Gallery: America’s 10 Best Employers 2019
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The grand finale of La Voz will feature more music superstars. Ozuna, Reik, Sebastián Yatra and Yandel will perform as the music reality competition comes to an end this Sunday, April 21. They’ll be joining coaches Luis Fonsi, Alejandra Guzmán, Carlos Vives and Wisin, who will also perform.
Telemundo is likely bringing in the additional star power to attract more viewers, striving to end the inaugural season on a positive note. Despite having top celebrity artists as coaches and showing promise, La Voz has not delivered spectacular ratings since it premiered on January 13. It had tough competition from its rival Univision, which led the time slot with dance reality Mira Quien Baila (MQB).
La Voz beat Univision for several weeks after MQB ended and it went head to head with comedy show Me Caigo de Risa, which didn’t fare well in its timeslot. But the Telemundo Sunday show lost the No.1 spot when Pequeños Gigantes premiered and hasn’t been able to recuperate its lead. On March 31, it even extended La Voz half an hour to start at 8:30 pm, instead of 9 pm – a week after Univision’s debut of the children’s reality competition.
Reality show finales tend to experience a ratings uptick, with casual or new viewers – in addition to those who have been following the aspiring contestants since the beginning – tuning in to see who will take the crown. It’s highly likely Telemundo will benefit from that. La Voz also counts on audience voting to pick the winner. The sense of audience participation can also generate goodwill. Will that be enough? It remains to be seen if it can beat Univision’s reality that involves cute kids, popular with family viewing.
So who will be the winner of La Voz? The audience will pick from the following finalists:
Jerry Montañez, 42-year-old Puerto Rican from West Palm Beach, Florida.
Kat López, 19-year-old Cuban from Miami, Florida.
Jeidimar Rijos, 18-year-old Puerto Rican from Dorado, Puerto Rico.
Abdiel Pacheco, 27-year-old Puerto Rican from Humacao, Puerto Rico.
Génesis Díaz, 20-year-old Cuban from Hialeah, Florida.
Kari Santoyo, 23-year-old Mexican-Puerto Rican from Chicago, Illinois.
Dunia Ojeda, 27-year-old Cuban from Miami, Florida.
Rubén Sandoval, 21-year-old Mexican from Beldwin Park, California.
Sheniel Maisonet, 22-year-old Mexican-Puerto Rican from Homestead, Florida.
Lluvia Vega, 30-year-old Mexican from Brownsville, Texas.
Mava González, 18-year-old Venezuelan from Coral Springs, Florida.
Abel Flores, 27-year-old Mexican-Guatemalan from Los Angeles, California.
Yashira Rodríguez, 22-year-old Puerto Rican from Ponce, Puerto Rico.
Ronny Mercedes, 32-year-old Dominican-Honduran from Bronx, New York.
Mayre Martínez, 40-year-old Cuban-Venezuelan from Redondo Beach, California.
Frances Dueñas, 24-year-old Mexican from Los Angeles, California.
The winner of the first-ever U.S. Spanish-language version of The Voice will receive a $100,000 cash prize and a recording contract for a single with Universal Music Group.
Bank of America is jumping ahead of the $15 minimum wage movement. Beginning May 1st, it will hike its minimum wage to $17, and to $20 by 2021. Other big banks like JPMorgan Chase have already announced plans to hike the minimum wage to $18.
Number of Employees
Bank of America
What drives Bank of America’s
generosity to its employees? Several things. One of them is a tight labor market that has companies competing for a smaller pool of qualified employees.
In recent months we’ve seen Target, Amazon, Walmart, McDonalds and others all indicate they’re willing to pay a $15 an hour minimum wage as the price to hire good workers from a steadily shrinking labor pool,” says
Jeff Yastine, Senior Equities Analyst at BanyanHill Publishing
not surprising that Bank of America would as well. In fact, given the need for bank workers with strong math ability and other specialized skills,
more surprising that the bank didn’t commit to paying $15 a year or two earlier.”
Then there are the layoffs and the bad rap banks have with the millennial generation, according to
“Given the number of layoffs in past years as banks closed branches, and the overall ‘bad rep’ that banks have in general with millennials, my prediction is that BofA and other institutions may find themselves playing catchup, and upping wages still further, in order to attract the necessary people to offset retirements from baby boomers,” he adds.
