Saturday, March 23, 2013

Eric Ries-backed Neo Innovation launches new fund focused on lean startups - 05:30 PM

( -- Neo Innovation, a product design and web development company built on the ‘Lean Startup’ principles promoted by serial entrepreneur and author Eric Ries, is launching a new fund focused on investing in companies committed to the same philosophy.

On Saturday at the SXSW Interactive conference in Austin, the company is set to announce the creation of a $3-million fund that founder Ian McFarland said is just the first stage of what they plan to be a $30 million fund over the next seven years.

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“We want to apply lean principles to building our fund,” said McFarland. “For the first year, we’re keeping it as a smaller experiment… We want to have a great track record this year and [then grow].”

The fund is aiming to do about ten investments, with none exceeding $500,000, and it plans to co-invest with others, McFarland said. He added that portfolio companies stand to benefit from Neo’s deep understanding of the lean startup philosophy, as well as its connection to a global community of lean developers and product managers. Ries himself is the company’s General Partner and Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, is Chairman.

While the company has a particular familiarity with the social space because a few members formerly worked at Friendster, McFarland said it will look to invest in startups across different verticals. What matters is that the startup demonstrates an awareness and understanding of lean startup principles, he said.

A year ago at SXSW, the company, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Digital Garage (which is providing financial support for the new fund), launched as New Context. In November, it changed its name to Neo and announced a rebranding. At the time, McFarland told my colleague Eliza Kern, “We’re trying to establish the global brand in the lean startup space.”

As Eliza reported, in the past year, Neo has purchased several startups to build the company, including Cubox, a Ruby on Rails development team led by Evan Henshaw-Plath, who was the lead architect at Odeo, which later became Twitter; New York-based Proof Innovation Labs; Ruby on Rails software company EdgeCase; and Pivotal Lab’s Singapore branch.

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Dow Sheds 400 Points as Italy Stokes Eurozone Debt Fears

U.S. stocks plummeted by more than 3% Wednesday as investors feared that a worsening debt crisis in Europe was dragging Italy into the mix.

The market's selloff deepened in the afternoon, although stocks finished off their session lows. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 389 points, or 3.2%, to 11,781 after falling more than 410 points earlier. The S&P 500 closed down 47 points, or 3.7%, at 1229, while the Nasdaq settled 106 points, or 3.9%, lower at 2622.

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Worries over the fate of Europe's third largest economy shook the market after Italy's borrowing costs topped a new record. The sharp downturn came even as Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi offered to resign yesterday, suggesting that investors are skeptical that new leadership can steer the country out of its debt troubles. Furthermore, Greece was still stuck in a chaotic debate over who will replace its own outgoing prime minister.Leading the losses on the Dow were the materials, financial, energy and technology sectors. Banks stocks JPMorgan Chase(JPM) and Bank of America(BAC) lost 7% and 5.7%, respectively. Morgan Stanley(MS) plunged 9%, while Goldman Sachs (GS)closed down 8.2%.Two negative headlines may have helped push stocks further in the afternoon--Bloomberg cited a report by German business newspaper Handelsblatt, saying German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to allow countries to exit the euro. Also, Reuters reported that Germany and France have explored the possibility of overhauling the European Union, further suggesting that the two nations are growing weary of bearing responsibility for their debt laden neighbors.While equities rallied Tuesday after news of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's planned resignation, by Wednesday, investors were questioning whether a shift in government would really change Italy's fiscal fate. The European Central Bank has sent clear signals that it cannot help boost Europe's emergency rescue fund. In the meantime, pressure has dialed up on the International Monetary Fund to step in and intervene.Political uncertainty in Italy, combined with a move by clearinghouse LCH.Clearnet to hike the initial margin required to trade Italian bonds mobilized a snowball effect that helped trigger soaring yields before the open. Italian 10-year yields surged by 65 basis points to 7.4%, breaching a crucial 7% threshold that increases the risk of possible Italian default."Some are even saying that Italian bond yields have become the new fear index, like the VIX," said Charles Reinhard, deputy chief investment officer at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, of Wednesday's record yields."Just when it seemed safe to assume that the path of least resistance for the euro was more likely located in a northerly direction, an increase in LCH.Clearnet margin on Italian government bond trading has tripped up the unit," noted Miller Tabak economist Andrew Wilkinson.Worries over Italy trumped expectations that China may introduce economic stimulus measures as the country's annual inflation rate slowed to 5.5% in October from 6.1% in September. London's FTSE lost 1.9% and Germany's DAX plunged by 2.2%. Japan's Nikkei Average finished 1.2% higher and Hong Kong's Hang Seng advanced 1.7%.In corporate news, General Motors (GM) lost 10.9% after the company said weakness in the European market may cause it to miss profit targets this year. Its third-quarter profit beat estimates of 96 cents per share but still fell 15% to $1.7 billion, or $1.03 a share.Adobe Systems(ADBE) tumbled 7.7% after the company said it plans to eliminate 750 jobs, or roughly 8% of its work force, as part of a restructuring plan. The graphics software maker said it still sees revenue of between $1.075 billion and $1.125 billion, for the fiscal fourth quarter, in line with consensus estimates. In U.S. economic news, inventories fell 0.1% in September amid weak sales, the first dip since Dec. 2009, according to the Commerce Department. Economists had expected a 0.5% increase.Separately, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, speaking at a small business and entrepreneurs conference, told the audience that policymakers should provide more support to small businesses and entrepreneurs as part of the plan to mobilize job growth.Oil prices snapped a five-day winning streak. The December crude oil contract was down $1.06 to settle at $95.74 a barrel. A stronger dollar also hit other commodities including gold. December futures lost $7.50 to $1790.90 an ounce.The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 1 2/32, diluting the yield to 1.97%. The euro lost 2%, sinking to $1.355, while the dollar soared 1.7% against a basket of currencies.

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Domtar Buys Xerox-Branded Paper Businesses

Canada's Domtar (NYSE: UFS  ) has agreed to buy the U.S. and Canadian paper operations of Norwalk, Conn.-based Xerox (NYSE: XRX  ) , the companies announced Friday.

Xerox doesn't actually manufacture paper, but it does distribute "coated and uncoated papers and specialty print media including business forms" under its own brand name. Domtar, one of the largest paper manufacturers and distributors in North America, will be buying this business and incorporating it into its own pulp and paper business -- the company's largest segment, doing $4.6 billion in revenues annually. The companies also disclosed that Xerox will be signing a trademark licensing agreement with Domtar, entitling it to sell paper under the valuable Xerox brand name.

The companies said they expect this deal to close in Q2 2013. Financial terms of the transaction weren't disclosed -- neither the businesses' purchase price nor what, if any, licensing fee will be paid for the trademark. Regardless, shares of both companies appeared to benefit from the news, rising in Friday trading -- 0.6% for Xerox, and 0.5% for Domtar -- to close at $8.60 and $77.88, respectively.

AK Steel Guides Investors to a Q1 Loss

West Chester, Ohio-based AK Steel (NYSE: AKS  ) updated investors on its expectations for steel shipments, average selling prices, and earnings for Q1 in an announcement Friday.

Q1 2013 steel shipments are expected to range between 1.275 million and 1.3 million tons in Q1, a 7% to 10% sequential decline from Q4 2012 levels. The amount of steel shipments destined for the automotive sector, however, is expected to increase. This increase will be offset by what the company calls "normal cyclical" weakness in the spot steel market.

AK is projecting a 5% sequential increase in average selling prices per ton, to approximately $1,060, attributing this rise to improved "product mix." Raw material costs are expected to decline.

Despite higher prices and lower costs, however, the company expects to lose between $0.09 and $0.13 per diluted share in Q1, numbers that the company defended as representing "a significant improvement" compared with the fourth quarter of 2012 -- in which quarter AK recorded a $1.90-per-diluted-share net loss. A one-time tax-accounting-related charge of $4 million to $5 million will contribute to the Q1 loss.

AK shares declined 4.6% in Friday trading, closing at $3.31.

Obamacare vs. Arkansas: The Great Health Insurance Debate

From revolutionary science to the impact of Obamacare, every week The Motley Fool's health care team sits down to discuss the most fascinating developments across the health care industry and their implications for long-term investors. In this week's edition, the team talks about the disruptive potential of a new iPhone app, as well as an FDA inquiry that could have negative implications for some of the pharmaceutical industry's biggest players. In addition, our analysts dive into some of the stocks making big moves over the past week and discuss companies on their radar for the near future.

In the following segment of the show, health care bureau chief Brenton Flynn discusses why the health insurance industry has its eyes on Arkansas. The state's creative plans to expand Medicaid could catch on nationwide -- and have meaningful implications for health insurance stocks.

What macro trend was Warren Buffett referring to when he said "this is the tapeworm that's eating at American competitiveness"? Here's a hint: It's related to the video below. Find out for sure in our free report: "What's Really Eating At America's Competitiveness." You'll also discover an idea to profit as companies work to eradicate this efficiency-sucking tapeworm. Just click here for free, immediate access.

The relevant video segment can be found between 14:22 and 16:10.

Using Relative Strength to Beat the Market

Relative strength is one of the most important concepts in technical analysis, especially when markets are as anxiety-ridden as they are now -- but it's also one of the most misunderstood. In this Technical Primer, we'll take a look at what relative strength really is, as well as what it isn't.

More importantly, we'll look at how this concept can help you beat the market, even in challenging conditions.

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For starters, relative strength isn't the same thing as RSI. RSI, the initialism for Relative Strength Index, is a momentum indicator based on a stock's recent gains and losses. It measures one point in time vs. another for a single stock. Relative strength, on the other hand, is simply the relationship between two securities. Not surprisingly, the fact that these two separate concepts have nearly the same name is a major cause for confusion for aspiring technicians. At its core, relative strength (also sometimes referred to just as RS) is a tool for measuring a market's potency just as RSI is, but the key difference is in how they go about doing it. RS gets its name because it measures the strength of one security relative to another -- as a result of that, it's primarily a screening and selection tool. The simplest way to compute relative strength is by taking a stock's price and dividing it by the price of another security -- most often a broad market index. The resulting ratio doesn't mean anything in and of itself (after all, you're dividing one price by another unrelated price), but a plot of relative strength does. An increasing relative strength line tells us that a security is outperforming its denominator security, while a dropping line tells us that it's underperforming.The key word in the name is "relative" -- a rising relative strength line doesn't mean that a stock is increasing in value. It only tells us that it's outperforming the broad market. We'll get back to that in a bit.The Value of Relative StrengthSo does plotting the ratio of one security to another really have any value? According to academic studies, the answer is a resounding "yes." According to a number of academic research studies compiled by Professors Charles Kirkpatrick and Julie Dahlquist in their texbook, Technical Analysis: The Complete Resource for Financial Market Technicians, using positive relative strength to pick stocks has historically been a viable strategy that produces outperformance over the broad market.

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In brief, stocks that are outperforming tend to continue to outperform in the future.

As an investor or trader, that's a valuable piece of information, particularly when the broad market isn't offering many compelling trades. Obviously, outperformers aren't going to continue to beat the broad market forever -- time horizon is also an important consideration. In general, positive relative strength trends led to positive returns on a three-to-10-month time horizon in the studies compiled by Kirkpatrick and Dahlquist.

How to Use Relative StrengthRelative strength is most often used as a subchart alongside a stock's price action. Like other indicators (including momentum), RS can be used to find divergences and confirmation with a stock's price. Plots of relative strength can also have technical annotations such as trend lines applied to them much in the same way price charts can. A trend line break in a stock's relative strength chart is often an indication that its outperformance is starting to wane. Because RS is a ratio, it's also a good metric to put to work when using a quantitative screen to generate investment ideas.You don't need to calculate relative strength manually. Most charting packages are capable of determining relative strength, and popular sites such as can chart relative strength of a stock -- let's say the ticker symbol is ABC, for example -- vs. the S&P 500 by inputting ABC:$SPX into the ticker field. Keep in mind that relative strength measures the relationship between two securities. That's helpful to remember when you're trying to find RS in your charting package; if you're not prompted to enter a second security as the denominator, chances are you're getting a chart of RSI instead.As a tool, relative strength can also be applied to a number of different types of markets. Relative strength can be the cornerstone for a long-term asset rotation strategy, identifying asset classes that are outperforming stocks (popular methods combine RS and moving average crossover signals) and signaling when it's time to shift into a different asset class. It's also a valuable way to determine which sectors offer the most upside -- which in turn can help to identify which stage of the investment cycle we're in at any given time.

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Because RS is a numerical ratio, it can also easily be used as a condition in a quantitative trading system to limit its investment universe to outperforming names. That versatility makes relative strength a must-have part of any trader's toolbox.

There is one major caveat, however. Keep in mind that relative strength is relative, not absolute. So a sector can be outperforming the S&P 500 but still be losing money. Like most technical analysis concepts, it's crucial to go back to price to determine if an investment makes sense.

On the quantitative side, one easy workaround is to require positive relative strength versus cash, or to add a risk-free asset (such as treasuries) to the system's investment universe. That ensures that sectors that are only "less bad" don't make their way into your portfolio.As the market continues to lack decisive or directional signals, tools like relative strength will likely become increasingly popular -- after all, the current research tells us that RS is one of the best ways to identify future outperformance. Next time, we'll add to your technical repertoire with another primer that will bring you closer to implementing technical analysis for your portfolio.In the meantime, do you have a burning technical analysis question? Get it answered by heading to Stockpickr Answers.Follow Stockpickr on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.

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Six Flags Entertainment Beats on Both Top and Bottom Lines

Six Flags Entertainment (NYSE: SIX  ) reported earnings on Feb. 20. Here are the numbers you need to know.

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

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

Margins increased across the board.

Revenue details
Six Flags Entertainment tallied revenue of $143.9 million. The five analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ foresaw revenue of $135.0 million on the same basis. GAAP reported sales were the same as the prior-year quarter's.

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 $2.59. The four earnings estimates compiled by S&P Capital IQ predicted -$0.50 per share. GAAP EPS were $2.59 for Q4 versus -$1.85 per share for the prior-year quarter.

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 93.0%, 5,080 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was -16.3%, 730 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Net margin was 99.9%, 17,410 basis points better than the prior-year quarter.

Looking ahead
Next quarter's average estimate for revenue is $65.8 million. On the bottom line, the average EPS estimate is -$1.80.

Next year's average estimate for revenue is $1.10 billion. The average EPS estimate is $2.49.

Investor sentiment
The stock has a one-star rating (out of five) at Motley Fool CAPS, with 31 members out of 50 rating the stock outperform, and 19 members rating it underperform. Among 12 CAPS All-Star picks (recommendations by the highest-ranked CAPS members), eight give Six Flags Entertainment a green thumbs-up, and four give it a red thumbs-down.

Of Wall Street recommendations tracked by S&P Capital IQ, the average opinion on Six Flags Entertainment is outperform, with an average price target of $69.00.

Looking for alternatives to Six Flags Entertainment? It takes more than great companies to build a fortune for the future. Learn the basic financial habits of millionaires next door and get focused stock ideas in our free report, "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich." Click here for instant access to this free report.

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Will AstraZeneca Help You Retire Rich?

Now more than ever, a comfortable retirement depends on secure, stable investments. Unfortunately, the right stocks for retirement won't just fall into your lap. As part of an ongoing series, I'm looking today at 10 measures to show whether AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN  ) makes a great retirement-oriented stock.

Many pharmaceutical companies have made dramatic transformations of their business in order to adapt to changing industry conditions, but AstraZeneca has been somewhat late to the game. Can the drug giant catch up and develop a winning strategy? Below, we'll revisit how AstraZeneca does on our 10-point scale.

The right stocks for retirees
With decades to go before you need to tap your investments, you can take greater risks, weighing the chance of big losses against the potential for mind-blowing returns. But as retirement approaches, you no longer have the luxury of waiting out a downturn.

Sure, you still want good returns, but you also need to manage your risk and protect yourself against bear markets, which can maul your finances at the worst possible time. The right stocks combine both of these elements in a single investment.

When scrutinizing a stock, retirees should look for:

  • Size. Most retirees would rather not take a flyer on unproven businesses. Bigger companies may lack their smaller counterparts' growth potential, but they do offer greater security.
  • Consistency. While many investors look for fast-growing companies, conservative investors want to see steady, consistent gains in revenue, free cash flow, and other key metrics. Slow growth won't make headlines, but it will help prevent the kind of ugly surprises that suddenly torpedo a stock's share price.
  • Stock stability. Conservative retirement investors prefer investments that move less dramatically than typical stocks, and they particularly want to avoid big losses. These investments will give up some gains during bull markets, but they won't fall as far or as fast during bear markets. Beta measures volatility, but we also want a track record of solid performance as well.
  • Valuation. No one can afford to pay too much for a stock, even if its prospects are good. Using normalized earnings multiples helps smooth out one-time effects, giving you a longer-term context.
  • Dividends. Most of all, retirees look for stocks that can provide income through dividends. Retirees want healthy payouts now and consistent dividend growth over time -- as long as it doesn't jeopardize the company's financial health.

With those factors in mind, let's take a closer look at AstraZeneca.


What We Want to See


Pass or Fail?


Market cap > $10 billion

$57.8 billion



Revenue growth > 0% in at least four of past five years

4 years


Free cash flow growth > 0% in at least four of past five years

2 years


Stock stability

Beta < 0.9



Worst loss in past five years no greater than 20%




Normalized P/E < 18




Current yield > 2%



5-year dividend growth > 10%



Streak of dividend increases >= 10 years

9 years


Payout ratio < 75%



Total score

7 out of 10

Source: S&P Capital IQ. Total score = number of passes.

Since we looked at AstraZeneca last year, the company has lost a point, as dividend growth slipped below the 10% mark. The stock has also struggled, posting roughly break-even results over the past year.

AstraZeneca has many of the attractive qualities that draw investors to pharma stocks, including a high dividend yield and defensive characteristics that serve it well during tough economic times. Yet with the company having struggled in recent years from the loss of patent protection on schizophrenia drug Seroquel, AstraZeneca decided to changed direction last year, replacing former CEO David Brennan with Roche COO Pascal Soriot.

One reason for concern is AstraZeneca's weak drug pipeline. Rivals Sanofi (NYSE: SNY  ) and Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY  ) have done an excellent job of bringing new drugs through the development process, giving them both well-diversified drug portfolios that decrease reliance on blockbuster drugs for their income. Yet as AstraZeneca's blockbusters Nexium and Crestor approach patent expiration in 2014 and 2016 respectively, disappointing results from its phase 3 rheumatoid arthritis treatment fostamatinib are just one symptom of the relatively barren stable of good prospects in its pipeline, making research and development more crucial than ever.

But earlier this week, AstraZeneca announced a substantial restructuring plan to concentrate its R&D activities in three sites, with a new U.K.-based global headquarters in Cambridge to go with R&D facilities in Sweden and Maryland. The move will lead to U.S. job cuts but should produce cost savings beginning in 2016. In doing so, it hopes to duplicate the success of rival GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK  ) , which divided its R&D activities into two groups that focus on different therapeutic areas.

