Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Comcast Left Bitter Taste

Comcast,the cable TV and broadband titan,alienated several customers on its way to the top.The company,which recently acquired a majority stake in NBC Universal from General Electric and Vivendi SA,consistently whittled away at its expanded basic tier of cable TV channels.It cut the NASA TV channel from the expanded basic lineup.Then it axed Retirement Living TV from the package.It also sheared off EWTN,the Catholic channel.Most recently,Comcast eliminated Maryland Public Television from expanded basic.
All the while it was depriving thousands of viewers of stimulating options,Comcast raised prices.The subscribers got less than what they originally signed up for,at a higher price.The taste of Comcast will not be on their favorite flavors list.Presumably the only reason Comcast hasn't eliminated expanded basic entirely is the political heat it would feel from local franchising authorities,should they dare to do so.No wonder these marginalized customers,many of them seniors,aren't cheering Comcast's recent success.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Foreclosure Plan Botched Up

John Geanokoplos,a Yale professor and partner at Ellington Capital Management,thinks we really botched the foreclosure relief plan.One of the remedies would have been to write down the principal.It takes a long time to evict people from their homes.During that time,the house gets partly destroyed and takes an awful lot of money to repair.We haven't seen the full effect of it yet.The mortgage servicers are keeping people in their houses longer and longer,collecting their fees.
Mortgage servicers can change or modify the mortgage.They have no interest in writing down mortgages,as they would lose their fees.They own second mortgages on the properties and want to keep the first loans.Most of the homeowners are subprime or Alt A.Together,their outstanding balance is 700 billion dollars.Almost all of them will end up being thrown out of their homes,Mr.Geanokoplos pointed out.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Danaher To Acquire Genetix

Washington,D.C.-based Danaher is continuing to augment its medical holdings.Now the firm is planning to acquire British lab equipment maker Genetix Group,PLC for 102 million dollars.Genetix has a specialty in imagery products that support drug,biologics and diagnostics development.The acquisition should be completed in Q1 of 2010,pending routine approvals.
Danaher also has extensive interests in dental imaging and instruments.Its board of directors has just appointed Dr.Elias A. Zerhouni,M.D. to the board.Dr.Zerhouni is an expert in medical research,radiology and bioengineering.The board feels that Dr.Zerhouni,who has been associated with Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health,will be an insightful and valuable contributor,especially given Danaher's growing presence in medical technologies.He is a graduate of the University of Algiers.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Boeing's Beautiful Moment

The attractive,two-tone airliner taxied on a dreary day last week after two years of exasperation.Not especially big,its swept-up wing tips rolling down the tarmac marked an instant of pride for American industry.After many delays,the white and blue Boeing 787 Dreamliner was finally ready for its maiden flight.Powered by two Rolls Royce engines,the replacement for the 767 had been in demand for its fuel economy.Constructed of composite materials instead of aluminum,it uses 20% less fuel than older models and,over its lifetime,will result in millions of dollars in savings.
The 787 showed a certain majestic grace as it taxied on the wet runway,taking a long time.It stopped for five minutes,as if contemplating its future,then resumed its trip.It had taken on a persona.Pausing again,it finally went with real speed,causing spray with its wheels.The takeoff was totally smooth,and its flight was indeed dreamlike,light on the wing over forested hills around Everett,Washington's Paine Field.It was flying to Boeing Field in Seattle,beginning the basic tests and system checks in quest of FAA certification.Boeing worker Kevin Hendricks said he was pretty excited;it was a pretty epic moment.He had been working on the 787 for two years.Other 787s were in production behind this one-the first of some 840 planes on order worldwide.Ten 787s have been assembled so far.Eventually,Boeing plans to produce 10 787s a month by 2012.
Boeing's suppliers have been ramping up in anticipation of full production.For them,this was an emotional day,bringing much hope to their factories.The second test flight is scheduled for December 22.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bill Gross Raises Cash

Bill Gross,"the bond king,"has rebalanced the industry-leading bond fund,the PIMCO Total Return Fund.He raised cash to 7% of the fund in November from -7% in October.Mr.Gross also cut government securities to 51% from 63% in October,which was a five-year high.He sliced mortgage securities from 16% to 12%,the lowest on record.The Total Return Fund is up about 17% year over year,better than 55% of comparable funds.
Mr.Gross feels that the bonds will decline in value when the Federal Reserve,reacting to an improving U.S. economy,raises interest rates in 2010.He is co-CEO and co-Chief Investment Officer at PIMCO,along with Mohamed El-Erian.They have been adding exchange-traded funds to PIMCO's offerings recently.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advances in Oncology

Our knowledge of cancer grows with each passing month,moving us to an ever greater understanding of the processes and origins of these complex diseases.British researchers have been cataloging the abnormalities which cause cancer across the human genome.There are 23,000 mutations in every cancer cell.Specifically,the scientists have mapped the genetic code for two common cancers:lung cancer and malignant melanoma.This had never been done before.Over time,such detailed knowledge should enable the development of new screening tests and treatments.The research was published in the science journal Nature.
One cause of genetic mutations is exposure to radiation.For instance,CT scans have now been found to cause more cancers than was previously thought.This important diagnostic procedure peers deep inside the body,resulting in radiation exposure worse than that caused by conventional x-rays.A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine says that,of all the patients that had CT scans in 2007,27,000 will develop cancers as a result of the scans,and 15,000 of them will die.The lead researcher commented that it is clear that many CTs are unnecessary.
While some oncology research leads to new treatments or screening techniques,other studies cause testing guidelines to be revised or reinforced,and may be just as important to patient welfare.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Energy Industry's Perspective

All of the United States' 140 million jobs depend on energy,in the view of Exxon Mobil.The World Energy Council says energy is the backbone of every economy,Exxon points out.That being the case,our energy portfolio must be expanded,not restricted.Despite a fall in demand,energy companies such as Exxon are continuing to invest billions of dollars in exploration and production.Exxon is averaging 25-30 billion a year in worldwide projects.These oil and gas activities support more than nine million U.S. jobs.More access to U.S. resources would add even more positions.The total value contributed to the U.S. economy by oil and gas in 2007 alone exceeded one trillion dollars,or about 7.5% of the Gross Domestic Product.
Developing all possible energy sources,including oil,natural gas,coal,nuclear and alternatives will keep energy costs down,create new jobs and improve consumer choices,Exxon believes.
The World Energy Council holds that sustainable development is not only about the environment.Policies which fail to contribute to economic and social development will themselves prove unsustainable.In order to support U.S. economic recovery and global competitiveness,the oil and gas industry is calling for sound and stable regulatory,legal and tax policies to encourage energy investments.
Exxon successfully led a consortium to access to an Iraqi oil field last week.As well,Exxon is purchasing XTO Energy for 31 billion dollars,seeking XTO's shale oil and gas holdings and expertise.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Geithner Exercises His Authority

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner invoked his statutory authority last week in a letter to the U.S. Congress.Mr.Geithner notified Capitol Hill that he has extended the Troubled Asset Relief Program,or TARP,until October 3,2010.He does not expect to deploy more than 550 of the 700 billion dollar war chest,and is looking for up to 175 billion in repayments by the end of 2010.Reduced commitments will allow significant resources to pay down the national debt.
Mr.Geithner said the extension will allow continued implementation of housing and small business support programs.He anticipates recovering all but 42 billion of the 364 billion in TARP funds deployed this year.Several banks,such as Bank of America and Goldman Sachs,have already repaid their TARP allotments.Citigroup is planning the repayment of its 20 billion dollar loan from TARP.At 9%,Citi's Tier One capital ratio is the highest in the industry,indicating its ability to repay the debt,in the company's opinion.Citi will sell 17 billion in common shares,plus 3.5 billion in tangible equity units.By 2010,Citi will emerge from the pay restriction regime.

Friday, December 11, 2009

USC's Medical Mecca

The University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine is a vast,world class system of institutions involved in education,research and patient care.It is a beehive of medical activity of all kinds.The underserved are cared for along with private patients.Research activities range from cancer studies to stem cell research.The latter is funded by noted businessman and philanthropist Eli Broad and his wife Edythe.
Keck's sprawling domain encompasses two private hospitals and a network of outpatient clinics staffed by USC doctors.Keck also partners with a number of other entities on medical facilities and programs.The range of its activity is so extensive,it's difficult to get your arms around at first.
USC is the largest private employer in Los Angeles.It brings more cash flow into the city than any other private institution or corporation.A magnet for foreign students,it is a co-founder of the Association of Pacific Rim Universities,a consortium of 42 leading research universities.USC employs about 3,000 full-time faculty and trains more than 900 medical residents.It has been recognized for its service to the surrounding communities by Time Magazine and the Princeton Review.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Commercial Real Estate Outlook

The recovery of the commercial real estate market is years away,according to magnate Sam Zell,Chairman of Equity Group Investments.We haven't had a major commercial real estate asset committed since July of 2007,Mr.Zell says,and it will be another 12-36 months before that happens again.I don't think normalization will provide equity to the current owners.The bottom line is,there's more debt than value.You're not gonna get anything if you do sell,Mr.Zell pointed out.
In his own case,Mr.Zell sold Equity Office for 39 billion dollars in 2007,at the top of the market.Somebody made him a Godfather offer,he jokes,and when you're not buying,you're selling.
I don't believe commercial real estate is the next leg down,Mr.Zell stated.The kind of real estate that regional banks loaned against was smaller,local-not institutional.Condominiums do not qualify as institutional real estate,Sam Zell indicated.Some observers have been warning that commercial real estate will likely cause a double dip recession when owners fail to get the refinancing they need as their loans come due.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Special Access:White House Jobs Summit

Christina Romer,Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors,related what she noted at the White House Jobs Summit last week.It was energetic and creative,she said.I heard some very positive things.Export creation came up,and a lot of interest in green initiatives like cash for clunkers.The one I heard a lot is credit.I heard a fair amount about tax incentives;a hiring credit;an R&D tax credit.The President wants to bring the private sector back in from the sidelines.There are gonna be fundamentally targeted measures,trying to get the private sector involved,Ms.Romer added.
For his part,President Barack Obama,speaking at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building across from the White House,said he heard some exciting ideas and proposals.There was agreement we have enormous infrastructure investments to make.We have to do this more effectively,with more coordination among federal,state and local governments.We also heard in the clean energy session how weatherization and clean energy have immediate benefits,the prospect they will pay for themselves by energy savings.There was consensus that if we can focus on the business opportunities of clean energy,America will be able to compete in the next round of global growth.
This is just the start,Mr.Obama said.The input from business leaders is gonna be continuous,the President promised.Ron Saxton,Executive Vice-President of Jeld-Wen,said energy efficient doors and windows could put people back to work immediately.Even a modest effort would create 10,000 jobs.An aggressive effort would create 100,000 jobs,Mr.Saxton believes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Dentists and Overall Health

The mouth is truly a portal to the rest of the body.That is why dentists are able to detect more than 120 diseases in the course of their regular oral exams.Clearly they should be regarded as integral members of the health care team.Some of the conditions they can spot are diabetes,osteoporosis,kidney disease,tuberculosis and high blood pressure.Their oral cancer screening is often a lifesaver.
If you have dental checkups every six months,your dentist may be the health professional who examines you most often.Their careful evaluation can be extremely beneficial to your quest for wellness.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Citimortgage Faces the Headwinds

It looks like home prices are gonna be under pressure for the next couple of quarters,says Sanjiv Das of Citimortgage,but he's cautiously optimistic with all the government programs aiding homeowners.We've really been out there trying to help,but face headwinds such as unemployment and homeowners owing more than their homes are worth,Mr.Das explained.We are massively increasing the number of modifications;we are reducing rates and extending the terms.
For Q3,we did substantially better than the industry,Mr.Das held.I can't fight the headwind of unemployment,he admitted.The thing here is to keep aggressively modifying as many loans as we can to keep people in their homes.In Q3,we processed 175,000 mortgages.The modifications are tailored to individual circumstances,Rajiv Das pointed out.The U.S. government is scrutinizing whether the banks are helping enough homeowners with its aid.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Canadian Province Courts Businesses

The Ontario provincial government is courting U.S. businesses through an ad campaign.Ontario indicates that it has a number of strong points for the businesses to consider,such as R&D tax credits;educated workers;and billions in government investment.There is a climate of innovation in the province,creating an ideal environment for green businesses in particular.
Ontario says its R&D tax credits are some of the most generous in the world.And their combined federal/provincial corporate income tax rate is lower than the U.S. federal/state average,the province contends.Ontario is transforming green ideas into green business,which is why over 2500 environmental firms have set up shop there,according to the publicity.
Many U.S. observers have been complaining that high U.S. corporate taxes are making the nation less competitive in the global economy.

Friday, November 27, 2009

MedImmune Recognizes Student Researchers

A panel of MedImmune judges awarded cash prizes to three student researchers recently.They are considered the next generation of scientific leaders in respiratory diseases,inflammation and autoimmunity(RIA).The students and postdoctoral fellows submitted abstracts on RIA research and presented them at MedImmune's Gaithersburg,Maryland headquarters.
A first prize of 2,000 dollars went to Eric Boilard,postdoctoral student at Harvard Medical School and Brigham&Womens'Hospital for his arthritis research.Dr.Anthony J. Coyle,Ph.D.,vice president of R&D,said the research submitted could pave the way for further understanding of these diseases and could potentially help in the development of new therapies.
MedImmune is committed to investing in future scientists and promoting health and science education,Senior Vice President of R&D Buhija Jallal stated.MedImmune,a division of Astra Zeneca,has a pipeline of over 100 research projects and product candidates.It has facilities in the U.K. and the Netherlands,as well as in the U.S.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vivendi Holds the Key

French communications firm Vivendi SA holds the balance of power over General Electric and Comcast at this point.The conglomerate has the final say on whether Comcast can acquire NBC Universal from GE.The decision will be handed down within three weeks,according to Vivendi Chief Financial Officer Philippe Capron.Vivendi owns 20% of NBC-U,and must sell its stake to GE,if the deal is to go forward.Mr.Capron said they are not there yet.
Through its various holdings,Vivendi is number one in video games and music worldwide;number two in France telecom;number one in Morocco telecom;and number one in Pay-TV France.It owns 56% of video gamer Activision Blizzard and 100% of Universal Music Group.The Parisian firm is led by CEO Jean-Bernard Levy.
Receiving a journalism award at Arizona State University,NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams said nothing about the deal.He did mention that NBC News viewership is up from where it was last year,however.GE's decision to sell NBC-U has been cited by some observers as a sign of the fading away of broadcast television.
Vivendi shares trade on the over the counter pink sheets.Their ticker symbol is VIVEF.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Feeling the Capital Markets

Duncan Niederauer is a man at the center of the financial world.As CEO of NYSE/Euronext,Mr.Niederauer feels the pulse of the business world as few others can.Young entrepreneurs were in his care recently as the NYSE held Global Entrepreneurship Week-Mentoring Madness.This annual event provides advice for young entrepreneurs.They were told to not just rely on banks for financing.NYSE awarded 25,000 dollars for the best business plan.
Initial public offerings are burgeoning at the NYSE.Companies feel like the window is open,Mr.Niederauer observed.We're gonna see if there's too much supply or not.It looks pretty good so far,he said.
Mr.Niederauer thinks it's easier for China to take steps more quickly,with their political system.Can they follow through for 2010?What they're really trying to do is create more domestic demand.The U.S. and China are intelligent enough to know that a mutually beneficial relationship is the only way forward,in Mr.Niederauer's view.
The market is telling you that they believe in what the companies are doing with getting leaner.I still need to see more consumer confidence,if you want my opinion,Duncan Niederauer confided.How the economy will do next year is the big question.We'll know in the next 2-3 months,in his assessment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Diabetes Affects the Eye

As a metabolic disorder,diabetes affects many different organs.It can have a number of harmful effects on the eye.That is why eye care professionals may be the first to diagnose diabetes in their patients.Most distinctive is diabetic retinopathy,or damage to the blood vessels in the retina,at the back of the eye.Other diabetes-related eye problems include a 60% greater incidence of cataracts than normal-at earlier ages and with faster progression.Diabetics are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma as well.Such complications of diabetes are a leading cause of blindness.To safeguard their vision,diabetics must be vigilant in monitoring the condition of their eyes and securing needed treatment.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Conglomerate Still Bulking Up

Industrial conglomerate Danaher is continuing to expand its businesses.The company,which has 1.64 billion dollars in cash,prefers to augment its portfolio rather than pay a significant dividend.In September,Danaher bought the analytical technologies business of MDS,Inc. of Mississauga,Ontario,plus a 50% stake in a joint venture with the Canadian firm.The total cost of those deals was 650 million dollars U.S.Then Danaher acquired the remaining 50% of AB Sciex,a mass spectrometry maker,from Life Technologies of Carlsbad,California for 450 million.And it's still shopping.
Danaher said it had a solid beginning to Q4.The order book was stronger than expected,with good results across all its platforms,including Gilbarco fuel pumps,test and measurement,and Leica medical instruments.The Craftsman tool line is the most famous brand in Danaher's holdings.Based in Washington,D.C.,Danaher was paying a 12-cent dividend as of yesterday.The company employs about 50,000.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beta Trade Is Waning

This current rally is not progressing at the same rate as earlier ones,according to Carter Worth of Oppenheimer.The good eating's been had.We're not getting quite the torque that you would anticipate,given the news.The market keeps bumping up against 1100 on the S&P.People are rotating out of the beta trade-the speculative trade-into the more established,recognizable names.It's a maturing of the rally,Mr.Worth believes.
Everything is starting to participate,in Carter Worth's view.That's where you get into the stall speed.You should double back and pick up large cap laggards such as Wal-Mart.2003 was a big recovery year.By 2004,hyper-correlation broke down.We think this everything trade starts to break down in 2010,Mr.Worth noted.
In fact, the S&P did break above 1100 this morning.It remains to be seen,though,if it can close there.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pfizer's R&D Empire

Drug colossus Pfizer has a sprawling research and development segment.Within its two R&D divisions,PharmaTherapeutics and BioTherapeutics,the company is investigating treatments for a host of ailments.The research units in each of the divisions include Allergy and Respiratory;Antibacterials;Biocorrection;Cardiovascular Metabolic&Endocrine Diseases;Genitourinary;Inflammation and Immunology;Neuroscience;Oncology;Pain;Tissue Repair;and Vaccine Research.PharmaTherapeutics is concerned with small molecule therapies,while BioTherapeutics handles large molecule therapies.
Pfizer recently closed on its acquisition of rival Wyeth and is busy integrating the two firms' research and development activities.This will result in the shuttering of six facilities and some 2,000 layoffs.Facilities to be closed are located in New York,North Carolina,New Jersey and the U.K.The company is headquartered in New York City,under CEO Jeff Kindler.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Trade Group Tracks Progress

The Institute for Supply Management,a buyers' trade group,has recorded gains in the manufacturing sector for the third straight month.The October reading for the sector came in at 55.7,up from 52.6 in September.The October estimate had been 53.0.Readings above 50 indicate growth in manufacturing.October's number was the highest since April 2006.
The growth tracked by the ISM was attributed to stronger U.S. exports,inventory restocking and government stimulus programs.It manifested itself in expansion of manufacturing employment for the first time in 15 months,registering at 53.1 in October,up from September's 46.2.
The ISM is located in Tempe,Arizona,which is adjacent to Phoenix.Its reports are based on surveys of hundreds of businesses.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Federal Reserve Stays Friendly

The slower pace of job destruction is good news,says Paul McCulley,Managing Director at PIMCO,but the rate north of 10 bakes in the cake that the Federal Reserve is gonna be friendly for a very extended period of time,which is very good for price-to-earnings values.The recent employment data reinforce the idea that the recovery will be slow.
We're gonna see the extension of various government programs,Mr.McCulley predicts,not a mega-package.If the unemployment rate continues to go up,however,we will see a mega-package in the next 6-12 months.The Fed can be incredibly patient and nurturing of this economy.It is being responsible in being accommodating.Money is being horded,given the 10% unemployment rate,which prevents inflation.
Bonds have had an amazing run,Mr.McCulley observed.Investors should start harvesting gains.The train has not only left the station;it's at the next station,in Paul McCulley's opinion.
The stock market surged this morning,apparently as comfortable with Federal Reserve policy as Mr.McCulley.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Coke Continues Health Push

