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4 Big Firms, 4 Big Surprises: JTH, HP, Starz and ATT

The parent company of Liberty Tax picked an awful time to announce its IPO, a day after rival H&R Block announced weak quarterly returns. But JTH Holdings' taxing dilemma wasn't last week's only head-scratching news. Here are some of the week's other biggest surprises, blunders, and just flat out boneheaded maneuvers.

Next Week's Big News: Cable TV, China.com, More

Plenty of big names are set to report their earnings in August, including the country's largest cable and satellite television providers, several of China's leading dot-coms, radio giant Sirius XM, car rental companies Zipcar and Avis, and the two biggest video game developers.

The Truth About Billionaire Soros' Big Moves

George Soros, the man who made $1 billion in a day by shorting the British pound, is returning all outside money invested in his hedge fund, citing new disclosure requirements in the Dodd-Frank Act. Coverage of this enormous story has so far been misleading. Here's what's really going on in Soros's head -- we think.

Redbox Runover in the Works?

There's trouble brewing at Redbox: President Mitch Lowe has announced his resignation, and parent company Coinstar revised its second-quarter revenue outlook downward last week. Here are some key signs consumers and investors should watch to see if the Redbox business model (i.e. kiosk rental machines) is obsolete.

Your Social Security Benefit: $29.02 a Day

Could you live on less than $30 a day? If you don't have a pension or adequate personal savings, that's what the typical retiree will get in 2036, even setting aside the near-term risks facing Social Security. But don't despair: There are ways to boost your benefits, and ensure that old age doesn't equal penury.

3 Ways to Get More Back From Your Plastic

Credit cards can destroy your financial life, if you're not careful. But choose the right one -- a card that fits with how you spend your money and what you like as a reward -- pay your balance in full each month, and you can turn ordinary, necessary expenditures into real life-enhancers.

Do Congressional Reps Beat the Market With Inside Info?

A study published this year found that stocks purchased by House of Representatives members from 1985 through 2001 "earn[ed] statistically significant positive abnormal returns," outperforming the market by more than six percentage points a year. And senators, it appears, have done even better.

Under Armour Investors Sweat the Small Stuff

Under Armour blew past analysts' sales estimates and, even better, upped its annual sales forecast. But although those performances certainly looked good, the company actually burned cash in the quarter, pouring money back into its inventory. Investors need to watch this.

Big Tech's Hiring Binge Has Small Impact on Jobs

Google, Apple, IBM and eBay are all hiring. Good news for the flagging U.S. jobs market, right? Not exactly: Many of the positions being created are for openings overseas. And that's not likely to change, because companies have learned to do more with less since the Great Recession.

How Companies Fake It (With Cash Flow)

Focusing on cash flow -- instead of the figures Wall Street is so fond of -- is a good way to measure a company's strength. That said, just like revenue and earnings, cash flow can be manipulated in order to hoodwink investors. Look out for these four signs that a company's pulling a fast one with cash flow.

Why Investors Should Fear Soda Taxes

With both obesity and fiscal austerity on the rise, makers of unhealthy foods are a tempting target for taxation. While companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald's are most obviously in the sights of the food police, the rest of the food industry may be vulnerable as well.

The Best Used Car Deals are Made in the USA

The market for used cars is white-hot, and lists of the best models tend to favor brands like Toyota, Lexus, and Honda. But there are better bets for those who don't want to pay a premium for a reliable ride -- if they're willing to buy American: Increased quality plus compromised reputation equals value.

Ford Posts Solid Profits at a Tough Moment

Ford's dramatic turnaround has captured the attention of investors and car buyers alike. The only major American automaker to ride out the crisis without government assistance, Ford has returned to solid profitability with a slew of impressive new products. Investors take note.

New at Walmart: Streaming Video Rentals

The retail giant will allow customers to snap up a flick while loading their electronic shopping carts with everything from clothes to tires. The move completes Walmart.com's integration of VUDU, and brings the world's largest public corporation by revenue into direct conflict with Netflix.

