[CNBCfix Fast Money review archive, December 2009]
[Thursday, December 31, 2009]

Steve Cortes, quote machine

Few people have made more declarative statements on "Fast Money" in a week than Steve Cortes.

Thursday, on the New Year's Eve version of "Fast Money," Cortes unleashed a theoretical debate about participating in the stock market.

"How do you protect profits? I think one of the ways you protect profits is, the last nine months, buy-and-hold has worked. The last nine years, it's been a disaster to buy and hold," Cortes said. "Don't buy and hold. Your brokers, your financial advisers are going to tell you to buy and hold. I'm telling you, be nimble, watch this show, have opinions."

"That brings us back to the other point — you can't buy the ETFs," said Steve Grasso. "And- because then people get lulled into a false sense of security and buy these ETFs, they figure they have a basket of five of them, have global exposure, and they don't wanna be nimble, as Steve just said, they don't wanna buy and sell."

Bob Pisani was skeptical. "But not every- not everybody's a natural trader all the time," Pisani said.

"Well then you shouldn't be in the markets, because then it's dead money, because wasted money, flat money, is dead money," Grasso insisted.

"That means that no mutual fund has a business existing at all," Pisani countered.

"No. Mutual funds use it to hedge their positions, on most of the points," Grasso said.

The truth is, Grasso's right.

We'll take it even further.

The vast majority of people don't belong in the stock market at all. Most couldn't tell you the difference between an ETF and a mutual fund, or a call and a put.

Their money should be in a CD. Or perhaps a Treasury bond. But there are others with more motivation who want it. That would be the financial-services industry. It preys upon people with savings using one promotional tagline — inflation will kill you — as a means to get people's money into their stock and bond funds, justified by the data showing that over time, equities and/or bonds somehow always beat inflation.

So there are the ads such as the one a few years ago (we've forgotten which company, which is just as well), where the husband and wife are down at the lake, only the wife is talking to the adviser about the dream home they'll buy maybe 10 years from now, and the adviser has somehow figured out a way to make it happen right now (he's probably gonna pour it all into AMZN and push the button once it hits Mark Mahaney's updated price target).

The slogans are countless, all bogus: "buy and hold," "diversify," "percentage in bonds should equal your age, rest in stocks," "have a minimum three-to-five-year time horizon," etc.

We always get a chuckle when we hear non-savvy stock-market folks proudly explaining how they're "invested" in such and such company, as if they directly paid the company money to help it out and improve its operation rather than just acquiring shares from a third party who is merely trying to sell them at a higher price than what he paid for them.

Notice that people who are big-time stock and/or options traders tend to refer to themselves professionally as "risk managers." Does Grandma, when she plunks $10,000 into GE stock, consider herself a "risk manager"? Uh, no.

There is at least some level of risk to everything. People face virtually zero risk in a CD. That is the type of risk most people are suited for. Compared with that, risk in the stock market is massive, no matter how "diversified" your plan or how often you watch Cramer.

Does that mean the stock market is a bad thing? No. It's capitalism at its finest, as they say, and it's a tremendous arena for people who are willing to take risks with their money and who understand what those risks are.

But back to Cortes, Grasso and Pisani. We agree adhering to "buy and hold" is silly because it only works if you buy a long-term winner, which you won't know until the term is over.

However, buy and hold, if you've done it with names such as AAPL, AMZN, PCLN, GOOG, FCX, WLT, hasn't been such a bad idea — even after the biggest stock market debacle of our lifetime.

Cortes made a point about our favorite film, "Wall Street." Cortes said, "Gordon Gekko, of 'Wall Street,' taught us a long time ago, not to follow the herd. Sheep get slaughtered."

So everyone "following the herd" in AMZN, AAPL, GOOG, PCLN and FCX has gotten "slaughtered"?

Didn't think so.

Grasso is wrong that people "can't get into the ETFs." If one goes from $100 to $200, they should get into it. He is right in his implication that ETFs might provide a "false sense of security." He's unrealistic in suggesting everyone should've obviously picked AAPL alone 10 years ago instead of the tech ETF that combined AAPL with a bunch of laggards.

Pisani is overstating it when he says Grasso is suggesting no mutual fund has a business "existing." If Grandma is gonna pour $10,000 into stocks, better she puts it all in a broad mutual fund rather than in Heelys. The strange thing about actively managed mutual funds, you're trusting portfolio managers who are complete strangers and who might change at a moment's notice to handle a portfolio whose contents you'll never precisely know at any given time. Even the index ones are not some pure play on American business, but based on S&P people's belief as to what companies consitute the "500."

Finally, you'll realize that to be truly "diversified" across all stocks and all types of instruments, you're getting a CD-level return, with far more risk and about 10,000 times more hassle.

There is a major sports analogy here. These guys are arguing tactics. Arguing tactics is mostly useless. It's equivalent to all these sports talk radio callers who want to fire the offensive coordinator, go to a no-huddle more often and switch to a 3-4. That's nonsense. If your team is not winning enough, it's because it does not have enough good players. If you get better players, it really doesn't matter what your strategy is.

Same with stocks. If you are constantly long stocks that are rising, and/or constantly short stocks that are declining, you are going to make money whether you buy and hold or trade as fast as Pete Najarian.

So don't think about and philosophize about buy and hold. Just buy the stuff that goes up, and sell the stuff that goes down.

Why Gekko gets rich

We found it interesting Steve Cortes would cite positive stock market advice from Gordon Gekko. The truth is, a major strength of "Wall Street" is that Gekko is not just a slick trader as many presume. He is a nouveau riche success story, a guy who makes money not because he can, but because he wants to reach the highest social levels, buying into the civic boards and getting the best tables at the restaurants. (That Bud Fox has none of these qualities is a major problem.) This observation and more is contained in our 2,492-word "Wall Street" review, which remains one of this site's most popular features, although that's kind of like saying Ned Garver was one of the best players on the St. Louis Browns.

Jim Suva once again panned Research in Motion. RIMM has easily been one of the most talked-about "Fast Money" stocks of 2009.

According to the chart, it's had a huge gain for the year, beginning 2009 around $40.

A skeptic would note it peaked in June and reached something like a double-top in September, now is significantly less.

We agree with Suva, except we don't buy the other half of his trade, going long MOT instead.

In fresher material, Suva said "price points in TVs are falling like a rock," people are shopping for LCD but the new thing is LED, and GLW is the "oligopoly" play here.

Bob Pisani made a year-end prediction, based on "trader talk," that AAPL would top MSFT in market value in 2010, and would quickly top GOOG also.

Joe Terranova made a great point about predictions. "Could anyone possibly imagine that ExxonMobil would be the worst performer in the Dow, and American Express would be the best performer in the Dow?"

Out of a large sample a year ago, statistically, someone would've nailed that, but he's right, virtually every pro would've missed that one.

Brad Hintz continues to call (Zzzzzz) Goldman Sachs best in breed.

Alternate version of Superfusion

Steve Cortes made a point or two about China on Thursday.

"Does China like us? It's irrelevant, right," he said. "Would they like to be our foe? I think they would love to be our foe, but they can't."

"Do they really hold us hostage?" Bob Pisani asked.

"I'm saying the exact reverse, we actually hold them hostage," Cortes replied.

Brian Kelly said to look a bit north instead. "My surprise for next year is Japan outperforming the rest of the world," Kelly said.

Cortes was blunt. "Isn't it hard to bet on a country with a declining population that's committing demographic suicide?"

Happy New Year

It was fine that the panelists wore tuxedoes on Thursday ... except who needs to see five dudes in a tux? How come no Melissa Lee or Karen Finerman in formal wear, perhaps Michelle Meyer guesting? Someone needs to rethink the vacation schedule next year at this time.

Analyst Nehal Chokshi said Apple might not be introducing blockbuster tablet material Jan. 26 because it's hosting a presentation at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, which only seats 700, and it would want a much bigger crowd if it was introducing something explosive.

Chokshi also said Google could make headlines next week with phone details. (This writer is long GOOG.)

Brian Kelly and Jim Iuorio talked of being long TBT.

Steve Grasso offered what we think is kind of a confusing thesis on natural gas. He said some producers are looking to secure long-term contracts, which they haven't done for a while, "why are they looking for it now?" But he also said he thinks nat gas can be the energy play of 2010, that it can easily supersede the more excitable alt-energy plays, and ATN might be the way to do it.

Steve Cortes offered a nice tribute to the USA Cares charity. You can click on the site right here.

Bonus movie review

"Crazy Heart" draws a lot of parallels from "The Wrestler" of a year ago. Like Mickey Rourke, Jeff Bridges should receive an Oscar nomination. On stage, his character exceeds Rourke's, but the offstage drama in "The Wrestler" is superior. The capability of alcohol to wreck careers and lives is forcefully depicted. It's a successful example of how we sometimes require a terrible loss to hit rock bottom. It's not a perfect film; the standard-bearer of this genre is Willie Nelson's spectacularly underrated "Honeysuckle Rose," but the acclaim for "Crazy Heart" is legit, and an Oscar for Bridges isn't out of the question.

BAC vs. C

On the last "Fast Money Halftime Report" of the year Thursday, Bob Pisani posed a fine question to Jon Najarian in strange terms. Pisani said a lot of people figure Citigroup can easily be at $10 and Bank of America could easily be at $25.

Najarian said "nine times out of 10," he would pick BAC of those two.

Except one of those is a 40% gain, while the other is a 200% gain, so that might affect one's opinion as to which outcome is more likely. (This writer is long C.)

Dr. J had a scoop. "Insiders at, uh, Bank America (sic) have told me they think this is gonna be an absolute blowout first quarter in terms of that M&A business for them," he said.

He also repeated his bullishness on Apple regarding the tablet. "Let's not forget about the possibility of live television on that device. Of course it's going to be a full computer as well," he said. "So I think this is the game-changer. ... Jan. 26, put it on the calendar, that's gonna be when they bring out the first version of the i, uh, Guide or iTablet or iSlate, whatever they end up calling it."

Keep in mind that Steve Cortes is paid for his stock picks, not his analogies. A day after we made a reference to Affirmed and Alydar, Cortes gave the horse-racing theme a shot, except he seemed to suggest one of the legends wasn't a great finisher.

"The market was really like Secretariat this year," Cortes said, "I mean, it was a thoroughbred, but it seems like it's going to limp into the close today."

Cortes repeated a line from the 5 p.m. show this week, that the commodity trade is one of the most "crowded" he has ever seen. "It is too predicated upon China, which has stopped rallying," Cortes said.

Cortes noted that an AAPL/AMZN pairs trade has been highly favorable recently to AAPL, a possible indication of tablet/Kindle perceptions.

Katie Stockton said, "I do think that January will finish strongly."

Brian Kelly said, "As long as there's liquidity, as long as money's cheap, this market is gonna go higher."

[Wednesday, December 30, 2009]

The 5 best trades of 2009

We're pleased to state the obvious and report that 2009 came to a much happier ending than did 2008.

So, we're eager to reveal our list of the Top 5 "Fast Money" trades of 2009.

That's a departure from last year when, just being in the first year of this Web site thing, that market cratered and we didn't bother. Rather, we singled out Jeff Macke for, in our opinion, making the consistently best market-direction calls throughout 2008.

So let's get right to it. We list them in ascending (or is it descending?) order, saving the best for last. But first a couple explanations and disclaimers.

First, it seems like every stock quadrupled since March 6, so a lot of big gainers didn't make the cut here. Second, there are five regular "Fast Money" panelists, plus probably more than a dozen other regulars on the "Halftime Report" and "Options Action" wing, plus tons of analysts not connected to CNBC, who have all had great picks at some point or another, in some cases the same stock recommended for months. If you're not on this list, don't feel offended. We have strict criteria.

Before we get to the top 5, a few miscellaneous categories:

Worst pick of the year: Wal-Mart, principally by Karen Finerman but also Pete Najarian, Patty Edwards, Steve Cortes, and probably just about every other "Fast Money" pundit at some point. The problem is not that it lost value in 2009 — as of Dec. 30, it was fractionally down — it's that, in a blockbuster year, it didn't go anywhere, hasn't gone anywhere. It's up from March 6, but so is everything. The "retrenching," "frugality," "new normal" trade is bogus, evidenced by lines of people at 3 a.m. at Toys R Us and non-lines of people logging on to www.amazon.com at startling numbers. Other than the "frugality" claim there is no catalyst for WMT; where else can they expand, Kabul? Successful company, useless stock.

Best group trade: On Jan. 14, it was announced in afterhours that Steve Jobs was taking a leave of absence. With no preparation for this news, and AAPL trading around $76, the "Fast Money" crew collectively called the stock a buy at that level on that news. We don't have the video in question and can't recall who was on the set, though we know Guy Adami and Jeff Macke were there, and we think Karen Finerman and Pete Najarian rounded out the group. Overnight and the next day, the stock recovered to close around $83, and after a choppy week, was off to the races (and still going).

Best guest trade: Jeff Lindsay, Sanford Bernstein. Lindsay explained his $600 price target for GOOG on May 8. Jeff Macke argued, as he always does with Google, but Guy Adami and Karen Finerman (who's, um, now in the GOOG camp, if you haven't heard) also questioned the multiple, and Adami questioned it in later shows. To contrast, Youssef Squali of Jefferies defended his GOOG $445 call a week after Lindsay's, and Mark Mahaney told the show April 15 he had a $450 price target.

Now, for the top 5 "Fast Money" trades of 2009:

5. Karen Finerman, Genentech (DNA), first week of March: The hook here is not the size of the gain, but the likelihood. The Chairwoman had repeatedly said she thought the Roche offer of $86.50 was too low; on March 6 Roche upped it to $93, which Karen described that day as sort of a "layup."

4. Karen Finerman, Grupo Aeroportuario (PAC), April 27: No, not every great trade was from K-Fine. This obscure name to American investors was mentioned at least twice by Karen in 2009, first on April 27 as an unfairly beaten stock on swine flu. It was $18.72 then, $31.45 now.

3. Pete Najarian, Ford (F), Tuesday, May 12: This one's a bit subjective. Pete trumpeted this name May 12, saying he "bought a little today" and would look to scoop up more under $5. The catch was that the stock had tumbled about a dollar (from $6 to $5) on the 12th, a serious setback after a couple months of progress, but indeed proved to be a raging buy. It dipped on the 13th, and apparently reversed, but hasn't seen those levels since. Jeff Macke recommended it on the 13th, and at various times so have Tim Seymour and Guy Adami. Pete's call on 5/12 was the best.

2. Patty Edwards, J. Crew (JCG), Tuesday, Nov. 24: The name of the show is "Fast Money," but rarely do the great trades happen this fast. Hardly a typical technical call, Patty told of visiting the stores and seeing good things. On the "Halftime Report" that day (in a holiday-shortened week of light volume), she said this: "They report after the close and I really think you can make some money if you go long before that." She said it with enough conviction we wondered "hmmm, maybe there's really something here" — but unfortunately didn't buy any. JCG did report, stock surged 7% afterhours, Guy Adami scoffed, and Karen Finerman said she was really glad she didn't short.

1. Jon Najarian, banking stocks, Wednesday, March 4: Dylan Ratigan said this to Dr. J on the March 4 "Fast Money Final Call":

"There's a Reuters report that there's gonna be a House Financial Services committee meeting next week ... to discuss mark-to-market, which by no means suggests that they're going to change it, but that they're going to put it on an agenda for conversation. Uh, would you be willing to even go near a financial in advance of that hearing from a trading, from a purely speculative standpoint?"

Jon Najarian responded: "I think if they give 'em like 12, to 18 months, Dylan, that you could see some of these financials move 100% in a matter of hours. And I will stand by that, and I hope you'll replay the soundbite, because I really think that if you relax mark-to-market accounting, a number of these stocks are just unbelievable values at these levels."

OK, it wasn't technically accurate. The change to mark-to-market actually endured about a month of leaks and proposals, and we're not aware of a banking stock that actually jumped 100% in hours. But we do know that two weeks later March 18, when FASB issued this new mark-to-market guidance, Dr. J's FAS had essentially doubled, as had Wells Fargo; Citi had practically tripled.

In one of the worst market moments of our lifetimes, Dr. J dunked.

Here's the call:

Security can be humorous

One of the better "Fast Money" moments in the last two weeks was the demonstration by Anthony Fabiano, CEO of American Science & Engineering, of how his full-body "backscatter" scanner works.

Actually, we've quickly grown tired of hearing about airport security and airport security stocks. This demonstration had decent regular news value. There's probably a privacy concern somewhere that we're not thinking about, but it doesn't seem to us like a privacy problem so much as a time problem. If you do everybody front and back, you're going to need a lot of machines to keep the lines flowing. Fabiano explained it would cost "$200,000 for a system that could scan approximately 260 people per hour."

That would be 4.33 per minute.

Fabiano didn't discuss what might be caught besides the gun he was carrying; i.e., things like wallets, belts, medical devices.

It also looked to us like the images of the feet were barely visible.

Bob Pisani noted the image of the gun and made the lame joke, "or are you just happy to see me." But then he seemed convinced, "I think this sort of puts to rest some of the privacy issues that are out there."

Pisani asked Fabiano if he'd gotten any calls from the government. "Oh yes," Fabiano said, but "I really can't talk about that."

Clearly people (other than perhaps Steve Grasso based on other comments this week) aren't very concerned about this recent security breach, because the "Fast Money" panelists Wednesday cackled pretty much the entire segment with Fabiano.

Right guy, wrong job

Kenneth Feinberg, for reasons we're not really sure about other than it's a slow week of trading, returned to "Fast Money" (via phone) to kind of talk about the same things as in his last appearance.

"There are still five companies that are subject to my statutory jurisdiction, so we'll just have to see, but I think it's gone the way that the Congress and the administration wanted it to go," Feinberg said.

We happen to like Feinberg if only because he speaks deliberately and clearly and thus is easy to quote in a hurry. We've long felt a banking pay czar is rather ridiculous (if the government doesn't like the salaries paid by banks it should stop bailing them out), but there is a big issue here in that the series of bailouts are all precedent-setting, and if we're going to have these precedent-setting decisions, Feinberg strikes us as one of the best people possible to be making them.

Bob Pisani added a nice touch, pointing out Feinberg is not getting paid for this or administering the 9/11 fund. He does gain prestige and influence, but this is a major public service for free. According to Wikipedia, he also handled the Virginia Tech memorial fund pro bono.

Careful in January

Brian Kelly, whom we usually only see on the "Halftime Report" but sorta can't help rooting for because of the enthusiasm he brings to the job, said Wednesday on the 5 p.m. show, "I'm long the TBT."

Steve Cortes, who wasn't called "Steve Case" Wednesday as far as we know, said "I think that the commodity trade is among the most crowded trades that I've seen in my trading career. ... I think gold is the tip of the iceberg, perhaps the canary in the mine here."

He said the amount of retail investors involved is a "dangerous" scene, but remember, he said in September that the "chase for performance" can be very "dangerous" too.

Jon Najarian talked about volatility trends in the last two Januarys, but we doubt January 2010 is going to see the same stress (but then again, we're not the world's most successful investors). "The VIX over the last two years has had moves in the first two weeks of January of about 34 to 40% to the upside, both of those," Dr. J said. "That shows you that people waited until the very last moment to sell their stock, you know, so that they could kick the gains into the next year, then they scrambled looking for protection and jacked up the volatility."

Actually, the way he phrased that, we think he really meant people sold at the earliest possible moment (i.e., beginning of the year) because they were eager to get out of the stocks but wanted the delayed tax treatment. But that's hair-splitting.

Mandy & Michelle

It wasn't teased anywhere that we know of, but Patty Edwards had the type of moment Wednesday that CNBCfix only dreams of — being interviewed by Mandy Drury.

Patty had more time (four-plus minutes) than the usual "Fast Money" soundbite to assess mall activity during the holidays, and several more comments showed up on the ticker at the bottom of the screen. She said jewelry stores were generally lonely, Nordstrom is a place for $100,000-a-year shoppers but has succeeded by steeply dropping prices on a lot of items it can still profit on like sweaters, and Best Buy is getting hurt by discount retailers. "They're doing a phenomenal job at Wal-Mart of upping their game in the electronics field," Edwards said. She said Target and Costco also are selling the same brands as Best Buy but have other ways of getting shoppers in that Best Buy doesn't have.

Now, for Mandy's outfit ... a sizzling, open/angled-cut dress with sleeves barely attached. Check it out right here.

The "Halftime Report" was dismal, moment of dead air almost immediately. But honestly, we're not going to carp a whole lot because what can you really talk about when the markets are moving about 3 points an hour.

Later on the "Fast Money Final Call," Michelle Caruso-Cabrera — whose navy blue buttoned dress ensemble could rightly be considered the Alydar to Mandy Drury's Affirmed — pronounced Jared Levy as having "great hair." Levy went on to say, "Options tend to have a bad name, and I think it's because a lot of people really don't understand them nor do they understand the nomenclature that goes along with them."

This is one reason TV is more difficult than it looks; if CNBCfix had to carry on interviews like Levy and Edwards while staring at their respective hosts, we would've been speechless.

[Tuesday, December 29, 2009]

Edward Zabitsky: The
Meredith Whitney of AAPL?

Tuesday on "Fast Money," Bob Pisani rang up Edward Zabitsky, that rare analyst who is negative on mighty AAPL.

Zabitsky gave three reasons for pessimism:

"First of all, the carriers can't make money with the iPhone. ... No. 2, we're entering the age of the mobile Web ... the Webkit project has leveled the playing field for mobile browsers. ... Finally, hardware's becoming irrelevant as all the players catch up."

Pete Najarian argued, "iPhone right now is less than 1% of the global market, so there's monster upside there."

Zabitsky said the major growth would be in emerging markets, but the price of the whole iPhone package is "too expensive for the average person's budget."

"That's a very interesting point," Bob Pisani said later, "but wait a minute, it's too expensive for most people in the United States, too, for crying out loud."

Joe Terranova and Steve Grasso nodded heads over how great Apple is. "It's the experience. It's the Apple experience," Terranova said.

Pisani conceded the "level playing field" for competitors but insisted, "Apple keeps innovating anew on top of that. Apple's not sitting there. They're gonna come out with that tablet. I think it's going to be very important and revolutionary. I think it's gonna blow the market out. Again, the iPhone is not a phone! It's a computer that has a phone in it!"

After a little more gushing, Pisani concluded, "I'm suspicious when all of us are on one page about everything but in this case I happen to think that it's the right call right now."

Here's the problem — no one on the panel questioned if all of these things that were said are already priced into the stock. If the share price already reflects a "revolutionary" tablet, there won't be a bounce from the tablet.

The second problem is that (keep in mind we're not stock pros and don't have any long or short positions in AAPL or any phone makers, aside from this writer being long GOOG) all of these phones in the near future are going to feature the same things and cost about $10 with a $20/month service plan. This year "Fast Money" folks have pounded the table on AAPL, RIMM, PALM, MOT, NOK, GOOG, incredibly, as if all can be winners when they're all ultimately selling the same thing. We'd say all, with the possible exception of AAPL, are shorts.

Finally, there is the 1980s problem. If you were fortunate enough to get your hands on an Apple IIe in the early 1980s, you knew that a Commodore 64 was a piece of junk. By the end of the decade, everyone was buying Windows PCs, and Apple stock was going nowhere.

We tend to agree with Guy Adami: AAPL remains a high-beta play on the economy, or at least the more mid- to upscale consumer that is also served by Amazon and as Zach Karabell has noted hasn't been ravaged by unemployment like other demographics. Apple's had a huge winning streak. If the tablet turns into "Magical Mystery Tour," Zabitsky's phone (ironic if it's an iPhone) may start ringing more often.

Someone on a Yahoo Finance message board noted Zabitsky was negative back in April when AAPL traded about $121 and flagged this CNN article as proof. Which makes us realize, Zabitsky probably gets significantly more media requests than the 32nd analyst rating AAPL a buy.

The people talking and texting next to you will always be a problem

The future of moviegoing is IMAX, according to Steve Cortes.

"I love this stock," he said. "I think someday we won't see regular screens the way we do today, we'll see only IMAX."

"Just gotta deal with that vertigo that you get when you're sitting there," said Bob Pisani.

