Custom Search

Monday, December 28, 2009

Google or Baidu in China or USA ?

Google v. Baidu: Which company will win China?

Posted by S. N. Mehta,

The Chinese company dominates online searches in its home market, but Google's ambitions go well beyond Googling.

At first glance one might readily declare "game over" in the China online search war. Beijing-based Baidu (BIDU) dominates: According to Jennifer Li, Baidu's chief financial officer, Baidu's market share for search in China was about 77% in the third quarter, up from 75.6% in the second quarter.

Google (GOOG), she says, lost share in China, dropping to 17% in the third quarter, from about 19% in the second quarter.

And Baidu is trying to extend its search dominance on mobile phones, an area where Google has done well in China, thanks to a search deal with China Mobile, the nation's largest carrier. In October Baidu announced a deal to provide mobile search to customers of China Unicom's (CHU) 3G services, and it also is testing a mobile app that features Baidu's some most popular online tools, including a message board service.

Surprisingly, Google's struggles in China have little to do with the quality of its search results in Chinese.

Tech analaysts in China have said Google has done a good job understanding the nuances of the Chinese language. (Google hasn't fared as well in Russia, where rival Yandex dominates thanks, in part, to its ability to accommodate the peculiarities of the Russian language.) Some users also say Google delivers a better search experience: Baidu had been criticized for mixing ads and organic search results on the same confusing page.

Baidu benefits from incumbent status (it formed in 2000, while Google China didn't get going until 2006 –after Google sold a modest share in Baidu) and, its executives say, a set of tools that help Chinese users get information – not just search results. A tool called Baidu Post Bar it a bit like a social-networking application that allows users to tap other folks online for advice or comments as they are searching for, say, the best appliance to buy.

But no one, least of all Baidu executives, assumes Google is content with its position in China today. "We don't underestimate their technology or their ability," says Baidu CFO Li.

And while Baidu, for now, seems content to focus on search (CEO Robin Li likes to point out that the company's other services – maps, mail, Baidu Post – all help enhance the search experience) Google's ambitions in China go well beyond traditional online advertising and search. The company is widely believed to be looking for multiple ways to introduce its Android mobile operating platform in China, and recent reports suggest it may look to open an Android application marketplace in China.

For now, though, Google must live with its second-banana status in China. According to various Chinese news outlets (we can't find the original document online in English) Google China issued a news release listing the most popular searches in China in 2008. The most searched term among Google users in mainland China? Baidu.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Predictions 2010: Stocks, Jobs, Inflation & More ! D. Kneale Articale CNBC ( GE,C,GS, )

Stolen Without a Gun: Confessions from Inside History's Biggest Accounting Fraud - The Collapse of MCI WorldCom [STOLEN W/O A GUN]

By: Dennis Kneale

CNBC Media & Technology Editor

A funny thing happened on the way to Armageddon.

One year ago, the world braced for total economic collapse. We writhed in shock and fear in the wake of Bear Stearns-Lehman Brothers-AIG-Merrill Lynch-Wachovia-Countrywide et al.

The experts declared, "Game Over". The Wall Street model was dead and profits would take years to recover; the consumer was exhausted; credit markets were frozen: and the economy would languish for years to come. As for mergers & acquisitions and hedge funds and the private equity business: fuhgeddaboudit.

They were, all of them, just wrong, wrong, wrong. Our economy is healing more quickly than legions of pixel pundits ever believed possible. I’m sorry to gloat, guys, but while many so preached doom a year ago, I was sellin’ the hope.

Last November, I posted nine predictions for the new year, most of them in the searching-for-hope category. One year later, by my reckoning, I was right, more or less, on eight out of nine (see below). Now that I’m feeling a little cocky, here's my big-picture predictions for 2010.

1. Stocks.

The Dow 30 will have another volatile year, dipping below 10,000 a time or two before closing year-end at 11,650.

2. Economy.

We won’t have a second-dip recession; instead GDP will surprise the experts again by growing 3.0 percent or better for the full year.

3. Job Market.

Growth returns by the start of the second half of the year and a robust spring-back in hiring will startle the doubters.

4. Inflation.

Inflation smation. It will run below 2.0 percent for most of the year.

5. General Electric.

GE [GE 15.44 0.03 (+0.19%) ] will spin out or sell off a few huge businesses to focus mainly on heavy-metal infrastructure for the developing world. Goodbye light bulbs and, maybe, medical-imaging; hello, partial-stake spin or IPO for GE Capital. (GE, of course, is the parent company of CNBC and ... for now)

6. Citigroup.

Citigroup [C 3.35 0.06 (+1.82%) ] will cease to exist. Breakup artists will descend to chop it and sell off the pieces.

7. Goldman Sachs.

Wall Street powerhouse Goldman [GS 163.97 0.34 (+0.21%) ] will pump out even higher net income in 2010 than it did in 2009, and move early to buy out the preferred stake it sold to Warren Buffett at the height of the Great Meltdown of late ’08.

Current DateTime: 11:25:50 25 Dec 2009

LinksList Documentid: 34134938

Autos: Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad

Consumers: Forever Frugal

Markets: Uncertain For Sure

Media: Content (And Consumers) King

Real Estate: Still On The Mend

Sports: Less Luxury, More 3-D

Tech: Go Microsoft, Goodbye Twitter

The Big Picture: Big (Positive) Surprises

8. Health Care.

Obamacare will stall on a revolt by middle-class taxpayers, once they realize this trillion-dollar entitlement would also cover 15 million illegal aliens.

9. Obama.

The president will suffer a setback in the mid-term elections. The Democrats will lose seats in both the House and Senate. The good news—this will force Bam back to the middle, and that would help the markets.

10. Taxes.

The Dems’ mid-term spanking and a still-mending economy will force Obama to leave in place a couple of the Bush tax cuts that otherwise expire at the end of 2010. My bet—the lower rates on capital gains and dividends

8 Great Stocks for 2010 -

8 Great Stocks for 2010 -

Posted using ShareThis

8 Great Stocks for 2010 -

8 Great Stocks for 2010 -

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

sales in homes go higher in 2010 & Nov. 2009 ??

Bloomberg) -- Sales of existing U.S. homes in November rose to the highest level in almost three years as first-time buyers rushed to take advantage of a government tax credit and lower prices.

Purchases increased 7.4 percent to a 6.54 million annual rate, exceeding the highest estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. Another report showed the economy grew a less-than-forecast 2.2 percent in the third quarter as companies cut stockpiles, pointing to manufacturing gains at the start of 2010.

The housing market is getting a boost from efforts by the government and Federal Reserve to stabilize the industry at the center of the worst recession since the 1930s. Improved consumer spending combined with record decreases in inventories will promote production, which may keep the world’s largest economy growing into 2010.

The economy is “rebounding again pretty much across the board,” said Steven Wieting, managing director of economic and market analysis at Citigroup Global Markets Inc. in New York. “We will see somewhat stronger growth,” he said, adding “it’s not going to be one of these dramatic recoveries.”

Stocks rose and Treasury securities fell after the reports. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.4 percent to 1,118.79 at 1:28 p.m. in New York, and the S&P Homebuilder Supercomposite Index was up 3.8 percent. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.74 percent from 3.68 percent late yesterday.

Slower Expansion

The economy grew at a 2.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter, down from a prior estimate of 2.8 percent, revised figures from the Commerce Department showed today. Companies curbed spending and cut inventories at an even faster pace, leading to a slower pace of expansion.

Existing home sales were projected to rise to a 6.25 million annual rate, according to the median forecast of 69 economists in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 5.2 million to 6.5 million. The NAR revised October’s reading down to a 6.09 million pace from an initially reported 6.1 million rate.

First-time buyers accounted for 51 percent of sales last month, and 71 percent of the houses sold cost less than $250,000, the report from the real-estate agents’ group showed. The figures indicate the government’s tax credit helped boost demand.

Mortgage Rates

Fed debt purchases are helping keep mortgage rates close to record lows, while President Barack Obama’s Nov. 7 extension and expansion of the tax credit through April may provide short-term impetus to sales and construction.

