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The DOW and S&P closed up by half a percentage point each on Tuesday while the Nasdaq traded flat as concerns of slowing US growth during the fourth quarter of last year indicated a potential slowing growth rate for the first quarter of 2013, too. Reports also surfaced on Tuesday that consumer confidence dropped to its lowest level in over a year as consumers digested the fact that there's a little less spare cash available as the result of an increase in some tax rates this year. None of the above would justify any protracted broad market sell-off, in my opinion, but it emphasizes the fact that the consistent headlines of 'sunshine, rainbows and candy floss' that we've seen all year thus far are taking on a more cautionary and realistic tone, which will likely lead to some of the profit taking we discussed earlier in the week. That may lead to a near-term, but modest market decline.

On Wednesday attention will still be on the Fed meeting, which enters its second and final day. Early indications are that the key stimulus measures introduced after the crash of 2008 will remain in tact for the foreseeable future, or at least until a target unemployment rate of 6.5% is achieved, but other reports have also hinted that a divide in Washington is growing over how necessary it is to keep those measures in place, given the thus-far successful recovery and relative strength of the economy...

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Monday proved a flat trading day as early-week earnings reports were relatively in line with expectations and investors positioned their portfolios in anticipation of a potential "next move" by the Fed, which may be considering relaxing some of the stimulus measures that have been in place for a few years as a result of the global economic breakdown. The Fed is scheduled to meet for the first time this year on Tuesday.

The markets remain at multi-year highs right now and with political cooperation in Washington tag-teaming with encouraging economic indicators, it could be that the worst is behind us, although it's still smart, in my opinion, to entertain the fact that we're still not completely in the clear. Although the U.S. economy is gaining strength, others around the globe - mainly in Europe - remain on shaky footing and the media has chosen not to discuss such issues with any fervor of late, but it's only a matter of time before those headlines make rounds again and potentially compel investors to take a more cautious tone over the short term. Additionally, after such an impressive early-year run, some profit taking may set in and lead to a slight pullback.

International markets, which had already modestly pulled back after early-year rallies, picked up steam again on Tuesday, indicating that any broad-market pullback periods would only be temporary to allow for consolidation, barring any unforeseen breakdown in an otherwise impressive recovery. If anything, the incessant volatility of 2012 looks to have tapered off in 2013 and has the markets trading with more stability than we've seen in a while. That could be a good sign that things are returning to normal...

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Another week of encouraging earnings reports, positive economic indicators and political tranquility in Washington has the bulls running hard heading into the new trading week and many are even suggesting this latest run could approach the record market highs achieved before the economic free fall of 2008-09. Continued earnings reports this week from companies that may exceed expectations could further fuel the rally that has seen the markets close higher each week in the new year and positive jobs numbers due Friday would only put an exclamation point on the run, should they, too, exceed expectations.

While those lofty hopes may in fact pan out to be true, it may also be time for investors to consider some profit taking, or at least expect that others may take advantage of the early-year run and turn some of those paper gains into actual. There's a lot more certainty in the market right now than we have seen in the recent past, especially with the politicians seemingly playing nice and the global recovery looking pretty healthy, but there are still enough concerns out there that should help balance the equation in favor of a 'proceed with caution' strategy. Although not much has been heard from Europe lately in terms of economic plight, the economies of Greece, Spain and Portugal remain on unstable ground and could again pop into the spotlight as soon as the media outlets get bored of wasting time on the fake girlfriends of football players. Reports have it that England, too, could be on the verge of another recession while overall growth in China and India has slowed enough to make economic headlines...

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After an early stutter the markets picked up their pace on Tuesday and closed the day higher yet again. The early action indicates that investors are still maintaining a 'wait and see' approach in regards to the earnings season and volatile political climate, but the reports set forth on Tuesday - led by a nice earnings beat for Google (GOOG) - sparked enough late-day buying to give us some momentum leading into Wednesday's trading session where Apple (AAPL) will steal the spotlight. An earnings beat by Apple, or even enthusiastic guidance, could fuel investor optimism enough to land Wednesday in the green column, too. Barring any unforeseen developments, nothing should pop up politically that would stand in the way of a continued uptrend, given the White House's reported agreement with the Republican proposal of a short term debt ceiling extension. Since investors look satisfied with the pace and health of the global economic recovery, trading patterns should remain glued to earnings news, at least for the time being.

As always, as the major news play out, there's room for a few individual stocks and stories to keep an eye on...here are just a few of them for Wednesday, 23 January, 2013...

 

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At the conclusion of each week, VFC's Stock House examines some news items, stocks and stories that made headlines during the previous trading week, and may also make headlines or influence trends during the upcoming week as well.

