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Three Dividend Payers Hitting New Highs During the Pandemic

Three Dividend Payers Hitting New Highs During the Pandemic

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Investors Alley
Three Dividend Payers Hitting New Highs During the Pandemic

The shutdowns ordered by city and state officials had the perverse effect of labeling brick-and-mortar businesses as either essential or non-essential. An essential business designation allowed those businesses to remain open. Non-essential companies were forced to close their doors; those companies whose employees could not do their jobs from home soon found they were furloughing or laying off employees and missing out on up to three months of revenue.

Now that the states are beginning to reopen, much of the focus is on when and whether “non-essential” businesses will get back to business, allowing workers to get back to their “non-essential” jobs and earn some “non-essential” paychecks. But I digress.

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Not only were the companies with “essential” designations able to stay open, but they also picked up the commerce that would have gone to closed businesses. Three months of shopping at a store a shopper may not have visited previously changed their shopping habits. In many cases, for many individuals, this new shopping habit has already become permanent.

Here are three essential retail companies that will stay top of mind for consumers and continue to grow their dividends.

Walmart, Inc. (WMT) stores became the place to shop. Offering everything from groceries, to clothing, to mobile phones, to sporting goods, consumers knew they could find what they wanted or needed at their nearby Walmart. (And with 11,500 stores, most people have a nearby Walmart.)

Not only that, but Walmart’s online retail sales business is second only to Amazon. On the dividend front, the Walmart payout has grown for 47 consecutive years.

Every February, the company declares a year’s worth of dividends, giving investors the confidence they will receive dividends for the next four quarters.

The Walmart share price did not participate in the torrid start-of-June stock market rally; in fact, the share value peaked on May 19 and has dropped by $8.00 from that peak.

It’s a good time for long-term investors to pick up shares.

In contrast to the lackluster stock performance of Walmart, the Lowe’s Companies (LOW) share price has doubled from its mid-March low.

Individuals under stay-at-home orders did go out to home improvement stores like Lowe’s to buy materials for home improvement projects. Getting those home projects done became a top priority for many who had little else to do.

Lowe’s fiscal first quarter ended on May 1, so investors got to see how the company did through the first two months of the shutdown. The results were outstanding. Revenues were up 11.2% compared to the 2019 first quarter, and adjusted earnings per share were up 45%.

On the dividend front, Lowe’s has increased its payout for 56 straight years, growing the dividend by 20% per year for the last decade.

The Home Depot (HD) story is parallel to Lowe’s. These two companies dominate the home improvement retail space. Home Depot is the larger company, with a $265 billion market cap, compared to $97 billion for Lowe’s.

Both companies have about 2,200 retail stores.

And like Lowe’s, Home Depot also closed its fiscal first quarter at the start of May. For the quarter, revenues were up 7.1% compared to the same period in 2019. Net income of $2.08 per share was down from $2.27, quarter over quarter. However, Home Depot took a pre-tax expense of $850 million or $0.60 per share for the quarter. The expense covered the pandemic-related employee support costs. Factor the expense back into profits, and net income was up 18%.

The Home Depot dividend has increased for 11 straight years, at a 20% compound annual growth rate.

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Three Dividend Payers Hitting New Highs During the Pandemic
Tim Plaehn

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Nonprofit Blood Donation Service Starts Matching Unvaccinated Patients With Donors

Nonprofit Blood Donation Service Starts Matching Unvaccinated Patients With Donors

Authored by Allan Stein via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Swiss…

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Nonprofit Blood Donation Service Starts Matching Unvaccinated Patients With Donors

Authored by Allan Stein via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Swiss naturopathic physician George Della Pietra believes people worldwide should be free to choose whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine injection or not.

He believes the same should hold for those receiving transfusions with “vaccinated” blood.

“The problem is right now we have no choice,” said Della Pietra, founder of the nonprofit Safe Blood Donation service in 2021, matching unvaccinated blood recipients with donors in 65 countries.

“It was very clear from the beginning that the COVID hype was way out of control,” Della Pietra said. “It was not as dangerous as they say it was.

“As a naturopath, I can make no sense of this pandemic, which was never really a pandemic. It leaves space for so many explanations.”

Della Pietra believes that an mRNA injection is more dangerous than the pharmaceutical companies are willing to admit. He said the growing numbers of adverse reactions are reason to question their safety and effectiveness.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that vaccinated and boosted people made up 58.6 percent (6,512) of the COVID-19 deaths in August—up from 41 percent in January.

We can no longer say this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Cynthia Cox, the Vice President of the Kaiser Family Foundation told The Washington Post in an article on Nov. 23.

