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Facebook is back.

Illustration of Facebook mobile interface

Illustration of Facebook mobile interface (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) stock was a joke a year ago. A punchline to a bad IPO joke. But if you’ve been paying attention, the stock has been on a nice climb. And this time, it feels real.

The early problem with FB was everybody used it but nobody bought anything off it. It was simply a public diary for anyone who wanted to share any tidbit of their life with a world of real and wannabe friends. Their sponsored ads were useless. No one clicked.

Today, it’s a different story. The ads are working, they are more integrated into the feed and individuals as well as corporations are figuring out how to make money off Facebook.  And when you start making money, your stock starts rising.

I think FB has a long run ahead of it. It’s still early but if the latest earnings are any indication, this stock is no longer the butt of a joke but those who miss out on its relative low price now, may find the joke’s on them.

I just bought some today just in case you are wondering. I also bought a little way back in the day when it was ground down to around 20. I didn’t lose faith, I just waited for them to grow up a little before I threw any more money at it.

Please remember that  I don’t recommend what you should do in the stock market. My goal is to give you the common sense philosophy behind my picks. Use your commonsense to build your portfolio!

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To ETF or not to ETF. That is the question.

Stock Market

Stock Market (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

While I mostly like buying individual stocks, sometimes an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) is a smarter solution.  What ETFs do is they let you buy a basket of stocks as easily as buying a single stock. While Mutual Funds also offer baskets of stocks, they are a longer term hold because they often have a  minimum cost to buy into the fund and they charge you fees in exchange for managing your fund.  In most cases, I’d rather manage my own money than let a pro hang on to it. But not in all cases.
Where I do like mutual funds is in my corporate 401K offerings. You usually get to choose among several funds to diversify your long term portfolio. Which is great for financing my retirement. But for making money right now, I’d rather run my own show.
The problem is that I recognize I’m not an expert on lots of industries. What I do know is that some industries are growth areas but I don’t know which stocks to pick. That’s where I find an ETF is a great solution. For example, I’m a big believer in biotech stocks because our knowledge about gene therapy and custom medicines continues to yield great breakthroughs.  But there’s also a lot of duds out there and many biotech firms are still quite small. So how do you decide which ones to bet on.  What I did, instead, was do a google search for best ETFs in biotech and then further check them out on Yahoo Finance to see which had the better track record and stock prices.  And then I bought a little.  Now, I’m in biotech and I don’t have to worry that all my money will disappear with one bad pick. It’s russian roulette in reverse. I’m hoping that all my stock pick are bullets but as a practical StockPicknMama I know that some will come up empty!

Here’s my two biotech ETF favorites right now: SPDR S&P Pharmaceuticals (XPH) and iShares Nasdaq Biotechnology (IBB).

I’m also using ETFs to buy stocks in emerging economies globally. It’s hard to buy many international stocks because they aren’t traded on our exchanges.  But they may be traded through an ETF.  For example, I like these ETFs which, over a period of years, have done well for me. And I just bought into a Japan ETF –iShares MSCI Japan Index (EWJ)– because while their economy is finally rolling again,  I don’t know enough to judge which Japanese stocks will rule the future.

So to ETF or not to ETF?  When I’m itching to buy stocks in a certain market but don’t know which to buy, I like ETFs. If I’m looking to hold and walk away,  I’d pick a mutual fund. And if I want to take my chances because I’ve read a lot about an individual stock, then I buy a little directly and if I keep liking it, I buy more.

As always,  while I name specific stocks, ETFs and funds to help you understand the process I go through to pick my investments, they are not recommendations to buy or sell.

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Why I love Yahoo. And their stock’s not bad either!

Image representing Yahoo! as depicted in Crunc...

Image via CrunchBase

Two phones with mobile internet capability dis...

Two phones with mobile internet capability displayed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With the recent death of Stock Exchange pioneer Muriel Siebert, who was the first woman to buy a seat on the NYSE,  it seems a perfect moment to talk about Yahoo. (YHOO)

There was a time circa 2000, when Yahoo was flying high along with other Internet start ups with their glittering IPOs and go go spending. But when the boom went bust in 2001, many of those start ups and IPOs went belly up. Anyone remember Inktomi? How about Pets.com? I know…bad memories.

