Friday, February 28, 2014

Consumer Confidence Slips a Bit in February

Consumer Confidence Kiichiro Sato/AP WASHINGTON -- U.S. consumer confidence fell slightly in February on concern about the near-term outlook for business conditions and jobs. The Conference Board said Tuesday that its confidence index slipped to 78.1 this month, down from 79.4 in January. "Consumers believe the economy has improved, but they do not foresee it gaining considerable momentum in the months ahead," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at the Conference Board. Consumer sentiment is closely watched for indications about how it will impact consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity. Views about current conditions increased for the fourth consecutive month and now stand at the highest level in almost six years. But the index that tracks consumer expectations dipped slightly, pulling the overall reading down. In the expectations category, consumer views about the labor market was a bit more pessimistic than it has been, possibly reflecting two months of weak job gains. Employers added a tepid 113,000 jobs in January after a lackluster gain of 75,000 in December. That was far below last year's monthly average of 194,000. There was solid hiring in manufacturing and construction last month and that has contributed to optimism that the weaker job growth was a temporary lull and not the start of another swoon for the economy. The Federal Reserve at its December and January meetings have trimmed its monthly bond purchases and indicated that it feels the economy is gaining momentum. Many private analysts are forecasting that the overall economy will grow at around 3 percent this year, up a full percentage point from 2013 growth. The federal government is expected to be less of a drag on activity this year. Tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts trimmed growth by an estimated 1.75 percentage points in 2013.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Texas Business Slows, but Still Hiring

Texas business activity expanded slightly for the ninth straight month in February, according to a Dallas Federal Reserve Texas Manufacturing Outlook Survey released today. 

The monthly survey asks about 100 Texas manufacturers to rate their views on current and future business activity. Market watchers keep a close eye on this index, as Texas' manufacturing can serve as an important indicator of national economic health. A positive number indicates month-over-month growth, while a negative number means contraction. 

After clocking in at 3.8 for January, February's report puts business activity at 0.3. While this keeps the Lonestar state in growth territory, the reading failed to live up to analyst expectations of 2.5.

Taking a closer look at the index's components, February's report is full of mixed messages. While factory activity increased for the tenth month in a row, and the production index added on 3.7 points to hit 10.8, the company outlook index dropped from 15.9 to 3.4, the lowest since last spring. New orders also lost a significant portion of its January jump, dipping 3.9 points to 9.5.

Source:; Production Index. 

Strong employment continues to provide some hope for the future. While the outlook index and new orders component would lead some analysts to believe businesses are preparing for tougher times, they still seem to be hiring. The employment index increased for the third straight month to 9.9, while the hours worked index made a major 8.6 gain to 12, the highest in more than two and a half years. 


Friday, February 21, 2014

Why Did Warren Buffett Shut Down This Business?

Warren Buffett is usually hands-off when it comes to the companies operating under Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-A  ) (NYSE: BRK-B  ) umbrella, but the Oracle of Omaha decided to step in and shut down a controversial practice at Business Wire.

In this segment of The Motley Fool's financials-focused show, Where the Money Is, banking analysts Matt Koppenheffer and David Hanson discuss Buffett's decision.

More wisdom from Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett has made billions through his investing and he wants you to be able to invest like him. Through the years, Buffett has offered up investing tips to shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. Now you can tap into the best of Warren Buffett's wisdom in a new special report from The Motley Fool. Click here now for a free copy of this invaluable report.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Italy December orders fall on weak domestic demand

ROME--Italian industrial orders fell sharply in December, mainly due to a decline in orders from domestic firms, casting a shadow over hopes of an economic recovery after the worst postwar recession.

Orders declined 4.9% from November in seasonally adjusted terms, national statistics institute Istat said Thursday.

Domestic orders dropped 6.4%, while foreign orders fell 2.6% from November, according to Istat.

"There's no doubt that the overall drop is due to the internal market," said an Istat official.

Hot Internet Companies To Invest In 2014

Italian industrial sales shed 0.3% in December from November, with foreign sales decreasing 1.4% and domestic sales adding 0.3%, Istat added, using seasonally adjusted figures.

Italian industrial orders, however, rose 1.9% in December from the same month a year earlier, Istat said, citing unadjusted figures. Foreign orders drove the gain, rising 3.2%, while domestic orders climbed 1.1%.

Sales fell 0.6% from December 2012, with a 2.1% drop in domestic sales and a 2.8% gain in foreign sales, Istat said, using workday-adjusted figures.

Write to Liam Moloney at

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Institutional Investors Flock to Hedge Funds: Deutsche Bank Survey

Hedge funds kicked off the new year on a sour note, losing 0.2% in January, according to the Hennessee Group.

This one-month downturn seemed unlikely to dampen investors’ enthusiasm for hedge funds, however, as Deutsche Bank reported Tuesday that investors in its annual alternative investment survey were bullish on industry growth.

Deutsche predicted that hedge fund assets would pass the $3 trillion mark by year-end, based on investors’ predictions of $171 billion net inflows and performance-related gains of 7.3%, amounting to $191 billion.

Institutional Allocations Increase

The Deutsche Bank survey included asset managers, public and private pensions, endowments and foundations, insurance companies, funds of funds, private banks, investment consultants and family offices from 29 countries. Forty-six percent of responding investors had $1 billion or more in hedge fund assets under management, and 18% had more than $5 billion.

The survey found that nearly half of institutional investors, which account for two-thirds of industry assets (compared with about one-third before the financial crisis), had increased their hedge fund allocations in 2013, and that 57% planned to do so this year.

Eighty percent of respondents said hedge funds had performed as well as expected or better in 2013, returning a weighted average of 9.3%, according to Deutsche.

In 2014, 63% of all respondents and 79% of institutional investors were targeting hedge fund returns of less than 10%. They mainly favored equity long/short and event-driven strategies.

Top 10 Cheap Stocks To Watch For 2015

Average management and performance fees have come down somewhat from the standard “2 & 20,” to 1.7% and 18.2%, but nearly half of investors said they would pay higher fees to a manager who had proven “consistent strong performance in absolute terms.”

Thirty-nine percent of investors said they were now embracing a risk-based approach to asset allocation, up from 25% in 2013. Deutsche noted that 41% of pension consultants recommended this approach to clients.

It said the risk-based approach effectively removed historical constraints on the percentage allocation to absolute return strategies, allowing equity long/short managers to compete with long-only and fixed income absolute return funds within the overall fixed income risk budget.

‘Spooked’ Global Markets

Charles Gradante, Hennessee Group’s co-founder, said Tuesday in a statement that the overall 0.2% decline in the Hennessee Hedge Fund Index was brought on by the loss of 2.3% in the global/macro subindex.

“Chairwoman Janet Yellen is on a rocket ship with no windows as tapering in the U.S. led to widening credit spreads and rising interest rates in emerging markets which spooked global equity markets causing a flight to safety as emerging markets and their currencies became less attractive,” Gradante said.

Hedge funds in January outperformed the S&P 500 Index, which was down 3.5%. Bonds recorded gains, with the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index up 1.5%.

Following are performance results for various Hennessee Group subindexes:


Monday, February 17, 2014

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015

A number of securities saw notable increases in short interest during the most recent reporting period, including two retailers that have been technical standouts and could ultimately benefit from this growing skepticism, observes Terri Stridsberg, contributing analyst with Schaeffer Investment Research.

Men's Wearhouse (MW) has been an outperformer, boasting a year-to-date advance of about 65% to trade at $51.41.

In fact, the security reached its own multi-year peak of $52.72 just last week, after the specialty retailer made a bid for rival Jos. A. Bank Clothiers (JOSB).

Nevertheless, MW saw a 37.1% surge in short interest during the first half of November, and now these shorted shares make up a healthy 7.3% of the security's float.

In other words, should the stock remain northbound, it could end up benefiting from a wave of short-covering activity.

The TJX Companies (TJX) has gained around 49% so far this year, to wink at the $63.28 level, while also tagging a record high of $64.09 on November 21, thanks to a well-received quarterly earnings report.

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015: Insulet Corporation(PODD)

Insulet Corporation, a medical device company, engages in the development, manufacture, and marketing of insulin infusion systems for people with insulin-dependent diabetes in the United States. The company offers OmniPod Insulin Management System (OmniPod System), which consists of the OmniPod disposable insulin infusion device and the handheld wireless personal diabetes manager to provide diabetes management solution for people with insulin-dependent diabetes. It is also involved in the distribution of durable medical equipment, including blood glucose testing supplies, insulin pumps, pump supplies, pharmaceuticals, and other products for the management and treatment of diabetes. The company sells its OmniPod System directly to patients through referrals from healthcare professionals and through patient leads, as well as through third-party distributors; and delivers durable medical equipment to endocrinologists, insurers, and clients. Insulet Corporation was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Bedford, Massachusetts.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Rich Smith]

    This series, brought to you by Yahoo! Finance, looks at which upgrades and downgrades make sense, and which ones investors should act on. Today, our headlines feature a pair of downgrades for document storage company Iron Mountain (NYSE: IRM  ) and insulin treatments-equipment maker Insulet (NASDAQ: PODD  ) . But the headlines aren't all bad, so before we break the bad news to you, let's start off on a bright note about...

