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Investors know what's working and what's not. Jim Cramer says these stocks could power higher through the end of the year.


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

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.


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

Disappointment with last week's eurozone summit and a lack of new initiatives from the Federal Reserve unleash a torrent of selling pressure focused on commodities like gold.

By Anthony Mirhaydari Dec 13, 2011 6:07PM

Image: Stock market (© Digital Vision Ltd./SuperStock)Stocks and other risky assets have plunged this week as traders returned -- after a weekend of studying last week's disappointing eurozone summit -- in the mood to sell. After researching the finer points of European Union governance, Wall Street realized that the incrementalism and obsession with fiscal austerity demonstrated last week were, in retrospect, no palliative.


The European debt crisis hasn't ended; it's entering a dangerous new stage after leaders flubbed a critical opportunity. And Tuesday's Federal Reserve announcement, which featured no teasing of any new stimulus measures, reminded everyone that central banks cannot solve the structural problems plaguing the global economy.


A new rule says ads can't be louder than the programs they accompany. But is the regulation really needed?

By Jonathan Berr Dec 13, 2011 6:06PM
Image: Businessman watching television (© Image Source/Corbis)Those loud commercials that make us instantly reach for the remote control will go away soon.

The Federal Communications Commission unanimously passed a rule Tuesday that says commercials can't be louder than the programs they accompany.

Congress gave the agency authority to shush those commercials last year when it passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act to address the situation. The FCC's rule takes effect one year from now. 

Verizon's rumored to be interested, but it may not be alone.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Dec 13, 2011 4:30PM

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz


Can you buy me now?


Rumors of Verizon (VZ) eyeing an acquisition of Netflix (NFLX) were enough to send the beleaguered video buffet operator 6% higher Monday on an otherwise dreary market day, but let's not run out to see what's on the bridal registry just yet.


Southwest Airlines will become the launch customer for the aircraft maker's new 737 Max.

By Kim Peterson Dec 13, 2011 3:42PM
Boeing (BA) continues to get interest from customers for its fuel-efficient jets. The company said Tuesday it won a huge order from Southwest Airlines (LUV) for 208 planes.

The order includes 58 of Boeing's current 737s. The rest of the order will be filled with the new 737 Max, a single-aisle jet that promises to be 10% to 11% more fuel efficient than current models. If the plane fulfills expectations, it could become the new workhorse in Boeing's single-aisle 737 lineup. 


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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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Market index data delayed by 15 minutes

[BRIEFING.COM] The headlines generally favored Tuesday being another good day for the stock market.  Instead, it was just a mixed day with modest point changes on either side of the unchanged mark for the major indices.

For the most part, the stock market was a sideshow.  The main trading events were seen in the commodity and Treasury markets, both of which saw some decent-sized losses within their respective complex.

Dollar strength was at the heart of the weakness in ... More


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