[CNBCfix Fast Money Review Archive, March 2011]
[Thursday, March 31, 2011]

Tim’s already got
a head start on Q2

The Fast Money gang put together what should've been an interesting segment Thursday — Fast Fires for the 1st quarter.

Little did anyone seem to notice that the most relevant one actually was revealed elsewhere in the program, when Tim Seymour tried to sound proud saying "I actually own Cisco."

Officially, Seymour pronounced NOK as his quarterly bomb, and Brian Kelly waffled like a Denny's at 8:30 a.m. when explaining he's been playing both TLT and TBT and not making much money either way.

Karen Finerman had the most refreshingly down-to-earth commentary, "I could be here all hour," but said GLW was her top clunker. Joe Terranova deserves the most props for specifics, revealing he "bought too much GM, up around 38 bucks, and then Salix Pharmaceutical."

Peter Schiff uses Fast Money appearance to promote Web site

Peter Schiff guested on Thursday's Fast Money and wasted little time getting to what apparently was the purpose of his appearance.

"I've been riding this bull since 1999-2000," Schiff said of the new darling, silver, and then added, "I just wrote an article about silver and gold in my most recent newsletter, which by the way is free, you guys can get it on europacmetals.com."

So we did look up europacmetals.com, and discovered the most interesting thing was that, as of overnight Thursday/early Friday morning, Schiff's "TV appearances" box is headlined with his Fox Business appearance on Thursday ... but there's nothing about his Fast Money appearance Thursday.

Maybe he felt defeated by Brian Kelly's persistent questioning, or Tim Seymour's shrug?

Schiff said suggestions that the Fed is gonna steeply raise rates is "all talk." Kelly asked how Schiff would play the metals if rates rise 100 basis points in 9 months. "They're not gonna get aggressive. How can they?" Schiff said, saying he would buy on any headline-related dip in silver.

Tim Seymour flat-out dismissed the notion of hiking rates to 3%, which he said would put a bunch of people out of work. "This kind of rhetoric we've heard so many times," Seymour said.

"Yeah, it's not gonna happen," agreed host Scott Wapner.

"I would rather own gold here relative to silver," Seymour said.

Another expert says when your financial goals are not met, it’s ‘healthy’

Chartist Chris Verrone visited Fast Money Thursday to explain the slump felt in March "was a very healthy move," essentially because "credit did not deteriorate at all."

This page has pointed out several times that calling a stock market correction "healthy" for longs is the financial equivalent of the mathematics no-no of assuming that what you're trying to prove is true, but guess that falls on deaf ears.

"In particular, we wanna be owners of cyclical stocks," Verrone said.

During a bizarre Pops & Drops segment that featured the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, Tim Seymour made a crack, "The only thing I can say about Citizens Park is the place you're most likely to get hit in the head by a battery from a fan."

But as the show cut to commercial, the floor mikes were mistakenly left on, and Seymour was heard to say, "Sorry about that battery comment Joe."

And if the number’s not what people expect, it’ll probably just be revised later

One of the most tedious, uninteresting and downright dull segments on Fast Money tends to be the Thursday-afternoon-before-the-jobs-report segment featuring an economist offering a forecast on the next day's number.

These interviews, often with Joe LaVorgna, sometimes with Mike Darda (though not for a long time), other times with newcomers and once upon a time with The World's Cutest Economist, Michelle Meyer, should be shown at broadcast journalism colleges as an example of how not to gain viewers during business day programming.

Thursday it was time for Alan Krueger, who first sidestepped Scott Wapner's request for a prediction with "Well, you know, I've followed the numbers for far too long to make a forecast for tomorrow."

So then Wapner asked in general what will it mean.

"I think we're seeing job market heal," Krueger said, but "We're certainly not seeing fast enough job growth."

Zach Karabell, on the Prop Desk, said forget about righting all of our unemployment wrongs in a jiffy. "Even if the rate drips down a little bit, you've gotta expect that we're in for a long period, as in years, of structural unemployment, and you could even see that rate start going up next year," Karabell said. "This is a long, long haul; we're nowhere near out of it."

Shout-out: Gary U.S. Bonds

As Wall Street gears up for another jobless report day, it's time to celebrate Gary U.S. Bonds as a pioneer in employment artistry.

Bonds, a prolific songwriter and R&B/rock singer and owner of one of the most curious marketing-related show-business names, emerged in the '60s, but anyone under 50 is probably most familiar with a couple hits he churned out in the early 1980s — hits that were written by The Boss and performed with The E Street Band and basically sound like they came right off "The River," only with a different voice.

One of those hits was "Out of Work," a bouncy 1982 effort skeptical of Reaganomics and a perfect complement to those early '80s stories you recall of farmers plowing their cornfields into text that says "I NEED A JOB MR. REAGAN" and stuff like that.

"Out of Work" actually includes the passage, "Hey, Mr. President/I know you've got the plans/You're doing all you can now/To help the little man ... We've got to do our best to/Whip that inflation down/Maybe you've got a job for me/Just driving you around."

Nobody's saying unemployment is funny, only that people have different ways of expressing it. ("Out of Work" can be heard on YouTube right here.)

If that one only gets you a little warmed up, try this sweet vinyl version of "This Little Girl" (which nowadays might raise some politically correct eyebrows though not as fiercely as The Beatles' "Run For Your Life"), and see if you're not standing on your chair and pointing when Bonds bellows "HEY! YOU BETTER WATCH OUT!!!"

K-Fine questions footnotes
to the GSIC deal

Karen Finerman pointed out on Thursday's Fast Money that GSIC is trading a bit above the deal price, which might indicate a higher bid is expected, but in her opinion that's not likely.

Instead, Finerman noted that eBay is not getting all of the assets, but that select ones will be sold to the GSIC CEO, who will get a loan from eBay.

"This really doesn't pass the smell test," Finerman said. "I gotta really wonder, board of directors at GSI, did you do the best that you could for your shareholders when you shopped this set of assets. Something is off there."

Finerman: Bank stocks already reflect the worst

The bank stocks have caught this page's attention, if only because Jon Najarian said he's interested in them as Q1 underperformers, and Gary Kaminsky has pointed to the importance of relative underperformance in driving stock market sectors. (This writer is long C.)

Thursday on Fast Money, Karen Finerman insisted "these stocks already reflect a lot of bad things," and that even if rates rise, an improving economy should be enough to deliver better earnings.

Tim Seymour chimed in that "this is a great environment for the private equity firms."

Seymour said "there has to be a seismic shift" in the economy for the Fed to get itchy about a rate hike. Finerman, though, said "The ECB, as hawkish as they seem to be, I think that sort of forces Bernanke's hand a little bit."

Zach Karabell shrugged off the potential prospect of rising rates, saying it "should be consistent with a rising market."

Karabell also said, "China's cooling is an extremely relative term within the rubric of what China's direction's gonna be."

Brian Kelly told Scott Wapner that petroleum gets to $125 before $85. The "oil market is still very, very tight," Kelly said.

Kelly also said he thinks AAPL gets interesting at $340. Tim Seymour agreed the AAPL chart isn't broken. Joe Terranova said he's "long some AAPL puts actually" as sort of a hedge against a broad market breakdown.

This page loves having
Friday afternoons off

Evidently, the behind-the-scenes crew that writes the stuff for the Fast Money anchor to say is just doing a little daily cut-and-paste job with the tomorrow teaser without realizing the ramifications.

Scott Wapner said at the end of Thursday's program, "Tune in tomorrow at 5 p.m. for more Fast Money right here on CNBC."

In fact, "tomorrow at 5 p.m." would be when Options Action airs, followed by Money in Motion.

The statement Wapner read is correct 3 nights a week, but not Thursday, and of course is N/A on Friday, because Fast Money does not air Friday afternoon.

So, the crew might be best off just by writing it from scratch each day.

Isn't it rewarding to be a watchdog.

Rich Ilczyszyn quoted
in Chicago media

Rich Ilczyszyn might be a semi-regular on Fast Money, but you know he's really hit the big time when he gets quoted in daily newspapers such as the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ilczyszyn said Thursday that gasoline is creeping closer to $5 a gallon, not because of inventories, but because of Middle East fear.

"There’s just no bearish news for the market right now. At some point, there will be a selloff, but not yet," Ilczyszyn said.

Dr. J: Berkshire could have ‘considerably more downside’

Some on CNBC tend to speak reverentially of Warren Buffett.

Jon Najarian, at least Thursday, was not one of them.

Najarian offered a remarkable news analysis on Thursday's Fast Money Halftime Report, telling Scott Wapner he doesn't like the stock.

"I am not buying it, I don't agree with Whitney Tilson," Najarian said. "I think the stock could have considerably more downside in fact. Specifically because of this."

He said his assessment of David Sokol's activity finds "probably a breach of his fiduciary responsibility to the company ... brings up a whole bunch of issues about Berkshire that obviously Warren Buffett does not wanna talk about right now. So he sent Sokol out to us, to CNBC, to talk about it, and uh, he is not talking about it."

"I think there's probably a lot of lawyers that are chomping (sic) at the bit to get at these guys because of this lack of transparency at Berkshire Hathaway," Najarian concluded.

Jim Cramer, on his Stop Trading! segment later in the day with Erin Burnett, stressed that Berkshire is a publicly trade company, but "It's being run very much as if it's a bunch of guys playing poker."

Gasparino dukes it out with critics of his Whitney reports

Folks who enjoy a good business donnybrook (and who doesn't) will be interested in the multimedia feuds Charles Gasparino has been carrying on with at least a couple writers for Daily Caller and Reason who have challenged Gasparino's characterization of Meredith Whitney's 12-month time frame and overall doom scenario in the muni world.

Thursday on Fox Business (that's the television portion of Charlie's arsenal), Tim Cavanaugh of Reason got a 2nd go-round, and after Cavanaugh brought up the situation of Hercules, Calif., and amidst significant talking-over-each-other (we'd prefer a more flattering picture above of the combatants, but the Fox Biz Web site makes screen-grabs tricky), Gasparino even managed to weigh in on choice of clothing.

"Tim has now become an expert at the, uh, business journalism profession," Gasparino said. "Somehow I don't remember Tim Cavanaugh on my tail while I've been breaking all these stories-"

"Did you break the Hercules story Charlie?" Cavanaugh countered.

"That huge story, Hercules, California, which means that the entire country is imploding," Gasparino scoffed.

After the noise quieted down, briefly, Gasparino quipped, "I'm glad you have a new suit on, Tim ... that doesn't mean you can interrupt me."

By the end, everybody was kind of chuckling, and it seems both sides are primed for a rematch.

Cortes shorts MOS

Rich Ilczyszyn's grain comments Thursday were certifiably for professionals only, as 95% of Fast Money viewers likely had no idea what he was talking about and so it's not worth trying to sort out, but he said "the market perhaps got it wrong yesterday," and "I think this thing could really take off," though he conceded corn could get a bit "lofty."

Steve Grasso said he likes DE over CAT because Deere has "more room to run."

Steve Cortes said "I shorted Mosaic today. I'm also short DBA."

Joe Terranova reiterated that he thinks people should be "long, overweight energy equities." Steve Grasso tried to agree and disagree, saying "I think you have to take some off the table" because the sector can be volatile.

Steve Cortes said he likes oil only because of Middle East issues, and that the market is being led "increasingly on a very narrow scope." Jon Najarian pointed to Hess, "That's a name I can throw out at ya," with strong stock and options activity.

Najarian said WTI could get to $110, then "I think that's gonna be basically the end of it," because if it hugs that level or higher, "a whole bunch of stocks are gonna suffer."

Dr. J: Watch banks

Amazon analyst Scott Devitt spoke at length about Amazon and the cloud, with different price targets/question marks on the text on the screen, but by the end we weren't really sure what his conclusion on the stock was.

Steve Grasso, crediting Steve Cortes for already making this point, said the cloud is "another reason to get back into this high-flier."

Joe Terranova pointed out "historically there's a seasonality to Amazon" that makes it a buy only in late summer.

Steve Cortes shrugged off the weak day on LVS. "I think it's a buy," he said.

Cortes also dissed the banks for their exposure to real estate, calling BAC the weakest. Jon Najarian — utterly dominating a day after a remarkably quiet appearance — said he's going to look at banks as underperformers going into the new quarter that might bounce, and Steve Grasso allowed, "I think at this point you can start nibbling on financials."

Scott Wapner put Paychex CEO Martin Mucci on the spot with a question, in our opinion, CEOs aren't really qualified to answer because even though they're experts on their companies, they shouldn't have to be experts on trading and stock market moves and by answering Wapner's question — why hasn't the market rewarded your stock more? — they're risking a gaffe: "I think that they're always looking at, what's the long-term growth," Mucci said, a curious answer.

David Faber asks guest if he ‘really’ believes what he’s saying

The Big Easy is supposed to be a happenin' place, but someone evidently forgot to tell the folks at the Tulane M&A conference who served up an on-location dozer of Thursday's Strategy Session with David Faber.

Lazard exec Antonio Weiss was first to give it a shot; he did say that the '90s was the tech era and the 2000s was the financial leverage era and that the current era starting in 2009 "will really mark the time when M&A went truly global."

Cliffhanger as that was, by the time Faber and Weiss were into "industrial planning," the Zzzzzzz's were beginning to form on this screen.

Faber, noting that Berkshire Hathaway is "the talk of this conference in some ways" but somehow finding no need to talk about it, then brought in Robert Spatt (one of the rare Strategy Session guests with a stubble) and James Morphy.

Spatt said commodity prices will impact M&A, but a business roundtable revealed "lots of good confidence" in dealmaking.

But CEOs are "notoriously bad at predicting the future," Faber said.

Morphy said "the market has basically absorbed those headwinds," and predicted that if corporations don't use more cash on M&A, the hedge funds will get more active. Faber, who tends to be skeptical of the business deals he covers (see below), actually asked Morphy if he really believes that, and Morphy said yes, "I think we're on the verge of that."

Spatt said companies trying to avoid hostile takeovers who have staggered boards should "hang onto it as long as you can." Both Spatt and Morphy predicted "more" hostile takeovers this year than fewer.

[Wednesday, March 30, 2011]

Last time ‘socialist’ was heard on Fast Money, Charlie Gasparino got cut off

NYT Dealbook writer Jesse Eisinger, who loves to take a hard line against Wall Street, spoke briefly on Wednesday's Fast Money about Tim Seymour's tavern bank dividends.

"I think the Fed should've said no to all of them," Eisinger said.

Well, "this sounds like socialist policy," said Tim Seymour, asking if Eisinger would oppose even the dividend plan of JPM, which doesn't need the government's help.

Eisinger responded that Seymour might be "overconfident" about JPMorgan, which he said has a "huge amount of 2nd-lien mortgages."

Eisinger told Melissa Lee there was "enormous pressure" on the Fed to OK the dividends.

Who woulda thunk the Lubrizol deal was this exciting

As the news on David Sokol began to break during Wednesday's Fast Money, Joe Terranova was really going out on a limb.

"I think if the market continues to move higher, certainly Berkshire moves higher with it, and potentially outperforms," Terranova said.

Guy Adami avoided any miscues. "I'm hesitant to say anything frankly, so I'll just leave it at that," Adami said.

Melissa Lee — in stunning purple that this page complimented early in the day but seemed to get better and better as the episode progressed — brought Becky Quick on the Fast Line, and Becky pulled no punches: "I have to admit I'm stunned by this," Quick said, noting that Buffett took pains to say there was nothing illegal about the Lubrizol trades.

Lee suggested, "At the same time, it sort of strikes you as, I don't know, not, not squeaky clean, which is the image that Warren Buffett certainly has." Quick said Buffett is trying to be squeaky clean in revealing what happened.

Lee then reported that Sokol is going to be on Squawk Box, but she wasn't sure whether it was to be Thursday or Friday. "Either way, it's gonna be a good interview," she said. (Later she said it is Thursday.)

Notably, there was no mention on Wednesday's Fast Money of the Mark Hurd exit.

The obligations one has from being a CNBC contributor

Whitney Tilson, reached on the Fast Line Wednesday but like the other Fast Line people having trouble with the connection, said the Sokol news "comes as a big surprise and a disappointment."

Tilson said he expects Warren Buffett to run Berkshire at least 5 more years, and somehow — goodness knows how they came up with this math — "statistically speaking, we'd bet another 10 years."

Tilson, long BRK shares, said the intrinsic value, "microscopically, it's gone down a little bit" in the wake of the news.

Melissa Lee then got a bit pushy, pressing Tilson to say if he'd buy more on the afterhours weakness. Tilson, like everyone else, had barely just heard the news and shouldn't have been expected to make a trading call at that point. He offered, "If the market overreacts to this, we'll likely be adding to our position," which is subjective at best, but that didn't stop Lee from declaring Tilson would buy at the current afterhours level on Thursday.

Fast Money = happy hour

Tim Seymour explained on Wednesday's Fast Money, "I own a bar, WXOU Radio Bar on Hudson Street ... we have the cheapest drinks in town."

We looked it up on (where else) Yelp and discovered generally positive, but occasionally mixed, reviews.

Mr. V wrote, "This place knows what it is, and does it well. A cleaner dive bar, with a great juke box."

But then Penny R. wrote, "This used to be the 'classiest' dive bar downtown, now it's sad."

So, the reality is ... we weren't really prepared for this one.

Adami: AAPL to $285 ‘by fall’

Mark Mahaney had a lot of trouble establishing a phone connection with the Fast Money gang on Wednesday, but eventually he did say he thinks Amazon has an advantage by being "device agnostic."

Mahaney also said "We continue to like Priceline shares" because he thinks a lot of its global growth potential is underestimated.

Joe Terranova asserted "There are concerns out there right now fundamentally with Apple." Guy Adami revisited what's beginning to be a somewhat tired theme (but he keeps getting e-mail about it so that's apparently why they keep talking about it), that AAPL will revert to $285, "I'll say by fall."

Tim Seymour said Apple's chart doesn't concern him so much about AAPL as it does the "CRMs of the world," or the "gadgety part of the tech space."

Apparently, we all
should’ve bought AMT

Analyst David Amsellem of Piper Jaffray said Wednesday "I think this is probably the best that, Cephalon, uh, could get," and "If I were shareholders, I would take it."

Brian Kelly noted the stock market is right near the 1,333 resistance, and "for me, it looks like it's getting a bit tired."

"I'm with Beeks in terms of the level," said Guy Adami, who then went on to crow about a recent reference to AMT. "The market gives you opportunities; that was one of 'em."

"The reality is to me, risk off, is, is in fact where we are," said Tim Seymour, though he said he wouldn't be surprised to see it continue to rise if the upcoming data is strong.

No Saks near Patty

Analyst Peter Misek told the Fast Money Halftime Report Wednesday that he trimmed Apple's estimates, while maintaining the $450 price target, because he expects iPhone 5 to come out late fall.

Other than that, while Jon Najarian broke his own personal record for most quietness (presumably because he was locked in on that India-Pakistan cricket match), it was Steve Cortes and Patty Edwards (as well as Melissa Lee's purple top) takin' it to the hoop. Cortes explained "I bought bonds yesterday" and sees strength in Treasurys, and he also thinks it's time to play James Brown's "Livin' in America" as opposed to investing in the rest of the world.

Edwards said she likes yield on energy plays, thus, "I'm in EnerPlus Resources" as well as Kinder Morgan Partners. Speaking of the Durbin issues, she added, "We're long Visa, and we think that it could go higher from here."

Dennis Gartman said in the opening that the bull market's a good thing before he suffered a coughing fit. Gartman said he likes the San Juan trust, a longtime favorite.

He disagreed slightly with Cortes' characterization of America-first investments, saying "It's a bull market everywhere."

Gartman also said that Kansas City, Kan., is much different than Kansas City, Mo. The Kansas side is "a very moribund town; it needs the help" from Google.

Gartman and Melissa Lee tried to talk about silver over a musical selection. Gartman said silver has been on the better side of the gold-silver ratio for a while, explaining the public interest in U.S. Mint silver coins, but he said you have to wonder at this point if it's getting crowded.

Carter Worth said banks are lagging enough that they're set to recover. "That's exactly where money needs to go," Worth said. But Gartman said you should buy stuff that keeps going up.

Patty Edwards, who matched Mel Lee's purple asked Saks CEO Steve Sadove if there's "anything more to come" in terms of closing underperforming stores. "It's not gonna be a large number," Sadove said. Patty lamented that she has to go to another city to shop in Saks and thus likes the "hometown guys," Nordstrom.

"If there's no QE3, I think high-end retail's in trouble," said Steve Cortes.

Text on The Strategy Session screen overpromises, underdelivers

About all we know about the text on The Strategy Session screen Wednesday during the Jonathan Cohen segment was that it surely wasn't written by Jonathan Cohen.

In an interview billed as a late-1990s watchdog expressing caution about today's tech valuations, Cohen merely went out of his way to avoid passing any judgment.

In fact, he even noted that today's tech companies with high valuations are "in most cases private companies," have real revenues and profits, and are not like the 1990s IPOs.

Meanwhile, the screen text attributed to Cohen said there are "clear similarities" between tech valuations now and in 1999. It also said, without attributing to anyone, that tech valuations "spark fear of bubble."

David Faber asked a follow-up seeking to get to the heart of the matter, whether what's happening now is like the "craziness" in the late 1990s. Cohen began to answer with "Our business now is investing on the debt side," and a breakdown of his firm TICC, which he also said was sort of a response to the 1990s blowup and seemed to be the main focus of Cohen's remarks.

Kate Kelly tried again to pin down Cohen on bubble parallels, but he basically said the opposite, that there are now real revenues and profits. "In that way I think the world has changed."

David Faber asked about a Gary Kaminsky theme, the race for yield in a possible rising-rate environment. "We invest almost entirely in floating-rate debt," Cohen said, apparently believing the yield chase for rising rates a non-issue.

Cohen also mentioned AI-Squared as a company he likes.

What in the world is
Sterling Global Holdings?

David Faber opened Wednesday's Strategy Session with a story that makes one realize how ludicrous, at times, and how fragile, the financial markets can be: The prospect of Sterling Global Holdings taking American Airlines private.

"No one I've spoken to has ever heard of Sterling Global Holdings," Faber said. "This is all very curious to say the least."

Faber and Kate Kelly rattled off instances of mystery "bids" for other companies, apparently often linked to airlines for some reason. "Not a shock I guess that AMR was so strongly affected by this," Kelly said.

Faber also explained the timeline of Valeant and Cephalon and noted Mike Pearson "is a man in a hurry."

Analyst King She said "I think the chance of another bidder stepping up is relatively low here."

Kate Kelly said, "I'm told the market seems to think there's a greater than 50% chance this thing works out. She, though, said the risk-arb community is a little more cautious than that and not making a full bet.

Pearson's earlier interview on CNBC, in clips shown by Faber, wasn't the most impressive.

[Tuesday, March 29, 2011]

A Barry Ritholtz appearance
comes in below expectations

Barry Ritholtz looked fine and dandy in his guest appearance on Tuesday's Fast Money.

He didn't look, however, as if he actually had a point this time.

Ritholtz told Scott Wapner why he thinks banks are sputtering: "I think there's a lack of confidence in their balance sheets and their ability to operate freely in the new environment."

Fair enough. But after acknowledging Scott Wapner's point about the run-up in banks ahead of the dividend announcements, Ritholtz could only conclude, "Without broad financial participation, it becomes difficult to get too enthusiastic."

Ritholtz notes the Fast Money appearance on his Big Picture blog, but really wasn't any more specific, citing a couple reasons why the market could break out, break down, or remain neutral, and strategies for each.

We thought we might be missing something, but Fast Money's own official recap doesn't say a whole lot about Ritholtz's appearance either.

Karen Finerman singled out 2 headwinds for the financials, the Durbin interchange and mortgage putbacks, and "I think we need to see a little bit of clarity there" before bank stocks will take off.

Guest Ed Groshans said there's $14 billion in losses from the Durbin rule, and "they won't get it all back." Karen Finerman asked what might happen legislatively, and Groshans said Senator Tester's amendment to delay Durbin by 2 years won't get the needed 60 votes. But they all agreed the banks will find ways to compensate for the pain, checking fees, etc.

Tim Seymour re-insisted, "I think they stole Merrill Lynch."

Maybe John Chambers
should give it a try

Brian Sozzi maybe doesn't quite have the TV panache of Barry Ritholtz. But he did have an agenda on Tuesday's Fast Money, which is always a plus, even if it was of the sleep variety.

Sozzi pointed to Home Depot buybacks and then listed Target, Urban Outfitters, CVS and Costco as others that might take the plunge.

Pete Najarian delivers rare blunt calling-out of colleague’s thesis

Brian Kelly on Tuesday rolled out a curious "Al Capone Indicator" that referred to dining out and gambling spending as early indicators of recession because it's not things that people are required to do but only do when they have money.

Kelly said the signs suggest you should sell ALGT, or if you're aggressive, short it.

Pete Najarian was asked what he thought of that.

"I'm not saying that Beeks is wrong, but it seems like a little bit of a reach right now," Najarian said.

The notion of people spending their money on gambling is a much deeper thinker than this page at this time is willing to give it, but suffice it to say, it could probably be argued that virtually everything human beings buy is beyond the call of what they actually need.

But whatever. Karen Finerman wasn't terribly impressed by Tuesday's rally, saying, "To me, today was a lot about end-of-the-quarter window dressing."

Kelly opened the show on the Prop Desk in the rafters of the Nasdaq, saying, "I feel like Greg Brady up here." Karen Finerman, like most of the Fast Money gang in the prime age target for "The Brady Bunch," noticeably laughed.

Seymour: VZ breaking
‘into buy territory’

Tim Seymour declared Tuesday that the telco/wireless biggies aren't yet done, specifically Verizon. "This stock doesn't look overbought at this point," Seymour said. "I actually see, it's actually broken into, into buy territory."

The Fast Money gang then had a spirited discussion on Amazon, with Pete Najarian explaining he doesn't have a position because he thinks the valuation is too high.

There was talk of the impact of Amazon music on Apple. Karen Finerman, in chic new purple top, said she'd have to study more of the percentage of revenues that iTunes is for Apple; also K-Fine said we still haven't really seen the impact of the iPad yet.

Tim Seymour said the RIMM spiral talk is premature. "There is a ton of value in this franchise," he said, citing business use and untapped global markets. "The valuation here, very interesting."

Seymour gave one of the most lukewarm endorsements possible for MOS ahead of earnings. "I would own the stock ... stop yourself out around 72."

Kate Kelly reported that Apollo is pricing at $19 a share, something we'll probably hear more about on Wednesday's Strategy Session.

Patty: Amazon, eBay
‘can both win’

Guest host Scott Wapner asked Steve Cortes Tuesday on the Halftime Report which he'd pick among EBAY and AMZN.

"None of the above," said Cortes, though he trumpeted what he called his own previous designation of Amazon as a "stealth cloud play."

Patty Edwards, in glam look, said AMZN and EBAY are in slightly different businesses like Macy's (in mall) and Kohl's (out of mall), and "I think they can both win," Amazon because of the cloud and eBay, "I love the acquisition that they did of GSCI (sic)."

Joe Terranova revealed, "I did buy some Apple puts yesterday," but he still thinks the stock is eventually bound for $400.

Patty Edwards at the end of the Halftime Report spoke positively about Ford and said it's unaffected by an "NFL strike." (And we thought it was a lockout.)

The Halftime Report apparently ran out of guests, tapping Rick Santelli for an extended conversation in the last 5-minute segment.

Rare earth domestic Chinese prices ‘are now soaring’

Rich Ilczyszyn asserted Tuesday "The bears are in control of the, uh, copper trade right now until the macroeconomic situation changes."

Joe Terranova said copper clearly doesn't like $110 oil.

Analyst Mike Gambardella said the key to Molycorp right now is "the domestic Chinese prices are now soaring."

"Smuggling has been a big factor" in the space, Gambardella said.

Scott Wapner asked Steve Cortes for a reason to be long banks. "I'm not gonna give you one because I'm short," Cortes said.

Patty Edwards said she's "still holding Bank of Montreal."

Joe Terranova said it's a valid question as to whether banks could withstand a double-dip in housing if it actually occurs. Brian Kelly flat-out declared of banks, "You can't have an economic recovery if the engine is not working."

Greg Fleming: People forget everything, except the financial crisis

David Faber might've waited a long time for a much-publicized rare interview Tuesday with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney chief Greg Fleming and wasn't going to let Fleming off the hook on a little logical conundrum.

"I think that, uh, memories are always somewhat short in life no matter what you're talking about," said Fleming, who added, "I think that we've actually come a reasonable distance, healing in the financial system, healing across the general economy."

But moments later, when Faber asked if we could end up in another financial debacle in a couple years, Fleming had a different take on public recollection.

"I think memories are very long coming out of this crisis, I think that uh, there are a lot of senior executives-"

"Well are they short or are they long, Greg," Faber cut in, "because they were both- you said they were short as well coming out of the crisis earlier."

"Yeah, well no, in terms of executives and how they function at these organizations, this was a very difficult time ... and I think that those who went through it are not going to forget, uh, a lot of the things that happened along the way here," Fleming said.

The impression here is that the latter answer supersedes the former.

"10 months into the show, we finally got you to join us," Faber told Fleming, and hopefully this little stumble can be quickly forgotten.

Should’ve voted for Mondale?

Greg Fleming told David Faber on Tuesday that the roots of the credit crisis actually go back to 1984.