"Maybe you should stop dropping acid before you go in," said Steve Grasso.

It's an interesting point (the IMAX-only future, not the dropping acid). Screen size is not such an issue/difference with megaplexes, but technical possibilities and seating configuration are intriguing.

Show needs Mandy

Those who happened to see Tuesday's "Fast Money" probably thought for a long time they were watching a rerun of Monday's show.

Joe Terranova brought up the 4 C's, the panelists talked about Chinese commodity-purchasing policies, and Bob Pisani incredibly referred to Steve Cortes again as "Steve Case."

Maybe most disappointingly, Dennis Gartman was only asked about technical/fundamental strategy differences in a segment that seemed like one of Jim Cramer's canned shows during holiday weeks when he's off. (Gartman sees good fundamental/technical combinations in IP, DE and WY.)

Hello, anyone got an actual trade from today's market?

One of the rare subjects catching our attention was the roundtable agreement on Goldman Sachs. We wonder, if all these "Fast Money" pros think it's such a great buy, why is no one really buying it?

Goldman Sachs would be one of the first names I'd buy next year," Joe Terranova said. "Goldman Sachs gets too cheap, they will take them private again, you mark my words on that," Pete Najarian said.

Does it matter that the big banks peaked in early October? Guess we'll find out in 2010.

ETF pioneer Jim Ross and ETF entrepreneur Luciano Siracusano took part in two conversations about ETFs that we quickly found uninteresting; even Ross was spotted closing his eyes a couple times.

Steve Cortes closed with, "apologies to Mandy Drury, I'm short Aussie dollar." We would only apologize today for not writing enough about Mandy Drury.

Other buyers of this product
recommend ...

Despite Bob Pisani's attempts to steer the conversation elsewhere, traders on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" on Tuesday couldn't talk enough about that magical, incredibly unique Web site where people can actually buy books and CDs and even (as we learned recently from Mark Mahaney and confirmed via a site visit) ... Huggies!! (A box of 150 sells for $37.38, eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping, 4 out of 5 stars customer reviews.)

"You know, Amazon has done phenomenal things," said Patty Edwards. "But they are trading at 44 times next year's earnings. I am a growth girl. I love growth stocks, I love revenue growth. But man, 44 times earnings with, you know, Kindle having, um, a little bit more competition, with Wal-Mart coming on on the online sales, there are so many things coming up against them that I'd like to see a little bit more of a pullback before I'd be jumping in."

"This is everybody's favorite stock here," Pisani sort of shrugged, explaining they might even beat the rosy revenue-growth estimates.

Pete Najarian, who said he wasn't taking a position now, was a bit skeptical, and suggested long AMZN players should strongly consider puts. "If the elevator ever decides to drop, it could drop significantly, and that could shake down the Street pretty hard," Pete said.

JJ Kinahan was also interested in AMZN puts, but he was interested in selling them. "I would actually rather sell a put, like the Feb 125," Kinahan said.

Jeff Tomasulo offered a decent summary. "You never want to fight the tape," he said. "That's one thing people should keep in mind. Amazon can go a lot higher, even though everything that Patty's saying, Pete's saying is true."

We've seen this movie before. Why doesn't Time just declare Jeff Bezos Person of the Year, it's been at least 10 years, hasn't it?

300,000 foreclosures a month

You'd never want to see us trying to host "Fast Money." It'd be laughable. But one thing we don't understand is why even seasoned pros like Bob Pisani and other guest hosts sometimes botch the TV-host concepts that seem elementary to us — namely, in the case of "Fast Money," calling on a person and asking them a question, instead of making broad statements hoping someone will jump in.

Pisani had three glitches on Tuesday's "Halftime," first asking Patty Edwards and Jeff Tomasulo the same question at the same time, then confusingly suggesting to JJ Kinahan that he talk about something besides Amazon, then offered a half-hearted, barely audible "Pete?" that Najarian didn't hear after Tomasulo spoke about TLT/TBT plays.

Edwards, Tomasulo, Kinahan and Najarian all handled the dead air like pros.

Nevertheless, Pisani's a good guest host for this program, bringing a lot of insider stock talk and a healthy sense of humor.

Aside from AMZN, a couple panelists were big fans of Home Depot. "I think as people get more confidence, you're gonna see people go back to the stores where they can rehab their homes," Kinahan said.

"I agree with what JJ was saying about Home Depot," Edwards said, echoing a point from last week. "Think about it, there's $5,700 that has to go into every foreclosure to be rehabbed so you can live in it. With, you know, what, 300,000 foreclosures a month, that's a lot of money going into Home Depot and Lowe's."

Prior to hearing that, we would've had no clue about how many foreclosures there are each month (only that there's historically a lot). Bloomberg concurs with Patty, saying in a December story foreclosures have topped 300,000 for nine straight months, including 306,627 in November, according to RealtyTrac.

But Patty wasn't done with retailers. "Beyond that, you can look at some of the teen retailers that are not getting the love they deserve. You've got Aeropostale trading at less than 10 times earnings, you've got The Buckle trading at 11 times earnings, both doing exactly the right things," she said.

Pete Najarian wanted to talk about TJX, fine, but we don't know why he and Jon like this stock so much, it hasn't done anything for a couple of months.

Kinahan talked about options plays on Meredith. "This is a stock that bears watching for the next month or so," he said.

Joe Terranova buzzed in, not with the 4 C's, but to say "Historically oil prices do very well from a period of Christmas Eve into about early part of January ... distillates are so important right now."

Tomasulo, who ditched the tie on the exchange floor Tuesday, leaving Patty Edwards to carry the fashion banner in striking Christmas red, said "I'd be looking to buy FCX on major pullbacks."

Patty Edwards, by the way, has noted she is older than Pete Najarian. We wouldn't have guessed that. Just goes to show, in trading and in age-guessing, you should always be hedged.

Carter Worth defines
technical analysis

Simon Hobbs is always capable of asking a good, blunt question. Tuesday on "Power Lunch" he suggested to Carter Worth that Worth's "2010 = 2004" analysis is really just a fundamental call on underperforming sectors.

Worth's answer was one of the more declarative statements we've heard recently on charting, so here it is:

"What makes a chart, is fundamentals. They're one and the same. A chart is a pictorial representation of everyone's collective fundamental judgment, and a chart in that way is just an oddsmaker or a bookie. A chart lays odds based on the collective judgment."

So there you go.

[Monday, December 28, 2009]

Mandy Drury.

If we'd known Amanda Drury was going to show up at the Nasdaq Marketsite on Monday, CNBCfix would've thrown a "Fast Money" party and charged admission.

Did Mandy — with new hairstyle and white jacket — look great, or what?

Mandy came on the "Fast Money" set Monday to discuss the Chinese economy. The only glitch was that Mandy and Bob Pisani seemed to be talking about regular Chinese folks gambling their money away in the Shanghai casino, while the rest of the panel took a more macro approach regarding trades for American investors.

"We've actually been here before; it sounds like a broken record," Mandy said. "The problem here is — David Cui, China strategist from Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, is saying that we're gonna get these asset bubbles in the property and the stock market if inflation accelerates," she added, citing Cui's suggestion of a possible "massive savings migration."

Bob Pisani said a lot of Americans might not realize how actively Chinese people invest, and he actually said, "like off-track betting, almost; they were that enthusiastic."

Seriously? Off-track betting? Oftentimes the Jim Lehrer newshour is more exciting.

Noted China skeptic Steve Cortes asked Mandy if Jim Chanos' eye-catching China comment is on target.

"I don't know," said Mandy. "A thousand Dubais? It sounds like an exaggeration, I'm not perhaps qualified enough to say that."

"Remember Dubai has very little hard assets behind it," Pisani said. "China has, has many, many hard assets."

But Cortes persisted, and once again, we are left to complain that whenever someone goes on "Fast Money" to make a negative case for China, they never run into Zach Karabell, who could provide a healthy debate. Cortes said, "Why should we believe that 25 or so, thugs really, in a politburo in Beijing are capable of steering an entire economy-"

"Send your cards and letters..." Pisani said.

"Would you like an escort out of here?" Joe Terranova asked Cortes.

"Only if there's Chinese communists outside," Cortes said, before continuing, "Uh, that they are capable of managing and steering uh, in an economic planning model, this giant economy, and doing it successfully and doing it transparently and telling the truth, in terms of their numbers."

All Mandy would say is, "It is a huge issue."

Steve Grasso joined the other Steve. "I will tell you that I am not bullish on China. I don't think you can believe the data that's coming out of China at this point," Grasso said.

Pisani cited "anecdotal evidence" about Chinese leaders stating goals then declaring those goals reached just by shipping commodities, regardless of whether the consumption matches.

Mandy, discouragingly, seemed to endorse the idea that a few self-appointed people making decisions for everyone is an "effective" way of governing.

"I do actually have a point on that," she said. "In China because there is no democracy, it's like if they want to institute something, bang, it's being implemented, and in that way, it can be quite effective."

So, what about trades. "I still like coal, based on what China's doing," said Pete Najarian.

"That's the only bullish call coming out of China, would be 70% of their energy is out of coal. Coal space still on fire," said Steve Grasso.

Cortes had an alternative. "And I think the trade really would be to short Australia," he said. "The Aussie dollar has really underperformed in December. I think it's because of China."

Best part of the segment? The conclusion, when Bob Pisani announced, "Amanda's gonna be here for two weeks!"

Macke quiet in December

We've made a couple visits to Minyanville.com this month, expecting to see some 2010 forecasts from old favorite Jeff Macke.

Instead, we haven't seen anything since Dec. 8.

Presumably Macke's taking a lengthy holiday break. He said in his last article he was battling laryngitis.

Why we like Steve Cortes
but doubt his theory

We were happy to see Steve Cortes on the "Fast Money" set Monday. Not as happy as we were to see Mandy Drury, but still happy.

Cortes has a macro view, he has trades, he has opinions, all of which provide fodder for this site.

We noticed Monday he didn't bring up "the new normal." But his skepticism about the global recovery was readily apparent.

"Long bonds are starting to get very attractive at these levels," he said, while acknowledging the Street doesn't quite agree yet.

"Household holdings of Treasurys are ramping higher," he added.

There was also, "I shorted homebuilders today, I sold Toll and Pulte against the S&P on a spread."

At one point he went off the deep end. "If you believe in a return to frugality..." he started to say to Joe Terranova, and need we post any more of that sentence?

America returned to frugality in 1930. By 1941 it was gone. The Colts aren't coming back to Baltimore, the A's aren't coming back to Philadelphia, and frugality isn't coming back to America.

Maybe it’s more than
a Greater Fool Theory

Analyst Heath Terry crowned — here's a shocker — Amazon as the winner of the Christmas shopping season.

Oh, that snowstorm, oh, it just totally made a huge difference in everything. "Even Mother Nature was on Amazon's side this time," Terry said.

Bob Pisani wasn't disagreeing. "I ordered online. I went to Amazon. I have a, have a one-click account with Amazon. I live on Amazon," Pisani said.

Terry disagreed with Jon (and later Pete) Najarian that the Apple tablet would be a problem for the Kindle. "One of the most downloaded apps for the iPhone is the Kindle app," Terry insisted. "A lot of people are gonna buy those (Apple) tablets but they're gonna be using the Kindle app on it."

Here's our question about Amazon: Why exactly do so many people shop there. We agree it's a fine company and have shopped there. But what is the appeal. Is it the products, is it the Web site, is it the shipping.

Couldn't Target or Wal-Mart or Best Buy sell the same stuff, pay some Web designer gobs of money to do a kick-butt site (and perhaps call it something cooler than "walmart.com" or "target.com"), and sell the stuff for less than Amazon, and grab much of that market share?

Evidently not, because they would've done it already.

Harte’s 4(5) reasons for Citi

Jeff Harte gave Bob Pisani four reasons Citi will rise in 2010, and even added a bonus fifth reason, which perhaps explained why at times Harte was practically breathless.

Here is Harte's rationale:

"1. The stock is cheap on price to tangible book value. 2. I would argue from the disclosures we have, tangible book value is real. 3. The management team has been meaningfully upgraded. And 4th. We're actually getting the disclosures now. ... 5th. And I think most important (so why is it your last point), it's still roughly 20% owned by institutional investors. That's where the incremental buyer comes in." (This writer is long C.)

Steve Grasso is being
overly cautious

A lot of people shrugged off the terror scare in Detroit.

Steve Grasso is not among them.

"I don't wanna get on a plane right now," Grasso said. "I have four children, my wife wants to go to Florida this month-"

"Aw, get on a plane!" bellowed Pete Najarian.

"I'm thinking about maybe taking a vacation in my living room, getting, you know, putting something on the television," Grasso said, unfazed by Pete, but noticing Bob Pisani was looking away when he spoke. Thus, Grasso used a term used recently by Zach Karabell that makes journalists cringe. "Don't pooh-pooh me like that Bob."

So how’d that Time Warner deal go?

We're enthusiastic about Bob Pisani as guest host. He did a tremendous job in the summer. Monday, though, was a little glitchy. Pisani was definitely out of synch on the "Pops & Drops." He also called Jeff Harte "Pete Harte" and once referred to Steve Cortes as "Steve Case."

That Karen trade again

Defense/security analyst Stephen Levenson, talking about airport scanners, seemed like he knows his stuff but sounded like he was reading brochures. Bob Pisani and the panel failed to elicit any kind of trade from him.

ETF guru Tom Lydon offered four ETFs you could buy in 2010 as a play on rising interest rates. It sounded like a convoluted and perhaps costly way of doing the very simple Karen Finerman trade of short TLT/long TBT.

Steve Grasso scoffed at going long ETFs with a rationale we didn't really understand. "Here's the problem," Grasso said. "Look at what we just discussed before as far as tech goes. If Apple's up 700% (in the decade) and most of those other big players are still down 50 to 75%, you bought an ETF, you didn't get that bang in Apple. Right? So you're not getting the bang for your buck."

Here's the deal — aren't you buying the ETF so you get the whole sector? If you wanted to get strictly Apple's performance, wouldn't you just buy Apple?

Unless Grasso's argument is that ETFs only invest in the losers, we don't get it. This one was a train wreck.

Nevertheless, "I think it's a good hedging process" to use against your other positions, Grasso said.

Dropping in on the Terranovas

Joe Terranova made a rather remarkable prediction — not for the next year, or next day, but the next two Mondays.

"January 4th, you will see a lot of money flow into the marketplace," Terranova said. "However, the following Monday will be more critical. Why? Unemployment, that occurs Friday, Jan. 8."

We just wonder, if the number's released on the previous Friday morning, won't it be old news by the following Monday morning?

Pete Najarian asked what we think is a great question, do movements in the bond market really matter to equity investors.

Terranova said it will matter if the 10-year gets above 4%, because "it then motivates people to try and go out and seek these mortgages."

Joe Terranova referenced his dubious "4 C's" moment on "Halftime," when he delivered it "in fragmented pieces."

Pete Najarian said of STEC, "today the January 17 calls, very very active."

In a small little retail discussion, traders found other places to buy things besides Amazon.

"What I have a problem with is the Macy's, the high-beta trades," said Steve Grasso. "I think you're gonna see money coming out of the Macy's and going into Wal-Mart. I am long Wal-Mart, so take that with a grain of salt."

Joe Terranova said, "Christmas Day, I had a dilemma. I had an uninvited guest appear at my house. I went to CVS on Christmas Day; within 15 minutes I had gotten a gift." Not only that, but "I had two uninvited guests. I had an uninvited guest on Christmas Eve as well."

The Sellout: Equally good on paper

Steve Grasso, unlike Bob Seger, said Monday on "Power Lunch" he is no longer turning pages.

"Who is still reading paper books, by the way?" Grasso asked rhetorically. "No one's reading paper books."

Before delivering market commentary, Grasso was eager to mention this: "I downloaded Andrew Sorkin's book on Amazon's Kindle. It's a home run. You have to be buying Amazon, you have to be buying the Kindle."

Relax, Charlie — we're pretty sure he meant the Kindle was the home run.

We were guessing ... cotton?


Either Joe Terranova had a Cindy-Brady-on-TV moment Monday on the "Halftime Report," or some really bizarre glitch was happening.

In a brief commodity discussion with Dennis Gartman, Terranova, speaking from home with one of those home/remote video cameras that generally looks tacky and/or doesn't work, said this:

"You also want to look at emerging market demand. That points to the four C's of commodities: Copper, coal, crude oil, and last but not least of course:"

But he stopped short of saying what the last one was, and just leaned into the camera.

"Yes?" Bob Pisani was heard to ask, waiting.

"He's probably saying about gold," was Scott Redler's life-preserver offer, "because gold's also a great trade moving forward in the commodity field."

Gold — one of the "four C's"?

After the commercial break, refreshingly, we got everything squared away.

Pisani said to Terranova, "I think we had some kind of audio problems, don't keep the suspense up, what was the fourth C?"

"Yeah Bob, you know what, I should hold out until 5 p.m. tonight to give you the fourth C," Terranova said. "Listen, everyone knows about coal, they know about copper, they know about crude oil, but one commodity underperforming this year — corn. That's important, the ag space, a critical theme in 2010."

We always look for the benefit of the doubt. Actually, it did kind of look like someone had just whispered into Terranova's headset something like "stop talking, they can't hear you." (Although if one actually did forget such an item, this made for good cover.)

Gartman wasn't too specific. "It still looks like a bull market in commodities, doesn't it."

"I've always liked the energy space," said Mike Khouw, "it's what I'd like to stick with I think right here."

Terranova said "The 10-year Treasury, it is going to rise," but he and Jon Najarian agreed the equity market can withstand that.

Redler said, "We took some profit last week in the airlines," and he's not eager to buy more today.

Terranova (see, he did much of the talking, all the way up to the fourth C), said of the tech plays, "The fundamentals and technicals of Apple look phenomenal right here."

Dr. J suggested this: "Apple could put the hurt on Amazon if indeed this tablet does get introduced in early 2010. I think that as an e-reader puts a lot of pressure on the Kindle and on the Sony book as well."

Happy holidays from CNBCfix

So busy this week, we didn't even manage to post a simple holiday message before Christmas Day.

A warm thanks for reading CNBCfix. And warmest holiday wishes to everyone celebrating Christmas or Hanukkah (we're about a week behind on that), and anyone who simply enjoys the festivities of the season.

One of the treasures of the season is the window between Christmas and New Year's, a wonderful time to share with family and friends beyond the deadline of Dec. 25. It's a time when the nation works just as hard as ever while acknowledging it's also a time for friendship and fellowship, hopefully in person but also via phone, mail, online. We're there now. Best wishes to all.

Karen’s early health-care call

Remember all of those angry town halls? Karen Finerman said something interesting on Aug. 11 about health care that we remembered on Thursday once Harry Reid coaxed through a Senate bill...

"I think, honestly one of the things that could get it, this, back on track, health care reform that is, would be if Ted Kennedy were to die," Finerman said. "The sentiment around how much people love him ... and how important this is to him... Look, I'm just being..."

Kennedy died Aug. 25.

Our gut feeling? Kennedy's death did not affect the outcome of this legislation.

But Karen's call, happening when it did, was pretty good.

Finerman, Lee are
‘dedicated’ BlackBerry users

You know how you have those thoughts in the middle of the night, yikes, when you just remember something you had forgotten a few hours earlier?

Happens here all the time, often the culprit being some of those "Fast Money" conversations that deserved a tiny little mention in our timely review but didn't get it, perhaps because we were too wrapped up tryingtoquotethequickspeechofBrianNagel or others. (There was nothing wrong with what Nagel said, just happened to be remarkably speedy.)

Anyway, one thing we wanted to note from Wednesday but didn't: The folks at Research in Motion, in a tough week, probably would've been pleased to hear a couple unpaid celebrity endorsements on "Fast Money."

Melissa Lee started asking the panel about the BlackBerry outage, offering a personal account. "I was handicapped last night with no BlackBerry service," Lee said.

So Karen Finerman addressed Lee directly. "Let me ask you this: You're a dedicated RIMM user, as am I; are the outages making you think about changing? Not for me," Karen said.

"I guess not," Lee responded. "But I don't have a choice. My company buys it, so I don't really- I don't really know. But if I worked for myself, then maybe yes, I would go to another..."

It sounded like Pete Najarian is also a BlackBerry user unfazed by the outages, but then again he's also a Nokia user (or former Nokia user, but we're already tired of that routine), and probably, given his knowledge of this sector, has an iPhone, Pre, Droid and RAZR stashed away somewhere too, so we're not going to count that one.

‘Halftime’ forecast: Adami
predicts great show next week

Jeff Tomasulo and Jim Iuorio debated the valuation of AMZN on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" on Thursday.

Tomasulo mentioned competing Apple news and resistance around $140, but nevertheless, "I like it overall, people are buying more online, and Amazon's the place to do it."

"No, no he's not right," Iuorio said. "It's trading at an 81 and a half p-and-e. It's always had a hugely high P.E. for 10 to 12 years. How long are we gonna wait for this business model that we all love to really start to explode and grab market share?"

Adami said valuation has always been an AMZN concern, but "you can't fight" Amazon. He said Home Depot is the retailer that does it for you.

Jon Najarian said there is option interest in Nordstrom, "take a look at the 41 calls."

Adami said, "They got the best shoe department in the world basically for women's shoes."

Eugene Profit took a contrarian view to the health care chatter.

Adami — whom we didn't expect to see, given that he said Wednesday at 5 p.m. he was off until 2010 and Happy New Year everyone, but apparently that only applied to the 5 p.m. show, or he was summoned Thursday as a last-minute pinch-hitter, but great to see Guy regardless — slightly chided Simon Hobbs for asking if health care stocks were a buy on the Senate news. "No, it's a sell the facts," Adami said. "We told you to buy UNH on the rhetoric when it's the worst. ... Now's the time to pull the ripcord."

Tomasulo agreed. "Guy's exactly right, you should've been buying before," he said.

But Profit said that the recent gains in the sector aren't going to be a mirage. "I think health care's really gonna be the place to be in 2010," he said.

In general, Adami said, "I think people are a little ahead of themselves on the economy, I don't think it's as rosy as people want to make it out to be." Even so, "can't fight the tape, market wants to go higher."

Iuorio said, "There's big money funds out there that share common interests, and that this stock market rallies into the, into the close of the year, and I think that's what's keeping it up."

Tomasulo said technicals look strong, despite "extremely light" volume. "If you look at the SPY ... we've broken up, over the top part of resistance of 1112," he said.

"I think the market's ahead of economic data but I certainly think the economy is starting to improve," Profit said.

Iuorio said, "This government is so bent on spending as much money as possible that we probably resume the weak-dollar, buy-the-commodities-trade."

Guy Adami closed with, "I wanna say this: Melissa Lee, after, she deserves a break, she's gonna get one next week, I hope she has a great week. Bob Pisani's gonna be in, talking ETFs, think you can get a kick out of it, I'm off next week as well, there's gonna be a great show, so tune in for Bob next week, brother."

"I'd sell that Guy-Adami-gets-better-looking-every-year trade," said Jim Iuorio.

"Guy I'm a little concerned about the shoes, women's shoes," cracked Jeff Tomasulo.

Simon Hobbs closed by calling the Goldman Sachs CEO "Lloyd Blankenflein."

[Wednesday, December 23, 2009]

Feinberg: Stock price should
determine CEO’s pay

Every once in a while, the best part of "Fast Money" happens at the very end.

Think about all the carping you heard from the "Fast Money" gang months ago about pay caps for TARP recipients and the sale of PhiBro by Citi ... and now note the panel Wednesday was complaining that Kenneth Feinberg is paying someone too much.

Melissa Lee supposedly cut in to the show with breaking news, only we can't figure out why she was trying to report compensation news while Feinberg was waiting for an interview on the "Fast Line."

"Mr. Feinberg, your role here is to rein in corporate pay, $9.2 million for the GMAC CEO seems like a whole lot of money," Lee said.

