A stock market graph trending down © jmiks/Getty Images
Be wary of dire market forecasts

The most likely scenario is that the markets will begin to rise from here -- and that bounce is just beginning to take hold.

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History suggests stocks should blast higher as we enter the third year of the president's term.

By Anthony Mirhaydari Dec 28, 2010 5:16PM

With the midterm elections behind us and 2011 looming large, Wall Street strategists are looking forward to the famously profitable third year of the four-year presidential cycle. The logic is easy: Presidents tend to be tough in the first two years, but in the final two with their re-election looming, policy turns toward stimulating the economy and securing a second term.


As a result, Merrill Lynch chief market technician Mary Ann Bartels points out, the third year of presidential terms typically delivers about 15% returns. Jeffrey Hirsh of Stock Trader's Almanac fame notes that there hasn't been a down year in the third year of a presidential term since war-torn 1939, when the Dow fell 2.9%. The only severe loss going back 100 years happened in 1931 during the Depression.

 

We're in the middle of the sweet spot right now: between the fourth quarter of the midterm year and the first quarter of the pre-election year.

 

One Morningstar analyst looks at funds that are slightly expensive but poised for growth.

By Kim Peterson Dec 28, 2010 4:20PM
Simple stock picking tips © CorbisOver at Morningstar, Russel Kinnel says he has found nine promising new funds managed by experienced investors who have strong track records.

But being new funds, they don't have the attractive expense ratios you'd find at older ones. The hope is to get in on these now, and asset growth would drive costs down.

If you're willing to accept that negative, then here are the nine funds that Kinnel likes: 

The upcoming device will offer consumers more wireless capability, according to a report.

By TheStreet Staff Dec 28, 2010 3:23PM

Credit: (© Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Caption: Apple iPadBy Maggie Overfelt, TheStreet

 

Another day, another round of speculation about one of Apple's (AAPL) upcoming products.


On Tuesday, DigiTimes reported that Apple is preparing three versions of its upcoming iPad 2, some of which will be Wi-Fi- or CDMA-equipped, offering customers "more" wireless solutions than what's available with the current iPad iteration.

 

This concurs with earlier reports that the new iPad will work on both GSM and CDMA networks via Qualcomm (QCOM) chips.

 

The automaker should benefit from rising industry sales and improving comparisons with Ford, analysts say.

By TheStreet Staff Dec 28, 2010 3:11PM

 General Motors logo © Scott Olson/Getty ImagesBy Ted Reed, TheStreet

 

Wall Street has refocused on General Motors (GM), which seems poised to benefit from increased 2011 industry sales.

 

Since returning to the public markets on Nov. 18, GM shares have traded in a narrow window between $33 and $36. Shortly after midday Tuesday, they were trading near the high end, up 81 cents to $35.41.

 

As the year winds down, the outlook for GM appears positive, both because a rising tide of vehicle sales should lift all boats in the auto industry and because analysts are generally optimistic about the company's prospects.

 

Smart-phone hardware is getting cheaper, and Google's platform is the go-to software for new low-end devices.

By Kim Peterson Dec 28, 2010 2:49PM
Credit: (© Eric Risberg/AP)
Caption: Droid Incredible cell phoneSmart-phone growth is set to explode next year, and at the center of that boom could be the Android platform from Google (GOOG).

That's according to Fortune, which says half a billion smart phones could be sold worldwide next year. "Smart phones will likely blow by traditional computers next year as the way most of the world gains access to the Internet," writes Seth Weintraub.

So far, smart-phone growth has been centered around developed countries. But even in the U.S., smart phones account for only about a third of all phones, Fortune reports. 

The retailer sold 158 items per second on its peak shopping day.

By Kim Peterson Dec 28, 2010 1:41PM
Credit: (© Amazon.com)
Caption: Amazon KindleAmazon (AMZN) investors must have the patience of a saint. How else do you deal with a company that hides so much information?

The company's holiday press releases are exasperating. Amazon dribbles out some carefully chosen facts but is silent about so many others. As a result, we're left trying to decipher what those few numbers really mean about the retailer's holiday quarter.

In this case, the numbers are pretty impressive. Amazon said it sold 13.7 million items worldwide on its peak day, Nov. 29. That's 158 items every second -- a record for the company. 
Tags: internet

With a new year just a few trading days away, a few promising sectors stand out.

By TheStreet Staff Dec 28, 2010 12:16PM

StockpickrBull Market © First Light/Image StateBy Jonas Elmerraji, Stockpickr

 

This year is almost behind us, and what a year it has been. While the broad market's double-digit run-up has been nothing to scoff at, it has paled in comparison with the massive rallies that have taken place across specific industries and other asset classes.

 

Defense contractors are up nearly twice as much as the broad market this year. Small caps have rallied even more than that, and precious-metals funds are up more than four times as much as the S&P 500 in 2010.

 

But focused investing in those plays is easy when you have the benefit of hindsight. Instead, today we'll look at investments to focus on for 2011. With a new year just a few trading days away, a handful of industries stand out as attractive investments for 2011.

 

For-profit-education stocks have been massacred, leaving an opportunity or two in the aftermath.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Dec 28, 2010 12:15PM

College © Brand X Pictures/PhotolibraryDespite his penchant for Pink Floyd, Andy Louis-Charles is anything but laid back when he finds a good opportunity. Read on for screaming value in the education sector.

 

Rex Moore, Motley Fool Top Stocks editor

 

The market has been singing some Pink Floyd lately -- specifically, "We don't need no education!" It's music to my ears.

