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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

CNBC's Million Dollar Portfolio Trivia Answers

The CNBC $1M Portfolio Challenge runs from May 12, 2008 to July 18, 2008. Contestants will have the opportunity to earn extra money for their portfolio by answering "Bonus Bucks Trivia Answers." Daily answers to the trivia questions will be posted when available at

Important Links:

  • Million Dollar Portfolio Challenge Home Page

  • Portfolios: Create New and Manage

  • Prizes
    Wk1 World Series Tickets
    Wk2 The Cloister at Sea Island Weekend Getaway
    Week 3 Sony Style HD Home Entertainment Makeover
    Week 4 Blue Star Jets - Jamaica Getaway
    Week 5 Set of two TAG Heuer Timepieces
    Week 6:



  • Rules: " The Contest is a simulated stock and currency trading game that provides Participants with up to five fictional trading accounts (“Portfolios”), one million (1,000,000) fictional dollars (“CNBC Bucks”) per Portfolio, and the fictional ability to trade individual stocks on the NYSE, NASDAQ and/or AMEX exchanges and certain currency pairs. Participants can compete in the Contest by creating up to five separate Portfolios to compete against all other Portfolios. At the conclusion of each trading week of the Contest, the Participant with the individual Portfolio with the highest percentage gain in its aggregate value during such week will be declared the potential prize winner for such week and such Participant may be announced (where permitted by law) on CNBC television and/or CNBC.com (such prizes, collectively, the “Weekly Prizes”). Additional weekly prizes will also be awarded as described in detail in Rule 16 below. At the end of the Contest Term, each of the six (6) eligible Participants with one of the individual Portfolios that has the highest total Portfolio value at the conclusion of the Contest will be declared a potential winner of the overall Contest and will be awarded a Prize described in Rule 16 below (the “Overall Prizes”)." More CNBC Portfolio Challenge Official Rules

This video explains how it works including how you can make an extra $12,000 each day answering trivia questions on the web site.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bill Mathews on QPC Lasers Inc (QPCI)

What does Bill Mathews see in QPC (QPCI) lasers? I recently received in the US mail a 20 page color advertisement for a $149 a year newsletter from Bill Mathews. The majority of the advertisement for the newsletter talks about QPC Laser, Inc. his "#1 Technology Stock for 2008."

Click chart courtesy of Stockcharts.com to view it full sized

I sell a newsletter (Kirk Lindstrom's Investment Newsletter) and would never want to stake my reputation on a single penny stock that had been in a long term down-trend. Also, I have never been paid by anyone to give away my top stock pick for free (without subscribing) so I was quite interested to see why a competitor would do this at what must have been a very high price for the mailing.

At today's price of $0.84, QPCI is up significanty from the listed date of the profile in the mailing.

The 20 page "advertisement" gives the following information for QPC:

  • Current Price (as of 3/14/08) $0.54
  • Low Projection $1.50
  • High Projection $2.50

I got the advertisement last week or "in early April."

You can see on the graph that QPC was already up about 50% since the advertised "recommendation" at $0.54. This sort of momentum often attracts more buyers. For penny stocks, often someone pays to pump a low priced stock at a low price so the "pumpers" can dump their shares into the buying frenzy. I am NOT saying this is the case here, but I would want to know more before buying any shares.

If this stock is his top technology stock for 2008, then why is Bill Mathewes giving the pick away for free before you pay him for a subscription? Reading the "disclaimer in fine print" on page 17 of this 20 page advertisement, I found the following:

Disclaimer: The CHEAP Investor (Bill Mathews' newsletter) is an independent paid circulation newsletter. This mailing piece is a solicitation for subscriptions. This company was chosen to be profiled after The CHEAP Investor completed due diligence on the company. The CHEAP Investor received twenty thousand dollars ($20,000) as an editorial fee and expects to generate new subscriber revenue, the amount of which is unknown at this time. CDMG, the marketing vendor, participated in writing and publishing this report. QPCI, the issuer, paid $559,434.97 to the marketing vendor, to pay for all the costs of creating and distributing this report including printing and postage in an effort to create awareness about this company.
This is not a typo. The mailed advertisement says QPCI paid $559,434.97, over half a million dollars, to the marketing vendor to "market" the stock!

I also found this online at one of the links given in the mailing:

Disclaimer: The CHEAP Investor (Bill Mathews' newsletter) is an independent paid circulation newsletter. This online report is a solicitation for subscriptions. This company was chosen to be profiled after The CHEAP Investor completed due diligence on the company. The CHEAP Investor received twenty thousand dollars as an editorial fee and expects to generate new subscriber revenue, the amount of which is unknown at this time. CDMG, the marketing vendor, participated in writing and publishing this report. QPCI, the issuer, paid thirteen thousand, eight hundred dollars to the marketing vendor, to pay for all the costs of creating and distributing this report online in an effort to create awareness about this company. The marketing vendor holds no securities of the company, and intends to not acquire any securities of the company. This publication does not provide an analysis of a company’s financial position. QPCI’s financial position and all other information regarding QPCI should be verified with the company. Information about many publicly traded companies and other investor resources can be found at the Securities and Exchange Commission’s website at www.sec.gov. This online report should not be construed as investment advice. Investing in securities is speculative and carries risk. It is recommended that any investment in any security should be made only after consulting with your investment advisor and only after reviewing all publicly available information, including the financial statements of the company. This online report is not intended to be, nor should it be construed as, an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy securities. The CHEAP Investor presents information in this report believed to be reliable, but its accuracy cannot be guaranteed.
How many subscriptions at $149 will Bill Mathews have to sell to equal what he was paid to profile QPC?
  • $20,000 fee / $149 per new subscription
  • 134

According to Yahoo! Finance, QPC Lasers, Inc. has the following fundamentals at $0.84 per share:

  • Market Cap $32.5M
  • EPS -$0.251
    It lost 25¢ a share in the last year.
  • Revenue $9.93M
  • Debt $12.1M
  • Book Value -$0.261

Major Holders according to Yahoo! Finance

  • UNGAR JEFFREY 3,832,060 as of 18-Sep-07
  • FINISAR CORP 3,784,778 shares as of 10-Mar-08

At first glance, you might think Finisar (FNSR) being an owner is good for the stock, but perhaps Finisar got in at the ground floor before the company went public at pennies per share. If you check the list of insider selling for QPC Lasers, Inc. you quickly find that Finisar has been selling shares over the last year between $0.41 and $1.25 per share with the most recent sale of nearly 2M shares at $0.41 per share.


If one of the leading fiber optics companies and the number two shareholder has sold a significant number of shares and QPC Lasers felt a good use of $559,434.97 was to market the company rather than hire some engineers, then I would not be a buyer of QPCI here at $0.84 unless you use a very tight stop loss and be very wary of a possible "pump and dump" scheme.

Often small companis will pay 6% or more to investment banks to raise capital through a special offering of new shares but I did not find any press releases about this.

The chart looks like it may have bottomed and there are many postive press releases that announce new patents and new hires, but it seems rather odd to spend so much money to "market a stock."

Disclaimer. I personally own and recommended Finisar in "Kirk Lindstrom's Investment Newsletter" where I buy and sell it around a core position

Friday, April 11, 2008

GE Misses and Consumer Confidence at 26-Year Low

General Electric Company (GE Charts) and The University of Michigan's consumer sentiment index woke the markets with a shocking one-two punch this morning. GE's stock fell over 11% in the first hour of trading while consumer confidence fell to the lowest level since March 1982!

GE shocked the market by missing its earnings estimate in a big way this AM (Press Release).

  • GE revenue was up 8% to $42.24 billion from $39.20 billion, with global revenue up 22%

  • Net income fell 6% to $4.3 billion, or 43¢ per share, from $4.57 billion, or 44¢ per share, a year ago. Analysts had expected 51¢ a share and GE had forecast profit of 50 to 53¢ per share.

  • GE lowered earnings per share guidance for all of 2008 to $2.20 - 2.30, up 0 to 5% over 2007. Analysts were expecting GE would earn $2.43 for all of 2008.

Click graph courtesy of Bigcharts.com to view full sized

Jeff Immelt in the earnings conference call said:

  • “Our primary shortfall was a decline in financial services earnings. We knew the first quarter was going to be challenging, but the extraordinary disruption in the capital markets in March affected our ability to complete asset sales and resulted in higher mark-to-market losses and impairments."

  • "We are lowering our full-year EPS guidance to $2.20-2.30 from continuing operations reflecting growth of 0-5%. As a part of this guidance, we expect our industrial earnings to grow 10-15% and financial services earnings to decline 5-10%... Consistent with this range, our second quarter 2008 guidance is $.53-.55 EPS.”

Prior to today, GE was known for meeting its estimates every quarter.

Good news was total orders rose 8% in the period and that major equipment backlog jumped 41%, so it's not as if business just ground to a halt. Business outside the US was growing strong but that could slow if the recession in the US spreads to other economies.

Click graph courtesy of Stockcharts.com to view full sized

The University of Michigan's U.S. consumer sentiment index fell to 63.2 in April from 69.5 March. This is the lowest level since March 1982.

Click graph courtesy of Martin Capital to view full sized


In January we published "ECRI Says There Is A Window of Opportunity for the US Economy" where readers were asked to envision the economy as a large Roman stone column that had just started to topple. ECRI postulated that "prompt stimulus to boost consumer spending" could prevent the column from tipping over into a recession. With today's news from GE and the University of Michigan, we've heard two loud THUDS as two columns hit the dust.

