Apple is a market darling again
Apple is a market darling again

The company, which reports its quarterly earnings Tuesday, has once again become an investor favorite.

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Despite the disaster in Japan, central banks in developing economies remain committed to fighting inflation.

By Jim J. Jubak Mar 18, 2011 8:26PM
Jim JubakIt will take more than a tsunami and the potential for a nuclear disaster in Japan to divert the People's Bank of China from its efforts to tame inflation.

China's central bank has raised reserve requirements for the country’s biggest banks by another 0.5 percentage points, to 20%, effective March 25. This is the third increase in the reserve requirement in 2011, and will require banks to put an additional $53 billion into reserves.

Money that goes into reserves is money that can’t be lent. That slows the economy, and pushes against rising inflation.

Economists are forecasting that inflation will pick up to a 6% annual rate in March. That would be the fastest increase in prices since July 2008.
 

The news from the Middle East and Japan has rattled the market, but health care stocks are holding up well

By John Reese Mar 18, 2011 6:33PM

For much of the two-year-plus stock market rally, the health care sector has been left far behind the rest of the market. From the March 9, 2009, low through Feb. 23 of this year, for example, the S&P 500 gained more than 93%; the Healthcare Select SPDR exchange-traded fund, meanwhile, gained less than half that -- just 46.3%.

 

That's changed recently. While the rest of the market has stumbled amid the turmoil in the Middle East and the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan, many health care stocks have pushed higher. And year-to-date, long-term care facilities, medical care, and health care plans are all among the top industries in terms of year-to-date returns, according to Morningstar.

Even with their strong performance in recent months, many healthcare stocks still look quite attractive to my Guru Strategies, each of which is based on the approach of a different investing great. With fears about the health care bill starting to subside, and with fears of an economic slowdown causing many investors to focus more on defensive areas of the market, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at some of the health care plays my models are highest on right now:


 

Dubious short-term stunts could quash the java giant's long- term growth.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Mar 18, 2011 3:03PM

By Alyce Lomax

 

Starbucks' (SBUX) latest moves have investors buzzing -- but with the coffee colossus's former glory potentially gone for good, perhaps they should be mourning instead.

 

Investors cheered Starbucks' deal to provide K-Cups for Green Mountain Coffee Roasters' (GMCR) Keurig single-cup brewer, and they're salivating over rumors that Starbucks might acquire coffee rival Peet's (PEET) . The upswing is all the more welcome given the turbulent times the java king has weathered.

 

A recent New York Times article portrayed CEO Howard Schultz as a changed man, humbled by the company's tough years. In 2006, Starbucks stopped reporting monthly same-store sales figures -- right around the time those numbers stopped consistently thrilling and amazing investors.

 

From trucks to electronics, supply-chain problems resulting from the disaster are surfacing worldwide.

By Kim Peterson Mar 18, 2011 1:41PM
Image: Man changing oil (© Ron Chapple/Getty Images/Getty Images)We're already seeing production problems around the world as a result of the Japan disaster.

General Motors (GM) became the first carmaker to suspend operations in the U.S. as a result of the earthquake. Starting Monday, it will close its plant in Shreveport, La., because it can't get enough parts from Japan.

That plant makes the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Canyon, according to Bloomberg. Analysts were surprised at how quickly GM reacted. "We didn't expect for this ripple to hit quite this fast for North American plants," said an analyst at IHS Automotive.

Toyota (TM) can't get parts either and has pulled the plug on overtime and holiday work at its 14 North American plants, according to Kyodo News. The plants have only about two weeks' worth of parts left. 
Tags: gm

An FDA panel recommends pulling the flavored smokes from store shelves, but analysts are skeptical that the agency will follow through.

By Kim Peterson Mar 18, 2011 12:30PM
Image: Man smoking (© Steve Mason/Photodisc Blue/Getty Images)A panel at the Food and Drug Administration has recommended removing menthol cigarettes from the U.S., saying the public would be healthier as a result.

The FDA doesn't have to follow its panel's recommendations, but it often does. So there's a good chance that menthol cigarettes, which make up nearly a third of all U.S. cigarette sales, will disappear from store shelves. If it happens, the FDA said, it will be years from now, according to Dow Jones.

What's so wrong with menthol cigarettes? They're the preferred choice for adolescents, and the panel worries that menthols are a gateway to youths becoming regular smokers, according to Dow Jones.

The recommendation would dramatically affect Lorillard (LO), which makes the menthol-flavored Newport line. Newports make up about 90% of Lorillard's sales. Altria (MO) and Reynolds American (RAI) also sell menthols, but their sales are more evenly distributed across non-menthols and other products. 

