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A drop of 19 basis points would have been bad -- but 190? It's a reminder that you would rather be producing commodities than consuming them right now.
Anyone who has listened to conference calls so far this quarter has to be struck by the total relentlessness of the analysts when it comes to gross margins -- to the point where some analysts are openly questioning the success of projects if the gross margins aren't good enough.
Which is why I blanched when I saw the gross-margin numbers from Procter & Gamble (PG) this morning, a decline of 190 basis points.
Hey, 19 basis points would be bad. But 190!?!
Now, that's a negative!
The company is so well run that it was still able to deliver the numbers. Procter & Gamble is much better than it used to be. This margin contraction is truly ugly, however, and it is a reminder that you would rather be producing commodities than consuming them.
Boeing shares slid today after a grim earnings report. The drop is one more chance to get into the stock.
Some Chinese small-caps got on to U.S. exchanges through loopholes -- and investors need to be extra careful with them.
James Surowiecki of The New Yorker makes a strong case against jumping into the hundreds of small-cap Chinese stocks that trade on U.S. exchanges. "While some of these firms are indeed thriving enterprises, more than a few seem to be specialists in a less savory business: ripping off investors," he writes.
He lists two stocks that have burned investors. The once-hot Fuqi (FUQI), a jewelry maker that said last year it had overstated earnings for the first three quarters of 2009. The company still hasn't filed a new earnings statement, Surowiecki reports. Fuqi now trades at about $5.30, down from $32 in September 2009.
The retailer walks away from building a supercenter near a Virginia battleground dear to preservationists' hearts.
After fighting historians for two years on the issue, Wal-Mart (WMT) has suddenly dropped plans to build a store near the Virginia battlefield where Robert E. Lee first met Ulysses S. Grant in 1864, The Associated Press reports.
The store wasn't intended for the actual heart of the battlefield -- that's inside a protected national park -- but it was nearby. Wal-Mart said the area already had retail locations and was zoned for commercial use. The county board of supervisors approved Wal-Mart's permit for the 50-acre property in 2009.
Analysts expect 11 million Verizon iPhones will be sold this year, which will be a boon to mobile application developers.
By Olivia Oran, TheStreet
New Verizon iPhone users -- and the subsequent launch of iPhones on other CDMA-based carriers -- could help expand Apple's App Store next year by $1 billion, according to research firm IDC. The App Store is estimated to reach sales of $6 billion, up from $2.8 billion last year.
"We think there will be a feeding frenzy with the Verizon iPhone of tons of people downloading apps like crazy," said Sam Altman, the founder and CEO of Loopt, a Mountain View, Calif., location-based social game. "It's going to be a land grab."
With more iPhones in the market, some app developers may choose to focus more aggressively on building games for the iOS platform, even if they continue writing apps for Google's (GOOG) Android software.
And unlike Android, for which developers must ensure their app works on a variety of different handsets, the iPhone runs on only one device, which makes building programs simpler.
Yes, the economy is improving, Nouriel Roubini says. But huge problems still lurk for the US and Europe.
Noted economist Nouriel Roubini -- known for his gloomy predictions of financial upheaval -- actually admitted a global economic recovery is taking place. "Balance sheets are strong, confidence is rising," he said today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Fantastic -- we're back on track! Well, not so fast. If you follow Roubini, you know there's a "but" lurking in there somewhere. And here it is: But the possibility of a double-dip recession is still very real, he added.
Check out this video report for more news from Davos
This utility is off the grid when it comes to juicy payouts.
Is there such a thing as a low-risk, high dividend yield? If there is, National Grid could be it. My Foolish colleague Jim Royal makes the electrifying case.
Rex Moore, Motley Fool Top Stocks editor
Do you like a fat dividend? What about a growing dividend? And a company with a legalized monopoly that can keep those fat payouts climbing? Then I think you're going to love this outstanding stock, which I've been buying for my own portfolio in the past few months.
OK, I'm not buying it as of this minute, because of the Fool's disclosure rules, but as soon as the Fool's rules permit, I will be scooping up more. That stock is National Grid (NGG). There's a lot to like about this regulated utility, and it can make a great investment in times of uncertainty such as we have today.
With last night's bullish, business-friendly speech about innovation and global competitiveness, the president paved the way for market growth.
"And in conclusion, I think the Dow ($INDU) should blow right through 12,000 on its way to 14,000, the S&P 500 ($INX) is meaningfully undervalued, and I would take advantage of the decline in materials stocks to pick up some terrific values, values so great that I am sure people on both sides of the aisle would embrace them."
There. Is that how you want President Barack Obama to be? Is that what you think he should have said last night?
I watched the State of the Union speech with one eye on Twitter, seeking instant reaction from people about what they thought. The comments ranged from being humorous, or actually un-humorous, to wiseacre skepticism or even deeper cynicism.
That's not how I felt. Strictly using the prism that people have come to expect from me -- the stock prism -- I thought it was terrific, just terrific, compared with (1) what I expected and (2) what I would have expected a year or two ago.
The president has proposed a five-year freeze on non-defense discretionary spending. Here are the stocks that will be hit hard.
