Nine months in trade school. Job guaranteed.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- As millions of young Americans struggle to land jobs, students in manufacturing trade schools are sitting in a sweet spot. They're being hired even before they graduate.

Two weeks ago, students from the manufacturing program in Chicago's Wilbur Wright-Humboldt Park vocational college attended a local job fair.

"Five of our students were hired in just one day," said lead instructor Bryant Redd. The new hires are from a class of 41 students who are still four months away from completing a nine-month advanced certification program in computerized numerical control (CNC) machining.

In the program, students go beyond basic machining with classes in computer design, machine shop technology and machine shop math.

Manufacturers in the Chicago area are busier than ever lately, and they're "begging" for more workers trained in advanced manufacturing skills like CNC machining, said Redd.

It's not just in Chicago. Factory work has picked up considerably nationwide, making skilled workers a valuable commodity, said Marc Smierciak, associate dean of instruction at the vocational college.

$100K manufacturing jobs

"Employers right now need workers with these high-precision skills. But the mismatch is that most of America's unemployed workforce doesn't possess these skills," Smierciak said.

So manufacturers are racing to trade schools like Wilbur Wright, one of only seven schools in Illinois that offer an accredited CNC course, and snapping up newly-minted factory workers as quickly as they can.

The demand for his graduates is so intense that last year's CNC graduating class scored a 100% job placement.

"It's a wonderful accomplishment for us," said Smierciak. It was the first time the school achieved perfect placement in the program's 15-year history. Smierciak expects this year's graduating class to meet with similar success.

To get into the program, students need a high school diploma o! r the eq uivalent and can go part-time or full-time.

The starting salary for the new hires averages about $40,000 a year, with the potential to jump to $55,000 to $65,000 in less than two years, he said.

As word spread about last year's record, the school is seeing a rush of new applications. "We usually enroll 20 students max per year," said Smierciak. "We are at overcapacity right now with 27 students in the day program and 14 in the night one."

Some of them are young high school graduates, while others are middle-aged displaced workers retraining themselves for in-demand skills.

Reynaldo Roman, 21, had been thinking about going to college to study electrical engineering when his friend told him about Wilbur Wright's CNC course.

"I did some research on salaries," he said. "After a four-year degree, I might be getting paid as much or less than I would as a certified CNC operator," he said.

As the primary income earner in his family, Roman weighed his options, applied to Wilbur Wright and won a full scholarship to cover the $5,800 CNC program.

"I'm soaking in as much as I can," he said. "I'm hopeful I'll land a job after I graduate."

Norma Trinidad, 50, lost her 23-year factory job after the company went belly up in 2010.

Once when she was at the local unemployment office, she saw a flier touting advanced manufacturing techniques. That got her thinking about updating her skills, particularly since she had done manual machining and knew that more manufacturers were looking for workers with higher-tech skills.

In the past year, Trinidad has acquired five certifications -- some just took a matter of weeks -- in new manufacturing techniques from another vocational school. Now, she's Roman's classmate at Wilbur Wright and on her way to earning three more certifications in high-precision skills.

"I am running out of unemployment. But I'm hopeful to get a job soon," she said.

Ame! rican ma nufacturers importing workers

Jimmy Hodges, dean of applied technologies with Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Ala., is also seeing high job placement with his graduates.

The school's two-year accredited manufacturing program, costing between $8,000 and $10,000, includes machining, CNC and a course in tool and die making.

Hodges, a machinist himself, said Wallace is getting close to placing 100% of its students, too, driven by a pickup in auto and other manufacturing in the state.

He hopes these stats help change a persistent misconception about manufacturing. "Young people in the country think manufacturing is nasty and dirty," he said. "Not so. It's clean, high-tech, and the pay isn't bad."

Hodges' son graduated from Wallace's manufacturing program in 2005 and landed a $45,000 base pay job with an aerospace maker. "With overtime he's making much more," he said.

His daughter opted for a four-year degree in education from the University of Alabama.

Her starting salary as a 5th grade teacher is about $36,000, said Hodges, adding that she also has $45,000 in student loans.

"My daughter is an awesome teacher," he said. "But who do you think got the better deal?" 

NYPost: Wal-Mart and Amazon Dot Who?

Wal-Mart’s (WMT) head of online operations, Raul Vasquez, is interviewed by NY Post reporter James Covert in a story posted this morning, and quoted as repeating the usual WMT line, that the company will beat any price — but it’s placed against the backdrop of “frantic” responses from (AMZN), in what Covert writes “signals that Wal-Mart isn’t afraid to enter the ring again with Amazon or any other online rival as it tries to grab a bigger slice of the online shopping space for Amazon.” But Vasquez never actually mentions Amazon by name in his remarks, which is shrewd — why advertise for the competition?

Why These Tech Plays are Leading the Way: THQI, RTEC, IKAN

Trends, Charts and Exclusive Opinion

Three Tech Plays Leading the Way

THQI: Gamer Will Draw Revenues from Cloud Computing

RTEC: Fab Wafer Maker Benefits from Semiconductor Return

IKAN: Broadband Chipset Maker just what the FCC Wants

First up this morning is S&P SmallCap 600 company THQ Inc., (THQI) currently trading in the $6.09 range on a 3-Month average daily trading volume of 1.1+ million shares. THQI was trading in the $3 range a year ago; it reached $7 in May and in June of 09, shot up to $9. THQI dropped but in July reached back towards the $9 level. It didn�t hold and fell back to $5 by Sept. THQI did climb back to $7 in Sept but once again, couldn�t hold. It fell back to the $4 range by mid-Dec. THQI then began its current rally and has been advancing in the new year to its current level. THQI has a 52-week high of $9.03 set on 06-11-09 with current trailing twelve month revenues of $871+ million.

THQI publishes interactive games and develops its products for all popular game systems, personal computers and wireless devices. Earlier this month, THQI launched the first standalone expansion to 2009�s Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II � Chaos Rising. This is one of the worlds� biggest selling games. THQI is a long-term (1 Yr) �Buy� consideration for me. Here�s why... Revenues. I believe THQI like other gamers are going to begin to show �large� revenues added to their balance sheets from �Cloud Computing� providers like OnLive that deliver lag-free access to g! ames tha t can be played on nearly any personal computer or television. A gamer won�t have to buy a hard copy or an update to be hosted on a PC or a MAC or a wireless device. They can access the game, like Chaos Rising, from anywhere and those revenues will tally up.

THQI 1-Year



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Trading Alerts on THQI, RTEC, and IKAN.


Next up is S&P SmallCap 600 company Rudolph Technologies Inc., (RTEC) currently trading in the $8.33 range on a quarter million shares a day. RTEC was trading in the $3 range a year ago and staged and impressive surge through the beginning of Aug into the $8 range. RTEC moved between $6 and $8 until it found its $7 floor in Nov which it kept through Jan. RTEC jumped in Feb 2010 and has held $8 as its bottom. RTEC has a 52-week high of $9.53 set on 02-22-10 with current trailing twelve month revenues of $78+ million.

This week, RTEC announced a significant distribution alliance that will really open up Europe for its products. RTEC�s �New Market� partner is the John P. Kummer Group who will distribute RTEC�s semiconductor process characterizat! ion equi pment and software for wafer fabs. According to RTEC, �The move was made in anticipation of growing demand as the semiconductor manufacturing industry continues its recovery and manufacturers look for new methods to reduce the cost and optimize the performance of their testing processes�.

RTEC had an okay quarter last go round: posting a loss of $6.1 million, or 20 cents per share, compared with a loss of $245.7 million, or $7.96 per share, in the same period a year earlier. Excluding items, RTEC earned 2 cents per share in the latest quarter. This is up from an adjusted loss of 10 cents per share in the year-ago period. Revenue rose 76% to $28.9 million from $16.4 million. RTEC is a short-term (6 Mo) �Buy� consideration for me. RTEC has two compelling things going for it: The return of the semiconductor industry as a whole and tactically; a new, huge market. In early Feb Piper Jaffray analyst Auguste Gus Richard upgraded the company to "Overweight" from "Neutral" and raised his price target to $12 from $7.25 in a note to clients.


Finally this morning is Ikanos Communications Inc., (IKAN) currently trading in the $2.54 range on 180k shares traded a day. IKAN was trading in the $1.25 range a year ago and began a slow, steady ascent to the $2.50 range by mid-Oct. IKAN cooled off in the fall, dropping to a smidge above $1.50, but has since, with a few corrections, climbed back into its highest range in a year. IKAN has a 52-week high of $2.90 set on 02-22-10 with current trailing twelve month revenues of $130+ million! .

IKAN is a long-term �Buy� consideration for me. Why? First, even near its high, I think IKAN is undervalued and cheap. Second, IKAN develops high performance semiconductor and software products that enable network equipment manufacturers and service providers to deliver broadband to the digital home. After the huge media blitz by the FCC last week about providing broadband access to the majority population of the U.S., IKAN stands to benefit in a big way. A Big Way. Plus IKAN sells its products: earlier this month, German powerhouse AVM bought IKAN�s Fusiv Vx180 communications processor for integration into the AVM most advanced family of multimedia home gateways. In Feb, Internet Telephony, a very prestigious telecom magazine picked the IKAN Velocity broadband DSL chipset as its 09 product of the year.