But Yahoo continued to drift along. We still needed Yahoo because it provide email, a search engine,  a cool, customizable home page (still my home page) and lots of other features like flickr for photo uploading. But in the post Dot Com days,  Yahoo lost their edge, their panache and their leadership edge and drifted along for years under various CEOs.

And then along came Mary. Or actually Marissa. As in Marissa Mayer, the product guru of Google. She came on board and has been steadily remodeling the company with a new focus on strategic acquisitions, marketing, search and new products. In July, Yahoo beat Google in web traffic!  And guess what, the stock has been rising steadily.  It may not be meteoric but Yahoo feels new and fresh and current just like its new logo and font.

I’m long on Yahoo. I think a lot of surprises are ahead. Good ones.  In fact, I’m curious about a possible Apple/Yahoo deal.  I have no evidence more solid than the fact that both have recently chosen lighter, more modern fonts for their sites and products. Could more design “coincidences” be in the works?

I’m glad there’s a woman at the helm at Yahoo. She’s not afraid to shake things up. Just like Muriel Siebert, a pioneer of her era.

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Why women are natural stock pickers

"Invest" - NARA - 512667

“Invest” – NARA – 512667 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most of the stock pickers, analysts and pundits in the investment world are men. But I think  men are the worst stock pickers for consumer & retail stocks. Why? Because it’s the women in their lives who do the shopping.

But I don’t want to be completely sexist here. I also think women would be great technology and business stock pickers. Sheryl Sandberg urges women to Lean In to their careers. I say, Lean In to stocks, too. You can manage the family budget, hold down a demanding full time job, hug & guide your kids and still be a damn fine stock picker.  How do I know this? Because that’s my life.

These are the characteristics of good stock pickers:

Intellectual curiosity. Do you read many different websites, magazines, books? Talk to your business and social contacts about a wide range of topics? Then your brain is absorbing a whole lot of data that you may not realize is important. However, your subconscious mind is always making connections. You just need to tune in.  Are you hearing a name brand come up in conversation or hearing excitement about a new development in your field? Check out those stocks. My first place for research is Yahoo Finance. They have all the basic data on every stock and they also publish relevant articles written about a given company.

Shopping savvy. Women do the bulk of the family shopping. Even the big ticket items like cars. Because in successful families, the mantra is “If mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.” So what brands do you love? What new store is coming to your town? Which stores are crowded? Want to know if Apple  (AAPL) still has it? Check out how busy their local store is.  Will Lululemon (LULU) come back from its ” transparency” problem.  Check out the store and how packed their free classes are.  Is Whole Foods (WFMI) still a buy? I don’t know about yours, but my local store is busy selling lots of “whole paycheck” products!  If you shop, you can be a stock picker.

Intuition.  Women are famous for their intuition. Use it to buy stocks…and to sell them.  There’s so much information available about any stock but how do you know which to trust? There’s a few sources that tend to be reliable but they don’t REALLY know. They are making educated guesses mixed in with their intuition. And if your intuition tells you that someone’s hot tip is too good to be true. Trust your intuition!

I’d bet my intuition against the experts any day. When the entire stock market tanked in 2009, I took whatever cash we could get our hands on and started buying stocks I thought would lead the recovery. Either the world was coming to an end, which many nattering nabobs of negativism predicted or we’d recover. And if we did, we’d need to build stuff again. So, I bought Rio Tinto Mining (RIO) and Cemex (CX) because you need natural resources to build stuff. I bought GE because it’s so diverse, it was surely too big to fail.  I even bought some stock in those big, bad banks who created the economic meltdown. I bought all these stocks so damn cheap– under $10/share for all and under $5 for many because people were scared to get back into the market.  I picked a few losers, too, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac . However, it didn’t take a lot of money to buy all those stocks, it just took guts. Or intuition. And that intuition paid off. As for the losers, I sold them, took the loss and used it to write off some of my profits!  No one is a perfect picker. Not even Mama.