Although earnings numbers have been mixed thus far for the season, trading ended last week on a relative high note and that trend could continue this week, too, after Republicans indicated their willingness to extend the debt ceiling limit for as much as three months while a full deal gets sorted out.  The debt ceiling had replaced the fiscal cliff as a political weight on the overall market action, but now looks to be a non-factor, at least for the short term, given last week's update.  That frees up stocks to trade in-line with earnings, expectations and economic indicators, positioning this holiday-shortened week as one of momentum-building - especially if Apple (AAPL) can impress with its much-anticipated report on Wednesday. 

This week the housing sector has a chance to steal the spotlight and potentially move the markets.  On Tuesday existing home sales numbers are expected to roll in with a modest upside trend while the new home sales numbers on Friday is also expected to indicate a healthy recovery.  Any better-than-expected surprises could not only effect housing stocks, but potentially rally the broad markets, too...

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Implant Sciences (IMSC) may have just announced the most significant and potentially market-moving news in company history on Wednesday when it was revealed in a spontaneous conference call that the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had approved Implant's Quantum Sniffer (QS)-B220 explosive trace detector for use in air cargo screening. This ruling could be considered the 'holy grail' of the validation process for Implant Sciences as it allows the QS technology to be listed in the next edition of the 'Air Cargo Screening Technology List' and opens up a new - and potentially very lucrative - avenue for revenue. It also offers a huge round of validation for the technology, as many government agencies - both in the US and around the globe - follow TSA validation guidelines in regards to their purchases. It's quite possible that now, with TSA approval in the bag, orders from these countries and agencies will start flowing in, providing a significant boost to the company's revenue stream and sparking a rally in the IMSC share price.

Already shares closed twenty three percent higher on Wednesday and - with volume well more than ten times the daily average - may be positioning to move even higher during the coming days and weeks. It was noted during Wednesday's call that the company expected to beat the revenue numbers of the latest guidance, which were in the range of seven million dollars, moving forward from this point. The TSA approval opens the path for government contracts to start rolling in, which often times come with bulk orders, and help the company meet the revised expectations. Of relevance the TSA has mandated that - as of 3 December - all cargo in-bound to the US on passenger aircraft will be screened for explosives. This is a market that Implant Sciences intends to exploit and given the benefits that the QS technology holds over the competitive standard currently on the market, there is reason to believe that market penetration could materialize quickly...

 

 

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In what may be considered a scenario where investors played the 'sell the news' game, Facebook (FB) shares retreated by nearly three percent on well more than double the normal trading average after the company announced at its much-anticipated media event that it would implement a 'Graph Search' to lead the way into the next stages of growth. As FB shares rolled through the thirty dollar mark with ease leading into this event, investors speculated on the possibilities of a Facebook phone entering the market. Initial indications following the announcement, however, are that investors are either outright unimpressed with the Graph Search announcement or are prepared to take a 'wait-and-see' approach to its impact on future earnings. A three percent drop does not indicate overall disappointment in the new search strategy, especially not after FB shares have risen swiftly from the twenty dollar mark without much of a pullback period on profit-taking, so investors may digest the news over the coming trading days, assess what it all means, and then trade accordingly...

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Implant Sciences (IMSC) may have just announced the most significant and potentially market-moving news in company history on Wednesday when it was revealed in a spontaneous conference call that the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had approved Implant's Quantum Sniffer (QS)-B220 explosive trace detector for use in air cargo screening. This ruling could be considered the 'holy grail' of the validation process for Implant Sciences as it allows the QS technology to be listed in the next edition of the 'Air Cargo Screening Technology List' and opens up a new - and potentially very lucrative - avenue for revenue. It also offers a huge round of validation for the technology, as many government agencies - both in the US and around the globe - follow TSA validation guidelines in regards to their purchases. It's quite possible that now, with TSA approval in the bag, orders from these countries and agencies will start flowing in.

 

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Markets traded modestly higher for the Day on Tuesday as retail sales numbers came in better than expected for the month of December, easing worries created late last year of a slowdown in consumer spending. While the numbers beat the street, per say, they weren't strong enough to spark a widespread rally as investors are still waiting on the earnings reports of the big banks to better gauge the overall health of the recovery. Additionally, reports also started to swirl late Tuesday that any delay in a debt ceiling agreement in Washington could lead to a US credit rating downgrade, a move that would likely lead to a market decline. Should an agreement not be reached, it would be a given that the US rating would be downgraded, but the Fitch warning also indicates that Washington's strategy of slowly running the budget tap just enough to keep the government running, without devising a de-facto solution, is finally starting to wear thin on all accounts.

