[CNBCfix Fast Money Review Archive, January 2011]
[Monday, January 31, 2011]

David Riedel: ‘Philippines doesn’t have anything on this’

David Riedel, who last week spoke of the "dominance that many of the emerging markets have over the U.S. in education," returned to Fast Money on Monday to talk Egypt, introduced by Melissa Lee as someone with "more than 15 years of emerging market investing experience."

Riedel offered 3 scenarios for Egypt:

1. Queen of "denial," everything quiets down — highly unlikely
2. ElBaradei coalition takes over — lot of uncertainty
3. Reversal to strong police state

Zachary Karabell didn't question those outcomes but cited Ferdinand Marcos in asking Riedel, "Why do these scenarios have to be market movers?"

Riedel basically shrugged that off, speaking of the importance of the Canal and claiming "Philippines doesn't have anything on this." He said it's at least a regional situation, and "I would argue a global one."

And when the protesters start chanting China PMI predictions, we'll know it's truly a global one.

There was talk later about which country might be "next." Karabell said "Look to something like Venezuela" for a good Egypt comparison.

Scaramucci gives Kelly pop quiz on labor costs

We wouldn't have even mentioned Anthony Scaramucci's recommendation of Intel (Zzzzzz), except The Mooch stuck Brian Kelly with a pretty good rebuttal that Kelly managed to handle.

"We like Intel a great deal here," Scaramucci said (yawn), adding "we would be buying this thing on weakness."

Kelly, though, said one of Intel's biggest plants is in Vietnam, and Egypt is proof that "wages are way too low," especially with food costs, and that Intel can't expect to keep paying low wages in Vietnam without unrest.

So Scaramucci asked Kelly, what exactly should that raise be?

Kelly said inflation's around 12%, so the raise would have to be roughly that amount.

Scaramucci indicated that's a small problem given the massive earnings power of Intel, but then he concluded with "the stock is still very, very cheap," and we're starting to get the impression that when people recommend stocks on CNBC with the argument that they're "cheap," they tend to stay "cheap."

Steve Cortes, a welcome addition to Monday's panel who has essentially become the Dave Kingman of Fast Money, did unleash a pretty good zinger by comparing the name of an Intel product with a rollickin' old tavern memory. "This chip today was called Cougar Point, which I think was the name of a bar in the Hamptons Guy Adami brought me to once," Cortes said.

It’s more exciting to wager on the first team to call a timeout

Evidently, talking about stocks and even options isn't enough for Fast Money.

So a couple late moments were devoted to Rebecca Patterson's currency play.

"The trade of the week is going long the Polish Zloty, short the euro," Patterson said, adding the Polish central bank wants the currency to strengthen. "Strong Germany, even stronger Poland."

So we get Polish currency, but no Super Bowl, and no Charlie Sheen.

We're confident that Pete Najarian (picked the Saints last year) will make a call before week's end, maybe even Joe Terranova (who said "Go Colts" last year) will too.

Cortes thinks dividend
plays are smokin’

Steve Cortes revealed Monday that he bought Philip Morris International on Friday, and "I did buy Altria today."

Brian Kelly suggested that Cortes maybe should be concerned about the sustainability of those dividends, but he's not. Cortes also said "I'm long GS and MS."

Dennis Gartman said that as a result of the Egyptian turmoil, "I think Canada's in the driver's seat; I think Australia's in the driver's seat." He also predicted boom times for Somali pirates.

Guy Adami told Gartman the commodities market plunged like nobody's business in 2008, a recent precedent that it can't just keep going up indefinitely and that traders remember what happened. Gartman said maybe there's an element of Mark Twain's observation of the cat and the hot stove.

Brian Kelly said "there's more room to run" in coal. Guy Adami said of BP, "I think the stigma still remains, but the stock is intact." He also said of Roper during a "Three's Company" theme, "I think the stock still goes up."

Steve Cortes said the jump in Pall is fine for shareholders but not so great for the CEO. "If I were to resign from VeraCruz and the stock goes up 13%, I'm not going to take it as a vote of confidence," Cortes said.

Cortes: Bernanke could ‘take credit’ for North Africa upheaval

We don't know enough about the Fed to try to defend it very often (other than observing that the general consensus of the smart people who run the country is that the Fed is doing the right thing), but there are times when we just can't help but conclude the relentless Fed-bashing by CNBC guests is downright loopy.

Steve Cortes on Monday's Fast Money picked up where Doug Kass left off Friday, saying of Egypt, "It's really about food inflation, right, and I think Bernanke could probably take credit now for 1 dictator down in Tunisia, perhaps another one (unintelligible) to go."

But Cortes wasn't done. "Where's the real danger? It's China," he said.

That brought disagreement from Zachary Karabell, who said there is not discontent in China over economic growth like there is in Egypt. "I think the China risk of political instability is pretty low," Karabell said.

Cortes did offer an interesting nugget: "China censored any news about Egypt coming in."

Terranova: This is generally the bottom in oil, so ...

Joe Terranova said on Monday's Fast Money that this is supposed to be the time of year when oil sinks.

"Basically between Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day, you look for oil prices historically to bottom for the year," Terranova said. "So if we're bottoming, 85, $90, that points to significantly higher oil prices throughout 2011."

Terranova also issued a warning shot to the folks in Washington who like to complain about these things, saying "Speculators are gonna get blamed for it, but that's not the case this time around; we did it to ourselves."

Guy Adami said at the moment, "Traders can't allow themselves to lose money on the wrong side of crude oil right now," but that if there's "any quieting in that region, it probably comes off 3 or 4 dollars."

Steve Cortes went further, saying oil is moving too independently of other sectors and "I think these crude rallies are probably begging to be sold."

Karabell indicates stocks
outperform Charlie Sheen

A situation like the turmoil in Egypt is just the kind of topic that is right in Zachary Karabell's wheelhouse, and the Zekemeister held court on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report, practically delivering a sermon to the goofs on Wall Street.

Basically, Karabell said, the strength in stocks Monday is a sign the markets — unlike a certain CBS TV star — have achieved "maybe a little bit of maturity and sobriety" and no longer swoon at "the slightest whiff of anything."

Karabell also downplayed fears about Suez Canal catastrophes.

"It's not a massive supply disruption, it's more like a massive supply nuisance," Karabell said, pointing out there are other ways besides the Suez Canal to move oil around to Asia.

Kate Kelly for some reason spoke about an investing thesis that seems a reach at best, that the Egypt problems could be a plus for Noble because it's got the Leviathan oil field in the Mediterranean; "this could be an important alternative to Israel."

Karabell joked, "I love the fact that you have an oil field named Leviathan off the coast of Israel. It's kind of a mixed metaphor," then basically dismissed the subject, "All this is just kind of macro-gaming."

Grasso: Some in oil space
see BP as trade of 2011

Steve Grasso, who didn't quite seem in his usual comfort zone Monday because instead of reporting from the floor of the NYSE, he was up in the perch, said BP is the oil name to watch.

"Guys in the space are thinking this could be the buying opportunity of the, of 2011," Grasso said, saying the dividend is a matter of when not if.

Grasso said "A lot of guys did panic on Friday."

Brian Kelly scoffed at the notion the market was showing resiliency Monday. "It's not that much of a rebound," Kelly said. "I would expect the market to be up 200 points today."

Grasso joked that he was only in the NYSE perch because he sent Erin Burnett away to Egypt. Melissa Lee said "Better watch it, I'm friends with Erin," and aren't there a lot of males who wish they could say that?

CEO refuses to tell Mel Lee if he’s planning to sell his company

Melissa Lee interviewed Savvis CEO Jim Ousley on Monday's Halftime and started off with her favorite question.

"Gotta ask you the big question here," Lee said. "In 12 months do you see your company being independent?"

"Uh, it's very difficult to say," Ousley said. "There is a lot of consolidation going on, but right now, we're running business just like we did last week."

Zachary Karabell asked a good question, is this type of industry one that really does need consolidation. Ousley answered basically yes, without saying yes. "It is very capital intensive ... so I think you will see consolidation," he said. Karabell said people need to be diversified in the cloud space.

Craig Berger said "I'd rather be exposed to a Broadcom" than an Intel.

Karabell said "I'm really glad I covered my Massey short about 3 weeks ago." He said he prefers DuPont in the chemical space while Pete Najarian spoke again about Eastman.

Analyst: No fear, Suez Canal
is under military control

Gary Kaminsky pointed out on Monday's Strategy Session that quietly, or somewhat quietly, under the Egyptian radar, a certain high-flying automaker was experiencing a wipeout on Friday.

"I really think what happened on Friday was a shock to many, many people in terms of the Ford Motor Company," Kaminsky said.

He said the report was so outside of Street expectations, that some people are wondering if Ford should've been compelled to preannounce under Reg FD (and if you've been following Gary's Strategy Session Twitter account, you would've seen this on Friday).

Back to Egypt, analyst Natasha Boyden said market concerns about Suez Canal issues are "an overreaction." Boyden said "the canal is under military control" and that it's in Egypt's interests, no matter who's running the country, to keep it running.

Gary Kaminsky said Pall is due for some management changes. "Certainly this is not a CEO that's gonna be there until March of 2012. I can assure you of that."

Kate Kelly spoke about "CMBS 2.0" and a return to asset-backed securities. All of which sounds well and great, but this wasn't exactly the most sizzling segment in the history of The Strategy Session (how about a breakdown of Super Bowl offense/defense, special teams, etc.?)

Scott Page, a high-level Wall Street recruiter, visited the set and agreed with Kelly's report and said "The human capital interestingly enough has been on the sidelines for the last 2 or 3 years. We saw a tremendous amount of people leave the market," which should hardly be a surprise. David Faber asked what is this, the folks who ran the economy into the ground with CMBSes getting back into the game. Page said "I think what you're seeing is, people a lot smarter this time around," and haven't we all heard that one before.

Jane Wells, (sigh),
admits watching Pro Bowl

One of this page's 2nd- or 3rd-derivative type of goals is to get people to stop watching the Pro Bowl.

This bastardization of competition and real football exists only because a lot of players, incredibly, think the recognition associated with it is a big deal and actually use it as the prime measure of their performance (or in other words, another way to jack themselves up with a perceived snub when they aren't elected). The worst thing the public can do is give it decent Nielsen ratings, which only ensures it'll be back for another year (but hopefully may die in the next CBA).

So, we were disappointed, but not surprised given that she did it last year, to learn Jane Wells spent part of her Sunday watching the Pro Bowl, with this assessment: "One more reason to watch CNBC's Egypt special: it's hard to tell which is more boring, the Pro Bowl or the SAG Awards."

And really, what did she expect?

[Friday, January 28, 2011]

Doug Kass manages to indirectly
blame Egypt on Bernanke

Doug Kass spoke on Friday's Fast Money about gold and his skepticism that it can continue to rally after the Egypt crisis ends, and as far as this page is concerned, as Apollo Creed would say, "that's OK."

But by the end of his stint, Kass had delivered a roundhouse right to the figurative jaw of the Federal Reserve chairman, saying food inflation was one of the underlying factors in the Egyptian mess, and food inflation is "one of the unintended consequences of Bernank's (sic) quantitative easing policy."

"Ding. Ding," as Apollo also once said.

Kass also outlined several outcomes to the Egyptian situation, including a few longshots such as this howler: "complete overthrow by- and a democratic takeover."

A "democratic takeover."

That's what he said.

Joe Terranova said, "I think Treasurys catch a bid next week, and you get a short squeeze."

John Stephenson said, "You wanna own the nitrogen-based stocks like Agrium and CF."

Tim Seymour said, "Markets are overbought here."

The reality is ...
(and the reality is ...)
(and the reality is ...)

We weren't sure Tim Seymour was ever going to stop talking on Friday's Fast Money (not that his colleagues were clamoring for air time; The Negotiator was about as exciting as Jim Lehrer in a presidential debate, and Dr. J might as well have pulled a 2nd-half Jay Cutler), but the reality is, 3/4th of the panel had their favorite cliche down pat.

"The reality is, that this is not a 1-day event," Seymour said.

"The reality is, commodities had led the S&P in the last couple weeks in my opinion. Today you finally saw the S&P do what we've talked about a couple days ago. You had a major reversal in the S&P, made a new 52-week high, closed on the low, you not only had an outside day, but you had an outside week," Guy Adami said.

"There's reality, and there's perception. The reality is, the Suez Canal is not going to get closed," Joe Terranova said.

"The reality is, if you wanna play Israel, which sold off, uh EIS is the ETF to play that," Tim Seymour said.

"Teva to me is the stock you buy on this weakness, because the reality is this is 22% of this index," Seymour said.

"The reality is if risk is coming off the table, and people are actually in some ways they don't know whether they're playing commodities for a squeeze up in a, a, a world like that with reductions, or actually you think the world might be a little bit peaked here," Seymour said.

Jon Najarian was the only one who had no "reality" to offer. But he did have a good point about the fury of the Egyptian revolt. "Last time I looked, those protesters didn't look like they had Stinger missiles," Najarian said.

Michael Dell actually complains
that HPQ overpaid for 3PAR

Pete Najarian pointed out on Friday's Halftime Report a story that had somehow slipped our attention this week.

"Coming from Davos today was some of the commentary from Michael Dell, actually criticizing Hewlett-Packard for overpaying although he was very close on that $2.3 billion bid," Najarian said.

Actually, we discovered, it wasn't "today," but a couple days ago when Dell complained, "I think HP paid way too much for 3Par."

Najarian at least noted that Dell's own bid was pretty close. Sometimes, CEOs say the dangedest things.

Gartman: Egypt upheaval won’t
fizzle out by Monday

Dennis Gartman said during a Suez Canal-centric Halftime Report Friday that after the Tunisia problems, he predicted a spread of such activity, perhaps in places such as Yemen and stretching to Iran.

"This is either the greatest deliverance of democracy or a, or a drop in the chaos that we have seen," Gartman said.

"I don't think this is gonna fizzle out by Monday at all," he added, then crediting Joe Terranova, said "the beneficiary of all this confusion is going to be Canada."

Steve Grasso debated with Brian Kelly whether trades based on vulnerability of the Suez Canal are realistic.

Grasso also said that a money manager known as "X3" tells him the market's ripe for a pullback.

"If we close below 1,283 this week, that makes 2 losing weeks in a row, and that really lines up for the bears," Grasso said.

But Grasso indicated he's not convinced of a free fall. "If you are a retail investor sitting at home, keep your money in the market," he said.

Jared Levy, making a rare appearance, said the APA selloff should've been worse. "I think Apache's a stock you wanna look at to buy here. It should be getting hit harder than it is," he said.

Egypt: ‘Arab world’s Flash Crash’

Dan Senor, interviewed in Davos, had an interesting take on Friday's Strategy Session about the events in Egypt.

"I think this looks like the Arab world's version of the Flash Crash," Senor said.

Senor went on to say "I think the Saudis have a tighter lid on the country than Mubarak does in Egypt," which may or may not be a good thing.

David Faber also asked AIG Chairman Robert Steve Miller about former Chairman Harvey Golub, who had "critical things to say on another network (Bloomberg with Betty Liu) that shall remain nameless" in calling for a breakup of AIG's SunAmerica life and Chartis property casualty units.

Miller credited Golub for all of his great service, then said no. "This is a scrambled egg that would be very hard to take apart."

Between the hook-up to Davos (which thankfully ends this week), the Bob Pisani NYSE segment and Phil LeBeau's brief interview with Alan Mulally, The Strategy Session experienced something of a choppy transitional Friday. LeBeau tried to poke and prod at Mulally about what went wrong between the company and analysts, and the closest Mulally got to a firm answer was, "It's a learning opportunity again to make sure that we help communicate all the different pieces moving on."

[Thursday, January 27, 2011]

Najarian: Buy AMZN when it’s going up, not when it’s going down

Karen Finerman took the opportunity of AMZN's postmarket selloff to crow a bit.

"At some point valuation does matter," Finerman said.

Tim Seymour couldn't wait to burst into the conversation, agreeing with Finerman that the stock is "ridiculously expensive."

Finerman said that for her to actually buy the shares, the P.E. would have to fall dramatically, "for me it would be something in the 20s."

Joe Terranova said "The momentum clearly has changed for Amazon."

AMZN has long been a logical biforcation, an acknowledged excellent company that doesn't seem capable of meeting the long-term multiple at least as based on similar criteria of other tech giants. Jon Najarian seemed to summarize it best as a stock. "I'd buy it when it's going up ... this is a momentum stock," Najarian said, predicting it "easily tests back down into the 150s."

Tim Seymour said "I don't see where support is." Joe Terranova pointed out that "historically, the Amazon stock itself struggles from the holiday season through the middle of the year."

Scott Wapner, listening to the conference call, said the company was actually blaming the weather for sluggish European growth; "I find that somewhat interesting."

MSFT’s earnings come out early ... and absolutely no one should care

The last thing we want to do is write about Microsoft, which Steve Grasso accurately noted at Halftime Thursday is a stock that you can go away on vacation and not have to look at.

But the earnings came out prematurely before the 5 p.m. show with a twist, and so Herb Greenberg had an angle to discuss with the company that spotted the release, Selerity.

"They were mining the data. They were doing what they were supposed to do," Greenberg said, explaining the fault is on Microsoft.

"This is either the best or the worst thing that's ever happened to Selerity," Melissa Lee, in sharp fuchsia, proclaimed.

"Microsoft at this level is very compelling," said Karen Finerman.

Analyst: NFLX has more to go

Netflix analyst David Miller told Melissa Lee "I'm a big fan of the show," and apparently is such a big fan that he couldn't stop talking about his firm's history of NFLX price upgrades.

He said he's re-upgrading Thursday because of "just the guidance of 14% operating margins."

Tim Seymour said the stock's had a great run, but "this is trouble right now."

Brian Kelly said he's been stopped on a couple recent purchases of gold, but "I would be a buyer of it down at these levels ... I think we go to much higher prices."

Karen Finerman said the news of a first-class buyer such as Verizon acquiring Terremark puts an apparent floor in the stock, but she would still need to know whether the company was auctioned or whether it was a negotiated 1-on-1 deal.

Ron Shah said "I think you see a gradual decline in the yen."

Tim Seymour mentioned his flight to Chicago being canceled by American, which is why he ended up on the panel Thursday.

Bullish analyst: Netflix only
in ‘3rd, maybe 4th inning’

Moments after The Strategy Session had a great interview on shorting with John Del Vecchio, the Fast Money Halftime Report had one of its best analyst chats recently on going long, with Heath Terry.

Specifically, that would be going long Netflix.

"They've underestimated their growth pretty consistently for the last 2, 3 years," Terry said of management. But he said they're in the "3rd, maybe 4th inning in terms of the growth story here."

Unfortunately Melissa Lee asked the dreaded "what sort of keeps you up at night."

Terry said "eventually we're gonna start maxing out the number of people that can, that can subscribe to this," but for now, he said, there are "less than 20% household penetration now for this service" which he said can "easily double over the next few years."

Lee said Terry has a $250 price target on NFLX.

Guy Adami said people short NFLX are "getting their face ripped off today," and that "no shorts are left; new shorts might get in."

Jon Najarian said NFLX options activity wasn't notable. "I think a lot of the folks that trade Netflix Melissa don't really hedge much," he said.

Terranova jacks one
out of the park on Potash

Joe Terranova made a shockingly good call on POT on Tuesday (a day it closed at $162.93) that quite frankly went gangbusters.

Thursday at Halftime, Terranova told Melissa Lee, "I'm staying with my Potash trade," citing weather conditions for agriculture worldwide, and a belief that the commodity "potash will be well above 600 per ton."

Guy Adami was also on board, saying "the Potash trade to me is still not over" and "there's no reason to believe that these, these agriculture trades are done by any stretch of the imagination."

Adami, though, did say that for the broader market, "commodities typically lead equities," and the action in oil, gold and copper is maybe a hint that equities are due for a pullback.

Steve Grasso pointed to round S&P numbers. "It's obviously a huge mental resistance level, 1,300 in the S&P," he said.

Jon Najarian spoke about options buying on Sara Lee's drop. "I'm already out of that trade, no longer short here," he said.

Short fund manager:
‘Big miss coming’ in Juniper

It was kinda short, but sweet.

One of the best Strategy Session interviews in recent weeks was put together Thursday by Herb Greenberg and Gary Kaminsky with ETF manager John Del Vecchio, who runs HDGE, which Greenberg said is an "exclusively short ETF with a portfolio anybody can see."

Kaminsky asked Del Vecchio how he avoids getting caught in something like Thursday's shorting nightmare (that would be Netflix) that would sink the value of the shares.

Del Vecchio said "we tend to focus on lower-short-interest stocks" and not the famously short names such as NFLX. "Basically our process is that we look for companies that are masking a deterioration of their business through aggressive accounting, essentially pulling the wool over investors' eyes," Del Vecchio said.

Where the segment got really interesting is when Del Vecchio said "our highest-conviction short right now is Juniper, and Juniper was up about 6 and a half percent yesterday."

But he said their revenues got a boost from a different recognition method of last year, and "Their true growth rate is somewhere around 18%, which is below management's guidance of 20%."

"There's a big miss here coming," Del Vecchio said, "and the stock could trade back in the low 20s."

Shorting generates a lot of controversy and skepticism (this writer has no short positions of any kind, other than the closet drawers), and it's caveat emptor. Del Vecchio may be wrong or right, but his fund, with its disclosures, sounds like something to pay attention to.

Just what European shorts
need: Netflix

David Faber spoke to a couple media execs in Davos on Thursday's Strategy Session. Thomson Reuters chief Tom Glocer said "over the last month or so there's this sort of seeping optimism in the U.S. ... we are seeing those sales begin to tick up." Michael Fries, president and CEO of Liberty Global, said the European cable market is fragmented unlike the U.S. and thus certain channels such as ESPN can't strong-arm quite as much, but that he would be interested in something like Netflix for Europe because there is no HBO on the continent.

Gary Kaminsky said that if Davos seems cold, consider the Big Apple: "I'm beginning to feel like North Dakota or South Dakota here," he said.

CEO says ‘letting things develop’ was a great lesson to be learned

Under Armour chief Kevin Plank turned up on Thursday's Strategy Session hawking his company's new cotton T-shirts, and in the process managed to dodge basically every question from Gary Kaminsky and Darren Rovell about the company's growth, be it here or worldwide.

"Probably the most timely lesson I've learned is the importance of letting things develop," Plank said, which doesn't sound like the most proactive type of CEO thinking we've heard.

Pressed for international growth details, Plank said, "it doesn't happen overnight."

Plank said UA's motto has always been that cotton is no good for athletic performance attire, but eventually the company came to realize consumers don't totally see it that way, and so of every person's 4 performance T-shirts of which 3 are presently UAs but the 4th being cotton, the company is trying to go 4-for-4.

"This is a game-changing product," Plank said, "a whole new $25 product."

Gary Kaminsky asked Plank if these are going to be sold at places like Wal-Mart. Plank indicated no and mentioned these sellers: Dick's, Sports Authority, Modell's, Finish Line and Foot Locker.

[Wednesday, January 26, 2011]

What in the world is
David Riedel talking about?

Back in the '90s there was plain old irrational exuberance, and in the 2010s, we have irrational China exuberance.

Beijing watcher David Riedel delivered the goods on Wednesday's Fast Money, touting New Oriental Education, a Chinese for-profit education company (there's a red — emphasis on "red" — flag for Herb Greenberg) that Riedel says specializes in English-language training. He likes the name because "they are continuing this dominance that many of the emerging markets have over the U.S. in education."

Melissa Lee only made it worse, saying, "OK, so it's specifically because of education, it's not that they're beating, so, so to speak, an American company."


So let's get this straight: Emerging markets have "dominance" over the U.S. in education.

Zuckerberg and the Google guys regret Harvard and Stanford and wish they could've really straightened themselves out at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

We spent a moment trying to fathom a defense of Riedel's comment, such as the generally misguided notion that big-city schools are terrible simply because some neighborhood schools in troubled areas score remarkably poorly when in fact the top end of those districts is putting up 2,400s on the SAT.

Given the amount of poor and destitute in the developing world, even that potential notion, that they're kicking our butt on the bottom end, is a stretch.

Everyone's got a China opinion. Some of the most thought-provoking are from Zachary Karabell, who happens to be one of the world's leading thinkers on economics and globalization. We don't agree with some of his conclusions. Those are debatable but sound. Riedel's education soundbite is bogus.