"Well, that's if you assume he's gonna receive $9.2 million," Feinberg said. "Understand the breakdown of this compensation. He's receiving, as a new hire, $950,000. Now that's a lot of money. But $950,000 is not $9.5 million. Now, if over a period of four years, this new CEO manages to improve the fortunes of the country- of the, of the company, he does receive over $5 million in stock, which cannot be sold or redeemed until at least four years. And the rest of that compensation first requires that he, that the company repay the taxpayer, all that has been, um, um, borrowed."

Guy Adami cut in while Feinberg was still concluding. "Let me ask you this, what's the metric you're using; how did, the company's improved or not?" (sic).

"Uh, that will depend on the value of the stock!" Feinberg said.

"There are ways to make your stock go higher without the company improving," Adami insisted.

"You can't!" Feinberg said.

One week ’til the bonuses!

Karen Finerman, as she usually does, asked a great question of Kenneth Feinberg, are the salary restrictions removed immediately once a TARP recipient has repaid the government?

Feinberg said, "At the time they repay their TARP obligation, they are obligated to adhere to whatever compensation restrictions have been imposed for that year, in the past."

In other words, big difference between repaying mid-December, and repaying Jan. 1.


Karabell was right

The Feinberg interview reminded us of a "Fast Money" highlight.

Way back on Feb. 25, Zach Karabell complained about all the griping about the TARP. "It's very easy to criticize these things," he shrugged.

That raised eyebrows here, but it really got under the skin of Dylan Ratigan, who, um, if you haven't noticed recently, tends to get angry about government involvement in business.

It's true that Feb. 25 happened to be around the nadir of the U.S. economy and stock market, so at that time, in our opinion, it was impossible to overstate the outrage of TARP.

Where it hit us like a ton of bricks was early October, when flipping page after page by Charles Gasparino and Andrew Ross Sorkin, we began to ask ourselves, "why are we doing this?" Two fine historical accounts, yes, and must-reads on some level, but two books about a subject that virtually no one should be spending any more time thinking about. While we certainly wish each author well, it's also troubling that so many readers apparently still have an appetite for this subject.

(On the other hand, they, um, might think reading one good book about the bailouts is a better use of one's time than writing daily about "Fast Money," but we don't think we'll go there.)

We're not trying to be Susan Lowenstein or Sean Maguire here. The whole thing was outrageous. It was a mass bureaucracy stopgap measure, with all kinds of inconsistencies, which is never pretty. Feel free to be outraged. It's your right. But it's over. No one can change it. It's a waste of your time and energy thinking about it. Karabell was one of the earliest to figure that out.

‘Fast Money’ crew makes
low-risk, high-risk picks for 2010

Guy Adami, Karen Finerman, Tim Seymour and Pete Najarian revealed Wednesday two stocks apiece for 2010 — one high-risk play, one low-risk play.

Adami: HPQ (low-risk)
Adami: shorting RIMM (high-risk)

Finerman: WMT (low-risk)
Finerman: GLNG (high-risk)

Seymour: POT (low-risk)
Seymour: natural gas (high-risk)

Najarian: JNJ (low-risk)
Najarian: MDVN (high-risk)

Only one of those picks drew an objection, which we chronicle below.

But Adami's pick of HPQ did remind us that Carter Worth appeared on "Fast Money" on Nov. 11, suggested HPQ might be experiencing a double-top around $50, and said "I'm a seller of Hewlett-Packard."

It was $49.92 then, $52.49 now.

(Worth also said on Oct. 1 he thought GFIG was going to $10. It closed that day at $6.92, peaked at $7.95 in a week or two, now sits at $4.79.)

They say conflict
makes for good TV

Hard to believe, but Tim Seymour and Karen Finerman actually were in agreement on something Wednesday.

"It's gonna be a stock picker's year, you're gonna have to be doing a lot more bottom-picking, you're gonna have to roll up your sleeves," Seymour said.

"I completely agree with Tim," Finerman said. "I'm right there with you, Tim."

But that was early. Moments later, the accord melted quicker than those North Korea disarmament-talk frameworks.

"Banks are gonna have trouble in a normalized — they're not gonna normalize their earnings," Seymour said. "So I think-"

"I disagree," Karen said. "I think we'll start to see it."

Later, Karen even saw fit to challenge Seymour's "low-risk" trade of 2010, Potash.

"Low-risk to me is ag. I mean people need fertilizer," Seymour said.

"Let me just ask you," Karen said, "that may very well work out, but in terms of characterizing it as a low-risk trade, I mean to me, it seems like this is one that has potentially huge amounts of volatility, if you see any stumbling in the global growth story, it would not be shocking to see that-those- that sector coming in. You've seen how crowded those trades get..."

Seymour refused to be goaded by the "Fast Money" tech crew into a split-screen argument, one of many times the techies attempted that tactic Wednesday. "I think the good news here is that a lot of these commodities and a lot of the fertilizers ... have been priced down to a place where a lot of the, the, I think the froth in this trade is out," Seymour said.

Quick-buck artists come and go, but the steady players make it through the bear markets

"Fast Money" seems so enamored with Karen Finerman's Google call, it used every opportunity to trumpet that mighty 1.7% rise in GOOG Wednesday.

(Actually, this writer was even more impressed, going long some GOOG in the aftermath.)

Even the guys on the "Halftime Report" were asked about Karen's GOOG recommendation, and of course they all hailed it.

Of course, early victory laps can come back to haunt.

Melissa Lee asked Karen if, given this monster 1.7% gain, Karen thinks the stock still has a lot of value. Amazingly, Karen said yes, "We could be having this discussion at 700 a year from now."

"I think what Google has got is, is this kind of cachet that they are going to be delivering the next big thing," said Tim Seymour.

After about the third segment in which Karen discussed GOOG, she said, "My mom's behind this whole show, producing the whole show tonight."

Guy Adami not only was interested in shorting RIMM, he didn't think much of NOK either. "They're cheap, I think they could get cheaper," he said.

Adami presents the bearish case
for one of his favorites

Guy Adami often talks up IOC. Wednesday he discussed a few things you might not have heard about it.

"I know Whitney Tilson is, this is a big short position with him. They basically think it's a scam," Adami said. "And Barry Minkow, he writes something called Fraud Discovery, talks about this all the time, being a Bre-X type of thing that Karen and I were talking about last night in the green room. I have no idea. I think it's a real company, so does Morgan Stanley, so be aware that that's out there. But that being said, this is a huge momentum stock that I think will continue to go higher."

Todd Gordon needs a more
interesting subject

Guy Adami said initially Wednesday it's silly to make 12-month stock market forecasts — or use "crystal balls," as Melissa Lee would say.

"Don't listen to these jerks," Adami said. "Don't listen to the folks that give you their yearly predictions. Sorry."

Later, Todd Gordon offered to do just that with an S&P 500 prediction of 1,162 in 2010, plus a dollar comment.

"I don't think it's gonna be too many fireworks," Gordon said, after Adami demanded to know if it would be a straight line, or zigzag, to the peak.

On top of that, "People are too quick to dispel the myth that the inverse dollar-equity correlation is gone," Gordon said.

If Adami dislikes frivolous, headline-grabbing pronouncements such as next year's stock market returns, he might toss in others like Time Person of the Year, Heisman Trophy, Athlete of the Decade, and Nobel Prizes.

Circuit City: Far more
respected in death

Brian Nagel talks faster and more abruptly than any "Fast Money" guest we've heard. Henotedacoupleoftimeshedoesn'tcoverWal-Mart. "I think you'll see more pressure on Best Buy's stock," he said. "The demise of Circuit City has caused a, should I say, feeding frenzy.... At the same time these products are commoditizing."

He didn't seem terribly enthusiastic over his choice of housing-related retailers. "Over the next two, three years, Lowe's is the market share grabber, vs. Home Depot. But honestly, they're both macro plays at this point," he said.

Nagel said his top picks are Tiffany and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Alex Hamilton, meanwhile, declared "I'm a big fan of conspiracy theories," and we're not sure how that fits into a trade except perhaps to support a thesis that hackers are striking everywhere and that cybersecurity names such as his top pick, Mantech (MANT), are a good place to be. "This is a group that underperformed this year, and I think there's many favorable trends," Hamilton said. And those names that are plays on the government "to me is a layup."

Bob Pisani next week

They didn't really look alike. But something about dual V-shaped collars made us wonder if Karen Finerman and Melissa Lee collaborated on wardrobes Wednesday. Too hard to pick a winner. Lee's color purple looked great, but Finerman had a really smooth jacket/top combo going.

Melissa Lee and Guy Adami each announced they're on vacation for the rest of the year. Lee said Bob Pisani gets the hosting gig next week. We think he did a great job last time, and look forward to his guest appearances.

We like Simon Hobbs, too, but does he wear the same gray pinstriped suit every day?

Lackluster ‘Halftime’

On the "Fast Money Halftime Report" Wednesday, Brian Kelly expressed bullishness on the homebuilders.

Jared Levy didn't agree.

"If you're gonna buy a homebuilder, now is not the time to do it. I think they stay flat. I'd be a call seller here," Levy said.

Joe Terranova sided with Levy. "Housing is not recovering right now," Terranova said.

[Tuesday, December 22, 2009]

She doesn’t talk this way
about Wal-Mart

Rarely does Karen Finerman speak as effusively about a stock as she did for GOOG on Tuesday.

So we're going to give you the entire commentary (which took a few minutes to type in).

Melissa Lee introduced the segment as a debate over whether Google is a value stock. Turning to Karen, she said, "Amazingly, amazingly, you think this is a value play."

"I do think it's a value play," Karen said. "And I know we've talked a lot about Amazon and comparing this to Am-, Google, they do have an enormous amount of cash, 60 bucks, they have a P.E. ratio that's really not that expensive but the thing that I really like about it is the way the business model works. The operating margins are gigantic, they're 30%. They have this fixed-cost basis, and an increase in revenue really doesn't add very much to the cost basis, that variable cost is very small. So as the business grows, the profitability grows a lot more than at Amazon. If they sell another book, that's great, they do get some absorption of that overhead, but they've gotta pay for the book. Their margins are much, much narrower, their valuation is way higher than Google, so I actually think Google here is a value play. A little more expensive than I normally like, but a premier name with a huge barrier to entry. We've seen Microsoft can't compete against them, and yet they could end up taking away market share from Microsoft in some of Microsoft's own business."

Guy Adami was convinced. "They want me to take down K-Fine on this, but I can't take her down, because she's right. ... Their balance sheet is great, frankly."

Karen wasn't done gushing. "The power of this business model is so great, that, uh, you know what, I'm on board for the space program," she said, drawing a contrast with Jeff Macke's typical argument against GOOG.

Joe Terranova agreed with Karen it is a value play, and "My love affair with bing ended a long time ago."

Pete Najarian defended MSFT but agreed GOOG is a value play.

Ask a 4th time, probably
get the same answer

Remember when Boston TV reporter Andy Hiller gave George Bush a pop quiz on world leaders? (You can find a link on our home page.)

Joe Terranova on Tuesday sounded like he was trying to test Peter Schiff's credentials on the term "hyperinflation."

The "Fast Money" crew is clearly growing tired of asking Schiff questions. We would be too, knowing we'd get the same answers all the time.

Anyway, the Terranova-Schiff dialogue went like this:

Terranova: "Any chance you see hyperinflation?"

Schiff: "Yeah, unfortunately, that is the worst-case scenario, I don't know how to, you know, handicap it, but I do know this, if we don't come to our senses soon ... hyperinflation is not only possible, it's inevitable."

Terranova (moments later): "Peter I apologize, I gotta ask you about hyperinflation again because I didn't hear your answer. You truly believe that hyperinflation is coming in 2010?"

Schiff: "Well it's not gonna hit in 2010, I mean it's gonna hit eventually if we don't change policies..."

Terranova: "Peter, Peter you understand though, hyperinflation would imply an inflation rate of over 50% by definition."

Schiff: "Well it, it, it can be a lot higher than that. But I said, it's not coming in 2010, but it might come in 2012, 2013, 2014, if we don't take the correct measures today."

Terranova: "Well Peter an inflation rate of over 50% in this environment is rather absurd right now, but we'll see what happens."

Schiff: "No it's not. Remember, the countries that have the highest rates of inflation have high rates of unemployment."

We'll freely admit, we didn't know "hyperinflation" had a precise numerical component to the definition.

It's not even in the old reliable CNBCfix dictionary.

So we consulted the Wikipedia hyperinflation page, which defines it as "very high or out of control." It also says: "Definitions used by the media vary from a cumulative inflation rate over three years approaching 100% to inflation exceeding 50% a month. In informal usage the term is often applied to much lower rates."

So when Terranova said "by definition," he really means by his own definition.

On other matters (um, Fed, dollar and gold are the only three things Schiff ever talks about — oh yeah, and the Senate race), Schiff not surprisingly thinks gold hasn't crested. "I think there's a lot of support you know around the thousand-dollar level or just below, so to the extent it ever gets back below there again, I would buy all the gold I can get my hands on," he said.

"I dig Pete," said Guy Adami. "He can be somewhat polarizing at times, but I think he's softened up ... he's much better than he used to be." That line cracked up the panelists in a way we haven't seen for a while.

PajamaGram ads are back

You can't watch an episode of "Fast Money" this time of year without noticing a PajamaGram ad. (They'll be back in February, by the way, or share time with the Vermont Teddy Bear.)

It's not a bad campaign as advertising goes, but this line gets our attention: "It only takes minutes, but she'll think you spent all month planning it."

No, she won't.

We're big fans of advertising here and would love to track down the agency, but simple Google searches couldn't find it, so that's a chore for another time.

The best part of the ad is the blonde woman in green jammies bouncing down the stairs and leaping into the sofa.

The popular redhead is Anna Easteden, who has appeared in scores of commercials.

On "Fast Money" Tuesday, Guy Adami modeled a pair of "Stimulus Package" boxers. Astoundingly funny Karen Finerman knocked another one out of the park: "Let's hope for no deflation there Guy."

Quicker than the calendar

Jon Najarian, who Melissa Lee said "made that great call on Friday," was riding high Tuesday from his impressive take on the homebuilders — and he even upped the ante.

"I still think that there is an awful lot more upside to the trade," Dr. J said. "I think easily we could see these stocks double, Melissa. ... I'm long Ryland, RYL, and KBH. I'm long those stocks naked, I don't have any puts or calls against those positions."

(Perhaps if he's long those stocks naked, he could use Guy Adami's pair of Stimulus Package boxers.)

The only thing odd about the Dr. J-homebuilder coronation is that when he delivered this trade on Friday, the segment was titled "Jon Najarian's best trade for 2010."

So while it already seems like an excellent call, it's also a little like handing Al Unser the bottle of milk just for having the fastest time in qualifying.

Joe Terranova was skeptical of the industry data. "I do not believe the housing numbers. I think new home sales tomorrow, you will see a decline," Terranova said. "Today, the existing home sales, this was all about the home buyer's tax credit. This was about the rush to get in under the wire before that tax credit expires."

Karen Finerman said, "A Home Depot to me is more attractive than a Williams-Sonoma, you know I'm a value girl."

Many would trade places

Good grief, how'd you like Pete Najarian's Debbie Downer routine on the subject of age?

"I do not look great, I'm follically challenged, I'm challenged in a lot of different ways and I'm not very happy about things," Pete said.

Happy 46th, Pete.

No, Eric, no

We don't expect all the analysts on CNBC to deliver A-list-caliber lines.

But it would be nice if they didn't resort to some of the most dreadful cliches.

Eric Beder was the guy on "Fast Money" Tuesday who's been watching a little too much "Caddyshack" or "Back to School."

Guy Adami asked Beder about True Religion. "Can't they just get blown up at some point by another competitor coming into this space?"

"The premium denim market has held up really, really well, and True Religion has never gotten the respect they deserve from the Street," Beder said. "They deserve a much better multiple here ... Really it's kind of the Rodney Dangerfield of these apparel companies and it's just not getting the respect, we think that will change."

If you're going to use the Rodney Dangerfield reference, which is now dubious enough, at least don't water it down with an explanation of what it means, because then what's the point of using it anyway?

Beder was much more convincing on Aeropostale. "I think in the teen space they are still the hands-down winner here," he said. Best "price-to-value equation in the business right now."

Karen announces
her weekend plans

We love it whenever the "Fast Money" crew catches up with a trade that CNBCfix was way ahead of the curve on.

It happened recently with Michelle Meyer, and now it's happening in regard to Karen Finerman's staggering ability to deliver a laugh, something we've been touting for months.

Melissa Lee started it Tuesday in an HMO/pharma stocks discussion when she said, "Premiums are high in that space, I would imagine."

Karen said, "That's funny, premiums ... get it?"

"Ahhh, trader humor," Lee chuckled.

"Yuk, yuk, yuk. Yeah, I'll be in the Catskills all weekend," Karen said.

"Finerman is funny these days," Guy Adami said.

"What do you mean these days?" Lee asked. "Is this a takedown? She's funny all the time."

"She wasn't always this funny; she wasn't always funny, no," Adami said.

He's correct. Karen didn't say a whole lot her first year on the show, but in 2009, she emerged as a quick-witted comedy machine.

We haven't been just saying that to curry favor with Karen or something (like she even knows we exist ... although Patty Edwards does, so yaneverknow as Joaquin Andujar used to say). Rather, it's because we watch every episode of this program (sometimes we're really not in the mood), and some days the entertainment value is, um, rather light, and we're gazing at the tube in a trance only to hear Karen say something and suddenly wake up and think, damn — that was actually hilarious. It's the effortless way she does it, like she's not even trying.

Jeremy Zirin on Tuesday probably delivered more words per minute than any recent "Fast Money" guest. Unfortunately his topic/thesis, things will be OK in 2010, wasn't particularly interesting. "I think there's still opportunities for equity investors for 2010," Zirin said, even if commercial real estate's in trouble.

Melissa Lee said, "I just bought, you know, a hard drive the other day. I did, a portable one."

Guy Adami said, "Oh really, going somewhere?"

That prompted Adami and Pete Najarian to say in unison, "Yeeeeeeeeppppp!!"

"I'm just telling you what I did," Lee said, perhaps wondering why they were asking in such a way, perhaps not.

We’ll never hear the end
of those ABX hedges

Guy Adami managed to mention Barrick's hedging strategy again Tuesday.

"Gold's down basically 120 uninterrupted dollars since Barrick announced they were done with their hedge program, or buying back their hedges. Now, Peter Schiff will be on, and he'll say 'you know what, it's just a little blip,' that's fine," Adami said.

And, that is more or less what Schiff said.

Pete Najarian pounded the table (been a while since we've written that) on Bucyrus. "Another upgrade, $75 price target," were among the comments Pete made. He also hailed WLT, "stock's still cheap trading 77 bucks, it was up another 2 bucks today."

Guy Adami seconded it all. "Amen on Billy Ray Cyrus," he said, and as for one of his longtime picks WLT, "it's hard to get in I know at these levels, but it's not rich."

Karen Finerman at one point — while making yet another reference to long TBT/short TLT — nearly referred to Peter Schiff as "Peter Finch," the Oscar winner in "Network" who is one of only two actors (Heath Ledger being the other) to win an Academy Award posthumously.

But maybe he has seen
‘The Empire Strikes Back’

Guy Adami offered viewers Tuesday a little insight into his personal movie-viewing history:

"You're not gonna believe this, and this is actually true, I've never seen 'Star Wars' — ever," Adami said. "No, it's true, I'm telling you, categorically true. I've said that before on this show, many moons ago."

We're not going to challenge the idea he previously said it. But we don't recall it. About the earliest comment we remember from Adami (even before "Gene, can I call you Gene, I'm going to give you a different name, EMC") is one about talking to Eric Bolling during the day, "phone cord wrapped around my neck," a line that Dylan Ratigan thought was hilarious.

Melissa Lee brought up "Jersey Shore" and said "if you haven't seen this show, you're living under a rock."

Michelle Meyer sighting

Michelle Meyer of Barclays Capital resurfaced on CNBC on Tuesday — not on "Fast Money," where three people have noted she looks extremely young, but "Power Lunch."

"I think the homebuyer tax credit is gonna cause volatility in the home sales data, so what we've seen right now is a really large surge in home sales, they've returned to the highest levels since February '07, up 44% on a year-over-year basis, so a really sharp upturn," Meyer told Tyler Mathisen.

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera asked about Fed purchase pullbacks in mortgage securities, which Meyer called "another very significant headwind as well."

But, Meyer said, "looking ahead to next year, second half of the year, we think it's going to be a very different environment where people have a lot more confidence and are willing to buy."

Meyer, said by some to be The World's Cutest Economist, wore bright red sweater over white top, spoke with hands clasped, ring sometimes visible. She smiled at Dennis Kneale's jokes, but don't we all.

Pete is now 46

Patty Edwards, who hasn't been on "Fast Money" for a couple weeks, handled the housing talk on the "Halftime Report" on Tuesday.

Melissa Lee asked about the homebuilder stocks.

"If I look at the chart, I think that we're hitting up against some resistance," Patty said. "It's had a good run off of the bottom. I look at these homebuilders and I still see that we've got a lot more foreclosures coming. Look at what's happening with prime mortgages, how many of those are behind at this point. Given that, I think the homebuilders are still gonna be seeing some pressure and frankly I think there's better places to play."

Chart expert Todd Gordon said "Resistance is there, momentum is slowing, I'm waiting for another shoe to drop in 2010."

But there's a good way to play this, Edwards added.

"Home Depot and Lowe's absolutely make more sense to me than the homebuilders," she said. People buying foreclosed housing have to do rehab. "On average I believe the number's about $5,700 that you have to spend," Patty said, saying that money has to go somewhere.

Gary Kaminsky called in to talk airlines, but the connection was so muffled we could barely understand him. We think he said something about "load capacity, price increases sticking" and that they're still a buy.

JJ Kinahan said of the XLF, "We're seeing people buying these January 14 puts."

Todd Gordon talked about bonds. "I think anywhere above 4 to 4.10 is a sell unfortunately, I think the move in the long-dated stuff is running out of steam."

Melissa Lee told Pete Najarian, "You're looking very snazzy ... that's my way of wishing you a happy birthday."

Mel Lee sure looked snazzy in black dress and something new with her hair, didn't she?

[Monday, December 21, 2009]

Karen still not convinced

Mark Mahaney might not've realized Monday he was making the strongest case yet that Amazon has become essentially a Greater Fool, momentum stock.

Mahaney again was confronted by Karen Finerman on "Fast Money" about AMZN's valuation.

"What do you think is the right multiple for Amazon and why?" Karen asked, pointing out Mahaney's $170 target. "How can you possibly get there without having some Greater Fool Theory built in?"

Mahaney's response was to toss out a new metric he didn't even bother to mention during a lengthy Dec. 8 "Fast Money" appearance in which he also strongly defended Amazon.

"I wanna cut through one point on Amazon, which is something that's usually overlooked," Mahaney said Monday. "It's the conversion of earnings into free cash flow at the end of the day that's what we're really trying to get at, and what you have with Amazon is one of the highest conversions of that earning into free cash flow. So yes, it's 35 times on earnings. On free cash flow, however, it's, you know, trading at 20-25 times free cash flow. That's the same sort of free cash flow yield you'll find on regular retails, retailers, yet it's much faster growth. I think that's the real valuation support for Amazon here."

Interesting. Conversion of earnings is "at the end of the day what we're really trying to get at."

But on Dec. 8 (you can click that link to CNBC video or just scroll down this page for our summary that day), Mahaney offered a series of arguments, none of which included the word "conversion." He said AMZN should be tied to earnings growth, that Amazon could grow at 30% for years because online shopping will grow and Amazon's share of it will grow, it had "materially gained share in the recession," and then three more reasons: "First, these Kindle sales are taking off. Secondly this company has shown acceleration in international markets. Third, they're starting to get into household and personal care products. Like, they're becoming the biggest sellers of diapers online."

So two weeks ago, the argument was earnings growth and diapers; this week it's suddenly conversion of earnings into free cash flow that really matters "at the end of the day."

This actually reminds us a little bit of Las Vegas Sands two or three years ago, but keep in mind we're not pro stock analysts here. (This writer has no position in AMZN.) Priced for perfection, but could hit $190 for all we know.

Joe Terranova, fresh off a brilliant buy-at-$125 AMZN call, said "You've gotta be a buyer of Amazon vs. the 120, 125 area."

