Market Minute: H&R Block Acknowledges Delays on Some Tax Returns

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The Dow edged higher by two points yesterday, but that was good enough for a sixth straight record high, and an eighth straight gain. That's the longest winning streak in more than two years. But the S&P 500 ended three points lower, and the Nasdaq fell 10.

Pedestrians walk past the H&R Block Inc. flagship office in New York, U.S., on Friday, March 2, 2012. H&R Block Inc. provides tax services to the general public, accounting and consulting services, and consumer financial and personal productivity software. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
(Scott Eells, Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Last week, H&R Block (HRB) reported disappointing earnings, its net loss widening as tax season begins late this year. Now the leading tax preparation company has "acknowledged that it encountered issues filing returns containing Form 8863 -- which is used to claim education credits -- before Feb. 22 because of changes the IRS made to the way it processes the form," CNNMoney reports.

H&R Block says the glitch has been fixed, and that it's working to get customers their refunds as quickly as possible. In all, the IRS said 600,000 returns, not all of them from H&R Block customers, were affected by the mix-up.

A big step forward for Boeing (BA): Federal regulators have given their okay for the company to test the redesigned batteries on its 787 Dreamliners. The company hopes to begin test flights next month, and could resume commercials flights in May, if all goes well.

Federal regulators say new media companies must play by the same rules as old media when it comes to advertising fine print. That means advertisers on Facebook (FB), Twitter and other sites must identify ads and find a way to include legal disclosures from companies that sell weight loss products, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, etc.

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Credit card company Discover Financial (DFS) is moving into a new business: offering home equity loans. It will provide fixed rate loans of up to $100,000, available at first to current card holders.

Twinkees are not dead after all. Hostess, now in bankruptcy, has agreed to sell the popular cake brand to Apollo Global (APO) and a partner for $410 million. Dole Food (DOLE) is leaving a sour taste in the mouths of investors. The company posted a quarterly loss that was much worse than expected.

And Spectrum Pharmaceuticals (SPPI) could lose a third of its value today. The biotech firm warns that sales of its drug to treat colorectal cancer are well below expectations.

Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that H&R Block's share price fell after its recent earnings report. In fact, the company's shares rose the next day. And the 600,000 taxpayers impacted by a delay in processing Form 8863 are not all H&R Block clients, as was originally stated; other providers are also involved. DailyFinance regrets the errors.

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Market Minute: H&R Block Acknowledges Delays on Some Tax Returns

Apple (AAPL) was a market darling until late last year. That's when the market began to concern itself with the world's most valuable tech company, and Google's (GOOG) Android encroached on Apple's lucrative iPad and iPhone market share.

Android is a problem for Apple, as the open-source platform allows any handset or tablet maker to put out an economically priced gadget with the confidence of customer recognition and app developer support.

As customers flock to cheaper devices -- especially in overseas markets where wireless carriers don't subsidize the high prices of iPhones -- Apple has seen demand soften. Margins have also followed suit as Apple is down to offering cheaper iPad minis and keeping around older generations of cheaper iPhones.

Skullcandy (SKUL) went public two years ago at $20, but now it's trading in the single digits. Skullcandy got its start marketing its cutting edge headphones and audio accessories to extreme sports enthusiasts who appreciated the company's brash and colorful designs.

Skullcandy's problem is that fashion is fickle. The stock took a hit last week as it warned of a sharp quarterly loss on a 30 percent decline in revenue for its next report.

Millennial Media (MM) is another broken IPO. The online advertising company hit the market with all of the right connections. As the second largest player in mobile brand advertising -- overtaking Apple and only trailing Google -- Millennial Media seemed to be at the right place at the right time.

A big selling point for Millennial Media is that it's operating system agnostic, and that's something that Google and Apple can't say.

Growth is certainly there. Revenue soared 71 percent last year, and Millennial Media sees 52 percent to 58 percent in top-line growth for 2013. The rub is profitability. Millennial Media is losing money, and it's expecting another shortfall this year.

Select Comfort (SCSS) is the company behind the popular Sleep Number mattresses. The air-chambered mattresses have firmness settings, and a big selling point is that larger beds can have different settings for each side of the bed.

Net sales climbed 26 percent to a record $935 million last year, fueled by a 23 percent spike in comparable store sales at company-owned locations. The lumps in this mattress maker are that it fell short on the bottom line during its holiday quarter, and earlier this month it warned that sales since the beginning of February have been softer than expected.

Photo: Eddie~S, Flickr.com

The Fresh Market (TFM) is another surprising name on this list. The operator of high-end grocery stores continues to attract foodies. Net sales climbed 15 percent in its latest quarter and 20 percent for all of last year. However, The Fresh Market has somehow come up short on the bottom line relative to expectations in back-to-back quarters.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The economy's improving, and upscale supermarket chains are showing signs of life. Whole Foods Market (WFM) has been rattling off several quarters of positive store-level sales. The Fresh Market hasn't been as fortunate with comps climbing just 1.9 percent in its latest quarter. It still plans to aggressively open new stores this year, but it will need to shore up its popularity along the way.

Falling out of favor is never fun for investors, and it's particularly painful to be a laggard when the market itself is racing to new highs.

However, each of these five companies have plenty to prove before they earn their way out of the market's penalty box. Some of them will do exactly that, but don't be surprised if some continue to hit fresh lows in the weeks to come.

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