New Year’s nervousness, new Iran sanctions, elephant seal traffic

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Uneasy New Year’s Eve preparations. Fearing a repeat of last year’s deadly stampede, Shanghai authorities have cancelled traditional celebrations. Festivities and fireworks were also called off in Brussels, due to an unspecified terror threat. Meanwhile, storm Frank is bringing power cuts and flooding to Scotland.

François Hollande speaks to a nation on edge. Following a fraught year for the country that included several deadly terrorist attacks, the French president will make a televised year-end address. The speech comes as Hollande is under fire for his proposal to strip French-born convicted terrorists of their citizenship.

Markets ring their final bells in 2015. Markets in Europe will be closed for at least half the day, and the US bond market will shut down at 2 pm. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is on track to ring in 2015 right where it started(paywall), in the worst year for the US stock market since 2011. Europe’s year was also disappointing, while China’s Shanghai Composite may end flatafter a turbulent year.

The last US unemployment data of the year. With the unemployment rate at a 7-year low, economists expect the latest four-week moving average to be a relatively modest 272,500.

While you were sleeping

Iran faces fresh sanctions. After Iranian rockets were fired 1,500 yards (1.4 km) from US and French Naval bases, the US is planning to cut ties with “nearly a dozen” companies and individuals associated with Tehran’s ballistic program, the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall).

Bill Cosby was charged with felony sexual assault. Prosecutors say the comedian drugged and raped a woman in 2004; he was released on $1 million bail, just days before the statute of limitations expired. Dozens of women have accused the 78-year-old of sexual assault.

The US indicted a friend of the San Bernardino shooter. Enrique Marquez, 24, faces potential charges for allegedly providing Syed Farook with two assault rifles used to kill 14 people in last month’s attack. He is also accused of conspiring to commit other attacks with Farook.

China released the relatives of a Uighur activist from jail. Authorities have freed Shawkem and Rexit Hoshur, brothers of Washington, D.C.-based journalist Shoret Hoshur, more one year after they were first detained. The unexpected news comes days after a French journalist was denied a visa renewal in China after reporting human rights abuses against Uighurs.

Quartz obsession interlude

Anne Quito on Louis Vuitton. “The iconic LV monogram with the Japanese-style flowers and quatrefoils was introduced in 1896…the custom step-and-repeat geometric motif was meant to be the brand’s most unique and distinguishing pattern. Ironically enough, the monogram pattern has become one of the most replicated branding insignias today—from cheap iPhone cases to waffle makers to body tattoos—as a graphic shortcut for luxury and wealth.” Read more here.

Markets haiku

Not too much trading

Just trying to tread water

Can’t light gas, boil oil

Matters of debate

It’s still better to be fat and fit than thin and unfit. Just being fat won’t kill you.

Don’t blame tech companies for San Francisco’s housing crisis.Progressive “housing advocates” are the ones making matters worse.

Airline luggage fees are actually pretty good deals. Travelers should be paying even more per bag.

Surprising discoveries

Microsoft didn’t tell over 1,000 Hotmail users they were hacked by China. Instead, after determining the government had accessed their accounts, it told users to change their passwords, Reuters reports.

Crows may be smarter than chimpanzees. At least when it comes tousing tools.

Why did the 900-pound elephant seal cross the road? Authorities aren’t sure, but it snarled California highway traffic for two whole days.

Belgian police reportedly had an orgy during the manhunt for the Paris attackers. They were in close quarters during the city’s terror lockdown.

Neurosurgeons are experimenting with hypnosis as an alternative to anesthesia. Modern patients may benefit from old-fashioned trances.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, animal tools, and elephant seals to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitterfor updates throughout the day.

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Internet.org’s deadline, anti-ISIL airstrike, priests on hoverboards

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

A day of reckoning for Facebook’s Internet.org. It’s the last day to comment on whether India’s government should allow telecoms to charge different rates for data, which would affect Facebook’s plan to provide limited internet access to India’s poor. CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently made his case in a strident op-ed.

The Central African Republic holds a historic election. CAR hopes toreinstate democracy after voting was delayed three days for technical difficulties. That’s a short wait compared to the volatile three-year transition period the country has endured since longtime president François Bozizé was ousted by rebels.

