Thursday, February 27, 2014

Aide: Madoff private about his investment firm

NEW YORK - Longtime Bernard Madoff assistant Annette Bongiorno testified Monday that the Ponzi scheme mastermind always warned her not to discuss his investment clients or the financial trades his firm handled for them.

Testifying in her own defense on charges she participated in the fraud, Bongiorno said she never thought that warning was unusual.

Not after she was specifically quizzed whether she or any relatives had any securities industry experience before she was hired in 1968.

Not after Madoff instructed her to enter backdated trades in customer accounts, in some cases months or up to a year after the purported trades.

And not after he rejected her suggestion that she go to school and study to obtain a securities license of her own.

"You don't need it," Bongiorno said Madoff insisted. "Everything you need to know, I'll teach you."

Bongiorno's defense is based on proving the instructions and secrecy prevented her from learning that the trading practices she was taught were actually illegal. She is one of four former co-workers accused of knowingly aiding and personally profiting from the fraud that Madoff used to steal as much as $20 billion from thousands of average investors, charities, celebrities, financial funds and other victims.

He pleaded guilty after the scam collapsed in Dec. 2008 and is now serving a 150-year prison term.

Bongiorno is the second co-defendant to take the witness stand in the trial, which is now in its fifth month.

"Did you ever commit a fraud?" asked her defense lawyer, Roland Riopelle, shortly after she took the witness stand.

"Never knowingly," testified Bongiorno, now a 65-year-old North Hills, N.Y. resident.

Her testimony sketched a self-portrait of a woman who aspired only to be a secretary and almost unquestioningly obeyed the orders of the boss she grew to idolize — to the point that Bongiorno said she for decades kept a desk photo of Madoff on which she'd written "my hero."

Other portions of ! her testimony — expected to continue for hours before federal prosecutors begin a tough cross-examination — focused on showing how Madoff won and kept her trust while he ran the largest and longest-running financial scheme in history.

Top 10 Gold Companies For 2015

When her parents told her to resign because she worked late every night shortly after being hired, Madoff instead proposed that he and his wife, Ruth, meet with them. The Madoffs, shared a Sunday dinner at Bongiorno's Howard Beach, Queens home, and charmed the objections away.

When she and her husband, Rudy, got married, Bongiorno testified that Madoff paid for the couple's honeymoon in Paris and England.

And when her mother suffered a stroke in Florida, Bongiorno said Madoff somehow found an available opening in a Long Island nursing home where the severely ill woman ultimately spent her final months near family and friends.

Wiping away tears as she recounted the intervention, Bongiorno testified she asked Madoff how he'd managed to locate a bed when she'd contacted the same facility and been told there was no room.

"I made them an offer they couldn't refuse," Bongiorno said Madoff smilingly replied.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Gold gains as equity push slows

LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — After investors got their fill on stocks, they turned back to gold on Friday, pushing prices up for the second consecutive day in an otherwise sluggish week.

AFP/Getty Images

Gold for February delivery (GCG4)  rose $2.70, or 0.2%, to $1,242.90 an ounce in electronic trade. March silver (SIH4)  rose 9 cents, or 0.5%, to $20.15 an ounce.

But any move to the upside will likely be short-lived until more of the shine comes off frothy equities, according to Kitco News contributor Jim Wyckoff.

"The bullish ways of the U.S. and other world stock markets are working against many other competing asset classes, including precious metals and other raw commodities," he said. "Until the air starts to come out of the in-my-opinion presently overly inflated stock-market balloon, raw commodities will continue to languish at best."

Click to Play Stock Bulls: You want the 49ers in the Super Bowl

Investors should hope the San Francisco 49ers make it to the Super Bowl. MarketWatch's Tom Bemis says this is not because he is based in the SF Bay, but because data show the market tends to do well when the Niners win the NFC. (Photo: Getty Images)

On the economic front, the Commerce Department is due to release new-homes construction data at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time. Industrial production, slated for 9:15 a.m, is forecast to slow to 0.3% growth from 1.1% in November.

There's also job openings data for November at 10 a.m. and a speech from Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker at 12:30 p.m.

A day earlier, gold futures put an end to their mild losing streak, thanks to a decline in U.S. stocks and weakness in the dollar (DXY)  that helped prices score for their first gain in three sessions.

Elsewhere in metals trading Friday, platinum for April delivery (PLJ4)  improved by $6.10, or 0.4%, to $1,437.60 an ounce, while March palladium (PAH4)   tacked on a dime to $743.90 an ounce.

High-grade copper for March delivery   (HGH4)  lost a penny, or 0.1%, to $3.34 a pound.

Other must-read MarketWatch stories include:

Hot Clean Energy Companies To Invest In Right Now

Citi goes bullish on miners for first time in three years

Movie mogul says he and Streep will take down NRA — and reverse gun-stock rally

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What’s the Best Small Cap Hydrogen Fuel Stock? HYGS, FCEL, HYSR & HPTG

Small cap hydrogen fuel stocks Hydrogenics Corporation (NASDAQ: HYGS), FuelCell Energy Inc (NASDAQ: FCEL), HyperSolar Inc (OTCMKTS: HYSR) and HydroPhi Technologies Group, Inc (OTCMKTS: HPTG) are some of the lesser known small caps that are working with hydrogen fuel or hydrogen fuel cell related technology. I should say that small cap hydrogen stocks are not for risk adverse investors as there are considerable unanswered questions about hydrogen fuel related technology and whether it can be a viable green technology given the fueling infrastructure needed along with the energy and expense involved in creating hydrogen (Note: None of these small cap stocks are profitable at ). But any new technology will pose the same types of risks for early stage investors – especially if its so-called green technology. 

With that and mind and if you have a stomach for risk, the following small cap hydrogen fuel stocks could make interesting speculative bets:

Hydrogenics Corporation. A worldwide leader designing, manufacturing, building and installing industrial and commercial Hydrogen Systems, small cap Hydrogenics Corporation's corporate headquarters are located in Mississauga, Canada with manufacturing facilities located in Germany and Belgium. More specifically, the company has expertise in hydrogen generators for industrial processes and fueling stations; hydrogen fuel cells for electric vehicles (e.g urban transit buses, commercial fleets, utility vehicles and electric lift trucks); fuel cell installations for freestanding electrical power plants and UPS systems (uninterruptible power supply); and the company is pioneering "Power-to-Gas" - the world's most innovative way to store and transport energy. Earlier this week, Hydrogenics Corporation announced it will be a participating partner in the government funded Power-to-Gas Biological Catalysis Project in Denmark that will use hydrogen made ​​from excess wind power to convert biogas from sewage sludge into cleaner methane gas while back in January, the company announced it had been awarded two contracts for fueling stations in the United Kingdom and had been been awarded a CAD$3.8 million contract to supply a micro-grid energy storage application in Canada. In addition and late in December, Hydrogenics Corporation was selected as a participating partner in a United States Department of Energy (DOE) project award to supply hydrogen fuel cell modules to the Center for Transportation and the Environment to be incorporated into fuel cell hybrid electric delivery vehicles. On Wednesday, Hydrogenics Corporation rose 2.54% to $25.41 (HYGS has a 52 week trading range of $7.51 to $25.91 a share) for a market cap of $228.98 million plus the stock is up 197.5% over the past year and up 147.9% over the past five years.

