How long can the S&P 500 keep 2,000?
How long can the S&P keep 2,000?

The Federal Reserve and Congressional politics threaten to rain on the market party.

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

There's a place to express your views about politics, but it's not with your core retirement savings.

By MSN Money Partner 27 minutes ago
Image: 401k © Photodisc, SuperStockBy Ron DeLegge, U.S. News & World Report

Even though the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) has once again broken to record highs (just above 2,000) and is now up 164 percent since bottoming in 2009, the unfortunate plight of far too many investors is consistent market underperformance.   

 

In truth, it's alarming whenever a person’s investment portfolio has subpar performance. It's especially alarming when that lackluster performance occurs smack dab in the middle of a raging bull market


Simply put, if a person's investment portfolio can't perform well during favorable periods, how can they expect to do well during less favorable times? It's delusional to believe, after years of poor performance, a person's portfolio will suddenly change for the better.


This week's portfolio report card is for Charles in Sweetwater, Oklahoma. He’s a 66-year-old cattle farmer. 

 
Tags: BACCHK

Shares fell 9 percent during the quarter, which offers a compelling entry price now.

By TheStreet.com Staff 4 hours ago

A ConocoPhillips filling station seen on July 14, 2011, in Irving, Texas © Tony Gutierrez /APBy Marc Courtenay, TheStreet


ConocoPhillips (COP) is a popular energy holding for investors wanting growth and income. That's why it surprised me to learn that perhaps the smartest investor of all time, Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) made major reductions in his exposure to the company this year.


Buffett is the quintessential buy-and-hold investor who once quipped, "Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago." He'd rather buy a company in its "seedling" stage and patiently wait for it to grow to maturity before he decides to be seller.


That seems to be his view of the oil giant. According to Berkshire's latest report, it reduced its Conoco holdings by nearly 88 percent although it still owns 1,355,228 shares worth over $1.09 billion as of June 30.

 

Deals are the real worry, because they are the true measure of euphoria, which causes people to lose more money than just about any other emotion known to man.

By Jim Cramer 5 hours ago

Charging Bull statue in New York City’s financial district © Michael Marquand/Getty ImagesDarn that Snapchat with that $10 billion valuation. We don't need that kind of story now. That's the kind of stuff that always seems to stop the indexes in their tracks. Every time the market gets traction in the Internet, we hear some wild-eyed pricing for a company such as Box or Dropbox or AirBnB or Uber and we recognize that the overvalued mob has some fabulous evidence to use against the bull.


We are always trying to figure out euphoria. We try to gauge it because it is a sign of excess. I absolutely loved Scott Wapner's interview Tuesday with Jeremy Siegel, the terrific Wharton professor, on CNBC's Halftime Report. That's especially as it concerns Siegel's comment that the skepticism is thick and there's certainly not a lot of celebration involving S&P 2000.


Then we hear about $10 billion valuations for profitless companies and we have to go right back to the euphoria drawing board.

 

The Federal Reserve and Congressional politics threaten to rain on the market party.

By InvestorPlace 22 hours ago

Credit: © Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Caption: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on August 18, 2014 in New YorkBy Anthony Mirhaydari


The bulls have roared out of early August lows in one of the smoothest, most powerful V-shaped rebounds in market history.


And on Tuesday, after flirting with the level the day before, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) closed above the 2,000 level for the first time ever -- albeit by the slimmest of margins at 2,000.02. Overall, the index is up more than 5 percent from the low set on Aug. 7.


The big question is: Will the gains continue . . . or is it time to sell?


Last week, I listed three big reasons why the S&P 500 would cross the 2,000 threshold and recommended investors and clients prepare for the rise. All three are still in play.

 

The upstart company is the fourth-largest source of US Internet traffic, and could also help Amazon accelerate a push into Web video.

By MSN Money Partner 23 hours ago
Credit: © Ralph Goldmann/dpa/Corbis
Caption: Part of the Twitch display on the first day of Gamescom 2014 in Cologne, Germany, Aug. 13, 2014By Douglas MacMillan and Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal

As videogames become a spectator sport, Amazon.com (AMZN) just bought the world's largest arena.


The e-commerce giant said Monday it agreed to acquire Twitch Interactive, a popular Internet video channel for broadcasting, and watching, people play videogames, for about $970 million in cash.


The deal is Amazon's second biggest, and underscores the popularity of online gaming. Though little-known outside of tech and gaming, Twitch, founded in 2011, is the fourth-largest source of U.S. Internet traffic, behind only Netflix (NFLX), Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL), according to network researcher DeepField Inc.


Last October, 32 million people watched the championship of Riot Games Inc.'s "League of Legends" on various streaming services, more than the series finales of television shows "Breaking Bad," "24" and "The Sopranos" put together.

 

The self-driving car tech maker is well-positioned to help launch hands-free driving at highway speeds.