If you'd like to receive further updates and any changes in our opinions of THQI, RTEC, and IKAN,�be sure to Sign-Up for the SCN Newsletter today! It's FREE.

Best Wall St. Stocks Today:

Visa, Inc. has filed an amended S-1 to show its financials for the year-end December 31, 2007.  The company posted revenues of $5.193 Billion, up from $3.902 Billion for 2006.  Here are the growth factors year over year for 2007 vs. 2006:

  • Service Fees $2.58B vs. $2.06B
  • Processing Fees $1.659B vs $1.411B
  • Vol./Support Incentives ($714M) vs, ($890M)
  • International transaction fees $1.193B vs. $911M
  • "other" $473M vs. $410M

The lead underwriters are JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs; and co-managers are listed as Banc of America, Citigroup, HSBC, Merrill Lynch, UBS, and Wachovia.

We are still awaiting this IPO and we’ll have more finite percentages and ranges as that comes available.

Jon C. Ogg
February 13, 2008

These 3 IPOs lost a fortune for investors

Last week�s botched IPO of the BATS Global Markets will rank as one of the worst deals in history. But there was at least one saving grace: Investors didn’t lose any money.

No doubt, IPOs can lead to great riches, as seen with transactions like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). But there’s also been a lot of carnage along the way.

Here’s a look at some of the goriest IPOs ever: — a top seller of pet food and supplies via the Internet — was founded in August 1998 and came public in February 2000, issuing 7.5 million shares at $11 each. spent heavy amounts on advertising, such as with a commercial for the 2000 Super Bowl. And its mascot — a sock puppet of a dog holding a microphone — was a big hit. The company also provided its customers with free shipping, which was a nice deal. After all, it�s not cheap to send out those hulking bags of dog food.

The company had plenty of believers. In fact, even Internet retail maven (NASDAQ:AMZN) was an early investor.

But hope isn’t results, and’s business strategy was a miserable failure. By November 2000 — less than a year after the IPO — ran out of money.

VeraSun Energy

VeraSun, a top producer of ethanol, launched its IPO in June 2006 by raising $420 million.

VeraSun relied heavily on federal subsidies. But the real problem was the surge in corn prices, which resulted in huge losses. And here was a glut of ethanol in the market, with energy demand dropping amid the recession.

The global credit crunch didn’t help matters, either.

With little capital available! , VeraSu n had no choice but to go bust on Oct. 31, 2008. And it wasn’t alone — a handful of other ethanol operators would do the same, including Beatrice Biodeisel, Bioenergy of America, Ethanex Energy, Gateway Ethanol and Greater Ohio Ethanol.


While and VeraSun eventually hit empty, broker Refco did it lickety split.

Refco was a large broker of commodities and futures contracts. But its CEO, Phillip R. Bennett, was playing fast and loose with the books. For at least a decade, he hid as much as $430 million in debt. The company went public on Aug. 11, 2005, then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy two months later, on Oct. 17.

A couple years later, Bennett pleaded guilty to 20 charges of fraud and was sentenced to 16 years in a federal prison.

Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog�IPO Playbook, a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He also is the author of��The Complete M&A Handbook,”�All About Short Selling��and��All About Commodities.��Follow him on Twitter at�@ttaulli�or reach him via�email. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

Crocs Shares Popped: What You Need to Know

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

What: Shares of Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX  ) jumped 15% on Wednesday after the plastic-shoe specialist said that it expects fourth-quarter sales to be at the high end of its prior guidance.

So what: Coming in at the high end of its previous revenue outlook, around $200 million-$205 million, would take Croc's annual revenue over $1 billion for the first time in the company's history. That represents year-over-year sales growth of more than 25%, which is quite an accomplishment for a company that was fighting for its existence just a few short years ago.

Now what: Recent expansion into sneakers, casual shoes, and boots should continue to spur some decent growth for Crocs. "As we begin our 10th anniversary year in 2012, everyone at Crocs can be proud of what we've achieved together, and we're looking forward to the next 10 years," CEO John McCarvel said. However, given Crocs' still-faddish qualities, I'd be careful about betting on them for that long.

U.S. GDP Contraction Slows, but the Road to Recovery Will Be Rocky

Lexmark (LXK) shares are trading higher on better-than-expected Q1 results, and a strong Q2 outlook.

For Q1, the printer maker reported revenue of $1.043 billion, up 10% from a year ago, and ahead of the Street at $961.1 million. Non-GAAP profits were $1.35, well ahead of the consensus at 89 cents.

For Q2, the company sees revenue up in the mid-to-high single digits on a percentage basis from a year ago, which if you assume 7% growth would mean about $968 million, ahead of the Street at $933.9 million. The company sees profits for Q2 on a non-GAAP basis of 85-95 cents, above the Street at 73 cents.

LXK Is up 67 cents, or 1.7%, to $40.62.

Global Investing Roundups

According to CNN, Obama, Romney, and Paul are all running unusually close to each other in ratings. According to one poll, if Paul were the Republican nominee at this moment in time, 48% of those surveyed indicated that they would vote for Obama and 46% said they would vote for Paul.

As the election inches closer with each passing day, Ron Paul is acquiring quite an array of followers. But one sub-group has stolen the spotlight: prostitutes. 

With the slogan, “Pimpin for Paul,” sex workers of the Moonlite Bunny Rach near Carson City, Nevada ardently support Dr. Paul.

*Image courtesy of

Their endorsement is based largely on their support of Paul's libertarian views; ones which will keep brothels open and legal.

While these guys and gals may not be specifically supporting his popular finance-reform, they are doing so indirectly.

By favoring his motion to legalize prostitution, that means all prostitutes/brothels will have to pay taxes (prostitution in Nevada is already legal) – who knows how much could be pumped back into the government to help pay off our debt from their “salaries” alone?

It's an interesting, albeit risqué, topic for discussion.

A lot of conservative Republicans may frown upon this endorsement, but brothels all over Nevada are more than glad to jump on the Ron-Paul bandwagon after hearing this endorsement.

Moonlight Bunny Ranch is asking clients to donate money to be donated to Mr. Paul.

Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, told CN! N: &lsqu o;If a client comes into the Bunny Ranch and says ''I'm pimpin' for Paul,'' they’re gonna have a real good time.’

In two days they raised $587 which Mr Hof tried to donate directly to the campaign, but he was told by officials donate it to one of his political action committees instead. 

At this point, Paul has not yet commented on the endorsement. However, his spokesman has spoken about Paul's views on prostitution in the past. Allegedly, Paul doesn't condone prostitution as part of his moral philosophy, but he also does not think the federal government should have the authority to regulate related activities.

Sounds like Paul's doing a fine job rounding up a diverse herd of voters: bringing the most conventional and the least conventional together in support of his campaign.

*Indented excerpts courtesy of


Here Are 4 of the Safest Stocks You Can Buy Today

The following video is part of our "Motley Fool Conversations" series, in which consumer-goods editor/analyst Austin Smith and editor and analyst Isaac Pino discuss topics around the investing world.

In today's edition, Austin points investors toward four of the safest stocks they could buy, period. While the broad market has gone on quite a run lately, we know that what goes up also comes down, and what goes down usually comes up. In times like this, the comfort of placing your money in long-term consistent winners can't be overstated. These are buy, set, and forget stocks that you can invest in today with assurance that they'll be rewarding investors for decades to come -- oh, and most of them pay dividends.

If you're interested in some of these dividends on your quest for high-yielding stocks, The Motley Fool has compiled a special free report outlining our 11 top dependable dividend-paying stocks. It's called "Secure Your Future With 11 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks." You can access your complimentary copy today at no cost! Just click here to discover the winners we've picked.

3 High-Yielding MLPs You Should Own Right Now

One of the best places for investors to find high yields right now is in the MLP (Master master Limited limited Partnershippartnership) sector. Many MLPs pay 7% dividends and yield three times higher than S&P stocks or Treasuries. Many MLPs are pipeline businesses, earning that earn stable income from transporting oil and gas. Demand for their services is determined by energy volume, not prices, so MLPs they are less volatile than most other energy stocks, which make their cash distributions more reliable. And best of all -- many MLP stocks yield as high as 7%, nearly yield three times higher than S&P 500 stocks or Treasuries.


If you believe like I do that energy demand will continue to steadily rise, then you can buy MLPs and feel fairly confident your investment will grow. If the MLP has well-positioned assets and a strong general partner, then share price gains are even more likely.

Here are three pipeline MLPs that fit that description...

1. Regency Energy Partners LP (NYSE: RGP)
Yield: 7%

Regency owns 5,200 miles of pipeline and related assets near many of America's the United States' richest emerging energy plays, including the Haynesville, Eagle Ford, Barnett, Fayetteville and Marcellus Shalesshales. Regency also owns a 50% interest in pipelines in Louisiana and Oklahoma, and a 30% interest in Lone Star, a natural- gas liquids storage and transportation business.