FuelCell Energy Inc. An integrated fuel cell company that designs, manufactures, installs, operates and services stationary fuel cell power plants, small cap FuelCell Energy is also actively researching unique applications for its versatile Direct FuelCell (DFC) technology, including hydrogen generation, and the company is pursuing research with hydrogen compression and storage. Specifically, FuelCell Energy is developing a version of DFC technology that produces extra hydrogen beyond what is needed for power production – meaning this technology would transform a distributed power generation system into one which is also a distributed hydrogen production system producing hydrogen at or near filling stations and thus help to eliminate an infrastructure issue that impedes the adoption of hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles. On Wednesday, FuelCell Energy fell 1.16% to $1.70 (FCEL has a 52 week trading range of $0.84 to $1.95 a share) for a market cap of $349.15 million plus the stock is up 57.4% over the past year and down 52.2% over the past five years.

HyperSolar Inc. Small cap HyperSolar Inc is developing a breakthrough, low cost technology to make renewable hydrogen using sunlight and any source of water, including seawater and wastewater. Unlike hydrocarbon fuels that releases carbon dioxide and other contaminants into the atmosphere when used, hydrogen fuel usage produces pure water as the only byproduct (albeit hydrogen is currently produced from natural gas in a process that releases substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere). The technology HyperSolar Inc is developing is a solar powered system to directly use solar power to produce hydrogen from water – basically by splitting the H atoms from the O atom in H2O. Last week, HyperSolar Inc announced that its artificial photosynthesis technology is now capable of producing 1.2 volt open circuit voltage for use in direct solar hydrogen production - another 10% increase over the previous 1.1 volt reached late last year in what it says is a significant step towards "truly renewable low cost hydrogen." On Wednesday, HyperSolar Inc fell 4.08% to $0.0047 (HYSR has a 52 week trading range of up to $0.02 a share) for a market cap of $1.17 million plus the stock is down 37.3% over the past year and down 97.6% since July 2010.

HydroPhi Technologies Group. A leading developer of water-based hydrogen fuel production systems, small cap HydroPhi Technologies Group's technology is not a fuel cell or a hydrogen alternative to traditional hydrocarbon fuels. Instead, the company's system utilizes ordinary water for the production of hydrogen, which is then injected into carbon-based fuels such as diesel, unleaded gasoline and natural gas. The HydroPhi Technologies Group's flagship HydroPlant™ technology reduces vehicle operating costs by improving fuel efficiency up to 20% and lowering greenhouse gas emissions up to 70%.

With an on-board, real-time, on-demand electrolysis system to separate hydrogen and oxygen from water, the technology also eliminates the need for high-pressure hydrogen storage or hazardous chemicals while producing a stable, inexpensive alternative fuel source. HydroPhi Technologies Group has recently announced that Rutas Unidas Federación de Transportistas Independientes de México, the largest association of bus operators based in Mexico City, has reported consistent fuel savings in excess of 20% on buses equipped with the company's Hydroplant™ technology. Moreover, HydroPhi Technologies Group is in discussions with large fleet operators in selected markets in Latin America and Asia while last Tuesday, the company issued an update which noted: 

"We have significantly improved our balance sheet from the prior fiscal year end largely by converting debt to common stock, thus reducing total liabilities from approximately $14.3 million to $4.8 million. At the same time, we have been keeping our current fixed costs low. So as sales, begin to ramp up, we expect to benefit from high incremental margins."

On Wednesday, HydroPhi Technologies Group fell 0.67% to $0.75 (HPTG has a 52 week trading range of $0.55 to $0.83 a share) for a market cap of $76.49 million plus the stock is up 6.4% since the start of the year.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Americans crazy about mail, but can't say why

usps mail truck

Americans said they wanted the post office to stay the way it is for "nostalgia."

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) Americans dearly love getting their mail daily. But they can't say what they'd miss if the U.S. Postal Service disappeared.

"People seemed to sense that the Postal Service disappearing would be a bad thing, but they had trouble articulating more specifically how this would affect them personally," the report from the U.S. Postal Service Office Inspector General says.

The inspector general's office commissioned the report, which posed questions to 101 people in 10 focus groups nationwide. It summed up the answers in the white paper called: "What America Wants and Needs from the Postal Service."

The findings offer some insight into Americans' complicated relationship with the financially strapped Postal Service.

Americans said they wanted the post office to stay the way it is for "nostalgia" and a "desire to see it continue to provide services because of its importance to the American people."

Only two people said they wouldn't be "negatively affected" if the postal service closed in five years. One of them was 92-year-old Mary from Bethel, Maine, who visits her local post office every day.

"I'll be dead by then," she said, according to the report.

Still, as the people interviewed learned more about the way the agency works and its financial struggles, they became more willing to consider cuts in mail delivery days or post office hours, and even moving away from at-your-door delivery to cluster boxes -- if it saves the institution.

Once people in the survey understood that the agency is not taxpayer-funded and runs on its own revenue, people also "lowered their service level expectations."

People gave a thumbs up to the idea that the post office offer more products and services, like hunting and fishing licenses, or paying traffic tickets. But interestingly enough, none of them imagined themselves going to the post office to use any of those services.

That sentiment seemed to capture the conundrum facing the Postal Service. The agency is in a financial bind because fewer people are using its services to mail letters and pay bills.

The agency also continues to be hamstrung by a mandate to pay billions into a fund that will pay for the health care for future retirees.

So even though junk mail services are booming and people are starting to mail more package! s, the retiree mandate puts it in a bind.

In the most recent financial quarter, the Postal Service posted an operating profit of $765 million. But even a handsome profit isn't enough to pull the agency out from under the $5 billion payment owed to the retiree fund.

No Saturday mail? USPS chief responds   No Saturday mail? USPS chief responds

The focus groups were conducted from August through November 2013 with people participating from 11 states.

U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman Toni DeLancey said the agency was still evaluating the report and had no comment yet. To top of page

Monday, February 17, 2014

UnitedHealth Could Help the Dow Reach New Heights Today

It's a beautiful day for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) so far, as the index continues its climb following some excellent news on the trade deficit and a sweet upgrading of health insurer UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH  ) from Deutsche Bank.

The U.S. Census Bureau this morning released data on November's international trade deficit, which dropped to minus $34.3 billion compared to October's minus $39.3 billion. The new value handily beat estimates of a much heftier minus $39.9 billion.

In other feel-good news, Janet Yellen made history yesterday by becoming the first woman selected to chair the Federal Reserve, gaining Senate confirmation by a very comfortable margin of 30 favorable votes. She will take the helm at the Fed beginning Feb. 1.

Upgrade for UnitedHealth puts the Dow in a party mood
The insurance sector gave the Dow a sizable boost earlier today, as analysts at Deutsche Bank upgraded UnitedHealth Group stock from hold to buy.

