NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With Citi raising its price target for Netflix (NFLX) shares from $584 to $722, investors who don't already own the stock may be wondering whether to jump in. And CNBC's "Fast Money Halftime Report" panelists explored that very topic on Thursday.
The group cited pockets of improvement in the markets, despite volatility, and noted that stocks hit record highs this week.
Mario Gabelli, founder of Gamco Investments and chairman of the Gabelli Funds, said he anticipated the markets further improving by the year's end, as Europe continues on its uptrend and Japan's stock market performs well, as does those of China and the U.S.
Josh Brown, CEO and co-founder of Ritholtz Wealth Management, said the New York Stock Exchange is heading toward reaching new highs, mid-cap stocks are ready to explode and regional banks have already taken off.
Expressing a similar sentiment, Joe Terranova, chief market strategist for Virtus Investment Partners, said equities look like they are already "breaking out."
On the retail front, with companies like Target (TGT) and Best Buy (BBY) posting stronger than expected quarters and big-box discounter Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) releasing disappointing earnings, guest speaker and retail analyst Dana Telsey of the Telsey Advisory Group said that while the retail industry's earnings reports have been a mixed bag, comparable same-store sales seem to be presenting encouraging news thus far for the second quarter and headed into the last half of the year.
Telsey added that investors might see Target embark on a move of building smaller stores that sell only certain items. And while Target is a company she characterized as being on an upward swing, she remains cautious about Gap (GPS), which she considers to be "treading water" in the near term. Investors might find it better to wait until its comparable same-store sales show improvement. The Gap is scheduled to report its quarterly results after the markets close today.
The panel also discussed CVS's plans to acquire drug distributor Omnicare for $10.4 billion. Gabelli, who owns a slice of CVS through his investment funds, said there was an internal debate within his firm over the deal's merits. Gabelli's analysts thought the deal was "marginally OK but not great," he said. Some concerns centered on the growth potential and synergies of the two companies once merged, as well as whether CVS should even be making the deal.
Netflix generated the most discussion of the panelists. Gabelli, for example, said he acquired 100 shares of the streaming-video company on Wednesday and regrets not diving into the stock sooner.
Pete Najarian, co-founder of Optionmonster.com, said Netflix has extreme growth potential ahead of it, as Europe and Latin America can prove ripe grounds for expansion. He noted, however, that investors appear to be scared by the multiple that the stock is trading at.
In looking at the second half of the year, the panelists shared their views about what investors should watch for. Gabelli said an interest rate hike in June will not necessarily come to pass, Terranova expects financials to lead the markets higher, Brown remains concerned about disappointing economic reports and Najarian drilled down specifically on Rite Aid (RAD), noting it was interesting that 124,000 July calls were purchased on Thursday.