The central bank last week signaled it would keep lending rates low for “an extended period” to foster growth. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.94 percent last week and has averaged 4.85 percent since the end of October, according to Freddie Mac.

“Housing is on a solid footing through to the spring markets,” said Derek Holt, an economist at Scotia Capital Inc. in Toronto, who forecast a rise to 6.5 million units. “But once foreclosed, unlisted homes go back on the market and homebuyers’ incentives come off, we’re looking at a weaker back half of next year.”

Purchases of existing homes rose 44 percent in November compared with a year earlier, the biggest increase on record. The median price was $172,600, down 4.3 percent from November 2008. The figure is influenced by the mix of sales and the drop reflects the growing proportion of lower-priced houses.

Home Prices

A report from the Federal Housing Finance Agency in Washington showed home prices fell 1.9 percent in October from a year earlier. The group’s U.S. housing index is down 10.8 percent from the April 2007 peak.

The number of previously owned unsold homes on the market fell 1.3 percent to 3.52 million. At the current sales pace, it would take 6.5 months to sell those houses compared with 7 months at the end of October. The ratio is the lowest since December 2006.

The share of homes sold as foreclosures or otherwise distressed properties was 33 percent, said Lawrence Yun, the agents group’s chief economist.

“The tax credit had the intended impact of drawing buyers in and lowering inventory,” Yun said in a news conference. “An estimated 2 million buyers have taken advantage of the credit.”

Single-Family Sales

The report showed sales of existing single-family homes rose 8.5 percent to an annual rate of 5.77 million. Sales of condos and co-ops were unchanged at a 770,000 rate.

Toll Brothers Inc., the largest U.S. luxury-home builder, projected deliveries may fall by as much as 33 percent in the 12 months through October 2010, and the average selling price may drop as low as $540,000.

“We believe it may take some time for Americans to regain confidence in our economy, their job status and the benefits of home ownership,” Robert Toll, chief executive officer at Toll Brothers, said in a Dec. 3 statement. “We anticipate a gradual recovery in housing, similar to the one that occurred in the early 1990s.”

B. Wilis

Monday, December 7, 2009

Is The Fed Raising Interest Rates in 2010 ?

Ideas that the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates next year sent U.S. stock index futures lower Monday ahead of a speech from the Fed's chairman.

S&P 500 futures fell 4.3 points to 1,103.80 and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 7.25 points to 1,787.75. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 38 points.

U.S. stocks closed higher Friday after news that just 11,000 nonfarm payroll jobs were lost in November--the smallest rate of job destruction in nearly two years. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 22 points, the Nasdaq Composite added 21 points and the S&P 500 climbed 6 points.

Gains were tempered by the dollar's rally on growing expectations of rate hikes from the U.S. Federal Reserve, which at the moment has interest rates at near-zero levels.

"The very strong inverse relationship over the past 18 months between the dollar and risk assets will be the most interesting thing to watch in 2010 if the greenback finally bottoms," said Jim Reid, a strategist at Deutsche Bank. "It's still a big 'if' but Friday was fascinating in that the market ended higher after the dollar rally but only via some extreme intra-day moves across different assets."

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will have a chance to address that issue in a speech due for delivery at noon Eastern.

Ahead of Bernanke, the dollar rose against the euro but fell vs. the Japanese yen, which some analysts say is the currency that may become the target of the new carry trade. A carry trade is when traders borrow in a low-yielding currency to reinvest elsewhere.

Gold futures continued their slide, losing $28 an ounce. Oil futures also dropped and traded below the $75 a barrel level.

Citi (C) will be in the spotlight as Kuwait sold a $4.1 billion stake in the New York lender, while the Financial Times reported that Citi is hoping to convince U.S. authorities to allow it to repay $20 billion of bailout funds.

Akamai Technologies (AKAM) on Monday lifted its fourth-quarter revenue and earnings guidance, saying trading in the first two months of the quarter have exceeded its expectations. The Internet services company lifted its guidance for fourth-quarter adjusted earnings to a range of 42 cents to 43 cents a share, from a range of 39 cents to 41 cents a share.

Analysts had been expecting adjusted earnings of 40 cents a share on revenue of $221.9 million

Bank pay also will be in the spotlight as Britain is reportedly weighing new measures to tax bonuses, while five senior executives told American International Group (AIG) that they'll quit if compensation was cut significantly by a U.S. pay czar, The Wall Street Journal reported.

In Asia, resource stocks struggled but the Nikkei 225 advanced 1.5% in Tokyo after the biggest weekly drop in the yen in ten years.

The pan-European Dow Jones Stoxx 600 fell 0.7%.

By W. Watts,

Monday, November 30, 2009

Black friday web traffic ! (AMZN) was the most trafficked retail Web site on Black Friday for the second straight year, according to Experian Hitwise.

Here is the Hitwise list of the top 20 most trafficked retail sites on Black Friday, with their share of traffic among the top 500 retail sites: (AMZN), 13.55%
Walmart (WMT), 11.18%
Target (TGT), 5.65%
Best Buy (BBY), 4.62%
Sears (SHLD), 2.95%
JC Penney (JCP), 2.53%
Toys R Us, 2.47%
Kohl’s (KSS), 1.94%
Kmart, 1.90%
Dell (DELL), 1.62%
Macy’s, 1.52% (OSTK), 1.49%, 1.27%
Home Depot (HD), 1.12%
Lowe’s (LOW), 1.10%
Apple (AAPL), 1.08%
Staples (SPLS), 0.99%
Old Navy, 0.98%
GameStop (GME), 0.95%
Fandango (CMCSA), 0.92%

Saturday, November 28, 2009

X Mas - holiday shopping has some gem & some coal in your shopping stockings ?

Early shopping tally: Some gems, some coal
Store sales up only slightly from last year, according to tracking firm. But signs of strength seen at some merchants, in West and online.

