Monday, September 30, 2013

Government Shutdown Could Disrupt Twitter's IPO Timeline

The threat of a looming government shutdown has already sent stocks tumbling. Could it also trip up Twitter's IPO? The social media company wants to list its shares within a few months, according to reports, but a government shutdown would include the SEC and might interfere with those plans.

Twitter announced on September 12th that it had confidentially filed a prospectus (Form S-1) for an initial public offering. However, this was not the real beginning of the process: the company had filed the paperwork two months earlier, and was only making the announcement to get ahead of press leaks. News site Quartz reports Twitter planned to make its confidential filing public this week, with a goal of trading its shares sometime before Thanksgiving.

A potential government shutdown could upend this timeline, because a closing of the government would mean pausing a significant portion of the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and its duties.

"If the company is towards the end of the process and trying to price its transactions, it presents a lot of uncertainty and potential difficulties," said David Lynn, a partner with law firm Morrison & Foerster and former chief counsel at the SEC's Division of Corporation Finance. During a shutdown, he said, "no one can look at the final versions of the registration statement, and that has to happen before they can price and sell securities."

Lynn said that for companies earlier in the IPO process, a government shutdown would have less of an effect because they were in for a two-to-three-month wait from the SEC, anyway. "It can take two to three months to go through process or even longer depending on the issues. Companies that filed recently may have to delay [their] road show because the SEC isn't there to look at the filings," he said.

But for companies nearing the end of their IPO process and depending on the SEC to respond to queries quickly – companies like Twitter – could face a longer wait. "It might tack another week or two onto the process. Depending on if the shutdown goes for a week or two – it would tack on however long the shutdown would be," Lynn said.

Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A confidential IPO filer is required to make a public filing at least 21 days before formally launching its offering. While Twitter's ultimate public debut will come, its preferred timeline could be derailed by D.C. if SEC functions are disrupted.

The SEC declined to comment beyond the statement listed on its website, which says that it "will remain open and operational in the event the federal government undergoes a lapse in appropriations on October 1." Any changes that occur on or after October 1 will be announced on the SEC website, and the agency's operation plan in the event of a shutdown is accessible here.

Should the government shut down, the SEC would remain open for emergency matters like temporary restraining orders, the investigation of matters relating to public and private property and market monitoring. It would be open for filings (EDGAR filings and others), but it would not be able to process those filings. "Ongoing litigation, rule-making, interpretative functions, anything that's not deemed an emergency gets shut down," Lynn explained.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Top 5 Biotech Stocks To Own For 2014

Jay Silverman, biotech analyst at The Medical Technology Stock Letter, looks at some favorite biotech stocks that are addressing potentially large, new markets.

Steve Halpern: We're here today with Jay Silverman of Medical Technology Stock Letter. How are you doing Jay?

Jay Silverman: Hey Steve, thank you.

Steve Halpern: Could you tell us a little about your background and your interest in biotechnology?

Jay Silverman: Certainly. I actually began my career in 1987 with Nomura Securities, the largest broker in the world at that time, a Japanese firm.

They were very big investors in Genentech and over those last 27 years I have been an institutional analyst for three major investment banks, the last one being Robertson Stephens in the beginning of 2000.

Steve Halpern: What brought you over to the Medical Technology Stock Letter?

Jay Silverman: Both John McCamant and I have been friends since I started. I knew his dad quite well. Our philosophies are similar. We want to work with people who are smart, who we trust, and who will also work hard.

Top 5 Biotech Stocks To Own For 2014: Dyadic International Inc (DYAI)

Dyadic International, Inc. (Dyadic), incorporated in September 2002, is a holding company. The Company is a global biotechnology company. The Company has operations at the United States and the Netherlands. Dyadic uses its technologies to conduct research and development (R&D) and commercial activities for the discovery, development, manufacture and sale of enzymes and proteins for the bioenergy, industrial enzyme, and biopharmaceutical industries. The Company derives all of its revenues from the licensing of its technologies, the sale of its enzymes and conducting research and development (R&D) activities for third parties. The Company operates in two segments: the United States operations and The Netherlands operations. The United States segment includes a subsidiary in Poland.

The United States operating segment is a developer, manufacturer and distributor of enzyme products, proteins, peptides and other bio-molecules derived from genes and a collaborative licensor of enabling technologies for the development and manufacturing of biological products and use in R&D. The Netherlands operating segment is also a researcher and developer of enzyme products, proteins, peptides and other bio-molecules derived from genes and, to date, has mainly invested in R&D activities.

Dyadic�� R&D activities focus on its fungal strains and associated technologies. Dyadic uses its Trichoderma and C1 fungal strains in the production of its industrial enzymes. Dyadic manufactures and sells liquid and dry enzyme products to global customers for use within the animal feed, pulp and paper, starch and alcohol, food and brewing, textiles, and biofuels industries.

Dyadic also utilizes a technology platform based on its patented and C1 fungus (the C1 Platform Technology), which enables the development and manufacture of proteins and enzymes for diverse market opportunities. The C1 Platform Technology can also be used to screen for the discovery of novel genes and proteins. The C1 Platf! orm Technology also has the potential of developing and producing other biological products such as antibodies, vaccines, proteins and polypeptides for the biopharmaceutical industry.

Top 5 Biotech Stocks To Own For 2014: Transition Therapeutics Inc.(TTHI)

Transition Therapeutics Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, develops novel therapeutics for various disease indications primarily in Canada. Its lead products include ELND005 (AZD-103), a Phase II clinical trial product for the treatment of Alzheimer?s disease; TT-301 and TT-302, which are Phase I clinical trial products, for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer?s disease, traumatic brain injury, and intracerebral hemorrhage; and TT401/402, a preclinical stage product to treat diabetes. The company also has an emerging pipeline of preclinical and clinical drug candidates for the treatment of anti-inflammatory and metabolic indications. It has strategic collaborations with Elan Pharma International Limited to develop and commercialize ELND005 (AZD-103); and a licensing and collaboration agreement with Eli Lilly and Company to develop and commercialize gastrin based therapies, and the preclinical compound TT401/402. The company was formerly known as Transition T herapeutics and Diagnostics Inc. and changed its name to Transition Therapeutics Inc. on December 2000. Transition Therapeutics Inc. was founded in 1987 and is headquartered in Toronto, Canada.

5 Best Canadian Stocks To Watch For 2014: Scancell Holdings PLC (SCLP.L)

Scancell Holdings PLC is a United Kingdom-based company. The Company�� principal activity of the consists of the discovery and development of monoclonal antibodies and vaccines for the treatment of cancer. In April 2012, the Company completed recruitment to the Phase 1 clinical trial of SCIBI. In May 2012, the Company commenced recruitment and treatment of the first patient in the second part of it Phase 1/2 clinical trial of SCIBI. The Phase 2 part of the trial is conducted in five United Kingdom centers in Nottingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, and Southampton. On August 15, 2012, the Company announced the development of a platform technology, Moditope.

Top 5 Biotech Stocks To Own For 2014: Dendreon Corporation(DNDN)

Dendreon Corporation, a biotechnology company, engages in the discovery, development, and commercialization of therapeutics to enhance cancer treatment options for patients. The company offers active cellular immunotherapy and small molecule product candidates to treat various cancers. Its product candidates comprise Provenge (sipuleucel-T), an active cellular immunotherapy for the treatment of metastatic, castrate-resistant prostate cancer; DN24-02, an investigational active immunotherapy for the treatment of patients with bladder, breast, ovarian, and other solid tumors expressing HER2/neu; and TRPM8, a small molecule agonist to transient receptor potential ion channel, for multiple cancers. The company also has a range of products in preclinical studies, which include Carcinoembryonic antigen for the treatment of lung, colon, and breast cancer; and Carbonic AnhydraseIX for the treatment of kidney cancer. Dendreon Corporation was founded in 1992 and is headquartered in S eattle, Washington.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Paul Ausick]

    Stocks on the move: Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is up 5.2% at $40.63, a new 52-week high, on a positive note from analysts at J.P. Morgan. Dendreon Corp. (NASDAQ: DNDN) down 9.1% at $2.90 after posting a new 52-week low of $2.85.

  • [By Bryan Murphy]

    There's no doubt about it - the "in" thing to do with Dendreon Corporation (NASDAQ:DNDN) lately has been to bash it. The company's one and only drug, Provenge, failed to meet its sales estimates last quarter. And worse, DNDN was forced to announce 2013's top line wouldn't be as strong as first expected. Between that lowered guidance and growing fears that Provenge may not be nearly as marketable as first assumed, the stock plunged 26% on Friday, and has since widened that loss to 30%.

  • [By Dimitra DeFotis]

    There are two cancer vaccines on the market: Provenge, a prostate-cancer treatment from Seattle-based Dendreon�(DNDN), and Yervoy, a melanoma treatment from Bristol-Myers Squibb�(BMY), according to Dow Jones Newswires. In May, Roche�Holding (RHHBY) said its experimental cancer vaccine, called MPDL3280A, shrank tumors in 21% of 140 patients participating in a trial. It is now performing tests in lung cancer patients.

  • [By Jon C. Ogg]

    Dendreon Corp. (NASDAQ: DNDN) is hitting 52-week lows as Deutsche Bank has downgraded the maker of Provenge to Sell from Hold. Shares are down 5% at $3.03, against a prior 52-week range of $3.10 to $7.22.

