Snow, snow, and more snow, plus freezing rain and sleet -- that's what our day has been like here on the East Coast. And we're told it's only going to get worse overnight. So, we hope all you West Coast Fools can appreciate our predicament and that we were still able to publish our usual daily content -- even while frosted by 17-degree temperatures.

The markets were hot today at least, with all the major indexes moving into strong positive territory. Here's hoping spring is on the way.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Schering's Worst Is Yet to Come

The good news: Schering-Plough(NYSE: SGP) officially put a sorry 2003 in the rearview mirror this morning with its fourth-quarter earnings announcement. The bad news: 2004 is likely to be worse -- a year of "repair and cleanup" according to CEO Fred Hassan.

The troubled drug maker recorded a loss of $0.12 per share in the quarter, compared to a $0.21 profit in the same period last year. Revenue -- including a 6% boost due to a weak dollar -- fell 18% to $1.9 billion. Besides declining sales, special charges related to a voluntary retirement program contributed to the loss. Excluding those charges, the company earned a penny per share.

Revenue also dropped 18% for the full year, and earnings fell from a profit of $1.34 per share in 2002 to a loss of $0.06. Though he declined to give specific numbers, Hassan says he expects earnings for 2004 to be even lower.

After reaching about $60 in late 2000, Schering's shares have steadily declined and now reside below $18. Hassan was brought in last April after turning around rival Pharmacia, which was sold to Pfizer(NYSE: PFE) for $60 billion in 2002. Once aboard, Hassan says, "We found deep, long-term systemic problems... even more challenging than anyone had identified up to that time." Besides the impact of the allergy drug Claritin losing its patent, there were regulatory and legal issues dogging the company, including a record $500 million fine as part of a consent agreement reached with the Food and Drug Administration in 2002 over unsafe manufacturing practices.

Hassan, however, believes 2005 is the turnaround year. The natural question to ask, then, is how much of an opportunity the stock represents today. If all the bad news is factored in, is this company worth consideration?

A couple of Fool contributors are urging caution. Paul Jaber believes the stock's near fair value as it is, and that investors need a larger margin of safety. Likewise, Zeke Ashton thinks it's too early to jump on the bandwagon. Both columns are must-reads for those interested in this fallen pharmaceutical giant.

Quote of Note

"The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success." -- James Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies

Kimberly-Clark Hits the Mark

There was little reason for Kimberly-Clark(NYSE: KMB) investors to pass the tissues today. The consumer products company -- best known in households for its Kleenex, Scott and Huggies brands -- posted a 24% increase in fourth-quarter profits, with sales gains in all three of its product categories. It's the first increase in quarterly profits in a tough year, a moment investors have surely been waiting for.

Kimberly-Clark's fourth-quarter earnings came in at $0.91 a share, or $459.5 million, increasing from $369.6 million, or $0.72 per share in the year-ago quarter. Analysts expected the firm to report earnings of $0.88 a share.

Forget messy cloth diapers; for all those parents who prefer the "out of sight, out of mind" answer to diaper changing, Kimberly-Clark's disposable Huggies brand seemed to be making leeway in its rivalry with Procter & Gamble's(NYSE: PG) Pampers.

It's a good sign compared to the mess last April, when Fool Rex Moore observed the chafing influence of the highly competitive diaper market on Kimberly-Clark's fortunes at the time. In addition to diapers, Procter & Gamble also competes with Kimberly-Clark with its Puffs line of tissues.

Sales in Kimberly-Clark's tissue segment increased 15% in the quarter, while personal care increased 9.5%, and business-to-business products category gained 6.7%. However, tissues aside, the company's earnings included $0.05 per share related to its synthetic oil partnership.

While Kimberly-Clark's overall sales increased 11%, the fourth-quarter earnings included benefits of the weak dollar. As Dave Marino-Nachison pointed out recently, currency fluctuations can help or hurt companies on a temporary basis. And speaking of keeping things contained, some cost savings also bolstered the company's earnings.

In addition, Kimberly-Clark announced an 18% increase in dividend for the year, the type of element Motley Fool Income Investor subscribers look for in their stocks. The company's expectation that first-quarter profits will rise 6% to 9% gives investors a little bit more to hope for going forward.

While the diaper market definitely is an element to watch, Monday's earnings are a heartening sign following the struggles last year. Investors cheered the news, sending the shares up about 3% in the morning's session. If Kimberly-Clark can continue gains in keeping consumers and their kids clean and dry, Procter & Gamble may wind up with something to cry about.

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The Marvels of 2004

It's easy to forget about Marvel Enterprises(NYSE: MVL) these days. With the local multiplex chock full of dramatic tear-jerkers, side-splitting comedies, and other classy films angling for an Academy Awards nod by debuting over the holidays, where are the superheroes?

For comic book-heavy Marvel, letting major movie studios give the Hollywood treatment to its cast of characters like Spider-Man and X-Men has opened up the floodgates of royalties, residuals, and merchandising opportunities. The stock has followed suit, as the timely Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick has more than tripled over the past year.

So, what does the company have in store for 2004? Plenty. Anyone who has seen the amazing movie trailer for Spider-Man 2, as Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson have an intimately revealing moment broken into by a car barreling their way through a restaurant window, is left with little doubt that the summer release will be a blockbuster. Sony's(NYSE: SNE) original grossed more than $800 million worldwide.

Along with Time Warner's(NYSE: TWX) third installment in the popular Blade series, Marvel characters will hit the big screen as many as five times this year. It all starts in April with The Punisher. The swampy, horror-hungry Man-Thing will hit movie theaters in the fall. Yet, the most anticipated franchise debut would probably come over the holidays if Fox's(NYSE: FOX)Fantastic Four is ready in time.

Another hit at the box office and Marvel will once again stand to collect princely sums from the games, home video market, and various merchandising tie-ins. Back in November, the company raised its guidance for 2004. Marvel is now looking to earn between $1.31 and $1.48 a share. Net sales will come in between $415 million and $435 million.

The fact that Marvel has upped its targets a few times over the past two years is encouraging. With every blockbuster, the company's earnings potential and bargaining power grows. It's like a superhero -- only in slow motion.

Discussion Board of the Day: Marvel

Did you catch the Spider-Mansequel's movie trailer? Will it unseat the original in box office sales? What other characters should Marvel be tapping for movie treatments? All this and more -- in the Marvel discussion board. Only on

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Bored with Temptation TV yet? Here are just some of the other stories we covered today: