Blue-chip stocks are mixed in intraday trading following news that credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s upgraded its outlook for the U.S. government from “negative” to “stable.” With roughly an hour left in the trading session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) is up nine points, or 0.06%.
On an otherwise quiet day in terms of economic news, many investors are casting their eyes across the Pacific Ocean to Japan, where stocks have been particularly volatile of late. This trend started at the end of last year when a new government took over, vowing to revive the long-dormant economy. Since then, the nation’s central bank has undertaken an aggressive monetary policy designed to reignite inflation and spur economic growth.
While early indications suggest that the move is working — the yen has fallen in value relative to the dollar, and inflation is beginning to tick up — an unintended, though not unexpected, consequence has been the artificial inflation of asset prices. As I’ve noted, the country’s benchmark stock index shot up by 80% beginning last November, only to mount an aggressive correction last month. Today, it closed higher by 5% — a massive single-day move for a market of Japan’s size.
5 Best Quality Stocks To Own Right Now: Armstrong World Industries Inc (AWI)
Armstrong World Industries, Inc. (AWI), incorporated on December 30, 1891, is a global producer of flooring products and ceiling systems for use in the construction and renovation of residential, commercial and institutional buildings. The Company designs, manufactures and sells flooring products (resilient and wood) and ceiling systems (mineral fiber, fiberglass and metal) globally. The Company segments includes: Building Products, Resilient Flooring and Wood Flooring. The Company’s Building Products, Resilient Flooring, Wood Flooring and Cabinets segments sell products for use in the home. Its products are used in new home construction and existing home renovation work. Its products, primarily ceilings and Resilient Flooring, are used in commercial and institutional buildings. On September 1, 2012, it sold Patriot Flooring Supply, Inc. to The Belknap White Group. Effective October 31, 2012, the Company sold of its cabinets business to American Industrial Partners.
Building Products produces suspended mineral fiber, soft fiber and metal ceiling systems for use in commercial, institutional and residential settings. In addition, its Building Products segment sources complementary ceiling products. Its products, which are sold globally, are available in colors, performance characteristics and designs, and offer attributes, such as acoustical control, rated fire protection and aesthetic appeal. Commercial ceiling materials and accessories are sold to ceiling systems contractors and to resale distributors. Residential ceiling products are sold in North America to wholesalers and retailers, including home centers. Suspension system (grid) products manufactured by Worthington Armstrong Venture (WAVE) are sold by both the Company and WAVE.
Resilient Flooring produces and sources a range of floor coverings for homes and commercial and institutional buildings. Manufactured products in this segment include vinyl sheet, v! inyl tile and linoleum flooring. In addition, its Resilient Flooring segment sources and sells laminate flooring products, vinyl tile products, vinyl sheet products, adhesives, and installation and maintenance materials and accessories. Resilient Flooring products are offered in a range of types, designs, and colors. It sells these products globally to wholesalers, home centers, retailers, contractors and to the manufactured homes industry.
The Company’s Wood Flooring segment produces and sources wood flooring products for use in new residential construction and renovation, with commercial applications in stores, restaurants and offices. The product offering includes pre-finished solid and engineered wood floors in various wood species, and related accessories. All of its Wood Flooring sales are in North America. Its Wood Flooring products are sold to independent wholesale flooring distributors and home centers.
The Com pany competes with Saint-Gobain, Chicago Metallic Corporation, Georgia-Pacific Corporation, Knauf AMF GmbH & Co. KG, Lafarge SA, Odenwald Faserplattenwerk GmbH, Rockfon A/S, USG Corporation, Amtico International, Inc., Beaulieu International Group, N.V., Boa-Franc, Inc., Congoleum Corporation, Faus, Inc., Forbo Holding AG, Gerflor Group, Interface, Inc., IVC Group, Krono Holding AG, LG Floors, Mannington Mills, Inc., Metroflor Corporation, Mullican Flooring, L.P., Mohawk Industries, Inc., Nora Systems GmbH, Pfleiderer AG, Shaw Industries, Inc., Somerset Hardwood Flooring, Tarkett AG.
- [By Seth Jayson]
Calling all cash flows
When you are trying to buy the market’s best stocks, it’s worth checking up on your companies’ free cash flow once a quarter or so, to see whether it bears any relationship to the net income in the headlines. That’s what we do with this series. Today, we’re checking in on Armstrong World Industries (NYSE: AWI ) , whose recent revenue and earnings are plotted below.
