More Opinion by The Springboard

THE UPRISING OF THE AMERICAN PARTY "Clearly the voters are engaged right now, at least for sure on the republican side, and what they have concluded is that the republican party has not done their job. Thus, Donald Trump gets their vote."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I'm Liking Roundy's

On any given day if you were to ask me what I thought about grocery store stocks, I'd respond with a yawn. Especially considering that the latest analysts projections, which only expect to see 1% growth in the domestic grocery market, leave much to be desired when you consider so many other companies, and so many other sectors that are expected to see much higher growth. Why would you mess with a grocery store?

But then there's Roundy's.

While Roundy's is a relative newcomer to the stock market, only having begun trading in February of 2012, it is not a newcomer to the domestic grocery market. Although the company has changed hands several times over the past few years, the company remains strong. They do have a few challenges in their bigger markets like Milwaukee where several years ago much of their competition left town. Stores like Jewel-Osco, Cub Foods, Sentry, and Kohl's Foods were no more, and the one that remained was Pick 'Save, a Roundy's store. They could operate with relative ease. These days other players have entered the Milwaukee market like Piggly Wiggly, Woodman's—a privately held family owned business that has been expanding rapidly—and of course Walmart has been moving in on Roundy's territory as well, opening more superstores, and adding neighborhood market stores.

But it's not the Pick 'N Save stores, nor Roundy's other brands like Copps or Rainbow that have my interest. It's their Mariano's stores which are the gorilla in the room.

Part of what separates Mariano's from the regular, and rather boring domestic grocery market, is its concept. Think Whole Foods, and the massive growth this sector, and of course Whole Food's stock has enjoyed over the past few years. As people trend toward healthier food choices, and organic foods, Whole Foods has capitalized big time on this trend.

Enter Mariano's.

Mariano's is still targeting consumers who want quality, and aren't as concerned about paying higher prices. But, they are managing to offer an alternative to the more expensive Whole Foods. So while Mariano's may not be the cheapest shopping trip compared to discount grocers, the bill will still be lower than Whole Foods, and the emphasis is again on value and quality.

For now Mariano's is only in the Chicago area, currently with 9 stores. But Roundy's thinks that the Chicago market can support up to 30 stores, and they plan to aggressively expand and open around 5 new stores per year.

Considering the massive growth in this sector of the domestic grocery market, and considering that there's a ton of room for growth, especially if Mariano's can expand into other markets and steal away some market share from other stores like Whole Foods and Outpost Natural Foods, Roundy's stock could be worth quite a lot more than what it is currently trading at.

Disclaimer: Jim Bauer currently holds shares in RNDY. He does not currently have any shares in Whole Foods, or any other domestic grocer.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Markets Ugly, But Enticing

So the markets continue to free fall. So what? That's my sentiment. Really. So freaking what? The fact remains, as I see it, that the markets are simply pulling triggers out of nervousness, but the fundamentals remain strong. So without sounding like I am beating a dead horse...so what???

I actually look for opportunities like this and I buy heavily into them. Wall Street likes to panic. They do this often. It's almost comical, actually, when you read the news of the day each and every day on the markets and watch how these guys react to things. One day its all good. Housing starts up 30%, the markets soar. The next day, consumer confidence drops 0.5%, market drops.

These guys look for reasons to pull the trigger in either direction. They are like birds eating, really. You know what I mean? Have you ever watched a bird eating? Their heads dart to and fro, back and forth, almost frantically. They take a couple of pecks of food. They repeat their frantic darts. The wind picks up speed, tivckles their wings, and their off.

But the wind is not a predator. It's just a wind!

So, that's what I do. I sell puts and calls, and buy stocks despite what the markets overall are doing. And I have to say it works. I don't panic. I am steady as she goes. Besides, the smart investor doesn't buy or sell a market. A smart investor buys or sells a company.

And right now, there are a lot of great companies that went on sale, and continue to be discounted more. Continue doing what you are doing guys. I know the wind from a predator, and while you fly away at the slight tickle of a breeze, I'll stick around and eat the seeds you left behind.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Markets Are Not Rattling Me, Still

I said yesterday that I did not believe that the announcement by the Fed was a negative for the economy, and despite today's even sharper decline of over 350 points, and like effects happening in other markets across the globe over the Fed's comments, I stand by what I said.

The declines in the markets are an overreaction, and I think the trend that the Fed is indicating is a positive one, not a negative one.

Sure, interest rates did infact rise to a two-year high. But the dollar also rose, and based on the most basic things, I think these are signs of a strengthening of the economy. Not a weakening. Granted, the interest rate hike is not due to the Fed, but rather due to market reaction to the Fed, and certainly the Fed raising interest rates would signal growth in the economy needs to be slowed down (a positive sign), but this is again, just a reaction.

