Energy boom makes oil a safe haven
Oil becomes a surprising safe haven

The idea of US crude being a shelter from turmoil abroad may not be as far fetched as it seems.


The idea of US crude being a shelter from turmoil abroad may not be as far fetched as it seems.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 4:17 PM
An American flag hangs at a BP oil refinery in Wilmington, Calif. (© Jim West/Alamy)By Javier E. David, CNBC

The U.S. -- and the global economy -- may have a new safe haven asset: the growing American oil bounty.

The sociopolitical upheaval in places like IraqLibya and Venezuela has kept oil prices propped up at more than $100 per barrel, underscoring the unstable nature of many oil-producing nations. 

By contrast, U.S. oil supplies -- close to generating 9 million barrels of oil per day ---are expanding, and far more secure than most of those abroad. Simultaneously, the U.S. shale boom has become a draw for international capital. 

To be sure, gold, the dollar and U.S. Treasurys remain the premier safety assets during times of global distress. Meanwhile, oil market dynamics are overwhelmingly driven by supply and demand that place a "fear premium" on internationally priced Brent crude, and which drag on prices when turbulence abates. 


Last night's call was a stunning reflection of how little the retailer cares about the whole process of reporting results.

By Jim Cramer Fri 3:29 PM

A worker loads a shipment of boxes at an warehouse facility © Tim Shaffer/ReutersWould it kill Amazon (AMZN) to answer one question with a helpful answer? Does the company have to stonewall endlessly and say whatever question is asked isn't relevant or isn't something the company cares about or monitors?

Last night's call was a stunning reflection of how little Amazon cares about the whole process of reporting results. First, the company reports its widest loss in two years, then makes it clear in the call that:

  1. It doesn't matter.
  2. It is a good thing anyway, because it is spending and ramping and ramping and spending.

As my friend Arum Rubinson at Wolfe Research pointed out in a terrific note this morning, "the word 'invest' was mentioned 33 times" on the call and "the only thing missing is a clear sign that the investments are paying dividends."


Investors are hoping the chain can emulate the rapid growth of Chipotle Mexican Grill.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 2:26 PM
Credit: © John Crowe/Alamy

Caption: An El Pollo Loco Restaurant in Upland Calif.By Brian Solomon, Forbes

Forget tech. The real hot IPOs are in the restaurant business.

Chicken chain El Pollo Loco (LOCO) debuted on the Nasdaq on Friday and shares went crazy. 

While the company set its final initial public offering price at $15, El Pollo Loco shares opened at $19 and surged to $22.73 a share by the afternoon. That's a pop of over 50 percent.

Investors love El Pollo Loco, translated as "The Crazy Chicken," because it's the latest quick service/fast casual chain to emulate Chipotle Mexican Grill's (CMG) rapid growth. The Mexican-style grilled chicken restaurant has just over 400 locations across 5 states, but the vast majority (352) are in California.


It's the second-biggest shopping season of the year, although the total amount spent is expected to drop from last year.

By Benzinga Fri 2:14 PM

Credit: © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Caption: A customer enters a J.C. Penney store in Daly City, Calif.By Jim Probasco

It may still be summer, but as far as retailers are concerned, it's time to get ready to go back to school.

Retailers already gearing up include Apple (AAPL), Wal-Mart (WMT), Disney (DIS), Kohl's (KSS), Target (TGT) and J.C. Penney (JCP).

Apple launched its back-to-school effort July 1, well before the July 4 holiday. For the promotion, students buying a Mac receive a $100 Apple Store Gift Card. An iPhone or iPad purchase nets a $50 gift card.

According to Time, Wal-Mart had a back-to-school Web page up in June, and Target posted a college registry program designed to encourage family and friends to make back-to-school gift buys.


Daniel Schwartz, 33, has helped turn the struggling burger chain into a cash machine.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 1:21 PM
Photo caption: Daniel Schwartz, Burger King CEO
Image credit: BKWBy Hayley Peterson, Business Insider

Burger King's (BKW) 33-year-old CEO has helped engineer a total restructuring of the burger chain in just 13 months on the job. 

After surrounding himself with an equally young management team -- including a 28-year-old chief financial officer -- Daniel Schwartz (pictured) has helped turn the struggling burger chain into a "cash machine," Devin Leonard writes for Bloomberg Businessweek's newest cover story.

"These days . . . Burger King is behaving more like a startup than a typical burger chain," Leonard writes. 

Perhaps that's because this is Schwartz's first job in the fast-food industry. Before Burger King, he was an analyst at Credit Suisse in Boston, and more recently, he worked for 3G Capital, the Brazilian private equity firm that bought Burger King in 2010. 