And there’s the rising profitability of big banks, following a string of interest rises by the Federal Reserve, which boosted the “interest rate spread.”
That’s the difference between
what banks receive on the interest they charge borrowers and the interest they pay depositors.
This week, Bank of America reported strong financial results
— as did JPMorgan Bank last week. Both banks cited the favorable interest rate environment as the driver of profitability.
The Bank itself is doing pretty well from a balance sheet perspective and also wanted to reinvest into their business, outside from the common stock buy-back we’ve seen from the bigger companies,” says Jordan Awoye, Managing Partner at Awoye Capital.
Lastly, there’s a public ploy issue by celebrity executives to reform capitalism w
ith the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, “calling out its competition to raise its minimum wage in his annual shareholder letter,” adds Awoye. “From the public’s eye, Bank of America is part of this push to tip the scale for the employee market, which ultimately can be amazing PR for the bank.”
Provided, of course, that the economy continues to grow for years to come, defying historical norms.
The Curse of La Llorona easily topped the box office on Friday, earning $11.8 million. That includes $2.75 million in Thursday preview grosses and is above the $9.9 million opening day of Pet Semetary and the $9.1 million opening day of New Line’s Lights Out from three summers ago. This positions the New Line chiller for over/under $28 million over its Fri-Sun debut. Yes, we’re expecting frontloading due to Good Friday boosting the opening day figures, but most kids are out of school on Monday and tomorrow is Easter, so we’ll see how that helps or hurts the R-rated religious horror flick. Considering this flick cost just $9 million to produce, I’m guessing that Warner Bros. isn’t sweating the weekend multiplier.
This opening won’t be big enough for Warner Bros. to retroactively include it in the Conjuring Universe, but it’s still a strong opening for an R-rated horror film that is entirely about dead children. The decision to keep it apart from the ongoing Conjuring franchise is an amusing, if understandable, one. And as someone who rolled my eyes as folks debated whether Life might be a Venom prequel (it was not) or whether A Quiet Place should’ve been a Cloverfield movie (it earned more than every Cloverfield movie combined), I can respect New Line’s insistence that The Curse of La Llorona does not “count” as a Conjuring film. However, having seen the film, it’s a “walks like a duck/quacks like a duck” scenario.
Never mind that it has the same producers, the same 1970’s period-piece settings, the same “R-rated but not gore-drenched” mentality and the same “Catholic dogma is accepted as outright fact” mentality. Never mind that it 104% takes place in the world of the Conjuring movies, including a cameo from Tony Amendola as Father Perez shown briefly with Annabelle. Never mind that it contains at least one new character (a Raymond Cruz’s drolly cynical freelance ghostbuster) who I would love to see in another movie. I can theorize that had the reviews out of its SXSW premiere been more positive WB and friends might have been more willing to “count it,” although I will argue that (by default) it’s better than The Nun and Annabelle.
Okay, so it’s not as gothically stylish as The Nun, but it is more narratively and visually coherent and it has a semblance of a human interest story that the first Conjuring prequel and the most recent Conjuring prequel lacked. Oh, and because the movie is mostly set within a Hispanic American community which generally believes in ghosts and goblins, we don’t get a bunch of “Egad, nobody believes me!” scenes. It’s not a “good” movie, but Michael Chaves directs the hell out of it and in that sense, this works as a resume flick for his next gig, directing The Conjuring 3. Anyway, I guess you can sell it as “If you loved The Conjuring, then you’ll tolerate The Curse of La Llorona!”
The previous Conjuring movies had multipliers between 2.33x (Annabelle: Creation) and 2.45x (Annabelle) so there may not be much wiggle room. The caveat is the whole “Good Friday/Easter Sunday” thing, but it’s certainly the right weekend for a religiously-inclined fright fest. It could go either way, as Hispanic Americans are major demographics for religious horror movies. Despite (all due respect) a white leading actress (a game Linda Cardellini), white writers and a white guy directing, this chiller, based on a famous Mexican folk tale, is going to play as intended to the demographic in question. Now bring on Annabelle Comes Home, which is essentially being sold as an Avengers-level (or at least Civil War-ish) crossover event for the cinematic universe. Place your bets.
