Taking Stock from Creators Syndicate https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Thu, 22 Jun 2017 06:47:00 -0700 https://www.creators.com/ http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss Taking Stock from Creators Syndicate https://cdn.creators.com/features/taking-stock-thumb.jpg https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock 04abf8df3fabc97e514155ca9bfbc506 Medallion's Future for 06/21/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/06/17/medallions-future Wed, 21 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I bought 400 shares of Medallion Financial Corp. in May 2012 at $11 a share, and the stock price had risen to $18 by January 2013. I wrote to you about buying more shares when it fell to $15 in February 2013, and you told me to sell the stock "quick as a bunny." I apologize for my nasty attitude with you then; I was wrong. I need your advice again. We just retired and moved to Florida, so my address is different. Please tell me what to do, because Medallion is now selling at $2.26 a share. I think I may have lost it all. &#8212; AL, The Villages, Fla.</p> <p>Dear AL: I understand that The Villages is truly a wonderful place to retire if you're single. I also understand that it's a wonderful place to retire even if you're married! But what I don't understand is why you are writing to me for advice when you wouldn't take it from me four years ago.<p>Updated: Wed Jun 21, 2017</p> 3bd7f8f7a41feb99a9fae0aa64b73eae Is Lennox Hot or Cold? for 06/21/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/06/17/is-lennox-hot-or-cold Wed, 21 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I have $2,000 to invest. Please tell me about Lenox, the company that makes that lovely china and our faithful home air conditioner. Do you think its value can increase? &#8212; LJ, Waterloo, Iowa</p> <p>Dear LJ: Lenox Corp. is a Bristol, Pennsylvania, company that makes tableware and glassware &#8212; with pieces so beautiful, elegant and exquisite that they have graced our embassies the world over and have been used as serving pieces at the White House since 1918. Lenox's hand-blown lead crystal pieces have become highly desirable collectors' items, and prices for some stemware are out of sight. In 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency decided to have a hissy fit. The dunderheads at the EPA told Lenox to get the lead out of its glassware, or else! They reasoned that lead was poisonous for those who'd drink from Lenox stemware and hazardous to the Lenox employees. In the process, the EPA buffoons spent $167 million (guesstimate) presenting thousands of pages of testimony to support their decision. Try as it might, Lenox could not find a formula to make glass of the same quality without lead. Therefore, in 2002, the EPA forced Lenox to close a New Jersey factory and pink-slip 358 employees. The EPA strikes again!<p>Updated: Wed Jun 21, 2017</p> a507967e18b996a560b4df22f8cc8337 The Labor Force Participation Rate and the Fed for 06/14/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/06/17/the-labor-force-participation-rate-and-the-fed Wed, 14 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: A group of us read your column after work while enjoying a few beers before heading home. Seeing as I'm the one with a college degree, which was a waste of time because I'm only making $12.15 an hour, I've been tasked with writing this letter. We continue to hear about the labor force participation rate, which is supposed to be an important economic indicator and supposedly the reason for our slow economic recovery. Could you explain this to us in simple English? Also, one of us wants to know your opinion of Dycom. He owns 160 shares, and a "buy" or "sell" answer would be sufficient. &#8212; TG, Jonesboro, Ark.</p> <p>Dear TG: Egad! My answer may be dull as dishwater!<p>Updated: Wed Jun 14, 2017</p> 9a9b2aa28cf52d015c91e99a260b69b7 Dycom Is a Can't-Miss Stock for 06/14/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/06/17/dycom-is-a-cant-miss-stock Wed, 14 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear TG: As promised in my most recent column, here are my thoughts on Dycom Industries.</p> <p>Dycom (DY-$90.19) is a good conservative long-term investment.