) -- Although malls around the country reported a rush of shoppers and filled parking lots throughout Black Friday, total sales for the day only saw a slight - and not a robust - improvement over last year.
Retailers registered about $10.66 billion in sales Friday, up 0.5% from a year ago, according to a report Saturday from sales and traffic tracking firm ShopperTrak.
Regionally, the firm said year-over-year Black Friday sales rose 4.7% in the West, increased 1.3% in the Midwest, edged up 0.6% in the South, but declined 4.9% in the Northeast, where there was rain in many sections.
"With Black Friday's performance it looks like November will be a positive month for retailers compared to last year, which is an encouraging sign," ShopperTrak co-founder Bill Martin said in the report.
"Friday's relatively strong performance isn't always a bellwether for the entire season, but we believe the 1.6% increase we originally predicted for the holiday season remains intact," he added.
The firm said it did not yet have data on how many consumers hit stores on Black Friday, even as retailers opened their doors early again Saturday in their continuing effort to lure customers.
Taubman Centers -- which operates such malls as the Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, Ill., and the Stamford Town Center in Connecticut -- said a majority of its centers reported year-over-year sales increases Friday, with steady traffic into the evening hours.
"The hot categories throughout the evening included apparel, electronics, shoes and boots, and bath and beauty predominantly," said Karen Mac Donald, Taubman's communications director, in an e-mail.
J.C. Penney said Saturday that sales were strong at stores across the country on Black Friday. Top sellers included gemstone and gold jewelry, luggage sets, women's cashmere-blend pea coats and a device that projects TV images onto a blank wall.
Sales with a click
It was a stronger picture for Internet retailing. The average online order on Black Friday rose 35% from last year, to $170.19, according to online retail analyst Coremetrics -- an indication that people may be looking to buy gifts after a year of economic woes.
"The healthy jump in the average amount of money people are willing to spend online this year suggests consumers have adjusted their shopping patterns to the reality of the economic downturn," said John Squire, chief strategy officer, Coremetrics, in a statement. "They're thriftier, they're savvier and every one of them wants to be the best bargain hunter out there."
While people spent more online, Coremetrics said they were spending less time browsing, indicating that they know what they want, and how much they want to pay for it.
Online shopping will garner more attention Monday -- the so-called Cyber Monday -- when many Americans will take advantage of computers at work to shop for gifts.
Although Black Friday seemed to be missing the usual mayhem associated with it, the good news for merchants was that shoppers eagerly spent money on toys, cashmere sweaters, Snuggie blankets and gadgets at juicy discounts .
"What I've noticed so far is that [consumer] traffic is on par with last year, but people are buying more," said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst with market research firm NPD Group.
"They are going into stores with the pure intention of spending money. They have their stores, products and prices all picked out," he said.
The National Retail Federation (NRF) is expected to release its report Sunday estimating how much shoppers spent over the Black Friday weekend and where they shopped.
Compared to previous years, Cohen said the Black Friday atmosphere appeared to "be more tame."
Wal-Mart, which saw Black Friday 2008 tainted by the death of a temporary worker in a shopper stampede in Valley Stream, N.Y., said the day passed without much incident -- although in Upland, Calif., was forced to shut its doors after shoppers got a bit too rowdy.
"We've heard of a few scuffles among customers, but overall it has been a very safe event," a Wal-Mart spokesman said.
"Look, retailers have been educating consumers for days before Black Friday on what their deals are going to be and on what items," said Cohen. "That's partly why we're not seeing the frenziness."
Power tools and Snuggies selling out
Sears (SHLD, Fortune 500) spokesman Tom Aiello said he thought Black Friday crowds outside its stores were "a little bit more than last year."
The department store chain reported an average of 300 to 400 shoppers lined up for its 4 a.m. opening Friday.
The top sellers at Sears included a Craftsman drill set for $39.99, down from its original price of $79.99, as well as home-related goods such as luggage, comforters and the Snuggie blanket.
"Snuggies are selling fast for $9.99 at out Kmart stores," Aiello said. "And our layaway section is jammed. People are buying the special deals and putting them on layaway."
Jim Fielding, president of Disney Store Worldwide, said Black Friday was a big day for his company's 205 U.S. retail stores. He said hot sellers were toddler dolls, classic dolls, Buzz and Woody action figures from "Toy Story" and $10 plush toys.
"I would say that shoppers are focused on value," said Fielding. "But you could find value at $10 or at $50."
This year, more retailers opened their stores at midnight instead of the typical 5 a.m. Black Friday openings.
Fielding said the extra pre-dawn hours of business worked for Disney stores. "We're able to better manage the demand and spread [customer] traffic throughout the day," he said. "This may not become the norm for Black Friday for all retailers, but I think we will continue to be committed to it for the foreseeable future."
Elsewhere, Zhu Zhu, the electronic pet hamster, was flying off shelves at Toys R Us and emerged as the frontrunner for this year's must-have toy. (Black Friday shoppers hear the call of Zhu Zhu)
Toys R Us, the nation's leading specialty toy retailer, opened its stores at midnight on Thanksgiving. CEO Gerald Storch told that about 1,000 people lined up on average at his company's stores.
In addition to Zhu Zhu, Storch said other hot sellers included Princess Tiana dolls, from the new Disney (DIS, Fortune 500) animated movie "The Princess and the Frog," as well as video games and crafts products such as the Paperoni 3-D picture set.The retailer has been aggressive in price cutting this season as it does battle with discounters Wal-Mart and Target. "History has shown that economic downturns are a great time for those who are aggressive, so we're very aggressive this year," Storch said.
Tough challenge for merchants
The day after Thanksgiving is dubbed "Black Friday" because it traditionally marks the day of the year when retailers finally move out of the red, indicating losses, and into the black, representing profits.
But despite the hype surrounding Black Friday as the "unofficial" start to holiday gift shopping, it's not the busiest shopping day of the year. That day invariably is the Saturday before Christmas, which is Dec. 19 this year.
Still, for retailers, November and December are crucial sales months because the combined period can account for half, or more, of their sales and profits for the full year.
Although retailers know that they're facing an uphill battle to grow sales amid a tepid spending environment, the hope is that this year's holiday season will at least be an improvement from the previous year.
The NRF expects holiday sales to decline 1% versus a 3.4% drop in holiday sales the previous year.
The group maintains that even though many Americans have had a year to adjust to the recession, continued job losses and stagnant income growth are forcing many consumers to restrain their shopping impulses and shop only for necessities.
Overall, more bargain hunters are expected to hit stores on Black Friday and the weekend. The total is expected to be about 134 million, up from 128 million a year ago, according to the NRF.
"More shoppers will come out today than a year ago," said Britt Beemer, a retail industry expert and chairman of America's Research Group. "But consumers are so concerned about money that if and when the deals are gone, so are they."
-- staff writers David Ellis and Aaron Smith

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dubai debt fears hit world markets hard - dollar slide hit world stock markets hard

World stock markets fell sharply Thursday as investors fretted over the debt problems at Dubai World, a government investment company, and the continued fall in the dollar.

AP - A Tokyo money dealer looks at a memo as the U.S. dollar is traded at 86.64 yen on ...
Markets are usually relatively quiet when Wall Street is closed for a holiday, as it is Thursday for Thanksgiving Day -- not so today.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 116.65 points, or 2.2 percent, at 5,248.16, having been out of action earlier for over three hours because of technical problems.

Germany's DAX fell 129.45 points, or 2.2 percent, to 5,673.57 while the CAC-40 in France was 85.17 points, or 2.2 percent, lower at 3,723.99.

Earlier in Asia, the Shanghai index tanked 119.19 points, or 3.6 percent, to close at 3,170.98, its biggest one-day fall since August 31, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 1.8 percent to 22,210.41.

Sentiment in stocks has been dented by the news that Dubai World, which is thought to have debts totaling around $60 billion, has asked creditors if it can postpone its forthcoming payments until May. That has stoked fears of a potential default and contagion around the global financial system, particularly in emerging markets.

"Certainly the Dubai debt debacle and the uncertainty that it has created has had a severe knock on effect," said David Buik, markets analyst at BGC Partners.

Investors were also keeping a close eye on developments in the currency markets as the dollar slid to a new 14-year low of 86.27 yen, while the euro pushed up to a fresh 15-month high of $1.5141. By mid afternoon London time, the dollar had recouped some ground and was trading at 86.72 yen, down 0.7 percent on the day, while the euro was 0.6 percent lower at $1.5046.

The continued appreciation in the value of the yen continues to dent Japanese stocks as investors worry that the rising currency will have a detrimental effect on the country's exports. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average fell 58.40 points, or 0.6 percent, to 9,383.24.

Kit Juckes, chief economist at ECU Group, said the developments in Dubai and in the currency markets are related as the fall in risk appetite has pushed money into government bonds and into safe haven currencies such as the Swiss franc and the yen.

This, he said, is "testing the tolerance of central banks to see their currencies cause further damage to their economies."

Already there has been unconfirmed talk in the markets that the Swiss National Bank has intervened to buy dollars to prevent the export-sapping appreciation of the Swiss franc.

Meanwhile, Japanese Finance Minister Hirohisa Fujii tried to assure the market he was closely monitoring the situation and would "take appropriate steps if foreign exchange rates move abnormally." But that did little to ease investor worries.

Across all markets, there is a growing awareness that investors may use the upcoming year-end to lock-in whatever profits have been made over the last 12 months.

Gold, one of the biggest high-flyers over the last few months, continued to rise as it garnered renewed support from its safe haven status. It hit a new record high of $1,196.8 an ounce, before falling back modestly. By mid afternoon London time, gold was down 0.1 percent at $1,186.30 an ounce.

Oil also fell alongside stocks -- the two have traded alongside each other for much of this year. Benchmark crude for January delivery was down 92 cents, or 1.1 percent, at $77.04 a barrel. On Wednesday, it rose $1.94.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gm to repay us government billions of dollers back ??

General Motors will announce later today plans to repay the U.S. government some $6.7 billion in loans ahead of its initial due date of July 2015. The payments are expected to begin as early as next month, with $1 billion paid each quarter until the full sum is paid -- although that doesn't cover the total $50 billion the taxpayers have "invested" in the automaker after it declared bankruptcy earlier this year.

However, as the Washington Post points out, the amount the government will get back from GM depends on the value of the General's stock. With $6.7 billion in debt, $2.1 billion preferred stock and a 61 percent stake in the automaker, the $50 billion total is a long way off from being paid in full. And when GM reports its financial results tomorrow, it's not expected to show a profit, although the overall picture could be slightly better than anticipated.

