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 jacked
Apple (NAS: AAPL) is back to its analyst-thumping ways.

Three months after failing to live up to Wall Street expectations, CEO Tim Cook is back to leaving the pros scratching their heads in a good way.

Apple's quarter was a blowout on every level. A whopping 37 million iPhones were sold, reversing the one category that didn't live up to analyst targets in its previous quarter. Moving 15.4 million iPads was another refreshing sight, especially since a few analysts had been talking down that target in recent weeks.

Apple is clearly off to a great start in fiscal 2012, and we haven't gotten to the way that iPads will be taking over classrooms in the fall.

2. A stream come true
The downturn at Netflix (NAS: NFLX) lasted just a little longer than the Qwikster fiasco.

The video service provider saw its stock soar 22% yesterday after a surprisingly robust fourth quarter.

Revenue climbed by a better-than-expected 47%. Earnings slipped 16% on the heels of costly international expansion and a drop in DVD-based subscribers, but Wall Street was braced for far worse.

The meaty takeaway is that after a disastrous third quarter of defections, Netflix closed out 2011 with a record 26.2 million unique subscribers worldwide.

3. Undercutting Netflix
Netflix is comfortable with the value proposition of its $7.99 a month streaming service that's growing again. Don't be surprised if (NAS: AMZN) jumps in with an even cheaper alternative.

Amazon's been offering a digital catalog of 13,000 -- and growing -- titles at no additional cost to its Amazon Prime subscribers. Now sources are telling the New York Post that Amazon will follow Netflix into charging for its digital smorgasbord.

This would normally seem like incendiary rumor mill fodder, but Netflix even addressed this reality in its quarterly report. Netflix expects Amazon to continue to offer instant streaming to Prime customers, but also roll out a likely even cheaper service as its own offering.

Priced at $79 a year -- or $6.58 a month -- for Prime, how low can a video-only service go? The smart money has to be $3.99 a month. Amazon's digital library is far inferior to Netflix's fresher and deeper licensed vault, but it will give consumers something to think about.

Amazon can even offer streaming at a loss -- as it does with its Kindle hardware -- knowing that it can make this back as folks order premium a la carte streams of new releases that even Netflix doesn't have digitally. In other words, this could be Amazon's Trojan horse. Getting folks to tether their living rooms to Amazon's video service will elevate its premium one-off rentals and purchases.

Brilliant, Bezos.

4. Volt the vote
General Motors (NYS: GM) has seen its Chevy Volt become collateral damage in this year's tense partisan tug-of-war, but at least the car has now been proclaimed safe.

Regulators have cleared the Volt after Chevy's battery-pack fix for the problematic engine fires that were taking place days after some severe crashes.

Now it's time to win over jaded drivers hesitant to plunk down $40,000 for a green car.

GM took out full-page ads this week, letting readers know that it's Volt has been cleared. GM also managed to take some jabs at the pure electric cars on the market. Volt's combination of plug-in electric and gasoline helps alleviate drivers' "range anxiety" associated with the limited driving distance that a pure electric car can go before going in for a charge.

5. Polycom wants a cracker
(NAS: PLCM) was another winner this week.

Shares of the enterprise-class video teleconferencing equipment maker soared after posting better-than-expected quarterly results.

Polycom's quarterly profit of $0.41 a share blew past the pros at $0.29 a share. The company credits strength in emerging markets for its healthy blowout report.

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At the time thisarticle was published The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netflix, Apple, General Motors,, and Polycom. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He does not own shares in any of the stocks in this story, except for Netflix. Rick is also part of theRule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

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