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.

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The employment picture got a little brighter over the past month. Here are some stocks that could benefit most from continued gains.

By John Reese Jan 5, 2012 4:13PM

Image: Construction workers (© image100/Corbis)Throughout the second half of 2011, many (if not most) pundits and prognosticators waited for the European debt crisis to spread across the Atlantic Ocean and topple the U.S. economic recovery. But over the past several weeks, a funny thing happened on the way to another recession: The economy actually picked up, and the job market has made its most significant improvement in nearly a year.


The four-week average of new claims for unemployment has fallen to its lowest level since June 2008, according to Labor Department data. Continuing claims, meanwhile, have fallen to levels not seen since September 2008, when the Lehman Brothers collapse sparked the financial crisis.

 

New unemployment claims are down, which could mean an improved December jobs picture.

By Jim J. Jubak Jan 5, 2012 3:49PM
Image: Office workers (© ColorBlind Images/Blend Images/Corbis)

Thursday's report on weekly initial unemployment claims offered a promising setup for Friday's release of the December jobs number.


For the week that ended Dec. 31, the number of people filing new claims for unemployment dropped to 372,000. That was a significant decline from the 387,000 initial claims filed in the week ended Dec. 24. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected the initial claim number to drop to 375,000.

Even the continuing claims for unemployment number dropped to a still-horrendous 3.595 million for the week from 3.617 million the week before.
 

Cash-rich electronics company shows strong growth in core businesses.

By TheStockAdvisors Jan 5, 2012 3:48PM
Image: Construction Workers Carrying Window (© Steve Hix/Somos Images/Corbis)This post is one in a series in which over 50 newsletter advisors share their Top Picks for 2012.

By Benj Gallander & Ben Stadelmann, Contra the Heard Investment Letter

We focus on buying deep value plays that are out-of-favor and that strategy has contributed to our 10-year annualized return of 19.6%. One of our favorites that is overdue for a recovery is Flextronics (FLEX). 
Tags: FLEX

High-yielding stocks like Pfizer and Southern Copper may seem boring, but dividends have a history of saving the day.

By Jim Cramer Jan 5, 2012 3:13PM

Image: Businessman offering money © Andrea Bricco/Brand X Pictures/Getty ImagesPeople always want to know what sectors are going to work in a new year. Makes sense, as a great deal of a stock's move does depend on its sector -- perhaps too much, because of what I've been calling the "ETF-ization" of stocks, where the group a company belongs to hangs together by an ETF instead of trading separately, even a little bit, on the merits.

 

That's why I think the sector that will perform the best, again, in 2012, is the dividend sector, the segment of companies that reward you, that pay you to wait, while the company gets its act together or just simply puts on more cream to the cake.

 

The presidential candidate likely did very well focusing on metal-mining companies in 2009 and 2010.

By Kim Peterson Jan 5, 2012 2:43PM
Image: Golden Nest Egg (© Chris Collins/Photographer)Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul's investments are, well, let's just call them unusual.

The Wall Street Journal describes his choices as weird and was immediately hammered by readers calling foul. I'll say this much for his picks: They're definitely unorthodox, but they've seemed to turn out well.

Paul didn't like bonds or well-known mainstream stocks in 2010. In fact, he actively bet against U.S. stocks with a small stake in the Prudent Bear Mutual Fund (BEARX). You can see Paul's investments on his Congressional disclosure statement (registration required) for 2010. 

As old hits such as CityVille lose popularity, gaming company looks to new ones to maintain user base.

By Trefis Jan 5, 2012 2:37PM
Image: Couple with laptop (© Corbis)Zynga (ZNGA), the world's largest social gaming company, had a rather disappointing public debut, shedding nearly 5% of its stock price on the first day of trading. It competes primarily with other social gaming companies like Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Playdom, which was recently acquired by Disney (DIS). We have a $10.20 price estimate for Zynga, which stands just above the offering price for its IPO. New games account for more than 40% of its Trefis price estimate.

Zynga has made some really popular games like CityVille and FarmVille, which had a user base of close to 100 million at their peak. However, social games can get old fast and user numbers can drop as quickly as they grow.

 
Tags: DISZNGA

The soft drink giant is said to be mulling several moves to boost its earnings.

By Melly Alazraki Jan 5, 2012 2:02PM
PepsiCo (PEP) is considering cutting roughly 4,000 jobs, or about 1.3% of its 300,000 global payroll, in order to boost earnings, according to the New York Post.

The soft drink giant is also mulling ending its 401(k) match, the paper said. The Post's sources said that Pepsi believes it is more generous than its peers because it offers both a pension plan and a 401(k) match. The elimination of the 401(k) match could reportedly save the soft drink and snack food company $75 million. 
Tags: KOPEP

The company is trying to sell its publishing business and may give up on its e-reader, too. The move reeks of desperation and could mean the end of Barnes & Noble as we know it.