Ronald Reagan was seeking a 2nd term under the "Morning in America" banner, Fleming said, while the American savings rate was 8-10%.

After that came $40 trillion of debt, and then Peter Schiff Land.

Guest co-host David Simon asked Fleming if the economy can wean itself off QE2. "David uses this phrase all the time on the show, 'animal spirits'," Fleming said, saying the handoff to the private sector for growth is "starting to be a reality."

Faber, razor sharp in this long-awaited interview, asked Fleming about the strengths of Smith Barney and the asset business, and Fleming really only had a flat answer, calling it "one of the best businesses in the financial space ... predictable revenues ... a lot of it's fee-based ... many of our financial advisors are leaders in their community."

Kelly: Apollo may price
toward the top

Kate Kelly reported Tuesday on the looming Apollo offering, saying "they've got some aggressive orders ... and it looks as though they may price toward the top of the range, which is 17 to $19 ... they could even go to $20."

David Simon was skeptical, quietly referencing KKR and Blackstone and saying "this one, of all 3, I don't really get it."

David Faber was in typical skeptical form of the whole business, and he's sure got a point here, questioning "companies that are focused on taking other companies private going public."

Simon referred to perhaps the most ridiculous competing-bid scenario in recent years, the notion that Nasdaq and/or other exchanges are somehow going to put together a bid for the NYSE that sounds like little more than a joke. Simon suggested "severe antitrust problems in trying to get this deal done. I think even if they do make a bid, I don't know how seriously you can really take it."

Not very.

[Monday, March 28, 2011]

Another case of the text on the screen not matching a Fast Money pundit’s actual remarks

While Brian Kelly was praising the eBay deal Monday, Karen Finerman — whose new scarf is bound to draw some hits to this page — sounded like she views it as only a so-so acquisition.

There's "transformative," K-Fine said, and then there's "evolutionary."

Transformative is not very promising, she said.

"Evolving, OK. I guess that's OK," she added.

Analysis of the GSIC deal got much more complicated once Melissa Lee welcomed Zachary Karabell on the Fast Line to discuss how he had touted GSIC on Fast Money in November (with Lee striking one of her more memorable poses of late before playing the flashback).

Karabell revealed that he had sold before Monday's news in a Dr. John Trade®.

"I did, but I did sell it, uh, between 24 and 25, and if I know the stock then went down to the high teens," Karabell told Lee.

That was fine, except while he made that comment, the bottom of the screen said "KARABELL: I EXITED THE STOCK WHEN IT PULLED BACK TO $19."

24, 25, 19; guess it's all close enough.

Karabell somewhat glumly cracked "There was major flummoxing" over the outcome of the shares. Karen Finerman lamented that Karabell "sounds so dejected," and Tim Seymour correctly noted with a point into the camera that "he made a great call."

Japan debt: This time,
it’s gonna be different

Anthony Scaramucci spoke on Monday's Fast Money about 3 trends in the hedge fund world.

Scaramucci said one of those trends is to short Japanese debt. Another is to buy mortgage-backed securities, with some interest-only packages yielding 20%.

Finally, Scaramucci said funds believe "there's some room to move here in the equity markets," citing in part the possibility of a QE3.

Brian Kelly challenged the first thesis, saying the short-Japan debt has stung a lot of investors, and "Why is this gonna work this time?"

Scaramucci graciously acknowledged Kelly was 100% correct, but this time, "Moving from a net creditor nation to a net debtor nation, it'll start to change the dynamic of what bond analysts are looking at."

On the other hand, should Roubini guide us out of QE2?

Sometimes-Fast Money guest Josh Brown said on Monday's show that the economy is capable of picking up where QE2 leaves off.

That didn't necessarily go over well with Steve Grasso, who balked at the amount of "credibility" Brown was giving Bernanke and said the Fed chief once suggested "subprime is largely contained," and so is it a case of being wrong then and right now.

"I think Bernanke was a freshman. He's a senior now," Brown said. "The guy's learned a lot on the job."

Karen Finerman later tried to ask Brown if he agrees that the market is pricing in QE2, based partly on the ECB, as the end of stimulus. Brown took the question a bit too far, asking why can't that be the scenario if the economy stands on its own in the summer. Karen didn't bother rephrasing, saying, "We agree."

Brown said on the heels of the Lubrizol deal, he likes Koppers. The "stock broke out on Friday," he said, saying it's an American play on American expansion.

Dennis Gartman said, "I think the odds of a QE3 are negligible at best and border upon zero."

Kelly buying MON

Joe Terranova and Steve Grasso took part in a small little debate Monday but nothing like the "strong hands" controversy of the GM IPO (which, to be totally honest, hasn't exactly been in very strong hands lately).

Terranova was saying the fundamentals are just too good for energy not to be long. Grasso, though, pointed to XLE and said that on the strength of its rally, money managers are "actually shorting the energy complex again."

Grasso further argued, "These stocks can come in just as quickly as they did move higher." But he did actually agree with Terranova that it's too hard to short these names given the headline risk.

Terranova did tout Alcoa, while Grasso explained that if you're bullish on iron ore you'd pick X over AKS, and if you're bearish on iron ore you'd do the opposite, because "U.S. Steel has its own iron ore."

Brian Kelly used a corn-planting chart to recommend Monsanto. "I bought some on Friday," Kelly said.

Seymour: HON bounce bogus

Tim Seymour, not quite as vocal Monday as in previous days (although he wasn't exactly silent either), said "today was as quiet of a move as you're gonna have on the way down."

Seymour said stocks are moving on "valuation, not on macro swans."

Seymour made a lengthy case about why he thinks Honeywell just got a run-of-the-mill Barron's bounce and despite being a great company is actually overpriced. Steve Grasso concurred with that opinion.

Guest Will Power basically said the AT&T-T-Mobile deal is good for everyone in the space, including Verizon, which will "ultimately emerge as a beneficiary." Power wasn't high on S, saying, "We're not buying Sprint today."

Analyst Robin Farley said her top pick is WYNN in a segment that felt right out of 2007. Not surprisingly, she said LVS is "definitely a play on the growing wealth creation in China."

Joe Terranova at one point said the "data doesn't matta," which was replayed several times as a Fast Money soundbite.

Foxy Michelle Meyer
turns up on Power Lunch

Michelle Meyer, The World's Cutest Economist with the cutest voice on CNBC who unfortunately hasn't been on Fast Money since that November 2009 day Karen Finerman made a crack about an "after-school job," resurfaced Monday in a Power Lunch viewer treat.

Meyer and Steve Liesman discussed the impact of the slumping housing market on the U.S. economy. Meyer said "Housing is now a small share of GDP" and "The direct drag from housing is smaller," but pointed out the diminishing wealth effect from lower home values and the lack of spending on construction jobs.

Liesman said "Housing has taken away a full percentage point from GDP," then mentioned some kind of CNBC survey ("one of the few organizations" that does it) on housing sentiment and said there's a psychological impact on people's sense of net worth.

Meyer said "a quarter of all homeowners with a mortgage are underwater on their, on their mortgage," and according to the text on the screen, doesn't expect the housing market to restabilize to "normal" until 2015.

MLee: eBay might as well change its name

Melissa Lee, in sharp maroon Monday, opened her Halftime Report interview with eBay boss John Donahoe with something that seemed more dis than compliment.

"It almost seems like you should just change your name to PayPal at this point," Lee said.

Donahoe smiled and said the GSIC deal is all about "connecting buyers and sellers," just like what eBay's all about.

Pete Najarian asked how soon GSI will add to the bottom line.

"GSI is a very profitable business today," Donahoe insisted. "It's already a profitable business."

Donahoe pointed out that PayPal allows transactions without users having to share financial information.

Steve Cortes makes a McDonald’s joke

Toll Brothers' Douglas Yearley, like basically every homebuilding CEO who has appeared on Fast Money since its inception, basically said things are still kind of tough but there are signs of hope.

"We have some good weeks, we have some bad weeks," Yearley told Melissa Lee. "We love our niche. 80% of our homes sell for under $700,000."

Afterwards, Steve Cortes asserted that while they may not be building many Malibu mansions, "They still do build expensive homes," which are seeing the most trade-down.

"I think the McMansion is going the way of the Hamburglar, which is toward extinction," Cortes said.

"What a grinch here," sighed Melissa Lee.

Cortes: AMZN putting in
‘big double top against 190’

Brian Kelly said Monday he likes the eBay deal, but Steve Cortes saw an issue with a tech retail giant. "Amazon appears to be putting in a big double top against 190," Cortes said.

Kelly mentioned Melissa Lee's revelation last week that she'll look around in Best Buy before buying on Amazon. "I'm on their black list right now," Lee admitted, about BBY.

Steve Grasso warned against an $11.95 ceiling in Micron and said $11.30 would be a support level.

More interestingly, Grasso spoke about not-so-well-known CPX. "I'm buying it based on seasonality alone," he said. "It looks like you can coup (sic), recoup basically, I don't know, 20% in April if all things being equal for the last 5 years."

Steve Cortes said the markets are assuming the jobs recovery is "endless." And so, "I am fading, I am short the commodities, the physicals not the companies."

Guest balks at premise
outlined by David Faber

David Faber, fresh off a week's vacation, opened his first day back on The Strategy Session Monday with a rare on-air disagreement with former Unilever chief and current Rothschild honcho James Lawrence.

The subject was rising commodity prices, and Faber's first question to Lawrence about managing expectations and margins in a rising-price world.

"Well you commented about we haven't seen commodity prices rise like this in recent years. We have," Lawrence said. "We saw in 2008 ... all input costs were up."

Faber responded, "When it comes to some of these soft commodities, or certainly food-related, I don't know that we've seen necessarily this kind of a spike, certainly not in 2008. Yes to oil, and oil-related products, but not necessarily across the board the way we have now."

Lawrence said there "different reasons why different commodities are up." Faber returned to his first question, what does a CEO do?

Lawrence concluded that it shouldn't be as challenging as Faber was making it seem. "You have to worry about your market share, you have to worry about your margin, you have to worry about, uh, the returns to shareholders," Lawrence said. "But someone said, well, that's why it's called work."

Guest: ‘No way’ I can talk about this subject

David Faber was also running into disagreement Monday on whether Jason Ader, one of the most reliable Strategy Session guests who's a board member of Las Vegas Sands, could actually talk about the allegations from a senior exec about a possible FCPA violation that has apparently led to inquiries.

"I mean, there's no way I can talk about that David, but, but, let's talk about just trends in Vegas overall, which are very tough-" Ader said.

"Wait, wait, there's no way you can talk about it at all?" Faber cut in. "I have to ask you about it obviously. That's it? You're just gonna say, 'I can't talk to you about it.' "

"No, I'm on the board, I'm on an independent committee, and it's just, let's talk about Las Vegas," Ader protested.

Eventually, they agreed to talk about Macau.

Ader: Internet gambling ‘coming’

Jason Ader on Monday's Strategy Session said the "margin" is what people are missing from the commodities spike, and "I've taken a lot of money off the table ... I've been finding great shorts in the consumer space."

James Lawrence said "The animal spirits are coming back to corporate acquirers." Jason Ader asked Lawrence if it's too early to start buying distressed hotel assets worldwide. Lawrence really didn't answer the question, suggesting it might not be bad to take a risk now, but if things get worse in Egypt and Greece, prices will fall.

Ader says there's too much Internet gambling money sloshing around offshore for the U.S. to keep banning it when it could be accepting it and taxing it. "It's coming," Ader said. "They'll figure out a way to participate."

Ader added, "There's more money being spent on Internet gaming than the entire Las Vegas Strip is generating in casino revenues. Pretty amazing number."


On David Faber, and some other CNBC personalities

He doesn't make or referee stock picks, but because he hosts The Strategy Session, he gets a fair amount of mention on this page.

And watching David Faber helm a TV program, we're starting to find this is one of the most interesting people on Wall Street.

This site is about business media. One point this page makes often is that there's a difference between people whose careers are in business and people whose careers are in news media.

Working for CNBC can blur those distinctions, but not totally.

News media people generally think most information should be disseminated. Disclosed. That's the business, telling you what's happening, letting you decide, sometimes offering an opinion. It should be noted that few things in the world are absolute, and that the media does actually choose not to disclose certain things its customers might enjoy knowing; for example, VIPs' phone numbers. (That could be regarded either as impressive ethics, or simply career preservation. One's picture of life is often how one frames it.)

Business people generally want a freeway to capitalism. Few if any tolls, little or no restrictions, simply the ability to survive, and hopefully thrive, selling a product. They generally aren't interested much in disclosure (generally it's best to keep business strategies private) unless it's in press releases; they often can't or won't say in interviews exactly what they believe. (There again, we don't always have absolutes; for example, say, a certain guy whose last name is spelled F-u-l-d, some would be totally happy with a severe government bear hug if the need were ever to arise.)

David Faber expresses more skepticism about the material he covers than any other CNBC anchor or reporter. It's true that Mark Haines can, for short stints, lead the league in that category, and Joe Kernen is always capable of uncorking a scowl that would make even Clint Eastwood's skin crawl, but neither of them seems quite so determined about it.

Viewers can infer several things from Faber's program. The Strategy Session launched with the hosts and guests all standing, which even some CNBC people chuckled at even though it was kind of a unique idea that TV always needs, and one vision became commonplace: David Faber standing with arms on hips, in the football "offsides" pose, slightly leaning back, questioning a guest to his left. Note the photos above, with Greg Maffei, and slightly more relaxed, with Dagny Maidman, both in September.

The body language here implies something more challenging than, say, Charlie Rose leaning across the table to some actor and asking, "You said ... 3 years ago ... that maybe this would be ... the last time ... you ..."

The Strategy Session set is Faber's Missouri, the Show Me state. There's an anticipation that the guests, even the certifiably decent ones, might be prone to offer a certain helping of b.s., and Faber demands something better.

Body language aside, Faber's most constant refrain tends to be about taking companies private, and LBOs, and the type of dealmaking that seems less inclined to enhance value and more likely to line a few select pockets. Recently he was openly questioning how soon it'll be before someone takes HCA private again. Fortunately/unfortunately, this is his career.

It can be inferred that much of the Wall Street that Faber sees is a machine of excess that makes the skilled operators rich, with little public, social or capitalistic benefit. It would be great to say this page is the first to notice this, but hardly. Howard Kurtz, in his 2001 book on Wall Street media called The Fortune Tellers, writes extensively about Faber, and notes that around the tech boom, "He would find himself chatting with some upstart 27-year-old who was making $3 million a year and wondering if he had set his own sights too low."

This analysis is not to criticize Faber's skepticism, only to note it. And, in fact, appreciate it (especially when the subject is Daniel Snyder's "total focus" on the season opener).

But it could be asked, exactly what is Faber trying to produce from The Strategy Session? He hasn't scared guests away; the show continues to boast a very impressive collection of Wall Street A-listers. His colleagues on the panel, who do generally have the benefit of not having to ask as many questions as Faber, seem to take noticeably more satisfaction in rendering their own conclusions at the end of the segments. Faber does not lack in enthusiasm for the material but perhaps has an issue with expectations, maybe hoping for the type of scoop he often lands and realizing that on midday national television, he's generally not going to get that.

If Faber weren't such an established and respected mainstream commodity, he might be tempted to try the conspiracy-theory-leaning route of Glenn Beck or Dylan Ratigan (who's still trying and hasn't fully gotten there), in which the skepticism, and not the news, is the show, and a good hook can bring lightning success. For whatever reason, Faber doesn't seem inclined to go there. Sometimes it seems he's caught in the middle; his recent documentary on Goldman Sachs wasn't as heavy-handed (i.e., polarizing and interesting) as it could've been, but he got stood up by Lloyd Blankfein anyway, so what did he accomplish?

Faber's best moment on The Strategy Session was interviewing Justin Tuck about the NFL and making playoff picks. That is not a dig. While it's lighter material than he usually deals with, it was so well-done, we were wishing he'd get scooped up by The NFL Today or Fox NFL Sunday.

And so this page will make a bold suggestion to the football networks — instead of the next Dennis Miller or Rush Limbaugh, think about someone like Faber, a seasoned TV host who knows the drill and would pack an outsider's punch (and perhaps some of his weekday audience) that the ex-jocks can't bring on the Sunday pregame shows.

We know because he's mentioned several times on his show — we have no idea why, but he does — that Faber disdains viewer feedback, explaining more than once he won't read the e-mails that people ship to The Strategy Session address. A lot of those have to be low-grade, and we wouldn't expect many CNBC on-air personalities, especially with Twitter accounts, et al., to deal with them. (Remember a while back when Melissa Lee was saying almost daily that she reads every e-mail that Fast Money gets, which hasn't been heard for a while as the show apparently wants to wean people over to Twitter.) Who knows, some of them might have better observations than this page. If nothing else, we can be sure Faber has high standards for everything he does.

As for updates on other CNBC personalities ...

Scott Wapner — Sort of overtaking the capable Simon Hobbs as regular Fast Money guest host, tends to put the show in the Autobahn lane. Highly impressive groove in the last couple months. Still capable of getting ahead of guests and panelists by rattling off what are good questions too fast before others can absorb them.

Brian Kelly — The thing we've been looking for is an edge. What Fast Money hasn't given Kelly — or a tough critic might say he hasn't carved out — is a niche. He's not the options guy, the EM guy, the value girl, the "market agnostic" volume trader, the contrarian. Kelly is a good soundbite with impressive background on the things he talks about. He could stand to re-invent himself as a lean, mean, talk-more-than-Tim-Seymour machine.

Jane Wells — The eyes, as always, have it. The Twitter account has never been better.

Joe Terranova — Unlike Kelly came to the show with a niche, an energy specialist, but has been stuck in a "long or flat oil" refrain for way too long. Tends to be on the receiving end of debates far more often than initiating them.

Ron Insana — Suddenly got a lot more interesting since he came back (in pundit form) from that hedge fund gig.

Steve Cortes — Major league sense of humor, could be/should be the show's most glorious pundit, but for a couple hitches; 1) tends to talk too quickly and needs to dramatize his trades better, and 2) doesn't engage the other panelists as much as he could and often makes picks in a vaccuum. No one is as silky-smooth at challenging colleagues as Karen Finerman or as aggressive as Tim Seymour, but given his "contrarian" handle, Cortes should also be on that list.

Steve Grasso — Serious street cred from the floor, loaded with maybe the most useful information of all the Fast Money gang, highly adept at rattling off the soundbites. Only drawback is a sometimes-monotone delivery that occasionally requires a moment to absorb whether he just made 1) a positive call, 2) a negative call, or 3) a joke.

Kate Kelly — We have no doubt Kelly is an aggressive reporter with a fine array of scoops; she tends to come across as sweet on television. Those who recall the recent days of Mr. C. Gasparino barreling into shows with updates will either consider that a plus, or a minus.

Lawrence Kudlow — Quite frankly, and hopefully Melissa Francis won't bristle, but he clicks with the chicks, whether it's Melissa, Trish, Mandy, Michelle. They bring out some life that he doesn't always get in the evening show.

Brian Schactman & Nicole Lapin — Two likable faces who maybe could stand to borrow a little of the Joe Kernen edge to land some premium assignments.

Bill Griffeth — Great to be back.

[Friday, March 25, 2011]

Dan Niles: RIMM becomes viable takeover candidate ‘um, at zero’

Last August, Scott Nations raised some eyebrows when he said Research in Motion is a takeout candidate at $5.

Dan Niles outdid that on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report when he was asked by Melissa Lee when RIMM becomes a viable takeover candidate.

"Um, at zero," Niles said.


Niles said the best thing to happen to the stock recently is the "4 different firms that I saw downgrade it. That's the biggest positive today."

And how's your day been? Relatively better, hopefully.

Niles said he's short and allowed that at some point you'd want to get long to take advantage of a bid and/or squeeze, but the phone business is all about apps now and developers just aren't that interested in RIMM devices. "Longer-term, it's a structural short," Niles asserted.

Pete Najarian asked Niles if he's just so far below the company's forecasts. Niles said he wanted to answer by asking Pete a question: "How many companies have you seen that 6 months from now don't always think it's gonna be better?"

Pete admitted it was a good question and could only weakly muster a counterattack. "This is the transition phase that they've been talking about," Najarian mumbled.

Not to be deterred, Steve Cortes said he jumped in for a flip. "I think risk/reward it makes sense to be a buyer of RIMM here," Cortes said, comparing it to Sprint.

But Steve Grasso disagreed. "Sprint is not overbought yet, and RIMM is not oversold yet," Grasso said, saying RIMM unlike S on Monday has further to fall.

Patty Edwards’ inverse-Cortes theme fails to materialize

Steve Cortes turned up on Friday's Halftime Report from the floor of the NYSE and said he does believe in small-caps on a "relative value" basis, because of the "relative safety of the United States vs. the rest of the world."

Mel Lee, in that chic dress we don't know how to characterize but think maybe we've seen it once before, then turned to Patty Edwards, who chuckled, "I am actually playing it the opposite way from Cortes which is really such a shock I know."

But then, inexplicably, Edwards' first stock pick was a name Cortes has been touting for at least a week: "We're going with the equity income stocks," she said, and then pressed by Mel Lee for a name, offered "Exelon — which is actually something I think Cortes and I have in common."

But other than that, she's "actually playing it the opposite way."

Edwards also mentioned Bristol Myers and ERF.

Cortes said "bless your heart on Exelon" and reiterated he likes Exelon and Southern.

Steve Grasso said of the market, "Above 1,308, it's a compelling story to be long this market."

Cortes revealed he was on the floor of the NYSE as a guest of Steve Grasso (but for whatever reason didn't feel compelled to honor his host by wearing a tie). "Being here with him, you get instant exchange cred, it's like walking around Compton with Suge Knight," Cortes said.

Cortes: Buy LVS now

For a while Friday we were thinking Steve Cortes maybe was getting hot by virtue of being on the NYSE floor and might offer some humdinger of commentary.

And then he incredibly cited consumer confidence numbers as something he's following, and we tossed that notion out the window.

Cortes was given another chance to talk about a recent big success, shorting LVS — it took some time to crumble after he started talking about it, but he was ultimately spectacularly right — and said, not as emphatically but kinda like when Henry Fonda sees Billy Ray hitting the gas pedal in the wrong direction in "On Golden Pond," it's time to reverse: "I think the technicals look very good," Cortes said. "This is one to buy."

Steve Grasso said Abercrombie & Fitch is "really close to that shorting level which is basically 58, 59, you probably grab 5 or 6 bucks of it down to the downside."

Patty Edwards said, with a dubious "running into" joke, that FINL is interesting for several reasons, including that it's been "rumored that there could be an LBO here."

Edwards said the reason for Hot Topic's gain isn't so much the merchandise just yet but the "changes going on internally."

Melissa Lee revealed, "I don't go to Hot Topic. I'm not, I don't think, of that demographic."

Messy — but profitable

Rebecca Patterson beamed in to the Fast Money Halftime Report Friday as something of a teaser to the late afternoon's Money in Motion and explained, "I've kind of stayed away from the euro this year because I just feel it's too messy."

According to the chart that was shown during her commentary, it looks like Patterson has missed a healthy move.

Speaking rather starkly, Patterson said, "If I had a gun to my head" and had to make a decision, she would probably be selling the euro "at least on a tactical move."

She also said there could be government change in Canada. "If the Canadian dollar weakens on that, I'd buy that dip," she said.

Pete Najarian said Huntsman April 18 calls are hopping; "something is behind this."

Patty Edwards said she might be interested — not because Steve Cortes is on the opposite or same side or whatever — but "gotta get back and do some homework on it before I buy it though."

Steve Cortes said "I'm short DBA."

Kaminsky: AIG might be
the laggard everyone wants

Gary Kaminsky made an interesting stock evaluation on Friday's Strategy Session, pointing to the stocks that have been the worst underperformers of the first quarter and suggesting that new money is going to find at least one of those.

"AIG, it's about getting that re-IPO back into the hands of the public market," Kaminsky said, calling it the "best name to own for the 2nd quarter" out of the S&P 5-worst group that includes Monster Worldwide (MWW), F5 Networks (FFIV), RadioShack (RSH) and Tellabs (TLB).

"I expect that everybody will wanna own a piece of this AIG whether they like the business or not," Kaminsky said, telling Kate Kelly that the expected flood of new shares has already been priced in this quarter, but that buyers should want to wait until the end of next week when the dust settles. He said the other names have more fundamental problems and noted that in autumn 2010, Exxon became just such a hot laggard.

The New York Mets: Classic case of having the cake and eating it too

Kate Kelly reported Friday on the New York Mets, saying "the Wilpons, who own the team, are looking for a $200 million investment, I'm told."

Kelly said depending on valuation, that could be a 30% stake, or "far less than a majority position."

Gary Kaminsky did some of his own reporting, saying, "I can confirm that I think 2 to 3 of the initial bidders did decide to walk away on buying a minority interest in the team ... at least 2 very significant wealthy individuals who have expressed an interest in buying the entire team."

While Kaminsky said "at least 2," the bottom of the screen said "3."

Kaminsky said someone wanting full control of the team but unable to do so from the Wilpons could "buy a minority stake and have a guarantee, right of first refusal" that might satisfy his or her desire to eventually own the club.

In the categorization of business dealings, the Mets talks are in the same ballpark (pun not intended but it works) as the Dow Jones sale to Murdoch and what has been going on at Playboy for several years. The particulars are a little different — the Bancrofts weren't actively courting a News Corp investment — but in the end it's the same, a potential seller really wanting or needing the cash of an investor but still wanting to run things the same way and not willing to give the investor control of the business. And if a hundred-million-dollar Mets investor is only going to get a parking space, luxury suite, tax write-off, Carlos Beltran autograph and a few hot dogs on the house, it might be a hard sell.

Elsewhere on The Strategy Session, Brian Watson of Steelpath talked up one of Gary Kaminsky's favorite sectors, MLPs. Watson said they've got a better outlook than bonds, "main reason is they grow their distributions, bonds don't." Watson added, "Over the next 5 years, 10 years, we think there's a lot of opportunity for growth."

Greg Fleming is going to be a Strategy Session guest next week. Gary Kaminsky, who will be on vacation, said he will "absolutely TiVo" the segment.

Whitney’s muni call: ‘The numbers don’t really add up’

BlackRock's Peter Hayes joined The Strategy Session Friday to take part in what is becoming one of the more intriguing developing Wall Street stories in some time, which we should title something like "How Wrong Is Meredith Gonna Be?"

Hayes pointed out that muni fund selloffs "actually started before the CBS interview," which he attributed in part to a downgrade of the tobacco sector.

But "I think it was the numbers that she quantified," he said, adding, "The numbers don't really add up."

Hayes said muni investors "realize that in order to get to hundreds of billions of dollars in defaults, you actually have to have thousands of defaults."

Hayes is consistent. On Feb. 14, he said much the same thing, "For the market to realize the dollar magnitude of defaults projected in the media, default would require thousands, not 50-100, issuer defaults, an outcome that is very unlikely."

Gary Kaminsky asked Hayes about improvement since January and whether investors are finally getting a true clearing price. Hayes said "it took a price adjustment to get investors involved in the market."

Kate Kelly suggested that the end to the Build America Bond program is perhaps good for prices, simply because the market couldn't have supported all the new issuances that might've continued after last year.

Hayes noted that somehow the world has been paying a lot of attention to this call "from somebody who's not involved in the municipal market."

Gary Kaminsky took that a lot further, saying, "In 20 years of managing money, I don't think I've ever seen a situation where an analyst's report not only affected an asset class but had such a large effect on what happened both to retail and institutional investors."

Kaminsky concluded, "It's clearly been a bad research call as it stands today."

The Whitney interview on "60 Minutes" is as much a media story as a business story.

The truth is that virtually everything in life — whether artistic or not — is seen through a frame. We all make ourselves look as good as we can before going to work though that's a lot different than the way we look when we roll out of bed, and we clean our houses right before we have company over. All of that, in its own little ways, is reality. Did Whitney's "60 Minutes" interview really represent the reality of the muni sector as most participants will experience it? Basically no. But compelling television? Yes.

[Thursday, March 24, 2011]

It’s not like he knew the tsunami was going to happen

Occasionally, even the Fast Money gang is capable of actually getting a little oversensitive.

Melissa Lee brought up Nokia on Thursday and referred to CEO Stephen Elop's characterization of the company "close to being a man on a burning platform in the middle of the ocean."

Tim Seymour denounced that, saying, "And that was the term that Nokia used, look, which is a terrible term by the way considering all that's happened in the last 6 months."

So that prompted a little digging, and we discovered the "secret" Elop memo turned up Feb. 8 on the site engadget.com, and was quickly picked up by WSJ, FT, NYT, etc.

One site quoted a former Nokia exec claiming the memo was a hoax, but the company officially neither denied nor confirmed its authenticity, and engadget posted updates insisting it was confirmed as legit.

The BP disaster happened in April 2010 — not in the "last 6 months" as Seymour hinted — and the Japan tsunami happened a month after the memo came to light.

Gilbert Gottfried and Lawrence Kudlow are recent proof it's best not to draw any tangents, parallels, comparisons, comedy, etc. from recent disasters, so it wasn't the greatest inspiration of an idea for Elop.

