The oldest player in the Major Leagues, Julio Franco of the Atlanta Braves, turned 46 on Monday and promptly had three hits last night as the Braves squeaked by the Colorado Rockies 6-5. Franco is batting .298 in 94 games this season. His lifetime batting average is .300 as he completes his 22nd season in the big leagues. Only two players over the age of 43 have hit above .290. One of them was Sam Rice in 1934. The other is Julio Franco, who has already done it twice.
Clearly, some folks really do get better with age. Our only question is, Mr. Franco, will you ever retire?
In today's Motley Fool Take:
- How to Make Millions, Slowly
- Discussion Board of the Day: Fools Fighting Fat
- Trying to Topple eBay
- Quote of Note
- H&R Block Files One Away
- More on Fool.com Today
How to Make Millions, Slowly
In the best combination of tobacco 'n' food news since Homer Simpson's tomacco, today AltriaGroup
Food manufacturer Kraft increased its dividend by 14% to nearly $0.20 per share. The yield now comes to 2.6%; not nearly as tasty, but better than bupkis.
Although dividend stocks have enjoyed a bit of retro chic over the past few years, you suspect that many investors still look on any stock that pays out as a stodgy issue, fit only for dodgy old aunts who keep too many cats and smell like a hallway in a hospital.
Remember what happened at ARM Holdings
Just a guess, but leaders such as those two have plenty of profitable times ahead of them. And when companies produce copious free cash flow -- such as Altria's $8 billion last year or Kraft's $2.9 billion -- there's nothing wrong with getting paid to invest while waiting for growth and capital appreciation. In fact, you should expect it. Keep in mind, upwards of 40% of the S&P 500's historical return is owed to dividends.
Our own dividend diva Mathew Emmert, whose Income Investor celebrates its one-year anniversary today, has pegged several market beaters such as Annaly Mortgage
All this verbiage comes to this: Sometimes the best investing ideas are exactly the kinds of boring, everyday companies that no longer take part in the Street's weekly popularity contests. When they'll pay you well to hold them, your portfolio will probably thank you. It's one way to try to make millions slowly.
For more Foolishness on dividends:
- What can closed-end funds do for your income?
- Dividend aside, ARM Holdings has some explaining to do.
- Altria's in the money.
Discussion Board of the Day: Fools Fighting Fat
Is summer over and you're still afraid to get into the swimsuit you bought back in the spring? What's the best real diet out there these days? All this and more in the Fools Fighting Fat discussion board.
Trying to Topple eBay
How do you crush eBay
As tantalizing as it may seem to have a heavy such as Microsoft
Indeed. Last month, the prolific Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter recommendation saw its second-quarter profits double while revenues shot up by 52%. So if you want to kick eBay when it's down, my best advice would be to buy a ladder.
But that doesn't mean that companies aren't carving a niche around the eBay premise of exchanging goods and services online. These players can survive -- and even thrive -- if they specialize. One of our sponsors, ex24.com, bases its trading platform on users buying and selling available stock from one another -- without the market makers in the middle. While eBay has domain names and websites for sale, it's not likely to match the popularity of the dot-com monikers being peddled on Afternic. You can argue that when it comes to secondhand books, eBay just doesn't stand a chance against Amazon's massive collection of used editions.
However, some companies have taken the eBay model one step further. Instead of exchanging money for merchandise, they have reintroduced the long-lost art of bartering. That's what BarterBee.com is doing with its service where users get to swap old CDs, DVDs, and video games for someone else's old CDs, DVDs, and video games. What are you willing to offer for one of Google's beefy Gmail accounts? The unaffiliated Gmailswap site is all ears. While many sites that promote bartering such as TradeAway seem to be populated with members that will ultimately go for a cash transaction, wouldn't it be great if eBay found a way to cash in on currency beyond legal tender?
Sure, it would make for an awkward bidding process. Granted, trust and fraud fears will escalate when two items are being crisscrossed around the country. But eBay has the garage sale market right there in its grubby little hands. It has stocked shelves worldwide collecting dust in many of its members' eBay Stores. While one can argue that eBay is better off cashing in on two separate monetary transactions -- especially since its acquisition of PayPal -- there seems to be a fragmented market out there ripe for eBay's picking.
I told you I'd marry you, eBay. I meant it. But, I'm just curious now. Exactly what is in that dowry I keep hearing so much about?
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has been an eBay member since the 1990s. However, he does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story.
Quote of Note
"There are two kinds of people: Those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group -- there's less competition." -- Indira Gandhi, former prime minister of India
One quarterly earnings report cannot make or break a company. Sure, it can provide a fair depiction of a company's current state of affairs, but by definition it is a backward-looking tool. Ultimately, future results are more important than those from the prior three months. With that in mind, shareholders of tax-preparation specialist H&R Block
After finally finding a way to post profits in all four quarters last year, rather than just the seasonally strong fourth (which ends in April), the company took a big step backward yesterday, announcing a stunning $44.1 million loss on a 2.6% drop in revenues to $482.7 million. The $0.26 retreat in earnings reversed last year's $0.03 gain and was far wider than the $0.05 loss forecast by analysts.
The results may have caught Wall Street somewhat off guard, but they were in line with internal projections and not surprising to management, which warned of the core problem -- margin compression in the mortgage business due to rising rates -- months ago. CEO Mark Ernst summed up the outlook fairly well in last quarter's earnings release: "A changing interest rate environment will likely result in a flattening or slight decline in mortgage earnings, which will partially offset solid earnings growth in our other businesses."
There was no problem with loan production, which grew 28.4% to $6.8 billion, but revenues from mortgage services fell 8.4%, and pre-tax income plummeted 42.9% to $93.5 million. The disappointing mortgage results played the largest role in H&R Block's first-quarter woes, but each of the other three business segments also moved in the wrong direction.
Business services revenues rose 10.8%, but pre-tax losses widened from $6.7 million to $10.1 million. Investment services revenues from the firm's H&R Block Financial Advisors subsidiary dropped 6%, again with losses widening from $13.8 million to $18.3 million. Revenues in the firm's bread-and-butter tax-services segment rose 9.7%, but last year's $99.6 million loss fell to $113 million.
While first-quarter results were weak across the board, especially compared with rival Jackson Hewitt's
This year should be no exception, as the firm has made investments that will pay off when tax season arrives. More than 400 additional Wal-Mart
Assuming that H&R Block can mute the impact of rising rates on mortgage margins, turn around the struggling investment business (which has lost $248 million over the last three years), and hold its ground with Intuit
Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned.
More on Fool.com Today
In A Small Cap for Any Market, James Early says your portfolio doesn't have to be stuck in neutral.... Dueling Fools Ben McClure and Bill Mann debate over whether Baby Bells have a future or are plagued by too many problems to make compelling investments.
In other news:
- Scotch: Not Just for Breakfast Anymore
- Williams-Sonoma Delivers Value
- "Greater Sucker" Risk
- Lifeway's Cost Crisis
For a list of all our stories from today, see our Today's Headlines page.