In tonight's State of the Union address, President Obama is set to endorse a five-year freeze in spending in response to calls for fiscal consolidation by the newly empowered Republicans in the House of Representatives. This is likely to be the first step in a bargaining process with the Republicans over the raising of the national debt ceiling -- without which the country could default on its debt since it would be prohibited from additional borrowing to pay existing obligations.
The cuts amount to savings of around $26 billion over five years. For their part, the Republicans are pushing for cuts of $100 billion this year alone. Moreover, the president is pushing for a five-year plan by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that would cut $78 billion in military spending.
Clearly, the fiscal largesse of the last few years -- the bailouts, the stimulus packages, the support of the housing market -- is coming to an end. Here's a look at the stocks most vulnerable to spending cuts in Washington.
The company now claims a 45% share of the Chinese auto seating market.
Johnson Controls illustrates to me the importance of looking at where a company’s growth, revenue, and earnings are coming from in terms of geography and industry.
The fiscal first quarter of 2011, the one the company just reported, is typically a seasonally weak quarter -- which is what makes the results so positive. The company reported record net sales for the quarter of $9.5 billion, up 13% from the fiscal first quarter of 2010. Earnings of 55 cents a share beat the Wall Street consensus by a penny.
The Black Eyed Peas singer has signed on as the company's director of creative innovation. What exactly does that mean?
The company says that Will.i.am has signed a multiyear contract to serve as its new director of creative innovation. What that means is, well, kind of unclear. Maybe Intel just wanted to have an employee sing in the Super Bowl's halftime show.
Will.i.am, whose real name is William James Adams Jr., will contribute music, which is pretty much a given. He will also help develop laptops, tablets and other devices, Intel said, adding that his job will include "hands-on creative and technology collaboration."
We may have the beginnings of a trend here of high-profile musicians taking largely symbolic jobs at major companies. Lady Gaga signed on as the creative director for Polaroid, and last month unveiled new instant cameras, a tiny photo printer and a pair of chunky sunglasses with a camera inside.
The CBOE Volatility Index jumps as traders scramble to protect against a market selloff.
It's been a quiet couple of months for stocks as the major averages grind higher. In fact, the S&P 500 hasn't closed below its 50-day moving average since September 1. That's 99 trading days and represents the longest consecutive rally since early 2007.
But as I mentioned in my last blog post, there was evidence of trouble brewing. The smallest, riskiest, and most sensitive stocks in the market recently started to badly lag their larger brethren. Big disparities in the performance of small cap stocks vs. the mega cap stocks are frequently seen at turning points.
Things are playing out according to plan as stocks move lower today. As a result, investors are scrambling to protect their positions against continued declines by snapping up equity put options. That's pushing up the CBOE Volatility Index ($VIX), commonly known as Wall Street's "fear gauge" to levels not seen since November. The VIX has now moved over its 50-day moving average, a level that tends to coincide with significant market pullbacks.
For a limited time, new users will get unlimited data for $30 a month.
Verizon (VZ) just made itself a very attractive alternative for iPhone users who want to ditch AT&T. Verizon is going to start selling the iPhone on Feb. 10 and said today that it will offer a $30 monthly unlimited-data plan.
Nothing lights up an iPhone user's eyes like the words "unlimited data." AT&T ended its unlimited data plans for phones last year, choosing instead to offer two monthly plans capped at 200 megabytes (for $15) and 2 gigabytes (for $25). That left many iPhone users -- heavy data hogs -- worried about staying under their monthly allocations.
AT&T didn't have much to worry about at the time, since it was the exclusive iPhone carrier for Apple (AAPL) in the U.S. But that's all changed now, and the unlimited-data plan just became a huge weapon in Verizon's arsenal.
Exchange-traded funds offer retail investors access to the currently hot commodity sector. However, not all of these funds are created equal.
By Daniel Dicker, TheStreet
With commodities flying high, everyone is looking for the best way to get in on these fast-gaining assets.
There are many different ways to try to capture the seemingly daily gains in oil, copper, coffee, cotton and corn -- but like other investments, each kind of commodity play has its own pluses and minuses.
Let's look at what is probably the most accessible vehicle for the retail investor -- commodity exchange-traded funds -- and lay out the best ideas and avoid the ones that can sink your portfolio and your wallet.
The restaurant chain, famous for both chicken wings and cleavage, has been bought out by a consortium of private investors.
By Miriam Marcus Reimer, TheStreet
Hooters of America said it has been bought out by a consortium of private investors, including Chanticleer Holdings (CCLR).
The group of private investors simultaneously acquired Dallas-based Texas Wings, Hooters' largest franchisee.
"I am so extremely proud of what my father and our team here have built," said Coby Brooks, the CEO of Hooters since 2003 and the son of the late founder. "And I am even more excited about our next phase of growth following this transaction."
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Producers stand to benefit as farmers make up lost ground in corn fields.
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April existing home sales hit an annualized rate of 4.97 million units, which was weaker than the rate of 4.98 million units that had been generally expected by the Briefing.com consensus. The pace for April was up from the prior month's revised rate of 4.94 million units. Nasdaq +15.34 at 3517.46... NYSE Adv/Dec 1730/995... Nasdaq Adv/Dec 1292/886.
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