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

Earns General Mills
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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. (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.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%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, Apple, Hasbro and McDonald's.

10 Easy Ways to Pay Off Debt
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Winners and Losers: A Go for Amazon, Cheeri-Oops
"Your daily habits and routines are the reason you got into this mess," writes Trent Hamm, founder of "Spend some time thinking about how you spend money each day, each week and each month." Do you really need your daily latte? Can you bring your lunch to work instead of buying it four times a week? Ask yourself: What can I change without sacrificing my lifestyle too much? 
Remove all credit cards from your wallet and leave them at home when you go shopping, advises WiseBread contributor Sabah Karimi. “Even if you earn cash back or other rewards with credit card purchases, stop spending with your credit cards until you have your finances under control,” she writes.
If you do a lot of online shopping at one retailer, you may have stored your credit card information on the site to make the checkout process easier. But that also makes it easier to charge items you don't need. So clear that information. "If you’re paying for a recurring service, use a debit card issued from a major credit card service linked to your checking account," Hamm writes.  
Reward yourself when you reach debt payoff goals. "The only way to completely pay off your credit card debt is to keep at it, and to do that, you must keep yourself motivated," Bakke writes. Just make sure to reward yourself within reason. For example, instead of a weeklong vacation, plan a weekend camping trip. "If you aim to reduce your credit card debt from $10,000 to $5,000 in two months," Bakke writes, "give yourself more than a pat on the back." 
“Establish a budget,” writes Money Crashers contributor David Bakke. “If you don't scale back your spending, you'll dig yourself into a deeper hole." You can use personal finance tools like, or make your own Excel spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then scrutinize those budget categories to see where you can cut costs.    
Sort your credit card interest rates from highest to lowest, then tackle the card with the highest rate first. "By paying off the balance with the highest interest first, you increase your payment on the credit card with the highest annual percentage rate while continuing to make the minimum payment on the rest of your credit cards," writes spokeswoman Hitha Prabhakar.
To make a dent in your debt, you need to pay more than the minimum balance on your credit card statements each month. "Paying the minimum -– usually 2 to 3 percent of the outstanding balance -– only prolongs a debt payoff strategy," Prabhakar writes. "Strengthen your commitment to pay everything off by making weekly, instead of monthly, payments." Or if your minimum payment is $100, try doubling it and paying off $200 or more. 
If you have a high-interest card with a balance that you’re confident you can pay off in a few months, Hamm recommends moving the debt to a card that offers a zero-interest balance transfer. "You’ll need to pay off the debt before the balance transfer expires, or else you’re often hit with a much higher interest rate," he warns. "If you do it carefully, you can save hundreds on interest this way."
Have any birthday gifts or old wedding presents collecting dust in your closet? Look for items you can sell on eBay or Craigslist. "Do some research to make sure you list these items at a fair and reasonable price," Karimi writes. “Take quality photos, and write an attention-grabbing headline and description to sell the item as quickly as possible." Any profits from sales should go toward your debt. 
If you receive a job bonus around the holidays or during the year, allocate that money toward your debt payoff plan. "Avoid the temptation to spend that bonus on a vacation or other luxury purchase," Karimi writes. It’s more important to fix your financial situation than own the latest designer bag.
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