"Forceps, nurse."

"Ummm, they were around here somewhere..."

A new study reveals surgical tools are left inside about 1,500 patients each year, and the odds of finding a sponge in your spleen or a clamp in your colon (ouch!) increase if you're overweight. (If that's not motivation to stick with your New Year's workout plan, we don't know what is!) It happens more often to heavy people, according to a CNN article, "simply because there is more room inside them to lose equipment."

Before you cancel that colonoscopy, however, consider that there are about 28 million operations every year in the U.S., meaning you have only about a 0.005% chance of waking up with something lodged, um....

Top 10 items found in patients after surgery:

10. The keys to the Beamer
9. Junior Mints
8. A toupee
7. Thoroughly chewed gum
6. Dandruff
5. Someone else's liver
4. A defibrillator
3. Michael Jackson's career
2. A copy of Stocks 2003
1. A lawyer

In today's Motley Fool Take:

GM Makes Tracks

General Motors (NYSE: GM) announced fat fourth-quarter and year-end results this morning. The Detroit-based auto maker banked the bucks, thanks in part to hearty sales of its pick-up trucks and sport utility vehicles.

Its revenues reached a record $48.7 billion in the fourth quarter, nearly 6% ahead of the previous quarter's $46 billion. It earned $1 billion for the quarter, including results and items from its Hughes Electronics(NYSE: GMH) unit, versus $255 million last year. Excluding Hughes, GM earned $934 million compared to $386 million.

On a per-share basis, the company generated $1.71, including the Hughes results and items, and $1.67 without them. Last year, it earned $0.60 a share, or $0.69 excluding Hughes items.

For the entire year, GM (including Hughes) made $1.7 billion on sales of $186.8 billion. That's $3.35 a share. Last year, revenues were $177.26 billion, and it earned $601 million, or $1.77 a share.

Those ubiquitous financing incentives are definitely paying off. Its global automotive operations earned $563 million for Q4, versus just $66 million last year. Production volume rose 10% in total for the quarter, and 14% just for trucks, meaning that GM churned out 1.425 million vehicles. And because its structural costs are so low, that higher volume easily translates into more earnings.

GM sold an industry record 1.2 million SUVs during 2002. Those behemoths may be the most hotly debated issue around, but there's no denying that a hefty demand still exists. Its Suburbans, Tahoes, and the newly introduced Hummer H2, for example, remain popular.

GM hopes its good fortune continues, as it faces an auto market with ever-declining prices and uncertain demand levels. The company did just pull off strong results, though, in a year many thought would, at best, end up being so-so for U.S. car makers. With shares off 30% over the last year and a dividend yield of nearly 5%, GM might be worth a test drive.

Quote of Note

"After all, what is a pedestrian? He is a man who has two cars; one being driven by his wife, the other by one of his children." -- Robert Bradbury, American director

Yahoo! on the Rebound

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) may be the only company with an exclamation point in its name that we're willing to take seriously. That said, we don't know of many companies bold enough to sport the "exclaimer." Can you imagine Johnson & Johnson!(NYSE: JNJ). "Do you baby powder?"

Yahoo!'s year-end results topped earnings expectations but fell shy on analysts' revenue projections, so the stock, which has doubled since October, is taking a breather. The company has impressively refocused after the advertising market imploded in 2000. For a notion of how badly things could have gone, look at AOL.

For 2002, Yahoo! achieved $221 million in free cash flow on $953 million in sales, up 33%. Much of the sales growth was in sponsored Internet searches and fee content. Net income was $43 million, or $0.18 per share, up from a loss of $93 million in 2001. Gross margin was 83%. After heady marketing and sales costs, operating margin was 9%. For 2003, estimates call for $0.25 in earnings per share, up 39%, on about $1.2 billion in sales, up 26%.

At $18.50 per share, the company has an $11.1 billion market cap. Accounting for its $1.5 billion in cash and equivalents, it has an enterprise value of $9.6 billion. That puts the stock at 43 times free cash flow. As with many stocks, valuation multiples look steep after earnings tanked, but an earnings rebound in the few years ahead would quickly reel in valuations. Yahoo! seems well-positioned for that.