Coca-Cola is continuing its healthy lifestyle marketing campaign.Coke understands what Americans need today,and is there to meet that need,not just peddle random products.With its signature brand,Coke is offering both low calorie options Diet Coke and Coke Zero,and Coke portion-control cans.
Coke is even introducing a new,all-natural no-calorie sweetener.Rebiana is derived from the stevia leaf and is part of the sweetening for 50-calorie Sprite Green and 10-calorie vitaminwater10.Coke says that,for nearly every beverage brand it sells,it has developed a low or no-calorie alternative.In the U.S. alone,it offers more than 650 sparkling beverages,water,juices,teas and sport drinks.People want variety and choices in all the beverages they drink,the company believes.They have committed themselves to continually providing a variety of options that help people make the right choices for themselves and their families.
Coke has set up a website for this campaign at www.livepositively.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

U.S. Steel Grew Stronger

U.S. Steel posted stronger results in Q3.The Pittsburgh manufacturer's net loss of 303 million dollars,or -2.11 a share,was better than Q2's net loss of 392 million,or -2.92 a share.Its shipments of 4.2 million tons were up 41% from Q2,and net sales of 2.8 billion dollars were up 32% from Q2.Year to date cash flow was 118 million from operations,maintaining the company's strong liquidity position of 12.5 billion in cash and 2.7 billion in total liquidity.
U.S. Steel projected another loss in Q4,although still less of one than Q3's.Output will remain the same.CEO John Surma said that although they currently have more of their facilities operating,with more of their people back to work,demand trends remain uncertain as both the U.S. and global economies struggle to recover.Indeed,U.S. Steel is idling plants in Indiana and Illinois to prevent excess production.The company has major production operations in the U.S.,Canada and Central Europe.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rally Likely At Peak

The recent stock market uptick is likely at its peak,according to Bill Gross,co-CEO and co-Chief Investment Officer at PIMCO with Mohamed El-Erian.We're seeing the new normal for the economy:slower growth,about half what it used to be.Mr.Gross admitted they try and keep their heads relatively small and shrunken in this business.Overconfidence is the spell of doom.
One may expect a very low return on assets,Bill Gross feels.We've re-normalized,although the price-to-earnings ratios tend to fake us out.To the extent that we see Gross Domestic Product growth at 2% in real terms,versus the old normal of 4%,assets will return less.We're living in an economy of deleveraging.Loans will be less available.Homeowners must put 20% down now,for example.There is a very significant shift in terms of risk preferences and regulation.
Mr.Gross' views are at least partially echoed by other observers of the financial markets.Christine Romer,Chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors,says the consensus for GDP growth is in the range of 2-3% for the next four quarters.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Berlusconi Contracts Scarlet Fever

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been diagnosed with scarlet fever-an illness typically associated with children.He probably caught it from his grandchild.Scarlet fever is characterized by a sore throat,fever and a scarlet rash.It is caused by a hemolytic streptococcus bacterium,meaning one which damages blood cells,causing the red protein hemoglobin to leak into the surrounding fluid.
Treatment for scarlet fever is by antibiotics,just as it is for strep throat,which is also caused by streptococcus bacteria.The infection is usually not dangerous if treated properly.Mr.Berlusconi reportedly felt very sick and canceled all his appointments this week,including a European Union summit.Some 25,000 Italians catch scarlet fever each year.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What Bothers Dennis Gartman

Money manager Dennis Gartman,founder and editor of The Gartman Letter,a leading financial website,says the stock market is telling you the recession is ending.Oil is up because of the weak dollar.If you start to get up to 80-85 dollars a barrel,you start to bring new technologies into play.New methods become profitable.
The Federal Reserve can be destroyed by congressional edict,Mr.Gartman observed.You have a left-leaning administration that will not tolerate rising interest rates.
Hedge fund misbehavior is probably widespread,in Mr.Gartman's view.This insider trading bothers him.I am a hedge fund manager,he said.We match wits with what the market's doing.This is sad,not a good thing for our business.
I got hurt in 19 October,1987,Mr.Gartman recalled.You had a stock market that had been going down for four months.My strategy was dead-spot on,but it just didn't work.Each time,the market is completely different,Mr.Gartman explained.
The Gartman Letter is accessible to subscribers only.Dennis Gartman is a frequent guest on business television,however.

Monday, October 26, 2009

AmEx Scores Double Beat

American Express beat Wall Street expectations in Q3 for both earnings per share and revenue.AmEx earned 0.54 cents per share,versus the estimate of 0.38;its revenue was 6.0 billion,versus an estimate of 5.92.Still,this represents a year over year drop of 22% in earnings per share,and a 17% drop in revenue.Loan losses were up,but at a slower rate.AmEx set aside 1.8 billion to cover bad loans,which is 13% lower,and its expenses fell 17%.
Overall,CEO Ken Chenault was pleased with the company's performance.He said it showed significant progress.Billings have stabilized over the last few months.It is the most difficult environment they have ever seen.AmEx's priorities are:1.staying liquid;2.staying profitable;and 3.investing selectively for growth.As a bank holding company,it offers a number of depositary accounts,as well as travel services,and publishes checks and day planners.The company's prudent management and affluent lifestyle branding make it one of the soundest financials over the long term.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Ad Council Thanks Donors

Ad Council,a non-profit group that sponsors health and safety messages by such icons as Smokey the Bear and McGruff the Crime Dog,has published a list of its 2009 donors.The President's Circle($150,000+):Coca-Cola,Google,Johnson&Johnson,Microsoft Advertising,PepsiCo,Time Warner and Yahoo;The Leadership Circle($100,000-149,999):Ad Council Board of Directors and Staff,Alcoa Foundation,Comcast,GE,Hearst Communications,NBC Universal and Procter&Gamble.Other donors include:National Football League,Bloomberg,Advertising Age,The Wall Street Journal,Univision Communications,Black Enterprise Magazine,Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia,United States Tennis Association and Facebook.
The Ad Council said its public service campaigns enrich,educate and improve the lives of Americans.Its health and safety campaigns include anti-steroids,diabetes management,H1N1 flu prevention and emergency preparedness themes.
Ad Council is profoundly grateful to its generous donors.Its website is at http://www.adcouncil.org/ Interested companies should call Nina West at 212 922 1500.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Small Business,Big Problem

Parts of the financial system are still very damaged,Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says.Access to credit for small business is still very constrained.We need to keep getting capital to banks and the Small Business Administration for small businesses.A recovery that's gonna work requires that it be led by private demand,if it's gonna be sustainable.We're not gonna make the mistake of putting on the brakes too early.If you look at the cost of credit,there's been a really dramatic improvement in the system as a whole.Generally the system today is in a much better position to provide the credit the country needs.
Private capital is more valuable than public capital,Mr.Geithner emphasized.The financial markets are open for capital,as they have been since spring.Regulatory reform must provide 1.much stronger protection for consumers and investors,and 2.a less fragile system,where the government can take action without putting the people at risk.
Getting growth on track led by the private sector is our number one priority,Mr.Geithner asserted.The big source of uncertainty now is how strong private demand is gonna be.Uncertainty is bad for business.When health care reform is settled,the certainty will be a very good thing for businesses across this country,Secretary Geithner believes.His speech becomes slurred at times as his mind races ahead of his tongue.He repeatedly returns to the importance of the private sector and small business.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Citigroup Tagged By Credit

Credit losses weighed down Citigroup's Q3 earnings.The company lost 0.27 cents a share.CEO Vikram Pandit said that,while consumer credit trends are improving internationally,the U.S. environment is still challenging.Citigroup experienced eight billion dollars in net credit losses.There was some improvement in late stage delinquencies,but there was still some stress in early stage delinquencies.Citi wrote down losses in leveraged loans,and it is likely that toxic asset losses will never be recovered.
The U.S. government owns a one-third stake in Citi,and Citi must pay the government and other investors dividends on preferred stock holdings.Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia,one of Citi's major shareholders,has urged the government to divest its position as soon as possible.This is unlikely to happen for some time,however,out of an abundance of caution.
Despite Citi's problems,Deutsche Bank has initiated coverage of the stock with a buy rating,and a target price of 5.50 a share.Citi did realize a Q3 profit of 101 million-much better than last year's Q3 loss of 2.8 billion dollars.An independent evaluation approved of Citigroup's management.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Medical Research Means Business

A professor at University of Maryland, Baltimore's School of Medicine is showing that he is a businessman as well as a scholar.Dr.J. Marc Simard,M.D.,PhD.,receieved the Research Lecturer of the Year Award from the university in 2007 for discovering a new use of the diabetes drug glyburide.An intravenous form of the drug may be used for treating strokes,head or spinal cord injuries.The drug can reduce brain cell death,swelling and hemorrhaging.In 2008,Dr.Simard received the university's Entrepreneur of the Year Award for his effort to market his discovery.This involved setting up a company,Remedy Pharmaceuticals,which aims to raise enough capital for extensive clinical trials on the way to Food and Drug Administration approval of the new use for glyburide.The company raised its initial goal of 22 million dollars,but more needs to be done.
Dr.Simard has spent many hours pitching his discovery to investors,explaining the complex science and outlining the business implications as well.He has known success as an inventor in the past,with 30 patents issued or pending to his name.Dr.Simard said he's happy to do the legwork for the benefit of patients with untreatable diseases.
University of Maryland, Baltimore has six professional schools,plus a graduate school.It is a world-class research institute and seed-bed for business.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Commercial Real Estate Check

The CEO of Vornado Realty Trust,Steven Roth,has been analyzing the sector's prospects.After a vicious,very sharp downdraft,Mr.Roth says,we are in the process of seeking a bottom.That will take 3-5 years.There's no doubt that commercial real estate has re-priced lower.Brokers and tenants now feel that we're in a bottom.We want two-year leases;tenants want long term.This is the traditional sign of a bottom.
The last cycle,in the 1990s,lasted 10 years peak-to-peak.From 1988-91,there was a vicious downdraft.We're exactly on track with the historic 90's cycle.That downdraft lasted three years,with re-equitizing and base-building for the next 3-6 years.That's the best time to do acquisitions and load up on capital,which is what Vornado is doing now,Mr.Roth pointed out.
The government's TALF program is going to finance the AAA portion of a real estate loan.By historical standards,that's a fairly low amount.Vornado is in the TALF queue for refinancing.It's a very slow process,Mr.Roth observed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gift Card Good News

