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More big names are returning more of their stash to investors. Here's how to play it.

By The Fiscal Times Feb 10, 2012 1:48PM
DividendsBy Suzanne McGee, The Fiscal Times

BP (BP) did it. Cisco (CSCO) did it. General Electric (GE), Macy's (M) and UPS (UPS), too. Hasbro (HAS) and Mattel (MAT), locked in a battle for dominance of the toy market, both did it as well. Even Rio Tinto (RIO) did it, despite having to write down $8.9 billion of its investment in struggling Canadian aluminum producer Alcan.

The "it" in these cases refers to the announcement of a higher dividend payout to shareholders. An ever-increasing number of companies are returning a larger percentage of their cash to investors. Of course, some big names continue to resist the trend.  

These soft-drink giants aren't worth a taste right now.

By InvestorPlace Feb 10, 2012 11:52AM
By Dan Burrows


Have the kings of carbonated beverages lost their fizz? PepsiCo (PEP) and Coca-Cola (KO) both reported Street-beating quarterly earnings this week, but shares in the soft-drink companies are languishing in 2012.


Maybe it's because both companies find themselves bottled up by higher commodity costs, less-than-robust global demand and unfavorable foreign currency effects.

 

All of these companies have boosted their payouts for 25 consecutive years.

By TheStockAdvisors Feb 10, 2012 11:12AM
By Chuck Carlson, The DRIP Investor

Dividend stocks as a group performed relatively well in 2011, thanks to investors' hunger for more cash flow and less volatility. Corporations did their part, boosting dividends at a rate not seen since 2007.

According to Standard & Poor's, dividend increases reached more than $50 billion in 2011, up more than 89% from 2010. Overall, S&P reported 1,953 positive payout actions -- the highest since 2007. 

Some companies are reporting huge revenue gains despite the region's ongoing monetary problems.

By MoneyShow.com Feb 10, 2012 10:55AM

Image: Euro (© Corbis)By Tom Aspray, MoneyShow.com


While U.S. investors in the last quarter feared a new recession triggered in part by the ongoing European debt crisis, U.S. companies were still making money in eurozone nations. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal reported that of the 39 companies in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index ($INX) that reported sales to Europe, revenue was up 11.4%.


Compared to 2010, the 2011 sales to Europe were a bit lower, but still accounted for well over 24% of the global revenue of the 39 companies. (See the report here.)

 

Investors shouldn't get so excited about benchmark numbers that make good headlines but mean little in a vacuum.

By InvestorPlace Feb 10, 2012 10:12AM

By Jeff Reeves


Apple (AAPL) is bigger than Exxon Mobil (XOM) -- and now Apple is about to hit $500 a share! The Dow is approaching 13,000! Unemployment is at a three-year low!


But guess what. Not a single one of those numbers means a darn thing. At least not without context.


At risk of revealing that the emperor has no clothes, let me clue you in to a dirty little secret about the financial media: We're short-sighted number junkies. So do yourself a favor and don't place too much weight on the aforementioned data points bandied about in a vacuum with no background.

 

MSN Money's Anthony Mirhaydari answers Facebook users' questions about energy prices.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 10, 2012 10:02AM

Image: Anthony MirhaydariWhere are oil prices headed, and what does it mean for you, the economy and stock prices? In this video, MSN Money columnist Anthony Mirhaydari explains why he sees oil prices falling in the coming months.

 

And as he answers questions from MSN Money's Facebook community, Mirhaydari also explains why alternative energy is the sector to avoid. 

It's a breakthrough that will speed up short sales of housing, reduce inventory and lift home prices.

By Jim Cramer Feb 9, 2012 6:39PM

the streetImage: Home with foreclosure sign in front yard © Ariel Skelley/Stockbyte/Getty ImagesMost efforts to solve the housing glut have led to naught, largely because the banks and state and federal governments have been have so antagonistic to each other.

 

That's why this $25 billion settlement between the federal and state governments and five big banks and mortgage services, over the outrageous foreclosure procedures these institutions used during this period, is so important to the progress that's so needed for this incredibly important issue, the one that precipitated the U.S. downturn and remains at the epicenter of the tepid pace of the recovery.

 

Strong revenue growth was driven by higher prices and rise in volumes.

By Trefis Feb 9, 2012 6:37PM
Image: Globe with money (© PhotoAlto/SuperStock)Coca-Cola Co (KO) saw revenue and volume rise on strong international operations in 2011.

Fourth-quarter sales increased by 5% to $11.04 billion, supported by higher prices and a 3% rise in volume, the company announced Tuesday. Profit fell 71% to $1.66 billion from $5.77 billion, mostly due to a one-time gain associated with the acquisition of bottling operations in 2010. However, excluding special items, profit rose 10% to 79 cents per share from 72 cents a year earlier.

