You can still find small-cap superstars
Small-cap superstars still abound

There are some picks in this sector that have excellent valuations and strong earnings growth.

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

Three familiar names in retail are fast approaching their day of reckoning.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Jan 17, 2012 4:22PM

By Jeremy Bowman

 

While our banks may be too big to fail, it seems that our superstores are now too big to survive. The news for several familiar big box chains has gone from bad to worse lately as a slow economic recovery, increased competition from online channels, and a failure to adapt to new market conditions have a number of retail chains teetering on the brink of collapse.

 

The writing's on the wall
After posting an EPS loss of $1.31 in 2011, Barnes & Noble (BKS) recently announced this year's loss would be twice as large as previously expected, between $1.10 and $1.40. The bookseller's Nook e-reader, on which the company's last hopes seem to be riding, sits in a purgatory. Company execs had toyed with the idea of spinning it off entirely before announcing a partnership with TheNew York Times (NYT), in which the Times will subsidize the Nook for readers in exchange for a full year's digital subscription to the newspaper.

 

The coupon site needs to get its merchant mix right, focusing more on service-based businesses that benefit from daily deals.

By Trefis Jan 17, 2012 3:32PM
Image: Couple ordering meal in restaurant © NULL/Corbis Groupon's (GRPN) journey going public has been bumpy, to say the least. After a slew of public relations mishaps, questionable accounting practices and some highly publicized merchant fallouts, the company's stock finally ended 2011 at a price slightly less than its $20 offering price.

While Groupon can become a sustainable business, we believe that its present fundamentals do not support the stock's current market price.  
Tags: GOOGGRPN

Earnings could be the catalyst that drives bank stocks into high-risk buying zones, but one big bank looks like a good buy on a correction.

By MoneyShow.com Jan 17, 2012 2:51PM

Image: Bank Vault (© Corbis/Corbis)By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com


The reaction of the overseas markets to the S&P downgrades announced after Friday's close has been very positive with stock index futures actually showing nice gains. This week, of course, is an important one, with many key quarterly earnings reports.


In running a weekly scan of bank stocks, I was interested to note that over half of the 10 bank stocks that are closest to their weekly Starc+ bands have either already reported or are scheduled to report earnings this week.

 

While the computer giant retained its top position, the competitors are closing in.

By Trefis Jan 17, 2012 2:23PM
Image: Couple with laptop (© Corbis)Shipments of personal computers totaled 92.7 million worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2011, down 0.2% from the same quarter of 2010, according to research firm IDC.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) continued to lead sales, accounting for 16.3% of worldwide PC shipments in Q4, followed by Lenovo, Dell (DELL), Acer Group and Asus, in that order. However, the giant computer maker took a major hit during the quarter. 
Tags: HPQ

As car ownership becomes less attractive, 18- to 34-year-olds are becoming the most lucrative and influential market segment for the car-sharing company.

By Trefis Jan 17, 2012 1:50PM
Image: Man using hands-free phone (© Digital Vision Ltd./Getty Images)The "Millennials" are Zipcar's (ZIP) most popular patrons. The car-sharing company recently conducted a study that revealed that 18- to 34-year-olds are the most important market for the company and already constitute more than half of Zipcar's membership base.

Zipcar competes with traditional car-rental companies like Hertz Global Holdings (HTZ), Avis Budget Group (CAR) and car-sharing services like Connect by Hertz, Enterprise's WeCar, UHaul's UCarShare and City Car Share. 
Tags: ZIP

The profits you earn still count, even if conventional wisdom says the trade was wrong.

By Jim Cramer Jan 17, 2012 1:49PM
By Jim Cramer

There's a tremendous reluctance to ever admitting that anything better is happening in Europe.

 

It doesn't matter that the borrowing costs for the downgraded Spanish 12- and 18-month paper went for half of the interest rate that it sold at last month. It doesn't matter that you had a darned good trade if you bought last time. It doesn't matter, because all European countries are basket cases and in the end everything must fail.

 

Admit that's not the conventional wisdom -- it's the only wisdom.

 

US Airways, TPG Group and Delta would each bring different possibilities to the table.

By InvestorPlace Jan 17, 2012 12:26PM
Image: Airline (© Christie & Cole/Corbis)By Susan J. Aluise

The week before American Airlines' parent AMR Corp. (AAMRQ) filed for bankruptcy in November, I offered four ways for the struggling legacy airline to pull out of its tailspin. Now that it's taken the first step -- gaining Chapter 11 protection -- let's consider step two: merging with another carrier.


The airline industry has been awash in rumors this week of at least three potential suitors for American -- Delta (DAL), US Airways (LCC) and David Bonderman's private equity firm TPG Capital.

 

The company says it has new technology to keep food hot and crispy in transit.

By Kim Peterson Jan 17, 2012 12:08PM
Image: Hamburger (© BananaStock/Jupiterimages)Can't make it out for a Whopper? Burger King just might bring it to you.

The fast-food chain has begun delivering to homes in Washington, D.C., USA Today reports. If the test goes well, the King may expand the service to other cities.

