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Chris Preston

Post-Sandy Market Direction Could Depend on Earnings

Wall Street reopens on Wednesday, and no one really knows what to expect. That could make the next few days of earnings reports more influential than usual.

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Jason Cimpl

Two Banks to Buy and One to Sell

In this video Jason shows you two of his favorite big banks to trade and one that you should short on any strength.

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Chris Preston

Big Bank Stress Tests By the Numbers

Big bank stocks received a boost when many of them passed the Fed's latest stress tests today.

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Jason Cimpl

JPMorgan Lifts Banks

After JP Morgan (NYSE: JPM) announced a $15 billion buyback, other bank stocks such as Bank of America (NYSE: BAC), Citi (NYSE: C) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) exploded 6% to the upside.

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Ian Wyatt

Choppy Session on Thursday After Alcoa (AA) Beats Estimates

Stocks slid during the morning session and began a more gradual recovery after noon eastern time. The Dow closed up 4.76 points to 8,183 in choppy trading all day and on news that initial jobless benefits claims came in at 565,000 down from the 605,000 that analysts had expected.  

Both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 closed up today at 1,752 and 882, respectively. 
The top 2,000 small-cap stocks making up the Russell 2000 closed down 0.4 points to end the day's trading at 479. 

Small-cap gainers were lead by Superior Bancorp (Nasdaq:SUPR) up 22% on heavier than normal volume. The stock opened today at $2.19 and hung around that level until shortly after 1:00 p.m. eastern to spike to $2.75 within 15 minutes. The remainder of the trading session saw SUPR trying to push through resistance at $2.97 before settling at $2.69. 

Other small-cap gainers for today include Park Bancorp (Nasdaq:PFED) up 21% to close at $8.70 from a previous close of $7.19; MOD-PAC (Nasdaq:MPAC), a manufacturer of folding cartons in north America, up 20%; and Chicago Rivet & Machine (Amex:CVR) up 25%. 

Decliners in the small-cap space were lead by American International Group (NYSE:AIG), down 28% on news that the company is potentially looking to sell parts of its foreign life-insurance units to MetLife (NYSE:MET). This comes on the heels of AIG's announcement last week that shareholders had approved a 1-for-20 reverse stock split in an effort to maintain the firm's listing on the New York Stock Exchange. 

Other small-caps losing in today's session include United Community Bancorp (Nasdaq:UCBA) down 17%; Tuesday and Wednesday's high flyer, Novagen (Nasdaq:NVGN) was down 20% as profit-takers continued the sell-off that started Wednesday afternoon; and MedQuist (Nasdaq:MEDQ) down 13%.

*****Earnings season has begun. Alcoa (NYSE:AA) kicked things off with a report that was better than expected, even though the company lost $454 million in the second quarter. Yes, nearly half a billion dollars.  

Alcoa went on to say that aluminum demand will be down 7% this year. One analyst widened his loss estimates for the remainder of this year and 2010. And yet the stock is up 6% in the early going.  

How can that possibly be bullish, you ask?  

Well good question. And the answer may not come as that much of a surprise: China. Alcoa believes that Chinese stimulus spending may help it become "…free cash flow positive very soon…" Alcoa's CFO said.

*****I've discussed China's stimulus plans at length here in Daily Profit. And I've also been aggressively adding Chinese stocks to the SmallCapInvestor PRO portfolio. (Click here to find out which ones.) 

But it's still nice to hear from a major U.S. corporation that China's $585 billion stimulus spending plan is expected to have a positive effect on commodity pricing and demand.  
In fact, Alcoa's CEO added a little color to China's stimulus efforts. He reported that China is telling its people "…that it's good to not have too much savings and to buy new cars and get a new air-conditioner." 

It would be ironic if China usurped the U.S. and became the world's consumer of last resort. And a profitable irony at that. 

*****It's being reported that stocks are rallying after weekly new unemployment claims were down sharply last week. But continued unemployment benefit claims from workers already on the dole rose for the week.

The drop in new claims appears to be an anomaly due to a break in layoffs in the auto industry. There doesn't appear to be any significant change in the unemployment trend.  

*****I hope you've been paying attention to Jason Cimpl's video chart analysis and weekly forecasts. He's been hitting the market's next moves with uncanny accuracy. You'll recall from last week, he was looking for more weakness early this week, with a recovery mid-week. If yesterday's late rebound can continue today, he'll be spot on again. Be sure to read tomorrow's Daily Profit to view Jason's forecast for next week.
 