For retirees and other conservative investors, a high dividend yield and solid payout growth looks attractive. With huge changes coming, AstraZeneca poses a bit of a risk, but if the changes result in pipeline improvement, then they should pay off for investors in the long run.

Keep searching
Finding exactly the right stock to retire with is a tough task, but it's not impossible. Searching for the best candidates will help improve your investing skills, and teach you how to separate the right stocks from the risky ones.

The best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich" names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of.�Click here now�to keep reading.

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Top Stocks For 3/23/2013-15

Proteonomix, Inc. (OTC.BB:PROT), a biotechnology company focused on developing therapeutics based upon human cells and their derivatives, announced further developments with its Joint Venture Company, XGEN Medical LLC (�XGen�) towards implementing operations in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.).

PROT is the majority shareholder in XGen with the balance held by an anonymous investor group. Proteonomix personnel were on the ground in the U.A.E. over the past weeks to work together with the Investor Group through the start up phase. To date, XGen has established an office in the Monarch Office Tower on the prestigious Sheikh Zayed Road, and a residence for visiting Proteonomix personnel on Jumeira 2.

During initial meetings, it was mutually decided to open a local subsidiary corporation in the Dubai free zone. This wholly owned subsidiary will be the vehicle to conduct business in the GCC countries. XGen has filed the corporate papers and has established banking relations with a local bank both for receipt of the initial investment of $5 million and towards further financing expanded services in the region. The Ramadan holiday has slowed progress slightly on these corporate formalities, but full operation of the subsidiary and bank accounts are expected to complete within 30 days.

Endeavour Silver Corp. (AMEX:EXK) intends to make an all cash offer to acquire all of the outstanding common shares of Cream Minerals Ltd. The Offer and related documents are expected to be mailed to Cream Minerals shareholders next week and will be available on SEDAR at at that time.

Endeavour intends to offer shareholders of Cream Minerals Cdn$0.12 in cash for each common share, which represents a 76% premium to the average closing price of the Cream Minerals shares of $0.068 per share on the TSX Venture Exchange for the 10 trading days ending September 24, 2010, the last trading day prior to the date of this announcement. Endeavour estimates that Cream Minerals has approximately 88.3 million common shares currently outstanding.

Our Offer provides all Cream Minerals shareholders with the opportunity to realize immediate value and liquidity for their shares at a substantial premium without assuming any of the risks and dilution associated with the further exploration and development of the Nuevo Milenio project, or other Cream Minerals properties. In the past year, Cream Minerals suffered 35% shareholder dilution even though the Nuevo Milenio property was optioned to another company, and still it continues to have substantial debts (approximately $2.0 million) and negative working capital.”

Endeavour Silver Corp. is a small-cap silver mining company focused on the growth of its silver production, reserves and resources in Mexico. Since start-up in 2004, Endeavour has posted five consecutive years of aggressive silver production, reserve and resource growth. The organic expansion programs now underway at Endeavour’s two operating silver mines in Mexico combined with its strategic acquisition and exploration programs should help Endeavour achieve its goal to become the next premier mid-tier silver mining company.

Energy Services of America (Amex:ESA) had a net income for the three months ended June 30, 2010 of $4,098,413 which was an increase of $3,509,950 over the $588,463 in net income for the comparable period in 2009. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) for the quarter ended June 30, 2010 totaled $8,991,150 compared to an EBITDA of $2,622,304 for the same quarter of 2009. For the nine months ended June 30, 2010, the Company had a net income of $2,143,168 compared to a loss of ($4,474,088) for the same period in 2009 or an improvement of $6,617,256. Revenues were $126,475,855 for the nine months ended June 30, 2010 versus $77,419,585 for the same period in 2009. EBITDA for the nine months ended June 30, 2010 totaled $9,784,696 compared to an EBITDA for the same period in 2009 of ($2,241,404).

Marshall T. Reynolds, Chairman, noted he was very pleased with the performance for the quarter. “We have overcome the uncertainties that led to 2009 being such a difficult year for the Company as well as the severe winter just past which delayed projects and reduced our income during that quarter, and are now seeing the results we had anticipated and are optimistic about both the remainder of 2010 and 2011. Our backlog totaled $87.7 million at June 30, 2010 and the continued improvement in the demand for our services, places the Company on track to have a very good 2010.”

Edsel R. Burns, President of ESA, shared Mr. Reynolds thoughts. “We are very pleased that the benefits of all the hard work to position the Company for the increased demand for its services is starting to be realized. At June 30, 2009 our backlog was $50 million compared to the backlog of $87.7 million at June 30, 2010. Accordingly, even with the strong revenues for the quarter ended June 30, 2010, our Backlog is still 75% greater than last year. Further with the known projects that are coming up for 2011 and beyond, we are very optimistic about the Company’s prospects. 2010 shows every indication of having a performance in line with and perhaps exceeding, the original ESA business plan.”

Enova Systems, Inc. (AMEX:ENA), a production company and a developer of proprietary electric, hybrid and fuel cell digital power management systems, announced financial results for its second quarter of fiscal year 2010 and noted positive highlights for the year.

Revenue for the second quarter of fiscal 2010 was $2,054,000, up 257 percent from the fiscal 2009 second quarter of $576,000 due primarily from sales to Navistar, Smith Electric Vehicles (“Smith”) and First Auto Works. Revenue also increased for the six months ended June 30, by $1,719,000 or 136 percent to $2,983,000 for the comparable period in 2009 due to sales from the aforementioned customers and Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. (“Freightliner”).

Gross margin was 14 percent in the second quarter of fiscal 2010, up from a negative 6 percent in the comparable second quarter of 2009. Gross margin also improved for the six months ended June 30, to 13 percent, up from 6 percent for the comparable period in 2009. Improvements in the gross margin for the comparable quarters resulted from continued focus on key customer production contracts as well as efficiencies gained via in-house manufacturing.

Net loss narrowed for the second quarter of fiscal 2010 to $1,624,000 or a basic and diluted loss of $0.05 per share from a net loss of $2,034,000 or a basic and diluted loss of $0.10 per share for the comparable period in 2009. Net loss also narrowed for the six months ended June 30, to $3,343,000 or a basic and diluted loss of $0.11 per share compared to a net loss of $3,690,000 or a basic and diluted loss of $0.18 per share for the comparable period in 2009.

Enova President and CEO Mike Staran said, “We continue to be encouraged by recurring revenue from our key customers Navistar, First Auto Works, Smith Electric Vehicles, and Freightliner, as well as political support from the U.S. government on alternative fuel technologies.” Staran added, “Our new collaboration with Remy on motor development, GSA’s intent on extending our contract, Freightliner’s expected Q1 2011 entry into the production EV segment, and Smith’s recent order continue to define our footprint in the market.”

Will Salesforce Kick Off Wave of Stock Splits?

S&P Dow Jones IndicesClick for bigger image

Stock splits could be poised for a comeback. Inc. last night announced a four-for-one stock split, a move that will create more shares outstanding for the�Web-based business-software company, each at a lower price. The decision, which comes as the overall market continues to hover around record highs and companies are flush with cash, prompted at least one analyst to wonder whether Salesforce will kick off a fresh wave of stock splits for S&P 500 companies not seen since the 1990s.

“Companies are more comfortable with higher priced stocks then they historically were,” says Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices. “If prices continue up (or at least hold their ground), I would expect an increase in splits as some boards continue to keep their stock in an investor friendly price range.”

Companies typically split their stock to make shares more affordable to smaller investors, among other reasons.�Considering�Salesforce shares closed at $172.73 yesterday prior to the announcement, the split could make the price look more appealing and increase the stock’s trading volume.

The decision comes as stock splits have largely been shunned by companies in recent years. As WSJ’s Matt Jarzemsky reported earlier this month, stock splits were a thing of the 1990s that have since gone the wayside of Starter jackets and Reebok Pump sneakers. Many more companies were splitting their stocks in the 1990s and early 2000s as opposed to the post-financial-crisis period over the past four years.

But now, major indexes at trading at record highs and stock prices getting more expensive by the day, creating an environment that could be ripe for stock splits to make a return.

There are currently 113 companies in the S&P 500 whose stock prices are at least $75, the highest amount since at least since 1980, according to Silverblatt. By comparison, only 12 S&P 500 companies have stock prices of $10 and under, the lowest amount since 2006.

Rumors circulated earlier this month that Apple Inc. was toying with splitting its stock, a move that could’ve potentially juiced what has been a fledgling stock price for the past six months. Apple didn’t split its stock and those rumors have since diminished.

Critics of stock splits say they do nothing to actually boost a company’s fundamentals. The impact on a company’s valuation is negligible and, some argue, they create superficial demand for shares that has a short shelf life.

In the 4-for-1 stock�split Salesforce announced, each shareholder by the April 3 close will receive three additional shares for every outstanding share held on the record date. These additional shares will be distributed on April 17, and trading will begin on a split-adjusted basis on April 18. The move will increase Salesforce’s shares outstanding to 1.6 billion, from 400 million.

Salesforce’s move drew praise from Jim Cramer, who called it a smart move. From Cramer:

I think’s $170 stock is simply too treacherous to own, not because of how the company’s doing, which is fabulously, but because of how poorly the security trades. It is too thin and too unwieldy. Plus, it is endlessly footballed around by the hedge-fund community. is a target — one that is so easily knocked down by shorts, so easily raided and so easily trashed that perhaps only a 4-for-1 may be able to stem the attacks. Put simply, I think they will go elsewhere for their prey if this stock no longer trades like at ten-pin in a Professional Bowlers Association tour. It will cease to be a frightening stock to own.

The question now is whether more companies will start following in Salesforce’s footsteps.

