How To Profit in Today’s Uncertain Market by Kevin Matras – 03/28/2015

Whether you believe the market will go up, down, or sideways from here, there is an option strategy for you.

More and more investors are using options in their trading as a way to beat the market. In fact, the number of options contracts traded has quadrupled over the past 10 years.

Whether that’s because of the market’s volatility or in spite of it, options can provide staying power.

Plus, options are flexible. You don’t need a lot of money to get started. And it’s a lot easier than
you might think.

Flexibility

One of the key advantages with options is you can make money in any market direction. You can make money if a stock goes up, down, or sideways. And with some strategies, you can even be wrong on a stock’s direction and still make money with an option.

Of course that doesn’t mean you can just close your eyes and pick anything. But it does mean that you can make money in virtually any market condition – even when you’re unsure what the market will do.

Leverage

Another advantage with options is leverage. You can get started in options with only a fraction of the money you would normally have to invest to get into the actual stock. And many option strategies come with a guaranteed limited risk.

It’s these advantages, and more, that can make options a perfect addition to someone’s portfolio.

What’s interesting, however, is that even though the popularity of options has soared, they are still not as well known or understood as much as stocks. But they should be.

Bullish

If you’re bullish on a stock, you can buy a call option and make money as it goes up.

Momentum stocks and Growth stocks are probably the best kinds of stocks to use for this. These are stocks that are on the move with some of the most explosive upside potential.

When buying call options you need to be right on the direction of the trade as well as the time allotted for it to move. Add in the Zacks #1 Rank and these are some of the likeliest candidates to profit with this strategy.

Bearish

If you’re bearish, you can buy a put option and make money as the price goes lower.

Look for stocks trading at excessive valuations. Focus in on the ones with downward earnings estimate revisions. And if they are below their major moving averages like the 50-day and 200-day moving average, even better.

With put options, direction and time are important as well. Stocks with a Zacks Rank of #4 or #5 will typically underperform the market over the short-term, which is perfect for this strategy.

Big Move in Either Direction

If you believe a big move could occur in either direction, but you’re not sure which way, you can make money with a straddle or a strangle. This entails buying both a call and a put at the same time.

One of the best times to use this strategy is before an earnings announcement, or an important event. And some of the best stocks for this option strategy are high beta stocks. These are stocks that can move big, and that’s exactly what you want to see happen with this kind of strategy.

Once again, in order for a stock to make a big move, there usually needs to be a catalyst. One of the most reliable catalysts out there for big moves (up or down) is earnings reports. If you also take a look at the stock’s ‘earnings uncertainty’, you have the potential for the kind of volatility to make a strategy like this work.

Slower, Moderate Move

If you’re expecting a stock to go up or down, but you expect the move to be moderate or slower, then spreads are a great strategy for this.

For example, a bull call spread involves buying a nearby strike and selling a farther out one. If the stock goes up, but slowly, the nearby call you bought should increase in value, in spite of some time decay loss. But the call option you wrote will benefit from time decay, thus making the spread more profitable than had you only purchased a call.

Value style stocks and even Growth & Income stocks can produce some good picks for a bull call spread strategy. Stocks expected to move higher, but maybe not with a big splash. Zacks Rank #2s and Zacks Rank #3s are good stocks to consider for this strategy.

The Option is Yours

These are just some of the ways to profit with options. And there are many more. As you can see, options give the investor numerous ways to make money in the market — and in any direction. You don’t always have to wait for a bull market to make money, because a down or sideways market can be just as profitable.

Thanks and good trading,

Kevin

Kevin Matras is our world-class research expert who has developed more than 30 market-beating strategies using the Zacks Rank. He also directs our service that combines the Zacks Rank with the best options strategies for today’s uncertain market, Zacks Options Trader.

Quartz Weekend Brief—#Nigeria’s election, shopping compulsion, defensive design, teaching evolution

Good morning, Quartz readers!

As it goes to the polls today, Nigeria may superficially seem, as Western observers are so fond of saying, on the brink. The country’s 69 million voters are nearly evenly split between two bad choices. Incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan has seen the Boko Haram insurgency in the north achieve unprecedented power and levels of brutality on his watch (the Islamists may have kidnapped up to 500 women and children just this week), and his government’s corruption has shocked a populace that thought itself inured to its leaders’ pilfering. The challenger, Muhammadu Buhari, headed a brutal 20-month long military dictatorship in the 1980s which curtailed press freedom, locked up hundreds of people without trial, and had soldiers whipping civilians on the streets.

