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Major homebuilders have soared since early October, and some analysts say there's no real justification for the rise.

By Kim Peterson Dec 14, 2011 4:23PM
The single-family housing market is a mess. So why are homebuilder stocks so high?

A foreclosure glut is still dragging the sector down. The National Association of Realtors just said the market downturn was worse than it thought. Freddie Mac's chief economist is predicting "another bumpy ride" for 2012.

But shares of D.R. Horton (DHI) were up nearly 50% this week from early October. Toll Brothers (TOL) was up more than 45% in that time. Lennar (LEN) was up more than 50%. 
Tags: DHILENTOL

Rumors swirl that the telecom giant could acquire the red envelope. But such a deal could be bad for both companies -- and worse for customers.

By MSNMoney partner Dec 14, 2011 3:54PM
The Week

On Tuesday, an investment banker told Bloomberg that Verizon is "very serious" about buying Netflix, sending a flurry of rumors flying across the tech world. Just last week, it was reported that Verizon was considering launching its own streaming service to compete with Netflix. Would it make more sense for the company just to acquire Netflix? What would such a deal mean for Verizon, Netflix and customers?

It wouldn't do either Netflix or Verizon any good: Though there are exploitable synergies between the companies, they're better off remaining independent, says Todd Campbell at Seeking Alpha.  
Tags: TWXVZ

Yield-seeking investors shouldn't forget to check the charts.

By MoneyShow.com Dec 14, 2011 2:56PM

(© Kyu Oh/Photodisc/Getty)By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com


For most of 2011, with Treasury yields so low, the search has been on for safe, sizable dividends. This explains why the SPDR Diamond Trust (DIA), which tracks the Dow Industrials, is up 4.3%, while the Spyder Trust (SPY) is down 1.2%.


Of course, dividends are not included in these performance numbers, but the demand for large-cap, high-yielding Dow stocks has been strong. In many cases, those who went for the highest yields this year have fallen further behind because many high-yield stocks have dropped sharply in price.

 

Economic turmoil in the Old World is felt by companies in the New World.

By Jonathan Berr Dec 14, 2011 2:19PM
(© Photodisc/SuperStock)General Electric (GE) CEO Jeffrey Immelt sees tougher times ahead in Europe. 

Speaking Tuesday at the company's annual investor day in New York, Immelt announced plans to "restructure some of its industrial operations to prepare for a European recession," according to the Wall Street Journal. The slowdown will affect many GE businesses, including health care, where the company expects the market to contract by as much as 10%. 

Renewable-energy companies face growing questions of viability.

By InvestorPlace Dec 14, 2011 1:49PM
 (© Russell Illig/PhotoDisc/Getty Images)By Jeff Reeves

First Solar (FSLR) is taking a beating Wednesday, off almost 20% thanks to a lowered outlook for 2012, delays in its projects and expensive reorganization plans. The stock is down an ugly 74% so far in 2011 and almost 90% from its 2008 peak.


First Solar isn't alone, either. Many solar companies are getting hit hard this year -- and are running the risk of going dark permanently.

 

The strong interest reflects increased interest in luxury goods and a willingness to spend more per bottle.

By Kim Peterson Dec 14, 2011 1:39PM
Image: New Year celebration (© Stan Fellerman/Corbis)The champagne industry could be approaching record sales this year -- another sign that the rich have recovered economically.

The French champagne industry shipped 192 million bottles by the end of September, The Wall Street Journal reports. The sector counts on the holidays for a good chunk of its sales, and expectations are high that shipments will approach the record 339 million bottles seen in 2007. 

The pharmaceutical leader offers a consistent track record, strong new product pipeline, and generous yield.

By TheStockAdvisors Dec 14, 2011 1:30PM
By Stephen Leeb, Income Performance Letter

While they don’t always deliver eye-popping growth, stocks that offer a steady stream of growing income are must-haves for the conservative investor.

With that in mind, we are now recommending Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), the $48 billion giant, as a dependable income play. 
Tags: BMY

Consumers remain reluctant to spend as holiday shopping season hits full swing.

By The Fiscal Times Dec 14, 2011 1:02PM
Best BuyBy Suzanne McGee, The Fiscal Times

For all those who got caught up in the excitement over robust Black Friday sales, the release of the actual retail sales data for November was like an icy shower. The disappointing numbers serve as a reminder that putting money into the retail industry at this juncture is about as risky as strolling through a minefield.

Economists had been expecting retail sales to gain 0.5% to 0.6% last month, roughly the same as the upwardly revised 0.6% advance recorded in October. Instead, sales grew only 0.2%. Some retailers fared better than others, with electronics outlets seeing a 2.1% jump as consumers stocked up on gizmos for the holiday season. But even then, higher sales don’t always translate into higher margins, as illustrated by the earnings results from Best Buy (BBY) for the quarter ended Nov. 26. The Minnesota chain’s net income fell 29% for the quarter year-over year, while margins contracted nearly a full percentage point to 24.2%. 

