Thursday, April 29, 2010

Study Shows Canadians Healthier

A Kaiser Permanente researcher,David Feeny,and his American colleagues have concluded that older Canadians experience better health than their American peers.Published in the journal "Population Health Metrics,"the study,based on data from a joint Canadian/U.S. survey from 2002-2003,suggests the longer lifespan of Canadians may be related to two potential factors:access to health care and the prevalence of poverty.While Canadians have universal access to health care,Americans do not;and,the gap between rich and poor is not as wide in Canada as in the U.S.Discriminating between the possible factors would require further study,Mr.Feeny observes.
In any event,Canadians over 40 have,on average,2.7 more years of better health than their southern neighbors.The life expectancy and overall health-related quality of life appears to be greater for Canadians,and factors that account for the difference may include their access to health care over the full lifespan and lower levels of social and economic inequality,especially among the elderly.
The new health insurance reform law in the U.S. is intended to greatly broaden access to care,bringing tens of millions more Americans into the health care system,and improve the quality of care for many of those already within it.
It has long been noted in the media that the U.S. lags behind many other countries in several health care metrics.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Job Alert:Honored Firm Seeks Advisors

Edward Jones is recruiting a number of Financial Advisors for locations on both coasts.The firm will train candidates from a variety of backgrounds.Individuals must be self-managers,sales-oriented and highly driven.A member of the SIPC,Edward Jones is Fortune magazine's #2 "Best Company To Work For."
If interested in this position,go to

What Kind of Bull

Mark Skousen,PhD,editor of the newsletter "Forecasts&Strategies,"describes himself as a cautious bull.There's a lot of positive news,he says,but the easy money has been made.Moody's just threatened to downgrade Treasury securities,and the tax increase threat could hurt the market into next year.
Dr.Skousen likes the iShares Hong Kong exchange-traded fund.He likes Hong Kong trade because mainland China is increasing its demand for Hong Kong products.He has been shorting the Euro for the U.S. dollar,but he doesn't think the Greek problem will hurt Asia.
Mark Skousen also likes the private equity firm American Capital,Ltd.Hedge fund magnate John Paulson bought 13% of it.Although it is in restructuring,it could double in value.American Capital,which is publicly traded,has 264 employees.It is located in Bethesda,Maryland.
Dr.Skousen is the author of several books,including "Investing In One Lesson."His newsletter is available by subscription only.

A Private Equity View

Scott Sperling of THL Partners says they've always found Goldman Sachs to be of the highest integrity.Goldman is still one of the leading firms that help advise and finance private equity.This fraud charge probably does not have long legs as far as the market itself is concerned.
A year ago,there was enormous uncertainty about the global economy.Today,the economy has stabilized.THL is seeing reasonably good growth throughout most of their portfolio companies.Today they're back to a much more normal level of financing.Today you're looking at deal structures of 35-40% equity.
Historically,THL has done best when the debt level is normalized or below normal.They try to remain highly disciplined,Scott Sperling explained.
THL Partners is not a publicly traded company.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

National Walk@Lunch Day

Wednesday,April 28 is National Walk@Lunch Day.The annual event is a program of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association,a family of health insurance companies that insures one in three Americans.It is meant to encourage physical activity as an integral part of each work day.Dr.Linton Wray,Medical Director at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield,one of the member companies,says that,in our busy lives,we really need to take time for a little exercise.Employers are encouraged to include this event in their wellness programs.Walking becomes a social event during the day.We try to encourage people to start slowly-if nothing else,to walk up and down a flight of stairs inside,then progress to walking outside.
A brisk walk can
-decrease the risk of a heart attack or type 2 diabetes
-control weight
-improve muscle tone
-reduce your stress level
The BCBSA has an ongoing program,WalkingWorks,which helps you track your progress.Join WalkingWorks for free at

Monday, April 19, 2010

Big Firms:The Hiring Outlook

The Fortune 100 top companies are adding 65,000 jobs.Among them are Sears Holdings,parent of Sears and Kmart stores.They have 21,800 openings across the board,from executive to hourly positions.Lowe's,the home improvement retailer,needs 15,000 workers,many of them seasonal.Privately held New York Life is adding 3640 staff,especially sales and sales management positions.Bank of America seeks 3400 new hires for a broad assortment of assignments.
About 15 million Americans are looking for work,so the big firms won't even make a dent with their hiring.Still,it's better than layoffs and,historically,small firms have employed the bulk of the workforce.Most of the economic recovery is contingent upon small business,not the captains of industry.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Early Edition:Leading Analyst Buys Goldman

Dick Bove,a leading banking analyst at Rochdale Securities,says he would buy Goldman Sachs stock despite the firm's being charged with civil fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission.The charges will have a short term negative impact,Mr.Bove said,but Goldman will still be Goldman.I don't want to defend them;if they have done anything inappropriate,they should be penalized,the analyst stated.
Dick Bove described Friday's plunge in Goldman's share price as a massive overreaction.Goldman's capabilities in trading and good systems suggest no one can take its place.The reputation of people within the division is strong enough that the business is gonna continue to thrive.Still,Mr.Bove observed,the shadow the charges cast is pretty sizable.He asked whether the SEC action is the first of multiple attacks on Wall Street firms.
The most likely outcome of the matter is an out of court settlement,in which Goldman will pay a few billion dollars to the government.It has already repaid the government loans received at the height of the financial crisis.Goldman reportedly has some 65 billion dollars in equity with which to pay the fine.Questions have been raised,however,about the tenure of CEO Lloyd Blankfein.There is also the possibility that the Justice Department will file criminal charges in the case.

