[CNBCfix.com Fast Money Review Archive, February 2011]
[Monday, February 28, 2011]

Why ‘Social Network’ lost,
and ‘King’s Speech’ won

We looked over some of the CNBC tweets during Oscar night (in which likely the most exciting occurrence was Jane Wells' 25-person bash) and didn't notice any strenuous objections to the actual winners of the awards, only the hosts who were presenting them.

We also took our first extended look at Nikki Finke's blog and discovered a lot of good stuff there, including inside explanations as to why certain winners won.

Finke knows far more about this stuff than we do and writes that key figures behind "The Social Network" were too arrogant for a lot of voters.

The gut feeling here is that, ideally, "The King's Speech" should've won for best actor and costumes and maybe a couple other lesser-known awards, while the "Social Network" was a better choice for best picture and perhaps best director.

At some point, though, even for fickle voters, it comes down to how much you like the movie — even if you think the director's a jagbag.

"The Social Network," unfortunately, while blessed with Aaron Sorkin's spectacular ability to write fast-paced white-collar drama, is just not visual enough for the Academy. Scene after scene of guys in dorm rooms, in a law office, typing on computers. When you consider the visuals of just about every other best-picture winner, this one isn't in the same league.

"The King's Speech," by contrast, has a serious ace in the hole that no one spoke about: A Nazi Germany angle. If you're looking to make a movie that might win an Oscar, that would be a good place to start. A king dealing with a stutter in, say, 1922 is maybe a nominee for best costume design ... but in 1939, we're talking the whole enchilada.

"The King's Speech" is a fine movie about unorthodox courage. "The Social Network" has a much more powerful message, if only implied: That the mega-successful take risks (hacking, dropping out) that most people in Mark Zuckerberg's situation, in line for Goldman Sachs, the Mayo Clinic or Justice Department, won't take ... and that maybe Zuckerberg's career path wasn't even really a risk, and that maybe all of us need to, one way or another, do what we feel like doing and just see what happens.

Why don’t any Oscar winners thank the people who spend $9.50 to see their work?

You saw Melissa Leo utter a muted F-bomb on Sunday. But one thing you didn't see any Oscar winner (to our knowledge) do on Sunday is actually thank all the mopes who paid for a ticket to learn firsthand if their work was actually any good (which apparently goes without saying or is taken for granted or something like that).

Not only that, but then there's the famous balls and parties afterwards, to accept and hand out congratulations from and to other elites. How about, on the way there, stopping by the bowling alley or Denny's and buying a round for the yinz who might've ordered your latest offering on Netflix? (you can always get the Grand Slam to go).

Yeah, we know it's a strange event among super-elites in which somehow everyone is massively nervous most of the night — that's another issue, but another post for another time — and where being considered down-to-earth is making a joke about Charlie Sheen and that we'd never want to have to suddenly give one of those speeches and that many folks up there are indeed wonderful people (we've been hearing great things about Mr. Colin Firth in our post-Oscar channel checks), but it wouldn't be the end of the world to give a shout-out to all the butts in the seats.

Peter Schiff on fools: ‘There’s a few of ’em on Fast Money’

After what we think has been a fairly long absence, Peter Schiff turned up on Monday's Fast Money to repeat his years-long refrain about the demise of the dollar and out of control inflation.

This time the Fast Money gang got tired of it quicker than usual. Karen Finerman tried to ask Schiff a good question about whether state governments are seeing the light on debt and taking steps that will be "helpful in the bigger picture," and Schiff basically cut her off to respond with: "All of this is gonna implode simultaneously ... eventually it doesn't work, because you run out of fools, and we're running out of fools."

Tim Seymour cut in, "But we're not running out of fools, because the 10-year note-"

"Well there's a few of 'em on Fast Money, but-" Schiff retorted, smiling.

"is coming down from 3.70 to 3.40," Seymour continued.

Schiff initially got into it with Seymour after Schiff claimed people actually "oughta take" Bernie Madoff seriously.

"So when the person who has run the biggest Ponzi scheme in the history of the world accuses the U.S. government of doing the same thing, we oughta take him seriously," Schiff said.

"He has no credibility, he's not someone we should listen to Peter," Seymour said.

"He has credibility on Ponzi schemes. He knows one when he sees one," Schiff said.

Eventually Seymour, echoed by basically the rest of the panel, sighed, "We've been doing this for a year and a half Peter with you," and asked exactly when doomsday happens. Joe Terranova asked the same thing, using the term "consequences."

Schiff would only say it's within "years," maybe 1, 2, 3, who knows, but that for now, "inflation is there, all you have to do is open up your eyes and see it."

Seymour eventually was heard to say Schiff is talking "horseshoes and hand grenades here."

Around here we always like a good TV fracas. But we also, like Dennis Gartman, believe there's value in gentlemanly conduct, at least whenever possible, and it seems like Schiff crossed the line, even if he was smiling when he said "fools" and the panelists didn't seem overtly offended. (Who knows, maybe they're all having drinks together as this is being posted.)

Actually, we've noted before, Schiff can be a good TV guest, and he's made thought-provoking observations about money-printing and currencies, which might be right on many levels even if the doomsday he talks about never happens. We even congratulated him on his vigorous Connecticut Senate effort, even though it lost. But anyone recommending people start taking Bernie Madoff seriously on macro economics needs to relax and catch Mandy on Street Signs for a while.

Analyst: ‘Considerable’
S&P support from 1,260 to 1,280

Brian Kelly, fortunately or unfortunately, didn't make quite as straightforward a case for silver as Peter Schiff did for gold on Monday's Fast Money — in fact the whole thing about 30% underfunded or something like that was simply too dense for the (limited) level of brainpower we've got around here — but we think Kelly ultimately said silver's going up.

Tim Seymour said something about "physical" demand, which prompted Melissa Lee and Karen Finerman to snicker about the Olivia Newton-John song.

Chris Verrone told Fast Money there's "considerable" S&P support in the range of 1,260 to 1,280 and that a buying opportunity could present itself quickly. He, like just about everyone these days, likes CHK, identifying a "very, very impressive bearish to bullish transition phase under way."

Mandy wows on Street Signs

As soon as we saw Mandy Drury guest-hosting Monday's Street Signs (which might've been renamed "Street Sights" for the day), we knew a picture would be going up on this page.

Undoubtedly we've been getting Google hits today about "Australian host on CNBC" or "CNBC Street Signs host" or "Is Mandy Drury married" or even ... ahem ... "Amanda CNBC bikini."

See, you do this long enough, you kinda figure out how this Web-traffic stuff works. (But no, this isn't just a cheap stunt aimed at getting Charlie Sheen to contact this site.)

Mandy obviously watched the Oscars and figured she would show 'em how it's done.

Gartman: Brent/WTI
spread will widen

After a rather sleepy opening in which Kate Kelly reported on JPMorgan's estimate of some kind of potential costs in foreclosure probes, Karen Finerman tangled with (who else) Tim Seymour on Monday's Fast Money over whether the market activity of the last couple trading days is anything other than "month-end window dressing," which Finerman said is not worth trying to "extrapolate" into a trend.

"I think it's a big thing," said Seymour, who nonetheless added, "I agree with you Karen," although, how he can agree with her that it's only window-dressing but a "big thing" at the same time is unclear.

Guy Adami said some people have noted that the volumes down in the last week are much bigger than the volumes up of the last few days, but that it hurts the same if you're on the wrong side regardless of the volume.

Karen Finerman said she's wary of using the USO as a hedge, given the Brent disparity.

Dennis Gartman said the Brent/WTI spread "will continue to widen, I'm afraid," and then Gartman took a dip in the deep end of the trading pool, saying "the only real way to play it is to use the futures."

Joe Terranova said it's time to "scale down" from being overweight Potash and Salesforce.com and start looking to something like health-care names. He also said "I'm out of refiners right now."

Tim Seymour coughed up a pair of Brag Trades, after first praising his commentary on FedEx, saying he took profits in Petrobras over the weekend and "that looks like a good call."

Melissa looked stunning and Oscar-worthy in royal blue, 1 sleeve slightly rolled up.

More about Monday's Fast Money to come.

Oil CEO: $125 a barrel
by Memorial Day

Gulf Oil CEO Joe Petrowski told the Fast Money Halftime Report Monday that the spike in oil prices is affecting driving. "Its effect is being felt, no doubt," he said.

Petrowski came across as very solemn when asked to forecast the direction of crude, saying the end of a couple hundred years of Middle Eastern trends isn't going to come undone without some disruption. "I'm very, very concerned," Petrowski said. "Unless we see higher interest rates or a slowdown in China, I think we'll be at $125 ... by Memorial Day."

Marc Faber: ‘Saudi Arabia
itself is very vulnerable’

Marc Faber spoke on the Fast Line on Monday's Halftime Report and brought up a subject that's been of interest to this page.

Faber said he doesn't think Saudi Arabia can offset the oil losses in Libya, and that "Saudi Arabia itself is very vulnerable. And so I would say under any scenario I would own some oil and energy shares," even though "they are overdue for a correction."

What we don't understand is why, according to the G20 (or something like that) company line, it's necessary for Saudi Arabia to pump more oil to, presumably, prevent oil from going from about $90 to $125 ... but it evidently wasn't important for Saudi Arabia to pump more oil at $50 to keep it from going to $70.

Not sure when we'll get the answer to that one, but as soon as we do, we'll post it on this site.

Faber also said, "Well I think that from here onward, uh, stocks will move very selectively. I happen to like energy." (This writer is long SU.)

Faber also said that if you've found a nice house that you just want to live in, just buy it. "I think the price is now quite right," he said.

‘Say hello to
my little friend’

Steve Grasso on Monday painted an interesting either/or scenario for Libya on Monday.

"Is Gadhafi gonna pull a Hitler and eat a bullet, or is he gonna pull a 'Scarface' and burn everything while he's on the way out," Grasso asked.

He said oil's either going to $125 or $85.

Zachary Karabell debated his fellow panelists over the impact of high oil. "I don't think consumer spending is affected by higher oil the way we think," Karabell said.

Grasso said he likes CHK, or the nat gas sector over something like solar.

Grasso predicted the market would run sideways through the end of the week. Brian Kelly wasn't too far off, saying, "1,333 ... that's my line in the sand," but that stocks will see another leg down if the S&P can't get through that.

Grasso: ‘Definitely’ buy HPQ

Steve Grasso said Monday he's not afraid of Léo's mug shot. "I would definitely buy Hewlett Packard," he said, saying not only was the recent plunge overdone, "it's been an overreaction for the last year or so."

"I'm not so sure about that," countered Zach Karabell. "I think Hewlett Packard has a lot of management issues they've gotta clear up."

Pete Najarian overdid the chuckling on a weak Karabell Staples pun. Najarian did say there's hot option activity in BMC Software, which means Dr. J will be telling us in a day or two that "knock on wood, we got in on this one."

Drop in Ventas shares
‘normal arbitrage activity’

Gary Kaminsky returned to The Strategy Session set on Monday, but unfortunately the guests forgot to bring the fireworks.

Debra Cafaro, something of a dynamo of CEOs, of course praised Ventas' purchase of NHP as an improvement in size and scale and said that while the focus is on the U.S., Europe is "graying" also. Cafaro didn't really have a great answer for Kaminsky & Faber's queries about why she would do an offering 4 weeks before a major deal, but did explain Monday's drop in the stock as a result of the deal being a "fixed exchange ratio ... really it's normal arbitrage activity."

We stumbled over an interesting quote from Nationwide Health Properties CEO Douglas Pasquale in the Wall Street Journal. Pasquale was asked on the conference call about recently exploring strategic alternatives, but wouldn't exactly cough up details. "Debbie and I just got married, and there is just no way I'm going to reveal my dating history," he said.

Gary Kaminsky pointed to Ventas' decade of glory and said this is why closet indexers don't make money.

The 2nd one is bound
to be better

Jim Millstein, who had some prominent role in the government massaging of AIG, really didn't have much to tell The Strategy Session Monday about his plans to move on, other than his view that other people are better at selling the shares than he is.

Millstein was asked if the government could just sell the company to Warren Buffett. "I think he knows who to call if he wants it," Millstein said, delivering what David Faber called his "first-ever nationally televised interview."

M&A guru Mark Shafir also showed up on the set to report "the market clearly is recovering," and that "there are businesses out there" for Warren Buffett to buy up to $20 billion, perhaps in tech although he always claims to never understand tech.

Gary Kaminsky pointed out that the dollar can't seem to find a floor. David Faber noted that Jeff Kaplan is moving from Merrill Lynch to Appaloosa Capital.

Wendy Finerman’s historic
lunch with Tom Hanks

Given that it's Oscar weekend — as well as Karen Finerman's birthday weekend — Fast Money delivered the perfect theme Friday by taking a call from "Forrest Gump" Oscar winner Wendy Finerman leading the cheers for Karen.

We got to thinking, there must be video of Wendy's big night at the 1995 Oscars on YouTube.

As it turns out, no. Many clips of the Oscars are indeed on YouTube — including Tom Hanks and Robert Zemeckis picking up their own "Gump" awards — but nothing for the 1994 Best Picture acceptance.

We're certain Karen Finerman has a VHS version stashed in a bookcase somewhere. Looks like we have to settle for a YouTube clip of Hanks' Golden Globes acceptance speech for "Gump" in which he pays tribute to Wendy, saying she "stuck with this thing for a long time; God bless the day we had lunch."

Nothing about the menu, locale, or whose idea it was (these acceptance speeches have to go fast, you now.) It's worth noting Hanks looks about 25 pounds lighter back then ... but then again, weren't we all.

We're thinking one of these days Hanks will be heard to say, "God bless the day I had lunch with CNBCfix."

Or then again, maybe not.

Oliver Stone silent
about Charlie Sheen

As we continue to dig heavily through the Internet each day to find more fresh quotes from and about Charlie Sheen (because ... snicker ... they're so hard to find), we noticed one prominent omission:

Oliver Stone.

Given that Charlie's cameo in the unnecessary "Wall Street 2" was probably one of his last moments of public sanity, we figured Oliver might be plugged in here. News searches for Stone and Sheen turn up basically nothing. But we did learn that Oliver received the Master of Cinema Award last week at the Boulder International Film Festival in Colorado, and his wide-ranging chat was covered by the Boulder Daily Camera.

Stone said "I was basically a pariah" in Hollywood after "Scarface," because of the violence.

Stone said, "Actors are very sensitive people. When you don't hire them, they think you hate them." (And sometimes, in the case of certain CBS sitcoms, they think you hate them even when you do hire them.)

Unfortunately he's apparently not a big fan of cyberspace, slamming bloggers who will do "anything to get eyes on it."

Thankfully Stone did deliver comedy, calling the Oscars "very much a fashion show."

What happened to the $5
‘floor’ on Citigroup?

Remember how so many people have predicted on CNBC that once Citigroup gets over $5, "all the big institutional buyers will start to come in"?

In January, Fast Money was bursting with excitement over the gains in C as it rambled toward, and over, $5.

Even Karen Finerman got in on the act, saying on Jan. 14 — a day the stock closed at $5.13, per Yahoo finance — she bought some shares and that $5 "may be" a floor.

Jon Najarian said on Jan. 12 that the $5 calls were robust, and, of course, he had been profiting handsomely off of them. "Knock on wood, we've been ridin' this one," Najarian said.

But the recent enthusiasm really goes back to Jan. 5, a day C closed at $4.97, when Joe Terranova tried to get Pete Najarian on board with the notion of $5 being the new floor and Najarian responding "great call Joe" but then saying it would only be a floor if the stock can stay above it a while, which is kind of like the mathematics blunder of assuming that what you're trying to prove is already true, but whatever.

According to Yahoo finance, Citigroup has traded over $5 intraday only 6 times in 2011.

It topped that level for a grand total of 3 days in 2010, in April.

In 2009, it exceeded $5 for 6 whole days in the fall. (This after it was actually trading over $7 in January 2009.)

So the gut feeling here is, Don't get too excited about Citigroup and $5.

We've seen this movie before, and it's not winning any Oscars.

(This writer is long Citigroup.)

[Friday, February 25, 2011]

Zach Karabell should’ve been addressing the ‘Two and a Half Men’ gang

In one of the more undeniably dynamic Friday afternoon editions of Fast Money, the most jaw-dropping commentary was delivered by Zachary Karabell ... who actually complained that the stock market is taking this Middle East unrest thing a little too seriously.

"Throughout the 1990s it wasn't like the world was this completely placid place," Karabell insisted, although the only examples (he omitted Tonya Harding) he could cite were "fear of nuclear proliferation" and the Balkans, which isn't exactly sitting on half the world's oil supply or whatever substitution concoction T. Boone Pickens is trying to gin up these days.

Tim Seymour had heard enough. "Hold on a second," Seymour said. "The epicenter of the energy world is about to blow up," which makes him think Karabell is dealing in "understatement."

Undaunted, Karabell referred to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait and insisted, "The fact that these snapped back after 2 days of concern is actually the rational response to this."

The gut reaction here is that, on the most objective levels which he didn't even bother to cite, Karabell is absolutely correct. Every story about Iran, North Korea, Gaza, Pakistan, Nigeria, Venezuela, Cuba in the last 20 years never sustained more than a couple days' blip (if that) in the stock market, so basically you're an idiot if you unloaded your portfolio the last time you read a headline in The Sun of Britain that an Israeli strike on Iranian facilities was imminent.

We also can't go as far as Seymour, who actually claims "the epicenter of the energy world is about to blow up."

Where Karabell seems off-base is in his contention that the markets should be more circumspect. They're just not. If Bahrain suddenly gets nasty over the weekend, oil in all likelihood is going up over the weekend, and stocks are going down, the same way BP absurdly sank all the way into the mid-$20s. The fact the market probably shouldn't react that way doesn't change the likelihood that it will.

It wasn't part of the Karabell-Seymour argument, but Karen Finerman seemed to side with Seymour, saying at the opening that Libya didn't suddenly settle itself the last 2 days; "that issue is still going on."

Karabell actually trounced Seymour in the humor competition, later unleashing a zinger about Brian Kelly's hopefully forgotten claim that aluminum gets substituted for copper when the price gets high, while Seymour bungled his way through a way-too-long Charlie Sheen-replacement gag in which he said, "I've said it to the producers here, that I'm underpaid."

In the Middle East and in TV sitcoms, there can be occasional eruptions. Some are more significant than others.

Lou Holtz recruited a QB,
ended up losing his job

Jeff Kilburg, according to the Notre Dame football Web site, went 6-4, 277 as a center, so you probably don't want to get on his bad side, although we can't help but point out that any team with Ron Powlus at quarterback was a team worth shorting.

Kilburg made his initial Fast Money appearance Friday and, true to football form, said "Clearly we've seen Uncle Ben just quarterback a sensational rally," but he expects some kind of flight from stocks to bonds.

Karen’s day

Anthony Scaramucci was brought in Friday to deliver the Hedge Fund Trade of the Week with premium billing from guest host Simon Hobbs and acknowledged, "That's a lot of hype Simon."

The HFTOTW is ALR. Scaramucci said, "They are one of the leaders in a whole range of medical diagnostic products," it's owned by Baupost and Adage Capital, and it's probably worth $50 broken up.

But then Scaramucci perhaps jumped the gun on wishing Karen Finerman a happy birthday, given that Simon Hobbs and one of Karen's own superstar relatives (sister Wendy) did so with gusto much later in a planned segment that apparently was supposed to involve some drama (that would be Wendy's specialty).

Of course, Scaramucci and anyone else could've learned of this development days ago, when this page gave readers ample advance notice of Karen's big day (on which, as usual, she looked great, and the only disappointment from the Fast Money tribute was that we didn't hear more from Wendy).

Karen Finerman said Corning still looks good. "We did buy it a few times this week," she said. Guy Adami acknowledged QCOM has been ripping, but "I think you can still buy here." Simon Hobbs said he was "gobsmacked" when seeing the Volkswagen numbers.

We wish the best for Melissa Lee and look forward to her return soon.

If the Saudis can bail out Libya, can’t they bail out California?

Daniel Dicker said on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report that while the Middle East may be overrun with turmoil, the oil markets are being run overrun by dollars.

There's an "enormous flood of money coming into this market, and this market was never designed to take this kind of dough," Dicker asserted.

Initially we feared the show would quickly turn into Dr. J explaining all the great trades he made on the material sector's bottom this week, but guest host Simon Hobbs deftly brought Patty Edwards into the mix at just the right moments.

Edwards insisted she's been "quite vocal" about not being a big fan of banks, but "if you put a gun to my head and said I had to buy something, I'd buy Wells Fargo." She also likes BMO and BlackRock Kelso.

Hobbs later asked Edwards to reveal her Fed thoughts in the "sagelike way" she views the markets. "I think that QE3 probably will happen if we have the municipal debacle that I think is coming down the road," Edwards said.

Jon Najarian said AutoDesk is used by James Cameron, which means about 8 years from now people will be linking it to some hot new movie.

If the Saudis can suddenly pump more oil now to keep the price from rising ... can't they just pump more oil all the time to keep the price from rising?

Thankfully, they apparently
love Saudi Arabia’s king

You know how a lot of people on Fast Money — namely Tim Seyour and Karen Finerman but basically everyone else too — have been saying that not only is there unrest in the Middle East, but the stock market was kind of due for a pullback anyway.

Strategy Session guest Jim McCaughan indicated Friday that, even with the oil unrest, there shouldn't have been any correction.

McCaughan said stocks are down 2-4% in the last 2 weeks which is a "buying opportunity."

And he actually thinks oil should be $70.

"Inventories are high; there is plenty of capacity in world shipping, so the disruptions that have caused the 10% rise in oil in the last 2 weeks or so are, it's overdone in the oil market," he said.

"The only way I think I'm wrong is if Saudi Arabia has unrest, and I think that is very unlikely," he added.

Well, yaneverknow. We gotta agree with Guy Adami that this market, and global situation, doesn't seem particularly reliable in any direction at the moment. If oil indeed drops to $70 in the near-future, McCaughan will look like a genius.

Duffy: We don’t need NYSE

Unlike Charlie Sheen, CME boss Terrence A. Duffy on Friday's Strategy Session didn't really sound like he has a Plan B.

(Then again, Charlie apparently doesn't either, but all we can do is take what he says at ... snicker ... face value.)

Guest host David Simon, who is good at this TV journalism stuff, asked Duffy how CME can crack the European derivatives market if it doesn't buy the NYSE.

"Well I think we're continuing to expand, we have a European clearing business that we're just now getting approved and getting ready to get up and running. You know, we're, we have a distribution throughout the world, we have sales forces throughout the world," Duffy said. "We are very competitive throughout the world today."

