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Friday Charts: Debt, Dividends, India and The Most Profitable Finger Exercise Ever

The famous financial scholar, Coolio, once opined, “Ain’t no party like a west coast party, ’cause a west coast party don’t stop.”

Well, there ain’t no columns like my Friday columns, because in Friday columns I don’t talk… at least not that much.

Instead, I rely on some carefully selected graphics to do the talking for me. After all, a picture is supposed to be worth a thousand words. And each week, I like to put that theory to the test.

This week, I’m dishing on consumer debt, increasingly special dividends, the emerging markets of India and China, plus the biggest – and most profitable – finger exercise of the past two decades.

So without further ado, let’s get to it…

Hey Congress, Get Your Act Together. We Did!

While Congress can’t figure out how to stop its deficit spending, consumers keep taking steps to get out of debt.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s latest report on household debt and credit reveals that total consumer debt fell again.

As of September 30, 2012, we only owe a measly $11.31 trillion, compared to $12.68 trillion at the height of our debt addiction.

Student debt remains one area of concern, though. It’s still increasing – up $42 billion to $956 billion – which is bad news for lender, SLM Corporation (SLM). But the overall trend is improving.

Will consumers fall off the wagon? Probably. Nevertheless, some fiscal restraint goes a long way.

Congress, you should try it, too. Just a friendly suggestion.

Last Call For Special Dividends

Shocker! The potential for dividend tax rates to soar on January 1 is actually benefiting investors, just like I predicted three months ago.

In November, 173 companies announced special dividends, compared to only 72 during the same period last year, according to Standard & Poor’s resident number cruncher, Howard Silverblatt.

The payouts have been big, too, averaging about 7% of the current share price.

For latecomers, here are three opportunities to the special dividend trend that I just shared with Dividends & Income Daily readers to take advantage of the situation.

Hurry up, though. It’s only going to last for a few more weeks.

A Tale of Two Emerging Markets

Last week, I noted how the most beloved emerging market, China, continues to disappoint. And how the most unloved Asian market, Japan, is getting its rally on.

Well, it’s time for another compare and contrast exercise with China. And this time, we’re using the world’s second most populous nation, India.

While China’s stock market is in a death spiral, India’s Sensex Index keeps charging higher. (I guess China can’t be the first in everything.)

The problem is that very few Indian stocks are available on U.S. exchanges as American Depository Receipts (ADR). So momentum traders looking to profit from the trend have to settle for the ETF route instead.

Here are two options worth considering: the WisdomTree India Earnings ETF (EPI) or the iShares S&P India Nifty 50 Index Fund (INDY).

Forget Peak Oil, We’ve Hit Peak Texting

On Monday, the best finger exercise ever invented – texting – celebrated its 20th birthday. At such a young age, though, the first generation technology (known as SMS) is ready for retirement.

Total text messages sent and received fell for the first time during the third quarter, according to independent mobile analyst and consultant Chetan Sharma.

Of course, we haven’t tired of our finger workout regimen. We’re just using new technologies, like Apple’s (AAPL) iMessage and other platforms that send texts over the internet instead of wireless networks.

That’s bad news for wireless carriers like AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ). Text messaging represents a major profit center, with some carriers charging up to $0.20 for a single message, even though they only cost a few cents to transmit.

No wonder unlimited data plans are going the way of the dodo bird. Carriers need to replace lost revenue. I guess all good things really do come to an end.

That’s it for today. Before you sign off, do us a favor. Let us know what you think about this weekly column – or any of our recent work at Wall Street Daily – by submitting feedback, leaving a comment below, or catching us on Facebook or Google+.

Ahead of the tape,

Louis Basenese