Disclaimer. I personally own and recommended GE in "Kirk Lindstrom's Investment Newsletter" where I may buy and sell around a core position.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Antigenics Oncophage Cancer Treatment Approved in Russia

Today Antigenics Inc. (NASDAQ: AGEN ) announced that the Russian Ministry of Public Health has issued a registration certificate for the use of Oncophage® (vitespen) in the treatment of kidney cancer patients at intermediate risk for disease recurrence. Antigenics expects to launch Oncophage in Russia in the second half of 2008.

Click chart courtesy of stockcharts.com to view full sized


Oncophage is a personalized vaccine made from cells taken from a patient's malignant cancer tumor. It contains the "antigenic fingerprint" of the patient's particular cancer and is designed to reprogram the body's immune system to target only cancer cells bearing this fingerprint.

“The registration of Oncophage in Russia represents an important treatment advancement for patients with intermediate-risk kidney cancer,” said Garo H. Armen, PhD, chairman and CEO of Antigenics. “We are very pleased that Oncophage is the first personalized cancer vaccine that will be available in any major country. Additionally we hope to file for the conditional approval of Oncophage in Europe this year.”

To comply with US regulations for exporting biologics, Antigenics applied for an export license from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The company expects the FDA to take action on the license application within approximately 60 days of submission.

Click chart courtesy of stockcharts.com to view full sized

Last year I reported (Insider Buying at AGEN by Chairman and CEO Garo H. Armen) insiders bought AGEN at $1.93 a share in February 2007 . I also disclosed I owned AGEN in my personal portfolio and I bought 1,000 shares on the Feb 9, 2007 news.

The stock rallied soon after to over $5 a share then returned to the area of our purchase at $1.95 in late 2007 before the latest news has it jumping again.

About today's news, CNBC's Mike Huckman reported:

  • ... a test showed that a subset of patients on Oncophage lived 1.7 years longer without the cancer coming back. But because the clinical trial didn't meet its main goal and the aforementioned benefit was only discovered in a re-analysis of the data, the drug didn't pass muster with the Food and Drug Administration.
  • The agency wanted AGEN to do a bigger, longer and expensive study. But like most baby biotechs, Antigenics didn't have that kind of cash. So, the company turned to Russia where it had enrolled 125 patients in the same clinical trial. And after a 10-month process, AGEN won approval of the drug there making Russia the first country in the world to allow a therapeutic cancer vaccine onto the market.
  • The lead clinical trial investigator, Dr. Christopher Wood at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, says the company has given him verbal assurances that it will use the Russian revenue to pay for another study here that might eventually satisfy the FDA. Dr. Wood, an associate professor of urology and cancer biology, says he doesn't own AGEN stock--he just consults for Antigenics and ran the clinical trial.
  • Over the phone he told me, "Absolutely no question about it (that the drug works). I've looked at the data," he said, "and there's clear activity in the intermediate risk subgroup."

I like the idea of a cancer vaccine treatment that targets the cancer cells while leaving the rest of the body alone. If this treatment works for one cancer, then in theory it should work for other cancers. I saw Dr. Dean Edell do a story on KGO TV7 about a patient with deadly brain cancer who was given an experimental drug therapy that was keeping her alive long past her "due date." The drug mentioned on the news story was "Oncophage."

Antigenics Inc. is one of those stocks I like to have some shares in my portfolio for the very long term with the hope it is successful for more than just a financial reward.

More AGEN Charts

Discuss and ask questions about this article in our Biotechnology Stocks forum at facebook's "Investing for the long term" group.

Disclaimers:

  • I still own AGEN in my personal portfolio including the 1,000 shares purchased on the Feb 9, 2007 news.
  • I may trade the ups and downs of AGEN in either or both my personal and my newsletter explore portfolios without announcing it here or anywhere else unless I add it to my newsletter explore portfolio where I will announce trades to subscribers via email.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mark Hulbert Rating: Bob Brinker's Marketimer Newsletter

In the March 2008 issue of "The Hulbert Financial Digest" newsletter tracker Mark Hulbert says Bob Brinker's best performing portfolio (Model Portfolio #1 for aggressive investors) under performs buy and hold before you account for Bob Brinker's October 2000 QQQ advice.
"Brinker’s fund selections on average have lagged the market. The HFD reports an 11.5% annualized gain for his “Aggressive” portfolio, which is 0.9 percentage points per year less than what this portfolio would have made if each of its funds were invested in the DJ Wilshire 5000 during the times they were owned.

Footnote #9: "Please note: In late 2000, Brinker forecasted a several-month bear market rally and recommended an investment in the NASDAQ 100 Index—a trade that turned out quite unprofitably. However, because Brinker at the time of making this forecast chose not to make this trade part of his model portfolios, his HFD record has not suffered as a result."

