Barron's Recap (3/10/12): Online Brokers Ranked, a Looming Financial Storm
This weekend in Barron's online: the 17th annual ranking of online brokers, an impending “financial storm,” ANN on the rebound, Harman International finds the sweet spot, and more.
“Online Investors Cut the Cord” by Theresa W. Carey offers Barron's 17th annual ranking of online brokers. Those listed include Charles Schwab (NYSE: SCHW), E*Trade (NASDAQ: ETFC) and TD Ameritrade (NASDAQ: AMTD). But it was Interactive Brokers (NASDAQ: IBKR), with its low monthly trading costs, low margin rates and large number of “easy to borrow” stocks, that received the highest marks. Also, this year, the Barron's survey now includes a score for mobile apps. The first real investment-related apps for the iPad only appeared about a year ago, but already Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) wildly popular tablet PC has become a viable platform for buying stocks and bonds. It is driving gains in mobile-trading activity.
In “The Worst of Times to Buy Stocks?” Randall W. Forsyth points out that when practitioners who take very different approaches to analyzing financial markets come to similar conclusions, investors really should take notice. John P. Hussman, who holds a Ph.D. in economics and heads the Hussman Funds, sees conditions in today's market like those that presaged past plunges, such as in 1973 and 1974, 1987, 2000 to 2002 and 2007 to 2009. As Walter J. Zimmermann Jr., who heads technical analysis for technical advisory firm United-ICAP, puts it: “A perfect financial storm is looming.”
“Ann, You're Looking Lovely” by Jacqueline Doherty suggests that a revival at Ann Taylor stores could have the retailer's shares sitting pretty. New York-based ANN (NYSE: ANN) reported on Friday that it earned 10 cents a share in the most recent quarter and $1.70 a share for the full fiscal year on $2.2 billion of revenue. Wall Street was pleased with the upbeat outlook for 2012. CFO Michael Nicholson said the company's long-term goal continues to be operating margins of 10% or more and 15% to 20% earnings growth. Barron's bottom line: ANN could rally to the low- to mid-$30s as profit margins widen and earnings increase.
“Harman Takes to the Open Road” by Jack Willoughby looks at Harman International (NYSE: HAR). Once known only for home-stereo systems, the company now has its eye on the area between your car's two front seats. What was formerly the home of cup holders and ashtrays has become the integrated-control center for an increasing array of electronic systems, such as surround-sound and satellite audio, navigation displays, rear-view TV cameras and Internet- and Bluetooth-capable communications devices. Harman saw 55% of its revenue come from there in its latest quarter, and its integrated-control systems are already in cars made by Mercedes, BMW, Toyota (NYSE: TM) and others, as well as motorcycles from Harley-Davidson (NYSE: HOG). Barron's bottom line: Harman shares could rise by more than 20% as the market for in-car gadgetry explodes.
- “Just a Touch More Risk” by Michael Shari. Why does First Investors Total Return Fund feel it needs to take on more risk?
- “The Culture Changer” by Vito J. Racanelli. How Siemens (NYSE: SI) became lean, mean and profitable following a massive bribery scandal and the global financial crisis
- “Finding Cheap Stocks Around the Globe” by Neil A. Martin. A veteran stock picker sees opportunities in Europe and Asia.
- “How to Fix Social Security” by Alex J. Pollock. A system that offers participants a choice could ensure the program's solvency.
- “Greasing the Skids” by Thomas G. Donlan. The latest attempt to save Greece from itself is little more than unarmed robbery.
- “Stocks End Mixed as Small-Caps Do the Best” by Vito J. Racanelli.
- “How Asian Stocks Fare in a Flood of Imported Oil” by Kopin Tan.
- “Greek Haircut Is Just a Trim” by Jonathan Buck.
- “A High Point for High-Yield” by Michael Aneiro.
- “Monetizing Doubt with GE Puts” by Steven M. Sears.
- “Nascent Steel-Price Recovery” by Matt Day.
- “What's Not to Like?” by Alan Abelson.
- “Job Stats Pull a Lever for Obama” by Michael Santoli.
- “Employment Growth Picks Up the Pace, a Bit” by Gene Epstein.
- “Romney Quietly Has Won the Numbers Game” by Jim McTague.
- “Speed Trap Ahead for U.S. Telcos” by Tiernan Ray.
- “Apple's New, New Thing” by Mark Veverka.
- “Industrial-Strength Backup” by Nathaniel Wice.
- “Why Small-Caps Could Shine” by Brendan Conway.
- “Pssst! Wanna Borrow Some Shares?” by Beverly Goodman.
- “Sears Offer Has Tax Bite” by Shirley A. Lazo.
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