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Troubling News From Biogen

By Adam Feuerstein
06/29/09 7:29 a.m.

Biogen Idec

(BIIB) - Get Biogen Inc. Report

reported Friday that a 10th multiple sclerosis patient being treated with Tysabri was diagnosed with a serious brain infection.

The latest case of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) occurred outside the U.S. in a patient on Tysabri therapy for 30 months. Four Tysabri patients on therapy for more than 30 months have now contracted PML, including the last three reported cases.

This is raising concerns that the risk of a multiple sclerosis patient contracting PML increases with longer duration of Tysabri therapy. The overall incident rate of PML is still very small, and Biogen Idec has presented scientific data disputing the notion that PML risk increases with longer Tysabri use.

However, some doctors are beginning to cycle patients off Tysabri after two years or put patients on drug holidays. If this trend continues, Tysabri patient and revenue growth -- already stunted -- could stall further.

Biogen Idec shares Tysabri revenue with Irish drugmaker




Positions: None

Bank Failures

By Tim Melvin
06/29/09 8:29 a.m.

I see we had another five bank failures on Friday. This brings the year-to-date count to 45 failed banks in the U.S. The failures Friday were all smaller banks; the largest of the five had just $456 million in assets.

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The continuing weakness in real estate and low levels of economic activity are crushing the small regional and community banks right now. This is one of my all-time favorite groups, but it is still a few ticks too soon to do broad buying in the sector. The number of troubled institutions now stands at 305, the most since 1994, and more are expected.

As weakness and continued failures pressure the group, you need to watch the small banks very closely. There is a large fortune to be made in this group as soon as there is stabilization in real estate prices. Hold your fire until you see the whites of their eyes, and steady balance sheets.

A Delicious DISH

By Alan Farley
06/29/09 9:09 a.m.

Dish Network

(DISH) - Get DISH Network Corporation Class A Report

shows a pattern that's developing across dozens of stocks as we head into summer. The satellite provider recovered from last year's crash with a steady rally that reached the 200-day EMA in May and promptly stalled out. The subsequent pullback has been orderly, with a constructive volume pattern. The decline has generated a trendline that will break on a rally above Friday's high.

A buying spike that tests the May high will complete an eight-month cup-and-handle pattern that should support much higher prices. However, it isn't a good idea to underestimate the magnetic power of the 200-day EMA. Any trade taken on a trendline breakout needs to be closely managed, because that level could trigger a reversal at any time.

Positions: None

Debt Revival a Major Surprise

By Marc Chandler
06/29/09 10:47 a.m.

One of the surprising developments in the first half of 2009 has been explosion of debt issuance. Globally, the financial sector issued about $730 billion of debt while the nonfinancial sector issued about $886 billion. Financial issuance was helped by a number of countries guaranteeing bank bonds and by banks switching to less expensive debt. Bond issuance was also boosted by the impairment of banks.

The high-yield bond market also saw renewed interest. Risk premiums fell, and issuance in the second quarter was around $48.3 billion, nearly four times larger than the first-quarter pace.

Convertible bonds also enjoyed a mini-boom, having activity quadrupled in second quarter over the first quarter.

Flows into U.S.-based bond funds have been positive every month this year.

China's Stockpiles

By Howard Simons
06/29/09 9:48 a.m.


is carrying a story about how China is going to end its manic stockpiling of various industrial metals. On one level, China's purchases in recent months made sense if it had upcoming direct use for the copper, aluminum and zinc it was buying at prices a fraction of where they were a year-ago. On the other hand, the country was just engaged in a self-sustaining state bureaucracy without a "stop" button.

Just as the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency stockpiled "strategic" metals for years and ultimately sold them off in auctions, the Chinese will find their actions pointless.

Its decision will put downward pressure on various metals prices, and I am sure it will pole-ax all those who still confuse a commodity-linked equity with the commodity itself. If you have piled into various miners, watch for a stampede in the other direction.

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