Top 5 Biotech Stocks To Own For 2014: Savient Pharmaceuticals Inc(SVNT)

Savient Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a specialty biopharmaceutical company, focuses on developing KRYSTEXXA, a biologic PEGylated uricase in the United States. The KRYSTEXXA is being developed as a treatment for chronic gout in patients refractory to conventional therapy. The company also sells and distributes branded and generic versions of oxandrolone, a drug used to promote weight gain following involuntary weight loss. It sells its products directly to drug wholesalers. The company, formerly known as Bio-Technology General Corp. and changed its name to Savient Pharmaceuticals, Inc. in June 2003. Savient Pharmaceuticals, Inc. was founded in 1980 and is headquartered in East Brunswick, New Jersey.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By James E. Brumley]

    Since 2008's implosion from the stock, the interest in Savient Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:SVNT) has been waning. There was a brief burst of bullishness in September of last year, which stirred the bullish pot a little. But, when SVNT started to fade in October of that year - just as quickly as it had perked up - what lingering hopes there were for the stock finally started to melt away. By the middle of this year, pretty much everyone had written Savient Pharmaceuticals off as a lost cause. Big mistake. Over the last few days, SVNT has almost wiggled its way buck into a bullish zone.

  • [By James E. Brumley]

    It's still too soon to say Savient Pharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ:SVNT) is off and running. In fact, the stock's decidedly NOT off and running yet. But, it's not too soon to put SVNT on your watchlist of potential breakout candidates, as it's much closer to a breakout than most anyone can see.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TD Bank to Pay $90M in Settlement Related to Ponzi Scheme (TD)

On Monday, it was announced that the American unit of Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD) will be paying $37.5 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission, $37.5 million to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Agency, and $15 million to the Office of the Comptroller to settle regulatory claims related to the accounts of a man who is now in jail for running a Ponzi scheme.

According to Bloomberg, a former TD regional vice president was sued by the SEC for claiming falsely in 2009 that TD had “restricted the movement of funds” in Joel Rothstein’s account. Rothstein, a Florida lawyer, is currently serving a 50-year term related to a Ponzi  scheme, which fell apart in late 2009.

TD shares were up 28 cents, or .32%, at market close on Monday. The company’s stock is up 4.89% YTD.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

[video] Jim Cramer Quick Take: Taper Not in Price

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With the Federal Reserve's two-day FOMC meeting scheduled to begin on Tuesday, TheStreet's Brittany Umar wants to know what Jim Cramer is thinking ahead of the event.

Cramer said the market has not priced in a tapering announcement, at this point. When Larry Summers withdrew from running for the position of next chairman of the Fed, markets rallied hard and stopped worrying about a taper.

He added that the market has essentially decided that a decision on tapering doesn't matter -- which typically means that it actually will matter when the announcement is released.

Top Companies To Buy For 2014

Equity markets are no longer setup for disappointment and are looking for a completely benign announcement. Anything that doesn't fit that blueprint will likely send the market lower. Cramer went on to say that Bernanke could cause interest rates to spike higher -- which fell dramatically on Monday. To take advantage of this, he said he would be a seller of Treasury bonds and likes regional banks at a certain point, since they will benefit from rising rates. Cramer concluded that a rise in interest rates would result in a selloff for the stock market, but because so many things are going right, the selling will likely have trouble gaining any momentum. -- Written by Bret Kenwell in Petoskey, Mich. Follow @BretKenwell

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Bank of America May Have $20B Resting on This Controversial 8-Page Report

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Bank of America's (BAC) efforts to win approval for a pennies-on-the-dollar $8.5 billion mortgage-backed securities settlement may be complicated by a controversial eight-page report that was the subject of two days of New York Supreme Court hearings last week on the proposed deal.

The report's author, Brian Lin, one of three principals at an obscure firm called RRMS Advisors, earned $500,000 to write it and another $500,000 to testify in hearings over the fairness of the proposed settlement. Those details came out Friday during the 24th day of hearings over the settlement, according to CLSA analyst Mike Mayo, whose team has appeared regularly in court in order to follow the proceedings.

Lin was hired by BNY Mellon (BK), which was the trustee assigned to protect the interests of investors in 530 mortgage-backed securities trusts that faced losses estimated at $108 billion at the time the settlement was proposed June 29, 2011. Using data provided him by 22 investors in the trusts, including Goldman Sachs (GS), PIMCO, BlackRock (BLK) and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's Maiden Lane entities, Lin determined the $8.5 billion settlement amount proposed by the group was fair.

The proposed deal has been called the largest private settlement stemming from the financial crisis. Objectors led by AIG (AIG) have said it is inadequate since it represents recoveries of only about eight cents on the dollar on securities stuffed with Countrywide mortgages that were fraudulent or in other ways did not live up to their original billing at the time they were sold to investors. On Thursday and Friday last week, AIG's attorneys tried to portray Lin's work as representing little more than a rubber stamp of the figures provided him by BNY Mellon and the 22 investors. BNY and the investors, according to AIG, were conflicted as a result of extensive business ties with Bank of America and so did not push hard enough to extract a larger settlement. CLSA's Mayo has a "sell" rating on Bank of America chiefly because of the risks he believes it faces if the settlement is thrown out. Relying on a pair of outside experts, Mayo believes Bank of America could face an additional $16 billion to $22 billion in additional legal damages if the settlement is rejected by Judge Barbara Kapnick. Most other sellside analysts who folllow Bank of America appear less concerned about the case. A call to Lin wasn't returned and Jason Kravitt, an attorney for Mayer, Brown, which is representing trustee BNY Mellon, declined to comment. The hearings so far have lasted 24 days and are likely to go on for considerably longer given that Lin, who finished his testimony Friday, was just the first of 16 people scheduled to testify. -- Written by Dan Freed in New York. Follow @dan_freed

Thursday, September 19, 2013

UBS and BMO Capital Raise Price Target, Estimates on Cummins (CMI)

Early on Wednesday, analysts at both UBS and BMO Capital raised their price targets and earnings estimates on diesel engines manufacturer Cummins Inc. (CMI).

The analysts at UBS raised the numbers on CMI to reflect better growth from market positions and new products. As such, they now see shares of CMI reaching $146, which suggests a 10.6% upside to the stock’s Tuesday closing price of $131.96.

At BMO Capital, the analysts raised CMI’s earnings estimates through 2015 as distribution acquisitions should add to earnings. Furthermore, the analysts rate CMI as “Outperform” and see shares reaching $146 as well.

Cummins shares were down 20 cents, or 0.15%, during pre-market trading on Wednesday. The stock is up 21.79% year-to-date.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now

Foolish investors have been longtime fans of first-movers in a new space, and Clean Energy Fuels (NASDAQ: CLNE  ) has certainly been in on the ground floor in the effort to build out a national network of natural gas fueling stations. Now, the challenge for it will be to outpace some of its newer, larger�competitors.

Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A  ) announced recently that it will be partnering with Travel Centers of America (NYSE: TA  ) to build out a network of natural gas fueling stations at Travel Centers of America's highway rest stations across the country. In this video, contributor Tyler Crowe takes a look at the leading companies in this natural gas station rush, and sees one company that could benefit from this competition.

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now: ArthroCare Corporation(ARTC)

ArthroCare Corporation, a medical device company, develops, manufactures, and markets surgical products primarily based on its minimally invasive patented Coblation technology in the Americas and internationally. The company?s Sports Medicine business provides energy-based systems and fixation technologies used to treat soft tissue injuries in the shoulders, knees, and hips. It offers ArthroWands product line that features Coblation based specialized disposable energy-based surgical wands designed for single patient use to treat orthopedic conditions, including shoulder, knee, hip, foot, ankle, elbow, and wrist injuries; and Soft-Tissue Fixation products comprising a line of specialized implants and instruments, such as knotless and traditional anchors for rotator cuff and labrum repairs in shoulder; screws for ligament reconstruction in knee; a range of arthroscopic suture passers; and reusable hand-held instruments, procedural kits, and accessories. The company?s Ear N ose and Throat (ENT) business provides surgical products used to treat conditions performed by ENT healthcare professionals. It offers various products for general head, neck, and oral surgical procedures, including sinus surgery, snoring treatment, nasal turbinates reduction, and adenoid and tonsil removal. The company also provides surgical products for the treatment of spine related and other conditions. Its products include SpineWand devices used to treat soft tissue conditions in spine; Plasma Disc Decompression products for treating contained herniated discs; Cavity SpineWand that reduces the size of malignant lesions in the vertebrae of patients suffering from spinal compression fractures; and WoundWand for acute and chronic wound debridement, and wound cleansing. ArthroCare sells its products to surgeons and specialized medical professionals through sales representatives, and independent sales agents and distributors. The company was founded in 1993 and is headquarte red in Austin, Texas.

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now: Tetra Tech Inc.(TTEK)

Tetra Tech Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides consulting, engineering, program management, construction management, and technical services for water, natural resources, environment, infrastructure, and energy sectors. The company operates in four segments: Engineering and Consulting Services (ECS), Technical Support Services (TSS), Engineering and Architecture Services (EAS), Remediation and Construction Management (RCM). The ECS segment offers front-end science, consulting engineering, and project management services in the areas of surface water management, groundwater, waste management, mining and geotechnical sciences, arctic engineering, industrial processes, and information technology. The TSS segment provides management consulting and strategic direction in the areas of environmental assessments/hazardous waste management, climate change, international development/stabilization, energy services, and technical government staffing services. The EAS segment offers engineering and architecture design services, including leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) and sustainability services, together with technical and program administration services for projects related to water infrastructure, buildings, and transportation and facilities. The RCM segment provides environmental remediation, infrastructure development, and alternative energy services. The company offers its services to the U.S. federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as to commercial and international clients. Tetra Tech, Inc. was founded in 1966 and is headquartered in Pasadena, California.

