FTSE closed 0.5% higher, while Germany's DAX finished 0.5% lower. Overnight, Asian markets saw a mixed close. Japan's Nikkei Average slipped 0.2%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5%.Keeping a cap on the Nasdaq's gains was, which tumbled 13% after the company reported a profit miss and thinning margins. Especially concerning was the e-commerce giant's fourth quarter outlook. predicted a loss between $200 million to a profit of $250 million, which analysts say translates to a zero profit margin.In other earnings news, Dow component Boeing(BA) reported a third-quarter profit of $1.46 a share, shy of expectations of $1.10 in earnings per share. The company however hiked its year-end guidance above consensus estimates. Shares rose 4% to $66.56.Boeing helped the Dow index gain the most points, followed by Chevron(CVX) and Caterpillar(CAT). Microsoft(MSFT) and 3M(MMM) sunk to the bottom of the index.Ford(F) said its profits for the third quarter slipped on higher commodity prices and financial service weakness. The automaker reported worse than expected earnings but beat revenue expectations. The stock shed 5% to $11.87.Sprint(S) plunged 7% after posting a smaller-than-expected third-quarter loss of 10 cents a share on revenue of $8.3 billion. Analysts forecasted a loss of 22 cents a share on sales of $8.4 billion.The benchmark 10-year Treasury was down 27/32, lifting the yield to 2.21%. In commodity markets, gold for December delivery gained $23.90 to trade at $1,723.50 an ounce, while the December crude oil contract traded $2.49 lower at $90.68 a barrel.While Europe took precedence, investors also weighed some better-than-expected economic data. In the U.S., orders on machinery and other long lasting goods increased despite a plunge in orders for aircrafts. And while new-home sales remain weak, the read in September grew 5.7% as home prices declined. .

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Google Drive And The Cloud Wars

By Aaron Levie

Editor’s note: Aaron Levie is co-founder and CEO at Box.

For the past six years, any startup touching the cloud storage space has lived in anticipation and fear of Google’s (GOOG) entry into the market. G(od) Drive’s arrival was meant to instantly commoditize existing offerings, kill all future opportunity for new players, and leave a charred ecosystem in its wake as it battled Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL) for control of our online lives and content. This was seen as all but a forgone conclusion among investors, press, analysts, and even competing startups since 2006 and beyond. And even beyond that.

But the Google Drive never came. Why?

“Sundar had concluded that it was an artifact of the style of computing that Google was about to usher out the door… I don’t think we need files anymore,” Steven Levy writes in his book, In the Plex, referring to Sundar Pichai, head of Google Chrome.

Google was moving towards a world where its cloud operating system would make traditional file systems obsolete. Consumers would create and manage data without ever touching a desktop application again. Before it was ever born, Google Drive was suddenly a thing of the past. A Valley myth.

And with Google Docs, we bought into Google’s vision for reinventing how we create and interact with data. At least many of us in the tech community did. I remember thinking that Google Docs (and Writely before it) would easily take over Microsoft Office as the choice solution for creating and editing new information. How could it not?

But it turns out that lawyers still needed to share detailed, structured documents. Investment bankers wanted to access complex spreadsheets. Doctors had to review medical records. Reality set in that most people still created content using local apps like Photoshop, Autodesk and – gasp! – Microsoft Office. Google’s Chrome and cloud-only view of the world wasn’t supportive of this reality. And while the Mountain View giant stood firm with its vision for the future, users moved on in the present, signing up for file storage and sharing apps from a range of startups and tech leaders.

And now, like all good legends, Google Drive is rumored to be back on the brink of launch. Maybe the competition between Android and iOS – with the latter gaining a competitive edge with iCloud – brought it back from the dead. Or perhaps it was the traction of cloud storage startups to the tune of tens of millions of users. Whatever the reason, Google has been pulled into the market.

An inevitable entry, just delayed

When the Google Drive rumors first started in ‘06, it seemed inevitable that it and others would soon enter the space in a significant way. At Box, we were but a small guppy in waters soon to be populated by sharks with rocket launchers. (See image above.) In short, it wasn’t going to be an easy fight. Even if we were successful in acquiring and attracting consumers, getting wallet-share in a market where the price is driven to zero is immensely difficult. We had to take a different tack.

In talking with our customers, we realized the battle for big business adoption would be played out and won on a completely different set of dimensions: Instead of making decisions based on price, enterprises are utility and time sensitive; instead of being platform-specific (my mom only uses Apple products), enterprises deal with every device imaginable; and, enterprises would need a significantly more thorough set of services that would preclude consumer companies from addressing the market effectively. For these reasons and others, moving into the enterprise was an obvious choice in 2007. That’s when we hit the big red “Pivot” button that’s hidden under every startup CEO’s desk.

We decided to let the other players duke it out in the noisy consumer space, while we’d try and shake things up the quiet and dusty enterprise world. Surprisingly, it’s really only in the past year that Apple, Microsoft and (supposedly) Google have made real moves to enter the market we left behind. And with their frenzied land-grab for the consumer space, they’re driving fragmentation that’s unparalleled to anything we’ve ever seen.

