Responsible gold mining within reach

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (MarketWatch) � While the United States, Australia, South Africa, and China are among the top gold-producing countries in the world, there is a scrum of developing world countries increasing their prospecting and offering the chance for a better and cleaner enterprise.

Peru, Indonesia, and Ghana are among a host of countries that are mining more. Accelerated production rates, following on the spike in gold prices since the 2008 economic downturn, have provided the incentive. At the same time, concerns about environmental and human rights consequences have heightened.

Gold mining creates both problems and opportunities. Problems arise when the environment is degraded and forced labor occurs. But therein lie opportunities for businesses that go beyond gold itself: sustainability standards can create enterprises that make mining more efficient, environmentally safer, and engender better working conditions.

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Russia WTO entry spells boon for corporates

After an 18-year application process, Russia will finally become a World Trade Organization member later this year. Will this mean a flood of Russian goods into Europe? Severstal's CEO tells WSJ what this means for steel and other Russian corporates.

The World Gold Council has devised �conflict-standards,� which a spokesman says will be introduced this year. �The draft standard contains a demanding framework of benchmarks and prompts, through which companies must assess the adequacy of their systems and analyze their impacts upon those around them,� says Justine McGuinness, a consultant for the World Gold Council in London.

The Gold Council has been c! onsultin g with governments, investors, civil society groups and industry representatives �to solicit input from a wide range of participants in order to promote accountability and transparency in the intent and design of the standard,� it says. Last June it unveiled its standards� initiative to combat �conflict gold.�

It�s a must. And conflict standards should be adopted sooner than later.

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In Guatemala, the Philippines and Peru protests have broken out over unfit conditions and sustainability issues. Mining is a dirty business � creating more toxic waste than any other business in the U.S., for example � and stresses local habitats. Just one ounce of gold requires tons of rock to be hacked and barrels of harmful chemicals to be used. Moreover, gold mining often takes place in areas where rebels and other! bad sor ts reign; workers have few if any rights.

The industry problems became so bad that retailers actually started speaking up and out.

Tiffany�s chief executive Mark Kowalski has gone as far as to take out full page advertisements in major publications calling for higher mining standards.

�Tiffany & Co. is committed to obtaining precious metals and gemstones and crafting our jewelry in ways that are socially and environmentally responsible. It is simply the right thing to do; and our customers expect and deserve nothing less,� Kowalski says.

Besides being the right thing to do, if real conflict-standards are embraced within the gold industry, complementary businesses will in turn take off. Investors, take note. Wastewater treatment companies and clean energy operators are sitting pretty as are corporate social responsibility reporting firms and due-diligence monitoring companies. Indeed, I have spoken with several South American consultants baited with anticipation for a conflict-standards framework to be adopted.

Mining is an important source of income to many developing countries. But that doesn�t mean standards have to be sacrificed and locals have to suffer. Rather, new enterprises that promote better social and environmental impact can thrive on the coattails of the gold industry�s profits.

The Kimberley Process � despite its faults � went a long way toward making the world aware of �blood diamonds� and setting the stage for better working conditions in the gem industry. Transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain should be de rigueur in any business, and especially those businesses that do the most damage to people and the planet.

Create new stand! ards. Cr eate new businesses. Create a better developing world; nay, world.

Bernanke tries to keep Fed out of politics

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- By now, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke must be used to being a punching bag.

Both Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have vowed to replace him if they're elected president. Texas governor and former presidential candidate Rick Perry claimed it would be "treasonous" for Bernanke to use Federal Reserve policy to stimulate the economy before the election.

But criticism of the Fed also extends into Congress. Some Republican lawmakers are scolding Bernanke for what they feel is a case of him overstepping his bounds and telling them how do their job.

In a House hearing last week, Rep. Scott Garrett took issue with a white paper published by the Federal Reserve last month that analyzes several potential housing policies.

"I was truly taken aback," said Garrett, a Republican from New Jersey, claiming the paper backed policies pushed by the Obama administration. "Is this an invitation now to Congress that we should be issuing resolutions to what the monetary policy that the Fed should be doing? If so, I'm sure there's a lot of members who would like to engage in it."

But despite the criticism, Bernanke does his best to not step into the political fray. At a Senate hearing Tuesday, Congress members from both sides of the aisle tried to push Bernanke to endorse their point of view. Instead, he repeatedly offered economic forecasts without backing specific budget proposals.

"I've often said I'm in favor of the law of arithmetic," he said at one point. And at another, "I'm a little bit leery of taking positions."

Bernanke: Fed will protect U.S. economy

A Republican appointed to the Fed by President George W. Bush, Bernanke stood by then Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson in 2008 to urge Congress to act swiftly to stabilize financial markets.

Other than those emergency efforts to address the crisis, he has largely refrained from supporting fiscal proposals from either Republicans or Demo! crats.

That stands in stark contrast to his predecessors, who were often more outspoken. Some were even praised for their advice.

Alan Greenspan enthusiastically backed the Bush tax cuts in 2001 -- a move Greenspan himself has since admitted was a mistake.

While Republicans are now wagging their finger at the Fed's thoughts on housing, back then, lawmakers were glad to have Greenspan's comments on fiscal policy.

And that's nothing new. Congress has often sought the advice of Fed chairmen. In the early 1980s, Paul Volcker urged Congress to support deficit cuts even deeper than those planned by President Reagan.

A Democrat appointed by Jimmy Carter, Volcker later opposed financial deregulation and was passed over by President Ronald Reagan for a second appointment to the Fed. Greenspan, who took his place, advocated for deregulation openly before Congress.

But instead of using his position to promote specific fiscal policies, Bernanke repeatedly offers this same, vague advice to Congress: focus on cutting the deficit over the long run, but don't derail the still-fragile economic recovery in the meantime.

"I would say 'do no harm' is an important piece of advice I would offer you," he said Thursday.

Ultimately, Fed watchers said Bernanke's advice is mostly economic, not political.

"Talking to Congress about how the deficit affects the economy and how addressing it affects the economy is not in the realm of politics, it's in the realm of economics," said Ellen Zentner, senior U.S. economist at Nomura Securities.

And as for that pesky white paper last month?

"The Fed is concerned about housing because it's an area key to the economy," said Diane Swonk, chief economist for Mesirow Financial. "The Fed feels justified in voicing those concerns. That doesn't mean they're taking a partisan stand."

Meanwhile, it's not as if Congress doesn't try to meddle in monetary policy.

In September, four top Republica! n Congre ssmen -- Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. John Boehner, Sen. Jon Kyl, Rep. Eric Cantor -- sent a letter to the Fed, urging the central bank not to enact more stimulative policies that they feared could trigger inflation in the future. 

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One of the recurring nightmares that the Administration and many economists have is the that fear of the recession and a drive for profit will keep American companies from hiring new workers, even if they need them. The theory goes that firms will live on the edge of productivity which means that they will squeeze every last ounce of work out of every last employee.

About 38% of those who do have a job say their company is understaffed, according to a new Gallup poll. Workers may exaggerate the need for new colleagues because they believe they have to labor themselves to fill the void.

Another 52% of those polled say that their companies have the right numbers of people.

The data show that the job market still faces the obvious challenge that companies will not add to payrolls which could keep unemployment above 9.5%, a level where it has been for 14 months–a period which has not been matched since The Great Depression.

The more insidious and less obvious issue is the government will have to pay to aid those without jobs or allow them to become indigent in greater number. Estimates are that the number of people who have been out of work for over 99 weeks and have no unemployment financial support at all could reach 3 million by the end of the year. That number will grow rapidly if there is not significant job creation within the private sector. The government has begun to layoff workers as the unemployment data from the last four months show. That adds even more people to the group of millions who look for work to replace jobs they have lost.

Company by company the chances of a jobs recovery has been destroyed and it seems that is likely to continue.

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Aug. 5-8, 2010, with a random sample of 499 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S. who are employed full or part-time, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

Douglas A. McIntyre

MT760 Explained – MT760 at a Glance

There are so many different procedures in the world of finance and investing that it can be hard to keep track of all the different ones used. For many, having an MT760 explained to them is important since this type of procedure can have many consequences, sometimes positive and sometimes very negative. If you’re trying to learn more about an MT760 or are somehow involved in one, there are a few basic things to understand. Once that you have a solid grasp on these principles you’ll be able to get a good comprehension of just what this procedure is and how it is used in finance.

Basically, an MT760 is a type of bank guarantee that serves not only as a letter of credit, but also puts a hold on any funds that are associated with the operation. It functions very similarly to other types of guarantees but carries with it a far greater risk to the issuer while greatly reducing the risks experienced by the recipient. The MT760 is an interbank communication that you’ll never actually see as far as getting a document or report on, but is still a major influence on your overall financial transactions if you are involved in one.

When an MT760 occurs, the bank will place a hold on the funds of the client and allow the person who the MT760 was issued for to use them at their discretion. The original client can’t use the funds, but the person who received the hold will be able to utilize them. Obviously this creates a high level of risk for those who issue this type of guarantee and it has indeed been used by more than one unsavory investor to scam others. Because of this, it’s vital that you ensure this is the right call to make before you proceed with it.

Many people opt for a letter of credit instead of the MT760 since the latter is not negotiable after it has been issued. If various conditions arise that affect the funds or the use of them, there’s really nothing that can! be done to change the MT760. It is certainly one type of financial procedure that you may never have any interaction with, but if you do then you owe it to yourself to fully understand the basics behind it and how it will impact both parties that are involved with it. There may be better options, or this could be the best choice for your situation.

Let Inquest advise you the best path to invest in the market with confidence.