Tim Seymour agreed with Mahaney, "It seems like they're pulling away from the pack."

Melissa Lee asked Mahaney a great question — when might we get clear word that holiday shopping met or didn't meet expectations for Amazon?

Mahaney couldn't give a definitive answer, mentioning earnings a couple weeks into January and a comScore report.

‘In the U.S., 40% of people
have a smartphone’

Gene Munster appeared on "Fast Money" Monday, and — here's a shocker — reported that Apple is "doing phenomenal."

"The month of November was up 33% year over year for Macs, that compares to about 10% for the industry," Munster said. He said another strong indicator is "lead times for the products," as well as his visit to the 5th Avenue Apple store, which he found to be an "absolute locker room."

Karen Finerman asked about competition in the phone space, "Do RIMM, Apple start to cannibalize one another?"

Munster wasn't very concerned about that. "We're still very early in the U.S., it's 40% of people have a smartphone, globally it's about 18%, so there's still a lot of room to go here," he said.

Joe Terranova said he bought a BlackBerry and didn't like the apps. Then he said he bought an iPhone and didn't like the AT&T service. And thus, "I'm not happy with either right now."

Munster acknowledged issues with the "notoriously spotty AT&T network" with iPhone and said "We think there's about a 70% probability that Verizon gets the phone by, by the middle of next year."

That led us to wonder about something Karen Finerman often mentions, is there a short possibility here, potentially AT&T?

Guy Adami doused that notion with water, saying a switch to Verizon "might actually be a positive for AT&T" because apparently its existing terms with Apple haven't been great.

Karen Finerman, asked about Verizon, said "I'd rather buy Apple."

Karen: ‘Lot more to go’
on those TBT/TLT trades

Karen Finerman spoke again Monday about that long TBT/short TLT trade that people love to hear her talk about.

"It is really working, uh, I think there's a lot more to go," Karen said. But she also noted the rising yield curve is "really great for banks, (who) make money on the spread, and couldn't be wider now."

Worth: Big Blue = ‘big buy’

Carter Worth continues to find charts that "predict" flat stock market activity in the year ahead.

On Monday, Worth said, "Everyone accepts and believes in the Christmas rally; we think it's not happening."

However, he does like IBM. First we thought he was going to call a 10-year double-top, then we learned he's ragingly bullish because the price is the same as 10 years ago but earnings and P.E. are much better.

IBM is "about to break out, we think, big buy here," Worth said.

He also likes AMGN under similar reasoning. (In our opinion, using charts to evaluate biotech/pharma stocks is a bad idea, but that's just our opinion).

He wasn't, however, a big fan of FedEx, a point seconded by Guy Adami, who noted differing views from FDX itself in a short span in December. "What happened in those 10 days, that they had to, they couldn't give guidance on the 7th, they gave it on the 17th," said Adami, who called for footage of his UPS uniform but didn't get it.

Grand Slam hasn’t changed either

We've been hoping for a long time the "Fast Money" gang would talk about Denny's.

Monday, they did.

It turned up in the "Pops & Drops" segment, when the news about some executive changes wasn't good.

But the "Fast Money" crew was more interested in menu changes than management shake-ups.

Karen Finerman wondered why Denny's doesn't have an "innovation office."

Melissa Lee declared, "Their hash browns have been the same forever!"

The CNBCfix community would enjoy running into Mel Lee at a Denny's at 1 a.m., which is when people should generally be going there.

Guy Adami evidently doesn't take many road trips, actually asking, "Where is there a Denny's?"

Harry Reid came through

Joe Terranova talked about shopping at CVS, but he's not buying gold there, at least not at these prices, where there is "too much overhead resistance."

Terranova also talked oil. "You avoid the USO, you do however go after the OIHs, you go after the Hesses," he said.

Tim Seymour made a bold call on Alcoa. "I'd be probably owning this thing up until about 19 before you run into resistance," he said.

Guy Adami credited Terranova for an Alcoa call last week; "he was spot on," Adami said, but still Adami thinks you might want to take some off the table.

Karen Finerman, who — and this is just a friendly compliment, of course we don't know Karen — looks sooooo good in her black sweaters, traded compliments with Guy Adami Monday on health care shares. "Guy was all over United Health, that was an excellent call," Finerman said, repeating her interest in BDX. She added, "Bard had disappointing earnings last week, but we bought more."

Adami said, "Karen's too complimentary, she was also the person buying UNH calls ... so she was all over it as well."

To be honest, we remember both being right months ago, but Karen seemed to be ahead of the curve on this trade from the beginning.

Karabell is a CNBC contributor

Sigh ... this is one stone we should've left unturned.

We noted last month that somehow at CNBC.com, Jon Najarian is not listed with brother Pete in the "CNBC contributor" profiles, even though he is listed as such in other online bios.

We also noted that the "CNBC contributor" menu at CNBC.com does not include Zach Karabell or Steve Grasso either, despite the extensive amount of commentary they also provide for the network.

To most people, this is — and should be — very small potatoes. To media critics, it only matters because Web sites have become ground zero for employment information and are regularly worth a look. Often companies are adding/subtracting online profiles before personnel news is even released, or updating titles and job descriptions. In the case of CNBC contributors, the difference between someone who is one and someone who is not one might involve compensation or disclosure rules — or it might not really mean anything at all. We have no idea.

Anyway, we've taken a look at some recent clips of Karabell on "The Kudlow Report," generally Fridays (which we usually don't catch, to be honest), going back months actually. Karabell is regularly introduced as a "CNBC contributor" and gets a tag line on the screen saying the same.

Why he isn't on the Web site menu with a profile, we have no idea. Evidently not every contributor is on the CNBC.com list, perhaps because the Web brass didn't bother to do profiles for everyone.

When doing the "Fast Money Final Call," Karabell is referred to as a "Fast Money Contributor."

Jon Najarian, in "Squawk Box" appearances with Mark Haines, has been identified as a "Fast Money Contributor," but we haven't seen/heard "CNBC contributor."

Grasso, who generally talks floor activity on "Power Lunch" each day, is not identified as any kind of contributor, but in some clips is listed as "CNBC MARKET ANALYST."

None of that is probably going to help you with your trading. Like we said, sorry we brought it up.

Must-see Friday TV, sorta

Zach Karabell told Scott Wapner Monday on the "Fast Money Final Call" that buy-and-hold isn't really a good idea. "You can't just buy something in January and go to sleep," he said.

Wapner also asked Karabell about his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal questioning what he sees as an inaccurate global consensus. "The global economy's never been balanced except in academic's minds and theoretical models," Karabell told Wapner.

When looking up Karabell's appearance on Larry Kudlow's show Friday, we actually heard Larry Kudlow say, "Ronald Reagan taught me that a strong dollar was essential for our economy and our prestige overseas."

Seriously? Ronald Reagan taught Larry Kudlow economics?

Lawrence Kudlow is one of our all-time favorite CNBC hosts and, particularly if the show wasn't on at 7 p.m. Eastern, we'd watch whenever we can. But his show would be far more watchable if he and Steve Moore would stop saying "taxes have to be lower" and instead tell us not that they've gotta be lower but precisely what they should be.

Panelists have trouble
hearing Karabell

Unseen technical glitches for some traders abounded Monday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report," but that was OK, because Zach Karabell was fully wired as the quote machine.

Joe Terranova started things with this pronouncement, "There's an interesting dynamic going on in the marketplace as we talk right now, again, the correlation is breaking down between lower dollar has to equal higher equities."

Karabell responded, "I don't really feel the relationship was there in the first place ... most of this is being driven by fundamental demand stories."

Terranova might've argued, except we distinctly heard him saying "I don't hear Zeke."

In a transition to banks, Karabell said, "Clearly that ability to borrow really low and lend much higher, you've gotta be an idiot not to make money," but he said balance-sheet messiness is a reason to avoid for now. "I guess you could buy Citi now for 10 years," he said, but the next six to 12 months are dicey. (This writer is long C.)

Mike Khouw responded, "Unfortunately I wasn't able to catch what Zeke was saying there."

Terranova, who could hear Melissa Lee just fine, was asked about Amazon, which gives us a chance to hail him for his tremendous call of a week ago during a Gary Kaminsky discussion in which Terranova recommended waiting for AMZN to hit $125, and then buy again.

Karabell wasn't done with macro plays, including online shopping estimates. "Don't pay attention to the ComScore (predictions)," he said, "all you need is one kind of disruptive moment to totally tilt the balance and keep the momentum toward online away from brick and mortar. You know, and, if it's a snowstorm, it's a snowstorm," he said.

Karabell said he took profits in AMZN when it hit $140, but "I'm sticking with a good part of my position, yes."

Jon Najarian singled out ag names, "I am a buyer and I'm a true believer in that space. Activity we've seen in the space has been hot." He also pointed to gains in Alcoa and Titanium Metals.

Karabell doused a bit of water on the latter two, saying Titanium Metals was getting a boost from the Boeing test flight, and he said that while he liked Alcoa on Friday, it's already had a run, and he made a lengthy point about AA being a "developed world" play that is facing cheaper competition.

Jon Najarian said, "I'm watching Biogen IDEC closely."

Mike Khouw said of Intel, "I think it looks attractive."

Good to be noticed

We got word that Patty Edwards this week actually called out CNBCfix via Twitter, perhaps even with a little dig that she's not spending a whole lot of time thinking about it.

Does Patty realize that once people voluntarily read CNBCfix.com — to say nothing of delivering an Internet shout-out — they automatically are regarded as permanent Friends of the Site??

We're thinking Patty was referring to a recent entry we posted linking to a Guardian story that noted Google boss Eric Schmidt is following Zachary Karabell on Twitter.

We noted that of the "Fast Money" gang, "Zeke" is not the most prolific Twitterer by any stretch, "definitely lagging Joe Terranova, undeniably lagging Patty Edwards, and miles behind Jon Najarian."

The way people write says a lot about them. What one realizes from sampling many CNBC Twitterings (not all, but many) is the level of conservative politics expressed, well beyond what's heard on television. What jumps out from Patty's tweets is that she's a fan of something even more important than the stock market — football. (It's fine if she likes the Seahawks, but if so, hopefully she doesn't buy the excuses for Super Bowl XL. Yes, nearly every borderline call went against Seattle. No, they did not play well, both teams played poorly, at least one of them actually made a few plays.)

The way people come across on TV says a lot about them also. If you're Twittering stocks/football/retail/general life subjects with Patty, you're doing OK.

[Friday, December 18, 2009]

Maybe Pete’s McCafe was
a little overcaffeinated

One of the silliest "Fast Money" threads emerged Friday when Joe Terranova and Pete Najarian started talking about Research in Motion's Canada sales.

It started when Terranova told Pete he was bearish on the stock.

"I agree with Jimmy Suva," Terranova said. "Don't be throwing anything at me when I tell you this. I do not like RIMM fundamentally up here."

"Why?" Pete thundered.

(This is one of those dialogues where the very first response to the above question is the most important.)

"Because there's plenty of challenges. If you look, they experienced a year-on-year decline in Canada," Terranova said.

So there you go — the top reason Terranova cites for RIMM weakness is a "year-on-year decline in Canada."

Terranova went on to say Verizon is focusing more on Motorola and the Droid. "There's no love right now for RIMM," he said.

"Canada what?" Pete scoffed. "There's 10,000 people up there..."

"A lot of Canadians are writing in now," Melissa Lee warned.

That led to a shout-out to Moose Jaw, talk of Clark Gillies, Pete's revelation that he played for the Toronto Argonauts, and among the e-mails, one from Dennis Gartman saying not to dis Canada and claiming that not even 1 out of 100 Americans knows we get more oil from Canada than anywhere else.

Pete didn't care — and offered a rebuttal that still makes no sense to us, and we listened to it a couple of times.

"All they (RIMM) have done is drop from 9% at one point all the way down well below 7% of the total sales, Research in Motion," Pete said. "So Dennis, if you're buying your oil based on those sales, you better start looking somewhere else."

So it sounded like in the beginning, Pete was saying RIMM's Canada sales are not relevant, and by the end, they are relevant.

We actually spent way too much of our evening trying to find out exactly where these notable Canadian market share statistics came from.

We looked at the Research in Motion corporate Web site. We did Google searches for "research in motion canada market share" and "smartphone market share canada." We looked up the RIMM earnings stories at wsj.com, marketwatch.com, bloomberg.com, cnbc.com, Associated Press (used at nytimes.com) and reuters.com.

We even looked up the transcript of the RIMM conference call at seekingalpha.com.

Nowhere did we find any mention of Canadian market share.

So Terranova is citing as his top reason for bearishness a statistic that not even analysts nor the top journalists tracking the company care about, if they even know about it.

Karen Finerman was able to wedge in a middle-ground point, saying there's still room for RIMM and rivals to grow. "This past quarter was in the face of already very stiff competition," Finerman said. "I think the whole pie is just getting bigger though."

But don't place any limit orders just yet. "I would not jump in and buy RIMM here but it doesn't seem that expensive to me," Karen added.

Don't blame us — we don't run the show, we only write about what happens.

Jared Levy explains why
he was cautious on RIMM

Jared Levy wrote in an essay Friday why "on CNBC Wednesday, I recommended that long term traders do a December credit collar on RIMM, when it was trading around at $65. ... I did this because no matter what any analyst, trader, broker or any market participant says, they have no idea what the stock will do when earnings are released."

Life in a post-TARP world

Far more interesting than the RIMM nonsense was a brief exchange on Goldman Sachs.

Guy Adami said, even though he finds GS priced correctly around $160, it will overshoot as stocks usually do. "Goldman hasn't tested the 150 level, I happen to believe that we will." He said the last couple quarters are the once-in-a-generation type, and in the near future, "I don't think anything's happened that can replicate the quarters that we've seen."

Karen Finerman said that doesn't matter. "I don't think the stock though needs to replicate that quarter," she said, noting it's "trading at a P.E. of 8.4." Karen said, "I like Goldman Sachs here. 160."

Stay indoors, read CNBCfix

Unfortunately for Chris Warren of the Weather Channel, he had to not only do the snowstorm cliche of reporting from the roadside with a parka on, he had to try to make sense of a really strange joke by Guy Adami on the origin of Roanoke, Va.

Pete Najarian must've learned this was coming in the green room, because he was chuckling well before Adami delivered the (apparent) punch line, which somehow was to be tied in to the Tiger Woods thing, but really only by people with a vivid imagination, which apparently includes us. (And you thought they just talked about stocks and options on "Fast Money.")

Best thing ever heard on "Fast Money" about the weather came from Jeff Macke, who used to say retailers who blame the weather for poor sales are not to be trusted.

A plus for Thomas Weisel

Liz Dunn should get a bonus of some sort. Given very limited time Friday, which is when most guests have to be prodded to stop telling stories and start naming stocks, she rattled off several good points about retailing with time to spare.

First, Dunn addressed the East Coast storm, saying cyber shopping at this point really isn't a viable alternative because it's getting too late for shipping; "I think it's pretty difficult," Dunn said. She said "half of the shoppers are saying they're complete" by now.

As for stocks, Dunn said, "I like Nordstrom into the holiday season ... I think Macy's will also see positive comps." And, "into 2010, I like Coach, I also like Urban Outfitters."

K-Fine said, "I do like Macy's. We are long Macy's."

CNBCers spend holiday playing
casino games for no money

Guy Adami is refreshingly honest about his gold pessimism, but he doesn't mind reminding viewers about his deep skepticism of gold miners.

Friday, the victim was Barrick.

"All I know is since they announced they're done buying their hedges, gold's gone straight down," Adami reported.

He said miners are more vulnerable than GLD to gold swings, "due to the leverage, which I taught some folks about last night playing craps at the CNBC holiday party."

"Not for money," Melissa Lee quickly interrupted, "no gambling there."

We searched for stories on the CNBC holiday party but couldn't find any, so it must've been a placid event.

Sometimes we're envious that Adami can compliment Lee on the set, whereas we can only lob words on a computer page. "Your hair looks great today," Adami told Lee.

We thought the V-neck green top looked light and springy, kind of a welcome diversion from typical heavy December attire.

Our readers often ask
about Karen and the TBT/TLT

Melissa Lee showed a clip from an earlier interview of Morgan Stanley's Greg Peters saying he predicts 5.5% on the 10-year in 2010.

The ending of Peters' comments were cut off, though he could be seen moving his hands. Karen Finerman was asked to respond.

"The Marcel Marceau part?" Karen said, proving our thesis she's one of the funniest people on television and probably should've been a regular on "Seinfeld." Karen added, "That's pretty bold, 5 and a half." She noted, once again, people can play this being long TBT or short TLT, and "if he's right, that trade will really work."

More details on ‘Options Action’

Brian Stutland offered a trade Friday for people who are long the GLD and want to protect themselves.

In this "zero cost collar," Stutland said, "you buy a put below where the stock is trading, at the same time you sell a call above where the stock is trading."

Stutland recommended buying the January $105 put for $1.40, and selling the January $113 call for $1.40.

The risk is that you would have to cover if GLD jumps over $113. To us it seems simpler to just buy the put, pay the money, and avoid any upside risk, but we're certainly not options pros.

More hype than help

Jon Najarian teased on the "Halftime Report" a big stock call to come at 5 p.m., but it was actually pretty generic.

Dr. J said at 5 p.m., he likes the homebuilders in 2010. "I was seeing unusual activity in Ryland, and in KBH," he said. And they have room to climb, he said. "None of these homebuilders are anywhere near they (sic) were 18 months ago."

Guy Adami, following up on an excellent long-running call, said, "Folks, take a look at WDC today," and he said now could be a time to get into NTAP. Pete Najarian also mentioned Seagate.

Joe Terranova actually recommended DELL as his "Final Trade." Perhaps it has something to do with Dell's Canada market share.

Pete’s birthday is Tuesday

Melissa Lee noted Guy Adami turned 46 on Friday.


This one is of the very minor variety, but we have to do it.

Last week, one episode of the "Halftime Report" was abbreviated by a Bernanke speech. We said, as a result, that Zach Karabell was not "accorded" a chance to speak.

We're fairly certain the correct term is "afforded." (Actually, "given" would've been even better.)

Wordsmiths such as Karabell or other CNBC types might've noticed the difference, and we try not to look any worse than necessary. It's kind of like, insisting we can play basketball, then finding ourselves on the same court as Dr. J (the slam-dunk champ of the 76ers, not the founder of optionMonster) and shooting an air ball.

Mistakes are understood. Vocabulary overreaching is dicier. Rest assured it was the former, not the latter.

Grasso: Defying Gartman?

Sometimes you get a little more than you expect from the "Fast Money Halftime Report."

On Friday, Melissa Lee asked Steve Grasso, "Grasso, I know you're a Citi holder, are you adding to your position at these levels?"

"I'm not," Grasso said, "because I'm fully allocated. If I wasn't, I would be adding at these levels."

It occurred to us that this approach would violate Dennis Gartman's Rule No. 1 of trading, which he also mentioned on "Fast Money" recently:

"1. Never, Ever, Ever, Under Any Circumstance, Add to a Losing Position...not ever, not never! Adding to losing positions is trading's carcinogen; it is trading's driving while intoxicated. It will lead to ruin. Count on it!"

First, we're virtually certain, based on previous shows although it doesn't show up in our archive, that at least some of Grasso's C position is at a loss because we're virtually certain we've heard him recommend it in the last month or two above $4.

Always seeking trading answers, we've given Gartman's rules a lot of thought. A lot of people come on CNBC and offer trading tips; a surprising number do not pass the logic test.

Gartman's Rule No. 1 is not at all illogical. But a couple points are worth noting.

1. Citi is not going to move on Monday based on whether Steve Grasso bought some shares a couple months ago. Or whether he bought it at $4.50 or $2.50. So for Grasso to consider his existing holdings in making a decision on adding C is logically equivalent to basing the decision on the outcome of the Islanders-Canadiens game Saturday night.

2. What precisely constitutes a "losing" position ... If one buys GOOG at $495 and the next day it's $494, is that a "losing" position?

OK. We don't have Gartman's number, but what he would undoubtedly say to Point 1 is that even though plenty of right-thinking people were choosing to buy C shares on Friday, someone who already owns it is more likely to invent biased reasons for buying it here, because people in general have a hard time objectively acknowledging they've been wrong (that old "if you loved it at $18, you've really gotta love it at $13" mentality coming back to haunt).

We're not sure how he would characterize Point 2. But that would be nit-picking in this example, as Grasso clearly is in a losing C position if he indeed bought over $4.

Grasso would likely argue, in this case, a significant C event that was pressuring the stock has finally come full circle or mostly full circle (as Brian Stutland noted), so the stock should have a tailwind from here. Gartman would likely say, that might be true, but people always rationalize trades like that, and more often than not, they're wrong, so it's the equivalent of playing blackjack and not being the house.

Can both be right here? Yes. But the Gartman Rules resonate. Citi traded 2.8 billion shares on Friday. If those were all new positions, an existing holder would have to be optimistic. If the majority were folks who already bought at $4.50, you'd have to think about heading for the exits.

(This writer is long C.)

But Grasso’s not alone

Brian Stutland said Friday, "The pullback in Citi actually to me seems like a pretty decent buying opportunity here."

Katie Stockton sort of said something bullish on C, then didn't. "Citigroup is very oversold from a technical standpoint," Stockton said, but rather abruptly concluded, "It's lacking a technical catalyst right now."

Jon Najarian talked about RIMM on Friday's "Halftime Report." Honestly, we had to review Thursday night's 5 p.m. show because we thought he said something contradictory (you know, when he called Pete's phone with that old-fashioned ring that Melissa Lee said is "like a grandma ring, Pete"), but it turns out he didn't, only that brother Pete might've overzealously misspoke.

Friday, Dr. J said, "I still believe that there's a buying opportunity in Palm, but I did it too early today, and I'm paying the price for that. I was very happy to take some money off the table in RIMM, and uh, obviously, I think that they have a spectacular quarter, but I thought like Guy Adami that maybe, it got a little ahead of itself. It certainly failed at 72 ... still a great stock, probably a decent covered write."

The catch on Thursday was that Pete first told Guy Adami that Jon "disagrees with you" on RIMM topping, but in fact when Jon spoke a moment later on-air, he actually said he agreed with Adami that it might be toppy, but he warned against trying to short at that time. So there you go. (Hey, sometimes we have to play watchdog around here.)

Katie Stockton said RIMM is not something to short. "I would be involved in RIMM; RIMM actually got above gap-based resistance on its chart," Stockton said. "There's a vacuum of selling pressure up into the low 80s," which she said it might reach in a few weeks.

Steve Grasso said "I am long Visa. There could be a pop to the upside on the bell." Jon Najarian made a point about the "backspread" affecting the S&P and volatility (that's about all we understood of it). Joe Terranova made a special appearance to say absolutely nothing about the price of oil.

[Thursday, December 17, 2009]

Rich Greenfield: ‘Avatar’
is a ‘game-changer for 3-D’

Superstar analyst Rich Greenfield of Pali gushed on "Fast Money" Thursday about the 3-D version of "Avatar" he saw at Imax.

"This is a game-changer for 3-D," Greenfield said. "This was a big risk. After seeing it, there's definitely not a risk of this being a bomb.

"No one has seen anything like this," Greenfield added.

He said everyone's aware of old 3-D attempts that failed, often in cheesy movies. "Avatar" is not like that at all, he said, and will drive people to Imax theaters.

"IMAX is a stock; I mean, this is a game-changer for them," he said.

The movie was so convincing, Greenfield flipped his sell rating on News Corp to a buy. On that point, we might be skeptical, because his stated rationale was that the "risk baked into our numbers" for this type of film won't be realized. He's not convinced the movie is going to be a profit machine, only that News Corp didn't blow it. He did say News Corp's outlook is better because "the ad market's getting better."

Melissa Lee reported, "We have learned that 81% of the tickets sold today on moviestickets.com (sic, she said "moviestickets" but she meant "movietickets") are for News Corp's 'Avatar'."

Guy Adami said he'd like to see Melissa Lee wearing 3-D glasses.

Greenfield said something not particularly surprising, that "Slumdog Millionaire is one of the most profitable films of the, you know, last 18 months." Too bad he couldn't have gotten more time (see Richard Bernstein, below) and just rattled off some of the most profitable movies in recent years, as there might be some surprises.