Earnings picks up in earnest on Wednesday as hit the heart of the trading week and there could be plenty of catalysts still to come from the banks, US economic data and from Chinese data later in the week. Here are a few stocks and stories to keep an eye on for Wednesday, 16 January, 2013...ShareBuilder-Welcome page

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Following in line with market expectations leading into the new trading week, Monday opened with a bang as a flurry of economic, political and market-related news dominated the headlines all day.  As has been expected since the finalization of fiscal cliff talks at the new year, debt ceiling discussions hit full swing this week as US President Barack Obama fueled the debate with a surprise press conference emphasizing the need to get the ball rolling towards an agreement with the cooperation of both political parties.  Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner followed up with warnings of his own that the issue cannot wait and that the US economy cannot be held hostage to another round of bitter negotiations.  While the political speak intensified, the markets held relatively flat for the day. 

Tuesday will see the release of the first of a few economic data reports for the week, with retail sales numbers and the Empire State manufacturing index expected to hit the wires.  These data could set the tone for the day's trading as investors also anticipate a heavy earnings slate for later in the week.

The foundation was set on Monday for an exciting week ahead and some high-profile stories are positioning to jump to the forefront of market news.  Here are a few to keep an eye on for Tuesday, 15 January, 2013... 

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Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO) shares have been in the spotlight during the early-goings of 2013 and are positioned to remain there as America's flu season continues to make headlines.  This year's flu outbreak has already hit well more than the majority of all fifty states and is expected to get worse as the season progresses.  As discussed earlier in the year, this development is likely to draw attention to companies with flu vaccines in development and Inovio has already gained early acclaim for its clinical-stage universal flu vaccine technology.  When such flu outbreaks occur - remember the swine flu - it's not unusual to see the share prices of these developmental flu vaccine companies run, based not only on the potential that the vaccine holds in itself, but because the government also steps in with grant money to hasten the development of a potential vaccine.  Investing in a company based on the potential for a short term trade to materialize on such developments is highly speculative, but the percentage gains that can be had with such moves are often significant.  Another benefit, though, is that attention can be drawn to pipelines that may otherwise be flying below the radar.  Inovio may be benefiting from both scenarios right now.     Already this year INO has traded for prices roughly twenty five percent higher then where they began the year as volume moved in heavy last week to support the move.  This trading action will again have the stock as a hot one to watch moving into the new trading week.

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At the conclusion of each week, VFC's Stock House examines some news items, stocks and stories that made headlines during the previous trading week, but may also make headlines or influence trends during the upcoming week as well.

The trading year of 2013 kicks off in a big way this week.  Although the markets rallied for the first couple of weeks of the year, the noted price and mood fluctuations were based mainly on political factors, rather than on factors inherent to the markets themselves.  For example, a resolution to the fiscal cliff mess sparked more certainty than we'd seen for quite some time, while pessimism over the pending expiration of the US debt ceiling set in quickly and stalled the early-year run.  Renewed headlines of Europe's economic woes and expectations of another lackluster earnings season also didn't help keep the rally going, but with a slew of economic data due this week and with earnings entering the 'full swing' phase after a couple of 'teaser' reports last week by Alcoa (AA) and Wells Fargo and Company (WFC).  One way or another, things ought to get pretty exciting this week.

To gauge the health of the recovery, investors can digest this week retail sales numbers, housing starts data and consumer sentiment, in addition to some manufacturing data.  Earnings are likely to steal the overall spotlight, but any improvements - or not - in these data over the previous month or quarter can move the markets, too, especially if the data supports any trend set by the earnings reports. 

One item that can be put to rest is the silly talk surrounding this trillion-dollar coin that was so talked about over the last couple of weeks.  The amount of attention paid that coin served as a steady sideshow to real news, and was a testament to the lack of any relevant discussion going on in the meantime.  That will all change this week.

Plenty of action this week expected, but there's still always room for a few individual stocks and stories to keep an eye on...here are just a few of them...

 

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TrovaGene Inc (TROV) shares closed last week on another high note when double-the-average volume resulted in a ten percent gain for the stock.  Another spike earlier on Monday led to some modest profit taking, but shares have stabilized and consolidated this week and closed the day Wednesday at $7.23, after a two percent jump.  TROV has been steadily on the climb since last summer and has already returned a clean triple in price based on pipeline progress and the pending commercialization of some of its cancer-detecting diagnostics that have proven to detect some strands of cancer through simple urine samples.