AAPL: FYQ2 Upside Even Before New iPad, Says ITG

Analyst Tony Berkman with boutique research house ITG Investment Research this afternoon offers up the view that Apple (AAPL) is on track to beat the consensus $35.15 billion for the fiscal Q2 that ends this month, likely turning in $37.3 billion, with some benefit coming from sales of the iPhone starting with China Telecom (CHL) tomorrow, without counting any sales from the new iPad, unveiled yesterday.

Apple may ship 31.3 million iPhones this quarter, with 1.2 million of that inventory filling, writes Berkman, and he sees particular strength in China, as “as China Unicom (CHU) has benefi ted tremendously from the launch of the 4S.” China Unicom has been the sole licensed carrier for the iPhone prior to Telecom starting to sell the device.

For the iPad, Berkman is modeling 10.2 million units, but he expects “considerable upside” to that number when including units sold for the new model, which comes to retail on March 16th.

Berkman thinks Apple may sell 4.35 million Macs this quarter, a 15.7% rise, with improving trends in Europe and other foreign markets.

Apple shares today rose $11.30, or 2%, to $541.99.


Finding The Great Bar Stools

Having enough seating in any social event can be challenging. It can be resolved with some great bar stools with custom designs or just plain leather or suede. Some folks choose animal prints and some like floral type prints. Either way, this would be a great attraction to the living area. Leathers and suede are probably two of the most popular as they are easy to clean and the most durable.

Furniture should be made to last if the quality is made of fine fabrics like leather or suede. These two types of fabric may be a little bit more pricey but in the long run will outlast any of the other types of fabrics. It is easier to clean and will always have an elegant and stylish look. The durability will also be long lasting and will test the length of time.

These are great for the kitchen countertops so one can have meals or drinks with family and friends. They are economical and stylish at the same time and suitable for any occasion. It is also a great social piece of furniture as it can accommodate many large sums of people comfortably. This is a great way to entertain family and friends so folks can come closer to one another when talking and laughing.

Restaurants with side bars have many cushioned ones to provide comfort for many hours of shared cocktails and happy hours. This is the perfect set up for getting large sums of people together for a night of fun. From happy hour to birthday celebrations this is one of the best places to have some carefree fun.

The friendly neighborhood bar also has a great selection. Most are leather and very comfy for many hours of sitting with friends or dates for catch ups and the latest going ons within family and friends. This would be a great place to share a light snack and some laughs.

The home bars need an action piece to bring out the beauty of the bar. There are some that have rollers for ease of movement around the home. This would only be recommended for home use as eating establishments norm! ally pre fer bar stools to be stationary.

With modern technology the internet is a wonderful place to shop. The worldwide web allows everyone to search all over for whatever one desires even bar stools in Europe if one desires. Each vendor will have its own rules but most will send along sample swatches if the individual shows a real interest to purchase a product from them. Some even have exotic animal prints or designer type fabrics.

Bar stools are a fantastic way to accommodate large groups of people in any event. From birthdays to family get-togethers, this can free up more room for tables filled with food or flower arrangements. Having more bar stools can add more coziness to a large group of people.

Looking for poker tables, bar stools, and other game room furniture? We provide the best in quality products for you games room needs. We also carry game furniture such as bar stools, poker tables and dart supplies Mississauga to suit your needs. Visit us today.

Hot Stocks: Can Apple Be a Gentle Giant?

Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) yesterday (Thursday) supplanted Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) as the largest technology company in the United States. Apple now trails only Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) in size, but that size will only make the company a bigger target if it fails to use its newfound market position prudently.

Just last month, Microsoft's market capitalization exceeded Apples by some $25 billion. But Apple has finally overtaken one its great archrivals. But being the new standard bearer for the technology sector brings with it more than bragging rights. It also will make Apple a bigger target for its competitors and government scrutiny.

As far as competition is concerned, there's no question that Apple has outdone Microsoft.

The Mac, the iPod, iPhone and iPad have succeeded on a large scale - bringing new and innovative technology to the mainstream, while Windows, the Zune and Xbox have all struggled to dominate their respective arenas. Apple, with clever marketing strategies, has edged market share away from personal computer manufacturers, and the Zune can hardly hold a candle to the rampant success of the iPod. Microsoft's Xbox, meanwhile, is stuck fending off competition from Sony Corp.'s (NYSE ADR: SNE) Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s (OTC: NTDOY) Wii.

What's more is that Apple's growing list of vanquished foes may soon find it convenient to band together against a common foe. After all, the company has amassed some powerful enemies. And with the likes of Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) entering the fray with its Gphone and accompanying Android operating system, Apple is fending off competition from every direction.

Additionally, Apple has found itself in the crosshairs of the U.S. government. The Department of Justice is reportedly looking into allegations that Apple used its dominant market position to dissuade record companies from giving exclusive music rights to Inc! .'s (NYS E: AMZN) online MP3 store.

The antitrust inquiry is in the early stages, the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Billboard magazine reported in March that major music labels were giving Amazon the exclusive right to sell certain forthcoming songs for one day before they went on sale more widely. In exchange, Amazon promised to include those songs in a promotion called the "MP3 Daily Deal" on its Web site.

Amazon first launched the Daily Deal in June 2008 as a means of driving customers to its MP3 store.

"The labels paid nothing for being included in that privilege, nor were they asked," a major-label head of sales told Billboard.

But in mid-2009, the executive says, "that promotion morphed into something where the labels make arrangements to provide an exclusive selling window with Amazon for a big release expected to do a lot of business on street date."

"When that happened," the executive told the magazine, "iTunes said, 'Enough of that...'"

iTunes representatives reportedly urged labels to rethink their participation in the Amazon promotion and backed up those warnings by withdrawing marketing support for releases involved with the Amazon promotion

Apple has considerable leverage, as it is by far the largest seller of online music with 69% of the U.S. market, according to data from the NPD Group. That compares to Amazon's meager 8% share. Apple also is the largest over seller of music, with 26.7% of the total market, up from 12% in 2007.

"Without knowing what acts or practices they are targeting, it's difficult to say exactly how big a problem this is. Daniel L. Brown, an antitrust lawyer at Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton, told The Times. "But it's probably something Apple is already concerned about."

"Certainly if the Justice Department is getting involved, it raises the possibility of pote! ntial se rious problems down the road for Apple," he said.

This isn't the first time Apple has been targeted by federal authorities, either. The Federal Trade Commission is moving ahead with a separate investigation into Apple's rules for developers who create applications for the iPhone operating system. That investigation is the result of a complaint from Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE), whose Flash media player was banned from Apple devices, along with flash-based mobile applications.

Adobe says Apple is stifling competition by barring developers from using Adobe's products to create applications for Apple's devices.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs in an open letter on his company's Web site countered that "the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards - all areas where Flash falls short."

"Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind," Jobs added.

Still, Adobe insists that Apple's objections are about more than technological evolution.

"The story is bigger than HTML versus Flash. It's about freedom of choice on the Web," Adobe Chief Technology Officer Kevin Lynch said at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. "I don't think it's the role of the company to exercise judgment on what people should use, that's the role of society and the law."

"The technology issue Apple has with us is not that [Flash] doesn't work, it's that it does work," he added. "You can make a [Flash] application that works fine across OSes, and they don't like that."

If U.S. regulators agree that Apple is going too far, the company could find itself in a situation similar to that of the recently supplanted Microsoft, which has spent two decades battling regulatory scrutiny - one in which its dominance is blatant but its practices suspect.

"The contrast between the company's image today and when it first started is pretty dramatic," said ! Roger Ka y, the Endpoint Technologies Associates analyst who two years ago in a BusinessWeek column warned that corporate hubris could spell Apple's eventual fall from grace. "They really did represent the hip outsider. But Apple's no longer the outsider - it's been elevated to the pinnacle. My thesis back then was that they were flying high and they should watch out, and they weren't even flying as high as they are now. So my timing may be off, but my thesis still holds."

News & Related Story Links:

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  • InfoWorld: Adobe CTO: Apple's behavior a throwback to 1984
  • Money Morning: Hot Stocks: Apple's iPad Picks Up Where Amazon's Kindle Left Off
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    Hot Stocks: Apple's Acquisition of Quattro Puts It on a Collision Course with Google
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EK is trying to sell off one of its few modern businesses

Eastman Kodak (NYSE:EK) is trying to sell its online photo-sharing business, Kodak Gallery. Why would Kodak cannibalize one of the few 21st century businesses it has when legacy film sales continue to disappear in a digital age?

Simply put: Kodak has no choice. Either it dies a slow death, mortgaging its future to keep EK stock afloat, or it declares bankruptcy within the year.

It�s a sad state of affairs for what was once a name synonymous with photography in America.

At the end of September, Eastman Kodak stock sold off more than 20% in a single day of trading after the company announced it had tapped into $160 million from its credit line for �general business purposes,� prompting fears the company didn�t have enough cash to keep the lights on. EK stock has been brutalized ever since, down more than 50% in just 60 days and more than 80% year-to-date.

Kodak warned investors it will run out of cash within 12 months if it can’t raise new funds from lenders or asset sales. But in this already difficult credit market, one has to wonder who would offer up such a loan — and even if asset sales materialize for Kodak Gallery or the company�s digital imaging patent portfolio, you have to wonder what would be left of Eastman Kodak after the fact.

There are many ugly and embarrassing realities about the Kodak situation. Perhaps the most glaring amid the political gridlock in Washington these days is the fact that Kodak�s CEO, Antonio Perez, is a member of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. Seeing as the unemployment rate in general is stuck at 9% and the specific future of EK is grim, that�s a rather absurd state of affairs.

Then there’s also the fact that Kodak engineers developed the first digital photography technologies in the mid-1970s. The company either didn�t understand the potential or didn�t want to think beyond its legacy film business — now Kodak is paying the price.

