Market Wrap-Up for Feb.9 (RL, DIS, AGU, IR, CSC, NYX, NOK, AAPL, more)

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Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was on the hot seat today as he gave his annual Washington presentations. With the markets being significantly higher than they were this time last year, he was certainly feeling better about some of the recent data. Some of his statements pointed to increased evidence that a self-sustaining recovery in consumer and business spending may be taking hold. Also, real consumer spending rose at an annual rate of more than 4 percent in the fourth quarter. There is no question that we have been seeing economic stabilization, and the markets have certainly been pricing stocks as if the lift can be sustained.

We actually made some ratings changes this morning, removing four names from our recommended list. We continue to see opportunities in the market, but we are also aware that some names may just not have the risk/reward profile we are searching for, so we need to make changes when we see fit. You can check out the post if you did not read the e-mail alert we sent out to Premium members earlier.

The markets were moving sideways early on, but some sellers did show up in certain areas, especially the commodity names. Earnings were in play today with buyers jumping at positive news from Polo Ralph Lauren ( RL ), Walt Disney ( DIS ), Syngenta ( SYT ) and Agrium ( AGU ). On the flip side, it wasn't a great day for shares of Computer Sciences ( CSC ) or Ingersoll-Rand ( IR ) following both companies' less-than-stellar results. Also, shares of NYSE Euronext ( NYX ) were halted for some time, but then popped higher when the stock was released for trading on reports the exchange was involved in merger talks with the Deutsche Börse.

Interesting story making the rounds this morning about Nokia's ( NOK ) CEO sending out a reality check memo overnight to everyone in the company. The memo details how the company has lost its way, with rivals Apple ( AAPL ) and Google ( GOOG ) eating their lunch. It's a real admission that change needs to happen quickly or the company's future could quickly dim further. I couldn't help but think of how this relates to the many people that still today have not taken the financial steps to safeguard their later years (whether you are 5,10,20,or 30 years away from retirement).

Similar to the move by Nokia's CEO, every family needs that one person to stand up and give everyone a wake-up call if plans aren't in motion to build long-term wealth. I read about a study from NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer recently that was conducted years ago which focused on people that would "talk the talk" about wanting to accomplish certain things in life. The findings came to the conclusion that many never actually pursued their stated goals. The fault was labeled as "premature sense of completeness."

I believe it was motivational speaker Tony Robbins that said "A bad goal makes you say 'I want to do that some day.' A great goal makes you take action immediately." If you have had the discipline to invest smartly and been doing so for years, congratulations (and keep it up), but if you lack consistency when it comes to putting money to work, or are still contemplating your first move, it's time to get busy (regardless of what the market is doing day-to-day, month-to-month, or year-to year). The hardest job isn't finding the right stocks to buy ( has that covered), but rather it's the individual's ability to allocate funds and put them to work.

Last week, Reuters ran a story concerning state and municipal employees approaching retirement, many of whom are worried by headlines about rising levels of unfunded pension liabilities. How about the chatter in Washington about revising federal law to allow states to file for bankruptcy to cope with rising debt and pension obligations? Or no Social Security increases for the last two years? I could go on and on, as the signals of retirement difficulties are numerous.

The point is that many people need to stop "whistling past the graveyard" and make changes that will secure a solid financial foundation for oneself or one's family. I want to continue motivating those who have made the proper steps to get in position to let the beauty of compound interest work financial wonders for them, as well as help others that are deliberating or just stuck on trying to "time" the markets. For active traders, it can often be described from day to day as legendary broadcaster Jim McKay would say, "The Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of Defeat." You don't need to torture yourself like that. Instead, focus on the best invsting opportunities when you have money to commit (whether it is weekly or monthly). It's never too late to get started investing in quality dividend stocks and put all that procrastinating to the side.

Don't forget to check out our library of "Learn to Be Rich" articles which give you snippets about personal finance matters you should educate yourself about. And as always, check out our industry-leading "Best Dividend Stocks" List for the top dividend names to put money into right now.

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Be sure to visit our complete recommended list of the Best Dividend Stocks , as well as a detailed explanation of our ratings system here .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The NASDAQ, Inc.

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This article appears in: Investing , Stocks

Referenced Stocks: AAPL , AGU , CSC , DIS , GOOG

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