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Barron's Recap (11/24/12): Trouble in Tea Land

November 24, 2012 12:22 pm
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This weekend in Barron’s online: the prospects for Hain Celestial, Atlantic City, PPH and European stocks, as well as a look at jazz from HBO’s Treme.

Cover Story

Unnaturally Good” by Bill Alpert.

Organic food company Hain Celestial (NASDAQ: HAIN) has built a small empire through two decades of product acquisitions. Grocers like Whole Foods (NASDAQ: WFM) that carry its products are expanding, and the company is making gains in shelf space in places like Walmart (NYSE: WMT). Sales have risen at more than 20 percent and cash flow is 50 percent better than peers. The share price has tripled in the past three years. The question is whether Hain Celestial can sustain its momentum in the face of increasing competition, and whether its aggressive acquisitions strategy will lead it in directions away from its core. Founder and CEO Irwin Simon insists that there is plenty of room for growth in the natural foods arena. “We are in the early stages of health and wellness,” he said. Also adding pressure on Hain Celestial to keep up its strong growth: 16 percent of Hain’s shares are owned by Icahn Associates.

Feature Stories

“Down and Out in Atlantic City” by Andrew Bary takes a look at the effects on New Jersey’s famed gambling capital from new casinos that can be found in New York City and in nearby Pennsylvania. Casino revenues have fallen for six straight years.

In “Investors Can Bank on PHH,” Jon Laing suggests that the outsourcing of mortgage banking is the wave of the future. One company ready to benefit from such a shift is PHH, which provides business process management services for the mortgage and fleet industries.

Jonathan Buck’s “Picks and Pans from Across the Pond” discusses last week’s Sohn London Investment Conference, which brought together global money managers. Among other things, they were bullish on L’Oreal and Porsche, but bearish on Fiat and Brazil.

Christopher Pucillo, founder and chief investment officer of Solus Alternative Asset Management, is profiled in “In Political Distress” by Joseph Checkler. Pucillo prefers to focus on bankruptcy claims and stocks, rather than on junk bonds.

In Richard C. Morais’s “The Jazz Behind Treme,” four diverse releases that showcase some of the top-notch New Orleans talent appearing in the David Simon-created HBO series are reviewed. They are from Dr. John, Donald Harrison, Dumpstaphunk and Trombone Shorty.

“Taking the Long View in European Stocks” by Jack Hough suggests that investors on the hunt for bargains ought to look to Europe, where smaller firms now trade at deep discounts. Investors should search beyond those companies that are household names in the United States.

Wells Fargo advisor Steve Hefter offers his best advice for escaping the volatility of markets driven by current events rather than financial calculations, in Alexander Eule’s “Equanimity and Equities.” How to get “equity like-returns with less-than-equity-like risk.”

Lawrence C. Strauss interviews Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, authors of This Time Is Different, in “Top Culprit in the Financial Crisis: Human Nature.” Establishing regulations to prevent financial disasters is much easier than getting people to leave them in place afterwards.

In “Graham and Dodd Head Downtown,” Leslie P. Norton features a value-investing class at New York University that was launched by Los Angeles hedge-fund manager Jamie Rosenwald. It offers smart lessons and savvy stock picks, says the article.

“A Cause for Thanksgiving, Part I” is an editorial commentary by Thomas G. Donlan that suggests the world could be winning the race for abundant energy.


Columns in this weekend’s Barron’s discuss:

  • Who came out on top in the skirmish in Gaza
  • Discount retailers vs. their high-end peers
  • Being thankful for the economy’s gains
  • The odds against Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK)
  • Cyclicals, such as Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT), now entering their growth season
  • Margin notes in the digital age
  • The so-called Volcker Generation
  • The profitability of buyback ETFs
  • What to watch for in fiscal cliff negotiations

Online Exclusives

This weekend’s Barron’s online exclusives include:

“Retail Rally in Store?” by Dimitra Defotis. History shows that owning retail stocks in the first quarter of a given year is a good bet. That is when post-holiday gift-card spending kicks in. The retail sector has outperformed the Standard & Poor’s 500 in the first quarter in 14 of the past 18 years, or 78 percent of the time. What is certain so far is that online sales for Black Friday were significantly higher than a year ago, while online shopping on Thanksgiving hit a record.

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