Friday, December 15, 2017

The Monthly Update

If you’re following along - and why wouldn’t you be? - you would have been reading about my pride and angst over my investments and their consequences. It’s a struggle, but fun. Strange, and fun.

I didn’t sell anything - much to my joy and dismay.  Square has begun to trade along with Bitcoin, and Pfizer seems to have found a new life with the FDA approval of a new drug.  Such is life for drug companies.  It’s the risk-reward scenario that we embrace when we invest.  The stock has approached its 52-week high, and I suspect that it has room to run here - and my patience is being rewarded.  I no longer view the stock as a potential sell, especially with the new tax plan.

Darden Restaurants reports this week.  I don’t own it, but the “pin action” may translate to my favorite DelTaco (TACO) and its struggling $12 stock price.  In other news, the new 21% corporate tax rate may help dissuade DelTaco’s current 40% tax rate and help them control some of their labor costs, which have been dragging down the stock price.  I still view it as a growth story, and would encourage buying in the $12 range.

Sometimes, I wish I could avoid the enthusiasm of the market.  I began dribbling money into Under Armour (UA) a month ago, to the extent that I accumulated 20 shares.  Today, a major brokerage house released a “buy” recommendation on the stock, and it shot-up to $13, which is way beyond my buying price.  If I owned several hundred shares, I’d be a seller on Monday morning.  But, since I own a paltry amount, I’m going to hold and wait for it to settle down - either through a disappointing quarter or the natural reaction of the market.  Whatever - I believe that buying UA at a price over $12 is setting yourself up for a disappointment, and I’m not in the game for disappointment.  I’m holding here, and waiting for a better buy price.

So, what now?  I like Salesforce (CRM) here, and would buy it in the 103-105 range, as it appears to be worth around $130.
Skyworks (SKWS) is interesting.  
ConAgra (CAG) reports earnings this week, and the company has been a consistent performer for decades.  I’d take a look.
On Thursday, Foot Locker and Nike report.  Their earnings could foretell what happens with Under Armour and other apparel retailers like Hanesbrands (HBI) that are on the brink.

The (ugh) Christmas season has investors excited over retail stocks like Macy’s (M) but I’d wait until the final numbers are in before I got too excited.  At the current level, I’d be a seller of M, but that’s just me.  It was appealing at $18.  At $25, it’s a cinch to sell it.

There are lots of mergers and acquisions going on in the media space.  The Disney/Fox merger is huge.  Your Hulu account will change, and if they get Federal approval, it’s a game-changer.  You could look into Discovery Networks (DISCA) as a potential investment and takeover candidate. The stock is under valued, but they have never failed to disappoint.  If you buy, anticipate a merger and/or takeover.  It’s undervalued from a financial standpoint, but stock-wise, it’s a big risk. March forward

Banks.  The new tax plan says that banks will be a promising investment. Pick and choose.  Big banks like JP Morgan, Citibank, and Bank of America are so-called no brainers - which would imply that you have no brain if you invest. On the contrary.  You can also Check out a larger regional like Key (KEY) and Beth Mooney, who runs the joint, is among the best minds in the industry. You could do a lot worse, and not much better.

As for me, I’m looking at Thor Industries (THO), Salesforce (CRM), big banks (XLF) Emerging Markets (EEM) and Skyworks (SKYW) as potential investments, but I’m struggling over what to sell to buy into them.
If you have cash to put to work, those are my recommendations. 

Go forth and multiply.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

So, What Now?

I’m pretty happy with my investment choices - and if you’ve been following along, you would be, too. [Ooops]

The options at this point are:  What to do with Pfizer and Key.  Pfizer pays a dividend in a week, so I’m content to stick with it until then.  For some odd reason, I’ve stuck with it longer than I had anticipated.  Only my investment in Ford was more agonizing.  Key is a great bank, but they are a ... bank, and as such tend to waffle with this goofball that is in the White House and his so-called tax cut - but I digress.

I continue to be long DelTaco (TACO) and would advise you to be, too. They will struggle with costs and the eternal problems of bringing people into their restaurants, but ... people have to eat somewhere, and the stock is priced right, and if you aren’t in already, at the $12 area, you should be.  The management team knows what they’re doing. Ride along. 

It says here, I’m 60 and I’m supposed to be risk averse, but I enjoy the risk.  Hence, my investments in Square, Limelight Networks, and Extreme Networks.  Otherwise, I’d be in stable investments like bonds (yuck) and income stocks, which are only appealing to me if they are growth stocks - which Pfizer doesn’t seem to be at this point. I’m struggling to hang onto this thing.  The part of me that wants to sell it combats the part of me that thinks that their management team will find some way to make this thing a growth vehicle.  But that growth vehicle seems to be a pipe dream, and there is growth to be found elsewhere - which is where Square, Limelight, and Extreme Networks come in.

ACCO Brands is a value stock.  I lose patience with value stocks because the market doesn’t appreciate them, and I can’t wait for “the market” to appreciate something that I already appreciated.  They trade at a lower valuation because they ... well, aren’t valued highly.  That’s the way it goes.  At some point, it will come around for them, but you have to have patience, and patience is something that is growing short for me now.

Square continues to grow at an alarming rate, partially because of their embracing of Bitcoin.  I don’t have time to explain it, and I also don’t have the knowledge of the so-called cryptocurrency to know what the fuck is going on, but suffice it to say that I’m along for the ride.  And, it’s quite a ride.  Get on board. The ticker symbol is SQ.

I’m in a good place, investment-wise - which balances the horrible place I’m in career-wise.  My job is stagnant, and my pension sucks compared with other co-workers who have been with the company a similar amount of time.  It’s the reason I have to make the best of my investments.  My salary stinks compared with people who have been with the company as long as I, and I have to make the best of the time I have left to resuscitate my retirement savings.  It’s pathetic, but true.  I earned so little for so long that I have to make the best of it now.

I try to balance the risk with the reward, and I advise you to, too.  I’ve resisted big-money investments in Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Netflix - although I have found an ETF that contains them and others, so it’s less of a risk.  Ticker symbol FDN.  Find it.  It’s a struggle, finding stuff and keeping up with it all.  It’s a huge stress on my life, and I’d rather not deal with it, but I have to - if I’m going to be able to retire in some sort of comfort.  In my darkest hours, I don’t think I’ll be able to retire at all.  In the long run, I have failed at it, and only now do I realize that my time has been spent in worthless anxiety.  I will struggle to make the best of it.

If it seems that I’ve got the world on a string, it’s not a string so much as it is a yo-yo.  I’m playing catch-up in a world where most of you have already caught up.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Random Stuff. Pick and Choose.

Thanksgiving is coming.  No kidding.  What bugs me about it is the choice of food.  We're supposed to eat turkey.  Why?  On account of, because.  It's what we eat.  We make no effort on any other day to cook a giant turkey - other than Thanksgiving. Mostly, people find something to complain about.  It's too dry. It's tough. It's cold (have you ever burned your mouth on Thanksgiving turkey? No). For what?  Here's an idea:  Gather your friends and family, and eat fish, or chicken, or burgers, or ... GOD ... whatever.  Be thankful.  Isn't that the idea?

