You wouldn’t have believed this in 2004: Free doughnuts at Krispy Kreme

It’s hard to believe that it was 14 years ago this summer that Krispy Kreme turned much of New England into a frenzy when it opened its first store in the region, at Wellington Circle in Medford (or as we like to call it, “MED-fid”).

For many in New England, it was about time. We had been missing out. Missing out on what was seemingly the biggest craze since the Dutch tulip bubble of 1637.

All for a glazed doughnut.

The fad came and went, as all fads do. And sadly, so did most of the New England Krispy Kreme stores (one remains, at the Mohecan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., and a half-dozen or so more are planned in New Hampshire and Maine in the next year). The chain’s aptly-named CEO, Scott Livengood, retired in 2005, and just last year, Krispy Kreme was taken private.

So you’ll forgive the irony that comes with the announcement that starting today, and running through the end of this month, Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Kripsy Kreme is offering a free doughnut for anyone who buys a coffee. The company recently revamped its coffee, and to tempt customers into giving it a taste the chain is tossing in the free doughnut with every purchase.

The same doughnut that was treated as gold just over a decade ago.

Oh, how times have changed.

NetScout seems to know the game

If you’re looking for a local public company that seems to have the quarterly earnings game down to a science, have a look-see at NetScout Systems Inc., a Westford-based provider of network-monitoring systems.

On Tuesday, the company announced earnings for the quarter ending Dec. 31, its third of fiscal 2017, of $21.2 million, or 60 cents per share (adjusted for one-time items). That was 4 cents per share better than analysts’ forecasts.  

NetScout has surpassed analysts’ profit projections for four consecutive quarters (at least). The number to beat this quarter, which ends March 31, is 62 cents per share. That would give NetScout fiscal 2017 net income of about $1.93 per share (the company is projecting $1.87 to $1.90, based on revenue of $1.2 billion).

Oddly, none of the estimates for the stock were revised over the past 30 days, according to Zacks Equity Research. The Zacks Consensus Estimate also remained unchanged over the same time frame.

Shares advanced on Tuesday by about 6 percent, to close at $33.30. After giving back a few pennies in each of the next two days, shares rallied again today to close at $34.35, up $1.75 on the day. During today’s session, they reached a 52-week high of $34.45.

Even at that level, NetScout shares are trading at a not-so-bloated level of 18 times projected fiscal 2017 earnings.  

If nothing else, NetScout seems to know how the earnings game is played.

Mass. economy slows sharply

One thing various economists have told me over the years in Massachusetts is that the state has a tendency to experience higher highs and lower lows when it comes to economic growth.

It appears that we are on the wrong end of that trend at the moment.

Last Friday, citing a report from MassBenchmarks, State House News Service reported that economic growth in the Bay State was a paltry 0.5 percent in the fourth quarter, nearly a full percentage point less than the already unimpressive national rate.

The Massachusetts rate is down from 3.1 percent in the third quarter of last year.

What’s troubling is that this slowdown is occurring even as unemployment continues to decline, reaching levels not seen in more than 15 years. According to State House News Service, the MassBenchmarks reports cites that the lack of availability of even more workers may in fact be playing a role in the stunted growth.

Add in the fact that Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen is on record as predicting that interest rates could be hiked as many as three times this year, and you’ve got a difficult environment in which to pick stocks.

MassBenchmarks forecasts only slightly better growth this quarter — 0.9 percent — and edging up a tad more, to a whole 1 percent, in the second quarter of 2017.

We investors could have our work cut out for us, at least in the near term.

MassBenchmarks is a journal published by the UMass Donahue Institute in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.