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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. The Cisco kid
Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) has a wad of cash, and it's not afraid to use it.
The networking-gear giant is boosting its quarterly dividend 75% higher to $0.14 a share. Why not? The tech bellwether is flush with cash, even if a good chunk of its billions is held up overseas on repatriation tax concerns.
Cisco's payout boost was part of an expectations-beating quarterly report. A 4% uptick in revenue may not seem all that impressive, but after all the company has gone through, it's actually a better showing than Wall Street was expecting.
The meatier dividend isn't the only way Cisco is returning money to its shareholders. The former tech star also spent some of its ample cash to repurchase 108 million shares during the quarter.
2. Leaping lizards
LeapFrog (NYSE: LF ) is raising the bar in the handheld "edutainment" market.
The educational-toy maker rolled out the Leapster GS -- a new, sturdy device that comes complete with a video camera, accelerometer, and other goodies -- this week. Does it have WiFi or a rechargeable battery? No. Does it have oodles of storage capacity, and can it shoot high-def videos? No. But then, what do you expect for $70?
After a runaway holiday hit last year with its kid-centric tablet, LeapFrog's stock price crept into the double digits for the first time since 2008. New products that build on the company's growing ecosystem of cartridge and downloadable games will only help.
3. Netflix is on the move
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) is heading north in more ways than one.
The world's leading video service announced that it would expand its streaming service to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland later this year.
The Nordic push was alluded to during the company's most recent quarterly report, but it seemed as if the company would target just a single Western European country. Now it makes sense that Netflix was forecasting a quarterly deficit in its holiday quarter; rapid global expansion doesn't come cheap.
Just as Netflix was announcing its expansion plans, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst Nat Schindler upgraded the stock, going all the way from "underperform" to "buy."
Schindler is sticking to his $72 price target. His call was bearish when the stock was trading well above that mark, but it's now a bullish goal, given how far the stock has fallen since last month's disappointing quarterly report.
4. Sprint to the iPhone 4S finish line
If you can't wait until the iPhone 5 hits the market in a month or two, but you feel silly paying $199 for an iPhone 4S that will feel dated in a few weeks, Sprint (NYSE: S ) has a way out.
The country's third-largest wireless carrier is selling the iPhone 4S for just $149 through its website. Sweetening the online deal even more, Sprint is offering a $100 American Express Reward Card between now and Aug. 26 that is good on all of its smartphones for new line activations, lowering the effective price to a mere $49.
Sure, it's not necessarily smart to be the deepest subsidizer. Sprint also isn't profitable, unlike its two larger rivals. However, at a time when there will be a natural lull for iPhone 4S sales as folks count down to the iPhone 5 in the fall, Sprint is setting itself up as the place to get the iPhone 4S.
What's another $50 here and a $100 reward card in a couple of months if it means attracting someone that will fork over roughly $1,000 a year for a wireless plan?
5. China fights back
Focus Media (Nasdaq: FMCN ) appears to be getting the last laugh over noted worrywart Muddy Waters, which "sees through appearances to a Chinese company's true worth," according to its website.
A scorching report criticized the Chinese advertising giant, accusing the company of exaggerating the size of its business. Well, a consortium of private-equity firms and company executives has drummed up an offer to take the company private at $27 a share.
If successful, this would be the largest leveraged buyout in Chinese history. But it would also send a bigger message to the bearish analysts putting out defamatory reports on Chinese growth stocks. If Focus Media weren't a real, credible business, would insiders and picky private-equity firms be paying real money for the company?
Your move, Muddy Waters.