Filipino protesters leave the South China Sea. A group of students, led by a former naval commander, arrived on a contested island on Saturday. The students described their “patriotic” voyage as an act of defiance to protest China’s claim to the South China Sea.

While you were sleeping

The US said its air strikes killed an ISIL militant involved in the Paris attacks. Charaffe al Mouadan had a “direct link” to ringleader Abdelhamid Abaaoud and “was actively planning additional attacks against the West,” US military officials said. Separately, Belgium arrested two members of “a Muslim biker gang called the Kamikaze Riders” who were allegedly planning a New Year’s Eve attack.

The Islamic State’s sex slave handbook was discovered. The terror group codified the rape of hostages with detailed rules and regulations,according to newly released documents. Sex slaves have been held and sold by ISIL since the early days of its declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria, and the group says slavery is an “inevitable consequence” of its conquests.

A key North Korean diplomat was killed. State media reported that Kim Yan Gon, a veteran DPRK official who was a top negotiator with Seoul, perished in a car accident. Analysts believe that his passing will halt progress on North Korea’s relations with the south.

DuPont cut 1,700 jobs before its Dow merger. The chemical company plans to eliminate nearly one-third of its workforce in its home state of Delaware. There’s more to come: Executives want to shrink its overall workforce of 63,000 by 10% before the convoluted deal is done.

Blackberry exited Pakistan. The smartphone maker says it can no longerprotect its customers’ privacy after the government demanded unrestricted access to its servers. Meanwhile, Blackberry’s share of the global smartphone market continues to decline.

Quartz obsession interlude

Alison Griswold on why Airbnb is becoming a real threat to the hotel business in big US cities. “Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has famously shied away from the term ‘disruption,’ and the hotel industry has also embraced the notion that its core base of business travelers isn’t the same as the people booking vacation jaunts in Airbnb’s housing stock. US-wide, that might still be the case. But the city-level data on Airbnb’s bookings makes that story a lot harder to believe.” Read more here.

Markets haiku

Petro techno bump

Not gangbusters, but something

Green shoots in winter

Matters of debate

Japan’s “comfort women” apology is all about geopolitics. The long-awaited admission comes at a huge moral cost.

New Year’s Eve is a scientifically proven disappointment. Expecting a good time is a surefire way not to have one.

The internet is a toxic garden. Users need to collectively make the soil less hospitable to harassers and trolls.

Surprising discoveries

The most prolific wall-punchers are 15-year-old boys. US teenagersare also punching thermostats, washing machines, and paper-towel dispensers.

Burglars in Denver are stealing snacks and watching anime. The Hot Pockets are gone, but the valuables remain.

A giant squid went swimming in a Japanese marina. Only a few hundred of the tentacled creatures have ever been spotted.

A Filipino priest rode a hoverboard at Christmas Eve mass. He has been punished for his irreverence.

The North Pole will be warmer than parts of Southern California this week. Temperatures will be up to 60℉ higher than normal.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, wall-punching teenagers, and burgled snacks to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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Winter storms, Cuban migrants, wood fire bans

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Winter storms hit the US and the UK. The winter storm Goliath, part of deadly weather that killed at least 43 people over the weekend, moves into the Northeast. Meanwhile, Scotland faces floods as winter storm Frank hits the country with heavy rain and plunging temperatures.

A trio of reports on the US economy. Analysts expect the trade deficit to widen thanks to the strong dollar. October home prices are expected to rise 5.5% from last year in the latest survey from Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller, while consumer confidence numbers from the Conference Board are expected to rise due to falling gas prices and a stronger jobs market.

Erdogan arrives in Saudi Arabia. The Turkish president meets with King Salman against the backdrop of conflicts in Syria, Yemen, and Iraq. Turkeyrecently announced it would join a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni states to fight terrorism.

While you were sleeping

The US grappled with more police shootings. Prosecutors in Cleveland drew heavy criticism after a grand jury did not indict the cop who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was holding a toy pistol, last year. Chicago residents held protests after police shot and killed two people over the weekend, including a bystander and activist who was a mother of four. An officer in Puerto Rico held three fellow officers hostage before killing them in a workplace dispute.

