[CNBCfix Fast Money Review Archive, March 2010]
[Wednesday, March 31, 2010]

Great Scott! That’s the weakest argument for inflation yet

Peter Boockvar was doing whatever it takes Wednesday to get the Fast Money gang to accept his inflation-is-quietly-here scenario.

"Couple days ago a Superman comic book sold for a million and a half dollars," Boockvar said. "A record."

In the spirit of that theme, Boockvar said an overlevered economy coupled with rates that are rising is going to produce a "kryptonite situation."

Daniel Clifton thought a veteran politician would be unwilling to deal

Daniel Clifton made 2 appearances on Fast Money Wednesday.

In the first one, he said Democrats' momentum from passing health care has stalled, apparently because polls haven't given them a bounce, and he said it's a real concern that the headwinds on the overhaul are coming into play now with the benefits not due until 2014 in a lot of cases.

So when Clifton returned for a follow-up and helped Melissa Lee "connect the dots," Karen Finerman boldly asked him — noting she didn't want to embarrass him — why his prediction of health vote failure proved wrong.

"We had information on Stupak that we thought that he would not be able to make a deal," Clifton said.

Sunny didn’t ask about CAT

Melissa Lee looked so good in her curvy red top Wednesday that some viewers were probably disappointed she opened the show seated instead of doing that front-of-studio appearance.

It's one of several outfits we'll recommend if we can succeed at talking Lee and Mary Thompson into serving as hostesses for the CNBCfix annual party.

Lee on Wednesday had a serious case of the giggles, but it wasn't silly and actually looked like she was having a lot of fun.

And if viewers such as Sunny in Columbia, Mo., were feeling a little stiffed, who cares?

Lee read Sunny's question — whether BUCY is a buy on the dip — to Pete Najarian. Pete wouldn't cough up an answer but merely said he thinks CAT "in the long run has more upside."

"Sunny, you got your answer," Melissa said.

An undecided voter

We're always eager to get a hint of what Karen Finerman thinks about the president.

She said this Wednesday:

"I can't tell whether he's more empowered, or he's used all his chips already."

Guy Adami said something about how he might have pocket aces, or just an off-suited 2 and 7.

Jim Goldman calls out
Tim Seymour

Jim Goldman on Wednesday, listening to the RIMM conference call, sounded dumbfounded that Tim Seymour might suggest the smartphone market is becoming "saturated."

But when Melissa Lee jumped in slightly on Seymour's side, Goldman conceded it depends on which metric one uses.

Seymour argued that the "low-hanging fruit" in the smartphone space has already been grabbed, and to expect tougher margin battles.

Brian Kelly made a joke, saying while he recommended NEOG that corn is a "saturated market." (You should've seen Karen Finerman light up at that one.)

It’s 43.50 per Yahoo

Gary Kaminsky said a while ago that AMT is such a cash-flow machine, you can't evaluate it on typical metrics.

That didn't stop Karen Finerman from declaring Wednesday that AMT is "very expensive on any metric."

Mike Khouw suggested protecting yourself against a sudden crash in the stock market by buying the SPY April $117 put for $1.25. He compared it to buying insurance for your car just for driving a couple days in a rough neighborhood. Mel Lee called that the "perfect metaphor."

Guy Adami mentioned his months-old trade about buying RIG below $80 on that terrible quarterly report (again).

Tim Seymour contended that CLF's forward P.E. is 43. Pete Najarian bellowed "43 times??!?!" Melissa Lee questioned that as well but Seymour stood by the number. Najarian insisted everyone should look at the 2010 numbers, whatever that means.

Karen Finerman has been notably not as humorous as she was last year. We're not sure why, as she seems as jovial as ever, but the one-liners haven't been as rampant.

Wednesday she sought to reverse that momentum, sneakily asking Tim Seymour "Where's Mercado Libre?" when Seymour was arguing off the top of his head that foreign companies were in the top 5 of revenue.

Adami must’ve been
cheering on the Salukis

What was Guy Adami possibly doing in southern Illinois?

Wednesday on Fast Money, Adami revealed, "I was just in, uh, in Ill- I was in Marion, Illinois."

Then he made a joke about John Gotti being the last Italian in Marion.

Guy Adami insists he’s not ready
to dump Debbie Downer

Melissa Lee on the Fast Money Halftime Report Wednesday tried to goad Guy Adami into accepting the greatness of this stock market, but Adami refused. "Data has been at best tepid," he complained, and while it's fine for traders to have a view, they can't be "dogmatic" about what's going on.

Jared Levy, citing Susan "Stop the insanity!" Powter, agreed. "I just can't understand why the market keeps climbing," he said, but he'd be interested in "anything that's gonna supply food to the people."

Levy said he has a "slight bullish bias" on Research in Motion and suggested this play: "In May, you buy the 70 put and sell the 80 call." Guy Adami suggested a contrarian reaction, selling RIMM on a big jump or buying it if it crumbles.

Patty Edwards had several recommendations Wednesday, pointing to a name that is rarely heard on Fast Money, Exelon, for its "awesome" dividend and exposure to cleaner-than-coal energy such as nuclear and nat gas.

Guy Adami wouldn't concur that it's "awesome," only saying, "Marisa Tomei is awesome."

Edwards added, "We are buying Coca-Cola at this point" and that she's interested in "unloved stocks." She also likes Arrow Electronics. Edwards said the lawsuits for Toyota are already priced in.

Melissa Lee said at one point, "Patty Edwards, you're always as cool as a cucumber."

Adami said he'd love to get into Ford at $11.75, and said of HON, "still think it has a little giddyup."

Brian Kelly offered an interesting name we hadn't heard before, Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers (RBA), as a play on the industrial space.

[Tuesday, March 30, 2010]

We’ve been wondering:
Can we call him Tony?

Anthony Scaramucci told Fast Money viewers Tuesday how his Goldman Sachs introduction went.

"My first day on the job at Goldman, they sat us down and said, 'Don't talk to the press.'"

Scaramucci cited this media reticence as 1 of 3 Goldman image problems, which have re-emerged on word that the government picked Morgan Stanley over a free GS offer to handle the Citi sale. Another Goldman problem is "PR overmanagement" that Scaramucci says makes GS execs seem "disingenuous" and has helped fuel an "arbitrage" among traders as to whether Lloyd Blankfein is actually a nice guy. (We didn't make that one up. Of course we don't make anything on this site up.)

Scaramucci also claims GS is now "unfashionable inside the Beltway."

Melissa Lee asked about trying to "connect the dots" but the point of that escaped us. Scaramucci said, "This will compress the multiple of Goldman Sachs."

Small amount of payback for ‘Gasparino Off the Record’

Apparently, the WaPost's "free" angle to the GS story cited by Melissa Lee scooped Charles Gasparino, whose article Monday didn't mention that, only the "modest" fees MS is expected to get.

Doesn’t get any better than this for arbitrage

Karen Finerman talked a bit about the OSIP deal.

The only problem was that she thinks the low-hanging fruit might've already been swiped with OSIP around $60, and she was more interested in the next trade that didn't get quite as much time.

Karen said that Alcon has a "very, very real shot of a sweetened bump," and even if not, she thinks the overall floor is higher.

Hold the phones

Tuesday was smartphone day on Fast Money, which seems to happen about, oh, once a week.

Pip Coburn announced "The Droid is the only phone that I've actually returned."

But then again, it seems he may have been predisposed to do so, saying he's been short MOT "for ages."

Coburn, like Patty Edwards, is bullish on RIMM even though AAPL (this writer is long AAPL) has more good news in the pipeline. Scott Nations on the other hand adopted a bearish put spread, buying puts around $75 and selling them around $65 (or something like that). The handy Options Action profit/loss chart delivers a gain for Nations between $65 and $71, which we have to admit seems a bit cockamamie to us, given that the stock seems to go up or down $10 after earnings, sort of like spending a lot of time devising a complicated way to lose, like the Joker in "The Dark Knight," except he didn't really lose, did he?

Edwards also recommended MICC, an international, "all prepaid cellular" play that doesn't have credit risk. Tim Seymour actually recommended MBT but not, to our surprise, ever-popular VimpelComm.

31-minute mark this time

Either they feel it has potential — or they're getting heat from the brass.

Fast Money producers moved up the segment for "The Pitch" Tuesday. Guy Adami argued for Itron, referencing the dreadful 1982 movie "Tron" that unlike what Adami said is not so famous for Jeff Bridges but for being the only other notable role for Cindy Morgan, who of course starred as Lacy Underall in "Caddyshack."

(Morgan, according to a great 90-minute documentary on perhaps the History Channel, apparently was surprised to show up on the "Caddyshack" set one day halfway through filming and learning one of the movie brass had volunteered her for a Playboy shoot, which she wasn't terribly happy about, contrary to her reaction when Judge Smales starts taking a 5-iron to the bedposts...)

ITRI is a green play or a smartgrid play or something like that. Patty Edwards said she missed the movie "Tron" (lucky) but is "absolutely a buyer" of the stock.

How to play that: Short India,
long Pakistan, or vice versa?

Guy Adami declared Tuesday, "You could elect Gandhi president in this country and defense spending won't go down frankly."

Melissa Lee started cracking up when she asked Tim Seymour if there were international plays on defense spending.

You’re probably late to IPI

Ben Thompson of Samson didn't have that many exciting things to say about muni bonds on Fast Money Tuesday, except that Texas is seen as low-volatility, and he had some praise for Chris Christie's efforts.

Dr. J made an appearance from Chicago to point out that IPI is hopping in the options markets. Tim Seymour questioned why anyone should believe the takeover speculation now even though it's the right size. Dr. J made a point about volume that 1) didn't really address the question and 2) we really didn't get.

Guy Adami made a point about DHR that was supposed to be bullish but sounded equally bearish. He was clearly bullish on Agco and Akamai.

Steve Cortes was adamant that there's now a "strategic repricing" of the euro.

Tim Seymour neatly pinned Joe Terranova as to whether Terranova was calling for a V-shaped recovery in the labor market.

Karen Finerman, in brilliant orange sleeveless attire, conceded IBM is "a little boring" but at 11 times, compared with a "ridiculous" gain in the Russell 2000, it's a steady stock for steady players. Guy Adami openly questioned when the IBM multiple expansion will ever happen. Karen said hey, if it's growing 13% a year, who cares.

Only later did MLee bring up those Barrick bought-back hedges

Patty Edwards, on the West Coast Prop Desk, said Tuesday, "You know, we're reducing our gold positions at this point," and instead turning to platinum.

It seemed like everyone thought that to be wise, including Tim Seymour, who pointed to historical norms in gold-platinum ratios being slightly ajar.

"It makes for boring television" when everyone agrees, said Joe Terranova, but there was a consensus to Patty's point.


Guy Adami said Tuesday to Patty Edwards, "If you want something tangible, hold on to those 8-tracks you have. I mean, that's about the most tangible thing that I got, frankly."

Movie of the week:
‘She’s Out of My League’

To say "She's out of my league" in the CNBCfix world is to be virtually redundant. That phrase is so apropos around here, we almost made it the motto on the site's "about" page.

This under-the-radar comedy now in theaters has a little heart. It's not that funny. In movies there is good raunch and there is bad raunch. "League" is actually not that raunchy, but the raunch it has just isn't that good.

So, how did it creep onto this page ... because it has a crown jewel. That would be Alice Eve. She's 28. You've likely never heard of her. She's British. Young Christie Brinkley. Keep in mind her lingerie scene doesn't involve a body double. Not a 10, but a Ford (that would be a 13 or 14).

And oh yes, another crown jewel ... the notion that many of our limitations come not from others but our own way of thinking. Keep that in mind the next time you're eager to sell CLF up only 30%.

Armstrong is back

Addison Armstrong made a long-overdue return to Fast Money on the Halftime Report Tuesday, talking about his specialty, crude. "I think this market is gonna be sleepy," Armstrong said.

Armstrong said "good luck" to the Goldman forecast of $6 in 12 months for nat gas, saying it has no reason to rally.

Melissa Lee, 3 minutes into the show, noted they hadn't talked about AAPL yet, so then they did go on to talk about AAPL, but our ears quickly glazed over when Pete Najarian claimed playing AAPL via options is a "dangerous" game because the stock is nominally so high-priced, but ... pause ... see if you've heard this before ... Pete said nevertheless "the volatilities are very very low."

Heath Terry talked about the impact of the Nintendo Wii on Netflix in defending his price-target hike.

Todd Gordon warned that Goldman Sachs was failing at its 2010 high of $178. Patty Edwards said GS is the only financial she owns but she is wary of it.

"Amazon looks very, very strong," Gordon said.

[Monday, March 29, 2010]

Scaramucci earning the paycheck

Anthony Scaramucci was a busy guy on Monday.

But a little analysis first. Scaramucci is one of the few people we would ever say is too clear on television.

He is enunciating his comments so perfectly, it almost feels like more of a sound check than hip, happenin', hoppin' stock market show.

Hardly something to carp about, but we're capable of noticing the darnedest little things.

(Hey, we already said he should run for office, so cut us some slack.)

In short order, Scaramucci will no doubt sound as "conversational" as the others and be spouting terms like "absolutely phenomenal action in the options pits."

Party with 59 Senate votes and 257 House seats passed a bill

Anthony Scaramucci told Fast Money viewers Monday he had a chat with Obama economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, really only known to political types who recall the told-Canadians-Obama-didn't-really-mean-his-anti-NAFTA-statements thing. (Goolsbee, however, did escape name ID in Game Change over that incident.)

Scaramucci said he was impressed with Goolsbee, who "showed a lot of charisma."

Scaramucci said there is a big drive for financial reform; the way he said it felt like Democratic congressmen are now waking up in the morning and asking for votes before their Egg McMuffins because they're so excited about their health care victory.

"These guys wanna get it done by Memorial Day," Scaramucci said.

He then said something about "Mama Bear taxes" that rang our b.s. meter but we didn't know what he was talking about. Later, he said the White House is more concerned about a double-dip recession than inflation, and that there is a concerted effort to allow more Ph.D's to stay in the U.S. "The White House is listening," he said, and of course it is, because that's a priority of Eric Schmidt.

Blame Bush

We've detected a lot of dissatisfaction, particularly from corners that might be viewed as key CNBCfix.com constituencies, about the health-care legislation that Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer ramrodded through the House last week that has now apparently emboldened everyone.

The culprit is the previous occupant of the White House.

In 2006, Republicans held the House of Representatives 228-201.

Democrats gained a staggering 31 seats in elections that year.

In 2008, they gained 21 more.

In the Senate, it went Democrats +6 in 2006, Democrats +8 in 2008.

Regardless of whether he did a lousy job — and we don't necessarily think he did do a lousy job, at least across the board — the public thought he did a lousy job. His approval ratings were unfathomably low for an endless amount of time: He even broke the Gallup record at 20% in November 2008. His job as a politician is to convince people otherwise, spawn coalitions that produce broad support for needed initiatives. Instead, the only coalition that spawned was to throw the bums out.

Congressional seats shift in the wind all the time. This type of value destruction is embarrassing if not pathetic. By 2006 he was deflated, lost all motivation and in his worst moment, couldn't negotiate a TARP agreement in October 2008 but essentially turned that over to Obama even before the election.

The headwind on his party certainly contributed to the close Senate losses in Oregon, Montana, Minnesota and Missouri in 2006-08 that have now enabled not just health care but pretty much any legislation the president or Nancy Pelosi wants.

One wonders, had John Kerry succeeded in 2004, who would be president right now, and whether anyone would've ever heard of this Obama guy yet.

C rumor called bogus

Some people might consider the only thing worse than spending a morning with an Obama adviser would be calling a bunch of hedge funds in search of facts. Anthony Scaramucci happened to do both Monday.

Melissa Lee said there's a rumor hedge funds will push Citigroup to $5 and then dump it on the institutional buyers. (This writer is long C.)

Scaramucci said "I made a lot of calls today" to hedge funds, including the "Alpha 100," and "I just don't see this."

Karen Finerman, who had touted C's valuation in February, admitted Monday "I missed the boat."

Welcome back, Finerman

Thank goodness Karen Finerman returned from vacation Monday, her dynamic appearance and sudden beautiful smile during a Jim Goldman segment managing to even upstage Melissa Lee's snappy green jacket.

We're intrigued about an indirect (non-)debate between Karen and Patty Edwards over J. Crew.

Patty has endorsed the stock for months; Karen has been shrugging it off as an overvalued possible short for months.

Monday, Karen said, "Some like J. Crew. I don't get it, it's too expensive."

(Edwards' argument is that Mickey Drexler is doing tremendous retailing and the stock still has room to run.)

Finerman wasn't exactly jacked up with stock picks on Monday, but she did suggest the Ford 7.45% unsecured bond that matures in 2031 with an 8% yield.

Pete: Buy RIMM at $70-$71

Peter Misek talked about the new Verizon iPhone development that boosted AAPL in afterhours (this writer is long AAPL) with this interesting caveat: "We really don't see this as a huge competitive threat" to Research in Motion.

Pete Najarian says he's eager to get in RIMM on a pullback, around $70-$71. Joe Terranova on the other hand is suggesting it's a possible short again. Terranova said if Apple comes out with a new phone he'll toss his existing one in the garbage can. The most interesting RIMM call recently was Patty Edwards' suggestion it might be a $95 stock.

Najarian is somehow coming around on Nokia. He thinks it's possible "Nokia has finally figured it out."

Running on ‘The Pitch’

Melissa Lee introduced a new Fast Money feature Monday called "The Pitch." It was saved until the 50th minute of the show, so perhaps expectations are low.

Lee said someone would make a pitch for a stock and the panel would review it. "This is what happens up and down Wall Street," Lee assured viewers.

The debut has to be considered a bit of a dog. Brian Kelly pitched GFI. Joe Terranova shrugged and said something about sounds good but is it maybe too high and needing a pullback. Pete Najarian said "I like it here as well," but let's admit it Pete, not with a whole lot of conviction. Lee said that sounds like 1 and a half votes. Anthony Scaramucci and Karen Finerman were silent.

Worth in need of caffeine

Carter Worth didn't have anything so exciting as his recent short-Ford call on Monday's Fast Money.

Worth said, if choosing between Dow 12,000 or 10,000, he'd pick 10,000.

Anthony Scaramucci asked what factors would make him think 12,000 instead.

"You need to either rest, sideways, or give back, go down," Worth said.

We translate that as something like it's going up, so it'll go down.

Worth later halfheartedly predicted stocks such as AB and CB looked ready for breakouts, but neither we nor Karen Finerman seemed to understand his rationale.

Karen takes a page
from James Lipton

Anthony Scaramucci on Monday made an interesting comment on the state of shopping.

"The American consumer, in my personal opinion, is tired of being frugal," Scaramucci said. He said the consumer has been "acting" frugal for 18 months.

"Some aren't acting though," butted in Karen Finerman, who then suggested perhaps the consumer is "method acting."

The fact is that some consumers are indeed tired of being frugal; many others never got frugal in the first place.

Scaramucci said "I strongly recommend" JNJ and IBM for those people concerned about a stalled market. But he thinks the "government overhang" is beginning to lift a little, and thus "stocks are the place to be."

Oil $85 before $79

Joe Terranova took up some energy-related issues Monday on Fast Money.

Pressed for an oil call, Terranova declared "85 before 79."

Pete Najarian though wasn't so sure. "I haven't seen any proof yet that it can get up and through — other than geopolitical — it can get up and sustain over 82."

Terranova said Pete would see this proof if he spent a day with him and saw all the "quality institutional buying" coming in to oil futures.

Terranova said refiners might now be a good place to be. Anthony Scaramucci asked him what the catalyst for that might be. Without a real specific answer, Terranova noted China is consuming 1 million more barrels of oil a day than it was a year ago.

Terranova also said of IOC, "that is a widowmaker."

Mike Khouw suggested an options trade of buying XLE $59 calls and selling XLE $55 puts. The rationale was lost on us.

Quiet Halftime

In a very low-key Fast Money Halftime Report Monday, analyst Gregory Badishkanian said Subway's entry in the breakfast business is sort of a general problem to other fast-food breakfast makers. "I think that hurts all players to some extent," he said.

Pete Najarian saluted Guy Adami's recent call on Boeing, but Carter Worth suggested it's time to pull the ripcord. "At this point everyone's in, angle's too steep, I think you gotta trim," Worth said.

Worth conceded his recent Fast Money call to get out of consumer discretionary "sure hasn't" worked.

Jeff Tomasulo cautioned that the gains in the oil sector Monday might be just a seasonal energy rally often seen this time of year.

Scott Nations said it was hard to be euphoric about this market. "The volume over the last several weeks has been pretty tepid ... there's no convincing follow-through," he said.

Pete Najarian said "I tend to still be very bullish on the overall market, but I definitely have protection in place."

[Friday, March 26, 2010]

Quote marks gone

We always try to adhere to top journalism standards. Those include referring to titles of TV shows and movies in quotations. (Book titles, in most newspapers, are italicized, but some publications opt for quotes.)

The other day, it occurred to us, why the heck are we doing this?

We're tired of saying "Joe Terranova opened Friday's 'Fast Money' with ..."

Or even worse, having to put that clunky "Fast Money Halftime Report" in quotes all the time.

It's hard enough to grind this stuff out without worrying about where the quote marks fall.

So, no more. From now on, it's just Fast Money, Fast Money Halftime Report, Mad Money, Options Action, Porn: Business of Pleasure, etc., at least on this page.

Title style is one of those things newspapers historically (and, unfortunately, foolishly in recent years) spent a lot of resources debating and formulating. In a setting such as this page with those block letters at the top that scream "Fast Money Review," quotes aren't really necessary. So they're gone. And you probably wouldn't have noticed if we hadn't told you.

Icahn nemesis unloaded shares
on dark day of stock market

We were a little bit surprised — actually not that surprised, but somewhat surprised — to hear, in the aftermath of Melissa Lee's Lionsgate showdown between Carl Icahn and Michael Burns, pretty much the entire Fast Money panel declaring Burns the winner.

We didn't consider it so one-sided.

But first things first.

We've discovered that Burns in fact was married in the 1990s to Lori Loughlin. Lori Loughlin is a stunning fox. We understand, via the Internet, that the couple divorced, and each remarried. Burns is now married to another actress, Pell James, who has appeared in "Zodiac" among other films. We wish Burns and James and Loughlin the best.

Now, let's talk business.

We were curious what Icahn has paid for his LGF shares.

So we went to the Yahoo finance log.

That shows Icahn made his initial purchase on Feb. 10, 2009, at a price undisclosed. In the next 2 weeks he bought large blocs at $4.22, $4.31, $4.21, $4.37, $4.50, $4.36, $4.41, $4.64.

In later months, he bought at $5.37, $5.46, $5.47, $5.51, $5.50, $5.49, $5.40, $5.36, $5.29, $5.38, $5.36, $5.25, $5.22, $5.26, $5.43, $5.26.

In February 2010, around the time he was interviewed on the Fast Money Halftime Report, Icahn reported purchases at $4.97, $5.15, $5.06, $5.16.

Nowhere in there do you see a price beginning with "6".

Burns, according to Yahoo, reportedly owns 962,000 shares now. He reported selling about 675,000 shares for prices around $6 a share on Oct. 10, 2008, which is famous for being a historically awful day — but also a reversal — on Wall Street. The Dow plunged to 7,773.71 intraday, then a day and a half later, closed at 9,387.61, a 1,600-point roller coaster.

Burns could've sold his LGF shares a couple days earlier above $8 and made 33% more. Or, he could've waited a week, sold around $7 and made 16% more.

Burns, according to Yahoo, didn't start buying again until November 2009.

Let's concede that investors are trained to detect lows and highs, and that Icahn should be more skilled at timing his transactions than Burns.

What about the offer for MGM's library that Icahn dislikes but Burns (without acknowledging it formally existed) defended?

Lo and behold, news came out late this week that Lionsgate is dropping its bid for MGM.

Furthermore, prior to that, we saw this Reuters article quoting investor Richard Dorfman on the LGF climb this week: "One of the reasons for the stock's move today was that it is becoming fairly obvious that Lions Gate is not going to get MGM. Views that they may have had been weighing on the stock price."

That article also says, "Analyst David Bank of RBC Capital also said the shares rose in response to the very public sparring, which gave more credibility to Icahn's efforts." (Emphasis our own.)

So Icahn not only brilliantly has been buying a massive amount of shares low, he was apparently on the right side in this massive management decision to pursue MGM.

Icahn's primary beef on CNBC was that he can't vote his own shares on the management shareholder plan. This site (snicker) couldn't afford to hire a lawyer to explain how these things typically work, but we're satisfied with Burns' explanation there.

We also agree with Burns and Lionsgate that $6 a share for the whole company is a lowball or even "ridiculous" offer.

Gary Kaminsky, who was ahead of the curve on this subject back in February, says he expects a deal between these parties.

Burns, according to Wikipedia, once worked for Prudential and Shearson Lehman Brothers. He made a curious statement to Melissa Lee when Lee pointed about how weak the 5-year chart of LGF looks. "I prefer, actually, the, the value that we've built over the last 10 years," Burns said.

Or put another way, there has been no value built in 5 years, only value lost.

That's why Icahn matters. Carl gets it. He might not know anything about making movies or TV shows, but he knows a great deal about making stocks rise and making investors wealthy. And like it or not, Lionsgate is a publicly traded company.

Burns doesn't seem to have a clue about shareholder value. Burns bailed when the chips were down. His stock for 5 years running is a disaster. Without Icahn's presence, it's going nowhere. LGF should be private, where Burns and others he recruits can make the company as profitable and/or experimental as they want it. But it's not. Burns was probably a onetime savvy financier who has morphed into studio producer mode and guardian of intellectual property. On that subject we have no doubt his judgment is sound. Conclusion? These guys need each other.

Melissa Lee in pantsuit

The most startling moment of Friday's "Fast Money" was the opening, when Melissa Lee was revealed to be wearing a pantsuit.

We don't think we've seen that before.

It was navy, over a purple blouse. Looked good. We'll mull.

Even better than
the real thing

Anthony Scaramucci, a regular "Fast Money" guest recently, suddenly turned up in one of the chairs on Friday.

Melissa Lee announced Scaramucci's "Fast Money" nickname: "Now we can call Anthony 'The Hedge.' "

"Does that mean I can play with Bono?" Scaramucci asked. But then he pointed out no, it's got an "H" in front of it.

Remember, he insisted they didn’t have the votes on health care

Dan Clifton showed up on the "Fast Money" set Friday to talk about taxes, though viewers didn't get much in the way of a trade.

"We're looking out to the 2nd half, taxes are definitely going up," Clifton said, and he said the sectors influenced will be tech and small caps. "There's an inverse relationship between the Nasdaq performance and the capital gains tax rate."

Tim Seymour repeated an old gripe about corporate taxation. "I'm a little bummed out. Intel with an effective tax rate of 12%, my effective tax rate's probably 50..."

"Well Tim you're absolutely right," Clifton agreed, sort of in therapist mode. "The individual tax increases are gonna go into place Jan. 1, 2011. But corporates are gonna be part of the story ... There's just not enough wealthy people to fund the, fund the deficit."

Anthony Scaramucci asked about the future "blended" tax rate for regular folks, and to be honest we're not quite sure what that means. Clifton though said it would go from about 32% to 35% at least on the "higher margin" where "decisions are made."

Not like it really matters, but Clifton said there's a 50% chance that Larry Summers steps down by year-end. "The president's economic team always leaves," he said. Melissa Lee later said the White House called that "bunk."

Melissa Lee endorses eBay

In a lighter moment Friday — actually, the entire show was basically a light moment, a "Laugh-In" starring Anthony Scaramucci as guest host — Melissa Lee and the "Fast Money" crew poked fun at Shia LaBeouf for recommending IOC shares apparently in a GQ article (Tim Seymour likely reads GQ).

That prompted this speech/declaration from Scaramucci:

"For all you Hollywood people out there, 'Wall Street 2' is now called 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.' They dropped the '2.' Reason being, 23 years ago was the first 'Wall Street.' Not a lot of people in the new generation are remembering that. So it's now 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.' And Shia, call us. Call us with a good stock idea, redeem yourself. OK, don't let Melissa pick on you on national TV."

"All I know," Melissa said, "is that I have a baseball cap that says WS2, and I'm gonna auction that off on eBay right after the show."

Tough love

Steve Cortes grumbled Friday on "Fast Money" that he left too many profits in his euro trade on the table yesterday, even though the trade remains profitable.

"I woke up today to a nasty morning surprise," he said, but he's sticking with the trade. "I'm not a believer that Greece is suddenly solvent." He repeated that he's bearish on U.S. companies with exposure such as 3M or P&G — and Pete Najarian wasn't exactly convinced.

"I love Killer, but I think he's going down the wrong path," Pete said. "I mean he had to come up with some sort of an elaborate strategy there to tell us why 3M's not gonna continue to show us the strength that it has."

Credit Gary Kaminsky for making ‘melt-up’ a household term

Anthony Scaramucci said Friday, "I definitely think there's a continued melt-up" in the markets, and he thinks stocks go higher.

Joe Terranova agreed slightly on the past, not the future. "This market has been melting up on short squeeze," he said, but pointing to Good Friday when the jobs report comes out as a likely peak, he added, "I believe the momentum has shifted, I believe the upside is limited."

Scaramucci insisted, "If you get wage growth plus consumer activity, this is a total home run for stocks ... so we gotta be very careful here on the short side."

Ag lag

Anthony Scaramucci on Friday said "I'm looking at Monsanto right now ... I like the name Monsanto."

Tim Seymour agreed, but we never really heard a good catalyst from either of them other than the stock has lagged. Melissa Lee obviously had the same reaction, asking why, if the stock has underperformed since 2008, is it suddenly going to jump now.