American Express is going beyond what the new credit card law will require in its gift card provision.As of August 2010,the law forbids fees on gift cards held less than 12 months.AmEx is abolishing all such fees immediately,without exception.It used to charge two dollars a month on gift cards held a year or longer.To sum up:anyone who has an AmEx gift card,or plans to purchase one,should stop worrying that fees will eat up the balance.That won't happen anymore.It will be interesting to see if competitors will match AmEx's new policy.
AmEx stock rose 2.45 last week,closing at 34.94.It had a dividend yield of 2.1% at that price.The stock was up this morning in early European trading.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Coca-Cola Takes Health Tack

Coca-Cola says it is taking steps to help Americans realize their health goals.First,it is adding calories per serving and servings per container information on the front of all U.S. packages.To further help people manage their caloric intake,Coke is introducing 90-calorie slim cans in 2010.The company also points out that,since 2006,Coke has not sold full-calorie sparkling beverages in schools,in accordance with national school beverage guidelines.Since that time,total beverage calories in schools have decreased more than 58%,Coca-Cola reports.
All that being said,Coke goes on to admit that they know more needs to be done.Childhood obesity,and obesity generally,are major health concerns in America today.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sears Holdings' Christmas Strategy

Sears Holdings got an early and shrewd start on the holiday shopping season.Noticing that many of its Sears stores were in malls that had lost KB Toys stores when that chain was liquidated,Sears decided to take up the slack and start selling toys itself at these malls.Since August 15,Sears has been selling toys at 20 locations in the Chicago,New York,Los Angeles and San Francisco areas.The Toy Shops are stocking private label toys such as My First Craftsman,My First Kenmore and Just Kidz,as well as Fisher Price,VTech,Hasbro,LeapFrog and Bakugan.Specialty brands Schylling,Gund Plush and Thomas Wooden Railway are also being sold at the Sears stores.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Saudi Aramco's Long View

Saudi Aramco,Saudi Arabia's state oil firm,sees its prospects from a long term perspective.Oil demand in the West is currently very sluggish,according to Khalid al-Fallih,CEO of Saudi Aramco,but Saudi Arabia can survive on lower prices than others can,given the scale of its production.The world has 9-10 trillion barrels of oil.If we look at history,Mr.al-Fallih says,the industry has been able to replace its reserves and more.Our expectations in technology,both in discovery and production,have been very,very bullish.It's gonna take decades to shift from oil in any meaningful way.There is a happy medium,Mr.al-Fallih assures us,where consumers will not be hurt and investors will support exploration.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Study Shows Exercise Benefit

Twenty minutes of moderate exercise lifts the spirits for up to 12 hours,a University of Vermont study indicates.This significant positive effect was noted in all participants.Fitness level,gender and age didn't matter.The work-outs by the subjects were at 60% maximum aerobic capacity,which is the equivalent of a brisk walk.Exercise affects body chemistry,provides a change of pace and results in social interactions,all of which may induce a brighter outlook in participants.Perhaps mood medication isn't as necessary as was previously thought.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Citigroup Claims Progress Made

Citigroup,one of the world's largest financial institutions,claims it is making good progress towards recovery.CEO Vikram Pandit,in a letter to shareholders,summed up recent events,saying the company has been reorganized to best make use of its strengths.Citicorp focuses on providing best-in-class products and services to grow the franchise profitably,reduce volatility,and take advantage of its competitive advantages in more than 100 countries.We are making excellent progress divesting and exiting businesses from Citi Holdings,the non-core assets,Mr.Pandit indicates.We have significantly reduced our expenses and risk.Our balance sheet has been reduced by 25%.Our cost structure is also down by one quarter.We have also reduced our risky asset categories significantly.Our direct subprime exposure is down 65% year-over-year and highly leveraged financial commitments are down 75% year-over-year.
We still have a lot of work to do,Mr.Pandit admits,but we are continuing to build on the progress made in the past 18 months by focusing on our strategic priorities.We remain focused on managing costs and maintaining positive operating leverage and generating long-term profitability and growth from Citicorp,which comprises our core franchise,to benefit you,our shareholders,Vikram Pandit concluded.A reverse stock split may occur by June 30,2010,which means that several shares of Citigroup would be combined to form fewer,more highly-priced shares.The ratio of the split has not been determined yet.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Commercial Real Estate Needy

Dan Tischman,whose businesses are involved in construction,hospitality and realty,says it's refreshing the government is getting concerned about commercial real estate.The roll-over is going to have to be refinanced,and the capacity just isn't there.The Term Asset-backed securities Loan Facility,or TALF,needs to be extended.The total outstanding is 3.4 trillion dollars,while in a good year there was only about 40 billion available for lending.
Overall,Mr.Tischman observed,it's still a good time to build because of lower costs.Real estate investment trusts are actually doing quite well.Most of the major REITs have done money-raising to meet their obligations.I suspect there was a bubble of values created by an over-eagerness of lending.We're certainly not gonna see the values come back in a year or two or three,Mr.Tischman feels.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Aspirin May Prevent Diabetes

A study published in the American Journal of Medicine indicates that taking aspirin regularly may help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.In the study,22,000 men were followed for 22 years.Those who took aspirin were 14% less likely to contract type 2 diabetes.Men are up to 2.5 times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women.Consuming 25-38 grams of fiber a day may also ward off the disease,as well as cardiovascular problems.Cereal,whole grain bread and oatmeal are good sources of fiber.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Midwesterner Garners Barron's Distinction

Don Dewaay of Dewaay Capital Management in Clive,Iowa,was the first Iowan named to Barron's Top 100 Financial Advisors,coming in at #58.The competition for the honor was formidable,Mr.Dewaay noted,and Midwesterners are too often overlooked for recognition,which made this honor all the more special.Dewaay Capital Management provides wealth portfolio management services to affluent clients,corporations and charitable foundations,managing over 650 million dollars for clients throughout the U.S.Mr.Dewaay was one of only 10 independent advisors named to the list,which is dominated by large national wire house firms.Independent advisor firms are a breed apart,Mr.Dewaay said,and he believes they represent the future of the industry.Unlike the large wire house firms,these professionals are driven entrepreneurs who built their practices with personal vision,principals and passion.That is rare in an often stodgy industry.I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to represent the universe of independent advisors across the country,Mr.Dewaay remarked.
Honors are nothing new to Don Dewaay.He was also named to Barron's Top Iowa Advisor list;was the only Iowan on Medical Economics Magazine's Top 150 Advisors for Doctors 2009;made the 2008 Forbes Magazine Goldline Research's Top 10 Most Dependable Advisors in the Midwest;and received the Better Business Bureau Integrity Award.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Money Manager Leans Private

In the view of Don Dewaay of Dewaay Capital Management,we've had two 45% declines in the past 10 years,and that's changing the way people save and invest.It's anyone's guess where this market is going in the next six months-or six years.Everything's been stress-tested,Mr.Dewaay observed.There's opportunity in the equity markets,but we focus on direct ownership of businesses and real estate.People have gotten farther away from their money,it seems to Mr.Dewaay.
Many investors are indeed taking advantage of the lower home prices,distressed properties and lower mortgage rates the financial crisis has resulted in.These will not last forever.KB Home,for instance,has resumed operations in the D.C. Metro area,feeling more optimistic than it has in some time.It had suspended construction and sales in late 2007,but plans to call construction workers and sales staff back to work,offering more moderately-priced homes for wary consumers.KB Home cited rising home prices and declining inventory levels as the reasons for its decision.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stimulus Funds Cancer Projects

Some of the U.S. government's economic stimulus package will be used to fund four cancer projects by Science Applications International Corporation,or SAIC,for the National Cancer Institute in Fort Detrick,Maryland.The funding will be an estimated 302.5 million dollars for the Cancer Genome Atlas;Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments,or TARGET;NCI Community Cancer Centers Program;and the Cancer Human Biobank.These projects will further genomic research on tumor samples;create mini-cancer centers for clinical trials and research specimen collection and storage in local communities;and develop standardized procedures that are evidence-based for biospecimen collection and processing,storage and distribution for research,while creating a publicly-accessible database.
SAIC has been an NCI contractor for many years.It was founded in 1969 by a small group of scientists led by J. Robert Beyster,Ph.D.A FORTUNE 500 company,SAIC and its subsidiaries have about 45,000 employees in more than 150 cities worldwide.SAIC specializes in addressing complex and critical technology-related needs,such as national security,energy,the environment,health and critical infrastructure.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Coalition Fights Food Taxes

President Barack Obama has promised that health care reform will be deficit-neutral.A coalition of trade groups,businesses,unions and other organizations,as well as individuals,have banded together to resist proposed new taxes on food and beverages to partially fund the reform.In an open letter to the U.S. Congress,the coalition said they support the reform,but new taxes on food and beverages,especially those that single out a single product such as juice and soda,have no place in it.Such taxes,they say,will only burden working families already struggling in the trying economy.They will not make people healthier,teach children healthier lifestyles or change anyone's behavior.Only education and support for physical activity programs will do that.
Among those signing the letter were the National Taxpayers Union,the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,the League of United Latin American Citizens,the American Beverage Association,the National Retail Federation,Teamsters Local Union 812(New York,NY),the Pennsylvania Restaurant Association and the Wisconsin Grocers Association.The coalition,known as Americans Against Food Taxes,consists of nearly 400 groups,businesses and organizations,plus 60,000 individuals.

