Saturday, May 18, 2013

Top 5 Promising Companies To Buy For 2014

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of HVAC-service provider Comfort Systems USA (NYSE: FIX  ) were heating up today, gaining as much as 13% on a promising earnings report.

So what: Comfort Systems turned in a per-share profit of $0.07, much better than the $0.02-loss the market was expecting. Revenue, however, was about 1% below estimates at $325.9 million. On another positive note, CEO Brian Lane noted that the company's backlog increased in the quarter, and gross margin improved 13.1%, to 15.8%, as revenue was essentially flat year over year.

Now what: While management noted the difficult current economic climate, Comfort Systems could be a strong long-term macroeconomic play, as electricity costs are likely to go down with the proliferation of fracking and the adoption of natural gas by utility companies. The cost savings could encourage more Americans to adopt central air conditioning systems, Comfort's bread-and-butter. I also think this could be a favorable climate-change play, as hot summers will lead to higher demand for air conditioning. Stay on top of Comfort Systems to find what happens. Just add the company to your Watchlist here.

Top 5 Promising Companies To Buy For 2014: Edgewater Technology Inc.(EDGW)

Edgewater Technology, Inc. operates as a consulting firm in North America. The company provides business advisory services, such as knowledge monetization; customer transformation, including business-to-business to business-to-customer or the reverse; cloud architecture and on-ramping strategic services; business process rejuvenation with industry practices and cross pollination; mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and venture capital advisory; strategic advice, costing, estimates to complete, and failing or failed programs or project initiatives; and independent package selection and request for information or proposal process design and implementation. Its product-based consulting services include business transformation through the use of packaged software solutions; enterprise performance management with oracle budgeting, planning, consolidation, and strategic finance; enterprise resource planning with Microsoft Dynamics AX; discrete and process-based manufacturi ng; customer relationship management with Microsoft CRM; industry specific solutions; and blended solutions, such as Microsoft CRM/XRM and custom. The company also offers technology consulting services comprising technical architecture and roadmaps; technical evaluations and design; custom component design and implementation; Web-centric solutions, including internal, external, and/or collaborative; cloud integration and phasing solutions; on-going support services; and infrastructure optimization and redesign, disaster recovery, and business continuity specialized design and assistance. In addition, it provides information management and analytics services. The company serves consumer packaged goods/manufacturing; discrete and process manufacturing; energy/utilities; healthcare; higher education; hospitality; insurance; retail; travel/entertainment; and various emerging markets. Edgewater Technology, Inc. was founded in 1992 and is headquartered in Wakefield, Massachusetts.

Top 5 Promising Companies To Buy For 2014: Grainger Tst(GRI.L)

Grainger plc, through its subsidiaries, owns, acquires, and trades regulated and market-let tenanted properties, as well as owns a portfolio of home reversion properties primarily in the United Kingdom and Germany. Its activities include assembling residential development and mixed use opportunities, obtaining or amending planning permissions, installing infrastructure, and selling or self-developing plots. The company also engages in the rental and trade of properties; and provision of integrated asset and property management services, as well as home reversion plans through independent financial advisers. In addition, it invests in joint ventures and funds. The company holds interest in G:res1, a market rented residential property fund; and G:RAMP, an asset management platform. Its residential portfolio includes 13,564 tenanted houses and flats in the United Kingdom; and 6,718 units in Germany. Grainger plc was founded in 1912 and is headquartered in Newcastle upon Tyne, the United Kingdom.

Top Food Stocks To Own Right Now: Pinnacle Airlines Corp.(PNCL)

Pinnacle Airlines Corp., through its subsidiaries, operates as an independent regional airline company in the United States. It operates an all-regional jet fleet under two capacity purchase agreements (CPA) with Delta Air Lines, Inc. (Delta), providing regional airline capacity to Delta from Delta?s hub airports in Atlanta, Detroit, Memphis, New York City, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The company also operates an all-turboprop fleet under a regional airline CPA with United Continental Holdings, Inc., Continental Airlines, Inc., and United Airlines, Inc. (United); and under revenue pro-rate agreements with United and US Airways Group, Inc. primarily in the northeastern United States and in Texas. As of December 31, 2010, Pinnacle Airlines Corp. offered scheduled passenger service with approximately 1,400 total daily departures to a 317 destinations with an aircraft fleet of 202 regional jet aircrafts and 81 turboprop aircrafts. The company was founded in 1985 and is headquart ered in Memphis, Tennessee.

Top 5 Promising Companies To Buy For 2014: Metropolitan Minning Inc(MNZ.V)

Metropolitan Mining Inc. engages in the acquisition, exploration, and development of mineral properties. It primarily holds an option to acquire 60% interest in the Fruso property, located in the province of Salta, in the Puna of northwestern Argentina. The Fruso property consists of two claims Fruso Este and Aracar covering an area of 5,684 Hectares. The company was incorporated in 2007 and is based in Vancouver, Canada.

Top 5 Promising Companies To Buy For 2014: Ansell Capital Corp (ACP.V)

Ansell Capital Corp. engages in the acquisition, exploration, and development of mineral properties. It primarily explores for gold, silver, copper, and other metals. The company holds interests in the Kuyakuz Mountain project located in British Columbia, Canada; and the Charlotte property located in the Yukon Territory, Canada. It also holds an option agreement to acquire a 100% interest in the Dal, the Discovery Creek, and the Etzel properties located in the Yukon Territory, Canada. Ansell Capital Corp. was incorporated in 2006 and is based in West Vancouver, Canada.

Best Food Stocks For 2014

Allergan (NYSE: AGN  ) announced today that the Food and Drug Administration issued a complete response letter for Levadex, an inhalable drug that treats migraines. The company had warning of the FDA's concerns -- which focused not on safety issues but on the drug's manufacturing process -- and has worked to address these problems.

What does this new CRL mean for Levadex's future?

Solving through acquisition
An inspection had turned up a quality issue at the Exemplar Pharma-owned facility that filled the Levadex canisters. So Allergan purchased Exemplar for approximately $20 million and installed its own people for better oversight. The CRL expressed problems with the manufacturing of the completed canisters, but Allergan says the company has already responded and awaits the FDA's review.

Best Food Stocks For 2014: McCormick & Company Inc (MKC)

McCormick & Company, Incorporated (McCormick) manufactures, markets and distributes spices, seasoning mixes, condiments and other flavorful products to the food industry, retail outlets, food manufacturers and foodservice businesses. The Company�� sales, distribution and production facilities are located in North America and Europe. Additional facilities are based in China, Australia, Mexico, India, Singapore, Central America, Thailand and South Africa. The Company operates in two business segments: consumer and industrial. During the fiscal year ended November 30, 2011, the Company�� consumer business contributed 59% of sales and 79% of operating income and the industrial business contributed 41% of sales and 21% of operating income.

McCormick�� products are sold directly to customers and also through brokers, wholesalers, and distributors. In the consumer segment, products are resold to consumers through a range of retail outlets, including grocery, mass merchandise, warehouse clubs, discount, and drug stores under a range of brands. In the industrial segment, products are used by food and beverage manufacturers as ingredients for their finished goods and by food service customers as ingredients for menu items to enhance the flavor of their foods. Customers for the industrial segment include food manufacturers and the foodservice industry supplied both directly and indirectly through distributors.

Consumer Business

The Company�� brands in the Americas include McCormick, Lawry�� and Club House. The Company also markets brands, such as Zatarain��, Thai Kitchen and Simply Asia. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) its brands include the Ducros, Schwartz and Kamis brands of spices, herbs and seasonings and a line of Vahine brand dessert items. In the Asia/Pacific region its primary brand is McCormick, with the exception of India where its joint venture owns and trades under the Kohinoor brand. The Company�� customers span a variety of retail o! utlets that include grocery, mass merchandise, warehouse clubs, discount and drug stores, served directly and indirectly through distributors or wholesalers. In addition to marketing its products to these customers, the Company is also a supplier of private label items, also known as store brands. More than 250 other brands are sold in the United States with additional brands in international markets.

Industrial Business

In its industrial business, the Company provides a range of products to multinational food manufacturers and foodservice customers. The foodservice customers are supplied both directly and indirectly through distributors. Its range of products include seasoning blends, natural spices and herbs, wet flavors, coating systems and compound flavors. In addition to a broad range of flavor solutions, we strive to achieve customer intimacy.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Portfolio Grader]

    This week, McCormick & Co. (NYSE:MKC) pushes up from a B to an A rating. McCormick & Company makes and distributes spices, herbs, seasonings, and specialty foods to the food industry.

Best Food Stocks For 2014: Terra Nitrogen Company L.P.(TNH)

Terra Nitrogen Company, L.P. engages in the production and sale of nitrogen fertilizer products for agricultural and industrial applications. The company primarily offers anhydrous ammonia and urea ammonium nitrate solutions. Its customers for fertilizer products include dealers, national farm retail chains, and distributors. Terra Nitrogen GP Inc. serves as the general partner of the company. Terra Nitrogen Company, L.P. was founded in 1991 and is based in Deerfield, Illinois. Terra Nitrogen Company, LP. operates as a subsidiary of Terra Industries Inc.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Smith]

    Terra Nitrogen is a master-limited partnership (MLP) and a leading U.S. producer of nitrogen fertilizer. The company has annual capacity to produce 1.9 million tons of nitrogen fertilizer and 1.1 million tons of ammonia, a key fertilizer ingredient. In the past year alone, prices for Terra Nitrogen's fertilizers have increased 47%, and sales have dramatically improved. In the first six months of 2011, Terra Nitrogen's sales rose 38% year-over-year to $394.6 million, while earnings climbed a whopping 148% to $249.8 million.

