Friday, January 30, 2009

Health Uncle:Food Safety

A food safety concern has enveloped the U.S. recently.Peanut Corporation of America's Georgia factory shipped untold amounts of peanut products contaminated with deadly bacteria.At least eight deaths have been attributed to the contamination so far.Hundreds more have fallen ill.The use of peanut products is ubiquitous in the food industry.Almost anything we buy could have at least a small amount of peanuts in it.The only comfort is in the fact that most people who ate the products did not,in fact,fall ill.The contamination was apparently spotty,although the salmonella bacteria were detected in a shipment at the Canadian border.The shipment was rejected,but the U.S. authorities didn't look into it at the time.The food safety net has holes in it,so we have to look out for ourselves as best we can.If there is any doubt about an item or its preparation,don't consume it.Listen to that inner voice of caution.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Please Note

In the event of inclement weather,publication schedules are subject to change without notice.

A Central Industry

The auto industry is of the utmost importance to the U.S. economy,says John Engler of the National Association of Manufacturers.There's overcapacity,and capacity is gonna have to come out.The auto industry accounts for 20% of manufacturing Gross Domestic Product.The failure of even one automaker could have a crippling effect.Our top priority is to get the economy moving and see job creation.Without a growing economy,very little in the public sphere is possible.We support funding now for 20 billion in shovel-ready infrastructure projects,the former Michigan governor stated.We still need global trade,but we need to be careful in an era of global recession that trade barriers aren't snuck in,Mr.Engler warned.

An Unchanging Approach

Warren Buffett's course hasn't been altered by the current economic events.We've spent a lot of money in the past four months,Mr.Buffett pointed out.He mentioned his investments in General Electric,Goldman Sachs,William Wrigley and Dow Chemical.Mr.Buffett read the book "The Intelligent Investor" 60 years ago-especially chapters 8 and 20.My ideas haven't changed since,he insisted.I'm happy in my 50-year old house.I love it,Warren Buffett professed.

What Investors Should Do

If investors are buying into a business they understand,at a reasonable price,they should be buying now,suggested Warren Buffett,whom many have adopted as their guiding star.All the newspaper headlines in the world don't change that.They ought to look to the business as to whether to be confident or not-the kind of business they bought and what they paid for it.I wouldn't put my trust in a single individual such as Bernard Madoff.I would put my trust in a very good business,the friend of sports stars Alex Rodriguez and LeBron James advised.

Remember the Revolution

We have a negative feedback cycle going on right now,but we'll break out of it,Warren Buffett maintained.No one can predict when that's going to happen.This certainly is nothing like World War II or the Great Depression.It's the worst financial crisis since World War II,but America comes through these things.Since 1776,it's been a mistake to bet against America,the Omaha businessman observed.

Buffett Describes the Crisis

Warren Buffett,the world's best-known investor,has been reflecting on the financial crisis.Right now,fear is winning,Mr.Buffett said.You saw it in the Christmas results.It really is an economic Pearl Harbor,but Barack Obama is absolutely the right commander-in-chief.He's smart;he's got the right values;he's got a good knowledge of economics;he's analytical,Mr.Buffett believes.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Health Uncle:Glaucoma Threatens Us

Glaucoma is widespread in the U.S. population.An estimated four million Americans have this eye condition;most concerning,almost half of them don't realize it,as there are no early symptoms.Glaucoma is an increase of pressure within the eyeball,resulting in its hardening and loss of vision if left untreated.Even 10% of those who are treated lose vision.Once vision loss occurs,it cannot be reversed.The illness can be controlled by prescription eye drops,but cannot be cured.Your eye care professional screens for the disease.Glaucoma may occur at any age;one in ten thousand are born with it.It is the leading cause of blindness among African Americans.Heredity is a factor in its occurrence,but we are all urged to be on guard against this devastating threat.Consider making an appointment with your eye care professional today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ford Vehicles Excel

The Ford F-150 won Truck of the Year honors at the recent Detroit Auto Show.The Ford Fusion hybrid gets 41 miles per gallon,which is 8 miles per gallon better than the Toyota Camry.It also has a five-star safety rating.Most people believe we've got the finest lineup we've ever had,Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally says.Ford gained market share between October and December 2008.We probably have the best car lineup in the business.It is well-balanced.We're gonna be there with a full family of vehicles.We're gonna be a turbo when we finally come out of this recession,Mr.Mulally predicted.

International Perspective

Mary Schapiro said she has reservations about the costs and lack of rigor of proposed international accounting standards.It's time to have a well-crafted approach for access to the proxy for major shareholders,as 40 other world markets now permit.I want to ensure that investor protection is maximized in mutual recognition of Australian broker-dealers at virtually the retail level,Ms.Schapiro informed the Senate Banking Committee at her confirmation hearing.