Nokia is in big trouble. There are jobs at stake. Reading the full text of the memo, there's really nothing insensitive about world events, only a stark appraisal of the company's business environment. Everybody has his own threshold for sensitivities and should object when the threshold is breached. Everybody should also keep in mind, we don't need to demonize everyone who for whatever reason might've picked the wrong time for a dubious choice of words.

Jon Fortt’s nice save

Thursday afternoon, before Fast Money, CNBC's Silicon Valley honcho Jon Fortt made certain, in impressive fashion, he avoided a Larry Kudlow type of situation when discussing Oracle (by the way, we didn't think Kudlow's comment deserved the scorn it got; he apologized right away, it was fairly clear he was just trying to say the economic toll (however that's defined) didn't appear as bad as it might've initially), but he did say it, so we had to post it).

Fortt said Thursday "Half of those revenues are coming from support," and "those are coming in, kind of, come hell or high water ... uh, and so, um, sorry, that was a bad term to use ... those are coming in regardless, despite the tragedy, sorry."

Fortt's correction and backtracking were so well-handled, even Maria Bartiromo smiled.

Colin Gillis’ chance to crow

Guy Adami referred Thursday to Colin Gillis as being "overcaffeinated" on yesterday's show. Gillis had the chance to respond later on the Fast Line but didn't, merely reiterating his campaign against RIMM (with ample evidence Thursday on his side), saying, "I think the market is passing them by."

Guy Adami said of RIMM, "I don't think you touch it tomorrow," and Joe Terranova said "I don't think there's any trade in RIMM tonight."

Steve Cortes was the only one who would bite, saying, "I think there might be opportunity in RIMM."

Cortes said he wishes he'd been in ORCL but isn't. Guy Adami said he thinks the "low-hanging fruit" of the stock is over, but that it'll still go higher.

Steve Cortes goes on a diet

Tim Seymour made an ag pitch Thursday, saying "Wheat to me is the 1 part of the soft space that I don't see letting up any time."

"The ferts are gonna do well, but especially those exposed to potash," Seymour added.

"I agree with you," said Joe Terranova.

Steve Cortes then took the other side, prompting an argument with Seymour. "I'm short DBA," Cortes said. "I think it's already taken care of itself through demand destruction."

"I don't see demand destruction; if anything, it's the speculative side that needs to be destroyed," Seymour countered.

"People don't have to eat a Western diet," Cortes said, making a joke about a chef we've never heard of.

Gartman says ‘outside reversal’ in gold is short-term trouble

Dennis Gartman said Thursday that "gold's a bit sporty on the upside, it probably needs a correction." Gartman cautioned that the public is in gold, and "today you did have an outside reversal day," so it may take a dip in the next few days.

Steve Cortes admitted it "definitely has been a Teflon market," but "I shorted silver today."

Guy Adami acknowledged a little pain for Silver Wheaton but defended the long silver trade, saying, "I do not think by any stretch of the imagination it's over."

Adami also pointed to TRN and WAB as names to watch.

BB&T analyst Heather Jones said she thinks Smithfield and Tyson are in the "sweet spot." Guy Adami asked if the horse is out of the gate in Smithfield, but Jones referred to a scorecard of past upgrades and said she thinks there's another "20 to 25% upside in the stock."

Melissa got in Harvard early

For whatever reason, the Fast Money gang Thursday decided to share a lot of personal information, including Guy Adami's story about going to the Galleria in White Plains as a teenager to muscle the dudes from Scarsdale like Tim Seymour.

Seymour revealed he was assistant manager at Quick Snacks, in the food court, back then, but nothing else about what the reality was at that time.

Melissa Lee, who was bright, cheerful and on top of her game all day Thursday in sharp green, insisted to Guy Adami she has been in Hoboken once, for the CNBC Christmas Party a couple years ago.

Guy Adami later asked Lee, when rattling off a bunch of businesses that no longer exist, if Harvard early admission still happens and whether Lee was one of those people. "I was. I got in early," Lee revealed.

Steve Cortes admitted that "Watching IMAX movies, frankly, makes me a little bit nauseous. Maybe I'm just a wimp."

3.5% on 10-year expected

Bond-watcher Richard Volpe gave a pretty good summary Thursday of the current state of Treasurys, even though he apparently thinks the purported end of QE2 in June isn't priced in.

"I view this as potentially negative for stocks not bonds," he said.

Tim Seymour said he expects stock window-dressing at month end, which might siphon cash from bonds. "I think that flow is taking place here," Seymour said.

Volpe agreed. "I think you're gonna get your chance to buy those 3.50 10-years, and I think it's a buy," he said.

David Strasser fails to give Melissa Lee adequate catalyst for Best Buy revival

One of the best Fast Money Halftime Report sessions occurred Thursday when Mel Lee decided to grill Best Buy fan David Strasser over the power of the Internet.

"Would Best Buy go the way of a Barnes&Noble?" Lee asked.

"I just disagree," Strasser said, saying "the books vs. the electronics business and the portfolio businesses of Best Buy are just not even remote ... they're very different businesses."

Strasser scoffed at online competition. "A lot of those companies that are selling the TVs online probably aren't making money on them," he said.

He acknowledged people are making a "secular bet" against Best Buy, but "clearly think they're wrong."

The problem with Strasser's commentary was that the hook for the segment was whether Amazon is going to get stung by being forcibly required to collect state sales taxes, and if that does not happen, what does that mean for Best Buy, and so Melissa Lee correctly asked Strasser a couple pointed questions about what BBY's catalyst would actually be if the Internet status quo remains.

"They're growing their Internet business double-digits," was all Strasser could offer, admitting the stock keeps getting cheaper and cheaper, but that's great, because he wants to buy it.

Steve Grasso was basically in Strasser's corner, saying of TVs/appliances, compared with books, "I think it's a totally different beast," and explaining that people are "too lazy" to go out and look at products at Best Buy and buy them cheaper online.

Lee revealed, "I bought 2 flat screens this past year ... I went to Best Buy, checked it out, and went online and bought it."

Grasso wrote that off as "You're savvy, you're the exception here, not the rule."

Grasso: MU tends to fail badly

Guy Adami finally budged from his "feels like we're going down" approach on Thursday's Halftime Report, saying, "The tape right now is saying that we wanna probably now go back to 1,325."

Steve Grasso identified the key level as 1,308, "That's a level you wanna close above to be bullish," and said 1,321 or 1,325 would be a big test.

No. 386 also spoke about Micron, saying, "I sold mine, into the strength today," adding the stock "has a history of repeatedly failing, and it fails pretty good."

Grasso also said, "I don't see people rushing into the financials at this point."

Jared Levy was even quieter than Brian Kelly, but he did warn that Nvidia is facing key resistance at 20 or 22.

Guy Adami defended Meredith Whitney's resume (despite all recent facts to the contrary of her ludicrous muni bond call) and said though he doesn't really know what's up with Morgan Stanley, "When Meredith speaks, today you should still listen."

Guy Adami said Mel Lee has small feet.

Analyst Walter Pritchard likes MSFT more than ORCL. "There could be a lot of smoke around him, and he could be inhaling something," said Steve Grasso. "At this point, I don't know anyone who likes Microsoft. I don't know anyone."

"You gotta meet more people, Grasso," said Lee.

Joe Kernen finds Whitney’s muni call ‘going against’ her at this point

While a certain CNBC ex-pat on Fox Business has been on an anti-Meredith Whitney tear for a few months, The Strategy Session gang has been keeping up its end of the bargain by regularly casting doubt (albeit maybe not quite as colorfully) on the "50 to 100" default theory that's quickly proving to be the most laughable financial forecast since that book came out a while back claiming "Dow 36,000."

Thursday, guest host Joe Kernen weighed in, saying, "At this point you'd have to say that it's going against Meredith," which is something of an understatement, although the fact he referred to her by her first name suggests he's takin' it easy.

"It has not panned out the way she's expected," agreed Gary Kaminsky.

Kernen also reported that David Faber "continues apparently his vacation at his co-host's house," then played an inside joke on Gary that might've gone over some viewers' heads.

Filling out forms has rarely sounded so interesting

Citi's Sandy Kaul, in what we think was her first Strategy Session appearance, proved a good guest Thursday even though her topic centered on rich people submitting statements.

"These new filing documents," Kaul said of pending hedge fund regulations, "they have to write a brochure, in plain English, describing these things, really providing a narrative about their own firm."

"It's a little tough to opt out," she added.

Kaul said the information that must be divulged includes assets under management, investment technique and describing their investment method (around here, it's "try not to lose as much as in 2008," but we're not a hedge fund, so that's on the house).

Gary Kaminsky cracked that you'd often hear money managers say they oversee "several billion," and you wonder what they'll really report on these forms.

Kaminsky concluded the segment saying it's possible you could see people unwilling to make these disclosures simply return cash and/or opt out of the business, and "1 possible outcome" would be a bit less liquidity, perhaps in shorting.

Maybe Walgreens could
use CNBCfix.com?

Every so often the stock market provides a happy story (and no, we're not talking the endless "Warren Buffett is great" theme that's been on steroids for way too long now), and Thursday's Strategy Session indicated that Wabtec is just one such story.

Joe Kernen pointed out the stock, incredibly, is "up every year in the last 10."

CEO Albert Neupaver told Kernen his CFO noticed this stat, "We started looking at it a year ago," and assured Kernen it's been in the annual report.

Gary Kaminsky asked about organic growth vs. growth through acquisitions. "We really have a balanced strategy," Neupaver said, indicating it's kind of 50/50.

"Closet indexers don't know these companies," Kaminsky said.

Elsewhere, Kaminsky said, just like in the late '90s, Walgreens is more interested in the drugstore.com domain than the actual business it's paying $400 million-plus for. "That's the real strategy behind what they're buying here," Kaminsky said.

Kaminsky asked Europe-watcher Jacques Cailloux, in the form of a statement, "Those that have held on to the paper ... have not had a haircut yet."

"No," Cailloux conceded.

Cailloux said, "If Spain restructures obviously there will be losses being incurred but uh, you know, I think we're a very long way away from that situation."

[Wednesday, March 23, 2011]

Colin Gillis,
ramblin’ man

In a Fast Money episode Wednesday marked by Allman Bros. themes, Pete Najarian said people will say a year from now Cat "stole" BUCY.

Doug Kass, who thought Guy Adami's "crossroads" reference was to the Eric Clapton song, said he's short the RTH because he thinks elevated oil prices will prove a problem.

Colin Gillis was so loud — despite not bringing a soapbox — he sounded like he was preaching to the people behind him in the window of the Nasdaq when he dissed the RIMM Playbook on several levels and, like Tim Seymour, said "the reality is" a bunch of times, at least 6, we think.

Another chance
for Whitney Tilson

Money manager Larry Haverty, meanwhile, cited a long list (we think 5) of reasons Wednesday why Netflix will have trouble, but admitted he owns a "tiny amount" of it, "under the theory, uh, if you're living in the land of the cannibals, you better understand what they eat."

He also said, "I don't like the way they conduct their conference calls."

Mike Khouw said the options market is pricing in a 9%-plus move in RIMM, and so he likes a April/May 62.5 call spread as a "fairly neutral trade."

Guy Adami said Cerner should be on your radar screen because it's still got "significant upside."

Pete Najarian said the volatility smackdown has "been incredible." Steve Cortes said the market performed OK despite a "plethora of terrible international news." Tim Seymour said it was a "veritable cornucopia" of news.

Seymour said Portugal shouldn't be overrated, and "a bailout is very good for these guys."

Steve Cortes said "I'm long CSX ... but I'm short UNP." But he said he couldn't short NFLX because it's simply too crowded of a trade.

Jed Dorsheimer said he's seeing an "air pocket in terms of demand" on CREE.

Brian Kelly pointed to salmon futures and said "salmon fisheries should do well," but revealed he's not quite in those trades, but might be in the "near-future." (Yeah, and we just might short NFLX in the "near future" too.)

Melissa Lee said without reservation her favorite cookie is dark chocolate chip.

Patty: AOL dial-up has been ‘only choice’ for ‘Middle America’

If analyst Brian Pitz had only spent a few more minutes speaking on Wednesday's Fast Money Halftime Report, one wonders what he might've said.

Because in the time he had, he managed to trumpet dial-up Internet service as a cash cow, and the Huffington Post as the destination for 2012 political news.

Pitz claimed AOL's dial-up is worth $14 alone. "The breakup value here is extremely compelling so it's almost like you're getting the advertising business for free here," he said.

He also said Tim Armstrong "eliminated a boatload of unprofitable revenue."

And he said, "Political elections next year; where's everyone gonna go to, to read about, uh, politics ... it's gonna be the Huffington Post."

(Those are "political elections," as opposed to the non-political ones.)

Brian Kelly shrugged, saying "I'm not even sure who uses the dial-up anymore."

Patty Edwards was wholly unconvinced. "There are so many other places that you can go for this stuff ... as the little gadgets that we all carry become more ubiquitous all the time, even in Middle America and other places where this has been their only choice, I just don't see it."

Steve Grasso was less interested in dial-up than in the praise for HuffPo. "They bought the Huffington Post. They do not have their finger on the pulse of America. Did they not see the elections this year? Sold AOL. Sold."

Melissa Lee couldn't resist jumping in on both angles, claiming, "It's interesting because the people who read Huffington Post certainly aren't probably the people who use dial-up, I would, I would, imagine."

Yes — like the possibility Mubarak is still running the country

JJ Kinahan sounded like he was stuck in a 1980s time warp on Wednesday's Halftime Report.

Kinahan, speaking about General Mills, twice referred to it as "General Foods."

Steve Grasso got the name right, saying General Mills is the "only cereal company that has a gluten-free line."

Grasso had more of a zinger for the Silver Wheaton CEO who was on Fast Money a couple months ago and mentioned $50 silver somewhere along the line. "I don't wanna put words in his mouth, but that's what traders do, right?" Grasso asked rhetorically, saying that when a CEO floats a number like that he's really thinking $40; "50 was just a pipe dream for him in his head."

Melissa Lee then, after Patty Edwards was caught with the Cindy Brady pose during a technical glitch, turned to old reliable Rich ("may be a short-term pullback but they're all going up eventually" Ilczyszyn) for silver. Ilczyszyn said, "This is an old-fashioned breakout," and that trading above $36.75, new buyers will hit the market.

On crops, Ilczyszyn said, "Certainly wheat will be a buy afer the USDA crop report based on that speculation out of Japan."

Steve Grasso said he spoke with a top energy trader who is buying Baker Hughes and Halliburton while selling Schlumberger and Weatherford, also buying ESV and Rowan.

No. 386 also said, as far as he can tell, "the consumer's not dead."

Patty Edwards, when she finally got in the game, said there's "just a lot going against GM at this point in time."

John Gabriel, who watches the EGPT fund, says it's now fully invested, but with "a lot of uncertainty."

The stuff you miss
by skipping Squawk Box

Fed debates are a dime a dozen on CNBC; most of the time you need another one like you need another 10 pounds.

Wednesday, though, was a bit different, when Gary Kaminsky suggested on The Strategy Session that Barry Sternlicht's earlier commentary on Squawk Box might go down as an all-timer.

Sternlicht said there's a credit bubble emerging and it "feels like '07" as money managers compete in a "global race for yield."

Kaminsky played the clip and addressed colleague/occasional nemesis Steve Liesman (who sometimes on CNBC gets pigeonholed into Fed spokesman) with one of his more blunt questions: "Why is Bernanke not creating ... a bigger credit bubble that will eventually make 2008 look like nothing?"

Liesman, backpedaling a bit at first, said "I-I-I think there's 2 ways to separate this," arguing that the credit bubble of '06-'07 was simply Jimmy Cayne's fault (joke) was not really about Fed policy but more about "strictly the workings of the private sector," which the Fed can't be accountable for monitoring, at least on a transaction-by-transaction basis, or any type of "covenant lite" that would be beyond the scope of the central bank.

Liesman challenged Kaminsky by asking Kaminsky if he wants a rate hike. "Is that gonna help the economy, is raising banks' cost of funds. You gotta answer that question Gary."

Kaminsky wouldn't quite go that far, only saying, "If it's symbolic, and that, you don't get the type of, um, uh, very poor credit standards that was, not maybe the cause of what happened in 2007 but certainly something that when one looks back was part of the problem."

We don't want to try and declare a winner here, because 6 months from now it could be the type of thing someone like Peter Schiff holds up in mockery if wrong. We will, however, for now, rely on one of our favorite arguments, that a lot of smart people are involved in Fed policy (as well as probably a few dopes too), a lot of people with jobs and credibility on the line on this subject, and the consensus of those people happens to be different (in terms of their apparent concern) than Sternlicht's. That doesn't mean Sternlicht is wrong; it's more like saying if this were a football game, he'd be maybe a 2-point underdog.

A Europe skeptic struggles with some good questions

David Albrycht of Virtus followed the Liesman-Kaminsky debate by raining on Europe, prompting a very good question from Steve Liesman, who said it seems like in the end, Europe generally gets it right, and a lot of these panic situations turn out to be exactly the time to start making some money.

"I'd be very, very cautious on that," Albrycht said. "It just doesn't work" in this case with the debt, yields, etc.

Guest host Carl Quintanilla closed with an equally good question for Albrycht, if this is all true, "why is the euro at $1.40?"

Albrycht answered, "People have faith in Germany."

Gary Kaminsky pounced on Albrycht's reference to "house of cards" as a "Freudian slip" and tried to deliver an early facial to Liesman, telling him to remember that line.

Kate Kelly: There’s ‘potential’
in owning the Mets

It looks like according to Kate Kelly, the finances of the New York Mets are shaping up for an 81-81 season.

About as specific as Kelly got Wednesday was to say, "People have been looking at the books for at least a week or so now Carl, and what I'm hearing is pretty mixed reaction so far."

So, maybe we shouldn't expect Mets bidding to reach the playoff level.

Gary Kaminsky asked Kelly if anyone would buy a baseball team based on the finances if it were any type of business besides a sports team, a question that basically answers itself. But Kelly responded anyway, saying, "It's hard to imagine," it would be a "vanity" acquisition, but that there's "obviously a lot of potential, a lot of history here," even though it'll be hard to get actual control from the Wilpons.

Scott Cohn for some reason called The Strategy Session from a courthouse pay phone (they must confiscate the cellulars) to update viewers on Lloyd Blankfein's cross-examination in the Raj trial. Cohn told Gary Kaminsky that Blankfein is "considerably more at ease" than when he was testifying in Washington.

[Tuesday, March 22, 2011]

It kinda sounds like Points 1 and 3 are the same thing, but what do we know

Barry Ritholtz barely got a chance Tuesday to unfold his treacherous-market scenario.

That was courtesy Tim Seymour, who apparently thought he was entitled to deliver a day's-market-wrapup speech just after Barry made his opening remarks.

Ritholtz said the resistance would be (take your pick) "1,300, 1,310, even 1,315," and "if the market fails there, you could look for some serious corrective action."

That prompted Seymour to ramble into a mix of macro-global-market-daily-volume-activity roundup, saying the market has bottomed "I think at 1,250 for the year," but finally concluding with a question for Ritholtz, "Where's your thesis?"

Ritholtz told him. "We have 3 major points," he said, starting with a "rounding top" from January to March, then the 2nd, a much more dubious "anytime the market's up 100% in 2 years, we tend to have a substantial correction."

Melissa Lee demanded to know how often that's happened. Ritholtz said "1933, 1938 ... there isn't a huge data set."

Finally, Ritholtz said his 3rd point is about "market externality," in which his sample size wasn't much bigger than Point 2, but included Pearl Harbor, JFK, 9/11. "There's a tendency for markets to wobble and then once they sort of restabilize, go back to doing what they were doing previously," Ritholtz said.

Stephen Weiss did too much homework for this segment

Goodness only knows why Fast Money staged a "Street Fight" debate on Cisco.

But Stephen Weiss deserves props for coming to battle well-prepared.

Weiss faced Sandeep Shyamsukha, who actually was claiming CSCO is a buy.

The graphics on this segment (see photo above) indicated Shyamsukha was at the "Nasdaq," while Weiss was in "Santa Clara, Ca."

It sure looked like Weiss was in Englewood Cliffs, and if anyone was in Santa Clara, it was likely Shyamsukha.

Not only that, but a microphone somewhere picked up an annoying level of static the whole time, adding to recent Fast Money-related sound glitches (now we're starting to appreciate why the Oscars spends about 10 minutes every year recognizing people for that kind of expertise). Shyamsukha's argument was that "The problems of the company are self-inflicted out there," and "I expect them to fix a lot of the software issues by the end of this year."

Weiss, though, countered with, "A month ago when Sandeep recommended this stock, he had a $25 target, now it's $23 target, so if we stay in the air (sic) for another 3 months, maybe we'll talk about this as a short story."

Terranova: AKAM buyable

Carter Worth pointed to earnings revisions between the mega-cap names and small-caps and pronounced mega-caps as the safest place in today's market. "The price action of small-cap is, is, is outperforming large cap over the last 1, 2, 3 months," Worth said. "But again we think that's in context of what's going on. We think it likely ends here."

Fast Money's breaking news on Howard Stern's Sirius suit proved to be a treat, as Mary Thompson delivered the scoop and lived up to her reputation as the prettiest hair on cable television. Fast Money had big trouble spelling Consol President Nick DeIuliis' name correctly (have to admit, that's one of the toughest we've faced, but we did learn the 3rd letter of the last name is "I" and not "L"), and almost as much trouble pinning him down on certain coal issues, including when Joe Terranova wondered how DeIuliis could be positive on nat gas given recent statements by the company. DeIuliis acknowledged that, but said, "Longer-term, when you look out 2, 3 years and beyond, we think again the supply and demand fundamentals are pretty strong and compelling for natural gas pricing."

Joe Terranova said in the Final Trade that Akamai can be bought here, which is the type of thing we might check up on in a week or 2.

Steve Cortes wonders if AAPL is the next CSCO

Melissa Lee in striking red Tuesday on Fast Money, brought up Apple comparisons to Microsoft and Cisco at their peaks that makes AAPL look quite reasonable.

But Steve Cortes was having none of it, saying he'd take the "flip side" of that information and wonder if AAPL might be near the 2000-ish level of MSFT and CSCO because, "Once you become the far-and-away leader, look out."

The reality Tuesday was that Tim Seymour was finding himself sparring with skeptics, insisting "I love the global auto trade here" and that there's no demand destruction yet on the part of consumers. "Go with Toyota on this weakness," he said, which Steve Cortes agreed with, but Cortes said he hates Ford.

Seymour also scrapped with Brian Kelly. "To me, global GDP is in a sweet spot," Seymour said. "What is wrong here?"

More details of Tuesday's Fast Money later, including an almost unfathomable Street Fight on Cisco.

Does this branding slogan make any sense to you?

Joe Kernen is such a seasoned business TV host that he's capable of knocking one out of the park in even the tiniest of moments, and what he said at the end of Tuesday's Strategy Session sent this page scurrying on an interesting little pop culture mission.

Kernen, guest-hosting for David Faber, was speaking with Elliot Weissbluth, co-founder of HighTower, billed as the "first open-source, advisor-owned financial services company."

There were a few things about the investment management business. The segment really took off at the end when Kernen asked Weissbluth how HighTower got its name.

Weissbluth smiled — this is apparently a favorite subject — and said that Steve Hayden, who's the vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, would say that "perspective is worth a hundred IQ points," and so Weissbluth and his team sought a name that represented an "above-the-fray view of the markets."

Now, first of all, we don't doubt for a moment that Hayden says that.

What's odd is that Hayden, a marketing expert, hasn't capitalized on his own term.

A series of Google searches found 3 individuals associated with the term (and that's with either "hundred" or "100").

The most prominent declaration is from author Mark Albion, in his book: More Than Money: Questions Every MBA Needs to Answer. (Side note: Is there any reason other than money to get an MBA? Ah, that's for another time.)

Albion writes that one Peter Patch, a management consultant and Stanford MBA, spoke to Albion's class and said "Perspective is worth 100 IQ points."

Then there's Kerry C. Stackpole, CAE, and CEO of management consulting firm Neoterica Partners of McLean, Va. Stackpole has a 6-point article about improving corporate board performance that was picked up in a few places on the Web. Referring to board diversity, Point 6, it says in a bit of a variation, "The difference in perspective is worth a hundred IQ points."

Finally, we found blogger Per Håkansson (that looks like a great Norwegian name), who noted in 2004 that "one of my old mentors always said the perspective is worth 100 IQ points."

Now, it's time to play a little media skeptic here ... honestly, we don't quite get what this slogan means. And apparently used by a marketing kingpin, it seems like a bust.

Is Hayden referring to public perception of a firm such as HighTower? Surely he doesn't mean the public gains 100 IQ points by seeing a corporate name.

What he likely means is that the public might somehow attribute 100 extra IQ points to a firm with the "correct" name. Would those 100 points have to be shared among all the firm's members, or does it simply appear to the public that everyone in the firm leaves even the Mensa gang in the dust?

That seems a reach.

Does Hayden actually mean that someone with a 90 IQ is equal to someone with a 190 IQ provided that 90-IQ person has the type of perspective that the 190 doesn't have? Possibly, but 1) that would have nothing to do with a firm's name, and 2) "100 points" seems a major reach there; someone could argue Charlie Sheen has seen more of the truth of the world than Sergey Brin, but they're not 100 points apart. (Actually, then again, maybe they are.)

Does changing your perspective give you 100 extra IQ points? No, changing your "perspective" does not give you 100 extra IQ points. It would give your brain a different file of information in place of something else; for example, anything gained by re-analyzing something about your board of directors from a different angle merely replaces other short-term knowledge your brain was holding, such as some obscure chapter of The Art of War or Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, etc.

Either Hayden was just linked on national TV to a professional embarrassment of a clunker ... or he's actually so good at this branding stuff, he even managed to convince someone as successful and savvy as Weissbluth that it makes sense.

Take your pick.

Weissbluth also had some interesting commentary to offer on the business of independent financial advisers, fielding a question from Gary Kaminsky about the difficulty with which financial pros can change shops and how they complain about it.

Weissbluth said it's easier now, for 3 reasons: Protocol, thanks to a "Geneva Convention" (sic, no "s") that apparently says if people play by the rules, firms won't interfere with movement, that the custodians of the accounts are "very sophisticated" with transition teams, and that the "broker actually does very little to handle all the paperwork."

Welcome to the show,
Kayla Tau-shee

CNBC is giving new hire Kayla Tausche, who looks like early Michelle Phillips/Susan Dey, as much exposure as possible (why not, given that Trish Regan bolted), and Tuesday meant a short stint on the Fast Money Halftime Report.

One thing we've gotta say ... Tausche on her Twitter account writes "It's pronounced TAO-shee."

But that's confusing, because it's not 100% clear if those first 3 letters are supposed to sound like "Tau" or "Tay-o."

Melissa Lee, in new youthful-looking glam hairstyle with lovely red V-neck dress on Tuesday, guessed the way we would, introducing Tausche as "Tau-shee."

But other than that, Tausche didn't exactly get a warm welcome. Basically taking a page from Kate Kelly, she reported on the firms involved in the AT&T deal and said the most interesting thing is "some of these high-profile assignments being won by independent financial advisers."

But after Tausche spoke, the Fast gang left her with moments of dead air, prompting Tausche to look away, until Melissa Lee finally followed up with quite a tough question for a reporter, whether the boutique firms represent a "crowded trade."

Tausche said she doesn't know, but that there's definitely encroachment in the market by new players.

It may not have been worth 100 IQ points, but that's perspective.

Edwards: ‘Stupid’ to release SPR

Patty Edwards bluntly told the president on Tuesday's Halftime Report where she stands on the SPR.

"I think he's stupid if he actually releases the oil," Edwards said. "This is not an extraordinary time."

(But why would he have to release anything after Saudi Arabia gave its assurances it'll just pump as much as needed to make up the Libya shortfall?)

Edwards said she likes SWN and CBI.

Her colleagues Tuesday were basically all in the oil-up camp. "It looks to me like oil could break out here," said Joe Terranova, while Brian Kelly agreed and said with Libya, "you're looking at a long-term problem there." Steve Cortes said "This Yemen situation certainly bears watching."

Patty has subscribed to Netflix, Amazon Prime

Patty Edwards also explained Tuesday why she's not high on NFLX. "I've had a Netflix subscription, I've got Amazon Prime, I've rented from both places, and frankly, at the same valuation, if I've gotta choose between the 2, I'm going with Amazon," Edwards said.

Brian Kelly said he's buying Netflix puts — the September $200 puts, after being pressed by Melissa Lee to reveal — because it's a "high margin business ... where margins are compressing."

Lee and Kelly also spent some time on an apparently debunked rumor in the forex markets (Kelly said these types of rumors often happen in these circles) about some Irish bank default, which Kelly called an "erroneous type of rumor" that "didn't make a lot of sense."

Volcano chief Scott Huennekens rattled off what he thinks the analyst community thinks about his exposure to northern Japan, but concluded with "We're not speaking to any earnings guidance."

Steve Cortes said he's a Steve Perry fan who likes the fact the Credit Suisse Netflix report was titled "Don't Stop Believing."

Weak showing for Herb

Herb Greenberg charged onto Tuesday's Strategy Session with the mission of identifying 3 companies that might be takeover targets (man, wouldn't Raj Rajaratnam have been interested in that information ... or maybe it's all public knowledge anyway).

Greenberg said his criteria was companies in the $1-$10 billion range with price-book ratio lag, relative low debt to equity ratios, strong interest coverage, sufficient cash flow, and trading at the low end of the 52-week range.