  • [By James Brumley]

    And just for the record, theme-based buyout speculation doesn’t improve your chances of picking an acquisition target. Back in 2012 after Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) bought Amylin for control of its diabetes pipeline following the purchase of Neighborhood Diabetes by Insulet (PODD), pundits were sure it would spark a wave of other diabetes-driven acquisitions. Those other M&A candidates began getting bid up, but as it turns out, no more meaningful buyouts materialized in the diabetes space.

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015: Dover Saddlery Inc.(DOVR)

Dover Saddlery, Inc. operates as a specialty retailer and multi-channel marketer of equestrian products in the United States, primarily serving the English-style and Western-style riding industry. Its equestrian product line includes various items, such as saddles, tack, specialized apparel, footwear, horse clothing, horse health, and stable products. The company also offers dressage, eventing, and hunter/jumper products. Dover Saddlery, Inc. sells its products through catalogs, Internet, and retail stores located in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Delaware, Texas, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Georgia, Colorado, Illinois, and Rhode Island. As of December 31, 2011, it operated 14 stores under the Dover Saddlery and 1 store under the Smith Brothers brand. The company was founded in 1975 and is headquartered in Littleton, Massachusetts.

Top 10 Trucking Companies For 2014: Bell Copper Corporation (BCU.V)

Bell Copper Corporation engages in the acquisition and exploration of base metal properties in North America. It primarily explores for copper ores. The company holds 100% interests in the La Balsa project, which encompasses approximately 53 square kilometers of mineral concessions located in the state of Michoac谩n, Mexico; the Kabba porphyry copper project covering an area of approximately 8,031 acres, located in Mohave County in northwestern Arizona; and the Sombrero Butte project, which covers an area of approximately 2,887 acres in the Copper Creek District, Pinal County, Arizona. It also owns interest in the Van Dyke project that covers an area of approximately 1,100 acres in Arizona. The company was formerly known as Bell Resources Corporation and changed its name to Bell Copper Corporation in April 2008. Bell Copper Corporation is headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015: Rodinia Oil Corp (ROZ.V)

Rodinia Oil Corp., a junior oil and gas company, engages in the acquisition, exploration, and development of onshore petroleum and natural gas assets in Australia. It holds an 85% working interest in approximately 23,000,000 gross acres of exploratory lands in South and Western Australia. The company was formerly known as Officer Basin Energy Inc. and changed its name to Rodinia Oil Corp. in March 2008. Rodinia Oil Corp. was founded in 2006 and is headquartered in Calgary, Canada.

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015: Straits Trading Co. Ltd (S20.SI)

The Straits Trading Company Limited, together with its subsidiaries, engages in the mining, and smelting of tin concentrates and tin bearing materials. The company produces, sells, and delivers various grades of refined tin metal and its by-products under the MSC brand name, as well as invests in other metals and mineral resources. It also owns, leases, and/or manages 13 hotels under the Rendezvous and the Marque brands; and invests, develops, sells, and leases properties, including residential and commercial properties, such as apartments, retail malls, office buildings, hotels, bungalows, condominiums, resort, and recreation facilities. In addition, the company provides media advertising services; and manages resorts. It primarily has operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Australia. The company was founded in 1887 and is headquartered in Singapore. The Straits Trading Company Limited is a subsidiary of The Cairns Private Limited.

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015: Magellan Financial Group (MFG.AX)

Magellan Financial Group Limited engages in funds management business. It provides investment management services for high net worth, retail, and institutional investors in Australia and New Zealand. The company sponsors and manages two unlisted funds, Magellan Global Fund and Magellan Infrastructure Fund. It also plans to invest in various external fund management businesses across the various fund management disciplines. Magellan Financial Group is based in Sydney, Australia.

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015: (TCS.NS)

Tata Consultancy Services Limited provides information technology (IT) services, business solutions, and outsourcing services primarily in the Americas, Europe, and India. The company offers IT services, including custom application development and management, migration and re-engineering, system integration, testing, and performance engineering; and IT infrastructure services comprising IT service desk, data center and end user computing services, application management services, managed security services, converged network services, enterprise system management, IT service management, and transformation solutions. It also provides enterprise solutions consisting of supply chain and customer relationship management, as well as RFID, call management, Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP; and consulting services. In addition, the company offers business process outsourcing services; platform BPO solutions; business intelligence and performance management; engineering and industrial s ervices; assurance services; asset leveraged solutions; and eco-sustainability services, as well as various services to small and medium businesses. Further, it provides various software products, which include financial solutions under TCS BaNCS brand name; technology products; and other products for enterprises in the insurance, health, and life science industries. The company serves banking and financial services, energy, resources, utilities, government, health care and life sciences, high tech, insurance, manufacturing, media and information services, retail and consumer products, telecom, travel, transportation, and hospitality industries. It has strategic partnership with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, EMC, Google Enterprise, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, NetApp, RIM, and SAP, as well as with JDA Software Group, Inc., Sun Microsystems, Inc., and Xerox Corporation. The company was founded in 1968 and is based in Mumbai, India. Tata Consultancy Services Limited is a subsidiary of Tata Sons Limited.

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015: Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc.(WPI)

Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty pharmaceutical company, engages in the development, manufacture, marketing, sale, and distribution of generic and brand pharmaceutical products in the United States, western Europe, Canada, Australasia, Asia, South America, and South Africa. The company offers its products for therapeutic categories, such as central nervous system, cardiovascular, hormones and synthetic substitutes, anti-infective agents, and urology. It operates in three segments: Global Generics, Global Brands, and Distribution. The Global Generics segment develops, manufactures, and sells generic pharmaceutical products, as well as distributes generic versions of third parties? brand products. This segment offers various dosage forms, such as oral solids, transdermals, injectables, inhalation products, and transmucosals for indications, including pregnancy prevention, pain management, depression, hypertension, and smoking cessation. The Global Brands segment pr omotes and co-promotes Rapaflo, Gelnique, Trelstar, Androderm, Crinone, ella, INFeD, Generess, sodium ferric gluconate, AndroGel, and Femring branded products; and markets its products through sales professionals. It also sells various non-promoted products. The Distribution segment distributes generic and select brand pharmaceutical products, vaccines, injectables, and over-the-counter medicines to independent pharmacies, alternate care providers, pharmacy chains, and physicians? offices. The company sells its generic and brand pharmaceutical products primarily to drug wholesalers, retailers, and distributors, including national retail drug and food store chains, hospitals, clinics, mail order, government agencies, and managed healthcare providers, such as health maintenance organizations and other institutions. Watson Pharmaceuticals, Inc. was founded in 1983 and is headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Louis Navellier]

    Actavis Plc is one of the world’s largest generic drugmakers. For the past three decades, this company was known as Watson Pharmaceuticals (WPI), but the company rebranded itself as Actavis in 2013. With a portfolio of over 190 pharmaceutical product families, Actavis has its name on everything from antibiotics to contraceptives to smoking cessation treatments.

  • [By Holly LaFon] n Pharmaceuticals stock has been on a decidedly upward trajectory in the last five years, increasing 108 percent. It became slightly cheaper in 2011, however. Dalio has been trading the stock for years but most recently he bought 314,360 shares at about $65 per share in the fourth quarter of 2011 after the stock had ventured off of its 52-week high of $73.35 it climbed to in the middle of the year.

    Watson has a long-term record of profitability and growth, with an 11.9% 10-year revenue per share growth rate and 14.2% 10-year free cash flow per share growth rate.

    Though the stock price declined in late 2011, the company in November reported double-digit net revenue and earnings growth. The company also announced that month an exclusive agreement with Pfizer Inc. (PFE) to launch a generic version of Lipitor, the world�� best-selling drug in the history of pharmaceuticals. It also received approval from the FDA to start producing a generic version of the birth control drug Yaz that month, a drug with sales of $173 million in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2011.

    In February, Watson announced a full-year 2011 net revenue increase of 29 percent and EPS increase of 39 percent, due in large part to the successful launch of a total of 189 generic products globally for the year. Currently it is using its strong cash position to invest in growth markets, Canada and European operations.

    In spite of the good news and increasing its full-year revenue forecast by $100 million to about $5.4 billion, the stock is up just 0.05 percent year to date.

    Dalio�� next largest purchase was Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.B), and three new buys: BCE Inc. (BCE), The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), and Peabody Energy Corp. (BTU).

    Dalio staking over 32 percent of his fund in emerging markets is tantamount to a forecast that emerging markets will outperform from the macro guru. His other top purchases have clear growth prospects. To see more of what Dalio

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015: Nyesa Valores Corporacion SA (NYE)

Nyesa Valores Corporacion SA is a Spain-based company primarily engaged in the real estate sector. The Company�� activities include the acquisition and development of land, as well as the promotion and construction of non-residential properties, such as hotels, office buildings, shopping centers, senior residences, as well as logistics and industrial properties. As of December 31, 2011, the Company owned such companies as Gestora Inmobiliaria Besos SA, Edutaimet Sant Adria de Besos SA, Promociones Industriales y Financieras SA, Constructora Inbesos SA, Inbesos Sur SA and Nalcar 2000 SL, among others, and Inversion en Activos Urbanos SL was its majority shareholder with 47.9% of its interest.