Saudi Arabia released a defense-heavy 2016 budget. King Salman’s newly formed government is making major cuts to energy subsidies and raising oil, electricity, and water prices. The country is paying a heavy financial price for its war against shale oil.

Iran shipped 25,000 pounds of uranium to Russia. After an accord last July that forced Tehran to reduce its nuclear capabilities, the Iranian government is sending a portion of its uranium stockpiles out of the country. Secretary of state John Kerry praised the move, but sanctions against Iran won’t be lifted until the UN inspects.

Guinea was declared Ebola free. The UN World Health Organization has found no new instances of the disease in 42 days. Liberia is now the only country still fighting the epidemic.

Cuban migrants were granted permission to continue to the US. A group of Central American nations agreed to a “pilot program” that would allow Cubans stuck in Costa Rica to fly to El Salvador, where they’d then be bused into Mexico and further north. More than 8,000 Cubans are currently trying to immigrate to the US from Costa Rica.

Quartz obsession interlude

Alice Truong on making virtual reality sound real. “Because of the immersive nature of virtual reality, any inconsistencies—including audio—can become glaringly obvious. But done right, virtual reality can create a sense of presence, which in essence fools the viewer’s eyes and brain into believing what’s virtually around them is in fact real.” Read more here.

Markets haiku

Christmas cheer is gone
Stocks held back by energy
As the year winds down

Matters of debate

Big Oil is coming to an end. Western oil companies, unable to compete with shale and OPEC, should consider graceful exit strategies.

Ethicists aren’t especially ethical. From littering to vegetarianism, they are not very good at practicing what they preach.

Elon Musk is right about the threat of AI. But he’s woefully wrong about why it’s dangerous.

Surprising discoveries

Louis Vuitton’s next top model is from a video game. Lightning, a character from the Final Fantasy series, stars in a new ad for the fashion house.

There’s almost nothing left of New York’s Little Syria. Just three historic buildings remain in the formerly bustling 19th century enclave.

Big Food is getting real. Hershey revealed closely guarded informationabout GMOs to win over hyper-conscientious consumers.

An Italian town banned wood-fired ovens. The classic pizza-making appliances are blamed for San Vitaliano’s pollution problem.

A condom-dispenser heist ended in disaster. A German man died trying to blow up the machine to steal the money and merchandise inside.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, well-behaved ethicists, and wood-fired pizza to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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Research & Investment | Season’s Greetings

Season’s Greetings

Christmas

We wish all our readers peace and goodwill over the Christmas season
and prosperity in the year ahead.

Advice herein is provided for the general information of readers and does not have regard to any particular person’s investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Accordingly, no reader should act on the basis of any information contained herein without first having consulted a suitably qualified financial advisor.

By Colin Twiggs
December 24th, 2015 2:30 a.m. EST (6:30 p.m. AEDT)

 

Global crude and commodity markets are undergoing a major re-adjustment. A sharp fall in Chinese demand meets surging supply from new resources brought on-stream in anticipation of higher this-time-is-different-and-the-bubble-will-never-end prices.

Nymex WTI Light Crude and Brent Crude are both testing their 2008/9 lows around $35 per barrel. The spectacular peak is likely to be followed by an equally spectacular trough. Support at $35 is unlikely to hold.

Nymex WTI Light Crude and Brent Crude

Low crude prices, low inflation and higher interest rates are all likely to weigh on gold. Breach of $1050 per ounce would signal a test of primary support at $1000/ounce*. 13-Week Twiggs Momentum peaks below zero flag a strong primary down-trend.

Spot Gold

* Target calculation: 1100 – ( 1200 – 1100 ) = 1000

US and European stock markets are better able to cope with the commodity cycle than resource-rich economies like Australia, Brazil, South Africa, Russia and the Middle East.

The S&P 500 found support at 2000 but breakout above 2130 is unlikely at present. Gradual decline of 13-week Twiggs Money Flow suggests a lack of enthusiasm from buyers.

S&P 500 Index

Australia’s ASX 200 respected primary support at 5000, suggesting a bear rally to 5400. But 13-week Twiggs Money Flow is also declining. Breakout above 5400 is unlikely. Respect would warn of another decline, with a target of 4600*. Breach of 5000 would confirm.

ASX 200 Index

* Target calculation: 5000 – ( 5400 – 5000 ) = 4600

Japan’s apology in Seoul, Star Wars crosses $1B, duck bacon

 

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

The final trading days of 2015. US stocks are up slightly on the year, but many other asset classes—from the Brazilian real to natural gas—had a rough time of it. Trading over these last four days is expected to be tepid(paywall). Expect most fluctuations this week to be attributed to investors taking profits and losses for tax purposes, whether or not that’s actually the cause. It’s going to be a quiet week.

Japan tries to resolve the impasse over WWII Korean sex slaves. In Seoul its foreign minister is expected to deliver a handwritten apology from prime minister Shinzo Abe acknowledging Japan forced Korean women into military brothels during the war. South Korea is unlikely to be satisfied until Japan offers significant monetary compensation, which it might do.

Israel weighs a rate change. The country’s central bank continues to hold interest rates near zero. But despite the US moving to raise rates, Israel is unlikely to follow suit because its economic recovery has been far more sluggish.

Burundi’s leaders seek to calm the country. Supporters of president Pierre Nkurunziza protested in the capital and elsewhere over the weekend, while heads of rival factions headed to Uganda for peace talks. Violence has escalated since Nkurunziza said he would seek a third term in office.

Over the weekend

Iraqi forces retook Ramadi from ISIL. The military said it was back in control of the capital of the Anbar province, which was the Islamic State’s “biggest prize of 2015.” The offensive in Ramadi began last week and culminated on Sunday with the seizure of a government complex. It’s the Iraqi military’s first major victory since its devastating 2014 collapse.

China got a new license to pry. A new law passed by the Chinese legislature on Sunday will give the government sweeping new powers under the auspices of fighting terrorism. The law has been criticized as overreaching by human rights advocates, business groups, and the United States.

New records for Star Wars. The Force Awakens became the fastest movie ever to cross $1 billion in ticket sales. The J.J. Abrams-directed blockbuster continued to dominate movie theaters over the Christmas weekend.

Heavy rainfall flooded northern England. In parts of York, Leeds, and Manchester, the British Army assisted in the evacuation of thousands of people whose homes flooded from heavy rain and rising rivers. Rails were shut down as the police warned against flood “sightseeing.”

Tornadoes killed at least 11 people in Texas. Twisters tore through the Dallas area over the weekend. Last week, tornadoes killed at least 18 people in Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Extreme weather across the US, including unseasonably high temperatures on the east coast, is being attributed to El Niño.

Quartz obsession interlude

Haroon Moghul on the future of Islam in the West. “Long before ISIL became the watchword on everyone’s lips, before Islamophobia had become the platform of too many Western political parties, I attended a gathering of Muslim leaders in the Middle East. The reason I recall this to you is because the point of this gathering was to bring top minds together to discuss our common challenges… Unity shouldn’t mean unanimity: Down that road lies dictatorship and extremism. Unity should mean a desire for ongoing and accelerating cooperation in ways that are tangible, realistic, and productive.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Afghanistan’s justice system isn’t becoming more just for women.Following the brutal public lynching of Farkhunda Malikzada, hundredsmarched in solidarity. Months later, justice has not been done despite the more than $1 billion spent by the US to improve legal protections for women

To keep their guns, Americans will have to learn to live with fear. In the past, terrorism has been met with action while mass shootings have been met with prayers—and renewed lobbying from gun advocates. If terrorists act like mass shooters, however, Americans may have to adjust to a bitter new normal.

Christianity’s best chance at a resurgence lies in Africa. Still the world’s most popular religion, Christianity has been steadily declining across Europe and North America. Meanwhile, sub-Saharan Africans are some of the faith’s most devout followers.

Saving drug users may mean allowing them to use drugs. US lawmakers passed a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill last week, including a rider that restores the possibility of federal funding for needle exchange programs. For both drug users and those who advocate for them, this is a huge step, but there’s still more to be done.

Surprising discoveries

You can dial the wrong number from space. British astronaut Tim Peakesent an apologetic tweet on Christmas Eve after accidentally dialing a random homeowner on Planet Earth. He’d been trying to reach his family from the International Space Station.

