Macquarie Infrastructure, Apache Corp. Slide into Thursday’s 52-Week Low Club

February 22, 2018: Here are four stocks trading with heavy volume among 88 equities making new 52-week lows in Thursday’s session. On the NYSE advancers led decliners by about 8 to 7 and on the Nasdaq, decliners led advancers by less than 4 to 3.

Macquarie Infrastructure Corp. (NYSE: MIC) fell nearly 42% Thursday to post a new 52-week low of $37.06 after closing at $63.62 on Wednesday. The 52-week high is $81.74. Volume of about 24 million was nearly 30 times the daily average. The company chopped its dividend by about 28% to $4 a year. There’s no better way to make investors flee.

Veon Ltd. (NASDAQ: VEON) traded down about 13.7% Thursday and posted a new 52-week low of $3.09 after closing Wednesday at $3.58. The stock’s 52-week high is $4.50. Volume was about six times the daily average of 3.5 million shares. The communications provider said its quarterly results were worse than expected due to a devaluation in foreign currency.

Brookdale Senior Living Inc. (NYSE: BKD) traded down about 24% Thursday and posted a new 52-week low of $6.72 after closing Wednesday at $8.90. The stock’s 52-week high is $15.66. Volume was around 15.5 million, nearly 7 times the daily average. The company reported quarter earnings this morning and announced that it had rejected a buyout offer and that its executive chairman has retired.

Apache Corp. (NYSE: APA) dropped about 7.3% Thursday to post a new 52-week low of $34.50. Shares closed at $37.20 on Wednesday and the stock’s 52-week high is $55.23. Volume was over 11 million, about three times the daily average of around 3.9 million. The company reported quarterly results this morning, but investors were not impressed.

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South Jersey Industries (SJI) Upgraded at ValuEngine

South Jersey Industries (NYSE:SJI) was upgraded by equities researchers at ValuEngine from a “sell” rating to a “hold” rating in a report issued on Wednesday.

A number of other research firms also recently commented on SJI. Zacks Investment Research downgraded South Jersey Industries from a “strong-buy” rating to a “hold” rating in a report on Saturday, May 12th. TheStreet upgraded South Jersey Industries from a “c+” rating to a “b” rating in a report on Monday, May 7th. Williams Capital upped their price objective on South Jersey Industries from $35.00 to $38.00 and gave the stock a “buy” rating in a report on Tuesday, April 24th. Finally, JPMorgan Chase & Co. upped their price objective on South Jersey Industries from $29.00 to $30.00 and gave the stock a “neutral” rating in a report on Tuesday, April 10th. One analyst has rated the stock with a sell rating, six have assigned a hold rating and three have assigned a buy rating to the stock. South Jersey Industries has an average rating of “Hold” and an average target price of $33.33.

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SJI stock opened at $33.12 on Wednesday. The firm has a market cap of $2.76 billion, a PE ratio of 26.93, a PEG ratio of 1.64 and a beta of 0.59. The company has a debt-to-equity ratio of 0.76, a current ratio of 0.45 and a quick ratio of 0.41. South Jersey Industries has a 52 week low of $25.96 and a 52 week high of $36.41.

South Jersey Industries (NYSE:SJI) last released its quarterly earnings data on Monday, May 7th. The utilities provider reported $1.26 EPS for the quarter, topping analysts’ consensus estimates of $0.93 by $0.33. The business had revenue of $521.95 million during the quarter, compared to the consensus estimate of $430.43 million. South Jersey Industries had a return on equity of 11.33% and a net margin of 5.23%. The business’s revenue for the quarter was up 22.6% on a year-over-year basis. During the same period in the prior year, the firm posted $0.72 EPS. analysts forecast that South Jersey Industries will post 1.59 earnings per share for the current fiscal year.

