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Tickers in this Article: HELE, SHLM, ASML, CYMI, GEVA, HURN, SODA
The Nasdaq has slipped 0.5%, the S&P 500 has decreased 0.2% and the Dow has risen 0.1% so far today. The recent surge in popularity of technological stocks has launched the Nasdaq Composite Index into the spotlight, making it one of the premier indexes in the world.

The biggest movers traded on the NASDAQ so far are:
CompanyMarket CapPercentage Change
Helen of Troy Limited (Nasdaq:HELE)$1.08 billion-10.3%
A. Schulman Inc (Nasdaq:SHLM)$597.1 million+10.2%
ASML Holding N.V. (ADR) (Nasdaq:ASML)$20.9 billion+9%
Cymer, Inc. (Nasdaq:CYMI)$1.75 billion+8.8%
Synageva BioPharma Corp. (Nasdaq:GEVA)$875.1 million+7.8%
Huron Consulting Group (Nasdaq:HURN)$717.5 million+6.2%
Sodastream International Limited (Nasdaq:SODA)$835.3 million-5.1%
Broker Summary: Charles Schwab Online Brokerage

Helen of (Nasdaq:HELE) is currently trading at $30.52 per share, after a steep drop of 10.3%. The company is trading at a volume of 245,795 shares. This is more trading activity than there was yesterday. Volume is also used as a secondary indicator to help confirm what the price movement is suggesting. There are many tools investors can use to evaluate a stock, including margins. Margins, quite simply, are earnings expressed as a ratio, or a percentage of sales, and this allows investors to compare the profitability of different companies, while net earnings, which are presented as an absolute number, cannot. HELE's gross profit margin is 43%. Value investors, investors in distressed securities, and junk bond investors will probably pay more attention to the operating margin ratio. HELE's operating profit margin is 12.4%. Comparing net profit margins for companies with similar business models or in similar industries can yield valuable information as to which business is actually performing better. Net margin is 9.3%.

A company's value as an investment is more easily estimated using valuation ratios such as the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio, the price to sales (P/S) ratio, the price to book (P/B) ratio, and the dividend yield. A simple P/E ratio can reveal the stock's real market value and show how the valuation compares to its industry group or a benchmark like the S&P 500 Index. The P/E ratio for HELE is 9.7, below the industry average of 18.09. Companies with low P/E ratios may find it easier to surprise the market to the upside, even if their financial performance is not as strong as that of companies with high P/E ratios. High P/E stocks could be "growth" stocks, while low PE stocks may be "value" stocks. SEE: Understanding The P/E Ratio

A. Schulman (Nasdaq:SHLM) is currently at $22.29 per share after a dramatic increase of 10.2%. So far today, 294,523 shares have changed hands. High volume indicates a lot of investor interest while low volume indicates the opposite. Margin analysis is a great way to understand the profitability of companies. SHLM has a low gross profit margin of 14.7%. A low gross profit margin compared to competitors may be a sign that the company is under-pricing its products and/or services. Operating margin for SHLM is 2.8% and net margin is 2.2%, both low relative to its gross margin.

In making a decision about a potential or existing investment, valuation ratios are useful as a basis for seeing whether the stock price is too high, reasonable, or a bargain. One of the favorite tools of many value investors is analyzing price/book value ratios, as it provides a measure of the underlying value of a company's assets as compared to the valuation of its equity. SHLM's stock is trading for more than its book value with a P/B ratio of 1.26. This high share price relative to asset value is likely to indicate that the company has been earning a very high return on its assets. A weakness of the P/B value ratio is that while the price component is easily determined by looking at the stock quote, the book value component is more difficult to estimate and more open to individual interpretation and analysis. SEE: Using The Price-To-Book Ratio To Evaluate Companies

ASML Holding N.V (Nasdaq:ASML) has risen 9% and is currently trading at $52.83 per share. At 5.8 million shares, the company's volume so far today is 3.1 times the average volume over the last three months. In technical analysis, trading volume is used to determine the strength of a market indicator. Margin ratios highlight companies that are worth further examination. ASML's gross profit margin is 45.8%. ASML has an operating profit margin of 25.8% and a net profit margin of 24.9%, both low compared to its gross profit margin.

A company's investment value can be estimated using valuation ratios such as the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio, the price to sales (P/S) ratio, the price to book (P/B) ratio, and the dividend yield. Dividend yield is a way to measure how much cash flow you are getting for each dollar invested in an equity position - in other words, how much "bang for your buck" you are getting from dividends. ASML has a low dividend yield of 1.1%. If you are an income investor, this stock may not be attractive to you. It is important to remember that while a higher dividend yield is more attractive, all else being equal, a higher dividend yield can also indicate greater perceived risk. SEE: Guide To Stock-Picking Strategies: Income Investing

Cymer (Nasdaq:CYMI) has moved up 8.8% and is currently trading at $61.71 per share. This morning, the company's volume is 840,828 shares. This is 2.8 times the current daily average. If a stock is trading on low volume, then there is not much interest in the stock. On the other hand, if a stock is trading on high volume, then there is a lot of interest in the stock. Profit-margin ratios measure how much money a company squeezes from its total revenue or total sales. Investors can look at a company's gross profit margin, operating profit margin and net margin to understand a company's profitability. CYMI has a gross profit margin of 54.7%. Operating profit gives investors an opportunity to do profit-margin comparisons between companies that do not issue a separate disclosure of their cost of goods sold figures (which are needed to do gross margin analysis). CYMI has an operating profit margin of 11.1%. Net profit margin is calculated by dividing net income by sales. The company has a net profit margin of 12.4%.

