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The Japanese automaker promised an aggressive sales effort once it got back on its feet, and it began in January.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Feb 3, 2012 5:31PM

By John Rosevear

 

So much for concerns about auto sales: U.S. sales of cars and light trucks (pickups and SUVs) were up 11% in January over year-ago numbers, a strong result that suggests economic momentum is increasing. That result was good enough to put the annualized sales pace at 14.1 million, the highest monthly mark posted since the "Cash for Clunkers"-fueled sales boomlet in August of 2009.

 

Buried in the numbers are several trends worth noting, starting with a big one: After two years of troubles, Toyota (TM) is finally starting to roar back -- and General Motors (GM) has already lost some ground.

 
Tags: FgmHMCTM

IBM and other large businesses are increasingly allowing employees to use iPhones and other devices.

By Kim Peterson Feb 3, 2012 4:44PM
Image: Old computer equipment © Image Source/Getty ImagesApple (AAPL) is moving into big business with tremendous speed. Most of the Fortune 500 companies are either testing iPads and iPhones or allow them for use by employees.

One of the biggest companies to embrace Apple may surprise you. ZDNet reports that IBM (IBM) has 30,000 employees with iPhones, 10,000 using iPads and 10,000 with MacBooks. That's according to a presentation at a recent Macworld conference.

IBM now allows 50,000 Apple products into its workforce. Unimaginable.  

Governments worldwide are cutting back benefits to solar installers as panel prices drop.

By Trefis Feb 3, 2012 4:36PM
Image: Solar energy (© Mick Roessler/Corbis)China is the latest country to announce cuts in solar subsidies to reflect the falling costs of photovoltaic system installations. 

The government announced an 11% cut in subsidies for projects approved in 2011. Installations will get 8 yuan, or $1.30 a watt, while projects that become eligible for support in 2012 will earn 7 yuan per watt. 

Governments across the world are curtailing benefits enjoyed by solar installers as panel prices drop because of industry overcapacity and low demand from traditional markets such as Europe. Companies like Yingli Green Energy (YGE) and Trina Solar (TSL) are counting on growing demand from China to mop up excess production capacity in the industry.
 
Tags: TSLYGE

The company sheds more light on its business and strategy after shares got pummeled this week.

By Jim J. Jubak Feb 3, 2012 4:21PM
Shares of Polypore International (PPO) fell 30% on Jan. 31 as panic selling arose from the combination of a short recommendation from Axiom Capital and news that Polypore customer LG Chem would start making its own battery separator membranes -- instead of buying them from Polypore, the market assumed. 

More than 26 million shares traded hands that day, way above the daily average of 960,000 shares.

Since then, the stock has rebounded to $46.69 a share from the Jan. 31 close at $38.08. That's still way below the $56.38 close on Jan. 27.
 
Tags: PPO

Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have announced significant investments in the country this year.

By Trefis Feb 3, 2012 3:11PM
Image: Bottled water (© Grove Pashley/Corbis)It seems like soft drink powerhouses Coca-Cola Co (KO) and PepsiCo (PEP) are betting heavily on Mexico. Both companies recently announced huge investments in the country.

Mexico has one of the highest obesity rates in the world and the government has undertaken several measures to promote a healthier lifestyle. Major food and beverage (F&B) companies are hoping to leverage the incentives provided by the government to build a healthy portfolio in the region.  
Tags: KOPEP

The politics of doom are almost overwhelming, but someone has to come out and say it: The economy is improving.

By Jim Cramer Feb 3, 2012 2:56PM

Someone had to say it, might as well be me. I am talking about this morning when, after listening to representatives of both parties say things are still way too weak after the bountiful employment number, I just blurted out: "Enough already. Things are better."

 

We have learned a lot in the past few years, chief among them that the only really good and trustworthy attitude to have toward the economy is to be gloomy. We know that the moment we aren't gloomy, the moment we present ourselves as outright positive about a hiring number, someone's going to run the tap of your effusiveness next month and you are going to look like a moron.

 

The liquor company is making a big bet that premium spirits will take off as the economy recovers.

By Kim Peterson Feb 3, 2012 2:50PM
Credit: © Tim Boyle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Caption: Jim Beam on shelfBeam (BEAM) turned its focus to liquor and women last year, and those decisions are paying off nicely.

The liquor company beat Wall Street expectations in its fourth quarter, reporting Friday that profit rose to $94.1 million, or 59 cents a share, from $85.4 million, or 55 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales rose to $638 million from $630 million.

On an adjusted basis, profit was 69 cents a share -- higher than the 67 cents analysts expected. But sales didn't quite hit the $691 million analysts were looking for. Shares of Beam were up 2% on the news Friday. 
Tags: BEAM

Standard & Poor's equity analyst highlights favored opportunities among tech stocks and ETFs.

