Unfortunately, you're going to have to think of a new gift for your special someone this holiday season. Your idea's been taken.
Fred Massey plans to give his wife one of Enron's famous crooked "E" signs, which he bought for $10,500 at a bankruptcy auction. "Surprise, honey! I saw this well-known symbol of fraud and corruption, and couldn't stop thinking of you!"
You'll just have to spend that 10 grand on diamonds or an entertainment center. Oh well.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- Disney's Sunken Treasure
- Discussion Board of the Day: Disney
- HP Disappoints Analysts
- Quote of Note
- Taxing Matters
- Shameless Plug: A Holiday Package
- What Is "Productivity"?
- Quick Takes: Ford, United Airlines, Federated Department Stores, more
- And Finally...
Life imitated art last night, as Disney announced it would have to restate its fiscal 2002 earnings after realizing its latest animated flick is worth far less than its weight in fool's gold.
At first glance, the move might seem confusing. Disney's year closed out in October, and the film was released a week ago. But like many of the mutinous characters in the animated feature, based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island epic, Disney got greedy when it came to the film's carrying value. After scoring a modest hit over the summer with Lilo & Stitch, the company figured its feature animation footing was back on track.
Big mistake, Mickey. The company is taking a $47 million, or $0.02 a share, after-tax hit in its restated fourth quarter after writing the film down to more realistic levels. It's also trimming a penny a share off its current quarter projections to compensate for the movie's lackluster debut.
What was Disney thinking? It has flooded the market with cheaply made sequels, which has tarnished the brand. It decided to wedge the movie's release between proven franchises in AOL Time Warner's
Treasure Planet may be too formulaic, with yet another predictable adaptation of a classic story, complete with levity-toting sidekicks and appropriate radio-friendly pop hits shoehorned for good measure. But it could have been worse. Then again, it could have been better, and the timing was downright poor. Like Treasure Planet's B.E.N., a robot stripped of his memory, Disney has forgotten a lot of its past. In short, you can't cheat quality.
The company also reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into some of the salaried relationships between the company and family members of the company's board. Figures. Instead of calling all hands on deck to steer the entertainment giant through these troublesome waters, Disney is busy counting the loot it never really had. You want Treasure? Plan it!
HP Disappoints Analysts
Like pouting children disappointed on Christmas morning because they only received 10 gifts and not 11, analysts are punishing Hewlett-Packard
At its fall analysts' meeting, Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina spread lots of good tidings about the company's accelerated cost savings from the Compaq buy. However, she didn't do the one thing most attendees wanted her to do -- raise sales or earnings targets for the company's current quarter.
Well, boo-frigging-hoo. Get over it.
What Fiorina did say, though, should be very encouraging to shareholders with an eye toward more than just the next earnings release date. HP has already cut costs by $2.4 billion, and expects to achieve the full $3 billion targeted in savings by the end of its current fiscal year in October 2003. That's a year earlier than the company had originally predicted.
HP recently reported fourth-quarter results indicating the combined company is coming together nicely. The still hazy outlook for business technology spending and the economy as a whole obviously remains a threat (as it does for many companies), but so far, Carly's baby is thriving. Getting all those cost savings far ahead of schedule should only help the company prosper more.
That optimism's apparently not enough for some. Whatever. Shareholders should ignore analysts' disappointed wailing and foot stomping, as there's nothing substantial behind it. When in doubt, Fools, ignore the analysts altogether.
"The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes." -- Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), English author and poet
Along with death and taxes, we can always count on changes in tax laws. Just when you think you finally know everything you need to know about current tax laws, there's more.
With Republicans calling the shots in Washington, there are many changes afoot, and some of them relate to taxes. For example, the Bush administration is considering overhauling dividend taxes. This may not help the average American much, but it could make a big difference to some of us individual investors.
To back up a bit, the double taxation of dividends has long irked many people. Companies pay taxes on their earnings, and then pay out dividends from what remains. Investors who receive those dividends then count that money as income, subject to income taxes. A further aggravation is that while the long-term capital gains tax rate you'd pay on appreciated stock is no more than 20%, income tax rates that apply to dividends approach 40% for the wealthy.
Just what the Bush administration will end up doing remains to be seen. It may ease or eliminate taxation of dividends for corporations or investors.
The rationale for easing dividend taxes is that it will boost the economy, but as with so many economic issues, economists and politicians are divided on the matter. Some see a massive looming deficit and worry that the current proposals (of which dividend tax cuts are just a part) are too expensive. Others believe they help just the wealthier half of America and favor alternatives, such as a payroll tax cut that would apply to many more workers.
Keep an eye on what your representatives in Congress are doing for you -- and don't forget that you can (and should!) give them a piece of your mind now and then.
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The U.S. Department of Labor revised its third-quarter productivity numbers upward today to a seasonally adjusted 5.1% for nonfarm business activity. That's a 5.6% increase over last year's July-September period, the biggest year-over-year jump since 1973.
It all sounds good, but what does it mean?
According to Phyllis Otto of the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), productivity is essentially output per unit of input. In other words, how many goods and services were produced for each hour of labor logged by American workers. It sounds simple, but the number crunchers at the Labor Department must figure out how many hours Americans were on the job, using such sources as the BLS Current Employment Statistics program, the Office of Productivity and Technology, and the BLS Current Population Survey.
The "output" for the business sector is essentially the gross domestic product (GDP) minus the production of the government, nonprofit institutions, paid employees of private households, and the rental value of owner-occupied dwellings. The result is a measure of approximately 77% of the total value of final goods and services produced by the economy. (The word "final" is important, because GDP takes into account just goods that won't be resold. For example, if you grow corn that will be consumed by buyers of Len & Harry's corn-flavored ice cream, the money you make from the sale won't be part of the GDP, but the total value of corn ice cream sales will.)
The good news about productivity? Theoretically, businesses are earning more per worker, which could boost profits. It might also raise incomes, and perhaps encourage businesses to start hiring again. Finally, more profits allow businesses to increase their payrolls without raising the prices of goods and services, so higher productivity keeps inflation in check. The not-as-good news is that productivity is a volatile measurement, and most experts expect productivity (and the GDP) to slow down in the fourth quarter.
Still, the biggest jump in productivity in almost 30 years is a good sign for a struggling economy.
Honda once again takes the crown as the "cleanest car company," according to Union of Concerned Scientists. Placing "equal weight on their contribution to smog and global warming," the group says Toyota and Nissan round out the top three, while Ford
Taking its cue from the company's major unions, 36 United Airlines
The owner of Macy's and Bloomingdale's says holiday sales will come in toward the lower end of its guidance. Federated Department Stores
In local news, 10-year-old Jessica Miller finally finished up her Halloween candy... from 1998. "She was down to just three Tootsie Rolls and a pack of Smarties," said her mother, Erline. "I told her I was going to throw them out if she didn't eat them." The fifth-grader at Tumbleweed Elementary vows to consume her 1999 stash by the end of the year.
Today on Fool.com: Wanna be a millionaire? Whitney Tilson explains how.... Bill Mann wonders why companies aren't using the weak economy to invest in their futures.... In Fool's School, how to fix errors on your credit report.... And the Post of the Day: adopting a family for the holidays.
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim