If you glanced around at the financial media today, you likely saw a lot of irrelevant "news" reported. Namely, the Nasdaq edged past the 2000-point mark. While that's a nice, round number (which is still 3000 points below its high in the year 2000), remember to keep your eyes focused on the great companies that drive that growth rather than the market as a whole.
Another bit of irrelevant news journalists reported today: Bank of America's board approved a two-for-one stock split. No matter how you slice up a pizza, it still has the same amount of fat, calories, and pepperoni. More significant is the news that Bank of America will increase its quarterly cash dividend by 12.5%. Now that's something income investors can get excited about it.
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- Microsoft Crawls Into Your Skin
- Wanted: Foolish Writers
- eBay Bids on India
- Discussion Board of the Day: Motorola's Spinoff
- Up, Up, and Away With FedEx
- Quote of Note
- More on Fool.com Today
Microsoft Crawls Into Your Skin
By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)
You can't argue that Microsoft
This story is just begging for lots of jokes and jabs. Microsoft's well-known monopolistic tendencies probably don't make this sound too appealing, when it comes to plugging yourself into devices using Microsoft technology. What about those Windows security holes -- you might wonder exactly what type of viruses you'd be exposed to. Here's a possible bumper sticker: Keep your code off our bodies! Then, of course, there's the old "Resistance is futile" joke, referring to Star Trek's Borg.
OK, back to the serious stuff. It's no surprise that Microsoft would want to expand its product line to wearable technology, and it's pretty well known that the company has been wanting to go there. The idea of using the body as a conductor is also not a new one.
In today's patent filing, Microsoft pointed to devices that are already "wearable" -- PDAs, cell phones, pagers, and so forth. Taking these into consideration, of course, there's a future for such portable technology that incorporates greater and less intrusive ease of use. That may not sound so futuristic at all, but then the filing goes on to say that a patch of our own skin could be used as a type of keyboard. That sounds, perhaps, creepier.
However, as much as it might dismay you to contemplate Microsoft getting so intimate, technology is creeping ever closer to getting, well, ever creepier. Take, for example, scientific experimentation into tiny fuel cells that could convert your body's glucose (sugar) into power. According to The New York Times, such sugar-powered fuel cells have been inserted into and powered by grapes. It also gave an example of where the technology could go: plugged into a soldier who could eat an Oreo cookie in order to power up his radio.
Microsoft has taken some heat for not always being at the vanguard of technological movements. Look at its latent interest in search or criticism that it fails to stay ahead of hackers and virus writers. So, maybe we need to give the giant some credit for getting teeth again, trying to move a little bit more swiftly into a cutting-edge market.
So, brace yourself. Soon, you may have more "power" than you ever thought possible.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of Microsoft.
Wanted: Foolish Writers
Do you read the Fool's content and say to yourself, "I could have written that!" Do you post thoughtful arguments on our discussion boards? Do you have an opinion on everything from Amazon.com to Wal-Mart? Then we're looking for you. We're seeking the best and brightest minds out there to contribute to Fool.com. We're taking applications for both full-time positions and freelance Fools. Visit jobs.fool.com and check out the listings under Editorial and Writing.
eBay Bids on India
By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)
This is, of course, a good way for eBay to ensure a foothold in an international market set for growth. Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick eBay will buy Baazee.com -- which currently has 1 million registered users and is considered the largest online marketplace in India -- for $50 million in a transaction during the third quarter that is not expected to have an impact on the former's financial results for the year.
Today's move is a bit of a departure from the recent "China trend" from Internet heavyweights. Just last week, Google said it would acquire a stake in Chinese search site Baidu, while Yahoo!
That's some exciting stuff, especially since China boasted 79.5 million Internet users at the end of 2003 -- second only to the U.S. in terms of people surfing the Internet.
Of course, eBay has already done a bit of a land grab in China by acquiring a Chinese company called EachNet. However, for all the recent excitement about China and the Internet, the fact remains that operating in that country can be rather risky. Take into consideration the warnings in eBay's SEC filings concerning that country's regulations, which breed some degree of uncertainty.
In some ways, then, India may be a less risky environment. (For some background on the country and its economy, click here.) On the other hand, when it comes to being wired to begin with, India has grown slower than China. According to eBay's press announcement, IDC data suggests that 17 million Indians are Internet capable at the moment, a number that is expected to increase to 30 million by 2006.
India, of course, is a hot spot in the current outsourcing debate. Regardless of how you feel about the topic, the flow of jobs to India is creating opportunities for U.S. companies and their services. Today's move gets eBay in on the ground floor of a country with an economy that's developing and arguably well aligned with what eBay provides. This deal also seems a small price to pay to further eBay's pleasant brand of world domination.
Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned.
Discussion Board of the Day: Motorola's Spinoff
With chip sales rebounding, it's no surprise that Motorola
Up, Up, and Away With FedEx
By Phil Wohl
The only things more certain than on-time FedEx
FedEx's fourth-quarter earnings of $1.36 per share substantially outpaced last year's $0.92 per-share outcome. Net income jumped a whopping 47%. Management cited "strong momentum in our business," and FedEx experienced robust demand in its ground, international express, and regional less-than-truckload businesses. Revenues for the quarter grew a healthy 21% as the company has been quite successful at bundling various services to its customers.
For the entire year, FedEx earned $3.52 a share, excluding certain items, which was 28% ahead of 2003's results. Full-year revenues rose 10% to $24.7 billion.
The news gets even better as the company looks to the future; FedEx expects fiscal 2005 first-quarter earnings to be $0.90 to $1.00 per share, which is significantly above the previous estimate of $0.80. Management also upped its full-year target to $4.20 to $4.40 per share, from the previous forecast of $4.27. That represents 19% to 25% earnings growth for the giant. Not too shabby.
FedEx also expects a positive impact from FedEx Kinko's, its new unit from the recent Kinko's acquisition, as well as more cost savings from its business realignment program.
The bottom line in all of these numbers is that it's good to be FedEx these days. As Seth Jayson astutely said in his recent FedEx Delivers More Money take, "Anyone who's been watching the company might have seen this coming." Strong results do not happen overnight. Further, FedEx's purchase of Kinko's has given it the operating depth to bundle services and leverage its core delivery strengths.
Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and now concentrates his writing on more fictional characters. He has no stake in any firm mentioned above.
Quote of Note
"At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities." -- Jean Houston
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In other news:
For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.