The 3 names he came up with were Marvell, Mattel and Pentair, the latter of which he called "raider meat."

Joe Kernen suggested those to Don Drapkin, who didn't seem terribly interested, but Kernen misstated one symbol as PNTA, prompting a round of chuckles.

Mattel quite frankly seemed like an embarrassing Greenberg bust, as Drapkin wondered aloud if it was restricted from selling Barbie in China, and someone else spoke about once trying to combine with Hasbro but being rejected on antitrust grounds.

Greenberg also declared that tech is a terrible sector for trying a hostile deal, even though Drapkin countered, "I think Oracle did a few."

Drapkin said if corporate America perceives antitrust environment as lax, more managements will make hostile bids.

Gary Kaminsky identified 4 pieces of the puzzle to the stock market returning to 2006-07 form (not that that's necessarily a good thing). Kaminsky said the last piece is hostile takeovers; "get that, maybe we're back to 2006."

No ‘plain vanilla panic’ yet

Peter Boockvar made one of those dicey comments Tuesday on The Strategy Session that can come back to haunt.

"I'm very nervous actually about the U.S. stock market over the next couple months," because of Europe, Boockvar said.

"I think if the Portuguese government falls in the next couple of days, they will have a bailout," he also said.

But Joe Kernen also brought in Thomas Lee, a Strategy Session regular who tracks with Gary Kaminsky money manager underperformance, and who said recently 1,250 would be about the short-term bottom, which Kernen said "took nerve" because he didn't want to say something stronger on a "G-rated show."

Lee, unlike Boockvar, was more optimistic, saying "We haven't seen hedge funds increase shorting ... and we haven't seen plain vanilla panic."

Kate Kelly for the 2nd straight delivered news of interest only to hard-core bankers, saying JPMorgan is "putting out feelers as we speak" and could actually launch real meetings as early as this week on farming out the AT&T loan.

[Monday, March 21, 2011]

Fast Money catching up with Citigroup $5 ‘floor’ fallacy

Steve Cortes finally said on Fast Money Monday what this page has been saying for weeks — that the notion of Citigroup having a $5 "floor" is about as reliable as Cortes' own Notre-Dame-wins-the-NCAA-Championship prediction.

"I think the world got so excited at Citi above $5. I think a lot of very bad longs got trapped up there," Cortes said, and let's give him some props for telling the truth.

"I'm actually shorting Citi, and I added to shorts today," Cortes said. (This writer is long C.)

Cortes' flying-wedge brand of commentary Monday just managed to upstage the return of Tim Seymour, who, as he's prone to do, unleashed an outlook on Citigroup that actually was contradictory by the time it finally ended, implying if you think the institutions will jump in because of the reverse split you're nuts, but if you think they may buy it for international exposure, you're smart.

Worth the wait,
if just barely

Chart expert Jeff DeGraaf, plagued initially by a bad mike (which wasn't nearly as bad as the obnoxious whiny electronic sound around the show's 15-minute mark), said on Monday's Fast Money that there isn't a "corresponding shakeout in credit" to accompany the market tumble of recent weeks, and thus, instead of a full-blown disaster, "it just becomes a correction."

Steve Cortes then said Treasurys are doing well, but high-yield has been down in the last month, and "isn't that a big warning sign."

"If that's a warning sign, that's really early," DeGraaf said, dismissing the notion.

Invite Steve Cortes to dinner, receive a treat

Copper discussions on Fast Money are generally boring, because someone will always point to FCX as the proxy and someone else will always say something like, "YEAH, BUT SEE THIS IS A HUGE INDICATOR FOR CHINA."

On Monday, Steve Cortes waded into the subject, like he waded into just about every other subject Monday, saying "I don't show up to a dinner party without a bottle of wine," and he doesn't show up on Fast Money without a chart, this time comparing copper with CAT and saying copper should be up with Japan rebuilding prospects.

"I didn't know that Boone's Farm was actually a wine," said Tim Seymour, rejuvenated from some time off, in one of the better lines recently.

Stephen Weiss said of China, "They're the best traders I've ever seen."

Guy Adami was focused on another commodity. "I still think that silver the commodity pushes well north of 40 bucks," Adami said.

Brian Kelly said "Sell the industrial metals, and you buy the precious metals."

Guy Adami: Right about something

Guy Adami for a long time now has been very accurate.

Not about the direction of the S&P 500.

But Marisa Tomei.

Tomei remains downright adorable in "Lincoln Lawyer." Now, is "Lincoln Lawyer" really any good? No, "Lincoln Lawyer" basically sucks. And it basically has nothing to do with a Lincoln (though the "lawyer" part is correct). Not the worst movie you've ever seen, and a decent job by Matthew McConaughey, but a waste of time.

Adami held up his end of the bargain Monday by saying, "I think we fail here and probably sift down a little bit tomorrow."

He nearly scored some extra credit with a great reference to the Sidney Moncrief how-high-could-he-possibly-get-off-the-floor photo that once graced a leading sports mag, but he forgot the "s" at the end of the last word. "One of the best Sports Illustrated covers of all time. Sorry. High on the Hog," Adami said.

Seymour: After nuke fallout is ‘digested,’ not gonna affect Japan

Brian Kelly, increasingly skeptical about the economy these days (first there was the aluminum-as-replacement-for-copper theory which has been kind of quiet for a while), said it's "crazy" to think earnings will suddenly revert to what they have been in recent quarters amid the oil shock, commodity increases and Japan problems.

Tim Seymour challenged that, saying Japan's a big tragedy, but "when people have digested the nuclear fallout, it, it, it doesn't seem like it's gonna affect Japan," and that the S&P 500 at "13x times looks actually a little cheap."

Guy Adami said there's been "big capitulation" in CCJ, so you've got a reference point for taking a chance in this name.

Analyst Michael Worms said of nuke plants, "In the near-term, I don't see any changes."

Actually, ‘III’ is a great movie, simply for the ‘Prediction?’ ‘Yes, prediction.’ ‘Pain,’ and other memorable lines

Rarely does a Fast Money panelist call out a fellow panelist's prepackaged thesis as inadequate, but Stephen Weiss' curious description of Nike and Tiffany Monday merited every bit of skepticism it got from Tim Seymour.

"Who is in the urban apparel CPI, and who is not? Tiffany or Nike? It's a little, it's a little confusing," Seymour quipped.

Weiss said the conclusion is, "Commodity inflation has not gone through to the consumer."

Steve Cortes, meanwhile, couldn't resist a Brag Trade, though he did qualify it with "lucky" (title of an entry on the official CNBCfix Top Ten Songs of All Time List), so take that for what it's worth. "I am long dollar/yen, I was lucky enough to be able to buy it in that crazy dip, uh, last Wednesday night," Cortes said.

He also predicted, "QE will stop at 2, just as 'Rocky' by the way should've stopped at 'Rocky 2'."

Will Power: Not so ‘confident’

Guy Adami on Monday's Fast Money cited, without fully attributing, The Strategy Session as part of the reason he thinks AT&T's T-Mobile acquisition is a go. "I think the deal goes through. If you listened to the banker this morning, he was pretty confident that it would," Adami said.

Yes. The banker said "confident" (or "confidence") 7 times in 6 minutes (see below).

And if he's so confident, why does he have to say it 7 times in 6 minutes?

Analyst Will Power, on the other hand, said the deal will take "at least 12 to 18 months" to be consummated, and he's not sure there's more than a 50/50 chance it'll happen.

Stephen Weiss said "Sprint has no Plan B now" and that Verizon won't buy it.

Steve Cortes said "I do not like AMT here at all."

Getting Pete Najarian to actually render an opinion is next to impossible, but Craig Moffett accomplished it

Pete Najarian discussed on Monday's Halftime Report the "absolutely exploding" $5.50 May strike in Sprint calls, which consists apparently of buyers thinking Monday's selloff was too steep.

Of course, Pete didn't say whether scooping up those calls sounds like a good idea. Stephen Weiss strongly suggested it's not, suggesting something (we think) along the lines of Sprint needing a deal above that price in a short time frame to make those options pay off, while the AT&T deal wouldn't even yet be finalized.

But then Pete sort of defended that type of buying, saying, "I think sometimes this is lost on the whole options community as well. When you're looking at options, the stock does not actually have to get to that level for those options to actually perform."

So then analyst Craig Moffett, who admitted unfortunately recently upgrading Sprint, came on and said he was "scratching my head" over those Sprint options.

Moments later, Pete revealed, "I kind of scratched my head as well."

Huh???? So he's reporting it all as basic news, then even defending why people would buy them, until someone calls it out as nutty, and then Pete finally tells it like it is.

Talk about buryin' the lede.

Moffett said, "This is a really good deal for AT&T if it gets approved," and pointing to purported $40 billion in synergies over time vs. a $39 billion price, said, "They're effectively getting T-Mobile for free if this deal gets done."

He also said, "I don't think Verizon wants to step in here and go after Sprint. So the acquisition story for Sprint is taken off the table for a very long time."

David Rosenberg: Still bearish

David Rosenberg, who's been predicting economic disaster several times since the March 2009 rally, stuck to that theme on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report, saying, "The 1 thing that's really captured, uh, my attention that nobody seems to be talking about ... average weekly earnings uh are negative now 4 months in a row."

Rosenberg also said the payroll tax cut has been holding the consumer up.

We've heard so many times on CNBC about "this is really/finally it for the consumer," we've lost track.

CNBC stars get strange looks sometimes when making a point

Pete Najarian said Monday that all might be swell if bank stocks take off. "When and if they really do, that's 1 more catalyst for the market," Najarian concluded.

Melissa Lee, though, in sharp, chic new charcoal jacket, said Friday might've been a sell-the-news day for banks, and that when she brought that up Friday, "People looked at me like I had 3 heads."

Steve Grasso disagreed with Pete Najarian's enthusiasm for a rally in financials. "They're in for a long haul in financials," Grasso said, saying he's long a few banks, but he's "kind of paring off and selling my Citi ... because the action going into 1-for-10 stock splits is, is not that conducive for higher prices in these names."

Brian Kelly told Lee he was also getting that 3-headed look last week, cited a slowing economy and flattening yield curve as a reason to bet against banks. Grasso challenged the yield curve theory, saying the market knows it was unusually high, and, "Did you think you could maintain that forever?"

"That's what the markets say," Kelly sputtered.

No. 386 settled it with a shirt joke, which drew a good rebuttal from Kelly.

Grasso revealed, though, that "I'm seeing guys still chase the market higher," but he sees 1,303 as a good time to pause around the 50-day level, and that 1,294 and 1,287 are levels of support.

Stephen Weiss said, "I expect there to be fear of pre-announcements."

Dave Barger = too modest

Minutes after kind of tanking with JPMorgan's Jim Woolery, Steve Liesman gave JetBlue boss Dave Barger something of an alley-oop pass — not a perfect one, but one that could've been caught, and then dunked after a landing — but Barger failed to capitalize.

Liesman spouted off Gary Kaminsky's resume as an airline analyst but said all he cares about is the traveling part, and "it's not fun out there for any of us," and what if anything can Barger do about that.

Instead of touting a hip new feature, Barger started with something along the lines of I feel your pain and I appreciate the comment, but the first thing he mentioned was investing in a "next-generation air-traffic-control system."

So if you're as disgruntled a flier as Liesman, probably better expect more years of pain.

Disappointingly, Liesman didn't catch fire until the end of the show, scattershooting on the Fed and then noting that David Faber, who's on vacation out West, is absent the day the AT&T deal goes down and that's too bad because Faber's actually "built to cover this deal."

"He's like rolling over in his hot tub right now," Liesman said, telling Faber he could get the "broadband in your hot tub" and follow the deal that way. Liesman's sudden spate of humor/inside material so caught Gary Kaminsky off guard, Kaminsky was momentarily speechless heading into the commercial break.

Jim Woolery says ‘confidence’
7 times in 6 minutes

Skeptics might've wondered Monday morning if the reason they were watching Randall Stephenson and Rene Obermann in an early Squawk Box blitz was the companies' intent to get their story out to the business community and general public before any regulatory critics start to elbow their way in.

But according to JPMorgan U.S. M&A co-head Jim Woolery, such skepticism is unnecessary.

Because Woolery managed to say "confidence" — or its related "confident" — more than once-a-minute a few hours later on The Strategy Session.

And in the process, managed to lay out a series of pro-deal arguments for the regulators, the biggest of which figures to be a (strong) suggestion that the transaction should be evaluated on what happens in all the local markets and presumably not the overall level of control and influence the combined company would have.

Woolery said "This isn't their first rodeo at AT&T," and "The thoroughness of the preparation here by the AT&T team cannot be overemphasized," and "I think this will be a watershed moment."

And he also said things like "JPMorgan has confidence in, in the future," and "I think Jamie Dimon has a lot of confidence in the future."

Eventually — and note that despite all the declarations of confidence, he felt compelled to attach the words "I think" to the beginning of the sentence — Woolery summarized the transaction as such: "I think this deal's gonna go through."

Having "confidence" that he'd successfully tackled the regulation angle, Woolery breezed through the other possible pickle, investor wariness, telling Gary Kaminsky, "You don't have to have a hockey stick recovery for this deal to work. I mean the synergies here are, are almost- they're overwhelming."

"There was no- never an auction process here," Woolery did allow, saying the deal was "done at the CEO level."

Woolery also said "future" a bunch of times, but we didn't count.

Sure, his wife would prefer a cleaner garage over the commissions from this deal

Steve Liesman, guest-hosting for David Faber, managed to say "confidence" once Monday, but unfortunately the sharp Fed watcher who's normally good for a spirited policy debate was far more interested in Jim Woolery's weekend household chores than any serious AT&T regulatory issues.

This despite the fact colleague Kate Kelly set the table for him, explaining the $3 billion reverse breakup fee is a "nod to the regulatory environment, which is formidable."

Instead of following up on that angle, Liesman merely celebrated the fact Kelly was able to sit at the same table as Jim Woolery, something Liesman said she could "only dream about when you were at the Journal," even though when she was at the Journal it's entirely possible she might've talked to Woolery by herself on the phone the night before.

Liesman did manage to get Woolery to admit "I didn't get any things done for my wife" over the weekend, prompting Liesman to offer to call Woolery's wife to ask if she needed anything done that might've been missed over the weekend, such as cleaning out the garage, which Woolery said he would appreciate if Liesman came over and cleaned, and Liesman revealed, "I'm really good at that actually too."

Gary Kaminsky noted that the tower companies are market losers Monday. Kate Kelly, who also didn't push the regulatory angles but merely asked if/when JPMorgan will farm out the $20 billion loan, noted the AT&T deal is "only about the 27th-largest" ever.

Liesman didn't even do The Strategy Session introductory and commercial-break voice-overs that David Faber usually does.

[Friday, March 18, 2011]

Joe Terranova comes up with a new one for Benjamin Salisbury

Nuke-industry expert Benjamin Salisbury spoke on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report about the still-intact long-term demand worldwide for nuclear power, when Joe Terranova made a point about "nuclear capacity" in this country being increased only through existing plants, and asking Salisbury, "Is that a safety risk?"

"Is that a safety risk?" Salisbury responded, dumbfounded.

"Yes, we're, we're, basically we're running more power at older plants," Terranova insisted.

"I don't know if that increases the safety profile," Salisbury said, shrugging this one off on the NRC, which he said "keeps pretty good tabs on that."

Steve Grasso said he bought some Dominion Resources and that the nuclear selloff has been "overdone to the downside."

‘Fragmented,’ yes;
‘confusion,’ not so sure

Rarely does a CEO come on CNBC and say a business trend is not beneficial to his company, and Interpublic's Michael Roth held up his end of the bargain on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

Patty Edwards asked Roth about a lot of movement of traditional broadcast advertising to cable and the Web and how that affects his company.

It's a "great question," Roth said, explaining, "whenever there is confusion out there in terms of a fragmented media opportunity, that's good for us, because someone has to advise our clients in terms of where they spend their dollars, and and, we're sort of agnostic in terms of where they spend their dollars."

Rare goof by Mary Thompson

Patty Edwards, who found herself commenting Friday on a lot of things she's not actively buying, explained on the Fast Money Halftime Report why bank dividends matter.

"A 1.5% dividend yield is not why you are buying these banks," Edwards said. "You are buying it for the buybacks. You are buying it for the raises, next year or the year after."

But Edwards took pains to clarify she's been staying on the sidelines of major U.S. banks but likes BMO instead; "I think it's a cleaner story personally."

Joe Terranova said to stick with the banks here. Steve Grasso said the bank dividends are another reason to dip a toe in and get paid to wait. Jon Najarian said "I think there's gonna be an extension to the upside from here for these banks," and that "they are selling calls against it now."

Mary Thompson, as she did on The Strategy Session, got to deliver a few of the bank dividend updates. However — yikes — Mary unfortunately twice botched the first name of Rajat Gupta, instead incorrectly referring to a certain HPQ bigwig.

Dr. J: Wait on WLT

Patty Edwards may not have had Eggos for breakfast Friday, but she was doing her share of waffling on the Fast Money Halftime Report on the subject of gold, after Melissa Lee reported Goldman Sachs is pushing a $1,480 3-month price.

"If it gets to 1,480, great, I'm still in it, but I don't know if I would be buying it just to get it to that level at this point," Edwards said.

OK ... um ... we'll take that as an unenthusiastic long.

Jon Najarian said you can buy steam coal now, but to wait on metallurgical names like WLT. Steve Grasso said, "Coal is not overbought yet."

Najarian said someone is doing a CSCO options play for January 2012. "They bought the 22 calls and they sold the 17.50 calls," Najarian said, resulting in "Cisco calls being sold 2 to 1 vs. calls being bought today."

Hopefully it’s not riding on
‘Battle: Los Angeles’

The Strategy Session on Friday couldn't have started off with a better treat — Mary Thompson delivering the dividend announcements from the major banks.

That led to a chat about dividend-paying stocks with dividend fund manager Jill Evans, who said that in terms of the banks, "the market was anticipating this," but the final piece of the dividend story will be when CEO confidence returns.

Evans trumpeted a not-terribly-familiar name, Seadrill, saying "it has the youngest fleet, and they have an 8% dividend yield."

David Faber asked if that kind of performance is sustainable. Evans said yes. "They just initiated a dividend in 2009. So we think this is actually just beginning," she said.

Evans then recommended CNK, but after Faber questioned the growth and costs of 3-D, somehow managed to throw viewers a "Mulholland Drive" type of thesis, first saying she liked it because it's a "U.S.-centric name" but then emphasizing "Cinemark has 30% in Latin America."

Evans thankfully shrugged off Cisco's dividend. "It's been out there for a couple of quarters," she said, saying the problem with tech cash hordes is a "real-men-don't-pay-dividends-in-Silicon-Valley attitude."

Gary Kaminsky, showing off his rally sneakers, reminded viewers that over time, "50 to 60% of equity returns are dividends and distributions."

Didn’t think a day ago we’d be doing an item on Couche-Tard

Bulldog Investors chief Phil Goldstein spent a decent chunk of Friday's Strategy Session trying to explain why Casey's General Store is a buy based on some kind of agitation thesis.

And evidently failed to convince David Faber.

"This company was put in play about a year ago with an offer from Couche-Tard," Goldstein said, before explaining that it also rejected a friendly offer from 7-Eleven that was higher.

Faber noted the stock traded above Couche-Tard's offer, a sign investors apparently want more than bidders may be willing to pay, but also challenged Goldstein about the size of his own position and asserting Bulldog is too small to grab control of Casey's.

Goldstein apparently thinks by leading the charge, enough biggies will jump aboard.

"We take a graduated approach," he said. "We could run a proxy contest, but the main advantage here we see is that the shareholder base, it's not just us, it's about 80% institutionally owned. There's a lot of disappointed shareholders ... so I got a lot of big brothers back in, in back of us."

But Gary Kaminsky got Goldstein to acknowledge Casey's management is doing a good job, which Kaminsky called "unusual" in an activist-shareholder type of situation.

"This is a rare situation," Goldstein admitted.

So ... hmmmm ... he thinks Casey's is doing a good job ... but is actually worth more ... but can't get anyone yet to pay enough.

This one looks like a Crock Pot, slow-cooking type of situation.

[Thursday, March 17, 2011]

Netflix short makes desperate
plea to ‘investor-land’

Netflix short Len Brecken proved Thursday to be one of the more colorful recent Fast Money guests, but when it came to discussing his position on the Fast Line, Melissa Lee was clearly in a show-me state, and we don't mean Missouri.

Lee, in what may have been her No. 1 outfit of the year in striking blue top and black skirt, asked Brecken when he initiated a short position. "Last fall around September," Brecken said.

"How is it working out for you at this point," Lee said, and contrary to what that looks like, it didn't really come across as shockingly sarcastic.

Brecken acknowledged, "Obviously the stock is higher," but insisted people don't understand the "magnitude" of content costs and pleaded for a chance to make a point he says has not been made.

"This company," Brecken said, including HBO and CBS deals that have yet to close, "has about $1.4 billion in off-balance-sheet content obligations. It will take them virtually penetring (sic) 80% of the U.S. broadband market to make that back."

Brecken then sort of questioned if anyone else has a clue: "Does that make any sense to anyone out there in investor-land? Is anyone listening? 'Cause that's what I've been saying," he said.

Guy Adami respectfully took the other side of the trade, asking Brecken how he counters Goldman Sachs' recommendation and what his ultimate price target is.

Brecken said "I've talked to people in Hollywood" and that the basis for the GS report was barriers to competition, which, in a slightly twisted way, Brecken apparently claims is a bad thing for Netflix simply because it is paying too much to create that barrier.

"The avalanche of amortization," Brecken said, means "the math doesn't work." According to Lee, Brecken forecasts a price under $70 within 12 months.

Jon Najarian was caught visibly shaking his head and mouthing "no" to Brecken's comments just before Adami's question, then concluded the session by pointing to the success of Reed Hastings and saying "I would still be loath to bet against him."

We're thinking, under the category of "price is truth" (or something like that), Brecken is wrong; obviously other smart people have looked at the same numbers and reached different conclusions. However, there's no embarrassment in being on the wrong side of this one (as there is with Cisco); not only did Whitney Tilson just recently bail, but way back when in the early days of Fast Money, Mr. Admiral Eric Bolling once laughed off a Dylan Ratigan interview with Hastings and called the stock a "dog."

3rd time in a week,
Guy Adami says ‘tomorrow’ very critical to market performance

Evidently, Guy Adami's endless "tomorrow may finally settle the issue of stock market direction" proclamations have apparently finally started warping The Negotiator's train of thought on Fast Money.

Thursday he was at it again, saying the market had a nice rally but he thinks it's just a temporary recovery in a bearish trend (that part was fine), before saying "a close below 1,275 again tomorrow, then we're probably back north of 1,300 next week" (that part was downright loopy).

Whichever direction you think the market may go, take heart: "Tomorrow's gonna go a long way to answer that question," Adami assured.

RV boss: Consider yourself lucky it’s under $8 a gallon

Winnebago chief Robert Olson told Fast Money in a truncated, last-minute segment Thursday that the impact of higher gasoline prices on his business is somehow "unknown at this time" ... but compared with Europe's $8-a-gallon-plus, we're getting quite a deal in the U.S.

Karen Finerman asked Olson how easy it is now to get RV financing. "It's starting to get better," Olson said, while Joe Terranova and Guy Adami noticeably smirked and/or chuckled.

Scaramucci: CVS could hit $46 within 18 months

Rarely do 2 expert money managers view the same news story as having opposite effects.

But that's precisely what happened on Fast Money Thursday when Karen Finerman asked Anthony Scaramucci about Medco controversies with Calpers.

Scaramucci said it might cast doubts over the industry, but "I'm gonna assume that these guys are ethical" and that it will ultimately result in just a civil fine.

Finerman said oh, she was actually thinking it's a boost for a Medco competitor such as CVS.

Scaramucci said yeah, but it could bring excessive scrutiny to the whole sector.

Scaramucci said, "This stock should trade somewhere in the next 12 to 18 months in the 42- to 46-dollar range," based partly on "major cost saves in the company."

Finerman, who has touted CVS since last year, said "You're preaching to the choir," but also presented the theory that the market doesn't like the combination of PBM and CVS stores even though she sees synergies, and a potential breakup could be a catalyst.

Worth: Buy tech, even though we think financials are better

Carter Worth compared the recent selloff to other selloffs of the past 12 months, found it to be right in line, and declared "that's what makes it healthy."

Curiously, he then recommended the XLK, around its 150-day moving average, even though he later told Joe Terranova he thinks a different sector will lead the pack: "I think financials are gonna be it; that's where we're betting big," Worth said.

Regardless, Worth thinks the longer-term bull uptrend is intact; "My guess is we're OK."

Worth inexplicably called CSCO for at least the 2nd time "so bad that it's good" and actually recommended people "take a shot on the long side."

Guy Adami joked, "On the so bad it's good, that's Andy Busch's shirt-tie combination."

Andy Busch: Steve Liesman
‘misunderstanding’ the yen

Steve Liesman reported on the fluid situation of yen developments on Thursday's Fast Money and basically tried to douse the repatriation argument as though it were an out-of-control nuclear reactor.

"The idea that there could actually be repatriation strikes me as, as, as, fundamentally nonsense I have to tell you," Liesman said, insisting no one's going to be forking over cash in a couple days to hurry up and rebuild.

Andy Busch then took a crack at what he called Liesman's "misunderstanding of what's going on," which is, in fact, according to Busch, "analogous to what happened in 2008" based on corporate survival retrenching and will result in long-term strengthening.

Liesman then tried to draw a middle ground, saying if that's the thesis, that's fine, but he disagrees that there will be repatriation en masse to satisfy immediate insurance concerns.

Guy Adami told Liesman that despite his theory, the move is what it is, and "Once that's in motion, it's very hard to stop it."

Liesman said not to expect BoJ fireworks Thursday; "They don't go to Defcon 5 in the first step."

Brian Kelly explained he's short yen/long dollar, but at one point he explained it with a chart that quickly made the eyes glaze over.

Kate Kelly said hedge funds are betting via CDSes that TEPCO is in trouble. Karen Finerman remarked that early in the BP stock debacle, the stock seemed way oversold, which ultimately it probably kinda was, but the plummet went on for a lot longer.

Adami: $285 within realm of possibility for AAPL

Joe Terranova said Thursday he couldn't really commit to AAPL; "I'm still in a holding pattern."

But it was Guy Adami who reiterated "285 is not out of the realm of possibility," saying the stock has seen a few craterings even during its glorious run of the last several years. "I do think that the tape is broken down," he said.

Karen Finerman asked Joe Terranova if he thinks oil is all about the dollar and not about the Middle East. Terranova told Finerman, "I think oil is all about speculation."

Jon Najarian spoke briefly about coal and said "BTU is the best because of the steam coal exposure," but also mentioned ACI underperforming in the same space; "watch that one."

Finerman spoke about Nike and said a lot of elite retailers have been able to raise prices. "This is ... unusual," Finerman said.

Fast Money pundits give amateurs no reason to watch the show

Steve Cortes barreled his way onto the Fast Money Halftime Report set Thursday — then tried to muscle out any non-professionals who might be trying to play his game.

"I love this volatility," Cortes declared, but "don't try this at home."

So in other words, don't do with your money what people on the show suggest you do.

(Then again, a lot of potential viewers were likely watching basketball games anyway, so probably not a big loss.)

Cortes said, "I've slept very litte, and I've traded a ton. I've not traded this actively in fact since the Lehman crisis." Explaining he's a "disbeliever of this bounce-back," and that he's short in the financial space. "I think Citi is the most vulnerable there," he said.

Steve Grasso asked if the yield curve wasn't enough to make banks hum because it's only been softening from extraordinary levels. Cortes said no; "the anomaly was how steep the curve got."

Cortes also predicted "eventually we're gonna see a huge yen decline ... yesterday I shorted FXI against the S&P."

For all those at home envious because they can't trade in these volatile markets like Steve Cortes, know that Dennis Gartman basically agreed with Cortes but also counted himself out. "I'm afraid to trade yen at all ... this is not a place for the public to be trading," Gartman said.

Grasso: Establishing power line
could ring up 1,300 on S&P

Guy Adami once again was having none of Thursday's neat little rally, suggesting the roughly 1,276 S&P level during the Fast Money Halftime Report could be a ceiling.

"It is an impressive rally but I think it's just a bounce back, I think it's a short-covering rally in what will become a larger bear market," Adami said.

Steve Grasso expanded that analysis, pointing to 1,281 and 1,249 and saying "Those are your wides," but he cautioned those looking to short that if there's news out of Japan about a power line being connected to the nuke plants, "that would rally us to 1,300 pretty quickly."

Jon Najarian said "I agree completely with Grasso" and said the market could make a push toward 1,300.

Property & casualty analyst Brian Meredith said "we're getting close to a bottom here," and after Guy Adami asked a great question about historically how long is it after a major disaster for the insurance stocks to bottom, said it's generally a couple weeks.

Adami curiously then said insurer stocks could well be "at the inflection point today," even though he thinks we're in a "larger bear market," which presumably wouldn't give much life to property and casualty stocks even if the Japan fears subside.

Jon Najarian said he hoped to own BRK.B around $80 but couldn't, but jumped in anyway. "I own the stock here," he said. (This writer is long BRK.B)

CIO indicates Calpers
is not paying 2 and 20

David Faber asked Calpers CIO Joseph Dear on Thursday's Strategy Session about alternative investments in hedge funds and private equity.

