What the experts say

The best frequent-flier rewards; Three stocks to beat inflation; A solar stock set to shine

The best frequent-flier rewards

Frequent-flier miles seem like a great idea—until you try to cash them in for a free trip and find that you can’t, said Scott McCartney in The Wall Street Journal. That is least likely to happen, according to a study by consulting firm IdeaWorks, if you book a domestic flight with Southwest Airlines, which honored 99.3 percent of frequent-flier seat requests last year, followed by JetBlue Airways, which had seats available 79.3 percent of the time. US Airways and Delta were the worst, failing to grant almost three out of every four requests for free seats. Overall, IdeaWorks found U.S. airlines this year honoring 68.6 percent of requests for a domestic ticket in exchange for the standard 25,000 miles, up slightly from last year’s 66.1 percent. But travelers with miles to cash in should brace for disappointment this summer, as many flights are already fully booked.

Three stocks to beat inflation

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With consumer prices already rising at an annual rate of 3.9 percent, it’s time to think about defenses against inflation’s wealth-eroding effects, said John Birger and Scott Cendrowski in Fortune.com. One smart move is to own stock in established companies with the power to raise prices, like Anheuser-Busch InBev, the Belgium-based brewer of four of the world’s 10 largest beer brands, including Budweiser. Another good choice is money manager Federated Investors, which specializes in money-market funds that aren’t very profitable when interest rates are low but will fatten Federated’s bottom line when the Federal Reserve eventually raises rates to check inflation. And there’s always McDonald’s, which has a long record of performing well when the economy is under stress—and which pays out 65 percent of its earnings as dividends.

A solar stock set to shine

Looking for an attractive way to play the green-energy boom? asked DailyFinance.com. Try SunPower, the maker of the most powerful and efficient large-scale solar-power cells in the industry. Shipments of SunPower components to its mostly residential and commercial customers have grown from the equivalent of 49 megawatts in 2007 to 288 megawatts last year, thanks to “various benefits and subsidies provided by governments for solar energy.” Analysts expect continued exponential growth in these markets. And following SunPower’s recent acquisition of PowerLight Corp., the company is about to make “a foray into large-scale utility power projects.”

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