Market Wrap-Up for Mar. 14 (GS, C, AXP, ABX, MET, more)


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Investors were still feeling some of yesterday's euphoria after the indices blasted through key psychological levels (Dow 13K, Nasdaq 3K), but as the afternoon wore on, a bit of profit-taking began to seep into the market as we closed off the day's better levels. The big news late yesterday surrounding many financial institutions passing the Federal Reserve's stress test was part of the reason for the early rally.

Speaking of the financials, we did end up seeing a little giveback from yesterday's news. Moving lower were shares of Metlife ( MET ) and Citigroup ( C ) (which we found out after the close had failed their respective stress tests). Several financial names boosted their dividend payout significantly yesterday, so be sure to check out yesterday's members-only post detailing all the updates. In general, we'd like to would still like to see more yields over the 3% level before we getting too excited.

Elsewhere, Wall Street upgrades helped move stocks like American Express ( AXP ) ( read more here ) and Altera Corp ( ALTR ) ( news here ) higher. On the flipside, gold-mining shares sold off as the yellow metal prices continue to slide. Miners leading the way lower included Barrick Gold ( ABX ), Goldcorp ( GG ), and Agnico-Eagle Mines ( AEM ).

The Quandary of a Clear Conscience

Wall Street is abuzz this morning following an Op-ed piece in the New York Times from departing Goldman Sachs ( GS ) executive director Greg Smith. The executive worked for Goldman Sachs for the past 12 years and described the firm as having a "toxic and destructive" culture in a public exit letter.

Smith wrote about how Goldman would promote employees who were successful in convincing customers to buy products that Goldman Sachs was trying to get rid of. He also cited other questionable practices, including upper-level executives that referred to clients as "muppets" on multiple occasions.

Anyone who followed the financial crisis of a couple years ago knows Goldman Sachs came under the microscope as much as any other firm on Wall Street. So am I shocked to hear these comments from an insider? Not at all, and I'm sure similar things go on in every major financial services firm on Wall Street.

The question today for many financial pundits is why it took so long for Mr. Smith to step forward with his criticisms. Why, too, did he cash his annual bonus checks if the spirit of his company was so evil? Some will also wonder if Mr. Smith will use the publicity generated from this story to garner attention for a new venture of his, perhaps starting his own firm.

Personally, I require a clear conscience in my life. I've found that the longer you delay putting your mind at ease, the more skeptical the reaction will be when you ultimately do stand up for what is right. I remember watching a VH1 special on one of my favorite bands from the early 80′s, Journey. The lead singer Steve Perry had a falling out with the other members and left the band following several highly-rated albums and successful world tours. Being a big fan of Steve Perry's talent, I was taken aback by his statement that he never felt like he was a true part of the band. Really, Steve? Sounds like sour grapes to me.

Point being, when you make things personal - even if you're in the right - you'll often come off looking self-serving. The departing Goldman Sachs executive may just learn this lesson the hard way. The stock did close down over $4 or 3.35%.

What is the Ultimate Price to Pay?

We had a local school referendum vote in my area last night, and for the second time in the last four months, the measure failed to be passed by voters. The $6.9 million proposal referendum focused on replacing the roofs and fire alarm systems at three local elementary schools, as well as a drainage system in one of the school's parking lot, which would then have been repaved (the area floods often during heavy rain).

For citizens of the area who don't have children attending school, the obvious position was to vote the measure down. Some had penned op-ed pieces in the local paper expressing displeasure it even came up for a second vote. Whether you have kids or not, we all know that a building's roof will eventually need to be replaced. Furthermore, the costs won't be any cheaper in the future. If the roof leaks and mold grows, guess what? The job suddenly gets more expensive. And of course, what if an antiquated fire alarm system led to a preventable tragedy?

As I was reading the news this morning, I saw an interesting item from a town up in Westchester County New York (a town named Rye), which last night saw its citizens approve a $16.35 million bond to pay for a new wing of high school science labs. When asked why one of the voters voted yes, his response was "I'm a property owner and I think one of the things that hold the property value is the quality of our schools."

No one is a fan of paying more in taxes, but sometimes, you have to think things through before you automatically reject a proposition. The cost to taxpayers in both cases was less than a couple hundred dollars for the year. The biggest draw for many families to move to an area is the local school system. If that system deteriorates, eventually what do you think happens to property values? This cycle begs the question I began this post with: what is the ultimate price to pay?

Thinking short-term (my taxes will go up) and not about what the benefit will ultimately be long term (better school facilities equals more people attracted to your area, and ultimately better for property values) is sometimes the difference between how successful one person is compared to another. Sometimes you have to sacrifice short-term pain (financially or professionally) to ultimately reach your desired destination. It took our team six months to get our site and ratings system ready to launch. It was a 24/7 sacrifice that brought in no money during that time period. It was a price that many might have hesitated to pay, but we are so happy we did. Like I said, the short term can feel lousy, but once you get past that hurdle, you'll see it will almost always be worth it in the end.

Dividend Increases Ramping Up

In case you missed it, we saw a plethora of companies raise their dividend payouts yesterday. Be sure to check out our daily premium post running down all these changes.

An Important Note Regarding the Best Dividend Stocks List

We want to make sure everyone understands that the stocks on our Best Dividend Stocks List are the names we currently like for new investor capital, regardless of what date the stock was first recommended on. If and when a stock is removed from the list, we will clearly state whether the stock should be sold (which is rare but occasionally will happen), or simply held in one's account until we see a better entry point or catalyst.

And here's one last thing to remember about what we do here at it's not just the names that we recommend that can help you build wealth, but also the things we try to steer you away from that are just as important. Forget about speculative or penny stocks, chasing unprofitable IPOs, and listening to the manic talking heads in the business media!

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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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