The firm noted that UnitedHealth has become more assertive in pricing, instituting increases in 2014 and making up for its lack of enthusiasm in that area last year. Deutsche Bank raised the stock target price to $85 per share from $74 -- and, with less than an hour to go before noontime, the stock had already risen to nearly $77. Shortly thereafter, The Street reiterated its own buy rating on UnitedHealth stock, giving it a score of A+.

Investors punish JPMorgan Chase for super-sized settlement
In the banking sector, news that JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) has struck a deal with federal prosecutors regarding its involvement with scammer Bernie Madoff seems to have put off investors, who have sent the stock spiraling downward by more than 1% so far today. The $1.7 billion settlement represents the biggest payout secured so far for charges related to the Bank Secrecy Act. There is some good news, however: The bank won't face criminal charges for two years in the case, as long as it admits wrongdoing and works toward tightening its money controls. Details are expected to be revealed at a press conference in New York later today.

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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ask Matt: Best ways to track your portfolio

USA TODAY markets reporter Matt Krantz answers a different reader question every weekday. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at

Q: What are good ways to track my portfolio?

A: Investors love to think about all their winning stocks. But if they're not careful, they might forget about losers and lose sight of how they're actually doing.

Careful tracking of investment returns is a critical skill successful investors have. It's not enough to just glance at daily changes in stock prices. Good investors know they must monitor their portfolios over a long period of time.

TRACK YOUR STOCKS: Get real-time quotes with our free Portfolio Tracker

That's not as easy as it sounds, since events like deposits, withdrawals, dividends and splits can cause complications. Investors might think that looking at the performance area of their brokerage Web site will keep them informed. Most brokerage Web sites, though, currently give just basic performance tracking information.

Investor familiar with building spreadsheets can always track portfolios that way. But for investors looking for the easiest way to get portfolio tracking with the most precision, it's hard to beat Intuit's Quicken. Quicken is the last surviving personal finance software that has advanced features investors need to monitor their investments.

Some Web sites and their matching apps, like Personal Capital and SigFig, are catching up with features in Quicken. These sites are designed to give you quick access to portfolio performance with very little setup. These tools, however, require you to share all your usernames and passwords, which some users are fine with, while others are not. And they lack the power, in some areas of Quicken.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Mid-Afternoon Market Update: Cray Shows Strength as Agilent Technologies Falls on Earnings

Related BZSUM Benzinga Weekly Preview: Investors Get A Break As Earnings Slow Market Wrap For February 14: Markets End The Week Positive

Toward the end of trading Friday, the Dow traded up 0.84 percent to 16,161.83 while the NASDAQ gained 0.12 percent to 4,245.97. The S&P also rose, gaining 0.53 percent to 1,839.24.

Leading and Lagging Sectors
In trading on Friday, Basic Materials shares were relative leaders, up on the day by 0.78 percent. Top gainer in the sector was AMCOL International (NYSE: ACO), up 9 percent.

Shares of Cliffs Natural Resources (NYSE: CLF)also surged 6.18 percent after the company reported upbeat quarterly earnings. Financials sector was the only decliner in the market today, down on the day by 0.05 percent.

Among the financial stocks, Zillow (NASDAQ: Z) was down 9.6%, while TAL International Group (NYSE: TAL) tumbled around 3.55%. Shares of TAL International dipped after the company reported downbeat quarterly earnings.

Top Headline
Campbell Soup Co (NYSE: CPB) reported a 71% gain in its fiscal second-quarter profit. Campbell's quarterly earnings surged to $325 million, or $1.03 per share, versus $190 million, or $0.60 per share, in the year-ago quarter. Excluding special costs, it earned $1.04 per share. Its sales climbed 5.5% to $2.28 billion. However, analysts were projecting earnings of $0.73 per share on revenue of $2.27 billion.

Equities Trading UP
Cray (NASDAQ: CRAY) rose on Friday's session, gaining a staggering 36.87 percent to $41.02 after beating on the top and bottom lines, while boosting its fiscal year guidance.

Shares of Bankrate (NYSE: RATE) got a boost, shooting up 20.92 percent to $21.05 after the company reported better-than-expected Q4 results.

Coty (NYSE: COTY) was also up, gaining 7.36 percent to $14.73 after the company reported strong Q2 revenue and announced a $200 million share buyback program.

Equities Trading DOWN
Shares of Weight Watchers International (NYSE: WTW) were down 27.57 percent to $22.15 after the company reported downbeat Q4 earnings and issued a weak FY14 forecast.

Agilent Technologies (NYSE: A) was also down, dropping 8.06 percent to $55.24 after lowering its fiscal year 2014 guidance and its second quarter guidance.

GNC Holdings (NYSE: GNC) was down, falling 14.64 percent to $44.72 after the company reported weaker-than-expected Q4 results and issued downbeat FY14 guidance. Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock from Buy to Neutral and cut the price target from $72.00 to $54.00.

In commodity news, oil traded down 0.03 percent to $100.32, while gold traded up 1.50 percent to $1,319.40.

Silver traded up 4.64 percent Friday to $21.44, while copper rose 0.38 percent to $3.26.

European shares were higher today.

The Spanish Ibex Index rose 0.34 percent, while Italy's FTSE MIB Index surged 1.62 percent.

Meanwhile, the German DAX gained 0.68 percent and the French CAC 40 climbed 0.63 percent while U.K. shares rose 0.06 percent.

The import price index climbed 0.1% in January, versus economists' expectations for a 0.1% decline.

US industrial production fell 0.30% for January, versus economists' estimates of a 0.20% gain.

The preliminary reading of the Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index came in at 81.20 in February, versus a prior reading of 81.20.

However, economists were expecting a reading of 80.20.

Posted-In: Earnings News Guidance Eurozone Futures Forex Global Econ #s Economics Intraday Update Markets Movers Tech

(c) 2014 Benzinga does not provide investment advice. All rights reserved.

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Friday, February 14, 2014

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014

In the wake of the financial crisis, after hundreds of new regulations and capital requirements were thrust upon the U.S. banks, there's no way that we'll see bank stocks take another nosedive in the near future, right?

Wrong. There may not be an American-centric banking crash anytime soon, but that doesn't mean investors in international banks are immune to pain. After the U.S. financial sector outperformed the S&P 500 in 2012 and shares of a few banks such as Bank of America more than doubled in value, many investors are beginning to worry that the rally for U.S. banks is nearing its end. First-quarter results highlighted tepid loan demand and discouraging revenue numbers.

