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Customers are calling the shots in the business software market, demanding discounts that companies may not otherwise want to give.

By Jonathan Berr Dec 21, 2011 2:43PM
Shares of Oracle (ORCL) plunged nearly 14% Wednesday after the software company reported its worst earnings shortfall ever. Tech investors are nervous -- with good reason.

The company said many of the deals it expected to close in the quarter did not, even after it added 1,700 salespeople in the first half of the year. Revenue at Oracle rose 2% to $8.8 billion, and new software license revenue -- a critical metric -- rose just 2% to $2 billion. 

The world's largest chain of indoor water parks expects to end year with a splash.

By Zacks.com Dec 21, 2011 1:54PM

By Zacks Equity Research
 

Great Wolf Resorts (WOLF) recently raised its revenue per available room (RevPAR) and adjusted EBITDA outlook for the upcoming fourth quarter as it believes the business is progressing impressively and above expectation.


The Madison, Wis., company expects adjusted EBITDA to exceed the higher end of its previous guidance range of $10.5 to $12.5 million and same-store RevPAR growth to be 8.5%, up from the earlier projections of 6 to 8%.

 
Tags: WOLF

The fix appears to address some, but not all, user complaints.

By Kim Peterson Dec 21, 2011 1:36PM
The excitement around Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle Fire release has been dampened by a number of user complaints, and Wednesday the company unveiled some fixes.

Amazon has issued a free software update that "enhances fluidity and performance." The update is also supposed to improve the tablet's touchscreen after complaints that the screen was slow to respond. 
Tags: AMZN

The bank reduces risk and gets some breathing room from its leading critic.

By The Fiscal Times Dec 21, 2011 1:22PM
He huffed and he puffed -- but he stopped short of blowing the house down.

The "he" in this case is Sean Egan of Egan-Jones Ratings, the bête noire of embattled investment bank Jefferies Group (JEF) and its CEO, Richard Handler. Egan on Tuesday held back from making further demands on Jefferies to bolster its balance sheet by raising new equity -- at least for the time being. 

Users nationwide are seeing spotty 3G and 4G service just weeks after an earlier outage.

By Kim Peterson Dec 21, 2011 1:01PM
Verizon (VZ) customers nationwide were having trouble accessing the company's data network Wednesday. Again. It was the second time this month that Verizon's network has had problems.

Investors are shrugging off the situation. Verizon shares were down only 26 cents -- less than 1% -- Wednesday morning to $38.95. 
Tags: VZ

Growing demand and rising dividends make this miner a top pick for income investors.

By TheStockAdvisors Dec 21, 2011 12:57PM
Image: Elevated view of freight cars with coal © Joseph Sohm-Visions of America/Photodisc/Getty ImagesBy Ian Wyatt, Top Stock Insights

Emerging markets are industrializing, increasing expenditure on energy and infrastructure projects, and creating a massive demand for industrial resources.

One of the most vital of these industrial resources is cheap, dirty, plentiful coal. While we're all fans of renewable energy, coal still remains a major part of energy generation, and it will remain so for many years into the future. 

Oracle is downgraded to 'hold,' while GM and Ford are initiated with a 'buy.'

By MSN Money Partner Dec 21, 2011 12:25PM
Information provided by Theflyonthewall.com

Wednesday's noteworthy upgrades include:
  • Research in Motion (RIMM) upgraded to Buy from Hold at ThinkEquity
  • Hershey (HSY) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
  • Cobalt (CIE) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Goldman
  • Amphenol (APH) upgraded to Top Pick from Outperform at RBC Capital
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Argus
 

Rail traffic is likely to benefit from surge in retail and online sales.

By Trefis Dec 21, 2011 12:23PM
James Lauritz/Digital Vision/Getty ImagesThe Association of American Railroads (AAR) continued to show gains in rail traffic in its November monthly report. The holiday shopping season had a great start this year, with retail sales up 16% during the Thanksgiving weekend and online sales increasing by 26% on Black Friday compared to last year. The demand to move goods within the country will benefit freight carriers such as Norfolk Southern (NSC), CSX (CSX) and Union Pacific (UNP).

Elevated fuel prices and limited truck capacity have also altered the way goods are transported, benefiting railroads, which provide a sustainable solution to carrying goods at reasonable rates. 
Tags: csxNSCUNP

Geography, demographics and more will boost the Turkish mobile phone operator in 2012.