Take that for what you will.

David Faber asked Duffy about raising margin requirements and the effect, if any, on volatility.

"We look at current geopolitical events that are going on around the world," Duffy said, the latter half of that sentence being redundant. "I don't think margins raising up or down has anything to do with volatility."

David Faber said the whole NYSE and other conversations have prompted the show to create a segment called "Takeover Talk — where we separate fact from fiction." Simon said "People expect another bid" for the NYSE. Simon also revealed he worked on the Big Lots deal "years and years ago."

CNBC fashion (cont’d)

Looks like Trish in a landslide.

We figured Nicole Lapin, as usual, would set the benchmark early Friday morning, and she did, and Becky Quick as usual, this time in white sweater, proved a tough contender, but poor Melissa Francis, in otherwise stellar royal blue, had to work next to Trish Regan's sizzling red off-center neckline dress, which quite frankly won't be beat on Friday, and we haven't even seen many of the afternoon regulars yet. Erin Burnett took a gamble with gray blouse. (Jane Wells had the umbrella "wow" factor going while reporting on crestfallen California corporate taxpayers, but Michelle Caruso-Cabrera's snappy dress appeal was limited to bystanders of her on-location report in Denver.) Mandy is yet to be heard from Friday.

Where does Tim Seymour’s
‘The reality is’ rank among all-time Fast Money clichés?

Every so often around here there's a need to do — gasp — actual site maintenance (for real computer techies, it's figuring out what's broke and not working and what systems could stand improvement, and for the amateur techies ... which would include this particular site ... it's simply trying to figure out things like, "What the heck is it that we need to do again to get a green headline font?"), and today we stumbled on an old file — actually one of our earliest — that was so lightly trafficked, we basically disowned it from every other page.

It's the "Greatest Clichés of Fast Money" page.

Given that Tim Seymour is now hell-bent on saying the same expression during every other soundbite, we gave the old list a quick look. It stems from back in the day, when Dylan Ratigan — possibly the biggest cliché machine in CNBC history — used to rattle 'em off left and right with the most agreeable crowd possible, in other words, Jeff Macke, Eric Bolling and Pete Najarian.

Longtime (there's, gulp, a few) readers of this site know that our all-time favorite is "Don't try to be a hero," uttered most often by Jeff Macke but also basically everyone else.

Most on the original list sound pretty stoopid right now. Some of the best?

Jeff Macke: "Hope is not a strategy" (Unfortunately just as relevant in bull markets as in the dark days of 2008-early 2009)

Dylan Ratigan: "Does being long gold mean you're short America?" (Not really)

Pete Najarian: "They had an unannounced 2-for-1 stock split" (Funny up until mid-2008, when everyone started experiencing undeclared 2-for-1 splits)

Eric Bolling: "Miners, refiners, early bird diners" (Notice how guys can take crowing to the next level just because they've been in some hot stocks for a while?)

Original author unknown: "This is the deep end of the trading pool" (One that's never made any sense; the deepest end of the trading pool was owning General Motors or Citigroup during the last decade)

Jeff Macke: "Specialty retail in the long run is going to zero" (Hmmmm ... a lot of it does, but probably not all of it)

Pete Najarian: "There are charts all over the bottom of the sea" (Yes, and one of them should be Cisco's)

Dylan Ratigan: "Talk to ya sooner rather than later" (Now, what the heck does that mean ... it's evidently a friendly gesture to indicate to a guest, I want you back, as opposed to, go away)

Basically, those were the only ones worth repeating. And now you know why that page and concept never got any clicks, and has been disenfranchised.

[Thursday, February 24, 2011]

Jane Wells did report
on Twitter about early
camera on Fast Money

This is what happens when things on this page are left dangling for hours by actual real-world responsibilities.

We noted below Jane Wells' dazzling Fast Money appearance Thursday to report on the Boeing tanker deal ... and expressed hope that Wells might mention the inadvertent early camera, but that nothing at that point had shown up on her Twitter postings.

In fact, Wells later noted the appearance, in 140 characters or less, while simultaneously in the eye of the Charlie Sheen hurricane.

Wells mentions it in slightly self-deprecating fashion, only enhancing her credentials as the hippest reporter on cable television.

Now, the reality is, back to counting Tim Seymour clichés.

Could Avon deliver
a makeup call?

It was left to the end of the program, so make of it what you will, but Reggie Middleton told Simon Hobbs and the Fast Money gang Thursday that the worst of the housing debacle has "absolutely not" happened yet.

Middleton cited several stats, but specifically, that inventories are outpacing sales growth.

Joe LaVorgna by contrast had almost an Alfred E. Neuman approach to oil, saying, "Right now at these levels, we're OK."

Guy Adami demanded LaVorgna take his economist hat off and put his "human being" hat on and explain how people can buy other things if they're spending so much more money on gasoline. LaVorgna said maybe around $4 a gallon for a while, but not at $3.25, and that crude would have to hit $125 to $150 for a while before there's a hit to GDP.

Karen Finerman, who looked extraordinarily good in her new gray ensemble, said there's something to like about Avon but not enough yet. "I am long; I'd like to be very long," Finerman said.

Finerman said the Deckers report was "fantastic" and that the stock is "still not crazy expensive here."

Joe Sanderson of Sanderson Farms said "Most people in the industry have pretty good balance sheets," and "We're not threatened by Brazil ... Brazil does not have a market for the white meat." Guy Adami said "I'm not sure what he's seeing" in Sanderson's positive comments on the stock given the trouble it's had in a surging market.

Camera catches Jane Wells
fixing hair on Fast Money

Rarely do we get a Jane Wells treat on Fast Money.

Thursday, viewers did, as Wells popped in to deliver breaking news on Boeing winning the long-dubious tanker contract.

Before she went on the air, the camera inadvertently caught Wells early while Brian Kelly was still talking, and viewers saw Jane making a cute last-second hair arrangement.

We were hoping Wells would post a quick summary of her appearance on her Twitter, but saw nothing early.

Those are the breaks. That's show business.

Rare day for Guy Adami;
Karen looks fabulous

Guy Adami, a longtime veteran of the trading pits, opened Thursday's Fast Money with a pronouncement: "I have never seen a day like today until today."

Adami said oil's day is a "historic move by my measure," and that it's somewhat surprising that the broad market didn't rally with oil's plunge.

Tim Seymour said the reality is, these oil trades are long in the tooth and it was time to take profits.

Karen Finerman, on the eve of her birthday and looking stunning in new gray outfit, said the market was overlooking jobs numbers.

More details of Thursday's Fast Money to come.

Wesley Clark: Saudis stable;
‘It’s the last place to go’

Guy Adami credited Melissa Francis (who wore mostly black, but chic'ed up with a sharp belt and V-neck red top Thursday) with identifying the emerging market slump as an early indicator of GM's struggles, which now puts the shares right around Joe Terranova's "strong hands" IPO price.

Gen. Wesley Clark might be a big stock market player (neither Simon Hobbs nor the rest of the Fast Money Halftime gang bothered to ask), but his only tip of note seemed to be that the Saudis and Bahrain aren't going to topple.

He said Abdullah knows how to keep the people happy, and of all the governments at risk, "It's the last place to go."

Guy Adami unfortunately did manage to ask Clark "what keeps you up at night" (for us it's Super Bowl 43; for Charlie Sheen it's a group of porn stars, for ...). Clark responded that if the wrong elements in Egypt take control, well...

And to think in all of this Patty Edwards' only advice was, "I have been pretty much sitting on my hands ... incredibly difficult to know what is going to go on." She said she remains a holder of TGT but, challenged by Guy Adami, admitted people might want to give it more time before buying.

Jon Najarian said he was hoping to get HPQ below $42. (And in all likelihood, we'll hear on Friday that he bought at $41.80 and sold a couple hours later at $43.25 like "manna from heaven.")

More people pay their way at Harvard than DeVry

We don't know much about for-profit education, and generally agree with Herb Greenberg's sentiments, but if we ever had to attend one, we'd probably give Daniel Hamburger's DeVry first chance.

Hamburger at one point took a great question from guest host David Simon — what percent of your students pay their own way? — and delivered an answer that nearly made us fall out of the chair giggling.

"Much lower than at the Ivy League schools for example," Hamburger said.

Hamburger initially told David Faber it's great that Congress is reviewing regulations because they very well could be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Faber asked what exactly is the baby in all of this. Hamburger said it's graduates getting jobs in the fields in which they studied.

"What is a job," Herb Greenberg jumped in, prompting a Starbucks dis from Faber, who muttered it could mean somebody who's a "barista" or something like that. Hamburger repeated its work in the field of study and there is industrywide auditing to make sure those numbers are accurate.

Unfortunately The Strategy Session, again minus Gary Kaminsky on a lengthy vacation (which isn't nearly as mysterious as the ongoing absentia of Melissa Lee on Fast Money), didn't get off to the most robust start, as Faber and Simon spoke with Soc Gen CEO Frédéric Oudéa about Europe and the Middle East turmoil and Oudéa opened with, "We need to wait a little bit ... we need to monitor the situation of course."

Simon did offer a clunker of sorts — one of these days we're going to try to zero in on the correct mathematical terminology, but it sorta falls under the category of assuming something you're trying to prove is already true, or considering an effect as an indicator of effect, something like that ... — when he said of the stock market, "We had a really big run. Now we're pulling back a little. It's actually healthy for the market."

Sure. First 7 weeks, unhealthy. This week, healthy.

Simon also said the only reason SHLD isn't shorted to death is because there's an occasional squeeze. "Eddie Lampert owned 53% of this company 2 years ago and, and now the credit of the company is not good enough to keep buying back stock, really," Simon said.

[Wednesday, February 23, 2011]

Hobbs did promise that
Lee would return Wednesday

We've been having some weird experiences with CNBC scheduling decisions this week.

Tuesday night, we coulda swore that guest host Simon Hobbs said Melissa Lee would return for Wednesday's Halftime.

That, of course, didn't happen. So we figured we might be nuts.

Actually, it's on the tape, Hobbs did indeed say Tuesday that Lee would return Wednesday.

We gotta think Melissa has the sniffles.

They agree it was an ‘excuse’ but apparently not on whether it’s a legit excuse

Karen Finerman, birthday approaching in a couple days, carved into Tim Seymour's head-scratching contention on Wednesday's Fast Money that the market was dinged by weak tech results.

"I just think it is about the Middle East. I think it's an excuse, we've had such a run, that it's an excuse," Finerman said.

Finerman said it wouldn't be a shock if oil jumped $20 in a day. "This is a very spooky situation," she said.

But Seymour countered with Finerman's own terminology. "Didn't you just say that this is an excuse? It's an excuse for taking profits in a market that's very stretched here," Seymour said.

"I just think that the market was tired," Seymour added.

Seymour and Finerman much later sounded like they almost might've gotten into it on AAPL, when Finerman stressed there's a clear risk for AAPL owners of Steve Jobs not being there, and Seymour shrugging "come on," we've known that for 18 months.

Seymour seconded an early point from JJ Kinahan, who said to watch 1,275 in the S&P and added, "I really believe we have to go back and test this level one more time." Jon Najarian said that's a "might," and that he thinks the big move of Wednesday was the S&P bouncing off 1,300.

CEO: Government should order Detroit to build nat-gas cars

Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon, who was heavily criticized in absentia a couple years ago by Karen Finerman, who cited Gretchen Morgenson's article on McClendon's dubious pay package, took questions from guest host Simon Hobbs on Wednesday's Fast Money and said natural gas companies are all looking for extra oil right now.

And McClendon asserted, using his own car as an example, that solar and nuclear and algae are not the long-term energy answer, but rather his own product. "That's the alternative ... natural gas is the way to go."

Simon Hobbs though asked McClendon, if his nat gas-fueled car is so great, why doesn't everyone have one, and does this require a massive subsidy. McClendon said no. "Detroit needs to be given the mandate from this government, to say 'Look, you're building vehicles that require our country to import foreign oil ... you need to be building vehicles that run off of clean American fuel that happens to now be 75% cheaper than oil'," McClendon said. "That's what government needs to do. They don't need to subsidize, they just need to direct."

Or another way to put that is, have the government tell us what to drive, rather than leaving it to a free market.

Doug Kass says market has not topped for the year

Simon Hobbs for whatever reason allowed Doug Kass to deliver a 4-point speech about the present market (which apparently is a lot different from his down-on-dental plays from a week ago).

Kass' advice includes "Maintain above-average cash reserves ... buy protection ... options are still very cheap ... diversify ... avoid momentum plays both long and short like the plague."

Simon Hobbs asked the obvious question, is anybody on that panel going to avoid momentum trades. "I try to," Karen Finerman volunteered meekly.

Kass was asked what he actually likes. "I like consumer non-durables a lot," he said, including Colgate, Clorox and Procter & Gamble.

Brian Kelly asked Kass if the market top is in for the year. "I'm gonna say no," said Kass, predicting a "sideways market reminiscent of 1953, 1960, 1994."

Dr. J made gobs of money buying Mosaic on Wednesday afternoon

Jon Najarian made a phenomenal observation early Wednesday on the Fast Money Halftime Report, that he was watching fertilizer names that had gotten slammed, only to tarnish it at 5 p.m. with an unvarnished Brag Trade.

"I bought Mosaic today, knock on wood, it just knocked it out of the park on the upside," Dr. J said.

He also announced he made even plenty more money on Priceline afterhours and was actually out of it at the time he spoke.

JJ Kinahan said he still likes Mosaic, and Brian Kelly said he'll be going into fertilizer names on Thursday after Wednesday's reversal.

Analyst Paul Sankey said the market is pricing in a 5-10% risk of Saudi Arabia upheaval. Karen Finerman said she thinks a low-risk way of playing oil is with Canadian Oil Sands.

Finerman defended Macy's against a challenge from (who else) Tim Seymour, saying "even with uncertainty in the world, it's cheap," and that even if margins become compressed and it lacks as Seymour hinted a catalyst, the revenues will grow.

Jon Najarian is long Atmel and LLTC based on iPhone projections.

100 million iPhones in 2011

Craig Berger on Wednesday's Fast Money Halftime Report said he doesn't cover AAPL, but based on supplier checks, "things do look rosy," and the company could sell 100 million iPhones this year.

Berger singled out Broadcom, saying "below 40 seems like a pretty attractive opportunity."

Brian Kelly basically defended Nomura's call of $220 oil based on 1991 Persian Gulf War multipliers. Analyst Peter Zeihan said for those wondering about a domino effect, Algeria is more stable than Libya, and it would take "missteps in Algeria to have a similar scenario." But he said there is a chance, perhaps limited, of Iranian agitation in other places.

Jon Najarian said he's long CHK and will remain that way because it's a "darling" right now. Patty Edwards said "I've got Enerplus Resources."

Aside from oil, Joe Terranova said Netflix seems to be in free fall. "I think it continues to move lower," he said. Patty Edwards re-trumpeted HLF; "I think this thing goes higher still."

Patty asked Saks CEO Steve Sadove what his company can do to ignite growth. Sadove's answer was that some of his stores including in New York still have "enormous growth potential," and "the other factor is the Internet."

Perhaps not surprisingly, Sadove said his sales are highly linked to the stock market.

Ranieri on RMBS: ‘We just have to do it better’

Lewis Ranieri, the hero of Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker and the father, more or less, of mortgage securitization, made his much-ballyhooed appearance on The Strategy Session Wednesday, did fine, avoided anything controversial, and quite frankly didn't give this page much to hang a lede on.

Ranieri's only semi-dubious claim was when he said — and this has become the Woodstock of financial warnings; even Barack Obama claimed he told Wall Street of crisis in 2007 — that he warned of securitization run amok but was ignored. "I talked about it, starting in '05, but obviously didn't do a good enough job to stop it," Ranieri said.

Ranieri also made a curious reference we didn't quite "get" involving credit scores about the lack of money presently being made available for mortgages. "If you use 700 as a FICO score because we seem to have found this 11th Commandment that we know a good loan by looking at the FICO score rather than the traditional way we underwrite loans, which has very dangerous consequences, those numbers are tiny for 2010," Ranieri said.

(We think he means loans are only going to people with 700 scores, and there aren't many of those people now.) "I do not believe people realize how tight credit is," he said. "It's 4 years worth of inventory and then some at the current absorption rate."

Ranieri pinpointed for David Faber and guest host Scott Rechler (Gary Kaminsky, who would've added some pop to this dialogue, was off again) where he thinks the wheels started to fall off. "3rd quarter, 4th quarter of 2002, the RMBS market starts to experiment with structures," Ranieri said. "CDO was the final straw."

Ranieri at the beginning said despite everything that happened, there's really no other way of fueling the housing economy than securitization. "It's gotta be an RMBS. We just have to do it better this time," he said.

[Tuesday, February 22, 2011]

1 last hurrah 2 last hurrahs
for Friday’s Fast Money

We gotta be goin' loopy.

Evidently, according to the press release and what Simon Hobbs said on Tuesday's Fast Money, the premiere of Money in Motion has actually been pushed back to March 11 — not March 4, as an earlier item on this page indicated.

Coulda swore the initial press release Tuesday said "March 4th." But we can't find the original version of the release. Maybe it did say "March 11th" and we somehow got confused. Or maybe someone at CNBC made a typo that was quickly corrected. Or maybe, as we suggested/hoped, there's a movement afoot to get Steve Cortes on this program, and he's entering extended negotiations. Or maybe Andy Busch had a preplanned fishing trip that just can't be postponed.

(Honestly — and keep in mind, we know less about currency trading than Justin Bieber — but how hard can it really be to put this TV show together? Mel looking good with new outfits, a new font on some whiz-bang dollar-yen charts, a bunch of people telling you they're going long/short the UUP against anything else, and Dennis Gartman buying gold strictly in pound sterling terms and not dollars.)

Bottom line is that Friday's half-hour Fast Money has been granted another extension, which, if we let the brain run rampant with speculation, could also mean tons of viewers have e-mailed CNBC with protests about the looming demise of the show on Friday afternoons.

Or then again, maybe not.

Karen’s birthday is Friday

Perhaps Friday's Fast Money has been extended not because of programming issues, but to make sure Karen Finerman gets a nice little birthday tribute.

We won't try to reveal K-Fine's age right here (you can sort of figure it out, thanks to the Guardian article), but suffice it to say, we should all be so lucky to look so good.

Andy Busch: ‘Risk-off’
in play for 8 weeks

In case you were actually troubled by the absolute destruction of the stock market on Tuesday, Anthony Scaramucci offered a few words of hope on Fast Money.

"I do think that despite the near-term volatility, this is a long-term bullish play for the world and particularly for those emerging markets," Scaramucci said.

He's probably right, but that's like hearing the Steelers are in good shape for next year.

Tim Seymour tried to claim that beyond the Saudis there is zero excess OPEC capacity, but Dennis Gartman disagreed, saying "I think there's probably a good deal more than that out there."

Rich Ilczyszyn gets a mixed verdict for his oil chart comparison which was informative but went into a little too much detail. He said (we think) that WTI is frothy whereas Brent is not, so he'd play the Brent side of that spread.

Andy Busch, in one of those teasers for the new currency show that is really going to get tiresome having to hear about for a whole 2 more weeks, said he'd sell New Zealand dollars and buy U.S. dollars in the new "risk-off" scenario. Tim Seymour scratched his head at that wondering how Busch would play the Australian dollar, which Seymour thinks should be strong. There was more confusion from Simon Hobbs as to whether Busch was calling for this trade for the rest of the year. "I'm saying it's risk-off for the next 8 weeks," Busch insisted. (Maybe it's a good thing Money in Motion has an extra 2 weeks.)

Tim Seymour also managed to be confused by Brian Kelly's call to buy Treasurys, even though it didn't seem that confusing to us. Stephen Weiss said "Italy is still fragile" but said his daughter is singlehandedly propping up the economy there. Tim Seymour echoed a Patty Edwards point from Halftime: "Wal-Mart, outside of Wal-Mex, is stuck," Seymour said. "And I think Wal-Mart is stuck in a holding pattern at best."

Seymour: Neither a buying
opportunity nor correction

Tim Seymour was on the warpath Tuesday on Fast Money, indicating in rapid-fire conversation that Libya is delivering a massive forearm shiver to the global consumer.

"The reality is that $120 oil will have major, major implications for the global recovery," Seymour said, pronouncing Tuesday's stock market crumble as neither a correction nor buying opportunity (which we're not totally sure what that means, execpt it sounds like not a good moment to be long).

Seymour also poured water on the soft commodity story, proclaiming, "These are very crowded spec trades." Dennis Gartman later affirmed that, saying cotton was a sign the softs had gotten "unbelievably crowded."

Stephen Weiss said that for whatever reason, "We needed a reason to have a selloff."

Guy Adami said "1,302 on the downside" is your reference point for the S&P 500. Adami said silver might be topping at the moment, but once it pulls back, he sees a "tremendous buying opportunity." He also said $110 is your new buy-in on longtime favorite WLT.

Joe Terranova said the problem with Léo is that he just can't manage costs like Mark Hurd.

More on Tuesday's Fast Money to come.

1 last hurrah for
Friday’s Fast Money

CNBC apparently isn't quite ready to let Friday afternoon's Fast Money go.

Either that, or Money in Motion is behind schedule.

According to press releases, Fast Money will indeed air this Friday at 5 p.m. The premiere of Money in Motion has been pushed back to March 4.

Dr. J, Terranova: Refiners might be running out of gas

Guest host Simon Hobbs found it near-impossible to get Stephen Schork to stop talking on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report, but somewhere in the middle of his speech, Schork said oil is a sell in the mid to upper $90s and a buy back in the mid-$80s.

Some people say $3, some people say $4, and some people like Schork are in between in claiming that with gas prices, "$3.40 and above does begin to cause material harm to the consumer."

Jon Najarian allowed that "some of the refiners might be vulnerable here at this level." Najarian said most airlines are run by careful execs who aren't going to go crazy hedging, but he would short any airlines that get in hedging "panic mode." Najarian also said silver opened higher but that people quickly started taking profits.

Joe Terranova was stronger than Dr. J on gasoline, "the end of that rise in refiners might be here." And of the troubling selloff, he said, "I don't think this is a 1-day event." Brian Kelly revealed, "I bought some Treasury bonds, I bought some TLT." Kelly also said "I'm still long DBA," which Simon Hobbs sort of tried to talk him out of.

Analyst: HPQ is the
‘ultimate PC hedge’

Patty Edwards got off to a slow start Tuesday, then managed to catch fire.

