Some companies hit all-time records last month, while others missed forecasts.
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The Civil War anniversary may drive up prices of firearms, which beat most tech stocks for returns.
By Joe Mont, TheStreet
Seeking more bang for the buck?
Set aside your views on gun control or perceptions of survivalist arsenals. People who collect and sell firearms, many of whom are white-collar and affluent, often have turned a profit from their hobby.
For example, a small pistol that the gangster John Dillinger was carrying in a sock when he was arrested in Arizona (six months before he was fatally gunned down in Chicago in 1934) sold for $95,600 at an auction held by Heritage Auction Galleries, a Dallas auction house that is the nation's largest. The winning bid was more than double the pre-auction estimate of $35,000 to $45,000.
Investors who dubbed the aluminum giant's first-quarter earnings 'disappointing' didn't do any real homework.
It was like an orchestrated smear campaign -- one of the most effective I have ever seen. I am talking about the across-the-board Web-radio-TV-print campaign to use the word "disappointing" in front of Alcoa's (AA) earnings report.
I have followed Alcoa through thick and thin for many, many years, through several CEOs and many cycles. I have seen the company's fortunes wax and wane and the business get hammered beyond recognition and the business throw off amounts of cash flow that were obscene.
Every time I always had the same feeling: When is this company going to get a CEO with a worldwide vision who can take advantage of all of the fantastic growth markets for aluminum, lower its costs of production, take share and expand to where the real demand is, the emerging markets?
Finally, Alcoa has that CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld. Finally, the company has the vision, has the growth where it should be and is lowering costs and taking share. Finally, it reports a really good quarter and raises the growth rate for its end markets and therefore for itself. Finally, it is delivering what it said it would do -- or a little bit better -- on the way to opening some gigantic new plants that will be the lowest-cost smelters on earth.
And now it's "disappointing"? Now it's not what people want? Now people don't like the growth and the end markets and the projections? Now people doubt the management team?
Movie tie-ins might give Hasbro the boost it needs to gain an advantage over larger rival Mattel. The toy-makers report first-quarter results this week.
By Frank Byrt, TheStreet
Forget the year of the rabbit -- 2011 might turn out to be the year of the Potato Head.
This week Hasbro (HAS), the second-largest toy company in the world, and No. 1 Mattel (MAT) are expected to post first-quarter earnings. And Hasbro is gearing up for a busy summer of blockbuster movie tie-ins that could lift its profit by 20% this year.
Investors will size up the toy rivals this week, with Hasbro reporting quarterly results on Thursday and Mattel on Friday. The strengthening economy and ancillary businesses such as movie tie-ins and TV programs could bring surprises for investors this year. And these revenue sources may prove especially lucrative for Hasbro, which is best known for its Mr. Potato Head doll, G.I. Joe action figures and iconic board games.
It's not hard to find and buy good stocks, but it takes a lot of work and a disciplined approach. Includes video.
See the end of this post for a chance to win a $100 gift card.
A good friend recently told me his retirement savings strategy, and I use the word "strategy" loosely here. He was terrified of stocks, so he chose to put his savings in bank certificates of deposit.
He now has $40,000 in cash earning less than 2% interest, and at that rate will retire with, oh, about two years of spending money. But who can blame him for his fear of the market? The ups and downs of the past few years have wreaked havoc on nest eggs everywhere, and no one wants to get burned again.
But how to do it? How do you avoid the investing pitfalls yet still build that fat mountain of cash? One key step is confronting your fears about stocks and building the knowledge and confidence to invest. It will take work and you'll do it one baby step at a time, but soon enough your inner Buffett will lead the way.
Speaking of the Oracle of Omaha, he gives his tips for basic investors in the following video. Below the video are my five steps to get you started on finding great stocks:
Post continues after video:
Financial markets are punishing the dollar instead of Treasury bonds.
The world is running out of helium. The gas, which is used in numerous medical applications, isn't being recycled because it's so cheap.
Helium is used in all kinds of serious applications, such as MRI scanners, superconductors and radiation monitors. It could be recycled, but it's not because helium is so cheap now there's no point.
As a result, scientists say the world could run out of helium in 25 to 30 years. How could this be happening? Blame the U.S. government.
A little back story is in order: Back in 1925, when the U.S. needed a stable supply of helium for dirigibles, the U.S. established the National Helium Reserve. And a massive store of the gas was kept near Amarillo, Tex., the Independent reports.
After leading the market for months, oil and gas stocks plummet as energy prices cool. Risky assets are following them down. But aren't lower energy prices a good thing?
Energy stocks have been the big losers over the past week. The drop accelerated Monday on word that Libya's embattled Muammar Gadhafi has accepted a cease-fire/peace plan put forth by the African Union. It was hoped that such a deal would quell the unrest and minimize further damage to Libyan oil infrastructure. Already, the loss of more than 1.3 million barrels per day of Libyan sweet has resulted in the eighth-largest supply disruption since 1950.
The deal was rejected by the rebels, but the hope of peace was enough to send oil tumbling. Also contributing was a small 2011 GDP growth estimate cut from the IMF in its latest World Economic Outlook. Also contributing was a research note from Goldman Sachs warning of a "substantial pullback" for crude as global supplies remain "adequate."
We've written a lot about the risk that the current energy price strike presents to economic growth because of the negative impact on inflation and consumer confidence. Through this lens, any drop in oil prices -- especially the large and dramatic one we've seen that has taken prices from near $114 a barrel Friday to $106 today-- should be a huge positive for stocks, since it relaxes inflation's grip around the throat of the economy. So why aren't stocks moving higher?
The company has pulled back its focus on the consumer market, returning to the core network-equipment business it does best. With video.
Perhaps a bigger question is: Why was Cisco trying to enter the low-margin, highly competitive consumer electronics market?
Cisco answered both questions definitively Tuesday. It's closing down its Flip business and sharply reducing its consumer focus. Instead, it's returning to the core network-equipment business that it does best.
Cisco investors largely shrugged at the move. The stock, which has been a drag all year, was basically flat.
Post continues after this video analyzing Cisco's announcement:
Here's a long-term, stable play in the technology sector.
By Don Dion, TheStreet
In the coming weeks, other companies will follow Alcoa's lead and share how they have fared over the past quarter. Performance numbers will interest investors wondering about the economic recovery. Equally important will be the companies' respective outlooks and guidance for the remainder of the year.
ETF investors will want to keep a close watch on the earnings calendar. As the season presses on, a number of major index components will step up to the plate.
A quick lesson in pairs trading.
By Alex Pape
This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolios series.
There are few industries more beaten-down today than for-profit educators, for good reason. Questionable corporate ethics, high student default rates, and a parade of short-sellers have blended into a potent stew of investor discontent. But investor fear paints with too broad a brush. There will be winners and losers in this space, but the industry isn't going away.
Over the last 12 years for which data are available, the number of high school graduates per year grew 27%, but the capacity of traditional universities -- often locked into their brick-and-mortar campuses -- isn't. Neither is that of community colleges, which currently lack both the bandwidth and the funding to close the gap. In that light, the rise of the 530 for-profit educational institutions (that's 20% of all educators) currently operating in the U.S. makes more sense. It also explains why they can't all go away.
Investors seeking clarity amid the mixed signals of fourth-quarter results and the current earnings season should look to these shares.
By Jamie Dlugosch, StockPickr
Stocks have been quite resilient lately. As the first quarter of 2011 has come to an end, the market is perched near multiyear highs. It seems nothing can pierce traders' bubble of optimism.
While the bullish moves and rise in stock values may have been justified by corporate profit growth, the question now is how sustainable that growth will be.
We’ll find out now that earnings season has begun in earnest. Will companies blow away current estimates? If so, stock prices are likely to move higher. Or will profits slip under the pressures of competition and rising input prices that negatively affect margins?
At $114, the e-reader costs much less than an iPad. But will the strategy work?
By Anthony John Agnello, InvestorPlace tech writer
Early indications show that Apple sold 2.5 million iPad 2s in March. To put that into perspective, Apple sold one $499-plus tablet for nearly every citizen in the state of Utah! So who's going to buy an e-reader now that tablets have taken over?
Anyone with $114, if Amazon (AMZN) and its newest Kindle have anything to say about it. That's the new rock-bottom price point for the entry-level version of the Kindle.
But there's a catch. In between pages of "The Old Man and the Sea," you'll have to suffer through ad spots from Old Navy. That's because Amazon announced the lower price point will be subsidized by advertisers on the Kindle.
Months ago, stock market pros were saying the run in Chinese stocks was over. They were wrong.
By Gary Gordon, TheStreet
Months ago, equity market "pros" pounded China mercilessly. China real estate was the next bubble to burst. Inflation was spiraling out of control. And commodity stockpiling was proof positive that China was dead in the dry-bulk shipping water.
Well, some folks had a far different perception. For instance, I spoke at the 4th annual Inside ETF Conference on Accessing Asia and China." And on Feb. 7, live from the venue in Florida, I wrote the following:
"The MSCI China Index trades at 11.5 times forward earnings, the lowest forward multiple since 2004. With Hong Kong trading at nearly 18 times forward earnings, the disparity is at or near a record . . . There are plenty of reasons to keep an eye on the SPDR S&P China Fund (GXC). I expect it to drop a bit further, possibly testing its 200-day moving average. A pullback of 12%-14% from GXC's November peak is my anticipated entry point."
GXC shares hit $84.48 in November, but savvy investors were able to acquire shares at or near $74 in the third week of February. Since that time, it's been a fairly brisk ride back towards the November highs.
Just wait until stocks fall to more attractive prices.
So we would go in to the office at the old hedge fund today, and I would start our 6 a.m. meeting with a simple view: "Why aren't we 100% short?" Why should we own anything?"
That's how I feel as I log on to the PC today. Why own anything? Why not be 100% short? The economy is getting weak; the debt ceiling is irreconcilable; Japan will never get its act together; taxes are going up; earnings are missing estimates; President Barack Obama is about to speak, which will be dreadful for stocks; Elizabeth Warren is about to be banking czar; China is slowing; and if oil goes up, it causes demand destruction, but if oil goes down, we've had demand destruction -- just like 2008.
What is the point? Sell everything?
China's leading search engine is not a bad play, if you can put up with intense short-term volatility.
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The retailer labels the character's fake memoir as non-fiction. This comes weeks after it categorized the the Bible as fiction.
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[BRIEFING.COM] The drive for five continued today and it was a success. For the fifth straight session, the S&P 500 ended lower. Like the previous four sessions, though, the losses were fairly modest in scope. The S&P 500 declined 0.4%, bringing its total loss for the five sessions to 22 points or 1.2%. All in all, that still qualifies as a pretty tame slide considering the S&P 500 had risen 150 points, or 9.1%, over the previous eight weeks.
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