Trouble overseas
However, with popular valuation-metrics, like price-to-tangible book value, still pointing to the undervalued nature of the sector, I believe U.S. banks seem to have more upside than downside in the long term. But if we look at some international bank stocks, the story looks surprisingly different.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: River Valley Bancorp.(RIVR)

River Valley Bancorp operates as the holding company for River Valley Financial Bank that provides various banking products and services to consumer and commercial customers. The company accepts various deposit products that include fixed rate certificates of deposit, NOW, MMDAs and other transaction accounts, individual retirement accounts, and savings accounts. Its loan portfolio comprises residential loans that include one- to four-family residential loans; construction loans; nonresidential real estate loans; multi-family loans; land loans; commercial loans; and consumer loans, such as auto loans, home improvement loans, unsecured installment loans, loans secured by deposits, and mobile home loans. It operates 9 full-service office locations located in Jefferson, Floyd, and Clark counties, Indiana, and Carroll County, Kentucky; and 14 automated teller machines. The company was founded in 1875 and is based in Madison, Indiana.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: DLF Ltd (DLF.NS)

DLF Limited is engaged in the business of colonization and real estate development. The Company�� primary business is development of residential, commercial and retail properties. The operations of the Company span all aspects of real estate development, from the identification and acquisition of land, to planning, execution, construction and marketing of projects. The Company is also engaged in the business of generation of power, provision of maintenance services, hospitality and recreational activities and life insurance. The development business of the Company includes Homes and Commercial Complexes. The Homes business caters to three segments of the residential market: Super Luxury, Luxury and Premium. In December 2013, the Company announced that it has completed the sale of its 74% stake in the insurance joint venture with Prudential Financial, Inc. to Dewan Housing Finance Corporation Limited (DHFL) and its group entities.

5 Best Industrial Conglomerate Stocks To Invest In 2015: Vanguard Natural Resources LLC(VNR)

Vanguard Natural Resources, LLC, through its subsidiaries, engages in the acquisition and development of oil and natural gas properties in the United States. Its properties are located in the southern portion of the Appalachian Basin, primarily in southeast Kentucky and northeast Tennessee; the Permian Basin, primarily in west Texas and southeastern New Mexico; and south Texas. As of December 31, 2010, the company had estimated proved reserves of 69.3 million barrels of oil equivalent, as well as working interests in 2,270 net productive wells. Vanguard Natural Resources, LLC was founded in 2006 and is based in Houston, Texas.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Matt DiLallo]

    One company to watch here is�Vanguard Natural Resources (NASDAQ: VNR  ) , which has eschewed increased organic production growth spending until now. However, the company is looking into the possibility of following LINN's blueprint and potentially change its game plan. Last year Vanguard was one of the most conservative E&P MLPs as its adjusted EBITDA was 4.6 times its capital spending. It's one company that certainly has the capacity to pursue organic production growth spending if it can change the philosophical mind-set that would be required to switch models.

  • [By Matt DiLallo]

    Last year Vanguard Natural Resources (NASDAQ: VNR  ) changed its distribution policy and in so doing changed the game for oil and gas producing MLPs. The new monthly distribution policy enabled the company's income-seeking investors to better match their monthly cash outflows with monthly inflows from Vanguard. It was such a unique strategy that the company even trademarked the tag line that the company is "The Monthly Distribution MLP."

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: Webjet Ltd(WEB.AX)

Webjet Limited, through its subsidiaries, operates as an electronic manager, marketer, and credit card merchant of travel and related services utilizing the Internet and other mediums. It offers airline tickets and travel packages to customers in Australia, New Zealand, Asia, the United States, and Europe. The company is based in Melbourne, Australia.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: Murgor Resources Inc (MGR.V)

Murgor Resources Inc. engages in the acquisition, exploration, and development of mineral properties in Canada. The company explores for gold, copper, zinc, and silver deposits. It primarily focuses on exploring the Golden Arrow gold property that consists of 20 patented mining claims and 11 mining claims covering an area of 1,377 hectares in Hislop, McCann, and Playfair townships that are located to the east of the town of Timmins in Ontario. The company was formerly known as Advance Murgor Exploration Limited and changed its name to Murgor Resources Inc. in 1985. Murgor Resources Inc. was founded in 1969 and is headquartered in Kingston, Canada.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: Asta Funding Inc.(ASFI)

Asta Funding, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, engages in purchasing, managing, and servicing distressed consumer receivables in the United States. Its principal portfolio includes charged-off receivables consisting of accounts that have been written-off by the originators and might have been previously serviced by collection agencies; semi-performing receivables, including accounts where the debtor is currently making partial or irregular monthly payments, but the accounts might have been written-off by the originators; performing receivables comprising accounts where the debtor is making regular monthly payments that might or might not have been delinquent in the past; and distressed consumer receivables, such as the unpaid debts of individuals to banks, finance companies, and other credit and service providers. The company?s distressed consumer receivables consist of MasterCard, Visa, and other credit card accounts, which were charged-off by the issuers or provide rs for non-payment. Asta Funding, Inc. was founded in 1994 and is based in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By John Udovich]

    Small cap debt collection stocks like�Asta Funding, Inc (NASDAQ: ASFI), Encore Capital Group, Inc (NASDAQ: ECPG) and Portfolio Recovery Associates, Inc (NASDAQ: PRAA) could be the latest target of a government shakedown or crackdown as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said this week that�before it formally proposes any rules for debt collection, it wants to hear how collectors verify borrowers' information and communicate with consumers. In other words, debt collectors could be restricted from using text messages, social media or other Internet-based tools in their pursuit to collect debts. With about one in 10 Americans coming out of the financial crisis with some debt in collection, investing in small cap�debt collection stocks has been profitable for investors. However, there is no timeline for when any new rules might be released for review or come into effect.

  • [By Tim Melvin]

    There a lot of moving parts to Asta Funding (ASFI), but there appears to be a great deal of value that isn�� reflected in the current stock price. ASFI stock is trading at less than 65% of book value, but several of its debt collection assets are carried at zero cost basis and yet may have substantial value. The balance sheet is strong with more than $90 million in cash. ASFI has been moving into other businesses including disability claims to increase its growth opportunities over the next few years. It�� a fairly complex business, but it is very cheap — and the first sign of good news could send the shares a lot higher.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: Inc (HEO.V)

H2O Innovation Inc. provides integrated technological water treatment solutions based on membrane filtration technology. The company designs, manufactures, and assembles custom-built water treatment systems for the production of drinking water and industrial process water, the reclamation and reuse of water, and the treatment of wastewater. Its products include pressure filters, ultrafiltration systems, NF and RO membranes, mobile and pilot units, Bio-Wheel biological treatment systems, Bio-Brane membrane bioreactors, and BiH2Omobile mobile wastewater treatment systems. The company is also involved in the design and production of seawater desalination systems, as well as provision of turnkey solutions. In addition, it provides membrane pretreatment chemicals, membrane cleaners, membrane preservatives, and coagulants and flocculants for maintaining and operating municipal, industrial, and commercial reverse omission systems. H2O Innovation Inc. serves municipalities and com munities; mining, oil, and energy; pharmaceutical, hospital, and research; commercial and agrifood; and industrial and manufacturing sectors, as well as maple syrup industries in Canada, the United States, Tunisia, China, Egypt, and internationally. The company was formerly known as H2O Innovation (2000) Inc. and changed its name H2O Innovation Inc. in December 2008. H2O Innovation Inc. was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Quebec, Canada.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: Caspian Oil & Gas Ltd (CIG.AX)

