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Newfangled Tea Bags


Eastman Kodak (EK) has come up with a slick way to pack a big zoom into a slim and stylish camera: Add a second lens. In addition to a conventional 3X optical zoom lens, Kodak's $399 EasyShare V570 dual-lens digital camera sports the first ultrawide-angle lens in a pocket camera. Alone, the wide-angle lens is useful for shooting in small rooms, group photos, or sweeping landscapes. But both together give it the magnification of a 5X zoom lens.

Here's a cool trick: Using guidelines on the 2.5-inch display, the camera helps you compose and shoot a 180-degree panorama in just three shots. It then stitches the three together, saving them as single photo, something no other consumer camera can do. All that in a 5- megapixel camera that is only 5 ounces and is 0.8-inch thick.

It's well-known that companies added to the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index get a quick price boost because the big index funds are forced to buy their stocks. But what about the castoffs? It turns out that the misfits may be the better bet.

William Hester, a senior research analyst at money management firm Hussman Funds tracked the returns of companies added and deleted from the benchmark over the past eight years. Even factoring in 100% losses for bankrupt companies such as Laidlaw and Polaroid, the median annualized gain for stocks after they were ousted was 14.2% through the end of December, 2005, compared with 4.6% for new members and 4.8% for the entire S&P 500. The biggest winner: airline AMR, with a nearly 1400% total return since it was booted from the index in early 2003.

The phenomenon is pretty easy to explain. While investors' high hopes are already baked into the prices of new S&P 500 stocks, they typically don't expect much from former ones. In fact, by the time those stocks are kicked out of the index, most have already taken a beating in the market. Says Hester: "Neglected and underappreciated companies often have more life than investors expect."

With mutual funds that have front-end loads, the more you invest, the lower the sales charge. But brokers have not always kept on top of the discounts available at various "breakpoints" or amounts invested, and this info is often buried in prospectuses. As a result, shareholders have been shortchanged by more than $130 million, says the NASD, which regulates brokers. That's why the NASD has introduced a new Mutual Fund Breakpoint Search Tool at tools1.nasd.com/nbst. It can help you find the best deals.

Loose tea in a bag? Sounds like a contradiction in terms. But an Asian innovation is becoming available in the U.S. Instead of ground tea in a flat bag, a few companies are using spacious, pyramid-shaped bags that let full-leaf gourmet tea expand when steeped in hot water. You get richer flavor with a bag's convenience. A 15-bag box of Adagio Teas costs $10 at stores or adagio.com.


Steve Ballmer, Power Forward
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