[CNBCfix Fast Money Review archive: April 2009]

[Thursday, April 30, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Macke
calls U.S. a ‘leftist nation’

Jeff Macke ignited Thursday's "Fast Money" fireworks early on with this statement:

"President Obama has turned the country into a leftist nation."

He cracked us up by suggesting the next law Congress is going to pass is that you have to buy a Chrysler car. Much later in the show, host Melissa Lee told of comments from Lee Iacocca, and Karen Finerman wondered if the auto industry would be better off if Chrysler had never been bailed out 30 years ago. "As it turns out, yeah," Macke said.

Macke said "no reason to buy now ... nice time to take May off." Regarding Apple, he was skeptical of any more immediate gains; "folks give it a break."

Tim Seymour seemed to be playing both sides of the market, once again questioning the rally, saying "I'm not that fired up about these earnings numbers" because companies are merely cutting capex and jobs and aren't growing. But then on the subject of whether it's time to sell in May, he said, "Historically May's been a very difficult month ... I actually think May probably has some follow-through."

Phil LeBeau said he thinks the Chrysler bankruptcy is bad news for GM because the government is clearly playing hardball, and bondholders won't like the offer of 10 percent. Karen Finerman doubted the timing of Chrysler's supposed 30-to-60-day bankruptcy. "I've never seen one," she said.

Jeff Tomasulo of SMB said of the banking stress tests, "there's no trade." But one stock he was highly interested in was Visa. "Between 64 and 68, we're looking at Visa," saying once above $70, it has legs. He said of PG, "wanna see some continuation."

Joe Duran of United Capital Partners was afforded about four minutes for a segment that required about four seconds. He said normally "sell in May" is the way to go, but these are unprecedented markets, and "We think you wanna be buying into declines ... everyday people" need to "stay invested." And he sees "phenomenal opportunity" in emerging markets basic materials plays.

It's a shame Tim Manganello, CEO of BorgWarner, spoke on the show on a day when the greatest BWA backer, Guy Adami, was off. Manganello basically said Chrysler is irrelevant to his company. "We've got plenty of liquidity," he said. Karen Finerman persisted in asking for his guess on the run number, he finally said "high 8's, low 9's," but his company is preparing for less.

In sort of a self-evident segment, Finerman pointed to GMCR as a "situation where you could see a squeeze," and also cited DIN, GM, C. Seymour said TCK shorts got tripped up when potential acquirers started looking into the company, so remember, you "have to be very careful when you short a stock."

Mark Mahaney of Citi says "we continue to be buyers" of the online travel stocks Priceline, Expedia, etc. Jonathan Aschoff was praised for his call on Sequenom, now likes Dendreon and hangs a startling $35 tag on it.

[Wednesday, April 29, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Gartman
still likes aluminum, copper

We suddenly saw Howard Dean on "Fast Money" and concluded: This has gotta be good.

Having no idea whether the traders are Republicans or not (Karen Finerman is a staunch Democrat but wasn't on Wednesday; Jeff Macke has spoken of voting Republican), CNBCfix anticipated a smackdown or two and was convinced this moment would be ripe for some smashmouth politics.

Yet Dean successfully played offense, and given the brevity of the segment, few fireworks happened. Jeff Macke asked a darn good question about how health care can be a priority when we're shoveling money at banks, and Dean's response was a non-answer of mumbo jumbo that included this phrase about Barack Obama, "He sees the big picture."

Dean said he likes a "carbon tax" as a "fiscal incentive" that would "raise plenty of money to pay for health care," as though the carbon tax just emerges from thin air and isn't sucked out of consumers' wallets indirectly.

Melissa Lee to her credit interrupted him with a tough question about naming the exact inefficiencies in the system. Dean, to his own credit, was at least able to rattle off a couple cardiac tests (who knows if he's right), but concluded by saying there are lots more.

Dennis Gartman repeated a recent mantra, that "the stuff that if it falls on your foot, hurts" is still a buy. "You wanna own aluminum, you wanna own copper," he said. Tim Seymour continued to challenge him on the short-term Chinese outlook, but Gartman insisted, "the price action tells me to be bullish."

Lucas Rosen of Schottenfeld Group discussed the new trendy "indicator," the euro/yen cross. But he didn't seem to bring along all of the facts. Rosen said the euro/yen cross "stayed flat through all of March." Yet, the accompanying graphic shown at the same time clearly showed the euro/yen rising in March.

And when Jeff Macke asked him to "simplify" the euro/yen cross — i.e., how does someone look it up — Rosen's answer was that, oh, there's plenty of ways, then cited one, something about looking up eur or jpy on Bloomberg, which certainly is easy for tons of people to do.

Richard Repetto of Sandler took part in another clunky "Fast & Furious"-type segment which goes too fast for CNBCfix's brain to adequately digest and is a waste of time on the show when other subjects could be covered more in-depth. Daniel Clifton of Strategas made comments on health care in the same segment that weren't of much use.

Jim Goldman made the astounding observation that Palm shares might have gotten a bit ahead of themselves.

CNBCfix continues to swear it will not get into beauty-pageant mode regarding CNBC's female stars. Yet, because we commented favorably on Margaret Brennan a week ago (see below), we feel obligated to point out that both Mary Thompson (wind-swept hair at the BofA meeting) and Michelle Caruso-Cabrera (white sweater in studio) were dazzling in a couple "Fast Money" news updates.

[Tuesday, April 28, 2009]

Fast Money Review: BAC capital
stunner barely gets a mention

The most interesting segment on Tuesday's "Fast Money" barely got a mention. It was a brief discussion of the Bank of America call by Friedman Billings analyst Paul Miller, who said BAC still needs to raise a staggering $60-$70 billion. This estimate was based in part on a 12% unemployment rate. According to this comprehensive Bloomberg story of Miller's call by David Mildenberg and Linda Shen, CEO Ken Lewis said this month the bank "absolutely" did not need to raise capital.

Something's gotta give.

Miller famously appeared on "Fast Money" several weeks ago with a bad "sell" call on WFC, which was countered by Whitney Tilson and challenged by Jeff Macke.

The "Fast Money" crew cracked us up big-time with their rightful trashing of this outrageous government photo-op in Lower Manhattan.

"Ever heard of Photoshop?" asked Melissa Lee and Karen Finerman almost in unison, Finerman adding it could save a "billion" or two in photo-op costs. Guy Adami declared whoever authorized this event should be fired.

Also, MLee cracked us up — unintentionally — with her quick dis of Wayne Angell.

Angell nearly put us to sleep in pointing out the Fed doesn't have to hike rates now, but will gradually have to go up to 0.25 to 0.50. Before he was done with his slow-motion point, Lee abruptly cut him off, saying (verbatim) "OK Wayne ... Got it ... Thanks so much for your time we really appreciate it Wayne Angell, former Fed, uh, governor out there."

"Out there." Somewhere.

In terms of trades, it sounded like no one had anything to do. "You can raise your stop loss levels a little bit," Adami said, while conceding the market looks range-bound in this S&P 850-870 range.

Tim Seymour said the Fed is succeeding at its goal. "Spreads are coming in and this has been very positive ... this is working," he said. He said about one of his favorite stocks, BIDU, "The Street's been so wrong on this name, it's comical." But Pete Najarian warned that GOOG is stealing BIDU market share.

Najarian lamented he didn't have a better chance of getting in to Visa and that so much of the talk is about swine flu. "We talk about it every day on the network," he grumbled.

Jeff Macke apparently was about to take a cruise, according to show banter that we didn't fully understand, but he did manage to call in to the "Fast Money Halftime Report" earlier and suddenly up his magic S&P 870 level of a day ago to 875. "Pretty much every pro I know is, is using 875 as the level of, uh, the Maginot Line..."

Dennis Gartman said on the "Halftime Report" he was going long grains against gold.

Joe LaVorgna, probably our favorite economist on CNBC, said he thinks GDP could be as bad as -8%. He said if it's not, he expects it to trickle down that way as revisions are made.

David Trone of Fox-Pitt Kelton spoke via phone to discuss his market perform upgrade of banks. Basically he is just making slightly rosier estimates than some others. (Also, we think he defended Lehman Brothers last summer on "Fast Money" but don't recall for certain.)

Alex Goldfarb of Sandler O'Neill briefly joined the end-of-show wrapup and added nothing beyond liking Boston Properties.

