Stephen Benz

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  • Invest With Your Conscience

    By Stephen Benz - July 30, 2013 | Tickers: FHCO, SEE, XYL

    Foolish investing is all about buying companies, not stocks. 

    In the era of day trading, market "heat mapping," 24/7 financial news coverage, and penny stock pushing it's difficult at times to remember that buying a stock means taking ownership in a slice of a company.  Keeping that in mind I like to look for companies that I would be proud to own; companies that are committed to social more »

  • Blizzard Pushes Deeper Into China

    By Stephen Benz - July 18, 2013 | Tickers: ATVI, EA, NTES

    Blizzard Entertainment, of Activision Blizzard (NASDAQ: ATVI), announced on July 8 that it will be extending its partnership with the Chinese internet company NetEase (NASDAQ: NTES) to bring Blizzard's new trading card game, Hearthstone, to China. Blizzard currently relies on NetEase to deliver World of Warcraft and StarCraft to Chinese gamers.

    NetEase has a sizable portfolio of over a dozen self-developed online games with over 600 million registered accounts more »

  • REIT's: Once the Darlings, Now the Dogs?

    By Stephen Benz - July 4, 2013 | Tickers: PCL, PCH

    I'm sick and tired with the daily fluctuations in the market driven by fear and speculation over when the Federal Reserve's bond buying program known as Quantitative Easing will be slowed and eventually stopped. 

    Actually, check that.  Daily fluctuations don't bother me at all; it's the 24/7 financial news organizations fanning the flames that really grinds my gears.  The upside to all the consternation is more »

  • The Trappings of Relying on Single Metrics

    By Stephen Benz - June 20, 2013 | Tickers: CAT, CNH, DE

    Like many individual investors out there, my first lesson into stock investing focused on the key metrics. Within a few hours I felt like a Wall Street insider - throwing around previously unfamiliar terms like P/E and current ratio. The secret to investing was seemingly simple. 

    Step 1: Identify those companies with superior metrics relative to their industry peers.

    Step 2: Profit!

    However, over time I've learned how things more »

  • This Company Shows Investors the Money

    By Stephen Benz - November 16, 2012 | Tickers: HAL, RES, SLB, WYNN

    RPC (NYSE: RES) rewarded investors on Friday by announcing a $0.20 per share special dividend to be paid before the end of December.  Combine that with dividends paid over the last 4 quarters, and the company will return $0.56 per share this year.  At current prices around $11, this is a 5.1% dividend yield.  Over the last twelve months the company generated $154 million in free cash more »

  • Reviewing Power-One

    By Stephen Benz - November 8, 2012 | Tickers: FSLR, GE, PWER.DL, SI

    I find researching new investment ideas to be way more exciting than thinking about the companies I already own.  I am guilty of treating my portfolio like a Ronco Rotisserie: “set it and forget it.”  I’ve been fooling myself into thinking this is OK because I am a buy and hold investor with a very long time horizon, therefore since I have no immediate plans to sell any of more »

  • Is It Easy Being Green?

    By Stephen Benz - November 1, 2012 | Tickers: CVX, SZYM, DOW, UL, UAL

    Energy independence is a hot topic in American politics.  While I think most agree that increasing our fossil fuel production would be an economic win, many Americans, including myself, are apprehensive of the environmental ramifications of a “drill baby drill” policy some politicians advocate.  I still think renewables hold great promise in the long term, but that won’t solve our energy needs in transportation until America experiences a mass more »

  • A Company for the Housing Recovery

    By Stephen Benz - August 28, 2012 | Tickers: PCL, PCH, WY

    The housing market is showing signs of recovery.  Before talking about the positives, I think it’s best to really show the severity of the situation.  This chart shows Single-Family housing starts for each year starting in 1990. 


    <img src="/media/images/user_13027/graph1_11_large.png" />

    Source: Joint Center for Housing Studies

    While it’s unlikely there will be a return to the boom of the early 2000’s, it’s clear there is still a lot of more »

  • The Benefit of Having Powerful Friends

    By Stephen Benz - August 22, 2012 | Tickers: AAPL, CRUS, PHG

    I usually avoid companies whose revenues are closely tied to a small number of customers. Losing one of these customers would be disastrous for such a company, and I imagine management would bend over backwards to maintain these relationships. Margins would surely suffer from pricing pressures and increased sales expenses.

    However, if a company is going to ride the coat-tails of a single customer to great profits, best to make more »

  • The Quiet Internet IPO

    By Stephen Benz - August 12, 2012 | Tickers: FB, LNKD, Z

    Editor's Note: This article previously contained incorrect price and return data on Zillow.