By InvestorPlace Jan 5, 2012 1:24PM
By Tom Taulli

Barnes & Noble (BKS) has put together a strong e-commerce platform and a popular e-reader, the Nook, that has allowed it to avoid the fate of many brick-and-mortar booksellers. Thanks to growth from its e-book division and the relative popularity of the low-cost Nook, B&N narrowed its losses and saw revenue jump 20% in fiscal 2011 over the previous year.

Too bad Barnes & Noble is now giving up on the Nook. Recent reports say the company will spin off production of the tablet.

That reeks of desperation and is likely the end of both the Nook reader and Barnes & Noble as we know it. 

When it comes to buying the index's highest-yielding dividend stocks, the real question may well be 'Why not?'

By The Fiscal Times Jan 5, 2012 1:24PM

Image:Man with dog © VStock LLC, Tanya Constantine, Tetra images, Getty ImagesBy Suzanne McGee, The Fiscal Times

Last year, the one popular investment strategy that paid off -- generating returns far higher than those offered by any market index as well as the majority of U.S. equity mutual funds -- was snapping up the so-called Dogs of the Dow.

 

Collectively, the 10 Dow components with the highest dividend yields on January 1, 2011 ended up delivering a gain of 12.2 percent -- or 17.2 percent once dividends were added to the mix -- leaving most other investment strategies in the dust.

 

Rendering company's stock is a lot more appetizing than its business.

By TheStockAdvisors Jan 5, 2012 1:17PM
Image: Sheep (© Fancy/Veer/Corbis)This post is one in a series in which over 50 newsletter advisors share their Top Picks for 2012

By John Reese, Validea

Darling International (DAR) is a 130-year-old company in the business of rendering -- that is, turning animal by-products into oils and proteins used by agricultural, leather, and oleo-chemical firms.  
Tags: DAR

Apple was initiated with a 'buy,' while Nokia was upgraded to 'outperform.'

By MSN Money Partner Jan 5, 2012 1:13PM
Information provided by Theflyonthewall.com

Thursday's noteworthy upgrades include:
  • Barclays (BCS) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
  • Pacific Sunwear (PSUN) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Janney Capital
  • Nokia (NOK) upgraded to Outperform from Underperform at Credit Suisse
  • Take-Two (TTWO) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at MKM Partners
  • Anadarko (APC) upgraded to Strong Buy from Outperform at Raymond James
 

Low multiples and strong growth forecasts should lure buyers, but Amazon looks expensive.

By Jonathan Berr Jan 5, 2012 12:57PM
Image: Dollar sign on keyboard (© Corbis)Google (GOOG), whose name has become synonymous with online searching, and Apple (AAPL), which has revolutionized the music and publishing businesses, are trading at historically low multiples. Shares of Amazon.com (AMZN), the largest e-commerce company, meanwhile, appear to be expensive.

Shares of Google are valued at a price-to-earnings ratio of 22.78, close to their lows for the past five years. The stock, which is up 11% over the past 52 weeks, has a slightly higher multiple than the S&P 500, which Reuters estimates at 19.31. Investors have got mixed signals lately about the stock. 

But is the purveyor of in-home carbonated drinks going to keep growing -- or suffer the fate of fad stocks like Crocs?

By InvestorPlace Jan 5, 2012 11:56AM

By Jeff Reeves


After the Great Recession, consumers started focusing on brewing premium beverages at home to save a few bucks. One popular gadget aimed at that market is produced by SodaStream International (SODA), which provides in-home carbonation for fizzy treats and fancy alcoholic drinks.


SodaStream has been seeing big sales growth since it went public in 2010. Sales are set to jump 22% in fiscal 2011, and the company has blown away profit forecasts in each of the past four quarters.

 

A solid pipeline and possible buyout interest should buoy stock.

By TheStockAdvisors Jan 5, 2012 11:04AM
Image: Pills (© Sean Justice/Corbis)This post is one in a series in which over 50 newsletter advisors share their Top Picks for 2012

By Nate Pile, Nate's Notes

We have been recommending this stock since 1999, but this will be the first time that we have made Cubist Pharmaceuticals (CBST) a "top pick" for the coming year. 
Tags: CBST

Pepsi and Boeing announce big cuts and take the air out of positive payroll news.

By InvestorPlace Jan 5, 2012 10:27AM
Rubberball/JupiterimagesBy Jeff Reeves

investorplaceWall Street received news Thursday of positive jobs numbers in a private-sector payroll report from ADP. Specifically, jobs increased 325,000 in December, led by the service sector and small businesses. Additionally, November's employment numbers were revised slightly higher.


But lest you think everything is coming up roses, keep in mind that many big corporations are still reluctant to hire. In fact, they continue to cut back based on some of the recent headlines.

 

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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.

The final week of August represented one of the quietest stretches for the stock market so far this year. The first four sessions of the week produced the ... More


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