The fundamentals are strong. The markets are overreacting. There is nothing to see here.

I am still a buyer. As I said two days ago, I am cautiously optimistic. I remain so. I can't control the impulse of big players on Wall Street to sell off their stocks and send the markets into a freefall. But I can control my targeted response, which is to react contrary to their negative, and buy into their frantic frenzy to sell.

Shares of my favorite companies are on sale. Shares of companies I have been waiting to buy that were overpriced are coming into target buy territory. I don't see any fundamental reason for the selloff. If the economy improves then the Fed will change course. How is that a negative? If the Fed is suggesting that the efforts it has been employing to prop up a poor economy may soon not be needed, how is that a negative? If the training wheels are not necessary, how is this a negative?

I'm not buying into the idea of the selloff. But you can bet your ass I am buying into the unfounded frenzy that's causing stocks to go on sale. The sharp declines cannot continue contrary to the fundamentals, and that means gains for anyone who is going to buy into this much needed dip in the markets.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Sharp Decline In Markets an Overreaction

If you are a fundamental investor, today's sharp decline following comments by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke that the Fed will not change its current plan to buy bonds and continue to print money, should be taken with a grain of salt. This is largely because the Fed was also upbeat, for the most part on their overall projections of the economy, saying much the same thing they said in May about where they thought things were going.

I would take this as a signal that the Fed believes that the market is on track to meet or exceed projections, but it is still a wait and see game.

I do not like the idea that the Fed wants to continue to print money since this leads to dilution when it comes to how much a dollar happens to be worth, and I think there could have been many more, more effective policy issues that could have curtailed the perceived need by the Fed to prop up the economy through its efforts. But barring that, and of course the Obama administration has only engaged in policies that are frankly, in my opinion, negative toward the prospect of real growth, I don't really believe that the Fed was left with much else of a choice.

My reaction to Wall Street's reaction is that it was an overreaction. And this is something I see as an opportunity to buy more shares of great companies at a discount. The fundamentals of the markets continue to be strong, even if the economy is still lagging, almost staggering behind.

What I drew from Bernanke's remarks is that the Fed will continue on it's current path until such time that some of the projections get closer to becoming foreseeable as becoming true. But to pull the plug too early is perhaps not the best plan...

Especially considering the slow growth we've seen in this recovery, and the fact that, so far as I can tell, Obama has no good policy decisions forthcoming that will speed things up at all. In fact, there may still be some heavy weights put on the economy, especially as Obamacare begins to get closer to full implementation.

Despite today's sharp decline I am bullish on the markets, and I am bullish on the economy as well. I don't expect anything robust economically speaking. But that's the point. I am certain that the economy will continue slowly, very slowly upward. At some point the Fed will leave go of the reigns and allow more natural forces to work. Again, nothing robust. But whatever growth will come more naturally. I think that's a positive. It also, for me, gives a sense of certainty, the counter of which is negative to the markets. I am comfortable with slower growth, because I can see that's the direction. If the economy gets closer to projections, I am confident that Bernanke will leave go of the training wheels, and let the economy do its own thing on its own terms.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cautious Optimism for the US Markets

Today wound up being another fairly good day in the markets, and certainly the markets have been enjoying some fairly nice runups of late. And while there are definitely positive signs that the economy may slowly be in the beginning stages of coming out of the doldrums, I am still fairly cautious about the moves I make in the markets, but also optimistic going forward that certain stocks will see some nice gains.

Part of the activity in the markets was due to the start of a two-day meeting by the Feds which, for all intents and purposes appears that they will not make any immediate changes, which is positive news overall. It willalso be interesting see what the Fed will have to say about some of the predictions they made in March when they last met in which they said they saw GDP growth around 2.6% through 2013, and a nearly 1 point increase in 2014 to 3.2%. In March the Fed also suggested that unemployment numbers would continue to improve, dropping to 7.4% by the end of 2013, and down to 6.9% by 2014. I think that if the Fed reaffirms these figures, or show better numbers for GDP growth projections and unemployment figures, obviously this will cause the markets to continue to rally. If the Fed adjust these numbers to the negative, it may throw a bit of uncertainty in the markets and cause stocks to go lower. My strong suspicion is that the Fed will not adjust their figures, but rather will state that they are on track to meet these projections they made back in March. That is still a positive, to my mind, and I think the markets will react positively to that news.

I also think that, for the time being, the Fed will maintain monthly purchases of $85 billion worth of bonds. They won't start scaling this back, I believe, until some of the projected figures begin to get closer to becoming fact. Bernanke, I think, tends to be a bit cautious about acting too soon. Although a scaling back of these bond purchases would certainly be a strong signal for the economy, and the markets could see gains as a result.

