Thursday, January 31, 2013

Investopedia: Danaher Still A High-End Conglomerate And Priced Like One

Nothing seems to change all that much at Danaher (NYSE:DHR). The company has a time-tested formula and business plan, and management executes it quite well. The value that this business creates tends to be obscured by GAAP accounting rules, but the valuation shows that most investors appreciate what the company can do. Though I believe management is probably playing it conservative with 2013 guidance, valuation is a little steep right now, even if you believe in the company's ongoing ability to produce value for shareholders.

Please continue here:

Investopedia: Amazon Seems Due For A Breather

For a company that has generally been very good at what it does, Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN) gets no small amount of flack for its strategic decisions. Whether it's the decision to compete with Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) in the tablet and digital media spaces, or its move into markets such as business-to-business MRO retailing and cloud services, there's no shortage of carping about Amazon's margins and its proclivities toward "empire-building."

And yet, Amazon has been a painful company to short. While there have been some notable swoons, the stock is up more than 250% over the past five years - well ahead of eBay (Nasdaq:EBAY) and Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) and on par with Apple's returns given the latter's recent fall from grace. Though I've long been an Amazon bull and believe this company has more innate margin and free cash flow (FCF) potential than the current numbers show, I think valuation is plenty rich for today.

Please follow this link for more:

Investopedia: Weak PC Demand Weighs On Seagate

Investing in Seagate (Nasdaq:STX) is at least a little like playing chicken with a freight train. While I don't want to entirely dismiss Seagate's potential to transition into new products, technologies and end markets, the fact remains that its core hard disk drive (HDD) market is facing a one-two punch from increasing solid state drive (SSD) substitutions and a switch from PCs to mobile devices, like smartphones and tablets. Although the HDD business is not going to vanish, investors face the difficult prospect of trying to get both the timing and the magnitude of the decline right, as well as Seagate's ability to generate (and/or reinvest) cash during that decline.

Read more here:

Investopedia: VMware Stumbles And The Street Spares No Mercy

This earnings cycle has been relatively better than feared for most tech stocks so far, but VMware Inc. (NYSE:VMW) is going to go down as a glaring exception. While fourth quarter results were generally solid relative to expectations, the Street absolutely hated what management had to say about lower overall growth in 2013 and sales growth more heavily weighted to the second half. The stock's nearly 20% drop as of this writing seems overdone, but VMware is going to have to rebuild its credibility before valuation matters again.

Please follow the link for more:

Investopedia: Yahoo! Still Has So Much To Do

There's still life in Yahoo! (Nasdaq:YHOO), but there's also still a long and difficult road ahead of the company. Marissa Mayer has been at the helm for only a short time and fundamental repositionings in strategy, culture, and so on do not happen overnight. While Yahoo! most definitely faces serious threats from the likes of Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) and Facebook (Nasdaq:FB), the company has assets and opportunities that still offer some hope.

Please continue here:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Eli Lilly May Have The Best Chance At Keeping The Momentum Going

Right off the bat, I'll acknowledge that I have not been a fan of Eli Lilly (LLY), nor has it been one of my preferred picks in Big Pharma. That didn't keep the stock from doing well in 2012, though, and perhaps the one saving grace to my anti-Lilly stance was that it didn't stand out from others I liked better like Roche (RHHBY.OB), Sanofi (SNY) and Pfizer (PFE).

Taking Lilly's financial performance at the end of 2012 into account, particularly the strong cost performance, and factoring in the company's deep bench of Phase 3 candidates, it's fair to say that Lilly could have the best chance of carrying that 2012 momentum through 2013. Although I'm still not a Lilly fan on balance, investors who have more faith in this company's pipeline could have a lot to look forward to in the coming 12-18 months.

Please follow this link to continue:
Eli Lilly May Have The Best Chance At Keeping The Momentum Going

Seeking Alpha: Is It Finally The Right Time For Boston Scientific?

With a large number of mid-sized and large-cap med-tech companies outperforming the market over the last three months, it's fair to ask how much of Boston Scientific's (BSX) performance is based on real conviction that the company has turned the corner and how much is based on a sector-wide and market-wide melt-up. Fourth-quarter earnings and management guidance give cause for optimism that Boston Scientific is finally moving past its problems, but investors should not forget the difficulties that come with trying to play catch-up in a fiercely competitive market.

Click the link to continue:
Is It Finally The Right Time For Boston Scientific?

Investopedia: P&G Rewards Longs With Better Sales And Stronger Margins

Although I recently suggested that Wall Street has already amply rewarded Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) for its self-improvement potential, the company showed in its fiscal second quarter results that it may still have more on the table. While incrementally less momentum in developing economies could eventually develop into another problem to address, P&G management is simultaneously delivering on product innovation/introduction and cost cutting.

Read more here:

Investopedia: Honeywell Comes Through, But Valuation Isn't So Sweet

What a difference a month or so makes. With investors happy to see Congress play kick the can with the fiscal cliff, industrial stocks have caught a second wind and done quite well over the last month. While Honeywell (NYSE:HON) is a quality industrial conglomerate that often seems to get overlooked, management's modest guidance for 2013 and the company's mediocre free cash flow history don't really argue for aggressively chasing these shares at this point.

Click here to continue:

Investopedia: The Market Has Priced In Weyerhaeuser's Recovery

Wall Street spent much of 2012 buying into the housing recovery. From wood products companies such as Louisiana-Pacific (NYSE:LPX) (up 135%), to home builders such as PulteGroup (NYSE:PHM) (up 179%), to furnishings/fixtures manufacturers such as Masco (NYSE:MAS) (up 52%), quite a number of stocks tied to residential housing had significant recovery rallies in 2012. So, too, did Weyerhaeuser (NYSE:WY), a well-run company that includes timberland, wood products and real estate investment trusts. While timberland is likely to remain a high-quality long-term asset, and Weyerhaeuser is one of the better operators in the public market, new investors should probably wait for a pullback.

Please continue here:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Pfizer Needs To Reload

I was a fan of Pfizer (PFE) early in 2012, and the stock delivered good returns as it beat the S&P 500. At this new, higher, price level it is a little harder to have quite the same affection for the company. I do have respect for how the company has streamlined - cutting costs, selling the nutrition business to Nestle, and preparing for the spin-off of Zoetis. I also think there are some worthwhile drugs both in the pipeline and early launch phases. All that said, it's hard to be as excited about the stock's value today, and I wonder if it's time for another large-scale move to better position the company for long-term growth.

Click here to continue:
Pfizer Needs To Reload

Seeking Alpha: Biogen Idec Has BG-12, But What Excites Investors Next?

If Biogen Idec (BIIB) follows the usual pattern, the launch of BG-12 for multiple sclerosis isn't likely to generate huge investor enthusiasm (another example of "buy the rumor, sell the news"). That's particularly true given management's effort to take down the high end of BG-12 launch expectations within the last month. Accordingly, while Biogen Idec is a well-run franchise with a great niche in MS, and may well attract attention from a larger pharma, the company may need another exciting asset in its pipeline to keep up investor enthusiasm.