Staying On The Story:The Dalai Lama Appeals

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader,the Dalai Lama,has appealed to the Chinese authorities to allow him to visit his earthquake-ravaged homeland,Qinghai Province,in order to aid the distressed populace.China's President,Hu Jintao,made an impromptu visit to the Tibetan Plateau region himself on Sunday,cutting a South American visit short.Mr.Hu encouraged rescuers,who have been dealing with harsh conditions in the remote area some 4,000 meters above sea level-or 13,000 feet-to continue their lifesaving work.We must treasure each life,he said.In a photo opportunity,Mr.Hu embraced an injured Tibetan woman lying in a field hospital.The death toll from Wednesday's quake has risen to 1706,with 256 missing,12,000 injuries and 100,000 left homeless by the magnitude 6.9 earthquake.
Red-robed Buddhist monks were still digging through the rubble with gloved hands and facemasks,while other monks lit funeral pyres for the dead.Some of their own died in the quake,as well as children.The disaster area has only one main road,but food,water and shelter are now available.Many of the victims,who are mainly ethnic Tibetans,had to spend several nights in the open in the subfreezing weather.One monk remarked bitterly that the official rescue parties were lackadaisical about the task,revealing a simmering resentment toward the Chinese Communist authorities that has boiled over from time to time since they took power in 1959.For Beijing,the earthquake is a security challenge as well as a humanitarian crisis.
It is almost certain that the Dalai Lama's request to visit Qinghai Province will be rejected.Beijing regards him as a separatist,and all attempts at negotiation have failed to this point.The Dalai Lama,a periodic guest at the White House to Beijing's consternation,insists he only wants autonomy for Tibet.He has resided in India since 1959.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Earthquake Shatters Tibetan Plateau

Residents of Jiegu Town,the remote home of about 70,000 on the Tibetan Plateau of Northwest China,were subjected to a series of violent earthquakes and aftershocks Wednesday morning.At least 760 were killed and 10,000 injured.More than 300 are still missing.Chinese troops and paramilitary forces arrived to lend assistance to the devoutly Buddhist area,where the ethnic Tibetan monks also lended a hand in the rescue effort.Some 900 souls were pulled from the rubble of the mud brick buildings characteristic of the high desert region near the Himalayan peaks.
The isolated area,which is known as Qinghai Province,has limited roads,and several bridges were wrecked by the earthquake.Rescuers also faced altitude sickness,landslides,sandstorms,and subfreezing temperatures.A shortage of tents became obvious to the dislocated residents on Wednesday night,when they were exposed to the severe elements.Monasteries were hard-hit,and the Jiegu Monastery hotel was flattened.
Qinghai province is the homeland of the Tibetan spiritual leader,the Dalai Lama,who is revered by the largely ethnic Tibetan populace.His Holiness issued a statement saying he was exploring ways to convey aid to the area and offering prayers for the earthquake victims and their families.The Dalai Lama fled Tibet for India in 1959 when the Communists came to power.
The Chinese leaders said stability must be maintained in the aftermath of this natural disaster in Qinghai Province,which is located some 1200 miles from Beijing.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Health Care Reform,Part 2:Medtronic Reacts

Under the new health care reform law,Medtronic will have to pay an excise tax of 150-200 million dollars a year,according to CEO Bill Hawkins.They will slow down expense growth to accomodate it.Although there are some good things in the bill,such as the expansion of coverage to more citizens,it will have an impact on research and development-particularly on the smaller companies.It will even impact Medtronic's R&D.It's hard to measure just how much that impact will be,Mr.Hawkins said.
Mr.Hawkins mentioned a recent Medtronic innovation that will improve outcomes and lower costs.It is a replacement heart valve inside of a stent.The device is inserted on a catheter and pushed through the leg to where the old valve is.It is now available outside the U.S.Medtronic hopes to begin U.S. studies on it in the second half of 2010.
Based in Minneapolis,Minnesota,Medtronic operates exclusively in the medical appliances and equipment industry.The NYSE-listed firm employs 37,665 and is active in more than 120 countries.In recent years,it has aggressively sought out acquisitions to augment its product portfolio.Shares of Medtronic were up this morning in early European trading.

