12 More Things Invented by Accident

A while back, we wrote of the many products invented by accident -- a rundown of the mistakes and mishaps that proved fortuitous for inventors.

With thanks to the many readers who wrote in with additional suggestions on this theme, we've expanded our earlier tally with a dozen more examples of how the occasional twist of fate can prove to be a happy accident for consumers and companies:

Ivory Soap
Word association: "soap."

A great many of you would probably blurt out "Ivory" during such a quiz. That classic brand, known by the slogan "the soap that floats," came about thanks to an accident.

The popular telling of the origin has it that a worker for Procter & Gamble(PG) in 1879 make the mistake of leaving one of the industrial blenders running while he went off on his lunch break.

The resulting product looked OK, and the extra air whipped into the bars of soap wasn't immediately noticeable. Afraid he would lose his job, the worker let the shipment roll off the assembly line without calling attention to his error.

The gig was soon up, but in a good way. Company executives were puzzled when customers started writing laudatory letters, praising the new variety of soap that would float in the bath (rather that sinking, hidden beneath the water) and offered a superior alternative to soap on a rope.

Some internal detective work eventually uncovered the worker's brilliant mistake, and that lunchtime error was integrated into the manufacturing process, as it still is today.

Potato chips
A grumpy chef gave birth to one of the world's most popular snack foods.

In 1853, Native American George Crum was working the line at a Saratoga Springs resort when a customer ticked hi! m off by complaining that the french fries he served were too thick.

In a spiteful gesture, the chef made a batch in which the potato pieces were so thin they would be both a sarcastic gesture and -- so he thought -- inedible.

Instead, the crunchy treats drew a rave review and other diners wanted a similar serving. The restaurant's owners, elated by the dining room buzz, added these chips of potato to the menu as a signature dish. As "Saratoga Chips" gained acclaim, Crum parlayed his notoriety into opening his own restaurant.

Within a few years, distributors were marketing the snack in Ohio and throughout New England. National potato chip popularity followed in the 1920s thanks to the efforts of salesman Herman Lay (as in Lay's potato chips) who sold them throughout the South from his car.

The 1926 invention of a chip bag made from wax paper (by potato chip factory owner Laura Scudder) kept the contents fresh enough to make national distribution a reality.

As simple as they may seem, even the icy treat known as the popsicle required an accidental inventor, in this case an 11-year-old boy from San Francisco.

In 1905, the young Frank Epperson was stirring a powdered drink mix when he grew distracted and wandered off, leaving his soda pop creation, mixing stick still dunked, outside on his porch.

Unseasonably cold weather froze the drink overnight, leaving a fruit-flavored ice treat. The "Epsicle," patented years later, was eventually renamed. By 1928 Epperson had pocketed royalties on more than 60 million "popsicles" thanks to a distribution deal with the Joe Lowe Co. of New York.

Since 1989, Good Humor, a subsidiary of Unilever(UL), has owned the rights to officially branded Popsicles.

The discovery that led to this life-sav! ing medi cine for diabetics is not a tale you'll want to read while munching on lunch.

While it took 1923-era Nobel Prize-winning work by a Canadian doctor and professor, Frederick Banting and John MacLeod, to set the stage for insulin's use as a modern pharmaceutical, the catalyst for their work goes back to an accidental discovery by German physicians in 1889.

Joseph von Mering and Oscar Minkowski were studying digestion in a dog and removed its pancreas. As the days proceeded they noticed that, post-excision, the canine's urine was attracting flies.

Curious, they uncovered that the dog urine had an unusually high level of sugar, which in turn was attracting the insects. They concluded that removing the pancreas led to an onset of diabetes and deduced that the organ must be somehow regulating sugar levels. Further research revealed that a pancreas accomplishes that task by releasing insulin.

Mauve, that pretty shade of purple, was actually created during a failed pharmacology experiment.

In 1856, 18-year-old chemist William Henry Perkin of the U.K. was trying to create a medicinal treatment for the mosquito-borne disease malaria.

His attempt to craft an artificial form of quinine didn't go quite as expected. But the residue from an experiment with coal tar led Perkins to an entirely new business venture. The lilac-colored dye he extracted proved well-suited for fabrics, including silk, and sparked a Victorian-era fashion sensation embraced by royalty. It remains popular to this day and set the stage for the many artificial dyes that would go on to be perfected for a wide spectrum of colors.

In Simon Garfield's Mauve: How One Man Invented a Color That Changed the World (W.W. Norton & Co., 2002), Perkins is credited for bringing a needed dose of excitement to the field of organic chemistry that, in turn, led to advancements in medicine, consumer goods (cosmetics and perfume) and i! ndustria l uses (food flavoring, explosives and bleaching agents).

Super Glue
Aptly named, this incredibly sticky adhesive was stumbled upon by Dr. Harry Coover during his time spent on military research.

According to a biography published by MIT's School of Engineering, Coover was part of a team tasked by the government during World War II to create a type of gun sight forged from an experimental form of clear plastic. That project was abandoned because the substances, cyanoacrylates, were ridiculously sticky and would affix itself to any surface they came in contact with, using any layer of moisture to create a tight, unbudging bond. Too difficult to work with, the concept was abandoned.

Later, working at Eastman-Kodak's chemical division, Coover returned to cyanoacrylates for his work on aviation products, impressed by the fact the substance required no heat or pressure to work its adhesive magic. After growing frustrated yet again that everything in his lab kept getting stuck together, inspiration struck. He got a patent for "Alcohol-Catalyzed Cyanoacrylate Adhesive Compositions," better known by the tell-all name "Super Glue."

In 1958, his company began marketing the tube of miracle glue under the brand name Eastman 910.

Beyond fixing shattered tea cups, cyanoacrylates were later used to seal and treat soldiers' wounds during the Vietnam War. The substance, later gaining FDA approval, is also used during surgical procedures.

Fingerprint "fuming"
Super Glue plays a big role in another feat of invention-by-mistake, this time in the use of fingerprinting as a crime-solving technique.

Fingerprinting itself dates back centuries, and scientists as far back as the 17th century were cataloging unique features in geometric skin grooves.

We can't vouch for the authenticity of this often-told or! igin sto ry, but it is said that a cracked fish tank at a Japanese crime lab added a wrinkle to the forensic science of gathering fingerprints: Repairing the tank with Super Glue, made from the cyanoacrylates invented by the aforementioned Dr. Harry Coover, police officers discovered that the glue fumes reacted to the oily fingerprints smudged all over the glass, hardening them into a visible relief. "Super glue fuming" has added yet another tool for crime investigators.

The non-stick coating common on many pots, pans and baking sheets was invented unintentionally by Roy Plunkett of Kinetic Chemicals in 1938.

Plunkett, a chemist, was trying to make a form of refrigerant when he realized that his chemical creation had created a heat-resistant powder that proved to be an incredible lubricant.

In the 1950s, French engineer Marc Gregoire -- prompted by a suggestion from his wife -- created the first Teflon-coated pan.

Verizon Deals with Second Outage This Month

Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) was hit by a data outage on Wednesday, preventing customers from using the carrier’s network.

Customers from different states, including Colorado and Washington, were affected by the outage. For some, the outage began late on Tuesday evening. Customers took to Verizon’s support forums?and Twitter feed?to talk about the situation.

Some 4G users were able to get on the network by switching to CDMA, according to CNET, but many of the 3G users had the problems.

The Verizon phone support line and company spokesperson acknowledged they were aware of the issue.

In an email statement by Verizon,?the company said:

Verizon Wireless 4G LTE service is returning to normal this morning after company engineers worked to resolve an issue with the 4G network during the early morning hours today. Throughout this time, 4G LTE customers were able to make voice calls and send and receive text messages. The 3G data network operated normally.

This outage marks the second one this month for Verizon. On December 6, some customers, primarily 4G users, were affected by irregular outages. Service resumed after a day and a half.

(CRWE, UNTD, RFIL, WILN) Stock Updates by DrStockPick.com

Crown Equity Holdings, Inc. (CRWE)

VoIP has lots of advantages over a regular phone service. However, like any emerging technology, there are still a few kinks in the system. However, as standards are developed it becomes more reliable and achieves greater acceptance. It is inevitable that VoIP will eventually replace traditional phone service - in fact, phone companies are already taking advantage of the technology to offer cheaper long distance rates.

Low cost - One of the main advantages of VoIP is the low cost. If you have a fast Internet connection (DSL or cable) you can make PC-to-PC phone calls anywhere in the world for free. If you wish to make a PC-to-phone connection, however, there’s usually a charge for this but probably much cheaper than your regular phone service.

Crown Equity Holdings Inc. (CRWE) recently announced that it has entered into a joint venture to deploy VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technology delivering voice, video and data services to residential and commercial customers. The joint venture company is Crown Tele Services Inc. which was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Crown Equity Holdings Inc. Crown Equity Holdings Inc. will own fifty percent (50%) interest in the joint venture.

Commenting on the joint venture, Kenneth Bosket, President of Crown Equity Holdings Inc., said: “We are excited to deliver VoIP communications solutions specifically designed to meet the business and residential market needs in this fast-growing global market.”

Crown Equity Holdings Inc’s selection of Core Link reflects recent diversification beyond CRWE’s original charter as a provider of services and knowledge to small business owners taking their own companies public. In addition to these services, Crown Equity Holdings Inc has transitioned into a multifaceted media organization that publishes clients’ news online; sells advertising adjacent with its digital network targeted a! t a high -income audience; designs, hosts and maintains websites; produces marketing videos from concept to final product; crafts press releases and articles for maximum SEO; develops email campaigns; and forges branding campaigns to bolster client company images.