    Earnings growth has accelerated recently, but Terra Nitrogen has been a stellar long-term performer as well. My colleague Carla Pasternak, editor of High-Yield Investing, recently highlighted Terra Nitrogen as the best-performing high-yield stock of the past decade. The reason is clear: the stock has soared more than 6,000% in 10 years. A $1,000 investment in Terra Nitrogen 10 years ago, for instance, would be worth nearly $65,000 today. 

    As an MLP, Terra Nitrogen is required to distribute the majority of its earnings to unit holders. The company declared a cash distribution of $3.75 per unit in this year's second quarter. On a forward basis, this works out to an annual distribution payment of $15 per unit and a generous yield of 8%.
    The company is financially sound, with zero debt and a 147% return on equity (ROE). In addition, profit margins have been exceptional, exceeding 52%, mainly because Terra Nitrogen's raw material costs are falling. The main ingredient for producing nitrogen fertilizer, natural gas, has plummeted from $14 per million BTU three years ago to roughly $4 per million BTU today. Insiders also clearly like the company's prospects; they hold 51% of the company's shares.

Hot Restaurant Companies To Invest In Right Now: Nestle SA (NESN.VX)

Nestle SA is a Swiss Company engaged in the nutrition, health and wellness sectors. It is the holding company of the Nestle Group, which comprises subsidiaries, associated companies and joint ventures throughout the world. It has such business units as Food and Beverage, Nestle Waters and Nestle Nutrition. It is also active in the pharmaceutical sector. It divides its products into Powdered and liquid beverages, Water, Milk products and Ice cream, Nutrition, Prepared dishes and cooking aids, Confectionery, PetCare and Pharmaceutical products. In February 2011, the Company acquired CM&D Pharma Ltd.

Best Food Stocks For 2014: Nestle SA (NESN)

Nestle SA is a Swiss Company engaged in the nutrition, health and wellness sectors. It is the holding company of the Nestle Group, which comprises subsidiaries, associated companies and joint ventures throughout the world. It has such business units as Food and Beverage, Nestle Waters and Nestle Nutrition. It is also active in the pharmaceutical sector. It divides its products into Powdered and liquid beverages, Water, Milk products and Ice cream, Nutrition, Prepared dishes and cooking aids, Confectionery, PetCare and Pharmaceutical products. In February 2011, the Company acquired CM&D Pharma Ltd.

Best Buy: It's Getting Better, But for How Long?

On Tuesday, Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) will release its latest quarterly results. The key to making smart investment decisions on stocks reporting earnings is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you'll be less likely to make an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Best Buy has struggled for years under the weight of competitive pressures from online retailers, as the electronics retailer has been one of the primary victims of the showrooming trend whereby shoppers go to a store to see items that they then buy elsewhere online for less. Yet more recently, the company has shown signs of turning its fortunes around. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Best Buy over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report.

Stats on Best Buy

Analyst EPS Estimate


Change From Year-Ago EPS


Revenue Estimate

$10.64 billion

Change From Year-Ago Revenue


Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters


Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Will Best Buy keep moving forward this quarter?
Analysts have had mixed views on Best Buy's earnings prospects recently, as they've cut their estimates for the just-ended quarter by $0.20 per share but modestly raised their full-year fiscal 2014 and 2015 estimates. The stock has squarely focused on long-term potential for the company, as shares have soared 80% since mid-February.

Best Buy's actions over the past quarter have contributed toward CEO Hubert Joly's "Renew Blue" turnaround strategy, under which the company is looking to improve its customer service, boost its presence in e-commerce, and cut its overhead. For instance, Best Buy's decision to match prices of (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) and other online retailers as well as retail-store competitors is geared not only toward getting people to buy more in-store purchases but also at driving customers toward seeing Best Buy's website as a low-price alternative.

One big initiative announced in early April involves smartphone giant Samsung using the store-within-store format at 1,400 Best Buy locations. For Samsung, the move is clearly an attempt to put together some form of competition against Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) and its huge retail presence through its highly successful Apple Stores, yet without the massive capital expenditure that would be necessary to establish its own independent store network. For Best Buy, though, the potential could be much higher, as it could bring in more traffic not just for smartphone purchases but for its other merchandise.

Best Buy has also made some strategic moves during the quarter to refocus on its core business. Less than a month ago, it sold its 50% stake in the Best Buy Europe joint venture to partner Carphone Warehouse, raising about $775 million in cash and eliminating the distraction of having to deal with the chain in a tough economic environment in Europe right now.

Another long-awaited boost could come if the proposed federal Internet sales-tax bill becomes law. Amazon, eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY  ) , and other online retailers without physical presences in many states have had a big advantage over Best Buy, and given the high-ticket items that Best Buy sells, closing the sales-tax gap will make the substantial savings from showrooming disappear if the measure passes.

In Best Buy's report, watch for comments from management on how its recent initiatives are bearing fruit with real financial improvements. As good as the plan's proposals sound, it's important for the company to point to tangible results to prove that Best Buy is actually moving in the right direction.

The battle between bricks-and-mortar stores and e-commerce battle will rage on for a while, and to get more information about the unanswered questions about Best Buy's future, turn to the Fool's premium research report on the stock. Inside, you'll get in-depth analysis of how new leadership will perform, whether a smaller store format work out for the company, and much more. Simply click here now to claim your comprehensive report today.

Click here to add Best Buy to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.

Why RPX Shares Bounced Higher Today

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

What: Shares of risk management solutions company RPX (NASDAQ: RPXC  ) jumped as much as 10% today after the company reported earnings.

So what: First-quarter revenue jumped 40% to $61.2 million and adjusted net income rose 75% to $17.5 million, or $0.33 per share. Analysts estimated earnings of $0.29 per share on $60.1 million in revenue.  

Now what: The positive item investors are pointing to today is guidance for the second quarter. Management expects revenue of $56.8 million to $57.3 million, above the $54.6 million consensus, pointing to better-than-expected growth as the year goes on. Management didn't expect this to lead to great earnings, but I do think momentum is going in the right direction, and the stock can outperform after this earnings beat.

Interested in more info on RPX? Add it to your watchlist by clicking here.

It's incredible to think just how much of our digital and technological lives are almost entirely shaped and molded by just a handful of companies. Find out "Who Will Win the War Between the 5 Biggest Tech Stocks?" in The Motley Fool's latest free report, which details the knock-down, drag-out battle being waged by the five kings of tech. Click here to keep reading.

Any Light at the End of the Tunnel for Alzheimer's Disease?

Few diseases have frustrated researchers like Alzheimer's disease. First identified in 1906, the disease still has no cure and strikingly little real progress in helping patients. Is there any hope for light at the end of this long, dark tunnel? 

Dead ends
The history of dead ends in Alzheimer's research isn't encouraging. For years, scientists thought that the disease could be caused by lowered levels of a neurotransmitter in the brain called acetylcholine. Early drugs for treating Alzheimer's disease were based on this hypothesis. Unfortunately, those medications haven't been very effective. As a result, most experts no longer think the disease is caused by acetylcholine deficiencies.

In the early 1990s, another theory emerged. The amyloid hypothesis suggested that Alzheimer's disease could be caused by beta-amyloid protein deposits. Several findings seemed to support this hypothesis. 

However, so far therapies focusing on targeting amyloids have met with across-the-board failure. Last August, Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ  ) and Pfizer (NYSE: PFE  ) threw in the towel on a late-stage clinical trial of experimental drug bapineuzumab after finding the drug didn't improve cognitive function for Alzheimer's patients.Only a few weeks later, Lilly (NYSE: LLY  ) announced that two late-stage studies of experimental Alzheimer's drug solanezumab failed to meet primary cognitive and functional endpoints. 

Baxter (NYSE: BAX  ) became the latest drugmaker to hit a dead end earlier this month. The company's drug Gammagard, an immunoglobulin therapy, is approved for treating other diseases, but some physicians have prescribed it as an off-label treatment for Alzheimer's disease. However, Baxter discontinued a late-stage trial of Gammagard in treating Alzheimer's after no significant improvement was obtained in patients taking the drug.

Glimmers of light
Some scientists think that the reason for the string of failures thus far is a result of focusing on the wrong area. They suggest that a more likely cause of Alzheimer's disease stems from tau protein tangles inside the brain's nerve cells. Dr. Claude Wischik, a prominent supporter of this tau hypothesis, conducted research with others that found brains of Alzheimer's patients contained tau tangles, while both healthy brains and Alzheimer's brains showed heavy deposits of amyloid plaque.

While many researchers still think the amyloid hypothesis holds the most potential for treating Alzheimer's, a few companies are also now focusing on reducing tau tangles. Lilly announced in April that it had purchased special equipment for imaging tau tangles in brains as part of a combined research effort including both anti-amyloid and anti-tau approaches. Roche spent more than $400 million last year for rights to an anti-tau drug developed by Swiss firm AC Immune.

Privately held TauRx Therapeutics, where Dr. Wischik serves as chairman, is the only company with a large late-stage study under way using tau inhibitors as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's disease. The company's phase 2 results claimed to show the first evidence of slowing down progression of Alzheimer's rather than just addressing symptoms of the disease.