[Sources: Washington Post, Detroit New

does 3-Niaspan tops Zetia in new setback for Merck drug?

* Niaspan leads to reduction in artery wall thickness

* No meaningful change seen with Zetia

* 5 times as many serious adverse events seen with Zetia

* Journal editorials cite several limitations of study (Adds analyst comment, AHA comment on Zetia safety)

By Bill Berkrot and Ransdell Pierson

ORLANDO, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Abbott Laboratories' (ABT.N) Niaspan appeared to be more effective and safer than Merck & Co's (MRK.N) Zetia as a supplementary cholesterol treatment to statins, according to a small study that is likely to further tarnish Merck's damaged cholesterol franchise.

The damage, however, may be limited by the limitations of the study itself, which included data from just 208 patients and was criticized in a major medical journal.

"Niacin is the clear winner and led to very clear reductions in the amount of atherosclerosis that patients had," Alan Taylor, the study's lead investigator who will present the data on Monday at the American Heart Association scientific meeting in Orlando, Florida, said in an interview on Sunday.

Atherosclerosis, which occurs when there is a build-up of dangerous plaque in the arteries, can lead to heart attacks.

Two earlier studies had led to questions about the value and effectiveness of Zetia and a related Merck drug, Vytorin, after which sales of the medicines plunged, although it remains a $4 billion a year franchise.

"This trial doesn't quite put the nail in the coffin for ezetimibe, but it pushes it way down on the list of medications for cholesterol-lowering therapy," Anthony DeMaria, editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, said in a statement, using the chemical name for Zetia.

Jon LeCroy, an analyst with Hapoalim Securities, said the study could have a sharp negative effect on Merck's cholesterol franchise.

"This is a huge negative because the excess heart attacks raise significant concern, and front-page headlines will cause worried patients to call their doctors," LeCroy said. He speculated U.S. sales of Zetia and Vytorin could fall another 10-15 percent on the news.

The study tested the effect on carotid artery wall thickness of adding either Niaspan, a long-acting niacin that raises good HDL cholesterol, or Zetia, which lowers bad LDL levels. It involved patients who had heart disease or high risk of heart disease whose LDL was already at target levels from taking statins -- the first-line treatment for high cholesterol -- but who had low HDL levels.

Increases in thickness of the artery wall could be an indicator of build-up of dangerous plaque that causes atherosclerosis, while a decrease could indicate regression of the disease.

The 14-month, 363-subject study sought to determine whether a patient on statins in need of additional therapy would benefit more from further driving LDL down or raising HDL. "This is a question that clinicians are faced with every single day," Taylor explained
Even though the study was halted early, with 14-month data available for only 208 patients, "Niaspan turned out to be clearly superior to ezetimibe," Taylor said.

Niaspan patients had an average reduction in carotid artery wall thickness -- known as intima-media thickness -- of 0.014 millimeters compared with no real change in the Zetia group.


Perhaps of more concern was the five times difference in major adverse events, defined as heart attack, death from heart disease, need for artery-clearing procedures or hospitalization for acute coronary syndrome, although the numbers were small.

There were nine major adverse events in the Zetia group of patients, or 5 percent, compared with two with Niaspan, or 1 percent.

Taylor recommended that doctors refrain from using Zetia in patients until data becomes available that shows it definitively prevents heart attacks and strokes. Merck is currently conducting a large study it hopes will prove just that.

AHA spokesman and former president Robert Eckel said the independent safety monitoring board for the large Merck study "has not seen any safety signal surface." Therefore, Eckel said, "I see no reason to be concerned about using Zetia for LDL lowering."

"The American Heart Association is driven by science, and at this time there is no evidence the drug does harm," he said.

But Taylor said, "To assume that a drug is OK just because LDL goes down is no longer an assumption you can make."

A pair of editorials in the New England Journal of Medicine, however, questioned Taylor's study and its conclusions.

"Unfortunately, the premature termination of the trial, the small number of patients studied and the limited duration of follow-up preclude us from conclusively declaring niacin the adjunctive agent of choice," one editorial concluded, adding that the result "does not necessarily merit changes in our lipid-lowering guidelines at this time."

A second editorial said not including data from all 363 patients was a missed opportunity to enhance the study's precision.

Despite the study's "several limitations," it said "the primary results are likely to be correct, although the magnitude of the difference between the treatment arms may be overestimated."

But Merck research chief Peter Kim defended his company's drug, calling Taylor's study, "scientifically inadequate."

"It would be inappropriate in my opinion for physicians to be taking (this) data and making any changes in their clinical practice with regard to these drugs. It would not be good for public health," Kim said. (Editing by Leslie Adler)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stocks Rally higher , jobs lost , less than expected

Stocks continued rallying just before the closing bell on Thursday, with the Dow dancing on both sides of 10,000 once again, after investors digested better-than-expected jobless claims data and productivity numbers reached a six-year high.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which surged over 200 points earlier to top the five-figure mark, was recently up 189 points, or 2%, at 9,991. The S&P 500 gained 18 points, or 1.7%, at 1064, and the Nasdaq was up 45 points, or 2.2%, to 2101.
Initial claims for unemployment benefits fell to its lowest since January. First-time claims fell by 20,000 to a seasonally adjusted 512,000 last week vs. a consensus forecast of 522,000. That's also down from the prior week's revised 532,000. Continuing claims fell to 5.75 million from a revised 5.82 million.
Most Commented
Sirius XM Tops Targets
Most Popular
Citi Shares Hamstrung
Boosting markets further were macro figures showing nonfarm productivity grew by an annual rate of 9.5% in the third quarter vs. consensus estimates at 6.5%.
"In these numbers today, we have those that are focused on long-term fundamentals and those that are focused on the short-term trading opportunity both looking for a positive day," says Marc Pado, U.S. market strategist for Cantor Fitzgerald.
In the afternoon, all stocks on the Dow were in positive territory. But Cisco(CSCO Quote), which was adding 3% today following an earnings beat, helped boost the markets. The tech bellwether reported adjusted earnings at 36 cents a share vs. a consensus estimate of 31 cents. In an earnings call, CEO John Chambers gave a hopeful, but cautious, assessment about the economic recovery that had Wall Street cheering.
"John Chambers was successful in calling the bottom last quarter in his markets," says Art Hogan, chief market analyst for Jeffries. "This quarter, he was much more upbeat, not just about the bottom markets but about the middle markets."
Tech stocks were rising in kind, with the NYSE Arca Tech 100 Index adding 2.1% in the afternoon. IBM(IBM Quote) was up 1.2%. Chipmaker Intel(INTC Quote) was ticking higher by 1.8%.
On Friday morning, employment data will again be in focus, as the markets await highly anticipated nonfarm payroll and unemployment rate figures. Analysts anticipate the rate will move higher to 9.9% from 9.8% in September, with 175,000 jobs slashed. With initial claims and ADP figures already in the books, one expert says investors are gaining confidence about what's in store.
"I think part of the selloff from yesterday was about lingering concerns," adds Pado. "So to get some numbers this morning that are supportive of where you had your projections is important."
"Anything over 200,000 [job cuts] isn't going to sit well with people," adds Kenny Landgraf, President of Kenjol Capital Management, speaking of Friday's jobs figures. "It's going to be a volatile day."
CVS Caremark(CVS Quote) was the S&P's biggest decliner, down 21%. Though it beat forecasts in posting earnings at 65 cents a share, the drugstore concern lost billions worth in contracts in its pharmacy benefits segment.
The S&P Retail Index was up 1.5% after a mix of same-store sales numbers came in, highlighted by high-end operators like Nordstrom(JWN Quote) and Saks(SKS Quote) topping expectations.
In other earnings news, Toyota(TM Quote) surprised with a second-quarter profit, while Time Warner Cable(TWC Quote) reported net income of 76 cents a share. Analysts were expecting 75 cents.
Overseas, the Bank of England maintained its key interest rate at 0.5%. After a slide before the announcement, stocks in Europe turned positive. The FTSE in London grew 0.4%, while the DAX in Frankfurt added 0.7%. In Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.6%, as Japan's Nikkei fell 1.3%.
Crude oil slid 78 cents to settle at $79.62 a barrel. Gold gained $2 to settle at $1,089.30 an ounce.

