Microsoft shareholder meeting tackles racism, ageism



SAN FRANCISCO — While Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting Wednesday was largely a platform for executives to repeat the company’s mobile- and cloud-first mantra, the lengthy question and answer session that followed dove into the thorny topics of racism and ageism.

Leading off the questions at Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, Wash., was Rev. Jesse Jackson, whose Rainbow PUSH coalition has been hammering tech companies for years about the lack of diversity in their workforce ranks.

After congratulating CEO Satya Nadella on the pending appointment of two new female board members — Johnson & Johnson’s Sandra Peterson and former Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior — he pushed the company to “add black and Latino members next,” because “Microsoft can lead.” Microsoft’s board chairman John Thompson is African-American. He and Nadella met privately with Jackson on Tuesday.

“It’s not just about words, it’s robust action and having a rich dialog about having a culture of inclusiveness,” agreed Nadella during the meeting, which was webcast. He noted that it had run 100,000 employees through new unconscious bias training.

Referring to the private conversation he had with the civil rights leader earlier, Nadella said he would look into new areas suggested by Jackson, specifically ethnic

Dow off 159, negative for 2015 as U.S. oil slides below $40


U.S. stocks on Wednesday stayed mixed in a tight range even after fresh signals of a December rate hike from Janet Yellen — but then all three major benchmarks sank and finished down as news spread of a reported mass shooting in California.

Oil sold in U.S. markets slid more than 4% to break under $40 a barrel, as inventories climbed. The Dow Jones industrial average, off 159 points, slipped into negative territory for 2015.

The S&P 500 lost 1.1% on the day, the Dow shed 0.9% and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.6% lower.

In a  midday speech, Federal Reserve chair Yellen suggested that, yes, a rate hike this month is in the cards. Stocks initially held their mixed positions on the news and as investors looked ahead to Thursday’s key policy meeting at the European Central Bank and Friday’s U.S. employment report.

Details of the reported mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., were slow to trickle out as the markets headed toward the 4 p.m. close, with early reports suggesting more than one shooter was involved.

An individual standout amid the downturn was Yahoo, with YHOO shares ending up 5.8% on speculation the embattled

Who might buy Yahoo? The short list could include AT&T, Comcast and Microsoft



Yahoo may be selling its core businesses, including email, news and online search. But who might be buying?

Analysts think shoppers could include phone giant AT&T, search engine companies Google and Microsoft, and even Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp, which owns news publications like The Wall Street Journal.

The core of Yahoo is “more than just something that would be of interest to other Internet or tech companies,” said Scott Kessler, equity analyst at S&P Capital IQ. “This would appeal to international players, media companies, telecom participants and even some cable firms.”

The Web media company’s board is meeting this week to discuss its strategy. Until recently, Yahoo had planned to generate returns for unhappy shareholders by spinning off its stake in Chinese Internet giant Alibaba, which is valued at more than $30 billion.

But concerns about the hefty taxes that might accompany the move have prompted investors, led by New York-based investment advising firm Starboard Value, to ask Yahoo to reconsider the spin-off in favor of selling the company’s Internet business instead.

The board is mulling its options as growth continues to sag. Yahoo is expected to generate about $4 billion in adjusted earnings in fiscal year 2015, down from $4.4 billion in 2014. Also concerning investors

Save Money on Your Groceries

If you are a homeowner then you know that saving money is always at the top of your list. When you have a family and house to take care of, your money may not be going as far as it used to. If you are finding yourself in a similar situation then you know that finding creative ways to save money is always at the top of your list. If you are creative enough then the weekly grocery run can be a way that you can turn in big savings.

