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Investors who dubbed the aluminum giant's first-quarter earnings 'disappointing' didn't do any real homework.

By Jim Cramer Apr 13, 2011 9:26AM

the streetjim cramer of thestreet.comIt was like an orchestrated smear campaign -- one of the most effective I have ever seen. I am talking about the across-the-board Web-radio-TV-print campaign to use the word "disappointing" in front of Alcoa's (AA) earnings report.

 

I have followed Alcoa through thick and thin for many, many years, through several CEOs and many cycles. I have seen the company's fortunes wax and wane and the business get hammered beyond recognition and the business throw off amounts of cash flow that were obscene.

 

Every time I always had the same feeling: When is this company going to get a CEO with a worldwide vision who can take advantage of all of the fantastic growth markets for aluminum, lower its costs of production, take share and expand to where the real demand is, the emerging markets?

 

Finally, Alcoa has that CEO, Klaus Kleinfeld. Finally, the company has the vision, has the growth where it should be and is lowering costs and taking share. Finally, it reports a really good quarter and raises the growth rate for its end markets and therefore for itself. Finally, it is delivering what it said it would do -- or a little bit better -- on the way to opening some gigantic new plants that will be the lowest-cost smelters on earth.

 

And now it's "disappointing"? Now it's not what people want? Now people don't like the growth and the end markets and the projections? Now people doubt the management team?

 

Movie tie-ins might give Hasbro the boost it needs to gain an advantage over larger rival Mattel. The toy-makers report first-quarter results this week.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 13, 2011 8:34AM

lightning mcqueen from 'cars'TheStreetBy Frank Byrt, TheStreet

 

Forget the year of the rabbit -- 2011 might turn out to be the year of the Potato Head.

 

This week Hasbro (HAS), the second-largest toy company in the world, and No. 1 Mattel (MAT) are expected to post first-quarter earnings. And Hasbro is gearing up for a busy summer of blockbuster movie tie-ins that could lift its profit by 20% this year.

 

Investors will size up the toy rivals this week, with Hasbro reporting quarterly results on Thursday and Mattel on Friday. The strengthening economy and ancillary businesses such as movie tie-ins and TV programs could bring surprises for investors this year. And these revenue sources may prove especially lucrative for Hasbro, which is best known for its Mr. Potato Head doll, G.I. Joe action figures and iconic board games.

 

It's not hard to find and buy good stocks, but it takes a lot of work and a disciplined approach. Includes video.

By Kim Peterson Apr 13, 2011 7:11AM

See the end of this post for a chance to win a $100 gift card.

 

A good friend recently told me his retirement savings strategy, and I use the word "strategy" loosely here. He was terrified of stocks, so he chose to put his savings in bank certificates of deposit.

He now has $40,000 in cash earning less than 2% interest, and at that rate will retire with, oh, about two years of spending money. But who can blame him for his fear of the market? The ups and downs of the past few years have wreaked havoc on nest eggs everywhere, and no one wants to get burned again.

But how to do it? How do you avoid the investing pitfalls yet still build that fat mountain of cash? One key step is confronting your fears about stocks and building the knowledge and confidence to invest. It will take work and you'll do it one baby step at a time, but soon enough your inner Buffett will lead the way.

Speaking of the Oracle of Omaha, he gives his tips for basic investors in the following video. Below the video are my five steps to get you started on finding great stocks:

Post continues after video:

 

Financial markets are punishing the dollar instead of Treasury bonds.

By Jim J. Jubak Apr 12, 2011 4:31PM
Jim JubakSo why is it that U.S. bond prices aren't sinking? More important, why is it that U.S. bond yields aren’t sinking?

It can’t be that overseas investors found last week’s near shutdown of the U.S. government a reassuring sign of Washington’s fiscal responsibility.

Yields on U.S. bonds are lower now than when the government was running a budget surplus a decade ago -- and when the amount of U.S. government debt outstanding was much, much lower. Marketable debt outstanding has climbed to $9.13 trillion, from $4.34 trillion in the middle of 2007.

But the yield on the benchmark ten-year Treasury is just 3.49% as I post this on April 12. The average yield from 1998 through 2001, according to Bloomberg, was 5.48%.
 

The world is running out of helium. The gas, which is used in numerous medical applications, isn't being recycled because it's so cheap.

By Kim Peterson Apr 12, 2011 3:04PM
Perhaps helium is the wisest investment of all? Yes, helium, the balloon filler and source of endless funny-talk jokes.

Helium is used in all kinds of serious applications, such as MRI scanners, superconductors and radiation monitors. It could be recycled, but it's not because helium is so cheap now there's no point.