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Pro Forma to Become Clearer

The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday addressed issues that have become sore spots for many investors, especially over the past couple of years of corporate scandal.

One involves so-called "pro forma" accounting, used by companies to exclude one-time or other extraordinary items from their earnings figures. While very useful when applied in the right manner, many used such figures to make their financial pictures appear better than they actually were.

The new SEC rule demands pro forma numbers are "not misleading" and that they clearly show their relationship to generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Although companies that use the pro forma method have always been required to include GAAP numbers, the new regulation should make it easier for investors to understand the true nature of their financial statements.

The other significant measure prohibits company officers and directors from buying or selling stock during "pension plan blackout periods," when employees are unable to trade. This issue hit the national spotlight when the public learned some insiders sold stock during part of Enron's collapse, while its employees were locked out.

There is somewhat of a loophole, however, as the regulation only takes effect if the blackout period lasts more than three consecutive business days and affects at least half the plan's participants. That troubled at least one SEC commissioner, Roel Campos, who said it presented "an opportunity for mischief."

The SEC took this action under a mandate from Congress, which passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act last year.

Discussion Board of the Day: Netflix

Is Netflix a passing craze, or is it for real? Can it compete with Blockbuster, Wal-Mart, and the next generation of Pay-Per-View? Do you have some questions for the company's CEO for this week's Motley Fool Radio Show? All this and more -- in the Netflix discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Quick Takes

Spring won't be blooming for Federated Department Stores(NYSE: FD), owner of Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and Rich's stores. The company said its earnings per share for Q1 would fall in the range of $0.14 to $0.19, down from $0.43 a year ago. Federated expects flat sales for the year and to sink $45 million into store closings and spruce-ups in Atlanta. Shares dropped under $29, within a 52-week range of $23.59 to $44.26.

Shares of biotech drug maker Genentech(NYSE: DNA) soared over 10% on news that its pro forma Q4 earnings more than doubled year over year. Sales of its non-Hodgkins lymphoma drug Rituxan jumped 42% in 2002, passing the $1 billion mark. That means more revenues for its Rituxan marketing partner, IDEC Pharmaceuticals(Nasdaq: IDPH), which matched Genentech's rise. Alert readers will notice that a litigation-related special charge cut Genentech's full-year 2002 "actual earnings" -- their words, not ours -- more than half from 2001.

No. 3 cell-phone maker Samsung Electronics reported its Q4 EPS quadrupled over a year ago, but forecast anemic 1.5% sales growth for the coming year. It also said it would increase capital expenditures this year by over 40% to $5.1 billion -- in strong contrast with semiconductor powerhouse Intel(Nasdaq: INTC), which this week announced a 25% cut.

Retailer Sears(NYSE: S) reported Q4 profits jumped 72% over a year ago, boosted by a sale of assets and higher revenues from Land's End. Given how lousy most companies' recent quarters have been, it won't be that tough to present smiley-faced comparisons in the coming quarters.

From the No Clue Department: A suspected shoplifter in Michigan dropped her purse in the parking lot while being chased. She called to claim the bag and was arrested at the police station when she went to retrieve it.

Tune In: Are We Getting Bush-Whacked?

Foolish analysts Bill Mann and Tom Jacobs duke it out over the Bush dividend plan, tonight in the second hour of David Lawrence's radio show, onLine Tonight, beginning at 10 p.m. ET. Well, we already know how Bill feels about it.

And Finally...

Today on Fool.com:

  • Sometimes you have to dig to find the warning signs. Tom Jacobs explains how to find hidden red flags.
  • Having profited through pain, Intel is more likely to remain a market beater.
  • Online DVD rental site Netflix gets cozy with the "Play" button.
  • What financial issues are you neglecting? Find out from a financial advisor, in today's Special.
  • In Hot Topics, that raise you were looking forward to may turn into a salary freeze.
  • In Fool's School, learn to calculate your portfolio's growth rate.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim