[CNBCfix Fast Money Review Archive, May 2011]
[Tuesday, May 31, 2011]

Fast Money panelist suggests Melissa Lee’s documentary guests asked her out on date

Melissa Lee spent a few minutes on Tuesday's Fast Money promoting a re-airing of her extremely timely documentary, "Code Wars: America's Cyber Threat."

The clip in question featured Lee sitting at a table with cybersleuths John Hering and Kevin Mahaffey, who earnestly dramatized with the utmost attention how easy it is for them to log into someone's Facebook account.

"Which one of those guys asked you out," Guy Adami asked Lee.

"They loved you. Come on, Melissa, they loved you," Karen Finerman chimed in.

Adami was so excited by the footage he returned to it at the end of the promo, saying, "Those 2 guys, I mean, you couldn't even make that up. They were textbook."

We have no idea if Hering and/or Mahaffey are single, but if they are, they might've considered asking Melissa to "The Hangover Part II," because "I loved the first one," Lee admitted.

Athens: Ideal setting
for ‘Hangover II’

Sean Egan predicted on Tuesday's Fast Money that Greece's problems are just the beginning of a "lost decade" for Europe.

"We view this as the beginning of a massive market shift in the investment landscape," Egan said, citing 2 reasons. "The recoveries are going to be significantly less than people think," perhaps 25 cents on the dollar, and "The banks in Europe can't take the hit."

Karen Finerman though, wearing one of the hottest sweater/T-shirt combos in recent memory, came at Egan with a great question, revealing she looked at the previous 10-year DAX chart, which has already been flat for the last 10 years.

"Count on another 10 Karen," said Egan, sort of interrupting Karen before she could finish her question. When she did, asking if Egan's predictions aren't already baked in, Egan said no, the books expect a 30% haircut rather than the 70-80% he foresees.

Terranova: Euro OK
even if Greece bolts

Joe Terranova openly speculated on Tuesday's Fast Money about what would happen if Greece were to exit the euro and "monetize the debt."

"They'd love to do it, they'd do it in a second," Terranova said.

"Well then who's next. That's a scary precedent to set," said a skeptical Tim Seymour.

"Portugal, Ireland, goodbye," Terranova shrugged.

"Euro probably around 1, you know, around 110," Seymour said, but Terranova coolly disagreed with that one.

"As long as Germany and France are there, I think euro's fine," Terranova said.

Andy Busch later came on and suggested fading the news of Greece getting money. "I think Dennis Gartman is to some extent right," Busch said, but that Greece isn't going to bring a euro breakup.

Karen Finerman makes sure there’s no misunderstanding on property REITs

Fast Money unleashed an entertaining "Three's Company" motif Tuesday, with the faces of Guy Adami (Jack), Karen Finerman (Chrissy) and Tim Seymour (Janet, yes, Janet) superimposed on a cast photo, apparently for the purposes of talking about not the Regal Beagle, but the housing market.

Karen Finerman drew an analogy for those still excited about buying AvalonBay, citing a yield that is getting progressively smaller with the share gains.

"If it is worth 'Three's Company,' you're like buying in when Chrissy's left and they bring in that other girl to be the blond, I forget which," Finerman said.

"Terry. I think," said Tim Seymour.

AvalonBay buyers "really picked the top here," Finerman predicted.

Mike Khouw helpfully added that Finerman maybe is right because "we saw some call-buying in Pulte Homes."

Seymour then said in between Chrissy and Terry was Cindy Snow, played by Jenilee Harrison.

"You probably know all the Angels too," said Finerman, and she didn't mean the Los Angeles baseball team in Anaheim.

Seymour at one point said he preferred the Janet with an "afro," not the "Pat Benatar look" he was given.

"The Ropers" was was hailed by Time magazine as the 2nd-worst spinoff of all time.

Zachary Karabell has the audacity to point out eBay’s reason for existence isn’t terribly exciting

These days, never does a Fast Money discussion of eBay occur without people trumpeting the little side project called PayPal.

Zachary Karabell reminded viewers Tuesday of the potential headwind called online auction services.

"When you've got a dwindling core business, or older franchise that may or may not be replicated or replaced by a really cool other business, it just makes me nervous about a company," Karabell said.

Guest Aaron Kessler on the Fast Line said he likes eBay on the rebound from the Google Wallet news, because "We think it's mostly baked in here."

Tim Seymour asked Kessler if it's a concern that eBay maybe has become a "valuation call" (we know how well that's worked for Microsoft and Cisco). Kessler didn't really address that, noting it's "trading 12 times" (which, as this page pointed out, is irrelevant as to whether the stock is going up), and that the "key to our call" involves an improved U.S. marketplace performance.

Karabell happens to like Nvidia. "They are in a total sweet spot," he said.

Adami: HK a name ‘in play’

Guy Adami told Fast Money viewers Tuesday that HK is one to keep an eye on.

"I still think this is a name that's in play," Adami said.

Zachary Karabell said he's been in the seed/ag names long stocks and with options, "diagonally, octagonally, pentagonally." He said, "I'm more concerned about the momentum part of the pure ag trade," which would be names such as CF and Potash.

In general, Tuesday "wasn't a banner day for commodities," Karabell said. He said in terms of energy, "There is so much short action in these Chinese solar names" that he opted to "lighten up a little bit" on Tuesday's bounce, in part because there "still are subsidy issues."

Karen says ‘crappier’

Guy Adami predicted on Tuesday's Fast Money that the market, after a big day, will face some resistance at 1,350.

"I don't think we're gonna get through it," Adami said, but if it does, he could see another 50-75 points of upside.

Karen Finerman said people are seeing the silver lining in the QE story, as in, maybe we'll get something like a QE 3 if the economy's as weak as some data suggests.

"It's sort of counterintuitive. Crappier economy, better for stocks," Finerman said.

Guy Adami hailed Steve Grasso in saying ANF is "probably a name you wanna fade." Joe Terranova said he likes LULU, BJ and JWN. (This writer is long LULU.) Tim Seymour said, "Guy, you'll be happy to know that Tiffany and Debbie Gibson are touring this summer."

Seymour, who somehow has maintained somewhat of a belief in Nokia the way Mr. Furley always thought Jack was gay, finally conceded Tuesday, "I think this stock is really in trouble."

Melissa Lee actually said at a commercial break at the 52-minute mark, "Much more Fast Money coming up next."

‘Hangover II’ meets
Kate Kelly’s low expectations

If "The Hangover" franchise was an IPO, it would be oversubscribed.

CNBC's Kate Kelly revealed Tuesday that she saw "The Hangover Part II" at 11:40 a.m. over the weekend, and evidently found it passable, if unoriginal.

"Considering my low expectations it wasn't bad. But it was amazing how slavishly they hewed to the first plot," Kelly writes.

Have you ever paid for the music of Bob Seger?

Ever since Steve Cortes made a music reference in April, the CNBCfix community has had an interesting little debate going. (Honestly.)

That debate was rekindled Tuesday when Fast Money producers played a clip of "Old Time Rock & Roll."

The issue is whether Bob Seger represents any kind of "destination" music — i.e., something you go out of your way to hear and look forward to — or is merely just standard pop-rock radio fodder that no one strenuously objects to.

In a few rounds of questioning, we couldn't get anyone to actually declare buying a Seger album, though a couple reported receiving Seger music as a Christmas present.

Cortes was dissing GM on the Fast Money Halftime Report in April when he said, "These stocks trade about as badly as that song is, that Bob Seger song."

See, we tend to think musicians probably overrate artistic purity. But "Like a Rock" might actually be the sum of all such fears. If you're hearing it all Sunday afternoon in commercials, you probably don't want to spend 99 cents on "Turn the Page."

Scott Wapner calls
Roubini’s bluff

Gina Sanchez of the Roubini organization and a CNBC contributor turned up on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report and proceeded to downplay all the hype guest host Scott Wapner gave her segment.

Wapner used the word "correction" 3 times while saying Roubini has a new forecast. Sanchez said, for no reason whatsoever, "First of all let's just say that's not a recession."

Wapner said, after a couple more sentences, it "sounds like you're trying to back off a little bit." Sanchez dug the hole even deeper, saying, "our fair value on the S&P 500 is 1,350," which is higher than it is Tuesday, but lower than everyone else's "1,400 to 1,450" forecast.

Sanchez then thoroughly wiped out any usefulness on the segment with, "You could get a correction down to, you know, 1,300 ... that's already, you know, a big correction compared to what people are expecting on the markets."

"That's already, you know, a big correction."

Wapner asked Sanchez how she's playing this non-recession/maybe-non-correction. "We've basically gone neutral equities. We've gone neutral commodities," she said.

Steve Cortes thinks dollar will rally ‘because we killed Osama bin Laden’

Steve Cortes reiterated on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report maybe the most dubious currency argument we've heard, that the bin Laden takeout is bullish for the dollar.

He said he'd buy the dollar, "because QE is ending, because we killed Osama bin Laden and displayed our military dominance."

Joe Terranova disagreed mightily. "All those dollar shorts, they basically have unwound, they relatively are flat, gettin' ready to reload again. I think fundamentally the dollar is the weakest currency globally," Terranova said.

Brian Kelly said "absolutely" a June swoon is off the table and pointed to August 2010 as the parallel. "$1.4 trillion in excess reserves, that as soon as that's released into the economy, we're off to the races again," Kelly said.

Cortes couldn't resist arguing and only made his own thesis worse. "But Brian I think what you're not paying enough attention to is the change that's occurring in Washington" regarding fiscal and monetary austerity, Cortes actually said, as we head into a presidential election climate.

Jon Najarian said he would "take on" Terranova's argument, but qualified, "yes in a way," then quite dubiously said, "I tend to agree with Cortes," before proceeding to agree with Kelly really on stocks. "If this was a swoon Judge, God bless 'em, I want more of these kinds of swoons."

Scott Wapner then insisted that the market can't keep ignoring facts of economic weakness. Dr. J chided Wapner, "Did you miss those Tiffany numbers last week," saying it's only certain sectors that are struggling but not all.

Najarian also dubiously said, "We're the Saudi Arabia of natural gas."

"This is like one of those old-fashioned battle royals from the WWE early days," Wapner said, but it really wasn't.

Melissa gets ‘Michelle,’
Scott gets ‘Steve’

Scott Wapner not only unmasked the truth about Roubini's sentiments, he also got Dennis Gartman on Tuesday's Halftime to concede a disconnect between Greece's laughable situation and U.S. stocks.

Gartman complained news of European aid "doesn't change things at all ... they're gonna continue to kick this can down the road."

Wapner, though, eventually protested that stocks Tuesday are up. "And stocks are higher," Gartman grudgingly admitted, conceding the Greece impact is "relatively little, if anything at all."

Gartman said of Roubini, "He called the last recession absolutely spot-on," but he didn't stay on long enough to say Gina Sanchez's latest call wasn't exactly spot-on. Scott Wapner referred to Gartman as "Garts."

Jon Najarian said he's playing IMAX on the beginning of the summer movie blockbuster season but that he expects 3-D will be quiet until the next "Transformers."

Colin Gillis began his Microsoft table-pounding interview on Tuesday's Halftime with "Hey Steve."

Scott Wapner replied, "Scott. But that's neither here nor there."

Gillis then spoke about MSFT's Steven Sinofsky unveiling some new tablet stuff. "Absolutely they can make up ground" in the tablet space, Gillis said. "It's one of the best value plays in technology."

University endowment feels need to have short exposure on the table

Every now and then, one becomes aware of something that is actually SOP in life, and one wonders how it ever got to be SOP without anyone batting an eye.

One of The Strategy Session's contributions to business television is its occasional interest in university endowments — gargantuan pools of money, frankly, somehow procured amid the general public's decades-long complaints about the unusually steep inflation not in the for-profit business world ... but places that merely exist to educate us.

Of course, while the layman mopes might wonder how $3 billion in the bank at Purdue provides much more than continued exclusivity — the No. 1 service of universities, who pride themselves on rejecting more than half of their potential customers — and hedge fund income, the goal of The Strategy Session, also worthwhile, is to explore how the people sitting on these piles of cash choose to invest them.

(See, we just think it's kind of odd that smart people — um, ahem, Karen Finerman — will regularly go on Fast Money or other CNBC programs and complain about how businesses whose job it is to make money are not "allocating" all the money they've successfully made properly, but nobody questions the capital allocation strategies of places with almost, astoundingly, similar levels of cash on hand but whose goal purportedly isn't to make money (right) but to educate people, and all of this suggests that Google and Apple should be doing just what Purdue's doing with its money, shouldn't they? But whatever.)

Tuesday, Strategy Session launched the "Well-Endowed" week of discussions with university endowment chiefs and viewers got Purdue's Scott Seidle — who has upped his investments in hedge funds.

Seidle's rationale was notable for including a 5-letter word beginning with "s," saying his group "really felt that increasing the exposure with managers that could go both short and long would be important as we think about the portfolio."

(So, university endowment managers want the chance to be Kyle Bass.)

Seidle said the hedge fund outlays have gone from 15% to approaching 25%.

David Faber complained, as expected, about the 2 and 20 typical hedge fund fees. "We actually do think we get our money's worth," Seidle insisted, who defended "transparent" strategies and said "We certainly use a consultant as an extension of our staff."

At one point Faber revealed, "I've been listening, I like to listen to what our guests actually say," which is refreshing, and that he gathered (perhaps from the remark that "short" capabilities are "important") from Seidle's comments that Seidle isn't terribly positive on the market.

"I actually do think there is some tough sledding coming," Seidle said, indicating universities are in the market-timing camp.

Gary Kaminsky said at least it's not closet indexing. "It's so refreshing to see somebody who's running an endowment ... and they're actively managing their portfolio," Kaminsky said.

Faber backed off any association with the dubious title of the segment. "I didn't come up with that title. Talk to Max Meyers, our producer," Faber said.

2 billion Facebook users

Miles Nadal revisited The Strategy Session on Tuesday to tell David Faber the sky's basically the limit for Facebook and Facebook advertisers.

"You'll say to me in 6 months, how is it 100 billion, how is it 120 billion," Nadal said of the purported Facebook valuation. "You could have 2 billion subscribers," which drew a noticeable "what the heck" reaction from Faber.

Nadal said people are "communicating more by Facebook than they are by any other vehicle that you can think of," and that "marketers are spending more money on it."

He told Gary Kaminsky that bankers are indeed looking at everything in the space if not quite tripping over themselves to bring companies public. "It is the hottest thing I've seen since the Internet bubble," Nadal said. "There's a scarcity value."

‘The greatest story
of the day’

David Faber complained Tuesday that it's the same old news about Greece.

"I literally find myself saying many of the exact same — exact same? That's a stupid thing to say — The exact things that I would've said a year ago, about Greece," Faber said.

His colleague Steve Liesman insisted, "and here's the greatest story of the day. bar none." The story is that Greece's problem is "raising taxes, right? So how do you get the austerity program passed in Greece? You cut the VAT tax by 15%, and they need that to get the conservatives in line," Liesman said.

Gary Kaminsky opined that housing will remain in a bottomless pit as multifamily dwellings are doing well. "Guess what? This is gonna continue," Kaminsky said. "And it's gonna continue despite whatever might've been attempted by the government, because to this point, the demographic generational changes which has (sic) taken place with this idea of residential single-family home ownership in this country, in many cases the result of what happened in 2008, is not gonna change. It's not gonna happen."

David Faber thought it was nearly unbelievable that Level 3 would put its $600 million, 8.125% offering to raise cash for the Global Crossing deal in escrow simply out of zeal to make the offering even if the deal doesn't get done.

‘Too Big to Fail’
vs. ‘Inside Job,’
vs. ‘Wall Street II,’
vs. ‘House of Cards’

How badly do you really want to immerse yourself in the 2008 Wall Street crisis?

"Too Big to Fail" — the movie version — is the latest entry in the financial crisis cottage industry of maybe a dozen acclaimed books, handful of movies, Nouriel Roubini speaking engagements, Jim Cramer "Daily Show" interviews and countless Woodstock-caliber post-bailout declarations of people, some significant and others not, who claimed they predicted it was all a house of cards and nobody listened.

The story of "Too Big to Fail" (the movie) is not credit default swaps, but the helplessness of a diligent guy facing an avalanche of trouble that's largely beyond his control. Feel free to not believe that; it's only a movie. William Hurt is extraordinary, as usual, but it's a bizarre film. It borrows heavily from the wry humor of "Barbarians at the Gate," which implies that its Macguffin — a Great Recession and 10% unemployment — is to be taken only as seriously as a greedy RJR Nabisco buyout.

Maybe it's a sign 2008 shouldn't be taken very seriously. Charles Ferguson is the Oscar winner who declared it "wrong" that no financial executive has gone to jail for 2008. His documentary, "Inside Job," though, seems less concerned with turning up crime than taking spectacular overhead shots of New York City, which constitute about every other scene. Ferguson is almost equally fascinated with airplanes and how rich people tend to have them. And salaries and bonuses. He gets George Soros to denounce financial risk-taking, but his confrontations with a minor-league level of who's-who types really known only by CNBC viewers and Wall Street Journal readers only get mildly interesting when Ferguson asks them to reveal their private consulting clients (recall that the title of the film is "Inside Job"). One subject, Frederic Mishkin, complains his interview with Ferguson is not objective. Was that actually his expectation? That a Hollywood film on the financial crisis would depict diligent insiders keeping things real? Ferguson is most right about the ratings agencies, and deregulation on some level, but CNBC watchers have seen and heard all this before, and the masses who haven't aren't likely to find it as entertaining as Michael Moore's ambush journalism, and even Moore found capitalism (in "A Love Story") too stodgy to cinematically conquer. Ferguson's is more detail-oriented but less gripping. Stunning aerial photography, though.

Isn't it odd, then, that the most solemn cinematic take belongs to the utterly fictional and pointless "Wall Street II," where Josh Brolin and other grim-faced bankers meet in a dark room to carve up a tottering bank for a single-digit stock price while Eli Wallach makes strange bird noises that somehow sound ominous. (That crisis, though, is averted when Gekko somehow recaptures $100 million overnight and starts smoking cigars again and Shia Labeouf lands a Chinese investment.) Those who disliked the film, and that may well be a majority, must give Oliver Stone some measure of credit — he at least made a real crisis seem scarier than the guys working off the real thing.

The best production on the financial crisis remains David Faber's 2009 "House of Cards," which possibly is the best CNBC documentary ever done. It was the first CNBC prime-time program reviewed on this site, which is why our word count was remarkably low as we tried to (gulp) figure out this site's direction, but note the remarkably high praise from newspaper reviewers around the Web cited at the end.

"House of Cards" had the human stories, from the victims, to the perpetrators, to the many somewhere in between. It also adequately explained CDOs and MBSes. Faber was not concerned with the long-since-overreported chronology of when Paulson told B of A about Lehman and Merrill called B of A and Buffett took a call at a Dairy Queen, etc. He went to northern Europe to illustrate the fallout, where there's an interesting contrast between his depiction of a Norwegian town wiped out by Wall Street, and Ferguson's suggestion that Iceland's experiment with deregulation was essentially a dry run for an American debacle. In "House of Cards" the point of view is the facts, with which Faber elicits many of the same conclusions from "Inside Job" and "Too Big to Fail," only seemingly more effortlessly. Mostly, Faber's success is the people ... while the films rely on suits; Faber found the buyers, the lenders, the short sellers. The hotshot car salesman who discovered subprime and made enough to finance a movie. The buyers who admit fibbing (that's putting it nicely) about their monthly income. His only misstep is devoting time to Alan Greenspan, a suit with little more than excuses.

"House of Cards" continues to air. It was the first of the prominent financial crisis chronicles, and it remains No. 1.

‘He didn’t suffer fools easily’

If you watched CNBC at all last Wednesday or Thursday in the wake of the tragic, untimely death of Mark Haines, you probably heard the comment in the headline above at least a couple dozen times. (Sometimes the last word was "gladly," but pretty much the same thing.)

(Unfortunately it makes us cringe at what Haines would've thought of the yo-yo who runs this site, but we always try to think positive around here.)

News of Haines' death, it is respectfully noted, brought extra traffic to this site. Enough that May visitors easily shattered the record set in April, which had easily cleared the all-time high of March. Not every month is a winner. The trends, of late, have been remarkably positive.

Coincidentally, this weekend marks the 3rd birthday of CNBCfix.com. We know what you're thinking because we think it too. Undoubtedly, if you've seen this page more than once in your life, you've sat there with head in hand wondering, "Why in the world am I reading this site?"

Good question. For 3 years we've been working on an answer. If we knew it, we'd bottle it and probably try to sell it to Tim Armstrong.

Sometimes, life is just about doing something and finding out where it goes. Haines famously was a week away from starting a legal career in his 40s before someone convinced him to give CNBC a try. Around here, we figured, why not package some of that information and opinion about the stuff we hear on CNBC all day into a Web site where we can learn (snicker) to do some html programming?

No obligations, no bosses, basically no cost. Just effort. See what happens. And why concern ourselves with daily business television? Because these people are (freaking) smart. Some come across better than others on television. A few can be dumbfoundingly illogical. In general, though, they all "get it," far more than we do, of course. Look up the resumes on our CNBC bio page. We're talking about economics, "people's propensity to do things" as Dennis Gartman says, finance, statistics, a little pop culture. Make a valid point (it's capable of happening), someone with a clue will find it. Compare that with the highly educated and fairly well-paid folks who follow jocks around the country so they can get them to say "I had a bad game" in the locker room, and consider the stupefying amount of people who read that, and then a site called CNBCfix.com maybe doesn't seem so loopy after all.

Journalism's changing. We're in a battle. The front lines actually. We're here because you are. Fighting for every click we get. We appreciate every visit. Each one helps us figure it out. We'll get it right, eventually. Page views are important, but more important is the person on the other end of the Google machine, looking to connect with something, perhaps finding it, perhaps not. By Thursday, CNBC had mostly reverted full-time to things like bond yields, Greece, GDP, debt, IPOs, unemployment, gold. That's what they do. There have been, and surely will continue to be, an immense amount of tributes to Haines, even from those who found him gruff. Because that's what it's really all about. Other. Human. Beings.

[Friday, May 27, 2011]

Najarian: LNKD put-buying not as ferocious as expected

Pete Najarian said on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report that LinkedIn options are finally in play, and are volatile, but "It's not quite the frenzy that we expected" and even "evenly split."

But Najarian said those options will remain hot given the small float of LNKD shares. "It is extremely difficult to get any shorts into this stock right now," he said.

Patty: Buy Potash

Dennis Gartman said on Friday's Halftime, "You have a, a perfect storm on either side of the rain circumstance, and it's making, uh, it's making for bullish conditions for the grain market."

Steve Cortes complained that Gartman is known as the Commodities King while Cortes can't even get a duke or earl title, then said he disagreed with Gartman because of the price action. "I'm short Deere," he said, and as for Gartman's drought conditions, "those are widely known."

Gartman then offered a long explanation of varying forms of wheat, "Board of Trade July wheat is completely different than Hard Red Winter," that is frankly beyond the scope and interest of this page.

Steve Grasso asked Gartman how regular joes can play a bullish-wheat case. Gartman said it'll be tougher for Panera to make money, while the fertilizers would do well, and he also mentioned the DBA and RJA ETFs. Patty Edwards said she likes the POT chart.

Munster: Google Wallet
is trouble for PayPal

Gene Munster said on Friday's Halftime that PayPal does indeed have reason to be ginchy about Google Wallet. "They gotta be nervous ... this market's gonna change dramatically in the next 5 years," he said.

Scott Wapner — who put together a quality week of guest hosting despite some grumbling on this page (see below) — said some people question how Google can monetize something like this. Munster said that's Google's problem and doesn't affect the challenge facing names like eBay/PayPal. Munster also said, besides Google, "The other winners are Visa."

Swiss franc hits
the grand slam

Steve Grasso politely asked Steve Cortes on Friday's Halftime if he interrupted him. Cortes said no, but Scott Wapner hilariously cut in, "If you did would you care?"

"I'd probably continue anyway but I just want to seem nice to the viewers," Grasso said.

Cortes, though, went on to make what we consider one of the more dubious trades, which is to assume the 1-year stock market chart is going to duplicate itself at least for a while because of similar world events. Cortes said the events of May "replicate" last year — we didn't know Col. Gadhafi was in a war last year — and so for stocks in May and June, "I think more of the same this year."

Cortes agreed with Patty Edwards, who said people's savings from gasoline drops won't go very far; "they're probably going to be spending it at the grocery store."

Steve Grasso noted low volatility for the holiday. "A lot of people have checked out and gone East," he said.

Molycorp watcher Brian Kelly didn't seem to think the new China rare-earths exchange would be a game-changer. "I would be a bit skeptical on how well it's going to identify the pricing of it," he said.

Rebecca Patterson, in the usual Friday promo for Money in Motion, reported, "The Swiss franc is the best-performing currency today, this week, this month and this year."

The women of CNBC looked gorgeous in their American flag tribute scarves.

Asher Edelman predicts
‘another financial accident’

Asher Edelman returned to The Strategy Session on Friday and seemed to pick up where Carl Icahn was leaving off at that Ira Sohn conference.

"We're gonna have an accident I think again in the economy," Edelman told David Faber. "I bet more than 50% that we're gonna have another accident, financial accident. And it will probably come out of the derivatives business again. Some of the big banks are at 5 times their derivatives liabilities, uh, than they were a year ago. Um, and uh, I would tend to bet they're not hedged back with counterparties as they should be in total. Um, and I think that accident will certainly affect all markets, probably the art market a little less than others, maybe quite a bit less than others."

And so if you had your doubts about Dodd-Frank or BASEL, here's your guy.

Edelman, an excellent guest, was actually on the show to promote art as an alternative investment against the risks of the financial markets. Gary Kaminsky asked the important question, whether there will be any liquidity in the art world if another 2008 happens.

Yes, Edelman said, "I think that's changed pretty radically," and that art owners can now essentially insure their right to sell.

Edelman said he started collecting long before he became an LBO giant. "In '61 I bought a Jasper Johns" of 1957, he said.

"What's that worth now?" asked David Faber.

"Oh I don't know, you guys are always talking about money," Edelman said.

Edelman said people used to think the art market was unstoppable because of Japanese buying, and there are similar views of today's global economy that might have similar flaws. "The emerging markets are emerging because we are their markets," Edelman said.

Steve Liesman is undoubtedly going to get some bad e-mails, but if it means anything, we’ve got his back

The Strategy Session veered into semi-political ground Friday, which doesn't happen very often, and Steve Liesman took a bold stand that is sure to anger some debt critics.

"It is just, I think false, to say, what is troubling the economy right now, is the debt and the deficit level," Liesman said. "That is a problem for 2015, it's a problem for 2020. I don't personally see it as an issue that is troubling the economy today."

This page agrees.

We don't agree because we like debt — we don't — but only because the people paid to run this country and analyze this stuff, not just in government but several sectors, have indicated by their actions that they're OK with the debt we've got, and that's confirmed by market treatment of Treasurys. That doesn't mean they're right. Could be wrong. The gut says probably not.

Gary Kaminsky said, "We've tried to keep this show a politically free zone," then apparently tried an end-run around David Faber's anti-political firewall, showing a graphic highlighting tax dollar allocations including $3 million to Cal-Irvine to play video games, $440,000 to study male prostitutes in Vietnam, and $1.5 million to the National Science Foundation to create a robot that can fold laundry.

"What are you, Sean Hannity suddenly?" demanded Faber, who wasn't impressed. "You know, at the end of the day, that doesn't even equal one of those cruise missiles that we launched in Libya."

Kaminsky repeatedly assured Faber he agreed, before Faber unleashed his own non-political political statement, "At the end of the day we need to focus on entitlements, we need to focus on revenues, we need to focus on defense."

Gary Kaminsky and Steve Liesman both gave a boost to Wounded Warriors.

U.S. wants to be somewhere between Greece and Japan

Gary Kaminsky said Friday that everything you're going to hear about the importance of the debt ceiling this weekend is bogus.

"I think if you actually look at the capital markets, this is in fact a politically driven, made-up crisis," Kaminsky said.