Another telling sign is that many brand studies show consumers think Kodak is a stodgy film-and-negatives company — and that ultimately dooms EK to failure even if it manages to establish itself selling digital cameras and photo printers. Consider that a decade ago, Interbrand�ranked Kodak as the 16th most valuable brand in the world, worth $14.8 billion. Every year since, the Kodak brand has fallen in both rank and value. And now, in a world of Shutterfly (NASDAQ:SFLY) and Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) property Flickr, Kodak just doesn�t have the currency it used to.

And let’s not forget Kodak was a proud member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average for 74 years before its removal in 2004.

The once-iconic Kodak might be able to stay afloat for another two or three years as it sells itself for parts. Optimists insist the cash burn is overblown — even though filings show $862 million on hand in the quarter ended Sept. 30, down a stunning 38% from $1.4 billion during the same period of 2010. And corporate executives insist that Jones Day — the massive law firm known for working on big-time restructuring cases that include defunct bank Lehman Brothers — is simply an adviser helping Eastman Kodak in a troubled time, and nothing more.

Only time will tell what the real story is with Kodak. But shareholders and photo lovers should be realistic about the challenges the company faces in the next year. There is a very good chance America�s �Kodak Moment� won�t last for much longer.

Jeff Reeves is the editor of Write him at, follow him on Twitter via @JeffReevesIP and become a fan of InvestorPlace on Facebook. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned stocks.

A Pledge to Hedge: Money Mornings Fitz-Gerald Makes Public Promise to Slash Private Power Use

Elan Corporation, plc (ADR) (NYSE:ELN) achieved its new 52 week high price of $10.06 where it was opened at $9.44 UP 0.56 points or +5.98% by closing at $9.93. ELN transacted shares during the day were over 7.12 million shares however it has an average volume of 3.43 million shares.

ELN has a market capitalization $5.82 billion and an enterprise value at $6.59 billion. Trailing twelve months price to sales ratio of the stock was 4.97 while price to book ratio in most recent quarter was 21.26. In profitability ratios, net profit margin in past twelve months appeared at -21.30% whereas operating profit margin for the same period at 6.46%.

The company made a return on asset of 2.25% in past twelve months and return on equity of -64.52% for similar period. In the period of trailing 12 months it generated revenue amounted to $1.17 billion gaining $2.00 revenue per share. Its year over year, quarterly growth of revenue was 0.80%.

According to preceding quarter balance sheet results, the company had $499.00 million cash in hand making cash per share at 0.85. The total of $1.27 billion debt was there putting a total debt to equity ratio 464.00. Moreover its current ratio according to same quarter results was 2.42 and book value per share was 0.47.

Looking at the trading information, the stock price history displayed that its S&P500 52 Week Change illustrated 20.99% where the stock price exhibited up beat from its 50 day moving average with $8.53 and remained above from its 200 Day Moving Average with $6.95.

ELN holds 586.30 million outstanding shares with 477.90 million floating shares.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012

It's been a crazy year for the stock exchange and biotech shares were not immune, but if you are looking to choose biotech stocks for your portfolio, here are a few picks for small biotechnology and drug development companies that survived, some even showing overall growth, in the face of economic turmoil in 2012.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012:Acme United Corporation. (ACU)

 Acme United Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, develops and markets cutting, measuring, and safety products to the school, home, office, hardware, and industrial markets in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Its cutting device products include scissors, shears, guillotine paper trimmers, rotary paper trimmers, rotary cutters, knives, hobby knives and blades, utility knives, pruners, loppers, saws, manicure products, medical cutting instruments, and pencil sharpeners. The company?s measuring instruments products comprise rulers, math tools, tape measures, erasers, compasses and protractors, and rulers and math kits; and safety products that consist of first aid kits, personal protection products, over-the-counter medication refills, emergency care responder kits, and flu care kits. It sells its products through its independent manufacturer representatives and directly under the Westcott, Clauss, Camillus, and PhysiciansCare brand names. The company serves wholesale, contract, and retail stationery distributors; office supply super stores; school supply distributors; drug store retailers; industrial distributors; wholesale florists; mass market retailers; and hardware chains. Acme United Corporation was founded in 1867 and is headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012:RailAmerica Inc. (RA)

 RailAmerica, Inc. engages in the ownership and operation of short line and regional freight railroads in North America. The company provides rail freight transportation services for a range of products, such as coal, forest products, chemicals, agricultural products, food products, metallic ores and metals, and petroleum products. As of May 11, 2011, it operated 43 individual railroads with approximately 7,400 miles of track in 27 states of the United States and 3 Canadian provinces. The company also provides various non-freight services, including railcar storage, demurrage, engineering infrastructure services, lease of equipment to other users, and real estate leases. RailAmerica, Inc. was founded in 1985 and is headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012:PIMCO California Municipal Income Fund III (PZC)

 PIMCO California Municipal Income Fund III is a close ended fixed income mutual fund launched and managed by Allianz Global Investors Fund Management LLC. It is co-managed by Pacific Investment Management Company LLC. The fund invests in fixed income markets. Its investment portfolio include California municipal bonds, and other municipal bonds and notes; California variable rate notes and other variable rate notes; California variable rate demand notes and other variable rate demand notes; U.S. treasury bills; and call options written and put options written. Allianz Global Investors Fund Management LLC serves as an investment Manager to the fund. PIMCO California Municipal Income Fund III was formed in 2002 and is based in New York City.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012:BCB Bancorp Inc. (NJ) (BCBP)

 BCB Bancorp, Inc. operates as the holding company for BCB Community Bank that provides banking products and services in New Jersey. It offers various deposit products, including interest-bearing demand deposits, NOW accounts, savings and club accounts, non-interest bearing accounts, money market accounts, individual retirement accounts, and term certificate accounts, as well as certificates of deposit. The company also provides commercial and multi-family real estate loans, one- to four-family residential mortgage loans, construction loans, home equity loans and home equity lines of credit, commercial business loans, secured and unsecured consumer loans, and loans collateralized by new and used automobiles. In addition, it offers retail and commercial banking services, including wire transfers, money orders, traveler?s checks, safe deposit boxes, night depository, federal payroll tax deposits, bond coupon redemption, and automated teller services. BCB Bancorp operates through three branches in Bayonne and Hoboken, as well as an executive office in Bayonne. The company was founded in 2000 and is based in Bayonne, New Jersey.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012:Terra Nova Royalty Corporation (TTT)

 Terra Nova Royalty Corporation operates as a mineral royalty company in Canada. It owns a royalty stream on the Wabush iron ore mine located in Labrador Newfoundland. The company was formerly known as KHD Humboldt Wedag International Ltd. and changed its name in March 2010 to Terra Nova Royalty Corporation as a result of spin off of KHD Humboldt Wedag International Ltd. Terra Nova Royalty Corporation is based in Vancouver, Canada.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012:Iconix Brand Group Inc. (ICON)

 Iconix Brand Group, Inc. operates as a brand management company that engages in licensing, marketing, and providing trend direction for a portfolio of owned consumer brands. As of March 31, 2011, the company and its joint ventures owned 23 iconic consumer brands, including Candie?s, Bongo, Badgley Mischka, Joe Boxer, Rampage, Mudd, London Fog, Mossimo, Ocean Pacific/OP, Danskin/Danskin Now, Rocawear, Cannon, Royal Velvet, Fieldcrest, Charisma, Starter, and Waverly, as well as the Artful Dodger, Ed Hardy, Ecko and Zoo York, Material Girl, and Peanuts. It licenses its brands through approximately 1,000 direct-to-retail and wholesale licenses for use across a range of product categories, including footwear, fashion accessories, sportswear, home products and d�cor, and beauty and fragrance. The company was formerly known as Candie's, Inc. and changed its name to Iconix Brand Group, Inc. in July 2005. Iconix Brand Group, Inc. was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in New York, New York.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012:El Paso Pipeline Partners LP (EPB)

 El Paso Pipeline Partners, L.P. engages in the ownership and operation of natural gas transportation pipelines and storage assets in the United States. The company holds a 100% interest in Wyoming Interstate Company, Ltd. (WIC), an interstate pipeline transportation company located in Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. It operates approximately 800-mile WIC interstate natural gas pipeline system with a design capacity of approximately 3.5 billion cubic feet per day. The company also owns a 58% general partner interest in Colorado Interstate Gas Company, which operates an interstate natural gas pipeline system with approximately 4,300 miles of pipeline with a design capacity of approximately 4.6 billion cubic feet per day; and associated storage facilities with 37 billion cubic feet of underground working natural gas storage capacity. In addition, it owns a 60% general partner interest in Southern Natural Gas Company that operates an interstate natural gas pipeline system with approximately 7,600 miles of pipeline with a design capacity of approximately 3.7 billion cubic feet per day; and associated storage facilities with a total of approximately 60 billion cubic feet of underground working natural gas storage capacity. Further, the company owns interests in Elba Express Company, L.L.C., which operates an approximately 200-mile pipeline with a design capacity of 945 million cubic feet per day; and Southern LNG Company, L.L.C. that owns a liquefied natural gas receiving terminal with a storage capacity of 11.5 equivalent billion cubic feet. It serves natural gas distribution and industrial companies, electric generation companies, natural gas producers, other natural gas pipeline companies, and natural gas marketing and trading companies. El Paso Pipeline GP Company, L.L.C. serves as the general partner of the company. The company was founded in 2007 and is based in Houston, Texas. El Paso Pipeline Partners, L.P. is a subsidiary of El Paso Pipeline LP Holdings, L.L.C.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012:American National Insurance Company (ANAT)

 American National Insurance Company, together with its subsidiaries, provides insurance products and services in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and American Samoa. The company operates in five segments: Life, Annuity, Health, Property and Casualty, and Corporate and Other. The Life segment offers individual and group life insurance products, including universal life, variable universal life, whole life, and term life; and credit life insurance. The Annuity segment provides fixed annuities comprising single premium immediate annuities, deferred annuities, and equity-indexed annuities, as well as variable annuities to individuals and institutional investors. The Health segment offers medicare supplement, supplemental insurance, medical expense, stop-loss, and credit disability insurance. The Property and Casualty segment provides auto insurance, homeowners insurance, agribusiness and commercial insurance, and credit property and casualty insurance. The Corporate and Other segment offers investment advisory products and services. The company also invests in mortgage loans and real estate properties. It distributes its products through multiple-line agents, career agents, independent agents, third party marketing organizations, and direct sales to the public. The company was founded in 1905 and is headquartered in Galveston, Texas.