Regency's cash flow increased 50% last year to $253.7 million from $169.2 millioncompared with in 2010 as a result of higher gathering and processing volume, and an earnings contribution from Lone Star. Net income improved to $74 million last year from a net loss of $11 million in 2010. and dDistributable cash flow of $285.1 million more than covered $274.5 million paid to unit holders.

In the next 18 months, Regency plans towill  invest $1 billion in expansion projects along its gas- ! gatherin g system that will extend the MLP's footprint in key energy plays. Analysts think say the investments will support 20% yearly growth in earnings for the next five years. Regency also benefits from its relationship with general partner Energy Transfer Equity (NYSE: ETE), which provides the MLP with assets and access to capital.

Regency has grown distributions a total of 14% in the last past five years and raised the distribution again in January by 3% to a $1.84 annual rate. At the new higher rate, Regency shares yield about 7.1%.

2. Enbridge Energy Partners, L.P. (NYSE: EEP)
Yield: 7%

Enbridge Energy Partners owns the main pipeline that transports Canadian crude oil to U.S. refineries. The company's general partner, Enbridge (NYSE: ENB), owns the Canadian portion of the pipeline, while and the MLP owns the U.S. portion. The Enbridge MLP transports crude oil from Alberta oil sands in Canada and the Bakken formation in North Dakota.

The MLP's cash flow nearly tripled last year to $1 billion from $378 million in 2010, and net income rose to $624 million in 2011 from a loss of $198.5 million a year earlier. The company produced distributable cash flow of $678.2 million and paid $672.8 million to unit holders in 2011.

Enbridge Energy will invest $2.1 billion this year in expanding its Bakken terminals and infrastructure. and tThe MLP is also partnering with others on the development of the Texas Express Pipeline, which will bring much needed capacity to Texas, Oklahoma and the mMid-continent area.

Consensus estimates look for 12% earnings growth this year and 7%-a-year growth for the Enbridge MLP in the next five years.
In January, Enbridge Energy raised its distribution for the sixth year in a row to a $2.13 annual rate. The increase was 4% and in-line with the MLP's long-term target of 2%-5% annual distribution growth.

3. El Paso Pipeline Partners (NYSE: EPB)
Yield: 6%
El Paso Pipeline Partners owns and operates 12,900 miles of natural gas pipeline and related storage assets. The company was formed in 2007 by El Paso Corp. (NYSE: EP), which is North America's largest pipeline operator.

El Paso Pipeline has completed $4.8 billion of acquisitions since the public offering, including $1.4 billion of assets acquired from El Paso Corp last year, which further grew the MLP's transportation assets and cash flow. The MLP's earnings grew 25% last year, from $378 million to $478 million, and cash flow improved 11%, from $672 million to $748 million. Analysts look for 10% earnings growth this year and next year. 

The MLP's distributable cash flow was strong at $540 million, roughly and 1.2 times the dividend payout. In January, El Paso Pipeline increased the distribution to a $2.00 annual rate. The new rate is a 2% increase from the 3rd 3rdthird quarter and 14% higher than one year ago. This MLP has increased distributions every quarter since the November 2007 offering.

Risks to consider: MLPs offer potential tax advantages since a portion of their payouts can be tax-deferred. For that reason, MLPs are generally best held in non-retirement accounts. Enbridge Energy was recently forced to revise historical earnings downward because of an accounting misstatement, and there is risk of more unpleasant earnings surprises. There is risk that El Paso Pipeline will no longer automatically receive asset drop-downs from its former parent. El Paso Corp is merging with Kinder Morgan (NYSE: KMI), and the MLP may be forced to compete with two other Kinder Morgan MLPs (KMP and KMR) for these assets.

Action to take --> MLPs offer potential tax advantages, since a portion of their payouts can be tax-deferred. For that reason, MLPs are generally best held in non-retirement accounts.

Chico's FAS' Major Margins

Margins matter. The more Chico's FAS (NYSE: CHS  ) keeps of each buck it earns in revenue, the more money it has to invest in growth, fund new strategic plans, or (gasp!) distribute to shareholders. Healthy margins often separate pretenders from the best stocks in the market. That's why we check up on margins at least once a quarter in this series. I'm looking for the absolute numbers, so I can compare them to current and potential competitors, and any trend that may tell me how strong Chico's FAS' competitive position could be.

Here's the current margin snapshot for Chico's FAS over the trailing 12 months: Gross margin is 55.8%, while operating margin is 10.4% and net margin is 6.4%.

Unfortunately, a look at the most recent numbers doesn't tell us much about where Chico's FAS has been, or where it's going. A company with rising gross and operating margins often fuels its growth by increasing demand for its products. If it sells more units while keeping costs in check, its profitability increases. Conversely, a company with gross margins that inch downward over time is often losing out to competition, and possibly engaging in a race to the bottom on prices. If it can't make up for this problem by cutting costs -- and most companies can't -- then both the business and its shares face a decidedly bleak outlook.

Of course, over the short term, the kind of economic shocks we recently experienced can drastically affect a company's profitability. That's why I like to look at five fiscal years' worth of margins, along with the results for the trailing 12 months, the last fiscal year, and last fiscal quarter (LFQ). You can't always reach a hard conclusion about your company's health, but you can better understand what to expect, and what to watch.

Here's the margin picture for Chico's FAS over the past few years.


Source: S&P Capital IQ. Dollar amounts in millions. FY = fiscal year. TTM = trailing 12 months.

Because of seasonality in some businesses, the numbers for the last period on the right -- the TTM figures -- aren't always comparable to the FY results preceding them. To compare quarterly margins to their prior-year levels, consult this chart.


Source: S&P Capital IQ. Dollar amounts in millions. FQ = fiscal quarter.

Here's how the stats break down:

  • Over the past five years, gross margin peaked at 56.5% and averaged 55.3%. Operating margin peaked at 10.4% and averaged 6.6%. Net margin peaked at 6.4% and averaged 4.1%.
  • TTM gross margin is 55.8%, 50 basis points better than the five-year average. TTM operating margin is 10.4%, 380 basis points better than the five-year average. TTM net margin is 6.4%, 230 basis points better than the five-year average.

With TTM operating and net margins at a five-year high, Chico's FAS looks like it's doing great.

Over the decades, small-cap stocks like Chico's FAS have provided market-beating returns, provided they're value-priced and have solid businesses. Read about a pair of companies with a lock on their markets in "Too Small to Fail: Two Small Caps the Government Won't Let Go Broke." Click here for instant access to this free report.

  • Add Chico's FAS to My Watchlist.

Six Years Later, The Problem at HP is Still the Board


Six years ago, I wrote a post on my blog in the wake of the departure of HP’s (HPQ) then-Chairman Pattie Dunn. �I said then that the problem then wasn’t Dunn, but HP’s board.

Since this post, Mark Hurd departed under a cloud, Leo Apotheker was hired and fired in less than a year. �What’s interesting, as I re-read the post is that 3 members of the 2006 board are still there today: Larry Babbio, Sari Baldauf, and John Hammergren.

They seem to have imparted the same kinds of dysfunctionality that permeated HP’s board back then to the newer members of this now UN-sized board of 14.

Here’s the post:

HP has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in the past 3 weeks. Our focus has gone away from the impressive rise in its stock price since Mark Hurd’s appointment as CEO; as quickly as Dell‘s stock price and corporate reputation has dropped, HP’s has risen.

We’ve�previously spoken out on how Hurd’s qualities as a leader have — in many ways — been the perfect antidote to the erstwhile Carly regime. And, yet, we’ve had to endure the titilating but disturbing news of the “pretexting” actions carried out down the line from the board’s decision to purge a “leak” from within their midst.

The mainstream press commentary on this whole sorry episode has focused primarily on either (1) the disregard for privacy exhibited by the board’s actions, (2) whether Dunn should have left sooner, or (3) the lack of a full apology by the board or Hurd to the events. However, little, if any, attention has been paid to the composition of the HP board itself — the entire group responsible for the actions that have drawn such criticism.

The fact is that the entire HP board deserves an overhaul after this mess. Nell Minow — corporate goverance critic — calls the board�“dysfunctional” and she’s rig! ht.

< p>Here’s a quick run-down of the players (from HP’s site):

Lawrence T. Babbio, Jr.

Best Wall St. Stocks Today: SHLD,BBY,TGT,WMT

From The Peridot Capitalist

Critics of the Sears and Kmart turnarounds have long argued that if Sears Holdings (SHLD) Chairman Eddie Lampert ignored the retail business by cutting capital expenditures and marketing expenses, the company would begin to die a slow death. Well, the skeptics have proven to be very wrong, as shown by the stock’s move from $15 several years ago to nearly $180 today.

After the bell on Wednesday we learned that Sears has hired John Walden, an eight-year veteran manager from Best Buy (BBY), to become Chief Customer Officer, with core responsibilities including customer-focused strategies and new business development. Such a move certainly doesn’t seem to imply that Lampert and Co. are not focused on the retail operations.

This is not to say that Sears will become Target (TGT) or Wal-Mart (WMT), because the window for that opportunity has long been closed. However, if they can earn similar profit margins to other large retailers over the next several years, the earnings power of the company will be much higher than it is today.

