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. Pop goes the free publicity
Banned ads aren't just for GoDaddy, folks.
SodaStream (NASDAQ:SODA) is milking a controversial ban of the company's seemingly innocuous ad in which hundreds of plastic bottles erupt whenever someone triggers the beverage maker's water carbonation process.
The U.K. regulatory agency tasked with approving television ads blocked the commercial that has been airing stateside for a couple of weeks, finding it disparaging to traditional soda companies.
It's funny. If Clearcast was bothered by the sight of exploding two-liter bottles of soda, what must it think of those same bottles creating an environmental waste dilemma in many countries?
Well, SodaStream fought back this week. It's putting out the same commercial, but merely adding a black screen and white text as the original ad's audio plays. The spot ends with a way for viewers to watch the real ad on YouTube.
The cola wars are back, but with new battle lines drawn.
2. RIM shot
Research In Motion (NYSE:BB) traded in the double digits last week for the first time since June, and this week it's padding those gains.
A Goldman Sachs upgrade on Thursday kept the party going, as yet another Wall Street pro is encouraged by the potential of next year's rollout of the new BlackBerry 10 operating system.
Goldman Sachs analyst Simona Jankowski isn't entirely sold on the company's chances. In fact, she sees just a 30% chance of success. The market seems pretty set on letting iOS and Android carve out the lion's share of the smartphone realm.
However, if RIM is successful, she sees it earning as much as $3.08 a share in fiscal 2014. Raising her firm's price target from $9 to $16 -- and upgrading the stock from neutral to buy -- underestimates the potential appreciation if BlackBerry 10 is a hit.
Yes, it also underestimates the risks under the likelier (70%) scenario of failure, but at least RIM has a shot.
3. Thinking outside of the coffin box
Death care isn't a very attractive topic, but it shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that a company selling caskets, urns, and other funeral service products is generating steady financial results.
Hillenbrand (NYSE:HI) is proving that death care can be a pretty lively investment.
The maker of caskets, post-cremation urns, and other funeral parlor equipment posted solid quarterly results after Monday's market close.
Revenue climbed 10% to $254 million. Adjusted earnings climbed 6% to $31 million or $0.50 a share. You may not need to whip out your calculator to see that we're eyeing impressive 12% net margins here. Few investors seem to get excited about the grim nature of death care, but it's apparently showing signs of life with double-digit after-tax margins.
Hillenbrand has made the most of the neglect, snapping up smaller players in this highly fragmented market.
The Keurig company made the cut in this weekly column last week after bringing on a surprisingly prolific new CEO. Investors were rewarded this month with a monster report.
Even after backing out the extra week in the reporting period, revenue and adjusted earnings climbed a better-than-expected 20% and 21%, respectively.
More important, after seeing inventory levels grow much faster than net sales for many of the past few quarters -- arming worrywarts with potent shorting ammo -- inventory only inched 14% higher this time.
5. When there's a rotting carcass, it's not just the head that stinks
Shares of Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) rallied earlier this week on reports that CEO Andrew Mason was on the way out. The stock retreated last night on reports that he was staying -- for now.
The venom is misplaced.
The "smart" move here is keeping Mason, and not the ridiculous witch hunt that cheered his potential dismissal and is now booing his retention.
Groupon isn't the problem. Its nearest rival just announced layoffs this week. Many of the companies that embraced the daily-deals model have moved on. Groupon is actually the survivor that has evolved, moving into deals on physical goods that it sells directly, offering merchants cheaper credit-card processing services, and more logical offerings that can be pitched to its 250,000 merchants.
It's probably smarter to blame the investment bankers that took Groupon public at a $12 billion valuation last year than to come down on one of the few companies navigating this treacherous niche and mustering growth.
Besides, while everybody is complaining about Groupon, investors have seen the stock close higher in 10 of the past 11 trading days.