By TheStreet.com Staff Tue 3:07 PM

The international award winning Mobileye device inside a Legion Cab. The device scans the area in front of the vehicle and alerts the driver. © Richard Milnes/Demotix/CorbisBy Chris Ciaccia, TheStreet


As driverless cars become more present over the next several years, Wall Street believes that Mobileye (MBLY) is best positioned to benefit significantly from this trend.


Several investment banks initiated coverage on the Israeli-based Mobileye, following its successful initial public offering earlier this month. Mobileye, which counts automakers such as BMWAudiJaguar Land Rover, Tesla (TSLA), Ford (F), Honda (HON) and Nissan (NSANY) as customers, shipped 1.3 million chips in 2013 to help automakers develop advanced driver assistance systems and semi-autonomous markets, noted Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson, who rates shares "overweight" with a $48 price target. 

The company also believes its radar, sensor, microchip and camera technologies will allow it be the first to develop a semi-autonomous driving car at highway speeds. Mobilye is designing the first system for hands-free driving at highway speeds with two automakers, which it expects to launch in 2016.

 

But you can dance until the music stops, which will be in the second week of October.

By Jim Cramer Tue 1:16 PM

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Aug. 22, 2014, in New York City © Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesLet's face it. Someone is going to be wrong about the banks or the bonds. This curious decoupling we are seeing, whereby rates continue to go down but banks are breaking out, shouldn't be happening. At least history says it shouldn't. You have to be tempted to short these stocks and bet against the Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) breakout if rates aren't going higher, because that means there is even more net interest margin compression ahead, and that's been the be-all and end-all for these stocks.


So what does it mean?


First, you could argue that the bonds are giving one last gasp up before a total breakdown. The interest-rate-sensitive stocks would go along with that. The real estate investment trust ETF, the iShares US Real Estate (IYR), looked like it was on the verge of a rollover most of the day. But I didn't get that read from many of the packaged goods stocks, the so-called bond yield equivalent plays. Some were up and some were down.

 

Bank of America and Citigroup are setting up beautifully from a technical perspective.

By InvestorPlace Tue 12:01 PM

Credit: © Chris Keane/Reuters
Caption: A Bank of America sign at a branch in Greenville, S.C.By Anthony Mirhaydari


Big-bank stocks have enjoyed a lift over the last few trading sessions, helping the Financial SPDR (XLF) recover from its early August selloff to push to new all-time highs Monday.


There are a few catalysts in play. For one, with the geopolitical tensions diminishing in Iraq and Ukraine, and with central banks in no hurry to pull back on economic stimulus, the overall market is enjoying a surge of buying interest.


But there sector-specific factors in play as well. Last week, Bank of America (BAC) reached a near $17 billion agreement with the Department of Justice to settle charges of misleading investors during the housing boom -- essentially resolving nearly all the legacy legal overhang related to the acquisition of Countrywide and Merrill Lynch.

 
Tags: BACC

Having the best results is less important than having a strategy that is good enough.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 3:05 PM
Image: Arrow Down © Image Source/SuperStockBy Chuck Jaffe, MarketWatch

Fund shareholders should know what bad investment behaviors look like. To find them, most people simply need to look in their own portfolio.


Whether it's buying funds with above-average expense ratios or chasing performance by rotating toward hot funds -- instead of trying to "buy low" by purchasing whatever the market has put on sale -- hyper-actively managing a portfolio, or going for money managers who haven't proven capable of living up to their fund's promises, there's hardly anyone out there who without one or two classic blunders thrown into their investment history somewhere.


The question is whether that's actually so bad.


That question was raised for me most recently by some new research by the Vanguard Group -- the world's largest fund company -- on the effects of performance-chasing.

 

Berkshire Hathaway pours more than $1 billion a year into ads for the insurance unit, and the investment is paying off.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 2:00 PM
Credit: © GEICO via Facebook
Caption: GEICO geckoBy Anupreeta Das, The Wall Street Journal

Among the thousands of employees at Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A), Warren Buffett says a "nice little fellow" is one of the most hardworking. He also happens to be a green lizard.


Since his debut in 2000, the Geico gecko has helped to sell millions of policies for the Berkshire-owned auto insurer and made it one of the conglomerate's most-consistent profit drivers. 


The ubiquitous ads, accounting for almost a quarter of all U.S. insurance companies' advertising spending, cost Berkshire more than $1.2 billion last year.


Mr. Buffett said he intends to keep lavishing Geico with money.

 

In this wildcatting decade, oil exploration stock investors need to be nimble to get the best returns. Follow the exploration companies and watch where you play.

By TheStreet.com Staff Mon 1:17 PM

A pumpjack & oil refinery in Seminole, West Texas © David Sucsy/Getty ImagesBy Dana Blankenhorn, TheStreet


During the last energy decade, the booming 1970s, investors could simply pick up international oil companies like Exxon (now Exxon-Mobil (XOM)) or Chevron (CVX) (which now owns Texaco), the American partners of what is now Saudi Aramco and walk away with big returns.


