Monday, February 15, 2010

Bankers in Toy Land: Mattel & Hasbro

There will always be children expecting Santa Claus to stuff their stockings with the latest and greatest toys. Christmas 2010 seems like a long way off, but investors in those toys that will make their way from Santa's sack or the nearest Target are already full of good cheer.

Mattel and Hasbro have continued to fair relatively well despite the current economic conditions. Mattell is up 5% this year, and its rival stock, Hasbro, is up 12% this year. It gets better for other toy companies. Take Leapfrog for instance; its up 20% this year. This week also happens to be when the American International Toy Fair will take place. It all goes down in New York, and Wall Street should expect to see the value of toy companies continue to rise.

Will the good news last? Hasbro CEO, Brian Goldner, expects Hasbro to continue to do well. Hasbro will be making toys to go along with some popular movies soon to hit theaters. When "Transformers 2" came out last summer, Hasbro earnings 77% because the transformers toys were so popular. Mattel has been increasing its Barbie line, and Hot Wheels continues to be a top seller. Interestingly, Hasbro, though, has been focusing on its male audience, while Mattel has been focusing on its female audience. However, if the recent strength of the dollar continues, then these two companies may see their stocks slip.

Hasbro increased its dividend. Both stocks are trading near their 52 week highs; it's a little hard to say if you should follow the advice of your 4-year-old and buy these toys. Then again, you never know, Barbie might just be the bullish girl your portfolio always needed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah: The Fine Youngsters from Liverpool

46 years ago today the Beatles made their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. February 9, 1964, just months after President Kennedy's assassination, Liverpool's mop-tops became the new idols of America's youth. Hundreds of teenage girls swarmed around the entrance of Hammerstein Theater, while 70 police officers tried to hold them back. It was on this day, 46 years ago, that American girls learned just how loud they could scream.

The Beatles performed "She Loves You" and "All My Loving." Over 70 million viewers tuned in to watch the Beatles make their debut. Teenagers loved the Beatles, and their mothers and fathers told their kids, "you love the Beatles; yeah, yeah, yeah." If you were over 30, then you dismissed the Beatles as a novelty act. The musical director for the Ed Sullivan Show, Ray Block, even commented that he'd only "give [the Beatles] a year."

Years later, we're still talking about the Beatles. Paul and Ringo are still going strong. John and George are still thought of with respect. "Across the Universe" is a recent film that remembers the music of America's favorite boys from Liverpool. There is a rumor out that Paul, Ringo, and Bob Dylan will be collaborating on a project this year. Ringo turns 70 on July 7. He wants everyone at noon on July 7 to make the peace sign gesture and say "peace and love." All Ringo is saying is give peace a chance.

It's the beginning of 2010, and it's been a hard day's night or really just a hard 2009. Yet here we are still holding hands with the Beatles, and hoping we can work it out in 2010...with a little help from our friends.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shooting Hoops with the Dalai Lama: Obama Plans Visit with Tibetan Spiritual Leader

The Chinese sent Mr. Obama a fortune cookie with a warning. Actually, forget the fortune cookie, but our dear red friends did offer up this warning to President Obama: don't meet with the Dalai Lama; you will harm bilateral ties; your lucky numbers are 7 9 27 2. Obama met with Chinese leaders last year and said he'd meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader, and he's not backing down from his statement. The Dalai Lama, however, is pretty booked. He has arrangements and engagements to speak in the United States in late February and in May, though. Maybe they could have a Valentine's brunch.

A Communist party official who is in charge of talks of with representatives, Zhu Weiqun, said that they will take necessary actions to ensure that "relevant countries see their mistakes." Sounds definitively more ominous than any fortune cookie.

The U.S. has human rights concerns over the treatment of Tibetans, but Zhu indicated that even should such a meeting occur, there will be no compromise on China's control of Tibet. Obama hopes America's relationship with China is mature enough to address mutual concerns, while allowing him to speak to important leaders. The Dalai Lama is a spiritual and cultural leader who garners international respect. Obama plans to address as a leader of such stature.

In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled China after attempting an uprising against the Chinese rule. He lives in exile in Dharamsala. It won't be the best place for a quick game of basketball, especially if Obama's kicks are made in China.