In personality, the two men are quite different. Jonathan comes across like someone with whom you might like to share a drink at a local beer parlor; Buhari, an ascetic disciplinarian, is more like the headmaster who’ll come round and confiscate the beers. On policy, it’s generally assumed that Buhari would be more effective against both Boko Haram and corruption. But with oil prices plunging (Nigeria relies on oil for 90% of its foreign reserves) and the naira dropping, whoever takes the helm will have difficult job.

As we’ve argued, however, Nigeria is a lot more resilient than it seems. And the bright spot of this election is that it is the first time an incumbent Nigerian president is in any danger of being voted out of power. Public debate is also rowdy and vibrant. The big risk of instability will be if one man is perceived to have stolen the election. The actual outcome, in some respects, matters less. Whoever wins will, after all, do only a middling job at best.—Yinka Adegoke

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Five things on Quartz we especially liked

How shopping became entertainment. Analyzing the effects of falling prices, “fast fashion,” and online shopping, Marc Bain argues that they have conspired to turn the buying of clothes into an activity not so different from snacking or watching TV, activating the same compulsive pleasure centers—and of course generating vast amounts of waste.

“Defensive design” is offensive architecture. Unless you are homeless, a teenager, or a skater, you probably don’t notice the subtle curves, tilts, studs, and other features increasingly built into public furniture to deter what has been decreed antisocial behavior. Architect Selena Savić does, and analyzes its subtly degrading effect on society.

The humble bean, savior of humanity. Global warming could render large swathes of land useless for growing staple crops. Jack Aldwinckle visited a gene bank in rural Colombia where scientists, after combing through ancient beans, engineered a heat-resistant strain that could feed hundreds of millions of people.

The music industry’s big mistake. Record labels are squaring off for yet another fight with streaming music firms such as Spotify, and they’re probably going to lose, writes John McDuling. What’s more, bullish new projections of the size of the streaming market suggest they’d be wiser to back down and embrace it.

The language of air tragedy. Suicide? Murder? Terrorism? Jake Flanagin analyzes the sensitive semantics behind talking about the Germanwings pilot who deliberately flew his plane and its passengers into a mountainside. And Jason Karaian on the conflicting things an airline CEO must communicate during such a strategy.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

Theory meets practice in Athens. For many of the voters who swept Syriza to power in Greece, the leftist party’s inexperience was a good thing—it wasn’t tainted by the past. But as Alexander Clapp explains in the London Review of Books, the new cabinet is packed with PhDs“more familiar with ‘governmentality’ than with governing.”

Biotech, Silicon Valley-style. As biotech stocks start to approach dotcom-level valuations, scientists are reaching for venture capital money. At Nature, Heidi Ledford describes I-Corps, an intensely practical boot camp for biomedical firms, where researchers are already abandoning promising science in favor of pitches with more market potential.

The murky market for pre-IPO stocks. It’s worth braving the Wall Street Journal’s registration barrier for Susan Pulliam and Telis Demos’s investigation of the middlemen helping Silicon Valley employees at hot tech startups cash out early. The result is a shadowy, ad hoc market where sought-after stocks of private tech companies are traded out of sight of regulators, other investors, and the companies themselves.

The life and death of a Russian female convict. Or as Ekaterina Loushnikova’s article on Open Democracy is titled, “Interview with a Murderer”—a woman who spent most of 53 years in the unspeakably brutal Russian prison system and tells a raw, personal tale full of both despair and humor.

How to teach evolution to creationists. James Krupa at Slate (in a piece adapted from Orion) recounts his experiences of teaching evolution at the University of Kentucky, and through them gives a clear-headed exposition of the basic point not only of evolution but of science in general, and why the “it’s just a theory” claim is so deeply wrong.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, pre-IPO stock trades, and Greek economic theories to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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CWS Market Review – March 27, 2015

March 27, 2015
“We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.” – Hilaire Belloc

Greetings from Manila! I’m writing to you from the Philippines, where I’m on vacation. It’s interesting that back home in Washington, I live a few blocks from the Federal Reserve, yet after having travelled 8,600 miles from home, one of the things that most strikes me is the purchasing power of the strong U.S. dollar. Even on vacation, you can’t escape economics.