Too Much Risk Around

Mary Schapiro stated that all systematically important products and financial institutions need to come under the regulatory regime.We need to think about the roles of the regulatory agencies.All of the SEC functions must continue to exist,as they matter to the integrity of our capital markets and investor confidence.We need to have federal oversight of insurance institutions.I would absolutely support proceeding with the regulation of hedge funds to get a picture of who is out there.I have long been in favor of clearing houses to regulate credit default swaps,which are a kind of insurance for bond buyers.A lot of procedural hurdles have been placed in the way of the Enforcement Division.It is absolutely essential to re-institute the Office of Risk Assessment,to have risk assessment permeate everything the SEC does,the nominee testified.

Ratings Agencies Inadequate

The effectiveness of examination of ratings agencies and others needs to be significantly bolstered,Mary Schapiro held.We don't need broken ratings agencies that give us bad information:that much is clear.Until we deal with their compensation model,people are not gonna have confidence in them.They should not be paid by the issuers of the bonds they rate.

System Behind the Times

Mary Schapiro told the Senate Banking Committee at her confirmation hearing that our regulatory system has not kept pace with the markets or the needs of investors.We need to modernize our regulatory system to match the reality of the global markets.The Securities and Exchange Commission needs more resources to investigate and go after cheats.Seventy-five years after its founding,the SEC finds itself in a position where it must rejuvenate our markets and economy.One of the real tragedies is that we have this stovepipe regulatory regime that allows activities to occur beyond the view of regulators,Ms.Schapiro observed.

Confirmation Hearing:More About Mary Schapiro

Senator Jack Reed(D-Rhode Island)praised Mary Schapiro,Chairman-designate of the Securities and Exchange Commission,at her confirmation hearing last week,expressing his complete confidence in her.For his part,Senator Charles Schumer(D-New York) said he was deeply impressed by the depth of Ms.Schapiro's experience and knowledge.Ms.Schapiro smiled readily at the senators.Her husband and two daughters,Anna and Molly,sat behind her at the hearing.Dressed in blue with a gold lapel pin,she said she grew up in New York,a short train ride from Manhattan,the daughter of a printer and a librarian.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Health Uncle

Welcome to a new feature.It's the new year,so it's a good time to try a change.With all the stress in the financial markets,health has never been more relevant.All of us are under increased risk,so a little more light on that topic,or at least a reminder,may be beneficial.The U.S. House of Representatives has just passed a bill that would enroll more children in health insurance.The SCHIP program would grow from 7 to 11 million children.By catching dangerous conditions in childhood,it would result in less costs later on,than if these children had been left to develop their ailments into adulthood-if they made it that far.That would make us all relieved.It would ease our financial worries,and save the innocent from suffering.Hopefully the U.S. Senate will concur and pass the legislation as well.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Final Overseas 2008 Results

Results are now in for foreign stock markets for 2008.Argentina was down 49.89;Germany was off 40.37,while London fell 31.33.Hong Kong dropped 48.27;Japan lost 42.12,and Singapore fell 49.17.Brazil lost 41.22,and Shanghai was down 69.69.London fared best with its 31.33 decline.

Don't Forget Families,Workers

Admiral Jonathan Greenert,Commander,Fleet Forces Command,recalled that the crew's families serve,too.They will be here when the bunting is gone.Mike Petters,President of Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding,which employs about 40,000,stated that the workers share a single vision:to build the finest military ships in the world.As shipbuilders,we build with our hearts.We know the ship is our legacy,Mr.Petters said.Captain Kevin O'Flaherty,commanding officer of CVN 77,saluted the Navy League,especially the Hampton Roads Council,for providing the tribute room,a small museum on the ship to honor Mr.Bush,and other support for the crew.One by one,crewmembers ran up the gangway to the accompaniment of the Navy song "Anchors Aweigh,"bringing the ship to life as ordered.She is expected to be in service for 50 years,and is the last of the Nimitz class of aircraft carriers.

No Mean Task

Navy Secretary Donald Winter said the ship's commissioning was not easily achieved.This is a ship that will make history,and today is the start of a long and illustrious journey,Mr.Winter remarked.The colors and commissioning pennant were hoisted up the ship's mast,which towers 20 stories above the waterline.Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead described the carrier as a piece of sovereign American territory.It is just the beginning for the sailors who will serve on her today.You bring to life this extraordinary ship,Admiral Roughead told them.Set the bar very high,so that everyone is always reaching for it,the admiral advised.The honoree,President George H.W. Bush,who is 84,had received the Distinguished Flying Cross and three air medals for his own service on a World War II aircraft carrier.I wish I was sitting right out there with you,Mr.Bush told the crew.You take with you the hopes and dreams of all Americans.I know you will find comfort and inspiration at sea,particularly in the night sky.May God bless the men and women who sail in CVN 77,the elder statesman prayed.Mr.Bush then presented the long glass,a ceremonial telescope,to the First Officer of the Deck to stand the first watch.The watch will stay on duty for the life of the ship.Dorothy Bush Koch,Mr.Bush's daughter,to whom he is exceptionally close,is the ship's sponsor,and ordered the crew to man the ship and bring her to life,in accordance with naval tradition.

