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Les Moonves recently offered a surprisingly upbeat assessment of advertising sales.

By Jonathan Berr Dec 6, 2011 6:08PM
Image: Watching television (© Maria Teijeiro/Getty Images/Getty Images)When it comes to the TV business, CBS' (CBS) Les Moonves is definitely a glass-half-full kind of guy.

Speaking at a conference hosted by UBS, the head of America's most-watched TV network offered a surprisingly upbeat assessment of advertising sales. "Network television's doing better than it's done in many years," he said.

He added that CBS ad prices in the scatter market -- which sells advertising spots closer to a program's air date -- were up "in the mid-teens" from prices seen in the springtime upfront market. He also said that CBS' competitors "are doing not as well." 

A warning sign has emerged for one of 2011's top-performing sectors, calling into question which sectors will outperform in 2012.

By MoneyShow.com Dec 6, 2011 6:08PM

Image: Medical doctor (© John Arborgast / Photodisc Red/Getty Images)By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com


The S&P 500 closed Monday at 1257.09, just a fraction below 1257.64, which was where it closed on December 31, 2010. Clearly, a buy-and-hold strategy on the S&P 500 has not worked well this year, but performance is always relative.


Those who bought and held the Select Sector SPDR - Financial (XLF) are feeling much worse, as it is currently down 17.4% for the yearLooking at the quarterly performance of the nine major Select Sector SPDR ETFs, you get even a better feeling for how difficult the past year has been.

 
Tags: etfXLEXLF

China's biggest online travel agency has 13,000 employees, and has seen margins fall as wages increase.

By Jim J. Jubak Dec 6, 2011 4:34PM
Image: Man pulling suitcase in airport © Keith Brofsky/UpperCut Images/Getty ImagesI sold Ctrip.Com International (CTRP) out of my Jubak Picks 50 portfolio back on Jan. 18 because I thought the company’s operating margins were eroding as it had to spend more to fend off competition. (The stock is down 40.1% from Jan. 18 through Monday's close.)

That’s exactly what the company reported on Nov. 14 when it released third-quarter financial results. Operating margins for the third quarter of 2011 fell to 31% from 38% in the third quarter of 2010.
 
Tags: CTRP

Microsoft details its Xbox 360 Live TV offering, which includes Bing-powered voice control.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Dec 6, 2011 4:30PM
By Evan Niu

 

Apple (AAPL) is coming out with a TV. Sony (SNE) is trying to beat Cupertino to the punch. Google (GOOG) is preparing for a living-room war. Enter Microsoft (MSFT). (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)

 

The Redmond giant quietly set the stage a few months ago by bringing a gaggle of Verizon FiOS channels to the Xbox 360 alongside content partners such as Comcast and Time Warner. Microsoft has now gone official with its plans with a press release ambitiously titled "The Future of TV Begins Now on Xbox 360."

 

What do you get from owning a share in the team? Maybe the bigger issue is what you don't get.

By Kim Peterson Dec 6, 2011 3:52PM
Credit: © Leon Halip/Getty Images
Caption: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay PackersThe Green Bay Packers began selling 250,000 shares of stock Tuesday, and fans couldn't wait to snap up a little ownership in the team.

About 1,600 online orders came in the first 11 minutes, slowing down the website and frustrating some buyers, the team said. It was the team's first stock sale in 14 years and the fifth in its history.

But there isn't much here that resembles stock. In fact, the team even admits that its common stock "does not constitute an investment in 'stock' in the common sense of the term." 

The bank has much less exposure to the eurozone than some of its major peers.

By Trefis Dec 6, 2011 2:53PM
Image: Bank Vault (© Radius Images/Jupiterimages)Bank of New York Mellon (BK) was trading at less than $20 per share Tuesday, about 40% below the 52-week high hit in January.

No doubt the global economic slowdown, aggravated by the escalating debt situation in Europe, has considerably impaired the financial institution's outlook for this year and next. But the current share prices hardly do justice to the value of the bank, which holds the distinction of being the largest custodian bank in the world.

BNY Mellon has much less exposure to the eurozone compared to other major banks -- particularly investment banks such as Morgan Stanley (MS). 
Tags: BKMS

A drop in business at the Italian-style dining chain is expected to slow profit and sales growth in fiscal 2012.

By Jonathan Berr Dec 6, 2011 2:27PM

Updated: 5:41 p.m. ET

 

Shares of Darden Restaurants (DRI) plunged 12.4% Tuesday after the company cut its earnings outlook, having failed to ignite consumer interest in its struggling Olive Garden chain.

Darden, the world's largest full-service restaurant company, expects earnings per share growth from continuing operations of 4% to 7% for fiscal 2012, down from an earlier forecast of 12% to 15%. Sales are now expected to rise 6% to 7%, below a previous estimate of 6.5% to 7.5%. The Orlando, Fla. company blamed its problems on the dismal performance at the 750 Olive Garden locations.

 
Tags: DRI

The equipment maker is bullish about prospects in China in particular, where it's expanding production capacity.