A new airplane could ease jet lag. Airbus’s A350 XWB jets come equipped with LED lighting designed to imitate normal shifts in sunlight.

Ancient Egyptians had their own version of Hong Kong. Now underwater, the ancient city of Naukratis was once a major Greek trading hub.

You don’t need pork to make bacon. For those who keep kosher, beef, lamb, and duck will do the trick just fine.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, bacon bits, and tips on space calls to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter for updates throughout the day.

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CWS Market Review – December 25, 2015

December 25, 2015
“All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”
– Blaise Pascal

Merry Christmas!​

Last week, I unveiled our Buy List for 2016 (you can see the full list here). In this week’s CWS Market Review, I’ll go into more depth on our changes and why we’re making them. I’ll also update you on our Buy List for this year. With a week to go, we’re holding a nice lead over the S&P 500. This will be the eighth time in the last nine years that we’ve beaten the overall market. Once again, patience and prudent investing have served us well.

The stock market is closed today for Christmas. Next week will be the final trading week of the year. In next week’s issue, I’ll have a summary of the 2015 Buy List, and the precise weightings for the 2016 Buy List.

As usual, the 20 stocks will be equally weighted, using the closing price on Thursday, December 31. For track-record purposes, I will assume the Buy List is a $1 million portfolio, with $50,000 allocated to each of the 20 stocks. Also in next week’s issue, I’ll have the Buy Below prices for our five new stocks. Now let’s take a look at where the 2015 Buy List stands.

Another Market-Beating Year for Our Buy List

We’re wrapping up the tenth year of our Buy List. For the last decade, we’ve followed the exact same rules—20 stocks, no trading and five changes each year.

We lost to the market in our first year, but then beat it for the next seven years in a row. That streak came to an end last year, when we lost to the S&P 500 by a little less than 2%. I’m happy to report that we’re back to our market-beating ways this year.

Through Thursday’s close, our Buy List is up 4.75%, while the S&P 500 is up by 0.10%. (Hey, we’re beating the market nearly 50 to 1!) Once we include dividends, our Buy List is up 5.94%, while the S&P 500 is up 2.20%. I always consider the final performance number to be the one with dividends included. As a very rough rule of thumb, the S&P 500 has yielded about 2% for the last few years, while our Buy List has yielded about 1%.

Note how well we’ve done despite getting battered by stocks like Qualcomm and Bed Bath & Beyond (both are down over 33%). That’s because the Buy List is well diversified. This is an important lesson investors need to understand. The market gods are capricious and unforgiving. I certainly didn’t think a Spam stock was going to be a 53% winner this year. But that’s what happened. Every week or so, I’ll get an e-mail that says, “Eddy, if you could buy just one stock….” Sigh. Sometimes I think preaching sound investing is a losing battle.

Here’s an interesting fact: The daily changes of our Buy List correlate 96.5% with those of the S&P 500. That number would scare the bejeezus out of any hedge-fund manager. They spend lots of time and energy trying to zig when the market zags. But for us, that’s not so important. We’re not trying to get 500% a year. In fact, it’s the going-for-the-fences strategy that often winds up causing a fund to get schlonged. Note the Pascal quote in this week’s epigraph.

I also want to clarify an important point. For track-record purposes, I rebalance the Buy List each year, but there’s no need for you to rebalance your portfolio each year. That’s only necessary when a position may grow to an unusually large weighting in your holdings. Then it might be a good idea to cut back on it and reallocate the funds to other positions. But that kind of rebalancing is only needed every three years or so, assuming you start with a well-diversified portfolio.

The New Additions for 2016

Now let’s look at 2016. The five new stocks for 2016 are Alliance Data Systems, Biogen, Cerner, HEICO and Stericycle.

First, let me explain how I go about selecting our stocks. A big mistake many investors make in stock selection is that they use a top-down approach. By this, I mean that they’ll say to themselves, “What’s going to be really big in the future? I know! Biotech! Or green energy! Or China. Or a Chinese green energy firm that does biotech!”