Our annual company Holiday party is coming. Egad.  I've been there 26 years and have not yet attended one.  I'm not sure what that says about me, other than the idea that I don't like going to parties alone and I don't care to have someone sitting around counting my drinks.  Especially since it's in Atlantic City, and they seem to pick the furthest possible place from everyone to hold a giant dinner/drinking/dancing party.  But, that isn't the issue here.
The issue is that, when sitting around the lunch table with six co-workers, the topic comes up:  Who is going to the Holiday Party?  One person goes around the table, asking by name, if they're going.  Until they run out of names, and mine is the only one left.
Am I supposed to volunteer: "No, I'm not going." Or, is it assumed that, because I am desperately single, that I am not going because I don't have a date?  I assume the latter, and keep my mouth shut until someone changes the subject.  And then, I continue to keep my mouth shut.

We call it the "Holiday Party" because we are supposed to be Politically Correct and stop calling it the Christmas Party.  Today, there was a story on the local news about the "Holiday Tree" being set-up at the Philadelphia Art Museum.  Is it a Holiday Tree?  Which holidays have a tree as a symbol of the holiday?  Kwanza? Hanukkah? Diwali? Nope. Hint:  It's Christmas.  So, why do we insist on calling it a "Holiday Tree" when it is clearly a Christmas Tree?  Stop kidding yourselves, folks and live your life.  

I feel like I should comment on the stock market, because I have made a habit out of it recently.  OK, so here goes:
I love the underdog.  Beaten-down companies whose growth prospects are slim, and their stocks have been killed mercilessly because big-time growth stocks have captured the imagination of investors, and their share prices have escalated beyond what rational thinkers (like me) would consider approachable.  So, it's left to us to find the bottom-fish and ... well, go fishing.  I submit:

DelTaco (TACO). I know I've mentioned this before, but it's a growth stock in a crowded space (casual dining) but the share price is down to nearly a 52-week low, and if you're interested, there is an entry point right here.  As for me, I'm holding, and trying to buy more as finances allow.

Under Armour (UA) A true bottom candidate.  The stock has been clobbered over slow sales and the death of modern retail.  However, if you believe in the brand and Kevin Plank (as I do) you'll find an entry point here at the $11 level, and be patient while the company re-finds its footing and comes back.

General Electric (GE) Hoo-boy. This has been a disaster for the past year.  Buy this, close your eyes and come back in 3 years.  It might take that long to right this ship.  After all, how long does it take to turn an ocean liner?  There is so much work to do here, that it might seem overwhelming, and I suppose that there are either (a) investors who do not want to wait (b) investors who need the dividend, and since it was cut, will find other opportunities or (c) investors who don't see the potential and (a) and (b).  However, if your time horizon is longer than a year or two, I'd suggest dripping money into this, since the share price will likely be in the $16 to $18 range for a while, and you can build a nice position until the rudder manages to steer the giant ship around its obstacles.  The keyword here:  Patience.

Advance Auto Parts (AAP). They had a nice quarter, and guided roughly in line, but the share price is down from $178 to $95 over the year-to-date.  Is that an opportunity? It says here, it is.  The market has overreacted to the "Amazon Effect," in that, they fear that Amazon will do ... well ... everything, including selling auto parts online.  Ask yourself:  If you're doing a repair, and need a belt, are you going to wait a day or two for Amazon to deliver it, or are you going to go to your local AAP store and get one and finish the job?  Sometimes folks, fear takes over rational thought, and you have to be able to find a middle ground.  Amazon will not take over everything ... which leads me to this:

The Amazon Effect:  People hate Walmart.  No doubt.  I have lost Facebook "friends" because I defended Walmart.  It's true.  If you spend any time in the Deep South, you will find out that, if there isn't a Walmart in town, the people have no place to shop. Fact.  Around here, when a Walmart is proposed, people picket because we have so many places to shop, we don't think that another Walmart will help.  That's the problem.

So, why don't those same people hate Amazon?  They might, but there is no place for them to picket. Where are they going to march?  In front of their computer?  No.  They just point and click, and order junk that they get in two days in those smiley boxes.  It sure seems better than having Walmart pay property taxes and give people jobs.  How many people do you know who work for Amazon?  I'll wait.

Meanwhile, the thing they call "Brick and Mortar Retail" is supposedly dying.  OK, maybe, but it might be because we have so many shopping centers that it's impossible to cross the street without finding a place to shop.  It's called saturation.  Sure, stores like Kmart, JC Penny's, and Sears are closing, but think about how many stores from your childhood have closed over the years.  It isn't that odd.  Stores close.  Consumers dictate.
The latest scare is in the consumer drug business. Shares of CVS and Walgreen's (WAG) have struggled because there is speculation that Amazon will go into the retail drug business.  OK, maybe they will, but will that replace the relationship that consumers have with their local pharmacy?

I can't see a day when consumers will want to "point and click" on anything without first touching it and trying it on.  You might buy a pair of shoes or a jacket online, but that's only because you know ahead of time that it will fit.
Retailers are struggling to find ways to make the shopping experience better, and it says here that they will, because people have been around longer than Amazon.  Sure, it's a great convenience to be able to point-and-click, but touching-and-feeling is a great experience, too.  The strong will survive. 

You betcha.  You just have to be able to find the ones who will survive.  Go with quality. Quality always wins.  Whether it's Under Armour, Apple, L Brands, Estee Lauder, Colgate-Palmolive, Newell Brands, Procter and Gamble, Anheuser-Busch, Hanes Brands, CVS, Trip Advisor, Allergan, Discovery ... the list goes on.  As for me, my money (literally) is on Under Armour, only because I believe in the true value aspect, and well ... I love the product.
Will these companies and brands go away, or merely re-invent themselves and keep up with the changing times?  I'm guessing that, as you read this, there is a meeting going on somewhere with the management of these companies deciding how they are going to deal with this "new millennium" of consumers and how they will adapt to their changing habits.

They are trying to figure out how to make us need them more than they need us.  That's what great companies do.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Chicago Experience

As a young person in the 1970s, I had a few favorites.  I was enthralled by the prog-rock movement spearheaded by Yes and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer; and my boyhood dreams of being a musician were fueled by the likes of them.  I had a few guitar heroes:  Robert Fripp, Peter Banks, Jan Akkerman among them, but there was one lurking in the background that I didn't acknowledge until later in life.  Terry Kath.

If we go back to the early 1970s (where I come from) the world of pop music was cluttered with nonsense, and even as a youth, I recognized it.  My bus rides to school were dominated by questions like, "Have you heard 'Hocus Pocus' by Focus?" and if you were listening to 92.5FM (WIFI) so that you could hear the "long version" of Yes' "America."'
You have to remember, those were the days when, if you didn't hear something live, you couldn't "YouTube it" or go back to your DVR and re-watch it.  It was a "hear it live or not at all" society.  Hence, The Beatles' epic performances on "The Ed Sullivan Show."  We didn't have reruns.

When the first Chicago Transit Authority album came out in 1969, most of us heard "Beginnings" or "Questions 67 & 68" on pop radio, but there was so much more.  Like "Free Form Guitar," which blew the mind of a 12-year-old and "Listen" and "Poem 58" that never made it to the big-time AM radio stations that we were listening to in those days.