[Monday, April 27, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Swine flu
(non-)apology on-air for Macke

Jeff Macke made a couple of points Monday about the new "Fast Money" magic number for the S&P — 870. Macke says stocks are a sell up against it until they break through. "Trust me, pros out there were selling against it," he said.

Karen Finerman was a bundle of swine-flu-related ideas, namely a Mexican airport operator, PAC. She also mentioned Mexican phone companies and didn't understand why they would sell off in a situation like this, and even suggested JNJ as maker of Purel.

Guy Adami was so adamant that Marriott looks like a short, he mentioned it twice.

Macke seemed to think the market would be rocked far more by Sheila Bair's interview with Trish Regan than by swine flu.

Continuing a recent "Fast Money" trend, several excellent guest spots were featured.

Steve Cortes of Veracruz made an interesting, concise case for shorting FXI, saying it led the market out back in March and has failed to move recently. He also said oil's price is signaling trouble in China, but those who are bullish China should get long oil.

William Schaffner, M.D., made some interesting faces while delivering a usefully straight-to-the-point analysis of swine flu, saying it's not as bad as SARS but probably worse than bird flu.

Hunter Keay of Stifel Nicolaus made fine points about airlines (negative, because demand/pricing power just hasn't picked up), but it seemed pointless to bring him on for a 30-second phone call to be negative on everything during the "Fast and (not so) Furious" segment.

Joe Greff of JPMorgan offered some cogent views on hotel and gaming stocks, singling out Wyndham as attractive valuation. The crack-up from this segment came when Jeff Macke prefaced a question with "I wanna leave swine flu out of this until we have at least 20,000 more dead people," which prompted a laugh from Pete Najarian, and moments later, a message from Melissa Lee (who must've been buzzed by the producer) to viewers, saying "We just wanted to note that of course, swine flu is very serious, uh disease out there, and we didn't mean any disrespect to, people out there who are in fact, suffering, or know someone's who's suffering from swine flu..."

Macke, who trumpeted WFC last week, hilariously ranked on famed banking analyst Richard X. Bove's negative call on the stock, saying Bove "with all due respect, doesn't have the secret sauce" to figuring out results of bank stress tests, and "his guess is as good as anyone else's and often times not." Ouch.

Finerman is short WFC common but long the preferreds against it. Pete Najarian warned that some of the regional banks might be rolling over.

Trish Regan looked great (in pink) as she always does, delivering a teaser for her Sheila Bair interview to air later.

The "Obama 100 days" segment was useless space filler about a non-event.

[Friday, April 24, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Pip leaves
us with no great expectations

Friday's show was all about Pip Coburn.

We'd never heard of the guy before, but apparently he's semi-famous on the Street for calling a tech top in 2000.

He became famous on "Fast Money" Friday for declaring the 7-week bull market a "flight to non-quality."

Traders could barely hide their skepticism, and neither could CNBCfix. Coburn cited the New York Times. What about AAPL ... RIMM ... MSFT ... GS ... FCX.

It is true many junky stocks, particularly in banking, have been taken along for the ride. But to claim this is a market about a "flight to non-quality" is absurd.

Then Coburn said he's looking for companies "addicted to making money." He couldn't explain how Microsoft fits in or doesn't fit in to this "thesis." He said at least a couple times there are similarities with the last quarter of 2002, where investors turn away from non-quality to quality, citing Nortel Networks.

Jeff Macke and MLee repeatedly asked for a trade, but about all we got was that Coburn likes Adobe.

Much of the show was preempted by Timothy Geithner delivering one of the most boring speeches we've ever heard. When traders got their turn at bat, the sentiment was to be impressed that the market was flat for the week, when somehow it was supposed to be down. The most interesting tip came from Jeff Macke, who said WFC remains a buy and he is back in. (And an interesting disclosure: Tim Seymour is short AAPL.)

CNBCfix thinks Coburn, and even the "Fast Money" panel, to some extent, doesn't get the fact that people are throwing money at just about any stock, quality or non-quality, regardless of any reality, which (as we noted in yesterday's review) is mixed. Good numbers, bad numbers, it doesn't matter, just be long. This writer is long some SRS, dabbling a little around $32 when Karen Finerman was stunned at its fall ... and it has since tumbled another 25%. At least we're not alone: Joe LaVorgna, on the "Fast Money Halftime Report," said, "Given our forecasts, the market's gotten way ahead of itself."

The last two months have been like 1999 for the Internet stocks or early 2008 for commodities. Now, is there a pullback coming? CNBCfix feels like there is (which is why this writer remains long some SRS), but maybe not until June or July ... or later. The market goes up every week, and it does not matter what Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, CEOs, politicians, etc., say, it goes up virtually every day regardless.

These make for the most thrilling trading environments — but can end badly. So enjoy it, but be careful.

Karen Finerman (looks to CNBCfix like she got a new haircut?) is going to be on the Maria Bartiromo WSJ show. We'll check it out, of course.

[Thursday, April 23, 2009]

Fast Money Review: AMZN,
or UPS, telling the real story?

CNBCfix is not a market pro and never has been. Yet, one watches "Fast Money" and other CNBC programming, and wonders why this subject is not getting its due:

There is a massive disconnect going on in the stock market. Someone has to be right, and someone has to be wrong.

Each quarter, we see UPS and FedEx issuing dire warnings, and crude oil so unwanted that it floats around the world in a dazed inferiority complex not unlike the guest who always turned to Gopher for advice on the Pacific Princess.

And each quarter, we hear about the "blowout" results from Amazon, Apple and Research in Motion.

If so many people are buying so much stuff from Amazon, how could UPS be doing so poorly?

The stuff sold by Apple seems like the epitome of consumer gravy. None of it is actually necessary for survival. Sure, it's impressive stuff: music, phones, computers. If people are still buying gobs of it, how can this seriously be a recession?

Here's one possible explanation: In tough times, travel and clothes are first in line to go.

Travel declines would nail the airlines, hotels, casinos, theme parks and tourist destinations, plus oil.

Crumbling clothing sales nails the department stores, which then nails the malls.

Yet, giving up music, books, phones and Internet connections? Doesn't seem like that's happening.

So perhaps all of the rhetoric about "Great Depression Part II" is something of a fraud.

Or at least a little premature.

Thursday's "Fast Money" was way too dependent on the most boring, glacial (since 2000) stock of all time, Microsoft. Microsoft, until about Y2K, was, like General Electric, the most exciting blue chip you've ever seen. Always good for huge gains, rock solid business, huge trading swings (almost always on the upside) with a big safety net.

Suddenly at the beginning of the century each massively plateaued, going nowhere but grinding its way gradually down. GE finally became an interesting trading vehicle in March, after about nine years, and only because it trickled below $6. MSFT can at least boast it hasn't drained that much shareholder value, but why anyone on "Fast Money" cares about the stock (maybe they don't, they're just forced to talk about it) is beyond the imagination of CNBCfix.

Heather Bellini, an analyst we like from UBS, was brought on to discuss MSFT and said (yawn) ... "They're ahead of their plans on cost reduction, that's what people are excited about."

We're so excited. And we just can't hide it.

Dan Fitzpatrick, now basically a regular on the "Halftime Report," explained that for MSFT, "I think the line in the sand is like 17 on the downside, 20 on the upside." Wow. Some advice.

The theme of the day was to fade all of these tech rallies, AMZN, AAPL and MSFT, regardless of the news.

A new guest, Jeff Tomasulo of SMB Capital, actually does have a trade for these names. He said "$126.25 was the key level today in Apple," and that if the market continues to rise, he would buy AAPL above that level (intraday). He also discussed UPS.

Tomasulo talked a bit too fast, rattling off gobs of numbers and stops, and we couldn't follow him very well. Yet, he certainly came to the show well-prepared, able to talk fast and not have to be cut off like most guests, with some very specific trade ideas. He should be invited back soon, for a longer segment.

JetBlue CEO Dave Barger showed up — a common tactic of all JetBlue CEOs — to give virtually no insight other than "if you're perceived as nickel-and-diming the customer, uh, that's not a very good long-term proposition."

Tim Seymour remains (in somewhat subtle fashion) bearish. In the last few weeks he has made regular skeptical comments about banks, about China, about commercial realty, and today about Nucor and UPS. CNBCfix feels he's right (this writer is long a bit of SRS), but most bearish trades in the last six weeks have been colossal losers.

