Now's not the time to own Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ). Long one of the bluest of blue chips in the U.S. high-tech sector, H-P has been in the spotlight and under the gun since its early August ouster of Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd. And while Hurd's unceremonious resignation following an internal sexual harassment investigation […]
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's narrow Tuesday victory over Ichiro Ozawa for the leadership of the Democratic Party of Japan wouldn't normally get investor pulses racing – after all Japan has had five prime ministers in four years.
However, the Bank of Japan's heavy intervention in the currency markets this week confirmed my view that this political twitch was really very different.
The upshot: As investors, we should pay attention … and should look to increase our allocation to Japanese stocks.
That's a mistake.
It's no secret that buying beaten-down stocks is the key to maximum gains. But here's what most investors fail to understand: If you want to hit the investment home run, you have to go after the stocks that everybody else hates.
Like Goldman, Transocean and Monsanto.
Start the conversation
With the yield on U.S. Treasury bonds sitting well below 3%, income investors have to get creative. Those seeking dividend-based cash flow must to be willing to look in less traditional places to find a safe yield. And what could be less traditional than nuclear power?
After the Three Mile Island disaster of 1979, nuclear energy became the forgotten carbon-free source of electricity. However, a small renaissance in nuclear power is happening as we speak, and Exelon Corp. (NYSE: EXC) gives us a great tool to capture the upside from this renaissance – with some solid income, to boot.
Exelon is the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States, with 10 plants operating a total of 17 individual reactors. It's the third-largest operator of nuclear plants in the world, and it has a massive barrier to entry around its niche market.
The stock market as a whole just turned in its worst August performance since 2001, with the major indexes posting losses ranging from 4% to 6%. Yet despite those negative numbers, there was one group that didn't act bearish at all – corporate insiders.
Insiders – the officers, board members and major shareholders of America's corporations – are required by law to almost immediately report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) any time they buy or sell the shares of their own companies. As such, insider transactions are tracked by a number of organizations and Wall Street analysts as a gauge of current market sentiment and future prospects for stock prices.
The theory underlying this practice is simple. As the people with the most intimate knowledge of what corporations are actually doing to grow their businesses, as well as the results those strategies are producing, insiders are in the best position to judge whether the fortunes of their companies are looking bright – or dismal. When they like what they see, they buy their company's shares – and when they don't, they sell.
There was a time when the words "widows and orphans" pretty much defined utilities stocks. As well-regulated monopolies whose products were in constant and increasing demand, they provided a steady stream of income with a level of safety adequate for even the most conservative portfolios.
Because of more competition, looser rate regulation, and slower growth, utility stocks aren't quite the safe haven they once were. But with interest rates at all-time lows and continuing economic turmoil, they still have something to offer most investors.
Of course, the public utilities field today is considerably less broad and diverse than when your grandmother went looking for her retirement stocks.
Following the dismantling of Ma Bell (the original AT&T), which began in 1974, regulated phone utilities gradually disappeared in all but a few rural areas, leading to today's highly competitive tangle of publicly traded telephone companies.
Similarly, most of the smaller public water companies have been snapped up by a few big players – like American Water Works Co. Inc. (NYSE: AWK) – who run them as state-regulated subsidiaries.
That makes energy companies the most viable options for utilities stocks. And recent numbers indicate a turnaround is brewing in that sector.
The markets staged a relief rally last week that reflects Wall Street's attitude about the overall economy. Simply put, investors are saying they can live with slow growth, so long as the U.S. can avoid a double-dip recession.
Stocks leapt around the world last week like jets of water shooting out of a fountain that had been closed down for weeks. The major U.S. indexes rose 3%, the NASDAQ rose 4%, non-U.S. foreign big-caps rose 3.6% and small-caps rose 4.6%.
Many of our plays on growth overseas rose even more: iShares MSCI Thailand Index Fund (NYSE: THD) jumped 4.9% and iShares MSCI Chile Investable Market Index Fund (NYSE: ECH) rose 4.4%, while iShares MSCI Singapore Index Fund (NYSE: EWS) rose 3.2% and iShares MSCI Turkey Index Fund (NYSE: TUR) rose 3.5%. Once again, as we have seen all year, the response in iShares FTSE/Xinhua China 25 Index ETF (NYSE: FXI) was more muted, up 2.4%.
Start the conversation
Ongoing stock market worries and a string of discouraging economic reports have imbued the U.S. bond market with "safe-haven" status. The upshot: Investors have poured record amounts of money into bond funds.
Bond funds for the past two years have seen inflows almost as high as stock funds did during the Internet bubble, according to the Investment Company Institute (ICI). From January 2008 through June 2010, outflows from equity funds totaled $232 billion, while inflows to bond funds hit a staggering $559 billion.
Investors are spending billions in the bond market even as yields reach record lows. Investment-grade U.S. corporate debt yields hit a low of 3.79% last week and two-year U.S. Treasury yields fell to less than 0.5%.
Experts fear that the already-battered U.S. housing market is getting ready to stall again, leaving the Obama administration to decide what – if anything – it should do next.
Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Indices yesterday (Tuesday) reported that home prices rose 3.6% in the second quarter from a year earlier – but the boost came from the homebuyer tax credit that expired in April. And that doesn't bode well for the housing market's near-term outlook.
"The numbers were inflated by the homebuyer tax credit," David Sloan, a senior economist at 4Cast Inc. in New York, told Bloomberg. "The numbers will be going down in the coming months. We could see some significant declines."
Last week we recommended BCE Inc. (NYSE: BCE) as a way to stabilize your portfolio amid market volatility. We chose a superb company that's a leader in Canada's telecommunications field and has a consistent history of generating ample cashflow. This cashflow allows the company to keep increasing its safe, high dividends and to repurchase shares.
Now, don't get me wrong – I'm not pushing you into a defensive investment cocoon. I still love the opportunity to make huge profits from the advent of new technologies that are revolutionizing both computing and communications in a way not thought possible only a few years ago. Assuming you have measured your risk appetite and incorporated many high-potential return opportunities in your portfolio, adding low-Beta, dividend-rich winners such as last week's and today's (Monday) will improve your portfolio diversification, reduce volatility and add some serious income.
Today's stable dividend winner is in the skyrocketing world of mobile computing. Powerful smartphones are giving us brand new capabilities, which greatly improve productivity. And the growing variety and availability of cloud computing services are already impressive. From mobile e-mail to mobile web-browsing and even mobile video and geo-location-based services, there's a myriad of applications now available to consumers. These services are only possible thanks to large technological improvements and investments in wireless networks.