Monday, September 14, 2009

NYSE/Euronext Sheds Business

NYSE/Euronext,parent of the New York Stock Exchange,is selling its old AMEX options business to key liquidity providers,according to CEO Duncan Niederauer.NYSE/Euronext has an 8-9% share of options trading.Options are rights or obligations to buy or sell something,such as stocks,at a certain price,within a specific time frame.Mr.Niederauer says they see more initial public offerings,or IPOs,in the NYSE's future.The IPO pipeline is healthier than it's been in a while.IPO listing is considered an important indicator of economic vibrancy and the strength of a financial center such as New York.
On the other hand,we've had a 50% run-up in stocks since March,Mr.Niederauer pointed out,but the economy is not keeping up with the market right now.Every business leader he's spoken to said that.Is the market now ready to take on more supply in the form of these IPOs?Hopefully the market is the leader it always was.The challenge is,is there too much exchange consolidation?You're gonna see us do smaller deals in the next few months,Duncan Niederauer indicated.Mr.Niederauer had worked at Goldman Sachs for many years.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

Prostate cancer is highlighted in September.It is so prevalent,the numbers speak.In the U.S.,192,000 new cases will occur this year,and 27,000 men will die from it.One in six men will contract the disease in their lifetime;one in 35 will die of it.Of those who get it,63% are over 65.If men live to 60,6-7% of them will develop prostate cancer by the time they are 70.Those who contract the illness before age 65 are more likely to die from it.In older men,it grows so slowly,they will probably die of something else.
Obesity and heredity are factors in prostate cancer's occurrence.African American men are especially prone to it.Screening for prostate cancer consists of the PSA blood test,and possibly a digital rectal exam,or DRE.Ultrasound and biopsy are used to diagnose this cancer if the initial screening is positive.Treatments range from surgery to radiation to hormone therapy.Some choose not to treat it at all,but undergo a regimen of regular testing instead,to make sure it isn't getting out of hand.The treatments are less burdensome than they used to be,although considerable discomfort may be expected.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Philly Fed Chief Reflects

Charles Plosser,President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia,has been analyzing the problems in the economy.Our survey in Philadelphia shows manufacturers are more optimistic,Mr.Plosser said.Unemployment is clearly the big problem.The other issue that we're waiting to worry about is commercial real estate.The exit strategy for the Federal Reserve is quite simple:we have to shrink our balance sheet,or we could be setting the fires of inflation in the next year or two.Monetary policy works with some fairly long lags,and that means we have to look toward the future,making some politically undesirable decisions,Mr.Plosser observed.
Credit is not flowing at the easy rate it was a few years ago.That's gonna take some time.It's a balancing act between the demand for credit,and the supply of credit.In 2010,we will see the economy gaining traction,but there are still some risks out there,such as commercial real estate-also with fiscal policy.
We've had a very massive shock to this economy.The idea it's going back to where it was before is probably not true.There will perhaps not be the strong rebound we sometimes see after a recession,Mr.Plosser suggested.He was formerly an economics professor at the University of Rochester and a visiting scholar at the Bank of England.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Early Edition:AmEx As An Investment

As of the close of trading Friday,American Express shares were at 32.84,down 1.40.Their 52-week range was 9.71-41.80,so they have made up a lot of lost ground since the market's March low.AmEx's price/earnings ratio was 26,which is relatively cheap for a credit card firm,while its dividend was comparatively high,at 2.2%.Barclays Capital favors it as being among those with a declining default rate and prospects for improved earnings over the medium term.
Besides its core credit card business,AmEx offers deposit accounts and prints checks.It has extensive ties with the travel industry as well,offering special deals with a number of cruise line partners.Its brand is among the most prominent and prestigious worldwide,which in itself gets AmEx on many portfolio short lists.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Health Uncle:Vaccination Update

Novartis has reported that its version of the H1N1 vaccine is very effective.It only requires one dose,rather than two as was anticipated.In any event,given the projected initial scarcity of the vaccines,a priority list for vaccination has been established by the Centers for Disease Control.The list is as follows:children 6 months to four years;children 5-18 years;those of any age who are pregnant,live with or care for children younger than 6 months,or are health care or emergency services workers.Once those groups have been vaccinated,everyone age 25-64 should be vaccinated.
Vaccination schedules for regular flu shots are already being posted,so check with your local health department for that information.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Final Demand Question

Mohamed El-Erian,co-CEO and co-Chief Investment Officer of PIMCO,says what we have in the market right now is a sugar high.It is caused by 1.the impact of the inventory cycle,but will we get a hand-off to final demand by the consumer? and 2.a tremendous amount of liquidity missed the rally and is coming in now.When we get personal consumption and retail sales numbers-these are critical numbers.
Unfortunately,Mr.El-Erian noted,there is a lack of excitement about the upcoming G20 summit in Pittsburgh,which is concerning.I hope we're gonna jump-start this whole summit process.We at PIMCO have positioned ourselves more cautiously in higher quality assets around the world.Asset prices reflect a lot about this third hand-off to final demand,which the data don't reflect yet.Up till 2019,the debt-to-GDP ratio is gonna continue to go up.The dollar is gonna weaken.It's part of the global rebalancing.The question is whether it will do this in a disorderly fashion.Without intervention or coordination,the risk of this is high,Mohamed El-Erian cautioned.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A Moment of Limelight

Saturday evening hundreds of U.S. Senate staff and colleagues gathered on the Capitol steps to honor the late Senator Edward Kennedy.The senators' flag-draped coffin was brought by for a brief ceremony led by House Chaplain Rev.Daniel Coughlin,who described the senator as exhibiting true contemplative leadership.Across the street from the Capitol,members of the public assembled.The U.S. Capitol Police estimated the crowd to be about 1,000 people.As the police paced,the crowd chattered and sometimes laughed,lively despite the tropical heat of Washington in August.
Many of the staffers carried small American flags,or stuck them in their pockets.Several of them wore business suits in spite of the oppressive conditions.At least one staffer sported a Boston Red Sox cap-the late senators' favorite team.It was a rare glimpse of just how many people it takes to run the daily operations of the U.S. Senate.Representative Patrick Kennedy(D-Rhode Island),Senator Kennedy's son,told the staffers his father would be very proud to see you all out here today,and I thank you on behalf of my family.After a few prayers and patriotic songs,the cortege moved on to Arlington National Cemetery for a twilight interment,sent off by applause and cheers from the steadfast hard workers.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Health Uncle:Hand Washing Works

A study in the Journal of Clinical Outcomes Management shows the importance of hand washing by health care workers.Conducted at a medical center near Baltimore,the study tracked an effort by the hospital to reduce the spread of the deadly MRSA infection,caused by an antibiotic-resistant staph bacterium.Certain staff members acted as enforcers of the hand washing regimen,reminding offenders of their responsibility.In consequence,during a three year time frame,hand washing increased from about 40% to more than 90%,and the number of hospital-transmitted MRSA infections went down by 49%,in spite of MRSA admissions going up.The unnecessary usage of antibiotics contributes to the resistance shown by MRSA bacteria in recent years.
The study also serves to remind everyone of the necessity of hygiene for good health.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fund Manager Sees Overextension

Barbara Marcin,fund manager of the PIMCO Blue Chip Value Fund,thinks we're about 6-9 months ahead of ourselves.You should be a little more defensive,buying high quality companies with global exposure that pay a dividend,such as PepsiCo,Kraft Foods or Johnson and Johnson.They have good balance sheets with strong cash flow.Their relative performance is what's gonna stand out in the next year or two,Ms.Marcin believes.Her colleague at PIMCO,Mohamed El-Erian,says that the market and economics are not reconciled right now.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Early Edition:Manufacturing Picks Up

The Empire State Manufacturing Index showed a big jump in new orders and shipments for July.The index rose 13% to a reading of 12.1.It is the first time the Empire State showed regional growth since February 2007.At the same time,the Philly Fed index showed a reading of 4.2 for July,versus -7.5 for June.A reading above 0 indicates expansion in Mid-Atlantic manufacturing.These positive readings are probably due to inventory replenishment,rather than a spike in consumer demand.As such,they may be only a temporary improvement.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Uncle:Businesses Asked to Prepare

The U.S. government is asking the business community to prepare now for what could be an autumn resurgence of the H1N1 virus,or swine flu.Businesses are being urged to administer the regular flu shot early this year,and to encourage vaccination of those at risk with the swine flu vaccine as soon as possible.At risk groups include pregnant women,younger workers and those with weakened immune systems.Businesses should also ask those with flu symptoms to stay home.Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said let's not play wait-and-see.We are asking the business community to be proactive.Should numerous workers fall ill,the economic impact would be substantial.Each business should develop unique contingency plans.
The government expects 45 million doses of swine flu vaccine,produced by GlaxoSmithKline,Novartis and others,to be available by mid-October.The vaccine is currently in clinical trials,some of them for children.One father remarked that his child might as well get the free trial shot now,rather than have to pay for it later.Two injections may be required,in addition to the regular flu vaccine.The pediatric trials are being held at 11 sites in 9 states.Each child gets a 40 dollar gift card for participating.
The World Health Organization is warning that the number of swine flu cases worldwide could double every three days for several months.The total could reach two billion cases.So far,more than 14,000 deaths from swine flu have been reported.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

NASA Budget Won't Fly

Norm Augustine,former Lockheed Martin CEO,says that NASA's current human spaceflight program isn't executable with the resources we have.Mr.Augustine is leading a panel evaluating the program for NASA and President Barack Obama,the Review of Human Spaceflight Plans Committee.We are short four billion dollars;plus there are formidable technical challenges to consider.One of them is cosmic rays,which may be dangerous to the astronauts.The lengthy missions ahead would involve exposure to the rays for long periods of time,and the result of that is unknown.As well,the astronauts would be weightless for extended periods,and that is known to be harmful.
Going to Mars is an even greater challenge than returning to the Moon.It takes radio signals 20 minutes to travel from Mars back to earth.The astronauts would really be on their own out there.We spent a lot of money on the Apollo Moon missions.Going to Mars would be much more expensive.
Mr.Augustine's panel started out with over 3,000 options.They have narrowed them down to four-plus the basic program.One of the options is to delay the new Aries program,extending the shuttle program to fill in the gap.The routine transport of goods and people should be commercialized while the astronauts focus on scientific work.A 20% increase in NASA's budget would get us to Mars,the asteroids,and back to the Moon.
Today we are partnered with our former space rivals the Russians,Mr.Augustine observed.Many of our spacecraft use Russian engines.Space is one of the few areas where America still leads.If we don't lead,someone else will,he warned.
The committee met with NASA and White House officials on 14 August.The final report of the committee is being prepared.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Early Edition:Ivanka Trump Assesses Situation

Ivanka Trump of The Trump Organization says she isn't totally sure the recent stock market gains are based on fundamentals.I just don't know how to believe this is a V-shaped recovery,as opposed to a W.Commercial real estate hasn't really entered the system yet.I have a feeling that we're going to be coming out of this very slowly.Our consumers are still coming,but people are much more tentative in real estate and jewelry.We launched our jewelry line two years ago,Ms.Trump noted,wearing some costume earrings from the collection.
A massive deleveraging has to occur in commercial real estate,Ms.Trump believes.There has to somehow be a rationalization of that system.When people aren't hiring,they don't need office space.There's much more vacancy in the New York midtown core.Bankers are starting to call again to solicit business,but nobody's making substantial or reasonable loans,Ivanka Trump observed.A willowy blond,Ms.Trump has appeared with her father Donald on The Apprentice reality T.V. show.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Health Uncle:Whole Grain Helps

Typically,an American eats 12 grams of fiber a day,but 25-38 grams are recommended to lower cholesterol,control weight,and prevent conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.Researchers at the University of Minnesota followed 14,000 American adults for 13 years.Their study showed that the participants who ate one extra serving of whole grains a day were seven percent less likely to experience heart failure.

Whole grain foods include oatmeal,cereal and wheat bread.Developing a taste for dark bread may help you considerably.Many oat cereals are available,including inexpensive private label cereals.The same holds true for wheat bread.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

AmEx Better,But Challenged

Ken Chenault,CEO of American Express,saw improvement in his cardholders' credit metrics for the first time in 18 months,but,while his rates were better than expected,they still remain high by historical standards.The external challenges are not going to go away anytime soon,Mr.Chenault told investors.Bankruptcies will rise in Q3-4,and,as the yield on 10-year Treasuries rise because of increased issuance to pay for federal programs,mortgage and other rates will go up as well.
The largest decline in spending,Ken Chenault observed,is by the wealthiest clients.The economy,not housing,is driving the decline in spending.Still,the easing of credit card write-offs is allowing AmEx to resume investing in important areas such as marketing,promotions and customer acquisition programs.Mr.Chenault believes that Q3 Gross Domestic Product will rise 1%.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Early Edition:Inside the Employment Report

Friday's employment report showed a loss of 247,000 jobs in July,versus an estimate of 275,000.There were 14.5 million jobless,for a rate of 9.4%,versus June's rate of 9.5%.Average hourly wages rose 0.2%,while July's average workweek was 33.1,versus 33.0 for June.Non-farm payrolls showed the smallest decline since August of 2008,and the May-June losses were revived downward.Every measurement showed an economy in a slowing descent.
Hilda Solis,U.S. Labor Secretary,said as long as we see job loss,it's gonna be a problem.I wouldn't say the recession is over,she remarked.We're certainly on track to stabilizing the patient.The patient is still sick.The patient still has a fever.We know that we still have to be vigilant.We're gonna be very cautious.We want to move forward with our recovery plan.
The president has made an investment in renewable energy,health care and IT,such as two billion dollars for weatherization efforts,Ms.Solis noted.You're going to see a big change over the next few years in job creation in renewable energy.Tax breaks are going to come along.It's gonna take a while,but I have a lot of optimism that there's gonna be a change in direction,Secretary Solis stated.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Health Uncle:MedImmune's Building Binge

MedImmune,a subsidiary of British Pharmaceutical holding company Astra Zeneca,is embarked on a substantial building program.Best known for its nasal vaccine FluMist,the firm,which employs 3100 people,has broken ground for a 300,000 square foot research facility at its Gaithersburg,Maryland headquarters.At the same time,it bought a second building with 56,000 square feet nearby,and is erecting a 355,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Frederick,Maryland,where it plans to make its pediatric respiratory drug,Synagis.MedImmune comprises 25% of Astra Zeneca's biotech business.
MedImmune is developing a nasal vaccine for the H1N1 virus,or swine flu.The contractor that makes its nasal delivery systems,however,was caught off guard by the new program,and is having trouble meeting the demand for H1N1 devices.The U.S. government has ordered at least 90 miilion dollars' worth of the H1N1 mist,in addition to normal FluMist,which MedImmune has already begun shipping.This year,regular FluMist will be administered as early as August,when many school check-ups are given.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Exxon Mobil's Biotech Connection

Exxon Mobil isn't developing alternative fuels on its own.The Irving,Texas company has partnered with Synthetic Genomics,which was founded by Dr.Craig J. Ventner,a pioneer in the field of genomic research.SGI,which is privately held, acquires knowledge of organisms for energy and environmental applications.Exxon says that their goal is to produce a commercially scalable,renewable fuel that is compatible with gasoline and diesel.
Algae fuels would fit into existing infrastructure such as transportation networks and refineries,which would save untold amounts of capital.Their production wouldn't require arable land and fresh water,and could be accomplished on far fewer acres than other biofuels.As well,algae not only do not emit the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide;they actually absorb it.
Despite its promise,algae biofuel would be a supplement to hydrocarbons for the foreseeable future.Moving algae biofuel from the lab to the pump could require decades of work by a multidisciplinary scientific team,Exxon says.Enthusiasm for turning one-celled organisms into clean energy wells is tempered by the sobriety of a petrochemical titan.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Early Edition:Real Estate Check-up

Real estate and media magnate Sam Zell,Chairman of Equity Group Investments,says that basically we're moving to a position where single family home prices stop going down.It's the key to everything.That's where consumption comes from.Once housing stabilizes,it will stabilize the rest of the consumer sector.They must have confidence in their biggest asset.There will be a slow improvement in residential real estate this fall,Mr.Zell predicted.
Sam Zell described the commercial real estate sector as being underwater.He doesn't think we'll see any foreclosures of institutional assets until 2-3 years from now,when they can no longer cover.Every day you don't sell,you buy,Mr.Zell observed.Companies are,to a large extent,in pretty good shape.
Mr.Zell,a diminutive man with a goatee,also owns Tribune Company,parent of The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times,as well as Newsday and 23 T.V. stations.I don't have emotional attachment to assets,Mr.Zell stated-just to my family.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Health Uncle:Chickenpox Stays In You

If we've ever had chickenpox,we still have the virus in us.What is worse,the virus may come out of its dormant state and give us a potentially painful rash called shingles.Shingles affects people 60 and over.Why that is isn't fully established,though age-related immune system flaws seem to be involved.Shingles is often a blistering rash that lasts up to 30 days.Normally,the pain disappears along with the rash.Sometimes,however,it lingers for an extended period-even for years.
Merck has developed a vaccine,Zostavax,that can prevent shingles.It strengthens the immune system by exposing you to a weakened chickenpox virus.Zostavax isn't foolproof.It may not protect you at all,or only partially protect you from shingles.It is the only vaccine available for the illness,however.People with various medical conditions or in certain situations shouldn't receive the vaccine.If you are 60 or over and had chickenpox,consider consulting a doctor about being vaccinated with Zostavax.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quebecor World Emerges

Quebecor World,the Montreal-based printing concern,has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.The firm entered bankruptcy in January,2008.Having restructured its business,it will be known as World Color Press,Inc.During restructuring,the company continued to be an important employer at its plants in Fairfield,Pennsylvania and elsewhere.Quebecor,Inc. owns World Color Press,and is led by CEO Pierre Paladeau.R.F. Donnelley and Sons Co.,a Chicago-based commercial printing rival,had made a bid of 700 million dollars in cash and 394 million in stock for the troubled Quebecor World in May,2009.
Jacques Mallette,President and CEO of Quebecor World,said it was an important and exciting day for the Company,its customers,suppliers and employees.The restructuring and reorganizing process has made us financially healthier and allowed us to start fresh with a strong balance sheet and a leaner cost structure.We believe the Company is now better positioned to meet the present and future competition in the industry and to create value for our stakeholders,Mr.Mallette stated.
World Color Press will continue to produce advertising inserts and circulars,catalogs,magazines,books,directories,digital premedia and other products.It has about 20,000 employees in some 90 facilities in theU.S.,Canada,Argentina,Chile,Brazil,Mexico,Colombia and Peru.Its parent,Quebecor,Inc.,trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Beware of Government Aid

Beware of accepting government largess-it isn't free,Governor Sarah Palin warned.I resisted the stimulus package,and we have slashed earmark requests by 85%.Other states should follow this.Let's not start believing that government is the answer,Sarah Palin urged.

We can still carve wealth out of the wilderness,Governor Palin believes.It's what our first people and our parents did.We have come so far in the first 50 years of statehood.

Some still are choosing to not hear why she chose a new path,Sarah Palin complained.It is because she loves Alaska so much that she is avoiding the typical lame duck last year of a governor's term.She can fight for Alaska better that way,and she doesn't need a title to do that.She promised to be like a grizzly bear protecting her cubs.Here it is impossible to lose your way,she explained.We have that great North Star to guide us to the True North.God bless Alaska and God bless the United States of America,she concluded.

Immediately she was finished,Lieutenant Governor Sean Parcell was sworn is as the next governor of the 49th state.Sarah Palin's first major appearance of her new phase will be at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley,California in a few weeks' time.

Early Edition:Palin's Firey Farewell

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin bade a lively farewell to state politics in Fairbanks on Sunday,delivering a speech that marked a new phase in her public career,as well as the completion of an old one.Speaking to thousands,including tourists and supporters from other states,in a sun-drenched Pioneer Park,at the third in a series of governor's picnics around the state,Governor Palin minced no words when addressing the media.How about,in honor of the American soldier,you stop making things up?she asked the press corps.The fact that Americans volunteer for the military shows our best days aren't behind us,she observed.As for outside special interest groups,they just don't get it on hunting and second amendment rights.Hollywood needs to know we eat;therefore we hunt.
Turning to one of her favorite talking points,the governor said that,after decades of just talk,we're seeing oil and gas drilling at Point Thompson.And now we are on the road to the largest public/private energy project in the history of America,the natural gas pipeline to the lower 48 states.The pressing issue of our times is energy independence.You can be both pro-energy development and pro-environment,Sarah Palin insisted.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Health Uncle:Immune System Protection

The immune system is critical to the quality and length of our lives.A number of factors affect the system's functioning,so there are a number of techniques for enhancing it.One of these is stress-reduction.Laughter releases the mood-elevating chemicals called endorphins,which counter stress hormones that harm the immune system.Other ways to reduce stress hormones are meditation,listening to music and reading.
Exercise is another technique.In moderation,it increases the number and circulation of immune cells.A third technique for improving the immune system is dietary.Eating anti-oxidants such as vitamins B,C and other phytonutrients-nutrients found in plant material-fights the free radicals that damage the immune system.Such foods as blueberries,carrots,oranges and broccoli have high levels of phytonutrients.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

NYSE/Euronext Ponders Capital Markets

NYSE/Euronext,or NYX,parent of the New York Stock Exchange,has been analyzing the basis of the capital markets.Trust is the powerful global currency that makes commerce possible,NYX says.The trust between buyers and sellers;the trust in governments;the trust in open markets and in the innovative technologies that power them are crucial to the exchange of capital that creates businesses and jobs.Recently,NYX points out,uncertainty,not trust,has dominated the conversation in unsettled global marketplaces.Properly regulated marketplaces such as NYSE/Euronext are crucial to restoring trust by protecting the interests of investors through transparent and accountable business practices.
NYX notes that its fundamentals have guided it through triumphs and tragedies in every conceivable market condition.As new regulations are being developed today,these principles are as important as ever-if not more so.Proceed with confidence,NYX reassures investors.