Continue to the full piece at Seeking Alpha:
Biogen Idec Has BG-12, But What Excites Investors Next?

Investopedia: With Sluggish Windows Uptake, What Propels Microsoft?

Forget about the copious amounts of cash flow that Microsoft (Nasdaq:MSFT) generates. With Windows and Office still responsible for the lion's share of the company's profitability, sales trends there drive the bus. Although Microsoft continues to look too cheap, Windows 8 adoption hasn't been great, and the stock may struggle to go anywhere fast in the meantime.

Read more here:

Investopedia: New Products, Recovering Markets Should Help Juniper In 2013

The wait continues for Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR). With much less exposure to enterprise customers, Juniper has been in a holding pattern as service providers have dramatically slowed their spending. For 2013, however, the company has several relatively new products to drive better sales, and early signs point to that long-awaited rebound in carrier spending. There are still big unknowns regarding Juniper's long-term margin potential, but Juniper could still offer upside at these levels.

Please click here to continue:

Investopedia: Have Investors Gone Overboard With Halliburton

It's not uncommon for energy service stocks to do well around the turn of the year. Maybe it's the optimism that a new year brings, or a byproduct of the excitement that energy companies often try to drum up about their drilling plans for the coming year. Whatever the case, Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) has enjoyed a strong run since mid-November with shares climbing more than 30%. Much as Halliburton's fourth quarter does validate some long-term optimism about the business, investors may want to be careful in just how enthusiastically they chase this name right now.

Please continue reading here:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Commodity Prices And China Make Caterpillar A Yo-Yo

Reading Caterpillar's (CAT) release and listening to the call, I get the sense of management basically shrugging its shoulders and saying "heck if we know" when it comes to the year ahead. I can't blame them in the least, as listening to all manner of conference calls this earnings season has turned up a wide array of feelings, impressions and outlooks for the economy both now and for the rest of 2013. For better or worse, the near-term outlook for Caterpillar is likely to be dominated by commodity price trends, while the long-term value seems only so-so right now.

Please click below to continue:
Commodity Prices And China Make Caterpillar A Yo-Yo

Investopedia: Apple Has Room To Get Worse Before Getting Better

With December quarter earnings in hand, Apple (Nasdaq:AAPL) is no longer perfect nor flawlessly reliable. Given the sheer scale of the company and the never-ending deluge of articles, columns and opinions on Apple, there's definitely some risk now from jilted and scorned Apple lovers turning from their favorite stock. Though there's considerable apparent value in the shares at this level, investors should not ignore the risk that there could be a few more knocks to the story before the stock retrenches and investors re-evaluate its long-term potential.

Click below to continue:

Investopedia: Shabby Reporting And Questionable Prospects At Abbott Labs

There's no one right way for a company to report results to investors, but I believe Abbott Laboratories' (NYSE:ABT) reporting is significantly sub-standard given the approaching split into Abbott Laboratories and AbbVie (NYSE:ABBV). Even worse, however, is the apparent state of Abbott Laboratories' business. While I can support the idea that there's room for growth and self-improvement, investors need to realize that Humira hid a lot of defects and that Abbott may not be the top-notch company people generally assumed it was.

Please click below to continue:

Investopedia: McDonald's Seems Back On Track, But Not Cheap

Even some of the best-run companies in the world can make mistakes. McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) started 2012 betting on a turn in the economy and consumer sentiment, and tried to move customers up-market from its value offerings. That didn't work, and the stock lagged for the year. While McDonald's has retrenched around value and continues to deliver impressive profits, investors' perennial support for this company rarely allows it to get very cheap.

Please continue here:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Seeking Alpha: The Potential Is There For LSI, But Will They Grab It?

Wanting to like a company or stock thesis can be very dangerous to your portfolio returns, as you often fall into the trap of hearing only the good news and giving the benefit of the doubt to numbers and projections. That's one of my biggest concerns about LSI Corporation (LSI), as I really like the company's long-term potential in server and flash storage products. The revenue and margin potential is definitely there, but the company's uneven historical performance and potential competition calls for real leaps of faith in terms of future margins.

Continue here:
The Potential Is There For LSI, But Will They Grab It?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Microsemi Gets A Pass On A Tough Quarter And Lousy Guidance

This has been a strange quarter for many tech stocks, as investors seem relatively willing to give a pass to unimpressive guidance for the first calendar quarter of 2013. That's fortunate for Microsemi (MSCC) shareholders, as this company not only posted a small miss and weak bookings for its quarter, but offered weak guidance for the next. Microsemi can be a maddening and frustrating stock to own, but if management stays on target with cost reductions and new product introductions, the long-term rewards could be well worth some white knuckles in the meantime.

Please read the full article here:
Microsemi Gets A Pass On A Tough Quarter And Lousy Guidance

Seeking Alpha: Covidien Delivers Yet Again, But Valuation Is Plenty Fair

There's no reason that Covidien (COV) "shouldn't" be one of the top-performers in large med-tech, nor enjoy some of the best multiples. If there's a more consistent performer (to the good side), I can't immediately think of it, and management has built this company to deliver strong performance on a lasting basis. Not buying these shares a year or two ago goes down as a sizable regret in my personal investing history, but I would caution investors to resist the temptation to chase this name.

Please continue here:
Covidien Delivers Yet Again, But Valuation Is Plenty Fair

Seeking Alpha: Frustrating F5 Networks Zigs And Zags Again

Value investors and tech stocks are typically an oil and water mix, but I've had enough success with a value approach (or at least a GARP approach) that I always keep an eye on interesting tech names. One of the most interesting, albeit frustrating, names has been F5 (FFIV).

While F5 has a legitimately impressive share of the ADC market and bold plans to expand into nearby markets like security and diameter signaling, sluggish product growth and an uncertain future for the ADC market make this a tricky stock. Though Thursday's post-earnings rally doesn't necessarily take it off the list as a potential buy, investor expectations for product revenue re-acceleration may be upping the risk.

Please continue here:
Frustrating F5 Networks Zigs And Zags Again

Investopedia: IBM Brings A Little Relief To Tech Investors

The earnings from tech/IT giant IBM (NYSE:IBM) should give tech investors a little respite from the fear cycle going into calendar fourth quarter earnings - at least until the next widely followed company flames out with results and/or guidance. Not only did IBM do quite well with revenue and margin performance, the company's guidance for 2013 was both solid and not particularly back end-loaded. These shares aren't particularly cheap, but IBM remains a reasonable one-stop shop for investors seeking tech exposure.

Please continue here:

Investopedia: DuPont Ends Ok, Starts Weak

The good news/bad news quarter from DuPont (NYSE:DD) is looking incredibly typical for large multinationals this quarter. DuPont saw positive volumes for the first time in more than a year, but severe price erosion and sluggish guidance are going to keep the celebrations muted. It's not hard to like the company's balanced end-market exposures, but the vulnerable global economy and DuPont's valuation keep the stock looking a little less than perfect.