Equus Mining Limited focuses on the identification, evaluation, and development of copper and gold resource properties in Chile. The company has an option to acquire 100% interests in the group of 14 Mining Licenses covering an area of 18.05 square kilometers and is located in the Naltagua Copper District, southeast of San Antonio city. It also has interests in the Yerba Project in the Naltagua Copper system; and the Araya Project in the south-central portion of the Naltagua Copper System. The company was formerly known as Caspian Oil & Gas Limited and changed its name to Equus Mining Limited in November 2012. Equus Mining Limited is headquartered in Sydney, Australia.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: Cree Inc.(CREE)

Cree, Inc. develops and manufactures light emitting diodes (LEDs), LED lighting, and semiconductor solutions for wireless and power applications. Its LED products include blue and green LED chips that are used in various applications, including video screens, gaming displays, function indicator lights, and automotive backlighting; LED components comprising a range of packaged LED products and LED modules for lighting applications; LED lighting products, such as LED downlights, LED troffers, and LED lamps or bulbs for construction, retrofit, and renovation projects in commercial, governmental, and residential applications; and silicon carbide (SiC) wafers, which are used in the manufacture of optoelectronics, microwave, power switching, and other applications. The company also provides semiconductor materials and devices primarily based on silicon carbide (SiC), gallium nitride (GaN), and related compounds. Its power and radio frequency (RF) products include SiC-based power products comprising 600, 1,200, and 1,700-volt Schottky diodes, as well as 1,200-volt SiC metal semiconductor field-effect transistor switches that are used in power factor correction circuits for power supplies in computer servers and other applications, such as solar inverters; and RF devices, including a range of GaN high electron mobility transistors and monolithic microwave integrated circuits for military or commercial applications, as well as 10 watt and 60 watt SiC transistors and metal semiconductor field effect transistor products. The company primarily operates in China, the United States, Europe, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Cree, Inc. was formerly known as Cree Research, Inc. and changed its name in January 2000. Cree, Inc. was founded in 1987 and is based in Durham, North Carolina.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Wallace Witkowski]

    Shares of Cree Inc. (CREE) �fell 15% to $63.10 in heavy volume after the LED-light maker forecast a fiscal fourth-quarter earnings outlook that fell below the Wall Street consensus. Cree sees adjusted fourth-quarter earnings of 36 cents to 41 cents a share, while the consensus is 44 cents a share.

  • [By Paul Ausick]

    Cree Inc. (NASDAQ: CREE) stock was upgraded to Buy that same morning by analysts at Canaccord Genuity and the firm put a new price target of $80 on the Cree�� shares. The company had recently introduced a new generation of LED light that it said is 78% smaller than a previous design yet packs the same performance punch.

  • [By Monica Gerson]

    Cree (NASDAQ: CREE) issued a downbeat earnings forecast for the fiscal fourth quarter. Cree shares tumbled 15.23% to $63.00 in the after-hours trading session.

  • [By Lauren Pollock]

    Cree Inc.(CREE) said its fiscal second-quarter earnings rose 75% on broad sales growth for the maker of LED lighting products and semiconductor components. Shares edged up 2.5% to $64.39 premarket.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: Rada Electronics Industries Limited(RADA)

Rada Electronic Industries Ltd. engages in the development, manufacture, and sale of defense electronics to government agencies and authorities, government-owned companies, and integrators in Israel, Asia, North America, South America, Latin America, and Europe. Its products include data/video recording and management systems, such as mission data and digital video recorders, airborne data servers, post-mission debriefing solutions, and head-up display video cameras for aerial and land platforms; inertial navigation systems for aerial and land platforms; avionics solutions, including avionics for unmanned aerial vehicles; and radar sensors for anti-terrorism/force protection systems. The company also sells and supports legacy commercial aviation test stations, as well as offers test and repair services. It has strategic relationships with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, GE Aviation, Israel Military Industries, Israel Aerospace Industries, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., and Embra er and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. Rada Electronic Industries Ltd. was founded in 1970 and is based in Netanya, Israel.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: Essex Property Trust Inc. (ESS)

Essex Property Trust, Inc. operates as a self-administered and self-managed real estate investment trust in the United States. It engages in the ownership, operation, management, acquisition, development, and redevelopment of apartment communities, as well as commercial properties. As of March 31, 2012, the company owned or had interests in 158 apartment communities; and 5 commercial buildings, as well as 5 development projects. Its communities are located in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties in southern California; and the San Francisco Bay area in northern California, as well as in the Seattle metropolitan area. The company has elected to be taxed as a real estate investment trust. As a result, it would not be subject to corporate income tax on that portion of its net income that is distributed to shareholders. Essex Property Trust, Inc. was founded in 1971 and is headquartered in Palo Alto, California.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Jayson Derrick]

    Bloomberg reported�Essex Property Trust Inc. (NYSE: ESS) has made an offer to acquire BRE Properties for about $5 billion.

    BRE Properties Chief Executive Office Constance B. Moore had publicly hinted earlier this year that the company would consider ��ny legitimate proposal��after an investment firm Land & Buildings had made a $4.6 billion offer valued at $60 a share.

  • [By Sean Williams]

    To get a better idea of how RealPage is doing, it's always best to look at occupancy rates for some of the nation's biggest residential-REITs. In AvalonBay Communities' (NYSE: AVB  ) most recent quarter, the company reported a 5% increase in revenue attributable to a 4.7% boost in prices in established communities, and a 0.3% uptick in occupancy. For Equity Residential (NYSE: EQR  ) it was much of the same, with revenue rising 5.4% in the fourth-quarter as occupancy rates rose 40 basis points to 95.4% from the year-ago period. Finally, Essex Property Trust (NYSE: ESS  ) delivered some of the strongest occupancy results of all, with 96.9% of its units occupied as of the end of January. The point is that with occupancy rates at their lowest levels in more than a decade, these residential REITs are driving growth by boosting prices because of rent scarcity.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: DARA Biosciences Inc.(DARA)

DARA BioSciences, Inc., a development stage biopharmaceutical company, engages in the development and commercialization of oncology treatment and supportive care pharmaceutical products in the United Sates. Its products include Soltamox for the treatment of breast cancer; Gemcitabine for first-line therapy for ovarian, breast, lung and pancreatic cancers; and other cancer support therapeutics, as well as generic sterile injectable cytotoxic products. Its drug development programs include KRN5500, a non-narcotic/non-opioid that has completed Phase IIa clinical trial for the treatment of neuropathic pain in cancer patients; and DB959, which has completed a Phase I study for the treatment of metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia. The company?s pre-clinical drug candidate includes DB900 PPAR gamma/alpha/delta agonists for development in metabolic and inflammatory diseases; DB160, DPPIV enzyme inhibitors with applications in diabetes, stem cell transpl antation, and cancer therapy; and DB200, Carnitine palmitoyltransferase-1 for skin diseases, including psoriasis. DARA BioSciences, Inc. was incorporated in 2002 and is headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Bryan Murphy]

    Without knowing the whole story, it would be easy to dismiss the big 9% jump from DARA Biosciences Inc. (NASDAQ:DARA) today as nothing more than a little volatility.... bullishness that wasn't destined to linger, especially considering how ugly the market turned in Monday's trading. As is always the case, though, with DARA, there's more to the story. Today's move may well be the official beginning of a much bigger, trade-worthy rally.