Best High Tech Companies To Invest In Right Now: Intevac Inc.(IVAC)

Intevac, Inc. provides process manufacturing equipment solutions to the hard disk drive industry, and process manufacturing equipment and inspection solutions to the photovoltaic industry. The company operates in two segments, Equipment and Intevac Photonics. The Equipment segment designs, develops, and markets magnetic disks; hard disk drive equipment products, including disk sputtering and disk lubrication systems; technology upgrades; and spare parts and consumables, as well as installation, maintenance, and repair services. This segment also offers capital equipment for the photovoltaic solar manufacturing industry. The Intevac Photonics segment develops, manufactures, and sells digital-optical products for the capture and display of low-light images and materials identification used in military aircraft, ground vehicles, ground soldier head-mounted, and weapon-mounted applications. This segment also provides sensors, cameras, and systems for military applications; Ram an spectrometer table-top and handheld systems for use in forensics, homeland security, geology, gemology, medical, pharmaceutical, and industrial quality assurance applications; and low-light cameras for industrial inspection, bio-medical, and scientific applications. The company sells its products through direct sales force, system integrators, distributors, and value added resellers in the United States, Asia, Europe, and rest of world. Intevac, Inc. was founded in 1990 and is headquartered in Santa Clara, California.

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now: International Speedway Corporation(ISCA)

International Speedway Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, promotes motorsports themed entertainment activities in the United States. The company?s motorsports themed event operations consist of racing events at its motorsports entertainment facilities. Its motorsports entertainment facilities promoted approximately 100 stock car, open wheel, sports car, truck, motorcycle, go-kart racing, and other racing events. The company is also involved in souvenir merchandising operations; food and beverage concession operations; the provision of catering services in suites and chalets; creation of motorsports-related programming content, including national satellite radio service; the usage of its track facilities for testing for teams, driving schools, riding experiences, car shows, auto fairs, concerts and settings for television commercials, print advertisements, and motion pictures; and rents show cars for promotional events. As of November 30, 2011, it owned and/or op erated 13 motorsports entertainment facilities. The company was formerly known as Daytona International Speedway Corporation and changed its name to International Speedway Corporation in 1968. International Speedway Corporation was founded in 1953 and is headquartered in Daytona Beach, Florida.

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now: Medivation Inc.(MDVN)

Medivation, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, focuses on the development of small molecule drugs for the treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer, Alzheimer?s disease, and Huntington disease. The company?s product candidates under clinical development include MDV3100, which is in Phase 3 development for the treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer; and dimebon, which is in Phase 3 clinical trial for the treatment of Alzheimer?s disease and Huntington disease. It has collaboration agreements with Pfizer Inc. to develop and commercialize dimebon; and Astellas Pharma Inc. to develop and commercialize MDV3100. The company was founded in 2003 and is based in San Francisco, California.

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now: Kaminak Gold Corporation (KAM.V)

Kaminak Gold Corporation, an exploration stage company, focuses on the acquisition, exploration, and development of gold, and other precious and base metal properties in Canada and the United States. It primarily explores the Coffee Gold Project, a 150,000 acres property located in Yukon Territory, Canada. The company also holds interests in various other properties located in Quebec, Nunavut, Ontario, Yukon, British Columbia, and Manitoba, as well as in Nevada. Kaminak Gold Corporation was incorporated in 2005 and is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada.

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now: LyondellBasell Industries NV(LYB)

LyondellBasell Industries N.V. manufacturers and sells chemicals and polymers, refines crude oil, produces gasoline blending components, and develops and licenses technologies for production of polymers. The company?s Olefins and Polyolefins segment offers olefins, including ethylene, propylene, and butadiene; aromatics, such as benzene and toluene; polyolefins, which comprise polypropylene (PP), high-density polyethylene, low-density polyethylene, and linear low-density polyethylene; specialty polyolefins, including catalloy process resins, PP compounds, and polybutene-1 resins; and ethylene derivatives, which comprise ethanol. Its Intermediates and Derivatives segment provides propylene oxide (PO); PO co-products, including styrene monomers and TBA derivative isobutylene; PO derivatives, such as propylene glycol, propylene glycol ethers, and butanediol; acetyls, such as methanol, acetic acid, and vinyl acetate monomers; ethylene derivatives, which comprise ethylene oxide , ethylene glycol, and ethylene glycol ethers; and flavor and fragrance chemicals. The company?s Refining and Oxyfuels segment offers gasoline and components, ultra low sulfur diesel, jet fuel, and lube oils; diesel, feedstock, fuel oil, gasoline, and bitumen; and gasoline blending components, including methyl tertiary butyl ether, ethyl tertiary butyl ether, and alkylate. Its Technology segment develops and licenses polyolefin and other process technologies. This segment also develops, manufactures, and sells polyolefin catalysts, as well as provides technology services, which comprise safety reviews, training and start-up assistance, engineering services for process and product improvements, and manufacturing troubleshooting. LyondellBasell Industries N.V. has operations in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and internationally. The company was founded in 2005 and is based in Rotterdam, Netherlands. LyondellBasell Industries N.V. is a subsidiary of Prochemie GmbH.

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now: Companhia Energetica de Minas Gerais Cemig (CIG)

Companhia Energetica de Minas Gerais (CEMIG), incorporated on May 22, 1952, is a Brazil-based holding company mainly engaged in the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. In the generation segment, CEMIG operates through hydroelectric plants, thermoelectric plants and wind farms. In the transmission segment, as of December 31, 2008, CEMIG�� transmission network was comprised of 38 substations with a total of 94 transformers and an aggregate transformation capacity of 15,583 Megavolt amperes. In the distribution business, as of December 31, 2008, the Company owned and operated 451,539 kilometers of distribution lines, supplying electricity to approximately 10 million customers. CEMIG is also engaged in the natural gas distribution business in Minas Gerais, through its subsidiary Companhia de Gas de Minas Gerais - GASMIG, as well as in the telecommunications business, through its subsidiary Cemig Telecomunicacoes SA - Cemig Telecom, which provides optical fiber and coaxial cable network.

Power Generation and Trading

As of December 31, 2009, the Company generated electricity at 54 hydroelectric plants, three thermoelectric plants and two wind farms, and had a total installed capacity of 6,624 megawatts. As of December 31, 2009, it owned and operated 3,085 miles of transmission lines and 281,756 miles of distribution lines. It holds concessions to distribute electricity in 96.7% of the territory of Minas Gerais. Eight of CEMIG�� hydroelectric plants accounted for approximately 81% of its installed electric generation capacity during the year ended December 31, 2009. CEMIG operates the Ipatinga thermoelectric plant, through its subsidiary Usina Termica Ipatinga S.A. The plant has an installed capacity of 40 megawatts, generated by two units and that uses blast furnace gas as fuel. The Company operates the Sa Carvalho hydroelectric power plant, located on the Piracicaba River in the municipality of Antonio Dias in the State of Minas Gerais, through its subsid! iary Sa Carvalho S.A. The Company�� Rosal hydroelectric plant has an installed capacity of 55 megawatts. The Rosal plant is located on the Itabapoana River, which runs along the border between the states of Espirito Santo and Rio de Janeiro.

Cemig Capim Branco Energia S.A. is engaged in developing the Capim Branco Generating Complex in partnership with Companhia Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), a mining company, Comercial e Agricola Paineiras, an agricultural company, and Companhia Mineira de Metais (CMM) a metallurgical company. Horizontes Energia S.A. was formed by the Company to generate and trade electricity, through the commercial operation of its hydroelectric plants: the Machado Mineiro Power Plant (located on the Pardo River in the municipality of Ninheira in the State of Minas Gerais with an installed capacity of 1.72 megawatts); the Salto do Paraopeba Power Plant (located on the Paraopeba River in the town of Jeceaba in the State of Minas Gerais with an installed capacity of 2.37 megawatts); the Salto Voltao Power Plant (located on the Chapecozinho River in the town of Xanxere in the State of Santa Catarina with an installed capacity of 8.2 megawatts), and the Salto do Passo Velho Power Plant (located on the Chapecozinho River in the town of Xanxere in the State of Santa Catarina with an installed capacity of 1.8 megawatts), as well as other generating projects.

Usina Termeletrica Barreiro S.A. holds the assets of the Barreiro thermoelectric power plant. The Irape Hydroelectric Power Plant, which has an installed capacity of 360 megawatts, is located on the Jequitinhonha River, in northern Minas Gerais. The Company�� wind farm, Morro do Camelinho is located in Gouveia, a municipality in northern Minas Gerais. It has a total generation capacity of 1 megawatt, powered by four turbines with a capacity of 250 kilowatts each. Central Eolica Praia do Morgado S.A is located in the county of Acarau, in the State of Ceara. Central Eolica Volta do Rio S.A is located in the county ! of Acarau! , in the State of Ceara.


The Company�� transmission business consists of the bulk transfer of electricity from the power plants where it is generated to the distribution system, which carries the electricity to final consumers, and others consumer agents connected directly in the transmission grid. Its transmission system comprises transmission lines and step-down substations with voltages ranging from 230 kilovolt to 500 kilovolt. As of December 31, 2009, the Company�� transmission network in Minas Gerais consisted of 1,352 miles of 500 kilovolt lines, 1,244 miles of 345 kilovolt lines and 485 miles of 230 kilovolt lines, as well as 35 substations with a total of 94 transformers and an aggregate transformation capacity of 15,506 megavolt ampere. The Company transmits the energy that it generates and the energy that it purchases from Itaipu and other sources, as well as the energy for the interconnected power system. On December 31, 2009, the Company also had 13 industrial consumers, to whom it transported 4,103 gigawatt hour directly with high voltage energy, through their connections to its transmission lines. Nine of these industrial consumers accounted for approximately 66.9% of the transported total volume of electricity. The Company also transmits energy to distribution systems, through the south/southeast-linked system of the grid.