Follow the link below to continue:

Investopedia: Could Google Actually Be Underrated?

Even if the efficient market hypothesis has severe drawbacks and deficiencies, it's still hard to imagine that the stock of a company as large and well-followed as Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) could be meaningfully undervalued. And yet, a long-term discounted cash flow analysis suggests that it's at least possible. While Motorola's operations will pressure margins and there's ample competition in search, mobile and online ads, Google still looks like a stock to consider in the tech space.

To continue, please click here:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Stryker Seems Back On Track, But There's Work To Do

Over the past year or so, investors have come back to the med-tech space and pushed valuations back up to levels closer to historical norms. Although that means a lot of easy money is gone, many of these companies still hold worthwhile potential as long-term holdings. Among them, Stryker (SYK) may still be among the most interesting. Not only does this well-regarded med-tech stock have an improving ortho market to exploit, but the company is something of a free agent in terms of using M&A to further expand its long-term revenue possibilities.

Continue to Seeking Alpha here:
Stryker Seems Back On Track, But There's Work To Do

Seeking Alpha: Often Derided, 3M's Quality Usually Wins In The End

Being a 3M (MMM) investor is no picnic. Sure, every sell-side analyst (and most independent writers/analysts) is quick to praise the company's long history of shareholder valuation creation and product innovation, but then the "yeah, buts" start - it's not a fast grower, it's not aggressive enough, it's not ruthless enough on costs, and so on. This is all true to a point, and 3M is probably not the best pick for a fiery second half economic rebound, but 3M remains a solid portfolio cornerstone and a stock unlikely to disappoint long-term investors.

Click below for more:
Often Derided, 3M's Quality Usually Wins In The End

Seeking Alpha: Would Check Point Be Better If It Was Just A Little Worse?

It's hard to find many companies that post better-looking financials than security specialist Check Point Software (CHKP). While this company boasts significant market share, impressive financials, and very strong technology, it does come up short in one of the most critical metrics for tech stocks - top-line growth. With Wall Street already expecting little from this company going forward, it may be worth management's time to consider trading some margin or cash on the balance sheet for a better shot at stronger growth numbers.

Please click here for more:
Would Check Point Be Better If It Was Just A Little Worse?

Seeking Alpha: Intuitive Surgical Answers Short-Term Doubts About Procedure Volume

Surgical robot company Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) has a habit of answering its skeptics. While investors fretted last quarter over slowing procedure growth, the company rebounded well this time and delivered a solid quarter almost across the board. Intuitive Surgical has never been a cheap stock, and today's valuation still assumes an aggressive adoption curve, but momentum seems to be back in this name.

Read more here:
Intuitive Surgical Answers Short-Term Doubts About Procedure Volume

Investopedia: Rio Tinto Looks To Make A Fresh Start

Apparently there's only so much even a generally passive board of directors can take before it feels the need to do something. Rio Tinto (NYSE:RIO) has announced a large impairment charge for 2012 and the replacement of its CEO - both largely tied to unsuccessful and wasteful expansion /capital allocation strategies. Now it is up to new management to chart a new path and improve returns in a more uncertain commodity climate.

Change at the Top
While the phrasing of the press release from Rio Tinto was sanitized and generic, I don't believe it is a stretch to suggest that Rio Tinto chose to fire Tom Albanese, its CEO of nearly six years. Certainly, Albanese's performance during his tenure gave cause to make a move.

Please click here for more:

Investopedia: Confidence And Relief Will Take General Electric Only So Far

Industrial and financial conglomerate General Electric (NYSE:GE) did a little better than expected with fourth quarter results, but overall revenue and order trends suggest that the company really hasn't separated itself from the industrial pack. It's relatively easy to argue that the company's fourth quarter performance takes some risk out of the guidance for 2013. But will there be enough momentum in business like aviation, health care and oil/gas to carry the shares to another market-beating performance in 2013?

Click here to read the full piece at Investopedia:

Investopedia: Parker Hannifin's Recent Run Has Taken Away The Value

Investors have been inconsistent in their approach to industrial companies since the election and the late 2012 slowdown in the economy. One of the winners has been Parker Hannifin (NYSE:PH), as investors have bid up the shares of this leading fluid power systems provider by more than 20% since their October lows. While Parker Hannifin is likely to remain a consistent, well-run industrial company, it's hard to find an attractive risk/reward balance at this time.

Please click here to continue:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Seeking Alpha: St. Jude's Rally Has Taken Away The Easy Money

It was relatively easy to like St. Jude Medical (STJ) in the low-to-mid $30s, but a sustained rally since late November has taken away a lot of this company's relative discount. Now St. Jude faces many of the same problems as most other large med-tech companies - stressed and slow-growing major markets and potentially abundant competition in emerging higher-growth markets. Although these shares are not especially expensive, investors should temper their expectations at these prices.

Click here to continue:
St. Jude's Rally Has Taken Away The Easy Money

Seeking Alpha: First Cash Financial Delivers The Growth, But Mind The Valuation

As long-term performers go, I hope to have many more stocks like First Cash Financial (FCFS) before I'm retired as an investor, but I don't expect that I will. Operational excellence and prudent aggressiveness has built this company into a very strong company, and there are still substantial opportunities to grow in the U.S., Mexico, and elsewhere in Latin America. That said, the stock's valuation and slightly lower 2013 expectations may encourage investors to wait before piling into this name.

Please continue here:
First Cash Financial Delivers The Growth, But Mind The Valuation

Seeking Alpha: Is This A Chance To Pick Up II-VI For The Rebound?

Sometimes one of the best things an investor can do is pick up shares of a quality company on a temporary problem in the industry. For instance, investors who bought Lincoln Electric (LECO) below $40 are probably pretty happy that they did so. While the shares of laser optics and components maker II-VI (IIVI) have been volatile, they historically haven't stayed very cheap for very long. The question for investors now, though, is whether this is another buying opportunity or whether II-VI's addressable markets have changed in fundamental ways that will make this a disappointing stock from now on.

Please click here to continue:
Is This A Chance To Pick Up II-VI For The Rebound?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Johnson & Johnson Looks To Get Ahead With Blocking And Tackling

With the Synthes acquisition done and Zytiga on the market, I don't think Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) investors should expect too much additional flash in 2013. That may not be such a bad thing, though, as this is a pretty good company that would benefit from some serious "back to basics" operational improvements. J&J is also looking like a like relative bargain, with good growth in pharmaceuticals and opportunity for improved results in the device business.

Click here to continue:
Johnson & Johnson Looks To Get Ahead With Blocking And Tackling

Investopedia: Brazil's Growing, But That May Not Help Banco Bradesco Enough

There's no question that Brazil remains a popular emerging/developing market for international and global investors. Unfortunately, it's all too common for long-term macro calls ("buy Brazil") to have only passing relevance to particular sectors or companies. In the case of Brazilian banks such as Banco Bradesco (NYSE:BBD), lower interest rates hold the potential for compressing net interest margins and bank profit/return on equity (ROE) growth just as we've seen lately in the United States. While investing money in Brazil may make sense today, Bradesco is not looking like the best means of going about it.

