There are some picks in this sector that have excellent valuations and strong earnings growth.
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Sentiment is up, and the markets may continue rising in the short term. But investors must still be prepared to identify the signs of a correction and act quickly.
Apple fixes problems that don't exist. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gives first press conference. Sony gets hacked.
Here is this week's roundup of the dumbest actions on Wall Street.
5. Apple: There's no problem, but we fixed it
Apple (AAPL) is getting really good at fixing things it says aren't a problem.
This week, the company denied, confessed to and then said it will change its iPhone tracking practices that have created an outcry about potential privacy invasion.
These funds allow regular folks to hedge against high gas prices. With video on oil company earnings.
Big Oil is back. With persistently high crude prices, it would be nearly impossible not to make huge profits. The standout this week was Exxon Mobil (XOM). Its earnings surged by 69% to $10.7 billion. But the entire industry is on the rise, with even the beleaguered BP (BP) posting a profit of $5.48 billion, thanks to expensive oil.
As should be no surprise, investors have been pouring money into the oil majors and other related energy companies. It's been a red-hot trade. But if you have been watching prices at the pump more than the stock market, you probably don't have time for analyzing and picking stocks.
To help you out, here are three funds that take the guesswork out of oil investing by spreading your money across a variety of important businesses in the sector:
David Sokol's stock purchases will take center stage at Berkshire Hathaway's shareholders meeting.
By Don Dion, TheStreet
Droves of investors and fans of Warren Buffett will flood the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb., this weekend in order to take part in Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A) annual shareholders meeting. The event, widely considered the "Woodstock for Capitalists," is always hotly anticipated and closely watched.
The theme of this year's meeting will be "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles." As Buffett noted in his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders, companies including NetJets, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and BYD will be spotlighted.
Kinder Morgan Energy remains the safest play on domestic fuel shipping, and it stands to gain more if Washington wakes up to the abundance of natural gas in this country.
We have tons of oil in this country, we just don't have the ability to bring it to the markets. That's the succinct analysis we got last night from Rich Kinder, the chairman and CEO of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (KMP), and the man I think knows more about the business of energy than anyone in the United States.
If you have energy somewhere, whether it is in the form of coal or ethane or natural gas liquids or oil, chances are you have to contact Kinder to move it to where it has to go. The fact that West Texas crude is absurdly priced versus all other crude has to do with the high cost of getting the darned stuff out of there. Kinder's company is working as fast as it can to get a pipeline going to allow the oil in Cushing, Okla., to reach the markets so the selling discount is eliminated.
When we hit the largest discovery of oil in the last 40 years in the Bakken Shale in North Dakota we, again, developed a bottleneck. Kinder can't get pipe up there but he's investing in rail to reach those hard-to-get-at fields to make sure oil that can be pumped at $112 a barrel will be pumped. And there's a lot of it there.
The move is just the latest sign that executives are returning to the company's roots after recent failed efforts to appear more upscale.
By Jeff Reeves, editor of InvestorPlace.com
Wal-Mart (WMT) may be the world's biggest retailer, but that doesn't mean it has given up on growing. From planned grocery deliveries to inner-city residents to its recent purchase of a social-media company, there always seems to be something new in store.
The latest news, according to The Wall Street Journal, is that Wal-Mart will reload gun sales by cutting back on electronics floor space to make room for rifles, shotguns and ammunition at hundreds of U.S. stores.
But unlike previous failed efforts and some recent quirky initiatives, the return of guns and ammo is a return to Wal-Mart's roots -- something the company may sorely need.
Some prized growing regions of Brazil could be hit with cold weather from the South Pole.
The industry has seen Brazilian frost wreak havoc on prices before. In 1994, a frost damaged coffee crops and prices rose 39%. If the same thing happens this year, coffee could hit a record $4.20 a pound, according to Bloomberg. And if coffee is that high at the wholesale level, just imagine what it will cost on store shelves.