A number of hedge funds and other institutional investors have recently made changes to their positions in the stock. BlackRock Inc. increased its holdings in South Jersey Industries by 1.5% in the 1st quarter. BlackRock Inc. now owns 10,336,491 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $291,075,000 after purchasing an additional 151,592 shares in the last quarter. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. increased its holdings in South Jersey Industries by 6.7% in the 4th quarter. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. now owns 2,615,611 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $81,685,000 after purchasing an additional 163,289 shares in the last quarter. Earnest Partners LLC increased its holdings in South Jersey Industries by 2.1% in the 1st quarter. Earnest Partners LLC now owns 2,195,310 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $61,820,000 after purchasing an additional 45,784 shares in the last quarter. Wells Fargo & Company MN increased its holdings in South Jersey Industries by 6.7% in the 1st quarter. Wells Fargo & Company MN now owns 1,998,641 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $56,281,000 after purchasing an additional 124,624 shares in the last quarter. Finally, Dimensional Fund Advisors LP increased its holdings in South Jersey Industries by 0.9% in the 1st quarter. Dimensional Fund Advisors LP now owns 1,638,859 shares of the utilities provider’s stock valued at $46,151,000 after purchasing an additional 14,906 shares in the last quarter. Hedge funds and other institutional investors own 69.82% of the company’s stock.

About South Jersey Industries

South Jersey Industries, Inc, through its subsidiaries, provides energy-related products and services. The company engages in the purchase, transmission, and sale of natural gas. It also sells natural gas and pipeline transportation capacity on a wholesale basis to residential, commercial, and industrial customers on the interstate pipeline system, as well as transports natural gas, which is purchased directly from producers or suppliers to their customers.

To view ValuEngine’s full report, visit ValuEngine’s official website.

Analyst Recommendations for South Jersey Industries (NYSE:SJI)

Kroger Takes a Step Towards an Online-Focused Future

Kroger(NYSE:KR) is working hard to transform its business so that it can better compete in today’s multichannel selling environment. This shift threatens to lower the retailer’s overall profitability, but it also opens the supermarket chain up to new growth areas such as home delivery of groceries and prepared food.

In fiscal first-quarter earnings results announced this week, Kroger showed progress on those key initiatives. It also affirmed its 2018 growth outlook while raising profit expectations.

A shopping cart in a grocery aisle.

Image source: Getty Images.

More on that brighter forecast in a moment. First, here’s how the latest results stacked up against the prior-year period:

Metric

Q1 2018

Q1 2017

Year-Over-Year Change

Revenue

$37.5 billion

$36.3 billion

3.4%

Net income

$2 billion

$303 million

560%

Earnings per share

$2.39

$0.33

624%

Data source: Kroger’s financial filings.

What happened this quarter?

Sales growth slowed for the first time in over a year but remained right within management’s forecast range. Kroger’s profitability held steady, too, as increased spending in areas like wages was offset by cost cuts in other parts of the business.

Highlights of the quarter include:

Comparable-store sales, or sales at existing locations, rose 1.4% to mark a slight deceleration from the prior quarter’s 1.5% gain. After including sales from its pharmacy and e-commerce channels, that growth figure rises to 1.9%, or roughly even with rival Walmart’s (NYSE:WMT) latest 2.1% increase. Digital sales, a major growth initiative for the company, rose 66%. After accounting for unusual financial events like pension plan adjustments and the gain from Kroger’s sale of its convenience store segment, profitability held steady. Earnings improved to $626 million from $546 million on this basis, and that growth was boosted by heavy share-repurchase spending so that adjusted per-share earnings rose 26% to $0.73 from $0.58 a year ago.
Management’s comments

Executives had positive things to say about the early results from their rebound initiative, which they refer to as “Restock Kroger.” This plan leans heavily on in-store brands to support customer loyalty while also attacking the e-commerce sales opportunity. “Restock Kroger is off to a fantastic start,” CEO Rodney McMullen said in a press release.

“Kroger is creating the future of retail,” McMullen continued, “by innovating our core business and adding exciting partnerships like Ocado and our planned merger with Home Chef.” Management also highlighted success they’ve had in working with Instacart to increase their grocery-delivery coverage area.

Looking forward

Kroger raised its 2018 earnings forecast slightly to account for the fact that cost controls are generating more savings than management originally expected. The retailer left its full-year sales growth outlook unchanged, and it still calls for the expansion pace to roughly double to between 1.5% and 2%. However, management said that going forward that core growth metric will include e-commerce sales. The shift will better capture the retailer’s overall growth rate while aligning it with the way peers like Walmart and Costcocalculate their comparable-store sales, they explained.

Using the new comps metric, Kroger is now expecting sales to rise between 2% and 2.5% this year, which would imply a 14th consecutive year of modest market share gains. That figure would keep it roughly on pace with rival Walmart, but far below the 7% growth that Costco has been logging lately. The slow expansion pace won’t power much in the way of earnings gains, but Kroger is on track to make significant progress in boosting other financial metrics, especially free cash flow, this year.

Where have all the men gone?

Older men are homebodies, I was told shortly after joining the board of my towns council on aging and senior center a few months ago. They tend not to go to the senior center.

Then, I learn, that the biggest threat facing middle-aged men isnt smoking or obesity, but loneliness.

So the biggest threat middle-age men face is loneliness yet they wont leave their homes when theyre older to be in the company of others! That got me thinking: What can senior centers do to get men to become more involved and engaged? Heres what experts had to say.

Senior centers tend to focus on women

Part of the problem is that senior center programming tends to center on women. Traditionally recreational programs offered at senior centers are more likely to meet the interests of women, said Manoj Pardasani, a senior associate dean at Fordham University and a research scholar at the Ravazzin Center on Aging. Its somewhat cyclical more women than men attend senior centers so most programs offered are designed for them or suggested by them this in turn limits mens participation and their input.

Others agree that its a problem. Getting men involved, its difficult said Maureen Gallagher, the program coordinator at the Heritage Center in Murray, Utah.

The takeaway: No activities and programs that interest men equal no men.

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But thats changing

The good news, however, is that senior centers across the country are working hard to attract men to their programs, according to Pardasani, Gallagher and others.

And heres what they say senior centers are doing and can do to attract more men:

1. Focus on offering co-ed activities that men also like such as billiards, ping pong, health education, duplicate bridge tournaments, and the like. Thats what Gallagher said works at the Heritage Center. One big draw at our center is golf six months out of the year, she said.

In addition, she said the Heritage Centers social dance is also another big draw. Older men enjoy dancing and showing offon the dance floor, she said. Tango, is also a dance form that several younger men and women enjoy. And exercise, yoga, tai chi, nia, strength conditioning, stretch and tone and Zumba also bring men in.

Pickleball, a racket sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, also seems to draw men. We just built two new pickleball courts on our property and have one court inside, said Gallagher. Many men show their skills off playing pickleball.

Im told my senior center gets good attendance for its social and competitive cribbage games, as well as the poker league. Plus, in the summer, men can and do play bocce, an Italian game similar to lawn bowling.

2. Offer some activities just for men such as sports, team games or current events – where men feel welcome and comfortable. The Heritage Center, for instance, feature a car show once a year that Gallagher said is usually a men-dominated activity.

The Heritage Center also offers a cooking class, which tends to appeal to older men. We cook from scratch four days a week and meals bring the older men in, said Gallagher.

And, once a year the Heritage Center invites veterans to meet with high school students and share their military stories. These stories are written up by the high school students, then presented to veterans at a later date, said Gallagher. This program, among other things, has been dominated by men and, even more noteworthy, was awarded best Education Program of 2015 by National Institute of Senior Centers (NISIC) Program of Excellence. In my town, elementary school students interview seniors about their experiences going to elementary school, and write up reports about those experiences.

On her bucket list, Gallagher wants to create a support group just for men.

My local senior center also has a monthly mens club meeting, which features speakers and field trips. Im told attendance at the mens club is waning and theres a need to find more speakers and schedule more field trips. In other words, the mens club needs some folks (hello, men?) who will lead the charge to schedule speakers and trips be it going to the local high school football game or scheduling a listening session with elected officials at the state or federal level.