He pointed to strength in the 10-year. "There's no way on a significant credit likelihood of a default would we be trading where we are," he said.

"It makes for great cable news talk," Kaminsky added.

Steve Liesman said the government is trying to strike a balance. "If we're afraid to be Greece, we don't end up being Japan," he said.

Even Rick Santelli agreed that default isn't really an issue because if 42% of spending is debt, then that other 58% can continue making interest payments. "They could go on, indefinitely."

Lifecare bonds have a pulse

Jeff Peskind on Friday was one of The Strategy Session's best Value Hunter guests, talking about buying out-of-favor bonds of under-the-radar companies and eloquently explaining why the bonds were punished in each case and why he thinks they'll be OK.

One was Lifecare, "there's not a lot of people looking at these bonds," he said, after it was hurt by Katrina and Medicare reimbursement rules, but it "generates cash flow, it has no maturities until 2013." He also touted Open Solutions debt, because "business is getting better," and issues from Bonten Media.

Peskind described his firm as "value investors in the bond market."

Phil LeBeau said Ford is raising prices for the 3rd time in 2011, this time $124 per vehicle.

Melissa Lee’s ‘Code Wars’ airs

We review CNBC's "Code Wars" at CNBCfix.com, a Web site where hackers are bound to find absolutely nothing worthwhile.

Edelman rescheduled
for Strategy Session Friday

Asher Edelman, who was scheduled to be on The Strategy Session last week and apparently had to postpone, is now scheduled to appear Friday, according to the show's site and a teaser on CNBC Thursday.

[Thursday, May 26, 2011]

Scott Nations carries
the day on Fast Money

A quiet Fast Money on Thursday was marked mostly by Melissa Lee's sharp white dress on what had to be a big night out for her to celebrate the premiere of "Code Wars" ... and by very mixed-bag commentary from her panel, on a variety of subjects, in which people had trouble taking a stand.

So Nations gets the props for coming closest Thursday to actually offering a bold trade.

He suggests the BAC chart might be bottoming, and his recommendation is to buy a 20-cent BAC $15 call for September.

Nations for some reason called this trade "a bit of a punt."

It's been a while now — and admittedly time concerns at 50 minutes past the hour are legit — since a Fast Money panelist has really tried to pick apart an Options Action suggestion since the early days when the Najarians did it all the time, but Zachary Karabell wasn't afraid to speak up with this: "I think there are so many other places in the market to put money that are interesting, and while, you know, Scott's very good option trade around what I think is both a boring and very troubling name, might make you a little bit of money, I probably would go about 30 places other than this, first."

Nations took it in stride, responding, "It's a punt, we're only spending 20 cents, and the chart lines up really well here, I think."

We gotta agree with Karabell that there are many better options. Particularly when it's just a 20-cent call. The stock itself is practically little more than a call option anyway on either the housing V-chart somehow materializing or a BASEL 3 monstrosity that fails to happen.

And we've never heard of anyone making money on a punt, except for Ray Guy and Bobby Walden and a few others.

But at least it's a trade, and you can do with it what you wish.

The Fast Money chart producers tried to give this one a boost, depicting a massive amount of green if BAC goes all the way up to $22 by September, even though Nations only said his hope is for $15.

We don’t understand why people who complain about a stock don’t just sell it instead

Like we said, most of Thursday's Fast Money discussion accomplished little.

Take, for example, Whitney Tilson's assessment of the latest public heckling of Steven Ballmer, courtesy of David Einhorn.

Tilson said just recently, he was thinking that Ballmer was getting a bad rap, but now after hearing Einhorn, and after the Skype overpay, he's not really so sure.

He said he's doubtful that someone as entrenched as Ballmer could revitalized the company after a 10-year doze, and conceded that if Ballmer were to exit, "I think the stock would probably go up on that news."

He said he doesn't want MSFT to throw gobs of its cash horde at a dumb acquisition and complained that "they tried to massively overpay for Yahoo and just got lucky."

He even jabbed the corporate-flack-style media, mocking Melissa Lee's note that sources say the MSFT board is behind Ballmer. "Of course they're gonna say that. Even if he was gonna be canned tomorrow, they'd say that," Tilson scoffed.

And then he admitted that he's still in the stock, it's one of his 4 largest holdings, the company's growing, and it's got a seemingly tiny valuation.

Karen Finerman said ousting a CEO particularly in a company like this is difficult and asked Tilson if he's comfortable enough with the company in its present form to continue holding the shares assuming that doesn't happen, because in Karen's estimation, "If Gates wants him in, he's in."

Tilson said yes, and that the problem is the multiple's been cut in half.

Karen seconded that, saying "10 was the rock-bottom P.E." This page took up the football time of possession equivalent/uselessness of P.E. ratio as indicator of stock performance a while ago (see below).

If Tilson is that unenthusiastic or wary about 1 of his 4 largest holdings, why doesn't he just "punt" and take a flier on Scott Nations' 20-cent BAC options trade instead?

Notice nobody said he/she was rushing out to short Blackstone

Among the other ambiguous thoughts floated Thursday on Fast Money was a strange interview Carl Icahn gave to CNBC from the sidelines of the Ira Sohn conference (which wasn't as cool as SALT because it wasn't in Vegas) in which Icahn sort of floated the notion that there's another Bear Stearns lurking anonymously in our midst.

"There could be another major problem," he said. "I don't think that, um, the system is working properly. I really find it amazing that we're almost back to where it was, where there's so much leverage going on in the investment banks today."

Karen Finerman tried to agree, saying there have been some "levered deals that were absolutely unthinkable 18 months ago getting done now."

Other than that, nobody was hitting the panic button.

Not exactly Fast Money

Among the other trades from Thursday's Fast Money you couldn't or wouldn't make was Daniel Fisher's explanation of the longer end of the natural gas curve — i.e., 2015 — getting a boost from the Cheniere news and not so much the short end.

Thus, Fisher said, with his video delay, is not to get excited about trading the front prices for nat gas, but that the strength of the market is in the long-term contracts.

"2015? Are you kidding me?" concluded Pete Najarian. "I almost nodded off."

Schiff apparently
not long TLT

Peter Schiff toured Manhattan on Thursday and scoffed at American bond-offerers over Chinese interest in Portuguese debt.

"That shows you how weak they regard the U.S.," that they'd rather buy Portuguese debt than U.S. Treasurys, Schiff chuckled at the Fast Money set.

Karen Finerman immediately questioned whether it's an either/or. Schiff responded, "They don't have an unlimited amount of money."

Tim Seymour earnestly challenged Schiff, "So Peter, you're saying that the Chinese think that Portuguese and Greek debt is more credit-worthy than the U.S., and that's why they're going there." Schiff responded with "It's a beauty contest," but Portugal and Greece are evidently less-ugly now, before veering off into his "phony economy" spiel during which the camera caught Tim Seymour in an eye-rolling, head-shaking bit of disdain that is often the reaction of the Fast Money gang when Schiff speaks, for better or worse.

Karen touts a stock
you’ll probably never buy

People interested in buying stocks mentioned on Fast Money Thursday likely perked up when Karen Finerman spoke about Google Wallet.

She called it a "really interesting evolution that we are right at the beginning of for the mobile payment process."

And one company she likes in this space is Gemalto, which she quickly said "trades much more liquidly in France."

Melissa Lee asked Finerman to repeat that later, anticipating viewer e-mails.

But Finerman at least also mentioned Verifone (PAY), GPN, and Visa and Mastercard as names to look at.

Joe Terranova said a derivative would be NXP Semicondutors (NXPI).

Zachary Karabell said Google Wallet is another sign we're "moving increasingly into this everything-on-the-cloud. We're not there yet." But he said it's an indication there will be "much more robust spending" by businesses in the space than perhaps people have estimated.

Maybe MSFT could fund
a jobs bank?

Nicole Miller Regan was brought on the Fast Line Thursday to help sort out the Starbucks coffee price issues, but in fact Regan seemed as surprised as others that this wasn't well-known earlier in the year, and she concluded by hedging on the impact of higher coffee prices for SBUX by pointing out the company doesn't have to buy again until the fall.

Tim Seymour made a good self-deprecating "reality is" gag on GMCR.

Joe LaVorgna, who always seems to be predicting a more robust labor market and GDP than the rest of the Street, said 2nd half GDP might be a little less than he thought. "I still think it'll be much stronger than the first half ... the issue is just the growth rate," he said.

Tim Seymour asked a good question, whether wage growth, or total jobs, matters more. Eventually LaVorgna said it's "just jobs." He also offered something of a job-growth calculation based on productivity after Zachary Karabell pointed out corporations' ability to rake in money without making new hires.

Tim Seymour said that as for the stock market, "I think we're setting up for a little window-dressing ... June 6 is the day of reckoning," but also conceded the struggling Chinese market "has been a leading indicator."

Pete Najarian correctly wrote off the lousy IPO performance of FreeScale and Spirit as "retread names." Najarian also said AKS options were hot.

Guest Alex Hamilton, who helped promoted Melissa Lee's "Code Wars" set for Thursday evening, said a the cyber security space is fragmented and thus all his top plays can get taken out. "I like CACI a lot," he said.

Dr. J: Street dying to make bets against LNKD

Jon Najarian said on Thursday's Fast Money Halftime Report that one thing you can't find on LinkedIn is when the options are going to be available.

"I think the access codes for the missile launch system in the United States are easier to come by than to borrow shares of LinkedIn," said Najarian, who said it's costing up to $400 a day on 1,000-share blocs to borrow LNKD and added he's hearing that options will begin tomorrow.

"People are just chomping (sic) at the bit to get their hands on these options," he said.

"$400 a day? I mean that's crazy," said Guy Adami, who nevertheless conceded, "I thought for sure this stock would be south of 80 bucks by now; it's not," and he said nobody really knows if $190 or $44 is next.

Scott Wapner provokes testy argument with Fast Money panelist

Melissa Lee generally tries to keep the outspokenness to a minimum on Fast Money, but with Scott Wapner pulling the trigger on Thursday's Halftime Report, Brian Kelly wound up in a dandy of a global-growth fracas.

Kelly started it off talking about buying TLT calls and said, "You can have Treasury bonds go up, and the stock market go up."

Steve Cortes, who revealed he's 6-2, claimed "I think you have an amazing divergence right now" between bonds and stocks and that bonds are signaling slow times ahead.

Kelly responded that "there may not be slow global growth." Wapner jumped in, baiting Kelly with, "You're arguing against a big crowd."

"That's how you make most money. That's how you make all the money, when you bet against the crowd. I'm not a sheep. Come on, man. That's a, that's a different game," Kelly fired back.

Kelly pointed to "rail car orders that are reaching all-time highs," and "diesel demand" as leading indicators.

"Look at 1.8. What does that mean to you. That was GDP," Wapner countered.

"You're looking in the rear-view mirror my friend," Kelly scoffed.

Cortes re-entered the fray, saying, "Brian, I'm not looking at the rear-view mirror, I'm looking at bond pricing and commodity pricing for that matter right now." He said, "I used last night's rally in silver to get short silver."

Steve Cortes goes
back to the well again

Steve Cortes said on Thursday's Halftime, "I love low-ended retail" and basically anything with "Dollar" in the name such as "Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Family Dollar," hailing the benefits of an energy price drop.

Then he crowed about high-end struggles despite Scott Wapner's protests that Tiffany wasn't sinking. "I think the Lululemon party is ending. High-priced apparel is not gonna last," Cortes said. (This writer is long LULU.)

See, while Cortes may be right about certain names, we've been through this song and dance before — namely, June 10, 2009, when Cortes was spending weeks on Fast Money proclaiming a "new normal" and "bleak future for the consumer" coincidentally while the stock market was just beginning a historic surge.

FBR analyst Liz Dunn, who moved LULU seriously on Thursday, spoke to Wapner about American Eagle, saying the "stock has really just gotten way too cheap" and that she sees catalysts in management change and May improvement.

Dunn wasn't quite so optimistic on ARO, saying she was merely "removing underperform on Aeropostale" and that it could get a bid from value buyers; "I think that the short thesis is played out there." Dunn, in a quality appearance, told Guy Adami that ANF is a "momentum name that still seems to have strong momentum behind it."

Sounds like Eric Jackson might’ve sold at a loss

Microsoft critic Eric Jackson, of Ironfire, told Scott Wapner Thursday, "I don't know anybody that can stand up and defend why Steve Ballmer should still be leading the company."

Jackson balked at the notion of MSFT's dividend being healthy; "IBM pays out a comparable dividend and is up over a hundred percent."

Guy Adami allowed, "I happen to agree with you," but nicely played contrarian, asking, "Should stock performance be the only metric."

"I think people would have a lot more confidence in Ballmer if he could really articulate where he was going," Jackson said, but honestly that's not true; people would simply have a lot more confidence if Microsoft was creating hot new products instead of just decent upgrades of their existing stuff that has saturated the earth since 1999.

Jackson, who said he sold his MSFT shares, said not to expect MSFT agitators to be celebrating "Yes We Can" because "This is Ballmer's board .. He's not going anywhere unless he wants to," though he said David Einhorn is at least capable of embarrassing the management.

Scott Wapner asked Jackson a good question, what would make him buy the shares back. Jackson stressed a big dividend hike, which seems at odds with what he said about IBM, though he also said a vision from management about where the company is going. Steve Grasso said he doesn't understand why people buy tech stocks for dividends.

Jackson did actually praise the Skype deal. "I actually think it's a good idea." Guy Adami noted that Netflix' boss leads the MSFT board and said "Reed Hastings is a stud."

Cortes: Thinking about
long GOOG/short AAPL

Mary Thompson had the Prettiest Hair in Cable Television tied back Thursday while reporting breaking news at Halftime of the Google Wallet launch.

Thompson said Citigroup is a partner. (This writer is long C, a whole 3 digits worth of dollars.)

Steve Grasso said buying V or MA on this development is "not necessarily a bad play."

Guy Adami was skeptical of GOOG, saying, "I think Google you avoid until it breaks back out above 550."

Brian Kelly said it's "certainly good for companies like a Qualcomm, like an Apple."

Steve Cortes, in what was only his first disagreement with Brian Kelly Thursday, said, "I am thinking of shorting Apple and buying Google," partly because AAPL has "gone nowhere this year."

DirecTV boss not asked about sweeping amount of consumer complaints

Business models, capital markets and stock & bond offerings tend to be the meal ticket of The Strategy Session. Sometimes, a plain old pro-consumer line of questioning is in order.

DirecTV boss Michael White was a chipper guest on Thursday's show, defending why everything in his view doesn't have to be broadband.

White, though, in admittedly limited time, was not asked about something this site has noticed for at least more than a year from surfing the World Wide Web — that readers have been complaining to newspaper consumer writers about difficulties in ending a DirecTV contract or being correctly billed for the services they thought they ordered. (This writer has never subscribed to DirecTV.)

Sure enough, a quick check of Google finds a news story on the subject within just the last 24 hours, out of Providence: "DirecTV previously agreed in a settlement with 47 states and the District of Columbia to pay restitution to consumers and to alter its business practices as a result of a multistate lawsuit that alleged DirecTV engaged in deceptive trade and unfair sales practices. Among several issues, consumers complained that DirecTV failed to clearly disclose the price for the service and the commitment term to keep service.

So while business pros indeed are wondering about DirecTV's broadband concerns and possible M&A, the majority of folks watching Thursday might well instead have been wondering why White's sales team is milking them (and then some, apparently) for every dollar.

White on Thursday said he expects "continued growth in content costs." But, "my bigger concern is in the long run. At some point, the consumer has to pay. I mean, there's no free lunch."

Evidently, if a 47-state settlement is any indication, DirecTV has already been making sure consumers pay as much as it can possibly get them on the hook for.

DirecTV ‘like part of the cloud in the sky’

David Faber on Thursday asked Michael White about DirecTV's lack of a broadband component. White said it's not a big deal unless it "presumes that the technology of putting everything over the Internet makes sense. It doesn't."

White said it would "blow up the Internet today if you streamed all your high-definition television over the Internet," and that the distribution model, over time, " frankly we think it's gonna be a hybrid." He even lumped in his company with the VMWares and Salesforce.coms, saying, "We're like part of the cloud in the sky."

Faber also asked White about hints from the DISH CEO that it might be possible for DISH and DirecTV to one day merge. White was skeptical, saying, "it was unanimously rejected" under a Republican administration.

David Faber referred to CBS chief Les Moonves by first name only. He also cracked, after playing the DirecTV Russian weightlifting commercial, "I was looking at the lady on the treadmill," but we actually like the one in the long black leather hot pants better.

Kaminsky: Einhorn is
‘out of his mind’

Gary Kaminsky said Thursday he's not quite sure David Einhorn is making a solid investment.

"He looks at this as a zero-coupon bond," Kaminsky said. "I know David, I have a lot of respect for all the work he does. I personally think he's out of his mind."


Kaminsky said institutions will begin to question if Einhorn will get distracted by the Mets and how committed he can be to investing with this kind of a side project. David Faber concurred, saying, "Seems like something you'd rather do kind of in retirement."

AIG remains Humpty Dumpty
for Hank Greenberg

Hank Greenberg seemed an ideal guy to visit The Strategy Session Thursday on the heels of the AIG stock sale, but he's not terribly glib anymore, and his stilted commentary could only be described as predictable.

Greenberg said, "The price was somewhat less than I expected," "Benmosche is a good man," and "The real issue is, did the government need to take 92% of the company."

David Faber then revealed, "You and I have discussed that behind closed doors to a certain extent," and apparently that part of the dialogue will remain behind closed doors. Greenberg noted AIG wasn't given the magic "bank holding company" designation, that the government got rid of good businesses, and that his successors were the ones who ignited the risk: "They did more credit default swaps after we left than we did in — in 9 months — than we did in 7 years," he said.

The CNBC graphics gremlins once again overcame spellcheck to say "GOVERMENT OFFERING" while Greenberg spoke.

[Wednesday, May 25, 2011]

Fast Money panel mocks
guest who shorted Netflix

Heaven forbid you make an appearance on Fast Money and get a trade (at least temporarily) wrong.

Melissa Lee on Wednesday noted that NFLX surged to a new high on Mark Zuckerberg reports.

"Sorry short sellers out there, whoever's left in that trade, maybe it's Len Brecken out there, not quite sure, haven't heard from him in a while (actually April 6)," Lee said.

Guy Adami seconded that with his own interpretation of how Brecken got into this mess. "You can't never make this personal, which, I believe that Len has. Now he could be 100% right in all his assessments about the stock, and a year from now we might be trading $50. But when you make it personal, it becomes a losing battle," Adami said.

Nobody actually defended Brecken, but Tim Seymour probably came closest in stressing NFLX is trading at "74 times earnings."

Munster: AAPL buy-buy-buy

When it came to AAPL, Melissa Lee challenged Gene Munster on Wednesday to explain how the company is always fine despite overseas factory problems, CEO health and product delays.

"People are gonna buy their products anyway," Munster shrugged.

"So you just say buy buy buy, because of that," Lee said, obviously not terribly convinced.

But Munster — who conceded it gets tiresome talking about how great AAPL is but who nevertheless has been one of Fast Money's most accurate guests for years in predicting AAPL's rise — was just getting started. "The reality is, this is just dirt cheap," he said, as the screen flashed a $554 price target.

Guy Adami asked what the "right multiple" is. "Higher than it is right now," Munster said.

CEO’s assistant got $5 mil.

Karen Finerman, in stunning black sleeveless dress, promoted a couple of health-care names Wednesday. One was CareFusion (CFN), which Finerman called "undermanaged ... that's a name we like" and potentially a "mid-30s stock."

Another was Omnicare (OCR), which has a curious history of "some of the most insider dealing we had ever seen," Finerman said.

Finerman said the former CEO made $100 million, and somehow "his assistant made $5 million, which was sort of an interesting arrangement." She said the company also sued everyone with help from a connected law firm, and that just a reversion to more typical business practices would deliver "something in the mid-30s."

Ralph Lauren may have
‘Nike Syndrome’

Tim Seymour said on Wednesday's Fast Money, "I just get the sense that silver was this mirage rally" that was "going bananas" when other metals were pulling back. "I feel like silver has probably seen its high for the year," he said.

Seymour gave Goldman Sachs a backhanded compliment of sorts, saying, "They're probably watching our show."

Brian Sozzi, in a refreshing nod to Mark Haines and interesting retail roundup, said Ralph Lauren got a "wake-up call," namely that "their costs are going up 20%," and that the company maybe has "Nike Syndrome," which is a problem raising prices.

Sozzi said he likes Macy, Nordstrom and potentially Tiffany's, and for shorts, he suggests looking at Staples and Liz Claiborne, or the "worst stories, and the worst business models."

Patrick Scholes said he thinks summer will actually be good for travel and vacations and recommends Wyndham, Marriott and InterContinental.

David Riedel said there's a chance for something like a "Marshall Plan for North Africa" and to look for global companies with presence there, saying there were similar profits to be made in Eastern Europe a while ago.

Joe Terranova said to "take a look at Baker Hughes," with the $68 level the key. Guy Adami said he's bullish CAT if the S&P climbs above 1,325.

Gary Kaminsky said he's been hearing that the AIG offering was 20% retail but that's unconfirmed. He also said Hank Greenberg would be on The Strategy Session Thursday.

Doug Kass offered several tributes to Mark Haines, saying, "As a short seller, I loved his cynicism."

Already missed

Erin Burnett's appearance in CNBC's Mark Haines tribute Wednesday evening makes one wonder, How did CNBC let this person go?

Silver: Back to $50?

Guest Dave Hightower, on the Fast Line Wednesday, said silver can return to $50 not just for the industrial/speculation reasons offered by Melissa Lee, but also a mysterious "flight to quality" apparently based on currencies.

Hightower said May might've been disastrous, but the fundamentals haven't changed.

Steve Cortes wasn't on board with that. "If silver rallies near to $40, I'm gonna short it up there. Look, I think this is a play on inflation," Cortes said.

Brian Kelly said he bought FCX and Silver Wheaton.

Fast Money gang
doubts rich people

Patty Edwards declared on Wednesday's Halftime Report, "The high end is not immune from the inflationary pressures."

Steve Cortes said, "I do not like the high end at all," and to prove it, "I used this dip today to buy Wal-Mart."

Patty Edwards got to continue slightly on her Costco-shopper breakdown that Scott Wapner wasn't too keen on a day earlier. Edwards said the typical Costco shopper is Nordstrom-like, makes $85,000-$100,000 a year, and often owns his/her own business.

Brian Kelly sort of downplayed the impact of cotton pricing, saying, an $80 pair of jeans has "less than a couple dollars of cotton," before saying he personally likes either Wrangler, or "Rustlers from Wal-Mart, the one that Steve likes."

AAPL analyst: Jobs’ health
somewhat ‘already priced in’

Guest Scott Sutherland told Melissa Lee he thinks the AAPL growth story, despite "cracks here and there, merits a call for $450 on the stock. Patty Edwards asked Sutherland about the headwind of Steve Jobs' health. Sutherland responded, "Some of that is already priced in," and that he thinks the company has "built a management team outside of Steve Jobs."

Melissa Lee mistakenly said CSCO looks like it's at a "52-week high." JJ Kinahan said the stock is turning into some kind of play on the belief in John Chambers' turnaround abilities.

Steve Cortes basically stole the Tim Seymour line about how AIG used to be worth $1,000 or more.

Steve Grasso and Melissa Lee, who wore a lovely blue top, delivered a nice tribute to Mark Haines from the NYSE floor. "He was one of ours," Grasso said, pointing out that Haines would regularly wear an American flag tie.

"Whenever he walked in, he sort of just made everybody smile," Lee said.

The only question about
TARP that matters

The inclusion of Kate Kelly at the table Wednesday with David Faber and Gary Kaminsky produced one of the best Strategy Session interviews in recent memory — despite the fact the interviewee, government TARP boss Tim Massad, said little more than "we're ahead of schedule and getting more money back than people thought" to virtually every question.

The Strategy Session regulars demonstrated excellent knowledge of the TARP data.

Massad, an articulate guest, handled the payoffs and percentages without blinking.

But those details have ceased to matter for at least a year. Most Americans voted mentally on TARP the week it was enacted. Maybe some have waited to learn the actual results before forming an opinion. By now, the remaining returns are irrelevant.

What does matter is the big question that was not asked:

Is TARP the precedent for how the U.S. government will handle every financial crisis?

In the opinion of this site, the answer is an overwhelming yes.

(That is not an opinion that it should be, only that it will be.)

Bailout opponents are still heard on CNBC. They claim it either did not succeed, or was immoral, or both. They might be right.

However, the people who run governments and run companies almost certainly across the board — quietly — approve of TARP. They regularly issue the disclaimers/qualifiers, "The president never wanted to be in the auto business"; "I believe businesses should be allowed to fail," etc., and then it's always followed by, "But..."

What George Bush did not say in his speech at the SALT conference is that he likely thinks TARP — if it was to be used at all — should've been enacted in early 2008, or earlier, at the first signs of Bear Stearns/Citigroup/Fannie Mae (take your pick) teetering.

That presumably wouldn't have saved the housing market and if anything would've enabled more Wall Street bonuses for incompetent management ... but it would've spared the stock market a certain amount of agony and prevented a Lehman-inspired freezing of the credit markets.

What even the backers will say is, "Yeah, but there wasn't the political capital then."

There is now. The movers and shakers in this country, not unanimously but with strong consensus, have obviously concluded that the philosophical ugliness of TARP is preferable to a weeks-long financial panic that leads to 10% unemployment and unfathomable stock market losses, and the next time the opportunity arises, they'll pick the former.

AIG: Overachiever

It was hard to tell Wednesday on The Strategy Session what exactly Tim Massad was praising, whether the concept of TARP, the government's mastery of it, or the business acumen of bailed-out companies such as AIG and Chrysler.

"Most people thought we'd never see a dime of this back," Massad said of AIG, which apparently means somebody overachieved, though we're not sure who.

Then he said the public thinks of TARP as $700 billion coughed up.

"The fact is we only laid out about 400, a little bit more than 400 billion. We've gotten back 75% of that," he said, a slightly dubious point, because if TARP wasn't the government's fault, it shouldn't matter whether the number is $700 billion or $400 billion.

Massad conceded, "We will take a small loss on Chrysler," but didn't opine as to how many more bailouts Chrysler is owed by the American public.

Kate Kelly said of the AIG offering, "there was some price tension up till the end I'm told." Gary Kaminsky said the issue now is whether there are interested long-term buyers who will jump in after the flipping.

In tributes to Mark Haines, Gary Kaminsky singled out what evidently is not one of his favorite questions. "There was no softballs. There was no, kind of, you know, Mark did not ask people, 'What keeps you up at night?'," he said.

Former NBC boss Bob Wright said of Haines, "For many people he was an acquired taste."

Kaminsky also reported something we did not know, that "Mark did not fly" and refused to take advice on overcoming his concerns about flying.

Sad day at CNBC

As this site tries to stay on top of the tributes to CNBC giant Mark Haines, this page will catch up with Wednesday's Fast Money and Strategy Session coverage overnight.

Karen Finerman interviewed
in Alchemy magazine

Every now and then one stumbles onto curious stuff on the Internet.

It's a couple weeks old, but this press release from SecondMarket explains it's launching "a new publication devoted to investing in traditional and esoteric alternative assets" called Alchemy.

This is the sentence that caught the eye: "The inaugural issue features conversations with Nouriel Roubini, Randall Kroszner and Karen Finerman."

Sure enough, the interview's online — with a nice photo of Karen, described as a "permanent member of the Fast Money team" — and it actually happened in March.

Karen talks about government intervention in 2008, but this question — keep in mind this was from March — is noteworthy. "Do you think we’re in the bond market bubble?" "I do."

Associated Press talks to
Rich Ilczyszyn in
gold, silver update

Rich Ilczyszyn wasn't on Fast Money Tuesday (as if Scott Wapner would've let him get in more than a sentence), but the Associated Press came calling, turning to Ilczyszyn in the 6th graf of its gold-silver wrap-up for insight. Ilczyszyn said gold buyers are looking for a hedge against uncertainty in Europe and a possible slowdown in China.