In a weird coincidence, Walt Disney and 20th Century Fox (now part of Disney) released new movies on the same day. Fox 2000’s faith-based drama Breakthrough opened on Wednesday alongside Disneynature’s Penguins. Breakthrough, about a young boy who makes a miraculous recovery after falling into an icy lake, earned $3.811 million on Friday, setting the stage for a $10.9 million weekend and $14.441 million Wed-Sun debut. The film received an A from CinemaScore and will hopefully be about as leggy as Miracles from Heaven. That Sony/Affirm release (which also opened on the Wednesday of Easter weekend) earned $61.705 million in 2016 from an $18.369 million five-day debut. A similar run would give the $14 million-budgeted DeVon Franklin-produced melodrama a perfectly-okay $48 million finish.
Disneynature’s Penguins opened on Wednesday but hasn’t really gained traction, even by the dwindling standards of Disney’s nature documentary brand. The Ed Helms-narrated documentary earned $901,000 on Friday for a three-day cume of $1.853 million. That positions the (admittedly “for the love of the game”) offering for a $2.471 million Fri-Sun frame and a $3.423 million Wed-Sun debut in 1,815 theaters. At this rate, the film will end up somewhere between $6 million and $9 million domestic. This will play well on Disney+ alongside the deluge of acquired National Geographic content. This remains an “everybody can come” family tradition for us, even if my oldest has grown out of it and my youngest is now old enough to see other kid-friendly stuff in theaters.
Malaysia is already caught in China’s web, and there’s no escape from it. The best it can do is to bring Beijing to the negotiating table, and try to get better deals for projects under way.
In the early days after his election, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad sent a strong message to Beijing about his will and determination to control the destiny of Malaysia by canceling high profile Chinese projects in the country.
Apparently, he wanted Malaysia to avoid China’s debt trap, which has left countries like Sri Lanka with no choice but to cede control of indebted projects to Beijing.
Then he took his message on a roadshow, advising the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to avoid China’s “debt trap.”
The trouble is that Mahathir’s revolt against China didn’t last long. And now the best it could accomplish is to bring Beijing back to the negotiating table to cut the cost of the investment projects assigned to Chinese contractors.
Last week, China agreed to cut the cost of East Coast Rail Link project by one-third. This week, the two countries have agreed to revive the Bandar Malaysia project with the original contractors — a joint-venture between Malaysian firm Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and China Railway Engineering Corp (CREC) – with some modifications. Like the construction of 10,000 affordable housing units, and the use of local sources.
What made Malaysia soften its tone on China? A couple of things, in my opinion. One of them is that there’s a great deal of “sunken” costs for the projects under way; and it will be hard to find alternative sources of financing to proceed with them.
Then there’s Malaysia’s reliance on China for its exports. Last year, China was the largest export market for Malaysia ($42.5B), followed by Singapore (35.7B), and the US ($33.1B); and that gives Beijing great leverage against any “irrational” behavior by Malaysia.
By coincidence, Malaysia’s exports dropped unexpectedly lately, down 5.3% annually to MYR 66.6 billion in February 2019, after a 3.1% in January and missing market consensus of a 1.4%, according to Tradingeconomics.com. Sales dropped for palm oil & palm oil-based products (-13.4% to MYR 4.7 billion); refined petroleum products (-30.9% to MYR 3.6 billion); crude petroleum (-21.8% to MYR 1.9 billion); timber & timber-based products (-1.7% to MYR 1.4 billion) and natural rubber (-23.1% to MYR 0.2 billion).
Meanwhile, Mahathir’s decision to revive the Iskandar Waterfront Holdings and China Railway Engineering Corp (CREC) came a few hours after he oversaw the signing of agreements on currency swaps and plans to raise imports of Malaysian frozen durian and palm oil.
In holdover news that isn’t Shazam! ($6 million Friday/$16 million weekend/$120 million 17-day total) and Captain Marvel ($3.1 million Friday/$9 million weekend/$400 million domestic total), Universal/Comcast’s Little earned $3.323 million (-46%) on its second Friday. That positions the Will Packer-produced comedy for an $8.539 million (-45%) weekend and $29.46 million ten-day total. Barring a fluke, Tina Gordon’s Marsai Martin/Regina Hall/Issa Rae comedy will earn around $47 million by the time it leaves theaters or about 2.35x its $20 million budget. Unless it does absolutely nothing overseas, it should be in break-even territory by the time it arrives in post-theatrical.