Nearly 70 percent of the world’s 8 billion people have received at least one mRNA injection for COVID-19 since the vaccines began rolling out in 2021 at the height of the virus’s spread.

Each of the three primary mRNA COVID-19 vaccines contains COVID-19 “spike protein” fragments, which bind at the cellular level to stimulate an immune response to the virus.

Della Pietra believes these spike proteins produce “classic symptoms”—namely blood clots—that “horrified” him.

“I’ve never seen anything similar—and I’m not talking only about spike proteins,” Della Pietra told The Epoch Times in a phone interview.

It’s unbelievable because we never had this problem before. It’s been only two years. They want to keep the narrative [that an mRNA vaccine] is not dangerous.”

A man looks at his phone while donating blood at Vitalant blood donation center in San Francisco on Jan. 11, 2022. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Although donated blood and plasma must undergo a cleansing process before transfusion, Safe Blood Donation says this is not enough to remove all mRNA ingredients.

“I’m talking about graphene oxide and non-declared inorganic components in the vaccine, which we can see in the blood. When I see them, I have no idea how we can get rid of them again,” Della Pietra said.

Looking at the abnormalities in vaccinated blood, he said, “OK, we have a problem.” People are receiving the vaccine “more or less through the back door.”

“You can not avoid it anymore.”

In the United States alone, there are approximately 16 million units of donated blood annually. Of those units, about 643,000 are “autologous”—self-donated—and the number is increasing yearly, according to BloodBook.com.

Della Pietra said that, to his knowledge, Safe Blood Donation, based in Switzerland, is the first unvaccinated blood donation service of its kind.

“So, there is no blood bank with mRNA-free blood yet, not even with us,” Safe Blood Donation states on its website.

“And, although we have already asked hundreds of clinics, at the moment—at least in Europe—all of them still refuse to allow the human right of free blood choice with them—or at least do not want to be mentioned because otherwise, they fear reprisals.”

A nurse works as employees donate blood during a blood drive held in a bloodmobile in Los Angeles on March 19, 2020. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Della Pietra said the main goal of Safe Blood Donation is not to start an mRNA-free blood bank. Rather, it is to make it possible to match unvaccinated blood donors and unvaccinated recipients, “which we bring together in a clinic (medical partner) that allows the choice of blood donor.”

Medical website Seed Scientific said that blood banks and biotech companies will offer as much as $1,000 monthly for blood donations.

While Della Pietra said there are no unvaccinated blood banks, he sees the demand for unvaccinated blood rising.

This is why I decided to do [SafeBlood Donation]. I wanted to make a network for unvaccinated people looking for a blood donor because they need it—whether they have scheduled surgery or an emergency,” he said.

Safe Blood Donation began working in the United States about a month ago, building an infrastructure of medical partners.

However, in the current medical environment, central blood banks such as the Red Cross do not segregate their blood donations based on their vaccinated or unvaccinated status.

Rendering of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins binding to ACE2 receptors. (Shutterstock)

“The American Red Cross does not facilitate designated donations for standard blood needs, as this process often takes longer and is more resource intensive than obtaining a blood product through our normal process,” the Red Cross told The Epoch Times in an email.

In a small number of situations, there is an exception for rare blood types where compatible blood types are extremely difficult to find. A rare blood type is defined as one that is present in less than 1/1000 people.

“We want to emphasize that the Red Cross adheres to all donor and product requirements as determined by the FDA to ensure the safety of the blood supply and is committed to continuing to provide life-saving blood products for patients across the country.”

The National Library of Medicine said that “across study sites, the average hospital cost per unit transfused was $155 and the average charge per patient was $219.”

Still, the Red Cross, which provides 40 percent of the nation’s blood donations, said “no studies” demonstrate adverse outcomes from transfusions of blood products collected from vaccinated donors.

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Tyler Durden Sun, 12/04/2022 - 20:55

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Pedestrians choose healthy obstacles over boring pavements, study finds

Up to 78% of walkers would take a more challenging route featuring obstacles such as balancing beams, steppingstones and high steps, research has found….

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Up to 78% of walkers would take a more challenging route featuring obstacles such as balancing beams, steppingstones and high steps, research has found. The findings suggest that providing ‘Active Landscape’ routes in urban areas could help tackle an “inactivity pandemic” and improve health outcomes.

Credit: Anna Boldina

Up to 78% of walkers would take a more challenging route featuring obstacles such as balancing beams, steppingstones and high steps, research has found. The findings suggest that providing ‘Active Landscape’ routes in urban areas could help tackle an “inactivity pandemic” and improve health outcomes.