And it only took 4 grafs for Dow Jones Newswires to find Ilczyszyn on Monday for a report on natural gas.

[Tuesday, May 24, 2011]

Tim Seymour explains
— sort of — why he didn’t
make an easy 55%

Tim Seymour spent the last 2 days on Fast Money explaining how the valuation on Yandex is not worth the risk.

Notice that what he did not say was whether he was actually offered shares in the IPO.

Tuesday, it was couched like this:

"We were very close to this deal. We ultimately decided not to participate because we felt the valuation was gonna be where it is ... we don't buy stocks that are 60 times earnings ... when they slow, I don't wanna be in this trade."

That sounds like he turned down $25 a share. But to be fair, it could also mean he simply refused to buy on the first day, during which the low (according to Yahoo finance) was $30.55.

On Monday, he indicated he might've been OK with the deal when the pricing was previously going to be $20-$22. But he said it was hiked to $24-$25, for a potential raise of 20%, "which to me, is kind of absurd, which is very absurd, relative to the pricing."

Then he said curiously Monday, "This is not really a deal for us, so maybe we shouldn't have been looking at it in the first place."

So, given this page's role as self-appointed critic, it's sort of our job to figure out what's really going on here. And we come up with 3 possible scenarios:

1. Seymour declined to participate in the IPO because of lockup or other restrictions that would force him to hold the stock into a period in which he felt the shares, like GM and others, might fall, or that there were other unstated costs to participating. This is his best-case scenario. (But he never said this explicitly on-air.)

2. Seymour was never offered a chance at the IPO. Fair enough, except it's at odds with what he implied Tuesday.

3. Seymour declined to participate, with no restrictions, simply because he guessed wrongly that the IPO would be an immediate bust, and his commentary is partly sour grapes.

Why does any of this matter? Well, it seems that if stock professionals are offering advice on a TV show called Fast Money, and someone made a point of saying/implying 2 days in a row that a hot tech IPO on the heels of LinkedIn was too risky because the offer price was moved from $22 to $25, it seems like a remarkably bad call that could use some clarification, even with this page's assumption that IPO chatter for retail viewers is mostly bogus anyway because most viewers can't get the IPO price.

There's nothing wrong with being wrong, but honestly, as you can tell from the above, we're not even sure he was wrong — only that he apparently didn't own shares that popped 55% after he expressed skepticism.

What's more, he even chided the LinkedIn banks for underpricing while criticizing the people behind Yandex for lifting the official valuation to $25.

Zachary Karabell opined, "I'm really skeptical of the news stories that have been coming out over the past weeks, because these names go up so much, therefore it's a bubble."

Kelly: China central bank might be scheming in gold options market

Melissa Lee reported Tuesday, crediting Doug Kass, that someone is buying 50,000 gold calls for $1,600 to $1,800 that expire August-September.

Brian Kelly instantly laid out a Chinese central bank scheme in which they revalue the yuan and get a pop in gold.

That prompted a second round of skepticism from Tim Seymour (see below), who questioned if a yuan revaluation would "automatically" sink the dollar. Kelly said yes, because the yuan is primarily pegged to the dollar.

Seymour wasn't sold and decided there's a better option. "It's probably a trade on the euro," Seymour said.

Seymour actually said he deserved a "mini-Fast Fire here" for ripping on Sony a day ago, but asserted Tuesday, "You're buying a chart that still looks broken."

Guy Adami said to buy AMAT south of $13. Melissa Lee actually said the "blogosphere" is heating up with speculation about Sprint landing the iPhone.

Zach Karabell, caught slightly off-guard for the Final Trade, said he sold CAT puts at $95.

Terranova: Buy BX

Guy Adami likes to mention his trips to Vegas (see below), and Tuesday, speaking of Guess jeans and jacket, he said, "I sported that out in Vegas."

He did that chart-with-no-ticker-on-it thing with Mel Lee again, saying Goldman Sachs may trade down to $129.

Brian Kelly said, "Look at Marriott instead of airlines" as a way to play the easing of oil. Kelly also said, "I'm starting to warm to the bank sector," and is interested in buying JPM (possibly the most useless Fast Money stock of all time, but whatever) and MS.

Joe Terranova cited Evercore, and KKR, and said, "I think you can buy Blackstone on this pullback."

We think he was trying to imply some sort of conspiracy

The most entertaining part of Dan Dicker's Fast Money appearance Tuesday was the dancer on the stage in the background, which the Fast Money producers nimbly caught and featured to howls in the final moments.

Dicker, though, managed to dance around something of an absurdity, which is his complaint that the Goldman Sachs call on oil was actually correct, and came too soon after the previous one.

"When they make calls, they're usually monumental, and they last for a lot longer than 6 weeks, so for them to reverse in that short a period of time is a really, really big deal," he said.

So Melissa Lee pointed out, looks like they were right.

Dicker may have grudgingly agreed but insisted it's a "flat market we're looking at."

Adami: Amarin could go to $30

Guy Adami likes to mention on-air his trips to Vegas, so much so that on Tuesday's Fast Money he happened to bring up his most recent one for no reason.

"We were just in Vegas ... The $100 table is where biotech is," he said, before protesting that his colleagues that he didn't gamble, although maybe he did, for 7 minutes (and he didn't go to Jack in the Box, but he could've gone to Fatburger).

Anyway, he said Amarin has important trials coming up, and "I think the best is yet to come ... if they're successful with this, there is huge, tremendous upside for this stock."

He called it an "$18 stock that could easily be 30."

Kelly: $29 AIG ‘considered to be a victory’

Kate Kelly spent considerable time on Tuesday's Fast Money delivering breaking news on the AIG pricing, which — surprise, surprise (see below) — turned out to be $29.

"This is considered to be a victory," Kelly said, which unfortunately is the type of comment that sort of makes the news reporter in these situations the defender of the government against the panel's critiques, which is basically what happened to Kelly.

The price is "above the break-even price of 28.70 for the government, which I think is both economically and psychologically important in this case," Kelly said.

(As this page reported yesterday, "psychologically" means it's important for the government to feel good about what it's doing, blow to the taxpayers aside.)

Guy Adami wasn't close to calling it a victory. "I feel like to a certain extent we've been fleeced," he said, pointing to the share price as recently as December.

Kelly pointed out "there's a political issue here as well," that Treasury wants out, and "They just wanted to get going I think at the most opportune moment."

Kelly said the government still has a huge bloc of shares and plans to unload it over the next 6 to 18 months, and that they'd prefer closer to 6, but ...

The panel didn't care.

"People have been absolutely torpedoed in this thing," said Tim Seymour, who twice pointed to the shares' adjusted 2007 price of about $1,200.

"The taxpayers didn't make nearly as much as they should've," said Guy Adami.

"I would've much rather seen them cancel it at the 11th hour and actually trade it," said Brian Kelly.

"I can't see why you'd wanna buy it," said Joe Terranova.

Most nights, but not all

It didn't take Tim Seymour long to get on someone's case on Tuesday's Fast Money.

The show had barely opened when Brian Kelly announced, "Somebody tweeted me today, saying, nobody's talking about silver."

"Don't we talk about silver every night?" Seymour interrupted.

"Not the last couple, not this week," Kelly said, explaining, "I do go over the transcripts after the show to make sure." (Note — we don't think transcripts actually exist, because we've looked before, but we're not going to give Kelly a hard time about that.)

Melissa Lee gave Zachary Karabell something of a break on the Prop Desk, asking Karabell about silver on a day of a bounce. "When it was going down I was deeply hoping I wasn't going to be on the show and having to explain why I was buying a double-levered ETF," Karabell said. "I did actually buy more when it really went down to about 31." He did call it a "highly speculative trade" but pointed to Chinese copper supplies as a fundamental reason behind the metals trade.

Brian Kelly praised the Goldman Sachs call, saying, "I think they're spot-on on this," and what's a not-too-uncommon reaction, Seymour actually agreed, saying, "I think it's actually the right call here too."

Joe Terranova posed the question, "Is this a slowdown, or is it a meltdown?" He's in the camp of the former, saying oil could drop $3-$5, but no big deal.

Guy Adami said FCX might have the "makings of a bit of a double-bottom."

‘Very challenged consumer in food service’

Occasional Fast Money guest Joe Sanderson told Melissa Lee on Tuesday, "We've been describing a very challenged consumer in food service primarily since the summer of 2008. Very weak food-service demand, and that continues." He defined that as "anywhere people eat away from home."

What's driving that? "We think it's unemployment, primarily," he said.

Brian Kelly said there's a "bit of a disconnect" in that he's not hearing the same things from Darden.

Scott Wapner is in
paid-by-the-word mode

The Fast Money Halftime Report took place Tuesday with Scott Wapner in guest host role, and panelists should be glad they were afforded any chance to speak at all.

While Wapner recently has eclipsed Simon Hobbs as the show's best guest host with a lightning-quick, fast-break offense duly noted on this page, Tuesday was a rare setback, an overcaffeinated all-Scott-all-the-time fest in which every question had to come with a 2-part description.

Zachary Karabell and Patty Edwards took up the interesting subject of IPOs, with Karabell asserting that "buying a hot IPO on the first day is usually a recipe for watching your money disappear in subsequent days."

Edwards more or less agreed, pointing to GM and Glencore and saying, "They're all trading at this point in time under where they came public," noting the LNKD exception.

Karabell later pointed to Zipcar as "another hot IPO that's coming back down to earth."

Brian Kelly found himself perhaps the lone defender of the IPO binge, saying there's no bubble yet at least evidenced by LNKD because these are good companies that just happen to be trading at maybe higher-than-expected valuation.

Patty Edwards was making some interesting points about a non-IPO, Costco, as to how margins and volume work regarding gasoline and how it's for the upper-end consumer, but at present time, she thinks it's priced for perfection, and "I don't love the stock."

"I think we get the idea," Wapner said, before the conversation was potentially allowed to get more interesting.

Ron Bloom wipes out
Call the Close

Scott Wapner finally did run into someone who could outtalk him on Tuesday, and that would be government car czar Ron Bloom.

Wapner to his credit asked several good questions expressing skepticism about the Chrysler "payback" and whether it's just transferring public debt to private, whether it's only doing this now to avoid the "stigma" of government ownership, and whether it's really on equal ground with GM and Ford.

Bloom, to his own credit, was mostly candid if finding a silver lining everywhere, saying, "I wouldn't describe them as way behind," but maybe somewhat behind, that the company's ahead of schedule, and that rates are very attractive right now for borrowing.

"This is a very important milestone. But obviously they still have a long way to go," Bloom said.

Time was short, and Wapner did well, but Chrysler has been under the radar for a long time and it merits asking someone like Bloom, given that this is the 2nd Chrysler bailout, should Americans just expect that this company will be a permanent ward of the state no matter what the global auto situation looks like nor how many other companies are building cars, and how does propping up a company for the 2nd time really improve America's competitiveness in the global auto market, and what exactly did the American taxpayer/consumer really get out of this deal.

Ron Blomberg, by the way, was baseball's first designated hitter.

Nelson Peltz investment labeled ‘passive’ 3 times

Domino's Pizza boss Patrick Doyle, a friend of Fast Money, said he had no concerns about agitation from Nelson Peltz. "It was a 13-G, not a 13-D," Doyle said, saying that 2/3 or 3/4 of the time, Peltz's investments are passive.

So Domino's stock gets the big buyer, and management gets no interference.

Nice gig if you can pull it off.

Scott Wapner ran a commercial clip showing Domino's' new extended carryout promotion for $7.99 for a large 3-topping, which have to admit sounds pretty good. Patty Edwards wasn't as hot on the stock, saying, "I think this thing has run a little bit too far, too fast" and that she likes Dinequity.

Joe Terranova, though, said it's a case of "buy high, sell higher."

Brian Kelly revealed, "I've never been to Cracker Barrel."

No eruption for airlines

Jim Higgins of Soleil proved a very good guest on Tuesday's Halftime, suggesting for a couple of reasons why the European volcano probably isn't a big problem.

"They have a little bit of practice on how to deal with it" as opposed to last year, he said. He added that Delta is the U.S. carrier with the biggest exposure to potentially affected European flights, but in the big picture of Delta revenue, "it really wasn't a big deal."

Zachary Karabell said "The dollar's just another tailwind for the commodity trade" and predicted an impact as the euro twists. "It's a relatively foregone conclusion that Greece isn't gonna default."

Karabell also told Scott Wapner he sees the "metal complex as a very different animal from the oil complex and the energy complex."

Joe Terranova said of oil, "you're either long or flat," and the selloff has been the pause that refreshes. Brian Kelly said "I bought some HOC calls this morning."

Kelly pointed to 8% Chinese GDP and said, "If we had that in this country, we would be ecstatic." Actually, we wouldn't; all kinds of people would show up on CNBC saying "the real number is closer to 4.5" and "the Fed has got this wrong."

Gundlach: ‘Treasurys in
a terrible trade location’

David Faber, while downplaying any rivalries, pointed out on Monday's Strategy Session that Bill Gross was exiting Treasurys while Jeff Gundlach was predicting the Treasury market would rally, "and in fact, it did."

So what's Gundlach doing for an encore?

"This is a terrible trade location to be buying Treasurys at this point," Gundlach said. "Basically, the only way you're going to have the rally go further is if you really start to see some significant economic weakness, like zero GDP or something like that. That could happen. Uh, so I'm not a seller of the Treasury bond market," but he said when yields get around 3.25%, "I basically stop buying."

He said balanced-budget austerity — which this page doesn't believe by the way — is off the radar screen, but if it did happen, would take money out of the economy and could bring the yield down to 2.75%, though he's not predicting that.

Jeff Gundlach suggests
an ‘echo’ of the credit crisis

Jeff Gundlach, who possesses a better TV voice than most people on CNBC and is probably the greatest guest in the history of The Strategy Session, began his appearance Monday with a little commentary on some of the network's other visitors.

"A lot of people come on, uh, CNBC and they say, Yeah, well, housing's bad, we all know that, let's talk about good stuff," he said.

"I'm starting to get kind of worried about it," he continued. "The housing market is dropping ... it's 1 basis point — 1 basis point — off the, off the low of a couple years ago."

He said back in 2007, "I used to get 50 updates a day on ABX. Now I get 1 a day, because it's off the radar screen."

Gundlach said "The recovery rate is going down," and while David Faber neatly explained what that is (while the graphics gremlins put "BOND GURU JEFF GUDLACH" on the screen), Gary Kaminsky didn't pass up the chance to level another broadside at the sell-side analyst community.

"The credit guys do such better research than the sell-side equity guys," Kaminsky said, before asking Gundlach if the analysts are truly aware of the ramifications of declining recovery rates.

Gundlach said the problem is, "They use sort of historical metrics to talk about what the future's going to bring," for example, they used to think 70 cents when it was really 20 cents, "and it's falling."

For his own book, Gundlach said, "We've been migrating to higher and higher quality ... we're about 10% cash, which is quite high ... this Maiden Lane II selling — it's relentless."

Gundlach concluded, using the term "echo" 3 times, "I kinda think we're looking at some sort of echo of the credit crisis coming up here."

Ian Schrager: Hip is out

Hotel/club chieftain Ian Schrager, described by David Faber as the first Strategy Session guest in history to wear a short-sleeved shirt, asserted Tuesday he's "Still hungry as I ever was" and that his new hotel line is playing contrarian: "Now, we're anti-design ... now, we're anti-hip."

We were sitting around wondering, And just what the heck are they talking about; thankfully David Faber came to the rescue. "You know what, we actually have, uh, forgotten, what is it, you should tell us what it is you're doing, in Chicago or wherever it is, that represents this vision," Faber said, while the screen text described Schrager's venture as a brand called Public.

But Schrager still wasn't terribly specific, saying he wanted to take a hotel visit and "elevate it into a cultural experience ... you feel the same way you feel when you saw a great movie or read a great book or went to a great show."

Faber then asked, "What's anti-hip?" Schrager didn't really define it except to say the largest hotel companies are trying to be hip, which he said to him "by definition hip is something alternative," and that it's time to move on.

Schrager's own Web site doesn't name his Chicago plan either, though it refers to the Ambassador East's storied history of Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Sid Vicious and the Rat Pack, who apparently are "anti-hip" enough to make the billing.

Gary Kaminsky asserted, "I am hip. I did use to go to Studio 54. .. Back in the days, Vitas Gerulaitis and all." Kaminsky made a good point, that a "powerful shower" is a good way to get people to appreciate a hotel and want to come back.

13.5 million U.S. car sales

The Strategy Session's interview with Jeff Gundlach Tuesday was curiously interrupted by Phil LeBeau's interview with Volkswagen North America chief Jonathan Browning, who said the new Passat in Tennessee "really reaches into the heart- into the heartland of the U.S. marketplace."

He told LeBeau, "We see 13.5" in U.S. auto sales for the year (numbers in millions).

A quick Web search detected that Browning took this post last September, but through 2008, had been vice president of GM's global auto sales.

[Monday, May 23, 2011]

Dennis Gartman chides Karen Finerman for making this too hard

Dennis Gartman on Monday's Fast Money identified Belgium as the latest trouble for Deutschland, saying that Germany is bound get exasperated. "Finally they will simply say, we're out," Gartman said.

Then Karen Finerman made the mistake of asking Gartman what seemed like a reasonable question about appreciation in a "German-focused currency" in the event of a euro disruption.

"Karen, that's years down the line," Gartman said. "Let's not trade the 3rd or 4th derivative of some trade yet ... predicating a trade on something that's going to happen 3 or 4 years down the line is a, is a very difficult trade."

Regis Philbin trades AAPL
from $330 to $350

Regis Philbin dialed into the Fast Line on Monday with a trading tip for AAPL.

When the shares trickle around $330, or lower, Philbin said, "I buy a thousand shares, and wait, and sooner or later, it goes back up to 350, maybe 355, and you have enough money to buy Guy Adami a good Italian meal."

Philbin complained about Micron, saying of his MU holdings, "I should've sold it when it, uh, when it jumped up a couple of points there. But you know, you wait because there's nothing worse than watching a stock that you have sold keep going even higher. So like a dope I hung on."

He asked Karen Finerman about GS. Finerman called its valuation "really amazing" but admitted "I don't own it," even though she thinks that despite the regulatory-fear overhang, it'll always find a way to make money.

Joe Terranova told Philbin to consider selling half of his EMC stake on a rally. Guy Adami shrugged off Philbin's interest and buying in SIRI. Tim Seymour said Wynn is not cheap but is a great play on Macau, which is basically harkening back to themes from the original Fast Money.

Speaking of prior episodes, Melissa Lee showed clips of Philbin's previous appearance on the show, in which Melissa was rather chic-y and K-Fine was wearing that mod-'70s-influenced yellow white dress.

Readers of this page knew about this Friday morning

At the end of Monday's Fast Money, Melissa Lee and Karen Finerman finally addressed Karen's remarkable short call on BKS last Thursday — mentioned just hours, if not minutes, before John Malone's bid became public.

Making matters worse, Lee somehow said Monday the offer was $30.

"30?" Finerman recoiled.

"Wasn't it 30?" Lee asked.

"I thought it was 17," Finerman said. "Wow, this trade is turning out far worse than I thought."

Lee chalked it up to something on her mind. Finerman very impressively acknowledged the bad break, saying she didn't think there was a buyer out there.

"Liberty is a decent buyer," she said, though she said Riggio's position isn't clear. "I don't know if he wants to work with John Malone," Karen said, using air quotes around "with."

"We are still staying short," Finerman said, once again explaining that your own personal cost basis has no bearing on where the stock is going.

"Fast Fire. Bad trade. ... Terrible timing though. Literally, the day of the bid," she said.

Fast Money stars paid more than Food Network chefs

Anthony Scaramucci announced Scripps Networks (SNI) on Monday as the Hedge Fund Trade of the Week.

"It owns 2 great channels," he said, referring to HGTV and the Food Network. "These are fantastic brands."

He said the company has "great EBITDA margins" that can go from 43% to 50%.

"We expect this stock to trade between 65 and 80 by the end of, within 12 months," Scaramucci said. "The catalyst will be share repurchases."

Guy Adami said "This reeks of a takeover candidate." Scaramucci said that's a good point, but "I don't have that in the equation."

Scaramucci said SNI has kept content costs remarkably low (which is either savvy management, or somebody might be getting low-balled). "They're even paying us here at CNBC more than they're paying some of these chefs," Scaramucci said.

Worth: Stocks you might own are not as important as ones you probably don’t

We figured it was only a matter of time before someone mentioned the mathematical paradox of a "healthy" correction, and sure enough Carter Worth fit the bill on Monday's Fast Money.

Worth first pointed to the 1,344 mark as broken, but eventually traced the QE trend line from August which he said is at 1,315, and we bounced.

So, "the broad observation is, market is in good shape ... perfectly healthy," Worth said.

In other words, a message directed undeniably at market longs who by definition want the stock market to go indefinitely higher is telling them it's actually "perfectly healthy" to be going lower.

But Worth actually followed with something even more dubious when Tim Seymour noted that the correction of "only" 3-4% is what concerns him right now.

Worth said maybe someone got on the wrong side of commodities, etc., and took a 20% hit, but that's OK, because the cereal and soap and diaper makers are hanging in there. "The ones that are coming down, uh, as bad as they are, they're not as important as the ones that are holding up," he said.

So in other words, other stocks should matter more to you than the ones you're probably actually holding if you're watching a show called "Fast Money."

Or put another way, this correction is "healthy" for people playing the S&P 500 and evidently not so healthy for people playing energy, commodity or global-growth names, which are "so bad that they're good" and "down to support."

So if you own the diaper makers, consider yourself in good shape.

Seymour avoiding Yandex

Tim Seymour on Monday first praised Yandex, saying "There are people that would argue it's better technology than Google."

He said of the IPO, "I'm sure this deal will go very well."

But he insisted he's a value buyer, and the value is no longer there given the spike in pricing to $24-$25. He pointed to SINA as what happens when things go bad. "There's a lot of room for miss when these guys start to slow down," he said.

Tim Seymour takes forever to get to what should’ve been his top point

Joe Terranova first found himself in a disagreement with Tim Seymour on Monday's Fast Money, only to have Seymour, with the assist from Karen Finerman, eventually concede that the market might bounce by month-end.

Terranova pointed to volume and said "I think you're in the late innings here" of a selloff on the global growth names, and that he bought CVI.

When Seymour questioned the late innings part, Terranova said, "Gasoline in 2008 was not where gasoline is right now," and that a lot of guys are on the wrong side of the long oil vs. short gasoline trade.

Seymour said "the last couple weeks have really been awful," and "I think you've got a ways to go" on the DXY, maybe 88, 89.

Karen Finerman though said she bought some CAT calls, prompting hoots from Seymour, and predicted some month-end window-dressing.

Terranova reiterated his point about volume and the late innings.

So Seymour pointed to Brazil, which he said if you've been in for 14-15 months, "you're down," and that's "supposedly the darling market out there," before then inexplicably getting to the part of his analysis that viewers would most want to hear — that May 2011 looks much like May 2010, with an early Flash Crash and an early oil plunge, but then a recovery before a June swoon, and, "I think we're following that to a T."

Weiss: Try NS

Stephen Weiss on Monday's Fast Money recommended a not particularly well-known name, NuStar. "I think this goes a lot higher," he said, citing CEO buying and a nearly 7% yield.

Weiss earlier told Melissa Lee that he is "not now" standing by his dollar-commodities-unlinking thesis; "it was a quick day in the sun."

Guy Adami said the $101.50 level in Caterpillar "gives you something to shoot against." He also pointed to selling in ORCL and said it "feels like there might be some continued pressure" in some kind of "rotation" out of tech.

Tim Seymour jumped on that. "Does rotation out of tech into cash count as rotation?" Seymour asked, a point Adami conceded.

Joe Terranova said he got out of Baxter. Karen Finerman complained that valuations in the defensive names of her portfolio, MCD and YUM, are getting stretched. Amelia Bourdeau said "I look to sell euro here."

Melissa’s big plans

Steve Grasso said on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report that the market action is sort of a payback for "how everyone thought that Greece wasn't a big deal."

Then, complaining about the global growth story as he sees it, Grasso said to Melissa Lee, "You tell me what you're excited about that doesn't involve the weekend."

Money in Motion
scoops Fast Money

Andy Busch on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report managed to promote a sister CNBC program in regards to selling the euro.

"On Money in Motion, we've been talking about this for weeks," Busch said.

But it was Treasury talk by Busch that got Steve Grasso's attention.

"You get down around 3.05, you're gonna have some convexity players come in and have to buy bonds," Busch said.

Grasso said, "I remember back in the '90s, we had some convexity buyers, it was an awful situation," and asked Busch to define.

"Well it's just where you're, you're caught, and, and you need to really put the, uh, put the positions back on that you don't have, uh, related to mortgages," Busch said, in an explanation that doesn't quite sound like it's gonna end up on the Convexity buying Wikipedia page.

Busch begged off Grasso's pointed question about the DXY, claiming it's too much a mix of other currencies and he'd prefer to isolate the yen and euro.

Cortes short EEM

Steve Cortes declared on Monday's Halftime, "I think all commodities for that matter are very suspect here, particularly crude oil.

"I'm short EEM," Cortes continued. "I believe that the world is incredibly overinvested in emerging markets and underinvested in the United States."

Cortes was actually pounding the table for GS and MS. "I'm long Goldman," he said.

Gotta leave it there again with question for CEO about M&A plans

Shutterfly boss Jeffrey Housenbold on Monday's Halftime shrugged off Melissa Lee's concerns that people no longer print photos but just ship them around digitally.

There is "very robust growth in our photobooks," Housenbold said.

Lee asked Housenbold if there's any chance he'll buy a piece of Kodak. "We're busy digesting the Tiny Prints acquisition," he said.

Lee asked Pete Najarian for a stock call. "Those valuations in excess of a hundred presently, that's very very difficult to get your arms around," he said.

How to trade nat gas

Steve Grasso explained on Monday's Halftime how nat gas traders operate.

"They look at the weather in the morning and the weather in the afternoon," Grasso said.

He called the Cheniere forecasts a "huge win for LNG, not for the whole space."

Grasso also said he wouldn't sell Micron now because it's at the lower end of its range.

Analyst Shaw Wu indicated the China factory fire affecting AAPL is not too bad. Pete Najarian said "I certainly would" buy AAPL on weakness, and when pressed by Melissa Lee said that would be near $325.

Pete Najarian said he expects an "absolutely phenomenal trade on the options side" of LinkedIn. Steve Cortes said that back in the '90s, he could make money during a hot IPO by simply buying the Nasdaq index, which tended to rise with the IPO, but that Friday, the rest of the market yawned at LNKD and was "very very different from those go-go days."

The important thing to the government is that the government feels good about itself

Kate Kelly reported on Monday's Strategy Session that there's been somewhat of a breakthrough on the AIG offer pricing.

"The deal's underwriters are now telling investors, apparently they've got a consensus price of 29 to 30 dollars, a level that's important both economically and psychologically to the Treasury, which breaks even at $28.70," Kelly said.

Bully for them.

What if the next social media IPO is a bust?

Gary Kaminsky, back on Monday's Strategy Session, re-stressed a point he made last week, that the instant riches from LNKD will spur bid for the AIG prize.

"You want to be in good with the underwriters because you want to make certain that the next time one of these, uh, tech IPOs is gonna price, you're gonna get some of the shares," Kaminsky said.

"That is the way the game gets played," he insisted. "The government will get the benefit of the LinkedIn IPO as a result of this."

That prompts this page to wonder, that maybe what these likely AIG bidders are actually betting on is not strength in the tech space or strength in the AIG story ... but merely the likelihood that the next social media IPO will be as woefully underpriced as LinkedIn was?

Well, that's how it kept happening in the '90s.

$29 — lucky or unlucky?

In the recent history of IPOs — and let's face it, there's not a whole lot of history recently, at least the kind anyone talks about — one number seems rather curious.

Recall that the Blackstone IPO was targeted at $29-$31 and ultimately priced at $31.