5 Best Long Term Stocks To Watch For 2014: Solar Capital Ltd.(SLRC)

Solar Capital Ltd. is a business development company specializing in investments in leveraged companies, including middle market companies. The firm invests in aerospace and defense; automotive; beverage, food and tobacco; broadcasting and entertainment; business services; cable television; cargo transport; chemicals, plastics and rubber; consumer finance; consumer services; containers, packaging and glass; direct marketing; distribution; diversified/conglomerate manufacturing; diversified/conglomerate services; education; electronics; energy, utilities; equipment rental; farming and agriculture; finance; healthcare, education and childcare; home and office furnishing, consumer products; hotels, motels, inns and gaming; industrial; infrastructure; insurance; leisure, motion pictures and entertainment; logistics; machinery; media; mining, steel and non precious metals; oil and gas; personal, food and miscellaneous services; printing, publishing and broadcasting; real estate ; retail stores; specialty finance; technology; telecommunications; and utilities. It invests in the form of senior secured loans, mezzanine loans, and equity securities. It also invests in equity securities, such as preferred stock, common stock, warrants and other equity interests received in connection with its debt investments or through direct investments. The firm also invests in United States government securities, high-quality debt investments that mature in one year or less, high-yield bonds, distressed debt, non-United States investments, or securities of public companies that are not thinly traded. Solar Capital Ltd. was founded in November 2007 and is based in New York, New York.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

5 Messy Financial Firm Breakups—and One Keeping Mum

Neil Sedaka famously sang that breaking up is hard to do and wealth management firms have certainly had their share of rough changes of leadership.

Overspending, backstabbing, family intrigue and just plain surprise resignations can all play a part when it comes to cutting ties with a chief exec.

Of course, not every tenure ends with days or months of headlines breathlessly reporting the latest twists and turns. One firm has generated headlines for its ability to keep a secret while maintaining an air of calm, while it plans its succession.

To find which firm that is, look at our list of 5 Messy Financial Firm Breakups, and One Keeping Mum:

Mohamed A. El-Erian, CEO and co-CIO of PIMCO (Photo: AP)

1. Mohamed El-Erian, PIMCO: 2014

Wall Street might have been shocked in January when El-Erian, the CEO and co-CIO of the world’s largest bond fund, announced he would leave, but Bill Gross, the company’s founder and co-CIO, was having none of it. In fact, by early February Gross let the world know “we are a better team at this moment than we were before.” Time will tell.

Ronald O’Hanley, president of Asset Management at Fidelity Investments. (Photo: AP)

2. Ronald O’ Hanley, Fidelity Investments: 2014

After El-Erian announced his split from PIMCO, O’Hanley let it be known he would leave his post as Fidelity Investments’ head of assets. Maybe it was expected. Some industry experts said being No. 2 at the family-run company is never a long-term assignment. So, maybe all we can do is warn the next manager up. For O’Hanley’s part, he said he had accomplished his goals of aiding Abigail Johnson as she took over the company from her father and improving asset management at the firm.

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John Mack testifying on Capitol Hill in 2009. (Photo: AP)

3. John Mack, Morgan Stanley: 2001 and 2010

There might have been a handshake agreement that Mack would someday take the helm at Morgan Stanley, but it wasn’t to be. Chairman and CEO Philip Purcell, who had landed as Mack’s boss after his Dean Witter bought out Morgan Stanley, didn’t have any thought of leaving. After a tempestuous relationship, Mack finally left in 2001, three years after his co-CEO proposal was rejected. Morgan Stanley denied there was ever a handshake agreement. Mack went on to two other firms before getting his revenge: in 2005 he was named to replace Purcell at Morgan Stanley. In 2007, he received $41 million in pay. Things had soured by 2009, when Mack stepped down on Jan. 1, 2010, with the firm took some of the blame for the financial crisis.

John Thain leaving the New York attorney general's office in 2009. (Photo: AP)

4. John Thain, Bank of America Merrill Lynch: 2009

As head of Merrill Lynch, John Thain had a job many in the financial industry envied. And those who worked for him probably thought he was a good boss. Who wouldn’t want to work for a boss who hands out big bonuses even when the firm is bleeding money? After Bank of America took over the venerable firm, those bonuses to top executives led to his ouster in 2009. Thain turned a debacle into a victory by taking over the helm of CIT Group barely more than a month later and returning it to profitability last year from the depths of a $31 billion debt.

Jeffrey Gundlach, CEO & CIO of Doubline.

5. Jeffrey Gundlach, TCW Group: 2009

It’s not often that being fired is cause for an expensive party, but that’s how Jeffrey Gundlach reacted when he was let go by TCW in 2009. Gundlach was a master of fixed income investments and his portfolio was half of the company’s assets. Accusations that he was stealing company secrets to start his own fund led to his firing. Suits and countersuits followed. Out of the controversy, Gundlach created DoubleLine Capital, which has $50 billion in assets under management.

Warren Buffett (Photo: AP)

6. Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway: ????

There’s no internal controversy here. No messy board fights. Matter of fact, the successor chosen by Warren Buffett, the “Oracle of Omaha,” is completely unknown, which the big man says is solidly in agreement on the choice. Most observers expect the next head of the investment company to come from within. The only things we know for sure, is that there will be a successor. How do we know that? Well, the Oracle said so. Anyone who thought he’d stay forever has been warned.

-- Related stories on ThinkAdvisor:

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ:SSYS): Operating Margin Leverage To Drive EPS Growth

Stratasys, Ltd. (NASDAQ: SSYS) should continue to benefit from the growth in the nascent additive manufacturing market, driven by is leading position in FDM (fused deposition modeling), one of the most cost-effective technologies available today. The company's strong margin profile further provides solidity to the fundamentals.

Stratasys is one of the global leaders of additive manufacturing solutions for rapid prototyping (RP) and manufacturing applications. The company's products include consumer and production-grade additive manufacturing systems, consumables, and services targeted at a wide range of industries.

[Related -3D Systems Corporation (DDD): A 3T Look At 3D - Déjà Vu All Over Again?]

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With the recent merger with Objet, Stratasys has cemented its lead as the largest shipper of industrial 3D printing units in the world. Stratasys acquired consumer-focused MakerBot in 2013 for its desktop 3D printer technology, Thingiverse website, and consumer installed base.

Friday, February 7, 2014

U.S. forecasts natural gas boom through 2040

America's energy boom will continue for decades, and natural gas will replace coal as the largest source of U.S. electricity by 2040, the Department of Energy forecast today.

U.S. production of crude oil will increase through 2016, when it will approach the record set in 1970, before leveling off and then slowly declining after 2020. Natural gas production will grow steadily, jumping 56% between 2012 and 2040, according to an early release of an annual report by DOE's Energy Information Administration.

"Advanced technologies for crude oil and natural gas production are continuing to increase domestic supply and reshape the U.S. energy economy as well as expand the potential for U.S. natural gas exports," Adam Sieminski, EIA Administrator, said in releasing the Annual Energy Outlook 2014.