By the time the second Chicago (they had been re-named) album came out, the big deal was the Suite on side two.  We listened to it over and over.  What we neglected were the first four songs, that were mere masterpieces, and I suspect that the band thought so, too.  Only on repeated listenings do they shine over the second side.  Hindsight.
The third album was a pure masterpiece, and the kid was dumbfounded.

Christmas of 1971, this 14-year-old gets "Live at Carnegie Hall" (Chicago IV) as a gift and goes nuts.  I was way too young to have attended a concert, so this was the best I could do. It was many years later that I got to go to Carnegie Hall to see Marc Maron and thought, "So, this is where Chicago played that show?" I was awestruck, and a little goofy I guess.  I pictured the band on that big stage, recording that album and my mind wandered.

By the time Chicago V came out, I was full-on fanboy.  I remember coming home from the record store with the album, and showing it to a gas station attendant who was (obviously) much older and as big a fan.  The album had an insert with a giant poster of each band member, and we looked at it together.  I had the album before he did! As usual, it was amazing. "Saturday in the Park" and "Dialogue" were my favorites, but the entire album was still up to their standards, I thought.

I stayed with them through Chicago VI and VII, but my fandom was beginning to wane.  As with the prog-rock era, the tempo was changing, and my love of the band was still there, but the music was losing touch with me.  We were growing apart.

I don't know how many they are up to now - 35?  It's questionable, and with the loss of Terry, my mind and taste has wandered.
Recently, I watched "The Terry Kath Experience," a beautiful documentary put together by his daughter Michele - expertly, I might add.  The film has re-invigorated my interest in the band and Terry's work, in-particular.

Watching videos of the band has alerted me as to Terry's influence, and his "band leader" experience. As a young person, I never realized.  To a young teenager, it was all about the horns and the overall experience.  To us, Danny Seraphine was a God, and may still be - but the focus of the band was the horns and drums.  Little did we know that the true heart of the outfit was Terry.

Obviously, it's sad that his life ended the way it did, but I have come to realize that he would not have  continued with the band as it evolved.  Perhaps he saw that, and I'd like to think that he did.
The sad part is that we never realized what his music would have been without the horns, as it appears that he would have wanted.  It's interesting to me that the big part of Chicago was the horns, but the lesser part of it to Terry was - no horns.  If you go back and listen to "Poem 58" and "Listen" you can hear what Terry envisioned the band being without the horns.

We can only speculate.  Over what John Lennon would have done, what Jim Morrison would have done.  Jimi Hendrix.  Janis Joplin. Michael Hedges - certainly.  Freddie Mercury. Chris Cornell.  The list goes on ...

Certainly, Terry Kath had much more music in him, and while it's sad that we did not get to hear it, it is joyful that we got to hear what he had in his heart.

Because it lives in our hearts.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Beat and Raise

“Beat and raise.” Those are the two best words a shareholder can hear out of an earnings report.  That is exactly what Square (SQ) did this week. They beat analyst’s estimates and raised guidance for 2018. For some reason, the stock fell a bit after the report, but once investors heard the conference call, SQ rose another 1.5% to another 52-week high near the $38 mark.

The “payment space,” as Wall Street would call it, is hot.  Paypal (PYPL), Visa (V), and MasterCard (MA) are leaders in the industry, but Square is gaining market share, and working on their banking side, making loans to small businesses and building a customer base that will either make the company a strong independent processor or make it an attractive take-out candidate.  Either way, investors (like me) win.  So far, it’s been a nice ride.

Meanwhile, Pfizer (PFE) struggles along as almost dead money, and while it’s a nice dividend play, at 3.6%, young-at-heart investors (like me) would like to see some growth in addition to the attractive dividend.  I like to refer to “growth and income” as my favorite phrase, and the “income” part speaks to the “growth” part when it comes time to sell - which appears to be closer with Pfizer.  My legendary patience is wearing thin.  Are we a drug stock, an income stock, or a growth company?  My guess is the first two, and that does not feed my desire to speed-up my retirement date.  A 3.6% dividend is nice, but if the share price doesn’t move (which it hasn’t much) then the dividend isn’t as attractive as it would be if the company grew and increased the dividend.  That’s how it is supposed to work.  A dividend yield isn’t supposed to increase due to a share price decrease.  Get it? I do.  It’s time to sell Pfizer.

But what to do with the cash?  Buy more Square? One of my favorites, Del Taco (TACO) is moving toward it’s 52-week low of $11-and-change. Cisco Systems (CSCO) reports in a week. That’s a possibility.  So many choices.

I’ll keep you in the loop.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Vinyl, Schmynal.

I try to stay modern.

I'm holding onto the Internet, online stuff, and my iPhone with all 8 fingernails in an effort to keep up with those goddamned kids who find this stuff so simple that they can walk, text, drive, and talk on their phone at the same time.  By the way, if you think you can ... you cannot.

I'm with you on a lot of this junk.  The whole "text instead of call" thing is right up my alley.  When my phone rings, I dread picking it up. "Just text me, or send an e-mail," is my usual response.  And this comes from a person who grew up on rotary dial phones and looking for change to use the phone when I was away from home. How quickly I learned your ways, Millennials.

The one thing I cannot join you in is this movement back to vinyl records.  I don't remember what year it was, but at some point, somebody (probably Sony) invented the Compact Disc player.  I was so excited.  No longer would I have to store giant 12-inch recordings and care for them like an elderly parent - constantly cleaning them and looking after them to insure that there wasn't too much dust around, lest they lost their qualities.  What a giant pain in the ass it was.

Along came the CD.   A small, plastic disc that only required placing it back in the case that it came in.  It would sound the same today as it sounded 50 years from now - if it survived the trip.  
My favorite music was the sort of thing that had quiet passages and subtle changes in mood that we could not hear on vinyl because the record would pop and scratch.  

When I heard of this magical thing called the CD player, the first thing I did was go out and buy CDs.  Kate Bush's "The Dreaming" and King Crimson's "Lark's Tongues in Aspic" were my first purchases.  I had a half-dozen CDs before I had a CD player.  That's how excited I was.

My wish of noiseless music was granted. I didn't have to worry if the record I brought home was warped and/or it would skip, and I had to clean it endlessly or place a penny on the tone arm to make it play.  What a relief!  I bought Beethoven's 5th Symphony and a few other classical music CDs before I finally sprung for the $129 (in 1980s money) for a CD player. I reveled in the purity of the sound.  It was beautiful.  Quiet passages were quiet, and there was nothing that sounded like you were listening to music around a campfire.
I listen to stuff on CD and mp3 that I heard originally on vinyl and WISH that I could have had this format in the 1970s.  Egad, no maintenance, no care.  What a life.

These bloody Millennials figured out that, for some reason, vinyl sounded ... I don't know ... pure to them, or some damned thing.  They were too young to remember the toils of record buying and maintenance.  To them, the vinyl experience was akin to riding a Penny-farthing and thinking, "This is how cycling is supposed to be." No, it fucking isn't.  We found a better way.

