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1. Ashland Ramps on JPMorgan Upgrade

By Gary Morrow
4/1/2009 12:49 PM EDT

Ashland ( ASH) is up over 13% today on heavy trade. The stock began the day with a power gap higher that pushed the stock to its best level in 10 weeks. Ashland is now trading just shy of its 2009 highs of $12.25 and looks poised for more upside.

Today's upgrade-inspired breakout continues a strong upside move over the past week. Ashland has been tracing out a basing pattern since late November after dropping 80% from its 2008 highs. The stock drifted lower through January and February on light trade. Early last month, Ashland had finally become sold out and began to turn the corner. Three weeks later, the stock closed back above its 50-day moving average for the first time since last June. Ashland built on that strength the next day with a 6% gain on a big surge in trade. Upside volume improved to its best levels of the year as last week ended, giving the breakout today solid footing.

Strong support is now in place from $10.50 to $10.70. A low-volume pullback to this area would be a low-risk buying opportunity. On the upside, $14.00 is a logical short-term target.

2. Friday Employment Data

By Jeff Miller
4/1/2009 12:30 PM EDT

Each month I make an estimate of the net change in payroll jobs based upon other economic data. I look for data points from the middle of last month, the week including the 12th, to coincide with the payroll survey period. My research found that the most important indicators were the ISM manufacturing survey (released today), the four-week moving average of initial jobless claims and the University of Michigan sentiment survey. I view these as concurrent indicators of employment conditions at mid-month.

The values have all stabilized, but the levels remain very low, consistent with economic contraction. My estimated net job loss is 727,000, a tad less than ADP's projection of 742,000. The consensus is for 660,000, but the "whisper number" for job losses has tended to move on the ADP estimates. This is not surprising, since everyone (except ADP) is looking at the same data.

The 90% confidence interval on the survy is plus or minus 100,000. It was only a year ago that a 30,000-job miss in this number was viewed as a big deal. The market seems to expect continuing negative news on the jobs front.

3. Disney Estimates Cut

Steve Birenberg
4/1/2009 9:30 AM EDT

Merrill Lynch cut estimates at Disney ( DIS) today for the March quarter, on the basis of weak local TV advertising, poor box office and DVD sales, and consumer products sell-through. I still think DIS premium will dissipate as cyclical downturn deepens relative to peers.

Time Warner's ( TWX) restructuring is complete, and investors cheered the new TWX yesterday, pushing it up 6%. TWX remains my favorite big media stock due to importance of well-performing cable networks, reasonable comps in filmed entertainment in 2009 and the newly strong balance sheet. Now if they could just dump AOL.

I'll be selling my dividend distribution of Time Warner Cable ( TWC). The position is too small to keep, and I am unwilling to add, as I prefer AT&T ( T), Verizon ( VZ) and Comcast ( CMCSA), due to balance-sheet comps.

4. Morning Trade

Bob Byrne
4/1/2009 9:15 AM EDT

The emini is trading lower by more than 1% but holding well above Monday's low of 775.50. As long as this market is stuck between 775.50 and 815, I expect a choppy market where dips are bought and blips are sold. A sustained trade below 775.50, and our market correction is back in full swing with 761.50 being the first target and 746 our second (76.50 and 74.95 on SPY). Unless the bears come out of hibernation (or the morgue) and really lean on this market, a trade down to 761.50 with a general market oversold reading would provide a nice setup for another market advance (provided Congress is on vacation).

If you were ever curious about what happens when the bulls run out of paint (or bullets) on the last day of a quarter, look at the last 30 minutes of yesterday's emini chart. The bulls will need to push the emini back above initial resistance at 785.50 and then strong resistance at 791.50 if they want to convince traders that yesterday's midday surge was anything more than end-of-quarter nonsense. Above 791.50, and a bid should remain under the market, with 797.75 being the next target. A move through (strong resistance) 797.75 will find moderate selling near 801 and 807, with strong resistance at 811 and 815.

The bears need to push the emini below moderate support at 779 and then go to work on 775.50 to put any fear into the hearts of bulls. A break of strong support at 775.50, and the market should see addition sell pressure on any blips higher. Look for moderate support to come in near 769.

5. Ending the Cycle of New Lows

By David Sterman
4/1/2009 7:29 AM EDT

Far fewer companies are hitting new 52-week lows these days. Last Thursday, the NYSE had zero new lows, according to the WSJ. There was a modest spike up of new lows on Monday on the NYSE to 18, but otherwise that metric has been in single digits every day since last Monday. We have been coming up against the period a year-ago of already-lowered prices, and share prices fell further April 2008, so this recent action may truly mark the phase of the end of high levels of new lows.

We'll still see some cross the tape due to company-specific financial distress, and a very sharp down day can also spike the number of lows, but a sideways moving market, as we've recently seen, should keep fresh lows on the NYSE below 10.

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Know What You Own: In midday trading on Friday, the most active stocks included Citigroup ( C), Bank of America ( BAC) and the S&P Depositary Receipts ( SPY).
This article was written by a staff member of