Sun12212014

Business & Real Estate

A good time for a market review

With less than two weeks left in the current year, you are likely to hear many conflicting opinions for stock market prospects in 2014.

The old adage “buy low and sell high” doesn’t mean to invest in poorly performing shares because they are low and should increase in 2014. Forecasting is futile.

At current levels, stocks are not in bubble territory, but keep an eye on the averages, as they often signal that a change is in the works.

Bears feel that the Federal Reserve’s stimulus policy will come to a slow halt and put pressure on stocks. Other investors believe that scenario played itself out when the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 129.60 points Dec. 11 and opened down Thursday.

The bulls are not leaving us, and we are keeping our portfolio 95 percent intact. On the other hand, numerous investors are selling their stocks and taking profits, hoping to buy them back at a lower price.

Two Town Crier “50” stocks made headlines last week.

• Rambus Inc. (RMBS; $9.54) shares climbed sharply last week after settling a patent dispute with Micron Technology, which will pay Rambus as much as $280 million over seven years to license Rambus patents. Formerly based in Los Altos but now located in Sunnyvale, Rambus will receive quarterly payments as high as $10 million for the life of the agreement.

Rambus stock is now up 77 percent for the year.

In June, Rambus settled a suit with SK Hynix for $240 million and signed a lease agreement with STMicroelectronics to close out a lengthy court battle.

The company has had legal problems for years over patent licensing, and the subsequent court battles drove investors away from the stock.

Most analysts deem the stock a hold, even after the strength of the settlements. The last time analysts issued the stock an upgrade to buy was in 2006.

Analysts’ median and high target price for Rambus stock is $13, with a low of $6.50. There is no dividend for stockholders.

• Apple Inc. (AAPL; $554.68) is scrambling to halt the market-share erosion of its tablet, which dropped from 40 percent to 30 percent sold in the previous year. Smartphones dropped from 14 percent to 13 percent.

Against that backdrop, Apple has quietly begun selling its iPad with retina display at its retail stores. The gradual rollout could be due to supply constraints, and analysts expect the device to become widely available during the holiday season.

In other news, the Cupertino-based firm agreed to pay $350 million for PrimeSense Ltd., an Israeli company that made gesture-recognition technology for Microsoft.

A U.S. jury awarded Apple $290 million in the retrial of a patent lawsuit against Samsung. Apple asked for $380 million.

Numerous analysts call Apple stock a strong buy in both the short and long term, with several analysts indicating an outperform position. The high target price for Apple stock is $777, with a median of $600. The yield on Apple stock is 2.30 percent.

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