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Keep an eye on funds tracking oil, retail, gold, China's emerging middle class and Sweden's stable economy.
By Don Dion, TheStreet
Here are five exchange-traded funds to keep an eye on this week.
Oil has been on the minds of investors around the globe as political turmoil pushes the price of crude north of $100 a barrel. As we head into the week, the protests sweeping the Middle East and North Africa show little signs of waning, and once again market confidence will likely be tested.
USO has seen a steep run-up over the past few weeks and is currently testing $42. This will be interesting to watch. Since late 2009, it has proved to be a point of resistance on a number of occasions.
We're in a sideways market with plenty of headwinds, so it's no time to be a hero.
The sustainability of economic recovery is in question with oil holding steady above $100 a barrel. Fortunately for the market, stocks received a jolt late last week with a jobs report that kept spirits high.
Without that boost, stocks would have been down 1% to 2% last week. Thanks to late gains Friday, the market closed the week with a fractional gain. Where will we trade this week?
That is hard to say. Certainly the momentum from a stronger economy will help. That said, many publicly traded stocks are fully valued at the moment. Only significantly stronger operating results will move stocks higher.
I'm still playing it safe with my ETF picks. My choice to highlight this week goes back to the ProShares Credit Suisse 130/30 (CSM).
The long-short approach is the right pick for a market with downside risk. With this fund, the emphasis is on the long side, with its 130% exposure to stocks, but what I really like is the 30% short exposure.
The Shanghai flagship shuts down after 2 years, highlighting the iconic doll's recent struggles.
U.S. toy titan Mattel (MAT) sure knows how to play. The company owns some of the most enduring brands in history, including Matchbox Cars, Pictionary, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots and Polly Pocket.
Unfortunately, some Mattel toys just aren't what they used to be. Take the sad case of a middle-aged Barbie, who was given her own six-story outlet store in 2009 to help revitalize slumping global sales. The result? Well, despite some flashy features, the mammoth dollhouse was a flop, and Mattel today announced the site is being shuttered.
The world's first and only Barbie concept store debuted on Barbie's 50th birthday in 2009 and graced a huge six-story space in downtown Shanghai, China. Features of the site included a pink neon escalator, a glitzy showroom with 900 display cases for Barbies in wide variety of clothes, and even a spa and a Barbie bar for the adults.
Despite flagging sales for Barbie at the time and a global financial crisis taking the buying power out of consumers everywhere, Mattel thought the timing was right for a big push into the world's most populous nation.
Fears that soaring crude will take out housing, banks, autos and commercial construction simply haven't materialized yet.
Where is the oil crash? Why don't the charts show us something, some sign that things are about to go bad? They haven't suddenly lost their predictive value, have they?
Think of it like this: We wring our hands at the sight of $4 at the pump. We know it is a terrible tax on the American consumer. We know it helped precipitate the economy's collapse in 2008. Of that there can be no doubt. In fact, let's just stipulate it.
So why are the charts so robust now? How can it be that the oil and oil-related charts are all busting out but none of the consumer-related stocks are really showing signs of buckling? In fact, I will take it a step further and point out that the recession retailer Wal-Mart (WMT) has the worst chart in the book -- other than the despicable Cisco (CSCO) -- despite its big dividend boost.
The restaurants? The weakest group in 2008 other than the casinos? They are all holding up pretty well to excellently. Stocks like Darden (DRI) and Yum (YUM) but also Cheesecake Factory (CAKE) and Brinker (EAT), all trashed last go-round, look totally buyable.
Cut through all the headlines and determine the market direction for yourself
Each week end I step back and see where the market really is. It's very confusing to listen to the talking heads on all the financial news channels so I use these 2 indicators to keep my head straight. All of these indicators can be found on Barchart.
The first and I think the most important is the Value Line Arithmetic Index. It a simple unweighted index that measures the change of approximately 1700 of the largest stocks covered by the Value Line Investment Survey. These 1700 stocks constitute about 95% of the entire US stock market capitalization. Most investors I've talked to invest a percentage of their money in each stock rather than weighting their portfolio by market capitalization. This unweighted index of 1700 stocks gives me a better feel of the market than the weighted and much smaller Dow 30 or S&P 500.
My chart shows the index against its 20, 50 and 100 day moving average and uses the Barchart Trend Spotter (tm) which is an indicator of the weighted results of Barchart's 12 technical indicators.
The eyeglass maker is expanding globally and seeing double-digit profit and sales increases.
Increasing volume is helping AmBev's net sales grow, but the cost of raw materials and slowing growth in Brazil are new concerns.
Looking at the bright side of the week's news.
If you're feeling good about the market these days, you're not alone. Follow along as long-time Fool Rick Aristotle Munarriz takes us through some of this week's more uplifting headlines.
Rex Moore, Motley Fool Top Stocks Editor
1. The new tablet gestation period
Apple (AAPL) spoils its gadget owners with annual product line updates. When the world's most valuable tech company set up a media event in California for Wednesday, it was a safe bet that Steve Jobs -- yes, he was there -- would be unveiling the iPad 2.
He did, but Jobs didn't point to some early April date for the launch of Apple's latest "magical" tablet. Instead of matching last year's April launch of its trendsetting iPad, the beefed up iPad 2 will hit the market a week from today -- and at the same price point.
While investors are preoccupied with political turmoil in the Middle East and rising oil prices, an old problem festers.
If you were wondering what the next shoe to drop was, well here it is: The European Central Bank's "strong vigilance" against rising inflation will likely result in higher interest rates as soon as next month. I talked about that in my last blog post.
