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investment news

By Doug Short

What is the single best indicator of the American Dream? Many would point to household income growth. The Census Bureau has now published some selected annual household income data in a new report: Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014. Last year, the median (middle) household income was $53,657 – a 0.13% year-over-year increase that shrinks to -1.48% when adjusted for inflation. Let’s put the new release into a larger historical context.

Our study of the Census Bureau’s historical data shows a 651% growth in median household incomes from 1967 through 2014. Sounds impressive, but if you adjust for inflation using the Census Bureau’s method, that nominal 651% total growth shrinks to about 21%.

But if we dig a bit deeper into the method of inflation adjustment, the American Dream looks more like an illusion, as in “money illusion.”

Click to enlarge

investment news: Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings(LH)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Monica Gerson]

    Analysts expect Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings (NYSE: LH) to report its quarterly earnings at $1.96 per share on revenue of $2.19 billion. Laboratory Corp shares rose 0.64 percent to close at $121.77 on Friday.

  • [By Monica Gerson]

    Laboratory Corp. of America Holdings (NYSE: LH) is estimated to report its quarterly earnings at $1.96 per share on revenue of $2.19 billion.

    Roper Technologies Inc (NYSE: ROP) is projected to report its quarterly earnings at $1.46 per share on revenue of $895.87 million.

investment news: Discover Financial Services(DFS)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By JACK HOUGH]

    Like CVS, Discover has trounced the broad market over the long term but sold off recently. It’s down more than 15% this year. Costs rose early in the year in part due to one-time expenses related to anti-money-laundering efforts and other regulatory concerns. Analysts predict an offsetting decline in expenses next year. Don’t confuse Discover with a company that’s primarily in the business of running a credit-card network, like Visa (V) and MasterCard (MA). It’s basically a credit-card lender, like Capital One Financial (COF), that runs its own network to gain a competitive advantage.

    By saving on network fees, Discover can offer attractive card rewards, including a popular cash-back program. Any card lender can offer cash back, of course, but being too aggressive risks hurting margins. Discover has grown its portfolio of credit-card loans much faster than big banks have in recent years. And it has done so with industry-leading returns on capital. Rising growth could be on the way. Early this year, Discover went on a marketing spree. Last quarter, it reported its best card growth since 2007. Historically, new-card growth and loan growth have been closely correlated. In a November note to investors, Morgan Stanley analyst Cheryl Pate predicted accelerating loan growth within six months. Meanwhile, defaults remain low. Shares sell for less than 10 times projected earnings for the next four quarters, down from 12 times at the end of last year. They could rise 20% on a combination of earnings growth and a valuation rebound. The dividend yield is 2%. 

  • [By Matthew Cochrane]

    While a new year has been ushered in, it is clear PayPal’s philosophy has not changed. Last week, PayPal entered into another major agreement, this time with credit card issuerDiscover Financial Services (NYSE:DFS).

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    We get the bull case.American Express is a blue-chip Dow component with an iconic global brand. It generates >30% returns on tangible, but it is trading well below its historical multiple and has underperformed post the election. Costco is now in the rearview mirror, and the string of negative surprises that have weighed on the stock are now poised to abate and position the company to start surprising positively. With Capital One Financial (COF), Discover Financial Services (DFS), and Synchrony Financial (SYF) all trading near their historical peaks, some have concluded thatAmerican Express is headed back to its historical high above $90. While this thought process may sound logical, we believe it only works in a world where generalists are steering the ship, and view it as highly susceptible to unraveling when negative revisions hit. American Express is not the business it once was, it doesnt have the same earnings power, and, in our view, it doesnt deserve to trade near its historical valuation.

investment news: Becton, Dickinson and Company(BDX)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Cooper Creagan]

    Back in June, we drew your attention to Becton, Dickinson and Co. (NYSE: BDX), the 120-year-old medical technology powerhouse that has increased its dividend every year for 45 years.

  • [By Money Morning News Team]

    Becton Dickinson and Co. (NYSE: BDX) is a New Jersey-based developer and manufacturer of medical devices. The company’s products include various types of needles and syringe systems, infusion therapy products, and blood collection products. Its devices are used by healthcare organizations for research, laboratory operations, and health-related safety.

  • [By Craig Jones]

    On CNBC's Fast Money Halftime Report, Jon Najarian spoke about options trading in Becton Dickinson and Co (NYSE: BDX). He said there was a big volume in the January 175 calls. Over 11,000 contracts were traded early in the session. He followed the trade and he is going to be in Becton Dickinson for two weeks.

  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    Becton Dickinson (BDX) tumbled to the bottom of the S&P 500 today after agreeing to pay $24 billion for C.R. Bard (BCR).

    Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

    Becton Dickinsondropped 4.4% to $177.07, while the S&P 500 rose 1.1% to 2,374.15. C.R. Bard jumped 20% to $302.41, making it the best performing stock in the S&P 500.

    Leerink’sRichard Newitter andRavi Misra argue that “growth doesn’t come cheap.” They explain:

    We had expected BDX’s M&A engine would eventually resume as the company moved into its third year post the 2015 CareFusion (CFN) acquisition; however, we do think the expectation was for tuck-in or mid-sized type transactions. This transaction is certainly on the bigger side, and will mark the largest in BDX’s history just as BDX wraps up year 2 post the CFN integration. Naturally this could raise some questions as to whether mgmt is “biting off more than it can chew.” But, size (and the hefty price tag) aside, the rationale is not entirely out of left field in our view. BCR will benefit BDX through a higher top-line & GM profile and provides several fast-growing product offerings in underpenetrated markets (i.e. PICCs, Lutonix/Drug Coated Balloons, targeted temperature mgmt). BCR’s Foley catheters and PICC products should complement BDX’s portfolio & strategy aimed at offering a single complete end- to-end medication management & safety solution to hospitals. Also, BCR’s emerging markets (EM) growth is accelerating, which should help BDX’s EM division, which has been experiencing slowing growth in recent years.

    Becton Dickinson’s market capitalization fell to $37.7 billion today from $39.4 billion on Friday. It reported net income of $976 million on sales of $12.5 billion in 2016.

  • [By WWW.GURUFOCUS.COM]

    For the details of HAHN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT LLC’s stock buys and sells, go to www.gurufocus.com/StockBuy.php?GuruName=HAHN+CAPITAL+MANAGEMENT+LLC

    These are the top 5 holdings of HAHN CAPITAL MANAGEMENT LLCHexcel Corp (HXL) – 899,271 shares, 4.71% of the total portfolio. Shares reduced by 1.47%Mohawk Industries Inc (MHK) – 212,515 shares, 4.68% of the total portfolio. Shares reduced by 2.38%CBRE Group Inc (CBG) – 1,299,059 shares, 4.34% of the total portfolio. Shares reduced by 2.39%Becton, Dickinson and Co (BDX) – 241,184 shares, 4.25% of the total portfolio. Shares reduced by 2.37%Ross Stores Inc (ROST) – 642,103

investment news: HP Inc.(HPQ)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Alex Cho]

    That being the case, it wouldnt take substantial market share gains for AMD to reverse the multi-year decline in its processor business, as performance/watt is what will drive adoption from key PC makers like Dell, HP Inc (NYSE:HPQ)and Lenovo. AMD hasnt been very competitive in the MPU (microprocessor unit) segment for quite a while, but given the recent node shift to 14nm FinFET over at GlobalFoundries, and mention of new architecture by AMD earlier this year at COMPUTEX Taiwan, I get the impression that performance of Summit Ridge, i.e. Zen will match Skylake and will perhaps come in slightly slower than Kaby Lake.

  • [By Chris Lange]

    HP Inc.’s (NYSE: HPQ) latest quarterly earnings report is expected on Wednesday. The consensus estimates are calling for a $0.39 in earnings per share (EPS) and $11.88 billion in revenue. Shares closed trading most recently at $19.00, in a 52-week range of $11.40 to $19.49. The consensus price target is $18.79.

  • [By Andrew Tonner]

    However, for all the doom and gloom surrounding the PC market, the computer industry remains one of the most important subsectors in all of tech. In fact, even as unit volumes contract, over 260 million personal computers were sold last year globally, and the companies that remain at the center of this market — names such asHP Inc. (NYSE:HPQ) and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) — continue to print tens of billions of dollars in aggregate profits from the space and pass them along to shareholders through dividends and buybacks. So let’s review what makes these PC makers some of the best dividend stocks in the industry.

  • [By Peter Graham]

    The Q4 2016 earnings report for small cap 3D printer stock ExOne Co (NASDAQ: XONE) is scheduled for after the marketcloses onThursday (March 16th). 3D printer stocks had their day in the sun a fewyears ago, buthave been disappointing investors eversincethe 3Dbubble burst whileHP Inc (NYSE: HPQ) entering the printer market with its Jet Fusion 3D adds further headwinds. However,3D printershares appear to have stabilized as the short interest has largely been cleared out.

investment news: Navistar International Corporation(NAV)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lee Jackson]

    Icahn also was a buyer last week of Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV). He acquireda total of 423.404 shares of the truck and engine maker at prices that ranged from $25.37 to $25.92. The total for the buy was listed at $11 million. The stock closed Friday at $27.49, so it looks like another well-timed buy. The 52-week range for the shares is $10.30 to $33.46, and the consensus price target is $26.79.

  • [By Lee Jackson]

    Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) was started with a Buy rating and a $36 price objective at Aegis Capital. That compares with a consensus target of $24.08. The 52-week range is $5.78 to $32.84. The stock closed yesterday at $30.93.

investment news: Scorpio Tankers Inc.(STNG)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Paul Ausick]

    Scorpio Tankers Inc. (NYSE: STNG) dropped 1 cent Monday to post a new 52-week low of $3.06 after closing at $3.07 on Friday. The stock’s 52-week high is $4.93. Volume of around 4.2 million about 5% above the daily average. The shipping firm priced a secondary offering of 30 million shares at $3.00 a share late last week.

  • [By Paul Ausick]

    Scorpio Tankers Inc. (NYSE: STNG) dropped 4.9% Wednesday to post a new 52-week low of $3.10 after closing at $3.26 on Tuesday. The stock’s 52-week high is $4.93. Volume of around 13 million was nearly four times the daily average. The company announced this morning that it had priced an underwritten offering of 30 million shares at $3.00 a share.

  • [By Paul Ausick]

    Scorpio Tankers Inc. (NYSE: STNG) dropped nearly 4% Tuesday to post a new 52-week low of $3.18 after closing at $3.31 on Monday. The stock’s 52-week high is $4.93. Volume of around 5.5 million was about 50% above the daily average. The company had no specific news.

Hot Casino Stocks To Buy Right Now

“Real estate is an imperishable asset ever increasing in value. It is the most solid security that human ingenuity has devised.” — Russell Sage

Walt Disney (1901-66), the singular visionary genius who — more than anyone — transformed the business of entertainment in the 20th century, had legions of admirers over the decades. Among them is Steve Wynn, founder, CEO and guiding mastermind of his eponymous casino empire. In both public and private statements, Wynn has pointed to Disney’s core insight into the fine art of delighting consumers as what drives the management culture of his company until this day.

But for all his prescient brilliance, Disney did not fully apprehend the shower of millions his Disneyland theme park would have on the properties surrounding the Anaheim project. Neither did the very savvy Harrison Price of the Stamford Research Institute, who Disney commissioned to pick out the best possible location for his first theme park.

He acquired 160 acres of orange groves and walnut trees in the then-sleepy Orange County suburb of Anaheim, believing it would provide a huge enough footprint upon which to build his dream. And it did. What he didn’t really grasp was that the nearby land could still be picked up cheap if you were either a speculator or a motel company foreseeing more than day-trippers visiting the park. As a result, no sooner than Disneyland opened in July 1955 was the area blotted with construction projects for motels, hotels, restaurants and shopping centers whose primary claim to financial viability sprung from their proximity to Disneyland. Walt watched the parasite property owners grow rich and vowed never to repeat the mistake. And he didn’t.

