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.


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. 

Constant innovation in genetics and agronomics will help biotech sustain its growth curve in the long term.

By Trefis Dec 13, 2011 3:05PM
(© Mark Karrass/Corbis/Corbis)DuPont (DD) recently expanded its research partnership with Evogene to increase its product offerings for soybean farmers. The biotech giant also unveiled new product improvements that should support continued growth in corn and soybean yield through its seeds business in the U.S.

The agriculture and nutrition-based products division accounts for 32% of DuPont's stock value by our estimates, and we believe that continued expansion of its product line portends solid long-term growth in its agriculture business. DuPont competes with other giants such as Syngenta AG (SYT), Monsanto (MON) and Dow AgroSciences (DOW). 

A seasonal period of strength for the metal is right around the corner.

By Dec 13, 2011 2:26PM

 (© Stockbyte/SuperStock)By Tom Aspray,

Once again, the European debt crisis hit global stock markets on Monday, but share prices were trying to stabilize Tuesday.

The major U.S. stock market averages lost less than 1%. The gold market, however, was hit harder, with the SPDR Gold Trust (GLD) dropping 2.2% and February Comex gold futures tumbling by over $48 per ounce.

The stronger U.S. dollar got the majority of the credit for gold’s decline, while raising cash at any price to protect against the euro’s demise was also a popular explanation.


The third quarter of this year was the worst on record for the industry since the height of the financial crisis.

By The Fiscal Times Dec 13, 2011 1:21PM
Wall StreetBy Suzanne McGee, The Fiscal Times

Investment banks and other financial industry participants involved in stock trading and market making just can't seem to catch a break.

Firms like Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS) and the beleaguered Jefferies Group (JEF) have already reported dismal results for the third quarter. Now comes news from the New York Stock Exchange that all of its member firms -- those broker-dealers that make up the exchange -- appeared to share the pain. 

Ignoring fundamentals, here are some stocks that could bounce due to tax selling and window dressing.

By TheStockAdvisors Dec 13, 2011 1:12PM
Photodisc/SuperStockBy George Putnam, The Turnaround Letter

At this time of year, we often see artificial selling pressures that may result in buying opportunities almost regardless of stock fundamentals or market conditions.

These selling pressures come from two sources: tax-loss selling and portfolio window dressing. The extreme volatility this year has produced a particularly interesting crop of year-end bounce candidates. 

Best Buy is downgraded, while Panera Bread is upgraded.

By MSN Money Partner Dec 13, 2011 12:02PM
Information provided by

Tuesday's noteworthy upgrades include:
  • Murphy Oil (MUR) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
  • Hess Corp. (HES) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
  • Marathon Oil (MRO) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
  • Panera Bread (PNRA) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Jefferies
  • Union Pacific (UNP) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital

Recent ambition should fuel this energy company for years to come.

By InvestorPlace Dec 13, 2011 11:27AM
Kevin Phillips/Digital Vision/age fotostockBy Aaron Levitt

It's no secret that the world is witnessing a natural gas boom. New advances in drilling technology have allowed E&P firms the capability to access gas trapped within various shale rock formations across the world. Billions of dollars worth of new investment have flown into the sector, and the newly found abundant supplies have the International Energy Agency calling this the "golden age of gas."

Overall, the group estimates that global consumption of natural gas will rise by more than 50% during the next 25 years. To that end, most of the major integrated energy firms have been expanding into shale and natural gas assets at record paces. One such major energy firm, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A, RDS.B), could rise to the top of the pyramid after some recent strategic investments.


The retailer's shares tank as razor-thin margins result in a 13% profit drop.

By InvestorPlace Dec 13, 2011 11:24AM

Kyu Oh/Photodisc/GettyJeff Reeves

Best Buy (BBY) had high hopes for this holiday shopping season. Black Friday sales numbers hinted that Best Buy was a winner, going big on discounts and exclusive in-store deals after a rather lackluster showing last year.

After Tuesday's earnings report for the third quarter, however, Best Buy investors might be getting a lump of coal under the tree. The big-box electronics retailer saw profit slump 13%, predicted weak margins and stuck with its previously conservative sales forecast.


Without Europe, it can't be great. But with so many bullish signs, it can't be that bad either.

By Jim Cramer Dec 13, 2011 11:01AM

the streetWhat is the truth about tech? What is really going on?


Are the problems macro related, as in weakness in Europe, the way Texas Instruments (TXN) described? Are the problems related to the secular decline in personal computers, a decline that has accelerated if you just look at Intel's (INTC) numbers? Or does the problem really have more to do with the Thai tragedy and personal computers will get back on track soon enough, as Intel tried to explain to us?


Is the problem slowing smartphone sales? Or just slowing smartphone sales from non-Apple (AAPL) vendors? Slowing television sales? Or just slowing sales from the Korean customer who wouldn't take the Corning glass? Is the problem a dramatic decline in telecom spending, or is telecom spending just frozen by ATT's (T) flailing attempt to buy T-Mobile?


A Texas money manager likes Time Warner, Honda and Garmin.

By Gene Marcial Dec 13, 2011 11:00AM

Tetra Images/Tetra images RF/Getty ImagesJeanie Wyatt is a true-blue value investor. But she is more particular about the term value than many of her peers. She loves to see a hoard of greenbacks on a company's balance sheet. If a company doesn’t have plenty of cash, she won’t tag it as a value play.


Most investment managers identify value stocks as companies with underappreciated and undervalued assets that have yet to be reflected in the price of their stock. In other words, investors haven’t yet paid up for their intrinsic worth.



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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.

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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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