Monthly Archives: April 2012

Focus on Companies: Edward Jones

According to a survey by Fortune Magazine, Edward Jones ranks as the fifth best company to work for.  The investment firm has 11,000 offices all over the United States, and an astounding 65% of its employees are women.

Another characteristic that sets Edward Jones apart from some of its sister firms in the financial sector is that is has so far survived the grueling recession without firing their employees. Managing partner Jim Weddle commented that, “It’s a great time not to be a bank, or to be owned by one.”

Edward Jones is headquartered in Saint Louis, Missouri, and posted revenues of about $4.1 billion in 2010. Edward Jones has almost 7 million investors, yet strives to take a personal approach to each of their clients.

Best Companies to Invest In for 2012

As the economy improves analysts are predicting excellent growth rates for many companies. Here is a list of some of those firms which will most likely rise quickly in the coming year.

1.    TRW Automotive Holdings: The automotive industry is second only to the military industry in profitability in the world, and there is every reason to believe this will remain true for a long time to come. Last year’s total shareholder return was 563.3 percent.

2.    Micron Technology: This innovative company manufactures semiconductors and memory devices, and the holders of one of the largest collection of patents in this sector. Most servers, networks, tablets, e-books and mobile phones have a memory device component from Micron.  Last year’s total shareholder return was 300.0 percent.

3.    Health Management Associates: Operating for the last 30 years in southeastern and southwestern suburban and rural America, HMA runs one of the country’s top acute care hospitals. This is a good, stable company with an excellent growth prospectus, listed on the Fortune 500 and set to keep growing. Last year’s total shareholder return was 306.1 percent.

Spain’s Credit Rating Drops Again as S&P Predicts Bailout

S&P has lowered Spain’s sovereign credit rating for the second time this year as the region’s economy diminishes.

Standard & Poor’s lowered Spain’s A to a BBB+, stating a negative outlook for the future. The country’s short term rating also fell to A-2 from A-1.

Ten years of borrowing costs in the nation have inflated as the economy contracts and unemployment abounds. Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is desperately trying to show investors that the situation is under control, but optimism is scarce as bad loans hit their highest marks in nearly twenty years.

“Spain’s budget trajectory will likely deteriorate against a background of economic contraction,” S&P stated. “At the same time, we see an increasing likelihood that Spain’s government will need to provide further fiscal support to the banking sector. As a consequence, we believe there are heightened risks that Spain’s net general government debt could rise further.”

In the meantime, Luis de Guindos, Spain’s Minister of Economy, rejects the issue of external aid. He claims that Spanish banks have no need of it, now will it require a bailout from other EU partners.

“Nobody has asked Spain, either officially or unofficially,” he said. “We don’t need it.”


British Economy Enters Recession After Back to Back Shrinking Quarters

For the first time since the 1970s Britain is facing the reality of double-dip recession. According figures supplied by London’s Office for National Statistics, the gross domestic product shrunk by 0.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 after contracting by 0.3 percent in the last quarter of 2011. The technical definition of recession is when there are two straight quarters of shrinking economy.

The poor showing is blamed on the poorly performing British construction industry.

“This isn’t supportive of the fiscal consolidation program, so the government is likely to be concerned about that,” said Philip Rush, an economist at Nomura International in London. “The data were bad, and that supports the view that the Bank of England will do a final 25 billion pounds of quantitative easing in May.”


Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Lawsuit Takes Next Step to Resolution

Carl Barbier, US District Judge, is ready to hear a proposed class-action settlement over the damages done by the British Petroleum oil spoil in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

The agreement, which will hopefully settle billions of dollars in claims, will be presented by BP PLC and a team of lawyers representing the plaintiffs and what they say is more than 100,000 individual claims brought by those who have been hurt economically by the spill. Included among the plaintiffs are both individuals and businesses.

Judge Barbier is due to hear the request on Wednesday.

There is no upper limit on the amount of the settlement, but as of now BP is estimating it will be paying out approximately $7.8 billion in claims.

The deal was first announced earlier this year, on March 2, with the details of the agreement spelled into a detailed document of hundreds of pages which was filed last week.

Business Spotlight: SHIFT Atheltic Performance

SHIFT Athletic Performance is a new business established by Katy Luetke in January. It focuses on professional strength and conditioning, group fitness programs, sports-focused programs, personal training, nutritional coaching and more.

In an interview with, Luetke spoke about her new business.