Seymour pointed to growth in the fertilizer names, with the old farmers-can't-put-off-buying-anymore argument you've heard for years now on "Fast Money," and apparently thinks the whole sector is strong. "Monsanto ... is one of the best in breed," Seymour he said.

Why in the world would Best Buy acquire Radio Shack?

Brian Kelly, like Joe Terranova, is a bit bearish on the markets and Friday said a "5, 10% healthy pullback would not be that bad."

So we'll ask again, what exactly about that would be "healthy"?

The other three panelists, Tim Seymour, Anthony Scaramucci and Pete Najarian, were basically smiling bulls on Friday, disagreeing with short calls such as Kelly's in the aluminum space. "I actually think copper's breaking out," Seymour said.

Melissa Lee, Scaramucci and Najarian talked about the craziest rumor we've heard in a long time, that Best Buy might be interested in Radio Shack. "I don't know that Best Buy needs them nor do they want them," Najarian said.

Seymour pointed to the private equity guys again, names like BX and FIG. "These guys all look interesting," he said.

Joe Terranova said you want to "sell Sears."

Joe Terranova made a curious football statement. Terranova said Pete Najarian was a "3-time defensive player of the year at Minnesota ... only player to do it. Why? Because Pete knew where the play was going."

We didn't know Pete was a 3-time defensive MVP. While he probably did know where a lot of plays were going, more likely, it's because he could run and he could hit.

Tim Seymour made a joke about Joe Terranova buying Skin Bracer.

Stutland: Fears of triple-top
in gold

The "Fast Money Halftime Report" Friday was dominated by talk of the Korean boat situation.

"We have seen a spike in the gold VIX," Brian Stutland said, which "raises some concern that we're reaching a triple-top here in gold."

Katie Stockton, whom we haven't seen for a while, said oil and energy charts were forecasting a "sharp phase of underperformance for the energy sector."

Stockton was bullish on BAC. "I'd look for a breakout on positive momentum and improved relative strength."

Stutland said LVS was heating up in options pits, the "April 24 calls, April 22 and a half calls."

Analyst Steven Chick talked about what he sees as trouble for Best Buy. Referring to notebook sales, he spoke of a "natural margin-mix headwind." He said the comps over last fall's reports pose challenges for 2010. "They look very difficult at this point," he said.

[Thursday, March 25, 2010]

The ultimate sacrifice

Guy Adami on Thursday told a story about Akamai co-founder Danny Lewin that we didn't know about.

Adami said Lewin was on a 9/11 flight from Boston to L.A. and "was actually sitting one row behind Mohamed Atta frankly." Adami said Lewin is believed to be the passenger who was stabbed as the mass murderers stormed the cockpit.

According to Wikipedia pages citing the 9/11 Commission, Lewin was in seat 9B. Satam al Suqami was behind him in 10B. Atta, as Adami noted, was a row ahead, in 8D.

Very little is known about what happened inside the plane. Investigators based their findings largely on phone calls made by 2 flight attendants, Betty Ong and Madeline Sweeney. Ong and Sweeney reported that 2 flight attendants were stabbed and one male passenger was either killed or seriously wounded. They spoke of treating the wounded and handling the passengers in coach. They identified the seat numbers of the attackers, which helped authorities determine the names of the assailants.

Aside from being a tech pioneer, Lewin was a veteran of an elite Israeli army unit. The 9/11 Commission speculates Lewin was the passenger killed because he would've seen the assault happening in front of him and may have tried to stop it, not realizing al Suqami was sitting behind him.

The horror witnessed by these heroes is beyond unspeakable. That people such as Lewin, Ong and Sweeney were trying to save others while under such duress ... this page isn't worthy of writing about what they did.

Akamai: ‘A scale player with a differentiated solution’

Paul Sagan, Akamai's chief, took part in a "Fast Money" segment Thursday that referred to AKAM as an "under the radar" stock, which it certainly is not to "Fast Money" viewers.

Melissa Lee asked Sagan about margins — twice, in fact, because Sagan didn't really address the question the first time.

Sagan said "People have worried about that for years, and what we demonstrated even last year in the recession was our margins improved and it's because we're a scale player with a differentiated solution. ... So, that's really an old question."

Sagan also said, "The real competition for us, the main one, is do-it-yourself."

Scaramucci: Here’s a stock
that could double

Skybridge Capital's Anthony Scaramucci, quickly becoming a "Fast Money" regular, gushed Thursday about Atlas Pipeline Partners and told viewers "this stock could double in the next 6 months."

He said Leon Cooperman is in the name, it's delevering, it's liquefied natural gas, it's a play on rising crude, it's in the "garbage pail" of oversold stocks that savvy hedge fund managers find, and "this stock can go back to 30 bucks."

What more do you need to know?

Terranova comments
on Tim Seymour’s legs

During a Finish Line discussion Thursday, Melissa Lee started talking about toning shoes.

Joe Terranova told Tim Seymour, "Your toning shoes are not working. I saw your calves."

"They don't sell 'em at Chess King bro," said Seymour.

Kaminsky continues to pick at
that LULU trade gone south

Patty Edwards argued Thursday that Gary Kaminsky was perhaps extrapolating a bit too far on the high-end consumer.

Kaminsky talked about a news story this week that many people missed. (Did this site miss it? Gulp, guess we did.) Kaminsky said "the Four Seasons Maui, which Michael Dell bought and refinanced the mortgage, was not able to make their mortgage payment." He said that's a signal of where the "affluent consumer" might be. "I just wanna say, yeah the high end's back, but maybe the high end's topped out here."

That brought this response from Edwards at her "West Coast Prop Desk."

"Absolutely not. The high end is not tapped out Gary," she said, and we think he might've said "topped out" while Patty said "tapped out," but whatever ... "The high end is doing just fine" even though they can't spend at crazy levels of a couple years ago, Edwards continued. "Do not expect spending to go back to 2007, 2008 levels, there is no way they can do that."

Gary returned to one of the day's favorite subjects, lululemon, and said he sees the Four Seasons as a sign that high-end trades only have so far they can go before they "get to that point of saturation."

Not seeing the Four Seasons story, we figure it's probably just a typical hotel/real estate story of the last 2 years without a whole lot of ramifications for the above-average-spending retail consumer, but we'll check it out and find out.

A lemon of a trade

Lululemon was soaring Thursday, which prompted Guy Adami on "Fast Money" to recall Gary Kaminsky's put position last month in the stock.

Adami said the company has many strengths, except valuation, which "really doesn't make a whole lot of sense." He said Kaminsky will ultimately be right, and at this point it's a better short than it was a month ago.

Kaminsky, for his part, said "I'm more convinced today than ever ... this is Wet Seal all over again." He added, "Lululemon is a great company; it's not a great stock ... it is gonna end very ugly." Nevertheless, he warned about the difficulties in shorting against a broad-market-higher tape.

Tired of Europe

We understand the "Fast Money" gang has to talk about global market developments and that they are well-versed at doing so.

Frankly, we're no longer interested in hearing about Greece & Europe & the IMF & the euro.

Sound the sirens; AAPL down $2

Guy Adami made a perfectly fine statement about AAPL and an apparent outside reversal. We have no doubt his point was spot-on. It was not bombastic in the slightest. But we have to say (this writer is long AAPL), it doesn't quite feel like AAPL is in free fall just yet.

Adami said it's "not an indictment on Apple so don't send me e-mails about how I hate Apple," the type of comment you hear on "Fast" all the time.

Tim Seymour then asked "What's your e-mail address by the way?"

That's when Melissa Lee said something that startled us. We think — think — it's a joke. So we hesitate to even note it. Because it might be the account of some regular guy who has no idea why he's getting e-mail intended for Guy Adami. Anyway, Lee answered Seymour's question with "Guy@gmail.com."

Probably the best way to reach Adami, indirectly or otherwise, is via fastmoney@cnbc.com.

Adami: C to $5 almost like
‘self-fulfilling prophecy’

Guy Adami on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" Thursday made a point that we think has gone highly underreported for months — that banks actually peaked in October.

Adami said the ability of banks to break through those highs will be a major market test.

Citigroup actually peaked at $5.43 on Aug. 28, according to Yahoo finance. It also hit $5 on Oct. 14.

"I think the market wants it to get over 5 bucks," Adami said, calling it a "self-fulfilling prophecy at this point." (This writer is long C.)

Jeff Tomasulo told Melissa Lee, "You keep coming to me about Citi, I keep getting hate mail ... I'm gonna stay away from Citi. I'm actually long Goldman Sachs."

Todd Gordon said JPM has been the most significant bank stock to move, but with the "yield curve flattening out ... I don't know how long these financials can keep these gains going."

Gordon is skeptical in general and has a bevy of indicators to cite. "The markets are wayyyyy too overxuberant for my tastes," he said.

Tomasulo concurred, saying "I kinda agree with Flash over here," but nevertheless pointing out people have called the market overbought for a long time. "We've been seeing it since June of last year."

Another one for our crowd

Patty Edwards led a "Halftime Report" discussion Thursday on Amazon, one of this site's favorite names.

A favorite, only in that people who shop at Amazon tend to be people who 1) own stocks, 2) read the Internet, 3) read newspapers, 4) watch CNBC, 5) actually watch "Synecdoche, New York," 6) possibly read sites like this.

Edwards was impressed with Amazon's comps. "People believe it or not Melissa are buying things online," she said.

"I never heard of that!" Lee said.

Guy Adami pointed to his earlier call when AMZN short-term bottomed at $113 (you know, he thought/hoped it would go to $106) and it might be a buy then. Now he sees high volume and the reverse scenario. "I would be taking profits if I were long Amazon here," he said.

More than Amazon, Patty Edwards trumpeted Best Buy, citing 3-D TVs as one reason but also phone kiosks. Guy Adami mentioned IMAX's gains; he and Jon Najarian rightfully deserve props for that months-long call.

[Wednesday, March 24, 2010]

Kaminsky: Keep an eye
on MF Global

Gary Kaminsky on Wednesday's "Fast Money" made an interesting proclamation.

Kaminsky said Chris Flowers is the "single best financial services investment banker ever."

Interesting category. We'd never thought about a financial services investment banking Hall of Fame, or even a financial services Mount Rushmore, like the Nebraska Cornhuskers Mount Rushmore (Tom Osborne, Bob Devaney, Johnny Rodgers, Tommie Frazier), the Boston Red Sox Mount Rushmore (Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, David Ortiz, Curt Schilling) and the college basketball Mount Rushmore (Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Magic Johnson, Wilt Chamberlain).

Anyway, Kaminsky's point was that Jon Corzine's career move is something to watch, for the longer term, "MF Global is the kind of name that you wanna pay attention to," he said. "I think the plan here is much bigger."

Anthony Scaramucci said there are 3 reasons people like Corzine, John Thain, even Alan Schwartz (we didn't know he was a big Wall Street star) are taking lower-profile jobs. First is that "the TARP has effectively become a tarp on the field of compensation for Wall Street," and the second is that "the spotlight and the glamour that we used to see those guys in is no longer there ... these guys are trying to avoid the spotlight." Last, he said, "These smaller companies are nimble" and thus perhaps able to do some things the bigger firms can't at this point.

Scaramucci predicted a possible trend. "That may be the future of Wall Street, and it may be a 'Back to the Future' moment," he said.

Melissa Lee argued that according to a study, 85% of elite bankers at the big banks are still there after pay czar income restrictions came into place, so maybe no trend.

Scaramucci said "These guys are super-smart industry leaders," they know what they're doing.

Scaramucci also complimented Lee on the Icahn-Burns interviews. "That was great television," he said.

Kaminsky: GM IPO by July 4

Gary Kaminsky said Wednesday that if anything, GM is going to speed up an IPO. "I think it'll happen before the summer holidays ... before July 4th," Kaminsky said.

Guy Adami said "I don't think it hurts Ford whatsoever," there are too many tailwinds with F right now.

Kaminsky said, "I don't disagree with Guy but I think that there are a number of people that will sell some Ford just to participate in the deal, because the way the game is played, is they're gonna wanna give some orders to the big banks."

Kaminsky also spoke of Citigroup, though we weren't clear exactly what he was talking about but we think it's the government's decision to unload shares. "What I've heard today is that this thing's probably been pushed out a month. Not because there's any issues at Citi," he said, but because they want to get earnings out and not risk negative news that could set back the sale. "I don't think it's imminent," he said.

Pete’s busy

Guy Adami was scraping Wednesday for something that might be a sign that the stock market's a little overheated, even though Adami has essentially thrown in the towel on that argument.

"Today," he said of oil, is the "first time that I can remember, at least this year, that we've seen the bearish stats, and then subsequently bearish price action."

Adami also warned that on Good Friday, "I think there's an excellent chance that Friday you see some fireworks out there" regarding the Greece situation.

Pete Najarian on the other hand insisted "there's no panic out there," and while the stock markets are quiet, there's some bullishness in the options pits. "Probably the most active trading day I've had of the year, absolutely," Pete said.

All that’s wrong in the world

Dennis Gartman, whose presence on "Fast Money" is normally a selling point but on Wednesday was merely submerged by the Icahn-Burns clash, spoke about more euro problems but said those might not have to derail U.S. stocks. "The euro's in trouble, I mean, it's going to 1.25, 1.20, 1.15, uh, the whole thing's coming apart," Gartman said. "We know that, uh, that Greece probably is only going to be solvent through the end of March, here you are, at the end of March."

Later, Gartman said an eye-opening trend of "demonstrative yen weakness" will be a subject of the overnight Gartman Letter.

A Prop Desk straight out of
‘Minority Report’

Patty Edwards, the first person on the "Fast Money" Prop Desk to wear pearls and doing so with some space-age screens floating in the back, was able to speak briefly about Red Hat in afterhours, suggesting the selloff was a buying opportunity.

Edwards said she was a "little bit perplexed about that ... I'm not seeing the problems here, they are doing everything that they need to ... this may be a buying opportunity."

"I like the name, I think it's extended," said Guy Adami.

Adami also talked about GNW, saying he's liked the name, but looks like "short squeeze is over, take profits."

Gary Kaminsky said the Maxlinear and Calix IPOs might not have been huge dollars, but even so "it's a huge confidence builder when people can buy these deals and the syndicate business is working."

Pete Najarian said "Akamai, we bring it up almost every night..."


The capper

Melissa Lee, after a choppy start, was feelin' it after her gangbuster Lionsgate showdown and later told a joke: "We've got Carl Icahn on the phone again."

In the "Fast Money Web Extra," there was more levity. "I do have a lot of cousins that had to change their name from Kaminsky to Kaman. Apparently they missed their numbers," said Gary Kaminsky.

"Your cousins or the company?" asked Guy Adami, and the gang chortled.

Brian Stutland was also applauding. "That Icahn interview was fantastic, it fired me up."

Hopefully Melissa was able to celebrate the big day at one of those top N.Y. restaurants.

Lionsgate’s Michael Burns
just calls him ‘Carl’

Lionsgate Vice Chairman Michael Burns gets good PR advice.

Burns went on "Fast Money" Wednesday for a remarkable corporate showdown (albeit in separate segments) with Carl Icahn.

Burns went first, then Icahn spoke to Melissa Lee after the commercial break.

Burns referred to Icahn as "Carl" 6 times, and never once called him "Mr. Icahn."

(Later, Burns and Icahn came on together — see, this is a tricky one to chronicle, continues below — and Burns referred to "Carl" again.)

Burns also did a little charm school on Melissa Lee, who deserved it in that either dark chocolate or black dress with chic belt. Burns said, "I know Melissa's got a big crush on Jon Hamm," which got Melissa smiling, and later, "You can call me Michael, Melissa," at which point Lee changed from "Mr. Icahn" to "Carl" herself and continued that way through the Icahn interview.

We're not PR experts by any means, but it's safe to assume that calling a wealthy/distinguished/reviled by some/raider or potential raider by his first name makes him sound like a doddering uncle with dubious ideas, whereas "Mr. Icahn" sounds like a much more formidable challenger.

Icahn calls out ‘Fast Money’ gang for line of questioning

Carl Icahn, in the ending portion of Wednesday's "Fast Money" on-air duel with LGF's Michael Burns, took a little dig at the panel's inquiries.

"With all respect, you know, I love the guys on 'Fast Money' and I've been on a number of times, but I really think that they're emphasizing the wrong thing," Icahn said to Burns. "You don't make a lot of money. If you talk to the real pros, you don't make a lot of money on these TV productions. They all sound great. You make, you really make money from what you have, which ... is a good thing, the distribution business. All that other stuff you're doing, in my opinion, you're leveraging up this company."

Despite the dig, Melissa Lee graciously thanked both parties for taking part "in what I believe is a television first."

Icahn: ‘Killers’ not so great

Carl Icahn, in his portion of "Fast Money," indicated that tender battles against the Lionsgate execs such as Michael Burns can be a blast. "Good guy, I've had drinks with him, had dinner with him, lot of fun. That's not the issue," Icahn said.

Rather, "This company should not be producing movies," Icahn insisted. "They play with shareholders' money, making these big deal movies, and if it goes up, you know, they make a lot of money and they stand at the Oscars."

As evidence, he cited "From Paris with Love," "Spirit," and "Killers," which Icahn said "they just spent $75 million on that, I hear isn't so great. We'll see."

Later in a head-to-head showdown, Burns said, "We didn't produce 'From Paris with Love,' Carl," and indicated average movie cost is about $12 million.

"I think they're swinging for the fences, and they should stick to what they're doing," Icahn said, though insisting he's not trying to micromanage artistic decisions such as "Killers." "They certainly never called me about it," he said, adding, "Not that I expect them to."

$6 sounds like a steal

Melissa Lee harped on 2 angles with Michael Burns but mostly just 1, that being whether LGF is overpaying in its purported bid for MGM.

"The one thing that we do have in common with, uh, with Carl, I believe is that neither one of us pays retail for anything," Burns said. "We would not overpay for any asset ... we don't do dumb deals," he added, citing TV Guide multiple times as a success.

"We're gonna have ups and downs from a free-cash-flow standpoint based upon how we're growing the business," Burns said, to the claims a $1 billion-plus deal is too rich for his company. "Carl is saying that, 'Boy oh boy, these guys are doing a terrible job, but I wanna buy the whole company.' Well, who built the value of these core assets that he's trying to buy the entire company ... His offer is ridiculous."

The other subject of Lee's questioning was why LGF is reticent to let shareholders vote on Icahn's offer. "We put in a rights plan, it's not a typical poison pill," said Burns, saying the vote on the shareholder rights plan is May 4, and it's something about how if Icahn gets 50% of shares that he doesn't already own, "the pill goes away." Lee didn't bother to object and quickly moved on to the MGM angle.

"The answer he gave you to your first question was completely disingenuous," Icahn said later. "I've seen better votes in a dictatorship." His chief complaint is that he can't vote with his existing shares on the proposed pill-or-not-pill plan, comparing it to not letting Barack Obama vote in the 2008 presidential election.

"Why do you have to spend all the money and all the time and all the waste to now have a vote to approve a poison pill?" he followed. "The vote is rigged to begin with."

To Lee's point about debt costs rising with a takeover, Icahn said, "These defaults that they put in were landmines to protect and entrench themselves."

And the winner is ...

Gary Kaminsky asked Carl Icahn the question we were waiting for, which was, how come you said a month ago you weren't seeking control, and now you are.

Icahn didn't have a very good answer, which makes it seem like control was the goal all along. "I see where this is going, and we have an investment to protect, you know. Where it's going is, to spend a billion dollars on MGM is absurd."

Melissa Lee in questioning Burns did point out the stock performance over 5 years as opposed to 10. "I prefer, actually, the, the value that we've built over the last 10 years," Burns said, and sure, Steven Ballmer prefers the 1990s to the 2000s too.

Guy Adami made a point about LGF's strength in TV barely disguised as a question. Adami continues to like the intellectual property strength of LGF and thinks the stock is a long-term buy.

Kaminsky predicted an agreement of some kind, saying even if Icahn gained control, he needs the Lionsgate execs to run the show. "I see some sort of deal happening, they're gonna work this out," Kaminsky said.

To round out his PR offensive, Burns took the typical approach of big company execs who grant CNBC interviews: "I'll give you guys a little bit of an exclusive." It was something about "Weeds" on the TV Guide Channel. Not a big scoop.

Though it was excellent television, nothing was settled here. Icahn is correct in pointing out LGF's faults and dodging of the $6 tender vote, and in identifying the perils of an arts business. But Burns did an adequate job of defending the company's strengths, his strongest argument being that $6 is just too low.

Burns apparently won

Melissa Lee asked the panelists who won the Icahn-Burns debate. Perhaps in rebuttal to Icahn's dig at their questioning, they sided with Burns. "Sorry Carl, management got that one," was Gary Kaminsky's opinion.

Pete Najarian summarized the "Fast" consensus. "I gotta think Mr. Burns took him on that one, I mean, Carl's just trying to get something at a great price," Pete said.

We must be in the minority, but we think it's probably more like a draw. If people want to sell their shares for $6, let them. Meanwhile, keep an eye on that 5-year LGF chart to see what Carl's driving at.

Afterthought on Carl

Carl Icahn might fail in his LGF bid, and perhaps rightfully so, but his battle is a great reminder of where so many business management studies and even Kenneth Feinberg types get it wrong.

Ideally in capitalism, CEOs and management work for the shareholders. If the return is considered below par, they should be replaced.

The reality is that human beings are social creatures, that CEOS have many other concerns besides shareholder value, even though they often own large amounts of stock. They care about things like who they work with, the status of their job, the control they have over subordinates, where they work and whether their spouses are happy, and, perhaps more importantly than anything, their own pet projects, such as (no names or anything) CEOs of huge corporate giants who embark on things like green initiatives when the cost-benefit analysis doesn't justify them and they should best be left to start-ups until the conglomerates are ready to buy them.

We know little about Lionsgate but don't doubt Icahn is correct that they probably love taking a gamble on a movie that's ill-advised from a profitability scenario. Moviemaking is presumably best left to Hollywood giants who make enough of a dependable revenue stream that they can and should be the ones to take the risks on indie projects that might hit it big. Carl makes a beautiful point.

The reality is that the world needs film studios, and some of those long shots have succeeded at entertaining people for basically forever and are worth the investment if only for that reason. The idea of a fairly small, publicly traded moviemaker doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Anthony Scaramucci, Dennis Gartman, Pete Najarian, Patty Edwards on tap

For the moment, we're all Icahn-ed out. More details of Wednesday's "Fast Money" to come.

Terranova: Crude shortable

Jared Levy on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" Wednesday confirmed a rumor — in other words, confirmed that it's only a rumor.

"Devon Energy, there's been a rumor, and I gotta confirm, it's just a rumor at this point," Levy said, and the rumor is, "there's been talk between CVX and DVN."

(Which, if there's any truth to it, makes one wonder why Exxon was punished for buying XTO.)

"Folks at home, the reason why we report these so-called rumors is because they are moving shares in the market whether it be the options or the stocks," said Melissa Lee.

Joe Terranova, surprisingly, said "You can be short against $82" in crude. Levy said he's now looking to cover his orange juice short, for all those keeping score at home.

Melissa Lee asked Brian Kelly to "connect the dots for us" on the 10-year U.S. swap spread. Kelly explained it's the "swaps rate less the Treasury rate," and the fact it's negative means "It's cheaper for corporations to borrow than it is for the U.S. government." According to Kelly, that's a big boost for private equity.

Kelly said he's held GE for months but he's ready to take some profits "just about right here." After all, "Nobody's ever gone broke taking profits," Kelly said.

We were hoping to get something usable out of Mike Gurka for a change, but (sigh), all he said was something like "the dollar will continue to have strength into the summer" and something else about the South African ETF that wasn't really clear to us about the trade.

Brian Kelly (zzz) opened the show talking about the "Libor rate in yen vs. the Libor rate in dollars," and then said, "I do think the, uh, the European situation is headed towards a crisis, and then it will be resolved."

Melissa Lee at one point said, "I'm not one to be the glass-half-full kind of person, let's be honest here..."

[Tuesday, March 23, 2010]

Worth: Ford about to stall

About a year ago this site started to sour on Carter Worth a bit. Chart reliability during that market seemed nonexistent, and we don't remember many very good calls.

Not only has he picked up momentum in 2010, Worth showed Tuesday on "Fast Money" that he makes some of the most eloquent arguments on CNBC. Debatable, of course, but clearly to the point.

We're not sure if we buy this one, however well put. Worth argued, in a segment mysteriously labeled as a "monopoly" type of segment, that Ford is due to fall simply because it has been doing too well.

"The angle of the line is just too steep," Worth shrugged, acknowledging the roughly $14 share price is not out of whack with earnings.

His ammunition is what got our attention: Crox, Krispy Kreme, Taser. All of them boasted vertical charts, according to Worth, until a big fall. We had to look up Taser, and Worth is indeed correct. The other 2 were fads.

Pete Najarian made the best rebuttal, that Worth could've easily said the same thing a few months ago when F was well short of $14. Worth acknowledged that but didn't have a good answer. We wanted to hear from Gary Kaminsky, who has brought up the effect of a possible GM IPO, but Kaminsky wasn't heard on this topic.

Melissa Lee on fire

Tuesday's "Fast Money" must've been the most enjoyable Melissa Lee production in a while.

Grinning from ear to ear the whole time, Lee — wearing white blouse with bold black buttons and prominent belt — was perky as all get out and on top of her game in directing traffic. Hopefully a hot date, or something like that.

Made us feel like it was an exciting show, even if it was just another day at the office.

Och-y dokey

We didn't expect to hear anything on Tuesday's show about Och-Ziff Capital Management, but the discussion put together by Gary Kaminsky, Melissa Lee and Tim Seymour was a highlight.

"This could not have come public at a worse time," Kaminsky said, pointing to OZM's $30-plus debut near the end of 2007. But, "if you believe in this resurgence" of the financial markets, "this is a great leveraged way to continue to play it."

Kaminsky's first argument was that, as a master limited partnership, the share structure puts regular joes on the same side as Daniel Och and the other insiders who control the majority of stock. Lee questioned the usefulness of that given it had the same structure in 2007 and 2008.

Kaminsky's response was that OZM, as well as others such as BX, are stronger now than in 2007 having weathered the storm and seeing competitors zapped, even though the stocks are lower, about half the launch price in OZM's case. Seymour concurred with that, pointing to Fortress and Blackstone, the latter of which per disclosure he owns.

1. We do think these names are very interesting on the long side, simply because they've survived hopefully the most horrendous business deal-making market we're ever going to see, and as Kaminsky said it's more of a "levered" play on a resurgence than, say, BAC, though a double-dip would be trouble. 2. We know "Fast Money" doesn't give tax advice, but we think it would be good to note that for regular joes, limited partnerships can complicate tax returns, mostly because you can have the return done for months waiting for the K-1, if it even applies. A check of the Och-Ziff Web site indeed shows "Tax Year 2009 K-1 schedules for Class A shareholders ... are not available at this time."

CEO, senator, governor, CEO ...

While the OZM discussion was a good one, the same can't really be said for Jon Corzine's jump to MF Global.

Joe Terranova spoke a couple times about competing against MF but didn't seem to have anything to say about Corzine's move. Gary Kaminsky assured that Corzine wouldn't be taking the CEO post to do business as usual, that he's gotta have some big ideas. "He's gonna utilize this or attempt to utilize this to build a big business," Kaminsky said.

Basically, just too much time on a subject where no one really had any details.

Seymour goes to the well
again on Nokia

We congratulated Tim Seymour a week ago for a great recent call on NOK.

Now he's at it again.

It was Scott Cohn who did a report on the Sprint 4G phone from the CTIA show in Vegas, using the Google pictures function or whatever. This demonstration was useless. Cohn is better chasing bad guys like Allen Stanford.

Cohn did, however, feature a $69 Nokia Neuron smartphone.

"I think you have to buy Nokia here," said Tim Seymour, nodding his head and doing some "uh-huhs" about Nokia's ability to sell a cheap phone.

Pete Najarian questioned the "cool factor," asking if a $30 difference was worth that compared with a $99 iPhone. "I think it's the affordable factor, Pete," Seymour said.

Wrong. It's that whole "2 economies or more" thing. (We hate to adapt lines from John Edwards ... seen what that book Game Change says about him? Yeesh.)

Point is, people buying smartphones are not motivated by $30 price differences; they're liable to spend that at Amazon in between reading entries on this page.

"I think Nokia is clearly challenged," said Joe Terranova, agreeing with Pete.

Gary Kaminsky said it's just another sign of competitive pressure on Verizon and AT&T, and the "real winner" in the industry continues to be American Tower, though Kaminsky said AMT shouldn't really be judged on valuation given the cash flows on its way.

Best left to Web extra

Scott Nations tripped and stumbled so much through his Options Action segment Tuesday, we could barely comprehend his trade.

It's actually pretty simple: Nations recommends a "gold call calendar," selling the May $110 for $2 and buying the September $110 for $5. At one point he said "May/June," but with the help of the graphic, we figured it out.

Tim Seymour chided Nations for using the inflation argument but said South Korea is now plunging into gold buys too.

‘Difficult. Not impossible.’

Steve Cortes said Tuesday he is bearish on Europe, both on the euro and the continent.

He said he is "not opposed" to owning the EPV.

Remember a month or two ago when Gary Kaminsky talked about that? It did fine for a week, then nosedived when folks suddenly started looking at European companies like circa-2001 Krispy Kreme.

Kaminsky asked Cortes if it was possible that the euro could fall but European stocks could continue to rise.

"Possible, but unlikely," Cortes said.

Cortes said he'd avoid American stocks with European exposure such as 3M and P&G.

Apologies to Clay Jones

If you happened to see the "Fast Money Halftime Report" and the regular "Fast Money" on Tuesday, as well as — don't laugh, we do it all the time — look up the "Fast Money" section at CNBC.com, you're probably confused as heck as to exactly which "Rockwell" was hopping in the options market.

