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Apple and Google Declare War – Here's the Secret Winner

Resident tech guru Michael Robinson and I are both big science-fiction fans. Michael likes traditional sci-fi stories, like those of Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. My sci-fi interests are more focused on “Golden Age” radio dramas, “pre-code” comics, and old movies and TV shows… like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits.

And when Associate Editor Cris Skokna joined our team a few months back, Michael and I were so pleased to discover that he was a sci-fi guy as well that I jokingly dubbed the three of us as “The Trilogy.”

September 2010 - Money Morning - Only the News You Can Profit From- Money Morning - Only the News You Can Profit From.

  • Money Morning Mailbag: Junk Silver "Math" Points the Way to Profits

    Just after we published our special report on "junk silver" earlier this week, a Money Morning reader posed the following two questions:

    • How many troy ounces of silver is contained in a bag of new coins?
    • What should investors expect the total weight of the average bag of junk silver to be?

    Let's take a look…

  • Six Stocks That Should be on Every Investor's 'Don't Buy' List

    With more than 8,790 publicly traded stocks on U.S. exchanges and another 7,000 or so listed on the OTC Bulletin Board and the pink sheets, it's not particularly difficult to find stocks you wouldn't want to buy. It's not even that hard to find stocks with numbers so bad they're good short-sale candidates.

    What's really hard is recognizing companies whose shares seem like they might be bargains, but that actually have subtle or hidden problems. These stocks truly belong your DO NOT BUY list.

    A good example is Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC). The financial sector was among the leaders as the market rallied from its July lows, but BAC didn't add much to the advance. In fact, after a brief bounce, it tumbled to a 12-month low of $12.18 on August 30 – a far cry from its October 2007 high of $52.71. Still, it looks like the stock built a solid technical base during the early September market upsurge and could be poised for a breakout if its earnings, due out Oct. 20, beat expectations.

  • Japanese Economy Threatened by China Rare Earth Metals Ban

    Japanese authorities last Friday released from detention the captain of a Chinese fishing boat that was found in disputed waters. However, China continues to withhold exports of rare earth metals to its island neighbor.

    Rare earth metals are crucial to Japan's high-tech industry, and the ban on shipments from China, which has been in place since Tuesday of last week, could cripple the country's economy.

    There are 15 different types of rare earth metals, which are used in high-tech devices like computer display screens, smart bombs, and hybrid-car batteries. However, the metals are scattered across the globe and very difficult to extract. They are in increasingly short supply as world demand surges, with industry officials predicting a global shortfall of 30,000 to 50,000 metric tons by 2012.

  • Question of the Week: U.S. Federal Reserve Keeping Low Rates Does More Harm Than Good

    After their meeting last week, U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers said they are more worried about deflation than inflation and vowed to look for ways to help along an economy that is experiencing worrisomely slow growth.

    In fact, the central bank's rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) said it plans to keep the benchmark Federal Funds rate at its record-low level unchanged between 0.00% and 0.25% for the 20th consecutive month. And, using its go-to line – central bank policymakers said rates could remain that low for "an extended period."

    In the near term, that appears justified. Core inflation is running at only 0.9%, below the Fed's comfort-level target of 1% to 2% – where it says the inflation rate needs to be for price stability. Fed Funds futures at the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) now show that traders believe there is a 54% chance the Fed won't increase short-term rates until its November 2011 policymaking meeting.

  • U.S.-China Tension Evident in Futile House Currency Bill

    The U.S. House of Representatives today (Wednesday) will vote on legislation that would let the U.S. government take punitive actions against countries that undervalue their currencies.

    The bill isn't likely to have any tangible impact on U.S. policy, but it's yet another manifestation of the growing friction between the world's two greatest economic powers.

    The Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act (HR 2378) is the apparent result of increasingly harsh rhetoric towards China's currency policy, which U.S. lawmakers say keeps the yuan undervalued. It is a relatively toothless measure that will likely have no effect on U.S. policy, but instead serve as a rallying cry for Congressional lawmakers looking to win votes ahead of November's midterm elections, and perhaps, U.S. officials heading to a Group of 20 (G20) summit the very same month.