 

Everyone and his alma mater hates for-profit universities. An index of the sector is down 46% from its April highs, as investors seem to be bracing for sweeping reforms and draconian regulations, whether from Congress or the Department of Education.

 

Will the Santa Claus rally continue?

By Jamie Dlugosch Dec 27, 2010 6:14PM

Santa Claus © Digital Vision / Getty Images Santa was very good for investors this year. A very impressive rally that began after Labor Day plowed forward again last week for a solid gain of .9%. That puts gains for 2010 solidly in double digits.

 

Not bad considering the amount of pessimism surrounding the markets for much of the year. I guess that’s why contrarians have done so well.

 

I’ll continue to play it safe with my ETF trades this week. My favorite pick is the contrarian play against the so-called January effect that can propel small stocks higher.

 
Tags: etfoil

It's not an official indicator, but a jump in online employment ads bodes well for 2011.

By Kim Peterson Dec 27, 2010 3:44PM
Blue-collar job © image100/CorbisJob postings dropped to depressing levels a year ago as the economy foundered. But that has changed dramatically this month.

Major U.S. companies are advertising thousands of job openings, The Wall Street Journal reports. New data from the Indeed website shows that there were 4.7 million job postings online as of Dec. 1 -- up from 2.7 million a year ago.

The number of job postings isn't a very scientific view of the economic recovery. Many openings don't get posted online at all, and official payroll data haven't signaled a hiring rebound, the Journal reports. 

Attendance plummeted in 2010, even with deep discounts. Now promoters say admission prices will drop.

By Kim Peterson Dec 27, 2010 2:25PM
Credit: (© Briony Campbell/Lifesize/Getty Images)
Caption: ConcertFor some musical artists, 2010 was the year of the empty seat.

Musicians across the spectrum had a tough time selling tickets, as fans decided they had better things to do with their money. Seats that at one time could have sold for $100 or $200 had no takers, and artists like Christina Aguilera, the Eagles, John Mayer and Rihanna had to cancel shows or entire tours.

Not the greatest year for concert promoters like Live Nation (LYV), which merged with Ticketmaster in January and saw its stock price plummet 25% since April. So now the concert business is giving in and dropping ticket prices. 

In technology, as in life, sometimes things just don't work out.

By TheStreet Staff Dec 27, 2010 12:26PM

more small business and technology news from thestreetFrustrated © Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty ImagesBy Jonathan Blum, TheStreet

 

Failure was a common theme this year, particularly among companies selling next-generation business systems and technology.


Tech heavyweights such as Google (GOOG), imaging companies such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) or Lexmark (LXK), and even Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg -- Time magazine's Person of the Year, no less -- all brought truly bad products and services for small businesses to market.

 

We are not taking cheap tech shots here, bashing gadgets that merely failed to dazzle. Oh, no. These are the elite mistakes of the year, strategic blunders that indicate significant company dysfunction.

 

For an annual cost of less than 1%, you can get the market's best vehicle for physical gold.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Dec 27, 2010 12:08PM

Gold © Comstock Images/JupiterimagesGold is a controversial topic, and it's certainly not for everyone. If you do want some exposure to it, however, Fool analyst Andrew Sullivan explains an easy way to get it.

 

Rex Moore, Motley Fool Top Stocks editor

 

In my last article, I told you that I'm shifting my Rising Star Portfolio cash hoard into gold to protect my purchasing power because I believe gold still offers a much better risk-reward ratio than cash. Cash loses purchasing power dramatically over time, and with a global currency war and sovereign debt crisis just beginning, this threat is heightened. Thus my reasons for moving into gold, and here's how I'm going to do it.

 

With US-listed Chinese companies under the SEC's microscope, investors should venture into China-focused funds carefully.

By TheStreet Staff Dec 27, 2010 11:53AM

more ETF investing tips from thestreetTools for your stock portfolio © CorbisBy Don Dion, TheStreet

 

Here are five exchange-traded funds to watch this week:

 

1. PowerShares Golden Dragon Halter USX China Portfolio (PGJ)

 

TheStreet and other financial media outlets have been buzzing recently about the SEC's probe into U.S.-listed Chinese companies. It's unclear how far the investigation will reach, but for now investors should use a sharp eye when venturing into some China-focused ETFs.

 

PGJ is more worrisome than other large-cap China ETFs, such as the iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index Fund (FXI). Whereas FXI tracks a basket of companies traded on China and Hong Kong exchanges, PGJ tracks a collection of U.S.-listed Chinese ADRs. These companies, which have a dual listing on U.S. stock exchanges, are more likely to fall under the SEC's scrutiny.

 

Whatever the company has planned for its enormous new data center could be enough to break the stock out of its current range.

By TheStreet Staff Dec 27, 2010 9:34AM

more stock picks and market commentary from Jim Cramer at TheStreetWhat does Apple (AAPL) have in mind for its new 500,000-square-foot data center that opens Jan. 6?


I think it's going to be for Mac applications. It could be huge, and like everything else with Apple, it might usher in a new era in computing.

 

Or maybe it is a place where Apple can offer applications in a cloud-like way. Maybe it will be a place for a developer to get virtual shelf space for new Mac applications. They don't have that today.

 

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[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market ended the holiday-shortened week on a mixed note as the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 0.1%, while the S&P 500 added 0.1% with seven sectors posting gains.

Equity indices faced an uphill climb from the opening bell after disappointing quarterly results from Google (GOOG 536.10, -20.44) and IBM (IBM 190.04, -6.36) weighed on the early sentiment. Google reported earnings $0.15 below the Capital IQ consensus estimate on revenue of $15.42 ... More


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