Pepsi drops behind Diet Coke in Super Bowl advertising. Gilbert Gottfried makes insipid jokes about the Japan tragedy on Twitter. KV Pharmaceutical goes price gouging.

By TheStreet Staff Mar 18, 2011 10:39AM

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

 

5. Pepsi fizzles out

 

Who needs to waste money advertising in the Super Bowl? Maybe PepsiCo (PEP).

 

Beverage Digest released annual market share data on Thursday that showed that Pepsi is no longer playing second fiddle to Coca-Cola (KO). Now it's third fiddle, behind Coke and Diet Coke. There was a time that Pepsi sought to seriously challenge Coke. Now, it seems the company is taking the fizz out of its own sales through its own brand of savvy marketing. Read more

 

We've yet to receive an all-clear in Japan, but might the nuclear crisis be resolved without an Armageddon scenario after all?

By Jim Cramer Mar 18, 2011 9:06AM

jim cramerthestreetWhat happened to the "losing battle" stories? What about the "increasingly desperate measures?" Where did those stories go that said Japan’s nukes would blow in the next 48 hours? What happened to them?

 

No, the nukes aren't all clear. In fact, I will give you the whole-nine-yards caveat: long slog, might be weeks, even months, radiation could always leak, it could always meltdown ... blah, blah, blah.

 

But here we are, three days after the losing battle was lost and the desperate measures failed and it looks like there is the distinct possibility that the United States was wrong when it said there was no water on the spent fuel rods and was wrong when, not for attribution, it made it clear to the big-time press guys that all was about to fail and they should run for their lives. You know they were doing that, right? Behind the "not for attribution" stuff? You know they were teaching those lightweights in Japan a thing or two about radiation and nuclear reactors.

 

So, while no one is ever going to argue against getting out of town when there’s a chance radiation could spew, it does look like, for now, that those very, very few who said that things could possibly maybe work out with no massive destruction could be well, ahem, right.

 

Keep an eye on these Japan investments, which could see gains once the reconstruction process begins.

By TheStreet Staff Mar 17, 2011 2:13PM

By Scott Rothbort, StockPickr

 

Japan has suffered a series of disasters -- earthquake, aftershocks, tsunamis and nuclear accidents -- over the course of the last week. The Japanese stock market is down dramatically in the wake of these unfortunate events. I have refrained from making any Japanese investment or trade, with one or two brief exceptions, for nearly 20 years, but I am now taking a more serious look at opportunities that are presenting themselves as a result of the aforementioned events.

 

As a matter of background, I spent an extensive amount of time in Japan from 1986 to 2001, with particular focus on my expatriate years of 1987 to 1989. My first son was born there. While my Japanese is a bit rusty, I have an excellent grasp of the culture, history, business and economics of Japan.

 

Japan was rebuilt by allied occupational forces after World War II. Even today, the U.S. has a large naval presence in Japan. Japan's post-war coming-out party, so to speak, was the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. It was from that period on that the country became a major exporter of technology, cars, automotive parts, consumer electronics, commercial ships and pharmaceutics.

 

It's unclear how long it will take for the country's manufacturing sector to return to full production.

By Jim J. Jubak Mar 17, 2011 1:48PM
Jim JubakWe are starting to get specific reports from individual companies in Japan, which helps us fill in some of the details of how long any economic recovery will take.

Below I've reprinted a recent update from Komatsu (KMTUY), the Japanese maker of construction machinery. Note the company's outreach to suppliers and their own difficulty in procuring parts and materials, and the long-term worry about the electrical power supply.
With respect to our production plants in the concerned regions (Ibaraki, Oyama and Kooriyama plants and Komatsu Utility Co.), nothing has changed in their conditions since our last news release. We are continuing inspection and repairs of facilities and equipment of these plants.
While Komatsu Utility has resumed production, resuming overall production still remains indefinite. Concerning affected suppliers, we are supporting to their inspection of facilities and equipment and their recovery to normal production.
 

Pepsi's marketing blunders allowed Diet Coke to move into the No. 2 spot last year.

By Kim Peterson Mar 17, 2011 1:29PM
Credit: (©Urbano Delvalle/ TIME & LIFE Images/Getty Images)
Caption: Can of Diet CokeDiet Coke outsold Pepsi for the first time last year, and now Diet Coke is the No. 2 soda in the country, The Wall Street Journal reports. The top-selling soda is still Coca-Cola.

Nabbing the first two spots is "a historic win" for Coca-Cola (KO), the Journal reports. And it says a lot about the ongoing problems Pepsi (PEP) faces in trying to drive business and maintain its market share.

It was pretty clear that Diet Coke was moving into the No. 2 spot even back in 2009. Pepsi had just a slight lead over Diet Coke back then, the Journal reports. Both brands had a little less than 10% market share, while regular Coke grabbed 17% of the market.