And his prescient forecasts are making money for subscribers to TradeMaster Daily Stock Alerts, too. They just took 15% on the Ultrashort Financial ETF (NYSE:SKF) in 8 days. And it looks as though he's getting his readers ready for some upside trades.  
Of course, you'll get his video forecast in tomorrow's Daily Profit, but if you want to start getting his profitable trades, too, then you'll want to sign up for TradeMaster Daily Stock Alerts. There's a 30-day trial available. Click here to find out how you can enjoy steady profits in this uncertain market.

*****The PPIP is doomed. PIMCO's Bill Gross is dropping out of the government's program to remove toxic assets from banks' balance sheets. Gross and Co. are apparently concerned that the government has gotten too unpredictable, changing its mind, and even the terms, of other bailout measures retroactively.   

Plus, there's also the likelihood that banks won't sell toxic assets at anything resembling attractive prices. And that will kill the program.  

I still believe Geithner blew his opportunity to use the stress-tests to force banks to sell their toxic assets and improve their balance sheets. But as we know, Geithner simply does not play hardball. And that's too bad, because our economy could use some leadership from the Treasury.  

P.S. I just finished reading through a new book by senior trader Larry Connors. It's called "High Probability ETF Trading". It's on profitable trading strategies using ETFs and he's hitting a 93% win rate. I don't know about you, but I'll take 93% any day. He gave me a link to more information about the book to share with Daily Profit readers (I asked him for it as readers send me a ton of questions on ETFs). Click here to find out more about his book and discover how to get up a 93% win rate on your ETF trades.

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Ian Wyatt

Atlantic Tele-Network Leads Small Caps on Acquiring Verizon and Vodaphone Assets

Interest rate concerns and inflation worries put pressure on stocks today after the government's sale of $19 billion had a harder than usual time getting buyers. Investors seem concerned about the government's growing debt and that it could spur higher inflation and interest rates.

The Dow lost 24.04 points to close at 8,739.02; the Nasdaq shed 7.05 points to end the trading session at 1,853.08; and the S&P was down 3.28 points for 939.15.

Stocks comprising the Russell 2000, comprised of the 2,000 largest small-cap stocks, brought the index down to 523.41 on a loss of 4.52 points.

Today's small-cap gainers were lead by communications firm Atlantic Tele-Network (Nasdaq:ATNI) up 42.29% at $37.92. ATNI was up on news from yesterday's announcement to acquire wireless assets from Vodaphone (NYSE:VOD) and Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ). Primarily doing business in the Caribbean, ATNI now picks up nearly a million wireless subscribers in the U.S. southeast and Illinois and Ohio. Because of regulatory requirements on Verizon to sell off some subscribers as part of its deal with Alltell, ATNI is substantially changed from a small operator overseas to a real player in the U.S. market.

Other small-cap leaders include one of yesterday's leaders, Satyam Computer Services (NYSE:SAY) up 35.7% after being rated "overweight" by an analyst from JP Morgan; American Axle & Manufacturing (NYSE:AXL), another of yesterday's leaders, up 25.7%; and Corel Corp. (Nasdaq:CREL) up 34.75%.

Decliners were lead by NCI Building Systems (NYSE:NCS) down 26.1% on worries over its reports of larger than expected Q2 losses. Shares were going for $3.16 at market close, down from an opening price of $3.80.

Other small-cap decliners include one of yesterday's leading gainers, Sequenom (Nasdaq:SQNM). Yesterday SQNM lead small-cap gainers with a 45.97% gain but today lead decliners by shedding 22.83% of its opening price to close at $4.09. And after shedding 20.17% off its price yesterday, Quiksilver (NYSE:ZQK) saw shares drop another 12.71%. So far this week investors holding shares in Quiksilver have endured a total loss of 27% since Friday's close.

*****"The worst is to come…"

That's what MetLife's (NYSE:MET) Chief Investment Officer Stephen Kandarian told Bloomberg this morning.

He was talking about commercial mortgage defaults. He notes that "[t]ypically there's a lag between when the economy softens and when the defaults actually occur."

Bloomberg also cites a study from Real Estate Econometrics LLC that forecasts default rates for commercial real estate may hit 4.1% by the end of the year.

What does commercial real estate have to do with an insurance company? Plenty…

*****Insurance companies take in cash in the form of the premiums we pay. They then invest that money in order to pay off claims down the road. As their investment returns compound, they profit.

But when their investments lose money, trouble starts. And trouble is exacerbated when insurance companies sell guaranteed returns to investors in the form of annuities.

The promise of annuities forces insurance companies to seek riskier investments to boost their returns. And many have turned to mortgage-backed securities to make more money.

Whoops.