Edwards noted WMT "just missed again on revenue ... and the problem is the U.S. stores." Slightly more articulately than Mr. T before the 2nd Balboa fight, Edwards predicted, "it's gonna be painful going forward."

Edwards did call HD's Frank Blake an "absolutely awesome CEO." However, she said department stores and mall stores would be affected by the oil spike.

Analyst Richard Kugele called HPQ "a top pick for us in 2011. We see the company in many ways as the ultimate PC hedge for investors."

Jon Najarian suggested a bounce in CCL; "I like the stock on that dip."

Allergan boss David Pyott explained that thanks to a government change in body-mass index requirements (couldn't we all use 1 of those), "We're adding 26 million people in this country." Patty Edwards closed with, "The trick is gonna be getting those insurance companies to actually pay for it."

This might prompt Henry Kravis
to schedule a visit

Stuart Grant visited The Strategy Session on Tuesday to let viewers in on a big secret: Management-led LBOs are generally no good.

"Some can be good, but it's a small, small number," Grant said.

Grant said it's a moneymaking deal for executives at the expense of shareholders, because the executives are creating leverage to line their pockets to realize value they should've been realizing under the existing structure, based on a "huge disparity of information" between themselves and what the board has.

David Faber, however, did point out that if the shareholders are getting a fair premium relative to the price of the stock, how are they really losing.

The text on the bottom of the screen referred to Grant's segment as a critique of the "scamming" of investors by these deals, although "scamming" seems too strong. If banks are willing to lend money to these endeavors, why should anyone really lose sleep?

David Faber pointed out that, thanks to the status quo in carried interest, "you suddenly lower your tax rate a lot if you're a CEO" by doing an LBO.

Flash: Global oil trade risky

Gary Kaminsky had an extended long weekend off Tuesday, while Ken Hersh spoke on The Strategy Session about some oil basics.

Hersh said the risk premium is back in oil, evidenced by the shift in the whole curve, which indicates Libya is more than 1-day event.

Hersh also said there's plenty of supply for the U.S. in Oklahoma, but a "huge disconnect" with global prices and Brent (as if you didn't already know that); "there's a difference between U.S. oil prices and global oil prices."

In case you've been wondering all weekend, Kate Kelly said the HCA offering is shrinking from $4 billion to $3.5 billion, basically because the Frist family is going to sell under 1% of what it owns.

Scott Rechler, filling in for Gary Kaminsky, said "there's a scarcity of high-quality real estate."


Gasp — did Mandy & Melissa F
wear the same outfit Friday?

There's nuance with everything in life, but not always so much in the color calibration of your TV set.

Thus, we can't be totally certain if Mandy and Melissa Francis were wearing exactly the same color Friday, or some extremely close variations; nor are we even sure whether it/they qualify as red or orange.

Once again, given Nicole Lapin's impossibly cute simple black dress/white T-shirt combo early Friday morning, we figured the rest of the competition might as well not even bother showing up after about 6 a.m.

Trish Regan, though, rallied to win the day's fashion crown, thanks to an elegant white skirt (paired with aqua sweater) that got full-screen treatment during a walk with Brian Schactman in front of that huge stock-chart wall.

Maria Bartiromo appeared in some kind of updated-from-vintage-'70s light gray jacket that is bound to be a bit polarizing but working nicely with an engaging cream-colored blouse. Courtney Reagan rebounded from a so-so Thursday with a lovely black/navy blouse with rounded neck.

Melissa Francis reported at the end of Friday's The Call that David Faber has driven into work behind her and believes she drives like a "menace."

Is this the world’s
most gorgeous woman over 45?

If not, we'd love to know why.

How's that for a teaser to the Official CNBCfix Oscars preview? (Um, see below.)

CNBCfix guide to the Oscars

Ya gotta figure that one of these days, the Oscars will recognize the irony of the lack of true drama in their program — learning the outcome of how people are voting for something — and convert to some kind of "American Idol"-like format, where everyone actually learns the results of all the voting, and the votes are actually compiled through the course of the evening into semifinalists, finalists, etc.

Thankfully that hasn't happened yet. Even though there are a bunch of goofs in Hollywood, whoever's in charge has kept it one of the last bastions of formality we've got (given what you see people wearing to fine restaurants nowadays, you almost have to figure Bill Griffeth is gonna regularly be wearing Hawaiian shirts to anchor Closing Bell before it's all said and done).

Around here we hate ranking art, because art shouldn't be ranked. Furthermore, we hate the concept of bestowing all-time honors in any profession like clockwork once a year, even if nothing that particular year deserves the honor (think just about any Hall of Fame). So we end up with anomalies such as "The English Patient" collecting an Oscar while "Star Wars" and "Chinatown" are shut out, etc.

Like we said, Hollywood can be goofy.

But this is a podunk Web site in the middle of nowhere, so we're going to reach into that grab bag of popular Internet topics and weigh in on the Academy Awards regardless (please note, this site doesn't believe in revealing anything approaching a spoiler, so it's safe if you haven't seen...)

"127 Hours" — Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction; in this case a little fiction would've helped. Flashbacks and dating speculation fizzle as interruptive crutches to bolster a sedentary incident that just doesn't pack enough drama for a 2-hour movie. James Franco though will get votes.

"Black Swan" — Natalie Portman's a shoo-in. (Unfortunately — know why they call the Oscars the Super Bowl for Women? — just like with Rachel Weisz and Catherine Zeta-Jones in recent years, males are going to be hearing "SHE'S GOING TO THE OSCARS PREGNANT!!!!!" about 500 times this week and next.) The movie, about human beings' curious relentless drive for perfection in the category of entertaining other people, is, surprisingly, impressively good. It's also a little bizarre and veers too much into horror-land for an Oscar upset.

"The Fighter" — Christian Bale saves the show from an uninspiring Mark Wahlberg. Too many boxing cliches and a strange brew of tone, and some of the most ridiculous scenes you'll see in a recently lauded film in the form of the group of adult sisters constantly sitting joined at the hip no matter where they are.

"Inception" — Visually stunning. Dream plots are a waste of time.

"The Kids Are All Right" — Terrible title, clever premise, lousy execution. Just when the possibilities become very entertaining, about the 45-minute or 1-hour mark, we get age-old tiresome stressed-family fare, culminating in a celebration of a cliche mocked by one of the children earlier. How in the world did Annette Bening and not Julianne Moore pick up an Oscar nomination, a nod that looks ridiculous pitted against Portman.

"The King's Speech" — Nice, refreshing little drama for adults that doesn't involve a gun, except the better drama is the half hour or so devoted to Wallis Warfield Simpson. Seems a little light.

"The Social Network" — Wonderful exploration of the legal difficulties of defining percentage of genius; pretty good but not quite wonderful exploration of motivation. Aaron Sorkin can tell a fast-paced story like few others. Visually (lots of scenes in front of computer terminals) is a bit flat and might be too contemporary for the Academy crowd; Sean Parker's introduction comes awkwardly out of nowhere. The most interesting and satisfying movie of the year, might have 50/50 chance of topping "The King's Speech."

"Toy Story 3" — CGI has been in Oscar no-man's land since inception (the concept, not the Christopher Nolan movie); nowadays people feel (correctly) it deserves far more than a token nod in Animated Feature against minimal competition. Wonderful family movie; as a best-picture and adapted screenplay nominee, this is borderline jumping the shark.

"True Grit" — Capitalists like to talk about supply and demand. There is, evidenced by recent head-scratching Oscar successes such as "No Country For Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" as well as "Crazy Heart," a healthy Academy demand for anything approaching a Western, but precious little supply. Thus we have "Grit," an unimpressive, slow, forgettable remake of a franchise that should've been left to John Wayne getting the "Dances With Wolves" treatment basically because anything with Jeff Bridges these days works.

"Winter's Bone" — The climactic scene is one you'll never forget in this tale of courage and making things right in some kind of parallel universe of the Ozarks where maybe a lot of things are never going to be on the up and up. Unfortunately, the cast is so little-known, virtually no chance of a big score.

And then there was the time Cruise said, ‘Matt- Matt- Matt- Matt- Matt- Matt- Matt- ... you’re very glib’

Notice that in the last 5 to 10 years, new media cynics will often complain that once someone does something goofy on television, intentionally or otherwise, it unfortunately has to live forever in a "YouTube moment."

(Honestly, was there really anything that strange about Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah's couch? Oh well, that's another entry some other time.)

Last week happened to be a sign that YouTube moments aren't such a bad thing.

First there was the Fast Money gang mining Tim Seymour's now-famous "the reality is" shrug, with Seymour's affirmation, for more legit laughs than it probably deserved.

But the bigger issue (stick with us, we know it's not exactly Fast Money, but it's a long holiday weekend) is the circumstances of Serene Branson, the pretty CBS reporter who somehow managed to spout gibberish last week at the Grammys during a live report that's now all over the Web.

But with the chuckles came serious concerns about Branson's health, that she might have been suffering a stroke. And so folks who'd never heard of Branson and likely never would've otherwise were suddenly pulling for her in cyberspace.

And the happiest of endings has apparently occurred, according to Branson's comments on CBS on Friday, when she and her doctor declared the incident a migraine and she noted, "I was scared, nervous, confused, exhausted, and in an evening dress in the back of an ambulance," which makes the whole thing kinda cute. (Actually, more than kinda.)

Web video: Bringing us together, in strange ways.

[Friday, February 18, 2011]

The bar is low for
‘Money in Motion’

Hopefully Melissa Lee was enjoying another well-earned day off on Friday.

Or put another way, hopefully Lee wasn't taking the day off to avoid having to sign off on the now-preempted Friday afternoon edition of Fast Money.

This week's version was just like most versions of the half-hour Fast Money — 10 minutes of "Look how great the market did" followed by giggles.

Tim Seymour basically met the show's low Friday expectations with an astoundingly rambling and clumsy opening comparison of names like Salesforce.com and Intel that sounded more like a story that needs to be told on some distant blog somewhere and not on television.

But in fairness, he did more than live up to the humor requirement with a redux of the Green Mountain call that wasn't.

Guy Adami keeps using the ‘p’ word with silver

Guy Adami remains remarkably bullish on silver.

"This thing could easily go parabolic," Adami said Friday, adding that gold should dream of being in the situation that silver is now.

"I think silver's going higher," agreed Tim Seymour, who also said "I think Freeport is a stock you stay short."

Doug Kass’ lousy-economy thesis shifts from corporate 401(k) cutbacks to toothaches

Doug Kass, like the rest of the Fast Money gang living up to the (not so lofty) standards of Friday's edition, opened with one of the most tiresome of clunkers, an all-too-predictable "Caddyshack" line about Jon Najarian's shirt, ya know, the free bowl of soup thing followed by "looks good on you though."

Ugh. Even just writing it almost hurts.

Anyway, Kass was supposedly launching a counteroffensive against Brian Kelly's day-earlier defense of states' muni obligations. "I think investors are underappreciating the severity, the enormity of the problem," Kass insisted, but then he sort of made clear he wasn't suggesting a wave of defaults, but a pinching of the consumer because of the resulting "toxic cocktail of elevated unemployment and higher marginal tax rates."

As a result, he's looking to short of all things, dental stocks, namely Patterson and Henry Schein, because 40% is totally discretionary.

But before Kass gets too immersed in those, perhaps he should batten down the hatches a bit on his top short picks for 2011 that he revealed back on Nov. 22.

Those happened to be TROW, BEN and WDR.

If you're curious what those stocks have done this year, check out a chart of any of them.

Kass said in November those "will be some of the worst-performing stocks in 2011."

Evidently, that's no longer the case.

Scott Wapner blindsides
Anthony Scaramucci with a
question he can’t answer

Jon Najarian said Friday on Fast Money that AAPL is facing a headwind not so much because of Steve Jobs, who Najarian claimed looked pretty good from the "back" only at the Obama dinner Thursday, but because "it's likely that a number of their products ... might get pushed a little further than people were expecting."

Brian Kelly said "I bought Seagate Technology."

Joe Terranova said the 20% bounce in FFIV in a few weeks amounts to just a "nice little rebound" in the stock he was telling viewers to avoid sub-$110.

Anthony Scaramucci, after curiously getting somewhat ambushed by Scott Wapner on why Apple's coming out with a lower-priced iPhone but handling it deftly, offered 3 stocks as "pricing power" calls: Philip Morris, Walter Energy and Loral. (Actually, Wapner's clever question in the opening exchange was another sign that sometimes he's so good with the comebacks, he's too far ahead of his own colleagues, like a wide receiver who runs faster than the QB anticipates.)

Tim Seymour claimed that the tumble in Potash Friday was an indication he's right that the valuation in fertilizer is stretched.

Grasso: Watch 1,348

In a quiet Halftime Report Friday, Joe Terranova trumpeted ARUN's big day and was seconded on the chip-stock call by Jon Najarian, who said, in his Nordstrom premium cotton yellow golf shirt, "I don't see a reason for the story to stop working quite frankly."

Terranova said he thinks SFSF "breaks out further."

Steve Grasso though was exhibiting a bit more caution, explaining, "I'm still largely in the market," but he's taking his family to DisneyWorld next week and so he's locking in some profits.

Grasso said 1,348 in the S&P is the level to watch. "I would stay away from refiners right now," he said, because he thinks some high-beta names will be sold off a bit. He said he does like ANF, but it's near the top technically and thus "it's gotta hold $57."

Agco CEO Martin Richenhagen, speaking remotely, actually told Scott Wapner his company's outlook might differ from John Deere's because he likes to "underpromise and overdeliver," but he's still expecting a good year.

Solar watcher Gordon Johnson said he's bearish because of Germany and Italy solar weakness. But when Steve Grasso asked if there's a risk of a subsidy splurge in some of those countries, Johnson admitted, "I think your worry is the right worry to have," but that the trends in Europe are going the opposite direction.

Bill Gurley: Everything
but an opinion

From the way we understood it, Bill Gurley was supposed to talk about the impact of the newfound "private" stock market as it relates to soaring tech companies on Friday's Kaminsky-less Strategy Session.

But somewhere around halfway through, we kinda got the impression he wasn't really talking about any impact ... or anything that might suggest whether you should or shouldn't try pulling the financial equivalent of a "Rudy" to get into one of these things.

"This isn't something we're participating in," he said, saying his firm sticks with early investments — unlike the recent torrent of cash into Facebook — because that's what his firm is skilled at.

The private market "has now become a bit of a frenzy," Gurley said, but it was only from reading the text at the bottom of the screen that we got any kind of an opinion, which was that he apparently thinks the private placements are illiquid and get "bad pricing."

In other words, if you're piling on to the Goldman Sachs-Facebook train, you might be getting hosed.


What we need to hear from Gary Gensler is what has he done to make America better

Gary Gensler, always a reliable guest for Larry Kudlow in Gensler's pre-CFTC days, took some good questions from an assorted gang on Friday's Strategy Session, including a pointed query from Bob Pisani about getting every other agency's report on the Flash Crash, but no explanation from Gensler on what caused the Flash Crash.

"There was a number of events," Gensler grudgingly offered Pisani.

Gensler was also asked why the nation needs 2 regulatory bodies splitting up financial-market duties. Gensler's response was that President Roosevelt wanted it this way, and aside from his family, "The person I talk to the most is Mary Schapiro."

We know from a documentary of some kind that FDR in social gatherings actually enjoyed discussing the 1930s equivalent of UsWeekly.

Strategy Session guest host Charles Kantor doubted that Chicago will come roaring into the NYSE takeover. "My guess is the CME doesn't participate in any meaningful way," Kantor said.

[Thursday, February 17, 2011]

What if AAPL rises
on a Jobs announcement?

This page would never claim to be a Steve Cortes-caliber contrarian, but occasionally things heard on CNBC just end up screaming "TAKE THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS TRADE."

We started to get that notion when hearing Toni Sacconaghi speak about Steve Jobs' health on the Halftime Report.

And we were really feelin' it when the varsity crew took up the subject at 5 p.m.

That's when Tim Seymour delivered a mini-tirade about Scott Wapner's choices for program content.

"Why are we talking about this. I mean, this is, you know, Tim Cook is totally qualified," Seymour said, then referring to Jobs, added, "The reality is, has he been as vital in the last 18 months as, as, maybe even guys like Tim Cook? I can't believe this is a story to be honest with you."

Well, um, it's a story, because an objective analyst (Sacconaghi) just said earlier in the day that the stock tumbles 5-10% if the worst scenario happens, and a lot of observers would probably agree with that.

Does Seymour not care about 10%?

Or is he hinting — without actually saying — that there's actually a contrarian trade waiting to be sprung here ... which would be going long the stock if an announcement looks imminent, because the market might actually prefer the certainty of Tim Cook vs. the uncertainty of Steve Jobs ... and that Sacconaghi's forecast will not happen?

That sounds so clever, it's going to be the official opinion of this page. (This writer has no position in AAPL.)

Joe Terranova sort of seconded that, albeit with a slightly goofy rationale warning against selling the stock, because "They could do a significant buyback to stablize the price at a moment's notice."

Jon Najarian apparently tried arguing with Seymour although it actually sounds more like the point we just made. Najarian said that Jobs controls the product releases, so there's a "risk" involving whether the new tablet or iPhone comes out in the spring or September, except the way he said it made it sound like Jobs might be interfering with what the market wants. Or, it could've been that Najarian was suggesting these releases need Jobs' touch, and if he's ailing, that's obviously a problem.

"It's not a huge risk," Najarian concluded, but a risk.

Sacconaghi unknowingly had it pegged from the beginning. The market has already concluded that no return is likely, so this page figures the stock rises if that is clarified.

Like most everyone else, we wish the best for Jobs and his family and hope he does return permanently.

Dr. J challenges Seymour
to put a stop to ag run

If Tim Seymour found himself in a debate with Jon Najarian over AAPL on Thursday, it became a full-scale "Crossfire" when the ag trade came up.

"At 45 times earnings, Potash is twice as expensive as it should be," Seymour blared. "The reality is, valuations matter, and people are getting ahead of themselves on these stocks."

Najarian conceded that eventually planting supplies will catch up, there's more ground in the world to go around, but for now, there's basically rising demand and restrained supply in the ag and soft-commodities world, so where else are stocks gonna go?

Brian Kelly said that's why he'd play Monsanto.

Seymour said he gets all that and "this is what I do for a living," but he does think there's hoarding in the soft commodities and he doesn't think cotton can hold this price.

Gary Shapiro’s tiresome generalities are definitely worth a whole show

A lot of times we get tired of posting entries on Fast Money stock calls, and so segments like the one Thursday featuring pro-America author Gary Shapiro are most welcome.

Despite otherwise running an impressive ship, Scott Wapner's intro with Shapiro about American competitiveness — in a segment targeted for about 40 seconds total — in leading fields such as movies, music, tech and how it should be better everywhere was about as organized as the Super Bowl seating arrangements, and so we weren't surprised when Tim Seymour interjected, "I don't understand what you're saying ... I'm confused."

"We are doing well, but our government is making it more difficult for us," Shapiro complained, citing the "highest corporate tax rate in the world," that we "can't hire Americans, we double-tax them," which all may have merit, but most goofily, "we're not educating our kids."

"That's a whole show, I mean, that could be a whole show that Gary brought up," Seymour said, and of course Seymour's right, but Fast Money won't allow itself to be interesting like that when the occasion arises.

Dr. J: ‘Shame’ on those Democratic troublemakers in Wisconsin

Jon Najarian explained on Thursday's Fast Money where he stands in the Wisconsin legislature shutdown.

"Shame on those Democrats that walked out or left the state," Najarian said.

Najarian saluted Brian Kelly's trade on this whole situation, which is going long AGO and its 4 P.E. "I think it easily goes to 30," Kelly said.

Kelly said he thinks states won't default on muni issues and lose access to credit markets like Greece. Instead they'll do what Wisconsin is doing, some kind of "soft default."

New farmer, same result

Citi analyst Glen Yeung oughta get a return invite to Fast Money.

Yeung defended his Nvidia call Thursday with gusto, and even took on Tim Seymour over AMD, which Yeung insisted is "not dead in the water" but rather "is a story of share gain."

Basically Yeung said Nvidia is inevitably going to have competition, and it's the valuation that's stretched.

Tim Seymour, like the rest of the Fast gang, gushed early about the tech/semi space, saying "The reality is," many of these stocks are hitting 52-week highs, not exactly a revelation you needed to watch Fast Money for.

Guy Adami stressed that they've been talking about names like QualComm for months or even years. (Yeah, and they've also talked about MSFT, CSCO and YHOO for years too.)

Adami uncharacteristially lost his poker face, briefly, when the camera suddenly cut to him during Yeung's comments.

Ohio farmer Mike Haley didn't seem as enthused to be on Fast Money as Roger Neshem of North Dakota usually is. Haley said the ag cycle looks strong because "It's a lot different than before," for example, in 2008 corn and soybeans and fertilizer were high, and now fertilizer is relatively lower.

Haley's segment ended as abruptly as it started.

The producers not only did a good job lampooning Tim Seymour's "The reality is" Green Mountain call, but also the Fast Money athletes in action montage played to "Let's Get Physical."

Najarian: Coinstar
poised for a pop

Global markets watcher Ron Shah said you have to be a selective stock-picker in emerging markets nowadays — but then he went on to rattle off seemingly every hot name in the BRIC universe, like MakeMyTrip, Baidu, Sohu, Dr. Reddy's, Embraer, Teva and Longtop Financial. (OK, he didn't mention VimpelComm or Wim-Bill-Dann, but whatever.)

Jon Najarian thinks there's "5-6 bucks of upside" in Coinstar because of the possibility of an Amazon deal.

Willie Williams said "I like buying the dollar right now," partly on a belief of rising rates by year-end. Brian Kelly said there's "no shot" of the Fed doing that in 2011, "absolutely no way."

CNBC female clothing commentary (cont’d)

On Thursday's CNBC, Erin Burnett chose a modest look with gray long-sleeved jacket pantsuit. Diana Olick was seen in a lovely gray plaid scarf during a "Realty Check" segment. Courtney Reagan was somewhat ordinary in aqua blouse and routine hairstyle, but pearls did the trick.

Maria Bartiromo offered a smooth brown jacket nicely complemented by beige blouse. Michelle Caruso-Cabrera was delightfully ebullient in bright orange. For whatever reason, Melissa Francis chose all black, a decent look but not her best color. The day's fashion star was actually a guest, CNet's Natali Morris, who appeared on Erin Burnett's Street Signs in red sweater/dark gray top and is most certainly capable of giving Nicole Lapin a run for the cute crown.

