USA TODAY markets reporter Matt Krantz answers a different reader question every weekday. To submit a question, e-mail Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: What’s a better investment: gold or Bitcoin?
A: The U.S. dollar is the currency many like to hate, but the world can’t seem to find a better substitute.
Investors aghast at the way the Federal Reserve uses quantitative easing to stimulate the economy have long warned of the damage the moves could do to the U.S. dollar. So far, though, those fears have not materialized. But that doesn’t stop these U.S. dollar doubters from looking for something better, which they say will be outside the clutches of central banks.
Remember the goal of currency is to be fairly stable. Stability makes a currency a store of value, which is important for savers and investors. Gold was the asset of choice of these investors in 2013, but that bet turned into a bust and much worse than the dollar. The price of the SPDR Gold Sha res, which is pegged to the price of gold, fell a crushing 28% in 2013. That’s hardly the kind of performance people scrambling for safety are looking for.
Top Penny Companies To Watch For 2015: RAIT Financial Trust(RAS)
RAIT Financial Trust operates as a self-managed and self-advised real estate investment trust (REIT). The company, through its subsidiaries, invests in, manages, and services real estate-related assets with a focus on commercial real estate. It also offers a set of debt financing options to the commercial real estate industry along with fixed income trading and advisory services. In addition, RAIT Financial Trust owns and manages a portfolio of commercial real estate properties, and manages real estate-related assets for third parties. The company qualifies as a REIT for federal income tax purposes. As a REIT, it would not be subject to federal income tax to the extent that it distributes at least 90% of its taxable income to its shareholders. RAIT Investment Trust was founded in 1997 and is based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- [By Marc Bastow]
Commercial real-estate loan originator and real estate investment trust RAIT Financial Trust (RAS) raised its quarterly dividend 6% to 17 cents per share, payable April 30 to shareholders of record as of April 4. At more than an 8% yield, RAS stock has the highest yield on this week’s list of dividend stocks.
RAS Dividend Yield: 8.14%.
- [By Marc Bastow]
Commercial real estate holding real estate investment trust (REIT) RAIT Financial (RAS) raised its quarterly dividend 7% to 16 cents per share, payable on Jan. 31 to share holders of record as of Jan. 7.
RAS Dividend Yield: 7.48%
- [By Eric Volkman]
RAIT Financial Trust (NYSE: RAS ) investors will be getting slightly more than they did last quarter, as a reward for putting their faith in the company (NYSE: RAS ) . The real estate investment trust has declared a common stock dividend of $0.13 per share, to be handed out on July 31 to shareholders of record as of July 12. That amount is $0.01, or 8%, higher than RAIT’s previous distribution of $0.12, which was paid in April. Prior to that, the firm dispensed $0.10 per share.
Top Penny Companies To Watch For 2015: HopFed Bancorp Inc.(HFBC)
HopFed Bancorp, Inc. operates as the holding company for Heritage Bank that provides various banking products and services primarily in western Kentucky, and middle and western Tennessee. The company offers a range of deposit products, including demand deposits, time deposits, money market accounts, passbook savings accounts, individual retirement accounts, and certificates of deposit. Its loan portfolio comprises one-to-four family residential loans, multifamily residential loans, construction loans, nonresidential loans, commercial real estate loans, and land and land development loans, as well as loans secured by deposits, other consumer loans, and commercial loans. The company, through its subsidiary, Fall and Fall Insurance Agency, sells life and casualty insurance products to individuals and businesses. HopFed Bancorp offers its products and services through its branch offices located in Hopkinsville, Murray, Cadiz, Elkton, Fulton, Calvert City, and Benton, Kentucky; and in Clarksville, Pleasant View, Ashland City, Kingston Springs, and Erin, Tennessee. The company was founded in 1879 and is headquartered in Hopkinsville, Kentucky.
- [By Louis Navellier]
HopFed Bancorp (HFBC), at $85 million in market cap, operates 18 branches in middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky and can be thought of as poster child for what is going on in the small banking sector. An activist investor took a stake in the bank and opposed an ill-advised acquisition. Instead, he suggested HopFed management get its own house in order. Management went along and canceled the deal, instituted a stock buyback plan and doubled the dividend. HFBC was upgraded to an “A” back in May and still is a “strong buy” right now.
Top Penny Companies To Watch For 2015: CSP Inc.(CSPI)
CSP Inc. engages in the development and marketing of information technology (IT) integration solutions and high-performance cluster computer systems to industrial, commercial, and defense customers worldwide. The company operates in two segments: Systems, and Service and System Integration. The Systems segment designs and manufactures specialty, high-performance computer signal processing systems for the aerospace and defense markets. These systems are used on land, and in airborne and shipboard platforms for high-speed digital signal processing in radar, sonar, and surveillance applications. The Service and System Integration segment consists of the computer maintenance and integration services, and third-party computer hardware and software value added reseller businesses. It also provides professional IT consulting services, including maintenance and technical support; implementation, integration, configuration, and installation services; enterprise security intrusion p revention, network access control, and unified threat management services; IT security compliance services; custom software applications and solutions development and support; and monitoring, reporting, and management of alerts for the resolution and preventive general IT and IT security support tasks. This segment offers its solutions and services for IT environments, including storage and servers, unified communications solutions, IT security solutions, and consulting services. The company markets its products and services through direct sales force, distributors, and resellers. CSP Inc. was founded in 1968 and is headquartered in Billerica, Massachusetts.
