The assembly line producing the Ford Fiesta car in Cuautitlan Izcalli, Mexico. © Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Mexico will soon be next car capital

Some 80% of the vehicles built south of the border are exported to other countries, mostly to the US.

VIDEO ON MSN MONEY

Upcoming earnings from Potash of Saskatchewan could be the next critical driver of price action in fertilizer stocks. Here are key levels to watch in three sector leaders.

By MoneyShow.com Apr 26, 2011 12:10PM
By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com

The agricultural commodity markets are still catching the world’s attention, with corn and wheat futures prices having doubled from the lows last summer. Soybeans are still lagging, but also up 50% in the past year.

Though there are no signs that the world’s demand for food is slowing, the S&P Fertilizer and Agricultural Chemicals Index is still 2% below the February highs. The early-2011 highs tested the resistance going back to 2009 and 2010, with the industry group roughly 50% below the all-time highs from 2008.

All of the key potash fertilizer companies, including Potash of Saskatchewan (POT), The Mosaic Company (MOS), and CF Industries Holdings (CF) are still trading well below the highs for the year. Even the surprising 144% increase in earnings from Mosaic, which beat analyst estimates, failed to push the stock higher.

With earnings from Potash due out Thursday, this industry group appears to be reaching a critical juncture.
 

While shares of General Motors look attractive near their post-IPO low, Ford is even more compelling. With video.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 26, 2011 12:00PM

By Jake Lynch, TheStreet

 

The case was made last week to consider GM (GM) at its new post-IPO low. Even more compelling is Ford (F), the only U.S. automaker that didn't require a government bailout to survive the Great Recession.

 

Under the laudable leadership of Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, Ford has refocused on fuel-efficient vehicles, streamlined its operations and fortified its balance sheet. Its stock has surged from a 2009 low of $1.58.

 

Ford beat Wall Street expectations when it reported first-quarter earnings Tuesday morning. The automaker said new products, higher volume and strong pricing produced profits in every region, including Europe, and said it overcame the impact of higher commodity prices.

 

The social network is getting into the couponing game, which could squash startup darling Groupon.

By InvestorPlace Apr 26, 2011 11:49AM

Image: Coupon (© Tom Grill/Corbis)By Tom Taulli, InvestorPlace.com

investorplaceWhile the tech world has always been fast and furious, it seems that the pace of change has been accelerating lately. Just consider that five years ago Facebook was a small operator. Now the company measures its impact as a percentage of the world's population.

But the challenge for Facebook is to turn its massive platform into gushing revenue and high margins. After all, the company's market value is about $80 billion, and an IPO is likely next year. In other words, Facebook needs to find ways to justify the extreme expectations.

So it's no surprise that it's jumping into the daily-deal business with the launch of Facebook Deals. But will the effort be the cash cow Facebook hopes? If so, will it severely damage the prospects of current coupon king Groupon?

 

Stereotypes portraying PC users as stodgy and Mac users as cool are not completely without merit, according to one survey.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 26, 2011 11:29AM

Image: Couple with computer (© Don Mason / Blend Images/Getty Images)By Matt Brownell, MainStreet

 

Remember those annoying old Mac vs. PC ads, which used stodgy old John Hodgman and hip young Justin Long to reduce the respective computers (and, by extension, their users) to cultural stereotypes?

 

Well, it turns out those stereotypes aren’t completely without merit.

 

Hunch, a website that makes a variety of personalized recommendations on everything from restaurants to books based on a user’s stated tastes and preferences, issued a report last week in which it assessed some of the traits of the Mac and PC users active on its site.

 

Investors looking for exposure to the energy sector as earnings heat up can choose from a variety of exchange-traded funds.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 26, 2011 11:18AM

Oil pump jack, low angle view, dusk © Seth Joel/PhotographerBy Don Dion, TheStreet

 

Hundreds of companies will report their earnings this quarter, allowing investors to get a feel for the state of industries ranging from tech to health care.

 

Energy, in particular, will be placed under the microscope this week as Exxon Mobil (XOM), Chevron (CVX) and ConocoPhillips (COP) release their reports.

 

Already, analysts are forecasting that rising oil prices will fuel strong earnings in this sector. As the Wall Street Journal points out, two factors are lending to crude's dramatic ascension: unrest in the Arab world and the global economic recovery.

 

ConocoPhillips will officially kick things off on Wednesday. In the meantime, investors can prepare themselves for this week of excitement by arming themselves with ETFs.

 

With last week's downgrade of the outlook for US debt, it's time the Fed came clean about interest rates and Treasury bond buying.