Analyst: AAPL would take 5-10% hit on announcement of permanent Jobs departure

Toni Sacconaghi said on Thursday's Halftime Report that the Steve Jobs reports, whether accurate or not, or significant or not, are not really a surprise to the stock market.

Sacconaghi said it's his view that "most professional investors today believe that he is unlikely to return."

He said if there was an announcement to that effect, he thinks the stock would plunge 5-10%, but be recouped over weeks or months.

Evidently, what goes up is coming down ... right now

Guest host Scott Wapner and Rich Ilczyszyn on Thursday's Fast Money Halftime Report basically agreed that everything in the commodity space has shot to the moon, and so they quizzed each other as to why they would buy it given the run its had.

Ilczyszyn at least offered a concrete opinion that silver could break out and if so he'd ride that up to $35.

Guy Adami trumpeted John Deere. Steve Grasso, said by Adami to be wearing a "burlap" trading jacket, said he likes DD and ANF because ANF is a premier brand that can handle the spike in cotton. Jon Najarian revealed he's long ANF and also likes John Deere, so the conversation basically came full circle.

Cliffs CEO Joseph Carrabba basically said everything is going gangbusters in the world. Steve Grasso said U.S. Steel is worth a look on Carrabba's iron ore remarks because it's the only steel company with its own iron ore. Stephen Weiss said he likes Massey and Alpha Natural Resources. Dr. J delivered some pretty good self-deprecating humor on hair jokes.

Rob Raymond: Nat gas
headed for a 2 handle

Rob Raymond's case against natural gas is not terribly unique among many Strategy Session guests, but the way he outlined the headwinds was maybe the most impressive.

Raymond drew comparisons to gold in the 1980s and referred to "cyanide leaching" as the headwind of gold at that time.

That sounded so exciting, we looked it up, because we'd actually never heard of that before. (See, when Peter Schiff "educates" people about gold on Fast Money, it's not about stuff like that, but usually just something like "it's going to $5,000 someday.")

As usual we found a few interesting facts on Wikipedia, including that it's banned in Montana and Wisconsin and led to a disaster in Romania, but also this Google books "preview," which notes that it took off in the 1970s and is the industry's preferred extraction method today. (Which actually can make someone who admits having never heard of the process before feel a bit dumb, but whatever.)

Anyway, Raymond said the supply of natural gas is just swamping demand, and "it's very difficult to see how the demand curve can move materially or enough to basically catch up with the supply curve."

Gary Kaminsky pointed out that a lot of people figured the supply problem would readjust if companies went belly-up in the aftermath of 2008, but hardly any companies have, which harkens back to those farmers of the 1930s, getting peanuts for their corn, with the only way to support their families being to produce even more corn, until they ended up in some type of Grapes of Wrath scenario.

Raymond suggested, just like in all those Evel Knievel jumps, the climax will be spectacular even if the results aren't so hot. "At some point I think we're gonna see the front end of the natural gas curve really collapse," he said, likely something with a "$2 number in front of it."

If you were shorting stocks on March 9, 2009, you probably feel like a Bozo

In stock market circles, March 9, 2009, is basically the equivalent of Woodstock; everyone was there calling the bottom that weekend.

At least in Gary Kaminsky's case, he's apparently got a witness.

Kaminsky spoke briefly Thursday about the S&P's impressive climb since that date, reminding colleague David Faber that they were celebrating Faber's birthday March 9, 2009, and talking about buying stocks that night.

Faber had to think about it for a moment, but did eventually remember, and congratulated Kaminsky.

"That was the bottom bottom," Kaminsky said.

Kaminsky pointed to the Alerian MLP Index being at an all-time high as the ultimate sign of strength in MLPs.

Peter Boockvar said there are 3 reasons big caps are doing great this year, the Fed, the international presence and the dividend, but Gary Kaminsky basically disagreed, saying it's because of the liquidity those names provide for money managers who might get restless.

David Faber broke a scoop that Citadel is apparently selling itself to Cumulus.

[Wednesday, February 16, 2011]

Never once did he say they’re making a great new product that people want to buy

It's notable that Anthony Scaramucci, a fan of the "Wall Street" movie franchise, did not try to channel Lou Mannheim while touting Cisco of all names as the Hedge Fund Trade of the Week on Wednesday.

You know, Lou Mannheim, the guy who recommended Putney because "they got a good new drug."

The most telling element of Scaramucci's argument was, "There's a lot of dramatic things these guys can do from a financial engineering perspective."

He led off with, "I want people to focus on valuation here," and mentioned "proven management team" a couple of times, an "8% cash flow yield," the fact that Tilson, Soros and Lampert are in it, and "this is a name that's very liquid."

Guy Adami said he had to take the other side of those arguments, asking Scaramucci about the constant market pounding of CSCO while JNPR gains. Scaramucci tossed out a Buffett-ism, that the market is a "voting machine" short term, and a "weighing machine over long periods of time."

Adami didn't unleash the best argument — that the CSCO chart is one of the most pathetic we've ever seen.

Scaramucci said Cisco is one of those companies that will "catalyze themselves through good management."

Wonder how Rudolph Giuliani
would vote his proxy?

We certainly didn't expect to see former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist surface on Wednesday's Fast Money.

But there he was.

Apparently, the Jim Morrison pardon no longer occupies his time.

Crist took questions about why in the world he's been nominated by Bruce Berkowitz for a spot on the St. Joe board.

Crist insisted being a corporate board member is "the same kind of thing" as being governor and that he's well aware of what a phenomenal asset the St. Joe land is to the state.

(There's also likely the matter of, he doesn't have a whole lot of other things going on.)

Crist told Melissa Lee several times that apparently, the whole problem with the company is excessive executive compensation. "That's where it's gone wrong," he said.

Lee asked Crist if he's getting paid to serve as a spokesman of sorts for Berkowitz. Crist said he's not getting paid.

"That is interesting," said Karen Finerman. "Many nominees are compensated in a big way."

We noticed that Crist gave an interview this week to Fortune, and amazingly, most of his answers were the same as what he told Lee. Fortune asked him if he's had discussions with Berkowitz about compensation if he lands on the board. "Nothing specific at this time, no," was Crist's answer.

Aside from that, Crist says, "I'm at the law firm of Morgan & Morgan, working in area of mass torts, client development, as well as marketing aspects of the firm and enjoy it very much. In addition, I'm a distinguished professorial lecturer in Stetson University College of law."

Mass torts. Sounds like fun.

Obviously Dow went up;
market was open

Longtime Fast Money viewers will recall that in the first year of the show, basically late 2006 into mid-2007, Dylan Ratigan and the gang used to occasionally grumble something like "the market's open today, so it went up."

The current quintet isn't nearly so tired of stock market gains just yet.

Joe Terranova gushed early on Wednesday's program that this market is a lot like 1995, specifically because of the 3rd year of a presidency.

Anthony Scaramucci followed that up later, agreeing "This looks a lot like 1995," for 3 reasons: "1 is valuation, 2 is balance-sheet fundamentals for large-cap stocks, and 3, we are in the 3rd year of a presidential administration."

Karen Finerman, in attractive long-sleeved black turtleneck, said she thinks IBM still has room to run.

Guy Adami said he still likes VLO and TSO, "QualComm's a name you still wanna own here," and told viewers don't worry, be happy. "Instead of focusing on when the correction's gonna come, just enjoy the ride while it lasts," Adami said.

Knock on wood, Dr. J
made a profitable trade

Jon Najarian spoke about the jump in The Williams Co. on Wednesday, and rest assured, the first thing he mentioned was "knock on wood," because "we have some" of those shares.

Najarian also revealed owning some CLF, which coincidentally happened to pop also. "There is not a top, apparently," Najarian shrugged, but said he would actually be selling his stake into these gains.

Analyst Mark Montagna spoke on the Fast Line about all this dollar store nonsense, in a segment that ultimately made as much sense as that poor CBS reporter at the Grammys.

Montagna basically was saying that Dollar General can't be taken over because it's largely owned by the Buck operation, but that the gains were nevertheless merited, as long as they don't go too high. "I think 41 is a bit high," he said. "I think it will grow into that in a couple years." But he said "Our price target's $34."

Jesse Eisinger made slightly more sense, but on an utterly useless topic, the notion that hedge funds are being nicer to investors because Bernie Madoff says they're bad. Zachary Karabell also found this a bit dubious based on the numbers Eisinger cited. Eisinger said these are "trends that are absolutely in place, but I think they're sort of moving in this direction."

New daily feature: Commentary on female CNBC stars’ attire

Melissa Lee looked satisfactory Wednesday in black V-neck dress, boots, and yellow top, but sort of toned down the Sizzle Meter from earlier this week. Lee also did a noticeable hair flip over the right shoulder just for 1 brief segment before the Final Trade, then went back to standard layering for the Final Trade.

With no post-Valentine's Day letdown, Mary Thompson sported a sparkling red sweater. Michelle Caruso-Cabrera presented shapely appealing blue. Erin Burnett had a snappy, multi-button light olive jacket, sharply professional but probably would be substituted before a night at the disco. Nicole Lapin was stealing the show in Thursday's early morning Worldwide Exchange in snug black dress with barely attached sleeves.

Minor clarification

Incredibly, sometimes around here we actually look at previous words that were put on this page.

(A lot of places call that "editing." Wish we could call it "entertainment," but...)

Anyway, we happened to notice some unfortunate phrasing in Tuesday's recap of Sal Arnuk's NYSE commentary.

Down below (PgDn a few times), it said this:

Did Arnuk offer any evidence that Deutsche Boerse will do a shoddier job of running the NYSE than current NYSE leadership?


That first sentence was meant to convey, with unfortunately more bluntness than was necessary in hindsight, that Arnuk thinks NYSE management has had it wrong — which is obviously what he thinks, given his statements.

But it could also easily be inferred that this page thinks the NYSE is being run shoddily.


Occasionally, people at the NYSE probably have viewed this page (OK, we're saying "probably" with artistic license). Please know we're not down on NYSE management. Evaluating whether exchange brass are doing a great job is, like unfortunately far too many things, way beyond the scope of our brainpower. We've probably got an opinion here and there on the acquisition, but please note the above characterization was only a flip summary of what Arnuk was saying and not this page's own opinion. And so we have "clarified" the entry in some fashion.

Also please note, no one has complained (grimace). Rather, it's a preemptive strike for responsible journalism.

There. Sorry to waste about 17 seconds of your life, but we feel better.

Joe Terranova and Zachary Karabell disagree on whether TEVA is subject to regulatory issues

The beginning of Wednesday's Fast Money was marked by a curious debate between Joe Terranova and Zachary Karabell.

"Today I bought some health-care names. I bought Baxter International, I bought Teva Pharmaceuticals, on the belief that health care itself will begin to get rewarded in this reallocation trade," Terranova offered.

"I disagree with Joe on that one," Karabell said. "With the regulatory framework still coming down, you know, you're gonna have these challenges to the reform law which is throwing pricing into question."

Terranova smiled but chided his colleague for not paying attention. "You know Zach, you're way too eager to jump in there," Terranova said. "If you listen, I said I bought Baxter International, and I bought Teva Pharmaceutical. That has nothing to do with any regulatory health-care issues."

Karabell was undeterred. "Teva though, again, I was gonna tell you that I'm out of it, because there you do have pricing around drugs ... there could be a headwind there."

Hmmm. Can't wait to check out the price of TEVA in a month.

More on Wednesday's Fast Money later.

Gartman, Terranova pick SU

Joe Terranova and Dennis Gartman both offered the same trade on potential oil unrest during Wednesday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

Gartman spoke about the Brent gap, then said Suncor would be the "easiest place to go to right now."

Terranova pointed to Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources but reserved most of his praise for the RSX, calling Russia "clearly the winner" in any global oil disruptions.

JJ Kinahan said XOM and BP are names to watch, as well as the OIH.

Kelly ‘actually’ likes RIMM

JJ Kinahan said Wednesday that Dollar General is hopping because "people think that this is a space where something is definitely going to happen." (If writing about Family Dollar, Dollar Tree and Dollar General, as well as Big Lots, doesn't make one loopy, nothing will.)

Pete Najarian hailed Dollar Tree; "that name's still cheap."

JJ Kinahan isn't impressed by Dell. "I have a tough time getting excited about them," he said.

Brian Kelly said "I actually like RIMM" on the heels of Jim Suva's upgrade, even though Kelly admits it could be a "bumpy ride."

Kelly was asked about Kyle Bass' Strategy Session presentation and comments on municipal bonds. Kelly said he likes AGO.

Cognizant CFO Gordon Coburn told Melissa Lee that "wage inflation is under control in India."

It’s not the end of the world as we know it, according to Kyle Bass

It's interesting to note the difference between Kyle Bass' last appearance on The Strategy Session, Aug. 17, and what he said on Wednesday.

For example, one of the things he said then, a day the S&P closed at 1,092.54 (which has since, um, improved 22% in about 6 months), was, "Given my outlook on the world, I don't know how you can be long stocks. I don't know how."

He also predicted a downward GDP revision for that month. "The Q2 number was 2.4%. I would be flat amazed if the revision isn't to 1% or lower," he said, though it turned out to be 1.6%.

So Wednesday, given pretty much the whole program, he reiterated his Japanese-debt-heading-out-of-control theme, but was about as inclined to make a stock or market call as Charlie Sheen is of trying the 12-step program.

He opened by chiding David Faber's introduction. "You prefaced your remarks with 'the end of the world'. None of this is the end of the world," Bass said, only a question of, "Does debt matter?"

So Faber courteously pressed for a time frame, which also brought a non-answer. "You're asking me when, this is a 75-year secular cycle, you're asking me to choose a day, a month, a year, I don't know, the answer's in the next few years," Bass said.

Like many CNBC guests and pundits, he complained about the Fed and what he calls "Zero Lower Bound" (last time he called it ZIRP, but whatever), saying all the bad private loans have been scooped up by governments. "Now the real systemic risk in the world sits on the public balance sheet," he said, reasserting, "this may take a few years."

Faber and Gary Kaminsky asked essentially more than once for Bass to tell viewers who agree with him how they should play this, saying they get e-mails.

What's interesting about that is that last time, Bass sounded like it was easy to take a Japan-downfall position. "The pricing of that asset using the Black-Scholes model is the best it's ever been. So you have this huge convex moment that you can put enormous positions on in Japanese interest rates very cheaply."

This time, he made no mention of "enormous positions" on Japanese rates, but actually suggested holding some cash, real estate, and "productive assets" without going into detail.

Throughout the interview, Bass came across as someone a bit frustrated that his thesis hasn't materialized ... and ultimately seemed to blame the investing public for not "getting it" to the extent that he does.

Last time, in inaccurately predicting a GDP revision, he suggested everyone overlooks "personal consumption expenditures." This time, Bass said he spoke to a bunch of students and CFAs recently and that they all knew about the Greece crisis. But then he asked, "Who can tell me what Greece's weighted-average cost of capital is?" And in response, "not one hand went up."

So, "No one's paying attention to the key issue, right. Greece's cost of capital today is 4.1%," he began rattling off, calling Greece's problem a "microcosm" and "proxy" for the rest of the world.

David Faber ultimately asked Bass about what the skeptics would say to that argument. Bass said it's just like when everyone said subprime was contained in 2007 and 2008 as justification for continuing to hold stocks — in other words, he was right before, so he must be right now.

Debt's a problem. We have no idea if Bass will indeed be right on Japan in a few years. We do know that his thesis hasn't done anybody any good for about 2 years, and that it's very similar to the worst-is-still-to-come declarations of the cottage industry of Nouriel Roubini, Meredith Whitney and David Rosenberg, who continue to claim that incredibly, somehow, the data they've personally mined is being overlooked by everyone else again just a couple years later.

It's kind of like somebody who somehow called the Giants' Super Bowl upset of the Patriots insisting they're going to win the next one because Brandon Jacobs' yards-per-carry just hit a new high.

Bass' reliance on obscure statistics, suggestion the market doesn't get it and vague long-term horizon remind us of some of our favorite Fast Money slogans, starting with Steve Cortes only caring about where investors are putting their money and not official government stats, Guy Adami's assertion that "price is truth," and Jeff Macke's observation that "sooner or later, the sun burns out and we're all dead."

[Tuesday, February 15, 2011]

Sal Arnuk blew it

If you ever talk to the regular Joes you know, and compare some of their thoughts on economics to what you hear on CNBC, you're likely to find a big divide on 1 word:


The Fast Money gang basically believes in it, or at least accepts it, as the natural outcome of capitalism, even though unfortunately they rarely discuss it under the excuse of "it's not a political show."

Some of the regular Joes don't even know what it is, while others think it equates to "outsourcing."

So given that backdrop, Sal Arnuk wasn't making the best possible case on Tuesday against a Deutsche Boerse takeover of the NYSE.

Melissa Lee, likely not consciously thinking about it, pretty much revealed her own opinion when asking Arnuk, "Nothing really changes, does it?"

Arnuk begged to differ. "It is an outright failure in this way: It's an admission that the exchanges' recent for-profit model has diminished and crushed margins in the cash equity space ... It's all about derivatives. The exchanges have become server farms."

So let's ponder that for a moment ... is the move to become for-profit the reason anybody can buy or sell a stock for $9.99 (or often less) instead of the ghastly $89 for $1,000 worth of stock in the 1980s?


Did Arnuk offer any evidence that Deutsche Boerse will do a shoddier less impressive job of running the NYSE than current NYSE leadership?


Did Arnuk make a convincing case that another Flash Crash is more likely because of this combination?


His best comparison is that exchanges should be regarded as public utilities. They basically are. That has nothing to do with Deutsche Boerse owners exercising a majority stake as opposed to the other way around.

Guy Adami pointed out that Duncan Niederauer is dealing with the hand he's been dealt, which is an NYSE that's already a Euro-global outfit. As far as we can tell, a European hiccup is probably already capable of causing a serious U.S. glitch (let's hope that doesn't come to pass) and adding Deutsche Boerse to the mix won't matter.

Tim Seymour credited Arnuk for "great points, but how else do you compete with technology." Jon Najarian said if anything he thinks oversight of derivatives and dark pools would improve with this deal because "their regulators are a little more on the ball than ours."

Arnuk was left with condescension: "The grownups need to question the whole for-profit exchange model," he grumbled.

Being the journalism observers we try to be, we're wondering if there's going to be a legit globalizaion argument made in this process. If the NYSE wasn't already the "NYSE Euronext," perhaps, but at this point we doubt it. To make his case, Arnuk needs to show this combination makes financial markets more dangerous for the American investor, something he clearly did not demonstrate on Tuesday's Fast Money.

Guy Adami didn't sound like this one was worth arguing, either with Arnuk or Chuck Schumer. "It's nice to live in the Dark Ages, but I think we have to move on here," Adami said.

CEO suggests Guy Adami is a greenhorn in sector analysis

Alkermes chief Richard Pops seemed thrilled to be on Fast Money Tuesday, despite running into a little fracas of disagreement with Guy Adami.

Adami told Pops "Your stock is so volatile," said a lot of hedge funds are in the name pushing it between $16 and $11, and wondered if that will improve.

"Well, welcome to biotech," Pops said.

"Well it's even moreso than a lot of the names that I follow," Adami countered.

Pops basically said deal with it. "Single decisions by the FDA can change the valuation by 20-30%," he said, but indicating his company is getting hit harder on that because it's got a lot of promising therapies near completion stage.

Look up, look up

Melissa Lee curiously brought in Aldo Mazzaferro at the very end of Tuesday's Fast Money to discuss his upgrades in the steel sector.

Mazzaferro even in limited time seemed to be looking at notes, when all he basically said was that his upgrades are based on "the attitude of the steel buyers" who are resigned to price increases.

CNBC would better boost its ratings by getting SI to add a CNBC section to the Swimsuit Edition

Scott Nations sort of came out of nowhere on Tuesday to forecast a plunge in the stock market, saying one way to play that is a March 124-132 put spread.

"These sorts of runs that we've seen since the last summer, they usually end badly and they always end without notice," Nations said.


David Faber broke the news of Nelson Peltz's offer for Family Dollar, certain to be a prominent subject on Wednesday's Strategy Session (although Kyle Bass, who said back in August that the stock market is a terrible place and the world's falling apart led by Japan just before a mega-rally that continues to this day, was billed as Wednesday's star guest, so maybe not), but Jon Najarian had the most interesting commentary to offer on the Wal-Mart downgrade of a day earlier, which he disagrees with.

"I think they're knocking it out of the park. They're gonna own this space for both organic and regular groceries as well, "Najarian said.

Tim Seymour spoke about the Russian model in the SI swimsuit clips Melissa Lee aired (though they only aired on TV and were blanked out on the Web). "The reality is, there's some strong assets there," Seymour said.

Lee explained "She's writhing," but said it's a bad sign if she has to explain to her panelists what that means.

We have to grimace every year in mid-February when SI rolls through Englewood Cliffs and the place manages to embarrass itself. There are balding, middle-age or old-age guys who have scraped and clawed through a lifetime of business to reach the point of an interview on CNBC only to maybe get 2 and a half minutes of airtime, while even the steadiest veteran hands of Bill Griffeth, Tyler Mathisen and Sue Herera will trip over themselves to keep some chick you've seen a million times who's about as high-maintenance as a Cisco earnings report on the set for 10.

Fast Money gang finds
Schumer’s logic questionable

Chuck Schumer is actually one of the favorite subjects of this site, because, even though we figure he's probably a nice guy and we like his TV chutzpah, a bunch of what he says is semi-loopy.

Fast Money, like most CNBC people, gets this, re-airing on Tuesday's show clips of Schumer's morning interview in which he outlined 3 reasons for making "NYSE" the first name on the new exchange ... even though all 3 reasons were basically the same.

Tim Seymour nailed it after Reason 3 about Deutsche Boerse inserting political influence in its own attempt to grab the name. "Well what's that different than his first argument in favor, in other words, everybody wants their name first on this one."


"Right," agreed Mel Lee. "I'm sure Deutsche Boerse says the same thing about its brand."

From Karen’s standpoint,
Melissa is overprepared on Dell

Karen Finerman congratulated Melissa Lee's snappy striped-open-collar blouse with oversized hoop earrings educational background during an opening discussion of Dell's results on Tuesday's Fast Money that indicated not everything was prepped in the green room.

Lee noted Dell gets 27% of sales from government, "so what's the read-through there in terms of maybe an IBM" or other names with high government business.

"I hadn't really thought through that. Good one, Harvard girl," Finerman said.

Stephen Weiss makes an argument for a stock he apparently won’t buy

Tim Seymour said of Dell, "The reality is, their core business is alive and well."