This energy bonanza is largely due to the combined use of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing or fracking, which releases oil and gas from shale deposits by blasting chemical-laced water underground to break up the rock. Yet fracking faces growing criticism as some scientists link leftover fracking fluids to groundwater contamination.

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EIA's 2014 forecast says low prices will make natural gas increasingly attractive so in some areas, it will replace power once supplied by nuclear or coal plants. In 2040, it expects natural gas will account for 35% of the nation's electricity generation while coal will account for 32%.

Two other trends will also intensify: more efficient cars and light trucks will reduce energy use while renewable sources such as solar and wind will produce more power. The result: The United States will export more energy and import less. The net import share of U.S. energy consumption could drop to as little as 4% by 2040 -- down from 16% in 2012 and 30% in 2005..

The 2014 forecast sees a more robust U.S. energy market than did its! 2013 counterpart. But it offers only one scenario, known as the "reference case," that assumes current laws and regulations will remain generally unchanged through 2040. Next year, EIA will release a complete forecast, offering varying scenarios that account for pending proposals.

For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants -- a rule that would disproportionately affect coal-fired plants and further impede their ability to compete on price.

The 2014 forecast has good news for U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. It says they'll remain below their 2005 level through 2040 because of the nation's growing reliance on wind and solar power, which emit no CO2, as well as natural gas-fired plants, which emit considerably less than do coal plants.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Best Quality Stocks To Invest In Right Now

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 Choice Hotels (NYSE: CHH  ) were getting picked last by investors today, falling 11% after cutting EPS guidance in its quarterly report.

So what: The first-quarter results for the owner of Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, and Econo Lodge actually weren't bad. Choice missed EPS estimates by a penny, delivering earnings of $0.26, while revenue topped expectations by 1.5%, growing 6% to $136.9 million. Still, guidance for the coming year was disappointing, though management didn't offer an explanation for the cut. It now sees EPS of $1.87 to $1.91 versus an earlier projection of $1.96 to $1.98.

Now what: While a guidance cut is almost always met with a sell-off, there was some good news in Choice's report. First, a rough extrapolation of revenue guidance for the year indicates that it should come out ahead of estimates, and second, the company added 83 new domestic hotel franchise contracts in the previous quarter, 30% better than the quarter a year ago. That addition would seem to indicate that long-term growth shouldn't be a problem. A P/E of 20 may be a little high for a company growing this slowly, but I wouldn't get overly agitated over the guidance cut.

Best Quality Stocks To Invest In Right Now: Caledonia Mining C Com Npv (CAL.TO)

Caledonia Mining Corporation engages in the acquisition, exploration, and development of mineral properties in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. The company explores for gold, silver, copper, cobalt, nickel, platinum, and base metals. Its principal properties include the Blanket mine, a gold mine located in south-western Zimbabwe; and the Nama property, a copper and cobalt project, which consists of 4 contiguous mining licenses covering an area of approximately 800 square kilometers located on the northern extension of the Zambian Copperbelt. The company was founded in 1992 and is headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

Best Quality Stocks To Invest In Right Now: Ass British Food(ABF.L)

Associated British Foods plc operates as a diversified food, ingredients, and retail group. The company operates through five segments: Sugar, Agriculture, Retail, Grocery, and Ingredients. The Sugar segment engages in growing and processing sugar beet and sugar cane for sale to industrial users. The Agriculture segment procures grain and oilseeds from farmers and co-products from the food, drink, and bioethanol industries. It manufactures and sells animal feeds and premixes to farmers; and micro ingredients to farmers and feed manufacturers. This segment also provides agronomy advice and crop inputs. The Retail segment is involved in buying and merchandising clothing and accessories. It offers womenswear, lingerie, childrenswear, menswear, footwear, accessories, hosiery, and home ware through the Primark and Penneys retail chains primarily in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, and Belgium. The Grocery segment manufactur es hot beverages; sugar and sweeteners; vegetable oils; bread, baked goods, and cereals; ethnic foods, herbs, and spices; and meat products that are sold to retail, wholesale, and foodservice businesses. The Ingredients segment produces bakers? yeast, bakery ingredients, specialty proteins, enzymes, lipids, and yeast extracts. The company operates in the United Kingdom, Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the Asia Pacific. The company was founded in 1935 and is headquartered in London, the United Kingdom. Associated British Foods plc is a subsidiary of Wittington Investments Limited.

Top Blue Chip Stocks To Own Right Now: Northgate(NTG.L)

Northgate plc, an investment holding company, engages in the rental of light commercial vehicles in the United Kingdom, Spain, and the Republic of Ireland. It offers vehicle hiring and fleet management services. The company also sells former rental vehicles to retail and trade customers; and provides workshop and insurance services. In addition, it provides online vehicle hiring and vehicle monitoring services to its customers. The company operates a fleet of approximately 60,900 vehicles from 65 sites in the United Kingdom and Ireland; and a fleet of approximately 48,900 vehicles from 32 sites in Spain. It serves a range of industries comprising construction, distribution, local authorities, manufacturing and engineering, public utilities, retailers, and wholesalers and business services. Northgate plc was founded in 1981 and is based in Darlington, the United Kingdom.

Best Quality Stocks To Invest In Right Now: Sogefi(SGFI.MI)

Sogefi S.p.A. manufactures and markets auto parts components for the automobile industry. The company offers filtration systems, such as oil, engine air, petrol and diesel fuel, and cabin air filters; and suspension components and precision springs, including coil springs for shock absorbers, stabilizer bars, torsion bars, stabilinks, leaf springs, precision springs, and track adjusters. It serves motor vehicle manufacturers in the OEM, OES, and IAM markets primarily in Europe and South America, as well as in the United States, China, and India. The company was founded in 1980 and is based in Milan, Italy. Sogefi S.p.A. is a subsidiary of CIR S.p.A.

Best Quality Stocks To Invest In Right Now: ING Group N.V. (IGK)

ING Groep N.V., a financial services company, provides banking, investment, life insurance, and retirement services for individuals, families, small businesses, corporations, institutions, and governments worldwide. The company provides savings accounts, mortgage loans, consumer loans, credit card services, and investment products, as well as current account services and payments systems; life and non-life insurance products; asset management products and services; mortgage products; and risk management services. It also offers commercial banking products and services, including lending products, such as structured finance; payment and cash management, and treasury services; and specialized and trade finance, derivatives, corporate finance, debt and equity capital markets, leasing, factoring, and supply chain finance. In addition, the company provides individual endowment, and term and whole life insurance products, as well as traditional, unit-linked, and variable annuity life insurance products for individual and group customers; fire, motor, disability, transport, accident, and third party liability insurance products; employee benefits products and pension funds; retirement services, fixed annuities, mutual funds, and broker-dealer services; and disability insurance products and complementary services for employers and self-employed professionals comprising dentists, general practitioners, and lawyers. Further, the company offers investment management services. ING Groep N.V. operates a network of approximately 280 branches in the Netherlands; and 773 branches in Belgium. The company was founded in 1991 and is headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. ING Groep N.V. is a subsidiary of Stichting ING Aandelen.

