The news out of Europe will come to the forefront once again when the fiscal cliff is resolved. The continent's bailout funds are now coming under scrutiny as the individual backers are beginning to face headwinds now. One day the Europeans will learn to embrace mild inflation and recognize that cowboy capitalism is not evil, but necessary for the good of the economy. It seems we may be closer to a deal than anyone realizes and with the retirement from the US Senate of Jim DeMint (one of the two senators from our home state) it appears there is no fight to be had for the Republicans. We view this as good news for the country and the market as the chance of the economy getting derailed seems to have diminished slightly.
We have economic news due out today, and it is as follows:
Nonfarm Payrolls - 90k
Nonfarm Private Payrolls - 120k
Unemployment Rate - 8.0%
Hourly Earnings - 0.1%
Average Workweek - 34.4
Michigan Sentiment - 82.4
Consumer Credit - $9.9B
Asian markets finished mostly higher today:
All Ordinaries - up 0.89%
Shanghai Composite - up 1.60%
Nikkei 225 - down 0.19%
NZSE 50 - up 0.45%
Seoul Composite - up 0.40%
In Europe markets are slightly lower this morning:
CAC 40 - down 0.21%
DAX - down 0.06%
FTSE 100 - down 0.04%
OSE - down 0.37%
Shares in Yahoo (YHOO) continue to get stronger as new leadership has put the company on the correct track to finally take advantage of their market leading websites and embarrassment of wealth in regards to content and joint ventures. The company once again hit a new 52-week high yesterday as shares rose $0.31 (1.64%) to close at $19.20/share with volume of 25.3 million shares. It is funny how a few changes at the top can change the attitude of a whole organization, but so far we like the changes we have noticed with their sites as a result and the partnerships to distribute content across various platforms. For so long this was a sad story of a 'has been' which at every turn was making a move resulting in a loss of market capitalization, so it is nice to see investors who stuck around to finally have management in place with a plan, the ability to execute that plan and deliver the results necessary to move the company forward.
Akamai (AKAM) shares finished at $39.06/share yesterday after rising $3.56 (10.03%) on news that the company had reached a deal to strike a strategic alliance with AT&T. The deal focuses on the two companies' content delivery network (CDN) segments and calls for AT&T to move its CDN segment to Akamai's platform next year. Shares rallied higher for the day on the news, however details were not announced regarding the terms of the deal.
We have liked Starbucks (SBUX) for almost the whole year, however most of the gains came in the beginning of the year prior to the shares drifting lower during the middle of the year. Investors have seen the shares rebound in the latter part of this year and that trend continued after Starbucks held its analyst day (the company has one per year) and received an analyst upgrade from RW Baird where they were raised to outperform from a neutral rating. There was some very good news which came out of that presentation with plans for a two-pronged growth strategy focusing on China and the US (along with their plans for growth already announced in Germany, India and Asia as a whole) which is an idea we like. However, the idea behind this steel card has us scratching our heads. It makes sense as a gift where the $50 cost would not matter, but that does assume one wants to give a gift of nearly $500 to start with. For Starbucks aficionados who spend a good deal of time in the store, the benefits make sense, however for an in-and-out regular such as myself I can only hope that if I receive a steel card it will instead feature ESPN's Samantha Steele rather than the benefits and costs of this card. Watch for the exclusive gift card to become a trend in the industry as the 5,000 limited edition steel cards will probably sell out quickly.
Lululemon (LULU) continues to impress us as they have moved higher ever since their IPO in the face of growing skepticism of their ability to continue to deliver growth and maintain their customer base with the likes of Nike and Gap moving in on their territory. It reminds us of the Under Armour story, yet with more focus and a much better ability to deliver results, where they have revolutionized an industry and have become almost synonymous with their segment. The company once again beat estimates yesterday and shares rose $4.98 (7.26%) to close at $73.57/share. Competition continues to heat up in the industry, but Lululemon appears to be ahead of the curve in delivering new products with improved features and new colors. As Gap rolls out their stores across the country it will be interesting to see how that impacts growth at LULU.
Investors pushed shares of MGM (MGM) up by $1.00 (10.03) to $10.97/share after the company announced that they would be refinancing their debt and S&P raised the company's debt rating (which still is not investment grade though). They announced that already they sold $1.25 billion in senior notes to refinance obligations outstanding. The company also announced that it planned to obtain another $4 billion in loans via the bond market in order to refinance its current credit facility and repurchase other senior secured debt instruments.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.