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  • Red Frog Events, Mars And More: Investors Wish They’d Go Public!

    By Jake Mann

    As of right now, there are over 46,000 stocks being traded in the world markets on nearly 60 major stock exchanges. These stocks represent shares in a variety of companies, and every sector of the economy is publicly available. From energy to entertainment, there are plenty of choices, but investors are always looking for the next big thing to boost their portfolios. Aside from Mark Zuckerberg's recent decision to sell shares of his company to the public, there is a shortage of similarly successful private companies that are following in Facebook's footsteps. These are the folks that investors wish would take a similar plunge and go public.
    Red Frog Events, LLC (suggested ticker: RED)Unfortunately, the ticker symbol FROG is already taken, but if this Chicago-based company were to go public, investors may claim that it deserves whatever ticker it wants. This is because Red Frog Events is one of the fastest-growing companies in the United States, having recently won the Chamber of Commerce's Small Business of the Year Award in 2011. An event production company, Red Frog Events provides customers with an innovative and spirited experience, managing competitive races where runners of all ages and skill sets can take part. Best known for its "Warrior Dash" series, where competitors race through a 5K strewn with obstacles, Red Frog Events has also recently expanded into the concert business by announcing its first annual "Firefly" music festival this summer. Due to the fact that Red Frog is literally one of a handful of companies in this unique industry, a RED stock would definitely have the markets feeling cheery.

    Edward Jones, LP (suggested ticker: EDJO) On the other end of the spectrum, Edward Jones is both one of the largest and oldest financial services firms in the United States. Both insiders and outsiders praise the company for its sensible take on investing advice. Serving mostly customers on Main Street, Edward Jones has received the top spot for awards like Fortune's "Best Companies to Work for in America" and for J.D. Power and Associate's"Highest in Investor Satisfaction." The company is able to provide financial advisory services to individual investors and small business throughout the U.S., due to its network of small two-person offices designed to provide the greatest amount of customer service. If there were an EDJO stock, it would certainly keep pace with publicly traded competitors like Bank of America (BAC), JP Morgan Chase (JPM) and E-Trade (ETFC).

    Bloomberg, LP (suggested ticker: BB) Most widely known for its magazineBloomberg Businessweek or the "Bloomberg terminal", Bloomberg provides a range of financial information to users around the world. Officially, the data it provides makes up a third of the total market for financial news and analytical software. In recent years, the company has acquired a number of services in the TV, radio, and print media markets adding to its information dominance. Amazingly, the company's founder Michael Bloomberg still owns 88 percent of the company's stock, even though it is 13,000 employees strong. Typically reporting yearly revenues between $5 billion and $7 billion, a BB stock would immediately be considered "blue-chip" by investors.

    Mars, Inc. (suggested ticker: MARS) The third largest private company in the world, a MARS stock would give every investor the same sweet tooth that its popular candy bars do. Best known for foods like "Milky Way," "Twix," "Snickers," "M&M's," and "Mars," the company also provides a number of other goods such as pet food and chewing gum. Raking in annual revenues of nearly $30 billion, Mars typically reports 5 times more revenues than major competitor The Hershey Company (HSY). Additionally, Mars has recently announced its partnership with the sustainability-advocacy group Fairtrade International, which may result in an even bigger uptick in sales. All in all, if this food manufacturer were to sell shares to the public, it would undoubtedly be one of the leaders in the consumer sector.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Apr 08 5:39 AM | Link | Comment!
  • After Hours Trading: What Happens When The Stock Market Closes?

    By John Koscis

    New investors familiarizing themselves with the world of equity markets may find themselves confused as to why they can only trade during specified market hours. In this age of the 24-hour news cycle, they probably wonder why they cannot instantly react to something they see on CNBC.

    Wall Street is Modernizing

    The answer is rooted in the history of Wall Street, as it used to be impossible to employ a trader outside of the business hours of 9:30 to 4:00 EST. Astute investors will notice that this timeframe no longer depicts the entire story of the stocks in their portfolio. Eagle eyes can catch times at which the opening price of a stock differs significantly from the closing price the day before. Obviously, transactions are occurring between the time traders go home in the afternoon and the time they get back the next morning. As it turns out, Wall Street is modernizing. Since the late 1990s, amateurs have been using the Internet to make investments. Americans use the Internet well after the duration of the workday and seek the opportunity to trade for extended hours. The stock market now accommodates these desires-after-hours trading occurs from 4:00 to 8:00 pm and pre-market trading takes place at 7:00 to 9:30 am. Investors now have the opportunity to trade beyond standard business hours.