Best Quality Stocks To Invest In Right Now: StarTek Inc.(SRT)

StarTek, Inc. provides business process outsourcing services for the communications industries in the United States, Canada, the Philippines, Costa Rica, and Honduras. It offers technical and product support services through telephone, e-mail, chat, facsimile, and Internet; sales support services comprising receiving and closing sales on inbound sales inquiries, and cross-selling and up-selling its clients? products; provisioning and complex order processing services, including order management and technical sales support for wire-line, wireless, data, and customer premise equipment communications, as well as services for its clients direct to consumer order processing and transfer of accounts between client service providers; and receivables management services, such as billing, credit card support, and first party collections. The company also provides industry-specific processes, which include technical support; phone number portability services comprising automated an d live agent interaction, facilitate pre-port validation, data collection, automatic processing of port-out/in requests, direct and automated interface with the service order activation platform, fallout management tool, and port request tracking and archiving; and directory management services. StarTek, Inc. was founded in 1987 and is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

Best Quality Stocks To Invest In Right Now: SVC Capital Plc (SVI.L)

SVG Capital Plc is an investment firm specializing in direct and fund and fund of funds investments. The firm principally invests in private equity funds managed or advised by Permira. It also invests in private equity funds that invest in Japan, North America, Asia, and life sciences sectors and in unquoted and quoted businesses through specialist funds and co-investments alongside these funds. The firm may also invest in other private equity related assets and alternative asset classes. For direct investments, the firm considers management buyouts, buyins, and co-investments alongside funds. It invests through its own balance sheet and on behalf of third-party investors through funds it manages or advises. The firm was formally known as Schroder Ventures International Investment Trust plc. SVG Capital Plc was founded in May 1996 and is based in London, United Kingdom with additional offices in Singapore and Boston, Massachusetts.

Best Quality Stocks To Invest In Right Now: WebMediaBrands Inc(WEBM)

WebMediaBrands Inc., an Internet media company, provides content, education, and career services to media and creative professionals through a portfolio of vertical online properties, communities, and trade shows. The company operates, a blog network that provides content, education, community, and career resources about media industry verticals, including new media, social media, Facebook, TV news, sports news, advertising, public relations, publishing, design, mobile, and the semantic Web. Its also includes a job board for media and business professionals focusing on various job categories, such as social media, online/new media, publishing, public relations/marketing, advertising, sales, design, and television. The company also operates a network of online properties, including AdsoftheWorld, DynamicGraphics, LiquidTreat, BrandsoftheWorld,, StepInsideDesign, Creativebits, and GraphicsDesignForum that provide content, educatio n, community, career, and other resources for creative and design professionals. In addition, it offers community, membership, and e-commerce offerings comprising a freelance listing service, a marketplace for designing and purchasing logos, and premium membership services. Further, the company provides online and in-person courses, panels, certificate programs, and video subscription libraries for media and creative professionals. Additionally, it organizes various trade shows that include Semantic Technology Conference, Monetizing Social Media, Social Media Optimization Conference, Social Gaming Summit, and Virtual Goods Summit. The company was formerly known as Jupitermedia Corporation and changed its name to WebMediaBrands Inc. in February 2009. WebMediaBrands Inc. was founded in 1999 and is based in New York, New York.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Target exec gives hack details to Senate

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) The nation finally got a detailed account of the massive Target hack Tuesday, when the company's chief financial officer testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Target (TGT, Fortune 500) executive John Mulligan told senators it was the Justice Department that first notified the company of the data breach on Dec. 12. Three days later, Target was able to confirm hackers had slipped malware into their point-of-sale network, affecting all card terminals in U.S. stores.

Mulligan reiterated that hackers made off with two batches of data: Information found on 40 million cards swiped during the holiday shopping season, plus personal data kept by Target on up to 70 million customers.

All this happened despite Target's firewalls, malware detection software and data-loss prevention tools.

"I want to say how deeply sorry we are for the impact this has had on our guests," he said, explaining that retailers are facing "increasingly sophisticated threats" that outmatch current protections.

Who hacked Target?   Who hacked Target?

The event has put pressure on Target to accelerate implementation of advanced chip-based credit card technology, a safer method that is already found around the world but has not yet been adopted in the United States by the retail and finance industries. Mulligan said Target will update its system by early next year.

"This attack has only strengthened our resolve. We will learn from this incident," Mulligan said. To top of page

Monday, February 3, 2014

The $1,000 Club

In Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, David Milstead looks at four stocks that have made it above the $1,000 per share mark.

Steve Halpern: Joining us today is David Milstead of Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine. How are you doing today, David?

David Milstead: I'm good, how are you?

Steve Halpern: Very good, thanks for joining us. In the new issue of Kiplinger's that just hit the newsstands, you wrote an article called The Four Figure Club, meaning stocks that reached the $1,000 per share level. While such a high price might scare some investors away, you note that this high price tag doesn't necessarily make these stocks expensive. Could you explain?

David Milstead: Sure, it's not the share price that actually makes a stock expensive, even though these are at least $1000 apiece. It's actually how much a stock costs in comparison to the earnings that a company produces, expressed on a per share basis.

In the case of both, Google (GOOG) and Priceline (PCLN), which are featured in this story, the market expects each of these companies to produce about $50 in earnings for each share of stock that's on the market.

And, so, when you have their share price over $1000, it's really only 20 times those earnings, a price to earnings ratio of about 20, and there are plenty of stocks on the market that trade for $10, or $5, or $20 that have price to earnings ratios that are much higher than that.

So, really, it's not the fact that these stocks are $1000 apiece; it's what they cost, in terms of how much earnings power you're actually buying, and, in the case of many of these stocks, the price to earnings ratio isn't really that high at all.

Steve Halpern: Now you note in the article that the $1,000 Club is still very exclusive. In fact, there were only four stocks that made the list and two of them, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-A) and Seaboard (SEB) have been above this level for some time. Can you tell us a little about those companies?

David Milstead: Sure. Well, many investors know Berkshire Hathaway. It's the investment vehicle for Warren Buffett, the famed investor. He has never split the primary shares of his company and so they've traded it for tens of thousands of dollars apiece for quite some time.

He did, however, create another class of shares several years ago and after he bought the Burlington Northern, or Berkshire Hathaway, he bought the Burlington Northern Railroad a few years ago in 2009, I believe it was, he actually had to split those shares down to a level in the $65 range at the time.

And so they became much more accessible price, these class E shares of Berkshire Hathaway, but the class A shares, the shares that have been in existence since Berkshire Hathaway became a public company, those are the most expensive on the market.

Seaboard is really, actually, relatively unknown. It's an odd company that has a lot of agriculture and, per the name Seaboard, it engages in shipping.

They do commodity trading, they own a sugar plant in the Dominican Republic; it's really an interesting collection of businesses, and again, not very well known, and it's another company that is controlled by a family and they have never have split the shares.

Splitting the shares is a practice in which you get, for example, twice as many shares as you did before, but you're entitled to, you know, half as much of the earnings as before, and so, share splits cut the price of a stock, but preserve your economic interests.

And for whatever reason, Warren Buffett and the managers of Seaboard have not been willing to split the shares, and that's what's made their price so high.

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