The sad thing is that the marketing pressure is so deep that vinyl pressing factories have been re-staffed, and there is a resurgence of the crap.  New bands are releasing stuff on vinyl to appease this group of nincompoops who think that vinyl has some magic.  No, it fucking doesn't.
I love my Apple Music and my mp3s.  Quality loss? I don't think so.  Not compared to the scratch-scratch-skip of those fucking vinyl albums.  I'll keep my entire music collection on an SD card, thank you.

I can't wait for them to want to go back to rotary-dial telephones, bathing on Saturdays, cooking food in conventional ovens, starting cars with a crank, ... well, you get the picture.  There is a better way, and it's sad that some people are too young to appreciate the efforts that their ancestors went through just to be able to listen to music
I'm on my 4th incarnation: Vinyl, CD, cassette, (8-track - if you count that disaster) and now, mp3. I'm done, and it gets better because it gets ... well, better.

Perhaps they would like to go back to standing in line for concert tickets on Saturday mornings, too?  Well, no. That would cut into their sitting around time.

Get a grip, gang. It's way better now.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

So ... How are Ya Doing?

It's Earnings Season again.  And as such, it's a little daunting to keep track of it all, but I'll give it a shot.  So, how am I doing?  I write a lot about my investments, and I'll quickly tell you if I fail, but this last quarter and the last six months have been mostly positive.
While I still eschew big-time growth names that I find over-valued, I tend to stick with stocks with one of two potential issues:
1 - There is a growth story, and we are at or near the beginning of it.
2 - There is value in a mature company.
As in life, I don't like to over-pay for anything.  If I think a stock has run-up into a valuation that is either "priced for perfection" or just plain over-priced, I'll pass - and I'd advise you to do so, too.  It's not that I don't appreciate the risk, but I don't necessarily want to pay for it.  Tesla, Facebook, Nvidia, Google - are some of the names that, if I had a 5-year-old, I would happily invest in. At my age ... eh.
I would say that every one of my investments fits one of those two categories.  And so ...

First, the anticipation:  One of my favorite companies (and stocks) Extreme Networks (EXTR) reports on Tuesday.  More important than their earnings report will be their outlook for 2018.  The stock is up about 200% year-to-date, so we're hoping (I hate that word) for some upbeat guidance for a company that has been grabbing market share in the network infrastructure business.  Currently, it's at 18 times future earnings, which could prove to be cheap by today's price of $11.88.  Don't be brave and buy it here. If you've owned the stock from $3.95 back in August of 2016 (as some here have) then you're ahead of the game regardless, and you should have been paying attention.

Cisco Systems (CSCO) reports on the 15th, and almost everyone is expecting big things from this networking giant. They're old-school technology trying to reinvent themselves into new-school data protection and subscription services.  It says here that they can accomplish it, and I wouldn't bet against CEO John Chambers.  Any sort of upbeat report will send the stock soaring toward the high-30s, and if you're willing to buy it here, at $34.60 it should be money well spent.

Another one of my favorites, Square (SQ) reports on the 8th.  It's a big deal, since the stock has run-up significantly over the past month on -- well, nothing really -- and I'm curious as to whether my faith will be rewarded or I'll have to take my profits and move on.  My gut tells me that there is more room to run here, but I wouldn't be adding or buying at the $36 range it's been trading in for the past week. There is a lot of speculation, and still some takeover speculation that might be driving the price up.  They should be making a nice forward-looking statement next Wednesday that should reinforce my confidence in Jack Dorsey and the gang.

Looking back:  DelTaco (TACO) reported a lackluster quarter, and the stock sold-off significantly. However, if you had faith and bought it in the $12 range that it sold down to, you're feeling pretty good about yourself here at $12.60.  But that doesn't salve your wounds from potentially getting out at $15.  If you're a long-term investor (like me) you could be looking to add to a position at this range and figure that the quarter wasn't bad - just not as good as anticipated.  They are still expanding and making money, of course.  The food service business is tough, but they have a management team that should be able to keep the growth story alive. I'm still long.

You might not know much about Acco Brands (ACCO) but if you look at those paper clips, binder clips, and other office supplies that you have (ahem) stolen from your company, you'll see Acco's name all over them. A week ago, they reported diluted earnings that beat last year's numbers by 33%. A stock that I have been looking for an excuse to sell might be a longer term hold than I had anticipated.  At 11 times forward earnings, it's still cheap, but the space is not widely recognized.  You'll (I'll) have to be patient, and even though I'm up on the trade, I'm looking for the $14 to $16 range before I get out.

Last, but not least - my favorite micro-cap Limelight Networks (LLNW) reported the classic "beat and raise" with gross margins, cost-cutting, and operating margins all coming in at the high end of what was anticipated.  They say that they are going to "take on Cisco," and I say, "Go ahead," because - well, I'm in.  I love their aggressive management and the growth story in content delivery as much as I like Square's payment space.  Sometimes, things just grow, and you can't be afraid to be at the bottom-end of the story.  Ask early Facebook and Amazon shareholders.

Summary:  While the Pfizer (PFE) quarter was nothing to write home (or here) about, I held on, and after the small sell-off post-earnings, the stock rebounded.  I'm guessing that investors liked the stability in a market where instability seems to rule the day.  Plus, the 3.65% yield and the forward P/E of 13 make it an attractive investment for people (like me) who want all the upside with almost none of the downside.  At the age of 60, I like that stability in my life.

So, where do we go from here?  Some brick and mortar retail is on life support.  JC Penney, Sears, and Macy's are breathing their dying breaths. What to do?  Run away.  It isn't that Amazon is killing modern retail, it's just that there is so much of it that the space has gotten too crowded.  The weaklings will have to be weeded-out before we can recognize the survivors.  If you feel so compelled, there is an ETF that tracks the retail space that could cushion your risk.  Symbol XRT is trading at year lows, and might be a good choice if you're looking to get in without getting burned.

On the other end, Mattel (MAT) and personal favorite Under Armor (UA) are struggling, and their shares are in free fall.  Both companies admit to having issues, so you're best to be bottom-fishing in the first quarter of 2018 once the Christmas shopping season has nearly killed them.  It's hard to imagine either one of them going away, but on the other hand, it's easy to imagine both of them going away.  They are at once compelling investments and risky as shit.

Facebook is selling-off after earnings, and I think I said that they were over-valued at $160.  In the $180 range today, you may get another shot at that $160 price if you're courageous enough to both wait and weigh-in. Revenue rates are declining, expenses are growing at 40% to 60% over the next year, and cap-ex will double in 2018.  Let it settle-in until at least Monday or Tuesday, and then?

Tesla is struggling to keep-up with production, and it's likely that the stock could be headed back to the $280 range.  I love Elon Musk and I love the company, but I wouldn't buy it here with your money.  It's just too big a mess, frankly.

There is more, but I feel like I've said enough, and we still have a few more weeks of reports to sift through.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Cold Ice

When the summer night has changed its warmer breezes to the icy cold of silent winter freezes
Will you be there?
When the cloudy skies are blocking out the Sun and suddenly your nose has begun to run
Will I see you there?
Will you stand by me beside the cold night?
Or are you afraid of the ice?

