This Week's 5 Smartest Stock Moves

If you're feeling good about the market, you're not alone. Let's go over some of this week's more uplifting headlines.

1. You've got PBJ
Time Warner's (NYSE: TWX  ) AOL is hiring former Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) exec Brad Garlinghouse as President of Internet and Media Communications. He will also oversee the AOL Ventures arm, scouting out prospective dot-com investments.

Garlinghouse is the perfect choice for the sluggish online giant. He penned the famous "Peanut Butter Manifesto" while at Yahoo!, warning his fellow executives of the pitfalls of spreading the company too thin. He was right then, and even if the manifesto was just one missive, it's proof that Garlinghouse isn't afraid to rattle the branches of complacency.

That attitude is just what AOL needs, as the only major online email provider to lose users over the past year. Let's hope the AOL commissary uses really thick peanut butter.

2. Good job, Jobs
Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) hyped media event was a washout in terms of product introductions:

  • The iPod nano is getting a video camera, but the high-end iPod touch isn't.
  • The Beatles aren't entering digital distribution through iTunes. (Yet.)
  • There is no Apple tablet computer -- at least not now.
  • Steve Jobs still can't shoot lasers out of his eyes. (Although his employees may beg to differ.)

That said, Jobs was on stage for the first time since taking a medical leave for his liver transplant. He may have looked frail, but investors should have realized something in his absence. Few executives are as important to their companies as Jobs is to Apple, but what exactly happened while he was gone?

Jobs left for a six-month medical leave in mid-January, when the stock was at $85.33. The stock has more than doubled since then. It's great to see Jobs back. Still, don't panic the next time he's not there.

3. Here comes the sun
If Nixon went to China, why not First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR  ) ? The Chinese government is awarding the Arizona-based First Solar a contract to build a 2-gigawatt power plant in Inner Mongolia.

China certainly has no shortage of homegrown solar energy specialists, so either First Solar is just that good, or China wants to send a harmonious message abroad. Either way, First Solar will take it.

4. Paging Dr. Dell
Now that Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) is no longer calling in sick, it's heading to the hospital. The turnaround candidate is entering the electronic medical records arena with a complete hardware and software solution.

Wherever you stand personally on health-care reform, the modernization of medical records is a no-brainer. We're also talking about a potentially juicy incremental business for Dell, allowing it to diversify from its corporate, consumer, and government audiences.

Dell is already succeeding in boosting margins, thanks to huge cost cuts. The top line hasn't come along for the ride, but that only makes this move that much more logical.

5. Broke and broker
This wasn't a good week to be a CEO in the financial services industry. The heads of Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS  ) and E*TRADE (Nasdaq: ETFC  ) announced that they are leaving their companies.

These are smart moves, but not necessarily because the CEOs had to go. E*TRADE's Donald Layton was tapped to lead the company two years ago, after its mortgage-lending shortcomings had begun to blow up in its face. He served the company well in focusing on the more stable discount brokerage business.

Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack doesn't get off as easy, but he was doing a respectable job in bringing the investment banker back after last year's tumultuous mess.

However, it's important for the market to see fresh faces go into these companies. It's the quickest way to wipe the slate clean of its problematic past. That's exactly what the Mets should do this offseason, regardless of their overpaid roster and untimely ballpark branding partner.

Feeling a bit grumpy? Go check out This Week's 5 Dumbest Stock Moves.

First Solar is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Dell is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services, free for 30 days

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is an optimist at every turn. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


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4/17/2014 4:00 PM
AAPL $524.94 Up +5.93 +1.14%
Apple CAPS Rating: ****
DELL $0.00 Down +0.00 +0.00%
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ETFC $21.04 Up +0.20 +0.96%
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FSLR $67.32 Down -0.27 -0.40%
First Solar CAPS Rating: **
MS $30.76 Up +0.87 +2.91%
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TWX $65.15 Up +0.66 +1.02%
Time Warner CAPS Rating: **
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