Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Paperstand (GM, TSN, AZO)

The WSJ reports that in the latest sign Congress is turning a skeptical eye toward Wall St., an influential House committee is set to hear testimony from all 5 commissioners of the SEC today, the first time that has happened in at least 10 years. With the Democrats in control of both houses of Congress, it is an opportunity for Democratic lawmakers to frame such issues as the rise of hedge funds, CEO pay and shareholder rights through their own prism and to sharpen the debate heading into the ‘08 election. "It's signaling power," said James Angel, of Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business in Washington, of the invitation to all 5 commissioners.

The WSJ reports that about 450K Chinese-made tires sold in the US, and possibly many more, may lack an important safety feature. The tire defect comes in the wake of several other high-profile safety problems involving Chinese products. "As imports grow, and China is the largest exporter to the US, it's essential" that all manufacturers comply with US safety regulations, said Daniel Zielinski, of Rubber Manufacturers Association. Last year's fatal accident occurred when four carpenters were traveling back to their homes in Philadelphia after a day of framing homes in the Pocono Mountains. According to a lawsuit filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Philadelphia County on behalf of the two men killed and one of the two who were injured, the tread separated on the left-rear wheel of the van, causing the vehicle to crash. Also named in the lawsuit is General Motors (GM), maker of the van. The suit accuses the car maker of building a defective vehicle that was prone to tip over in an accident. The tires involved in the case were replacement tires and not part of the van's original equipment.

“Heard on the Street” column out saying that more consumers are flocking to low-fat, all-natural and now drug-free chicken. And that could be good news for Tyson Foods (TSN) and its investors. The co announced last week that all of its branded retail chicken will be produced without antibiotics. The financial upside of Tyson's plan isn't chicken feed. Americans will consume 87 pounds of chicken per person in ‘07, even though the price of a boneless chicken breast has risen at least 20% in the last 12 mo’s, mainly b/c of the higher cost of corn-based food. Over the longer term, Tyson's new initiatives -- ranging from increased advertising to the introduction of higher-priced branded chicken -- could lead to stronger earnings and a higher valuation as investors stop viewing that co as a simple "protein" purveyor that supplies undifferentiated chicken, beef and pork to restaurants and retailers. "What they're trying to do is become a packaged-food co. It's really smart of them," says Neil Eigen, of Seligman Investments.

Barron’s Online “Inside Scoop” section reports that with AutoZone (AZO) shares racing to new highs, investment firm DE Shaw is continuing to add stock in the automotive-parts retailer to its portfolio. DE Shaw now owns 3.37m shares, or 5% of AutoZone’s outstanding stock. Ben Silverman, of InsiderScore.com, says DE Shaw's buy into stock strength at AutoZone is a positive signal for investors. However Silverman adds that DE Shaw's historically quantitative investment strategy makes its reasoning behind the purchase somewhat opaque. "With Shaw, b/c these guys are a quant firm who use methods like stats arbitrage, what's important to remember is they're not looking at some of the same factors that retail and other institutional investors look at." "That said, something popped up on their screens that they like here," Silverman says.

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