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Stocks

Big Orange; Home Depot 1Q results soft on weather – outlook a positive signal for housing

May 20, 2014
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Big Orange; Home Depot 1Q results soft on weather – outlook a positive signal for housing

Home Depot (HD) 1Q14 results reflect a benefit to earnings, net of tax, of $61m from a sale of a portion of the company’s equity ownership in Home Depot Supply Holdings (HDS). Exclusive of this gain, HD reported EPS of $0.96 relative to consensus estimates of $0.99. A miss in a difficult to predict quarter with spring arriving late. Nonetheless, the stock is bid based on commentary for “robust” May sales, a period less impacted by weather, and likely reflecting some pent-up demand from the spring. The colder than seasonal weather in 1Q also weighed on gross margin indicating that margin trends remain on plan. HD doesn’t see evidence of a slowing housing market; commented on heavily in financial markets. HD’s big ticket items are outperforming small ticket and...

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Whole Foods proactively lowering prices; an opportunity for the patient

May 7, 2014
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Whole Foods proactively lowering prices; an opportunity for the patient

For a retailer, cutting prices generates a certain amount of self-inflicted pain through the P&L. The problem is rather intuitive; existing customers continue to purchase the same amount of goods at the new lower prices (hurts sales growth) and it takes time, to an uncertain extent, to attract new customers to the better value offering. Whole Foods faces a dilemma because its tremendous success over three decades has attracted new competition in the form of copy-cat stores and a change to more up-scaled/organic offerings at traditional grocers. On the company’s conference call, founder, John Mackey, pointed out clearly: “Whole Foods is no longer a bunch of hippies selling products to other hippies”. Anyone visiting the stores knows he is exactly right – Whole Foods is now main-stream for the...

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Energizer Bunny gets a boost; how ENR’s split-up creates immediate shareholder value

April 30, 2014
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Energizer Bunny gets a boost; how ENR’s split-up creates immediate shareholder value

Energizer (ENR) stock is up 15% this morning based on a corporate action that is long overdue; the company is splitting itself into two separate and distinct public companies. Energizer contains products within two segments; household products (batteries) and personal care (razors, shaving, skin care, feminine care). Going forward, the stock will be split into two stocks enabling the market to place a separate valuation on each business. This is a good thing for Energizer investors, particularly today! The batteries category (Energizer, Eveready) isn’t a very good one. Margins are high (and have been historically) as a simple/commoditized product is sold with brand based pricing power. The disposable battery business is a good one from a margin, cash flow generation, and return on capital standpoint. But the battery segment...

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Boeing at cruising altitude; the world needs more planes!

April 24, 2014
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Boeing at cruising altitude; the world needs more planes!

Boeing’s investment performance has been spectacular since the announcement, and subsequent investigations of battery fires in late 2012. The stock price marched from $70 to $140, achieving a rapid 16-month double. The opportunity in late 2012/early 2013 was outsized; it is rare to purchase a company as dominant as Boeing, in the early stages of a multi-year cycle at a severe discount to the market valuation. Today, the investment opportunity is less of a moon shot, but a good one nonetheless. Boeing continues to perform well across several important investment attributes; a combination of continued strong performance and above average visibility will keep the stock going. 1Q14 results: total sales growth of 8% led to… solid margin expansion of 30 bps (10.2% from 9.9%), and… core operating profit growth...

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Google is getting cheaper; valuation attractive after consistent growth and stock pullback

April 17, 2014
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Google is getting cheaper; valuation attractive after consistent growth and stock pullback

Google continues to roll. The share price will zig and zag but the company is making strides by investing for growth and positioning for better results in the future. Current results are still quite respectable today and earnings and cash flow growth are catching up to the stock price. The GOOG investment theme has been a good one since 2011 (this stock has been a CJF favorite) and multi-month periods of stock price pauses are generally good times to consider an entry point for enduring growth stocks. Some general dynamics for GOOG investment have been in place for several quarters: Very strong sales growth, generally north of 20% adjusted for one-time items and currency. Dramatic market share gain within advertising markets as spend shifts from traditional media to digital...

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Alcoa is “reinventing the wheel” – potential to be a big multi-year investment theme

April 11, 2014
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Alcoa is “reinventing the wheel” – potential to be a big multi-year investment theme

Back-to-back posts on Alcoa (AA) to follow up on a powerful investment theme with the potential for outsized returns over several years. There is a time and a place for each individual stock investment, and the proper synchronicity is all the more important for out-of-favor / out-of-consensus investment themes like Alcoa. The classic elements for contrarian investors are aligning with AA, and big returns will ensue for investors who stick around until a healthier pricing environments for overall metals end-markets. In the meantime, CJF continues to focus on AA’s ability to evolve the business model to execute well during tough times which is driving the stock price higher despite a poor operating/pricing environment today. AA is growing EBITDA in today’s environment of  8% aluminum price declines; visualize the P&L...

