Winners and Losers: A Go for Amazon, Cheeri-Oops

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Earns General Mills
Paul Sakuma/AP
From a cereal giant infuriating its fans to the leading online retailer boosting the pedigree of its catalog, here's a rundown of the week's smartest moves and biggest blunders in the business world.

Apple (AAPL) -- Winner

It's been a while since Apple produced blowout quarterly results, but that's what happened on Wednesday. The consumer tech giant moved higher after posting better than expected earnings, margins and iPhone sales.

The report wasn't perfect. Bulls will point to the 17 percent spike in iPhone units sales, but bears can counter that Apple sold 16 percent fewer iPads than it did a year earlier. However, when you tack on Apple's declaration of a stock split and a beefed-up share buyback, it was clearly a quarter for the bulls.

General Mills (GIS) -- Loser

Sometimes it doesn't pay to update a company's privacy policy. Cereal giant General Mills came under fire earlier this month after introducing new legal terms. The updated policy going out to anyone interacting with General Mills online would "require all disputes related to the purchase or use of any General Mills product or service to be resolved through binding arbitration."

It got called out in a New York Times article, suggesting that anyone doing something as simple as using an online coupon or liking the company's Cheerios page on Facebook would not be able to sue the company. General Mills argued that the policy was being misread and misunderstood, but it reversed the language. Judging by the comments on that Cheerios page, it seems that some irate consumers aren't so quick to forgive General Mills.

Amazon.com (AMZN) -- Winner

One of the knocks on Amazon's new Fire TV set-top media player is that it doesn't stream HBO Go content, but Amazon and HBO parent Time Warner (TWX) have agreed to remedy the situation later this year.

However, the bigger deal between Time Warner and Amazon is that HBO will be making many older shows and earlier seasons of some current shows available on Amazon's Prime Instant Video platform. Come May 21, folks paying $99 a year for Amazon Prime -- which includes complimentary two-day shipping and monthly Kindle e-book rentals -- will be able to stream the entire runs of "The Sopranos," "Six Feet Under" and more. Some current shows -- including "Boardwalk Empire" and "True Blood" -- will be available for seasons that are at least three years old. It's a major win for Amazon at a time when it's getting hard to differentiate its streaming service from Netflix.

McDonald's (MCD) -- Loser

There hasn't been a McFlurry of activity at the neighborhood McDonald's these days. The leading burger flipper posted yet another disappointing quarter this week. U.S. comparable-restaurant sales declined 1.7 percent, making this the third consecutive period of negative comps.

It conceded that there's no "silver bullet" to turn things around for the Golden Arches. It raised prices by an average of 3 percent toward the end of the quarter, but if it's having a hard time drawing customers now, it's hard to imagine passing on escalating foods costs can pay off in the near future.

Hasbro (HAS) -- Winner

Toy companies haven't been shining bright these days as kids find digital diversions away from traditional playthings. However, Hasbro still came through with a better than expected performance in its latest quarter on the strength of its toys for girls.

Hasbro saw sales for its girls category soar 21 percent during the quarter. The continuing success of My Little Pony played a major part, but the same can also be said about Nerf Rebelle. The Nerf blasters with crossbow attachments were introduced late last year, and apparently they are selling briskly. The Hollywood success of "Brave" and "Hunger Games," with crossbow-packing heroine,s likely played a starring role in boosting interest for Hasbro's soft-dart launchers for girls. Nice aim, Hasbro.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Hasbro and McDonald's.


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