[A copy of the paper and images can be downloaded here]

Millions of people in the UK are failing to meet recommended targets for physical activity. Exercising “on the go” is key to changing this but while walking along a pavement is better than nothing it causes no significant increase in heart rate so only qualifies as mild exercise. Walking also fails to significantly improve balance or bone density, unless it includes jumping, balancing, and stepping down.

But would adults opt for such ‘fun’ routes if given the choice? A University of Cambridge-led study published today in the journal Landscape Research suggests that with the right design, most would.

Previous research on ‘healthy route choices’ has focused on people’s likelihood of walking instead of using transport. But this study examined how likely people are to pick a more challenging route over a conventional one and which design characteristics influenced their choices.

Lead author, Anna Boldina, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Architecture, said: “Even when the increase in level and extent of activity level is modest, when millions of people are using cityscapes every day, those differences can have a major positive impact on public health.”

“Our findings show that pedestrians can be nudged into a wider range of physical activities through minor changes to the urban landscape. We want to help policy makers and designers to make modifications that will improve physical health and wellbeing.”

Boldina began this research after moving from Coimbra in Portugal – where she found herself climbing hills and ancient walls – to London, which she found far less physically challenging.

Working with Dr Paul Hanel from the Department of Psychology at the University of Essex, and Prof. Koen Steemers from Cambridge, Boldina invited almost 600 UK residents to compare photorealistic images of challenging routes – variously incorporating steppingstones, balancing beams, and high steps – with conventional pavements.

Participants were shown images of challenging and conventional tarmac routes and asked which route they would choose. The researchers tested out a range of encouraging / discouraging parameters in different scenarios, including crossing water, shortcuts, unusual sculptures and the presence / absence of a handrail and other people. Participants were asked to score how challenging they thought the route would be from 1 (as easy as walking on level tarmac) to 7 (I would not be able to do it).

Eighty per cent of the study’s participants opted for a challenging route in at least one of the scenarios, depending on perceived level of difficulty and design characteristics. Where a challenging option was shorter than a conventional route, this increased the likelihood of being chosen by 10%. The presence of handrails achieved a 12% rise.

Importance for health

The WHO and NHS recommend at least 150 minutes of ‘moderate’ or 75 minutes of ‘vigorous’ activity spread over a week, including a variety of activities aimed at enhancing bones, muscles, and agility to stay healthy. In addition, adults over 65 are advised to perform strength, flexibility, and balance exercises.

Boldina said: “The human body is a very complex machine that needs a lot of things to keep working effectively. Cycling and swimming are great for your heart and for your leg muscles but do very little for your bone density.”

“To improve cardiovascular health, bone density and balance all at once, we need to add a wider range of exercises into our routine daily walks.”

Psychology of choice

Co-author Dr Paul Hanel said: “Children don’t need much encouragement to try out a balance beam but we wanted to see how adults would respond, and then identify design modifications which made them more likely to choose a challenging route.”

“We found that while embarrassment, anxiety, caution and peer pressure can put some adults off, the vast majority of people can be persuaded to take a more challenging route by paying careful attention to design, safety, difficulty level, location and signage.”

The proportion of participants who were willing to pick a more challenging route varied from 14% for a particular balance beam route to 78% for a route involving wide, low stepping stones and a log with a handrail. The least intimidating routes were found to be those with wide, steady-looking balancing beams and wide steppingstones, especially with the presence of handrails.

The researchers suggest that routes that incorporate more difficult challenges, such as obstacle courses and narrow balancing beams, should be placed in areas more likely to be frequented by younger users.

The participants expressed a range of reasons for picking challenging routes. Unsurprisingly, the study found that challenging routes which also acted as short cuts appealed. Up to 55% of participants chose such routes. The researchers also found that the design of pavements, lighting and flowerbeds, as well as signage helped to nudge participants to choose more challenging routes. Many participants (40%) said the sight of other people taking a challenging route encouraged them to do the same.

The participants who picked conventional routes often had concerns about safety but the introduction of safety measures, such as handrails, increased uptake of some routes. Handrails next to one steppingstones route increased uptake by 12%.

To test whether tendency to choose challenging routes was linked to demographic and personality factors, participants were asked to answer questions about their age, gender, habits, health, occupation, and personality traits (such as sensation seeking or general anxiety).

The researchers found that people of all levels of activity are equally likely to pick a challenging route. But for the most difficult routes, participants who regularly engaged in strength and balancing exercises were more likely to choose them.

Older participants were as supportive of the concept as younger ones but were less likely to opt for the more challenging routes for themselves. Nevertheless, across all age groups, only a small percentage of participants said they would avoid adventurous options completely.