Continue reading here:

Investopedia: Stryker Follows Its Rivals With A Big Investment In China

The med-tech world has not been shy about accepting the notion that future growth will be predicated, at least in part, on good exposure to emerging markets. Stryker (NYSE:SYK) is the latest to back that view with cold cash, spending $764 million to acquire Chinese orthopedics company Trauson Holdings (OTC:TRHDF). Coupled with improving fundamentals in the core recon market (hip/knee replacements), Stryker continues to look like a solid stock in the med-tech sector.

To read more, please follow this link:

Investopedia: Crimson Exploration Looks Undervalued, But Mind The Well Economics

Energy is a cyclical market that seems to inspire despair in the worst of times and frenzied elation in the best - and that's true for both investors and companies alike. When an area gets hot, many companies scramble in and pay almost whatever it takes to establish acreage, but the economics don't always support this. I think this is worth remembering in the case of Crimson Exploration (Nasdaq:CXPO) - while the company's shift toward liquids is logical and the its Texas acreage may well be undervalued, the ultimate profitability of these operations gives some reason for pause.

Please continue here:

Investopedia: Schlumberger Still Facing A Tough Environment

Contrary to many expectations a year ago, the oil services business didn't see much improvement in 2012. While Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) is probably the best in the business, even it couldn't escape the realities of tough demand conditions in North America. With pricing weakness spreading in North America, can the international business grow enough in 2013 to lead to better results and multiples for this company and the broader sector?

Click below to continue:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Investopedia: Bull Vs Bear - Apple Is On Its Way Down

Question: Has Apple's Downfall Begun?
Bear's Response
All good things come to an end, and perhaps Apple's (Nasdaq:AAPL) status as the darling of the stock market has seen its peak. To be clear, I'm not suggesting that Apple is about to see its revenue growth reverse, nor am I suggesting that the company is teetering on some sort of precipice of relevance. Rather, I simply believe that Apple's time as a near-flawless executor has passed and that investors should not expect the "all Apple, all the time" market mentality to persist.

Continue reading here:

Investopedia: Steady As She Goes Is Fine For U.S. Bancorp

There never has been anything particularly flashy about U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), and I don't think that will change in the conceivable future. Consequently, this isn't always a stock that generates a lot of excitement - management just goes about its business, building value over time. That said, relative to the company's demonstrated returns and earnings power, I continue to believe that U.S. Bancorp is an undervalued bank stock that is worth buying and owning today.

Please continue to the full Investopedia article:

Investopedia: What Propels Bank Of America From Here?

Last year was a strange one in banking, as investors were somewhat lukewarm on quality banks such as U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) and Comerica (NYSE:CMA), but more than happy to bid up still-troubled operations such as Bank of America (NYSE:BAC). While it can be fairly argued that there aren't as many rocks left to turn over (so, fewer negative surprises) and BAC management has been grinding through its troubles and repairing its operations, I just don't see the cause to get all that excited about the bank's prospects.

Read the full article here:

Investopedia: Has Citigroup Cleared The Decks, Or Found New Problems?

Something is oddly logical about the performance of Citigroup (NYSE:C) shares over the past year. While this bank clearly is not back to operating on par with banks such as JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) or U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB), it's in better shape than Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) in many respects. Accordingly, its 2012 stock performance seems fair in the context of being about halfway between the "good banks" (which matched or slightly beat the S&P 500) and the "troubled banks" that saw significant share price appreciation.

That's all in the past, however, and investors are now trying to digest a fourth-quarter report that was surprising and disappointing in a few respects. With a new CEO running the show, this may have been a "kitchen sink" quarter designed to sweep away past problems. Still, it raises the specter of future problems and reminds investors that these banks are still not out of the woods.

Please click here to continue:

Investopedia: Fifth Third Seems A Little Underappreciated

Perhaps Fifth Third Bancorp (Nasdaq:FITB) is a little too solid for its own good right now. With investors worried about narrowing spreads and limited loan growth potential, much interest in the sector seems to be turning toward companies with major expense-cutting and credit improvement stories to tell. While Fifth Third is already in pretty good shape, I think investors may yet be underestimating the core growth potential in this bank.

Please continue here:

Friday, January 18, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Faith In Johnson Controls May Be Running Ahead Of Facts

While I understand that Wall Street is a discounting mechanism that looks forward more often than backward, I have a hard time reconciling the confidence that investors have shown in Johnson Controls (JCI) over the past three months with the likely trajectory of performance.

Johnson Controls said many of the right things at its recent analyst day, addressing issues like margin challenges in the automotive and building systems businesses and pointing to a promising future in batteries, but it seems like analysts are much too willing to reward the company with unprecedented operating improvements. A slight beat for the fiscal first quarter is certainly better than another miss, but back-loaded guidance and iffy auto margins leave me hanging on to some skepticism.

Please click here to continue:
Faith In Johnson Controls May Be Running Ahead Of Facts

Seeking Alpha: Ongoing Progress At BB&T, But Plenty Left To Do

I've complained in the past that BB&T (BBT) doesn't always get its due in the sell-side community, and the stock's so-so performance over the past year would seem to back that up. Certainly there are legitimate questions to ask about the company's net interest margin, return on equity, and capital deployment plans. At the same time, though, the company has built an impressive franchise footprint and has multiple levers to pull for incremental growth. On balance, BB&T remains one of the more attractive risk-reward prospects among the larger banks.

Please read more here:
Ongoing Progress At BB&T, But Plenty Left To Do

Investopedia: Linear Technology May Not Be The Best Rebound Play

I've made no secret in the past of my respect for Linear Technology (Nasdaq:LLTC). This specialist in high-performance analog (HPA) chips is not only one of the largest analog chip companies; it boasts some of the strongest margins and long-term returns on capital in the industry.

Although I believe the company is in a good position to meet growing demand in the industrial and automotive categories, I'm less confident that its business philosophy makes it a great pick for a chip rebound.

Please read more:

Investopedia: Quality, But Not Much Growth Or Value At Commerce Bancshares

While 2011 was a pretty good year for quality banks, and 2012 was a better year for lower-quality banks, 2013 will likely be a challenging year for many banks. Commerce Bancshares (Nasdaq:CBSH) has a relatively good mix of fee income and a solid commercial lending business, but low yields on loans and securities will likely lead to slow going over the next year or two. Though I think Commerce can continue to do better than small rivals with more balance sheet growth and competitive share gains, it's hard to get fired up about the shares right now.

Please click below for more:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Will Manufacturing Lead The Economy - And Fastenal - Again?

