Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Inflation or Hyperinflation? - The Merk Mutual Funds

Axel Merk does a good job of explaining how our belief that the Fed will inflate leads to inflation. The Fed must do more than talk before I will believe otherwise. Since its creation, it has done nothing but destroy the value of the dollar, rewarding borrowers and hurting savers.
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Harvard Cuts Risk, Loses Bond Managers -

One interesting tidbit from the article is that Harvard now has a net cash position instead of margin.

They are also shying away from investments that aren't as liquid, such as hedge funds and private equity, and keeping more under their own control, as opposed to placing it with outside managers. .

I consider these prudent moves for anyone. You don't want to be in a position where you are forced to sell.
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

U.S. Unemployment Benefit Rolls Fall; Claims Rise

I wonder what impact people dropping off the rolls due to reaching the maximum time on unemployment is?

June 18 (Bloomberg) -- The number of Americans receiving claims for unemployment benefits dropped for the first time since January, adding to evidence the job market is starting to thaw.

The number of people collecting unemployment insurance plunged by 148,000 in the week to June 6, the most since November 2001, to 6.69 million, the Labor Department said today in Washington. Initial claims rose by 3,000 to 608,000 in the week ended June 13, in line with forecasts.

The average number of claims over the last four weeks fell to the lowest level in four months, an indication that the U.S. economy is stabilizing after the worst recession in half a century. Even so, companies are likely to be slow to hire new employees, sending unemployment rates higher, analysts said.

"Companies will start pulling back on the pace of job cuts in coming months," John Herrmann, chief economist at Herrmann Forecasting in Summit, New Jersey, said before the report. "We've seen jobless claims peak."

Treasuries dropped to their lows of the day after the report, sending yields on benchmark 10-year notes up to 3.76 percent at 8:41 a.m. in New York from 3.69 percent late yesterday. Futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Stock Index rose 0.3 percent to 908.40.

Economists' Forecasts

Economists forecast claims would rise to 604,000, according to the median of 40 estimates in a Bloomberg News survey, from a previously reported 601,000 a week earlier. Estimates ranged from 586,000 to 632,000.

The four-week moving average of initial claims, a less volatile measure, fell to 615,750, the lowest level since February, from 622,750.

The jobless rate among people eligible for benefits dropped to 5 percent in the week ended June 6 from 5.1 percent.

Last week's data coincides with the week the Labor Department conducts its monthly payrolls survey.

Forty-five states and territories reported an increase in new claims for the week ended June 6, while eight had a decrease.

The government is scheduled to release its June payrolls report July 2.

The Federal Reserve said last week said the U.S. downturn may be slowing in almost half of its regions though a "weak" labor market persists.

'Continued to Be Weak'

"Labor market conditions continued to be weak across the country, with wages generally remaining flat or falling," the Fed said in its Beige Book business survey. Some employers were freezing or cutting wages or reducing workers' benefits and hours, the report said.

Still, "several districts saw signs that job losses may be moderating," and staffing firms "reported some modest signs of recovery," the Fed said.

Fed policy makers are scheduled to meet again next week on the direction of monetary policy.

News Corp.'s MySpace social-networking unit fired almost 30 percent of its staff to save money in response to falling advertising sales and gains by larger rival Facebook Inc.

Bankruptcies at General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Group LLC may also inflate benefit rolls for weeks to come. Chrysler, which resumed production at one plant this week, may not open some facilities until late July.

Chrysler likely will reopen its plants on a staggered schedule and some will be open only a week or two before the company's annual two-week shut down that begins July 13, said Dianna Gutierrez, a company spokeswoman. She declined to release the start-up dates for its individual plants.

To contact the reporter on this story: Courtney Schlisserman in Washington

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Black Swan Trader Bets Reputation on Inflation -

I think the chance of very high inflation is higher now than at any time in the past 30 years. The economy can be stagnant and we can have simultaneous inflation. Just look at Zimbabwe.