Exxon Mobil Explores Alternative

After lagging behind other integrated oil companies in the development of alternative energy sources,Exxon Mobil has listened to many of its shareholders and gotten down to the future-distant though it may be.It is to spend 600 million dollars to develop transportation fuel from algae.The production of algae-based fuels is at least 5-10 years off.One acre of algae can yield about 2,000 gallons of fuel.
Chevron and BP have been multisource energy companies for some years now,while Exxon limited itself to improving batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles,and funding basic research.The Rockefeller family,whose ancestor John D. Rockefeller founded Standard Oil,the precursor of Exxon,have been especially vociferous about Exxon's reluctance to embrace alternative energy production.

Late Today

I'm running late as I was setting up a new computer today.Thank you for your patience.

Friday, July 17, 2009


I am grateful to the following news organizations for their assistance with matters of fact:The Associated Press,The Washington Post,CNBC,Nightly Business Report,the BBC,Investors Business Daily,The Washington Business Journal,USA Today,The Wall Street Journal,Bloomberg,C-Span,MarketWatch.Without my fellow journalists,I would be much more ignorant.

Health Uncle:Summer Hazards

The hazards of summer are mainly related to the sun on the one hand,and water on the other.Not everyone is active on the water,but we all deal with the sun.Heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke and dehydration are threats,especially to vulnerable populations,but the spectre of skin cancer is a less immediate threat,though a more widespread occurrence.More than 10,000 Americans die of skin cancer every year-mostly from melanoma.If diagnosed early,melanoma patients can survive quite a long time.Five years after diagnosis,99% of melanoma patients are still alive.
Besides melanoma,there are more than a million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed each year in the U.S.These are also mainly sun-related,but they tend not to spread to other organs,unlike melanoma.Non-melanoma skin cancers are typically found on the face,lips,ears and neck,which are exposed to the sun more.The eyes are at risk from the sun's UV rays as well.Cataracts and macular degeneration have been linked to the solar rays.Light-colored clothing,sun glasses,sunscreen and hats keep us feeling and looking cooler through those hot,bright summer days,and help preserve our health.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Del Monte Marks Tenth

Del Monte Foods has been celebrating the tenth anniversary of its listing on the New York Stock Exchange.Rick Wolford,Del Monte's CEO,said the company's business is about half-consumer and half-pet foods.Both are doing very,very well.People are eating at home more,and they are humanizing their pets.Del Monte's brands include S&W,College Inn,Contadina,Del Monte,Milk-Bone,9 Lives,Meow Mix and Puperoni.The Del Monte brand itself is a very strong brand,Mr.Wolford believes.Fifty percent of the company's commodity costs are hedged,protecting them from inflation.
Carly the golden retriever,the company mascot, accompanied Mr.Wolford as he rang the opening bell at the NYSE.

Morningstar's Wide Moats

Paul Larson,equity strategist at Morningstar,says the economy and its indicators are less bad.There's a big difference between less bad and good.We've been having simply a multiple expansion rally-just a rebound.It was not reflecting a meaningful recovery.There is not a whole lot of substance to the green shoots theory.
Morningstar likes companies with wide moats.Their profits are protected from competitors over the long term.Procter and Gamble is one of these.A third of its sales are in the emerging markets.Novartis is another wide moat firm.It is very diverse,being big in vaccines,generic drugs and consumer products.Lowe's is a third wide moat company.It's had negative same-store sales recently,but is very,very cheap right now,Mr.Larson notes.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Health Uncle:Medtronic Manages Diabetes

Medtronic is deriving a good part of its growth from insulin pumps and blood glucose monitors,says CEO Bill Hawkins.It gets 10% of its topline growth from diabetes products.Ever more sophisticated devices are being developed to combat the chronic disease.Medtronic has been increasing its spending on research and development by over 70% for the past three years.In consequence,they're on the path of closing the loop with diabetes,Mr.Hawkins believes.
Bill Hawkins described a number of the company's diabetes products,such as a sensor you put on your skin for several days that continuously monitors your condition.They're making continuous insulin pumps,and also a sensor that turns the pump off if blood sugar gets too low.Medtronic is working on a pump patch for the abdomen that communicates to a handheld device.They are working toward an artificial pancreas,Mr.Hawkins revealed.Groups of pancreatic cells,the islets of Langerhans,named for 19th century German histologist Paul Langerhans,produce the hormone insulin,which regulates the body's use of carbohydrates.Diabetes is a disruption of this insulin production in the pancreas.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Q2 Stock Market Results

The best-performing U.S. stocks in Q2 were Genworth Financial,up 267.9%;Bank of America,up 93.5%;and Wynn Resorts,up 76.8%.The worst performers were KeyCorp,down 33.4%;Cephalon,down 16.8%;and Wal-Mart,down 7%.KeyCorp has since been upgraded to overweight by Keefe,Bruyette and Woods,based on valuation.

Alaska's Buried Treasure

According to the U.S. Geological Survey,Alaskan waters cover more hydrocarbons than was previously understood.It had been supposed that the Chukchi Sea area held 30 billion cubic feet of natural gas.Now the USGS thinks there is far more natural gas there.They estimate the Chukchi field contains 30% of the world's undiscovered total,or 1.6 trillion cubic feet.As well,some 4% of the world's undiscovered oil is now believed to be under Chukchi-about 83 billion barrels.
The Chukchi Sea is off Alaska's northwest coast,roughly between Point Barrow and the Seward Penninsula.It is bisected by the International Date Line,with Russia being on the other side of the line.The U.S.Congress has yet to approve exploitation of the resource,while Russia is going ahead with the activity.Critics of Congress point out that alternative energy is still in its infancy.It will be at least several decades before it is viable,they contend.Alaska has the energy resources we can use today,Governor Sarah Palin insists.Environmentalists are concerned that development in the area will harm wildlife such as polar bears.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Health Uncle Early Edition:Half-Done

I will not be in on Friday,so I am publishing today instead.The year is half over now.It's a good time to assess our progress.Have the goals we established in January been met? Have we even started? I've often seen people start jogging,but it seldom lasts more than a week or two.Maybe they got too busy.Someone may have disturbed them.They forgot one day,then another,and eventually they just lost all momentum,coming to a halt.One thing is certain:their need for exercise hasn't gone away.The perception they had when they started is still valid.Hopefully they will restart their activity and fulfill their health potential in the second half of the year.Not only would it help them;it may encourage others to follow.
Happy Canada Day.Today is Canada's national holiday,formerly called Dominion Day.Happy Independence Day weekend.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Navios Maritime Notes Improvement

Navios Maritime continues to grow its fleet of dry bulk freighters,buying four new ships for 43 million dollars.The Greece-based firm ships iron ore,foodstuffs and other commodities.Its CEO,Angeliki Frangou,says she is very bullish on China-in roads and railways and every other way.The Baltic Dry Index,which measures demand for shipping,had gone down as low as 650;recently it went back to over 4,000.The BDI had been over 9500 last June.Navios Maritime's trade is based on the emerging markets.It is not based on the consumer at all,Ms.Frangou explained.

Procter and Gamble Gets New Chief

Tomorrow Robert McDonald will assume the post of CEO at Procter and Gamble.He has worked at PG for 29 years,and most recently was Chief Operating Officer-a post he is eliminating upon his accession to the top job at the company.He will also be assuming the role of President when Susan Arnold leaves in September.Mr.McDonald said he wants to streamline the firm's management,creating a simpler,flatter and more agile organization.This is a priority because it reduces cost,improves productivity and enhances employee satisfaction,the new CEO pointed out.
Mr.McDonald will be leading 138,000 workers in more than 80 countries.The company's sales exceed 80 billion dollars a year.Mr.McDonald,56 years old,succeeds A.J. Lafley,who served for nine years.Procter and Gamble operates in three divisions:Beauty,Household Care and Health and Well-being.The company's brands include Tide,Sure and Duracell.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Health Uncle:Farrah and Michael

America invented celebrities.Now we must deal with the loss of two in one day,shedding all the light we can on them for the common good.Farrah Fawcett,an actress whose alluring poster became the most famous of all time,went on to serious roles and battled cancer with the intensity of a commando-even before she contracted it herself.Michael Jackson knew the stresses of child stardom,but became the master of self-reinvention,carrying it to an extreme,in the estimation of many,by literally altering his face,even as he composed and performed at the highest level.Their boldness in the grip of adversity and the mundane grasp of this life set new standards for the world.
At age 50,Michael Jackson was in the prime age range of 45-55 for sudden cardiac arrest.It can be caused by many different factors:stroke,drugs,blood clots,aneurysm.In sudden cardiac arrest,the heart stops beating,and starts quivering,which is known as ventricular fibrillation.Unless the heart is restarted within a few minutes,the patient goes into a deep coma and dies.Loss of consciousness is immediate in sudden cardiac arrest.Drugs can cause it by constricting the blood vessels or stopping breathing.Family friend and attorney Brian Oxman said the whole Jackson family was concerned about Michael's taking excessive medications.This is what I feared was going to happen,Mr.Oxman remarked.
Michael Jackson's friend Celine Dion noted that since he was little,he's under pressure.I think he lived under pressure all the time,she said.He needed to be surpassing even his own self.If you only live under pressure,he didn't have the balance,Ms.Dion feels.Another friend,Cher,said she didn't relate to him in his later years-his behavior was so strange.He was a great teenager:optimistic and adorable,but not confident.He was a soft spoken boy always,Cher recalls.Cher also remembered the awesome strength of her friend Farrah Fawcett in the face of cancer.She was never sure Farrah wouldn't beat it,she was so resilient.
Two American legends died yesterday.Their lives and deaths were as varied as they were fascinating.Their spirits outshone the notoriety they shared.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Professor Supports Financial Reforms

The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s has ignited a big reform process.The proposed reforms would grant significant new powers to the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department.They would touch every aspect of the financial services industry.The Federal Reserve would be in charge of systemically important firms,which would have to hold more money in reserves to cover losses.There would be supervision of derivatives.Consumer financial protection would be provided by a new agency.Laura Tyson,a professor at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business,says she thinks the proposed reforms would addree many of the sources of the financial trouble in the world.They actually fill gaps and address systemically important institutions,whether banks or non-banks.I agree that consumer products and financial services are increasingly difficult to understand,Dr.Tyson said.One of the things we have learned is there are institutions taht pose systemic risk.Having a person who supervises them makes sense.The Federal Reserve and Treasury have been working together in this crisis.You're gonna have to have this kind of partnership,Dr.Tyson feels.