Finerman warns against
shorting Netflix

For better or worse, Guy Adami isn't one of those people to get the shorts in a bunch over Netflix's "fundamentals."

Rather, "at the end of the day, price is truth," he says.

On Wednesday's Fast Money he issued a goal for the surging shares: "This stock now has to get above that all-time high we made of 209.24 back on December 1st."

Adami said "the people are looking past gross margins," and "a lot of people were set up on the short side ahead of earnings."

Karen Finerman said no matter what one thinks of valuation, "I just think it's so dangerous to be in a name like this short."

Noted NFLX critic Michael Pachter, who earlier told Fast Money the stock is worth $80, reiterated that bearishness Wednesday afternoon, saying "the lack of annual guidance is a giant smoking gun."

Karen Finerman said "I am a fan of not giving guidance," but she said what matters is how a company explains why it is no longer giving guidance. She said Netflix's handling of that matter should raise some concerns.

Shout-out: Dr. John
(not Najarian this time)

Everyone — absolutely everyone who has ever owned a share of stock — has occasionally felt the pain.

Wednesday's Fast Money offered a couple notable calls, seemingly against the wind, by Michael Pachter (NFLX) and Colin Gillis (AMZN), who are absolutely convinced they're correct and just waiting for everyone else to reach the same conclusion.

For them, and everyone else, there's Dr. John.

Specifically, "Right Place, Wrong Time."

The 1973 New Orleans funk masterpiece from the similarly titled album "In the Right Place" remains the best-known work of the artist born Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack Jr., and you know that to this day, whenever you hear it, you're groovin'.

A rollicking YouTube version billed as pure vinyl can be heard right here.

"I been in the right place ... But it must have been the wrong time." And haven't we all been there?

Andy Busch gives Obama
a cold one

Guy Adami joked on Wednesday's Fast Money that he "was glued to" the president's State of the Union address.

Andy Busch, on the other hand, didn't bother joking.

"It was a very poor speech last night," Busch said, complaining that comprehensive tax reform isn't going to happen.

"You don't think that he has definitely moved to the center?" Karen Finerman challenged Busch.

"I would say the president was dragged to the middle by the voters in the midterm elections," Busch said.

Then Busch made one of those way-too-specific predictions that just seems destined to end up in one of our "worst calls of 2011/2012" entries. "In my view, unless the unemployment rate gets below 8.8%, I mean he's gonna have a tough fight to get, uh, to get back in office," Busch said.

That's typical thinking-in-a-vacuum type of reasoning, as though he's facing a generic challenger of reliable strength.

It might be that the Republican Party produces (for the first time in a long time) an exciting presidential candidate who can thump Obama even at 6.0% unemployment.

Or, they might put Bob Dole out there to battle Obama at 12% jobless.

The guess here is that, given the political alignment at this time which is closer to primary season than most people realize, it's more likely to be the latter than the former for the GOP, but you never know.

As always, it comes down to who's the most interesting candidate on the ballot.

K-Fine tries to tell Beeksies in a nice way that his thesis doesn’t work

Brian Kelly made a rather curious argument Wednesday that when a company has both high margins and high inventories, something has to give ... and he suggests it's likely the inventories.

He singled out 5 companies with potentially having that problem, Microsoft, Timberland, Macy's, MEMC, Green Mountain.

Karen Finerman countered that with a bit of wonky-ness: "I just love it when you turn balance sheet items into income statements," Finerman said. "I'm not as pessimistic."

Finerman also objected to the show's characterization of Google as one of the earnings "losers" because the stock went down on the CEO changeover news in spite of the fact the operating results are awesome.

Adami: QCOM to $56.50

Guy Adami was gushing about QCOM on Wednesday, albeit with one of the worst of cliches.

"What a difference a year makes," Adami said. "They've really turned around the ship."

Yeah, that's what a lot of people say about the Chicago Cubs.

"I have a feeling now we're headed up to this 56 and a half level that we last saw in 2008," Adami said.

Brian Kelly also likes the name, as opposed to something like Motorola Mobility, because "they feed into everybody."

Back in Pete’s wheelhouse

One of the most exciting semi-regular features on Fast Money is when Pete Najarian catches fire on any of his favorite sectors, whether it be coal, chemicals, biopharma or semiconductors, but especially coal.

Eventually you'll realize stocks Pete has been touting for a month have practically doubled, and you're like, Why in the HECK didn't I buy that thing a few weeks ago?

After a slight January hiccup, Najarian is still on board with TCK, and he pointed to a longtime favorite of himself and Guy Adami, WLT; "I think Walter's got a long way to work."

Adami was a bit more cautious on that name, saying if WLT doesn't burst through its all-time high in next couple weeks, maybe it's topped out.

Brian Kelly likes FCX; "I bought some today."

Colin Gillis isn't a big fan of Amazon largely because he's not impressed by the revenue growth. "It's just not scaling into operating income growth," he said. And as for niche sectors, "All they have is leadership on the ebook marketplace."

She obviously wasn’t talking
about CNBCfix

Karen Finerman revealed on Wednesday's Fast Money that she did some Fast Money Twittering for the first time.

"You know we probably have some very intelligent viewers out there," Finerman said.

"Oh absolutely," Mel Lee quickly interjected, successfully preventing an idle joke at that moment that could've rubbed viewership the wrong way.

Finerman said, "I like Bank America (sic), I bought some more ... I think they can earn their way out of this."

We checked the tweets, and as would be expected, K-Fine was profesionally cute, signing her name at the end of all her tweets such as "Obama said all the right things last night for business; I believe he knows he needs to move to the center - Karen".

Grasso: Buy a break through 1,300

Steve Grasso indicated on Wednesday's Halftime Report that there wasn't a whole lot of action in the market, but there's potentially enough to take it to 1,350.

"If we break through 1,300 you gotta buy it, I don't care where you are in the market," Grasso said, though he said he's looking at the S&P in 50-point increments and said a stumble to 1,250 is still possible.

"We've seen nothing but buying dips still and I think it's a political little pop here, but I didn't hear anything different other than a good rhetoric; I don't see any action at this point," Grasso said.

The show was half-preempted by Maria Bartiromo's Davos interview with Jean-Claude Trichet. Brian Kelly said traders will interpret Trichet's comments as meaning "the European Stability Fund can now go out and buy the peripheral government bonds, and that is the solution to the European debt problems."

Steve Cortes insisted "politicians have caused a lot of pain to European skeptics in this new year," and specifically he pointed to Spain's (apparently perpetual) 20% unemployment. "If you raise the rates on a country that is in that kind of predicament, I think it will be the end of the euro entirely."

"I don't see that," said Brian Kelly.

Kinahan: Put buyer in QCOM

JJ Kinahan said Wednesday on the Fast Money Halftime Report that IWM options are finding some bears, a "huge put buyer in there, in the March 77-72 put spread."

Kinahan also said someone was dabbling in QCOM bearishness, "sold 49s, bought 45 puts in March."

Dennis Gartman briefly was asked to comment on possible repatriation of corporate cash as a result of Barack Obama's (Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz) speech, which was basically a colossal waste of time for a lot of important people in government and media Tuesday. "As overtly left of center as this president is," Gartman said, "I don't see that happening."

Anthony Scaramucci delivered a Hedge Fund Trade of the Week (from where else, Davos) and this week it's Seagate.

But either Scaramucci was cold, or the whole remote hookup was a little discombobulated as he only offered a choppy rationale based on cash, P.E. ratio and the fact Whitney Tilson owns it.

Scaramucci also made a joke about the Fast Money gang touting him for an Oscar. Melissa Lee claimed she should've gotten an Oscar nomination, because "I think I'm very good at playing myself."

Brian Kelly wasn't high on Seagate, saying "I can't get there yet," but Steve Grasso said there are buyers.

Richard Trumka manages to indicate Reagan was ahead of his time

AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka seems like a fine chap, so we hesitate to launch a zinger or 2 about his Davos interview with David Faber on Wednesday's Strategy Session.

But get a load of the decade Trumka picked to describe the Reagan era.

"When Ronald Reagan back in the '70s put this country on a low-wage, high-consumption strategy, they had to start attacking unions," Trumka said. "So for 30 years they've been attacking unions."

We'll give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he just failed to correct himself because it's cold out there.

(However, we do wonder who he means by "they've," given that Democrats have been presidents for 10 of those 30 years.)

Most of the people in Davos don’t have strong union credentials

David Faber, in perhaps his best interview since launching The Strategy Session, asked Richard Trumka several relevant questions, without badgering, about the strength and perception of today's American labor movement.

Trumka said unionization is necessary because "it's the only way that we're gonna solve this."

Faber asked, "By this, what do you mean?"

"Joblessness, because you have to create demand," Trumka said, explaining that wages have to grow in a consumption-based society.

Faber said union negativity has "permeated the public perception, that unions are part of the problem."

"You're asking the wrong question," Trumka said. "The question isn't why public workers have a pension. The question is why everybody else doesn't have a pension."

That's a fair point, though it's also fair to say everybody does have a pension, called Social Security.

Trumka actually claimed the nation could solve some of its problems "if people in Washington stop playing silly politics."

The sense here is that issues of labor perception tend to take care of themselves, that when people think they're getting screwed, they turn to unions, and when they're satisfied, they don't. Wal-Mart is Exhibit A, doing just enough of whatever it takes to prevent enough employees from unionizing.

HCA: Bankers’ best friend

Sandwiched in between some Davos interviews, Herb Greenberg warned about the social media threat to Monster Worldwide and actually praised analysts for getting it. "They see this encroaching trend occurring," Greenberg said.

Kate Kelly spoke about HCA, which apparently plans a late February road show (who knows, maybe those long-awaited Toys R Us IPO plans will start heating up), and told Gary Kaminsky that Nielsen is helping the market, "there's a lot of enthusiasm about new issues now."

David Faber from Davos predicted HCA's future, "I will bet you that in the next decade to 15 years, it'll go private again."

[Tuesday, January 25, 2011]

10-year chart still
looks pretty good

Melissa Lee interviewed gold bug James West on Tuesday's Fast Money, and you really had to wonder why.

Lee's panelists basically spent their Q&A time expressing various forms of skepticism that an interview with West is even warranted.

Guy Adami grumbled that someone who writes "The Midas Touch" newsletter is always going to be bullish.

"It's called the Midas Letter by the way, and uh, I buy on the dips," West said.

But nothing West said, nor anything Peter Schiff ever says really, effectively countered Adami's point. West said "absolutely" he's buying gold because it's on a "firm and incredible march towards $2,000" and is in "just a healthy bull market."

A couple people tried to get West to explain when he'd be bearish on gold. West said perhaps if the government acknowledged it's got too much long-term debt, "that would mean integrity returning to the U.S. dollar, but we see no sign of that happening in the short term or the long term."

Lee asked West if there's ever been a time when he hasn't been bullish on gold. West bragged that in 1997 he launched a great tech company and people would've found it nuts then for him to be bullish on gold.

Tim Seymour offered to take West's side and said the old central-bank refrain, and also said "the reality is" twice before recommending buyers wait for the pullback to the 200-day and then buy.

Josh Brown attempts to take down JNPR singlehandedly

Josh Brown, who doesn't mind nudging the envelope of edgy afternoon TV commentary, indicated on Tuesday's Fast Money that some Silicon Valley earnings stories aren't much different than a chick flick.

"There's no such thing as a tech value stock," Brown told his Fast Money colleagues. "Some of these things look like they belong in a Lifetime movie, the beatings have been horrendous."

(That one didn't make the official CNBC.com Fast Money Rapid Recap page, last we checked.)

Brown found himself disagreeing with basically the entire panel on Juniper, which he doesn't like.

"I think this pullback might be an opportunity here," said Guy Adami.

Joe Terranova practically gushed, saying JNPR's "short interest is at its lowest level in over 5 years ... Juniper is not FFIV. It's not Salesforce.com ... best in breed vendor."

Cisco Systems, and the
1973 Miami Dolphins

Around here we can't get enough football, and we know that Fast Money traders and watchers can't either (except for the Pro Bowl. Please. Don't. Watch. It. Patty Edwards and Jane Wells revealed on Twitter last year they watched it. Hopefully that trend will not continue), so Fast Money's discussions of gold, and Juniper, on Tuesday served as an excellent lead-in to a point we've been planning to make for a little while.

Football fans older than, say, 45 will undoubtedly recall the machine that Don Shula put together in 1972 and 1973.

Unbeknownst to most people, the undefeated 72 team was not quite as good as the 12-2 team of 1973.

The 72 squad was good and ultimately outplayed everyone.

The 73 team blew out absolutely every quality opponent they played. (True, they lost to Oakland in Week 2, but the AFC Championship Game was really not close.) Super Bowl VIII, against the luckless Minnesota Vikings, was such utter domination as to rank as likely the 2nd-most-boring Super Bowl ever (No. 1 would have to be Super Bowl 12, where Dallas and Denver played offense the way YHOO plays stock appreciation).

So, what's the point in all of this ... well, here's the point.

The 1973 Miami Dolphins were, to that point in time, the greatest football team ever assembled. Yes, likely better than the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s. Almost everyone in their prime. 3 straight Super Bowls, the latter 2 victories, the playoff "contests" getting progressively easier to the point of non-competitive.

After the drubbing of the Vikings, Don Shula graciously accepted the Lombardi Trophy.

And then proceeded to not win a single playoff game for 9 years.

Sadly, there are many such stories about the stock market. One of them would be Juniper's heavy, CSCO, whose 5-year run in the late '90s probably made all its holders rich for life ... and anyone who bought during the 2000 peak broke for a decade.

Point being, sometimes peaks happen when least expected.

Either the Packers or Steelers might win titles for several years ... or Sunday might've been their last playoff win for a long time.

Someday AAPL will no longer be a darling, FCX will stop doubling every 18 months and gold will even stumble to the point Peter Schiff is too embarrassed to appear on TV and discuss it. It's one of life's hard realities — if you're not getting better, you're getting worse.

Most uninteresting, irrelevant speech heard in a long, long time

Andrew Parmentier was asked on Tuesday's Fast Money to speculate on Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

"I think that the water-cooler talk tomorrow is gonna be a lot different than it was this time last year," Parmentier said.

That's assuming there's any kind of water-cooler talk in the first place. (This item was posted after the State of the Union speech was delivered.)

Directions like that, might as well flip a coin

One stock that's been in Fast Money MIA land recently is high-flying Netflix, but that changed slightly when Melissa Lee conducted a 360-degrees round-robin (or whatever it's called) on the stock.

First Michael Pachtner voiced his skepticism, saying "it's a $180 stock that should be an $80 stock."

Then Robin Mesch gushed, "Netflix is my top pick for the quarter and perhaps for the year."

Joe Terranova simply warned everyone to stay away, on either side.

Terranova buys POT

Joe Terranova said Tuesday now's the time for some ag power. "I stepped in today, I bought Potash, I believe that's the right trade," Terranova said.

Brian Kelly predicted a "biforcated" commodities trade between the food commodities and industrial commodities.

Jon Najarian pointed to Halliburton as a leading company that produces energy; "I like that trade in 2011."

Tim Seymour questioned jumping into the Nielsen IPO. "The metrics for measuring media are changing by the minute ... I wouldn't be buying that," he said.

Joe LaVorgna said a new Fed report is coming out, but "there will be no dissents."

Fast Money sometimes is stuck in a 10-year time warp

Who can fathom why, but Melissa Lee (in sizzling black, something of a surprise treat after Scott Wapner handled the Halftime Report) opened Tuesday's Fast Money with a discussion on Yahoo, don't know why, don't care.

If you’ve ever been watching Mandy-Trish-Melissa and wondered, what the heck was Larry Kudlow just talking about ...

This article suggests male viewers tend not to absorb what they're hearing on television when presented with an attractive female anchor.

Terranova dabbles in FCX

Steve Cortes and Patty Edwards put on something of a pairs trade on Tuesday's Halftime Report.

Cortes revealed, "I did buy some Goldman Sachs today."

Edwards said moments later, "Thank you for taking it off my hands this morning Steve because I sold mine."

Meanwhile, Jon Najarian said that Tellabs' plunge under $6 might actually get people excited, while Joe Terranova said a buyout is your only hope with that stock.

And then there was Joe Terranova saying "I'm picking up some Freeport McMoran in this selloff today. A little bit of a dabble here," while Steve Cortes countered that because of purported emerging markets tightening, "I think you wanna be short precious metals."

Cortes revealed, "As of today, I covered my gold short, it was the first trade I did as a matter of fact in 2011, and if I were smart, I would take that winner and walk away until 2012."

Wapner eats at Chili’s

Guest host Scott Wapner said on Tuesday's Halftime that he likes dining at Chili's, as Brinker apparently knocked one out of the park.

Patty Edwards admitted she was "really really impressed" by the margin production at Chili's and Maggiano's.

Jon Najarian said EGLE is doing so badly it could be a "blowoff" not just in that name but the "whole bunch of these shipping names."

"I think it feels like a blowout in the shippers today," Najarian said.

Najarian said Diana Olick's report seemed to confirm the housing market remains in free fall and it seems like she could be right that "we've got more to fall, more distance to go to the downside in housing."

Steve Cortes said, shockingly, "Google's a much better play than Yahoo." Jon Najarian was the only panelist to give a boost to YHOO (which is absolutely the only reason we're even mentioning this stock), saying he thinks it has "limited downside."

Patty Edwards at one point said "Taking profits is never a bad thing to do." A while back, Edwards balked a bit at Scott Wapner's line of questioning during a Fast Money Final Call, but the 2 were clicking on Tuesday, Wapner introducing Patty as "the only P.E. that matters on this show."

Hedge funder makes trades
based on Twitter sentiment

Kate Kelly, subbing for David Faber on Tuesday's Strategy Session, introduced hedge fund guy Paul Hawtin to discuss a "somewhat unusual investment strategy."

That strategy is called "The Twitter hedge fund."

Hawtin said it's based on research by Indiana U. prof Johan Bollen. "He analyzed a mass tweets, uh, from 170 million Twitter users and correlated sentiment between that and the Dow Jones industrial average index and found that there was a very, very high correlation," Hawtin said. "And not just a correlation, but we could actually- there was a lag of 2 or 3 days between a change in sentiment of Twitter users and a change in direction of the Dow Jones industrial average index."

Kelly asked Hawtin how one could actually quantify Twitter messages or keywords into sentiment.

"It's specific mood states that we're looking for," Hawtin said.

Happy birthday, Gary

Gary Kaminsky turned 47 on Tuesday, and to help celebrate, The Strategy Session welcomed Kaminsky's father, Gerald, the patriarch of "Team K" at Neuberger Berman.

Ever the pro, Gary Kaminsky demanded pops produce a couple of stock/bond recommendations on the spot.

Gerald Kaminsky touted one of Gary's longtime favorites, American Tower, a name that's sort of one of those pure play on wireless growth stories, which Gerald Kaminsky called "the least risky way to play mobile communications."

Gerald Kaminsky also recommended BlackRock, though that was a bit more speculative.

Kate Kelly asked Gerald about the muni situation, as Charles Gasparino on another network continues to verbally arm-wrestle Meredith Whitney over what she's actually predicting. "The single most important thing about the muni market in the last 10 weeks," Gerald Kaminsky said, "is it shows you what's happened in the financial world by the creation of ETFs and open-end mutual funds and what can happen when liquidity and perception changes."

Dan Cummings delivers
anti-get-rich-quick message

Dan Cummings joined The Strategy Session on Tuesday to discuss the long-train-running (a little Doobie Brothers to lighten the load) story of all those potential IPOs in the pipeline including Toys R Us, HCA, etc.

Cummings said "the risk trade is back in the market," but despite the fact Kate Kelly offered one of the most dreadful pop culture cliches ("It's like 1999 again"), Cummings said it's not exactly like the late '90s, in fact now the companies in the IPO pipeline are ones with "observable histories."

He said "investors don't have allergies to high-P.E.-multiple stocks or high-multiple stocks."

Cummings closed with "1 of the things that we don't wanna see frankly is 5 years of price appreciation in 1 day." He added, "If both sides are a little unhappy, you've probably got a good deal."

[Monday, January 24, 2011]

Tiger was once a spokesman
for AmEx

Tim Seymour charged ahead during the credit-card discussion on Monday's Fast Money, and managed to nearly end up taking both sides of the trade by the time he was done.

Seymour questioned the impact of Durbin-style regulatory retraints on card issuers. "What's the likelihood of this actually going through," Seymour questioned, an effect of the "vestige of a time when the pitchforks were out."

But then Seymour gave V and MA about as much respect as Vegas is giving the Steelers, saying "these were some of the biggest, baddest, most crowded trades ... I would rather stay in AmEx."

Stephen Weiss though wasn't excited about AXP, saying regulatory issues indeed are going to "keep a lid on the stock in my opinion."

At the end of the show, Weiss pronounced the AXP earnings call "very unexciting."

Guy Adami also wasn't impressed by AXP's chart. "This is way too volatile a stock right now in my opinion," Adami said.

Joe Terranova thinks the storm clouds have passed for V and MA. "They appear to have already taken the medicine," Terranova said.

Seymour: Russia is ‘one of the more complicated political stories’

AIG chief Robert Benmosche was granted the glorious opportunity to speak with Mary Thompson, prettiest hair on cable television, and spoke about his own health in stark reality terms.

"I could be run over by a truck tomorrow. I hope not," Benmosche said.

Day to day. Aren't we all.

Tim Seymour, meanwhile, finally (and we do mean finally) felt compelled to comment on the political scene of his chief foreign country of expertise, Russia.

"This is one of the more complicated political stories in the world," Seymour said.

Seriously? Doesn't really seem too complicated. A bunch of business-political (there's gotta be a sexier term for that) musclemen are running the country like it's the KGB and occasionally sustaining a little bit of trouble from the Chechnya folks.

"It's essentially a commodity play," Brian Kelly offered, but Seymour said, "in the short run, Russia is diversifying."

Dr. J: VMW set to test November lows

Melissa Lee had schoolgirl-like joy Monday in pointing out the name of AAPL analyst Will Power, who Lee says has a $450 price target.

Jon Najarian wasn't too impressed by VMWare. "The stock is pretty much doing an FFIV on us right now," Najarian said, adding "it looks like the stock could easily test some of those November lows."

Attractive Amelia Bourdeau delivered the currency trade of the week. "We like to be long the U.S. dollar and short the Swiss franc," Bourdeau said, calling it something of a contrarian play. But Bourdeau waffled a bit on whether the new Fed OMC members will get more hawkish than the old panel. "If they do, that could support the dollar," Bourdeau said.

Some of history’s greatest TV commercials: Alcoa’s Fantastic Finishes at the 2-minute warning

The Fast Money Halftime Report on Monday came its closest to fireworks when Brian Kelly suggested an aluminum trade, which Zachary Karabell on the contrary suggested might be a bit premature.

"Copper has to be much more expensive than it currently is for aluminum to be a good replacement," Karabell said, so "I think you gotta be careful about that trade Brian."

"It's the widest spread it's been in 40 years, so I don't know how much more expensive copper needs to be," Kelly said.

"It actually just needs to be more expensive," Karabell said, explaining he's not a scientist but could try to play one on TV, "more than it currently is."

"I care more about the spread, but we can talk about that later," Kelly said.

Perhaps Best Buy in Pittsburgh and Green Bay will see accelerated TV sales

Steve Grasso on Monday's Halftime said "I think we're gonna correct a little bit here."

But hardly anyone else seemed to believe him.

Pete Najarian proclaimed the market as "defying everything to the upside."

"I think the market definitely has room to keep going up here," said Zach Karabell.

Brian Kelly — and who knows why we're posting anything about this stock — said of INTC, "Why aren't they buying growth ... I would be concerned about Intel here."

Steve Grasso said of MCD, "technically, it's still a buy." But Pete Najarian said "YUM might have a little more upside than McDonald's."

Najarian also said it "might be a great opportunity" if there's a selloff in CSX. Zachary Karabell said Cree might be slumping, but there's a school of thought that "Corning is gonna be just fine, selling the glass."

Expert: Master limited partnerships still have Super Bowl talent

We were hoping The Strategy Session might spend a few moments Monday breaking down the Super Bowl, but Gary Kaminsky's overnight turnaround from Pittsburgh for the noon program was marvel enough.

Master limited partnership expert Steve Maresca told viewers MLPs are poised for continued success, partly because they benefit from business structure policy, also because "the growth component here acts as an inflation hedge."