What prompted you to start your own business?

“As a local and former high school athlete in Northern California, I wanted to bring a service to youth and college prep athletes that no one else is offering… Many athletes from smaller schools or less populated areas don’t understand what will be expected of them in college and I plan to prepare our local athletes for just that. My gym will send multiple athletes every year off to colleges with strong, dominating and balanced bodies ready to take their game and performance to the next level because their strength levels are already there.”

What will make your business stand out from competitors?

“There are many people who claim to have a passion for what they do, but few people can convey the energy and excitement about an achievement or success the way I do. My athletes are held to high standards but with the standard of excellence comes greater strength and performance gains, a better understanding for what hard work is and why we do it as athletes and all of this transfers directly to competitive confidence… SHIFT fitness training not only builds the body but trains the mind. An emphasis on mental fitness and integrity helps athletes understand life’s achievements, losses and wins on a different level.”

Luetke added, “Because I have studied human movement, anatomy and sports in general in advanced educational situations and athletic arenas, I have an eye for coaching and training that is unique and brings an element of detail and discipline that other coaches may completely miss.”

Quote of the Day: Christine Lagarde

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde

Meteorologically speaking, spring is usually a welcome relief from cold, dark winter. However on the economic front, at least this year, there is a fear that this spring will bring the US economy back to the dreary days of last year’s recession, which this winter showed signs of recovery.

As Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund put it:

“There is a light recovery blowing in a spring wind” with “dark clouds on the horizon.”

Her statement was made at Thursday’s opening of meetings in Washington which will spend much time discussing Europe’s problems and global economic growth. Ms. Lagarde stressed that world leaders should remain diligent and not become complacent.

Oil Prices and Economic Outlook

Investor concern regarding the ongoing debt crisis and slow economic growth is likely to increase now that oil prices have reached $103 per barrel in Asia.

June delivery’s benchmark oil had fallen 13 cents to $102.98 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, and the contract later fell 77 cents to $103.11. Meanwhile, Brent crude oil is up 15 cents at $118.87 a barrel in London.

The Eurozone’s manufacturing and service sectors fell this past month, strengthening the claim that the new measures instituted to reduce debt will result in yet another recession.

“Developments in the euro area continue to drive sentiment,” said Standard Chartered’s Gerald Lyons. “The biggest threat facing the world economy is a collapse of one or more euro area economies.”

Analysts are torn regarding crude demand, but many are optimistic that the market will rebound in both China and the U.S. The Western sanctions against Iran’s oil will also be a contributor to market shifts.

“We’re looking at the bottom in U.S. gasoline demand, the bottom of the China slowdown and we are just starting to feel the pinch on Iranian sanctions,” said Oil Outlooks and Opinions’ Carl Larry. “Outside of another economic meltdown, there’s not much more that we can see that is going to bring this oil price back down.”

Company Focus: iRobot Corporation

iRobot Roomba

One of the fastest growing companies in America now is a high-tech firm called iRobot Corporation. Founded in 1990 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology-educated robotocists, iRobot generated over $465 million in earnings in 2011. Colin Angle is a co-founder, Chairman of the Board and CEO. His vision for the company is to bring practical robots to the public, and he has been recognized for his vision and leadership in the industry with several professional awards.

iRobot employs over 600 of the industry’s top experts using the talents of mechanical, electrical and software engineers and others developing the two main segments of their business: military robots and home robots. Home robots today focus on the way people clean their homes, both on the inside and outside. In 2011 over 7.5 million home robots were sold worldwide by iRobots, a number that is growing each year. The iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaning robot has been leading the way into the homes of consumers, showing them how practical robots are, and that robots are here to stay.

Military robots have been proving themselves in combat and in other public safety situations to be a life-saving tool for public safety and military professionals. Over 4,500 iRobot Military robots have been sent around the world to a variety of military and civil defense forces.

iRobot is a leader in the robot industry with over 20 years of leadership behind them, and a bright future of robotics on the horizon.


Quote of the Day: Stephen Steinour

While announcing Huntington Bancshares’ first quarter revenue, its president and CEO revealed an optimistic outlook for the Midwest.

“It’s increasingly clear in the Midwest states that there is a recovery. There’s a lot of strength in manufacturing. There’s a lot of export activity. Business owners, by and large, they are doing very well… The notion of the Midwest as the Rust Belt is something I reject when I hear it.” –Stephen Steinour