Crown Equity Holdings Inc. together with its digital network currently provides electronic media services specializing in online publishing, which brings together targeted audiences and advertisers. Crown Equity Holdings Inc. offers internet media-driven advertising services, which covers and connects a range of marketing specialties, as well as search engine optimization for clients interested in online media awareness.

For more information, visit http://www.crownequityholdings.com

United Online, Inc. (Nasdaq:UNTD) announced that it will release financial results for its third quarter ended September 30, 2011, after the market close on Wednesday, November 2, 2011.

United Online, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides consumer products and services over the Internet in the United States, Europe, and internationally. The company operates in three segments: FTD, Content and Media, and Communications.

RF Industries Ltd. (Nasdaq:RFIL) announced that its Board of Directors has authorized the allocation of up to $1,250,000 for the repurchase of the Company’s common shares outstanding, in open market, negotiated or block transactions. Purchases under this program will be in amounts and at times and prices to be determined by management.

RF Industries, Ltd. provides interconnect products and systems for radio frequency (RF) communications devices and wireless digital transmission systems in the United States and internationally.

Wi-LAN Inc (Nasdaq:WILN) announced the Ontario Securities Commission (the “OSC”) has granted WiLAN’s request to cease trade the MOSAID Technologies Incorporated (”MOSAID”) Shareholder Rights P! lan ( 221;Poison Pill”).

Wi-LAN Inc., together with its subsidiaries, engages in the acquisition, development, and licensing of technologies that drive products in communications and consumer electronics markets in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Canada.

Popular Science reports a spike after Apple Newsstand's launch

Here is your daily Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock news and rumors for Friday.

Apple Newsstand Is a Boon for Popular Science: It’s been difficult to judge whether tablets and e-readers will be the savior of print periodicals. Will people really be willing to drop a few bucks on electronic magazines when a Web browser is sitting right there on the iPad?

Here’s a hopeful sign: Bonnier’s Popular Science magazine released digital readership numbers, and the spike following the opening of Apple’s Newsstand digital storefront in October is significant to say the least. Bonnier’s tablet software publishing Mag+ (via All Things Digital) said in a new report that the tablet edition of Popular Science saw one-week sales increase 13% immediately following Newsstand’s opening.

Better news still is that weekly sales, which have been steadily rising since February 2011, increased at a greater rate, thanks to Newsstand. These are just Popular Science‘s numbers though, and the weekly readership is hitting above just 40,000 at this point. Print circulation is still above 1.3 million for the magazine so digital editions have a long way to go.

Apple Reveals International Availability of iTunes Match and iTunes in the Cloud: Since opening its cloud services for business earlier this fall, there’s been no small amount of confusion on where Apple’s iTunes Match service is available and where it’s yet to launch. Apple posted an official statement on its website on Thursday to clarify. It said its cloud-based iTunes service iTunes Match is now available in 17 countries, and iTunes in the Cloud is available in 120 countries, but only the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K. support all media (TV, film, books) and not just digital music.

Apple Website Among the Most Trafficked: A new Com! Score re port released Thursday said Apple’s website is the 13th most-trafficked U.S. website, and one of only three retailers in the top 15. The company’s 79 million unique visitors placed it well ahead of Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT), which came in at 18th. iTunes and its numerous sub-businesses, like the App Store and iBookstore, provide the bulk of Apple’s retail traffic rather than the company’s online store for products. The two retailers ahead of Apple are eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).

As of this writing, Anthony John Agnello did not own a position in any of the stocks named here. Follow him on Twitter at?@ajohnagnello?and?become a fan of?InvestorPlace on Facebook.

The VXX is dribbling away but it could show life

With the CBOE Volatility Index (CBOE: VIX) hitting three year lows, there’s really a good argument to buy a volatility-something. I mean VIX can’t go to 0 … or really even 10 so fast. In fact we likely saw the lows �� at least until summer.

And thankfully, we have an ETN to buy, the VXX! Or the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short- Term Futures (NYSE: VXX). And it hits all-time lows on a virtually daily basis.?

Well, maybe not so thankfully.?

The VXX has lost almost 94% of its value since listing in January 2009. And as we document periodically, it may just continue to dribble away forever, whether VIX makes new lows or not. The VXX tracks a hypothetical 30-day VIX future. To keep constant duration, it rolls shorter futures into longer one’s. When the shorter future trades at a decent discount to the longer one, VXX loses some coin on each roll. And guess what? With VIX itself closing at $15.77 yesterday, May VIX closed at $17.45, and June VIX closed at $19.55.Unless VIX itself picks up some steam here, VXX will keep losing money rolling out for a $2.10 hit, more or less.

twitterInvestorPlace’s?first Twittercast!
Option Speculation the Smart Way
Thursday, April 28th at 1:30 p.m. EST?

Featuring options expert Mark Wolfinger. Read Mark’s first article in! his ser ies “Speculating on Market Direction for One Stock.”

Please tweet your options questions using the hashtag #smartoptions anytime between Tuesday, April 18th and Tuesday, April 26th. Mark will be answering your questions live starting at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, April 28th.)

This all doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy volatility in some form now. Even in the VXX form. Just think of VXX like you would a regular put on the S&P 500 Index Option (CBOE:SPX). Depending on the specifics, a put can win big if you catch it right. But if nothing happens, it will decay in a value a bit each day thanks to expiration getting closer. VXX decays too, but thanks to contango and not expiration.?

There’s really no such thing as bottom fishing a decaying asset like a put or like VXX. But you can get nice directional wins. Is now the time? Who ever knows for sure. But I would keep an eye on it.

Follow Adam Warner on Twitter @agwarner.

Options To Generate Funds Online Fast

Doing an application for work might take some time, a tremendous amount of effort or energy, and patience on an individual’s part. You need to create your “Resume”, then get started with finding jobs that would be appropriate with the course you completed, then arrives the tiring part of needing to attend job interviews, tests, and then comes the awkward line, ” We will just contact you if you’ll receive the position, thank you for your time.” Then you will need to wait, and wait, and wait some more only to realize that you did not have the job. Now such a thing could be disappointing. Why would you pass through all that when it is possible to earn funds on the net or ganar dinero por internet quickly. Let’s discuss a few ways:

Remember back when you were still a student and for sure you don’t hold loads of funds, as you just rely upon the allowances that your mom and dad give you which is just enough for you to study in school, and other school associated expenditures, but how about throughout summer? And you and your pals are planning this trip, or if you already have employment but the wage isn’t that enough for all your expenditures, then generating funds on the net or ganar dinero por internet fast and effectively is that answer for you. All that you should have is your computer with internet access and then you should really commit to it, since you’re going to be reading a few stuffs. There actually are web jobs that give a daily pay; among those is writing content for some legitimate marketing firms, generating funds; you are also bettering your writing skill and learning about plenty of things or subjects during this process.

Another one is simply by selling some of your used items, such as an antique vase or artworks, dresses or clothes, and bags that you don’t like anymore in online sites that specialize in web auctioning and allow you to sell your items. You would be astounded sometimes on how much other folks wo! uld pay for particular things which they consider important. You also could be a stock photographer, in case you have the talent for photography, and have taken spectacular pictures, and you could surely sell that, since there are also plenty of business entities that do buy photographs and utilize them for their own websites. An additional way for you to generate funds on the net or ganar dinero por internet fast, especially if you’re a graduate or you are taking up computer programming as a college course then you can undertake some freelance internet site hosting or internet site designing for other business entities.

One Man's Mission: Building the World's Safest Bank

One Canadian entrepreneur may well be forging an innovative path to changing the global banking landscape - for the better. And in the process he may build the world's safest bank.

Eric Sprott, the billionaire resource investment guru, is buying 51% of Ontario currency trader Continental Currency Exchange Corp., with the aim of making it into a financial institution that, refreshingly, will not make loans.

That's not a misprint.

Sprott plans to structure his new Continental Bank to take deposits and generate income from currency trading and by selling precious metals.

True private banks already operate on this model. They lend no money. They simply take deposits, provide brokerage, custodial, and management services, and charge a commensurate fee. But often their minimums are $1 million and up, leaving most depositors with only standard banking options.

And right now, those options aren't very appealing.

Breaking the Bank

You see, most banks today operate under a fractional reserve system, meaning they can lend out at least nine times the amount they have on deposit.

In the United States, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures up to $250,000 of deposits. However, if you have more than that, they can't help you. And more importantly, the FDIC could never cover all of the country's deposits if there were a nationwide bank run.

In fact, the FDIC probably couldn't even cover 5% of all U.S. deposits. Rather, the system is based on the hope that a multitude of bank runs won't occur simultaneously.

That's not the most reassuring way to stash away your money.

However, with Sprott's model, you could rest easy knowing your money was backed by hard assets - and not being loaned out and leveraged.

"Our firm, Sprott Inc., and Eric have taken a very committed view that the financial system requires a substantial r! eset," s aid Sprott Inc. Chief Executive Officer Peter Grosskopf. "Eric has always thought that offering consumers access to an unlevered bank is a good idea."

That's because Sprott knows that in a leveraged financial system, even small investment and loan losses can "break the bank."

His goal is to one day allow customers to hold their deposits in gold- or silver-backed accounts. Checks could be written against those accounts to make purchases, which would then be debited, just like any other account.

Scott Penfound, VP of operations with Continental Currency, said "it's the old commerce model of providing service instead of credit."

Penfound and his family will stay on and manage the business going forward, while they retain 49%, and Sprott takes on the 51% balance in a passive role.