*****MetLife has a $300 billion investment portfolio. That portfolio lost 23% in the first quarter of this year. Mr. Kandarian freely admits he's looking for higher returns to make up the losses. And he's looking at adding securities backed by commercial mortgages, in addition to continuing to originate loans to the commercial real estate sector.

It reminds me of the gambler, who after suffering a big loss, decides to start doubling down and taking more risks to win his money back. It usually doesn't end well.

Of course, what he should do is simply step away from the table. But MetLife and other insurers can't -- they have to make money to meet their obligations. It's not a sure thing, but I can imagine it ending poorly for some insurance companies.

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Kevin Pendley

Slide extended as global financial contagion spreads

Small-cap stocks remained unsettled this morning, unable to embrace Friday’s rescue plan package as equity markets around the world seized up and credit pipelines remained clogged despite massive additional liquidity injections this morning by the Federal Reserve. At 9:50 a.m. ET, the Russell 2000 (NYSE:IWM) was down 19.38, or 3.13%, at 600.02, slipping to the lowest point on intraday charts since May 2005.

In Europe, extraordinary measures were taken over the weekend on the banking front, with France’s BNP Paribas buying assets of beleaguered Fortis, while in Germany a rescue deal for Hypo Real Estate was sweetened by another 15 billion euros of liquidity, adding to an earlier pledge of 35 billion euros.

Everyone has been talking about the Federal Reserve slicing the Fed funds rate, but that rate has already been trading well below the current 2% rate in the market. This morning, the Fed increased the size of its cash auctions and also offered banks interest accrual on reserves. Stock index futures did pull off the overnight lows heading into the open on the Fed injection news, but the inability to stabilize financial markets in the direct aftermath of the $850 billion financial bailout bill Friday reflects just how deep the crisis is running.

Looking at market action around the world, European shares were off nearly 5% into the U.S. stock market opening. Elsewhere, Russian stocks tumbled some 15%, prompting various exchange trading halts. Japan was down 4.9%, Hong Kong off nearly 5%, China down 5.1%, Taiwan down 4.1%, Australia off 3.3%, Singapore down 5.6%, South Korea off 4.2% and India down 5.7%.

Market research experts at Goldman Sachs slashed their economic forecast for growth and interest rates “substantially” in a report issued Friday afternoon. Goldman said “The recession that we have been forecasting now looks likely to be deeper and longer, taking the unemployment rate to 8% by late 2009 and pushing the . . .

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Shannon Roxborough

American Physicians Service Group: Risky business

Put financial services and insurance together in a sentence and most people think of some of the nation's largest companies in the industry: Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRKA), American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG), MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET), Allstate Corp. (NYSE: ALL) and The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: HIG). But one ever-growing small-cap is poised to make a name for itself.
 
Meet American Physicians Service Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: AMPH), an Austin, Texas-based $130 million company that not only provides brokerage and asset management services to individuals and institutions, but also provides insurance services including medical malpractice insurance. The insurance services segment provides financial management service to banks and insurance companies that provide liability insurance to doctors, while its financial services segment provides brokerage, asset management and investment advisory services to individuals and institutions.
 
Though the company has been around since 1974, American Physicians Service Group is not exactly a household name. But with a strong second quarter under its belt and glowing future prospects, that is bound to change. The company owes much of its recent success to smart management. The ambitious firm is expanding from its rather modest local roots thanks largely to a savvy acquisition. In April 2007, the company completed its acquisition of American Physicians Insurance Company (API), a firm whose operations it had managed since the mid-1970s. 
 
In the quarter ended June 30, APS increased both revenue and earnings, reporting a net income of $12 million, or $2.37 a share, compared with $598,000, or $0.21 a share, in the same quarter last year. Revenues more than tripled to $29 million, compared with $8 million over the same period in 2006. In addition, the company posted a gain of $2.3 million related to the API merger. 2007 EPS projections of $3.38 are more than 300% higher than 2006 results.
 
"This is our first quarter to report combined results with API . . . and those results have exceeded our expectations. Due to continued positive claims trends, we lowered claims reserves and related reinsurance reserves by $14.1 million in aggregate this quarter. However, we remain very conservatively reserved at the upper end of the actuarial range," Chairman Ken Shifrin said in a statement. "In addition to favorable development in reserves, our policyholder count continues to increase. During the twelve months ended June 30, 2007, our total policyholder count increased by 462 to 4,802. This is largely due to our favorable 90% retention rate in 2007. Though the market continues to be characterized by rate pressure, our profit margin remains strong due to continued favorable trends in the frequency of claims.”

Shifrin also said that American Physicians financial services segment has performed very well, with revenues up 46% for the first six months of 2007, compared with the same period last year, and pretax profits up an impressive 68% in that same time frame.
 
Wall Street has taken notice.

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