When the economy slows, particularly the manufacturing sector, there isn't much Fastenal (FAST) can do about it. By the same token, when "disappointing" results mean that growth drops into the high single digits, you're still talking about a very strong company. The issue with Fastenal has never been about the strength of its growth, but rather the price investors pay for that growth. Nothing has really changed in that respect - while other MRO distributors like MSC Industrial (MSM) and DXP Enterprises (DXPE) may have claims to GARP ("growth at a reasonable price") status, Fastenal pretty much looks like a GAAP ("growth at ANY price") type of stock today.

Read the full article at Seeking Alpha:
Will Manufacturing Lead The Economy - And Fastenal - Again?

Seeking Alpha: Will PNC Financial's Potential For Improvement Translate Into Real Value?

Even though they rarely get them nowadays, investors want clean reports from banks and PNC Financial's (PNC) inability to deliver them has turned into an issue when it comes to the stock's multiples and valuation. Where investors understand that Bank of America (BAC) still has a big mess to clean up and generally believe U.S. Bancorp (USB) management when they call an item "one time," PNC has put investors through something more like "death by paper cuts."

The good news for the PNC bulls is that this company's credit profile is in generally good shape and commercial loan growth has been strong. On the bearish side, though, is persistent spread pressure, increasing competition, and incrementally more doubt about the company's long-term return on equity potential.

Continue reading here:
Will PNC Financial's Potential For Improvement Translate Into Real Value?

Seeking Alpha: Interest-Sensitive Comerica Is An Interesting Stock Today

Comerica (CMA) hasn't always gotten its due, as analysts have in the past questioned the company's heavy exposure to Michigan, its focus on commercial lending, and how it went about gaining sizable exposure to California, and Texas. Nevertheless, Comerica sits today as one of the strongest mid-sized banks from the perspective of capital, and the company's interest-sensitive makeup could really pay if rates start to rise. Valuation makes this an interesting stock today, as the bank looks too cheap on some metrics, but fairly valued at best by others.

Please continue reading here:
Interest-Sensitive Comerica Is An Interesting Stock Today

Seeking Alpha: Cardiovascular Systems Could Have A Much Higher Value To A Strategic Buyer

For years, peripheral vascular intervention has attracted companies and analysts like JuneBugs to Bug Zappers, and with similar end results in many cases. While the promise of effectively treating narrowed or blocked arteries in the leg is indeed a potentially multibillion dollar promise, experienced investors have learned just how hard it is to translate that promise into real income and cash flow.

Cardiovascular Systems (CSII) has gone on this familiar ride. While the company seems to have developed a legitimately better mousetrap, one for which there is strong supporting clinical data, the company has struggled to drive consistent utilization growth and profit leverage. Although I'm somewhat skeptical of the company's ability to generate value for investors on stand-alone basis, the value of this company to a strategic buyer could be impressive.

Please continue here:
Cardiovascular Systems Could Have A Much Higher Value To A Strategic Buyer

Investopedia: Should Third Quarter Results From Forest Laboratories Worry Investors?

Given the wide divergence in opinions and expectations for Forest Laboratories (NYSE:FRX), I am a little surprised to see that the market (at least as of this writing) has reacted pretty calmly to another disappointing quarter and another miss. Importantly, the elements that led to the miss do not look all that serious and the company's long-term potential appears to be intact. That said, investors considering these shares need to appreciate that above-average volatility is likely.

Read more here:

Investopedia: Robust Spreads Let Calumet Specialty Products Prosper

While many energy companies have spent the last few years running from their refining operations, Calumet Specialty Products (Nasdaq:CLMT) has not only been content to be in the business, but has actively looked to expand its operations. A focus on specialty products such as customized lubricants and solvents has long served this company well, but beneficial spreads have kicked in their share more recently. With an impressive-looking dividend yield and certain advantages to its status as a partnership, Calumet could be a stock worth further exploration from income-oriented investors.

Please continue by clicking below:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Seeking Alpha: M&T Bank Is Plenty Bold, And The Street Already Likes It

With a 25-year record of doing an acquisition nearly every year, it was probably no surprise that M&T Bank (MTB) launched another deal in 2012, though the proposed acquisition of Hudson City (HCBK) is the biggest yet. This deal looks to be strongly accretive for M&T Bank over the long term, just as so many of its past deals have been. Given the bank's solid loan growth, good spread, strong expense control, and well-earned reputation for strong returns on capital, this is a top-notch bank. Sadly, it's also priced like one.

Please click here to continue:
M&T Bank Is Plenty Bold, And The Street Already Likes It

Seeking Alpha: JPMorgan Has Room To Go Further

It's still early, but it's looking like this quarterly earnings cycle might not be holding much in the way of surprises for bank investors. That ought to be particularly welcome in the case of JPMorgan Chase (JPM), as surprises at large money-center banks like this tend to be of the negative variety. While loan losses are still elevated and both loan and spread growth are looking feeble at present, JPMorgan continues to look like an undervalued opportunity in the financial sector.

Please continue here:
JPMorgan Has Room To Go Further

Seeking Alpha: A Greater Focus On Outcomes Could Be Explosive For Volcano

It's difficult to call a stock with an EV/EBITDA ratio in the 20's and more than a dozen active sell-side analysts "undiscovered", but I'm surprised at the relative level of chatter about Volcano (VOLC) in comparison to names like Intuitive Surgical (ISRG), MAKO Surgical (MAKO), or Abiomed (ABMD). While Volcano arguably suffers from the fact that its addressed markets have been around quite a bit longer, I believe growth-oriented investors ought to take another look at some of the possibilities of Volcano finding a new level of market acceptance and growth in the coming years.

Read the full Seeking Alpha article here:
A Greater Focus On Outcomes Could Be Explosive For Volcano

Investopedia: Allison Transmission - Great Share, But A Lot Of Debt And Cylicality

There are a lot of things that make Allison Transmission (NYSE:ALSN) an interesting company. A long-time pioneer in fully automatic transmissions, the company estimates that it sold 62% of all medium-to-heavy duty fully automatic commercial vehicle transmissions globally in 2011. While the company stays well clear of the passenger vehicle market, it's not a typical commercial vehicle supplier either, as the company does not participate in the Class 8 "line-haul" market (intercity trucks). While the company has uncommonly good margins and ample opportunities for growth, investors need to consider the sizable private equity ownership stakes and the large debt of this company.

Please click here to continue:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Investopedia: Can Wells Fargo Stay Ahead Of The Curve?

It is not news that Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) is among the best-run large banks in the country, nor that the company has a huge franchise in residential mortgages. While the company delivered relatively good results for the fourth quarter, near-term trends will be challenging for this bank. Wells Fargo still offers pretty appealing long-term potential, but investors should be prepared for some challenges in 2013.

Read more here:

Investopedia: Dish Network May Not Be Cheap, But It'll Be Interesting

Like DIRECTV (Nasdaq:DTV), Dish Network (Nasdaq:DISH) must face the difficult reality that pay TV is not only a more competitive market with the entry of AT&T (NYSE:T) and Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ). It also must compete with on-demand options offered by a host of services like Hulu and Netflix (Nasdaq:NFLX). Although the company doesn't look like a tremendous value today, it has a shrewd and savvy management team that could make things interesting.