Greenfield has been hailed at this site not only for consistently strong analysis, but for a deadly accurate call starting last summer (or even spring) on DTV. (This writer is long DTV.)

Karen Finerman sounds like
she’s not taking this trade seriously

Tim Seymour apparently is still wearing 3-D glasses when it comes to evaluating Nokia.

On a day when RIMM enjoyed a monster afterhours gain, Seymour was actually touting the Finnish phone guys, who probably haven't had a bounce like RIMM's in about, oh, 10 years.

"They're way behind the curve, but they've caught up," Seymour insisted.

Karen Finerman cracked wise. "Get it? Behind the Curve..."

Pete Najarian scoffed. "I got a phone right here that's a $500 phone," Pete said for about the fifth time on "Fast Money." He can't believe Nokia would charge that much for it.

"But why did you buy that phone then Pete?" asked Melissa Lee.

"I didn't buy it, the company bought it, and I tell you what, it's garbage," Pete said, before flipping it across the floor, like he's already done in a previous "Fast Money" episode.

Jim Goldman: RIMM will rise

Guy Adami on Thursday pointed out that RIMM had merely soared back to its previous quarterly levels and may now actually be a short, a comment that didn't fly with Jim Goldman.

"Guy, I gotta disagree with you," Goldman said. "You're talking about a company here in the face of all of this competition ... and yet this company still gives an EPS range for its fourth quarter resoundingly higher than what Wall Street's thinking about. We're gonna get an upgrade parade tomorrow from analysts that's gonna take this stock higher."

Pete Najarian took a call or text message from brother Jon, who also thought Adami was wrong. "He disagrees with you," Pete said of his brother to Adami, "he sees absolutely no reason to short Research in Motion right now."

Jim Suva wasn't around to defend himself, which is too bad, because Guy Adami happened to remind viewers of Suva's sell call on RIMM recently, "Jim's timing was just wrong."

Karen Finerman didn't call RIMM a short but wasn't really excited. "The thing about RIMM ... every time they have good earnings, Apple has good earnings as well."

Pete Najarian didn't find the RIMM report a surprise. "And how many people on the Street thought the Droid was gonna kill 'em. The Droid's not killin' 'em, folks," Pete said.

"Not yet," argued Melissa Lee, "but isn't that an overhang?"

"There's still plenty of growth for this market," Pete said.

Count Chocula is king

General Mills CEO Kendall Powell seemed to enjoy his appearance Thursday on "Fast Money," smiling throughout.

He said margins are doing well, though he noted, "We think that that gross margin improvement will sort of moderate over the course of the year ... by the end of the year we'll be going against some pretty tough comps on input costs."

On deflation, he said, "Basically our prices are very, very stable right now."

Tim Seymour asked, "How are we supposed to feel about these smaller boxes of cereal for the same price? Are we supposed to be fooled by this, I mean, what is this." Powell said Seymour's got the wrong guy, that they shrunk boxes a couple years ago, "but at the same time, we reduced the prices."

Seymour nevertheless trumpeted GIS. "I think the margins are in a great place, I don't think they're ever gonna be better with where commodity prices are, I think these guys are in a great spot," he said.

Was there really any point
to Richard Bernstein’s segment?

Richard Bernstein spent a decent chunk of time Thursday predicting a "resurgence of the consumer" and eventually more hiring. But "I don't have individual names for you," he said.

Melissa Lee apparently had high hopes, introducing him with this: "We do want to start off with your bold, one of your bold calls, that employment will improve."

Employment will improve. Bold call. No names. Fascinating television.

Guy Adami once again
bearish on stock he owns

Paul Miller is a good analyst but really didn't say anything about the banks you haven't already heard, except he did second what Eugene Profit said at "Halftime" about BAC. "I think one of the big issues why they paid back TARP is they wanted to hire somebody from the inside," Miller said.

Miller said "We love B of A here," and he agrees with Guy Adami on a trade going long BAC and short WFC.

Tim Seymour said he could see a rise to "80, 80 and a half" on the dollar.

Guy Adami, who according to disclosures owns Intel, claimed "Pete and I have been playing ping-pong with Intel. I would still be of the camp that I think it trades lower."

MLee must have
big night planned


After seeing Melissa Lee in that red dress on the "Halftime Report," we were almost too floored to pay attention to anything the traders said.

We'll try.

Jeff Tomasulo has a trade in GS. "Last week when the market was rallying, Goldman Sachs and the rest of the financials did not participate," Tomasulo said. "I'm pretty bullish on Goldman Sachs, just because on a technical level, I like the 160 level. So I'm gonna be buying and nibbling, maybe not as much as I would've last week, but after seeing the weakness, I'm definitely gonna be a little cautious, but I like the 160 level with the stop under 157."

JJ Kinahan said, "I actually agree on the Goldman Sachs. Anybody who's bet against Goldman Sachs over the last year and a half is probably not richer for it."

Except Tomasulo himself actually called a GS short on Oct. 15, when it was $188.63, possibly the best short call on "Fast Money" this year.

"I actually like Bank of America right here, so much of it's out of the way," Kinahan said.

Eugene Profit questioned BAC's sudden management decision. "Does anyone other than me find it interesting that they were able to find a CEO internally after they paid back TARP and got rid of the compensation limits?" he said.

Tomasulo said of RIMM, "One level to look at in RIMM, if it stays above the $65 level after the earnings, we could have an up move to the $70 level."

"We're seeing buyers of the January 10 puts" in PALM, Kinahan said. Then he offered an interesting little Trade School: "One of the mistakes we see of retail traders is buying the December options the day before expiration. And, when you do that, if you're wrong, you're dead."

"Oil and materials are still too high, I'd look more to natural gas," said Eugene Profit.

Pete Najarian said "you've gotta like Seagate," but mostly repeated his Citi/BAC option thing from last night. "I like Phil Knight, I like Nike," he said.

[Wednesday, December 16, 2009]

Bove: I told Citigroup not
to do it, but they did it

Dick Bove stomped all over Citigroup's stock offering on "Fast Money" Wednesday.

"Well I think it's a terrible deal, and it was a terrible deal for shareholders and it really reflects negatively on Vikram Pandit because he should never have done this thing," Bove said. "I mean, basically the winners in this deal become the management of the company because you can now increase their salaries. But who pays the cost of that increase in salary? The shareholders do."

Bove, asked if he'd buy C here, couldn't resist an I-told-you-so.

"Well, I mean, we put a sell on it when we couldn't convince them not to do this deal," he said. "Three weeks ago I met with the company, and I would say about a third of the discussion was, should they go forward with a deal of this nature, and my view was, it would've been a terrible error. So the net effect is, I don't wanna own this stock."

Bove said "the two stocks that really are screaming to be bought right here are Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs," claiming disappointment over December trading results is overblown even though Melissa Lee argued and said it's expectations that matter.

Gary Kaminsky on fire

Gary Kaminsky suddenly was "Fast Money" Mr. Excitement for delivering some stellar scoops Wednesday on Citi.

Kaminsky, by phone, reported that Vikram Pandit's disaster was somehow "17 times oversubscribed," but perhaps more significantly, Kaminsky said to "look for a reverse split, probably a 1-to-10 reverse split." He said Citi has "until June 30 to put that through."

Tim Seymour wasn't impressed with that news. "Reverse split, that sounds like an AIG deal," Seymour said, mocking the "syndicate" that orchestrated this.

Kaminsky said it may be artificial, but somehow the reverse split "is something that does make a difference to a lot of closet indexes."

Dick Bove said, "If they do a reverse split, that would be the dumbest thing of all basically because you never do a reverse split unless the earnings are in an up mode."

Can’t Citigroup just hire
Ken Lewis now?

No, we're not quite finished reporting on the "Fast Money" coverage of Citigroup Wednesday.

"That's not a great price," Guy Adami said of $3.15, given that the financial giant has shed lucrative businesses. "What does Citi have left?"

"The outrage here is that in the rush to get out from under the government, they're ripping the government off," Tim Seymour said. "They're screwing everybody ... the need to rush in before the end of the year is what troubles me."

Seymour wasn't done. He noted many on "Fast Money" refer to C as nothing more important than an "option" at these prices. "The thing that bothers me about that," Seymour said, "is that if I bought Citi two weeks ago at 4 bucks — one week ago Citi was at 4 bucks — it's now at 3.10, I'm down 25%. I've lost 25% of my money whether I feel like it's an option or not."

That brought in Pete Najarian. "It's an unexpiring option," Pete said. Any losses this week are "just a blip, because you didn't buy Citi at $4 expecting to flip it in a week. You bought Citi at $4 because you're looking down multiple years."

Both are right. Seymour, had he owned the shares (this writer is long C), would be right to be outraged that this move completely at the discretion of management has apparently lopped off 25% (or close) of the value in a week. What nobody on the panel noted was that expectations for this offering were probably artificially high strictly because BAC traded up on its own offering, perhaps because of Joe Terranova's argument, the "certainty" involved.

Also, no one mentioned the possibility that Pandit might've actually saved shareholder value, under the alternate theory that the BAC move put unavoidable pressure on C to do the same, and that if Pandit had not done anything, the stock would've traded lower anyway on disappointment, and then when finally making the deal, it would've had to price lower still.

Honestly, we're actually relieved the pricing on this debacle wasn't $2.15 rather than $3.15.

Dick Bove was asked about Pandit's job security. "I think the pressure on him will increase dramatically. It's now a 50-50 call."

There's a tremendously talented person in Charlotte who'd be a great choice to replace him.

Gartman: Green light from Fed

Dennis Gartman said Wednesday on "Fast Money" the Fed is telling investors what they need to hear.

"It was the most specific Fed communique I've seen," Gartman said. "It does mean that stock prices are gonna continue to go higher. I think that one needs to be erring upon the side of continuing to own equities, and at the same time you may want to continue, you may want to try to be, to hedge that, by being- by owning dollars, strangely enough."

Gartman wasn't overwhelmingly committed to an energy trade. "Quite honestly I'm actually thinking about selling a little crude if we get up to 74. I think crude's gonna be expensive. I still think natural gas is a better buy."

He added, "I think that the bond market might be a better sale than a purchase."

Joe Terranova said of the XOM-XTO transaction, "I do believe this deal, it identifies a game-changing event here in domestic usage of natural gas."

Heather Bellini: Analysts have
blown it with Microsoft

Heather Bellini came on the "Fast Money" set Wednesday to supposedly talk ORCL, but ended up mostly talking about MSFT and its water-treading. "I think some people got a little bit nervous with Chris Liddell announcing that he was leaving," Bellini said. But she anticipates the stock will climb with good earnings numbers, because "When I've been out marketing, meeting with clients, you can tell the PMs are beating up on the analysts who've been underweight the name this year."

Bellini offered this gem of a tip with Oracle: "The stock goes up as long as the guidance is good."

Tavis McCourt did a phone interview on RIMM, and he was actually fairly bullish. "There's still a wide-open green field opportunity for all these vendors in the emerging markets," McCourt said. "If Nokia stumbles, there's enough room for everybody else to succeed," and he thinks this year basically Nokia has stumbled.

Joe Terranova said RIMM must go up on these earnings because he's tried it three times this year, and "I'm 0 for 3," and so "I'm not touching this stock" anymore.

Pete Najarian, by contrast, said "I love it down here."

We'll say it again. (Keep in mind CNBCfix is not a stock pro, or analyst, has never been trained to analyze companies or industries, and if you're taking tips from here, you deserve to lose money.) If we had any guts, we'd short the whole phone sector, or maybe go long AAPL against the others.

Melissa Lee mispronounced McCourt's name as "Travis," something flagged by Tim Seymour. McCourt then called Lee "Maria." The handy folks at Google — actually, it's not folks, but a computer program — tell CNBCfix we get a decent amount of interest from people seeking news on "Maria Caruso-Cabrera."

Bob Vila has a new show

Bob Vila closed out "Fast Money" Wednesday by praising the stimulus' effect on alternative energy, even though, when it comes to solar at least, "once again we're not leading the way, the Chinese are leading the way."

Vila offered this handy advice for improving your utility bill: "If you're in a stand-alone house out in the middle of nowhere and the temperatures are below zero, the best thing you can do is add attic insulation."

Vila, a native of Miami, once served in the Peace Corps in Panama, according to Wikipedia. In the hierarchy of PBS success stories, while no one is going to top "Sesame Street," he likely outdid "Louis Rukeyser's Wall $treet Week" and Rick Steves, at least before ego or frustration prevailed.

Guy Adami said now is a time where "I think you can get back in a name like Jefferies now," and also COL.

Adami scoffed at the lawsuit from Steven Cohen's ex-wife. "His ex-wife ... from the 1990s ... was he a lousy tennis player too?"

Guy Adami owns it too

Misery loves company.

Especially when it's shared with the pros.

This page was relieved to hear on Wednesday's "Fast Money Halftime Report" that Steve Grasso and Divine Dani Hughes (who looked great, by the way) have taken the C plunge. (This writer is long C.)

"I was a buyer of it for longer-term, five to seven years out," Grasso admitted. "If you look at what Bank America (sic) has done, and Wells Fargo has done, indicatively it should move higher from there after the pressure is off it."

"I am long Citi, I've been long Citi, I do look at it as a lottery ticket as well," Dani said. "Long-term, you do probably wanna own Citi."

We'd like to mock Vikram Pandit for his disastrous, if not incompetent, handling of this issue. But it's caveat emptor; this is what you get when you invest along with the government.

Kelly’s professional compliment for Melissa Lee

Brian Kelly — the Kanundrum investing pro, not the new Notre Dame coach who just had a frosty falling-out with his previous squad — is the first person we've heard in a while talk about being long the TBT, other than Karen Finerman, who for months has noted she's not really long the TBT, she's short the TLT.

"I'm long TBT, I've been long TBT since the 10-year yield hit about 3.20," Kelly said.

Then he added, "I'm still long the dollar, um, you know, some people may have mocked me at lower prices."

(It wasn't us. We just noted a couple weeks ago he sounded like he was trying to convince himself not to bail.)

Melissa Lee figured out where the finger was pointed. "Some people like, uh, me?"

"Some world-renowned financial journalists," Kelly said.

"World renowned," Lee cracked. "Nice touch. Good touch. Class act, Brian Kelly."

Jared Levy, whose brevity of point-making, not mastery of the subject matter, is about the only thing to be questioned about him, explained why he recommends selling covered calls. "Statistics are a big part of what we do," Levy said. "Just protect yourself. I don't think that from now until the first of the year there's gonna be any big move in the S&P, but based upon what I've been seeing in the VIX, we saw some very, very heavy put-selling, which would be bullish for the VIX, bearish for the marketplace. I still remain cautious, and I think the smart way to play it is through the rest of the year, is sell covered calls on your broader market indices or on the stocks that you own."

Pete Najarian made a phone "appearance" to discuss one of his favorites, JOYG, but he does not recommend buying here. "I think you can get an opportunity to get into a better price entry point at this point," Pete said.

Brian Kelly seems to be about a year late on his General Electric insight.

"I do own GE. I do think it goes higher," Kelly said, and really, would anyone actually own a stock that they don't think is going higher? "I think the reason why GE is really just stagnated (sic) here is because of GE Capital side. ... That's what's holding it back right now."

[Tuesday, December 15, 2009]

Tim Seymour: ‘There’s no big
credit problems in China’

Tim Seymour tends to talk about China more than any "Fast Money" regular aside from Zach Karabell, and usually with some degree of bullishness.

So it wasn't a surprise when Seymour disagreed Tuesday with the short positions declared earlier on the "Halftime Report" by Jim Chanos.

"There's an asset bubble," Seymour conceded. But, "No one other than China can pump this kind of liquidity. Their banks aren't overextended, there's no big credit problems in China. So I really don't agree.

"I would probably hate to go toe-to-toe with Jim on this desk," Seymour added, but that's what he was doing, except Chanos wasn't there. About the only drawback to Melissa Lee's "Halftime" interview with Chanos is that Seymour and Karabell weren't around to disagree.

Other panelists on the real show Tuesday sounded like they hadn't paid close attention to the Chanos interview. Gary Kaminsky noted "It's very hard to short a country. It's very hard to short a government," only to have Melissa Lee interrupt and remind viewers that Chanos acknowledged there isn't a pure short but that he was looking at the cement, iron ore and other commodity producers. Joe Terranova said it seemed to him like Chanos was taking a "wait-and-see" approach to shorting, but Lee pointed out Chanos said he was already short.

Guy Adami was the lone panelist on both shows. At "Halftime" he agreed on China, then at 5 p.m. he talked again about FCX, saying, "The reality is, more than six times this year the stock has had corrections anywhere from 11% to 32%. We might be in the midst of one now, frankly."

Seymour also balked at Chanos' somewhat smug call against the auto sector and the "Depression-level" sales hopes. "Depression-era levels in this country are irrelevant," said Seymour, once again citing international demand.

Day of dozing for Gary Kaminsky

Joe Terranova and Tim Seymour expressed differing views on crude Tuesday.

"You still have massive contango in the front of the board," Terranova said. "I believe a further pullback may be imminent" by MLK day, he said.

"I think unlike Joe, I actually think oil goes 10% up between now and year end, not because of fundamental demand but because it's a trade," Seymour countered. Then he added this bit of Trade School: "WTI is your father's blend of oil, Brent is really what the world is priced in these days."

"Having had 24 hours of sleep on this Exxon deal and talk (sic) to a number of portfolio managers," Gary Kaminsky said, "I am really convinced that energy stocks will be the relative outperformers because of the M&A activity now even if the price of crude doesn't do anything."

Guy Adami recommended IOC again with a caveat. "You're probably late in the trade," he said, but "I think it still works."

If the Fed goes to 1%,
don’t get scared

Guy Adami, having pretty much nailed the recent bounce in WFC, apparently can't wait to get short again. "I think Wells, as Jim Chanos said, is probably no-man's land right here," Adami said. "The trade to me is wait for it to get maybe back to 27, 27 and a half, and then short it again."

Tim Seymour said there's a big headwind on the banks in D.C. "I think we've got an overzealous mob on Capitol Hill that are going to do everything they can to strangle the capabilities and the functionalities of a lot of these banks," Seymour said.

Analyst George Goncalves was billed as having an eye-opening take on a Fed surprise, but his segment turned into nothing more than the typical rates-going-higher-than-people-like-inflation-thing. "I think that we're heading up for, uh, for some tough times in 2010 for short-term interest rates," Goncalves said.

Gary Kaminsky said he's said it before and will say it again, "1% Fed funds rate is not negative for equities, and it's not negative for the stock market."

Jeff Palma of UBS was asked to play "Bull Market or BS?" It was, to be kind, a rather humdrum analysis, calling for moderate stock gains in a 2010 market that will be "a less risky one, it's gonna be, slightly more defensive."

Guy Adami first congratulated Corning CFO Jim Flaws for successfully playing "Bull Market or BS" a while ago, then asked if major sporting events such as the World Cup drive demand for televisions. "Sporting events do drive some demand, they never drive as much as what investors want them to do," Flaws said.

We’ll second, or third, that

Gary Kaminsky offered an understatement about Citi's TARP payback, which is so clumsy you'd almost think Chuck Prince is overseeing it. "This has been real sloppy," Kaminsky said.

"To say the least," Melissa Lee agreed. (This writer is long C.)

Great ‘Fast Money’ idea:
Karabell-Chanos talk China

Tuesday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report," Melissa Lee conducted a stellar interview with noted short seller Jim Chanos. The only glitch was that she talked about the most interesting subject at the end.

But there was a lot here for stock buyers to consider.

Most significantly, Chanos painted an investment picture of China that is basically 100% at odds with that suggested by Zach Karabell, a regular "Fast Money" pundit who has authored a recent book (Superfusion) on his thesis.

We don't know who will ultimately prove correct, only that to this point in time, the markets have vindicated Karabell.

Lee asked Chanos about a research report suggesting a negative outlook for China. Chanos replied, "I thought you were gonna talk about when we said that, that China is Dubai times a thousand, or worse."

Here is what Chanos went on to say:

"We are actively looking for plays on the China investment boom, which we think will burst at some point."

"As long as they keep the credit going, I think the game will continue. ... There's no bigger credit excess right now than in China."

"We've seen the tail end of construction booms in the Middle East and in the West. But China's going full-bore."

"We also just don't believe the GDP numbers. We think they're massively inflated by underdepreciating the very, very, very shaky capital asset base."

Chanos said there's not a pure way to short China's boom, that one has to look at Hong Kong shares — or prominent commodity producers in Australia and the United States among other places. Lee asked about specifics and Chanos said, "Yes, yes, yes," mentioning "copper, cement, iron ore ... I think there's opportunities in all those areas."

"Demand in China is overinflated."

"The irony about China, Melissa, is that Western investors who decry the amount of government involvement, say in health care in the U.S. or government intervention in the financial markets and really find it distasteful are quick to grasp the fact that 25 members of the Chinese politburo in Beijing are able to fine-tune this rapidly growing economy."

Elsewhere, Chanos was negative on the auto sector.

"We were short, we covered, uh, through the course of '08, early '09 and we're back in, both here and in Europe," he said. "It's a sector that has chronically lost money ... we've seen increased worldwide capacity in the last 12 months ... industry bulls are hoping for a level of sales that heretofore would've been considered depression levels."

"I wouldn't be long Fiat or Ford, put it that way."

He said air travel is a short opportunity also. "EADS, which is the parent of Airbus, we think that their problems are myriad, they'll ultimately need state support," he said.

In general, Chanos said, "We're long the market and short our stocks."

We think "Fast Money" viewers would be tremendously served by a half-hour discussion between Karabell and Chanos, given their widely differing viewpoints on China's potential. We hesitate to suggest "debate"; we just think it would be fascinating to hear a series of arguments between people who have put real money on opposite sides of this trade.

Guy Adami has been hot

Guy Adami said, after the Chanos interview, "I agree with him on China, you know, they could be buying commodities to hoard 'em, they're not necessarily using them, if you wanna get short commodities, Freeport McMoran's had a huge move up, that might be an interesting look right now."

Adami not only was right a couple weeks ago on FCX entering short territory, he also was right in the last week on the WFC bounce around $25.

[Monday, December 14, 2009]

Here’s a tip: Take a position
if you think it’s going up

We don't think of ourselves as CNBC "watchdogs," even though a few good-hearted folks happen to see us that way.

We watch the channel for enjoyment, and merely comment on what we see.

But aren't you glad we're available to keep a "Fast Money" scorecard?

The issue Monday would be Gary Kaminsky's (inadvertent, we think) revisionist history on his AMZN call.

Monday, Kaminsky said this about Amazon:

"The valuation parameters eventually catch up. ... I think I mentioned it on the show a couple weeks ago. I said if you come into the office and say, 'I'm gonna buy Amazon,' you've gotta come up with some reason why you're initiating a position at these levels, and you've missed it all year."

Well, actually, Kaminsky made that point about Amazon on "Fast Money" not a "couple weeks ago," but Friday, Oct. 23. He said Oct. 23, "If you do initiate a position right now, you better have some great rationale as to why you missed it for the last year."

The closing price of Amazon that day? $118.49.

So if you heeded Gary's caution on AMZN that day, you missed out on a 23% run within six weeks, and what remains an 11% gain since Kaminsky's Oct. 23 call.

To say nothing of the fact that this argument about rationale for initiating a position, as we noted in October, is mostly illogical. The person who has held AMZN for years has the same decision as someone who bought Monday — where is the stock going, and is it worth keeping at this price?

So why is Gary trumpeting a curiously cautious call that missed a huge run that still is well in the black?

Beats us.

Joe Terranova said, "Since Dec. 3rd, Amazon has had a technical reversal off its 52-week high of 145. I don't think the fundamentals have changed that much." He said he'd be a buyer at $125.

A trade that took off

Kaminsky is doing much better with airlines, which he recommended on "Fast Money" on Oct. 21.

Since then United is, astoundingly, almost a double, while AMR's had a healthy gain. Interestingly, Kaminsky was asked Monday whether he'd take United or American, and he answered JetBlue, which is basically flat since the Oct. 21 call.