Full Disclosure: Long SHLD at time of writing

The rising cost of Chinese goods could hurt retail stocks

I’ve been in or around trading, traders, brokers and analysts since 1985, and I have never seen the people inside the industry so tired, frustrated and gloomy.

Phone call after phone call, visit after visit, dinner after dinner, I hear the same thing: gloom over the U.S. economy, gloom about the debt and deficits, and gloom about the disappearance of so many individual investors. And that’s on top of the fatigue about the day-to-day ups and downs in the market unrelated to fundamentals and driven by light trading volume.

They all say with a sigh, “And it’s still only September.”

That’s the first half of any conversation with industry professionals. The second half is about what is going to happen during the remainder of the year. Analysts and traders are conflicted because the stock market is trading as if profits will be OK in Q3 and Q4 — and even better next year — while the bond market says we are probably already in the second part of the double-dip recession. These are the same people who make most of their living with equities and “know” the bond market is rarely if ever wrong in the long run.

The bulls respond by saying liquidity is at levels never before seen in history: Zero percent interest rates, an expanded Fed balance sheet and the expectation that quantitative easing (meaning more expansion of the Fed balance sheet) is on the way.

The bears’ answer is just as simple: Equity markets follow corporate profits and they are headed sideways and then will turn down.

What will this mean for us?

First, expectations for corporate profit growth in 2011 are way too high at 14.7% for the S&P 500 based on a consensus estimate. The estimate for 2011 was 25% in January, then 20% in April, and the spiraling down of expectations explains a good deal about the recent market behavior.

Second, the double dip is going to be harsh. Washing! ton has no ability to soften the blow and corporate profits must follow. This will develop over many weeks. I don’t think there will be a crash, although the longer the market defies fundamentals the more some sort of crash becomes a possibility.

Unlike the 2008 Lehman debacle, this drop will be manageable for professionals and active investors. And the long-anticipated slide, once over, will push people back into a process of looking at the performance of individual companies and stocks, not just the indices. That will create new opportunities for the short positions that slide faster than the market, and long positions that defy the market. (See 11 Stocks Headed Up Even If the Market Isn’t.)

RetailSector: Empty Stores, Rising Costs

I continued my hands-on investigation of retailers this past week at some of the most frequented malls in the Washington, D.C., area. The bottom line is that I believe the back-to-school season will prove to be a serious bust.

The Street has yet to catch up. Retail stocks, although down 18% since April, are up 11% in 2010, because the retailers increased profits by squeezing costs. But the situation is about to reverse itself thanks to China.

China’s appreciating currency, and rising wages and shipping costs from the Far East are going to hit the cost of goods for many retailers. According to a survey by Credit Suisse, half of the companies responding said they see Chinese goods rising in cost by 6% to 10% during the next four quarters. And 93% of respondents said they will take a profit margin hit because they are unable or unwilling to pass it on to their customers.

Who will get whacked the most? Chinese products are responsible for 20%-40% of the cost of goods at many big-name retailers — 15% for Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE: BBY), 20% at Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE: M), 20% at Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT) and a whopping 40% at Dollar Tree, Inc. (NASDAQ: DL! TR).

It gets even worse for apparel makers. Credit Suisse puts the cost of goods from China at 55% for Carter’s, Inc. (NYSE: CRI), 50% for Maidenform Brands, Inc. (NYSE: MFB), 35% for Foot Locker, Inc. (NYSE: FL) and 30% for Liz Claiborne, Inc. (NYSE: LIZ).

The bottom line is that most retailers have no top-line growth and have seen their stocks appreciate due to increased profit margins. The more they are exposed to China the more these profits will decline. So we’ll keep an eye on these as things in China develop.

Your Guide to Profiting From Asia’s Explosive Growth — For access to the best-kept secrets about investing in China and the rest of Asia, plus the hottest stocks to buy and sell, sign up now for Robert Hsu’s FREE Investing Newsletter, Asia Insider. It’s sent right to your e-mail inbox every week — absolutely FREE!

Guidelines for filing tax online

Individuals that wish to file for their taxes online can simply do it by visiting the official website of IRS. This is available free of cost for those individuals that have an AGI or $57,000 or less. Software is available for filing federal taxes, but some software is available for filing state taxes. Filing is done in 3 parts.

Taking the first step

Before beginning the process of filing, the applicant needs to have a copy of the previous year’s tax return, W-2s, 1099s and other such relevant documents. If the applicant has an AGI (adjusted gross income) of $57,000 or less, then they are applicable for free filing of their taxes.

To become eligible for the free filing and to get an estimate, the applicant must look at the previous year’s AGI, which should be $57,000 or less. Irrespective of this individuals that have AGI of more than $57,000 can also opt for the free fillable forms that are also available on IRS website.

The second part

To help with the free filing, many companies offer their software. Attention should be paid to the eligibility guidelines for using the company software. The guidelines will differ from one company to another based on age, status (aliens or residents), state availability, eligibility for the earned income, tax credit, military status, free extensions etc.

Finally e-filing the returns

IRS provides a secure file over which the prepared tax return stamen needs to be transmitted. To ensure the privacy and safety of the file, the website uses encryption data. This year all individuals need to complete their filing by April 17, 2012. In case the applicant fees that there could be some delay in filing for the taxes, an extension for filing the taxes can be requested.

For payment of taxes online, the payment options available to the applicant are credit card, debit card, electronic funds withdrawal, Electronic federal tax payment system etc. When the return is being filed, it also needs to be electronically signed wi! th eithe r past year’s AGI or a secure PIN which is a 5 digit number chosen by the applicant. After filing the return, the applicant can view the status of their tax refund after 72 hours.

Looking for a TurboTax Discount, then visit Robert’s site and receive great Tax Tips to save you money.. Also published at Guidelines for filing tax online.

Novogen Limited (NVGN); Marshall Edwards (MSHL) Gain on Cancer Drug, MCG Capital (MCGC) Gets Upgrade

An amazing morning today for trading Novogen (NVGN) and Marshall Edwards (MSHL) as positive news of a cancer drug licensed by NVGN to MSHL sent the stocks soaring and an MCG Capital (MCGC) upgrade by Stifel Nicolas gave the private equity firm a much needed boost. All three gainers stood out as the markets were once again zig-zagging on the mixed news that the Conference Board said its consumer confidence index fell to 53.1 in September, down from 54.5 in August, and much lower than the reading of 57 that economists expected and the uptick news from the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index that home prices rose for the third month in a row in July.

Gaining as much as 47.86% ($1.23) in early trading this morning is Novogen Limited (NVGN) currently trading in the $3.65 range on the Nasdaq. NVGN has a new market cap of $74 million. NVGN has a 3-Month average daily trading volume of 61,382 and easily topped 7 times that volume this morning surpassing 442,876 shares traded.


The huge gain by NVGN today is based on news that its cancer drug, NV-128, lacks toxicity. NVGN NV-128 is an analog of triphendiol and phenoxodiol, both of which are investigational drugs that have been licensed by NVGN to Marshall Edwards, Inc., (MHSL) an NVGN subsidiary.


As the licensee, MHSL's NV-128, demonstrated that the efficacy of the drug in animal xenograft models is achieved without apparent toxicity. NV-128 is a novel flavonoid small molecule mTOR inhibitor, capable of inhibiting both mTORC1 and mTORC2 pathways which are central to the aberrant proliferative capacity of both mature cancer cells and cancer stem c! ells. Th e data demonstrated that NV-128 has much greater safety than some other mTOR inhibitors in mice bearing human ovarian cancer xenografts.

In additional data released today by Marshall Edwards Inc., the Company reported that NV-128 was judged to be without cardiac toxicity, further indicating the likely safety of NV-128 in clinical use for humans.


NVGN consumer healthcare products include a range of natural products specifically for women's health; Vinalac, a probiotic formula to help prevent childhood allergies, such as eczema in children at risk of an allergy; Aliten for weight control; and Trinovin, for the enhancement and maintenance of men's health. NVGN primarily focuses on oncology, cardiovascular, dermatological, and anti-inflammatory programs. NVGN's drug programs include Phenoxodiol, a Phase III investigational drug for late stage, chemoresistant ovarian cancer and prostate, and cervical cancers; Triphendiol, a Phase I signal transduction inhibitor for the treatment of cholangiocarcinoma or bile duct cancer, and stage Phase IIB through stage IV malignant melanoma; and GLYC-101, a Phase II product for the treatment of wounds following laser ablation, burn wounds, surgical wounds, venous ulcers, and diabetic ulcers. Novogen's programs also include NV-143, NV-04, NV-27, NV-07 and NV-52 (visit the NVGN site for details).

At $3.65, NVGN is below its 52-week high of $7 set on 05-18-09 and is above its 52-week low of $1.23 set on 03-11-09. At $3.65, NVGN is ahead of both its 50-day and 200-day moving averages. Its shares out versus float ratio is near-parity.

Marshall Edwards Inc. (MSHL) and N! V-128

The other company benefiting from the NV-128 drug is Marshall Edwards (MSHL) gaining over 108% ($0.66) this morning. MSHL is currently trading in the $1.28 range on the Nasdaq. MSHL has a new market cap of $93 million. MSHL has a 3-Month average daily trading volume of 89,900 shares and this morning it soared past 34 times that volume topping 3,129,497 shares traded.

