Why This Is The Week to Book Fall Travel

Couple sitting on chairs at beach, smiling
NEW YORK — Fall doesn’t start for about another month, but welcome to the start of fall’s bargain travel season.

The travel calendar is loaded with great off-peak dates in the early weeks of December, much of January and even early summer, but seldom does everything come together as well as it does in late August and the September weeks following Labor Day. Rick Seaney, chief executive of travel siteFareCompare.com, notes that Aug. 25 begins fall bargain travel season by taking a huge bite out of the price of travel. With children going back to school, older kids headed to college and their parents immersed in back-to-school shopping and fall routines, Seaney notes that demand for hotel rooms and flights plummets starting on that date, recovers briefly for Labor Day and slides into a deep autumn lull.

“As for airfare prices, they can drop as much as a third or more over summer airfare,” Seaney says. “For my money, autumn is the best time of the year for a vacation: it packs the one-two punch of great weather and great airfare prices.

Back in July, Seaney and his crew put this theory to the test by pricing out late-August flights from Dallas to New York, Los Angeles to New York and Chicago to Miami. A Dallas-NYC weekend trip that cost $282 from Aug. 21-23 dropped 23 percent to $217 for Aug. 28-30. A four-day trip from L.A. to New York that fetched $382 from Aug. 20-24 fell 18 percent to $312 when it was pushed back to Aug. 28-31. If you’re looking to escape Chicago for Miami, the $230 cost of a week-long trip from Aug. 11 to 17 drops 27 percent to just $167 from Aug. 25 through Aug. 30. Granted, Atlantic hurricane season has a whole lot to do with the discount on that last entry, but FareCompare wasn’t alone in noting the steep drop-off in airfare pricing nationwide around this time of year.

Way back in May, travel site Hopper noted that flights to Seattle, Denver, San Francisco and New York that averaged $430 to $490 in late May and June dropped by $100 or more by the week of Aug. 30. Granted, you wouldn’t want to book the last week of August now, but late September tends to be just as charitable and falls within FareCompare’s recommended booking window of 30 days to three months before departure. An added tip: If you book online on a Tuesday at about 3 p.m. Eastern, you stand the best chance of hitting an airline sale and getting the best price on tickets.

Meanwhile, the folks at TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals note that the cost of rental homes are sliced nearly in half from August to September. The houses inEdgartown, Massachusetts, on Martha’s Vineyard, that averaged nearly $3,000 a week in August, drop to about $2,150 a week in post-Labor Day September. Spots in Ocean City, Maryland, that fetched $1,500 a week in August slump to less than $1,100 by September.

“Early fall is a great time for a vacation — travelers can avoid the humidity and crowds of the peak summer travel period, but still enjoy beautiful warm weather, while saving substantially on the cost of their vacation rental,” says Laurel Greatrix, a TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals spokesperson. “Rates drop across most of the U.S, particularly in beach destinations, and budget-conscious travelers can easily save themselves one-quarter to half of what they’d pay in July or August. Beyond the savings, vacation rentals offer travelers flexibility, amenities such as full kitchens, pools and patios and more space, making them a great option for travelers of all types.”

While some of the biggest rental discounts can be found at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, and North Topsail Beach, North Carolina (both 34 percent less than their summer peak), the best deal is found a bit further up the Atlantic Coast. Bethany Beach, Delaware — with its massive homes and ocean views — offers a 44 percent cut that drops the average price of a weekly rental from $1,900 during the peak summer months to less than $1,100 in early fall. That’s a 44 percent decrease that offers all of the offseason discount with none of the wintry chill.

Prices at the Pump Steady Over Past 2 Weeks

Highway Funding States
NEW YORK — The average price of a gallon of gasoline remained steady in the past two weeks, as price rises in several Midwest cities offset cuts in the West, according to the Lundberg survey released Sunday.

Regular grade gasoline dropped just one-third of a cent to average $2.71 a gallon, according to the biweekly survey conducted on Aug. 21.

While a rebound in gasoline supply has helped lower prices in California, motorists elsewhere in the country reeled from increases as the largest crude distillation unit of BP’s Whiting, Indiana refinery remained closed for repairs.