Focus on Defense:USS George H.W. Bush

If anyone has a question about the ingenuity of American workers,they should see this ship,said Virginia Governor Tim Kaine,who was recently appointed Chairman of the Democratic National Committee,at the commissioning of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush(CVN 77) in Norfolk,Virginia on Saturday.Defense Secretary Robert Gates,who will be staying on in the Obama administration,added there is no one more deserving than President George H.W. Bush,who was the 41st president,to have an aircraft carrier named for him.Mr.Bush was the last of the World War II generation to serve as commander in chief.The carrier,which will be homeported in Norfolk and serve in the Atlantic Fleet,is a symbol of American strength and credibility,Mr.Gates observed.The ship is manned by more than 5500 sailors and Marines,who have been working on her for three years now,along with shipyard workers from Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Shop Talk

A special greeting to Delaware,where I advertised this week.You are the domicile of many corporations,a business center for the region and the nation.Delaware is a logical place for a business publication to reach out.The motorists of the Washington metropolitan area are not reaching out to the Inauguration.They are bitterly critical of the extensive security measures being imposed,such as closing the major bridges from Virginia into the District of Columbia to private cars.These are the same voters who largely supported Mr.Obama in November.They chose this charismatic figure,a man who can draw millions from both home and abroad;now they regret the consequences.His entire presidency may be a special challenge for security agents and motorists wherever he travels.Not that it won't be worth it-that remains to be seen.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

AmEx To Receive Funds

American Express will be receiving federal loans and other backing now that it is a commercial bank.The U.S. Treasury will inject 3.37 billion dollars from the Troubled Asset Recovery Program into the company,in exchange for warrants and preferred stock.As well,AmEx has gotten backing for 5.5 billion in corporate bonds from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.It can also borrow at 0.5% from the Federal Reserve's discount window.The financial crisis has hurt AmEx's ability to raise money in the capital markets,and drove it to become a bank holding company along with Goldman Sachs,Morgan Stanley and other financial firms.

Property Owners May Suffer

Property owners in Maryland may find a higher property tax bill in their mailboxes this July.A property tax credit that was formerly granted automatically,the Homestead Tax Credit,must now be applied for.Unless owners submit a form either by mail or online,they will no longer receive the credit.Many people,of course,could either forget to apply for the credit,put it off,or fail to realize that they are now required to do so.Human nature could bolster the coffers of Maryland and its counties and municipalities.

Final Results for 2008

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 33.84% for 2008,its only gainers being Wal-Mart and McDonald's.The S and P 500 Index dropped 38.49 for the year,while the NASDAQ Composite Index plunged a record 40.54%.The Toronto benchmark was off 35.03% for 2008.In North America,Mexico's stock market fared best,with a drop of just 24.23%.Of the 20 most widely held stocks in the U.S. markets,Johnson and Johnson lost the least,with a decline of 10.3%.

Buyers Report Free Fall

U.S. Manufacturers reported a sharp drop in activity for December,according to the Institute for Supply Management's Purchasing Managers Index.The index registered 32.4-down from November's reading of 36.2.A Thomson Reuters survey of economists had predicted a reading of 35.5,and a number below 50 indicates the sector is contracting.Also in the ISM survey,it was noted that new orders fell to an historic low,eclipsing the previous record from 1948,while prices paid slumped below the former record,set in 1949.The December manufacturing result is the lowest since June 1980.At that point,the economy was almost through a recession that lasted six months.Over the past 28 years,the ISM manufacturing index has seldom dipped below 45.The Institute for Supply Management,a buyers' trade group based in Tempe,Arizona,surveys hundreds of firms for its monthly reports,which are considered major events on the economic calendar.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Shop Talk

I have readers in Sunnyvale and Mountain View,California.Southern Cal won its third straight Rose Bowl yesterday,to the chagrin of Penn State fans.The markets back East are still being cheerful,but the volume is light,so we cannot be quite sure about this.There is a consensus that the markets will recover in the second half of 2009,yet enough caution in the wind to give us pause.Everyone has been wrong before,and we are in the worst financial crisis in more than a generation,so a prolonged downturn would seem more than reasonable.It is also more than reasonable,then,to keep the portfolio defensive for the foreseeable future.Yes,you could miss some of the upswing,but once it occurs,there will be plenty of it to get in on.Have a safe drive home,if you aren't there already.