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The official corporate tax rate is 35%, but savvy companies know how to exploit loopholes to reduce that.

By Kim Peterson Feb 2, 2011 4:20PM
Image: Taxes (© Thinkstock/SuperStock)The corporate tax rate in the United States is a ridiculously high 35% -- so high, in fact, that companies spend a lot of money and time figuring out loopholes to avoid it.

And some of them are very good at it. Cruise-ship line Carnival (CCL) pays only 1.1% in taxes of its $11 billion in profits -- and that includes federal, state, local and foreign taxes, The New York Times reports.

About 39 companies in the S&P 500 index have been able to bring their rates down to under 10%. All the loopholes being exploited mean that the government gets less money from taxes than it once did, David Leonhardt reports. "Arguably, the United States now has a corporate tax code that’s the worst of all worlds," he writes.

Boeing (BA) pays just 4.5% in taxes, the Times reports. Southwest Airlines (LUV) pays 6.3%, Yahoo (YHOO) pays 7% and General Electric (GE) pays 14.3%. 

With Cairo's stock market closed and the manager putting a 'fair value' on constituent shares of this fund, it's hard to tell.

By InvestorPlace Feb 2, 2011 3:04PM

By Jeff Reeves, editor of InvestorPlace.com


While there's volatility in the streets of Egypt, there's also a lot of volatility in a prominent Egypt-focused ETF fund.


Specifically, the Market Vectors Egypt Index fund (EGPT) has been whipsawed by events, losing or gaining significant amounts in recent trading session.


So what's the verdict on EGPT today? Is it a good buy or a risky gamble?

 

Existing customers get a crack at the phone a week before everybody else.

By Kim Peterson Feb 2, 2011 2:14PM
Steve Jobs (©Paul Sakuma/AP)Verizon (VZ) says its customers can order the iPhone 4 starting at 3 a.m. ET on Thursday, marking the official end to AT&T's (T) exclusive reign over the popular device. Everyone who isn't a Verizon customer will have to wait until Feb. 9, one day before the phones become available at Verizon stores.

Verizon has given the phone the same pricing as AT&T: $199 for a phone with 16 gigabytes of storage and $299 for one with 32 gigabytes.

Here are the details of Verizon's monthly plan: $40 for basic voice service with 450 minutes, or $60 for voice and unlimited text messages. A separate plan offering unlimited data (e-mail and Web) costs $30.

Finally, the ability to use the phone as a Wi-Fi hot spot will cost $20 a month. That means the phone will be able to provide a Wi-Fi signal for up to five devices at once. 

The stock market is pricing the grocer for disaster, but the debt market disagrees.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Feb 2, 2011 12:39PM

The lower-case challenged SUPERVALU is an in-process case study of what happens when the stock jocks and the debt devotees are at odds. Jim Mueller is inclined to listen to the latter.

 

Rex Moore, Motley Fool Top Stocks editor 

 

When SUPERVALU (SVU) first showed up on the radar for my Messed-Up Expectations portfolio, my first reaction was, "Run away!" At $8.33 per share, the market was pricing in big declines in free cash flow over the next several years -- more than 20% per year for the next five years.

 

That screamed "Trouble!" in a very loud voice. The market is expecting the company to fail.

 

These funds can capitalize on rising crop prices and recognizable names in the industry.

By TheStreet Staff Feb 2, 2011 12:14PM

TheStreetImage: Combines in field (© Mark Karrass/Corbis/Corbis)By Don Dion, TheStreet

 

The agriculture industry has been the talk of Wall Street for months as crop prices ascend to sky-high levels, leading investors and consumers to revisit memories of the food cost-fueled global unrest that stole headlines in 2008.

 

Prices for a number of popular crops are on the verge of touching records. However, the current rally doesn't appear to show signs of cooling in coming weeks. On the contrary, with developed markets on their respective paths to recovery and emerging markets continuing along their breakneck growth trajectories, few factors appear to stand in the way of the food industry's demand picture.

 

Combined with persistent reports of supply issues facing top producers, this situation appears to signal that crop prices and the farming industry as a whole could hold onto these gains as we head further into 2011.

 

Each episode of 'Two and a Half Men' brings millions of dollars to all parties involved, making the show's hiatus a costly setback.

By Kim Peterson Feb 2, 2011 11:52AM
Credit: (© Ed Andrieski/AP)
Caption: Charlie SheenCharlie Sheen is in rehab, throwing the entire season of television's top-rated comedy into chaos. Only two episodes of "Two and a Half Men" are in the can, leaving the remaining eight in question.

And that spells trouble for CBS Corp. (CBS), which can regularly count on 15 million viewers for an episode of the show, The Associated Press reports. The show is so popular that even its reruns get more viewers than other comedies' first-run episodes.

