Business Buzz

Business Buzz

Ackman Feels a $500 Million Pinch from J.C. Penney

August 27, 2013

Now that’s a discount: After giving up on more than two years’ worth of efforts aimed at turning around J.C. Penney, activist hedge fund investor Bill Ackman sold his 18 percent stake in the retailer for $504 million – about half what he paid.

Rather than just dumping the shares on the open market, where the stock closed Monday at $13.35, Ackman used Citigroup as an underwriter to offer his more than 39 million shares at a price of $12.90 apiece. That adds up to a loss of about $473 million for Ackman’s firm, Pershing Square Capital Management...

JPMorgan’s Commodities Exit: A Win for Regulators?

July 29, 2013

Sometimes, standing on principle just isn’t worth the trouble.

That seems to be what JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) has concluded about its physical commodities business, built up through billions of dollars worth of acquisitions over the past five years.

The bank announced Friday that it is seeking a buyer for its physical trading business, an impressive group of businesses as described by Reuters: “a global oil trading division includes a contract supplying the biggest refinery on the East Coast; Henry Bath & Sons Ltd's 72 metal warehouses...

2 JPMorgan Directors Step Down as Bank Takes a Step Forward

July 19, 2013

Buh-bye.

The resignations of David Cote and Ellen Futter as directors of JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM) hardly came as much of a surprise. The two directors won re-election to the board at the bank’s annual meeting in May, but received relatively low numbers of votes after a hotly contested battle over governance.

Futter, the president of the American Museum of Natural History, didn’t even attend that meeting and won only 53 percent of the votes cast on her board membership; Cote, CEO of Honeywell International, fared better with 60 percent, but...

Munis Are Suffering Their Worst Month Since 2008

June 25, 2013

The Treasury bond market may be dominating the headlines, as investors fuss and fret over the timing of an end to the Federal Reserve’s ultra-accommodative monetary policy. But the folks at S&P Dow Jones Indices reminded us today that the real pain is being felt by those who own municipal bonds. With just a few days left in June, munis are in the midst of the worst month they have witnessed since September 2008, the height of the financial crisis. That month, the S&P National AMT-Free Muni Bond Index dropped 5.13 percent, and so far this month it’s 4.97...

Why Increased Buybacks May Not Be a ‘Buy’ Signal

June 6, 2013

Corporate stock buyback announcements just keep coming. The folks at Birinyi Associates track this data, and on Wednesday they reported that companies announced a whopping $57.1 billion in new authorizations in May, bringing the year-to-date total to $343 billion, 83 percent more than 2012.

At this rate, 2013 is on track to become second only to 2007 in terms of the number of buyback authorizations. But if you’re waiting for this to translate into higher stock prices, there are three factors to ponder....

Game Over for Zynga Investors? Not Yet

June 6, 2013

A reporter from The Wall Street Journal wanted to drop by Zynga’s (NASDAQ: ZNGA) annual meeting of shareholders Tuesday at the Marriott Marquis hotel in downtown San Francisco. But instead of being able to get some clues as to what lies ahead for the company – struggling to make the leap to mobile platforms even as online gamers gradually wean themselves from their addiction to FarmVille – he was told he wasn’t allowed to listen in as CEO Mark Pincus outlined his future strategy to registered shareholders.

Whatever Pincus said seemed to work for a...

After Snafu, Lululemon Beating the Pants Off S&P 500

June 5, 2013

They’re baaaaaack…. That is to say, yoga enthusiasts who had been mourning the absence of their favorite Astro and Groove yoga pants at Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ: LULU) stores can rejoice, and open their wallets to replenish their wardrobes. Transparency is good when it comes to financial statements; less compelling when it involves unexpectedly sheer black yoga pants, it seems, and the high-profile Vancouver-based company had to yank the two models from shelves in March. The snafu cost Chief Product Officer Sheree Waterson her job in April, but in spite of the...

Yet Another Pension Fund Drops Gun Stocks

February 20, 2013

They're dropping like flies.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System, or Calpers, the country's largest pension fund with $254 billion, voted Tuesday to divest itself of the stocks of two manufacturers of guns and high-capacity ammunition clips that are currently banned in Califoria, Reuters reports.

The move follows the action taken by New York City's teachers' retirement fund just a couple of days ago, also largely symbolic. It affects roughly $5 million in investments in Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. and Sturm, Ruger & Co.

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Another Union Drops Gun Stocks in Protest

February 16, 2013

The New York City teachers’ retirement fund has become the largest pension fund in the country to rid itself of holdings in gun stocks.

The city comptroller, John C. Liu, announced the divestment in a statement on Friday, saying, “Our investment portfolio gains nothing by doing business with these firms. This is a sound decision that sends an important message about our commitment to addressing the plague of gun violence in every...

Last-Minute Holiday Shopping: Why We Wait

December 18, 2012

If you’re like me and haven’t finished (or even started) your Christmas shopping, you’re not alone. According to a new survey, more than half of Americans will do the bulk of their holiday shopping between now and Tuesday. But the procrastinators may be risking more than simply coming home with a white elephant.

According to nearly 2900 Americans age 18 and over who were surveyed online last week by Harris Interactive, last-minute shopping is the most popular way to get ready for the great gift fest. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they’ll shop...