Perhaps the most promising glimmer for Alzheimer's stems from renewed efforts to better understand the function of the human brain. The European Union began an initiative a few months ago called The Human Brain Project to map the brain. President Obama also recently called for funding of a U.S. effort to map the human brain, which has received support from both sides of the political spectrum.

Forging ahead
In the meantime, private companies continue to forge ahead. While Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer discontinued their program for intravenous bapineuzumab, the pharmaceutical partners are moving forward with a study testing the drug as a shot. There are some hints from earlier research that bapineuzumab could be more effective for patients with early stage Alzheimer's disease.

Johnson & Johnson has also teamed up with Japanese drugmaker Shionogi on a new class of drugs targeting amyloid production. Shionogi developed compounds known as BACE inhibitors, which block creation of beta-amyloid by inhibiting beta-secretase enzymes in the brain.

Lilly and Merck (NYSE: MRK  ) are also moving ahead with BACE inhibitor programs. Merck initiated a phase 2/3 trial of experimental drug MK-8931 in late 2012. Earlier research found that Merck's drug reduced cerebral spinal fluid beta-amyloid by more than 90%. MK-8931 represents Merck's only effort targeting Alzheimer's disease beyond early stage discovery and testing.

Meanwhile, Lilly has its BACE inhibitor, known as LY2886721, in a mid-stage study. The company has also committed to study solanezumab further after examining data showing significant slowing of cognitive decline in patients with mild forms of Alzheimer's.

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for this frustrating disease? Nothing is yet shining brightly, but several glimmers of hope are available. Most importantly, governments and pharmaceutical firms keep moving ahead. The end of the tunnel for Alzheimer's will only be reached one step at a time.

Is Eli Lilly a buy or sell?
With two of its top three drugs poised to lose patent protection this year, is Eli Lilly a dividend stock headed nowhere fast? In a new premium report, The Motley Fool's senior pharmaceuticals analyst breaks down all of Lilly's moving parts, including an in-depth analysis of the company's must-know opportunities and reasons to buy and sell today. To find out more click here to claim your copy today.

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More Expert Advice from The Motley Fool
The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock in our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Friday, May 17, 2013

iStar Financial Declares Preferred Dividends

Financial services specialist iStar Financial   (NYSE: SFI  ) announced yesterday that it was paying dividends on six series of preferred stock, payable on June 17 to the holders of record at the close of business on June 1.

The various series of preferred stock, all have a liquidation preference of $25, and their payouts are as follows:

8.00% Series D - $0.50 per share 7.875% Series E - $0.492188 per share 7.80% Series F - $0.4875 per share 7.65% Series G-$0.478125 per share 7.50% Series I - $0.46875 per share 4.50% Series J - $0.55 per share
The dividend for the Series J Preferred Stock is pro-rated this quarter to reflect the partial period since it was issued on March 18. For the full-quarterly period, the regular dividend on the Series J preferred stock would be calculated at $0.5625 per share.
More Expert Advice from The Motley Fool
The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock in our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

What to Expect from LTX-Credence

LTX-Credence (Nasdaq: LTXC  ) is expected to report Q3 earnings on May 22. Here's what Wall Street wants to see:

The 10-second takeaway
Comparing the upcoming quarter to the prior-year quarter, average analyst estimates predict LTX-Credence's revenues will grow 23.8% and EPS will remain in the red.

The average estimate for revenue is $38.2 million. On the bottom line, the average EPS estimate is -$0.06.

Revenue details
Last quarter, LTX-Credence reported revenue of $35.0 million. GAAP reported sales were 45% higher than the prior-year quarter's $24.1 million.

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

EPS details
Last quarter, non-GAAP EPS came in at -$0.08. GAAP EPS were -$0.07 for Q2 against -$0.20 per share for the prior-year quarter.

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

Recent performance
For the preceding quarter, gross margin was 53.0%, 780 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was -12.1%, much better than the prior-year quarter. Net margin was -9.4%, much better than the prior-year quarter.

Looking ahead

The full year's average estimate for revenue is $160.9 million. The average EPS estimate is -$0.08.

Investor sentiment
The stock has a four-star rating (out of five) at Motley Fool CAPS, with 106 members out of 118 rating the stock outperform, and 12 members rating it underperform. Among 19 CAPS All-Star picks (recommendations by the highest-ranked CAPS members), 17 give LTX-Credence a green thumbs-up, and two give it a red thumbs-down.

Of Wall Street recommendations tracked by S&P Capital IQ, the average opinion on LTX-Credence is buy, with an average price target of $8.00.

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Add LTX-Credence to My Watchlist.

Evidence Points to a Jamie Dimon Victory

At the beginning of next week, Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) , will learn whether or not the bank's shareholders have voted to strip him of one of these titles. Reports over the last two weeks have indicated that two major proxy advisory firms have recommended the roles be split. However, JPMorgan's three largest shareholders have yet to cast their ballots.

In the video below, Motley Fool contributor John Maxfield discusses the latest updates on this front.

With big finance firms still trading at deep discounts to their historic norms, investors everywhere are wondering if this is the new normal, or if finance stocks are a screaming buy today. The answer depends on the company, so to help figure out whether JPMorgan is a buy today, check out The Motley Fool's premium research report on the company. Click here now for instant access!

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The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock in our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Qlik Tech Buys NComVA

Radnor, Pa.-based Qlik Technologies (NASDAQ: QLIK  ) has purchased Sweden's NComVA AB, Qlik announced Monday.

NComVA tech permits the display of business intelligence data "through table lens, radar plot, scatter matrix, parallel coordinate, tree map, and fish eye bars," and also "allows users to see how changes in data relate to each other and the passing of time."

A Qlik partner company since 2011, NComVA specializes in "advanced visualization technology," which Qlik says will help in "delivering a deeper understanding of data" by making relationships easier to see, "especially when multiple data sources are analyzed together."

Qlik did not disclose financial specifics of the acquisition, revealing neither the price it's paying, nor the revenue streams or profits numbers of the company it's getting. Nonetheless, investors applauded the deal, bidding up Qlik shares by 2.2% to close at $26.81 in Monday trading.

More Expert Advice from The Motley Fool
The Motley Fool's chief investment officer has selected his No. 1 stock for the next year. Find out which stock in our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2013." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Just click here to access the report and find out the name of this under-the-radar company.

Post Earnings J.C. Penney: The Good And The Very Ugly

J.C. Penney's (JCP) stock price was down 0.95% Thursday, but after-hours movements show an improvement in downward momentum: -1.7% so far. This indicates that investors have mixed feelings about the earnings call, which occurred Thursday one hour after the close. In this article, we provide a quick overview of JCP's main weaknesses. Then, we move to the core of our article: an overview of the earnings call. We finish the article with our traditional final remarks.

JCP Chart

J.C. Penney's 101: A quick introduction to the stock

JCP has a well-known problem: the firm is unable to stop losing out to both "higher-end merchants" and discount stores. So it is not surprising to see the one year poor performance of the stock compared with its main rivals: Macy's (M), Target (TGT) and Wal-Mart (WMT). Price movements are a clear reflection of JCP's poor results: sales were down 25% in 2012, same store sales down 25% and an increasingly worrying cash burn trend. The reasons for poor sales performance are manifold, but I think it is important to realize that the firm was addressing neither the upper class nor the lower class (in terms of income) of the national market.

They target young customers who belong to the middle class. They also happen to be more price sensitive than before, especially after the big recession in 2008. This was an excellent expansion opportunity for competitors like Target and Wal-Mart, who became more attractive due to deep-discounts and other promotions that they could not find at JCP. As a result, sales performance had to pay the consequences of this erroneous marketing strategy. Just in 2012, the company saw $4 billion in lost sales.

The company showed some preliminary first-quarter sales and balance-sheet figures last week (May 8th) that did not look so promising: sales figures showed a decline of 16.4%, or 16.6! % on a same store basis, to $2.64 billion. The upside is that by showing some of the results first, the company may have succeeded in lessening the shock value of Thursday's official earnings, at least for the time being.

Earnings Overview: The Good

- By providing a pre-earnings call on May 8th, JCP apparently managed to lessen the effect of some terrible news.

- So far the company has drawn down $850M on its $1.85B committed revolver. Therefore, the risk that the company draws on its revolver for the first time in its history remains very low for this year. That being said, if the company continues burning cash, expect the default probability to increase. Notice that the revolver is secured and the current debt isn't.

- It could have been worse! Total sales for the quarter decreased 16.4% to $2,635 million compared to $3,152 million in the same quarter last year. Since in 2012Q1 the company saw its revenue decrease -18.9% q/q, a 16.4% decrease shows that at least the negative acceleration of sales growth is decreasing.

Earnings Overview: The Very Ugly

- Worse than expected results: Excluding charges related to restructuring and the management transition, Penney lost $289 million, or $1.31 per share. The street had expected an adjusted loss of $1.06 per share on revenue of $2.65 billion, according to research firm FactSet.

- JCP is trying to make sales better by introducing more discounts and promotions but this is having a fast and clear negative effect on margins. In the words of Ken Hannah, current CFO:

Our reported gross margin rate for the quarter was 30.8% compared to 37.6% in the first quarter last year. The 680 basis point reduction year-over-year was driven primarily by higher penetration of clearance merchandise sales. Reported gross margin for the quarter was up 700 basis points sequentially from the fourth 2012 on lower clearance penetration.