Walt Disney’s Dumbo earned $2.44 million (-41%) on its fourth Friday for a likely $6.99 million (-26%) fourth weekend and $101.4 million 24-day domestic cume. This one is still a big miss, and now there’s more pressure on Aladdin than there otherwise would have been even as Avengers: Endgame prepares to crush all comers. Paramount/Viacom’s Pet Semetary earned $1.756 million (-40%) on Friday for a likely $4.564 million (-53%) third weekend and $49.3 million 17-day cume. It’s doing fine, as it’s a $21 million-budgeted, R-rated horror flick about dead kids and dead animals, but it’s certainly no breakout smash.
Jordan Peele’s Us is absolutely a breakout smash, even if it may not catch up to A Quiet Place’s $189 million domestic finish (#CanThisFranchiseBeSaved?). The $20 million, R-rated original earned $1.785 million (-41%) on Friday for a likely $4.343 million (-36%) fifth weekend and a $170.525 million domestic cume. It should be past the $176 million cume of Get Out within the next two weeks, and (barring a miracle elsewhere) it will probably be the year’s biggest wholly original live-action flick. That will make said distinction a horror movie for the third year in a row.
Laika’s Missing Link earned $1.433 million (-44%) on Friday for a likely $4.227 million (-29%) weekend and $12.834 million ten-day total. This is still a massive disappointment for the Annapurna/UA release and for the Laika brand in general. Let’s hope Travis Knight funnels his Six Billion Dollar Man paycheck into the next Laika flick. Millennium and Lionsgate’s Hellboy reboot earned $1.323 million (-73%) on Friday, setting the stage for a miserable $3.69 million (-69.4%) second weekend and $19.48 million ten-day total. If that holds, it’ll be the fifth-biggest second-weekend drop ever for a “big” comic book superhero flick.
After will earn $2.604 million (-57%) in weekend two to give the YA romantic drama a meh $10.54 million ten-day cume. Doing better in that department is CBS Films and Lionsgate’s Five Feet Apart, which will earn $758,000 (-51%) in its sixth weekend for a $45.21 million domestic cume. Unplanned will have $17.3 million after 24 days while The Best of Enemies will have just $9.545 million after its third weekend. It’s no Green Book, which will now sit with $85 million domestic after 23 weekends in theaters. How to Train Your Dragon 3 will have $159 million by tomorrow.
The last (March 17) posting regarding the oil price indicated that there would be a high in late April. Black gold is at a high in the last week of April according to cycles-based research.
The first graphic below shows that oil is overbought weekly having more than doubled from the January 2016 low.
As we can see below, oil has passed the most bullish season of the year.
Chart 2-Oil Price Annual Histogram (from 1983)
Below is the daily histogram of expected price for the month of May. As we can see from these seasonal graphs oil is sailing into a headwind.
Chart 3- Daily Histogram for Oil for May
Both the weekly and the monthly cycles point down.
Chart 4- Weekly Oil Cycle
Chart 5- Monthly Cycle
The bearish factors are:
The annual high for any April is on the 22nd. The high for the monthly cycle is on the 27th and the weekly cycle high is on April 20th. So, the high for this price rise will likely be between the 20th and the 29th. Following that time period, we will likely see the largest oil decline in 2019.
The Q4 2018 decline may have been an A wave down and the current rally a B wave up. The post-April decline projected by the monthly cycle may be a C wave, the most severe in an A-B-C sequence. If this is true, then the drop could take oil back to the old 2016 low near $26.
Having spent much of my professional life as a university professor, I am pretty much unfazed by the recent college admissions scandal simply because higher education is consumed with such problems at all levels. As other educators speak out, yesterday we learned that prosecutors in Los Angeles are looking at new targets in the fraud conspiracy cases. Of the 50 people currently being charged by the federal government, 18 will plead guilty in the hopes of leniency from the court. Still, it is business as usual if you ask other scholars within academia in the US who teach at elite institutions. They will tell you that this is just a drop in the bucket within the culture of higher education.
During my career in academia, I witnessed first-hand many coerced political hirings and how nepotism related to admissions, scholarships and hiring. From the late 1990s, many university departments began to reduce the requirements for coursework such that professors report being told not to have their students read or write. The result of such policies is that higher education often resembles an encounter session: Show up, smile and look vaguely interested in the subject and you can be fairly certain of getting a decent final grade. The role of the student is more or less that of financial broker.