3. Offer continuing education programs that attract both men and women. I may be a newbie who doesnt know yet all the ins and outs of at my local senior center, but there appears to be plenty of continuing education programs being offered. For instance, a group of high school students are running a computer class, and students also offer one-on-one cellphone tutorials.

Organizers, take note: Men prefer programs and activities that are scheduled in the mornings, according to Pardasani.

Trump promises to ‘make it up’ to farmers hit by China tariffs

President Trump acknowledged Monday that American farmers may be hurt by Chinese tariffs.

But he insisted that farmers would be better off over the long term. He also indicated that any pain farmers feel won’t affect his political fortunes.

Farmers “are great patriots,” Trump said at the White House. “They understand that they’re doing this for the country. And we’ll make it up to them. And, in the end, they’re going to be much stronger than they are right now.”

A moment later, he said of China: “It’s not nice when they hit the farmers, specifically, because they think that hits me.”

China has promised to put a tariff on American soybeans if Trump goes through with his threatened tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese goods.

Iowa, Nebraska, Indiana and Missouri, all of which voted for Trump in 2016, are major producers of soy, and China is America’s biggest export market for the crop. China has already imposed tariffs on US fruits, nuts, pork and wine.

The United States is not expected to apply its tariffs at least until June, according US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow and other senior officials.

Trump said Monday that farmers would benefit from the results of US negotiations with China and a revised NAFTA, the trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico. Trump also directed the US Agriculture Department on Monday to look into other ways to protect US farmers from China’s tariffs.

But even that suggestion illustrates how farmers’ dependence on free trade doesn’t square with Trump’s views.

For years, most American farmers have praised NAFTA as a big win for US agriculture because it opened up lowered trade barriers in Mexico, which has become one of the top buyers of US pork, grain and soy. About 14 million American jobs across industries depend on trade with Canada and Mexico, according to the US Chamber of Commerce, a pro-trade lobbying group.

Herb Karst, head of Karag farms in Billings, Montana, was disappointed with Trump’s comments Monday.

“First reaction from me was ‘wow,'” Karst said by phone Monday afternoon. The grain farmer, who is also a representative for Farmers for Free Trade, an advocacy group, also said Trump’s “logic is so far out there.”

Karst added: “This latest trade action [by China], if it is on soybeans, if it does come about, it will have a devastating impact on US soy farmers, and by extension all US farmers.”

Russia’s Sunday Protests The Start Of New ‘Bolshevik Revolution?’

Opposition supporters participate in an anti-corruption rally in central Saint Petersburg on March 26, 2017.Thousands of Russians demonstrated across the country on March 26 to protest at corruption, defying bans on rallies which were called by prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny — who was arrested along with scores of others. (Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny of the anti-corruption Progress Party led street protests in Moscow on Sunday, leading to hundreds of arrests across the nation, including that of Navalny himself.

Navalny called for the protest march late last week after saying that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of the ruling United Russia party has taken millions in bribes from local oligarchs, garnering big ticket items like real estate and yachts, according to him.

Despite the protest initially sparking from these allegations against Medvedev, protesters chanted “Down with Putin” instead on Sunday afternoon. Some in St. Petersburg called for both men to be jailed referring to them as the new Tsars of Russia. The Tsars were overthrown during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. It led to the rise of the Soviet Union, and this protest is likely to be viewed through that lens by Vladimir Putin.

Navalny tweeted, “I am proud of those who came to the streets today. You are the best people in the country and the hope of Russia having a normal future.” He also made no reference to Putin, saying of the arrests that “Many people were detained. This is understandable, so protect yourself. To all those who are against corruption…there are millions of us.” Navalny said he was “fine” regarding his arrest.