Pete Najarian talked about it, Melissa Lee at some point tied it all to Boeing, while the screen graphics and the online summary differed on whether the hot name in question was Rockwell Collins (COL), or Rockwell Automation (ROK). During "Halftime," hearing the Boeing element, we mistakenly assumed we had another COL development.

Turns out that ROK was the subject of a rumor about a possible GE takeover, and COL options perhaps weren't even moving at all. ROK, we learned, is a Milwaukee company run by Keith Nosbusch, who to our knowledge has never guested on "Fast Money." COL of course is headed by Clay Jones, long a "Friend of the Show" and possibly its best CEO guest.

Kaminsky, Edwards disagree

Gary Kaminsky, at odds with Patty Edwards' call at "Halftime" Tuesday, said after the health-care vote, "PBMs will be the winners no matter what" and pointed again to his recent calls on WAG and CVS.

Brian Kelly said he actually likes a "laggard" such as PFE, which Pete Najarian said he's almost using as a hedge for more likable biotech names.

Kelly said the health-care lobby is better than the Wall Street lobby.

French lessons from Melissa

Peter Boockvar, who said in late January that the stock market had seen its highs for the years, was still playing "Bull Market or BS" on the show Tuesday that sounded a bit like sour grapes, to be honest.

Boockvar said that given the debt we're ringing up, maybe the stock market no longer deserves the historic 15 multiple. He said for now, it's getting the "free ride" of news; in other words, if the jobless number is good, great, and if it's bad, it's the weather's fault. (He should ask Steve Liesman about that kind of sandbagging.)

Joe Terranova claimed the next jobs report will be "phenomenal."

Gary Kaminsky said the melt-up in the market should last through the quarter, and he predicted through April, given 0% rates.

Kaminsky said to keep an eye on PLL, because it's disappointing and thus is becoming a stronger takeover candidate. "Management needs to be thrown out," he said, something we often say about this site.

Brian Kelly first touted Darden restaurants, then singled out PTV as a derivative play for making the doggie bags that Tim Seymour requests when taking leftovers home from Red Lobster. Melissa Lee said in Scarsdale, they'd call it "Lobster Rouge."

Patty Edwards: RIMM to $95,
‘it’s the stepsister to Apple’

Patty Edwards was the go-to person Tuesday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report." Edwards said, "I like RIMM here, it's the stepsister to Apple, it's not getting quite the respect that Apple does." She said crunching the numbers, "fundamentals tell me we've got a $95 stock on our hands."

Edwards said people may not realize CVS and Walgreens "make more money off the front of the store" than in selling prescriptions, "those are just a way to get you in there." She said based on that retail element, "you do have a little bit of downside in those names." Edwards said she likes FCX, and "I love things like Ormat Technologies."

Analyst Aaron Kessler said there's still more upside to BIDU, but not nearly as much as before this whole Google-China flap happened.

Steve Grasso opened the show with a strange monologue about something to do with iron ore that went like this: "I spotted it around 55 ... last sale 68, 69 ..."

Finally, we figured out he was talking about CLF, of course, the world's greatest stock of all time.

Melissa Lee and Pete Najarian talked about Boeing-linked option spikes in Titanium Metals and Rockwell Collins, the latter giving us another opportunity for a shout-out to our favorite "Fast Money" CEO, Clay Jones.

[Monday, March 22, 2010]

Dick Bove finds Guy Adami
to be a tough crowd

Dick Bove told "Fast Money" Monday there's a "whole bunch of reasons" to buy C, which is why he upgraded it to $5.

Bove said internationally, it has "enormous opportunity" in credit cards, and in general, "it's over-capitalized, it has massive amount of liquidity."

"Citigroup really doesn't exist anymore," Bove said, because it's sold off so many parts, and now it's back to Citicorp, which always has been a good company.

Guy Adami shrugged his shoulders and said Bove's made a lot of calls on C in his career, at "many different shops he's been at," and maybe this time he's right.

Melissa Lee reminded the panel and viewers, as she always does during Citigroup and AIG discussions, "we're all long it." (This writer is long C, both in the way Guy Adami describes being long it and in the way Melissa Lee describes being long it.)

‘Fast Money’ gang allegedly
breached protocol with Gartman

Brian Kelly said Monday on "Fast Money" that thanks to Greece, "We're in the largest Keynesian experiment since the Great Depression."

Kelly explained that the issue comes down to whether a government is actually unable to borrow. If that turns out to be the case, then "buy canned goods," Kelly said.

Dennis Gartman brought all this on by saying he's "very concerned about Greece," that he's seen these kinds of problems before, and they don't go away in 3 months but more like a year and a half.

What's more, he said the last time he was on, 2 weeks ago, he said the same thing, and "I got laughed at."

Melissa Lee announced she gets the Gartman Letter on her fax machine at 2 a.m. Gartman said of Greece, "You don't want the IMF to come in."

Pete Najarian empties the bench

Analyst Colin Gillis suggested Monday on "Fast Money" that one of the world's most successful companies might have a streak of incompetence.

"Google has just blown this completely," he said of the search giant's exit from China.

Gillis conceded much of the stock reflects the China departure, but he said if Google were to shut down its China research center, it could take $30-$40 off.

But the most interesting comment on this matter came from Brian Kelly, who like others thought it was strange for the U.S. government to issue a statement saying it's not involved in this, and insisted there was some back-room scheme going on, claiming Eric Schmidt is "tied to the White House."

Melissa Lee had fun with "all you conspiracy theorists out there."

Pete Najarian in the Web Extra compared Google's departure from China with a college basketball program that just lost its recruits. Joe Terranova claimed it was more like losing a power forward and wondered how losing recruits would hurt the stock in its "Fast Money Madness" matchup against Microsoft.

They did do KFC once

Visiting "Fast Money" Monday, Kimberly Clark CEO Thomas Falk said one of the funniest things we've heard: "Are you guys serving beer with this show?"

(Answer: We don't think so, but sometimes putting this page together requires significant lager, which often gets us into trouble with the FCC ... oh wait a minute, it doesn't.)

Falk did well. He said he's expecting pulp prices to cooperate, and that emerging markets are a major driver of the company's growth.

Remember that Jim Carrey movie "Liar, Liar" where Carrey did that hand gesture he called The Claw for his little kid? Melissa Lee did The Claw with her right hand while emphatically asking Falk questions.

Pete tells you of another options barnburner you’re too late for

Pete Najarian said MLM options were hopping Monday, "April 95 calls were extremely active." Guy Adami said whatever the reason, it's a sign that private equity is a player again.

Mike Khouw suggested buying June $28 calls in ORCL for 35 cents.

Low expectations

Bob Pisani told "Fast Money" viewers Monday that traders are reporting some IPOs as being oversubscribed.

Pisani noted Maxlinear, MXL (no, it's not connected to the iPad at least that we're aware of), which is expected to issue 5.43 million shares from $11-$13, perhaps by Tuesday night; and Calix Networks, CALX, offering 6.3 million shares from $11-$13.

Pisani said the Street would consider it a "real victory" if the shares closed about $1 or more above the offer price.

Pros miss trades too

Joe Terranova said Monday he was not long THC going into the weekend, but "I'm outright short Goldman Sachs" and owns $175 puts also.

Guy Adami said "I think Mylan's still cheap here."

Melissa Lee delivered a clunky, cumbersome segment on 3-D TVs and Corning's CFO that we thought was going to lead to some kind of interview, but instead it was just a monologue.

Joe Terranova said something about how McDonald's is a play on Berkshire buying Kahn Ventures.

"Web Extra" viewers learned 16-seed Alcoa beat UTX in a first-round "Fast Money Madness" upset.

Worth: Oil to jump higher

Zach Karabell suggested Monday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" that, contrary to consensus opinion, there could be significant changes in the Defense budget.

"You've got a Defense secretary in Robert Gates who's determined to cut these very large systems to go for smaller systems, so be really careful in those defense names out 6 months," Karabell said.

Nevertheless, Steve Cortes said he likes LMT and the whole sector because he sees surprisingly little change in the last couple years in the Obama-Bush administration.

Carter Worth said to expect a jump higher in oil, which he noted has been in a trading range for a while. "Sharp indecision is resolved sharply," Worth said, and in his opinion, "it's up and out."

Mark Mahaney said Google's China decision was "already priced in, we believe." Mahaney noted that Google is No. 1 in Japan. Melissa Lee countered, "With all due respect Mark, Japan is no China."

Zach Karabell returned to one of his themes: "Anybody who's buying an information technology company or media company with a China thesis being the driver is making a mistake," he said.

Steve Cortes said biotech is a good place to be for 2 reasons: It's a momentum trade right now, and it's way to gain important health care exposure "without fearing Washington politicians at every step."

Karabell said "All of this has been well-anticipated" in the health-care field, but he's not going to try to trade the news. "In general I think you're gonna get cost diminution rather than margin and cost expansion."

For some reason Melissa Lee led off Monday's show with a Ken Feinberg conversation. Karabell described Feinberg as "A man who needs a bodyguard to walk down Wall Street these days. But look, he's also very popular on Main Street." He said expanding a salary battle with the banks is "probably good politics" if not good policy.

Steve Cortes said "I really like Goldman Sachs ... I think we're near the end of that game."

JJ Kinahan, barely given a chance to speak, said he thinks banking oversight/reform is problematic because "Everyone is now looking over their shoulder."

Kinahan later reported on "Hefty" options activity in PTV, with April $25 and May $30 calls hopping.

[Friday, March 19, 2010]

Mr. President, please
listen to Karen Finerman

Karen Finerman made a beautiful statement on "Fast Money" on Friday.

"I do think we will see health care reform pass this weekend. I don't know if that's- I actually don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. I really don't," Karen said. "It'll take a while to get enacted, it could be changed. I- I'm confused, actually, by the whole health care reform. First of all I don't understand what it is, for a lot of it, but, I don't know what to make of it."

First, we are not attributing any opinions to Karen, other than what was said right there.

"I don't know ... I'm confused ... I don't understand..."

If someone as smart and informed as Karen Finerman — who is, in our assessment, at least somewhat sympathetic to the long-term Democratic agenda — does not understand what this legislation is about ... then can it possibly be a good idea?

This site does not oppose improvements in the health-care system. Proponents of legislation have never identified precisely what the problem is, other than "it costs too much." The impetus for this legislation is the public-option movement. It's fine to hold that opinion; there's not enough popular support for it. So the end result is a bunch of moderates trying to give both ends a little of what they want for the sake of avoiding an embarrassing political defeat.

Suppose Karen Finerman met Barack Obama in the Oval Office to discuss this subject. After all the pleasantries, the honored-to-be-here, etc., how exactly would he defend what's going on as the primary national concern and the most worthy commitment for our future tax dollars?

This "reform" just commits more future tax dollars to the government's largesse, while the change people really wanted to believe in — bringing our troops back with bin Laden and cutting the cord on Wall Street bailout artists — remains the goal for the next administration.

No extra point necessary

Melissa Lee opened Friday's show saying that the government is nearing passage of a "health care bill that three-quarters of the country simply does not want."

Daniel Clifton said he doubts the legislation will pass, but "Say the bill passes, you gotta be in the hospitals. The hospitals are gonna benefit from that."

So the HMOs will stop being the bad guys, and now the hospitals can be the bad guys.

Clifton insisted the consensus view of passage is wrong. "There's a lot of problems developing underneath the radar screen today," he said, and "one option is that this can actually be delayed." He said Democrats needs 6 votes, and "they're 6 away."

Who were the buyers paying
$4 for PALM Friday?

Watching "Fast Money" in the last couple of days, you'd think PALM shares were already worth $0.

Melissa Lee on the 5 p.m. replayed Whitney Tilson's 60%/40%/10% scenario, then Joe Terranova said, "You don't buy this stock right now. ... The trade here is don't do anything in PALM from the long side."

Lee said "it seems like the death spiral is just simply accelerating at this point."

Pete Najarian pointed out the poor choice of naming for the Pixi. "They have not done this well," Najarian said.

Jim Goldman brings up
a negative for Apple

Steve Jobs attended an event somewhere. Lousy video of him standing at a podium. Huge news on "Fast Money."

But the really big news came from a low-key report from Jim Goldman, who pointed out some apparent trouble in the iPad launch. (This writer is long AAPL.)

"There's been lots of difficulty apparently for Apple to arrange content partnerships on the device from TV programming to digital publishing, newspapers and the like," Goldman said. "A lot of people are wondering if this is the right device that they want to hitch their wagon to, or whether it might be best to either figure out strategies on their own or go for other tablets that may be in the, uh, pipeline."

"Wow. Imagine you buy an iPad and it doesn't have the content that you want? I mean, that'd be pretty disappointing!" said Melissa Lee. "You've gotta think that Apple has some negotiating leverage when they talk with content providers," said Karen Finerman, apparently hoping for ressurance from Goldman.

"Oh sure," said Goldman, who said everything in iTunes will absolutely be making the transition.

Lee said content issues would make an undecided consumer postpone a decision on buying an iPad. Guy Adami said AAPL stock is OK as long as it stays above $215.

Have we seen this movie before?

Melissa Lee on Friday replayed that telling interview with Carl Icahn from a month ago in which Icahn told Gary Kaminsky about his interest in Lionsgate, "We are not in any way saying we want to control it."

Karen Finerman seemed to think Icahn's reversal is dubious. "The arbs are not, they're not flocking to this one. There is a great deal of skepticism about this deal ever happening," Karen said.

Guy Adami said LGF is important as an intellectual-property play. "Personally I like LGF here with or without Carl," Adami said.

Melissa Lee offered a strange clip from "Precious" that was introduced as though it was going to be funny, but was one of the film's most dramatic scenes and wasn't actually funny. "I think Carl is long Mo'Nique," Lee said in trying to make the joke.

Joe shorts Goldman Sachs

Joe Terranova offered maybe the most interesting trade Friday. "I actually went in and shorted Goldman Sachs today," Terranova said. Part of his rationale is that if health-care legislation passes, a financial crackdown "may happen as well."

Brian Kelly said that sounds interesting. "I got out of it, I got my face ripped on- off it on the first try," but he might be willing to short GS again himself, even though Karen Finerman pointed out that getting a face ripped off twice isn't such a good thing.

Pete Najarian tried to extrapolate an options point that just didn't seem to fly. "All of these names just gravitating right towards the strike," he said. On Monday, "that may give us a lift with the volatility as we go into next week."

Karen Finerman asked, "How do you know if that leaves them a buyer or a seller on Monday?"

"We don't know the answer to that," Pete admitted, but he said the expiration Friday figures to reignite activity on Monday.

Guy Adami said a lot of names reversed yesterday and continued Friday. Karen Finerman said after 8 days she was expecting a pullback, but "I thought this was nothing actually."

Melissa Lee said if you don't have anything to do this weekend, you can play "Fast Money Madness." Hopefully Lee, who sported lavender top and striped leggings Friday, has plenty of excitement on tap this weekend.

One you can miss

Few things we like or admire more than an episode of "Squawk Box" with Becky Quick, Joe Kernen, Carl Quintanilla, star guests ranging from Andrew Ross Sorkin to Judd Gregg, probably a cup o' joe while we digest the morning business/entertainment/sports landscape in casual TV setting with some great pop tunes that take you into and out of commercial breaks...

Friday, Joe Terranova on "Fast Money" pointed out that the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics is planning to release the next jobs report on Good Friday — even though the stock market's closed that day.

Melissa Lee said the issuance of the report is prompting a special edition of "Squawk" that day just to cover it.

"BLS, thank you," Lee said.

Fine, but we can't think of a more useless reason for justifying a TV program, even an excellent program, than the jobs report.

Karen Finerman pointed out the bond market will be open, which is a big deal, but "We're so equity-centric here."

PALM: 110% trouble

Whitney Tilson wasn't gloating on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" on Friday, but he might as well have been on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" Friday.

"We've been short it for about a year," Tilson said, saying it's "just being crushed in between the iPhone and the BlackBerry." He said it may have at most "a year to try to pull out a miracle," but he doesn't blame management for struggling. "Even Superman couldn't do anything at this point," he said.

Then Tilson went on to say there's a 60% chance someone will eventually buy the "carcass," a 40% chance it goes to bankruptcy, and a 10% chance for a Hail Mary to be answered.

Analyst Ilya Grozovsky said "carriers are no longer interested in marketing the phone," which has left it in "very much a spiral." He said the chance of a Hail Mary is "very unlikely."

Melissa Lee offered a bit of Trade School. "When we say 'huge short interest,' we're not just throwing around an adjective. It's 44% of the shares outstanding. So that's what we mean by 'huge short interest'," Lee said.

Patty Edwards got the lead-off question this time. "You know, Palm to me is like having another brick sitting over on my desk," said Patty, who invoked a hockey analogy. "They missed, they totally missed the net, there is no goal. Move on."

Brian Stutland said "Palm is headed for a disaster right now." Steve Grasso recommended going with the "best in breed" names in the space such as Apple. (This writer is long AAPL.)

Edwards said of the broad market, "Short term, we could pull back to maybe 1,140," but, "even if we take a breather, we're probably going higher."

Patty's advice for Friday afternoon traders? "I'm gonna watch basketball all weekend. Stay out of the market."

‘I took another look at it,
and changed my mind!’*

Remember on Feb. 18 when Carl Icahn told Gary Kaminsky and the "Fast Money Halftime Report" that he was not seeking "control" of Lionsgate?

Um, forget that.

In a statement Friday, Icahn announced he is offering $6 a share for the entire company.

(*Quote is from Gordon Gekko, not Carl Icahn.)

[Thursday, March 18, 2010]

‘Fast Money’ whistled
for Palming

Thursday, we felt a bit badly for Jon Najarian.

After all, there must be few worse assignments in the business world than the Palm conference call.

"It's just horrible, quite frankly," Dr. J said. "The numbers really stunk up the place."

Melissa Lee went off on Najarian's report of the Palm CFO's sales excuse, that store staff purportedly was not adept at explaining the product to potential buyers. Lee declared that such a problem is a bad sign for the product maker, not the salesman. Guy Adami and Brian Kelly agreed it's an "absolutely crazy excuse."

Tim Seymour, who recently slam-dunked a positive NOK call, said don't look to that name for a bailout. "Nokia has no interest in buying Palm," he said. "Zero interest."

We can't fathom why a "Fast" producer would've even put Najarian on this conference call, let alone returned to this segment/theme multiple times.

Guy Adami even brought up JJ Kinahan's report from the "Fast Money Halftime Report" that there were buyers in PALM calls. Dr. J pulled a "looks good on you, though" by prefacing his disagreement with "I like Joe, I think he's a smart guy. I saw no call-buying at all."

‘Fast Money’ bra humor

Joe Terranova discussed Green Mountain Coffee Roasters on the "Fast Money Web Extra" Thursday.

He called it an innovative company that has come out with a "K-cup mug."

"What is a K-cup mug," asked Melissa Lee.

"It's bigger than a D cup," said Guy Adami.

Maybe better to talk about PALM

Joe Terranova, for about the 3rd or 4th day in a row, predicted that the market is hinging on that jobs report the first week of April. "I'm not sold completely on the melt-up theory," Terranova said.

Karen Finerman said Thursday was a day of paring back positions in Nestle and IBM, not because she didn't like them, but because the market action was suggesting a pause.

A frustrating market outlook Thursday came from Peter Boockvar, who sounded like Peter Schiff Lite.

Boockvar compared gains in everything with the gains in gold, which he said "is being treated as another currency."

He said one has to look beyond the CPI for a true read on inflation.

However, he was completely unable to answer Karen Finerman's straightforward question about whether the housing market would factor into this inflation scenario.

Boockvar declared on "Fast Money" on Jan. 29 that the market had seen its highs for the year.

Mel Lee: Scorching in red

Apparently, that Debbie Weinswig treatise on Wal-Mart Monday really made an impression on Guy Adami.

"She's looking for tremendous multiple expansion," Adami said, with the typical hint of disbelief.

Analyst David Strasser said 3-D televisions, despite the lack of enthusiasm on "Fast Money," could be a big boost for Best Buy. "For every million that get sold this year, could add almost 10 cents to Best Buy's bottom line," Strasser said.

Brian Stutland said you could try a little 3-month play on the XLF by buying the June $15 call and selling the June $17 call.

Tim Seymour (CAT) and Guy Adami (DE) disagreed in a "Fast Money Madness" matchup between Caterpillar and Deere. Karen Finerman, to no one's great surprise, said "I'm going with Target" over Amazon.

Guy Adami at one point made a Charles Van Doren reference. Melissa Lee asked who "Van Buren" was and turned to Karen Finerman for a lifeline. As completely expected, Karen nailed it — the quiz show guy.

Movie of the week: ‘Con Air’

The great thing about a Web site is that one can sort of put on it whatever one wants.

So we're adding an occasional feature to this page: brief commentary on those cable TV movies that happen to cross our own little Prop Desk and keep us awake at night longer than necessary.

"Con Air" seemed like an easy skip in the '90s. But maybe that's selling it short. After considerable debate within the CNBCfix community, it happened to show up on cable this week almost as if on request. Grotesquely over the top, the latter half is fall-off-the-couch-potential humor.

Dreck — but hilarious dreck.

Least sexiest rumor ever

Sometimes you hear the best little trading tips on "Fast Money" in the most innocuous little commentary.

Guy Adami said on the "Halftime Report" Thursday, "Nobody ever went broke taking a profit, that's something I learned a long time ago, but you also make a lot more money letting it ride."

So there you go.

Melissa Lee led off with a rumor about a hike at the Fed discount window, qualifying the discussion as usual with the disclaimer that it is supposedly moving the markets even if it's not true. Guy Adami pointed out that the last time the Fed did make that move, it was right before options expiration and the market since has been "off to the races."

JJ Kinahan said the rumor was stoking caution in SPY, spurring buying in "April at-the-money puts, 117 puts in particular."

Jeff Tomasulo said the rumor isn't a reason to sell, but the extension of the market is. "I came in, I sold a lot of my positions today," he said.

Steve Grasso said — and don't let this crack you up too much — "guys are spinning out of McDonald's and buying Burger King."

Grasso also credited Melissa Lee for going easy on Tim Seymour after that testy, overly long debate with Michael Pento Wednesday. "It's so nice that you let him out of timeout from last night, I think that's really nice of you," Grasso said.

Guy Adami said he picks UPS over FDX in "Fast Money Madness," but "just because I got to wear the shorts."

As for the rest of the day's (and presumably week's) action, Adami advised, "Get flat and watch the tournament games."

[Wednesday, March 17, 2010]

Finerman vs. Kaminsky
on the market melt-up

Gary Kaminsky, offering guest commentary on "Fast Money" Wednesday, might've gotten a bit more than he bargained for in the form of Karen Finerman.

Kaminsky spoke about his current theme, that the stock market is in a "melt-up," and said the driver is "the fear of not being invested." He used an example of how portfolio managers would've looked at GE a month ago and found it unimpressive, and suddenly today would look at it and see its gains and attach rosier estimates. "I've seen the movie, I know how it gets played," Kaminsky assured Melissa Lee.

That brought this challenge from K-Fine:

"You were on the show about 6 weeks ago, many times, uh, I don't remember the exact date, and talkin' about, 'This market can't rally without M&A and it can't rally without IPOs,' and now here we are substantially higher, and I think at one point you even said the highs are in for the year..."

"No no no no, OK; what I said was, if we didn't get M&A, we didn't get the ability to absorb higher interest rates, and we didn't get stable IPO market, we will have seen the highs for the year," Kaminsky said. "We have seen 2 — we've seen the, the, the chatter of higher interest rates be absorbed, and we've certainly seen M&A pick up dramatically since the beginning of February. We have not seen a stabilized IPO market, and I do think that's the 3rd ingredient to a sustainably higher market."

Hmmm. This one's a toughie.

First, the thesis (if that's the right term) from Kaminsky that Karen is citing occurred the first week of February, when Kaminsky made his argument over several days. It sounds like her beef is with Kaminsky's supposed contention that "the highs are in for the year."

We searched far and wide through the February archives but couldn't find that quote, nor did we hear it in some clips of that time from CNBC.com. But on Feb. 5, as Kaminsky outlined the 3-point theory, Joe Terranova said this: "I know from the other day you think that the highs are already in place for the year; I do not." Kaminsky didn't disagree with this characterization.

Our complaint with Kaminsky's 3-point theory is that it is too subjective to evaluate. The "absorption" of higher interest rates and "stabilization" of the IPO market might be very definable over long periods of time, but as to whether there is a noticeable difference in those factors in 6 weeks, we wouldn't have the foggiest idea.

At the same time, we can't blame "Fast Money" panelists for occasionally being imprecise. Otherwise, less charitable sites than this will say things like "See, DuPont only hit $39.50 in 11 days, so Carter Worth sucks!"

Karen was unable to extend the debate Wednesday after Kaminsky's response because others jumped in. As a result, we can't say for certain what she was driving at, other than the likely fact she believes there are more fundamentals to the market than Kaminsky acknowledges. Tim Seymour argued that GE fundamentals are looking stronger, and wouldn't that be a better reason for the stock gains. Kaminsky curiously said he stuck by his points, but "I don't disagree with you."

Where were we a year ago?

Tim Seymour found himself in the middle of a couple of donnybrooks Wednesday.

It started with Michael Pento, who was so garrulous he belongs on the panel, claiming that the housing recovery is more like a "tepee" than a V shape.

"It's all artificial," Pento said. He asked the panel, if there was a market in which one party comprised 90% of it, and that party was planning to exit, would you be buying that market.

Despite that, he happily recommended 4 stocks: SQM, EGO, IAG, PWE. (A stock ticker of "EGO," that's one we've gotta keep in mind.)

Seymour tried to argue the economy is stronger than what Pento says and pointed to emerging markets. Amid massive crosstalk, Seymour merely kept asking, "Where were we a year ago?"

Later, Chris Thornberg came on to declare the nation's economic recovery is bogus. Seymour pointed to a changing mind-set that "at one point, we were turning Japanese in this country," and now a healthier consumer has emerged.

Thornberg scoffed at that notion, saying consumers were getting a break at the end of last year because "taxes were 8.8% of total income, we've never seen taxes that low." (That's one stat we'll have to look up sometime.) Joe Terranova asked Thornberg when the big collapse hits. Not helping his argument, Thornberg said "I think that's gonna come next year."

Karen knocks one out of the park

Karen Finerman on Wednesday talked about a recent trade she nailed, long GGP, without noting that she nailed it.

Karen said there is excitement in the REIT area because General Growth has a lot of premier properties on the line, and that Simon is even up 20% since issuing an initial bid.

"For a risk arbitrageur, it doesn't get any better than this," Karen said.

Patty: ‘Absolutely’ own Ford

Tim Seymour asserted Wednesday that "Toyota will buy market share back," and he sees the shares running up to $85.

Melissa Lee warned, "They're gonna have to pay the piper," but Patty Edwards was in agreement with Seymour. "I think you've gotta get in there," Edwards said.

Edwards' stronger commentary was directed at Ford. "Absolutely stick with it," Edwards said. "We own some, I'm not selling it."

Karen asks Pete a brilliant
question about buying hot options

Sometimes the "Web Extra" has some good stuff.

Pete Najarian talked about options activity Wednesday in Clorox, a longtime favorite of Gary Kaminsky that is the subject of constant takeover rumors. Pete said nevertheless, "Those April 70s really did catch my eye."

Karen Finerman asked a tremendous question, and Pete had a great answer.

Karen asked, what happens if you buy these options when they're popping, and a deal does indeed get announced in a couple of days? Do you face an SEC investigation?

Pete said, "More than likely the SEC investigation would go to the people who initiated you going into that trade, would be my guess." In other words, the traders who first sent the options popping on HeatSeeker.

Worth: Ride DD to $40

Carter Worth on Wednesday made the type of fast money call that is somewhat rare for him.

It involved DD. "We think you're gonna see 40, and fast," he said. Pressed by Pete Najarian for a timeframe, Worth said, "10 days, 12 days, 2 weeks." Pete wonders about hitting not $40, but $50.

Worth agrees with Joe Terranova's bullish oil call, saying, "I think it's going to break out."

Terranova pounded the table for crude again, predicting it would reach $85. He also said "I think the move in the airlines is over" on that kind of oil move. He said refiners have been a "laggard" and catching up. But he warned, "Do not touch natural gas."

Tim Seymour said he's "getting longer XOM," while Pete Najarian named refiners on the Final Trade.

Mike Khouw also took a turn at the chart, but for another purpose: playing AAPL with options. Khouw recommended buying the AAPL July $220 call for $18.25 and selling the July $230 call for $13.25.

Rosner: Fannie, Freddie
destined for nationalization

Josh Rosner was asked Wednesday what the government will do about its mortgage giants.

"I think that they're gonna be leaning towards nationalization of Fannie & Freddie," Rosner said, but it's not part of Chris Dodd's Wall Street overhaul that Rosner thinks is "gonna go nowhere."

He said fumbling over the Volcker plan is a sign "Washington still doesn't get it."

Joe Terranova said the exchanges might be worth a look because they've been the "ugly duckling."

Sounds like 2007

Pete Najarian said Wednesday there is some kind of "melt-up" going on and that Feb. 23 was really the last significant down day.

That reminds us of the early days of "Fast Money," when Dylan Ratigan would often say things like "no major correction for 6/7/8/9/10 (etc.) months," some kind of record (not an exact quote).

Karen Finerman said the very low VIX is an "amazing phenomenon."

Joe Terranova said investors are looking to that first week in April when the March jobs report is released, which Terranova predicted might be the "best since early 2006."

"I bought some calls of Qualcomm," Terranova said.

Pete Najarian pointed to the April upside call-buying in Alcoa. He said of ADSK, "I expect the stock to be over 30 very, very soon."

Karen Finerman dished out some praise for BlackRock; she thinks the value is too high for her to buy it, but "no way would short this one."

Melissa Lee seemed to find the old trucking name "Yellow Worldwide" amusing.