Kaminsky said the airline trade is going to be a sell "as soon as you see a round of discounting ... keep the stocks, keep the long trade going until you start to see price cuts."

A Brief of History of Time
is actually less confusing

The Word on the Street portion of Monday's show, heavily tied to the XOM deal, reminded us of the recent episode about BAC's TARP payback, the panel doing the TV equivalent of groping around in the dark for tradeable conclusions to be drawn.

Joe Terranova said Monday of the XTO deal, "This tells you a lot about Rex Tillerson's thinking."

OK, good enough.

What wasn't good enough was another ridiculous "Fast Money" chart. This one was titled "A BRIEF HISTORY OF ENERGY M&A, 1998-2001."

It showed two squiggly lines going up and down. Along those lines were arrows pointing to five oil deals, two involving BP. On the left column of the chart were the numbers 40, 12.5 and -15.

If you have any idea what this chart meant, you've been having too much Sam Adams in the afternoon.

Later, we caught "RECEIVEING" or something like that on the screen text.

Much more useful was Pete Najarian's take on another commodity. "The fundamentals right now still speak to coal," Pete said, explaining that FBR is talking about China and "the next trend, the kicker, (is) thermal coal." He mentioned the usual suspects, BTU, WLT and CLF.

"Power consumption in China up 28% in the last month's number," said Tim Seymour. "Is it real? I don't know. But the bottom line is, if it's real, coal's going a lot higher."

Some analyst came on to talk about Citi. Don't care. We're tired of people talking about Citi, and we don't care much anymore about what was said about C, except we wonder how Vikram Pandit could've possibly put together a widely anticipated deal that still managed to crush his stock 6%? (This writer is long C.)

Pip Coburn griped about the "hubris" of Google and said the phone is a distraction he doesn't need but he still likes the company for its great search. Coburn said he likes Sybase, which has a "wonderful focused management team," and he also finds Strayer "a beautiful company."

Dr. J's appearance on the regular show was basically a repeat of his "Halftime" performance, but without his biting commentary that the banker-White House meeting was a "dumb" idea.

Melissa Lee opted for a button-dominated, gray formal type of jacket that seems a distant cousin of some sort to the type of attire sported by West Point cadets.

Jon Najarian unimpressed by
White House-banker meeting

The "Halftime Report" Monday was delayed by an Obama speech, then clumsily wrapped into a John Harwood interview with USB CEO Richard Davis.

Jon Najarian was asked about Citi's valuation, but used the opportunity to critique the banker meeting.

"All these bankers were like going back to an uncle that just gave them a bunch of money," Dr. J. complained. "I thought it was just a dumb meeting and I don't know what it does for anybody except just photo opportunities and a lot of jawboning."

Najarian said he would fade Devon and Chesapeake on the XOM news, but "I do like the activity I see in Plains Reource," PXP, which he owns.

Simon Hobbs, sitting in for Melissa Lee, pronounced Mike Khouw's last name as "Chow" and pronounced the oil giant as "Exxonmobile."

[Friday, December 11, 2009]

Does Linda McMahon
get equal time?

Peter Schiff used his "Fast Money" appearance Friday to alert viewers he's running for U.S. Senate.

"The main problem I have with the domestic companies — apart from valuations, the valuations are very higher here — is I'm very afraid of the Obama administration and Congress, and what type of punitive taxes and regulations might come on these companies, particularly since I believe they're gonna make a lot of money," Schiff said. "There could be windfall profit taxes here. I don't trust this administration, I don't trust the government. So I'm afraid to make investments in U.S. companies. You know, that's one of the reasons I'm running for the United States Senate is so I can try to go to, go to Congress, and try to, you know, undo all these, all these, all these legislation (sic) that is encumbering our economy."

Interestingly, when CNBC on-air editor Charles Gasparino appeared in October and mentioned the president was once a "community organizer," he was momentarily cut off.

So if you're a Senate candidate, it's OK on "Fast Money" to make a skeptical comment about the Obama administration, but if you're a news reporter, it's not.

Maybe next year, 3,000%

We've said before, we think Schiff is a good pundit.

But we've started to wonder: Is the guy ever wrong? Is he just so perfect and great that he's never wrong about anything?

Melissa Lee asked him Friday about his fund that is a pure play on the Chinese economy. Schiff told viewers, "That fund is up better than 20% in the last four months." He didn't mention having any funds that are down in the last four months.

Then Lee asked for a favorite stock.

"The one that is my favorite right now, it's my favorite because I guess we've made the most money in it is a company called Skyworth Digital. And, you know, that stock is up, I don't know, 1,500% this year," Schiff said, but he did manage to note, "most of 'em haven't gone up that much."

"Most of 'em."

By contrast, we heard Brian Stutland discuss an options play later in the show with not nearly so much certainty, apparently. Stutland said to buy the January 45 call for BBY and sell the January 48 call. "I get a 2-to-1 payout," Stutland said, provided the stock goes north toward his $50 target.

Karen Finerman pointed out that selling the 48 call caps your return if the stock does indeed scoot to $50.

"But one mistake that option traders do," Stutland said, "and new people that get into trading options, is you go out and just buy calls, buy calls, when you're bullish, and a lot of times, you could be wrong."

"Could be wrong." We prefer Schiff's advice, we guess, where gold is on autopilot to $5,000, the dollar's headed to oblivion, China stocks go up 20% in four months, slam dunk.

Some people still have VCRs

Mitch Lowe, president of Redbox, said Friday, "Our customers love to rent at one location and return at a more convenient location. In fact one in every four rentals gets returned to a different location."

Lowe says he's been hearing since the 1980s that the packaged media form of movie-viewing only has about four years left. Customers still like it, he said; "they especially love the portability of the physical product."

Karen Finerman asked him a good question about studio standoffs, which Lowe dodged, and no one offered casual viewers any relevant details that would've explained why Karen asked about this, which is because some studios think Redbox should get its discs for hot movies only after they've been on sale at Wal-Mart and other retailers for a few weeks. Lowe said he's got great relationships with many studios, but there's a "few where there's a big misunderstanding."

Guy Adami said of Redbox's parent, "Coinstar has a monster short interest, I think you buy Coinstar hoping the shorts get squeezed."

Karen's sister Wendy, an Oscar winner, was producer of 2007's "P.S. I Love You" (starring Hilary Swank), which is carried by Redbox, according to its Web site.

A really valuable study

Karen Finerman said one thing about the markets on Friday, "Haven't really been seeing that big unwind that many have been fearful of. Today, for example, a nice move in the dollar, and the equity markets did just fine."

Karen also said, "The yield curve steepening is a good thing for banks," including ones she owns.

Karen asked Steve Liesman if yet another study showing how pessimistic regular Joes are about the economy is actually a "very good contra-indicator," citing what it probably showed in 2007. Liesman said actually it's a "pretty good coincident indicator."

We're not sure what a "coincident indicator" is, other than something that tells you exactly where you've already been.

Pete Najarian said he had a chat with Craig Berger about NSM results and learned the issue with NSM is that, according to Berger, TXN is "eating their lunch."

Workaholic Melissa Lee, perhaps emboldened by curvy and sleek red top, told Steve Liesman, "I don't take any days off," and Steve Liesman agreed, "You don't take any days off." That's something to be proud of, we think, but not something that's always good to mention.

Guy Adami’s WFC Sucks update

Friday, Guy Adami noted that WFC had trickled down to $25.01 before bouncing.

"We talked about this as early as September, said it was gonna go down to 25," Adami said. "If you're getting short Wells Fargo today folks, you're trading backwards ... today's the day you take off your short."

That last word was "short," not "shorts."

Status of ‘Trading the Globe’?

Hard to believe, but it was way back in October when we reviewed the debut edition of Tim Seymour's "Trading the Globe," which aired then on a Friday night at 8 p.m. Eastern on CNBC.

We pointed out (see archives) it looked like Seymour had done a great job, there was a lot of interesting, fast-moving stock chatter, and the panelists clicked right away. We did note, however, it might be hard to fill the show with fresh material if it airs every week.

We haven't seen it since, but this week we noticed it's not listed anywhere on our TV grid, and the only "Trading the Globe" references we've seen recently are five-minute segments on "Fast Money."

According to Seymour's CNBC bio, he is "the host of CNBC's 'Trading the Globe.'"

So either bigger things are in the works for the show perhaps in 2010, or it's been decided it can't air as its own program, but merely segments on "Fast Money" and perhaps other CNBC shows.

However it turns out, the debut was well done and worth a future look.

Adami: We’re accountable

Guy Adami spoke on Friday's "Fast Money Web Extra" about his disdain for JPMorgan's 1,300 one-year call on the S&P 500. "You watch a show like "Fast Money,' where each night we get graded, and we talk about our trades," Adami said.

Strazzullo: Gold at $1,090

Uninteresting "Halftime Report" on Friday. Bill Strazzullo, whose name was misspelled on the CNBC.com Rapid Recap (one "l"), said he wants to buy more gold at $1,090 or $1,050. "There's plenty to go on the upside," he said. Of the stock market, he says, "I think the game plan's really the same. This is a good place to take some profits, take a step back."

Joe Terranova said, "Apple looks to be in no-man's land." Brian Stutland said to look at retailers including his favorite, Best Buy. "The consumer has been underrated over this whole thing." Mike Gurka said he's near-term bullish, "We're looking solid here; I'm long."

[Thursday, December 10, 2009]

Finerman: They’re not buying
AMZN on fundamentals

As regular "Fast Money" viewers know, Karen Finerman has long scoffed at the valuation on Amazon.com, including this week.

Thursday, she gave it the biggest dis yet, saying if you're acquiring it now, "You've gotta be buying in to the Greater Fool Theory."

Speaking of momentum trades ...

Steve Cortes thinks he's found a winner in the disinflation trade.

"I am short XRT against the market, against the S&P, and I talked about this trade last time I was here. I'm adding to it now; I think there's several reasons why this trade is actually going to accelerate into Christmas and in fact into next year," he said. "The first is it's working. It's momentum. Retail stocks have been underperforming the market, XRT specifically. The second reason for me is that the stores have no pricing power ... and the third one ... is Apple," which Cortes called an "excellent read on consumer discretionary, an excellent lead."

Cortes closed by suggesting a potential blockbuster. "If I'm right about disinflation," he said, "then the dollar is an incredible buy here."

Guy Adami’s WFC Sucks update

Thursday Guy Adami said this about his least-favorite bank stock:

"I happen to think it's going down, on bounces you sell it from here."

However, Adami did concede WFC has tumbled close to his $25 level and that the short trade might be getting a little extended. Tim Seymour said he thinks a steepening of the yield curve is good news for WFC but with secondary issues, try something else.

Someone brought up "Dancing With the Stars." Adami said, "Just so you know, I was asked to be on the show."

Patriots will win Super Bowl,
Red Sox will win World Series,
George Bush will keep presidency

In the category of "Most Times Delivered Same Thesis on 'Fast Money'," Carter Worth is probably the Guinness Record holder.

Worth said/repeated Thursday, "As an asset class, there's every indication that 2010 will play out very similar to 2004."

Blame Steve Case, not Pete

Analyst David Joyce ventured onto the "Fast Money" set Thursday to argue for AOL being worth $30-$34, even though he concedes "it is a show-me stock."

Pete Najarian had trouble going out on a limb and making a call here, but he did offer a bit of "I told you so" in regards to a controversial merger.

Asked if AOL is a buy, he said, "You know what, I didn't think it was a buy when it was taken over with the TimeWarner whole merger long ago, but ... maybe so."

This is what Superfusion
is supposed to prevent

Tim Seymour said "China's p----- off" over some recent trade decisions, and Melissa Lee never misses a chance to repeat a panelist's crudity. "What would the Mandarin translation be for 'p----- off," Lee said.

Seymour said energy has done so well since Y2K, largely because in China, "Their oil demand has tripled in that time."

"I moved to Moscow in 1998," Seymour said.

And he repeated that Apple's tablet is "a sign they've thrown the towel in," but nevertheless thinks it will be a bullish event for the company and can't be adequately yet priced in to the stock.

Karen Finerman said "Some of the HMOs are a little ahead of itself (sic)," but she still likes Becton Dickinson and Bard.

"Now's not the time to buy UNH," said Guy Adami.

Dr. J salutes Goldman Sachs

Jeff Tomasulo said on the "Halftime Report" Thursday, "I did buy GLD yesterday and I do like the gold trade overall," but he warned about a possible strengthening of the dollar.

Jon Najarian said to take a look at AMSC. And he cheered GS' decision on compensation for its top 30. "I applaud Goldman for it," Najarian said.

Rick Santelli said "I also agree, in general with those that are trying to repay TARP, with Andrew Ross Sorkin. Pay, pay, pay, to get the government as much out of the way as you can."

Tomasulo said of Citigroup, "It's a dog." (This writer is long C.)

"I am long ENER on this very unusual activity," Najarian said.

Todd Gordon says he needs to say trading patterns before rendering an opinion on AOL.

Jeff Macke says he
might be Debbie Downer

We catch up with Jeff Macke's Minyanville posts as often as we can. In this column Tuesday, the Lone Wolf notes, in a strange "Superman" analogy, he's battling laryngitis, and this: "At the risk of being Debbie Downer, I’m going to go ahead and count 2010 as the start of the new millennium and ignore this decade entirely."

[Wednesday, December 9, 2009]

Our mistakes are our own

Last weekend we posted our review of Maria Bartiromo's "Inside the Mind of Google."

The program was hardly blockbuster material, but a certain condescending remark by Eric Schmidt is getting some play on the Web. (In other words, Drudge picked up the Gawker story about it.)

We didn't mention our review on this page because it has little relevance to "Fast Money." But something about it is worth noting.

When you are using Google, whether it's Google Images, Google News or basic search, you are basically holding the hand of a computer program that tells you what's up.

We pointed out several days ago (see below) how remarkably poorly Google and other search engines operate in general and in directing Web users to CNBCfix material they might actually want to read. (We barely were able to type that sentence with a straight face.)

We note in our review, "results" turned up by Google can be embarrassing, offensive or potentially defamatory, if anyone is to believe the terms it suggests you might want to include on your Maria Bartiromo search that aren't even matched by the search results it ultimately gives you for those terms.

If you too question whether "transparency" is justification for these kinds of results, consider yourself in our camp on this one.

So when you visit Google news, for example, you are not seeing honest news judgment at work, but results of a computer algorithm written by a 20-something Silicon Valleyite purporting to tell you the top stories but really doing nothing more than ranking all the clicks to articles on major newspaper Web sites.

We'll never get as many hits as Google news. But around here, we call it like we see it, not based on what comScore says.

CNBCfix — where human beings, not computers, post the news.

One difference: This won’t
land a job for Greg Curl

The "Fast Money" crew apparently so enjoyed speculating during the Bank of America breaking news last week, they decided to try it again on Wednesday, when Maria Bartiromo ushered in Citigroup developments.

"My question would be," said Tim Seymour, "you know, what happens to the $300 billion of toxic assets that the FDIC has effectively insured for Citibank, depending on if they pay it all back now."

"Here's the part that I really don't understand," Karen Finerman offered. "Both Bank America (sic) and Citi I would think would use some of their liquidity to pay back the government. Isn't that completely counter to the government's effort to get more lending out there?"

Joe Terranova didn't seem to care about lingering issues but was sort of in conclusionary congratulatory mode. "Did anyone think back in March or April that everyone would be paying back the TARP as quickly as they have?" Terranova asked.

"Tim Geithner did," said Seymour.

We bet you'd never guess where Guy Adami extrapolated the Citi news:

"So now my next question is," Adami said, "is Wells Fargo next?"

Adami & the usual suspects

Guy Adami got a second chance to bring up Wells Fargo on Wednesday when Chris Whalen — whom no one will ever ask, "is this your after-school job or something?" — showed up on the set. But it was gold talk that provided Adami with a little headwind from his colleagues.

"Again — I think the performance in gold shows you how scary it can be," Adami said. "I mean, gold's down a hundred dollars in a few sessions. That has to worry somebody. Other people will say it's fine as part of the correction."

Among those "other people" are a couple sitting on either side of Adami.

"The gold story is not over, I mean this is nothing more than a technical breakdown," insisted Joe Terranova.

"Totally," said Tim Seymour. "And I think when people talk, with all due respect, people talk about a hundred-dollar move in gold, big deal."

MLee defended having any discussion of gold. "Right. But in perspective, I mean, if a stock fell 8% over four trading sessions, we would be pointing that out. If that were a market leader," Lee said.

Tim Seymour responded that it's still not a big deal given how much gold has climbed.

Perhaps because Rick Santelli wasn't available — or wasn't making much of a point yesterday — Karen Finerman warned about the issuance of government bonds. "One day we're going to see a very difficult auction, and that will be, that'll be very exciting," Karen said, and she didn't mean "exciting" in a good way (unless you're short the TLT, perhaps).

Why AAPL was up

Yair Reiner discussed his report on the upcoming Apple tablet, calling it a "revolutionary" product. Tim Seymour shrugged and said it seems like an about-face on Apple's part for previously dismissing tablet computing. Karen Finerman asked a great question, will it cannibalize some Mac sales, and Reiner said it will hurt tablets and desktops everywhere.

Guy Adami made a joke. "I ain't buying one. There's no shot. Zero shot," Guy said.

Joe Terranova said what he finds most compelling about this story is what Reiner wrote about the "revenue effect that this could have for Amazon."

Tim Seymour said "the sight of a Blackberry is very rare" in China.

This is a better question
for Charles Gasparino

Melissa Lee, who looked great in her purple sweater that resembled her blockbuster royal blue offering of last week but didn't quite match it, rolled out on Wednesday the type of opinion we generally don't hear from her, about Citi and the TARP.

It came in an interview with Stifel Financial CEO Ron Kruszewski.

"The losing-talent argument though, that sort of doesn't make sense to me Ron," Lee said, referring to Goldman Sachs, and adding, "they may not be under government-imposed restrictions necessarily, but they are under populist restrictions to pay, you know, exorbitant bonuses."

"Populist restrictions." Interesting.

"Well no question, but populist vs. government regulation is a difference," Kruszewski said.

Gartman: Dollar ‘starting
to get quite strong’

Dennis Gartman said Wednesday on the "Halftime Report" that crude and the dollar are going opposite ways.

"You just have no support for crude oil at this point," Gartman said. "When crude went, down went gold, you can say that a lot of this has to do with the dollar. The dollar is in fact getting stronger, an awful lot of people on the wrong side of the dollar trade, everyone you know is short of the dollar, and the dollar is starting to get quite strong."

"Yeah but Dennis, at the same time, you take a look at the dollar index, we're basically flat," Melissa Lee said.

"Let's be careful when we look only at the DXY," Gartman said. "What you're seeing actually is the fact that the Canadian dollar is quite strong today it's up almost a full percent, and we have to remember, Canada is far and away our largest trading partner. The Canadian dollar is strong, but the dollar is very strong relative to sterling, it's very strong relative to uh, to uh, the euro, and that's where we should pay more attention."

"That is a great point you bring up," Lee said.

Jared Levy said something about the options market hasn't been seen since about March 2000. "It's very unusual that out-month or back-month options have such an increase in implied volatility," Levy said.

On health care deals, "This is still public option lite here," said Steve Grasso.

Divine Dani Hughes said of Dollar General, "I'd actually be a seller into earnings tomorrow."

[Tuesday, December 8, 2009]

Does Joe Terranova
watch his own show?

On Tuesday's "Fast Money," Joe Terranova commented on the unemployment rate, saying "10.2, no one right now is looking at that as being the peak just yet."

But as recently as Thursday — three episodes ago — Joe LaVorgna came on the show and correctly predicted Friday's jobless number would be "10% — I think the unemployment rate peaked for a few reasons."

Even worse? Terranova was sitting there on the set while LaVorgna made this prediction.

How much is she making?

Apparently, this economy isn't so bad after all.

Or maybe Rick Santelli's worst fears about inflation have materialized.

Melissa Lee, in a weird little exchange discussing a settlement between Overstock.com and David Rocker (among others), spoke about the amount with Karen Finerman.

"At the end of the day, not that much money, 5 million dollars," Lee said.

"Well I don't know if that's personally, or who owes it, but—" Finerman said.

"OK, um, let's move on here," Lee said.

Overstock, by the way, hasn't had the same magic since it used smoking hot Sabine Ehrenfeld in its commercials.

Why didn’t she ask Mahaney
if this is his ‘after-school job’?

If you're ever planning to try standup comedy, make sure Pete Najarian is in your audience on opening night.

Getting a laugh out of Pete is so easy, even Milton Berle probably could have done it.

On Tuesday, this is where it started. Melissa Lee asked Mark Mahaney a perfectly logical question and received a completely illogical answer.

"Mark you've got a $140 price target on Amazon.com. What would cause you to think, maybe not?" Lee asked.

"Well, if they were to hit 140," Mahaney said.

That for some reason sent Pete into a wheezing chuckle-fest.

Who knows what Pete was laughing about. Lessee ... according to Mahaney, he's got a $140 price target ... but if the stock actually hits that target, he would think of its potential to hit that target, "maybe not."

Maybe Pete's ahead of the curve here. Sometimes attempting to apply logic to "Fast Money," which we tried to do yesterday with the 1980 gold vs. checking account chart, can really crack you up.

Eventually, Mahaney said he still likes AMZN but that it has limited potential. "Put us down as a small buyer on it."

"Small buy. Never heard of that on Wall Street," Melissa Lee said, her turn to laugh.

"We have single digit upside to what we think is fair value," Mahaney said.

That got Karen Finerman started. "Fair value, how do you get 'fair value' on Amazon," Karen said, which produced another chuckle from Pete. "I mean, to me it seems so far beyond any normal metric of fair value..." Karen said.

Mahaney responded, "So this company's gonna do something like $3 to $3.50 in earnings next year. What multiple do you want to put on that?"

That's when Karen delivered yet another Sunday punch from her staggering humor arsenal that somehow couldn't elicit a laugh from Pete: "57? No. Ah, apparently that is the number."

"No no, you wanna put it at some level relative to the growth rate, right," Mahaney continued, and he whipped through so much numerical mumbo-jumbo that we lost interest faster than you can say "free shipping."

Later in "Pops & Drops," Melissa Lee talked about a steering-wheel desk, prompting Karen Finerman to wonder "What could go wrong?" Which prompted another laugh from Pete.

"I actually bought some McDonald's today," Karen said, and she owns some Google.

1. These facts, 2. Are already,
3. Priced into the stocks

You know how some people like to talk about things happening in threes?

Mark Mahaney described Amazon's strengths this way: "First, these Kindle sales are taking off. Secondly this company has shown acceleration in international markets. Third, they're starting to get into household and personal care products. Like, they're becoming the biggest sellers of diapers online."

"Biggest sellers of diapers online," Melissa Lee said, not terribly impressed.

Then David Trone came on to talk about Citigroup. "I kinda had this gut feel, um, and I was predisposed to upgrade the stock, but when I ran through the numbers, I just could not make it work. A, there's been massive dilution already. B, the company sold off some of its best business. C, it's massively delevering."

(This writer is long C.)

Santelli: No flight to quality

Melissa Lee, who is quickly turning the "Fast Money" set into her own little fashion show, exhibited an exquisite gray layered frock Tuesday and managed to bat the eyes a little bit into the camera when introducing a dollar segment and asking Rick Santelli, "Is this a short squeeze?"

The question was a bit mangled, and Santelli didn't quite understand it, but unfortunately he went on to deliver a rambling monologue that could be summarized basically as "everything sucks."

Santelli sort of warned that if there's a bigger Dubai-type situation, "don't buy gold, and buy the dollar."

So rightly skeptical Karen Finerman asked, "What should be the flight, the flight to what, fill in the blank, where should people go if they're looking for safety..."

"I don't think there is any flight to quality," Santelli protested.

"Putting it in your mattress, Rick? I mean, c'mon, there's a flight to something," argued Melissa Lee with noticeable traces of disdain. Santelli said there was some "00.0" auction just like 2008, or something like that, so Tim Seymour saw fit to jump in.