While the pronounced rally for the greenback has been tough on domestic manufactures, it’s a boon for Americans going overseas. The Philippine peso has held up better than many other currencies. I should also point out that while I’m here, the Philippine Stock Exchange Index just hit another all-time high. To be fair, I can’t take full credit for this. I will, however, note the fortuitous correlation.

The first quarter of 2015 ends next week, and soon we’ll get a look at Q1 earnings reports. I have to say that I’m not expecting very strong numbers. Once again, analysts have been slashing their forecasts, and we can largely blame the strong dollar. This doesn’t appear to be the start of a downturn for the economy, but merely a pause in corporate earnings growth. I’ll have more on this in a bit. I’ll also discuss this week’s stock split announcement from Ross Stores (ROST) and what it means for our Buy List. But first, let’s take a look ahead at what to expect for Q1 earnings season

Q1 Earnings Preview

Analysts now expect Q1 earnings for the S&P 500 of $26.75 per share. (That’s the index-adjusted number. Each point on the S&P 500 is about $8.9 billion.) At the start of the year, they had been expecting Q1 earnings of $30.57 per share. So that’s a big cut in just a few months. If they’re right, then Q1 will have the smallest profit since Q2 of 2013. It will be just slightly below the profits from Q4 of 2014.

Let me be clear that this is merely a pause in earnings growth, not a broad-based decline like we would see in a recession. In fact, there was a similar pause in 2012-13. Looking at this upcoming earnings season is what has led me to stress the Strong Dollar Trade so frequently. The reason is that some sectors are being greatly impacted, while others barely feel the difference. For example, the Energy Sector is expected to see its earnings fall more than 62% for Q1. But healthcare is expected to show a 21% increase. As we often learn, stock prices and earnings may ignore each other in the short term, but they’re joined at the hip in the long term. The Energy Sector ETF (XLE) is currently more than 24% off its 52-week high, while the similar figure for Healthcare (XLV) is less than 5%.

There’s a point at which a strong dollar is no longer a good thing, and the harm it does to the domestic economy is real. This week, Bloomberg cited a study that showed that since 1972, whenever the dollar rallies by more than 25%, the S&P 500 falls by an average of 6.4% in six months.

The important Tech Sector is expected to show earnings growth of 18%. Lately, however, many large-cap tech stocks have been underperforming. On Wednesday, the Nasdaq Composite had its best one-day drop since April. My Buy Below for Microsoft (MSFT) is currently $45 per share, but if you can get it below $41.33, that’s a very good deal. That’s exactly where the stock would be for the dividend to yield 3%. Meanwhile, the 10-year Treasury yield currently stands at 2.01%.

Last week, I talked about the dividend increase at Oracle (ORCL). The stock initially reacted well, but has since given back its entire gain. Remember that the earnings report showed us that business is basically going well, and would be even better if not for that meddling dollar. At 14 times next year’s earnings, I think Oracle is a good deal.

The S&P 500 has fallen every day this week (please note, this has happened when I’m not around). But if the earnings slowdown it temporary, and I suspect it will be, then the S&P 500 is still going for a reasonable valuation. Analysts currently expect earnings next year of $135 per share. I should add that I’m always a bit leery of analyst estimates, especially that far out. In this case, I’m using these figures to represent reasonable scenarios. That would mean the S&P 500 is going for 15.2 times next year’s earnings. That’s hardly a bubble. For now, we should expect soggy earnings for the next three quarters, but the profit outlook should improve before the end of the year.

Our Recent Bout of Deflation Is Over

Earlier this week, the government reported that consumer prices rose for the first time since October. Consumer prices rose by 0.2% last month. The “core rate,” which excludes food and energy prices, also rose by 0.2%. Of course, that’s small, but it’s break from the recent trend.

The uptick in inflation is important for us because it gives the Fed more reasons to raise interest rates, and a rate increase may come soon. It’s hard to justify raised interest rates while prices are falling. Charles Evan, the head of the Chicago Fed, said he doesn’t expect a rate hike in June. I hope he’s right, but I’m afraid he’s not. The futures market currently thinks there’s a 65% chance that rates will rise before the end of the year. (By the way, a fund manager at Morgan Stanley thinks the Fed’s next move could be a rate cut.)