The average price of gasoline is down 77 cents a gallon from the same year-ago period, according to the survey.

“From here, big retail gasoline price cuts are very likely, unless crude oil prices reverse course and climb back up to the May and June levels,” said survey publisher Trilby Lundberg in Camarillo, California.

U.S. crude touched a new 6½-year low of $39.86 a barrel Friday following weekly data that showed U.S. energy firms added two oil drilling rigs last week, the fifth increase in a row. It settled at $40.45 a barrel.

The rise in the number of rigs emerging after a second-quarter lull in prices is adding to concerns that U.S. shale production is responding slowly to falling prices, prolonging a global glut.

Lundberg said the lower U.S. crude price may cause refiners and gasoline retailers to slash selling prices — spoiling their currently wide margins — as they try to gain a leg up on their competition.

“Retail gasoline prices may well fall more than 20 cents a gallon in coming weeks if crude oil prices do not surge,” Lundberg said.

The highest-priced gasoline in the survey area of the 48 contiguous U.S. states was in Los Angeles at $3.67 a gallon, down from $3.80 in the Aug. 7 survey.

The lowest price was in Charleston, South Carolina at $2.10 a gallon.

Apple to Replace Some iPhone 6 Plus Cameras Over Blurry Photos

iPhone Glitch
Rogelio V. Solis/AP

By Anya George Tharakan

Apple (AAPL) said it would replace a limited number iPhone 6 Plus phone cameras due to faulty back cameras that take blurry photos.

The affected phones were mostly sold in a 4-month period between September 2014 and January 2015, Apple said on its website.

The company, whose shares were set to open at their lowest this year on Monday, said a small component in the affected 6 Plus’s iSight back camera may fail.

Apple said it would replace the phone’s camera free of charge if it takes blurry photos and falls into a particular serial number range.

Eligible serial numbers can be checked on Apple’s website.

CORRECTION: This story has been corrected from an earlier version to note that Apple will replace cameras not recall the phone.

Last Week’s Biggest Stock Movers on Wall Street

Wall street, New York, USA.
Alamy

Plenty of stocks go up and down in any given week. The gainers inspire us to keep investing. The decliners keep greed in check while reminding us about the risks of the equity markets.

Let’s go over some of last week’s best and worst performers.

Zulily (ZU) — Up 42 percent last week

One of the market’s biggest winners was Zulily, which soared after agreeing to be acquired by QVC’s parent company. It’s been a wild ride for investors. Zulily went public at $22 in late 2013, trading as high as $73.50 just three months later. Investors were impressed by the online retailer’s growth potential, but sentiment turned when sales growth began to decelerate and profitability was meager.

The stock had plunged all the way into the single digits by May of this year, and that’s probably around the time that QVC began sniffing around before making a cash-and-stock offer that was initially valued at $2.4 billion.

New York & Co. (NWY) — Up 26 percent last week

One retailer moving higher during an otherwise ugly week was New York & Co., taking flight after posting a blowout quarter. Comparable-store sales rose nearly 4 percent relative to a year earlier, positioning the apparel retailer nicely for the back-to-school shopping season.

New York & Co. landed at the high end of its earlier guidance, and its new outlook for the current period calls for more improvement in comps and operating results.

Sprint (S) — Up 13 percent last week

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The country’s third-largest wireless carrier moved higher after introducing the iPhone Forever plan. The plan lets customers pay just $22 a month for the entry-level iPhone with the ability to upgrade whenever they want the latest model.

It’s a sweet deal that the major carriers are unlikely to match. It should attract those on rival services who want the low monthly rate with access to the shiniest new iPhone release.

Amira Nature Foods (ANFI) — Down 60 percent last week

The New York Stock Exchange’s biggest sinker was Amira Nature Foods. The distributor of basmati rice got off to a bad start when BMO Capital Markets downgraded the stock on Tuesday, but things got substantially worse when it announced a day later that it was replacing its accounting firm with a new independent auditor.

Prescience Point Research Group called into question its past three years of financial statements earlier this year. Amira is standing by its numbers, but the replacement of its bean counters (or grain counters, if you will) is naturally going to alarm some investors. The stock should bounce back if the malfeasance accusations don’t hold up.