The upcoming fractured cloud

Think about it: If you’re Microsoft, it’s in your best interest to make it frictionless for your customers to move data between as many Windows machines as possible. Apple equally wants to ensure your iPhone, Mac, and Apple TV all communicate synchronously. Google, for its part has long wanted to be the information hub for its customers as it moved beyond its core search vision.

But the efforts of these three players – building up their own vertically integrated technology stacks from the mobile devices to the platforms where you create content to where it’s all stored – are leading us toward a fractured and fragmented ecosystem. And this is not a group of companies that are going to play nicely together.

The world will never again look like it did in the ’90s, when a single vendor in Redmond laid claim to the vast majority of critical software we interacted with and data we produced. Already, less than half of devices connected to the internet are Windows-based. This change is absolutely great for innovation; but when Microsoft had undue control over the software world, there was something arguably soothing (as a consumer) about everything roughly working together. Unlike the traditional desktop environment, where applications were forced to let the local file system broker some level of uniformity, the cloud we’re about to enter is one that will manifest its own platform wars, proprietary approaches, and a disjointed developer and customer ecosystems.

Questions abound. Are there files in the future or not? Do we use Microsoft Office anymore? Are we just in a multi-year transition period before we’re completely cloud? If I store a document in Google, how do I get to it from my Mac? If I store a photo in my iCloud, how do share it with someone on a Windows phone?

iCloud is attempting to have applications rebuilt on top of its proprietary notion of a cloud-assisted data model. In a sense it’s trying to recreate all applications in its own image, on its own platforms, and trying to kill the concept of sync products along with it. Apple is putting some serious muscle behind this vision by integrating it more deeply into the operating system.

With Skydrive, Microsoft has a goal of “delivering personal cloud storage for billions of people.” But its historic approach to openness and cooperation leaves a lot to be desired. Microsoft Office 365 is a noble effort by Microsoft to enter the web-office market, but with nonexistent APIs to allow content import or editing, it’s yet another walled garden of information that gets created in its environment. Google, too, doesn’t have the richest history of long-term developer support.

I don’t have the answers, but the emerging problem is apparent enough. We hear it from our users and customers – in the form of confusion, consternation, and signs in the market. There is a greater abundance of applications that offer little similarity, security, or integration; and consequently go unmanaged. This is an untenable fate for enterprises. And whereas the inherent heterogeneity of devices and platforms in today’s businesses will force some degree of openness from enterprise players, there is no such check in the consumer world.

So get ready for a number of years of absolute rock-your-world style competition among major players fighting for your content and the cloud. Every photo you upload, every song you listen to, every video your capture. These guys want it. With around $200B in cash between Microsoft, Apple, and Google alone, cost is no issue; they see your data as the center of their universe. They’ll probably get it. I’m just happy to be swimming in enterprise waters.

Original post

What Can You Get In Malaysia Real Estate?

Malaysia is experiencing rapid development in terms of business. This fact is affected by continuous contributions of people from many sectors. Production in this place is greatly influenced by people who strive hard for the country, and this might be one of the assets the country has.

Foreign investors are now planning to establish business in the area, but the main thing they should be concerned is the place they would use in order to proceed with their business. One solution of that is to buy a space for their offices. Property owners in Malaysia is now offering properties for commercial, industrial and any other use, which makes businesses ready to move on.

Real estates in Malaysia are offered to anyone who wishes to have something valuable in the country (of course, in the form of a property). Apartments and Condominiums in Malaysia are very common in both urban and rural areas. Considering the fact that most of these properties are affordable, people who wish to live here has nothing to worry about. Real estate in Malaysia is becoming more open to any investors, but as always, conditions apply when buying these properties.

There are many things you can get when you buy real estate in this country; one of them is the assurance that Malaysia will become more civilized in the future. This results to a conclusion that the property you wish to buy today will increase in demand in the future, especially when the property is in urban areas.

You can always think of the benefits that you will get when you purchase real estate in Malaysia, but one thing is for sure, the money you spend in buying the property will be paid off when you sell them after how many years. Buying Malaysia real estate is a good choice, but in great conditions.

That’s why when you are actually on the search or you are currently seeking for possible answers about the question, “What’s with Malaysia Real Estate?”, then, you have found them already.

The Crazy Way to Profit From This Hot IPO

The following video is part of our "Motley Fool Conversations" series, in which consumer goods editor and analyst Austin Smith discusses topics across the investing world.

Yelp's IPO sure was a frothy one, with the company experiencing a 60% pop mid-day. Some investors will feel like they missed out, while others are glad not to jump in on a company that's white-hot right now. Austin actually sees another indirect way to play the Yelp IPO. It's a unique and more risky way to profit, but if the "LinkedIn Effect" plays out the way Austin thinks it may, it could be another easy buck for your portfolio.

