Big business to investors: We’re cheap! and Census: Help save Uncle Sam $1.5 billion

Big businesses have a lot of cash, and many are starting to put it to use — to invest in themselves.  So far this year, Applied Materials (AMAT, Fortune 500), Qualcomm (QCOM, Fortune 500), DirecTV (DTV, Fortune 500), Lowe’s (LOW, Fortune 500), The Gap (GPS, Fortune 500) and Philip Morris (PM, Fortune 500) — to name a few — have all said they are looking to repurchase at least $1 billion worth of their own shares.

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The most recent — and biggest — buyback announcement came from PepsiCo (PEP, Fortune 500) on Monday. The soft drink and snack food giant plans to repurchase up to $15 billion in its own stock.

Shares of Pepsi shot up 1.5% on the news, and that should not be a major surprise. Investors typically cheer buyback news for two simple reasons.

The first reason is that if a company believes its own stock is such a value that it’s willing to put its money where its mouth is and buy shares, that’s a sign of confidence. [Read the full article]

The Census Bureau estimated Monday that Americans could save the federal government $1.5 billion by mailing their 2010 census forms instead of waiting for a census taker to show up at the door.

The announcement came on the same day the bureau mailed the first 120 million forms to households across the nation as part of the Constitutionally mandated population count.

Mailing back your census form when it arrives will contribute to saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars," Census Bureau director Robert Groves said in a statement. It’s a lot less expensive to get responses back by mail than it is to send census takers to knock on doors of households that failed to respond.

Groves said it costs the government 42 cents for each pre-paid envelope when a household mails back the form. That compares with a cost of $57 to send a census taker to check on households that do not respond, he said. [Read the full article]

Washington insiders are all pumped up by Sen. Chris Dodd’s pending financial reform bill. They say that it seems to have a real chance to garner bipartisan support. Yippee! That sounds great on the surface, but ask yourself WHY it seems more popular than, say, Obama’s health-care bill? Reason is that Dodd’s dang thing’s got no teeth! Sure the bill has a measure to create a consumer protection agency within the Fed, (even that’s controversial) and it would ban bank execs from being on the New York Fed’s board. Then there’s the real torches and pitchforks stuff, but even here, the bill is fangless. The proposed bill would allow shareholders to have "advisory votes" (say what?) on executive pay.

But the real demons — leverage, derivatives, and TBTFS (too big to fail syndrome) — really aren’t addressed here. Limiting leverage, or borrowing by big firms, seems like a no-brainer. But it’s not here. [Read the full article]

Federal authorities on Monday charged the former chief executive of a New York bank with being the first suspect to try and rip off taxpayer funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District in Manhattan said it arrested Charles Antonucci, former CEO of The Park Avenue Bank, with self-dealing, bank bribery, embezzlement of bank funds and fraud, among other charges.

Antonucci is accused of trying to defraud the TARP program of more than $11 million in taxpayer money, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Also, during his time as bank executive, Antonucci allegedly authorized credit extensions and overdrafts to "customers with whom he had financial relationships," in one case extending credit "in exchange for the use of the customer’s private plane," according to documents from the U.S. Attorney’s office. [Read the full article]

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