The Fresh Market (TFM) — Down 34 percent last week

If you’re going to put up a bad quarter, doing so during the market’s worst week in four years is only going to make things worse. The Fresh Market got tossed like bad produce after posting unflattering financials. The upscale grocer saw comparable-store sales decline for the quarter, and its adjusted profit of 36 cents a share — flat with the prior year’s showing — fell short of analyst expectations.

This has generally been a lousy year for premium supermarket chains. If you’re selling high-end fare like the Fresh Market does, or selling organics, your stock is probably trading substantially lower in 2015.

Ambarella (AMBA) — Down 17 percent last week

Finally, we have video-chip maker Ambarella stumbling on reports that it will soon face competition in the promising drone camera market. Re/code reported that Qualcomm (QCOM) is eyeing the video-chip market for airborne cameras on drones, leading some to worry that the fat margins that Ambarella has scored in recent years as the provider of choice for leading wearable and surveillance cameras will be challenged in the future.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Ambarella and Qualcomm. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Ambarella and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.

Target to Pay $2.8 Million to Settle Discrimination Claim

Target-Subscription Service
Steven Senne/AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Target (TGT) has agreed to pay $2.8 million to settle a hiring discrimination claim filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency announced Monday.

Three employment assessments formerly used by the Minneapolis-based retailer disproportionately screened out applicants for professional positions based on race and gender, and the tests weren’t sufficiently job-related, the EEOC said in a statement. The commission also said an assessment that was performed by psychologists violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from subjecting applicants to medical exams prior to making a job offer.

Thousands of people were adversely affected and the settlement money will be divided among them, the EEOC said.

Target agreed to take several steps to ensure the validity of its hiring process, including keeping better data for assessing the impact of its hiring procedures.

The number of people covered by the settlement is “in the four-figure range” out of tens of millions of applicants who applied for positions with Target over the past decade, Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said in an email. She also said the EEOC didn’t find any disparities in Target’s actual hiring, just potential adverse impacts.

Target is no longer using those tests and it is no longer working with the vendor that performed the psychological assessments, she said.

“We continue to firmly believe that no improper behavior occurred regarding these assessments,” Snyder said, but added that Target agreed to settle to save the costs of litigation.

What You Need to Know About the Market Meltdown

APTOPIX Financial Markets Wall Street
Richard Drew/AP

Fresh off Wall Street’s worst week in four years — one that saw the Dow Jones industrial average lose 10 percent of its value and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index slip below the magical 2,000 barrier — financial advisers have two words of advice for gun-shy investors.

Don’t panic.

“We’re starting to get some calls, as should be expected,” says Erik Jensen, president and founder of Jensen Wealth Advisors in Palm Desert, California, and a registered principal with LPL Financial. “We empathize with them; nobody likes seeing drops like last week. However, we recommend they keep a long-term perspective, understanding that corrections are the norm, not a calamity.”

Sure, last week may have felt like a calamity if you were watching your portfolio shrink by the hour. But there were tell-tale signs — after riding an extraordinary bullish market since 2009, Wall Street had been essentially trading sideways until this month. Then the market’s softening became a full-blown meltdown Thursday and Friday.

Wall Street’s darling stocks — the tech sector — were among the hardest hit.Netflix (NFLX) lost nearly 16 percent; Apple (AAPL) and Facebook (FB) were both down nearly 9 percent and Microsoft (MSFT) fell 7.7 percent.

Banking stocks were also horrid, as Bank of America (BAC) fell 9 percent, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) fell 6.3 percent and Wells Fargo (WFC) — arguably thebest banking stock of 2015 — dropped nearly 6 percent for the week.

Meanwhile, crude oil fell below $40 a barrel for the first time since 2009, and the CBOE Volatility Index — the so-called “fear index” — jumped more than 45 percent Friday and more than 90 percent for the week.

“While investors should avoid panicking over short-term movements in the value of their long-term investments, the recent volatility ought to serve as a wake-up call to re-examine risk and stress-test your portfolio against the possibility of further declines,” says Kurt Rossi, president of Independent Wealth Management in Wall, New Jersey. “Be especially careful if you were like many investors that were pushed into taking on higher risk investments due to the low-yield environment. Consider reviewing the compatibility of your portfolio and your financial planning goals, making changes to your investments if the two are out of alignment.”