Unsurprisingly, where wealth has helped many students gain entry into universities and specialized programs, new technology has made this sort of cheating all the more pervasive due to the velocity of virtual communications and how digital media facilitates the doctoring of everything from documents, letters of recommendation and photos.
While it is disappointing to see Hollywood royalty participating in the recent admissions scandal, these are hardly new infractions of the so-called rules, nor are they the most egregious. The recent college admissions scandal is part of a larger problem of higher education and how it is structured to enable the wealthiest and most privileged of our society to hold onto power. From admission to completion of the degree, there are innumerable industries built around making as much money from students as humanly possible and the larger university structure turns a blind eye to this. More to the point, technology is playing a major role in how it enables this academic cheating with myriad online industries established around every facet of academia—from entrance exams, to coursework and final papers, to theses.
There is no shortage of companies willing to cash in on the education market from the preparation of entry exams through the final stages degree completion. Companies like Kaplan which prepare students for undergraduate admissions (the ACT and SAT) as well as postgraduate programs such as business, law and medical schools. Yet, the feedback from former clients of Kaplan reveals myriad stories of people who felt “ripped off” for having spent upwards of $5,000 for in-person study sessions and where the failure of exams is met with another offer to invest even more in another tier of tutorials. Kaplan is just one of many companies offering students “help” for high fees with The Princeton Review, The College Board and Manhattan Elite Prep among its competitors.
Are test preparation companies engaging in cheating the system? Some would argue that they are simply because they create an impossible bar for poorer students who did not benefit from privately funded training courses or tutorials. Others take issue with companies like The College Board which breached its “fiduciary duty by recycling old exam questions, including those that have been publicly disseminated prior to the SAT exam” as claimed in the lawsuit filed last year against the company which owns the SAT and the Educational Testing Service (which administers the SAT). After the scandal over paying for a disability diagnosis was revealed in 2002, little has changed on these college admission prep exams as students and their families have figured out new loopholes, from having others sit their tests to bribing for changes in the final score. At that, there have been numerous leaks of SAT exams in China amidst a thriving industry which exploits online security issues.
Skip to when students are admitted into their desired university and the money-making has only begun. There are hundreds of online companies claiming to offer tutorials and proofreading services and others which actually sell completed essays. It is difficult to understand where the line is between paying for a private lesson and having coursework written by another person simply because online interactions often blur this difference. Still, companies which offer online “help” abound in the dozens even if they generally mask themselves as tutorial services while reality they are nothing more than essay mills.
While little has been voiced in the US on this front, in the UK several MPs have started to speak out on this issues as recently as 2017 where there were suggestions made to block these essay mills sites and more recently, Education Minister Damian Hinds has suggested that PayPal stop accepting payments to these companies. Some universities are even implementing “forensic linguistics” software to crack down on ghostwriting by essay mills. Only one country, New Zealand, has created a law to crack down on cheating services.
Some critics of these essay mills contend that these services prey on the most economically vulnerable but as the recent college admissions scandal shows nobody is guaranteed the intellectual endowment to get into any university, rich or poor. Sure, poorer kids have less access to the kinds of college prep education that will pave their way into the country’s best universities, but why is it not obvious to professors when students are presenting a final essay written by another? While some contend that essay mills and students are committing fraud, others like myself are far more critical of universities that have turned the classroom into an experiment of 21st century Taylorism whose aim is to turn out as many paying students into the job market as possible regardless of merit.
The answer to this problem lies is combatting technological cheating with traditional pedagogical requirements: Professors must simply require weekly written work from students allowing the professors to familiarize themselves with the writing styles and weaknesses of each student. Such practices will not only reduce cheating, but students can learn what they need to work on while having the time frame of a semester to improve their work. It is unlikely in a learning environment where students are regularly expected to turn in written work and discuss their ideas in class that they could easily rely on an essay mill for assignments that are precisely devised for and by them.
The larger problem of cheating in higher education should not focus on how online cheating is “getting worse” or “how best to tackle it.” We need to ask why in higher education the current in-class pedagogy is next to nil as class attendance in many universities is optional. Of course, students will capitalize on their professor not knowing how they think, speak or write when it comes time to settle a final research paper. With such a model, professors are lucky if they recognize their students at all.
