Market Wrap-Up for Jan.11 (TROW, BEN, MA, GM, KO, PEP, more)


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The market was unable to build on yesterday's early morning pop, and we kind of moved up and down for much of the day.

Companies in the mutual fund space like T. Rowe Price ( TROW ) and Franklin Resources ( BEN ) moved lower following an analyst downgrade this morning. That call comes on back of headlines out late yesterday that PIMCO (the world's largest bond manager) will be launching its Total Return Fund as an ETF starting Mar. 1, with much lower expenses than the company's mutual fund version of the product. The fear is that others will follow suit, meaning ETFs will continue to increase their asset base rapidly, at the expense of higher-cost mutual funds.

Continuing lower once again were the big credit card winners of 2011, MasterCard ( MA ) and Visa ( V ). MasterCard is seeing the bulk of the selling following negative Wall Street commentary . Soda-makers Coca-Cola ( KO ) and Pepsico ( PEP ) were in the red as well, following an analyst cutting its rating on both names .

On the flipside, positive analyst notes had shares of Rockwell Automation ( ROK ) and General Motors ( GM ) gaining. Investors are wondering if GM will follow in Ford's ( F ) footsteps and re-initiate a dividend payout. Only time (and sales) will tell.

Cut Short at the Finish Line

According to the latest data from the Department of Labor, the average time someone 55 or older was unemployed in December 2011 was 52.2 weeks. In a tough job environment, you can bet that many of these folks are digging quite a hole for themselves.

Most people are caught completely by surprise when given a termination notice. Without any preparations in place, people quickly turn desperate, dipping into their nest eggs to fill immediate money requirements. This process, of course, is a big setback to one's long-term financial picture.

If you have to tap your 401(k) or IRA before age 59, you'll likely face stiff penalties. I suggest sitting down with a certified financial planner to assess all your options in this case. Accepting your social security benefits at age 62 is also not a prudent idea if you can avoid it. Keep in mind that taking benefits at age 62 locks in payments that are only 75 percent of what they would be at the retirement age of 66. Delaying benefits at age 66 will raise them by 8 percent a year until age 70, after which benefits do not increase with age.

To avoid becoming a statistic, your best path is to stay educated in your industry and be cognizant of where employment demand is headed. The more additional skills you can pick up, the better. If you're employed in a dying industry, why roll the dice and wait till the last possible minute to change lanes? You may think your "experience" will transcend in other fields, but in many cases they will not. Also, understand that corporations may be hesitant to pay a salary premium to a more experienced worker if they can find a lower salary fit with someone younger.

Use the time you have in your working years to free up as much capital as possible to put to work in income-producing assets (quality dividend-paying stocks) on a consistent basis. That way, your money will be working for you as you continue your path to retirement.

Moves Will Come

As we continue to monitor the markets and look for new investment ideas, we are content with the names that are remain on our Best Dividend Stocks List . As much as we would like to recommend more names, making moves simply for the sake of making moves provides little value to our readers.

I learned in my many years as a day trader that surviving in the financial markets wasn't about being constantly active, but rather about picking the best spots when the metrics lined up in my favor. Playing the cards you're dealt is the only option, and forcing what isn't there will only cost you in the long run!

2011 Was a Big Year for Dividend Stocks!

It is always great to see the media tip their hat to what has been a great year for dividend-paying stocks. We've been seeing several major media outlets publishing articles about how dividends were a big investing theme in 2011 and likely in 2012.

The truth is that we tend to see solid years more often than not in the dividend world, but the business media focuses their attention instead on the high-risk momentum action. Only in times of extreme duress does the media seem to focus on our dividend niche. Regardless, we won't be distracted from our job of finding the best dividend names to put fresh capital into.

I'd like to thank all our Premium subscribers and newsletter readers for helping spread the word about our service. It means a lot to us, and telling loved ones about is the best possible gift you can give to us this holiday season.

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A Dividend Capture Strategy for Active Investors

We now offer complete U.S. dividend data for all Premium members, so anyone that focuses on "Dividend Capture" trading strategies should have plenty of good stuff to research each day. Just check our enhanced Ex-Dividend Calendar , which is the best in the business, to search for upcoming payouts.

Speaking of dividend capture, Premium members can also access a 9-page report we published on the essential elements to any successful dividend capture strategy. Be sure to check it out here on the Premium homepage .

Thanks for reading everybody. 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 Nasdaq, Inc.

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