One of the easiest ways for you to save money at the grocery store is by using coupons. This may seem like something that your mom only did when you were a kid, but as an adult you should understand that this is the easiest way to save money. If you are paying attention then you understand that companies are giving you money off of their product. All you have to do is put in a little effort to bring the coupon in and buy the product. This is especially useful if you aren’t loyal to only one brand, as you can get coupons on many different brand and products. Even

Technical analysis and the opportunity to earn

As with any system of analysis, the TA is not without drawbacks. Usually, the criticism of the first postulate is on two counts.
1. On the market there are “shocking” (in the sense of the unexpected) news that investors could not predict: performances of officials, central bank actions, natural phenomena, etc. (Although it is worth noting that both fundamental analysis does not help here, since the unexpected news – all of a sudden).
2. Not all investors receive information simultaneously. Some trades in the short term and watches the news on-line. Some analyzes daily or weekly charts and finds information from newspapers.
Price movements tend
It is believed that one of the main concepts in technical analysis is the concept of trend or trends. In technical analysis, it is considered that the market is always subordinate to this or that trend, and the continuation of the current trend is more likely than its change. Therefore, the main task of the technical analyst is to identify the early stages of the ending of the old and the development of new trends:
There are three main types of trends:
– The upward trend (up

Finance study makes case for hedging

The overuse of financial contracts known as derivatives — which were designed to help companies hedge against risk — was widely blamed for triggering the economic crisis of 2008. None other than Warren Buffet has attacked derivatives as “time bombs — both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system.”

But now, for the first time, researchers have found that hedging can increase firm value.

In a pioneering study published in the Journal of Finance, Michigan State University’s Hayong Yun and Stanford University’s Francisco Pérez-González show that electric and gas utilities that used derivatives to hedge against unpredictable weather experienced a “positive and significant effect” on the value of their firms.

“Many people have a perception that derivatives are evil, that they helped destroy the economy,” said Yun, MSU assistant professor of finance. “And while there is some truth to the argument that derivatives were overused, our research provides the first fundamental evidence that hedging with derivatives can improve company value.”

Derivatives are widely used in the corporate world — from a CEO’s stock options to corn futures, in which a cereal maker, for example, purchases 2,500 corn bushels from a farmer at current prices for delivery in

RadioShack names Nick Cannon as Chief Creative Officer

RadioShack’s desperation to regain relevancy collided with pop culture Wednesday when it named entertainment mogul Nick Cannon as its chief creative officer.

For the electronics chain, which has been trying to remake itself under new ownership after filing for bankruptcy protection early this year, the appointment means an opportunity to distance the brand from its 1980s-era reputation and appeal to Millennials.

The hope is that Cannon will help with “innovating in the consumer electronics space and particularly the space that empowers young people,” RadioShack Chief Marketing Officer Michael Tatelman told USA TODAY. Tatelman declined to discuss Cannon’s compensation.

The role isn’t necessarily surprising for Cannon, who has carved out a niche for himself in the entertainment industry as not only a performer, but also as a businessman and entrepreneur, particularly in electronics.

OPEC will struggle as oil prices dip below $40

Oil prices dipped below $40 a barrel Wednesday ahead of this week’s meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to try to figure what, if anything, can be done to prop those prices up.

The benchmark crude in the U.S., West Texas Intermediate, dropped $1.91 a barrel, or 4.6%, to $39.94 in trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, Bloomberg News reported. That was the lowest since Aug. 26.

Experts say that prices could head even lower as OPEC struggles with the inability to control production levels among its member states.

“This is the most incredible glut we have seen in our lifetimes,” says Tom Kloza, chief global analyst for the Oil Price Information Service, which follow pricing on energy markets.

The immediate result is that key petroleum products like gasoline, jet fuel and home heating oil will likely be the cheapest in years heading into the holidays and the cold of winter.

“Unless OPEC can really pull a rabbit out of a hat, we’re going below $2” a gallon of gas, says Kloza. That would be the lowest since the depths of recession in March 2009. On Wednesday, AAA’s Fuel Gauge Report said regular gas was selling $2.038 a gallon naturally.

OPEC, which has its next meeting Friday in Vienna, faces a

Far better times for ‘Washington Post’

No one has ever suggested that online traffic is a measure of journalistic excellence.