The issue here isn't so much what Coca-Cola did right but what Pepsi did wrong. Pepsi tried some interesting marketing strategies that simply didn't pay off. 

Come on, $25 billion for a site promoting Brazilian wax treatments and photography classes?

By Kim Peterson Mar 17, 2011 10:54AM
Credit: (© Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Caption: A sign at the Groupon headquarters in ChicagoThe discount-deals site Groupon is exploring an initial public offering that could value the company as high as $25 billion, Bloomberg reports. It's no coincidence that investors are worrying about a new tech bubble.

Now we're getting a better idea of why Groupon turned down a $6 billion offer from Google (GOOG) in December. The site is on fire. It has doubled its subscriber base in the past three months to 70 million users. Just a year ago, Groupon was valued at $1.3 billion.

Aren't we going overboard here? Does a daily-deals site really warrant anything close to a $25 billion consideration? One analyst told Bloomberg that this sector is as "hot as anything, and no one knows where it's going to tap out."

Groupon rang up $760 million in sales last year, but a good chunk of that went back to local merchants in the revenue-sharing system the company has devised. 

These funds offer stability in turbulent times by focusing on the US recovery through consumer staples.

By TheStreet Staff Mar 17, 2011 10:24AM

Image: Arrow Down Umbrella (© Photographers Choice RF/SuperStock)By Don Dion, TheStreet

 

In recent months, investor confidence has been tested by a battery of disconcerting international events.

 

While it is natural to keep a close watch on these gripping news stories, it's also important to avoid letting day-to-day headlines influence your long-term investing success. There are plenty of fears out there. However, bending and swaying with daily and hourly headwinds is a surefire way to increase confusion, which may lead to losses.

 

Investing in this trying economic environment requires a careful eye and a level head. By gearing up with a strong, well-diversified portfolio, investors can alleviate some of the anxieties that come with these volatile times.

 

I don't dislike it. I just like it a lot less than almost every other segment now.

By Jim Cramer Mar 17, 2011 9:28AM

jim cramerthestreetLet's say Qualcomm (QCOM) doesn't see material impact from Japan disruptions. Let's say there are no real supply chain issues for Texas Instruments (TXN). Let's say that whatever weakness Apple (AAPL) might have from Japan supply issues was alleviated all by itself after we went to sleep. Let's postulate that, in fact, everything that any of the U.S. tech companies have going in Japan is now humming and ready.

 

Don't we simply revert to where we were a week ago before the Japanese cataclysm hit? Did we forget that we were in tablet hell, a big glut because Apple has killed the competition? Did someone find a way to create more Chinese demand for the kind of telecommunications infrastructure equipment that was in inventory correction mode last Thursday?

 

Did demand suddenly improve for consumer electronics with the Japanese being urged to stay indoors or, if they took the advice of the U.S. government, flee for their lives? Sure, it is not a big market. But we had big prices for stocks a week ago, and they reflected robust demand everywhere.

 

The master finds value lying in plain sight.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Mar 16, 2011 3:54PM

By Alex Dumortier, CFA

 

On Monday, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) announced that it is acquiring Lubrizol (LZ) , the leading global supplier of additives to transportation and industrial lubricants (so boring it's good), in a deal valued at $9.7 billion. Despite the fact that this is one of Berkshire's largest ever acquisitions, it appears that Lubrizol had gone largely unnoticed by investors. I'll take a look at this deal before describing how you can follow Buffett's approach to capitalize on similar opportunities. Finally, I'll highlight two other "Berkshire-type" companies with publicly traded stocks.

 

A bet on growing economic activity
More than 70% of Lubrizol's revenues are related to the transportation and industrial lubricant business. Over the short term, this presents a risk in that Lubrizol's customers are in cyclical industries. However, given Berkshire's holding period -- forever -- that is of no concern to Buffett; he's willing to bet that industrial activity and transportation needs, and the resulting demand for Lubrizol's products, will be greater in 10 years' time than they are today.

 

The social-media giant continues its foray into the video market with live baseball.

By TheStreet Staff Mar 16, 2011 3:20PM

By Scott Moritz, TheStreet

 

Facebook has started a little spring training of its own.

 

The social-networking giant is offering users live streaming of Major League Baseball games. The service was introduced this week, featuring a game of the day from baseball's spring training season.

 

The games are largely a promotion to lure subscribers to MLB.TV's $120 season-long subscription package. But the move also looks like a warm-up to Facebook's ongoing push in to the nascent streaming-video market.

 

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[BRIEFING.COM] Equity indices have spent the better part of the past three hours near their current levels. The Russell 2000 (+1.0%) continues holding the lead, which puts the small-cap index on track to finish the trading day north of its 50-day and 100-day moving averages.

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