"Hold on Rick, Rick, is the dollar rallying because of flight to quality or dollar strength?" Seymour asked. "Wasn't last week, weren't we talking about payroll numbers and people rallying to dollars because of U.S. strength? People can't make up their mind on this trade. We are not — if anything it's a flight to quality, which ultimately means the dollar gets weaker again."


MLee apparently thought it kind of silly, as we did, to have to dish out a reader question during the "Final Trade."

But what a strange way to mock it.

"This one comes from Chris in Minneapolis and he writes to Tim: what's your sign?" Lee said.

Kelly: FCX good to go

About the only thing worth noting Tuesday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" was Melissa Lee's exquisite, shoulder-layered gray dress. None of the panelists complimented her on it, but Brian Kelly did say there's a potential copper supply issue looming, he now likes FCX, has bought one-third of his position and will add the remaining two-thirds once it starts to show gains. Pete Najarian trumpeted Morgan Stanley, saying "I love it at these levels here."

[Monday, December 7, 2009]

‘Fast Money’ should stop
outsourcing its charts

Melissa Lee questioned Tim Seymour's enthusiasm for gold Monday on "Fast Money."

Lee introduced a chart — um, unfortunately attributed to Bloomberg — that showed, "If you bought gold at the last peak, it wouldn't have beat money that you put into a checking account. A CHECKING ACCOUNT!"

"Numbers are really convenient," Seymour shrugged.

"Well the numbers are pretty glaring here," Lee insisted.

"Glaring" would be an accurate term. Here's what the chart said:


U.S. Checking Account — Up 92%
Gold — Up 44%
S&P 500 — Up 22%
Treasuries — Up 11%
Source: Bloomberg

The first two lines seem OK. It's the third line that got our attention: The S&P 500 is only up 22% since 1980???

According to Yahoo finance, Google finance and MarketWatch, the S&P 500 closed Dec. 31, 1979, at 107.94.

It closed at 1,103.62 on Monday.

Which suggests in 30 years, it's worth 10 times as much.

Seymour was on to something when, arguing with Lee, he said, "The S&P was up, 20 times or something like that, but where's the S&P over the last 10 years." But we don't see evidence of being up 20 times either.

This segment was monstrously absurd to begin with. Nobody should make a buy-and-hold investment for 30 years (if that's worked for you, great), and nobody should be basing an investment decision today on something that happened 30 years ago, though chartists in fact tend to do just that.

"And I don't care about the S& (sic), or the, buying gold 20 years ago giving me less than a checking account," Seymour concluded. Neither do we.

‘Germany is about 55-60%
of global solar demand’

Gordon Johnson of Hapoalim delivered on Monday some of the most interesting "Fast Money" commentary we've heard recently.

Some of it was beyond our grasp, but we got the gist of it as Johnson explained Germany's role in the solar trade.

"Germany is about 55 to 60% of global solar demand," Johnson said. "The German government has come out and very vehemently said that they're gonna look to reduce the incentives for solar." He drew comparisons between wholesale and retail that went a bit too fast for us, but explained, as best we could determine, that the "incentives" were hurting the German consumer because "you're paying 10 times, 20 times what you pay for fossil fuel-based electricity in Germany."

He added, "Solar is way more expensive than traditional fossil fuel."

We suppose we could dig into the Internet right now and figure out why Germany is so high on solar, but that's a quest for another time.

As far the Copenhagen stuff goes, Johnson said there isn't much potential for a breakthrough because "The U.S. and China have not done anything specifically yet."

If you thought the "Fast Money" graphics were bad Monday, note that Melissa Lee introduced Johnson's Copenhagen segment by explaining that "local prostitutes ... were volunteering to work for free." Even Lee conceded it was a "bizarre, bizarre intro."

On an unrelated topic, Craig Berger, FBR, said TXN has a decent chance of raising guidance in a discussion that was too much inside baseball, but to Berger's credit, he once again tossed out a healthy number of names for viewers to chew on, namely Fairchild Semi and Marvell, which he said are the most undervalued.

The dollar-gold thing, continued

Brian Kelly talked so much about the dollar and gold and pointed around at his charts so quickly, it made our head spin.

Here's a highlight:

"On the dollar index, my initial stop was a 74.50, which I did get stopped out of," Kelly said. "I bought it back on the day, uh, Friday after the Dubai news, Friday after Thanksgiving. But I did not get stopped out of the yen, the franc and the pound trades that I have on, and those are probably my favorite ones."

"It's not always the malevolent trade," said Tim Seymour, pointing to 2005. "Gold and the dollar and the equity markets can go up.

"I feel like I'm sounding like Peter Schiff here," Seymour added. "It's a little scary."

Sell phones

Sometimes we get concerned that we occasionally give people too much of a hard time, even though this is just a bunch of words on a computer screen and nothing more.

So we want to point out, we think Jim Suva's a good guy and a quality analyst, even if he doesn't seem to have the nuances of television down pat, which is fine, because he's not a TV celebrity, he's a stock analyst.

Monday, Suva made an actual appearance on the "Fast Money" set, and promptly stood as stiff as a statue while discussing RIMM. And instead of addressing the panel, he stared right into the camera in a way that just seemed awkward, and didn't speak particularly conversationally. Joe LaVorgna does the same thing, but he's found the knack for addressing the camera while reverting back to the panelists.

Suva said "We still have a sell rating on RIMM." He said he thinks Palm will try to make a "run at it" as an independent company. He said he likes MOT, "going from nothing, to something, we think that's a good trade."

Pete Najarian said he actually likes RIMM, "I think there's upside here."

We've said before — and as always, keep in mind this writer is not a stock pro and has never been trained to analyze companies and anyone who takes stock tips from CNBCfix deserves to lose their money — that if we had any guts, we'd short the whole cell phone sector, with the possible exception of Apple, or maybe go long AAPL and short the rest. (This writer has no position, short or otherwise, in the cell phone sector.)

We prefer Grizzly Adams

Melissa Lee was trying to strike a balance when rattling off her take on Ben Bernanke's comments Monday. Bernanke, she said, basically called a "V-shaped recovery off the table," and indicated "tremendous headwinds when it comes to the labor picture." But Bernanke "did say inflation remains ... subdood. Which is ... good," Lee concluded.

Tim Seymour showed his age a bit in describing the Fed chief's remarks as "Gentle Ben actually giving caution on the economy was bullish for the market."

Pete Najarian seemed ready to pull up a chair for a beer with the chairman and perhaps discuss the BCS. "By the way I thought he looked by far the most comfortable we've seen him in a really long time, probably two years," Pete said.

"Gentle Ben," by the way, ran from 1967-69 and starred Ron Howard's brother, Clint. There were a couple TV movies this decade, but nobody remembers those.

How many more years of this?

One of the occasional treats of "Fast Money" is seeing Melissa Lee deliver one of those sultry looks at the camera while galloping through the "Pops & Drops."

Monday, Lee said, "Comcast — our future parent company — was up 7% Guy," and she seemed to indulge in a bit of overacting in saying "our future parent company."

But just in case viewers somehow might think Lee was trying to pump up GE stock, the screen then showed this graphic:


Just so you know.

Steady Debbie cracks up

In the last month or two we've praised the remarkable poker face Melissa Lee brings to the TV table. But not even the greats can do it every day. Something Tim Seymour said in the "Final Trade" about CHL and "huge" evidently was rip-roaringly funny, and Lee was laughing so hard she could barely speak through the rest of the trades.


Guardian of the U.K. reported Monday that Google CEO Eric Schmidt launched a Twitter account that is following, among others, "CNBC talking head" Zachary Karabell.

If memory serves, Karabell's tweets occur about once every couple of days, on par with Charles Gasparino but definitely lagging Joe Terranova, undeniably lagging Patty Edwards, and miles behind Jon Najarian.

‘Halftime Report’ doesn’t
get off the ground

Melissa Lee, wearing V-neck red sweater, black skirt and oversized earrings, ramrodded through a very brief 12:30 Eastern "Fast Money Halftime Report" that was accelerated to beat the Bernanke speech.

Sure, the time window was the issue, but this segment was so clumsy, they shouldn't have bothered.

Zach Karabell wasn't even accorded the chance to speak.

Jon Najarian, batting leadoff, said "I think actually the dollar goes right back to the gains that it was putting in, after this speech, because I think quite frankly that the uh, Fed chairman is worried about his legacy."

Joe Terranova, batting cleanup, managed to get in, "I think you will see probably the highs for the dollar come in Q1 2010."

In between, Mike Khouw rattled off so much options-related inside baseball, it made our head spin. "That's really what we're talking about, basically a shift in the price curve for options," Khouw said.

Karabell at least got a second chance to make a first impression when he spoke with Scott Wapner on the "Fast Money Final Call," where he was notably introduced as a "'Fast Money' contributor," which must be a different distinction than "CNBC contributor," which we've noted somehow does not include Karabell, Steve Grasso and Jon Najarian, who regularly contribute to the network.

Karabell was asked about the climate summit and said "no one's gonna walk away with a huge agreement," but that solar stocks are no longer the 2x oil-related gambit they used to be, but worthwhile investing opportunities.

Karabell seemed to be speaking to the older "Fast Money" audience when he said, "You know that old, uh, Danny Kaye movie about Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen, Copenhagen, wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen..."

[Friday, December 4, 2009]

New hottest outfit of 2009

Thursday, we noted Melissa Lee conducted her greatest intervew yet on "Fast Money."

Friday, she stopped us in our tracks, literally, when we turned on the TV and saw her in that stunning royal blue sweater.

It was quite a victory lap. We might even watch "Options Action" to see more.

Karen’s standard Q&A

We get questions and inquiries about many things on "Fast Money," but maybe the most frequent is people wondering what Karen Finerman said about the TBT or TLT.

We're not sure why, but perhaps Karen is the only prominent TV pundit talking about these trades. Her position, since she began talking about it to our knowledge early this year, has remained the same.

Friday she said, "Short TLT or long the TBT; I'd much rather be short the TLT than long the TBT, there's so much noise in that ETF." She has previously noted she doesn't like the 200% factor of the TBT.

Brian Stutland joined in the TBT fun on Friday, suggesting a trade for the "Options Action" promo.

Stutland said he would be "selling the January 47 put for a dollar," because "basically what you're saying is you're willing to get long, you're willing to get long the TBT at $46."

Karen said her own short of TLT is a "different risk/reward than what he's talking about."

Stutland said, "There's definitely some support around that $44 level" for the TBT. He added there have been "huge bets made over the last few days by Goldman Sachs traders, suggesting the VIX is gonna be range-bound or lower."

Schiff: They were buying gold

Peter Schiff dismissed the day's supposedly good news.

"There was no good news in this jobs report," Schiff said, then of the 10% jobless number, "The reason it contracted is because the labor force contracted, some people gave up looking for work. ... It means bigger trade deficits, it means more inflation."

Schiff said gold will have some pullbacks from time to time, but he wasn't concerned about Friday, because "All it did is take us back to where we were last Friday ... I don't think it has a lot of downside from here, think it has much more upside."

He complained that the "Fast Money" panel was mischaracterizing Friday's action. "There was a lot of buying coming in. You guys said there was no buying. Look at the last hour."

But Joe Terranova only shook his head at this claim like a little kid refusing to eat spinach.

Karen Finerman, discussing the market as a whole, said of gold's drop, "That move was really the most dramatic to me ... I know Guy's been waiting for this day, he has been calling for this day for weeks."

Adami insisted "I'm agnostic in terms of the price of gold ... it goes up, it goes down."

Yeah, right.

We'll restate a point we made a week ago: Why is there so much concern from Adami and perhaps others that gold will plunge worse than other investments? The GLD Friday was down 4% on a terrible day for gold. Compare that to what happened to DELL on its earnings report (this writer was long DELL) and ask yourself if you'd rather have been in the GLD.

Joe Terranova said, "I think gold challenges the Dubai lows from last week at 1135.80." Terranova, like Adami, explained the importance of checking gold's action in overseas markets Sunday night after the Giants game. "You guys can have a post-Giants gold party," Melissa Lee said.

Say that again?

Peter Schiff also complained Friday about the stimulus and Fed policy. Karen Finerman at one point said "Wait, wait, wait, wait. You're saying they can't withdraw the stimulus, they should, but they won't, but they can't..."

We agree it was confusing, but after rewinding, it did make at least partial sense. (Hint: It's the same one he's always making.) He said the government has been creating the wrong kind of jobs with stimulus and monetary policy, that it should stop doing so, but won't stop doing so for political and other reasons. "The recession is actually part of the cure," Schiff said.

Daniel Clifton of Strategas said, "This is the best jobs report we've seen in about two years, so today was a very good day."

Why is Gasparino so high
on Greg Curl as CEO?

Karen Finerman cracked up the panel (and us) when she was asked if she wants Greg Curl to be Bank of America CEO. "I don't know but I know Charlie would," Karen said, drawing laughs from Pete Najarian. "This is a situation where he is, if I'm not mistaken, chief risk officer? OK, well, I don't know, I would think, maybe somebody else."

Karen said the BAC capital raise was impressive. "The market clearly wants bank risk again," she said. "This really is a staggering amount of money."

Recall that Gasparino, by the way, about a month ago was discussing John Paulson's interest in C as being based on whether unemployment tops 10.5% or not. Gasparino said if it stays under that, C is a buy. (This writer is long C.)

Pete Najarian on Friday questioned Jeff Harte's C recommendation on Thursday, saying that the stock is below $5 and thus may not be on institutional investors' radar screens.

Remember, say no

Guy Adami said Friday, "I think the price action in Apple, to me is telling us something."

Joe Terranova said, "I think Amazon's lost a little bit of the mojo right now."

But Pete Najarian said, "You look at Texas Instruments, you look at Intel, and they just continue to go higher and higher."

Joe Terranova cited two issues with crude. "Oil's got a problem right now. The problem is, the massive contango. And it's also got a problem when the largest oil producer being Russia is ramping up production," Terranova said. "It's ridiculous how much production's coming on the market."

Guy Adami for some reason was dying to talk about Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco," written by John Phillips. He even sang it during an awkward transition to commercial while Melissa Lee also talked. Per Wikipedia, "San Francisco" reached No. 4 on the charts in 1967.

Melissa Lee spoke during "Pops & Drops" of a guy who smuggled cocaine in chickens. Lee said, "That's pretty genius of him. NOT TO CONDONE DRUGS, BECAUSE THEY ARE BAD."

LaVorgna right on the money

Deutsche Bank's Joe LaVorgna appeared on the "Fast Money" set Thursday and declared the jobless rate would be "10% — I think the unemployment rate peaked for a few reasons."

[Thursday, December 3, 2009]

Melissa Lee conducts her
best ‘Fast Money’ interview ever

Melissa Lee brought her A game on Thursday.

Her interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt was pitch-perfect. She asked every relevant question, and with a sense of authority that suggested she and not Maria Bartiromo should've been handling the Google documentary airing later on CNBC.

Charlie Rose was probably even thinking, wish I had a few more like this one.

It didn't hurt that Schmidt, an impressive CEO, is a good interview.

The most important question, to our way of thinking, is what could eventually derail Google. Schmidt said, "What I really worry about ... is the next entrepreneurial company that will take cloud computing in an area that we have not anticipated."

We would answer it another way: The next search engine that people perceive to be better.

We've wondered here for a long time how "good" Google actually is. Why do so many people use it? What does it offer that its competitors don't? How is there any way of measuring the product value of Google vs., say, Yahoo or Bing?

We still don't know the answer to that. For example, tonight we typed in "Pete Najarian" and "cnbcfix" (with quote marks, just to limit our options) in three prominent search engines, and here are the top hits we got:

Yahoo: Pete's Wikipedia page, CNBCfix home page, CNBCfix page explaining why we don't review "Mad Money" that has nothing to do with Pete (that's all, only 3 results)

bing: CNBCfix home page, Pete's Wikipedia page, cqcounter/whois page on CNBCfix, CNBCfix's CNBC star profiles page

Google: CNBCfix home page, CNBCfix review of David Faber documentary that Pete wasn't in, whois domain tools for CNBCfix, and Pete's Wikipedia page

Consider that probably no site — that's correct, probably no site — in 2009 has written about Pete Najarian as much as CNBCfix, possibly not even optionmonster (and certainly that's commentary from Pete, not about Pete), at least the general purpose articles we've viewed before that are available to anyone.

We did a search of this very page you're reading, which presently has about a month's worth of "Fast Money" review, and discovered "Pete Najarian" came up 34 times in our original, daily, objective reviews, plus once in the side index.

By contrast, Pete's name appears only twice on our home page — on the side index and in a rapidly aging link to twitter that we're about to let fade away — which is where the search engines prefer to send you.

So if any of these search-engine users wants to know what CNBCfix said about Pete Najarian, instead of being taken to the two likely destinations (this page, and our Star Profiles page where we have a bio of Pete and other CNBC stars that is much more detailed and relevant than what appears at CNBC.com), users get the run-around from the search engines.

Or better put, all three of them suck.

(OK, maybe this site's pages, um, suck at being well-formatted for things like this, not beyond the realm of possibility either. But the big boys are supposed to figure that out, aren't they?)

Yes, we know that teaching computers to judge the meaning of what someone wants when he/she types in "Pete Najarian" is difficult. But why does everybody think Google has mastered the art of relevance when it clearly hasn't?

Google seems a lot like a nice venue built by some town, hosting all kinds of things from sports events to the opera to flea markets, but NOT charging any admission. Because everyone goes there, there's plenty of money to be made selling popcorn, programs and parking spaces.

The threat to that model is when someone else builds another venue, and for whatever reason, people decide to go to that one instead ... which isn't terribly farfetched, given that we don't see any concrete proof that Google is demonstrably "better" than other search engines.

Anyway, we're digressing from Melissa Lee's wonderful interview.

Times may be tough, but Schmidt said, "We're hiring a couple thousand people over the next year." He said of the sluggish economy, "This problem will be solved by markets over time, because businesses will recover and we will hire people. The government can accelerate this by clever regulatory changes, by some amount of stimulus, and I think we'll get there."

Just yesterday we pointed out how useless town hall meetings are, and we have to think a bunch of CEOs having a meeting with the president and telling him we could use some more job stimulus and better trade policies and more green cards and less taxes and letting him know that people are feeling pain out there is equally useless and a huge waste of the commander in chief's time. But anyway.

Pete Najarian asked a good question (we're not just saying that to get Google hits) about Google's interest in clean energy, and this was Schmidt's curious answer.

"From a Google perspective, what we do is, we work on the information part of that, and information can make energy much more useful," Schmidt said.

"Information can make energy much more useful"? What the heck does that possibly mean?

Melissa asked, "Who's your biggest competitor right now, Mr. Schmidt?" Schmidt replied, for some reason chuckling and having trouble getting out the words, ""Historically it's been, (chuckles), historically it's been Microsoft and Yahoo, and that'll be true for quite some time."

He added, "My guess is that advertising and particularly search ads will be the lion's share of our business for a long time."

We do agree with Joe Terranova, who called Schmidt "one of the best CEOs in the country."

It was Gene Munster

Why would any stock analyst bother to foolishly speculate on a five-year price target?

Easy — it gets your upgrade mentioned on CNBC.

Melissa Lee a couple times asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt on Thursday what he thought of Piper Jaffray's $1,000 target for 2015.

"We don't talk about our stock price, for good reason," Schmidt said with something of a smile.

Perhaps to Lee's credit, she wouldn't identify the analyst who is playing the media. In fact, it is none other than a "Fast Money" friend.

Melissa Lee is a very savvy
television host

"Fast Money" host Melissa Lee is skilled at pushing viewers' buttons.

We admit it, she got our attention with this simple line Thursday:

"Yeah, in addition to discounted goods, people out there in the month of November were buying bras."

Dennis Gartman, Guy Adami
team up on BAC

We were excited to see Dennis Gartman on the "Fast Money" desk Thursday, even though it meant Karen Finerman was off.

Gartman didn't like the market's conclusion. "Very bad action on the end of the day," he said, "not a good close."

Gartman also went off on Bank of America, actually kind of echoing something we suggested in yesterday's report.

"Well you knew it's gonna be dilutive," Gartman said of the offering whose pricing was revealed during the show, "and the fact that it opened higher this morning, Guy and I were talking earlier in the day, what is this, how illogical can this be, it made no sense. Late in the day you saw the price finally decline. That did make some sense."

Pete Najarian said options buyers anticipated this even while the stock was higher. "They were buying puts. Stock was up ... they were buying puts," Pete said.

Joe Terranova likes BAC because of this. "Yeah, I'll take the other side," Terranova said. "It's 10% dilutive, you now know how much is going to be offered. I just think you remove the uncertainty surrounding the potential government intervention."

Terranova's point was seconded by Jeff Harte. Harte also said he likes Citigroup based on being underowned by institutional investors. "You should be buying it, you're gonna do well over the next year, year and a half," Harte said. (This writer is long C.)

Here's what we don't get about BAC: If it's a bullish trade-off to remove the "uncertainty" about being in TARP by issuing more equity, and there's supposedly big demand for this equity and public investors willing to take over the government's previous stake in funding the company, then 1) why doesn't every bank in TARP do the same thing and remove their own uncertainties, and 2) why would any other bank such as WFC be a "sell" on this news?

The satirical Gartman ad
with ANF was funny too

Was Guy Adami practicing a Leon Lett-style early celebration on Thursday?

Adami singled out the Abercrombie & Fitch November data. "This should've been a pretty easy comp — they were down 17%, the Street was looking for down 10%. I don't care what you say, that is a disaster," Adami said. "It should go down further."

Once again, Dennis Gartman was on board, explaining today he didn't see many people at ANF like he has previously. On a macro level, "The consumer I'm sorry is hunkering down, as we say in the South," Gartman said. "I think the American consumer has become demonstrably more conservative."

We have no idea if Adami is right about ANF (this writer has no position), but it's odd he's complaining that it didn't fall enough and thus "should go down further" when usually on the show, traders will say that if a stock performs better than the news suggests it should, that's a reason to be long.

Gartman pointed to what he sees as troubling chart action with AAPL and GS. Pete Najarian though at one point downplayed APPL's recent chart, saying it's only about $10 off its high.

Joe Terranova continues to add an "s" to a certain retailer's name that doesn't have an "s" at the end. "Nordstroms continues to defy logic," Terranova said.

Another good interview

Melissa Lee and the "Fast Money" crew also had a fine chat with longtime respected economist Alan Blinder, just after the president's probably not-too-productive economy gathering.

"The job picture is grim," Blinder said. He noted that corporate leaders would like to have more certainty about government policy and initiatives, particularly on issues such as health care, but that even the president can't guarantee that certainty. "We have a constitutional form of government, and nobody's figured out how to make the Senate act in 10 minutes," Blinder said.

Guy Adami asked a tremendous question. "Professor Blinder, I'm all for more jobs," Adami said. "But you can make the argument that, that companies are more efficient than they've been in the last 25 years, with less people. Why do they have to hire more people if they're running better now?"

"Well I think — and we're gonna find out in the next 6 to 12 months if it's true — I think that, uh, companies have pared their payrolls so much, that if and as demand picks up, and I think it is picking up, they're gonna find the need to add human beings, as opposed to more machines, greater efficiencies," Blinder said.

Joe LaVorgna, our second-favorite "Fast Money" economist behind You Know Who, said he thinks the unemployment rate has actually peaked, is coming down on Friday, to 10%, and that several trends are promising. Our favorite economist expects unemployment to peak between 10.2% and 10.5%.

Dennis Gartman predicted of Ben Bernanke in the Senate, "He'll pass, it's gonna be a very close vote. .... I'm actually one of the people who thinks he's done a very good job."

Go see it

CNBCfix happened to catch a special showing of George Clooney's new "Up in the Air."

It's well-done. Entertaining, with some powerful messages about career and life you've seen in other films, but avoiding many of the typical cliches.

We like corporate-type films, at least when they're well done. Clooney is even better than the Michael Clayton character he played. And if you haven't seen the impossibly cute Anna Kendrick (we'd never heard of her until now), you'll be impressed. Very impressed.

It occurs to us that CNBC is probably just such a place that attracts a lot of young, talented, aspiring go-getters who might resemble Kendrick's character and will find that story interesting.

