Strong After-The-Close Reports Bode Well For U.S. Stocks and Medical Device Makers Facing Possible Rules

Priceline.com (PCLN) beat earnings expectations and gave a bullish outlook. The stock one of the market’s strongest leaders was up 7% and was among the most active in evening trading.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) also topped views. The tech giant’s shares were modestly higher in after-hours trading.

While both results were encouraging, the market will also look for some key economic data early Thursday. At 8:30 a.m. EST, both the producer price index and latest jobless claims data will be released.

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Among noteworthy earnings, Wal-Mart (WMT) and Lumber Liquidators (LL) are set to announce results Thursday.

4:15 p.m. Update: Stocks added to Tuesday’s big gains with a moderate uptick. This time, however, they did so with volume rising across the board.

The Dow and S&P 500 gained 0.4% each. The Nasdaq led the major indexes with a 0.5% pop. The NYSE composite rose 0.3%.

Overall, the best group of the day was Leisure-Movie & Rentals. [Read the full article]

Government regulators spent much of the last decade revamping their oversight of pharmaceuticals, following safety recalls of several best-selling drugs.

But medical device makers like Medtronic (MDT) and Boston Scientific (BSX) attracted less scrutiny from Congress, despite recalls of their heart-pacing devices. Lawmakers focused most of their attention on preventing another Vioxx, the blockbuster painkiller recalled in 2004 due to heart risks.

But as Obama-appointed FDA leaders try to bolster the agency’s safety record, they appear ready to raise the bar for devices — a move analysts say could mean more time and money for companies looking to market everything from heart valves to hip replacements.

The FDA will hear from manufacturers, physicians and consumer advocates at an all-day, public meeting Thursday. [Read the full article]

Berkshire Hathaway is Warren Buffett’s company. When it comes to famed long-term investors, they don’t get any bigger than Buffett.

The SEC filing revealed that the company lowered its stakes in ConocoPhillips (COP), Exxon Mobil (XOM), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and Procter & Gamble (PG) in the fourth quarter.

While these still may be strong stocks with potential for capital appreciation on top of income, it’s important to note that a major investor has trimmed his stake.

Buffett freed up some cash in order to complete the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNI) acquisition and put money toward investments he likes more.

Among those favored firms that also provide a dividend are medical supplies firm Becton Dickinson (BDX), waste collector Republic Services (RSG) and Wal-Mart (WMT). These companies have dividend yields of 1.9%, 2.8% and 2.0%.

This isn’t a complete picture of Berkshire’s holdings. [Read the full article]

Japan’s Nikkei shot up 2.7% Wednesday, while Australia’s All Ordinaries index surged 2.1%. Volume rose on both exchanges.

In contrast, much of Japan’s newfound strength is driven by exports of its manufactured goods, said Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C.

Japan’s GDP rose a better-than-expected 1.1% in Q4, the third straight quarter of positive GDP growth, a report out Tuesday showed. There were some indications that Japan’s deflation problem was easing, Prestowitz added.

Still, Japan’s long-term problems a shrinking and aging population, excess capacity and staggering public debt  aren’t improving. Japan doesn’t seem a likely target for growth-minded investors.

A thorough scan of stocks proves the point: One can’t find an outstanding Japanese or Australian growth stock or ADR.

But Tokyo’s improved economy and market strength are evidence that the world recovery is finding traction. [Read the full article]

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