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1. Yum! Brands: Focus on China Is Driving Growth
By Chris Atayan
7:00 a.m. EDT

For some time now I have been holding out Yum! Brands ( YUM) as the kind of management team that has the requisite focus to not only survive but prosper in the current environment. Yesterday's solid earnings report reinforced that view. More in a piece in Commentary this morning.

Long YUM

2. Morning Trade
By Bob Byrne
8:45 a.m. EDT

Not much changed yesterday ... we still traded (for the most part) in our channels. The bears need to push us under (and close the day under) 833, and the bulls need to close the day above 854.50 (though 858.50 would be better). I doubt we'll stay in this range much longer, but guessing which way we break could be costly ... so waiting and scalping seems to be the safer approach.

The levels the bulls need to be most concerned with continue to be 854.50 and 858.50. Both of these areas have the ability to stop any advance in its tracks ... but a daily close above them will give the bulls the advantage. A break of 858.50 will find another strong area of resistance at 863.50, but hopefully 858.50 would then become strong support.

The bears have several support levels to push through before they can get back to work on the 833 area ... again. The emini is currently trading near the top of its range, so the bears will need to first push us back through moderate support at 850 and 847 and then work on strong support at 842. Below 842 and we should see more sellers emerge, possibly resulting in a quick drop to 836.50 (moderate support). After that ... we're back to 833.

Hopefully, as more stress test leaks occur we will have a resolution to our current trading range.

3. Betting on M&A Skills
By Eric Jackson
9:43 a.m. EDT

We constantly hear about tech companies' strong balance sheets. While some, like Apple ( AAPL) and Microsoft ( MSFT), seem intent on building the largest pile of cash possible, others will no doubt use their cash to begin making acquisitions in the next year.

One lens to apply to your stock selection then should be judging a company's M&A purchase and integration skills. Some companies -- like Yahoo! ( YHOO) and eBay ( EBAY) -- have a track record of making lots of unrelated acquisitions at inflated prices (today we read about Yahoo! shutting down its 1999 GeoCities group because it's not competitive). eBay is now in the process of unwinding itself from that failed approach, and it's likely that things will change in this regard under Carol Bartz at Yahoo!.

When Microsoft has made acquisitions (like aQuantive or its investment in Facebook), it has overpaid, giving the sense it's more desperate than thoughtful. Fears about its lack of M&A integration skills among its management team helped push investors to urge Ballmer to drop the Yahoo! bid last year.

The three tech companies who have proven themselves adept at making strategic deals at fair prices and then quickly integrating them into the fold are Oracle ( ORCL), IBM ( IBM) and Cisco ( CSCO). There are more deals ahead for the sector and these companies have an edge for their shareholders in seeking out the best of what's for sale.


4. Ford Comments Before the Q&A
By David Sterman
9:47 a.m. EDT

Ford ( F) has run through all the major changes made in the last year (with the exception of a still-pending Volvo sale), and you get the sense that the vast bulk of the work is done, and at this point the company must simply wait for sales to rebound.

After taking down inventories to manageable levels, Ford plans to boost second-quarter production output compared to the first quarter. Part of this stems from plans to launch the new Taurus with healthy inventories. Ford has also begun to produce the first in a series of new engines called Eco-Boost that deliver high mileage and lower emissions compared to similar-sized engines, but cost a bit more to build.

The European "cash for clunkers" program led management to boost European sales forecasts for the rest of the year. A similar program in the U.S. has a decent chance of being implemented, which is why management expects to see an uptick in domestic industry sales later this year.

The Q&A is now under way.

No positions

5. Wells Fargo and the Baltic Dry Index
By James Altucher
12:51 p.m. EDT

Rumors of a Wells Fargo ( WFC) $6 billion capital raise are now being spread around, and I have shorted a very small position of the WFC $24 April calls for $0.95. I'd also point out that the Baltic Dry Index is up about 6% in the past three or four days (bullish).

Small short WFC $24 calls

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This article was written by a staff member of