Hot Casino Stocks To Buy Right Now: (PIONF)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By SEEKINGALPHA.COM]

    International Lithium (ILC) is a small lithium explorer/project generator with four joint venture lithium projects, and one fully-owned lithium project:

    Mariana lithium brine in Argentina (20% ILC: 80% GFL). ILC can increase to 30% via a 10% back-in right. Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium (GFL) is committed to US$10m in expenditures at Mariana. This is their flagship project. Avalonia lithium pegmatite in Ireland (45% ILC: 55% GFL). GFL has the option to acquire an additional 24% after spending US$10m, or producing a Feasibility Study [FS]. Mavis Lake and Raleigh lithium pegmatite in Ontario Canada (49% ILC: 51% Pioneer Resources Limited (OTC:PIONF)). 100% of the Forgan Lake pegmatite project in Canada.

    Note that Avalon, Mavis Lake, Raleigh, and Forgan Lake also have rare earths. Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium (SHE:002460) has an 18.1% stake in ILC in addition to the above joint venture partnerships.

Hot Casino Stocks To Buy Right Now: Gulfport Energy Corporation(GPOR)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Paul Ausick]

    Gulfport Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: GPOR) dropped about 32% on Tuesday to record a new 52-week low of $4.22. The stock closed at $6.22 on Friday. Volume was about 25% below the daily average of around 3.9 million shares. The company had no specific news Tuesday.

  • [By Jon C. Ogg]

    Gulfport Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: GPOR) was raised to Overweight from Neutral at JPMorgan on December 15. The consensus price target was $19.23, and shares have traded in a 52-week range of $10.90 to $23.11. The stock closed at $12.19 ahead of the call, and the stock recently traded at $12.10.

  • [By Paul Ausick]

    Gulfport Energy Corp. (NASDAQ: GPOR) dropped about 2.3% on Thursday to record a new 52-week low of $18.24. The stock closed at $18.66 on Wednesday. Volume was about 15% below the daily average of around 3.9 million shares. The company had no specific news Thursday.

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    In trading on Monday, energy shares were relative laggards, down on the day by about 0.67 percent. Meanwhile, top losers in the sector included Whiting Petroleum Corp (NYSE: WLL), down 5 percent, and Gulfport Energy Corporation (NASDAQ: GPOR) down 6 percent.

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    In trading on Friday, energy shares fell 0.95 percent. Meanwhile, top losers in the sector included Cenovus Energy Inc (USA) (NYSE: CVE), down 6 percent, and Gulfport Energy Corporation (NASDAQ: GPOR), down 5 percent.

Hot Casino Stocks To Buy Right Now: StoneMor Partners L.P.(STON)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Monica Gerson]

    The list of below stocks is notable as the shares have traded on sequentially increasing volume spanning the trading days from September 16 to September 20:

Hot Casino Stocks To Buy Right Now: Navistar International Corporation(NAV)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lee Jackson]

    Icahn also was a buyer last week of Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV). He acquireda total of 423.404 shares of the truck and engine maker at prices that ranged from $25.37 to $25.92. The total for the buy was listed at $11 million. The stock closed Friday at $27.49, so it looks like another well-timed buy. The 52-week range for the shares is $10.30 to $33.46, and the consensus price target is $26.79.

  • [By Lee Jackson]

    Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) was started with a Buy rating and a $36 price objective at Aegis Capital. That compares with a consensus target of $24.08. The 52-week range is $5.78 to $32.84. The stock closed yesterday at $30.93.

Hot Casino Stocks To Buy Right Now: Contango Oil & Gas Company(MCF)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    Wednesday afternoon, the energy shares surged 0.79 percent. Meanwhile, top gainers in the sector included Contango Oil & Gas Company (NYSE: MCF), up 13 percent, and Cenovus Energy Inc (USA) (NYSE: CVE), up 7 percent.

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    In trading on Thursday, energy shares were relative laggards, down on the day by about 0.87 percent. Meanwhile, top losers in the sector included NGL Energy Partners LP (NYSE: NGL), down 17 percent, and Contango Oil & Gas Company (NYSE: MCF), down 12 percent.

Hot Casino Stocks To Buy Right Now: Corbus Pharmaceuticals Holdings, Inc.(CRBP)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Keith Speights]

    Corbus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:CRBP) managed to become one of the top-performing biotech stocks on the market in 2016. Over the last 12 months, Corbus’ share price has soared 550%.

  • [By Sean Williams]

    This rapid growth in legal pot has create quite the demand for marijuana stocks. The seven largest marijuana stocks by market cap have all put on a show over the past couple of years. Here are those seven “green giants” listed with their market caps as of March 17, 2017, along with their trailing one-year total returns.

    GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH): $3.0 billion, up 64% Canopy Growth Corp. (NASDAQOTH:TWMJF): $904 million, up 259% Aphria (NASDAQOTH:APHQF) $440 million, up 381% Aurora Cannabis (NASDAQOTH:ACBFF): $482 million, up 299% AXIM Biotechnologies (NASDAQOTH:AXIM): $562 million, up 1,720% Corbus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:CRBP): $450 million, up 431% Medical Marijuana (NASDAQOTH:MJNA): $221 million, up 254%

    As you can see, these are some hefty valuations — and some exceptionally strong moves higher on the heels of marijuana’s expansion. With the exception of GW Pharmaceuticals, every one of the largest marijuana stocks has at least tripled in value over the trailing 12 months, with cannabinoid-based drug developer AXIM Biotechnologies skyrocketing more than 1,700%!

The Likely Rise Of Electric Vehicles And The Impact On Metals

The take-up of electric vehicles (EVs) may well be in a growth pattern which could rival that of the price of bitcoin, but is unlikely, like the latter to push sales into bubble territory. As range anxiety and long charging times recede into obscurity with the enormous developments in battery technology, the environmental, and ultimately the cost, benefits of electric drive for automobiles over internal combustion engine (ICE)-driven small vehicles is likely to become paramount.

