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. Fiery redheads
Yum! Brands' (NYSE:YUM) Taco Bell is keeping the Doritos-dusted taco shells coming. The world's largest Mexican fast-food chain unveiled Fiery Doritos Locos Tacos this week, the third installment in the successful line that helped spur sales since its rollout in March of last year. Taco Bell has served up 600 million Doritos Locos Tacos, and same-store sales soared 8% last year. The spicy shells will be available starting next Thursday.
The gains at Taco Bell may not be enough to offset the parent company's recent weakness with KFC in China, but the positive and crunchy buzz can only help these days.
2. Sirius road hog
Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) is throwing out a wider net.
The satellite radio provider will buy Agero's connected vehicle services business for $530 million, giving Sirius XM a working telematics relationship with many of the leading automakers.
It's a smart move by Sirius XM as it tries to expand its average revenue per user beyond the seemingly limited upside of providing premium audio content in cars. Roughly half of the more than 50-million cars out there with satellite radio receivers are inactive, and this gives the media giant a new way to prove its value proposition.
Yes, $530 million is a lot money; but keep in mind that Sirius XM still has billions in net operating losses that it can carry over to offset taxes on future profits. Acquisitions make more sense for Sirius XM than they do for companies that don't have the benefit of shaving tax liabilities on future earnings.
3. Meth math
Breaking Bad scored 5.9 million views for its season premiere on Sunday night, 102% higher than the episode that kicked off last summer's fifth season. This is naturally good news for AMC Networks, but it may be an even bigger victory for Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX).
Having a show more than double its audience between seasons -- even if this is the final season of an Emmy-studded show -- is huge, and Breaking Bad couldn't have done it without Netflix. The ability for Netflix's tens of millions of subscribers to stream the entirety of the serialized drama's first five seasons is huge.
We saw the spike that Mad Men received after it began making its shows available through Netflix, but this takes things to an entirely new level.
It's no longer about generating licensing revenue from Netflix. Any studio with a serialized drama that is still running on the air owes Netflix in a major way for the likely spike in ratings and television ad revenue, giving the leading streaming platform even more leverage in future negotiations.
4. One not so small step for MannKind
Diabetes sufferers tiring of needle pricks may be in luck. Shares of MannKind (NASDAQ:56400P706) moved higher after encouraging late-stage trial results for its inhalable insulin treatment. Afrezza's efficacy was generally positive, paving the way for the likelihood of regulatory approval as soon as early next year.
MannKind has a volatile trading history as the market assesses its prospects for success and the market for the product. Maybe it's just me, but I think that any product that replaces a pin prick with an inhaler will be a hit with the masses.
5. Windows watching
Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) is ready to give its flagship operating system a new look. The world's leading software company announced this week that Windows 8.1 -- the highly anticipated update to last year's Windows 8 -- will be available on October 18.
It's clear that customers aren't exactly wooed by the touch-centric Windows 8, as users have been critical about the learning curve and the removal of the signature "Start" button. Microsoft claims victory in moving a ton of licenses, but PC shipments have fallen every single quarter since its arrival.
Windows 8.1 may not save the day. It may be too late for any operating system that isn't Android. However, at least Microsoft is trying. That's certainly better than rearranging the Titanic's deck chairs.