Deloitte Consulting has a value-added, leverageable global knowledge repository for you, free of charge. This future-proof asset will seamlessly empower your mission critical enterprise communications.
Don't worry, we don't know what that means, either. And that's the whole point behind Deloitte's free "Bullfighter" software, a program that strips all those awful words out of documents. Similar to a spell checker, it flags key words and suggests changes. Stopping on "mission critical," for example, it said, "Look, Mr. Bond. We hate to interrupt your moment of intrigue and espionage, but put the pistol and the secret decoder ring away and write something realistic."
Bullfighter prodded us to change our opening paragraph to the one below:
Deloitte Consulting has a beneficial knowledge library for you, free of charge. This software program will help with your company communications.
We like it!
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- Pfizer's Outlook Improves
- TMF Money Advisor
- Microsoft, W. Va. Make Peace
- Quote of Note
- Gardners on TV
- An Economic Stat Worth Watching
- Discussion Board of the Day: Cheap Air Fares
- Quick Takes: Biomira, Circuit City, Footstar, more
- And Finally...
Pfizer's Outlook Improves
Having spent $5 billion on research and development in 2002, Pfizer
The newly formed Pfizer held its first analyst meeting today and projected lower-than-expected results in 2003 but stronger results in 2004, sending the stock higher.
The company estimates earnings per share of $1.73 this year -- down from expectations of $1.80 -- due to excessive inventory at Pharmacia. But in 2004, management projects earnings growth of 23% to $2.13 per share, on revenue of $54 billion. Average estimates sought only $2.06 in earnings on $52.4 billion in revenue.
Combining 2002 results of Pfizer and Pharmacia, the merged company's 2004 estimates represent 16% compound annual earnings growth from 2002 and 10% compound annual sales growth -- significant top- and bottom-line expansion from a $280 billion operation.
Pfizer's stock price looks all the more attractive given the new guidance. At $35, the world's premier drug company trades at only 16.4 times 2004 estimates, a discount to the S&P 500 and to other strong drug peers. Johnson & Johnson
Can Pfizer continue to grow by double digits? Most of its large drugs are years from patent expiration, while additional growth will depend on the introduction of new blockbusters and novel uses for existing drugs. Lipitor, its bestselling cholesterol drug, might treat diabetes, while one of its most promising drugs in trials helps people stop smoking.
Pfizer has more than 80 compounds in phase I and phase II human trials. According to FDA statistics, phase I drugs have a 20% chance of eventual approval, while phase II drugs have a 29% chance. Odds jump to 60% when a drug enters phase III. If any pharmaceutical giant is poised for double-digit earnings growth well into the future, it's Pfizer.
TMF Money Advisor
Want independent help for your financial affairs? Try TMF Money Advisor free for 30 days. It gives you all the tools you need to plan ahead and -- more importantly -- take action to secure your financial future. And when you sign up today, you'll also get our Motley Fool Money Guide for free ($15 value). The best things in life are free!
Microsoft, W. Va. Make Peace
As we wrote back in December, two of the nine states -- Massachusetts and West Virginia -- involved in the Justice Department's antitrust suit against the software giant disagreed that the government's settlement was sufficient. Consequently, they appealed the deal.
Now, West Virginia has decided to throw in the towel and Microsoft's throwing a little pocket change its way. By settling with Microsoft, the state can stop trying to convince the legal system that the company deserves harsher penalties, and Microsoft can move on. It also means that Massachusetts is the sole state still in the antitrust battle.
Microsoft's West Virginia settlement closes the state's antitrust complaint, as well as a class action suit brought on behalf of West Virginians. The firm will pay $1.3 million to the state's government and $1.7 million in vouchers for schools and residents, to be distributed by the attorney general's office.
It will also shell out another $18 million in vouchers that West Virginians who purchased Microsoft software can use to buy new computer hardware or software, including non-Microsoft products. If there's any unclaimed voucher money left, up to half of it will go to needy schools in the state and the rest will go back to Microsoft.
