Disney, Netflix, Palo Alto Lead Week’s Insider Trades

In the days leading up to Christmas, top execs from Walt Disney (NYSE:DIS), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Skyworks Solutions (NASDAQ:SWKS), Palo Alto Networks (NYSE:PANW), Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) and Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) made notable trades.

Delta Air Lines CFO Paul Jacobson on Thursday filed a form with the SEC disclosing the sale of 7,000 shares for $362,180 after disclosing on Tuesday the sale of 10,000 shares for $510,220. Shares rose 4.6% this week, ending Thursday at a 15-year closing high. Following the airline carrier’s investor day presentation last week, several analysts bumped up their price targets after management guided for a smaller drop in Q4 passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) than previously expected.

Netflix Chairman and CEO Reed Hastings filed on Tuesday to disclose the sale of 86,037 shares of the online streaming company, worth $10.08 million. Shares fell 0.6% to 117.33 for the week. Guggenheim Securities, which has a 160 price target and buy rating on the stock, said that the company has created a “virtuous cycle” with original content and market expansion.

Walt Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger

Skyworks Solutions President Liam Griffin disclosed on Wednesday that he has sold 5,000 shares for $388,818. Skyworks CEO David Aldrich disclosed earlier in the month the sale of 18,000 shares and has sold about 5,000 shares a week for the last few months. Shares rose 3.9% for the week.

Palo Alto Networks CFO Steffan Tomlinson sold 58,595 shares for a total of $10.55 million, which he disclosed via a Wednesday filing. The company trounced quarterly earnings estimates in November. Shares fell 2.3% this week.

Walt Disney CEO and Chairman Robert Iger acquired 11,960 shares of the media conglomerate, according to a Wednesday filing. CFO Christine McCarthy, COO Thomas Staggs and several other top execs also bought shares recently. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which premiered to much fanfare,decimated opening-weekend box-office records, bringing in over half a billion dollars globally. But shares slid 1.7% this week, which would be its fifth straight weekly decline.

Oracle Director George Conrades filed on Tuesday over the sale of 78,750 shares for $2.9 million. Shares are up 1.8% for the week.

Insider transactions don’t typically have a major impact on a stock or indicate major pending news. Rapid liquidation of all or most of an insider’s holdings, however, can affect a stock.

AT&T License Renewal Sets Up Rovi For Comcast, Dish

Rovi (NASDAQ:ROVI) stock rose for the second day as Cowen & Co. upgraded the digital entertainment company following its set-top box license renewal with AT&T (NYSE:T).

AT&T, which acquired satellite TV broadcaster DirecTV Group in July, on Wednesday announced a seven-year license renewal for Rovi’s interactive program guide technology.

The AT&T renewal bodes well for upcoming negotiations with Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH), said Michael Olson, a Piper Jaffray analyst, in a research report.

Rovi stock was up nearly 3.5% in morning trading in the stock market today. The stock popped 29% Wednesday and peaked that day up 41% at 16, a more than five-month high.

After Rovi lost a patent dispute with Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) on July 15, Rovi stock plunged 20%. The company’s licensing outlook, however, has firmed up, says Robert Stone, an analyst at Cowen, who upped his price target to 25 from 11 on Thursday.

“We believe the seven-year intellectual property license with AT&T greatly reduces uncertainty about remaining renewals,” Stone said in a research report. “The fixed annual fee starts in 2016 at an amount in line with the combined revenue from AT&T and DirecTV in 2015, and increases in subsequent years to adjust for inflation.

“We assume a 1% annual increase, and because we expect subscribers to decline via cord cutting, this arrangement looks to us like a better long-term deal for Rovi than a per-sub license.”

At Piper Jaffray, Olson also is upbeat.

“Rovi’s announcement of a seven-year renewal with AT&T/DTV is a significant win ahead of deals with both Comcast and Dish Network ending in the next several months,” he wrote. “We think this deal provides evidence of the validity of Rovi’s core IPG patents and increases our confidence in the company successfully negotiating deals with Comcast and Dish.”

Comcast, Dish, AT&T Pay-TV Hikes Coming In 2016

Cable TV, of course, did not predate Benjamin Franklin. But had technology evolved faster, the American statesman and scientist could have said only three things are for certain: death, taxes and rising monthly cable TV bills.

That’s right, cable TV bills are going up again, says a Bloomberg report, which surveyed Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) and Cablevision Systems (NYSE:CVC), as well as satellite TV broadcaster Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) and AT&T (NYSE:T).