In stocks I recommend companies that will have pricing power in such an environment, and will pass their profits along to shareholders. Some commodity exposure seems prudent, maybe 5-10% of a portfolio.
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Monday, January 07, 2008

Buy 3, Sell 1, Portfolio Problems at Icarra

Ambassadors Group, Inc. (EPAX) profits by partnering with a non-profit, People to People, to send Americans on educational foreign trips. It pays a 2.75% dividend, and is currently under-valued due to the depreciating dollar and conerns over terrorism. It has a $328 million market cap at $16.74/share, 16% Pre-Tax Earnings Yield, and over 100% Pre-Tax Return on Capital.

Thomas Group, Inc. (TGIS) is a consulting firm that gets most of its revenues from the US Navy. It pays a 5.35% dividend with a payout ratio just under 60%. At $7.48/share, it has a market cap of $82 million, an EY of 18%, and ROC over 100%.

Trident Microsystems, Inc. (TRID) makes chips for LCD and Plasma televisions for major companies such as Samsung, Sony, and Phillips. An options backdating scandal and competition from low-cost makers have brought the price down, and the stock is currently trading at $5.82/share, with a market cap of almost $350 million, an EY of 27%, and ROC over 100%. The company pays no dividend.

On a bookkeeping note, it looks like my portfolio at has lost most of my recent transactions, so I'll work on correcting those and look into setting up the tracking portfolio somewhere else.

I found the ticker for DEBS, which has moved to a German exchange. It's now known by DE1.BE. It was picked 1 year ago, so will be sold this week.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Selling 1 Losing Pick After 1 Year, Holding 1, Selling a Winner

Biovail (BVF), CCA Industries (CAW), and EPIQ Systems (EPIQ) have all lost money since being picked last December. I personally believe Biovail is still a good investment and hold it in my real-money portfolio, but it has been a loser. On the Magic Formula site, it's still listed as one of the top 25 picks, so it can be held for another year. It looks like Icarra is still down (it's been down for 3 days now, at least), so I can't update my portfolio there, but consider CAW and EPIQ sold.

Update 12/19
Well, it looks like EPIQ had a 3:2 split 6/8/07, so it's actually returned over 40% in the past year. So I'm ending up selling 1 winner after a year and 1 loser.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

3 High-Yielding Picks

The recent sales in my Magic Formula portfolio, tracked at, have resulted in a cash position of $5126. Money market rates are dropping with Federal Reserve rate cuts. Zecco's CSAXX money market fund is now yielding just over 4%. However, the Magic Formula website is currently recommending 3 stocks that have yields higher than that, plus the potential for capital appreciation. Monday, December 3rd, I'll buy $500 worth of each of these 3 companies in my Icarra portfolio.

  • Pacer International Inc (PACR) is currently yielding 4.4%, at $13.76 per share. It has a market cap just under $500 million and an Earnings Yield of 17%. It was trading as high as $30 a year ago, but there is concern for its future outlook, as it may be squeezed between its customers and supplier. Pacer is an intermodal freight shipper that will be renegotiating its contracts with the railroads from 2011 to 2015, and will be facing increased prices at that time. If currently high trucking prices come down in the future, Pacer will lose customers to its competition.

  • Idearc, Inc. (IAR), the phone directory company, is currently yielding 7.3%, at $18.92 per share. It has a $2.8 billion market cap and EY of 12%. It traded as high as $38 in the past year, since its spinoff from Verizon (VZ). A recession could hurt its business, and its outlook for the future is clouded by the potential for local search competition from Google (GOOG) and Yahoo (YHOO).

  • Wayside Technology Group, Inc. (WSTG), a software company, is currently yielding 5.6% at $10.70 per share. It has almost $4 per share in cash. Revenues have declined with competition for VMWare business, so the stock has been punished.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

One Year Update

My first Magic Formula transactions were November of 2006. So now, one year later, let's see how those initial picks have performed (average return for these is 3%):

OVTI +20%
FCX +50%
ASPV +40%
ADDL -28% (Icarra has no data for ADDL after Jan 2007, so it's treated as sold)
PNCL +60%
FTO +50%
WNR +18%
PWEI -9% (Bought out)
NATH +29%
NOOF -38%
OPMR -55%
MRGE -77%
EGY -41%
UNTD +24%

ASPV is still on the Magic Formula list, so it hasn't been sold. UNTD will be sold as after 11/21, following the rule of holding winners more than a year.