"Two and a Half Men" brings major revenue to all parties involved. Sheen gets nearly $2 million per episode. The show's producer, Warner Bros. Television, gets a $4 million payment from CBS for each episode. And CBS more than makes up for that money by selling ads to accompany the show. 

Is it the just reward for hardworking traders -- or just a culture of greed back in full swing?

By InvestorPlace Feb 2, 2011 11:19AM

Image: CEO holding cash (© Rubberball/Getty Images)By Jeff Reeves, editor of InvestorPlace.com


If you're wondering whether the economic downturn is over on Wall Street, it depends what you mean by "Wall Street."


If you're talking about stocks and investing, the answer is maybe. In 2010, the S&P 500 index was up about 13%, and most people saw a pretty good year for their 401ks and brokerage accounts. Of course, the S&P is still in the red over the past 10 years, but we've started to see equities bounce back. And January 2011 went down as the best for stocks since 1997, so we could be on the way up.


Then there are those folks who work on Wall Street. If you’re asking whether the downturn is over for them, the answer is decidedly yes. In 2010, total compensation and benefits at the big financial firms hit a record $135 billion.


According to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal, the pay, bonuses and benefits at publicly traded banks and trading firms is up 5.7% from $128 billion in 2009. Of course, it's worth noting that revenue at these companies also hit a record, rising to $417 billion.

 

The energy giant's acquisition of XTO, once considered a boneheaded move, is now garnering analyst enthusiasm. Will other oil companies follow the lead?

By Jim Cramer Feb 2, 2011 9:11AM

jimcramerThere are a gazillion reasons Exxon Mobil (XOM) should be going up. It's showing some growth again. It is re-exerting itself as the best, most disciplined integrated oil company. Oil is spiking because of Middle East tension.

But the main reason I like it for the rally is that the analysts actually have cottoned on to the XTO acquisition. Exxon's management got a boatload of questions about it -- in fact it dominated as a topic -- and made you feel like it was a stroke of brilliance -- not the failed overpay that had been the rap, as XTO is natural gas and natural gas was at its peak when Exxon made the purchase.

 

This is a very significant change. Part of the newfound love for Exxon is that the company has got some serious growth -- maybe not earnings but growth -- from this acquisition. To me, that means that others, notably Chevron (CVX), Shell (RDS.A) and Occidental (OXY), are watching, and that means I expect a slew of similar acquisitions now that Exxon is no longer being hectored about it.

 

Precision Castparts is one way into the jet-engine market, and counts Boeing and GE among its customers.

By Jim J. Jubak Feb 1, 2011 4:44PM
Jim JubakLooking for a more low-risk take on market for the next generation of airplanes than Boeing (BA) itself?

May I suggest Precision Castparts (PCP), the low-cost supplier of cast and forged metal parts to Boeing and jet engine makers General Electric, Pratt & Whitney (a division of United Technologies) and Rolls Royce? (Boeing joined Jubak’s Picks on Sept. 30, 2010. For my most recent update on that stock, see my Jan. 26 post.)

Precision Castparts makes precision castings (34% of 2010 sales), forged products (42% of sales) and fastener systems (25% of sales) primarily for the aerospace and power generation markets. Since the parts it makes are critical in these applications, the company’s customers aren’t eager to shop around for new, untested suppliers. General Electric (GE) has been a customer for four decades, according to Standard & Poor’s.
 

Yum Brands, the owner of KFC and Pizza Hut, got into the Chinese market early on and is reaping the rewards of smart business decisions.

By Kim Peterson Feb 1, 2011 4:05PM
Credit: ©Eugene Hoshiko/APKFC is killing McDonald's (MCD) in China, making all the right moves in the world's second-largest economy.

KFC's owner, Yum Brands (YUM), now has a 40% market share in China compared to only 16% for McDonald's, Bloomberg reports. Yum opens a new restaurant every 18 hours. How is the company so successful? By doing a better job of becoming Chinese.

For investors looking for more exposure to China without buying Chinese stocks, Yum is one way in. Yum shares are at $47.66, up 33% from a year ago.

McDonald's focuses on selling the same style burgers that it sells in the U.S. And there's nothing wrong with that; the Chinese have taken to the burger with, er, relish. 

On the eve of the Apple iPhone's much-anticipated debut on Verizon's wireless network, it may not matter that the phone is stale, a new one is coming and not everyone can afford it.

By TheStreet Staff Feb 1, 2011 3:33PM

thestreetBy Scott Moritz, TheStreet

 

At 3 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 3, on the Verizon Wireless (VZ) Web site, the virtual stampede for Apple's (AAPL) CDMA iPhone is set to begin.