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Big tech names might gather a lot of investor attention, but the truth is that they're playing second fiddle to an even larger revolution in technology. To better prepare investors for this new revolution, The Motley Fool has just released a free report on mobile named "The Next Trillion-Dollar Revolution" that details a hidden component play inside mobile phones that also is a market leader in the exploding Chinese market. Inside the report, we not only describe why the mobile revolution will dwarf any other technology revolution seen before it, but we also name the company at the forefront of the trend. Hundreds of thousands have requested access to previous reports, and you can access this new report today by clicking here -- it's free.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

SM: Grad School: Higher Degrees of Debt

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  • 10 Things Student Loan Companies Won't Say
  • Banks' Secret Weapon in Student Loan Fight: Mom

Graduate school, a path to higher learning and potentially higher income, increasingly lands students in higher debt brackets.

But while Congress searches for ways to alleviate the loan burden for undergrads, experts say little attention is being paid to master's students. In fact, lost in the debate over the nation's student loan debt topping the $1 trillion mark is that graduate students account for a third of that sum -- and that their indebtedness is likely about to grow much worse.

Beginning in July, subsidized Stafford loans will no longer be available to graduate students, a shift that experts say will force student borrowers into more expensive loans to cover tuition. These loans are the most popular type for graduate school, with more than one-third of all students signing up for them annually, because the government covers the interest payments during the years of enrollment. In contrast, other loans require students to pay the full cost.


AnnaMaria Andriotis spoke with The Wall Street Journal This Morning about her story .

Without the subsidized Stafford loan, experts say graduate students will likely soon account for a much bigger share of the student-debt pie. Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of, which tracks student debt, estimates their debt load at graduation will increase by about 6% on average.

Experts say the cuts are part of the federal government's broader move to slash spending. (The loan, however, will still be available for undergrads.) Last year, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011, which included eliminating the subsidized Stafford loan for higher degrees. The measure is expected to save around $21.6 billion over 10 years, nearly $5 billion of which went to the deficit reduction. The administration says the reasons for removing the subsidy were twofold: those with advanced degrees tend to have higher incomes, and the cheaper loans don't encourage more students to enroll in graduate school.

For graduate students, however, the subsidy ends at an inconvenient time. With the economy struggling to rebound, more adults have been returning to college to get master's degrees -- and leaving with a rising amount of debt. Master's degrees account for about $200 billion in outstanding student loan debt, according to, while other advanced degrees make up another $100 billion. This year, roughly 830,000 advanced-degree recipients are expected to graduate with debt averaging roughly $43,500, up 10% from five years ago. Since the fall of 2007, roughly 56% or 3.6 million graduate-degree recipients incurred loans, according to

Despite these rising debt levels, proponents of the government's decision to eliminate subsidized Stafford loans for graduate students say they don't need as much help because they'll likely have less difficulty paying back more expensive loans. During a 40-year career, individuals with just a bachelor's degree will earn nearly $2.3 million on average while those who get a master's will make an extra $400,000 over that period, estimates Stephen Rose, research professor at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

But consumer advocates point out that those pay gains don't always pan out. While the median annual income for someone with a master's degree is about $12,000 more than someone with just a bachelor's degree, the pay difference is even smaller in some fields, such as the arts and journalism. Then there are professions like teaching and social work that often require expensive graduate degrees, but typically don't yield large salaries.

Meredith Towne-DeVito, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based high school English teacher, says she's trying to pay back $118,000 in college loans that she acquired while receiving a master's degree at New York University, but her salary isn't large enough to make a dent in the debt she owes. "It's completely overwhelming," she says. "It'll be forever before I pay it off."

Quantifying the financial benefits of a graduate degree has become even harder in recent years as colleges raise tuition costs. Since the recession, tuition has risen 11%, to nearly $22,000, on average for private nonprofit graduate programs, about in line with tuition hikes for undergraduate students, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. At public colleges, tuition for grad students rose 25%, to $9,247, outpacing tuition hikes at the undergraduate level.

Schools are raising these costs even as enrollment continues to soar. Between 2007 and 2010, enrollment in graduate programs grew 11%, to an all-time high of 2.9 million students, according to the latest data from the NCES. One reason costs are climbing, says Kantrowitz, is a controversial practice called "differential tuition," whereby colleges charge higher tuition for programs that are more popular. Public colleges are also receiving less funding from cash-strapped state governments.

Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, which represents colleges, counters that graduate degree programs are expensive to run, particularly in tech intensive fields such as engineering and the sciences. Separately, he says, it's not unusual for a profitable department at a university, like the business school, to subsidize another department. Also, colleges say they continue to dole out free aid to eligible students to help offset the costs.

To ease the burden, some financial advisers recommend that graduate students consider attending a public university where tuition costs are lower. The average tuition at a public university is less than half of a private graduate program.

Another consideration, they say, is whether the costs of attaining an advanced degree will be worth it. Someone with a bachelor's degree in business or engineering could earn about $19,000 more a year (based on median salary data) if they go on to get a master's degree, according to Rose. But even if the pay post-master's is significantly higher, students should consider how much they'll have to borrow and how many years they'll need to pay that off before signing up.

