The second week of trading officially ended on Friday with very little fanfare. After four consecutive days of gains during the week, it seems the market took a bit of a pause on Friday and all of the indices lost ground - mostly due to news reports that Standard & Poor's would downgrade credit ratings on several euro-zone countries. If your reaction to this news is "here we go again", you are not alone, because that too was my immediate reaction.
This news comes a day after the U.S. Department of Labor reported that retail sales in December rose at the weakest pace than at any point over the past seven months - denting optimism about the U.S. recovery after string of upbeat economic data. With such unfavorable news on consecutive days, Friday's selloff arrived as no surprise. The Dow dropped 48.96 points to 12,422.06 while the S&P500 and Nasdaq shed 6.41 and 14.03 respectively - both were right at half of a percentage point losses. However, as disappointing as Friday may have been for the major indices, all three were up for the week with modest percentage gains. This continues to affirm what I believe in that investors are waiting for more information in regards to corporate earnings as well as clearer signs that the economy is in full scale rebound mode.
It also continues to be evident that the market can't seem to make up its mind with what direction it wants to go and what specific concerns will be the roadblock of the day. Will it be job growth, economic growth or will it be Europe's unsettled debt situation? Investors will look to earnings next week for insight on how the euro zone's debt woes may affect profits. Because if Friday's slide becomes the norm, I can only draw the conclusion that the market has in fact made up its mind about what concerns (foreign or domestic) matters the most. Here are seven stocks that I think will continue to be impacted for a variety of reasons by both fear and optimism.
Sirius XM (SIRI)
I've got to lead with one of the hottest stocks on the market at the moment in Sirius XM. The stock is up almost 20 percent on the year and there is no sign (just yet) of slowing down. Just to give investors some perspective, in the first two weeks of trading in 2012, the stock has already outperformed its percentage gain for all of last year. More remarkably, my best guess tells me that the stock is in the midst of the typical run towards earnings. My best guess puts it right at 21 days remaining (unofficially).
On Thursday, Barrington Research Analyst James Goss issued a $3.00 price target on the stock - a number that it has not seen in over three years. As previously noted, it is approaching that time when investors should start considering their next courses of action. As stated previously, the next several weeks will likely present several wild swings. There will be many opportunities to trade in and out and profit off of its wild swings.
With the stock having closed at $2.14 on Friday after testing $2.17 on a couple of occasions, it leads me to think that our previous theory was correct in that $2.18 is indeed another area of resistance - as it was in both May and July of last year. One thing is for certain, the stock is indeed heading up, but investors have to realize that it will often pause, consolidate and there will be some profit taking - all of which are normal. But more importantly, I caution each investor to have perspective and not get too ahead of themselves. We need to be reminded that any gains that is generated in the stock and how it is held will be predicated on how the company guides during its Q4 earnings announcement.
I am not shy to say that I am a Netflix subscriber and I love the service. Along with Sirius, Netflix has been another hot performer of late. Since hitting an intraday bottom of $62.37 on November 30, the stock has surged almost 50% to where it currently sits at $94.38 - 10 percent of which was gained this week alone - This was after many analysts had left it for dead. It seems the rumors of it being acquired by Amazon.com (AMZN) have been enough to give the stock a bit of a spark.
For all of the criticism Netflix receives about its content, almost everyone that I know that has the service loves it. But the public relations nightmare that it caused several months ago over its recent price increase stirred up a lot of emotion and anger from its customers and frustration from its investors who had to watch the stock drop from its $304 high to its recent low.
It seems the subscriber defections have started to stabilize and it's beginning to be reflected in the stock price. The question is, how high can it go? The stock is ridiculously high with a forward P/E of close to 200 so there are high expectations, but can it deliver considering how heated the competitive landscape is for its business. Netflix has the benefit of having a great lead in that market - something that any acquirer or competitor will be unable to duplicate. For this reason I expect the discussions of an acquisition to continue.