Stamina. Women are notorious for their strength of will to protect & provide for their families. We are Grizzlies, we are Lionesses. We are natural stock pickers.  We manage the family budget, pay the bills, make the doctor appointments. We try to put a little money away for a rainy day.  And we should put a little of that rainy day money into stocks. Buy 10 shares of something you believe in. If it goes up buy more. If it goes down a little and you still believe in it, buy more. But if you lose half, sell and then get back in the next time you see an opportunity. That’s my best advice. Use your stamina to hang fast when others start panicking.  Trust your gut, keep being curious.

Related articles

5 Stocks Warren Buffett Is Buying in 2013 (thestreet.com)
Buy and Hold Investing is Not Dead (thestreet.com)
Why women should buy the stocks in the family (nobluehair.wordpress.com)

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Guns and Roses? Star Trek? The new paradigm of 3D Printing.

NBC News:3-D printing booms, triggers rush for patents August 15

You could lose your shirt on 3D printing stocks. Or you could just print yourself a new one!  The promise of 3D Printing has gotten everyone hyped up on the good, the bad and the ugly of this technological breakthrough.  Of course, the bad guys are going to make guns and weapons. The porn industry is going to make….well, I’ll leave that to your imagination. Your “creative” teen is going to prototype a new bong or a breakthrough science project that transforms medicine . Artists will make things unimagined with this new medium. The possibilities are endless.

So, of course, Mama had to investigate.  A few months ago, I googled around to find the top stocks in this new field and see how they were doing. I picked three to watch and  buy and then I kept two: Stratasys (SSYS) and Protolabs (PRLB). The third is  3D Systems (DDD). SSYS and DDD are pretty similar technologies but by seeing how they moved for a few weeks, I felt SSYS was the stronger pick.  Protolabs is a different prototyping technology that enables fast, focused manufacturing and has been steadily rising.

One of these stocks is surely going to become the Intuitive Surgical (ISRG) of the 3D printing world—i.e. the far and away leader and fast tracker of the lot. I can’t tell you which. (Note: I made a lot of money on ISRG in the early years by buying into their then new robotic surgery technology.  I still believe in them though they are no longer a meteoric newcomer but a solid business.)  3D printing is still so new and the companies are volatile trades but I think it’s worth dipping your toes in with a few shares just in case they suddenly shoot up. It’s nice to be riding a rocket ship stock and not watching from the sidelines saying “If only.”  And, who knows,  maybe  one of these companies will even be used to build a rocket ship to the future!

More on 3D Printing:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/10242091/Nasa-3D-printing-will-enable-Star-Trek-replication-in-space.html
http://whatsnext.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/31/study-at-home-3-d-printing-could-save-consumers-thousands/
http://www.shapeways.com/blog/
http://blog.stratasys.com/
http://blogs.wsj.com/tech-europe/2013/07/30/if-you-think-3d-printing-is-disruptive-wait-for-4d/

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Tesla. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it. But you CAN afford the stock!

English: Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5, the fourth-...

English: Tesla Roadster Sport 2.5, the fourth-generation Roadster from electric carmaker Tesla Motors Inc. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the Memorial Day weekend, we were in San Diego seeing loads of  family. One other thing we saw loads of were shiny, new Tesla cars. They were at the restaurant we ate at, they passed us on the freeway and they were parked by us at the beach.  Mama started to get that itchy stock feeling.

Tesla Motors is real because there is, apparently, a growing market of folks who can afford this electric car extravaganza at $90,000 a pop. Not me, of course. But I had a better idea. Buy Tesla stock. (Nasdaq: TSLA)

Now, let me  be clear that I don’t have beaucoup investing bucks lying around so I sold a little something else that was stuck in first gear (not all Mama’s picks are superstars) and traded it in for this new, flashier model– 25 shares of Tesla at  about $103/share on May 29. Then it dropped to $94  on June 5 and I bought another 25.  And then Tesla stepped on the accelerator and sped to $128 by July 15! That was crazy– I made nearly $1500 bucks in about a month…but only if I sold. So I did.