    The last twelve months or so were chock full of big name internet IPO's, causing some to wonder if we were in a collision course with another inevitable dot-com bubble.  Zillow (NASDAQ: Z) was a popular punching bag around the time of its IPO.  I remember giving it an Under perform rating on CAPS without more »

  • Lift your Portfolio with this Company

    By Stephen Benz - August 6, 2012 | Tickers: CASC.DL, NC, TM

    I love finding a company that produces equipment needed by nearly every warehouse or production facility in the world, and I really love finding a company that is the leading producer of arguably the most critical component of that equipment.  Good luck running a warehouse without a forklift, and even better luck using that forklift without the forks!  Cascade Corp. (UNKNOWN: CASC.DL) is a leading manufacturer of "materials handling load more »

  • Transparency and Berkshire

    By Stephen Benz - July 30, 2012 | Tickers: BRK-B, GS, HBC, STO

    Transparency International, a non-governmental organization that promotes corporate transparency and accountability, recently released a report assessing the largest worldwide 105 public companies.  The companies were measured on three metrics: public reporting on anti-corruption programs, organizational transparency, and country-by-country reporting.  I was genuinely shocked to find that Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B) was ranked #101 on this list, just above China Construction Bank.  The study is not a critique of the practices more »

  • Avoiding Bubbles

    By Stephen Benz - July 19, 2012 | Tickers: AMZN, MCD, YUM

    It’s hard not to follow the crowd, especially when it seems like every one in the crowd is profiting while you sit on the sidelines.  As a buy and hold investor I consciously avoid opportunities because I’m uncertain of the time-horizon of the investment.  I have little faith in my ability to anticipate market or macroeconomic trends, nor do I have the desire to dedicate my time and more »

  • A Shot Across the Bows of Software Developers?

    By Stephen Benz - July 9, 2012 | Tickers: AAPL, GME, MSFT, ORCL | Editor's Choice

    On July 3rd, the Court of Justice of the European Union made a ruling with potentially giant ramifications for the software industry.  Oracle (NYSE: ORCL) sued a German company that resells software licenses, UsedSoft, on the grounds that UsedSoft was violating copyright law for reselling Oracle software that customers had downloaded from the internet. 

    Physical copies of software that are sold on CD-ROMs or DVDs are legally permitted to more »

  • Rebuilding American Transportation Infrastructure

    By Stephen Benz - June 29, 2012 | Tickers: AAP, AZO, CAT, CNH, CRH, DE

    The American Society of Civil Engineers released a 2009 Report Card on all facets of American infrastructure.  The results all around were pretty damning, especially for roads and bridges.  The report estimated a five-year funding shortfall of $550 billion, more than 155% of the predicted spending over that period. 

    A deteriorating and inadequate system of roads has significant consequences.  What likely hits close to home for most of us is more »

  • Shareholders Awaiting Satisfaction

    By Stephen Benz - June 25, 2012 | Tickers: CGA, YONG

    Yongye International (NASDAQ: YONG), a Chinese producer of fulvic acid based crop and animal nutrient products, is a polarizing figure in the investment media. 

    For starters, the stock garners an inordinate amount of attention disproportionate to its market cap of $150 million.  This attention is either centered around new or re-hashed attacks on the company’s credibility, ranging from in-depth critiques of public filings to outright cries the company is more »

  • A Strong Industrial Materials Play

    By Stephen Benz - June 21, 2012 | Tickers: ATI, RTI, TIE.DL

    Titanium Metals (UNKNOWN: TIE.DL) is a leading manufacturer of milled and melted titanium products used in aerospace, various industrial markets, and the defense industry.  The company has an immediate competitive advantage as the only titanium production facilities in both the United States and Europe, the two largest markets for titanium consumption. 

    The titanium industry has been heavily reliant on the aerospace industry, which is very cyclical depending on airplane delivery more »

  • Dividends: Icing on the Cake

    By Stephen Benz - June 21, 2012 | Tickers: ALV, KRO, PG, STX

    Dividends are powerful.  Historical analysis has shown that over the long term, dividends have significantly contributed to the total return of the stock market.  For example, a study published in the book Triumph of the Optimists: 101 Years of Global Investment Returns found that from 1900 to 2000, a portfolio that reinvested dividends outperformed the price appreciation (capital gains) of the market by a factor of nearly 85.  Jeremy Siegel more »

  • Gaming Returns to the Xbox!

    By Stephen Benz - June 15, 2012 | Tickers: ATVI, MSFT, NFLX

    The writing is on the wall. Smart phones and tablets are driving traditional video game consoles into obsolescence. Casual gaming is the wave of the future! Who wants to shell out $59.99 for a console game when you can repetitively fling birds at pigs for $0.99? The death of the PC is upon us!

    OK, things aren't that dire for the video game industry, but it has more »

  • Gaining Weight Costs, and For Some, So Does Losing It

    By Stephen Benz - June 14, 2012 | Tickers: AXP, KO, NTRI, WTW

    According to an article in the peer reviewed journal, Health Affairs, the medical care costs of obesity in the United States in 2008 were $147 billion.  Currently over 1/3 of the adult population of America are obese (defined as having a body mass index greater than 30).  If you add in the number of adults who are overweight (BMI > 25) you are now talking about over 2/3 of more »

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