Research in Motion (RIMM)
After leaving RIM for dead for almost all of 2011, I have come up three ways for the company to restore some of its relevance. But it first needs to forget about its past. Today, the company is a shell of its former self. Every investor who has decided to "go down with the ship" is likely regretting this decision and now is either looking for a raft or a lifesaver. It goes without saying that 2012 will be a make or break year for the company and investors and fans alike appreciate this reality.
The fact of the matter is, although the stock has seen a slight uptick of late, there remains no guarantee that it will be able to stay above $10. But I can say with a great degree of certainty that it is not going to zero. The company still has a size 18 in what I call the corporate footprint. If RIM is able to execute a scaling down of its operations and focus on services such as its Mobile Fusion I feel it has a puncher's chance of surviving as a publicly traded company. But as with its passionate investors and fans, it first needs to embrace the reality that its dominance in hardware is over.
With all of the pleas from investors to do something with its enormous cash reserve, it seems Apple has finally listened. On Wednesday the company paid $500 million for Israeli company Anobit, which specializes in chips that enhance flash drive performance through signal processing. The question I keep coming up with is, what will its competition buy to keep up? On Monday, I called Apple "The Hand That Rocks The Cradle" for this very reason. It has established a very sneaky way of throwing off the competition. The point of all of this is as we applaud the company for its brilliance in creativity and giving the market the growth that it craves, many continue to overlook and underestimate the company for mastering the art of competition - something that forces me to consider that Apple remains grossly undervalued.
The current gap in its lead in whatever market it wants to compete in (at any point) can be significant enough where its competition is only playing catch-up - essentially, squandering operational resources only to produce an equivalent product, or something close enough to not be laughed at. So as Apple forces these companies play "Simon says," its lead widens because these same firms are unable to look beyond what Apple is doing to make the sort of leap necessary to topple its empire - and Apple knows this.
Microsoft made headlines on Wednesday when it announced that PC sales for the coming quarter were going to be weaker than expected due to the effects of the flooding that occurred in Thailand last year. PC market growth expectations back in October were in the mid-single digits, but IDC and Gartner lowered those back in December to "minus-one," following massive floods in Thailand that affected disk-drive suppliers. That is according to Bill Koefoed, Microsoft's General Manager of Invetstor Relations, who spoke to financial analysts at the JP Morgan Tech Forum on January 10.
I continue to be staunch supporter of Microsoft, but I refuse to make excuses for what I continue to see as a series of missteps. In a recent article by Seeking Alpha contributor Leonid Kanopka, I was reminded why I first invested in Microsoft. But I left regretting not investing instead in Apple. While Leonid is correct in his assessment of Apple's rise to dominance, I would have to disagree in his notion that Apple's success makes Microsoft an undervalued play.
The fact of the matter is that (as a shareholder) I can say that Microsoft's perceived irrelevance continues to be the fault of its own. The company has been immaterial long before Apple's prominent rise. There is no lack of opinion for why it has been so average and uninspiring, but the questions that should be asked is how can its value be restored? For me, the surest way to do this is to in an entirely new direction - starting with its current CEO.
Bank of America (BAC)
For the week Bank of America is up over 10 percent. But remarkably, nobody is able to explain why. But its movement has been enough for me to consider taking a long position on the stock - if not for fundamental reasons, certain on a technical basis. I received a rash of negative emails when I turned bearish on the stock after learning that its recent favorable earnings was partly due to the benefit of mark to market accounting. I received more emails from Bank of America investors on Wednesday, but this time the notes were not littered with four-letter words.
It seems that I have made some new friends after my recent article suggesting that I am now considering a long position in the stock. It has caught my attention for having acquired all of the qualities of a stock that has touched bottom. Since reaching a new 52 week low of $4.92 on December 19, the stock has surged 35% to where it rests today. There is no telling where it will be during regular trading hours, but suffice it to day there is plenty of new optimism in the stock. As investors continue to struggle with assessing its value, there is a faction that will only care that it is going up from here - sometimes, that is just more than enough.
Additional disclosure: Author may initiate a long position in BAC and AMZN at any time