  • Exchange-Rate Risk: The Unseen Enemy of U.S. Investors

    When specialty-chemicals-maker H.B. Fuller Co. (NYSE: FUL) announced its third-quarter results earlier this month – with earnings and revenue coming in well below expectations – company shareholders suffered an 8% haircut in a single day.

    Rising raw material costs appeared to be the headline reason for turbulence at the company. But there was another culprit – a frequent flier in cases of earnings shortfalls, but one that often remains unseen and misunderstood.

    I'm talking about exchange-rate risk.

    U.S. investors don't realize it yet, but the level of exposure to exchange-rate fluctuations facing big American companies – as well as those based overseas – is steadily increasing. So what happened to H.B. Fuller – and its shareholders – is going to occur with increasing frequency. And in many cases, the fallout will be much more severe.

    To better understand the rising exchange-rate risks facing U.S. investors, please read on…

  • We Want to Hear From You: Is a Gold Price of $5,000 an Ounce Attainable?

  • More Investors Betting Ireland Will Go the Way of Greece

    The cost to insure Irish bonds against a government default jumped to a record yesterday (Tuesday) after Standard & Poor's said the cost of bailing out nationalized lender Anglo Irish Bank Corp. could exceed $47 billion.

    Contracts on credit default swaps (CDS) on Anglo Irish bonds rose 1.5 basis points to 937.5, implying a 56% probability of default within five years, after earlier climbing to an all-time high of 960.5.

    Credit-default swaps pay the buyer face value in exchange for the underlying securities or the cash equivalent should a borrower fail to adhere to its debt agreements. Increasing prices signal deteriorating credit quality.

  • Special Report: Though it's Called "Junk Silver," the Profits Aren't Trash

    Despite its name, junk silver is not junk.

    Indeed, the term "junk silver" is actually a misnomer, since this form of silver investing has provided excellent returns over the past decade. Junk silver consists of U.S. quarters, dimes, and half-dollars minted before 1965, since coins struck before that time contain 90% silver and 10% copper.

    But junk silver's real attraction is that it offers investors the best of both the two possible investing extremes that seem to be attainable right now:

    • First and foremost, during intense bull markets in silver – like the one we're experiencing right now – junk silver tends to outshine (and outperform) silver bullion.
    • But if some of investors' darkest fears are realized, and the U.S. government's overenthusiastic printing of money were to transform the greenback into so much worthless paper, then 90% of U.S. silver coins would be used for the purpose they were originally minted – as money that can be spent.

    Let's take a closer look.

    To understand the basics of junk-silver investing, please read on…

  • Hot Stocks: Southwest Airlines Takes Aim at Bigger Rivals With $1.4 Billion Deal for AirTran

    In a deal that turns up the heat on its bigger rivals, Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) yesterday (Monday) announced plans to buy discount carrier AirTran Holdings Inc. (NYSE: AAI) for $1.4 billion.

    By nabbing AirTran, Southwest is making a move that supports its long-term growth strategy and targets large network carriers with a large East Coast presence such as Delta Airlines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) and US Airways Group Inc. (NYSE: LCC).

    "This absolutely changes things," said Gary Kelly, Southwest's chairman and chief executive officer on a call with analysts.

    The deal will allow Southwest to expand into airports serving major hubs like Atlanta, Washington D.C., Boston, Baltimore and New York City, he added.

    The move puts Southwest in head-to-head competition with Delta in Delta's home base of Atlanta. The buyout, funded mostly with debt, will also give Southwest a bigger slice of the market in cities like Boston and New York, where it has been expanding.

    Eventually, the low-cost carrier will expand into international markets, with flights to Mexico, the Caribbean, Canada and possibly South America, Kelly told CNNMoney.com.

    "It will be several years before you see Southwest airplanes in international markets, but it's going to happen," he said.