Bernanke's Two Cents

Proponents of a gold-backed currency face a lot of criticisms. They're often reminded about how impractical such a system would be. Safe storage involves logistics and costs, and carrying gold bullion or coins to pay for groceries surely wouldn't be hassle free.

But no one said doing business in a post-fiat currency crisis world would be easy.

Presidential candidate Ron Paul in July had the opportunity to ask U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke if he thought gold was money. After a pregnant pause, Bernanke answered: "No. It's a precious metal."

I guess Ben's view of history only goes back a century.

The fact is, gold in one form or another has been money for more of the past 3,000 years than has paper. Soberingly, every previous experiment with fiat currencies met with failure.

This time around, with fiat U.S. dollars as the world's reserve currency, we're navigating harsh uncharted waters.

In the increasingly likely event of a major financial collapse, Bernanke's opinion won't be worth two cents.

That tel! ls me Sp rott is onto something.

If Continental Currency is granted its federal banking license early next year, turning it into the Continental Bank, then Canada may well deserve its ranking as the safest banking jurisdiction.

With a bit of luck, Sprott's view of sound banking may even become contagious.

Until then, keep hedging your greenbacks with gold.

Because they may not be safe - no matter what Bernanke tells you.

Occupy Wall Street, Consider This My Gift to You…

Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, Inc (NASDAQ:SPPI) achieved its new 52 week high price of $15.09 where it was opened at $14.74 up 0.22 points or +1.49% by closing at $14.96. SPPI transacted shares during the day were over 1.11 million shares however it has an average volume of 1.45 million shares.

SPPI has a market capitalization $853.47 million and an enterprise value at $693.09 million. Trailing twelve months price to sales ratio of the stock was 4.83 while price to book ratio in most recent quarter was 4.84. In profitability ratios, net profit margin in past twelve months appeared at 25.69% whereas operating profit margin for the same period at 30.83%.

The company made a return on asset of 16.49% in past twelve months and return on equity of 37.51% for similar period. In the period of trailing 12 months it generated revenue amounted to $173.93 million gaining $3.35 revenue per share. Its year over year, quarterly growth of revenue was 204.90%.

According to preceding quarter balance sheet results, the company had $148.90 million cash in hand making cash per share at 2.61. The total of $17.00K debt was there putting a total debt to equity ratio 0.01. Moreover its current ratio according to same quarter results was 2.75 and book value per share was 3.05.

Looking at the trading information, the stock price history displayed that its S&P500 52 Week Change illustrated 2.27% where the stock current price exhibited up beat from its 50 day moving average price $11.89 and remained above from its 200 Day Moving Average price $9.68.

SPPI holds 57.05 million outstanding shares with 49.96 million floating shares where insider possessed 12.52% and institutions kept 28.60%.

Divine Skin Inc (DSKX) to Sell NutraOrigin Supplements in Whole Foods Markets after Successful Test

Divine Skin Inc. (OTCBB: DSKX), a leader in the development of topical, nutritional and pharmaceutical therapies, announced that after a successful test run in four Whole Foods Markets, it will roll out its NutraOrigin brand of nutritional supplements to all 300 US store locations in 2012. Whole Foods Markets is one of the largest retailers of natural and organic foods with stores in North America and the United Kingdom.

NutraOrigin has 63 premium nutritional supplements that address health concerns, including fatigue, headaches, obesity, mobility, menopause, erectile dysfunction and others. The Whole Foods rollout will not only include the NutraOrigin Omega line, which was part of the test, but also include the Vitamin and Clinical lines.

"NutraOrigin fits perfectly into the Whole Foods business model. We expect this deal to yield significant new revenuefor both companies," said Daniel Khesin, CEO, Divine Skin.

NutraOrigin's Omega line proved in clinical trials its ability to improve mental function, including increasing reaction time and accuracy while reducing drowsiness and anxiety. The company manufacturers the line in the United States using exhaustive research to maximize the effectiveness of the compounds in humans.

Divine Skin has grown rapidly worldwide since it went public in 2009. The company markets its products at specialty retailers, cosmetic wholesalers, salons, medical offices and online. This past July it went full force into the nutritional supplement market when it acquired exclusive access to NutraOrigin technologies and 30 percent of all product revenue globally. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in August of 2010 that the vitamins and nutrients for humans market was about $9 billion per year in revenue.

Article written by QualityStocks �� Visit www.QualityStocks.net for more emerging growth companies to discover and evaluate.

For Quality Stocks full disclaimer, visit! the com pany's Web site

Micron Technology Inc. Earnings Cheat Sheet: Margins Keep Shrinking

S&P 500 (NYSE:SPY) component Micron Technology Inc. (NASDAQ:MU) swung to a loss in the first quarter, missing analysts’ forecast. Micron Technology is a global manufacturer and marketer of Flash memory, image sensors and other semiconductor components.

Micron Technology Earnings Cheat Sheet for the First Quarter

Results: Reported a loss of $187 million (19 cents per diluted share) in the quarter. The semiconductor company had net income of $155 million or 15 cents per share in the year earlier quarter.

Revenue: Fell 7.2% to $2.09 billion from the year earlier quarter.

Actual vs. Wall St. Expectations: MU fell short of the mean analyst estimate of a loss of 6 cents per share. It fell short of the average revenue estimate of $2.17 billion.

Key Stats:

Gross margins fell 8.7 percentage points to 14.6%. The contraction appeared to be driven by falling revenue, as the figure fell 7.2% from the year earlier while costs rose 3.3%.

The company has now fallen short of analyst estimates for the last three quarters. It missed the mark by 14 cents in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year and by 8 cents in the third quarter of the last fiscal year.

Revenue has fallen for the past three quarters. In the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year, revenue declined 14.2% to $2.14 billion while the figure fell 6.5% in the third quarter of the last fiscal year from the year earlier.

Looking Forward: Expectations for the company’s performance in the upcoming quarter are lower than they were ninety days ago. Over the past three months, the average estimate for the second quarter has fallen from a profit of 11 cents per share to a loss of 2 cents. The average estimate for the fiscal year is 12 cents per share, down from 64 cents ninety days ago.

Competitors to Watch: Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INT! C), Span sion Inc. (NYSE:CODE), SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK), Integrated Silicon Solution, Inc. (NASDAQ:ISSI), SMART Modular Tech. (WWH), Inc. (NASDAQ:SMOD), MoSys Inc. (NASDAQ:MOSY), LOGIC Devices Incorporated (NASDAQ:LOGC), Netlist, Inc. (NASDAQ:NLST), GSI Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ:GSIT), and Integrated Device Tech., Inc. (NASDAQ:IDTI).

(Company fundamentals provided by Xignite Financials. Earnings estimates provided by Zacks)

Lehman Forced to Revise Bankruptcy Exit Plan

After some creditors rejected Lehman Brothers' Chapter 11 proposals, the company revised its plan to exit bankruptcy, filing a new plan in New York, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

The plan didn't list a voting deadline for creditors or propose a date for the confirmation hearing, Bloomberg reports. Lehman will start soliciting votes for the plan after the summer, and final court approval may be near the end of the year.

Lehman plans to raise $61 billion by selling assets and reducing allowable claims to $322 billion, Bloomberg reports. The average Lehman creditor would receive 18.6 cents on the dollar, and senior bondholders would receive 21.4 cents. Creditors with general unsecured claims would receive a 19.8% return, according to Bloomberg.

Derivatives creditors, which include Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Bank of America, would get 22.3 cents, Bloomberg reports. As of the third quarter of 2010, Lehman had settled over 45% of derivatives transactions made by the Lehman Brother Special Financing unit. When Lehman filed for bankruptcy it was involved in 1.2 million derivatives transactions.

Hedge fund Paulson & Co. and other creditors with large claims against Lehman Brothers argued that Lehman's original plan "created conflict among creditors of Lehman's units," and offered their own plan in December, Bloomberg reports. In that plan, bondholders received 24.5 cents, and derivatives creditors received 25.7 cents. The group, which includes the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, PIMCO and Canyon Partners LLC, a Los Angeles-based $19 billion hedge fund, hold $80 billion in claims against Lehman, Bloomberg writes.

Lehman's revised plan incorporates elements of the Paulson plan and offers bondholders more money than the original plan, which proposed giving creditors 17 cents. If the Paulson group opposes the revised plan, their payout will be reduced to the original amount, Bloomberg reports.

“We think this is the fairest way to deal with all the legal issues,” Lehman President John Suckow told Bloomberg by phone Wednesday. “We’re hoping to get people to rally around this plan in coming weeks and months.”

At the end of 2010, Lehman held $24 billion in cash and $37 billion in real estate, private equity and other assets, Bloomberg writes.

Auto Parts Maker Arvin Meritor Up 17% on Asset Sale

Auto parts maker Arvin Meritor (ARM) this afternoon said it would sell off a third business unit, a light-vehicle chassis business, as part of its attempt to cut costs dramatically amidst the economic downturn. The company will sell its Gabriel Ride Control Products North America business for undisclosed terms to private equity firm OpenGate Capital, which owns, among other things, French paper Le Monde, and TV Guide.

The announcement has driven up Arvin Meritor shares 69 cents, or 17.5%, to $4.63, making it the third-highest climber today on the New York Stock Exchange. Fellow parts maker TRW Automotive Holdings (TRW), which was upgraded this morning by J.P. Morgan, is the top gainer, up 26%.

The sale completes the divestiture of units representing 72% of the company’s total sales, including $117 million, Arvin Meritor said.

