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BP is downgraded to 'hold,' and Costco is initiated with 'market perform.'

By MSN Money Partner Feb 8, 2012 11:50AM
Information provided by Theflyonthewall.com

Wednesday's noteworthy upgrades include:
  • OpenTable (OPEN) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
  • Yum Brands (YUM) upgraded to Neutral from Sell at Goldman
  • Plains Exploration (PXP) upgraded to Positive from Neutral at Susquehanna
  • Magellan Midstream (MMP) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Ladenburg
 

Better times lie ahead for the burger chain.

By Jonathan Berr Feb 8, 2012 11:26AM

BananaStock/JupiterimagesWhen Wendy's (WEN) CEO Emil Brolick was hired last year, the burger chain was in the midst of an identity crisis. That's no longer the case.

The company made famous in folksy commercials featuring its late founder Dave Thomas has moved into the lucrative fast casual market with premium offerings such as the W burger. Brolick is also sprucing up the chain's locations and stressing the importance of good service. Though he took the job only in November, he is already seeing results.

 
Tags: MCDWEN

A breakup of the drugmaker into separate operating entities should unlock shareholder value.

By TheStockAdvisors Feb 8, 2012 11:09AM

CorbisBy Gregory Dorsey, Leeb's Income Performance Letter

In addition to quantifiable metrics such as reasonable valuations, solid growth prospects and a strong balance sheet, one of the less tangible characteristics we look for is a history of maximizing shareholder value.

It adds a measure of safety that can protect investors if the market hits a rough patch. Such is the case with Abbott Labs (ABT). Abbott announced last fall that it was splitting itself in two, a move it expects to finalize toward the end of this year. Indeed, with this stock investors are getting 'two for the price of one' as the company.

 
Tags: ABT

It's certainly profitable, but unresolved spill liabilities still keep it risky.

By InvestorPlace Feb 8, 2012 10:58AM

Scott Gibson/CorbisBy Aaron Levitt


What a difference just a year and half makes. It's been roughly 19 months since BP's (BP) Deepwater Horizon rig disaster. The resulting explosion killed 11 workers and created one of the worst oil spills in recent history. Since then, it's been a long, hard climb for the integrated oil major.


However, BP's Tuesday earnings report points to improved results and a potential turnaround. But with legal liabilities from the Gulf of Mexico spill still hanging over it, the question remains: Is BP a buy?

 

Investors can find safety not just in gold and Treasury bonds, but also in some of the market's large cap stocks.

By John Reese Feb 8, 2012 10:32AM

Photodisc/PhotolibraryOver the past few years, a number of macroeconomic events -- ranging from the 2008 financial crisis to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East to Europe's debt problems -- have led investors to load up on assets that offer (or at least are perceived to offer) safety. Since the start of 2009, gold prices have just about doubled, and since mid-2009, yields on 10-year Treasury bonds have been just about cut in half.


But what's interesting is that many of the stocks that should be considered safest -- big, high-quality blue chips -- haven't been getting much love from investors. Over the past three years, the Vanguard Mega Cap 300 Index ETF (MGC) is up 59%; the Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) meanwhile is up 68%, and the Vanguard Small Cap ETF (VB) is up more than 100%.

 

Experts say why they like stocks in the mattress, information database and gaming sectors.

By Zacks.com Feb 7, 2012 6:47PM

Mattresses, information databases and gaming? The Zacks panel of experts takes them on, offering stock picks in each sector in the following video post.


Stocks covered include Tempur-Pedic International (TPX), Zillow (Z) and Las Vegas Sands (LVS). Plus, find out why some Zacks experts don’t think the recent jobs data is all that positive.

 
Tags: LVSTPXZ

A technical breakout bodes well for this cloud-computing play.

By TheStockAdvisors Feb 7, 2012 6:35PM
by Leo Fasciocco, Ticker Tape Digest

Rackspace Hosting (RAX), which provides Internet hosting and cloud-computing services, is our latest featured breakout stock.

Rackspace serves some 130,000 business customers and manages more than 66,000 servers, 2.1 million email accounts, and 417,000 cloud-hosting domains. It offers its products under the Fanatical Support brand and sells services to businesses in more than 120 countries. Rackspace has annual revenue of $957 million. 

Apple's upcoming new tablet will be a potent weapon that can slow Amazon's newest Kindle.

By Trefis Feb 7, 2012 6:16PM
Image: young woman reading from Kindle (© Reggie Casagrande/Photographer)The tussle between Apple (AAPL) and Amazon (AMZN) in the tablet market is heating up as the Kindle Fire proves a significant threat to the iPad.