As if that weren't bad enough, there's already a shortage this year of Arabica beans, causing prices to increase 24%. "If Brazil has a frost, not only will we see uncharted prices but the situation might become unbearable," industry analyst Rodrigo Costa told Bloomberg.
Germany's inflation rate is on a quick pace, and that has put downward pressure on the dollar.
The cable company takes a swipe at Netflix by boosting its on-demand library.
Comcast (CMCSA) has just made a big leap in competing with Netflix (NFLX) and other video-on-demand providers. The cable giant has snagged shows from ABC and Fox Broadcasting for its on-demand library.
Now, Comcast is the only cable or satellite company to offer current shows from all four major networks in its on-demand service.
Post continues after this video interview with Comcast's chief executive:
Pepsi is debuting new vending machines that let you record video and send drink gifts to friends.
The company is introducing vending machines that let you buy a friend a soda in advance. Then it tells your friend that the drink is waiting.
The new machines from Pepsi are an experiment in combining social networking with traditional vending. The touch-screen machine will sell Mountain Dew and other beverages just like a regular vending machine. The difference is the way it includes your friends.
After buying a soda for a friend, a customer gives the machine the friend's name and cellphone number. Customers can even record a short video at the machine to send along with a personalized text message.
While the greenback suffers at the hands of traders looking for a quick buck, evidence builds for an overdue rebound.
The dollar has been under incredible pressure lately as Wall Street hotshots enthusiastically embrace the "carry trade" -- a one-way bet that's been paying big.
It works like this: Borrow in a weak, falling currency with ultra-low interest rates. Then, use the proceeds, plus leverage, to invest in high-yield assets and dollar-sensitive commodities like gold and oil. All of this was enabled by the Federal Reserve and its $600 billion "QE2" initiative.
As a result, the dollar has plunged below the nadir reached in early 2008 as hedge fund types pile on. It's down more than 20% from the high reached in 2009. This has increased inflationary pressure and weighed on consumer sentiment -- both of which were big factors in today's disappointing Q1 GDP report. Clearly, the dollar and its status as the world's reserve currency is facing a moment of truth. But there's room for optimism.
Even after taking steps to address the issue, Apple faces new questions from lawmakers and independent researchers. With video update.
Now one congressman is accusing the company of lying. And some people think Apple's recent statements have only raised more questions than answers.
The issue centers around the location snapshots that Apple regularly gathers from people's iPhones. Apple says it uses iPhones to get information about cellphone towers and wireless hot spots, which helps it refine maps and driving directions for users. It's also using the information to build a "traffic database" that will eventually tell users where traffic is jammed.
Post continues after interview with one of the researchers who brought this issue into the spotlight:
This laundromat operator could really clean up.
By Michael Olsen, CFA
To the list of certain things in life -- death and taxes -- go ahead and add laundry. If you want to turn heaps of dirty clothes into fat stacks of filthy lucre, just open a laundromat.
Don't be fooled by their humdrum image. I've learned that effectively operated laundromats, in apartment buildings or as independent businesses, can be venerable cash machines. During my research, I stumbled upon laundromat facilities manager Mac-Gray (TUC), and today I'm giving the stock a 4.8% position in my Rising Star portfolio.
This company might not be squeaky clean, but a host of factors make it very compelling: Activist shareholders pushing for better governance, new shareholder-friendly management, the potential for improving profits, and a valuation so small, you'd think it got shrunk in the wash.
Rely on relative performance, or RS analysis, to stay invested in stocks that are leading the current market, and consider this tech stock, which looks poised to outperform now.
Exxon's first-quarter earnings surge 69% as crude oil creeps above $100. Includes video.
By Jeff Reeves, editor of InvestorPlace.com.
Consumers are feeling the pain at the pump right now. The average price of a gallon of gas has jumped about 12 cents in the U.S. over the past two weeks to $3.88, with the highest average reaching $4.27 in Chicago.
When MSN Money ran a story recently about the positive aspects of $5 gas, it got more than 600 comments, most of them from irate readers.
But one company that appears to be doing just fine in this era of expensive energy is Big Oil poster child Exxon Mobil (XOM).
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