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VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

In a year that saw stunning underperformance by some big-name stocks, one indicator proved most useful.

By MoneyShow.com Dec 22, 2011 4:00PM

Image: Stocks circled in newspaper (© Digital Vision/Getty Images)By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com


No matter what happens in the last few days, this trading year has been an especially rough one for stock investors. While the S&P 500 is still down for the year, the Dow Industrials are actually up almost 5% (at time of writing).


So how could investors have known to be in the SPDR Diamond Trust (DIA), which tracks the Dow, instead of the Spyder Trust (SPY), which tracks the S&P 500?

 

Cigarette sales by subsidiary Philip Morris underpin profitability, stock price.

By Trefis Dec 22, 2011 2:51PM
Image: Man smoking (© Steve Mason/Photodisc Blue/Getty Images)Philip Morris USA, Altria Group's (MO) subsidiary, has hiked its cigarette prices for the second time this year. The price increase of 5 cents per pack will affect all of its 14 brands.

Cigarette manufacturers across the country have continued to raise prices as they adjust to shrinking demand. Reynolds American (RAI) is also raising prices by 5 cents per pack, while Lorillard (LO) will increase prices by 6 cents per pack. 
Tags: LOMORAI

Deutsche Telekom will look to other suitors, including Sprint, or dispose of network operator piecemeal.

By Trefis Dec 22, 2011 2:31PM
Image: Silver globe with twinkling lights (© Tetra Images/Getty Images)After AT&T (T) finally pulled its bid for T-Mobile as a result of regulatory concerns related to market share, the mobile network operator is left looking for other suitors. As part of the agreement, AT&T will have to pay T-Mobile's parent, Deutsche Telekom, a breakup fee of $3 billion in cash and an additional $1 billion worth of spectrum and other assets.

While spectrum and roaming agreements will benefit T-Mobile from a network coverage standpoint, we do not expect that Deutsche Telekom will invest the $3 billion in the U.S. carrier, given its plans to exit the market. Although a portion will certainly be used to cover some of the struggling company's expenses.

 
Tags: S

A rumored device from Sony could raise the stakes in the smartphone market.

By Kim Peterson Dec 22, 2011 1:56PM
We're just weeks from the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where the best new products for the coming year are often unveiled.

One hot subject undoubtedly will be the next generation in mobile phones: bigger and far more advanced. Sony (SNE) is thought to be making a splash in the U.S. soon with a device it calls its "superphone." 

Amazon's success could prompt a major redesign of the iPad.

By Trefis Dec 22, 2011 1:49PM
Credit: Amazon
Caption: Kindle FireIt seems Apple (AAPL) is coming under intense pressure from the runaway success of  Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle Fire tablet. Recently, Amazon announced that it is selling over 1 million Kindles (including Kindle eReaders) each week, which is on par with the 11 million iPads sold by Apple during the entire last quarter.

According to DigiTimes, Apple could come up with a 7.85-inch iPad next year in order to overcome the challenge posed by the 7-inch Kindle Fire tablets, even as other competitors such as Research in Motion (RIMM) and Motorola Mobility (MMI) continue to struggle in the tablet market.

 

A surge in buyback activity should help boost earnings per share just as more economic headwinds are expected.

By The Fiscal Times Dec 22, 2011 1:15PM
Stock marketsBy Suzanne McGee, The Fiscal Times

If the economy fails to deliver higher earnings per share in the fourth quarter, companies may generate it themselves by using surplus cash on their balance sheets to buy back shares.

That's the message in the latest report on corporate stock buyback activity by Standard & Poor's. In the third quarter, buybacks totaled $118 billion, nearly 50% above year-earlier levels. But the big news, says Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst at S&P, is that companies are buying back more shares than they need in order to cover the dilutive impact of issuing options to employees. 

This emerging market play is outpacing its parent company.

By InvestorPlace Dec 22, 2011 12:22PM

CorbisBy Louis Navellier, Editor, Blue Chip Growth


Brazil-based Companhia De Bebidas Das Americas (ABV), more commonly known as AmBev, is Latin America's biggest brewer. The company also is majority-owned by the No. 1 American brewer, Anheuser-Busch (BUD), which truly is the "king of beers" after the European leader InBev took it over. So with AmBev, you invest in the higher-growth subsidiary of the largest brewing company in the world.


Since AmBev is growing faster than InBev, ABV shares trade at higher valuation multiples (7.1 price/book, 6.8 price/sales) than the parent (2.5 price/book, 2.4 price/sales). This has allowed for an interesting accounting anomaly where InBev sports a market cap (as of the time of this writing) of $94.09 billion, while AmBev has a market cap of $112.27 billion -- in the alchemy of finance, the subsidiary is worth more than its majority shareholder.

 

Boston Scientifc and First Solar are downgraded to 'neutral.'

By MSN Money Partner Dec 22, 2011 11:58AM
Information provided by Theflyonthewall.com

Thursday's noteworthy upgrades include:
  • CME Group (CME) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Macquarie
  • Juniper (JNPR) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at BMO Capital
  • VMware (VMW) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Wunderlich
  • Zimmer (ZMH) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Mizuho
  • Advance Auto Parts (AAP) upgraded to Buy from Hold at BB&T
  • Potash (POT) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
  • Micron (MU) upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Wedbush
 

The discount retailer has caught the attention of bargain-oriented shoppers and investors alike.