Tough Times in Pay TV
For all of Dish Network's potential strategic options (more on this in a moment), the company's core satellite pay TV business has serious challenges. While Dish Network has a solid low-cost platform and offers products such as "Hopper" to its customers, the company has nevertheless been losing subs.

Please read more here:

Investopedia: First Niagara Needs To Lever Market Share Into Better Returns

Market share isn't everything. If a company can't take strong market share and use it as a tool to generate superior internal financial returns, shareholders will never benefit. In the case of First Niagara (Nasdaq:FNFG), management has been quite willing to launch deals to build share in its core northeastern U.S. markets, but these operations have yet to deliver truly compelling financial or share returns for investors.

The question, then, is whether First Niagara can start driving better results, or whether investors are better off with other bank companies such as M&T Bank (NYSE:MTB), PNC Financial (NYSE:PNC) or People's United (Nasdaq:PBCT).

Follow this link for the full article at Investopedia:

Investopedia: The EU Blows Up The UPS - TNT Deal

Apparently the European Union (EU) prefers the illusion of competition to real competition. That would be one possible conclusion from the announcement on Jan. 14, 2013, that the European Commission (EC) has rejected the many compromises offered by UPS (NYSE:UPS) in its proposed acquisition of European delivery company TNT Express and has chosen to block the deal. While this is a setback to UPS's overseas ambitions, the company can likely build over time what the EC wouldn't allow it to buy today.

Please continue here:

Monday, January 14, 2013

Investopedia: Helen Of Troy Needs To Exploit Distracted Competitors

Acquisitions can obviously expand a company's operations, but even growth-by-acquisition stories ultimately come down to a company's ability to execute. Helen Of Troy (Nasdaq:HELE) has always been a willing (and aggressive) acquirer, and that has allowed management to build the company into a diversified collection of well-known home and personal care brands. The question now, however, is whether this company can take advantage of the rampant restructurings among its larger rivals to widen its niche and gain market share.

Please read more here:

Investopedia: Can People's United Get Ahead Of The Curve?

It can be frustrating for investors to own high-quality, low-risk assets in a "risk-on" environment, and that certainly seems to be true of late in banking. While investors in riskier names such as Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Synovus (NYSE:SNV) and Regions Financial (NYSE:RF) saw sizable gains in the stocks, investors in the more conservatively run People's United Financial (Nasdaq:PBCT) had a significantly different 2012 experience. Given that this company is unlikely to find ways to deploy substantial amounts of capital in 2013, the sluggish yield curve could point to another tough year for investors.

Click here to continue:

Investopedia: Can Demandware Become Another SaaS Success Story?

Software as a service (SaaS) is still a big deal in the IT world, as is e-commerce. Put the two together and you might have an interesting idea to investigate further. Demandware (NYSE:DWRE) is looking to become a real player in this niche - taking on larger rivals such as IBM (NYSE:IBM) and Oracle (Nasdaq:ORCL) with a solution that's simpler and cheaper, but still offers the functionality that retailers need for successful e-commerce. While there is rampant competition in this space and the valuation is indeed very similar to Saas, aggressive investors may want to keep an eye on this one.

Click below for more:

Investopedia: Constellation Brands Looks To Keep The Recovery Flowing

Change within a company can be difficult, not to mention risky, but Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) hasn't shied away from reconfiguration. Once known only for its wine business, the company has an attractive niche spirits business and has ponied up significant capital to take control of its Crown Imports joint venture. While these shares are up strongly over the past year and alcohol-related stocks are doing well now, investors may want to pause to consider the valuation before bidding these shares up further.

Please continue reading here:

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Is The Growth Story Over For Hoya Corp.?

As a very loose rule of thumb, when I see a company with a solid history of returns on capital, good market share, and a clean balance sheet trading for mid-single digit multiples to EBITDA, I take a closer look. In the case of Hoya Corporation (HOCPY.PK), the debate is pretty simple - will this company ever really grow again or not? Nobody really seems to doubt that the company's traditional technology businesses have likely peaked (at least from a growth perspective), but there's ample doubt as to whether the company can (or will) reallocate its assets and build itself into a growth story once again.

Please read the full article here:
Is The Growth Story Over For Hoya Corp.?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Can Societe Generale Ever Be Relevant Again?

I have no doubt at all that many readers will read that article title, snort, say "no", and move on with their day. And that's certainly understandable - while Societe Generale (SCGLY.PK) may not be the European bank most damaged by the Great Recession, credit crunch, and resulting European sovereign debt crisis, they certainly did their best (or worst) to be in the running.

Societe Generale has emerged from this mess as a different bank, though, and the company has gone to great lengths to improve its balance sheet and capital position. Perhaps the question to ask with Societe Generale isn't so much about whether it can be a top-tier bank again (if it ever was), but rather whether it deserves to lag relative to other troubled banks like Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC), and Santander (SAN).

Please read the full article at Seeking Alpha:
Can Societe Generale Ever Be Relevant Again?

Investopedia: First Republic Looks To Be A Very Different Kind Of Bank

Costs have become something of a grand obsession with commercial banks recently, as regulatory changes have cut off formerly lucrative revenue sources. First Republic (NYSE:FRC) is a different sort of bank, though. This bank focuses on growing its share of the lucrative high net worth (HNW) market, and it's using a "high-touch" model that has thus far generated solid high-quality growth.

Hunting the Elephants and Whales
Whereas other California banks like Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) and City National (NYSE:CYN) generally try to get as many depositors as they can with a minimum of expense, First Republic has targeted HNW individuals as its clientele. This has enabled the company to become the No.10 bank in California (by deposit share) and the No.26 bank in New York with only 56 deposit-taking branches in eight cities.

Please continue reading here:

Investopedia: Can Alexco Pick Up The Pace?

The universe of mining stocks has certainly changed over the past decade. The popularity of pure bullion ETFs, such as the SPDR Gold Shares (ARCA:GLD) and iShares Silver Trust (ARCA:SLV), has given investors the option of bypassing the agonies and ecstasies of individual companies in achieving exposure to precious metals. That said, well-run mining companies can still offer alpha to investors. The question, however, is whether Alexco Resource Corp (AMEX:AXU) deserves to be called "well-run" and whether it can achieve its production and cost efficiency goals.

Please continue here:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Seeking Alpha: MSC Industrial Hits The Cliff

The markets reacted to the fiscal cliff resolution last week with relief, but the dickering and delays had real consequences to companies. As one example, industrial distributor MSC Industrial (MSM) saw a very pronounced stagnation of business in its fiscal first quarter, and the Street was not happy to hear lower guidance from management. While I expect investors to approach this stock with caution until ISM numbers and reported growth improve, this remains a quality long-term name for investors to consider.