More notable was Stephen Weiss sorta recommending HPQ and sorta not.

"I don't own it because I have questions about the management transition, but it's definitely a cheap stock," Weiss reported.

Seymour said Dell's results aren't great for HPQ, and around $48, "this stock looks like it's run out of gas."

Seymour addressed Nokia. "The reality is, this is a stock you trade, this is a stock I have traded, it's a stock unfortunately I wasn't long into this announcement," though he explained he actually was long calls.

Seymour also said, "The reality is, that oil is recovering on industrial demand around the world."

More details of Tuesday's Fast Money to come.

Cortes: Chinese didn’t like inflation tally, so they changed the equation

Steve Cortes implied on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report that if his vision of Chinese inflation isn't being realized, it's because they're cheating.

"They changed the calculation" to minimize food costs, Cortes said, likening it to "if a football team doesn't like having 3rd and long well let's move the first-down marker."

Jon Najarian made a joke about the CFL taking away 4th down that didn't really click.

After $20 surge in 2 weeks,
Patty recommends FFIV

Patty Edwards said Netflix is maybe looking like it's getting tapped out, saying, "Apparently the emperor is nekkid" (yes, that's basically how she pronounced "naked").

"Go to the bricks and shovels," Edwards advised. "I'd rather own an Akamai, I'd rather own an F5."

Edwards also said she likes airlines better than FDX or UPS.

Steve Cortes said he's finally out of his oil short, and threw in a Brag Trade to boot. "I covered frankly," he said, adding "I correctly bet against Egyptian volatility" because Egypt in his view is not significant economically, but "I do fear Iran" and so if he had to take an oil position right now it would probably be long.

Jon Najarian rattled off 4 top picks in oil, Transocean, Diamond Offshore, Schlumberger and Halliburton.

Najarian said there could be developments between AMD and Dell after hours, and it will be interesting "to see whether or not they put a trading halt on AMD after the bell because if they do, it would imply that there's news coming and it could be related to Dell."

Stifel chief Ron Kruszewski said "the retail investors are clearly engaged," but it's "not the euphoria that you see in bull markets."

Kaminsky: ‘Some other entrant’ will be looking at NYSE

Gary Kaminsky pointed out on Tuesday's Strategy Session that cross-border mergers, particularly in financial services, are tricky to pull off.

Speaking of UBS and PaineWebber, Kaminsky said, "They're still having cultural issues." He said Soc Gen and Cowen were so polarized, there was even a big debate over "should we serve bagels or croissants in the executive dining room."

David Faber said they could've just served both. Guest Rodge Cohen joked, "Then you don't get the synergies."

Kaminsky stressed a couple of times that the NYSE-Deutsche Boerse deal is a defensive type of combination in a sector where size is of the utmost importance — and the type that is bound to draw interest from other plays. "These are about survival of the fittest here," Kaminsky said. "I can't believe, as we sit here today, that there won't be some other, some other entrant that will wanna look at this company."

In the category of "basic facts that are always interesting to know but often don't surface on television," Cohen pointed out the presumed legal boundaries of the NYSE's deal. "The courts are clear and the courts are correct that you do not have to do a search before signing up a merger agreement so long as you don't lock up the deal in a way which is preclusive of somebody else coming in," Cohen said.

Kaminsky asked Cohen if the time is past for criminal charges over the 2008 U.S. investment banking crisis. "I hope it is," Cohen said, saying foolishness doesn't have to be a crime.

Greenberg: Shoppers can buy items on Amazon while looking at them in Best Buy

Herb Greenberg said Tuesday the Best Buy model might be in disarray if the company's moving to everyday low pricing, and he said analysts have been blindsided too.

Gary Kaminsky said the demise of Circuit City was supposed to improve the market for the remaining consumer electronics sellers and asked Greenberg about that impact on Best Buy. Greenberg indicated Circuit City is irrelevant, saying, "I can go out there with my phone and go to Best Buy and use my bar code scanner and then I can go to Amazon and buy it while I'm at Best Buy. That's an issue."

David Faber's expression provided a hilarious impromptu joke about a commercial for Gary Kaminsky's Twittering.

[Monday, February 14, 2011]

Dr. J tells Chicago Tribune that CME won’t seek deal with both Nasdaq and NYSE

The Chicago Tribune reports that Jon Najarian, whom it describes as "a former options trader," says it wouldn't make sense for the CME to hook up with the Nasdaq to buy the NYSE.

Sounds like The Asylum isn’t going to be a terribly sexy book

Just at the end of Monday's Valentine edition of Fast Money, Melissa Lee conducted a curious interview with author Leah McGrath Goodman, who has written a book out tomorrow called The Asylum that apparently has something to do with the "hijacking" of the oil market.

We have no clue what the book's culprit is, but Mel Lee looked totally like she wasn't buying an ounce of it.

Lee introduced McGrath Goodman, who was upstairs at the Nasdaq and joyously mugging for the cameras while replying, "Hi, how are you doing today?"

Lee didn't answer, but demanded to know, "Who hijacked the oil market?"

McGrath Goodman didn't hear her, so Lee repeated the question.

"Uh, that's a very good question," McGrath Goodman chuckled. "Well, it's not just the traders," she continued, but something about backscratching between Wall Street and government (yes, that's as specific as she got).

McGrath Goodman said talk of position limits is "almost a red-herring discussion," but maybe more importantly, "there should be maybe a margin increase."

Time running out, Lee cordially ended the interview, and that was that.

Terranova indicates so many who were wrong are about to be right

The report from FedEx Monday was all it took to get Tim Seymour started on his "The reality is" spree on Monday's Fast Money.

Joe Terranova started the dialogue with, "I do think FedEx, on a pullback, you wanna be a buyer."

Seymour said "The reality is, that this is a company that always does" hedge fuel numbers, but he's not jumping in with both feet. "I do think you take a breath here," he said.

Seymour went on to say "The reality is, again ... the reality is ..." to up the total to 3 within the first 4:30 of the program. (Just wait, there's more.)

Karen Finerman took the conversation in a much more interesting direction, explaining she is scared to be either long or short NFLX although she's down on the middleman. "If the U.S. Postal Service were a stock, I would short that," she said.

Joe Terranova said "I think this is a massive short squeeze right now" in spoke for many who have wondered about Netflix especially since Whitney Tilson's announcement, "I don't understand how fundamentally, so many people can be getting the story wrong," Terranova said, before indicating those people are about to be right. "I actually think the top is close."

Nothing more on that $36
RIMM price target

Tim Seymour made a joke about his "girl" Nokia just before the first commercial break Monday, saying, "The reality was at least I was saying all the right things, which is like a lot of relationships."

That comment brought "woahs" from Karen Finerman and Melissa Lee.

But Seymour continued, "the reality here is happy Valentine's Day honey."

But he actually during another discussion of Nokia said "the reality, the reality is," that if AAPL steals share from Nokia's base turf, that's a lot for Nokia to worry about.

Marking Valentine's Day, Colin Gillis was looking at MSFT through rose-colored glasses, explaining "This Nokia deal is a major positive for Microsoft."

Gillis took part in the theme of the month, saying "the reality is" 3 times, including that mobile search isn't as hot as either that smoldering, vertical-paneled black/copper frock of Melissa Lee or the striking sleeveless red (with necklace) of Karen Finerman. "The reality is, is that the mobile Mad Men aren't making much money."

Gillis said MSFT has value, GOOG seems "fully priced" at the moment for its great prospects, and he sees more potential in AAPL.

Gartman: WTF do people
use WTI as benchmark?

Dennis Gartman told Fast Money viewers Monday that WTI is sooooo yesterday and that the media and everyone else should be using Brent as the standard.

"Brent is much better as a mark of crude," Gartman said.

Karen Finerman asked Gartman if there's truly enough liquidity in Brent to make a serious play. "3 months from now, it's going to be demonstrably more liquid," Gartman assured.

Brian Kelly said he's long UAL and Delta. Pete Najarian said people looking for the biggest bang in oil right now are looking at oil service names.


PayPal President Scott Thompson took part in a wide-ranging, questions-from-every-panelist stint on Monday's Fast Money, and managed to say "Right" or "Yes" after every question, which even prompted Karen Finerman to smirk in her hot red outfit after her own question.

Thompson downplayed suggestions that PayPal is a much bigger deal than eBay, though he did acknowledge that people can "do the math" about growth. He told Melissa Lee that wire transfers to Mexico may not be a big component right now but constitute a "meaningful" relationship with potential new customers.

Terranova hit with biggest resistance to a theory since the ‘strong hands’ of GM IPO allocation

Joe Terranova nearly got ground up like a coffee bean on Monday when postulating that Starbucks and Green Mountain should or will eventually team up.

"I think there is some synergy there," Terranova said, concluding that eventually, "Starbucks and Green Mountain get together in some form of a partnership."

"Why does Starbucks need Green Mountain?" asked Tim Seymour, so eager to say it he nearly cut Terranova off.

Apparently trying to help, Karen Finerman also asked Terranova about the Kraft deal and how that would fit in to this, but Terranova could only mumble that it was some kind of a factor.

Tim Seymour cheered Berkshire's position in Wells Fargo, revealing, "I have a Wells Fargo mortgage."

Pete Najarian made a comment about the ICE being the "last girl at the dance," which prompted Seymour to note what they say about those last girls, which prompted a smile from Karen Finerman who, let's be honest, was probably never the last girl at any dance.

Todd Gordon (you're going to be seeing more of these kinds of trades starting in a couple weeks on Fridays) recommended being "long dollar against the Swiss franc," at least above the 9780 level.

Mel Lee wished everyone a Happy Valentine's Day, presumably off to a big night at Rao's or somewhere equivalent (is there somewhere equivalent?).

New show apparently bumping
Friday edition of Fast Money

If you've been just as suspicious as this page about the presence in recent weeks of currency experts Amelia Bourdeau, Rebecca Patterson and others on Fast Money, consider those suspicions vindicated.

According to press releases, CNBC is launching a new show, Money in Motion Currency Trading, which will air at 5:30 p.m. (Eastern) on Fridays — after Options Action is moved up to 5 p.m.

The new arrangement starts Feb. 25.

Melissa Lee will run the whole hour, as she already does. Dennis Gartman, Andy Busch and Todd Gordon are the other names mentioned in the press release.

There's a quote from CNBC senior VP Susan Krakower: “A program dedicated to currencies has never been more relevant. CNBC is an investor-focused network and this program will teach viewers how to harness the power of the $4 trillion currency market.”

While new shows are always exciting — and it basically allows this page to start weekends early after lunchtime Friday — one has to wonder if once-mighty Fast Money is underachieving.

Quite frankly, when the Friday afternoon show was cut in half, it was initially a plus, packing more punch per minute. Then after a few weeks, it became a weekend wind-down gag-fest of inside jokes that a lot of viewers dread today, save for one polarizing episode the night of Mark Hurd's departure in which Mel Lee asked Steve Grasso to make a call on HPQ.

Currency trading, in our view, is about as exciting as watching paint dry. If it don't got Steve Cortes, we ain't watchin'.

Analyst questions WMT’s international strategy with Karabell within earshot

Analyst Charles Grom was making a pretty good case against Wal-Mart on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report, only to run headlong into a Zachary Karabell counterargument on global growth.

Grom suggested WMT's worldwide expansion isn't delivering better margins and is actually tying up cash that could be used on U.S. reinvestment, dividends or buybacks.

Karabell questioned why they should try to "endlessly rejuvenate a franchise that's tethered to rather anemic economic growth in the class level that they cater to" instead of expanding abroad.

"There's arguments for both sides," Grom admitted, while asserting the best course to improve the "value equation" is fixing the U.S. business, which he called "fixable."

Najarian suggests Karabell using wrong hedging strategy

Steve Cortes explained on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report that "I am one of those Netflix haters," but he can't short it because the short interest is already so high.

Steve Grasso explained the stock is hated "because it's run over so many people." Grasso said eventually enough analysts will start to come around and flip negative ratings and then the shorts will be right. "My sense, we're getting to the end of it," Grasso said.

Steve Cortes said he likes Qualcomm. Zachary Karabell said he is long Broadcom and Qualcomm in almost an embarrassment of riches; "at this point it's like, throw a dart at any derivative of tablets, and the names are going up," he said.

Karabell, though, revealed he's shorting the SMH as a hedge against the tech names he likes.

That brought disapproval from Pete Najarian. "I would buy the puts rather than short that SMH," Najarian said, citing low volatility.

"I'll get on OptionMonster when we're done," Karabell said.

Steve Grasso said "Intel is never in favor with my clientele," and "I still see AMD as a great pick."

We swore a couple weeks ago we weren't going to write another word about the aluminum-as-copper-substitute debate, but Zach Karabell reminded viewers Monday, "I disagree with Brian Kelly on this." Karabell also said Starbucks and "visionary" CEO Howard Schultz are like AAPL, able to deliver a premium product that is copied elsewhere, and thus is a brand to buy.

‘Junk-bond funds are buying any paper that gets issued’

Monday's Strategy Session featured a pretty good well-rounded discussion, though we're hard-pressed to identify some blockbusters.

Gary Kaminsky pointed out the activity in munis indicates there has been "indiscriminate selling across an asset class," explaining why, as Kate Kelly reported, hedge funds such as Moore Capital Management and Oak Hill Advisors are now buying.

But Kaminsky showed an even more interesting chart comparing rates of today's high-yield bonds with investment grade issues of February 2008 that suggests junk-bond investors maybe are not getting high enough reward. "Junk-bond funds are buying any paper that gets issued," because of the fund inflows, Kaminsky said.

Barclays emerging markets honcho Michael Gavin did use kind of flowery terms (there's a "sharp distinction between tactical investing and thematic long-term investing") but made a decent point, that Asia looks stronger long-term than Latin America but that there are legitimate short-term concerns about inflation and tightening.

Gary Kaminsky revealed he tends to "reflect" about things over the weekend, which brought skepticism from David Faber. Kaminsky countered that he ships e-mails to Faber all weekend, but "you don't look at 'em until Monday."

[Friday, February 11, 2011]

Most interesting analogy
of Egypt to stock market

Brian Kelly opened Friday's Fast Money with a statement so provocative that if there's any truth to it, you should probably start battening down the hatches by the end of the month.

Kelly said Egypt's unrest is like the Bear Stearns hedge funds of 2007: "It's kind of a warning shot of what may happen out there," Kelly said.

Seymour: Cisco ‘is a stock that is not broken’

Tim Seymour, speaking about developing markets and fund inflows/outflows or something like that, made one of the most confusing points in Fast Money history Friday in the opening 3 minutes of the show.

But sure enough, he closed with "the reality is, to me," that the rally is sustainable.

Where he got far more interesting is when he admitted he picked up one of the most accomplished dogs of the Dow (because, you know, there's no other place to put your money).

"I did bottom pick a little bit on Cisco today," Seymour said. "The reality is, again, Cisco at this valuation ... the reality is, John Chambers is still one of the best CEOs out there, there's nothing broken about this company ... this is a stock that is not broken."

Actually, we wouldn't knock or mock this trade if it was based on a more realistic argument, something like, maybe, "After 2 days, it's gotta have a technical bounce," which is what Guy Adami acknowledged as the ultimate reason to buy it (but even he doesn't think it's ready for that yet).

We’re guessing you want the ones who are winning

This page always tries to qualify the digs at television commentary by noting that it's not easy to regularly deliver smooth, impressive soundbites on live TV, and anybody's capable of coughing up a head-scratcher.

That said, Joe Terranova didn't exactly rewrite Security Analysis with this observation on Friday's Fast Money: "I think what is so far 2011 (sic) becoming an investable theme really is who's winning, and who's losing."

Guy Adami likes to say,
price is truth

Doug Kass on Friday's Fast Money, when he was actually establishing a phone connection, unfortunately sounded a little bit like the Pittsburgh fan who's convinced the Steelers actually won last Sunday's game (but don't put us in that camp, no sir, no way).

Kass said "The market is like a freight train," which might be true as long as you're not talking about Cisco, which seems a lot more like the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Then Kass began outlining his 4 reasons why the market train might be headed for a brick wall, beginning with interest rates.

Kass then lost his connection, so Tim Seymour jumped in with a counterargument, using his favorite expression of course: "The reality is, anybody that wanted to refi at this point has refied," Seymour said.

Kass returned later and pointed to "Submerging markets," "Geopolitical" (because the markets are somehow "ignoring" what's happening in Cairo), and the old standby, "corporate profit margins are very extended and exposed."

Tim Seymour also took a crack at the "submerging markets" theory with more of his favorite expression, "The reality is, emerging needs a strong developed to be healthy."

Scaramucci: TEVA to $75
within 18 months

Anthony Scaramucci delivered a Hedge Fund Trade of the Week on Friday's Fast Money that was something a little more than generic.

The pick was TEVA. "Beaten up recently," Scaramucci said. "Great long-term prospects ... firms like Owl Creek and Maverick own the name ... $75 price target on over the next 12 to 18 months."

Scaramucci also spoke about Carl Icahn's interest in Clorox. "He thinks there's an opportunity to agitate there, to unleash value," Scaramucci said.

Melissa Lee is generally pretty good at the poker-face element of TV, in other words, not cracking up on-air to the point you can't function, but something about on off-air joke on the "honey pot" had Lee and Tim Seymour and Guy Adami basically unable to contain themselves at the end of the program.

We'd thought about shipping one of those hoodie-footie Pajamagrams advertised on CNBC to Lee at the Nasdaq because she'd look good in one of those, but that would get away from what we're (snicker) trying to accomplish here.

The panel briefly spoke about Amy Butte's Strategy Session appearance and Post Strategy comments on exchange consolidation. "The reality is, it continues on," said Tim Seymour.

Grasso: CSCO feels
‘a little overdone’

As traders struggled on Friday's Halftime Report to identify an investable thesis on Egypt, Steve Grasso had the most provocative point — that the situation everyone knew on Thursday had changed on Friday, and thus nobody really knows what's going to happen here on any given day.

As a result, "you could look for another reversal here" in the markets, Grasso said.

Patty Edwards said it's too hard to know what's going to happen. "I think you sit on your hands," Edwards said.

Joe Terranova said "I think WTI can't be trusted for a while." Natasha Boyden said the upheaval won't have much impact on shippers.

On other matters, Grasso said he knows someone building a position in CSCO of all names (because there are so few stocks and ETFs out there, just no other places to put your money). "It feels like it's a little overdone to the sell side ... could probably dip your toe," Grasso allowed.

Guy LeBas said there will be some interest in a bond rebound as yields climb. Melissa Lee asked Emulex's Jeff Benck if ... stop if you've heard this question before ... his company would entertain an offer.

"I can't comment on that," Benck said.

"Had to try," Lee said.

Apparently NYSE is not the Potash of the United States

In a hodgepodge of news highlighted by Egypt, The Strategy Session on Friday put together a very productive discussion on the apparently imminent NYSE-Deutsche Boerse combination, featuring former NYSE CFO Amy Butte.

Gary Kaminsky told Butte he thinks the reported $300 million in cost savings from the deal is actually low.

Butte pointed out it's actually 300 million euros, but agreed and suggested the market is presently undervaluing NYX. "I think it's low, I think this thing could go above $40, pretty easily," Butte said.

Butte said what's going on mirrors discussions she recalls from 2004 regarding the importance of size in the exchange world, albeit with nationalistic sensitivity concerns that will continue to be an issue. "At that time," Butte said, "we said, 'We need to buy more, so that we're not being bought by Deutsche,' and part of that concern was how the regulators would respond, how the American public would respond, and so even though intellectually this might make sense, I think emotionally this is a hard deal to swallow."

David Faber asked Butte what this means for the rest of the world's big global exchange players. "Game on, game is on," Butte said, but "you've gotta get to $25 billion in market cap."

Fellow guest Martin Sass said he could potentially see $42-$45 for the NYSE, but that he sold at $38, saying the risk-vs.-potential upside wasn't great enough.

Sass had a glowing outlook on the broad market, saying "I think the market goes, um, to around 1,475 by year end, which is still attractive upside," but indicating he thinks there will be some bumps along the way.

Former Ambassador Martin Indyk was the show's first guest Friday, saying that Hosni Mubarak's exit puts Middle East policy in uncharted waters. "It's rather ironic, but it looks like we're gonna have martial rule in Egypt for a transitional period," Indyk said. NBC's Richard Engel also gave a quality report on the last 24 hours in Cairo.

Gary Kaminsky said, at least from an investor's standpoint or geopolitical standpoint, "It's about Saudi Arabia" and what could or couldn't happen there.

[Thursday, February 10, 2011]

Who has more leverage:
NFL players, or Egyptians?

Anyone paying moderately close attention to the Egyptian situation of the last couple weeks had to be wondering Thursday if maybe the demonstrators don't have something in common with the car-bomber Mike Corleone witnessed in "The Godfather, Part II":

That maybe they can't win.

It looks like the military is going to protect Hosni.

Guy Adami, either suggesting or un-suggesting a trade thesis, seemed to imply this might be over, saying the public has a short memory. "My sense is, a week from now, Egypt, we're not talking about nearly to the extent we are now," Adami said.

Presumably, that means not to expect a repeat of Iran 1979.

In some conflicts, you look at the strength of the parties involved, and you have to conclude that despite all the noise involved, one side is clearly going to win; the only issue is by how much.

The Super Bowl, for example, wasn't so much an example of 1 team's greatness (although, gulp, it sure didn't look good for the other team) as it was a stark reminder that if the players weren't going to strike during the playoffs or even Pro Bowl but instead just wait for the lockout, they're not exactly on the strongest negotiating ground.

We wish the best for the people of Egypt, and hope they succeed in finding the transformation they want.

Adami: Refiners still
‘in the sweet spot’

Joe Terranova took the other side of Guy Adami's suggestion that Egypt's turmoil could easily be here today, gone tomorrow, calling it a "secular problem that remains with us."

Melissa Lee noted that Mubarak insists the military won't attack demonstrators.

"The governor of Ohio gave his promises that they wouldn't fire on the students at Kent State in 1970," Dennis Gartman responded.

John Gabriel of Morningstar spoke about the EGPT ETF, saying it's trading like a closed-end fund but remains remarkably small, a "$24 million fund."

"My ETF in Canada is larger than that," said Dennis Gartman.

Rich Ilczyszyn seemed to be making a Brag Trade about soft commodities, then disagreed with Guy Adami, who contended that a couple weeks ago, if someone had told Iczyszyn what would happen in Egypt, he would've been forecasting $100 oil and it's not happening.