Although Amazon's Kindle Fire fell short of the iPad in customer satisfaction in a recent market survey by ChangeWave Research, it scored higher than other non-Apple tablets, such as Research In Motion's (RIMM) PlayBook. Surveyed users said the most attractive feature was its low price of $199 -- less than half that of an entry-level iPad 2. 

This screen for free cash flow to equity isolates stocks with both high yields and secure dividends.

By TheStockAdvisors Feb 7, 2012 5:55PM
Image: Woman counting money (© Jose Luis Pelaez, Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images)By Carla Pasternak, editor, High-Yield Investing

The best tool I have found to determine what a company really has left after expenses for shareholder dividends is a little known metric called free cash flow to equity (FCFE).

FCFE strips out all capital expenditures and adds back net borrowings that can be used to pay dividends. Using FCFE in the denominator of the payout ratio instead of more traditional earnings measures can help separate the safer dividend plays from the more aggressive ones. 

Rising wages hurt Chinese restaurant margins, but customers have more money to spend as well.

By Jim J. Jubak Feb 7, 2012 5:07PM
Image: China (© Brand X/SuperStock)Expect to see more of this in earnings reports from China: Companies trading lower margins today for bigger market share tomorrow.

That’s the message in the 2011 results reported by Yum Brands (YUM) Monday.

The operator of the KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell chains reported that margins in its Chinese restaurants fell 2.4 percentage points in 2011 to 19.7% from 2010. The culprit was rising costs from commodities -- about 8% year to year -- and wages. Wages went up 20% for its Chinese businesses in 2011.
 
Tags: YUM

The market isn't rigged, but sometimes it's easy to see how Wall Street gets a bad name.

By Jim Cramer Feb 7, 2012 3:32PM

the streetIs the market fixed? Is it a total mug's game? One that is rigged against you?


I don't think so. You can buy plenty of terrific companies doing fabulous things, whether it be Apple (AAPL) with its amazing products or Kinder Morgan Energy (KMP) with its bountiful dividends or Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG) with its dazzling growth. They aren't mug's games.

 

These stocks have posted big gains this year, but all are trading at levels where chasing them is especially risky.

By MoneyShow.com Feb 7, 2012 3:07PM

Image: Broken-Pencil (© Christian Zachariasen/Jupiterimages)By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com


Even the renewed concerns over Greece's debt negotiations were shrugged off by the stock market on Monday, as the major averages closed well off the day's lows. Nevertheless, I still think this is no time to be buying aggressively or to be complacent.


A poor entry price, in my estimation, is the key ingredient in most losing trades. Therefore, the three steps in my stock selection process are: 1) determining an entry level, 2) finding a proper stop level, and 3) figuring the approximate percentage risk if my stop were to be hit.

 

It's all about rarity of shares.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Feb 7, 2012 2:41PM

By Dan Caplinger

 

I never thought that one of my guilty pleasures would give me investing insight. But something I learned watching a home shopping channel showed me why buying into initial public offerings makes less sense than ever right now.

 

I'll share that insight later in this article. But first, I want to give some perspective on where the IPO market stands right now.

 

The S&P 500 Index is up 7% so far in 2012. Can this rally last?

By Kim Peterson Feb 7, 2012 2:36PM
Image: Arrow Up (© Photodisc/SuperStock)So far, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) has had an incredible 2012. The worst performance to date was a 0.57% drop on Jan. 26.

Yeah, yeah, we're just weeks into the new year. And experts far and wide have predicted dire things for the market. But so far, things are looking good.

Bespoke Investment Group, which loves to crunch all kinds of market numbers, has been watching the number of days in which the market closed down at least 1%. That hasn't happened yet this year. 

The telecom powerhouse and movie rental kiosk giant are teaming up to offer a streaming and DVD subscription service. Sound familiar?

By TheWeek.com Feb 7, 2012 2:27PM

Image: Watching television (© Frare/Davis Photography/Brand X/Corbis)Verizon (VZ) and Coinstar's (CSTR) Redbox DVD kiosk unit are teaming up for a subscription video service that offers both physical DVD rentals and digital video streaming for a monthly fee.


"Isn't there some company that already does both of those things?" says Brad Tuttle at TIME. "Ah yes, Netflix!" After Netflix's (NFLX) disastrous 2011, Verizon and Redbox are just the latest businesses "trying to kick the company -- and steal away customers -- while it's down."

 

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[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market finished an upbeat week on a mixed note. The S&P 500 shed less than a point, ending the week higher by 1.3%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.1%) cemented a 1.7% advance for the week. High-beta names underperformed, which weighed on the Nasdaq Composite (-0.3%) and the Russell 2000 (-1.3%).

Equity indices displayed strength in the early going with the S&P 500 tagging the 2,019 level during the opening 30 minutes of the action. However, ... More


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