MSHL is involved in the clinical development and commercialization of its phenoxodiol drug candidates for the treatment of cancer; triphendiol, a signal transduction inhibitor for the treatment of pancreas and bile duct cancers, and melanoma; Other NVGN licenses to MSHL include NV-143. MSHL is also conducting a Phase II prostate cancer clinical trial using phenoxodiol.

At $1.28, MSHL is below its 52-week high of $2.55 set on 09-30-08 and is above its 52-week low of $0.25 set on 03-10-09. At $1.28, MSHL is ahead of both its 50-day and 200-day moving averages. MSHL is majority owned by insiders and its outstanding shares versus float ratio (73m/17m) is very lopsided. I would like to see more shares in the public float for stability.

MCGC: A 52-Week High Today.

Finally, gaining 20% ($0.70) this morning is MCG Capital Corporation (MCGC) currently trading on the Nasdaq in the $4.10 range. MCGC has a new market cap of $317 million. MCGC has a 3-Month average daily trading volume of 328,309 shares and it easily doubled that volume two hours into today's session.

The jump in MCGC value today came from an upgrade by research house Stifel Nicolaus from 'Hold' to 'Buy'. Upgrades are good for MCGC. Last month, on August 5, resear! ch house Keefe Bruyette upgraded MCGC from 'Underperform' to 'Market Perform' following Q2 09 results released the day before.

MCGC reported a Q2 09 net loss of $5.9 million, or $0.08 per share, which represented a $63.6�million improvement over the net loss of $69.5�million, or $0.96 per share, reported for Q2 08. This improvement was attributable primarily to a $68.3�million reduction in the net investment loss recognized on the fair value of MCG's investment portfolio, partially offset by a $4.8 million or 36.9%, decrease in net operating income.

MCGC is a private equity firm specializing in investments in middle market companies. NCGC invests in companies having revenues between $20 million and $200 million and EBITDA between $3 million and $25 million.

At $4.10, MCGC is above of its 52-week high of $3.63 set on 09-18-09 and is above its 52-week low of $0.46 set on 11-20-08. At $4.10, MCGC is ahead of both its 50-day and 200-day moving averages. MCGC has trailing twelve month revenues of $113 million. MCGC is widely held by institutions. Its shares out versus float ratio is near-parity.

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Kennametal Outruns Estimates Again

Kennametal (NYSE: KMT  ) reported earnings on Jan. 26. Here are the numbers you need to know.

The 10-second takeaway
For the quarter ended Dec. 31 (Q2), Kennametal met expectations on revenues and beat expectations on earnings per share.

Compared to the prior-year quarter, revenue grew, and GAAP earnings per share increased significantly.

Margins expanded across the board.

Revenue details
Kennametal reported revenue of $641.7 million. The 12 analysts polled by S&P Capital IQ expected revenue of $638.7 million. Sales were 13% higher than the prior-year quarter's $565.8 million.


Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Dollar amounts in millions.

EPS details
Non-GAAP EPS came in at $0.91. The 13 earnings estimates compiled by S&P Capital IQ anticipated $0.78 per share on the same basis. GAAP EPS of $0.88 for Q2 were 75% higher than the prior-year quarter's $0.52 per share.


Source: S&P Capital IQ. Quarterly periods. Figures may be non-GAAP to maintain comparability with estimates.

Margin details
For the quarter, gross margin was 36.1%, 60 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Operating margin was 14.7%, 290 basis points better than the prior-year quarter. Net margin was 11.5%, 380 basis points better than the prior-year quarter.

Looking ahead
Next quarter's average estimate for revenue is $662.3 million. On the bottom line, the average EPS estimate is $0.93.

Next year's average estimate for revenue is $2.70 billion. The average EPS estimate is $3.79.

Inves! tor sent iment
The stock has a four-star rating (out of five) at Motley Fool CAPS, with 282 members out of 297 rating the stock outperform, and 15 members rating it underperform. Among 120 CAPS All-Star picks (recommendations by the highest-ranked CAPS members), 116 give Kennametal a green thumbs-up, and four give it a red thumbs-down.

Of Wall Street recommendations tracked by S&P Capital IQ, the average opinion on Kennametal is outperform, with an average price target of $46.83.

  • Add Kennametal to My Watchlist.

Hot Stocks: A Quick Turnaround and Global Expansion Plans Giving Starbucks Stock a Jolt

A massive Asian expansion and a heated debate over gun rights are just a few of the things going on at Starbucks Corp. (Nasdaq: SBUX) these days. But despite the tension that's percolating in the world's largest purveyor of designer coffees, Starbucks is in the midst of an impressive turnaround.

Years of rapidly adding new stores forced the company into a stark retrenchment when the economy soured. One thousand of the trendy coffee shops were closed and many more employees let go. Starbucks stock plunged more than 80% from its 2007 peak of about $40 a share to under $8 a share in November 2008.

But the company's restructuring - which shaved roughly $600 million in costs - and an improved economy have provided a refreshing jolt. Starbucks in January reported its first quarter of same-store sales growth since the end of 2008. And its share price has bounced back to a respectable $24.84 a share as of yesterday's (Wednesday) close.

The days of reckless overexpansion and troubling closures are have come to an end, insists Starbucks Chief Executive Officer Howard Schultz.

"We cleansed ourselves of that, and we began to understand that not only could we admit mistakes, but that we could start righting the ship," Schultz said during a meeting in Seattle, which was broadcast over the Internet. "We have loads of opportunity to grow the company, but perhaps in a different way."

Schultz's new game plan calls for expanding its presence in the fast-growing Asian market - but doing so carefully.

"Asia clearly represents the most significant growth opportunity on a go-forward basis," he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "Over time there will be thousands of stores in China, but it's a complicated market that requires significant discipline and thoughtfulness."

Starbucks first entered China! in 1999 , just three years after opening its first shop in Japan. Still, the company has less than half as many stores in China as it does in Japan (376 stores in China vs. 878 in Japan).

China, traditionally a tea-drinking nation, looks to be following a pattern similar to that seen in Japan a few years ago. After a steady climb, Japan is now the world's third-largest coffee importer. According to the International Coffee Organization, China's current import volume is less than a tenth of Japan's, but coffee consumption is growing at an unparalleled rate of 10% to 15% each year. And with a population of 1.3 billion, it won't be long before China leapfrogs Japan and Germany to become the No. 2 coffee consumer in the world.

So while Starbucks will continue to pursue growth in Japan - the company yesterday began selling Via Ready Brew, its powdered coffee mix, in Japan - it's more keen to expand in other Asian markets where its brand is less established.

"India and Vietnam are two markets we'd like to get to at some point," said Schultz. "We are still at the embryonic stages of what Asia will be for the company."

For now, though, Japan remains Starbucks' largest market outside of North America. Total sales in Japan for the current fiscal year ended March 31 are forecast to have stayed flat at about $1.03 billion (96.4 billion yen), according to The Journal. Same-store sales in the country rose for the first time in 15 months in February, and the company aims to open 50-60 more stores there this year.

A Triple Grande Latte with a Side of Ammo

Back home in the United States, Starbucks is trying to be as evasive as possible in ducking a conflict between advocates of "open carry" gun rights and gun control.

In California, small groups of gun-wielding gun rights advocates, notably members of the loosely organized "Bay Area Open Carry Movement," have been meeting at various l! ocations across the state, including Starbucks.

California allows its citizens to openly display and carry unloaded weapons without a permit, as do Utah and North Dakota. The guns cannot be loaded, but persons can carry ammunition so long as it is kept separate from the firearm. Private businesses are typically allowed to ban guns from their property, but Starbucks does not.

Instead, the company says it intends to "comply with local laws and statutes" and that the "political, policy, and legal debates around these issues belong in the legislatures and courts, not in our stores."

That stance has won praise from open carry advocates but drawn criticism from customers expecting a more relaxed atmosphere. Specifically, Starbucks has come under fire from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which is soliciting signatures on a petition to keep bullets and baristas away from one another.

The situation is a potentially combustible one, but Starbucks is no stranger to controversy. Critics allege the company has undercut smaller businesses by saturating the market, intentionally operating at a loss, and buying out competitors' leases. Starbucks has also been the focus of labor disputes, criticized for its spotty environmental record, and in the United Kingdom, accused of violating planning and zoning laws.

Still, Starbucks has appeared on the Ethisphere Institute's list of the World's Most Ethical Companies since 2007. Ethisphere says companies on this year's list have outperformed the market by delivering a 53% return since 2005, compared to a 4% decline for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index.

And regardless of any criticism, gun-related or otherwise, Starbucks is enjoying a strong rebound. Its stock is up 7.3% year-to-date and the company said last month that it would pay out its first ever cash dividend on April 23. A dividend of 10 cents per share will paid to investors on record as of April 7.

CEO Schultz ! stands t o receive $7.7 million on 19.4 million shares of Starbucks stock he owns through direct and indirect holdings.