The recent tensions in Yemen have given a temporary boost to the oil market, but I doubt this will last. All the important signs point to lower prices for oil, but it won’t happen in a straight line.

Here’s a remarkable stat: The S&P 500 has now gone 27 days without posting back-to-back daily gains. That’s the longest streak in more than 20 years. The four-day selloff in the S&P 500 is the longest since January, but the index came very close to another all-time high last Friday. The highest close came on March 2, when the S&P 500 finished the day at 2,117.39. Last Friday, it got to 2,108.06.

Ross Stores to Split 2 for 1

On Tuesday, Ross Stores (ROST) announced that it split its stock 2 for 1. This means that shareholders will get twice as many shares, while the share price will drop in half. Ross closed the day on Thursday at $103.82.

This will be the fifth time in the last eighteen years that Ross has split 2 for 1. One share of ROST bought 20 years ago for $11.50 is now 16 shares at $103.77. Let me be clear that a stock split by itself doesn’t add any value. But it’s generally seen as good news, since profitable, growing enterprises split their shares every few years, and that’s what Ross has done.

Ideally, I think a company shouldn’t pay much attention to its share price. In my view, management should have more important things to do, like make a profit. As long as a company does well, the stock price should follow. Warren Buffett famously has never splitBerkshire Hathaway (BRKA), and the “A” shares are currently worth $216,240.

You’ll often hear that stock splits “increase the liquidity” of a stock. That could be true, but I would be leery of any investment in which lack of liquidity is an issue. I’m sometimes amused by companies that are overeager to split their shares just so they can say they split their shares. For example, I don’t see why anyone would want to declare a 3-for-2 stock split. JetBlue (JBLU) once split its stock 3 for 2 three times in three years, yet their stock didn’t appreciate much at all.

If I had my way, only splits greater than 2 for 1 would be allowed. No 5 for 4s or 3 for 2s. Also, only stocks with share prices greater than $100 would be allowed. This would stop much pointless meddling by management.

The important news for us is that Ross continues to do well. Despite the stock’s poor showing during the first half of 2014, earnings are still quite good. Last month’s earnings report beat consensus by nine cents per share. Ross remains a good buy up to $107 per share. The split will take effect on June 11. One final note: As the stock splits 2 for 1, so too will our Buy Below price.

That’s all for now. This Tuesday will be the final day of the first quarter. After that, will get the important turn-of-the-month economic reports. On Wednesday, the ISM Index comes out. Manufacturing is still expanding, but the ISM has slowly declined for the last four months in a row. I want to see a turnaround here. The big jobs report comes out next Friday. They key isn’t the number of new jobs; I want to see if there’s been a marked increase in wages. That’s what will drive the direction of interest rates. Be sure to keep checking the blog for daily updates. I’ll have more market analysis for you in the next issue of CWS Market Review!

– Eddy

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Named by CNN/Money as the best buy-and-hold blogger, Eddy Elfenbein is the editor of Crossing Wall Street. His free Buy List has beaten the S&P 500 seven times in the last eight years. This email was sent by Eddy Elfenbein through Crossing Wall Street.
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Quartz Daily Brief—#Japan’s inflation evaporates, #Meerkat raises millions, CEOs in crisis-mode, invincible drones

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Two astronauts start NASA’s first year-long stay in space. An American and a Russian will travel to the international space station as aprecursor for future Mars trips, which could take two or three years.

Italy’s Supreme Court rules on Amanda Knox. The court will decide whether to uphold Knox’s conviction for the murder of her British roommate Meredith Kercher in Italy in 2007. If Knox’s conviction is upheld, the US and Italy could begin an extradition battle.

BlackBerry is expected to disappoint. The company’s fourth-quarter earnings are expected to show a sharp decline in revenue. The question is whether there are any signs of BlackBerry executing on its plan of shifting to a software and services company.

Congress goes on holiday. The US legislature will go into recess for two weeks, after the surprising passage of a $214 billion bipartisan medicare package in the House of Representatives to address a massive funding gap.