Lee, who appeared in flattering aqua topped by black sweater Wednesday, hasn't worn her chic glasses for a while. Karen Finerman looked good in blue business blouse. Patty Edwards sported the best green outfit of the day.

Couple more from Patty

We were excited to see Patty Edwards on the Prop Desk (or was it the Econ Desk?) Wednesday. Patty said she was hearing "amazing things" on the NKE conference call, and despite the run-up in the stock, she thinks "there's more to come."

Discussing 3-D televisions, which might help electronics retailers reduce sliding margins, Patty said "Best Buy's darn cheap at this point."

We think the screen text said something about a "2nd derivite" trade.

Kaminsky: GM IPO bound
to attract closet indexes

Gary Kaminsky said Wednesday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" that Toyota's troubles might ultimately hurt Ford in the short-term, but in a roundabout way.

Kaminsky said as the Toyota mess came crashing down, he realized "GM will probably be able to price an IPO this year for sure now." When that happens, he said, the "closet indexes" will probably be interested in buying, which "would have a short-term impact on Ford."

Brian Kelly said Penske is a "great place to be."

Dr. J says Nike could get
big lift from Tiger at Masters

Todd Gordon predicted Wednesday the S&P will gradually rise to 1,225, but he expects a "sloppy, choppy trip up there."

Gary Kaminsky said "nothing matters right now" in terms of earnings or data; rather money managers are concerned about not being in stocks, this fear is driving the market, and the managers will turn to large caps that are easiest to pour money into. "It does kind of feel like, uh, this melt-up is definitely gonna continue through next week," Kaminsky said.

Melissa Lee tried to strike a contrarian tone, pointing to the VIX decline and saying "people out there are getting a little bit complacent at this point," but Jared Levy perhaps disputed that.

"This is not like 2007," Levy said. "The VIX right now is actually a little bit expensive, theoretically."

Lee, however, found Brian Kelly receptive to her comments on GE's gains. "It's a great place to get in," Kelly said.

Levy spoke favorably of Joe Terranova's USO play. "Oil's probably a place to be here," Levy said, wildly using his hands while he talked, and he suggested viewers could "buy USO, but sell an aggressive covered call."

Brian Kelly thankfully got some gains Wednesday in PCL from his dubious wood-pellet call Tuesday. "If you look at lumber, it's been rising all year," Kelly said.

Jon Najarian talked about option activity in Nike. He said if Tiger's in contention at The Masters, "that's gonna be huge for Nike," which seems a bit of a stretch after everyone's spent the last few months pointing out how golf is such a low factor (something like 3%) in Nike revenues.

Todd Gordon said "79's your upside level" in NKE.

Gary Kaminsky talked again about strength in CLX. He said the rumored potential acquirer is P&G, but "I don't believe Clorox is a seller." However he said it's a good stock for its "dynamic" organic growth.

Seymour kicks our butt

Every time Tim Seymour mentions Nokia, we scoff.

Last time, we probably shouldn't have.

On Feb. 26 Seymour recommended NOK. It was $13.47 then. $15.41 Wednesday.

[Tuesday, March 16, 2010]

Sounds like an opening
for Larry Kudlow

The "Fast Money" gang was dialing up some political rhetoric on Tuesday.

The instigator was Sen. Charles Schumer talking about yuan valuation.

"We see this Chuck Schumer press conference every 2 years leading into a midterm election," said Daniel Clifton.

Guy Adami said it doesn't really matter that 1 New York senator is trashing China, but the truth is, "We need them maybe more than they need us ... so Chuck should just sort of cool down the rhetoric."

Tim Seymour said it sounds to him like a "very scary level" of trade protection talk, and he reminded viewers of Wen Jiabao's famous dis of "Bam-Bam in Copenhagen."

Clifton said what Schumer might actually be doing is giving leverage to Tim Geithner in his talks with the Chinese. Melissa Lee questioned how that could be if the Treasury Department is expressing skepticism over Schumer's comments.

Mellow Joe Terranova said at this point it all sounds like the bark is worse than the bite.

Guy Adami made a joke about how electric blankets in Pete Najarian's house are just blankets, which Gary Kaminsky later called the funniest thing in Tuesday's show.

A while ago, China was
little more than a syndrome

It appears as though Google is about to put an interesting little business question to the test: Whether a company can dominate the world without China.

"Google's in a place where they've backed themselves into a corner and now they really look like they have to leave," said Tim Seymour on "Fast Money" Tuesday.

"I'm actually short Google right now," said Joe Terranova, which reminded us of 2006 or 2007 when Paul Kedrosky used to guest on Melissa Francis' "On The Money" and declare GOOG would be worth $1,000 in a couple years.

Karabell reports threats
over Time debt article

Zachary Karabell says he is catching a lot of flak over his recent Time article, "Is there too much worry about the debt?"

Karabell writes that the essay brought "disbelief, anger, insults, and even threats of physical harm."

The last part of that sentence is nothing to take lightly. Certainly we wish Karabell the best in dealing with whatever abuse he may have received.

The rest of his posting, however, is an extension of the Time article. So this site feels compelled to make a couple of observations.

First, we agree with the thrust of Karabell's article. We disagree with the premise, which is essentially: "The federal debt has assumed pride of place as the source of national anxiety." (And oh yes, the "infrastructure" slogan that's probably been around about as long as "Katy bar the door.")

More importantly, we think there are 2 very strong points on this subject Karabell did not make in the Time article.

Remember that movie "Rounders" (about the 2nd or 3rd time we've cited it on this page, which is troubling, because it's not really that good), when Matt Damon tells the judges the secret to poker is not so much the cards, but watching people's reaction to the cards?

We looked up what some business titans have said about debt recently. Warren Buffett warned about it in a New York times op-ed in August 2009, but "debt" doesn't appear in the 1,000-plus-word New York Times and Bloomberg summaries of his recent letter to shareholders. Alan Greenspan's "fiscal" concerns were noted only at the end of a Bloomberg article in February. Larry Lindsey hasn't made any public statements that we could find in 2010 or late 2009. Mohamed El-Erian was on "Squawk Box" Monday and merely spoke about "known unknowns" and this "new normal" that we don't believe for a moment exists despite the fact we're fans of Bill Gross.

These people aren't talking about debt. At least not very much. That bolsters Karabell's argument significantly but undermines his premise.

Karabell's conclusions in Time suggest he might've underestimated the response such an article would draw. (We're of course only referring to thoughtful critics, not anyone who makes threats.)

What he fails to mention is that no matter how manageable one's debt is, it doesn't mean that spending money is a good idea. This, we suspect, represents the real heart of the criticism: That many people (of both parties, and independents) are suspicious of government spending, they have seen banks temporarily bailed out and clearing billions in profits a year later; they see their money going for pork, for wars they might not approve of, for presidential initiatives launched during 10% joblessness, for social programs they might disagree with ... and they see this as a constant, unbreakable government trend.

Consider a married couple, earning $75,000, good credit, arguing about taking a $2,000 vacation. Can they afford it? Even if they can easily afford it, they still have to pay for it, and the $2,000 spent on that vacation is $2,000 unavailable for the college fund, the next car, the brokerage account, the life insurance policy.

And that is where many, in our estimation, can rightfully disagree with Karabell. The numbers as they exist now are manageable. He makes that clear. The concern is over a growing, or certainly not declining, government propensity to charge every new problem or interest to the taxpayers' credit card, some of them things that should never be put on a credit card, some with rationale no more specific than "too big to fail."

Karabell named fellow
at Milken Institute

According to a Tuesday press release, the Milken Institute is pleased to add Zach Karabell "to the independent think tank's stable of outside experts."

The Milken Institute, according to the release, is a "nonprofit, independent economic think tank whose mission is to improve the lives and economic conditions of diverse populations around the world." It does not list Karabell's "Fast Money" experience in his bio.

Pete touts CLF again

Sometimes it's hard to imagine a coal stock ever going down.

"The coal space is on fire," said Tim Seymour, who said it makes "you scratch your head a little bit about that Consol deal."

"The pullbacks are an opportunity," thundered Pete Najarian, of course mentioning CLF along with ACI. Guy Adami once again recommended WLT.

Joe Terranova said there's a "Keeping up with the Joneses mentality" driving M&A in the coal/energy space.

Every time we start pointing out that Brian Kelly knows his stuff, he does things like tout "wood pellets" as a "3rd derivative" trade, which was the case Tuesday. PCL is his suggestion.

Jolly good commentary
from Steve Liesman

Steve Liesman brought something Tuesday to "Fast Money" he didn't bring in his last appearance: his sense of humor.

Liesman said when the Fed finally gets around to signaling rate hikes, rates still might not rise for months afterward. (That part was serious.)

Then he asked how Guy Adami could possibly get the TIF call correct while missing the macro market call.

Adami chuckled and phrased a question under the guise of whether the Fed can land a 200-pound fish. Liesman said he didn't know what Adami was talking about but called it an "excellent metaphor."

More gushing for XOM

It took the "Fast Money" gang forever to express any love for the integrated oil companies, and now that they're doing so, they can hardly contain themselves.

"Backwardation is coming back," said Joe Terranova, who advises playing the USO. He still expects to see "90 before 60" on the price of oil, and "very quickly."

Pete Najarian gushed about BP in so many ways we can't remember and list them all. (This writer is long BP.) Tim Seymour reaffirmed "I love Exxon ... the biggest, the best ... underperforming and it will take off." Guy Adami agreed.

Best left to 5:30 Friday

It's possible the daily "Options Action" segment might even be starting to bore Melissa Lee.

Lee essentially asked Scott Nations to cut to the chase during his lengthy description of why he'd buy the September $23 put in UUP. Nations said "The dollar is going to weaken," and "the puts are incredibly cheap in UUP."

Tim Seymour questioned if the puts are cheap, it's probably because they don't represent a whole lot of protection.

Give Melissa a break

Some days, unfortunately, "Fast Money" is just a sell. Tuesday was probably one of those days, when Connecticut power outage jokes were the dominant theme.

Melissa Lee took this flooding line of humor so seriously she even said at the beginning, "I don't wanna be insensitive about that. I don't wanna get all these e-mails ... my heart goes out to all of you," before chuckling at the next joke.

Guy Adami said if you're having a McSmoothy at Pete Najarian's place, it's really a McMelty.

Whatever it reports,
CNBC’s hands are clean

Melissa Lee noted Tuesday that Intrade is putting a 72% probability on health-care legislation passing.

Daniel Clifton, as he says just about every day now on "Fast Money," disagrees.

"The votes just aren't there," Clifton said, and when this falls apart, there is "huge opportunity in the managed care space."

Gary Kaminsky briefly appeared on the show from Englewood Cliffs to discuss the Barclays upgrade of one of his favorite picks, Clorox. Kaminsky said it's a good stock not only for its takeover potential, but "organic growth." He said ECL is benefitting from the same things. Then he showed an official-looking CNBC hand-sanitizer dispenser with the peacock logo that he says are all over the place.

6 months till Gekko

Guy Adami said Tuesday that Carter Worth in his last "Fast" appearance referred to Intel as a "coiled spring."

We actually don't remember that and don't have it in the archive. Must've missed it. Oops. Worth was on the "Halftime Report" earlier.

Pete Najarian said Tuesday INTC "might finally be on its way," and how many times have you heard that one in 10 years?

Guy Adami said you can get long WDC with your "bogey" being $36.25 to the downside.

Adami also recommended in the Web Extra to buy LVS at $18.50 on a pullback, after first praising his correct call. He also said, while he won't trade gold himself, other people can think about doing it. He also noted the "Wall Street" sequel is pushed back to September.

Lonely afternoon at NYSE

Steve Grasso taunted Brian Kelly Tuesday about recent S&P predictions. Grasso said, "We're moving to 1,185."

Grasso said people are moving from old winners to potential new winners, for example, buying BKC/selling MCD, buying NCR/selling IBM, buying WMT/selling COST.

Does she, or doesn’t she?

Obviously there can be a fine line in stock investing.

On the "Fast Money Halftime Report" Tuesday, Patty Edwards said "We've been putting together a portfolio of dividend-paying stocks ... (but) GE is not one of the ones I've been using."

Yet the text at the bottom of the screen said "EDWARDS OWNS (GE) FOR CLIENTS."

Luckily, a bit later, things were a little more on the same page. "We are actually playing the GLD, we've been long GLD for a couple hundred points now," said Edwards, who described GLD as a way to "stabilize the portfolio." (Guy Adami tends to warn people that gold can fall hundreds of points in a day, but whatever.)

At that point, at the bottom of the screen, it said "EDWARDS OWNS (GLD) FOR CLIENTS."

Brian Stutland wasn't quite on the same wavelength as Edwards. "I like GE a lot right here," Stutland said, and then later, he said he was actually short the GLD. "Take a look at the gold VIX," he said.

Up 66% since Jan. 31

Carter Worth, in a groove for a while, said he sees oil pushing through $80, and "We would be overweight or rotating into the energy complex." Against that, he'd be selling consumer discretionary.

Brian Stutland rattled off another big oil name. "I like Chevron, I like getting long here," he said.

Joe Terranova said, "This is a time to actually trade the USO," and against that, "go sell the airlines."

Steve Grasso boasted about a recent call that we didn't hear anyone making in late January. "It's a raw material play," he said. "How long have we been pounding the table, Cliffs, CLF, Pete's been pounding, I've been pounding," which made us want to pound our TV set. In fact why even pay $66 for the stock; just offer $75 tomorrow.

Oh, and names like WLT, X, "We all nailed those," Grasso said.

Grasso concluded, "Momentum is gonna take us to around 1,185 in the S&P."

Brian Stutland said small market moves are out of proportion with options activity. "I think there's decent value in selling some options right here," he said.

Patty Edwards said right now, "any of those big, ugly names that hadn't been moving, um, that's the place to be at this point. ... Buy some Chicago Bridge & Iron."

Melissa Lee raised the issue of whether Congress should slap retaliatory tariffs on China for refusing to let the yuan rise. "Uh, no," Edwards said. "This is absolutely inane, and the fact that they're even looking at it shocks me."

[Monday, March 15, 2010]

Is Anthony Scaramucci
also borrowing our lines?

A couple weeks ago on this page, we posted a little fact that came to our attention: That XOM was not only on a downward slide for 2 years, but it was the only member of the Dow 30 to be lower than its price 12 months ago, according to our unofficial eyeball analysis of charts at Yahoo finance.

So we argued Feb. 22 that "Fast Money" should be talking about this stock after barely mentioning it for months, because either 1) it's saying something about the economy/markets, or 2) it's grossly underpriced by its historical standards.

On Monday, Jon Najarian first said on the "Halftime Report" he'd be a buyer of XOM on the Consol news. Then on the real show, both Tim Seymour and Anthony Scaramucci were touting the name; Seymour even posted a Web argument for XOM over the weekend.

Great to know we were on to something. Here's a brief synopsis:

This page, Feb. 22: "But look at the 10-year, 20-year, 30-year. That makes us wonder, how broken could XOM possibly ever be?"

Scaramucci, Monday: "Take a look at the 50-year trend for Exxon."

Seymour: XOM is the
‘best-run company in the world’

Tim Seymour's argument for XOM Monday also echoed, though not with the same terminology, a question we raised in February about how can a company this strong possibly be underperforming the rest of the Dow.

"Exxon's flat, OK, S&P's up 70%, Exxon's flat," Seymour said Monday. "It's the best company, probably, the best-run company in the world. That's right."

He pointed out XOM was first into the nat gas dealmaking that Consol jumped into Monday.

Gary Kaminsky said Exxon's combination with Mobil was, like perhaps the XTO deal, also not favorably received at the time it happened.

Anthony Scaramucci said XOM is attractive because of the cash distribution potential. It "probably will increase the dividend or potentially do a buyback," he said, noting a "ton of cash on their balance sheet."

The relative underperformance is the eye-opener and given Seymour's numbers, a long XOM/short Dow seems bound to prevail in time. If oil were to plunge, it could easily signal economic weakness that would hurt other stocks more than XOM; The only drawback to this trade, in our amateur estimation, is that it seems more of a long-term play than fast money. Seymour and possibly Jon Najarian would likely be in it on expectation of a pop within a week or two. "Value girl" Karen Finerman does not own it and does not talk about it, which does give us pause. Down $30 from its high, after an unpopular acquisition, it's hard to see there being much better risk/reward in this name. (This writer has no position in XOM.)

Scaramucci offered 3 other picks as potentially rewarding shareholders with their large cash stockpiles: PFE, LSTZA, JNJ. Guy Adami said if he was a Pfizer shareholder and learned that it was spending its cash on buybacks and a dividend hike, "I'd be upset."

Kaminsky asked Scaramucci what's happened to the activist investor. Scaramucci said it's a good question, he doesn't exactly know, but he thinks their net worth has declined and they simply have less ability than a couple years ago. ("The key to the game is your cash reserves; if you don't have 'em, you can't piss in the tall weeds with the big dogs" — Gordon Gekko.)

Debbie Weinswig: Wait’ll Wal-Mart shoppers get a load of this

Citi's Debbie Weinswig opened up the can o' whoop-ass on Wal-Mart's competitors on "Fast Money" Monday.

Weinswig said that Wal-Mart, on March 7, "got aggressive on price," only with one catch: They "haven't told their customers about it yet."

She said they'll find out March 23.

Weinswig also said "we've been quite negative on the grocers," and in terms of comparison, "Wal-Mart has the most overlap with Kroger," 53%.

Karen Finerman expressed confusion over Weinswig's research report, which bumped the WMT target from $54 to $65. She asked Weinswig if the better economy will help or hurt Wal-Mart. Weinswig was allowed to give a very lengthy response that didn't answer the question. "You hit the nail on the head," she said. "They're going to get even more aggressive." And for higher-end consumers who might've briefly been trading down, she thinks the "50% price gap is too significant to forgo."

Gary Kaminsky said the leverage WMT can exert over its shelf space is the same type of leverage possessed by WAG and CVS, 2 recent picks of his.

Guy Adami cautiously noted "that's a pretty big jump" in Weinswig's new WMT earnings forecast.

Melissa Lee impressively out-Finermaned Karen Finerman, suggesting that Kraft makes a lot of stuff on Wal-Mart's shelves and might be hurt by this. Karen said that's probably not something Kraft will trumpet in a press release.

Chris Dodd should’ve spent that
time filling out his bracket

Josh Rosner came on "Fast Money" Monday to drive a stake through whatever this nonsense is that Sen. Chris Dodd is talking about.

We say "nonsense" not because we don't like it or necessarily think it's bad, but because the likelihood of this particular package passing is about the same as Willis Reed returning to the Knicks' lineup.

"The (eventual) bill will not look anything like this," Rosner said, adding that Dodd might have "overplayed his hand."

Karen Finerman tried to argue that Dodd is a savvy, veteran politician, but Rosner and others argued that maybe he's not, given that he's being forced into retirement.

Rosner's analysis was stronger when presented in text at the bottom of the screen: "Rosner: Dodd's bill is just a political charade."

Rosner added that the Volcker rule is gone and too big to fail is unaddressed among several other key omissions, as well as the fact the FDIC is also looking to tap the big banks in some form of fee/taxation.

Gary Kaminsky argued again the regulators have "no idea" about prop trading or other key elements of how Wall Street works and that U.S. banks could end up at a global disadvantage. Tim Seymour pointed to Barclays as a possible beneficiary; Guy Adami returned again to RJF and said of Greenhill, "I still like the name."

If this were a poker game,
he’d be all in

Brian Kelly seemed determined Monday to put the brakes on China even if that country's rulers aren't.

"Their money supply I think is growing out of control," Kelly said. He said he is short FCX, copper futures, ACH, AA and FXI.

Tim Seymour argued that he thinks the market has already priced in any Chinese braking.

Melissa reads the NYT

Tim Seymour, who nailed Deutsche Bank last month, insisted Monday the German economy can still deliver stock gains even if Europe is slumping.

Seymour recommended SI, SYT and DAI.

Joe LaVorgna spoke about Greece, a word we're fairly certain was not heard on "Fast Money" last week. "The market's looking past this," LaVorgna shrugged.

Melissa Lee, who introduced the session as "Trading the grobe" (it may be silly to point that out, but those are the things that cause people to cackle at TV anchors), asked if others had seen the Friday New York Times article about Greece allowing early retirement for people in "dangerous" jobs like hairdressing and TV anchoring.

Maybe look for another catalyst

Gary Kaminsky came up with a stat Monday about trading the Fed.

"76% of the time when the Fed has a meeting, the stock market goes up," Kaminsky said, conceding it was one of those "silly things."

The worst example we can remember, and we'd probably need to look it up to be certain, was that Oct. 31, 2007, (Halloween) Fed meeting in which the Dow rose about 130 points, only to begin falling off the cliff as November began.

Joe LaVorgna and the "Fast" gang said not to expect anything exciting. It'll be a "very, uh, lame, uh, statement," LaVorgna said.

Then again, maybe it’s just

Chart guru Jeff DeGraaf earned some respect around here after, in March 2009 about a week into the rally, he contended the market was seeing one of the "bigger bear market bounces" in history. At the time, we scoffed. (Oops.)

Either it was the biggest, or it was more than a bear-market bounce.

Monday, DeGraaf was on "Fast Money" and acknowledged the market was a bit overheated but said this: "There are good overboughts and there are bad overboughts," but currently this is a "good" overbought, and investors should stick with the trend.

He thinks the S&P could rise to "somewhere around 1,220."

"I think the next stop's 1,250," said Tim Seymour.

Melissa Lee tried to convince DeGraaf that corporate parent GE was something special, but DeGraaf merely said "You've got a market performer."

Do-over, anyone?

Having delivered a bold statement Friday about Monday being a bellwether market day, Gary Kaminsky admitted Monday he was just as confused about market direction as he was on Friday.

Guy Adami supported the notion it's hard to call a direction with such light volume, saying, "I think the day-traders out there are just getting themselves chopped up."

Kaminsky said one noticeable factor has been a very light number of earnings pre-announcements, but it's not entirely clear if that's a healthy indicator.

‘Cast Away’: underrated

Melissa Lee and Mike Khouw didn't sound like they were quite on the same page with Monday's option entry on "Fast Money."

Lee introduced Khouw's FDX trade by specifying the importance of direction. Khouw said actually he was merely offering a put spread to protect a long position. Khouw said he was buying the April $85 put for $2.05 and selling the April $80 put for $.85. Lee asked why April and not March. Khouw said the March earnings report will just "eviscerate" the "pumped-up" March options.

We noted the big red block that said "LOSSES" on Khouw's chart above $85.

Guy Adami said to be careful with FDX. "This is a stock that goes down much faster than it goes higher," he said.

Consol CEO: ‘It’s a double-edged
sword in the energy market’

It's not every day that the "Fast Money Halftime Report" involves a conversation with a CEO who has just made an acquisition.

It might not be much of a scoop, but Consol Energy CEO Brett Harvey caught our ear when, after touting the benefits of producing both coal and natural gas, he said "it's a double-edged sword in the energy market."

Harvey said "coal is the base of all of our energy in the United States especially electricity," but then added, "gas is considered the cream of the crop."

So, we interpret it all to mean coal is the unsexy but reliable money-producer, whereas nat gas is the more "elite" energy play despite serious supply concerns, and better to ride out the markets by being in both than pinning the future on just one.

Harvey defended the deal as CNX sold off steeply. "This is a low-cost production play ... even at, uh, 4.50 gas, we make 22% re- return on investment," he said.

Dow Jones Newswires reported that "The sharp drop in Consol shares was likely tied to the company's announcement that it expects to raise $4 billion as part of the deal through debt and equity. Of the money raised, $500 million will be used to develop the acreage with the rest going to finance the deal."

Jon Najarian asked Harvey about the financing. "We're looking to do equity and some debt and uh the I think the borrowing int- interests are right around 8 and a half to 9% on some term deals," Harvey said.

Najarian offered this interesting trade on the news: "I think that ExxonMobil got way too cheap on their deal with XTO so I will be a buyer of Exxon on this dip."

Zach Karabell said "I think the whole natural gas thing is dicey if you're assuming more than 4.50," but because Harvey specifically said that number is profitable, it sounds OK.

Harvey told Melissa Lee, "I still got that job in the mine for ya."

GOOG: Time to buy?

Zachary Karabell said Monday on the "Halftime Report" that Google's apparently looming exit from China might be a good opportunity for making money.

"This may be a good point to get into Google because everyone's selling it off based on news that isn't really gonna materially impact their core business," Karabell said, calling it "adamantly a long-term core holding for tech writ large."

Jon Najarian might disagree. He talked about Citi and banks and shrugged off a "natural little pullback," saying "This isn't as big as I think this Google news is potentially big today."

Karabell said after a 10-day Citi-led rally in financials, "you've gotta expect some pullback," and anyway, "I'm much more interested in the tech side of things."

Scott Nations said Citi options are still trading wildly, but that's because it's all "professionals ... trying to capture just a tenth of a penny or so in the options" rather than trading the stock.

Nations pointed to the Relative Strength Index and said "The S&P is overbought." Jon Najarian predicted oil "rolls to about 75."

[Friday, March 12, 2010]

Zach Karabell in the
mainstream media

Bill Freehling, a writer for the Fredericksburg, Va., Free Lance-Star (one of those great, unique newspaper names we've never heard before), takes up Zach Karabell's argument about U.S. debt in a column Sunday. Freehling writes, "Karabell's argument is a tough one to buy, due purely to common sense ... (but) it's always nice to read something that goes against the conventional wisdom and makes a good case."

If you bought X in February,
you’re a big winner

In the last week or two we've noted the strength of some of Patty Edwards' stock picks (in part because this writer is/was long a couple of them).

But in fact, someone else may actually be outperforming.

In a completely unscientific survey, we've mined this page for noteworthy picks from the "Fast Money" gang and others remotely associated with it since the end of January.

We're sure this list omits several good calls and even some bad ones. And some people are barely represented or maybe not even represented at all. We skipped calls that we've already made a big deal about. Like we said, it's completely unscientific.

One whose picks have flown a bit under our radar is Tim Seymour, who has crushed on a couple biggies recently, Deutsche Bank and U.S. Steel. One of our favorite clunkers was from Jeff Tomasulo, who on Jan. 29 (we don't think he's been on the show since) reported getting hate mail for calling Citi a dog but insisting there are better opportunities. And when will Dani Hughes be back?

Another winner whose analysis has often been panned here in the last 12 months: Carter Worth. For consistency, try Jon Najarian, who is batting 1.000 in the picks we uncovered (keep in mind, it's not scientific).

In the category of making the most out of 1 at-bat, we have to give the nod to Bill Ackman, whose BGP has been absolutely smoking since he discussed it on "Fast." (The stock notably popped afterhours that day, prompting an article in the N.Y. Post even, but those afterhours buyers have been rewarded.)

Maybe the biggest bust: Meredith (we're trying not to use her last name because she's assumed single-name rock-star status on Wall Street) dumping on the banks in February on "Closing Bell." Bad call.

Keep in mind the market has been rallying since late January, and most picks on the show are bullish ones, but many have been undeniably pretty good. None are from the last week; last closing prices are March 12. (Among the bunch, this writer's long positions include AAPL and C.)

Here they are, in no particular order:

Tim Seymour: On Feb. 24 said he liked Deutsche Bank, closed $63.08 then, $72.44 Friday.

Tim Seymour: On Feb. 10 called X a "broken stock, but overdone" to the downside; closed $44.37 then, $61.40 on Friday.

Tim Seymour: Said Jan. 28 TCK is a name you "can still get short," closed $34.68 then, fell to $31.72 in a week, closed Friday at $40.70.

Joe Terranova: Said to buy the USO Feb. 26, closed at $38.82 then, $39.51 Friday.

Joe Terranova: On Feb. 22 said he took some JPM "off the table," closed $40.85 then, $43.15 on Friday.

Joe Terranova: On Feb. 4 said he was told by market friend "Mr. X" that China tightening is a "game-changer," FXI closed then at $38.02, closed Friday at $41.24.

Joe Terranova: Said Jan. 29 to buy CSCO, would see "revisit of 25.10," closed then at $22.47, closed Friday at $25.88.

Joe Terranova and Tim Seymour: Trumpeted Microsoft Jan. 28, calling it "underowned," shares closed $28.05 then, $29.27 on Friday.

Jeff Tomasulo: Said Jan. 29 he got hate mail for calling Citi a dog, "I think there's just better opportunities," C closed at $3.32 then, $3.97 Friday.

Dennis Gartman: Said Feb. 26 was short RL, closed at $79.93 then, straight up to $82.16 on Friday.

Dennis Gartman: On Feb. 25 said "Coal looks awfully, awfully cheap to me," sampling of names shows 10%-higher moves in several.

Dennis Gartman On Jan. 28 said commodities "have been broken very badly," said he liked cereal makers as an alternative. GIS closed $71.95 then, closed $72.37 Friday; K closed $54.42 then, $52.49 Friday.

Karen Finerman: Said she added to GOOG Jan. 7, price closed at $594; said Jan. 25 bought more, price closed at $540; on Jan. 29 said she opted to "add a little bit," price closed $529. On Feb. 25 said "I actually bought a little bit of Google today," closed at $526.43. On Friday, GOOG closed at $579.54.

Karen Finerman: On Feb. 5 shown touting CVS at earlier Ackman conference, CVS closed $31.07 then, $34.63 Friday.

Karen Finerman: On Feb. 5, not a trading call, noted timing of GS bonus news release, on Friday afternoon, stock closed $153.82 then, $174.96 on Friday.

Karen Finerman: Said she bought IBM on Jan. 29, price closed $121.85 then, $127.94 on Friday.

Guy Adami: Predicted March 3 CAT probably "rolls over," closed $58.57 then, $60.36 on Friday.

Guy Adami: Said Feb. 26 that Goldman Sachs was OK if it topped $160, closed $156.35 then, $174.96 on Friday.

