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This Week's 5 Smartest Stock Moves

By Rick Munarriz - Apr 5, 2013 at 10:48AM

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These five companies did the right thing this week.

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. Conn's job
The market typically frowns on a company that comes up short on the bottom line. It also doesn't help when the market's in a selling mood, and that's exactly what happened on Wednesday after Conn's (CONN -5.41%) reported results for its holiday quarter.

However, despite coming up short on the bottom line, Conn's stock rose 8% on the day. What happened?

Well, the consumer electronics chain posted encouraging sales growth. Yes, that often suggests that margins were disappointing, but the retailer made up for that with robust guidance. Conn's sees a profit of $2.40 a share to $2.50 a share in the new fiscal year, blowing past the $2.09 a share that Wall Street was penciling in for the chain.

Encouraged by the upbeat outlook, Canaccord Genuity analyst Laura Champine raised her price target on the shares from $41 to $53.

2. Doubling down on Zynga
Shares of Zynga (ZNGA -2.04%) moved higher after its first real-money gambling games rolled out.

ZyngaPlusPoker and ZyngaPlusCasino were launched through Zynga's overseas partner Bwin, letting players in the U.K. bet real money on online poker, blackjack, slots, and roulette.

It remains to be seen how lucrative the venture will be. Do folks really want to pull the virtual lever on a FarmVille-themed slot machine? However, it does make Zynga less dependent on its social and casual games, where bookings have been slipping lately.

There was good news on Zynga's app front, too. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier in the week that What's the Phrase -- a new Wheel of Fortune knockoff that Zynga released a month ago -- had cracked the Top 10 list among free iOS apps. The bad news is that as of last night the game had slipped from eight down to 14 on the list. The good news is that the premium $0.99 version of the game is now the fourth most popular pay-app download for iOS devices.

3. The prodigal founder returns
Best Buy
(BBY 1.21%) shares soared 16% yesterday -- hitting a 52-week high along the way -- on news that Samsung will open stores within roughly 1,400 Best Buy locations.

Samsung will get to showcase its highly anticipated Galaxy S4 handset as well as other smartphones, tablets, and laptops. This won't just be up to 460 square feet of display space. Samsung will staff the mini-store, and it will have its own register to close sales on the spot.

Sure, this venture may prove to be too successful. Samsung may merely be testing the waters to see if the market is ready for Samsung stand-alone stores. However, for now, it gives shoppers a reason to flock back to Best Buy.

4. There's no place like home
(FB -7.62%) hosted a media event to unveil its new Android interface yesterday.

Facebook Home will allow owners of the leading Android smartphones to transform their home screens into a Facebook-centric interface that boots up with vivid images from Facebook friends and bubbles up notifications.

Facebook's goal is to let the smartphone experience be about people instead of apps.

Yes, a phone was also unveiled that will come optimized this way out of the box. HTC First itself may be a hard sell if it's mislabeled as a "Facebook Phone" -- and it will hit the market on the same day as the Facebook Home app becomes available (a week from today).

Some analysts were also bellyaching about the lack of Facebook Home monetization, but they don't get it. This push is about getting users to engage more with the social networking website. The stickiness will pay off in other ways.

5. Qihoo's your daddy
The push to monetize its search engine apparently hasn't set Qihoo 360 (QIHU.DL) back.

T.H. Capital is reporting that Qihoo 360's share of the search engine market has grown from 10.4% to 13.5%. Most of those gains have come at the expense of China's smaller players. Market leader Baidu's (NASDAQ: BIDU) market share only slipped from 71.5% to 70.5%.

This is definitely positive news for Qihoo 360, as it proves that it's just not a novelty. It's amazing to think that Qihoo 360 didn't even have a search engine a year ago.

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Stocks Mentioned

Zynga Inc. Stock Quote
Zynga Inc.
$8.18 (-2.04%) $0.17
Meta Platforms, Inc. Stock Quote
Meta Platforms, Inc.
$181.28 (-7.62%) $-14.95
Best Buy Co., Inc. Stock Quote
Best Buy Co., Inc.
$73.47 (1.21%) $0.88
Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd. Stock Quote
Qihoo 360 Technology Co. Ltd.
Conn's, Inc. Stock Quote
Conn's, Inc.
$11.55 (-5.41%) $0.66

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