<p>Updated: Wed Jun 14, 2017</p> 03031e39462b79d36ddaa13ed1c77b39 Hold or Sell Fifth Third Bank? for 06/07/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/06/17/hold-or-sell-fifth-third-bank Wed, 07 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: We bank at Fifth Third Bank and own 1,000 shares of the stock, which you advised us to buy in 2009 at $7.75 a share. I like the stock's performance, but when I bragged to friends (a retired banker and his wife) about our good fortune ($16,250 profit), both told me to sell the stock because "the scummy management in the home office doesn't know what the branch offices are doing." They also bank at Fifth Third. They'd like to change banks, but automatic deposit instructions (from Social Security, dividends, annuities, investment mortgages, royalties, etc.) become too complicated, so they'd wind up missing some payments that would get stuck in limbo. They don't like Fifth Third's policy of changing the staff and tellers every few months, as it's confusing to bank with strangers. We have noticed this, too, and are concerned enough to sell the stock if you say so. &#8212; Confused in Cleveland</p> <p>Dear Confused in Cleveland: Fifth Third Bank (FITB-$24), headquartered in Cincinnati since 1862, is a $14 billion-asset bank with over 1,250 branch offices. Its niggardly 56-cent dividend yields 2.1 percent, and your banker friend's complaints are not unusual; FITB seems to be having a management problem.<p>Updated: Wed Jun 07, 2017</p> f745f2dd9a50f27f58573a0b99277c60 One Dud and Two Good Investments for 06/07/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/06/17/one-dud-and-two-good-investments Wed, 07 Jun 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: Because the 401(k) where I work has a lousy choice of funds (list enclosed), I am moving $30,000 of the $91,000 into an individual retirement account to seek a better return. The stockbroker recommended $10,000 each in Macquarie Infrastructure, the Fidelity Select Banking Portfolio and American Electric Power. Please comment on these choices. &#8212; TW, Kankakee, Ill.</p> <p>Dear TW: I know that the messenger sometimes gets shot, but several employees where you work ought to down a few gum ticklers and then have a face-to-face with the boss or human resources. If the boss knows that those high-cost mutual funds have such ratty performance records and has done nothing about it, he may eventually face some heavy legal costs. And if he hasn't any idea how cruddy those funds have performed, I think he should appreciate that knowledge and make the proper changes.<p>Updated: Wed Jun 07, 2017</p> 4a49eac19b766129953ee9360a141418 How Does GM Stock Look? for 05/31/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/how-does-gm-stock-look Wed, 31 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I recently subscribed to the Value Line Investment Survey. One of its analysts, Ian Gendler, is recommending buying stock in General Motors, the largest automaker in the world. Gendler says that GM has "strong volume and pricing and continues to reduce cost" and that "the firm is posting healthy financial results." He says GM is planning to come out with three brand-new crossover models that "will help the company sustain the momentum in the quarters ahead." According to Gendler, the 4.5 percent dividend is attractive and the stock has good investor appeal for excellent long-term growth in principal, earnings and dividends. Please give me your thoughts on General Motors and the Value Line Investment Survey. We have an $11,000 certificate of deposit coming due next week. The best renewal rate is 1.35 percent, so we would consider buying 300 shares of General Motors. &#8212; SZ, Vancouver, Wash.</p> <p>Dear SZ: I'm sorry to disabuse you of this notion, but GM is no longer the largest automaker in the world. That title belongs to Toyota Motor Corp. Renault-Nissan Alliance claims the No. 2 spot. Volkswagen comes in third, followed by General Motors (GM-$33.69) and then Ford Motor Co. And Ian Gendler isn't just an analyst at Value Line; he's the executive director of research, and that means he has a lot of smarts. I've followed Gendler for several years. I'm impressed with his work, and I'd hire him in a Sioux City second if I could afford him. However, a subscription to the Value Line Investment Survey is the best alternative.<p>Updated: Wed May 31, 2017</p> bd9abeea580a58100937dee6e54ff117 Fed Bonds for 05/31/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/fed-bonds Wed, 31 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Readers: Over the past several months, I've received many questions about the Federal Reserve. This single response answers several dozen questions I've received.</p> <p>In March 2016, Federal Reserve officials agreed they should begin selling their $3.5 trillion quantitative easing portfolio of mortgage securities toward the end of this year. Note that I wrote "should" rather than "will." Also note that Fed officials haven't agreed on how much of the $3.5 trillion in mortgage bonds they may sell or how quickly they may reduce their position. The Fed is extremely guarded on how it will reduce its massive bond position purchased via the 2007-10 quantitative easing strategy, which saved the banking system from collapse and many bank presidents from prison.