 - John Palumbo "Ice" Crack the Sky, 1975

Apparently, not.  At least that's the feeling I got from the last woman I gave my heart and time to.  She dumped me like a bag of trash left out on the sidewalk.  (sorry if that isn't as poetic as the lyric I posted)

I put myself out for people, on occasion.  In some cases, the effort is reciprocated.  In others, it is met with a stunning lack of recognition.  Mind you, it's not what I'm in it for, but the idea is that - at some point, the effort has to be recognized.  Gifts, time, effort, and companionship are expended and the time and effort are virtually (or literally in this case) not recognized or even acknowledged.  That's sad.

A person travels a great distance at great personal expense, and expects at least some form of friendly reciprocation, but instead, he is met with not only a total lack of thanks or any form of heartfelt acknowledgement.  It hurts, and it makes me wary of expending the effort for the next woman who comes along - if there is one.

Mind you, I'm not asking for anything, but one would expect a certain amount of - oh, I don't know - effort expended on the other side.  After all, I did make the effort.  Even charities send 'thank you' emails and the giver gets a tax deduction.  

While it's true that the trip was ruined in many ways, the stunning lack of communication afterward is, well - stunning.  What I did receive was a string of excuses and semi-blaming ideas that the fault lied with the giver.  So, there's that.

If this is cryptic to you in some fashion, I'm sure that the person to whom it is directed does not find it so.  And, to those of you who may have figured-out my message and know the story behind it - good on you.  To the others, I'll be happy to let you in on my latest disappointment if you are so interested.

Since I have no other outlet, let this be mine.  Whether it draws her out or buries her deeper in my life is of no consequence.  

The damage has been done, and it is clear that she is afraid of the ice.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Empathy vs. Sympathy

“I did not know how to reach him, how to catch up with him... The land of tears is so mysterious.” 

Yes, the land of tears is mysterious, whoever you are.  The land of tears is mysterious.  If you do not believe that ancient idea, consider one more current ...

“The only time you look in your neighbor's bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don't look in your neighbor's bowl to see if you have as much as them.” 

Take that, millennials. That's the difference between sympathy and empathy.  Most of you probably don't know.  You can sympathize with someone with whom you have not shared similar experiences, but you can only empathize with someone with whom you have shared similar experiences with.  And, therein lies the problem - at least as it is with this.

Most of you cannot empathize with me because you have either (a) been with someone for several years or (2) had a relationship with someone over the past five years.  If neither of those circumstances apply to you, then you can only sympathize.  It's simple fact.

And so, telling me to "grin and bear it" or find some other outlet for my grief is nice, it does nothing for the overall issue at hand.  
The other one who said "how come you think that people who live in a relationship have a) found the partner of their dreams, b) are not lonely, and c) haven't given up? Go figure."

Apparently, my struggles are nothing compared to people who have supposedly found their soul mate, and I'm supposed to belive that my loneliness is nothing compared to theirs.  Go figure.
Well, yeah - so, go fuck yourself "go figure."  In plain English.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

You Win

If this wasn't an honest appraisal of my life, then it's worthless - and I don't want this to be worthless.

Whether I'm recommending investments or letting you in on my otherwise private thoughts, there is a sense that this is an opening of my mind, such as it is, and hence, the title.

I'll stand by my investment recommendations, DelTaco and Extreme Networks among them, and so let's move beyond that and delve into the inner workings of my (egad) mind.

Love has eluded me over the years, and it continues to do so.  I find it oddly interesting that so many have found it so easily, while it betrays me at every turn.  It's at the point now where I see someone and think, "Oh well, that's never going to happen."  The sense of doom is paramount. 

Lately, I thought that the soul mate that I so desperately seeked was in Alabama, of all places.  As it turned out, she was there physically, but not there in form or spirit.  I don't mind telling you because it doesn't seem to matter now, as she has surreptitiously disappeared from my life.  One is left to "go figure."  It would appear that she has gone back to the future ex-whatever who has mistreated her over the years, and my best efforts to reconcile that situation have fallen on both deaf ears and mind.

I'm taking a big chance in going public with this, but I have not "named names" or otherwise implicated anyone who doesn't already know whom she is.  Plus, the fact is that I've gone all "Larry David" and no longer care who finds what I say or think, so I'm going to say what I think and - as it were - fuck you if you're offended.  So, go ahead and be offended.

I am nearly 60 years old now, and as a mature adult, I have come across situations that require attention and at this point in my life, I will not bow to social pressure or succumb to what society thinks is acceptable.  
The fact that I am nearly 60 weighs on me, and it causes me to think about the goals that I had when I was 40 years younger, and naive enough to think that those goals would come to fruition.

I'm not asking for help.  I am giving up.  It has been over 40 years of searching and wanting, and frankly - it's exhausting. Emotionally and physically exhausting. For those of you who have found your so-called "soul mate," Congratulations.  I'm done. You win life's lottery.  The rest of us are stuck buying tickets.

I thought it might be a ticket to Alabama, but they don't have a state lottery, so I suppose I was duped again.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Finding the Value in Crap

It’s been a while since I have opined on the stock market.  Mostly because I have had other more important things to say.  Nevertheless, I still pay attention, and I think you should, too.  

Recently, Morningstar rated 20 stocks as “Undervalued and Sustainable,” which appeals to me because I hate overpaying for things, and want whatever I buy to be around in a decade or so - since I plan on that, too.

I went over the list (as you should, too) and found five that appear to be attractive in today's environment, and have some risk involved, with the requisite reward at the end of the supposed rainbow.

Mattel (MAT) looks like a disaster now, but their capital-allocation program has committed an incremental $250 million-$300 million to business improvements in 2017, potentially helping speed up the profit turnaround. So, if you are confident in their ability to turn the existing portfolio into a profitable enterprise, you could find a bargain here.  

HanesBrands (HBI). They aren't in the strict retail environment that is killing the likes of Macy's and Nordstrom.  Instead, they are selling products to them, and without a pure retail outlet, they may be able to make it work.  Free cash flow is still positive, and the company is buying back shares, which is a confident approach, and should attribute to earnings going forward.  Besides, who doesn't need underwear?

CapitalOne Financial (COF) This is a bit of a personal preference, since they are my bank and my credit card company.  While other companies like Visa (V) and MasterCard (MAS) have skyrocketed, CapitalOne has been left in the dust.  There is still value here. They continue to acquire assets, and our beloved Millennials continue to embrace debt and credit cards in particular, and Capital One is one of the underrated leaders in this space.

Starbucks (SBUX) Oh God, is it Starbucks?  I realize it's a retailer, and all, but despite ambitious growth aspirations, Morningstar believes Starbucks can sustain a 45%-50% dividend payout ratio over the next decade , implying mid-teens average annual dividend growth. It's hard to argue with that.

Kroger (KR) There's just something about this company that appeals to me.  I can't imagine that Amazon (AMZN) is going to kill retail altogether, so I figure that one or more has to sustain - and I think Kroger will be one of them.  If you're going to hold me responsible for any of these choices, then hold me responsible for Kroger, because I believe in the company and think that they will survive the onslaught of Amazon and the E-commerce of the 21st Century.

if you are a young investor, or have a young investor in mind, you could do worse than any of these five, or some others on the Morningstar list.  Take a look at all of them, but - in my opinion - for what that's worth, your money is best spent in these areas.

