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What's In A Credit Rating?


The act of splitting a stock does nothing for a company's sales or profits, but for decades Wall Street has taken it as a bullish sign. Why would management do it unless prospects were bright and the stock was expected to rise yet again? During the bubble years especially, buying a to-be-split stock was a surefire strategy for quick profits.

Now, stock splits no longer have the same pop. William Lefkowitz, options strategist at broker vFinance Investments (VFIN), looked at what happened to 22 stocks one month after they split in the second half of 2005: Eight gained at least 4%, seven went up less than 4%, and seven fell below their pre-split price. The results were similar to a study he did in 2004, when 33 out of 77 splitters lost ground.

Perhaps the payoff takes longer than it used to. Academic studies have found that holding stocks for several years after a split remains a winning strategy. "The advantage has never been in the short term," says Neil Macneale, editor of the 2 for 1 Newsletter. Macneale researches announced splits, chooses one stock a month, and holds it for 30 months. Last year, his model portfolio gained 10%, more than double the return of the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index.

From 120-pound Faust the Komodo dragon to a 5-ounce emerald-green day gecko, lizards of all stripes will be on view at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium Apr. 8 through Feb. 28, 2007. The interactive exhibit, "Lizards and the Komodo King" (Komodos are the world's largest lizard), will feature 27 species from tropical regions (sheddaquarium.org). Visitors will learn why some geckos bark and dragons grow "beards," and get the feel of different lizards at the skin-texture rubbing station. Tickets, $23 for adults and $16 for seniors and kids under 11, are on sale at ticketmaster.com.

If you're trying to lose weight, you want to know that you're burning more calories than you take in. Unlike a pedometer, which just counts steps, a new type of exercise monitor can track every motion your body makes 40 times a second -- whether you're jogging or loading the dishwasher -- and convert the data into calories. Called the BioTrainer, it doesn't work for resistance training such as weight lifting (though it will calculate what you expend driving to the gym). The device is $50 at BioTrainerUSA.com, which for $10 a month also can track the calories you consume and burn.


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