We'd unleash a lengthy review here, because that's what we do, but we don't want to give out any significant details to people planning to see it soon.

It gave us much to think about.

[Wednesday, December 2, 2009]

Now all BAC needs is $45 billion

We didn't realize how entertaining it was to watch TV reporters sift through a bank's press release on live TV.

Charles Gasparino of course delivered an excellent breaking-news report. "It ain't Ken Lewis leaving, but it's the next best thing. Bank of America is out of the TARP program. They're gonna pay $45 billion back," Gasparino said.

But between the opening soundbite — Bank of America is going to repay the TARP program $45 billion with $18 billion in equity raise — and the ending conclusion — the $18 billion will be a preferred offering Monday — the panel treated viewers to more speculation than you'll see in tomorrow's gold pits.

"I think you wanna be a buyer of that offering," said Joe Terranova.

"I wonder if this puts pressure on Wells Fargo," said Karen Finerman.

"It's not quite a convertible," Gasparino said at one point. "It's something called, here we go, common equivalent securities ... what the, what is that."

"I like what they said, asset sales, I'd rather see that than further dilution to the shareholder base, which, I'm a shareholder," Finerman said at one point, but later, "This to me looks like a road map out, not an exit."

The panelists actually debated Gasparino over the timing while everyone kept glancing back at the press release. "I think this thing is gonna happen soon," Gasparino insisted, but Terranova tried to say it was going to take up to 105 days, and Finerman guessed that some decisions or offerings wouldn't be made until the end of 2010.

Once everyone, namely Gasparino, had combed through enough details, it became clear, Gasparino was right than an $18.8 billion equity offering was imminent, on Monday to be exact. "You guys doubt me all the time," Gasparino said.

In an impressive bit of reporting, assuming it does indeed pan out, Gasparino said this decision has a lot to do with Greg Curl landing the CEO job.

"This is Ken Lewis' last act as CEO," Gasparino said, but he had Curl drive it. "This puts a feather in Greg Curl's cap. ... If your game plan is the CEO succession, this is Greg Curl's way in. I think this basically puts him in the lead right now."

He would add: "I mean, I think the Bank of America board really, really wants to appoint Greg Curl as CEO. That's what they want to do. They were getting pressure from investors, analysts, and somewhat, and the government somewhat, to go outside, which is why they kept this process open. Greg Curl ... basically his team, with Anne Finucane, negotiated this thing, got the government, changed the government's mind. Remember Finucane handled the, the, political end, a guy named Greg Baer handled the regulatory side...

"The bank is gonna be recapitalized, it's gonna be stronger than ever before," Gasparino said in some kind of endorsement of this process.

Karen Finerman asked about all the Greg Curl talk. "Is he standing right next to you?" Melissa Lee chimed in, "Charlie are you related to Greg Curl?"

We understand that stocks move on these things, but we don't really understand what's the big deal with BAC. (This writer has no position in BAC.) They're issuing preferred stock on Monday. Whoop de do.

Gasparino said one of the drawbacks of TARP is "having to deal with Barney Frank every five minutes."

Pete did talk, a little

Credit Suisse analyst Craig Seigenthaler talked about the good and bad of TARP ("TARP is also a negative because it could prevent M&A") and said he really likes FITB. "I actually think the Fifth Third stock price could be up 50% over the next 12 months," he said, because of "very high reserves ... that's gonna provide a tailwind."

Pete Najarian, who was barely on the periphery of the conversation Wednesday on a day dominated by breaking bank news, said "maybe the rest of the market is gonna look like the XLF has looked for the last month, three quarters, er last quarter rather."

Tim Seymour, doing a remote appearance from Britain that fell victim to the dreaded interviewing time delay, said "MSD and EDD are two ETFs you can use to buy emerging market sovereign debt." Melissa Lee said, "Great to see you, go have a Guinness."

Markets were open, too

Karen Finerman and Steve Grasso indicated they disagree with Doug Kass despite not saying so very explicitly.

"I know Doug has been short for a while," Karen said. "I don't know, I kinda think that these other factors that we talk about all the time, the liquidity on the sidelines, those are gonna be the most important things, even more important than fundamentals."

"I would really think twice before you get short this market, ahead of any number," Grasso said.

As far as Wednesday, Grasso said, "I saw a bunch of sell programs" when the S&P reached near 1112, 1115 and the dollar rallied. "The volume's been light."

"ADP has consistently been reliable in that they're not reliable," Karen shrugged.

Todd Gordon talked gold and said "the market's gone parabolic" and to "watch that 1250 level."

No sign yet on the Web of a reliable age for Barclays Capital's Michelle Meyer.

Translation: He’s uninterested
in health-care overhaul

Nucor CEO Dan DiMicco told Melissa Lee it's "my pleasure" to be on the show Wednesday, but it sounded like anything but.

DiMicco didn't seem very optimistic about the steel industry, or America in general, or evaluating analyst calls and stock market moves. The fact he apparently had a bad phone connection didn't help either.

"I'm not going to comment on what investment houses might be saying one way or the other," DiMicco said of Melissa Lee's query about Goldman Sachs. "The oscillations that people see in stock really have more to do with uh, whether people are from offshore coming in and buying heavy, or backing off. So if you follow the stock, it's kind of like a sine wave."

Lee ran this clip from a town hall event in Pittsburgh, airing later at night on CNBC, that really got our attention.

One has to wonder if DiMicco actually believes his own comment, to a questioner named "Ernest," in which he basically said that it's been the "Grapes of Wrath" around here since the Reagan administration.

"Ernest you shouldn't be a little bit ticked off, you should be a lot ticked off," DiMicco said to gratuitous applause. "The business leaders and our policy makers in Washington, for the last 20-plus years, have had failed trading policies, negative manufacturing policies, they have not been doing what's necessary to have a strong and thriving middle class in this country when instead what we have done and allowed to happen has destroyed the middle class in this country. So you should be damned pissed off."

"Destroyed the middle class in this country."


C'mon Dan, the idea that government policy is "necessary to have a strong and thriving middle class" is true for the Soviet bloc. Over here, people can figure it out on their own.

If DiMicco has the policy answers that others don't, why isn't he running for office?

And if the middle class has been "destroyed," why were gobs of people everywhere — that's correct, everywhere in the country — standing in long lines at midnight or 5 a.m. last Friday to buy hamsters at Toys R Us and flat-panel TVs at Best Buy?

Lee said the comment amounted to "very sharp and strong words."

A longer comment by DiMicco is a thinly veiled dig at health care reform. DiMicco is obviously correct here. But the rest of his statement about what he will tell Obama at his next meeting is so cliche-driven around the energy-independence thing and the infrastructure thing, we have to post in its entirety, just so we can check back on it later:

"No. 1, he's gotta re-instill confidence in the American business leader and the American consumer, which means he's gotta focus on the No. 1 priority in this country, which is the jobs crisis, not other crisises (sic) that really don't even come close to being in the top 10. The first 10 crisises (sic) that we have are jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs. You gotta get this economy going again. ... The quickest way to do that, and yeah I'm in the steel business, but this is something that's important for the entire country, is to start dealing with our energy independence, building energy infrastructure, building conventional infrastructure, getting our trade balance back, but holding people accountable for playing by rules they agreed to, access to our markets, you know, and that's what's gonna drive jobs, high-paying jobs revenue gains, tax revenues, and have the money so that we can invest in the new technologies that are gonna drive us to a low-carbon future in the next 30 to 40, 50 years. But we've gotta do stuff now. The solutions are there, we don't need to go into greater deficit to do it, we just need to wake up to what needs to be done and deal with the jobs crisis and the recovery crisis before anything else."

This philosophy took so long to deliver, the camera somehow caught Melissa Lee unaware that she was on camera, mouthing what looked to be "too long" to her producers as DiMicco spoke (we're not good lip-readers). So then the camera went to an extended pan of Pete Najarian, who sat there and nodded and smiled.

Incredibly, DiMicco doesn't want anyone making forecasts for next year yet ... even though it's just a few weeks away.

"It's way, way too early Melissa to be speculating about 2010," DiMicco said. "It's gonna be a long, slow recovery for the economy and for the steel industry as well."

Lee concluded this segment by noting the clip of the town hall was from Pittsburgh, which is a bastion of steelmaking of course, and so people like "Ernest" represent steelworkers and thus provide "interesting perspective there."

The only thing interesting in Pittsburgh these days is whether the Steelers can somehow make the playoffs after this disgraceful three-game slide, and we guarantee — guarantee — the crowd that had to listen to DiMicco would much prefer to talk about that instead.

Town halls are a colossal waste of time. A joke. Why CNBC continues to sponsor and air them instead of doing the 10 Greatest TV Commercials is a mystery. Doesn't a CEO in an industry facing a "long, slow recovery" have more important things to do with his time than stage populist rallies with the y'uns who are far more concerned about Ben Roethlisberger's concussion than Barack Obama's carbon footprint goals?

Jared Levy: ‘I feel like
this is a repeat of ’08’

Jared Levy delivered a bold call Wednesday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report."

"I feel like this is a repeat of '08," Levy said, pointing to 10-day and 20-day moving averages, and when impressively pressed by Melissa Lee to summarize what that means, said, "I think we could see a sharp reversal here, in the near-term."

Those who like to mock technical analysis (we're neutral here, we think it works in some ways and doesn't in others) were given ample fodder by Scott Redler, who said he wanted to see a "60-minute close" at a certain S&P level before getting bullish. "I think most technical traders are looking at that, 1113 level, that's the line in the sand," Redler said.

Melissa Lee, who ran a crisp, slightly condensed show back in her typical studio set, had to ask Redler what "60-minute close" means, and we didn't quite get it, other than it has to stay above a certain level for an hour, we guess.

Jon Najarian was asked if Goldman Sachs is finally a buy. "Quite frankly this is it," Dr. J said. "The insiders have been selling, two vice chairmen according to Barron's ... basically around the 171, 174 level. ... I think on any weakness from here, you could certainly buy it."

Of course you could certainly buy it at any level it's offered, but we're just having fun with the terminology here.

Redler said that's a little too optimistic on GS, said to wait for "maybe 155 on Goldman Sachs."

Brian Kelly was buying AA, "just as a momentum play," because he adds to his positions when they do well. "I like some of the specialty steel names," Kelly said.

[Tuesday, December 1, 2009]

Phil LeBeau: GM’s CEO search
will be hurt by pay caps

Tuesday on "Fast Money," Melissa Lee asked Phil LeBeau if he had any kind of short list for the next GM CEO.

"No," LeBeau said. "Because you also have the pay restrictions in there. Think about that. That's one thing Melissa that is gonna have an impact in the search for CEO."

Mixed feelings on that one. The notion that a talented CEO who loves cars and is willing to fight for an American brand won't take the job just because of a pay cap that will limit him to something less than $20 million (or so), that is sad. On the other hand, let's face it, the last thing we need is the government controlling our salaries. Feds, get out of the salary business. If you don't like the wages being paid, then stop bailing them out.

LeBeau, an underrated CNBC star who delivered a splendid breaking news report on the ouster of Fritz Peterson, said it was likely a firing and happened because Peterson was "not moving fast enough."

We always wondered (see our archives) what exactly Peterson brought to the table that Rick Wagoner didn't. We don't know Wagoner and don't care who the CEO of GM is. We just thought it smelled from the get-go. If the White House wanted serious change at GM, fine, clean house, bring in the guys from Hyundai or Toyota to run it. Instead, they claimed they were doing big change by forcing only Wagoner out, only to replace him with a 20-plus-year insider, just for the sake of cosmetic change to justify the bailout.

Steve Grasso said, "Ford's always the trade out of here," and is "still the trade if you wanna buy American."

Guy Adami seconded that, saying of F, "I think it's going a lot higher frankly."

He’s right more often
than he’s wrong

Guy Adami cracks us up.

He's refreshingly honest and down to earth, but always has a streak of defiance.

What we like are his typical statements about gold, which go something like, "I've been wrong, that's fine; if it's worked for you, great, but frankly ..."

Tuesday he figured out a way to backhand Newmont Mining on a day it was up almost 4%, responding to Melissa Lee's news report about NEM buying back its hedges.

"And they could prove to be geniuses," Adami said without a great deal of conviction, but still he notes they were hedging about $700 ago, and he wonders why they would first announce it, then buy it, which strikes him as "counterintuitive," and really, "that doesn't make a lot of sense."

He closed with a warning: "Newmont Mining won't go up if the broader market goes down. That I can almost assure you."

And not only does Adami enjoy critiquing gold, he likes being able to stick it to Wells Fargo.

Not surprisingly, he said he found it "pretty interesting" that JPMorgan came out with negative reports on WFC and BAC but raised estimates for USB, a longtime Adami favorite. "Even though you can be wrong directionally in terms of the broader market which clearly I have been, you can still point out winning trades."

Adami did, by the way, nail the Jefferies trade and continues to do so.

In the Web extra, which Adami complained no one watches (maybe because it's less than a minute long; isn't the point of the Web to provide unlimited time/space for things, and if it actually had more information than two sentences, maybe more people would watch?), The Negotiator seemed resigned to his macro slump when talking about IBM, which might've plateaued in "no man's land" for now. "I'll be proven wrong once again, no doubt."

‘Fast Money,’ or
‘Beavis and Butt-head’?

Melissa Lee raised eyebrows with a few comments on Tuesday.

Karen Finerman is partly to blame. Karen said to Richard Bernstein, who had recommended small-caps, "So you still like the ... crappier, that was when you were..."

Melissa followed, "One person's crap is another person's value."

Later, during "Pops & Drops," Joe Terranova discussed Dyncorp and requested the "Obama Trade" graphic, which he got.

"That's an unprecedented interruption of "Pops & Drops" for the Obama animation," Lee said.

"You like that?" Guy Adami asked Lee. "That's my favorite man of..."

"Screw you," Lee was heard to say.


Maybe it's old-fashioned, but we think the guardians of TV etiquette should have higher standards. We didn't even want to use Dennis Kneale's "digital dickweeds." Occasionally — once in a while — we'll resort to "sucks" here, but this is the Web.

And we didn't go to Harvard.

Instead of sounding like, as we've envisioned, someone who waltzes in to Rao's talking about the latest Sotheby's auction or the opera, Lee on Tuesday sounded as uncouth as an eighth-grade cafeteria, including her twice-uttered disdain of the "Zhu Zhu Hamster, or whatever."

If that sounds a little unfair, we're only giving Karen Finerman the benefit of the doubt here because she seemed to be reaching for a term and ended up with "crappier," whereas Lee seemed all too eager to follow up on that.

Like they say, with live TV, anything's possible.

Tomorrow, probably 26th

Another thing we wish Melissa Lee would stop saying is the redundant "new record" in gold.

But alas, we heard it again Tuesday.

Gold on Tuesday was "hitting a new record high," Lee said, the "25th record of the year."

Karen Finerman, like Guy Adami, is skeptical of gold, and this time set her sights on the miners. "Where do we ever start to see production make a difference in the price, in the supply-demand dynamic of gold," Karen said. "I mean then why buy the miners if they're not able to produce more."

"That's a very good point," Lee said. We agree.

Except that when oil was surging from the $50s to $147, nobody was expecting that XOM was suddenly tapping new reserves, only that the existing reserves were suddenly worth a lot more. Presumably, the same is true for the miners.

Joe Terranova said he thinks gold continues to rise because "someone has a 'short squeeze' going on."

Richard Bernstein thinks gold is overextended. "This is beyond a fundamental story," Bernstein said. "Let's call a spade a spade here."

"Let's call a spade a spade." Got it.

Karen Finerman’s shout-out
to Michael J. Fox

Karen Finerman, an acknowledged friend of Michael J. Fox, saluted the (underrated, in our opinion) actor in a curious segment on the Apple tablet Tuesday.

After about two minutes of a canned piece that featured Gene Munster talking about how great the tablet is, Lee said, "Let's be clear," explaining that people who might not've seen the whole segment, "They're thinking, 'Tablet! I didn't hear about the tablet!' This is what we're thinking is going to happen in 2010."

So, what a well-devised segment that was...

Anyway, Karen recalled when former Apple CEO John Sculley launched an earlier tablet in the '90s that flopped. "That really is a 'Back to the Future' type of trade," Karen said. "Timing's everything."

We find "Back to the Future" a fascinating film, even if it's not particularly deep (a film doesn't have to be deep to provide serious food for thought). We think it's so fascinating, in fact, we penned a lengthy review for one of our sister sites (or is it a "cousin" site?).

The question: Is the message of "Back to the Future" that people can change ... or that people don't change?

Because one key character, George McFly, is taking both sides of that trade.

Fox, whose loyalty to "Family Ties" during the filming is famous, delivers an excellent performance. Christopher Lloyd as the Doc is really off the charts.

"The '80s were a lost decade for me," Guy Adami said.

OK, enough of the 1980s movie reviews for now.

Steve Grasso’s in-box,
at work while he sleeps

Karen Finerman offered an alternate theory on Thanksgiving-weekend shopping, probably the most predictable and perennially overrated financial event of the year.

"I wonder if there's an extrapolation off Black Friday that we really shouldn't be making," Karen said, explaining that Cyber Monday is also a big deal and there are ramifications beyond the weekend. "We really can't make judgments off Black Friday."

Melissa Lee said this is the first time in a while she's heard analysts stressing speed because shoppers won't be able to wait and get bargains as in the past, because inventories are lean, but she questioned if shoppers see it that way. "People weren't worred that they couldn't get a Zhu Zhu Hamster or whatever the heck that thing is," Lee said, but you've seen that quote already.

Steve Grasso disagreed there's a need to rush, saying "Every time I wake up I have 10 e-mails about another sale that's going on."

"A Zhu Zhu Hamster, or whatever," Lee repeated, but you've already seen that quote on this page more than once.

Guy Adami, sometimes referred to as "Debbie Downer," saw another opening here. "Howard Davidowitz, who is on this network all the time, he says these specialty retailers, if you wanna classify them as that, are toast."

Translation: Eventually, Karen and I are going to be right about ANF.

Richard Bernstein, who is officially a "CNBC contributor" even though Steve Grasso and Zach Karabell, who contribute significantly to the network, are not, was floored that "Nobody is talking about the January effect."

"Well I think that's because of the tax situation," Karen said.

"I think the first quarter next year is gonna be a very good time for small-cap stocks," Bernstein said, and you already know what happened after he said that.

Here’s to you, Lone Wolf

Guy Adami was asked Tuesday to comment on the Apollo Group, the University of Phoenix guys. "I love the Phoenicians," Adami said, "but it hasn't been the same since one of my favorite Phoenician alums have left. You know what I'm saying? Maybe you don't know what I'm saying. But ... you know what I'm saying," Adami said, pointing into the camera.


Take that, Jim Iuorio

Joe Terranova offered an alternate vehicle for a dollar-rally trade: GS and JPM. "I think a rally in the dollar, you're going to see some money, some rotation, go into the financials because you will have the inflation, higher bond yield fears actually removed from the market," Terranova said.

Melissa Lee, who was being snarky about a lot of things Tuesday, asked Terranova, "When you say a rally on the dollar do you mean like a gain on the dollar index of like .2 percent? I mean, honestly..."

Terranova said he was only referring to a "significant rally, much larger than anything we have seen in the last three or four months."

"Goldman Sachs is getting close ... I would say about 7 bucks," Karen Finerman said of her own buying target.

Sometimes, posting this review
feels like a decade, too

Melissa Lee, in what was an interesting point, noted the S&P 500 is actually likely to close down for the entire decade, unless there's a huge late rally.

Lee said that while on some level right now "we're getting all giddy" about a decent gain Tuesday, it's been a lousy decade. But, "if you were kicking yourself because you didn't get in 1999, 2000, 2001, whatever, now's your chance," Lee said.

That gave Guy Adami a chance to promote the show.

"I know the buy-and-hold thing is still sort of, people wanna talk about that, it doesn't work," Adami said. "I mean, I think you still have to be able to pick winners and losers, that's why we do the show every night, frankly. ... So for the last 10 years ... you should've been watching 'Fast Money' for the last three."

"We haven't been on the air for 10 years, but you know," Lee said.

"Oh, Trade School, like that?" Adami said.

"Just feels like 10 years," said Karen Finerman, in another hilarious display of her repertoire.

More gratuitous commentary

Guy Adami said the previous bugaboo about Monsanto, valuation, is now working in its favor. "I still think Monsanto works here," Adami said.

Once again Adami referred to a "Barron's article," this time on HD. "I love the name, I'm sort of ishy, squishy at 28."

During a strange media segment apparently designed to convey the show is conscious of the GE-Comcast news, Adami said "I don't like Cablevision," but nevertheless it "could be a takeover candidate."

Joe Terranova said, "Whirlpool's a great play, also take a look at Sears if you're looking for a short name," but be careful about that short interest.

"I kinda like Mohawk," Karen Finerman said.

Steve Grasso had to handle the gratuitous Victoria's Secret footage — we just learned, incidentally of course, that the average bra price there is $38 — by commenting on Limited Brands. Grasso said "sell it."

Gartman: Still buying gold

Dennis Gartman said Tuesday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" that gold seems the strongest of the precious metals and he's still buying, although he's buying not in dollars, but in pound sterling and euro and yen terms "so I can hedge away some of the risk of the dollar involved in that trade."

Gartman also said "the grain markets are looking quite strong," and said some people who don't want to play the futures are buying up the agricultural commodites; "why would you not?"

Greg Troccoli said an S&P resistance level isn't a neat number ending in 0. "It's actually 1112 on the December contract," Troccoli said. "But by no means is this market overbought."

Jeff Tomasulo said bullishness happened on Friday, when "they had every reason to sell this market off ... and what happened, buyers stepped in." Tomasulo mentioned Amazon, saying "I'm not a mall kind of guy, I like going and clicking."

Patty Edwards, who didn't brag about her JCG call last week even though she certainly could've, said "I actually did go into a Guess store and they were absolutely all over the jeans."

For the second day in a row, having Melissa Lee anchor this mini-show from the exchange wasn't particularly helpful. She's better sitting in that makeshift studio with the four big screens. Early on, Lee claimed there was a technical glitch when Tomasulo was speaking and cut him off, even though as far as viewers were concerned, there was no glitch, we could hear everyone fine.

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Fast Money cliches

Why we don’t
review Mad Money

Movie review:
‘Wall Street’

Masterful Gordon Gekko

CNBC/cable TV
star bios

♦ Jim Cramer
♦ Dylan Ratigan
♦ Charles Gasparino
♦ Maria Bartiromo
♦ Lawrence Kudlow
♦ Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
♦ Jane Wells
♦ Erin Burnett
♦ David Faber
♦ Karen Finerman
♦ Guy Adami
♦ Jeff Macke
♦ Pete Najarian
♦ Jon Najarian
♦ Tim Seymour
♦ Becky Quick
♦ Joe Kernen
♦ John Harwood
♦ Steve Liesman
♦ Margaret Brennan
♦ Bertha Coombs
♦ Mary Thompson
♦ Trish Regan
♦ Melissa Francis
♦ Rebecca Jarvis
♦ Darren Rovell
♦ Carl Quintanilla
♦ Diana Olick
♦ Anderson Cooper
♦ Neil Cavuto
♦ Monica Crowley
♦ Bill O'Reilly
♦ Rachel Maddow
♦ Susie Gharib
♦ Jane Skinner
♦ Kimberly Guilfoyle
♦ Martha MacCallum
♦ Courtney Friel
♦ Uma Pemmaraju
♦ Joe Scarborough
♦ Terry Keenan
♦ Chrystia Freeland
♦ Christine Romans

CNBC guest bios

♦ Bill Gross
♦ Dennis Gartman
♦ Diane Swonk
♦ Meredith Whitney
♦ Richard X. Bove
♦ Arthur Laffer
♦ Jared Bernstein
♦ Doug Kass
♦ David Malpass
♦ Donald Luskin
♦ Herb Greenberg
♦ Robert Reich
♦ Steve Moore
♦ Vince Farrell
♦ Joe LaVorgna
♦ A. Gary Shilling
♦ Joe Battipaglia
♦ Addison Armstrong
♦ Jack Bouroudjian
♦ Stefan Abrams
♦ Warren Buffett