Additionally, Starbucks is expanding its share buyback program. The board has authorized the repurchase of up to 15 million shares of stock on top of the 6.3 million shares that remain to be bought through an earlier plan.

The dividend and buy back program reflect Starbucks' "evolution into a more mature, less capital intensive growth company," Bernstein Research analyst Sara Senatore said in a research note. "Hoarding cash just went out of style."

Starbucks is sitting on $1.3 billion in cash, and more is on the way as free cash flow is forecast to be $1 billion this year.

News and Related Links:

  • Wall Street Journal: Starbucks Plans Major China Expansion
  • Money Morning: The Price of Coffee is on the Rise: Who's Really Going To Profit?
  • Money Morning: New China Mall Devoted to Such Knock-Off Brands as "Bucksstar" Coffee, "Pizza Huh" Slices and "McDnoald's" Burgers

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012

Silver is utterly timeless as a lasting store of value. But when it comes to investing in the volatile precious metal, timing matters. With that in mind, each year I scour the mining industry for the most exciting and timely investment opportunities of the year in gold and silver. For the first time this year, I am presenting my top 10 silver picks separately from my top 10 gold picks for 2012. Before continuing on, I encourage readers to review Part 1 for the first half of this first-annual silver countdown (don't forget to return here, of course!). With any further delay, here are my top five silver stocks for 2012:

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:Giga-tronics Incorporated (GIGA)

 Giga-tronics Incorporated designs, manufactures, and markets various test and measurement equipment used in the development, test, and maintenance of wireless communications products and systems, flight navigational equipment, electronic defense systems, and automatic testing systems worldwide. Its products are primarily used in the design, production, repair, and maintenance of commercial telecommunications, radar, and electronic warfare equipment. The company operates in two segments, Giga-tronics Division and Microsource. The Giga-tronics Division segment produces signal sources, generators and sweepers, and power measurement instruments for use in the microwave and radio frequency range of 10 kilohertz to 50 gigahertz. This segment also manufactures switch modules and interface adapters that operate with a bandwidth from direct current to optical frequencies for defense, aeronautics, communications, satellite, electronic warfare, commercial aviation, and semiconductor markets. The Microsource segment develops and manufactures a line of Yttrium, Iron, and Garnet tuned oscillators, filters, and microwave synthesizers, which are used in various microwave instruments or devices. The company markets its products through various independent distributors and representatives to commercial and government customers. Giga-tronics Incorporated was founded in 1980 and is based in San Ramon, California.

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:Full House Resorts Inc. (FLL)

 Full House Resorts, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, develops, manages, invests in, and owns gaming-related enterprises. The company holds interest in Gaming Entertainment (Delaware), LLC, a joint venture with Harrington Raceway, Inc., which has a management contract with Harrington Raceway and Casino that has approximately 1,800 slot machines and 40 table games, a 450-seat buffet, a dining restaurant, a 50-seat diner, and an entertainment lounge area located in Harrington, Delaware. It also owns and operates Stockman?s Casino, which has approximately 264 slot machines, 4 table games, and keno, as well as a bar, a dining restaurant, and a coffee shop situated in Fallon, Nevada. In addition, the company holds interests in Gaming Entertainment Michigan, LLC that has a joint venture with RAM Entertainment, LLC, which has a management agreement with the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians for the development and management of the FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Michigan. Full House Resorts, Inc. was founded in 1987 and is based in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:YRC Worldwide Inc. (YRCW)

 YRC Worldwide Inc., through its subsidiaries, provides various transportation services worldwide. The company?s YRC National Transportation unit offers a range of services for the transportation of industrial, commercial, and retail goods, such as apparel, appliances, automotive parts, chemicals, food, furniture, glass, machinery, metal, metal products, non-bulk petroleum products, rubber, textiles, wood, and other manufactured products. It serves manufacturing, wholesale, retail, and government customers. As of December 31, 2009, it had 11704 owned tractors, 1239 leased tractors, 50083 owned trailers, and 3244 leased trailers. Its YRC Regional Transportation unit?s service portfolio includes regional delivery, which comprises next-day local area delivery and second-day services, consolidation/distribution services, protect-from-freezing and hazardous materials handling, and various specialized offerings; expedited delivery, that comprises day-definite, hour-definite, and time definite capabilities; inter-regional delivery; cross-border delivery; and operation of and, which are e-commerce Websites offering online resources to manage transportation activity. The company?s YRC Logistics units? service portfolio consists of distribution services that include flow through and pool distribution, dedicated warehousing, and value-added services; global services, which comprise international freight forwarding, customs brokerage, and value-added services; and transportation services, such as truckload brokerage, domestic freight forwarding, and transportation management. Its YRC Truckload unit provides customized truckload services on regional and national level through the use of company and team-based drivers. The company was founded in 1924 and is headquartered in Overland Park, Kansas.

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:American Woodmark Corporation (AMWD)

 American Woodmark Corp. engages in the manufacture and distribution of kitchen cabinets and vanities for the remodeling and new home construction markets in the United States. The company offers framed stock cabinets in approximately 380 cabinet lines of 90 door designs and in 12 colors. Its stock cabinets consist of a common box with interior components and a maple, oak, cherry, or hickory front frame. The company also provides various turnkey installation services to builder customers through its network of nine service centers. It markets its products primarily under American Woodmark, Timberlake, Shenandoah Cabinetry, and Potomac brand names. The company serves its products to home centers, builders, and independent dealers and distributors. It distributes its products directly through a third party logistics network. American Woodmark Corp. was founded in 1980 and is headquartered in Winchester, Virginia.

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:Transportadora De Gas Sa Ord B (TGS)

 Transportadora de Gas Del Sur S.A. engages in the transportation of natural gas, as well as production and commercialization of natural gas liquids primarily in Argentina. It operates approximately 8627 km long pipeline system. The company transports its natural gas to distribution companies, industries, traders, producers, and power plant operators. The company?s production and commercialization activities are conducted at the Cerri Complex located near Bahia Blanca. Its natural gas liquid products comprise ethane, propane, butane, and natural gasoline. It also provides midstream services, which consist of gas treatment, gas compression, and wellhead gas gathering services; removal services for impurities from the natural gas stream; and pipeline construction, operation, and maintenance services. In addition, the company offers telecommunication services for telephone operators and other corporate users. Its telecommunication network includes a microwave's digital system with synchronous digital hierarchy technology. The company was founded in 1992 and is based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Transportadora de Gas Del Sur S.A. is a subsidiary of Compania de Inversiones de Energia S.A.

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:Deere & Company (DE)

 Deere & Company provides products and services primarily for agriculture and forestry worldwide. The company operates in three segments: Agriculture and Turf, Construction and Forestry, and Credit. The Agriculture and Turf segment manufactures and distributes a line of farm and turf equipment, and related service parts, which include large, medium, and utility tractors; loaders; combines, cotton, and sugarcane harvesters and related front-end equipment; sugarcane loaders; and tillage, seeding, and application equipment. This segment also offers hay and forage equipment comprising self-propelled forage harvesters and attachments, balers, and mowers; turf and utility equipment, such as riding lawn equipment, walk-behind mowers, golf course equipment, utility vehicles, and commercial mowing equipment; integrated agricultural management systems technology; precision agricultural irrigation equipment and supplies; landscape and nursery products; and outdoor power products. The Construction and Forestry segment offers a range of machines and service parts used in construction, earthmoving, material handling, and timber harvesting, including backhoe loaders; crawler dozers and loaders; four-wheel-drive loaders; excavators; motor graders; articulated dump trucks; landscape loaders; skid-steer loaders; and log skidders, feller bunchers, log loaders, log forwarders, log harvesters, and related attachments. This segment markets its products and services primarily through independent retail dealer networks and retail outlets. The Credit segment primarily finances sales and leases of new and used agriculture and turf equipment, as well as construction and forestry equipment. This segment also provides wholesale financing to dealers of the foregoing equipment, provides operating loans, finances retail revolving charge accounts, and offers certain crop risk mitigation products. The company was founded in 1837 and is based in Moline, Illinois.

Advisors' Opinion:

  • By David Sterman At 2011-! 12-6

     Deere & Co. (NYSE: DE) is the world’s largest equipment manufacturer for the farming, construction and forestry industries, and a top producer of lawn and garden tractors for homeowners. It has a strong balance sheet and shares currently trade at a forward P/E of 9.6. Recently, Bill Gates purchased 7.5 million shares of Deer & Co., his biggest purchases in recent history.

  • By Dave Friedman At 2011-9-22

    The shares closed at $76.50, up $1.53, or 2.04%, on the day. They have traded in a 52-week range of $60.45 to $99.80. Volume today was 4,679,892 shares, against a 3-month average volume of 5,720,140 shares. Its market capitalization is $32.11billion, its trailing P/E is 13.15, its trailing earnings are $5.82 per share, and it pays a dividend of $1.64 per share, for a dividend yield of 2.20%. About the company: Deere & Company manufactures and distributes a range of agricultural, construction and forestry, and commercial and consumer equipment. The Company supplies replacement parts for its own products and for those of other manufacturers. Deere also provides product and parts financing services.