That’s the wrong approach. The right way is to find a few companies that are really, really good at what they do. What they do is secondary. I realize that sounds counterintuitive, but remember that in a free-enterprise economy, just about any task can be profitable. Check out the impressive long-term chart of Smuckers (SJM). I find it reassuring that very few hedge funds have come close to the performance of the jelly people.

If in the early 1980s you had been prescient about the personal-computer revolution, you probably would have invested in Wang, DEC and IBM. That’s the weak part of a top-down approach. Even if you’re right on the top part, that doesn’t mean you’re going to be right on the down part.

You may have noticed that again, we don’t have any energy stocks. That’s not me making a prediction on the energy market. I simply couldn’t find anyone I liked at the moment. I also realize that hinders some of the Buy List’s diversification. You may also notice that there are a lot of healthcare stocks on the Buy List. Again, that’s not a sector call on my part. It just so happens that a lot of my favorite stocks are in healthcare at the moment. Still, I don’t believe the new Buy List is unduly weighted towards healthcare.

I also know that many investors really don’t like stocks with high nominal prices. I’m sorry, but this is a fear you’ll have to get over. There are lots of great stocks that go for over $200 per share. You can always buy fewer shares.

Now let’s look at our five new stocks.

Alliance Data Systems (ADS). These are the guys behind the rewards programs for many different companies. It’s one of the businesses you would never think is as profitable as it is. ADS has grown its EPS very steadily for the last several years: $5.16, $5.86, $7.63, $8.71, $10.01 and $12.56. The company expects $15 for 2015, and $17 for next year. I think they can top both of those. Again, don’t let the high share price scare you.

After I got done making fun of biotech, here I am adding Biogen (BIIB). But I like it. Like a lot of biotech stocks, Biogen has gotten slammed this year. In March, it crossed $480 per share. Now it’s around $300. There are about 400 publicly traded biotech stocks. Only about 10% are profitable in any meaningful sense. Biogen is one, and it’s a good one. The recent numbers have been quite good. The company also took a painful but necessary step in cutting its workforce. Biogen also has one of the highest profit margins you’ll see, about 34%. Only the mafia and the government get higher than that.

Cerner (CERN) is a healthcare IT company. What Fiserv is to finance, Cerner is to healthcare. This is another stock that’s been chopped down this year. CERN was over $75 in April and now it’s near $60. Last month, the company gave a weak outlook for 2016. They see earnings ranging between $2.30 and $2.40 per share. Wall Street had been expecting $2.53 per share. Still, that’s a nice increase over the $2.07 they should earn for 2015, and the $1.65 they made last year. Cerner is a solid company.

HEICO (HEI) is exactly the kind of company I love to find. HEICO is a defense and aerospace contractor. They’re not well known. They’re kind of boring. And they’re very profitable. In fact, the stock was just upgraded by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Please note that I’m recommending HEI, the common shares. There are A shares which have slightly different voting rights. Of the five new stocks, HEICO is the only one that pays a dividend, but it’s pretty small (0.30%).

Stericycle (SRCL) is a medical-waste-management company whose stock got clobbered last earnings season. SRCL plunged from around $150 to $120 per share, which is about where it is today. The company missed earnings by 10 cents per share. I’m not sure why a profit miss is valued with a P/E Ratio of 300, but in this case, it was. Some of the earnings miss was due to the dollar, and some was due to a business slowdown. Stericycle said that should pass. I like that this business has high fixed costs. Also, almost all of their revenue comes from long-term contracts. Stericycle is poised for a good year.

The Six Deletions

We’re deleting six stocks this year. I often asked about why a stock may go off the list. The most common reason is that the company somehow changes into something different from the firm we added.

This year, for example, Ball Corp. is different from the company we added. They’re in the process of merging with Rexam. I wish them well, but the fact is, that’s a major merger, and it’s not the same old Ball that we knew.

Another good example is eBay. The stock was flat for us last year, but I was eager to keep it for 2015. I know the PayPal spinoff would lift the shares. I thought the combined entities would return 20% for us in 2015. It turns out I was a little too optimistic. The combined investment has made about 15% for us, which is still quite good. I’m not a big fan of eBay as a stand-alone company. I suspect that PayPal will be bought out by somebody within the next three years, perhaps sooner.