Monday, October 19, 2009

CIT Group warns it still might face bankruptcy even if amended debt exchange is completed

Struggling lender CIT Group is warning that it might still file for bankruptcy even if it completes a revised debt restructuring plan, according to a regulatory filing Monday.

The New York-based lender to small and midsize businesses is trying to slash its near-term debt burden.

On Friday, it sweetened the restructured exchange offer to current bondholders as it tries to ensure the offer's success. The revised offer gives bondholders a better interest rate and shorter maturities on new debt.

The revised offer would also give the government a 5.4 percent stake in the lender, up from a proposed 2.4 percent under the original plan. The government provided CIT Group $2.3 billion in loans last fall amid the peak of the credit crisis.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jamba Juice Promotion , will this help the stock go higher ?

Looking to get back to its roots in local communities, only now with year-round food options, Jamba Juice will invest $30 million this fall in a “Feel Good Moments” promotional campaign that will be conducted out-of-home and online.The chain, best known for its smoothies, will distribute 30 million “Feel Good Bucks” through street teams, direct mail, brand partners and online. Recipients must bring their Bucks into Jamba Juice shops to learn the value, which ranges from $1 to $10,000. The Bucks are good for $1 to $25 off food purchases and larger cash prizes. The promotion runs Oct. 5 through Jan. 4.The ad spend is a significant change from last year when Jamba spent just $1.5 million in measured media, according to Nielsen Co. That figure does not include Internet advertising.Through a sweepstakes element, three people will win a self-designed Feel Good Moment, such as a Hawaiian vacation or the repayment of a school loan-—pretty much anything within legal limits, $10,000 and reason. (Checking the value of a Buck is free, but to receive the cash or prize, the patron must make a purchase.)The 730-store chain will send its Bananaman mascot out as a “Feel Good Ambassador” to high-traffic locations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. In addition to distributing the Bucks, he will do good deeds, such as give First Class airline ticket upgrades and fill up people’s gas tanks. Those who don’t run into Bananaman or get a mailer can print a Feel Good Buck through an app at the brand’s Facebook page.“The backdrop is America’s not feeling so great these days and Jamba Juice is a brand that brings people together and refreshes them,” said James White, president/CEO. “We’re trying to translate that in-store experience outside our stores” at a time when people are screaming for more value.Additionally, the company’s mission is to be “America’s healthiest QSR” while taking the seasonality out of our business to improve year-round sales. Jamba Juice added oatmeal last winter and now has wraps and food fare at about 300 locations.The Emeryville, Calif.-based Jamba Juice was one of the country’s rising chains in the mid-’90s with a very parochial marketing plan—most marketing occurred within a two- to three-mile radius of each location—but it has struggled a bit as it has switched to a media strategy that is national in scope. The return to a more local strategy is intentional. The company also hopes to reverse its owned/franchised ratio, which is about 70 to 30. Recent growth has been in opening franchises at colleges, airports and other nontraditional outlets. Jamba Juice’s better-for-you message will tie in to the promotion through in-store signage and other collateral. “Part of feeling good is about doing things that are good for your body,” said Kim Larson, vp-marketing. “That is one of our core messages-—being healthy and active feels good.”Social networking is also becoming a key communication tool. While Jamba Juice’s Facebook fan page was started by a team member rather than its marketing or public relations department, it has grown from about 65,000 members at the beginning of this year to 309,000 today. The page gets about 3,000 new fans a week. “Facebook will be a primary place for us to showcase the Feel Good Moments as well as show our mission,” Larson said. “We try to keep this community interested.”

Sunday, August 2, 2009

will Ford post 1st monthly sales increase in years ?

Surging demand from the U.S. government's "cash for clunkers" program has helped lift Ford Motor Co. to its first monthly increase in two years, the company's top sales analyst said Sunday.
July sales results mark the first year-over-year gain for Ford since November 2007 and apparently the first uptick by any of the six biggest carmakers since last August, George Pipas said.
He declined to disclose a specific total before sales results are officially reported on Monday. Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford sold a total of 161,071 vehicles in July 2008, down 15 percent from a year earlier.
The increase further testifies to the successful reception of the government rebate program, which President Barack Obama signed into law June 24 as part of a broad $106 billion spending bill.
"We were having a good month -- and Ford's been having some good months lately -- but the (clunkers) program really put us over the top for sure," Pipas said in a telephone interview.
The government's Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) was designed to get old, polluting vehicles off the road and scrapped while helping car dealers emerge from the recession. Owners of gas-guzzlers could receive rebates of $3,500 or $4,500 toward the purchase of a new fuel-efficient car. The program proved wildly popular and led to the sale of 250,000 new vehicles in just days.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Sunday he expects the current $1 billion pool, which had been expected to last until November, to be exhausted by the end of this weekend. The House on Friday approved an additional $2 billion, shifting funds from a renewable energy loan program, and the Obama administration is pressing the Senate to go along before its summer vacation begins at week's end. If the Senate does not approve the additional funding, the progam will have to be suspended.
Improved sales at Ford and elsewhere may be another sign that the economy has either bottomed out or is nearing a bottom. The government reported Friday that the economy shrank at a pace of just 1 percent in the second quarter, better than analysts anticipated and much better than the 6.4 percent decline seen in the first three months of the year, which marked the steepest slide in nearly 30 years.
Pipas said the July sales increase is "some indication that consumers are getting their feet on the ground again. ... I think it indicates that maybe the worst is behind us, sales-wise."
The July sales also make it the ninth month in the last 10 that Ford has posted a gain in market share, he said.
Pipas said that is evidence of the success of the company's new products -- the Fusion and the Fusion hybrid, the Escape, the redesigned Focus, the Mercury Mariner and the Mercury Milan -- all of them among its most fuel-efficient vehicles.

Was the U.S. Recession Worst Since Great Depression, Revised Data Show

Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The first 12 months of the U.S. recession saw the economy shrink more than twice as much as previously estimated, reflecting even bigger declines in consumer spending and housing, revised figures showed.
The world’s largest economy contracted 1.9 percent from the fourth quarter of 2007 to the last three months of 2008, compared with the 0.8 percent drop previously on the books, the Commerce Department said yesterday in Washington. Gross domestic product has shrunk 3.9 percent in the past year, the report said, indicating the worst slump since the Great Depression.
Updated statistics also showed that Americans earned more over the last 10 years and socked away a larger share of that cash in savings. The report signals the process of repairing tattered balance sheets following the biggest drop in household wealth on record may be further along than anticipated.
“The current downturn beginning in 2008 is more pronounced,” Steven Landefeld, director of the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, said in a press briefing this week. The revisions were in line with past experience in which initial figures tended to underestimate the severity of contractions during their early stages, he said.
Consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of the economy, decreased 1.8 percent in last year’s fourth quarter from the same period in 2007, exceeding the prior estimate of a 1.5 percent drop. Purchases also began sinking sooner than previously projected, registering their first decline at the start of 2008 rather than in the second half.
Treasuries, Stocks
Treasuries gained after the GDP report, while stocks closed little changed. Benchmark 10-year note yields dropped to 3.48 percent by the close in New York, from 3.61 percent late the day before. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index closed at 987.48.
Residential construction fell 21 percent during the period, almost 2 percentage points more than previously reported, aggravating what was already the worst slump since the Great Depression.
The Commerce Department also reported yesterday that the economy contracted at a 1 percent annual rate from April through June after shrinking at a 6.4 percent pace in the first quarter, the most since 1982. The decline in the first three months of the year was previously reported as 5.5 percent.
Recession’s Start
The National Bureau of Economic Research, the arbiter of U.S. business cycles, last year determined the recession started in December 2007. The private group is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Yesterday’s updates are part of comprehensive revisions that take place about every five years and are more extensive than the changes announced at this time each year. Figures as far back as 1929 can be revised.
Over the most recent period, the third quarter of 2008 underwent one of the biggest changes, going from a 0.5 percent decrease in GDP to a 2.7 percent drop. The new reading better illustrates the effect the September collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. had on the economy and credit markets.
The deeper deterioration last year underscores why Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and his colleagues at the central bank cut the benchmark rate to a record low and extended credit to non-banks for the first time since the 1930s.
The new GDP data also help explain why the unemployment rate shot up 2.3 percentage points last year, the biggest annual jump since 1982.
2001 Recession Milder
The revisions showed that the 2001 recession was less severe than originally estimated, reflecting a smaller decline in business investment. The economy actually grew 0.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2000 to the third quarter of 2001, erasing the 0.2 percent drop previously reported.
Personal income was revised up over the last decade, after the government boosted its adjustments for the underreporting and non-reporting of income using more recent data from the Internal Revenue Service. The increases in the most recent years reflect gains from rents, interest and proprietors’ income. The government changed the way it accounts for natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, eliminating much of the prior volatility in income calculations.
Higher incomes and less spending translated into bigger savings. The savings rate for 2008 was revised up to 2.7 percent from 1.8 percent. The rate shot up to 5.2 percent in the second quarter, the highest level since 1998.
The government revised corporate profits down for 2006-2008 and up for 2004 and 2005.
Finally, Commerce shifted food services, which include meals purchased at restaurants or served in schools, out of the food category. As a result, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge -- which tracks consumer spending and excludes food and fuel -- was pushed up by 0.2 percentage point for the three-year period from 2006 to 2008.
The costs of meals away from home are not as volatile as fresh food, the government said, and therefore services should be included in the measure commonly known as the core index.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Unemployment numbers increased or decreased in june & July?