Ilczyszyn said that if crude can break $92.50, it's "off to the races." Adami said refiners "seem to still be in the sweet spot."

Joe Terranova made a confusing summary of his previous day's commentary on the ag trade, apparently saying his move to get out of it was premature. "Whatever capacity you choose to do it is the right trade," he said of ag.

Dennis Gartman complained to Andy Busch that emerging market countries "should be easing rates, not raising rates."

Gartman also asserted "Japan's in dire straits at this point," which means you're probably giving money for nothin' if you invest there.

Melissa Lee said that AAPL, after "hitting new record highs" (the "new" is a redundancy she likes), experienced some "very peculiar price action" on Thursday. We read a bit on the topic overnight and found a mix of opinions on the one hand blaming scurrilous rumors and on the other hand saying the total price swing wasn't really much to get excited about.

Karen Finerman said of the shippers, "Day rates can move very very quickly."

Stephen Weiss selling CSCO on Tuesday — one of the better trades in recent memory

Steve Cortes, who has quickly become our favorite lunchtime stock-market pundit though we're also partial to a good ol'-fashioned "Ya know, ..." from Patty Edwards, rebounded from his head-scratching, inexplicably deer-in-the-headlights call on Cisco yesterday to make a pretty useful point on Thursday's Halftime Report.

"Should John Chambers still be in charge of this company?" Cortes asked. "This is absolutely dead money and they need new leadership."

Cortes is right. Chambers is merely the Case-Shiller of the "tech" sector, who used to represent everything and now represents nothing.

We don't deny at all the man seems like a super guy and probably a great guy to work for. But if Guy Adami's refrain "price is truth" is actually correct (and for the most part it is), then what does that say about Chambers' reign? Certainly no better than Steve Ballmer's.

In a bit of a reach, Cortes also reminded viewers that the broad Nasdaq, according to him, fell 100 points over a couple days the last time Cisco laid an egg, which is basically every 3 months.

Just to spread some of the goat horns around, Brian Stutland on Feb. 3 actually crowed that Cisco should be a "cornerstone" of everyone's portfolio; Dr. J, Jon Najarian, said on Feb. 4 that Cisco could be a "darling" of this week (attributing it to options activity, of course), and "Zeke" Karabell was talking about "unbelievable entry points" in Cisco around $20 back in August, when, um, the best plan by far turned out to be buying just about any stock besides CSCO.

We're not pros around here, but the occasional fascination that venerable pros have with this stock is astounding. As far as we can tell, super rich, super powerful, maybe even super innovative company. Probably a great place to work. Terrible stock. Work there, just don't buy the stock.

Nobody talks about what a helluva Fast Money trade FFIV was below $110

Dan Niles, whose tech commentary can sometimes cut like a knife, said on Thursday's Halftime that 3 things are working against CSCO: "Revenue growth decelerate ... margins contract ... you're not really sure if this is the bottom yet."

Niles twice used the phrase "death by a thousand cuts."

He also offered an interesting chart about the size of Cisco and how acquiring a fast-growing name really just doesn't move the needle, "it doesn't really do anything for their growth rate."

The stock may be cheap, Niles acknowledged, but "why can't it get cheaper?"

Jon Najarian lumped CSCO in with INTC and MSFT as the "Pfizers of tech ... that's where money goes to die."

Jon Najarian also delivered a somewhat subtle Brag Trade, saying Juniper was doing so great, "I wish I hadn't sold some calls against my stock." (There was nothing though about FFIV below $110 being a "gift" or "manna from heaven.")

Steve Cortes said he now likes Akamai, which could be a "bargain" for a takeover bid.

A Brag Trade from
a Fast Money guest

Oil watcher Stephen Schork, editor of The Schorck Report, dialed in to the Fast Line on Thursday's Halftime Report and wasted little time telling the world how great he handled the latest move in crude from the $90s down.

"I was able to take, myself and my trading accounts, I was able to take profits there, I sold into it, I covered in the mid-80s," Schorck said.

Well, whoop de do.

Schorck said if Mubarak were to hand over power to the VP, "that is bearish oil in my opinion." (But whether that's happening is a point of debate.)

Steve Grasso said, "Stay long equities at this point."

Faber: Americans would own majority of NYSE-Deutsche Boerse

David Faber stressed on Thursday's Strategy Session that suggestions of a foreign takeover of the NYSE might be unfounded.

In fact, Faber said, based on an analysis of Deutsche Boerse shareholders which includes many American firms, "U.S.-based institutions would hold the majority of shares in the combined company."

Gary Kaminsky said he too was hearing about foreign takeover yesterday but agreed with Faber, "that's not what it is."

No doubt that data is correct, but the guess here is that politicians are going to have a sticky time with this one.

Faber said even though NYSE is now a deal in progress, given the lack of big players in this space, it's "hard to imagine that it's truly in play."

Gary Kaminsky said Cisco's results suggest a possible "changing of the guard" in whatever it is that Cisco specifically does.

Judah Kraushaar joined the set apparently, according to the intro, to talk about his interest in nat gas, only to tell David Faber he's more interested in oil and the whole "energy complex." He said it looks like we're in the "very early stage" of an overall commodity lift.

Kraushaar did express QE2 fears. "I'm worried that this is gonna have a much more tumultuous end than it seems right now," he said.

[Wednesday, February 9, 2011]

Adami: Silver setting up
for ‘parabolic’ move

Guy Adami is well-known for his long-term (i.e., since Fast Money began) skepticism of gold.

The same doubts evidently don't exist for silver.

"I think silver's setting up for one of its, you know, parabolic type moves that we've seen over the years, could be over the next couple months," Adami said on Wednesday's Fast Money.

Steve Cortes said he’d be ‘shocked’ if CSCO gaps down 3rd straight time

Fast Money was far along Wednesday before Jon Fortt directly addressed our favorite Cisco subject: the "tone" of John Chambers on the conference call.

"The tone isn't exactly upbeat for sure," Fortt said. Guy Adami wrote this one off, which shouldn't be too difficult for anyone paying attention to this stock for, oh, about 10 years. "Cisco is dead money; I think it will be for quite some time," Adami said. "When you're behind the curve at their size, it's very very hard to catch up."

Karen Finerman expressed alarm at the Cisco explanation that it's "in transition."

Frustratingly, Steve Grasso not around on big day of NYSE deal talk

Jon Najarian said on Wednesday's Fast Money, with adequate disclosures about his own professional stake in the exchange, that the CBOE is the most attractive exchange now; "I think the CBOE becomes the prettiest girl at the dance."

But analyst Rob Rutschow said he doubts there would be a CBOE bid at least until the lockup expires in June. Rutschow also spoke about the Nasdaq and said there's a lot more sellers in this space than buyers.

Joe Saluzzi had a more provocative theme, calling the NYSE an American asset that simply can't be turned over to foreigners. "I think they're gonna have major regulatory issues," Saluzzi asserted, suggesting exchanges shouldn't be publicly traded companies but viewed as utilities.

He made some pretty interesting points, and Guy Adami acknowledged as much, though Adami countered with the sale of Budweiser. That doesn't seem a very relevant analogy, as nothing would suggest the flavor and availability of Budweiser is going to change for Americans, or even if it did, why it would matter.

On the other hand, an extended Flash Crash Redux at an exchange overseen by foreigners might indeed cause Chuck Schumer's skin to crawl.

Bob Pisani called in late to assert the NYSE is highly committed to the trading floor and that its already an international company. "I think ultimately it will pass regulatory hurdles," Pisani said.

Najarian vs. panel afterhours looks like a rout

Jon Najarian revealed Wednesday, in case anyone might've thought he actually lost money, that he came out ahead in Encana. "Luckily I got some shares uh, as this thing started to pop Melissa," Najarian said. (And luckily, no one around these parts took Pete Najarian's Monday night recommendation to buy Teck Resources.)

Najarian also revealed another Brag Trade, that Whole Foods was popping so much it was right near the ceiling when (chuckle, chuckle) he'd probably have to sell.

Najarian debated strength of the consumer with Brian Kelly, saying Whole Foods doesn't jump like this afterhours if the consumer is strapped. Kelly made a joke about braces based on Najarian's goofy headset.

Alexandra Lebenthal said she'd look to Jersey as a beaten-down area for the muni investor.

Melissa Lee held a cute pose after introducing Nokia in Pops & Drops.

Terranova: Ag trade
might be ‘topping out’

Too bad someone on the Fast Money Halftime Report didn't give Steve Cortes a bowl of cereal; if so, we wouldn't have had to hear him say about 5 times that he likes consumer staples.

"Consumer staples are to be bought," Cortes said.

More significantly, Cortes predicted the law of averages will be in Cisco's favor. "I'd be shocked" if there's a 3rd straight gap down on the earnings call, he said.

Cortes also saluted Gary Kaminsky in a Wells Fargo chat by noting that Kaminsky believes "sudden CFO departures are a big problem," something we pointed out from Kaminsky's book recently when Netflix had a similar situation.

Pete Najarian said he prefers the steadier chemicals and rails over the ag trade. Joe Terranova said Potash looks like it might be "topping out" and "I'd be looking to take some off" in the sector. (This writer is long POT.) Brian Kelly said if he had to buy any ag name, it would be Monsanto.

Pete Najarian said the CBOE is an "obvious area" for another exchange operator to look at. (Now there's some fresh news.)

Melissa Lee was smokin' in sizzling charcoal V-shaped dress, and even correctly pronounced "ebullient," but the Halftime Report was marred by annoying constant trading floor background noise that somehow got picked up in some trader's mike.

Faber: 10% premium for NYSE

David Faber reported on Wednesday's Strategy that the combination formula for Deutsche Boerse and NYSE Euronext would result in something like a 10% premium for NYSE, less than the suggested 18% that was fueling a stock surge.

Gary Kaminsky said "it's about consolidation, new product development" for exchanges that have had margin concerns on the original business.

Richard Repetto suggested that there might indeed be regulatory concerns about the New York Stock Exchange being majority owned by a foreign enterprise (unfortunately there was no word from Chuck Schumer). Repetto told Gary Kaminsky he could ultimately see "3 to 5" massive global exchanges.

Steve Liesman and Rick Santelli hotly debated Ben Bernanke's testimony, with Santelli saying he's stunned at how the Fed purportedly keeps saying it's not part of the problem, or something like that.

[Tuesday, February 8, 2011]

Tim Seymour: Practical joker?

We weren't surprised Tuesday to hear Tim Seymour explain "the reality is" approximately 3 times in the opening few minutes of Fast Money.

We started, however, to get the notion we were being put on a bit later when he said it 4 times in a span of 46 seconds (that's correct, we kept track) while discussing Treasury yields.

And he had a straight face the whole time.

Either it's a colossally successful inside joke, or a gigantic "yeesh."

Don't TV shows have experts to monitor this stuff?

Karen Finerman said the VIX level is a bit "scary" to her and she needs to "reload" on puts. Fast Money needs to reload, refresh, or perhaps try Ctrl-Alt-Del.

Riedel: Actual China inflation
is at mid-double digits

China watcher David Riedel told the Fast Money gang Tuesday that actual Chinese officially reported data may not be 100% accurate.

"Inflation numbers are wrong," Riedel said of Tim Seymour's mid-single digits assessment, "the consumers are telling us that inflation is mid-double digits."

Riedel said the dink-and-dunk approach to tightening and controlling inflation isn't going to be the solution. "It's kind of the undead nightmare, uh, that Chinese equities face right now," Riedel said.

Tim Seymour said he wouldn't necessarily back up the truck right now, but he thinks gold can be bought here, especially the miners. Joe Terranova said the recent theory that FCX is just an ETF for copper has broken down.

Terranova: ‘No reason to believe Disney pulls back’

Joe Terranova was Goofy with happiness Tuesday over Disney's results.

"This is a phenomenal earnings report; there's no reason to believe Disney pulls back," Terranova said.

What was really phenomenal is that 1) it wasn't accidentally released ahead of time, and that 2) no one was arrested for trying to sell the results ahead of release.

Tim Seymour was more skeptical about ongoing strength in theme parks. "The reality is (yeah, he said it), look at the valuation here folks."

Seymour also said "Kudos" to Jim Dolan.

Finerman implies Avon needs
more than cosmetic changes

Karen Finerman used about 5 charts of CEOs whose reigns didn't quite end so good to make an alarming case against former hotshot Andrea Jung at Avon.

Finerman said the earnings report was "one of the more hostile calls that I've heard in quite a while."

Finerman declared Jung "under tremendous pressure" and said Avon is either "right" or "ripe" (after 2 or 3 times, we still weren't sure) for some kind of activism.

"We are long calls," Finerman declared.

Tim Seymour said it's hard to believe the company isn't doing better in Russia because Russian women are really into makeup.

It was revealed that Stephen Weiss sold some Cisco Tuesday.

Nasdaq honcho Eric Noll insisted the exchange's "trading enterprise" is "completely separate" from the corporate info service that apparently was targeted by hackers. Amelia Bourdeau predicted 132.50 on the euro. Barry Ritholtz says CEOs are low-balling estimates and Melissa Lee said it'll set up mind games between the investing public and Tim Seymour said it's disappointing that Microsoft no longer gives guidance.

Suddenly, unstoppable oil
gets the bum’s rush

Addison Armstrong said Tuesday on the Fast Money Halftime Report that "the 1st quarter is gonna be the best quarter for oil this year ... overall it's gonna be a down year from here in oil."

"I think the oil trade is far too crowded," insisted Steve Cortes, who thinks market leadership is moving from the XLE to the XLF. "I still think it makes sense to be short."

Patty Edwards said the precious metals are looking good. "As a matter of fact, we actually own both gold and silver for some select clients, and platinum," Edwards said.

Joe Terranova said nothing has changed for Apple. "I think the path is nothing but higher here," he said. Jon Najarian stood by his own AAPL prediction, saying "Our target's been 450 for about the last 2 months."

Melissa doesn’t have a car

Patty Edwards said Tuesday that winter is a legitimate excuse for any sluggishness in McDonald's sales because who wants to go through a drive-thru in lousy weather.

"I forget about the drive-thru aspect, not having a car," revealed Melissa Lee.

Edwards said hhgregg is facing the same pressures as Best Buy and thus would "not be playing in this area."

Joe Terranova said Capital One "still has room to go." Steve Cortes said he sold a bit of his MS/GS positions last week for a small profit and really wishes he had held on for more.

McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt didn't really address Melissa Lee's questions too well but said being acquired by Intel will help his company attack the "advance persistent threats" of malware.

Kaminsky: Insider trading probe might be a ‘yawner’

Don Drapkin visited Tuesday's Strategy Session to put Mentor Graphics into some sort of squeeze with fellow investor Carl Icahn.

"Management's done nothing to promote shareholder value, they've just been sitting on their hands," Drapkin said. "It's just a sleepy company run like a country club."

But when David Faber asked Icahn, who spoke on the phone, to fill in the backstory and explain what's gone wrong with this company that is apparently infuriating its investors, the best Icahn could do was "they moved up this date ... wanted to get a quick meeting going."

"Wanted a quick meeting." How awful.

David Barse said Lennar is a stock to watch, because "these guys are very smart." He said little attention is being given to their portfolio of distressed debt; "that's really where we see the juice in this company."

Barse also said St. Joe is the real deal. "Over the long term, we love this company," he said.

Barse also, according to Gary Kaminsky's Twitter, wonders if appearing on the show gets him an invite to Rao's.

Gary Kaminsky didn't seem terribly excited about the latest pending developments in the supposedly massive insider trading scam. "If this is Phase 2, and there's not a Phase 3, this is a yawner," Kaminsky said.

Kate Kelly said the AIG re-offer has been delayed; "it's not gonna happen in March, it's much more likely to happen in late April or May," Kelly said.

[Monday, February 7, 2011]

A missed opportunity
for Peter Schiff

When even Guy Adami is getting into the act on Fast Money, you know that bullish sentiment is hitting fever pitch.

"I haven't heard such positive sentiment at the desk since I sat there alone," joked Zach Karabell, on Monday's Fast Money Prop Desk.

"There doesn't seem to be anything that can stop the market," gushed Brian Kelly in the show's opening, and it took Tim Seymour less than 3 minutes to explain "the reality is" that the market is strong.

Seymour even touted steel (not the Steelers, just a lower-case s), assuming it gets its act together. "The thing about steel prices, there's never been any supply discipline out there," he said.

A brief mention was made of Steve Cortes and his "contrarian" point of view (he wasn't actually on the show), with Kelly noting, "That's his game, he loves to short anything that goes up."

Karabell pointed to Shaw and Fluor as the names that will continue to benefit from the global infrastructure buildout.

Karabell: ‘WikiLeaks event’
likely trouble for BAC

Brian Kelly opened an interesting little can of worms on Monday's Fast Money when he reported buying BAC.

"Oh no, I don't like that Bank of America trade," Karabell said, explaining "there is a WikiLeaks event out there."

Tim Seymour found that reasoning dubious. "This has been going on forever, Zach, seriously," Seymour said.

Undeterred, Karabell said, "It could be both a regulatory event and a massive news event."

Will Gasparino be happy writing the occasional AOL column?

While the stock market may look mostly rosy, Fast Money traders — some of them — on Monday found something not to like.

Namely, the implication that Arianna stuck it to the AOL suckers.

"I think it's a terrible deal," said Tim Seymour. "They're paying 11 times sales ... the reality is, they overpaid for this ... the reality is that you don't need to pay this."

Scott Wapner, who expertly guest-helmed a rollicking show Monday, brought up comparisons to the New York Times, prompting a great joke from Guy Adami: "What sections are you fluent in?"

(See, that's the impact of successful advertising.)

Pete Najarian questioned if Danaher's purchase really is such a great deal. "I just wonder if they overpaid for this," Najarian said.

Cigarette boss says future of smoking brighter than people think

Lorillard chief Murray Kessler spoke more about menthol cigarettes in a brief segment on Monday's Fast Money than we've ever heard about menthol cigarettes.

Kessler said Newport Menthol is a flagship brand in the "very early stages." Guy Adami asked if it's possible the feds will order an end to all menthol cigarettes.

Kessler indicated that's a long way off and apparently doesn't see that happening but acknowledges the headwind. "Headline news are clearly weighing heavily on the stock," he said, calling the menthol risk a "misperception" and saying all that's coming up is a non-binding recommendation at the end of March.

In other words ... don’t buy?

Bob Pisani spoke to Fast Money on Monday from an ETF conference in Florida, where Pisani said it's "75 degrees, gentle breeze blowing, cocktails on the beach."

Unfortunately, Pisani sounded like he wasn't consuming cocktails, but cases of Red Bulls.

"THERE IS OCEANS OF MONEY GOING INTO COMMODITY-BACKED ETFS," Pisani bellowed, explaining massive frustration on the part of the industry that it's stuck with contango rollover issues and that it can't get a cash-backed ETF.

Scott Wapner told it like it is, showing a chart about ETFs issues including gains being taxed each year regardless of whether the ETF is sold, and the higher trading costs.

Pisani was asked about ETFs meant to represent the VIX and he noted it's the "same rollover issues."

Najarian: ‘Memory area
is definitely on fire’

Dennis Gartman said that for the short term, "There's a lot of crude oil available, there will be more available," though he didn't take a firm stand on Scott Wapner's question about whether $90 or $75 will be next.

Gartman said March delivery cotton is in an "old-fashioned squeeze."

Gartman at the end of the show trumpeted pure Canada plays, such as oil ("Suncor is the better of the plays"). He also said "Potash has probably gotten a bit ahead of itself." (This writer is long POT.)

No word on who Gartman picked to win the Super Bowl.

Pete Najarian said Cirrus Logic has been on an "absolute tear the last few weeks," and "the memory area is definitely on fire right now."

Todd Gordon recommended long sterling, short aussie.

Arianna is ‘one of the best content people in the world’

AOL chief Tim Armstrong sort of implied on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report that the AOL deal was a no-brainer.

"I don't think there's any risk in it," Armstrong said, before heaping praise on Arianna, "one of the best female entrepreneurs in the world and one of the best content people in the world."

(Notice he felt compelled to add "female," but, uh, well, whatever.)

Scott Wapner asked a great question — in fact all of his questions on this subject were great, even if he seemed like he was down on the deal — as to what AOL's identity really is.

This was Armstrong's answer: "So AOL is, uh, planning on becoming the largest, uh, premium content company on the Internet and the next American media company that goes global."

"Next American media company that goes global." What the heck does that mean? Even CNBCfix is "global."

Armstrong then declared Arianna a broadcasting titan, saying, "You're looking at the next, uh, ABC or ESPN to my left," and asserting "our political viewpoint is beyond left and right."

Wapner asked Arianna if she took so much cash because of the sorry history of the AOL TWX deal. Arianna said there's a lot of stock involved too, 25%, and "I'm absolutely confident that those who took stock will do better than those who took cash."

Brian Kelly said "to me it seems like a threat to the New York Times."

Zachary Karabell at one point said "I actually bought a little bit of AOL this morning on this ... this may be a new turn of the wheel ... exciting potential," then later added, "If it isn't viable, then all the naysayers and doomsayers about the death of old media and the difficulty of paying for content are probably gonna be proven right."

Steve Grasso offered, "I'm a Reagan Republican. How do you think I feel about the deal?"

‘There is no iPad killer. Nor will there ever be’

Analyst Charles Wolf laid out a bullish case for AAPL on Monday's Halftime, asserting, "There is no iPad killer. Nor will there ever be."

"You can't just fight this market," said Brian Kelly, who noted, in light of Pride, "one of my favorites here is Rowan Drilling, RDC."

Scott Wapner asked Steve Grasso about the Nasdaq's hacking disclosures over the weekend. Grasso said what really affects people's confidence is something like the Flash Crash, which doesn't happen in his parts. "On the floor of the NYSE, we still have that human element, so we have a much superior product," Grasso said.

Jon Najarian agreed with at least the first part of that assessment, saying "high-frequency trading is far more threatening to market structure than is hacking."

‘There’s a difference between popularity and business effectiveness’

M&A guru Robert Kindler said on Monday's slightly truncated Strategy Session that the private equity element is driving deals, and that the healthy stock market is the best sign of a robust year.

He also said, "I don't see any path in which Air Products can buy Airgas," and included a litany of inside baseball about "Delaware 203" and the poison pill case, which he called "overblown a little bit" and "my own view is I think it's unlikely that the pill gets invalidated, either by Chandler or the Supreme Court."

Miles Nadal assured businesspeople that being controversial can really pay off, in the form of Groupon's Super Bowl Tibet ad. "There's a difference between popularity and business effectiveness. So, um, it's been exceedingly effective," Nadal said.

