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A new grain forecast is bringing down farm-related stocks -- and creating a good buying opportunity.

By Jim J. Jubak May 13, 2011 3:47PM
Jim JubakThe May 11 crop forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture knocked the chaff out of the grain market. Corn fell in price by the most allowed on the Chicago Board of Trade, and wheat and soybean prices followed downward.

The cause of the plunge? The USDA said that grain inventories at the end of the harvest year will be larger than expected.

Corn stockpiles will climb to 900 million bushels, for example. That’s a significant 23% higher than the 730 million bushels this year. Of course, this year’s 730 million bushels is the lowest stockpile in 15 years.

You can understand why that kind of switch would have sent some commodities traders scurrying to take profits. The price of corn has doubled in the last year, as traders bet that the slim margin of error represented by that 15-year low would generate enough fear of shortages to keep prices rising.
 

The company wisely locked in prices for coffee before they hit a 34-year high. But what will happen next year?

By Kim Peterson May 13, 2011 3:21PM
Coffee prices hit a 34-year high earlier this month, but Starbucks (SBUX) doesn't seem to be too worried.

The company has already locked in its coffee costs for the year, John Culver, the president of Starbucks Coffee International told Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. So as other food producers struggle with the rising costs of raw ingredients, Starbucks has kept a lid on costs of its most important material.

Culver said he thinks the cost of coffee will come down. "We think that these prices are not based on facts given there is no supply problem," he told the newspaper, according to Reuters. "Speculators are at work here." 

With stocks and commodities sliding as the US dollar strengthens, here are 2 new short ideas to profit from the decline.

By Anthony Mirhaydari May 13, 2011 2:39PM

For months, the bulls have had it all their way. The anti-dollar "carry trade" -- fueled by a falling dollar -- helped push up risky assets across the board as hedge fund types crowded into popular trades like crude oil, silver and foreign stocks. It was all about momentum. And the gauge of sentiment was the undulations of the euro-dollar exchange rate. When it was rising, all was right in the world.

 

That's changing now as the U.S. dollar perks up against the euro in a big way. Why? Concerns over inflation, slowing economic growth and a dramatic bursting of the commodities bubble as speculators get squeezed out of crude oil and precious metals. 

 

In my recent columns and blog posts, I've highlighted all of these concerns and have recommended targeted short positions against energy and emerging-market stocks. Today, I want to recommend a few more that are focused mainly on European equities, which are showing fresh signs of weakness as the euro drops hard.

 

PepsiCo and CSX are among the companies that have recently increased their payouts.

By TheStreet Staff May 13, 2011 1:39PM

By Jonas Elmerraji, StockPickr

 

Dividend stocks had another strong week last week, with dozens of firms announcing dividend payouts or increases timed around their earnings releases for this quarter. While the market isn't currently reflecting the fundamental outperformance stocks are showing this earnings season, investors are turning to dividend-payers to get gains out of their portfolios.

 

With 2011 shaping up to be the biggest year for dividends since before the market crash of 2008, it makes sense to take a look at what dividend stocks are offering. That's because, contrary to popular belief, dividend payouts and capital gains aren't mutually exclusive.

 

On a total return basis, dividend stocks significantly outperform their non-payer peers as a whole. Over the last 36 years, dividend stocks outperformed the rest of the S&P 500 by 2.5% annually, and they outperformed nonpayers by nearly 8% every year, all while paying out cash to their shareholders, according to a study from NDR.

 

The retail heavyweights hope to offset struggling domestic sales with overseas growth.

By TheStreet Staff May 13, 2011 1:35PM

By Jeanine Poggi, TheStreet

 

Two retail giants, struggling at home, hope to have better luck overseas.

 

Wal-Mart  (WMT) and Gap (GPS) both announced expansion plans to their international business in the last 24 hours; Wal-Mart with the acquisition of a minority stake in a Chinese e-commerce company, and Gap with the announcement that it is moving its brand into Serbia and the Ukraine.

 

The discount retailer purchased a stake in China's Yihaodian, which sells groceries, consumer electronics, clothing and other items. The Chinese company was launched in July 2008.

 

Watch your step on the way down.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day May 13, 2011 1:05PM

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz

 

You don't need to look too far to bump into pessimism.

 

Remember the recovery in the housing industry? We're still waiting on that one. Real-estate portal Zillow.com is reporting that home sale prices fell 3% during the first quarter, off by more than 8% over the past year. According to Zillow, real-estate prices have dipped for 57 consecutive months.

 

That's a nasty streak, unless you happen to be in the market for a new home without one to sell. It gets worse.

 

There are still plenty of companies posting lower earnings than they did a year ago. Let's go over a few of the names that are expected to go the wrong way on the bottom line next week.

 

A recent Bloomberg Poll shows that 68% of investors, analysts and traders have an unfavorable view of the potential presidential candidate. With video.

By Kim Peterson May 13, 2011 12:38PM
The following post is from Bloomberg News:

Donald Trump, the real estate developer-turned-reality-television star who promotes his business acumen as he ponders a U.S. presidential campaign, is a bust with global investors.

By 68% to 14%, the billionaire is viewed unfavorably by respondents in a Bloomberg Global Poll of investors, analysts and traders. In the U.S., where Trump is more widely known, his unfavorable rating climbs to 79%, while those viewing him favorably rises to 17%.

"The last thing this country needs is an uber-political, self-serving, egomaniacal media junkie whose all-sizzle-no-steak approach to life and politics only distracts us all from the real issues and problems of our country," said poll respondent Douglas Schoninger, 50, president of DJS Capital Management Inc. in New York.

Post continues after this video about the Bloomberg poll about Trump: 

Do you check your phone even before getting out of bed? You're not alone, one study shows.

By Kim Peterson May 13, 2011 12:07PM
How addicted are we to the Internet? One recent study shows that 35% of U.S. smartphone users check in with their phones even before getting out of bed in the morning.

The phone is the first thing these people touch when they wake up, and the most common activity is checking their Facebook accounts. About 18% of Facebook users log in while their heads are still on the pillow, according to the study by Ericsson ConsumerLab.

Even right after rising from bed, about a quarter of U.S. smartphone users go on to the Internet, and a quarter check their email.  

As you'll see from the analysis of these 4 blue-chip bank stocks, the fundamentals in the financial sector are extremely weak.

By MoneyShow.com May 13, 2011 11:39AM
By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com

Since the stock market bottomed last summer, I have been concerned about the lack of participation of the financial sector in the ensuing rally.

The numbers don’t lie—the Financial Select Spyder (XLF) closed 2010 at $15.95, and settled Thursday at $16.00. In comparison, the S&P 500 is up 7.2% over the same period.

In February, I took a technical look at both Bank of America (BAC) and Citigroup (C), which were both reaching critical junctures. At the time, I advised having your stops in place to avoid big losers in your portfolio. Since then, they are down 14.6% and 9.3%, respectively.

Besides keeping these stocks out of your portfolio, the other major concern is what will happen once the stock market begins a meaningful correction. If the financial stocks, like the banks, are still weak when the market tops out, they are likely to lead the market on the downside.
 

Google stumbles into netbook market with Chromebook. Big Oil battles the Senate. Comcast turns friends into enemies.

By TheStreet Staff May 13, 2011 10:48AM

Here is this week's roundup of the dumbest actions on Wall Street.

 

5. Google hits the books

 

Google (GOOG) should have Googled "netbook" before it took the big plunge into Chromebook.

 

Seemingly unaware of the short, tragic history of the cheap, underpowered mini-notebook category, Google now holds up its breakthrough invention in personal computing: the Chromebook -- a cheap, underpowered mini-notebook with a three-year contract.

 

The opening of Texas locations and a Dallas distribution center could mean moves as far north as Iowa and as far east as Florida.

By InvestorPlace May 13, 2011 9:57AM

Southern California's In-N-Out Burger has officially opened in Texas. And if opening day of the Frisco location is any indication, Ronald McDonald should be shaking in his big red shoes. 