And that GM was going to be $26-$29, but was evidently so oversubscribed that it too pushed up into the $30s.

And now, coincidentally or not given that it already trades, we hear on The Strategy Session that $29 is a "psychologically" important level for the AIG offering.

Is there something magical about a $29 offer price that makes people want to pay $30-plus for the shares? Yahoo, Amazon and several other notable tech firms opted for pricing in the teens in the 1990s.

Looks like they sold themselves short.

Goldman Sachs is not
risking enough money

Jeff Harte said on Monday's Strategy Session that "I think it's premature" to write off Goldman Sachs at 6th place in the year-to-date M&A race on Wall Street.

But Kate Kelly pointed to the slumping stock and asked whether it's de-risking, or "long-term fatigue" from the SEC case and other issues.

"Largely what we're seeing, is, I mean, it's a down market," Harte said. "To me, criminal charges seem very unlikely," given that, according to Harte, the SEC and Justice Department share all kinds of info about when and how they're going to enforce something, and it's been 10 months since the SEC case.

Harte also said, "Goldman's already BASEL 3 compliant. What other banks can say that?"

Gary Kaminsky asked, "Is it possible that Goldman's gonna have too much capital now?" Harte pointed to 20% ROE since the stock went public and current pricing of around 10, in a way of basically answering "yes," and said, "I don't think the ROE's been cut in half. I think they're overcapitalized ... almost 20% of their assets are essentially sitting in cash as a liquidity buffer. That's a big drag on your ROE."

Kate Kelly then questioned Gary Kaminsky on Kaminsky's statement that some people want to see Goldman's leadership reclaimed by the investment banking division.

"The people you know would like to see a change of emphasis?" Kelly asked, referring to Lloyd Blankfein.

"Correct," Kaminsky said.

Jeff Gundlach thesis
looking better and better

Gary Kaminsky pointed to the Treasury market at the top of Monday's Strategy Session and observed: "I learned a long time ago — fixed income investors are smarter than equity investors."

Kaminsky said China PMI, Eurozone manufacturing and Ryanair results are indicators of global growth issues. "We're now below the 50-day moving average on the S&P 500," he said. "It's a great time to be thinking about pruning your portfolio."

"Too many times retail investors will sell their winners and keep their losers," he added.

Guest George Goncalves agreed. "Gary's right, the bond market usually gets a whiff of this before everybody else," Goncalves said.

Goncalves said "We could see 10-year yields go under 3%," which he said wouldn't be a sign of a double dip, but "more about a safety bid."

David Faber unfortunately used 4 redundant and unnecessary words at the end of his sentence about focusing on the "Greek 10-year, because it does tell a story in and of itself," adding that show friend Kyle Bass insists "They're bankrupt" (which at least does not have a diaper element to it).

Kaminsky said the Greek debt curve indicates "actual haircuts" are imminent ... "it's just around the corner."

Darren Rovell, perhaps CNBC's most underrated reporter because he doesn't really deal in stocks, speculated about the potential impact on Lance Armstrong endorsements but noted he's good with the cancer-fighting causes. David Faber didn't seem excited by the doping allegations; "people seem to be numb to it."

[Friday, May 20, 2011]

Veteran Fast Money viewers
have seen Gene before

Gene Simmons turned up (with Jane Wells) on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report, and this time it went a little bit different than in the early days of Fast Money, when they set up that goofy videophone somewhere in New York City and invited people to ask the traders questions and Simmons happened to take part one day, asking the panel (in much more of a statement than a question) whether they thought IBM was as great as he thought it was, only to have Guy Adami say "Gene — may I call you Gene," and recommend EMC instead.

Anyway, much as we wanted to see Jane Wells, one wonders why she was needed Friday to introduce Simmons, given that Gene simply took over the show with a couple of sales pitches.

"O-r-t-s-b-o, Ortsbo.com enables you or anyone in the world to speak with anyone at any time in any language, instantaneously," Simmons said, promising there's no ads or anything to get in your way.

He said he could immediately go there and communicate in Swahili right now. "Jack Paar, I kid you not," he said, "It is incredible."

Then he touted something called "Cool Springs Life," which isn't insurance really, but "anything except a conduit. It is an estate-plan strategy." He said it's a Rolls Royce type of product for the super-rich; "if you're not, this is not for you."

Melissa Lee ultimately asked "What's the endgame here?" but didn't get much, other than a minor debate/clarification as to whether Ortsbo is actually designed to make any money (apparently it is, it's just nothing the user has to pay for).

Interesting stuff
from Gene Simmons

While we're waiting for Gene Simmons' reaction to his CNBC interview, we discovered he happens to be a fan of CNN.

Consider some of Simmons' recent tweets:

"CNN'S Fareed Zakaria is the most amazing & most solution-minded journalist on TV. Solid."

"CNN's Gov Spitzer -- solid. Like his style. Analytical. Listens. Then offers his opinions."

"Pres Carter needs to wake up & go towards the sunset quietly. He is no longer President."

"Mr. Frank is what Al Qaida hopes all of America is -- a nation without a backbone. He is delusional."

"Saw a Univ of Phoenix TV ad. Shame on the CEO. I met with him & created his campaign. 'I'm a Phoenix' & he used it w/out credit. Low class."

Pete asks Patty for help;
Patty waffles

Pete Najarian told Patty Edwards on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report that he's interested in Dollar Tree. "I'm thinking about it, but I wanna hear from you," he said.

"I actually think that the valuation is still fairly compelling," Edwards said. "You can certainly look at that one."

Great month for
David Strasser

David Strasser received a lengthy MarketWatch article just 2 weeks ago for issuing the lone buy rating on BKS.

Now that's looking pretty good.

Strasser, on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report as well as in the article, stressed the digital potential of Barnes&Noble and not takeover speculation.

"It's actually an evolving business that I think is misunderstood," he said, and when super-skeptical Melissa Lee pointed out no bids since August and wondered if it should really reject a $17 bid in hopes of getting $20, Strasser said, "I think it could very well happen."

Lee turned to Patty Edwards for what proved to be a more pointed call than Dollar Tree. "They've got a lot of real estate that's a huge amount of overhead," Edwards said, and "their Nook is essentially a unitasker ... I think they are just being swallowed up on all sides."

Edwards said if she owned BKS and got a $17 bid, "I would be selling to that person." When Lee asked if she would short it here, Edwards said, "You know, I am not the best at shorting," but she certainly couldn't have done any worse at that than Karen Finerman a day earlier.

Not sure if Banana Republic considers this an endorsement

Melissa Lee, for some unknown reason, decided to loosen up on her own usually tightly guarded personal shopping details on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report and revealed, "I for one will not buy Banana Republic unless I have a 40%-off coupon."

"And unless they sell Gucci," cracked Steve Grasso.

"Touche," Lee said.

Patty Edwards then told Lee why it takes discounts to get Lee into — likely for illustrative purposes only — Gap. "You would be buying stuff at full price if it was the stuff you really wanted," Edwards said. "The product has not been very good since, well frankly, since Mickey Drexler left."

Edwards said Zumiez and Foot Locker are 2 that are humming right now.

Pete Najarian said the MOS offering means it's time to buy. "I used it as an opportunity to get into Mosaic today," he said. "I think this stock has much more upside from here."

Joel Greenblatt’s book fair

If you only left Friday's Strategy Session with one piece of knowledge, it certainly had to be the fact that guest host Joel Greenblatt has written a bunch of investing books.

Greenblatt explained that "one of the secrets" of his latest is that "market-cap weighting ... isn't a very smart way to invest ... even though it beats most active managers."

He said, "A market-cap-weighted index will systematically buy too much of the overpriced stocks, and too little of the bargain-priced stocks. And they'll do it systematically ... that costs you about 2% a year."

This is an interesting theory, and we don't want to sell it short. But how does one truly know what's "overpriced" and what's "bargain-priced" until after the fact? (Hopefully — hopefully, hopefully — it has nothing to do with P.E. ratio, or we'll have to start carping about things like people claiming the New York Giants won Super Bowl 25 because they won the time of possession battle (see below if you find that reference more bizarre than usual for this page).).

The spokesman for consumer discretionary should think of a more catchy name for the sector

David Faber on Friday asked Joel Greenblatt to explain how he identifies winning stocks.

"We rank all companies based on a combination of how cheap and how good they are. And, we don't look for the cheapest companies, we don't look for the best companies, we look for the companies that have the best combination of those attributes," Greenblatt said.

That prompted Faber to ask, "How do you measure good, how good a company is?"

Greenblatt gave an analogy of a retailer with $400,000 in fixed costs that makes $200,000 vs. one that makes $10,000 — essentially looking for "higher returns on capital than lower."

Overall, Greenblatt was not negative on stocks. "I would be hard-pressed to say that the market's overvalued here; I think it's, uh, in the range of fair," he said.

But later, he said, "Right now, the next year or 2 doesn't look so great," while he promoted defense and consumer discretionary stocks, "pretty much because everybody else hates them."

Greenblatt was a good, well-spoken guest who gave viewers something to think about. Certainly, his investing strategy is more fundamentally sound than the CNBCfix method (Buy AAPL Limit $199 and wait for the next Flash Crash). Whether you can regularly tack on an extra 2% by actually identifying what's going to be the market-cap-weighted "systematic" errors" seems a matter of debate.

"We want people to go out and buy the book of course," said David Faber.


Yield hunting
with ETE, EPB

Bob Pisani reported Friday on The Strategy Session, and Rick Santelli was also saying the same thing, that traders are wondering if they "extend maturity on Greek bonds" whether that would constitute default for CDS purposes.

It's almost unfathomable that contingencies like that wouldn't be spelled out in whatever contracts (snicker) are involved in these things, but that's the Wall Street CDS market.

Peter Boockvar, described by David Faber as a "prolific e-mailer," told Friday's Strategy Session that "the market has spoken, saying that, there is going to be some sort of default here," and that a debt extension will be the only way to get all parties to agree on Greece bonds. But he said ultimately it won't matter, just kicking the can down the road.

MLP expert Douglas Rachlin had one of the better suits in recent Strategy Session memory but also might've been a little over-Red Bulled. "We're not worried whatsoever" about rumors of government changes to MLPs; he thinks it's "extremely unlikely there'll be any change to the tax structure of MLPs."

Rachlin likes ETE and EPB because of his "focus on infrastructure ... there's very little commodity price sensitivity to the businesses we own."

"We went to Tufts together," said David Faber, who reported Gary Kaminsky was off because (ouch) Kaminsky was "unfortunately off getting some dental surgery." Kaminsky is expected back Monday.

[Thursday, May 19, 2011]

John Malone likely
ruined Karen’s night

Sometimes, it even happens to the greats.

Karen Finerman casually declared on Thursday's Fast Money, "I shorted Barnes&Noble today, a name I've toyed with a lot in the past."

She added, "I just don't think the bricks-and-mortar business, um, can survive in the scale that they're in right now."

Our gut feeling is that she really doesn’t admire the persistence

Muni bond titan Alexandra Lebenthal visited the Fast Money set Thursday and actually started off by complimenting Meredith Whitney's work ethic.

"I guess I have to admire her, her persistence," Lebenthal said. "Um, it's completely incorrect, but I gotta admire the persistence."

Lebenthal then told Melissa Lee what was wrong with Whitney's WSJ op-ed.

"First of all there were a number of kind of twisted statements in the article that a bunch of us in the muni business are still kind of scratching our heads over," Lebenthal said. "For example there was something about, the total state obligations for New Jersey represents 30% of their GDP. Well debt service for bonds is 7%. So, we're trying to figure out if pension numbers are in there, but even, based on that, that's still wrong...

"There's just a big disconnect with what's really happening out there," Lebenthal said.

Lebenthal held nothing back, telling Karen Finerman that the notion of municipalities seeking to rewrite bond terms is "just not even on the table right now, or even close to it."

Melissa Lee closed with a very good and necessary question: Maybe people should listen to Whitney, an independent analyst, more than they should listen to Lebenthal, who's in the business; "you sell muni bonds."

"Obviously I'm in the business," Lebenthal said, "and Meredith is not in the business. ... At the end of the day, I'm really just calling the facts as I see them."

Friendly, hopefully helpful CNBCfix tips for Alexandra Lebenthal’s Web site

Just to heighten our knowledge of general stuff, we took a look at Alexandra Lebenthal's Web site after her Fast Money appearance Thursday.

And noticed a couple of issues.

The site looks like it hasn't been updated since August 2010; the CNBC video on the home page is nearly a year old.

And then there's that ghastly black background for the Web site. Too many people do this. No offense to the creative types out there but all it tends to do is make readers loopy. Try staring at that background for 30 minutes and then reading a book. (Around here all you have to do is survive a faint blue stripe that took an embarrassingly large amount of time to learn how to splash on the page ... about the only thing we have a clue about is what not to do, to be totally frank.)

Now, what about Lebenthal's new rival, Meredith Whitney ... Meredith's Web site is overly graphic-heavy, we did experience a little goofiness when hovering over the "In the news" and "research" icons (which don't exactly have the most timely information), and the fonts and their placement are a little too cute.

But most intriguing on the site was the bio/description on the "Meredith Whitney" page, which says, "Throughout her tenure at Oppenheimer, Meredith was most noted for her research on the ultimate decline in home prices, the future of the US mortgage industry, and the consumer lending market, including specific focus on the credit card industry" ... and not a word about the Citigroup dividend cut.

Doug Kass: On valuation, ‘Nikkei is as cheap as the U.S. market was’ in March 2009

Doug Kass made an interesting comment in his pro-Japan thesis on Thursday's Fast Money that was bound to stop viewers in their tracks.

"On a valuation case alone, the Nikkei is as cheap as the U.S. market was at the generational low in March of 2009," Kass said.

And the tsunami isn't a dead-end, but maybe a new beginning.

"To me it's conceivable that the effects of the earthquake are analogous to creative destruction and could possibly kick-start the lethargic Japanese economy," he said.

To play this, "I'm buying EWJ and on a spec I'm buying Nomura."

Melissa Lee asked Kass about promoting this trade at the end of 2010, and that it hasn't worked out too well.

"It hasn't worked because we had a nuclear accident," Kass said.

April’s winner
is May’s bust

John Stephenson is undaunted by the recent pounding in silver.

Stephenson told Melissa Lee on Thursday's Fast Money he still sees silver at $50, maybe $60, by year-end, and expects gold to "exit the year at 1,750."

However, he said he thinks the biggest upside right now might be in grains and corn.

"Silver, I still am bullish, and I still stand by with my bullish call for the end of the year," Stephenson said, even though the "trade is to the downside right now."

"It's really all about the fundamentals," he said.

If nothing else, Stephenson has given the Internet scorecard-keepers a crystal-clear benchmark for evaluating his calls on Dec. 31.

Melissa Lee, who had a vibrantly conservative navy dress/new hairstyle going Thursday, said at one point, "It's amazing what a sex scandal can do to the commodities market."

Steve Grasso was impressed
by Halftime Report guest

Guest Brian Blair spoke on Thursday's Fast Money about Amazon and ebooks, pointed out the company isn't terribly forthcoming about Kindle sales, and said that in only a few years of selling ebooks, it's been quite a run to surpass the regular books.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see digital books make up 75% of overall book sales in the, maybe, next 3 to 5 years to come," he said.

He also told Karen Finerman — ouch — that Barnes & Noble can't be written off in the digital space. (Or in the John Malone space either, evidently.)

Steve Grasso said Thursday that after hearing from GameStop CEO Paul Raines at Halftime, "I literally almost bought as soon as we got off-air."

Grasso said "Micron seems lost in the weeds." Melissa Lee said "I ran into Regis Philbin the other night," and of course Fast Money viewers know Philbin has been interested in that stock. Guy Adami said it's probably time to take profits in Micron.

Grasso once again zinged Ben Bernanke. "This is the gentleman that called subprime largely contained," Grasso said. "It's amazing how right he was. I don't wanna be a conspiracy guy on this. ... All the margin, margin requirements went up right after that, that press conference."

Maybe he went to Fatburger?

Guy Adami said on Thursday's Fast Money that, "Having never been to a Jack in the Box," he doesn't know exactly what they are.

But in fact, he was just in Vegas for the SALT gathering and could've easily visited a Jack in the Box in his spare time, assuming he had any spare time (Mel Lee sure didn't).

Karen Finerman spoke Thursday about her interest in MLPs and particularly KMP, which is "just really a toll business. You are not taking a lot, or any even, um, commodity price risk."

Finerman advised viewers to know exactly what you're betting on in the MLP space and learn which ones have true commodity risk. She said you can play the MLP ETF, AMJ.

Daniel Fisher said "the data is the only thing that matters" in nat gas, and "the market's very oversupplied." Fisher told Tim Seymour a hot summer won't be much help, "until a hurricane scare or something of that sort" happens.

JJ Kinahan, mostly quiet Thursday on the Prop Desk, said Starwood Hotels got a pop but also some unusual put buying. "You don't often see this with the positive news," Kinahan said. (This writer is long HOT.)

Grasso: LinkedIn-style pricing
‘is what creates the bubble’

For whatever reason Fast Money took its time Thursday before wading into the LinkedIn story.

It finally started with Karen Finerman chuckling that she was buying with "both hands." Finerman said she did a back-of-the-envelope calculation comparing LinkedIn's metrics to Google's, and at the same valuation, Google is worth $23,000 a share, Finerman said.

Moments later, she said it would actually be $2,600.

Tim Seymour called it "Crazy," trading at "25 times revenues."

He also ripped the bankers' pricing. "Nobody leaves that much on the table," he said.

Steve Grasso took that further, saying, "I don't wanna point any fingers, but the mechanism that we're using to price these things, this is what creates the bubble."

Seymour also said that DANG soared also on its IPO and now trades below it.

JJ Kinahan joked that the options market got LinkedIn a little wrong, pricing in only a move of $9.50.

"I think optically, it doesn't look good," said Guy Adami.

Adami, though, is famous for saying "On this show, it's about the trade," and yet, that's the one thing we didn't get, what exactly is the trade on LinkedIn.

Apparently they all hate it, but nobody said to sell it.

Tim Seymour said he just got a tablet, and "It's a game-changer for me." Guy Adami said he's got a Twitter account, and "I'm on Twitter during the show."

20 cents higher
= big day for GE

For whatever reason, retail dominated the opening talk of Thursday's Fast Money, with Brian Sozzi sounding skeptical of the Gap. "Is this a kitchen sink-type guidance?" Sozzi asked. "Merchandise is what drives this business and they're not doing it correctly."

Guy Adami congratulated Roxanne Meyer for a good Halftime call on the Gap. He said it could trade down to low $19 area Friday.

"I think at this point, retail is definitely overbought," said Steve Grasso.

Tim Seymour said, "We're in a place where the consumer is a little stretched," but then he pointed to industrials, saying "good old GE had a big name (sic)," just as the screen ticker showed an afterhours print up a grand 18 cents from Wednesday's close.

Karen Finerman said she basically likes YUM, but at 20 times, it's time to start selling, "the risk/reward has changed."

More from Thursday's Fast Money to come.

Evidently LinkedIn was too hot for anyone to get within $64 of accurate pricing

Paul Bard maybe did, or didn't, realize he was going to be the LinkedIn banks' defender on Thursday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

Guy Adami spoke of the $64 gain and asked Bard, "Did somebody price this wrong?"

"It's really more of an art than a science," Bard explained, and tricky with a hot item.

But Adami followed, "Doesn't seem like it was priced right to me."

"I'm sure they're gonna go back and have that debate," Bard said, a bit exasperated. "But as I said, it is a challenge when you have an IPO that's in such huge demand."

Bard sort of stated the obvious with, "This reception certainly gives an impetus for many of these other private companies to move forward."

Melissa fails to get answer

CEO Paul Raines gave an eloquent defense of GameStop on Thursday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

But he didn't really answer Melissa Lee's question, which was, by 2014, what percent of the games will be downloaded vs. bought physically in the store.

Raines sidestepped the specifics for a while before saying the projection of a "billion and a half is really composed of a different set of growth rates across the board."

Cortes: ‘If anything,
you wanna short Apple’

Guy Adami said Thursday at Halftime that $23.50 might be ripe for taking something off the Intel table; "I think Goldman's call might be timely here."

Patty Edwards, though, kind of waffled, saying, "It is a fabulous dividend yield ... I own some, and I will continue to own it," but that it's not the place to find aggressive growth for 3-6 months.

Steve Grasso said he's sorry to offend anyone, but there are "lost souls" who are dabbling in the wrong spaces. "I hate to make this so oversimplistic. If you wanna be in the tech space, just buy Apple and shut your eyes."

That prompted Steve Cortes to say,"I think if anything, you wanna short Apple. I'm not short it."

ANN: ‘One of the best structural stories out there’

Roxanne Meyer told the Halftime Report Thursday that "ANN is one of the best structural stories out there."

Patty Edwards though said, "They have always been good at getting 1 side of the business or the other one going well." Meyer called that a "really fair point" but said she wants to send the message that even if the stock sells off, there's a good long-term story here on both ends and that margins could be headed to historic highs.

Meyer said of Gap, "It is a little too soon to get excited."

Adami: Coal on pullbacks

Patty Edwards said on Thursday's Halftime, "I continue to hold on to my McDonald's and I think this thing's going to continue to go higher." Guy Adami agreed, saying, "There's no reason to get out of McDonald's."

But Steve Grasso said even though that's a quality stock, people should be "preoccupied" about the whole market, which can take all the good names down. Guy Adami congratulated No. 386 on that point.

Steves Cortes said "most food commodities are far off their highs ... I'm long Kraft and Kellogg."

Guy Adami said "I do think the coal story is alive and well" and likes ANR maybe around $47.50, $48, as well as WLT on pullbacks. "I don't think this coal story's over," Adami said. Steve Grasso agreed that coal is a buy on pullbacks.

Grasso on Twitter

Steve Grasso evidently launched a Twitter account this week.

Parsons: Vikram Pandit might be ‘single most productive employee ... in America’

Richard Parsons first gave the news media credit in its coverage of Vikram Pandit's wages during Thursday's Strategy Session.

"I think the coverage has been pretty balanced," Parsons said. "On almost any basis, right, Vikram Pandit, who has worked basically for a buck a year for the last several years, has been one of the most if not the most, single most productive employee, in terms of, of unit pay for unit perform, uh, in America."


David Faber listed, with a chart, the breakdown of Pandit's pay scenario that includes:

$10M in stock over 3 years
$6.7M in profit-sharing
$6.5M in options
Total: $23.2M

Parsons said, "We're back in the game ... What we put together as a board and comp committee is a package that's designed to retain him ... this is all performance-based compensation."

Parsons: Pandit pay package based partly on whether employees recommend Citi ‘to their friends’

In fact, on the surface, the chart breakdown of Vikram Pandit's pay package seems innocuous. But David Faber pointed out, "Some of it is not based on metrics that, uh, that somebody at home can look through a financial statement and identify ... regulatory considerations, organizational culture, talent development. I don't know, feels to me like those are the kind of things, you can say he's doing great in 3 years and just give him the money."

Parsons said, "We're putting him in the profit-sharing plan," and that while "we gave him some options, we gave him some at market, but a good chunk (were) premium priced at market," or out of the money.

Then unfortunately, Parsons slid off into b.s.-land.

Saying the 3rd piece including "the softer side" accounts for "10% of the whole package," Parsons said, "Not everything is measured in numbers. What kind of culture do you create in an organization. Enormously important. How do you develop the talent in the organization which is your primary resource, right. Enormously important. You know, you can't put numbers on that. How do the people who work there feel about the organization? Do they recommend it to their friends? Do they stay? Retention. Huge. Important thing. Those are the kinds of things we also want to get management to focus on."

At least when the subject returned to Citi's prospects, Parsons offered a vigorous argument. "There's no institution, financial institution, better positioned in those emerging markets than Citi is," he said. He told Gary Kaminsky that while future capital-retention rules are unknown, that Citi doesn't need to raise capital.

Kaminsky: LinkedIn surge
is great for AIG

Gary Kaminsky told David Faber at the start of the LinkedIn-led Thursday's Strategy Session, "We've got limited time here, and unfortunately today's a day where we need 3 hours."

Kaminsky predicted an interest among institutions to get into perhaps any offering just to have a shot at the next social media effort. "I believe ... this will make the AIG deal a very solid deal," he said. "If you give an order to your salesperson for AIG now, you have a higher probability and a better likelihood of getting the next LinkedIn shares."

Also, Kaminsky said, "I heard a lot of people saying that the bankers are very, very happy as a result of this. And that's not the case, and I'll tell you the reason why. ... You do not want to see a stock up 127%."

"Those who got allocated the shares," he said, "they're gone."

He said that since the opening, the small float is just bouncing around between various hands; "There's a lot of day-trading going on."

Kaminsky said whether it's the Greenspan era or Bernanke era, "This is a result of what happens when you have easy money ... if this is the beginning of something, watch out."

Dick Parsons, who guested later but mostly (groan) talked about Vikram Pandit's pay package but has plenty of experience with high-flying shares of tech upstarts, offered, "To me, this is like a movie I've seen before ... You can't justify that value unless, unless you add in a bunch of things that they don't currently do."

Herb Greenberg, skeptical as ever, asked David Faber, "Could you do a Strategy Session IPO?"

John Lipsky: The Admiral
James Stockdale of global econ

Eamon Javers reported on Thursday's Strategy Session on the rather curious speech by the IMF's John Lipsky.

Javers actually said that Lipsky's "personal, near-term goal is just to, quote, get up in the morning and come to the office."

If that's a challenge, we might really have some issues here.

Javers described Lipsky as "really a caretaker here."

While The Strategy Session opened with a live feed of Lipsky's press conference, it wisely cut away quickly, with David Faber perhaps not realizing how well he stated it, that "we'll continue to monitor the action, bring you, uh, anything that warrants being brought to you."

In some hilarious discombobulation, Faber then said as his own show opened, "Be sure to tune in by the way to Street Signs as well, for uh. What am I saying? Forget that. They got stuff running by here."

"We're all over the place," Gary Kaminsky cracked about the teleprompter madness.

(Just a day ago — see below — Joe Kernen pointed out that people don't get ahead in television by reading the prompter well, it's what you do when you're not reading the prompter.)

Kaminsky at the end of the show debated with Faber as to whether his chart on Avanex amounted to a "correction" from an earlier display of the biggest tech IPO gains of the 1990s. "It's not a correction; we never said the Globe.com," Faber said before fading out.

[Wednesday, May 18, 2011]

Karen: ‘This is somewhat
of a crisis for Léo’

Karen Finerman said on Wednesday's Fast Money that it's getting down to crunch time for HPQ's boss.

"I think this is somewhat of a crisis for Léo," Finerman said. "The services thing really took the market by surprise; it's gonna take a while to get over that."

Finerman cited "PCs' weakness for HP and potentially for Dell" in explaining, "That's why we bought more Apple."

Finerman also revealed, "I'm actually starting to get out of the health-care space."

Brian Kelly suggested the Darden-type restaurants (that would be, chiefly, Red Lobster and Olive Garden); "they haven't moved yet."

Tim Seymour said Gap's potential in China is "a savior for this company," because it is seen as a luxury brand there (gee whiz, sometimes it's even considered a luxury brand around the CNBCfix homefront). But he quickly noted, "I don't wanna have 'Gap' on my shirt."

"I see no reason not to stay with Limited Brands," said Joe Terranova.

Top tech chiefs go 1-0-2
on Colin Gillis’ scorecard

Colin Gillis visited the Fast Money set on Wednesday to talk about the relative job security of 3 prominent tech CEOs.

If we were supposed to infer anything — and why not, feels like we do that all the time here — it sounded like one (Ballmer) gets a resounding vote of confidence, and the other 2, at a minimum, get a push, at least for now. (And if you're a semi-regular CNBC watcher and you actually have not been hearing for years literally that the MSFT/INTC/CSCO/YHOO/EBAY bosses are running out of time to keep their jobs and keep those ultra-demanding boards at bay, then you are definitely in the minority.)