By InvestorPlace Apr 26, 2011 11:14AM
investorplace logoBy Richard Band, InvestorPlace.com

The clock is ticking on "Bubbles" Bernanke. Come June 30, his latest quantitative easing program (QE2) is scheduled to end. The big question on everyone’s mind is: what happens next?

Surely such big-picture ideas will be discussed tomorrow at the central bank's first-ever press conference. But the bottom line is that the reckless behavior of the Federal Reserve demands closer scrutiny -- and harder questions.

Here is one I want a straight answer to: "Chairman Bernanke, what would you do if, one of these days, the Chinese placed a $100 billion order to sell their U.S. Treasury bonds?" 

The yellow metal needs to be part of any portfolio. But if you already own some, stand pat for now.

By Jim Cramer Apr 26, 2011 9:10AM

the streetjim cramerIf you don't own gold, buy some. If you do own gold, I would wait. That's not contradictory, despite how it may sound.

 

I think gold has to be an integral part of every portfolio. I have been saying that for about five years now, and I mean it. You have to have it. It has to be part of your diversification, because it is both a currency and a commodity.

 

Here's the problem, and it is a real high-quality problem: If you have been listening to me, you are struggling right now with the size of your gold position. I think it should be up to 20% of your portfolio. But for some of us -- like in my retirement plan -- gold is now 30%. It has just moved up and up. It is too big. It is now the swing factor.

 

Now, I don't mind that it is so big. There are plenty of places to put your money that are worse than gold.

 

However, to buy more here if you have that kind of exposure is just averaging up in the worst way. No thanks.

 

Rising prices for granular urea, along with strong farm commodity prices, could put Yara within reach of its 52-week high.

By Jim J. Jubak Apr 25, 2011 4:23PM
Jim JubakShares of Yara International (YARIY) look like they’ve finally worked through persistent problems that sent the stock from a high of $60.15 (on Jan. 18) to a low of $44.38 (on March 16). Shares were at $53.24 in afternoon trading.

The problems go back to February, when the company issued a warning that fourth-quarter EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) would total just 3 billion Norwegian kroner (about $523 million). Analysts had been expecting something more like 3.8 billion kroner.

A bit of the shortfall was intentional: Yara said it had deferred some sales into 2011, in order to take advantage of a rising trend that promised higher fertilizer prices in 2011.

Another part was the result of trends, such as higher energy costs, that were challenging companies across the sector.
 

China will surpass the US as the world's largest economy soon -- sooner than most people expected, according to an IMF report.

By Kim Peterson Apr 25, 2011 3:36PM
Image: American Eagle (© Steve Allen/Brandx Pictures/Photolibrary)The "Age of America" is ending in just five years.

That's according to forecasts from the International Monetary Fund, which has set 2016 as the year when China's economy officially surpasses that of America as the world's largest.

To put this into perspective, only 10 years ago the U.S. economy was three times the size of China's, according to Brett Arends at MarketWatch. We knew this was coming, but this is the first time the IMF has put an actual date on it. "Most people aren’t prepared for this," Arends writes. "They aren’t even aware it’s that close."

The Daily Mail puts it starkly: "Whoever wins the 2012 presidential election will have the dubious honour of presiding over the fall of the United States." Even at its peak, Japan only had half of America's economic output, the Mail adds, and the USSR produced only a third. 

The company has seen profit drop for 2 years and needs a new system to jump-start sales.

By Kim Peterson Apr 25, 2011 1:25PM
Nintendo (NTDOY) will debut a new video-game system next year to replace the Wii, the surprising success that revolutionized the industry.

It's good timing, as Nintendo has now seen two years of profit declines. The company didn't reveal many details about the upcoming console, saying in a short statement only that it will have a playable model to show off in June at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Expect an official launch before the holiday season.

The Wii elicited snickers from the industry when it debuted in 2006, coming on the heels of Nintendo's disappointing GameCube, but the system and its motion-sensing controller were a phenomenal success.  

The latest fund to tap the roaring BRIC economy reduces single-stock risk with a more diversified approach.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 25, 2011 11:18AM

Image: Brazil (© Donald Edwards/age fotostock)By Roger Nusbaum, TheStreet

 

Brazil has become a very popular investment destination in recent years, and that has led to the creation of multiple exchange-traded products focused on this emerging market.

 

The latest is First Trust Brazil AlphaDEX Fund (FBZ), one of nine international AlphaDEX funds that were recently launched.