 

But on the eve of this long-awaited arrival, naysayers might wonder if the presumed success of the Verizon iPhone may be just a little bit overblown.

 

The answer will come quickly.

 

Based on the first hours of order volume, Verizon and Apple will have a good idea of how demand stacks up to their internal projections and whether they are likely to hit the 11 million iPhone target that analysts forecast and Verizon has adopted.

 

So what could impede Apple on its latest road victory?

 

The political turmoil is touching energy, gold, shipping, defense and commodities.

By TheStreet Staff Feb 1, 2011 2:17PM

Image: Oil derricks (© Comstock/Corbis)By Debra Borchardt, TheStreet

 

"All the trading on Egypt happened last week," said Ben Willis of Sunrise Securities.

 

That may be true for the stock jocks, but the Egyptian crisis is still rippling through the broad market. The Asia is showing the most damage from market fears. Both the Indian BSE Sensex 30 Index and the Philippine SE Index have fallen sharply. Johnson said that for now, the crisis does not look catastrophic, as "Egypt is not that big a part of the global economy."

 

"Geopolitical risk has historically led to temporary market weakness, and that creates an opportunity for buyers," said Jason Pride, the director of investment strategy at Glenmede Wealth Management. The key areas that Egyptian turmoil is affecting are energy, gold, shipping, defense and commodities.

 

South Dakota politicians introduce tongue-in-cheek legislation saying residents would have to buy firearms by mid-2012.

By Kim Peterson Feb 1, 2011 1:32PM
Credit: (©Leander Baerenz/Getty Images)
Caption: Men playing with gunsFive lawmakers in South Dakota are pushing legislation that would require adults in the state to buy a gun starting in 2012.

This is great news for gun makers like Smith & Wesson (SWHC) and Sturm Ruger (RGR), both of which have seen shares fall since early December. The bill doesn't say what kind of gun people would be required to buy. It suggests only that residents look for something "suitable to their temperament, physical capacity, and personal preference."

There's no chance of this proposal actually becoming law. And the politicians who introduced the bill know it. But they're trying to make a point by comparing the bill to . . . federal health care reform?

"Do I or the other cosponsors believe that the State of South Dakota can require citizens to buy firearms? Of course not," one of the bill's sponsors, a Republican from Sioux Falls, told the Argus Leader. "But at the same time, we do not believe the federal government can order every citizen to buy health insurance." 

The artificial hip and knee maker is also selling on the cheap.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Feb 1, 2011 12:32PM

If you need a knee or divine a spine, you and your doctor may soon be looking through the Zimmer catalog for a replacement. Fool analyst Michael Olsen sees this stock benefiting from strong demographic trend and a cheap valuation.

 

Rex Moore, Motley Fool Top Stocks editor

 

I'll be the first to admit: I can't measure the environmental consequence of an acidic raindrop halfway across the world. Likewise, as newspapers blare headlines of unprecedented domestic health care reform, a still jobless recovery muddles on, and record budget deficits plague our nation, I'll be the first to acknowledge that a considerable uncertainty surrounds health care stocks.

 

I can say one thing: At around 13 times free cash flow, Zimmer Holdings (ZMH) -- the dominant purveyor of replacement knees and hips, and one of the widest-moat firms out there -- looks screamingly cheap. It boils down to this: People in this fine country (and the world) are getting older, and body parts fail.

 

Unified payment plans, a special Amazon store and a social app show the iPhone isn't the only gadget in town.

By InvestorPlace Feb 1, 2011 10:22AM
Credit: (© Eric Risberg/AP)
Caption: Droid Incredible cell phoneBy Anthony John Agnello, InvestorPlace.com
   

2010 was a year of big ups and downs for the Android mobile operating system from Google (GOOG). Though the June  release of the iPhone 4 from Apple Inc. (AAPL) stole a lot of Android's thunder, Google execs announced that 300,000 Android devices were being activated each day as of early December.


But Google isn’t resting on its laurels. Android platform manager Eric Chu recently stating he is “not happy” about the sales rate of paid apps in the Android App Market. The company is looking to make apps a priority, and boost revenue as a result.


Here are three major app developments coming to Android in 2011 as part of this push. The app plans have some consumers psyched, some investors curious and some Apple execs a little worried.

 

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[BRIEFING.COM] The Nasdaq Composite (+0.5%) and S&P 500 (+0.2%) posted modest gains on Thursday, but not before enduring a morning dip into the red, which took place in reaction to reports indicating Russia has commenced military exercises on the Ukrainian border.

The news from Europe knocked the key indices from their early highs, while giving a boost to safe-haven assets like gold futures (+0.5% to $1290.80/ozt), Treasuries (10-yr yield -1 bps to 2.69%), and the Japanese yen (102.30 ... More


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