Guy Adami: On Feb. 25 said "RIMM at 70 is a short," closed at $69.85 then, $75.34 on Friday.

Guy Adami: On Feb. 8 pointed to AMZN as possible turning point upward at $113; closed $116.83 then, $131.82 on Friday.

Guy Adami: On Feb. 8 recommended the 1993 film "A Perfect World" starring Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood and Laura Dern. Not one of his better picks.

Guy Adami: On Feb. 1 said he thinks BX "goes a lot higher from here," closed then $12.64, closed Friday at $14.65.

Pete Najarian: Touted TEVA on Feb. 26, closed at $60.01 then and $61.30 Friday; also mentioned MYL Feb. 26, closed at $21.34 then, $21.95 Friday.

Pete Najarian: On Feb. 3 gushed about CSCO, closed $23.07 then, $25.88 Friday.

Brian Kelly: Said on Feb. 26 was long NBG (closed $3.86 then, $4.39 Friday), CS ($44.60 then, $49.83 on Friday), and DB ($63.50 then, $72.44 Friday).

Brian Kelly: On Feb. 24 touted C ($3.45 then, $3.97 Friday) and JPM ($40.85 then, $43.15 Friday).

Brian Kelly: On Feb. 19 said he "doubled down" in C ($3.42 then, $3.97 Friday) and JPM ($40.03 then, $43.15 Friday).

Brian Kelly: On Feb. 16 suggesting shorting TAO (closed $16.72 then, $17.99 on Friday) or EJ ($17.74 then, $19.71 Friday).

Brian Kelly: On Feb. 8 said to buy AKAM ($25.04 then, $31.94 Friday), sell GME ($19.69 then, $19.21 Friday).

Brian Kelly, Todd Gordon: On Feb. 2 recommended homebuilders, DHI ($13.17 then, $13.00 Friday); plus Kelly's picks of HOV ($3.98 then, $4.38 Friday) and TOL ($19.66 then, $19.90 on Friday).

Gary Kaminsky: On March 4 told e-mailer to hold 6,000 shares of C, closed then $3.43, closed Friday at $3.97.

Gary Kaminsky: On March 1 suggested CLX ($61.56 then, $62.89 Friday) and PLL ($41.01 then, $38.87 Friday) as takeover or activist targets.

Gary Kaminsky: On Feb. 26 insisted would stay in EPV, (closed $24.48 then, $21.47 on Friday); recommended pairs trade long DECK (closed $120.20 then, $130.96 Friday) and short CROX (closed $7.05 then, $7.67 Friday).

Gary Kaminsky: Said Feb. 24 AMT is in "sweet spot," shares closed $42.62 then, $43.38 Friday.

Gary Kaminsky: Said Feb. 22 he owned puts on Lululemon, closed $28.32 then, $35.16 on Friday.

Gary Kaminsky: Touted BLK on Feb. 19 in conversation on interest rates, closed at $214.51 then, $210.00 Friday.

Gary Kaminsky: On Feb. 8 touted CVS ($32.72 then, $34.63 Friday) and WAG ($33.15 then, $33.93 Friday) but warned were low-beta and would not rise much if general market rose.

Gary Kaminsky, Dennis Gartman: On Feb. 3 pro-SU, Gartman said he was buying, closed $30.67 then, $31.20 Friday.

Steve Cortes: On Feb. 25 said "I am bullish on the S&P," was 1,102.94 then, closed 1,149.99 on Friday.

Carter Worth: On March 2, predicted bounce in S&P 500 just like recovery in July 2009, S&P closed 1,118.31 then, 1,149.99 Friday.

Carter Worth: On Feb. 24 recommended shorting EL ($60.01 then, closed $63.51 Friday) against long AVP ($30.85 then, closed at $32.03 Friday), called XLP breakout ($27.14 then, $27.48 Friday), said there was more to go in regional banks (KRE closed $24.90 then, $25.70 on Friday).

Carter Worth: On Feb. 4 declared a "healthy" correction, buying resuming at S&P 1,050, closed at 1,063.11 then, intraday low of 1,044.50 the next day, closed Friday at 1,149.99.

Louis Navellier: Said Feb. 22 BIDU "could double this year easily," closed $507.15 then, $550.24 Friday.

Debbie Weinswig: Said Feb. 22 JWN is "absolutely" still a buy, closed $35.97 then, $39.83 on Friday.

Jon Najarian: On March 5 gave AAPL $265 year-end target, closed $218.95 then, $226.60 Friday.

Jon Najarian: Said Feb. 19 he likes NFLX ($66.65 then, $69.98 Friday), AMZN ($117.52 then, $131.82 Friday) and PCLN ($230.57 then, $238.91 Friday).

Jon Najarian: On Feb. 11 said he likes casinos, WYNN $64.96 then, $71.47 Friday; LVS $16.87 then, $19.59 Friday.

Jon Najarian: On Feb. 4 liked MGM ($10.79 then, $11.80 Friday), WYNN ($60.84 then, $71.47 Friday), CSCO (closed then $23.16, $25.88 Friday).

Meredith Whitney: On Feb. 18 on "Closing Bell" slammed all banks, predicted another 10% down from current levels, said C not overvalued but too big of a float to move, XLF closed $14.38 then, $15.54 on Friday; C closed $3.43 then, $3.97 Friday.

Marc Faber: On Feb. 17 said "In general I wouldn't buy Chinese stocks here," Tim Seymour suggested that might mean shorting ACH, closed $24.36 then, $26.00 Friday.

Brian Nagel: On Feb. 17 called HD a $37 stock, closed at $29.80 then, $32.45 on Friday.

Jason Trennert: On Feb. 17 said his top pick is BHI, closed then $48.05, $50.05 on Friday.

Charles Kantor: On Feb. 12 was pro-V ($84.78 then, $93.25 Friday) and pro-ENB ($44.45 then, $47.54 on Friday).

Bill Strazzullo: On Feb. 12 said there were signs of a market top, S&P 500 closed 1,075.51 then, 1,149.99 Friday.

Scott Redler: On Feb. 11 touted AAPL, said "path of least resistance" was up to 205, APPL closed then $198.67, $226.60 Friday; said GOOG could be next tech giant to do same, GOOG closed that day $536.40, closed Friday $579.54.

Christopher Zook: On Feb. 11 recommended shorting commercial real estate, VNQ closed then $41.51, $48.08 on Friday; VNO closed $62.49 then, $73.80 Friday.

Steve Grasso: On March 5 touted TSO, said refiners breaking out, closed then $13.43, Friday at $13.77.

Steve Grasso: On Feb. 10 called GLW a short, was $17.47 then, $18.04 on Friday.

Katie Stockton: On Feb. 5 expressed market bearishness, said downside risk to 1,020, S&P 500 closed 1,066.19, apparently short-term bottom intraday Feb. 5 at 1,044.50, closed at 1,149.99 Friday.

Paul Latta: On Feb. 3 said he liked VZ, closed $29.19 then, $29.73 Friday.

Bill Ackman: On Feb. 2 talked of viability of BGP, stock jumped afterhours, closed Feb. 2 at $0.94, closed Friday at $1.90.

Patty Edwards: On March 4 said "I have no interest in getting anywhere near Citi," closed then $3.43, closed Friday at $3.97.

Peter Boockvar: Said Jan. 29 the market had peaked for year, intraday high of 1,150.41 on Jan. 14, surpassed Friday intraday, 1,153.41.

Gordon’s interesting find

Either Todd Gordon is really doing his homework ... or he's grasping for ways to justify his bearish-leaning stock market sentiment of recent days.

Actually it's probably a bit of both, but we're giving him credit for more of the former.

Gordon pointed out Friday on "Fast Money" that this week is the 8th-lightest volume week at the NYSE in the last 6 years, which is more significant given that the other 7, according to Gordon, were Christmas and Thanksgiving weeks.

Joe Terranova speculated that sellers are waiting for the March jobs report in April, which he said would be "very, very strong." Tim Seymour disagreed, saying they would just be taking their cue from the Fed. Gary Kaminsky suggested the widespread use of ETFs could also account for low volume. Melissa Lee noted there's a lot of trading beyond just the NYSE floor nowadays.

News flash: Lehman tried
to conceal problems

There isn't much of a trade in it (probably), but the "Fast Money" gang Friday conducted a fascinating discussion on Lehman Brothers with Jacob Zamansky, who, despite the fact he's suing everyone's pants off, had some interesting things to say.

This segment could've lasted a crisp hour.

It began with Melissa Lee apparently being tripped up by the teleprompter demons but managing to get across, "Lehman used off-balance-sheet transactions to ... appear ... solvent."

Gary Kaminsky, who went off on this subject on the "Halftime Report" (see below), began with "Tell me something I didn't know" before graciously congratulating Karen Finerman for pointing out Lehman's Level 3 asset problems a couple years ago on "Fast Money." Then Kaminsky repeated his "Halftime" report, that activities by top execs such as Joe Gregory and Mark Walsh appear to be going unnoticed by regulators.

That brought the illegal motion sign from Melissa Lee, who made a point to declare "We're not saying that anyone has done anything wrong."

Zamansky said "This reminds me of Enron ... cooking the books." He said Dick Fuld and the "CFO" are in trouble or should be. "There's substantial evidence here that they knew what was going on, they directed it," he said, adding the case may be "civilly, and possibly criminal."

Kaminsky jumped on the regulators again, saying that after the Bear Stearns debacle, the regulators sought or performed 2 stress tests on Lehman, one a Bear-type test and the other Bear-lite, and Lehman flunked both. So then, according to Kaminsky, the regulators asked Lehman to run its own stress test.

"That's insane," Kaminsky concluded.

Tim Seymour questioned the role of other parties. "The auditors signed off on those books," he said. Zamansky concurred and said Ernst & Young is in "knee-deep."

Melissa Lee asked Zamansky, "Who are you suing?" Zamansky had some difficulty answering that one but said "UBS sold a lot of this stuff," so apparently that's the answer.

(Whew) That's a lot of Zamanskys and Kaminskys in one post; hope the names are all spelled correctly.

According to their respective indexes, Charles Gasparino's The Sellout mentions the word "Enron" 6 times, while Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail does not list "Enron" at all.

Karen has bought ‘a couple’
Dell computers every year

Karen Finerman, an expert at identifying shorts on the good news of other companies, made an interesting little comment about Dell, saying Apple vs. Dell is like "cell phones and land lines."

Karen said that she does a lot more things with her phone that she used to do with her home computer and that this is probably true for many people. She said in her own household computing situation, "I used to order a couple from Dell a year," but won't anymore; rather, "I will get an iPad."

Melissa Lee pointed out again that Apple has joined the "stock mile-high club." Tim Seymour was the one heard hooting this time.

Did Citi take market south?

Gary Kaminsky on Friday said that Monday's action is going to be very significant.

Portfolio managers are flummoxed by this recent melt-up, Kaminsky said, "they're going absolutely crazy." According to the show, the 5 companies driving the S&P higher are AIG, Citigroup, Zions, MEMC, and Sprint. Kaminsky said "it kills people" to have relative underperformance, and that "managers eventually throw in the towel."

Kaminsky said with 2 weeks left in the month, a strong day Monday would indicate some chasing into April.

Kaminsky noted, as everyone on "Fast" seems to do just about hourly, that no one should touch AIG, it's just a worthless, liquidating company. But Melissa Lee, as she likes to say not quite hourly but maybe once a day, said let's not necessarily trash it because we the taxpayers own it.

Lee also pointed out, more significantly, that maybe AIG and Citi have already reversed, given Citi Friday and AIG the last couple of days.

Joe Terranova said the market is so difficult to call right now, that if you're looking for a baseball analogy, "It feels like you're swinging basically at golf balls."

Clifton: Noise on banks
will soon pass

Daniel Clifton of Strategas made the most of limited time Friday on "Fast Money," pointing to headwinds in financials and health care because of government negotiations.

Next week, Clifton said, "It's going to look as if health care's going to pass," and that will affect stocks. But, "We think health care's gonna fail," which will then spur a frustrated Congress to redouble its efforts to pass anything, which will result in a "premium" on crafting some financial regulation.

Clifton said he likes banks because once this headwind is gone, it's smooth sailing.

Tim Seymour trumpeted the ag/fertilizer call, and Gary Kaminsky gave him props. "Supplies are tight, these ag names are going higher," Seymour said.

Dave DeWalt, CEO of McAfee and a "Fast Money" friend, spoke about the security market way too soberly Friday in a segment that really felt like it had no news hook.

Karen Finerman said late, "I like GGP" for those who can tolerate some risk.

We hesitate to applaud any condensing of "Fast Money" because it occupies a decent portion of this site. But this half-hour Friday show is a welcome relief and a smooth way of easing into our weekend.

Karen Finerman, in blue, and Melissa Lee, in white with open-collar and pendant, looked great Friday. But Trish Regan, wrapping up the "Closing Bell" and introducing "Fast," was heart-stopping and radiant in sleek light blue top.

Edwards: Buy JCG

Yesterday we complained that Patty Edwards is barely getting any time to talk about her red-hot stock picks on the "Fast Money Halftime Report."

To show how relevant this page is, Patty on Friday once again was batting 4th, which is a fine thing in baseball but not so great on "Fast Money."

"Steve Grasso, I want to start it off with you..." said Melissa Lee.

And all viewers got from Patty was that 1) she does agree with Grasso that bigger banks are a better play than smaller ones and avoids trying to guess at acquisition targets, "If you are buying those things on a takeout, you're doing the fool's work"; 2) "We are not returning to stupid and giddy shopping," and 3) "Pick up some J. Crew on the downdraft."

Kaminsky: Fuld’s ‘real role was not running the company day to day’

Melissa Lee brought in former Neuberger & Berman managing director and Lehman exec Gary Kaminsky on Friday to evaluate the new report.

Lee stated bluntly, "Dick Fuld comes across as either a, a manipulator of results so therefore a committer of fraud, or just ignorant because he didn't know what was going on at his company."

Kaminsky — and this would be a healthy subject for discussion on "Fast Money" on some day the markets are slow — said this:

"Melissa my take on this and it has been for some time is that, is that Dick, had really in the last couple years at Lehman, had focused so much on trying to grow the investment banking business, that his real role was not running the company day to day, it was really being the, the front person to help, you know, grow the business ... A lot of the people that did have day-to-day involvement like Joe Gregory, like Mark Walsh, who did all these real estate deals, they seem to have gotten a pass."

We were curious about "gotten a pass." Did Fuld, in fact, not get a pass? Charles Gasparino is reporting all day on that other network (according to his Twitter) that Fuld will not face any charges. Fuld's discombobulated Wikipedia page says that he and 11 other Lehman execs got grand jury subpoenas in 2008, and that Jon Corzine launched a New Jersey suit against the firm that also named other execs.

He also curiously sold his Florida mansion to his wife in 2008 for $100.

So, we suspect Kaminsky is referring to the general reputation damage of Fuld vs. other top execs. Interestingly, that stigma is trumpeted at CNBC.com, which still posts a feature from portfolio.com that ranks Fuld the No. 1 "Worst American CEO of All Time."

Beyond that, Kaminsky said the report is revealing in showing that regulators "continue to really be out of touch." He noted that when signs of liquidity and sufficiency-of-capital problems emerged, all agencies were doing was monitoring them, a "very disturbing thing."

Does this mean we have to reread The Sellout?

No matter what Citi does,
every day is a victory

Steve Grasso used that stock-market term we love to hate around here.


"It's only healthy that you see some money coming back off the table," Grasso said of Citigroup.

"Healthy" ... for what?

Stocks must go down, in order for the market to be healthy.

So in other words, as traders touted Citi's rise the last week, they should've instead been talking about how "unhealthy" it is. (This writer is long C.)

It could be that Grasso is just stating a market "truism" ... or a sign of irrational exuberance that every move in the stock no matter which direction is being cheered.

Scott Nations expressed skepticism of the options market. "I don't know why you would buy a call on a $4 stock," he said.

Strazzullo is back

Who woulda thunk that Bill Strazzullo returns to the Friday "Halftime Report," and it takes us several posts to get to him?

Strazzullo made several technical calls, most significantly this: "Sell in front of 1,155, looking for 1,125 and maybe even 1,090 in the S&P."

He also spoke of the XLF, saying "the sector is outperforming the broader market." He said if it breaks through $15.50, he could see upward movement to $16.75 or $17, but also watch 1,150, 1,155 in the S&P, "that's another critical resistance area as well."

He talked about the RTH and said there is "buying in front of 94, and looking for a move to 101 and maybe even as high as 108."

Never hard feelings

Scott Nations called the S&P 500 "overbought" on Friday. Steve Grasso said he was a "buyer, buyer, buyer" into the close.

Melissa Lee declared for some odd reason, "I know that all of you guys are friends."

Jane Wells looks ‘marvelous’

Joe Kernen and the "Squawk Box" crew seized the chance Friday morning to compliment Jane Wells, something we do whenever we can.

Kernen said to Wells after a retail report, "Jane you look marvelous today. I mean, we just mentioned that. New makeup? What, I mean, seriously."

"Uh, it's uh, it's new makeup, it's a lot of light, it's about 3 cups of coffee, and uh, you know, the day's young," Wells said.

"She's looking great, we were talking about you..." agreed Becky Quick.

"Thank you, thank you!" Wells said, handling it graciously like a pro. "Now I feel better for getting up at 3."

We noticed this exchange while catching up with another Patty Edwards segment that was featured by Wells. Patty said that Wal-Mart in the last year or so has added a "beautiful" home & garden line that many wouldn't expect.

[Thursday, March 11, 2010]

You may have heard
this one before

Gerard Cassidy of RBC told "Fast Money" viewers Thursday that the banking sector could be heating up with M&A activity.

"Sun Trust we think is probably the best franchise that's going to become available," said Cassidy, who predicted it could bring something north of $50 and that JPMorgan might be interested.

That might've brought a chuckle to those of us who remember Dylan Ratigan on this program once chuckling when a guest made a similar point (though the takeout price would've been a lot higher) and Ratigan said something like (not an exact quote), "I'm not sure I've gone a day in this business without hearing somewhere that someone is going to buy Sun Trust Bank."

Not surprisingly, STI jumped about 50 cents afterhours after the segment aired.

Cassidy also talked about a Northern Trust-BPFH transaction. We first thought he meant Boston Private would do the buying, but Melissa Lee clarified that with an extended explanation, that the Boston Private CEO is in his late 60s and has been chief for 17 years and would love to go out on top.

Secret to successful TV

Robert Barbera took the reins of the "Econ Desk" on "Fast Money" Thursday. We think it was his first time on the show, but can't 100% confirm that.

Not surprisingly, his presence further proved that successful TV has much to do with familiarity.

You've seen it over and over again, a newcomer shows up on "Fast Money" and the whole conversation is a bit stiff, straightforward, lacking any kind of rib-tickling humor.

Then, by about appearance No. 10, he/she is not only delivering the straightforward analysis but slinging the b.s. as well as anyone.

Kinda like if you see the "Cheers" pilot, you're sitting there watching Sam and Coach and wondering, "Have these people ever met each other before?"

Barbera did fine, but taking his comments literally, you might be emptying your pockets into the stock market right now. (Then again, maybe we should be.) "People have been much too bearish on the economy overall," Barbera said, and he agreed with Joe Terranova's characterization of his opinion as the market or economy being in a "sweet spot." Karen Finerman had the audacity to ask about unemployment, and Barbera said "You're putting the cart before the cart."

Karen sold too soon

In a mostly lackluster show Thursday, honestly, the thing that most jumped out at us was that Melissa Lee and Karen Finerman were wearing dueling purple.

We liked Karen's scarf, and we liked the way Melissa's tied in the midde. Other than that, we're not offering an opinion.

Steve Grasso said about 5 times that long investors are safe as long as the S&P is above 1,125. Brian Kelly said "I'd much rather be buying it at 1,125."

Grasso said investors want finality to the health care debate. "President Obama had 52 speeches on health care," he said, but then Grasso returned to message: "If we stay above 1,125, the market is still a buy."

John Roque said the charts show the S&P will break through upward resistance, and things look good for the big biotechs.

If only Karen Finerman had waited another day or two for Patty Edwards' call on ARO. "We sold about 3 days ago," Karen said.

Not one of Santelli’s
better days

Daniel Clifton of Strategas talked about financial reform, and it sounded like it's all kind of a murky mess that might not amount to much.

"You're gonna get clearing houses for derivatives, you're gonna get conflict of interest for, uh, for rating agencies," Clifton said, zzzzzzzzzz.

A glum Rick Santelli sounded like he was personally offended by Washington, D.C. He complained about Fannie and Freddie slipping through the reform cracks. "They're not going to be included and I think to put a moniker of 'reform' on something that doesn't include Freddie and Fannie is very disingenuous," Santelli said.

"What would you do," Karen Finerman asked Santelli. "Well I think that I would break them up immediately," Santelli said.

Later Robert Barbera delivered something of a facial to Santelli (see, if Barbera was a regular, it would've been a lot funnier and with gusto) by pointing out they had an argument on CNBC about a year ago in which Santelli apparently claimed the TARP and TALF and whatever wouldn't work, but things now look pretty good. Santelli insisted "I didn't disagree!"

Santelli also had serious issues with geography Thursday. Discussing municipal debt problems, he couldn't identify the capital of Virginia, then named L.A. and said "Chicago, my own backyard, they have about a $13 billion hole to fill." We think he meant the states, not the cities, as minimal Web sleuthing turns up that it's Illinois that has a $13 billion hole, whereas Chicago merely struggled with a $500 million gap last summer.

A stock that’s everywhere
you want it to be

Steve Grasso managed to crack up both Karen Finerman and Melissa Lee when he said Thursday "I've been long Visa probably from the 70s." MLee and K-Fine initially thought that sounded like the 1970s, which would be kind of difficult since it only went public a few years ago.

Pete Najarian actually said, "I look at JPMorgan, it's an exciting name."

Really. Knocks our socks off too.

Steve Grasso countered, "JPMorgan was at $46 when that bank tax, mid- middle of January," and you know what he means.

Maybe we need a Trade School
on this one

We lamented our own observation a week ago that apparently "Fast Money" is going to include an options segment every day.

That's fine for options traders, more power to them. But for everyone else, "what's the point" and "if I flip over to Fox Business right now is there any chance Charles Gasparino will be on?" have to be weighing prominently.

Thursday, Brian Stutland talked of interesting activity in EMC, NTAP and HNT and explained an even-money way of playing NTAP. It's buying the June $36 call for $1 and selling the June $30 put for $1.

The handy options chart basically told us that if the stock goes up, Stutland wins. So what's the point of this machination...

Even Pete Najarian was skeptical and delivered a public service to viewers, pointing out that if there happens to be "awful" news in NTAP for whatever reason, "you are exposed."

Pete noted there is huge options activity in Hologic. Karen Finerman talked about PSYS and noted that in the last two years, "this notion was unthinkable" that we could be seeing leveraged buyouts in health care.

Brian Kelly said, "I'm gonna be a short seller of Alcoa."

Time for Patty to bat leadoff

The rest of the crew who did the "Fast Money Halftime Report" on Thursday is a wonderful, glorious group with many great ideas to share.

But Patty Edwards is on fire right now, and it's downright inexplicable why Melissa Lee isn't eager to pour a little more gasoline.

Thursday, Lee actually asked Edwards about 1) Citi and 2) the yield curve before delving into retailers about 3/4 of the way through the show. Come on, let's get to the good stuff right away, the mall-walk reports, what Target/Costco/Wal-Mart are doing, JWN vs. SKS, TJMaxx, Saints' chances of repeating, etc.

What does it say when Patty's pick of the year, La-Z-Boy (this writer is long LZB), came not on "Fast Money" but "Squawk on the Street"? (We're going to bend the rules and call it the "Fast" pick of the year thus far.)

Patty utterly nailed BKE on March 3, when she also touted TJX (flat since then) and JWN (up slightly). On March 2 she pointed to HLF, marginally higher since.

This week, while she actually got a bit of a sell-off on her JCG call, she knocked another one out of the park on ARO (this writer was long but sold Thursday).

Readers who want more can get a lot of the scoop from Patty's Web site/Twittering.

Thursday, Patty said of ARO, "I think that they are the teen retailer of choice at this point for a lot of these teens." Guy Adami said he too likes JCG but can't figure out the sell-off. "That stock was on a tear until they reported a great quarter."

Vikram, bar the door

Guy Adami didn't sound like he'd be popping any corks Thursday over his C position. "I own it so I guess I gotta be a little bit positive," he shrugged. "I'm sure Citi does have a plan but you know I haven't figured it out yet."

Zach Karabell, who normally doesn't make these kinds of trading calls, said he thought recently C could pop 20%, and now that it has, he thinks it could actually pop another 20%. "This is like the low-quality financial rally of the kind of stuff we used to see 10 years ago in low-quality tech rallies," he said, the issue being that it could rally for a long time. (This writer is long C.)

"I see institutions buying, buying, buying on the options side," said Jon Najarian. "This thing gets through 5 and I think it's Katy bar the door."

"First of all who's Katy and which door," Karabell said. Guy Adami said it was from an 1894 James Whitcomb Riley poem, but we did some Googling and found that the phrase might've been around long before that.

Buy commodities, apparently

Dennis Gartman thinks the rationale for commodity-selling was backwards. "I did find it rather comical yesterday Mel when the whole world is selling commodities off because higher inflation in China," he said, agreeing with Zach Karabell that it was only food-related inflation anyway.

Guy Adami reminded viewers (again) of his RIG call. "I would sort of stay away from the refiners," he said, even though Joe Terranova likes them. "I'll go back to Transocean ... when they announced their quarter a couple weeks ago ..."

Patty Edwards said she is "absolutely not" interested in the long end of Treasurys and that she is moving clients "to the short end of the yield curve."

Melissa Lee explained GameStop is a place where kids can trade their video games, which they can't really do online. Zach Karabell said "Guy is short GameStop and long parenting."

[Wednesday, March 10, 2010]

Buy RIMM ‘with both hands’

Peter Misek of Canaccord Adams on "Fast Money" Wednesday was tripping over himself to scoop up RIMM.

"Absolutely hands down we love it, we'd be buying it with both hands," he said, the argument being, "RIMM consumes 1/10th the bandwidth of any other device" and thus is desperately needed by carriers.

He also said the iPad could be a revenue driver "as soon as next quarter" for Apple, and "this could be a big deal." (This writer is long AAPL.)

Melissa Lee asked Misek if Palm might eventually be bought for $1 or $2 as Whitney Tilson suggesetd. "May not be even that high," Misek said, but if someone bites, it might be "HP, Dell, a Nokia."

Brad Hintz redefines GS

Brad Hintz on "Fast Money" Wednesday further explained how he's been crunching the Goldman Sachs numbers.

"I ended up with a revenue growth rate of 17% and an ROE of 16%," he said. "Essentially Goldman Sachs, if you get rid of trading, is a giant Evercore."

Then moments later, Hintz said, "Essentially Goldman is, is today what a Lehman would have been in the past."

Why? He said "You're getting a fixed-income play right now into an M&A equity underwriting play into a liquidation of merchant-banking-portfolio play," and try repeating that quickly 5 times.

Steve Cortes questioned if Goldman might be hurt by a brain drain; he hears of people leaving for places like Moore Capital and Brevin Howard. Hintz said there's always people jumping ship but there's plenty of talent on Wall Street.

Tim in Turkey

Tim Seymour, dialing in from abroad around 1 a.m., said "Fast Money" is "something people in Turkey love."

He talked about "noise" in Turkey politics and said global investors should "take this opportunity to buy this weakness."

Then the gang celebrated a comment by beaming Melissa Lee about "Midnight at the Oasis" by Maria Muldaur in 1974, which we just learned peaked at No. 6.

Kaminsky: Today’s AAPL in 1999
would’ve fetched $1,500

Gary Kaminsky spoke Wednesday about the peak of the dot-com bubble, which many of us remember all too painfully.

"Talk about melt-up," Kaminsky said, recalling when people from December 1999 to March 2000 were scared to not be in tech stocks. "That's what melt-ups are made of."

He said today's AAPL in that environment would be "trading at 14- or 1,500 dollars a share ... we'll never see anything in our lifetime again where 50 or 60 times revenues or things trading at multiples of number of eyeballs of customers will ever happen again," he said.

Joe Terranova asked for a Nasdaq call. "Today, you've got much more normal valuations," Kaminsky said. "The Nasdaq is actually attractively priced for many of the larger names given their growth prospects. ... If anything I think we are probably entering a new melt-up phase."

Melissa Lee speculated that Kaminsky was either in "pajamas or (on) treadmill, is my guess."

Too much of a good thing

It was Citi day on "Fast Money" Wednesday, which is why Mike Khouw's otherwise fine and detailed commentary about buying a $4 Citi June call for 30 cents was little more than overkill given the many interesting things that had already been said. (This writer is long C.)

Brian Kelly said he likes Evercore (which Brad Hintz thinks is Goldman Sachs without trading) while Guy Adami continues to tout Greenhill and Lazard.

Joe Terranova said to "Take a look at Sunoco" because it's gaining while sitting on the Goldman Sachs conviction sell list and might get a pop if it's removed. "Also I'm short the airlines as well," Terranova said.

Jon from L.A. asked Pete Najarian about Teva. "I love this name, I own this name, I think it goes higher," Pete said.

Melissa Lee perhaps backed away from previous e-mail-reading guarantees. "I do try and read every single e-mail," she said Wednesday.

Anthony Scaramucci
should run for office

Anthony Scaramucci is one of those Wall Street greats whom the general public doesn't know much about.

Maybe they should. Scaramucci is good on TV and has a sense of humor. He's probably right about business/economy facts. With his kind of cash pile, he should think about entering one of those New York Senate races.