Qualcomm and Oracle were easier decisions. The companies have performed very poorly this year. Just about everything that could go wrong with Qualcomm, did. In many ways, I felt my decision to add QCOM was justified. It was financially strong, with high cash flow and solid dividends. But that’s not enough. The company is under attack from all sides. They need to break themselves up but management is against the idea.

I feel more optimistic for Oracle. The company indicated that things should get better from here, but I’m tired of waiting for the promised turnaround. These things take time. With a company like Ford, I’m much more willing to wait.

Moog was a hard decision. I like the company a lot, but this was a very challenging year for them. They lowered guidance three times this year. That really stung. For its part, Moog is optimistic for 2016. I hope things improve over there, since this is a sound company.

Buy List Updates

After the closing bell on Tuesday, Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) issued a press release that said that fiscal Q3, which ended in November, will come in below its previous guidance. The official earnings report doesn’t come out until January 7, but they wanted to give us a heads up.

Bed Bath now expects Q3 revenues to rise to $3.0 billion. That’s an increase of just 0.3%. They had previously expected sales to rise between 1.8% and 4.0%. They also expect same-store sales to fall by 0.4%. The previous guidance was for an increase between 1% and 3%.

Now for earnings. BBBY sees Q3 earnings ranging between $1.07 and $1.10 per share. The previous range was $1.14 to $1.21 per share. Note that a miss on the top line is inevitably a larger percentage miss on the bottom line.

This isn’t good news. The stock dropped 4.6% on Wednesday and reached a new 52-week low. However, I’m more concerned about a slowdown during their crucial fiscal Q4 (December, January, February). This news suggests that Q4 won’t be good, but we can’t confirm by how much. Bed Bath & Beyond gave us a small hint when they said they expect same-store sales to rise by 1% from the beginning of December through Christmas.

Bed Bath & Beyond reached the final round in my debate regarding stocks to vote off the island. Ultimately, I thought the price was low enough to keep them around for another year. While this week’s news is unpleasant, it doesn’t alter my outlook. I’m lowering my Buy Below on BBBY to $53 per share.

This week, Express Scripts (ESRX) said it sees earnings next year ranging between $6.08 and $6.29 per share. Wall Street had been expecting $6.04 per share. That’s a nice increase.

“Our focused model of alignment has positioned us uniquely in the healthcare-services landscape to improve health outcomes and lower costs for our clients and patients,” said George Paz, CEO and chairman of Express Scripts. “No one matches our focus on serving clients and patients, and we remain confident in our continued growth and returning exceptional results to our shareholders.”

“The fundamentals of our business allow us to deliver solid financial results while making investments to continue our growth as a leading independent PBM and healthcare provider,” said Tim Wentworth, President. “We have an aligned book of business and a deep set of innovative solutions to help clients and patients. As we create value for our patients and clients, we create value for our shareholders.”

Express also reiterated its guidance for growth in 2015 of 13% to 14%. That’s what they said with the last earnings report, when they also gave a full-year range of $5.51 to $5.55 per share. Unfortunately, Wall Street was not impressed by the higher guidance, but I am. Express Script remains a buy up to $92 per share.

A few other points to mention. Wabtec (WAB) was upgraded by Stifel. Ross Stores (ROST) was upgraded by Cowen. They said ROST’s merchandize is “un-Amazonable.” I like that word.

That’s all for now. The stock market will be closed next Friday for New Years Day. There’s really not much in the way of economic news. Expect most market commentary to focus on 2016. Remarkably, the S&P 500 has only had one down calendar year since 2003. We’re very close this year. Be sure to keep checking the blog for daily updates. I’ll have more market analysis for you in the next issue of CWS Market Review!

– Eddy

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Named by CNN/Money as the best buy-and-hold blogger, Eddy Elfenbein is the editor of Crossing Wall Street. His free Buy List has beaten the S&P 500 seven times in the last eight years. This email was sent by Eddy Elfenbein through Crossing Wall Street.

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Christmas edition—Jesus as refugee, Spotify’s magic, ISIL’s Hollywood inspiration

Note: Because of Christmas, this edition replaces the daily brief. Normal service will resume on Monday.

Good morning, Quartz readers!