Stocks I like right now are Ford Motor Company (F), Dunkin Brands Group (DNKN), Target (TGT), and Masco Corp. (MAS).

I picked Ford due to what I perceive as better auto sales figures due to improving employment, an uptick in refinancing of mortgages which may open some money up to potential buyers, and aging fleets which will need to be replaced sometime in the near future which Ford could be a beneficiary of. Dunkin Brands Group was picked due to a good earnings cycle, and strong expansion of their business and upgrading of stores. Dunkin is making a strong push for market share, and I think they have a good chance of getting some of it. Target is my choice because consumer confidence is up slightly, and because I think Target is considered by many consumers as an upgrade to other discount players like Dollar Tree and Walmart. If economic conditions improve, and employment situations improve, consumers may well treat themselves to shopping up at Target over the other discounters. Plus, their stores look great. Masco Corp. is a play on the nearly 7% uptick in new housing starts recently reported, and improving home sales overall. When people buy new or existing homes, they tend to want to spruce things up a bit, and Masco Corp. is definitely a company who offers products new homeowners can turn to to help them to do this.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

HubPages Makes a Breakfastpop Pop Out

Don't get me wrong when I say that HubPages over the past couple of years has taken on far too much editorial control at their site, and it has irked more than just a few writers. I was one of them a while back as I wrote my farewell hub to my faithful readers, Goodbye HubPages sometime back in October of 2011.

HubPages is not a bad site to write for. It's just not as easy as it used to be to write content that you want without a lot of added scrutiny by the site moderators.

A couple of things that stood out for me were simple references that I made to the Boston Beer Company as I was simply saying that it was the last real American company left to brew beer. That hub it turned out was cited as promoting drinking. Another hub was simply an anecdote about the prospects of winning the lottery, and was primarily meant to be somewhat humurous in nature. This hub was cited as promoting gambling.

Neither of which were true in the context of my hubs. I eventually reposted the latter hub here on the Springboard, Winning the Lottery: The Dream of the Big Win.

If the moderators would have actually read the hubs, the fact that neither were really promoting anything would have been all too clear. Even after I wrote them citing my concerns, it was clear that they did not bother to read a word of what I'd posted. Worst of all I got a nasty bit of a response back from them which I talked about in a follow-up hub titled, On HubPages—October 21, 2011, wherein they said, "Like most websites, there are many topics which are protected under free speech that are not permitted on websites like HubPages. Please feel free to publish any content that violates HubPages Terms of Use elsewhere. Let us know if you have any questions."

That was the real stab, and those words hung on me like weighted chains hooked to my nipples. Please feel free to publish any content that violates HubPages Terms of Use elsewhere. Thanks for nothing, guys. Really?

To date my hubs have received over 72,000 views, and these figures do not count any hubs I deleted which became irrelevant due to time decay of the material. It doesn't make me the Stephen King of HubPages, but I am sure my 72,000 plus views certainly helped the site to make a few bucks over the years.

Which brings me to Breakfastpop who is, for all intents and purposes, a conservative blogger at HubPages. To date she has written around 913 hubs, and has earned the following of somewhere around 762 other hubbers, and who also gets read by many people outside the site who are not even members. Her blogs, as I would classify them, always get quite a few comments, and I would think her total views would blow mine clear out of the water.

And despite that, she recently announced she will be reducing her activity on the site citing mainly that HubPages has "institued changes that seem to be anti-writer." And she is spot on when she makes this comment. When I wrote Goodbye HubPages I said, "If we are to truly call ourselves writers then no writer I have ever spoken to has ever been for censorship in any form. This is censorship if you ask me." Breakfastpop went on to say, "This site is no longer a haven for writers who wish to express themselves freely and creatively."

This becomes especially true when one takes into consideration that the site touts itself as a site for writers, and is essentially a means to self publish your work. I understand why any site of this nature would want to be careful about some of its content simply because any content that might be negative could impact their entire site overall. But there is a big difference between inappropriate content and simple creative and free thinking by writers who provide it. And again, if the site wants to run itself more like a magazine and filter some of the content, then they must take the time to actually read the content that is deemed to be objectionable, substandard, or the quality of the content simply be determined by "word requirements, graphs, charts and polls" as Breakfastpop also rightly pointed out.

It is also true that many quality writers have left the site for the very reasons that I stated, along with Breakfastpop's statements as to her reasoning for slowing down her activity. What will they have left if the good writer's go is the question I have posed more than once? When you drive away those who actually make a positive contribution to the site, what is left? What's more, many times HubPages has said that they are simply going along with the TOS of Google Adsense. Yet not once have I ever had any notices of violating Adsense's TOS, even when I have published exactly the same material which was deemed a violation of HubPages TOS on one of my blogs, all of which are directly owned by Google.

One thing I have long said in looking into the actions of the moderators and owners of what is supposed to be a site for writers, is that none of these moderators or owners have a clue about the importance of freedom of speech that is inherent in anyone who actually considers themselves to be a writer, and as being a former editor involved in the publishing of an online monthly fiction horror magazine, editor of a horror fiction anthology, and having associations with other editors and writers like Mort Castle, Richard Chizmar of Cemetery Dance, T.M. Wright, Peter Straub, Michael Laimo (who recently had one of his books turned into a movie on Chiller), and former Dorchester Publishing Leisure Horror books editor Don D'Auria, I know what it means to have editorial control over content. Nothing was published, nor rejected, without first reading the material. That's how you deal with writers. No programming algorithm can ever replace that, and non writers/editors should not have a thing to do with editorial control. Instead this task should be delegated to those who know what they are doing.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Failure of an American President

I have no desire at all for a president to fail. But when a president does in fact fail, I think it is all too imperative that the American people recognize this, despite any party affliliations one may have, or any other biases for that matter. To do anything else is to the detriment of the institution of the presidency of the United States, and to the country itself.

I think in the case of president Barack Obama, his failure to the American people is all too obvious, and on many levels. But also obvious is that part of the reason that the president has managed to escape his own failures is that a large population of Americans are simply disengaged from the issues that rule the day. Even worse, I think the pool of these disengaged Americans, whom are otherwise often referred to as the uninformed voter, is a growing pool.

How else could president Barack Obama have been reelected but without the support of uninformed voters?

During his presidency gas prices doubled, and median household income was slashed by a whopping $4,000 a year. Not only that, but unemployment rates were sustained above 8% for a stubborn 40 months or so. And something I find interesting that doesn't seem to get a lot of attention is a statement made by Congressman Betty Sutton that in 2010, on average, 23 manufacturing facilities were permanently shuttered every single day.

The latter I find particularly interesting considering democrats have always been on the side of American labor and jobs. Moreover, manufacturing jobs are the bread and butter of the middle class, and provide good paying jobs to people who perhaps have less opportunity to go to college—in other words, the working class that democrats have always touted being on the side of obviously received no benefit whatsoever from the Obama administration during his first term in office when so many promises were made that he would fix a broken economy, and put hard working middle class America back to work.

Back to work where would be a good question since few businesses were hiring, and any new businesses in the green economy that Barack Obama claimed would provide new jobs with great pay for struggling American workers mostly have all gone bankrupt.

The green economy has produced no real new jobs for anyone, and while unemployment numbers may be showing some indication of improving, we are not even close to replacing the total of lost jobs since the beginning and end of the Great Recession.

And then of course, there was Benghazi, which I think would have been a terrible blow to any president on any side of the aisle seeking reelection. Four Americans died. And it is clear that the Obama administration lied to the American people about what happened. Moreover, the failure by the Administration to keep Americans safe in regions where there were obvious threats to safety, was all but ignored by the people who helped to keep president Obama in the White House.

My point in all of this is that it is okay to give a shot to the new kid in town. Barack Obama came onto the scene almost out of nowhere and was able to connect with the American people, and brought great messages of hope and change, and made a promise to the American people that he would be the great leader in restoring the faith of the American people in their government. He was going to fix things and make life better for everyone. But he did none of these things. And it is not okay to fail to recognize this. It is not okay to overlook failures.

The people did not overlook the failures of Richard Nixon. Nor did they overlook the failures of Jimmy Carter. The American people got it. Something was wrong, and the American people were paying focused attention to the details. The American people on both sides of the aisle did not allow for excuses to be made.

Richard Nixon resigned, in part, because he knew that to do otherwise would damage the country, and he knew that to continue to serve in the office of the president was not in the best interest of the American people. And Jimmy Carter was not reelected because clearly no one was better off than they were when he took office.

As a result of uninformed voters and disengaged Americans, a president was allowed to slide past the radar, and allowed to perpetuate the course of failure, and this may prove a very difficult course to reverse. The impact on the American people and the American way of life has been severely compromised in my opinion, and while I am not suggesting doomsday has arrived, I think it can only get worse.

Now we have the IRS scandal, the AP scandal, and we still don't know what happened in Benghazi. Of course there was Fast and Furious. And the economy is still in the slowest recovery mode in history. Worst of all, the president has only increased his belief in the policies that have yet to be proven to have helped in any way.

Failure is not something to hope for at all. But it is also not something to be ignored.