By TheStockAdvisors Feb 3, 2012 2:50PM
Image: Dollar sign on keyboard (© Corbis)By Dylan Cathers, S&P Capital IQ Equity Analyst, S&P The Outlook

Information technology is one of four sectors that S&P Capital IQ's Sector Strategy Group currently recommends investors overweight in their portfolios.

For investors with a favorable outlook for the technology industry, S&P Capital IQ equity analysts like several large-cap technology stocks, including IBM (IBM), Oracle (ORCL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Apple (AAPL), which all earn our highest five-star "buy" rating. 

Don't believe the drop in the unemployment rate. There is still something very wrong with the economy.

By Anthony Mirhaydari Feb 3, 2012 2:05PM

Risky assets are on the move after the January employment report beat expectations with 243,000 jobs created and the unemployment rate dropped two-tenths to 8.3%. While the headline numbers were good, the details are decidedly less so. But why let things like details and facts get in the way of a market melt-up? It's all sunshine, butterflies and rainbows, right?

 

I don't know how else to say this, but the "improvement" in the job market is a hoax. The drop in the unemployment rate is coming mainly from people leaving the work force in record numbers -- 1.2 million, mostly young folks who we need to support the housing market. Those who are finding work are finding part-time, low-wage positions. No wonder "hard" economic data such as a drop in retail sales and a rise in the savings rate suggest a lack of progress out there.

 

In fact, during the month the number of full-time workers fell by 1.1 million. Not exactly a sign of strength. And there's more where that came from.

 

As founder Zuckerberg wrote, the site's intent was 'to accomplish a mission -- to make the world more open and connected.'

By The Fiscal Times Feb 3, 2012 1:37PM
Facebook IPOBy Suzanne McGee, The Fiscal Times

When is free not really free at all?

That's a question that Facebook's execs are going to have to grapple with down the line, as they adapt their business to the realities of being a publicly traded company.  

Superstitious investors look to the Super Bowl's outcome for signs of the stock market's performance this year.

By Kim Peterson Feb 3, 2012 1:04PM
Credit: (© Matt Slocum/AP file)
Caption: New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem NicksIf the New York Giants win the Super Bowl, stocks will go up this year.

That's according to the Super Bowl indicator, which says stocks rise when the winning team is from the original National Football League. You may rightly scoff at this, but the indicator has about an 80% accuracy rate. The prediction has come true in 36 of the past 45 Super Bowls, starting with the first one in 1967.

The Giants are from the original NFL, while the New England Patriots harken back to the original American Football League. If the Patriots win, the indicator says, the stock market will fall. 

Seasonal strength in crude typically begins in February. Any pullbacks could represent good buying opportunities.

By MoneyShow.com Feb 3, 2012 12:55PM

Image: Oil drums (© Kevin Phillips/Digital Vision/age fotostock)By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com


As of Thursday's close, the April crude oil contract was down over $3 for the week. Often, the price of crude leads the stock market, but this has not been the case recently. Crude peaked in early January and has been declining since, while stocks have remained strong.


From a seasonal perspective, crude oil typically bottoms in February, and therefore, any further declines should be watched closely.

 
Tags: APCoilXLE

In the current climate, a good defense can be your best offense.

By MoneyShow.com Feb 3, 2012 12:37PM

Image: Baker (© Blend Images/SuperStock)By Elliott Gue, Personal Finance


Investors are caught between a rock and a hard place. Yields offered by traditional safe havens, such as U.S. Treasury bonds and high-grade corporate debt, are near multi-year lows.


Meanwhile, ongoing concerns about the E.U. sovereign debt crisis and the U.S. economy have made investors reluctant to roll the dice on equities. That's given legs to the rally in high-quality, large-cap stocks.

 

Goldman upgrades Eastman Chemical and downgrades Vertex Pharmaceuticals.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 3, 2012 12:33PM
Information provided by Theflyonthewall.com

Firday's noteworthy upgrades include:
  • Urban Outfitters (URBN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney Capital
  • Liberty Interactive (LINTA) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
  • National Oilwell (NOV) upgraded to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
 

Employment report shows a decline in the number of jobs in financial activities.

By Jonathan Berr Feb 3, 2012 12:08PM
CorbisThe unemployment rate tumbled to a three-year low in January, but some workers on Wall Street may not feel like celebrating.

Government data released Friday showed that a better-than-expected 243,000 jobs were created last month and the unemployment rate fell to 8.3%. Yet, the report also showed that the financial services sector lags the rest of the economy.  
Tags: BACCGSMS

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[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market continued its strong start to the week with a broad-based Tuesday rally that sent the S&P 500 higher by 0.5%. Nine of ten sectors registered gains while the benchmark index extended its week-to-date advance to 1.4%.

Equities received an opening boost from a pair of economic data points that crossed the wires this morning. An in-line CPI report suggested inflationary pressures remain contained, while a better than expected Housing Starts report ... More


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