The potential exponential growth pattern for EV sales will have likely an enormous impact on the sales volume, and price, of the metals utilized in EV production. These are notably lithium, cobalt, manganese, nickel, graphite, and some rare earths in battery manufacture, copper (an electric vehicle utilizes far more copper than a conventional ICE-driven vehicle) and perhaps aluminum to keep body panel weight down – and maybe as a substitute for copper in electrical wiring systems. Conversely, the longer term future for platinum group metals, predominantly utilized in ICE engine exhaust cleaning catalysts may well be bleak, and we see a serious downturn for these commencing in the next decade – and getting worse from there.

We thus see several major keys necessary to stimulate the more general take-up of EVs, rather than plug-in hybrids (PHEVs). The first, and most important, is ever-improving battery technology, perhaps coupled with the expansion of a nationwide fast charging network to handle distance driving demand. Range anxiety will be countered by battery life improvements, while an interim solution could be the inclusion in EVs of small range extending ICEs designed primarily to charge the batteries rather than for driving the vehicles.

Up until the current year, there were few EVs on the market capable of achieving a range of much more than 100 miles, but this is changing now quite rapidly, although the 300-400 miles of range between charges, which is probably necessary to achieve true sales lift-off, is mainly only available at the high end of the price range. But every time a new model is announced, range tends to be one of the aspects which is being expanded. We would anticipate 250-350 mile range to be the norm, rather than the exception, even in many low-end EVs by the end of the current decade.

So, if one looks at the extremely rapid pattern of technological battery improvement in computers and in mobile phones, there has to be the likelihood that battery technology research will continue to raise vehicle range between charges, and reduce costs as a combination of technological advance and scale of production leads to savings here. No doubt rapid charging technology will also develop alongside, as will the installation of more and more charging points across the nation – this being the other main bugbear, along with vehicle cost, affecting EV take-up. Ultimately, we suspect that far greater ranges may become the norm – maybe even 1,000 miles on a single charge before too long, certainly for high end vehicles.

This would likely be a nail in the coffin of the internal combustion engine (ICE) as would likely increasing legislation to ban ICE-driven vehicles from urban areas which we are already seeing in some major cities around the world as urban administrations in particular do battle with air pollution, to which gas and diesel driven vehicles are a major contributor. Indeed some nations are already looking to ban sales of ICE-driven vehicles. Norway, for example, is proposing to ban all fossil-fuelled cars from its roads. As the UK’s Guardian newspaper reports, Norway already has the highest per capita number of all-electric [battery only] cars in the world: more than 100,000 in a country of 5.2 million people. In 2016, EVs constituted nearly 40% of the nation’s newly registered passenger cars. And the Norwegian experiment shows every sign of accelerating. Earlier this year, Norway opened the world’s largest fast-charging station, which can charge up to 28 vehicles in about half an hour. The country, joined by Europe’s No. 2 in electromobility, the Netherlands, intends to phase out all fossil fuel-powered automobiles by 2025.

New types of battery technology may also be a factor here. At the moment most, if not all, EVs run on lithium-ion technology, but research is under way into so-called solid-state batteries which offer (in theory at least) lighter weights, longer ranges, shorter charging times, and lower costs than current standard lithium-ion batteries. But so far, the technology has not been able to be transferred from the laboratory to the kind of size necessary to drive a full-size EV efficiently. Even with lithium-ion technology, though, Elon Musk’s Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) – perhaps the principal driver in the advance of EV design and implementation – is achieving a claimed 600 mile range between charges in some of its latest, currently available high-end vehicles – and is already on the way to achieving this on its ‘affordable’ Model 3 range.

Tesla has also announced an all-electric semi truck which appears expensive in relation to diesel driven trucks but claims a 2-year cost payback, given how much cheaper it is to run an all-electric vehicle than an ICE-powered one, and performance and range figures are impressive. Tesla also claims driver environment and substantial safety benefits for its semis. PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) has already ordered 100 of these and expects to start taking delivery by 2019/20.

Other manufacturers are also planning to produce and sell all-electric trucks by the end of the current decade – Reuters reports that Navistar International Corp. (NYSE:NAV) and Volkswagen AG’s (OTCPK:VLKAF) Truck and Bus are working together to launch an electric medium duty truck by late 2019, while rival Daimler AG (OTCPK:DDAIF) has delivered the first of a smaller range of electric trucks to customers in New York. These are designed for shorter ranges than the Tesla semi but will likely see expanded ranges as battery technology advances.

Re the solid state battery, in the UK, Sir James Dyson, of vacuum cleaner fame, is working to develop a Dyson EV by 2020 and is reportedly putting 拢2.5 billion towards its development. Dyson is also reportedly nailing his colors to the solid-state battery mast, although again whether a solid state battery sufficient to power an EV will be available in that timescale remains to be seen!

Japanese mainstream auto manufacturer Toyota (NYSE:TM) also reckons to be working on a solid-state battery-driven EV which it hopes to have on the market in the early 2020s. Undoubtedly, other mainstream manufacturers, virtually all of whom are working on EV design and production, will also be looking at the potential of solid state batteries because if they can be produced commercially will, eventually, offer the range, rapid charging and lower costs required to make EVs the norm rather than the exception.

With the kinds of technology growth patterns we have been seeing, we would anticipate total EV dominance of the automobile market far faster than recent projections might suggest – perhaps within 20 years. Already Volvo (OTCPK:VOLAF) has announced that every new car it launches from 2019 will have an electric motor (this will include hybrids so is not phasing out the ICE totally – yet – but is an indicator of the way the market is trending).

While battery technology/range is perhaps the most important factor for EV manufacture and sales going forward, cost is another hugely important factor. Despite the apparent drive-train simplicity of electric-powered vehicles, those on the market at the moment are much more costly than similar-sized conventional vehicles, and only attractive through the availability of government subsidies. Insurance costs are higher too.