Please continue here:
MSC Industrial Hits The Cliff

Seeking Alpha: Confusing Tower Group Offers Potential Value And Near-Certain Risk

By and large, I'm a big advocate of the KISS rule in investing (Keep It Simple, Stupid). More often than not, if an investment idea takes a lot of explanation, it's not worth the trouble. While Tower Group (TWGP) was once a relatively straightforward P&C insurance play, the company's proposed merger with Canopius makes this a much more complicated investment idea. While the reasons for the merger are sound and the potential value here is high, investors need to weigh that carefully against the risks and increasing complexity of the company.

Please continue here:
Confusing Tower Group Offers Potential Value And Near-Certain Risk

Investopedia: Global Payments Looks Too Cheap Today

Merchant processing firms such as Global Payments (NYSE:GPN) run relatively simple businesses - a customer swipes a card at a store, Global Payments sees that the money goes where it needs to between the banks, and it takes its cut. While there's ample competition to sign up (and retain) merchants and data breaches are an ever-present threat, these can be very profitable businesses with good returns on capital. In the case of Global Payments in particular, this not only looks like a profitable, growing business, but it's also one with an undemanding valuation and good global growth prospects.

Click below to continue:

Investopedia: Apollo Group A Study In Pain

The for-profit education sector continues to offer up new answers for the question, "How much worse can it get?" The economy, tighter credit and a tarnished sector reputation continue to drive away prospective students, and the entire sector is looking to discounts, tuition cuts and cost-cutting to stanch the bleeding. While Apollo Group (Nasdaq:APOL) is likely to survive, investing in it still feels a little like reaching out for a falling knife.

Please read more here:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Seeking Alpha: EnPro: Another Strong Small Industrial With Questionable Value

Small-cap industrials can be a great source of alpha-generating investment ideas. In many cases, investors would rather spend their time on the latest hot tech idea than dive into the nitty-gritty of pumps, bearings, hydraulics and the like. That said, while EnPro (NPO) is hardly a household name, it's not immediately obvious that this small industrial components company is significantly undervalued at today's prices.

Click below to continue:
EnPro: Another Strong Small Industrial With Questionable Value

Seeking Alpha: Is Gorman-Rupp Overpriced, Or Is Cash Flow Not The Right Metric To Use?

The water industry is a nearly perennially hot topic - almost every investment writer looks at the trends in freshwater infrastructure and eventually writes their "water is the commodity of the future" piece. For better or worse, the long-term potential of many players in the water space is pretty well accepted by investors, and many of these companies sport valuations not only higher than non-water industrials, but higher than what their cash flow would seem to be able to support. So it is worth asking, then, whether the well-run and well-respected Gorman-Rupp (GRC) is indeed overpriced today, or whether discounted cash flow just isn't an effective way to value this stock.

Please click here to continue:
Is Gorman-Rupp Overpriced, Or Is Cash Flow Not The Right Metric To Use?

Investopedia: Alcoa Has Improved, But It's Still In The Aluminum Business

American aluminum giant Alcoa (NYSE:AA) deserves credit for the internal operating improvements it has made in recent times. Unfortunately, the company is still in the business of selling aluminum and aluminum products, and that has long been one of the least attractive industrial metals for investors. While Alcoa does continue to look undervalued on the basis of historical valuation norms, this stock will probably be a value trap until and unless aluminum prices start picking up.

Click the link for more:

Investopedia: Can RPM Play Catch Up On The Housing Trade?

2012 was a pretty good year for investors prescient (or aggressive) enough to get in early to housing-sensitive names such as Louisiana-Pacific (NYSE:LPX), Mohawk (NYSE:MHK) and Valspar (NYSE:VAL). While housing hasn't really recovered just yet, investors seem happy enough with signs of a real bottom and the improving sales at the home improvement warehouse chains. Curiously, however, despite a meaningful exposure to these markets RPM International (NYSE:RPM) hasn't shared in all of the enthusiasm. Now the question is whether it should, and whether that catch-up trade can fuel further gains in the shares.

Read the full article here at Investopedia:

Investopedia: Investors Seem To Believe The Recovery Is Coming For CMC

Steel stocks rode up into the start of 2012 on optimism in the fall of 2011 that there would be an improvement in non-residential construction and industrial demand to deliver sustainably higher prices and good shipment growth. That didn't really materialize as hoped, and the stocks of minimill operators Commercial Metals (NYSE:CMC), Steel Dynamics (Nasdaq:STLD) and Nucor (NYSE:NUE) all underperformed the S&P 500.

Now it's a new year and there's new optimism that the industry is past the worst. Will that optimism pay off a little better this year?

Please click below for more:

Investopedia: Yum! Brands Knocked Off Stride In China

For those investors who've been waiting for a pullback in perpetually expensive Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM), here's your chance. Tougher consumer conditions in China, combined with a scandal related to excess antibiotics in chicken served by YUM's Chinese KFC stores, have led to a major slowdown in Chinese sales and taken the shares with them. Given that the impact of this scandal/scare will almost certainly be fleeting, this could be a rare opportunity to get shares at a more reasonable price.

Please follow the link for more:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Seeking Alpha: Monsanto's Start To Fiscal 2013 Is Good, But Not Perfect

The Street is in one of those stretches where it wants to like Monsanto (MON), so it doesn't look like analysts or investors are being too pointed in how they approach results for the fiscal first quarter. While the results were indeed solid overall, and Monsanto remains a high-quality play in the agriculture space, there were a couple of details that investors shouldn't ignore before paying up for what is by no means a cheap stock anymore.

Continue reading here:
Monsanto's Start To Fiscal 2013 Is Good, But Not Perfect

Investopedia: Can Atwood Keep The Positive News Flowing In 2013?

For all of the talk of "catalysts," it's easy to think that Wall Street has a short attention span, and that may not be far from the truth. At a minimum, the Street is quick to incorporate new information into stock prices, and stocks can languish in the absence of a constant stream of positive news. That leaves Atwood Oceanics (NYSE:ATW) in a potential predicament for 2013. While Atwood has done an impressive job of realigning its fleet towards higher-value assets, the lack of new contract opportunities could leave the stock trading on reported margins, industry pricing trends and prospects for a MLP conversion.

Please click below for more:

Investopedia: Rails Seem To Point To A Respectable 2013

Many analysts and investors have worried about the outlook for growth in the United States in 2013, but railroad data continues to suggest an ongoing recovery/expansion in the economy. Although it's true that the rails have enjoyed an uncommonly long stretch of good performance relative to the markets, ongoing demand growth could continue to support the sector.

December's Data Looks Very Familiar
The Association of American Railroads reported that U.S. rail carload volume declined about 4% for the month of December relative to the prior year, while climbing more than 2% from November's level.

As has been the case for quite some time, coal and grain traffic declines were a major negative influence on the results. Coal volume declined by more than 13%, while export declines tied to this year's drought helped fuel a 14% decline in grain carload traffic. Excluding coal, carload traffic was up more than 3%, while traffic excluding coal and grain climbed 6%.

