Markets

Market Wrap-Up for Aug.30 (NKE, KSS, JPM, WYNN, PII, MCD, more)

The market was looking fairly lackluster early on, as it digested two offsetting data points (deteriorating consumer confidence number and an uptick in home-sale prices), but we saw the averages turn green following comments about the likelihood of further accommodation coming out of the Fed. Economic data continues to be scattered, wreaking all sorts of havoc for traders hoping to hop on any developing trend.

It was a mixed bags as far as winners and losers went. Stocks that bucked the upside and spent the day in the red included Nike ( NKE ), Kohl's ( KSS ), and J.P. Morgan ( JPM ). On the flipside, high-beta dividend stocks netted some nice gains, including Wynn Resorts ( WYNN ) and Polaris Industries ( PII ). A stock that had been recently removed from our recommended list, McDonald's ( MCD ) hit a new all-time high. We still like the stock, but we think investors may be better off waiting for better entry points.

Don't look now, but oil prices are creeping back up toward the $90 mark, despite Hurricane Irene's lack of impact on oil refineries. This move may be good news for energy investors, but certainly not for most consumers. With little in the way of earnings reports coming out right now (which may be a good thing), the market will likely be a crap-shoot for much of the week. This is certainly not the time to place big bets in any particular area if you are a bored trader. For long-term investors, it remains a market where we see a narrower window of opportunities (Be sure to check our "Best Dividend Stocks" list for our current recommendations) than we have seen in the past.

In a hat tip to Fortune.com, I came across an article today about the latest gimmick Wall Street has created to peddle to Joe Public. In what could best be described as a "swiss army knife" approach, Structured Notes are the latest weapons of what could be financial destruction for retail investors. These notes are customized investments that typically package together a zero-coupon bond with derivatives. The pitch is the notes are created to capture upside exposure to a specific asset class (stocks, commodities, currencies, etc.) while combining the the relative safety of a bond held to maturity. Besides being taxed at ordinary income rates (30%) to protect the principal, a crazy scenario pointed out in the article was where an investor would receive the market's full gain if an underlying index rises up to 40% over the life of the note. But if the index rises 41% or more, the investor's return is automatically slashed to 10%. What? I've seen easier-to-understand rules at a sidewalk card-trick con game. Unfortunately, nothing will happen to combat these instruments until investors are burned in big numbers.

This point leads me to something I've been hearing more and more from readers (and members of my own extended family, as well) regarding the mediocre experiences they've seen at their local bank branches. For many older individuals who have been reluctant to come back into the stock market, their investment choices have been limited to money markets and bank CD's. Banks tend to have at least one advisor either in a branch or affiliated with the bank follow up with a client about other ideas for a bank customer's money. If you have ever been in a situation like I am describing, you have probably been surprised at the little variation of options being offered. Most of the funds pitched are either in-house products or deals where they are offered the best commissions on. It's blatantly obvious that a customer is being steered in a specific direction.

I remember just a few decades ago when I would accompany my parents or grandparents to the bank, it was quite an experience to walk into these financial institutions. It seemed like whoever worked at the desks had every answer you needed. There was a whole different set of standards as opposed to what you experience today. If you want to open an account, wire money, get a certified bank check and basic services like that, you are generally in good shape. Other than that, you are probably going to walk away unimpressed. With much less profits these days, banks have not held to the standards that were once in place with the true professionals they used to employ.

These days, banks focus their marketing efforts on convenience, not so much the range of services that are offered. Banks have been less eager to lend money in the past few years, so being able to even get a simple loan is now out of the question in many cases. Where will the profits for banks eventually come from?

That's the fundamental question these days for many financial institutions, and it's why someone who is enamored with the investment advisory profession is likely not going to consider the banking business as the first vehicle of choice. If you speak to many bank tellers, they'll likely admit they aren't even full-time employees anymore, as banks (and other employers) are doing their best to avoid the onus of offering health benefits. At the end of the day, how confident will consumers feel about buying investment products, when the person pitching them doesn't even fully understand the products to begin with? I can't even imagine what a "structured notes" pitch would sound like if banks started pushing them aggressively as well.

There is something to be said for someone who can sell an investment vehicle with a passion for explaining a product inside and out, along with the pro's and con's, and not simply shoving various brochures in front of you expecting a customer to pick one of them to try. This isn't to say there aren't any exceptional banks somewhere out there, but I can tell you from sample size, mediocrity is running rampant for the most part.

Clearly, investors are increasingly obligated to take charge of their own financial destiny. This process will include finding an institution that can offer the best and unbiased information, whether it is investment research or financial product choices. At Dividend.com, we are maintaining our focus on the best income-producing investments the markets have to offer during time of heightened volatility. We want to make sure we have only the most pullback-resistant names on our "Best Dividend Stocks" list . Also, if we see the market putting in what looks like a decent bottom, we will be prepared to scale up the list of stocks we like. Stay tuned and be sure to look for Dividend.com Premium member alerts along the way. Don't count on the government or your employer to set you up for a remarkable retirement. Take control, do your own research, and achieve your goals yourself!

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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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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