WASHINGTON, D.C. – High energy prices, terrorism angst and wobbly consumer spending make a toxic combination for retailers. Maybe that’s why many retail stocks, down significantly from their 52-week highs, look cheap.
Giants like Wal-Mart Stores, Home Depot, and Lowe’s popped up on our fairly tough stock scan of the retailing sector. Among other criteria, we required that current ratios of price to book value, earnings and sales all stand below their five-year averages.
We also consulted with two money men, and both agreed there are investment opportunities in retail. One is Robert Straus, portfolio manager of the $201 million Icon Consumer Discretionary Fund. Straus thinks fear and uncertainty have soured investors on stocks, particularly small caps, despite recovering earnings.
“We’re seeing a disconnect between economic fundamentals and actual sentiment in the marketplace,” Straus says.
Full story at Forbes.com
Posted by Gillies on August 13, 2004
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Despite Congress’ fitful efforts to renew a multiyear federal transportation bill, the highway lobby has once again proved its reputation as one of Washington’s most effective operators. How effective? Think $52 billion.
Since 1991, funding for highway and mass transit has been rolled up into a giant package reauthorized every six years. The existing law, a $218 billion program known as Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), was enacted in 1998. It expired last September.
Things haven’t been pretty since. Congress has sent President George W. Bush no less than five extensions of TEA-21 to keep money flowing to federally funded transportation projects. In February and April, respectively, the Senate and House passed their differing versions of the reauthorization bill. Members of a conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate bills have been at work since early June.
The big holdup: money. In November, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee proposed a generous package totaling $375 billion, with a hike in fuel taxes as a possible way to pay for it.
But the tax-averse House ultimately settled on a more modest $275 billion version of the bill. The Senate came in at $318 billion. The Bush Administration, smarting from charges of fiscal profligacy, was the stingiest, with a $247 billion proposal–and it backed that lower number with a rare veto threat.
Just before legislators left for their August recess, however, a flurry of negotiations took place. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, offered up a $301 billion compromise. Two days later, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman William Thomas, R-Calif., offered a $299 billion proposal, which he said had White House backing. The conference committee adjourned for the break without acting on either arrangement.
But the highway crowd can tentatively declare victory: $299 billion is a long way from the $247 billion line in the sand that the Bush Administration had originally drawn.
Full story at Forbes.com
Posted by Gillies on August 4, 2004