Gary Kaminsky spoke briefly about potential activism by Bruce Berkowitz with St. Joe and pointed out he astutely asked Berkowitz last week why St. Joe is private, and "he never really answered the question."

Terranova, Najarian correct

Not much more to say. They were right.

Karabell takes on critic
of his gold argument

A writer at a gold-based Web site on Friday described Zachary Karabell's recent CNBC comments on gold in not too flattering terms.

(Um, specifically, it went something like "if you have money with this man, you might want to review your allocation.")

Karabell then responded in the reader comments (maybe it's time we got those on this page) with a very professional, formal rebuttal: "If the best you can (do) to support your case is vitriolic mischaracterization then you clearly lack a solid rationale for your actions."

Apparently, it worked. The writer responded, "You’re a stand-up guy to check in and please don’t take the vitriol personally and I won’t either."

Patty Edwards observed
rooting for Green Bay

Noted football fan Patty Edwards reveals in Twitter she's "hoping" the Steelers don't win. "Gotta root for the Packers!," Edwards writes.

[Friday, February 4, 2011]

Terranova, Najarian
claim Packers will win

Last year at this time, Joe Terranova said "Go Colts" on Fast Money.

Pete Najarian, a noted "risk manager," merely said the New Orleans Saints "can" do it.

This year, they've apparently got more brass in pocket (not because they're picking a pretender, but that conclusion is a matter of opinion), based on the certainty of their Super Bowl calls on Friday's Fast Money.

"Packers and the points," Terranova said.

"The Packers? Sorry Steeler fans, they're gonna win," Najarian said.

If they're right, we'll congratulate their calls on Monday.

If they're wrong, we'll be sure to publicize their buffoonery.

Lenny Dawson leads Otis Taylor & Buck Buchanan into battle against Joe Kapp and the ...

Media analyst David Bank on Friday played a little Pop Quiz Friday, recited a litany of statistics about TV viewership this season and excitedly told the Fast Money gang that the NFL is "one of the highest ratings-growth properties in TV."

Yes. Does he think this is ... 1970?

Bank says Disney, because of ESPN, is the apparent winner in this newfound NFL-gets-high-viewership thesis, even though Terry Bradshaw gets the Super Bowl.

Zzzzz, yeah, whatever.

Bank did open up a semi-interesting can of worms when he suggested the NFL Network will maybe take a slow "trickle" of games away from ESPN, but ESPN in his view is a much better franchise; "You just can't program the NFL Network 52 weeks a year."

At this point that is correct, but it's worth noting that for all the acclaim given Pete Rozelle for turning pro football into such a national event, it's worth noting that the NFL, unlike, say Microsoft, didn't launch ESPN itself before the real ESPN launched.

Would've been a heckuvan idea. An NFL-run sports network with its own content to offer, as well as SportsCenter.

But they didn't have that kind of foresight, viewing the networks as the holy grail of distribution.

Whatever. Rozelle and the other people who have run the league have made a lot of good decisions over time. What they've haven't done is put hardly anything on the NFL Network that people actually want to watch, easily the most underutilized media asset this side of Carol Bartz's office (that is, unless you like watching "NFL Total Access" 8 hours a day).

Just play the game

Speaking of YHOO, Doug Kass did manage to mention on Friday's Fast Money that "I have a very high conviction on Yahoo long."

And that was about the only interesting thing he said in a painfully laborious self-examination of where the markets might go and why he might or might not have missed the boat.

"I'm much more negative than all of you guys," Kass told the panel, citing 3 reasons (we think), the "specter of compression of profit margins," "this whole concept of screwflation of the middle class" and "relative inflexible and risky monetary policy."

But the rest of the panel was hardly much more accommodating in recommending an actual trade.

"Maybe the crude oil market's a little overextended here," Guy Adami suggested.

In WNR, "The reversal has been absolutely phenomenal," Joe Terranova said.

Karen Finerman revealed, with some level of gushing, "We're long Corning."

Adami suggested Baidu isn't done. "I still think the stock has room on the upside here," he said.

Pete Najarian pointed to one of the worst charts in recent memory, BBY, a "first time advertiser in the Super Bowl."

John Chambers’ tone
is once again in play

In what would have to be considered by any skeptic as a potential sign of irrational exuberance, Jon Najarian actually said on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report that "Cisco could be one of the darlings next week."

Steve Grasso quickly said "I don't wanna be a buyer of Cisco," but he allowed that people do see it as a major bellwether and thus agreed with Najarian that it can be bought here.

We can't imagine what advice clients of LVS watcher Todd Jordan are paying for, given that on Friday he gave some of the most contradictory analysis on the stock possible (maybe he was distracted by what sounded like Sinatra tunes in the studio but might've been a barbershop quartet; he did say "great to be on, Michelle"). He kind of stopped short of calling for an outright short, saying the stock should be on a "short leash" and could fall "into the low 40s, potentially," but then suggested it has just about an equal upside, and because of its volatility, "we can get an annual return in a matter of weeks on this thing."

If that helps you make a trade, great.

Patty Edwards sounded about as excited by Friday's jobs report as Charlie Sheen seems about his next trip to the clinic.

"You know, I personally was looking at the not-seasonally adjusted numbers," Edwards said. "I don't think that this was as good of a report as everyone is trying to make it out to be frankly."

Edwards told Melissa Lee she wasn't scooping up gold, but is hanging on. "I still own my gold; I haven't sold it," Edwards said.

Dennis Gartman said the impact on oil of talk of a possible Egypt deal to escort Mubarak out is "bearish only in the very, very short term," and longer-term, he agrees with Joe Terranova that the situation is far from unsettled.

Domino's Pizza chief Patrick Doyle said he expects to sell a million and a half pizzas on Sunday and will be making some of them himself.

He tried to assuage Joe Terranova's commodity-price concerns, saying, "We locked in our wheat in the middle of last year through the 3rd quarter of 2011; cheese we've got a very attractive contract that kind of moderates these costs."

But Steve Grasso is one who needed no convincing. "I'd be a buyer of the stock," Grasso said. "I got 2 large pies for 12 bucks last night and I will tell you, by the time I got home, only 1 was left. Delicious stuff."

David Stockman: ‘I think we’re heading for a wall’

David Stockman rained all over any potential improvements in the labor market on Friday's Strategy Session, but it was one little stray comment that deserved the most follow-up.

Stockman first complained, in a 3-part theory, why he thinks the jobs data is bogus.

"I heard more spin control when it came out this morning than I ever heard in the White House, and that tells you something," Stockman said.

He said to ignore the month-to-month comparisons. "I'm talking about the once-a-year rebenchmarking of the number of absolute jobs in the economy," he said, which was 130.7 million vs. a revised 130.2 million.

"Where does the half million jobs that were lost in the last 30 days that nobody talked about (go)," Stockman said. "All those jobs disappeared because they were overcounted ... what we have is a game of like Lucy and Charlie Brown here."

Stockman also said the 130.2 million was a "number that was first reached in October 1999," and since September, "there hasn't been any net gain in jobs."

He balked at the unemployment rate helped by people being of the work force. "If we had the same participation rate this January that we had a year ago ... the unemployment rate reported this morning would've been 9.9% or 10% rounded, not 9," he said. And he chided Ben Bernanke: "He really deserves, for what he said yesterday, the John B. Connally Award for Monetary Mayhem."

But despite that thought-provoking presentation, this was maybe Stockman's most notable comment: "We're issuing more bonds, 3 times more bonds a month, than our GDP is growing. So I don't think we're heading for a cliff, I think we're heading for a wall, and that is, the fiscal situation is, certain in my view, because the part- political parties are totally paralyzed, is certain to lead to a bond market conflagaration (sic) ... that's when the yield really soars, that's when the selloff really begins to happen."

Notice he said the "political parties are totally paralyzed."

Another way to put that is, "Enough of them don't see this as a big problem."

Generally, in fact, whenever there's a real crisis, governments actually do react. The flood, the wildfire, the tornado, they can't wait to drop in and declare the whole thing a disaster area.

In early December 1941, they didn't hesitate very long to declare war after being attacked.

The point here isn't to say Stockman's wrong. He may very well be right. We don't know.

The point is to acknowledge that a lot of people with important jobs on the line, by Stockman's own characterization, don't see the same problem that he does ... and we would add something he didn't mention, that there remains historically high demand worldwide from people and entities with serious money for Treasurys that he expects to become a conflagration.

But if the government's totally missing the boat here, it wouldn't be the first time.

The bottom line is:
Players have little leverage

Sal Galatioto, one of the best of The Strategy Session guests, expressed basically the same view about the NFL labor situation that we've heard from every regular Joe on the street.

"I think there'll be a lockout," Galatioto said. "I think it's gonna go through the offseason. But I really believe that before training camp opens, they will have this resolved. Look, there's too much money involved here ... both the players and the owners get it ... very difficult to believe that they're actually gonna interrupt the season."

We can't disagree with that, though we're not sure it'll even get to the level of lockout. One thing we'd add is that Congress is very cognizant of the NFL (Arlen Spector used to carp about the exclusivity of games on the NFL Network), and we doubt the owners would get a free pass on a lockout that preempted any actual games.

Unfortunately for NFL players, the average career is too short and most guys are not set for life financially. At the top end of the scale, the elite QBs and superstars have the most to lose by not playing. So the strength of the union resolve would likely be based somewhere in the middle, in quality, long-term players who are assured of roster spots for the next year or two but don't have $5 million-plus contracts for 2011.

NFL owners aren't the close-knit family club they used to be, but are still far more united than, say, the Yankees and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Gary Kaminsky asked Galatioto if the involvement of investment bankers nowadays in the NFL is a factor. Galatioto didn't see that as a big deal, other than being good for investment banking.

On other matters, David Faber asked Galatioto if the Mets are going to be sold. "Too early to tell," he said. "I can't say a lot about what's going on right now obviously because of the sensitive nature."

Back in the stock market, David Faber also noted, "The S&P Correlation Index is touching its lowest level since the financial crisis," which Gary Kaminsky pointed out is a sign successful stock pickers can trumpet outperformance.

[Thursday, February 3, 2011]

Whitney Tilson’s
‘new short rules’

Whitney Tilson is probably wishing he had never heard of Netflix.

Perhaps conceding some sort of defeat, Tilson wrote investors at year-end that he would generally stop shorting on valuation alone.

Which would've been a great topic to bring up on Thursday's Fast Money, had he been there.

He wasn't, but that didn't stop Melissa Lee from reading a "Trade School" list described as "Whitney Tilson's New Short Rules."

Those are:

1. Don't short good businesses — even on extreme valuations.

2. Don't maintain a large short book post-crisis.

3. Long investment is a better business.

More on that in a moment, after we get to the Barry Ritholtz version.

Barry Ritholtz’s
‘Rules in Short’

Perhaps one-upping the T2 king, Barry Ritholtz actually did appear on Thursday's Fast Money and offered not 3, but 4, guidelines for shorting a stock.

Those are:

1. Cheap stocks can get cheaper.

2. Shorting on valuation alone is suicide.

3. Never forget the market is a crowd.

4. Shorts must show technical weakness.

OK. So where does all this stand?

Reading between the lines, it feels like Tilson's big regret isn't being wrong in a few lofty names, but being wrong during a massive rally from September to present (even though we're sure he made gobs of money in other ventures), and it would seem that Ritholtz's top tip is to short the sucky names, not the high-flying ones.

The discussion that ensued among the Fast Money panelists was one of the best in the show's recent memory (you'd think that Ritholtz would've been able to just shout down to the group at the Nasdaq when his connection went bad, but whatever), and not because it was smooth and glibby ... but just the opposite.

That traders couldn't or wouldn't cleanly spell out their own tactics says much; certainly, everyone has his or her own strategy and doesn't want to cough it up for free, but also there seems to be a professional wariness to shorting, perhaps from suffering steep losses or from the general public stigma about shorting (among people in the public who even know what shorting is).

Our translation: If you don't really know what you're doing, probably best to skip it.

Steve Cortes, for example, conceded "It is harder to make money on the short side than the long side. The market is made to go up."

So Melissa Lee asked him why he does it. "Because I seem to be better at finding problems than opportunities," Cortes said, a bizarre answer when coupled with his first statement, implying he either is overtalented or undertalented for this endeavor.

Guy Adami explained, "There's more money to be made quicker on the short side of things if you catch it correctly. The problem is, it's a lot more painful to be wrong on the short side as well."

When Ritholtz was able to talk, he essentially chided anyone shorting Netflix, saying "You don't step in front of a speeding locomotive, no matter how bad you think the business model is."

And he made it sound like Rule 4 might as well be Rule 1; "fundamentals will tell you what to short, but they won't tell you when to short."

Karen Finerman offered to defend Tilson, saying he would say, "Wait till it starts cracking" and then huge gains will result.

Joe Terranova echoed Adami's point that it's high-risk, high-reward. "Most of the successful short trades are home-run trades," Terranova said. "Generally when you play the market from the short side, you don't get the singles, you don't get the doubles, it's the home runs that I think you get with the short trade."

Or the strikeouts.

So how does someone actually identify a short? Not a whole lot of help from the panel, though Terranova suggested, "When the fundamentals stink, and then the technicals begin to weaken, you get that perfect storm."

Gold CEO confident

Newmont Mining Chief Richard O'Brien gave no reasons to be short his company's stock on Thursday's Fast Money.

O'Brien said with gold prices expected to range from $1,200 to $1,500, his purchase of Fronteer will take care of itself. "I think we're gonna generate substantial cash flow during the year," O'Brien said.

Guy Adami challenged O'Brien to explain a scenario under which gold sinks. O'Brien said it would be if China and India don't meet growth forecasts.

Karen Finerman then asked O'Brien at what level he'd start hedging.

"We won't," O'Brien said.

That brought a decidedly disdainful reaction from Adami, who said he knows how this works: "His investors want exposure to gold when it's $1,300 an ounce. God forbid it goes south of a thousand, and those same investors who want exposure to gold will be asking why they weren't hedging gold at 1,300."

In the last 12 months, it’s been everywhere, and not necessarily where you want it to be

Anthony Scaramucci was back on Fast Money Thursday with a new Hedge Fund Trade of the Week, and no, it's not a Baghdad stock, but Visa.

"This is still a very cheap stock," Scaramucci said. "It's a consistent revenue grower of about 12%. ... It has a moat around its business ... We see pricing power and P.E. expansion and a price target of something like $100 a share" in 12 to 18 months.

Scaramucci said funds such as Adage, Eminence Capital and Lone Pine own the stock.

Steve Cortes pointed out David Tepper is a part-owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Hopefully Melissa’s got a date to the Super Bowl

Joe Terranova and Karen Finerman spoke briefly Thursday about owning C and the $5 level it continues to flirt with even more than Wall Street message board readers flirt with Mandy Drury.

"To me that's not the type of price action you wanna see," Terranova said.

"I'll sit there and wait," Finerman hmmphed.

Chris Verrone agreed with yesterday's guest, Mary Ann Bartels, that a correction is in the cards, "anything in the 5-6% magnitude would probably make sense to us here," he said, predicting 1,170 would be the 2011 floor.

But he said he sees a "very significant breakout" in XOM and a similar move in HES as well.

Joe Terranova said to watch Plains Exploration PXP.

Steve Cortes downplayed Goodyear, saying, "Buying tires right here while Ford appears to be toppy, I don't know."

Brian Stutland actually said Cisco "should be a cornerstone of everybody's portfolio." Gordon Johnson purportedly defeated Brian Kelly in an uninteresting Street Fight over solar names, but Karen Finerman was the real winner, wondering why they don't try oil names instead.

Andy Busch showed up on set to discuss Trichet comments (Zzzzzz), saying, "This is salient to the whole periphery debt situation," and, yeah, uh huh ...

Melissa Lee, who looked like a smokin' Steelers fan in sizzlin' black dress, closed out Busch's appearance with an appealing eye-bat.

Average consumer shops for underwear twice a year

Melissa Lee likes to conduct underwear conversations on Fast Money, and so for Thursday's Halftime Report she brought in an expert, Hanesbrands analyst Doug Thomas.

Lee said that according to Thomas, the "average consumer shops for underwear 2 times a year, and the average household spends $150 dollars a year on underwear."

Thomas said cotton price concerns have made HBI "sort of the whipping boy," even though those prices don't affect the bottom line as much as people think, and the company is "hedged through October in terms of cotton purchases."

Guy Adami revealed, "I haven't bought new boxer shorts in easily 5 years."

"Do you clean the underwear that you do have with a chisel at this point?" asked Steve Grasso.

Cortes still short LVS

We've been wondering for a while now whatever happened to Steve Cortes' LVS short. Thursday we got the answer.

"I'm short LVS," Cortes said, reporting he had a bigger position recently and has sustained "some small losses." Cortes noted LVS is a popular stock that isn't a popular short. "I got into a cab the other day, and the cabbie yelled at me for being short LVS," he said.

Cortes also said "Treasurys have had a bad week, and I've had a bad week owning them frankly." He added, "I own SVU."

Guy Adami said gold is having a "little bit of a relief rally here." He said he's starting to like T better in the VZ vs. T chart, he thinks "ANF now sub-50 might be getting interesting" and "the reality is, Men's Wearhouse is interesting at current levels."

JJ Kinahan said there's options activity in BJ's Wholesale, and as for YHOO, "There could be a bit of a deal because it just seems to me it's kind of the stepchild of that industry."

Duffy: Raising margins
doesn’t affect price

CME Chairman Terrence A. Duffy spoke on Thursday's Strategy Session and — in not much of a surprise — insisted that raising margin requirements won't put a lid on futures prices.

"Margins don't affect price, and there's nothing to show that raising or lowering margins will have any effect on price," Duffy said. "We use margins strictly for a risk-management basis."

Duffy told Gary Kaminsky that raising margins works both ways; "you'd be increasing the margin on the shorts also," which would exert upward pressure on prices.

David Faber asked Duffy about interest in Brent oil. Duffy said people want to play it, but "The West Texas Intermediate is still the benchmark."

Kaminsky: IPO filing
suggests rates won’t soar

Gary Kaminsky said Thursday that the Kinder Morgan IPO proposal is an indicator that interest rates aren't going to straight to the moon anytime soon.

"Richard Kinder has a very uncanny ability to do capital raises which are accretive, and value added, for the shareholders," Kaminsky said. With this plan in the pipeline, so to speak, "There's no way he thinks" there will be a "significant rise in interest rates," Kaminsky added.

Kaminsky called Kinder a "4-finger CEO," a complimentary term based on a somewhat gruesome analogy.

Jeff Kronthal said of interest rates, "I think for a while, we're in a range," though it'll move slightly higher in the short term, and as for 5-year basis points, "I think you can see it go up another 25, 30 easily."

Gary Kaminsky said times have changed since a couple years ago in terms of banking bonuses, and so at UBS, it looks like "the pool just wasn't big enough to keep people."

[Wednesday, February 2, 2011]

Early February 2011, still playing the 3rd-year-of-the-presidency trade

Mary Ann Bartels turned up on Wednesday's Fast Money to suggest a market correction is in order.

Bartels pointed to a "negative divergence between the Dow and the S&P, and the transports," saying the 3 usually rise together, but the transports are lagging.

"We think the month of February could be the pause that actually refreshes the market," Bartels said, suggesting a "4 to 10% pullback."

That was all well and good until Bartels, in saying people should nevertheless stick with the market this year, noted that it's the 3rd year of a presidency, which historically produces high returns.

So lessee ... news that has been known since 2008 (and for all practical purposes, since 2004), that 2011 would be the 3rd year of a presidential cycle ... remains a reason to buy stocks.

Bartels said the pullback would be quick, likely 4 to 6 weeks, and that her line in the sand is S&P 1,170, but she thinks "around 1,200 would be the worst that we'd see the market."

Bartels also said "We actually target with a breakout copper going to 6 to 6 and a half," and oil running from $100 to $120.

One of the most ineffective jokes you’ve heard in a while

A lot of times, the Fast Money humor is pretty good.

Other times, you get, well, the clunker that Joe Terranova tried to unleash Wednesday.

Steve Cortes started it, saying "Today Ford had another terrible day ... I think that is bad news for crude oil."

Terranova followed, "Steve are you headed up to Canada to start some protests up there, to raise some concerns about Canadian oil?"

"No. Why?" Cortes asked, and we wondered the same thing.

"Clearly there's no political unrest up there," Terranova said.

Yeah. Uh-huh.

Terranova rattled off a shopping list of favorite energy names, Frontier, CVI, Canadian oil sands, Suncor, CNQ, CVE, BP, ExxonMobil, etc., the list just went on and on.

One of those caught the attention of Karen Finerman, who gushed about the Canadian oil sands.

Joe Terranova tries in vain to get Fast Money to show Victoria’s Secret catwalk clips

Thwarted in his own attempt to make a joke, Joe Terranova didn't mind teeing up a long drive for Karen Finerman on Wednesday.

This one was significant, because it actually seemed to wake up Finerman for the first time this week.

Terranova lamented that more people like Karen weren't into Limited Brands. "Investing with your heart and not your head is not a good thing," Terranova said.

"It wasn't your head, Joe, it wasn't your head," K-Fine said, flashing a rare extended smile of satisfaction at her own commentary.

K-Fine indirectly tells
Cortes he’s wrong

Steve Cortes tried dumping on retail Wednesday, but it was Karen Finerman actually playing the contrarian this time.

Debbie Weinswig started it, saying first she was stuck in Chicago, then that in retail, "the standouts here should be at the high end."

Cortes bemoaned that he got out of his retail short recently and it was too soon, according to him, verified by Target's lousy day.

"I bought Target today actually," Finerman trumpeted, adding "We bought Children's Place" also.

Weiss: PZN is changing
for the better

Karen Finerman not only was challenging Steve Cortes, but Stephen Weiss.

Weiss rattled off 3 smaller-cap names, including PZN ("very good asset manager"), SMCI ("I think the stock goes over 20") and IPI ("it's bite-size for another fertilizer company").

Finerman said, about that PZN pick ... "I'm hearing a lot about fee pressure."

Like a good salesman, Weiss had an answer for that, saying "Their business model has changed" and is more higher margin than lower-margin institutional assets.

Last time, we swear, we’ll ever write about the aluminum-as-copper replacement trade

In what has quickly become one of the most absurdly overcovered thesises (that sounds better than "theses") in Fast Money history, Brian Kelly spent part of Wednesday's show once again defending how aluminum really is gonna be a substitute for copper at these price levels.

Karen Finerman demanded an example.