For more MarketBeat and other streaming markets coverage from The Wall Street Journal, point your mobile browser to

Friday, March 22, 2013

Opinion: Their Own Devices

The Affordable Care Act has been a running series of nasty non-surprises, with many more on the way�gird yourself for 116% insurance premium increases�but sometimes the surprises are real. Take the amazing bipartisan turn against the 2.3% tax on medical device makers, even among liberals who still evince no remorse for voting for the overall bill three years ago.

Not that the media noticed, but on Thursday night ObamaCare's $29 billion excise tax on device sales (not profits) lost on the Senate floor in a rout. The vote was 79 to 20, well over the two-thirds supermajority required to override President Obama's threatened veto.

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Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), left, and Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.)

More amazing still, the 33 Democratic and one independent defectors didn't merely come from device-making states like Massachusetts (Elizabeth Warren and Mo Cowan) or Minnesota (Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, the main cosponsor of the amendment with Utah's Orrin Hatch).

They included the Senate Budget Chairman, Patty Murray of Washington, and Illinois's Dick Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 leader. New York's Chuck Schumer�Majority Leader in waiting�climbed aboard, as did otherwise conventional progressives like Maryland's Barbara Mikulski and Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal.

Before the vote, some of these stalwarts denounced the Affordable Care Act in terms even we might consider excessive. Here's Mr. Franken: "The industry is being punished for its innovation and growth." Or as Ms. Klobuchar put it, "The tax is a burden on medical device businesses but, most importantly, it is a disincentive for jobs. It stifles innovation, and it makes it more difficult for the next generation of lifesaving devices to make it to the market."

All of this isn't so much a change of heart as it is a full cardiac transplant. But the amendment was attached to the nonbinding Senate budget resolution. If these penitents really are serious about the damage they're about to cause in the life sciences, the next step is to send a real bill to the House. Last June that chamber voted 270 to 146 to repeal the tax, also close to the 290 veto override threshold. Then dare Mr. Obama to try to defend an anticompetitive, antigrowth tax.

Back then the usual media suspects said it would never come to that because the House repeal was DOA in the Senate, but the conventional ObamaCare wisdom is usually false and so it has proven to be again. What the Senate vote shows is that the newest entitlement is far more vulnerable than the political class claims to believe, especially once people see its consequences in practice. There will be many more such reversals.

Study: 1 in 5 Consumers Had Error in Credit Report

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A government study says 20 percent of consumers had an error in a credit report issued by a major agency.

The Federal Trade Commission study also says 5 percent of the consumers identified errors in their reports that could lead to them paying more for mortgages, auto loans, or other financial products.

The study looked at reports for 1,001 consumers issued by the three major agencies -- Equifax (NYSE: EFX  ) , Experian (NASDAQOTH: EXPGF  ) , and TransUnion. The FTC hired researchers to help consumers identify potential errors.

The study closely matches the results of a yearlong investigation by The Columbus Dispatch. The Ohio newspaper's report last year said that thousands of consumers were denied loans because of errors on their credit reports.

The FTC says the findings underline the importance of consumers checking their credit reports.

The Men Who Run the Weir Group

LONDON -- Management can make all the difference to a company's success and thus its share price.

The best companies are those run by talented and experienced leaders with strong vested interests in the success of the business, held in check by a board with sound financial and business acumen. Some of the worst investments to hold are those run by executives collecting fat rewards as the underlying business goes to pot.

In this series, I'm assessing the boardrooms of companies within the FTSE 100 (UKX). I hope to separate the management teams that are worth following from those that are not. Today I am looking at Glasgow-based pump-maker�Weir Group� (LSE: WEIR  ) .

Here are the key directors:



Lord Smith of Kelvin

(non-exec) Chairman

Keith Cochrane

Chief Executive

Jon Stanton

Finance Director

Another chairmanship
Lord Smith of Kelvin has been chairman since 2002, and has also chaired the bigger FTSE 100 member�SSE�since 2005. A chartered accountant, he is a former chairman of the BBC and CEO of Morgan Grenfell Asset Management.

In addition to sitting as a crossbench life peer and holding a slew of public service appointments, he is also chairman of the new Green Investment Bank. If I were a Weir shareholder I'd be concerned whether the company gets his full attention.

Results at this job better than the last
Keith Cochrane is also a chartered accountant, and was finance director from 2006 to 2009, when he was elevated to CEO.

Cochrane started his career with Arthur Andersen in Glasgow, and moved to Perth-based Stagecoach after working on its flotation. He rose to become finance director and then CEO of Stagecoach�under executive chairman and founder Brian Souter.

This was a turbulent time for Stagecoach, with Cochrane spending half his time in the U.S. trying to turn around its troubled acquisition Coach USA, and he resigned in 2002 after disappointing results.

He joined Scottish Power in 2003 and was effectively deputy finance director, having been passed over for the top job in favor of Simon Lowth, now�AstraZeneca's finance director. Cochrane's leadership of Weir has been more fruitful, with the shares tripling during his tenure as CEO.

First FD role
Jon Stanton is in his first finance director role, having joined Weir in 2010 from Ernst & Young. Staunton had joined Ernst & Young in 1988, becoming a partner in 2001, and was in charge of the audit of FTSE 250 engineer�Invensis.

Weir has six non-execs. They are an impressive bunch for such a small FTSE 100 constituent, led by senior independent director Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, the former defense secretary and NATO Secretary General. Weir is remarkably well-represented in the House of Lords.

Notably there are non-execs with backgrounds in each of Weir's three main markets, mining, oil and gas, and power.

I analyze management teams from five different angles to help work out a verdict. Here's my assessment:

1. Reputation.�Management CVs and track record.


Score 2/5

2. Performance.�Success at the company.


Score 4/5

3. Board Composition.�Skills, experience, balance

Very strong, though chairman is busy man.

Score 4/5

4. Remuneration.�Fairness of pay, link to performance.


Score 3/5

5. Directors' Holdings,�compared to their pay.

CEO �4.6m-worth, chairman �2.5 million.

Score 4/5

Overall, Weir scores 17 out of 25, a middle-order result. A chairman with a bigger job elsewhere, a CEO with a slightly unfortunate history, and an FD fresh out of the profession doesn't look auspicious, but you can't fault the results during the CEO's tenure.

I've collated�all my FTSE 100 boardroom verdicts on this summary page.

Buffett's favorite FTSE share
Legendary investor�Warren Buffett�has always looked for impressive management teams when picking stocks. His latest acquisition,�Heinz, has long had a reputation for strong management. Indeed Buffett praised its "excellent management" alongside its high quality products and continuous innovation.

So I think it's important to tell you about the FTSE 100 company in which the billionaire stock-picker has a substantial stake. A special free report from The Motley Fool -- "The One U.K. Share Warren Buffett Loves" -- explains Buffett's purchase and investing logic in full.

And Buffett, don't forget, rarely invests outside his native United States, which to my mind makes this British blue chip -- and its management -- all the more attractive. So why not download the report today? It's totally free and comes with no further obligation.


Whoa! What Just Happened to My Stock?

The EU's decision to seize the bank accounts of ordinary Cypriot depositors was front and center again as concerns that the financial sector could come under tremendous pressure should the crisis ripple out from the island caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to fall by 90 points yesterday. With Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase wobbling, the index pulled back from its recent high.

The three stocks below, however, were far removed from the scene of international intrigue rising on their own merits. Yet resist the urge to high-five everyone in the cubicles next to you. Smart investors won't celebrate until they know why their stock surged, because without a fundamental basis for the bounce, these stocks could just as quickly make the return trip down.


% Gain

Acadia Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: ACAD  )




Denison Mines (NYSEMKT: DNN  )


Psychoanalyzing growth
Psych! Drug developer Acadia Pharmaceuticals said its drug pimavanserin met a series of secondary end points in a phase 3 clinical trial following previously reported results that it met its primary end point. The potential for FDA approval of what could become a first-in-class treatment has markedly improved and investors responded accordingly.

Pimavanserin is designed to treat psychosis in patients with Parkinson's disease, a debilitating disorder that develops in up to 60% of Parkinson's patients but for which there are no drugs currently approved in the U.S. to specifically treat it. Because there's also the very real possibility it could be used to treat a similar disorder in patients suffering from schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease -- and for which Acadia has the drug in phase 2 trials -- this could be a huge winner for the pharmaceutical.

Of course, should it make it through the FDA's regulatory gauntlet it will have to compete with various anti-psychotic drugs like AstraZeneca's Seroquel, Eli Lilly's�Zyprexa, Risperdal from Johnson & Johnson, and generic clozapine -- all of which doctors prescribe off-label -- but a drug specifically approved to treat the disorder just might gain a lot of traction�.

Clean up in aisle 3!
Because it already owned 655 Albertsons stores from when SUPERVALU acquired the chain in 2006, Cerberus Capital Management was always the lead bidder to acquire the chain when it was put up for sale, but it was also out front because it was willing to accept the�all the brands�that the supermarket operator was selling as opposed to cherry-picking the ones it wanted.

In January, SUPERVALU�said it would sell Albertsons, Acme, Jewel-Osco, and a number of other names to AB Acquisition, a Cerberus subsidiary, in a deal worth $3.3 billion. SUPERVALU�would get $100 million in cash and have $3.2 billion in debt assumed and will also keep the Save-A-Lot banner that has 1,300 stores nationwide. Cerberus will also become a major shareholder owning more than 21% of SUPERVALU's�stock and will get two seats on its board of directors.

Shares of SUPERVALU�are up 90% in 2013 and have gained nearly twice that amount from the lows it hit last year.

Striking back
Uranium miner Denison Mines surged higher yesterday on no company-specific news, but a worker strike at a Chinese uranium mine in Niger that's gone on for three days so far -- threatens to go on indefinitely -- was likely behind the rise in its stock.