Home Depot's Numbers Show Housing's Still in the Basement


The major averages opened lower at the open amid weakness in overseas markets. Asia's markets lost ground after China's central bank unexpectedly raised a key interest rate. It was the first tightening in five months and signals a policy change towards fighting inflation. Shanghai's Composite Index suffered a 1.9 percent drop on the news. Japan's Nikkei fell .5 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost .7 percent. Equity markets were modestly lower across Europe as well.

In the US, trading remained cautious ahead of key monthly jobs data due out Friday morning. Earlier in the day, the Labor Department reported that weekly jobless claims rose 1,000 to 434,000 in the week ended January 2, which was a bit better than the 6,000 increase economists were expecting.

Stock index futures showed a modest negative reaction to the numbers, which come the day before key monthly jobs numbers are released. Economists expect Friday's numbers to show the economy losing 35,000 jobs and the rate of unemployed increasing to 10.2 percent from 10 percent.

So, trading was somewhat cautious early, but in a now familiar pattern, market action has turned mixed. While the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 26 points, the NASDAQ is off 2.8 points. With forty minutes left to trade, the CBOE Volatility Index (.VIX) is off .23 to 18.93. Trading in the options market is active, with about 5.6 million puts and 8.4 million calls traded so far (a ratio of .67, compared to a 22-day average of .64.)

Bullish Flow

GE (GE) added 90 cents to $16.35 and was easily the best percentage gainer in the Dow Jones Industrial Average midday Thursday. The reason for the strength isn't entirely clear, but the company did just announce that one of its units signed an agreement to deliver 50 new AC44i locomotives for freight transport. In the options market, sentiment seems somewhat bullish as well, with 152K calls and 49K puts traded. No big prints today. The top trade is 2,100 Mar 17! .5 calls on the bid at 33 cents and appears to be a part of a buy-write. Indeed, there have been several "derivately priced" equity blocks today and four blocks of 1 million GE shares or more changing hands today.

OSI Systems (OSIS), which has been rallying since Jan 24 as a play on increased airport security, is up another 27 cents to $28.72. The company makes body scanners and other products to inspect baggage, cargo, vehicles, etc. In the options market, recent trades include a Feb 25 - 30 risk-reversal, 1000X on PHLX. Looks like the strategist paid 85 cents to buy calls, sell puts, and open a new position.

Bearish Flow

iShares Emerging Markets Fund (EEM) slipped 32 cents to $42.79, weighed down by shares in China after China's Central Bank unexpectedly raised rates and sent China's Shanghai down 1.9 percent. China accounts for 11.1 percent of the EEM. In the options market, one player appears to be bracing for additional weakness through next Friday. They paid 11 cents for the Jan 40 - 41 - 42 put butterfly spread, 10000X on AMEX, creating a bearish risk graph with a max profit if EEM settles at $41 (-4.2%) by next week's expiration.

Implied Volatility Movers

Big Print in Ford Motor (F) after an investor pays 58 cents for Jan11 17.5 calls, 50000X on CBOE. Ford is up 4 cents to $11.41 and extending a 14.1 percent year-to-date advance that was fueled, in part, by Tuesday's better-than-expected December sales numbers (+32.8% vs. 13% consensus). Implied volatility in Ford options is revving up as well, up 5 percent to the mid-40s so far in 2010.

Unusual Volume Movers

Select Sector Financials (XLF) is seeing 4X average daily trading volume, with 800,000 contracts traded and call volume representing 70 percent of today's activity.

BofA (BAC) is seeing 2X average trading volume, with 752,000 contracts traded and calls representing 72 percent of today's trading activity.

Google (GOOG) is seeing 3X normal trading volume. 139,000 contracts have tra! ded, wit h call options representing about 58 percent of today's volume.

Unusual volume (two times or more than normal average volume) is also being seen in Regions Financial (RF), Dendreon (DNDN), Delta Airlines (DAL).

Turn Europe's pain into your gain with these trades

The euro zone debt crisis rocked the U.S. markets, and while things have seemed a little quieter lately, don’t be fooled — Europe is reeling, and will be for quite some time. In my book, Sell Short: A Simpler, Safer Way to Profit When Stocks Go Down, I wrote a chapter on how to short a country. Maybe I should have written one on how to short a continent.

Germans retiring at age 67 on half pay are angry about being asked to pay higher taxes to bail out Greeks retiring at age 50 on full pay — and with much better weather and beaches to spend their time and money. The euro is falling due to a lack of confidence that governments can trim deficits and roll over gigantic debts, or, if they can, that the fiscal contraction will lead to a savage recession. Not to mention that many European banks are insolvent by U.S. standards.

In short, things are not looking good. So I’m going to give you three ways to turn Europe’s pain into your gain.

#1 Short the Euro

The euro has seen its longest stretch of monthly declines in 10 years, wiping out a near 50% rally from its October 2000 low to a high in July 2008. I was in Paris at that time and paid $100 for spaghetti and salad — great pasta, but c’mon.

Even though we’ve seen the euro hitting four-year lows against the U.S. dollar, it’s not too late to play the downside. The currency’s weakness is now seen as a tool to fight European unemployment, which is at a 12-year high, according to Bloomberg. In other words, there is not a lot of political support to keep the euro strong.

You should not short the currency directly, though, unless you are a professional trader or trying to give all your money away. Instead, buy longer-term put options on the euro exchange-traded fund (ETF), the CurrencyShares Euro Trust (NYSE: FXE).

#2 Short the British Pound

Unlike the whole of Europe, the ! Brits wi ll accept fiscal contraction, the fancy term for budget cuts. To offset this pullback in government spending, and to increase the competitiveness of the pound, the Bank of England is going to print money through what is euphemistically called “quantitative easing.” And when you print money, you devalue your currency. In addition, Britain is the world’s fifth largest exporter of finished goods, and a pound that is too expensive means more unemployment. So down the currency will go.

Now around $1.45 versus the U.S. dollar, I believe it will go to $1.22-$1.25. This could take three months, or it could take a year, but it will happen. Since my son is beginning college at the University of St Andrews in Scotland next year, and the tuition is paid in pounds, this scenario is very welcome in my house.

For the rest of you, the trade here is to buy put options on the CurrencyShares British Pound Sterling Trust (NYSE: FXB).

#3 Short European Banks

The big European banks are in deep trouble. They have very small amounts of core capital compared to U.S. banks. Some German state banks are thought to be leveraged as much as 50-to-1. They hold enormous amounts of sovereign debt issued by the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain) — at least half a trillion euros worth, perhaps more.

The proposed 1 trillion euro bailout of Greece and other potential train wrecks is really designed to bail out these banks. Of course, this package has yet to be voted on by participating nations. And even if the bailout happens, it ain’t big enough, and the banks have been told publicly that they will have to take some form of a hit for political reasons. The banks will need to raise capital, and that means diluting shareholders. Not to mention that the banks are going to be hit by a savage recession induced by fiscal contraction across Europe.

The big players to look at that are listed on U.S. exchanges are UBS AG (NYSE: UBS) ! and Deutsche Bank AG (NYSE: DB). Also take a look at Banco Santander, S.A. (NYSE: STD) and Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (NYSE: BBVA). Consider purchasing put options on any or all of these bank stocks.

Biotech Buzz; Medicis Pharmaceutical Soars

Medicis Pharmaceutical Corporation (NYSE: MRX) shares are soaring in today's trading after the stock was upgraded by analysts at JP Morgan and Piper Jaffray from Neutral to Overweight. Medicis Pharmaceutical stock is currently trading at $31.96. The stock is up 23.78% from its previous close. Medicis Pharmaceutical shares touched the high of $32.44 and lowest price in today's session is $30.81. The company stock has traded in the range of $21.02 and $32.44 during the past 52 weeks. The company's market cap is $1.94 billion.

Last week the company reported a decline in profit for the fourth quarter due to higher operating expenses that more than offset a rise in revenue.

The company’s fourth-quarter net income decreased to $23.87 million or $0.37 per share from $38.29 million or $0.60 per share in the previous year. The results for the quarter included research and development expenses related to collaborators of $0.21 per share, impairment of long-lived assets of $0.15 per share and income tax effects of $0.13 per share. The adjusted net income for the quarter declined to $38.89 million or $0.60 per share from $43.76 million or $0.68 per share. The revenues for the quarter increased 1.7% to $182.12 million from $179.04 million last year. The product revenues rose to $180.08 million from $176.16 million a year ago. The contract revenues declined to $2.04 million from $2.88 million in the prior-year quarter. The total operating expenses increased to $125.75 million from $94.81 million last year.

For the full year the company reported revenues of approximately $700.0 million as compared $571.9 million for 2009, which represents an increase of approximately $128.1 million, or approximately 22.4%. The non-GAAP net income for 2010 was approximately $149.5 million as compared to non-GAAP net income of approximately $106.5 million for 2009, an increase of approximately $43! .0 milli on, or approximately 40.3%. The non-GAAP diluted earnings per share were $2.28 as compared to non-GAAP diluted EPS of $1.68 for 2009, an increase of $0.60 per diluted share, or approximately 36.2%. The GAAP diluted EPS for 2010 was $1.89 as compared to GAAP diluted EPS of $1.21 for 2009, an increase of $0.68 per diluted share, or approximately 56.7%. The GAAP net income for 2010 was approximately $123.3 million as compared to GAAP net income of approximately $76.0 million for 2009, an increase of approximately $47.3 million, or approximately 62.4%.

The company expects the first-quarter earnings in the range of $0.45 to $0.50 per share and revenues of $160 to $170 million.

For the full-year 2011 earnings are expected in the range of $2.40 to $2.60 per share and revenues of $730 to $770 million.