As usual, do your due diligence.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

More Dribble-Drabble

Eighteen hundred and some-odd posts on this worn-out site.  Sometimes, I think I've covered it all - and other times, I think I haven't covered anything at all.  Or maybe it's both?  So, there's that.  Meanwhile, my fascination with how people connect lingers.

There's this story about the Las Vegas lunatic that shot-up a concert.  
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The girlfriend of the Las Vegas gunman said Wednesday that she had no inkling of the massacre he was plotting when he sent her on a trip abroad to see her family.   Marilou Danley issued the statement after returning from her native Philippines and being questioned for much of the day by FBI agents still trying to figure out what drove Stephen Paddock to open fire on 22,000 fans at a country music festival from his 32nd-floor hotel suite.
"He never said anything to me or took any action that I was aware of that I understood in any way to be a warning that something horrible like this was going to happen," Danley said in a statement read by her lawyer outside FBI headquarters in Los Angeles.
Well gee - no kidding.  What is fascinating about it to me is not that she had no idea, it's that he had a girlfriend to begin with.   I suppose I should be reassured, and think "Well, if a lunatic like that can have a girlfriend, then there's hope for me."  But, it's really the opposite.  If a lunatic like him can have a girlfriend, what's wrong with me?  That's the real question.
No inkling.  OK, then. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Thank you, Julie - you beautiful soul.

Oh hell - we knew that, right? Aren't we all?

Sometimes we think we aren't worthy, even though we know we are flawed. And it makes me wonder ...

How some couples get along with being flawed and arguing over things, and others (me) can't make it through one disagreement without separating and parting ways for a lifetime.

Perhaps I watch too much TV - or not enough - that I believe couples can argue over things and still exist as a couple.  Or, perhaps I think that couples can form to begin with, which seems to be a problem, so why am I concerned with keeping something together that isn't together to begin with?

There is supposed to be a lid for every pot, but I wonder if some pots are English and some lids are metric?  It doesn't seem as simple as the lid/pot analogy makes it out to be.  I'd guess that somehow, the lids and pots that fit each other go undiscovered and their owners go a lifetime without knowing that there was indeed one of them for each of them.  It's not that difficult to comprehend.

And so, we are flawed - indeed. That is how we are made.  It is the flaws that makes the acceptance worthwhile.  After all, if we found that ideal "soul mate" that the TV ads tell us exists somewhere, then it would be easy to accept the flaws, right?  The issue comes in knowing that there are flaws and still accepting and - oh yeah - loving that person because you know that there is a soul within.  

If you are looking for someone that fits your mold, then you are playing a fools game.  We know we are flawed...
...and those of us who know that can accept the flaws in our partners - but, if the partner doesn't accept it, then we are left on our own ... and that's how it usually ends up.

Our true soul mates in life realize that we have flaws and yet - we are still worthy of love.  It's not about some earthly value.  It is about the love within us. The loyalty, and faith that we place in us that leads us toward each other.
Sadly, I have not found that yet.  I still have time, but the hourglass is running out of sand.

I feel like I am still worthy.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Curb My Enthusiasm

"You have to move on," they say.  

That would be easy if there was something to move on to.  The moving part is not the issue.  It's the "on" part that is difficult.  It's not like picking up another book or watching another movie. There's a human element that makes the moving difficult, and the on worse.

Once I get my sights set on something, it is difficult to re-focus.  Mostly because there is nothing else to focus on.  Things come one at a time in my world.  I'm not a social animal (quite the contrary) and the sights are few and far between.

Now, I find myself staring down the gunsight at the horrible four months from November to February, where the world's focus shifts from the mundane to the holidays.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, and Valentine's Day - a marketer's dream and a lonely man's dread.  I realize that 95% of America has something to do on most of those days, and I can't begrudge someone their pleasure, but still ... nobody wants to hear about the struggle, so I persevere.  That is to say, I struggle.

I used to hold out hope, because the saying goes, "There's a lid for every pot."  I have come to realize that I'm a metric system lid for an English system pot, and they just don't match-up somehow. It's OK, I tell myself; but in my heart I dread the coming days.

I don't know what it is.  I see people who have no redeeming qualities (at least to me) and they have families and seem happy.  I don't know their innermost thoughts, but at least on the outside they seem like their lives have some meaning.  Kids, wife, job ... whatever it is that glues them to the earth.

Me?  I go on day after day, mostly out of habit, putting one foot in front of the other.  There are moments of glee and times when I feel like I belong to something, but those moments are followed by hours and days of regret, uselessness, and wishing that there was some purpose to it all.

I guess the thing of it was that she didn't love me like I loved her?  That's what I'll tell myself until I hear otherwise, which doesn't seem possible.  That's the general theme of the past 40-or-so years - the unrequited love issue.  It's probably why I love animals so much.  They don't ask questions and just return the love you give them without question.  I haven't experienced that.  Somebody tell me what it's like, because I'd like to know.

But, I forget.  I forget the last disappointment and the latest time that my hopes were dashed, and I return to hope which, as we know - sucks.   I say that I won't let it happen again, but it does because hope springs eternal, as they say.

They are stupid, ignorant asses.  Stop listening to them, it says here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Curse of Hope

As I said in a previous post, I recently returned from 11 days in Alabama.  Now that I have had significant time to reflect on that experience, allow me to share some of my thoughts on the trip and the indelible impression it has left on me.

The more desperate we are, the more we tend to lean on hope. When sentences start with "I hope ..." rational thought takes a back seat to chance and irrational ideals. It's a suckers game, and rarely does hope work for the betterment of those who hope.  Hope goes hand in hand with faith.  It relies too heavily upon someone or something else, and that has no place in the needs and desires that we all have.  If you have hope and faith, you will almost certainly be disappointed.  As it turned out, I cannot depend on hope, because hope relies on someone or something else.  I read that somewhere.  I will leave that between me and the one on whom my hope rested.

Would this be the eventual home in my retirement years? While it's true that the cost of living is lower there than anywhere - OK, second lowest - ANYWHERE - I began to find fault with my goals as they related to money.
Is it worth the lower expense to live in a place where the only major shopping outlet is Walmart, and the only entertainment is your television?  Perhaps not.
And, as a subtext to you Walmart haters out there:  Realize that, here in the northeast, Walmart is just one of many outlets for groceries and essentials.  In the Deep South, it is the only place.  They are not displacing "mom and pop," they ARE mom and pop.  I would suggest that the protesters take a trip now and then to see how the other three-quarters lives.  We are truly spoiled.
I could live in Tuscaloosa, Athens, or Huntsville; given their metropolitan style and the mere idea that there is something to do that doesn't involve driving an hour to another town.  That said, I'd still be an hour away from another place, which is certainly not the case here in southern New Jersey.