Addison Armstrong and Dennis Gartman were again part of the "Halftime Report." Good to see Armstrong back in the "Fast Money" fold, though it's hard to get excited about his humdrum oil forecasts.

The "Halftime Report" is marked by two regular features — massive short leash for the panelists (they're allowed to say about two sentences before MLee cuts them off) and strange background noise of people shouting, partying, arguing, etc. in the CNBC backstage that somehow is heard just about every day. While it sounds a bit awkward cutting off all of her panelists, Lee actually runs a pretty tight ship and usable (if slightly colorless) nine-minute show at 12:45 p.m. Regular panelists need to speak more like Jeff Macke — a lot of insight and humor packed into a concise little punch.

On the regular show, we got a chuckle out of the panel's grumbling about how the White House is decrying credit card "gouging" and defending overextended consumers. "We're not splitting the atom here folks; pay your bills on time, your rates will go down," Guy Adami said.

[Wednesday, April 22, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Tech
earnings look great, but ...

One annoyingly repetitive theme emerged (and re-emerged) Wednesday on "Fast Money."

Something like this: "(Insert tech giant here) had great earnings or might have great earnings, but the stock has had such a great run we think you want to fade this rally. But it's still a stock for the long term," yada yada yada.

One thing we find odd in all the talk about APPL is that no longer is there a "Fast Money" concern about the lack of a "deep bench" behind Steve Jobs ... you know, the reason some panelists constantly harangued the stock for bungling the various news updates on Jobs' health and not adequately explaining who's in charge.

Apparently, after about a 50% move in a short time, none of that matters.

Noteworthy: Karen Finerman said "I think there is way more to go in a retrenchment for the banks." She also said because of contango, etc., she does not expect the USO to close the gap on the OIH in the near future but thinks OIH will continue to perform. Tim Seymour warned late about bullishness on China, saying of authorities there, "they're concerned about speculation" in the Chinese stock markets and concerned that government stimulus for Chinese banks is going to stock speculation.

Guests included Heather Bellini of UBS, lukewarm on MSFT, saying analyst "numbers for next year do need to come down." Dan Niles of Alpha One almost scoffed at the notion of buying AMZN instead of his favorite, EBAY: "God help 'em if they (AMZN) don't beat the number soundly," he warned.

Independent commodities trader Roger Corrado, an ex-NYBOT vice chairman, visited late. He was new and articulate, and said virtually nothing useful. The soft commodities might not repeat 2008 anytime soon, but can still go up this year, and people can use ETFs, options or futures to trade them.

Pete Najarian did a Commander Planet segment that was way too easy to tune out. Karen Finerman, in bright blue, is defeating MLee in the outfit battle a second straight day after the snazzy purple she wore yesterday. Guy Adami actually said "I can't get that aroused by eBay."

[Tuesday, April 22, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Seymour
warns banks may be peaking

The best performances on "Fast Money" are given by the trader(s) who is in a zone, is cooking, is hot, etc.

Those terms would not exactly describe Guy Adami over roughly the last 12 months.

The Negotiator slightly gushed about the market Tuesday — "You can't discount the fact that investors are shrugging off the news" — a day after essentially throwing up his hands and declaring "no man's land" for trading. He touted his BAC trade from yesterday, and rightly so, even though he didn't offer it with a whole lot of conviction yesterday.

Adami every day sounds like a guy who doesn't have any idea where the market's going. Based on show disclosure, he has owned pretty much the same stocks for months if not a year ... and it hasn't exactly been a great year. The Negotiator is as cold as the pizza that gets hauled out of the fridge the next morning. (Yes, we think he's a super guy and articulate panelist ... but who happens to be in a serious slump.)

Jeff Macke, though, has been red hot since about July. Tim Seymour has enjoyed exposure to emerging markets that, despite the hammerings of 2008, have been some of the better trades since September. And of course, Karen Finerman is "always hedged," and presumably has weathered the storm.

So as is typical these days, the most compelling "Fast Money" comments Tuesday came from Macke (have to lighten up now in GS, AAPL; MCD and YUM both avoidable now; WMT indicates sluggish economy) and Finerman & Seymour (banks and commercial real estate stocks might have seen their best moves of 2009, look out in 2nd half, though Finerman was careful to distinguish between different kinds of banks ... this writer is long a little SRS).

Melissa Lee dealt with two utterly useless guest appearances. Gerard Cassidy of RBC discussed banks via phone. He told of the banking trading that has already happened. Asked what investors should be doing, he said, "It's gonna be really dependent upon what happens to this economy."

Wow. Profound trading advice.

Then he said, "The question's gonna be, can the government prevent the economy from falling further? And if they can, then the bank stocks are gonna do better going into the second half of the year."

Investing tip: Anytime a supposed expert goes on CNBC and tells you something that even CNBCfix considers pedestrian advice, don't pay them the slightest attention.

Later we heard from Scott Redler (Lee kept pronouncing it "Radler") of T3Live.com, who first (like everyone else) told us what we already know has happened in the market, then said, "What do you do right now? You have to watch the composure of the market."

Now there's a stock tip: "watch the composure of the market."

He did say he'd buy GS once it pulled back to $105. Then he said "I lost the feed." His segment opened with no sound. So pretty much a clunker all around.

Toni Sacconaghi of Sanford Bernstein said he doesn't think the quarterly results can be much of a springboard for AAPL given the run it's already had.

MLee still annoys the heck out of us by giggling about all the different words that now exist from the term "Twitter." She didn't, however, talk about bikinis or lingerie today. And she did, finally, pronounce the name of Jon Najarian's firm correctly as "optionMonster," without an "s" before the "Monster" part.

Dennis Gartman was fairly quiet on the "Halftime Report" (yeah, we're having trouble keeping track of all these "Fast Money" spinoffs too, and definitely are starting to think we don't really need to watch them all).

[Monday, April 20, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Gartman
sounds the yen/euro warning

Here's a very annoying redundancy/cliche about earnings reports that CNBC, if it wanted to, could possibly end on its network.

"The last quarter is already baked in; investors are interested in guidance."

Gee. Wow. Imagine that. Investors are more concerned about the future than the past.

Let's take it a step further — has any investor ever bought a stock during/after its earnings call based on its past results and not its guidance??

If they heard, "Well, in the next quarter sales will fall off a cliff, but last quarter was a record profit," would they still buy? If they heard, "We suffered a net loss last quarter, but new customer orders will triple our sales in Q2," would they sell?

Monday the culprit was CNBC Silicon Valley Bureau chief Jim Goldman, who was comically shown listening to the IBM conference call while Melissa Lee tried several times to interview him. Finally she succeeded, presumably because "Fast Money" was up against its deadline.

"When you look at what IBM's reporting here, you gotta go to guidance, because most people are writing off the first quarter," Goldman said.

Whoa, Nellie. Investors have determined IBM's first quarter is over and want to know what the future will be like. That's profound.

And, the way CNBC works, comments like those, from various people, can be heard all day long.

The most significant comment we heard all day on "Fast Money" came on the "Halftime Report" (we know ... keeping track of all these segments isn't easy for us either), and it came not surprisingly from Dennis Gartman, on the subject of the yen/euro cross.

"We may be in for a really serious correction here in stock prices. I wanna be bullish — but if the yen/euro cross starts to keep making newer lows, that top starts to become more definitive ... in my own account, I've been cutting back today very heavily."

The second most significant comment Monday was Joe Terranova's "rising star" stock segment, this time Natco Group (NTG).

Regular CNBCfix readers know this site has made it a recent priority to track spikes in stocks mentioned on "Fast Money," particularly small caps.

Sure enough, NTG was mentioned approximately 5:53 p.m. Eastern (an abbreviated late segment on the show), and according to Google finance, shot up at 5:54 p.m. from its flat $22.01 to $23.12, a quick 5% gain. It trickled back to $22.70 by night's end.

Terranova, per the show's disclosure, did not own NTG shares Monday, nor did he mention owning it on the show. Again, CNBCfix believes the show is made real by the traders actively trading all stocks, even ones they mention. But the curious case of Tim Seymour's SWC trade, analyzed only at CNBCfix.com, suggests that traders touting small caps they might own when touting them, and perhaps not owning them at the end of the night (see our article for clarification), suggests there is potential for features such as "rising star" to be abused. (CNBCfix does not allege this has happened.)