The Niger mine opened in 2011 and is expected to produce 2,500 tons of uranium annually by 2015. The country is the top producer of uranium for France's nuclear power industry and the fear is that a strike at one mine could spread to others, creating more problems for the industry.�

While Denison's shares spiked higher, Cameco hardly moved at all on the news. Shares of both miners, however, are up so far in 2013, though Denison has been the better performer with its stock 20% higher compared to a 7% rise for Cameco.

While you can certainly make huge gains in big moving stocks like these, the best investing approach is to choose great companies and stick with them for the long term. The Motley Fool's free report "3 Stocks That Will Help You Retire Rich" names stocks that could help you build long-term wealth and retire well, along with some winning wealth-building strategies that every investor should be aware of.�Click here now�to keep reading.

Is Obesity Really a Dangerous Disease?

Obesity drugmakers�Arena Pharmaceuticals� (NASDAQ: ARNA  ) ,�VIVUS� (NASDAQ: VVUS  ) , and�Orexigen Therapeutics� (NASDAQ: OREX  ) are three of the mostly hotly debated stocks in the biotech space. The fact that obesity afflicts more than 35% of American adults today defines these companies' massive market opportunity. Investors may not completely understand the nuances of this complex disease, however. For instance, how do clinicians approach the treatment of obesity? Are medications actually an integral part of treatment, or are lifestyle changes more important? Can obesity be cured?

In order to shed light on these topics, Motley Fool health-care analyst Max Macaluso spoke with Dr. Domenica Rubino, a weight management expert and representative of The Obesity Society. In the following segment from their discussion, Dr. Rubino discusses how clinicians define obesity and what other conditions it can lead to.

The relevant video segment can be found between 0:00 and 1:24.

Max Macaluso: Hi, welcome to The Motley Fool. I�m Max Macaluso and today I�m joined by Dr. Domenica Rubino. Welcome.

Dr. Domenica Rubino: Hi, Max. Thank you.

Max: Dr. Rubino is a board-certified physician in obesity medicine, endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, and internal medicine.

Dr. Rubino: Absolutely.

Max: Today you�re here as a representative of The Obesity Society.

Dr. Rubino:�Yes. Thank you.

Max: Dr. Rubino, three of the most popular stocks that our audience follows are Arena, Vivus, and Orexigen. These are three companies that are either developing drugs for the treatment of obesity or already have FDA approved drugs. You�ve also been involved in some of the trials as a clinical investigator.

Today let�s start with a general question. What is obesity?

Dr. Rubino:�Obesity is a condition in which we have excess fat -- excess fat cells. The concern about obesity is actually the fat that�s deposited around the abdominal organs, which is reflected in an increase in abdominal waist circumference.

That abdominal obesity actually is what causes problems and diseases. It contributes to heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol, sleep apnea.

Max: Cancer as well.

Dr. Rubino:�Cancer as well, osteoarthritis, liver disease, infertility issues... so it is actually a major health risk to have this excess abdominal weight.

Who will win the obesity drug market?
Can VIVUS pick up its lagging sales and fend off the competition, or will Arena Pharmaceuticals reign supreme in the obesity space? If you're in the dark, grab copies of The Motley Fool's premium research reports on VIVUS and Arena Pharmaceuticals to stay up to date. Senior biotech analyst Brian Orelli gives investors the must-know information, including an in-depth look at the obesity market and reasons to buy and sell both stocks. Click now for an exclusive look at�Arena�and�VIVUS -- complete with a full year of free updates -- today.

Minor Leagues of Doping

Bloomberg News

Cyclists compete in a race in Central Park in 2005. Cycling associations have started raising money to pay for drug testing in an effort to combat doping.

Weekend-warrior athletes in the U.S. generally aren't subject to drug testing. Why cheat, after all, when only cheap medals and local bragging rights are at stake?

But it turns out amateurs are cheating, at least in cycling. Since 2011, 12 amateur cyclists in America have been sanctioned for testing positive for banned substances or skipping mandatory drug tests, according to U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

Those findings have accelerated a nascent trend among amateur cycling associations to start testing the winners of their races. In recent months, amateur racing associations in New York and at least two other states have started raising money to hire Usada to test top finishers of their races. USA Cycling is also contributing, having set aside $350,000 to match funds raised by local organizations in a program it calls RaceClean.

"As we began to look at amateur racing, it was like 'My gosh, there's doping here too,'" said Steve Johnson, chief executive of USA Cycling, the sport's governing body. "I was surprised at how prevalent the problem appeared to be."

The 12 positive findings, including two in New York, may reflect a fraction of the true cheating rate because testing in amateur cycling so far applies only to top finishers overall or of age group and category. By contrast, Tour de France-caliber pro cyclists are subject to testing before, after and between races, regardless of if they ever win.

Fueling the effort in New York is outrage over the defrocking in May of two top finishers at a Gran Fondo race in the city. A local entrepreneur, David Anthony, 45, has since apologized for using the blood booster EPO. Another racer in that event, Gabriele Guarini, 50, also tested positive for EPO, according to Usada. Guarini didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The publicity generated by that scandal showed that amateurs have a lot to lose, if little to win. A New York team called Champion Systems/Stan's No Tubes hired an independent firm to start testing its riders outside of competition. It also has contributed $2,500 to an upstart New York State Bicycle Racing Association campaign to pay for professional testing at local events, according to Greg Olsen, who manages and races for Champion Systems.

"I can't be associated with a program that has a Dave Anthony pop up," said Olsen. "If I'm putting my time and effort and money into someone else's enjoyment of the sport, I'm going to do it on my own terms."

After his positive test last year, Anthony offered some insight into the amateur's motivation to cheat, saying his obsession with winning drove him to use banned drugs. In a recent email, he said he supports all antidoping efforts, but wonders whether amateurs will simply learn to game the system, as many pros have done, particularly by easing off performance-enhancing drugs ahead of competition.

"Surprise out-of-competition tests seem more effective as a deterrent," Anthony said. "That would have likely made me think twice."

But money is an obstacle. Drug testing of top finishers by Usada is $4,000 to $6,000 per event, depending on the types of tests administered, according to USA Cycling's Johnson.

Most footraces, including the ING New York Marathon, don't test amateurs, including age-group winners, unless they finish at or near the top of the overall field. A testing program announced this month by the Pikes Peak Marathon will apply only to the top 10 finishers. A spokesperson for U.S. Masters Swimming said it conducts no drug testing at its meets, but that talks about it are under way.

That cyclists are leading the push to test amateurs is likely no coincidence, considering the large number of pros in that sport who have cheated, most notably Lance Armstrong, who late last year was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and who has since acknowledged doping during his cycling career.

It may also be no coincidence that the testing of amateurs is well under way in Florida, home to countless anti-aging clinics that are a common source of testosterone and other performance-enhancing drugs. Florida's state bicycle racing association hired Usada last year to initiate testing at its races, after local racers began complaining that older riders were getting faster rather than slower with age.

"You'd see some guy in his late 40s or 50s just drilling it," said Jared Zimlin, president of the association. "We figured nobody would ever want to race here if they think they're going to get their butt kicked by some 50-year-old 'roid monster."

In January 2012, Zimlin began soliciting donations via PayPal to pay for testing. By the year's end, he had raised $8,000, and the funds paid for 13 tests. In September, Usada announced that Florida masters racer Julio Cruz, 44, had tested positive for the banned stimulant Methylhexaneamine. He received a six-month ban. Cruz couldn't be reached for comment.

Following suit, the New York bicycle association has raised $5,000 for testing, the same amount raised so far by the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado. By all accounts, that is far from enough to adequately police amateur riders.

"We have 3,400 members and 140 events, so we aren't going to have a legitimate test on every athlete," Chris McGhee, executive director of the Colorado association. "But we can create an environment where people think they could be tested."

Associations in other states have contacted USA Cycling about the possibility of initiating amateur testing, according to Johnson, adding that the governing body also intends to build out a Web page and educational program to teach its participants about banned substances and testing protocol.

"The [education] was designed for our elite athletes that are part of the testing pipeline," Johnson said. "Now you roll it out to the general membership who doesn't spend that much time thinking about this sort of thing. It's going to be a challenge."

Since cycling is an Olympic sport, Usada has the power to test at all sanctioned races, even amateur events. But Travis Tygart, chief executive of Usada, said elite events have traditionally taken priority. Tygart said amateur track and field competitions, archery events and even the Pikes Peak marathon have paid to have Usada testers on race day.

"We've even done ballroom dancing," Tygart said. "Athletes are stepping up and saying even if we're weekend warriors, we don't' want to be cheated."

Should local cycling groups raise ever-growing amounts of money for amateur testing, Tygart said Usada would train and hire more testers. The only limit on Usada's potential for growth is the ability of race organizers to pay for its services.

"There are hundreds of thousands of events in this country that we have the jurisdiction to test," Tygart said. "We just don't have the budget."

Top Portfolio Products: Putnam Launches 6 New Funds

New products introduced over the last week include six new funds from Putnam Investments, new retirement share classes for seven of Neuberger Berman’s funds, and an Islamic index series from Russell.

In addition, AdvisorShares launched a new ETF; Shelton Capital launched the Shelton Green Alpha Fund; and TD Ameritrade began offering mini-options to advisors.

Here are the latest developments of interest to advisors:

1) Putnam Investments Launches 6 Products

Putnam Investments is launching six new products designed to address several marketplace challenges, including volatility, the need for new sources of income and adjusting to a changing tax environment.