As a result, scientists say the world could run out of helium in 25 to 30 years. How could this be happening? Blame the U.S. government.

A little back story is in order: Back in 1925, when the U.S. needed a stable supply of helium for dirigibles, the U.S. established the National Helium Reserve. And a massive store of the gas was kept near Amarillo, Tex., the Independent reports

After leading the market for months, oil and gas stocks plummet as energy prices cool. Risky assets are following them down. But aren't lower energy prices a good thing?

By Anthony Mirhaydari Apr 12, 2011 2:45PM

Energy stocks have been the big losers over the past week. The drop accelerated Monday on word that Libya's embattled Muammar Gadhafi has accepted a cease-fire/peace plan put forth by the African Union. It was hoped that such a deal would quell the unrest and minimize further damage to Libyan oil infrastructure. Already, the loss of more than 1.3 million barrels per day of Libyan sweet has resulted in the eighth-largest supply disruption since 1950.

 

The deal was rejected by the rebels, but the hope of peace was enough to send oil tumbling. Also contributing was a small 2011 GDP growth estimate cut from the IMF in its latest World Economic Outlook. Also contributing was a research note from Goldman Sachs warning of a "substantial pullback" for crude as global supplies remain "adequate."

 

We've written a lot about the risk that the current energy price strike presents to economic growth because of the negative impact on inflation and consumer confidence. Through this lens, any drop in oil prices -- especially the large and dramatic one we've seen that has taken prices from near $114 a barrel Friday to $106 today-- should be a huge positive for stocks, since it relaxes inflation's grip around the throat of the economy. So why aren't stocks moving higher?

 

The company has pulled back its focus on the consumer market, returning to the core network-equipment business it does best. With video.

By Kim Peterson Apr 12, 2011 12:48PM
The cute little Flip camera from Cisco Systems (CSCO) has been in trouble for a while now. Why would you need to buy a standalone video camcorder when a regular camera -- and now even a smartphone -- can record high-quality video?

Perhaps a bigger question is: Why was Cisco trying to enter the low-margin, highly competitive consumer electronics market?

Cisco answered both questions definitively Tuesday. It's closing down its Flip business and sharply reducing its consumer focus. Instead, it's returning to the core network-equipment business that it does best.

Cisco investors largely shrugged at the move. The stock, which has been a drag all year, was basically flat.

Post continues after this video analyzing Cisco's announcement: 

Here's a long-term, stable play in the technology sector.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 12, 2011 11:38AM

By Don Dion, TheStreet

 

Earnings season began with Alcoa's (AA) report after Monday's market close.

 

In the coming weeks, other companies will follow Alcoa's lead and share how they have fared over the past quarter. Performance numbers will interest investors wondering about the economic recovery. Equally important will be the companies' respective outlooks and guidance for the remainder of the year.

 

ETF investors will want to keep a close watch on the earnings calendar. As the season presses on, a number of major index components will step up to the plate.

 

A quick lesson in pairs trading.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Apr 12, 2011 11:34AM

By Alex Pape

 

This article is part of our Rising Star Portfolios series. 

 

There are few industries more beaten-down today than for-profit educators, for good reason. Questionable corporate ethics, high student default rates, and a parade of short-sellers have blended into a potent stew of investor discontent. But investor fear paints with too broad a brush. There will be winners and losers in this space, but the industry isn't going away.

 

Over the last 12 years for which data are available, the number of high school graduates per year grew 27%, but the capacity of traditional universities -- often locked into their brick-and-mortar campuses -- isn't. Neither is that of community colleges, which currently lack both the bandwidth and the funding to close the gap. In that light, the rise of the 530 for-profit educational institutions (that's 20% of all educators) currently operating in the U.S. makes more sense. It also explains why they can't all go away.

 

Investors seeking clarity amid the mixed signals of fourth-quarter results and the current earnings season should look to these shares.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 12, 2011 11:13AM

By Jamie Dlugosch, StockPickr

 

Stocks have been quite resilient lately. As the first quarter of 2011 has come to an end, the market is perched near multiyear highs. It seems nothing can pierce traders' bubble of optimism.

 

While the bullish moves and rise in stock values may have been justified by corporate profit growth, the question now is how sustainable that growth will be.

 

We’ll find out now that earnings season has begun in earnest. Will companies blow away current estimates? If so, stock prices are likely to move higher. Or will profits slip under the pressures of competition and rising input prices that negatively affect margins?

 

At $114, the e-reader costs much less than an iPad. But will the strategy work?

