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Technology Stocks

This Tech Sector Slice is 58% Hotter Than the Rest of the Market

Noted tech researcher IDC says that global PC shipments plunged 14% in the first quarter.

That was almost double the 7.7% decline IDC had been expecting, and was also the biggest year-over-year free-fall since the market-intelligence firm started tracking PC shipments 20 years ago.

This wasn't a one-time event, either: It marked the fourth straight quarter that worldwide PC shipments had fallen.

No wonder the pundits are talking about the "Death of the PC."

After reading one of these high-tech eulogies, I'm betting that the last thing you want to do is to invest some of your carefully saved capital into any part of the semiconductor sector.

After all, those complex microchips are the "brains" of a computer: So if the PC sector is getting battered, it stands to reason that the chip sector would be getting thrashed, as well – meaning the best move is to stand clear of both.

Don't make that mistake.

While PC stocks should be relegated to the tech-investor's version of an isolation ward, semiconductor shares have been on a roll since the start of the year and will continue to be one of the best ways to generate big profits for some time to come.

If you buy the right ones, that is.

Trend Watch

Why You Can't Afford to Ignore the Hindenburg Omen

The Hindenburg Omen-a harbinger of stock market crashes-eerily appeared again last week…and the Dow Jones promptly dropped 205 points. But its appearance brought mostly scorn from the mainstream financial media.

Here are just a few of the headlines from the past week:

  • "Hindenburg Omen is Just Hot Air"
  • "Why 'Hindenburg Omen' Is Just a Superstition"

And our personal favorite:

  • "Hindenburg Omen is idiotic, and if you believe in it, you should lose your right to own stocks-or anything"

Several Wall Street analysts reacted as if even being asked about the Hindenburg Omen offended them.

"Let's not mince words on this subject: This is an example of the worst kind of 'technical analysis' – a market signal essentially designated for media sound bites," Adam Grimes, chief investment officer at Waverly Advisors., told The Wall Street Journal. "The markets may well decline from this point, but they will not do so because of some cleverly named signal. The Hindenburg Omen, we have to say, is mostly hot air."

Nonbelievers in the Hindenburg Omen say it correctly predicts a stock market crash only 25% of the time, and point out the last time it appeared, in 2010, the markets just kept on rising.

"In 2010 the accuracy of the 'Hindenburg Omen' indicator went up in flames and the current situation suggests the same result in 2013," huffed Daryl Guppy on the CNBC Web site.

Yet an appearance by the Hindenburg Omen has preceded every stock market crash but one since 1985, and if you look closely at the numbers this indicator's track record is remarkably accurate.

Maybe the doubters don't know as much as they think they do.

"They call it bogus because they don't understand it," said Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald, who called the Hindenburg Omen one of his favorite indicators.

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Top News

European Central Bank Does Nothing – But Markets React in Big Way

"Maybe next year…" was basically the message sent today (Thursday) from the European Central Bank (ECB).

The European Central Bank left interest rates unchanged despite slightly lowering its outlook for the ailing Eurozone economy for the remainder of 2013. But, it sees a gradual recovery in 2014.

The ECB forecasts Eurozone GDP will contract by 0.6% this year, down from its March projection of 0.5%. However, it modified its 2014 estimates, predicting a return to growth at a rate of 1.1%.

"Euro-area economic activity should stabilize and recover on the course of the year albeit at a subdued pace," ECB President Mario Draghi said at a news conference.

The region has been stuck in recessionary mode for six consecutive quarters. But Draghi cited improving economic data in May as reasons for not taking immediate action.

"But we stand ready to act, and we will continue to monitor closely all incoming data," Draghi said at a news conference. He added the ECB would remain "accommodative" for as long as necessary.

Draghi also staunchly defended the ECB's actions, saying the bank's outright monetary transactions launched last year were "probably the most successfully monetary policy measure undertaken in recent times."

Draghi said the policy had no negative affect on markets.

"The ECB hasn't done anything to increase volatility in the markets," Draghi said. "If you think the ECB has done anything comparable to other central banks, we wouldn't agree."

After today's ECB briefing, the Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 0.4% to 294.04, setting it on pace to close at the lowest level since late April. Banks suffered some of the steepest losses.

European bond yields plunged the most in three months, with Portugal taking the worst hit.

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Trend Watch

How to Get Out of Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy

Anyone wondering how to get out of student loan debt – or wondering if a slew of student debtors could try to do so – needs to read this.