The new products are the Putnam Low Volatility Equity Fund (PLVEX), which seeks returns comparable to the U.S. equity market with lower volatility; the Putnam Strategic Volatility Equity Fund (PSVEX), which pursues better returns than stocks, but with volatility comparable to that of the market; the Putnam Global Dividend Fund (PGDEX), which seeks income and growth through a diversified portfolio of dividend-paying and value stocks from markets worldwide; the Putnam Emerging Markets Income Fund (PEMWX), which pursues high current income and capital appreciation through diverse return opportunities across the emerging market debt landscape; the Putnam Short-Term Municipal Income Fund (PSMEX), a national portfolio of short-term bonds seeking tax-free income with lower interest-rate sensitivity; and the Putnam Intermediate-Term Municipal Income Fund (PIMEX), a portfolio of intermediate-term municipal bonds seeking high current income exempt from federal income tax.

2) Neuberger Berman Introduces New Retirement Share Class for 7 Mutual Funds

Neuberger Berman Group has introduced retirement share classes (R6 shares) for seven of its mutual funds. The new shares offer a lower-cost option to retirement plan advisors and their plan sponsor clients and will initially be available for the following funds: NB Emerging Markets Equity (NEMRX); NB Genesis Fund (NRGSX); NB High Income Bond Fund (NHIRX); NB Mid Cap Growth Fund (NRMGX); NB Real Estate Fund (NRREX); NB Socially Responsive Fund (NRSRX); and NB Strategic Income Fund (NSTLX).

The new shares will be offered at net asset value (NAV) without front-end sales charges, contingent deferred sales charges (CDSC), or 12b-1 fees and became available for purchase on March 15. 3) Russell Introduces Russell-IdealRatings Islamic Index Series

Russell Indexes and IdealRatings introduced the Russell-IdealRatings Islamic Index Series, a newly enhanced index series for Shariah-compliant investors. These new indexes benefit Shariah multiasset investors by combining the Russell Global Indexes with the Shariah oversight of IdealRatings. IdealRatings applies its experience in Shariah-compliant investing to the Russell-IdealRatings Islamic Index to ensure the exclusion of noncompliant businesses according to Shariah law. IdealRatings’ oversight includes specific sector- and financial-based filters. It also includes monitoring and approval by a board of Islamic scholars.

The new Islamic Index Series is based on the Russell family of global indexes; it is fully modular and covers approximately 3,100 securities in 48 countries. The broadest market segments offered for the indexes include global, developed, Middle East and North Africa, developed ex-U.S., emerging markets, Europe, Asia-Pacific ex-Japan, Asia Pacific and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

4) AdvisorShares Launches Newfleet Multi-Sector Income ETF

AdvisorShares announced that the Newfleet Multi-Sector Income ETF (MINC) opened for trading on March 20. MINC is subadvised by Newfleet Asset Management, an affiliated manager of Virtus Investment Partners, Inc.

MINC’s investment objective seeks to provide current income consistent with preservation of capital, while limiting fluctuations in NAV due to changes in interest rates. Newfleet’s portfolio management team utilizes a three-step process that focuses on sector analysis and allocation, security selection and portfolio construction. Utilizing an opportunistic approach to active management by overweighting and underweighting 14 different bond sectors, the portfolio manager aims to build a diversified and tactical portfolio that seeks to fulfill its investment objective. 5) Shelton Capital Introduces the Green Alpha Fund

Shelton Capital Management has introduced the Shelton Green Alpha Fund (NEXTX) in response to the growing conviction that investing in companies responding to the challenges presented by a warming, increasingly populous, carbon-and-resource-constrained world makes sense.

The fund is subadvised by Boulder, Colo.-based Green Alpha Advisors, founded in 2007 by Garvin Jabusch and Jeremy Deems. Green Alpha seeks to identify and invest in publicly traded companies leading the way to the Next Economy; a company, for example, that has identified one or more of the daunting environmental problems facing civilization and has put their business in the path of addressing that problem. The fund will be available directly through Shelton Capital Management and at most major brokerage firms such as TD Ameritrade, Fidelity and Charles Schwab.

6) TD Ameritrade Institutional Offers Mini-Options to Advisors

TD Ameritrade Institutional is offering independent RIAs the ability to trade mini-options—standardized put and call options with delivery terms of 10 shares instead of the standard 100—on certain higher-priced securities, such as Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN). More than half of advisors who custody assets at TD Ameritrade Institutional hold a position in one of the five securities that will offer mini-options.

Exchanges launched the trading of mini-options on March 18. TD Ameritrade Institutional will host a free mini-options webcast for independent RIAs on April 4. For more information or to attend the webcast, please call 866-547-8431.

Read the March 15 Portfolio Products Roundup on AdvisorOne.

SHFL Entertainment Buys ProTec Games

On Wednesday, casino gaming equipment maker SHFL entertainment (NASDAQ: SHFL  ) announced that it has acquired Chinese electronic gaming maker ProTec Games for an undisclosed sum.

In a statement on the acquisition, SHFL Chief Executive Officer Gavin Isaacs noted that SHFL has worked with ProTec over the past year, hiring the company to develop software for is slot machines and other electronic games, and has "been very happy with their work."

Happy enough to buy the whole company, apparently -- and investors seem happy as well. In response to SHFL's announcement, they bid up the company's shares 3.7% to close at $16.01.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

PIMCO Targets European Commercial Property

Direct investments in European real estate loans—are they crazy? Like a fox, apparently.

Reuters reports that the head of PIMCO's mortgage credit portfolio management team says the firm is targeting direct commercial real estate investments and nonsecuritized loans, which carry greater risk but higher return potential.

The news service notes that PIMCO’s Dan Ivascyn believes the move by banks around the world to offload some of their debt has created opportunity to buy up unrated loans.

"Some of the more complex, illiquid areas are where we still think there is considerable value," Ivascyn said.

The hunt for yield and stable cash-flow streams have translated into strong returns on everything from "junk" bonds to commercial mortgage-backed securities.

Returns from investments in commercial mortgage-backed securities and other higher-yield securities have come down significantly, pushing some money managers “farther afield.”

For example, Reuters cites AAA-rated U.S. commercial mortgage-backed securities, which are secured by loans on commercial properties and have a current yield that takes into account worst-case scenarios of about 2.4%, after returning 11% last year, according to data provided by Angel Oak Capital.

“Additionally, the Bank of America Merrill Lynch US High Yield Master II index—an index of U.S. junk bonds—had a return of 15.6% last year, but is up just 2.7% so far this year.”

Reuters concludes that Ivascyn sees opportunities in direct investments in commercial real estate such as malls or office buildings and nonperforming loans, or loans for which payments are past due or potentially in default.

Obama Budget Endangers Some Estate Planning Techniques

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  • IRAs: In General Individual Retirement Accounts are highly popular tools for contributing funds that grow on a tax deferred basis. Depending on the type of IRA, the accumulation can be tax free.
  • ETF Taxation The use of ETFs may be attractive to certain investors. The tax advantages may make them even more attractive.
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The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 left wealth planners’ estate planning tool chest largely intact, but the White House budget for 2013 and comments by congressional leaders strongly suggest their permanence is anything but assured.

In the aftermath of the Jan. 1 passage of ATRA, both Senate and House leaders said that the act was only a first step in righting the country’s fiscal house, intimating that rules made permanent by the act may indeed be temporary.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget proposal would restrict certain estate planning techniques as a way to close “tax loopholes”; some of these proposals were under discussion long before enactment of ATRA.

ATRA left untouched grantor retained annuity trusts, which allow for the transfer of wealth while minimizing the gift tax cost of transfer. The administration’s proposal would impose severe restrictions.

In setting up a GRAT, a grantor funds an irrevocable trust with assets likely to appreciate in value, and retains an annuity interest for a number of years—sometimes as few as two years.

After that, if the grantor is still alive, the assets left in the trust are transferred to beneficiaries. The more the value of the assets held by the trust appreciates, the greater the transfer tax benefit the estate can claim.

The White House proposal would impose the requirement that a GRAT have a 10-year minimum term and a maximum term of life expectancy of the annuitant plus 10 years. “The administration’s proposal would require, in effect, some downside risk in the use of this technique,” said Jeff Marshall, a Pennsylvania tax lawyer.

In other words, the likelihood that the grantor could die during the term of the GRAT would increase, thereby undermining the estate and gift tax savings she sought.

The proposal would also eliminate zeroed-out GRATs. Instead, the grantor would have to make a taxable gift when setting up the instrument.

ATRA made no changes in the step-up basis on inherited property. The recipient’s tax basis for inherited property is its fair market value at the date of the decedent’s death rather than the latter’s cost basis.

Under the president’s proposal, the value for estate and income tax purposes would have to be consistent. The property’s basis in the hands of the recipient would be no greater than its value as determined for estate or gift tax purposes.

The proposal would impose a reporting requirement on the estate’s executor and the lifetime gift’s donor to provide both the IRS and the recipient necessary valuation and basis information.

Grantor trusts allow grantors to make gifts to beneficiaries free of gift tax by paying the trust’s income tax liability. Assets placed in the trust are removed from the grantor’s estate. Future appreciation of the assets is not subject to estate or gift tax.

Under the president’s proposal, the benefit of the up-front income tax payment would be eliminated.

Dynasty trusts could also be reined in by the president’s proposal. Some states allow wealth to be transferred through multiple generations for many years or in perpetuity, with no estate, gift or generation-skipping transfer tax effects. These trusts can continue in perpetuity is a small handful of states, making them attractive venues for residents of other states to locate a multigenerational trust.

The president has proposed that the generation-skipping transfer tax exemption terminate at 90 years.


For more tax stories and advice, check out AdvisorOne’s 20 Days of Tax Planning Advice for 2013 home page.