The study applies the idea of “Choice Architecture” (making good choices easier and less beneficial choices harder) plus “Fun theory”, a strategy whereby physical activity is made more exciting; as well as some of the key principles of persuasion: social proof, liking, authority, and consistency.

Future work

The researchers hope to run experiments in physical test sites to see how intentions convert into behaviour, and to measure how changes in habits improve health. In the meantime, Dr Boldina continues to present her findings to policy makers.

Critics might question the affordability and cost effectiveness of introducing ‘Active landscape routes’ in the current economic environment.

In response, the researchers argue that installing stepping stones in a turfed area can be cheaper than laying and maintaining conventional tarmac pavements. They also point out that these measures could save governments far greater sums by reducing demand for health care related to lack of exercise.

Reference

A. Boldina et al., ‘Active Landscape and Choice Architecture: Encouraging the use of challenging city routes for fitness’, Landscape Research (2022). DOI: 10.1080/01426397.2022.2142204

Media contact

Tom Almeroth-Williams, Communications Manager (Research), University of Cambridge: researchcommunications@admin.cam.ac.uk / tel: +44 (0) 7540 139 444


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Apple Accelerates Plans To Shift Production Out Of China

Apple Accelerates Plans To Shift Production Out Of China

Apple has accelerated plans to shift some of its production outside of China, the…

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Apple Accelerates Plans To Shift Production Out Of China

Apple has accelerated plans to shift some of its production outside of China, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing insiders.

The company has been reportedly telling suppliers to 'actively' plan on assembling Apple products elsewhere in Asia - primarily India and Vietnam, as the company looks to reduce dependence on Taiwanese assemblers spearheaded by Foxconn.

The company's goal is to ship 40-45% of iPhones from India, vs the current single-digit percentage, according to TF International Securities analyst, Ming-chi Kuo. Vietnam is also expected to shoulder more of the manufacturing of other Apple products, such as AirPods, smartwatches and laptops.

A worker is shown disinfecting equipment.

The decision was sparked by turmoil at "iPhone City" inside Zhengzhou (a 'city-within-a-city'), where as many as 300,000 workers assemble iPhones and other Apple products as a Foxconn-run factory, which produces roughly 85% of the iPhone Pro lineup, according to Counterpoint Research.

In November, violent protests hit the Zhengzhou factory - as workers upset over wages and Covid-19 restrictions began rioting and throwing things at the police. All of this poses a risk to Apple, which has relied on the factory as a stable manufacturing center.

Zhengzhou is home to a giant Foxconn facility known as iPhone City, where a worker is shown at right disinfecting equipment. (Shang Ji/Future Publishing/Getty Images)

"Apple no longer feels comfortable having so much of its business tied up in one place," according to the report.

So no, Apple isn't moving production out of concerns over human rights abuses, censorship, or other types of oppression.

"In the past, people didn’t pay attention to concentration risks," said former US-based Foxconn executive, Alan Yeung. "Free trade was the norm and things were very predictable. Now we’ve entered a new world."

One response, say the people involved in Apple’s supply chain, is to draw from a bigger pool of assemblers—even if those companies are themselves based in China. Two Chinese companies that are in line to get more Apple business, they say, are Luxshare Precision Industry Co. and Wingtech Technology Co. 

On calls with investors earlier this year, Luxshare executives said some consumer-electronics clients, which they didn’t name, were worried about Chinese supply-chain snafus caused by Covid-19 prevention measures, power shortages and other issues. They said these clients wanted Luxshare to help them do more work outside China. -WSJ

The concerns over production revolve around new product introduction (NPI), which requires teams to work with contractors to translate blueprints and prototypes into a detailed manufacturing plan. According to the report, Apple has put its manufacturing partners on notice to start trying to do more of this outside of China.

That said, unless places like Vietnam and India can excel at NPI as well, they will 'remain stuck playing second fiddle' according to supply chain specialists.

For now, consumers doing Christmas shopping are stuck with some of the longest wait times for high-end iPhones in the product’s 15-year history, stretching until after Christmas. Apple issued a rare midquarter warning in November that shipments of the Pro models would be hurt by Covid-19 restrictions at the Zhengzhou facility. -WSJ

The shift marks a massive change in the relationship between Apple and China - which for decades have been engaged in a mutually beneficial relationship.

According to Kup, the supply-chain analyst, iPhone shipments in the fourth quarter of this year were likely to reach between 70 and 75 million units - around 10 million fewer than market projections before the Zhengzhou riots.

"Apple is going to have to find multiple places to replace iPhone City," said Dan Panzica, a former Foxconn executive who now advises companies on supply-chain issues. "They’re going to have to spread it around and make more villages instead of big cities."

Tyler Durden Sun, 12/04/2022 - 13:55

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