The posts that go viral tend to be silly or salacious. Incisive policy analysis, not so much.

Yet the fact that The Washington Post in October for the first time attracted more multiplatform unique viewers in the U.S. than The New York Times had about it the feeling of “A Moment.” The Post had 66.9 million, the Times 65.8 million, according to digital scorekeeper comScore.

Sure, the Post overreached ludicrously when it declared itself “America’s new publication of record.” It’s one month, a single month, for goodness sake. And “publication of record” doesn’t necessarily equate to astute digital techniques and click-me headlines. No one would suggest that the Post has surpassed the Times as the nation’s pre-eminent news organization.

But the Post‘s instinct to do a little end-zone dancing is understandable if you think about how far the news outlet has come since the Graham family, its longtime owners who were synonymous with the paper, sold it to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos in the summer of 2013.

How to beat Warren Buffett to the punch

A little over seven years ago, on Aug. 15, 2008, the Motley Fool recommended shares of Precision Castparts (NYSE: PCP), an industry-leading manufacturer of complex metal components used by aerospace, power and industrial companies.

It was a challenging time for investors for a few reasons:

  • Credit markets began seizing a year earlier, causing French banking giant BNP Paribas to stop customer withdrawals from investment funds tied to the U.S. mortgage market.
  • The Great Recession got underway in December 2007, though the National Bureau of Economic Research didn’t make it official until a year later.
  • In March 2008, Bear Stearns, the fifth-biggest investment bank in America at the time, had to be rescued from the jaws of failure by the federal government and JPMorgan Chase.
  • And in July 2008, The New York Times reported that the government was weighing its authority to put Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship.

Motley Fool didn’t know that a full-fledged financial crisis was just around the corner; but it did know that shares of Precision Castparts were cheap, selling at their lowest valuation since the corporate scandals at Enron, WorldCom and others.

Precision Castparts’ stock traded hands at an average price-to-earnings ratio of 19.3 in the decade prior. But those who followed

Economy is ready for rate hike

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen signaled Wednesday that the Fed is all but certain to raise interest rates this month for the first time in nearly a decade, saying that gains in the economy and labor market have met the central bank’s goals.

Her comments at the Economic Club of Washington amount to the strongest indication the Fed has provided so far that it will take action at a December 15-16 meeting.

Yellen noted that Fed policymakers have said they’ll increase its benchmark rate when they’ve seen “some further improvement in the labor market and were reasonably confident that inflation” would move up to the Fed’s annual 2% target over the medium-term.

“I currently judge that U.S. economic growth is likely to be sufficient over the next year or two to result in further improvement in the labor market,” Yellen said. Those gains, combined with market inflation expectations, “serve to bolster my confidence in the return of inflation to 2%” as the effects of low energy and import prices fade.

Fed policymakers have provided signs in recent weeks that they likely will bump up rates this month. Financial markets are now giving 75% odds of a rate increase.The Fed’s benchmark rate has been near

4 Renovations That Could Lower Your Home’s Value

Thinking of getting rid of a bedroom to expand another? Make your choice carefully. Removing a bedroom is one of those home-improvement blunders that can ding a home’s worth, even if it creates a larger bedroom — or other living space — in its place.

The reasoning is simple: The more bedrooms a home has, the higher the price it can usually command.

Listing prices are set by looking at what comparable homes are selling for in the same market, and the number of bedrooms is an important characteristic used to compare two properties. “When you start eliminating bedroom space, you’ve completely changed the comparable value of your home in the neighborhood,” said David Pekel, president of Pekel Construction and Remodeling, in Wauwatosa, Wis.

The impact of removing a bedroom will differ depending on how many bedrooms you start out with.

Reducing the number of bedrooms also means fewer potential buyers interested in your home.

“There are people who won’t look at two-bedroom or three-bedroom [homes],” said Brendon DeSimone, a real-estate agent in New York and author of the book Next Generation Real Estate. The typical home purchased over the last year was

5 Smart Ways to Give to Charity in December

Tis the season of “The Ask.”