Distribution and Purchase of Electric Power

The Company�� distribution operation consists of electricity transfers from distribution substations to final consumers. Its distribution network consists of a network of overhead and underground lines and substations with voltages lower than 230 kilovolts. The Company supplies electricity to industrial consumers at the higher end of the voltage range and residential and commercial consumers at the lower end of the range.

Other Businesses

The Company holds approximately 55% of Gasmig and Petrobras, through its subsidiary, Gaspet! ro-Petrob! ras Gas S.A., holds 40%. In 2009, Gasmig supplied approximately 1.5 million cubic meters of natural gas per day to 276 consumers, including 175 industrial and commercial clients, 93 retail distribution stations for natural gas vehicles, two thermal power plants and six distributors of compressed natural gas (CNG). Gasmig supplied 0.2 million cubic meters of gas per day to thermal power plants and 1.3 million cubic meters of gas per day to retail consumers. In addition to, Gasmig also supplied eight customers with re-gasified liquefied natural gas (LNG). In 2009, Gasmig distributed approximately 4.1% of all natural gas distributed in Brazil.

The Company�� owns a 99.9% interest in Cemig Telecomunicacoes S.A., which has an optical fiber-based long-distance communications backbone installed along the Company�� power grid using optical ground wire cables. This communications backbone is connected to an access network that is based on hybrid fiber-coaxial cable technology and is deployed along its power grid. The telecommunication services provided by Cemig Telecomunicacoes S.A., through its network are signal transportation and access, both for point-to-point and point-to-multipoint applications, delivered to telecommunications operators and Internet service providers on a channel basis. Cemig Telecomunicacoes S.A. also provides intra-company data transmission services to the Company. CEMIG provides consulting services to governments and public utility companies in the electricity industry. The Company has a 100% interest in Efficientia S.A.

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now: Vantex Resources Ltd (VAX.V)

Vantex Resources Ltd, a junior mining exploration company, engages in the acquisition, exploration, production, and development of gold properties in Canada. It principal project include the Galloway gold project that comprises approximately 2488 hectares, 63 claims, and 3 mining concessions located in the Dasserat Township, Abitibi district of Quebec. The company was formerly known as Vantex Oil, Gas and Minerals Ltd and changed its name to Vantex Resources Ltd in February 2004. Vantex Resources Ltd was founded in 1987 and is based in La Prairie, Canada.

Top 10 Clean Energy Stocks To Own Right Now: Incorporated(PCLN) Incorporated, together with its subsidiaries, operates as an online travel company. The company provides price-disclosed hotel reservation services on a worldwide basis primarily under the,, and Agoda brand names; and price-disclosed rental car reservation services in approximately 80 countries through TravelJigsaw brand name. It also offers its customers the ability to purchase other travel services, including retail airline tickets; rental car days; vacations packages consisting of airfare, hotel, and rental car components; cruise trips; and destination services, including parking, event tickets, ground transfers, and tours through its ?Name Your Own Price? demand-collection system in the United States. In addition, the company offers an optional travel insurance package that provides coverage for trip cancellation, trip interruption, medical expenses, and emergency evacuation, as well as for loss of baggage, property, and travel d ocuments for air, hotel, and vacation package customers; and collision damage waiver insurance for rental car customers in the United States. The company?s other brands include,,,, Travelweb,, and Car Hire 3000. Incorporated was founded in 1997 and is headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Sweet Smell of Decay

Print FriendlyWhile the MLP space is dominated by the oil and gas sector, in last week’s article we began to explore some of the more exotic master limited partnership offerings. This week we continue our exploration of nontraditional MLPs by looking at the partnerships supplying fertilizer.

Rentech (Nasdaq: RTK) has been around for more than a decade, and it has shifted strategies several times. Full disclosure: Rentech’s Chief Technology Officer Harold Wright is a former manager of mine when we were both at ConocoPhillips, and I have visited Rentech’s facility in Commerce City, Colorado.

For most of Rentech’s existence, the company has sought to commercialize alternative fuels. At one time it had ambitions to build a large coal-to-liquids (CTL) plant, but federal legislation ultimately nudged it instead into the biomass-to-liquids (BTL) space. The company did build a BTL demonstration plant, but ultimately shut it down and has now refocused its efforts on becoming “one of the largest wood processing companies in the world.”

During its interesting journey as a company, Rentech acquired two ammonia nitrogen fertilizer facilities, which turned out to be a profit center that funded the alternative energy research. In November 2011, Rentech spun off this fertilizer business into an MLP called Rentech Nitrogen Partners LP (NYSE: RNF).

In the months leading to the spin-off, RTK’s market capitalization was about $200 million. Rentech maintained 60 percent ownership of RNF, and three months after the spin-off RTK’s market cap had risen to $400 million, while investors had bid RNF up to $1 billion. Interestingly, RTK’s share of RNF was worth more than RTK’s entire market cap, a situation that persists. The market currently values Rentech at $482 million, while the valuation of Rentech Nitrogen Partners makes RTK’s 60 percent stake in RNF worth slightly ! more than $600 million — another illustration of the premium investors have been willing to pay for MLPs.

RNF owns two fertilizer production facilities, one in East Dubuque, Illinois and the other in Pasadena, Texas. The partnership is a pure play on nitrogen fertilizer, which is produced from natural gas and which is therefore subject to natural gas price volatility. The Illinois plant is in the heart of the Corn Belt, and as a result will also be subject to corn price volatility (i.e., high corn prices will mean higher fertilizer demand, and vice versa). Modifications to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which supports corn prices by encouraging the production of ethanol, could significantly affect demand for nitrogen fertilizer.

RNF had a solid 2012 when natural gas prices were lower, but the recovery of natural gas prices this year has eaten into margins. This, as well as some unscheduled outages led RNF to recently reduce its 2013 distribution guidance to $2.05-2.20 per unit from $2.60 previously. The partnership already paid out $0.50 in Q1 2013 and $0.85 in Q2, which leaves $0.70 to $0.85 to be paid for the rest of 2013. At the current price, this implies an annualized yield for the final two quarters between 5.3 percent and 6.4 percent. But fertilizer is a seasonal business, and including the two distributions already paid for 2013 bumps the 2013 yield to roughly 8 percent.

Rentech has two competitors in this space. Terra Nitrogen Company LP (NYSE: TNH) owns and operates a nitrogen fertilizer plant in Oklahoma. The general partner is a wholly owned subsidiary of CF Industries Holdings (NYSE: CF), the second largest nitrogen fertilizer producer in the world.

Terra Nitrogen’s claim to fame is the extraordinary performance of units. Over the last 10 years, the price rose from approximately $5 to the current level above $200. Like RNF, Terra Nitrogen profits from historically low natural gas prices. Thus its most recent distribution, equivalent to 7.9 percent on an annualized basis, might be reduced if the cost of its main input rose dramatically.

One other risk factor for US-based fertilizer manufacturers is the threat of cheap Chinese exports. China produces fertilizer predominantly from coal instead of natural gas, and with natural gas prices increasing in the US and global coal prices declining, Chinese fertilizer has become much more competitive.

Enter CVR Partners LP (NYSE: UAN), the only company in the US to produce fertilizer from petroleum coke (petcoke). Petcoke is a byproduct of petroleum refining, and prices are usually set off coal prices, since these two products compete in the same niche. Thus the same dynamics that currently threaten the distributions of Rentech Nitrogen Partners and Terra Nitrogen Company play in CVR Partners’ favor.

CVR Partners’ fertilizer plant is located in Coffeyville, Kansas, adjacent to the refinery owned by CVR Refining (NYSE: CVRR). CVR Energy (NYSE: CVI), majority-owned by Carl Icahn via Icahn Enterprises (NYSE: IEP), is the general partner and owns most of the units for both CVR Partners and CVR Refining.

CVR Partners’ results are up across the board in 2013. Sales rose 6.6 percent in the first half compared with the first half of 2012, while EBITDA was up 10 percent, and distributable cash flow was up 6.3 percent. But unit prices have been weak, registering a decline of 25 percent year-to-date. This has pushed the yield of CVR Partners up to the range of 9.8 percent to 10.9 percent based on the most recent guidance.

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Investing in fertilizer MLPs is not for everyone. There are special risks that must be recognized, and that won’t be acceptable to the more conservative income investors. But a growing global population means growing fertilizer demand, and patient investors who are selective with their entry points may find this sector to be richly rewarding.

(Follow Robert Rapier on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.)

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Selling Your Business? 3 Ways To Cut The Tax Bite

The 10 Highest Capital Gains Tax States

A lot of small business owners accelerated sales of their companies into 2012 in anticipation of the new higher tax rates for 2013, but for those who are thinking of selling now, don't despair.

"There are things you can do to minimize—or with the right set of facts—eliminate taxes," says Timothy Jessell, a tax lawyer with Greenberg Traurig in Tysons Corner, Va. whose client base is people buying and selling companies. In one case, a client who is selling his consulting company will save $3.8 million in taxes "simply by filing a piece of paper," he says.

What's the tax picture if you're selling a business? The American Taxpayer Relief Act lifted the top rate on long-term capital gains from 15% to 20% and allowed the return of a gotcha provision that adds another 1.2% to the tax bite as of Jan. 1. Plus, a new 3.8% Medicare surtax (one of the Obamacare taxes) on investment income for couples earning more than $250,000 kicked in—raising the total top capital gains rate from 15% to 25%.

And don't forget that there are state capital gains taxes to contend with in 41 states—which are taxed at ordinary income rates in most states—that's up to an additional 13.3% bite in California, for example.

No wonder business owners are exploring ways to lessen the government's take. Here's help.