The company is struggling to make a profit and is overvalued, and disappointing trends will continue to weigh on the stock.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 1:02 PM
Caption: The headquarters of Twitter, Inc in San Francisco
Credit: © Kim Kulish/CorbisBy Jeff Reeves, MarketWatch

Recently, in a column about five stocks that are struggling despite strong brands, I mentioned that I am believer in Twitter (TWTR) as an information filter but not as an investment.

A number of readers challenged me on this. And while I tried to respond via comments on MarketWatch -- and of course, on Twitter itself -- I felt the topic was worth further discussion as we approach a crucial earnings report for Twitter.

My bottom line is this: Twitter is struggling to make a profit and is overvalued, and disappointing trends in both user growth and user engagement will continue to weigh on the stock.

Sure, there's always a chance that this trend changes three or five years from now. And sure, you can fall back on hopes for a white knight to buy Twitter at a big premium.


As chocolate companies are forced to raise prices, inelastic demand for their products could mean higher revenue.

By Staff Fri 12:54 PM

Hershey's Milk Chocolate bars are arranged underneath M&Ms, a Mars product © Jb Reed/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy Andrew Sachais, TheStreet

With cocoa prices on the rise since 2013, most U.S. confectioners have started to hike prices of chocolate bars and candies. It is unlikely that these higher prices will translate into lower demand, though. Widespread chocolate cravings should allow chocolatiers to shift higher cocoa costs to consumers without seeing a considerable drop off in sales. Just look at Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) as an example of how this works.

Mars Chocolate North America, the maker of M&M's and Snickers, said on Wednesday that it planned to raise prices by an average of 7 percent "to offset rising costs," its first increase in three years. The price hike by Mars follows Hershey's (HSY), the No. 1 candy maker in the United States, which said last week that it too would raise prices on chocolate, up close to 8%, due to soaring commodity costs.


The $200 device isn't debuting with all the fanfare of an iPhone, but it doesn't need a home run to be a winner.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 12:24 PM
Credit: © Ted S. Warren/AP

Caption: The new Amazon Fire PhoneBy Greg Bensinger, The Wall Street Journal

Amazon (AMZN) is embarking on its grandest attempt yet to keep customers buying more from its namesake site.

The company will begin selling its new Fire smartphone (pictured) Friday at AT&T (T) stores without the fanfare of releases from rivals Apple (AAPL) or Samsung Electronics -- there are no velvet ropes outside stores of the exclusive carrier for die-hard fans. 

And reviewers haven't been especially kind, knocking the handset for a lineup of features that don’t seem yet to elevate it to a must-buy.

But because the Fire is designed to make shopping on Amazon even easier, it doesn't have to be a home run for it to be a winner. 


The longshot bet was made before news broke that the company may go private.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 12:06 PM
SodaStream soda mixes (© Todd Oren/Getty Images for SodaStream)By Alex Rosenberg, CNBC

Was it skill, dumb luck -- or something more sinister? 

That's what traders are asking about a big, longshot bet on SodaStream (SODA) that returned some 3,000 percent in just two hours.

Two minutes before 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, one options trader bought 500 weekly 30-strike calls in SodaStream for 15 cents each (or $15 per contract, given that each contract controls 100 shares) that expire Friday. It was by far the biggest SodaStream trade of the day in terms of the number of contracts. 

The purchase gives the trader the right to buy SodaStream shares for $30 at the close of Friday trading. The reason those options were so inexpensive is that the stock was trading at about $29.50 at the time, meaning the chance of the stock closing Friday above $30 was considered to be especially low.

Tags: SODA

The stock had previously soared 23,000% before regulators hit the brakes.

By MSN Money Partner Fri 11:51 AM
Credit: ©
Caption: A screenshot of Introbiz.comBy Tomi Kilgore, MarketWatch

Cynk Technology (CYNK) shares fell 82 percent Friday after they became free to trade for the first time in two weeks.

Given the stock's meteoric rise, prior to the 10-session halt by the Securities and Exchange Commission -- despite no reported sales or assets -- it's no surprise to see it get spanked at the open. The stock dropped 64 percent to $5, then plunged as much as 86 percent at the intraday low of $2.01.

Technically speaking, there was some minor congestion in the shares' chart prior to the halt between $5 and $3 that could provide some support. And as technicians often say, the strongest support for any stock is at zero.

The SEC halted trading of the social network's (pictured) stock July 11 because of "potentially manipulative transactions" and concerns regarding the "accuracy and adequacy of information in the marketplace." The stock, which traded over-the-counter, closed at $13.90 on July 10 after soaring about 23,000 percent since June 16.


Tighter regulations and the end of a lengthy bull market in bonds have changed the landscape forever.

By MSN Money Partner Thu 3:40 PM
Credit: © Tetra Images/Getty Images

Caption: Empty trading desks with computers and phonesBy Howard Gold, MarketWatch

The signs are everywhere on Wall Street. Trading floors that once buzzed with noise and energy are now as silent as cathedrals. Big firms that reaped huge profits from trading stocks, bonds, commodities and currencies are turning to staid money management to boost earnings.