Jon Weinman, a lawyer in Long Beach, Calif., says he incurred $140,000 in student-loan debt after enrolling in Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles in 2005, figuring the six-digit salary offers guidance counselors told him he'd fetch at graduation would make it manageable. But Weinman, 30, found work at a small law firm earning just half of what he expected. "Right now, it's not even feasible to think of how long it will take me to pay this off," he says.

Would Your Firm Withstand CEFEX Certification?

How would your firm fare if you opened up the firm’s process, practices and procedures to the scrutiny of an outside professional, trained to assess how well it conformed to the fi360’s “Global Fiduciary Standard of Excellence?” Would it be worthy of certification from the Centre for Fiduciary Excellence (CEFEX)?

“Letting someone come in to look at how you are running things is a very sensitive subject,” said Carlos Panksep, general manager, CEFEX. Panksep and  Richard Carpenter, CEFEX Advisory Council member and president of USVI Pensions and Consulting, spoke with AdvisorOne during the 2011 fi360 Conference in San Antonio on May 5. That kind of “transparency is notable in this industry,” Panksep adds.

That is exactly what CEFEX-certified firms do, however—every year. First, an Accredited Investment Fiduciary Analyst (AIFA) (who cannot be associated with the candidate firm) works with that firm, going through the firm’s processes to see what more they must do to prepare for the assessment. The analyst looks at the firm, Panksep explained, to see if, "in process, they are they running a good business, with good fiduciary practices.”

Where they find gaps, the analyst will let the firm know that there is “opportunity for improvement; you can do better on this fiduciary practice,” Panksep said. Later the analyst looks again to see how those “opportunities” have been put into practice.  According to Panksep, this “instills a culture of continuous improvement” at these firms. They “know the fiduciary will come out again to follow up. It’s an annual certification.”

Can a Newly Minted RIA Cut the Mustard?

For a “newly independent registered investment advisor (RIA),” said Panksep, the analyst would assess “compensation structure. Fee only, clearly out of the gate,” he said, gets a new firm started off “on the right foot.” They look at the firm’s service agreement” for 408(b)(2) compliance “if they serve a ERISA plan” he noted.

The firm also needs to “acquire the knowledge to be able to communicate” complex issues to clients. The “client needs to understand the complex concepts—not just that this is complicated and ‘I’ll take care of it for you,’” said Carpenter.

There are several classifications of firms that can achieve CEFEX Certification: Investment Steward, Investment Advisor or Fiduciary Advisor, Investment Manager, Retirement Plan Service Provider, Investment Support Services and Due Diligence.

Most firms don’t start the actual assessment process until they have fully prepared.

The Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) and AIFA designations are achieved by completing of specialized programs at fi360 and the Center for Fiduciary Studies. This editor achieved the AIF designation in 2010.

Is drilling causing Ohio earthquakes?

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (CNNMoney) -- In what may be the nation's next boomtown, the ground is, literally, booming.

Residents here in northeastern Ohio are receiving up to $5,000 an acre from energy companies that lease their land -- plus monthly royalties. But they have also experienced at least 11 earthquakes since last March, state officials say.

Scientists say the region's quakes are likely tied to the burgeoning oil and gas industry.

At 3:05 p.m. on New Year's Eve, the people of Youngstown, Ohio, felt their homes shake.

"I thought a jetliner crashed into the side of my house," said resident Jim Bunosky. He was one of 300 to 400 local residents who attended a community meeting last week to discuss the quake's origin, which some believe is linked to a local well used for wastewater disposal from oil and gas drilling.

The Ohio Works well, operated by D&L Energy Group, has been injecting the so-called brine -- mainly saltwater and chemicals -- 9,180 feet into the ground since November 2010.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources says it is among the deepest of such wells in Ohio, and believes it may have been drilled over an unknown fault. The agency explains that an earthquake can be triggered by fluid lubricating a geologic fracture that has both stored energy and the potential to move.

There are 176 operating disposal wells in Ohio, but Ohio Works is the only one that scientists connect to the region's quakes.

John Armbruster, a seismologist affiliated with Columbia University, was brought in to study the Youngstown quakes and says there's a "strong case" they are being caused by the well. Seismographs installed by Armbruster pinpoint the epicenter of the magnitude 4.0 New Year's Eve earthquake as within one kilometer of the bottom of the Ohio Works well.

Ohio set to see oil boom thanks to fracking

D&L, in a statement, denied any "conclusive link" between the well and the earthquakes.

Industry executives cite a "superb track record" over the decades that these form of disposal wells have been used, and call the recent earthquakes in Youngstown an anomaly.

"There's 180 of these wells across the state and the track record is excellent," said Thomas Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.

Meanwhile, the state natural resources agency is awaiting a study commissioned by D&L and further information from experts before determining what's triggering the quakes. However, the state did close four not-yet-operational wells within a 5-mile radius of Ohio Works, due to concerns over possible seismic activity.

Earthquakes have been tied to so-called injection wells in other states. For example, Arkansas enacted a permanent moratorium on disposal wells in an approximately 1,200 square-mile area, due to enhanced seismic activity near the Fayetteville Shale.

