For those who root for the underdog, the little guy, and do-gooders who stand up to the face of evil, last night's 22-0 lose by the New York Yankees -- the worst in franchise history -- at the hands of the Cleveland Indians had to bring about just a tiny bit of satisfaction.

It's only one game, and just like one off quarter doesn't portend the undoing of a business, this loss may not be a harbinger of things to come for the Evil Empire. But the Boston Red Sox have picked up seven games in the standings and are now on the Yanks' heels, possibly setting up a September showdown to be remembered.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Beware September!


Bill Mann (TMF Otter)

Shhhhhh! Can you hear that hissing noise? The sound you hear is the air rushing out of the stock market.

After all, it's September, the worst month for stock performance of all 12. According to the Stock Trader's Almanac, since 1950 there are three months that have averaged negative returns: February (yeah, thank goodness it's shorter than the rest), August, and the one to rule them all, September, with an average return over that 53-year span of -0.7%. Just as interesting, September has a bit of a streak going: five market declines in a row.

The best months for stock market gains historically are November at 1.7% and December at 1.6%, meaning that those "sell in May and go away" ninnies are missing out on the two best months. That'll show 'em!

I profess to being a little bit surprised that the biggest decliner wasn't October: After all, that's where the biggest, most noteworthy declines have taken place. Of course, the Great Depression sits outside of this particular sample, but there's still 1987 and 1998 to contend with. Yet October sits there right in the middle of the pack, with average gains of 0.8%.

If there is an explanation as to why September would be the worst month by a considerable margin, I don't know what it would be -- there isn't a preponderance of earnings reports in the month. Perhaps the trading community tends to return from their traditional August vacations to find the inevitable company that has deteriorated and must be sold. Perhaps this is the month where companies that had offered positive guidance for the year finally figure out that they're not going to achieve the goals they set for themselves.

And perhaps I should remind myself that these statistics, while they make for interesting talking points, are pretty worthless. I mean, could you imagine if Tom Gardner simply decided not to publish a Hidden Gems newsletter this month just because it's September? "Hey, folks, stocks go down in September. We have no chance. See you next month."


First of all, correlation is not causality. The market hasn't gone down because it was September any more than it rises or falls with hemlines. Second of all, as we discussed Monday, the 6,000-plus stocks on the U.S. stock markets do not move in unison. What happens on a day-to-day basis with Home Depot(NYSE: HD) stock has little to do with whether Dollar General(NYSE: DG) goes up or down. Some companies are seasonal for the winter, such as Arctic Cat(Nasdaq: ACAT) or even Tiffany(NYSE: TIF), where others are dependent upon the summer, such as West Marine(Nasdaq: WMAR) or even a Lafarge(NYSE: LAF). Are we saying that September is simply a bad month for all of these companies? Maybe people are just selling in September so they can avoid October, sort of like joining the army to avoid the draft.

Stocks fluctuate. It may be meaningful on some level that they go down in September, but that doesn't mean they have to. It's a fun statistic, but it doesn't mean much.

But this November thing... there must be something to that. Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned in this article.

Discussion Board of the Day: McDonald's

Will McDonald's new McVeggie work? Is the healthier menu at the fast-food chain more conducive to rolling out something like a vegetable burger? Satisfy your appetite for ideas in the McDonald's discussion board.

Bill Gates to Upgrade Fun


Seth Jayson (TMF Bent)

In a revelation that should give late-night comedians two or three days' worth of snark fodder, the headlines this morning startled us with the news that the world's alpha geek, Microsoft's(Nasdaq: MSFT) Bill Gates, may be considering a takeover of Six Flags(NYSE: PKS). He owns almost 12% of the company.

Yesterday, Gates' investing firm, Cascade Investments, filed a statement with the SEC announcing that Mr. Bill himself has become increasingly dissatisfied with Six Flags' underperformance. He intends to speak with management about strategic planning and maybe placing a nominee of his choice on the board.

I can already hear the screams from fans of Apple(Nasdaq: AAPL), RealNetworks(Nasdaq: RNWK), and all the other haters. And maybe they have reason to be worried.

Will new rides such as the Boot 'n' Reboot tease us with brief moments of levity, only to drop us at the back of the line to wait for another turn? Will The Longhorn be 100% complete before they clamp us in a car and send us hurtling down the track? If the drinking fountain squirts my eye out, is that a feature or a bug?