But there are some other key advantages of electrically driven vehicles which will be major sales points assuming battery technology factors can be overcome – which they will be. Rapid torque availability – which means very fast acceleration – the far easier integration with new computer technology, potentially far lower running costs and the convenience of home charging, for those with that possibility, or with easy access to overnight charging points, rather than having to fill up at a gas station are all key points. But most of all the perceived environmental benefits of electric drive over ICE-driven vehicles are becoming paramount.

The capital and maintenance costs for EVs are likely to come down as take-up increases, but it may take time, and the continuation of subsidies until the market has truly taken off is probably key for any serious short-term growth momentum

Model Availability

Suffice it to say that the numbers of EVs available to the market will be increasing exponentially over the next few years with most mainstream manufacturers offering all-electric models already. However, one does have to credit Elon Musk’s Tesla company with bringing EVs into mainstream thought with its spectacular high end Model S and Model X EVs, offering a degree of luxury and incredible performance only previously seen in high-end supercars. And now, Musk’s company is in the throes of bringing his production vehicles into the ‘affordable’ category – if $35,000 plus is seen as ‘affordable’. Pre-orders for the Tesla Model 3 are such that, provided it can meet its production targets, without going bust first, would make Tesla one of the world’s largest automakers.

Musk is a visionary and is not stopping there and has just shown the all-electric-powered truck (mentioned above), and the ‘Insane’ Tesla Roadster capable of 0-60 mph in 1.9 seconds and with a claimed 620 mile range, but many think Musk’s company is hugely overstretched and will crash and burn under its huge debt burden.

But it is probably Musk’s amazing vision and drive which has stimulated the EV sector into action. Whether Tesla will survive, or will be overtaken by mostly mainstream auto manufacturers, who now have been dragged into the realization that EVs are almost certainly the future, remains to be seen. The mainstream manufacturers are battling to cut into Tesla’s undoubted lead in the sector and are already coming out with possible Tesla killers – like the Chevy Bolt which offers similar pricing and performance to the Tesla Model 3 – but somehow lacks its kerb appeal.

Metals Demand

The global automobile market is enormous and a switch to EVs could have a huge impact. Below is a barchart from Visual Capitalist based on the change in metals demand with a 100% take-up of all-electric battery driven cars but only based on the battery technology used in the Chevy Bolt – GM’s (NYSE:GM) direct competitor with the Tesla Model 3, which uses a different battery make-up – and would be very different still once solid state batteries have come into use. However, it is valuable in demonstrating some of the likely beneficiary metals in a switch to EVs.

Naturally, lithium tops the bill, but here, there is plenty of future production coming on stream to meet demand so a lithium play may not be as beneficial as it would seem from the chart. It is perhaps some of the other metals where supply may not be able to keep up with demand and prices may rocket, but because these metals are often produced as byproducts, securing an investment that may take off accordingly may be more difficult to do.

Of the primary metals, the biggest beneficiaries could be copper, nickel, and aluminum – the former because the average EV uses around twice as much copper as existing ICE-driven vehicles, nickel, and aluminum are both used in some battery technologies in a big way, while the latter will almost certainly get increasing use in body panels to keep vehicle weights down. Of the byproduct metals cobalt has obviously the most potential as do the rare earths – specifically dysprosium which is utilized in some electric drive technologies.

London quoted Glencore [LSE: GLEN] is comfortably the world’s biggest cobalt producer, but cobalt only represents a small part of the company’s product mix, but nickel is important too. An ADR is available to U.S. Investors: Glencore ADR (OTCPK:GLNCY). Canada’s Sherritt International [TSX: S] which will also benefit as a major nickel producer could be of interest and again is available on the OTC market in the U.S. – Sherritt International (OTCPK:SHERF). Another major cobalt miner with a U.S. ADR quote is Brazil’s Vale (NYSE:VALE) but, like Glencore, is one of the world’s largest diversified miners, and cobalt represents a fairly small part of its overall revenues – but Vale is also the world’s second largest nickel producer after Russia’s Norilsk (OTCPK:NILSY).

Dysprosium is the rare earths wild card, but there is little or no significant production outside China, although Australia’s Northern Minerals [ASX: NTU] has brought is Browns Range mine into production and reckons to be the world’s next significant dysprosium producer outside China. But its mining operation, high in heavy rare earths of which dysprosium is particularly significant, is only at pilot plant construction stage at the moment.

Graphite, which may be the other major beneficiary ‘metal’, is primarily produced in China, India, Brazil, Turkey, and North Korea. Graphite investment options in North America are largely restricted to the risky junior sector, and none are full board quoted. There have been articles on Seeking Alpha about these, but for the moment, this writer is steering clear. The junior sector seems just too speculative. Rather look to the major stocks which may benefit as the downsides are much more limited.

Of the major metals, copper appears to be the likely major beneficiary of significant growth in the EV sector, while maintaining significant demand in the ICE-driven vehicle sector. The world’s biggest producer remains the Chilean state-owned Codelco, but the remaining big producers apart from the U.S. company, Freeport McMoran (NYSE:FCX) are mostly the big diversified miners. Glencore and Vale, both mentioned above as major nickel and cobalt miners, are among these as are BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RIO), the world’s two biggest diversified miners. Both these are headquartered elsewhere – BHP’s joint HQ are in the UK and Australia, and Rio Tinto in the UK. Once again, because these are such big diversified mining companies, demand growth in a particular sector like copper may be less significant yet still give a useful boost to earnings.

The same applies to aluminum. Alcoa (NYSE:AA) is the biggest North American producer, but any impact due to growth in the automobile production sector won’t have a particularly significant impact overall as it will only represent a tiny portion of overall demand.

While this article primarily looks at the likely growth potential for EVs and some of the likely long term beneficiaries (virtually, none of the anticipated gains in the major sector are likely to eventuate until the next decade), one should also take a look at the eventual losers. The most notable is the market for platinum, palladium, and rhodium, all of which have their primary usage in ICE exhaust emission control catalytic technology. Here again, the problems are likely to appear long term – not short term where global recovery may still lead to some good gains – particularly if precious metals’ prices (driven by gold) rise. We would expect the platinum and palladium prices to rebalance in favor of platinum, given the change in the pricing differential is likely to result in a switch to platinum catalysts in at least a part of the gasoline ICE exhaust control market.