Despite gas prices averaging more than $4 a gallon, folks waited as long as three hours in the In-N-Out drive-thru to get a taste of its burgers. Some even ran out of gas and had to have some delivered.


It's all part of what some folks think is a big expansion plan that could bring the burger joint with a cult following to the entire Southern U.S.

 

Solid earnings from Macy's and Kohl's tell us consumers are thriving. Bet on more of the same from Home Depot, Target and Lowe's next week.

By Jim Cramer May 13, 2011 8:54AM

jim cramerthe streetThroughout this period of retail reporting, I have not heard a single word from the negativists about how these numbers could be so bountiful.

 

We have weak housing, we have so-so employment, we have stretched balance sheets, and we have higher gasoline prices. Yet the numbers so far, from Kohl's (KSS) and from Macy's (M) -- two you would think would be hit the hardest, because you can easily trade down to dollar stores or Target (TGT) or, yes, Wal-Mart (WMT) -- were superb. There were no holes in them.

 

Macy's, in particular, was astonishing. You had this incredible nirvana of data: fantastic sales of the higher-end products, truly terrific across-the-board selling of almost all goods except women's apparel (which was just OK) and an amazing reduction of credit balances and bad debts on the credit card side.

 

Kohl's, similarly, just shot the lights out when it came to profitability. Solid, good numbers. Not the kind that you can put up when things are not so hot.

 

A change in bank policy sparks new worries about how China views its own economy.

By Jim J. Jubak May 12, 2011 5:06PM
Jim Jubak
Another month, another increase in the reserve requirement for China’s banks.

Today, May 12, the People’s Bank raised the reserve requirement by another 0.5 percentage points, to a record 21%.

This is the fifth time this year, and the eighth time since October, that China’s central bank has raised the percentage of assets its banks need to keep on hand. (Money held in reserves is money that can’t be lent out. In theory, raising the reserve requirement should slow the economy and help control inflation.)

Unless my math is off, that’s one increase a month since October 2010.

You might think the move would be old hat by now, but it’s not. In fact, today’s move has raised new worries in China’s financial markets.
 

Facebook hires a public-relations firm to wage a stealth campaign against Google's social-networking efforts.

By Kim Peterson May 12, 2011 4:56PM
Facebook is a bit embarrassed today after being uncovered as the culprit involved in a smear campaign against rival Google (GOOG).

The issue came to light after Facebook hired a well-respected public-relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, to suggest some ugly things about Google to reporters. Burson assigned two of its highest-profile employees to the job: former CNBC reporter Jim Goldman and former political reporter John Mercurio.

Two of them got to work, alerting reporters to Google's "sweeping violations of user privacy." The culprit? Google Social Circle, which builds a network of Gmail users' friends and contacts -- and their friends and contacts. Google culls public sites like Twitter and, yes, Facebook, for the information. You can read more about it here

This cash cow remains the market leader in routers, switches and other advanced technologies. It also has an amazing balance sheet.

By MSNMoney partner May 12, 2011 2:45PM

By Adam Stockmeister, Seeking Alpha


The last of the stocks in my portfolio is the once-mighty Cisco (CSCO). It was the highest-priced company in the world at one point, with a market cap of a staggering $500 billion.


Today it sits at a lowly $96.5 billion valuation and is valued as if it were 2009 all over again. Expected margins for 2Q are 61% and FY of 62%. These are much lower than most expected, and the stock price has been unfairly punished. The products that Cisco sells have not changed, and they are going to be around for a long time, with demand staying flat or increasing in the future. I don't generally like a dividend, but I like the $0.24 dividend (paid quarterly) for about a 1.4% yield.


I believe Cisco's future is only looking up from here. Future dilution will likely stop (unless the share price increases 30%) since the average exercising price of the 732 million pending option shares for employees is $21.39, with nearly half of those options exercisable at prices 15% higher than current prices. This is good for outstanding share count as Cisco has approved up to $10B for buybacks on the current program. The company has bought back over $62B in shares in the company's history.

 

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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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