  • Want buy and sell signals? Premium newsletter, 15% off annual subscription – sign up today!
  • Need fast service and cheap rates from a broker? Click here to see my favorite place to trade MRX
  • Want more? Check out the message board buzz for MRX
  • See which newsletters are recommending this stock pick
  • Get breakingnews alerts on this stock:? http://thestockmarketwatch.com/

Why the Dow Exploded Today

It was a great day for the market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (INDEX: ^DJI  ) rose 2.9% to 12,013.43 today, with the S&P 500 (INDEX: ^GSPC  ) and Nasdaq (INDEX: ^IXIC  ) up a bit more -- 3% to 1,241.30 and 3.2% to 2,603.73, respectively.

If we have to credit just one thing ...
According to water-cooler talk on the Web, we can thank:

  • A surge in U.S. housing starts (along with permits and homebuilder sentiment).
  • German business confidence that's increasing more than expected.
  • Spanish bonds that are selling plentifully and more cheaply than last month.

Of the three, No. 1 is a bit dubious, because for housing prices to recover, the supply-and-demand dynamics must equalize. More starts mean more inventory added, which has a dampening effect on prices.

A more granular view
For the individual stock investors among us, we can also look at the big moves among the stocks that make up the Dow.

If you haven't noticed, every single one of the 30 Dow companies was up today!

Here are the five biggest winners:


Today's Stock Price Change

Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT  ) 5.1%
JPMorgan Chase 4.9%
Home Depot (NYSE: HD  ) 4.4%
Alcoa (NYSE: AA  ) 4.1%
DuPont ! (NYSE: DD  ) 4.1%

Source: S&P Capital IQ.

Given the housing and European goodness today, it's not surprising to see these types of companies leading the Dow winners. Construction equipment, banking, a home-focused retailer, and commodities make a lot of sense. DuPont may have you scratching your head, but its chemicals are used all over the economy. And hey, on this day, even the worst Dow stock is up 1.3%!

As you digest the day's news, remember that we're just looking at daily stock-price movements here. It's fun to check in on the news, but at The Motley Fool, we recommend investing for the long term. These daily price movements are just small blips in the bigger picture.

For a stock that The Motley Fool's chief investment officer believes has a long, prosperous future ahead of it, check out our brand-new free report: "The Motley Fool's Top Stock for 2012." I invite you to take a copy, free for a limited time. Access the report to find out the name of this legendary company.

Goldman Sachs Sees Lending Taking a Trillion Dollar Hit

California is (still) sliding towards an insolvency event of some sort. Their budgetary and legislative issues are insurmountable. Making the drastic cuts necessary is a near impossibility, and jacking up taxes on the beaten-down public is equally untenable.

Now the WSJ reports that the Governator is seeking $6.9b in Federal funds. Arnold is threatening to slash welfare spending, medicaid, and other social programs (he has made similar threats before, as I noted in May ‘09).

Try to imagine, for a second, what would happen if California halted welfare payments, or food stamps. It’s safe to say that things could escalate quickly.

From the WSJ (01/07/2009):

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked for $6.9 billion in federal funds in his state-budget proposal Friday and warned that state health and welfare programs would be threatened without the emergency help.

Mr. Schwarzenegger’s proposed $82.9 billion general-fund budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year would close a $19.9 billion gap over 18 months. In addition to the federal aid, he called for $8.5 billion in cuts and $4.5 billion in alternative funding to balance the budget.

‘It’s time to enact long-term reforms that will change the way the most populous state and the federal government work together,’ Mr. Schwarzenegger said. He and state legislative leaders plan to visit Washington to lobby for bailout money. White House budget officials weren’t available for comment on the governor’s request.

Mr. Schwarzenegger said that without the federal aid, he would propose cutting $4.6 billion from state assistance programs and raise another $2.4 billion, largely by extending the suspension of tax breaks.

Default Inevitable?

The last time an American state defaulted on their debt was in the 1840’s, as Bill Watkins notes in What Happens When California Defaul! ts? (mus t-read). Watkins, who has a Ph.D in economics from UC Santa Barbara, thinks default is the most likely outcome. Here are his thoughts on the fallout:

We’re left with the question: what happens when California defaults? The worst case would be the mother of all financial crises. According to the California State Treasurer’s office, California has over $68 billion in public debt, but the Sacramento Bee’s Dan Walters has tried to count total California public debt, including that of local municipalities, and his total reaches $500 billion. Whatever the amount, the impact of default could be larger than the debt amount would imply. Other states – New York, Illinois, New Jersey, for example – are in almost as bad shape as California, and they could follow California’s example.

The realization that a state could default would shock markets every bit as much as when Lehman Brothers failed. Given the precarious state of our economy and the financial sector, another fiscal crisis would be disastrous, with impacts far beyond California’s borders.

Watkins also weighs in on the orderly bankruptcy scenario (which he thinks is unlikely):

Ideally, we’d see a court-supervised, orderly bankruptcy similar to what we see when a company defaults. All creditors, including direct lenders, vendors, employees, pensioners, and more would share in the losses based on established precedent and law. Perhaps salaries would be reduced. Some programs could see significant changes. This is distressing, but it is better than other options.

Unfortunately, a formal bankruptcy is not the likely scenario. There is no provision for it in the law. Consequently, absent framework and rules of bankruptcy, the eventual default is likely to be very messy, contentious and political. [emphasis mine]

As Mr. Watkins says, this is the best option. Cr! editors and others who rely on state revenue are forced to take a haircut. It’s unfortunate that pensioners would be among the casualties. But California’s public sector is bloated, and something’s gotta give. Take the Northern Cali Fire Chief who retired with a $241k pension. It’s simply ludicrous.

The alternative scenario, in which the public eats the losses, is unacceptable (and all too familiar). The parties who funded and benefited from CA’s unsustainable spending have to take a hit. It is what it is.

As a nation, we need to prepare ourselves for a lower standard of living and start cleaning up our collective balance sheets. The next 10 years will be trying enough. If we project sunshine and rainbows, the reality is gonna be that much harsher when it does hit.

Cartoon by Steve Greenberg.

(CLNO, ELOS, PFBC, ENOC) Stock under Consideration by DrStockPick.com

Cleantech Transit, Inc. (CLNO)

Cleantech Transit Inc. was founded to capitalize on technology advances and manufacturing opportunities in the growing clean energy public transportation sector. The Company has expanded its focus to invest directly in specific green projects. Recognizing the many economic and operational advances of converting wood waste into renewable sources of energy, Cleantech has selected to invest in Phoenix Energy (www.phoenixenergy.net). This project could benefit the Company’s manufacturing clients worldwide.

The use of biomass energy has the potential to greatly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Biomass generates about the same amount of carbon dioxide as fossil fuels, but every time a new plant grows, carbon dioxide is actually removed from the atmosphere. The net emission of carbon dioxide will be zero as long as plants continue to be replenished for biomass energy purposes. These energy crops, such as fast-growing trees and grasses, are called biomass feedstocks. The use of biomass feedstocks can also help increase profits for the agricultural industry.

Cleantech Transit, Inc. (CLNO) is pleased to announce it has met its funding requirement to secure the Company’s ability to earn in 25% of the 500KW Merced Project.

The Company is in the final stages of closing its initial interest in the Merced Project and is currently working on completing the necessary documentation and expects closing the transaction soon. As previously announced Cleantech has the option to earn up to 40% of the Merced Project and the Company plans to continue to work towards increasing its interest in the Merced Project as they move ahead.

For more information about Cleantech Transit, Inc. visit its website www.cleantechtransitinc.com

Syneron Medical Ltd. (Nasdaq:ELOS) announced the global launch of the new eTwo device, a combination of advanced technologies for facial treatments, to b! e showca sed in the upcoming EADV 2011 - European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology - Lisbon, Portugal.

Syneron Medical Ltd., together with its subsidiaries, engages in the research, design, development, marketing, and sale of aesthetic medical products worldwide.

Preferred Bank (Nasdaq:PFBC) reported results for the quarter ended September 30, 2011. Preferred Bank (”the Bank”) reported net income of $6.6 million or $0.50 per diluted share for the third quarter of 2011 compared to a net loss of $31.0 million or $3.89 per diluted share for the third quarter of 2010 and compared to net income of $1.7 million or $0.13 per diluted share for the second quarter of 2011.

Preferred Bank operates as a commercial bank in California. The company provides a range of deposit and loan products and services to small and mid-sized businesses and their owners, entrepreneurs, real estate developers and investors, professionals, and high net worth individuals.

EnerNOC, Inc. (Nasdaq:ENOC) announced the latest release of its energy management platform. This release includes a number of enhancements to EnerNOC’s platform, including advanced Automated Demand Response (AutoDR) dispatch capabilities and increased dispatch management functionality for utilities within DemandSMART?, improved usability for large-scale EfficiencySMART? deployments, and new bill management integration for EnerNOC’s energy supply management tool, SupplySMART?.

EnerNOC, Inc. engages in the development, implementation, and adoption of energy management applications and services, and demand response for smart grid operators and electric utilities, as well as for commercial, institutional, and industrial end-users of electricity in the United States.

20 Stocks Not Missing Their Opportunity to Raise Dividends

At some point in the future we will look back at our actions today and refer to them as our greatest missed opportunity? A successful dividend growth strategy takes time. Unfortunately, many income investors don't have the luxury of time on their side and must focus on high-yield investments to meet current expenses. These high-yield investments are often accompanied by high risk. For those with time, a solid long-term strategy focusing on quality stocks that grow their dividends will treat them well in their retirement years.