Maresca recommends Williams Partners (WPZ), "it's our best large-cap idea," and Western Gas, WES.

Following up on Marvin Schwartz's comments Friday, Petroleum watcher Fadel Gheit (John Kilduff is never on the shows we watch) said Anadarko "absolutely" could be taken over, though Gary Kaminsky noted there's still the legal overhang with the BP spill.

Kaminsky said the Sara Lee offers are another sign private equity has money it must put to work, and he and David Faber agreed the junk bonds issued from such a transaction would be "very well-received."

"They have been deconglomerating," Faber said.

Mark Sanchez, Phil Simms,
Brian Urlacher, and effort

There are things that don't show up in the box scores ... and then there are things that really don't show up in the box scores.

With the New York Jets trailing 24-0 in the 2nd quarter on Sunday, Phil Simms made a point that most people probably thought sounded like an announcer aiming to prevent people from turning off the game and trying to find Charlie Sheen reruns on cable (or at least wait until "Hawaii Five-O" and Grace Park's phenomenal swimsuit body made their postgame appearance).

Simms said, if the Jets just try and work it down the field, maybe they can get a score before halftime, and then with the second-half kickoff, maybe get another score and claw back into the game.

Even Jim Nantz sounded like he was hardly buying it.

Earlier in Chicago, the Green Bay Packers were all set to knock out the QB-challenged Bears — all they needed was a simple field goal inside the 10 — when Brian Urlacher stepped in front of a pass and suddenly turned a 14-0 gimme into a question mark.

The odds were very low for both teams at the time. Where many would pack it in, those guys didn't, and Simms recognized the potential. The Steelers, in fact, probably thought Sanchez would wilt if he fell behind and took a few hits. The Packers probably figured with Cutler out, the game was on ice.

Longtime NFL watchers know — losing is one thing; competing is another. What happened in Pittsburgh Sunday is very reminiscent of the 2004 AFC Championship Game, when a promising young QB closed out a horrible first half down 24-3. He didn't win then either, but he brought his team back into the game against impossible odds. When you compete, success will eventually find you.

[Sunday, January 23, 2011]

This page avoids potential

Much as we're yearning around here — as we declare something like a 24-hour stock-market-free zone while we watch football — to make some more playoff picks, we're certain at least 1 will be wrong, so we're going to take the high road and wish everyone good luck.

There just so happens to be a lot of CNBC people based in New York, and quite a few options and futures traders in Chicago, and meanwhile we've got the yinz in Western Pa. and yes, even some Wisconsin readers, so this page would rather avoid the risk of making a call on Sunday.

Maybe, if it's possible ... a tie in each game?

Whoever you're rooting for, enjoy the game(s), and have a grand Sunday.

[Friday, January 21, 2011]

Kass: Expect gold to fall 26% in 2011

Doug Kass made an argument we found curious on Friday's Fast Money: That if something steadily rises around 17% for 10 years, it's just not likely to keep rising.

At least, that was the first part of the argument. Then came the end-of-QE2 factor and all the lower-inflation-than-expected theory.

Kass said "the reasons have substantially diminished" for owning gold, which maybe sounds great when talking about QE2 ... but then why did gold go up for 7 years before QE2 even existed?

Furthermore, Kass' call is a premium example of the thinking-in-a-vaccum problem. Kass said of gold, "I think it's briefly gonna touch 1,050 an ounce and probably end the year maybe $150 an ounce lower than it is today."

What's significant about that is not so much the gold number, but what that type of movement — if it happens — would mean for the rest of the markets, stocks, oil, Treasurys, real estate, etc.

The type of numbers Kass suggests, $1,050 an ounce, would indicate a gold plunge equivalent to what happened in 2008.

Surely he doesn't think stocks — or oil? — will also replicate their 2008 performance?

And if they won't, why would that disconnect suddenly happen this year as opposed to other years?

Around here we really don't have a clue about gold. We don't know with any degree of certainty why it moves the way it does. But we also suspect that the highly trained minds on Wall Street don't really know either.

One thing we do know: If we were as certain as Kass that gold was dropping 26% this year, our stock portfolios would be headed for the exits quicker than those Atlanta fans at the Falcons-Packers game last week, and we'd likely be taking a dabble in that inverse 2x short oil ETF, whatever the heck it is.

According to the handy chart at CNBC.com, gold ended 2010 at $1,422 an ounce.

No, no, no, no, no

Friday's Fast Money might've packed a little punch had it not chosen to conduct a Street Fight debate on another one of those most useless stocks, Microsoft.

We're basically at the point we can't stand it anymore and don't want to write about MSFT, INTC, YHOO or CSCO ever again.

Don't care.

Colin Gillis claimed it's got great new products, while Stephen Weiss said it's already priced in and better to just own the S&P. Joe Terranova actually called MSFT "underowned" again.

Terranova also revealed that after he warned people against jumping into the cratering FFIV, "I got multiple tweets from people taking the other side of that," but he still thinks he's right.

Terranova also said a lot of people are too skeptical about GE hovering around the April highs. "I think you can view GE as breaking out above 20," Terranova said.


Longtime corporate titan GE.

"Breaking out" above a grand total of ... $20 a share.

Here again is the thinking-in-a-vacuum problem. If this actually happens, you might as well be buying C/HON/anything in China for in all likelihood a much bigger pop.

Grasso: 1,260 possible

Steve Grasso warned on Friday's Fast Money that the stock market may not yet have blown off as much steam as it needs to.

"We could certainly see 1,260 in the S&P," he said.

Joe Terranova said "This week kind of reminds me of Tuesday, Nov. 9," which marked some kind of short-term election hangover.

Steve Grasso was not bullish on the Google management change. "As an investor, you see something like this, I don't care what the reasons are behind it, it makes you wanna run for the door," he said.

Tim Seymour essentially agreed, saying "this stock is stuck in neutral."

Seymour did manage at least 1 "the reality is," on the subject of Santander. "I think STD is actually fine," he said.

Grasso: ‘People are just waiting to lighten up’

Steve Grasso, on fire since December, seemed to be seeing a pullback in just about everything on Friday's Halftime Report.

"I think people are just waiting to lighten up in their portfolio, and that's troublesome for the market," Grasso said.

He argued that GE has basically just returned to its April highs, and "You might wanna wait before you push the buy button."

He disagreed somewhat with Patty Edwards on oil services. "I think the OIH has to come in a little further."

And he said that while "I'm still long the stock ... I think you're gonna see a little bit of a pullback" in LPX.

However, Grasso said that while AMD was having a tough day, "I still think it moves higher in the future," and he said it's "still worthwhile to dip your toes in McDonald's."

A rare joke from Pete Najarian

Pete Najarian shocked the world on Friday's Halftime when he made a joke — rather than just laughing at one — by poking fun at "Beeksies'" UPS-looking shirt.

Brian Kelly wasn't highly enthusiastic on GE, citing "diverse businesses that don't really get a pure play."

He also said "I bought DBA this morning."

Patty Edwards wasn't quite as on fire Friday as we might've hoped, but did actually give Steve Cortes credit for flagging AAPL as not being the leader recently (though she didn't bring up the "generals have been shot" part) and said there are other options in tech; "I picked up Oracle earlier this week off of the strength in IBM."

Edwards said she looks at the Schlumberger pullback as a possible buying opportunity, or for those who are undecided, the OIH.

Jason Trennert said "The last trade I made on my own account was Evercore to go long."

Pete Najarian said MCD has tapered off recently, but those who like it might find better explosion elsewhere. "I think if you're looking for beta right now, take a look at Y-U-M," Najarian said.

Marvin Schwartz: New highs in S&P, Dow within 2 years

Marvin Schwartz, a Neuberger Berman legend, made his TV debut Friday on The Strategy Session and sounded like he should've been doing this kind of thing for a long time.

"He's never before granted a television interview," said David Faber in the intro.

Schwartz painted a rosy scenario for stocks and seemed to have the soundbite thing down pat.

"In my opinion, the market is significantly underpriced," he said. "Given a 2-year period, we're gonna be seeing new highs in both the S&P 500 and the Dow."

Gary Kaminsky asked Schwartz about his philosophy of being fully invested all the time, vs. other investors who try to time the market. Schwartz said terrible years don't happen very often, with 2008, 1974 and 2002 being the notable disasters. "With the exception of 2008, I have no regrets about having been fully invested," Schwartz said, though admittedly, that's a little like the Patriots saying "except for last Sunday's game, we had a monster year."

Too-cheap stocks: Like 9-7 teams that lead the league in time of possession

We did have to be a little bit skeptical Friday of Marvin Schwartz's description of HPQ, which he owns and recommends.

"This is a stock that was selling at $54 a share 2 months ago when the surprise announcement of Mark Hurd's departure was made. It then went down to 38," Schwartz.

Um, not exactly.

It hasn't seen $54, according to Yahoo finance, since April 2010. It was actually trading around $46 when Hurd's departure occurred, which wasn't 2 months ago but 5.

But Schwartz was correct about $38.

More dubious though was Schwartz's rationale for owning the shares. "I think with Hewlett-Packard you really have to focus on how inexpensive the stock is," he said, echoing a typical Fast Money theme on not only that name but CSCO, MSFT, INTC, etc., you get the drift.

How about simply making new and better products that everyone's trying to get, or expanding into productive areas like Chinese met coal or cloud computing, instead of buying back shares, declaring dividends and replacing board members.

Schwartz robustly defended Léo (pictures below), saying "All I know is what I read in the newspaper" (and thank goodness people are still reading newspapers).

"He was let go from SAP because he did 2 things that the directors didn't like. One was that he tried to shut a plant in Germany that employed 5,000 people ... and then he tried to put through a price increase of 2 and a half or 3% on a very important product line at SAP."

Other than that, his less-than-2-year tenure apparently was a smashing success.

Prior to Schwartz's appearance, David Faber actually questioned with a straight face why 4 independent HPQ directors would somehow independently choose to depart right now instead of giving shareholders a "say" at the March 23 meeting.

"In a way it's been a massive stealth takeout- takeover of the control of this company by Ray Lane," responded Gary Kaminsky. "Anybody who knows what's going on in Silicon Valley believes he has taken full control of that board."

Schwartz, who didn't seem terribly impressed by the producers' savvy decision to play a refrain from The Commodores' "Nightshift" during a commercial break, touted Travelers. "I'm much more a free-cash-flow person than I am a low price-earnings-multiple person," he said, adding, "Travelers is engaged in the largest share buyback program of any company that I know of."

Schwartz's top 5 holdings are IBM, Occidental, Travelers, Pioneer Natural Resources and Anadarko.

[Thursday, January 20, 2011]

Putting the best face
on the Hewlett-Packard story

A few months ago Steve Grasso made the crack that every time CNBC shows the mug shot of Léo Apotheker (who is regularly referred to by his first name on Fast Money), HPQ stock takes a hit.

As far as we could tell, Melissa Lee refrained from showing Léo's picture on Thursday's Fast Money (though they did show Meg Whitman twice and Patricia Russo once).

We just figured, thanks to a simple Google images search, might as well put it up on this site, and see if the stock sells off Friday.

We think the one that probably stokes the traders in a bad way is top row, second from left. Also bottom row, far left, is another to keep an eye on.

Dan Niles pronounced the HPQ board sweep as "a good change" and said it likely doesn't mean Léo's in any kind of job-security trouble, because when a company commits to a CEO they won't just make a sudden change even if it was a previous board that appointed him.

Nevertheless, Niles said "Léo, really, the pressure's on him now" to get a plan going in the next several months.

Interesting, because based on everything we hear on Fast Money, the plan seems to be to keep the stock as "cheap" as possible so that Karen Finerman keeps owning it.

Analyst Aaron Rakers incredibly said with a straight face, "I think that you've got a very deep board" at HPQ.

Clay Jones finally returns
as Fast Money guest

One company that has no CEO problems whatsoever is Rockwell Collins, what with Clay Jones at the helm.

Jones has long been our favorite Fast Money CEO, although we can't really quantify why; maybe it's just the way he handles Melissa Lee's "Do you plan to make an acquisition or be acquired in the next 12 months?" question so well.

Actually, in truth, it's Guy Adami who regularly pinpoints these things, and Adami's praise for Jones (as well as the Ford and Home Depot guys) seems spot-on. Jones told the gang via the Fast Line Thursday that "everything is looking really good right now ... almost every sector has showed very strong results."

He told Adami that a flattening in the stock might be an overly harsh reaction. "I think people way overplayed the defense cuts," Jones said, saying what the Defense Department has planned "all plays into our wheelhouse."

And for those wondering about the Asian angle (and who isn't), Jones said, "We're all over China."

If it doesn’t work out, Léo might be available in 6 months

Karen Finerman turned up on Thursday's Fast Money in an absolutely divine charcoal dress, but she wasn't in any mood to party about the Google guys.

"I don't love the change," said Finerman. "I, you know, I feel like, uh, we really need a grownup here, and Eric Schmidt was that."

Joe Terranova countered that the change somehow will "bolster" GOOG management.

Finerman demanded to know how.

"What this potentially does is it takes Schmidt, and puts him in a position where it's 'OK, your responsibility is go out there and make the necessary acquisitions that we need to make'," Terranova said.

Terranova described Schmidt's new role as to "fend off any challenges they get from Facebook."

Dan Niles said Larry Page is obviously brilliant, so no issues there, but Niles strongly implied that the Google co-founders may have personal views that could shape company policy for the worse, for example in how it deals with China, in which case a professional manager maybe would be a better option.

Is it condescension when you’re making fun of yourself?

One thing that caught our ear a little bit Thursday is when Karen Finerman referred to a "grownup" at Google, and Brian Kelly referenced one of Eric Schmidt's own tweets saying "There is no more adult supervision needed."

Seriously, can you imagine how far you would've gotten at Microsoft in 1990 if you'd said that in front of Bill Gates?

The Wall Street Journal addresses the history of the "adult supervision" theme and points out Page and Brin using the term or some variation themselves about 9 or 10 years ago when Schmidt joined the ranks. (If you're not a subscriber and don't get the whole article, just Google it.)

If they're OK with it, then whatever. Around here it seems kind of silly for people who aren't as successful as the pair in question (which is practically everyone else on the face of the Earth) to mock them for not being grown up enough. On the other hand, while we're definitely not fans of the big ego, we're also not too high on the other extreme, people in very important positions joking about needing "adult supervision," which makes you wonder if the Wall Street/media skepticism about this move is right on target.

Guy Adami’s gold cliche still yet to come to fruition

Joe Terranova said Thursday "I added to my shorts today" in gold, while Dennis Gartman spoke about gold in the same way a lot of Bears fans are talking about Jay Cutler this week.

"People got into the gold trade very, very late," Gartman said. Right now, "I'm demonstrably less long."

Guy Adami once again tried to get someone on board with the gold-plunging-$100-or-$150-in-a-day thesis and practically succeeded with Gartman when he asked him if Doug Kass' suggestion of a possible $100 fall is possible.

"I think Doug could be very right about it," Gartman said, but then he said he maybe wouldn't necessarily see it down $100, but $50-$75 in a "very short span of time."

Brian Kelly revealed, "I actually bought TBT myself today." It was also noted that Kelly bought Molycorp.

Ritholtz: ‘1 foot out the door’

The way Barry Ritholtz talked about a stock market correction on Thursday's Fast Money, you almost felt like you were listening to Skip Bayless congratulating the New England Patriots on a great season.

Ritholtz said he's got "1 foot out the door so to speak" and "about a 50% cash position," but that a crumbling market probably won't be so bad after all, only a "much more restrained correction, 8, 10, 12%," maybe from right here or maybe later.

Scott Davis talked about a stock we can't fathom why anyone has bought in about, oh, the last 8 years, GE. "If we get some clarity on power-gen turning, I think the stock's off to the races," Davis said.

And if it somehow goes off to the races, probably dozens of other stocks will be even more off to the races (you know, that "pure play" thing).

AAPL: Karen yes, Guy no

Karen Finerman and Guy Adami sparred barely over AAPL on Thursday.

"I actually bought Apple today," Finerman said.

"To me there's still room on the downside," Adami said.

Adami said he's not necessarily bullish on FFIV, but that it's had a huge volume day, and now you can trade it with a reference point, "106.10 is your bogey."

Karen Finerman said good for Dillard's in its REIT thinking, but don't buy other retailers strictly as REIT plays. "For the time being, it's probably a 1-off," Finerman said.

Simon Baker was touted in the show's intro, then basically hardly seen until the end, when he spoke about the big Amazon-LivingSocial deal and suggested a possible "clash of the titans" with Groupon in the near future.

Joe Terranova took a dig at Simon's specs, saying, "Someone call Gary Kaminsky and tell him he left his glasses on Simon's desk."

Najarian: ‘I picked up FFIV a little too expensive’

Jon Najarian admitted on Thursday's Fast Money Halftime Report that he actually bought a stock apparently a bit too high.

"I took shots on a lot of these cloud plays," Najarian said. "Everything from Acme Packet to Rackspace RAX to Riverbed. Unfortunately I think I picked up FFIV a little too cheap, uh, a little too expensive, but I got the rest of these I think near the lows of the day."

Tech analyst Brian Marshall said "I do think there was some froth" in the cloud space, but that he upgraded FFIV because he sees "phenomenal value" below $110.

Najarian said the 85 call spread in Anadarko was hot and going for $2. He also pointed out heavy stock buying in MannKind before the drug announcement.

Steve Grasso, who has basically owned the steel/materials space in December-January, spoke about U.S. Steel and reiterated that January is generally not a good month, but said those names have probably been overdone to the down side, and "I think it's time to take that trade off the table."

Steve Cortes complained again that "China is facing double-digit food inflation" and hoped he'll be able to get back into MS at a level he likes.

The show inexplicably opened with a lot of chatter about Guy Adami's camel tie that viewers otherwise wouldn't have really cared about. "I feel like Reggie Jackson in 'Naked Gun'," said Steve Grasso.

Adami explained that he wore it on behalf of Robert Hand, who works on Erin Burnett's show, "he's a big camel fan ... I am singlehandedly making camels our national animal."

"I'd rather have the camels sit on your chest," Grasso said.

But then again, in October 2008, he was selling at the lows

We can't help but think that what Aubrey McClendon was saying in his Strategy Session interview with Kate Kelly airing Thursday sounded a little like spin.

"If gas prices go to zero in 2011, it's great for consumers, doesn't bother us, it hurts our competitors. So once we get hedged, we, we kind of want lower gas prices," McClendon said.

OK. Whatever.

McClendon singled out "$5.84 in 2011" as his wealth-generating metric.

Gary Kaminsky noted that many might try to play CHK as a stock vehicle on natural gas, but "this is not a natural gas pure play."

Kaminsky also said there's no stigma for CHK in being regarded by some as a hedge fund. "They have a pool of assets. They're hedging those assets. To me, that's a hedge fund," he said.

Kaminsky: Let’s look at those muni defaults in 6 months

UBS media giant Aryeh Bourkoff took part in a fairly interesting Strategy Session discussion Thursday (largely because of an effective chart showing where various companies land inmedia valuation multiples vs. revenue growth rate), but we're not quite sure where to go with what he said.

He did say growth and not cash hoarding is being rewarded, that Google is diversifying and has a decent blueprint in YouTube, that HBO is working on a Netflix competitor, and that Netflix is a rare company that is successfully using broadband.

David Faber at the beginning of the show pointed to the rocky stock market of the last couple days and said "stocks actually don't go up every day."

Gary Kaminsky stressed that the muni world is not exactly in the same shape as, say, the fertilizer guys, but that the gloom overhang of Meredith Whitney's default forecasts is what makes the sector intriguing. He told Faber, "I look forward to sitting here with you 6 months from now, and I wanna see how many defaults we've actually had, and where municipal bonds are."

[Wednesday, January 19, 2011]

Rarely has a company been equally judged not in play as in play

Dennis Gartman wasn't mincing any words in a discussion of Mosaic and the commodities sector on Wednesday's Fast Money.

"One of the worst days I've seen in quite a long period of time," Gartman said. But he thinks that, rather than changing fundaments, simply "it's time for a correction."

Then Gartman revealed that MOS is "the largest position that I have in my ETF in Canada." He said his cost basis is low, and he might plow some more cash back into it, after he further studies the Cargill decision. "Give me a day or 2; if Mosaic doesn't show any more weakness, I think it's a buyout candidate," he said.

Karen Finerman, though, said "I gotta take the other side of that. To me, what they did was not indicative of a buyout. In fact, it was, I see them as not for sale."

To hopefully settle what's really going on with the Cargill move — and we should note that the articles about it offer a confusing mix of conclusions — Melissa Lee brought in analyst Vincent Andrews.

We couldn't make heads nor tails of whether Andrews recommends the shares here or not, other than the text at the bottom of the screen indicated he still suggests an overweight.

He said the reason the Cargill owners didn't shop the shares privately to someone like BHP is their "desire to do it in a tax-free way."

Through it all, Karen Finerman was skeptical. "I think there's too much overhang," Finerman said. "I really don't think that this is for sale."

Finerman instead said she was putting on a "Texas hedge" in the Lundin-Inmet merger (admittedly, we weren't even aware of that deal) and saying she was short FCX against those 2 longs.

Free tip for Brian Schottenheimer, Bruce Arians, Joe Philbin and Mike Martz

3rd and long.

Usually the end of an offensive drive.

People who watched Saturday's football action in Pittsburgh recall the Steelers converting a 3rd and 19 with about 2 minutes left in the game.

What most have probably forgotten is that an illegal contact penalty on Baltimore was declined.

See, here's the deal ... despite the massive amounts of money and training and specialization that go into pro sports, incredibly, there are still pockets of strategy where coaches simply refuse to use the rules to their advantage because it doesn't fit the machismo or personality of the game.

A great example is basketball, at least college basketball, where if you happen to see a classic game from the 1960s or early to mid-'70s, you'll detect a serious reluctance by trailing teams to foul ... even though for a long time, the rules gave the fouled player only 1 free throw shot until a foul ceiling was reached.

In baseball we continue to scratch our heads as big league teams simply refuse to bunt in playoff games with runners on base. Undoubtedly the thinking is that managers don't want to look foolish for "taking the bat out of" certain star hitters' hands.

In fact, actually fielding a pressure bunt is the toughest play for an infielder to make, largely because the bunt itself is incredibly unpredictable, far more unpredictable to deal with than a line drive or ground ball. When you throw in the moving parts — baserunners scampering around to potentially uncovered bags — you easily have to conclude that most big league corner infielders (who are generally in the game for their hitting and not defense), not to mention pitchers, are far more likely to screw things up on a bunt than make a play.

If you don't believe that, check out the tape of Mariano Rivera's 9th inning in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.

Anyway, we're getting slightly off the topic.

When an NFL team is facing 3rd and extraordinarily long — say 15 yards or more, or maybe 10 yards if really backed up in a tough situation — it is totally obvious that the easiest way to get a first down is by defensive penalty.

And the defensive penalty to get is not pass interference, but holding.

So here's the plan: 4 wideouts, send them all on a post pattern. To cover that many wideouts, defenses are using 3rd and maybe 4th cornerbacks. With 4 receivers sprinting downfield, plus maybe a pump fake from the QB, one of those DBs is extremely likely to grab a jersey. And get flagged for it. Or another of our favorites, put a hand on the receiver's face mask.

5 yards, first down offense.

The quarterback in this case has no intention of putting the ball in play or taking a sack, but merely pump fakes and throws it out of bounds and waits for the flag.

Quite frankly, football is a long ways — enormously long ways — from basketball in mastering the art of drawing the foul.

Fast Money is all about risk management. Trying to convert a 3rd and 15 by conventional means, when a sack or interception is very possible, just doesn't make any sense when the defense is often willing to hand it to you.

Seymour: Investors want to go shopping at 1,237

Tim Seymour said Wednesday's price action is enough to get shorts excited, but the fundamentals won't get them to where they want to be.

"People would love to see this get down to the 50 at 1,237," Seymour said, "because their shopping list is as long as their arm. It's not gonna get there."

Guy Adami credited a Joe Terranova comment from the green room that Wednesday "feels a lot like that first week in November."

For his part, Terranova said, during the MOS and FFIV discussions, "there are no 1-day events."

What’s really going on in the Goldman Sachs cafeteria?

Guy Adami and Steve Cortes slightly disagreed on Goldman Sachs Wednesday, though the end conclusions weren't very far off. Adami said "there's some room I think for a pullback in GS," and Cortes said "I would certainly buy 160 if we see that tomorrow."