While you were sleeping

Japan bordered on deflation. A fall in consumer spending led to a 2% rise in Japan’s core consumer price index in February from a year earlier. But stripping away the effect of last year’s sales tax rise, there was no change in the country’s CPI. Pressure is on the central bank to increase monetary stimulus this year.

China’s industrial profits fell 4.2% in January-February. Industrial firms reported profits of 745.2 billion yuan ($120 billion) in the first two months of this year, a significant drop from the same period a year earlier. Overcapacity and low demand are forcing producers to cut prices.

Egypt said it would provide ground troops in Yemen. Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said the army would send troops to fight Houthi rebels “if necessary.” This would represent a major escalation, and the conflict in Yemen could become a proxy war between Iranian-allied forces and Iran’s rivals in the Middle East.

Meerkat raised $14 million to compete with Twitter. The live-streaming video service’s CEO Ben Rubin announced the fundraising round via a Meerkat live video. Meerkat has been in business for less than a month, and the funding comes after Twitter debuted Periscope, its own live-streaming service.

London property found new growth areas. Demand for property in London’s cheaper boroughs led to a 12.9% increase in property valuein the 12 months to February, according to property market researcher Hometrack. Demand for cheaper property outweighed single-digit drops in premium central property value.

The US may allow Iran to run a limited number of centrifuges. In exchange for limits on Iran’s nuclear research and development, the USis considering allowing Iran to run hundreds of centrifuges at a fortified underground bunker, which would be subject to international inspections, according to The Associated Press.

Quartz obsession interlude

Jason Karaian on the contradictory expectations of CEOs during a crisis. “The qualities we expect from corporate leaders managing in a crisis—honesty, transparency, accountability, empathy—don’t always square with other demands on them, like maintaining the confidence of investors (measured most bluntly by share price) and of employees (which often means voicing unwavering admiration for them). Carsten Spohr, the CEO of Lufthansa, is now addressing this difficult balance.”Read more here.

Matters of debate

We should care a whole lot more about dirt. Forget every other epidemic, if we don’t protect the earth’s soil, humanity will cease.

Media coverage of Africa needs to include more Africans. 60 Minutes has been a great example of how not to cover the continent.

Income inequality is good for you. It motivates creative people to strive, innovate, and compete, which eventually makes luxuries more affordable.

US executions should be more brutal. The sanitizing effect of the lethal injection has allowed a bad policy to become worse.

Silicon Valley isn’t investing in science anymore. Instead, it backs companies that can scale up and become dominant (paywall).

Surprising discoveries

You can make rice even healthier. Throwing in a dash of coconut oil and letting it cool for 12 hours more than halves the calories, according to Sri Lankan researchers.

Winged drones can now withstand being beaten by a baseball bat. Scientists developed a drone designed to survive mid-air collision.

Russia wants to connect London to Alaska. Plans for a 12,400-mile super highway have a similar layout to the Trans-Siberian railway.

There is a dating site for UFO-believers. That should eliminate at least one awkward conversation on the first date.

The inventor of American cheese was Canadian. James Lewis Kraft only moved to the US as a child.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, skinny rice, and baseball bat-proof drones to hi@qz.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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Websim Focus sui Mercati finanziari 26/03/2015 – WS

La caduta dei tech ha portato al terzo calo consecutivo di Wall Street: Dow Jones -1,6%, azzerato il rialzo da inizio anno, S&P500 -1,45%, Nasdaq ? 2,4%. L’indice Nasdaq Biotech e l’indice Sox dei semiconduttori hanno perso il 4,5%.

Al contrario, in forte evidenza tutti i settori legati al petrolio, mentre il Wti ha messo a segno un progresso del 6% in due sedute.

Asia. Qualche ripercussione si nota stamattina sui mercati dell’Estremo Oriente. Nikkei -1,39%, Mumbai e Seoul perdono poco meno di un punto. Hong Kong +0,1% e CSI 300 +0,2%.

I future sulle borse europee segnalano un’apertura in ribasso dell’1% circa.

Analisi tecnica borse. Mancano tre sedute alla fine di un primo trimestre ricchissimo per tutte le borse principali e il brusco movimento di ieri a Wall Street ci fa capire che il periodo sarà probabilmente caratterizzato dalle prese di profitto e dall’incremento della volatilità.