It's not surprising that West Virginia chose to settle instead of fight on. Like many states, it is suffering through a cash crunch, and faces a 2004 projected budget shortfall of $250 million. While certainly some of the voucher money from Microsoft will actually go to residents, it's unlikely that all of it will be claimed, and the state's schools will benefit. Also, it will no longer have to expend resources on the fight.
We'll just have to see how long Massachusetts can hold out. It's facing a $3.2 billion deficit next fiscal year, but says that it "remains committed to this appeal and will see it through." It just may remain stubborn, errr, committed all the way to the poorhouse.
Quote of Note
"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." -- Mark Twain
Gardners on TV
Catch a cameo appearance by our favorite founding Fools, David and Tom Gardner, on NETworth, a high-energy special one-hour PBS television program. Find out how easy it is to manage your personal finances with a little help from the Web. Click here for your local station and broadcast time.
An Economic Stat Worth Watching
Of the myriad economic statistics reported each week, few are really all that significant. (Isn't that a relief, in and of itself?) But one noteworthy exception is the monthly report on capacity utilization. Today, the Fed Board of Governors reported May capacity utilization of 74.3%, flat with April but slightly below the consensus guess of 74.4%.
What does this mean? Capacity utilization, as the name suggests, is a measure of how much U.S. manufacturing capacity is currently being used. When utilization is high (above 80%), business is in a state of tight supply, which fuels new capital investment, and consequently economic growth. When utilization is low (below 80%), business is in a condition of excess capacity, which makes new capital investment unnecessary.
Since the beginning of 2001, U.S. capacity utilization has been below 80% and mostly falling. There was a slight uptick in the first half of 2002, but the trend has been downhill since then, as you can see in this chart. As long as capacity utilization remains low, the economy is going to have trouble growing because without capital investment by businesses there will be little impetus for job growth.
Another nasty implication of excess capacity is deflation. Because excess capacity means too much supply and not enough demand, the only real means to rectify the two is through lower prices -- which is de facto deflationary. And it's showing up in prices: Today's report of May consumer prices showed a 0.1% decline. Sure, the core CPI showed a 0.2% gain, but the broader forces of supply and demand continue to point towards greater near-term risk of deflation than inflation.
What's the cure for excess capacity? Either a pick-up in demand or a reduction in capacity by companies going bankrupt. For better or worse, our Federal Reserve is pursuing a policy aimed at the former. The Fed has openly stated that it's bound and determined to "fight deflation" through ever lower interest rates, in hopes that the lower rates will spur demand. So far, after 12 rounds of rate cuts, demand hasn't caught up with supply (other than in housing), and yet the Fed is committed to its course. The risk here is that easy money creates the potential for future excess demand, which could eventually lead to inflation.
And more pertinent in the near term, if the Fed's stimulus doesn't produce an increase in capacity utilization, we could be at risk of falling back into recession.
Discussion Board of the Day: Cheap Air Fares
Want to save some money on your next flight out? Where are the bargains? Can air sickness bags really be used as flotation devices? All this and more -- in the Cheap Air Fares discussion board. Only on Fool.com.
Shares of development stage biotech drug maker Biomira
Consumer electronics retailer Circuit City
The Labor Department's core consumer price index, which excludes the more volatile food and energy sectors -- climbed 0.3% in May, easing deflation. It was three times the expected rise and the biggest since last August.
Shares of retailer Footstar
Today on Fool.com:
- For updated stories throughout the day, bookmark our ever-changing News section.
- Tom Jacobs shares four value stock ideas.
- Listen to Mrs. Peter Lynch: The best investment research might come from someone under your roof.
- French Fry Feud: David and Tom Gardner don't see eye to eye on McDonald's.
- Heinz: Fifteen years of underperformance is enough anticipation.
- United Offers In-Flight Email: Will you pay $16 for the privilege?
- Natural Gas for Investors?: Here are some stocks to consider.
- In Fool's School, keep commissions under control when buying or selling stock.
Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Reggie Santiago, Kate Southerland, Dayana Yochim