The current high palladium price of over $1,000 an ounce does not seem yet to have impacted stocks like Sibanye-Stillwater (SBGL). While the company is also expanding its platinum exposure through the just-announced purchase of Lonmin, it is not really being given the credit for its palladium exposure through Stillwater, and also in South Africa, where the majority of its production is based. Its holdings there are predominantly in mines producing primarily from the platinum richer Merensky reef, but it has the capability to add to its production on the UG2 reef which has a marginally higher palladium and rhodium content. But overall, both Stillwater and the South African producers are at best marginal operations at current pgm prices, although the higher palladium and rhodium prices may be slightly improving the economics.

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

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Editor’s Note: This article covers one or more stocks trading at less than $1 per share and/or with less than a $100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

About this article:ExpandAuthor payment: $35 + $0.01/page view. Authors of PRO articles receive a minimum guaranteed payment of $150-500.Tagged: Investing Ideas, Quick Picks & ListsWant to share your opinion on this article? Add a comment.Disagree with this article? Submit your own.To report a factual error in this article, click here

stock valuation

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The U.S. Department of Education has two quite different roles in the lives of indebted former students. The same bureaucracy that must safeguard taxpayer dollars by collecting $1.1 trillion in loans also oversees the nation’s largest-ever effort to forgive student debt.

These dual roles have culminated in a strange situation. The Obama administration has repeatedly promised that borrowers eligible to have their student loans cancelled would be reimbursed for “every penny.” But for months, the Education Department has been actively working to collect on federal student debt owed by tens of thousands of former students at Corinthian Colleges Inc., which filed for bankruptcy in 2015 under a cloud of fraud investigations.

“The department is not collecting on loans from borrowers that it knows are eligible” for fraud-based debt cancellations, said Kelly Leon, an Education Department spokeswoman. Leon said the department had corrected errors after identifying them and that education officials believe “nobody should be in collections for a loan that is eligible to be discharged.” The department worked with state prosecutors because they have resources the department doesn’t have, Leon said. She declined to answer numerous questions submitted in writing or provide further comment addressing Bloomberg News’s findings. 

stock valuation: Franklin Covey Company(FC)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Monica Gerson]

     

    Darden Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: DRI) is estimated to report its quarterly earnings at $1.08 per share on revenue of $1.81 billion.
    ConAgra Foods Inc (NYSE: CAG) is expected to report its quarterly earnings at $0.52 per share on revenue of $2.89 billion.
    Paychex, Inc. (NASDAQ: PAYX) is projected to report its quarterly earnings at $0.49 per share on revenue of $751.52 million.
    Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) is expected to post a quarterly loss at $0.09 per share on revenue of $2.95 billion.
    McCormick & Company, Incorporated (NYSE: MKC) is estimated to report its quarterly earnings at $0.74 per share on revenue of $1.06 billion.
    Constellation Brands, Inc. (NYSE: STZ) is expected to report its quarterly earnings at $1.51 per share.
    Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCHN) is estimated to report its quarterly earnings at $0.18 per share on revenue of $356.41 million.
    Franklin Covey Co. (NYSE: FC) is expected to post its quarterly earnings at $0.08 per share on revenue of $49.89 million.
    Lindsay Corporation (NYSE: LNN) is projected to report its quarterly earnings at $0.99 per share on revenue of $148.43 million.

    Posted-In: Earnings scheduleEarnings News Pre-Market Outlook Markets

stock valuation: SoftBank Group Corp. (SFTBY)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By SEEKINGALPHA.COM]

    Synchronoss Technologies (NASDAQ:SNCR) is a global leader in enterprise mobility cloud solutions, and software-based activation platforms for some of the largest global telecommunication providers, cable/broadband operators, and OEM’s (with a growing presence across a variety of different sectors such as Retail, Finance, and Healthcare). With over 3.5 Billion global subscribers (300 out of the Fortune 500), SNCR is providing customers cloud-based solutions that enable people to securely connect, synchronize, manage, and back up data across applications through connected devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and PCs. In-turn they enable the ability for employees to bring their own device “BYOD”, to work using their cloud based platform and embedded security features such as multi-factor authentication to target Enterprise based solutions (the focal point of their future). Their secure mobility and cloud-based enterprise solutions have significantly grown, and continue to evolve into a world class platform enabling enterprises to save money on hardware costs, improve operational efficiency, while driving significant productivity in a secure manner. With stable heavy weight telecommunication customers such as Verizon (NYSE:VZ), AT&T (NYSE:T), T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS), America Movil (NYSE:AMX), Orange (NYSE:ORAN), Telefonica S.A. (NYSE:TEF), Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD), and Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY), just to name a very few, SNCR is looking to diversify (70% of revenue still comes from VZ and T) across providers through cloud-based offerings, while leveraging their learning curve. With a valuable niche expanding horizontally and vertically in a high growth developing global market, producing healthy gross margins (60+%), an impressive list of market opportunities, and very reasonable valuation metrics relative to peers and estimated growth, SNRC is a great play every growth seeking, value oriented investor should consider.

  • [By SEEKINGALPHA.COM]

    According to FT Partners, the FinTech market saw a record 412 financial deals during the third quarter of 2017. One of the largest deals in the quarter involved a $250 million investment by Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY) in billion-dollar unicorn Kabbage (Private:KBGE).

  • [By WWW.THESTREET.COM]

    Softbank Group Corp. (SFTBY) shares gained in afternoon trading in Tokyo Monday, after it unveiled better-than-expected earnings for the three months ended in June.

  • [By SEEKINGALPHA.COM]

    Rubin had recruited Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY) to contribute $100 million to the startup, which was to be valued at, you guessed it, $1 billion. Another unicorn in the land of unicorns – this one with the groundbreaking idea of a premium Android smartphone.