FtseMib (23.145, -0,8%). Ha corretto dai picchi degli ultimi 5 anni. Da notare che a perdere di più ieri sono state azioni che hanno corso moltissimo. L’obiettivo finale del movimento resta sui massimi dal 2009 in area 24mila punti, ma stiamo pronti a sfruttare eventuali correzioni verso 21.500/21mila punti per gli acquisti.

Variabili macro

Petrolio. Prezzi in forte rialzo. Il Wti si è portato stamattina a 51,4 usd, sui massimi delle ultime due settimane. Il progresso dai minimi del mese supera il 20%. Il Brent è scambiato in progresso del 2,7% a 58 dollari.

Il balzo è stato innescato dalla notizie in arrivo dallo Yemen, dove ormai è in atto una vera e propria guerra civile tra sciti, appoggiati dall’Iran, e sunniti, con l’Arabia Saudita pronta a intervenire a favore dei secondi.
Lo Yemen è un modestissimo produttore di petrolio, è al trentanovesimo posto nella classifica dei paesi esportatori, ma si trova nel centro nevralgico dei commerci di gas e petrolio.

Operatività: il movimento sembra dare ragione alle nostre attese di una reazione tecnica. Abbiamo approfittato della caduta verso 45 e 55 usd rispettivamente per scommettere su un rimbalzo nell’ordine di 5/10 dollari. Collochiamo uno stop loss a breve distanza dai livelli di ingresso.

Oro (oggi 1.203 usd). L’aumento dell’incertezza sulle borse riporta interesse sul metallo prezioso che avvia il settimo rialzo consecutivo. Per ora dal punto di vista grafico non ci sono novità. Primi segnali di ricucitura del trend si vedranno solo con lo stabile superamento di area 1.230 usd. Sotto 1.150/1.120 usd si proietterebbe un target verso quota 1.000 usd. Il giudizio di fondo resta negativo.

Forex

Euro/Rublo (61,9). Scende su nuovi minimi da novembre probabilmente anche per effetto del rialzo del petrolio che favorisce l’economia russa. Confermati i segnali distensivi.

Euro/Dollaro (1,092). Si porta a ridosso della soglia psicologica di 1,10
che consente (da qui in su) ai ritardatari di comprare dollari. L’obiettivo naturale rimane la parità, mentre nuovi segnali di forza del dollaro si vedranno sotto 1,0490.

Bond

Ieri si è vista ancora qualche timida presa di profitto. Oggi lo spread decennale riapre a 112 punti base per un rendimento del BTP 10 anni a 1,35%. Siamo convinti che qualche vendita sia guidata dalla “voglia” di andare a cercare un po’ di rendimento sul mercato azionario, ma già lo storno di ieri potrebbe frenare questo slancio favorendo i bond periferici. Eventuali strappi verso 1,50% sarebbero comunque occasioni di acquisto.

Grecia. Ieri in Grecia era festa. Si attendono le proposte del governo Tsipras. Continuiamo a credere che la Grecia verrà salvata.

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Quartz Daily Brief—Gulf states bomb Yemen, #Germanwings pilot absent, #Britain debates, baguettes in Pyongyang

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today

Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear deal grind on. Talks will be held today between Iran and six world powers, in the hope that an agreement can be reached by the end of this month. Meanwhile, the US Congresswants to have a say in any deal before it’s made.

The board of Petrobras meets. Brazil’s state-owned oil company, dogged by an ongoing corruption scandal, had previously delayed the meeting because it was scrambling to prepare its 2014 full-year financial results and pick new members.

Britain’s prime minister takes on his foes. The Conservative Party’s David Cameron and the leaders of six other parties will debate each other ahead of the May 7 general election. Organizing this debate took months, mostly because no one could agree on the timing and the format—Cameron thinks the 2010 TV debate “sucked the life” out of his campaign.

Indonesia’s president visits China. Once Joko Widodo finishes a visit to Japan, where he has been seeking investment in his country and defense cooperation, he is headed to China to meet president Xi Jinping.

While you were sleeping

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched airstrikes in Yemen. The Saudi ambassador to the US said 10 countries have launched military operations against Houthi Shia rebels to “defend the legitimate government” of president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Hadi fled the capital after attacks by Iranian-backed Shia rebels; US president Barack Obama said the US will provide “logistical and intelligence support.”