The rise in cheating in higher education is a red light to deeper problems attached to our collective social value on education and the young lives we view as having an expiration date upon graduation. Instead of understanding that education is a lifelong process, we have perfectly wrapped up education into a short-term pyramid scheme where most everyone wins except the student.
That the NASDAQ Composite index is about to touch the previous all-time highs (hit in the summer of 2018) is making the business and investment media news headlines — but it’s definitely different this time.
A few of the most well-known names in the tech and internet-related sectors are not quite keeping up. Stocks that used to lead the NASDAQ higher are no longer doing so. Names that used to dot the “new highs” list without fail under these circumstances are not making the grade this time around.
Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Netflix are still falling short of last summer’s higher levels. Let’s take a look at the evidence.
Here’s Facebook’s weekly price chart:
The July, 2018 high was up there near 220. Today the price is 178. This, despite the NASDAQ as a whole now regaining those summertime highs. You can see that the Facebook price remains within the down trending Ichimoku cloud — even with the spectacular rally off of the Christmas Eve, 2018 lows. This is odd behavior for such a former giant of the index.
Her’s the weekly price chart of Amazon:
The summertime, 2018 high was up there near 2050. Today’s price is 1861. As with Facebook, it’s just not making it up to the previous all time high level. More positively, it looks as if the stock never closed below the Ichimoku cloud on a weekly basis — and has now closed above the cloud for at least 3 weeks in a row.
Here’s the Apple weekly price chart:
Another strong recovery off of the late December, 2018 low prices, but the stock is clearly unable to hit higher all time highs here as the NASDAQ Composite index is about to get there. That Apple closed below the Ichimoku cloud for several weeks is a technical analysis problem. The same could be said for its failure, so far, to rise back above the cloud.
And here’s the Netflix weekly chart:
Same basic pattern: the previous peak last summer is much higher than today’s price.
To demonstrate the difference, here’s the weekly chart for one NASDAQ stock that’s actually come back stronger than the index:
For whatever fundamental reasons, Microsoft just keeps outpacing — by far — these 3 other big NASDAQ tech stocks. The September/October previous peak was 115. Today the price is above that at 127. The stock never closed below the Ichimoku cloud level. It’s well above the cloud right now. The Microsoft upward trend from 2015 to the present day is an extraordinary move by any measure.
The Bill Gates operation is performing better than the NASDAQ taken as whole. Here’s the $COMPQ chart:
This difference is even clearer on the $QQQ and $XLK price charts, but I’ll let you look them up on your own.
I do not hold positions in these investments. No recommendations are made one way or the other. If you’re an investor, you’d want to look much deeper into each of these situations. You can lose money trading or investing in stocks and other instruments. Always do your own independent research, due diligence and seek professional advice from a licensed investment advisor.
Do you have questions about Avengers: Endgame? You more than likely do, seeing as how it’s the final film in a 22-movie saga, bringing together all our heroes across Earth and space as they battle Thanos who wiped out half of humanity at the end of Avengers: Infinity War with one quick snap of his Infinity Gauntlet. The movie is shrouded in the utmost secrecy, considering it is the end, but unfortunately while there are hundreds, if not thousands, of questions regarding the film, there are absolutely no answers. Nothing. Nadda. Zip.
Even though the cast knows what’s happening in the movie (they filmed it, after all), they’ve clearly been given strict instructions to not actually talk about anything (call it The Curse of Mark Ruffalo and Tom Holland). This creates an issue as pre-release press is still happening for Endgame. Journalists are still sent to ask questions about the movie, but the cast can’t answer anything. It’s, for lack of any better word awkward. What do you do for five minutes with Robert Downey Jr. where he can’t say anything about the movie he’s currently promoting? This strategy is basically unheard of, since who doesn’t want to ask and answer questions about a movie before it opens to drum up positive reactions? Marvel and Disney, apparently.
So what do you do? At first glance, there’s not a whole lot you can do without creating an uncomfortable situation for the interviewers and the interviewees since every question has to be tiptoed around. But maybe that’s just the thing to do. Instead of keeping the cast tucked away and out of the line of firing questions until the movie drops, Disney and Marvel have sent them out, guns blazing, right to the front line for all this questioning. Would fans of the saga want to watch The Avengers refuse to say anything about Endgame, point blank, for ten minutes? The answer is, surprisingly, yes.
The fact that no one can talk about anything related to Endgame has quickly become a running joke.