What once was the main event is now just a sideshow. 

There are many fewer traders now, and they're making much less money. And there are going to be even fewer very, very soon. With one big exception I'll discuss later, trading is dying.

And it's not just stock trading, where volumes are slightly more than half of what they were five years ago. Fixed income, currencies and commodities trading (FICC), Wall Street's huge profit driver of the 2000s, is in deep, deep trouble.


The company hasn't revealed the iPhone 6 launch timeline, and its outlook is meaningless in terms of projecting demand for the device.

By MSN Money Partner Thu 2:34 PM
Credit: © George Rose/Getty Images
Caption: The exterior of the downtown Apple Store in Central Hong Kong is viewed on May 27, 2014, in Hong Kong, ChinaBy Adam Levine-Weinberg, The Motley Fool

On Tuesday afternoon, Apple (AAPL) reported solid earnings for the third quarter of its 2014 fiscal year. Generally, investors have a tendency to look past earnings numbers for the seasonally weak June quarter, instead focusing on guidance for the upcoming quarter.

On one level, this makes sense, as Apple has released new iPhones during the September quarter for the last two years -- and is expected to do so again in 2014. 

However, Apple's Q4 guidance is meaningless in terms of projecting demand for new products like the iPhone 6. Investors would be better off ignoring the guidance and waiting for more solid information.

Tags: AAPL

Facebook's stock needs to hit a certain dollar amount for its young CEO to gain the title.

By MSN Money Partner Thu 2:22 PM
Credit: © Robert Galbraith/Reuters

Caption: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg addresses at Facebook's f8 developers conference in San Francisco, Calif. April 30, 2014By Jay Yarow, Business Insider

We doubt this is Mark Zuckerberg's goal in life, but if he wants to be the richest man in the world, Facebook's stock has to go to $200. 

We got that number from Bloomberg wealth reporter David de Jong on Twitter

He says at $200 Zuckerberg (pictured) would overtake Bill Gates as the world's richest person -- assuming all things stay the same as they are now. (De Jong was responding to a tweet from NYT columnist Farhad Manjoo.)

Facebook's (FB) stock is trading at around $76 Thursday, so it needs to almost triple. Facebook's current market cap is $195.4 billion. If the stock went to $200, Facebook would be worth over $500 billion. For some comparison, Apple (AAPL) is currently valued at $580 billion. 

Can Facebook do it? Can it reach $500+ billion? 


The company offered 1-cent bargains to win a NY state contract, but pulled back as orders flooded in. 'People were going hog wild,' says a school district official.

By MSN Money Partner Thu 1:09 PM
Credit: © Paul Sakuma/AP

Caption: Paper clips are seen on display for sale at a Staples store in Menlo Park, Calif.By Mark Maremont, The Wall Street Journal

Staples (SPLS) made the State of New York quite a promise: Buy your office supplies from us, and we'll sell you a bunch of things for a penny apiece. This unleashed a rush on the retailer as government offices and qualifying organizations across the state gobbled up the one-cent items.

A Brooklyn charity benefiting disabled people ordered 240,000 boxes of facial tissue and 48,000 rolls of paper towels, according to documents obtained in a public-records request. Rome, N.Y., wanted 100,000 CD-Rs. A State Department of Motor Vehicles office ordered 8,000 rolls of packaging tape.

"We ordered things we didn't even need," said Nancy Sitone, manager of office services at United Cerebral Palsy Association of Greater Suffolk Inc. "I have some products up the yin-yang."

Tags: SPLS

The country may be nearing a crucial turning point, economists say.

By MSN Money Partner Thu 12:54 PM
Image: Worried couple © Digital Vision, Getty ImagesBy Everett Rosenfeld, CNBC

The U.S. economy has churned out some pretty encouraging news lately, but plenty of skeptical Americans still have much anxiety about this recovery.

Major questions remain about certain aspects of the health of the economy, including stagnant wage growth, unemployment and corporate taxes.

After some weak numbers at the beginning of the year, the U.S. economy may be nearing a crucial turning point, economists told CNBC.

"The economy is mediocre," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors. "But it's getting better by the month."

A Gallup poll from July found that Americans are less worried about unemployment and jobs issues in the U.S. than in previous months, although 14 percent still said they think it is the most important problem facing the country.



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[BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: -2.40. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -4.30. U.S. equity futures trade little changed amid subdued action overseas. The S&P 500 futures hover two points below fair value.

Reviewing overnight developments:

  • Asian markets ended higher. Japan's Nikkei +0.5%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng +0.9%, and China's Shanghai Composite +2.4% 
    • There was no economic data reported on Monday 
    • In news: 


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