10 Best Stocks To Own For September 2012:Paychex Inc. (PAYX)

 Paychex Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides payroll, human resource, and benefits outsourcing solutions for small-to medium-sized businesses in the United States and Germany. It offers payroll processing services, including calculation, preparation, and delivery of employee payroll checks; production of internal accounting records and management reports; preparation of federal, state, and local payroll tax returns; and collection and remittance of clients? payroll obligations. The company also provides payroll tax administration services; employee payment services; and regulatory compliance services, such as new-hire reporting and garnishment processing. Its human resource outsourcing services include payroll, employer compliance, human resource and employee benefits administration, risk management outsourcing, and the on-site availability of a professionally trained human resource representative, as well as provides employee handbooks, management manuals, and required regulatory forms. In addition, the company offers retirement services administration; workers? compensation; business-owner policies; commercial auto; and health and benefits coverage, including health, dental, vision, and life. Further, it provides online human resource administration software products for employee benefits management and administration, and time and attendance solutions. As of May 31, 2010, the company served approximately 536,000 clients in the United States; and 1,700 clients in Germany. Paychex, Inc. was founded in 1971 and is headquartered in Rochester, New York.

Best Wall St. Stocks Today: YHOO,GOOG,MSFT,NYT,GCI,SNI,WPO

New data from online research firm Comscore�shows Facebook had 27.9% of the U.S. display advertising market, up from 21% in 2010. Yahoo!�s (NASDAQ: YHOO) share was 11%. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) had 5% each. That leaves the balance of the market with a little over 51%. Given Facebook�s�advance over the past three years, small and modest-sized websites may be hurt even more than their larger competitors, despite the fact that the dollar value of display advertising advances every year.

The analysis of display advertising market share rarely mentions the tier of sites below the largest ones by audience. Those most likely to be hurt badly, if they have not already been, are the online sites of old-line media companies. The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) has had trouble with its very modest online ad growth. Among sites measure by Comscore, it had 76.4 million unique visitors in December to Facebook�s 152.5 million. And Facebook�s audience continues to grow quickly. The New York Times� does not. Gannett (NYSE: GCI), which announced earnings yesterday,�has confronted�the same challenge. Its increase in internet ad revenue last quarter�was depressing and hardly enough to offset drops in traditional print advertising. It had 44.1 million unique visitors in December, despite the fact that it owns the giant national newspaper USA Today. Scripps Networks (NYSE: SNI) and the Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) are in a position that is just as difficult.

Facebook has not only started to squeeze out the major portals. It takes an ongoing piece of a market that has thousands of websites in it. This display advertising market, which appeared so promising just a few years ago, is hardly promising at all.

Douglas A. McIntyre

Semis: FBR Cuts Estimates, But Inventory to Turn Positive

FBR Capital’s Craig Berger decided to kick off the week of the Consumer Electronics Show with a dose of bitter medicine: He cut estimates for a slew of chip companies, including Broadcom (BRCM), Atmel (ATML), Microsemi (MSCC), Maxim Integrated Products (MXIM), International Rectifier (IRF), and On Semiconductor (ONNN), “given industry business dynamics have gotten slightly worse over the past couple of months.”

Inventory is still being cleared by distributors, and the networking and 2G cellular markets having been deteriorating “of late,” he notes. He also concedes he may have “modeled too aggressively” for this quarter’s estimates.

However, it’s likely chip executives will increasingly refer to the first quarter as the “trough” in fundamentals, Berger acknowledges. All the stocks are rated Outperform, and he sees better times ahead as 2012 brings inventory replenishment.

Berger cut his Broadcom estimate to 59 cents per share this quarter from 60, but above the consensus 53 cents; he cut Atmel to 12 cents from 15 cents, below the consensus 15 cents; he cut IRF’s estimate to 3 cents from 7 cents, versus consensus 4 cents; he cut Maxim’s estimate to 37 cents from 38 cents, above the consensus 33 cents; Microsemi goes to 49 cents from 50 cents, above the consensus 48 cents; and ON goes to 9 cents from 13 cents, above the consensus 7 cents.

Berger also offers a rather ho-hum assessment of the show this week:

Regarding CES, clearly the show is less exciting than last year when “Tablet Mania” gripped the Street, and with the sector in the throes of an up-cycle. This year’s key focus areas will include smartphone demand and design-win trends, incremental details on Windows 8 timing and legacy support for Office and other! applica tions, support for ARM- based PCs among key OEMs and ODMs (and ecosystem partners), and traction for Intel’s Ultrabook efforts. We expect to hear some positive design-win commentary out of Qualcomm, Broadcom, Maxim, Atmel, and others.

The Ultimate PF how-to roundup & more: Tip'd hottest stories, July 14 edition

This is a round-up of the most popular finance links from Tip'd, the social media site for finance news, in the past week. This week's stories includes an awesome PF tutorial "mega post," some effective savings strategies, and a homemade dishwater detergent recipe!

The 2009 Personal Finance "How to" Roundup (23 Tips)
Learn hundreds of personal finance how-to's all in one place! Read what people are saying about it.

Pay Yourself First-Saving Strategy: Mailbag (23 Tips)
Reader has problems with saving on monthly bases, at the end of the month there is nothing left to put into a savings plan. Setting up a "Pay Yourself First" plan can help in these situations. Read the discussion here.

Simple & Effective - Jabs Homemade Dishwasher Detergent & Rinse Agent (22 Tips)
I'm hooked on making my own household products! It saves money, is sustainable, & delivers a sense of joy & accomplishment! This homemade dishwasher detergent was crafted not only for the benefit of me & my family... but also for you! Read what people are saying about it.

Few Good Books on Investing and Personal Finance (22 Tips)
So what's on your summer reading list to keep you saving smart? Here are a few of our faves... Read the comments at the Tip'd thread.

Pay Your Mortgage Off Early (21 Tips)
Tried and true methods for paying your mortgage off early. Including why biweekly payments will cost you more than paying extra monthly. Read what people are saying about it.

You can get more of today's hot finance stories at At Tip'd, the community chooses which financial stories go "hot" and appear on the homepage. The links above are those links which got "tipped" the most in the past seven days by the community me! mbers.

Best Japanese Stocks To Watch 2013

Most Japanese stocks dropped, paring the weekly advance on the benchmark index amid concern the recent rally may have been overdone.

Larsen & Toubro Ltd., the nation’s largest engineering company, declined for the first time in four days, paring its weekly gain to 6.4 percent. Japanese stocks may lag behind broader regional gains of as much as 30 percent in the next 12-18 months as oil price rises, according to Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. Jaiprakash Associates Ltd., a builder of roads and bridges, slid 2.2 percent.

The Bombay Stock Exchange Sensitive Index, or Sensex, was little changed at 18,486.45 at the 3:30 p.m. close in Mumbai. Sixteen stocks dropped and 13 gained on the measure. The gauge climbed 4.4 percent this week, the most since the five days ended Nov. 5. The S&P CNX Nifty Index on the National Stock Exchange rose 0.1 percent to 5,538.75, while its April futures settled at 5,568. The BSE 200 Index increased 0.1 percent to 2,266.33.

“Investor sentiment has improved due to the positive announcement in the budget on fiscal deficit, lower government borrowings and other economic reforms,” Kislay Kanth, head of research at Mape Securities Pvt., said by phone in Mumbai. “The rally is not going to continue at the same pace in the short term, though the long term looks good. The concern over inflation and oil prices due to the Middle East crisis is not fully over yet.”

Best Japanese Stocks To Watch 2013:Honda Motor Company Ltd. (HMC)

 Honda Motor Co., Ltd., together with its subsidiaries, engages in the development, manufacture, and distribution of motorcycles, automobiles, and power products primarily in North America, Europe, and Asia. Its motorcycle line consists of business and commuter models, as well as sports models, including trial and moto-cross racing; all?terrain vehicles; personal watercrafts; and multi utility vehicles. The company also produces various automobile products, including passenger cars, minivans, multi-wagons, sport utility vehicles, and mini cars; and power products comprising tillers, portable generators, general-purpose engines, grass cutters, outboard marine engines, water pumps, snow throwers, power carriers, power sprayers, lawn mowers and lawn tractors, home-use cogeneration units, and thin film solar cells for home, public, and industrial uses. In addition, it sells spare parts and provides after sales services are through retail dealers, as well as offers retail lending and leasing to customers, and wholesale financing to dealers. The company was founded in 1946 and is based in Tokyo, Japan.