- There is no clear and consistent strategy for a relaunch of, which lost significant sal! es volume! in 2012. As customers continue migrating to Macy's or Amazon (AMZN), we would like to see a clear online strategy for improving sales. In the words of Mike Ullman, current CEO:

Over the last year functioned as a completely separate entity inside the company with little synergy between stores and online. We need to create a seamless all channel experience with strong store and digital convergence.

- No growth: The following key metrics continue to be in deep trouble: Comparable store sales decreased 16.6% for the previous quarter. Traffic was down 6%. Store conversion was down 1% and average transaction value was down close to 10%.

- Some stores will be closed:

We are going to sell a specific number of shops, it will test and build out the ones that customers clearly want.

Final Remarks

Price target:15.00 / from N.A.
Rating:Sell / from N.A.
Investment Strategy:Event
Investment Horizon:3 - 6 months
Links: SEC Filings

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article. (More...)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dow Slips Up on Fed Remarks

Stocks treaded water most of the day before dipping late in the session on remarks from the Fed about cutting its stimulus program. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) finished down 42 points, or 0.3%.

San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams said the central bank could begin to cut its bond purchases if the economy continues to improve. The comments turned off investors, as the Fed's $85-billion monthly bond-buying program is seen as a central component to the market rally and the economic recovery. Other remarks from the Fed last Friday also indicated that it was preparing to scale back the stimulus, but a time frame has not been set.

Earlier in the day, investors managed to shake off some concerning economic reports. First, after two straight weeks at five-year lows, the initial unemployment claims tally jumped from 328,000 last week all the way up to 360,000. Analysts had expected just 330,000. Data from just one week is sometimes dismissed as an aberration, as the statistic is volatile, but the numbers could reveal a slowdown in the labor market. Elsewhere, housing starts plunged to 853,000 in April, from 1,021,000 in March, badly missing estimates of 970,000. However, building permits, a leading indicator for housing starts, came in significantly higher than estimated. The Philadelphia Fed also reported a contraction in manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region when an expansion was expected, and the consumer price index showed a greater decline than expected, at -0.4%.

Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) may also have given the market a bit of a scare when it missed estimates this morning, as the retail giant receives about one out of 10 consumer-level non-automotive dollars in the U.S. and is therefore seen as a bellwether for the economy. Shares ended down 1.7%, as the world's No. 1 retailer brought in $1.14 a share, $0.01 below estimates, and revenue edged up just 1%, to $113.4 billion, missing expectations of $115.8 billion. Same-store sales at namesake locations were down 1.4%, while Sam's Club comps were up 0.2%. Management blamed factors including the payroll-tax increase, delays in income tax refunds, and cold weather, for the sales slump. Current-quarter projections also disappointed, as the retailer guided EPS between $1.22 and $1.27. The analyst consensus stood at $1.29.

Not all of today's earnings releases were disappointing, however, as Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO  ) popped 12.6% after reporting earnings last night. The networking specialist said sales in the Americas and emerging markets were strong, as earnings per share of $0.51 beat estimates by $0.02. Gross margin also improved and, during a quarter where its rivals faltered, analysts interpreted the results as outperforming the industry. Cisco also guided results for the current the quarter above the analyst consensus.

Once a high-flying tech darling, Cisco is now on the radar of value-oriented dividend lovers. Get the lowdown on the routing juggernaut in The Motley Fool's premium report. Click here now to get started.

Hot Wireless Telecom Stocks To Invest In Right Now

Up the markets go to a new record high this Thursday in a trend we've become used to. Bullish investors may have earlier predicted that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) could climb to the 15,000 mark by the end of the year, but now it could hit that by the end of the week, given a stellar session tomorrow. As of 2:25 p.m. EDT, the blue-chip index has picked up 52 points, or 0.35%, despite a devastating report on PC sales that has sent shockwaves through the tech sector. Let's catch up on what you need to know.

Is the PC down for the count?
It's no secret that the PC's rein atop the consumer market has been dismantled by the rise of mobile, but today's IDC report on last quarter's PC sales showed the worst decline in recorded history. IDC, a research firm that has tracked sales since 1994, reported that PC shipments fell 14% during the quarter -- far more than the 7.7% the firm had predicted. The number of PCs shipped was the lowest since mid-2009, and the dismal quarter marked the fourth straight quarter of falling year-over-year PC shipments.

Hot Wireless Telecom Stocks To Invest In Right Now: Park Sterling Bank(PSTB)

Park Sterling Corporation operates as a bank holding company for Park Sterling Bank that provides banking products and services in North Carolina and South Carolina. The company provides a range of banking products, including personal and business checking accounts, individual retirement accounts, business and personal money market accounts, certificates of deposit, overdraft protection, safe deposit boxes, and online banking. Its lending activities include various short-to-medium term commercial, real estate, residential mortgage and home equity, and personal loans. The company serves small and mid-sized businesses, owner-occupied and income producing real estate owners, real estate developers and builders, professionals, and consumers doing business or residing within its target markets through branches. Park Sterling Corporation is headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Philip]

    Shares of Park Sterling Corp.(PSTB) of Charlotte, N.C., closed at $4.00 Friday, down 35% year-to-date. Based on the consensus price target of $6.20, the shares have 55% upside potential.

    Park Sterling was formed on October 6, 2010 to serve as the holding company for Park Sterling Bank, which was chartered in September 2008. The company is rapidly expanding, and -- as is typical for a "de novo" bank -- has not yet achieved consistent profits.

    On Nov 1. Park Sterling completed its acquisition of Community Capital Corp. of Greenwood, S.C., to double the company's size to $1.2 billion, with 22 branches. James Perry remains as Park Sterling's CEO, with Bill Stevens, the former CEO of Community Capital, remaining as the combined company's CEO for its South Carolina market area.

    Park Sterling reported a third-quarter net loss of $1.4 million, or 5 cents a share, improving from losses of $3.1 million, or 11 cents a share the previous quarter, and $3.7 million, or 23 cents a share, a year earlier.

    KBW analyst Jefferson Harralson on Nov. 3 reiterated his "Outperform" or "Buy" rating for Park Sterling, with a $5.60 price target, saying he would expect the company to continue leveraging its excess capital by announcing "its next deal within the next six months."

    The consensus among analysts is for Park Sterling to swing to post a fourth-quarter net loss of 2 cents a share, followed by earnings of 2 cents a share in 2012.

    All three analysts covering Park Sterling rate the shares a buy.

Hot Wireless Telecom Stocks To Invest In Right Now: National Fuel Gas Company(NFG)

National Fuel Gas Company, through its subsidiaries, operates as a diversified energy company primarily in the United States. The company operates through four segments: Utility, Pipeline and Storage, Exploration and Production, and Energy Marketing. The Utility segment sells natural gas or provides natural gas transportation services to approximately 727,000 customers in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and Jamestown, New York; and Erie and Sharon, Pennsylvania. The Pipeline and Storage segment provides interstate natural gas transportation and storage services for affiliated and nonaffiliated companies through an integrated gas pipeline system; and 27 underground natural gas storage fields, as well as 4 other underground natural gas storage fields owned and operated jointly with other interstate gas pipeline companies. This segment also transports natural gas for industrial customers and power producers in New York State. It owns the Empire Pipeline, a 157-mile pipeline; and the Empire Connector, which is a 76-mile pipeline extension. The Exploration and Production segment engages in the exploration for, and the development and purchase of natural gas and oil reserves in California, in the Appalachian region of the United States, and in the Gulf Coast region of Texas and Louisiana. As of September 30, 2009, this segment had proved developed and undeveloped reserves of 46,587 thousand barrels of oil and 248,954 million cubic feet equivalent of natural gas. The Energy Marketing segment markets natural gas to industrial, wholesale, commercial, public authority, and residential customers primarily in western and central New York and northwestern Pennsylvania. The company also develops and operates mid-range independent power production and landfill gas electric generation facilities. National Fuel Gas Company was founded in 1902 and is based in Williamsville, New York.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Glenn]

    Director of National Fuel Gas Co., R D Cash, bought 2,000 shares on 9/15/2011 at an average price of $59.09. National Fuel Gas Co. is engaged in the business of owning and holding securities issued by its subsidiary companies. National Fuel Gas Co. has a market cap of $4.89 billion; its shares were traded at around $59.09 with a P/E ratio of 22.3 and P/S ratio of 2.8. The dividend yield of National Fuel Gas Co. stocks is 2.4%. National Fuel Gas Co. had an annual average earnings growth of 2.1% over the past 10 years.

    On August 4, National Fuel Gas Company announced consolidated earnings for the third quarter of fiscal 2011. Earnings for the third quarter were $46.9 million, or $0.56 per share, an increase of $4.3 million, or $0.05 per share, compared to the prior year’s third quarter earnings of $42.6 million or $0.51 per share.

    Production, Utility, and Energy Marketing segments, and the All Other category.

    In September, Director R D Cash bought 2,000 shares of NFG stock. Director Stephen E Ewing bought 1,700 shares in August. Director Rolland E Kidder sold 1,000 shares the same month.