Faber asked Dear, "Are you happy paying 2 and 20?"

"David, I don't, the 2 and 20, I mean, where that came from; we want our partners to make money when we make money, we do not want them to make a profit on the management fee we pay," Dear said.

Gary Kaminsky pointed out that for Calpers, "7 and three-quarters is the bogey that they're gonna try to achieve." Dear acknowledged, "It has been the return objective for Calpers since 2003, so we're not new at this."

Too many reverse mergers
for Greenberg to count

Herb Greenberg, who seems tireless on his reporting beats of for-profit education and Chinese reverse mergers among a few other sectors, said Thursday on The Strategy Session that when it comes to Chinese reverse mergers, there's a limit even for him.

"There's so much right now in this space David, I have to tell you, I cannot keep up with it on a day-by-day basis," Greenberg said.

Rebecca Patterson said "I think intervention is likely" in the yen, but the question is, does the Bank of Japan go it alone. "Coordinated intervention I think could lift dollar/yen on a more sustained basis," Patterson said, adding it "doesn't happen very often; that's why it works."

Scott Cohn briefly played some recordings by prosecutors in the Rajaratnam trial that, as far as we could tell (and props to David Faber for mentioning this), hardly sound like the type of thing that should be incarcerable.

But then Cohn got thrown a curveball when he and the Strategy gang were expecting to see a mugshot of Rajat Gupta on the screen, but got HP board member Rajiv Gupta instead. "That is not him by the way," Cohn said.

Gary Kaminsky said it's time for Wall Street money managers and pundits to drop the "uncertainty" refrain. "To say uncertainty is causing the market to go down, that's just an excuse. Laziness," Kaminsky said.

[Wednesday, March 16, 2011]

Nothing gets a panel going
like Senator Schumer

As soon as Joe Terranova on Wednesday brought up Chuck Schumer's call to release barrels from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the Fast Money traders couldn't elbow each other out of the way fast enough to say something.

"That did nothing to knock down the price of oil," Terranova insisted.

Maybe it's "a statement on Senator Schumer," offered Melissa Lee.

"It is a statement because it wasn't, it wasn't put into place for that," said Guy Adami. "It wasn't put into place because gas prices go too high, you know, because it's too expensive for us to drive, that's not why the SPR was created. So we should cut it, and go back and read why they put it in place in the first place."

Imagine that: Some traders trying to exploit media reports

And there's gambling in the casino.

Jon Najarian reported on Wednesday's Fast Money that there was heavy put-buying in several big indices on Wednesday morning, just before "it started hitting on Twitter that they repurposed some of that information" on the European nuke guy's comments on a catastrophe. "Next thing you know, Dow Jones and Reuters put it out as if it was new news again," Najarian said, even though "this was 8 hours old."

So either someone is remarkably adept at predicting Dow Jones and Reuters news cycles ... or suspicious trading hasn't exactly ground to a halt with the Raj Rajaratnam trial.

"Fear-mongering is on a level I've not seen before and some of it's suspicious," Najarian said.

Lessee ... Dow swinging hundreds of points a day ... radiation updates in Japan about every 8 hours ... daily unrest in Bahrain.

Sounds like a scurrilous trader's dream.

Not Chernobyl, but ...

Tom Drolet, quickly becoming the Fast Money nuclear expert, said Wednesday they've gotta restore power to the troubled reactors in Japan.

"This situation can be stabilized," Drolet told Melissa Lee. "It's not getting catastrophic, it is not a Chernobyl, but this is getting worse ... power to the site is No. 1."

Anthony Scaramucci said some hedge funds are "getting long dollars, and short yen" in a contrarian play. "Now why are they doing that? They expect quantitative easing to take place in Japan."

Scaramucci said keep tracking of this stuff keeps him awake nights. "Unfortunately I'm not sleeping, and I'm trying to give the viewers the benefit of my insomnia," he said.

Donald Straszheim of the ISI Group said China isn't going to be deterred in its nuclear goals. "China's not gonna back away from the nuclear energy feature in its, uh, in its long-term energy plans," he said.

So what does that make
Wisconsin’s government?

Doug Kass on Wednesday insisted "We have morphed into a bull market of uncertainty," and we probably wouldn't have bothered to mention that, except for an aggravating sentence that came a moment later.

"The U.S. government is dysfunctional, still kicking the can down the road," Kass said, and it's not really worth commenting on, except that hopefully no one is using that information as a guide to market direction.

2 weeks ago, everyone thought the worst thing in the world was James Franco’s Oscar performance

Guy Adami said on Wednesday's Fast Money that stocks didn't go south with the tsunami.

"I think it's important to point out, this market was selling off prior to the Japan earthquake," Adami said.

Adami said "The major level to me is this 1,225 level," which doesn't mean stocks are going straight down, but the "path of least resistance is lower."

Karen Finerman, in sizzling new look, countered that the damage might be overdone. "In the last 2 weeks only, the market's down 5 and a half percent for the S&P. That is an enormous move," Finerman said, saying she's looking to buy MCD.

Jon Najarian said he found "21 million hits" regarding the remarks by the EU energy guy and that with March expiration ahead, it's April that's heating up.

JJ Kinahan said there's a bunch of "aggressive buyers" in the April 30 VIX calls, and that the level he's looking at for the S&P is "1,250 even."

Joe Terranova said "A lot of today's price action is black boxes," and "I think you wait it out and see."

Kinahan incredibly claimed there's bullish activity in Cisco call-buying.

Melissa Lee looked great in vertically paneled charcoal dress with short sleeves. We wish we had more details on the Karen Finerman necklace, which excellently topped off Karen's chic generously collared long-sleeved black dress.

This page will have more on Wednesday's Fast Money later.

Jane Wells dashes off to work only 25 minutes after waking up

From time to time we wonder how the CNBC West Coast market-watchers actually get any sleep, given how relatively early the stock market opens and of course all the necessary premarket analysis that must be absorbed beforehand (on the other hand, after the market closes, there's still plenty of time for golf, so they got that goin' for 'em, which is nice).

Jane Wells describes the stress of trying to sleep knowing there can be no oversleeping in a blog post Monday in which she writes of being compelled to make a mad dash on 405 and 101 around 5 a.m. at 85 mph. Jane's appealing honesty and self-deprecating humor aside, we're quite certain she looked presentable on television, and that any trooper who stopped her probably would've given her a police escort to the Port of L.A.

Wells also demonstrates via Twitter that she knows precisely how to sell a story, explaining that CNBC will air on Friday a segment she's done about a struggling underwater homeowner, with this all-important tagline: "On the plus side, she's gorgeous."

Peter Schiff suggests Fast gang is clueless on gold

Peter Schiff, who on Feb. 28 implied there's foolishness on Fast Money, said on Wednesday's Halftime Report, "I'm glad to hear some of the Fast Money people, uh, being negative on gold, so that, uh, gives me a little bit more, uh, optimism."

Appparently that was a shout-out to Steve Cortes, who had said earlier, "Gold and silver are incredibly crowded trades" and that he's long dollar/short gold because gold's a "bet on inflationary growth"; and perhaps Patty Edwards, who pointed to gold's 50-day and 100-day moving averages and said, "Gotta see it continue to hold these levels; otherwise I think you gotta look out below."

Schiff though spent most of his time (aside from talking over Melissa Lee during a breaking news report about some European mope) complaining about housing.

"I think anybody who is clinging to the hope that real estate market has bottomed, really should rethink those assumptions," Schiff said. "Housing is not gonna recover, it's gonna fall for years."

Pete says Brian Kelly is
‘missing the whole picture’
on thermal coal

Brian Kelly on Wednesday's Halftime Report tried to make a point about coal that unfortunately was lacking a little wattage.

It came after Pete Najarian touted the coal names as being "on fire" Wednesday and Steve Cortes defended the fossil fuels and regarded the "solar names as a possible short."

Then Kelly jumped in. "How is coal really gonna benefit" if industrial production doesn't stay the same, Kelly demanded.

Najarian said "You're missing the whole picture there," (ouch), and explained that a decline in nuclear production would be a boost for thermal coal in providing electricity.

Kelly insisted that's what he's talking about, thermal coal, and "electricity for the power- for plants."

Najarian shrugged. Kelly concluded that the increase in demand for coal "could just be a wash" if the global economy doesn't stay where it is.

Edwards: Apple downgrade probably based on ‘good data’

Analyst Alex Gauna of JMP explained, in a very articulate presentation, why he's down on Apple, and it basically relates to a China plant.

"Sales at Hon Hai," Gauna said, have "decelerated dramatically in recent months. We don't know the exact reason."

He predicted Apple could fall back to its 200-day moving average, or $300.

Patty Edwards was asked to evaluate this opinion, and Gauna apparently was more convincing than Léo was yesterday. "If he has got enough conviction to come out and say this, he's probably got a lot of good data," Edwards said.

Steve Cortes said "the yen is extremely exaggerated" and that he likes the trade of long Toyota, short Ford. Pete Najarian said "certainly the sky is the limit" for the VIX.

Patty Edwards evidently like Jon Najarian wasn't trying to be a hero, but for some reason found humor in a successful trade, calling it "funny enough" that she took her IBM position off at the end of last week ahead of Wednesday's downgrade. "Thank God it was before these guys got involved with it," Edwards said. "The world changed last Thursday with this earthquake."

Rattner: Ford report
triggered auto slide

Ex-car czar Steven Rattner made an argument for — or maybe it was against — corporate earnings guidance, saying GM and Ford stocks have been slumping since Ford's last earnings report, "When they didn't really properly prepare the Street for what were a little bit below expectations."

Rattner said oil matters to the automakers, and they can "fiddle" with certain production elements, but there's not much they can do about the price.

Rattner also responded to a double-barreled question from David Faber about why anyone should want to own a private equity company that's gone public: "It's the same as owning any asset-management business," Rattner said, citing "broadly diversified ... very high-fee-paying types of businesses ... not dependent on 1 guy or 2 guys" as reasons for buying.

Rattner said that in Europe, when they're not evidently speculating about The China Syndrome in Japan, "what you see happening now are the chickens in effect to some degree coming home to roost," but he predicts there's enough effort by Germany and France that "I think they'll be successful at" avoiding a Lehman-style crisis.

Time for bond bears
to worry?

Gary Kaminsky said on Wednesday's Strategy Session that some are predicting the 10-year yield can trickle below 3%, and there are "huge, huge bets on the other side of that trade."

Bob Pisani said Wednesday the SDS was hopping.

Apparently the microphones in the Jefferies newsroom were picking up a lot of commotion, as leveraged finance chief Kevin Lockhart was forced to speak above the din. Regarding high-yield, or maybe it was the whole stock market, "There isn't a lot of panic, but there is some caution," Lockhart said.

Kate Kelly, in sharp Irish green, said global events have slowed down the Apollo road show.

[Tuesday, March 15, 2011]

Dr. J enjoys
‘single best day of the year’

If you've been watching the recent stock market with a small amount of horror, know that Jon Najarian is apparently breaking the bank.

Najarian opened Tuesday's Fast Money by first saying he's "grateful" for the seat belts on toilets, which allowed him to make money.

"I'm not making myself a hero," Najarian said, "but I did take advantage of what the market gave me ... It was my single best day of the year."

Najarian hoisted 1 particular trophy, Toyota. "I eventually bought it between 76 and 77, closed $81 a share. That's a tremendous move," he said.


And of course this was finally the moment when Karen Finerman jumped in to say she plunged into the deep end of the trading pool whole hog and scrapped and clawed her way to a profitable day at par or even better than Najarian.


"We didn't do a ton today," Finerman said.

Now isn't that a surprise.

Barry Ritholtz says previous
Japan thesis is done

Dennis Gartman seemed to lament that "the margin clerks are in control right now" in the gold market, where people have to sell whatever they can sell, but "eventually ... it will be a buying opportunity."

Gartman though said the pictures from Japan of the rice fields are enough to get him interested, "I'm starting to take a look at owning rice," even though it sometimes takes an "appointment" to do it.

Barry Ritholtz downplayed the amount of enthusiasm he expressed for recommending Japan back in December, saying his "underlying thesis" was that Japan as an investment vehicle was hated and underowned, and once it broke the uptrend it became a sell.

Ritholtz said he's roughly in about 75% cash.

Itay Michaeli basically said there's some Japan-related issues facing the automakers and auto suppliers such as BWA, and that BWA probably is still a bit too stretched for a buy rating, but the long-term fundamentals merit keeping "an eye on," which is some stock tip.

Analyst Shneur Gershuni said "We're expecting Japan will likely turn towards fossil fuels including thermal coal."

Karen Finerman, modestly as ever, pointed to the monster chart of one of her top picks, GLNG, but cautioned viewers, "Don't think ... that you're gonna participate dollar-for-dollar in the upswing in day rates."

Léo interview would’ve been enough to make Patty sell

A fairly punchless Fast Money Halftime Report on Tuesday kicked into overdrive once Patty Edwards revealed she caught the rare Léo Apotheker interview on Squawk on the Street.

And, wasn't exactly rushing out to scoop up HPQ afterwards.

"You know, I watched that interview this way (sic), I gotta tell you, it's the first I've seen of the guy, and I was so unimpressed. Had I been long I would've been selling; luckily I have not been long this name," Edwards said. "Absolutely be staying away from it."

Steve Cortes also stressed that he's not in the name, but if he had to pick a name in the space, "My money would be following Mark Hurd."

Quite frankly, the Léo interview also wasn't a great moment for Erin Burnett, who spent way too much time asking Apotheker about Japan and totally ignored the human-interest issues related to his hiring, how will the company be better than when Hurd ran it, how much his reign might've been impaired by the Oracle case, does he think the company must repair its corporate image, what must-have product does his company sell, where's the wow factor, etc.

One thing we've gotta admit about Léo, he does look exactly on television like he does in his pictures. We're tempted to sling a little more b.s., but yaneverknow, we might find out he's a golf nut, or something like that.

Terranova buys POT, FCX

Joe Terranova said on Tuesday's Halftime Report that he's looking to where the pain is the deepest.

"I don't wanna buy Apple right now," Terranova said. "I wanna buy Potash ... I wanna buy Freeport McMoRan."

Melissa Lee pointed out that analysts have predicted sluggishness for some materials for 6 to 12 months. Terranova was unfazed. "I am going to get a lot of criticisms for this," he said, but he doesn't care what they think. Apple, he said, is not as appealing as the others because "Apple hasn't taken the pain yet."

Patty Edwards sorta concurred on Apple, saying, "He's right, it hasn't sold off." But Edwards isn't jumping in herself. "I'm not buying right now, but I am making a list and I'm checking it twice," Edwards said, before mentioning Plum Creek Timber, which Melissa Lee smartly noted Edwards already owns so it doesn't really need to be on a list, and asked Edwards what she isn't in yet but might get into, and Edwards mentioned Clean Harbors.

Steve Cortes said Whoa whoa whoa, "I don't think we should get too carried away just yet," saying that Sister Mary Gale once taught him to fear the Ides of March, and so "I'm very long the dollar."

Cortes admitted he likes Exelon, even though "I'm actually averaging down on a loser here; Dennis Gartman would be angry at me." (Actually, we think Gartman has called averaging down "trading's carcinogen," but they don't call Cortes a contrarian for nothing.)

Jared Levy made a rare appearance on Fast Money but showed he still can't get rid of his pen. Levy said there is hope in the VIX; "as much as it's spiking, it's not that bad."

Analyst Romit Shah spoke about Intel (Zzzzz) and then said, "The one name that is starting to look interesting here is Broadcom," calling it "still the best way to play Apple."

Thomas Lee: ‘Very big opportunity for a lot of companies’ just around the corner

One thing that's good about David Faber's status as skeptic (we're going to have more on this in the near future) is that few are better-equipped to referee a debate as to whether there's a massive buying opportunity in any given asset class.

So despite a rather routine (not bad, just routine) collection of guests, Tuesday's Strategy Session was chock-ful of interesting commentary as to whether you should start plunging into the Japanese — or U.S. — stock market right about now.

Gary Kaminsky, for one, stressed that the market is no longer in melt-up mode, and that he finds it "offensive, disrespectful" when he hears analysts describe overseas events similar to Japan's tsunami as a "hiccup" or "isolated event."

Peter Boockvar essentially said that as soon as Japan bottoms, then Japanese stocks will be a buy, but for now there's just too much money-printing that's going to stand in the way of a stock rally.

But Thomas Lee said that while uncertainties remain, "At the end of the day (we don't think he meant the end of this particular day but was merely using a figure of speech), this is going to be a very big opportunity for a lot of companies," and to get ready to buy soon, because "I think 1,250 is the level, I think that's about as deep as we're gonna pull back."

Guest David Albrycht said the blowout in high-yield spreads is merely a "technical phenomenon" but that he'd have to study a lot of issues before he'd jump in.

[Monday, March 14, 2011]

Hedge funds de-risking

Anthony Scaramucci buzzed in to Fast Money on Monday to report that hedge funds are taking some money off the table.

"3 major reasons why people are de-risking," Scaramucci said, pointing to oil, European Central Bank's specter of inflation, and Japan.

Scaramucci said that given what happened in Japan and perhaps with oil, instead of possible rate hikes by the end of the year, "there may now be Quantitative Easing 3," which might catch a lot of players on the wrong side of the risk-on/risk-off trade. But for now, he thinks there is more to go on the de-risking side.

Aflac commercial airs
during Fast Money episode
where Joe Terranova jokes
about Gilbert Gottfried’s firing

Abdullah Karatash, a newcomer to Fast Money as far as we know, suggested an economic solution Monday that we weren't really expecting.

"The real solution, the real, uh, fix if you will to the economic malaise, is to cut corporate taxes," Karatash insisted.

He complained that by printing money, "What's happening now is absolutely no different than what Alan Greenspan did in 2001."

We gotta disagree with the corporate tax cut as being a "solution" to much of anything, largely because, as one Fast Money guest last year (sorry, can't remember who) put it, corporations are more concerned about various loopholes than the rates, even if they may not like the rates.

Joe Terranova got the assignment for Aflac during Pops & Drops and said "Probably the best thing that happened today was Gilbert Gottfried got bounced from Aflac; the position for the new duck is open."

Will they title their own version of the movie ‘The USA Syndrome’?

Stephen Weiss, who revealed during Monday's show he's 5-8, admitted buying Cisco after the quarter (goodness only knows why) and conceded, "It was a mistake, and I'm living that mistake every day now." But he also said he bought some Shaw Group down 17% and "right now I'm in it for a trade."

David Riedel laid out a pretty interesting analysis of nuclear power worldwide and said all the growth in new plants is in the BRIC nations. "China has a huge commitment to growing their capacity for nuclear power," Riedel said.

Clean Harbors CEO Alan S. McKim said it'll take a while before the Japan cleanup begins.

Mel Lee expressed cutely frustration when Guy Adami claimed he didn't get the rhyme in a ridiculous tweet about HPQ and CSCO.

In a total inside joke that absolutely no one should really care about, the Fast gang on Monday was caught a couple times going to commercials and trying to restrain themselves (at least Guy Adami and Joe Terranova were) from fist-bumping each other, a practice that's now verboten according to Guy Adami's Twitter account.

‘Give me a break’ axed from
Charles Schwab vineyard commercial

If you watch much CNBC, you can't help but notice the barrage of Charles Schwab cartoonified advertisements in which comfortable-looking 40somethings or 50somethings complain that they're getting a bunch of gimmicks from other financial advisers when it comes to their retirement cash.

One 50-something chap in particular gripes that a competitor's ads — we haven't been able to figure out which competitor — indicate its clients can dream of things like starting a vineyard.

For the longest time, this Schwab commercial closed with the fellow saying, "A vineyard? Give me a break."

In the last couple weeks, we've noticed, the commercials now end simply at "A vineyard?"

Evidently, "Give me a break" was seen as too much an '80s cliche for slick advertising this century.

Fast Money gang
unloads on Léo

In a rare onslaught of skepticism against a prominent CEO, the Fast Money panel on Monday made it clear that whatever Léo Apotheker is selling, they (most of them at least) ain't buyin'.

Melissa Lee reported that HPQ actually boosted its dividend 50%, but then revealed, "Léo is not in the press release. The CFO is in the press release."

Pete Najarian, incredibly, insisted "I think the CFO is the right guy to address this whole issue," a remark met with polite derision by his colleagues, including Lee, who said releases about dividend hikes would generally come from CEOs such as Jeff Immelt or Jamie Dimon, or, what nobody would blatantly add, that basically HPQ at this time is trying to draw as little attention to Apotheker as possible.

"It's a 3rd and 17 and they're trying to run a draw and they're hoping to catch some people. I'm not sure it's gonna happen," shrugged Guy Adami. "I still think it pushes down to 40 bucks."

"Léo, Leo, we're still not even sure how to say his name," complained Stephen Weiss, who also said, "I need to see a plan from him."

Kinahan: ‘Greenpeacers’
will give solar a boost

The opening of Monday's Fast Money was a scattershot mix of mostly "buy after the price falls a bit more" recommendations on stocks, which doesn't do anyone any good today, except that JJ Kinahan on the Prop Desk was trumpeting the solar space.

"All of these I think could see some strength right here because I would expect the Greenpeacers of the world to start to be heard," Kinahan said, pointing to STP and SOL as top picks.

Pete Najarian said he bought CAT and PCX, while Joe Terranova indicated he's this/close to jumping into the fertilizer names including Potash (Najarian said you can think about buying them all across the board).

Guy Adami said "I think tomorrow's a critical day" for the S&P 500.

But the funny thing about that, he just said on Thursday, "Tomorrow is potentially a very critical day."

So we'll ask again, isn't every day a critical day in the stock market?

Dr. J reveals size threshold
for Fast Money stock picks

Jon Najarian was talking about the potential for Clean Harbors when he, perhaps inadvertently, explained the reason he couldn't rattle off several more names.

"Unfortunately some of my favorites are a little under the radar because they're under the quarter-of-a-billion-dollar market cap that they need to be to be mentioned on air here," Najarian said.

CEO on nukes: ‘Right now everybody is waxing off’

CEO Thomas Drolet spoke slowly — too slowly for Melissa Lee on Monday's Halftime — and was basically just repeating news stories about sea water pumped into the Japanese reactors when Lee prompted him into a long-term nuclear power analysis that produced a "Karate Kid" analogy that "coincidentally and ironically" featured a Japanese character.

Drolet said the world of energy requires balance and nuclear is not going away. "Right now everybody is waxing off ... There will be a wax-on time," Drolet asserted.

Expect AAPL, BRK.A to battle for the championship once again

Melissa Lee revealed Monday that Fast Money Madness is starting up again with 1 seed AAPL (now that's a surprise) opening against 16 seed DELL.

Looks like Lubrizol is the real cinderella story.

Often guests tend to
call her ‘Michelle’

Steve Grasso was grinning Monday with a prepackaged little zinger for Melissa Lee on the Fast Money Halftime Report.

Lee early in the show called on Grasso, who quietly responded with "Yes Dear."

"Did you say 'Yes Dear'?" Lee suddenly asked.

"Yes why. Is that bad?" Grasso smirked.

"It's the first time I've ever been called 'Dear' on the air," Lee sighed with an eye roll, in a fairly nice recovery.

It’s toppy, except for
the people buying it

Steve Grasso might've neatly caught Mel Lee off guard, but when he was discussing the 2011 arc of CHK, he ended up with a point that sounded a wee bit contradictory.

"These things are still toppy, but money is still coming into it," Grasso said.

Grasso said that for the S&P, "The next support level is 1,275."

Lee and Jon Najarian both went out of their way to stress they're not trying to be a "vulture," but felt compelled to assess stock movements of Japanese automakers, in which Najarian said Friday was a good time to actually start taking off the short plays because "I think they'll be back in production mode faster than people give 'em credit for."

Chart expert Jeff DeGraaf said copper isn't indicating a robust stock market, and that FCX is breaking down, but that he could see an S&P bounce at 1,258.

Zach Karabell, who was astoundingly quiet Monday other than recommending how to be a hit at a cocktail party (say "the yen carry trade is unwinding"), said there's a huge country just south of Japan, as well as a few others in the region, that was not affected by the earthquake and has plenty of economic muscle to flex. "I'm not ready to call ... a change in the global macro environment," Karabell said.

Robert Shiller tries predicting stock market 5 days ahead

It seems that the Japanese quake is bringing out all kinds of curious economic commentary.

Robert Shiller, guest on Monday's Strategy Session and the famous housing index guy who tends to chuckle when he's making a point about bad things, said (in a very choppy, uncomfortable series of remarks that seemed almost like he might be hearing his own voice reverberating) that after Kobe in 1995, "There was a huge worldwide stock market drop a full week after that earthquake."

All fine; no issues there.

But then Shiller vaulted into extrapolation-of-sample-size-of-1-land, saying, "We could see — I'm not saying this — but we could see a significant drop this Friday for example," explaining through a chuckle that this would be "too precise of a mirror" of what happened to stocks in 1995.

Prepare to hit the sell button Thursday.

Energy expert Rob Raymond said his bleak outlook on natural gas hasn't changed because of the Japan quake, saying policy shifts are a "very long-term conversation" that would result in any possible changes 4-6 years away, but that the short-term supply-demand imbalance remains in place.

Kaminsky: Some Lubrizol investors think Buffett’s lowballing

Gary Kaminsky said Monday on The Strategy Session that the question about Lubrizol is whether the company should be shopped around. "Is Buffett paying too little? Now, uh, my former team said that they will vote against this transaction," Kaminsky said.

"If this deal was to be shopped around, BASF, the German chemical conglomerate as well as Dow, may, may have interest in the company," Kaminsky said.

David Faber though said not to expect a bidding war. "From what I hear though the expectation that somebody's gonna go up against Buffett is highly, highly unlikely," Faber said.

Economist Jacques Cailloux said the European summit probably isn't going to accomplish enough to wipe out systemic risk. Gary Kaminsky said the issue is the long-term cost for continuing to roll over the paper.

Update: Kernen implies Kaminsky is about to endorse climate-change theory

Joe Kernen — this is a guy we should be reviewing every day — was in no mood Monday to get excited about earthquakes or disasters.

Kernen complained about environmental doomsday predictions, asserting that in "the age of the world, things that can be imminent can be a thousand years away, which we forget about, with all our global warming and you know, our lives are so, you know, our hundred years, you'd think it was an amazing amount of time when it's not, it's a blink of an eye."

Gary Kaminsky attempted to argue that people creating the models for these events never would've anticipated 2 major tsunamis within 5 years, "there's no model that would've, would've predicted that, 20 years ago ... so something's changing. Something is definitely changing."

"No, no, no-" Kernen interrupted.

"Joe, I'm not saying global warming-" Kaminsky continued.

"We'll have that debate maybe later," said Carl Quintanilla, quickly finding himself on the sidelines of what's proving to be a barnburner.

"People- That will be next," continued Kernen. "They'll say 3/10 of a degree of Celsius increase is warming the crust. That'll be next, that you'll see. But nothing is changing. I mean, the, the, we've had disasters since the beginning of time."

"But the models will have to change. The, the duration between, the duration between events will have to change," Kaminsky insisted.

"All right," Kernen grumbled, as Quintanilla cut away.

Joe Kernen gives
The Strategy Session
a dubious compliment

Apparently when you get to be a television big shot like Joe Kernen, you don't always have to toe the company line.

Kernen, who appeared about as lethargic on Squawk Box Monday as someone who's just seen "The English Patient," first wrote off guest host Gary Kaminsky's point about trading volume and the quake impact on markets as "the fog of war, or whatever. We know ... zero."

Then CNBC's top golfer wearily looked up the investment banks and advisers assisting on the Berkshire-Lubrizol deal, rattled off a few names, and turned to Kaminsky (who co-helms another show often mentioned on this page) and explained, "You know, on Strategy Session you can, you can delve into the minutiae, involving the investment banks, that you- I guess you guys think people are interested in."

Kaminsky was seen reaching early, and often, for the java.

Looks like he might need it.

Guy Adami: Fist bump
is history on Fast Money

Despite all the long-running Fast Money jokes about how Guy Adami isn't very technologically savvy, he evidently uses his Twitter account quite a bit.

Adami tweeted on Thursday, "Breaking FM news - no more in show fist bumps!"

Money in Motion premieres

Fortunately Melissa Lee was able to conduct the Money in Motion end of her Friday afternoon bonanza in its entirety (see below).

As we expected, the show — while crisp and featuring articulate pundits — is largely over the head of anyone who's not at least an occasional currency trader.

That doesn't make it a bad idea. The media world has been accelerating toward niche-y-ness for years (evidenced by this page's existence), and CNBC is wise to test some formats that differ from general interest programming.

Dennis Gartman spoke early about how he ended up on the wrong side of the dollar/yen trade Friday, but after describing the totality of the move, we couldn't figure out which direction it was going when.

Even Melissa Lee was tripped up by the confusing nature of currency trades, stating Rebecca Patterson's krona trade as the opposite of what Patterson actually recommended.

Whether Money in Motion, airing late Friday afternoon, can be relevant even for currency traders is beyond the scope of our knowledge. We know very little about the forex markets, but one has to wonder whether suggestions on Friday afternoon generally are going to be valid in a couple days.