Top 5 Specialty Retail Companies To Buy For 2015: KeyCorp (KEY)

KeyCorp is a bank holding company for KeyBank National Association (KeyBank). Through KeyBank and certain other subsidiaries, the Company provides a range of retail and commercial banking, commercial leasing, investment management, consumer finance and investment banking products and services to individual, corporate and institutional clients through two business segments: Key Community Bank and Key Corporate Bank. As of December 31, 2011, these services were provided through KeyBank�� 1,058 full-service retail banking branches in 14 states, additional offices, a telephone banking call center services group and a network of 1,579 automated teller machines (ATMs) in 15 states. On January 17, 2012, the Company opened another national bank subsidiary.

In addition to the banking services of accepting deposits and making loans, the Bank and trust company subsidiaries offer personal and corporate trust services, personal financial services, access to mutual funds, cash management services, investment banking and capital markets products, and international banking services. Through its bank, trust company and investment adviser subsidiaries, the Company provides investment management services to clients that include corporate and public retirement plans, foundations and endowments, individuals and trust funds. The Company provides other financial services - both within and outside of its primary banking markets - through various nonbank subsidiaries. These services include community development financing, securities underwriting and brokerage. It is also an equity participant in a joint venture that provides merchant services to businesses.

Lending Activities

As of December 31, 2011, the Company�� Commercial, Financial and Agricultural loans, also referred to as Commercial and Industrial, represented 39% of its total loan portfolio. As of December 31, 2011, commercial real estate loans represented approximately 19% of its total loan portfolio. These loans include bo! th owner and nonowner-occupied properties and constitute approximately 27% of its commercial loan portfolio. Its commercial real estate lending business is conducted through two primary sources: its 14-state banking franchise, and Real Estate Capital and Corporate Banking Services. The Company conducts financing arrangements through its equipment finance line of business. Commercial lease financing receivables represented 17% of commercial loans at December 31, 2011. The home equity portfolio is the largest segment of its consumer loan portfolio.

Investment Activities

The Company�� securities portfolio totaled $18 billion at December 31, 2011. Available-for-sale securities were $16 billion at December 31, 2011. Held-to-maturity securities were $2.1 billion at December 31, 2011. At December 31, 2011, it had $2.1 billion in collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs) in its held-to-maturity securities portfolio. At December 31, 2011, the Company had $15.9 billion invested in CMOs and other mortgage-backed securities in the available-for-sale portfolio. Federal Agency CMOs constitute most of its held-to-maturity securities along with foreign bonds and preferred equity securities. The investments in equity and mezzanine instruments made by its principal investing unit represented 61% of other investments at December 31, 2011. They include direct investments (investments made in a particular company), as well as indirect investments (investments made through funds that include other investors).

Sources of Funds

Domestic deposits are the Company�� primary source of funding. During the year ended December 31, 2011, these deposits averaged $58.5 billion and represented 80% of the funds it used to support loans and other earning assets. Wholesale funds, consisting of deposits in its foreign office and short-term borrowings, averaged $3.4 billion during 2011. At December 31, 2011, the Company had $4.7 billion in time deposits of $100,000 or more.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Don’t look for big banks to soften the blow today, however. JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has fallen 0.5% to $51.84, Wells Fargo (WFC) has declined 0.9% to $42.06 and KeyCorp (KEY) is off 1% at $12.54. Citigroup (C) has gained 0.2% to $48.71.

  • [By David Hanson and Matt Koppenheffer]

    In this segment of The Motley Fool's everything-financials show,�Where the Money Is, banking analysts Matt Koppenheffer and David Hanson tell investors what they will be watching when PNC Financial Services (NYSE: PNC  ) , Huntington Bancshares (NASDAQ: HBAN  ) , and KeyCorp� (NYSE: KEY  ) �report earnings this week

  • [By John Udovich]

    While the Bakken formation is already on most investor radars,�few American investors may realize that the formation stretches North into the oil and gas rich Canadian province of Saskatchewan where�stocks like Surge Energy Inc (TSE: SGY), Questerre Energy Corp (TSE: QEC), Crescent Point Energy Corp (TSE: CPG), Keyera Corp (TSE: KEY) and Centor Energy Inc (OTCBB: CNTO) have been pumping out a good flow of newsworthy news in recent weeks. I should mention that Canada�� oil reserves are ranked #3 after to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia with over 95% of these reserves being the oil sands of Alberta while the neighboring province of Saskatchewan (which the Bakken formation stretches into from South Dakota and Montana) along with offshore areas of Newfoundland also contain substantial production and reserves (Note:�Excluding oil sands, Alberta would have 39% of Canada�� remaining conventional oil reserves,�followed by�offshore Newfoundland with�28% and Saskatchewan with 27%).

  • [By Amanda Alix]

    Mortgages down, but commercial loans are up
    Like its peer Huntington Bancshares� (NASDAQ: HBAN  ) , New York Community saw a slowdown in residential mortgage refinancing�activity due to higher interest rates. But, like Huntington and KeyCorp (NYSE: KEY  ) , the bank was able to improve in other areas. New York Community enjoyed higher mortgage servicing income�in the second quarter, for example -- an area in which KeyCorp is also expanding, having recently acquired $110 billion in commercial loan servicing rights�from Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) earlier this year.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Should You Switch Cell-Phone Carriers?

It seems that cell-phone service providers are particularly eager to get your business given the abundance of incentives they're currently offering to consumers who switch carriers. Consider some of the tempting offers from major wireless players AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

SEE ALSO: Fee Relief for Wireless Users

AT&T is offering a $100 bill credit for every wireless line you add with the company by March 31. And it's lowered its monthly rates on no-contract smart phone plans -- likely to lure customers who already own phones and are coming out of two-year contracts with other carrier (and to discourage its current customers from defecting).

Sprint is giving away a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 to customers who sign up for its new "Framily" plan, a mash-up of the words friends and family that lowers your monthly rate as you add more lines. It also is offering $100 savings on select phones if you switch to Sprint.

T-Mobile will pay your early termination fees if you leave another carrier before your contract is up and switch to T-Mobile. And Verizon is offering a gift card worth at least $100, but up to $300, when you trade in a smart phone and activate a new one.

So with all these special offers wireless carriers are dangling, should you switch and snatch up these deals while you can? To help you decide, here's more in-depth examination of these offers and a rundown of the rates these carriers typically charge. The carrier and plan that's best for you will depend on the number of lines you have, the amount of data you want and the coverage area you need.

AT&T. To take advantage of the $100 bill credit, you don't have to sign a two-year contract if you add a line with the company for a phone you already own. However, you must maintain service with AT&T for 45 days to receive the credit, which will post to your bill within three billing cycles. If you switch to AT&T from T-Mobile, you'll get a $200 credit, according to an AT&T customer service representative.

AT&T also lowered its monthly service fee February 2 for smart phone customers without a contract. If you sign up for a two-year contract (to take advantage of a free phone offer), you'll pay $40 a month for unlimited talk and text service and an additional $20 to $275 depending on the amount of data you want for Internet access, e-mail, video and music streaming. Without a contract, you'll pay $25 a month for wireless service if you get 8 GB of data or less, or just $15 a month if you choose to have 10 GB of data or more. So the monthly rate (not including taxes) for no-contract wireless service with a 10 GB data plan would be $115, versus $140 for the same plan for a smart phone with a two-year agreement. For each no-contract line you add, it's an additional $15 or $25 a month, depending on your data plan.

AT&T provides 4G coverage in all 50 states, according to its service map. However, its coverage is limited in a few of the Midwestern and Western states.

Sprint. To receive the free Galaxy Tab 3, you have to sign up by February 27 for the "Framily" plan in a Sprint store and commit to a two-year service agreement. To get the lowest rate under the plan -- $25 for unlimited talk, text and 1 GB of data -- you have to have seven to ten lines. You're not limited to family members, though, to take advantage of the plan. You can invite friends to join, and they'll get separate bills. To get more data, you'll pay $10 per line per month for 3GB or $20 per line per month for unlimited data.

The monthly service rate is significantly higher if you have fewer lines. For example, if you had just two lines and unlimited data, you would pay $100 ($50 per line) plus $40 for data ($20 per line) -- bringing the monthly total to $140, which is the same as you would pay for two no-contract lines and 10GB of data with AT&T.

Sprint's 4G coverage isn't nearly as widespread as AT&T's or Verizon's -- especially in the West.

T-Mobile. If you have a contract with a wireless carrier, you could pay as much as $350 to break it. To get you to switch to its lower-cost plans, T-Mobile will reimburse your termination fees -- up to $350 per line. You must send your final bill from your former carrier showing the fee, then you will receive a prepaid MasterCard within eight weeks from T-Mobile covering the fee amount. And if you trade in your old smart phone for a new one, T-Mobile will give you a credit of up to $300 to apply to a new phone.

