Got gas? You'll be paying more than ever for it this week. According to the American Automobile Association, the price of a regular self-serve gallon of gasoline has set an all-time average high of $1.738. The price will vary by state, but California tops the list at $2.141 per gallon. Oklahoma's currently the cheapest place to fuel up at $1.604 per gallon.
Oil prices have reached $40 per barrel, and the U.S. government predicts further pain ahead. Expect the average gallon of gasoline to reach $1.83 in April and May, as the spring and summer travel seasons get under way.
Anyone for walking?
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- Gillette's Teething
- Shameless Plug: Hidden Gems
- Microsoft Strikes Back
- Discussion Board of the Day: Microsoft
- palmOne Partially Pleases
- Quote of Note
- Disney Learns to Crawl
- More on Fool.com Today
By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)
Most people think razors when they think Gillette -- and razors have put it in the courtroom with rival Energizer Holdings
The Rembrandt acquisition gives Gillette a synergistic product for Oral-B, but it also signs the company up for some pretty steep competition. The leader in tooth-whitening products is Procter & Gamble
Terms of Gillette's deal to buy Rembrandt were not revealed. Rembrandt's seller, Den-Mat Corp., is privately held, so there's not too much to glean about the Rembrandt business. However, even if Gillette is snapping up Rembrandt at a good price, it has its work cut out for it to make this one a big winner. Gillette may have spent and won to increase its share of the razor market, but it would also have to spend to win in the tooth-whitening space, given the other wildly popular choices on the market today.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned.
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Microsoft Strikes Back
By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)
It's the eve of the European Union's decision on Microsoft
The EU seems to want to make an example of Microsoft, and of all the potential candidates, this, of course, is no surprise. (Anybody remember a browser named Netscape?) However, as we've recently discussed here at the Fool, the company has tried to come up with what sounded like reasonable settlements, none of which has pleased the EU.
Even though the decision hasn't yet been reached, so far it is expected that the EU will impose a fine of about $600 million; that figure reportedly also includes Microsoft's U.S. business as well.
According to Reuters, Microsoft responded by saying: "We believe it's unprecedented and inappropriate for the Commission to impose a fine on a Company's U.S. operations when those operations are already regulated by the U.S. government. The conduct at issue has been permitted by both the U.S. Department of Justice and a U.S. court." Additionally, Microsoft claims that it could not have known that it had infringed on EU law and, therefore, should not be fined.
It does seem logical that an EU-imposed fine should only relate to revenues gained in the EU. Unless there's something I'm missing here, the EU basing its fine on U.S. revenues just doesn't feel right. However, just because you've got the law on your side in one country doesn't mean you're not infringing in another, so that second tier seems an empty argument.
It seems it's more the principle than anything else; the fine's pretty minor for a company that's sitting on more than $50 billion in cash. Further, according to EU law, it could have been dearer than it was. There are more pressing matters at hand, such as Microsoft changing its OS to EU specifications -- making it a happy place for competitors like Apple
Get comfortable. It might be a long wait for some closure on this one. As much as the EU seems bent on making an example of it, Microsoft's expected to appeal and push for a settlement more to its liking, which could take years -- and talk about a battle. Because, judging by what has transpired to date, as far as the EU is concerned, Microsoft can do no right.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned.
Di scussion Board of the Day: Microsoft
What do you think of the EU antitrust battle with Microsoft? Is the EU picking on Microsoft, or does it have legitimate concerns? How will the suit affect Microsoft's bottom line? People are kicking around these and other issues on the Microsoft discussion board.
palmOne Partially Pleases
By Seth Jayson
There's nothing like a 30% morning rise for the stock of a former tech superstar to get the meaningless headlines rolling. Earlier today, palmOne
Still, there's no denying the big jump the shares have taken today. Why are investors so jazzed about this evolving company, which last year not only ingested rival Handspring but split into two?
The gadget maker reported third-quarter revenues of $243 million, up 23% percent from last year's $198 million. But that prior-year figure doesn't tell the whole truth, since it includes no revenues from Handspring. Given the fact that management attributed much of the latest quarter's growth to strength in the Treo line -- which came from Handspring -- it seems fair to come up with a quick pro forma revenue estimate that takes Handspring's revenues into account.
Handspring had revenues of $31 million in its most comparable quarter last year. If we shave off a third of that to compensate for the one-month difference in reporting dates, the combined Handspring/Palm revenues from last year add up to $218 million. That means that sales from this year's combined entity were 11.5% more than what the two hardware makers sold during the same period last year. Hardly has the same ring, does it?
Beware a similar smokescreen in the earnings report. Today's widely reported "non-GAAP" earnings of $0.01 per share don't just shed onetime restructuring costs. They also ask you to ignore $5.4 million in "amortization of intangible assets and stock-based compensation." I'll stick with the GAAP number of a loss of $0.20 per share, thank you.
Despite the lower-than-hyped revenue gain, palmOne has made other improvements, including a 5% uptick in gross margin, a 38% increase in price per unit sold, and quicker turnover of inventory. Those are good steps forward, to be sure, but with plenty of competition from organizers by Dell
Qu ote of Note
"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." -- Joseph Chilton Pearce
Di sney Learns to Crawl
By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)
The media circus has moved on. For Disney
Yesterday, the six state pension funds that sided with the dissidents penned an open letter to Disney. They want a meeting with the company's entire board to see how serious its complaints are being taken. While the institutional investors see Eisner and George Mitchell swapping board titles as a positive move, they want to make sure it's the first step in the realization process that Disney has not lived up to its potential in recent years.
Both sides need this meeting. It's not just because they all have money riding on the future of the company's growth. That's a given. However, the funds gone gadflies need to know that their flexed muscles matter. Meanwhile, Disney can use a slap of brutal honesty.
The way Disney has deflected the criticism by faulting the bothersome economy has grown tired. The media might buy it, but these pension fund managers sure won't. Whether Disney believes its own excuses or not, these interested institutional investors will be the first to point out how that does not explain Disney's relative underperformance within its trying sectors.
If broadcasters are slumping, how did Disney get lapped by Viacom's
The company's fundamentals are getting better right now. That's why Eisner would be best served to meet with the institutional dissidents as a way to not only step out of the ill-advised boardroom head nodding for a necessary reality break, but just as importantly, to buy his tenure some time.
Winding that Mickey Mouse watch will work wonders that way. Nothing happens if the hands don't move.
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares in Disney and Cedar Fair. He's a regular at the parks, usually with FastPasses and a box of popcorn in hand.Mo re on Fool.com Today
When it comes to investing, the best person to trust is yourself. So grab a magnifying glass and start sleuthing. David Forrest shows you how to ask the tough questions in financial statements in Play Detective With Your Stocks.... And nothing gets wilier than those pesky credit cards. Personal finance guru Dayana Yochim answers some credit card conundrums in The Ravages of Plastic.
In other news:
- An Oily Opportunity
- McCormick Maxed Out?
- Titan's Hidden Assets
- McMusic for the Masses?
- Genentech's Star Power
For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.