Home delivery has always been a challenge for the food and beverage business. Pizza restaurants obviously have found success, but burgers and fries don't hold up quite as well in transit. They also lose some appeal in the microwave. Finally, the size of a fast-food order isn't normally large enough to justify the expense of delivery. 
Tags: MCDWEN

Goldman downgrades Philip Morris, while CIBC upgrades Potash Corp.

By MSN Money Partner Jan 17, 2012 11:59AM
Information provided by Theflyonthewall.com

Tuesday's noteworthy upgrades include:
  • Charles Schwab (SCHW) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
  • LyondellBasell (LYB) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
  • Medtronic (MDT) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
  • Applied Materials (AMAT) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
  • Potash (POT) upgraded to Sector Outperformer from Sector Performer at CIBC
 

The timing of the Costa Concordia disaster could not be worse, as many cruises are booked at this time of year.

By Jonathan Berr Jan 17, 2012 11:10AM
image100/SuperStockShares of Carnival (CCL) and Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL), two major cruise ship operators, plunged Tuesday as Italian authorities continued their probe of the sinking of the Costa Concordia. The timing of the disaster could not have been worse.

As Bloomberg News notes, about one-third of all cruise vacations are booked between January and March. Moreover, Europe accounts for about 38% of the revenue of Carnival, the corporate parent of Costa Concordia.  
Tags: CCLRCL

For income investors with a long-term horizon, here are 10 favorite dividend-paying blue chips.

By TheStockAdvisors Jan 17, 2012 10:58AM
Cory Docken/Spots Illustration/JupiterimagesBy Kelley Wright, IQ Trends

Our primary purpose is to assist investors in growing their capital and income base from which to derive cash for their current and future needs.

To that end we believe that high-quality stocks purchased at historically low-price-to-high-yield offers the best potential for downside protection and upside appreciation. 

Pioneer Natural Resources shifts away from natural gas as a new oil boom takes hold.

By Jim J. Jubak Jan 16, 2012 3:55PM
Image: Oil derricks (© Comstock/Corbis)I added Pioneer Natural Resources (PXD) to my long-term Jubak Picks 50 portfolio on Friday

To understand why I’m picking this oil and gas company from a long list of alternatives, you have to get deep inside the U.S. oil boom going on now.

That boom is a result of oil companies bringing new technologies to fields once thought to be either nearing the end of their lives or impossible to drill.
 
Tags: oilPXD

The maker of USB drives and flash memory cards will derive more of its value from them in the future.

By Trefis Jan 16, 2012 3:15PM
Image: Network cable (© Epoxydude/Getty Images/Getty Images)This year could be big for SanDisk (SNDK) as technology advancements, changing dynamics in the PC industry, new enterprise server and storage architecture, and hard disk drive (HDD) shortages boost the worldwide solid-state-drive (SSD) storage market.

According to a report from the research firm IDC, solid-state-storage industry revenue reached $5 billion in 2011, a 105% increase from the $2.4 billion in 2010, and it's expected to expand further in 2012 and beyond. The report estimates worldwide SSD shipments will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 51.5% from 2010 to 2015. SanDisk competes primarily with Samsung and Toshiba in the SSD market. 
Tags: SNDK

However, changes in Chinese policy will likely increase capital expenditure and hurt the automaker's margins in the medium to long term.

By Trefis Jan 16, 2012 1:49PM
Image: China (© Brand X/SuperStock)In spite of the recent slowdown in the Chinese automotive market, General Motors (GM) managed to set a sales record in 2011 with 2.55 million vehicle sales, up 8.3% over 2010. GM's sales in China were supported by strong demand for the Buick Excelle, Chevrolet Cruze, Cadillac SRX and Wuling Sunshine minivan.

In comparison, Ford's (F) China sales totaled 519,390 units, about one-fifth of GM's total. GM's China sales also outpaced those of Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM), as the Japanese automakers were hobbled by the March earthquake in Japan and floods in Thailand. 
Tags: FgmHMCTM

A Pennsylvania company has surpassed Boston Beer to become No. 1, though it still has only 1.2% of the US market.

By Kim Peterson Jan 16, 2012 1:06PM
Image: Beer (© Corbis)A new beer maker has surged ahead to become the largest in America -- and it probably isn't the one you think.

Anheuser-Busch, the maker of the No. 1 beer Bud Light? Nope. That's a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD), which is based in Belgium.

How about MillerCoors, which makes No. 2 beer Coors Light? Nope. MillerCoors is a joint venture of London's SABMiller (SBMRY) and Molson Coors (TAP), which operates out of Montreal and Denver. 
Tags: BUDSAMTAP

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[BRIEFING.COM] Equity indices closed out the month of August on a modestly higher note. The Russell 2000 (+0.6%) and Nasdaq Composite (+0.5%) finished ahead of the S&P 500 (+0.3%), which extended its August gain to 3.8%. Blue chips lagged with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.1%) spending the bulk of the session in the red.

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