Individuals pay $50 a month for unlimited talk, text and 500 MB of data; $60 for 2.5 GB of data; or $70 for unlimited data. You'll pay an extra $30 for a second line, and $10 for each additional line. So for two lines and unlimited data, you'll pay $100 a month. There's no contract with the T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan, so there are no early termination fees. T-Mobile also doesn't charge fees for using more than your allocated data. Instead, it slows your data speed from 4G to 2G once you've used your monthly data allotment.

With 4G coverage in 41 states and just a few cities in some of those states, T-Mobile's coverage area is more limited than AT&T's and Verizon's.

Verizon. To qualify for the $100 Verizon gift card, you must trade in an old smart phone for a new 4G LTE smart phone and commit to a two-year contract. Depending on the value of the phone you trade in, you may qualify for a gift card worth up to $300, which can be used to buy Verizon wireless products or to pay your bill. Verizon also is waiving its $35 activation fee for a limited time.

Verizon did have a limited-time offer of unlimited talk, text and 250 MB of data for $45 a month. But it just introduced a new "More Everything" plan, which claims that you get two times the data for the same low price. With the new plan, unlimited talk, text and 250 MB of data for a smart phone is now $55 a month. With each line you add, it's an additional $40 a month for talk and text, plus $15 to $375 for data. So two lines with 10GB of data would cost $180 a month -- $40 more than a similar AT&T or Sprint plan and $80 more than a similar T-Mobile plan.

Verizon's 4G network covers all 50 states. It claims to have the largest 4G network, with coverage for 97% of Americans.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Smart Travel Tips From Around the Web

I have been in several airports recently, but, unfortunately, none has been in a warm locale. This past weekend as I sat in a plane on the runway at New York's LaGuardia Airport while snow was falling, I desperately longed to be on a beach where the sun was shining. I don't think I'm alone in this sentiment given the super-low temperatures, snow and ice that are plaguing many cities. In fact, several personal finance bloggers have recently written about how they want to escape from the cold. Here are their tips on saving for a getaway and making travel affordable.

SEE ALSO: 26 Secrets to Save on Travel

6 Painless Ways to Save Money for a Vacation [MoneyNing]
"By doing only a couple of these things, you can save enough money for a weekend trip. Do them all, and you may have enough money for a week-long vacation!"

9 Travel & Vacation Planning Mistakes That Can Cost You Money [Money Crashers]
"By educating yourself about common spending traps, you can better allocate your money and set priorities before starting your search for vacation deals."

10 Things You're Paying Too Much for When You Travel (and How to Pay Less) [Wise Bread]
"The cost of airfare, hotels, transportation, food, and entertainment can hit your pocket hard."

How That 'Free' Flight Cost Me $1,400 [Money Under 30]
"If you carry balances on your credit card for more than the occasional month or two, frequent flyer credit cards are simply a ripoff -- and the enticement of free air travel masks mighty unfavorable APR terms and annual fees."

Great Wintertime Staycation Ideas [Mint Life]
"There are plenty of winter-friendly ways to stay away from work, have fun, and still save money."

Friday, February 14, 2014

Will Rising Bond Rates Threaten the Dow?

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

The stock market has performed well so far Friday, as solid figures from the University of Michigan's preliminary consumer sentiment index for February suggested that cold weather and questions about economic strength aren't dampening everyday Americans' views of the economy. That news helped push the Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) up 75 points by 12:30 EST. But it also led to falling bond prices and higher yields, as bond-market investors ponder whether the same economic concerns that sent the Dow to a minor correction could eventually cause bonds to give up their surprising gains for the year so far -- and cause direct problems for Dow Jones components Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) .

Source: National Archives and Records Administration.

The state of the bond market
This year's gains in the bond market have shocked investors even more than the Dow's decline. After such a strong move in 2013, the Dow was long overdue for some sort of correction, and investors have taken the drop in the average in stride. But the general belief among bond investors was that the Federal Reserve's gradual withdrawal from bond-buying activity under quantitative easing would inevitably lead to higher rates, with the Fed's goal to keep the rise slow and steady to avoid a bond-market rout. Few investors foresaw the potential for an actual drop in rates.

But it was the cause of the Dow's January decline that likely led investors to jump back into the bond market. Sluggishness in the U.S. economy and threats of economic trouble overseas were enough to lead investors back to the safe haven of Treasuries, leading to gains of almost 8% for the iShares 20+ Year Treasury ETF (NYSEMKT: TLT  ) by the time the Dow hit bottom on the first trading session of February. Other types of bonds didn't post equally impressive gains, but most did climb somewhat.

As the Dow has recovered over the past couple of weeks, though, bonds have started to give up some of their gains. Initial hopes that the Fed might slow down on its quantitative-easing tapering process have given way to the reality that new Chairwoman Janet Yellen is likely to keep policy moves steady for the foreseeable future. Unless the problems in the U.S. economy turn out to be more than weather-related singular events and spread to create overall long-term weakness for future growth, the central bank doesn't appear likely to prevent at least gradual rises in rates.

Should Dow Jones investors care?
The obvious question is whether rising bond yields will keep being good for stocks. Until now, stock and bond prices have moved in opposite directions in large part because money has flowed between the two asset classes as alternatives for the other. Investors see stocks as a place to invest when they're willing to take risk, while bonds remain the lower-risk bet.

What stock investors ignore, though, is that bond yields can have negative impacts on stocks. In particular, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and other financial stocks have a direct interest in making sure that the bond market performs well. Goldman gets much of its business from bond underwriting and trading activity, while JPMorgan and many other banks maintain extensive portfolios of bonds on their balance sheets. As we saw in mid-2013 when the Fed started discussing the end of quantitative easing, these and other stocks, such as homebuilders, could eventually start reacting negatively if bond rates rise. So before you celebrate higher rates as a necessary price for Dow gains, keep in mind that rates that are too high could eventually hurt stocks as well.

Don't be afraid to invest
No matter what happens to bonds, though, getting out of stocks entirely isn't a smart move. Those who've stayed out of the market in recent years have missed out on huge gains and put their financial futures in jeopardy. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How To Create A Model Bucket Portfolio For Your Retirement

By Christine Benz

Here's your assignment: Gather up all of your retirement accounts and shape them into a portfolio that will supply you with the income you'll need during your retirement years.

Oh, and one other tiny to-do: You'll  also need to make sure you never run out of money, even though you don't know exactly how long you'll need it.

In the past, one simple and elegant solution to the above problem was to buy an immediate annuity that would pay you a stream of income for the rest of your life. But many investors don't like the loss of control that accompanies annuities. A more temporal problem is that today's ultra-low interest rates mean payouts from such annuities are lousy right now.

One other intuitively appealing idea is to sink your portfolio into income-producing investments, such as bonds and dividend-paying stocks, and live off whatever yield they generate. That way you might never have to tap your principal at all. The big drawback, however, is that you're buffeted around by whatever the interest-rate gods serve up. When yields are up, you're living high off the hog; when they're miserly, as they have been for the better part of a decade, you have the unappetizing choice of scaling your spending way back or venturing into riskier income-producing securities to get the yield you need.

Given that each of those approaches has become more challenging in the current low-interest-rate environment, it's no wonder that so many retirees and pre-retirees have been receptive to another strategy: "bucketing" their portfolio for retirement. Originally conceived by financial-planning guru Harold Evensky, bucketing is a total-return approach in which you segment your portfolio based on when you expect to need your money. Money for near-term income needs is parked in cash and short-term bonds, while money needed for longer-range income needs remains in bonds and stocks.

Why has bucketing become so popular? First, it bows to reality by acknowledging that all but very wealthy investors will need to tap their principal during retirement; second, it provides a sensible and easy-to-use framework for doing so. And given that many retirees will live for 25 or more years in retirement, the bucket approach provides a necessary dose of long-term growth potential, enabling a retiree to hold stocks as well as safer securities for nearer-term income needs.

Bucketing also helps address some of retirees' key psychological roadblocks. By carving out a cash position in their portfolios and automating withdrawals from that account, a retiree can receive a steady paycheck, month in and month out, just like they received when they were still working. Knowing that a predictable stream of income is coming in the door can provide great peace of mind.

Moreover, holding a cash component (Bucket 1) can help retirees ride out periodic downturns in their long-term portfolios without panicking. If they know their near-term income needs are covered in the cash bucket—and, in a worst-case scenario, in their bond bucket as the next-line reserve—they're likely to be less rattled the next time stocks plunge.

Bucketing also helps retirees get away from the income-only mindset, which may not lead to an optimal outcome. Many retired investors make a strict distinction between their principal and the interest it kicks off. The former is sacrosanct, never to be touched and, ideally, left to heirs. The latter is what they must rely on to meet their living expenses. Yet never touching principal might lead a retiree to underspend, forsaking quality-of-life considerations and leaving more to heirs than would be optimal.

Six Steps To Bucketing Your Retirement

Perhaps even more significantly, as yields on safe securities have shrunk to lower than 2% to 3% during the past few years, income-only investors have found themselves with a stark choice: Either stick with cash and high-quality bonds and reduce their standard of living, or venture into securities that promise a higher payout with higher volatility to boot.

Instead of relying on dividends and bond income to supply living expenses, a retiree using a bucket approach can be unrestrictive about how he replenishes the cash in Bucket 1 once it becomes depleted. Such a retiree could rely on bond and dividend income from his portfolio to fulfill some of his living expenses, but also use rebalancing proceeds, tax-loss harvesting proceeds, and so forth.

Finally, bucketing is compelling because it's flexible. A bucket portfolio can incorporate many of a retiree or pre-retiree's existing holdings, and a bucket plan can be readily customized to suit a retiree's own specifications.

For example, an older retiree with an expected 10-year time horizon might have just two buckets—one for very short-term needs and another bucket earmarked for the medium term. A younger retiree with a longer time horizon, meanwhile, might have similarly positioned short- and intermediate-term buckets as well as a sizable equity bucket for long-term growth.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Five Things That Have To Happen Before Emerging Markets Look Interesting

This year started off with emerging markets in the gutter. On the flip-side of that, the U.S. was expected to outperform.

Predictions are never perfect. Indonesia and Thailand markets have outperformed the S&P 500, even though the MSCI MSCI Emerging Markets is down over 6% this year. Then there's the forecast that the U.S. would start the year even stronger. Notes Jan Dehn, an analyst at Ashmore Group in the U.K.:U.S. manufacturing dropped sharply following two quarters of significant inventory accumulation. Non-farm payrolls disappointed for the second month in a row.

"If this run of bad data continues the markets will soon begin to ask why the Fed began to taper," Dehn said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, money is still flowing out of emerging markets, especially among the so-called "odd lot" investor. You know, the retailer who likes to buy at the top and sell at the bottom. They've been selling out off mutual funds dedicated to EM all year, according to EPFR Global in Cambridge, Mass.

Ashmore Group, a $70 billion asset manager in London specializing in emerging market bonds, outlines five conditions before investors return to emerging markets.

Ashmore Group, a $70 billion asset manager in London specializing in emerging market bonds, outlines five conditions before investors return to emerging markets.

"The real importance of these weak U.S numbers is that they help to restore rationality. The irrational selling of emerging markets over the past 10 months has only been equaled by the build-up of irrational exuberance about the US," says Dehn.

Now, perhaps, we can begin to hope for a return to rationality in both.

For emerging market investors, Dehn points out five signs though remains cautious in calling an actual turning point.

Five Signs EM is a Buy

1. The technical position in the market has to turn. This is largely achieved, though Ashmore does not rule out that outflows continue for a bit longer.

2. Fundamentals have to look okay. For the most part, emerging markets are expected to grow faster this year than last year. All eyes will be on China as the dragon in the living room for the time being. Declining PMI in services and manufacturing last month has investors thinking the No. 2 economy is going to grow less than expected. Fundamentals still part of the equation.

3. Better news has to flow from the "Fragile Five". These are South Africa, Turkey, India, Indonesia and Brazil, with Brazil and South Africa being the most iffy. All of these countries have raised rates, devalued their currencies, implemented fiscal adjustment where needed, and so on. None of these countries have a crisis per se, meaning unsustainable debts, running out of reserves, experiencing collapsing banking systems, or suffering wholesale corporate defaults. They face mainly macroeconomic disequilibrium and they are fixing these issues.

4. Valuations have to be attractive. With credit spreads twice pre-crisis levels for external debt and corporate debt and local currency bonds yields above 7%, Dehn thinks there is value and he is not alone. Bryan Carter, an emerging markets fund manager at Acadian in Boston, and Mauro Ratto, head of emerging markets at Pioneer across the pond in London both told FORBES last week that they agree. There's gold to be dug out of them thar hills, Yankee.

5. Opportunity cost. The loss of opportunity of not being invested in emerging has to become less attractive at some point. This also appears to be happening, judging by the latest U.S. data.

"We are not in the business of calling turning points," says Dehn. "The sensible way to approach the uncertainty
about timing is to decide on the allocation one wants to make to the trade and then chop it into a number of
bite sized pieces. This way one is sure to get invested when it is cheap, without risking shooting all of the
powder too early."

See: Fragile Five Is Latest Emerging Markets Club In Turmoil – The New York Times

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Game Offers Tax Advice To Rappers: Write Off Strippers, Sneaks And Medical Marijuana

The Game may be a successful rapper but his tax advice leaves a little bit to be desired.

Born Jayceon Terrell Taylor, Game was discovered by Dr. Dre in 2003. His debut album "The Documentary" went on to sell over five million copies, reaching double platinum status. Since then, Game has gone on to be nominated for two Grammy awards and a number of Billboard Music Awards.

So, when it comes to music, he knows his stuff. When it comes to taxes? Maybe not so much. You see, Game was out last night in Los Angeles when he was asked a few questions by the paparazzi about taxes. His response?

"Taxes? You can write off d*mn near anything, man."

When prompted to "name the top three things" that rappers could write off on the taxes, Game had these answers:

"You can write off strip clubs… making it rain." "Buying Jordans." "You can write off buying medical marijuana."

You can see the whole exchange here.

As always, Game is entertaining. Only he's not exactly right.

To claim a deduction for business expenses, the Internal Revenue Service requires, at Section 162 of the Tax Code, that it be "ordinary and necessary." According to the IRS, an ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your trade or business. I suspect that paying a stripper is pretty ordinary in the entertainment/rap business… but is it necessary? The IRS defines a necessary expense as "one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business." Patronizing a strip club might be helpful and appropriate for his image so it might be possible to write off club entry fees (I said might) but those dollars for dances? The IRS is going to argue those expenses are entirely personal. And "making it rain" – the act of showering a stripper with dollars – is fairly expensive: remember that you cannot deduct expenses that are lavish or extravagant.

But back to that entry fee and other club-related expenses. Could any of that be deductible as a business expense? Entertaining a client or having a meeting at the club could be deductible as entertainment expenses so long as the primary purpose is business. The expenses must meet also either the associated test or the directly-related test:

Friday, February 7, 2014

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015

Vitamin Shoppe Inc (NYSE: VSI), Books-A-Million, Inc (NASDAQ: BAMM) and Perfumania Holdings, Inc (NASDAQ: PERF) have the dubious distinction of being�the worst performing small cap�specialty retail stocks for this year (according to with losses of 4.85% and�3% and a gain of 0.61%, respectively, since the start of the year (See my previous article: This Year�� Best Performing Small Cap Specialty Retail Stocks? UNTD, TA & HZO). I should mention that the definition of specialty retail stocks might vary from one stock screener to another, but what�� clear is that these three small cap retail stocks have been heading in the wrong direction for investors for much of this year. �With that in mind, what sort of performance should investors expect from these small cap specialty retail stocks on Black Friday and for the all important holiday season? Here is what you need to be aware of:

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: China Kunda Tech Holdings Ltd (GU5.SI)

China Kunda Technology Holdings Limited, an investment holding company, engages in the provision of precision moulds, plastic injection parts, and in-mould decoration (IMD) products to the electronics, electrical, automobile, and specialized devices industries. It supplies a range of automobile moulds, including door panel, sunroofs, side mirrors, low pressure moulds, head lights, air intake manifolds, bumper structural components, grilles, and cam covers; and plastic and metal automobile components comprising wheel covers, cabin pillars, footwell brackets, quarter window assemblies, door frames, electric loom brackets, cowl covers, interior panels, wheel guards, center consoles, glove boxes, and duct assemblies. The company is also involved in the production, trading, and sale of stamped metal parts; and manufacture and sale of metal parts. It serves original equipment manufacturers, original design manufacturers, and owners of international brands in the People�s Republ ic of China, Asia, North America, Europe, and South Africa. The company was founded in 1998 and is headquartered in Mong Kok, Hong Kong.

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Heelys Inc.(HLYS)

Heelys, Inc., through its subsidiary, Heeling Sports Limited, designs, markets, and distributes action sports-inspired products under the HEELYS brand to the youth market. It primarily offers HEELYS-wheeled footwear, a dual-purpose footwear that incorporates a stealth and removable wheel in the heel, and allows the user to seamlessly transition from walking or running to rolling by shifting weight to the heel. The company also offers Nano inline footboard and branded accessories, such as replacement wheels. It distributes its products directly, as well as through international wholesale distributors to retail stores in the United States internationally. The company was formerly known as Heeling, Inc. and changed its name to Heelys, Inc. in August 2006. Heelys, Inc. was founded in 2000 and is headquartered in Carrollton, Texas.

Top 10 Value Companies To Buy Right Now: Vms Ventures Inc. (VMS.V)

VMS Ventures Inc., an exploration stage company, engages in the exploration and development of mineral properties in Canada. The company primarily explores for copper, zinc, nickel, gold, and silver ores. Its principal property includes the Reed Lake project located southwest of Snow Lake, Manitoba. The company was formerly known as Rare Earth Metals Corp. and changed its name to VMS Ventures Inc. in January 2007. VMS Ventures Inc. was incorporated in 1996 and is headquartered in North Vancouver, Canada

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Lawson Products Inc.(LAWS)

Lawson Products, Inc. distributes products and services to the industrial, commercial, institutional, and governmental maintenance, repair, and operations marketplace in the United States and Canada. The company also manufactures and distributes production and specialized component parts, fasteners, and fittings to the original equipment marketplace, including the aerospace, off-road equipment, military, and oil and gas exploration industries. In addition, its product categories include specialty chemicals, cutting tools and abrasives, fluid power, aftermarket automotive supplies, electrical, and welding and metal repair. The company also serves customers in the automotive repair, transportation, manufacturing, food processing, distribution, construction, mining, wholesale, and service industries. Lawson Products, Inc. was founded in 1952 and is headquartered in Des Plaines, Illinois.

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Constellation Energy Partners LLC (CEP)

Constellation Energy Partners LLC (CEP) is engaged on the acquisition, development and production of onshore oils and natural gas properties in the United States. All of the Company's proved reserves are located in the Black Warrior Basin in Alabama, the Cherokee Basin in Kansas and Oklahoma, the Woodford Shale in the Arkoma Basin in Oklahoma and the Central Kansas Uplift in Kansas and Nebraska. The Company operates its oil and natural gases properties as one business segment: the exploration, development and production of oil and natural gas. As of December 31, 2011, the Company's total estimated proved reserves were approximately 201.3 billions of cubic feet equivalent (Bcfe), approximately 76% of which were classified as proved developed, and 97% of which are natural gas and 3% of which are oil. As of December 31, 2011, the Company was the operator of approximately 88% of the 2,785 net wells in which the Company owned an interest. In March 2013, it announced sale of its Robinson's Bend Field assets, located in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama.

Black Warrior Basin

The Black Warrior Basin is a coalbed methane basins in the country. The multi-seam vertical wells in the basin range from 500 to 3,700 feet deep, with coal seams averaging a total of 25 to 30 feet of net pay per well. As of December 31, 2011, the Company owned a 100% working interest (an approximate 75% average net revenue interest) in its wells in the Black Warrior Basin, where the Company had 507 producing natural gas wells. The Black Warrior Basin is located in western Tuscaloosa County and Pickens County, Alabama, and encompasses a surface area of approximately 109 square miles. The field has been developed on 80-acre spacing. As of December 31, 2011, the Company was developing its properties in the field on both 40- and 80-acre spacing. The field has seven compressor stations with 800-1,200 horsepower compressors, approximately 170 miles of gas gathering lines (wells to header) and approximately 25 miles of trans! portation lines (header to compressor). In addition, there are approximately 152 miles of water gathering pipes and 28 miles of water transportation pipes. As of December 31, 2011, the Company's estimated proved reserves in the Black Warrior Basin were approximately 84.9 billions of cubic feet equivalent, approximately 88% of which were classified as proved developed, and all of which are natural gas.

Cherokee Basin

The Cherokee Basin is located in the Mid-Continent region in southern Kansas, northern Oklahoma, and western Missouri. It covers approximately 26,500 square miles. The production is natural gas produced from coals and shales. There are multiple producing coal zones in the Cherokee Basin, including the Rowe, Riverton, Weir-Pitt, and Dawson zones. In addition, there are other productive shale zones, as well as conventional sandstone and limestone potential, which can add natural gas and oil production. As of December 31, 2011, the Company owned approximately 2,261 net producing wells in the Cherokee Basin. The Company operates in excess of 20 booster compressors and stations to gets its natural gas to sales points owned by ONEOK Gas Transportation, L.L.C., Scissortail Energy, LLC, Enogex Gas Gathering & Processing, LLC, Enogex Inc., and Southern Star Central Gas Pipeline, Inc. The Company operates a substantial portion of its production in the Cherokee Basin. The Company also own a 50% working interest in wells operated by Bullseye Operating, L.L.C. (Bullseye) and a 50% interest in Bullseye itself. Bullseye operates approximately 500 gross wells in Washington and Nowata Counties in Oklahoma and sells its production through the Cotton Valley producers cooperative, Cotton Valley Compression, L.L.C. The Company's gross working interest in its Cherokee Basin properties is approximately 80%, with its average gross working interest in its operated properties being approximately 100% and its average gross working interest in its non-operated Cherokee Basin properties being a! pproximat! ely 50%. As of December 31, 2011, the Company's estimated proved reserves in the Cherokee Basin were approximately 110.7 billions of cubic feet equivalent, approximately 66% of which were classified as proved developed, and 95% of which were natural gas and 5% of which were oil.

Woodford Shale

The Woodford Shale is located in the Arkoma Basin in southern Oklahoma. As of December 31, 2011, the Company owned 82 well bores, or approximately 9 net producing wells, located in Coal and Hughes counties. This area is gas-rich and is characterized by multiple productive zones. The production of natural gas in the Woodford Shale comes from shale rock that has been stimulated through fracturing jobs after a horizontal well has been drilled. As of December 31, 2011, the Company's 82 wells had an average gross working interest of 11.3% and an average net revenue interest of 9.1%. Approximately 90% of the wells are operated by affiliates of Devon Energy Corporation (Devon) and Newfield Exploration Mid-Continent, Inc. (Newfield), with the remaining wells operated by three additional companies. As of December 31, 2011, the Company's estimated proved reserves in the Woodford Shale were approximately 5.2 billions of cubic feet equivalent.

Central Kansas Uplift

The Central Kansas Uplift is an oil prone region located in Kansas and southern Nebraska. As of December 31, 2011, the Company had a gross acreage position of 4,345 acres, or approximately 1,050 net acres and the Company owned 39 gross wells, or approximately 8 net producing wells. Murfin Drilling Company, Inc., an oil producer in Kansas, operates all of the Company's wells in this region. During the year ended December 31, 2011, the average gross working interest in the wells is approximately 21% and the average net revenue interest is approximately 17%. As of December 31, 2011, the Company's proved reserves in the Central Kansas Uplift were approximately 0.5 billions of cubic feet equivalent, approximately 88%! of which! were classified as proved developed and all of which were oil.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Rich Smith]

    The bulk of these awards came in the form of a single multiple-award, task-order contract to be shared among several energy companies:

    Constellation Energy Partners LLC's (NYSEMKT: CEP  ) Constellation NewEnergy subsidiary Privately held ECC Renewables LLC Enel Green Power North America, a subsidiary of Italy's Enel SpA LTC Federal LLC Siemens' (NYSE: SI  ) Government Technologies unit

    These five firms are now authorized to bid for individual task orders under an umbrella contract for the procurement of renewable and alternative energy from facilities that are designed, financed, constructed, operated and maintained by private companies on private land under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense. The ceiling value on this contract is $7 billion, thus accounting for 84% of the value of all Pentagon contracts awarded yesterday.

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Barnes Group Inc (B)

Barnes Group Inc. is an international aerospace and industrial components manufacturer and logistics services company serving a range of end markets and customers. The products and services provided by Barnes Group are critical components for applications, which provide transportation, communication, manufacturing and technology. The Company operates under two global business segments: Logistics and Manufacturing Services, and Precision Components. On December 30, 2011, the Company sold its Barnes Distribution Europe (BDE) business to Berner SE. In August 2012, the Company acquired Synventive Molding Solutions.

Logistics and Manufacturing Services

Logistics and Manufacturing Services provides logistics support and repair services. Value-added logistics support services include inventory management, technical sales, and supply chain solutions for maintenance, repair, operating, and production supplies and services. Repair services provided include the manufacturing of spare parts for the refurbishment and repair of engineered components and assemblies for commercial and military aviation. Logistics and Manufacturing Services has sales, distribution, and manufacturing operations in the United States, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Mexico, Singapore, Spain and the United Kingdom. Products and services are available in more than 30 countries.

The global operations are engaged in supplying, servicing and manufacturing of maintenance, repair and operating components. Activities include logistics support through vendor-managed inventory and technical sales for stocked replacement parts and other products, catalog offerings and custom solutions, and the manufacture and delivery of aerospace aftermarket spare parts, including the revenue sharing programs (RSPs) under, which the Company receives right to supply designated aftermarket parts over the life of the related aircraft engine program, and component repairs. In addition, the manufacturing and supplying of aerospace! aftermarket spare parts, including the RSPs, are dependent upon the reliable and timely delivery of components.

Precision Components

Precision Components is a global supplier of engineered components for critical applications focused on providing solutions for a industrial, transportation and aerospace customer base. It is equipped to produce every type of precision spring, from fine hairsprings for electronics and instruments to heavy-duty springs for machinery, as well as precision-machined and fabricated components and assemblies for OEM turbine engine, airframe and industrial gas turbine builders globally, and the military. It is also a manufacturer and supplier of precision mechanical products, including precision mechanical springs, compressor reed valves and nitrogen gas products. Precision Components also manufactures punched and fine-blanked components used in transportation and industrial applications, nitrogen gas springs and manifold systems used to control stamping presses, and retention rings, which position parts on a shaft or other axis.