 

First Trust defines the AlphaDEX brand and strategy as enhanced indexing, meaning First Trust takes an index, screens all its components for fundamental and growth factors, and then selects the top-scoring stocks for inclusion in a fund.

 

First Trust has had success using this process with domestic ETFs. With the launch of the Brazil AlphaDEX and its eight sister funds, the company is betting it can repeat that success with international indexes.

 

A look at the coffee king through Porter's Five Forces.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Apr 25, 2011 11:12AM

Image: Coffee (© HD Connelly/Getty Images/Getty Images)By Jason Moser

 

Not too long ago I opened a position in Starbucks (SBUX) for my Rising Star portfolio. The idea was (and is) pretty simple: The company has a brand recognized the world over, and there are plenty of growth opportunities still ahead.

 

Still, I think some of management's biggest challenges lie in growing market share in places like China and India as well as growing the consumer-packaged-goods segment to one day rival that of the retail store segment.

 

I always find it helpful to take a look at companies through Porter's Five Forces to get a better grip on their competitive advantages and potential areas of weakness; threat levels can range from high to low and everywhere in between.

 

The Internet retailer has become more expensive than the far superior Apple.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 25, 2011 11:09AM

By Jake Lynch, TheStreet

 

In the early 2000s, Amazon (AMZN) distinguished itself as a dot-com survivor, emerging from the tech wreck bloodied but unbowed. Today it is among the most powerful companies on the Web.

 

Superlative inventory management, low pricing and innovative rewards programs have helped Amazon propel revenue 32% a year since 2008. But despite Amazon's outstanding fundamentals, its stock is overvalued and overloved.

 

There are signs that the growth trajectory at Amazon is tapering. Whereas sales expansion remains brisk, hitting 36% in the seasonally strong fourth quarter, profit growth was marginal. Amazon's quarterly net income rose 8.3% and earnings per share ascended 7.1%, earning a growth score of 1 out of 5 from TheStreet Ratings' quantitative equity model.

 

While big banks continue to struggle, the charts for these regional banks appear to be bottoming, making them possible star performers once financials turn around.

By MoneyShow.com Apr 25, 2011 10:52AM
By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com

It has been a generally mixed quarter of earnings so far for the financial stocks, and technically, the Select Sector SPDR - Financial (XLF) is still lagging well behind the overall market. It is trying to hold the key support at $15.79 and shows a pattern of lower highs.

The earnings from the large banks have not really been encouraging, as the 45% profit drop by Morgan Stanley (MS) necessitated a restructuring plan that it hopes will stabilize its financial outlook.

Citigroup, Inc.’s (C) earnings were not much better, as profit was down 32%, although it improved from the fourth quarter of 2010, beating analyst estimates. Citigroup had a nearly $3 billion drop in profits from its institutional securities business and the reverse stock split is still on the minds of many investors.

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) also beat estimates, but its stock was still hit hard, down 4.5% last week on the heaviest volume since last October.

Though I have been negative on the big banks for some time, there are clearly going to be some winners in the financial sector.

Many of the regional banks could double from current levels and still be worth only half of what they were in 2006. I have found three regional banks stocks where the charts suggest that the worst of the selling may be over.
 

As Amazon, eBay and Netflix prepare to report earnings, Internet stock funds will try to build on last week's tech rally. Gold, energy and aerospace are other sectors to keep an eye on.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 25, 2011 10:32AM

By Don Dion, TheStreet

 

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

 

1. First Trust Dow Jones Internet Index Fund (FDN)

 

So far, earnings season has proven largely positive for the technology sector after firms including Intel (INTC), Apple (AAPL), and IBM (IBM) all reported stellar performance over the past three months.

 

For FDN, however, the first few weeks of earnings season have been a mixed bag. Yahoo (YHOO) and Juniper Networks (JNPR) reported promising numbers last week. Meanwhile, however, index leader Google (GOOG) has struggled to regain ground after releasing a troublesome report.

 

FDN will be back in the spotlight this week as a number of major components announce their quarterly earnings, including Amazon (AMZN), eBay (EBAY), Akamai (AKAM) and Netflix (NFLX) are slated to report throughout the week.

 

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[BRIEFING.COM] The stock market ended the Thursday session on an upbeat note with blue chips showing relative strength for the second consecutive day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (+0.4%) and S&P 500 (+0.3%) settled ahead of the Russell 2000 (+0.2%) and the Nasdaq Composite (+0.1%). It is worth mentioning the benchmark index posted its fourth consecutive gain, registering a new record closing high at 1992.38.

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