Cortes said that while he likes MS and GS, "I'm looking to short the banks" in general because of the housing situation.

It might seem that putting Jesse Eisinger (whose name is way too similar to that guy who starred in the Facebook movie) on Fast Money is like mixing oil and water, but in fact his segments have been some of the more interesting of recent months. Eisinger on Wednesday said Goldman Sachs is sort of in that 1980s Minnesota Vikings mode, the sum of the parts greater than the whole, and should consider breaking up into 3 pieces to maximize value.

Eisinger said he actually doesn't expect the firm to do that, but that it could find itself on a "journey of self-improvement" if it continued to trade at book value for a long time.

Guy Adami then took issue with Eisinger's previous analysis that Goldman Sachs basically helps itself by doing some kind of internal arbitrage with the knowledge it has from its own divisions, saying Eisinger believes there can't be a "Chinese wall" between the company divisions and that "in the cafeteria, all these cats talk with one another" and that it really doesn't work that way but is that part of the basis for the breakup theory.

"I'd love to hear the argument for why the Chinese wall is really substantive," Eisinger said.

‘Black Swan’ does not exactly move the theater meter

Carter Worth delivered some kind of 2-part market theory near the end of Wednesday's Fast Money, the first part being even less clear than Vincent Andrews' Mosaic analysis.

What made sense was Worth pointing to the recent divergence between XLE (up) and XLY (down), saying "we think they converge."

Earlier Worth talked about "the ability to break out above 1,220 is very important," saying the midpoint of the October 2007 high and 1,220 is roughly 1,400, which is significant for 2 other reasons.

If you can find a trade in that, great.

Daniel Clifton offered an interesting stock play on the muni market, AGO. "They're actually insuring the municipal bonds. They're pricing in this massive default scenario," he said, and if it doesn't happen, the stock should go higher.

Tim Seymour scoffed at eBay's results. "How much of PayPal has already been priced in," Seymour wondered. "There's no reason to jump in here," he said, but that people should look to the analyst meeting in February (talk about excitement ... might as well mark your calendars for the Pro Bowl too). "I think you sell it tomorrow," he said.

IMAX chief Richard Gelfond visited the set and spoke briefly about the hot Dec. 31 activity in his stock apparently based on some analyst's unfounded buyout conclusion. Gelfond explained as legally reliable as possible that he merely issued a couple press releases that day and stated what he said in those press releases. He told Melissa Lee that 12 months from now, "I'd like to be an independent company." Incredibly, he also pointed to "Mission Impossible: 4" as well as the next "Pirates of the Caribbean" as movies he's excited about this year.

Mary Thompson, prettiest hair on cable television, wore a "humma humma" black sweater while discussing a Spain capital infusion.

Adami: AAPL feels like it could trade down to $310

Guy Adami said Wednesday that trading action in AAPL is suspect. "Here's a stock that made an all-time high today and closed on the lows of the day," said Adami, who suggested the stock could trickle as far down as $310.

"I would like to buy it at 310, if I could," said Karen Finerman. "It may get there ... (but) I don't think it gets there."

Karen Finerman also made a questionable joke about owning can't-get-out-of-its-own-way HPQ. "I'm used to it, it's an abusive relationship, yet I stay, I don't know."

Scaramucci having
‘wonderful trip’ to Baghdad

Anthony Scaramucci told Fast Money Halftime Report viewers Wednesday he's having a "wonderful trip and a great experience" in Iraq.

"I've been working with the task force for business and stability operations," said Scaramucci, explaining he was invited by the Defense Department. "what's going on right now is the country is getting more stable and the economic opportunities are starting to happen."

He said Chinese and Koreans are there for investment, and that "credit default spreads are trading in a band between 300 to 325 basis points for Iraq. That's better than Greece, Ireland, Portugal."

Scaramucci also said by some estimates Iraq actually has maybe 200 billion barrels of oil. "This is a very rich country," he said.

Steve Cortes, who like Jon Najarian figures to get stung a bit by the monstrous Illinois income/corporate tax hikes (which, if they were really so obvious and necessary surely could've been done by the regular incoming Legislature and not a bunch of lame duck people at 1:15 a.m., correct?), found a way to joke about the situation, saying "I think I'd rather have Baghdad's debt than Illinois' at this point." Aside from that, he said, "I do think there's a trade here, and it's Lockheed Martin."

Kelly: Technology just
experiencing a ‘hiccup’

Steve Cortes reiterated Wednesday that the real problem with the stock market is that AAPL just hasn't gone high enough, that the "leadership reins" in technology aren't matching the broader gains.

Joe Terranova seemed fairly on-target when repeating from a day ago "The strategy here is not to chase anything in the technology space." Terranova said people "woke up in a bad mood in the technology space."

Brian Kelly said Wednesday's action was merely a "minor hiccup here today" in technology.

Pete Najarian said the XLK may be down Wednesday, but based on call-buying, "Going forward, through February, people are looking for more upside."

Youssef Squali said he's not so high on EBAY because of the run but likes GOOG and would be buying ahead of the earnings.

Stock shockingly falls to levels of ... 8 days ago

Analyst Mark Gulley said there are several problems with the Cargill-Mosaic decision that aren't necessarily good for MOS shares.

He said the prospect of "M&A I think is really problematic here," that Cargill seems to have "exquisite" timing in terms of unloading around this level of stock price, and that the overhang of all those shares coming out is "real."

Steve Cortes said he's hoping the GS/MS complex will go lower on the Morgan Stanley report tomorrow, allowing him a chance to jump in. "I'm a fan of the sector," he said.

Brian Kelly said he would buy MS but not GS.

Joe Terranova revealed, "Today I did buy some more Goldman Sachs on the lower open."

Greenberg: Demand Media gets 40% of revenue from domain registration

It's always a win-win situation when someone is really feelin' it when it comes to his job.

Herb Greenberg was so eager to do some reporting on Wednesday's Strategy Session, a pack of wild dogs couldn't have kept him away from that not-quite-trapezoidal table.

Greenberg unloaded on the proposed Demand Media IPO, calling it "such a great story" for those interested in dubious stock market happenings; "so rich with the kind of stuff that harkens us back to the days of the great Internet IPOs."

Among the strikes against the company, Greenberg said, are that 1) it's not profitable, 2) get 28% of revenue from Google per-click ads, 3) gets much of its content from free-lancers but expenses that over 5 years, which Herb called a "big red flag," and 4) "40% of its revenue comes from lowly domain registration."

David Faber then backed up the truck a bit — not to buy the shares, but just to ask Greenberg to explain what exactly this company does in the first place.

Greenberg said it's billed as an "innovative and proprietary technology" that runs 500,000 Web sites (not this one).

Greenberg said his son actually tipped him off to the site, telling him about an opportunity to write free-lance articles for $15 (and that happens to pay a lot higher — a lot higher — than this site).

Jeff Gundlach: Junk bonds
‘are pretty overvalued’

Occasionally Fast Money or The Strategy Session will bring on elite guests billed as rarely ever making TV appearances, and after seeing them on television, you understand why.

Jeff Gundlach, described by TSS as the "greatest fixed-income manager of the decade," proved not such a camera underperformer, but in fact a very eloquent pundit who should return again soon.

Even so, we couldn't find a whole lot to hang a headline on, other than Gundlach stressed that munis are preferable to junk bonds thanks to the tax benefit.

He waffled on whether Meredith Whitney's right, saying either possible default problems will blow up, or they won't. But he said if they do, junk bonds will get blaseted also.

Gundlach said "I think the investment-grade category of corporate bonds is OK. I think the below-investment-grade category, the junk bonds, are pretty overvalued." He said people are comparing 7% high-yield to 2% Treasurys in the traditional way, when they should be looking at 4% long-term Treasurys. "I think that's a failed analysis," he said.

Gundlach also said, on the other hand, that he's talked to a lot of billionaires who have all their fixed-income cash in munis. "Now all is a lot," he said, and doesn't offer a lot of wiggle room.

Andrew Kligerman said the scaled-down AIG that now exists isn't so bad. "What's left is actually one of the leading companies in the United States in both property casualty and life insurance," he said.

[Tuesday, January 18, 2011]

Tim Cook: The Don Strock
of the stock market

As the nation's focus continues to be football, the Fast Money gang on Tuesday delved into one of the most uninteresting earnings calls in recent memory, the (yet another) blowout quarter of AAPL.

Basically the move in the stock was so insignificant, and the Steve Jobs situation so unknown, that nobody's really sure what to do at this point.

Melissa Lee, who really stole the show in white-hot combination of pinstriped dress, sexy specs, hair pulled back over shoulder and oversized earrings, hopefully had a hot date, tried 2 or 3 times to ask Ryan Jacob at what level he'd buy some more shares of AAPL. "I think if it gets down to around 10 times earnings, forward earnings, net cash," Jacob said, for those not requiring much clarity. Lee didn't bother asking for a number.

Léo called out

Zachary Karabell made a welcome appearance on the Fast Money Prop Desk Tuesday — an ideal day for him to tout one of his longtime favorites, IBM.

And, in the process, actually zing a name he spoke highly about a couple times in the latter half of 2010, CSCO.

Of IBM, Karabell said, "They have delivered on their promises. This is not like Cisco and other companies where there's a lot of expectation and disappointment."

Karabell said the results show the BRICs have become a major force of IBM's business and not just a "boutiquey" aspect. Furthermore, IBM is "still trading at a hardware company's multiple," Karabell said.

IBM, as several on Fast Money have suggested, indeed has been a big winner since September, although that can be said of many stocks. We've been skeptical of it ever since Guy Adami started regularly reporting what their earnings are going to be in 2015. If we could predict NFL records that far in advance, we'd have something going in Vegas.

Jon Najarian said, despite the fact other panelists were basically agreeing that HPQ and IBM are very similar in results, said HPQ is still suffering from the "Hurd vacuum" in comparison to IBM and "that's still hurting them now."

Surely Marius Kloppers has
another bid up his sleeve

Unbelievably on Tuesday's Fast Money, Brian Kelly suggested a name he thinks could buy Mosaic: "Well, I think the obvious choice is BHP," Kelly said.

Let's not go through that again, shall we?

Zachary Karabell wasn't very impressed with the prospects of gold, saying investors only have a "finite" amount of cash to deploy, and with the stock environment so good, gold won't be the first choice.

Brian Kelly said it doesn't have to be that way. "It's not an either or either," Kelly said.

Today’s football comentary:
What’s bigger in 50 years,
football (American), or
football (rest of world)?

If you're a keen student of globalization, you maybe ain't seen nothin' yet.

Somewhere in between the end of that Bears-Seahawks clash and the Jets-Patriots thrillers, the CNBCfix community entertained a little discussion spurred by someone who jets to England once or twice a year to watch soccer.

The debate: Will the non-U.S. portion of the developed world ... once it becomes more exposed to American football ... consider the Super Bowl a bigger event than the World Cup in 50 years?

The debate went about 50/50 (we think about 6 people were taking part, but maybe it was only 5). The soccer fans say no, that Europeans and South Americans and Middle Easterners have been playing soccer for hundreds of years, and soccer will always be No. 1.

The pro-NFL crowd cited this argument: That the television spectacle of NFL football is greater drama than any other sport, and once people in the developed world start seeing it constantly on TV, they'll start falling for it.

It all gets to the heart of why people care about spectator sports. We had a thesis outlined recently in a screenwriting course about creating drama. An NFL game is usually 3 hours, with slightly heightened tension at the halfway point, with the greatest drama almost always reserved for the end because most games are winnable by either team in the fourth quarter. It's almost like a perfectly scripted play, without any actual scripting. Because either team can score on any snap, and those scores can range from 2 to 7 points (we're counting the PAT as part of the touchdown here), there is an added dramatic element over soccer, baseball, basketball and hockey, which are constrained by one of those 2 factors.

This year's game in England between 2 horrifyingly bad teams, by the way, drew a robust 83,000 and apparently was a solid hit.

So can people expect Roger Goodell in his latter days as commissioner to be handing the Lombardi Trophy to the owner of the London Royals? It doesn't seem out of the question.

Ara Hovnanian:
‘I do think we are near a bottom’

Ara Hovnanian on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report uttered a few sentences that, taken literally, should've brought thousands of investors plunging into homebuilding stocks.

Except for the fact they were uttered sort of as afterthoughts in a conversation that began with Hovnanian clumsily explaining his $100 million in land purchases.

"I do think we are near a bottom," Hovnanian said. "This, uh, is a generational opportunity, uh, we think, long-term in housing."

Melissa Lee questioned the additional costs Hovnanian will absorb with its land purchases. Hovnanian shrugged that off, saying "We're only buying land that works right now."

Najarian: January calls
in AAPL starting to surge

Jon Najarian said on Tuesday's Halftime that options traders had been "aggressively buying puts" in Apple, but by the time of the show, "the calls have now overtaken." And these were "January options," Najarian said; "these aren't longer-term plays."

Joe Terranova said he wouldn't chase the stock into earnings, but would buy if there's a pullback.

Brian Kelly said "I think it is a buying opportunity," because its tablet potential is just developing.

Analyst Shaw Wu said Apple has the "core ingredients in place to continue the success that they've enjoyed."

Patty Edwards said, "So as long as Steve Jobs keeps fogging the mirror, I think you may have a chance at buying it here."

Melissa Lee looked hot in pinstriped dress, glasses and oversized hoop earrings and hopefully is being accompanied to Rao's this evening. Brian Kelly said Lee looks like a professor, while Joe Terranova picked nuclear scientist or librarian.

CNBCfix: Ahead of the news

Way back on Monday, Oct. 18, this page headlined a Fast Money item this way:

Interesting: Not a word
about Steve Jobs’ health

That item referred to the Fast Money coverage that day of Apple's earnings call.

Quite frankly, we haven't been able to figure out why Steve Jobs' remarkably thin appearance in months after his transplant had gone unmentioned for so long.

At a minimum, this person's health has to be considered fragile.

No claims here that our headline would've made anyone any money. The stock then was around $300, and if you held, you're still fine, more than fine actually.

But a rock-star CEO looking that thin for months certainly should've been an ongoing topic of conversation. As always, this site — as well as pretty much the whole business world and everyone else — wishes and hopes for a complete recovery from Jobs.

Kaminsky: Technicals suggest
repeat of January 2010 selloff

Gary Kaminsky on Tuesday's Strategy Session outlined a very interesting stock-market comparison between the end of 2009 through Jan. 18, 2010, and the end of 2010 through Jan. 18, 2011.

Somehow, David Faber didn't initially get it.

"You gotta explain this a little bit more for me because I'm a little lost, I have to admit," Faber said.

Kaminsky said the markets were rolling right through early January 2010, only to run into European headwinds and basically trade choppy for months starting around Jan. 18.

He said the current chart is very "similar to last year" through mid-January, and that regardless of fundamentals, technical traders are going to be inclined to sell off right about now.

"I suspect there's gonna be billions of dollars that look to move to the sidelines or actually short the market based on this technical analysis," Kaminsky said.

Faber by that point had gotten it, but shrugged off the assessment. "A lot of people wanna be owning equities," Faber said.

Kaminsky then brought in a favorite source, Thomas Lee, who also didn't quite agree with that technical call. "We got a very bullish reading from investor sentiment in December 2010," Lee said, and because of that, "I think we're gonna be pretty strong through February." However, Lee did call the notion of a Q1 correction "spot on" and predicted the S&P would climb to 1,333, and then face "something that takes us to 1,250."

Muni buyers think it’s
November-December 2008

Gary Kaminsky said Tuesday there's talk about a serious buying opportunity in muni land, citing people he's been talking to. "They compared it to the November-December time period in 2008. Backing up the trucks, things of that nature, and I bet you a lot of people in muni land are happy that Meredith Whitney is out, you know, talking about bank stocks again and not necessarily munis," Kaminsky said.

Brad Hintz didn't have a whole lot of banking revelations this time. David Faber asked him if Citi's results are a 1-off in the trading sector. "We won't know," said Hintz, who complained that once traders get their bonuses in November they all pack it in for the holidays.

Gary Kaminsky asked Hintz if Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley might look to make an acquisition in asset management, a concept that for some reason brought chuckles. Hintz kind of dismissed that, saying Northern Trust would be the oft-mentioned name, but "I don't anticipate Northern's for sale."

David Faber noted that the QQQQ is 21% Apple, while XLK is 12%, IYW is 14%, IGM is 9% and even the SPY is 2.7%. Gary Kaminsky said 1 thing that could actually give AAPL a boost would be "if they announce even a minimal dividend ... that would be a surprise."

Herb Greenberg cheerily noted a bunch of newly released banking ratings on DangDang and Youku: "Neutral, neutral, neutral, and neutral."

Admittedly, picks on this page were worse than Tuck’s

Yesterday this page tried to clothesline New York Giant Justin Tuck for being a bit off in his AFC playoff picks.

Then we actually looked further down this page at what we posted Thursday, and realized ours were just about as bad. (But he's the pro, not us.)

We did have the Jets and Steelers covering but said the Jets "likely can't" win. We also had Seattle covering, and while they were a whisker from doing so, it was no cigar and basically everyone knows it would've been a weak cover anyway.

But the one that kills is the Falcons. We never saw that stink bomb coming. A loss, certainly not out of the question. A 27-point loss? We're going to look it up 1 of these nights, but we don't think a 13-win team has ever lost a divisional playoff game by that spread.

Justin Tuck’s playoff picks
absolutely stunk

New York Giant great Justin Tuck offered his buy-sell-hold calls on NFL playoff action Friday as David Faber expertly and somewhat out of nowhere ran the ending segment of The Strategy Session the way Brent Musburger used to run "The NFL Today."

It's true that Tuck picked both the Packers (a trendy choice) and Bears (no-brainer) in the NFC.

In the AFC, where most (not all) of the real football has been played for the last several years and where the toughest calls were made this weekend, Tuck was positively the goat.

Tuck couldn't pick the Jets. "I just don't see them beating the Patriots," he said.

While offering token respect to the Steelers defense, he said "I'm going with, uh, the Ravens here," evidently not anticipating that 28-yard second half.

Among those great moments in pop culture, one has to wonder the collective decibel level in Long Island living rooms when Santonio Holmes (fortunately/unfortunately, he is quite capable of taking over a playoff game) hauled in a 4th-quarter touchdown pass.

We'll have much more in advance of the AFC and NFC Championship Games. Before we bury the Patriots, we'll just say the teams they put together in the early part of the last decade were some of the most impressive in league history. Last weekend's games suggest that championship-level offense requires some sort of physicality, that the Pocket Robot© attack (the football equivalent of closet indexing) just doesn't cut it.

Congrats to the Jets, Packers, Bears and the yinz ... looks like the NFL has jacked one out of the park in playoff drama.

[Friday, January 14, 2011]

This is 1 deal Ken Feinberg
won’t be overseeing

BP's deal with Rosneft gave Fast Money something to talk about (besides INTC and JPM) on Friday's show.

"It means that they will look East, not West, for more oil," said Tim Seymour, who not surprisingly did most of the talking on this subject and everything else in the show. "If you have the Russian government on your side, it's been proven, that is the way you do business in Russia, that's how you make money in Russia."

Evidently, the panel that occasionally will talk about how bad Hugo Chavez is doesn't have any problem with that characterization.

Seymour, who hasn't said a word recently about the Khodorkovsky "trial," also said "This insulates BP from problems they may be having in Russia."

Karen Finerman said "I like the situation in general" for BP by doing this, but that she hasn't yet learned enough about the situation to have an informed opinion.

Maybe the Land of Lincoln just needs to make a deal with the Land of Lenin

Jon Najarian, more than just a little perturbed about the mind-numbing corporate tax increase by the lame-duck Illinois government, showed up on the Fast Money set in the guest spot looking rather casual while insisting "this could cause companies to leave states like Illinois."

Karen Finerman actually thought Illinois' government might make an effort to discuss such a hike in advance with leading companies such as McDonald's, Caterpillar, John Deere, OptionMonster. Najarian told Karen Finerman that never happened. "This totally hit us by surprise," Najarian said.

Najarian also made an interesting prediction: That the new Legislature that just took over "is likely to overturn this."

Now’s the time for all the gold skeptics to crow

Karen Finerman, who coincidentally a year ago at this time thought those $15 BAC LEAPs were a steal, revealed Friday "I actually bought some more banks today ... I bought some Citigroup, and I bought some Bank of America."

Finerman said $5 for Citigroup "may be" a floor. (This writer is long C.)

Brian Kelly said if the MUB fell to $85, he'd be a buyer, but K-Fine practically mocked that as being an "extraordinary" move in the shares.

Kelly also said he's interested in gold around $1,300. Finerman said of gold in general, "I don't get it."

Guy Adami touted John Deere, saying it "probably trades up to 101, give or take."

Grasso: S&P to 1,300

Peter Boockvar's high-commodities/lousy-everything-else scenario isn't finding many takers.

On Friday's Halftime Report, Patty Edwards spoke about the early 1980s and how people had to own equities after the inflation spike and said "I don't see how it's different this time."

Boockvar, who seemingly hasn't been right since the Miami Dolphins won a Super Bowl, suggested 1973-74, saying the S&P was down 50% while the CRB index was up 50% and the 10-year rose from 6% to 8%.

Brian Kelly said, "I think there is a bottom in gold here, doesn't look like we've hit it yet though."

Kelly said he'd want even more of a Molycorp pullback before buying, "maybe 42 I'd even start taking a peek at."

Steve Grasso, in contrast to Tim Seymour's recent calls, said "I would still stay in the coal names," because there's always another catalyst.

Grasso spoke about Babcock & Wilcox and said "I'm long the name personally ... I don't think the nuclear business is factored into the current price action, it goes higher."

Grasso, well-known for accurate calls on the S&P range, said he thinks the "market's going to 1,300."

Justin Tuck picks Ravens
to upset the Steelers

Maybe the best and most unexpected Strategy Session segment we've seen (other than MCC getting that pilot's hat) was Friday's visit by Justin Tuck to pick some football winners this weekend.

Regarding the first game Saturday, Tuck said, "I really respect the Ravens defense," and admitted, "I'm going with the Ravens here."

His rationale? Ray Lewis is a "difference-maker," and that he likes the "Patriots running game." (Um, we think he meant the "Ravens" running game, but this wasn't the most authoritative pick we've ever seen.)

Ray hasn't been a "difference-maker" for several years, but whatever.

Tuck also picked the Packers, Bears, and the Patriots. He said sorry to Jets fans. "I just don't see them beating the Patriots."

David Faber asked how the 2007 Giants beat the Patriots. "We got after Tom Brady," he said. We don't disagree with that one.

Mike Farrell: MBS investors
got green light in June

Annaly CEO Mike Farrell joined a Kaminsky-less Strategy Session on Friday for an actual sit-down with David Faber and Scott Rechler (presumably there were height concerns, but who knows?).

Farrell confirmed Goldman Sachs' Jonathan Beinner's recent comments on interest in mortgage-backed securities, saying "the risk stack repriced last June" since the government got out of it.

Rechler asked about that 14% yield and what people are missing to allow a yield that high. Farrell suggesed it's the type of number that comes and goes. "Mortgages, just like any other business, are not predictable cash flows," Farrell said. "We're a total flow-through vehicle."

He added, "We're creating the most amount of return that we've ever created on the least amount of shares- of leverage that we've ever used."

He also said Dodd-Frank has "Volckerized all of the prop desks."

Kate Kelly credited by major news wires for Groupon scoop yesterday

Kate Kelly reported from an "undisclosed location" on Friday's Strategy Session that "Bankers are waiting with bated breath to find out who's gonna win a lead role in this mandate to take AIG public."

She said the government is likely to "come out with a decision as early as Monday or Tuesday of next week."

Kelly said that she's hearing the valuation of Groupon potentially "15 billion, maybe even north of that" if an IPO happens. "I hear that Morgan Stanley may be on the leading edge," Kelly said.

Scott Rechler said there's a "psychology shift" he hears from CEOs, who are "going from playing defense to playing offense."

[Thursday, January 13, 2011]

Tilson: Short book ‘nothing but clobbered for about 4 months’

Gosh, was Whitney Tilson laying it on a bit thick Thursday, or what?

In his 2nd Fast Money segment — after first trumpeting the success of Microsoft without ever mentioning it might be a rising-tide type of thing and that he could've made a boatload more money by putting his MSFT stake in, say, FCX — Tilson spoke about his views on housing, and immediately produced evidence that he must be right.