Gillis said John Chambers "got the company into the mess, and it looks like he wants to get the company out of this mess." Gillis said that should involve a swift, broad stroke of cuts. "He's most likely gonna do this at the end of August, right, and have the uh, have the pen all cleaned up in time for the September 13 analyst day."

As proof, Gillis cited the Flip camera. "Boom, shut down — that's a signal to the entire company," he said.

Gillis defended Steve Ballmer for having some of the fastest-selling products of all time and even swept aside Tim Seymour's carping about Skype. "I like Skype. That is a free pass for them," he said, because of the foreign cash used, but Karen Finerman jumped in to suggest it might've been a bad use, as "I think we will see an amnesty at some point."

Gillis said "the clock is ticking" on Carol Bartz, and yeah, sure, right.

Riedel: Consider
Trucking from Mexico

David Riedel made an interesting comment on China Wednesday that sounds a lot more like what Dennis Gartman is talking about regarding Japan — that in a "long-awaited demographic shift," China has the "fastest aging population in the world."

(Hopefully, for everyone's sake, it's not at the stage yet where Kyle Bass will start making diaper comparisons.)

Anyway, Riedel's thesis is that China won't remain America's favorite industrial park, i.e., primary source for cheaply made goods, forever. Tim Seymour said the authorities would love to move more to a consumer-driven economy than export-led one, but Riedel said that's 10-15 years away.

The trade for now, according to Riedel, is to consider truckers from Mexico, which stands to benefit as a low-cost production option for goods bound for Americans, albeit with 1 remarkably huge caveat: "If they get their crime, and, and violent situation figured out, they could be a big winner here," Riedel said.

Melissa Lee made a curious joke about the girl named Like because of Facebook, noting, "You get the 'Lick'."

‘Gucci Scaramucci’

Before delivering The Hedge Fund Trade of the Week on Wednesday's Fast Money, Anthony Scaramucci told a story from SALT.

"Melissa and I were in the green room with President George W. Bush and we were trying to loosen him up, and I turned to the president and said, 'Sir, I'm very disappointed in what's going on so far'," Scaramucci said. "He says, 'Why's that?' I said, 'It's been 5 minutes, you haven't come up with a nickname for me.' He goes, 'Oh no, I've got a nickname for you — you're Gucci Scaramucci.'"

"This is the best story out of SALT last week," Melissa Lee said.

"Gucci" said the HFTOTW is ITT, a "fabulous value name." He said depending on overall market conditions, "We can see upside here of anywhere from 13 and a half to 50%. ... Very, very cheap stock. A lot of the great value hedge fund managers own this stock."

70% of LinkedIn revenue
from business subscriptions

The Fast Money gang on Wednesday sounded almost unanimous that demand for LinkedIn shares is a little dubious — but real.

"And how do these guys make money again? Anybody? Joe? Anyone?" asked Tim Seymour.

Melissa Lee said 70% of LinkedIn revenue comes through business subscriptions, and Joe Terranova concurred; "the same way that Salesforce.com makes" money.

"It is not viewed," Terranova said, "like a Twitter, like a Facebook; only 30% of the revenue coming from ads."

As the crew scrambled to nail down LinkedIn revenue, profit and share float, Karen Finerman observed that "11.3 times revenues is kind of a lofty valuation actually."

Terranova wondered if eventually a name like LinkedIn won't get swallowed up by the massive Facebook monster.

But on the other hand, Tim Seymour asserted, "This is gonna be 15 to 20 times oversubscribed ... this is why people are not scared at 45 to 50 times earnings," Karen Finerman said "insiders aren't actually selling that much," and Terranova conceded "Most of us don't use LinkedIn," but "I do believe there'll be fundamental demand for this stock."

"There's a lot of people bidding for this paper. A lot," Seymour said.

Julia Boorstin reported the LinkedIn IPO will price at $45.

Rich Ilczyszyn:
On the wrong show?

Rich Ilczyszyn, for several reasons rapidly becoming one of our most favorite CNBC pundits if he's not there already, began his rather remarkable Fast Money appearance Wednesday with a semi-Brag Trade, telling Melissa Lee, "I gave you the dollar a couple of weeks ago."

He said he would've gotten short oil below a $94.65 close, but it didn't happen, but he's not exactly bullish, "I think this could be a light market rally or a retail rally ... I think oil's got a real good case to sell off."

He said he's telling clients, "I'm saying, if you got a profit, book it."

Tim Seymour then asked a question that led to some crazily scrambled explanation of if/thens regarding dollar, wheat, silver, oil, and how to jump here if X happens but not if Y doesn't happen, etc., and Mel Lee in sharp gray vested-skirt ensemble nicely summarized as, "Obviously you gotta be pretty agile to do what Rich is talking about."

Joe Terranova shrugged it off as "highly volatile futures trading," and "it's not something that I think anyone watching the show right now really wants to be doing."

Joe Kernen’s advice for getting ahead in cable television

Joe Kernen joked Wednesday morning on Squawk Box that they don't give him many opportunities to read the teleprompter — but it doesn't matter. "Good teleprompter readers, they're a dime a dozen," Kernen explained. "It's about what you do when you're not reading the prompter."

Grasso: Sell this relief rally

Wednesday's Fast Money Halftime Report brought a rare extended debate between 2 panelists as to whether the stock market is going up or down.

Steve Grasso picked the latter, saying the energy/commodity complex was "oversold" the last couple of days, and "I would be shorting all these stocks on this bounce. I'm not convinced this is anything but a relief rally at this point ... You can't tell me global growth looks exciting to you."

But in fact, "I actually do think global growth is much better than people expect," countered Brian Kelly, who noted, "I'm long BHP."

Grasso said the recent gains are only coming after selloffs from "massive rips in the marketplace." But Kelly said "it's a liquidity event, there's real demand out there."

Guest host Simon Hobbs asked Steve Cortes to break the deadlock. "Brian Kelly is getting excited, I'm going to send him to a cold shower," said Cortes, who noted how much oil and silver fell before bouncing, and one of his favorite indicators, "The shares of emerging markets have traded terribly."

Simon Hobbs pronounced it an "awesome debate."

Dennis Gartman finds something new about an old story

Dennis Gartman said Wednesday on the Fast Money Halftime Report that "I think Tokyo is very close to catastrophe." His rationale? "It's a population that is declining."

He then credited the SALT remarks of Kyle Bass, "who brought it to everybody's attention last week that there are more Depends being sold in Japan nowadays than diapers." (Actually from what we've learned, we don't think Bass actually used the brand name, in case you were wondering about a possible Kimberly-Clark play, and we discovered there is actually a Depend Wikipedia page, though we're not linking to it.)

Steve Grasso couldn't resist using that comment to zing Brian Kelly; "I had no idea that BK was in Japan recently. That's weird."

"That was harsh," Gartman said. "Play nice."

Anyway, if you're wondering if Gartman's thesis is the same one you heard about, oh, 15 years ago, you're not alone, and Simon Hobbs noted, "These concerns have been around for a long time."

Yes, Gartman acknowledged, but "take a look at what the chart action is telling you ... finally you're starting to see the Japanese yen weaken on all fronts on those crosses."

Cliffs CFO answers Grasso question in 1/10th the time it took to ask

Steve Grasso on Wednesday's Halftime managed to ask CLF CFO Laurie Brlas one of the longer questions in recent Fast Money history, sort of a 2-parter even, about how India was suddenly reassessing its coal supplies as being light, which barely prompted this answer, "We definitely think that there's going to be a shortage of metallurgical coal, globally," and pointed to India and Brazil.

(Actually, in fairness, she didn't really adequately answer the question about rethinking supplies based on Manmohan Singh's coal revelations, so the headline to this entry deserves a bit of an asterisk*.)

Brlas also said of iron ore, "We definitely see a long-term short supply."

Simon Hobbs asked about the possibility that demand cycles could be seen as peaking by 2015, which would begin to pressure the stock leading up to it. Brlas said, "The supply and demand crossover continues to move out farther and farther every year."

Pete Najarian said the stock remains strong, and "definitely still could be a buy."

Sacconaghi: Buy AAPL

Toni Sacconaghi said on Wednesday's Halftime that HP and Cisco have "company-specific issues" but that tech in general is doing well, and he pounded the table for AAPL a couple times; "We think it's poised for a move."

Simon Hobbs out of nowhere brought up a Birinyi chart on put/call ratios hitting 1.15, saying "This may be no time to sell," because "4 of the last 5 times" the ratio was at this level, stocks went up an average of 8.5% the next couple of months.

"Isn't Birinyi looking for 20,000 in the Dow too though," said Steve Grasso, indicating his level of credence in this one.

"That's a separate issue," Hobbs said.

Pete Najarian said the Western Refining (WNR) June 17 calls were "extremely active," as well as option buying in certain gold names.

Steve Cortes revealed, "I don't have particular insight on Limited Brands," but Najarian said, "Limited Brands always brings a smile to my face."

Fast Money tough
on James Altucher

This page just caught up with some reaction from James Altucher, who always maintains a good sense of humor, about his $2 trillion AAPL appearance on Fast Money last week.

Evidently, the Fast gang didn't score points with the Altucher clan.

Altucher tweeted, "even my mom wrote me and said, 'maybe you should reconsider what you are going to say. They basically laughed you off of Fast Money.' "

Grano: President widening
‘the rich vs. poor schism’

Joe Grano complained on Wednesday's Strategy Session, like many businesspeople tend to complain on CNBC, that the government isn't doing what he wants it to do.

"I haven't seen enough focus on solutions," Grano said of Congress and pointing to "the rich vs. the poor schism being widened by our president and others."

Thus, "I'm an advocate of caution," he said.

Possible translations: We think he means that Congress isn't seriously tackling debt and that Obama continues to play class warfare even 9 months after the concept was decried by Anthony Scaramucci in the famous pinata question at the CNBC town hall.

Grano: UBS didn’t even
answer my letters

Another thing Joe Grano complained about Wednesday was UBS' handling of PaineWebber, saying that when PaineWebber was sold, "We were earning a billion-2 pretax, and we were No. 1 in most any metric you want."

Grano said he twice wrote UBS urging it to spin out PaineWebber, but "they didn't even answer either letter."

Fielding questions about a recent Gary Kaminsky topic of the shift from wire house to RIA model, Grano took a question from David Faber as to whether the wire house model's broken and he offered, "I think the model lost its way." Grano said advisors don't see value after the institution; "that's the institution's fault, not the financial advisor's fault."

"I was very distraught at what I saw in 2007, 2008, 2009. Uh, that was kind of a renege for a financial advisor," Grano said.

Grano even inadvertently offered something of an indirect dis for the company of the guest who would follow him Wednesday on The Strategy Session, Priceline's Jeff Boyd (see below), saying, "I would stay away from multiples that are in the moon, for instance, and be a little bit more prudent in terms of fundamentals." Boyd wasn't asked to tackle that one.

Priceline chief: 50% Europe share ‘is probably overstated’

David Faber on Wednesday's Strategy Session asked Priceline boss Jeff Boyd if he can keep growing with already having a 50% market share in Europe.

Surprisingly, Boyd's response was that the impressive number isn't correct.

"I think that market share number is probably overstated. It came from some analyst research and it's very difficult to capture exact market share," Boyd said.

Faber pressed Boyd a couple of times to defend how the growth prospects can merit the multiple. "We have been candid that growth rates will decelerate going forward, it's just the law of large numbers," Boyd said.

Boyd, though, in a patient and down-to-earth chat, asserted that an improving economy in which hotels are often booked is not bad for Priceline, because "hotels like to use all of their distribution channels" regardless to fully tap demand.

Gary Kaminsky asked Boyd a more specific variation of Faber's is-the-growth-there theme, pointing to the list of PCLN holders (T. Rowe Price, Fidelity Management & Research Company, Marsico Capital Management the top 3) and saying, "I look at that shareholder base and I have to say the one thing one could be concerned about is that these are earnings-momentum institutional owners."

That gave Boyd yet another avenue to explain what's working at Priceline, namely, "We should be able to leverage the fixed costs of the business," and that the "biggest variable" is "advertising efficiency," where he's pleased with the results.

‘Brokers will tell you,
supply creates demand’

Gary Kaminsky said Wednesday, "There is a rush to try to get bond deals done as well" as these stock IPOs/offerings, and he said the pros don't see a problem with oversaturation.

"Brokers will tell you, that supply creates demand," Kaminsky said. (That one might not pass the math-logic tests we occasionally like to employ, but if it works for them, great.)

Kaminsky wondered, in this era of mandated disclosures, how a fairly small group of analysts could be so surprised by the Staples results. He and David Faber also questioned how Dell's story (more people buying pricey computers) can square with Staples' story (people don't have as much cash to buy notepads).

David Faber, who's getting to be quite the 1-liner machine, cracked, "We have a very hard time getting ahold of toner here ... that is in some safe where they keep the gold as well."

Edelman a no-show

As recently as overnight, Asher Edelman was listed as a guest for Wednesday's Strategy Session; David Faber even mentioned it on a previous show. Apparently there was a cancellation.

[Tuesday, May 17, 2011]

Nadia Ackerman sings the
UPS Logistics commercial

When you see enough CNBC — goodness knows, we qualify for that distinction and then some — you occasionally have to get past the denial stage of, "I am no longer going to notice this stupid commercial I hear 5 times a day," and just accept what the mass media is tossing at you.

And being big fans of the concept of advertising, it dawned on us that we should probably figure out who the singer is in the UPS Logistics ad campaign. It's Nadia Ackerman, who does have a sweet voice and proudly lists the campaign on the jingles section of her Web site.

We looked up a few advertising message boards and found polarizing views of the ad, some decrying the bastardization of "That's Amore," others praising its clever, feel-good nature.

But everyone seems to agree that Ackerman can sing. This one grows on you.

humor from Jennifer Davis

Amazing, isn't it, how some of the simplest words give human beings the biggest charge.

Analyst Jennifer Davis spoke on the Fast Line Tuesday about retail names and happened to mention, "Another one of my favorite names is Limited."

First, Davis somehow felt the need to explain that Limited operates Victoria's Secret.

Then, Davis, apparently unintentionally, entered a virtual fun house of terminology, somehow managing to describe a lingerie retailer as the "800-pound gorillas."

Limited, she said, is "firing on all cylinders right now," and they "really understand what their customers want. They're also the 800-pound gorillas in the space. You don't, you know, you've got a lot of denim and T-shirt retailers in the mall, but you don't have a lot of, (chuckles ... long pause), uh, bra and panty retailers in the mall."

(If it was difficult for Davis to say it, imagine how beet-red we get just writing it.)

Davis said the selloff in TJX is just what some need. "We see this as a great buying opportunity for TJX," she said.

Make an iPod, make a Kindle,
watch share price go up

Aswath Damodaran, who might've been a tiny bit stiff — he seemed intent on keeping right hand on the desk, left hand in pocket — during his Fast Money conversation Tuesday, made some eloquent remarks about evaluating companies.

But to be honest, we think he's making it overly complicated.

"I break companies down based on where they are in the life cycle," Damodaran said. He cited HPQ and CSCO as examples of "companies that don't act their age," that think they can still be like they were in the 1990s or earlier, and what he would recommend is they "not push for growth at any cost; I think that's the problem."

We disagree. We think the problem is they're not making enough products that people care about.

K-Fine: Léo oblivious to possibility of memo going public

Karen Finerman in stunning gray managed to talk about HPQ and CSCO on Tuesday's Fast Money from beginning to end and upside down, yet somehow failed to call a real trade in either one.

"The stock price tells you that there's a huge crisis of confidence here," Finerman said of HPQ.

Tim Seymour asked Finerman, in something of a too-long recap of the company's memos/forecasts, "Was this the first real sloppy, uh, you know, corporate exchange within his hierarchy? This doesn't look very good."

Finerman said that, after reading about the Monday afterhours leak of Léo's tough-quarter/no-hiring note, "I think I was wrong, I think he didn't realize" when he sent it that it would appear in the media.

Finerman complained this type of thing seems to happen all the time. "Why is there always a leak at HP?" she asked.

But while she said the stock is extremely cheap if Apotheker's lower numbers are reached, she also said she's tired of losing more money in the name and also said it could sell down for another day or 2, so she's not backing up the truck yet.

Guy Adami though said technicals may favor HPQ buyers Tuesday. "At least you have a floor I think in terms of 36," Adami said. "You have to believe, I would imagine, that all the bad news is out."

As well as the company's supply of good ideas.

Joe Terranova offered a bold "countertrend trade," saying the "timing's near where you go long Hewlett Packard, and you short Dell."

Finerman eventually got around to CSCO, coincidentally just hours after this page posted an entry (see below) on the uselessness of P.E. ratio as an indicator of where a stock is going. "For many years I thought 10 times P.E. multiple, that would be the bottom," Finerman said. "And yet we're starting to see a number of companies break that 10-times multiple."

Finerman waffled like Eggo, saying the "valuation is getting attractive" at CSCO, but she would "actually wait a little" before buying.

Kaminsky: LPL a ‘pure play’
on the RIA model

Gary Kaminsky remains charged up by the SALT Conference in Vegas, and Tuesday on Fast Money he shared some more of the insider chatter.

"We continue to see this move away from the wire houses, that being UBS, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, to the RIA model, and that would be obviously LPL Financial, Raymond James, TD Ameritrade and Schwab," Kaminsky said, saying the SALT folks "across the board" see this trend continuing.

Kaminsky said it's because of "better compensation ... higher payout ... you own your own book of business, and, additionally, you get the flexibility of having open architecture; you don't have to just buy the investment bank products created within that house."

He noted Raymond James has been a Guy Adami favorite, and he called LPL a "pure play on the RIA investment model."

Kaminsky also made Melissa Lee's day by saying, "Good afternoon to my favorite person, how are you today?" "Awwwww," Lee responded.

Now if they ration KFC,
then there’s gonna be trouble

Guest David Khani told Fast Money that "notices are going out" in China indicating possible electricity rationing for companies over the next 3 months, as the country tries to keep price hikes from biting the burgeoning middle class.

"They're trying to muzzle down inflation," Khani said.

Tim Seymour declared, "This is a huge boom for aluminum prices." Brian Kelly said there may be rationing, but "a lot of these companies have that generation power."

Melissa Lee, in a splendid, understated blue top, apparently was getting so tired of all the breaking news interruptions in the opening Fast Money segment Tuesday that she couldn't hold back when the FT's Justin Baer wasn't lightning-fast on the draw.

"Justin great to see you," Lee said.

"Great to see you too," was all Baer said.

"What's the headline Justin?" Lee said after a pause, throwing up her hands.

Baer said it's the plan to do a "stress test annually" for big banks.

Schiff: Economy ‘implodes’
without QE2

Karen Finerman spoke about differing reports from Tim Geithner and Paul Ryan on national debt and suggested we're seeing "some real brinksmanship that's only gonna get worse ... that's a scary situation."

Finerman, in a statement you've heard countless times on Fast Money, said of JPM, "I would be a buyer right here."

Joe Terranova said he's not buying Mohamed El-Erian's call on Strauss-Kahn being a big impact on the IMF. "I completely disagree with that," Terranova said.

Peter Schiff shrugged off signs of dollar recovery. "Weak economic data is very negative for the dollar because it means QE2 doesn't go away," Schiff said. "If you take QE2 away, this whole thing implodes. We're a house of cards."

The CNBC graphics gremlins spelled Silicon Valley correspondent's name "JOHN FORTT" on the screen.

P.E. ratio: The stock market equivalent of NFL’s time of possession?

One thing you'll constantly hear about on business television is the P.E. ratio.

Stocks are either "cheap," or "expensive," not because of the dollar price of the shares, but how much you're paying for the earnings.

But the HPQ and CSCO debacles, among other things, sort of give this page the opinion that P.E. ratio is nothing more than an after-the-fact indicator of business activity that has already occurred — and, (gasp), might actually have no bearing at all on what ultimately matters, which is whether a stock price is going up or down.

About the only relevance we can think of would involve very cyclical businesses, ones who experience peaks and valleys during the year, except selling the high P.E. and buying the low in those cases is dependent on the company's product line remaining steady and not featuring either 1) a hot new thing that would inflate the multiple, or 2) regulatory or secular problems indicative of permanent impairment.

Basically, the multiple seems like after-the-fact, backdoor math to explain sentiments that have already happened.

A wrong rumor
in the gold space

Steve Cortes offered an interesting call on silver on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

"I think silver gets back into the teens eventually," Cortes said.

Brian Kelly took a stand on gold, Soros vs. Paulson, saying, "I'm with John Paulson. I think gold goes higher at this point in time." Kelly also spoke about rumors that Soros dumped silver and gold on a Sunday night recently while the filings indicate he was selling early this year, "So those rumors were just flat-out wrong."

Joe Terranova called copper the best trade of the group.

Kelly warming to financials

Steve Cortes wasn't just making interesting pronouncements on silver Tuesday, but the dollar-sensitive sectors and the selloff they've experienced. "I don't think it's even really gotten started," Cortes said. "All 4 BRICs are down on the year."

Cortes does like Target, saying "I bought it again this morning."

Brian Kelly said "I think crude goes higher ... I think if I wanna do anything, I wanna be in a Tiffany's." Kelly also said, "I'm starting to warm to the financial sector."

Kelly told guest host Simon Hobbs, who seems no worse for wear after his messy on-air clash with Donald Trump last week, that currencies do matter for U.S. stock buyers, because the Aussie dollar/yen cross "has led the U.S. stock by 24 hours to 2 days basically since 2008."

Joe Terranova said "the market has lost its mojo," and among other things, that we're at a "very, very interesting point" in the 10-year Treasury yield that could be a breakout in bonds or turn to equities.

Kate Kelly, who might've had a Burberry scarf, reported at Halftime that participants at the AIG gala were finished up their salads, and that the prevailing opinion on the offering price was that it'll simply twist in the stock market winds of whenever it happens.

Dell buying DELL

Jeff DeGraaf — an excellent chart expert — said on Tuesday's Halftime Report he'd be underweight tech, "the relative performance peaked back in the 4th quarter of last year," and that financials would be the only larger underweight.

But he did call semiconductors "best of the worst" in the space.

Joe Terranova and Steve Cortes then took slightly opposite sides on AAPL, with Terranova saying it's a defensive tech play though he doesn't really like tech until the 2nd half of the year, while Cortes said that tech's underperformance cited by DeGraaf began with Apple, and that people tout AAPL fundamentals but haven't been buying the stock recently; "they are not putting their money where their mouth is," and apparently, based on last week's episode, James Altucher is the standard-bearer of that description.

Jayson Noland told Simon Hobbs he thinks DELL will be "flat to up." Steve Cortes said "Michael Dell personally in March bought 10 million shares," which Cortes considers a constructive sign.

Have you seen what GameStop has done since March?

Kate Kelly on Tuesday's Strategy Session delivered a sidewalk report on the big AIG lunch meeting at the Hilton and noted that, as a percentage of float, AIG is the "4th most shorted stock" in the S&P 500.

We noticed the rest of that chart that didn't get a mention:

1. GameStop
2. First Solar
3. AutoNation
5. Netflix

We have little to no idea how short sellers make their picks. We just know, 3 of those 5 charts look pretty damn good and must be putting some folks in face-ripped-off land.

Letting Benmosche, feds
pick up the check

Kate Kelly said Tuesday that the hedge funds lining up for the AIG road show include "Anchorage Capital, Avenue Capital, Eton Park, Maverick, Millennium, Moore, Och-Ziff, Oppenheimer & Company, Paulson Management, and Sanford Bernstein."

David Faber said there's an issue, with this not being a pure IPO, as to how long buyers will hold onto the shares. Gary Kaminsky said he had to disagree with Kelly's characterization of the funds' interest, saying, "A lot of these hedge funds may be at this lunch, they're actually short the stock."

Kaminsky also said the Wall Street sales people see this offering as a cash cow, and thus are "pulling out all the guns on this one ... it's a payday, let's call it what it is."

How Goldman Sachs
can get ahead

Last year, David Faber put together a documentary on Goldman Sachs called "Power and Peril" that was notable for at least 1 reason: Faber said on the program that Lloyd Blankfein agreed to an interview, and then declined.

We understand that Goldman Sachs does not care for television as much as Dick Bove does.

However, one wonders if, given the remarkable one-time events of 2008 that prompted a remarkable investment from Berkshire Hathaway, it would've been even smarter for Goldman to at least temporarily ditch its apparent long-standing practice of austerity toward the news media.

It seems a bit late now. But why not invite in David Faber, CNBC, the WSJ, the FT, USA Today, the NYT, even Mr. C. Gasparino for a press conference. The executives know what they're doing. They've actually been good in televised hearings. Give the media some transparency. Defend the Goldman Sachs position and just tell us what happened. It might actually reduce the skepticism of some of the more suspicious observers. The stock continues, at times, to suffer from controversy.

Short of that, but maybe a step in the right direction, Goldman Sachs made its chief U.S. economist, Jan Hatzius, available to Tuesday's Strategy Session, not to talk about GS unfortunately, but the economy.

"We expect gradual further dollar depreciation," Hatzius said, and to be honest it really sounded like he said "apprecation" rather than "depreciation" and we only figured out the correct term in Gary Kaminsky's follow-up, which is that many hedge funds from the SALT gathering apparently agree with Hatzius and will continue to short the dollar. Hatzius cited interest-rate differential as the reason.

Kaminsky asked Hatzius when the next recession will come. "I think it's years, years away," Hatzius said, though he also told David Faber that in terms of risks to the economy, "commodity prices are certainly a key issue."

Faber: Hedge funds have been ‘loading the boat up’ on HPQ

In one of the most wide-ranging and informative editions of The Strategy Session in recent memory, David Faber and Gary Kaminsky took up the unfolding Léo disaster at HPQ.

Faber said he's aware of many hedge funds that have been "loading the boat up on this stock" and pointed to Marvin Schwartz's touting of the stock on The Strategy Session. Gary Kaminsky said investors have been thrown a lot of curveballs between various memos and forecasts, and what came out Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning was a "complete surprise to many."

Kaminsky noted that on a "personal level," he "went into Apple the other day, bought a new iMac laptop. They now give you a Hewlett-Packard printer ... they give these things away." Faber though said the company's been diversifying from that.

"Maybe this company's just too big to manage right now," Kaminsky said. Faber said Léo was given a "relatively hard time" on Squawk Box.

Kaminsky: Brookfield role
at St. Joe?

David Faber announced Tuesday that "Google's ability to repay is probably better than the U.S. government" in a brief discussion with Jefferies' Kevin Lockhart over tech companies raising cash.

Lockhart's connection had a bit of a delay, and someone in the Jefferies office was overheard saying something about "offer 25" or something like that, but otherwise Lockhart said it makes sense for cash-swamped companies to raise more, because "it's efficient from their perspective."

Gary Kaminsky harkened back to 1999 and asked Lockhart why some aren't looking at convertible offerings, "why not do that?" Lockhart said, "I think all of these companies are looking at each of these options."

Gary Kaminsky, who said he introduced Bruce Flatt to the previous St. Joe CEO, spoke about Bruce Berkowitz and said he wonders if Berkowitz's goal for St. Joe is that "Brookfield somehow become involved."

David Faber is starting to get pretty good at rattling off the 1-liners on The Strategy Session, including Tuesday's "I didn't have time to actually check my hair before I came out here," and chiding Gary Kaminsky for twice mentioning attending the "Too Big To Fail" premiere.

Faber noted that Asher Edelman will be a guest on Tuesday's Strategy Session. Hopefully Edelman's Web staff will run spellcheck when chronicling the event, unlike for his November appearance, when they somehow got "Kaminsky" correct but missed on "Faber."

[Monday, May 16, 2011]

Gartman: Glencore IPO matters

Dennis Gartman said on Monday's Fast Money that savvy market-watchers can't help but wonder about the timing of the Glencore IPO.

"Suddenly they're cashing out, one has to be somewhat suspect," Gartman said. "These are amongst the smartest people in the world."

He pointed to commodities that have been under pressure and said, "There's probably a lot more selling to be done."

Amelia Bourdeau said there will be a "smooth transition" at the IMF and that she likes the Aussie dollar.

How deep will we dive?