As your social media contacts must have reminded you by now, Christmas truly is the story of a Middle Eastern family seeking refuge. Recent forensic research suggests that Jesus looked very much like the men that so many in the predominantly Christian Western world are frightened to let into their countries. Even in photos of the refugees, there are striking echoes of biblical iconography.

“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me,” Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel. “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” This is at the very core of Christian values: love your neighbor as yourself—and as your god.

And yet Westerners are, by and large, keeping refugees at bay, bargaining their quotas down, as if the world’s 2.2 billion Christians had never been taught the story of Joseph and Mary being refused accommodation because they were poor strangers.

Perhaps instead we can show mercy for mothers breastfeeding their children on a cold beach, for men who nearly drown trying to swim to shore, for children who have no choice but to follow their parents in chasing a future—any future, anywhere.

These people are the real-life versions of the icons that Christians have come to associate with the passion of god as a human. Let us recognize them as such. Let us acknowledge, once and for all, that being a refugee—of war, poverty, or discrimination—is a sheer function of luck, and we did nothing to deserve our better fate. Whenever and wherever humanity is suffering, we are involved, and the responsibility to offer refuge is ours until the least of us have shelter.—Annalisa Merelli

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

This was the year we agreed to genetically engineer our children.“Designer babies” are still a long way off; but, argues Akshat Rathi, the UK’s decision this year to allow mitochondrial replacement therapy was a turning point, because it means revisions made to human DNA will get passed down through the generations.

China’s year of financial scams. Dodgy investment schemes robbed Chinese investors of about $24 billion this year alone. Zheping Huang and Echo Huang round up the scandals and analyze the mixture of growing prosperity and weak regulation that leads people to get fleeced with such regularity.

Infectious bacteria are winning. Drug-resistant bacteria could be killing 10 million people a year by 2050, thanks to over-prescription of antibiotics and the slowing pace of new drug discoveries. In an interactive graphic, Keith Collins explores why our biggest weapon against bacterial disease has become so weakened.

Where ISIL gets its inspiration. You’ll be taken aback when you see Nushmia Khan’s video, which juxtaposes clips from Islamic State recruiting videos with Hollywood action movies and shoot-’em-up games. It leaves no room for doubt: the jihadists have appropriated Western commercial imagery of violence to appeal to young minds.

The technological magic of Spotify playlists. The streaming music service sends personally curated playlists to 75 million users each week—and it’s uncannily good. Adam Pasick goes deep into Spotify’s deep-learning algorithm to understand how it understands him so well.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

The great Republican revolt. In the Atlantic, former Bush speechwriter David Frum explains the rise of Donald Trump as a backlash by the Republican base against the party’s takeover by billionaire donors, and lays out options—none of them comfortable—for its future. Read it in conjunction with Peter Beinart’s essay on why America as a whole is moving left.

Christmas in the world’s biggest shopping center. Yiwu Market is a gigantic collection of buildings in China’s Zhejiang province, where the cheap goods that stock the world’s budget stores are sold. In this text-and-photo dispatch (a year old, but worthy of revival) by software developer and blogger Dan Williams, it’s a surrealistic, depopulated zone outside of normal time and space, the metaverse of the global consumer economy.

Walter Pitts, the most brilliant scientist you never heard of. This tale of an astonishing polymath who helped lay the foundation for modern computing, and his tragic self-destruction, is a parable about the fragility of genius. Our friends at the Browser gave Amanda Gefter’s story in Nautilus the “Golden Giraffe” award for best writing of the year.

Living as a damaged woman. Female genital mutilation isn’t something that only happens to children in jihadist-run African villages. This account by Mariya Karimjee, a middle-class Pakistani-American, of trying to explore her sexuality as an adult after having had her clitoris removed as a child is one of the year’s top picks from our colleagues at This., and deservedly so: It’s clear, eloquent, and absolutely searing.

Best of best-ofs. Just in case you don’t have enough to keep you occupied over the holidays, here are the best-of-2015 lists from some of our favorite curators: Longform, Longreads, the Guardian’s excellent Long Read section, and the Sunday Long Read. If listening is more your thing than reading, here are the 50 best podcasts, chosen by the Atlantic (plus 11 more). And of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t tout the year’s best reporting on Quartz.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, long reads, and more long reads to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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