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From: Julius Wong4/15/2012 8:23:21 AM
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Frugality Fatigue Spurs Americans to Trade Up
By Anna-Louise Jackson and Anthony Feld - Apr 13, 2012

Americans are buying more expensive makeup and sandwiches again as Estee Lauder Cos. (EL) and Dunkin’Brands Group Inc. (DNKN) get a boost from mid- to high-income customers.

“Frugality fatigue” is driving a rise in retail sales among consumers who’ve “grown tired of putting off discretionary purchases,” said Russell Price, a senior economist at Ameriprise Financial Inc. (AMP) in Detroit. Recent gains, including a 6.5 percent increase in February from a year earlier-- have been bolstered by improvements in consumer confidenceand the labor and stock markets, along with some stabilization in home prices, he said.

“This has been a long, drawn-out recovery; and for most people alive today, it’s the longest they’ve had to conserve financially,” said Price, who was among the top-ranked forecasters of quarterly gross-domestic-product growth for the two years ending in February, according to the most-recent data compiled by Bloomberg. “As their prospects improve, some pent-up demand is being released.”

Even with a less-than-predicted gain in U.S. nonfarm payrolls last month -- 120,000 compared with a median forecast of 205,000 in a Bloomberg survey -- the economy has added 635,000 jobs since December as unemployment fell to 8.2 percentfrom 8.5 percent, Labor Department data show. Meanwhile, the median price of existing homes climbed 0.3 percent in February from a year earlier, the biggest gain since July 2010, and the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index is up 10 percent this year.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-04-13/frugality-fatigue-spurs-americans-to-trade-up.html

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From: Julius Wong4/15/2012 9:08:21 AM
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**** OT ****


Taxes on the Silver Screen
bloomberg.com

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From: Julius Wong4/18/2012 11:32:23 AM
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5 money moves a Fed follower is making now Investors living in Bernanke’s world, James Bianco says
By
Jonathan Burton, MarketWatch

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — There’s a heaviness in James Bianco’s voice when he talks about the U.S. economy and the investing climate. It’s the tone of someone who is dismayed by current conditions but is resigned to them.

Bianco, president of Bianco Research LLC, provides top-down economic and market research that influences the buy and sell decisions of many large institutional investors. What is his view of the U.S. economy today? Corporate executives are passengers, and government policy makers, starting with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, are driving the ship.

Or to put it bluntly: It’s Ben’s world, and we’re just investing in it.

“Stock picking is a dead art,” Bianco said in a recent telephone interview. “The most important man in investing decisions is Ben Bernanke. It shouldn’t be, but it is. We are in a post-crisis environment where the Fed is running the most extreme policy it’s ever run; Europe is even more extreme. That affects all investment decisions.”

Moreover, Bianco added, investors can either follow the Fed using short-term tactics that anticipate policy makers’ moves, or fight the Fed with a longer-term, defensive stance. Neither choice is particularly attractive, he said.

So Bianco is straddling both sides. Investors can expect “some version” of additional quantitative easing from the Fed, or “QE3,” before June, he predicted. That will lift stock prices, but absent economic improvement, these gains will be fleeting.


marketwatch.com

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From: Julius Wong4/19/2012 10:28:51 PM
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**** OT ****

Hacker Ring Took $1M from Online Brokerage Accounts
financial-planning.com

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From: Julius Wong4/21/2012 10:00:40 AM
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Investor Caveats Raised as Startup Funding Rules Loosened
By Margaret Collins - Apr 20, 2012

An Internet tool for entrepreneurs to gather small donations got a big boost April 5 when President Barack Obama signed legislation allowing companies to sell equity through crowdfunding websites.

While the law is designed to help young companies grow and create jobs, it may lead to a rise in scams and losses for investors, according to state securities regulators and attorneys. The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act also eases funding rules for closely held firms and newly public companies.

“States are concerned that the fraud and scammers will come out of the closets now and start using the social-networking sites to rip off investors,” said Jack Herstein, president of the North American Securities Administrators Association. State regulators reported almost 3,500 enforcement actions and ordered more than $14 billion in investor restitution in 2010, according to a NASAA survey.

Crowdfunding websites, which have sprung up in the past several years, list offerings from businesses trying to raise small dollar investments from hundreds or thousands of people through the Internet or social-media platforms. Until now they had been able only to take donations from the public, sometimes providing perks such as their product in return.

