BERRY BURST CHEERIOS

Hey, Cheerios are . . . reborn! Forget the milk, you can eat ’em right out of the box. I was always more of a cornflakes guy, so this was as much a surprise to me as I imagine it is to you.

(Just 100 calories per serving, which they describe as 27 grams, confident no American consumer has any idea what 27 grams is – an ounce. An ounce is not a lot. I’ve gotten letters that weight more than an ounce. But then again, Cheerios, like donuts, are all about the holes, and those don’t weigh a thing.)

A GOOD PLACE TO BANK

Our investment in Commerce Bank (CBH) has gone no place fast, up barely 12% in what is now closing in on two years, even as everything but its earnings per share – a big ‘but’ to be sure – has been rising sharply. (Earnings have been stunted by the extended ‘inverted yield curve’ – namely, short-term interest rates being higher than long-term rates, when ordinarily the reverse is, for banks, profitably true.)

The bank is all about winning fans by dazzling customers with service. Imagine a bank open 361 days a year, from 7:30 in the morning to 8 at night – where the doors open ten minutes before the posted opening time and close ten minutes after the posted closing time. Free checking. ‘No stupid fees.’ Twelve million lollipops (and 2 million dog bones) handed out.

J.D. Powers, in its inaugural Retail Banking Survey last year, ranked Commerce Bank #1 – as did Consumer Reports. Greenwich Associates ranked the bank’s call center #1. (Live reps are standing by 24/7 at 888-751-9000.)

Even if you’re not a customer, you can go into one of its 500 branches to dump a jar of coins into their ‘Penny Arcade’ machine in return for cash. (Imagine: a preference for paper money over metal, but that’s another story.) They counted $425 million in coins that way last year – at no charge.

If you live near a Commerce Bank branch – mainly in New York, Philadelphia, Washington and, increasingly, South Florida – and if your current bank makes you crazy over some insane little problem or charge, you have an alternative.

I don’t know whether or when earnings per share will pop back up to the trend line. And even then, the stock may not pop commensurately. Even so, I am happy holding on for the long-term.

PINCHOT

Ed Shoben: ‘The other five timber-related stocks are (were): Rayonier (RYN), Potlatch (PCH), Pope Resources Units (POPEZ), Timberwest (TWF.UN) and Longview Fiber which has recently been taken out. An interesting column and the Pinchot system is a great way to put all your eggs in one basket. About as wise as putting it all in Las Vegas Real Estate.’

☞ Like Plum Creek, Rayonier and Potlatch have doubled in the last four years. Pope Resources is up more than fourfold. It might have been an even better retirement plan to invest in these stocks four years ago.

Paul Berkowitz: ‘They are all REITS except Pope, which is a master limited partnership. They all seem decent investments, but the clever advertisement for the newsletter conveniently neglects to mention that a large part of the dividends claimed were special dividends paid only when a timber company converted to a REIT. The Graham Investor has a Pinchot FAQ.’

KEITH OLBERMANN IS NOT SUPPORTING GIULIANI

In case you missed it . . . here.

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