Ohio issued 36 permits for injection wells in 2011, compared to an average of three to six in prior years, according to the state natural resources agency. The wells are part of a broader economic resurgence tied to the oil and gas industry in the state. Steel company Timken has hired 1,000 workers in Ohio since September 2009 to keep up with the exploding demand.

Lorraine Gutscher-Mulinex was one of those new hires. Formerly a laid-off auto worker, she says, "Many people are being put back to work, not just here at Timken, but all over Ohio."

The state has benefited from the increased wastewater, since it started charging companies to dump it a little over a year ago.

Ohio charges out-of-state companies 20 cents a barrel and in-state companies 5 cents a barrel to deposit waste in the state's nearly 180 disposal wells. Last year, 54% of that waste came over state lines, largely from neighboring Pennsylvania. So far, this has grossed Ohio roughly $1 million.

Don Kreager manages a disposal well in Cambridge, Ohio. His employer, David R. Hill Inc., charges $3 per barrel of wastewater and injects roughly 2,000 barrels a day up to 8,800 feet into the ground. He's seen business increase 50% in the past year and a half, with about one-third of it coming from out of state.

State Representative Bob Hagan is wary of the disposal wells and has called for a moratorium on them across Ohio.

"I've watched the lights go out in Youngstown, Ohio, in the steel industry," Hagan said. "I've also watched the polluted river, a town that has nothing but brown fields. I want to move carefully."

But the industry and the state insist this is the safest way to bury the waste -- and are making money off of it. That will keep these trucks rolling in and out of the Buckeye State.

And what happens when these wells fills up? "Drill another well a couple thousand feet away," Kreager says. 

SEC, FINRA Enforcement Roundup: $268M Insider Trading Scheme Busted

Charges of insider trading in a secondary stock offering, accounting violations, insider trading around an acquisition and efforts by a phony company president to push a fake penny-stock investment were among enforcement actions taken by the SEC, while FINRA censured and fined a firm for a registered representative’s unsuitable and excessive trading in client accounts.

CEO Charged with Insider Trading in Secondary Stock Offering

The chairman and CEO of a Santa Ana, Calif.-based computer storage device company was charged by the SEC with insider trading on shares of his own company’s stock in a scheme that had netted him and his brother $134 million apiece.

The agency alleged that Manouchehr Moshayedi intended to take advantage of a dramatically upward trend in the stock price of STEC by deciding to sell a significant portion of his stock holdings as well as shares owned by his brother, a company co-founder. The sale was to be a secondary offering, set to coincide with the release of the company’s financial results for the second quarter of 2009 and its revenue guidance for Q3.

However, the SEC alleged that Moshayedi found out shortly before the offering was to take place that his company’s largest customer, EMC Corp., had changed its mind. EMC, which had agreed to buy $120 million worth of STEC’s flagship flash memory product, a solid-state drive (SSD) called ZeusIOPS, in the third and fourth quarters of 2009, no longer intended to do so. Instead, EMC’s Q3 demand for the SSD was far lower than STEC had anticipated, and EMC also told Moshayedi that it would never again enter into a similar agreement with STEC.

Instead of informing investors abut the change in projected growth, Moshayedi kept the information to himself and responded to EMC by concocting a secret side deal so that the company would make its Q3 numbers. He also sold the 9 million shares he had intended to, making a hefty profit.

The SEC seeks a final judgment ordering Moshayedi to disgorge his own ill-gotten gains and the trading profits of his brother Mehrdad Mark Moshayedi, pay prejudgment interest and financial penalties, and be permanently barred from future violations and from serving as an officer and director of any registered public company.

SEC Penalizes Consulting Firm, Execs Nearly $1.3 Million on Accounting Violations

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Huron Consulting Group, a provider of financial and operational consulting services to clients in various industries, former Chief Financial Officer Gary Burge and former controller and Chief Accounting Officer Wayne Lipski agreed to settle charges by the agency over accounting violations that overstated the company’s income for multiple years.

Huron agreed to pay a $1 million penalty. Burge and Lipski agreed to pay a total of nearly $300,000 in disgorgement and penalties to settle the charges.

The SEC found that Huron failed to properly record redistributions of sales proceeds by the selling shareholders of four firms acquired by Huron. The selling shareholders redistributed the money to employees at those firms who stayed on to work at Huron, as well as to other Huron employees and themselves. Because the redistributions were contingent on the employees’ continued employment with Huron, based on the achievement of personal performance measures, or not clearly for a purpose other than compensation, Huron should have recorded the redistributions as compensation expense in its financial statements. By failing to do so, Huron overstated its pretax income to the public. The decisions were overseen by Burge and Lipski.

Huron’s financial statements for 2006, 2007, 2008 and the first quarter of 2009 were materially misstated as a result of these accounting failures. In August 2009, Huron restated those results, thus reducing its net income by approximately $56 million.