You have no idea of the expanse.  If you ever start to complain about how crowded America is, and how you'd like to do away with the constant expansion and population explosion - spend 11 days driving around Alabama.  You'll wonder, "Where are the people?"  Make sure you have reliable transportation and a full tank of gas, because you might not have cell service, know where you are, or where the next gasoline station is.
Roads go on for miles, undulating, with trees on either side, and the occasional dwelling.  Even the interstate highways are vast wastelands.  The exit cloverleafs have maybe one filling station, and if you're lucky, you'll find a Huddle House or a Love's truck stop somewhere between the three-hour drive from Birmingham to Tupelo, Mississippi.
The off-ramps are regularly populated with tractor-trailers parked on the shoulder because they have nowhere else to sleep.  Just sitting there - nobody in the driver's seat - sleeping in the cab.

I should also mention (for my fellow alcoholics) that in the parts of Alabama that I visited, alcohol sales are prohibited on Sunday, and furthermore, I did not see one - ONE - bar other than a chain like Applebee's, Ruby Tuesday, or Buffalo Wild Wings in my entire 1,400 miles of driving around the northwest part of the state.  Here in New Jersey, you can't go ten minutes without passing a bar and/or a liquor store.  In retrospect, it might be good for my internal organs, but I digress.

I may be biased in my opinion of the people.  The only people I met were service people - wait staff, bartenders, and hotel employees whose job it is to say "yes, sir" to whatever stupid thing I bring up.  Perhaps, if I lived there, I would encounter as many jackasses as I encounter on a daily basis here in New Jersey?  That is a question that I could only answer later.
I travel (and spend significant time) alone, so the attitude I get from people differs from what I would get if I lived in a place or had a companion.  I'm still not sure if outsiders think I'm a shill for corporate or just a poor schmuck traveling alone.  Either way, I win.  I leave big tips because I feel responsible for having them wait on me.  It's a curse.

Central Time.  That's nice.  Big-time athletic events start at 7:30pm.  Late-night TV starts at 10:30pm,  and while I realize that's a specious argument for living somewhere, it's a big deal if you like that stuff and have a problem staying up until after midnight.  Of course, one could make the same argument for Mountain time, but who wants to live in Nebraska?  People in Nebraska probably say the same thing about living in Alabama, so ...
Is it worth uprooting to save an hour?  Probably not, but it's nice not to have to fake "set the alarm" for an hour later and not feel guilty about it.  I maintained Eastern Time for the duration, and felt like I was in some sort of clock heaven.  Still, it was hot as Hell.

The fucking heat.  The temperature was 80, and the "real feel" was 104.  What the fuck? I didn't get to experience a tornado, but they have them regularly. There are signs for shelters along the highways everywhere.  Perhaps I could adapt, but I couldn't say for sure.  I'd have an easier time adapting to the no alcohol sales on Sunday thing than the constant heat.

In spite of the idea that I thought I was going to spend time with the future Mrs. Me (no story there, as it turns out) in my fishing around for potential retirement locations, I'm putting Alabama on my list, but mostly because it's not cold and the time zone is cool.  Otherwise, be careful where you settle down, because it's a long way to civilization from most of those places, and I'm a city boy at heart, and I need to be able to walk to the drug store, not drive an hour.

It's a deeply red state, and that I cannot change. My so-called liberal viewpoints would go in the hate box, and I'd probably be known as "that Yankee" in short order, if I moved there.  I saw a few Confederate flags, and wondered how the President did not Tweet about that, and instead, chose to occupy his time with some football players making a peaceful demonstration ... but I digress.

I will continue my quest to Escape from New Jersey, and may re-center my priority on the Fells Point area of Baltimore, where it began.
Sometimes, experience is the best teacher.

Love ya, Alabama - but it may be just a great place to visit.  Unless she comes calling - but I suspect that is a pipe dream, and I don't own a pipe.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Sweet Home (northern) Alabama

At least for now, and the past 5 days.  

The problem with people from the north (like me) is that they tend to stereotype people from other areas by whatever we think they are, based on ... accent, body type, or some other pre-conceived notion that lends itself to whatever style we assumed.

What generally happens is, we get there, and realize that, other than some accent (it turns out, I have one, too) or some other oddity, they are ... people.  Go figure.  People with jobs, lives, wants, needs, and desires.  No different than the rest of us.  What a culture shock!

While I realize two things:  (1) Travelers face different types of people than residents.  I have mainly dealt with service people and wait staff, and (2) I have only been here for 5 days, I still can tell the things that make us the same as people - God forbid.  It's the other things that make me wonder how much better life would be here than in New Jersey.

For one thing, the lack of traffic.  If someone complains about how over-crowded America is, tell them to visit northern Alabama.  In five days, I have been in traffic twice.  Both times, it was because of an accident.

Another thing is the pace of life.  It doesn't seem as though everything has to happen in an instant.  People apologize for making me wait a normal amount of time.  I really don't care.  And, the accent. I find it charming, especially in women.  There is a poetic nature about it that is at once romantic and pleasing to my ear. I have yet to be yelled at or corrected, so perhaps my perspective is warped, but so be it.

I hesitate to talk politics.  I know I'm in a deeply RED state.  So red that, if I lived here and voted, I'd have to recognize the fact that my liberal Democrat vote would be so diluted as to make it meaningless.  I don't know yet if that would bother me.  I'll get back to you on that - maybe.

I'm always looking for potential retirement areas.  Northern Alabama has placed itself at the top of my short list.  

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

If You Can Keep Your Head ...

... when all about you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you ...

Noted liar and exaggerator (President) Donald J. Trump was at it again today.  In an unhinged and ranting press conference at his digs in New York, he (among other oddities) compared Robert E. Lee to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, proclaiming that we may be tearing down their statues too, someday.  Well now.  One can only assume that we will never be tearing down a statue of Trump.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

 But make allowance for their doubting too.

In other news, Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) reported horrible earnings today.  The stock has lost half its value in a year, and is a perfect example of a great store and horrible investment.  They cited weakness in hunting and outdoor gear as a reason for the disappointing earnings.  OK, then.  If your margins are that thin, I guess that's the reason investors have suffered.  Fortunately for me, I can shop there and nothing else.  That seems like the choice.

The brilliant earnings report from Extreme Networks made its case in the price of the stock today, as it nearly returned to its $11 high.  I hope to retire soon.

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
 Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies

We have to wait sometimes.  It's the game.  We will get an earnings report from Cisco Systems (CSCO) after the market close on Wednesday.  The stock has been a 3.8% bond for the better part of the last 9 months, as investors wait for that home run that doesn't seem to come.  So far, it's been singles and doubles, and the company has prospects, but we wait for them to be brought up.  Perhaps tomorrow ...
If you can make a heap of all your winnings
 And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings
 And never breathe a word about your loss;

I'll breathe a word about my loss in JC Penney.  Horribly, I listened to what I thought was an informed authority and risked it on a turn of pitch-and-toss.  Well, the pitch was a toss, and I wound up selling it two days after buying it for a loss.  What it taught me was to go with my instincts, which are substantial, and not listen to the words of someone who may have ulterior motives. Such is life.