Usually Karen Finerman and Tim Seymour find themselves challenging each other on Fast Money, but Monday, they teamed up on a point made by Joe Terranova.

Terranova said, "The evidence right now doesn't suggest a deeper dive is coming" in the market.

"Well I don't know, what evidence would you cite that doesn't suggest a deeper dive is coming?" Finerman asked.

"And how deep of a dive?" Seymour chimed in.

Terranova responded, "A deeper dive to me would be a correction somewhere around 10 to 15%, and I don't know right now if there's evidence out there within the broad S&P tape itself that suggests that's going to occur," citing strength in big caps and pharmaceuticals.

Seymour didn't sound wholly convinced. "We're 5 points away from the 50-day moving average, which is major support, then below that there's nothing till 1,230 on the S&P," he said.

Finerman buys AAPL

Karen Finerman said on Monday's Fast Money she bought AAPL, "Just because valuation."

Finerman also hilariously wondered if Léo Apotheker is actually aware that when he sends out these explosive memos, they end up in the press. But Finerman said a lot of bad news is already priced in to HPQ.

Guy Adami said he learned the term "bugaboo" in Vegas and recommended to JCP longs, "Get out of half, if not all."

Joe Terranova said the market's in a "continuation of risk-off."

Mike Abramsky said "36 would be almost death-spiral levels" for Research in Motion, and that if he were an "intelligent acquirer," he'd just "sit back and wait a while."

Tim Seymour suggests a trade for late 2012

Tim Seymour, speaking on Monday's Fast Money about Lowe's and the home improvement space, offered a remarkable slow money trade, predicting "huge operational leverage" going into, say, 2013, and thus a stock rally is "probably a year and a half" away.

Elsewhere, Seymour said Monday, "the S&P is not terribly expensive here," but "certain trades are overcrowded and overpositioned."

Seymour said while the Fed was scooping up Treasurys, it "took all the product off the shelves ... I think that the Treasury yields are going lower."

Melissa Lee introduced a big box segment by wondering if there's a "harbinger of things to come." It would probably be easier to negotiate an NFL collective bargaining agreement than to elicit a stock call from Colin McGranahan, who did note "it's not gonna be a great quarter from Wal-Mart."

Weiss: IMF in good hands

Zachary Karabell pointed out on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report that there's deja vu in the Greece headlines.

"We did this last May with Greece. We're doing it this May with Greece," said Karabell, who predicted, "We will not be talking about this in 5 weeks."

Steve Grasso, up in the booth with Melissa Lee instead of at his usual spot on the NYSE, opened with a rather edgy Dominique Strauss-Kahn joke for Melissa Lee, saying, "It's odd, and what's even more odd is that he was staying at the same hotel with you in Vegas, which I'm wondering if you saw anything about him that was odd, bathrobes running down the hall."

(While the housekeeping staff at The Bellagio breathes a sigh of relief...)

Grasso did seriously offer, "Anything euro-related is gonna spook this market."

Stephen Weiss said not to worry about the IMF in John Lipsky's hands. "I worked with him for 4 years at Salomon Brothers," Weiss said. "I'm very confident with him being in the No. 1 position."

Weiss’ fill-up costs $87

Richard Repetto said on Monday's Halftime Report that nothing is certain in this space, but if he had to bet, he'd bet that a year from now, Deutsche Boerse does indeed end up with the NYSE.

Analyst Itay Michaeli said that he likes Ford in part because in the auto space, "the pricing environment has been getting better all year."

Stephen Weiss complained, "I filled up my tank on the way to the studio. It was $87. I mean that's, that's ludicrous."

"Hey Steve, you should retire that Hummer," cracked Zachary Karabell. Karabell spoke about home-improvement retailers and said "there's absolutely no indication that the housing market will recover," but also that traders will factor gasoline prices into retailers that may not actually be affected by higher gasoline.

"That is a good point, Zach Karabell," acknowledged Melissa Lee, who put on a stellar Squawk on the Street with Jim Cramer Monday after a busy week in (and out of) Vegas.

Which was more useless:
BHP’s bid for Potash,
or Nasdaq’s offer for NYSE?

If you could ask Bob Greifeld, "When you wake up tomorrow morning, what would you want more than anything else in the world?," and he gave you a completely honest answer, what would he say?

Somehow, we doubt it would be "owning the NYSE."

Gary Kaminsky opened the Nasdaq/ICE/NYSE discussion on Monday's Strategy Session by asking David Faber about the nature of Nasdaq's bid, and "was that a good strategy?"

Faber said, "You know, you have to wonder whether it was their only strategy."

Kaminsky pointed to Strategy Session comments in February by Amy Butte, who said it's "game on" for exchanges to reach $25 billion in market cap, and that the Nasdaq basically had to do something, and that the Chicago heavies might be big winners in the NYSE situation. "By standing to the side, CME may in fact come out as the strongest of all the exchanges," Kaminsky said Monday.

(Martin Sass had a great pricing call on that same February Strategy Session, saying NYSE could ultimately fetch $42-$45 but he sold at $38 because he thought the odds favored limited upside.

Kaminsky said Monday the Nasdaq still has a burden "to convince their shareholders that they're not just being reactive."

This page will take that a step further — actually a couple steps further — and say that "reactive" is probably being kind, that the original Deutsche Boerse deal was practically sealed when Chuck Schumer blessed it, and that Jeff Sprecher, who's an articulate, impressive guy, actually gave a terrible interview to The Strategy Session the day of the Nasdaq offer (Greifeld didn't come on the air) that should've produced about, oh, zero confidence in any observer that this was going to happen.

Consider the April 1 interview:

1. David Faber noted he's never seen 2 separate stocks used in 1 "over the top" bid.

2. Sprecher said he and Greifeld saw the Deutsche Boerse offer details and suddenly thought, in these words, "Oh my gosh, if they really need scale, and if they really need to take costs out, we're probably the better partners."

3. Sprecher said Greifeld considered the Nasdaq offer a step toward Greifeld's "important social goal" to "fix the U.S. cash equities business."

If any of those sounds like a great rationale for waging a fierce takeover battle against relentless regulatory pressure, then we've got some of George Strait's oceanfront property in Arizona to sell you.

Far more likely, the Nasdaq/ICE bid was for the historians, to show that Greifeld wasn't going to just stand by while the industry went "whoomph" around him and that he's determined to remain in the driver seat of the exchange world and not be relegated to the passenger side. That's admirable. More admirable? Developing products and services other exchanges haven't thought of yet, that users want.

‘Normal market’ of housing
‘recovered a little bit’

David Faber on Monday introduced Don Brownstein with one of the greatest titles one could ever hope to hear: one who "runs the top-performing hedge fund of 2010."

Brownstein explained, in interesting if maybe a bit lengthy commentary, why he's more positive on housing than most other people are, although his argument essentially sounds like too much good stuff thrown out with the bad stuff, which is apparently how he succeeded so well last year.

"The housing market is actually sort of biforcated into the distressed and normal-sales segments," Brownstein said. "And what's happened is that the price levels in the normal market has actually, um, recovered a little bit in the last couple of months ... in the distressed part of the market, it's less stable and falling probably a little bit, but in fact what's happened is the add mixture of distressed and non-distressed sales has changed. So that now, more distressed sales are part of the total ... the mixture of the 2 has changed over time."

Or put another way, the Miami Heat are being downgraded because of the 4-10 guys, but don't give up on LeBron/Dwyane/Chris just yet.

"It appears as if we've peaked in terms of delinquencies," Brownstein said, but he stressed the "use of indices needs to be taken, um, um, a little bit more cautiously."

Gary Kaminsky summarized afterwards that Brownstein, who didn't discuss his own holdings, had undoubtedly come up big in 2010 from buying quality securities that got lumped in with bad, but it will be hard for him to replicate that performance in 2011 because the pricing is much closer to real fair value.

Analyst: Long-term capital gains actually possible in airline sector

Steve Liesman got to talk about both Greece and Dominique Strauss-Kahn (who's bound to become a household name in America if he's not already) on Monday's Strategy Session and said despite the embarrassment, the IMF remains a key figure. "Europe needs the IMF right now more than the IMF needs Europe," Liesman said.

He also said Strauss-Kahn wasn't paying $3,000 a night but more likely "5 and a quarter," which Gary Kaminsky said is "actually a good deal" in New York.

Jamie Baker seemed to be gushing with joy about the strength of his sector, airlines. Baker said after the disaster of 2008, they're "now expected to be soundly profitable ... a real change is taking place." He said that back in the day, he would talk to investors about a "2 to 5-week time horizon. We're now allowing ourselves to think in 2 to 5 years."

Viewers got a treat when Mary Thompson delivered updates from the Strauss-Kahn hearing.

The next subprime?

Kyle Bass, an articulate, thoughtful investor who has catapulted to hedge fund notoriety since David Faber's excellent "House of Cards," was mentioned prominently on CNBC last week in something of a featured role at the SALT gathering in Las Vegas.

Bass' big success was betting against subprime — which reminded us of a Strategy Session call from last Sept. 15, by Steve Eisman, about purportedly the next subprime: for-profit education.

Since then, Strayer has been an absolute dog. Apollo has been bad, though admittedly buyable from December through February. ITT has actually found momentum since Eisman's rare appearance.

So it looks like Eisman has been on the right path. The answer to "what's the next big short," however — which had to be a common question at SALT — remains unknown.

CNBC sights

We hope to post some tidbits on CNBC's coverage of the Vegas SALT conference as we collect them. This page has learned, however, that the presence of the Fast Money gang was a hit, that they're actually even better-looking in person, and in great shape.

[Friday, May 13, 2011]

CBO alert

In an example of the silliness of government, John Harwood had to break in to Friday's Fast Money Halftime to report breaking news that the government has moved up its Social Security insolvency date by a year, sometime in the 2030s.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Mahaney: Don’t buy YHOO now

Mark Mahaney said on Friday's extended Fast Money Halftime Report that this is no time to plunge into YHOO, even though the stock has staying power around the mid-teens.

"We would not be a buyer on this correction," Mahaney said, before adding, "Yahoo's core assets though are still relatively inexpensive …. clearly you have a question about the AliPay asset now."

Stephen Weiss said, "I would pass on Yahoo completely."

‘Best contrarian trade
I’ve ever seen’

Gary Kaminsky said one of the points from the Vegas SALT gathering was that the euro/dollar trade that hedge funds have put on for a while "has got to be rethought."

Steve Cortes basically concurred with that, saying, "Spanish stocks are starting to also recede here" with the euro fall, and the "dollar is the most underowned and unloved asset right now."

Stephen Weiss called the dollar the "best contrarian trade I've ever seen." Gary Kaminsky said, "This is the beginning of a major change in currency sentiment."

Cortes: CSCO needs
to make change

Steve Grasso repeated one of his favorite — though undeniably convincing — theories on the stock market Friday, that wherever the major averages go, "2/3 of all stocks are gonna trade with it," and thus he'd be careful about some of the more high-flying drug and dividend payers of late in the event the S&P pulls back to 1,300.

He also said people he works with are watching commodities, and "they're looking for 1 more leg down in the market."

Grasso said "I think it's a little long in the tooth for retail" but that it's still not shortable right now.

Brian Sozzi said in the parade of retail reports, Macy's and Kohl's are the ones shining, and so he'd try to avoid the "potential falling knife" for other names which he said could be Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowe's.

Steve Cortes though said he likes the downscaling names such as Target because "middle-class folks are gonna get a massive tax cut" from gasoline's decline.

Cortes said "I think Cisco needs new leadership" and that John Chambers is "simply not the man for the job."

Gary Kaminsky interviewed Boyd Gaming chief Keith Smith and asked Smith what he thinks of leading analyst Joe Greff's sell rating. Smith said it's "unwarranted."

CNBC hands Melissa
remarkably tough schedule

JJ Kinahan talked on Friday's Halftime about unusual put buying on the Tyco news. "This is a story that we could have our eyes on all summer long," Kinahan said.

Melissa Lee — whose quick Vegas fly-in/fly-out with hardly any time to rest between shows and flights undoubtedly disappointed many SALT conferencegoers and Bellagio guests who were hoping she'd possibly spend the weekend … uh … just being straightforward here … poolside — dished out a few digs at Gary Kaminsky Friday, first on Kaminsky's Goldman Sachs settlement call of long ago and then on the fact Gary's apparently had the longest stay in Vegas of the CNBC crew. Kaminsky even cranked up the former a notch, referring to another of his calls on Lloyd Blankfein's tenure as not the best.

Steve Grasso joked that Melissa gets $1 million per episode just like Ashton Kutcher. Lee then suggested she oughta get double pay for the special hourlong version of Fast Money on Friday.

Timely tip

Moments after Stephen Weiss said on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report that the Rambus yo-yo reflected the "danger of trying to trade news headlines," Melissa Lee cut in with breaking news that stocks were at their session lows because of an ABC News report on bin Laden.

Kass: Goldman Sachs is
BP circa June 2010

In a rather eye-opening comparison, Doug Kass explained Friday on Fast Money that he thinks Goldman Sachs is in 2010 BP-land.

"The government issues are Goldman's oil spill," Kass said, and citing Whitney Tilson's sensational June call on BP last year, said he's owning Goldman Sachs "for the first time actually ever."

When you break down the numbers, it comes down to "I'm partnering with Goldman's partners at book value," Kass said. "It still is the smartest guys in the room."

"I am 100% with him," said Steve Cortes, who admitted he bought it yesterday and "it's not working so far, but we're only 1 day in."

Kaminsky: ‘Across the board,’ hedge funds expect financials to underperform

Gary Kaminsky said he asked everyone at SALT if they think financials will continue to underperform. "Across the board they all said it will," Kaminsky said.

More on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report later.

[Thursday, May 12, 2011]

Karen questions part
of Tim’s GM analysis

Some of Thursday's Fast Money was devoted to analyzing Leon Cooperman's Halftime Report case for GM, and Tim Seymour took the ball and ran with it.

"This is a fantastic value call," Seymour said, before adding that every quarter GM keeps the government strings attached is good for it.

"Why?" asked Finerman, and Seymour explained, "The cash flow story for them is what they need."

But Finerman questioned if it's not the same operating story regardless. Seymour responded, "All those cash flows are not theirs."

Fisher: Oil to close
year on highs

Mark Fisher said on Thursday's Vegas-ized Fast Money that oil will end the year on the highs, which he predicted would be Brent $135 and WTI $120.

Fisher noted that after a week of interesting moves, "crude oil's at the same price it was at Sunday night."

Fisher said ethanol is something futures traders are watching, the SLV doesn't give you a chance to play overnight volatility, and the problem with nat gas is that "front of the board, got too much supply."

Corzine: ‘Correction’
in commodities

Jon Corzine told the Fast Money gang Thursday he sees "very little probability of a double-dip" but that there could be a "sharp retrenchment" in bonds.

Corzine didn't exactly go out on a limb on commodities when he said "I basically think we're having a correction."

And he really wasn't going out on a limb when Melissa Lee asked him whether people should buy GS, prompting Lee to re-ask the question, to which Corzine said he owns the stock and isn't selling it.

Dennis Gartman lamented how FCX always goes the opposite direction of how he's playing it. "All I'm doing is getting chopped up," Gartman said.

Guy Adami said Juniper is a buy on Cisco weakness. Karen Finerman said she dabbled in DIS; "it seemed overdone from yesterday."

Guy Adami apparently figures this will elicit some e-mails

Guy Adami indicated on Thursday's Fast Money Halftime Report that critics of Goldman Sachs have it backwards.

"We should aspire to be more like Goldman Sachs," Adami said. "This will offend a lot of people. I mean, we seem to, uh, demonize excellence and we seem to, uh, celebrate mediocrity now."

Leon Cooperman acknowledged he's "probably not an unbiased person. I had a 25-year love affair with Goldman Sachs," and in the end, "I think they'll come out just fine."

"I don't own the stock," Cooperman said.

Cooperman said if we get 3% real GDP growth, "the price of oil is not going down a lot."

Cooperman's picks include GM, TEVA, CVS, E-Trade and MGIC. He also said he owns some Transocean — "Bottom line is, it's BP's liability."

Silver’s so bad,
it’s become cliche

Gina Sanchez of Roubini Global Economics said the commodities dive has some fundamental merit, but not a lot. "We think this is technical," Sanchez said on the Fast Money Halftime Report Thursday in Vegas.

Tim Seymour said, "I think commodities are still overcrowded trades," and "I do think we've put the lows in on the dollar."

Pete Najarian said Juniper is an "interesting area for people to look."

Guy Adami said FCX might be experiencing its first upside reversal in a long time.

Then, in a great example of what happens when someone has made the same point several times, Adami simply ran out of fresh terminology to describe his belief that silver will trend higher through the year. "It is not for the faint of heart, it's gonna take no prisoners on the way there," he said.

How to impress Kyle Bass

Kyle Bass — in all likelihood the only Strategy Session guest to appear on a show set in 3 states — explained on Thursday's Strategy Session in Vegas how he managed to stump 500 MBA students at "one of the most prestigious universities in the, in the world."

Bass related an anecdote he's told previously on CNBC, saying he asked the students if they know Greece has sovereign debt issues, and everyone raised their hands and wondered what he was doing there. But then he asked, "Who in here can tell me what their on-balance-sheet cost of financing is? Not 1 hand in 500 was raised."

Unfortunately, for the second straight time, this page has no clue either, and we don't think we ever heard the answer on the show, but if you're a student somewhere, and you hear Bass is coming, you could score points by looking up that one beforehand.

Bass used some form of "periphery" about 3 times while asserting, "I don't think Trichet can afford to raise rates … I think raising rates over there is, is, foolhardy." Gary Kaminsky asked if Greece restructuring can be contained to Greece. "I don't think so, no," said Bass.

Bass pointed to how so many privatized financial problems have made their way onto public balance sheets. He also delivered an interesting point about the Lehman bankruptcy and how the small investor "is literally getting freight-trained in the process" because the firms with clout are getting the breaks.

Bulletin board material
for Mike Tomlin

Rex Ryan is one of those rare NFL head coach successes who don't come along very often — a colorful guy who overachieves.

The Strategy Session not only got a short TV interview with Ryan but a Web Extra, in which Gary Kaminsky asked the Jets boss which road venues are the toughest places to win.

Ryan first was going to dodge it, suggesting (correctly) the Jets have done well on the road … but then he offered this head-scratching answer: "I guess it would be Indianapolis and New England because you're facing Peyton Manning and Tom Brady."

Those 2 QBs — combined — have gone 1-2 in the Super Bowl in 6 years, while another guy — alone — has gone 2-1.

Even more interesting is that Ryan says the 2 places he won playoff games last season are the toughest places to win, and not actually the place where his team was stopped.

Ryan did call the new stadium "phenomenal" and stated, "We need to have a much better record at home, and I think we will."

Fair enough, but sports, perhaps like many stocks, are over-analyzed, and what Ryan should really be talking about has nothing to do with home record. The best question for Ryan or any head coach is do you have enough good players to win. Last year the Jets didn't. Last year there was an alarmingly high number of players who came from other teams. It's a savvy, persistent squad that revealed everything by its just-happy-to-be-here postgame celebration in New England. Ryan isn't helping his own cause by suggesting recently the Jets would've beaten Green Bay, though it's unclear if he actually believes that. That's giving his roster more credit than it deserves. The Jets have lost the last 2 AFC Championship Games because the defense got run out of Dodge. Not enough good players. Period.

Ryan indicated on the Strategy Session that this is still basketball season, albeit post-collegiate variety, when he noted the Jets "made it to the final four" the last 2 seasons.

Definition of ‘significant’
is what’s significant here

In the latest chapter of the Wilpons' battle to keep their cake and eat it too, Kate Kelly reported on Thursday's Strategy Session what Steven Cohen is hoping to get from his possible minority share of the Mets:

"Board seats" and "significant say."

Separately, Kelly reported that Fabrizio Gallo is leaving Brevan Howard, which explains some of the "wild rumors" recently about the fund and redemptions. But Kelly said Brevan Howard is suggesting that if its $24 billion flagship fund gets to $25 billion, it would just be too large and they might start redemptions.

"We can be nimble at 24, but 25, nah that's too much," chuckled David Faber.

[Wednesday, May 11, 2011]

This one’s a toughie

Karen Finerman famously likes to ask gold bulls how the precious metal can be great in both an inflation scenario and deflation scenario, which continues to be one of the best Fast Money questions.

Wednesday, Finerman was on the other end of that kind of conversation when Melissa Lee, who should be getting a bonus from CNBC for her flawless day in Vegas that concluded with an interview of George W. Bush, came up with one of the savvier questions of late, asking Finerman, who really likes Target now, if Target and Wal-Mart can be assumed to be places people go when gas gets too high, "and they're also where you go in the retail space when gas prices come down."

Finerman explained, "They are where you go if you can afford to get there when gas prices are high."

Great moments
in Fast Money history

Every now and then, longtime viewers of Fast Money will recognize a quote from the very early days, and Wednesday Guy Adami showed that he packed one for the trip to Vegas, referring to the Johnson&Johnson acquisition so good, it was like larceny, "when they stole Pfizer's consumer brands business 3 or 4 years ago."

"This is a great stock internationally," Tim Seymour said of JNJ.

‘Definitely panic’ in oil

David Greenberg told Fast Money viewers Wednesday that things are getting a little scary in the crude pits.

"Who needs Vegas when you have this crude oil market right now," Greenberg said.

He said Tuesday's move might've gotten people complacent, because Wednesday, "there was definitely panic in this market … these guys are nervous right now."

Karen Finerman asked Greenberg about his remarks on margin hikes not being the answer to spikes and wondered if it's not the right way to do it, then what would be. "It is a start on the way to do it, but the margin increase isn't really that hot," Greenberg said. "There's not the liquidity in these markets that everybody thinks."

Cisco skid (probably not
the first time for that headline)

The Fast Money panel took a crack at Cisco on Wednesday, with Guy Adami saying, "I don't think this stock is a buy here."

Joe Terranova said the company's performance continues to raise doubts about whether John Chambers should stick around, and "I don't think he should."

Tim Seymour said Cisco's numbers are perhaps more a result of rivals than Cisco itself. "I think this is more about other people eating their lunch," Seymour said.

Seymour noted, "The short interest is rising, and creeping higher."

Pete Najarian said the issue is that "John Chambers again sounds a lot less of the bull that he once was when he used to come on these calls."

Melissa Lee asked Karen Finerman about ramifications for HPQ. "I hope that the bar is so low at this valuation," Finerman said, hopefully.

Seymour: Chinese Web names
got ‘way overbaked’

Chris Hyzy told Fast Money Wednesday that in terms of interest rates, "the light switch went on with the Ben Bernanke speech on April 27," which was "very similar" to Jackson Hole but "almost the opposite trade."

"The big switch is on," Hyzy said. "We still like municipal bonds."

Tim Seymour pointed to SINA and Baidu and said the Chinese Internet names got "way overbaked" and, in a twist from John Irving to the Financial Accounting Standards Board, said those stocks had become not GARP, but GAAP — "Growth At an Absurd Price."

Dan Niles said a big problem for Cisco is that it's expecting so much revenue from governments, and the company as a whole is "too large to escape that."

Niles said he likes Au Optronics, then held up a couple iPads on the desk to illustrate with a visual aid what headwinds Microsoft and Intel are facing, which, come to think of it, sort of was a backdoor play on James Altucher's $2 trillion AAPL market cap thesis of a day ago, but let's not get carried away.

Pete Najarian said he thinks Macy's could get "maybe up into the 30s." Melissa Lee joked that Pete seemingly has hit up the Bellagio ATM 21 times since arriving.

Adami: Look at ANF

Melissa Lee, in super-sharp purple, led a chipper Fast Money Halftime unit into SALT in Las Vegas Wednesday, and oil's drop was the primary topic.

"If you lose oil, you're gonna lose the S&P," said Joe Terranova.

Guy Adami noted that he's not sure he's seen a 25-cent drop in gasoline ever in his career, but now he's seen it a couple times just recently.

Karen Finerman though said that whether crude is $80 or $120, "I still like the services names."

Sam Hocking spoke briefly and said hedge funds are exploring "Different ways maybe to look at the long side."

Finerman said Macy's initiatives are "really starting to bear fruit," and she's staying with the stock. Guy Adami said he still likes ANF.

Kelly: ‘Sense of relief’

Gary Kaminsky set up shop with newly arrived David Faber at SALT on Wednesday and said the Rajaratnam case certainly changes the industry and already did change the industry when the case was brought.

Kate Kelly said there was not much surprise at the SALT gathering, and there's actually a "sense of relief" in the hedge fund community because a figure such as Rajaratnam is now "kind of ushered offstage."

Jonathan Urfrig guested and said there are bad actors in every industry, but essentially agreed with Kate Kelly that the case might just be a "blip" for hedge funds because they continue to do well with inflows.

David Faber urged hedge fund people to keep calling him. "It's been a frustrating period, I have to say," Faber said.

Jamie Dinan said, "There's a lot of speculative money in all commodities."

[Tuesday, May 10, 2011]

Steve Cortes makes the best argument against James Altucher’s AAPL thesis

James Altucher said on Tuesday's Fast Money "it's really very simple math" as to why AAPL will be worth $2 trillion.

"We're only in the first inning" of people using Apple devices, he asserted.

Guy Adami was skeptical and said he was just asking straightforwardly, "You're not trying to make headlines to sell some books here?"

Altucher pointed to the $60-plus billion in cash and said "This was the biggest growth rate they've ever had in the company's entire history."

Altucher further said, "Everybody's got some Apple device at this point." Tim Seymour said sure, and they all had an 8-track and stagecoach too.

Altucher, unfazed, insisted "I think the odds are very good."

Steve Cortes closed with a comparison of $2 trillion, "that is the GDP of Brazil," and even a cutting jab as to why Altucher, according to Altucher's own disclosures, is not in this stock if it's going to $2 trillion.

Wish we knew why so many guests do this

Southern Nuclear CEO James Miller called Melissa Lee "Michelle" at the end of his interview Tuesday.

If you don’t like the silver option, maybe platinum would do

Dave Hightower, who thinks silver has another leg up, proved unrattle-able on his thesis on Tuesday's Fast Money — so much so that even his nemesis, Tim Seymour, was agreeing with him by the end on a related point.

"I don't see the classic signs of a commodity top," Hightower said, adding, "The last of the silver rally should come off a classic, uh, hard-driven inflation."

"But, there you go, last of the silver rally and I saw in your notes you say that kind of the final wave of the silver rally is in the offing. Doesn't that imply to me that this is just momentum, and this is, this is noisy?" Seymour asked.

Hightower responded without blinking that one "could be short and be out $19 because of the market, uh, with grain prices and energy prices."

But Hightower apparently won Seymour over when he said platinum and palladium are appealing as inflationary plays that are not near their tops.

"I think he's right," Seymour conceded, pointing to Stillwater and saying, "I see this going back down to 18.40."

Anyone know Jefferson 9-2538?

Tim Seymour said Tuesday on Fast Money that "no one knows what Skype is actually worth," but it's an interesting way for Microsoft to find a new market.

"In the 8 years of Skype's existence, it hasn't made money," said skeptic Melissa Lee.

But "what has YouTube done, and, you know, what did Google pay for it," Seymour countered. Steve Cortes said that analogy doesn't work, because look at MySpace.

Stephen Weiss said the only good thing about the deal is that it's funded by offshore cash. "It's basically free money," Weiss said.

Guy Adami made an antiquated-phone reference to Jefferson 9-2538, which flew over our head.

Doug Kass provides consoling
for a bad Steve Cortes trade

Steve Cortes was oozing regrets on Tuesday's Fast Money about his bad short-the-homebuilders trade, but he got plenty of capable advice from Doug Kass, who was actually on the show to point to the housing overhang on the economy.

"I think it's a mistake shorting the homebuilders," Kass said, saying the businesses have figured out how to operate and that they're heavily shorted already. He added, "you should never be short Toll Brothers."

Brian Kelly argued against the panel that "housing hasn't mattered for 2 years … why does it matter now?"

"Because it's holding back financials. And financials are holding back the market," answered Tim Seymour.