Want to ask Chris Evans how he feels to finish off his time playing Captain America? You can, but he’s going to sidestep every direct question and eventually dig himself so into a hole he starts talking about his prior film, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Want to ask Paul Rudd about the theory that Ant-Man is going to fly up Thanos’ butt to kill him? Fire away, but Paul Rudd’s now going to question the logistics of that happening — can’t Ant-Man go in through the ear instead? Want to ask Jeremy Renner where he was during Infinity War? He’s gonna tell you he was playing ping pong. Want to see Chris Hemsworth ride a rollercoaster at Shanghai Disneyland? Well, you’re in luck, because that’s also happened during this press tour, too. Scarlett Johansson went so far as to suggest that this anti-press tour is leaving her with PTSD, but she’s still clearly having a good time.
What could have quickly become a crazy PR nightmare has instead turned into something downright hilarious. The Avengers are using this time to flex their comedy chops and have come up with many different ways to answer just about every question someone could ask them. Want to even ask them about how to prepare for a three-hour movie? Rudd and Renner have an answer for that, but still can’t disclose anything about their characters.
For any other movie, this No Comment strategy would be a kiss of death ahead of the film’s release. But considering Avengers: Endgame is going to be one of the biggest movies of the year (if not the biggest), fostering positive pre-release talk isn’t a make-or-break situation. There was a rumor that Marvel might not even release any sort of trailers leading up to the film. Even with a trailer or any sort of TV spots, would we all go see the film anyway? You bet.
So the fact that the Avengers are out here now on talk shows and popping up in YouTube videos literally shooting the shit doesn’t matter. They’re having the time of their lives, and that more than anything seems to be creating a huge amount of positive press for the movie.
And considering that Endgame is going to wreck all of us, every single one of us, over the span of three hours, a huge boost of positivity is definitely needed before we all head into maybe the most tragic three hours of our lives. The more ridiculous responses right now, the better.
Growth or yield? Why choose when we can have both.
There are 32 dividend hikes on the way that are going to set up their investors for a big 12 months ahead. How? Simple–these payout raises are going to provide fuel to their attached share prices. The 10%+ raises (and there will be double-digit increases) in particular are going to position their shareholders for safe 10% to 12% returns in the year ahead regardless of what the broader stock market does.
Ever wonder why the yield on your favorite dividend aristocrat always looks low even though the firm is regularly raising that payout? Pull up its stock chart and you’ll see that its share price follows its dividend higher like a magnet. For example let’s consider this pair of “dividend doublers”.
Their soaring payouts and profits are about all they have in common. Texas Roadhouse (TXRH) is a mid-level steak restaurant chain that caters to the average American. Vail Resorts (MTN) is a “one percenter” stock that owns and operates high-end ski resorts, condos and lodgings. But both have raised their payouts generously every year, and both their stocks have more than doubled in less than five years.
This is why we keep a close eye on serial dividend raisers. Yield is nice, but doubling our money is even better! In this spirit here are 32 dividend growers to watch in upcoming months.
Real estate investment trusts (REITs) have no equal in retirement-focused accounts. Their very structure requires them to deliver the lion’s share of their taxable income to investors as dividends. If you’re an income investor, you need to be watching this sector like a hawk (if you aren’t already).
REITs have a couple “busy seasons” for dividend-increase announcements, including February and December. But the next couple months should see a decent handful of real estate plays hike their regular dividends.
Dividend Spotlight: CoreSite Realty (COR): CoreSite is a datacenter REIT with 21 operation centers across eight major communications markets in the U.S. That doesn’t sound like CoreSite is casting a wide net, but each of those locations packs a serious punch, allowing the company to service more than 1,350 customers.
CoreSite’s path over the past half-year or so is similar to the rest of the market’s, swooning at the end of 2018 only to rebound through the first few months of 2019. But COR is doing it better, up 27% to soar above both the S&P 500 (+16%) and the Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ, +18%).
Credit CoreSite’s outstanding operations. The company reported a 20.7% improvement in net income that fueled a 14.2% boom in funds from operations (FFO, an important REIT profitability metric). CoreSite paid out 15.6% more in dividends, too, but FFO growth kept the payout ratio at a perfectly manageable 82%.
Up next is a likely dividend-increase declaration in the final week of May. And if history is any indication, look for another hike to be announced in early December.