Many people in the West have often characterized Putin as having plans to revive the Soviet Union. But for many inside Russia, Putin is more like a Tsar, part of an elite aristocracy whose impenetrable inner circle is ripe for corruption and a roadblock to a modern economy. Its per capita income is in decline, and is now closer to Brazil’s despite being much more opulent than its BRIC counterpart. (Photo by MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)

Demonstrators gathered despite being refused a protest permit in Moscow. Some 8,000 people had gathered in Moscow’s city center for the unauthorized demonstration. More than 700 participants were detained in the capital alone, according to civil rights watchdog OVD-INFO.

The demonstrations will shine a U.S. media spotlight on Navalny, who is hoping to unseat United Russia’s strongman Putin in the March 2018 presidential elections.

“Sunday’s demonstrations were dominated entirely by the younger generation,” political analyst Mikhail Vinogradov told The Moscow Times. “These are Alexei Navalny’s key supporters.”

Russia Today, otherwise known as RT, did not say why protesters were demonstrating Sunday. In an article posted on line this afternoon, they described the unsanctioned opposition rally in St. Petersburg as an “unconnected gathering of demonstrators who rallied for traditional values.” RT reported that only three individuals were facing administrative action for minor violations in St. Pete.

Russia is no stranger to corruption and United Russia should be mindful of its consequences. The general perception in Russia is that an old-school clan of wealthy business owners and their friends in politics continue to carve up the country for themselves, much in the vein of the old autocratic Tsarist families. As a result, the country’s economy remains stuck in traditional power systems run by oil and gas magnates, real estate tycoons and electricity and mining oligarchs who don’t want to cede power.  A number of privatization initiatives touted by Putin for the past six years have gone nowhere due to these close-ties between corporate owners and senior government officials.  Investors have long chided Russia for letting much of its high tech, advanced sciences talent go to waste by continuing its focus on these traditional, old industries run by the oligarchs. Change to the Russian landscape remains slow because of these entrenched power systems.

Russia’s corruption perception index is a low 131 out of 176 countries ranked by Transparency International. Even China does better.

Alexey Navalny, Russian opposition leader, and his wife Yulia, shelter beneath an umbrella. He was arrested on Sunday. (Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg)

Within the United States’ backyard, Russia ranks between Mexico and Venezuela, two of the most corrupt countries in the world and surely the most corrupt sizable economies in the Americas, according to Transparency International.

Russia’s problem with corruption is shared throughout the old Eurasian Soviet states, with Kazakhstan and Ukraine tied at 131 each. Business leaders over the age of 45 are are accustomed to doing business the old Communist party clan way, creating distrust that can sometimes spread throughout the population. Close watchers to the region say that changes to the crony capitalist system in Russia will take at least a generation to work through. Russia has only shed its Soviet skin 25 years ago.

Elsewhere, Ukrainians kicked their corrupt president Viktor Yanukovych to the curb in February 2014 for allegedly negging on a promised European trade deal in favor of helping Russian gas giant Gazprom. Despite that, old-school politics remains and in Ukraine, like Russia, old habits die hard.

Russians protested against Putin running for office again some four years ago after being president for two terms already, with a one term interval that put Medvedev in charge. If Putin wins re-election next year, he would have served as president and prime minister of Russia for 20 years. Josef Stalin was Russia’s dictator from 1922 to 1952, the longest serving leader of Soviet Russia.

Prior to Stalin, Tsarist rulers like Ivan “the Terrible” Vasilyevich ruled for 37 years and the uber-rich Romanov family ruled between 1613 to 1917, before being ousted and later executed by a faction of Marxist revolutionaries and politicians referred to as the Bolsheviks. Civil war ensued shortly after, including infighting between left-wing associations that were ultimately defeated by the Bolsheviks. They moved the nation’s capital from St. Petersburg to Moscow and Vladimir Lenin became its leader in 1922, leading to the creation of the U.S.S.R.

Under Lenin, Russia consolidated the principle of state control of society and its economy. Lenin and his successor Stalin were notorious for terrorizing the opposition and controlling public opinion. A handful of Russian oligarchs and investment fund managers who have run afoul of Putin or those in his inner circle — men like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and American hedge fund manager Bill Browder — would likely say the same about Putin.