There’s nothing subtle about the appeals landing daily in our inboxes and mailboxes: “Please send your generous contribution today.” “Every gift counts.” “We’re counting on you to renew your support.” “You make a difference in the lives of….”

They make me, and probably you, feel rather needed and valued. If you don’t feel the tug — and, let’s be honest, the pressure to send a monetary donation in the next few weeks — you really are a tough cookie.

Since today is Giving Tuesday, the nonprofit world’s annual choreographed day to get Americans to make charitable contributions after three days of shopping (Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday), here are five ways I suggest to give wisely this year:

1. Change your mindset about giving. No matter how much you’ll donate, think of yourself as a philanthropist, which connotes someone who takes a longer-term view and commitment. I do.

While I’m certainly no Melinda Gates, I’ve reframed my role in giving, using her as my inspiration. Before I send my contribution, I visualize my role as a philanthropist, reminding myself that my gift is important.

When you approach charitable

Are Retirees Better Off Than We Think?

Some experts claim that retirees are better off financially than many think, partly because most retirement income from 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) is not captured in the Census Bureau’s widely-used Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement. In the extreme, the Internal Revenue Service reported about $229 billion of defined contribution income in 2012, while the CPS reported $18 billion. Such an enormous discrepancy undermines confidence in the survey. Because low-and middle-income households have little in 401(k)/IRA assets, the under-reporting is minimal for these groups; the main problem occurs in the upper quintiles.

Census has responded by testing a redesign to certain income questions in the 2014 CPS, retaining the old methodology for 60 percent of participants and introducing the new procedures for the rest.

Note that reported income from retirement accounts can fall short of potential for two reasons. First, individuals may not withdraw the money available to them. In fact, studies show that most retirees do not withdraw money until their early 70s when they become subject to the IRS’ required minimum distribution rules. Second, the income that individuals actually do withdraw may not be

How to Help a Nonworking Spouse Save for Retirement

It can happen to any married couple. After both spouses diligently save for retirement their entire working careers, one of them suddenly is thrust out of a job.

Many of those unfortunate unemployed people had fully expected to continue deferring funds from their salaries to build nest eggs ahead of retirement 10 to 15 years out.

What to do now?

Retirement Saving for Unemployed Spouses

Here’s what the out-of-work spouse should not do: Put retirement savings on hold. That could have serious negative consequences for his or her financial future.

If your spouse is out of work, it’s important to take steps to help him or her contribute to a retirement savings plan.

If your spouse has been laid off, is currently in between jobs or is missing work for an extended period of time due to illness or injury, it’s important to take steps to help him or her contribute to a retirement savings plan. While there are a few options available, an underutilized and excellent option to consider for a nonworking spouse is a spousal Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

How Spousal IRAs Work

The spousal IRA, formerly sometimes known as a homemaker IRA, was retitled the

How to Get a Free FICO Score — And Then Boost It

Recently, I got an email from my Citibank Mastercard team urging me to view my updated FICO credit score, along with “key factors which affected” it. The note continued: “You can access your score for free each month. 24/7 online access to your FICO Score – just another way Citi is on your side before, during and after your purchase.”

Cringing at the attempt at such warm and fuzzy customer service, I nevertheless logged in. And now that growing numbers of card issuers are now providing free FICO scores — actual FICO scores, not FICO-like ones — I encourage you to see if you can get yours, too.

Why Credit Scores Matter

That’s because this three-digit number (typically ranging from 300 to 850) plays a big role in whether you’re approved for a mortgage, auto loan, home equity line, business loan or credit card — and the interest rate you’ll pay. (In general, the higher your credit score, the lower your rate.)

Now, let me tell you why it’s becoming easier to get a free FICO score, the benefit of knowing that number versus another credit score and, most important, how to boost your score once you learn what it is.

Sell Your Business for Top Dollar

If you own a business and you’re in your 50s or 60s, you’re likely relying on the sale of it to fund your retirement. Yet the company you’ve spent a lifetime building and growing faces its toughest competition.