Precision Components has a customer base with products purchased by durable goods manufacturers located in industries, including transportation, consumer products, farm equipment, telecommunications, medical devices, home appliances and electronics, and airframe and gas turbine engine manufacturers for commercial and military jets, business jets, and land-based industrial gas turbines. Long-standing customer relationships enable Precision Components to participate in the design phase of components and assemblies, through which customers receive the benefits of manufacturing research, testing and evaluation. Products are sold through Precision Components��direct sales force and a distribution channel. Precision Components has manufacturing, sales, assembly and distribution operations in the United States, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand and the United Kingdo! m.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Michael Flannelly]

    Before the opening bell on Tuesday, aerospace and industrial components manufacturer Barnes Group Inc. (B) announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire M盲nner, a privately held, Germany-based company that is a leader in high precision mold-making, valve gate hot runner systems, and system solutions for the medical/pharmaceutical, packaging, and personal care/health care industries.

    Barnes Group has agreed to purchase all of the capital stocks of M盲nner�operating companies for ��75 million, or about $372.6 million. Following the closing of the deal, which is expected to occur in October or November of 2013, M盲nner�will operate as a business unit within Barnes Group’s Industrial Segment.

    M盲nner�operates out of three manufacturing locations in Germany, Switzerland, and the United Sates. Furthermore, it has sales offices in Europe, China, and Japan.

    Barnes Group shares were inactive during pre-market trading on Tuesday. The stock is up 55.48% year-to-date.

  • [By Seth Jayson]

    Calling all cash flows
    When you are trying to buy the market's best stocks, it's worth checking up on your companies' free cash flow once a quarter or so, to see whether it bears any relationship to the net income in the headlines. That's what we do with this series. Today, we're checking in on Barnes Group (NYSE: B  ) , whose recent revenue and earnings are plotted below.

  • [By Rich Duprey]

    Citing the benefits of providing high-margin, low-cost consumables with a broad distribution footprint throughout the U.S. and Canada, industrial supplier MSC Industrial Direct (NYSE: MSM  ) announced today that it has completed the�acquisition of Barnes Group's (NYSE: B  ) �North American distribution business�for $550 million.

  • [By Thomas Sobon]

    (6) Trend reversals are difficult to forecast in advance but they don't have to be. They occur when the trend lines as indicated by the moving averages are newly broken. In order for the reversal to be complete, all three of the moving averages have to be broken. Once broken, you either have a "durable" reversal or a "false" reversal. With lots of practice, you can learn how to (A) make decisions early in the reversal process and (B) distinguish between durable and false reversals.

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Unite Group(UTG.L)

The UNITE Group plc engages in the development and management of student residential accommodation in the United Kingdom. It provides accommodation to approximately 40,000 students with 39,739 bed spaces in 129 properties across 24 university towns and cities. The company was founded in 1991 and is based in Bristol, the United Kingdom.

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Compuware Corporation(CPWR)

Compuware Corporation provides software and Web performance solutions, professional services, and application services in the United States, Europe, and Africa. The company?s software products consist of Mainframe, Vantage, Changepoint, and Uniface product lines. Its Mainframe product line includes File-AID, Xpediter, Hiperstation, Abend-AID, and Strobe used for application analysis, testing, defect detection and remediation, fault management, file and data management, data compliance, and application performance management in the IBM z/OS environment. The company?s Vantage products provide an end-to-end approach for managing application performance by combining end user experience monitoring, business service management, and application performance monitoring; Changepoint products are management and professional services automation solutions that address the needs of executives in technology companies, enterprise IT, and professional service organizations; and Uniface i s an application development environment for building, renewing, and integrating the enterprise applications. It also offers Web application performance management services, which are marketed under the Gomez brand name, are used by enterprises to test and monitor their Web and mobile applications while in development and after deployment. In addition, the company provides professional services, such as implementation, consulting, and training services, as well as various IT services for mainframe, distributed, and mobile environments; and application services, which are marketed under the Covisint brand name that offers SaaS platform providing industry-specific solutions for organizations in the automotive, healthcare, and energy markets, as well as provides support services. The company serves IT departments of various commercial and government organizations. Compuware Corporation was founded in 1973 and is headquartered in Detroit, Michigan.

Advisors' Opinion:

    Karen Bleier, AFP/Getty Images WASHINGTON -- It looks as though President Barack Obama's fickle health insurance website is finally starting to put up some respectable sign-up numbers, but its job only seems to have gotten harder. Two months in and out of the repair shop have left significantly less time to fulfill the White House goal of enrolling 7 million people by the end of open enrollment on March 31. Signups were just over 100,000 nationally as of the end of October. The 36 states served by the federal government's website accounted for a paltry one-fourth of that, fewer than 27,000 people. But officials now say an additional 29,000 people enrolled through the revamped in just two days at the start of this week, despite heavy volume that not long ago would have caused the system to lock up. is the online portal to subsidized private health insurance for people who don't have job-based coverage. Though it's too early to say whether the corner is being turned, Obama is inviting consumers to give the website a second chance. Here's a look at the changes you can expect: Speed and Availability Independent testers question the blazing Internet speeds claimed by techies at the Health and Human Services Department but say there's been noticeable progress. "The trend is in the right direction ... but there are still things they can do to make the user experience better," said Michael Smith, a vice president of engineering at Compuware Corp. (CPWR), which helps companies monitor the technical performance of their websites. As of Thursday morning, the number of states where consumers are experiencing unacceptably long wait times had been cut in half, down to 13 from 26 states in late October. Compuware defines "unacceptable" as more than 8 seconds average response time to load the home page. The government claims a response time of less than 1 second. But Smith says that is likely being measured from computers with fast Inte

  • [By Seth Jayson]

    Calling all cash flows
    When you are trying to buy the market's best stocks, it's worth checking up on your companies' free cash flow once a quarter or so, to see whether it bears any relationship to the net income in the headlines. That's what we do with this series. Today, we're checking in on Compuware (Nasdaq: CPWR  ) , whose recent revenue and earnings are plotted below.

  • [By CRWE]

    Compuware Corporation (Nasdaq:CPWR), the technology performance company, will report results for its fiscal 2013 second quarter ��ended September 30, 2012 ��after market-close on October 23, 2012.

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Bigair Group Ltd (BGL.AX)

BigAir Group Limited, together with its subsidiaries, provides fixed wireless broadband solutions for businesses and campus environments in Australia. The company owns and operates the fixed wireless Ethernet broadband network that covers Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, Newcastle, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, and Darwin cities. It also provides private data links for a wide area network to multi-site businesses, including retailers and national organizations; and high-speed Internet access services. In addition, the company offers outsourced managed Internet services in the tertiary student accommodation market. It provides broadband and data services primarily through its channel partners comprising ISPs, carriers, and other IT service companies. The company was founded in 2002 and is based in Surry Hills, Australia.

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Sourcefire Inc.(FIRE)

Sourcefire, Inc. provides intelligent Cybersecurity technologies to commercial enterprises and government agencies worldwide. The company?s network security products include Sourcefire appliances for detecting, blocking, and analyzing network traffic; Sourcefire IPS to examine network packets for threats; Sourcefire NGIPS to discover the characteristics and vulnerabilities of computing devices communicating on a network; Sourcefire NGIPS with Application Control to provide granular control of applications; Sourcefire NGFW that includes application control and firewall capabilities; and Sourcefire SSL Appliance, which decrypts SSL traffic for inspection by network security appliances. It also offers FireAMP, a malware protection solution that uses data analytics to discover, understand, and block malware outbreaks; and Sourcefire Defense Center that provides application programming interfaces to interoperate third-party systems, such as firewalls, routers, log management, security information event management, trouble ticketing, patch management systems, and other technologies. In addition, the company provides Sourcefire Virtual Appliance, an application to inspect communications between different virtual machines; Sourcefire Virtual Defense Center, which provides central management, event analysis, and reporting services; Snort, a traffic inspection engine used in intrusion prevention system; ClamAV, an open source anti-malware product; and Razorback, an open-source project that addresses threat detection and protection. Further, it provides customer support, professional, and education and certification services. The company serves financial institutions, defense contractors, health care providers, IT companies, telecommunication companies, and retailers, as well as national, state, and local government agencies. Sourcefire, Inc. was founded in 2001 and is headquartered in Columbia, Maryland.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Eric Volkman]

    Sourcefire (NASDAQ: FIRE  ) now has a new leader at the top. The company has named John Becker as its CEO, effective immediately. Becker replaces the IT security company's founder and interim CEO, Martin Roesch.

  • [By Dan Radovsky]

    IT company Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO  ) has agreed to acquire cybersecurity software company Sourcefire (NASDAQ: FIRE  ) , the companies jointly announced today.

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: Cullen Resources Ltd(CUL.AX)

Cullen Resources Limited explores for mineral properties in Australia. It focuses its exploration activities on gold, iron, copper, nickel, uranium, tungsten, lead, zinc, coal, and other base metals. The company primarily holds interest in the Catho Well Channel Iron deposit in the West Pilbara of Western Australia, as well as in properties located in New South Wales, Queensland, and Northern Territory. The company is based in South Perth, Australia.