Jeff Macke has not been on "Fast Money" since CNBCfix reported on his comments Thursday involving his sale of GCI shares. We look forward to his return.

Traders on the regular 5 p.m. "Fast Money" Monday sounded bummed out and look like they could've used a healthy dose of Dennis Kneale. Most probably lost money Monday and didn't really know what to do. Guy Adami wanted to hit S&P 900 before this much of a pullback. (No, he didn't revert to his 741 safety-blanket trade this time.) He discouragingly called the market in "no-man's land," not sure at all where it's going. He cited Dougie Kass as saying it's "too late to sell, too early to buy, hate to say it."

Joe Terranova chipped in, "I think the market remains 'well-bid' underneath," whatever that means.

Citigroup Internet analyst Mark Mahaney, who did a bang-up job last week, once again was interesting, but had no great trade suggestions. He really made AMZN sound good (this writer has no AMZN position) but lamented there probably won't be a good pullback for buying it.

Jason Trennert of Strategas visited in a new feature, "Bull Market or BS?" This feature should've been started about four weeks ago, but whatever. Trennert said we've seen the lows, but "BS" is the more fitting term.

Lee chuckled about the term "BS," but seemed to really like the term "bikini" and "bikini index" by the time the show reached "Pops & Drops." In the last two or three weeks, "Fast Money" has been making a concerted effort to show swimsuits and lingerie during "Pops & Drops," sometimes on other segments.

Margaret Brennan again did the "CNBC News Now" before the program, and was wearing a brown jacket. Promise, we'll say no more about that for a while.

[Friday, April 17, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Brennan
steals show before it begins

OK. (Takes deep breath.) CNBCfix reiterates that it is not (really) a site that gets into the beauty of CNBC's female personalities.

That said?

Margaret Brennan, hot.

We said of the Thursday, April 9, "Fast Money" show (page down to see it) that "if Margaret Brennan should show up on the 'Fast Money' set again in that striking, elegant brown dress, we're going to demand she become the permanent host."

Well, it's important to note Brennan did not show up on the set of "Fast Money" Friday. However, she did perform the "CNBC News Now" segment just before the "Fast Money" intro.

And yes, Margaret Brennan looked gorgeous in that same brown (or is it burgundy?) dress. Obviously we're not the only ones who approved. Perhaps she wore it to celebrate the office's 20th anniversary party. CNBCfix, breathless for a moment, watched the tape a second time. (Is Margaret Brennan married? To CNBCfix's knowledge, no.)

We assume Margaret had ample security to fend off the males on her ride home from Englewood Cliffs.

OK. For Melissa Lee, unfortunately, that was a tough act to follow.

And she didn't follow it very well.

Lee showed once again that her preparation as the "Fast Money" host should be called into question. Namely, she referred to "our landlord," the Nasdaq chief Robert Greifeld, initially as "Richard" before correcting herself.

Botching one name is not a big deal. Greifeld though appears maybe once every three months, and Lee's intro made it sound like she had no idea who he is.

CNBCfix has noted this week how two sub-$5 stocks have jumped significantly the moment after being mentioned on "Fast Money" by Jeff Macke (GCI) and Tim Seymour (SWC). Continuing this patrol, we were curious if Zach Karabell's comments Friday on FIC (not a sub-$5 stock, but not particularly well known) boosted that stock. According to Google finance, no. Apparently there were very little trades in FIC afterhours, and it is listed as steady at $18.23 during the show. (Karabell's bullish comments came at 5:26 Eastern.)

Legendary investor Barton Biggs (you've previously read on this site his incredibly dubious "Fast Money" appearance in the fall of 2007 when he chastised Dylan Ratigan for calling him "Mr. Biggs" and then predicted a buying "stampede" into stocks ... the Dow was around 14,000 at the time...) obviously agreed to appear Friday but didn't seem on board with the 20th anniversary CNBC celebration.

Biggs' wisdom Friday consisted of telling viewers about the green shoots and brown shoots, that if the green shoots outnumber the brown shoots, stocks will get better from here, and if the opposite happens, then vice versa.

Then MLee asked him in, in honor of CNBC's 20th anniversary, what changes he has seen in the world of finance in 20 years. "Nothing's changed," Biggs grumbled, saying it's still all about greed and fear.

Over and out, Mr. Biggs.

Chartist Dan Fitzpatrick of Stockmarketmentor.com was gushing with optimism in IBM, YHOO and MS. "I hate to be a bull," he said, but "no reason to be a bear."

Joe Terranova basically agrees in general, "If you look technically, there's no reason to get out." Tim Seymour would add, "You haven't seen the lion's share of the money come into the market." Lee though did show a pessimistic clip from NYSE chief Duncan Niederauer, who predicts a market "retrace" and said "the rally I'll believe is the summer rally."

So there you go. At least the traders are citing basic technicals, rather than the newfound "Fast Money" Bull Indicator © — Joe Terranova's crowd-size estimate at his recent venture to Disney World. (This writer is long GS and a little SRS.)

Zach Karabell made a funny joke about the pet airlines and snakes on a plane that MLee didn't give him enough credit for.

CNBC news honcho Tyler Mathisen, long a respected CNBC host and in CNBCfix's view, a class act, offered far more eloquent thoughts on the changes on Wall Street over 20 years and what the next 20 years holds, even if a couple were fairly obvious. We wouldn't mind seeing Mathisen regularly as a guest commentator on "Fast Money," as he sometimes appears on other CNBC programs.

What was with that funky, short-lived hard-rock groove during the "Fast Fire" segment?

Happy 20th, CNBC!

[Thursday, April 16, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Bove
says JPMorgan is sandbagging

For more on the GCI comments by Jeff Macke, who gloated about dumping the stock Thursday, click here.

Legendary banking analyst Richard X. Bove, who now works for Rochdale, said he thinks investors "very clearly" should want to buy JPMorgan. "JPMorgan actually understated its earnings today," Bove said, explaining he thinks it has overaccommodated its reserves. "I think that Citi will have a small profit in the quarter," he said, but he advised investors to stay away from the stock until the convertible arbitrage issue is settled.

Chris Glynn of Oppenheimer discussed General Electric. He said the stock has probably reached "equilibrium" where it will move up and down from the $11 range. "I would be very enthusiastic on a pullback to $10," he said. He agreed with the company's recent statements about not needing to raise more capital. (Melissa Lee, whose preparation for "Fast Money" continues to be questionable, erroneously said the company had a six-hour session with the investing community earlier this month, when it was in March.)

Guy Adami restated for the umpteenth time the famous GE "reversal day" on 700-gazillion-share volume and said something about the $12 value for the industrial side of GE. Karen Finerman made what CNBCfix considers a tremendous point, which is that GE as a stock is in "no-man's land," not really a pure financial, not really a pure industrial, not really a pure entertainment/media company. This is precisely one of our criticisms about the coverage of GE on CNBC, that this business model tends to be accepted as divine, despite the fact 1) no other company has one like it, and 2) the stock has crumbled almost annually since 2000. The real truth about the GE business model (remember, this writer has never been a financial analyst trained to evaluate companies) is that Jack Welch, a business genius like Warren Buffett, bought things that were undervalued (like NBC) and sold things that were peaking, and Jeff Immelt isn't bold enough to alter the Welch cupboard he inherited. Immelt's got it wrong, the way to restore GE's greatness is not finessing Welch's old divisions, but to make new moves like Welch would've made this decade, which might be something like adding an engineering/infrastructure company, adding a gadget maker such as RIMM, and lightening up in media and advertising-dependent operations.

The history of corporate giants running into long-term stagnation usually turns out this way (think IBM pre-Louis Gerstner and AT&T of the 1990s): Eventually the long-term investors get sick of the price decline, a tough guy CEO will be brought in to make some difficult cuts and division sales, and the company will refocus and start delivering gains again.

Katie Stockton of MKM Partners delivered a "chartology" segment Thursday. Stockton, if she doesn't mind us saying, is cute. Her analysis of the retail sector didn't seem overly exceptional, but no worse than the regular chart crew (Mr. Carter Worth, of course) on "Fast Money." She said retail might have a pullback, but "it is pretty exciting right now in the chart." Adami thought the run might be too great recently for much of an upward pop.

Melissa Lee opened Thursday's show with a strange comment. She noted the S&P had reached another two-month high, which wasn't strange, but then said the market "will likely continue that run tomorrow" because Google had beat on its earnings.