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Matthew Tuttle, CEO of Tuttle Tactical Management in Stamford, Connecticut, says the S&P 500 is in a critical area of technical support. “We believe the bull market will end in 2016 or 2017 and believe we need one more rally to the upside before the market crashes, so unless we see the S&P go into the 1,700s, we would use weakness as a buying opportunity. Now, more than ever, investors should be in tactical investments that can shift out of the market if this is the end of the bull market, but that can stay invested if it is not.”

Like Tuttle, financial advisers say the recent weakness in the stock market isn’t a reason to abandon stocks in favor of greener — or less volatile — pastures. Instead, it’s an opportunity to reassess holdings, particularly for investors who are taking a long-term approach.

Steve Sanduski, president of Belay Advisor in Mequon, Wisconsin, says the biggest mistake investors can make is fleeing the market at the wrong time. He says investors should hold tight, but he recommends a diversified portfolio that contains low-cost investments and a time horizon of at least 10 years. “On a regular basis, do the best you can at estimating your ‘sleep allocation,’ meaning, what’s the allocation among stocks, bonds and cash that allows you to sleep comfortably at night,” he says. “If the thought of a certain percentage drop in your portfolio makes you break out in a cold sweat, it’s time to dial down the risk.”

Andrew Carrillo, president of Barnett Capital Advisors in Miami, also recommends the diversification approach. “What exactly investors should do depends on their time frame, risk tolerance and their ability to be nimble in their investing, but based on valuations, there is much more downside over the next year to the market than upside at current bubble territory.”

Sam Seiden, chief education officer for the Online Trading Academy, says investors can expect more downside in the short term. “The major problem for investors is that they think like average investors and not like Wall Street pros, and let themselves get into these risky situations to begin with, which are certainly avoidable,” Seiden says. “There are plenty of simple things the average investor can do to not only protect themselves, but also profit when markets decline just like Wall Street does.”

For example, short-term investors can move funds into safe high-yield corporate bonds, where they will receive interest.

“Then, use the interest to participate in market moves without any market risk to your principle,” Seiden says. “This is one of many simple strategies Wall Street uses that the average investor can use also. The key is to stop thinking like a retail investor and start thinking like Wall Street with your hard-earned money.”

Long-term investors, meanwhile, should look for opportunities to buy cheap stocks and rebalance their portfolio. And they should have the assistance of a financial planner to help them, says Bill Keen, founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors in Overland Park, Kansas.

“Success in long-term investing is about thinking ahead and not being caught off guard by the inevitable market corrections when they come,” Keen says. “We spend a lot of time providing perspective to our clients — talking about the expected volatility of various asset classes. Long-term perspective is something that investors are in desperate need of.”

Market Wrap: Stocks Tumble Again as S&P Enters Correction

APTOPIX Financial Markets Wall Street

Investors rattled about China sent U.S. stock indexes almost 4 percent lower Monday in an unusually volatile session that confirmed the S&P 500 was formally in a correction, even after a dramatic rebound by Apple (AAPL).

The Dow Jones industrial average briefly slumped more than 1,000 points, its most dramatic intraday trading range ever.

Monday’s drop followed an 8.5 percent slump in Chinese markets, which sparked a sell-off in global stocks along with oil and other commodities.

Wall Street had stayed in s narrow range for much of 2015, but volatility jumped this month as investors became increasingly concerned about a potential stumble in China’s economy and after Beijing surprisingly devalued its currency.

Some investors unloaded stocks ahead of the close after looking to make money from volatile price swings earlier in the session.

“If things don’t settle down in China, we could have another ugly open tomorrow and you wouldn’t want to be caught holding positions you bought this morning,” said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin.

Apple’s Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook, in comments to CNBC, took the unusual step of reassuring shareholders about the iPhone-maker’s business in China ahead of a dramatic 13 percent drop and rebound in its stock, which closed down just 2.5 percent at $103.15.

The Dow Jones industrial average (^DJI) closed down 588.4 points, or 3.6 percent, at 15,871.35. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index (^GSPC) lost 77.68 points, or 3.9 percent, to 1,893.21, putting it formally in correction mode.