(We noted in our review of one CNBC program featuring Scaramucci that according to those election-donation sites, he donated to Barack Obama's campaign, but so did many professed Republicans on Wall Street, so take that for what it's worth. He's also donated to George W. Bush, Rudolph Giuliani, Gore, Lieberman, Hillary, etc.)

Scaramucci's big trade Wednesday on "Fast Money" was to dump gold, which he called an "ambiguous" trade that isn't really working for either bulls or bears (though it is working for Peter Schiff in terms of landing repeat "Fast Money" engagements). "Gold feels overbought to us," Scaramucci said. "We're shedding our gold bullion."

He did say, though, that "miners are cheap ... if you wanna play gold that's probably the best way to do it." That prompted Guy Adami — who also reminded viewers of his RIG trade — to roll out his favorite trade of the last 12 months, telling people when Barrick bought back its hedges that it was probably a top in the stock if not gold itself.

Scaramucci also said "You've got excess global capacity in terms of manufacturing."

Earlier he made a political type of point about CDSes and regulating speculation. "Remember that speculators do a lot for markets," he said, pointing to the "grain situation in Chicago" and ability in general for investors to do hedging. He said the issue with AIG was that it couldn't support what it was selling. "Make sure who's ever making these trades can fulfill the trades," he said.

He joked about hearing Mel Lee's Citi tirade earlier. "I do like Vikram Pandit," he said.

Kaminsky predicts Citi
buyout within 2 years

Gary Kaminsky, on the Fast Line Wednesday, talked about Citigroup and said "I was fortunate enough today to spend some time with a former very senior person there and got uh, and got some good insight."

Kaminsky opined, "Citi, because they were not able to do the Wachovia deal in September 2008, probably is not a stand-alone entity two years from now. Citi is not big enough to be a global consumer bank as a stand-alone entity, I think ultimately Citi gets taken out."

He said in the near-term, for management to keep the stock gravy train rolling, "They've gotta now deliver some positive earnings surprise," and then "the next plan is to, I believe, create a reverse split because they've gotta find a way to make it more institutionally attractive."

Kaminsky also said "AIG is a completely different situation."

Terranova pulls back a year

As if the "Halftime Report" wasn't enough, the 5 p.m. show Wednesday also threatened to be all about Citigroup.

Pete Najarian pointed to "incredible activity, and I'm talking about unbelievable." In the options, of course.

Joe Terranova was scaling back his C outlook 1 year after just a couple hours removed from the "Halftime" show (see below). Terranova said at 5 p.m. that C was worth a look for "the 2011 story, that gives me a reason to follow some of these hedge fund managers."

Guy Adami said of AIG, "This is friends a short squeeze." Brian Kelly added, "You should get squeezed if you're short these things."

Melissa Lee went off on Vikram Pandit. "I sound exorcised? Come on ... to say Vikram Pandit is an angel..."

That was quick

Just two days earlier, Steve Cortes declared Goldman Sachs was a $200 stock and that he was buying IAI.

Wednesday, Cortes announced, "I took profits today" in GS. "The risk/reward does not favor buying here," he said, pointing to a 10% gain in March and adding in the "near-term, (it's) a bit extended here."

There's nothing really contradictory about Cortes' comments this week, but it is kind of odd to call it a $200 stock and then abruptly unload once it begins to creep up toward that level.

‘Complete gobbledygook’

In a curious little commentary on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" on Wednesday, Zach Karabell said this:

"In the rubric of 'Fast Money' trading, everything we've talked about about the financials, except for people who trade and really follow this stuff, is complete gobbledygook, right. So, it's a really good indication that the financials are trading because they're trades, but something like Apple is trading because they make really cool products that many millions of people want to buy."


First, we'll attempt to clarify ... by "the financials are trading" and "Apple is trading," we think Karabell means both financials and Apple shares are trading higher. (Obviously, they "trade" all the time along with thousands of other stocks and ETFs.)

Furthermore, we think he is basically saying that Apple is rising on fundamentals, whereas financials are bouncing for mechanical reasons that have little to do with long-term business prospects.

But "complete gobbledygook"?

There are valid reasons to buy or sell either AAPL or C. (Coincidentally, this writer is long both.) C has been priced for armageddon for a long time. People have waited in varying stages for 1) the TARP exit, 2) the pay czar exit, 3) the sell-off of some of the crown jewels, 4) the government to unload its shares. It might be worth $5, or it might be worth $2. That's why we watch "Fast Money." Apple is crushing for 7 years. The next 7 years likely can't repeat those gains. It doesn't seem hugely expensive, but there's a lot of eliteness already built into that share price. If the iPad's a flop, if iPhones plateau, or if it simply begins to run out of new devices to make (TVs, eventually?), the stock might become a dog.

Further interpretation of Karabell's comment (our own speculation) is that what he really means is that financials are dogs but now's a time you might get lucky.

Maybe entirely true. We also think there's a possible — possible — case to be made that Citi will be a double in the not-too-distant future; in fact Dick Bove has made that case occasionally. And if true, or anywhere close to being true, then C is a much bigger buy than AAPL, which won't be doubling for a very long time.

Bottom line: Viewers just wanna know what stocks are going up.

More hmmm ...

Melissa Lee said Wednesday that Apple has joined Wal-Mart, Berkshire and ExxonMobil at $200 billion market cap, "the stock market equivalent of the mile-high club." JJ Kinahan was heard laughing.

Terranova: C is 2012 play

Citi dominated the discussion on "Halftime" Wednesday.

"There's obviously a huge indication of interest for these preferreds," said Jared Levy.

Joe Terranova offered that "Citi right now is being bought by a lot of big hedge fund players, a lot of big hedge fund names. If you're gonna own Citi, understand you're owning Citi for the 2012 story."

But Zach Karabell countered that "I think it's going up because it went down and everything else has gone up and it hasn't," adding the light volume has led to a market drifting higher, and the "drift-up means that the laggards go to the mean."

JJ Kinahan pointed to heavy options buying on the March $4, June $4 for Citigroup. "It's a cheap way to speculate on this being a really successful deal," he said.

Melissa Lee said, "If the stock doubles right now, there are 28, uh, million (sic, she corrected moments later to "billion") shares of Citi; if the stock doubles it will be in terms of market cap, close to an all-time high."

JJ Kinahan said some people are hedging with the XLF, "We're starting to see people come in and buy June 14 puts and some June 10 puts."

Jared Levy said "Short interest in the Q's is, is reaching a high right now."

Rick Santelli practically put us to sleep with bond auction talk on the 10-year. He said "Any yield that's much higher than 3.74 on this auction will be very middling."

Why we love AAPL lovers

"Zeke" Karabell made a point Wednesday about AAPL that happens to be relevant to this site.

"The people buying the Apple stuff are not as price-sensitive to the rising cost of oil," he said. "A lot of the rest of the consumer discretionary space, with lower price points, that's where the price of oil's gonna cut in to that discretionary spending, but not with a company ... like Apple."

"Good point, Zachary Karabell," said Melissa Lee.

It is indeed a good point. A year ago at this time we were wondering how, if the economy is so terrible, could names like AAPL and AMZN be hanging in there (eventually surging again) while Wal-Mart, supposedly a haven for strapped Americans, is flat as a pancake.

The truth is that there are at least 2 economies, one of them (rapidly expanding, thankfully) in which more highly educated people continue to have a low unemployment rate and continue to buy $4 cups of coffee and $500 cell phones and $300 Miley Cyrus concert tickets and manage to sell out not only Yankee games in the Bronx but Thunder games in Oklahoma City.

The reality is, that's the audience for this site.

We welcome and seek readers from all demographics. It's a site about CNBC programs and the media-business world. As a result, the people who are going to find it are going to be CNBC watchers, people who own stocks, people who own several cell phones, who text and tweet regularly, who send YouTube links to friends, who pay $12 to see "Avatar" in 3-D, who tend to travel, fly, contribute 10% to the 401(k), discuss Chinese real estate at cocktail parties, read the WSJ or N.Y. Times online or print ... and thus this site particularly on the home page finds it very relevant to branch beyond CNBC/bond-market stories to just about anything in general this particular audience might care about.

If you're someone who isn't buying $4 coffee, doesn't tweet, can't afford a Yankee game right now and is feeling the gas-price pinch and experiencing the fear of a job cut, 1) More power to you, 2) Thanks for visiting the site, and 3) Hang in there — collectively, we'll figure it out. We always do.

Calling the market close, Karabell said Wednesday, "I don't know, but just ride Citi above 4."

[Tuesday, March 9, 2010]

Colin Gillis tests the patience
of Melissa Lee

BGC analyst Colin Gillis didn't answer Melissa Lee's Google question right away. As a result, the time he spent restating his arguments that Lee had already made was time not available for a more in-depth discussion on what has fast become one of the most interesting stocks, and not for any recently large gains.

Gillis, with a $580 target, called GOOG "dead money until the summertime." He pointed to 3 headwinds: a "declining" click price revenue, the fact it has a "real competitor with Microsoft," and China troubles.

"We get all that," Lee said abruptly, but what about the cash pile?

Gillis said GOOG can't do much with cash, on the acquisition side because "the regulators are all over them" and on the dividend side because "they still view themselves as a growth company."

Here's something we wonder about. Karen Finerman, in gushing about GOOG on Dec. 22, called it (italicized words are how she stressed it) "a premier name with a huge barrier to entry."

But is that barrier to entry really so huge? Zach Karabell wrote in Time on Jan. 15 that Google prior to the hack attack was "badly trailing the domestic Chinese search company Baidu."

So apparently Google is a company that no Western entrepreneurs can muscle out, but Chinese upstarts can easily rout.

That sort of makes us think it's not a particularly ingenious operation, but more of a self-fulfilling prophecy/circular argument concept that just needs to get embedded once in popular culture, i.e., people use it because everybody uses it.

(This writer has no position in GOOG.)

As for Gillis, we doubt the Microsoft competitor angle. But the cash pile commentary seems sound. The gut feeling here is that all that cash will eventually go to 1) pointless side projects, 2) antitrust lawyers, 3) insignificant dividends.

Tilson: Simon lowballing
General Growth

Whitney Tilson sounded Tuesday like he's getting bored and conservative after an "all-time generational moment" for buying stocks 12 months ago.

Except for one name: He said General Growth is "easily worth $30 to Simon," even though it probably can't get Simon to pay that much. But he said it "remains a large position."

Otherwise, "valuations are now looking a little stretched," Tilson said, and the play is "safe long stocks." He said "We're still short Palm" and "we're still short the homebuilders," from whom he sees "years more pain."

Tilson took a jab from Guy Adami when he claimed "Pfizer's just cheap." Adami said people have been saying that for a long time.

Tilson made an interesting point that with a couple exceptions (we think he meant RIMM and AAPL), device-maker stocks always end up going badly, such as in Palm's case.

Karen out of TM

We noted yesterday that Karen Finerman and Brian Kelly nailed the Toyota trade a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, Karen said, "I'm out, I sold it today." She said the stock might've become a "little bit of a value trap."

Those comments came on the heels of Phil LeBeau's report from Illinois that he's hearing from people that $5 billion might be "on the low side" for Toyota's litigation and damage control, a number that might not be priced in.

Maybe more significantly, LeBeau said Ford is dominating the "word of mouth" trade among car shoppers, while Toyota is losing or a non-player.

Some bystander barged his way into the screen behind LeBeau. "There's somebody who wants to buy a car and thinks I work here," LeBeau said.

Citigroup: Suddenly the
greatest stock of all time

Few rocket stocks ever produce as much disdain as what's going on with Citigroup.

Remember a few years ago when there was RIMM, Las Vegas Sands, Tesoro, AAPL, Patriot Coal, "Four Horsemen" nonsense, and every day was a table-pounder, and every trading session was just another extension of the greatness?

Unlike those names, C has only been ripping for a month, but from $3.11 Feb. 9 to $3.82 on Tuesday, or 23%.

Obviously it's not the healthiest company of all time, but not too bad, now that everyone up to the hedge fund biggies suddenly seems to think it's cheap. (This writer is long C.)

Joe Terranova said Tuesday the only reason big shots like John Paulson want it is "for the longer-term earnings momentum." Karen Finerman said "I've made my bet in the other names."

Peter Schiff bluntly said the people buying it are looking to "flip it" and "there is no way this company can survive," at least without more bailouts.

Tim Seymour and Zach Karabell almost seemed embarrassed Monday to be advocating long C positions.

But Brian Kelly, who said "I doubled down back in February," challenged Schiff and any others, with the government supporting this company, "Why wouldn't you wanna buy this stock?" Schiff claimed the government's only looking out for bondholders and execs and the shareholders always get screwed.

Bob Pisani reported that Citi is preparing a preferred issuance, $25 par, 8.875% yield, and "one trader said it was multiple times oversubscribed."

"I don't know why they're doing this now," Karen Finerman said, but as for the stock, "probably the trend is higher."

Inauspicious ‘debut’

We tipped overnight yesterday — actually just saw it on another site — that Peter Schiff is now a "regular" on "Fast Money," expected to appear on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Sure enough, there he was on the set Tuesday. "We can yell at you in person," said Melissa Lee.

Schiff said "There are only 2 props right now in the housing market" — Fed guarantees and low rates. He added, "The banks are basically insolvent, the government's gonna have to bail 'em out again." And if that's not depressing enough, "We've gotta stop shopping."

Remember in Super Bowl XXIX, when the Chargers were jawing with Deion Sanders and Deion just pointed to the scoreboard? Joe Terranova wasn't quite that dramatic Tuesday, but he did ask Schiff, with the market parabolic in the last 12 months, why investors shouldn't keep doing what's working. Schiff said the government maybe can keep it going for a while but will destroy the dollar.

Feel like buying a put?

Scott Nations came on "Fast Money" on Tuesday — apparently the show is going to dedicate a segment to options every day — to explain the joy of buying a put. Just about any put.

One thing we've learned from "Fast Money" is that options are always incredibly cheap, this is always your chance to buy protection, etc.

Nations said puts for "Wal-Mart, JNJ, P&G, they are incredibly cheap, and McDonald's leads the pack."

He said he'd buy the MCD April $62.50 put for 40 cents. Whoop de do.

Guy Adami steals our lines

Guy Adami made a joke about Cisco's next big thing by using a Chinese reference that partly appeared on this page about a week ago and again yesterday.

Adami noted that everyone in China can make phone calls at the same time in their Ford F-150s while going through the KFC drive-through with copper in the back.

We didn't have the F-150 part, but did have the other two. Adami left out the fact they're picking up the chicken on a day trip to Macau, during which they're likely to pass overpriced real estate and a few metallurgical coal plants.

Clay Jones, they want you back

Dennis Gartman talked about the crowded Europe trade that he likes. "Nothing has changed in the last 3 weeks," he said. "I am short of Europe generally." And he continues to like the Canadian/Australian currencies.

Guy Adami likes Rockwell Collins so much, he's practically on a first-name basis with CEO Clay Jones. "We've had Clay on the show a number of times," Adami said. "I still think you own COL above BA."

Jones is indeed a good guest on "Fast" who should return in the near future.

Traders, notably Karen Finerman and Pete Najarian, spoke gushingly about M&A activity Tuesday. Pete said stock "volumes are not there," but nevertheless there is activity such as the buying of July $60s in OSIP. Karen said one thing driving M&A is ... well, she didn't use this term, but should we? ... maybe some kind of greed among CEOs who see what their fellow CEOs are doing. "No doubt there is ego involved," Karen said.

Mike Huckman delivered a trifecta of biotech news, saying ABT was buying Facet, Intermune got an OK for its lung disease drug, and Allergan's Botox got good news on MS treatment.

Guy Adami said of AKAM, "I think it will go higher."

Viewer Louise in Maryland asked if it was time to bail from Apple given that it pulled back Tuesday $2 from its high. Karen Finerman answered that one rather overly straightforwardly. (This writer is long AAPL.)

Melissa Lee, who had a fetching new straighter hairstyle complementing hot pink top, mocked the infamous short-sale ban of 2008.

We haven't given Guy Adami enough credit recently — actually, um, we really hadn't given him any credit — for a good call on RIG when it was upper $70s. (We try to keep tabs on everyone's more prominent picks, but can't track 'em all.) Adami said RIG "traded close to 86 today" and it's time to think about taking profits.

Patty: Buy JCG again

Patty Edwards, who utterly dominated with JCG last quarter, was equally positive Tuesday on the "Halftime Report," even incorporating some of Pete Najarian's favorite terminology.

"J. Crew, Mickey Drexler, absolutely phenomenal merchant," Edwards said. "I don't think there's any way that you're gonna have a problem with their numbers when they come out today, they have just been on fire. I would be long J. Crew going into this."

Then she mentioned a name we haven't heard much about. "I'd also be long Aeropostale." Sold. (This writer is long ARO.)

C on fire

Notice we haven't heard anything about Greece or the "PIIGS" on "Fast Money" this week.

But we are hearing lots about Citigroup. (This writer is long C.)

And for that, many deserve some props, including Tim Seymour and Zach Karabell from Monday's program (yes, "Zeke" called a trade on that one) and Karen Finerman from the last couple of weeks on C valuation.

Pete Najarian said the C options are "absolutely exploding to the upside ... everything trading today is on the call side." He said today might not be the peak. "People are definitely excited about this ... the options markets are looking for it to go much higher."

Steve Grasso mentioned a "great Fortune article" that had something to do with 7% and 11% that went over our heads (his comment, not the article, which we haven't read yet), and he concludes, "so it's all bullish on the name, Citi."

Mike Gurka said "It's a reason to keep an eye on global banking as a whole."

Patty Edwards said if Barclays is indeed going to expand its U.S. footprint, there are decent targets, "Some of those regional banks are still pretty cheap."

A boost for BKC

Jon Najarian said the developments of Cisco's routing system mean good news for "content providers, content deliverers," and he singled out 3 stocks, AAPL, GOOG, and even NFLX, which "should be a potential beneficiary."

Pete Najarian cited options activity in QLogic.

Patty Edwards said even though Burger King doesn't have the international exposure of McDonald's, it might be helped like MCD by the Cheesecake Factory downgrade, "is the consumer trading down again." She said "there is some concern ... that the consumer is still not strong."

Mike Gurka would go on to say something that really catches our attention and should catch anyone's attention — "I think there's a lot more upside here with very little risk" — but we couldn't be totally sure if he was talking about BKC or YUM. (We think YUM, but don't know.) Steve Grasso pointed out that BKC has lagged Darden.

Grasso said of the markets, "Volume as a whole has really cascaded lower." Gurka said, "I like the Nasdaq here."

XOM in-depth

Executive Producer John Melloy has put together an interesting article on ExxonMobil in the "Fast Money" wing of CNBC.com, quoting Joe Terranova and Gary Kaminsky.

This site has no trading opinion of XOM and wouldn't begin to try to call a bottom. We just look at that 40-year chart and think, man, $30 off its high, if this thing ever resumes that march upward, there's money to be made here. And we wonder if the stock isn't more of an economic bellwether than it gets credit for. (This writer has no position in XOM.)

[Monday, March 8, 2010]

Still, probably a safe short

Melissa Lee, nearly stealing the show with short-sleeve navy dress, asked Peter Schiff a question Monday that actually came out like this: "If you believe that the banks are, are cooking their books, or they have phony numbers or whatnot, I mean, that doesn't necessarily mean the stocks are gonna go down."

Schiff now a regular?

Google-slogging turned up this item from business-info site howestreet.com late Monday that appears to be a press release from Peter Schiff announcing he is now a "regular" guest on "Fast Money."

This site knows nothing about that site (looks OK from what we see), and this press release from Schiff is undated. Google says the page was posted Monday night, but not only could that be wrong, but it may be that Schiff's letter was issued much earlier and only Monday was it posted. We could find no other references on the Web to Schiff's CNBC status.

We have little doubt it's true; Schiff was a "Fast" panelist at "Halftime" on Friday, Feb. 19 and did the Fast Line on Monday. The letter, though, says "I will appear twice weekly, Tuesday and Thursday, whenever my schedule permits."

Schiff is gracious to the Englewood Cliffs network. "The fact that CNBC has given me a regular opportunity to share the free market viewpoint is a great credit to that organization," he says.

Schiff is an interesting voice in a U.S. Senate race, and we wish him well, but we discovered this article Sunday about a speech at a Holiday Inn to some Tea Party folks, noting "Organizers had to pass the hat to offset the $650 cost of the conference room."

Note to SEC

Peter Schiff, whom we noted a week or two ago actually did a bang-up job as a "Fast" panelist and should do that more often, reverted to old habits Monday on the Fast Line.

Nobody on "Fast" is taking Schiff's commentary seriously, and quite frankly it's no longer clear that even he is either.

Guy Adami pointed out Monday that "I think Barrick reversed." Schiff said, "I actually own that stock."

Melissa Lee, apparently reading this page, noted "The regulators might be knocking at your door now Peter, you actually named a ticker symbol!"

"I own it for my own account," Schiff laughed.


(Yawn) Schiff also said "The market's ... still below where it was 10 years ago," and "I don't own any banks, I think it's, you know, you're a sucker to buy these banks."

Brian Kelly said "I'm short more the regional banks."

Karabell: People calling
about ‘Fast’ nickname

Zach Karabell came on the "Fast Money" set Monday to discuss his provocative article in Time, "Is there too much worry about the debt?"

We're keeping a favorite Dennis Gartman slogan handy in tackling something Karabell said Monday.

"I just don't think that debt per se is the problem that we really oughta be looking at. U.S. concerns should not be interest-rate concerns, they should be intrinsic growth concerns," he said. "If the rest of the world is growing dynamically and the U.S. isn't, that's a long-term issue. Not interest rates, which I think are gonna stay very low."

We don't see anything factually wrong with this. The issue is with the premise "if the rest of the world is growing dynamically and the U.S. isn't..."

Dennis Gartman likes to say that economics is just the study of people's propensity to do something.

Is it really possible that 10 years from now, "the rest of the world" (which might as well be defined as BRIC) is going to have greater propensity to do things that matter — superior computers, superior cancer treatments, faster air and space travel, solar energy that powers a village for $25 a year, snazzier Oscar dresses — than the United States, despite about 235 years of evidence to the contrary?

By no means is that a chest-thumping point. Other nations have great inventions. America has flaws. It's also got a very large propensity to do things. Thankfully, we've still got a lot of friends around the world. The type of "dynamic" growth that some envision in the rest of the world seems less about developing cancer drugs and more about rolling dice at Sands Macau and eating KFC and eventually capitulating to teaching their subjects English, which is probably the final barrier between the economic NIT and the NCAAs. We just don't think anyone should be lying awake nights worrying about either interest rates or intrinsic U.S. growth.

Karabell said of his "Fast" moniker, "I'm getting a lot of calls these days saying 'Funny, I didn't know your name was Zeke'."

The roller-coaster ride
of Todd Gordon

Todd Gordon really raised eyebrows here Monday when he said on "Fast Money," late in the episode with accompanying chart, that Genentech "Looks like to be breaking out in decent-size volume."

After a commercial, Melissa Lee came back with a correction, pointing out DNA was "actually bought out," which we noted at year-end was one of 2009's masterful trades by Karen Finerman (and one this writer jumped aboard near the end).

We investigated Gordon's quip and discovered that DNA officially stopped trading at the end of March 2009.

Earlier, Steve Cortes tested Gordon's patience with a resounding table-pounding buy on GS. "I really think that Goldman's gonna be a $200 stock," Cortes said. "I bought IAI ETF." (Try saying that several times fast.)

GS, Gordon said, "Really smells like stop-loss buying to me."

Gordon was a curmudgeon on the rest of the banking sector too, pointing to JPM's $43.50 resistance and the BKX's $48.50 resistance. And then he reminded people he's still got FCX pegged for trouble at $81.15.

Pete Najarian said he wanted to tell Brian Kelly last week when Kelly was shorting GS that he could do it by buying GS calls which of course are always cheap, protection is always cheap we're told on "Fast Money."

How about a double in 6 weeks?

Joe Terranova said now may finally be the time to plunge into the premier integrated, if for no other reason than a bunch of people aren't.

"I think this is an opportunity down here," Terranova said. "Everyone's giving up on ExxonMobil, that's where you step in and buy it."

Stronger than that, Terranova repeated a relatively new thesis, "I think gold is going down and I think it's going down hard."

Arch Coal boss Steven Leer came on "Fast" for a decent interview, but it was far less newsworthy than the panel's chats with Carl Icahn and Dan DiMicco in the last couple of weeks.

We have to remember to keep an empty beer can handy to hurl at the screen image of Pete Najarian whenever he recommends CLF, as he did again Monday, saying "I think that name still can perform." It was only $40 a few weeks ago; surely $80 can't be far off.

A Carl Icahn conversation
without Carl Icahn

Mike Huckman, always a top-notch reporter, delivered a very good segment Monday on the upcoming decision on the Byetta diabetes once-a-week drug.

Huckman didn't really answer Karen Finerman's question about Lilly-Amylin but did go out of his way to note Alkermes (ALKS, we'd never heard of it before) gets a 7.5% "royalty" on Byetta sales without the marketing and distribution costs.

Huckman said the next big thing will be Roche's (that's where Todd Gordon's "breakout" DNA trade went) own diabetes treatment coming up for 5 studies 3 months from now.

Less exciting than an economic ‘truism’ from Larry Summers

"Fast Money" decided to open Monday's broadcast with a breaking news report from Steve Liesman on some Fed policy explanation that had to leave even the most hardened "Fast" viewer dozing. At least Liesman didn't pull one of those woman-in-purple-at-the-Oscars thing like he tried to do last week with Gary Kaminsky.

Guy Adami said that whatever the Fed guy was talking about sounds "dovish."

Mike Khouw offered a way for long-term Ford players to protect themselves if the stock should go south: Sell April $13 calls at 50 cents, buy April $12 puts for 25 cents, or a "collar," as Melissa Lee pointed out.

Karen Finerman, who described herself as "wonky," questioned if that wouldn't be a terrible way for someone to lose a long-term capital gain. Khouw said he couldn't begin to offer tax advice to everyone because everyone has their own individual situation to deal with.

Pete Najarian said "we've had 19 of the last 23" Mutual Fund Mondays come through.

Karen Finerman indicated Guy Adami is so technologically resistant, he needs to drive a car somewhere just to talk to his friends.

These guys are good

On Wednesday, Feb. 24, Karen Finerman and Brian Kelly each called Toyota a buy, with $70 and $71 stops respectively, saying that the sell-off amid the congressional testimony and bad headlines was probably overdone.

That day, TM closed at $74.33. It hasn't touched $71 since. Monday, it closed at nearly $78.

Short-term pop?

JCPenney was up 1.5% Monday, a day after its Oscars advertising blitz. Rival Kohl's, which sponsored the Barbara Walters Special, was down half a percent.

Citigroup vs. Goldman Sachs

Citigroup is a popular topic this month, perhaps because it has bounced decently from its early February low (this writer is long C).

Monday on the "Halftime Report," the vote on C was 2-2.

Tim Seymour said "It's probably going higher" in the short term as a sum-of-the-parts or international play, but he doesn't care much for it long-term.

Even "Zeke" Karabell was piling into this trade, saying he has little interest long-term, but "there's just room to roam in this stock in the short term."

Scott Nations on the other hand said Goldman Sachs is more likely to break out than Citigroup, a sentiment that Jon Najarian agreed with.

CSCO for breakfast Tuesday

Jon Najarian was fired up Monday because John Chambers called the new Cisco thing — hopefully it's not another commercial showing Ellen Page videoconferencing in the daytime with Chinese kids in a classroom also in the daytime even though the locations are 13 hours apart and some snarky woman's voice concluding it all — a "game-changer."

"I am long it," Dr. J said of CSCO.

Pete Najarian trumpeted the strong management at MCD, pointed to the McSmoothie and said he thinks the stock can go higher. Zach Karabell said McDonald's success would be "drawing down" more higher-priced casual dining and thus bullishness on MCD is also sort of a "negative call" on the "middle area of American dining."

High & Dry

Jon Najarian spoke Monday about huge options volume in DRYS. "They were buying March and April 6 calls," he said.

Zach Karabell, listed as owning DRYS, said it's also a play on the global ag/growth story, but that doesn't really seem like enough of a newfound realization to be driving the heavy options activity.

Tim Seymour discussed the dollar and said commodities "have room to go higher."

Karabell said today's action is "a market adrift, and it's adrifting up."

We agree with Tim

Tim Seymour did the equivalent Monday of chanting "over-rated" at "Avatar" during a discussion of IMAX. "To me, 3-D is, is my Sony Laserdisc, and my 8-track tape player."

We'll throw in another: Picture-in-a-picture TV, which we thought we were actually going to watch in the 1980s.

Jon Najarian however said IMAX and its rivals are in a sweet spot. "All these stars are lining up," he said.

The glory days of biz mags

Melissa Lee on Monday's "Halftime" said, "It is a Monday, so after all it is a Merger Monday."

Which reminded us that, not in the too distant past, when stocks were gangbusters, everyone was a long-term holder and the media world was flush with cash and great margins, you could walk into any bookstore's magazine rack and constantly see the headline "Merger mania!" anytime one company tried to acquire another.

Tim Seymour is now introduced as being from EmergingMoney.com.

Major oversight: Somehow, in our Friday report, we left out a note we'd taken from the day's activities that Melissa Lee was wearing a highly cute red/blue ensemble.

The Oscars go to JCPenney,
Hyundai, AmEx, Sprint and iPad

A lot of folks did live-blogging during the Oscars. This site did a little advertising streaming — as in, noting the order of national ads and the announced sponsors of the program.

Is there a trade in this? Probably not. JCPenney was the company going hog-wild. Why they waited so long for Cindy Crawford, we don't know.

Apple spent a lot of time showing viewers the iPad can turn sideways.

All of the ads looked pretty good but certainly there was no bold, ground-breaking stuff. This was very straightforward material. JCPenney (with a huge investment) probably gave itself a boost, and Hyundai and Samsung are going to get some extra looks from this exposure. McDonald's and American Express probably wasted their money.