Except Jim Goldman comes right on, and the graphic on the screen says Google "rolling over" afterhours.

But the market will "likely continue that run tomorrow" because of Google.


[Wednesday, April 15, 2009]

Fast Money Review: GCI
jumps after Macke mentions it

Another thing we've noticed about Melissa Lee:

The laugh.

Not good.

It always feels forced, and isn't subtle. It's annoying.

Sorry, but that's the way TV works, and Lee knows it.

Karen Finerman might've had the most exciting "Fast Money" moment in recent memory — saying a bad word while discussing Microsoft.

But while everyone laughed, and Lee said "I hope the FCC wasn't listening," the word or phrase couldn't be understood on the CNBCfix TV. Karen seemed surprised that others were laughing, either not realizing what she said, or not believing the word(s) she used was a bad one.

Guy Adami had one reason for the sustained rally in financials: No one believes it, so it will continue.

Jeff Macke echoed that but had a better reason: The government is on your side and has no other plan other than to not let the banks fail.

Hard to disagree. But lingering in the mind of CNBCfix is the prediction by Jon Najarian a couple weeks ago that Dow 8,000 is going to be a big "pain in the backside" for bulls.

And in the days since then — despite some rocketing by financials — the Dow has been unable to climb past 8,100.

So something will have to give: either Dow bursts through 8,100, as Guy Adami and maybe a few others predict, or the financials will have to cease rising, as they cannot continue to soar if the Dow is staying at 8,000 or below. (This writer is long GS.)

Macke discussed what he called a successful trade in newspaper/media giant Gannett (which he occasionally pronounces "Gannit" rather than the correct "Ga-net"). Might Macke have the Cramer effect? GCI jumped in afterhours, according to Yahoo an extra 44 cents (big move), once Macke mentioned it.

Pete Najarian said the VIX is "indicating that the sentiment actually is not as bad as everybody on television's talking about." By "everybody" he means Joe Terranova, who was saying just that in a guest segment.

Mark Mahaney of Citigroup had a debate with Macke over Google. Macke doubted the merits of a 20 earnings multiple and said casino companies a year ago kept saying the next quarter will be better. But "there are new growth drivers coming in here for Google ... could have a material re-acceleration of Google's growth rate," Mahaney said. Mahaney has a $450 price target on GOOG. Guy Adami said it might be a bit late to get long, but Jon Najarian said earlier he thinks it's a buy going into earnings and will top $400.

Eric Schmidt, the top-ranked "biogen" analyst (according to Melissa Lee, who we think meant "biotech") who works for Cowen, said there is a legit takeout premium in Biogen Idec stock but that he doesn't recommend the stock on that basis, only on fundamentals, which he says merit $60-$65.

A few of the analysts recently have been unimpressive, but the show's commitment to more of them has been paying off, with constructive analysis beyond the show's typical cliches.

Guy Adami took a minor dig at Bob Pisani by basically saying ETFs are for people too lazy to pick stocks, and that single stocks are better because an ETF gives you maybe 30 and you'd really only want to buy five. (News to us: We didn't even know Pisani has been recommending ETFs.)

Macke sported a gash on his head after slipping on a toy fire truck. "It was a Lego by the way," he said. So he looked a bit like Pete Najarian.

[Tuesday, April 14, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Terranova,
Lee bungle analyst’s call on oil

Joe Terranova is known on "Fast Money" as "The Liquidator."

Tuesday, he might've been better known as "The Exaggerator." (Or maybe "The Fabricator," but that sounds a bit overly harsh.)

The team of Melissa Lee and Terranova seemed equally clueless Tuesday about developments in oil forecasting.

Lee told Terranova, "I heard a, a, Merrill Lynch analyst today say 70 bucks, average, this year."

"That was probably the same Merrill Lynch analyst or one of the analysts that said 25 when we were back in January and February," Terranova chortled. "Listen, when people put price tags on oil, that generally means the direction's gonna flip over."

Actually, the analyst Lee cited is Mary Ann Bartels. She is Merrill's chief market analyst in New York. To our knowledge, Bartels has not made a reported oil call before.

And to our knowledge, according to the article by Grant Smith of Bloomberg, the only news account we can find about this forecast, Bartels did not claim a 70-buck "average" for oil this year. Rather, she said oil will top $70, will not top $80, and will fall back perhaps as low as $35.

To trade at a "70 bucks, average" level for all of 2009 — and we're hardly experts on the Fibonacci sequence — would require a huge, long-lasting jump to $70 and beyond, quickly, before it gets too late in the year. That is a much different prediction than declaring a top above $70.

Merrill's most prominent oil forecaster is Francisco Blanch. He is the head of global commodity research at Merrill Lynch in London.

Blanch is famous in part for nearly nailing crude's $147.27 peak to the penny, according to a story by Bloomberg's Robert Tuttle.

Blanch indeed waffled on his forecasts in the fall of 2008. But it was Nov. 26, 2008 — not "January and February" of 2009 according to Terranova — when Blanch predicted a low of $25 a barrel in 2009, not an average price but low, and said it could rebound to $150 within two years if the economy recovers quickly. According to Bloomberg, crude bottomed at $32.40 on Dec. 19.

Furthermore, on Jan. 16, 2009, Blanch said, in a Bloomberg story by Mark Shenk and Samantha Zee, "On average, we expect prices to be around $50 for WTI and Brent" this year.

Now, for Terranova's claim of a direction "flip" once people put "price tags" on oil ... the USO, the popular oil ETF, closed Tuesday at $29.21 per Yahoo finance. (Shares trade at a lower price than the crude futures price.) That is about the same price as March 17. And Jan. 29. And Jan. 20.

So flat for three months. Just what "direction" does Terranova think the price of oil has been going in 2009?

So from all this we conclude Terranova 1) doesn't read oil analyst calls in his specialty field; 2) doesn't know which analyst is which, 3) believes that a famous $25 prediction made in November 2008 was actually made in "January and February" of 2009, and 4) has no problem spouting slogan-type nonsense (there is an eight-letter word beginning with "b" that might be more apt, but this is a family Web site) off the top of his head to viewers who won't even think of questioning it and looking it up.

Sounds like a guy you want to take oil-trading tips from.

But CNBCfix believes 100% in logic, argument, etc. It might be that Terranova was burying a significant point: that maybe oil traders pay zero attention to analysts, and thus a better response to Lee would be, "Everyone should ignore oil analyst predictions, and here's why..." This point would at least require an acknowledgment that Blanch was very precise last year and an explanation why his forecasts shouldn't be believed in spite of that. But Terranova didn't go anywhere near that. Instead he scoffed like someone who doesn't know what's going on and doesn't care. Which strikes us as an odd response when one makes a living doing this.

(Note: CNBCfix has always said Terranova seems like a decent guy. He comes to the show armed with trades, unlike many others, and always is smiling like someone just handed him a $10 million account to trade that morning. It's just that CNBCfix is trained to have a high b.s. detector, and JT set it off mightily Tuesday.)

Aside from Terranova, "Fast Money" put on a dreary show Tuesday.

Jeff Macke and Pete Najarian missed the 5 p.m. Eastern show in favor of the glitch-happy "Halftime Report" (see below). They're lucky; they only had to take part in nine minutes of dreck.

The regular show went round-and-round (the old Ratt song comes to mind) on Intel, the most boring tech stock (even worse than Microsoft) perhaps ever, even Jeff Macke no longer wants to touch it with anything but a hazmat suit, with each trader repeating after the other something like "this is a good report, but we said yesterday it was probably priced in." Lee even brought in CNBC Silicon Valley Bureau Chief Jim Goldman, and regular viewers know every one of Jim Goldman's earnings reports goes like this: "So impressive earnings for (this company), but shaky or uncertain guidance, and that's probably why you're seeing the stock trade down in after-hours."

Did anything of value occur on this show? Yes. Dennis Gartman guested. Gartman famously was way off on the price of copper in a recent visit (see below). However, his bull view was right-on nevertheless. Gartman seems like one of those athletes who can step in to a basketball game near the end, not knowing the score or the opponent, yet swish a couple of 25-footers. Tuesday he made essentially these three points: 1) He's still bullish on copper and Alcoa. 2) He has a "propensity" to short gold if it moves up just a few more dollars. 3) He will be looking at a bounce in steel in a few weeks after the copper rally begins to plateau or fade. (Tim Seymour is notably advocating opposite positions in gold and Alcoa.)