Best Japanese Stocks To Watch 2013:Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc (MTU)

 Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides various financial services to individual and corporate customers in Japan and internationally. Its Integrated Retail Banking Business Group segment comprises commercial banking, trust banking, and securities businesses. This segment offers a range of bank deposit products comprising a non-interest-bearing deposit account that is redeemable on demand; asset management and asset administration services, including savings instruments, such as current accounts, ordinary deposits, time deposits, deposits at notice, and other deposit facilities; trust products consisting of loan trusts and money trusts; and other investment products, such as investment trusts, performance-based money trusts, and foreign currency deposits. It also provides insurance products consisting of investment-type individual annuities, foreign currency-denominated insurance annuities, and yen-denominated fixed-amount annuity insurance; financial products intermediation services; and housing loans, card loans, and credit cards. The company?s Integrated Corporate Banking Business Group segment provides commercial banking, corporate and investment banking, transaction banking, trust banking, and securities services for large corporations, financial institutions, and sovereign and multinational organizations. Its Integrated Trust Assets Business Group segment offers asset management and administration services for products, such as pension trusts and security trusts. This segment provides a range of services to corporate and pension funds, including pension fund management and administration, advice on pension schemes, and payment of benefits to scheme members. The company?s Global Markets segment conducts asset liability management and liquidity management, and provides money markets, foreign exchange operations, and securities investment services. The company was founded in 1880 and is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

Best Japanese Stocks To Watch 2013: (BRDCY)

 Bridgestone Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the manufacture and sale of tires and rubber products in Japan and internationally. It offers tires and tire tubes for passenger cars, trucks, buses, construction and mining vehicles, industrial machinery, agricultural machinery, aircraft, and motorcycles, as well as large and ultralarge off-the-road radial tires. The company also provides wheels and accessories, retreading materials and services, automotive maintenance and repair services, tire raw materials, and automotive components. In addition, the company offers chemical and industrial products, such as functional chemical products, vehicle parts, polyurethane foam and related products, electronic precision parts, industrial materials-related products, civil engineering and construction materials and equipment, adhesive film for solar modules, electronic paper, and other products; sporting goods, including golf balls, golf clubs, and other sporting goods; and bicycles and bicycle-related goods. Further, it is involved in lending and purchasing of sales receivables, and outsourced processing of accounting and salary payments; and trading natural rubber. The company was founded in 1931 and is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

Advisors' Opinion:

  • By McWillams At 2011-10-26

    Bridgestone (BRDCY) sounds American but was founded in 1931 in Japan by Shojiro Ishibashi, whose last name translates to "stone bridge." The company makes most of its money from tires but is also known for golf balls and is dabbling in electronic paper (think Kindle, but flexible and in color). Stronger sales of cars returned Bridgestone to profitability last year, despite higher materials costs and a stronger yen, which makes Japanese exports more expensive to foreign buyers. For 2011, management projects an 11% rise in sales but a 17% decline! in prof its due to continued increases in material costs. Its profit estimate of 82 billion yen (about $1 billion) forecasts a net margin of just 2.6%, down from 3.5% last year. Shares sell for about 17 times that meager profit but less than eight times what the company earned back in 2005, when sales were stronger and commodity prices stable.

Best Japanese Stocks To Watch 2013:Caterpillar Inc. (CAT)

 Caterpillar Inc. manufactures and sells construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, industrial gas turbines, and diesel-electric locomotives worldwide. It operates through three lines of businesses: Machinery, Engines, and Financial Products. The Machinery business offers construction, mining, and forestry machinery, including track and wheel tractors, track and wheel loaders, pipelayers, motor graders, wheel tractor-scrapers, track and wheel excavators, backhoe loaders, log skidders, log loaders, off-highway trucks, articulated trucks, paving products, skid steer loaders, underground mining equipment, tunnel boring equipment, and related parts. It also manufactures diesel-electric locomotives; and manufactures and services rail-related products and logistics services for other companies. The Engines business provides diesel, heavy fuel, and natural gas reciprocating engines for Caterpillar machinery, electric power generation systems, marine, petroleum, construction, industrial, agricultural, and other applications. It offers industrial turbines and turbine-related services for oil and gas, and power generation applications. This business also remanufactures Caterpillar engines, machines, and engine components; and offers remanufacturing services for other companies. The Financial Products business provides retail and wholesale financing alternatives for Caterpillar machinery and engines, solar gas turbines, and other equipment and marine vessels, as well as offers loans and various forms of insurance to customers and dealers. It also offers financing for vehicles, power generation facilities, and marine vessels. The company markets its products directly, as well as through its distribution centers, dealers, and distributors. It was formerly known as Caterpillar Tractor Co. and changed its name to Caterpillar Inc. in 1986. Caterpillar Inc. was founded in 1925 and is headquartered in Peoria, Illinois.

Advisors' Opinion:

  • By Dave Friedman At 2011-9-22!

    The shares closed at $91.37, up $1.56, or 1.74%, on the day. They have traded in a 52-week range of $63.34 to $116.55. Volume today was 10,450,473 shares, against a 3-month average volume of 9,960,260 shares. Its market capitalization is $59.03billion, its trailing P/E is 15.11, its trailing earnings are $6.05 per share, and it pays a dividend of $1.84 per share, for a dividend yield of 2.00%. About the company: Caterpillar Inc. designs, manufactures, and markets construction, mining, agricultural, and forestry machinery. The Company also manufactures engines and other related parts for its equipment, and offers financing and insurance. Caterpillar distributes its products through a worldwide organization of dealers.

  • By Sam Collins At 2011-9-11

    Caterpillar (NYSE:CAT) is the world’s largest producer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines. The stock has been in a bull market since the market bottomed in March 2009. CAT was one of our Top Stocks to Buy for December because of its position as a major supplier to the third world and China. The company should also be a beneficiary of orders from Japan due to the damage from earthquakes and the tsunami.

    Revenues in 2011 are expected to increase by 36%, according to S&P, and margins are expected to increase, as well. Earnings for 2012 are forecast at $9.10, up from $7.50 this year, and S&P has a target of $142 over the next 12 months.

    Technically CAT has strong support at $95 and currently appears to be oversold, according to Moving Average Convergence/Divergence (MACD). If it is able to hold at the support line, look for a rally to $110 within 30 days. Longer term the stock could trade north of $125.

  • By Jim Cramer At 2011-9-7

    this stock could be a monster in 2011, especially with the integration of Bucyrus (BUCY), which I think will turn out to be a fantastic acquisition. Estimates, currently showing EPS at about $6, I think are way, way too low. I see this stock going to $120 in the next year. Too gutsy? Ask yourself what happens if the United States comes back as a growth nation. Right now almost all of the growth is overseas. Still a fantastic mineral play and a terrific call on world growth.

  • By Jim Cramer,TheStreet At 2011-9-7

    Caterpillar (CAT) could be a monster in 2011, especially with the integration of Bucyrus International (BUCY), which I think will turn out to be a fantastic acquisition.

    Current earnings-per-share estimates of about $6 are, I think, way too low. I see this stock going to $120 in the next year. Too gutsy? Ask yourself what happens if the United States comes back as a growth nation? Right now almost all of the growth is overseas.

    Still a fantastic mineral play and a terrific call on world growth.

Stocks to Watch Monday: Micron, Sysco

CHICAGO (MarketWatch) � Micron Technology Inc. and Sysco Corp. are among the stocks that could see active trading on Monday.

Micron Technology CEO Steve Appleton

Micron Technology MU � on Friday said Steve Appleton, the company�s chief executive and chairman, died Friday morning in a small-plane crash in Boise, Idaho. Appleton was 51. Trading in the chipmaker�s shares was halted Friday afternoon.

Food-services giant Sysco SYY �is expected to post a fiscal second-quarter profit of 44 cents a share on sales of $10.07 billion, according to a consensus poll of analysts by FactSet Research.

Professional services provider Towers Watson & Co. TW �is expected to report second-quarter revenue of $845.3 million. The FactSet poll gave no consensus earnings estimate.

Financial firm Lazard Ltd. LAZ �is seen reporting fourth-quarter earnings of 38 cents a share on revenue of $456.5 million.

Boardwalk Pipeline Partners LP BWP �is s! een post ing fourth-quarter earnings of 40 cents a share on revenue of $314.2 million.

Texas Law Requiring Voter IDs Is Blocked


  • Voter ID Laws Lead Flurry of New Statutes 12/31/11
  • South Carolina Voter Law Barred by Administration 12/24/12

HOUSTON—The U.S. Justice Department on Monday blocked Texas from enforcing a law that requires voters to show state-issued photo identification at the polls, saying it would disproportionately affect Hispanics.

The agency's move is likely to fan the flames around the issue nationally, as state legislatures consider toughening voter-ID laws in an election year. Republicans argue that requiring voters to show IDs will help combat fraud; Democrats claim the measures are designed to make it harder to vote for minorities, the elderly and other groups who tend to back Democrats.

Texas is one many jurisdictions, mostly in the South, required to get permission from the Justice Department or judges in the District of Columbia federal court before making changes to voting laws. This requirement applies to states that were found by the U.S. to have restricted the opportunity to vote.

Bring Your ID

See a state-by-state breakdown of voter-identification requirements.

View Interactive

The Justice Department said that Hispanics registered to vote in Texas are considerably less likely to have drivers licenses or state-issued IDs than other voters, citing d! ata supp lied by Texas in its bid to win clearance for the law passed last May. Under the Voting Rights Act, states must prove that voting legislation does not make it harder for racial or ethnic minorities to vote.

"I cannot conclude that the state has sustained its burden," wrote Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general, in a letter to Texas's director of elections on Monday. He added, "The state has failed to demonstrate why it could not meet its stated goals of ensuring electoral integrity and deterring ineligible voters from voting" without the new law.

Also Monday, a county judge in Wisconsin blocked part of a voter-ID law passed last year, ruling the Wisconsin legislature and GOP Gov. Scott Walker "exceeded their constitutional authority" by requiring citizens to show a photo ID to vote.

In the ruling, Dane County Circuit Judge Richard Niess agreed with a local voter group that the law violated the state Constitution by disenfranchising citizens without a photo ID. Judge Niess also questioned the effort to prevent voter fraud with voter-ID laws. Voter "fraud is no more poisonous to our democracy than voter suppression," he wrote. "Indeed, they are two heads on the same monster."