    The Technological Breakthrough

    Throughout Wall Street's history, high net-worth investors and institutions have largely been able to trade at will. Small-time investors simply did not have access to the mechanisms to buy or sell outside of calling a trader during business hours. Today, the dawn of the Internet has alleviated such issues. More households now have the opportunity to trade in the extended hours. The invention of electronic communication networks, or ECNs, facilitates this innovation. ECNs are venues through which individual investors can access the market after the trading day. Interested individuals can gain access through these networks by employing a brokerage firm that has institutional access or simply by purchasing access.

    Leave it to the Professionals

    For the most part, after-hours trading is seldom discussed in the mainstream media. This is because using ECNs to invest is extremely risky, and the Security Exchange Commission specifically warns individuals to beware becoming too active past 4:00. There are several reasons to be wary of extended hours. One is that the marketplace is rather empty, and it generally lacks liquidity. This means that there are comparatively few interested buyers and sellers and thus a potentially large spread between bid and ask prices. Furthermore, the fact that the after-hours market primarily contains large institutions can lead to a high amount of whipsaw, especially because general revaluations are largely replaced by reactions to recent news stories. It can be hard for one to find a fair price when the market moves rapidly in a specific direction.

    Since the market players in this time period are usually professional traders, an amateur often finds himself at a demonstrated disadvantage. Many brokerage firms only allow ECN access to certain information, so can be difficult for a small-time investor to compare all of his options and truly evaluate the state of the market. Traders at mutual funds and other large institutions, on the other hand, have access to as much information as they want, making it hard for others to compete in the marketplace.

    Other struggles in the extended hours market include dealing only with "limit orders" and the problem of computer delays. Investors find themselves dealing in the dark, a place few want to be when their savings are involved. After-hours trading is a good option to have in the Internet age, but it is a difficult one in which to be successful. Enough trading happens between 9:30 and 4:00 to satisfy the needs of most investors.

    Apr 08 5:34 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Changing The Ending Of Mass Effect 3, Good Economics?

    By Jake Mann

    Mass Effect. The name is revered universally by gamers looking for a truly innovative sci-fi experience that combines the best aspects of an explosive third-person shooter with intricate role-playing strategy. Throw in an epic storyline where protagonist Commander Shepard always seems to save humankind from the brink of destruction, and you have videogame perfection. The third installment of the Mass Effect franchise, aptly titled Mass Effect 3, has been touted as the best of the of the bunch since its release date on March 6th, and is a favorite for the Game of the Year award. Videogamers agree, as they purchased almost 1 million copies in the game's first 24 hours on the shelf.

    Well, Mass Effect 3's developer Bioware and its buddies in the videogame industry are understandably rejoicing at the game's gaudy sales numbers. Remember, this is an industry that has been ravaged with declining revenues at a rather alarming pace in recent months - in fact, February saw total sales decline by 20 percent from the same month last year. Developers blame this decay on a host of problems - the increased popularity of downloadable content, the advent of the tablet industry and the lack of original new games, to name a few.

    So, you can imagine the horror on the faces of Bioware executives when they discovered that thousands of Mass Effect 3's players were more than just a little upset about the game's ending, which has been confirmed as the conclusion to the entire Mass Effect series. Fans were so livid about the finale that they took to the internet and started a 'Retake Mass Effect 3' campaign that has swelled to over 50,000 supporters. Just to do some quick arithmetic, this movement began on March 8th, two days after the game was released. The game takes approximately 40 hours to complete. You do the math - these are some serious gamers.

    In response to the fiasco, Bioware has recently announced that they will change the ending of the game to satisfy the mob of angry customers throwing computer-generated bricks through their virtual windows. Citing that their feelings were hurt, the developer has apologized for not meeting fans' expectations. Between the lines, this move shows the desperate state that the entire videogame industry is in, due to the fact that one of its largest developers is willing to spend additional time and money to change an already finished product. While it has not been released exactly how this modification will reach gamers who are craving for closure, it is expected that the new ending will be free downloadable content. Predictably, this saga has implications for the stock market.

    Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ:EA) The owner of Bioware, Electronic Arts has seen its stock drop 19 percent in the first quarter of 2012. Even the release of Mass Effect 3 has not helped this dud, as it currently sits at a price of $17.02 per share. While share price is obviously not the sole reason for Bioware's conciliation with fans, it is obvious that EA is willing to do anything it can to boost its business. Even though many of its competitors (TTWO, THQI) are currently down as well, this particular stock could be in the bargain bin, so to speak. If the new Mass Effect 3 ending is made available at any sort of cost, this could bring additional revenue to the company, translating to an eventual increase in share price. Over the next 6 months, look for staple games in EA's lineup like Madden 13, NCAA Football 13 and Tiger Woods 13 to provide another lift to the stock's price, proving they meet sales expectations.

    Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

    Mar 28 5:28 PM | Link | 1 Comment
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