A: There are 11 women running Fortune 500 companies - so 97.8 percent are still run by men. At least the numbers have been rising in recent years, up from eight in 2003 and six in 2002. Here are the 11: Patricia Woertz, Archer Daniels Midland; Indra Nooyi (as of Oct. 1), PepsiCo; Brenda Barnes, Sara Lee; Mary Sammons, Rite Aid; Anne Mulcahy, Xerox; Patricia Russo, Lucent Technologies; Susan Ivey, Reynolds American; Andrea Jung, Avon Products; Marion Sandler, Golden West Financial; Paula Rosput Reynolds, Safeco; and Meg Whitman, eBay. There are many other high-profile women in business, such as Citigroup’s chief financial officer, Sallie Krawcheck, and Safra Catz, president of Oracle.

Beware of Ratings and Target Prices: In the financial press, you’ll frequently run across stories like this: "Wingtip Investments raises rating for Meteorite Insurance Inc. (ticker: HEDSUP) from ‘hold’ to ‘accumulate’ and sets 12-month target price of $80."

Analysts’ target prices also are not the definitive pieces of information that they appear to be. Let’s review one way that they’re calculated. Imagine that Meteorite Insurance reported $2 in earnings per share (EPS) in the past 12 months and that its stock is trading around $40 per share. To determine its price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, you’d divide $40 by $2 and would get 20. One way to think of the P/E is to say that investors value HEDSUP shares at 20 times its earnings. That’s sometimes referred to as a "multiple" of 20.

Now imagine that after studying the company, you estimate that next year it will earn $4 per share - and that its multiple will remain around 20. Since you know this formula for the P/E ratio, you can simply multiply the expected earnings of $4 by the multiple of 20 and voila - you have a price target of $80 per share for next year.

Remember that price targets are just based on estimates, which may well prove to be too optimistic or conservative. If the industry is suddenly seen as very attractive, the multiple (or P/E) could be higher. Or the EPS might be lower, if growth slows. Don’t base investment decisions solely on target prices. They’re imperfect. It’s more valuable to try to determine a stock’s intrinsic worth. Then, if the current price is lower, you can consider buying, expecting that the stock has a chance of reaching its worth.

The Fool Responds: Your shares would likely be worth more than $30,000 today. Don’t kick yourself too hard - you couldn’t have known that Chico’s would go on to be a top-performing stock. Next time you’re considering selling, evaluate how well the business, not the stock, is doing.

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Ford’s Subprime Idea: Struggling automaker Ford recently detailed a plan designed to clear out unsold inventory and boost market share in one fell swoop - via a risky plan. Management intends to clear out its bloated inventories of 2006 model-year cars and trucks by targeting buyers with lousy credit histories. It intends to offer everyone, including so-called "subprime" borrowers, zero percent financing for up to six years.

Ford and GM first introduced the concept of large-scale zero percent financing several years ago. Initially, it was much more limited in scope, being extended only to buyers with strong credit histories and for no more than three or four years’ duration. Ford’s latest gambit breaks the rules in both respects, targeting buyers who are huge credit risks and enticing them with longer interest amnesties.

We’ve already seen in the housing market what happens when generous loan terms are extended to subprime borrowers: They default at higher rates. Many Ford buyers may end up defaulting on their car loans, with the company repossessing their cars. This would defeat the purpose of the initiative, by putting repossessed inventory back on Ford lots.

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