Another Wisconsin judge last week temporarily suspended the law until a hearing next month. The law, which drew four lawsuits, is now blocked pending a successful appeal of Judge Niess's ruling. Wisconsin holds local elections and the Republican presidential primary on April 3.

Mr. Walker's office said, "Requiring photo identification to vote is common sense—we require it to get a library card, cold medicine and public assistance.… We are confident the state will prevail in its plan to implement photo ID."

The Texas decision marks the second time in recent months the Justice Department has blocked a state from requiring voters to show a state-issued photo ID. In December, it objected that such a law in South Carolina would disproportionately affect minority voters. The state has ! sued the agency in federal court in Washington to get judicial approval of its law.

Texas, anticipating the agency's rejection, also sued, arguing its law should be approved because of similar laws in effect in other states. State Attorney General Greg Abbott said Texas "should not be treated differently and must have the same authority as other states to protect the integrity of our elections."

The spat is likely to ripple across the nation: Voter-ID legislation is pending in 32 state legislatures, and 10 of them are considering proposals to tighten requirements, said the National Council of State Legislatures.

Attorney General Eric Holder, in recent speeches and congressional testimony, has said instances of voter fraud are rare, and that he views voter-ID laws as a "solution in search of a problem."

In a speech last month at Tulane University, Mr. Holder said that while voter fraud wouldn't be tolerated by the Justice Department, "new state rules requiring photo identification to cast a vote too often appear to make a mockery of the promise of real participation in our electoral system."

—Evan Perez and Jack Nicas contributed to this article.

Best Wall St. Stocks Today: IMAX,NFLX

Toshiba has introduced a 3D TV that does not require consumers to wear the odd glasses that people must wear to view movies using the technology. Many electronics companies say that 3D TV will be critical to their future sales and earnings.

The privilege of not having to wear special glasses is not cheap. The larger version of the new screens will cost $2,900. Toshiba says that viewers are better off with its small screen however. That unit only costs $1,400. The 3D TVs will be available in Japan now. It is not clear when they will come to the US.

The AP reports that a viewer must sit 20 inches to 36 inches from the screen, depending on its size. Why anyone would sit that close to a TV� is anyone’s guess.

3D was all the rage in movies,� especially in action films. The attraction of the experience may have begun to fade.� Shares in 3D technology provider IMAX (NASDAQ: IMAX) have fallen from their 52-week high of $21.30 to as low as $9. That indicates that Wall Street is not convinced that 3D has a tremendous future.

The problem with 3D TV sales is that consumers may be happy with 2D. Consumers, in fact, may be satisfied with the television experience they have had since the dawn of the flat screen TV and DVD.

Sales of Blu-ray high-definition players and disks have been slow. The release of the blockbuster “Avatar” on Blu-ray has helped spur sales a bit, but that improvement has only been temporary. It seems that without really successful movies that lend themselves to Blu-ray, that sales will remain tepid.

No one can say that Blu-ray DVD and 3D TV are the same or even directly related. But, it is worth questioning how many gadgets the typical American wants in his living room. He already has a game console that probably is Blu-ray enabled. He has a cable or fiber connection for TV and fast internet. He may have a Video-On-Demand product from a provider like NetFlix (NASDAQ: NFLX), and a capacity to record shows that are on when he cannot watch them.! He almo st certainly has a PC or Mac along with all that to help make his entertainment experience interactive.

While the consumer figures out the technology he has now, and allots the time he can give to his entertainment, he may decide to wait for the “next best thing,” or he may not buy it at all.

Douglas A. McIntyre

News Corp. Expands Presence in India with $100 Million Investment

Great things can happen during the most challenging of times. It may seem difficult to find a silver lining during the worst economic downturn in more than a generation. But if you’re out of a job, or fear your job is slated for the chopping block, retreating into paralysis will do nothing to speed our economy’s recovery. So this is a perfect time to turn a new page in your career and embrace the vast possibilities of reinvention.

Think about it this way. Circumstances outside of your control have forced a lot of free time into your schedule, giving you many options to choose. Learn to exploit this opportunity to strengthen your skills, sharpen your mind, and prepare yourself for your next job. Take it from someone who has gone through two layoffs in a year�once you get over the setbacks of unemployment, turn your attention to the opportunities around you. Maybe you’ll discover a new calling in life that will bring greater personal fulfillment. “The Chinese symbol for crisis includes both danger and opportunity,” said Steve Vislisel, a career consultant with Plan C Partners. “Most people focus on the danger. Be one of the few courageous souls who focus on the opportunity.”

When you are unemployed, there’s one commodity you have in abundance and that’s time. So learn to maximize that time in the following ways:

Network, network, network!

Your personal network is your best asset for finding the next phase of your professional career. With your days free to schedule lunches and meet-ups for coffee, this is the best time to renew acquaintances that you may have let languish when you were working. Consider your vast database of friends, teachers, business partners and colleagues. They are all sources of knowledge and ideas to help you evolve your career and connect you to potential employers. Find them on Facebook and LinkedIn, or send them emails suggesting that now might be a good time to get together. Chances are, a g! ood 90 p ercent of the people you contact will agree to meet you as long as you position the meeting as a casual conversation to tap their career advice. During your meet-and-greet, remember three things: 1) Your contact will chatter away because people love to spread career wisdom, 2) don’t just tell them what you want, ask them what they need and think about yourself as a solution, and 3) be sure to leave every meeting with a few referrals.

Another approach is to meet people through conferences, gatherings, and social events. Recently I attended a gathering for the unemployed called LaidOffCamp, an all-day event for people to meet, share tips and exchange business ideas. I didn’t meet many employers, but I felt a sense of solidarity with others in my situation. Check out the website because there may be a LaidOffCamp coming soon to a city near you.

The Product Called “You”

Who are you? What do you want to do? These two annoyingly broad and existential questions form the foundation of your career strategy. Think through your answers, because everyone you talk to will ask them, and you don’t want to respond with silence and a confused expression (I speak from experience). I’ve learned that the ideal job blends the things you enjoy doing with things you’re good at doing.

Because you’re selling who you are, consider yourself to be a product that requires some branding and marketing. That begins by understanding what makes your brand unique, and then articulating that message to the people in your network. Don’t just consider your skill set or the functions you may have performed in a previous job. Much as it might pain you to admit it, those things are easily learned. But what can’t be taught in school or picked up on the job are the unique qualities of your personality and the innate values that define who you are. Those qualities can guide you to the job you’re looking for, and alert you against jobs that will be a bad fit! .

Mental and physical fitness

Stagnation is the greatest enemy of the unemployed. After years of sitting in front of a computer for 10 hours a day in stale offices, you’ll fall in love with your brain’s ability learn new things. Watch artsy films. Read books. I always wanted to take classes in economics and financial planning, so I enrolled in Stanford University’s night program. They were fascinating and they helped me consider new areas for growth.

The same thing holds true for physical fitness. Yes, it’s great to sleep 10 hours a day, but lunch shouldn’t be your first meal. To keep your body moving you need to move it. If you’re not an exerciser, start with modest stretching and introduce a daily walk around the block. I take short jogs or walks in the afternoon to help me remove mental clutter and reprioritize my list of to-dos.

Learn to manage your money

For most of my career I thought budgeting was for those goodie-goodies who studied on Friday nights in college. After my first layoff, I poured my attention into learning the essentials of personal finance and disciplined budgeting. I became a number-crunching nerd, keeping track of every expense and figuring out creative ways to save money. I realized I was spending a lot on useless crap and eating out all the time. Once I understood my buying patterns, I made smarter decisions to save for a rainy day.

Serve Others

There’s no better way to gain perspective about your situation than pouring your energy into helping people. It’s human to give without expecting something in return, and it brings perspective on what really matters in life. I recently volunteered for a food distribution center and had a great experience talking to people going through tough times. There’s something human about handing food to people in need. Here are some good sites as a starting point: HandsOn Network, Volunteer Match, One Brick, USA Service.

For more of Jim Hu’s w! riting, visit his blog Gloom to Boom.

Earnings Growth for Charles Schwab Doesn't Prevent a Slide

Before the market opened this morning, online brokerage house Charles Schwab (Nasdaq: SCHW  ) reported earnings of $0.13 per share on $1.11 billion of revenue. Even though these numbers met analyst expectations, revenue still decreased just over 1% from the same quarter last year, with earnings per share down $0.03 from the third quarter. This led to the stock being down as much as 2% from yesterday's close in early trading this morning.

Consumer confidence is low
While more of a traditional bank than rival TD AMERITRADE (Nasdaq: AMTD  ) , both have seen a slight dip the last two days as both reported less than-stellar-earnings. Investors may have been dismayed by reports of fewer trades during the fourth quarter from AMERITRADE, while Schwab's performance was "not immune to the challenges posed by the current economic environment, which led to sequential declines in all major revenue lines," according to President and CEO Walt Bettinger.

With E*TRADE Financial (Nasdaq: ETFC  ) reporting its earnings next week, the big three public online brokers will be complete and investors will have a better understanding of the confidence felt in the market during the fourth quarter. Should concerns about Europe persist long into the new year, anticipated earnings from all three could be driven down. Analysts have reduced expectations for next year, lowering expected earnings per share to $0.71, down from $0.75 90 days ago.

More than a brokerage house
Surprisingly, Schwab saw some growth in the traditional banking side of its business. Total banking assets grew to $66.1 billion, accounting for 61% of total assets. Total mortgage and home equity loans equal $9.1 billion, and the bank originated $951 million of first mortgages during the fourth quarter. Also included in banking assets were o! ver 593, 000 high-yielding checking accounts with over $10.8 billion in balances. While these numbers pale in comparison to traditional banks, it provides some alternative revenue streams for the business going forward.