OK, enough with the potshots. I tease because I love, Redmond -- or to reestablish my street cred after some recent articles in which I dared defend Mr. Softy.

In all seriousness, Six Flags investors can't be blamed for wanting to fly the white flag. Fellow Fools have reported on the firm's dwindling numbers, though, to be fair, competitor Cedar Fair(NYSE: FUN) has also been providing investors with some unexpected bumps, although Disney(NYSE: DIS)has done better.

Gates is not alone in his criticism. Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder filed a similar report the previous day, and though there's no confirmation the two are in cahoots, together they do own one-fifth of the company.

Investors bid the stock up 30% this week. They must figure that anyone who can muscle the entire world into using Windows, or convince people to pay 25 bucks for parking to see the Redskins, can work other miracles as well. Time will tell.

For more Foolishness:

Seth Jayson loves to be scared until he's sick, but he has no position in any company mentioned. View his Fool profile here.

Quote of Note

"Good ideas are not adopted automatically. They must be driven into practice with courageous patience." -- Hyman Rickover, U.S. admiral

Winn-Dixie's Fortitude


Nathan Slaughter

Back in March, my Foolish colleague Chris Mallon reported some abysmal news at Winn-Dixie(NYSE: WIN). The regional grocery chain had just announced an $80 million second-quarter loss, complete with falling sales, contracting margins, a suspension of the firm's dividend, a credit downgrade to junk status, and the subsequent 40% collapse of the company's stock. However, there were reasons for optimism, and he concluded with an honest question: Is Winn-Dixie now a value play worthy of consideration?

Flash forward to August 19, when Seth Jayson dived into the firm's fourth-quarter numbers. The less-than-inspiring results included a 4.4% decline in comps and net income from continuing operations that fell from a $62 million gain to a $2.1 million loss. For the full year, the firm's earnings swung from a $239.2 million, or $1.70 gain, to a $100.4 million, or $0.71 loss. Ouch! With the stock trading near book value at $6.50, Seth also stated that brave investors might find Winn-Dixie's valuations compelling.

Today, Winn-Dixie is trading at around $4.50. The company's shares are bouncing back this morning, but still reeling from a steep 15% drop yesterday amid the fallout from Albertson's(NYSE: ABS)grim results. Despite the lack of any specific bad news, the stock has lost roughly one-third of its value in the two weeks since that mid-August release and is now hovering near 10-year lows.

Clearly, and with the benefit of hindsight, I can say that cheap stocks can always get cheaper. However, rather than question the conclusions that Chris and Seth reached, I am going to agree with them. For anyone who thought that Winn-Dixie held promise when trading near its book value of $6.45, it certainly looks even more attractive now at only two-thirds of book value with a market cap roughly one-twentieth of last year's $10.6 billion in sales.

Things are likely to get worse, though, before they get better at Winn-Dixie. It is rapidly losing market share to Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT), and the privately owned Publix in its core Southeastern markets, and has not yet found a way to plug the leak. The company also plans to shutter 124 underperforming and noncore stores and discontinue manufacturing operations by next April -- both of which will take a toll on the top line, which has already declined for three consecutive years.

Capital expenditures made to renovate stores will also weigh heavily, but they are a must if Winn-Dixie is to transform its image. Substantial ongoing lease payments for stores that have already been closed but not yet sold are also a concern. Winn-Dixie can't even get a break with the weather, as hurricane Charley has already wreaked havoc and hurricane Frances is currently taking aim on the firm's Florida headquarters.

The company recently reached an agreement with its lenders to double the firm's credit line from $300 million to $600 million. By no means is this a cause for celebration, but it will help ensure that sufficient liquidity is available for restructuring should cash flow become a problem. Winn-Dixie's turnaround efforts have a long way to go, and it's going to be a bumpy ride, but if management can successfully execute plans to consolidate operations, revamp stores, and improve customer service, shareholders that kept their faith should one day be rewarded.

Fool contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned.

More on Today

Nathan Slaughter shares strategies for transferring retirement investments in Beware of IRA Rollovers!... In Free Cash Flow Illusions, Rich Smith warns that a little accounting knowledge can be a dangerous thing.... Bill Mann wonders how a costly drug of marginal efficacy begets triple-digit multiples in Triumph of Hope Over Reason.

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