By Trefis Dec 6, 2011 1:07PM
Image: Construction (© Photodisc Green/Getty Images)Caterpillar (CAT) has high hopes for 2012, supported by strong demand for mining and machinery equipment from India, China and other emerging markets.

Management says it will continue to expand production levels next year, when it expects sales and revenue to grow by 20%. Caterpillar is very bullish about the growth prospects in China in particular, where it's expanding production capacity. It mainly competes with Deere and Co. (DE), Komatsu, Terex (TEX) and Cummins (CMI). 
Tags: CATCMI

Two analysts upgraded LinkedIn. Exxon Mobil was upgraded to 'buy' while Altria was initiated with a 'buy.'

By MSN Money Partner Dec 6, 2011 12:58PM
Information provided by Theflyonthewall.com

Tuesday's noteworthy upgrades include:
  • General Electric (GE) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Bernstein
  • Texas Instruments (TXN) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at JMP Securities
  • LinkedIn (LNKD) was upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at JP Morgan and to Overweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
  • Canadian Pacific (CP) upgraded to Equal Weight from Underweight at Barclays
  • Exxon Mobil (XOM) upgraded to Buy from Hold at ISI Group
 

Unconventional energy finds also come with unconventional risks, but investing in the majors can minimize the risk.

By InvestorPlace Dec 6, 2011 10:59AM
Comstock/CorbisBy Aaron Levitt


The Jed Clampett days of finding oil -- accidentally in the case of the old Beverly Hillbillies clan leader -- are a distant past. No longer can an oil company find elephant fields in someone's backyard and easily pull the crude out.


To meet rising global energy demand and dwindling conventional supplies, energy companies have been scrambling to find new sources of production. With oil's sustained high prices, the industry has turned to a variety of unconventional sources to meet future demand. From offshore fields in Ghana and Mozambique to oil sands deposits in Canada, these finds have become more profitable. And while political, environmental and financial risks to developing these supplies abound, investors who bet on them -- carefully -- could be handsomely rewarded.

 

The stock of this global cigarette maker looks bullish from a fundamental and technical standpoint.

By TheStockAdvisors Dec 6, 2011 10:50AM
Steve Mason/Photodisc Blue/Getty ImagesBy Leo Fasciocco, Ticker Tape Digest

Philip Morris International (PM) sells cigarettes such as Marlboro and Virginia Slims in 180 countries, generating annual revenues of $75.3 billion.

The stock was floated back in early 2008 -- as a spin-off from Altria Group (MO) -- and traded near 50 at that time. Since hitting its bear market low around 33 in 2009, the stock has been driving higher strongly.  
Tags: MOPM

Oil and oil services stocks represent the best buys and could do well on the next euro-related dip.

By Jim Cramer Dec 6, 2011 10:46AM

the streetYou know you have a strong oil market when Transocean (RIG) makes you more than 10% in an equity offering in no time flat. Last week, this most disgraced and scorned oil service company priced 26 million shares at $40.50, an unthinkable sale, given how much stock RIG has bought back at much higher prices.

 

Monday, though, Transocean traded as high as $45.50, a remarkable move that shows the power of this rally in oil.

 

Ross's continuous effort to increase its store base, coupled with the ability to deliver positive same-store sales, will augur well for its top-line growth.

By Zacks.com Dec 6, 2011 9:44AM

Getty ImagesBy: Zacks Equity Research

Ross Stores Inc. (ROST), the second largest off-price retailer of apparel and home accessories, reported last week a growth of 5% in comparable-store sales for the four-week period ended November 26, 2011. This was better than the company's forecast of a 2% to 3% increase for the month.


Sales in November increased 10% to $765 million from $696 million in the year-ago period. Regionally, Florida, California and Southwest were the top performing market with categories like Juniors and Shoes positively influencing results.

 
Tags: ROST

The oilfield services provider has seen strong North American growth, but international operations fell behind estimates.

By Trefis Dec 5, 2011 5:38PM
Image: Oil derricks (© Comstock/Corbis)Baker Hughes (BHI) saw international operations lag estimates for the third quarter as deterioration in the geographic and product mix of its services hit margins by 125 basis points.

The oilfield services provider expects international margins to recover to 15% in the current quarter. The company's performance fell short of our estimates, which were based on the assumption that operations would benefit from the acquisition of BJ Services last year.

Operations in North America, however, saw robust growth -- as was the case for larger operators Halliburton (HAL) and Schlumberger (SLB). 
Tags: BHIHALSLB

Strong acquisitions are key in this business, and SAP is showing more initiative with plans to buy SuccessFactors.

By Zacks.com Dec 5, 2011 5:15PM

SAP AG (SAP) launched another attack in its ongoing battle with rival Oracle (ORCL) with an announcement that it is on the verge of acquiring software company SuccessFactors (SFSF) for $3.4 billion in cash.

 

SuccessFactors is a leading developer of cloud computing software used by firms to evaluate employee performance. The acquisition is expected to give SAP a much needed growth platform in the software-as-a service (SaaS) market, where it faces significant competition from Oracle. Analysts believe that the acquisition will boost SAP’s competitive position in human resource applications, while reaffirming its commitment to SaaS as a key business model.

 

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