Karen Finerman made several strong negative comments on commercial real estate. Of course this has been her philosophy for a long time. She noted, refreshingly, that while she had a big day Tuesday being short, it has not been a good trade recently (this writer owns a small amount of SRS).

We're a little surprised, given the rough close Tuesday, Adami didn't revert to his "S&P to test 741" refrain again, because whenever the market has a bad day, we're headed to 741, and whenever the market has a good day, it's "I still think we're going to 900." He mentioned BorgWarner again but said the trade is probably over after a big gain. Finerman said she's actually short BorgWarner and that recently it has not been a good position, but she remains short.

Finerman insisted the gains in Citigroup while other banks were tumbling was all the result of a short squeeze based on the convertibles that exist. Moderately interesting, but not particularly helpful.

Finerman also made a comment we hear often on "Fast Money" — "Joe and I (or so-and-so and I) were discussing this before the show." Why do viewers care what they were discussing before the show? Isn't it to be expected that they discuss the subjects that will come up on the show? It's like Ted Danson saying to Kirstie Alley during a "Cheers" episode, "Like we discussed before the filming, I'm going to make a joke about Woody."

"No. 1 analyst" Brad Hintz of Sanford Bernstein (we stress "No. 1" because "Fast Money" always does) was a little long-winded again. Obviously the banks are the biggest story of 2009, both in general economics and as trading vehicles, but "Fast Money" is overloaded with too many guests daily saying the same things about all the business models. So Goldman isn't the same as JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley, no biggie.

On Day 2 of the "Fast Money" halftime show, things seem to be going backward.

First, Lee — remember, she also hosts a half-hour options show on CNBC, the only options show on the network — is still pronouncing the name of Pete and Jon Najarian's company with an extra "s," as "optionsMonster" instead of optionMonster."

Then, there was a brand-new "Fast Money" face. He was identified by Lee, but never got an on-screen name tag and in fact was once listed as "Carter Worth." Turns out it was Brian Stutland of Stutland Equities, based in Chicago. Evidently "Fast Money Halftime Report" gets the B team of CNBC graphics people.

Somebody else in the background was screwing up: Sounded like a party was going on backstage at one point while Pete Najarian was trying to make a point about some "absolutely phenomenal" stock and option moves.

The "meatiest" subject was three panelists claiming this is a trader's market and disagreeing with Zach Karabell (not the first time that's happened), who said "I'm not sure this is such a 'trading environment' for something like Goldman or Morgan."

Carter Worth actually offered a trade, insisting there's plenty of room for banks to go higher and scoffing at consumer discretionary names. Pete Najarian just sat there and smiled and said "absolutely" about five times and pounded the table about how many options were being traded. Jeff Macke, reached by phone, tried to deliver an essay just like Zach Karabell only to be harshly cut off by Melissa Lee. "To Zach's point, I mean, uh, uh, I'm sorry, you're reluctantly going to be dragged into being a trader at this point," he said, and also made a weak joke that didn't work about not being long Citigroup.

We suggest Susan Krakower and Tyler Mathisen pull the plug on "Fast Money Halftime Report," but on the other hand, it's giving us good review fodder, so...

One under-the-radar bright spot: Jon Najarian remains red-hot. Please note CNBCfix.com flagged a month ago that Jon Najarian misstated a bad trade he recommended on "Fast Money." But he has been mostly deadly accurate recently on banks, and a couple weeks ago he made this statement that caught our attention: Dow 8,000 is going to be a big pain-in-the-behind for the bulls. We don't know if that's true, but the Dow does seem to be having big trouble around that level. Props to "Dr. J."

[Monday, April 13, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Goldman max
— traders talk nothing but

It's not the goal of CNBCfix to take digs at Melissa Lee as often as possible. But many times, it's unavoidable.

In the Lee era of "Fast Money," we tend to hear the same subjects scattered throughout the show. Organization seems to be a problem.

Today the subject was Goldman Sachs, and banks in general, all of which were being discussed about, oh, every four minutes. If you didn't hear a trade, keep listening, you might get one.

The theme of Monday was weak: Basically things still feel positive, but a lot of things are toppy right now.

Jeff Harte of Sandler discussed Goldman Sachs with that philosophy in mind. He said Goldman is only doing a stock offering because people will buy it. The most interesting comments he made concerned Morgan Stanley. He said the word is that MS hasn't been lighting it up on trading desks and is exposed to more commercial real estate than Goldman, and he might encourage buying but probably only in the teens.

Craig Berger of FBR, in what must've been his first "Fast Money" appearance, was a tad stiff, had early trouble with the earpiece and was initially curt. But his analysis of Intel seemed sound, and his comments were concise. By the end, he sounded like a "Fast Money" veteran.

Rebecca Patterson of JPMorgan offered a dubious-sounding forex trade, something about "if the market's bottomed, it's a great trade, but if it hasn't, you won't lose a whole lot on the downside," ultimately recommending long Aussie dollar vs. yen, which all sounds a bit too good to be true. "I'm still not sure we've seen the bottom for stocks ... it's not clear to me that we're there," she said.

Of course, CNBCfix tuned in to the "Fast Money Halftime Show" that debuted Monday. Guy Adami said "I feel like Don Shula."

It was almost like another show. Evidently, most of the 5 p.m. panelists won't be available for the 12:45 p.m. show. So, by the end of the day, you're liable to hear eight nodding heads agreeing that banks are a great buy.

The halftime segment — we can't really call it a "show" — lasted, by our count, about nine minutes, airing at 12:45 Eastern during "Power Lunch." The intro was very clumsy. At first Carter Worth didn't even appear; then he did appear in a faded image as though he was behind a shower screen. Having one trader in the studio and four others in remote locations wasn't particularly smooth.

There was little time for banter or elaborate trade explanations. Mostly this group (sigh) talked about how everyone's just gotta buy the banks, buy the banks, buy the banks, the favorite topic on "Fast Money" for weeks now. Guy Adami loves the banks and insists the market has a ticket to S&P 900. Dennis Gartman loves the banks too including Canadian banks. "I'm also quite bullish on the financials. ... You can't be short of the financials at this point; they wanna go higher," Gartman said.

"It's very young in the move," Worth said of an industry block that has surged about, oh, a hundred percent in a month. "Financials are just starting." This from a guy who regularly preaches "sideways" action and did so just recently.

Jon Najarian was the only one to toss a bit of water onto the banking parade, saying he would only buy Goldman Sachs in a couple days.

The "Halftime Report" proves "Fast Money" doesn't really need an hour each day. We wonder why people who see the halftime show will need to tune in again at 5 p.m. The best hope for the show is to air at the market open.

[Thursday, April 9, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Another
week, another banking binge

Normally CNBCfix tries to avoid cheesecake discussions, because 1) other sites do it better, 2) we don't have pictures here, and 3) it distracts a bit from some of the legit reasons for watching business television.

But if Margaret Brennan should show up on the "Fast Money" set again in that striking, elegant brown dress, we're going to demand she become the permanent host.

Traders delivered a good show Thursday. Shorts got killed, but the panel wasn't gloating (too much), and there were many constructive comments about the future of Wells Fargo, banks in general, and retail.

This writer speculated a few days ago (see below) — and taking market-direction advice from this writer is like taking fitness tips from Mark Haines (that was a joke, not a dig, in case Mark is offended) — that the Dow seems on autopilot to 10K within a couple months.

It doesn't make any sense to us — and this writer remains long SKF (in rapidly dwindling amounts) — but that seems to be the way it goes. The economy we were told about six weeks ago is a 180-degree reversal from the one we're told we've got now. Larry Summers used market-speak to say the bottom is in the economy. Wells Fargo is evidently printing money. Apple is going gangbusters. Commercial realty is blowing the shorts out of the water. Oil is on a tear.

A few interesting econ-political clashes are occurring. If it's true the economic bottom is in, then all the trillions pushed by the Fed and Tim Geithner are mostly unneeded, and this whole "Great Depression Part II" crisis was really a 6-month sham designed to bail out banks for bad investments.

And if it's true we've bottomed, it means the likes of Nouriel Roubini and Meredith Whitney and Gary Shilling and Peter Schiff are about to become discredited just as quickly as they became famous. (Did Whitney launch her own firm at the top?)