By TheStockAdvisors Dec 22, 2011 11:14AM
Tetra Images/Getty ImagesBy Leo Fasciocco, Ticker Tape Digest

With the economy weak, Dollar General (DG) has potential to benefit from increased sales as people look for bargains.

Based in Tennessee, the company operates 8,414 stores in 35 states selling housewares at low prices; it has annual revenue of $13.7 billion.

The stock came public in late 2009 trading at $22 and has climbed steadily the past two years. 
Tags: DG

JPMorgan lost a case Tuesday that opens the door for a greater number of aggrieved investors to sue banks.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 22, 2011 11:07AM
Photodisc Green/Getty ImagesBy Abigail Field

Investors in financial stocks have a new reason to be nervous: On Tuesday, New York's highest court made it easier for disgruntled investors to sue banks and Wall Street firms. As a result, JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Bank of America (BAC) and Goldman Sachs (GS) -- among the many other possible targets of investors -- may face many new lawsuits in the coming months. 


Depending on how many new cases are filed and their cumulative stakes, they might add up to real money, even for the largest banks. The financial meltdown, after all, created huge numbers of angry investors.

 
Tags: BACGSJPM

After a recession, several recalls, an earthquake and a tsunami, the Japanese auto giant wants its No. 1 spot back.

By InvestorPlace Dec 22, 2011 11:04AM

By Jeff Reeves


investorplaceToyota (TM) has had a rough few years. First the financial crisis and resulting recessions brutalized the automaking industry and prompted Toyota to post its first-ever loss in 2008. Then fears of "unintended acceleration" led to the recall of 9 million Toyotas in early 2010. Most recently, in early 2011, Toyota production was thrown into disarray by the earthquake and tsunami that affected businesses in Japan.


But investors and fans of the Prius and Camry should take heart: Toyota is revved up and ready for a comeback in 2012. And if you buy the pitch Toyota is selling, the Japanese company will return to its perch as the world's No. 1 automaker.

 

Deal or not, the two will continue to be the industry’s leaders and long-term attractive plays.

By Gene Marcial Dec 22, 2011 10:32AM

This is a case of No. 2 trying to gobble up No. 1. It won’t happen -- not yet, anyway.

 

The prevailing sentiment on Wall Street is that Vulcan Materials (VMC) will reject the unsolicited $4.8 billion buyout offer of Martin Marietta Materials (MLM). Vulcan, the largest U.S. producer of gravel and sand, has to decide in a few days whether or not to embrace the all-stock hostile bid by Martin Marietta, the second largest maker of construction aggregates. This may well be a protracted battle as Vulcan is expected to ask Marietta to back off, unless it raise the ante.

 
Tags: MLMVMC

The grocery chain raises its full-year guidance after delivering a strong fiscal third quarter.

By Zacks.com Dec 21, 2011 7:29PM
Image: Full Shopping Cart in Grocery Store© Fuse/Getty ImagesThe Kroger Co. (KR) delivered excellent results this month for its fiscal third quarter, driven by a stellar 5% increase in same-store sales.


Management raised its guidance for the remainder of the year off the strong quarter, prompting analysts to revise estimates higher and sending the stock to a Zacks No. 2 rank ("buy"). As it generates strong free cash flow, management has been rewarding shareholders through stock buybacks and dividend hikes. It currently yields 1.9%.

 
Tags: KR

Everyone seems to love the stock at this price. That's a problem.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Dec 21, 2011 4:51PM

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz

 

There's never a shortage of Apple (AAPL) bulls. The world's most valuable tech company is percolating globally and IS cheap by most historical measuring sticks.

 

There isn't a lot of suspense here. A whopping 50 of the 55 analysts following the company have the stock rated as a buy or strong buy. Does that worry you? It certainly concerns me.

 

If you can handle volatility, this shipping stock offers a double-digit yield.

By TheStockAdvisors Dec 21, 2011 4:32PM
By Paul Tracy, High-Yield International

Navios Maritime Partners L.P. (NMM) is a shipping firm with a fleet of 18 dry-bulk vessels used to transport commodities such as coal, iron ore and grains.

Shipping firms like Navios do not take ownership of the commodities they transport. They simply charge companies a fee, known as a day rate, to ship commodities on their vessels. 
Tags: NMM

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Top Stocks provides analysis about the most noteworthy stocks in the market each day, combining some of the best content from around the MSN Money site and the rest of the Web.

Contributors include professional investors and journalists affiliated with MSN Money.

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[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market ended the midweek session on a mixed note. Blue chip listings bolstered the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.4%) and S&P 500 (+0.3%), while the Russell 2000 (-0.4%) and Nasdaq Composite (-0.02%) underperformed.

Equity indices began the day in the red, but wasted no time regaining their flat lines. Small-cap stocks were not as fortunate as the Russell 2000 spent the day in the red.

Upon returning into positive territory, the key indices were ... More


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