Mon12222014

Business & Real Estate

Is the stock market still your friend?

The Federal Reserve said interest-rate policies were still needed to invigorate the U.S. economy, so it will continue buying $85 billion in bonds every month to keep long-term rates low. The immediate result: The Dow Jones industrial average reached a new all-time high.

Although the past few days have been volatile, the trend still appears bullish. So what options do you have as an investor? You can continue what you’re doing in an uncertain market, you can sell your stocks and not worry about any crashes or shortfalls – there are legitimate reasons for concern in the weeks ahead – or you can continue to buy while the market achieves new highs and take your chances while the getting is good.

If you reached your financial goals, then getting out could be a good move, but analysts expect stocks to outperform bonds and cash over the next year.

The Stock Market Trends & Securities Report, Dow Theory Forecasts, noted that if an investor missed 40 of the market’s biggest days over 20 years (1987-2007), the return would have totaled 3.98 percent. Staying in the market fully invested, the average annualized return would have been 11.82 percent.

After October’s solid results, with the S&P 500 and the Dow reaching new highs, changing course would require difficult decision-making.

Two Town Crier “50” high-flying stocks made news last week.

• Facebook Inc. (FB; 48.66) stock gained 2.4 percent Thursday and continued to rise as the market declined. Why? Facebook reported quarterly earnings of 25 cents per share, beating an estimated 19 cents per share, while revenue increased 60 percent to $2.02 billion, compared with $1.26 billion a year earlier.

Not all is rosy with the Menlo Park-based company, however. It appears that the fever youth once had for Facebook is cooling off. Daily use by the teen demographic declined in the third quarter from the second quarter. Other age groups, though, more than made up for the decline.

The primary reason for the impressive growth is mobile sales. While Facebook was not in the mobile ad business when it went public in May 2012, ads now account for nearly half of the company’s $1.8 billion in advertising revenue. Mobile and business advertising rose because Internet users are increasingly using their smartphones and tablets.

Facebook will probably be around for a long time. Although it is losing some of its younger users, it has far more monthly users than Twitter and Linkedln combined.

The upgrade and downgrade history for Facebook stock has changed since the company went public in 2012. Since April 5, analysts have recommended a buy, with only a few holds. The high target price is $68, with a low of $24.90. Logical advice would be to buy on a dip.

• LinkedIn Corp. (LNKD; $224.14) is currently trading around its peak value and five times its 2011 initial public offering of $45. Investors are beginning to question whether the high valuation is correct and whether the price will continue to escalate.

LinkedIn is the largest professional networking site, with revenue for the fourth quarter approximately $414-$420 million, according to Bloomberg. Sales in the third quarter climbed 56 percent to $393 million. The company reported a net loss of $3.36 million, or 3 cents per share in the latest quarter.

As the Mountain View-based company builds its revenue from smartphones and tablet viewing, mobile activity already accounts for more than half of its sales from product-sponsored updates. LinkedIn has 4,241 full-time employees.

The Talent segment, in which LinkedIn charges a subscription fee for access to its database of recruiters, provides its main source of revenue. It has launched new products in Sponsored Updates and University Pages in the past two months. Faced with decelerating growth, LinkedIn seeks new users overseas to generate additional revenue.

The stock’s upgrade and downgrade history since February has been a buy. The 30 brokers following the company deem the high target price $300 and the low $195.

The company is a bit risky to buy right now, but on a pullback it could make investors happy, so buy on the dip.

Clyde Noel is a Los Altos Hills resident and longtime investor in stocks.

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