The ESOP Plan. If you own a C Corp., by setting up an employee stock ownership plan, you can roll over the proceeds from the sale of your business on a tax-deferred basis. You receive cash on the sale and reinvest it in a diversified portfolio (it's called a 1042 rollover after the Internal Revenue Code section that allows the move). It's basically a deferral play; you pay capital gains taxes on distributions. But if you hold onto the securities until you die, you get a step-up in basis and you avoid the capital gains tax altogether.

About two-thirds of ESOPs are used to provide a market for the shares of a departing owner, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership.

The Qualified Small Business Stock Exception. If you sell stock that counts as small business stock, you qualify for lower tax rates: a 50% or 100% exclusion on gain in certain circumstances. The trick is meeting the definition, easier if you set up a business with that in mind: you can't be in the services business, for example. But it's possible to separate out part of an existing business that would count and treat it as a separate business.

Jessell has a client, a computer hardware reseller, who is considering spinning out the computer hardware portion of his business, separating it from the services side of the business, so it counts as qualified small business stock when he sells later this year.

Convert A C Corp To An S Corp. This is how Jessell's consulting company owner stands to save $3.8 million. While the 3.8% Medicare surtax pretty much always applies when you sell a C Corp., if you convert to an S Corp. and you're an active business owner and sell your stock in the business, you don't pay the 3.8% surtax. In this guy's case, his business tax year ends Oct. 31. He'll switch to S Corp. status in November, sell the business which is worth $100 million, and voila, no surtax.

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That's $3.8 million in tax savings. "He said, 'Geez! Why didn't anyone else say this to me?'" Jessell says.

Can't say we didn't tell you.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Four steps to build an outperforming portfolio

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A disciplined approach towards building an investment portfolio is in itself a very good investment for the investor.

Investors aim to achieve their financial goals through their investments and these goals vary widely across the investor community. There are different types of investors who belong to different age brackets, have contrasting disposable incomes, and have a plethora of different preferences for which they need money during their lifetime.

These factors and motives decide the investment pattern and the portfolio which needs to be built.

Here are four small steps to build an effective investment portfolio which will help the investor achieve their dream run as far as investment yields are concerned:

I. Get the right Asset Allocation for your needs

Assessment of individual's financial status, their investment goals are of prime importance for building a effective investment portfolio. Investor's age decides the term period of the investment.

A 21 year old, starting his career, will have a different investment goal focus than that of a person who is 55 years of age and is in the last leg of his service tenure. The degree of risk the investor is willing to take is also a key factor towards fixing the right investment portfolio.

The combination of current financial situation, investment goals and the risk taking propensity decide how the different investments would be divided among the asset classes. Higher returns are achievable by undertaking greater risks. This is referred to as risk/return trade off.

The 21 year old would obviously be in no great hurry to see his investment yield a return immediately and would thus be prepared to take greater risk in comparison to the 55 year old investor who would probably look at good risk-free returns which are also tax-efficient, after his retirement.

In this context it is relevant to discuss different portfolios which range from the conservative to the aggressive.

• An aggressive portfolio will consist of around 70 to 75 percent of equities and the balance in bonds and fixed income securities.

• A moderately aggressive portfolio will be made up of 50 to 55 percent in equities, Up to 40 percent in bonds and fixed income securities and the rest in cash and equivalents.

• As compared to this a conservative portfolio would not stake more than 20 percent in equities and the bulk of investments would be in fixed income securities.

II. Achieving the defined portfolio

Once the asset allocation has been fixed the amount has to be allocated appropriately into asset classes. However there are some sub-categorizations of the asset classes which the investor might want to get familiar with.

The equities offer an opportunity for investment in different sectors, market caps, domestic and foreign equities in the same way as bonds which can be allocated between short term and  long term, government versus corporate debt and so on.

The basket of investments consists of stocks, bonds, Mutual funds and Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). The investor can choose from these basic categories and their numerous variants available in the market which best suit their individual investment needs.

Before picking a stock and/or a bond it is imperative that their inherent traits are examined thoroughly. Short-listing potential picks and carrying out further study on them is always a good practice.

Similar exercise needs to be carried out for Mutual Funds and ETFs' also.

III. Reassessing the Portfolio Mix

Nothing in this world is permanently permanent and so it is with the portfolio of investments. Market movements, change in priorities, needs and current financial situations, guides the portfolio mix.

In order to carry out a well designed re-balancing exercise it is necessary to find out which portions or asset classes are overweight and which are underweight. Pruning the overweight ones and allocating them to the underweight class will set it right for the time.

IV. Rebalancing Strategically

While carrying out the rebalancing exercise as mentioned in step III, it is helpful to keep in mind certain things which have an effect on the investment portfolio.

A particular equity in the portfolio may be doing well, however as a part of the rebalancing exercise it may become necessary to sell the equity and this may attract substantial capital gains tax. In such a situation it would be better to carry out the rebalancing in a different manner, perhaps by contributing more in the non-equity components, thereby bringing down the ratio.

The investor needs to be well informed and conversant about the market interactions on a regular basis.  Analysis and feedback from the market is essential to keep stability to the portfolio.

In the above example it might be so that the equity market is expected to crash heavily and in such a case it is always advisable to sell inspite of the tax implications involved.


A well diversified portfolio is the key for a sustained and healthy long-term growth of the investments. An ideal portfolio is one which will stand the test of time and will be consistent in returns and solid in growth. The small steps recommended will result in your investments to leap.   

The author, Ramalingam K, CFP CM, is the Chief Financial Planner at, a leading Financial Planning and Wealth Management company.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Best Gold Stocks To Watch For 2014

Gold for instance has behaved more like a bank FD, while those invested in silver wish they weren��. On CNBC-TV18's special show 'The Informed Investors' Hemant Rustagi, CEO, Wiseinvest Advisors advises on the best tax saving ideas.

Below is an edited transcript of Hemant Rustagi's interview on CNBC-TV18.

Q: What about the entire investment and other asset classes?  For instance, we have been talking about gold and silver, how does a person decide to diversify his asset? If you just look at the past performance in the one year, has it been fantastic? What�� a good strategy for people to decide how to invest in other asset classes and how much they should be allocating?

A: Let me discuss how much role a past performance should play in the portfolio. The key factor for investor to realise is, to look at past performer for a long-term, maybe 5-10 years, especially if you are talking about an asset class like equity. Now relying on short-term performance can actually backfire and the reason for that is because it neither indicates a true potential of an asset class nor does it tells you about the risk that is associated with an asset class.

Best Gold Stocks To Watch For 2014: Tetra Tech Inc.(TTEK)

Tetra Tech Inc., together with its subsidiaries, provides consulting, engineering, program management, construction management, and technical services for water, natural resources, environment, infrastructure, and energy sectors. The company operates in four segments: Engineering and Consulting Services (ECS), Technical Support Services (TSS), Engineering and Architecture Services (EAS), Remediation and Construction Management (RCM). The ECS segment offers front-end science, consulting engineering, and project management services in the areas of surface water management, groundwater, waste management, mining and geotechnical sciences, arctic engineering, industrial processes, and information technology. The TSS segment provides management consulting and strategic direction in the areas of environmental assessments/hazardous waste management, climate change, international development/stabilization, energy services, and technical government staffing services. The EAS segment offers engineering and architecture design services, including leadership in energy and environmental design (LEED) and sustainability services, together with technical and program administration services for projects related to water infrastructure, buildings, and transportation and facilities. The RCM segment provides environmental remediation, infrastructure development, and alternative energy services. The company offers its services to the U.S. federal, state, and local government agencies, as well as to commercial and international clients. Tetra Tech, Inc. was founded in 1966 and is headquartered in Pasadena, California.

Best Gold Stocks To Watch For 2014: Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc (NSM)

Nationstar Mortgage Holdings Inc. is a non-bank residential mortgage servicer with a range of services across the residential mortgage product spectrum. As of December 31, 2011, the Company serviced over 645,000 residential mortgage loans. The Company�� clients include national and regional banks, government organizations, securitization trusts, private investment funds and other owners of residential mortgage loans and securities. It is a partner of financial organizations, including government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) and other regulated institutions. The Company is a licensed servicer in all 50 states. In addition to its core servicing business, the Company has a fully integrated loan originations platform and suite of adjacent businesses.

Nationstar offers clients a range of services. The Company combines its mortgage servicing with a fully integrated loan originations platform. Nationstar offers clients a diversified array of residential mortgage services: Servicing, Originations and Other Related Services.


The Company offers mortgage investors two primary ways to partner. A portion of its portfolio consists of owned mortgage servicing rights (MSRs). In this arrangement, the Company owns the right to collect the principal and interest due from a mortgage borrower, as well as manage the title and property insurance escrow of the collateral on behalf of mortgage investors in exchange for a monthly fee proportional to the unpaid principle balance (UPB) of the mortgage. The Company acquires MSRs either through its own origination of mortgages or by acquiring these rights from other MSR owners or the mortgage investor. It subservices multiple portfolios for federal agencies, Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) and large banks. For its subservicing clients, the Company is organized to serve its clients with an Investor Collections Professional and Senior Portfolio Manager(s) assigned to each portfolio.


The! Company offers a fully integrated loan origination platform. It also operates a wholesale origination channel capable of purchasing loans primarily from Financial Institutions operating as a broker.

Other Related Services

The Company offers a full suite of additional residential mortgage services to complement its servicing business and supporting originations platform. These businesses offer a range of ancillary services, including providing services for delinquent loans, managing loans in the foreclosure/real estate owned (REO) process and providing title insurance agency, loan settlement and valuation services on newly originated and re-originated loans. Nationstar is a part owner in NREIS, which is a provider of residential and commercial mortgage and real estate solutions in the United States. Their services include title insurance and property reports; real estate appraisals and alternative valuation products; settlement and closing services; commercial real estate services; default and property preservation services, and flood and tax certifications.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Alexandra Leigh]

    The firm has priced a securitization from its special purpose vehicle Nationstar Agency Advance Funding Trust at approximately $900 million in mortgage servicer advance receivable-backed notes. The Trust’s note issuance is an asset-backed securitization of servicer advance receivables made on-backed residential loans backed by Freddie Mac, and the series notes are backed servicing fee advance receivables.