<p>Updated: Wed May 31, 2017</p> d3313b8146f2e1b9a2cdfe42ce72f176 Hold HSBC Holdings for 05/24/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/hold-hsbc-holdings Wed, 24 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: My father died last year, and the assets from his will have been distributed. Among the stocks he left to my brother and me are 250 shares each of HSBC Holdings. The other investments are mutual funds, pharmaceutical stocks, utility stocks and certificates of deposit, all of which we have some understanding and working knowledge of. The stockbroker we consulted was our father's broker, and he told us we should keep everything. I've enclosed a copy of the account for you to look at. My husband insists we should sell HSBC Holdings because it's a foreign bank stock and he thinks foreign bank stocks will fall to the cellar this year or next. But my brother and I will be guided by your advice on this stock. &#8212; CL, Portland, Ore.</p> <p>Dear CL: Your father had a darn good broker. And if you keep this guy, you and your brother will have a darn good broker, too. There's no reason to sell anything, including HSBC Holdings (HSBC-$43.40). Perhaps your husband feels threatened by this inheritance and needs to establish his territory. That's not unusual, and if you care to keep him as a spouse, let him have some say.<p>Updated: Wed May 24, 2017</p> 7ecdc9cef1d92498b6d839a7f05afff6 Is Starbucks a Safe Investment? for 05/24/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/is-starbucks-a-safe-investment Wed, 24 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: Please tell us your thoughts on Starbucks. We are retired and have a good income from our investments, though we still must be careful. We don't want to make investments that might be aggressive and lose money. There's a Starbucks near where we live, and we're thinking of buying 200 shares. There's always a long line inside in the morning. It's also busy in the evening, and I've often waited 10 (annoying) minutes or more for a barista to fill my order, which I take home to my husband, who's in a wheelchair. I think other Starbucks locations are equally busy.</p> <p>We got taken several years ago and lost $2,100 on IBM. That was a terrible experience. Is Starbucks a conservative stock? Does it have safe appreciation potential? &#8212; KL, Jonesboro, Ark.<p>Updated: Wed May 24, 2017</p> 061c4effae4f93f46b53f149c93b5aa9 Sell or Hold TCF? for 05/17/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/sell-or-hold-tcf Wed, 17 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I bought 600 shares of TCF Financial at $13.95 in early November of last year. The shares had zoomed to $20 within two months. So I asked my broker whether we should sell any of the shares. He said no and recommended that I buy another 600 shares because he thinks it will be a $30 stock this year. I didn't take his advice to buy, but I still own the 600 shares, which are down more than 3 points from where I wanted to sell. What should I do? &#8212; CL, Detroit</p> <p>Dear CL: You have good instincts. <span class="column--highlighted-text">Though the financial sector continues to maintain some of its momentum, TCF Financial has been one of the laggards and may continue to be so for quite a while.</span><p>Updated: Wed May 17, 2017</p> db33f16f61b4244e215f9660f6edf677 Snap! Your Money's Gone for 05/17/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/snap-your-moneys-gone Wed, 17 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I bought 200 shares of Snap on the offering. I was surprised I got the stock and bought 1,000 more shares at $24.25 when it began trading. It quickly jumped to $30. But a short time later, it was trading at $18 because the company had reported a record first-quarter loss of over $2 billion and slower user growth. Several of my friends and I have lost thousands of dollars. The stockbroker we use strongly recommended this stock, telling us that Snap's business, according to his firm's analyst, is "so sensational that it could go to $100." My friends and I have used this broker for a couple of years. I should have realized, though, from his past recommendations that he's what you call "an articulate incompetent." All of us are really angry about this. His Snap recommendation was so wrong that we are thinking of a class action suit against him and his firm. What would you advise? &#8212; AE, Columbus, Ohio</p> <p>Dear AE: When greed succeeds, everyone smiles. When greed fails, everyone wails. <span class="column--highlighted-text">You and your room-temperature hobbits must never have taken the time to read the company's prospectus</span> dated Feb. 2, 2017. If you had, I guarantee that you would not have bought the stock. Actually, perhaps you would have, because stupidity and greed are usually good companions. Hidden among the single-spaced small print and monotonous gray lines is this passage: "The growth in Daily Active Users was relatively flat in the latter part of the quarter ended September 30, 2016." That comment might even discourage Forrest Gump from buying Snap.