The last time I guided you through some likely dividend raisers, I pointed out many master limited partnerships (MLPs) that improve their distributions on a quarterly basis – not once a year, but four times a year. So the list of companies on tap for April and May are pretty similar, but a couple things have changed in the space since then.
For one, Western Gas Equity Partners LP and Western Gas Partners LP have combined to become Western Midstream Partners LP (WES). This follows a slew of mergers in the MLP industry following 2018’s changes to the tax law.
Also, Andeavor Logistics LP (ANDX) announced the same distribution it had for the prior two quarters, so its quarterly hikes appear to be a thing of the past.
Dividend Spotlight: Delek Logistics Partners LP (DKL): I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the first time you’ve read about small-cap Delek Logistics Partners LP. This roughly $815 million MLP was formed by Delek US Holdings (DK) just a few years ago to hold various energy assets.
For instance, its Pipelines/Transportation segment includes roughly 805 miles of crude and product transportation pipelines, a 600-mile crude oil gathering system in Arkansas, and storage facilities with 10 million barrels of active shell capacity. It also has light product terminals in Texas, Tennessee and Arkansas.
That payout didn’t grow in a straight line, of course. DKL has been growing its distributions every single quarter for years, which is fantastic for investors because it only adds to the power of compounding.
The Dividend Aristocrats are a group of 57 S&P 500 companies that have increased their dividends on an annual basis for at least 25 consecutive years, though many of them have done so for many years longer than that.
But they’re not all gems. I’ve recently pointed out a few Dividend Aristocrats that aren’t worth your time. Their business prospects are middling, and dividend growth has become downright begrudging, as if the only reason they’re raising them isn’t to reward shareholders, but instead to just keep their membership cards updated.
Dividend Spotlight: Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): Johnson & Johnson is one such Aristocrat laggard. The company is in the midst of serious legal issues related to one of its most famous consumer products.
As I pointed out at the start of the year:
J&J spent 2018 in court battling off cases related to claims that their baby powder contained asbestos and caused mesothelioma to a few people who were exposed to it. “We will continue to defend the safety of our product because it does not contain asbestos or cause mesothelioma,” the company said in May after losing a ruling in California.
But Reuters dropped a bombshell report in December saying that internal documents “show that the company’s powder was sometimes tainted with carcinogenic asbestos and that J&J kept that information from regulators and the public” for decades. JNJ tanked 13% in five trading days following Reuters’ report, and that very likely won’t be the last of it. Johnson & Johnson not only risks suffering a massive reputational hit to its consumer brands, but its legal path forward suddenly looks fraught with potholes.
These issues threaten to put a cap on Johnson & Johnson in the near-term. In turn, that could put some pressure on the company to please shareholders in any way it can – including writing significantly fatter dividend checks. Payout growth has been respectable, at about 28% since early 2015, but J&J might need to deliver something truly generous in mid-April, when it typically announces its annual dividend increase.
The Best of the Rest
There are still dozens more likely dividend increases coming in the next two months. But these are a few of the most intriguing companies, whether it’s because they’re at a pivot point, running hot or just not your run-of-the-mill company.
But the most interesting of the bunch right now is America’s largest company.
Dividend Spotlight: Apple (AAPL): Apple has been through this before. Back in 2015 and 2016, Wall Street was concerned that Apple had lost its innovative edge, that its product was to expensive for China, and that its other offerings would never make up for any weakness in iPhone sales.
Within a few years, it had doubled its market cap from a trench around $500 billion to a high above $1 trillion, making it the first American company to reach that lofty level.
Apple has found itself in the same position again recently, however. The stock lost about a third of its value on iPhone sales declines (caused in part by Chinese weakness!) and skepticism about its lack of other game-changing devices.
And yet, AAPL shares have defied logic by rebounding 40% off a big share dip after the company made a rare cut to its sales guidance on Jan. 2. What gives? Well, Morgan Stanley analysts recently said year-over-year growth to the iPhone “installed base” in China was its best in 15 months, and the tech giant has announced a series of product upgrades and new services, including Apple News+, streaming TV content and even an Apple credit card.
Don’t sleep on the dividend, though. Apple’s payout has nearly doubled since it restarted regular distributions in mid-2012. And considering a skinflint 23% payout ratio and renowned ability to generate free cash, Apple can afford to continue making significant hikes – even as it finds ways to grow and silence the haters.