Yesterday, I wrote about the case of Michael Hedlund, the failed law student who was able to discharge $58,000 of his student loans in a 10-year bankruptcy action.

Before Hedlund's case, it was widely accepted that there were only two ways to get out of student debt: pay it off, or die.

But the Ninth Circuit took a long, hard look at Hedlund's circumstances.  It found that he'd acted in good faith to repay his loans, and that paying the full amount would be an undue hardship for Hedlund and his family. 

The court viewed Hedlund as an "ideal debtor," and so it excused a large portion of his debt.

If you are a student debtor, you too could have a decent shot at discharging your student debt in bankruptcy, but only if you are an ideal student debtor.

But what makes an ideal debtor?

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Washington

IRS Scandal Exposes a Long History of Outrageous Abuses

The IRS scandal of allegedly targeting conservative groups for extra scrutiny may just be the tip of the iceberg. Unanswered questions abound about the powerful agency's involvement in Obamacare and partisan politics.

Using the IRS as a presidential pit bull is a fine old bipartisan tradition going back to Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration and refined by Richard Nixon.

As we wait for what is sure to be the Summer of Endless Congressional Hearings, to be followed by the Winter of the Independent Special Prosecutor, let's have a look at some of the IRS' most notorious shenanigans – old and new.

Read More…

Wall Street

Too Big To Prosecute: Goldman Skates Again

These investment bankers almost ruin our economy and they're still acting like it's 2007. Have they no shame?

If you missed the latest news that former Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) Vice President Neil M. M. Morrison was fined a record $100,000 by the SEC and barred from the securities business for five years for breaking municipal securities rules, don't feel bad.

The news didn't make it into many newspapers.

And sadly, that's because there's nothing newsworthy about greed and corruption on Wall Street.

Here's what Morrison did wrong, besides getting caught. And what his former firm Goldman Sachs said about him after they threw him under the bus, then fired him because he got caught doing what he did.

It's kind of like the intro to "Mission Impossible" episodes and movies when the agent receives the assignment, and the message ends saying, "Of course, if you are caught, we will disavow having any knowledge of you or your mission," then self-destructs.

Neil Morrison, 38 years old, started as a vice president of Goldman Sachs in July 2008. As a municipal finance executive in Goldman's Boston office, Morrison's job was to bring in municipal underwriting business, including the Massachusetts Treasurer's office.

Goldman "trained" Morrison on the ins and outs of gathering municipal underwriting business, the rules, regulations and laws governing municipal financing and underwriting standards, as well as Goldman's own internal policies.

And then….

Dividend Stocks

Why It Pays to Invest in Emerging Market Dividend-Payers

An unexpected change of heart happened in May that you might not have heard about.

After years of resisting any path other than its rigorous course, Germany announced it is backing off from pure austerity and is now planning to spend billions of euros to stimulate the economies of Europe.

Germany, which had been the economic rock of Europe, was facing fissures in its economy as well as an upcoming election season.

With pressure building, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Chancellor Angela Merkel are now "willing to abandon ironclad tenets of their current bailout philosophy," says Spiegel Online.

Obamacare

The Scariest Obamacare Facts Yet

There have been fears surrounding the "real" Obamacare facts since the Affordable Healthcare Act was first mentioned.

"An unfolding disaster for the American economy," 2012 Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney said of Obamacare. Fellow candidate Rick Santorum called it "the beginning of the end of freedom in America."

Signed into law on March 23, 2010, Obamacare was peddled to Americans as the answer to the precarious problems plaguing the country's healthcare system.

Among its promises were: uninsured Americans were to gain coverage through an expansion of Medicaid; insurance providers couldn't deny coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions; employers had to offer health insurance to employees; and costs would come down.

As many Obamacare provisions start to kick-in, the nation is finding out how the sweeping health care overhaul fails to live up to its promises.

At over 20,000 pages long, the legislation is full of stipulations chipping away at what it claimed it would achieve.

Following are some of the most alarming Obamacare facts uncovered to-date.

Trend Watch

Law Student Exposes the Secret to Wiping Out Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy

Accepted wisdom says that there are only two (rather sobering) ways to relieve the burden of student debt:  either pay it off, or depart from this earthly world. 

Until now.

On May 22 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wiped out $58,000 in student loan debt for a former law student in bankruptcy proceedings, sending shockwaves through the formerly impervious facade of student loan debt performance.

Ten years in the making, the ruling could burst the trillion dollar student loan bubble.

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