This latest move higher is specifically related to an announcement last week that TROV will work in conjunction with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to detect transrenal BRAF mutations in the urine of patients with advanced or metastatic cancers.  This particular announcement is significant, as already noted, because it could drastically broaden the scope of the cancers detected by TROV's diagnostics, and also because it provides a huge validation of the company's diagnostic technology from the medical community...

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Alcoa (AA) kicked off the earnings season on a positive note on Tuesday and global stock markets rallied on Wednesday as a result. The upbeat Alcoa report helped to offset reports earlier on Tuesday that the Euro Zone (EZ) unemployment rate is still inching higher, bringing to light again previous worries that Europe is still far behind the United States along the road to recovery. That report from Europe led to a drop in oil prices, but did little to quell the overall upbeat mood in the markets. On Tuesday, before the Alcoa report was out, US markets closed down, but some of that could be attributed to continued profit taking after the post-fiscal cliff rally last week. While few expect this earnings season to provide anything more than the occasional modestly-surprising report, Wednesday could turn into a nice up day thanks to Alcoa. Overall enthusiasm may be tempered, however, especially with the debt ceiling negotiations still set to kick off over the near term while also considering the fact that one positive earnings report does not yet indicate a trend.

With that said, there's always a few stocks and stories to keep an eye on as the major news of the day dominates the headlines ... here are a few for Wednesday, 9 January, 2013...

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MRI Interventions Looks To Set The Tone For 2013

Although not attending the JP Morgan event this week, MRI Interventions will be presenting at the 2013 Biotech Showcase on the 9th, an event also held in San Fransisco.  With this presentation MRIC will look to set the tone for 2013, following the demonstrated swift developmental progress and revenue growth of 2012.  MRIC is positioned to take full advantage of the current trends in healthcare, which have medical professionals looking for less-intrusive and more accurate (which together means less-costly) methods of conducting complicated procedures. 

In combining those qualities, MRIC has developed the ClearPoint and ClearTrace MRI-enhancing systems that provide real-time imagery during complicated procedures on the brain and heart, respectively. With the assistance of partners such as Boston Scientific Corporation (BSX) and Brainlab, MRIC has successfully infiltrated the market for Brain surgery and a recent boost in the sales force, as announced during the last quarter of 2012, positions the company to infiltrate that market even further this year.  Already MRI is registering notable growth.

Accordingly to the latest-filed quarterly report, revenue generated by the "disposable items" associated with the use of ClearPoint roughly tripled, when compared to the same quarter of the previous year, a key indication that the technology is catching on, or at least is being used more often...

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A week of rallying came to an end on Monday as international and domestic markets dropped in anticipation of earnings season and another round of intense negotiations in Washington, this time in regards to the debt ceiling that will soon need increasing. The DOW fell fifty points while the S&P dropped from its five-year highs in another demonstration of the day-to-day fickle and volatile mood on Wall Street. Given the political landscape what it is and an earnings season that is not expected to only minimally look better than the previous quarter, there's no reason to believe that this volatile market period will come to an end any time soon.

With that said, there's always a few stocks and stories to keep an eye on as the major news of the day dominates the headlines ... here are a few for Tuesday, 8 January, 2013...

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Inovio Pharmaceuticals (INO) has already been discussed discussed as a hot, but still speculative stock to watch for 2013 based on its growing trading volume and a deep pipeline of synthetic vaccines derived from the company's proprietary SynCon platform.  Through SynCon Inovio has produced numerous synthetic vaccines intended to treat or prevent various infectious diseases and cancer types.  Maybe most notably - at least for the time being - the company has developed a universal flu vaccine that is currently being tested in clinical trials. This flu vaccine may have the company positioned to receive a significant amount of attention over the near term due to factors external of the market. 

For those following the news these days, a widespread flu outbreak has hit forty one states and the number of those affected is growing rapidly.  This year's outbreak has already surpassed last year's numbers and - as can always be expected in these instances - the CDC, government leaders and the general public are calling for a vaccine.  Every few years (remember H1N1) or so an outbreak becomes large and widespread enough that any company developing a universal flu vaccine - or even one that treats the individual strand in question - gets thrust to into the spotlight, not only because a potential marketable solution could turn into a very lucrative proposition for a given company, but also because government money often starts flowing in the form of grants to help find a cure.  This grant money can be hugely beneficial to still-developmental companies and it's quite possible that Inovio may be primed to receive a boost in investor and/or financial media interest, given the early successes of its universal flu technology and the speculation that often follows these outbreaks... 