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:Dnb Financial Corp (DNBF)

 DNB Financial Corporation operates as the holding company for DNB First, National Association that provides a range of commercial banking products and services to individuals and small to medium sized businesses in southeastern Pennsylvania. It accepts various deposits, including savings, tiered savings, certificates of deposits, individual retirement accounts (IRAs), NOW accounts, time deposits, demand deposits, and money market accounts. The company?s loan portfolio comprises secured and unsecured commercial, real estate, and consumer loans; funds for the purchase of business property or ventures, working capital lines, and lease financing for equipment and other purposes; and home equity and home mortgages, as well as term loans for the purchase of consumer goods. It also provides cash management, remote capture, commercial sweep accounts, Internet banking, and letters of credit; and various investment and insurance products, such as fixed and variable annuities, defined benefit plans, 401(k) rollovers, stocks, self-directed IRAs, bonds, mutual funds, full services brokerage/cash management, long term care insurance, 529 college savings plans, life insurance, estate accounts, disability insurance, trust services, 401(k) plans, and self employed pension plans. In addition, the company offers investment management and advisory, estate settlement, trust services, custody services, retirement planning, safekeeping, and bill paying services. It has 11 full service branches; 2 limited service branches; and a full-service wealth management group. The company was founded in 1860 and is headquartered in Downingtown, Pennsylvania.

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:AmTrust Financial Services Inc. (AFSI)

 AmTrust Financial Services, Inc., through its subsidiaries, operates as a multinational specialty property and casualty insurance company in the United States and internationally. The company operates in three segments: Small Commercial Business, Specialty Risk and Extended Warranty, and Specialty Middle Market Business. The Small Commercial Business segment provides workers? compensation insurance and an array of commercial package products, including commercial property, general liability, inland marine, automobile, workers? compensation, umbrella, and farm and ranch owners? coverage to small businesses, such as restaurants, retail stores and strip malls, professional offices, owner or contractor of building management-operations, private schools, business traveler hotels/motels, light manufacturing, small grocery and specialty food stores, light contracting, distributors, and laundry/dry cleaners. The Specialty Risk and Extended Warranty segment serves manufacturers, service providers, retailers, and third party warranty administrators that provide coverage for accidental damage, mechanical breakdown, and related risks for consumer and commercial goods. This segment also provides coverage for products, such as personal computers, consumer electronics, consumer appliances, automobiles, cellular telephones, furniture, heavy equipment, homeowner?s latent defects warranty, hand tools, credit payment protection, gap insurance, commercial and residential properties, and legal expenses. The Specialty Middle Market Business segment underwrites worker?s compensation, package products, general liability, commercial auto liability, and other specialty commercial property and casualty insurance for retail, wholesale, service operations, artisan contracting, trucking, light and medium manufacturing, and habitational markets. The company sells its products through a network of independent wholesale agents, brokers, and retail agents. The company is based in New York, New York.

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:CONMED Corporation (CNMD)

 CONMED Corporation, a medical technology company, provides surgical devices and equipment for minimally invasive procedures and monitoring. The company?s products serve the clinical areas of arthroscopy, powered surgical instruments, electrosurgery, cardiac monitoring disposables, endosurgery, and endoscopic technologies. It offers arthroscopy products, including powered resection instruments, arthroscopes, reconstructive systems, tissue repair sets, metal and bioabsorbable implants and related disposable products, and fluid management systems; powered surgical instruments used to perform orthopedic, arthroscopic, and other surgical procedures; and electrosurgery products comprising pencils, active electrodes, ground pads, generators, coagulation systems, and smoke evacuation systems. The company?s patient care products comprise a line of vital signs and cardiac monitoring products, including pulse oximetry equipment and sensors, ECG electrodes and cables, cardiac defibrillation and pacing pads, and blood pressure cuffs; surgical suction instruments and tubing products; and IV products used in critical care areas. It also provides endosurgical products, such as clip appliers and laparoscopic instruments; and cutting trocars, suction/irrigation accessories, laparoscopic scissors, dissectors and graspers, active electrodes, insufflation needles, and linear cutters and staplers. In addition, the company offers endoscopic technology products comprising forceps, accessories, bronchoscopy devices, dilatation, hemostasis, biliary devices, and polypectomy for the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal and pulmonary disorders. Its products are used by surgeons and physicians in various specialties, including orthopedics, general surgery, gynecology, neurosurgery, and gastroenterology. The company operates primarily in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Australia. CONMED Corporation was founded in 1970 and is headquartered in Utica, New York.

Best Stocks To Own For October 2012:Tutor Perini Corporation (TPC)

 Tutor Perini Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, provides diversified general contracting, construction management, and design-build services to private clients and public agencies worldwide. It operates in three segments: Civil, Building, and Management Services. The Civil segment involves in public works construction, and the repair, replacement, and reconstruction of infrastructure. This segment?s civil contracting services include construction and rehabilitation of highways, bridges, mass transit systems, and wastewater treatment facilities. The Building segment provides services to various specialized building markets for private and public works clients, such as the hospitality and gaming, transportation, healthcare, municipal offices, sports and entertainment, education, correctional facilities, biotech, pharmaceutical, industrial and high-tech markets, electrical and mechanical, plumbing, and HVAC services. The Management Services Segment offers diversified construction and design-build services to the United States military and government agencies, surety companies, and multi-national corporations in the United States and internationally. This segment also provides rapid response and contract completion services; and management or general contracting services to fulfill the contractual and financial obligations of the surety on notification from the surety of a contractor bond default. The company was founded in 1894 and is headquartered in Sylmar, California.

These musicians buck the trend of musicians supporting Democrats

In most cases, rock stars have not supported Republican candidates for president, or even the GOP itself.� How many times have we heard about a candidate borrowing a popular rock song, like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” and the Ronald Reagan campaign borrowing it mistakingly as an unabashed anthem in support of the U.S.? This election season, though, things are different.

Politico has compiled a list of famous musicians who have thrown their support to one of the Republican candidates for president. Below are five of the most interesting stars, and who they support.

Kelly Clarkson — Ron Paul

Kelly Clarkson, the winner of the first American Idol season and multi-Platinum recording artist, expressed her support for Texas Rep. Ron Paul in a December 29, 2011 tweet, though she also expressed doubts that Paul would actually win the GOP nomination.

Gene Simmons — Mitt Romney

In an interview with, Gene Simmons, the bassist for famous rock band Kiss and reality TV star, said that Mitt Romney had a chance to be elected because of his business experience and ability to avoid high taxes.

Prodigy — Ron Paul

One half of East Coast rap group Mobb Deep (along with partner Havoc), Prodigy (also known as Albert Johnson) became familiar with Ron Paul while serving a three year prison sentence for illegally possessing a handgun. Prodigy, who was released from prison in March 2011, said he “love[d] what he represents” and that he felt Paul could “shake things up a little bit”, but that he doubted Paul would get elected.

Joe Perry — Ron Paul

Long-time Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry posted his support for Paul and his opposition to President Barack Obama on Twitter on January 3, complaining that Obama hadn’t met his promises and that the media was out to “crush” Paul.

Dav! e Mustai ne — Rick Santorum?

Dave Mustaine, the founder and frontman for Megadeth and an early member of Metallica until he was booted from the band, has waffled on whether or not he supports Rick Santorum for president. While an interview with on Valentine’s Day seemed to endorse the former Pennsylvania Sen., the heavy metal legend later pulled back from his apparent endorsement. “Contrary to how some people have interpreted my words, I have not endorsed any presidential candidate,” he said in a press release.�Contrary to how some people have interpreted my words, I have not endorsed any presidential candidate.�

For the complete list of music stars supporting GOP candidates, check out this Politico post.

– Benjamin Nanamaker, InvestorPlace Money & Politics Editor

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

Want to share your own views on money, politics and the 2012 elections? Drop us a line at and we might reprint your views in our InvestorPolitics blog! Please include your name, city and state of residence. All letters submitted to this address will be considered for publication.

Top 5 Stocks In 2013

Canadian stocks (SPTSX) rose for a fourth day, led by energy producers, as natural gas futures gained the most since October on forecasts for colder-than-normal weather in the northern U.S.

Suncor Energy Inc. (SU), Canada’s largest oil and gas producer, advanced 1.5 percent. Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc., the world’s biggest fertilizer producer by market value, declined 1.9 percent after Citigroup Inc. removed it from a list of top stock picks. Yoga-wear retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc. (LULU) rallied 8.9 percent after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. added the company to its Americas Conviction List.

The Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index (SPTSX) climbed 18.04 points, or 0.2 percent, to 12,226.47. The index closed at the highest level since Nov. 15 for a second day after rallying yesterday when the Institute for Supply Management’s U.S. manufacturing index rose more than most economists had forecast.

“The U.S. economy’s doing better than what people thought,” Stephen Gauthier, a money manager at Fin-XO Securities in Montreal, said in a telephone interview. The firm oversees about C$600 million ($593 million). “That’s giving a lift to commodities, which had a very difficult year last year. There’s a little cold snap, natural gas going up. There’s crude oil going up also, because of tensions in Iran.”

