Market Minute: BP, Beset by Lawsuits, Set to Jump on Strong Earnings

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Pfizer flops, and BP is set to gain despite a slew of new lawsuits.

The S&P 500 rose 11 points yesterday to close above the record high set earlier this month, and it's poised to complete its sixth straight monthly gain. Dow Industrials jumped 106 points and the Nasdaq gained 27.

On the earnings scoreboard:

Shares of Pfizer (PFE) are set to slide after the company's operating net fell short of expectations. The world's biggest drug-maker also lowered its earnings and sales forecast for the full year.

The BP company logo.  Photographer: Daniel Hambury/Bloomberg News
Getty Images
BP (BP) is set to jump after earnings blew past expectations. Separately, the company has been hit by 2200 new lawsuits in recent weeks, related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill three years ago. Individuals and businesses are trying to beat a deadline to file new claims.

Insurance giant Aetna (AET) reports a four percent earnings decline, because of charges. But the company says sales and membership increased, and it raised its outlook for the full year.

Herbalife (HLF), the nutritional-supplement maker at the center of a power struggle between some big time investors, posted a 10 percent earnings gain. That topped expectations and the company raised its forecast for the full year.

Has Apple (AAPL) escaped from investors' doghouse? The stock is up sharply three days in a row. It closed Monday at $430 a share, up nearly $40 from the low hit less than two weeks ago. The latest driver is a rumor that the iPhone 5S could be available this summer.

Best Buy (BBY) is getting out of Europe. It's selling its 50 percent interest in Carphone, a joint venture there, for $775 million.

And Federal Reserve policymakers begin a two-day meeting at which they're expected to continue their easy money program to encourage spending and hiring.

–Produced by Drew Trachtenberg

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Gold Plunges: 5 Ways to Buy It At a Bargain
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Market Minute: BP, Beset by Lawsuits, Set to Jump on Strong Earnings

What's involved: You can buy gold bars or coins from coin dealers across the country. Many coin dealers have online businesses that will ship gold directly to your home.

Pros: You have the gold in your possession, avoiding any risk of third-party misconduct that other methods of investing in gold entail. Some investors enjoy the coin-collecting aspect of gold bullion coins.

Cons: You'll pay a markup to the current spot price to buy physical gold and might have to accept a discount when you sell it back. Also, you have to find and pay for a safe place to store your gold.

What's involved: Some coin dealers offer pool accounts, which allow you to buy gold but arrange to have it stored with the dealer rather than taking delivery. At any time, you then have the option either to sell the gold back or arrange to have the dealer send you a physical coin or bar corresponding to your pool-account position.

Pros: You have all the benefits of owning gold, but the dealer remains responsible for its care. You avoid dealing with shipping and insurance costs and have the assurance that it's held in a secure facility. The premiums for buying and discounts for selling also tend to be smaller than with physical gold.

Cons: To take possession of the gold, you'll have to pay shipping costs and other fees. You also have to trust that the dealer running the pool account will take all necessary steps to protect it from theft or other dangers.

What's involved: Gold futures contracts allow you to buy the right to take delivery of gold at a specified future date. Futures contracts tend to track the changing spot price of gold, paying you profits when prices rise and losing money when they fall. Most futures investors sell back the contract before it expires, never taking delivery of the physical gold underlying the contract.

Pros: You get the potential financial benefits of owning gold without worrying about storing it. You also don't have to come up with the full value of the underlying gold, as futures contracts require only a small margin balance covering a fraction of the gold's total value.

Cons: Futures contracts are only available through specialized brokerage accounts, and there are commissions involved. Most futures contracts may provide too much exposure, as a standard contract corresponds to 100 ounces, worth about $140,000 at current prices. You may have that much in your portfolio to invest, but putting it all into gold futures could give you too much exposure to one commodity.
What's involved: Exchange-traded funds like SPDR Gold (GLD) own vast holdings of gold bullion. Each share of SPDR Gold has a value of just under a tenth of an ounce of gold, and those shares rise and fall with the price of gold bullion.

Pros: Gold ETFs take responsibility for storage and protection of the gold in their possession, saving you the hassle and cost of owning physical gold.

Cons: Although many gold ETFs own physical gold, some gold ETFs use derivatives rather than bullion to track changing gold prices. For those ETFs, you run the risk that the derivatives involved won't move in lockstep with gold prices, potentially causing you to miss out on a gold-price increase.
 

What's involved: Hundreds of public companies mine gold. When gold prices rise, they earn more for the gold they produce, tying their value to that of the yellow metal itself.

Pros: Unlike other investments, mining stocks can actually produce income. Some miners even pay dividends to shareholders.

Cons: Mining stocks don't always track the price of gold, as other factors such as labor disputes and production costs can cause miners to suffer financial difficulties even when gold prices are high. Lately, gold-mining stocks have had far worse returns than bullion due to rising costs and falling profit margins.

 

Each of these five ways to add gold to your portfolio has pros and cons. But if you see the value of having gold among your investments, they're all worth considering to give you the gold exposure you want.

 

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