But here's the kicker: This will tighten the noose around Portugal, forcing that country to follow Greece and Ireland in accepting an EU-IMF bailout package. Also contributing is a failure by Europe's political leaders thus far to agree to an expansion of their sovereign rescue fund, the EFSF.
The mechanism for action will be higher bank funding costs via higher interest rates and higher loan losses as the eurozone struggles under the export-limiting influence of a stronger euro which is up nearly 16% against the dollar since January. A stronger currency, according to Capital Economist chief European economist Jonathan Loynes, is that "last thing the already uncompetitive peripheral economies would appear to need." And all of this will call into question the solvency of Spain -- a country so large that the eurozone's rescue fund may not be able to save it.
The former Federal Reserve chairman says gold prices are important to watch, and that people are underestimating corporate paper profits.
Earlier this week, we saw Warren Buffett pooh-pooh gold as an investment, saying he'd much rather own farmland or Exxon Mobil (XOM). But Greenspan seems to view gold as an important indicator of what's going on in the global economy, especially as central banks around the world jump into the gold rush.
"What the price of gold is saying is essentially that there are elements within the marketplace which feel very uncomfortable with respect to what's going on generally," the former Federal Reserve chairman said. "It's not an accident that you're finding that central banks are going in to buy gold."
Greenspan emphasized that he isn't calling for a return to the gold standard.
Here are three stocks the storied value investor is adding to his firm's portfolio.
By Jonas Elmerraji, Stockpickr
Ever since the SEC's 13F form, which requires institutional investment managers to disclose holdings, fell into public purview in the late 1970s, "standing on the shoulders of giants" has become a popular investment option. By seeing what the professionals are buying, individual investors can invest alongside them, even if their portfolios aren't big enough to catch the investment manager's attention.
In the value investing world, there are few giants as big as Legg Mason's Bill Miller. As the chairman and chief investment officer of Legg Mason Capital Management, Miller heads the firm's storied Value Trust (LMVTX), a mutual fund that stands near the top of the pack in long-term returns (even if more recent returns have been rocky).
With a renewed focus on finding diamonds in the rough of the equity market, it makes sense to pay attention to what Miller's LMCM is buying right now -- particularly new additions to the firm's portfolios.
The company's financial position improves on higher fourth-quarter profits, but the U.S. market is still a big weak spot.
Wal-Mart increases its dividend every year, but this year's boost is on the hefty side. The dividend grows to $1.46 from $1.21. The company will pay out 36.5 cents a share every quarter, in April, June, September and the following January. The stock was unchanged Friday on the news at $52.
The dividend increase follows other good news: Profits are up. The company notched a 27% increase in profit during the crucial fourth quarter, helped along by cost-cutting and international sales.
So finally, we're starting to see some positive movement here, but not all is well in Bentonville. All of Wal-Mart's growth now comes from overseas; in the United States, the retailer is struggling.
The tech retailer may face hurdles gaining approval for a store in New York City's historic Grand Central Terminal.
By Olivia Oran, TheStreet
Rumors are circulating that Apple (AAPL) may launch its biggest retail store in New York City's Grand Central Terminal. If true, the move into one of the city's most historical fixtures could draw the iPhone maker into a complicated and cumbersome approval process.
The Cupertino, Calif. consumer electronics maker is aiming to make the transportation hub home to its biggest retail location, according to reports. Apple's largest store today is its 16,300 square feet spot in London's Covent Garden.
Apple could not be reached for comment about its retail expansion plans.
This week's dumbest business moves include Gupta's insider trading case, Weatherford's big accounting error and Consumer Reports' Chevy Volt slight.
By TheStreet Staff, TheStreet
Here is this week's roundup of the dumbest actions on Wall Street.
5. Gupta trips on tips
Typically insider trading cases involve lower level Wall Street soldiers that stumble into information that they realize can net them a quick pay day. They are also quickly caught, since the usually call their family broker to buy millions of shares of a no name stock just before it skyrockets.
There's enough reserve capacity to offset any major supply disruptions, and OPEC's lack of urgency may be the single biggest sign that the crisis may soon pass.
Where's the emergency OPEC meeting? Where's the meeting of the producing countries that will set everything right and bring down the oil prices to levels that are not boom-or-bust like the last time in 2008, when the price of oil was cut in half just a few months after hitting $147? Why is the organization waiting until its regularly scheduled June meeting to talk about this emergency?
Because, believe it or not, there is no emergency. OPEC's calm because the Saudis have more than enough spare capacity -- double what it had three years ago during the last shock. That's right, double, according to JPMorgan's just-released The Eye of the Market bulletin, the most cogent piece of research to hit my desk each week.
Plus there are more than 4 billion barrels of spare capacity in strategic petroleum reserves worldwide, including in the United States. That oil can and should be released if things get out of control. In fact, the U.S. should be unleashing it now to offset the inflation it causes rather than raising rates which could break the entire economy ... in large part because of oil prices.
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All hail the bull market, which ended the week with a big rally. But it also is starting to look a little like 1987, which suffered an epic blow-out.
Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.
Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.
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[BRIEFING.COM] The S&P 500 ended this week with a bang, roaring to a new all-time high on the back of stronger-than-expected economic data, influential leadership, and an ongoing appreciation for the Fed's monetary policy support.
The bullish bias was evident in premarket action as the S&P futures pointed to a higher start without the benefit of any definitive news catalyst. Stocks indeed benefited from a blast of buying interest at the opening bell on this ... More
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