The bill permits startups to pool capital through crowdfunding by selling as much as $1 million in securities a year. Investors may be able to profit by selling the shares after a required yearlong holding period or if the company eventually goes public. The websites usually charge the businesses a fee or take a percentage of the money raised for listing offerings.

bloomberg.com

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From: Julius Wong4/21/2012 10:03:03 AM
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Obama Presses Case to Freeze College Loan Interest Rate
By Roger Runningen - Apr 21, 2012

President Barack Obama is pressing Congress to freeze interest rates on U.S. student loans, putting the spotlight on an issue with appeal to the middle-income and younger voters who are crucial to his re-election strategy.

Interest rates on federally-subsidized Stafford loans are scheduled to increase to 6.8 percent on July 1 from 3.4 percent. The rate increase would affect about 7.4 million students, according to the White House.

“In America, higher education cannot be a luxury,” Obama said in his weekly radio address. “It’s an economic imperative that every family must be able to afford.”

The president proposed Congress act to freeze the rates in his fiscal 2013 budget. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the one-year freeze would cost $6 billion.

Obama will lobby for action in front of college audiences in the battleground states of North Carolina, Iowa and Coloradonext week. He will also make an April 24 appearance on the NBC television program “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” to reach a wider audience of young voters.

Obama has framed his re-election message to highlight differences with Republicans on budget priorities. Over the past month, he has talked about his plans to maintain federal support for education, infrastructure and development of alternative energy while accusing his opponents of sacrificing those programs to provide tax cuts for top earners.

bloomberg.com

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From: Julius Wong4/21/2012 10:04:49 AM
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World’s Top Pension to Start Buying Emerging Stocks This Quarter
By Monami Yui and Komaki Ito - Apr 13, 2012

Japan’s public pension fund, the world’s largest, will start investing in emerging market stocks as early as this quarter as it seeks to diversify assets and cover rising payouts.

The Government Pension Investment Fund, which oversees 108 trillion yen ($1.3 trillion), has decided on the managers who will handle the investments and is now in the process of setting up accounts in prospective markets, said Takahiro Mitani, president of the fund, known as GPIF. He declined to name the managers until investments are actually made or disclose the amount of the allocations.

“We expect to start investing in emerging market stocks by the end of this quarter or the beginning of the next quarter,”Mitani, 63, said in an interview in Tokyo today. “Because the markets are less liquid than the developed ones, we’ll likely begin with a small amount and then decide on whether to buy more depending on how it goes.”

The investments will be focused on markets included in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (MXEF), which tracks 21 countries including Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Korea, Taiwan and South Africa, Mitani said. The gauge has gained 13 percent this year compared with an 8.6 percent increase in the MSCI World Index (MXWO) of developed stocks.

bloomberg.com

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From: Julius Wong4/21/2012 7:51:39 PM
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Market trends:
  Short Term:           Neutral
Intermediate Term: Neutral
Long Term: Neutral

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From: Julius Wong4/26/2012 7:23:48 AM
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Fed Officials Reduce 2012 Unemployment Forecast to 7.8% to 8%
By Craig Torres and Jeff Kearns - Apr 25, 2012

Federal Reserve officials reduced their forecast for unemployment after payroll gains averaged more than 200,000 a month during the first quarter, while policy makers affirmed a plan to keep the benchmark lending rate around zero at least through late 2014.

Officials forecast the unemployment rate would average 7.8 percent to 8 percent in the final three months of this year versus a forecast of 8.2 percent to 8.5 percent in January, according to central tendency estimates. The new forecasts are still far above policy makers’ estimates for full employment, which range from 4.9 percent to 6 percent.

Unemployment is forecast at 7.3 percent to 7.7 percent next year and 6.7 percent to 7.4 percent in 2014. The gradual return of the jobless rate to a level Fed officials view as being in line with full employment may explain why the Federal Open Market Committee today restated its plan to pursue a zero-interest-rate policy for another two-and-a-half years.

Seven of 17 Fed officials expect borrowing costs to remain below 1 percent at the end of 2014, compared with nine in January, while 10 expected rates to be 1 percent or higher, versus eight in January. The Fed has kept the benchmark lending rate close to zero since December 2008.

The Fed released the expectations of the five Fed board members and 12 district bank presidents after the FOMC today said it expects “economic growth to remain moderate over coming quarters and then to pick up gradually.”

bloomberg.com

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From: Julius Wong4/29/2012 7:39:33 AM
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Market trends:
  Short Term:           Up
Intermediate Term: Up
Long Term: Neutral

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