INTC: Citi Cuts Q1, Q2 View Below Consensus on PC Weakness

Citigroup chip analyst Glen Yeung this evening reiterates a Neutral rating on shares of Intel (INTC) while cutting his price target from $25 to $23, after reducing his estimates for this quarter and next to account for weaker-than-expected PC demand.

Yeung, like Gus Richard of Piper Jaffray yesterday, and like the folks at IDC on Monday, warns that trends last month around the event of the Chinese New Year have not been encouraging for PCs:

YTD, US retail POS demand (based on NPD data) is down 1% (after adjusting for an extra week in January), inline with our annual forecast for Intel�s CPU business. However, our checks suggest Chinese New Year sell through was poor, pointing to weakness in other geographies; this has resulted in lower component demand from Lenovo for March. Recent IDC data supports this, and suggests changes in the Chinese government incrementally impacted sales to the downside. As noted by Citi�s Joe Yoo, easy comparisons likely limit meaningful worsening of y/y trends. Nonetheless, we characterize the demand environment as weak.

Mind you, some of the drop off may also have to do with Intel’s rolling out later this year new microprocessors based on its “Haswell” architecture, notes Yeung:

Our checks with the PC supply chain suggest Intel will launch the desktop version of its new Haswell architecture in April, notebook in June. Because Haswell is not socket compatible with Ivy Bridge (the prior generation), this has the effect of reducing demand for Ivy Bridge ahead of the Haswell launch.

Yeung’s Q1 estimate goes to $12.25 billion, 57% gross margin, and 37 cents EPS, down from $12.6 billion, 57.9%, and 42 cents. His Q2 view goes to $12.4 billion, 57.3%, and 37 cents, down from $12.54 billion, 57.8%, and 38 cents.

Those estimates are below the consensus of $12.7 billion and 41 cents this quarter, and $12.92 billion and 41 cents next quarter.

Intel shares today closed up 4 cents at $21.18.

Junxure Announces New Envestnet, Schwab Integration Features

The technology and practice management consulting firm Junxure announced Tuesday that it has released Junxure Version 9.5, which “enhances user experience, promotes workflow management and extends business development support,” according to the Raleigh, N.C.-based company.

Highlights include enhancements to Junxure with Schwab OpenView Gateway. Workflow and user experience benefits now flow from a “deeper” Schwab Advisor Center integration, which includes:  

  • The collection of Schwab Advisor Center Alerts that automatically generate appropriate Junxure-managed workflows. These workflows are customizable, and firms may select from Junxure's new suite of prebuilt, Schwab Advisor Center-focused workflows or create their own.
  • An at-a-glance update of comprehensive account balance and buying power detail information, without having to separately access Schwab Advisor Center.
  • Statements, tax-related and trade confirmation documents stored in Schwab Advisor Center are now available for download from Junxure via Schwab OpenView Gateway.
  • A Schwab Account Number Import that imports Schwab Advisor Center account numbers, matches accounts by SSN and by client and excludes accounts.

A new Envestnet integration was also announced. It involves an easy-to-use asset import tool that brings assets and accounts from the Envestnet portal into Junxure to reduce the need to access multiple platforms.

Lastly, more business development features were also announced. New Junxure Opportunity features include customizable fields to easily characterize and report on various channels.

"With more than 10,000 users across almost 1,500 firms, it is mission critical that we are constantly evolving our software to meet our customers’ dynamic needs,” said Junxure co-founder and president Greg Friedman. “These enhancements represent our steadfast focus on delivering the most robust CRM solution that includes the latest features advisors depend on most."

Junxure is a founding member of Your Silver Bullet, a consortium of software providers “committed to ensuring the compatibility of their applications.” It claims to “offer more integration with custodians and practice management applications than any other CRM for advisors.” 

Highland Fling

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Scotland's Speyside whisky region

WITH MORE THAN 40 distilleries dotted around its valleys, Scotland's Speyside region is a whisky lover's paradise�home to some of the most famous names in Scotch whisky, such as The Glenlivet, Maccallan, Glenfiddich, Glenrothes and Glenfarclas. Aficionados have long made pilgrimages to this corner of northeast Scotland for a taste of these sweet, light, amber whiskies.

But there is more to the region than just copper stills and the water of life. With a swathe of golf courses, wild, sandy beaches, spectacular scenery, world-class fly-fishing and historic monuments, it's an ideal escape from the demands of city life.

Running through the region is the River Spey, famous for salmon fishing. And by following its banks�by car and on foot�visitors can reel in the wild beauty of an area squared by the coastal seaboard of the Moray Firth to the north and the Cairngorm Mountains to the south. Here's our guide to savoring a long weekend in the Highlands, with a dram in hand.


7 p.m. Land at Inverness Airport. Renting a car is by far the best way to navigate the back roads of whisky's Golden Triangle. Despite being flanked by mountains on one side and the coast on the other, the area is fertile and surprisingly flat�think fields of barley rather than shadowy glens. If you are traveling in spring or summer, don't worry about getting there in the evening�the sun doesn't set until after 10 p.m.

The Mash Tun

The Mash Tun and its Whisky Bar, where you can try a whisky from your birth year.

7:30 p.m. Drive 18 kilometers east along the A96 to the coastal village of Nairn. This Victorian spa town was a favorite vacation spot of Charlie Chaplin and is a good place to drink in Scotland's clean air, wilderness and unpolluted northern light. You won't have time to enjoy a round of golf at the town's Nairn Golf Club ( ) but be sure to fit in a stroll along the sandy dunes of its East Beach before heading south to Grantown-on-Spey, then up the A95 to Aberlour.

9 p.m. There are a few grand Victorian hotels in Speyside, but for the whisky-lover there is no better place to stay than in one of the five well-appointed rooms above theMash Tun whisky bar in Aberlour (double room �113 per night, 8 Broomfield Square, With views over the Spey, this former station bar is a cozy place to hole up for the weekend. Call ahead and arrange for a light supper of soup and a baguette to be served in the bar when you arrive

10:30 p.m. Enjoy a night cap in the Whisky Bar. Try a whisky from your birth year; the bar has more than 46 single-cask whiskies from Glenfarclas�one for every year between 1952 and 1997.


9:30 a.m. After a hearty Scottish breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, head south on the A95 for the picturesque 20-minute journey to the Glenlivet Distillery ( ). Founded by George Smith in 1824 at Upper Drummin Farm, it now produces one of the best-selling malt whiskies in the U.S. Park behind the distillery and put on your walking boots.

10 a.m. Take a stroll along the George Smith Smugglers Trail and let the beauty of Speyside open up before you. The trail is a gentle, signposted 6-kilometer route that runs from the back of the distillery and follows the River Livet past the former home of Smith to the remains of Drumin Castle, where you can take in the view from this ancient spot.

1 p.m. Grab a quick lunch in the distillery's coffee shop and have a browse around the shop before you join the tour of your choice.

1:30 p.m. The distillery offers a free tour that lasts around 45 minutes�no need to book�and includes a visit to the warehouse and the mash tuns, where the whisky is produced and distilled, and a free dram at the end. Drivers can opt for a miniature instead. Aficionados may wish to take the Glenlivet Spirit of the Malt Tour (�30 per person), an in-depth, three-hour experience that includes a tutored tasting of more than seven different variations of The Glenlivet, as well as a dram poured straight from the cask in the warehouse. If you go for this option, be sure to choose a designated driver in advance.

3 p.m. Head back up the Spey to Craigellachie, the village where the Spey and Fiddich rivers meet. Stop off at Craigellachie Bridge for a breathtaking view of the Spey. Just a short drive up the hill is the Macallan distillery ( ). Rich, sherried and honeyed, The Macallan is one of the world's most popular whiskies. The distillery runs a series of small tours, the last of which is at 3 p.m. These range from �10 to �20 and booking is advised. Naturally, they end with a warming dram or two.

If two distilleries in one day feels like too much, head down the hill to Victoria Street to the Craigellachie Hotel for afternoon tea (�8.95,, served in their drawing room overlooking the Spey. Afterward, if you still have time to spare, take the five-minute drive to the Speyside Cooperage on the A941 to learn about the wooden casks that are used to store whisky.

5 p.m. Drive back to Aberlour and leave the car at the Mash Tun. Then enjoy the early-evening light by taking a 45-minute stroll up the banks of the Spey, returning to Craigellachie. By this time you will have earned your supper.

6:30 p.m. Start your evening with a visit to the Craigellachie Hotel's famous Whisky Quaich bar, home to more than 750 whiskies. Ask the barman to pour you something rare.

7:30 p.m. Cross the road to the Highlander Inn ( ). Popular with whisky writers and local distillers, its bar will be busy on a Saturday night. Soak up the local atmosphere and enjoy an unpretentious supper of Scotland's most famous dish: haggis, neeps and tatties, a savory pudding of sheep's heart, liver and lungs, with potatoes and turnips, served with a drizzle of creamy sauce.

10:30 p.m. Take a five-minute taxi ride back to the Mash Tun, stopping off in the bar for a quick nightcap before the fresh air and whisky send you into a deep sleep.


10 a.m. Allow yourself a gentle start after yesterday's excesses. After savoring a cooked breakfast at the Mash Tun, enjoy a stroll around the village. Aberlour is home to Walker's shortbread, and their shop on the high street is a great place to stock up on Speyside's other famous export.

Scottish Viewpoint

A cooper at the Speyside Cooperage

11 a.m. Hop in the car and drive north along the A941 to the medieval city of Elgin, with its magnificent ruined cathedral. Make sure to bring your wallet as our destination is cashmere specialists Johnstons of Elgin. Here you can while away a few hours trying on cashmere knitwear from v-necks to luxury hot-water-bottle covers before enjoying a light lunch in their cafe. After lunch, head into town and visit Gordon & Macphail's famous whisky shop (58 South St.; ). As well as more than 1,000 whiskies, and 800 wines, it stocks local cheeses and hams, and always has a selection of malt whiskies on hand to taste.

