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Broadcasters are about to switch to all-digital signals. Long term, that's good for TV viewers and media companies. Short term, millions of viewers may face blank screens.
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Many investors aren't rattled by economic tremors if they've been expecting them. But a projection that a full recovery won't come until 2015? No one's priced that one in.
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Workers are ready, stimulus is coming and the deadwood has been cut down. That sets the stage for a resurgence.
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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa----FBL Financial Group, Inc. will announce its fourth quarter 2008 earnings after the close of market on Thursday, February 5, 2009. The fourth quarter earnings release and financial supplement will be posted on the FBL Financial Group website at that time.
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Shares of Landry's Restaurants (LNY) are still reeling Tuesday after the company dropped a $217 million deal to go private under it
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s chief executive officer. The government asked Landry's to release more information about the deal, and Landry's decided to call the whole thing off rather than comply.Landry's, which owns the Rainforest Cafe, The Chart House and Charley's Crab restaurant chains, said that the Securities and Exchange Commission wanted information from a commitment letter by the lenders funding the deal. But the lenders got skittish, saying they would pull out if those disclosures were made.So now, Landry's is just going to refinance $400 million in debt with those lenders. Shareholders were not pleased by the news, sending the stock price down 35% at one point. Shares were at $8 Tuesday, half of what they were six months ago. Chief Executive Tilman Fertitta had planned to buy the company for $21 per share in cash. Perhaps Fertitta can find other lenders who might be more open to the SEC's demands. But in this economy, that doesn't seem likely.
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We're with Andy Hough on this: Why spend big money on a new pen when you can easily get one for free (and we're not talking about accidentally pocketing one at the bank)? "The only thing you need a pen to do is write and in my experience a free pen writes just as well as an expensive one," says Andy, the Tight Fisted Miser.
Pens -- often given away as promotions -- are tops on his list of "
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-get-for-free/" target=_blank mce_href="http://tightfistedmiser.com/2009/01/02/five-things-you-should-get-for-free/">5 things you should get for free." His readers offered additional ideas.
Among the items listed by Andy and his readers:

  • Matches. They're usually free in casinos and bars, Andy says.

  • DVD rentals. Andy uses a free code from Redbox. There's also the library.

  • Drinking water. Someone is paying the water bill, but the cost to refill your water bottle is miniscule.

  • Boxes and other packaging material. "Rachel B." said bookstores often give them away.

  • Books. We've posted about various sources before.

  • Free state maps (and other tourist information). This post explains where to find them.

How about return-address labels? We get them in the mail from charities all the time. (Do you feel an obligation to send a donation?) The same goes for calendars and holiday cards.
Can you add to the list? Another reader, Pam Munro, observes that county fairs and business conventions are great sources of free stuff.
Related reading:
26 fabulous freebies
A year's worth of free-money tips
12 free applications for your Windows PC
Long commute: Get free audio books online
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Global turmoil is taking a toll on my pick to play China. It's time to cut the losses and find another investment.
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Like Kris' post at Cheap Healthy Good, this one is directed at women readers. Our favorite food blogger presents an excellent way to feel better about your body and face without spending thousands of dollars or even $5, $2.75 or whatever those wom
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en's magazines cost.
She writes in her bodaciously snarky way what we've been thinking for years: All of those uber-svelte tall drinks of water gracing women's magazine covers "are paid to be thin and stylish," Kris says. (How many times have you thought, I could look like that too if I had all day to work at being thin and gorgeous?) Plus they have big incomes and plastic surgery, as well as Photoshop -- "These are gorgeous women," Kris says, "yet they're tweaked so much, Barbie would blush" -- in their toolboxes.
Do you? (Didn't think so.) So stop feeling crummy because you don't have a body like J.Lo, Jennifer or Beyonce. Kris' post ("I have seen the enemy and she is FABULOUS: How to read women's magazines without feeling awful about yourself") could forever heal you of this notion.
It appears that Kris was motivated to write after seeing one of those supermarket-checkout magazine covers that displayed the "worst" celebrity bodies (and realized that one looked like hers, and then felt foolish for buying into the comparison). Among her points:

  • Did we mention Photoshop? Check out her links to Photoshopped and non-Photoshopped pictures of models and stars.

  • Plastic surgery appears to be rampant. Kris says her beloved Dolly Parton is "nearly a cyborg."

  • We can't all be -- and most of us aren't -- 6 feet tall and a size 2.

  • Fad diets, common fodder in these publications, don't work.

Find something else to read that doesn't make you feel bad about your body, or look at them just for a laugh. "Body image articles are fallbacks to bump sales." Kris writes. "Out of fresh ideas? No good gossip this week? Angelina and Brad have gone into hiding? Let's slap up a collage of celebrity asses and grade 'em!"
Related reading:
What does it cost to drop 30 pounds?
Kimkins diet rolls on despite founder's excess poundage
What if no one were fat?
 
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In September 2007, I wrote: “[For financial services firms], the income statement is the past; the balance sheet is the future.” Had I thought more about it, I would've said that was now true for every company.Since I wrote that note, we've seen companies of all kinds writing off assets left and right. In many cases, these corporations try to position asset write-offs as “non-cash." And while technically correct, I would again remind readers that th
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e reason the charges are “non-cash” is that the money (or stock) went out the door long ago. And to suggest that these write-downs aren't important is like suggesting that bank-loan losses (also non-cash charges) don’t matter. Asset write-downs do matter - whether they're banks' loan assets, manufacturers' inventory, media companies' goodwill, or government agencies' deferred tax assets. At their core, outside of cash, balance-sheet assets are a forward-looking promise of cash “value” to be received at some time in the future. So when assets are written down, a corporation or bank is sending a clear message that the future -- particularly future cash flow -- isn't as bright as it once was.Recently, this thought has had me rethinking the reason the “future” on corporate balance sheets was so rosy - how it was that balance sheets could balloon with more and more forward-looking assets? Obviously a lot of the balance-sheet growth reflected a willingness on the part of manufacturers of all kinds to accept installment notes in lieu of cash - but there's also been a staggering amount of growth in goodwill, intangibles and a whole host of “other assets." Why?While I won’t bore you with the twists and turns of my thinking, where I ended up was simply, at all places, inflation. That, thanks to the basic, historic, economic notion that prices only go up over time, asset values have a floor. And therefore, because of our “inflation bias,” we should be willing to recognize more and more of these “promises” on corporation and bank-balance sheets.But if our inflation bias is truly what has supported the floor for all of our forward-looking assets -- again, everything on the left side of the balance sheet, less cash --  then what happens when deflation hits? As we've seen with Bear Stearns, Time Warner (TWX), General Motors (GM), Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE), already deflation is like a trap door to floor on asset values: The hoped-for promise of cash in the future is suddenly worth substantially less than the reality of cash today.I don’t know where our current deflationary cycle ultimately takes us, but I hope that this helps to better explain how balance sheets reporting hundreds of billions of dollars in assets one day, can show 0 the next. And, more importantly, why -- during periods of deflation -- all balance-sheet assets (other than cash) are of questionable value.Ultimately, I wonder whether, like the rating agencies, our accounting firms will become yet another scapegoat for our current crisis: That they too, should've recognized the “inflation bias” inherent in balance sheets and some how prevented it from happening; that maybe “cash accounting” should've been used, particularly in a world filled with derivatives and off-balance-sheet vehicles.But to end where I began: “Earnings are the past; the balance sheet is the future.” And with deflation, that future isn't very bright.Top Stocks blogging partner Todd Harrison is founder
& CEO of Minyanville.com. This post was written by Minyanville Contributor Minyan Peter.
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