June’s unemployment numbers increased in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Maryland’s unemployment rate reached 7.3 percent in June, up from 7.2 percent in May, D.C. posted a 10.9 percent rate, up from 10.7 percent, and Virginia had a 7.2 rate, up from 7.1 percent.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia are now saddled with double-digit unemployment rates, according to a report released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Michigan has far and away the worst jobless rate of any state, 15.2 percent as of June, the latest month for which figures are available. It's the first state to surpass 15 percent since West Virginia in 1984.

Three other states are above 12 percent: Rhode Island (12.4 percent), Oregon (12.2 percent) and South Carolina (12.1 percent).

North Dakota not only has the nation's smallest jobless rate, but it's also the only state below 5 percent, with an unemployment rate of 4.2 percent.

Here are the June unemployment rates from lowest to highest:

• North Dakota, 4.2 percent

• Nebraska, 5.0 percent

• South Dakota, 5.1 percent

• Utah, 5.7 percent

• Wyoming, 5.9 percent

• Iowa, 6.2 percent

• Oklahoma, 6.3 percent

• Montana, 6.4 percent

• Louisiana, 6.8 percent

• New Hampshire, 6.8 percent

• New Mexico, 6.8 percent

• Kansas, 7.0 percent

• Vermont, 7.1 percent

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Johnson & Johnson's ( JNJ ) Earnings report good or bad ?

Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) second-quarter profit declined nearly 4%, with sales hurt by unfavorable currency rates, generic competition for prescription drugs and tighter consumer spending.

Analysts and investors knew it would be a difficult quarter for the New Brunswick, N.J., maker of Tylenol and Band-Aid, but the results turned out better than Wall Street expected, helped by cost cuts and higher sales of some products. And J&J reiterated its full-year profit forecast despite incurring costs from recent acquisitions.

J&J shares rose 62 cents, or 1%, to $58.34 Tuesday morning.

"This was one of the most challenging quarters for year-over-year comparisons in our history," J&J Chief Financial Officer Dominic Caruso told analysts on a conference call. But he said the company was financially strong and well-positioned for long-term profitable growth.

Analysts said the upside came from cost controls, less harmful currency rates than expected, and higher-than-expected sales of some products, including the blockbuster drug Remicade for arthritis and other conditions. Leerink Swann analyst Rick Wise said results reflected "a very strong operational quarter."

J&J reported second-quarter net income of $3.2 billion, or $1.15 a share, compared with $3.3 billion, or $1.17 a share, a year earlier. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had expected J&J to post second-quarter earnings of $1.11 a share.

Second-quarter sales declined 7.4% to $15.24 billion from $16.45 billion, but exceeded the Thomson estimate by about $200 million. The relatively stronger U.S. dollar accounted for 6 percentage points of the decline. J&J's U.S. sales dropped 6.7% while non-U.S. sales declined 8%.

J&J's pharmaceutical unit lost its status as the company's biggest, slipping below the medical-device and diagnostics unit for the first time in recent memory. Pharmaceutical sales dropped 13% to $5.5 billion, with U.S. sales declining 16.4% and non-U.S. sales down 8.7%. The pharma division was hurt by J&J's loss of market exclusivity for two of its top sellers, the antipsychotic Risperdal, whose sales dropped 66%, and epilepsy and migraine treatment Topamax, with sales down 73%.

Combined sales of anti-anemia drugs Procrit and Eprex declined 11.5% to $577 million, continuing a two-year trend of weakness sparked by safety concerns.

Another top J&J drug, however, had a rebound. The Remicade treatment for rheumatoid arthritis saw second-quarter sales rise 24% to $1.1 billion. Sales growth had slipped to just 3% for the first quarter, amid signs that high-priced biologics were feeling the pinch of tighter spending by patients. The second quarter's big gain could be a good sign for other biologics such as Abbott Laboratories' (ABT) Humira and Enbrel from Wyeth (WYE) and Amgen Inc. (AMGN). Schering-Plough Corp. (SGP) markets Remicade outside the U.S.

The device unit's sales dropped 3.1% to $5.89 billion. The DePuy division of the device unit, which makes joint-reconstruction and other products, had roughly flat sales of $1.3 billion. The Ethicon surgical-products unit saw sales rise 2.1% to $1.04 billion. Increased competition continued to hurt sales of J&J's drug-eluting stents.

J&J's consumer unit sales fell 4.5% to $3.85 billion. Sales dropped for baby care, oral care and skin-care products. But sales increased for wound care products.

Caruso said the weak economy continued to take a bite out of sales of J&J products that require consumers to pay out of pocket, including contact lenses to diabetes test strips.

J&J hopes an economic recovery and new pharmaceutical products will help it return to solid sales and earnings growth in future years. The company has had a flurry of new drug applications - with some approvals but other applications still pending.

And J&J continues to try to beef up its drug pipeline. This month, J&J has agreed to pay $1.5 billion for a minority stake in Elan Corp. (ELN) and control of Elan's rights to experimental Alzheimer's-disease drugs, and it closed its $1 billion acquisition of Cougar Biotechnology Inc., which is developing cancer drugs.

Monday, July 6, 2009

why did Bankruptcy court judge approve GM sale ?

A U.S. bankruptcy court judge has approved the sale of most of General Motors Corp.’s assets to a successor company.
Judge Robert Gerber of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York on Sunday night approved the sale to NGMCO Inc., an entity funded by the U.S. Treasury Department. NGMCO will change its name to General Motors Co. and continue to operate under GM’s corporate and sub-brands, GM (NYSE: GM) said in a Monday release.
The company said the approval marks another step toward the launch of a new GM. The new company will acquire GM’s strongest operations and have a competitive operating cost structure, GM said in the release, partly because of recent agreements with the United Auto Workers and Canadian Auto Workers unions.
The new company’s common stock will be owned by:
• The Treasury Department — 60.8 percent
UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust — 17.5 percent
• Canadian and Ontario governments — 11.7 percent
• The old GM — 10 percent
In addition to this ownership mix, the old GM and the UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust will hold warrants exercisable for 15 percent and 2.5 percent of the interests in the new GM, respectively.
The new GM will be based in Detroit and led by Fritz Henderson as CEO and Edward Whitacre Jr. as chairman.
“This has been an especially challenging period, and we’ve had to make very difficult decisions to address some of the issues that have plagued our business for decades. Now it’s our responsibility to fix this business and place the company on a clear path to success without delay,” Henderson said in the release.
The new GM will have lower leverage and a stronger balance sheet, the release said. That will enable it to reduce its risk, operate profitably at much lower sales volume and reinvest in the key areas of advanced technology and product development, the release said.
Gerber’s order includes a four-day stay before the sale can close. GM said it expects the sale to close in the near future.
The current GM will change its name to Motors Liquidation Co. Its retained assets will be wound down or sold, and a new board will oversee that process and the company’s liquidation under the court’s supervision.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson Rushed to Los Angeles Hospital for Cardiac Arrest Michael Jackson Dead ?

has been rushed to a Los Angeles hospital, police confirmed to FOX News Thursday.