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Alcoa (AA); well positioned and stock worth revisiting

April 7, 2014
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Alcoa (AA); well positioned and stock worth revisiting

Alcoa (AA) just hasn’t received respect over the past several years. This is in the process of changing today, and AA has the potential to continue its rally to the low $20s from $12-$13. AA morphed into a classic out-of –favor stock since the financial crisis but lackluster stock performance created value amidst horrible sentiment. The stock moved sharply over the past 6-months, rising from $8 (where it traded give or take for 5-years) to $12. Alcoa reached $40 pre-financial crisis and the shares were never permanently impaired by a meaningful amount of distressed equity issuance – one crude measure to demonstrate upside. Pre-crisis, times were different, with a more consistent appetite for commodity exposures in an environment of rising commodity prices. Contrast to recent developments: Commodity exposures have...

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Time to go global with hydraulic fracturing investments

April 1, 2014
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Time to go global with hydraulic fracturing investments

Ukraine is dependent on Russian energy sources; an unsustainable co-dependence, which is now set to change. In fact, Europe, more focused on green initiatives, is woefully behind the US with respect to energy independence.  Putting aside the environmental arguments, geopolitical events have a way of focusing policy actions, and just this past week, there has been gentle prodding of European leaders to do more from, take a guess….President Obama. Let’s give this a wow.  No, a double-wow! Russia’s aggressive posturing in, and around, Ukraine’s borders, highlight the need for Europe to come up with a plan to extract and benefit from its own 470 million cubic feet of potentially recoverable shale resources. Three countries have the majority of recoverable shale gas deposits with the potential for meaningful recovery of...

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How Heavily Shorted is Facebook?

May 30, 2012
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How Heavily Shorted is Facebook?

It is well known how the Facebook (FB) IPO is setting up to be the flop of the decade. Stunning that one of the profound technological/media companies of a generation is now such a historically awful IPO. There are plenty of negatives stemming from the debacle including: Continued disillusion from retail investors who heavily participated in the deal Additional mistrust of Wall Street as issues regarding conflict of interest and fiduciary duty get scrutinized Another instance of poor judgment at a Wall Street brokerage, Morgan Stanley, right on the heels of JP Morgan’s risk management, which was, well, “flawed, complex, poorly reviewed, poorly executed, and poorly monitored.” A few items to think about for longer-term investors who are looking to a position in the shares: 1)  Facebook shares have...

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Heinz – An Emerging Market Food Leader

May 29, 2012
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Heinz – An Emerging Market Food Leader

Heinz (HNZ) had an Analyst Day on Thursday last week with about four hours of management presentations and Q&A posted on the investor relations section of the Heinz website. This presentation is a wonderful way to understand the Heinz business model and appreciate the strategic vision of the company. Heinz stock had a relatively strong run hitting new all-time highs around $55. Post-results the shares have pulled back based on fears relating to the extent of reinvestment into restructuring projects, weakness in the frozen entrée category, exposure to Europe, and a near-term reduction in sales expectations as the company is being hit by foreign exchange and focusing on some low hanging fruit margin opportunities. Despite the concerns, Heinz is very well positioned strategically with a number of positives within...

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Sears Holdings (SHLD) – Flawed Strategic Experiment Results in Retailing Train Wreck – AutoZone and Sears Comparison

December 28, 2011
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Sears Holdings (SHLD) – Flawed Strategic Experiment Results in Retailing Train Wreck – AutoZone and Sears Comparison

Sears Holdings pre-reported Q4 results which showed a rapid deterioration yesterday. The most alarming item in the press release was the rapid deterioration in sales trends at both Sears and Kmart. Sears comparable store sales trends ran -3.3% in the YTD period (which is a month away from the full year) while the trends through the first two months of the 4th quarter came in at -6.0%. Kmart sales slowed from -1.8% to -4.4% in the YTD to QTD period. Retailing is tough and you can’t run a retailer without regard for the shopping experience. Eddie Lampert attempted to replicate the magic formula he applied to AutoZone (AZO) with Sears Holdings. The experiment has failed in spectacular fashion. In order to understand what went wrong with Sears it is...

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Facebook Considers a Spring 2012 IPO at a $100 Billion Valuation

November 29, 2011
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Facebook Considers a Spring 2012 IPO at a $100 Billion Valuation

We all knew it was coming, a spectacular IPO at a high valuation, for one of the world’s most innovative and intriguing companies. After many years of capturing young people’s internet time around the world, Facebook is moving closer to an IPO, reportedly valued at a $100 billion. The company may potentially file before year-end and go public between April and June according to Bloomberg. Facebook would likely raise $10B, effectively listing 10% of the company. Facebook is a company and brand that investors are intimately familiar with. Many investors have uploaded wide expanses of personal data to the company’s servers and have also been regular members for a number of years. We even have feelings about the corporate history through the venture capital phase due to the success...

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