Top 10 Insurance Stocks To Own Right Now: PIMCO California Municipal Income Fund III(PZC)

PIMCO California Municipal Income Fund III is a close ended fixed income mutual fund launched and managed by Allianz Global Investors Fund Management LLC. It is co-managed by Pacific Investment Management Company LLC. The fund invests in fixed income markets. Its investment portfolio include California municipal bonds, and other municipal bonds and notes; California variable rate notes and other variable rate notes; California variable rate demand notes and other variable rate demand notes; U.S. treasury bills; and call options written and put options written. Allianz Global Investors Fund Management LLC serves as an investment Manager to the fund. PIMCO California Municipal Income Fund III was formed in 2002 and is based in New York City.

Monday, September 9, 2013

All Jobless Numbers Likely to Impact Unemployment Rate

Friday’s report from the U.S. Department of Labor likely either will shock or enthrall the stock and bond market. After all, we have a tentative Syrian military strike to contend with right as Europe is getting back on its feet and as the U.S. recovery gets to deal with a coming end or tapering of the quantitative easing. The Labor Department released its weekly jobless claims at 323,000 in the past week, versus a consensus estimate of 330,000 from Bloomberg. The prior week’s report was revised to 332,000 from 331,000.

Two other components were seen as well. The four-week average was down by 3,000 to 328,500. What we call the army of the unemployed, the continuing jobless claims (with a one week lag), fell by some 43,000 down to 2,951,000.

There are two other key employment reports we also have to pay attention to during the first week of each month. The ADP payrolls report showed that the economy added some 176,000 jobs during August. ADP’s report tends to be volatile, but this basically matched the Bloomberg consensus of 177,000 jobs. TrimTabs has a much more broad measurement pool, and it claims that the U.S. economy added a mere 79,000 jobs in the month of August.

All of this sounds pretty much in line with expectations on the surface. The problem is that unemployment is down to 7.4% and some market observers still question how accurate the counting is on the total workforce and how to include those who have dropped out of the workforce but are still able-bodied workers who could return one day.

Bloomberg is calling for unemployment to be static at 7.4% and for nonfarm payrolls to be 175,000. Its estimate for private sector payrolls is 178,000. Our take is that the talking heads will be screaming bloody murder if the payrolls report is much higher or much lower, since the precursor reports are signaling that estimates should seem relatively accurate for August’s employment situation.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Can FedEx Stock Deliver Rising Prices?

With shares of FedEx (NYSE:FDX) trading around $96, is FDX an OUTPERFORM, WAIT AND SEE or STAY AWAY? Let's analyze the stock with the relevant sections of our CHEAT SHEET investing framework:

T = Trends for a Stock’s Movement

FedEx provides transportation, e-commerce, and business services in the United States and internationally. Transportation is improving so businesses and consumers are increasing their interest in transacting worldwide. Gasoline prices and vehicle efficiency tend to have a significant impact on the company so watch for improvements in these areas. As boundaries on international commerce blur, look for companies like FedEx to be able to provide the shipping services required across the globe.

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T = Technicals on the Stock Chart are Mixed

At the beginning of the year, FedEx stock broke-out of a value range that began in late 2009. The stock shot higher but is now trading near break-out levels. Analyzing the price trend and its strength can be done using key simple moving averages. What are the key moving averages? The 50-day (pink), 100-day (blue), and 200-day (yellow) simple moving averages. As seen in the daily price chart below, FedEx is trading between its key averages which signal neutral action in the near-term.


(Source: Thinkorswim)

Taking a look at the implied volatility (red) and implied volatility skew levels of FedEx options may help determine if investors are bullish, neutral, or bearish.

Implied Volatility (IV)

30-Day IV Percentile

90-Day IV Percentile

FedEx Options




What does this mean? This means that investors or traders are buying a minimal amount of call and put options contracts, as compared to the last 30 and 90 trading days.

Put IV Skew

Call IV Skew

July Options



August Options



As of today, there is an average demand from call buyers or sellers and high demand by put buyers or low demand by put sellers, all neutral to bearish over the next two months. To summarize, investors are buying a minimal amount of call and put option contracts and are leaning neutral to bearish over the next two months.

On the next page, let’s take a look at the earnings and revenue growth rates and the conclusion.

E = Earnings Are Mixed Quarter-Over-Quarter

Rising stock prices are often strongly correlated with rising earnings and revenue growth rates. Also, the last four quarterly earnings announcement reactions help gauge investor sentiment on FedEx’s stock. What do the last four quarterly earnings and revenue growth (Y-O-Y) figures for FedEx look like and more importantly, how did the markets like these numbers?

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2013 Q1

2012 Q4

2012 Q3

2012 Q2

Earnings Growth (Y-O-Y)





Revenue Growth (Y-O-Y)





Earnings Reaction





FedEx has seen mostly decreasing earnings and rising revenue figures over the last four quarters. From these numbers, the markets have had mixed feelings about with FedEx’s recent earnings announcements.

P = Poor Relative Performance Versus Peers and Sector

How has FedEx stock done relative to its peers, United Parcel Service (NYSE:UPS), Air Transport Services Group (NASDAQ:ATSG), Air T (NASDAQ:AIRT), and sector?


United Parcel Service

Air Transport Services Group

Air T


Year-to-Date Return






FedEx has been a poor relative performer, year-to-date.


FedEx provides valuable and efficient transportation services to growing industries around the world. The stock recently broke above a value range and surged higher but is now trading near break-out levels. Over the last four quarters, investors in the company have had mixed feelings as earnings have decreased while revenue have increased. Relative to its peers and sector, FedEx has been a poor year-to-date performer. WAIT AND SEE what FedEx does in coming quarters.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Top Small Cap Companies To Buy For 2014

Dramatic turns, one after another, in Egypt have given the country a hard time to put it mildly. The crisis deepened recently, when the military forced President Mohammed Morsi to quit.

A clash then ensued between the military forces and supporters of Morsi, turned deadly, as dozens were killed and scores more were injured. The Muslim Brotherhood and their opponents called for fresh mass rallies, renewing fears of another round of street violence over the ousting of Morsi (read: Egypt ETF in Trouble on Political Turmoil).

Boon or Bane?

Despite the violence, this shift away from Morsi was apparently welcomed news for the market, as growth of the most populous Arab country was thwarted under Morsi�� 12-month leadership. Economic deterioration with rising inflation, higher debt levels, devaluation of the Egyptian pound and rising unemployment had dampened investor confidence in the country and eroded support for the Islamist-backed government.

Inflation climbed to 21%, up from 3% in Feb 2011, when Mr. Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. Meanwhile, unemployment is currently at a record 13.2%, while government debt has risen by $10 billion to nearly $40 billion (read: Three Country ETFs Struggling in 2013).

Foreign exchange reserves had also plunged more than 50% from $36 billion in Dec 2010 to $13.5 billion in Mar 2013. Foreign exchange reserves suffered due to declining tourism revenues and massive capital outflows. While tourists continue to avoid the country; most global investors have adopted a wait-and-watch mode till the political situation stabilizes.

ETF Impact

Despite the current turmoil, the main fund to target the nation, Market Vectors Egypt Index ETF (EGPT) was up about 9% in the past week but is still down double digits year-to-date. Volume levels were also high, as the ETF saw nearly 3 times more shares exchange hands in the past week.

The fund tracks the Market Vectors Egypt Index, which comprises companies that are domiciled in Egypt ! or generate at least 50% of their revenues in the country. The fund holds 27 securities (mostly mid cap and small cap) in its basket and has amassed $30.4 million in assets so far in the year. Expense ratio is contractually capped at 0.94% until May 2014.

The ETF�� structure also contributes to the volatility. More than two-fifths of the total assets are invested in the financial sector, with more than 9% weight assigned to the top holding ��Commercial International Bank (read: 3 Surging Financial ETFs Beating the Market).

Why is the ETF up?

Clearly some investors believe that the country will do much better in the post-Morsi environment and that brighter days are ahead for Egypt. Some are also probably banking on the funds from a long-stalled $4.8 billion loan from the IMF, which could help to put the economy back on track.

Additionally, the heightened level of stability and the relatively soon elections are promising for the nation, suggesting that a new military dictatorship will (hopefully) not follow in the wake of Morsi. In fact, Justice Adly Mahmoud Mansour, head of High Constitutional Court, has temporarily taken the presidential oath until new elections can take place, further strengthening the stability in the rocky nation.

Lastly, there have also been positive developments from some of Egypt�� neighbors in the region. Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia pledged, or are on the verge of pledging, billions in aid, suggesting that other nations in the region are supporting the developments and are at least somewhat optimistic about the country�� medium term future (see more in the Zacks ETF Center).

Bottom Line

Clearly, the country is facing political issues, and heightened protests suggest continued turmoil in the near term for Egypt. The recent surge though is promising, and suggests that the country may be able to battle through its current batch of woes.

Still, the volatility in the ETF tracking this nation looks to be immense,! with 5% ! moves��oth up and down��retty common. There is also an ever-present worry that elections will be delayed or that outright civil war will take place, either of which could cause a significant sell-off in EGPT.