The legendary singer, 50, reportedly went into cardiac arrest and had to receive CPR in the ambulance, according to a report from TMZ.

Joe Jackson, his father, told multiple news sources that his son is not doing well.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, paramedics responded to a 911 call at around 12:26 p.m. PDT. He was reportedly not breathing at the time of their arrival.

A rep for Jackson was unavailable for comment.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama Health Care speech !

took his health care overhaul proposal to one of its more skeptical audiences, telling doctors at the American Medical Association conference in Chicago that the United States is “not a nation that accepts nearly 46 million uninsured men, women and children.”

Mr. Obama’s much-anticipated address appeared carefully calibrated to woo doctors to support — or at least, to not actively oppose — his sweeping health proposals. He also sought to reassure doctors who are skittish about his proposal for a government-run insurance plan as one option from which consumers could choose.
“I understand that you are concerned that today’s Medicare rates will be applied broadly in a way that means our cost savings are coming off your backs,” Mr. Obama said, in the keynote address at the A.M.A. annual meeting. “These are legitimate concerns, but ones, I believe, that can be overcome.”
Mr. Obama’s quick trip to Chicago to try to sell doctors on his health proposal is part of a wider White House effort to push what is a central tenet of Mr. Obama’s domestic policy program. He called health reform central to the American economy, and promised that he could enact his ambitious plan without burdening the budget deficit.
While he did not provide many specifics, Mr. Obama said that he wants to look into “a range of ideas” about how to put patient safety first, let doctors focus on practicing medicine, and encourage broader use of evidence-based guidelines for care. “That’s how we can scale back the excessive defensive medicine reinforcing our current system of more treatment rather than better care.”
Mr. Obama did not commit to specific limits on malpractice lawsuits, saying that would be unfair to patients. But he sought to address the concerns of many doctors who complain that malpractice litigation is part of the reason why health costs have soared.
At times, Mr. Obama struck a professorial note, lecturing Americans to stop smoking — without referencing his own battles to break the habit — and to seek mammograms and colon-cancer screening. Health care reform, he said, means going for a run, going to the gym, and staying away from video games. It also, he said, means laying off junk food.
“That’s a lesson Michelle and I have tried to instill in our daughters with the White House vegetable garden that Michelle planted,” Mr. Obama said.
He maintained his line that Americans will still be able to choose their own doctors. In fact, throughout much of his speech, he sought to empathize with doctors, and criticized a system which he said has created incentives to run more expensive tests than necessary and pushes doctors to see more patients in an effort to make more money.
“That is not why you became doctors,” Mr. Obama said. “That is not why you put in all those hours in the anatomy suite or the O.R. That is not what brings you back to a patient’s bedside to check in or make you call a loved one to say it’ll be fine. You did not enter this profession to be beancounters and paper-pushers.”
Mr. Obama drew cheers from his audience when he said, “I recognize that it will be hard to make some of these changes if doctors feel like they are constantly looking over their shoulder for fear of lawsuits.”
But it remains to be seen how far he will be willing to go on the malpractice issue. On Capitol Hill, Democrats drafting health legislation have so far shown little appetite for taking on the liability issue.
Mr. Obama’s ideas on health reform are facing mounting criticism — not only from the A.M.A. and from Republicans, who don’t like the public insurance program, but also from the hospital industry, which doesn’t like a proposal Mr. Obama announced on Saturday to pay for his health care overhaul in part by cutting certain hospital reimbursements.
In Washington, Representative Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia and the minority whip, issued a statement before Mr. Obama had completed his speech in Chicago.
“Democrats are touting a government-run health care option that creates an unlevel playing field leading to the destruction of the private market, reducing choice and putting Washington bureaucrats in charge of family health care decisions,” Mr. Cantor said. He added that “it’s time for the administration to end the happy talk and get down to the difficult decisions ahead.”

Market Highlights !

Pros Say: Markets Set for Another Pullback
By: JeeYeon Park
Stocks opened lower on Monday after a key manufacturing barometer showed factories continue to suffer in the slumping economy. The New York Empire Manufacturing Index slumped 9.41 points in May, indicating difficult times in the sector and presenting a headwind for economic growth. And IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that the worst may be yet to come for the global economic crisis. Read and listen to what the experts had to say…
Markets Set for Another Pullback
The move to the upside over the last week or so has been caused more by a lack of selling pressure, said Dodge Dorland, CIO of Landor Capital Management. “If selling pressure comes back into the market, the demand for buying stocks now is rather weak relative to what it's been, and so we're setup for a pullback," he said.
Doll: Market May Pause but Will End Year Higher
Markets Are Still Contracting
The economy has averted a depression, but it is still shrinking and the stock market has got carried away with all these green shoot discussions, said Juerg Zingg of Q Investments. “There’s nothing like a rebound here—markets have taken too much optimism as a result we expect market correction,” he said.
Art Cashin: The S&P's 'Break' Point Now
Investors Too Nervous to do Anything
According to Barclays Wealth and The Economist Intelligence Unit's latest report, high net-worth investors across the globe say they are seeing significant investment opportunities in the current markets, but most are still too nervous to take the plunge.
Yoshikami: The Next Menace — Stagflation
Airline Industry to Recover in 2010
"I'm very much a believer in the long-term positive dynamics for the aviation industry," said Dave Cote of Honeywell.
Scott Carson of Boeing Commercial Airplanes said "it feels like we've seen the bottom of the freight market. It feels like we're bouncing off the bottom of the passenger market." Both Cote and Carson said that the industry could recover in 2010.
Complete Paris Air Show Coverage
Obama’s Health Care Plan ‘Totally Unrealistic’
David Walker of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation says escalating health care costs represent the single largest driver of the country’s debt. He criticized Obama’s current health care reform proposals. “[Obama’s] pledge to not raise taxes on people who are making less than $250,000 was totally unrealistic…We need toward move to universal coverage, but we need to focus on basic and essential coverage,” he said.
Obama Wants New Cuts in Federal Health Spending

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ride"s Closed ? Six Flags Declares Bankruptcy

Amusement park operator Six Flags declared bankruptcy yesterday but says that it will keep its parks open, at least for now. According to the Washington Post, the company is carrying $2.4 billion in debt. Despite the fact that Six Flags reported 25 million visitors and posted record revenues in 2008, the debt is simply unsustainable, the Associated Press reports.

Yesterday, Obama proposed an additional $313 billion in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs in order to pay for health care reforms that could cost about $1 trillion over the next 10 years, Reuters reports. "I know some question whether we can afford to act this year," the president said, "But the unmistakable truth is that it would be irresponsible to not act."

Two of the nation's most influential bank regulators are at it again, reports the New York Times. John Dugan, comptroller of the currency, is reportedly feuding with Sheila Bair, head of the FDIC. Dugan has lambasted a proposal to impose harsh insurance fees on banks, which he views as unfair to the largest banks (which he regulates). Bair responded in defense of small banks, charging that the big banks should take the blame for the financial collapse.

Financial leaders from the G8 have offered their most optimistic evaluation of the global crisis yet, the Washington Post reports. They called for an "exit strategy" from stimulus policies that have been instituted to bolster the economy. But not everything is fixed yet, says U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. He called on international banking regulators to devise better ways to "quickly resolve failures of cross-border financial firms."

Television's digital switchover has gone relatively well so far, the Wall Street Journal reports. Though a record 317,000 calls poured into a national call center set up by the Federal Communications Commission Friday from consumers who had trouble to setting up converter boxes, most issues have been quickly resolved.

