New rules for overtime pay for workers went into effect today, marking the first time the federal overtime law has been changed in more than 50 years. Of course, there's a reason the law hasn't been changed in 50 years -- it's a political lightning rod. Both sides argued the merits and demerits of the new rules today. Once you figure them out, you can figure out whether they will affect any companies you invest in -- not to mention your own salary.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Wal-Mart's Long, Hot Summer


Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)

Investors digested word today that Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT) has lowered its sales forecast for August, with the possibility that same-store sales may come in flat to up 2%. Just last week, the behemoth retailer had called for a 2% to 4% increase in same-store sales for the month. Since then, investors have surely been thinking the annual back-to-school shopping frenzy and Hurricane Charley would be sales boosters.

When it comes to Hurricane Charley, sure, many people likely rushed to their local Wal-Marts for everything from bottled water to candles to batteries. Apparently that wasn't enough to offset the fact that the retailer had to close 75 stores for a period in the affected areas, while a total of 200 stores in some way felt the hurricane's wrath.

Meanwhile, back-to-school sales apparently are not materializing as hoped. One might wonder how much of that has to do with the fact that the long Labor Day weekend heralding the end of summer has shifted this year, to occur in September instead of August.

It wasn't too terribly long ago that I reported on Wal-Mart being one of the discounters that doesn't quit. At that time, Wal-Mart felt "optimistic" about the consumer and the back-to-school season, despite leeriness over high gas prices and such factors that might depress shoppers. Rival Target(NYSE: TGT) also had upbeat news that belied this summer's June ennui.

Despite it all, Foolish colleague Steven Mallas made excellent points recently when he explored Wal-Mart's same-store sales, which already weren't as robust as some might have hoped. However, he pointed to the high same-store sales figures last year, which included the benefits of child-care tax credits. He also indicated that Wal-Mart investors shouldn't get caught up in the weekly and monthly machinations of the retailer unless a definite trend begins to form.

The same goes here. Despite the possibility of a slow back-to-school season, it still behooves investors to watch the big picture and avoid pessimism over short-term movements. What's perhaps more interesting here, of course, is the perceived connection between Wal-Mart's sales and consumer confidence, another example that it has been an unpredictable summer for retail.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.

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FedEx Flies


Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)

It may be a fairly slow news day today, but FedEx(NYSE: FDX) has garnered a lot of attention after it revved up guidance for its first-quarter and full-year earnings. The company's shares proved a success on a slow and stodgy Monday, adding nearly 4% in recent trading.

FedEx said it now expects earnings of $1.00 to $1.10 for the first quarter and $4.40 to $4.60 for the year. This compares to its previous guidance for quarterly earnings of $0.90 to $1.00 and yearly earnings in the $4.20-to-$4.40 range.

It's not too surprising investors felt jubilant regarding the news. After all, this isn't the first time in recent history that FedEx, a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick, upped its guidance; it also did so in June.

Today, FedEx cited strong demand in international express, ground, and less-than-truckload service. Despite risks such as the high price of oil, FedEx said it still expects strong demand for its services. It also said it will increase capital investments to $2.0 billion to $2.1 billion to expand capacity in those areas.

Major rival UPS(NYSE: UPS) hasn't exactly been a slacker recently either. Not too long ago, Foolish contributor Rich Smith took a look at the recent success of Big Brown, though he decided UPS shares were a bit pricey for his blood.

In that article, Rich also indicated that shipping and delivery companies give us an idea of overall economic health. Meanwhile, longtime Fool Rick Munarriz has pointed out that maybe high gas prices will cause a higher tendency to shop online, an interesting thought that can't be ignored. Why drive all over creation when you can pinpoint what you're looking for on AMZN) or eBay(Nasdaq: EBAY), not to mention all the brick-and-mortar shops that have recently put up online storefronts?

Now that FedEx has earnings growth of 25% to 30% on tap for the year, it may indeed be a good time for investors to consider FedEx, which has a history of delivering more money. Meanwhile, in general, it was heartening news for investors who found reason to sweat over Wal-Mart's(NYSE: WMT)word on August.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.

Discussion Board of the Day: Ask the Headhunter

Have you been checking out the job sites such as Need a new job? How do you nail a difficult job interview? All this and more in the Ask the Headhunter discussion board. Only on

WWE's Secret Weapon


Seth Jayson (TMFBent)

The tradition of the foreign object is one of the greatest in rasslin' history. While anything will do -- a Coke(NYSE: KO) or Anheuser-Busch(NYSE: BUD) beverage can, a folding chair from Staples(Nasdaq: SPLS) or Office Depot(NYSE: ODP), or even a TaserInternational(Nasdaq: TASR) stun gun -- typically, the ones that have the greatest impact on the match are the ones most easily concealed.

If you're a World Wrestling Entertainment(NYSE: WWE) investor, you might be looking for a break. After the roller coaster ride of the past few quarters and last year's strong comeback, the numbers today look downright yawn-inspiring. But check the replay. Somebody did toss a secret weapon into the ring. It's just tougher to see.

The 9% sales surge didn't match last quarter's timing-juiced, 20% revenue spike, but it was better than last year's ring-rope flat trend. The $81.6 million included some disappointments, including a 14% decrease in comparable pay-per-view buys, a 1% drop in revenue from live events, and a 20% drop in average crowd size in North America.

At the final bell, the firm brought in $0.11 per share in earnings, a 175% gain over the prior-year quarter. How did it make a comeback like that with sales continuing to slide in its primary events? By putting costs in a headlock and expanding sales in key, higher-margin areas.

Stronger international numbers and better television revenues provided a soothing ice pack for the wearied events segment. This quarter, WWE put up a 33% gain in branded merchandise and 128% spike in home video sales. Let's pin that down: Live and televised events carried gross margins of 39%, a 5% improvement. But the branded/video products put up a 10% margin improvement, to 44%. Keep in mind that this still accounts for only a fifth of the firm's revenue pie, but stealthy improvements here could provide big rewards for investors with their eyes wide open.

The firm managed $35 million in free cash flow (FCF) last year and more than $9 million so far this year. That puts it at an enterprise value-to-FCF ratio of around 15. That's cheaper than the market as a whole, which is unsurprising given guidance for decreasing revenues and earnings. But Fools should keep an eye open. If this proven contender gets much cheaper, it may soon hit the mythical territory of the good company at a great price.

Seth Jayson is working on his flying dropkick. He has no position in any company mentioned. View his Fool profile here.

Quote of Note

"More men are killed by overwork than the importance of the world justifies." -- Rudyard Kipling, British author

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For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.