This Week's 5 Smartest Stock Moves

If you're feeling good about the market, you're not alone. Take my hand as we go over some of this week's more uplifting headlines.

1. You Nook me all night long
For the past year, I've been beating Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS  ) like a sugar-starved kid swinging away at a pinata, so it's only fair that I sing its praises when it does something right.

The struggling bookseller introduced the NOOKcolor on Tuesday -- a 7-inch touchscreen gadget that feels a lot more like a tablet than an e-reader. The device won't begin shipping until next month, but its $249 price point is compelling, especially since it can surf the Web, serve up crossword puzzles, and bring children's picture books to life.

If B&N can meet its shipping date -- and that's a big if, given last year's delays on the original Nook -- the superstore chain could have a holiday hit on its hands. I think the NOOKcolor is the perfect middle ground between a high-end e-reader and an entry-level tablet.

2. China rolls on
Sohu.com
(Nasdaq: SOHU  ) is setting the bar high for China's online gaming companies.

The new media darling -- with a majority stake in fast-growing online gaming specialist Changyou.com (Nasdaq: CYOU  ) -- posted better-than-expected results this week.

Revenue climbed 20% to $164.1 million, as adjusted earnings came in at $1.16 a share. Wall Street was targeting a non-GAAP profit of $0.90 a share on $156.8 million in revenue.

Since Sohu.com is the first earnings announcer among the five publicly traded companies with strong online gaming operations in China, this naturally bodes well for its peers. However, Sohu.com treated shareholders to double-digit gains on its earnings news because of a 22% uptick in its Web-based brand advertising business, and an even more impressive 134% surge in its still nascent search advertising efforts.

In other words, games are all well and good, but Sohu.com was hitting on all cylinders.

3. Robots make analysts look like lifeless automatons
iRobot
(Nasdaq: IRBT  ) also blew away the market.

The company behind Roomba vacuum-cleaning orbs, PackBot military robotics, and other nifty programmable gadgetry earned an adjusted profit of $0.18 a share. The pros were banking on net income of only $0.07 a share.

When you deal with robotics, you expect lumpy results. Defense orders come in waves. Consumer innovations pit convenience against discretionary income. One would expect iRobot's results to be all over the map. Sometimes the geeky engineers win. Sometimes the nerdy analysts have the final laugh.

But for five consecutive quarters, the engineers have been wiping Wall Street's floor with the analysts:

Time Frame

EPS Est.

EPS Actual

Q3 2010 $0.07 $0.18
Q2 2010 $0.08 $0.20
Q1 2010 $0.04 $0.24
Q4 2009 $0.16 $0.20
Q3 2009 $0.02 $0.10

Source: Thomson Reuters.

Wake up, Wall Street! This company is programmed to beat you.

4. This could stream ... all ... the ... way
Time Warner Cable
(NYSE: TWC  ) customers can now stream live video from Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) ESPN on non-mobile devices.

Cable providers are grappling with subscriber defections. In order to justify their chunky cable bills, they're offering extras like streaming video from the undisputed leader in sports programming in hopes of keeping churn in check.

This deal is a major score for Time Warner Cable, since it arrived during the same week in which one of its rivals came under fire for a programming dispute with Fox, just as the World Series kicked off.

5. Image comes into view
Silicon Image
(Nasdaq: SIMG  ) is one of this week's big winners, stunning analysts with an adjusted profit of $0.18 a share in its latest quarter. Even if you back out a chunky royalty revenue catch-up payment, Silicon Image floored past Wall Street's estimate of $0.05 a share.

Selling chips and shaking its intellectual-property moneymakers -- in the form of royalties received from makers of HDMI transmitters and controller gear -- is apparently a pretty sweet gig.

Silicon Image had posted five consecutive quarterly deficits before breaking back into the black three months ago. It turned in a repeat performance, and whenever there's a "catch-up" payment to be made, it implies a promising flow of royalty revenue in the future.

Walt Disney is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection and a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. iRobot and Sohu.com are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is an optimist at every turn. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Disney. 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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