<p>Updated: Wed May 17, 2017</p> b962328f87be977c2ad06c6409de26cd GovMint.com's Silver Benny for 05/10/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/govmintcoms-silver-benny Wed, 10 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: The U.S. Mint is issuing a limited mintage striking of a silver proof $100 bill. It's an exact image of the $100 bill, though it's a little bigger, 6 inches by 2 1/2 inches. The entire surface (back and front) contains 1 troy ounce of pure silver, and it has that newly minted mirror shine. Each piece is assigned a numbered certificate and is individually registered to ensure authenticity. Each silver $100 bill is completely encapsulated to protect its mirror finish, and it comes with a beautifully crafted box. These silver $100 bills are so beautiful that they make great gifts for special anniversaries, special birthdays, Christmas, graduation, etc. And best of all, I can buy five of these $100 silver proofs for $95, which is $5 less than face value. How can the government sell something for less than the cost? A person at the U.S. Mint told me that this was an advance strike. The U.S. Mint made 9,999 of them for collectors, and when those are bought up by the collectors, people who didn't get in early will have to pay $129 per proof. If I had the money, I'd buy 10 of them because the cost would be only $89 each, which is $11 less than face value. This is too good to be true. I think I'm missing something here. What do you think? And what's the difference between troy weight and avoirdupois weight? &#8212; DA, Durham, N.C.</p> <p>Dear DA: I think you're missing a lot, and a substantial portion of what you're missing is common sense. Here's why:<p>Updated: Wed May 10, 2017</p> 5b3844b03bacdc8bb4f9ddb96c7d2672 5 Drug Stocks Examined for 05/10/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/5-drug-stocks-examined Wed, 10 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: We are in our early 50s, and our account is worth $708,000. We haven't added any more money, and it's nearly doubled in value in 11 years, and we thought we were on the right road, but we recently realized that the stock market has done much better. So we talked to our stockbroker, who's been honest in dealing with us. We want to be more aggressive rather than own the bland but good stocks he buys for us. He reluctantly suggested that we invest $5,000 in each of the following drug stocks: Mallinckrodt, Accelerate Diagnostics, Globus Medical, Zoetis and SciClone Pharmaceuticals. My wife and I would appreciate your thoughts on each issue. &#8212; JL, Portland, Ore.</p> <p>Dear JL: I suspect that some of your friends have been bragging about how well they've done in the stock market since Donald Trump was elected. Those steady-Eddie stocks have given you a comfortable 6.8 percent average annual return in the past 11 years. That's acceptable. <span class="column--highlighted-text">If you won't stay the course, that road could have some sharp turns, and the midden could hit the windmill.</span> Still, I've little objection to owning 100 shares of each of those five companies.<p>Updated: Wed May 10, 2017</p> dc94eb2a89622a3dbd000eee87ada432 Clean Energy and Alphabet for 05/03/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/clean-energy-and-alphabet Wed, 03 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: My stockbroker and friend for the past 41 years just advised me to sell my 20 shares of Alphabet Inc., which I bought in 2010 at $233 a share. He thinks Alphabet has finally topped out and insists that I sell my shares and take my $12,000 profit; it now trades at $834 a share. He has researched a company called Clean Energy Fuels Corp. and is strongly recommending this stock. He wants me to use $10,000 of my profit from this trade to buy 4,000 shares of Clean Energy because he says this stock could triple in the next two to three years. I'm not sure about selling Alphabet, because I think its self-driving cars will be a big success, but I might be persuaded to sell 10 shares and buy Clean Energy with those funds. Your opinion would be appreciated. &#8212; TG, Columbus, Ohio</p> <p>Dear TG: Alphabet (GOOG-$910) is up 76 points since you wrote this letter!<p>Updated: Wed May 03, 2017</p> 1da09070b1d132997725d4de3e968573 The Santa Claus Effect for 05/03/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/05/17/the-santa-claus-effect Wed, 03 May 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I'm a happily defrocked priest, married with children, who has been reading your column for 30 years. We met twice when you were in Oklahoma City to speak. My wife and I are active in group counseling, so I'll come to the point. Why do Wall Street and Congress have so many evil people who profit at the public expense? How can one explain the actions of Wells Fargo's John Stumpf or Jon Corzine of MF Global, both of whom had the world by the tail? How do we explain Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Richard Fuld of Lehman Brothers, Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Financial and Charles Prince of Citigroup, whose false representations and greed helped wreck the global economy? How does one explain 1,000 percent increases in prescription prices by drug companies, the fraud and duplicity of state legislatures, the perversion and lies of so many members of Congress, the fraud of union officials, and the corruption of civil service employees? I could continue, but I think you've got my drift. &#8212; DA, Oklahoma City</p> <p>Dear DA: I don't remember meeting you!