An index is considered to be in correction when it closes 10 percent below its 52-week high. The Dow was confirmed to be in a correction Friday.

The Nasdaq composite (^IXIC) dropped 179.79 points, or 3.8 percent, to 4,526.25, also in correction.

The CBOE Volatility index, popularly known as the “fear index,” briefly jumped as much as 90 percent to 53.29, its highest since January 2009.

Preliminary data from BATS Global Markets show that there were 1,287 trading halts on U.S. stock exchanges due to excessive volatility or the tripping of circuit breakers, far more than usual.

The S&P 500 index showed 187 new 52-week lows and just two highs, while the Nasdaq recorded 613 new lows and eight highs.

Betting on Emotion

“Emotions got the best of investors,” said Philip Blancato, chief executive at Ladenberg Thalmann Asset Management in New York.

The conjecture that the Chinese economy can propel the U.S. economy into recession is ridiculous, when it’s twice the size of the Chinese economy and is consumer-based.

“The conjecture that the Chinese economy can propel the U.S. economy into recession is ridiculous, when it’s twice the size of the Chinese economy and is consumer-based.”

All of the 10 major S&P 500 sectors were down, with energy losing 5.18 percent.

U.S. oil prices were down about 5 percent at 6½-year lows, while London copper and aluminum futures hit their lowest since 2009.

Exxon (XOM) and Chevron (CVX) each fell more than 4.7 percent. U.S. oil and gas companies have already lost about $310 billion of market value this year.

The dollar index was down 1.7 percent. It fell more than 2 percent earlier to a 7-month low as the probability of a September rate hike receded.

Traders now see a 24 percent chance that the Federal Reserve will increase rates in September, down from 30 percent late Friday and 46 percent a week earlier, according to Tullett Prebon data.

Wall Street’s sell-off shows investors are becoming increasingly nervous about paying high prices for stocks at a time of minimal earnings growth, tumbling energy prices, and uncertainty around a rate hike.

Alibaba (BABA) lost 3.5 percent to $65.80, below its IPO price of $68, making it the second high-profile tech company to fall below its IPO price in the past week, after Twitter (TWTR) on Thursday.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE 3,064 to 131. On the Nasdaq, 2,632 issues fell and 281 advanced.

Volume was heavy, with about 13.9 billion shares traded on U.S. exchanges, well above the 7.0 billion average this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

What to watch Tuesday:

  • Standard & Poor’s releases S&P/Case-Shiller index of home prices for June and the second quarter at 9 a.m. Eastern time.
  • At 10 a.m., the Commerce Department releases new home sales for July and the Conference Board releases the Consumer Confidence Index for August.

Earnings Season
These selected companies are scheduled to release quarterly financial results:

  • Best Buy (BBY)
  • DSW (DSW)
  • Toll Brothers (TOL)
  • Valspar (VAL)

Google Makes It Harder to Trick Users Into Installing Chrome Extensions

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Google has had enough of the devious extensions that use deceptive ads promising exciting features to trick users into installing their shady plugins on its Chrome Web browser. The company says that starting from September 3, it will make changes to restrict the installation of such extensions.

The company notes that it will disable ‘inline installation’ for some of those extensions. Introduced in 2011, inline installation gave developers and Web publishers a quick and convenient option to let readers install their extension without leaving the website.

While the extensions were still hosted in the Chrome Web Store, publishers had the ability to embed a shortcut to it on their respective blogs and websites. A reader would be able to click on the install button and instead of getting redirected to the Chrome Web Store, will see an installation dialogue right on the website.

But over the years, this feature has been abused by many. There are developers who maintain deceptive ads in which they claim to offer free software updates or similar enticing things and trick users to install their extensions.

Which is why, Google is taking back control. Starting next month, if the company detects a shady ad indulging in a similar wrong practice, it will send them to the product page of that extension in the Chrome Web Store and let the user decide if they want to install that particular extension.

To recap, inline installation is here to stay, but not for bad people. The company notes that about 0.2 percent of all extension will be affected by its upcoming move. “It’s an important step to maintain a healthy extension ecosystem for users and the vast majority of extension developers who don’t use deceptive tactics.”