I usually buy and hold stocks because mama gets attached to her stocks but this high flyer made me nervous enough that I decided to take some profits. But I wasn’t done with the stock.  No, indeed, because just a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that a Tesla store had opened in Burlingame which is just 20 miles up the road from their Palo Alto flagship store. They are clearly expanding to keep up with demand.  The way Tesla is speeding along, it reminded me of Starbucks’ rapid opening of new locations back in the early ’90s when I jumped on their stock.  So,  I jumped back in to TSLA on August 7  with 50 shares at $132/share. And, now, I’m not going to worry about the daily ups and downs and the experts financial crystal ball chatter & baloney that can make you crazy.

Tesla Motors

Tesla Motors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why shouldn’t you listen to all the  chatter? Because while lots of experts are predicting Tesla’s big fall from grace,  others are promising Tesla will continue rocketing.  I say, “Keep your eyes on the road.” If you keep seeing Tesla in your rear view mirror,  you’ll know what I know. Tesla is changing the car buying game. I may not be able to afford to ride in one but I’m riding the stock and hanging on tight!

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Question:Why did a middle school teacher ask what else Mama was buying? Answer: Starbucks.

Starbucks Ueno

Starbucks Ueno (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a bit of history on my stock picking track record.  Way back in 1992, my son was studying basic economics in  middle school. The teacher assigned all the students to pick a stock and track it for a few months to learn how the stock market works.

The next day the kids shared what stock they had  chosen with IBM, Microsoft and GE among the common choices. My kid chose Starbucks. His teacher said, “Starbucks isn’t a stock.” My kid said, “Yes, it is. My mother bought it.”  Several months later, when the rest of the class’ stocks were mostly treading water and Starbucks had started its remarkably caffeinated rise, the teacher said to him: “What else is your mother buying?”  Enough said.  StockPicknMama was born on that legendary stock pick.

Why did I buy  Starbucks (Nasdaq:SBUX) way back in the last century? Because Starbucks was the first really good, dedicated coffee store in the U.S. And every where I went, a Starbucks store was opening– usually next to a Noah’s Bagels (but theirs is a much sadder story).  When my husband was relocated from Southern California to the Bay Area, I had three criteria for our new home location: near a Costco, near a Trader Joe’s and near a Starbucks. So, when Starbucks went public in 1992, I bought the stock. And they’ve grown from grande to venti to ubiquity ever since.  (One thing my readers will soon notice is my penchant for punning and word play. As in Starbucks? Yeah bean there, bun that!)

I’m still buying Starbucks because the world has gone crazy for hyper-caffeinated coffee with a global pedigree and green practices. I don’t expect it to soar like the olden days, but it’s still a mighty fine cuppa joe to hang onto.

Starbucks

Starbucks (Photo credit: Ivana Di Carlo)

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What part of buy LinkedIn don’t you understand?

Nederlands: Linked In icon

Nederlands: Linked In icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I bought LinkedIn (Nasdaq: LNKD) the first time six months ago and have been buying since and telling everyone I know. Yeah, it’s not as cheap as it used to be but it’s still affordable. I remember  feeling that way about Priceline  (Nasdaq: PCLN) a year ago when I should have bought it and now it’s completely out of reach.  I’m not planning to miss out again. LinkedIn is another stock that has a long way to run.

You can read P/E ratios and all the financial data on Yahoo so I won’t bother wasting my blog on that. What  I want you to understand is why LinkedIn is such a game changer.  It’s become the de facto way that working people connect. Facebook (Nasdaq: FB) is for play time, LinkedIn is for your career.  If you have a LinkedIn profile, you know that everyone is rushing to “endorse” everyone else’s job skills in the hopes that the feeling (and actions) will be mutual. I also know who is checking out my resume, who is looking for workers and who in my network might be able to give me the inside scoop on a given company or employee.

LinkedIn is the first step in being a serious professional on the web. Build your profile, then connect to your contacts. Pretty soon, you’ve got a really valuable  job finding, company searching and contact making universe. And that’s why LinkedIn has been flying high. It’s the Priceline of  the job world.   Don’t wait till it’s at 300 when you could buy it in the low 200s today.  Buy 10 shares if that is all you can afford. If it dips, buy more. If it goes up, consider yourself in the know.

That’s my current hot pick. And Mama’s sticking to it.