Too Friendly: Insider Trading Charges Brought on Company Acquisition

Ladislav “Larry” Schvacho, close friend of Larry L. Enterline, CEO of Comsys IT Partners, a Houston-based employment services company, was charged by the SEC with taking advantage of his friendship with Enterline to engage in insider trading around the acquisition of Comsys by another staffing firm. The SEC acknowledged the assistance of FINRA in the matter.

The SEC alleged that Schvacho, who lived in Georgia at the time of his illegal trading, made approximately $511,000 in illicit profits by using inside information to trade around the acquisition of Comsys—nonpublic information he gleaned from his relationship with Enterline while the Comsys CEO called other Comsys executives to discuss the acquisition and through confidential, merger-related documents to which Schvacho had access.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, the friendship between the two dated back to the 1970s when they were coworkers. Over the years they remained close and often shared confidential information with each other, and, given their close relationship and long history of sharing confidences, Enterline made no attempt to hide the impending acquisition by Manpower. Instead, he reasonably expected Schvacho would refrain from disclosing or otherwise misusing the confidential information.

Schvacho, however, began purchasing Comsys stock the next business day after he learned of the acquisition. He continued to acquire more stock, especially after he gained access to Enterline’s merger-related documents during a vacation. Altogether, he purchased approximately 72,000 shares of Comsys stock in the weeks leading up to a public announcement on Feb. 2, 2010—at which time he immediately sold half his shares.

Phony President Touted Fake Penny-Stock Investment

The SEC filed charges against Ronald Feldstein of New York, alleging that he had posed as the president of a nonexistent company solely to push a sham investment.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Ronald Feldstein pretended to be the president of a private company, LED Capital Corp., and purportedly committed LED Capital—which in reality had no operations or assets—to pay $6 million for a minority block of shares in penny-stock issuer Interlink-US-Network that had an actual market value of less than $1.2 million. Although Feldstein knew the actual owner of LED Capital, he concealed the purported contract committing his company to pay more than a 500% premium for a minority block of shares in a penny-stock company that had liabilities far exceeding its assets.

The actual owner of LED Capital told SEC investigators that he has been the sole officer-stockholder of the company and never knew anything about Feldstein’s agreement. Further, he testified that Feldstein had no authority or permission to act on behalf of the company, which he said doesn’t and likely never would have $6 million available to it.

For his performance as the phony president of LED Capital Corp., Interlink awarded Feldstein shares of its common stock that had a market value of more than $400,000.

Feldstein also assisted in the final version of Interlink’s Form 8-K filing with the SEC to disclose the purported agreement. He offered criticism of the draft version of the final “memorandum of understanding,” then separately signed a memorandum of understanding on behalf of “LED Capital LLC”—a nonexistent company with a similar name to LED Capital Corp. On Dec. 14, 2010, Interlink filed with the SEC the version of the Form 8-K that reflected Feldstein’s input.

Last year the SEC charged Interlink as part of a complaint against several perpetrators of an alleged green product-themed Ponzi scheme.

FINRA Censures RBC Capital Markets in Unsuitable, Excessive Trading

Without admitting or denying the findings, RBC Capital Markets Corp., n.k.a. RBC Capital Markets LLC, consented to censure, a fine of $200,000, and an order to pay $70,000 in partial restitution to a customer over FINRA findings that one of its registered representative engaged in unsuitable, excessive trading in elderly customers’ accounts by purchasing closed-end funds (CEFs) for them at the initial public offering (IPO), but then selling the CEFs within the next several months.

The representative also exercised discretion in several accounts, according to FINRA, without the customers’ written authorization or the firm’s written acceptance of the accounts as discretionary. The elderly customers lost a total of approximately $390,000 in their accounts.

FINRA found that the firm underwrote IPOs involving CEFs, but did not have a system and written procedures reasonably designed to detect and prevent patterns of unsuitable short-term trading of CEFs, including those purchased at the IPO. The firm’s WSPs failed to address the suitability of recommendations involving CEFs, and did not provide any guidance to supervisors about potential abuses relating to short-term trading sales of CEFs purchased at the IPO.

FINRA also found that the firm filed an inaccurate Uniform Termination Notice for Securities Industry Registration (Form U5) for the registered representative. In response to a disclosure question, the firm reported that the registered representative was not under internal review at the time of his termination when, in fact, he had been under such review.

FINRA’s 5 Key Enforcement Trends to Watch in 2012

The significant jump in fines issued by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in 2011 provides a look into the top areas that the regulator will be focusing on in 2012, according to the law firm Sutherland Asbill & Brennan.

Sutherland’s annual FINRA Sanctions Survey ranked the Top 5 Enforcement Issues in 2011, which AdvisorOne covered Monday. The survey found that fines issued by FINRA increased significantly in 2011, jumping 51% to $68 million from fines levied by the regulator in 2010, which amounted to $48 million.

FINRA also filed 1,488 disciplinary actions in 2011, a considerable increase from the 1,310 cases it initiated in 2010. More reps were also barred by FINRA last year than in 2010: 329 last year versus 288 in 2010, an increase of more than 14%.

