A survey of 120 chief executive officers reveals more are worried about the U.S. economy today than six months ago. The Business Roundtable study also shows businesses as a whole are not expected to increase hiring over the next several months.
Chief among the chief executives' concerns are consumer uncertainty and implications from the war in Iraq.
For more on what consumers mean to the economy, and why the CEOs have reason to worry, see Consumers Are Spent by Mathew Emmert (TMF Gambit).
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- B&N Warns; Market Yawns
- Quote of Note
- You Do Yahoo!
- Discussion Board of the Day: Yahoo!
- Concorde Jets No More
- Open an IRA Before April 15
- Quick Takes: USA Interactive, Wal-Mart, Tenet HealthCare, more
- And Finally...
B&N Warns; Market Yawns
Sometimes the market's response to news is more important than the news itself.
Take this morning's earnings warning from Barnes & Noble
The market's response? Practically nothin'. There was a little shuffle down at the opening, followed immediately by a rebound to yesterday's closing price. As of this writing, the stock is down only about 0.25%. Compare that to the last time it warned, in December, when its stock dropped 24%.
Fools, take note here because the market is telling us something very important: When a company issues bad news and the stock doesn't go down, it's a clear sign the market has already discounted the bad news. For Barnes & Noble, the market was apparently already pricing in a weak first quarter.
Also, that the stock wouldn't budge today probably says something about Barnes & Noble's valuation: it's already cheap. Based on today's new guidance, it sells for less than 10 times expected 2003 earnings. And as Fool columnist Whitney Tilson pointed out last year, this is a company that typically produces free cash flow in excess of net income, which means its price-to-free cash flow multiple is even lower than the P/E.
Speaking of free cash flow, over the past year Barnes & Noble has used its cash to substantially pay down debt. By year-end 2002, the company had cash of $267.6 million and debt of $300 million, or net debt of only $32.4 million. That's down from net debt of $340.8 million a year ago.
With debt rapidly being paid off, and a stock that's already been beaten down to cheap levels, you can see why today's news wasn't enough to bring the stock down any farther.
Quote of Note
"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." -- Jerry Seinfeld
Can a search for the next great growth stock be the country's largest search engine? Yahoo!
If you thought that a company as large as Yahoo! -- with 112 million registered users -- would have little room for growth, think again. First-quarter revenue soared by 47% as it continued to roll out more premium offerings to capitalize on its growing audience. While marketing services continue to be the largest slice of the revenue pie, its growth rate is being outpaced by listing and fee revenue.
The dot-com boom game of luring eyeballs is over. The new game is all about milking those eyeballs, and Yahoo! is moving forward on that front. The average registered user is generating $0.42 in monthly revenue, a 27% gain over last year's $0.33 average.
While there may have been some hiccups over the past two years as profits turned into losses and investor enthusiasm waned to the point of slamming the stock, the company is solidly in the black now and the stock is on a tear after nearly tripling over the past six months.
The future looks bright as the company expects to produce free cash flow of $295 million to $325 million this year. On its projected 2003 revenue base of $1.22 billion to $1.28 billion, that translates into a juicy Cash King Margin of at least 23% (and potentially as high as 27%).
But the stock's recent run means that you can't buy into those solid fundamentals on the cheap. The stock is now trading at nearly 50 times this year's free cash flow projections and paying more than 10 times sales for Yahoo! at this point is a rather dicey proposition.
Discussion Board of the Day: Yahoo!
Do you think Yahoo! is overvalued, or is it simply misunderstood? Are you impressed with the company's ability to turn personals, classifieds, and online entertainment into revenue drivers? Do you Yahoo!? All this and more -- in the Yahoo! discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Concorde Jets No More
After 27 years of flying the only commercial supersonic jets in the world, British Airways
Concordes are inefficient fuel burners that don't provide a return even when every seat is sold, and lately the planes have been taking off at only 20% passenger capacity. The speedy service caters mostly to business people, but with economies slow worldwide, not enough people are jetting back and forth.
Additionally, the 12 Concordes in operation are aging and maintenance expenses are soaring. Since the tragic Concorde crash in the summer of 2000, the plane's operating costs have jumped nearly 60%, according to Air France. A $6,900 "ticket-to-ride" wasn't enough to cover costs.
The last Air France Concorde will fly on May 31. In a ceremonial parade just before the flight, the French government has announced that a Concorde jet will be pulled up the Champs Elysees by a team of horses. (That's the rumor here in the D.C. area, anyway.) British Airways will end its Concorde flights in October, without fanfare.
Air France expects to write off $65 million to retire its Concorde fleet. British Airways will write off $130 million. Both will strengthen their bottom lines in the process, but the world loses an icon.
Supersonic commercial jets aren't likely to grace our skies again anytime soon. Boeing
Perhaps one hope remains for the Concorde. Publicity-lovin' Richard Branson said his Virgin Atlantic airline might be interested in buying British Airways' Concorde fleet, even as both Air France and British Airways have offered the planes to any interested air museums. Which reminds us. The Fool has always had plans to open The Motley Fool Air Museum. We'll take a Concorde. (It fits 100, right?)
Open an IRA Before April 15
Should you open a Roth or traditional IRA? Why open either? Two reasons: (1) compound interest and (2) tax savings. Plus, did you know you have until April 15 to receive 2002 tax savings? For more details, read on in our IRA Center.
A slew of retailers reported March same-store sales today. Results were mixed, with even stalwarts like Wal-Mart
Hospital operator Tenet Healthcare
Today on Fool.com:
- For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
- Zeke Ashton examines the financial media's assault on hedge funds.
- Jeff Fischer delves into complaints about faulty or bogus mail-in rebates.
- Bill Mann discusses when analysts are negative.
- A Q1 loss and reduced outlook add to Network Associates' problems.
- Negotiate your financial aid. Don't assume your aid package is the final offer.
- In Fool's School, consider an investment club. A dozen heads can be more profitable than one.
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim