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U.S. Economy

Barnes & Noble Sale Won't Rid the Retailer of its Woes

Barnes & Noble Inc. (NYSE: BKS) announced late Tuesday that it would put itself up for sale. But even with its recent struggles analysts aren't sure of what the company hopes to accomplish.

"There are companies that do this because they have to and there are companies that do this because they have impatient shareholders and I'm not sure what's driving this kind of statement," Michael Norris, a senior analyst at Simba Information, told The Associated Press. "It just seems daft."

The company's board said that it believed Barnes & Noble stock was "significantly undervalued" and that it had established a special committee to review its options.

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Slight Job Gains Won't Shrink the High Unemployment Rate

Employment reports released this week show mixed results, but lead to the same conclusion: The high unemployment rate isn't improving any time soon.

U.S. private-sector jobs last month grew by only 42,000, according to a report issued yesterday (Wednesday) by payrolls processor Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (Nasdaq: ADP). ADP revised the number of jobs added in June to 19,000 from 13,000, which fell far short of economists' predictions of 39,000.

The ADP report "shows continued weakness in the jobs market, which is in part caused by the uncertainty in the economy and general business climate," said Gary Butler, ADP's chief executive, in a statement. "American businesses are on the cusp of recovery, but more effective incentives are needed to encourage business investment resulting in the creation of more jobs."

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Flat Consumer Spending and Declining Factory Orders Point to Slower Economic Recovery

Consumer spending in the United Sates was flat in June and personal savings were the highest in a year, underscoring how unemployment continues to hamstring the U.S. economic recovery.

Separately, U.S. factory orders fell by more than expected in June from May, and pending home sales continued to plunge as the expiration of a government subsidy for first-time homebuyers depressed housing market activity.

Taken together with the gross domestic product (GDP) data for the second quarter, the latest string of reports shows a U.S. economy that is drawing closer to a double-dip recession.

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Insights on ECRI: Is This Stock-Market Prophet Calling for a Double-Dip Recession?

The Economic Cycle Research Institute – referred to as the "ECRI" by anyone in the know on Wall Street – has correctly called every U.S. recession during the last 45 years.

To work its magic, the ECRI charts the weekly changes in an index of Leading Economic Indicators (WLI). Market professionals like myself very quietly use the same group of indicators to call market tops and bottoms. The indicators are so accurate in terms of what they have to say about the future that I refer to ECRI and the WLI as "The Prophet."

Given the Prophet's 100% hit rate over the last half century, investors should definitely take heed of the warning signals that this economic seer of seers is making right now.

To see if the ECRI has labeled this as a "double-dip" recession, please read on…

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Wall Street's Mood Shift Is Signaling a Profit-Making Price Push Ahead

A mood of mild optimism has begun to spread down Wall Street not long after there was nothing but long faces. Fancy that.

More good news out of Europe, better-than-expected new home sales, and the latest of a solid second-quarter earnings season has helped resuscitate the animal spirits that were missing in action since the spring. 

Stocks rose past some key milestones in their historic July over the past week, pushing the Dow Jones Industrial Average just barely into positive territory for the year. It was a very professional, low volatility rally this week, a welcome change from the intra-day dramatics that had put everyone on edge lately.

What has really changed from the point of view of government policy or corporate results? Nothing and everything.

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To find out what’s changing on Wall Street, click here

Fighting to Feed the Dragon: McDonald's Vs. Yum!

Speed kills. And in the fast food industry, it's imperative.

The speed of service and the ability to quickly adapt menus, packaging and advertising are what makes a market leader. And right now, the speed at which fast food companies make the transition into foreign markets, particularly China, is what matters most of all.

The industry's two biggest players, McDonald's Corp. (NYSE: MCD) and Yum! Brands Inc. (NYSE: YUM) – the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell – know that.

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The End of the Cap-and-Trade Masquerade Opens New Doors For Investors

When U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-NV, last week disclosed that the so-called "cap-and-trade' energy proposal that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last year would not be taken up by the Senate, climate-bill proponents were deeply dismayed.

Indeed, Financial Times columnist Clive Crook even said that the United States "has let the world down on climate."

But here's the irony. With the Senate's refusal, we may just have moved a step closer to a climate change policy that will actually work. And that's good news for U.S. taxpayers. And it opens new doors for U.S. investors.

To see the sectors that will benefit from the likely direction of climate reform, please read on...

How to Pick Stocks in the 'New Normal' Economy

In today's potentially ultra-slow-growth "New Normal" economy, old stock market multiples do not apply.

In fact, investors who rely on long-held rules about Price/Earnings (P/E) ratios when they buy and sell stocks are risking a pretty big "haircut:" They may be overvaluing some of their stocks – and the stock market in general – by 17% to 20%.

Let's take a closer look…

To understand how to value stocks in the "New Normal" economy, please read on...

History Gives a Reason to Be Hopeful about U.S. Stocks

Volatility has hamstrung U.S. stocks recently, but history suggests there's a reason for hope on the horizon.

The past week and a half has been a welcome reprieve from the extreme volatility we've seen over the past few months. There have been no fewer than 19 days this year in which up or down volume has accounted for more than 90% of total volume.

The rapid up-and-down, all-or-nothing nature of the stock market has confounded even the most talented, highly paid and well informed traders. The hedge fund industry as a whole has been caught flat-footed – posting losses in each of the last two months.

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World's Largest Steelmaker Warns of Slowing Economic Recovery

Lakshmi Mittal, the chairman of ArcelorMittal (NYSE ADR: MT), the world's largest steel company, yesterday (Wednesday) issued a warning about the slowing pace of the global economic recovery and lowered his company's third-quarter forecast.

ArcelorMittal posted a 146% rise in net profits in the second quarter compared with the same period last year as demand recovered. However, the company warned third quarter results would slump by as much as 30% – hit by a seasonal dip in demand during the European summer, slower growth in China, and higher costs for iron ore.

"The improved performance in the second quarter is in line with our expectations and reflects the continued slow and progressive recovery," Mittal told The Wall Street Journal. "The challenge for the second half of the year will be to pass on the full extent of cost increases to our customers."

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