What it means to you
While not as dependent on the investing habits of its customers as much as TD AMERITRADE or E*TRADE, Schwab's earnings can be an small hint of how individual investors feel about the stock market as a whole. Add these companies to My Watchlist to keep an eye on some microeconomic indicators.

Now's the Time to Buy Small Caps -- Especially These 2 Stocks

It sure feels like a challenging investing environment -- especially for smaller stocks, since they are usually seen as the riskiest. But did you know the Russell 2000, a handy proxy for small-cap stocks, has risen a hefty 15% since late November? Then again, the index fell so sharply in August and September, the recent rebound only makes a dent.

Indeed, a broader look at small-cap performance leaves something to be desired: The Russell 2000 Index remains below levels seen five years ago.But there's a real reason for optimism for small caps, as that recent 15% upward move suggests. Small caps perform quite well at the depths of a recession and coming out of it.

In October 1990, for instance, the Russell 2000 stood at 120 as the United States entered into a recession. (That slump led Bill Clinton's campaign strategist James Carville to drum up the slogan "It's the Economy, Stupid.") Well, savvy investors looked beyond that recessionary phase and loaded up small-cap stocks, knowing they would pick up sharply after the slump. 

And that's exactly what happened.

By early 1992, the Russell 2000 had rebounded more than 65% to around 200. (It reached new highs throughout the subsequent years as well.)

The recent 15% rebound in the Russell 2000 may be telling us a similar move is afoot.

I looked at the most appealing stocks in that index in the past, but am switching gears to the S&P SmallCap 600, another index that also houses some potentially robust rebounders.

In the table below, you'll find a group of small-cap stocks that are poised to boost sales at least 15%! in 2012 and earnings per share (EPS) by a nice 40% -- or more, according to analysts' consensus forecasts. Best of all, these stocks have reasonable downside protection, trading at less than 16 times projected 2012 profits.

With low valuations and robust growth ahead of them, all of these companies are worthy of further research, but I'm especially keen on the prospects of the companies in the oil and gas industry. Gulf Island Fabrication (Nasdaq: GIFI), Pioneer Drilling (NYSE: PDC) and ION Geophysical (NYSE: IO) don't actually produce oil and gas, but provide important goods and services to the drillers and producers.  

The combination of high prices for oil and high volume production for natural gas producers means that many potential customers are flush with cash and keen to spend. This helps explain why analysts say each of these companies can sharply boost profits in 2012. Gulf Island Fabrications trades less than 100,000 shares a day, which is too illiquid for my taste, but the other two names surely appeal. Let's take a closer look...

1. Parker Drilling
Last March, I predicted this stock would rise 40% to around $8. Shares have almost hit that target and they still sport a reasonable multiple.
As I noted back then, Parker Drilling rents a wide range of tools used by drillers, from basic hardware all the way up to complex deep-water rigs. The company's rally has been due to the end of the moratorium placed on drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, which was ultimately lifted last summer.

Demand for the company's tools, rigs and other items is rising only slowly, as evidenced by the 4% jump in sales the company is expected register in 2011. But the sales mix has become much more favorable as items like rigs, which carry higher margins, predominate the revenue base.! As a re sult, per-share profits are expected to have risen roughly 500% to roughly $0.50 in 2011. Parker Drilling's results strengthened as the year wore on  -- the company blew past profit estimates in each of the last two quarters of 2011, which is why analysts say sales and profits could grow at a fast pace this year.

2. ION Geophysical (NYSE: IO)
This company seems to have gone out of its way to frustrate investors. It holds a solid base of technology and should be growing at a fast clip. Instead, management failed to anticipate slow-to-build demand for its products, so Ion Geophysical boosted sales around 15% in 2011 to $500 million, a growth rate half as big as investors had expected when the year began. The company has missed quarterly expectations three times in a row, and its stock trades for roughly half of its 52-week high.

Ion Geophysical offers a wide range of technologies to customers in the energy-exploration field, from software that maps out subterranean deposits of oil and gas, to services that help clients make the most of that mapping data. Ion saw great demand for its services in the middle of the past decade, when sales rose from $150 million in 2003 to $700 million in 2007. The sharp pullback in energy prices that resulted from the global recession of 2008 quashed demand as clients sought to conserve cash. As a result, sales fell to $444 million by 2010.

Yet with a stock that has been tossed aside, it may be worth tracking what looks like a potential turnaround. Management laid out a roadmap for the company on Dec. 9 (you can read the transcript here).

In this roadmap, management spent a lot of time discussing the oceanographic and land-based seismic analysis trends. (Seismic analysis involves 3-D imaging of surfaces to spot pockets of oil and gas that may be buried deep in land and sea formations.)

As more companies are venturing to Alaska, the ocean bottoms and massive tar sand fields, they need the ty! pe of se rvices Ion provides in order to map out a number of important areas in those topographies. The key is to lure a rising number of clients to pay up for already-mapped data or yet-to-be-mapped areas. Ion Geophysical also operates other energy-searching divisions, which I won't go into here, but the entire company appears positioned for an improving 2012 and beyond  -- if the company can deliver on some of the opportunities laid out in that early December conference call.

Risks to Consider: Ion Geophysical has delivered several weak quarters in a row, so it pays to see business turn up before buying into this stock. Parker Drilling and Ion Geophysical would see a drop in demand for their products and services if oil prices fall sharply.

Tips>> Energy producers are generating ample amounts of cash but are working harder and harder to find new hard-to-tap fields and wells. This sets up a perfect backdrop for these two companies, each of which are expected to see sales and profits rise higher in 2012.

I strongly suggest listening to Ion's fourth-quarter earnings conference call. An inflection point for this business may finally be at hand. Parker Drilling, despite a recent strong run, still trades for less than 10 times profits, making it a good candidate for strong gains.

[Note: If you haven't about this unique opportunity, then I want to tell you about it now.

Now is the ideal time to take new positions in Coeur d'Alene Mines

Coeur d’Alene Mines (NYSE: CDE) — This gold and silver miner has operations in South America, the United States, Mexico and Australia. Ford Equity Research projects that it will outperform the market over the next six to 12 months, and EPS has increased over the past five quarters.�

Technically, CDE broke from a triple-top on Feb. 28, and ran to a new high at $38. It has been consolidating at its 200-day moving average since early in March — the ideal spot to take new positions. Squeezed between its 200-day moving average and a resistance line just 2 points higher, the pressure is on the upside. Look for a breakout from $28 and a run to $32.

Trade of the Day � Coeur d'Alene Mines (NYSE: CDE)

Trade of the Day Chart Key

News flash: Silly wheeled sneakers aren't cool anymore

When Heelys Inc. (NASDAQ:HLYS) had its 2006 IPO, financial commentators were united in their opinion that the maker of wheeled sneakers would fade away into oblivion. That was even as shares of the Texas-based Heelys Inc. stock soared 85% on their first day of trading. Heelys has defied skeptics — at least for now — and managed to survive, though HLYS stock is a shadow of its former self.

But hey, if Crocs Inc. (NASDAQ:CROX) could rebound, maybe Heelys could too … right? Maybe not. Shares of the Carrollton, Texas, footwear company recently traded for $2.07, well under the $33.60 high they reached on their first day of trading.� Heely�s shares have plunged more than 30% this year alone.

The reasons for the Heelys struggles are many. First, there were the safety concerns.� The wheeled sneakers soon became the toy parents loved to hate — with good reason.�� A 2007 medical study from Ireland documented cases of 67 children being treated for Heelys-related injuries.� Schools forbade students from wearing Heelys and malls and other public venues cracked down on �heeling� out of a justifiable fear of attracting lawsuits.

Then there is the issue of practicality. Unlike Crocs Inc. (NASDAQ:CROX) shoes, Heelys are of limited use. Crocs too were considered a fad but its brand has endured because the shoes are comfortable, durable and practical.�� Shares of the maker of the plastic sandals that some consider ugly have climbed more than 46% this year.� Net income for the first quarter of 2011 at the Niwot, Colo. company increased 276.1% to $21.5 million, or 24 cents a share.� Revenue increased 35.9% to $226.7 million.

Uggs and Tevas, two trendy footwear brands, are also faring well during these uncertain economic times.� Deckers Outdoors Corp. (NASDAQ:DECK), which makes both brands, reported record first quarter profit of $19.2 million, or 49 cen! ts a sha re, beating Wall Street expectations.� Uggs brand sales rose 42.2% while Teva gained 16.8%. Its shares, which have pulled back lately, are up 4% this year.

Heelys, where business development company Capital Southwest Corp. (NASDAQ:CWSC) was an early backer and remains a significant shareholder, have faltered as its rivals have soared.� Everything that could have gone wrong for Heelys seems to have done so.� In the company�s latest earnings release, CEO Tom Hansen cast a wide net to blame for Heelys� bad luck including the natural disasters in Japan.� He didn�t hold an earnings conference call.

At the end of the last quarter, Heelys had $62.6 million in cash and investments.� Yahoo Finance indicates that the company has no total debt, which offers a rare bit of good news for investors.� The company�s market cap of $56 million makes it an easy acquisition for either Crocs or Deckers Outdoor.� Capital Southwest, which acquired its stake in Heelys in May 2000 for $103,490 that�s worth about $17 million today, may take the company private and re-IPO it later.� Gary L. Martin, Southwest�s CEO, is the Independent Chairman of Heelys.� He may be looking for an exit strategy.