The Los Angeles Lakers may win the NBA Championship, but some city officials are saying that they might not be able to host a victory parade. The parade could cost more than $1 million, and the city is already squeezed financially, thanks to a deep budget deficit, which might require job cuts, Reuters reports. "We can't afford to cover the costs," City Councilwoman Jan Perry told the Los Angeles Times. She asked, "How could we make a decision about people's jobs and then sponsor the parade?"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


10 reasons the market is in trouble:

The Sunday paper costs more than New York Times stock
The Citi ATM fee costs more than Citi stock
The paper that a mortgage is written on costs more than Freddie Mac stock
A subscription to Sirius Satellite radio would cost more than Sirius stock
A gallon of gas costs more than Ford stock
One ride costs more than Six Flags stock
A bottle of soda costs more than Jones Soda stock
A 5 minute long distance phone call costs more than Vonage stock
A 5 stick pack of gum costs more than Rite-Aid stock
The strawberries in a smoothie cost more than Jamba Juice

Monday, April 20, 2009

Bank of America beats profit !

Some Good News for Bank of America

Anxious shareholders got a bit of good news Monday from Bank of America, which reported that its first-quarter net income more than tripled.

The bank said its profit rose to $4.2 billion in the first quarter, from $1.2 billion a year earlier, as it posted revenue of $36 billion. It also reported diluted earnings per share of 44 cents, compared with analysts expectations of about 4 cents a share. It added $6.4 billion to its loan-loss reserves.

“The fact that we were able to post strong, positive net income for the quarter is extremely welcome news in this environment,” Kenneth D. Lewis, the bank’s chairman and chief executive said in a statement. “It shows the power of our diversified business model as well as the ability of our associates to execute.”

“However, we understand that we continue to face extremely difficult challenges primarily from deteriorating credit quality driven by weakness in the economy and growing unemployment,” Mr. Lewis said.

Despite the reports, the news might not have come in time to save Mr. Lewis’s from angry shareholders.

For more than 70 years, through good times and bad, the Eliasberg family stood by their bank. Their tiny lender grew up to become part of what is now Bank of America — tying the family’s fortunes to that of the nation’s largest bank.

But now Richard Eliasberg, whose father helped found Baltimore National Bank, in 1933, says he is losing faith in Bank of America, and in Mr. Lewis.

Like a growing number of shareholders, Mr. Eliasberg is alarmed by the daunting challenges confronting Bank of America. Mr. Lewis, the chairman and chief executive, is under growing pressure, both from within and without, to turn things around fast.

“For the first time, I’m disappointed,” said Mr. Eliasberg, speaking before the earnings release. He owns a substantial number of Bank of America shares for an individual, though he has sold a third of his shares in the last year.

But Mr. Lewis, who built Bank of America into an industry behemoth by making a string of acquisitions, still has much to prove. Many of his investors are growing restive, and they are unlikely to be quieted by one quarter’s results.

Indeed, Mr. Lewis seems to be losing the support of an important constituency: Scores of longtime shareholders like Mr. Eliasberg, who have ties to Bank of America through businesses the bank and its predecessor acquired over the decades.

Of particular concern is Mr. Lewis’s latest conquest, Merrill Lynch. Bank of America shareholders signed off on the acquisition in early December, only to discover that gaping losses at Merrill would force Bank of America to seek assistance from the government for a second time. Some investors are suing, claiming that Mr. Lewis failed to fully disclose the risks of the deal.

Bank of America said Monday that “the Merrill Lynch integration is on track and expected to meet targeted cost savings” and that Merrill had contributed $3 billion to its net income. It also said the integration of Countrywide Financial, the mortgage lender it bought last year, “is on track. Cost savings from the acquisition are ahead of schedule.”

The bank also said it had added to reserves across “most” consumer portfolios and on commercial portfolios. Its nonperforming assets rose to $25.7 billion from $18.2 billion at the end of 2008, and from $7.8 billion on March 31, 2008.

Many worry that Bank of America’s board is too cozy with Mr. Lewis. Some are campaigning to push him out.

On Friday, two investor advisory firms issued reports recommending that shareholders vote to remove Mr. Lewis from the board. The bank’s proxy is in circulation in anticipation of what is likely to be a contentious annual meeting on April 29 in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Bank of America is based.

The reports, issued by the RiskMetrics Group and Glass, Lewis and Company, carry a lot of weight because some institutional shareholders follow the groups’ recommendations without exception.

A Bank of America spokesman said Friday that the company was disappointed with the conclusions of the reports, including an initiative to strip Mr.

Lewis of his chairmanship and another that would unseat him altogether. The spokesman also said that the bank believed that it had acted appropriately in its disclosures about the merger with Merrill.

Angry shareholders are not the only problem confronting Mr. Lewis. Bank of America is also awaiting the results of “stress tests” that federal regulators are administering to large banks. While Mr. Lewis has said his bank has sufficient capital, many analysts believe it will need to raise money. The bank also faces an inquiry into the Merrill merger by the New York attorney general.

Inside Bank of America, there is resentment over the Merrill acquisition.

Bank employees are also among the largest voices among individual stockholders.

Still, outside shareholders have been the most vocal. The Finger family, based in Texas, set up a Web site campaign and broadcast television commercials urging shareholders to vote against Mr. Lewis. The family sold its Houston-based bank, Charter Bancshares, to Bank of America’s predecessor in 1996, and say they now control about 1.1 million shares.

The bank has tried to engage the Fingers, sending executives and a board member by corporate jet to visit the family three times in Texas.

The Fingers’ story line is familiar to others who became part of the Bank of America family tree. In the last few decades, the bank was cobbled together out of more than 50 financial companies, mostly local banks. The oldest was Massachusetts Bank, founded in 1784, which was absorbed through the company’s acquisition of FleetBoston Financial.

Another family, the Spanglers, controlled about 32 million shares as of spring of 2008, many of which were acquired when they sold their Bank of North Carolina to Bank of America’s predecessor, NationsBank, in the early 1980s. Assuming the family did not sell their stock, they would have lost more than $1 billion in the last year.

The Spanglers have not actively expressed a public opinion on the state of the company, though one member of the family stepped down from the bank’s board because she had reached retirement age.

The acquisitions were not only on the Bank of America side. Many of the companies that the bank acquired had built themselves up over the years in a similar fashion.

Tom Sharkey Jr., for instance, owns shares of the bank because his family sold its 100-year-old insurance business to FleetBoston in 2001, and then Fleet was acquired by Bank of America in 2004. Now, Mr. Sharkey says, he and several family members in New Jersey have lost significant wealth because of the bank’s “catastrophically bad mistakes.”

Some people, of course, support Mr. Lewis. The CtW Investment Group, which represents pension funds, is leading a campaign against Mr. Lewis, but the organization has received e-mail messages from people who believe the current management is good, according to a spokesman for the group.

“Please give Ken Lewis a chance,” wrote Luis F. Valenzuela, a shareholder who supported the bank in one of the e-mail messages provided by CtW to The New York Times. “He will prove you guys wrong. Don’t make the mistake of looking dumb.”

Mr. Valenzuela said in an e-mail message that he was a student in Arizona and that the bank’s past dividend helped him afford his education. Another person, Ivan Rudnitsky, wrote to CtW to say that the bank’s combination with Merrill has strong long-term value, which is the argument that the bank’s management gives for its actions. Mr. Rudnitsky did not reply to an e-mail inquiry.

Charles Elson, a professor at the University of Delaware, was given most of his tens of thousands of Bank of America shares by his father more than 30 years ago. Back then, the stock he owned was in Citizens & Southern Bank of Georgia, based in Atlanta, where he grew up.

“It was always a strong bank and a strong investment — something we’d never sell,” said Mr. Elson, whose father was on the board of the Atlanta bank before it was taken over in 1991 by a predecessor of Bank of America.

Mr. Elson, who teaches courses on corporate governance, has been concerned about the structure of Bank of America’s board since the late 1990s. He said he had once contacted the company about his concerns — to no avail.

“I knew it was there, the problems with corporate governance,” Mr. Elson said. “The biggest mistake I made was I did not sell. Put it this way: had I known this 40 years ago, I would have invested in something else.”

My Headlines