By contrast: If this rally fades, and the Dow sees 6,500 this summer, then this will be one of the phoniest rallies of all time ... maybe the greatest ever, given that Dow components are moving 100% or more within weeks. Also, it will mean many in the markets have ignored the legends Whitney and Roubini not once, but incredibly, twice.

Something's gotta give, one way or another.

Clearly "Fast Money" is accelerating its guest appearance strategy. It was great to see Margaret Brennan. Whitney Tilson is also a very good guest, this time offering some interesting reasons why WFC was able to report the numbers it did.

However, Dennis Davitt, while adequate, showed a little of the Cindy Brady deer-in-the-headlights look on television in discussing options action and had trouble getting to the point or drawing conclusions, and JP Mark's description of Apple (complete with the term "life-changing" or something similar) sounded eerily like the comments one Gene Munster used to make before he figured it out.

Jeff Macke continues to make the clearest, most easily understood arguments (even for laymen) about market direction. His only flaw the last few weeks has been regularly describing rallies as sell opportunities and suggesting the rallies have a chase element to them. And that opinion is basically unanimous on "Fast Money" after every huge day. Actually nobody should've sold a thing (except the SKF) since March 6, and somehow it still doesn't feel like anyone should be selling this rally just yet. It also seems like Macke's purple crayon chart on breaking the downtrend would've shown several other breaks in the last 6 months had he been doing it back then, and of course those rallies all failed. Shorts can take a bit of comfort in that commodities roared a year ago at this time, only to give it all back and more around September and October. But for now, long-only seems like the king.

Melissa Lee — whose attempts at humor are often pitiful and who still allows too much dead air — announced at the end of the show that "Fast Money" will be attempting a market halftime report on Monday. CNBCfix maintains the show ideally should air in the morning, starting a half hour before the open. Previous episodes airing at halftime didn't work well. But we'll see.

[Wednesday, April 8, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Guest brags
of calling March 6 bottom

Carl Icahn sat in with the "Fast Money" crew Wednesday and offered this take on stocks: "I'm sort of bearish on the shorter-term for the market," he said, citing "zombie banks that really have problems."

Icahn would be a good replacement for Dylan Ratigan. He's highly interesting as long as he doesn't get overly repetitive on corporate governance, which Melissa Lee timidly allowed him to do. Lee first asked him overly long questions with overly demonstrative hand gestures, then relied on the other panelists to cut Icahn off and redirect with alternate questions.

Hilariously, Lee let a commercial break get bungled while Icahn praised Ratigan, then said he likes her too.

We found it odd that celebrated Icahn fan Karen Finerman happened to be absent the day of his appearance, which had been promoted.

Karen must've had a major commitment somewhere.

In terms of market skepticism, Icahn was decidedly alone among "Fast Money" guests Wednesday.

Consider, for example, Greg Troccoli, Opalesque director of technical research.

Troccoli showed up on the "Fast Money" set to declare "I think the low is in." That doesn't make him at all uncommon among CNBC guests. What might make him stand out is his boast that he told all of his clients on March 6 that we've bottomed.

Conveneniently for his long thesis, he says, "I see absolutely no reason why we have to test a new low here." When pressed repeatedly to explain where the market goes from here after its post-March 6 move, he said, "I don't think we even come close to violating 50% of that move."

He pays no attention to fundamentals. He just knows "the crowd" is now going long. So buy, buy, buy.

JPMorgan retail analyst Charles Grom can also be considered as not being in the Nouriel Roubini camp.

Grom thinks the recent market rally is the beginning of something big.

"We've seen about five head-fakes over the past 14 months in retail, and this one looks like it's not going to be a head fake. ... Consumer seems to be stabilizing," he said.

Tim Seymour, though, wasn't really buying a retail surge. "This seems like a trading rally to me in retail," he said. "I hear ya," Grom responded, despite defending his thesis with "inventories are lean across the board."

Nishu Sood of Deutsche Bank (a revolving door of guests might be a Melissa Lee change from the Ratigan version of "Fast Money" — perhaps either because the trader talk is viewed now as too mundane, or Lee is perceived as not running an exciting enough ship in the studio) doused hopes of a housing bottom by ranking on the Pulte deal. "I would still be pretty cautious about buying these (homebuilder) names," he said.

Brad Hintz (yet another guest, but he was only on the phone) thinks Goldman Sachs has been run up as though it's going to "knock the cover off the ball," but he doesn't see how it can.

Seymour said he agrees with a Toyota exec that there is light in the automotive industry, though Toyota might be a bit ahead of itself and he likes Tata as usual.

Jeff Macke once again (sigh) told us he's long GE because he's a "team player."

[Tuesday, April 7, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Macke
says S&P 800 is buy signal

We think we've determined one of the holes in Melissa Lee's game.

Her voice.

Maybe it's harsh to say it, but Lee totally lacks a smooth, elegant, even fully clear tone that is usually requisite for big-time television.

It's unfair, of course. Human beings mostly can't control their voice. But they can't control how handsome or beautiful they are either. It is what it is.

The latest in the "Fast Money" series of useless technical numbers to watch came from Jeff Macke Tuesday.

"Seems like 800 is where the S&P buyers are gonna start coming back in," Macke said.

As we said yesterday, Macke has been cogently pegging the market to technical trades recently. But daily now we're getting flooded with S&P number predictions that rarely seem to pan out. You know, stuff like, "if it falls below 785, then I think it goes a lot lower," and instead it goes to 781 but rebounds, etc.

Macke turned 40 Tuesday. To celebrate, he pointed out how buy-and-hold investing doesn't work.

Shawn Matthews of Cantor — we'll leave it at "Cantor" — showed up in a strange guest appearance. There was significant confusion on the panel over what business he represented or what exactly he was CEO of. He apparently says his company is able to hire people from bigger Wall Street firms, but "it's not about poaching." Lee called him CEO of "Cantor Fitzgerald," which according to the Web site is true, except there's another person also listed as chairman and CEO above him.

Tech analyst Toni Sacconaghi discussed why Sun Microsystems isn't embracing IBM. "There is dissension within Sun," he said, explaining that some JAVA honchos think they can do better with the stock. "Now this is completely Jonestown," Macke said, cracking us up.

Gene Munster incredibly discussed tech stocks without urging people to rush in to AAPL. Maybe Google is now his favorite? He said it continues to produce more than $1 in revenue for every $1 that companies advertise with it, and until that stops, the stock is a buy. Jeff Macke reminded us it's one killer app with a space program and a bunch of garbage and can't possibly be the only advertising related stock that's making money.

Karen Finerman made the shocking point that company forecasts, not first-quarter earnings, will steer the market in upcoming weeks.

Lee at one point asked Dennis Gartman what he thought of Mosaic's fall given that he owned the stock. Gartman replied he didn't own the stock.

[Monday, April 6, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Macke
still has the hot hand

Without Pete Najarian and Guy Adami to thunder away with a few stock observations, the stage was set for Jeff Macke to hold court.

And he did. Most reasonably well, in our opinion, despite the fact this writer still owns some SKF that runs slightly counter to Macke's forecast.

Macke is the only panelist regularly speaking with authority on market movements. Najarian, who was absent Monday, talks as though nothing is safe until the VIX falls below 40. Well, if you've been long financials for a month, you picked a safe time to do it.

Guy Adami might've been on the money, only to reverse his eye-opening S&P 900 prediction that didn't seem from the get-go like it had any chance of happening as soon as he said it would and tell us just last week we were looking at a retest of S&P 741. He would later admit he's getting "undressed" by the market and doesn't know where it's going, not exactly reassuring info from someone offering trading tips.

Tim Seymour has been sour on financials for about two months (CNBCfix agrees, by the way, but the tape is the tape), instead favors the "real stories" in emerging markets that are often commodity-related, but even there is notably cautious. Joe Terranova merely wants to recommend the capital markets ETF, USO or the "integrateds" every day, one way or another.

It's true that virtually everything in the "7 deadly sins" Mike Mayo wrote about is already "out there" in some form. But even though financials are due for a drop, and did Monday slightly, it just doesn't seem like there's any bearish sentiment out there right now, for financials and beyond. Obviously, in this market anything can turn on a dime. But Macke's call on WFC vs. analyst Paul Miller (Macke would take the long end of Miller's short and in fact, per disclosure, is long WFC) feels like the better trade right now, even if the numbers favor Miller.