A pilot on Germanwings flight 9525 was locked out of the cockpit.An official investigating this week’s fatal crash told The New York Timesthat the flight’s audio recorder indicates that one pilot was locked out, and trying to break the door down. Airbus, like other plane manufacturers, made cockpits harder to enter after Sept. 11, 2001.

Oil well maker Schlumberger pleaded guilty. The US company willpay a $237 million fine for violating US sanctions on Iran and Sudan. Schlumberger will also hire an independent consultant to review its policy towards sanctions for three years.

Etihad supported an Aer Lingus sale. The Middle Eastern airline said it would sell its stake in the Irish airline, if the Irish government agreed to a sale to IAG, British Airways’ parent. Etihad has nearly an 8% stake in Aer Lingus; IAG is trying to buy the Irish airline for €1.34 billion ($1.5 billion).

Nigeria closed its borders ahead of Saturday’s election. All land and sea borders have been ordered shut to maintain peace and prevent foreigners crossing over to vote. Vehicles have also been banned from the road on election day. The election was delayed by six weeksbecause of Boko Haram insurgency in the north.

Facebook brought apps to Messenger. As predicted, the social networking giant announced at its developer conference that its chat app, Messenger, now lets users add additional services from third parties. Facebook also introduced “Messenger for Business,” which lets companies set up direct connections to customers via a chat-like interface.

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Quartz obsession interlude

Jack Aldwinckle on the search for a superbean to feed the world.“Four hundred million people in the developing world rely on beans for food, according to Cgiar. Rwandans, for instance, each consume anaverage of 60 kg (132 lb) of the legume each year, a key source of their protein. But that security is under threat. CIAT’s scientists warn that rising temperatures are likely to disrupt production in African countries such as Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and the DRC. Across the Atlantic, Nicaragua, Haiti, Brazil and Honduras are also likely to be affected.” Read more here.

Matters of debate

Keep an eye on Iran. It’s looking to build an empire in the region, and it has the means to actually do so.

Globalization destroyed the middle class in the US. But now that wages are rising in China and India, the US is once again an attractive investment option.

America needs to send soldiers into Tikrit. American boots on the ground in Iraq are the only way to destroy ISIL there.

Ukraine could go the way of Crimea. Thugs are going to take over, and ruin the country, unless the West does something (paywall).

Eating meat doesn’t have to destroy the environment. Animals can be raised in such a way that they won’t increase the effects of climate change.

Surprising discoveries

Waiting for your instant ramen to cook is no longer a lonely experience. You can now go on a virtual date instead of just staring into the depths of that cup.

A woman is suing New York police for institutionalizing her. She was locked up for saying Barack Obama follows her on Twitter, even though he does.

Rich North Koreans love baguettes. Well-to-do residents of the country’s capital are importing fancy bread.

Berlin is hiring a brothel tester. A social network dedicated to the sex industry is looking for someone to rate the city’s legal brothels for service, cleanliness, and compliance with safe sex practices.

Nevada wants to let you get your dog high. The US state is about to pass a bill allowing pet owners to give sick pets a dose of marijuana.

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5 Reasons New Highs Are Coming – 03/25/2015

Kevin Cook here for Steve…

Before the big Fed meeting last week, with the S&P 500 bouncing off of support at 2040, I told investors to prepare for new highs.

Now that the market is taking another breather before that event, it’s time to review what is still true and why you should buy the dips into Q1 earnings season, which begins in earnest in 3 weeks…

1. The Fed will continue to err on the side of keeping the economy humming

2. Growth stocks across many industries are on fire, making new highs daily

3. Classic bull market behavior predicts these stocks leave most investors behind

4. We are nowhere near recession and Q1 earnings and guidance will prove it

5. The market built a solid support structure between S&P 1975 and 2050.

To some, the first part about the Fed is the most important. And, if you look at the data about past rate hike cycles and stocks, it confirms we are still in a sweet spot. How could we not be when Fed funds will barely be 1% a year from now?

But the most important parts to me are about the economy, earnings, and how these forces show up in growth stocks, many of which are still trading at attractive PEGs.

Bottom line: Prepare for more big earnings beats and new highs by focusing on the Zacks #1 Rank stocks with the best history of positive surprises.

Best,

Kevin Cook

Senior Stock Strategist, Zacks Investment Research