If Italy falls, then the rest of Europe may be right behind it. That was the thinking in the market yesterday, after Silvio Berlusconi almost won in that country's elections, an upset that would have probably undone the austerity measures recently imposed on Italy's finances, and which might have set the country on a path to default.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 219 points yesterday, or more than 1.5%, as it seemed that just might happen, though he and a third challenger won enough votes to block most reform efforts. The outcome is still unnerving, because Italy is too big to fail, but there's not enough money available to bail it out, as was done with Spain.
With more than three-quarters of all stocks on the New York Stock Exchange declining, the three following stocks were notable for bucking the trend. But resist the urge to high-five everyone in the cubicles next to you. Smart investors won't celebrate until they know why their stock surged, because without a fundamental basis for the bounce, these stocks could just as quickly make the return trip down.
Barnes & Noble
A real page-turner
Once again, investors are treated to a company founder wanting to take his baby private. Last year, Best Buy founder Richard Schulze began maneuvering to take the electronics superstore private, while Dell founder Michael Dell did the same thing last month. Barnes & Noble got a big bounce yesterday, when the bookseller's founder, Leonard Riggio, filed notice that he also wanted to buy his baby back.
While the notion is an invigorating one for investors, it's not so easy to do. Schulze originally encountered resistance from the board of directors for his efforts and subsequently found financing wasn't easy to come by. Now he may be forced to settle for just a minority position in the company.
Of course, the ultimate future of the business may determine whether you'll get investors to join you, and with the proliferation of e-books and alternative sources of reading material, the printed book may not attract many enthusiastic investors. Moreover, Riggio wants to get rid of Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader business, which may be the one part investors think would have a future. I'm not certain this chapter will be one worth reading.
Still raising a ruckus
It was just a week ago I was pointing out that Ruckus Wireless would experience periods of volatility as investors acclimated themselves to its position in the Wi-Fi equipment field at the same time larger, better-financed rivals such as Cisco were making an appearance.
Yesterday's bounce was based on no company-specific news, though it could still be a carryover from Friday's report that it won a big contract with Airtel Africa to supply indoor and outdoor access points. It's going to need to put together a string of such victories if it wants to continue to grow, but the fighting for business is going to be fierce. As I said last time, expect this stock to be a manic performer for a while to come.
Betting the farm
The approval of social-gaming specialist Zynga's gambling license in Nevada sent its stock soaring, but I'm still betting that this company is going to come up empty. I agree with proponents who advocate for online gambling in the U.S., but that doesn't mean every player is going to win big, and despite forming a relationship with Bwin.party that's expected to launch later this year, this move strikes of desperation -- sort of like the gambler betting this month's rent to try to make his car payment.
Zynga's fortunes have been declining as its Facebook relationship has been challenged and it was forced to find another way to make money. Online gambling was what it settled on.
Some analysts like the move, however, believing that if other states follow Nevada's lead -- certainly New Jersey would be a likely advocate -- revenue from Internet gambling could be "in the billions." How much of that amount Zynga would grab from the casinos and international poker sites that have already perfected the business is obviously a question mark, but I don't think going from Farmville to betting the farm is a wise business choice.
Zynga's post-IPO performance has been dreadful, and investors are beginning to wonder if it's "game over" for this newly public company. Being so closely tied to the world's largest social network can be a blessing and a curse. You can learn everything you need to know about Zynga and whether it's a buy or a sell in our new premium research report. Don't even think about picking up shares before you read what our top analysts have to say about Zynga. Click here to access your copy.
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