5 Best Warren Buffett Stocks For 2014: inmarsat ord eur0.0005(ISAT.L)

Inmarsat plc provides mobile satellite communications services for use on land, at sea, and in the air worldwide. The company offers fixed, portable, and vehicular voice and broadband data services, which enable access to office-based applications, such as email, Internet, or VPN access, as well as other applications, including videoconferencing, telemedicine, or live broadcasting. It also provides low data rate messaging, tracking, and monitoring for fixed or mobile assets; and mobile voice communications or fixed-line solutions offering connectivity for areas outside of cellular coverage. In addition, the company offers maritime broadband data and voice services; voice, fax, and data communications for both ocean-going and coastal vessels; maritime satellite phone services for use on smaller vessels; satellite communications services for global maritime distress and safety system; and crew calling services for vessel operators and shipowners. Further, it provides voice a nd data communications services for cockpit, cabin, operational, and in-flight data applications, such as voice, email, Internet and intranet access, large file transfer, and videoconferencing; and aeronautical services that support voice, data, and safety communications used by airlines and corporate jet operators. Additionally, the company offers mobile and fixed-site remote telecommunications services; turnkey remote telecommunications solutions; value-added services; and equipment and engineering services, as well as provides technical support to other operators, conference facilities, and office space leasing. It owns and operates a fleet of 11 geostationary satellites. The company provides its services through third party distribution partners and service providers. It serves the oil and gas, construction, media, aviation, maritime, utilities, mining, aid, and transportation sectors. Inmarsat plc was founded in 1979 and is headquartered in London, the United Kingdom.

Serco Group on Track for "Strong Organic Revenue Growth" in 2013

LONDON -- The shares of Serco  (LSE: SRP  ) (NASDAQOTH: SECCY  ) were flat at 633 pence yesterday morning after the international services group said it expects to see a modest improvement on last year's 4% growth in revenue.

Serco -- which operates over 700 outsourcing contracts around the world -- claimed it was on track for "strong organic revenue growth" in the first half of 2013, driven by last year's record number of new deals.

The company confirmed it had secured new business worth 900 million pounds since the start of the year, including an extension of its contract to operate London's Docklands Light Railway.

Chief executive Christopher Hyman said:

We have begun 2013 with many important new contracts under way and have achieved a good operational performance across our activities around the world. Our global BPO business and AMEAA division are delivering further excellent organic revenue growth.

We are developing new opportunities in the Americas division, though challenging conditions remain in the U.S. federal contracting market. Meanwhile in the U.K., markets continue to show more encouraging signs. We are therefore confident of Serco's portfolio achieving another year of good progress.

With a market cap of 3.1 billion pounds, Serco is valued at 14 times its expected earnings. Having increased its dividend for over 20 consecutive years, Serco offers a prospective yield of 1.8%.

Of course, whether that valuation and the prospects for the outsourcing industry combine to make Serco a "buy" is something only you can decide.

But if you already own shares in Serco Group and are looking for alternative investment opportunities, this exclusive wealth report reviews five attractive possibilities.

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Great Plains Energy Declares Common Stock Dividend

Great Plains Energy (NYSE: GXP  ) is keeping its dividend as level as the geographical feature in its company name. The company will distribute $0.2175 per share of its common stock on June 20 to shareholders of record as of May 20.  This amount matches the company's previous two disbursements, the most recent of which was paid in March. Before that, Great Plains handed out $0.2125.

The new dividend annualizes to $0.87 per share. That yields 3.6% at the company's most recent closing stock price of $24.17.

The company is scheduled to unveil its Q1 2013 earnings on Thursday.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Amazon's Starting a Mother of a Tablet Price War

Between now and Mother's Day, anyone punching in FIRE4MOM as an (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) checkout code will get $20 off any Kindle Fire HD. The move effectively shaves the price of the leading online retailer's high-def tablet to as little as $179.

Yes, Amazon had a bigger sale during November's Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, but this temporary price break comes at a time when Amazon is holding up well outside of Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) market-leading iPad. 

Industry tracker IDC reports that 1.8 million Kindle Fire tablets were shipped during the first quarter of this year, matching the number of shipments of all of tablets put out by all manufacturers backing Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) Windows.

In this video, longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz explores the significance of Amazon promoting its tablet line on its home page this week.

The retail space is in the midst of the biggest paradigm shift since mail order took off at the turn of last century. Only those most forward-looking and capable companies will survive, and they'll handsomely reward those investors who understand the landscape. You can read about the 3 Companies Ready to Rule Retail in The Motley Fool's special report. Uncovering these top picks is free today; just click here to read more.


Pentagon Awards 9 Contracts Worth $1.3 Billion Wednesday

The Pentagon awarded a series of contractors a total of nine defense contracts Wednesday, worth a combined $1.3 billion.

Most of the funds awarded went to privately owned firms ranging in size from gigantic government contactor Bechtel all the way down to Standard Aero of San Antonio, Texas, owned by the United Arab Emirates' Dubai Aerospace Enterprise. But there were a few notable wins among publicly traded companies. For example:

Jacobs Engineering (NYSE: JEC  ) subsidiary Jacobs Technology was awarded a $14.4 million cost-plus-fixed -fee and cost-reimbursable contract to provide engineering and technology acquisition support services to the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center/PZM at several Air Force Bases. This contract should wrap up by Nov. 14. Britain's BAE Systems (NASDAQOTH: BAESY  ) won a pair of contracts, with its Information and Electronic Systems division being awarded $11.9 million for software work ordered by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency; and its Technology Solutions and Services division winning $37.8 million to provide engineering and technical services and supplies in support of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division's Special Communications Requirements Division. This latter contract runs through next May. Finally, SAIC (NYSE: SAI  ) won a bona fide blockbuster award when the Pentagon approved an eighth option year on a firm-fixed price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for unspecified "maintenance, repair, and operations supplies" to be provided to various Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and federal civilian agencies. According to the Pentagon, the value of this contract, which should be completed by May 18, 2014, could rise as high as $381 million.

Stocks Rise on Hopes for Extended Fed Stimulus

It's a topsy-turvy world for investors right now. Despite downbeat economic news out of both Europe and the United States, blue-chip stocks are extending their rally. With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) is up by 15 points, or 0.1%.

Data released this morning showed that Europe has experienced six consecutive quarters of recession -- the continent's longest downturn ever. According to the European Union, nine out of the 17 countries in the economic bloc are experiencing contractions in their output. The latest addition to the list is France, whose gross domestic product fell by 0.2% compared with the fourth quarter of last year. On an annualized basis, that equates to a decline of 0.9%.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., the news was equally disappointing. Among other things, industrial production declined last month by more than expected, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Empire State Index dropped into negative territory this month for the first time since January, and the Department of Labor released statistics showing that wholesale prices fell in April by the largest amount in three years.

The silver lining in all of this otherwise dismal news is the belief that the reports will dissuade the central bank from prematurely retreating from its third round of quantitative easing. Since last year, the Fed has purchased $85 billion in Treasuries and agency mortgage-backed securities in an effort to drive down interest rates and spur lending (and thereby a more robust economic recovery). While the impact on the actual economy is more muted, there's no question that the added liquidity has fueled equity prices, leaving some to wonder whether a new bubble is forming.

In terms of individual stocks, shares of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) are among the best-performing on the Dow, up by 1.2% at the time of writing. The nation's largest bank by assets is facing a critical shareholder vote next week about whether to separate the roles of chairman and chief executive officer. At present, Jamie Dimon occupies both, though he recently intimated that he would leave the company if obligated to relinquish either position. The Wall Street Journal reported this morning that an early estimate of the results is "running slightly ahead of the 40% it received last year."

Alternatively, the worst-performing stock on the blue-chip index is Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , shares in which are off by 3.3% in mid-afternoon trading. As my colleague Dan Carroll observed earlier, the technology giant is struggling today despite the announcement of its new Android-based tablet, the SlateBook x2. "It's an innovative twist for HP," noted Dan, "which is looking to follow up on its Slate 7 tablet ... as well as a sign that the company's genuinely pushing to be competitive in the mobile industry as its PC sales nosedive."

Is JPMorgan Chase a buy at today's price?
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Top 5 Warren Buffett Companies To Buy For 2014

Every year, Warren Buffett and his right-hand man Charlie Munger spend hours answering questions about investing, business, and life at�Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) annual meeting. There are, however, no live cameras rolling, nor are there official transcripts, so if you want to hear what the Oracle has to say, you have to be in Omaha.

Lucky for you, we have a team of Foolish analysts ringside at the Berkshire meeting, so even if you can't make it in person, you can follow along with all of the action.

<a href="" data-mce-href="">BRK 2013 Live Chat from The Motley Fool</a>

Top 5 Warren Buffett Companies To Buy For 2014: Ipc Corporation Limited (I12.SI)

IPC Corporation Ltd., an investment holding company, engages in property investment and development activities in the Asia Pacific and the Americas. It is involved in reselling properties; investment in hospitality assets; and the provision of property consulting services, as well as management of clubs. The company also engages in the sale and distribution of telecommunication products, and computer system boards and peripheral products. IPC Corporation Ltd. was incorporated in 1985 and is headquartered in Singapore.

Top 5 Warren Buffett Companies To Buy For 2014: Quetzal Energy Ltd (QEI.V)

Santa Maria Petroleum Inc. engages in the exploration and production of oil and gas properties with a focus on the Llanos Basin in Colombia. It holds participating interests in four blocks in the Llanos Basin, Colombia. The company was formerly known as Quetzal Energy Ltd. and changed its name to Santa Maria Petroleum Inc. in June 2012. Santa Maria Petroleum Inc. is headquartered in Calgary, Canada.