Given that Kelly's spent probably a week conjuring up data, it wasn't surprising that he rattled off "any of your pipes you could do it in," or anything without conductivity.

Finerman joked that Melissa Lee is "just a party animal" for actually spending time researching this stuff herself.

Steve Cortes told Kelly and the panel to be bullish on copper all they want, but he pointed to the 1-year chart of gold vs. copper, which had been similar until recently, then declared, "This is the Showcase Showdown when it comes to the commodities trade."

Terranova touts GMCR

Cry not for Joe Terranova, because he did manage one pretty good zinger Wednesday.

Steve Cortes started to claim "I am skeptical of food-"

At which point Terranova broke in, "In your waistline you're not," which seems basically true, to be honest.

Cortes continued, after a laugh, "...because it seems to me that the bullishness is just so ubiquitous."

But Cortes once again admitted he's not attempting to short all the super-strong commodities he also insists are overheated, even though "I am fighting commodities in general though."

Terranova questioned if an ETF is the right trade for grains. He said he likes BG, CF and GMCR.

Baker: SINA is the way
to play Facebook

Simon Baker on Wednesday offered 3 ways you can sorta get the Facebook effect without being rich enough to buy private Facebook shares (oh, joy).

Baker touted SINA, saying its Weibo service already has 50 million users, as well as TIBX and CRM.

Baker was asked who the loser is as Facebook emerges as a monster, and would it be Google. Baker said you can't bet against Google, best just to pick a winner in these things and ride it.

Stephen Weiss said he likes AMSC, and "Verizon is the way to play any phone that comes out."

Steve Cortes made a funny, saying "Whirlpool is a disaster. This chart looks terrible, it's getting a swirly."

Don Bubar of Avalon Rare Metals was given about 35 seconds at the end of the program to promote the longevity of his business. "For every substitute that comes along for rare earths, there'll be new technology requiring the rare earths," Bubar said. Karen Finerman didn't say so on the show, but she did tweet, "Unlikely to jump into the Rare Earths trade, I'll tell you that."

No home-field advantage
for Bob Greifeld

The blitzing isn't supposed to happen until Sunday, but Nasdaq chief Bob Greifeld found himself under a surprisingly heavy rush Wednesday from his Fast Money tenants.

Melissa Lee, in sizzling purple and with glorious hairstyle to boot, even teamed with Brian Kelly off the corner on the subject of standards for those Chinese reverse mergers.

Greifeld told them, "The accounting firms that audit Chinese companies have to be approved by the PCAOB just the same as a U.S. company has to be, uh, so those are identical; there are no differences."

We're not sure how well that answer would pass muster with Herb Greenberg, who wasn't on this episode but in January complained that reverse-merger companies are touting their inclusion in the Nasdaq as a seal of approval when it's just "an automatic upgrade" and later crowed that the PCAOB is in fact questioning the auditing of some of these Chinese reverse mergers.

Greifeld got to deal with the reverse-merger question 2 or 3 times, after Mel Lee asked him about "a mysterious headline" on Dow Jones newswires that the Nasdaq could sell a stake in its options operations. "We are not seeking to sell any stakes in any of our options business," Greifeld said.

Plan: Make money on fertilizer while the world starves

On not the most cheery note, commodities expert John Stephenson says that because of food inflation, he sees "millions being pushed into starvation, particularly in Africa."

As a result, "I think you're gonna see the grain trade continue to trade higher, particularly in corn and soybeans," Stephenson said on Wednesday's Halftime Report.

He said he likes nitrogen-based fertilizers AGU and CF, and also Potash; "playing the fertilizers is the way to go."

Todd Gordon offered a cautious note about POT, saying the volumes haven't really been there. Stephenson agreed but was undeterred. "I think this trades higher, I think it'll be over $200 within the year," he said, which isn't exactly the boldest call of all time given that it closed at $182.91 and is up about $20 in a week. Gordon did say the soft grains look "technically very strong," and that he's watching "6.73 in the corn market."

Luckily, Charlie Sheen is not
the star of ‘SportsCenter’

With no Zachary Karabell to stand in his way for another day, Brian Kelly amplified (as Sen. Geary would say) his point about aluminum as a replacement for copper.

Kelly showed a chart of the relationship between aluminum and copper in dollars per ton, and "when it gets above 3 it becomes more economical."

Kelly said to play this theory, you can buy AA (not exactly a tricky one to figure out) and perhaps short FCX as well.

Melissa Lee served as the lone skeptic, reporting, "I did a little research, metals research," and telling Kelly that aluminum has "62% conductivity of copper" and "It can't be substituted for everything." Kelly conceded that point.

Rich Greenfield, an undeniable superstar media analyst and someone viewers should be paying close attention to for quality stock recommendations, said Wednesday "the ad market's really robust." Greenfield said "Viacom should have fantastic earnings," and "ESPN is having a tremendous ratings move" that should bode well for Disney.

Pete Najarian said the selloff in Broadcom is an opportunity. "I actually think this is a great time to enter," Najarian said.

Bruce Berkowitz:
Lots of things are cheap

Bruce Berkowitz is a such a VIP, he was granted the entire half hour of The Strategy Session on Wednesday.

And Berkowitz is probably someone you don't want to play cards with (for money), because he delivered an impressive poker-faced accounting of why he owns what he owns.

Berkowitz revealed very few secrets of his strategies but instead summarized basically all of his notable holdings with the most generic cliches, too cheap, great underlying business, improving economy, etc.

And he spoke so softly, slowly, and limited, that David Faber even had momentary dead-air concerns.

Berkowitz said he's in AIG for the long haul despite the government overhang because "We're up to about $22 billion in assets, and we have to be long-term investors now" and just can't buy and sell, buy and sell.

He said its most "overlooked asset" is its cash.

Gary Kaminsky waded in with a lengthy description of St. Joe, then asked, "Why is this company a public company?"

"Great question; I don't know," Berkowitz said. "Clearly it's a land trust." He said he thinks that much land in Florida, coupled with an improving economy, is a good thing to own.

He said Sears might be a situation of "heads we win, tails we win" partly because it's highly tied to the housing industry. Remarkably, he said he doesn't look at short interest in the names he holds.

He said of banks, "The focus has been on the liabilities, it's now time to shift to a focus to the assets."

Basically you want to buy on the cheap, Berkowitz said. "You make your money during the most difficult times, you just don't know it at the time," he said.

"We have a new saying now at Fairholme. We hope everyone makes more money than we do. Just as long as our shareholders make a reasonable return."

[Tuesday, February 1, 2011]

Definitely don’t short
the GLD this Sunday

Josh Brown reported on Tuesday's Fast Money "there is a bull market happening in both live cattle and lean hogs," saying the U.S. is exporting beef to China for the first time since 2003.

Brown also said a lot of ranchers are retiring (sounds like the plot of "Giant"), and there's more slaughter than breeding right now, causing a "50-year low in actual cattle head."

So, given all that, "Today I bought COW," Brown said, referring to the ETN, and possibly a subtle tribute to the Green Bay Packers.

Interestingly, the colors of both the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers include "gold," even though it's basically a mustard yellow for both teams.

Egypt: Too big to fail?
Or will Jamie Dimon get it
for $10 a share?

Guy Adami managed to tie MBSes together with Middle Eastern strife on Tuesday's Fast Money, asking, "Is Egypt sort of the Bear Stearns of a few years ago ... frankly, the entire world now is paying more for food."

Our impression isn't that Egyptians have too many underwater mortgages, or bridge tournaments, so maybe there are more apropos analogies.

Karen Finerman, in one of her few public comments Tuesday, said she'd be wary of the Egypt ETF given the light market cap it has.

Emerging markets specialist Ron Shah said "We're not all clear" in the sector, "there's definitely some bottom to go." But he said to get long, "The way you play it is technology," recommending Mindray, Spreadtrum, Embraer and Dr. Reddy's among a few others on the CNBC graphic that we didn't have time to fully absorb.

But if not for Cortes, this would’ve been one dull show

Steve Cortes brought some much-needed pop to the Fast Money panel on Tuesday, thankfully, because Karen Finerman was quieter than a mouse despite wearing that orange scarf that we once got a who's-the-designer query about that was never answered on air ... but, challenged by a couple colleagues to explain his commodities view, Cortes' explanation left us feeling a bit like we'd just run a slant in front of James Harrison.

Rich Ilczyszyn got it going when he said, "I wouldn't short any grains here."

Cortes said, "Around Chicago these days, talking to grain traders, they sound to me a lot like the tech crowd in Silicon Valley sounded in 2000, there is no scenario under which grains can go lower."

Now, we've gotta say, while unlike Cortes we don't know exactly what these people are sounding like or talking about, we certainly agree with his implication that grain is a crowded trade. It has to be, given that Dennis Gartman has been going on Fast Money for months saying it's all going up and going up, etc. (This writer, as of this posting, has no positions long or short in grains or ag.)

Cortes asked Ilczyszyn what would make grains go lower.

"A beautiful bumper crop," Ilczyszyn said.

But then Guy Adami asked Cortes how exactly Cortes would play a contrarian stance against the grains that he's skeptical of.

Cortes responded, "The grains to me, even though I don't believe in them, they are too strong for me to short right now."

Hmmm ...

So on the one hand, this is Silicon Valley 2000, or the peak.

On the other hand, they're "too strong" to short.

That's like warning "The Packers sound a lot like a team that's going to lose the 2011 opener to Minnesota," before adding that they look "too strong" this weekend.

So given that view, shouldn't Cortes have used the brief air time to recommend the trade that he believes is actually working — strength in grains — instead of warning about the one that isn't yet?

Cortes finished answering Adami's question by saying he's no Ivan Drago (he doesn't want to scrap with Apollo Creed ... Ding. Ding. Stallion, too bad we gotta get old), but "I would go for weaker commodities," which he says are crude and gold, and he says he's short both.

Brian Kelly said "What about copper though," if Cortes' theory is that the whole world is slowing down, that would seem to be an ideal short.

"I don't want to sell at the very top tick," Cortes said, saying he's willing to sell crude near the top tick.

So in other words, as of that particular moment in time, making a call, Cortes basically is indicating he thinks, if he had to pick one way or another, grains and copper are more likely to go up ... despite several protestations to the contrary.

"I bought copper," Ilczyszyn said. "This sucker broke out, I'm predicting 4.78 and beyond. I think this market takes off with the stock market."

Brian Kelly makes a good argument against a Steve Cortes position

Steve Cortes pointed out Tuesday that he's skeptical of oil stocks, because they've been performing with crude up and crude down, and he doesn't think that's sustainable given his views on crude.

Josh Brown, on the other hand, lauded the OIH and said "I really think that you wanna be in this market."

Cortes complained that "sentiment is overwhelmingly bullish on oil." So Brian Kelly, with another good question, asked Cortes why he doesn't just short EEM?

Cortes' answer was, "Sequentially, this should be the next domino to fall," and we thought that was Iran (or was it the Packers? ... "Two and a Half Men"?), but perhaps not.

Guy Adami said "I still like VLO here."

Apparently there should be more fear in the market, even if there isn’t

One thing we found kind of curious Tuesday was Steve Cortes' contention not only that 1) people are overwhelmingly bullish on oil and grains, but 2) that the general market was rallying because it was "overshorted" and "overhated."

"I think the short side is actually still too crowded to step in and just be blanket short S&P or blanket short the Nasdaq as an index," Cortes said.

So sectors of the market are overly loved, and sectors are overly hated.

And he's avoiding some short trades because some commodities are too strong ... and avoiding others because too many shorts are already in them.

Isn't this where Larry Kudlow is supposed to offer a Goldilocks analogy?

Cortes asked Jon Najarian an interesting question about the relevance of the VIX, which we wouldn't care that much about except Doug Kass made a similar suggestion a few weeks ago.

Cortes asked Dr. J. if the VIX is "somewhat broken as a fear gauge," because it's stuck at the same level as the Christmas break, while the S&P is up 50 points since.

Najarian wasn't really buying that. "I think the VIX is more or less where it should be quite frankly," he said.

Market goes up,
obviously unhealthy

Keith Wirtz spoke on the Fast Line Tuesday and said he's typically fully invested, but right now is raising up to 10% cash because he thinks it's time for a pause.

"It would be healthy for the market to have a bit of a consolidation," Wirtz said.

"Healthy" ... or in other words, your account is "healthier" when the value of the assets drops.

Got it.

Brian Kelly quantifies a theory from a previous debate with Zachary Karabell

Brian Kelly on Tuesday's Fast Money re-asserted a theme from last week on Alcoa's strength.

When copper gets high, Kelly said, "There is substitution of aluminum, for copper."

Melissa Lee though was apparently ready for this (um, maybe it came up in the green room) and asked Kelly exactly to what extent this happens.

"Roughly about 20% of copper can be replaced with aluminum," Kelly said, but this time there were no skeptical colleagues to question/challenge this thesis.

‘Phenomenal buying opportunity’ in munis: Lebenthal

Alexandra Lebenthal, described by Melissa Lee as a "legendary muni bond investor," said right now looks like a "phenomenal buying opportunity."

Lebenthal recommends MLN and PFMIX.

Analyst Kevin Crissey said that, for better or worse, "fuel matters" for airlines. (He also said "the reality is," proving he watches Fast Money.)

Guy Adami predicts a slump in Broadcom, to "maybe the high 30s, or at least 40 bucks."

But Adami said DE still looks like it's "on its way to a hundred." Josh Brown likes uranium play URA, and Brian Kelly likes eBay.

Remember when MSFT once bid $31 for YHOO? Scott Nations said the "myth of that bid is providing a temporary floor," and he wants to play that with a put-calendar spread in Yahoo.

Currency expert Willie Williams said "I would not" buy the euro but instead would buy the Mexican peso and sell the euro and dollar. Melissa Lee, who looked very good in gray top and navy jacket, gave the camera a sexy look before cutting away to a commercial.

Najarian: Eric Schmidt made
‘mistake after mistake’

Jon Najarian was long on bluntness on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

Najarian compared GOOG with BIDU.

"You can see why Eric Schmidt was pushed out," Najarian said, citing "mistake after mistake over the last couple of years."

Najarian said making a phone was a "horrible decision," and leaving China wasn't so hot either.

"You know I respect your opinions greatly," Melissa Lee said, before suggesting those angles are only a small part of the Google story.

Dr. J said stocks are valued for future potential as much as what they do now. "Google has clearly stubbed its toe pretty badly in the China move; the embarrassment of that phone," he said.

Najarian: Brent holders will be stuck ‘in a world of hurt’

Dr. J wasn't just dumping on GOOG on Tuesday, but Brent.

"Will I be surprised if crude oil and Brent in particular continue higher?" Najarian asked himself. "I will be shocked, because I don't think there's a reason for that, and I think that the Brent contract is going to pull back, and if you're going to be stuck holding that long, you're in a world of hurt."

Najarian pointed to a comment he made Friday about the caliber of the Egyptian heavies in the streets as an indication of the force of this revolt. "The people did not have sophisticated weapons," he said.

Joe Terranova didn't overtly argue, but quietly disagreed. "There are real numbers that suggest you're seeing demand beginning to rise," Terranova said.

Cortes loves PFE

Steve Grasso's absence was felt on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report, but what better pinch-hitter than Steve Cortes.

Cortes pointed out that UPS, "in recent months, it looks almost exactly like Amazon, so it is really an e-commerce play." He said "I am definitely skeptical of transports."

Brian Kelly said he likes the rails better than UPS, because "I'm not sure what the next catalyst is."

Jon Najarian said there's another Ackman-Best Buy rumor floating around. "I jumped in with the calls, bought calls, bought stock, and now I'm basically watching it," Najarian said.

Steve Cortes said Pfizer's Viagra ads apparently get a rise out of viewers. "I love this name, 4.4% dividend yield, I just hope it pulls back so I can get in," he said.

Rachel Ziemba of the Roubini group basically spent a long time saying there's greater eco-unrest risk in Saudi Arabia. David Miller said he's skeptical that Amazon will spend what it takes to get Netflix-caliber exclusive film-rights agreements.

Quickest backpedaling on a teaser in recent memory

In the second half of Tuesday's Strategy Session, David Faber led into a commercial break by saying the upcoming segment would feature a money manager who "explains why she's telling her clients to buy, with both hands."

And as soon as the show returned from commercial, Faber introduced Strategy Session veteran Dagny Maidman with this description: "We said in the tease, we tend to do these things, pardon us, both hands, that's not completely accurate, you do like munis, but perhaps it's a finger or 2 that you are kind of, scooping up with."

Maidman said, "Do not own mutual funds, municipal, mutual, mutual funds, which is, I hate to say it, because it's part of the problem in the muni market in terms of pricing has been redemption from mutual funds."

Role playing with your financial advisor

Gary Kaminsky and Dagny Maidman may not have realized it Tuesday, but they offered discerning viewers an excellent public service on The Strategy Session.

Kaminsky told Maidman to assume he's a potential client. "I am interested in capital preservation and I want income," he said, and asked what would she recommend.

"Well I'm gonna first inquire more about what risk means to you in terms of capital preservation," Maidman said. "So, the issue, there's 2 issues, 1 is, are you concerned about permanent loss of capital, or are you concerned about movements in your account statement from month to month?"

"I can take a little volatility," Kaminsky said, explaining the account doesn't have to remain at par.

"I would still have municipal bonds as part of your portfolio," Maidman said, and added "MLPs ... senior secured loans ... maybe a little high-yield ... dividend-prodcucing equities."

If that isn't a wonderful example of the complication of investing through a money manager, we don't know what is.

We don't knock Maidman's advice. Sounds good, from a technical perspective, as far as we can tell.

The issue is the customer on the other end.

Here's all the customer really cares about: Make this account go up.

Notice that Maidman initially responded to Kaminsky with a question: "Are you concerned about permanent loss of capital, or are you concerned about movements in your account statement from month to month?"

What the heck is the difference?

This is how money management, when it's not basic closet indexing, too often is carried out as a classroom theoretical risk-management model exercise that's out of touch with reality.

Kaminsky expertly answered Maidman's question because he's a trained money manager. In the end, it comes down to whether a person who needs Maidman to craft that kind of formula should be putting his money into something he doesn't fully understand, or whether a person who does understand what she's talking about needs her, or anyone else, to manage his own money.

What the customer should be asking Maidman is, "Can you tell me with certainty you could invest my money and beat a 1-year CD?" And if the answer is no, then there really shouldn't be a decision.

Maidman did make a tiny attempt at a Brag Trade, telling David Faber she's been a successful contrarian who was telling clients last summer to get in the market and right now, "more recently we've been at the margin."

Investor denies hedge funds
typically underperform, lack risk controls

Jeff Greenfield was listed on Tuesday's Strategy Session as managing partner, Armonk Capital Partners, but he sure sounded like spokesman, hedge fund industry.

David Faber asked Greenfield about money flows into hedge funds: "Explain to me why there continues to be money moving into an asset class that has typically underperformed rather than overperformed and shown many cases that in fact they don't have the risk controls that many would have anticipated."

"You know I would say what you're saying is true in some specific examples, but not generally for the hedge fund industry itself," Greenfield said.

Greenfield also said, "investors still are safer with larger, established players."

Strategy Session declines opportunity to further question GM exec

Rarely does one see TV journalists take a pass on an executive interview, but that's kinda what happened on Tuesday's Strategy Session as the host duo was more Harry Wendelstedt than Mariano Rivera.

GM's Don Johnson took some questions from Phil LeBeau, who pointedly asked Johnson about analyst concerns that GM was offering too much in incentives to boost sales. "You guys kind of danced around the question here," LeBeau gently chided Johnson before asking him to directly answer if the concerns are real.

"We spent more than we did in December by about $300 a unit, which is actually quite modest," Johnson said.

LeBeau followed up with more about margins, then asked David Faber if Faber had some questions for Johnson, apparently assuming the interview would continue, and maybe it would've, had Faber simply found Johnson's answers more promising.

"We're OK Phil, thanks very much for that," Faber said.

Faber added, "Phil was getting at it, but he wasn't getting the answer, which is, margins."

"Phil was getting the right question," agreed Gary Kaminsky, that sales is only 1 variable in profitability.

David Faber asked Gary Kaminsky at the top of the show what to make of the market returning to its pre-Egypt high. Kaminsky said it's been "relative underperformance ... that was really the driving factor in January before this."

Back to CNBCfix home

CNBCfix.com home

Fast Money’s
great moments
of 2010

A call on BP looks particularly good

Fast Money review

FM archive: Jan. 2011
FM archive: Dec. 2010
FM archive: Nov. 2010
FM archive: Oct. 2010
FM archive: Sept. 2010
FM archive: Aug. 2010
FM archive: July 2010
FM archive: June 2010
FM archive: May 2010
FM archive: Apr. 2010
FM archive: Mar. 2010
FM archive: Feb. 2010
FM archive: Jan. 2010
FM archive: Dec. 2009
FM archive: Nov. 2009
FM archive: Oct. 2009
FM archive: Sept. 2009
FM archive: Aug. 2009
FM archive: July 2009
FM archive: June 2009
FM archive: May 2009
FM archive: April 2009
FM archive: Mar. 2009
FM Viewers Guide
Fast Money cliches

CNBCfix capsules:
Movie of the week

♦ Bonnie and Clyde
♦ Rain Man
♦ The Paper Chase
♦ The Cooler
♦ Giant & There Will Be Blood
♦ Return of the Jedi
♦ Rocky II
♦ The Last Picture Show & Friday Night Lights
♦ She's Out of My League
♦ Con Air

Why we don’t
review Mad Money

Movie review:
‘Wall Street’

Gordon Gekko:
The Michael Corleone
of Wall Street

CNBC/cable TV
star bios

♦ Jim Cramer
♦ Charles Gasparino
♦ Maria Bartiromo
♦ Lawrence Kudlow
♦ Karen Finerman
♦ Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
♦ Jane Wells
♦ Erin Burnett
♦ David Faber
♦ Guy Adami
♦ Jeff Macke
♦ Pete Najarian
♦ Jon Najarian
♦ Tim Seymour
♦ Zachary Karabell
♦ Becky Quick
♦ Joe Kernen
♦ Nicole Lapin
♦ John Harwood
♦ Steve Liesman
♦ Margaret Brennan
♦ Bertha Coombs
♦ Mary Thompson
♦ Trish Regan
♦ Melissa Francis
♦ Dennis Kneale
♦ Rebecca Jarvis
♦ Darren Rovell
♦ Carl Quintanilla
♦ Diana Olick
♦ Dylan Ratigan
♦ Eric Bolling
♦ Anderson Cooper
♦ Neil Cavuto
♦ Liz Claman
♦ 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