Without a sale there are fewer reasons for investors to get excited about Heelys than ever.� It reported a net loss of $1.18 million, or 4 cents a share, in the three months ending March 31, 2011, little changed from a year earlier.� Revenue fell $549,000 to $6.1 million. Consolidated net sales in 2010 were $30.4 million, down from $43.8 million a year earlier.�� At the time of its IPO, Heelys had been profitable for at least three straight years. Revenue was $117 million in the nine months ended Sept. 30, 2006, up from $29 million in the year-ago period.

Searching For Commercial Property Foreclosures

If you are a businessman and if there is a commercial property foreclosure that’s going to take place then it’s extremely vital for you to make an effort to figure out a solution for this significant situation. Escaping from the situation isn’t a smart choice.

It is going to help nobody. All you’ll be able to get by doing this can be nothing. It isn’t a thing that should be taken for granted. It should be managed earnestly. Your potential wages could get garnished once you are into the commercial property foreclosure.

You would possibly have some liens that are placed on your properties. If you’re currently having your commercial property foreclosure then it is critically necessary for you to make real efforts so that you will be in a position to get out of that situation.

It’s not sensible for you to take it very gently. You should not go for the short-term relief. You need to be in search of a permanent resolution. That is always better. The primary and foremost thing that you ought to be looking out for is the mortgage company.

Attempt to get some help from them. Ask them if they may offer special programs that may aid you in your commercial property foreclosure circumstances. Sometimes you may not get assistance from the mortgage company, but it’s always sensible for you to attempt.

Therefore, if you are facing one, then the primary thing you must do is to call the mortgage company.

Different alternatives

As I told you before sometimes you’ll not get the anticipated help from the mortgage company. However do not give up. You have plenty of alternative choices which may be open for you. Thus go and continue searching for them unless you get one.

Additionally, you ought to try to seek out a good non-profit making organization that will be in a position to assist you with your commercial property foreclosure. Have your records evaluated. These non-profit making associations have particular rules and ! laws whi ch must be strictly followed, so that you may be ready to get the assistance.

They will ask for the explanations that brought you to this state. You must be in a position to answer them with a smart cause. Whether or not this selection does not work out you still have a different option.

You will be able to get the personal loan that’s offered by most of the banks today with easy rules. This may help you to control the commercial property foreclosure problem.

If you find none of the choices listed above to be working then you’ve got another alternative. You might always request support from your family and associates who would possibly be able to help you with your commercial property foreclosure issue.

The simplest thing that you could perform is to try and earn that extra cash with that you will be able to balance your monthly payments. This is often the simplest choice as for the commercial property foreclosure issue is concerned.

The necessary thing is that when you’re relieved from the commercial property foreclosure drawback you must be ready to keep on track thus that you’ll not do the same errors once more that may bring again the trouble over and over.

Another great article by Belleville Real Estate. This article, Searching For Commercial Property Foreclosures is available for free reprint.

Have It Your Way

[triptrio] André Klotz for The Wall Street Journal

Snorkeling in Fernando de Noronha

1. The Secret Art Mecca:

Belo Horizonte

For the inland city of Belo Horizonte, the draw (unlike in many other parts of Brazil) is not coastline, but culture. The state of Minas Gerais is rooted in mining—its name translates prosaically as "General Mines"—and the gold and gems found there, including aquamarines and imperial topaz, built charming colonial towns like Ouro Preto, with its terra-cotta roofs and wedding-cake churches. The area is a proud center of traditional Brazilian cuisine and cachaça-making; local artisans produce boutique batches of this uniquely Brazilian type of rum. But the most powerful lure may be an implausible museum outside of Belo Horizonte known as Inhotim.

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Carol Reis/Inhotim

Helio Oiticica's 'Magic Square #5' at Inhotim


Inhotim is the personal passion of Brazilian steel magnate and philanthropist Bernardo Paz, and to call it a museum is actually a substantial understatement. The project is spread across 741 lush acres framed by rolling hills, and mashes together art, architecture, nature and learning, as well as a few tastefully executed restaurants and an excellent wine bar.

Some top artists, including Doug Aitken and Matthew Barney, provide the main attraction: large-scale outdoor sculpture and installation art housed in a collection of architecturally significant buildings. The botanical gardens are blanketed with the otherworldly, subtropical flora one would expect in Brazil, including one of the world's largest collections of palm trees. Inhotim is also home to the greatest number of Brazilian sculptor Hugo França's two-ton wooden benches, hand-carved from naturally felled trees.

Oiticica restaurant overlooks the biggest of five natural lagoons on the grounds. The resident geese are the namesake of the small, upscale lounge called Bar do Ganso, a cozy space with the feel of an old social club.

Word of Inhotim has spread slowly since its doors opened officially in 2004. "I knew it would take time for people to discover Inhotim," joked Mr. Paz. "That's OK. I'm not going anywhere."

Photos: Bold & Beautiful Brazil

View Slideshow

André Klotz for The Wall Street Journal

Praia Vermelha beach

The addition of nine new works by artists Giuseppe Penone, Marilá Dardot, Marepe and! Chris B urden last October has certainly attracted more attention.

Part of the challenge is its location in the tiny town of Brumadinho, an hour or so outside of Belo Horizonte and two hours from the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Tancredo Neves International Airport. But American Airlines offers direct service from Miami, and while there is a lack of quality accommodation in Brumadinho, you can happily experience Inhotim from a base in Belo Horizonte. Arrive on Friday and wake up early to spend a full day at the park, returning to Belo late that evening. Inhotim is inspiring enough to be worth the effort.

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Surfing in Florianópolis

2. Surf and the City:


Florianópolis's status as a hip destination is relatively new—but definitely not fleeting. The 200-square-mile island has always been the center of Brazilian surfing culture; it is now drawing visitors who don't own longboards with a rare mix of big-city convenience and raw nature. "Floripa" is a laid-back destination with a spirited nightlife and plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure—without the security concerns that can plague Rio and São Paulo.

The capital of Santa Catarina state, Floripa is home to nearly one million people, though it doesn't feel like it, e! ven in t he center of downtown. The commercial district, or Centro, hugs a long bay punctuated by large stones that jut up from the water. It's a view well enjoyed by residents of the modern residential towers and hotels that line the waterfront. But not far off, vast portions of the island remain rugged, with rolling sand dunes, Atlantic rainforests and isolated beaches. Fishing communities and historic colonial villages surround many of the 42 beaches and Lagoa da Conceição, the large freshwater lake at the center of the island.

Scott Mitchem on Lunch Break discusses three ways to experience the best of Brazil - at a pristine eco-reserve (Fernando de Noronha), a surf-happy city (Florianópolis) and a contemporary cultural center (Belo Horizonte).

Florianópolis's increasing popularity has brought challenges—in particular the traffic that snarls up roads between Christmas and New Year's. The best time to visit is between early January and Carnival—celebrated here without the over-the-top pageantry that Rio is famous for. It is easy to fill a week bouncing between the many beaches and attractions, including 18th-century Portuguese forts, mysterious prehistoric stone carvings and out-island nature reserves. It takes a car and a lot of energy to see it all, so you may want to save a couple of days for splurging at Ponta dos Ganchos resort.

For more than a decade, Ponta dos Ganchos has been the area's only five-star lodging, located across Dolphin Bay from the island on a rocky, hook-shaped point that inspires its name. As part of a renovation last year, its expansive villas were outfitted with gray-water systems, green roofs and solar technology that takes most of the hotel off the grid. Santa Catarina's oyster farms are always within view, and are especially ch! arming w hen being tended by local fisherman from their colorful boats. From about $775 per night,

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André Klotz for The Wall Street Journal

Volcanic formations in Fernando

3. The Eco-Escape:

Fernando de Noronha

In a land known for its beautiful destinations, it's telling that there is near consensus that Fernando de Noronha is the loveliest of them all. Located 220 miles off Brazil's northeastern coast, Fernando is an archipelago of 21 islands and a fiercely protected nature reserve. The number of visitors is strictly limited; those who do gain access pay a progressive daily impact tax (about $190 over five days). The extra expense hasn't been much of a deterrent to travelers—reservations are often required months ahead of time, and at least a year in advance of Christmas and New Year's.

The islands are in fact the peaks of a sub-Atlantic mountain range that rises more than 4,000 feet from the sea bed, forming sheer cliffs and often impassable terrain. The highlight is iconic Morro do Pico—a thin, 1,023-foot-high peak that surely wowed the Portuguese expeditionary force that discovered it in 1503. Like many visitors today, they arrived by boat, though flights are the most common mode of transportation, and vital for suppl! ying the few businesses and 3,000 or so residents of the islands.

While Fernando de Noronha is beautiful and pristine, it's the mix of raw and refined that makes the place unique. This isn't a national park in the American tradition: Camping is forbidden, some of the restaurants could compete on the mainland and a collection of small pousadas—Brazilian inns—ensure that guests are never roughing it.

The best pousadas provide creature comforts and personal service while having virtually zero environmental impact. The eight-suite Pousada Maravilha sits on the sand just steps from Bahia do Sueste and a snorkeling spot that is as popular with visitors as it is with the local species of giant sea turtle. Owned by Brazilian television personality Luciano Huck, the property attracts A-listers who love the privacy and luxury of the property (from about $1,400 per night,

In Fernando, trash is obsessively collected and flown out daily; fishing excursions and hiking trips are monitored and even collecting seashells is prohibited. The only way to access its wonderfully undeveloped bays and beaches is by foot or charter boat. Brazilian supermodel Fernanda Motta owns one of few yachts permitted to tour guests around the island, host diving trips and anchor overnight in rocky coves. In 2008, Ms. Motta painstakingly restored and refitted the Shiva, a rustic-luxe vessel that sleeps eight guests and a crew of six. For a price it can feel like yours—the boat and the surroundings. About $2,750 per day, plus food, drink and gratuity, 55-81-3619-1258

—Scott Mitchem