Here's a summary of the ad lineup, starting with the first commercial break:

(Brought to you by JCPenney)

JCPenney: New look, New day, Who knew.

Apple: iPad arrives April 3.

Diet Coke: Heart health.

"The Bounty Hunter": Starring Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler.

McDonald's: Chicken McNuggets, "1 goal."

Hyundai: Sonata luxury.

Diet Coke: Stay extraordinary.

Estee Lauder: Aging remedies.

Intel: 2010 core processors.

American Express: Members Project, Yvon Chouinard, Founder Patagonia.

(Brought to you by Sprint, Sonata)

Hyundai: Sonata luxury.

Sprint: $69.99 unlimited is more than calls, includes text.

JCPenney: New look, New day, Who knew.

Ameriprise Financial: Advice for scared clients.

Kimberly Clark: Cottonelle roll over poll.

Diet Coke: Heart health.

JCPenney: New look, New day, Who knew.

Samsung: First 3-D LED TV.

JCPenney: (Men's version) New look, New day, Who knew.

AARP: Never stop growing.

GlaxoSmithKline: Prevent cervical cancer.

Hyundai: Hyundai Genesis.

Apple: iPad arrives April 3.

Hyundai: Sonata luxury.

McNeil: Zyrtec allergy relief.

Hershey: Milton Hershey School.

(Brought to you by American Express)

American Express: Geoffrey Canada, Harlem schools, Members Project

Coca-Cola: Recycling.

Bayer: Yaz birth-control pill.

Sprint: 4G, 10 times faster than 3G.

JCPenney: Cindy Crawford.

(Brought to you by the all-new Sonata from Hyundai)

Samsung: First 3-D LED TV.

Unilever: Bertolli, Italy is served.

(Brought to you by JCPenney)

JCPenney: New look, New day, Who knew.

Samsung: First 3-D LED TV.

Hyundai: Sonata seems like it's hand-built.

Sprint: $69.99 unlimited is more than calls, includes text.

(Brought to you by Diet Coke)

Diet Coke: Heart health.

Kimberly Clark: Cottonelle roll over results.

Hyundai: Genesis audio.

Microsoft: Windows 7, simple.

(Brought to you by the all-new Sonata from Hyundai)

Hyundai: Sonata luxury.

JCPenney: New look, New day, Who knew.

Samsung: First 3-D LED TV.

Church & Dwight: Oxi-Clean max force power packs.

McDonald's: Universally spoken.

Apple: iPad arrives April 3.

The closing credits included an announcement of Renaissance Hotels as a sponsor, as well as United Airlines, the "official airline sponsor" of the Academy Awards.

We took note of the Barbara Walters Special beforehand (fast-forwarding through those eye-rolling historic clips of Barbara learning striptease dancing from Demi Moore). The program was sponsored by Kohl's, whose many ads featured young wives in mother-in-law's-here mode or I-give-up mode realizing they can go to Kohl's and not only get what they need, but save a bundle doing so. Ford was also prominent, conveying Sirius radio features and gas mileage with the Focus and air-hockey-like seating in the Taurus SHO.

Could you do it?

Many actors are polarizing. Some people think Sandra Bullock belongs right next to Kate Hepburn; others think she belongs on MTV.

But something occurred to us Sunday about the caliber of Hollywood that found nods of agreement in the CNBCfix "community."

A handful of times during the Oscars, an actor/actress had to walk out onto the stage or platform and address the nation (or as the show likes to say, the world) on live TV. They had to introduce categories or nominees, and near the end they even had to have one-sided conversations with the top nominated stars.

They had teleprompters somewhere to read from.

Surely that's easy, right? Just reading a couple sentences from a screen?

But how many people in the world are actually capable of walking out onto that stage, looking into the camera and talking — knowing that Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman and James Cameron are staring at you, the whole country is watching you, and any glitch is going on YouTube forever — without having a meltdown?

Not many.

Another Najarian on TV

The original Dr. J — Dr. John Najarian, father of Pete and Jon and a one-time "Fast Money" guest — discusses his new memoir in an interview with Twin Cities Public Television this weekend. He mentions a woman who received a groundbreaking transplant before age 1, now in her 20s and teaching. "She's unbelievable."

Update: We consulted the archives. Dr. John Najarian's impressive "Fast Money" guest commentary on Steve Jobs' transplant occurred on June 24, 2009. "I think he'll do very well," Dr. Najarian said. Just out of curiosity, we found the price of AAPL to be $136.22 that day.

[Friday, March 5, 2010]

Karabell: Debt anxiety
is getting out of hand

Slightly contrary to Doug Kass' "Fast Money" commentary Friday, Zachary Karabell writes provocatively in Time that U.S. debt fears seem exaggerated, and "The problem isn't how much debt we're carrying today; it's whether the economy of tomorrow will be able to justify it."

Kass: This market will have
‘limited memory’

What the new half-hour Friday version of "Fast Money" might've lost in Pops & Drops, additional guests and idle jokes/chatter, it might've gained in more crisp, straightforward commentary that packed a decent punch on a big day for stocks.

Doug Kass got our attention with some refreshingly concise points, much better than a few of his autumn appearances in which there was too much storytelling.

"I'm reluctant to chase this," Kass said, saying we're getting "ever closer to the government-due bills." He said the momentum trade is not something to count on: "We're gonna have a tug-of-war, we're gonna have a market that from week-to-week, month-to-month has limited memory."

Gary Kaminsky asked Kass, "Is it possible that the stock market can go up, and asset managers can actually go down?" Kass noted the leverage of the asset managers to market performance and said "I see, uh, a number of challenges that are gonna threaten the industry's business model."

Karen Finerman asked Kass another good question playing off a similar "Fast Money" topic this week. "Is there any pure play way to play the ETF explosion at the expense of these asset managers instead of being short the asset managers." Kass might've been impressed by it too, because he didn't have a ready answer and paused before suggesting possibly "exchanges, like the NYSE, CME," but "I don't know of any pure way other than that."

There must be a way
to short the Na’vi

In another short-but-sweet segment Friday, IMAX chief Richard Gelfond took up the subject of 3-D while defending his business model.

Gary Kaminsky asked how much of IMAX's success is controllable given that 3-D is what drives a lot of traffic, and it's up to Hollywood to determine how much 3-D is going to happen.

Gelfond talked about the 45-year history of the company and shrugged off that factor. "We're all about the movies," he said, such as 2-D titans "The Dark Knight," "Transformers 2," "Star Trek."

"I kind of disagree in the sense that, what drives the traffic there is the 3-D," Kaminsky said. "At the end of the day, it's the 3-D ... they don't control whether or not they get that 3-D content, and that's something you have to be concerned about."

Gelfond defended his proprietary product while dismissing competition from AMC and Cinemark. "The XD and the ETX is really just a big screen with a projector on it ... tends to even denigrate the image to some extent," Gelfond said.

Brian Kelly against the tide,
and we don’t mean ND-’Bama

If not for Brian Kelly, a bull market (however temporary) might've been the unanimous conclusion on "Fast Money" Friday, even though there was disagreement on why it's looking that way.

Gary Kaminsky said "We are entering, it feels to me, like another melt-up." He argued it's not based on technicals, but an "emotional thing."

Tim Seymour meanwhile was defending the numbers."There's fantastic data this week," said Seymour, pointing to the possible "Goldilocks" scenario and tossing in the dreaded cliche of having the "punch bowl back." He subtly reminded of his recent specific bull calls on slices of Europe including Banco Santander. "If you tried to short Europe, you got smoked," he said. Indeed, the EPV touted by Kaminsky a couple weeks ago had a rough week.

"We still lost jobs," complained Brian Kelly. He sees a "huge disconnect between what's going on, what CEOs are saying and what's going on with the market" and said he might be inclined to get back in, but not right now, he'd wait for a pullback.

Tim Seymour found something brand-new to say about Goldman Sachs: "They will find a way to make money."

Let’s make a deal

The "Fast Money" gang was doing takeout on Friday — not from KFC, but in the world of mergers and acquisitions.

"I can't tell you how many various stocks today came across my desk, rumored takeout, this that and the other," said Pete Najarian.

Karen Finerman said there is an upbeat tone about dealmaking that is very encouraging. "The environment is such that now people believe this could actually happen," Karen said, citing "many cases of multiple buyers."

Gary Kaminsky said there's a phenomenon of "deals create more deals" that is "feeding on itself."

Charles Kantor of Neuberger Berman said he expects M&A in energy exploration, because companies don't have all the resources they need to find what's out there.

Najarian, Edwards:
Room to run on AAPL

Jon Najarian on the "Fast Money Halftime Report" Friday sounded like a little kid with a brand new Apple IIe.

"My target remains $265 for 2010," Dr. J said. "Take a look at what it's doing to Amazon ... going after HTC ... Apple is going to own mobile ... 4G, oh my gosh ... I know I sound like I'm gushing over this ... I am long the stock and the calls."

"You are gushing," Melissa Lee acknowledged.

Patty Edwards agreed on the iPad. "This is a game-changer on the tech gadget side. I do think that we'll see definitely a run through at least the first part of April."

Back on the chain gang

Steve Grasso mentioned a sector at "Halftime" Friday that came up in our report from Thursday, so we mention it here. Grasso told viewers to look at Tesoro, "looks like the refiners are ready to break out."

When it comes to stock and currency forecasts, Todd Gordon is no pretender, but he was finding a thin line between love and hate on certain industrial giants.

He said there is a key bellwether in BHP "right around $79," and he stuck by his "81.15 to 82.15" in FCX that he considers major resistance.

Gordon admitted he got stopped out in some risk-off trades. Now, "I'm stepping back, but I think risk is on," he said. Gordon said "sky's the limit on Ford" (man, oh man, if we had all just gobbled up Ford a year ago...). Dared by Steve Grasso, he finally said "$14."

Steve Grasso was cautious on the general market. "Still are a lot of minefields," he said. "You don't wanna go all in."

But then he conceded, "If we close above 1,125, I am short-term bullish."

Patty Edwards spoke positively about everyone's favorite bank (or should we make that "bank" with extra punctuation?). "I think that you've got some room to run with Goldman and we've been adding to positions," Edwards said.

[Thursday, March 4, 2010]

Michelle Meyer not on ‘Fast’
since ‘after-school’ age jokes

With another unemployment report due, it suddenly occurred to this site that Barclays beauty Michelle Meyer has not appeared on "Fast Money" in months.

Meyer had been appearing on "Fast Money" once a month through Nov. 30 — a day when Joe Terranova said "I'm not sure if you remember 1981, or if you were born yet or not," and Karen Finerman actually said, "I just want to second what Joe said, you do look, is this like an after-school job for you or something, you do look really young..."

Since then, no Meyer appearances on "Fast" for 3 months, though she has been on other CNBC programs.

‘Fast Money’ cut
to half-hour on Friday

Melissa Lee made the announcement Thursday, and the cable guide confirms: "Fast Money" on Friday will air for a half-hour at 5 p.m. Eastern, followed by "Options Action."

We discovered this press release at CNBC.com by Steffanie Marchese referring to the "programming change" that is "beginning" March 5. So it sounds like this is locked in for a while.

It could be a bold swoop to get the mainstream business-day viewer to see "Options Action." Or it could just be a determination that the 8 p.m. Eastern slot Friday does better with documentary programming. The gut feeling here is that "Options Action" probably isn't the greatest lead-in to Cramer, if that even matters.

That Drudge headline Monday
really ruffled some feathers

Good lord, who p--- in Steve Liesman's Cheerios on Thursday?

Receiving a couple of necessary and relevant questions by the "Fast Money" crew about the jobs data, Liesman started auditioning to be the eventual successor to Robert Gibbs.

Why Liesman was so defensive, who knows. But the most important headline in today's world is the one atop a certain political-news conservative-leaning Web site whose name begins with a "D," and that's exactly where the Larry Summers CNBC interview comments landed Monday.

Gary Kaminsky on Thursday started asking Liesman, "You know that Larry Summers was really talking down this number-"

"Gary, I, I reject your premise there that he's 'talking down' a number," Liesman interrupted. "He doesn't know what the number is."

That was hardly the end.

"Everybody has tried to ascribe some conspiratorial, political meaning there, but I fail to see it," Liesman snapped. "Larry's stating a truism of economics that when people don't report to work because of the snow, they're counted as unemployed."

Finally, an admonition to the "Fast Money" gang and their "itchy fingers" Liesman claims are dying to make a quick trade Friday: "Hold off a little bit, maybe for 20 seconds this time rather than 2 seconds normally."


Let's go to the official CNBC.com transcript. Keep in mind this was Question 2 of the interview:

KAREN FINERMAN: "... How does this administration form jobs now?"

LARRY SUMMERS: "Look, jobs are priority number one for the President. Let me say a word about the statistics. Who knows what the next number is going to be. The blizzards that affected much of the country during the last month are likely to distort the statistics. And in past blizzards, those statistics have been distorted by 100 to 200,000 jobs. So it's going to be very important to know, very important to look past whatever the next figures are to gauge the underlying trends."

The question applied to job creation. The initial response 1) did not answer the question in the slightest and 2) had nothing to do with economics. It was a shameful pretend that the president cares more about jobs than health care to try to appease relevant and thoughtful critics such as Mickie Siebert, when in fact at the moment he cares far more about ramrodding through any kind of health-care bill than anything else.

After his sorry first sentence, Summers further dodged the question, introduced a subject that Karen didn't even ask about and offered very specific details.

Also remember that this is a very important person agreeing to be interviewed by a hedge-fund owner/"Fast Money" panelist who is not a professional journalist. That's curious enough. Anyone who looked at the whole transcript would quickly realize Summers clearly did not want to talk about practically anything that Karen brought up.

Some of his answers:

"You know, it's a hypothetical question. If I were not in the U.S. government and I were advising Greece, I would probably come on your show and talk about the advice that I was giving."

"I think I've said as much as I'm going to say, Karen."

"Come on, Karen. I'm not going to — and one shouldn't — one shouldn't, in a position like mine, talk about the situation of any individual companies."

"I think I was very clear and mine just now was the 50th or 100th statement from the administration..."

"I think it's hard enough to try to deal with the actual questions we face without going near hypotheticals." (Except for those hypotheticals about the jobs report that aren't even asked by your questioner but invented by yourself.)

"I know, actually, I'm not well trained as a politician." (Yeah, right.)

Yet Liesman irritably insists this was just an economist talking his book who happened to incidentally state a "truism" of economics.

Undaunted, Kaminsky followed with a well-reasoned and crafty parallel to wind, of all things, as in, if this monthly report is such a "mess" (Liesman's term) because of some short-lived Northeast blizzards, then isn't every monthly jobs report affected by some weather outcome somewhere, and thus wouldn't this all be a bogus exercise? Liesman scoffed and rejected the question as not being serious.

As this site said in our Monday report, it's hardly a question of whether Summers was intentionally putting this comment out there; it's only a question as to whether he was trying to accomplish anything significant by it.

Liesman, this site quickly came to realize, is one of the most universally liked CNBC stars beyond the traditional CNBC audience. When there's a flap somewhere with Rick Santelli/Larry Kudlow/Charles Gasparino (now Fox of course)/Jim Cramer, you see on these Web reader comments and message boards "I can't stand anyone on that network except Steve Liesman," etc. Oh well, everyone's entitled to an off day.

We wuz born at night. But not last night.

Schiff says regulators call him
‘every time’ he mentions stocks

Guy Adami asked Peter Schiff for one specific name in the gold miners that people should buy over all others, and this was Schiff's response: "I don't know, I own so many of them, and you know every time I mention a stock I get a call from the regulators."

Sigh. We tried addressing that head-scratcher last month.

But because we've heard it twice now, we'll just have to assume this is true: Stock regulators apparently do not want pundits on CNBC to disclose positions.

We've wondered actually, since we're not experts and haven't hired anyone to analyze securities laws, if there really is some kind of regulation out there that demands certain investors keep quiet about certain stocks they hold. But that doesn't really pass the smell test, because 1) Why does the "Fast Money" panel of hedge-fund experts continue to ask Schiff for specific names, 2) We can't find any such rules noted on the Wikipedia pages we've seen, and 3) everybody else and his/her brother who makes stock or market predictions on CNBC seem to be relentlessly asked what they've got positions in, and dutifully disclose them.

Also, if the regulators call him "every time," then why does he apparently sometimes mention names?

"Don't let the regulators run your life, Peter," said Melissa Lee.

Schiff apparently was excited to hear recently that Marc Faber is bullish of gold, but he's also talking about 10 years, and "10 years is Nostradamus," according to Tim Seymour.

Schiff said "I'm not trading European debt," and "short-term, gold looks good."

Kaminsky: 1-year tax selling
likely to bring headwinds

We're approaching the 1-year anniversary of the market bottom, and Gary Kaminsky and the "Fast Money" crew put together some intriguing analysis of the winners and losers of the last 12 months and, more importantly, what that all means now.

First Kaminsky said that everyone may see the March 2009 rally as a financial thing or tech thing, but the top gainers were actually an "eclectic list," determined by specific company issues and "not a macro call."

Kaminsky pointed to a possible headwind from tax sales on the top performers now that a lot of people have owned these names for about a year. "Taxable gains do matter to people," he said; "even if they don't sell, the anticipation of them selling will have an impact next week." He also predicted an upcoming Barron's 1-year article on last year's laggards such as Citi or something like that.

Panelists then offered 4 winners of the last 12 months that might be due for a drop, as well as 4 laggards that might be ready to bounce. The problem with the former (Ford, Textron, XTO, Walter Energy) was that nobody seemed highly convinced they were due for a drop of any significance, with the possible exception of Textron (which has "got some takeover premium in it," Kaminsky said). Guy Adami said Ford has gained only about "630%" in a year and he sees possible toppiness now, but only after 3 "tremendous volume days," which doesn't strike us as a hugely obvious bearish sign, and even Pete Najarian was recommending people play Ford bullishly via options.

We got a lot more interested in the bottom-picking ledger, which featured Nasdaq, Sunoco and Tesoro, and the stock we're eager to hear something about, ExxonMobil.

Kaminsky called the performance of XOM "very surprising." Pete Najarian said, "I like this stock," saying the XTO deal will pay off.

Fair enough. To us, the most intriguing buy reason for XOM is the chart. (This writer has no position in XOM.) 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, beyond, it's just a money machine. Same for many of the other integrateds. The charts resemble those of housing values that, circa 2000-03 when people were running scared from the stock market, showed gains decade after decade and prompted cocktail party conversations like "the only sure thing is real estate." That's not to say there should be a "bubble" rush to the integrateds, only that after the economy "normalizes" and weak banks and specialty retailers stop rising 100% in a year, integrateds might return to favor in a big way.

The USO has outperformed XOM over the last year. Oil as a pure play hardly seems broken. Spot prices are back around mid-2007 levels, whereas the S&P 500 is nowhere near 2007 levels, but late 2005 levels.

Tim Seymour, noting the once high-flying refiners on the underperform list, said he thinks they've adjusted to the new "paradigm" and maybe "actually are getting a recovery." One wonders, if he/she parked a lot of money into TSO at $13, would it still be trading that low in 5 years? Great question. (This writer has no position in TSO.)

‘It’s a dog, sport. What else you got besides connections at the airport?’

William in D.C. e-mailed "Fast Money" with a Citi question Thursday, saying he bought 6,000 at $2 a share and wonders if it's time to unload. Gary Kaminsky said "I think you should hold the stock here." (This writer is long C.)

Mike Khouw's WFC analysis wasn't overly conclusive, but he said he's seeing a 25/30 strangle, and "directional bets" that are "looking a little bit bearish."

Russell Saracheck of Contra Capital Management was on the Fast Line Thursday to talk about acquisitions but didn't have much of a recommendation. He said companies have cash to play with. "At the end of the day, most companies don't like buying back stock," he said. Asked for a name, he pointed to Cubic (CUB), but his argument amounted to "stock's 35, we think it's worth 60 ... extremely high quality, excess cash," which sounds something like those first 2 "bow-wow" names that Bud Fox tried to give Gordon Gekko before letting him in on the BlueStar fun.

Pete: Shorts responsible
for some gains in retail

We were happy to see Joe LaVorgna getting back into the "Fast Money" act on Thursday.

LaVorgna said, "Sell Fed funds futures. The Fed's gonna hike rates this year."

But he also helped kick-start a pretty good retail conversation. "I think a lot of people are spending," he said, explaining it's true that the stock market gains of the past 12 months have helped bolster at least the upper-end consumer.

Gary Kaminsky reiterated a point that "retailers outperform when there's an anticipation of higher interest rates."

Pete Najarian fairly quietly (by Pete standards) made what we think is a valid observation, that a lot of retail names might be seeing these large jumps strictly because of the large short interest. He pointed to BKE as an example.

Guy Adami hilariously called ANF the "face-ripper-offer" that "absolutely impaled me recently" but said he still thinks its potential is limited. He talked positively about Gap.

A comparison of Tiffany vs. Zales with all the obligatory inside jokes was a bit of a yawner and probably needs to fade away. Melissa Lee helpfully noted that going to Zales is OK, it's the thought that counts.

Tim Seymour noted he carries a Nokia phone.

Adami says he was trying
to short GS

On Thursday's "Halftime Report," Guy Adami said something notable about Goldman Sachs.

"I know a lot of people have been trying to short it, myself included, thinking it's gonna go down," he said.

Interesting. He's been trying to short a stock that, according to CNBC.com disclosures, he's owned for nearly 2 years and still owned per disclosures as of Wednesday.

Of course he has noted many times on the show, and we've noted here, he's always talking about the trade regardless of what he owns, whether it's GS, C, INTC, etc. Presumably, his "trying to short it" comment means he was looking for the right technical factors that just didn't quite happen.

Edwards: Don’t expect C double

Zach Karabell and Patty Edwards on Thursday's "Halftime" took up one of our favorite subjects, C, with differing views.

"Purely on this, I'm much more of a trader than fundamenl(ist)," said Karabell, saying that if there is "stabilization" in financials, C is one "that you could really see going up 20%."

Patty, though, said "I have no interest in getting anywhere near Citi for example ... it looks like more like a gamble to me than anything else," and not something that's ready to explode to $6. (Darn! This writer is long C.)

Adami said that with Goldman's surge Thursday, "the financials look OK here." Melissa Lee said the financials are "rockin'."

Jon Najarian reported "double normal activity" in GS options, mostly on the call side.

Patty Edwards said, "We're long-term investors right now in Goldman; we've been picking some more up over the past week or two."

Melissa Lee for some reason interrupted part of the program to show Vikram Pandit walking in a crowded hallway. Melissa said there were "audio issues" with that.

ANF not so hip

Patty Edwards said Thursday that despite the surge, ANF comps and 2006 comparisons aren't so stellar. "I'm not that excited about it, I think maybe you got some short covering," she said.

"I better go shopping there," Guy Adami admitted, hilariously. "The stock just rips my face off ... I just don't get it."

"Zeke" Karabell said he was "hung up on the notion of Guy wearing Abercrombie & Fitch."

More props for Karen

Guy Adami on Thursday's "Halftime Report" became the latest "Fast Money" panelist to salute Karen Finerman's "great interview" Monday with Larry Summers.

Time to tread carefully here, because we don't want to leave the wrong impression ...

Karen's interview with Summers was decent. Passable. It was OK. Given that she's in another line of work, it's fine. (John Harwood surely can't run Karen's hedge fund as well as Karen can either.)

We simply can't call it "great." For some people, it might've been a crowning achievement. Karen, like many on "Fast," has done much better with a lot of the people who show up on the "Fast Money" set, when she regularly beats expectations by a wide margin. Perhaps that has unfairly raised this site's expectations, given that stodgy White House insiders are highly capable of deflating even the most promising one-on-one chat.

The big problem was the first 2 questions, especially the first. We won't re-list it here (see below). The truth is that the headline comment on blizzards wasn't prompted by a sharp query but an orchestrated talking point that Summers went out of his way to make after the flat second question.

The challenge is to ask fair and relevant questions that the subject hasn't rehearsed for. Remember when the late Tim Russert ran "Meet the Press," every interview came down to whether Russert could find one more 3-year-old comment in the New York Times than the subject's staff had prepped him for. If you watched "MTP" every week it almost became silly, but in general, that's the goal.

Karen did do quite well with later questions, and like we said Monday, overall the whole thing was a plus. Of course, Guy Adami and the others are right to congratulate a colleague and leave the nitpicking to the masses like us.

Jobs weak, stocks good

Jon Najarian said options are hopping in AK Steel. The only issue is that it's all March activity and thus an "all-in bet" for this month.

There was talk from Guy Adami about the unemployment report (hence the reference to the Summers interview), and Adami suggested we might be stuck with a high jobless rate for a long time. We should note that Karabell has been a trailblazer of sorts (OK, that term is maybe a little overly effusive) in the category of pointing out that corporations can continue to do well, maybe thrive, while unemployment remains high and we maybe should not expect much relief in the jobless number for a long time because productivity is good and significant hiring isn't necessary in many cases for growth.

Karabell and Edwards took too long Thursday to call the close. Karabell did mention MTW, which was also a pick from early 2009 that we probably should've given more consideration to as one of the show's best of last year.

[Wednesday, March 3, 2010]

Tim Seymour asks guest
to validate career decision

We got a rousing chuckle Wednesday when ETF expert Brian Posner took a question from Tim Seymour on "actively managed ETFs" that was really a lot more like a statement.

Seymour wondered where these ETFs will find elite managers. "Who's gonna go for 90 bps pay when they're getting 2 and 20," he asked, before noting, "We've been asked to do it," and then our favorite, "I'm not so sure that that's interesting for me from a price perspective."

Posner said hedge fund folks aren't going to bother, but good mutual fund managers have major incentive to give it a shot.

Also entertaining, and a tremendous question in our opinion because we were wondering the same thing, is when Karen Finerman — in that sizzling red turtleneck again — simply asked Posner, "What exactly is an actively managed ETF?" Posner said it's taking a traditional mutual fund and "wrapping it in ETF wrapper."

There you go. "Wrapping it in ETF wrapper."

"I still don't get-" Karen tried to follow up, but Seymour interrupted.

Posner said ETFs are underrepresented in the 401(k) space, and if T. Rowe Price is able to muscle some ETFs into 401(k)s, it would be a "game-changer."

Patty Edwards: An encore?

After a show-stopping call on LZB last week (this writer is long LZB), we've been wondering what Patty Edwards can do to top it. Tuesday there was Herbalife, which we're keeping a close eye on.

On Wednesday, Patty, brimming with confidence, handled the "Fast Money Final Call" with Simon Hobbs and delivered 3 more retail picks, albeit more mainstream names that have also been touted by others in the "Fast Money" universe.

It's worth noting that the first name Patty gave Hobbs was TJX. "I like TJ Maxx, they're trading at a really low multiple." Despite some props from Pete Najarian and we think Karen Finerman last fall, TJX never made much of a blip on the CNBCfix radar because the chart didn't seem that impressive.

Edwards said retail has "hidden gems," but one can't just blindly play the whole sector. "Consumer discretionary has had a pretty good run," she said.

She said the people at JWN "have so much going for them," and at The Buckle, "they also have not been getting the love they deserve."

On the negative end, Edwards said, "I'm not a big fan of the big major department stores. Um, I think that they are not attracting the attention they need," and the cost-cutting is beginning to run its course.

The chart is the stock-market equivalent of the NFL combine; it does not guarantee success but does an excellent job of predicting failure.

Probably won’t go to infinity, but...

We've noticed that as FCX continues to grind its way up, Todd Gordon seems to keep raising his short threshold.

After a head-spinning explanation Wednesday involving 2/3 retracement or something like that (thanks Guy Adami for coming through for us and admitting the same reaction), Gordon finally referred to $81.15 to $82.15 as "huge, huge resistance."

Apparently, huger than the purported resistance on Friday at $76.

Steve Grasso said that for what it's worth, "I see nothing but buy side in FCX."

Brian Kelly and Tim Seymour conducted a spirited debate over the FT story about Goldman Sachs buying warehouses for storing commodities. Oddly enough, we found ourselves agreeing with both sides. Seymour said the materials are being taken off the market, while Kelly says Goldman is evidently backing away from trading them. "I am short FCX," Kelly said.

Karen Finerman talked about copper pricing's relevance to the economy as perhaps a chicken-and-egg dilemma.

Melissa Lee, who is more relaxed and comfy than ever, nearly pounced over Seymour to declare a major "distinction" between demand for copper and actual consumption.

‘Fast Money’ political
leanings exposed

Daniel Clifton said Wednesday his group is maybe outside the consensus in predicting health-care overhaul won't happen. "They don't have 216" votes in the House, he says.

Clifton said that the Obama administration hasn't accomplished a whole lot legislatively, which is why there is renewed devotion to deal-making and thus "Washington is hitting on all cylinders right now," a strange description if we've ever heard one.

Steve Grasso said, "A lot of people are saying 'Thank God' that the Obama administration is not getting anything done."

We’re rooting for you too, K-Fine

Karen Finerman probably doesn't need any emotional assistance with her proven strategies. But that doesn't stop the well-wishers.

Melissa Lee asked about the 700,000-share GOOG trade near the end of the day at $545. Karen said she researched as to whether the company has an active buyback plan; they don't. "I don't know what it is," Karen said. But, "I don't think it changes the fundamental story at all."

"Hopefully it gets back to the pre-earnings price, about $575," said Guy Adami.

Karen Finerman tried to convince a skeptical Mike Huckman that "defenseless" OSIP is the most likely of all on Huckman's list of M&A targets to have something happen. Jon Najarian said the intense activity in OSIP is a healthy sign for the stock and marketplace.

Dr. J: Someone somewhere
is on the hook for $70T

Now that Guy Adami no longer talks about how Freeport-McMoRan "stole" Phelps Dodge, his favorite story is the short-CSX-on-the-Buffett-BNI-news trade, which viewers heard again Wednesday.