By InvestorPlace Dec 21, 2011 11:10AM
Digital Vision Ltd./SuperStockBy Charles Sizemore, CFA, Editor, The Sizemore Investment Letter


Before falling to the Turks in 1453, Constantinople was known as the Queen of Cities across Europe and the Middle East. No other city in the world could match its culture, sophistication and economy. The city sat at the intersection of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, the West and the East, Europe and Asia. It was the axis around which the known world spun.


Modern Istanbul lacks the economic clout of a New York, London or Hong Kong -- for now. But as it did in its former days of grandeur, Turkey finds itself at the center of several very powerful forces. That bodes well for stocks that call the nation home, including my top pick for the best stock of 2012, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri AS (TKC), a mobile phone operator more commonly known just as "Turkcell."

 

A sovereign-debt serpent that feeds on itself could actually solve the crisis.

By Jim Cramer Dec 21, 2011 10:51AM

TheStreetThey didn't need Eurobonds. They have the financial Ouroboros, that snake that eats its tail and devours its own waste and prospers in good health. Isn't that really what the European banks are doing?


It's a pseudo-elegant solution, a bank run in reverse. Italian banks, the most hobbled banks in the universe and devoid of funding for months and months, are able to buy sovereign bonds, no matter how toxic, no matter how many of them there are, as long as they are allowed to lock in the ECB's gift rates, the ultra-low three-year guaranteed funds that the entity is offering. 

 

Securing an investment grade debt rating with a stable outlook reflects optimism about Aetna's future performance. Zacks rates Aetna short-term 'stron buy.'

By Zacks.com Dec 21, 2011 9:33AM

Bananastock/age fotostockBy: Zacks Equity Research
 

Last week, rating agency A.M. Best Co. assigned ratings to Aetna's (AET) securities that were recently registered through the universal shelf registration process. The rating agency assigned a "bbb+" rating on the company’s senior unsecured debt, "bbb" on subordinated debt and "bbb-" on preferred stock with a stable outlook.


Shelf registration is a process authorized by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which allows a single registration document from a company for the issuance of multiple securities.

 
Tags: AETWLP

Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, U.A.E and Kuwait are all high-income economies, and some are growing faster than those of BRIC countries.

By Trefis Dec 21, 2011 8:48AM
Pink/SuperStockBaskin-Robbins's strong international presence in strategically key locations could bolster Dunkin' Brands (DNKN) stock to $29. In addition to BRIC economies, the company is also expanding in the Middle East as its operations in this region have made significant gains of late.

A disappointing domestic performance by Baskin-Robbins is also prompting the company to look eastward for growth. There are about 4,000 Baskin-Robbins outlets internationally and revenues from this segment grew more than 10% year over year last quarter. Dunkin Brands competes with McDonald's (MCD), Starbucks (SBUX), Krispy Kreme, Dairy Queen and Cold Stone Creamery to name a few. 

The company has moved beyond its chemical past to become a diverse owner of high-growth businesses.

By Jim J. Jubak Dec 21, 2011 1:17AM
You’re entitled to feel whiplashed by DuPont (DD) over the past week or so.

First, on Dec. 9, DuPont announced that fourth-quarter earnings would come in at 28 cents to 36 cents a share, well below the Wall Street consensus of 46 cents a share. The problem, the company said, is that customers are cutting back on orders on fears of a global economic slowdown, preferring to draw down inventories rather than risk getting caught with raw materials they don’t need.
 
Tags: DD

Will the athletic retailer beat year-over-year expectations?

By Benzinga Dec 20, 2011 7:25PM

By Scott Rubin, Benzinga Staff Writer


Global athletic apparel retailer Nike (NKE) continued strong operational momentum in its fiscal second quarter, reporting profit of $469 million, or $1 per share, up from $457 million, or 94 cents a share, in last year's second quarter.


The results beat Wall Street analyst estimates of 97 cents a share. The company cited strong consumer demand, expense leverage and a lower average share count in driving the strong results.

 

High-end products are still selling well despite economic uncertainty.

By Kim Peterson Dec 20, 2011 5:44PM
Wanna buy a $15,600 Gucci purse?

CNBC reports luxury goods targeted to wealthy shoppers are selling briskly. The percentage of the population that apparently has shrugged off any recession is buying enough Christian Louboutins for all of us. The average transaction amount, by the way, at Christian Louboutin's Dallas store is just over $1,108. 

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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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