Read on to see why Sutherland is warning firms to be particularly cognizant of their compliance efforts in the following five areas:

1)  Advertising 

Advertising made its debut on Sutherland’s Top Enforcement Issues list in 2009, ranking fifth with $5.5 million in total fines. In 2010, advertising cases ranked first, although fines dropped to $4.75 million.  In last year’s analysis, Sutherland predicted that FINRA would continue placing greater emphasis on advertising materials.  This prediction proved to be correct in 2011, as advertising cases resulted in fines totaling $21.1 million, an increase of 344% compared with 2010.

In 2011, advertising cases involving Auction Rate Securities (ARS) played a prominent role. In fact, 45% of the 2011 advertising fines ($9.5 million) involved ARS. One of the largest sanctions imposed in an ARS advertising case was a $3 million fine against a firm for allegedly creating misleading marketing materials that were used when the securities were sold to retail customers. FINRA charged that these advertisements did not adequately disclose the liquidity risks of ARS (including the possibility of auction failure) and that they improperly described these securities as “safe and liquid investments.” 

2)  Municipal Securities

FINRA has emphasized that member firms need to understand the municipal securities they sell and corresponding regulatory requirements. FINRA’s 2011 enforcement activity reflected a growing regulatory concern for municipal securities, as the number of cases reported jumped 81% in 2011 (32 cases reported in 2010 compared to 58 in 2011). Similarly, the amount of fines reported in 2011 ($3.7 million) more than doubled the $1.5 million imposed in cases involving municipal securities in 2010.

2)  Return of “Supersized” Fines

The number of FINRA’s “supersized” fines ($1 million or more) has dwindled in recent years, from 19 reported in both 2006 and 2007, to 10 in 2009, and only six in 2010. Although the number of these large fines grew only to 10 in 2011, the total amount of these fines exploded from $14.2 million in 2010 to more than $35 million in 2011. This includes five fines of at least $3 million and a short selling case that resulted in a $12 million fine.

Sutherland's FINRA Sanctions Survey noted that short selling cases led to the second largest amount of fines for the regulator in 2011. FINRA reported $16.8 million in fines from 38 cases involving alleged short selling violations in 2011. However, this was due largely to a single case that resulted in a $12 million fine (FINRA’s largest fine in 2011) for a firm’s alleged violations of Regulation SHO and corresponding supervisory deficiencies. Regulation SHO requires a seller to reasonably believe a security can be acquired and delivered before it may be sold short. It also requires sellers to mark the shares as either long or short. 

4)  Mutual Fund Comeback 

After yielding the most fines in both 2008 and 2009, fines stemming from disciplinary actions involving mutual funds dropped dramatically in 2010. In fact, there were only 12 mutual fund cases in 2010, totaling only $1.3 million in fines. In comparison, mutual fund cases generated more than $12 million and $10.3 million in fines in 2008 and 2009 and $104 million and $95 million in fines in 2005 and 2006.

Although the $5.1 million in 2011 fines is only a small percentage of these earlier numbers, it is a substantial increase from 2010’s figures. With the number of mutual fund cases (55) and the total amount of corresponding fines more than quadrupling during the past year compared to 2010, it seems likely that these products will once again become an area of emphasis for FINRA.

5)  Electronic Communications 

The total amount of fines stemming from alleged violations concerning electronic communications has now decreased for three consecutive years. After yielding approximately $4 million in fines in both 2009 and 2010, these cases resulted in only $3.6 million in fines in 2011. Despite this drop in fines, the number of cases actually grew from 34 reported in 2010 to 57 in 2011.

A 65% increase in the number of electronic communications cases between 2010 and 2011, along with a 10% decrease in the total amount of annual fines, may demonstrate that many firms have effectively addressed large issues such as email retention, Sutherland says. Out of the 57 electronic communications cases reported in 2011, only four resulted in sanctions of $200,000 or greater (in comparison to five out of 2010’s 34 cases). 

In 2011, there were four relatively large cases involving electronic communications.  One firm was fined more than $900,000 after it allegedly failed to retain any emails for at least three years.  Although the firms in the other three cases captured and retained emails, FINRA found that their efforts were inadequate. FINRA fined one firm $300,000 because the firm’s network allegedly retained emails for only 60 days and users could remove email records by deleting previously deleted files a second time.  Even though this firm had relied on a third-party to create its email retention system, FINRA alleged that the firm was liable for the alleged violations. 

Read FINRA's Top 5 Enforcement Issues in 2011 at AdvisorOne.

Top Stocks For 3/22/2012-4

Coeur d`Alene Mines Corporation (NYSE:CDE) announced its best fourth quarter in the Company�s history, leading to record quarterly and full-year performance. Fourth Quarter Highlights are as: 75% increase in metal sales to record $208 million.186% increase in operating cash flow to record $99.4 million. Adjusted earnings of $49.9 million, or $0.56 per share.12% increase in total silver production and 28% increase in total gold production. 28% drop in total capital expenditures to $26.5 million. Cash & equivalents doubled from prior quarter-end to over $66 million.

Coeur d�Alene Mines Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the operation, ownership, exploration, development, and mining of silver and gold properties in South America, Mexico, the United States, and Australia.