For this reason, we are maintaining our Zacks ETF Rank of 5 or ��trong Sell�� on this ETF, as more trouble might be in store for the nation. Big gains are also clearly possible in short time periods, but with the incredibly high level of uncertainty in the market, it might be a prudent idea to stay away for the time being until more is sorted out in the troubled nation.

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Top Small Cap Companies To Buy For 2014: KongZhong Corporation(KONG)

KongZhong Corporation, together with its subsidiaries, provides wireless interactive entertainment, media, and community services to mobile phone users in the People's Republic of China. It also involves in the development, distribution, and marketing of consumer wireless value-added services, including wireless application protocol, multimedia messaging services, short messaging services, interactive voice response services, and color ring back tones. In addition, it offers interactive entertainment services, such as mobile games, pictures, karaoke, electronic books, mobile phone personalization features, entertainment news, chat, and message boards; and through offer news, community services, games, and other interactive media and entertainment services; and sells advertising space in the form of text-link, banner, and button advertisements. Further, the company develops and publishes mobile games, including downloadable mobile games and online mobile games cons isting of action, role-playing, and leisure games. As of December 31, 2009, it had a library of approximately 300 internally developed mobile games. Additionally, it develops online games; and provides consulting and technology services, as well as media and net book services. The company was formerly known as Communication Over The Air Inc. and changed its name to KongZhong Corporation in March 2004. KongZhong Corporation was founded in 2002 and is headquartered in Beijing, the People?s Republic of China

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Wyatt Research Staff]

    As a Chinese ADR, KONG is the leading provider of 2.5G wireless interactive entertainment, media and community services in terms of revenue to customers of company China Mobile. Institutions snatched up shares at an alarming rate with an increase of 26.7% in institutional ownership over the past three months.

    A consensus of analysts expect earnings to increase by 16.9% in 2011 and 19.6% in 2012. Company earnings are estimated to increase by 62.1% this year.

Top Small Cap Companies To Buy For 2014: Achillion Pharmaceuticals Inc.(ACHN)

Achillion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, engages in the discovery, development, and commercialization of treatments for infectious diseases. The company focuses on the development of antivirals for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C; and the development of antibacterials for the treatment of resistant bacterial infections. Its drug candidates for the treatment of chronic HCV include ACH-1625, a protease inhibitor, which is in phase IIa clinical trial for the treatment of chronic HCV; ACH-2684, a pangenotypic protease inhibitor, which is in phase I clinical trial for the treatment of chronic HCV infection; and NS5A inhibitors for the treatment of chronic HCV infection, including ACH-2928, which is to enter a phase I clinical trial, as well as various additional NS5A inhibitors in preclinical development. Its pipeline of product candidates also includes ACH-702 and ACH-2881 for drug resistant bacterial infections; elvucitabine for HIV infection; and AC H-1095 for HCV infection. The company was founded in 1998 and is based in New Haven, Connecticut.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Brian Nichols]

    Achillion is an odd play because it has both the most upside and the most downside of any stock on this list. The company's developing and testing its hepatitis C treating drug, ACH-1625, which is currently in phase II. The results of initial testing have consisted of ups and downs, but after many years and a long process, ACH-1625, appears to be on the right track for an FDA approval.

    The upside in shares of ACHN comes from two places: encouraging data from trials and its likelihood of being acquired. In my opinion, ACHN has a very high chance of being acquired in the next 6 months. Both Pharmasset (VRUS) and Inhibitex (INHX) were acquired over the last 5 months with insanely large premiums. VRUS was purchased at a 81% premium and INHX for a 182% premium. ACHN is perhaps the most speculative, but it could also be purchased the cheapest.

    The stock's recently pulled back after a downgrade and is trading much lower over the last couple weeks. The stock's trend reminds me so much of INHX; the month following the VRUS acquisition when INHX traded higher by nearly 300%. But then after the one-month gain, INHX lost its momentum and traded lower by 40% before being acquired with a 182% premium. INHX traded higher after the VRUS purchase because investors thought it would also be acquired, because of its hepatitis C candidate. ACHN is following the same trend, from November 12 till January 13 the stock more than doubled, but has since retraced.

    At $10 I think ACHN is a buy, it does have a good HCV candidate, and I believe that big pharma will bid to acquire ACHN in the near future. However, the risk in ACHN is if the company's not acquired, then it could have significant loss over the next year. But in a competitive biotechnology industry I believe the reward is worth the risk, and that a large pharma company will take the chance and purchase ACHN in an attempt to stay competitive and capitalize on the trend of investors being bullish on HCV treating drugs.

Top Biotech Companies To Invest In Right Now: Hot Topic Inc.(HOTT)

Hot Topic, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, operates as a mall- and Web-based specialty retailer in the United States. The company operates Hot Topic and Torrid store concepts, as well as an e-space music discovery concept, ShockHound. Its Hot Topic stores sell music/pop culture-licensed merchandise, including tee shirts, hats, posters, stickers, patches, postcards, books, novelty accessories, CDs, and DVDs; and music/pop culture-influenced merchandise comprising women?s and men?s apparel and accessories, such as woven and knit tops, skirts, pants, shorts, jackets, shoes, costume jewelry, body jewelry, sunglasses, cosmetics, leather accessories, and gift items for young men and women primarily between the ages of 12 and 22. The company?s Torrid stores sells casual and dressy jeans and pants, fashion and novelty tops, sweaters, skirts, jackets, dresses, hosiery, shoes, intimate apparel, and fashion accessories for various lifestyles for plus-size females primarily betw een the ages of 15 and 29. As of July 30, 2011, it operated 636 Hot Topic stores in 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada; 145 Torrid stores; and Internet stores, and The company was founded in 1988 and is headquartered in City of Industry, California.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Wyatt Research]

    The teen retailer reported its same-store sales rose 0.4 percent, with same-store sales at its Torrid chain for overweight teens rising 7 percent. Analysts were expecting a decline.

Top Small Cap Companies To Buy For 2014: China Metro-Rural Holdings Limited(CNR)

China Metro-Rural Holdings Limited, through its subsidiaries, primarily engages in the development and operation of agricultural logistics and trade centers in northeast China. It also involves in purchasing, processing, assembling, merchandising, and distributing pearls and jewelry products. The company markets its pearls and jewelry products to wholesale distributors and mass merchandisers in Europe, the United States, Hong Kong, and other parts of Asia. In addition, it develops, sells, and leases residential and commercial properties in Hong Kong and the People?s Republic of China. The company is based in Tsimshatsui, Hong Kong.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By Wyatt Research Staff]

    The stock moved significantly higher in mid-January and traded in a fairly tight range ever since. However, that could change soon. China's agricultural exports to Japan will grow if radiation continues to seep into the food chain.

    China exported $593 million worth of agricultural goods to Japan last year.

Top Small Cap Companies To Buy For 2014: FuelCell Energy Inc.(FCEL)

FuelCell Energy, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, engages in the development, manufacturing, and sale of high temperature fuel cells for clean electric power generation primarily in South Korea, the United States, Germany, Canada, and Japan. The company offers proprietary carbonate Direct FuelCell Power Plants that electrochemically produce electricity from hydrocarbon fuels, such as natural gas and biogas. Its fuel cells operate on a range of hydrocarbon fuels, including natural gas, renewable biogas, propane, methanol, coal gas, and coal mine methane. The company also develops carbonate fuel cells, planar solid oxide fuel cell technology, and other fuel cell technologies. It provides its products to universities; manufacturers; mission critical institutions, such as correction facilities and government installations; hotels; and natural gas letdown stations, as well as to customers who use renewable biogas for fuel, including municipal water treatment facilities, br eweries, and food processors. The company was founded in 1969 and is headquartered in Danbury, Connecticut.

Advisors' Opinion:
  • [By SmallCap Investor]

    The developer of stationary fuel cells used by commercial and government customers might be headed for a rebound from a pullback that began this spring - which has left the stock down 39 percent year-to-date.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How To Value An Insurance Company

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Most investors avoid trying to value financial firms due to their complicated nature. However, a number of straightforward valuation techniques and metrics can help them quickly decide whether digging deeper into valuation work will be worth the effort. These straightforward techniques and metrics also apply to insurance companies, though there are also a number of more specific industry valuation measures.

A Brief Introduction to Insurance
On the face of it, the concept of an insurance business is pretty straightforward. An insurance firm pools together premiums that customers pay to offset the risk of loss. This risk of loss can apply to many different areas, which explains why health, life, property and casualty (P&C) and specialty line (more unusual insurance where risks are more difficult to evaluate) insurers exist. The difficult part of being an insurer is properly estimating what future insurance claims will be and setting premiums at a level that will cover these claims, as well as leave an ample profit for shareholders.

Beyond the above core insurance operations, insurers run and manage investment portfolios. The funds for these portfolios come from reinvesting profits (such as earned premiums, where the premium is kept because no claim occurred during the policy's duration) and from premiums before they get paid out as claims. This second category is a concept known as float and is important to understand. Warren Buffett frequently explains what float is in Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholder letters. Back in 2000 he wrote:

"To begin with, float is money we hold but don't own. In an insurance operation, float arises because premiums are received before losses are paid, an interval that sometimes extends over many years. During that time, the insurer invests the money. This pleasant activity typically carries with it a downside: The premiums that an insurer takes in usually do not cover the losses and expenses it eventually must pay. That leaves it running an "underwriting loss", which is the cost of float. An insurance business has value if its cost of float over time is less than the cost the company would otherwise incur to obtain funds. But the business is a lemon if its cost of float is higher than market rates for money."

Buffett also touches on what makes valuing an insurance company difficult. An investor has to trust that the firm's actuaries are making sound and reasonable assumptions that balance the premiums they take in with the future claims they will have to pay out as insurance payments. Major errors can ruin a firm, and risks can run many years out, or decades in the case of life insurance.