 

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A week of solid gains held up well into Friday's close last week as a last minute deal averted the implementation of the 'fiscal cliff' that could have put the US economy into another recession, according to many analysts.  With those fears behind us, investors took advantage of recently-depressed stock prices to position for the new trading year.  The good mood may not last long, however, as numerous headlines from over the weekend tell a cautionary tale regarding the earnings season that kicks off this week, not to mention the fact that political negotiations regarding the debt ceiling are also likely to start gaining steam during the coming days.  Even President Barack Obama has warned that the US cannot afford any more of the heated battles that surrounded the cliff talks, but to expect anything less may be wishful thinking as the crew in Washington is having difficulties just agreeing on an aid package for the battered northeastern states following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.  On the other hand, most in the Congress and Senate have shown that a deal can get done when their respective backs are against the wall, so it's highly likely that a deal will get done on this one, too, as anything else could leave the US credit rating at risk.

We're likely to start experiencing some volatility regarding those talks over the near term as the media plays the headlines game on a daily basis.  As always, taking emotion out of the equation and sticking to pre-conceived entry and exit strategy could help return traders and investors hefty rewards as the peaks and valleys are played.  Adding to the volatility is earnings season.  No one expects blockbuster numbers for the just-completed fourth quarter, but as we saw last quarter's reporting season when Google (GOOG) missed, one surprise report can send the markets south in a hurry - while a few better-than-expected reports could accomplish the reverse.  In these uncertain times, it's best to be prepared for either eventuality.  Of note, Alcoa (AA) and Wells Fargo and Company (WFC), among others, are slated to report this week, but neither is likely to set the tone for the season one way or the other.

Jobs and unemployment numbers for last month were in-line with expectations, so that should be considered a non-factor for the coming week, especially with so much other news priming to heat up.

With all that going on, here's a few stocks and stories to keep an eye on this week...

s a few stocks and stories to keep an eye on Thursday...CLICK HERE FOR FULL REPORT.

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The new year started with a bang. International markets rallied early, then the US markets followed suit with the DOW posting a gain of over three hundred points before closing strong into the bell. Green was the theme for 2013 thus far and Wednesday's strong finish could indicate that another push higher is in the works for Thursday's trading, barring any unforeseen news, although the armchair quarterbacks are out in force during the early hours Thursday addressing the deal's shortcomings. For now, however, the markets are clear from controversy, aside from the sideline criticisms. Other political issues may steal the spotlight for Congress over the short term, freeing the markets to rally and pull back on individual stories for the time being, rather than trading along with the daily banterings of Washington.

Before long, too, we'll have another round of earnings to digest. We could also see some market fluctuations at that point, once the season picks up steam, especially since many retailers have already warned of weaker-than-expected fourth quarter numbers.

For now, though, we'll enjoy the show.

Here's a few stocks and stories to keep an eye on Thursday...CLICK HERE FOR FULL REPORT.

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Happy 2013.  By the looks of it, this year could be one of compromise and progress.  For the first time in recent memory, representatives of the US government worked through the holidays, accomplished something major, and sorted out a deal to avert the fiscal cliff that would have been imposed in the absence of such an agreement.  Both sides can claim victory as each was able to hang onto some key provisions and standing points, although some post-vote bickering will still point out that there are also some bitter divides remaining.  It's also impressive that the deal was done with much of the government operating in a lame-duck status, but it's also that the consequences of not coming up with solution to the cliff crisis could have been devastating for a recovering economy and for the People's perception of Washington.  Our elected leaders knew this all too well, so any true celebrations of bi-partisanship and compromise may be premature for the time being, but at least we know if the folks in DC have their backs up against the wall that something could actually get done.

The prospects of a cliff deal sent the markets north during the last trading day of 2012, although they had dropped during the week prior.  With the deal complete, stocks could be set for an early-2013 rise.  Asian markets traded up to five-month highs on Wednesday and the outlook was encouraging that US stocks would react the same, but some caution is still likely to persist as the new talk of the day will revolve around an increase in the debt ceiling.  Politicians will be right back at it and the stability of the markets may again be threatened as Republicans and Democrats look to use this latest round of negotiations to make up for any ground they feel they may lost in the cliff negotiations.

As with the cliff negotiations, expect the ceiling drama to play out until the last minute and volatility may again be a part of this game because the results of not increasing the debt ceiling will likely lead to another round of spending cuts that the media will play up to have as devastating an effect on the economy as those included in the fiscal cliff.

The new year is now in full effect, but although one major catastrophe looks to have been averted, the new year is still bringing more of the same - unless this new found spirit of compromise and cooperation actually holds true.

As the stories and the drama continue to play out, here are a few stocks and stories to keep an eye on... 

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