Pay-TV companies continue to hike prices amid the rise of “cord-cutting” — disconnecting cable TV service and substituting Internet video — as well as cord-shaving, in which consumers buy smaller packages of TV shows. Rising programming costs, especially those for live sports, have been passed onto consumers.

According to Bloomberg, here’s what’s coming next year:

Time Warner Cable is raising its sports programming fee by $2.25 to $5 per month and its broadcast programming fee by $1 to $3.75.

Comcast, the biggest U.S. cable company, will increase its broadcast fee by $1.75 to $5 and its regional sports fee by $2 to $3. Overall, Comcast customers’ bills will increase on average by 3.9% in 2016.

Dish subscribers will pay $2 to $8 more per month on TV packages.

AT&T’s U-Verse customers will see a monthly increase of between $2 and $4, while satellite-TV provider DirecTV, bought by AT&T this year, will increase its monthly bill between $4 and $8.

At Cablevision, bills will go up by 2.9% on average.

Apple, GE, HP Among U.S. Firms Eyeing Iran Market

General Electric (NYSE:GE), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), HP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ), Schlumberger (NYSE:SLB) and other U.S. companies are reportedly preparing for the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran so they can enter the market of 77 million people.

Concerned they might lag Asian and European competitors in Iran, some U.S. companies plan to hit the ground running as soon as sanctions are lifted by drafting contracts and sending envoys, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Sanctions are expected to be eased in the wake of this year’s agreement between Iran, the U.S. and several other nations concerning Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran’s young, well-educated and tech-savvy consumer market is seen as potentially lucrative for Western firms.

Interested U.S. companies are dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s by consulting with officials from the State and Treasury departments to ensure talks with Tehran by their non-U.S. subsidiaries remain compliant with the law, sources told the Journal.

For example, Hewlett-Packard (Suisse) Sarl, HP’s Switzerland-based subsidiary, reportedly circulated draft agreements with Iranian distributors last month in order to resell its computer products. Non-U.S. HP distributors held meetings in Dubai and Tehran with the potential distributors.

Last year, Apple began contacting Iranian distributors about possibly entering the nation to sell iPhones, desktop computers and opening Apple stores if Western sanctions are sufficiently relaxed. But the negotiations have been slowed by Iran’s less-than-robust legal protections for intellectual property, according to the Journal.

Once sanctions are eased, Iran is also expected to attract billions of dollars worth of investment in oil and gas fields, attracting GE’s oil services unit as well as Houston-based Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company.

GE shares fell 0.4% to close at 30.83 on the stock market today, while Schlumberger slipped 0.7% to finish at 70.53, HP fell 0.2%, and Apple fell 0.5%.

Chipotle, Micron PTs Cut; Global Payments PT Hiked

Embattled restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG) had its price target slashed early Thursday, while Micron Technology (NASDAQ:MU) also got a price target cut and payment processing firm Global Payments (NYSE:GPN) had its price target raised following a major buyout announcement earlier this week.

On an abbreviated trading day on Wall Street, Telsey Advisory Group lowered its price target on Chipotle to 555 from 575 amid a series of negative incidents at the burrito chain.

On Wednesday, it was reported that a Boston Chipotle restaurant where 136 people were sickened with norovirus is being allowed to reopen.

In addition, Chipotle said it will tweak its cooking methods following an E. coli outbreak that sickened more than 50 customers across the country. Onions will now be dipped in boiling water to kill germs before they’re chopped. Also, raw chicken will be marinated in re-sealable plastic bags instead of bowls, and cilantro will be added to freshly cooked rice so the heat gets rid of microbes in the garnish.

Chipotle shares ended 0.5% lower at 495.10 on thestock market today. The stock is down by about one-third since Oct. 13.

Micron’s price target was cut to 22 from 26 at Argus. That followed several price cuts on Wednesday after Micron reported fiscal Q1 results that were below consensus and guided for a Q2 loss. Also Wednesday, a number of analysts suggested Micron could become a buyout target.

Even so, shares of Micron rose 1.3% Thursday.

Global Payments dipped 0.2% despite having its price target hiked to 66 from 58 at Topeka Capital Markets, which has a hold rating on the stock. On Tuesday, Global Payments said it would buyHeartland Payment Systems (NYSE:HPY) for $4.3 billion in a deal that would create a payment processing and technology giant serving 2.5 million merchants around the world.

Paychex (NASDAQ:PAYX) shares fell 0.2% even though its price target was raised to 59 from 56 at Argus, which maintained its buy rating on the stock.

Morgan Stanley terminated its coverage on E-Commerce China Dangdang (NYSE:DANG). The Chinese online retailer rose 1.4%.

 

5 Stocks That Have Lost More Than Half Their Value in 2015

wall street sign in new york

I recently wrote about some surprising stocks that have more than doubled so far this year, but now it’s time to check out some of the more unfortunate investments. Let’s go over some of the stocks that have lost at least half of their value in 2015 as of the Oct. 25 market close.

Lumber Liquidators (LL) — Down 78 percent

Things seemed to be humming along for the country’s largest stand-alone hardwood flooring retailer until a “60 Minutes” report called out the potentially hazardous nature of some of its laminate flooring. The scathing segment tested Lumber Liquidators’ China-sourced laminates, finding many of them to contain dangerous levels of formaldehyde.

Lumber Liquidators initially denied the claims, but ultimately decided to stop selling the flooring altogether. By then the damage was done. Sales took a dive, and they have yet to recover. This isn’t the first time that Lumber Liquidators has courted controversy, but it’s the first time that the implications have had health concerns. That’s hard to bounce back from in the near term.

Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) — Down 60 percent

The company that revolutionized the way that we consume premium coffee at home with the original Keurig single-cup brewer has been quite decaffeinated in 2015. The downfall may have started in 2012 when the patents for its K-Cup portion packs expired, but things got really bad last year when it rolled out Keurig 2.0.

Armed with a label scanner, the new brewers only work with new K-Cups. Sure, clever java junkies have circumvented the process by slapping a new label on old, reusable or third-party portion packs, but the brand has taken a hit all the same. Year-over-year sales fell for the first time in its latest quarter, and the new Keurig Kold machine that makes chilled carbonated beverages isn’t garnering rave reviews since last month’s launch.

Yelp (YELP) — Down 55 percent

The site that many foodies turn to for crowdsourced reviews has been giving investors indigestion this year. Yelp has been dogging allegations from disgruntled merchants for years that the site buries negative reviews for local businesses that pay to advertise on Yelp. It’s been a different story on the consumer end, with folks relying on the site for peer reviews of restaurants, shops, spas, and other businesses.

The rub here is that mobile growth is slowing, and desktop usage is actually declining. There are also fears that Yelp relies too heavily on Google (GOOG,GOOGL) searches for traffic, something that could prove to be a sticking point if the leading search engine decides to promote its own ratings platform.

GoPro (GPRO) — Down 54 percent

One of last year’s hottest IPOs has wiped out this year. GoPro made wearable cameras cool, but decelerating growth can’t seem to justify the lofty valuation the company had after last year’s frenzied surge. GoPro’s HERO cameras continue to sell well, but analysts see sales slowing considerably this holiday season.

Fossil (FOSL) — Down 53 percent

Folks have been predicting the death of the designer watch for years. Who needs a wrist-hugging timepiece when there’s a smartphone in the pocket? Now the death knell is all about smartwatches.

Fossil was able to defy gravity in recent years, but that hasn’t been the case in 2015. Sales have started to decline, and profitability is taking an even bigger hit. Fossil is finally starting to live up to its name.

11 Cheap and Easy Halloween Costumes to Make at Home

Girl dressed as ghostIt’s possible to create pretty much any Halloween costume by thinking outside the box (putting aside the fact that many of the ideas here start with a box). Choosing to DIY instead of buy can save money on a holiday that costs more than you might think. Each person who celebrates Halloween this year will spend an average $74.34 for decorations, costumes and candy, according to the National Retail Federation. With more than 157 million Americans expected to mark the holiday, it’s a $6.9 billion retail bonanza. At the very least, the money saved making one of these costumes at home can be put into a bigger candy budget.

Rocket kid. This Halloween costume suggested by Real Simple is made entirely from items most likely on hand. Dress in all white and use duct tape to create armbands and leg stripes. Use two Pringles cans, streamers and two party hats to create a power pack and Rocket Kid is set for takeoff.

Life-size legos. This Pinterest-inspired costume has only three components: a big box, Solo cups and paint. Start by painting the box blue or red to match the color of the cups, cut armholes and a head hole in the box, and remove the bottom to allow for legs and feet. Glue the Solo cups in place — two lines of three on the front and back, just like a Lego. For an extra touch add a hat: Paint a smaller box, cut out a hole for the head and glue two more Solo cups on top.

Hula girl. This easy and cheap Halloween costume from Real Simple uses a brown paper bag cut into strips for the skirt and different color cupcake liners strung together for a colorful lei and headband.