"3 years ago I recall coming on and uh, everyone thought we were in the 7th inning, and I said no, we're in the 2nd inning; uh, today I would say we probably are getting to be around the 7th inning."

Tilson called housing an "enormously complex mess right now" and revealed "We're short Lennar, we're short a basket of homebuilders ... the reason we're still short the homebuilders is ... we're convinced that there is no need for any new homes in this country for a number of years."

Tilson practically mocked a good question from Guy Adami, whether rising mortgage rates would actually be a plus for housing by spurring people to stop waiting to buy.

"It's an interesting spin; I don't buy it," Tilson said.

Scott Wapner, to his credit, bluntly asked Tilson if, given Lennar's results, he's wrong. That prompted a Brag Trade defense.

"We've made a fortune shorting the homebuilders for 3 years," Tilson said, though actually admitting, "our entire short book has been doing nothing but get clobbered for about 4 months."

Ag expert denies missing the bulk of the rally

As Fast Money tries to elbow its way not just into options, where it's already well ensconced, but currency, it turned Thursday to very attractive Amelia Bourdeau, who told the Fast gang of her euro expectations.

"If there's not an announcement of the comprehensive package at that Eco-Fin meeting on Monday or Tuesday, I think that's the time to short euro, and see it back down to the bottom of that range towards 130 again," Bourdeau said.

JPMorgan ag expert Ann Duignan insists she's not too late to the game with John Deere. "While people may say we've missed the rally, I think we're starting a new cycle here where we're gonna have to have several years of increased production, and we're only at the beginning of the next up cycle," Duignan said.

Pete Najarian boasted, "I got my flip-flops on, I can handle this snow."

The 10-minute Intel-centric opening on Thursday's Fast Money, and later follow-up, was a complete waste of time. Joe Terranova did recommend Cognizant Technology and Synchronoss Technologies, though Tim Seymour seemed to think valuations are stretched among many names.

Greatest NFL team ever:
1992-93 Dallas Cowboys

About the only thing we like watching more than the stock market would be NFL football, and nothing (save for maybe Trish Regan in tiara and full pageant garb) gets us more stoked than a quality football-history discussion on the eve of some playoff picks.

We can't stress enough that the only common denominator among championship teams is having the best players. Period. If they all happen to be on defense or all happen to be on offense, then that's how you win.

But the biggest "tell" in football is playoff offense. Which teams can consistently score against the highest level of competition. Which ones regularly put 20-plus on the board, and not a teenager number or worse.

The best of those playoff offenses have not been, contrary to what many would think, high-flying passing games.

They've been road-graders.

A great running game — and we're talking rare, truly elite rushing attacks with a quality QB at the helm — is simply unstoppable. No amount of defensive scheming can stop it. There haven't been many in NFL history.

That's why the greatest team in NFL history — gasp, sigh, gak — is unfortunately, the 1992-93 Dallas Cowboys.

(Important note: We love the city and people of Dallas. It's only the football team we root against.)

That team quite simply was unbeatable. They ran over everyone. Look at those point totals they put up in playoff games over a 4-year span: 34, 30, 52, 27, 38, 30, 35, 28, 30, 38, 27.

None of those was in a wild-card game. Nearly all of it was compiled against the 49ers, Bills and Packers, which happened to be the 2nd, 3rd and 4th best teams of that era.

Ah, but what about the 1994 49ers, who finally broke the Dallas vise and delivered Steve Young a title? An undeniably great team, but really can thank the law of averages for a very strange NFC Championship Game victory over Dallas in which they were terribly outgained but survived on a 5-1 turnover differential.

Quite frankly, Dallas of 92-95 should've won 4 titles in 4 years.

One team that could stand up to them would be the 96-98 Denver Broncos. The nod here goes to Dallas, though, because Dallas was younger, especially on defense and at QB, where Elway was fading.

How about the Patriots of 2001-04? As Guy Adami says, it's all about the margins. Like Dallas, 3 titles in 4 years. But nowhere near the size or ease of victory in any of their playoff games, save for 1 (a horridly unforgettable evening at Heinz Field in early 2005).

The 2000 Ravens would pose a major challenge for Dallas. Tough call, but the gut feeling here is that at a minimum, the game would be close in the 4th quarter, and Aikman would prove clearly decisive over Dilfer.

What about the older greats, the 1989 49ers, 1985 Bears, 1978 Steelers and 1973 Dolphins? With the latter 2, the problem is size comparisons to 1990s players; it doesn't work. The 1989 49ers were a little old, and not quite as big as 1990s Dallas.

The 1985 Bears would pose a major challenge. The Bears led the league with 1,319 rushing yards allowed, but that's a long ways from Baltimore's 970 in 2000 and actually less than what 1992 Dallas' defense allowed. The 85 Bears overwhelmed teams with pass rush, something that might've been more difficult against an Emmitt Smith run-first offense.

Honestly, those Dallas teams just had too many good players. We're only lucky it didn't last longer than 4 years.

So, what does that mean for this weekend...

Baltimore (+3) vs. Pittsburgh: Joe Flacco quite simply can't score playoff points. His 4-2 postseason record is almost totally turnover-driven; they're either about plus-3 or minus-3 in every game and the points come incidentally. Expect the Steelers not to be so generous at home; Steelers to cover.

Green Bay (+2.5) vs. Atlanta: Hugely uncharted territory here; few playoff games among both QBs. The gut feeling is that this is the type of game the rested 13-3 usually covers, particularly against a onetime 8-6 squad that's never been completely in synch all year; Falcons to cover.

Seattle (+10) vs. Chicago: One thing Matt Hasselbeck does is produce playoff points, albeit many of them in wild-card games. Jay Cutler is a turnover machine waiting for a kickoff to happen; either this week or next week. Seattle to cover.

New York Jets (+9) vs. New England: Mark Sanchez loves 17. If the Jets can put up 20 or more, they've got a chance, but likely can't pull this one out. Patriots' streak of 8 with 30-plus points comes to an end. New York to cover.

Seymour: Coal stocks in ‘bubble’

Tim Seymour said on Thursday's Fast Money that the outlook remains strong in the ag space (this writer is long MOS): "I think fertilizers continue to go higher," he said.

But Pete Najarian asked if the fert stocks could be in nosebleed levels. Seymour said there are differences between nitrogen and potash but said "You wanna look for a bubble, it's in the coal stocks."

Tilson has Microsoft
all figured out — maybe

Whitney Tilson trumpeted his August call of MSFT on Thursday's Fast Money.

(The notion that anyone might not have made money buying a stock in August and holding it through this day is a bit farfetched, but whatever.)

"We think earnings are gonna go gangbusters this year," Tilson, who we learned is a CNBC contributor, said. Microsoft, he said, "far from dying and fading into oblivion, is actually just hitting its stride."

Fair enough. But it's interesting he opened his segment saying "The story is playing out exactly as we anticipated," and then moments later mentioned the Kinect: "That should drive a little bit of extra profit we weren't even counting on."

So it's playing out "exactly as we anticipated," except for the extra profit they didn't anticipate.

Grasso: Market might be
ready for breakout

Scott Wapner, subbing for Melissa Lee, ran a chipper Halftime Report on Thursday that unfortunately was devoid of a lot of stock picks.

Steve Grasso, who as Guy Adami says has basically been highly accurate in his waiting-for-the-range-to-break analysis, said now it looks like "you're not gonna see extended dollar strength," and thus "maybe we could break out of that sideways motion."

Steve Cortes though said "I am short gold ... I'm dollar constructive, I have no positions on right now."

Cortes also complained, without saying the generals have been shot despite AAPL's recent all-time high, that "the stocks that were the momentum leaders of 2010 are not now the momentum leaders. For instance, we're not seeing Amazon and Apple lead the market higher."

Guy Adami said "there's something going on in Micron," and "I still like John Deere."

JJ Kinahan spoke about U.S. Steel and said "We're starting to see some speculation again" in the options. He also touted MOS. (This writer is long MOS.)

Steve Grasso reiterated that "January's not a great month for Alcoa" while modestly accepting congratulations from Wapner about his previous call.

Adam Benjamin spoke about INTC, but it's a stupid stock and we can't fathom why Fast Money wastes so much time talking about it and projecting whether it's going to bounce 25 cents tomorrow or pullback to 19 and change tomorrow that we're no longer going to write about it save for exceptional circumstances; Steve Cortes said "over the years they have been a good acquirer," which is hardly exceptional, but we'll let that go for now.

It’s Goldman Sachs Week

We noted earlier this week that Fast Money managed to snag a rare interview with a Goldman Sachs honcho.

The Strategy Session did the same Thursday with an impressive appearance from GSAM exec Jonathan Beinner, who according to David Faber "implements bond strategy for Goldman Sachs' wealthiest clients."

Beinner said, much to our surprise, he's finding value in the "mortgage-backed securities market, the old subprime market that everybody loves to hate."

He explained: "It's a shrinking market, not a growing market, so that's a very positive technical, they're trading at deep discounts, still ... If you pay 60 and you get 80 and you get coupons while you're waiting, you can get a double-digit return."

Beinner also took up the hot topic of Meredith Whitney's burgeoning municipal defaults.

"We keep hearing about defaults. Where are they?" Beinner asked.

Beinner also said the markets could reach a point of "de-linking" between the problems in Europe and the outlook of the rest of the world.

Natural gas market still
‘structurally oversupplied’

Rob Raymond, one of the best of The Strategy Session stable of guests, said horizontal drilling has really dealt a headwind to nat gas prices.

"I think our fundamental belief here is that we're still in a structurally oversupplied market," said Raymond, who sounded almost disappointed to say that.

"The supply curve has shifted out dramatically while the demand curve really hasn't moved," he said.

David Faber asked if that means oil will continue to rise while nat gas will continue to founder. "That's probably a fair statement," Raymond said.

Gary Kaminsky said, during a discussion of Exco, that "management buyouts bother me ... Have you ever met a CEO, have you ever listened to a company, and management, say their stock wasn't undervalued?"

"Maybe once or twice, but not very often," said David Faber.

Herb Greenberg for some reason pointed out that several years ago when BIDU went public in the U.S., Goldman and Piper "co-did the deal" but eventually issued underperform ratings on the stock. "They couldn't have been more wrong," Greenberg said.

Gary Kaminsky said David Faber "does his shopping at Whole Foods."

[Wednesday, January 12, 2011]

If Dr. J makes the move to Vegas, will Carlo be his right-hand man?

On Wednesday's Fast Money, Jon Najarian unloaded on the State of Illinois Legislature's jaw-dropping tax-hike vote this week that boosts the individual rate from 3% to 5% (that's 66%, in what's basically an otherwise appealing flat-tax format) and the corporate level from 4.8% to 7% — and hinted he's even thinking of relocating OptionMonster.

"It makes me take a much stronger look at uh, Nevada, and uh, a couple of the other states that don't have corporate tax quite frankly Melissa. Because this is a crushing blow for corporate tax," Najarian said. "This is a job-killer. Hopefully (Governor) Pat Quinn will not sign this."

Najarian then said much bigger companies, such as Boeing, will rethink their presence in the Land of Lincoln. "Are you telling me that they're gonna just take it and they're not gonna take that ... $210 million in tax savings and move back to Washington, for instance?"

Great point, not particularly great example. Boeing's decision to relocate its HQ years ago remains a head-scratcher; best guess is that Chairman/CEO at the time Phil Condit merely wanted to live in Chicago.

Najarian apparently tried to bet Patty Edwards some Chicago deep dish vs. salmon on the Bears-Seahawks game, but might've not tweeted Patty's Twitter handle correctly, so she might not be aware of the offer yet.

Dead air is the winner of a potentially provocative debate on conglomerates

Karen Finerman opined Wednesday on the subject of ITT, after Melissa Lee relayed a joke by Mark Haines that actually wasn't funny enough to merit a redux on Fast Money.

"The whole conglomerate model, it just doesn't really make sense anymore," Finerman said, explaining ITT had been "really getting penalized for their defense business ... I don't own it yet, but I definitely applaud this."

Finerman then went on to make a deeper, more fascinating point, that "category killers have taken over" and investors don't want conglomerates because, as ETF growth has shown, they prefer "pure play" vehicles.

Shortly after, Josh Brown offered the only equally fascinating counterpoint: Berkshire.

"I think conglomerates, sometimes they work really well," Brown said, though "the examples are few and far between."

This was potentially a great discussion. Here's what went wrong.

Brown is a relative newcomer to Fast Money, stationed out on the Prop Desk.

He doesn't have a rapport yet with the regular panelists. Thus, his presentation of Berkshire, provocative as it was, came across slightly awkward and was met mostly with silence, until Karen Finerman mildly questioned if Berkshire wasn't more of an investment fund.

We're hardly experts on Buffett like CNBC seems to be, but the perception here is that BRK is something in between a traditional conglomerate and an investment fund. The stock premium is on the CEO's ability to invest his cash flows. But all the divisions as listed by Brown are important. Not as important as, say, the old Tyco units. But if the insurance took a massive beating somehow, BRK would feel the pain.

Just out of curiosity, we did something Steve Cortes does and overlaid some charts, BRK vs. UNP and NSC for rail comparisons, and also BRK vs. a slew of insurance names, and basically found that BRK was similar to PGR, but nowhere like the rail names or the hot insurance plays.

Bottom line? Brown has a good point. Finerman also has a good point. Unfortunately nobody felt comfortable slugging this one out. It just goes to show, quality television requires teamwork, and not the type that can be tossed together on a day's notice (now don't we sound like a producer?).

Incredibly, pressed to name other conglomerates, Guy Adami and Karen Finerman could only come up with Honeywell, and somehow nobody would mention "parent company of this network" GE.

Steve Cortes’ pro-Treasury thesis runs into defiant Brian Kelly headwind

If Karen Finerman and Josh Brown weren't quite clicking on the debate front, know that Steve Cortes and Brian Kelly certainly were on Wednesday's Fast Money.

Cortes argued that Fed developments make bond prices favorable, starting with the changeover in the FOMC; "we're going from 1 dissenter to 2 and a half" and the effect on QE2.

Cortes said Treasurys look "pretty valuable and attractive," and he thinks gold has farther to fall, given its underperformance among commodities.

Kelly demanded to know if Cortes' thesis is that, "if QE2 ends early, that bond prices will go higher and yields will drop? Is that what you're betting on?"

"I'm not saying they will end QE2, I'm saying that there will be, but there will be no movie sequel to QE2," Cortes said.

If nothing else, a day
without ‘Beeksies’

Anthony Scaramucci, acknowledging Wednesday he personally owns Goldman Sachs shares, recommended the stock despite the JPMorgan downgrade.

Scaramucci said the downgrade is based in large part on prop trading. "I do think that this stock is a long-term buy for people that need positions in investment banking," he said.

Guy Adami followed, "I don't think prop trading moves the needle as much as it did let's say maybe 10 years ago."

Brian Kelly said "I'd be a buyer of Qualcomm below 50," and also revealed he's long the TBT.

Joe Terranova needed a Marichal-esque windup to trash AKS during Pops & Drops, calling it one of his "least favorite steel names."

Josh Brown tried to make a joke about AMD that, basically because of his newfound presence on the show and lack of rapport (see above), elicited no laughs from his colleagues: "They announced an interim CEO. I think they should announce an interim business."

Brown said to take a look at MRVL, "it's broken out recently."

John also made the case for SBNY, a regional bank with a high-end clientele. But he didn't offer much of a unique catalyst that would separate it from other banks, other than he thinks it's about to "pull back into a buying range."

Melissa Lee explained she would be on assignment Thursday, and hopefully part of that assignment involves an evening escort to Rao's in that hot, sleek gray ensemble she wore Wednesday. (And hopefully the guest host (what are the chances of Mandy?) doesn't have a nickname for Brian Kelly, or if he/she does, refrains from using it so often.)

Jason Ader is buying KBH

Strategy Session/Fast Money viewers have undoubtedly learned this week that extended versions — basically the "Web Extra" — of Strategy Session interviews are being posted online.

Our first reaction is to cringe at the thought of more material to watch, but it's actually a great idea for the show, albeit one that obviously occupies more time of the hosts and production crews that might be spent on other projects.

On Wednesday's extended session with Jason Ader and Steve Tananbaum, Ader mentioned a name we hadn't heard in a long time: KBH.

That wouldn't be a big deal, except we looked up the chart, and for a homebuilder, it's pretty dang good. Ader said it's the first homebuilder he's bought in a while, and Steve Bollenbach is proven at turnaround stories.

Incredibly, but not so incredibly, David Faber could not let even a Web Extra session go by without his 2 most dreadful questions, 1. "What are you seeing on the ground," and 2. The "what worries you question."

To the latter, Ader said "the complacency," while Tananbaum thought about this too much and said "first is Europe ... second concern is the pace that interest rates go higher."

Brian Kelly makes better defense for bank shorts at 5 p.m. than at Halftime

Wednesday's 5 p.m. Fast Money launched right in with the banks, and it didn't take long at all for Karen Finerman to reveal 1 stock she owns.

"I just happen to be long JPMorgan," Finerman said.

Joe Terranova gushed about the purported $5 floor in C. "Tomorrow should be another strong day," Terranova said. (This writer is long C.)

Brian Kelly said the Wells Fargo note is great ... but haven't prices already said as much? "These stocks have run up," he noted, saying BAC is "up 37% since November" and "JPMorgan up 21%."

"Maybe I'm a bitter short," Kelly said, but "I would use any strength here to lighten up."

Flash: People in Iowa have cable

Dennis Gartman trumpeted the soft commodities on Wednesday's Fast Money.

"What's happened in Australia is that the winter wheat crop has been absolutely destroyed," Gartman said.

He recommend several ETFs for those who don't want to delve into the futures markets. "MOO is good, RJJ is good, RJA is good," Gartman said. "Pick 1, use it, they're going higher."

Gartman also reminded viewers to think about small Midwestern banks that will benefit from an ag boom, specifically the fictional Keokuk Bank & Trust.

Melissa Lee said that whenever Gartman says that, "People from Keokuk actually write in. ... It's amazing the reach of Fast Money."

Brian Kelly said there's a widening gap between Brent and West Texas Intermediate. "The spread between those 2 is the largest it's been since 2006, it's about $6 right now," Kelly said, explaining there's a "big short squeeze going on."

Karen Finerman voiced some skepticism about the Cliffs deal and the seemingly limitless global growth story. "It feels so frothy to me," Finerman said.

More developments from Wednesday's Fast Money to come.

Jon Najarian seems to find Brian Kelly’s bank short ludicrous

Fast Money Halftime Report opened Wednesday with Brian Kelly delivering some mind-numbing trading news.

"I'm not the happiest guy in the world because I was short financials coming into today," Kelly said, but nevertheless, "I'm gonna be looking to short these in the near future."

Jon Najarian was as floored as we were. "I can't imagine given that note that Wells Fargo put out that Brian Kelly would be looking to short any of these names," Najarian said.

"Yeah, but part of my theory on that, is that dividend 1) isn't up to these guys, and number 2) remember that Mass. ruling, I still think that's a big thing hanging over the market, where they may actually have to decrease lending, and they won't hit those goals," Kelly responded.

"Well," said Najarian, "that's where we differ."

Thankfully. The notion that the people who run the country would let a Massachusetts court ruling interfere with whatever catharticness (is that a word?) needs to happen in the housing market doesn't strike this page as very realistic.

Jamie Dimon:
The John Chambers of banks

Jon Najarian said he likes Jamie Dimon's assessment of the banking crisis aftermath; "2/3 of the way through sounds pretty good to me," Najarian said on Wednesday's Halftime.

Patty Edwards said, "You know I've been a holder of Citi, I've been a holder of Goldman Sachs, and I think that I'll continue to hold those. ... I am still not a believer in a lot of those large-cap banks." (This writer is long C.)

Melissa Lee told Steve Cortes that Meredith Whitney would prefer JPM expand in Asia than beef up the dividend. "I think most things Meredith Whitney says make a lot of sense," Cortes said, but he said he doubted that everything is truly rosy for bank fundamentals. "I don't know that the underlying businesses are getting that much better, but I don't know that it matters, because the banks are trading like the yield curve," Cortes said.

Jon Najarian said $5 calls in Citi remain robust, with a tinge of Brag Trade. "Knock on wood, we've been ridin' this one," Najarian said.

Carter Worth recommended JPM, which isn't a big surprise because last year he predicted the JPM of the tech world, Cisco Systems, would climb to $34. "We're a buyer of JPMorgan here," Worth said in a clip aired at Wednesday's Halftime, seeing a "bearish to bullish reversal, upside potential to the April highs."

We continue to find it amazing that anyone on a show called Fast Money recommends JPMorgan Chase as some kind of good stock, even Karen Finerman though the last thing we wanna do is jab at Karen Finerman (when she wasn't even on the Halftime show Wednesday to talk about it), who'll probably own JPM for a tiny gain for all those hedge fund clients for the next millennium while scoffing for years at the money being made in always-way-too-overvalued-to-perfection AMZN.

Having 2 Super Bowl MVP brothers probably doesn’t hurt

Steve Cortes had an interesting take Wednesday on the status of resource plays (nothing about the generals being shot this time) in the aftermath of the Cliffs-Thompson deal. "I'm not so sure about the demand for resources because EMs just are not trading well enough, but I will tell you 1 thing, I think this deal is very indicative of demand for all things Canadian," Cortes said.

Cliffs CEO Joseph Carrabba spoke with Melissa Lee on the Halftime Report and was optimistic about everything iron ore. "We've got some very high prices going forward," Carrabba said. "We're very bullish on the prices."

Melissa Lee tried to make some kind of eye-roller about Goldman Sachs upgrades (VZ) and downgrades (T) in the iPhone sector, but unfortunately it fell totally flat. Luckily, Patty Edwards was there to bail her out.

"I own some Verizon," said Edwards, "so I'm not upset with the fact it's been up, but, you know, frankly my take at this point would be actually to go into AT&T, because we're gonna have traffic off of their network as opposed to going into Verizon."

Steve Cortes said "Intel is like that Manning brother who doesn't play football, the one we don't know."

According to Bloomberg, that other Manning brother, Cooper Manning, actually is a partner at energy investment firm Howard Weil in New Orleans and says, "The energy business is kind of a good ol’ boy business. If you can drink a cold beer and make somebody laugh, you can probably get up the ranks quicker than other folks. I kind of fit in.”

CES brought ‘record number’
of 1-day taxi rides in Vegas

Casino expert Jason Ader, one of the best of The Strategy Session stable of guests, had interesting things to say Wednesday about Scientific Games, and its returning CEO Lorne Weil.

"He really gets a payout when the stock hits 20," Ader said.

Ader's top picks are Las Vegas Sands (he's on the board), Western Liberty Bank and Boyd Gaming.

Ader did acknowledge that "capital allocation in the casino industry over the last 5 years has been a disaster," and that Vegas is obviously lagging Macau. But he said CES was a sign of hope: "On 1 day you had 14,500 people getting taxis at the Las Vegas airport. That's a record number ever, even ahead of the peak 2006 numbers," Ader said.

Charter Communications worth
‘over $80 on any type of takeout’

Steve Tananbaum, CEO of Golden Tree, told David Faber and Gary Kaminsky at an NYSE-HQ'ed edition of The Strategy Session Wednesday that Charter Communications "is worth over $80 on any type of takeout."

Tananbaum, who was at that Strategy Session conference in Texas with Kyle Bass (who said he couldn't possibly be interested in equities only to have them rocket to the moon in the last 5 months) and according to Kaminsky was one of the few optimistic people there, said it's "no longer in vogue" for companies to carry lots of cash on the balance sheet.

"We expect equities to have a better year than corporate debt," Tananbaum said.

Herb Greenberg crowed that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is apparently raising concerns about the audits of some Chinese reverse merger companies.

[Tuesday, January 11, 2011]

Najarian: Cliffs likely to get the BHP Billiton treatment in Canada

It was a fairly subdued opening Tuesday, and Tim Seymour did the lion's share of the talking, but Fast Money put together one of the best discussions of coal stocks in recent memory.

Seymour did not rattle off so many facts as usual but repeatedly stressed that "some of the valuations look a little stretched in the coal sector," and "the Street is running together to upgrade commodities."

Guy Adami pointed to one of his longtime favorites, WLT, the commodities equivalent to AAPL basically, and said you have to be careful getting in at this point, but the market remains impressive.

Melissa Lee suggested that some might think the CLF deal for Thompson Iron is a sign of a top, but maybe it's just CLF deciding that with its stock so high it better use it now as currency.