Coca-Cola currently competes PepsiCo (PEP), Dr. Pepper Snapple Group (DPS) and other domestic players. 
Tags: DPSKOPEP

The oil company will double the number of exploratory wells it digs this year and increase organic capital expenditures.

By Trefis Feb 9, 2012 6:27PM
Image: Oil drums (© Kevin Phillips/Digital Vision/age fotostock)Oil major British Petroleum (BP) managed to build upon the strong oil pricing environment to increase revenue as well as profits in the fourth quarter.

More critically, the company managed to increase its oil and gas production volumes in the upstream segment after a few quarters of production declines. Going forward, BP plans to increase its exploration activity in 2012 with a particular focus on deepwater prospects.

Refining results in the fourth quarter were hit by lower downstream margins, with operations in the U.S. getting a particularly hard beating. 
Tags: bpCVXXOM

These regional banks scored best in a screen for performance and yield.

By TheStockAdvisors Feb 9, 2012 6:23PM
Image: Cash machine (© Compassionate Eye Foundation/Getty Images/Getty Images)By Amy Calistri, The Daily Paycheck

Over 400 banks and thrifts have failed since the beginning of 2008, following the housing bubble burst. And many once-stable dividends disappeared in the blink of an eye.

The banking sector has been slow to recover. For instance, the Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF), which tracks an index of some of the largest U.S. financial institutions, is still roughly 60% below its price five years ago. 
Tags: AF

One nice quarter does not make a complete turnaround story. There are too many missing pieces in this puzzle.

By Motley Fool Pick of the Day Feb 9, 2012 5:35PM

By Anders Bylund

 

Everything is not as it seems for Avid Technology (AVID). I'm willing to bet my professional reputation that yesterday's shocking price jump can't last.

 

The stock rocketed nearly 20% yesterday after a stellar fourth-quarter report. Analysts expected modest non-GAAP earnings of $0.06 per share on $177 million in sales. That would have been a 9.4% year-over-year revenue decline and a very steep profit drop from $0.37 per share.

 
Tags: AAPL

The heavy machinery maker is strengthening its product portfolio in the 2 countries to meet high demand.

By Trefis Feb 9, 2012 3:13PM
Image: Construction (© Photodisc Green/Getty Images)Caterpillar (CAT) is looking to increase sales in Japan and North America by strengthening its product offerings in industries that are expected to drive growth.

In Japan, Caterpillar is ramping up production capacity to meet higher demand from the rebuilding efforts following last year's earthquake. In North America, the company is sharpening its focus on the waste management industry with its recent alliance with Exodus Machines.  
Tags: CAT

Despite economic uncertainty, the giant retailer forges ahead with plans to increase sales, profitabilty and cash flow.

By Zacks.com Feb 9, 2012 2:42PM

mage: Poster proclaiming Sale up to 50% off and shoppers silhouetted in foreground © Michele Constantini/PhotoAlto Agency RF/Getty ImagesBy Zacks Equity Research
    

The U.S. economy is still not out of the woods and the European debt crisis continues to take its toll on the financial markets. Despite all this, Macy's Inc. (M) has managed to keep up its momentum.


With the holiday season over, consumers are giving their wallets a rest as they await another round of austerity measures. This was evident from Macy's lower-than-expected January comparable-store sales results. However, it also marked the 26th successive month of year-over-year sales growth.

 

Nearly 2 years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Macondo well still casts a long shadow over the company's valuation and prospects for a higher stock price.

By The Fiscal Times Feb 9, 2012 2:01PM
Image: Oil drilling platform (© Scott Gibson/Corbis)By Suzanne McGee, The Fiscal Times

What mattered when BP (BP) reported its earnings this week wasn't what happened in the just-ended fourth quarter (pretty good news -- it beat analysts' earnings forecasts by a penny a share; revenue jumped 15%).

And it wasn't what happened Wednesday (it boosted its quarterly dividend 14% to 8 cents a share), much less what is happening to its underlying business (CEO Bob Dudley predicted operating cash flow could surge 50% if oil prices remain around $100 a barrel).  

Earnings show Akamai will ultimately emerge as a cloud-focused software company.

By Minyanville Feb 9, 2012 1:36PM
Image: Clouds in a blue sky (© Purestock/Getty Images)By Fil Zucchi

Shares of Akamai (AKAM) surged in after-hours trading Wednesday following a fourth-quarter earnings report that topped estimates. They continued to climb Thursday, more than 10% by midday.

Before the results were issued, I suggested that Akamai was trading at levels that would make either bulls or bears very unhappy once the results were out (see Akamai Earnings Preview: Investors to Ask 'What Have You Done for Me Lately?'). 
Tags: AKAM

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[BRIEFING.COM] The major averages have not wasted any time in rebounding from their opening lows. The S&P 500, which started with an eight-point loss, has already recovered all but two points help from influential sectors like energy (+0.4%), financials (+0.1%), and technology (+0.1%).

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