Top 5 Casino Companies For 2014: Stroud Resources Ltd.(SDR.V)

Stroud Resources Ltd. operates as a mineral exploration company in Mexico and Canada. The company primarily holds interest in the Santo Domingo epithermal silver-gold project located in central Mexico. It also holds interests in the Hislop and Leckie/Penrose gold projects in northern Ontario, Canada; and Compania Minera project located in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. In addition, the company holds approximately 3.75% interest in six oil and gas producing wells in Alberta. Stroud Resources Ltd. was founded in 1983 and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Top 5 Warren Buffett Companies To Buy For 2014: Petaquilla Mineral Com Npv(PTQ.TO)

Petaquilla Minerals Ltd., through its subsidiaries, engages in the acquisition, exploration, exploration management, and sale of mineral properties in the Republic of Panama. The company focuses on gold and silver mineralization, as well as other precious metal mineral deposits. It primarily holds 100% interests in the Molejon gold project in the district of Donoso, Province of Colon. The company was formerly known as Adrian Resources Ltd. and changed its name to Petaquilla Minerals Ltd. in October 2004 Petaquilla Minerals Ltd. was founded in 1985 and is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada.

Top 5 Warren Buffett Companies To Buy For 2014: Amalphi AG (AMLP.DE)

Amalphi AG is a Germany-based company that offers multivendor services for the maintenance of hardware and software of all kinds of Information Technology (IT) equipment. Its main activity is the sale of services including quality assurance, whereas the physical services are provided via international service providers. The Company's products include amalphi ip and ip-pack. amalphi ip is a maintenance service concept for IT-, office- and other technical equipment based on electronic components, which include hardware and software maintenance, help desk service, patch management and asset management. ip-pack offers service packs for the OEM with Service Level Agreements (SLAs) for Hewlett-Packard and IBM products. The Company has a sales network throughout Germany. ES Investment GmbH holds approximately a 49%-stake in the Company.

A Buyout Could Send This Leading Agriculture Stock Up 25%

Buyouts can be one of the quickest ways for investors to score a big profit.

Buyout companies are almost always purchased at a premium that can give shareholders a nice pop. And with the S&P 500 sitting on record cash and looking for ways to grow, the average buyout premium is at an all-time high.

According to Dealogic, 2012's average buyout premium of 25% was up from 23% in 2011 and the highest premium since 2001. That huge average premium included the buyout of Baton Rouge, La.-based energy construction company Shaw Group, which was bought for $46 a share, a 72% premium to its $27 share price. It also included Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE: BMY) paying $26 a share to buy biotech company Inhibitex, a huge 163% premium that ranked as the richest deal of the year.

As you can see, with the S&P 500 hoarding record amounts of cash and looking for ways to grow sales and cut operational costs, the buyout scene is hot. That means it's a great time for investors to be looking at companies that could be potential targets.


That's just one of the reasons I'm bullish on Mosaic (NYSE: MOS), a global leader in concentrated potash and crop nutrients for the agriculture industry. The company was spun off from the privately owned Cargill two years ago. But now, share restrictions are set to expire, which makes Mosaic a prime takeover candidate.

On May 26, charitable trusts associated with Cargill's founding family will be allowed to begin selling restricted shares received in the split. That, in addition to potential tax consequences linked to a Mosaic buyout expiring this month, could pave the way for a buyout of the $26 billion agriculture specialist.

Speculation about a Mosaic buyout comes on the heels of continued consolidation in the nutrients and fertilizer industry. In February, Norway's Yara International (OTC: YARIY), agreed to buy Iowa-based nitrogen player Terra Industries for a $4 billion cash deal that was priced at a 23% premium. The combination of the two has created the world's largest mineral fertilizer company.

But a potential buyout isn't the only reason I like Mosaic. Even if the company remains independent, Mosaic is a great way for investors to cash in on the bullish trend in agriculture.

As a global leader in phosphate and crop nutrients, Mosaic is using its reach and scale to tap into lucrative emerging markets. In March, Mosaic announced it will invest up to $1 billion in a joint venture to produce phosphate in Saudi Arabia. The $7 billion project will be 60% owned by Saudi Arabian mining and metals company Ma'aden, with Mosaic's 25% interest providing access to fast-growing Asian markets.

Mosaic also has a powerful financial position that will enable it to return value to shareholders when the Cargill share restrictions are lifted. About 129 million shares (30%) of Mosaic are held by Cargill insiders and will automatically convert to common shares in late November.

With more than $3 billion in cash on the balance sheet and unused borrowing capacities, analysts estimate that Mosaic has the ability to buy between one-third and 100% of those shares. A long-term buyback plan would have a serious effect on shares outstanding and shareholder returns.

Mosaic also carries a solid dividend yield of 1.6% that is in line with the 10-year Treasury note. In a world of record-low interest rates, that qualifies as a respectable stream of income.

But despite all the good news, Mosaic looks undervalued. Its forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 15 is a discount to its 10-year average of 16 and in line with the S&P 500, in spite of analysts calling for outsize 21% earnings growth in 2014.

Risks to Consider: Mosaic has underperformed its peers and the market in the past two years, despite a historically low valuation. And with Cargill insiders sitting on big gains, the ending of the restriction period could usher in a wave of profit-taking.

Action to Take --> Buyouts are a great way for investors to score quick gains. That's the biggest reason I am bullish on Mosaic, where a share restriction period set to end in late May could set the stage for either the company to be bought for a 25% premium or big share buybacks. But despite buyout speculation and bullish 21% growth projection in 2014, Mosaic looks undervalued, trading at a discount to its 10-year average and the S&P 500.

P.S. -- The next big commodities play is unfolding right now... This disruptive energy technology will bring about major changes in our country... and one company is leading the charge. To learn more about this opportunity, click here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hot Oil Service Companies To Invest In 2014

Next Monday, Halliburton (NYSE: HAL  ) will release its latest quarterly results. The key to making smart investment decisions on stocks reporting earnings is to anticipate how they'll do before they announce results, leaving you fully prepared to respond quickly to whatever inevitable surprises arise. That way, you'll be less likely to make an uninformed knee-jerk reaction to news that turns out to be exactly the wrong move.

Halliburton has thrived in the U.S. energy boom, but weak energy prices have raised questions about whether production activity will decline and cause a drop in demand for oil services. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Halliburton over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its quarterly report.

Stats on Halliburton

Hot Oil Service Companies To Invest In 2014: Wynn Resorts Limited(WYNN)

Wynn Resorts, Limited, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the development, ownership, and operation of destination casino resorts. The company owns and operates Wynn Las Vegas casino resort in Las Vegas, which includes approximately 22 food and beverage outlets comprising 5 dining restaurants; 2 nightclubs; 1 spa and salon; 1 Ferrari and Maserati automobile dealership; wedding chapels; an 18-hole golf course; meeting space; and foot retail promenade featuring boutiques. Wynn Las Vegas casino resort also features approximately 147 table games, 1 baccarat salon, private VIP gaming rooms, 1 poker room, 1,842 slot machines, and 1 race and sports book. It also owns and operates an Encore at Wynn Las Vegas resort, a destination casino resort located adjacent to Wynn Las Vegas that features a 2,034 all-suite hotel, as well as a casino with 95 table games, 1 sky casino, 1 baccarat salon, private VIP gaming rooms, and 778 slot machines. In addition, the company operates Wyn n Macau casino resort located in the Macau Special Administrative Region of the People?s Republic of China. Wynn Macau casino resort features approximately 595 hotel rooms and suites, 410 table games, 935 slot machines, 1 poker room, 1 sky casino, 6 restaurants, 1 spa and salon, lounges, meeting facilities, and retail space featuring boutiques. Further, it operates Encore at Wynn Macau resort located adjacent to Wynn Macau. Encore at Wynn Macau resort features approximately 410 luxury suites and 4 villas, as well as casino gaming space, including a sky casino consisting of 60 table games and 80 slot machines, 2 restaurants, 1 luxury spa, and retail space. The company was founded in 2002 and is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Jeanine Poggi]

    Wynn Resorts'(WYNN) run up of more than 55% this year has caused Wall Street to question its valuation.

    Currently, eight analysts have a buy rating on Wynn, 16 say hold, two rate it underperform rating and one says to sell the stock.

    "With little on the growth horizon in the intermediate term, new competition from Cotai coming in 2011 and 2012 ... and the unclear timing of a true recovery in Las Vegas, we see few catalysts not yet priced-in to pull valuation higher than current levels," Bain wrote in a note following its third-quarter earnings report.

    During the quarter, Wynn lost $33.5 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with a profit of $34.2 million, or 28 cents, in the year-ago period. The loss was attributed to charges related to servicing its debt. On an adjusted basis, Wynn actually earned 39 cents, matching Wall Street's outlook.

    Total Revenue grew to $1 billion from $773.1 million, better than the $990.8 million analysts predicted.

    In Macau, Wynn reported a 50% surge in revenue to $671.4 million, while EBITDA was $198 million, up 54.5% from $128.2 million in the third quarter of 2009. Earlier in the year the company opened its $600 million Wynn Encore Macau, which added 414 rooms to the market.

    Looking ahead, Wynn expects to break ground on its Cotai development in early 2011. The $2 billion to $3 billion project is slated to open in 2015, and management said it would provide additional details following its fourth-quarter earnings report.