<p>Updated: Wed May 03, 2017</p> f70b7dc80db30a2b4fc6486df950f376 HSAs and Social Security Taxes for 04/26/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/04/17/hsas-and-social-security-taxes Wed, 26 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: My wife and I have two questions. One concerns health savings accounts, and the other concerns Social Security. First, could you please explain the basics of an HSA and how someone qualifies? Next, my wife says our Social Security taxes have increased, but I say they have remained the same for the past 30 years. We'd appreciate your answer to settle our argument. &#8212; DD, Durham, N.C.</p> <p>Dear DD: Years ago, it seemed that every time I responded to a question about health savings accounts or Social Security, some readers had better answers &#8212; and gladly let me know. So I've turned to Kristina Sommerkamp, a financial adviser in Boca Raton, Florida, who probably knows more about Social Security's rules, regulations, administration, guidelines and governance than most of the homeboys who run this program from the bureaucratic swamp in Washington. Over the past 20 or more years, Kristina has helped many readers with immediate answers to questions that would take a high-level Social Security administrator a week to research. She also knows a great deal about HSAs, but let's start with your second question.<p>Updated: Wed Apr 26, 2017</p> 8a2f63ecf4014ee3edae5770d2544b4c Verizon and FirstEnergy for 04/26/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/04/17/verizon-and-firstenergy Wed, 26 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: Last summer, I chose between buying 600 shares of AT&T at $38 and buying 500 shares of Verizon at $54. I bought Verizon, and it's been straight down since, though the dividend was raised by 6 cents. Tell me why Verizon has collapsed and when you think it will come back to my purchase price, because I want to invest $25,000 in an electric utility my stockbroker recommended, FirstEnergy. Please tell me your opinion of this stock's ability to provide long-term growth and income. &#8212; FA, Cleveland</p> <p>Dear FA: Verizon Communications (VZ-$47) provides wireless, broadband, fiber-optic and other services to consumers around the world. VZ is still the clear leader in the wireless industry, with over 113 million retail customers. VZ has a strong reputation and an enviable, high-quality network, and its Fios service enables unparalleled data speeds across nearly 80 percent of the company's service area.<p>Updated: Wed Apr 26, 2017</p> d21a16a6af62e1d98b35f1e9700fa959 The Unfriendly Skies for 04/19/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/04/17/the-unfriendly-skies Wed, 19 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: I bought 200 shares of United Continental Holdings last year at $76, and I've been behind the eight ball since. My broker wants me to keep the stock. I'm disappointed with it and inclined to sell. What is your thinking on this stock? &#8212; TL, Detroit</p> <p>Dear TL: Sell it! Except for some special TWA bonds that were secured by physical assets, I've never recommended an airline stock. Airlines haven't been on my goodwill list since the late 1980s, when I listened to a group of airline executives use the term "cattle count" in reference to the number of passengers they carried. <span class="column--highlighted-text">Now United's red-eye flights turn out to be black-eye flights.</span><p>Updated: Wed Apr 19, 2017</p> 120a2137c054bce8447551558cb79ed5 Investing in Stein Mart for 04/19/2017 https://www.creators.com/read/taking-stock/04/17/investing-in-stein-mart Wed, 19 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Dear Mr. Berko: Why has Stein Mart done so badly in the past 10 years? What is wrong with the company? Does it really yield 11 percent? My stockbroker suggested I buy 5,000 shares "because it's a good gamble!" &#8212; PE, Oklahoma City</p> <p>Dear PE: The company's biggest problem is tired, incompetent management. Stein Mart (SMRT-$2.50) isn't a good gamble; it's a rank gamble. SMRT would become a good gamble only if its price were to rise after your buying it. And SMRT has ugly management that knows little about marketing.<p>Updated: Wed Apr 19, 2017</p>