  • [By SEEKINGALPHA.COM]

    In 2015, Alibaba and Ant invested $680 million in Paytm, India’s mobile payments scheme, giving it a 40 percent share at the time. Last month, they poured another $177 million into it, upping its ownership stake to more than 50 percent. Just last week, Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY) – Alibaba’s largest shareholder – was reported to be pondering a $1 billion investment in Paytm, which sources say could allow it to hive off its separately branded Paytm eCommerce marketplace. It’s also been suggested that having a Softbank investment that large in Paytm could assuage regulator concerns over China’s possible lock on the Indian market – Paytm currently has 200 million users in India. In December, a company vice president said that Paytm was doing more transactions – 7 million a day – than all of the combined debit and credit transactions in India.

  • [By SEEKINGALPHA.COM]

    Interestingly, margins were also approximately 14% in 2012 (the year before Softbank (OTCPK:SFTBY) acquired Sprint) when using the same “traditional EBITDA” methodology. Revenues in 2012, on the other hand, were higher than the annualized results for the first nine months of this current fiscal year. So, on an apples-to-apples basis, neither revenues nor margins appear to have improved much for Sprint since 2012.

stock valuation: Clean Diesel Technologies Inc.(CDTI)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Monica Gerson]

    Clean Diesel Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: CDTI) is projected to post a quarterly loss at $0.18 per share on revenue of $10.25 million.

    Sphere 3D Corp. (NASDAQ: ANY) is estimated to post a quarterly loss at $0.11 per share on revenue of $22.10 million.

stock valuation: Nuveen Municipal Value Fund Inc.(NUV)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Donald van Deventer]

    The latest implied forward rate forecast from Kamakura Corporation shows projected 10-year U.S. Treasury yields differing -0.07% to 0.03% from last week while fixed rate mortgage yields varied by -0.01% to 0.08%. Mortgage yields, determined by the Monday through Wednesday weekly survey of the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, lag Treasury movements simply because of the 3-day yield calculation used in the Primary Mortgage Market Survey. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield is projected to rise from 2.92% at Thursday’s close (down 0.06% from last week) to 3.374% (down 0.06% from last week) in one year. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield in ten years is forecast to reach 4.639%, 1 basis point lower than last week. The 15-year fixed rate mortgage rate is forecast to rise from the effective yield of 3.69% on Thursday (down 0.001% from last week) to 4.222% (down 0.006% from last week) in one year and 6.29% in 10 years, up 0.038% from last week. We explain the background for these calculations in the rest of this note, along with some mortgage servicing rights metrics. The forecast allows investors in exchange traded U.S. Treasury funds (TLT) (TBT), total return bond funds (BOND), municipal bonds (NUV) and exchange traded mortgage funds (REM) to assess likely total returns over the next 120 months. Treasury-related exchange traded funds affected by the forward rates include:

stock valuation: Perceptron, Inc.(PRCP)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    Perceptron, Inc. (NASDAQ: PRCP) shares shot up 14 percent to $7.23. Perceptron reported Q2 earnings of $0.27 per share on revenue of $21.75 million.

stock valuation: Navistar International Corporation(NAV)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lee Jackson]

    Icahn also was a buyer last week of Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV). He acquireda total of 423.404 shares of the truck and engine maker at prices that ranged from $25.37 to $25.92. The total for the buy was listed at $11 million. The stock closed Friday at $27.49, so it looks like another well-timed buy. The 52-week range for the shares is $10.30 to $33.46, and the consensus price target is $26.79.

  • [By Lee Jackson]

    Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) was started with a Buy rating and a $36 price objective at Aegis Capital. That compares with a consensus target of $24.08. The 52-week range is $5.78 to $32.84. The stock closed yesterday at $30.93.

Hot Performing Stocks For 2018

Corbus Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ:CRBP), the best-performing Nasdaq-traded biotech stock of 2016, is on the move again. Data from a phase II trial of its flagship cannabinoid Resunab on cystic fibrosis is due any day now. This time though, it is not just retail investors getting in front of the news. Corbus is now drawing a large amount of institutional attention from several directions.

Here is a look at who is buying Corbus and what we think is driving their decisions. First, a brief introduction to the company.

Corbus is focused on the development of drugs in the inflammatory and fibrotic disease space. Its lead asset is Resunab, which is where the vast majority of the company’s value rests right now. The science that underpins Resunab’s mechanism of action is based on cannabinoid science. Specifically, on the harnessing of what are called CB2 receptors, which are cannabinoid receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are found on the surface of immune cells and play a key role in the inflammatory process.

Hot Performing Stocks For 2018: SunTrust Banks, Inc.(STI)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lisa Levin] Related TRST Earnings Scheduled For October 21, 2016 Major Accounting Changes Are Coming To The Financial Industry
    Related MORN One Of The World's Most Powerful Women, Fidelity Personal Investing President Kathleen Murphy, To Tell Her Story At The Benzinga Global Fintech Awards The 2017 Benzinga Global Fintech Awards Will Include An 'Unprecedented Group' Of Judges Morningstar Packs Conference Lineup For Financial Advisors (Investor’s Business Daily) Companies Reporting Before The Bell
    Rockwell Collins, Inc. (NYSE: COL) is estimated to report quarterly earnings at $1.31 per share on revenue of $1.33 billion.
    General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) is expected to report quarterly earnings at $0.17 per share on revenue of $26.46 billion.
    Honeywell International Inc. (NYSE: HON) is estimated to report quarterly earnings at $1.60 per share on revenue of $9.32 billion.
    Interpublic Group of Companies Inc (NYSE: IPG) is expected to report quarterly earnings at $0.03 per share on revenue of $1.76 billion.
    Schlumberger Limited. (NYSE: SLB) is estimated to report quarterly earnings at $0.26 per share on revenue of $7.02 billion.
    SunTrust Banks, Inc. (NYSE: STI) is expected to report quarterly earnings at $0.83 per share on revenue of $2.21 billion.
    ManpowerGroup Inc. (NYSE: MAN) is projected to report quarterly earnings at $1.11 per share on revenue of $4.68 billion.
    Kansas City Southern (NYSE: KSU) is estimated to report quarterly earnings at $1.15 per share on revenue of $593.82 million.
    Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. (NYSE: SWK) is projected to report quarterly earnings at $1.19 per share on revenue of $2.74 billion.
    WABCO Holdings Inc. (NYSE: WBC) is estimated to report quarterly earnings at $1.44 per share on revenue of $721.89 million.
  • [By Ben Levisohn]