    In Las Vegas, CEO Steve Wynn says the Strip is on the road to recovery. "I believe we have seen the bottom in Las Vegas," he said during the company's third-quarter conference call. "I don't know how fast it is going to get better but it isn't going to get any worse."

    Las Vegas revenue inched up 3.1% to $334.5 million during the three-month period, and EBITDA grew 9.3% to $76.5 million.

    Wynn also issued a cash dividend of $8 a share payable on Dec. 7 to sharehold! ers of record on Nov. 23.

Hot Oil Service Companies To Invest In 2014: Sims Metal Management Limited(SMS)

Sims Metal Management Limited operates in the metal recycling industry. The company engages in ferrous secondary recycling, non-ferrous secondary recycling, secondary processing, and recycling solutions businesses. Its ferrous secondary recycling activities comprise the collection, processing, and trading of iron and steel secondary raw material; non-ferrous secondary recycling activities consists of the collection, processing, and trading of other metal alloys and residues, principally aluminum, lead, copper, zinc, and nickel bearing materials; and secondary processing activities include the melting, refining, and ingoting of certain non-ferrous metals; and the reclamation and reprocessing of plastics. The company also provides recycling solutions, such as the provision of environmentally responsible solutions for the disposal of post-consumer electronic products comprising information technology assets recycled for commercial customers. Its recycling solutions include ne gative value materials, such as refrigerators, and electrical and electronic equipment. It operates primarily in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Croatia. The company was formerly known as Sims Group Limited and changed its name to Sims Metal Management Limited in November 2008. Sims Metal Management Limited was incorporated in 2005 and is headquartered in New York, New York.

Hot Quality Companies For 2014: Hansa Resources Limited(HRL.V)

Hansa Resources Limited does not have significant operations. The company intends to identify, negotiate, and acquire other mining property interests or other business. Previously, it engaged in the acquisition, exploration, and development of base and precious metals in Sweden. The company was formerly known as First Fortune Investments Inc. and changed its name to Hansa Resources Limited in August 2007. Hansa Resources was incorporated in 1989 and is based in Vancouver, Canada.

CBO Estimates 2013 Deficit at $642 Billion

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The budget deficit for the current year is projected to come in well below what was estimated just a few months ago, according to a government study released Tuesday.

The Congressional Budget Office cites higher tax revenues and better-than-expected bailout repayments by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as the key reasons for the improved outlook. The budget office now predicts a 2013 budget deficit of $642 billion, more than $200 billion below its February estimate. This year's shortfall would register at 4 percent of the economy, far less than the 10.1 percent experienced in 2009 when the government ran a record $1.4 trillion deficit.

Last year's deficit was $1.1 trillion, capping four consecutive trillion dollar-plus deficits during President Barack Obama's first term. Obama inherited an economy in recession, which stunted tax revenues for several years.

The deficit picture is expected to continue to improve next year and beyond, with the 2015 deficit now projected at $378 billion, just 2.1 percent of the economy. All told, the budget office predicts deficits over the coming decade of $6.3 trillion, down $522 billion from earlier projections.

The CBO report comes as Washington has again hit budget gridlock after enacting a $600 billion-plus tax increase on upper-bracket earners in January. The report could sap momentum from further deficit-cutting efforts since the shortage will fall below 3 percent of the economy for several years, levels considered by many economists to be sustainable.

The improved budget picture also means that the deadline for increasing the government's borrowing cap has been postponed until October or November. It had been expected that lawmakers would have had to act this summer to increase the so-called debt limit.

One of the reasons for the burst of additional income tax revenues, the budget office says, is that upper-income taxpayers claimed more income late last year in order to avoid paying the higher tax rates enacted in January.

The agency predicts that publicly held U.S. debt, currently estimated at 75 percent of gross domestic product, will shrink to 71 percent of gross domestic product over 2017-2019 before inching up again at decade's end. As recently as 2007, the budget office notes, federal debt was just 36 percent of GDP.

"Such high and rising debt later in the coming decade would have serious negative consequences," CBO says in the report, citing long-standing arguments that high deficits and debt reduce national saving and investment and increases the risk of a full-blown fiscal crisis.

One of the reasons for lower deficits is that gridlock in Washington has meant that mandatory, across-the-board cuts have begun to take effect. The cuts are expected to curb spending by about $80 billion in the 2013 budget year ending Sept. 30.

CBO is the nonpartisan agency that does economic and budget analysis for Congress.

Two Botched Leveraged Buyouts and the First Modern Philanthropist

On this day in economic and business history...

The leveraged-buyout industry (also known as private equity) gained a particular notoriety during the 2012 presidential campaign. However, the history of that industry is not particularly lengthy. In fact, it begins right around the time that losing candidate Mitt Romney began his career at Bain Capital. The very first time a leveraged buyout took a major public company private was on May 14, 1979, when Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (NYSE: KKR  ) paid $355 million for struggling manufacturer Houdaille Industries.

The deal, $300 million of which was debt-financed by multiple banking and insurance companies, took nearly a year to put together and firmly established KKR as an investment fund to follow. Ultimately, KKR kicked in a microscopic $1 million toward the buyout. Houdaille shareholders, who held $15 shares before the offer, walked away with $40 per share -- more than anyone reasonably expected to get for a weak manufacturing concern at the tail end of the stagflation-addled '70s. KKR promised a "pot of gold" for investors on a proposed 1984 public offering, but economic forces would not be kind to Houdaille.

Max Holland, writing for Washington Decoded decades later, laid bare the details behind this unprecedented buyout and the glaring flaws it revealed years later:

Wall Street immediately recognized that the financial rules were no longer the same. "The public documents on that deal were grabbed up by every firm on Wall Street," one buyout artist, Frank Richardson, recalled several years later. "We all said, 'Holy mackerel, look at this!'" ...

Normally ... a corporation the size of Houdaille has a comfortable cushion -- its own equity -- to fall back on. It can suspend dividend payments if need be, or borrow against its equity if new investment is needed. But a leveraged company has only one option: service the debt, even if it means breaking up the company.

The unexpected came in the form of a recession and foreign competition. Nothing like the deep 1981-1982 recession had been forecast when Houdaille underwent its LBO in 1979. As if that wasn't enough, seemingly overnight Houdaille was also facing the specter of fierce competition in a business segment that was supposed to be a safe niche: machine tools. The Japanese were making startling inroads into the American market, long the almost exclusive preserve of U.S. builders like Houdaille.

The market conditions of 1979 offered a rare bright spot in over a decade of weak market returns, but there were many headwinds against the deal's success. The grinding early-'80s recession was worse from an inflation-adjusted viewpoint, as it occurred during Fed Chairman Paul Volcker's efforts to counteract high levels of inflation. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) fell to its final low point in a decade-plus secular bear market that had given investors negative real returns since the late 1960s. As Holland notes, Japanese competition would also threaten American manufacturing in many industries beyond Houdaille's niche.

Houdaille was gone from the American corporate landscape by 1987. This did not slow the leveraged-buyout industry down; indeed, its greatest triumphs occurred after Houdaille vanished. KKR wasn't set back much by Houdaille's failure, and it has remained on the leveraged-buyout vanguard ever since, completing a record-setting buyout of RJR Nabisco in 1989. More recently, KKR joined forces with other private-equity firms to complete a $45 billion buyout of Texan utility TXU. This deal, unfortunately, now more closely resembles KKR's early failure. The renamed utility is drowning under $52 billion in debt, and the failed bet on high natural-gas prices has meant that KKR and its compatriots may eventually have to write off the deal at a significant loss.

The foundation of modern philanthropy
John D. Rockefeller and his son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., established the nonprofit Rockefeller Foundation on May 14, 1913. With an initial contribution of $35 million and another $65 million added the following year, the Rockefeller Foundation immediately leapt to the fore of American charitable organizations, which it in fact helped to pioneer -- only the nonprofit Carnegie Corporation is older. Guided by "Junior" during its early years, the foundation soon established a model of charitable giving that has since been emulated by many of the world's wealthiest people, incorporating its wealthy founders' goals into a broader, results-driven approach learned from the business world. Its guiding mission, "to promote the well-being of mankind throughout the world," was channeled primarily into education and health initiatives -- similar to the philanthropic efforts of that latter-day Rockefeller, Bill Gates.

The Rockefeller Foundation had its glaring flaws, most notably in its support of German eugenics programs leading up to World War II. This stain on the Foundation's integrity didn't stop it from pursuing nobler goals after the depth of Nazi depravity was revealed, and today the Foundation remains one of the most influential nongovernmental organizations in the world, with a multibillion-dollar war chest and a century of experience to draw on.

Are you cured yet?
The first known vaccination took place on May 14, 1796, when English physician Edward Jenner used fluid from a cowpox-infected cow's udder (ew, gross) to purposely infect an 8-year-old boy. Luckily for Jenner, people then were far less likely to sue for medical malpractice, and he was able to test a smallpox sample on the boy several weeks later. When no smallpox developed, Jenner knew that he had successfully vaccinated his subject against the terrible disease.

Today, most major pharmaceutical companies have large vaccine-manufacturing operations. Thanks to this capacity, several diseases (including smallpox) have been virtually eradicated, and vaccination rates for formerly dangerous communicable ailments approach or exceed 90% in many parts of the world. Vaccination has been one of the great drivers of life-expectancy gain in the centuries following Jenner's discovery, and although medical science is far from curing everything, we're a lot closer to a disease-free humanity than we were when infected udders were the best way to stave off sickness.