"The market's up 100% since the lows," Kelly rebutted.

"That's fair, but I mean, financials have definitely been trading poorly," Seymour said.

Kelly closed out the segment with a dig on QE2's benefits for underwater homeowners. "I don't think they got a check from Ben Bernanke," he said.

Cortes’ cruise trouble

Steve Cortes warned Tuesday on Fast Money, "The dollar is very much holding its bid," and said this is "a real problem for the stock market."

"I don't believe in silver," said Tim Seymour, who recommended, "buy your gold dips."

Stephen Weiss asserted that "linking the dollar to commodities is old-school."

Brian Kelly said "$85 is my technical target" for Molycorp.

Steve Cortes said he prefers Viacom to Disney to "take out that ESPN risk with the NFL."

But worse, Cortes complained, "I once took my kids on the Disney cruise. Everybody got the norovirus. It was hell on water."

Guy Adami speculated that the people who shop at Abercrombie & Fitch don't know the price of gasoline.

Trying to prove a negative,
or the bull case for Microsoft

Check out the effusive "praise" Donald Yacktman had for Steven Ballmer's Skype deal on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

" 'Tis but a flesh wound … I haven't met a dessert I didn't like, and I'm beginning to wonder if Mr. Ballmer hasn't met a tech company he didn't want to buy."

"Where was he a couple years ago?" when eBay was practically willing to give it away.

"These guys have not been rocket scientists when it comes to reinvesting the cash flow."

Yacktman said his "associate Jason" says when it comes to deals such as this, "It's almost always about the price." Gotta agree with that one.

So why, asked Stephen Weiss in a good question, given all these gripes, does Yacktman think the stock might actually go up?

"I just don't think they're gonna continue to strike out every time they're at the plate," Yacktman said.

Steve Cortes indicates not every Fast Money analyst appearance is a winner

Colin Gillis turned up on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report to actually tout, of all names, CSCO, with a $24 price target. "Definitely a beaten-up tech name," Gillis conceded, but "all of this infrastructure is going to require Cisco's plumbing."

Steve Cortes praised Gillis if for nothing else, guts. "Sometimes we get analysts on the show whose stock is at 17, and he tells us it's going to 18 with a strong buy conviction," Cortes said.

Cortes: Silver a short at $40

The Fast Money Halftime gang was nearly unanimous in shelling the Microsoft-Skype deal, with Jared Levy saying $8.5 billion is "way too much" and Brian Kelly noting that as of now, "only 1% of those subscribers actually pay for Skype."

Colin Gillis argued "it's a reasonable use of cash," and Stephen Weiss said at least it's a way to use foreign cash, but Levy insisted MSFT has become a "hodgepodge" of divisions, and that at Google, "they do it a lot better."

Steve Cortes said he'll short silver if it gets back to $40 again, and that he's shorting emerging markets through the EEM, but if you're bullish on China, you could play it through oil.

Guest host Simon Hobbs pronounced the car company "Telsa" Motors.

Ballmer: ‘Not like there’s something imminent’ beyond Skype

Microsoft's Skype deal gave Jon Fortt a chance to star on Tuesday's Strategy Session, and Fortt made something of a splash by asking Steve Ballmer if he's got more deal plans for MSFT's foreign cash, or "did you get major indigestion doing this one."

Ballmer said he has to be "kind of quiet on the subject, I mean it's not like there's something imminent." But he said it's "certainly not our, sort of, fundamental strategy."

Ballmer spoke about 3 revenue streams and trumpeted the word "Skype" in explaining, "As we form the Microsoft-SKYPE division … the premise is we do a great job of supporting not Microsoft devices but optimize as much as we can for Windows, phones, PCs, and Xbox and Kinect."

"Skype could be an accelerant of our financial results," Ballmer said.

Gary Kaminsky said the deal won't move the needle, but the significance is that "they were able to use overseas cash … and not have to redeploy that." Kaminsky then rattled off MSFT's performance in the last decade vs. the S&P and Ballmer's sale of shares over time. "Those are just the numbers, they speak for themselves," Kaminsky said.

Cosmopolitan goal:
Redefining luxury

John Unwin, the enthusiastic chief of the Cosmopolitan in Vegas, said he had a great job at Caesars, but he sees the Cosmopolitan as an "opportunity to redefine luxury."

And then he reiterated that he wants to "take this opportunity to redefine luxury," and then he said the question asked at the Cosmopolitan is "how do we redefine luxury."

Unwin said he's already doing well with high-end bookings, but "Our challenge has been developing a big database of customers."

Gary Kaminsky told David Faber there's a great place to shop in the upper floors. Faber said Kaminsky is the shopping expert but pronounced the discussion a "great interview."

The interview began with someone in the casino shouting "Yeah!," perhaps a lucky winner or a Strategy Session fan.

Kelly: A bigger AIG issuance would signal more confidence in the deal

Kate Kelly reported Tuesday on AIG again, saying "it's unlikely the deal will be postponed," and that it's expected there will be a "prospectus to be filed first thing tomorrow morning."

Kelly summarized what seems pretty basic, that issuing a larger float "would signal more confidence."

Kelly said even Bruce Berkowitz is resigned to the notion of high $20s at best.

David Faber actually slightly misquoted his co-host Gary Kaminsky, asking Kaminsky what he thinks given that Gary said yesterday he wouldn't be a buyer unless it's mid to low $20s. Kaminsky said that's not him talking, but what he's hearing, which is what he actually said yesterday.

Kaminsky said "there is very soft interest in this deal right now," but that all the pricing/float haggling "is always the dance that happens."

[Monday, May 9, 2011]

Dennis Gartman scorches an old source who led him astray

Dennis Gartman returned to a thesis he's held basically since this page has ever existed (which, gulp, has been a lot longer than we can actually believe), which is that northern and southern Europe are going to go their separate currency ways at some point, who knows, maybe in a couple years.

But actually it "could be 2 weeks; one never knows," Gartman said.

Gartman complained about the fickle nature of currency pronouncements, saying he recalls about 7 or 8 years ago when there were rumors of a Mexican currency devaluation, he called someone in the know who told him it's not happening, and then "15 minutes later they devalue the Mexican peso."

Gartman asserted (again) that "nobody wants to pay" for Greece, Italy, Portugal, and whatever happens with northern Europe will be currency-strong.

Gartman said there'd be "confusion ... relief ... demonstrably solid currency" at least in the north in the event of a euro breakup.

Gartman said "if the dollar gets stronger," commodities prices are going to get a lot of weaker. But he didn't give Melissa Lee (super-snappy in red dress) as much of an answer about his own positions, so she persisted, and Gartman revealed, "Absolutely. I have trimmed my commodity positions."

Stephen Weiss tried to get Gartman to draw a distinction being Greece bolting or getting kicked out. "What's the difference," Gartman responded.

Happy birthday, Tim Seymour

Dennis Gartman wished Tim Seymour a happy birthday Monday. (This page always likes to get ahead of those, but the reality is, we weren't really prepared for that one.)

A Najarian does not call a stock he likes ‘absolutely phenomenal’

Guest Ed Najarian — Melissa Lee did the necessary, as is this site, disclosure that he's not related to the Fast Money Najarians — told Fast Money on Monday he actually likes Citi for the fundamentals.

He said it's "fallen off over the last several months and lacks institutional buying, but "there's room for institutions to buy here."

Tim Seymour pointed out, at reverse-split price, we're talking about a stock that was trading about $580 several years ago now trading at 44, and he mentioned his favorite Citi theme, that it has sold many of its best assets.

Najarian conceded "as recently as a few years ago this was a very broken company," but losses on the bad entity (we think that was Citi Holdings) are getting smaller, and like JPMorgan, he predicts boom times ahead in the credit card business.

Jane Wells sighting

Gorjus Jane Wells graced Fast Money with another rare appearance Monday and modeled a frozen chicken as well as Dian Parkinson ever modeled any product, while touting organic names in a "Free Range Fast Money" segment.

"I'm all over this like brown on organic rice," said Wells, explaining that chicken farmers are dealing with rising feed costs and thus aren't able to capitalize on demand for organic or natural food (when Melissa Lee asked for a distinction, it turns out to be something about one having "water pumped into it").

Wells noted that even Rite Aid is tapping the organic space and said Hain figures to be a winner. Joe Terranova, whose passion is healthy eating (hey, nothing wrong with that, kinda hard to believe he gets the flak he does for it), said Whole Foods and Hain are in a good place, "They don't really have competition."

Terranova also mentioned Limited Brands. Quick-on-the-draw Karen Finerman smartly asked why he liked that one and whether they had video to show.

Cortes: ‘Early innings’
of commodities selloff

Steve Cortes was finally given a chance on Monday's Fast Money at a big chart demonstration, and he lived up to the challenge, pointing to a crude/S&P divergence.

"This serious breakdown in crude is terrible news for risk in general," Cortes said.

Cortes went on to fault QE (that's quantitative easing, not Elizabeth II) for aggravating the wealth gap, pointing to, "Say, the law partner who has stock in ExxonMobil," vs. the ham-n-egger who has to fill his gas tank every week.

Cortes earlier said he and Stephen Weiss used to be the only dollar bulls in the world, but "I think we've made some friends" over that by now.

"There are real legs to this commodity selloff, and we're just getting started ... early innings," Cortes said.

Tim Seymour congratulated Cortes on a "nice job on the pocket square."

Stephen Weiss learns the tough way that K-Fine pays close attention to what her colleagues say

Karen Finerman didn't talk a whole lot about Limited Brands, but did praise TGT, saying "Target under 50 ... I think it's good to own."

But Finerman was mostly quiet after a slick start in which she nearly tripped up Stephen Weiss over an implication that ConocoPhillips could be acquired, which Weiss diligently explained as meaning that he's not predicting a takeover, but if any of them were going to be acquired, that would be it.

Tim Seymour pointed to COP and big oil and said "I think you stay away at least until these things settle in."

Finerman also referenced Ensco but said the Canadian Oil Sands play is in "no man's land."

Weiss said "clearly energy is the best place to be," but he likes platinum and palladium.

Year after year, people worry about China stomping on the brake pedal

Monday was Tim Seymour's birthday, and one of his gifts to viewers was a longtime Fast Money cliche regarding China.

"The fear is that they're gonna stamp on the brakes, not just tap the brakes," Seymour said.

Seymour also made an interesting point about how it's easier to buy a new car than used because of lending restrictions.

Seymour reflected on last week's silver/commodities plunge with a pretty good analogy for the nibblers, saying, "This wasn't a falling knife you caught, it was a falling piano." Seymour said the dollar "is the story of last week."

Darren Rovell made a nice point about Churchill Downs now getting only 43.7% of its take from racing (interesting, though not a surprise for those who have known for years that all you have to be is under 60 and go to the track and people will call you "Sonny boy.")

Karen Finerman said it's "groundhog day for Research in Motion."

Melissa Lee mentioned Fast Money heading to Vegas this week. Tim Seymour joked, "Joe you're gonna be chained to the 1-armed bandit."

Simon Hobbs actually asks CEO if he’s calculated the tax difference in his company’s domicility

Alkermes chief Richard Pops guested on Monday's Halftime Report and while offering the obligatory there's-no-overlap-only-synergies assessment of his Elan deal, he also had to explain to Simon Hobbs if he's calculated the tax advantages of being based in Ireland (if he hadn't, you'd really have to wonder about the accounting department).

Pops said, "Well there's obviously an advantage" to being in Ireland, but this is about the synergies.

Zach Karabell asks Andy Busch to explain how he got that 14%

Andy Busch on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report said (man, feels like we've heard this before) that the Greece troubles are "really seeming to come to a head."

What Zach Karabell couldn't get out of his head, however, was Busch's "very impressively precise call" of a 1 in 7 chance of a Greece default, and he asked Busch how he arrived at that conclusion.

"if you look at the CDses, Zach, I think that's what we're referencing," Busch said, allowing it's "kind of an imprecise measurement there."

"I think I made a very accurate call on what the ECB's doing," Busch told Simon Hobbs.

Steve Cortes said, "The United States dollar is the most underowned asset in the entire world."

Dr. J: Huge volume reduced, Citi will hang in there

Steve Cortes teamed with Zachary Karabell for a 1-2 punch of Monday Halftime Report commentary.

Cortes said of silver's plunge last week, "That is not a 2- or 3-day event," and "I think it takes weeks and even months" to run its course."

That came even though Pete Najarian contended some commodities watchers are saying "enough is enough," and Steve Grasso said, "I would be betting on higher prices in silver."

Karabell hung Najarian out to dry on Pepsi, saying it's got a lot of things going for it, but, "I don't love buying big-cap stable names that are, that have run a lot," and in a bit of a dis on the famed conviction buy list, said it looks like "that name has had its run."

Najarian rebutted that the dividend isn't the whole story of Pepsi, "that's just a KICKER I think" for the international growth.

Karabell, who opened his day's commentary with the term "vertiginous oscillations," said we've seen some "really, really strong swings from high to low" in the market, and "lows like this" and likely points you wanna get in.

Noting that McDonald's has been in a $75-$85 range since November, Karabell questioned, "Do we really think that's gonna be a hundred-dollar stock in 6 months?" and said he prefers Starbucks. Later he said investors who look to big cap now for "limited upside and downside" might as well be in bonds.
,br> Steve Cortes said "I bought Target last week" because he hates oil, and he also praised Sysco, saying, "Avoid John Chambers' Cisco and buy this one."

In an interesting go-round on recent history of reverse splits including names such as Priceline and E-Trade, Jon Najarian said he thinks Citi hangs in there instead of just tearing it up. Steve Grasso pointed to E-Trade as sort of selling after the fact. "Longer term, Jon's right, it's probably good for Citi," said Grasso.

In the steel-world biforcation, Grasso said "US Steel was oversold."

Smiles in Vegas

Gary Kaminsky, fresh into a week in Vegas, conducted a spirited discussion with MGM boss Jim Murren on Monday's Strategy Session in which Murren simply rained optimism.

So much so that not even the recent current petroleum spike is a problem.

"We'd be concerned if gas was 5, $6 a gallon," Murren said.

Murren also had sunny news about an elder statesman of Vegas, saying Kirk Kerkorian had a "blast" at the fight last weekend.

Gary Kaminsky didn't seem terribly impressed that, according to Kate Kelly, the government and AIG think AIG is worth a lot more than what they're probably going to have to sell it, which Kaminsky said could actually end up in the low $20s.

"I never met a seller in 20 years that didn't think they were selling something at a level worth less than what they thought it was worth," Kaminsky said.

Sean Egan introduced us to the term "Brady Bond" in his prescription for Greece, but then (not so) cheerily noted, "Greece is just the beginning."

[Friday, May 6, 2011]

Kelly: ‘Goldman might just be smarter than the rest of us’

Suggestions by Melissa Lee on Friday's Fast Money Halftime Report of excellence in oil forecasting by Goldman Sachs (since April) were quickly shrugged off by David Greenberg on the Fast Line.

"This is nothing new," Greenberg said. "Typical, old-fashioned Goldman."

Greenberg explained. "If you really wanna look at it, Goldman came out with a statement April 12th that they felt that crude was selling lower and Brent was gonna hit 105," he said. "And then what happens April 21st was that the Obama administration comes out and talks about how they're gonna go after the speculation in energy.

"Coincidence? Who knows," he asked.

Brian Kelly, though was giving 200 West Street the benefit of the doubt. "It seems like Goldman might just be smarter than the rest of it- rest of us," Kelly said.

Steve Grasso wasn't buying that.

"Let's go back, Melissa," Grasso said. "Also Goldman called for $200-a-barrel oil as well and it traded down to 35. So were they really stupid back then?"

Lee asked Greenberg to call oil's next move. "At this point, you know, oil just needs just a small excuse to go lower again," he said.

Edwards buys INTC

Given that Fast Money on Friday is limited to a half-hour Halftime Report, we always like to hope that it will be chock full of good stuff.

Unfortunately, wayyyy too much of Friday's effort was devoted to Greece-euro rumors and whatnot, and we couldn't wait till they changed the subject fast enough.

Brian Kelly said, "If they leave the Eurozone, they can print as much money as they want." There you go.

Meanwhile, Steve Grasso said, "I'm still looking for lower highs in the market. I would be selling this market."

Grasso also referred to his favorite pairs analysis, AKS vs. X, and said the money now is going into AKS.

Patty Edwards warned against trying to seek financial heroics, cautioning, "I just would not be trying to be a hero in the commodities markets at this point."

But Edwards also said, "As a matter of fact I actually did buy some Intel this morning."

Pete Najarian said the ZSL is still loaded with volatility so you can still try to make a fast buck one way or another. Brian Kelly said, "I still remain long silver."

William O'Brien spoke about the Flash Crash and probably smiled more than a Fast Money guest should be allowed to, saying the next one might be tough to prevent, but, "I think we've made an impressive amount of strides."

Pete Najarian wished Erin Burnett all the best, and Melissa Lee seconded that.

As soon as he started talking about pumping his own gas, it was time to go back

Legendary investor Howard Marks gave a rare interview Friday to the Strategy Session, but leave it to the Man of the Week to briefly steal the thunder with a speech from Indiana.

Marks' commentary, at least for the regular joes of the business world like us, was refreshingly simple, and interesting even for those who don't mind playing SINA from time to time. He didn't identify the next bubble, but he did make it clear that he sticks to the fundamentals.

On silver, he said, "Right now it is a trade, uh, or a speculation. I don't personally think there's such a thing as investing intelligently in commodities."

Of gold, he said, "it holds value in crisis because people believe it will."

Marks, who noted that GDP outgrew incomes, also pointed to a less-prosperous decade ahead because of restrictions on credit. "I'm not an economist. I don't basically believe in economists or in macro-forecasts," he qualified, but said, "I don't believe that there will be a comparable increase in the use of credit in the next 10 years."

Suddenly at that point, around the 10-minute mark, David Faber announced they had to cut in for President Obama's speech at an Indiana factory in which he was expected to mention the jobs data, but the show nevertheless cut to a commercial.

Coming back from the commercial, the president talked about the importance of American-made goods, and then started to explain how the Secret Service doesn't let him fill up his own motorcade, before The Strategy Session cut back for still another breakaway, to Simon Hobbs on the Greece/Der Spiegel/euro situation (we think the president was just about to make a "feel your pain" type of statement. Darn.)

When the conversation returned to Marks, he downplayed having a fairly small position in listed equities and said it's not a commentary on the markets but that he's found good opportunities elsewhere. "One of the things we try to do is be in so-called inefficient markets," he said, but he noted, "distressed debt opportunities have gotten considerably harder to find since the end of 2008."

Kaminsky: ‘Panic selling’
on Thursday

Gary Kaminsky on Friday spent a few moments reflecting on Thursday's commodity/market troubles, saying, "I think that what we saw late in the day yesterday was a bit of panic selling across, not just the commodities, but essentially everything."

Anthony Scaramucci visited the set late and spoke positively of Steven Cohen, who is in the news again and will be at the SkyBridge SALT conference next week, and Cohen's apparent bid for the Mets stake. "He would be a great potential investor for the Wilpon family, and I hope he wins it," Scaramucci said.

Scaramucci also praised The Strategy Session and Fast Money for helping to make a portion of the SALT conference public next week. "Viewers are gonna be right there, with us, learning about what's going on in the world right now and what impact it's gonna have on investing," Scaramucci said.

[Thursday, May 5, 2011]

Gotta admit, that’s tough to beat

Guy Adami tried to say on Thursday's Fast Money that Ben Bernanke is the "happiest guy on the planet," but Tim Seymour begged to differ, saying in fact it's really "Bam Bam."

"He killed Osama bin Laden, and he killed oil," Seymour said. "Everything's good now."

It would just be too sentimental and sappy to suggest that it could be Prince William too.

It’s worse than we thought

Kimberly Greenberger, who hasn't visited Fast Money for a while, casually dropped a comment we found rather alarming on Thursday's Fast Money.

"Typically we see middle-income consumers living paycheck to paycheck," Greenberger said.


We would hope America's vaunted middle class actually saves some of its money (after all, if they're not, does that mean the closet indexers are only sticking it to rich folks who send them money?).

But maybe that's not happening, and folks are regularly blowing their last dime on "Your Highness."

Greenberger, who basically matched Nicole Miller Regan (earlier, see below) in rattling off the EBIT/EBITDA formula, said Ann Taylor and Children's Place are likely to get a long look from private equity, but "Gap is probably too big to get done frankly."

Najarian: Can’t buy
the dips on commodities

While basically everyone on CNBC all day had informative things to say about silver Thursday, Anthony Scaramucci and Jon Najarian had some good words for the wise on Fast Money.

"When you see a 20% drop in a commodity like silver, you've gotta be worried about equities near-term, because usually these downward volatility pressures in commodities do spill over to the equities markets," Scaramucci said, before suggesting, "You can hide out in Treasurys probably."

Najarian explained how some recent silver put positions had signaled trouble, and he said sell the rips and buy the dips in commodities doesn't work — "you'll get carried out feet first."

He said the CME's margin-adjusting "I think is really puttin' the pedal to the metal and pushing people out the door, but to be safe, "I did exit all of my short positions in silver today."

Melissa Lee correctly used "harbinger" without the redundancy, while Guy Adami unfortunately added the redundancy.

What in the world happened to Timberland?

After some quiet performances recently, Karen Finerman caught fire again on Thursday's Fast Money in a hailstorm of stock picks and comedy. (Is that mixing metaphors? Whatever.)

Finerman alone pointed out, "The MLP space which is very, very rate-sensitive, got crushed today. And normally you would see that relationship move inversely to what it did today. We actually at the very end of the day bought some MLPs. There is an MLP ETN, the AMJ, that has a nice yield."

Finerman wound up with Timberland during Pops & Drops and deadpanned, "To call it a drop I think is a bit of an understatement."

"Big revenue miss, margins not good," she said, before tossing in one of our favorite all-time Fast Money cliches, "I wouldn't be a hero, I would just move along to something else."

Finerman said TGT should get a bounce from an oil drop, and she recommended it for her Final Trade.

She said she's "highly skeptical" Amazon would buy Netflix, but "I wouldn't short either of 'em."

Guy Adami said Netflix reminds him a little bit of Krispy Kreme though he's not saying it'll end the same way, only that it's going up the same way.

Adami was shown driving around in a 2011 Smart Car, prompting Finerman to crack, "I'm expecting all the Najarians to pop out of that car."

Sneak peak for Friday’s

Strategy Session co-host Gary Kaminsky dialed in the Fast Line on Thursday — "way too long for me calling into the show," he said — and served up a quote from Howard Marks in regards to the silver market.

"In every game there's a fish. If you've played for 45 minutes and haven't figured out who the fish is, then it's you," the quote read.

Many times our stock portfolio has indeed slept with the fishes, but that's a different quote and different pop culture reference altogether.

Kaminsky said Marks, "one of the greatest value investors of all time," will be on Friday's Strategy Session.

When we get a moment, we’ll try to figure out who those unlucky 2 are

Chris Verrone delivered on Thursday's Fast Money one of those mathematically confounding (to us) "healthy" correction arguments with a chart, saying, "We think this is a healthy correction within an ongoing uptrend."

He bases this on the fact the major-average lines are "still all upward-sloping."

He also said life is really tough for the shorts, because even this week, there have been "125 new highs on the S&P, only 2 new lows."

A first for Guy Adami

Joe Terranova said on Thursday's Fast Money that the selloff means "the right trade is to run for cover."

Terranova said some talked about how oil would only be trouble at $120 or $130, but "in essence, the damage has been done." (And while Terranova was speaking, the graphics gremlins came through with a spellcheck-less "COMMODITES (sic) PERFORMANCE" headline on a 1-week chart.)

Terranova touted FDX. "I believe FedEx eventually gets above a hundred, and I believe global growth will re-accelerate in the 2nd half of the year."

Guy Adami noted "gasoline down 25 cents; I don't think I've ever seen that before."

Tim Seymour called silver's move "very dollar-positive," but said overall such as with the dollar, "the trades are still mismatched," which apparently is synonymous with "crowded."

Daniel Fisher, apparently from his home computer, bemoaned the "unfathomable" speed of trading and said commodities moves were "all so overexaggerated by all the high-frequency trading ... we wouldn't see oil down 10 bucks today" if we just slowed down, Fisher said.

Treasury expert Bill O'Donnell said one of the driving factors behind moves in the dollar is the expected spread between global interest rates. But he said investors are starting to see "much more disappointing growth than they would've otherwise expected."

You had to be a good lip reader to understand what Scott Nations was saying Thursday on his first go-round (we know he at least said "I am" in terms of being skeptical of the bond rally), but after the commercial, the sound was working and Nations said he wants to buy the June 94 TLT put for $1.35.

Melissa Lee runs out of material for Nicole Miller Regan

Rarely — very rarely — does Fast Money ever need to fill dead air. Interviews always go longer than anticipated, and then you get "gotta leave it there," etc., and the show moves on.

But that's what happened after Melissa Lee's last question for Nicole Miller Regan on Thursday's Halftime, as to whether casual dining would face a bigger oil/economy hit than McDonald's.

Regan said no. "We're a bit more optimistic on the casual dining segment than we had been."

"Wow. OK," Lee curiously concluded.

With time to fill, Guy Adami asked Lee what she orders when she goes to McDonald's. "I usually have a Big Mac, or I will have Chicken McNuggets," Lee said, before adding that she also picks "barbecue sauce."

Incredibly, the show went on for another couple of minutes without Patty Edwards, whose connection apparently is only good for 20 minutes a pop and was lost for the 2nd time this week at the end of the program, to help fill time, so Lee turned to quote-ready Steve Cortes, who said "I think McDonald's makes a lot of sense here."

But by the time Cortes got to rumbling about how he felt like Superman stopping the train in his dollar trade, Lee had to gently interrupt with a bunch of "got it"s.

If you know which companies qualify off the top of your head, you need to get a life

Before Fast Money sort of ran out of things to ask Nicole Miller Regan, Regan sort of ran dry of stock names that viewers might actually want to consider.

Regan was on to explain the headwinds for McDonald's, but a key question was asked by Steve Grasso, who pointed to private equity interest in retail and clothing names and asked Regan if private equity would be interested in the dining space.

"Anything trading at less than the precedent 7.8 times EBIT, EBITDA multiple is a target," was all Regan would say.

"Well, that clears it up," Grasso cracked.

Rich Ilczyszyn says
he called dollar bounce

Fast Money might as well have filled Nicole Miller Regan's airtime with silver talk, given that no one could seem to get enough of it in the rest of the show.

Rich Ilczyszyn, rapidly becoming one of our favorite CNBC pundits, told Melissa Lee that margin changes are "absolutely not" what's moving silver.

"I think this market was really hot. A lot of people made money, and it's a flood to the door to get out to book those profits," Ilczyszyn said.

But then Ilczyszyn claimed that studies show increased margins don't move markets down.

Melissa Lee asked him to explain the time frame in those studies.

"I've read a couple of studies, I can't get into specifics," Ilczyszyn said, before taking credit for a dollar call.

"I sent John Melloy a tweet yesterday or an e-mail, and I said, 'Hey, you were talking about crowded trades, what about short the dollar'." He said he called up all his clients with commodity exposure and told them to buy dollars as a hedge.

"Lo and behold," Ilczyszyn said, Goldman Sachs came out with euro 150 call, and "the dollar catches a bid."

Guy Adami, who either has a George Hamilton-esque tan or the new Fast Money set is a bit overglossy, vouched for Ilczyszyn's record. "He's been spot-on, most of his calls," Adami said.

5 of 4?

Guy Adami said on Thursday's Halftime that "today might be the flush day" in silver, and that a buddy of his said that on Friday, "instead of Cinco de Mayo, it could be Cinco de-buy-o in terms of silver."

Melissa Lee, substituting the wrong palabra, said Steve Grasso jumped in briefly on "Cinco de Cuatro." Grasso acknowledged he got a "true Fast Money pop."

Cortes still wants
to short silver

Steve Cortes said Thursday, "As the resident Hispanic of Fast Money, Happy Cinco de Mayo to everyone."