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Sand dunes at Nairn

2 p.m. Head west out of Elgin to the Benromach Distillery. Mothballed in the early 1980s, the distillery was bought by Gordon & Macphail in 1994. After a refurbishment, the result is a small, boutique distillery that makes for an interesting contrast to the scale of Glenlivet. In the summer months, the distillery offers tours and daily tastings of its smooth, medium-bodied floral whisky.

4 p.m. Continuing west past Nairn, on the banks of the Moray Firth stands Fort George, an impressive example of 18th-century military engineering. This enormous garrison, still a working army barracks but open to visitors, was built by King George II to control uprisings in the Highlands in the aftermath of the 1746 Battle of Culloden. Take a stroll around its boundary walls and breathe in a bit of history.

7 p.m. Return to Aberlour and the Mash Tun for a hearty dinner of local fare, including roast salmon or Aberdeen Angus sirloin steak.


10 a.m. After breakfasting and checking out of the Mash Tun, it's a short drive to one of the most interesting distillery tours of the weekend. Aberlour Distillery sits in a spectacular glen where the rivers Lour and Spey meet. This small, picturesque distillery offers a series of tours, including the Founder's Tour (�30 per person; book in advance). This includes a tutored tasting of five Aberlour whiskies paired with locally produced chocolate and the opportunity to hand-fill your very own bottle of cask-strength whisky (�65).

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1 p.m. If you fancy ending the weekend with some fine dining, take a 15-minute drive over to Dufftown to La Faisanderie (2 Balvenie St.; ), where chef Eric Obry is earning himself a reputation for fine French cooking with local ingredients.

4 p.m. Take a stroll around the wide streets of Dufftown before popping into the Malt Barn Bar at the Glenfiddich distillery for one final dram. Then it's back to the airport�allow an hour and 15 minutes for the drive�and home, hopefully with some liquid souvenirs in hand.

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What Is a Bull Market?

What drives a bull market? How does it get started, and how does it end? What happens to stock fundamentals during these bullish times? There are no ironclad rules that can tell you when a bull market begins and ends, but there are some similarities that all bull markets share. Understanding the way bull markets work can help you become a better and more informed investor -- and if you're the inquisitive sort, you're also bound to find some interesting parallels between otherwise unrelated market cycles. History may not repeat, but it often rhymes.

Here, in the first installment of a three-part series, you'll find an overview of notable bull markets in the history of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Each bull market overview includes some basic background data, some of the market's major fundamental changes during those periods, and a brief description of the economic, social, technological, financial, and political forces at work. When you've finished reading, don't forget to check out the other parts of this series, as well as the companion series to this one that highlights the Dow's many bear markets. You'll find the links below.

1896-1899: Railroad merger mania

  • Began (starting price): Aug. 7, 1896 (28.66)
  • Ended (final price): Sept. 5, 1899 (77.61)
  • Number of trading days: 772
  • Total percentage gain and average gain per trading day: 171%, 0.22% per day
  • Volatility (i.e., average daily price change): 0.98%
  • Cyclically adjusted P/E, initial and final: 15.7 to 20.6 (31% increase)

Charles Dow first published his index during the early days of recovery from the Panic of 1893, which was the second major crash in the late 1800s resulting from railroad overinvestment. This bull market was marked by an extreme level of railroad and other industrial consolidation, which made distressed railroad assets more productive. More than 1,200 mergers were completed in 1899, up from just 69 in 1897.

1900-1901: McKinley's boom

  • Began (starting price): Sept. 24, 1900 (52.96)
  • Ended (final price): June 17, 1901 (78.26)
  • Number of trading days: 182
  • Total percentage gain and average gain per trading day: 48%, 0.26% per day
  • Volatility: 1.02%
  • Cyclically adjusted P/E, initial and final: 18.1 to 23.1 (28% increase)

The re-election of pro-business President William McKinley was a decisive rejection of the unpopular bimetallism -- where gold and silver can be used as legal tender -- of William Jennings Bryan and rekindled an interest in railroad stocks that continued until McKinley's assassination a year later. Real earnings were essentially flat for the period; the increase in Dow prices was almost entirely inflation- and valuation-based.

1903-1906: Industrial rally

  • Began (starting price): Nov. 9, 1903 (42.15)
  • Ended (final price): Jan. 26, 1906 (102.9)
  • Number of trading days: 557
  • Total percentage gain and average gain per trading day: 144%, 0.26% per day
  • Volatility: 0.78%
  • Cyclically adjusted P/E, initial and final: 15.4 to 19.9 (29% increase)

A surge in industrial production and manufacturing output drove this bull market, which also experienced two revolutionary developments: the founding of Ford� (NYSE: F  ) and the Wright brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, both in 1903. New York real-estate values soared along with the index as the investment community competed for prime properties.

1907-1909: Retail investor rebound

  • Began (starting price): Nov. 22, 1907 (53.08)
  • Ended (final price): Nov. 19, 1909 (100.53)
  • Number of trading days: 503
  • Total percentage gain and average gain per trading day: 89%, 0.18% per day
  • Volatility: 0.73%
  • Cyclically adjusted P/E, initial and final: 11.3 to 14.8 (30% increase)

A successful resolution to the Panic of 1907 engendered positive sentiment, and many people found themselves with cash on hand after frantic bank runs. Depressed valuations at 1907's lows prompted small investors to flood into the market. By the end of this rebound, more than 400,000 new names were recorded on the stock books, with the large Dow-type industrial stocks gaining 100,000 of these investors. This was one of the rare investing climates where the little guy didn't get taken for a ride.

1914-1916: World War I boom

  • Began (starting price): Dec. 24, 1914 (53.17)
  • Ended (final price): Nov. 21, 1916 (110.15)
  • Number of trading days: 481
  • Total percentage gain and average gain per trading day: 107%, 0.22% per day
  • Volatility: 0.87%
  • Cyclically adjusted P/E, initial and final: 10.2 to 11.4 (12% increase)

This was the only bull market that can be definitively credited to executive action. A six-month shutdown following the outbreak of World War I generated greater interest in trading and tamped down the selling instinct. When markets reopened in December, America's neutrality brought a flood of funds to U.S. businesses and markets as its industrial enterprises (the "war brides") rushed to supply European belligerents.

1917-1919: Auto bubble

  • Began (starting price): Dec. 19, 1917 (65.95)
  • Ended (final price): Nov. 3, 1919 (119.62)
  • Number of trading days: 463
  • Total percentage gain and average gain per trading day: 81%, 0.18% per day
  • Volatility: 0.85%
  • Cyclically adjusted P/E, initial and final: 6.6 to 6.5 (3% decline)

Railroads were nationalized at the end of 1917, which restricted investment to other industrial enterprises. A booming auto industry, which had readily adapted to Ford's assembly line innovations, drew much of this channeled interest. Loose monetary policies at the recently created Federal Reserve, undertaken in response to the war, added about $3 billion worth of liquidity to the economy during this period -- equal to about 3% of national GDP at the time. Real earnings declined more than they would for any other bull market during this period, and inflation ran at a heightened level. From 1915 to 1919, the stock of General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) went parabolic, mimicking the performance of many large tech stocks in the 1990s.

1921-1929: The Roaring '20s

  • Began (starting price): Aug. 4, 1921 (63.90)
  • Ended (final price): Sept. 3, 1929 (381.17)
  • Number of trading days: 2,007
  • Total percentage gain and average gain per trading day: 497%, 0.25% per day
  • Volatility: 0.73%
  • Cyclically adjusted P/E, initial and final: 5.2 to 32.6 (531% increase)

This bull market was so long, sustained, and transformative that it remains the gold standard against which all others are compared. The spread of automobiles, telephones, electricity, motion pictures, airlines, and the consumer culture affected the lives of millions of Americans and pushed the stocks of many leading corporations in these industries to incredible heights. Radio kingpin RCA, one of the most notable stocks of this era, was worth $1 per share in 1921 and $573 at the market's peak. The strongest auto companies remaining after 1919's auto bubble popped made a spectacular rebound.

Putting it all together
America underwent a remarkable shift during the Dow's first three decades. Millions moved to cities and became part of a growing manufacturing infrastructure. A world war was won, and another loomed on the horizon. The stock market's focus shifted from railroads and commodities to consumer-focused technologies. Bankers and brokers were suddenly surrounded by ordinary men and women who jumped into this brave new world of investing. Sound familiar? It should. The same situation would play out more than once in the bull markets to come.

Want to learn more about market cycles? You can find the rest of the series here:

  • An Illustrated Guide to Bull and Bear Markets
  • The Postwar Bull Market Boom
  • Bull Markets in Modern Times
  • What Is a Bear Market?
  • Recession, War, and Bear Markets
  • Bear Markets in Modern Times
  • The Complete Illustrated Guide to Secular Market Cycles

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The cyclically adjusted P/E referenced throughout is compiled by Yale economist Robert Shiller from a historical S&P 500 composite. The Dow is used in place of this composite because it offers precise daily closing dates and prices, rather than the monthly results used in Shiller's calculations. The difference between these two indexes from the Dow's creation in 1896, on an inflation-adjusted basis, is less than 3%.

Whether you're anticipating a bear market or expecting a long bull run ahead, you can find some of the market's best stocks in our Foolish list of "Nine Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks." Like the Nifty 50 of the '60s and '70s, these Nifty Nine are stable and well-run, with a long history of growing dividend payments. No matter where the market goes, you'll be well-prepared for the future if you invest in these stocks. Click here for the information you need -- it's completely free.