7 Free Shipping Options for E-Retailers

Online retailing is big business, and growing. As virtual storefronts become major revenue generators, many retailers are realizing the value of free shipping, which has the potential to greatly increase sales. Consider these seven promotional strategies, good for consumers and investors.

How Colleges Are Still Getting Rich Off Your Kids

For years, credit card companies have targeted college students to gain access to a lucrative source of profits: student debt. And despite laws designed to stop the practice, colleges and universities are still taking huge payments from card companies -- at your kids' expense.

Why Are Rich Companies Laying Off Poor Workers?

Several major corporations have been announcing layoffs in recent weeks, despite their fattening coffers. What accounts for all the pink slips? Consumers don't like them, nor do investors -- at least, not the farsighted ones. Here are the real reasons behind these puzzling, and troubling, terminations.

Aeropostale: Cheap Clothes, Cheaper Stock

Aeropostale, the cheap-but-stylish clothing store for young teens, is sitting squarely in the stock market's bargain bin. The company has encountered some setbacks of late, sending its share price down. But none of its problems should prove lasting, and Aeropostale has three noteworthy opportunities right now.

What Was Wall Street Thinking Last Week?

Some Street-related dispatches from last week's entry in the Human Comedy: Kim Kardashian filed a silly sounding but well-grounded lawsuit against Old Navy's use of a lookalike; gaming magnate Steve Wynn went all FOXNews on a conference call; and Barnes and Noble surged, nonsensically, on Borders' liquidation.

U.S. Consumers: Done Spending, or Ready to Restart?

Consumer sentiment is at its lowest level in two years, while the so-called "Misery Index" stands at a three decade-high. And it's true: Americans aren't spending as robustly as they once were. But when you look at the numbers, it becomes clear that U.S. consumers aren't down for the count just yet.

Rick Harrison's Rules for Being a Pawn Star

"Pawn Stars," the History Channel reality series, is television gold. During his lifetime in the business, Rick Harrison -- owner-operator of the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, where the show is set -- has seen it all. Here are four tips that he shared on how to become a world-class pawnbroker.

5 Things to Watch in Next Week's Market News

There's no such thing as a summertime lull when earnings season is upon us. Even if you don't feel like alerting the "sell in May and go away" camp of investors, there are plenty of headlines to be written about. Here are five things that will shape the way the market acts in the week ahead.

Microsoft's Quarter: One Big Tax Dodge

Microsoft delivers blowout earnings, and shares open lower the following morning. It seems bizarre, but it's part of a larger trend in technology stocks. And Wall Street's muted reaction is a sign that investors are finally catching on to Microsoft's game -- i.e., avoiding US taxes.

McDonald's Goes Bigger, and Better for Shareholders

McDonald's may seem like the fast-food company of yesteryear, but appearances can be deceiving. The company's latest news -- big plans for the London Olympics, robust second quarter earnings, and expansion into emerging markets -- shows that shares of the Golden Arches are headed onward and upward.

How to Retire Rich Without Relying on Social Security

Even if Social Security weren't falling apart -- which it manifestly is -- the average retiree benefits essentially amount to about what you'd earn working full time at a minimum wage job. That's hardly the retirement lifestyle you want. Here's a plan that will allow you to retire comfortably.

Look Out for Dot-Bomb 2.0

The red-hot success of recent IPOs by internet companies has investors feeling lucky. But like every bubble, Dot-Bomb version 2.0 will leave investors bruised and banker laughing. Here's how you can avoid getting burned, and cash in on the trends driving these stocks without taking on all the risk.

The Real Cost of Workers' Comp Fraud

It's not surprising that the insurance industry and workers' compensation lawyers are sounding alarms about the high cost of workers' comp fraud. They're not exactly objective observers. But while worker compensation fraud does hurt us all, the pain may not be quite as big as these entities make it sound.