Monthly Archives: January 2008

Motely Fool: Beazer Homes Worst Stock of 2008

There are actually a slew of local and national builder award shows like “the Nationals” and such that are the Emmy or Oscars of the builder industry. During my stint at Beazer, both corporate and division offices were constantly vying for one award or another; Beazer even lobbied (unsuccessfully) for Forbes “Best Places to Work” on more than one occasion.

The past 9 months haven’t been kind to Beazer. Current pains include a DOJ investigation for mortgage fraud, an accounting scandal stemming from aforementioned alleged mortgage fraud, at least 4 class action lawsuits from shareholders and customers resulting from said accounting scandal, loss of most of its veteran employees and management, not to mention the larger national subprime mortgage collapse, ensuing credit crunch, and persistent rumors that the company is bankrupt.

Even in dire straits, Beazer has made the short list of a major national award, albeit Motley Fool’s worst stock of 2008.

I left Beazer 6 months ago and haven’t thought much about it in recent months. I’ve long since given most of my Beazer logo’ed apparel to the Salvation Army. I still have the umbrella (in a metaphorical irony, Beazer protects me from the rain) and I kept my old Beazer to-go mug. Now that I commute by bike to work each day, I’ve taken to brewing a pot of coffee and carrying it the mug to work in my bottle cage.

Like the company, the cup has seen better days. It used to be so shiny and brilliant. The brand logo is battered and the once glossy copper-esque body is now tarnished and scratched. The cup was built to look good in the short term, but not built to last. I used to think the cap was mostly stainless steel, but in fact it was a thin facade that fell off this week as I pedaled. A lot of home flippers (and speculators to whom we sold homes) loved to add to stainless steel kitchen appliances to “put lipstick on the pig”, so to speak, and dramatically up the resale value without putting any real lasting value into the home.

I definitely have some opinions about the state of the U.S. housing market and my experience working in it for nearly 6 total years. Mostly, I disagree with the lack of planning, poor resource use, environmental and energy impact, and conspicuous and gratuitous consumption that has gotten us to where we are today. I’ll think about that some more tomorrow as I drink my coffee.

Are your money market funds safe? 3 Safety Checks

Talk of recession is nothing new in 2008. Most financial publications have been talking about this since early 2007 (if not mid 2006), so it’s no big secret that a confluence of negative forces conspire to wreak havoc on the US economy. But this is the first time that Ben Bernanke sounds worried.

A recession may drag down the stock market at the same time that the housing market is in its worst slump in decades. So stocks and real estate may take big hits. Money markets are still safe, right? Maybe not.

There’s been a lot of debate recently about money market funds and whether they risk exposure to the subprime collapse. Most experts have said that normal investors have nothing to worry about and that these funds — really mutual funds made of bank CDs, Treasury bonds, corporate debt, etc — are solid. The not-so fine print on any of these funds say that unlike savings accounts, money markets are not FDIC insured (though some of their holdings, such as bank loans, are insured.) The $1 price per share can theoretically fluctuate.

In practice, this has never happened. CBS reports that in the history of money market funds, $1 peg was reduced only once, and only to $.96. This was during the 1994 derivatives crisis, which most experts believe was far more expansive than our current financial crisis.

But how safe are money markets? The answer is that most are still very, very safe. But it depends on the type of fund you’re in, the kind of investments the fund holds, and finally on the size of the company managing the fund.

Continue reading