Lee added to this confusion, in re-describing Patterson's krona trade, when she claimed "And of course your first chance to put this trade on is on Monday, 5 p.m.," even though the text on the screen said "First Time To Trade: 5pm Sunday."

Gartman basically wrote off the yen trade for the short term, saying, "I'll probably just watch from the sidelines."

We tried finding some Web reviews of the new show, but as of Saturday afternoon, Web news searches were coming up blank, and popular forex blogs we looked up hadn't addressed it yet, though many of them probably start their weekend break midday Friday. For what it's apparently trying to do, Money in Motion looks fine. From a layman, non-currency-trader perspective, we doubt it will mushroom into a mainstream hit but maybe it doesn't have to be; that's why they've got the focus groups and the programming honchos getting the big bucks to figure those things out.

CNBCfix Movie of the Week:
‘The China Syndrome’

Japan's reactors are at risk, and "China Syndrome" articles have started to emerge.

"The China Syndrome," a 1979 film by James Bridges starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas, is an example of too many clichés allowed to run rampant in 1 movie, marring what might've been an extraordinarily powerful work.

Even late in the Carter administration, 1970s movies were not safe from government conspiracy theories and certainly not from corporate-shareholder-greed plots (think "Network," 1976) which have persisted long after the Big Brother element became passé.

"Syndrome," which incredibly premiered just a couple weeks before Three Mile Island, boasts some staggeringly effective depictions of fear that hugely overachieve in a basic factory setting. The initial look of confusion on the faces of plant operators. The desperation of Lemmon's Jack Godell as he tries to locate the vibration himself. The expert casting and costuming of the plant officials which include Wilford Brimley: diligent, hard-working utility veterans who do not look or sound as if they are adequately trained for this level of work.

Lemmon — who many don't realize collected 8 Oscar nominations in his career, including 1 for this film — excels in exhibiting an unusually unnerving form of stress: Either everyone's gonna be OK, or no one's gonna be OK.

This could be splendidly shown against any number of causes, whether earthquake tremors, a lightning strike, flood, military incident, protest, etc. Instead, we get a corporate-government conspiracy elevated into drivers being run off highways, and a grotesque ending with (sigh) a gun that is even loopier than it appears.

If this film were made today under the same analogies, it would be something like Goldman Sachs financing the construction with proceeds from mortgage-backed securities, BP overseeing the operation, Arthur Andersen auditing the books, Enron trading the energy, someone calling in a stock tip to a channel-checker, somebody experiencing an accident just before sending a fateful tweet, and it would be a farce.

"Syndrome" had some great drama to deliver but tried to deliver too much. It remains a valuable message, as do this week's events in Japan and North Africa, that the world's capacity to deliver the amount of energy it demands, uninterrupted indefinitely, is anything but risk-free.

[Friday, March 11, 2011]

Melissa shows up halfway
through Options Action

Melissa Lee finally did show up at the 17-minute mark of Options Actions trying to conduct business as usual, but chuckled when Dan Nathan implored her to be on time and Mike Khouw gave her a watch and reminded her to set it ahead.

Lee confirmed this page's initial suspicions (see below) about the cause.

"I would never miss this day. I've been looking forward to this day for a very long time," Lee said. "This is a traffic- was a little bit of a difficulty today."

Well, that's what happens when you tell the limo driver to stop at White Castle. (That was only a joke.)

"I have a feeling I'll never live this down, will I," Lee chuckled.

Scott Wapner gets a few props for a bang-up job dealing with some insidery options material.

Melissa misses opening
of Options Action

Friday is expected to be a big day in the stable of Melissa Lee TV shows.

Hopefully, Lee will manage to show up.

Options Action unexpectedly opened Friday at 5 p.m. Eastern "in 2 locations" with Scott Wapner hosting remotely from the NYSE while the options traders sat at the Nasdaq.

Wapner said "the show is so big we had to do it from 2 locations tonight," adding, "Melissa Lee will be along in just a few minutes."

Presumably, a traffic nightmare.

For a day, Joe Terranova
bests Karen Finerman

In an Obama-shortened Fast Money Halftime Report on Friday — basically there practically was no Halftime Report — Steve Grasso said it looks like the tsunami-adjusted 1,294 was holding.

"Obviously with the natural disaster, you've gotta give it a little bit of flexibility, a little bit of cushion, so we trade down to 1,292," Grasso said. "For now, we did bounce, we're still in good shape in the S&P."

Melissa Lee was just barely able to squeeze in a comment from Joe Terranova before the Obama press conference began. Terranova, who a day ago said he was buying oil names including Suncor on the dip while Karen Finerman was insisting, as she has for more than a week, that the Canadian sands plays have more to go on the the downside, said Friday, "I bought UPL today, I added to my Suncor position." (This writer is long SU.)

‘When we move on’ probably wasn’t supposed to be part of the script

David Faber got what was presumably a birthday-related day off on Friday, and Becky Quick was likely wondering why she ever agreed to play backup quarterback on The Strategy Session.

Friday's episode brought not only a bizarre TelePrompTer glitch, but a curious fixation with ages on the part of a chippy Mark Fisher, who unfortunately sounded a bit like he'd awakened on the wrong side of bed.

And to think we were planning to devote a decent chunk of Friday's report to Quick's risky hairstyle (verdict is mixed at this point).

Quick got tripped up by an apparent writing glitch when, late in the show, referring to reinsurers taking a hit Friday, she said, "When we move on after — when I move on after many false alarms, it looks like it is finally showtime for Apollo." The camera caught Quick following up the handoff to Kate Kelly with an eye roll and a point.

When the show transitioned fairly abruptly to Fast Money to give Melissa Lee's gang a few moments before Obama spoke, Quick and Lee noted that in something of a trade-off, Gary Kaminsky would be doing Squawk Box Monday in place of Quick, prompting Lee to joke, "I think he got the short end of the stick there," but then again, maybe not, if he doesn't have to listen to Mark Fisher's age challenges.

Dow Jones Newswires gave Kate Kelly and CNBC props for the Apollo IPO scoop.

Becky Quick more than handles Mark Fisher’s counterpunches

Mark Fisher evidently isn't a big fan of Guy Adami's old saw "price is truth."

"Crude oil should be up. It shouldn't be down," Fisher grumbled on Friday's Strategy Session, suggesting that if Japan's energy infrastructure is seriously damaged, then rather than demand destruction, it should boost imports.

Becky Quick pointed out the purported Day of Rage in Saudi Arabia "never happened." Fisher dismissed that conclusion, saying it's not just 1 day, but a question of an aging monarchy and "who's the next successor," which doesn't exactly sound like an iron-clad reason for why oil had to be up Friday.

Gary Kaminsky asked Fisher if there's "any shot" we'll see oil prices in the $50-$70 range in the next several years.

"How old are we," Fisher responded. "My bet is that crude oil is not gonna trade below 70 probably in the next 15, 20 years."

He cited several reasons: "Cost of production is too high ... energy currency ... alternative fuels are too expensive."

Becky Quick said we've heard this all before, and then there was 2008. Fisher said that according to Exxon a couple days ago there's no demand destruction at $4 a gallon. Quick said there are reports of a slowdown in weekend driving in the Northeast even while people are itching to get outdoors at the end of winter. Fisher said the "incremental driver of prices is overseas." Quick said the China numbers suggest growth may be slowing there. Fisher asked if Quick believes the numbers. Quick said she's not sure she believed them on the way up either.

Moments later, Gary Kaminsky asked about speculation in the oil markets, prompting a slightly unintelligible joke from Fisher, "don't badmouth us."

Fisher complained that when Mexico buys a ton of puts, "we call it hedging," and not "speculation."

Incredibly, Fisher said he thinks eventually there will be a "federal policy" shift to nat gas based in part on shale drilling that will give nat gas a bid. That prompted a "but how old are you" from Gary Kaminsky. Fisher insisted, "The market's gonna force it to happen."

What Strategy Session really
needed was an update
from Kyle Bass

Sean Egan issued the most provocative Japan-related outlook on The Strategy Session Friday, saying, "From our perspective, the economic tsunami hasn't hit yet and it's going to hit in the near future."

Gary Kaminsky noted, "Japan has been the 2nd-largest buyer of U.S. debt in the last several months, right behind the Fed," and stressed that the country has already had a tough time dealing with "what some would say is almost a 20-year, uh, economic slowdown."

However, the strongest views we've heard about Japan (i.e., looming bond crisis) on The Strategy Session recently have come from Kyle Bass, and there was no mention of Bass on Friday's program.

[Thursday, March 10, 2011]

Fast Money Sentiment Indicator: Hardly a straight face on day of S&P down 25

You know what they say about poker — don't watch the cards, watch the faces react to the cards.

Some might've been inclined to follow that advice watching Thursday's Fast Money gigglefest, in which the panel couldn't stop snickering on a day the stock market put on a horror show.

In other words, if they're not worried, no reason for you to be either.

Maybe it started with Steve Grasso at Halftime, but at 5 p.m., Pete Najarian probably spoke for everyone when he said the VIX remains under control, "still underneath 22" at the end of the day.

Zachary Karabell, on the Prop Desk, was far more serious than anyone else on the panel Thursday, but even he rushed immediately to China's defense, citing the "annual Golden Week holiday" as an event that "creates an optic of things being weaker than they probably are."

"Nothing in my view has fundamentally broken down," Karabell said.

"Tomorrow is potentially a very critical day," said Guy Adami, and oh joy, isn't tomorrow always a potentially very critical day?

Things at the Nasdaq were so much fun, the show was sort of getting in the way, as Melissa Lee (or someone with a very similar voice) was actually heard laughing off camera while Colin Gillis gave a vigorous description of Apple having its own stores.

Pete buys AAPL

Pete Najarian, like Steve Grasso earlier, found Thursday's selloff an excellent time to scoop up some AAPL, right off the 50-day.

That produced a non-debate of some kind, as Joe Terranova at one point said if AAPL does fall a few dollars more, there could be an AAPL "breakdown," which hopefully wouldn't be as scary as the Kurt Russell movie.

Colin Gillis reiterated "We're still negative on RIMM," in part because "The Playbook is gonna have a tough time playing catchup" in enterprise space.

Guy Adami, perhaps explaining why the panel found Gillis amusing, said "glad to see you're all caffeinated up."

Joe Terranova tries to prove
Karen Finerman wrong

Tim Seymour got a day off Thursday, perhaps as a reward for a robust week of commentary, or perhaps to give Joe Terranova — whom we actually weren't totally sure was on Wednesday's program because he barely uttered a word — a chance to find his own mojo in the wingman chair to Guy Adami.

Terranova did manage to prompt what should've been a Street Fight with Karen Finerman — he was buying names such as SU, CNQ, RSX because he believes in the oil story; she thinks there's "still more froth in these names" — but neither really seemed eager to spar with the other. (This writer is long SU.)

Peter Zeihan seemed to think the Saudis will pull through, even though he said Iran is much more interested in meddling around the boot of Arabia than in northern Africa.

In Saudi Arabia, Zeihan said, "Most of the workers are Pakistani or Westerners," who won't leave, because they are "well paid" and "well guarded."

Fast Money guest fears she’s not adding enough spice to show

Alexandra Lebenthal revisited the Fast Money set Thursday to present the math on the muni situation:

"2 defaults, a total of $12 million," Lebenthal said, breaking the amount of weeks in a year into fractions.

"You guys are gonna grow tired of having me on," Lebenthal sighed, after realizing that the panel didn't really want to talk about anything of import Thursday.

Scaramucci: WMB worth
‘between 37 and 45 dollars’

Just squeezed in before the bell, Anthony Scaramucci on Thursday touted WMB as the Hedge Fund Trade of the Week, pointing to ownership by Michael Karsch and Leon Cooperman. "We think the stock is worth between 37 and 45 dollars a share," he said.

Karen Finerman asked one of the rare serious questions of the day, based on WMB's ownership in a master limited partnership, whether it should scare anyone that MLPs have been hot and that that could reverse. Scaramucci acknowledged the potential but said "by spinning this thing off and getting the cash, they can realize value on the WMB side."

Joe Terranova said that "Over the next 4 to 6 weeks I like financials."

Guy Adami said he thought the bounce in HGSI should've been higher but was restrained by the broader market. "I do think at a certain point GSK grabs these guys," Adami said.

Grasso: ‘We think the
Day of Rage is a huge bust’

Steve Grasso on Thursday was unfazed by quite frankly a terrible performance by the stock market.

"We think 1,300 holds. We think the Day of Rage is a huge bust. We think you're buying the market today," Grasso said.

But he did allow one caveat: "If we do break 1,294, all bets are off," he said.

Grasso later said, "I'd be buying Apple here; I think the market moves higher tomorrow," and then, referring to several other tech and chip names, "I'd be buying all these names today; I think it's overdone to the downside."

Carter Worth said the issue now is whether the stock-market drop is "normal healthy," or whether we're at the beginning of a plunge. Worth said it looks more like "normal healthy."

Steve Cortes was a rarity in indicating "I think that this Chinese data is important." But he apparently wasn't so amped up about Saudi Arabia, saying, "Day of Rage by the way, when I was in college, that was about beer and Bon Jovi."

Cortes — assuming he's been in this trade for a while and didn't bail many weeks ago when it looked bleak — could've crowed a little bit more than he did about shorting Las Vegas Sands, which, after a prolonged period seemingly between about $44 and $49 finally capsized. But Cortes said Thursday he's out of the short, because while it may have a little more to go, "I think the downside gets tougher from here."

‘Fight to get involved’
in high-yield could backfire

It would've been hard for The Strategy Session to pick up where it left off Wednesday with Jeff Gundlach, and thus Thursday viewers got a fairly subdued, quiet program.

Mark Bamford, like Gundlach, spoke about high-yield, saying "13% of the market is triple-C," and he does think that "there is a fight to get involved in these transactions" which could result in a lot of weaker hands running for the exits if things start to go south.

Gary Kaminsky spoke briefly about Spain, saying "credit spreads are not trading healthy in Europe," and maybe now, people are noticing.

Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey took part in an interview, but without delivering much headline material. David Faber asked him "What are you seeing on the ground right now" in terms of local markets, which merely prompted Dickey to rattle off the company's resume, but in terms of local advertising, "we have a bullish view on that over the next 5 years," which would hopefully be the case given the M&A. Faber asked if Dickey was concerned about Thursday's stock drop, which Dickey brushed off as a pullback from a recent big gain.

Gary Kaminsky, reiterating a theme in Smarter Than the Street, said the word is that GM CFO Chris Liddell's departure is strictly on personal reasons, but nevertheless, "you always — always — have the red flag when a CFO leaves."

CNBC reporter Kayla Tausche, who is very good-looking (and kinda has that early Susan Dey/Michelle Phillips look going), explained that shareholder proxy advisor ISS has lost a lot of recommendations recently and that maybe it doesn't have a whole lot of oomph.

Faber birthday party

Gary Kaminsky has posted some pictures from the CNBC office party for David Faber's birthday on the CNBC Strategy Session Twitter account, including a nice shot of Melissa Lee.

[Wednesday, March 9, 2011]

CNBCfix Movie of the Week:
‘The Adjustment Bureau’ fails
to time the market

(No spoilers, but a couple details that aren't revealed early in the film)

Somewhere along the line, the filmmakers behind "The Adjustment Bureau" had to be saying to themselves, "Man, we should've rolled this out about 6 months earlier."

The problem is that Emily Blunt — 10,000 times yes, by the way — (clarification) 100,000 times yes, by the way — happens to play a ballet dancer.

Which, on the heels of Natalie Portman's blowout Oscar win for portraying the same profession (what do you think the real voting results were on that, something like 80-13-4-2-1?), makes the film's aspirations feel a little bit like that "Orca" experiment after "Jaws," even though Blunt does perfectly well.

"Bureau" is fairly smart with interesting Philip K. Dick material but isn't ambitious enough. It can't decide if it wants to be a romantic comedy or a sinister government-supernatural-control-suspicion thriller. (However, it clearly decided it wants to be a cliched travelogue of New York City.) It poses interesting free-will possibilities but seems to contradict itself; maybe Pete Najarian actually makes up his mind to chuckle at every joke, or maybe it's preordained, after a while it ceases to matter. "Bureau" is a decent and safe date choice, though the stars and their chemistry tend to fade the longer it goes.

Tim Seymour on fire

We've actually gotta hand it to Tim Seymour.

The reality is, Tim Seymour plays offense. In life, you've always gotta be playing offense. Defense is needed for a few things, say, insurance, or anything to do with the year 2008 or maybe being a Detroit Lions fan, but no matter what you do in life, you generally wanna be greeting each day with "how many home runs am I gonna hit today," not "how do I avoid hitting into a double play."

And so just a few weeks ago, around the time this page noted "The reality is" was being uttered about 4 or 5 times every Fast Money episode, instead of buckling, Seymour merely cranked it up to double digits, where it's actually become a crazy staple of the program.

Now, does Tim Seymour still give data presentations that are often too long and end up contradictory? Yes, Tim Seymour still gives data presentations that are often too long and end up contradictory. That's what Karen Finerman is there to police. The reality is, Seymour is seizing the open air space that's allotted to any panelist every show, and making the most of it, like Phi Slamma Jamma on a fast break, and that's commendable.

Wednesday, Seymour was asked by Melissa Lee (in sharp, shapely, snug red top) and Karen Finerman to explain his kangaroo-tail analysis of the FCX chart of a day earlier. Seymour basically had to admit it's a bust. "The kangaroo tail, the donkey tail, whatever, that's what I feel like right now," Seymour admitted.

Finerman revealed a too-early exit. "I feel bad covering any FCX; that was the wrong thing to do," she said.

Seymour also announced "We're actually short Suncor against long Tesoro." (This writer is long SU.) He said he thinks there will be a "crescendo" in the gasoline market, but "I don't think we're at the crescendo."

Guy Adami suggested "Get used to $4 a gallon because I don't think it's going much lower than this ... 4's gonna be the norm rather than the exception."

Tim Seymour sees ‘very good support’ in HPQ at $42

The reality is, while Tim Seymour might've had some provocative oil calls, his Silicon Valley analysis sounded downright loco on Wednesday.

HPQ, Seymour said, is a stock "you really have to start looking at again."

"I've looked at it. And from up close. It's painful," countered Karen Finerman.

"I think this is a stock you buy," Seymour insisted. "With the HP chart, I actually see very good support here at 42 bucks."

Melissa Lee sort of derisively referred to the HPQ (that would be Léo) boss as "whatever his name is."

Analyst Brian Marshall acknowledged Léo is "an unknown entity."

(Melissa Lee ... Léo Apotheker ... Melissa Leo ... all newsmakers around the same time.)

Doug Kass’ new variation on the old ‘it’s a stock-picker’s market’

Doug Kass spoke again on Fast Money on Wednesday, reiterating his 4-point thesis for a choppy market that includes the "economy" and geopolitical issues as reasons.

"We're in a market that's gonna have a limited memory from day to day," Kass said, adding investors can "no longer chase strength" and "I like short shorts these days."

That brought a skeptical, stoic demand from Karen Finerman to explain what someone like herself, a buy-and-hold value investor, is supposed to do; is that approach irrelevant now. Kass said someone like that would have to look for "what is euphemistically called special situations."

One such situation, Kass said, is Platinum Underwriters (PTP), which didn't seem to have the most impressive chart we've ever seen.

Joe Terranova said Ciena might be unfairly punished in the wake of the Finisar meltdown.

Brian Marshall said of IBM, the company that knows how much money it will earn 4 years from now, " I would actually avoid the stock here." Marshall conceded his price target is "a lot lower than where it is today." He said he likes EMC, and he would buy FFIV below $110 and thinks fair value is $130.

Melissa Lee inexplicably allowed an embarrassing moment of dead air after Mike Khouw's DHI options trade; Lee in the dead quiet was heard to giggle and whisper (presumably to Guy Adami), "Where ... on your computer."

So apparently Mike's DHI offering wasn't exactly must-see TV for the rest of the panel.

Patty Edwards pulls
a Tim Seymour

Dennis Gartman defined the northern African turmoil this way Wednesday: "It's not so much of an oil problem as it is just a confusion politically."

Brian Kelly tried to present Gartman with the ongoing-trouble thesis, saying what if the situation remains unresolved as it is now for a long period of time.

That brought rebuttals from not only Gartman but Melissa Lee, who noted that after a few weeks, everyone basically stopped caring about the Greek debt crisis.

JJ Kinahan was heard to say some people are questioning the (ahem) "great leader" label of Cisco's John Chambers when Patty Edwards managed to argue against herself in the span of about 1 paragraph.

Edwards said she'd put CSCO in the "same category as Intel and Microsoft at this point ... they are too big to move." But then she hailed IBM's results after buying it yesterday and declared, "It's not about the size, it's about how it's being led."

Steve Cortes was equally head-scratching when he claimed that Bank of America has been "trading very well," which drew a challenge from Mel Lee, and this explanation from Cortes, that it's been "able to make higher highs recently" based on a "very simplistic chart read" and also doing better than others in its group.

Maybe it's doing better than its peers, but based on our own very simplistic chart read, its higher highs ended about 2 months ago.

Cortes revealed, "I'm short Citi." (This writer is long C.)

Cortes also said he thinks the grains trades are "broken" thanks to demand destruction. "I'm short Mosaic and I will add to that trade if it closes below 80," he said.

Kelly: ‘China may be slowing down a bit’

Brian Kelly tried to extrapolate what would be a highly controversial view on China on Wednesday's Fast Money Halftime Report, but thankfully Patty Edwards was there to set him straight.

Discussing Finisar, Kelly pointed to the Texas Instruments report and said "There's a lot of confusion out there," but the key inference is that "it seems to be that China may be slowing down a bit."

Um, Edwards countered, "I did not make that connection," but said she thinks "what we heard from Texas Instruments" is that PC sales relatively are slowing. (But that's only gotta be because people are waiting to buy, according to Tim Seymour yesterday.)

Steve Cortes said he doesn't know anything about that, but he does know that the TXN price action has been "very dreadful," and as for semiconductors, "it's troubling for the Nasdaq as a whole."

"I'm not short, but I'm looking to short tech," Cortes said.

JJ Kinahan said that if he was going to do a Finisar trade now, he would "sell an out of the money put spread," but he actually thinks "these usually aren't 1-day events."

Jeff Gundlach backs off
500 on S&P prediction

The first thing that came to mind during bond star Jeff Gundlach's Strategy Session appearance Wednesday was (no, not "thankfully someone actually showed up for a scheduled Strategy Session appointment unlike Bill Lockyer") the notion that this guy's got a remarkably good radio/TV voice.

On the other hand, according to Barron's, he's likely making better money in another field, pulling in $40 million in 2009 (which, if we had that kind of cash, would probably be enough to get us a call from Emily Blunt).

In an excellent, wide-ranging interview mostly on bonds, the most interesting question came from Gary Kaminsky, on Gundlach's prediction in Barron's of the S&P tumbling to 500.

"If deflation wins ... then the stock market will go down to 500 I believe," Gundlach said, stressing "if deflation wins" about 3 times and declaring that's not at all known yet.

But what we noticed is that Gundlach didn't claim he was misquoted by Barron's. Because there, he said, "Though I rarely go public with specifics on stocks, I think the Standard & Poor's 500, which is now over 1,300, will hit 500 in the next couple of years. I usually couch my belief by saying merely that 2011 will be a tough year for equities."

Apparently, only if deflation wins.

‘An investor is a trader
who’s underwater’

On bonds, Jeff Gundlach on Wednesday mostly echoed what he told Barron's, particularly when it comes to munis.

He predicts a tumble of "15-20% at least," not because he thinks there will be a huge wave of defaults, but that once a few of them happen, panic will set in.

David Faber asked him if he's predicting an outright crash, and Gundlach said no, "I'm agnostic on that view."

Gary Kaminsky asked him whether this matters for someone who just wants to hold a quality bond to maturity. Gundlach responded, "An investor is a trader who's underwater."

Kaminsky summed up Gundlach's muni view by agreeing that the market could plunge even if defaults are light, because "a lot of people will be scared" by a couple defaults and it's a closely held asset class.

The hosts spent a lot of time, perhaps too much time, on high-yield, where Gundlach got highly technical and suggested ways in which munis are being given overly optimistic projections and comparisons based on today's fundamentals. "The volatility of high-yield bonds is a lot more like the 20-year Treasury. It has a standard deviation, persistently, of 12. The Treasurys that they're comparing it to have a standard deviation, persistently, of 5," he said.

"The stuff that was issued in 2009, that is not good quality, nor was 2010," Gundlach asserted.

He also said, "I would rather buy longer-duration GNMAs, where I can get 6% with a government guarantee."

Pressed later by David Faber for something else he likes, Gundlach said long-term government bonds, because "I think that the rate rise is, uh, overblown."

He also knocked the "Burlington Coat guys," who raised cash "to pay themselves a dividend ... that's not exactly an investment for the future."

Faber’s birthday Thursday

On other Strategy Session matters Wednesday, David Faber said the AOL-Time Warner merger has "gotta be No. 1 up there" among history's worst. Kate Kelly reported that according to lawyers, companies have "little legal recourse" against information leaked on Twitter.

[Tuesday, March 8, 2011]

Seymour got ‘Jedi mind-tricked’
into buying Cisco

We're not sure why the Fast Money people occasionally spend time discussing Cisco (or Nokia for that matter), but they do, and thus Carter Worth's contention that the stock has another bad quarter already "cooked in" with "very limited downside" is worth mentioning.

But meriting greater mention is Tim Seymour's explanation that he "was actually Jedi mind-tricked into buying" the shares last time, but despite that, "it's not an awful trade."

Guy Adami said it's probably getting near the point of a value play, but "I just don't think we're there yet."

We just remember the last quarter, when Steve Cortes said he'd be shocked if there was another big miss, and, well, you know.

Tim Seymour: Bank of America
‘basically stole Merrill Lynch’

While Tim Seymour was merely getting Jedi mind-tricked on CSCO, he evidently was getting the whole enchilada from the Emperor on banks.

Seymour said eventually things will be great for Bank of America, in part because "The reality is, they, they basically stole Merrill Lynch."

Sure. That 38% premium on a $21 share price, at the depths of the financial crisis, was as savvy as Freeport McMoRan scooping up Phelps Dodge.

But things actually got a little weirder on Fast Money when Guy Adami revealed that Sallie Krawcheck is his version of Jamie Dimon, to which Melissa Lee said means "You think she's H. O. T."

So to that, we'll pose a serious question: Is the secret to getting ahead in banking merely being good-looking?

Barry Ritholtz: Bank longs getting bamboozled by rosy management

Barry Ritholtz, on the other hand, called projections for an improving banking environment merely "wishful thinking" and said he's no longer long AIG, C or BAC.

The gain, Ritholtz said, "has more to do with the sweetheart deal from the 50 state attorney generals (sic) that are on the table" than anything to do with the economy.

Karen Finerman asked Ritholtz if he doesn't believe the projections made Tuesday by Brian Moynihan in the same New York hotel where Charlie Sheen began demonstrating not long ago that he was beginning to get a little loopy, although in Charlie's defense, he's probably made more money than Bank of America in the last 3 years.

Ritholtz said "they're always optimistic" and that he's never heard bank executives warn of something like the crisis in 2008. Finerman strongly disagreed, saying she's heard stuff like that before.

Heard this one before

As if the decade-long stock performance wasn't enough, you know that the Silicon Valley icons aren't going anywhere when optimistic pundits start using the tech equivalent of the blame-weak-shopping-on-the-weather excuse.

Tuesday it was Tim Seymour's jaw-dropping turn to defend Léo's performance, saying the PC consumer might be underrated right now because "I think a lot of people actually were holding out and waiting to, to essentially buy a new PC."

Good try, but Jon Najarian ran that into the ground on Windows 7.

Worth: S&P 1,400 in 2011

Talk about much ado about nothing.

Carter Worth on Tuesday presided over an elaborate wall of charts in which he tried to explain the difference between "cyclical" bull markets and "secular" bull markets.

Except in his opening comments, it sounded like he was referring to "cicular" bull markets — which really seems like a hybrid of the distinctions he was taking pains to separate.

Maybe that was by design, because Worth's conclusion was "it doesn't matter ... we think we're going higher. ... We think 1,400 is the objective for this year."

Worth said that recently in the Nasdaq, it's a case of "have and have-nots," and "it's new tech that's actually struggling."

If the Saudi day of rage fizzles, it’s really gonna seem like oil speculators were the ones behind it

As commodity news continues to dominate the market, nothing beats a call by Rich Ilczyszyn — particularly when he reminds us of calls he's already made (see below).

Ilczyszyn said that in oil, "There is a little froth coming out of the market ... we have a nice band of support though at 103.50."

But Ilczyszyn said "I still think we have wild cards," namely the planned Saudi day of rage, and thus he thinks oil stands to "drift in a range."

Melissa Lee, in that super-sharp black pinstriped dress, tried to pin down Ilczyszyn on quantifying what he means by "little bit of a pullback." Ilczyszyn said oil could touch $95, and then be a buy again. But he also asserted, "Give me a trade above 107, we're off to 115."

Seymour: Oil has peaked
for a couple weeks

Tim Seymour and Karen Finerman weren't so high on the oil patch Tuesday.

"I would say that we've probably seen the high in oil for the next couple weeks," Seymour said, though there's no indication if that might be just another Jedi mind trick.

