This Month's 5 Smartest Stock Moves


I have a weekly column where I detail the market's smartest and dumbest stock moves, but February has been pretty busy.

Let's revisit five of the sharpest moves that companies made this month.

1. Netflix is all aces
Netflix gambled big on this month's debut of House of Cards, and it's paying off.

The leading video service is shelling out $100 million for 26 episodes over two seasons of the star-studded political thriller. It's been a critical hit since its Feb. 1 debut, and Netflix is taking advantage of its unmatched reach of more than 33 million streaming subscribers to pay top dollar for original content.

Netflix's decision to play up the "binge viewing" nature of its subscribers by offering up all 13 episodes of the first season at once is controversial. It can't string viewers along through three months of cliffhangers. There are now buzz-building discussions by the water cooler since everybody is at a different stage in the series. However, the show's magnetic appeal to both critics and viewers will help out with retention at Netflix.

It will also help legitimize the platform for other show producers in the future.

Just two weeks into the show's success, DreamWorks revealed that Netflix would be the exclusive home of an animated series for children based on this summer's theatrical release F.A.S.T.

Well played, Netflix.

2. Above par for the Kors
Luxury handbags would seem to be an unlikely bright spot in the economy -- especially a month after the leading maker of high-end purses, totes, and other designer carry-ons disappointed the market -- but Michael Kors has found a way into women's pocketbooks.

Shares of the Hong Kong-based retailer of upscale handbags, apparel, and accessories soared this week after posting blowout financial results.

Revenue climbed 70% during the holiday quarter, and most of that was the handiwork of a stunning 41% surge in same-store sales.

Obviously Michael Kors won't be immune to an economic setback, but if the chain is doing well now, just imagine how brisk sales of its pricey handbags will be if things really start humming along nicely.

3. Pop star's big score
knows how to milk controversial marketing campaigns.

When the world's largest soft drink company asked SodaStream to stop using its cans and bottles in the company's "cage" exhibit last year -- a large cage of soda containers retrieved from landfills to illustrate how many cans and bottles a SodaStream system spares in any given year -- it went ahead and rolled one out to Coke's home turf of Atlanta.

When the BBC banned a SodaStream commercial in November, it promoted the video's availability online and generated millions of views.

So it probably wasn't a surprise to see SodaStream take a similar strategy this month with its first Super Bowl ad.

It called out Coke and Pepsi by name, and that was apparently enough to get the spot banned for the big game. Revisiting its success at milking the BBC diss, SodaStream took the ad online. It closes out the month approaching 5 million views.

4. Baidu on the offensive
Shares of China's leading search engine began slipping late last year after a rival search engine emerged on the scene. It almost seemed too easy for Qihoo 360 to put out a serviceable platform -- amassing as much as 15% of the market in a matter of months -- and now Baidu is getting litigious about it.

Reports out of China earlier this month find a Beijing court clearing the way to hear Baidu's allegations that Qihoo is infringing on its copyrights. According to Baidu, the rival engine is crawling and copying Baidu's content.

We'll see how things play out, but just raising the notion that Qihoo 360 is using black hat techniques to get up to speed -- something that it has been accused of by another dot-com giant in the past -- should serve Baidu well in the eyes of consumers.

5. LinkedIn nails this quarterly review
Few terms are as abused "priced for perfection" on Wall Street.

It's something that investors like to throw at stocks that seem to have sky-high valuations. The rub here is that numbers aren't finite. There's no such thing as perfection because targets can always be exceeded by varying degrees.

Well, LinkedIn became the "priced for perfection" myth buster this month.

Yes, the social networking website for corporate climbers trades at a ridiculous multiple, but the stock soared after another blowout performance.

Revenue climbed 81% to $303.6 million as adjusted earnings more than tripled to $40.2 million or $0.35 a share. Silly analysts. They were perched at a profit of just $0.19 a share on $279.5 in revenue.

The market shouldn't be surprised here. LinkedIn has beaten analyst estimates every single quarter since going public nearly two years ago.

Another smart move?
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz owns shares of Netflix and SodaStream. The Motley Fool recommends Baidu, DreamWorks Animation, LinkedIn, Netflix, and SodaStream. The Motley Fool owns shares of Baidu, LinkedIn, Netflix, and SodaStream. 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.

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