U.S. Census data tell us that the group of business owners 70 years old or older is growing at a staggering rate, from about 20,000 owners each year in 2005 to over 120,000 today. And Capitalize Network, a business-transition planning service, estimates it’ll grow to over 180,000 a year in 2025. What’s more, in five or 10 years, the number of businesses for sale will be in the millions.

That’s why you need to develop an exit strategy.

But nine in 10 business owners don’t have a written, up-to-date exit plan, according to the White Horse Advisors Survey of Closely-Held Business Owners. Lack of planning is the No. 1 reason private business sales fail to meet the owners’ objectives.

Nine in 10 business owners don’t have a written, up-to-date exit plan, according to the a survey of closely-held business owners.

Even sellers who look forward to exiting may dread the selling process or procrastinate. Some see

5 Ways to Keep Capital Gains Taxes Down

The time-honored approach to estate planning is being turned on its head by significant tax law changes that have taken effect in recent years.

Long-term capital gains tax rates now range from 25 percent to 33 percent (when you add together the top federal, state and local rates and Obamacare’s Medicare surtax). So now that the federal estate tax exemption is $5.43 million ($10.86 million for a couple’s combined exemptions), many Americans may no longer be exposed to federal estate taxes, making taxes on income and capital gains more prominent.

In fact, some legal practitioners who spent the first half of their careers zealously transferring assets out of their clients’ estates to avoid estate taxes now expect to spend the second half pushing assets back into their clients’ estates because the estate planning paradigm has changed.

What are the best ways to strategize around capital gains taxes to keep them as low as possible?

Now that the federal estate tax exemption is $5.43 million, taxes on income and capital gains have become more prominent.

Rundown of the Tax Rules for Gifts

To answer that, it helps to first understand the rules about gifts and taxes.

If you give

The Seamy Side of Annuity Sales

Recently, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released a scathing report on the annuity industry. In Villas, Castles, and Vacations: How Perks and Giveaways Create Conflicts of Interest in the Annuity Industry, Warren found that 13 of 15 leading annuity companies she investigated “admitted to offering kickbacks either directly to agents, indirectly through third party gift payments, or both.” And, she noted, it’s all perfectly legal.

Agents got all-expense-paid trips to the Bahamas, spa retreats, lavish cruises, luxury-car leases, iPads and other awards for selling annuities.

Here’s what you need to know about what’s going on — what annuities are, how they’re sold and whether to buy one:

What’s An Annuity?

First, a little background. Annuities come in many different forms, but are typically financial products (offered by insurance companies and sold by agents) designed to grow your funds and then generate a stream of payments you can live on, later in life. They are generally complex, though some simple versions let you give the insurer a lump sum of money and, in return, receive a monthly cash stream for the rest of your life. That can be a very useful retirement solution.

Normally, the more complex

5 Things People Forget to Include in Their Will

Many people overlook writing a will until they become parents, launch a business or buy a first home. And even when they do finally craft this important document, estate and financial planning experts say, it is easy to overlook some important details.

GOBankingRates uncovered the five biggest things people overlook when drafting a will. Find out if you’re missing a one of these key elements:

Alternate Beneficiaries

While most wills include at least one primary beneficiary, it is a common mistake to fail to prepare for a backup plan in the event the beneficiary predeceases the testator.

Furthermore, “it is important to consider whether a beneficiary is capable of inheriting the asset and can manage the asset properly,” said Sandra Martin Clark, partner at the law firm of Manning, Fulton & Skinner in Raleigh, N.C.

It is important to consider whether a beneficiary is capable of inheriting the asset and can manage the asset properly.

— Sandra Martin Clark, attorney

Martin Clark says some reasons a loved one should be passed over for beneficiary status include:

  • Age
  • Mental capacity
  • Inability to properly manage assets

“Oftentimes, after a will is drafted and signed, the document is never looked at again until someone