Avon is upgraded after its CEO is ousted, while Best Buy is both upgraded and downgraded.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 14, 2011 12:14PM
Information provided by Theflyonthewall.com

Wednesday's noteworthy upgrades include:
  • Avon Products (AVP) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
  • Vertex Pharma (VRTX) upgraded to Outperform from Underperform at Credit Suisse
  • SunTrust (STI) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Bernstein
  • Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
  • Energy Transfer Equity (ETE) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at UBS
  • Best Buy (BBY) upgraded to Buy from Above Average at Caris
 

Once considered a young star, Jung has been ousted after years of faltering operations.

By Melly Alazraki Dec 14, 2011 11:50AM

Avon Products (AVP), the 125-year-old cosmetics company, has finally ousted CEO Andrea Jung. Investors were relieved to hear Tuesday that Jung is leaving executive management. Shares rose by nearly 10% Wednesday morning.

The company calls the move a separation of the the roles of chairman and CEO, saying Jung will be named executive chairman, while the board of directors "will work with" her to search for a CEO. Until they find one, Jung will continue in her dual role. But no matter how you call it, the message is clear.

 
Tags: AAPLAVPGE

Throw in high fuel prices, and the sector faces yet another tough year.

By InvestorPlace Dec 14, 2011 11:43AM
Brand X/JupiterimagesBy Susan J. Aluise

The airline industry has always been a notoriously difficult place to make money. Former American Airlines (AMR) Chairman and CEO Robert Crandall once characterized it as "a nasty, rotten business" that most resembles "the old game of Christians and lions."


So with European Union economies in disarray and fuel price volatility continuing to eat airlines' lunch, airlines face yet another treacherous year in 2012. Indeed, the worst-case scenario would be if the euro zone fiasco deteriorates into a full-blown banking crisis and European recession (with worldwide repercussions). If that happens, the global aviation industry could lose more than $8 billion next year, according to the international airline trade group IATA.

 

As far as we can tell, this holiday season is strong, and the group's fundamentals remain positive.

By Jim Cramer Dec 14, 2011 10:38AM

Hate to see retail this weak. There are a lot of culprits. A weak national retail number. A terrible report from Best Buy (BBY). Weather that's just too warm to make for good selling.

 

But I continue to believe that we are having a strong holiday season. It's just that so much of it this these days is online. The numbers we are getting out of FedEx (FDX) and International Paper (IP), which makes container board to ship with, are so strong that I have to believe that we are now in a world where bricks and mortar just can't give you the upside of the old days.

 

The automaker is a bargain bet on a US economic turnaround.

By TheStockAdvisors Dec 14, 2011 10:01AM
By Nicholas Vardy, Bull Market Alert

Our latest featured recommendation is all-American stalwart and success story Ford Motor Co. (F), a bet on U.S. consumers and the burgeoning economic recovery.

Even as Europe struggles with its debt crisis, the news from the U.S. economy has been improving steadily. 
Tags: F

Prices have fallen from a year ago, however, on worries that demand might drop.

By Jim J. Jubak Dec 13, 2011 7:13PM
Image: Elevated view of freight cars with coal © Joseph Sohm-Visions of America/Photodisc/Getty ImagesThe boom in merger and acquisitions in Australia’s coal industry continues with the most recent deal -- Whitehaven Coal’s bid to acquire Aston Resources -- pushing the global total for deals in 2011 to a record $40.3 billion from $36.7 billion in 2010. 

But prices aren’t nearly what they were a year ago. I think that’s a reaction to the huge run up in the valuation of coal companies in 2010 and 2011. And to worries that demand for coal from China might be about to drop.

Even if you don’t own shares of either acquirer Whitehaven Coal (WHITF) or acquiree Aston Resources (AZT in Sydney), the meager 11% premium in the deal tells you a metric ton about how industry insiders feel about the near-term future of their sector.
 

The new operating system is expected to be the company's biggest debut ever, as it will target desktops, notebooks and tablets.

By Trefis Dec 13, 2011 6:28PM
Reports suggest that Microsoft (MSFT) will unveil the Windows 8 public beta in February, following a demo at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

The Windows platform currently dominates the operating system market and competes with Apple's (AAPL) Mac OS, Linux-based distributions and, to some extent, Google's (GOOG) Chrome OS. Windows 7 had a successful launch two years ago, having sold more than 500 million licenses worldwide to date. Windows 8 is expected to be launched in 2012, but may be delayed to early 2013, according to some reports

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[BRIEFING.COM] The major averages finished the session on a modestly higher note, but not before heavy selling pressure sent the Nasdaq Composite (+0.3%) for a test of its 200-day moving average. The S&P 500, meanwhile, added 0.7% with all ten sectors posting gains.

Equities climbed at the open with the advance built on the relative strength of biotechnology and other momentum names. Despite the solid early gains in those areas, the market began fading from its high as multiple ... More


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