The S&P/TSX rallied 2.1 percent yesterday, led by raw- materials and energy stocks, after slumping 11 percent in 2013. The S&P/TSX Materials Index (STMATR) fell to the lowest relative to earnings since May 2009 last month as the spread of Europe’s debt crisis led to the gains in the U.S. dollar and drops in gold and copper futures.

Natural gas surged 3.4 percent on the New York Mercantile Exchange after AccuWeather Inc. said temperatures may fall to 6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 14 Celsius) on Jan. 15. Natural gas futures have declined 34 percent from a year ago.

Top 5 Stocks In 2013:Aerosonic Corporation (AIM)

 Aerosonic Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the design, manufacture, and sale of aircraft instruments worldwide. It offers mechanical and digital altimeters, airspeed indicators, rate of climb indicators, microprocessor controlled air data test sets, and other flight instruments. The company also produces mechanical and electro-mechanical cockpit instruments, angle of attack stall warning systems, digital cockpit instruments, integrated flight display systems, aircraft sensors and monitoring systems, and integrated multifunction probes, such as integrated air data sensors. It markets its products to manufacturers of corporate and private jets, contractors of military jets, the United States government, and private aircraft owners. The company sells its products directly through its sales personnel, as well as through distributors and commissioned sales representatives who resell to aircraft operators. Aerosonic Corporation was founded in 1953 and is based in Clearwater, Florida.

Top 5 Stocks In 2013:Calpine Corporation (CPN)

 Calpine Corporation, an independent wholesale power generation company, owns and operates natural gas-fired and geothermal power plants in North America. It operates natural gas-fired combustion turbines and renewable geothermal conventional steam turbines. The company sells wholesale power, steam, capacity, renewable energy credits, and ancillary services to utilities, independent electric system operators, industrial and agricultural companies, retail power providers, municipalities, and power marketers. As of March 03, 2011, it operated 92 power plants delivering approximately 28,000 megawatts of power to customers and communities in 20 states of the United States and Canada. The company was founded in 1984 and is based in Houston, Texas.

Top 5 Stocks In 2013:Snap-On Incorporated (SNA)

 Snap-on Incorporated provides tools, equipment, diagnostics, repair information, and systems solutions for professional users. Its products include hand tools, such as wrenches, screwdrivers, sockets, pliers, ratchets, saws and cutting tools, pruning tools, and torque measuring instruments; power tools, including pneumatic, hydraulic, cordless, and corded tools; and tool storage products comprising tool chests, roll cabinets, and tool control systems. The company?s diagnostics and repair information products include handheld and PC-based diagnostics products, service and repair information products, diagnostic software solutions, electronic parts catalogs, business management systems, business services, point-of-sale systems, integrated systems for vehicle service shops, original equipment manufacturer purchasing facilitation services, and warranty management systems and analytics to manage and track performance. Snap-on Incorporated?s equipment products comprise solutions for the diagnosis and service of automotive and industrial equipment, such as wheel alignment, collision repair, air conditioning service, brake service, fluid exchange, transmission troubleshooting, and safety testing equipment, as well as wheel balancers, tire changers, vehicle lifts, test lane systems, battery chargers, and hoists. The company also provides financial services, including business loans and vehicle leases to franchisees; loans to the franchisees? customers; and loans to its industrial and other customers for the purchase of tools, equipment, and diagnostics products. Snap-on Incorporated sells its products and services through mobile vans, franchisees, company-direct sales, distributors, and the Internet in approximately 130 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Australia, France, Japan, Spain, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Argentina, China, and Brazil. Snap-on Incorporated was founded in 1920 and is based in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Top 5 Stocks In 2013:Global Industries Ltd. (GLBL)

 Global Industries, Ltd., together with its subsidiaries, provides construction and subsea services to the offshore oil and gas industry in the North America, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific/the Middle East regions. The company?s services include pipeline construction, platform installation and removal, construction support, diving services, diverless intervention, and marine support services. As of December 31, 2010, its fleet included four derrick lay barges, one pipelay/derrick vessel, one heavy lift ship, one pipelay barge, four multi-service vessels, one dive support vessel, and one offshore supply vessel. The company serves oil and gas producers and pipeline companies. The company was founded in 1973 and is headquartered in Carlyss, Louisiana.

Top 5 Stocks In 2013:Willbros Group Inc. (WG)

 Willbros Group, Inc. provides engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services to the oil and gas, refinery, petrochemical, and power industries primarily in the United States, Canada, and Oman. Its Upstream Oil & Gas segment offers EPC services to design, build, or replace large-diameter cross-country pipelines; fabricate engineered structures, process modules, and facilities; and build oil and gas production facilities, pump stations, flow stations, gas compressor stations, gas processing facilities, gathering lines, and related facilities. The company?s Downstream Oil & Gas segment provides specialty construction, turnaround, repair, and maintenance services to the downstream energy infrastructure market, which consists of integrated oil companies, independent refineries, product terminals, and petrochemical companies, as well as EPC firms, independent power producers, government entities, specialty process facilities, and ammonia and fertilizer manufacturing plants and facilities. It also offers manufacturing services for process heaters, heater coils, alloy piping, specialty components, and other equipment for installation in oil refineries; heater services, including design, manufacture, and installation of fired heaters in refining and process plants; tank services for the construction, maintenance, or repair of petroleum storage tanks; safety services for supplementing a refinery?s safety personnel, and providing safety equipment; government services through building and managing fueling depots and other fueling systems; evaluation, maintenance, and building petroleum, oil, and lubricant facilities; and EPC services through program management and EPC project services. Its Utility T&D segment provides a range of services in electric power and natural gas transmission and distribution, such as maintenance and construction, repair, and restoration of utility infrastructure. The company was founded in 1908 and is headquartered in Houston, Texas.

Best Wall St. Stocks Today: GLD,USO

Did retail investors catch the top of the market?� Many individual investors missed the huge market gains from the lows in early 2009 and now many are playing catch-up.� Fresh data from Morningstar this morning shows total inflows and outflows for mutual funds and for ETF products through the end of October.� The surprise is is that many are still avoiding stocks entirely.

Morningstar’s research on inflows and outflows showed that investors contributed $26.8 billion to long-term mutual funds in October.� This is almost double what was contributed in September.� The surprise seen is that Morningstar showed that every asset class saw inflows during October, at least every asset class other than U.S. stocks.

The only good news for stocks is that the pace of outflows from domestic equity funds came in at a slower rate than before.� October’s redemptions from US equity funds was $6.3 billion, well under the $18.3 billion seen in September.

Morningstar showed that US ETFs saw inflows of $13.1 billion in October which has pushed industry total net assets to $944.7 billion if you consider the market appreciation in the calculations.

If not US-stocks, where then does the investing money go?

International equity funds and balanced funds saw inflows of $5.7 billion and $2.3 billion, respectively.

Investors are getting the message that cash is not king.� Outflows for money market funds came to $16.6 billion in October.� Money market funds’ share of total mutual fund assets has dropped to 25.7% from 33.4% over the past year.

Diversified emerging-markets funds saw $2.3 billion in inflows in October. Vanguard Total International Stock Index Fund saw inflows of $10.7 billion after Vanguard announced that the fund would replace Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund, Vanguard European Stocks Index Fund, and Vanguard Pacific Stock Index Fund in its target-date lineup and in three funds of funds.

Long-term bond funds have seen tepid i! nflows r emaining:

  • Taxable-bond funds had solid inflows overall of $20.6 billion, but short-term bond funds have been supplanted in the rankings by world-bond and multisector bond funds, which absorbed $3.7 billion and $3.1 billion, respectively, in October.
  • Municipal-bond funds took in $1.8 billion in October, but monthly inflows have been declining since September 2009.

Another data point is that Dimensional Fund Advisors broke into the Top-10 List of fund families by assets under management in October. The firm has taken in nearly $7.5 billion in 2010, and about one-third of those assets flowed to the firm’s emerging-markets equity funds.

The Competition from ETFs Versus Old-School Mutual Funds Persists…

International stock ETF inflows dominated with October’s inflows of $9.2 billion.� This now puts total inflows of $25.1 billion for diversified emerging-markets for calendar 2010.� Nearly 76% of total net inflows went in the direction of international equity ETF products.

Domestic stocks showed gains in the world of ETFs, showing inflows of $3.5 billion in October.� In addition to dividend-paying ETFs and other high yielding strategies, investors allocated capital to ETFs that could be QE2 winners with exposure to technology and financials.

There was an interesting development in commodity ETFs as well.� Despite the gains being seen in gold, silver, oil, food input products and on in the world of commodities, commodities ETFs saw outflows in October by the tune of about $197 million.
Specifically mentioned were the SPDR Gold Trust (NYSE: GLD) and the United States Oil (NYSE: USO).� Morningstar noted that outflows were $486 million from the gold ETF and $331 million from United States Oil.� Inflows were seen in silver and natural gas ETFs.

Vanguard has collected roughly 39 cents of every dollar in net inflows to U.S.-listed ETFs this year and introduced 16 new ETFs to the market in 2010. Vanguard’s ETF ass! ets incr eased by more than 72% over the past year, raising the firm’s market share to 14.5% of industry assets.


Morningstar’s full report and more details is here.