The risk to the market, as always, is unexpected bad news. Lately given the rally, an endless parade of CNBC hosts and guests have come on to say all the bad news is from "lagging" indicators and that "markets bottom six months before the economy" (which wasn't really true in 2000-2002, but whatever). But we tend to agree with Macke, that with the government ready and willing to print money to bail out any bank, the markets are going to be propped for a while. (This writer is not a stock analyst and is long SKF.)

Miller, for his part, made a very convincing pro-Mayo case that this writer agrees with. But the stocks seem impervious to bad news now, so advice such as a WFC short seems really suspect right now.

Macke's chart segment seemed a lot more usable than anything the chart pros have done recently. (You know, the people — we excuse Louise Yamada — who show charts with arbitrary start dates that prove the thesis.)

Bill Lerner had an interesting appearance warning those who short MGM that they're about to get "smoked." The traders liked that term, a few of them repeating it.

Melissa Lee stayed mostly out of the fray Monday. We noticed CNBC is now running her commercials in the "I am CNBC" segment. "Fast Money" remains a sell, a stagnating (at best) show that aside from Macke and the occasional appearances from Jon Najarian lacks much conviction from its panel, and is now totally devoid of point of view and tough questioning from its host.

[Friday, April 3, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Dow 10K
seems possible before June

"Fast Money" has had a lousy month.

The market, though, has had anything but.

And the pro traders at "Fast Money" still don't get it.


Jeff Macke has at least figured most of the bullish trade but is still cautious every night. We've heard him constantly saying "sell the rips," we've heard Karen Finerman unwilling to jump in to anything "with both feet," we've heard Jon Najarian insist the 8,000 level will be a "pain" to bulls, we've heard Pete Najarian (and Finerman) warning about the VIX being above 40, we've heard Guy Adami suddenly going to S&P 741 from S&P 900 (neither of which has happened).

In fact, everything is on fire, and since March 6 this is the greatest market since a few pockets in the late 1990s.

We will give credit to Dennis Gartman, who has more or less said this twice in the last month. (That's setting aside his woeful showing on the copper trade a couple days ago — see below — that had us seriously questioning his advice.)

Banks go up 5-10% daily. Some have been doubling or tripling faster than Amazon.com and Doubleclick did in the '90s. Freeport McMoran surges. Research in Motion goes up 20-30% in a day. Apple moves up about 50% in the weeks after Steve Jobs, supposedly the most critical CEO to any single company, takes a leave of absence. Oil's on fire. Even commercial realty stocks are ablaze.

There's "$9 trillion in cash sitting on the sidelines," says Melissa Lee. Bigger than that, it seems, is Tim Seymour pointing out there are going to be more summits next week, NATO, U.S.-EU, etc., and every one of these is a huge winner for stocks, there will undoubtedly be more bailout announcements along with more statements from Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke that have flipped from crushing stocks to igniting stocks. Plus, there are earnings reports coming out soon, Alcoa starts Tuesday, which will probably do what Oracle and RIMM have done for the markets recently and only add more gasoline to the fire. Unfortunately this writer hasn't participated nearly as much as he'd like (including this week going a little long Karen Finerman's horrid "final trade" pick of SRS last night that fell 17% in a DAY today), but the facts are the facts.

"Fast Money" traders are accustomed to saying things like "the trend is your friend" and "trade the market you've got, not the market you want." But nowadays they don't even follow their own standard advice.

"If this week was your first time getting long stocks in a month, man, you are exactly backwards," Macke said.

Really? It seems like, especially if Lee is correct about "$9 trillion" in stock-buying on the sidelines, that everything is going up until maybe May, when stocks traditionally flatten ... and with the Dow at 8,000 riding about a 24.5% gain in a month, 10,000 — just another 25% higher — could easily be upon us before the end of spring.

Hey, we're not sure we really believe it either ... but the tape is the tape. The banks are impervious to bad news, no more of them will be allowed to fail, governments are going to print as much money as possible to make everything whole, and so not only are banks perfect investments, but so are commodities in the "reflation" trade. It doesn't sound right, doesn't feel right, and this writer wishes he'd been far more long than he's been ... but that's the way it's going.

And, you would think a show called "Fast Money" could figure that out.

[Thursday, April 2, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Show
excited to get Twitter questions

If you managed to watch all of Thursday's "Fast Money," and could not stand one more reference by Melissa Lee to "Tweeter/Twits/Twittering," know that you've got a friend.


A couple meager highlights: Jeff Macke made several articulate points — actually it was kind of the same point over and over again, as repetition is what "Fast Money" viewers get now that Dylan Ratigan is out and MLee is in — about the market still trending up, but feeling more like it's running on fumes, with the last holdouts jumping in to catch what's left of the rally ... and Joe LaVorgna conducting a discussion on (what sounds to us like a colossal scam,) "mark-to-market" accounting. Karen Finerman continued to defend the change as helpful for banks, while LaVorgna and Macke openly scoffed, saying it does nothing but change accounting rules and will not suddenly make banks that are already 39% owned by the federal government viable.

Carter Worth's latest sideways-is-bullish chart show — as always, with the chart conveniently starting at the date that justifies the thesis — was ridiculous, and described as such (in more subtle terms) by the "Fast Money" traders who didn't have to confront him (though that didn't stop Tim Seymour and others a few days ago from utterly shellacking John Roque on the set). Also, we wonder if MLee likes being called "girl" by Guy Adami every five minutes.

[Wednesday, April 1, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Gartman
embarrasses himself on copper

"Fast Money" should just be canceled.

Wednesday, we heard this staggering exchange on copper between superstar trader Dennis Gartman and the panel:

Karen Finerman: "Where do you think the real, supply-demand, true price is?"

Dennis Gartman: "Buck and a half, buck eighty on, on copper. I think you can get there in dollar terms without too much difficulty. We're at, what, dollar thirty-five or something like that."

Karen Finerman: "Are we at a buck eighty?"

Pete Najarian: "Buck eighty..."

Dennis Gartman: "No, no, we're not there ... is that how high we are?"

Pete Najarian: "Yeah, buck eighty-six."

Dennis Gartman: "Oh, well raise it two dollars."

We'll give Gartman — one of CNBCfix's favorite guests and a legendary trader — the benefit of doubt for not seeing the copper chart shown at $1.85 during his presentation.

We won't give him any benefit of doubt for declaring copper a great trade at $1.30, that can get to the "true supply-demand" price at $1.50 to $1.80 in dollar terms "without too much difficulty" ... when the material in question is already above his target price.

Strongly recommending something without even knowing the price, and, when quizzed, being way off. This was a pathetic performance for any guest. For Gartman, it was jaw-droppingly pitiful.

Perhaps he is too focused on the upcoming "Meisters" tournament.

Melissa Lee continues to run the show like a wide-eyed amateur. She seems to have decent grasp of market-moving news, but has no point of view on stocks or the economy and very narrow capacity for follow-up questions. Her sense of humor is limited to say the least — she reads the script for an hour, can't make a decent joke on her own, and overlaughs at Guy Adami's weak reaches at humor.

Wednesday at the opening, Adami made a joke about being "undressed" by the market, to which Lee predictably chortled. Then Adami said "we're gonna be sitting next to each other for a while," and Lee responded, "for a long time, hopefully."

Hardly the banter of a confident host.

How did Lee get to be the usual "Fast Money" sub in the first place? Dylan Ratigan had been extremely prolific in hours worked. Notice that in the early days of "Fast Money," both evenings and when it switched to 5 p.m. Eastern, the four regular traders and Ratigan were almost always present. When Ratigan was off, the network committed its A-list stars to the guest hosting gigs, namely Erin Burnett and Becky Quick, and those were popular episodes.

As the newness faded, a bevy of guest traders emerged, Burnett and Quick disappeared, and Lee became the regular sub host — suggesting "Fast Money" eventually plateaued in buzz and ratings to a base audience, and the network took less and less interest in maintaining it as an elite show.

So CNBC has been telling us for a while where it stands. "Fast Money" is now a disaster. The traders still have a bright future in some capacity on TV, should they choose to continue it. Lee should be doing a different show or reporting. Time for Mark Hoffman and Susan Krakower to stick a fork in "Fast Money" and start over at 5 p.m.

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CNBC/cable TV
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CNBC guest bios

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♦ Diane Swonk
♦ Meredith Whitney
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