Apple v. Apple
John, Paul, George, and Ringo of the Beatles founded Apple Corps on May 14, 1968. At the height of their "more-popular-than-Jesus" global music dominance, the Beatles had the enviable problem of simply making too much darn money. Individually, the Beatles would be taxed out the "Hey Jude" by the British government. Collectively, as business owners, they could save enough money to buy Abbey Road, and then some.

However, the Beatles were far better musicians than businessmen. Subsidiaries to make electronics, produce films, and sell retail products were all terrible failures, and outside of the Beatles catalogue (later bought by Michael Jackson), there wasn't much that anyone wanted to buy. Apple Corps eventually became known primarily as the launchpad for numerous lawsuits, many of which were aimed squarely at Steve Jobs' Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) .

Apple v. Apple is now legal shorthand for a long-running series of lawsuits between the two parties, beginning in Apple's (the computer maker) second year of existence and plodding on until 2007. For a while, this meant that Beatlemania never came to iTunes, but after a final agreement in the year of the iPhone's debut, the two parties patched things up over a reported $100 million settlement from the big Apple to the smaller, British Apple.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on reasons both to buy and to sell Apple, as well as what opportunities remain for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thoughts on Apple, simply click here now.

U.S. Stocks Climb for Third Week Amid Earnings, Stimulus

U.S. stocks climbed for a third week, pushing benchmark indexes to record levels, as companies from Walt Disney Co. to DirecTV beat earnings estimates and central banks worldwide stepped up monetary stimulus to boost growth.

Disney and DirecTV rallied at least 3.7 percent, pacing gains among consumer stocks. Whole Foods Market Inc. and Electronic Arts (EA) Inc. jumped more than 10 percent on better-than-expected profit forecasts. Bank of America Corp. advanced 6.4 percent after settling a five-year legal battle with MBIA Inc. (MBI) over soured mortgage debt. McDonald's Corp. slipped 2.6 percent as sales dropped in April amid slowing demand in Asia.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index (SPX) rose 1.2 percent to 1,633.70 over the five days, extending its 2013 gain to 15 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced 144.53 points, or 1 percent, to 15,118.49. Both indexes reached record highs on the final day of the week, after the Dow closed above 15,000 for the first time on May 7.

"Yes, we are at record highs, but if you take into consideration where earnings are, we are pretty fairly valued," Greg Peterson, director of investment research at Ballentine Partners LLC in Waltham, Massachusetts, which manages about $4 billion in assets, said by phone. "Interest rates are incredibly low around the world. If anything that would give us a pause, how will that unwind?"

Global equities advanced for the week as central banks from Australia and South Korea lowered their benchmark interest rates, joining a wave of monetary easing spanning from the U.S. to Europe. The S&P 500 posted its only loss of the week on May 9 after Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia President Charles Plosser said he favors scaling back the central bank's pace of stimulus.

Stimulus Policy

The Fed is currently buying $85 billion of debt each month and central bank officials have been debating whether to expand or curb the program. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has pledged to hold the target interest rate near zero as long as unemployment remains above 6.5 percent and the outlook for inflation doesn't exceed 2.5 percent.

Three rounds of monetary stimulus from the Fed and better-than-expected corporate earnings have propelled the bull market in U.S. equities to a fifth year and driven the S&P 500 up 141 percent from a 12-year low in 2009.

Equities also gained during the week as earnings topped forecasts. About 72 percent of the 452 S&P 500 companies that have released results since the start of the earnings season have exceeded profit projections, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Analysts forecast earnings will grow 6.8 percent this year to a record $108.80 a share.

Expensive Levels

The S&P 500 is valued at 16 times reported profits, approaching the most expensive levels in almost three years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The multiple was 17.5 at the previous market peak in October 2007.

"We still see reasonable equity valuations," Brian Peery, who helps oversee about $3.5 billion for Novato, California-based Hennessy Funds, said by phone. "There is probably a pretty good amount being left in the market. People are waiting for a potential dip to increase their equity exposure."

Eight out of 10 S&P 500 groups gained for the week as industrial, consumer-discretionary and financial shares climbed the most, rising at least 1.9 percent. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, or VIX, fell 2 percent to 12.59, extending the equity volatility gauge's loss for the year to 30 percent.

Theme Parks

Disney climbed 3.7 percent to an all-time high of $67.20. The world's largest entertainment company said fiscal second-quarter profit rose 32 percent as guests splurged at theme parks in California and Florida.

DirecTV (DTV) surged 10 percent to a record $63.80. The largest U.S. satellite-television provider reported profit that topped estimates, bolstered by Latin American subscriber growth.

Whole Foods jumped 10 percent to $100.89. The largest natural-goods grocer in the U.S. boosted its forecast for earnings this year after sales at established locations increased and second-quarter profit climbed 20 percent. Whole Foods, which plans to triple its U.S. store count to about 1,000, has lured Americans who are becoming more concerned with eating organic and healthy foods.

'Star Wars'

Electronic Arts rallied 25 percent, the most in the S&P 500, to $22.48. The No. 2 U.S. video-game maker forecast annual profit that exceeded analysts' estimates as the company is cutting jobs and reducing expenses to cushion against a potentially rocky transition to new consoles. Electronic Arts also reached a multiyear agreement with Disney to create games based on "Star Wars" characters after Disney said it would stop making them itself.

Bank of America gained 6.4 percent to $13.02 while MBIA soared 57 percent to $15.42. The companies agreed to a deal in which the lender will pay MBIA the equivalent of $1.7 billion and give Bank of America a 5 percent stake in the bond insurer. S&P raised MBIA's debt rating to investment grade for the first time in four years following the agreement.

McDonald's (MCD) declined 2.6 percent to $100.20 for the worst retreat in the Dow. The world's biggest restaurant chain said sales at stores open at least 13 months fell 0.6 percent in April as growth slowed in its Asia-Pacific region. Analysts estimated a 0.5 percent drop, the average of estimates from Consensus Metrix.

Restaurant chains have been facing increasing consumer scrutiny in China following an outbreak of bird flu and also after a former poultry supplier to Yum! Brands Inc. was investigated for selling chicken with excessive levels of antibiotics.

Utility shares fell the most among 10 groups in the S&P 500, erasing 2.7 percent. AES Corp. dropped 3.7 percent to $13.31 after reporting first-quarter earnings that missed analysts' estimates. AES sees earnings little changed or declining through 2015 in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where it has about 8,200 megawatts of generation, according to an investor presentation.

What This Top Dividend Portfolio Is Holding Now

LONDON -- Temple Bar Investment Trust  (LSE: TMPL  ) has a record of 29 years of unbroken dividend growth. The trust lifted its dividend by 4% in 2012 and, at a current share price of 1,132 pence, the trailing yield is 3.2%.

Picking great dividend shares has helped Temple Bar outperform the FTSE All-Share Index over the past three, five and 10 years.

Let's take a look at Temple Bar's current top three holdings: GlaxoSmithKline  (LSE: GSK  ) , HSBC Holdings  (LSE: HSBA  ) , and Vodafone  (LSE: VOD  ) (NASDAQ: VOD  ) .

Top Footsie pharmaceuticals firm GlaxoSmithKline released encouraging first-quarter results last week. The drugs, vaccines, and consumer health care giant reported continuing progress on core sales, restructuring efficiencies and its drugs pipeline.

The company said it expects turnover growth of 1% (at constant exchange rates) for 2013 and core earnings per share (EPS) to rise 3%-4%. City experts reckon EPS growth will accelerate to 8% the following year.

Having lifted its 2012 full-year dividend by 5.7%, GSK announced a 5.9% rise for the 2013 first-quarter payout. Analysts are forecasting dividend growth to continue at around this pace for both the current full year and 2014. The shares, trading at 1,656 pence, offer a prospective income of 4.7% for investors buying today.

Banking behemoth HSBC offers the best geographical diversification and highest dividend yield of the FTSE 100's five banks.

The company said within its last annual results that it had made a good start to the new year, and that the board intends to raise the first three interim dividends for 2013 by 11%. Further ahead, analysts have pencilled in the same rate of growth for both EPS and the dividend in 2014.

HSBC's shares are currently trading at 704 pence, and City expectations for the 2013 full-year dividend give a prospective income of 4.7% for investors today.

Global telecoms giant Vodafone has been much in the news of late. Talk of a mammoth bid for the company's 40% stake in U.S. firm Verizon Wireless has been rife -- as has speculation of what Vodafone might do with the proceeds if the deal materialized.

Vodafone's annual ordinary dividend growth has been running at 7% for the last three years. Expectations are for a rise of the same order for the year ended March 2013 when the company announces its final results later this month. At a current share price of 194 pence, the stock offers an income of 5.3%.

At one time it looked as if Vodafone might pay shareholders additional special dividends on a regular basis as a result of dividend distributions by Verizon Wireless. However, Vodafone had disappointed income investors on that score even before the speculation about the future of Verizon Wireless came to the boil. Still, a 5.3% income from the ordinary dividend will punch the buttons of many investors.

Happy retirement!
If you already have GSK, HSBC, and Vodafone tucked away in your portfolio and are in the market for more blue chip dividend dynamos, I recommend you help yourself to the very latest free Motley Fool report.

The Fool's top analysts have identified five companies they believe will generate superior long-term growth in dividends and capital. Such is their conviction about the quality of these businesses that they've called the report "5 Shares to Retire On."

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