By InvestorPlace Apr 12, 2011 10:45AM

By Anthony John Agnello, InvestorPlace tech writer

 

investorplace logoEarly indications show that Apple sold 2.5 million iPad 2s in March. To put that into perspective, Apple sold one $499-plus tablet for nearly every citizen in the state of Utah! So who's going to buy an e-reader now that tablets have taken over?

 

Anyone with $114, if Amazon (AMZN) and its newest Kindle have anything to say about it. That's the new rock-bottom price point for the entry-level version of the Kindle.


But there's a catch. In between pages of "The Old Man and the Sea," you'll have to suffer through ad spots from Old Navy. That's because Amazon announced the lower price point will be subsidized by advertisers on the Kindle.

 

Months ago, stock market pros were saying the run in Chinese stocks was over. They were wrong.

By TheStreet Staff Apr 12, 2011 9:51AM

By Gary Gordon, TheStreet

 

Months ago, equity market "pros" pounded China mercilessly. China real estate was the next bubble to burst. Inflation was spiraling out of control. And commodity stockpiling was proof positive that China was dead in the dry-bulk shipping water.

 

Well, some folks had a far different perception. For instance, I spoke at the 4th annual Inside ETF Conference on Accessing Asia and China." And on Feb. 7, live from the venue in Florida, I wrote the following:

 

"The MSCI China Index trades at 11.5 times forward earnings, the lowest forward multiple since 2004. With Hong Kong trading at nearly 18 times forward earnings, the disparity is at or near a record . . . There are plenty of reasons to keep an eye on the SPDR S&P China Fund (GXC). I expect it to drop a bit further, possibly testing its 200-day moving average. A pullback of 12%-14% from GXC's November peak is my anticipated entry point."

 

GXC shares hit $84.48 in November, but savvy investors were able to acquire shares at or near $74 in the third week of February. Since that time, it's been a fairly brisk ride back towards the November highs.

 

Just wait until stocks fall to more attractive prices.

By Jim Cramer Apr 12, 2011 9:25AM

the streetthe streetSo we would go in to the office at the old hedge fund today, and I would start our 6 a.m. meeting with a simple view: "Why aren't we 100% short?" Why should we own anything?"

 

That's how I feel as I log on to the PC today. Why own anything? Why not be 100% short? The economy is getting weak; the debt ceiling is irreconcilable; Japan will never get its act together; taxes are going up; earnings are missing estimates; President Barack Obama is about to speak, which will be dreadful for stocks; Elizabeth Warren is about to be banking czar; China is slowing; and if oil goes up, it causes demand destruction, but if oil goes down, we've had demand destruction -- just like 2008.

 

Alcoa (AA) does the number and says the trends are fine, yet the stock is a disaster and people who bought it hate it even though it's been a good run. Why own it? Why buy it?

 

What is the point? Sell everything?

 

China's leading search engine is not a bad play, if you can put up with intense short-term volatility.

By Jim J. Jubak Apr 11, 2011 6:33PM
Jim JubakHow much are you willing to pay now for a great long-term growth story? And how much volatility can you stand?

Those are the current questions for owners of shares of Baidu (BIDU), China’s leading search engine.

The stock has been on a tear since December, climbing to $143 on April 4 (before pulling back to $139 today, April 7) from $97 a share on Dec. 31. That’s a gain, as of today, of 43% in a little over three months. And the intraday high at $143.48 marked a new high for the stock.

The shares now trade at about 90 times trailing 12-month earnings per share, and 55 times the projected 2011 earnings per share.

Pricey? Well, the shares aren’t as expensive as they seem, considering Wall Street projections for the company’s earnings growth. The median estimate from the 25 analysts who follow the stock calls for 45% earnings growth in 2012.
 

Smaller airports are making all kinds of concessions to get permission to receive the new 747-8. With video.

By Kim Peterson Apr 11, 2011 6:21PM
Air cargo is a hot market right now, and everyone wants in on it. Even the airports, which are scrambling to bring Boeing's (BA) newest jumbo 747 into their gates.

The 747-8 is the largest commercial aircraft Boeing has ever made. Its wingspan is 11 feet wider and body 18 feet longer than the 747-400, the Associated Press reports.

The enormous plane is the same size category as the giant Airbus 380, which is exclusively for passengers. Boeing's plane, however, is a cargo aircraft.

Boeing will deliver the first 747-8s to customers later this year, and airports are clamoring to receive them. Even smaller airports in Toledo, Ohio, and Huntsville, Ala., are trying to get permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to accept the planes.

Post continues after this video about the 747-8: 

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