    We believe investors should continue to own three types of bank stocks: “Return of Capital (RC) Stocks”, “Risk On (RO) Stocks”, and “Multiple Revaluation (MR) Stocks.” RC stocks include M&T Bank (MTB), PNC Financial Services Group (PNC), and SunTrust Banks (STI); RO stocks include Bank of America, Popular (BPOP), Citigroup, JPMorgan, and KeyCorp (KEY); and MR stocks include BB&T (BBT) and PNC Financial Services Group (PNC).

Hot Performing Stocks For 2018: Regal Entertainment Group(RGC)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Jon C. Ogg]

    Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE: RGC) was already rated as Underperform at Credit Suisse, but the firm said that the chain has weak trends and warned that its forecasts and multiples are just still too high. While raising some estimates, Sheikh lowered his target on Regal Entertainment to $17 from $19 in this call.

Hot Performing Stocks For 2018: Stamps.com Inc.(STMP)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lee Jackson]

    These companies also reported insider selling last week: Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET), Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc. (NYSE: CFR), Rockwell Automation Inc. (NYSE: ROK), Stamps.com (NASDAQ: STMP) and Western Alliance Bancorporation (NYSE: WAL).

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    Stamps.com Inc. (NASDAQ: STMP) shares shot up 31 percent to $198.75 as the company posted upbeat Q2 results and raised its FY17 outlook.

    Shares of Solaredge Technologies Inc (NASDAQ: SEDG) got a boost, shooting up 21 percent to $27.56 after the company posted stronger-than-expected quarterly results.

  • [By Joe Tenebruso]

    Stamps.com (NASDAQ:STMP) reported sharply higher sales and earnings in the fourth quarter, as the shipping solutions company has become the platform of choice for a steadily growing number of online businesses.

Hot Performing Stocks For 2018: Navistar International Corporation(NAV)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lee Jackson]

    Icahn also was a buyer last week of Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV). He acquireda total of 423.404 shares of the truck and engine maker at prices that ranged from $25.37 to $25.92. The total for the buy was listed at $11 million. The stock closed Friday at $27.49, so it looks like another well-timed buy. The 52-week range for the shares is $10.30 to $33.46, and the consensus price target is $26.79.

  • [By Lee Jackson]

    Navistar International Corp. (NYSE: NAV) was started with a Buy rating and a $36 price objective at Aegis Capital. That compares with a consensus target of $24.08. The 52-week range is $5.78 to $32.84. The stock closed yesterday at $30.93.

Hot Performing Stocks For 2018: Cal-Maine Foods, Inc.(CALM)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    Some of the stocks that may grab investor focus today are:

    Wall Street expects Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE: RAD) to report quarterly earnings at $0.04 per share on revenue of $8.23 billion before the opening bell. Rite Aid shares gained 0.83 percent to $8.54 in after-hours trading.
    Micron Technology, Inc. (NASDAQ: MU) reported better-than-expected profit for its first quarter and issued a strong forecast for the current quarter. Micron shares climbed 9.91 percent to $22.62 in the after-hours trading session.
    Analysts expect Cal-Maine Foods Inc (NASDAQ: CALM) to post quarterly earnings at $0.48 per share on revenue of $262.83 million after the closing bell. Cal-Maine shares rose 0.12 percent to $42.75 in after-hours trading.
    Red Hat Inc (NYSE: RHT) reported upbeat earnings for its third quarter, but sales missed expectations. The company also announced that its CFO Frank Calderoni is stepping down. Red Hat shares tumbled 10.15 percent to $71.69 in the after-hours trading session.

    Find out what's going on in today's market and bring any questions you have to Benzinga's PreMarket Prep.

  • [By Tyler Crowe, Jordan Wathen, and Beth McKenna]

    So we asked three of our contributors to highlight a stock they see as a real underdog in the market today and why investors should be watching this stock. Here’s a quick look into why they picked banker Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), railcar manufacturer Greenbrier Companies (NYSE:GBX) , and egg wholesaler Cal-Maine Foods (NASDAQ:CALM)

  • [By Craig Jones]

    On CNBC's Fast Money Halftime Report, Jon Najarian said that Cal-Maine Foods Inc (NASDAQ: CALM) had unusually high options volume on Friday. Traders were buying the May 45 calls and Jon Najarian decided to follow the trade. He is planning to hold the position for 1 to 2 months.

Hot Performing Stocks For 2018: Diebold, Incorporated(DBD)

Advisors’ Opinion:

  • [By Lisa Levin]

    Some of the stocks that may grab investor focus today are:

    Wall Street expects Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. (NYSE: DPS) to report quarterly earnings at $1.06 per share on revenue of $1.57 billion before the opening bell. Dr Pepper Snapple shares fell 0.07 percent to close at $93.49 on Monday.
    Analysts expect American International Group Inc (NYSE: AIG) to post quarterly earnings at $1.01 per share on revenue of $12.87 billion after the closing bell. AIG shares gained 0.38 percent to $66.39 in after-hours trading.
    Flowers Foods, Inc. (NYSE: FLO) reported in-line earnings for its fourth quarter, while sales missed expectations. Flowers Foods shares fell 1.87 percent to $20.45 in the after-hours trading session.
    Before the markets open, Diebold Nixdorf Inc (NYSE: DBD) is projected to report its quarterly earnings at $0.32 per share on revenue of $1.31 billion. Diebold Nixdorf shares slipped 0.73 percent to close at $27.20 on Monday.

    Find out what's going on in today's market and bring any questions you have to Benzinga's PreMarket Prep.