Jon Najarian said CLF shouldn't count its iron before it's hatched just yet. "I bet ya Canada does come back and says "Not so fast, guys. Not so fast, Cliffs."

Tim Seymour blamed the Canadian government for the Potash rejection and not Marius Kloppers for foolishly underbidding a sensitive national asset and wasting a bunch of people's time for several months. "I think they set a horrible precedent in the BHP deal," Seymour said.

Guy Adami asks Peter Misek a great question, and Misek has a great answer

Gary Kaminsky didn't exactly have time during Tuesday's Strategy Session to critique the show's interview with Verizon President Lowell McAdam, but he sure did later on Tuesday's Fast Money.

Kaminsky pointed to McAdam's contention that Verizon won't have to offer incentives to get people to drop their AT&T iPhone plan.

"That's what he says now," Kaminsky said. "They're gonna have to spend much more money than whatever estimates are out there today to get the customers over."

Melissa Lee also spoke with Verizon analyst John Hodulik, who actually fielded some decent questions though we're sick of the iPhone subject. "I think it'll pay off from Day 1," he told Lee, but he said he actually has a neutral rating on Verizon and a positive rating on AT&T.

Scott Nations said people interested in a slight derivative trade on the subject could buy the upside call in AMT, a company hailed by Gary Kaminsky in Smarter Than the Street. Barry Ritholtz said he likes AMT for fundamental and technical reasons.

Guy Adami told Peter Misek that if Apple shares hit $450 it would, by his calculation, be about a $400 billion company, and he asked Misek if that was realistic.

"It depends on how much money they make," Misek said.

Tom Brady is 0-2
in his last 2 playoff games

Jon Najarian, anchoring the Fast Money desk Tuesday in the old Admiral slot of the early days, flirted with a Brag Trade during an update on LULU afterhours.

"I'm in this name," Najarian said, and boy did he like seeing that $4 pop.

Guy Adami said there's a big short interest that will require covering for a couple days, "and then maybe that's time to get out of this stock because valuations haven't made sense for a long time." (This writer was long LULU on Tuesday but is no more.)

Andy Busch talked about currencies and said if "you get a weekly close over 84 in the U.S. dollar index, it's a very bullish sign for further appreciation."

Barry Ritholtz, who adds a little mojo to the show and should be on the Prop Desk as often as possible, wondered aloud, "If the United States is gonna bail out an incompetent, mismanaged state, wouldn't it be Illinois and California as opposed to Portugal or Spain."

Anthony Scaramucci pitched UNH as the Hedge Fund Trade of the Week. He said it's owned by "some classic value managers in the hedge fund space," names like Adage, Omega, Maverick (none of which we'd ever heard of before this segment, but it's better to be rich than famous).

"We have a 48 to 50 dollar price target on it," Scaramucci said, conceding there's "probably gonna be some near-term volatility to this name."

Herb Greenberg will probably never work for RedChip, but there’s actually no one more qualified

Not only did Gary Kaminsky discuss the Verizon interview on Tuesday's Fast Money, he revealed that there was actually more to the Herb Greenberg/Dave Gentry showdown over RedChip and Chinese reverse mergers.

Greenberg & Gentry, with Kaminsky and David Faber, conducted a remarkable debate on The Strategy Session, but got together for an encore afterwards, and "Fireworks were flying later on," Kaminsky said.

The video, which CNBC graciously offers to anyone for embedding, is below. It runs about 16 minutes and appears to be conducted in some office of Gentry's.

This extended debate is even better than the squawking that occurred on television; Gentry in fact does address some of the more dubious facts raised by Greenberg, though whether he addresses them adequately is for viewers to determine.

Here's the only problem with this from a TV standpoint: Until Tuesday, we had never heard of Dave Gentry. Or his company. And prior to Tuesday, we knew less about the definition of a Chinese reverse merger than the Indianapolis Colts know about the strategy of calling timeouts.

This isn't like Ross Perot vs. Al Gore in 1993. This is a subject matter that for most people requires watching nearly all of the debate to figure out what they're even debating in the first place.

Given that Gentry's general response is to say "fallacies" and "you haven't done your homework," we've gotta score it a TKO for Greenberg on points, easily. But to what gain? Hyman Roth would have to conclude that in the universe of investing, Gentry amounts to "small potatoes," likely very small potatoes. He doesn't really deny that he operates in mostly a penny stock world, and what do you expect in the penny stock world, Bill Gross?

We have little doubt that all or virtually all of Greenberg's observations are correct. But we've gotta actually give Gentry credit. The typical target of such CNBC reporting/commentary would undoubtedly refuse to take calls or answer the phone. Gentry, who according to his bio once won a Republican nomination for Congress (and Greenberg didn't challenge this so it must be true), gives 2 highly aggressive reporters a healthy shot at him. He should be in politics rather than this line of work. He's got an answer for everything and doesn't get rattled.

We're actually most intrigued with the very end, when Greenberg questions Gentry's stated Web site credentials as one who "co-founded the First Amendment Coalition" in 1994.

Steve Cortes: Travel sites
are going gangbusters

After The Strategy Session's remarkable showdown on Chinese reverse mergers, the Fast Money Halftime Report — which inexplicably started a few minutes late — was bound to feel like an afterthought, and it did.

Joe Terranova said you can be long or flat, but "you are never short oil in 2011."

Jon Najarian pointed to hoppin' options in Expedia and Aruba. Steve Cortes said Priceline hit a new high in the morning and that travel sites are hot right now.

Cortes didn't discuss whether he's still short LVS; if so he enjoyed a decent day Tuesday.

During another discussion of high-frequency trading, which is important to some pros who might read this site but otherwise is beyond our bounds of interest, Jon Najarian said that when certain computer systems get a "peek" at pending orders, it's just a "rigged game." Joe Saluzzi of Themis, the expert in the discussion, said there's actually a civil war of sorts between the small-time high frequency traders and the big-time players.

Herbalife, a splendid 2010 pick of Patty Edwards, is doing great in non-Spanish-speaking markets but is "poised for a bit of a comeback" in its Spanish-speaking markets, according to CEO Michael Johnson.

Terranova: RIMM, GOOG
rise on iPhone news

The Fast Money Halftime Report couldn't avoid a discussion on the Verizon iPhone, though Melissa Lee admitted the well is running dry on that subject.

Jon Najarian revealed "I'm still in Apple stock, and I've written calls that are now deep in the money against it."

Steve Cortes said, "I would not be rushing out to buy Verizon."

Analyst Tim Horan said VZ is not generating much free cash flow. Joe Terranova thought the trading in other names was noteworthy. "RIMM and Google are up, and they shouldn't be," Terranova said.

A potentially heated debate is interrupted by an interview

Verizon President Lowell McAdam may think he's up to something big with the iPhone, but he probably had no idea what he was getting into the middle of on The Strategy Session Tuesday.

In a curious bit of timing, David Faber introduced what figured to be a serious in-studio debate between Chinese reverse mergers critic Herb Greenberg, and "promoter/analyst" Dave Gentry of RedChip.

Greenberg got to go first.

He called Chinese reverse mergers "penny stocks on steroids," and singled out Redchip as the "poster child of promoters in my view."

"It's an investor relations firm that appears to be masquerading as a research firm ... they even have price targets," Greenberg said.

David Faber said "those are pretty strong charges," then suddenly cut to a commercial, then after the commercial caught up with McAdam, who was beaming in from a sidewalk somewhere.

Faber might've asked McAdam what he thinks about Chinese reverse mergers, but instead the talk was about the iPhone and iPad (see below).

Once McAdam's time was disposed of, Faber brought Dave Gentry to The Strategy Session table with Greenberg and Gary Kaminsky, and the debate was back on.

Gentry threw a curious analogy at Greenberg, "He's committed more logical fallacies than a college freshman journalist student's term paper."

Gentry said RedChip has been around since 1992 and claimed to be first on the research trail of Starbucks.

"It doesn't mean that it's the same company," Faber burst in.

"We have research coverage on Trina Solar. They're not a client," Gentry said. "We have a hybrid model, so we're putting research on companies that are not our clients that meet our 5 basic criteria."

But then Gentry returned to what apparently is his favorite word, "fallacies."

"Herb Greenberg is committing fallacies of hasty generalization, fallacies of guilt by association, and the major fallacy is a fallacy of omission," Gentry said.

Gentry said a lot of executives at LLEN have stellar backgrounds. Greenberg said the CEO has previously been fired from a nonprofit and previously had "run-ins with state securities regulators, he's been fined by FINRA."

"The problem with your analysis is you're sitting behind a computer," Gentry continued. "You're not on the ground in China. ... The issues with the CEO of LLEN have been fully vetted for years. There are 80 institutions in this stock."

"BlackRock is in there as an ETF," Greenberg said.

David Faber cut in, demanding to know if Gentry has seen LLEN's assets in China. Gentry first indicated his associates have been the ones on the ground, then declared he's been there and seen it himself. Faber said LLEN claims to own certain mines in China that others say it doesn't.

"You're obviously not on the ground either," Gentry said.

"We're over 50 years of journalism, that's what we are," Faber said.

Greenberg got Gentry to reveal he is paid by LLEN as a consultant, but then publicly recommends the stock. "That is classic stock promotion Dave," Greenberg said. Then he complained, "Your analysts don't even get it right on your own Web site."

"I don't know what planet you're on," Gentry said, but then Gary Kaminsky finally wedged his way into this one by asking Gentry what institutions are Redchip's clients.

"Wellington, Royce Capital Partners reads our research. BlackRock reads our research. Uh, we have brokers at DeutscheBank that read our research," Gentry said.

(Important note: We couldn't locate a firm specifically known as "Royce Capital Partners." So we wondered if the spelling of "Royce" is different than what we presume, but various options turned up nothing.)

Gentry defended the reverse-merger concept. "Texas Instruments was a reverse merger," he said.

"That's a ridiculous apples-to-orange comparison," said David Faber.

Curiously, Gentry's bio at RedChip.com touts, in its lede graf, not Gentry's stock-picking expertise, but his defense of the First Amendment: "Dave Gentry received his Masters of Education from the University of Florida in 1993. He co-founded the First Amendment Coalition in 1994 and received national and international attention for his work in defending free-speech rights on college campuses."

The RedChip Web site posted video of Gentry's debate in several places Tuesday, but without comment.

Verizon president: ‘We don’t think there’s a need for an incentive’

Somewhere in the middle of reverse mergers, Lowell McAdam was insisting that the iPhone is going to rain money on Verizon.

"We generate about a hundred dollars roughly per customer," McAdam told David Faber, and he's not afraid of someone like, say, Sprint eventually getting the iPhone because "our exclusivity is around our technology."

Gary Kaminsky asked what Verizon might have to do to get people who presently have an AT&T contract with the iPhone and want to change but don't want to pay the breakup fee all by themselves.

Unfortunately, McAdam first called Kaminsky "David," then replied, "We don't think there's a need for an incentive ... we're not gonna go out and incent them to come; they'll come on their own."

Early in the program, Kaminsky laid out an interesting chart showing AAPL, T and VZ since 2007, the results being weakest for T. David Faber suggested that maybe without the iPhone, it might've been "probably even worse" for AT&T.

Paying 6.3 to get 9.7,
or something like that

Kate Kelly spoke Tuesday on The Strategy Session about 3 hedge funds that tore it up in Europe this year.

Or, as Kelly put it, they did "pretty well, not massively well."

One was Caxton Global Investments, under CIO Andrew Law, which raked in 9.7% through year end. Another was Louis Bacon's Moore Macro Managers, which pulled in 11.5% also through year end.

Finally Kelly said Jeff Talpins' Element Capital "killed it" with 27% through Dec. 15.

David Faber was rolling his eyes at Caxton. "It was a 16% gross return I believe. Turns out to be 9.7 because they run a 3 and 30. What a great business," Faber said.

[Monday, January 10, 2010]

A (very pretty) Goldman Sachser finally appears on Fast Money, in smashing sweater

The longer Monday wore on, the more we were convinced we were witnessing what could end up as Melissa Lee's best outfit in 2011.

Incredibly, our attention was somewhat thrown off by the startling appearance of a Goldman Sachs person, Adrianne Shapira, whose slightly casual look was far more appealing than her Wal-Mart price target.

"It's rare that we get to hear from the best trading firm in the world, as some people regard Goldman Sachs," Lee said in an opening understatement.

Shapira's picks include Target, Kohl's, Costco*, Kroger, Safeway and PVH, on a thesis of shoppers who had gone from aspirational to desperational bouncing back. "We think that consumer is balancing that frugal with more frivolous, and we think the opportunity is in mid-tier retailers and brands, and Target hits that sweet spot," Shapira said.

Karen Finerman inadvertently attempted a pun, "Do you have an actual target on Target?" Shapira said it's $62 on Target, $60 on Wal-Mart.

But Shapira evidently wasn't as garrulous as Finerman expected, so K-Fine merely analyzed it out loud: "It's a little bit of upside for both. Actually, not terribly dissimilar upside for both."

Shapira enthusiastically told Joe Terranova several reasons why she likes PVH, with an $85 price target: "We think they're very well-positioned."

Hopefully Shapira won't disappear like Michelle Meyer; fortunately no one suggested an "after-school job." But whether she wants to come back might be in question, given that the graphics gremlins not only misspelled her name on a chart (whoops, "Adrienne") but also listed the well-known retailer as "COSCO" as well.

That was curious, because Shapira is a retail analyst, COST later appeared in the text at the bottom of the screen, and "COSCO" apparently stands for China Ocean Shipping Company.

But the logo on the screen looked much more like what appears to be the COSCO logo rather than Costco logo ... which makes us think someone yelled to someone else, "Target, Kohl's, Costco," etc., and there was a misunderstanding on the other end.

We wouldn't even bother to mention something like this — we tried to get over the nit-picking element to this stuff after about 6 months of running this page — except whenever someone from Goldman Sachs is on, 1) we get excited, and 2) we figure there's a Goldman Sachs agent of some kind paying attention to these TV appearances and maybe wondering in this case, What the heck is going on here?

Fast Money traders apparently confident they have nothing to learn here*

The depiction of Adrianne Shapira's stock picks wasn't the only Fast Money graphics glitch Monday, as the for-profit education chatter was accompanied by text at the bottom of the screen that said "UNIVERSITY OF PHEONIX."

Karen Finerman pointed to Strayer's bad weekend and said there's "still a very big question mark overhanging this industry."

Finerman said trading this sector is to be in the "deep end of the pool," one of those slogans that doesn't really mean anything because the real deep end of the pool was being long C basically anytime between 2006 and March 2009.

Finerman said she's not going to lie awake nights worrying about investments in these stocks. Tim Seymour indicated he doesn't think much of the products they provide, suggesting Finerman also probably isn't "picking up resumes from one of those places" either.

*If nothing else, U. of Phoenix might help you outpick the Fast Money gang. FIN366 Financial Institutions and Markets "develops a conceptual framework for understanding how recent and current events affect the financial environment. Financial markets are examined with a focus on their utilization by financial institutions, the pricing of financial assets, the impact of the Federal Reserve, the internationalization of financial markets, and the impact of recent events."

Joe Terranova believes his own advice so much, he doesn’t follow it

Jon Najarian said on Monday's Fast Money there's an inflection point nearing with Apple-Verizon; "Does Verizon blink, or do they offer that unlimited data to the folks that come over from AT&T?"

We actually think he meant to say "and" instead of "or," but this whole line of conversation had us a bit confused, maybe because we're not terribly deep into the AAPL "ecosystem" just yet.

"On my to-do trade list every day is get back into Apple," said Joe Terranova, but despite that, "I haven't gotten back on ... I do think the path for Apple is straight up to 400 bucks."

So "every day" it's a goal to buy the stock ... and the stock is going "straight up" to $400 ... but he still hasn't bought any.

"I think Sprint will suffer here even more than AT&T," Terranova said.

Mike Khouw thinks AAPL is more likely to go lower than higher and recommends buying the weekly AAPL put.

Karen finds even successful arbitrage has its limits

Karen Finerman made a joke Monday on Fast Money during a Duke Energy discussion that was pretty good, and it was one of those that might've prompted calls for a sensitivity training course here or there (which we don't think are necessarily bad by the way), but the way it was nicely delivered and in context, we doubt that will happen.

"If you have ADD, do not play a utility deal. It will just take soooo long," Finerman said.

Tim Seymour said not to count on Brazilians to bail out Sara Lee. "JBS does not have the money for this deal," he said.

Auto watcher Sean Egan said he's eyeing BMW and Daimler because the "euro will be down," and "they don't have to worry about the weaker buyers."

We think Dallas Cowboys fans probably can’t be too inspired by head-coaching choice

Betsy Graseck, whose name has been mentioned on Fast Money by Pete Najarian, actually made what must've been her maiden appearance Monday.

Graseck likes BAC, JPM, WFC and PNC, not exactly a string of sleepers there.

Graseck seemed to enjoy the Fast Money company, crediting Joe Terranova for an "interesting point" about banks' capability for dividends and buybacks, and acknowledging a "good question" from Karen Finerman about her model adjustments for the yield curve, which she said has been "very little."

Melissa Lee opened Fast Money with a too-long discussion of AMD's CEO ouster. Tim Seymour complained about the "vacuum" of leadership at the company, while Joe Terranova observed there's apparently "no Jason Garrett here."

Craig Berger was put on the Fast Line and said investors will be surprised by the move. Berger, however, was not the go-to analyst for the New York Times, who picked Stacy Rasgon of Bernstein Research instead.

Jon Najarian praised the potential of Benlysta. "This could be a miracle drug," he said.

Melissa Lee called Pete Najarian "brotha," and Pete called Melissa "sista."

Karabell: At some point, AAPL may hit ‘The Google Moment’

Melissa Lee basically stole the show on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report with her half-sleeve T-shirt-like blue top, and proceeded to deliver an elbow to Fast Line caller Romit Shah, who gave AMD an upgrade while waffling about potential to sell Apple chips.

"We gotta let you go Romit, by the way, you didn't answer the question on the probability of winning the Apple notebook," Lee groused.

Zachary Karabell reiterated the recent point he's made about Apple, that the stock is high enough that eventually people may run out of reasons to buy it despite the greatness of the company. He called that "The Google Moment," referring to when GOOG was around $700.

"It's just a question mark about why are people buying the stock," Karabell said.

Karabell also said, "I'm still amazed that Radio Shack is actually still in business."

Grasso: January is usually
bad for Alcoa

Steve Grasso said on Monday's Halftime the Street is just doing a lot of watching of the range-bound S&P right now, "just waiting for it to break" one way or another.

Zach Karabell said he's glad he's out of his Alcoa short and it may have just a bit more juice but he'd think about getting back in because of the same old "high cost producer" thesis, which he reiterated on Monday's Fast Money Final Call with Maria Bartiromo.

Steve Grasso said now's a good time to sell Alcoa; "January's a terrible month for it," and he questioned how the CEO could suggest it's a good month using stock performance data of the last 3 years.

Karabell was asked by Melissa Lee about DuPont's earnings rethink after its Danisco deal, and Karabell sounded like it wasn't much of a legitimate question. "They're shedding a little bit of earnings because they're paying, you know, a lot of cash for this," he said. "This broadens what DuPont's able to do."

Dennis Gartman insisted again Monday that "eventually" the euro will break into north-south zones, that hard-working Germans won't support not-as-hard-working southern neighbors, but it will be "probably several years into the future."

The Zekemeister said people tend to own a lot of gadgets. "I went to a lunch yesterday, and for 3 people, there was a Mac Air, a MacBook, a BlackBerry phone, an iPhone, a Nokia and a Motorola between 3 people," he said.

"The per-capita device ratio, that's just amazing. I don't know who you have lunch with Zach," said Melissa Lee.

Melissa Lee, who likes making underwear comments, couldn't resist another Monday when talking about pantsless subway riders. "I'm just glad they were wearing boxers," Lee said.

2 recent picks of Steve Cortes
seem rather dubious

In the last few weeks, Steve Cortes has argued that "the generals have been shot" in tech because of AAPL's underperformance, and China domestically has gone to pot, prompting a short in LVS at 50 and 47.

AAPL hit a new all-time high Monday, while LVS is up $5 in a week, to $50.60 Monday.

Is Herb Greenberg the MVP of
The Strategy Session for first 6 months?

Herb Greenberg turned up on Monday's Strategy Session purportedly to preview Apollo's earnings report, but instead took a jab at Strayer's weekend disaster.

The company, Greenberg said, reported Friday that "new enrollments, in its winter quarter, were down 20%," causing the stock cratering Monday.

But Greenberg said that across the board, there could be more to go. "I've talked to a lot of people who follow this industry, they think these stocks are actually still vulnerable to go much lower," he said.

Gary Kaminsky credited Greenberg for "just an awesome call" on sensing the regulatory game change on this industry for the last 6 months. Kaminsky asked Greenberg if the analysts have finally gotten their wake-up call.

"I think as of today, I think you'll see less in-denial than you would've seen in the past," Greenberg said.

Gary Parr does not tip off the next Duke-Progress-like deal

The star guest of Monday's Strategy Session, Gary Parr, must've been double-parked.

Gary Kaminsky and David Faber had opened the show with a discussion of European issues and the Spanish 10-year, but all of a sudden Faber launched into an abrupt transition, saying "If you wanna talk about crisis in the financial services sector or you wanna talk about European sovereign debt problems, well we've got no better voice than our next guest" in introducing Parr.

Parr — and it should be illegal for someone with hair that dark, that much hair, and no gut to be considered a Wall Street "legend" — didn't quite set the screen on fire this time, acknowledging David Faber's question as to whether Europe is the "1 key risk" to the global growth story ("that'd be the primary one") but stressing caution at home too ("down the road, there's U.S. governments").

Parr said that in the aftermath of the Wall Street credit crisis, confidence has grown as banks get more focused, but that BASEL is responsible for a lot of caution. "That's a lot of capital that needs to be raised," he said.

Duke CEO is not Mike Krzyzewski

Jim Rogers of Duke Energy had trouble clearing his throat during a conference call on The Strategy Session Monday. When he spoke he said the market isn't yet realizing the synergies of the Progress deal, but he acknowledged the "overhang over the next 11 to 12 months while we seek regulatory approval."

Gary Kaminsky said that hearing about this deal made him return to his days as an investing kingpin: "This is about getting together, lower cost of capital, credit upgrade," Kaminsky said. "You'll see further consolidation" partly because of this deal, he said.

Visa up 7.3% in 3 weeks since Carter Worth called it ‘dead money’

Tim Seymour is on fire in 2011.

Not only did he forecast, in late 2010, that POT would get to $240 this year (which, at present rate, will probably happen in February), he also shrugged off the big Durbin-related selloff in V and MA on Dec. 16.

Carter Worth turned up on the Dec. 20 Fast Money and talked about Visa, a day it closed $67.99, and said "the prospects of a big bounce here are very low."

Seymour and Guy Adami said, in a nice little nod to the purported purpose of the program, that the selloff was overdone and the stock could be bought.

Either 7% in 3 weeks is small potatoes, or Worth bungled this call.

[Friday, January 7, 2011]

Navellier: BorgWarner keeping its foot on the accelerator

We're suddenly taking Louis Navellier pretty seriously around here — not that we didn't before — since we compiled our best Fast Money picks of 2010 and realized he called a BIDU double all the way back in February.

He finally returned to Fast Money on Friday and said "I love uh things like BorgWarner, F5 Networks, Alumina."

Guy Adami said That's what I'm talkin' about in regards to BorgWarner, but then played devil's advocate and asked Navellier if it's not due for a pullback. Navellier said no, that the company's engine technology is in huge demand. "I don't see any disappointment on this one at all," he said.

But Navellier did allow, "I think the whole market is a bit overbought here."

Analyst: Possibly $30 more
to come in WLT

Things get exciting on Fast Money when Pete Najarian's coal names catch fire — which basically has been happening since late July, although you can say that about a lot of stocks, and you can say it about even a lot more since the end of August.

Najarian asked David Lipschitz on the Halftime Report if longtime winners Walter Energy and Alpha Natural Resources can keep going.

"Spot prices in Australia are probably close to 300 on the coking coal market," Lipschitz said, so "if you stay at those levels, there's probably 20 or 30 dollars upside out of Walter, and, you know, another 10 or 15 dollars on Alpha."

Lipschitz said the momentum in steel will be challenged if scrap steel falls over in February, which he thinks is entirely possible.

