Finger-pointing aside (sorry, FirstEnergy(NYSE: FE)), we still don't know who caused the great blackout of 2003. But we do know who pulled the plug on Fruitopia. (Coke!)

Here at Fool HQ, we're battening down the hatches. After all, more than one of us survived the New Coke fiasco of 1985. We're kidding. The mass fruity juice market may yet prove the wave of the future, but confusing Fruitopia with a century-old American institution is like mistaking a day trader for Warren Buffett.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Lowe's Sturdy Q2

Lowe's (NYSE: LOW) is looking good. The nation's second-largest home-improvement retailer's second quarter would impress even Bob Vila.

Sales spiked 17.2% to $8.77 billion from $7.49 billion. Net income jumped by 27.8% to $597 million, while earnings per share rocketed from $0.59 to $0.75. Analysts had expected $0.69.

A wet spring and soggy first-quarter same-store sales tempered investor enthusiasm for Lowe's back in May. However, things were different today, with Lowe's putting up a strong 6.9% comparable store gain for the quarter.

Lowe's also enjoyed better margins this quarter. Gross margins grew to 30.17% from 29.41%, and net margins improved to 6.80% from 6.24%.

Over on the balance sheet, long-term debt declined slightly. Accounts receivables also were down a hair, while inventory levels increased in line with sales. All are signs that Lowe's is running a clean store, er, ship.

The good news carried over to the cash flow statement, as Lowe's generated more cash from operations during the first six months of its fiscal year than it did last year. This resulted in less free cash flow, though, due to the company's expansion. Despite the decline in free cash flow, the fact that Lowe's is funding its capital expenditures internally deserves praise.

For the coming quarter, Lowe's is hoping to earn $0.50-$0.51 per share, vs. the $0.43 it earned in the third quarter last year. That represents earnings growth of about 16%-18%.

Arch rival Home Depot(NYSE: HD) reports its second-quarter results tomorrow. Will it also nail its quarter? Come back tomorrow, when we'll run down the results. Until then, chew on Bill Mann's interesting Take on the home-improvement market.

Quote of Note

"My one regret in life is that I am not someone else." -- Woody Allen

Coke Cans Fruitopia

Remember when New Age drinks mattered? You'd have to go back nearly a dozen years to a time when the world was so smitten by Snapple that Coca-Cola(NYSE: KO) and Pepsi(NYSE: PEP) rushed out their own lines of edgy juice drinks to avoid being washed away.

Well, times change, but carbonated caffeine still rocks the world. Over the weekend, Coca-Cola announced plans to phase out its Fruitopia line of bottled drinks. With volume shipments more than halved over the past few years, it's difficult to argue with its decision.

An online poll conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about says it all. As of last night, 78% of those who responded to the query had never even tried Fruitopia. That stings, especially since Coca-Cola is based in Atlanta.

As for Snapple, after going public twice and being swallowed by Quaker Oats and then Triarc(NYSE: TRY), it's now under the Cadbury Schweppes(NYSE: CSG) umbrella. The jury is still out on Pepsi's FruitWorks line.

While Coca-Cola plans to shift some of the more popular Fruitopia flavors to its Minute Maid brand, New Age beverages are ticking toward their fifteenth minute. New fads like flavored and vitamin-enriched water are growing but not at the expense of Coke and Pepsi's carbonated fizz.

Ironic, isn't it? That something marketed -- yet thinly veiled -- as a wholesome fruit-based alternative to pop proved to be a passing craze?

Discussion Board of the Day: Coca-Cola

Do you think Coca-Cola is right to can Fruitopia, or should the company be looking for more ways to diversify from its carbonated core? Got any ideas on what the next hot beverage trend will be once the fortified water trend passes on? All this and more -- in the Coca-Cola discussion board. Only on

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Google Gone Wild

At first, we weren't so sure. Now, however, we're convinced that Google's ultimate plan is to drive every other company out of business and take over the world. And the worst part is, we can't even buy its stock yet!

This privately held Mountain View, Calif., company has added so many great features to its standard search function that it's now more important to us than portable toilets at a beer festival. What would we do without it?

Here's a quick look at just a few of its latest innovations, all currently free. Some require a free download of Google Toolbar:

  • A pop-up stopper that can block most pop-up ads. It allows users to designate sites that are not blocked, and competes with products offered by several companies, including Panicware.

  • An auto-fill function that will store your name, address, and credit card info so it can be entered automatically at the click of a button. It's similar to Microsoft's(Nasdaq: MSFT) Wallet.

  • A highly customizable news alert system that will email you whenever a word or phrase of your choosing appears in a news story. This is handy for keeping tabs on any topic of interest, from companies you're researching to your favorite baseball team. It competes with similar products from Yahoo!(Nasdaq: YHOO), The New York Times Co.(NYSE: NYT), The Washington Post Co.(NYSE: WPO), etc.

  • A calculator built right into the search box that computes everything from "4 + 4" (answer: 8) to "speed of light * 2 in miles per second" (372,564.794) to "number of tablespoons in 3/4 cup" (12 U.S. tablespoons). Just type what you want to calculate into the search box and see what happens. ("Number of former child actors in California recall election" did not work, however.) This may never make a dent in the number of portable calculators sold by Texas Instruments(NYSE: TXN) and Hewlett-Packard(NYSE: HPQ), but then again, those will never tell you that 100 yards = 91.44 meters.

Slowly, step by step, inch by inch (1 foot = 12 inches), Google is becoming more and more relevant in our Web-surfing lives. It is now the world's most recognizable brand and, more importantly for potential investors, it's raking in a whole lotta dough. I've seen 2003 revenue estimates for the company ranging from $400 million to $700 million, and most analysts believe it has already moved into the land of profitability. (Private companies aren't required to disclose financial results.)

Its initial public offering -- which may be announced fairly soon -- will be the most anticipated IPO in recent memory.

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Quick Takes

Toy retailer Toys "R" Us(NYSE: TOY) has shaved its second-quarter losses. The company lost $11 million, or $0.05 a share, vs. the year-ago's loss of $17 million, or $0.08 a share. Sales grew 3.3% to $2.14 billion. Its new Babies "R" Us stores performed strongly, with 13% sales growth.

Citigroup (NYSE: C) alerted its customers to an email scam today concerning Citibank checking accounts. Users receiving the email are told that their checking accounts will be closed unless they provide a Social Security number at a linked website that looks like Citibank's. The emails also look like they're coming from Citibank, but they aren't. Recipients of the email should delete it and call Citibank customer service.

Computer giant IBM(NYSE: IBM) laid off 600 workers in its technology division today. The cuts are effective immediately, and affect workers in Vermont, New York, Minnesota, Texas, and North Carolina. In addition, 3,000 other workers have been asked to take weeklong unpaid vacations in the next month in a further attempt to save money.

Tennessee judge Dale Young delivered a legal smack against Berkshire Hathaway's(NYSE: BRK.A) desired purchase of manufactured housing company Clayton Homes(NYSE: CMH). Young said today that a jury must decide whether Clayton's board committed fraud in pursuit of the buyout before the merger can progress. Clayton claims that the buyout already took place on August 7, and is appealing the ruling.

And Finally...

Today on Selena Maranjian's adventures in first-time homebuying.... Dividends aren't the only ways companies give back to investors.... A Fool classic: when Bill Mann called the top on Qualcomm.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Paul Elliott, Mathew Emmert, Jeff Fischer, Tom Jacobs, LouAnn Lofton, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Matt Richey, Reggie Santiago, Kate Southerland, Dayana Yochim