Below are several companies that did not miss missing this opportunity to raise their cash dividends:

CTS Corporation (CTS) engages in the design, manufacture, assembly and sale of electronic components and sensors, as well as the provision of electronics manufacturing services worldwide. December 15, the company increased its quarterly dividend 17% to $0.035 per share. The dividend is payable on Feb. 3, 2012 to shareholders of record at the close of business on Dec. 30, 2011. The yield based on the new payout is 1.6%.

Urstadt Biddle Properties Inc. (UBA), a real estate investment trust (REIT), engages in the acquisition, ownership, and management of commercial real estate properties in the United States. December 15, the company increased its quarterly dividend 1$ to $0.2475 per share. The dividend is payable Jan. 20, 2012 to stockholders of record on Jan. 6, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 5.7%.

UDR Inc. (UDR) formerly United Dominion Realty Trust, Inc., operates as a self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT). December 15th the company increased it quarterly dividend 7.5% to $0.2150 per share. The dividend is payable on January 31, 2012 to shareholders of record as of January 11, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 3.6%.

Waddell & Reed Financial Inc. (WDR) provides investment management, investment product underwriting and! distrib ution, and shareholder services administration to mutual funds, and institutional and separately managed accounts. December 15, the company increased it quarterly dividend 25% to $0.25 per share. The dividend is payable on Feb. 1, 2012 to stockholders of record as of Jan. 3, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 4.1%.

City Holding Company (CHCO) operates as the bank holding company for City National Bank of West Virginia that offers community banking services to consumers and local businesses. December 15, the company increased its quarterly dividend 3% to $0.35 per share. The dividend is payable on Jan. 31, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 4.3%.

Discover Financial Services (DFS), a bank holding company, offers direct banking and payment services in the U.S. December 15, the company increased its quarterly dividend 67% to $0.10 per share. The dividend is payable on Jan. 19, 2012, to stockholders of record at the close of business on Dec. 29, 2011. The yield based on the new payout is 1.7%.

Boston Properties Inc. (BXP), a real estate investment trust (REIT), together with its subsidiaries, engages in the ownership and development of office properties. December 14, the company increased its quarterly dividend 10% to $0.55 per share. The dividend is payable on Jan. 27, 2012 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on Dec. 31, 2011. The yield based on the new payout is 2.3%.

Nucor Corporation (NUE) engages in the manufacture and sale of steel and steel products in North America and internationally. December 14, the company increased its quarterly dividend 0.7% to $0.365 per share. The dividend is payable on Feb. 10, 2012 to stockholders of record on Dec. 30, 2011. The yield based on the new payout is 3.8%.

Pentair Inc. (PNR) operates as a diversified industrial manufacturing company worldwide. December 14, the company increased its quarterly dividend 10% to $0! .22 cent s per share. The yield based on the new payout is 2.6%.

Realty Income Corporation (O) engages in the acquisition and ownership of commercial retail real estate properties in the United States. December 14, the company increased its quarterly dividend 0.2% to $0.1455 per share. The dividend is payable on Jan. 17, 2012 to shareholders of record as of Jan. 2, 2012. This is the 57th consecutive quarterly increase and the 64th dividend increase since Realty Income went public in 1994. The yield based on the new payout is 5.2%.

Host Hotels & Resorts (HST) is a publicly owned real estate investment trust (REIT) engaged in the ownership and operation of hotel properties. December 14, the company increased its quarterly dividend 25% to $0.05 per share. The dividend is payable on Jan. 17, 2012, to stockholders of record on Dec. 30, 2011. The yield based on the new payout is 1.8%.

Moody's Corporation (MCO) provides credit ratings; credit and economic related research, data, and analytical tools. December 13, the company increased its quarterly dividend 14% to $0.16 per share. The dividend is payable March 10, 2012 to stockholders of record at the close of business on Feb. 20, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 1.9%.

SEI Investments Co. (SEIC) is a publicly owned investment manager. December 13, the company increased its semi-annual dividend to $0.15 per share. The dividend is payable to shareholders of record on Dec. 28, 2011 with a payment date of Jan. 6, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 1.9%.

WD-40 Company (WDFC) engages in the production and sale of consumer products. December 13, the company increased its quarterly dividend 7% to $0.29 per share. The dividend is payable Jan. 31, 2012 to stockholders of record on Jan. 6, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 2.9%.

The Boeing Company (BA) engages in the design, development, m! anufactu re, sale, and support of commercial jetliners, military aircraft, satellites, missile defense, human space flight and launch systems. December 12th the company increased its quarterly dividend 5% to $0.44 per share. The dividend is payable March 2, 2012, to shareholders of record as of Feb. 10, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 2.5%.

Pfizer Inc. (PFE), a biopharmaceutical company, offers prescription medicines for humans and animals worldwide. December 12th the company increased its quarterly dividend 10 percent to $0.22 per share. The dividend is payable March 6, 2012, to shareholders of record at the close of business on Feb. 3, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 4.2%.

Ingersoll-Rand Plc (IR) engages in the design, manufacture, sale, and service of a portfolio of industrial and commercial products in the United States and internationally. December 12, the company increased its quarterly dividend 33% to $0.16 per share. The dividend is payable March 30, 2012, to shareholders of record on March 12, 2012. The yield based on the new payout is 2.1%.

General Electric Company (GE) operates as a technology, service, and finance company worldwide. December 9th the company increased its quarterly dividend 13.3% to $0.17 per share. The dividend is payable January 25, 2012 to shareowners of record at the close of business on Dec. 27, 2011. The ex-dividend date is Dec. 22, 2011. The yield based on the new payout is 4.1%.

Taubman Centers Inc. (TCO) operates as a real estate investment trust. As of June 30, 2005, the company owned a 63% managing general partner's interest in The Taubman Realty Group Limited Partnership (the operating partnership). December 9, the company increased its quarterly dividend 2.9% to $0.45 per share. The dividend is payable Dec. 30, 2011 to shareholders of record on Dec. 19, 2011. The yield based on the new payout is 3.0%.

Waste Management Inc. (WM) pr! ovides w aste management services to residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers in North America. December 9, the company increased its quarterly dividend 4.4% to $0.355 per share. This marks the eighth consecutive year that the company has increased its planned quarterly dividend. The yield based on the new payout is 4.5%.

Selecting stocks with increasing dividends is critical for an income growth strategy. The above list contains stocks that recently raised their dividends; it is not a list of recommend buys. As always, due diligence should be performed before buying or selling any stock. For a list of stocks with a long string of consecutive cash dividend increases, see this list.

Full Disclosure: Long NUE, O (Dividend Growth Portfolio), UBA (High Yield Portfolio). See a list of all my dividend growth holdings here.

Related Posts
- Should You Sell A Dividend Stock After A Dividend Cut?
- How To Be a Better Investor During These Difficult Times
- Seize The Opportunity: Four Value Priced Stocks
- October Has The Bad Reputation, But September Has The Resume
- Never Look a Gift Dividend in the Mouth

Doctor Claims Americans Paid $150M for Stem Cell Treatment Abroad

From BioHealth Investor

by H.S. Ayoub
BioHealth Investor.com

The FDA issued a warning letter to Dr.Alfred T Sapse of Stem Cell Pharma, Inc.,a Las Vegas company, alleging that the doctor and the company had violated federal law by injecting placental stem cells into patients without prior approval.

According to the letter Dr.Sapse overlooked the injection of stem cells into at least 16 patients in an attempt to treat Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, and other disease conditions. The doctor however claims that more than 40 patients have so far undergone the procedure.

He also failed to carry out proper testing, handling, and processing of the placental tissue used to harvest the stem cells. He worked with a local hospital to obtain the placental tissue, and a local surgeon to carry out the injections. He refuses to identify the parties.

The doctor also allegedly refused to allow an investigator with the FDA to inspect patient records of the procedures back in July of 2006.

Charging as much as $5000 per procedure, the Romanian opthalmologist claims on the company’s website that the injections have shown a 70 percent imporvement in the patients’ conditions.

The company also provides a service for patients looking for stem cell transplants outside the U.S.

Here is a list of the various costs of the procedure:

Dominican Republic $30,000
Tijuana (Mexico) $20,000
San Jose (Costa Rica) $25,000
Bankock (Thailand) $30,000
Habana (Cuba) $20,000
Russia/China $20,000
Seoul (S. Korea) $90,000
Germany $250,000+.

The company also claims that Americans have already spent about $150 million to receive the procedure in various foreign nations, and that amount will increase to $1 billion over the next 5 years as patients become more aware of these clinics.

In an exclusive interview with ABC 13 Action News, Dr.Sapse claims that the patients were all dying with little hope of recovery. After the FDA! warning , and it is only a warning, the doctor has halted all work and will submit all paper work for review.

All the patients that were hoping to receive the injections soon, will now not be able to.

It may take several years before any stem cell transplantation becomes legal in the U.S., accodring to Dr.Sapse.

Shares of stem cell companies, Geron (GERN), StemCells (STEM), Aastrom (ASTM), ViaCell (VIAC), and Thermogenesis (KOOL) were all mixed with little movement on Friday.


Groupon: Deutsche Sees Weaker Local Trends, Stifel Starts at Hold

Deutsche Bank’s Jeetil Patel this morning reiterates a Hold rating on shares of Groupon (GRPN) and a $21 price target, writing that a conversation he’s had with local deals aggregator Yipit suggests that Groupon’s “core business” is slowing this month, with deal volume perhaps flat with last month or slightly down.

Part of the trend is a shift by Groupon, apparently intentional, to sell more travel “deals” and fewer local deals, something that may be helping the company overseas but hurting it in its North American market, writes Patel.

The trend is a continuation of what went on in October and November, he suggests:

Yipit estimates the NA core daily deals business is flat to slightly down in October and with similar trends in November, while the newer travel Groupons show strong QoQ growth helping somewhat offset declines in the core. We note that (1) the data discussed was not explicit, (2) we are hesitant to put too much stock in any unproven 3rd party data, and (3) the final two weeks of the quarter will be critical. We believe slowing sub growth may result in more impact this year from seasonality (users on vacation not buying Groupons) though Groupon��s holiday sales effort (Grouponicus) may overwhelm that. We look for 4% QoQ gross bookings growth in 4Q.

The stock got another lukewarm view this morning from Stifel Nicolaus’s Jordan Rohan, who started coverage with a Hold rating, and a “fair value range” of $18 to $20.

Rohan writes of the company, “Groupon��s ‘get big fast’ strategy to dominate the local deals business is bold, potentially revolutionary, and wrought with organizational challenges.”

He also thinks that Groupon’s $15 billion valuation “already discounts several years of hyper growth and margin expansion, which may no! t materi alize as expected.”

In related news, The Associated Press’s Barbara Ortutay this morning writes that Groupon is offering $10 credits to the first 150,00 people to buy a Groupon by December 24th.

Groupon shares today are off 50 cents, or 2%, at $22.54.

LDK Solar's Shares Jumped: What You Need to Know

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 Chinese solar-power expert LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK  ) glittered and gleamed today, jumping as much as 13.2% on about twice their average trading volume.

So what: With no news on LDK, the stock is still beating the rest of the solar sector black and blue here. That's often a sign that large investors are making a move, and the effect is amplified by the fact that about half of LDK's float is sold short. This is a high-beta stock for a reason, people.

Now what: Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS  ) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) would be the most likely big-volume buyers. They are the two largest LDK shareholders outside CEO Xiaofeng Peng, who holds 51% of the company in his own pocket. Both have also increased their stakes in 2011 -- in Goldman's case, tripling its holdings between March and September. Fellow Fool Travis Hoium sees LDK in the lower echelons of the solar industry, but someone out there with deep pockets disagrees today.

5-Star Stocks Poised to Pop: Ship Finance

Based on the aggregated intelligence of 180,000-plus investors participating in Motley Fool CAPS, the Fool's free investing community, global shipper Ship Finance International (NYSE: SFL  ) has earned a coveted five-star ranking.

With that in mind, let's take a closer look at Ship Finance's business and see what CAPS investors are saying about the stock right now.

Ship Finance facts

Headquarters (Founded) Hamilton, Bermuda (2003)
Market Cap $756 million
Industry Oil and gas storage and transportation
Trailing-12-Month Revenue $287 million
Management CEO Ole Hjertaker (since July 2009)
CFO Eirik Eide (since January 2011)
Return on Equity (Average, Past 3 Years) 20.9%
Cash/Debt $104 million / $2.03 billion
Dividend Yield 16.3%
Competitors Overseas Shipholding (NYSE: OSG  )
Teekay (NYSE: TK  )

Sources: S&P Capital IQ and Motley Fool CAPS.

On CAPS, 96.5% of the 513 members who have rated Ship Finance believe the stock will outperform the S&P 500 going forward. These bulls include 1oldfatguy and All-Star fooluser17, who is ranked in the top 5% of our community.

Just this month, 1oldfatguy tapped Ship Finance as a solid turnaround opportunity: "[P]ositioned to bounce back when economy bounces back in a couple of years. In the mea! ntime, q uietly paying dividends that continue to grow my position at a lower price point."

In fact, Ship Finance currently sports a whopping dividend yield of 16%. That's much higher than that of industry peers like Overseas Shipholding (9.1%), Teekay (4.8%), and Frontline (NYSE: FRO  ) (2.1%).

CAPS All-Star fooluser17 expands on Ship Finance opportunity:

Numbers look mostly good, and they're in a good industry. One item of concern is the 104m in current cash and over 2B in debt. Also recent 20% dip in quarterly earnings. However, the stock is paying a handsome dividend and isn't time-dependent like the REIT dividends. Gonna take a chance on this one.

What do you think about Ship Finance, or any other stock for that matter? If you want to retire rich, you need to put together the best portfolio you can. Owning exceptional stocks is a surefire way to secure your financial future, and on Motley Fool CAPS, thousands of investors are working every day to find them. CAPS is 100% free, so get started!

Want to see how well (or not so well) the stocks in this series are performing? Follow the new TrackPoisedTo CAPS account. ?

Energy Investing Strategies: Three Ways to Profit From the Rebound in Natural Gas Prices

I love autumn.? The leaves start to turn color, and the first hint of winter is invigorating. It is also a great time to peruse each of the financial markets for the shorter-term, seasonal trades that are always lurking - if you know where to look, that is.

One place that's worth looking at right now is the global currency markets, where a major war is currently being waged. As part of the so-called "race to the bottom," the U.S. dollar is down 14% since June. This drop in the greenback has come at a time when a major bull market in commodities has broken out everywhere in the world.?

Gold, silver, wheat and corn have all recently achieved multi-year highs. Cotton just hit its highest price in 140 years.

There has been an exception, however - a headline commodity that's been left behind. Indeed, this particular commodity has been in decline for six months, dropping almost daily. But that's about to change.

As we move deep into fall, the leaves on the trees will change color, die, and then fall to the ground. But the commodity in question will return to the land of the living, and will head for high ground - generating windfall profits for those with the courage to make their move right now.

I'm talking about natural gas.

Natural Gas Numbers

I am a Contrarian investor by nature. So it's no surprise that some of my biggest gains as a professional trader came after I bought something that was so far out of favor that only a lunatic would've followed my lead.

I love those trades.

Right now, natural gas is out of favor.? So out of favor, in fact, that people do not realize the true value of what it represents in the U.S. market. The spot price of a cargo of liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is around $14 per thousand cubic feet (MCF).? In the United States, the same British Thermal Unit (BTU) of energy ! in the f orm of natural gas is priced around $3.50 per MCF.?

The drop in natural gas prices in the U.S. market was so precipitous that, in August 2009, the weekly average price was $2.72 per MCF. I love price differentials like this, because I know that a capitalist will find a way to arbitrage the difference.?

Let's do some quick BTU conversions so that you can see what is happening here.? If you take a barrel of crude oil, and divide it by natural-gas-equivalent BTUs, you would find that the ratio is 6-to-1.?

What that tells us is that one barrel of oil is equal to 6,000 cubic feet (MCF) of natural gas.? When you buy LNG on the spot market, it is priced as an equal with a plus-or-minus differential to crude oil.? However, in the U.S. market, that same BTU value of natural gas is currently discounted.

The bottom line: If crude oil were priced using its natural-gas equivalents in the U.S. market, that "black gold" would be trading at $21 a barrel - a 75% discount to the $88 it was trading at yesterday, its highest price in two years. In late 2008, crude oil was in the low $30's.? It's up 150% in 18 months.

That's the price differential that I'm talking about here. Crude bounced. Liquefied natural gas bounced.

But natural gas never bounced.

Why didn't natural gas bounce like its two other energy brethren? That's easy. Once the United States discovered an abundant supply of natural gas in its shale basins, the fear that this country would run out of this critical source of energy basically disappeared.

This new supply of natural gas is changing the way the United States views energy.? In the past, we expected to have to use imports to meet our energy needs. But that may not be the case going forward.

But make no mistake. Natural gas is going to bounce. In fact, once the United States is able to export liquefied natural gas, conventional natural gas prices will rise t! o match worldwide natural gas futures contracts.

The Energy Cycle

Currently, the United States has eight liquefied-natural-gas import facilities, but only one small LNG export facility - and that's in Alaska.

So as the United States discovers more natural gas reserves, that gas is essentially trapped, and cannot currently be exported.

This gives domestic U.S. consumers of natural gas access to a very cheap source of energy.

Seasonal demand issues also affect U.S. natural gas prices.? It's a fairly predictable cycle.

During U.S. winters, demand for domestic natural gas exceeds available supply, meaning the United States must pull natural gas out of storage to make up the difference.

This causes gas prices to climb each winter as demand increases. This storage is typically old converted gas fields, with compressors installed so that natural gas can be shoved back into the field, for use when it is needed.

Each spring, when the weather warms up, the U.S. demand drops and prices fall as the surplus returns. The natural-gas surplus allows the United States to refill its storage facilities, in anticipation of the winter to follow.

A few years ago, when the United States found itself running short of conventional natural gas, liquefied natural gas was considered the solution to long-term winter energy needs.? At one time, more than 40 proposed LNG facilities were on the drawing boards - each of which carried a construction price tag of $500 million to $1 billion.

Today, six have been finished with a total of 10 locations that are available to import LNG to the U.S. market.? But they currently all sit idle.

That may soon change.

The United States is looking to start exporting LNG.

The End of Foreign Dependence?

Liquefied natural gas is a commodity that America could use to free itself from imported Middle Eastern oil. In re! cent ye ars, U.S. financier T. Boone Pickens has been a vocal advocate for change in the way the United States addresses its energy needs - and its so-called "energy security."

He has posted his thesis about how to free America from its energy import needs - and that thesis includes this excerpt:

"Transportation has to lead the way - it accounts for two-thirds of our oil imports.? No energy strategy can be effective unless it promotes the use of domestic natural gas as a transportation-fuel-alternative to foreign oil/diesel, and the focus has to be on America's eight million heavy duty vehicles.? The NAT GAS Act, a bipartisan bill proposed in both sides of Congress, would advance the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel."

It won't happen overnight, but with intentional changes to our transportation fleet - such as to railroad trains and long-haul trucks, for example - this country could become energy self sufficient.

For that to happen, natural gas will have to play a substantial role. That could boost demand, and natural-gas prices, over the long haul.

And that's just one of the potential catalysts for higher natural gas pries.

A Look at the Price Catalysts

Given what we now know about the U.S. natural-gas market, it's time to look at the catalysts that will ultimately send prices higher. First, however, let's do a quick review of where natural gas is today.

This key U.S. energy source is:

  • Near its yearly lows, while other commodities are already breaking out to yearly highs.
  • Is discounted in the terms of its BTU values here in the U.S. market.
  • Prone to price changes based on seasonal shifts in demand.
  • Slated to increase in price as the price disparity is exploited in the domestic U.S. market.
  • Destined to remain a key energy source in the U.S. market, since this is the only major market in the world with signif! icant a nd highly innovative storage capacity.
Natural gas is destined to be a major commodity story in the months and years to come, as winter demand kicks in and international spot prices continue to rise, and as the U.S. dollar drops in overall value.

It's time for us to go along for the ride.

Action to Take: It's time to invest in natural gas, one of the few key commodities that failed to take part in the global bull market in commodities. The devaluation of the U.S. dollar is causing a price arbitrage event to appear in the U.S. natural gas market, where prices are much lower than they are in the rest of the world.

In the next five years, a group of energy companies will be building LNG-export faculties in the United States.

That is going to close the market-price gap between liquefied natural gas and conventional natural gas.? While the world has a lot of natural gas available, most of it is trapped in non-exporting or easily accessible locations.?

We can expect that natural gas is going to bottom soon, as the weather gets progressively colder in the days and weeks to come.? Let's invest in natural gas while it's still out of favor.

There are three quick-and-easy ways to benefit from natural gas prices. They consist of:

  • An exchange-traded fund - specifically the United States Natural Gas Fund LP (NYSE: UNG).
  • The futures approach, in which case I would be looking at the March 2011 contracts.
  • The options on futures approach.? This gives you the same type of leverage as the futures contract, but without the margin risk.? If you only purchase calls on the futures, you will not be subject to margin risk in holding this position.
(**) Special Note of Disclosure: Jack Barnes holds no interest in United State! s Natura l Gas Fund LP, or any company listed in this article.

5 Long-Term Dividend All Stars to Consider Today

These five companies boast top dividend yields and payment histories. In this article, I analyze each company and compare it to an industry competitor to determine which stocks seem likely produce the income long-term investors are seeking.

AFLAC Incorporated (AFL) �C This provider of life and supplemental health insurance is currently trading near $42 a share, which is toward the middle of its 52-week range of $31.25 to $59.54. Ten years ago, it was trading near $21 a share. Its market capitalization is over $19 billion. Earnings per share are $3.94, and its price to earnings ratio is very reasonable at 10.57. Its dividend yield is 3.10 percent or $1.31, and its payout ratio is 30 percent. Operating cash flow is $9.61 billion. AFL has increased its dividend every year for the past 28 years, and it has paid a dividend since 1973.

Its larger-cap industry peer American International Group Inc. (AIG) is currently trading near $23 a share. It has shown a little more price volatility than AFL with a 52-week trading range of $19.18 to $62.87. Its market capitalization is over $43 billion. Earnings per share are $4.41, and its price to earnings ratio is low at 5.16. AIG does not currently pay a dividend, as required by its credit agreement with the Federal Reserve. AIG, which was heavily involved in the trading of derivatives, paid dividends regularly since 1969 until nearly collapsing in the 2008 financial crisis. The credit agreement provided AIG with the liquidity it needed to continue operating.

At a time when many financial sector stocks are struggling, AFL is holding up well. It is reasonably priced, pays an attractive dividend, and shows gains and stability over time. Its performance and dividend payments are also sustainable, since the company generates significant cash from its operations. AFL is a nice addition to income investors looking for reliable and sustainable dividends as well as to buy-and-hold investors looking for compounded gains in retire! ment acc ounts.

Bemis Company (BMS) �C This maker of packaging products is currently trading near $29 a share. It has shown relative price stability over the past 52 weeks, ranging from a low of $27.21 to a high of $34.40. Ten years ago, it was trading near $19 a share. Its market capitalization is almost $3 billion. Earnings per share are $1.99, and its price to earnings ratio is 14.48. BMS��s dividend yield is 3.30 percent or $0.96, and its payout ratio is 48 percent. The company��s operating cash flow is $364.81 million. BMS boasts 19 consecutive years of dividend increases. The company began making payments to shareholders in 1922. A direct stock purchase/dividend reinvestment plan is available.

Its competitor Avery Dennison Corporation (AVY) is currently trading near $27. With a 52-week trading range of $23.52 to $43.52, it is showing more price volatility. Ten years ago, AVY was trading near $40. Its market capitalization is near $3 billion. Earnings per share are $2.64, and price to earnings ratio is 10.25. Its dividend yield of 3.60 percent or $1 is higher than BMS��s. Its payout ratio is 36 percent. Its operating cash flow is $323.10 million. In 2009, AVY reduced its dividend from $0.41 a quarter to $0.20. In February of this year, management increased it to $0.25 a quarter. AVY offers a direct purchase/dividend reinvestment program.

BMS boasts a stable, reasonable price, an attractive dividend and payment history, and a nice ten-year gain in price. Its performance is also sustainable, and income and longer-term investors will find this stock attractive and relatively low risk.

Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED) This northeastern U.S. electric utility is currently trading near $59 a share. It has ranged from $48.55 to $59.89 over the past 52 weeks. Ten years ago it was trading near $22 a share. ED��s market capitalization is over $17 billion. Earnings per share are $3.71, and its price to earnings ratio is 15.90. ED��s dividend yiel! d is ver y attractive at 4.10 percent or $2.40 a share. Its payout ratio is 65 percent, and it operating cash flow is $3.57 billion. ED has increased its dividend for the past 36 consecutive years and has paid them since 1885. The company offers a direct stock/dividend reinvestment plan.

Its competitor American Electric Power Co. (AEP) is currently trading near $39 a share. It has ranged from $33.09 to $40.08 over the past 52 weeks. Ten years ago, AEP closed near $26. Its market capitalization is almost $19 billion. Earnings per share are $3.76, and price to earnings ratio is 10.44. Its dividend yield of 4.80 percent or $1.88 is higher than ED��s. AEP��s payout ratio is 49 perent, and its operating cash flow is $4.30 billion. Although AEP has paid dividends since 1909, management reduces payments from time to time. The company offers a direct stock purchase/dividend reinvestment plan.

Both companies are solid and stable performers. Both show dedication to shareholders through lengthy dividend histories, and both show the cash flows to sustain payments. ED is more consistent, though investors will pay for this in terms of a higher price to earnings ratio and a lower yield. Investors considering either of these companies may choose to consider both.

McDonald��s Corp. MCD �C This fast food chain is currently trading near $97 a share. It has ranged from $72.14 to $98.95 over the past 52 weeks. Ten years ago, it closed near $21. Its market capitalization is almost $100 billion. Earnings per share are $5.10, and the company��s price to earnings ratio is 19.10. Its dividend yield is 2.80 percent or $2.80, and its payout ratio is 48 percent. Its operating cash flow is $7.09 billion. MCD has paid dividends since 1976 and has increased its payments for the past 34 consecutive years. The company offers a direct stock purchase/dividend reinvestment plan.

Its competitor Yum! Brands, Inc. (YUM) is currently trading near $58 a share. It has ranged from $46.27 to $59.1! 7 over t he past 52 weeks. Ten years ago, it was trading near $11, adjusted for dividends and splits. Its market capitalization is over $26 billion. Earnings per share are $2.55, and its price to earnings ratio is 22.57. Its dividend yield is 1.90 percent or $1.14. The company��s payout ratio is 39 percent. Its operating cash flow is only $2.17 billion. YUM has paid dividends since 2004, and management has increased payments for the past six consecutive years. It does not offer a direct stock purchase plan.

MCD boasts an outstanding dividend payment history. Its expanding global reach and consistent performancepoint to future growth and success. It is a little pricey, but its performance is strong. YUM is a strong company, too, but it lacks its competitor��s track record.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) �C This discount retail giant is currently trading near $58 a share. It has ranged from $48.31 to $59.40 over the past 52 weeks. Ten years ago, it was trading near $46.20. Its market capitalization is over $198 billion.

WMT��s dividend yield is 2.50 percent or $1.46, and its payout ratio is 30 percent. Its operating cash flow is $24.49 billion. The company��s dividend payment history dates to 1973. It has increased its payment for the past 35 consecutive years. WMT offers a direct stock purchase/dividend reinvestment plan.

Its competitor Target Corporation (TGT) is currently trading near $53 a share. It has ranged from $45.28 to $60.97 over the past 52 weeks. Ten years ago, it closed near $33 a share. Its market capitalization is over $35 billion. Earnings per share are $4.30, and its price to earnings ratio is 12.27. TGT��s dividend yield is 2.20 percent or $1.20, and it payout ratio is 25 percent. Operating cash flow is $5.39 billion. TGT, which has increased its dividend payment for the past 39 consecutive years, boasts a payment history that dates to 1965. It also offers a direct stock purchase/dividend reinvestment plan.

Both of these companie! s make n ice additions to income and long-term portfolios. Both show stability and a commitment to shareholders while operating in an industry that maintains its outlook even in the face of adverse economic conditions.