5 Best Quality Stocks To Own Right Now: Medallion Financial Corp.(TAXI)
Medallion Financial Corp., through its subsidiaries, operates as a specialty finance company in the United States. The company engages in originating, acquiring, and servicing loans that finance taxicab medallions and various types of commercial businesses. It offers commercial loans to finance the purchase of the equipment and related assets necessary to open a new business, or the purchase or improvement of an existing business; asset-based loans to small businesses; and secured mezzanine loans to businesses in various industries, including manufacturing and various service providers. The company also raises deposits; originates consumer loans for the purchase of recreational vehicles, boats, motorcycles, trailers, and hearing aids; and conducts other banking activities. In addition, it provides other debt, mezzanine, and equity investment capital to companies in various industries. The company was founded in 1995 and is headquartered in New York, New York.
- [By Lawrence Meyers]
That’s the case with Medallion Financial Corporation (TAXI). This neat little company is primarily focused on the financing of taxi cab licenses in major cities like New York. It does other specialty lending as well — such as asset-backed loans for luxury vehicles like boats and art. But its bread and butter has been the taxi business.
5 Best Quality Stocks To Own Right Now: United States Natural Gas Fund LP (UNG)
United States Natural Gas Fund, LP (USNG) is a limited partnership. The Company is a commodity pool that issues limited partnership interests (units) traded on the NYSE Arca, Inc. (the NYSE Arca). The investment objective of USNG is for the changes in percentage terms of its units’ net asset value (NAV) to reflect the changes in percentage terms of the spot price of natural gas delivered at the Henry Hub, Louisiana as measured by the changes in the Futures Contract on natural gas traded on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) that is the near month contract to expire, except when the near month contract is within two weeks of expiration, in which case the futures contract will be the next month contract to expire. The Company’s general partner is United States Commodity Funds LLC (the General Partner) and is responsible for the management of USNG.
USNG invests in futures contracts for natural gas, crude oil, heating oil, gasoline, and other petroleum-b ased fuels that are traded on the NYMEX, ICE Futures or other United States and foreign exchanges (collectively, Futures Contracts). USNG also invests in other natural gas-related investments, such as cash-settled options on Futures Contracts, forward contracts for natural gas, cleared swap contracts, and over-the-counter transactions that are based on the price of natural gas, oil and other petroleum-based fuels, Futures Contracts and indices based on the foregoing (collectively, Other Natural Gas-Related Investments). USNG invests in Natural Gas Interests to the fullest extent possible. In pursuing this objective, the primary focus of the General Partner is the investment in Futures Contracts and the management of USNG’s investments in short-term obligations of the United States of two years or less (Treasuries), cash and/or cash equivalents for margining purposes and as collateral.
- [By David Fabian]
However, since the beginning of the year, the United States Oil Fund (NYSE: USO) has gained 6.12 percent and the United States Natural Gas Fund (NYSE: UNG) has jumped nearly 26 percent. Weather-related factors have played a big role in the first quarter surge for natural gas this year.
- [By Matthew McCall]
United States Natural Gas ETF (NYSE: UNG)
The cold weather continues to grip the Northeast and natural gas prices remain high. UNG pulled back to support at the $23.50 area this week before beginning to attract buyers again. The ETF was up 2.7 percent Thursday and closed at a new one-week high as volume picked up. Technically the chart is suggesting the ETF could continue its run to the $26 area based on the recent action.
- [By Paul Ausick]
The U.S. Natural Gas Fund (NYSEMKT: UNG) was down about 0.6%, at $26.76 in a 52-week range of $16.59 to $27.58. The Market Vectors Oil Services ETF (NYSEMKT: OIH) was up 0.4%, at $47.77 in 52-week range of $39.42 to $51.11. The first fund tracks spot prices; the second includes major drillers and services companies.
5 Best Quality Stocks To Own Right Now: Google Inc.(GOOG)
Google Inc. maintains an index of Web sites and other online content for users, advertisers, and Google network members and other content providers. It offers AdWords, an auction-based advertising program; AdSense program, which enables Web sites that are part of the Google Network to deliver ads from its AdWords advertisers; Google Display, a display advertising network that comprises the videos, text, images, and other interactive ads; DoubleClick Ad Exchange, a real-time auction marketplace for the trading of display ad space; and YouTube that provides video, interactive, and other ad formats for advertisers. The company also provides Google Mobile that optimizes Google?s applications for mobile devices in browser and downloadable form; and enables advertisers to run search ad campaigns on mobile devices, as well as Google Local that provides local information on the Web; and Google Boost for small businesses to participate in the ads auction. In addition, it offers And roid, an open source mobile software platform; Google Chrome OS, an open source operating system; Google Chrome, a Web browser; Google TV, a platform for the consumers to use the television and the Internet on a single screen; and Google Books platform to discover, search, and consume content from printed books online. Further, the company provides Google Apps, a cloud computing suite of message and collaboration tools, which includes Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, and Google Sites; Google Search Appliance that offers real-time search of business and intranet applications, and public Web sites; Google Site Search, a custom search engine; Google Commerce Search for online retail enterprises; Google Checkout to make online shopping and payments streamlined and secure; Google Maps Application Programming Interface; and Google Earth Enterprise, a firewall software solution for imagery and data visualization. Google Inc. was founded in 1998 and is headquartered in Mountain View, California.
- [By Eric Bleeker, CFA and Alison Southwick]
Apple has integrated Microsoft’s Bing search into some products that move search into the OS layer rather than from Web browsers. In addition, by creating extensions, something like Microsoft’s Office Suite can tie in with much better integration across apps in iOS. Apple is also using Bing in lieu of Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) in a number of desktop functions.
- [By WWW.DAILYFINANCE.COM]
www.youtube.com There were plenty of winners and losers this week on Wall Street, with a restaurant chain embracing more natural ingredients and an old website digging into your past to woo you back. Here’s a rundown of the week’s smartest moves and biggest blunders. YouTube — Winner It’s been two summers since Psy uploaded the official “Gangnam Style” video to Google’s (GOOG) YouTube. It blew up as a global single later in the year. This week, it surpassed 2 billion views on YouTube. It’s a notable achievement for the South Korean pop music star, but it’s also a big deal for YouTube. After all, the milestone shows how popular YouTube is as a video-sharing platform. Most folks may have tired of the video and the song ages ago, but clips live on forever in cyberspace. YouTube just validated itself again. MySpace — Loser Speaking of bringing pop stars to life, MySpace — yes, MySpace — turned heads this week by sending out old photos posted years ago to the emails of folks with dormant accounts. MySpace had its moment in the sun before giving way to Facebook (FB), but the social networking dinosaur now jointly owned by Specific Media and pop icon Justin Timberlake, is struggling to regain its relevance. Sending old pics to folks that have moved on may seem like a clever tactic given the popularity of Throwback Thursday, but it comes off desperate at best, and creepy at worst. Panera Bread (PNRA) — Winner Panera became the latest eatery to climb onto the organic food bandwagon this week. The chain of bakery cafes revised its food policy, moving to do rid its menu of artificial colors, flavors and preservatives by 2016. It’s a smart move for Panera. Growth at the former quick-service darling has been slowing lately, with analysts targeting top- and bottom-line growth in the mid-single digits. Anything it can do to beef up its profile with the growing number of consumers angling for natural foods will only help. Walmart (WMT) — Loser The world’s larg
5 Best Quality Stocks To Own Right Now: FirstMerit Corporation(FMER)
FirstMerit Corporation operates as the bank holding company for FirstMerit Bank, N.A. that provides a range of banking, fiduciary, financial, insurance, and investment services to corporate, institutional, and individual customers in northern and central Ohio, and western Pennsylvania. The company?s commercial business offers commercial term loans, revolving credit arrangements, asset-based lending, leasing, commercial mortgages, real estate construction lending, letters of credit, cash management services, and other depository products. Its retail business provides various financial products and services, including consumer direct and indirect installment loans, debit and credit cards, debit gift cards, residential mortgage loans, home equity loans and lines of credit, fixed and variable annuities, and ATM network services, as well as deposit products comprising checking, savings, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit. The company?s wealth business provides a sset management, private banking, financial planning, estate settlement and administration, and credit and deposit products and services. FirstMerit Corporation also offers trust and investment services, including personal trust and planning, and investment management; retirement plan services; retail mutual funds, other securities, variable and fixed annuities, personal disability and life insurance products, and brokerage services; and private banking services, including credit, deposit, and asset management solutions. As of December 31, 2009, it operated a network of 160 full service banking offices and 182 ATMs. The company was founded in 1855 and is headquartered in Akron, Ohio.
- [By Tim Melvin]
The year ahead should be a great one for the smaller bank stocks. Larger regionals like Huntington Bancorp (HBAN) and Capital Ban Financial (CBF) have made it clear they intend to grow by acquisition in the years ahead. Banks like First Merit (FMER) and First Merchants (FRME) have done deals in the past year and are open to doing more to increase their market share and footprints. This should be the year the floodgates open and we see the first wave of merger activity in small banks.