Health Care Reform:The Blues React

Scott Serota,President and CEO of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association,a trade group representing 39 independent,community-based and locally operated health insurers,says they're gonna work very hard to make sure these laws do what they're supposed to do.Provisions of the bill are inflationary,so they're gonna have to find new and more innovative ways to make health care more affordable.Health insurance is a very low margin business.They're gonna have to pass some of the new expense on to consumers.
A health insurance company's profits are very small.A blue plan's profits are only 1.5-2%.It's a very low margin business.They need to focus on health care cost containment over the next 2-3 years to ameliorate the increase in premiums,Mr.Serota believes.
The BCBSA has an 80 year history.Based in Chicago,its member plans insure about 100 million Americans,or one in three.It is the oldest and largest family of health insurers.Wellpoint owns several of the plans.

Friday, April 9, 2010

USC Hospitals Mark Transition

The staff of two USC hospitals,USC University Hospital and USC Norris Cancer Hospital,celebrated the University's acquisition of the two institutions from Tenet Healthcare a year ago April 1.Together with the L.A. County-USC Medical Center,Healthcare Consultation Centers I and II,the Doheny Eye Institute and the Keck School of Medicine,the hospitals comprise a veritable medical city within the city of Los Angeles.The two private academic hospitals were purchased for 275 million dollars.More than 620 employees were added,and around 40 million dollars in capital improvements have been committed to.There are plans to hire 340 more staff members.
At the main commemoration of the anniversary,a noontime Trojan Fiesta for more than 2,000,a huge cake was cut by CEO Mitch Creem and two hospital staffers.Members of the USC Trojan band performed,and a letter of congratulations from L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was read.
Integration of the hospital staffs into the academic community and with each other is an ongoing project.Motivational speaker Donna Tyson gave two programs for them to help the process along.Ms.Tyson said change represents positive opportunities.Just because you loved one chapter of a book,doesn't mean you shouldn't read the next chapter.She cited a novel by Don Miguel Ruiz,"The Four Agreements,"which contains four beliefs for stress management and personal growth:telling the truth;not taking things personally;not making assumptions;and always giving your best.Several employees said they were touched by the programs.
USC University Hospital won the Top Ranking among L.A. hospitals from Consumer Reports magazine.Morale at the two recently acquired facilities is on the upswing.The turnover rate has fallen from 20% to 8% in the year since they were bought from Tenet Healthcare.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Deutsche Bank Recommendations

We hit the trough in Q3 of 2009,says Binky Chada,Chief U.S. Equity Strategist at Deutsche Bank.A large mountain of cash has already built up on corporate balance sheets.For Deutsche Bank,the bottom line is:1.buybacks; expenditure;and 3.dividends.Almost all of the decline in S&P dividends is from the financials.Over the next few years,DB expects to see the financials pay out.They have the cash.It's very important for regulators to get their arms around the issue.
DB recommends a basket of 50 stocks that cuts across the sectors.They have buys on Rowan,Dupont,Genworth,Molson and Schwab.The arguments for the historical patterns are,if anything,strengthened,in Binky Chada's view.
As for the financials paying out,consider that,once the U.S. Treasury sells its shares of Citigroup,the firm will be free to reinstitute its dividend.The shares are to be sold quietly,over a number of months,so as not to disrupt the market.Citigroup has already repaid its government loan.

Recovery Without A Script

Mohamed El-Erian,co-CE0 and co-Chief Investment Officer at PIMCO,said that Friday's employment report was a half-full/half-empty report.It points to long term unemployment going up.There are structural aspects to unemployment.The question is whether you believe levels matter.You really need big changes.Mr.El-Erian doesn't believe there is a playbook to this.What with sovereign debt risk and regulatory shock,you need to reach escape velocity.The question is what you get in the second half of the year.
There is an inventory spillover,Mr.El-Erian pointed out,asking whether it is sustainable.Do balance sheets matter or not?The tug of war between cyclical and structural is very interesting.A tremendous amount of temporary and temporal stimulus is in the system right now.Do you face a hand-off to private demand or structural headwinds which the market isn't comfortable with?
Unfortunately,the crisis has been a balance sheet issue.There are few occasions of a balance sheet shock on top of a cyclical story,as we have now.PIMCO builds portfolios with four different layers:secular;structural;cyclical;and tactical.At this point,there are certain corporate bonds that PIMCO likes,Mohamed El-Erian noted.He was formerly manager of the Harvard Endowment.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Green Spaces May Help

Some people who live within a 1km radius to green spaces such as parks or gardens have modestly lower rates of 15 out of 24 major diseases,Dutch researchers found in a groundbreaking study recently.This was especially true for mental illnesses.Those with a 90% green environment were rather less likely to suffer from anxiety or depression than those with only 10% green surroundings.
Other diseases that were less common in some living near nature include diabetes,asthma,digestive trouble,back and neck conditions.The researchers studied the medical records and residences of 345,000 people in the Netherlands,as reported by general practice physicians rather than people themselves,as in previous studies.Their results were published in the December 2009 Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
It may be that those who live near parks and gardens get more exercise,breathe better air and have less stressful sensory stimuli than other,more urbanized citizens,which is resulting in somewhat better health prospects for some of them.The effect was strongest for those in lower socioeconomic strata and did not obtain in heavily urbanized areas.