Looking at a company's valuation ratios is a good way of getting a basic idea as to its value as an investment. While measuring a price/earnings ratio (P/E ratio) is a popular valuation technique, the measure cannot be calculated for companies without earnings, so some investors analyze the price/sales ratio. The P/S ratio for CYMI is a high 2.62. This could be a good sign if the share price increases. It is important to compare P/S ratios for companies in the same industry, as ratios can vary quite widely for companies in different industries.

Increasing 7.8%, Synageva (Nasdaq:GEVA) is trading at $44.41 per share. This morning, 420,757 shares have been traded, whereas yesterday, volume was only 22,013 shares. In technical analysis, trading volume is used to determine the strength of a market indicator. Profit-margin ratios can give investors deeper insight into management efficiency than earnings alone can provide. Gross profit margin, operating profit margin and net margin are commonly used margins. Operating margin for GEVA is -306.8%. This is because the company reported a net operating loss in the most recent quarter.

Valuation ratios like the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio, the price to sales (P/S) ratio, the price to book (P/B) ratio, and the dividend yield are useful in determining how attractive a potential or existing investment is. The debt ratio gives users a quick measure of the amount of debt that the company has on its balance sheets compared to its assets. GEVA has a low debt ratio of 10.3%. A low debt ratio means the company has more available cash flow. However, one thing to note with this ratio: it isn't a pure measure of a company's debt (or indebtedness), as it also includes operational liabilities, such as accounts payable and taxes payable.

Huron Consulting (Nasdaq:HURN) is at $33.25 per share after an increase of 6.2%. So far today, the company's volume is 147,697 shares. As a stock moves up or down, it is important to pay attention to the trading volume. This indicates the level of interest: the higher the volume, the more the interest. Margin analysis tells us how effectively management can wring profits from sales and how much room a company has to withstand a downturn, fend off competition and make mistakes. HURN's gross profit margin is 34.2%. The operating profit margin indicates how much EBIT is generated per dollar of sales. Operating profit margin for HURN is 2.4%. Net profit margins are those generated from all phases of a business, including taxes. The company's net profit margin is 2.6%.

A wide array of ratios can be used by investors to estimate the attractiveness of a potential or existing investment and get an idea of its valuation. To a large degree, the debt-equity (D/E) ratio provides another vantage point on a company's leverage position, in this case, comparing total liabilities to shareholders' equity, as opposed to total assets in the debt ratio. HURN's D/E ratio is 61%. This easy-to-calculate ratio provides a general indication of a company's equity-liability relationship and is helpful to investors looking for a quick take on a company's leverage.

Sodastream (Nasdaq:SODA) has fallen 5.1% and is currently trading at $39.36 per share. The company's volume for the day so far is 545,207 share, 0.8 times the current three-month average. If a stock price moves on high volume, this means that the change is a significant one. Calculating the profit margin is a great way to gain insight into aspects of how well a company generates and retains money. Instead of measuring how much managers earn from assets, equity or invested capital, profit-margin ratios measure how far a company stretches its total revenue or total sales. SODA has a gross profit margin of 56.5%. The operating margin ratio can vary widely across industries, so investors should focus on comparing companies from similar industries or with similar business models. SODA has an operating profit margin of 13.1%. Because the business models of companies vary so widely, it can be difficult to compare net profit margin ratios for companies in different industries. Net margin is 10.2%.

Valuation ratios include the price to earnings (P/E) ratio, the price to earnings growth (PEG) ratio, the price to sales (P/S) ratio, the price to book (P/B) ratio, and the dividend yield. The price/earnings ratio is calculated by taking a stock price and dividing it by the earnings-per-share (EPS). SODA's P/E ratio of 25.0 is above the industry average of 14.91. Usually, if a stock has a high P/E ratio, it indicates that the market expects the company to grow earnings quickly in the future. To determine the P/E ratio, an investor divides the market price of the stock by the earnings-per-share (EPS) of the stock. SEE: The P/E Ratio: A Good Market-Timing Indicator

The Bottom Line On any given day, a particular stock may see positive or negative change in its share price. Daily stock performance should be weighed against historical performance and put in context of the market overall. However, these fundamental metrics must be analyzed with historic data, industry information in addition to firm specific financial statements.

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