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. Apple acts like a banana and splits
Shares of Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) turned out their biggest single-day gain in two years after the company posted blowout earnings and huge iPhone growth. It's easy to pick on the drop in iPad sales or the fact that revenue in the Americas climbed a mere 2%, but it was still a big beat on the bottom line.

A big reason for the beat was Apple's aggressive share buyback efforts over the past year. After all, it's the reason why earnings per share rose 15% after actual earnings increased just 7%. Apple also impressed the market by declaring a 7-for-1 stock split. Yes, it's a zero-sum game, but at least it didn't insult its investors with a stock split like the one the Big G did earlier this year, with holders getting non-voting shares.

2. Netflix raises the bar
Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX  ) also posted better-than-expected results this week, but the reason that the leading premium video-streaming platform makes the cut is that it's finally raising prices. Netflix has hinted that an increase would be coming eventually, but now it's official. At some point this quarter, Netflix will boost the price of its monthly service from $7.99 to either $8.99 or $9.99, depending on the country.

Netflix hasn't budged its price since offering streaming as a stand-alone service at $7.99 a month, so one can argue that it's long overdue. The low price played a big part in getting Netflix to more than 48 million streaming accounts worldwide, but the extra buck or two will be huge in expanding its profitability.

3. Amazon's Park Place Empire
Amazon.com  (NASDAQ: AMZN  )  makes the cut this week, but this has nothing to do with Thursday afternoon's quarterly report. Earlier in the week, Amazon landed a huge piece of content for its fledgling Prime Instant Video platform.

HBO will make some of its older shows -- including The Sopranos, The Wire, and Six Feet Under -- available in their entirety through the streaming smorgasbord that Amazon offers its Prime customers at no additional cost. Earlier seasons of some of HBO's current shows, including Boardwalk Empire and Girls, will also be made available. This is huge for Amazon, differentiating it from the still-deeper Netflix catalog. This move should also help the fortunes of its new Fire TV, as HBO GO will also naturally be available through Amazon's set-top media player.

4. Baidu breaks through
Baidu's  (NASDAQ: BIDU  )  accelerating revenue growth has been the big headline in recent quarters, but this time it was the Chinese search giant's bottom line wowing the crowd. Baidu posted better-than-expected earnings on Thursday afternoon. Revenue climbed 59% to $1.53 billion -- in line with analyst targets -- but its profitability of $1.24 per share blew away Wall Street forecasts.

There were a few positive factors south of the operating profit line that benefited Baidu, but it would still have been a beat on its own. Baidu sees revenue climbing 56% to 60% in the new quarter. If it lands on the high end of that range, it would be its fourth consecutive quarter of accelerating revenue.

5. Hasbro lets out a Rebelle yell 
Hasbro  (NASDAQ: HAS  )  has a surprising hit on its hands. It introduced Nerf Rebelle -- a line of soft-tip dart blasters for girls in the guise of a bow or crossbow -- late last year as a way to reach out to a new market. Nerf toys may be genderless in theory, but they're marketed largely to active boys. This new line of pink and purple weaponry is clearly aiming to capitalize on the popularity of the arrow-slinging heroines in Brave and Hunger Games -- and it's working.

Hasbro posted better-than-expected results this week, and a big driver was a 21% surge in its toy category for girls, with Nerf Rebelle being singled out, along with My Little Pony, for the division's success.

3 More Smart Moves
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Related Tickers

8/22/2014 3:44 PM
AAPL $101.24 Up +0.66 +0.66%
Apple CAPS Rating: ****
AMZN $331.91 Down -1.00 -0.30%
Amazon.com CAPS Rating: ***
BIDU $214.95 Down -1.89 -0.87%
Baidu CAPS Rating: ****
HAS $52.44 Down -0.16 -0.30%
Hasbro CAPS Rating: ****
NFLX $478.39 Up +6.34 +1.34%
Netflix CAPS Rating: **

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