He said there's not much to squeeze out of Alcoa at Friday's price. "If they do beat probably the stock has a little bit more upside maybe to, you know, 17, 18," he said.

Steve Grasso said that purely by the calendar, you want to be buying steel end of November and selling end of December, and that January and February tend to be the weaker months. "I would be shorting MT," he said.

Gartman: Gold getting
a ‘much-needed correction’

Dennis Gartman spent a few minutes on Friday's Fast Money explaining why the decline in gold is, in his opinion, no big deal.

All commodities have been moving higher, he said, and "They needed to have a correction."

"We get a little excited about gold," he continued. "If we had taken a $14.30 stock to $13.65, would we be nearly as excited about that? No we wouldn't, and it's the same percentage move. ... This is a much-needed correction, and that's all it is."

Tim Seymour said he thinks the ag trade is great long-term but getting frothy right here. "This week I sold Mosaic, I sold Potash, I sold Monsanto," Seymour said.

You’d think they’d work out the early topics in the green room

Friday's 5 p.m. Fast Money got off to an unusually clumsy start when Brian Kelly ran into Joe Terranova's Fordham Block of Granite of skepticism that the Massachusetts mortgage ruling is any big deal.

"What's the hit to earnings potentially," Terranova demanded of Kelly.

Kelly sounded like he wasn't quite ready for that one. "The hit to earnings is, if you, if, Goldman Sachs for example, uh, sold, uh, they get sued, because they sold an MBS that they didn't own, the, they didn't own the asset underneath," Kelly stammered.

But Terranova eventually countered that Bank of America already got a "gift" this week from the Treasury Department.

"That didn't settle everything," Kelly claimed. "That settlement goes out the window in my opinion."

Tim Seymour sort of sided with Terranova, though he basically, as Melissa Lee put it, said the ruling may be bad for an economy that doesn't need a hitch in the mortgage securitization or foreclosure process, while being overrated as an earnings problem. The selloff, Seymour said, "is an opportunity on Monday."

Demands for a soundbite explanation of a provocative 622-word essay

Zachary Karabell made a welcome appearance on the 5 p.m. program to, purportedly, discuss his Time article about the downfall of full employment.

But Karabell had barely only uttered a couple sentences about how some jobs are never coming back and that corporations can do well without "full" employment when Mel Lee demanded stock picks.

"Anything that is consumer technology-oriented or efficiency-oriented," said Karabell, who singled out IBM, which already knows how much money it's going to earn in 2015 according to Guy Adami, and Karabell added he's "interested in Coach here."

But back to the article. This one, quite frankly, feels like a reach. Karabell argues in Time that Americans don't fully get it, that "the decline in domestic jobs is the result of technology and globalization, both of which have enhanced prosperity."

That's exactly what people said in the '70s ... and '80s ... and when Ross Perot brought that big "giant sucking sound" to Larry King's show in 1993.

And yet a couple years ago, we had 4.5% unemployment.

Karabell also complains about the "piecemeal" and "temporary" angst of unemployment benefits, but doesn't say what we should actually do instead.

Tim Seymour thinks you can own RIG and DO since Berkshire bolstered the sector by jumping in with competitive reinsurance rates this week.

Melissa Lee made some jokes about New York area codes, 917 vs. 646.

Grasso: 1,257 is key

Steve Grasso is the best on Fast Money at reminding viewers that most stocks just move with the pack, and he did so again Friday on the Halftime Report.

No matter how good a stock picker you are, Grasso said, "If this market goes below 1,257, you're in trouble."

"I'm never a fan of buying the underperformer," Grasso shrugged during a Microsoft discussion.

Bad news for Steve Cortes

CNBC viewers undoubtedly noticed the ticker all day showing LVS shares sharply up. Pete Najarian said on the Halftime Report that there's been "incredible amounts of activity" even on options expiring Friday.

Steve Cortes has been saying that can't happen because China is so weak, that's why he shorted at 50 and 47.

Peter Boockvar said "this commodity run is real, the commodity inflation is real," and that gold has "a ways to go" on the upside.

Patty expected Best Buy to have healthy inventory first week of new year

Patty Edwards spent as much time on Friday's Halftime Report talking about stuff she wasn't buying as stuff she is buying.

"No no no," she corrected Melissa Lee, "I am no longer in Hewlett-Packard. I pulled the plug; it's done."

Edwards, like Dennis Gartman in the last week or so, pronounced Microsoft as more of a bank than a tech company and the Kinect isn't nearly big enough to move the needle. That analysis brought awkward silence on the set, for some strange reason.

Edwards said she won't buy an underperformer unless there's an actual catalyst. She also complained that she took her sons to Best Buy only to find it was out of video games. "I think that Amazon is gonna continue to eat Best Buy's lunch," Edwards said.

Finally, Edwards said to "short the Saints, long the Seahawks."

Facebook briefly takes
a back seat on CNBC

Kate Kelly reported on Friday's Strategy Session that AIG is "likely to be the biggest deal this year," predicting a $15-$25 billion offering.

More importantly, Kelly said big bank bigwigs including Brian Moynihan are going to descend on Washington on Thursday, Jan. 13, "the place to be" for jockeying for position in the deal.

Gary Kaminsky said that in the case of GM, CEOs learned that not being in the deal "far outweighed the issue about the fees."

Bank analyst Paul Miller said he didn't know enough about the Massachusetts foreclosure ruling, "everyone's trying to gather information," but that there's a lot of "negative headlines out there" and the likely effect is to "slow down the foreclosure process."

Citi's top M&A guy, Mark Shafir, told David Faber and Gary Kaminsky on Friday that "I think we're in the midst of a recovery" in M&A, but the reason not everyone believes that is because they haven't seen the "transformative transaction" yet.

Mall REITs would be all-clear, if not for those lending libraries

Kimco's David Henry visited The Strategy Session Friday with more of the same of what REIT/mall operator guests have been saying for months, that everything's looking up.

Henry addressed 1 problem in particular, the Borders/Barnes & Noble crisis, saying an "ideal solution" would be for those companies to get together. He told Gary Kaminsky he doesn't have any properties that have a Borders and Barnes & Noble right next to each other.

Unfortunately David Faber began the interview with "What are you seeing on the ground."

Henry said, "It's very strong, November was off the charts" and December was good. Also on the plus side, there's been "absolutely no new development in our sector," Henry said.

He said "more REITs than not are raising their dividends."

[Thursday, January 6, 2011]

Gartman: ‘I’m going to start getting short’ the long bond

On a rather subdued Fast Money set Thursday, Dennis Gartman was making headlines (at least, he made a headline on this item) by predicting the end of the decades-long bond bull market.

"I'm not short yet; I'm going to start getting short," Gartman said, explaining that anyone who missed the beginning of the rally in the '80s by a couple years was still OK.

"We're gonna take the long bond back to 8%," he said, recalling a time when people thought it would never get below 8%.

Gartman said it's not just an inflation play, but that the real driver will be economic growth around the world.

We can't, and won't, disagree, but we will note that it was all the way back in 2009, with TBT above $50, when Karen Finerman was touting the TBT or short TLT because this type of bond demand couldn't last forever.

Doug Kass: ‘I’m waiting to make the big short trade actually’

Doug Kass probably made one of his least-convincing arguments ever for 2011 bearishness on Thursday's Fast Money.

Kass cited a 4-part thesis:

1. Wimpy Syndrome in Congress
2. Structural job loss
3. Rising rates
4. Screwflation

As to Point 1, Kass said, "There are consequences to our monetary and fiscal policies," complaining neither party has the "political will" to tackle the deficits, which is a dubious way of saying neither side thinks it's terribly important.

Stephen Weiss argued, in a much-too-long rebuttal, "I think P.E.s rise." Kass countered, "My bearishness is based on, I think the market P.E. will contract."

So what's Kass plowing his money into? He didn't get terribly specific when answering Melissa Lee's question about how much of his investments are in cash, but asserted, "I'm waiting to make the big short trade actually."

LaVorgna: Jobs data seems like ‘really a random number generator’

Joe LaVorgna seems like an all-around good guy, but his day-before-the-Labor-Department-number appearances on Fast Money are about as useful as the Seattle Seahawks' airfare to Atlanta.

LaVorgna said Thursday, "I think people are too optimistic for tomorrow, but they're not too optimistic for 2011."

But he said of the number, there's a "good chance it's distorted by the weather."

Karen Finerman asked, "Wouldn't weather also affect ADP?"

LaVorgna responded that ADP "actually makes use of jobless claims in its estimate," and that he really has no idea how some of these numbers come out the way they do; "it's really a random number generator."

Craig Berger thinks
1 company is ONNN a roll

We'd hoped that after the opening, Fast Money would stop talking about Intel Thursday, but that proved not to be the case.

Craig Berger reported from CES that MSFT and Nvidia delivered sort of a stiff-ARM to the leading chipmaker. "Intel is certainly getting attacked, and it seems like the old Intel alliance crumbled a little bit more," Berger said.

After that, however, Berger had some positive picks. "The 2 best fundamental companies out there are Qualcomm and Broadcom," Berger said, and he called On Semiconductor "one of my absolute favoritest names right now, it's very buyable here." Melissa Lee joked about "favoritest."

Stephen Weiss trumpeted Qualcomm, pointing to international growth and claiming insiders are sitting on a lot of stock. "My target this year is 60 ... and I think I'm gonna be low," Weiss said.

Happy birthday, Mooch

Anthony Scaramucci, whom we learned was celebrating his age-undisclosed birthday Thursday on Fast Money, pronounced the Gene Sperling appointment as a positive sign for all those who think Barack Obama has been too much of a sourpuss on the financial markets.

"Not that this is a political show, but Gene is a very moderate guy, and is probably another signal that the Obama administration is moving to the center," Scaramucci said.

He called it "very positive" and said "I hope he likes pinatas." Karen Finerman likes Children's Place, a stock she buys seemingly once a week, saying "I owned it already; I bought more today."

CBOE chief Bill Brodsky made an appearance on the set Thursday, and we can't fathom why. Brodsky was forced, like the Baltimore Ravens, to play defense and explain both his share price and declining volumes, after about 3 tries at a question from Mel Lee.

"Our volumes slowed down but not dramatically," Brodsky said.

Karen Finerman asked Brodsky something about the growth in options vs. the competition. Brodsky responded along the lines of the growth in options is a bigger deal.

Joe Terranova said we're in the "late innings of the steel story."

Karen: ‘This is the year’
for HPQ

For whatever jaw-dropping reason, Melissa Lee was hell-bent Thursday on analyzing ... not exciting stocks ... but Intel.

Nobody on the desk for the 5 p.m. show was terribly interested, though Karen Finerman and Anthony Scaramucci suggested it could be a cheap valuation.

Brian Kelly said Intel's strategy of buying McAfee "doesn't look very smart in this day and age."

Unfortunately Kelly tried to sling one of the most dreadful cliches, "this is not your father's CES here this year."

Karen Finerman, for the 2nd day in a row apparently issuing some kind of implicit challenge to Gary Kaminsky's recent Strategy Session comments this week about big-cap catch-up, insisted again Thursday, "There is so much room for those big-cap tech names to move."

Finerman also said HPQ is finally going to get over the top. "This is the year," Finerman said. "So cheap ... I don't think it can continue to trade this cheap."

Karen Finerman’s high-end retail analysis is decidedly different from Steve Cortes’

Karen Finerman basically said at 5 p.m. that Steve Cortes' Halftime analysis of retail is bogus, that the high end "is still alive and well, that's really still working."

Joe Terranova, apparently regretting his Limited Brands slam at Tim Seymour yesterday, tried to sort of make amends for it and even got Anthony Scaramucci in on the gag.

More Thursday Fast Money details to come — let's hope it's more interesting than Intel.

Cortes: ‘Mr. Drummond’ is strapped, ‘dire sign for retail’

Guy Adami started talking about retail on Thursday's Fast Money Halftime Report and said some names are winning while others are losing; "clearly a biforcated market."

But Steve Cortes, evidently stuck in late-2008-new-normal-land, disagrees with that.

"Now the high end is starting to get hit as well," Cortes said. "To put it in TV terms, we're seeing, Archie Bunker is pulling back, but so is Mr. Drummond ... I think it's a really dire sign for retail."

Cortes explained that he put on an XRT short on Black Friday, but at least this time he didn't claim he put it on because it's the best way to short Amazon when in fact it has minimal correlation to Amazon, as Patty Edwards noted.

Debbie Weinswig likes Family Dollar, Macy's, JCPenney and Target.

Dr. J: ‘I actually like Intel,’ but he doesn’t really like it

Steve Grasso's denunciation of Intel caught Jon Najarian off-guard, like when the Steelers hit up Cleveland with 14 first-quarter points on Sunday.

Grasso said not to buy the stock. "It's not in favor with investors right now," he said. "It can't find any buyers in the space."

Melissa Lee, in appealing navy velvety-like dress, asked Jon Najarian about that. Dr. J sputtered and then admitted, "I actually like Intel but I like it as just a slog," and maybe lukewarmly write a few covered calls, then tried to explain why he doesn't like it because he'd much rather be in Nvidia.

Najarian said gold might have drawn a line for a test: "a lot of buying right around the 120 level" in the GLD, he said.

Grasso picked up commentary on Moody's after Dr. J's connection got cut off. Mel Lee praised Grasso for handling that one on the fly, prompting Grasso to utter a comment we never expected to hear on Thursday's program: "I'm the Randy Velarde of Fast Money."

Kaminsky: GS guiding would-be Facebook investors into other deals

Gary Kaminsky said on Thursday's Strategy Session that no matter what happens with the Goldman Sachs-Facebook investment, even if it totally goes south, it's a big winner for Goldman Sachs because it's "opened doors."

Kaminsky said Goldman's phone lines have heated up with interest in the deal, including from fat cats who give GS execs an opening to say "I haven't spoken to you in 6 months; let's have a conversation about something else."

But Kaminsky ran into something of a buzzsaw of skepticism from colleague David Faber when he suggested investors could demand a subscription model to boost returns.

"Subscription model?" Faber asked, unconvincingly.

Kaminsky also said Facebook according to the prospectus had about $2 billion in revenues in 2010 and, in a victory for all of us who aren't on Facebook, delivered a howler of terminology: "I don't have Facebook, so I don't exactly know how it works," he said, adding they could grow to "a billion Facers? A billion users?"

Kate Kelly reported that Goldman Sachs initially planned only a $300 million investment.

US Airways boss Doug Parker said Bob Crandall's opinion that airlines can never be treated as long-term investments hurts the industry from a Wall Street perspective and isn't actually relevant.

Jeff Joerres of Manpower said there are signs of hiring.

[Wednesday, January 5, 2011]

Terranova being called
‘un-American’ for shorting gold

A day ago, Josh Brown claimed on Fast Money that nobody "in the streets" is talking about gold.

In fact, maybe they are.

Because on Wednesday's Fast Money, Joe Terranova complained, "I didn't realize it's basically un-American to say that you don't want to be long gold, that you're actually shorting gold I'm actually getting, getting that feedback."

Despite the flak, Terranova defended his position, saying "it continues to remain vulnerable in a reallocation trade."

Brian Kelly backed Joe, saying "I still am long gold." But Karen Finerman said "I am long Freeport puts," only, she said, because the stock's run so far in such a short time.

Those uninterested in making money can be glad they avoided it

Karen Finerman spoke Wednesday about Molycorp's valuation: "This is insane, this valuation. It's like the emperorsnewclothes.inc," Finerman said.

We gotta agree with that, except the show is called Fast Money ... so shouldn't someone have been recommending it in the last month ... instead of multiple recommendations of stocks that don't even make slow money like HPQ, MSFT, CISCO??

Tim Seymour said the dollar strength is part of "tectonic plate moves," and "I think it bodes very well for the Nikkei." He also said "I love Toyota ... they own Asia, and I mean China," but then later seemed to indicate Daimler and Fiat are making better cars.

Brian Kelly said Japan has a lot of similarities with Greece of a year ago, but a big difference is that Japan can print money, and thus he likes Toyota. Seymour agreed.

Guy Adami said at the top of the show the markets are demonstrating "very, very bullish action."

Citi’s got a floor,
should it ever get there

Tim Seymour on Wednesday proclaimed a "golden cross" in JPM (that's a good thing).

That reminded us of mid-August, when the DrudgeReport ran the "Hindenburg Omen" doom predictions up the flagpole ... and Mel Lee was prompted to ask Bill Strazzullo to define it on the Aug. 16 Halftime Report ... just a week or 2 before one of the biggest market rallies in decades.

Karen Finerman, who like everyone else on Fast Money Wednesday gushed about the stock market, said the improving 2-year/10-year yield spread is great for banks.

Joe Terranova asked Pete Najarian if $5 would now be a floor for C.

Pete instantly gushed "great call Joe," before saying Yeah, it probably would be a floor, provided the stock would ever close above that level for a couple days, which it hasn't even done once yet at least in the last 12 months.

Other than that, great call.

That reminded us of Dec. 14, when Barry Ritholtz came on Fast Money on a day when C had dipped a bit to close at $4.69. Ritholtz recommended buying on the dip and defined "dip" as $4.65 or $4.60. The stock touched $4.54 in the next couple days but quickly bounced back, an excellent trade. (Of course, he also said there's too much bullish sentiment in the market based on magazine covers, so take that for what you wish.)

Brian Kelly recommended Annaly Capital, saying "you could get north of 14%" dividend yield.

Guy Adami doubts there’s enough cell-phone/tablet margin for everyone

Fast Money carried out a little chat about the RIMM tablet, which kind of left Guy Adami skeptical not necessarily of RIMM but the whole gadget sector.

"I can't believe that everybody wins," Adami said.

Incredibly, it was Karen Finerman of all people who made the at-least-3-year-old "growing pie" argument. "I'm just wondering if we're early on in that evolution Guy where the pie is just growing so rapidly for the tablet that everybody can take a piece of that pie and still be a winner," Finerman said, incredibly even mentioning Dell.

"I think BlackBerry is still stuck on the hardware side," said Tim Seymour.

Scott Nations actually on Aug. 31 called RIMM a "takeover candidate at $5," a trade that didn't make our year-end list because we think it's still too early to evaluate that one.

Seymour said, contrary to Guy Adami's INTC skepticism, he'd rather buy Intel and sell AMD.

Joe Terranova said he still doesn't like GOOG, despite a rare Fast Fire at the end of the show. He also pronounced SWKS an "easy target" with a $5 billion market cap.

No word if the Fast gang will be quoted in the article

It seemed like every comment made by ProPublica/Dealbook writer Jesse Eisinger merely ignited more skepticism on Wednesday's Fast Money.

Eisinger said he's got a story tomorrow about how the ratings agencies had been reparceling a lot of mortgage-backed securities since 2008, the "re-remics," purportedly with more accurate grades, but just in December, "S&P said whoops, we screwed 'em up completely" because of interest rates or interest flows.

"I think the investors who buy these are gonna be pretty silly," Eisinger said.

Karen Finerman asked why do we need ratings agencies. Eisinger said that's a great question but that a lot of parties in these transactions are lazy and will still rely on the ratings agencies to do some of the groundwork.

Tim Seymour said investors will continue to buy these but he can't believe anyone would rely on the ratings agencies. Eisinger started to say the underwriters will still rely on them, but then Seymour and Finerman chimed in that the buyers wouldn't.

Fast Money digs about who wears what mall clothing finally get under someone’s skin

Anthony Scaramucci revealed Wednesday that the first Hedge Fund Trade of the Week is Aeropostale, largely because "we just think this is a very cheap stock," which should always be a red flag, though Scaramucci noted J. Crew is set to be sold for 8.6 times EBITDA while ARO is about 4.

He thinks it's ultimately worth about $33 a share. Karen Finerman also likes the name but Guy Adami said it's been flat to down for a year.

After a little bickering about who wears what on top or bottom, Joe Terranova zinged Tim Seymour with "Timmy's shopping in Limited Brands, if you know what I mean."

Now that's a provocative statement.

Brian Kelly said the FOMC statement "means that they're not getting along that well."

Seymour: CLF looks
like a ‘bull trap’

Some Street Fights are better than others.

Brian Yu tried convincing Tim Seymour that Alcoa is tapped out and already near full value, but Seymour wasn't buying.

"It's being run as a better company," said Seymour, who argued some high-priced investments by AA in the latter part of the decade are starting to come online and represent the "transformational side of their business."

Yu said yeah, whatever, "we do have some of it baked in."

Yu also objected to Seymour's claim about the "transformational part" and existing aluminum prices tacking on 80 cents to earnings but more like 30 cents; "we have a tough time getting to like an 80-cent type of sensitivity," he said, and also said AA doesn't fit the M&A profile.

However, things got more exciting — briefly — by the end of the battle, when Yu indicated his top pick is none other than CLF.

"82 RSI, looks like a bull trap," Seymour said. "Those floods will recede in Australia."

Karen Finerman gushes over ‘deals across the board’

The raging Fast Money bullishness has even claimed Karen Finerman.

Finerman on Wednesday's 5 p.m. Fast Money said it looks like there's "deals across the board," and in particular is intrigued by Tenet Healthcare's May $7 options, thinking there's "more to come in this name."

To that end, Guy Adami recommended Evercore Partners, saying "this is a name that could go higher."

Patty: ‘I bought Potash this week’

Mosaic chief James Prokopanko pronounced an "exceptional 2011 fiscal year" ahead and gushed about the fertilizer industry but apparently wasn't needed to convince Patty Edwards on Wednesday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

"I bought Potash this week," Edwards said, acknowledging the stock has been on a run.

Joe Terranova said no worries, the stock is still finding buyers. "A lot of folks need to get back into Potash," Terranova said.

"I don't think it's too late," agreed Pete Najarian.

Sign of a top? Steve Cortes is ‘very impressed with the market’

Fast Money traders could barely contain themselves in gushing about how great the stock market is during Wednesday's Halftime Report.

"The bears found the key to the market, and the bulls changed the locks yesterday," Patty Edwards said, crediting the comment to a tweet.

Pete Najarian roared about the morning reversal into all the big usual oil, coal, copper names, etc., "you are seeing a big shift."

Even Steve Cortes admitted, "I'm very impressed with the market."

Cortes though offered about the only measure of caution on the show, saying "I think you need to be short precious metals." He said he really likes GS and MS if he ever gets a pullback; "I am trying to buy both of those names."

He also said so far this year oil's been a great thing to trade because it's been moving in $2 ranges, which sounds great, except what does that do for the 99.9% of the Fast Money audience that isn't oil traders.

Pete Najarian said he's long BAC and C and seems to be thrilled about it. "Very large block trades coming in to Bank of America extremely biased to the call side," he said.

Joe Terranova loves Salesforce.com. "I think it's a buy and it goes above 150 soon," Terranova said.

Patty Edwards mocked a reported possible Sears bid for J. Crew. "They've done so many good things with Lands' End, she said sarcastically," Edwards said.

Hedge fund investor: Sears, JCPenney won’t exist 30 years from now

David Berman, a Strategy Session regular described as a principal in a retail-oriented hedge fund, delivered wonderful commentary on Wednesday's program, except he tried delivering too much of it.

We wondered if he was going to spend the show's remaining 20 minutes outlining Wal-Mart's 8% inventory rise, until Gary Kaminsky wisely cut in.

The bigger headline-grabber, though, is that Berman claims, "The department stores are already in a long-term death spiral."

He said names like Macy's and JCPenney could be good in the short run, but he's not too optimistic about the latter. "It's hard to justify 30 years from now, will we see a Sears and JCPenney? I doubt it. I don't think they'll be called Sears and JCPenney. I don't know what they'll be called."

As for WMT, Berman claimed the 8% inventory growth vs. the 3% sales growth "is a big difference" that is going to have an impact on other big-box retailers.

Berman also noted, "Wal-Mart is 24% of total sales in the United States of publicly owned retailers."

Berman claimed it's a shopping frenzy on Wall Street, "the stock market is essentially following the retailers."

He also doubted a rival bid for J. Crew. "Without Mickey Drexler, I don't see what you've got," he said.

Faber: ‘Extending the tax cuts didn’t do anything except keep the deficit higher’

David Faber and Gary Kaminsky opened Wednesday's Strategy Session with a report from John Harwood about the new Republican Congress.

And Faber didn't seem terribly impressed with our national economics.

"Extending the tax cuts didn't do anything except actually keep the deficit higher rather than reduce it," Faber said.