Insurance Valuation Insight
A couple of key metrics can be used to value insurance companies, and these metrics happen to be common to financial firms in general. These are price to book (P/B) and return on equity (ROE). P/B is a primary valuation measure that relates the insurance firm's stock price to its book value, either on a total firm value or a per-share amount. Book value, which is simply shareholders' equity, is a proxy for a firm's value should it cease to exist and be completely liquidated. Price to tangible book value strips out goodwill and other intangible assets to give the investor a more accurate gauge on the net assets left over should the company close shop. A quick rule of thumb for insurance firms (and again, for financial stocks in general) is that they are worth buying at a P/B level of 1 and are on the pricey side at a P/B level of 2 or higher. For an insurance firm, book value is a solid measure of most of its balance sheet, which consists of bonds, stocks and other securities that can be relied on for their value given an active market for them.

ROE measures the income level an insurance firm is generating as a percentage of shareholders equity, or book value. An ROE around 10% suggests a firm is covering its cost of capital and generating an ample return for shareholders. The higher the better, and a ratio in the mid-teens is ideal for a well-run insurance firm.

Other comprehensive income (OCI) is also worth a look. This measure shows the implications of investment portfolio on profits. OCI can be found on the balance sheet, but the measure is also now on its own statement in an insurance firm's financial statements. It gives a clearer indication of unrealized investment gains in the insurance portfolio and changes in equity, or book value, that are important to measure.

A number of valuation metrics are more specific to the insurance industry. The Combined Ratio measures incurred losses and expenses as a percentage of earned premiums. A ratio above 100% means the insurance firm is losing money on its insurance operations. Below 100% suggests an operating profit.

One investment banking report advocated a focus on premium growth potential, the potential to introduce new products, the projected combined ratio for the business, and the expected payout of future reserves and associated investment income in regard to the new business an insurance firm is generating (because of the difference in timing between premiums and future claims). Therefore, the liquidation scenario and emphasis on book value is most valuable. Also, comparable approaches that compare a firm to its peers (such as ROE levels and trends) and buyout transactions are useful in valuing an insurer.

Discounted cash flow (DCF) can be used to value an insurance firm, but it is less valuable because cash flow is more difficult to gauge. This is due to the influence the investment portfolio, and resulting cash flows on the cash flow statement, which make it harder to gauge the cash being generated from the insurance operations. Another complication mentioned above is that these flows require many years to generate.

A Valuation Example
Below is an example to give a clearer picture of the above valuation discussion. Life insurer MetLife (NYSE:MET) is one of the largest in the industry. It is the largest U.S.-based insurer based on total assets, and its market capitalization level as of August 2013 was right at $53 billion, which was only exceeded by China Life Insurance Co. (NYSE:LFC) at $71 billion. Prudential plc (of the U.K.) is another large player with market caps just below $50 billion.

MetLife's ROE has only averaged around 5% over the last five years but suffered during the financial crisis. This was below the industry average of 8% during this period, but MetLife's ratio is projected to reach 10.2% for the current calendar year, and the company has goals to increase it closer to 15% over the next several years. China Life's projected ROE is nearly 13%, and Prudential's is 13.9%. MetLife is currently trading at a P/B of 0.9, which is below the industry average of 1.3. China Life's P/B is 1.8, and Prudential's is 3.1.

Based on the above, MetLife looks like a reasonable bet. Its ROE is returning to double digits and is above the industry average. Its P/B is also below 1, which is generally a good entry point for investors based on historical P/B trends. China Life and Prudential have higher ROEs, but P/B is also much higher. This is where it becomes important to dig deeper into each firm' financial statements. OCI is important in investigating the investment portfolios, and analyzing growth trends will be needed to decide if paying a higher P/B multiple is warranted. If these firms outgrow the industry, they could be worth paying a premium.

Bottom Line
As with any valuation exercise, there is as much art as science in getting to a reasonable value estimate. Historical numbers are easy to calculate and measure, but valuation is about making a reasonable estimate of what the future holds. In the insurance space, accurate predictions of metrics such as ROE are important, and paying a low P/B can help put the odds in investors' favor.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fidelity Tests Google Glass App

Sergey Brin wearing Google Glass. (Photo: AP)Fidelity announced Monday that it had launched a preview of an app for use with Google Glass. Fidelity is participating with Google for early access to Glass.

Google Glass is a lens-less device worn like eyeglasses — modeled at left by Google co-founder Sergey Brin — that responds to voice commands. The project is still in development and is being tested by users who applied to be part of the Google Glass Explorer program.

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Fidelity Labs, which is part of Fidelity’s Center for Applied Technology, created the app — or “glassware” — to provide hands-free access to end-of-day quotes from four U.S. stock indexes: Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, NASDAQ Composite and Russell 2000.

“Advisors need to be alerted to changes in the market throughout the day,” Hadley Stern, vice president of Fidelity Labs, told ThinkAdvisor on Wednesday. “When active traders are away from their desk, they feel like they may be missing something.” He noted that for a lot of people a smartphone does that job, but “wearable technology may be more convenient.”

Stern referred to research that estimates people look at their smartphones about 200 times a day. “About 100 of those could probably be replaced by wearable technology,” he said.

Because Glass is still in an experimental phase and only available to a limited number of users, Fidelity’s app, Market Monitor for Glass, can only be previewed by current Glass users. Stern said that they have no schedule for an official launch considering Google has yet to make Glass widely available.

A video is available at that shows an example of what the user experience is like.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Top Portfolio Products: Decker & Co. Launches With Focus on Southeast Asia

Portfolio Products logoDecker & Co., a broker dedicated to the southeast Asia/frontier space, launched this week.

New products introduced over the last week include a suite of large-cap equity funds from Nuveen and four new corporate term bond ETFs from BlackRock.

Meanwhile, Vanguard added new interactive graphics to help retirement plan participants.

Here are the latest developments of interest to advisors:

1) Decker & Co Launches; Dedicated to Southeast Asia/Frontier Space

Decker & Co, the first U.S.-based broker to be fully dedicated to the southeast Asia/frontier space, announced recently that it is fully licensed and operational. The firm’s clearing partner is Broadcort, a division of Merrill Lynch. The new firm will offer U.S. funds access to local research and listed corporates through its partnership approach. In doing so, it will fully promote its partners’ brands regionally to help them build their own brand equity. It plans to bring handpicked corporates to the U.S. and will frequently visit Asia for that purpose. The firm will also arrange investor trips to Asia at least quarterly.

Mark Decker has more than 20 years’ experience in the region, including positions in Hong Kong with Bear Stearns/Lehman Brothers and CLSA in the ’90s. He was also director of equities at SCB Securities in Thailand, and was responsible for the opening of the west coast office of Kim Eng Securities in 2009. The firm’s team has relationships with funds focused on investing in southeast Asia. Its network includes broker partners in Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Pakistan and Cambodia.

2) Nuveen Asset Management Launches New Equity Strategies

Nuveen Investments has announced the availability of a new suite of large-cap equity mutual funds managed by Bob Doll, Nuveen’s asset management chief equity strategist and senior portfolio manager.

The series includes six newly created funds and three funds having recently transitioned to Doll. They are: traditional, Nuveen Large Cap Value Fund (NNGAX); Nuveen Large Cap Core Fund (NLACX); Nuveen Large Cap Growth Fund (NLAGX); specialty, Nuveen Core Dividend Fund (NCDAX); Nuveen Concentrated Core Fund (NCADX); Nuveen Growth Fund (NSAGX); and alternative, Nuveen Large Cap Core Plus Fund (NLAPX); Nuveen Equity/Long Short Fund (NELAX); and Nuveen Equity Market Neutral Fund (NMAEX).

3) BlackRock Expands iSharesBonds Suite of Defined Maturity ETFs

BlackRock announced recently that its iShares ETFs business has expanded its suite of iShares bonds with four new corporate term ETFs. These new products offer investors access to a diversified pool of investment-grade corporate credit securities with a defined maturity date, daily liquidity and price transparency.

If iSharesBonds are held until maturity, investors can expect a yield that is similar to the yield to maturity of the underlying bonds held in the ETF. The four new iSharesBonds are as follows: iSharesBond 2016 Corporate Term ETF (IBDA); iSharesBond 2018 Corporate Term ETF (IBDB); iSharesBond 2020 Corporate Term ETF (IBDC); and iSharesBond 2023 Corporate Term ETF (IBDD)

4) Vanguard Offers New Tools for Retirement Plan Participants

Vanguard is offering new interactive graphics to help 401(k) retirement plan participants make key decisions about their retirement assets. Two examples of this new technology are the “Boost Your Savings” dial and its retirement analysis alerts. Both tools are delivered to participants based on their savings rate, investment mix, other retirement readiness indicators, and plan features. They are prominently displayed on the secure home page of targeted participants.

The savings booster is a spedometer-like gauge that displays a participant’s current savings rate and recommends a range of increases. Users can turn the dial to the number they want and in one click, submit a request to change their regular contribution amount. In a test of the dial, Vanguard recommended a 1%, 2% or 3% increase. Participants who used the dial between its rollout in December 2012 and May 2013 increased their savings rate by an average of 2%.

Retirement analysis alerts are delivered in the form of a stoplight to encourage participants to use either of two investment advice services if offered within their plan. One is the personal online advisor (POA), which provides a personalized forecast and fund recommendations from Financial Engines. The other is the Vanguard managed account program (VMAP), powered by Financial Engines, which creates, implements and monitors a custom plan for a fee. For the year to date through May, nearly a quarter of the participants who received these alerts clicked on them. Of those who responded, 12% adopted POA and 6% chose to enroll in VMAP.

Read the July 5 Portfolio Products Roundup.