Please continue here:

Investopedia: MeadWestvaco's Sum Of The Parts Doesn't Seem To Add Up To Value

MeadWestvaco (NYSE:MWV) has always been a little more willing than average to realign its business towards better long-term returns for shareholders. To that end, the company has been willing to divest/sell businesses (including its consumer and office products business (which merged with ACCO Brands (NYSE:ACCO)) while acquiring packaging and chemicals businesses in faster-growing areas like Brazil and India. That said, while MeadWestvaco does indeed look like a well-run packaging and specialty chemicals company, it's difficult to generate a cash flow scenario that suggests these shares are dramatically undervalued.

Click below to continue:

Seeking Alpha: MAKO's Performance Still Pretty "Meh"

Prior to its presentation at the annual JPMorgan Healthcare conference, MAKO Surgical (MAKO) released some limited information about its fourth-quarter results. While MAKO avoided the big miss that some investors had feared, and system placement performance was in line with expectations, utilization continues to be a meaningful concern for this company.

Q4 Data - Placements Okay, Procedures Less So
For the fourth quarter of 2012, MAKO Surgical reported that it had sold 15 RIO systems around the world, basically matching Wall Street expectations. While two of the sales were overseas and appear to have a meaningful deferred revenue recognition treatment, that's a quibble at this point. It's worth noting, though, that while this performance matched expectations, the full-year placement number of 45 was well below the guidance management gave a year-ago for 56-62 placements this year.

Read the full article here:
MAKO's Performance Still Pretty "Meh"

Seeking Alpha: Amira Nature Foods Looks To Become A Major Emerging Market Brand

At first blush, Amira Nature Foods (ANFI) looks as though it may offer investors two relatively rare opportunities - a direct investment in India and an investment in a relatively early-stage food brand. While there are abundant risks with this name, this is also an uncommon opportunity. Investors may benefit not only from the rising consumer income levels in emerging markets, but also a food company that is at a point in its lifecycle where both revenue growth and margin leverage are up for grabs.

Please continue reading here:
Amira Nature Foods Looks To Become A Major Emerging Market Brand

Monday, January 7, 2013

Investopedia: Has Roche Said "Nein" To Illumina's Asking Price Once More?

The "will they or won't they" between Roche (OTC:RHHBY) and Illumina (Nasdaq:ILMN) has continued to spur rumors and debate ever since Roche walked away from its bid for the leading gene sequencing company earlier this year. Rumors in the fall said that Roche was working on yet another bid, while subsequent rumors claimed that agreements had been reached at $60 per share or even $66 per share. Given reports of Roche chairman Franz Humer's statement to a Swiss newspaper on Sunday, however, it looks like this deal is off once again.

Click here to continue:

Investopedia: A Favorable Settlement Should Open The Door For Transocean To Outperform

It has been a rough few years for deepwater drilling specialist Transocean (NYSE:RIG). In addition to a recent cyclical downturn in offshore drilling, the company seemed to fall behind a bit with its fleet and started losing business because of unexpected downtime issues. Worst of all, however, was the terrible BP (NYSE:BP) Deepwater Horizon/Macondo rig accident and the substantial financial liabilities that the company incurred for its role in the accident.

Now, however, things seem to be turning around. The company has taken steps to improve its fleet and rates are back on the way up. Most importantly, at least in the near term, Transocean has reached a very favorable settlement with the Department of Justice for its Macondo liabilities, suggesting that the company is close to having this matter behind it.

Please read more here:

Investopedia: Deleveraging And Diversification Make Graphic Packaging Worth Watching

By and large, it's hard to get excited about owning paper and paper packaging stocks for the long term. A few strong operational stories such as Rock-Tenn (NYSE:RKT) and Packaging Corp (NYSE:PKG) have outperformed, but by and large this is an industry with very modest revenue growth and highly variable input costs. All of that said, I think investors should take a closer look at Graphic Packaging (NYSE:GPK). Not only has the company made good progress with operating efficiencies, it is also a long-term deleveraging and diversification story.

To read more, please follow this link:

Investopedia: Rock 'em Sock 'em Rock-Tenn

There's a saying out there (from Warren Buffett, I believe) that goes something like "whenever a great management team and a lousy industry come together, it's the industry that maintains its reputation." That warning would seem to apply to Rock-Tenn (NYSE:RKT) these days as although the company's stock has done reasonably well, management continues to struggle to deliver on the potential synergies and operational improvements at the former Smurfit-Stone assets.

The crux of the Rock-Tenn argument is pretty simple. If Rock-Tenn can do with Smurfit-Stone's corrugated packaging assets what it did previously with its own paperboard/containerboard assets, this will be a large and profitable company. If Rock-Tenn cannot lift up those Smurfit-Stone assets, then the company will languish from a value-destroying deal that levered the balance sheet and saddled it with lesser assets.

Please continue here:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

More Detailed Performance Review

I've had a little time to catch up, and now I can present the "full and final" performance numbers for my portfolios in 2012.

Portfolio A: +27.3%
Portfolio B: +26.8%
Combined Portfolios: +27.1%

S&P 500 (total return): +16.0%
Nasdaq Comp: +17.5%
Russell 3000: +16.4%

Portfolio A Alpha: 11.8%
Portfolio B Alpha: 13.5%
Combined Portfolios Alpha: 12.4%

I'm pleased with these results. The beta in my A portfolio ticked up slightly in Q4, while the Portfolio B beta ticked down a bit, but they continue to perform basically the way I want (B being the lower-beta portfolio).

I won't go through a complete performance attribution, but I will say that the follow were major positive (and negative) contributors for the year:

Portfolio A: 
Winners: BMTI (+149%), ALNY (+111%), SCGLY (+70%), PRAA (+56%)
Losers: SNMX (-56%), TWGP (-13%), AES (-12%)

Portfolio B:
Winners: ALNY (+111%), LXRX (+77%), SCGLY (+70%), FMX (+44%)
Losers: SNMX (-56%), TWGP (-13%), AMX (0%), MSM (+5%)

Clearly biotech was a big positive contributor to 2012 results, and I can say that various buyouts within my portfolio were a big help as well. By no means do I expect to replicate 2012's results this year, but here's hoping!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Commodity HQ: A Brief 2,000-Year History Of Silver Prices

Silver has always been the redheaded stepchild of gold throughout human history. While its beauty, scarcity and utility have certainly been appreciated since pre-history, silver just isn’t as rare as gold and has never been esteemed as highly. For much of history, though, silver has been money. While the average laborer (or peasant) probably never saw a single gold coin in their hands in their lifetime, silver money was a different story.

Please read more here:

Seeking Alpha: Should Med Tech Head For The Dunes?

Playing the mix-and-match merger and acquisition game is a favorite pastime of bored med-tech analysts everywhere, and it doesn't hurt that the combination of below-average deal activity in 2012 and the advent of the medical device excise tax in 2013 point to more deals on the way. Today, though, I wonder whether or not a large med-tech company will step up and acquire privately-held Dune Medical and its potentially revolutionary MarginProbe cancer detection system.

Please read the full article at Seeking Alpha here:
Should Med Tech Head For The Dunes?