The access to affordable healthcare in the United States is an entitlement, any perquisite or a fantasy, based on a seemingly arbitrary matrix of things. Government insurance plans are available for the elderly, particularly for the permanently disabled, those that have failing kidneys, the actual impoverished and children from low-income families. But how poor do you have to be to meet the requirements varies from state to state as well as from year to year. Workforce at most large businesses and many small versions can take advantage of class insurance plans negotiated by way of their employers.

The cost of health insurance depends on your age, the condition of your body (how healthy or unhealthy you are), where in the country you reside, your money earned, and what kind of job you have.

The need for affordable healthcare alternatives has never been more important!

National Health Partners, Inc. (OTCBB:NHPR.OB), a national healthcare membership organization, creates, markets, and sells membership programs to underserved markets in the healthcare industry in the United States. Its programs provide an alternative to individuals who seek to reduce their healthcare costs not covered by insurance, or who are unable to obtain healthcare insurance due to their medical history, age, or occupation.

National Health Partners, through its CARExpress membership programs, offers CARExpress health discount programs and CARExpress Plus membership programs. National Health Partners CARExpress health discount programs cover various aspects of healthcare, including physicians, hospitals, ancillary services, dentists, prescription drugs, vision care, hearing aids, chiropractic services, alternative care, 24-hour nurseline, medical supplies, and equipment, as well as long-term care facilities, which include skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, respite care, and home health care. These programs include comprehensive care, supplemental care, preferred, dental and vision care, prescription and vision care, and tiered pharmacy discount programs.

National Health Partners CARExpress Plus membership programs offer CARExpress Plus Platinum, CARExpress Plus Gold, and CARExpress Plus Silver programs that provide members point of service discount on their healthcare expenses at the time of service. It markets its membership programs directly to individual consumers through direct sales force, television, radio, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, as well as through Web site at; and indirectly through brokers and agents, small businesses and trade associations, unions and associations, and marketing companies.

Gold is the most malleable and ductile of all metals; a single gram can be beaten into a sheet of 1 square meter, or an ounce into 300 square feet. Gold leaf can be beaten thin enough to become translucent. The transmitted light appears greenish blue, because gold strongly reflects yellow and red. Such semi-transparent sheets also strongly reflect infrared light, making them useful as infrared (radiant heat) shields in visors of heat-resistant suits, and in sun-visors for spacesuits.

Because gold is highly valued and in very limited supply it has long been used as a medium of exchange or money. The first known use of gold in transactions dates back about 6000 years. Early transactions were done using pieces of gold or pieces of silver. The rarity, usefulness and desirability of gold make it a substance of long term value. Gold works well for this purpose because it has a high value, is durable, portable and easily divisible.

Orofino Gold Corp. (ORFG.PK) reported the relocation of its head office to Medellin, Colombia, as of March 1, 2011

Directing Orofino�s new office and managing all the company�s primary affairs from the Medellin headquarters will be ORFG�s President and CEO, Mr. Ary F. Pernett Marquez. This new, Colombia-based location is intended to better enable Orofino to engage Colombian nationals in its Sustainable Development Plan.

The company�s office in Dalian China will be downsized but will continue to act as an advisory office for finance and marketing in China.

Orofino Gold’s strategy to become a recognized player in the Colombia mining sector began with the acquisition of the La Azul/La Estrella property in the Senderos de Oro region of Colombia, a Northern extension of South America�s highly mineralized Andes Mountain Range. Development of this property has included acquisition of concessions for the surrounding lands, including adding the San Carlos and Culo Alzado properties, detailed analysis of historic geological and cultural records of the area, and regular mineral analysis of newly obtained resource samples. In addition, ORFG has acquired a database comprised of exploration and mining results from previous operators who left as a result of pre-21st century regional civil and economic instability.

Walter Energy, Inc. (NYSE:WLT) announced that it would name Western Coal’s Chief Executive Officer, Keith Calder, 49, chief executive officer of Walter Energy, effective upon the closing of the acquisition of Western Coal by Walter Energy, which is expected to be completed April 1, 2011. Calder would succeed Walter Energy Interim CEO Joe Leonard. Leonard will continue as interim CEO through the closing and will continue to serve as a member of the Walter Energy Board of Directors.

Walter Energy, Inc. produces and exports metallurgical coal for the steel industry primarily in the United States. The company also produces steam coal, coal bed methane gas, metallurgical coke, and other related products. It principally serves electric utility and industrial customers.

NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE) earned a place as one of the top 10 most socially responsible companies in the world on Fortune’s 2011 list of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.” The company, whose principal subsidiaries are Florida Power & Light Company and NextEra Energy Resources, was also named No. 1 overall among electric and gas utilities for the fifth consecutive year. Southern Co. tied NextEra Energy for the top spot in the industry.

NextEra Energy, Inc., through its subsidiaries, engages in the generation, transmission, distribution, and sale of electric energy in the United States and Canada. The company, through its subsidiary, NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, involves in the generation of renewable energy from the wind and sun in North America.