Gary Kaminsky said there will be dueling claims between the White House (we were in charge) and the Republican Party (the November election gave people clarity) for credit assuming the recovery from Q4 continues. "How that plays out ... will be the most interesting aspect of the new Congress coming in and how it will affect your investment strategy related to regulatory change for example," Kaminsky said.

Thomas Lee of JPMorgan briefly guested Wednesday and said the type of thing that gets Gary Kaminsky nodding: Lee said his research finds "20% of the managers ... underperforming their benchmark by 500 basis points."

He thinks that explains the "really big beta lift already in the first couple of days."

Alan Ruskin also guested on TSS Wednesday, but Gary Kaminsky labeled his currency/market view as something out of the box. "You cannot have a stronger dollar and a sustainable rally in commodities. You just can't. In the hard commodities, in the silver and the gold," Kaminsky said. "I don't know many people that think we can have a recovery in the U.S., higher interest rates, and have the dollar continue to, you know, underperform the euro. That's definitely contrarian opinion."

[Tuesday, January 4, 2011]

Gasparino calls some blogs
‘really good’

It's been more than a week since Charles Gasparino gave a 2-part interview to Benzinga, but oh, the words he said might just last a lifetime.

Or, maybe that's a bit overstating it.

What drew our attention was Gasparino's comments about Internet writers, which despite some grand statements, really seem to be little more than another left jab at Felix Salmon. (Note: We don't know Salmon, do not regularly read his material, and take no sides in this long-running, albeit entertaining, credentials dispute.)

But, we'll take whatever we can get.

Gasparino says, "I was having a conversation with someone the other night about the rise of blogs. While some of the stuff is really good, I've seen some horrendous practices in the blogosphere. ... Blogs are a great idea. There's a freedom to it. I don't believe that you need the stamp of approval from the New York Times or any of the big papers to be a journalist. And because we have blogs and a new way of communicating, we have diversity of opinion and it's great."

Around here we happen to be entertained — as well as informed — by Gasparino, so we might be a bit biased, but the belief here is that, despite the feuds that Gasparino enjoys launching with Web pundits (which happen to be entertaining), he should actually be viewed as a great friend of the blogosphere because he will acknowledge it and actually asks people to contact him with stories/questions, and by all accounts he means it, when some of these media stars would be more difficult to get on the line than Barack Obama.

Benzinga asked Gasparino to describe the difference in "workplace atmosphere" between CNBC and Fox. "We have to take our jobs seriously because there's an importance to what we do. But we shouldn't always be taking ourselves so seriously all the time. That's the difference. We don't do that here," he says.

Gold bloggers go silent,
according to Fast Money

Josh Brown, a "virgin to the Prop Desk" according to Melissa Lee, made a most interesting argument against gold on Tuesday's Fast Money.

"They are not talking about guns and gold, uh, on the blogs, they are not talking about it in the streets," Brown said.

Actually we can't remember the last time we heard someone "in the streets" talking about gold, but apparently a trend has been identified.

A big part of the gold discussion involved James West, who said he owns part of a Peruvian mine and is fending off foreign would-be economic conquistadores. "South America's crawling with Chinese nationals trying to buy gold mines down here," West said.

Brown responded, "Nothing makes me happier as someone who's taking gold off to hear that the Chinese are invading Peru for gold mines."

Brown dismissed Brian Kelly's enduring-strength thesis, arguing, "Gold will work until it stops working," and calling it a "plaything of speculators ... people are quote-unquote playing gold."

Terranova: Stocks making
gold irrelevant

Joe Terranova must have a keen eye for art appreciation, because the best he could do Tuesday was another day of purported head and shoulders formation that we can't for the life of us detect in the 1-year gold chart.

More substantively, Terranova pointed to the strength in equities and said "Gold is no longer really needed here as a safe-haven asset."

Tim Seymour agreed with that on some level but said it'll be a buy again, the "200 moving-day is where you target your gold and hopefully you back up the truck there."

Feels like Gillis wins

A while back, we once swore we wouldn't even bother posting Fast Money commentary about YHOO because it's a dog of a stock and, while (as far as we can tell) producing a fine product, not a particularly significant player on the global tech stage.

Melissa Lee conceded as much on Tuesday's Fast Money, calling it a "dead trade."

But the Street Fight between Colin Gillis and Josh Brown was pretty good.

Gillis dislikes the stock, calling its growth "anemic" and saying "strategically, it's been a slow 2 years for Yahoo."

Brown actually said he agreed with all of that. "Everything they've touched so far has been a mistake," he said, calling for management to just leave things alone until private equity or some kind of muscleman comes in.

Then he argued that instead of trying to be the '72 Dolphins, YHOO should strive to be the Minnesota Vikings of the 1980s (for whom Pete Najarian briefly played): "It could be worth as much as double a sum-of-the-parts valuation," Brown said.

Brian Kelly asked Brown, so all YHOO has left to hope for is a takeover?

"Yes," Brown said. "The Asian stuff alone is worth the market cap right now."

Brown suggested eBay as a party that would have something to gain. But Gillis seemed dumbstruck by the notion of private equity or most other players getting involved in a $25 billion operation; "you can't carve out Alibaba easily."

Tim Seymour said he actually agrees with Brown's analysis but not his facts, whatever that means. Brown said there's no way the company's only worth half of what MSFT offered for it a couple years ago (has he heard of 3PAR?).

Finerman walks into
The Strategy Session trap

Karen Finerman made a somewhat intense argument for big companies on Tuesday's Fast Money, saying small-cap valuations are pricing in a "very dramatic U.S. recovery," that the spread has gotten huge, and that bigger names don't have the geographical risk of a lousy economy here or there.

"I'd much rather be in the big caps," Finerman said.

Funny thing about that is, Gary Kaminsky just a day earlier (see below) was suggesting on The Strategy Session that most of the organic growth is not coming from the biggest companies but that a lot of money managers will come on CNBC and say "this is gonna be the year that I'm gonna get the relative catch-up," and he said that with rather a note of dubiousness.

Tim Seymour asked Karen Finerman for a definition. "I think of a small cap as 500 or less," Finerman said.

In the land Down Under, they just smile and have their vegemite sandwiches

Not only was the presence of Gary Kaminsky felt in the exchange above, but Gary ended up on the Fast Line on Tuesday's Fast Money to reiterate his K-Call on the growing demand for better food in the developing world.

"There's a secular story here," Kaminsky said, again suggesting the levered ETF DAG as a way to play it, though he didn't recommend it as some kind of long-term investment.

Tim Seymour, in a great line about Kaminsky's safari, asked "Did you bag the elephant." Kaminsky said "No, but I did see a dead giraffe Tim, and that was interesting when you see the predators on a dead giraffe."


Kaminsky's K-Call on the subject is right here. Interestingly, he leads off with this question: "Remember the chorus to that tune 'I bless the rains down in Africa'?"

Honestly, all the times we heard that song, we never exactly what those words were or at least what they meant.

Kaminsky calls Toto a "classic '80s band."

Uh-oh: Potential for
embarrassing retraction

Just a few days ago, we ranked Karen Finerman's "year and a day" BAC LEAPs as one of the worst Fast Money picks of 2010. Finerman said Jan. 20, 2010, "So they're struck at 15, we bought 'em at, at just over 3. And, I really think this will be a great trade."

Given what's happened the first 2 trading days of 2011, we started to cringe: Good grief, what if this trade actually turns profitable in a Hail Mary type of success that would make even Drew Pearson envious?

At some point in the not-too-distant past, Finerman referenced this trade and said the LEAPs were nearly worthless. We actually spent a decent time searching through old show disclosures, going back 6 months or more, at CNBC.com to see if it's clear when if or when she dumped the LEAPs. There's no disclosure about them now, though the most recent disclosure says Finerman (not her firm) is long BAC.

Given the strike price and cost, and timing, we can't see how this trade could still work. But we're not options traders, and maybe we blew the whistle a bit prematurely. Like Joaquin Andujar says, yaneverknow.

Chris Whalen probably decided being negative is better for his CNBC guest credentials

Gene Munster tends to be one of the most understated or underrated analysts on Fast Money (which is sort of why we put his AAPL $330 call on our best calls of 2010 list), but with time to pause and think about it, we're still not exactly sure why he was on Tuedsay's Fast Money.

Munster said the Honeycomb tablets will find market share and ultimately drop the iPad to maybe 50% from its roughly 100% now. But how does this matter for GOOG? "I don't know how much it's gonna actually mean for the stock, similar as Android," Munster said.

Chris Whalen said he's backpedaling on Monday's plan to upgrade Bank of America because he was writing a note about the "unknown knowns or known unknowns" and decided he couldn't go through with an upgrade, which means there's still someone besides Brett Arends that CNBC can call for a negative market/sector outlook.

Karen Finerman said "I actually applaud you" for doing that, but in return for that nice compliment, Whalen merely cut off her question to say the Fannie deal is great for Brian Moynihan nevertheless, who can confront lesser litigants and "tell 'em to go foxtrot oscar, right."

Josh Brown made an argument for natural gas, saying the terrible-looking chart might finally have hit bottom, and he cited the disparity between nat gas and crude. "You're talking about 20 times ... typically it's meant a very nice short-term to intermediate-term spike in the price of natural gas," he said.

Tim Seymour said he wouldn't be surprised at more of a pullback in many commodities trades; "I do think some charts are incredibly stretched," he said. But note LVS, a favorite Steve Cortes short, had a robust day upwards Tuesday.

Scott Nations said Alcoa "has the most expensive options of any stock in the Dow."

Josh Brown recommended American Greetings. "It's breaking out as we speak," and he was exactly right about that, the stock jumped after hours about 15 minutes before he said that.

Mandy tries the goddess look in Bill Griffeth’s 1st week back

Gartman: Don’t sweat
the gold selloff

Dennis Gartman conceded Tuesday on the Fast Money Halftime Report that "it's not fun" being long gold on days like this, but that such a correction is very typical, it's the beginning of a new year and some people are unloading big winners from the end of last year, and if a gold selloff persists for 2 or 3 weeks, "I would not be surprised at all."

Patty Edwards said she's looking at 1,380, the 50-day moving average in gold, and isn't worried because it tends to "bump up time and time again" from that average.

Jon Najarian reported that GLD put buyers are reaching "all the way down to the 115 strike" and apparently see a "pretty large correction."

Steve Cortes explained "I'm short gold, and if we close below 1,400 today which it looks like we will, I'm gonna add to that position."

Analyst: Motorola Mobility
‘at best fully valued’

Analyst James Faucette told the Fast Money Halftime Report that Motorola Mobility (it's gonna take us a while to sort out the new divisions and commit them to memory) may not have much of a pop in it. "At current levels the stock's at best fully valued," Faucette said.

Patty Edwards said of BGP, "this is just a train wreck." Edwards also joked about reading the Daily Mail, one of several British publications that Drudge uses for scoops, "right after I read Dilbert," but what she meant was it's basically not a staple of her morning reading. At any rate, she's not sold on BP as a takeover candidate.

Jon Najarian revealed a tiny hint of a Brag Trade, noting that he was in SWN, which just went sharply negative, but "I was already out of it."

Avalon Metals chief Don Bubar, like every rare earths executive in high demand these days, told Melissa Lee his company isn't quite yet pumping out the metals, but "we're in the feasibility-study stage." Bubar said the "heavy" rare earths do have a dual advantage of being "both more scarce and the prices are higher," but he conceded there's speculation in the sector.

Goldman’s investment: Sign
Facebook has jumped the shark?

David Faber and Gary Kaminsky on Tuesday's Strategy Session picked apart the Goldman Sachs fee structure for the "private" investment that's happening in Facebook.

We started wondering on Monday whether the presence of Goldman Sachs in Facebook is just another savvy opportunity for the world's premier bank ... or AOL-Time Warner Part II.

David Faber on Tuesday said, among the goodies, Goldman Sachs gets an upfront fee of 4% on any investment, a 0.5% yearly management fee, 5% of any profits of high-net-worth clients, essentially a $90 million fee expectation regardless of whether the investors get a winner, and all of it with a 4-year lockup.

Gary Kaminsky said "the management fee seems a little bizarre. To basically have a management fee for essentially holding an illiquid investment..."

Faber noted it's only half a percent. So, um, lessee, if our math is right, that means invest a million, pay GS 5 grand a year to lock the certificates in a safe.

Faber made one of the best lines of the new year, saying what amounts to due diligence for this type of investment "probably is, they saw the movie."

FACE is taken

According to Yahoo finance, there's a $49 million market-cap company called Physicians Formula Holdings that boasts the ticker symbol FACE.

F, of course, is taken by an automotive giant.

FBK and FB appear to be available.

Here's an unorthodox little stock theory that takes Greater Fool to the greatest extent possible: Is there any chance that morons with money — actually, there are some — will buy, or even have already bought, FACE, on the notion they're actually buying Facebook?

At $3.65 a share and $49 million market cap, it wouldn't take much to move the needle.

And a derivative theory on that: When NFL stars join a new team, often some other player has their favorite number, so they buy it from the lesser player. Is it possible — and we have no idea if this ever happens, as ticker symbols aren't quite like domain names — that Facebook would pay FACE a healthy amount of cash merely to go away and change its name, which could be enough to boost FACE's short-term capital-raising outlook?

Hey, dumber things have happened on Wall Street.

Fatburger is basically a luxury
of developed economies

Gary Kaminsky, reflecting on his recent trip to South Africa, said "the first thing emerging economies want when they've got some sort of middle-class creation, it's a change in diet .. more protein, more soy."

Kaminsky noted this has been a common investing thesis for a while, but said for those interested in playing it, "There is a double leveraged ETF, DAG ... that plays specifically on soft commodities."

David Faber said a double-levered instrument like DAG is more of a trading vehicle and not really a long-term type of investment, even though it's done very well in fact over 6 months.

Roger Corrado, brought in for a very brief phone chat, is on board with that kind of trade; "I see no reason why that's gonna stall in 2011."

Kate Kelly was on location in Santa Fe, N.M., at Thornburg Investment Management, where Jason Brady said he likes Australia dollar bonds.

We discovered on the company's Web site that chairman Garrett Thornburg was apparently a honcho in the Felix Rohatyn-Jimmy Cayne New York City solvency revival of the mid-'70s.

GM exec: ‘Number of indicators’ of small-business hiring ahead

We wondered, given that Phil LeBeau's interview with GM's Don Johnson occurred in the last few minutes of Tuesday's Strategy Session, if Johnson was going to announce either 1) GM is getting into for-profit education, or 2) GM is doing a reverse-Chinese merger.

But no, Herb Greenberg was nowhere to be seen.

Gary Kaminsky asked Johnson — twice — about U.S. unemployment. "We do see that coming down, throughout the year, steadily," Johnson said, suggesting a "number of indicators that say that small, medium-sized businesses are gonna have to start hiring people part time and full time."

[Monday, January 3, 2011]

A day later, Kathy Lien is probably still giving Reasons 2 and 3

She maybe has mastered writing, but not the art of the soundbite.

Melissa Lee brought in newfound Fast Money star Kathy Lien, author of a currency book, to deliver a currency trade for the week.

"My favorite currency trade of the week is going long Australian dollars on dips," Lien said.

We'd post her rationale, except Lien apparently thought she was getting paid by the word, and it would take an hour to transcribe her entire commentary before Melissa Lee eventually cut her off — and that was with only 1 of 3 criteria explanations (fundamentals, with technical and sentiment pending) in the bag.

We know the fundamentals involve flooding, but that's about it.

Notably, Research in Motion
left out of conversation

Yair Reiner might've gotten more than he bargained for from Brian Kelly on Monday's Fast Money.

Reiner said he thinks 2011 is the year the iPhone gets some respect, if it hooks up with Verizon.

Kelly challenged Reiner, "We know this story," and demanded to know why Android wouldn't be expected to eat into some of those phone profits.

Reiner conceded that for carriers, Android has a price advantage over iPhones, but the iPad market will be "a lot more challenging for Android there" because Android tablets can't be built cheaply enough.

Pete falls for the Hurd Léo value trap

Pete Najarian revealed Monday on Fast Money, "I made a move today in Hewlett-Packard," calling it too cheap.

Karen Finerman cited HPQ as the "biggest disappointment of 2010" (we think there are probably better candidates, but she's not off-base). We were tempted to cite Finerman's recurring recommendations for HPQ as one of the worst Fast Money calls of 2010 (see below), but decided it wasn't a big enough miss.

Karen Finerman said she wrapped up her BKS short, not because she has changed her mind, but because the rapid downfall of BGP is likely a positive short-term catalyst on BKS to the upside.

This page doesn't care much and wishes HPQ longs well (this writer has no position in HPQ), but honestly, after a year or more of hearing about people buying this stock and Cisco and Microsoft, and always expressing how stunned they are at the valuation, surely there must be better catalysts in the professional trading world than "too cheap."

Pete says ‘long may you run’ to GM at $38, or something like that

Chris Whalen, who generally like every naysayer on Fast Money tends to think it's still August 2008, actually said positive things about BAC on Monday, saying "Tim Geithner gave Brian Moynihan a late Christmas present."

Whalen said "I'm looking for Wells next" to make a similar deal and perhaps get a bounce. But he lamented that taxpayers are footing the bill for this.

Jorge Beristain spoke favorably about Alcoa, even though Tim Seymour said it's already had a big run and there are better, lower-cost producers.

Pete Najarian said if Morgan Stanley's GM estimates are right, "This is still a very, very cheap stock right now at $38."

Laurie Cole spoke about spin class, but there was no mention of Scott Redler.

Guy Adami mentioned the huge spike, then pullback in WLT as a possible short-term signal. Adami's ongoing recommendation of WLT was a strong contender for our Top 10 Fast Money good calls of 2010 list (see below).

David Riedel: China has enough buyers of $4 burgers, coffee

David Riedel is a perfectly eloquent pundit, and a highly credentialed China-watcher, but despite all that, we're finding his occasional updates about the pincers on the Chinese economy rather tiresome.

Expect capital controls, interest-rate hikes, etc., Riedel said again on Monday's Fast Money. To be honest, despite what Riedel said at the end of 2010, if something goes bad with the Chinese consumer, you'll feel it in FCX just as quickly as in the FXI, but if you want to try the FXI, great.

Just like a lot of doomsayers about America, Riedel shrugged off a question about Starbucks and McDonald's making inroads with the Chinese consumer, saying it's only for the haves, who aren't struggling, and he's worried about "the rest of China, the real China ... it's the mass market that concerns me."

If you don’t understand the notes, read the notes anyway

Melissa Lee on Monday's Fast Money showed a 1-year chart from Joe Terranova that Lee said indicated a "possible head-and-shoulders formation setting up in gold."

After the expected, dreaded go-round of shampoo jokes, Karen Finerman requested to see the chart again and apparently started to say she didn't see a head-and-shoulders pattern in the-

"I'm not a technical analyst, so I can't really say," mumbled Lee, moving on to the next topic.

A sad note

At the end of Monday's Fast Money, Melissa Lee read a message about the news of the passing of Guy Adami's father last week.

We hesitate to mention it only for this reason: That it wasn't mentioned on the show last week, indicating that Guy might've preferred to keep the news private.

We note it here because it was announced on the show, this site received many queries about it Monday, and because like everyone who watches Fast Money, we are glad to see Guy Adami back, and wish him and his family well.

Steve Cortes’ preparation
is shockingly lacking

Huntington Bancshares CEO Stephen Steinour guested on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report and heard praise from contrarian-meister Steve Cortes about the insider buying in HBAN in December.

However, Cortes said to Steinour, "I did not see your name on that list, are you personally looking to buy, at this level, your company?"

Steinour noted the others' purchases and said "I bought then as well, in size, in fact I was the largest buyer so I don't know how that missed the list."

It didn't.

A quick look at the HBAN insider page at Yahoo finance shows Steinour, in fact, purchased 34,000 shares on Dec. 17.

Perhaps Cortes could devote more attention to data-mining and less to pun-making?

Keep in mind, while we're not at all knocking Steinour's purchase, 34,000 shares of a $6 stock isn't exactly equivalent to what Goldman Sachs is putting in Facebook.

Steve Cortes said just a week ago of AAPL, the general’s been shot

Melissa Lee, fresh off a week's vacation, spoke on Monday's Halftime Report with analyst Abhey Lamba, who upgraded AAPL to $400 and praised the iPad and growth in Mac sales.

Which made us wonder how Steve Cortes would react, given that he just said on Dec. 27 that "Atlas has started to shrug" and that AAPL's sideways move recently is a sign of underperformance that just can't possibly be sustained with the broader Nasdaq.

Cortes fortunately was on Monday's program and insisted, not quite as strongly as his previous military analogy, that "underperformance actually is a serious negative for Apple."

Cortes also revealed he's still short LVS, despite another, um, not-so-good day for LVS shorts.

On Day 1, Molycorp looks like the stock of the year

Melissa Lee, citing her Spider-Sense, asked Steve Cortes on Monday's Halftime Report if he would consider shorting Molycorp after another jaw-dropping day.

"This one is absolutely too crazy for me," Cortes grinned. "If anything I would be selling calls."

Brian Kelly was also staying away. "Buying it here is a little bit crazy," Kelly said.

Mel Lee asked superstar analyst Rich Greenfield to define "disintermediate" in terms of Facebook.

"Now the news finds you," Greenfield said, which he thinks is "fundamentally changing the media game."

Greenfield said 2 days of television isn't enough to buy a stock, but that Discovery could get a jolt from the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Jon Najarian said options activity in Nvidia was "crazy busy."

‘Asbestos’ sounds like it’s
likely off the table

Over the weekend, to celebrate the new year, this page put together a list of the best and worst Fast Money calls of 2010.

Quite frankly, sifting through the list of stuff we'd flagged, there was a lot of entertaining stuff we had to leave out (the notion of an honorable mention pile just seemed like overkill, even if some of those might be better than our actual picks).

So expect to see some of the runners-up resurface here for a while.

One of those would be Steve Cortes' analysis of the sudden legal claims against the banks and their mortgage-packaging that produced something of a development on Monday.

On Oct. 20, Cortes, who's been pushing some variation of a BAC short since seemingly, oh, before there was sliced bread, said, "I really think it could be an asbestos situation ... society wants a boogeyman."

Cortes said on Monday's Halftime that "Nothing can destroy a company faster than lawyers," and that BAC's deal is "clearly a very big positive for that company."

Kaminsky: Goldman could launch Facebook at $80 billion IPO ‘overnight’

Gary Kaminsky, chipper after an African safari, on Monday surged back onto the Strategy Session, which kicked off the new year with a strong showing.

Tom Fox discussed the Goldman Sachs investment in Facebook (something we're likely going to be hearing about all year) and indicated that, while there's probably no guarantees, such an investment would seem to line Goldman up in the pole position for any possible Facebook IPO. But Kaminsky said not to expect this private-placement investment stuff to become a trend, citing when Janus plunged into WebMD. "You've gotta be careful when you hear that this is gonna be very different, it's gonna change this forever, because that's never the case," Kaminsky said.

Kaminsky also drew an interesting comparison between Facebook and a well-known publicly trade tech giant, saying people are getting excited about a $50 billion market cap when AAPL basically rang that up as a gain last year.

Kaminsky said demand among Goldman investors for a slice of Facebook will be well oversubscribed, and that, "if they wanna take this company public tomorrow, with an 80 billion valuation, could happen overnight."

Kaminsky: Get ready to hear from the closet indexers

Talcott Franklin, as expected for someone in his line of work, praised the Bank of America Fannie-Freddie deal as an encouraging step in the possibile mortgage-liability sphere. "The reality is that these things were put together in a very sloppy manner," Franklin said.

But when Gary Kaminsky asked if what happened was fraud, or just "crappy product," all Franklin could say was "Honestly I can't get into the work product I've done."

Herb Greenberg, like Gary Kaminsky returning from a break, made a healthy point about new listings/reverse mergers trumpeting exchange listings such as the Nasdaq Global Select Market. "It's an automatic upgrade," Greenberg lamented, and not at all a Good Housekeeping seal for the company.

On stocks, Gary Kaminsky said, "The real wealth creation other than a couple of names like Apple, has been in the mid-caps, has been in the organic growth companies where you've paid up significantly above market multiples."

Following that, Kaminsky said that people will regularly come on CNBC touting big-cap names in some kind of a P.E. or mean reversion, you'll hear them say "this is gonna be the year that I'm gonna get the relative catch-up," and in fact they're just closet indexers.

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