Jon Najarian, who should get a gold star for a yeoman day of effort between both the "Halftime Report" and the real show, decried a world of opaque credit swap transactions now affecting Greece and, referring to insurance contracts at JPM, said they amount in some way to "$70 trillion, and I'm not making that number up ... with $160 billion in market cap" for the company.

"The administration has no problem with a weak dollar. They don't like a strong dollar," said Tim Seymour, who says of his present market philosophy, "We're as long as we've been right now."

Guy Adami grasping
for Monkees analogies

Dennis Gartman was on the Fast Line on Wednesday but really didn't add anything more to his ongoing commentary on Europe. Gartman doesn't think Germans are really going to work 45 hours a week until they're 67 so that Greeks can retire at 30.

(Man, we're really starting to get the impression that Greece is some kind of giant country-club outfit, or perhaps a college dorm. But at least they're not simply hoarding copper, gambling in Macau, surfing Baidu and eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, which are of course the only four things that people in China ever do.)

Guy Adami reiterated, "I'm not a believer in this market." He spoke of leading bellwether CAT and said "I think this probably rolls over."

Steve Grasso said money is coming in to industrials and not financials or technology. Apparently we weren't paying close enough attention, because Grasso explained that this was because of some rationale for not being wrong twice, and we just didn't absorb it. But we heard Karen Finerman ask how do they know they're not wrong again, and we were glad we weren't alone in being confused by this thesis. Grasso said maybe they are, but they don't think they are.

Viewers learned that Pete Najarian was at home in New Canaan. Too bad Pete was apparently ailing and unable to appear on the show Wednesday to trumpet CLF's topping of $60 before selling off back into $57 land. About the only thing worse than losing gobs of money in CLF in 2010 would be riding Exodus Communications from $85 all the way to $0 (yes, that did happen here actually ... every day, it seemed like the bad news was already out there).

Melissa Lee for some reason was eager to talk about Terex and "connect the dots." Guy Adami said "clearly there's something going on."

Dr. J: EXPE could be
attractive target

Jon Najarian on Wednesday's "Halftime Report" pointed to Expedia as one of those names that might be a Priceline wannabe but nevertheless is interesting, "they could be takeover bait."

Dr. J also made a rare "Fast Money" reference to XOM, saying it could feel more pressure from the dollar.

Jared Levy said he was staying long Ford by selling upside calls. Brian Kelly said he thinks a better way to play the auto sector is with a name such as Penske or AutoNation.

Kelly called the euro action "simply a relief rally." Joe Terranova said "commodities have hung in there as the dollar has actually rallied." Steve Cortes said "I do think the commodity story has legs."

[Tuesday, March 2, 2010]

Is it time for Google
to declare a dividend?

It took a few minutes to get going, but traders on Tuesday put together one of the best episodes of "Fast Money" in a long time.

The subject of choice was all the cash piling up on the balance sheets of tech companies and what to do with it.

It began with QCOM discussion and a truly excellent graphic/bottom text pointing out that MSFT is only up 5% since declaring a dividend in January 2003, while the XLK is up 40%.

Karen Finerman said Google and Apple have "way too much cash." Gary Kaminsky, for the second day actually, pointed out that AAPL is somewhat boxed in here, that it and other tech giants "can't find vertical mergers" that companies in other industries such as ag, etc., can pull off. Kaminsky said anyone raising the dividend such as QCOM should make sure there's no chance of a cut in 2-3 years, but if able to steadily generate dividend hikes, it will prove a long-term boost for the stock.

This is a great topic for all investors, whether CBOE pros or grannies. MSFT is the premier case study here in our opinion. Did Microsoft actually boost its stock by declaring dividends? Unfortunately, the panel didn't get this far. Certainly, there can be an argument that without the dividend stream, MSFT would trade for less than today's $28. On the other hand, skeptics will say this is a company that doesn't have a clue what to do with all its Windows cash, turning to video games, Yahoo buyout offers, Zunes, dividends, anything to get rid of it, and maybe the stock would actually be higher now if the dividend were still an anticipated event.

One wonders, what exactly will Google accomplish with its pile of cash? Buy easier access to Chinese markets? Build spacecraft? Its all-time high was two years ago, almost $200 above today's price. What could it possibly invest in to improve its growth rate? Chances are, if it somehow improves much more, we'll see the same kind of government intervention that happened with MSFT based on the kind of beefs Drudge airs every day about privacy, Web domination, etc.

AAPL might be able to buy something that helps it out down the road. The fact is Apple's decadelong market stomping is not due to buying or building something, but merely distributing music, created by someone else, in the coolest and most popular way. The stock is as good for as long as the public attaches a premium to Apple-branded music as opposed to generic downloads played on generic smartphones.

We also consider the idea that maybe the dividends of these tech giants could be so high as to draw the most discerning dividend investors. But that's a high standard. DUK for example yields 5.84%, EXC 4.74%, XOM 2.57%. MSFT only yields 1.83%. The energy companies also have an advantage in that they aren't dependent on organic growth to boost the stocks and cash flows, but can get a spike on commodity issues or, more likely, favorable legislative action.

Again, we're not the experts. But the "Fast Money" crew has really seized on something: Maybe too much cash in tech is a bad thing because there's simply no good outlet for it, and its accumulation suggests inert management. A strange problem, indeed.

Adami: $216 is AAPL crossroads

Following up on the tech/dividend trade, Guy Adami pointed to $216 as a very important resistance level for AAPL. He said "Intel to me is headed back to 19 and a half."

Brian Kelly is in rally mode. He's rapidly gaining momentum and sounds more convincing with each appearance. He said Tuesday during the tech cash/M&A discussion he would take a "divergent view again here" and that it "concerns me" that cash-heavy companies have nothing better to do with their money than pay dividends. "Where's the organic growth?" he asked. He said it concerns him that companies are "levered up again" to perhaps make acquisitions that amount to buying growth and not delivering organic growth.

Karen Finerman strongly disagreed, the second time in the show she strongly disagreed with Kelly, saying "They're not mutually exclusive in any way. Organic growth and, and, delevering your balance sheet. They're not lever- borrowing. ... They're not getting adequate return at 0% interest."

"Brian, there's plenty of organic growth, you're just not gonna find it in the large-cap names," said Gary Kaminsky. Kelly said it seems to him like all the deals are large-cap ones.

Taking issue with Carter Worth

Carter Worth performed some chartology on "Fast Money" Tuesday with some of his strongest recent recommendations.

Worth noted the S&P is about flat for 2010. He then compared the recent mid-January/mid-February downturn with the July 2009 downturn, "18 sessions" each time, he said. He said both amount to about "9.5% plus or minus" declines, and then the charts showed a bounce in July, so he's predicting the same now and deems the January sell-off a "healthy correction."

(Sigh ... we'd ask again why a "correction" is somehow "healthy," but we don't have the inclination.)

Here's the issue with Worth's analysis...

In July 2009, the stock market was dominated by the banks, pick one, GS, C, BAC, WFC, all on fire, even doubling or more than doubling in short order in some cases.

By January 2010, the banks were dogs. Not so much WFC, but certainly GS, C, BAC, GHL. Horrible charts. Some continue to insist the markets don't need banks to lead. Maybe not, but the amateur view here is that they're needed to at least not crater. Which would not be the case over the last 5 months. Unlike July 2009.

Gary Kaminsky took Worth's call in a slightly different direction, asking how the charts looked in March 2009 and pointing out everyone he knew at the time was saying disaster was ahead because stocks had broken all the key support levels, when in fact it was a massively lucrative time to buy. Worth responded that actually the major indices by March 2009 really never broke through the 2002 lows, maybe barely but not significantly.

The truth is that banks in general, illustrated by 2 bellwethers BAC and MS, over 36 months have been a good investment for a grand total of about 7 months. The other 29 months have been a strong sell.

2 days in a row for Greenhill

Guy Adami may be acutely aware of the Goldman Sachs resistance level, but that's not scaring him from his favorite financials, which include Greenhill and this now-famous $100 price target from some analyst shop.

"A couple deals for these guys and this stock goes through the roof," Adami insisted, saying it has now "washed out enough weak longs."

Just like a day ago, Pete Najarian chimed in with the greatness of LAZ as well.

But if GHL is so great, why is it making a steady march down from $95?

David Faber, the reporting star CNBC managed to keep (God bless Charlie Gasparino), made a rare appearance on "Fast Money" and, in our opinion, didn't exactly seal the deal for a stock like Greenhill. Faber said the M&A activity is "corporate-driven, no doubt about it," and that private equity is a long way from its 2006-07 heyday.

The amateur opinion here is that while GHL and BAC and C might be different business models, they've traded similarly in the last year ... and if GHL really goes to $100, then C and BAC are likely going to rise also, only with higher beta ... so what's the point of buying GHL.

Bove: Give Goldman 10 multiple

Dick Bove made an estimate cut on Goldman Sachs and conveniently was able to speak about it on "Fast Money" moments later.

"Trading just dried up" after the Greece fiasco emerged, Bove said.

He said investors "should at least expect a 10 multiple" on GS, with yearly EPS at $18.

Gary Kaminsky asked Bove how he reached his assessment on the trading. Bove said he looked over data from the N.Y. Fed, the CBOE and NYSE and found a "significant decline in activity."

Brian Kelly reminded, "I am short Goldman Sachs here."

Why Terranova maybe
was ahead of the curve

We had to chuckle — what else can you do — when Pete Najarian made CLF, closing Tuesday at $58.65, his Final Trade.

How this stock can go higher borders on absurdity.

Some people (um, this writer) bought in January north of $50. No more than 2 weeks later, it was about $40. See ya. Bye. Pete even conceded as much, saying, when the stock dipped to $45 or so, that he was one of the people getting killed, apparently with call options.

Incredibly, in the 3 weeks after, it went from $40 to $59, or practically a 50% gain in not quite a month, and once you've stashed that in a 2% CD, you've secured an impressive return for the next 5 years. Obviously, the China fundamentals truly changed 50% in a few weeks.

So Pete is now recommending CLF at $58 after not recommending at $40 and apparently unloading in the mid-$40s.

Of course, we want to take a constructive approach to these things rather than just throwing beer cans at Pete's image on the TV set. So we recalled a quiet little point Joe Terranova made in early January. It might've been on "Halftime," when Dennis Gartman warned of lingering headwinds for commodities, caused partly by the dollar. Terranova said he's seen in previous years that commodities will bottom in the first quarter, jittery investors will get out, only to see the gains pile up the rest of the year.

Cortes on comeback trail

In an excellent episode, about the only person on "Fast Money" Tuesday who was a bit off her game was Karen Finerman, not because of anything she said, but because she seemed just a tiny bit cranky.

It seemed like the panelists showed more excitement over a 2-point Dow gain than has ever been exhibited before, but it's worth noting Guy Adami pointed to the VIX as a sign this could all back up soon, and Karen Finerman concurred with caution.

"Resident contrarian" Steve Cortes, who unfortunately was ice-cold last summer, has thankfully found some mojo and told viewers Tuesday that he's bearish on Treasurys because it's become a crowded trade and auctions need to go perfectly (which they're not) to justify the interest.

Melissa Lee either was ailing, or just had the day off. Bob Pisani stepped in and did such a bang-up job, we hardly noticed a difference, except Bob doesn't look like Melissa. We did note, however, that Pete Najarian did call incoming Domino's chief Patrick Doyle "Gary" at one point.

Guy Adami referred to a positive call on Costco by Patty Edwards and said he'd take profits if it spikes. Pete Najarian may be right about CLF and LAZ and Guy Adami might be right about GHL and QCOM and RIG and we hope they are, but our unofficial analysis is that Patty Edwards is on fire and the leader in the clubhouse so far in 2010.

Another record

This page in February broke its monthly page-view record, set just in January.

The margin was so small, the record might've actually not happened if someone had merely bumped their elbow on the F5 button once or twice in January. (Um, keep in mind these aren't exactly Drudge Report-caliber viewer totals we're talking about.)

So, why even mention it? Because we're thrilled this actually happened in a month when "Fast Money" was often off-the-air (i.e., relegated to CNBC World), CNBC was transformed into the Curling Network, and Google tells us there was a dearth of typical CNBC-related searches. So it's kinda like saying, same-store sales here were up, even though we had to close 4 hours earlier all month.

Hey, we're grasping for success wherever we can find it.

March is off to a good start too. But it's only been 2 days.

Patty Edwards not a fan of ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’

We happened to get word that Patty Edwards recently dissed Gordon Lightfoot's "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" (apparently with a misspelling) in a twitter post around the end of the Olympics.

Big mistake.

"Fitzgerald" is a mainstay on the CNBCfix Top 10 All-Time list. Why? It's the greatest history lesson ever put to song.

Coincidentally, Neil Young has a place on the Top 10 list also, but not for "Long May You Run," which is jointly about a car and an ex-girlfriend.

Even so, we've gotta give Patty some serious props where it really counts: Look at the price action in LZB. (This writer is long LZB since hearing Patty mention it on TV.)

But where are the banks?

Tuesday on the "Halftime Report," we found ourselves agreeing with everyone but Steve Grasso.

Grasso pointed to the recent market gains and said "these are the levels where you probably wanna get back involved."

Patty Edwards noted a key warning level. "Last time the VIX got this low, that wasn't such a great sign, you know, just sayin'," Edwards said.

Pete Najarian agreed and said longs should take advantage of cheap puts. "We just moved 70 points off the lows, we could just as easily go right back there at any point," he said.

Then he said this: "You're starting to get a little participation from the financials, but not a whole lot right now."

"A little participation?" From where?? Goldman Sachs is under $160. C remains a disaster, admittedly up decently since its February lows but a train wreck since October (this writer is long C). We've seen the commodities-in/banks-out rally before, like first half of 2008. We don't know what the bank charts are signaling — that's for the pros to call — but it sure doesn't seem like a rally.

Todd Gordon pointed to the yen and Aussie dollar as diverging with the S&P, not a bullish sign. Gordon said to "Watch 1125 in the S&P." If the close is below that (it was), he's not bullish.

Patty Edwards, who hit one out of the park on "Squawk on the Street" recently with La-Z-Boy (we'll call it a grand slam if it hits $15), singled out Herbalife in this at-bat as a "2nd derivative" play because of its global revenues that are mostly outside Europe. "Stock's darn cheap," Patty said.

[Monday, March 1, 2010]

Karen Finerman interview with Summers tops Drudge Report

Karen Finerman interviewed Lawrence Summers on Monday — and the results were good enough for the big headline on the Drudge Report.

The interview caught Drudge's attention because Summers told Karen this about the jobless report: "The blizzards that, uh, affected much of the country, uh, during the last month are likely to distort the statistics."

Drudge's link, however — to Reuters — only notes the comments and doesn't quite circle the bases. Which is why folks like us are here.

Any time interviews such as this one happen, there's a reason. So Bud Fox, let's roll the dice, play a little monopoly here, what square is Larry Summers landing on when he invites Karen Finerman of "Fast Money" down for a non-live interview on the Monday of a jobs report week?

(No, he's not buying Annacott Steel.)

1 of 2 things is obviously happening here:

1. Summers orchestrated this interview specifically to warn Wall Street about a bad jobless number and launch a preemptive strike against critics from both sides who will complain the administration is ignoring job creation in favor of health care legislation that few on either side are happy with right now and only still exists to protect incumbent egos in Washington. This would be playing defense.

2. The actual jobs number is at expectation level or better, and Summers is artificially setting the bar low to score a see-our-plan-is-working political pop that will help goose legislation in progress. That would be playing offense.

Judge for yourself. Here's the extended dialogue, according to the CNBC.com transcript, which does not include the pauses, uh, ums, etc., that we like so much on this site:

KAREN: "But we're now a year past what was really the worst of the storm and the jobs are absolutely the number one issue. So, given that there is a lag, though, and those two things have happened, we've got to start to see jobs now — right now — for people to start feeling optimistic again to see economic growth. And yet the jobs aren't there. How does this administration form jobs now?"

LARRY SUMMERS: "Look, jobs are priority number one for the President. Let me say a word about the statistics. Who knows what the next number is going to be. The blizzards that affected much of the country during the last month are likely to distort the statistics. And in past blizzards, those statistics have been distorted by 100 to 200,000 jobs. So it's going to be very important to know, very important to look past whatever the next figures are to gauge the underlying trends."

We think Scenario 1 is most likely. That he went out of his way to discuss this week's number, that he offered specific numbers linked to "past blizzards," and our general notion that Summers is not the type of person the administration would use to play offense in these situations (though we could easily be wrong about that), lead to the conclusion the jobs number won't be so hot.

We'll find out Friday.


Karen Finerman also asked Lawrence Summers on Monday what proprietary trading actually is.

"Proprietary trading is, is, is ultimately something that's gonna be defined, uh, by the, by the regulators."

Melissa Lee at the end of the show pointed to Summers' comments as sounding like administration "excuses," but then she was careful to say maybe "not in a bad way," even though Summers' answers were "very vague."

They're making "excuses," but "not in a bad way"?

That Summers did indeed give nothing but vague, rambling answers to mostly good, specific questions only cements in our mind that the whole purpose on his part was to blame the jobs number on blizzards.

Gary Kaminsky said Summers sounded like "Tiny Tim" explaining AIG's financial situation.

Sounds like a dodge

Karen Finerman asked Summers, according to the transcript, "Is this the administration taking aim at Goldman Sachs?"

Summers replied: "Come on, Karen. I'm not going to — and one shouldn't — one shouldn't, in a position like mine, talk about the situation of any individual companies."

("Come on, Karen" sounds a little condescending, but whatever.)

Summers also had this to say about Tim Geithner:

"I wish people, frankly, in the media, could take the trouble to understand the nature of the choices that we're presented, and to recognize that people go into public service with the right kind of motives. Tim Geithner is the only Treasury Secretary this country's ever had who never earned a dollar from the private sector in his time before he became Treasury Secretary. So I — it gets me angry when I hear some of the things that are said about him."

Apparently, the media shouldn't have been concerned that the person deemed the best choice to run the IRS did not pay $35,000 in self-employment taxes for several years and attempted to deduct a children's sleep-away camp. (It's all there on the Geithner Wikipedia page.)

One question Karen Finerman
didn’t ask Larry Summers

We've noted many times how good the "Fast Money" panelists are at asking questions. On Monday, Karen Finerman did well, but not as well as she's demonstrated on the show, despite the new glamor 'do.

Karen's first question was uninspired and a disappointment: "How can you or how can this administration help lead the world out of this economic slump?"

One thing we won't criticize because it was outside the scope of the interview, but will mention here, is that Karen didn't ask Larry Summers why there aren't more women making decisions on/about Wall Street.

In this site's opinion, the most interesting thing about Summers is his 2005 discussion on why males outnumber females in high-end scientific positions.

Summers in an unofficial capacity offered three "broad hypotheses" for why upper science is dominated by males: "One is what I would call the-I'll explain each of these in a few moments and comment on how important I think they are-the first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis. The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end, and the third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search. And in my own view, their importance probably ranks in exactly the order that I just described."

It's the second point that raised eyebrows. (Remember when you'd try to buy alcohol or a dirty magazine at the convenience store and always put it in the middle of the items instead of making it the first or last one?)

The key term of course is "high-end aptitude." Summers went on to say, "There are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong..."

Back in July, we noted the 17 members of President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board (which does not include Summers).

13 of those members are male.

The White House official statement announcing the members does not list the members in alphabetical order. The reasoning for the order is unclear. But the first of the 4 women is only 8th on the list — Penny Pritzker. While an accomplished businessperson, her bigger claim to fame seems to be serving as national finance chair of Barack Obama's presidential campaign.

Gender issues in the fields of science are way beyond the scope of this page. We won't even try to go there. But, in fact, Finerman could've gone there. And it could've been interesting, honest discussion on an interesting subject. Finerman noted what a legendary academic Summers is. Surely such a thoughtful person would appreciate a question from Karen on a subject he's interested in, wouldn't he? Or would the response to such a question have made it clear that this interview wasn't about illumination but merely delivering a prepackaged simple administration talking point?

‘They kept saying, Michael Corleone did this, uh, Michael Corleone did that, so I said, yeah!’

With Karen Finerman's interview of Larry Summers as the headline, the "Fast Money" crew delivered a slam-bang, blockbuster show on Monday and we're not talking ticker symbol BBI.

But before we get into the good trades, et al. we should note that Guy Adami and Pete Najarian set off a few internal alarms.

The issue was financials. Adami pointed to the big day in GHL. Pete Najarian then spoke of LAZ and said "This stock is poised to go higher."

Really? Try looking at the charts for these things since October.

Banks led the March rally. They stalled in October. Citi (this writer is long C) and Goldman Sachs and Greenhill are a disaster since then. JPMorgan, a waste of money. Calling these charts "broken" is to be kind. What is going to reverse them? A Barron's article? There's no more mark-to-market easing, no more Citi balance sheets (we hope) to backstop, Fed can't go any lower ... Karen Finerman likes to talk about the massive normalized earnings BAC and C can attain. But since October, the markets have been saying that potential was overstated, there can't be any denying that.

Gary Kaminsky opened Monday's show with a couple of scraps with Karen and slightly chippy Tim Seymour over whether the AIG-Prudential deal constitutes "strategic" M&A.

"That's not a strategic deal," Kaminsky said. "I look at AIG more as a liquidating trust."

Seymour seemed incredulous that Prudential wasn't making a "strategic" move. Finerman insisted, in "today's environment" any type of deals like that must be considered "real deals," adding "this is M&A at its best."

Kaminsky returned to a name he had previously mentioned, Pall, as a "2nd derivative" on the MIL deal. "People that are activists that are circling the name," he said. Unfortunately the "Fast Money" graphics gremlins in the type at the bottom of the screen called it a "DERIVATE" rather than "DERIVATIVE" trade.

Brian Kelly is short GS. Tim Seymour said of GS, "They were fine before there was a run on their, on their, on their company." Guy Adami invoked another Hyman Roth reference to explain why businesses still work with Goldman Sachs.

AAPL: All that cash,
and nothing to do with it

Pete Najarian made another comment about AAPL that we think more and more is bogus.

Pete continues to stress that Apple's endgame is to get all these people to buy iPods and iPhones and iPads so that they'll gravitate to the Mac for their desktop and laptop computer needs.

The truth is that Apple sells digital music, they were the first to really explore this and do it well, and that's the reason the stock has owned the last decade.

Gary Kaminsky made an interesting comment about Apple's cash hoard. "They're not gonna do any acquisitions," he said, and he discovered it hasn't had a dividend since 1996, when it was cut as the company staggered nearly out of existence.

Kaminsky: ‘A lot of people’
want to buy Clorox

Gary Kaminsky not only mentioned Pall, but made an interesting case for CLX, a company that has drawn earlier raves from Guy Adami. "They don't wanna sell this company. I think there's a lot of people that wanna buy this company," Kaminsky said, later telling Karen Finerman a likely buyer would be some kind of "foreign conglomerate in the consumer products."

Pete Najarian tried to coax Karen Finerman into taking an options position with MIL, but Karen said there was more "takeover premium" already in the options than the stock price.

Guy Adami admitted QCOM has been "trading like grim death" but says he likes it here.

John Roque said the market is actually giving the S&P 500 the "benefit of the doubt."

Sadly, trophy days are over

Melissa Lee might've looked great Monday in sleek, curvy purple top, but her statement during a New York Times segment left us a bit baffled.

"Isn't it usually like some retired U.S. billionaire who wants to buy a trophy newspaper?" Lee said.

Um, no. Murdoch is hardly retired. The other buyers haven't been retired billionaires, but huge chains like Gannett and Lee and McClatchy, as well as private equity (before the geniuses at private equity figured out this isn't working too well).

OK, maybe Lee is referring to Sam Zell. Zell couldn't care less about newspapers. He apparently thought Tribune Co. sum of the parts was worth more than share price; there is in fact real estate worth selling, but the whole thing was basically insolvent the day he bought it. We all make mistakes.

Karen Finerman said because of supervoting rights she believes exist among NYT ruling family shareholders, the Times is not really "susceptible" to a hostile takeover.

Lee noted with pride Monday that "Fast Money" is "back on CNBC where we belong."

New ‘Halftime’ slogan

This looks like we're playing catch-up, but in fact we were aware of this a week or two ago.

We just weren't sure it was permanent or what the deal was.

Melissa Lee again introduced the "Fast Money Halftime Report" Monday as "We don't follow the money, we are the money."

Regular viewers know it always used to be, "Getting to the heart of the action as it's happening."

Maybe it's there to accompany the catchy new CNBC graphics. It seems like the old slogan makes a little more sense, but more power to 'em.

Dr. J: How the options
signaled the MIL deal

Jon Najarian saluted a CNBC colleague on the Millipore story, then discussed some interesting options activity when deals are in the works.

"David Faber, kudos to David," Dr. J said. But then he explained what happens with options when a deal happens.

"Rumors are like noses, everybody's got one," he said. "Options in the front month went so much higher than the outer months. That is a sure tip-off when the smart money starts selling the outer month options, that's a tip-off that the deal is going to be done ... the fact that you go into backwardation so steeply ... that's the tip-off that you've got a deal in progress."

Correct use of ‘ironically’

Zach Karabell talked about smartphone makers in a way that would impress a lot of wordsmiths.

"Frankly Palm's destruction, or slow death, is very much to Apple's benefit, or RIMM's benefit, BlackBerry's benefit," Karabell said. "Palm is a loser in this new space. Ironically of course they were the ones that helped define it in the first place."

An extreme grammarian might argue that being first in a space does not necessarily imply victory. Wasn't IBM ahead of Microsoft, in fact wasn't Apple ahead of MSFT in the '80s with Mac vs. Windows, etc.? Nevertheless, there is a sense of irony here.

"I think Motorola and Palm should get back together somehow here, uh, because then we could push both 'em both aside and forget about 'em," said Jon Najarian.

Incorrect use of ‘ironically’

Joe Terranova, on vacation, said "ironically enough, at Epcot Center, the U.K. is actually next to Canada, and Canada is basically everything that the U.K. is not right now."

CNBCfix found Epcot Center to be startlingly boring. Melissa Lee said Space Mountain is her favorite ride.

Terranova was negative on gold. "I think you're looking at a bubble which is brewing," he said.

CNBCfix on same page
as ‘Fast Money’ stars

Zach Karabell said something Monday similar to what we've said on this page for months.

"I think Nokia's the next one you really have to look at" after Palm's ongoing demise, Karabell said, explaining he's actually long the stock. "They have not proven able to really rebrand themselves as the cool, hip thing."

Actually, our point is that the entire sector is going to cannibalize itself to death while only Apple may continue to thrive because it sells digital music, which, even though it's a tremendous company otherwise, is pretty much the entire reason behind its massive success of the 2000s.

Anyway, we just think all of these phone makers (this writer has no position in any of them) are ultimately going to be selling phones for $20 that all accomplish pretty much the same thing. Nokia happens to be one of the weaker ones.

As it happens, we agreed with the first part of this Tim Seymour rebuttal to Karabell.

"This story is, is about margins going down in the space, and these guys are the leader in the lower-margin stuff. They're fine," Seymour said.

Definitely it's about margins going down. Being the leader in declining margins doesn't seem like a great spot to be in.

Score one for mainstream media

Melissa Lee said Monday that the Canaccord/Apple analysis of a possible iPad delay was the "subject of a Heard on the Street article."

Another reminder, print media is still king, despite the presence of all these confounding Web sites.

Scott Nations said nevertheless, "I think Apple makes all the sense in the world ... tech is bifurcated."

Jon Najarian pointed to Dell as the reverse story as to why suppliers are doing well.

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Fast Money cliches

Why we don’t
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Movie review:
‘Wall Street’

Gordon Gekko:
The Michael Corleone
of Wall Street

CNBC/cable TV
star bios

♦ Jim Cramer
♦ Charles Gasparino
♦ Maria Bartiromo
♦ Lawrence Kudlow
♦ Karen Finerman
♦ Michelle Caruso-Cabrera
♦ Jane Wells
♦ Erin Burnett
♦ David Faber
♦ Guy Adami
♦ Jeff Macke
♦ Pete Najarian
♦ Jon Najarian
♦ Tim Seymour
♦ Zachary Karabell
♦ Becky Quick
♦ Joe Kernen
♦ Nicole Lapin
♦ John Harwood
♦ Steve Liesman
♦ Margaret Brennan
♦ Bertha Coombs
♦ Mary Thompson
♦ Trish Regan
♦ Melissa Francis
♦ Dennis Kneale
♦ Rebecca Jarvis
♦ Darren Rovell
♦ Carl Quintanilla
♦ Diana Olick
♦ Dylan Ratigan
♦ Eric Bolling
♦ Anderson Cooper
♦ Neil Cavuto
♦ Liz Claman
♦ Monica Crowley
♦ Bill O'Reilly
♦ Rachel Maddow
♦ Susie Gharib
♦ Jane Skinner
♦ Kimberly Guilfoyle
♦ Martha MacCallum
♦ Courtney Friel
♦ Uma Pemmaraju
♦ Joe Scarborough
♦ Terry Keenan
♦ Chrystia Freeland
♦ Christine Romans

CNBC guest bios

♦ Bill Gross
♦ Dennis Gartman
♦ Diane Swonk
♦ Meredith Whitney
♦ Richard X. Bove
♦ Arthur Laffer
♦ Jared Bernstein
♦ Doug Kass
♦ David Malpass
♦ Donald Luskin
♦ Herb Greenberg
♦ Robert Reich
♦ Steve Moore
♦ Vince Farrell
♦ Joe LaVorgna
♦ A. Gary Shilling
♦ Joe Battipaglia
♦ Addison Armstrong
♦ Jack Bouroudjian
♦ Stefan Abrams
♦ Warren Buffett