Animal. Pretty much any animal can be the muse for a homemade Halloween costume. Don a monochromatic sweatsuit and use felt or fabric scraps to fashion a hat or headband to be the ears. Create a tail and other fur detail with scraps of fabric and yarn.

Jellyfish. Dress in white or a light color. Glue white or light pink streamers around the bottom of a clear umbrella and cut eyes from construction paper to attach to the side. Carry the umbrella and — poof! — a jellyfish.

Game show contestant. Wear a college sweatshirt and cut off the side of a cardboard box. On the front panel, paint a scoreboard from “The Price Is Right” or another game show. Use twine to hang the panel in front of you like a podium, add a name tag and it’s done. This easy Halloween costume also can be the building block for a group Halloween costume — “Family Feud” contestants, for example.

Stick figure. Assemble an all-black outfit, including a hoodie — old clothes only. Take a can of neon spray paint and spray a stick figure onto the back of the clothing, with a circle on the hood to serve as the head. Repeat on the front and outline the hood opening for the head.

Bad yearbook picture. This Pinterest-inspired Halloween costume for women requires loading on the blush, bright blue eye shadow, ruby red lipstick, etc. Pick out a gaudy shirt and style big hair and bangs. Cut armholes near the bottom on two sides of a cardboard box and cut off the bottom. Cut out one of the remaining sides, leaving a 3-inch strip of cardboard around the edges and paint this strip to make a picture frame. Paint the inside back of the box a bright blue for the backdrop.

Grapes. This is a classic, dead simple and low-cost getup that can still go for as much as $75 in stores. Instead, start by dressing all in purple. Blow up purple balloons and attach them to the clothing to become a walking cluster of grapes. Top off the costume with a green hat.

Rock, paper, scissors. This group costume takes a bit of effort but is clever and uncomplicated. Cut a cardboard box into the shape of a rock, one side for the front and one for the back. Cut armholes into the sides and spray paint the box gray. Cut armholes in another box and paint the front and back white. Decorate the white surfaces with thin, horizontal lines and three small black circles at the left edges to replicate a piece of loose-leaf paper. Finally, take two large pieces of strong cardboard or poster board and cut them into the shape of scissors, paint them and string ribbon between the two cutouts to wear over the shoulders like a sandwich board.

Soap and loofah. For the first part of this couples’ costume, cut out holes for the arms and head from a rectangular cardboard box and remove the bottom. Paint the box white and spray paint the word “soap” on the front and back, attaching bubble wrap to the corners to look like suds. For the loofah, buy a bunch of tulle and sew it thick and bunchy onto an old dress or pants/shirt combo, preferably the same color as the tulle. Attach a loop of white rope to complete the look.

4 Money Mistakes People Often Make After a Spouse Dies

mourning woman on funeral with...
In the wake of a spouse’s death, it may seem too soon to think about how to manage your money from here on out. And you would be right.

But at some point, it’s one of those topics you need to examine carefully. If this was the love of your life, and you’re in deep grief, then you’re in a state of mind that’s prone to making financial mistakes. According to a number of financial experts, there are at least four major money missteps widowers and widows tend to make once a spouse passes on.

Shaking up your life too soon. Whatever your situation, you probably have some major decisions to make with your partner’s passing, but what seems like a logical decision today may not seem so smart tomorrow.

Give yourself some time to really think about what you’re doing, financial experts say

“Some people want to immediately pay off a mortgage and make other large changes too quickly. That can create a situation where there [are] little liquid funds available, which may be more important for the survivor,” says Rochelle Odesser, vice president of Madison Planning Group, a financial planning firm headquartered in White Plains, New York.

Myra Salzer, who owns The Wealth Conservancy, a Boulder, Colorado, wealth management and financial planning firm, agrees. “Before one has experienced a new equilibrium, decisions that are made tend to be poor ones,” she says, reeling off some of the things surviving partners may get wrong: “Widows might sell the family house for less than it’s worth, just to get rid of it, or invest IRA assets in annuities to guarantee an income, even though the IRA is already tax-advantaged and the annuity might not pay out enough for the minimum-required distributions.”

And for good measure, Roger Bell, president of Roger R. Bell & Co., a planning and investment consultancy in Pulaski, Virginia, concurs.

In that first year, he says, “too often, the surviving spouse expends large sums of money to purchase vehicles, improve their house or take extended and numerous trips.”

It’s understandable. You’re recovering from a huge loss. A positive change, likemaking home improvements or taking a trip abroad, is going to clear your head. But if you aren’t careful, it will also clear out your bank account.