Seymour said oil equities are actually hurt by surging oil. "$100 oil is fantastic for the integrateds," he said, and he added that "Exxon is a chart that to me looks tired."

Karen Finerman said the Canadian Oil Sands play remains a bit overdone; "I still wouldn't jump in yet."

Joe Terranova though said "Structurally, I like the energy plays," and then, in kind of a useless segment, singled out COP, OXY, XOM and CVX as maybe being good dividend plays.

Analyst: Netflix plunge
a ‘significant overreaction’

During a brief discussion of silver, Rich Ilczyszyn concurred with Guy Adami's notion that $40 is in the cards. "I totally agree with that," Ilczyszyn said, but then he recalled a previous Fast Money appearance in which "my price target was 35." So for now he suggests taking some money off and buying the dip again.

Guy Adami gave Tim Seymour kudos for recommending a WLT short a day earlier, but unclear if that was just another Jedi mind trick. Seymour said to "stay short your coking coal."

Adami said to keep an eye on the gains in EMN.

Analyst Michael Olson called the plunge in NFLX a "significant overreaction."

Karen Finerman spoke about Nelson Peltz's FDO pursuit and said "Now the ball is firmly back in his court."

"I think it's attractive here and we're long," Finerman said, relative to takeover value and what competitors trade for. But Finerman acknowledged, "You do need some movement on the M&A front" for it to work.

Andy Busch said the "trade here is to sell euros."

California media silent
on Lockyer’s Strategy snub

Normally every little thing that public figures do — or don't do — gets picked up on a Web site somewhere.

So it's something of a surprise that, after some Web news searches, as well as searches of the biggest California papers' Web sites, we couldn't find any coverage of Bill Lockyer's apparent snub of Monday's Strategy Session.

Maybe he had to catch a plane.

Dr. J on oil: People could ‘exit this thing with both hands’

Jon Najarian said on Tuesday's Halftime Report that the oil futures curve is not surging right now — and might be rather tenuous.

"When we start to see it looking down, people would exit this thing with both hands," Najarian said.

Steve Cortes though said, "I think you wanna stay long ... I'm impressed actually with how well oil has taken what appear to be pretty bearish headlines."

Joe Terranova was waffling, saying he's not ready yet to say "abandon the overweight trade" in oil.

Terranova then made things worse by asking Patty Edwards — who like Friday was again looking sharp with the slightly new 'do — if higher gas was hurting McDonald's U.S. comps, which is one even we kind of anticipated the answer to because we've heard this on Fast Money before.

"The people are not going to be going into those mid-range restaurants. They're gonna be going to a McDonald's," said Edwards, who added "that dollar menu continues to put a bid under McDonald's over the long run."

Cortes eager to short F

NCR CEO Bill Nuti told Melissa Lee on Tuesday's Halftime not to fear streaming. "At this time, we're doing very well in the physical DVD rental space," Nuti said.

Steve Cortes revealed he's short C, and would like F to rise so that he can short that one again.

Patty Edwards said the dollar might be ready to bounce; "looks like we are hitting the 2nd bottom on a W," she said.

Bank expert Gerard Cassidy said BAC and JPM are among his picks. Steve Cortes asked if the stagnant yield curve is a problem. Cassidy acknowledged that's a concern down the road, but "credit improvement is still the primary driver in earnings," which is why he's optimistic.

Cortes said he's long Jack Daniel's.

Jon Najarian said he loves buying BAC on dips, the last one involving WikiLeaks.

Najarian said someone is buying 26 PCX calls and selling the 30s. "I am long in Patriot Coal as well," Najarian said.

Kaminsky: Pros ‘not exactly sure’
why stocks rallying

Gary Kaminsky reported on Tuesday's Strategy Session that it's not oil, but Wall Street sources are "not exactly sure what's making this move either" in stocks.

David Faber said 1 reason Carl Icahn is returning cash is not so magnanimous, but that it's entirely possible he doesn't want to have to register with the SEC in July.

Guest Stephen Walsh, a bond expert, at least unlike the California treasurer managed to show up Tuesday, but didn't exactly bring the most explosive commentary.

"We've got kind of a middling view on housing," Walsh said, explaining that fundamentals still aren't great but estimates seem so conservatively low.

If there's a significant rebound in housing, "non-agency mortgage securities will have a tremendous year," Walsh said.

Gary Kaminsky asked Walsh what someone should do if they get a call from their broker offering Greek paper. "I think I'd get a new broker," Walsh said, and that was the end of that dialogue.

Herb Greenberg reported at the end of Monday's show that he's learned that a surprising number of S&P 500 companies don't offer much in the way of guidance but that it's "totally inconclusive" as to whether guidance policies are an indicator of performance. Gary Kaminsky indicated that those who opt against giving guidance are pleased with the type of investor base they get.

"I never heard somebody say not giving guidance was, 6 to 9 months out, something that we regretted doing," Kaminsky said.

[Monday, March 7, 2011]

Mandy watches
‘Back to the Future’

Amanda Drury has at least 1 thing in common with Karen Finerman: Both are fans of Michael J. Fox.

Mandy tweeted late Monday evening, "Just finished watching Back To The Future with kids. Still rocks. #MichaelJFox still rocks."

Think about buying stocks in 1955. Then cashing them in in 1985. Can't believe Doc Brown didn't think about that.

One of the many interesting angles is how little Doc actually does believe in the future. He's stuck in a standard sci-fi plot, which means humans must be left to their own mistakes, which of course is good, because nobody in 1955 would possibly want to know what horrible accidents to come might be totally preventable or what therapies yet to be discovered might cure their ailments. But that's another movie issue, and we've already got one going for now (below).

Todd Gordon gets revved up
for Money in Motion

For whatever reason, Melissa Lee, in lovely gray dress Monday, could barely contain the giggles when asking Karen Finerman if Urban Outfitters' shellacking could make it more of a takeout candidate.

Finerman said — completely stoically — it was "too soon" to reach that conclusion, and also too early to buy on the dip.

Must've been an inside joke.

Brian Kelly recommended an oil trade that sounds almost too good to be true: PGH. "It's almost 70, 80% correlation with oil," Kelly said. "At the same time, it pays over a 6% dividend," Kelly said.

Aaron Rakers spoke about WDC and said consolidation is basically essential in an industry that might be getting "commoditized."

Todd Gordon was very eloquent but delivered a currency trade we found almost mind-numbing, the euro vs. New Zealand dollar. "I would like to buy pullbacks in the 1.86 level," Gordon said.

Karen Finerman once again recommended taking some profits in Canadian Oil Sands.

Melissa Lee was just barely heard to be wrapping up a noticeable guffaw just before the Final Trade.

CNBCfix Movie of the Week:
What is Walt Kowalski thinking at the end of ‘Gran Torino’?


Ford hasn't been mentioned on Fast Money, but we'll mention it here as an excuse to bring up the subject of the ending of Clint Eastwood's semi-heartwarming 2008 film, "Gran Torino."

"Gran Torino" struggles mightily to fill its 116 total minutes with usable filmmaking, and perhaps no film in recent years has a lesser opinion of its audience's ability to grasp simple concepts.

Despite all that, "Gran Torino" is actually a watchable and likable movie because it's Clint as the old Clint, delivering a fine message of tolerance. And if you've ever tried to write screen drama, you appreciate the impact of the simple kid-walking-home-from-school-in-dicey-neighborhood-approached-by-thugs scenario beautifully embellished here by parking Walt Kowalski in his truck nearby.

What makes absolutely no sense is Walt's goal in the final scene.

Like everything else in the movie, the audience has to be told what's happening by one of the characters. Thanks to Walt, the bad guys are going to be locked up for a long time because we've got witnesses this time, says a cop who just arrived on the scene.

This despite the fact that everyone including clergy believed Walt was planning retaliation, that he had behaved aggressively with the individuals in question more than once before, that he was on their property at night, that he was making similar gestures as he previously had when pulling a gun, and that even a half-baked lawyer would probably stand a decent chance with a "they were in fear of their lives" defense.

As for witnesses, the same guys had just brutally attacked the girl a day earlier. The girl was still very much alive.

You'd think someone as mechanically inclined and detail-oriented as Walt would've served up a more useful, and legally iron-clad, ending.

But at least his demons are conquered, and now he can rest in peace.

Karabell questions if the scandal of insider trading is actually the prosecution

It was posted last week, but it was only over the weekend we became aware of a thought-provoking HuffPost column by Zachary Karabell on the Gupta-Rajaratnam situation.

Among other things, he has outlined what seems like a decent defense strategy: Reg FD is fuzzy, inside information really isn't worth very much, Oscar speeches are evidence of inability to get a fair trial. As much as Karabell questions prosecutorial ambitions here, he's even more skeptical of the media. It just so happens "media" is the 2nd word of the column. And he writes that if Gupta is exonerated, "that news will not be on the front page of any paper or grace the home page of any web site."

Like any critic, we feel compelled to play the other side, which hopefully Karabell would appreciate as critical thinking.

Wall Street investments are peddled to the public. You see the commercials on CNBC all day or every other page of Barron's. All of these offers of great tools, great services, great pricing. It is strongly implied — if not blatantly declared — by the most blue-chip of financial companies that if you don't put enough money into stocks and bonds, you won't make it in retirement.

And then you learn that Martha Stewart can save $45,000 because she knows about a CEO's pending stock orders before everyone else does — which according to Mr. C. Gasparino was evidently deemed not illegal. And so they didn't even get her on that, but what she foolishly said afterwards, and a case that initially sounded ridiculous — why in the world would Martha Stewart risk her career, reputation and freedom on $45,000 in stock — culminated in Martha reporting to jail and accepting a series of heavy-handed restrictions afterwards while the avowed appeal to clear the name was first rejected and then quickly faded away.

Karabell is not rare — not even close — in being a CNBC personality who questions the merits of insider trading laws. (Um, one particular person, who happens to go by a hyphenated last name, thinks it all might as well be legal, and even emeritus C. Gasparino finds prosecutions dubious.) But he does allow for a "bright line" of illegality that presumably should be punished.

Karabell has prejudged the allegations against Gupta and Rajaratnam and not seen enough to convince him there was actionable wrongdoing. He's right in that in some well-known cases, prosecutors have overreached. He's potentially got a beautiful point here. He's just too early. As for the media ... what else are they supposed to do? Ignore the case?

We'll definitely have to disagree with Karabell on one thing: that news of Gupta's exoneration would not "grace the home page of any web site." If it happens, it will be on the home page of CNBCfix.com. (It might even be the lede story, provided there's no bar fights in San Antonio or TV anchor offhand remarks or any other of our favorite line of stories that evening.)

Gartman: $120 looks like
Brent ceiling

Dennis Gartman said on Monday's Fast Money that, as the Kenny Loggins song goes, it could be that this is it regarding petroleum.

Gartman said that unless there's a surprising upheaval in Saudi Arabia or the Emirates, "I have a sneaky suspicion that, that 115, 120 on Brent is as high as it can go, and 105 is a very, very sporty number for crude oil."

Gartman also said that while oil equities might suggest some demand destruction, the American consumer has been gradually gaining ground in the category of being tethered to the oil price. "My first car got 7 miles to the gallon," and that was considered an efficient car of the time, Gartman said.

Joe Terranova warned that there's scheduled unrest (if that's possible) in Saudi Arabia this week. "I don't see much that brings the oil market lower, knowing what's gonna go on in Saudi Arabia on Friday," Terranova said.

Jane Wells shout-out
on Fast Money

Jane Wells' influence was again felt on Fast Money, as Melissa Lee showed a picture from Wells showing "Super+" gasoline selling for $4.99 9/10 in West Covina, Calif.

West Covina, 20 miles east of downtown L.A., is kind of an upscale place where folks can afford to buy expensive gas and still get an iPad too (Wikipedia calls it a "mostly upper middle class to affluent suburb").

Unfortunately Wells herself did not appear, and according to her Twitter account, perhaps pilots might not be fully hedged on jet fuel just yet, as Jane reported while wrapping up her Hawaiian trip a day ago that the pilots somehow didn't put enough gas in the plane for takeoff, and that, unrelated, she has concluded she's "the last American" without a tattoo.

Adami: Cisco looks like
‘a bit of a value trap’

Guy Adami had an interesting theory Monday as to what's going on in the roller-coaster stock market.

"To me this whole move goes back to January 28th, it was a Friday," Adami said, pointing to "huge reversals that day" and a slump in leaders AAPL and FCX since.

(To his credit, we reported Adami saying that day, "Today you finally saw the S&P do what we've talked about a couple days ago. You had a major reversal in the S&P, made a new 52-week high, closed on the low, you not only had an outside day, but you had an outside week.")

Adami predicted Monday, should the S&P trickle down to 1,300 again, "it's not gonna hold next time."

Karen Finerman, though, revealed "we risked a little today," saying she "sold some S&P puts, we sold some Russell 2000 puts ... bought some more GM LEAPs." In Finerman's opinion, "nothing fundamental really happened today." She said Akamai is another name "getting very interesting" but she doesn't own it now.

Mark Mahaney said he still likes the "valuation setup" on Google and that sentiment is a bit controversial. Guy Adami said "I still think on a benign tape Qualcomm has a lot more room on the upside."

But Adami also said Cisco at these prices is "probably a bit of a value trap," and Joe Terranova said "I don't like F5." Tim Seymour pointed to Micron as stumbling, "you look at that chart, uh, that chart has more to go down."

Tim Seymour squeezed in a couple treatises on global macro growth/outlook and the dollar, and took a pointed question from his archnemesis Karen Finerman as to how much the dollar remains a reserve currency. But we had trouble keeping up with him and figuring out the crux of where he stands. He did insist he's not totally bearish: "I'm not saying saying, you know, hitting the panic button in any way."

Oil $200 ‘in the next 2 years’

Commodities prognosticator John Stephenson told Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report that everything that's been happening in the oil market so far is just child's play.

"I really think you're gonna see $200," Stephenson said, "certainly in the next 2 years. I don't think you're seeing anything yet."

Stephenson pointed to several oil stocks as good plays, including BP, and said, "I think you see Halliburton in a year, maybe even a double from here, Schlumberger up 50%."

Pressed by Melissa Lee — in very appealing gray layered top dress — to make a short-term call, Stephenson said oil could "dip" to $90 or $95.

He was equally enthusiastic on silver, saying, "I think we're gonna see $50 before the end of the year."

Steve Grasso said that after the Libya situation quiets, he expects oil to trade in an $85 to $102 range.

Brian Kelly redefines

David Wong was doing fine on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report in explaining why he cut his outlook on semiconductor stocks — until he trumpeted a not-very-high-flier.

"I think the biggest opportunities today are in Intel and Qualcomm," he actually said. (Nothing wrong with the 2nd name, only the first).

Wong described his downgrade as merely being "more selective" even though he's still positive long term. He said he still has an outperform rating on Xilinx and Altera.

Steve Grasso pointed to the disparity in DRAM outlook between Wong and Micron management and wondered what's up. Wong first backpedaled, saying "it's always difficult to predict where memory prices are gonna go," but then insisted he's right, saying "We have been seeing the DRAM spot prices come down over the last several weeks."

Brian Kelly saluted Wong's overall call. "He's absolutely right, and I applaud him," Kelly said. "And it's not even a downgrade, it just went from a market outperform to a market weight."

OK. Not a "downgrade." How about a "short-term optimism reduction"?

Karabell might dabble in QCOM

Zach Karabell said on Monday's Halftime that "Qualcomm I think is a perfect opportunity" with a little selloff, and "nothing has fundamentally changed" other than some profit-taking. "I'm thinking of adding a little more today."

Melissa Lee questioned the "fundamental change" part given the impact of oil on the consumer, which was right up Brian Kelly's alley. "I'm very glad you came to me," Kelly agreed with Lee. "There is a fundamental change out there, absolutely."

But for those expecting a rivalry, note that Karabell said later he's happy for Kelly making money on the rare earths trade, and at no point did Karabell bring up Kelly's head-scratching aluminum-as-a-replacement-for-copper theory.

Karabell insisted that people who buy iPads are not worried about another $5 in oil.

Cameco boss Gerald Grandey said the "underlying fundamentals" in the uranium business are "quite strong." Grandey also downplayed Melissa Lee's suggestion that he's not levered enough to a rising spot price. "We have leverage to the upside on a various (sic) large part of the portfolio," Grandey assured.

Steve Grasso said not to plow into Brinker just yet, "look for it to hold 24.33 as support." Zach Karabell said he's "gratified" to see St. Joe tumble given his disdain for the stock/business.

California state treasurer
stands up Strategy Session

David Faber has had a lot of scoops, but the news he broke on Monday's Strategy Session is among the kind you don't hear very often.

Faber apologized to viewers, saying scheduled guest California state Treasurer Bill Lockyer had been in the studio — but bolted.

Lockyer "apparently became impatient and decided he no longer wanted to wait for his slotted time, which was to begin right around now. So unfortunately Mr. Lockyer has left the studio," Faber said.

Moments later, Faber said Lockyer "decided that his time is too valuable for us."

Faber and Gary Kaminsky made a quick call to the bullpen for another guest, Sean Egan, who was more than ready and willing to go without any kind of warmup and even defended Lockyer's own stomping grounds. "I think if California shows some tangible progress in cutting their deficit and hopefully addressing the pension over the next year and a half, they'll be OK," Egan said. Egan said France and Germany are going to bear some of the European credit burden, and that credit quality for U.S. states is getting better.

Oil’s ‘hard’ fall
could be a $10 drop

Oil watcher David Greenberg told The Strategy Session Monday that the speculative trading in oil is awash in money and "probably has a 2 to 1 or 4 to 1 ratio, uh, in this market right now."

Greenberg downplayed margin requirement changes, saying they "have so much new money behind them that nothing scares them at this point."

Gary Kaminsky asked Greenberg a question that has been fairly common on CNBC for the last decade, though it's a question we've started to believe is a little dubious — what would the price of oil really be without speculators/electronic trading/Middle East fears/China when in fact all of those factors seem to be a constant. Kaminsky asked about the electronic trading speculation; Greenberg said, "I think crude realistically would be around a 75 to $80 price."

But then Greenberg allowed, "At some point this market will come off and it will come off hard." He defined "hard" as meaning "10, $20 in the next, uh, 6 months if, and when, this European situation calms down."

That doesn't sound like a terribly "hard" ending, but whatever.

Gary Kaminsky opened with a crude-vs.-S&P chart in which he said crude's spike preceded the credit meltdown by 60 days, though based on the chart, it does appear open to interpretation as to when the crumbling truly began, as the S&P plateau or slump appears evident before the big oil spike was over.

If you’ve got money here, you’re doing OK regardless

Kate Kelly reported on hedge fund results year to date, saying there's a lot of "middle of the road performances," so if your own portfolio is basically just average, you've got good company.

Kelly singled out returns from SAC as average, Third Point as good, and Element Capital and Moore Global as bad.

Read a book. Watch a movie.

Occasional readers of this page know we like talking about football as much as stocks, probably even more than stocks to be honest (unless it's during one of those Peter-Boockvar-dubious-QE2-artificially-fueled rallies like we've seen since Jackson Hole).

When it comes to the current NFL labor impasse, this site is taking a pass. Could. Not. Care. Less.

That the general public seems considerably worried that these guys won't be able to run around in minicamps and Organized Team Activities this spring is downright astounding.

Yes, we're aware there are people working for teams or the NFL, or people who work at the stadiums or on the TV/radio productions, whose work might be in peril. Those people have legitimate concerns. Everyone else who's on edge because their autumn entertainment schedule might be impaired by Roger Goodell is in serious need of life-getting.

The NFL has needed comeuppance for a long time. It sees itself as the nation's pre-eminent tribute to the military. Its television restrictions are about as up-to-date as a manual typewriter. We can't fathom any other business actually fining its employees so regularly for competitively going about their business, often not even committing any rule violations, and with zero intent of committing any rule violations. Basically you're supposed to tackle 6-2, 240-pound guys with breakneck speed while playing headless.

Maybe next fall there actually won't be NFL football. That should be an opportunity for many people. Take a course. Exercise. Get outdoors. Go to the opera. Tutor a kid. Write a blog. Invest your emotional TV capacity in "The Good Wife."

[Friday, March 4, 2011]

If Egypt-like activity occurs in Saudi Arabia, would oil soar past $150?

Friday's Fast Money featured a variety of views on the impact of oil, and none more dismissive than that of Zachary Karabell.

Karabell first made an interesting observation that rising oil in 2004-'07 wasn't what caused the economic meltdown; "you can't really put that on oil in those years."

Karabell said that only with a "really sudden spike" — say from $100 to $130 oil, or $1 to $1.50 higher in gasoline — "people would get scared."

But, "unless Saudi Arabia goes, all of this is both containable and manageable," he said. "I don't really think this is much of a correction."

Pete Najarian was almost as sanguine but not quite, saying, "I think we have to see a sustained level before we can say this is gonna absolutely crimp the market."

Karen Finerman, in sharp magenta suit, was slightly less optimistic. "I don't think it's an actual number, I think it's a spike, with a feeling of, that it's out of control," she said.

And then we get to Brian Kelly, who observed, "it already is causing the correction" and contended that had the Friday jobs data come out a few weeks ago, "you'd be up 20 handles on the S&P."

Did wordsmith Zach Karabell
botch a famous quote?

Willie Williams brought a fairly realistic lower-dollar thesis to Friday's Fast Money, only to run into a suspicious Zachary Karabell comedy analogy.

Williams said the headwind on the dollar in what should be glory times is that "the ECB changed the game" with hints of an early rate hike; "I think that's a game-changer."

Karabell, who has been highly effective from the Prop Desk in recent weeks, unleashed this: "The dollar is a bit like W.C. Fields here — reports of its demise have been greatly overstated."

As far as we know, that one — at least a variation of it — belongs to Twain.

We even looked up a W.C. Fields quote page and didn't see anything about it, though we did find "A rich man is nothing but a poor man with money." (No opinion on which Fast Money panelist wants to be "The Bank Dick.")

Back to Fast Money. Karabell's point was that ultimately there's really no alternative. "They have to invest in dollars because it's, it's making the world go round," he said.

Williams said "I think you have a point there," but another reason the dollar can go down is the nominal U.S. interest rates provide incentive for selling greenbacks.

Joe Terranova basically sided with Williams. "I think you gotta worry about the dollar really breaking down," he said.

Where are all the long-term small investors outraged that the government gave $33 GM IPO shares to only the fat cats?

Remember not so long ago when everybody had to have a slice of GM and some of those small investors called CNBC complaining they weren't allowed into the IPO and Kate Kelly delivered a daily Strategy Session pricing upgrade and Joe Terranova said it was intentionally given out to the "strong hands" of the institutional investors?

Yeah, uh huh.

Karen Finerman laid out a 4-point plan Friday for why rising oil won't sink the automakers this time.

"This oil spike is different," Finerman asserted, with a noticeable degree of enthusiasm. She cited: "Much healthier balance sheets ... lower cost structure ... much more rational auto lending ... (and) we have a product mix that shows that these auto companies have learned from the last time around."

Finerman offered a lengthy rationale as to why she doesn't use stop-losses (she's never sure how to get back in if she wants to after being stopped out) but said, just as Joe Terranova was unloading GM, she's getting long GM via the options, "we bought the GM, uh, the 30 LEAPs of 2012," which is one of those forward-looking statements that can really deliver glory — or come back to haunt — when we start compiling the best calls of the year list.

Terranova gave K-Fine all the props in the world: "Clearly me getting out, that's dumb money," he said.

Nobody’s talking about
that $5 Citi ‘floor’

Brian Kelly found himself taking on both Karen Finerman and Pete Najarian Friday in regards to the banks.

"I'm staying long the financials here," said Finerman, saying the improving economy is how they'll make more money.

But Kelly countered, "I'm actually short the XLF ... if you look at the yield curve, that's what's driven the financials."

Najarian said yield is the only thing holding back the banks. "You don't have dividends right now in the financials. If you did, I think this sector would take off," he said.

Karen made a good joke about Silver Wheaton boss Peter Barnes' Halftime statement that "reputable banks" see $50 prices, with K-Fine wondering what the "unreputable" banks are saying.

Brian Kelly said there's about 1 billion ounces of silver produced in a year but right now demand for 1.3 billion. "That is a huge amount of silver that's short," he said.

Anthony Scaramucci spoke briefly about the Hedge Funds Care fund-raiser to help abused children, which Scaramucci pointed out don't have a sponsor. Scott Wapner asked Scaramucci to weigh in on the banks.

"I do think that these banks will find ways, Scott, to make money so I do think that these downgrades are a bit overblown," Scaramucci said.

Pete Najarian trumpeted STJ in the Final Trade. "I think this thing's going higher," he said.

We don't want to get too effusive, but the 2 shows on Friday were so crisp, we'd have to say that guest-host Scott Wapner did a bang-up job.

Dr. J: If oil $105-$110,
‘the market has topped out’

Jon Najarian issued a rather solemn pronouncement for the stock market on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report guest-helmed by Scott Wapner.

"Quite frankly Judge, if we stay between 105 and 110, the market has topped out," Najarian said.

(One of the interesting rebuttals to that came not on the show, but later on CNBC when Barton Biggs told Maria Bartiromo "the market's discounted $110 oil ... I think we're gonna grind higher.")

Wapner said, "Clearly the market's prisoner to oil prices," and then Joe Terranova and Steve Grasso sought to clear up any confusion not just about Friday's action, but Thursday's.

"Yesterday was about clearly the jobs number. Today is about oil," Grasso said. Terranova said the big concern in Libya is that so many foreign oil workers are gone and "they're not coming back," and he even said that the trading March 1 is a sign people are wondering if the Bernanke QE2 trade is over.

Patty Edwards concurred on the oil part of that, saying, "This move particularly is all about the fear for this weekend."

However the stocks go, Joe LaVorgna didn't seem too worried about the recovery. "It's gonna take a lot bigger move in oil with significantly more persistence I think really to derail this expansion," he said.

Silver CEO: ‘Hedging is nowhere on the horizon right now’

Silver Wheaton CEO Peter Barnes made it sound like he's sitting on a can't-miss investment.

"My view is that for the next 3 to 5 years, and probably longer, silver prices are gonna be extremely high," he said, noting "reputable banks" have claimed a $50 price for this year, and that he thinks it'll be $50 at least in the next 2-3 years, or "considerably higher."

Barnes reiterated he sees no reason to batten down the hatches. "Clearly hedging is nowhere on the horizon right now," he said.

Scott Wapner sort of mocked Wednesday guest William Power for suggesting the new iPad will put more pressure on rivals such as RIMM and Motorola-whatever-the-new-name-is.

Steve Grasso said a lot of traders are "perplexed" about why RIMM hangs around the mid-$60s.

Patty Edwards said that despite the drop, the valuation in NFLX probably isn't right for her. Jon Najarian said, "It's impressive that it did hold above 200 here ... I'm looking to get back in, I have no position right now."

There was another offhand joke made during, of all things, the Potash discussion, and while we generally include the offhand quips on this page because they tend to be entertaining, this is the second time the same person has been inadvertently caught up in this type of joke, and so just to make sure none of the once-a-millennium visitors to this page don't happen to see it and guess the wrong thing, we're going to take a pass.

Why $65 billion might
seem like a bargain

Silicon Valley investor Dana Stalder made some articulate comments on Friday's Strategy Session about the pros and cons of the private market for Facebook ... and in the end made it seem, like most things and most people, that Facebook really has kind of ended up exactly where it's supposed to be.

He said there are 2 reasons the valuation keeps exploding higher: "There's no question that part of the value moving up so quickly is a function of scarcity of shares, right, so we've got a supply-demand imbalance, um, there's also imperfect information in the market right now."

But then he acknowledged this is one of the rare companies that probably deserves it, being 1 of "a small number of incredibly important consumer brands that will emerge out of the first 25 years of the Internet."

Stalder said there's still plenty of money sloshing around in Silicon Valley.

Interestingly, either Stalder is modest, or wasn't terribly impressed with his own Strategy Session experience, because we discovered he's got a Twitter account, and the only tweet he did after the show concerned "Don't understand why Twitter not doing an IPO is news."

Peter Boockvar unable to derail Steve Liesman’s enthusiasm

When you put Steve Liesman on any CNBC panel, you've got something going.

Liesman did bring something of a spark to Friday's Strategy Session, but unfortunately the discussion — as to whether the recovery is still motoring ahead or will be derailed by 3 speedbumps identified by Gary Kaminsky, housing, soft commodities and oil — was a little short on conclusions.

Liesman said job growth is the key, and so "you got the thing that you wanted."

"Don't delude yourself about the past," he continued, and then citing Tony Crescenzi's opinion that the typical post-war recovery has been 60 months and we're only along 20 months, "there is still a ways to go," which is also what a lot of people say about Charlie Sheen.

Peter Boockvar, who tends to be a bit curmudgeonly and was brought in as sort of a counterbalance to Liesman, acknowledged there's been some growth, but "I define that as lame, considering the monetary backdrop," and "I'm just worried at the pace of this improvement."

Liesman, who likes complaining about the details of The Strategy Session set, which is an evolving situation, zinged David Faber with an inside joke about being seated in a nice chair even though at his own desk which is apparently next to Faber's he's got a "decrepit" chair while Faber has all kinds of nice stuff. Faber said it offsets "all the crap that you have."