It's not that simple these days. Today's boom is not only American, but it belongs to dedicated exploration companies, not the oil majors. Fracking is very expensive, meaning price swings can wipe out profits. You have to pay attention to infrastructure. But the gains can, if anything, be sweeter.


The easiest way to play has been to stick with the oilfield service giants, the "arms merchants" for the fracking revolution. Over the last five years shares of Baker Hughes (BHI) are up 79 percent, Schlumberger (SLB) shares are up more than 105 percent, and Halliburton (HAL) has seen a 175 percent gain.

 

2 portfolio managers say the market would welcome an increase before the expected time frame of next summer.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 12:45 PM
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on April 30, 2014 in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average closed at a new record high Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said it would reduce its bond-buying program
© Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesBy Matthew J. Belvedere, CNBC

As the great interest rate debate rages inside the Federal Reserve, two senior portfolio managers told CNBC on Monday that any accelerated start to normalizing monetary policy would actually be good for stocks.


Perhaps counterintuitively, the market would welcome a rate hike before the expected time frame of next summer.


"When the Fed eventually begins to raise the [federal] funds rate next year, that in our view is not the death knell of this rally," Federated Chief Equity Strategist Phil Orlando said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "The market is going to appreciate the fact that [that] . . . must mean the economy is starting to normalize for the first time in seven or eight years.


"That's good news for equity investors," Orlando added -- a sentiment echoed by Nuveen Asset Management's Bob Doll.

 

The six-month ordeal has been painful medicine for the company and its investors. But executives are looking ahead.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 12:06 PM
Credit: © Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Caption: The General Motors Co. logo is seen at their world headquarters in Detroit, Mich.By Alex Taylor III, Fortune

Are better times coming for General Motors (GM)? 


There's a palpable feeling around Detroit headquarters that it has put the worst of the ignition switch recall crisis behind it -- and the company will emerge stronger for it.


Sure, there is a lot of work still to be done cleaning up the damage: getting the affected cars brought in for repairs, making sure that spare parts and qualified service people are available, and paying out hundreds of millions of dollars in damage claims.


But the cascade of notices that have brought about 29 million recalls of GM vehicles since February -- and dominated the news coverage -- seems to be running its course, notwithstanding reports of a federal probe into the behavior of the company's legal division.

 
Tags: FGM

Barry Bannister raises his year-end target for the S&P 500 to 2,300 but says getting there won't be easy.

By MSN Money Partner Mon 11:50 AM
Image: Stock market Bear © Hemera Technologies/JupiterimagesBy Bruno J. Navarro, CNBC

One of Wall Street's biggest bears just did an about-face with his outlook for stocks.


Barry Bannister, chief macro and portfolio strategist at Stifel Nicolaus, raised his year-end target for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) by 20 percent, from 1,800 to 2,300.


"Well, it's definitely a bull market when a flat view is the most bearish view out there," he said Friday on CNBC's "Halftime Report."


Bannister noted that the 7 percent gain for stocks year-to-date is "exactly in the middle in August-to-date changes for the S&P in the last 100 years. It's a pretty ordinary market."

 

When a company like Roche buys InterMune for $8 billion and calls it a mere bolt-on, you know you're seeing signs of a much bigger trend.

By Jim Cramer Mon 10:56 AM

InterMune Inc. signage is displayed outside of the company's headquarters in Brisbane, Calif., Aug. 15, 2014 © David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesYou want to know what's the biggest change that has come over mergers and acquisitions in the past few years? No, it is not inversions. It's the definition of "bolt-on." This morning I sat and listened in amazement to how Roche described the $8.38 billion purchase of InterMune (ITMN) as a bolt-on acquisition that fits right into the company's emphasis on pulmonary care drugs.


Since when is $8.3 billion a bolt-on? That's like saying that a Cartier ring is a bolt-on to your jewelry collection.


In truth, all of the major drug companies are challenged for new products and are scrambling to make acquisitions just like this one, even as it is a 38 percent premium to where the stock went out on Friday and the stock was already up 265 percent for the year. They are scrambling because their own labs simply seem incapable of the kind of greenfield breakthroughs that biotechs are developing. 

 

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[BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 trades lower by 0.1% with one hour remaining in today's forgettable session.

Today's economic data was limited to the weekly MBA Mortgage Index (+2.8%), but tomorrow will be a bit more busy, featuring the second estimate of Q2 GDP (Briefing.com consensus 2.0%), the Pending Home Sales report for July (consensus 0.5%), and weekly initial claims (consensus 302K).

Elsewhere, Treasuries are on their highs with the 10-yr yield down four basis points at ... More


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