Recapping the day's news and newsmakers through the lens of CNBC.
Any executive in charge of marketing knows how easy it is to waste vast sums on campaigns that turn into duds. So how about scoring a TD by spending, well, nothing?
That's the Madison Avenue-soul-searching question raised by singer Beyoncé's stunning success in selling her new album without the usual marketing drumroll. The self-titled album was released on Apple's iTunes without advance notice, and sales are through the roof.
"Marketing as we knew it is dead."—Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts
"I wouldn't so much say that 'marketing as we knew it is dead' but rather that marketing is reverting back to what it was in the 1960s—relationship marketing. ... Beyoncé's new album isn't successful because she kept it a secret and dropped it out of thin air, it's successful because she has a huge fan base, has poured her life into her brand, and is an incredibly talented human being."— Jason HeadsetsDotCom
Pay it forward
Remember all those worries that the Twitter IPO would flop like Facebook's did? Well, the Twitter handlers were careful not to repeat Facebook's mistakes, and the result has been quite stunning. Too stunning, according to some analysts.
Twitter shares have soared nearly 120 percent since the November IPO. Does that mean the IPO was underpriced, causing the social networking firm to leave money on the table? Or is this a bubble?
A growing number of analysts, while generally liking the company, are embracing the feeding-frenzy theory. As the market awaits earnings data that won't be out for a month or so, the stock has been hit with a number of downgrades.
"We just have a tough time paying 300 times EBITDA right now."—SunTrust analyst Robert Peck
Homebuilders are getting more and more confident, but there's some debate about whether this really means the housing market is getting stronger.
A December poll by the National Association of Home Builders found confidence up at its highest level since August. More importantly, builder sentiment has been positive for seven straight months. Worry about slightly higher mortgage rates and the government shutdown seem to be in the past.
Still, some experts warn that improvements in the market for new homes may not reflect significant growth in demand from ordinary buyers. Rather, it may be due to investors ordering new homes to use as rentals.
What we are beginning to see are investors buying new homes who then in turn rent them out. We are in a secular change towards renting."—Peter Boockvar of The Lindsey Group
College as a Cayman Island
Parents and grandparents with a few thousand rattling around at the end of the year should consider a big contribution to a Section 529 college savings plan. At least, that's the pitch some financial advisors are making. There's no federal tax deduction for 529 contributions, although some states offer them, but the contributions and investment gains can be withdrawn tax-free to pay for college, which, of course, is getting more expensive all the time.
In fact, over the next month a super-generous donor could set aside up to $84,000 for each future college student without running afoul of the gift tax. Anyone can give up to $14,000 a year this way, and a special rule for 529s allows five years' gifts all at once.
"Think of this as superfunding. You are getting six years compressed into a small window."—Michael Conrath, executive director and 529 program director at JP Morgan Asset Management
—By Jeff Brown, Special to CNBC.com