- [By Laura Brodbeck]
Earnings Expected From: Jabil Circuit, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSPI), Verifone Systems, Inc. (NYSE: PAY) Economic Releases Expected: Japanese trade balance, New Zealand current account, US current account, US CPI
Top Penny Companies To Watch For 2015: ENSCO plc(ESV)
Ensco plc, together with its subsidiaries, provides offshore contract drilling services to the oil and gas industry. The company engages in the drilling of offshore oil and natural gas wells by providing its drilling rigs and crews under contracts with international, government-owned, and independent oil and gas companies. As of February 15, 2010, it owned and operated 42 jackup rigs, 4 ultra-deepwater semisubmersible rigs, and 1 barge rig. The company also has 4 ultra-deepwater semisubmersible rigs under construction. It operates in Asia, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Africa, and North and South America. The company was formerly known as Ensco International plc and changed its name to Ensco plc in March 2010. Ensco plc was founded in 1975 and is based in London, the United Kingdom.
- [By Ben Levisohn]
Noble (NE), Transocean (RIG), Ensco (ESV), and Diamond Offshore (DO) are asking themselves that question. While Transocean has 8 floaters stacked, they have not stacked a rig in over a year (sort of) – that may soon change. More recently both Diamond Offshore (Q3) and Ensco (Q2) have taken write downs and starting the stacking/scrapping process.
- [By Ben Levisohn]
Yes, it’s true. With offshore drillers like Noble (NE) Rowan (RDC) and Ensco (ESV) all down more than 20% this year, Societe General now have “neutral” stance on the group. The bank cut its ratings on Noble, Ensco and Rowan, as well.
- [By Ben Levisohn]
After sinking yesterday, offshore drilling stocks are sliding once again after fleet-status reports from Diamond Offshore (DO) and Ensco (ESV) confirmed that the rig market is still a mess.
- [By Teresa Rivas]
However a Deutsche downgrade hurt offshore drillers including Transocean (RIG), Diamond Offshore (DO) and Ensco International (ESV). Elsewhere, Michael Kors’ (KORS) first quarter didn’t live up to investors’ high expectations while McDonald’s (MCD) managed to come back from earlier losses related to the impact of the tainted meat scandal in China.
Top Penny Companies To Watch For 2015: LSI Industries Inc.(LYTS)
LSI Industries Inc. provides corporate visual image solutions primarily in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Latin America. It operates in three segments: Lighting, Graphics, and Technology. The Lighting segment manufactures and markets outdoor and indoor lighting, canopy lighting, landscape lighting, light emitting diodes (LED) lighting, light poles, and photometric layouts products, as well as lighting analysis services. The Graphics segment manufactures and sells exterior and interior visual image elements for use in visual image programs. It offers signage and canopy graphics; pump dispenser graphics; building fascia graphics; decals; interior signage and marketing graphics; aisle markers; wall mural graphics; fleet graphics; prototype program graphics; and solid state LED video screens for the sports and advertising markets, as well as installation services for graphics products. The Technology segment designs, produces, and supports light engines and large fo rmat video screens using LED technology; and specialty LED lighting. Additionally, the company offers menu board systems. It serves commercial, industrial, and multi-site retail markets; petroleum/convenience stores; sports and advertising; and entertainment markets. The company sells its products through regional sales managers, independent sales representatives, and distributors. LSI Industries was founded in 1976 and is headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- [By Dan Caplinger]
In Daktronics’ report, be sure to look at how the company compares to results that industrial-lighting and display competitor LSI Industries (NASDAQ: LYTS ) announced late last month. Even with a 5% gain in revenue for its March quarter, LSI posted a loss, showing the difficulty in producing high-margin business in the industry. For its part, if Daktronics can keep pushing past its operational challenges, it should be in better position to stay profitable both this quarter and well into the future.
Top Penny Companies To Watch For 2015: Cedar Shopping Centers Inc (CDR)
Cedar Shopping Centers, Inc., real estate investment trust, engages in the ownership, operation, development and redevelopment of supermarket-anchored community shopping centers and drug store-anchored convenience centers in the United States. As of December 31, 2007, it owned 118 properties, aggregating approximately 12.0 million square feet of gross leasable area primarily in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia, Ohio, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, Michigan, and New York. Cedar Shopping has elected to be treated as a REIT for federal income tax purposes and would not be subject to federal income tax, if it distributes at least 90% of its REIT taxable income to its stockholders. The company was founded in 1984 and is based in Port Washington, New York.
- [By Bill Smith]
Lastly, because of the negative perception the entire industry has received, prices in this sector have been absolutely pummeled. ESI now trades at the lower end of all of its historical valuation bands: P/E, P/B, and P/S.
Guru ownership and avg price: ESI owned by Hussman ($76.15), Weitz ($75.32), and Greenblatt ($73.29)Over 35% of shares are short, potential short squeezeStock buyback plan: ESI reduced outstanding shares by 19% yoy at the end of the 4th quarter. They repurchased 370K shares in 3Q11.The business model is scalable; the incremental cost to educate each additional student is low, leading to high marginsESI acquired Daniel Webster College, giving them a regional accreditation which they can use to broaden their reach in online classes
High costs of education, in general, rightly or wrongly attract government intervention and could squeeze margins over time. Total student debt surpassed credit card bal ances, and sits at $1 Trillion as of the end of 2011.Subject to compliance with Dept of Education’s 90/10 rules, which states a college can’t collect more than 90% of revenue from students participating in federal loan programs.Cohort Default Rate (CDR): for-profit colleges must monitor the federal loan default rates of students who graduate or leave the school. If a school’s CDR exceeds 25% for 3 consecutive years, or 40% in any one year, its students won’t be eligible for federal financial aid.ESI competes on quality of product which is measured by graduation rates and ability to secure employment. For 2010, 70% of ESI graduates got employment in positions using skills taught in their program of study within 1 year. As of Oct 2011, this rate was 600 bp higher. The average annual salary reported by employed 2011 grads was $32K, compared to $32.4K for 2010 grads.With an improving economy, there’s a potential ESI would see declining new student enrollmentsOver 35% of shares a re short