Focus on Regulatory Reform:The Financial Future

A lot of concern centers on the proposed granting of powers to the Federal Reserve for the monitoring and control of systemic risk.The Fed would have to get Treasury Department approval for spending large amounts of money during crises.At such a time,although Treasury is involved,it is very important that the Federal Reserve preserve its independence and accountability for price stability and stable growth,Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told the Senate Banking Committee last week.Central banks around the world have traditionally policed systemic risk.Proposed changes to the Fed's role are modest.The Fed chairman would still be accountable to Congress.Our solutions focus on the central causes of the financial crisis.Conservative constraints on risk-taking will mitigate the too big to fail hazard.There is no conflict between the Fed conducting monetary policy and policing systemic risks,Mr.Geithner said.
A lot of things contributed to this crisis,Mr.Geithner explained.Future crises will require a study of how macroeconomic policy contributed to them.We need to be realistic in recognizing how difficult it will be to anticipate future risks.The critical failure of policy was in not imposing constriction on leverage in the good times.The Fed has a better feel for financial markets than any other government entity.
We're still in the midst of a challenging recession on a global scale,and we want to be able to respond to future risks,so Treasury should retain any money repaid to it by financial institutions,Mr.Geithner asserted at the Senate hearing,wearing a charcoal suit,white shirt and burgundy tie.He seems to be gaining the respect even of Republicans who doubted his suitability for his position.The gravity of the reform process was clearly evident in the atmosphere of the hearing.You could feel the weight of the occasion on everyone's shoulders.Would the Federal Reserve lose its independence under the reforms,or would the Fed be too powerful? No one wants to disturb the delicate balance of the financial regulatory bodies,but the wheels of government are rolling down this path of reform,and there doesn't seem there is any chance of stopping them.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Health Uncle:Work and Stress

New cases of depression are often brought on by high stress jobs,a BBC News study suggested.Those subjected to the lack of control,long hours,deadlines and high volume of work that characterizes high stress jobs are twice as likely to develop depression or anxiety.During a one year study of 1,000 32-year old New Zealanders,45% of new cases of depression and anxiety were attributed to high pressure work environments.The surgeons,police, journalists and others were previously healthy.Ten percent of the men and 14% of the women study participants reported new cases of depression or anxiety.It is believed that fatigue,lack of sleep and stress hormones resulting from work may have contributed to the cases.The more control workers feel they have,the less likely they are to feel severe stress.
Pause for a moment.Make that moment yours.Have a peppermint or remember something funny.The smallest things can relieve stress and safeguard your mental and physical health.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

BlackRock To Enlarge

BlackRock is purchasing Barclays Global Investors,which is comprised of the iShares investment products.BGI manages about 1.5 trillion dollars-or about half the exchange-traded fund industry.When the deal is consummated,BlackRock will be the largest money manager in the world,with more than 2.7 trillion under management.That is more than the Federal Reserve manages.Consolidation of financial firms is a typical response to crises.
Barclays PLC,the British bank which owns BGI,will hold on to a 20% stake in it.BlackRock is itself part-owned by Bank of America and PNC Financial Services Group.Laurence Fink is CEO of BlackRock.

Positives and Negatives

The cyclical positives and secular negatives are in a tug-of-war,in the opinion of Bob Doll,Vice-President and Global Chief Investment Officer of BlackRock.The market is acting a little tired.Volume has shrunk some.Maybe we take a little pause here.I think we'll see a thousand on the S and P-maybe the low hundreds-first,Mr.Doll said.
We are of the view that the recovery will be sub-par,Bob Doll stated.Equities are O.K.,but we're not going to have the normal recovery,given the deleveraging overhang and the reluctant consumer.As for inflation,a lot of the interest rate rise we've been seeing is plain old normalization of rates.The velocity of money has not yet picked up.We have all kinds of unused capacity in areas such as manufacturing and labor,and we have to fill those up before inflation becomes a problem,Bob Doll maintained.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Health Uncle:Swine Flu Update

Swine flu,or H1N1,hasn't disappeared-far from it.Yesterday,the World Health Organization declared a flu pandemic.That means the virus is spreading in at least two regions of the world.It doesn't mean the illness is any more severe.Dr.Margaret Chan,head of the WHO,said the declaration of a pandemic places us in a strong position,but it also creates a need for advice and reassurance.
There has been a sharp rise in cases of H1N1 in Chile,Japan,the U.K. and Australia,but vaccine development is well underway,and the world is better prepared to fight a pandemic now than ever before.It is the first pandemic in 41 years;however,the death rate is far less than for regular flu-perhaps because it is mainly affecting young people.On the other hand,Dr.Chan reminds us that,like all influenza viruses,this one can change the rules,without rhyme or reason,at any time.All the more important,then,for us to get a good night's sleep,as this bolsters the immune system.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Starwood Likes TALF Prospects

Barry Sternlicht,Chairman and CEO of Starwood Capital,says he thinks everyone's pretty optimistic about Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities,or CMBS,in the TALF program.I think we're closer to the bottom of the residential side,Mr.Sternlicht observed,so now we can focus on the commercial side.The commercial real estate market is gonna lag the economy.Companies are gonna have to be confident before they get back in.This recovery is gonna be longer,deeper and broader than the Resolution Trust Corporation cycle of the 1980s.There still isn't any debt,Mr.Sternlicht noted,though TALF will encourage some lending.
When we buy land,we're doing it unleveraged,Mr.Sternlicht revealed.We're buying debt in property.There's one in Las Vegas we're looking at,and something in Brazil right now.You've got to be patient.The bid-ask spreads are huge,Mr.Sternlicht feels.

A Question of Balance

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke,whose four-year term expires in January,appeared before the House Budget Committee last week,assessing the shape of the economy.The Targeted Asset-backed securities Loan Facility,or TALF,has helped open up lending,Mr.Bernanke said,and he is confident that TALF carries minimal risk.As well,the recovery rate for Troubled Asset Relief Program,or TARP,funds should be excellent.We need to restore ourselves to a more balanced fiscal path,however.
Currency and commodity prices are factors in inflation,Mr.Bernanke pointed out,and will be watched carefully.Most indicators point toward stable inflation.There is no sign of a wage/price spiral.Picking a time to remove accommodation,or Federal Reserve actions,is tricky,but monetary accommodations can be unwound,and the decision can be made with political independence.The increase in federal borrowing has been offset by a decrease in private borrowing.
The fear of deflation has receded somewhat,Mr.Bernanke told the House Budget Committee.Retaining the confidence of the financial markets requires that we as Americans take action now to try and restore the fiscal balance.Financial institutions and markets do remain under some stress,but those banks required to raise new capital have made substantial progress.
We need to be on a path of spending and tax measures to cut debt,Mr.Bernanke feels.The stimulus program will have an effect on jobs for two to three years.When the time comes,we will need to raise interest rates,as the Fed is strongly committed to price stability.Q2 economic growth could be negative as inventories are worked off,but the Fed will not monetize debt.Businesses remain cautious and continue to reduce the work force,as the unemployment report on Friday indicated.Overall,Mr.Bernanke,wearing a gray suit,white shirt and red tie with a gold pattern,was sounding a note of cautious optimism,cognizant of the threat of deficit spending to the economy in the long term.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Health Uncle:Triathletes Face More Risk

Triathletes are at about twice the risk of sudden cardiac death as marathon runners,according to a Minneapolis Heart Institute study.Several hundred thousand Americans take part in the grueling triathlon event-consisting of swimming,biking and running-each year.Around 15 of every million participants will die suddenly during competition,as opposed to four to eight deaths per million marathon runners.Most of the triathlete heart attacks occur during the swimming portion of the event.Swimming in a natural body of water is more strenuous than in a pool,says Dr.Kevin Harris,a cardiologist at the Institute.The triathletes often just sign up for the events without having had a heart check-up.Many of them are not properly conditioned for these difficult competitions,Dr.Harris points out.Triathlons are becoming increasingly popular as charity fundraisers,and professional events are frequently televised on weekend afternoons,including the Ironman series,stoking the imaginations of amateur triathletes.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Economists Gauge the Prospects

A survey of economists conducted by the National Association for Business Economics shows that around 74% of them think the recession will end in Q3,while 19% think Q4 is more likely.A further 7% look for a Q1 2010 conclusion.The economists see the unemployment rate for 2009 averaging 9.1%,though some feel it could go as high as 10.7% in Q2 of 2010.This high unemployment will occur even if economic recovery begins,as companies will refrain from hiring until it is a certainty.The May unemployment report will be released on Friday,putting a question mark on the durability of the week's market activity.

UCLA and Medicine

UCLA's new medical center is already counted among the world's best,Mr.Broad says.The university's medical and life sciences campuses have expanded tremendously in the past few years.They've got great people and a culture that promotes an astounding level of interdisciplinary collaboration,he notes.The Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research at UCLA also bears Mr.Broad's name.He is also effusive about the community beyond UCLA's boundaries.It's worth noting,to Mr.Broad's mind,that Los Angeles hosts a unique regional network of first-rate hospitals,research universities and biotech/biomedical enterprises that fill the horizon in every direction.
That sort of thing happens a lot around here,Mr.Broad muses.Almost without its knowledge or permission,the city of Los Angeles-the Original and Continuing Work In Progress-has become one of the world's great cities,headquarters of the Pacific and the leading exporter of ideas to the rest of the world.Yet if UCLA weren't here,Eli Broad speculates,he's not sure they'd have the intellectual capital they need to be the great city they are today.By concentrating his giving on UCLA,Mr.Broad has ensured his wealth will have a multi-generational impact for urban enhancement.

UCLA and the Arts

Businessman Eli Broad feels that UCLA probably has the best arts school in the country-a distinguished faculty with a student body to match.Could you have the best arts school just anywhere,Mr.Broad asks? No.Does the fact Los Angeles is home to the second largest number of professional artists in America have anything to do with that outcome? You bet,Mr.Broad asserts.The UCLA Art Center bears Eli Broad's name.He is a leading collector of modern art.