Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review of Barron's -- Dated April 15, 2013

I am going to review Barron's now, but my heart is really more interested in what is going to happen to gold this Sunday evening...  In a concession to my heart, I will keep this review relatively brief.  Some may smile...  :)

The Cover Story ("End of the Line for Priceline?") warns that Priceline (PCLN) is at risk of price wars with competitors Expedia (EXPE), Orbitz (OWW) and privately held Travelocity.  Author Salzman provides a graph showing Priceline is up some 450% from April 2007.  This looks like an industry that is too competitive for my taste...  Four competitors doing the same thing -- internet travel?  No thanks to any of the bunch.


Randall W. Forsyth again writes for Alan Abelson.  This week he covers two issues that Zero Hedge covered in rather good detail last week: Bitcoins and gold.  Forsyth mentions that Barron's writer Ben Levison (who covers emerging markets and is their Bitcoin observer) noted that the Bitcoin price crash resembled that of silver in 1979-1980.  Yet, the governments and central banks of the world are still merrily spending (and printing) money...  Which should be good for gold (and the other PMs).  Recall that Japan is debasing its currency at a near frenzy.  Forsyth, finishing his analysis of gold (perhaps he should have written a "if physical gold is actually available" condition in there...):

"For now, gold no longer is loved, which, to an independent-minded contrarian investor, only adds to its allure."

Forsyth then finishes his column by noting that low volatility ETFs have just come out...


"Review & Preview" had a short note on something I missed, that the Treasury sold some $621 million in GM stock, GM's CEO said he expects the rest to be sold by early 2014.

"He Said":

"We received regulatory orders requiring improved performance in multiple areas... Unfortunately we expect [to] have more of these."

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon



In "Follow-Up", writer Kopin Tan re-iterates their bullish case for Korea, whose stock market performance has not been good recently (with Kim Jong-Un memacing them to the north and Japan's depreciating Yen).  But the Korean Won is down some 7% vs. the dollar (which I did not know), and there are a couple of analysts who believe Korea is a good buy.  Hey, I hope so, a healthy Korea is important to our business!


Tiernan Ray writes a kind-of bullish piece on Yahoo (YHOO).  He notes that Yahoo is expanding into mobile internet and knows how to deal with large numbers of data requests.  They are talking with many segments of mobile, including Apple.  They have hired a technologist from Nokia and are thinking of IPO-ing Alibaba Group, the Chinese commercial search engine.


Andrew Bary (perhaps channeling Kyle Bass?), writes the alarmingly titled "Does Japan Face a Debt Apocalypse?"  The short answer is "Yes".  He quotes Kyle Bass himself: "Japanese industry has been hollowed out,".

Well maybe to an extent, but Japan's rolling bearing makers (while having plants worldwide, as do Timken and SKF) are still making LOTS of bearings there.


Jim McTague ("D. C. Current") does not think much of Obama's new budget...  It "has a pulse" though, in that the R and D Teams are at least talking it over.  But there is plenty of garbage within this proposed budget, much which may not get enacted and much that should not get enacted.


Alexander Eule ("Technology Week") wonders if Best Buy (BBY) will get shoppers coming in as much as Wall Street seems to love the stock...  Amazon sells some 72% of the same products as Best Buy, and the average discount is 17% less at Amazon vs. Best Buy.


"Speaking of Dividends" author Shirley A. Lazo writes that many of the Dow 65 stocks (inc. the transports and utilities), about 20, have raised dividends recently.


Jack Hough notes that food and consumer staple stocks are getting expensive!  They have dividends that have not been going up as much...  He suggests getting out of them and looking at buying:

Boeing (BA)
L-3 Comm. Holdings (LLL)
Occidental Petroleum (OXY)
Stanley Black & Decker (SWK)
Travelers (TRV)

All five have P/E ratios at a relatively restrained 10 - 15 and all pay dividends of over 2%.


Bill Alpert interviews Adam Parker, US Equity Strategist at Morgan Stanley.  Mr. Parker has his own niche as both a quantitative researcher and fundamentals analysis.  A fusion.  He claims that stocks that passed both analyses (quantitative and fundamental) OK did better than when whichever stocks only passed one test...  He likes Symantec (SYMC, lowering costs and integrating recent acquisitions), Philip Morris Int'l (PM, no US exposure to softer tobacco sales) and LyondellBasell Industries (LYB, lower feedstock (NatGas) costs will oboost returns).


"Economic Beat" author Gene Epstein wrote an article making my eyes blur..., about various tricks to cut entitlement costs. At the end of his column, he goes along with budget reformer Peter Peterson in being for a means test so that the wealthy do not get entitlements they don't need.

Um, but, but...  We'll look at this another time...


Editor Thomas Donlan notes that Margaret Thatcher really did change Great Britain for the better.  even though she encountered much resistance and mockery, she brought the UK back from an ugly brink caused by too much faith in central planning...  Donlan reminds us that her legacy is being forgotten on both sides of the Atlantic.


In teh Market Week section Vito J. Racanelli looks first at the stock market (the Dow did well last week) and then goes on to write about First Solar (FSLR) may not have a rosy future ahead of itself, despite what FSLR bulls are thinking...

"Asian Trader" author Assif Shameen suggest looking at HSBC (005.Hong Kong) and Standard Chartered (2888.Hong Kong) as ways to play Asia.  Banks?  I have kind of a mental allergy to investing in ANY banks...

Jonathan Buck ("European Trader") writes that Audrey Kaplan (a portfolio manager at Federated Investors' InterContinental fund) picks three German companies with good prospects (she thinks anyway): Siemens (SI), Bayer (BAYRY) and Rheinmetall (RHM.Germany).  Well, I would not invest anything in Europe, including Germany, right now, but that's just me!

"Emerging Markets" author Ben Levison suggests caution putting money to work in the Chinese stock market.  He suggests looking for companies that can thrive whether China's economy goes up or not.  Well, I will continue to buy Chinese bearings, but no thanks on Chinese stocks.

"Commodities Corner" author this week is Dan Strumpf.  He writes that oil may be facing "Peak Demand", a controversial notion to be sure.  Various agencies, here and abroad, suggest that upcoming economic weakness may cause oil to drop...  Strumpf: "Oil bulls, take note: fears of peak oil are starting to look overblown."  Well, maybe so.  But at some point it really seems we have to solve this oil conundrum (higher usage vs. lower production in the future).

Michale Aneiro ("Current Yield") writes that buyers of corporate bonds maybe should just be happy enough to be getting their coupons, as he and others think that corporate bond prices may go nowhere for a while...

Insiders sold some $30 million (or so) in LinkedIn (LNKD), Urban Outfitters (URBN) and Netapp (NTAP).

And the Mighty Peruvian Sol was unchanged for the week!  Zip, zero, nada!


So let's wrap it up: gold went off the cliff, but stocks did pretty well.

Verdict: I give this issue a very common remark: if any of the above is of interest to you, then buy it!


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