__ March 2008 by Mark Hulbert on Pg 3 of the March 2008 issue of "The Hulbert Financial Digest"
Add Bob Brinker’s QQQ trade and anyone who followed Brinker's QQQ advice for aggressive investors lost another 30% from his portfolio!

See
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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Best HDTV: Comcast, Dish, DirecTV or Verizon FiOS

Who has the best HDTV service? The major choices are Comcast, Dish, DirecTV and Verizon FiOS. Recently Comcast increased the compression of their HDTV in order to fit more channels into a fixed frequency space. A "special member" of the AVS forum wrote a report that qualitativiely and quantitatively look at the difference. The results add to the problems at Comcast that include they limit some users bandwidth who download too many movies.

Read "Shopping for HDTV" and "Best HDTV Sets - LCD"

Yesterday in our facebook HDTV forum in the "Investing for the Long Term" group, Larry C. posted the following:
"Comcast, like every video distributor, compresses its digital video signals. But to fit in more HDTV channels, Comcast is squeezing some signals more than others. The cable operator claims it is using improved compression techniques, so that most subscribers won't see any drop-off in picture quality. But A/V buff Ken Fowler claims the differences between some of Comcast's more highly compressed channels and Verizon's FiOS TV are indeed noticeable. He's posted his comparative test results on AVSForum.com — and the results are not pretty."

Check out the screen comparisons at the link below. It shows all HDTV signals are not created equal. And if you get your HDTV from Comcast, you can save some money by not buying a higher resolution HDTV. Looks like the only way to get REAL high res HDTV is to go Blu-Ray and watch it from disc.

Link to Story

Bitrates

Average bitrates were obtained by comparing the size of each recording, in total bytes, and dividing by the total number of seconds reported by VideoRedo. Multiplied by 8 to convert MBps to Mbps.

Average Bitrates on FiOS v. Comcast

FiOS Comcast Difference



AETV HD 18.66 Mbps 14.48 Mbps -28.9%

Discovery HD 14.16 Mbps 10.43 Mbps -35.8%

Discovery HD Theater 17.45 Mbps 12.60 Mbps -38.5%

Food Network HD 14.32 Mbps 13.73 Mbps -4.3%

MHD 17.73 Mbps 13.21 Mbps -34.2%

National Geographic HD 11.39 Mbps 10.32 Mbps -10.3%

Universal HD 12.72 Mbps 11.01 Mbps -15.5%



HBO HD 8.87 Mbps 8.81 Mbps -0.7%

Cinemax HD 11.40 Mbps 10.77 Mbps -5.8%

Starz HD 11.93 Mbps 9.76 Mbps -22.2%



History HD 10.40 Mbps

SciFi HD 12.59 Mbps

USA HD 12.48 Mbps

The difference in the images seen on my 1920 x1200 PC monitor are striking. Here are his summary comments.
It is obvious that the quality of the source signal plays a significant role in amount of degradation seen with Comcast's newly added compression. Sources like Discovery Channel (not Discovery Theater) and Universal HD are highly compressed to start with, and adding extra compression on top of that causes the picture to deteriorate rapidly with excessive noise and detail loss. In contrast, higher-quality sources like Discovery Theater still look very good, with the only obvious differences being some added noise and some minor loss of fine detail during motion.

For the most part, fine detail remains very good on static (non-moving) images with Comcast's added compression, but you do see reduced contrast, with more dithering artifacts (banding) between colors and objects. With some channels, it looks a bit like Comcast is taking a 24-bit image and reducing it to 18-20 bit. This tends to reduce the 'pop' effect in some images. The difference in 'pop' was quite noticeable on Food HD, despite the relatively small bitrate reduction.

The greatest differences are seen with movement. With slow movement on Comcast, the first thing you notice is added noise and a softer image, as fine detail is filtered from the picture signal. The greater the rate of movement, the more detail you lose and the more noise you see. With intense movement, you see more blocking and skipped frames. In VideoRedo, I noticed that a number of frames in the FiOS signal simply did not exist in the Comcast signal during motion intensive scenes. This may be responsible for the stutter and excessive motion blur seen with some video sequences on Comcast.

To Comcast's credit, I saw little to no difference on movie channels such as HBO, Cinemax, and Starz. I did see some blurring and reduced detail during fast movement on Starz, but the recordings from Cinemax and HBO were virtually identical, even on action movies such as 300 and Gladiator. When there was blocking on the Comcast feed of Cinemax, that blocking was also on the FiOS feed.

From what I've read, the best broadcast HDTV seems to be over the air broadcast TV from my local stations.

My own experiments:

Equipment:

I've compared pictures of those side by side with images from DISH local stations and have not detected any differences. I did the comparison with standard RGB cables using the DISH VIP722 DVR with an external antenna connected that allows easy comparison. I plan to repeat the experiment with HDMI cables to see if that makes any difference.

Read:


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