This is a time, Bell says, when your “capacity to reason and think clearly is impaired.” But he adds: “In time, the surviving spouse will regain their capacity to address matters in a rational and timely manner.”

Spending too much. If your husband or wife was the one who paid the bills and made the financial decisions, you may find it empowering to be in control of the purse strings. But be careful. You may not have as much money as you think.

William Matthews, a financial counselor in Houston, says he often sees widows and widowers doling out loans and monetary gifts to family and friends.

“Stop,” he says. “You’re emotional and shouldn’t rush in to help others without thinking about it. You’re down to one income, and you need it.”

It doesn’t mean you can’t help your kids with small purchases, Matthews says, but he was struck by what he saw with the daughter of a friend. After losing her husband, the widow gave the couple’s daughter $2,000 toward a car down payment and gifted her $5,000 to go toward moving into an apartment. But she shouldn’t have parted with so much money, according to Matthews.

“She struggled to pay her bills … and almost lost her home,” he says.

Being too trusting. “The biggest mistake I have seen is being too quick to trust someone, especially in places you may typically have your guard down,” says Jeff Weeks, a certified financial planner with ATX Portfolio Advisors in Austin, Texas. “Be wary of the salesperson you know only through places like church and social clubs.”

Twice, Weeks says, he has tried to help widows who lost large portions of their nest eggs, over $100,000, “in what turned out to be Ponzi schemes. In both cases, their spouse had been the primary decision maker in financial matters and died prematurely from sudden illness.”

In each case, the widow found her financial adviser through referrals at church.

But those are extreme situations, Weeks says. “What’s much more common are predatory insurance salespeople or stockbrokers that sell expensive commission-based investments that may qualify as suitable, but that benefit the salesperson more than the client. The salespeople count on unsophisticated clients that are unlikely to read or understand the language in an insurance contract or prospectus.”

Weeks makes the observation that “con people rely on a certain level of trust.”

It’s tough, though. Wouldn’t everyone like to think that if they’re getting a referral through church, it’s as solid a referral as they come? But no — at least, you can’t make that assumption.

Switching financial advisers. Maybe this falls under the category of not being trusting enough. Quite a few financial advisers have mentioned that after a spouse dies, the surviving partner will often change financial advisers.

“A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that 70 percent of widows dismiss their adviser within a year after their spouse dies,” says Robert Johnson, president and CEO of the American College of Financial Services in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. “There can be significant costs to changing advisers both in terms of time and money. Surviving spouses should give the adviser the benefit of some time to establish a trusting relationship with them.”

Switching a financial adviser can fall into the category of making a big decision too quickly. If you haven’t been running the financial show for a while, and your financial adviser has been assisting with your finances for some time, there is a pretty good argument that switching advisers for someone who doesn’t know you and your finances well is the last thing you’d want to do in haste.

If anything, that is the money lesson to grab hold of when you’re grieving: Take your time making any decision. The status quo may not be sustainable, but it probably is for a little while longer, at least until you can think clearly. You probably feel like there’s a gaping hole in your life. Creating a gaping financial hole to go along with that is the last thing you need.

Fewer Americans Sign Contracts to Buy Homes in September

Pending Home SalesWASHINGTON — September marked a slowdown in Americans signing contracts to buy homes, the second consecutive decline for a real estate market that has been rebounding for the first half of 2015.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that its seasonally adjusted pending home sales index dropped 2.3 percent to 106.8 last month. The index has risen 3 percent over the past 12 months, aided by solid hiring levels and low mortgage rates that fueled stronger demand during the traditional summer buying season.

But evidence of fading momentum has surfaced in recent months. Sales of newly built homes fell 11.5 percent last month, as choppy financial markets and rising home prices are creating affordability pressures for would-be buyers. The strong demand for housing due to stronger job market — with unemployment at a robust 5.1 percent — has failed to produce an influx of new listings that could help sales.

Pending sales are a barometer of future purchases. A lag of a month or two usually exists between a contract and a completed sale. Signed contracts fell in the Northeast, Midwest and South last month, while slipping slightly in the West.

Over the past 12 months, sales of existing homes have risen 8.8 percent over the past 12 months. But the inventory on the market has dropped 3.1 percent, the Realtors said last week.

A mere 4.8 months’ supply of homes is available for would-be buyers, substantially below the 6 months associated with a healthy market.

The tight inventories have pushed up home values. The median home sales price was $221,900 in September, a 6.1 percent annual increase.

But historically low borrowing costs have offset the impact of rising prices.

The average fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage this week was 3.76 percent, down from 3.98 percent a year ago, according to the mortgage firm Freddie Mac.