And so hold on when there is nothing in you
 Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

I'm holding on.  Pfizer and DelTaco.  In the case of Pfizer, I'm being paid a 3.9% dividend to wait.  However, the waiting is grating on me, and I wonder how long I can stay ... long.
DelTaco (TACO) is a different story. As faithful readers know, I have touted this company for a while, and have been adding to positions until I now have a significant portion of my investment tied-up in the company.
They keep executing.  Beat and raise, as they say.  They beat estimates and raise the next one, yet the market fails to reward us - and them.  My faith doesn't wain, and if you haven't yet bought in, there is still time.  The stock is mired in the $13 range, and trades at a discount to its peers in the casual dining/restaurant segment, with significant growth opportunities ahead of it.  There is nothing in their earnings reports or forecasts to make me want to sell, and I'll hold it until the market regains confidence in the sector and specifically, the company.  As for me, I have considerable confidence in both.

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
 If all men count with you, but none too much;

So, OK - don't count on me too much.  Do your homework, and remember - it's only money.

Meanwhile, you might want to look at favorite Limelight Networks (LLNW) and keep an eye on Square (SQ). Square has dropped a little from my purchase at $26, and I fear that I'll have to be patient with them until they get to the $24 range, at which point it should rebound.
Acco Brands (ACCO) is interesting, at 11 times forward earnings.  You use (and steal, probably) lots of their office products.  There's value, and you're always looking for a bargain, right?

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

 And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!

So go - be a man, or whatever.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's Nice to be Right Once in a While

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned Extreme Networks (EXTR) before.  I've been holding this stock for a while, and wondering why it has been down over the past 3 months.  Sometimes, the market doesn't know what's going on, and investors have to trust their instincts a hold onto stocks that they bought because they believed in the company when they made the purchase.
In the case of EXTR, I fell in love (bad to do, I know) with the company when I figured out what they did and how if worked-into the way companies are doing business today.  It's a growth industry, and as such, one has to endure a certain amount of doubt from the so-called "investors" when something happens that they find a reason to sell.
The stock went from the $11 range down to the $9 range in the relatively short time period of three months, on almost no news - other than the fact that the company was signing-up new businesses and otherwise moving their business forward.  I had to tune-out the noise and trust my instincts - which were rewarded today. To those who sold into earning, I say, "I'll see you in 10 years."
Next up is Cisco Systems (CSCO) who reports on the 16th.  I've held that for a while, waiting for the big news.  My faith will be rewarded, I think.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cord Cutters, Your Time is Nigh

It's earnings season [again] and you know that gives me a stiffy.  Aside from the financial mumbo-jumbo and forecasts of such, there is some interesting stuff going on in the media sector.

CBS reported a few days ago.  Mega-Chairman Les Moonves said that they will be forming a streaming channel for sports.  He did not have any details, but said it would be along the lines of what NBC does with their streaming content.  OK, then.

Disney reported earlier today.  Bob Iger said that their ESPN branch is going to be streaming content on the Internet, but like Iger, had little in the way of details - price, actual content, or accessibility - but suffice it to say, the idea is to form an Internet-only portal for sports similar to what ESPN does on the cable end.  Oh and, they'll be pulling their content from Netflix (NFLX) in 2019.  So, if you want to see a Disney movie, you'll have to subscribe to their channel.
In addition, he suggested that they may be forming a "Star Wars Channel" and a "Marvel Channel."  At least, when asked about it, he didn't rule it out.  Disney has plenty of content, and the idea of forming individual channels for fans isn't beyond the realm of possibility.

After all, Sirius Satellite (SIRI) radio has individual channels for Howard Stern, The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Billy Joel, and all sorts of specialized content.  Over 200 channels, and if you can't find something to listen to, the problem is with you, not them.

So, why wouldn't video media use the same tact?  Actually, it seems like it's about time.  There's money to be made, and plenty of people willing to pay - which is where the problem comes in.  Follow along:

Today, my cable/Internet bill is $208 a month.  Let's say I cut the cable (aside from local TV, which is $10 a month) and go with Internet-only service from Comcast.  That should cost me in the vicinity of $70 a month, after I have purchased my own router, at a cost of about $100.

Needing content, I'd go with Netflix ($12 a month), Hulu ($10 a month), Amazon Prime ($99 per year), and add-in the pick of your choice (HBO On Demand or Apple Music) at another $10 a month each.
If you like sports - which is the kicker [pun] - you're into the ESPN/CBS bundle for (probably) another $20 to $30 a month (?).  So, let's do the math:

With the $70 a month for Internet, plus all the extra streaming services, they are into your checking account for approximately $135.  All that for the sake of "cutting the cord" vs. the $208 you were paying before.

The point here is, big business has a lot of meetings.  My company has meetings every day.  The other point is, big business doesn't like to lose money.  You cutting the cord means they are losing money.  They don't like that, so they have meetings to figure out how to keep from losing money.  They win, because you still want HBO, sports, and well ... entertainment.  What you may or may not realize is that most entertainment is controlled by the same half-dozen corporations.  So, you cutting the cord means that one or the other of them will have to make-up for your lost income.

So, despite your best efforts, you have two choices.  (1) Go without your desired entertainment for the savings, which is noble or (b) Spend almost the same amount of money you were spending when you had cable and still get to see your precious sports and shows, and flip between a several options to find the show or sporting event you want to watch.  Inconvenience in the name of saving a few bucks.
Those are the short hairs they want to have you hang from.  Rest assured, in some way, they will find a way to get you to pay something close to the money you're paying now.  It's in their next meeting. They don't like to lose.

It's simple - and complicated.  Good luck with your decision.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Before You Get Too Upset About Pete Rose ...

... listen to these lyrics from songs older than you.  Gain some perspective, and stop worshipping celebrities of any age.

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap - 1968. "Young Girl"

Young girl, get out of my mind

My love for you is way out of line

Better run girl

You're much too young girl
With all the charms of a woman

You've kept the secret of your youth

You led me to believe you're old enough

To give me love

And now it hurts to know the truth
Young girl, get out of my mind

My love for you is way out of line

Better run girl

You're much too young girl
Beneath your perfume and your make-up

You're just a baby in disguise

And though you know that it's wrong to be in love with me.w

OK, then.  That's one.  How about this Beatles' classic, "I Saw Her Standing There" 1964.

Well, she was just 17,
You know what I mean,

And the way she looked was way beyond compare.

So how could I dance with another (ooh)

And I saw her standin' there.
Well she looked at me, and I, I could see

That before too long I'd fall in love with her.

She wouldn't dance with another (whoa)

And I saw her standin' there.

And, this Sherman Brothers classic, first performed in 1960, and later by a 37-year-old Ringo Starr ...

You come on like a dream, peaches and cream
Lips like strawberry wineYou're sixteen, you're beautifulAnd you're mine. (mine, all mine)You're all ribbons and curls
Eyes that sparkle and shine
You're sixteen, you're beautiful and you're mine
(mine, all mine, mine, mine)

You're my baby, you're my pet
You walked out of my dreams, into my arms
Ooh, what a girl
We fell in love on the night we met

You touched my hand, my heart went pop
Ooh, when we kissed, i could not stop

Now you're my angel divine
You're sixteen, you're beautiful, and you're mine

Sixteen? That's kind of young for an old man like Ringo.

The point is, (if there is one) young girls have been the target of songwriters and movie scriptwriters for centuries.  We are crucifying Pete Rose because he claimed to have sexual relations with an underaged girl that he thought was sixteen.  OK. So then, why did you buy the songs?

Pete isn't so horrible, compared to you.