Gary Kaminsky noted that Thomas Lee finds that every $20 rise in oil reduces S&P earnings by $2.22. Mandy apparently liked that one so much, she did a tweet about it, and of course we want to bring attention to Mandy's tweets (with possibly the world's cutest Twitter picture) as often as possible.

[Thursday, March 3, 2011]

What does the 2nd circle
mean to you?

Karen Finerman was absolutely on fire, running roughshod over anyone who might've been trying to stretch some theories on Thursday's Fast Money.

One such example is the chart above, as presented by Carter Worth, and thankfully Karen stepped in or we might've been treading dangerously close to another "$5 floor in Citi" conversation.

"The XLF is acting real well. It's responding perfectly to the April high," Worth said, "and after a long enough response to a past stop, you typically can exceed that past stop, and that's what we think is coming."

The problem with that was the 2nd circle on the chart that seems to magically indicate a spike upward in a month or 2.

"What is the 2nd circle showing you," Finerman demanded.

"There are people who bought financials in April, and that was a disaster," Worth responded. "When you buy something and yes, and then you lose money, and then you get a chance to get that money back, to be made whole, you seize on it, that's human nature."

He continued, "So after responding to the April high, the people from April are selling right now, then it will be in a position to having removed those people, exceed that level, no?"

"I gotta say, I don't get- I don't see how the 2nd chart (sic) shows supply," Finerman said.

Flash: Karen Finerman,
Tim Seymour disagree

Tim Seymour said Thursday that Wal-Mart's dividend is sending the wrong sign.

"Unfortunately it tells Wal-Mart investors that these guys don't plan on growing anytime soon," Seymour said.

That brought a spirited debate from — who else — his commentary archrival, Karen Finerman, who sang, "I don't, no-no-no, I don't agree with that."

Seymour demanded, "Why are they giving cash back," but Finerman insisted "They are growing; the amount that they grow every year is actually an extraordinary number," or $15 billion in growth alone.

Seymour shrugged, saying they may be doing fine in Latin America, but "I don't really see them growing in, in, in Asia, I don't see them growing in Eastern Europe."

Finerman told Melissa Lee she'd rather see buybacks than dividend hikes, but "this isn't an either/or."

Sometimes Tim Seymour takes subjects in the latter half hour too seriously

But WMT wasn't the last Seymour-Finerman proxy battle Thursday. Melissa Lee asked traders if they actually think a full moon lunar cycle will bring a stock market correction.

Tim Seymour, apparently trying to safely argue both sides, incredibly said "traders do believe in this kind of stuff" before attempting a more rational point about March being great for allocations, which really had nothing to do with anything.

But back to the moon. "I can't think of a less-relevant piece of information," scoffed Finerman. "It's absurd."

"I wasn't supporting 'em," Seymour quickly backpedaled, while Melissa Lee made a remarkably good comparison to Seymour's handling of the "ruralization" fiasco on Wednesday.

Finerman evidently suddenly realized she had a Tom Osborne mid-'90s Husker outcome going and opted to take a knee. "No no no, I wasn't, I wasn't saying Timmy's, Timmy's bullish the moon, or bearish the moon or whatever," Finerman said.

Analyst dials the Fast Line
slightly underprepared

Karen Finerman asked AAPL analyst Matt Hoffman if he has "any idea" how big app revenue could be given indications of "monopoly kind of pricing."

All Hoffman could say is that Apple is sort of becoming a "media company," and "media is one of the places where they can grow the top line."

Karen's reaction was the epitome of unimpressiveness, but the camera really caught Tim Seymour in a remarkably goofy smile just before catching Guy Adami in a fall-out-of-your-chair pose.

Terranova’s Word of the Day
is a lot better than yesterday’s

Anthony Scaramucci, whom the New York Times reported was "traveling" on Wednesday and couldn't be reached to comment on the Mets situation, spoke to the Fast Money gang Thursday right from the Nasdaq home base and touted Radio Shack as the Hedge Fund Trade of the Week.

Scaramucci said Citadel, Ivory and Tiger own the shares, and "We think this thing's worth about $22 a share, but in a takeout it could be worth upwards of $25."

He added a fun fact, that "95% of America lives within 5 miles of a Radio Shack."

Joe Terranova didn't sound very enthusiastic, explaining he's been there, done that but he wonders if the current price has totally wiped out all premiums from the "Shackquisition potential." Scaramucci said he thinks the fundamentals put it in the upper teens.

Ellen Zentner, whose name apparently wasn't prepared correctly for Melissa Lee, assumed the role of Fast Money Labor Dept. jobs-number predictor usually occupied by Joe LaVorgna and, once or twice in the glorious past, Michelle Meyer. "I think that all risk is to the upside," Zentner said. "I'm expecting 170 ... that is below consensus."

Worth: Oil on pace
for $105, $106

Joe Terranova's characterization of China in "ruralization" mode yesterday was such a hit, Tim Seymour — who also yesterday pointed to a market "rally" with the Dow up 8 — opened Thursday's Fast Money with a little trash-talking over who had the goofier comment.

"Yesterday I got here and I, and I actually started to say the markets traded very well and everybody looked at me like I'd just, you know, used the term 'ruralization'," Seymour said, before crowing about what a great day Thursday was.

Terranova went along for the ride, briefly: "We're gonna leave that conversation once for all (sic) and, and leave it where it is," Terranova said.

Karen Finerman said it's a bit "frustrating" to see a rally like Thursday's because "all ships are up in this tide" and there's not a whole lot of stock-picking going on.

Finerman also said she likes the Canadian oil story (this writer is long SU), but "It's probably time to take a little bit of profits in Canadian Oil Sands here."

Guy Adami said refiners may have more to go and Tim Seymour said he likes Tesoro. Melissa Lee referred to Hugo Chavez as "South America's Jimmy Carter," and Karen Finerman, who has kept the comedy mostly in check in recent months as opposed to the past when she'd unleash the one-liners like nobody's business, said "Now they're both offended."

Carter Worth said the S&P 500 remains in a comfortable uptrend, and that he sees oil higher as well, "We're thinking 105, 106." The Fast gang asked him if both stocks and oil can continue to go up and Worth indicated basically yes, at least for now. Tim Seymour said it looks to him like U.S. stocks will outperform.

Melissa Lee, in soft sandy gray sweater, large chic belt and new beige look as well as possible hair tint, quite possible had her hottest look of the year. K-Fine looked sharp but dialed down from yesterday's sizzle.

More about Thursday's Fast Money later.

CF CEO sleeps well

Apparently there isn't much to worry about in the fertilizer industry, because the best question Guy Adami could think of to ask CF Industries CEO Stephen Wilson was, "What keeps you up at night?"

Wilson responed, “I actually read a comment from somebody in our industry recently who said that ‘what keeps me awake at night is that I can't think of much to keep me awake at night'.”

We're not the only ones who noticed this question — the folks at Benzinga did an entire post about it.

Brian Kelly said he likes the DBA. Steve Cortes said he is short wheat because he can't find anyone who is bearish on ag.

Tilson: I was on Apple bandwagon 10 years ago

Melissa Lee introduced Whitney Tilson on his first day as a panelist (we saw on CNBC.com he's a "CNBC contributor" and we're not sure if that's a new distinction, but we think it is), "big welcome to you" ... and Tilson promptly launched into some kind of Brag Trade that apparently really wasn't.

"Apple has been, uh, you know, it's a stock I recommended 10 years ago in one of my columns when it was trading at cash, and uh, it just kills me that we've missed it here," Tilson said.

He also admitted, "We've been absolutely dead wrong to prefer Microsoft," even though he thinks Microsoft is very cheap given it's growth.

Tilson articulated on Doug Kass' contention that Warren Buffett might want Colgate, saying it's rare for Buffett to actually take a company private, and that stock prices are much less depressed than 2 years ago. Tilson said some thought Buffett actually overpaid for Burlington Northern but they were looking at recent growth, which had bad comps at the time, and it "turns out that he stole the company."

Tilson said he thinks Berkshire shares are "a little over 20, 25% undervalued," and he gives the A class a "$167,000 estimate of intrinsic value."

Guy Adami said if someone put a gun to his head he'd fade the market, but "everything points to me being dead wrong, because the market is incredible." He recommended Eastman Chemical and Honeywell while suggesting oil might be a bit toppy.

The Charlie Sheen ‘winning’ clip is a little choppy without the right sound

Oil watcher Fadel Gheit said if oil rises on a straight line, the majority of oil stocks will go higher, but that might not be so great for the overall economy.

Guy Adami asked Gheit why he likes Whiting (as well as Hess and Occidental).

Gheit said Whiting has 82% oil focus, "no exposure offshore ... they print money when oil prices exceed $55."

Steve Cortes said "I'm still long oil," repeating that North Africa doesn't concern him but that the proxy battle in Bahrain does; "at some point that situation is gonna come to a head."

Whitney Tilson said of his BP stake, "We're certainly hanging in to the low 50s."

Kate Kelly: Some think Glencore could be the Blackstone of commodities

Kate Kelly spoke on Thursday's Strategy Session about a possible Glencore IPO, and then made a largely unflattering comparison.

Kelly said people are wondering, "Is this the Blackstone Group of commodities," and "I think there's a reasonable argument to make there."

Gary Kaminsky said one of his favorite CEOs, Peter Rose of Expeditors, was quoted as saying he doesn't want a Berkshire buyout. Rose said "We're not interested. Tell Buffett not to call," Kaminsky reported.

A stampede of
performance chasers

In a day on Wall Street that really makes Thomas Lee's appearance Wednesday look genius (Lee and Gary Kaminsky said the market likely won't be punished by oil but uplifted by chase for performance), Bob Olstein, always a good Strategy Session guest, sparred Thursday with Gary Kaminsky over the true characteristics of ETFs.

"ETFs are not passive investments," Olstein said. "They're cloaked in passive robes."

Some of this went a little over our head, but Kaminsky was asking Olstein to explain how market-beating managers (Olstein claimed it's about 25%, Kaminsky said more like 10%) can or should bill themselves as a better option than, say, ETFs or passive investing.

Olstein's argument was that ETFs carry hidden costs, namely at times trading below the market value of the components, unlike, as Kaminsky clarified, a mutual fund that's priced purely on NAV.

Olstein defended the industry's stock-pickers. "Only 25% of the managers" may beat, he said, "but 25% of the columnists, 25% of the TV reporters are better than average. They've brainwashed you."

Kaminsky described Thursday's rally as "a relative performance game. It is a closet-index world. Therefore, if you can't find reasons to sell stocks, you better find reasons to buy stocks," and then he singled out Hudson City Bancorp as 1 of the 5 worst S&P stocks of 2011 enjoying a huge day because of that very phenomenon.

Olstein said "We think the market's still somewhat cheap," and made the case for Harman, citing a "positive inventory divergence."

[Wednesday, March 2, 2011]

‘Bigger than the M*A*S*H finale’

Virtually no one in the "CNBCfix community" regularly watches "Two and a Half Men" (except for one cat who can occasionally be a classic jagoff who wasn't even around for this conversation), so we're hardly experts on whether it's any good, or actually deserves less news coverage than Dana Plato's exit from "Diff'rent Strokes."

But Wednesday, this notion came up ... let's say Charlie Sheen called Chuck Lorre and brought the old gang together this weekend ... for the purposes of airing a special episode next week.

It'd be savvier than Charlie is capable of. But few programs ever — ever — have the chance to strike while the iron is this hot. The result, quite possibly, would be the headline atop this item.

Joe Terranova claims China
is in ‘ruralization’ phase

Tim Seymour was giving a way-too-long oration about Caterpillar and China and the company's valuation being a "little stretched" when Joe Terranova uncorked a serious head-scratcher.

Terranova asked what the play is on "the ruralization of China ... from the urban society to the rural society."

Say what?

Seymour decided to go along with it with the help of his favorite cliche and suggested, "the reality is, that the ruralization of China is still very much about the mining companies."

Karen Finerman protested, and Seymour quickly backpedaled, "it's Joe's term, I'm just trying to extend ..."

Terranova said "ruralization" is actually about "moving the culture and spreading it out."

Finerman (God bless her, as well as her haute sleeveless navy dress) didn't shy from calling this one out, saying "I still think it's urbanization," although she unfortunately offered, "I get what you're saying."

We don't. We don't have a clue.

So just to make sure we weren't going loopy, we turned to an excellent arbiter, Zachary Karabell's Superfusion.

There, on Page 32, it says, "The urban population went from 25 percent in 1990 to nearly 40 percent at the end of the decade ... It is hard to overemphasize the importance of urbanization to what has taken place in China over the past 20 years."

‘Bulls divided by the bears, plus half the neutrals’

Doug Kass took a healthy amount of time to make a couple points on Wednesday's Fast Money.

Kass said he's still holding onto Yahoo in part because "Alipay is the crown jewel," and he thinks it might be more valuable than PayPal.

And he's not particularly rosy on the corporate earnings projections; "I think these estimates are too optimistic."

But where Kass kinda made the eyes glaze over is when he showed a chart of the Farrell Sentiment Index — which, to be completely honest, didn't seem to indicate a dang thing about the S&P average it was overlaid against.

It all prompted Melissa Lee to demand, rather humorously, "We've got your Column A, we've got your Column B, what do we do with this information."

Tim Seymour jumped in, telling Kass he agrees with him but wants to know which firms will have operational leverage; "who's gonna hold on." Kass responded with "consumer non-durables," not a particularly sexy answer.

Moments later, Melissa Lee gave a charming look that can best be described as what a shy young man might've witnessed back in the day when approaching Lee to make conversation after asking Kass for a name Warren Buffett might be interested in.

Kass said perhaps a company "as large as Colgate Palmolive."

California, Illinois ‘gonna do what they have to do’

Muni expert Alexandra Lebenthal, who like Karen Finerman had chic dress albeit with short sleeves, said Wednesday she's "feeling lonely" because, unlike Meredith Whitney and Nouriel Roubini, she doesn't think state government bonds are plunging off a cliff.

"The Californias, the Illinois, the New York states, the New Jerseys, they're gonna do what they have to do to balance their budget and make sure that their bonds are paid," Lebenthal said.

Lebenthal cited improvements for muni bond funds; "the good news is that outflows are slowing down significantly."

For Cramer, no doubt

Karen Finerman revealed Wednesday she uses TiVo. "I love the product, I don't really love the stock," Finerman said.

Finerman also revealed, "Today we added Target actually."

Debbie Weinswig spoke glowingly of another Finerman pick, Macy's, saying there's "better fashion, better traffic" there. Weinswig also likes Saks and Nordstrom.

Stephen Weiss said Wetherford's problems are merely a "very minor accounting issue" and that he bought on the dip.

Todd Gordon spoke about the dollar as well as the 10-year yield vs. Japanese yen and said "I think there's a quick trade below the 80 handle into the 79s, on this."

Joe Terranova said "I think Citi's a buy here," presumably a good play on the "ruralization" of China.

Brian Kelly joshed about someone downgrading Motorola Mobility from strong buy to buy, calling it "similar to when my wife changes her hair from honey to caramel."

Tim Seymour definitely
isn’t impressed by oil

Somehow on a day with the S&P 500 up a grand 2 points, Tim Seymour saw a rally.

Seymour was arguing with his colleagues on Wednesday's Fast Money about the impact of oil. "I think markets rallied today because economic data was strong, uh, the Fed was actually telling you-"

"Where's the rally, Tim, sorry, but where's the-" Melissa Lee cut in.

"I think the market's actually contained, uh, yesterday's fallout in a much better way, I would put it that way," Seymour said.

Contained yesterday's fallout in a much better way. (Not exactly the punchiest headline, but intriguing.)

Joe Terranova opened the show saying "We have in essence taken 65% of Libya's production offline because foreign workers have left the country."

Seymour demanded to know why we're even talking about WTI. Terranova reiterated a point made at Halftime that the light sweet crude global production is what's concerning people, saying Nigerian oil has rallied hugely against Brent.

Karen Finerman — whose mike might've been temporarily obscured by hair — asked Terranova a good question, about the December spread between WTI and Brent. Terranova said it's about $101 to $110, so "that spread is still there."

Brian Kelly said if you're in the camp that oil isn't plunging anytime soon and accept the notion of $4 gasoline in a month, you "have to start to learn to skate backwards" and look at shorting some things.

Chippy Tim Seymour demanded to know why $3 futures gasoline would be any more forward-looking than yesterday's Labor Department jobs numbers. Kelly said it takes a month "for that price to translate to the pump." Joe Terranova concurred with Kelly and maybe ramped it up a bit, saying, "I think you're gonna see a $4 print in gasoline a lot quicker than people think."

We'll have more show highlights, including Doug Kass' North-Carolina-Four-Corners-esque (i.e., time-killing) description of Yahoo and overall market call, later.

Coal CEO: We do great
in oil spikes, too

All it takes is for oil to get a little spike, and all of the alternative energy bugs come out of the woodwork, you know, you've heard it all before, "natural gas is the only viable option," "now's the time for nuclear," "we've gotta start doing solar and wind farms," etc.

And even Arch Coal's highly regarded CEO Steven Leer is on the bandwagon.

"What a rising oil price really does, it, the psychology of the market for energy, uh, it gets people rethinking about alternative energy or other fuels, and coal frankly in the past has always benefitted in a rising oil market," Leer told Wednesday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

Yeah, and then it drops $100 a barrel in 6 months, and everyone goes back to their SUV.

Steve Cortes said he likes the space Weatherford is in but can't like Weatherford because he steers clear of companies with accounting problems. Cortes also said he doesn't think North Africa is that big of a deal to the oil market — even though Joe Terranova buzzed in that traders are skeptical that the market really wants Saudi Arabia's higher-sulfuric replacement brand over the light sweet stuff Libya's got — but that Bahrain is indeed a big deal.

Patty Edwards said she likes coal but recommends "Walters" (sic) instead.

Gartman: Sharp grain
correction took ‘48 hours’

While Melissa Lee — in sprightly striped button-down blouse with oversized white cuffs — curiously went out of her way to tell viewers of Toni Sacconaghi's bullish outlook on AAPL before saying she's not trying to be an Apple bear, her Fast Money panel was finding better trades elsewhere.

Patty Edwards said she owns a little AAPL but "there are probably other ways to play it. It's certainly not RIMM; I don't think it's Motorola, you don't get enough bang for the buck out of Google. I think you have to go to the chips."

Steve Cortes said that when looking for a tablet/device play, Qualcomm is basically "D) all of the above."

Pete Najarian gushed about the SMH, said of Texas Instruments, "certainly it should be one of the picks," and then said many names have experienced a "pausing mechanism" but still look good, such as Xilinx, Corning, Omnivision.

Dennis Gartman said the much-anticipated sharp correction in the grain markets "lasted a grand total of about 48 hours, maybe." He said he could buy corn on weakness.

Pete Najarian laughed a little too hard about the big egg.

Patty Edwards said the chairman is buying shares of AEO and a takeout type of situation is possible; "I think it's actually a pretty strong probability."

Scaramucci: Wilpon family taking unfair beating in media

Anthony Scaramucci put a call in to The Strategy Session Wednesday on the heels of reports in the New York Post and elsewhere that he's leading a group involving Bobby Valentine to possibly buy a stake in the New York Mets.

"I'm not gonna confirm or deny what's going on in the paper," Scaramucci said, and the fact he's not denying it strongly suggests something is brewing there.

"But here's what I will say," Scaramucci continued. "I think that the press has been horrific to my very close personal friends, the Wilpon family ... in the coming weeks we're gonna see some really good news as it relates to the Wilpon family."

Scaramucci also said he might disagree with Gary Kaminsky's assertion that most people aren't going to want to invest a large amount of cash in a rather static asset like a baseball team that's had some problems, saying he thinks a lot of people might want to invest with the Wilpons.

David Faber said the current Mets operation isn't like the '70s (at least late '70s, when the Seaver trade didn't exactly pan out and Kingman's chase of Maris for all of about a half-season was the main highlight), when things were worse. "I'm from Queens and I was there in the '70s. I lived through it. It was worse than it is now," Faber said.

Cloud stocks awesome,
but ‘awfully heady’

Michael J. Price joined Wednesday's Strategy Session to make a fairly articulate description of what cloud computing is and how it's emerged as the latest Big New Thing in tech ... only to kind of dump on the stocks.

Price pointed out that the cloud is "highly scalable" and grows with companies' needs, even though on some level, they're just kind of renting space. Price singled out VMWare, Citrix and Red Hat as some of the leading purveyors.

Gary Kaminsky asked if investors aren't making the same mistakes as 10-15 years ago. "I think these are real companies ... 10 years ago we had a lot of companies that weren't real," Price said, before asserting, using Salesforce.com as an example, "I think these stocks are, are awfully heady right now," and fairly or fully valued, even though they're "spectacular companies."

And he said the same goes for Facebook and a lot of the "private" stock market darlings. "These companies are ahead of themselves relative to their valuations," Price said.

Gary Kaminsky pointed to the recent strength in JDS Uniphase, Micron and Nvidia and said he remembers where he was in 1999, at the Boca Raton Soundview Technology Conference. He said JDSU was so popular, "2 out of 3 portfolio managers that ran mutual funds owned that stock. Talk about a crowded trade."

Then Kaminsky showed a 20-year chart of low-P.E. names McDonald's, Colgate and Church & Dwight and pointed out how (very) long-term owners did much better in those names over time.

Kaminsky, Faber had dinner
in vicinity of Ralph Lauren

Of course, Gary Kaminsky and David Faber talked about far more important things than food on Wednesday's Strategy Session.

But once they mentioned having dinner last night near some other famous people and discussing that "high-beta names" have been outperforming, that had to lede this page.

it has been dead-on in terms of trying to predict the next month's move Kaminsky said fund manager's relative underperformance, or the "fear and greed indicator," is maybe the best, and better than oil, in predicting market direction. "When you go to work every day and you're underperforming the S&P, you are fearful, and will use any pullback to try to add alpha, try to add volatility, upside volatility potential to your portfolio," Kaminsky said.

Thomas Lee of JPMorgan said, based on February stats, "16% of active managers are trailing their benchmark by 250 basis points. It's a pretty big miss."

Lee said it's a big deal that this is happening the 2nd month in the quarter, and that March is a "window-dressing month," so the catch-up game could bring a "pretty big move" in stocks this month. He said the Libyan-concurrent pullback isn't a real pullback and that stocks are poised for a "big chase" in March.

[Tuesday, March 1, 2011]

Bartels: $103 could be last line of defense for $150 oil

Mary Ann Bartels basically said on Tuesday's Fast Money the U.S. stock market is at the mercy of Col. Gadhafi's ability to handle a tense situation.

"I think we're back to being a hostage for crude," Bartels said, with this lofty forecast: "If we start breaking through 103, it's gonna open up the door to test the high of 147 to 150."

Bartels also said gold and silver can rise together, but she thinks "Silver's going to outpace gold."

Stephen Weiss said "risk off" means trouble for small-caps, and we could see "perhaps a supercorrection in smallcap spreads" given the present market turmoil.

Rob MacKenzie FBR advised viewers not to chase drillers just because 1 permit got issued; it'll be "a while before we see anywhere close to a return to normalcy in permitting," he said.

Melissa Lee asked MacKenzie which stocks might be getting the biggest head-fakes. MacKenzie said Gulfmark and Hornbeck are most levered. But he said he likes Ensco the best, because he expects a "lot higher synergies than they've led the Street to believe," while he doesn't like Diamond Offshore as much.

Ritholtz: 4-10% pullback,
not 20-25%

Melissa Lee called Barry Ritholtz a "ray of sunshine" on Tuesday's Fast Money, because Ritholtz says the current pullback is merely an unavoidable necessity.

Ritholtz said he's still "carrying about" 50% in cash, but that the market is absolutely due for a dip: "Ya can't go straight up. 28% in 6 months is blistering. And unsustainable," Ritholtz said.

He concluded: "What we're talking about is a 4, 8, 10% sort of pullback, not the sort of 15, 20, 25% correction that, that some of the real perma-bears have been talking about is way overdue."

Adami: Silver could run from $33 to $40 ‘within a matter of days’

Tim Seymour declared on Tuesday's Fast Money we're "back where we were a week ago," and James Franco is sitting around somewhere thinking, "if only."

Guy Adami made the most striking forecast, suggesting silver could go "from a $33 commodity to a $40 commodity within a matter of days if not a week or so."

Adami expressed skepticism of stocks, saying "I'm not convinced that we hold 1,300," and that if not, 1,275 might be the next test and he's not sure that would hold either.

Adami also pointed to CSX as a "pretty interesting reversal in that name."

Tim Seymour said he thinks gold has a bid, and Pete Najarian said he thinks you can buy the miners.

Melissa Lee said it seems "risky to me" for Stephen Weiss to pin a nat gas trade "on the hopes of a change in energy policy."

Pete Najarian actually nearly pounded the table for Pfizer, based largely on the dividend, while Joe Terranova reiterated the health care story.

Terranova also said "I'm staying with the energy equity names," while Stephen Weiss made a refreshing anti-Brag Trade, saying, "I actually bought some more Devon, I bought it too early in the day, because it got crushed."

More details of Tuesday's Fast later.

Analyst: SVVS ‘is the next cloud acquisition target’

They always say "don't buy a stock based on takeover speculation alone," but analyst Clayton Moran gave Fast Money viewers a blunt rationale for why he's long a certain cloud computing name.

"We think Savvis, SVVS, is the next cloud acquisition target, and we're buyers of Savvis," he said.

Moran said the buyers would be "potentially AT&T," but also "HP, Dell or IBM."

Patty Edwards spoke briefly about ANF and said the stores have got the "trend right" now, but in terms of takeover potential, "the valuation isn't there" and for that you'd have to look at AEO or ARO, none of which she owns.

Joe Terranova credited Patty's call on Alaska Air as the airline name to watch on a pullback.

Steve Cortes, making a welcome return to the show after a couple weeks off, made a joke about smoking, "go get your Kools and smoke 'em," that drew frowns from Melissa Lee but chuckles from Joe Terranova and Jon Najarian.

Terranova: Market fears
strikes by Iran oil workers

Joe Terranova opened Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report with a pronouncement about the oil markets.

"The concern that I'm hearing in the marketplace is that, in Iran, you will begin to see workers strike on production," Terranova said. "The same thing is feared in Saudi Arabia."

Steve Cortes says Bahrain looks like a "proxy battle" between Iran and Saudi Arabia and that he agrees with Ben Bernanke for now that inflation is restricted to commodities.

Jon Najarian said there's a lot of interest in silver and gold, and that in GG in particular, he's seeing "very strong buying of calls."

Steve Cortes’ (figurative)
silver lining to oil

For those dismayed by what the Middle East mayhem is doing to oil prices, Steve Cortes noted something interesting Tuesday that might make you feel better.

"I think you should be long oil," Cortes allowed, but then said, "The market reality over the last month is that food has come down substantially." Citing wheat, which he said was "9.25 pressing $8 today," he added, "I think that this food issue is actually solving itself through demand destruction," and "I think grocery stores will do better from here."

Patty Edwards said "I'm absolutely concerned about inflation," and for those looking at retail, "I think you have to be absolutely careful about where you go ... I'm in Target."

Edwards also credited Joe Terranova for being "all over" health care for at least a week.

Steve Liesman credited Melissa Lee (in snappy red/black) for asking the traders the right trading questions about Bernanke, but that the best question for the traders on policy is whether commodity inflation will trickle into other sectors requiring a Fed response, and the answer for now seems to be no.

Kaminsky: ‘Past experience’ is noteworthy Bernanke line

Much of Tuesday's Strategy Session was devoted to the Ben Bernanke hearing.

We don't want this page to sound wonky (as if that's possible), but this was mildly interesting stuff.

Gary Kaminsky said the Bernanke comment that the markets will notice is "past experience suggests markets will take it in stride." Kaminsky said, "That was not the most comforting line," because "we're in uncharted territory."

Steve Liesman summarized the clips up to that point in time as Bernanke indicating "no plans at the moment to do additional quantitative easing," and that there'd be no "flinching" on QE2 on the potential of higher inflation from oil.

Guest host Matthew Halbower, who was supposed to talk about "special situations, event-driven investing, takeover talk" according to David Faber but wasn't afforded the opportunity given the news of the day, said the oil-Mideast impact on the recovery is more pressing now than the Fed. "I think what's going on with QE2 is slightly less important than the underlying economy," Halbower said.

Timing of insider charge
called ‘coincidence’

David Faber and Gary Kaminsky were able, despite the Bernanke remarks, to squeeze in some chatter Tuesday on the Rajat Gupta allegations, and brought in lawyer Tom Ajamie.

Ajamie pointed out these cases take time, and that the Raj Rajaratnam case has simply been delayed to this point. "I don't think there's anything suspicious frankly about the timing," Ajamie said. "I'm sure this is a coincidence in timing."

Gary Kaminsky asked Ajamie if Goldman Sachs shareholders who sold the day before the Buffett investment was revealed would have a case against Goldman Sachs in the event a board member leaked the deal to someone else. "I don't see the case right now" against Goldman, Ajamie said.

Ajamie turned the question of when's the last time you saw this back on David Faber and agreed they're not aware of a board member accused of tipping off stock trades in 20 or 30 years. Matt Halbower said 3 things occurred to him about the civil case, the first being that "Goldman Sachs had eliminated him as a board member" and Goldman Sachs happens to be in the "spotlight" of banking issues. Gary Kaminsky wondered aloud what this type of allegation means for investor confidence in the system, and no one had a good answer.

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