10 Best Specialty Retail Stocks To Own For 2015: World.Net Services Ltd(WNS.AX)

World.Net Services Limited engages in the development, provision, and sale of information technology products and services in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Malaysia. Its products primarily include Travel.World.Net, which is an integrated multi-user reservations and distribution system for use by suppliers and buyers of travel and tourism products; and Rosta2000, a labor management rostering system. The company also provides vendor application, a client server based application that enables a business to define new tourism products and maintain existing tourism products; SupplierNet, a Web-based application to load and/or maintain tourism products; Siteplus, a contents management application to define and maintain Website content; CRMNet, a Web-based call reservation application; GuestNet, a Web-based property management system for hotel reservations; E-Payment Gateway, a solution for online payment; and Web Services API, a Web-services API. In addition, it provides su pport services comprising implementation, hosting, and maintenance, as well as solution delivery, systems integration, outsourcing, help desk support, and end user training. The company offers its products and services primarily to tourism boards, wholesalers, tour agencies, and tourism businesses. World.Net Services Limited is based in Sydney, Australia.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Average rate on 30-year loan falls to 4.23%

WASHINGTON — Average U.S. rates for fixed mortgages fell this week as the latest data continued to indicate a pause in the housing market's recovery.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday the average rate for the 30-year loan declined to 4.23% from 4.32% last week. The average for the 15-year loan dipped to 3.33% from 3.40%.

Mortgage rates have risen about a full%age point since hitting record lows roughly a year ago. The increase was driven by speculation that the Federal Reserve would reduce its $85 billion a month in bond purchases. Saying the economy was gaining strength, the Fed pushed ahead last week with a plan to reduce the bond purchases, which have kept long-term interest rates low.

Data released Tuesday by real estate specialist CoreLogic showed that U.S. home prices slipped from November to December, and the year-over-year increase slowed, likely a result of weaker sales at the end of last year.

The December decline was the third straight month-to-month drop. Home prices had risen for eight straight months through September. For all of 2013, prices rose a healthy 11%.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that U.S. construction spending rose modestly in December, slowing from healthy gains a month earlier.

Most economists expect home sales and prices to keep rising this year, but at a slower pace. They forecast that both will likely rise around 5%, down from double-digit gains in 2013.

Steady job gains are putting more people to work and enabling them to buy a home. And rising prices should encourage more owners to sell their homes. A larger supply of available homes would likely boost sales.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country between Monday and Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1% of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage was unchanged at 0.7 point. The! fee for a 15-year loan rose to 0.7 point from 0.6 point.

The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 2.51% from 2.55%. The fee increased to 0.5 point from 0.4 point.

The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage slipped to 3.08% from 3.12%. The fee held at 0.5 point.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

New Net domains expand Web addressing system

The Internet is about to undergo a growth spurt.

Hundreds of new Net domains will go live this year, driving an almost 50-fold increase over the long-standing 22 domains such as ".com" and ".net."

Some of the Net address endings, or new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) as they are known, have already gone live in recent days including ".guru" and ".singles." And several non-English domains including the Chinese characters for "network" just became operational, followed by another wave of generic domains — among them ".camera" and ".gallery" — up for grabs starting Wednesday.

This unprecedented increase in Net domains promises a wave of opportunities for online identity building. "For the first time in a long, long time, you are going to have relevant short identities for your online presence," says Mason Cole, spokesman at Donuts, a Bellevue, Wash.-based Net registry that plans to launch more than 100 new domains this year.

"Rather than the vague '.com' or '.org' … now a business, an individual, family or organization can attach an Internet presence to a term that is very specific," Cole says. "If you are into biking, you now have '.bike.' If you are a plumber, you now have '.plumbing.' If you are a pizza restaurant, pretty soon you are going to have '.pizza.'"

Before the year 2000, there were only eight domains used – ".arpa," ".com," ".edu," ".gov," ".mil," ".net," ".int" and ".org." (There were also country codes such as ".us" and ".uk.") Two subsequent expansions yielded domains such as ".biz" and ".xxx" to bring the total of non-country domains to 22.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit group that manages such Net tasks, has approved more than 1,300 new domains, but will keep the additions to 1,000 or less this year. More than 120 new domains have been added to the Internet and will become available in the coming weeks.

"ICANN's function is to increase competition and creativity and the entrepreneurial ! spirit," says Brad White, the group's director of global media affairs. "What we did was lift that artificial limit (of 22 domains) and give the innovators a blank canvas: You guys paint the future of the Internet."

Those interested in owning a second-level domain — such as "mikes.bikes — can go to an online registrar such as, and Network Solutions and attempt to purchase it. (Those companies then check with registries such as to see if it's taken.)

Before domains are released, trademark holders have a chance to scoop up relevant addresses. "If you are Nike, you are going to get the first shot at '' and the same with ','" says Donuts' Cole.

Corporations have been faced with a decision whether to aggressively stake out new territory during the virtual land rush. "Big brand companies are dividing almost equally on whether to participate in this system or not to play," says Peter Brody, an intellectual property attorney with the Washington firm Ropes & Gray who focuses on advertising and marketing disputes. "It really is unclear whether this is going to be a waste of money or is really going to catch on."

Hot Internet Companies To Invest In 2014

For instance, Apple applied for, and was approved to administer, the ".apple" domain; while Microsoft and Sony got ".xbox" and ".playstation."

Companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Coke and Pepsi have not applied for a domain, each of which requires an $185,000 fee.

"Many brand owners are basically putting their heads in the sand and hoping that nothing bad will happen to them, and then we have others who are diving in with both feet," Brody says. "And the new domain names may not simply be new Internet addresses for old content. It is entirely possible a whole new set of technologies and environments could develop ... that will offer some really different user experience! s."

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why Vail Resorts Could Celebrate an Early Winter Even More Than Polaris and Arctic Cat

Vail Resorts (NYSE: MTN  ) will release its quarterly report on Monday, and already, investors are celebrating an early cold snap in the American West by sending the resort company's stock toward yearly highs. To an even greater extent than winter-equipment makers Polaris Industries (NYSE: PII  ) and Arctic Cat (NASDAQ: ACAT  ) , Vail Resorts relies on a solid snow season in order to get visitors to come to its ski properties and stay at its resorts.

Obviously, Vail Resorts has a strong seasonal component to its earnings, and so expecting much from the company's October quarter is a huge mistake. Unlike Polaris and Arctic Cat, which have taken strides toward diversifying their winter business into an all-season affair with different types of equipment, Vail Resorts still largely relies on winter sports for the bulk of its success. Yet even with its seasonal losses during the late summer and early fall, Vail Resorts hopes to set the stage for better performance in its high season. Let's take an early look at what's been happening with Vail Resorts over the past quarter and what we're likely to see in its report.

Stats on Vail Resorts

Analyst EPS Estimate


Year-Ago EPS


Revenue Estimate

$121.19 million

Change From Year-Ago Revenue


Earnings Beats in Past 4 Quarters


Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Can Vail Resorts earnings finally perform well?
In recent months, analysts have had mixed views about Vail Resorts earnings. They've widened their October-quarter loss estimates by $0.06 per share, but they've boosted their views for the January quarter and the full 2014 fiscal year, expecting a better winter season than last year. The stock has climbed 9% since early September.

Vail Resorts didn't bring much momentum into the quarter, posting July quarter results that were underwhelming. The company's loss widened by 11%, with revenue slipping slightly during the offseason late spring and early summer months. Vail Resorts' guidance didn't raise any eyebrows, with the stock making only a muted response to the news given that neither of the two quarters in question is particularly important to the company's overall prospects.

Top Financial Companies To Watch In Right Now

But the key to understanding Vail Resorts is that competition is limited by the high barriers to entry involved in the ski-resort business. Given the rarity of high-quality ski properties and the difficulty and expense in getting permits to build a new ski area from scratch, Vail Resorts' premium portfolio of attractive properties in high-profile areas like Colorado, Utah's Park City, and Lake Tahoe is hard to match. Vail Resorts has also looked to international destinations for growth, combining resort properties with associated rental opportunities to build new revenue sources.

One reason Vail might do better this year is that the winter last year had disappointing snowfall totals. That will make it easier for Vail to outperform last year's numbers, which could cause a boost among investors who aren't as familiar with the seasonal nature of the company's business. That would certainly explain some of the gains in Polaris and Arctic Cat, although with the equipment makers, you also have to include their efforts to diversify and become less seasonally dependent on winter -- something that Vail Resorts really can't expect for its part.

In the Vail Resorts earnings report, watch to see if the company announces any surprising guidance for its key winter quarter. With so much at stake, Vail Resorts needs to prove that it can make the most of favorable conditions when they arise, in order to make up for poor years when the weather hasn't cooperated.

Get growth 12 months a year
You don't have to settle for stocks that won't give their all 365 days a year. Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner, founder of the No. 1 growth stock newsletter in the world, has developed a unique strategy for uncovering truly wealth-changing stock picks. And he wants to share it, along with a few of his favorite growth stock superstars, WITH YOU! It's a special 100% FREE report called "6 Picks for Ultimate Growth." So stop settling for index-hugging gains... and click HERE for instant access to a whole new game plan of stock picks to help power your portfolio.

Click here to add Vail Resorts to My Watchlist, which can find all of our Foolish analysis on it and all your other stocks.