But as for investing, Cortes said, "I'm hoping for a rally to short silver. I think silver was an absolute mania."

Steve Grasso tried, but failed, to possibly convince Cortes that Thursday's selloff was just a trend-line head fake that really only wipes out the retail investors and doesn't negate the long-term path.

Patty Edwards said you can nibble at silver, but, "Would I buy a full position? You'd be stupid to do that."

Clouds aren’t
CSCO’s salvation

Some investing cliches date back to the inception of CNBC and probably before (and even before FNN), but Patty Edwards ensured one of them remains vibrant on Thursday — specifically the notion that you can't just buy retailers across the board but need to be selective.

We don't think we've ever heard anyone in the history of CNBC say "Just buy every retailer you possibly can and you'll make gobs of money," but in the event you were wondering about that, try to avoid doing that.

Edwards stressed people need to be "really careful here in retail. I sold part of my position in Nordstrom yesterday even though the high end's been doing better."

Edwards also spoke about Ralcorp, saying she thinks a higher bid is probably going to happen but she doesn't have quite enough conviction to own the shares here. "I would expect that ConAgra will come back with something," Edwards said.

Steve Cortes said Domino's Pizza got him through 4 years of college. Steve Grasso said the "magic number for GM is $33."

Brian Marshall came on the show to talk about — Zzzzzzzzzz — Cisco, but as far as we could tell, he didn't have a whole lot of encouraging stuff to say except there's a bit of management grooming even while, in his opinion, it sounds like the company's simply too big to expect a big turnaround.

Marshall even said the notion of Cisco acquiring a cloud computing name won't help much because it has bigger issues than cloud computing, and he made an analogy to chimps (smaller players in Cisco's industries) attacking the 800-pound gorilla (CSCO), which the Fast gang seemed to enjoy.

Melissa Lee made a declaration about young people. "They should read newspapers. Young people out there, read your newspaper," Lee said.

Kaminsky: Government
will price AIG offering in mid-$20s

Kate Kelly reported on Thursday's Strategy Session that the folks behind the AIG offering are at "loggerheads" over the pricing of the deal, and that while Treasury would like it to be "somewhere near the current market valuation," the bankers involved say it "could be hard to move at any price above, say, $30," and it would be much more happenin' if priced at $25.

Gary Kaminsky said he has a "very strong opinion" on the subject. "Treasury will not get their $31 a share," Kaminsky said. "Maybe even in the mid-20s so that they get significant, significant demand."

Kelly then said to Kaminsky, "You definitely sound like the institutional investor that, that you are at heart," although we're not sure how that kind of background would predict the opinion that was expressed.

Meredith still has a lot
of catching up to do

We've gone a couple weeks in business-media land without anyone taking a serious crack at Meredith Whitney's goofy muni call, so it was maybe a bit overdue for The Strategy Session to step up to the plate on Thursday.

David Faber played a fuzzy video clip (that's a place where Cisco could capitalize on its Ellen Page videoconferencing equipment) from Whitney's appearance at the Milken conference and said of munis, "Now the selloff in that market of course began when noted banking analyst Meredith Whitney voiced her concerns about the credit quality of tax-free debt."

Interestingly, that assessment by Faber is slightly at odds (this subject has been parsed to death partly because of the efforts of Mr. C. Gasparino, so maybe we're overly generalizing here) with the comments from the March 25 Strategy Session by BlackRock's Peter Hayes, who said the selloff in muni funds "actually started before the CBS interview" and was triggered by downgrades in the tobacco sector.

But moving on.

The clip showed Whitney insisting, rather defensively we might add, "There's nothing controversial about that call," and as far as criticism goes, "I'm just numb to it."

(David Faber made a great joke about "too bad the cameraman was drunk.")

Anyway, Richard Taormina of JPMorgan gave a very articulate account of the present muni situation, saying $250 million of a $2.9 trillion market has gone bad, which is "not that significant."

"It's hardly a blip, frankly," Faber said.

Taormina said the defaults are "occurring in land-based deals, they're occurring in tribal and gaming, which are sectors that most folks are not involved in."

He concluded, "We're not calling for epidemic defaults."

Just for fun,
how about QE π

David Faber, like everyone else on CNBC on Thursday, spoke about silver, saying there's "little doubt in my mind certainly that this has become a vehicle yet again for retail."

Gary Kaminsky acknowledged it's "reminiscent of other speculative bubbles."

Kaminsky also said the market is wondering if there's gonna be QE 2.5, or QE 3-0.

Kaminsky also chided UBS, Jefferies and RBC for issuing sell-side upgrades on Expeditors after another good showing by Peter Rose.

[Wednesday, May 4, 2011]

Mary Ann Bartels: Silver
at $80 within 2-3 years

If you're afraid silver's run is over, you should've caught Mary Ann Bartels on Wednesday's Fast Money.

"This is a healthy correction for silver," Bartels said. "We're actually forecasting you can get a move right back to 50 eventually, and we do see silver eventually going to 80. ... Not this year though," she said, but maybe 2-3 years away.

But Bartels wasn't done riding the technical bull (that sounds like something from Gilley's Club in "Urban Cowboy"), identifying an inverse head and shoulders in the S&P 500.

"We got the breakout, now we just are correcting and testing the breakout, and we think the correction is going to be bullish," Bartels said."We're really not looking for 'sell in May and go away,' we're really looking for April showers to bring May flowers still back to the market."

Guy Adami said that last year the "real" head and shoulders thing indicated a move down, and it didn't happen, and asked Bartels if there could be another "fakeout" this time.

"You can always get a fakeout," Bartels said, but she said the advance/decline line confirmed the move, and volume was desirable. "We're still targeting a move on the S&P to 1,400 or 1,425," she said.

Karen fails to get an answer about SLV market cap

Noel Archard, managing director of iShares, seemed happy on Wednesday's Fast Money to defend the SLV against Dan Dicker's onslaught a day earlier.

But he wasn't quite ready for what Karen Finerman was about to toss his direction.

Archard, whom we learned from LinkedIn is a Northwestern graduate, said that Dicker described the ETF "in terms that I think are sort of wrong and bordered on irresponsible."

"First off it's 180 from a Ponzi scheme," Archard said, because it holds the physical commodity, which is fine, although Dicker seemed to say the opposite for the same reason, but then again, Dicker wasn't around Wednesday to defend his point, and we can't really defend it for him.

But Karen Finerman asked Archard a very relevant question unrelated to Ponzi terminology. "The $10 move from let's say 38 to 48, in terms of market cap of the SLV ETF, was that the same dollar amount as the move down from 48 to 38?"

Archard initially answered yes, in something of a mumble, then went on to be not really very clear, saying there's a cause-and-effect debate about pricing of the ETF.

"That doesn't, that doesn't really answer the question," Finerman responded. "Is it, the dollar amount of the market cap of SLV, from 38 to 48, was X, from 48 to 38, is that greater than, less than, or equal to X?"

"It's again, it's, it's a straight while- there's 2 aspects to it, right, it's the price movement of the silver, and it's also when you're looking at the outstanding value of the fund, it's reflective of shares outstanding in the fund," Archard said.

That too didn't answer the question, but Finerman didn't crow.

Instead, Finerman humbly told Melissa Lee she's just wondering if more money was lost on the $10 down than was made on the $10 up.

We might never know.

Dicker called gold a ‘Ponzi’
back in March

We thought it was rather aggressive — that's a nice way of saying something that can kind of get people in trouble — for Dan Dicker to refer to silver/commodity ETFs on the Tuesday Fast Money Halftime Report as essentially a Ponzi scheme, purportedly because of the physical possession.

It should be noted we're not experts in commodity ETFs and don't know if Dicker's point has merit.

But we do know, according to the Fast Money Rapid Recap page of March 21, that Dicker just 2 months ago was telling Fast Money executive producer John Melloy that gold — not silver — is "the world's most respected Ponzi scheme."

So for those keeping score, Dicker already exhibited a precious-metals bias that may or may not have anything to do with ETF analysis.

Adami: Few if any are making money trading silver

Guy Adami made an interesting declaration about silver on Wednesday's Fast Money that's bound to draw some Twitter heat from day traders.

"I promise you this — there are very few people, if any, that are making money trading silver right now these days," Adami said.

Brian Kelly downplayed reports of Carlos Slim hedging silver futures. "He owns a silver company, so he's essentially hedging out his production," Kelly said.

Joe Terranova said as soon as the "weak longs" are out of silver, "you're gonna get a market that bottoms out," but Stephen Weiss said there's been lots of speculators in the stock, and "we don't know if they're all out." Weiss said silver isn't a reserve currency. "It's not, it's not deep enough," he said.

Kelly said there may be gobs of noise about silver, but it's really about "inflation (being) higher than interest rates."

Guy Adami talked about the CME's silver margin moves (which Terrence A. Duffy has claimed on The Strategy Session will have no impact on price, but whatever) and said, "There's some sort of algorithm; there's some sort of formula they use. I'm hard-pressed to understand how that formula kicked in 4 times over the course of 2 weeks."

Joe Terranova agreed. "This is outside the norm," he said.

But Brian Kelly downplayed it, saying, "I think a lot of risk managers already saw this coming."

Terranova said "The data does matter." Adami said, "I don't know if there's an 'r' in 'matter' or not." Karen Finerman said "datter" has an "r."

Tim Armstrong likens Patch
to CNN, Amazon

AOL chief Tim Armstrong guested on Wednesday's Fast Money and offered this jaw-dropper: "We have probably the largest collection of content assets on the Internet."

The important thing about that sentence is that he didn't say "original" content.

"Content" has become the red herring of new media, a term thrown about often to connote production, when in fact in many cases that production simply involves rewriting or redoing material that someone else came up with and gladly accepting whatever clicks it generates.

But Armstrong probably raised even more eyebrows with another claim Wednesday: "Patch is really the type of property like a CNN or Amazon, you know, where we're building out the infrastructure, and it's probably the largest community-based project in the United States, outside of what the government is doing."

Really. "The largest community-based project in the United States, outside of what the government is doing."

What in the world is the government doing? Launching local online newspapers??

Armstrong asserted, "The things that we're betting the company on in the future are actually growing, uh, for the first time."

Well, better late than never, especially when the whole company is riding on it.

Brian Kelly wasn't terribly impressed. "I actually would look toward the New York Times," Kelly said, for its "digital footprint ... for some reason they finally figured out."

Shout-out: Erin Burnett

Readers of this site know that Erin Burnett is headed to CNN; hardly our scoop; the New York Times' Brian Stelter was way ahead of the pack here.

Some might wonder, so why is she still anchoring Street Signs on CNBC?

More on that in a moment.

We were taken aback a bit on Wednesday when a senior member of the CNBCfix community — not really much of a CNBC viewer, to be honest, but someone who wholeheartedly is a part of the CNBCfix.com franchise and is extremely learned and observant and could probably go toe-to-toe with Karen Finerman in college bowl — started gushing about Burnett's appearance. Just out of the blue.

"You know who I really like," the person said, "is this woman on CNBC who's going to CNN."

So the question was posed: "Really. Erin Burnett? Hottest woman on CNBC?" And then met by a stunned look, we were told, "If you don't think so, you need to get your eyes checked."

We don't know the date or terms — no clue at all — of when Burnett's reign at CNBC expires.

But we are familiar with media departures. There is something kinda cool and old-school about when a journalist jumps to a rival and the boss orders him/her out of the office immediately.

It's also a sign of great respect when an established star is kept on until it's officially over, given that the star's remaining moments with the old company could actually be used as a platform for the new job.

Translation: CNBC would like to keep Burnett and will miss having her around.

Burnett is a remarkably talented TV host who brings far more than beauty, and whose departure is a loss for CNBC and its viewers. Sometimes people have to try something different. We wish her the best of luck, though she doesn't need it.

What’ll happen first:
QE 3, or Flash Crash 2?

Joe Saluzzi guested on Fast Money Wednesday to talk about the Flash Crash (was that really about a year ago? Man, does time fly) and heard Melissa Lee's intro about Mary Schapiro saying it's just not really 100% preventable, and Saluzzi said, "Essentially, Mary Schapiro's right."

"The way to fix it is to address the real root cause of the problem, and that's the market structure," Saluzzi said, criticizing "phantom liquidity" from bogus orders and other gimmicks.

Saluzzi said the floor system, championed by Steve Grasso, would prevent it, but "there's no obligations for market makers anymore."

Probable topic at rare earths conference: How to get China to keep being a Jag-off

David Palmer spoke on Fast Money Wednesday about the Ralcorp-ConAgra situation and said "The resolve of Conagra to get this done is high."

Stephen Weiss asked what might've been a good question, but we were too distracted by the attractive woman walking by in the background behind Palmer while Weiss spoke.

Guy Adami pointed to strength in ANF and said "that may be a stock that somebody's looking at as well." He also said, "It feels as though Intel has broken out to the upside," but as for Garmin, he gets directions the old-fashioned way, and "I wouldn't be long the stock here."

Michael Foust of Digital Realty Trust basically just said business is great, and that the international portion is "about 12-14% today."

Karen Finerman said "names like CAT, um, those are starting to get interesting," and for her Final Trade, said, "I like Tenet Health Care puts. I think Community pulls their bid next week."

Peter Cashin — yet another rare earths CEO interviewed by the capable Brian Shactman at what has to be some profoundly uninteresting metals & mining conference — said something that might've been important, but the hallway noise around him basically drowned it out for our purposes.

Guy Adami gave Mike Khouw a hard time about his "Nehru fruit shirt." Khouw responded, "Maybe it was more of a Bergdorf thing from about 15 years ago."

Steve Cortes says Navy SEALs
have saved the dollar

Steve Cortes said on Wednesday's Fast Money Halftime Report that the elimination of bin Laden is going to be good for the dollar.

"History shows us that the country with the strongest military is always the reserve currency," Cortes said. "I think the ability of those heroes, of SEAL Team 6, to project power globally, shows us that the U.S. military is uncontested in its dominance."

Cortes, unlike a day ago, was a fountain of commentary this time, saying, "I'm going short the euro currency into the ECB meeting," and "I think QE ending is going to mark the dollar's base."

He also said, "I'm short almost everything on my screen except for bonds," and "I think the break in silver is incredibly material."

Note to Larry Page

Herb Greenberg thinks the OpenTable CEO is going to be too busy for the next month or so with 3 jobs and that the CFO's promotion "seems kind of hasty."

Brian Kelly had a much more stark view of the company's business model, wondering, "I just don't understand why a Google wouldn't come in and do it for free ... it is a no-touch for me."

Patty: GPS ‘ripe’

Patty Edwards for the 2nd day in a row didn't get to talk about her brilliant ongoing call of Herbalife (she used the term "brag trade" on Twitter), which had a bit of a pullback Wednesday, but did point to a key technical level Wednesday on the Fast Money Halftime Report — 1,340.

"We go below that, you could be looking at a reverse head and shoulders," Edwards said.

Edwards also said that while H&M (they've got a lot of those hot swimsuit ads on overpasses you see along interstate highways) may not be interested in buying Gap Stores, that GPS "is actually ripe for a takeout ... valuation says, it could happen."

Patty slightly broke a very mild Fast Money protocol in referring to one of her colleagues by last name only ("Scaramucci"), but we should note that it depends on the person, a lot of folks are heard to say "Hey Cortes" or even "Finerman" from time to time, and Anthony Scaramucci actually applauded, saying "I love the way Patty says 'Scaramucci'."

Scaramucci pointed again to what's become a long-running success pick now, PFE, as one of "these names I think (that) will hold up steady."

CEO might’ve underestimated the caliber of question Melissa Lee was about to present

Rare Element boss Donald Ranta was telling Brian Shactman on Wednesday's Halftime Report that long-term fundamentals are great and "this is a short-term fluctuation I think."

But then Melissa Lee caught Ranta a bit off guard with some inside baseball.

"What do you have in that mine in terms of the percentage of heavy rare-earth oxides," Lee asked.

"We have some of the better heavies, europium and terbium, some of the highest grades in North America," Ranta said, after a slight pause.

Agrium boss Michael Wilson was playing stock market contrarian, telling Melissa Lee at Halftime, "As you said, our stock's off, I guess it's a great buy."

Lee tried diligently to adequately characterize the bull/caution mix that Wilson was offering. He finally explained that the big gains, assuming they come would be in the 2nd half of the year. "There's nothing unique in here from a fundamental point of view," he said.

Awesome Gem has a blast
on The Strategy Session

West Point Thoroughbreds chief Terry Finley turned up Wednesday with probably the priciest asset ever seen on The Strategy Session and nearly got eaten alive — not by David Faber and Gary Kaminsky's questions, but by his own star horse, Awesome Gem.

Finley had to keep Awesome Gem's apple-seeking mouth, which went through his hand, sleeve and jacket, at bay throughout the interview while fielding a few queries on the business of owning a racehorse.

"We tell 'em it's, it's, a lifestyle investment," Finley said, saying it appeals to investors because of "the travel, you know the ability to bring your family, and friends, in, into your endeavor," and "without having to put in a whole lot of capital."

Finley told Gary Kaminsky "there are no active markets" for racehorse owners who might need liquidity, and that generally the people who want to sell are ones whose horses are underperforming. So those who preach "sell the losers" — which is basically what every savvy money manager says — probably shouldn't look at horse-racing for its profitability.

Finley's concentration was top-notch. While Awesome Gem might've been a pest, he's in good hands.

Apparently Mexico’s drug-war problem means good business for Vegas

Vegas honcho/Sacramento Kings owner Jim Maloof offered an interesting rationale for what he calls Vegas' strength in March and April.

"A lot of the kids that usually go to Mexico are starting to come on spring break to Las Vegas," Maloof said.

If they're anything like most college kids, they're probably not flooding the slot machines and craps tables and penthouse suites with spare cash, but if it's working, great.

Maloof said occupancy is already back in Vegas, but it's the rate that needs to improve, "that's gonna take another 2 to 3 years."

As for the Kings, Maloof told Gary Kaminsky and David Faber, "We were 1 of 5 teams that made money last year." Kaminsky said he met Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson last weekend and wondered about city (not fan) support for the team. Maloof said "He's made a lot of promises," and "hopefully he can get it done," which David Faber translated to mean the Maloofs want a new arena and are willing to give it another year, which Maloof acknowledged.

Rebecca Patterson goes off on slight currency tangent

Rebecca Patterson helped start off Wednesday's Strategy Session apparently talking about equities rather than her specialty, currencies, which David Faber admitted confused him, but Patterson sort of neatly tied it all together by saying, "I think it's probably more likely a pause than a trend-changer ... I think this is gonna be an opportunity for people who have not yet gotten on that short-dollar trade."

Gary Kaminsky pointed out one of the drawbacks to a weakening dollar, that foreign investors in equities here may not be coming out ahead and that long-term, half the return is based on getting the currency right.

Kate Kelly reported in a fairly long, maybe too long, explanation of Glencore that Ivan Glasenberg is on the road show and is telling investors "he doesn't plan to sell out at the top of the market and go live on the beach, I'm told."

Kelly said some skeptics think the "pricing is something of a disappointment."

Gary Kaminsky pointed to the dollar trend and said "this will be a hot stock to own if that continues."

[Tuesday, May 3, 2011]

Adami: Day-traders will get
‘absolutely chopped up’ in silver

Guy Adami on Tuesday's Fast Money seemingly tried to call a speculative top on silver, only to get the shaft from fellow Fast Money panelists.

"The speculative juice behind this is gone," Adami asserted, and then in what we thought, like Peter Schiff, was kind of an errant analysis, said, "the problem is, the volatility now, you will get absolutely chopped up if you try to day-trade silver," while we always thought day-traders were supposed to thrive on that.

Brian Kelly said, "I do not think the silver trade's over," and Zachary Karabell, handed the baton on the Prop Desk, immediately targeted Adami's call, acknowledging HEQ and saying, "On Guy's point, I think it's a little too early to call the end of any of this beta trade because it's been such an amazingly sharp selloff."

Adami responded, "The people that took the shot, the speculative interest that was in there, they won, they're out, and they got out last week. ... I don't think you're gonna see that speculative interest come back anytime soon."

But when Schiff got on the Fast Line — in one of his most refreshingly down-to-earth moments of Fast Money commentary — he said, "I think it's a good buy right now ... I don't think there's a lot left of this correction."

Schiff made a valid point, argument, that "If this really was a, a, a turnaround, gold would be falling, and the dollar would be rising."

Adami apparently felt outnumbered, backpedaling a bit and saying, "Let me just amplify what I was saying, I wasn't saying the shorts over here, I wasn't saying that the fundamental trade, that the long-term trade is over by any stretch. What I was trying to say, and maybe I didn't make my point, is, the move that we talked about ... pretty much nailed ... I think that easy money, in terms of being up every single day, is over."

Schiff even politely zinged the day-trading argument that we too found off-base, saying, "Day-traders like the volatility ... it's the trend followers that might not like the volatility ... I think we've cleared out a lot of that hot money."

Stephenson: Silver
ETFs are not Ponzis

Commodity watcher John Stephenson spoke on Tuesday's Fast Money and like most others, defended his overall bullish call on silver, to $60.

Stephenson said the fundamentals are still totally in place despite a couple days of pounding, namely that there's just "too much money out there."

Melissa Lee asked Stephenson about Dan Dicker's Halftime comparison of the SLV to a Ponzi scheme. "It's not a Ponzi scheme because it's a physically backed ETF, and that's the, that's the appeal," Stephenson said.

Karen thinks AAPL’s $322 billion
market cap is an underachievement

A lot of days, the second half-hour of Fast Money can be a bit slow, and not a whole lot more useful than the last hour of those Sunday morning NFL pregame shows.

Tuesday, though, the final 30 minutes were action-packed.

What started it was when Herb Greenberg's congratulatory revelation of Apple's monster cash horde awakened the value-investing giant within Karen Finerman.

(Actually, what really started it was Melissa Lee's very curious pop-culturally timely introduction that referred to the cash on the AAPL balance sheet as "hiding in plain sight.")

(They probably won't need to send in the Navy SEALs.)

Greenberg explained, in an interesting breakdown, exactly where it's raining money on AAPL's balance sheet, then concluded that with $65 billion, investors could say, "Based on this cash, man is Apple cheap."

Finerman said she agrees they've got a ton of cash and it's a great company, but "I think that their capital allocation is terrible."

Finerman stressed that the shareholders are getting punished because of that when the company could still do very accretive buybacks and easily have money left over for deals and also could easily raise money if necessary, and she also asserted that Greenberg agrees that the cash isn't fully valued in the shares.

Greenberg grimaced a bit, questioning buying shares at these prices, prompting Finerman to respond, "You just talked about the valuation!"

We're going to agree with both sides here, the capital allocation is lousy but we agree with Greenberg that a buyback won't really do much.

AAPL might actually be — and this is a healthy topic to mull for a long weekend — only the 2nd company ever (there are probably others that escape us right now), at this particular point in its history, perhaps after Rockefeller's Standard Oil, that is simply so successful it has outgrown the sport of business, like a baseball pitcher who can throw 150 mph and start every other game (like Sidd Finch, but this is no joke). You could take away all $65 billion that Herb Greenberg mentioned and this company could probably replace it in no time, perhaps even monetizing certain parts of its operation that haven't yet been fully monetized. The share price rises to a $300 billion-plus market cap because of free cash flow that the share buyers never get their hands on. Steve Jobs should be the world's richest man — easily — but he's not. There's a paradox here.

Tilson: Short St. Joe

Whitney Tilson revealed Tuesday, "We are short St. Joe, it's our largest short position."

Karen Finerman asked about the potential for the company being for sale.

"There's almost no chance of the company getting sold. I don't think it's actively being marketed right now," Tilson said, indicating he thinks the stock is worth half or a third of what is costs now.

Tilson said he likes Howard Hughes Corp.

Colin Langan is positive on GM, saying it may have a couple dollar headwind with high oil prices, but even so the stock is still undervalued given his $42 target. He also likes BWA.

Melissa Lee said afterwards that Ford should get a buy+ rating because people will see it's got the same rating as GM. Brian Kelly, whether he realized it or not, made a hilarious one-liner reference to "A Few Good Men," saying it could be called a "strenuous buy" for Ford.

Steve Cortes actually didn’t get as much credit as he deserved

One of the big mysteries of Tuesday's Fast Money is why Melissa Lee chose to go with the pink sweater all day over that hot-looking black dress. (The sweater looked very good, but it's normally not part of her repertoire.)

Unfortunately, in an otherwise crisp show, Lee and Guy Adami sort of misstated the most recent details of Steve Cortes' LVS positioning, praising Cortes for being bearish on the name.

In fact, Cortes was bearish more than a month ago, and was correct (took a little while, but did ultimately plunge), and then actually told viewers after the bounce in the high $30s that the chart suddenly looked good and was now a buy, which was true right up until Tuesday.

Brian Kelly defended LVS Tuesday, saying, "I don't think these numbers were that bad."

Kelly referred to Ben Bernanke's oil forecast last week and said, "He's a pretty good trader, at this point in time."

Karen Finerman made a good inside joke during the Green Mountain chatter, saying if Tim Seymour were around, "he would've been expecting that."

Zach Karabell said "you just knew this was coming" in the BIDU & SINA selloffs, but that nothing fundamental has changed and these are businesses in the right place at the right time.

Trader calls silver ETF
‘a Ponzi scheme in essence’

Who woulda thunk there'd be some fireworks on Tuesday's Fast Money Halftime Report when Dan Dicker took up the subject of the SLV with Melissa Lee.

"The major problem Melissa with all of these ETFs is this one is physically based," Dicker said. "So in essence what you have, is you have a Ponzi scheme in essence going on. Every time someone comes in to buy, there is a removal of supply and it's put into storage."

Lee asked a good question, if it's just the commodity ETFs with physical storage that have the Ponzi problem. Dicker said "the absolute worst out there is the USO."

Joe Terranova pointed to silver trends. "The last 4 weeks, every Friday is the strongest day of the calendar week. Why is that. That is exactly because funds that trade on a weekly basis allocate based on the strength that they see on Friday," Terranova said.

Terranova said the key level in silver is $40.63; break that, "then I clearly think the trade in silver is over for the time being."

Later, Steve Cortes recommended the TBT, but only with a caveat; "bonds are very mispriced if you believe the equity rally can continue from here."

Cortes: Too many cars

Joe Terranova said on Halftime Tuesday that the Rio-Alcoa talk doesn't wash.

"I don't believe it. I don't believe that Rio would do this," Terranova said.

Brian Kelly said Alcoa actually might be worth a look even without a takeover bid.

Joe Terranova said he got out of GM 6 weeks ago but might get back in; he also gave props to Doug Kass. Steve Cortes said forget it, he'd prefer to short Ford, because of what he sees as "massive overcapacity globally" in the auto sector.

Brian Kelly revealed "My beloved Land Rover has, uh, got some issues," apparently including its name, "Ingrid."

The opening 10-minute segment of Tuesday's Halftime ended abruptly after Simon Hobbs' wall walk, when Melissa Lee apparently expected a commercial quicker than producers were ready for.

Patty Edwards said Paccar is on fire. Edwards also was absent during Call the Close and never said anything about Herbalife, which this page flagged a day ago (see below), but she did reveal on Twitter, "Lost my satellite feed. ::sigh:: Was supposed to do a brag trade on $HLF smoking to the upside... up 100% on that baby." Unfortunately Edwards could've been given some of the time of Humana chief Mike McCallister, who was asked about subjects we didn't find particularly interesting.

Strategy Session guest
trumpets Venezuelan capitalism

Kate Kelly reported on Tuesday's Strategy Session that "a growing number of hedge funds and other professional traders are looking toward $200 a barrel crude in the next, say, 12 to 24 months," to which Gary Kaminsky wondered "are they really hedge funds" or just net long investors.

But the dialogue really got interesting when guest David Albrycht indicated Venezuela is a great play on rising oil.

"Aren't you worried about political risk?" David Faber asked, almost dumbfounded.

"I've heard it for quite some time; we've made an awful lot of money being invested in Venezuela," Albrycht said, before explaining how it works: "You fill up your gas tank at Citgo Petroleum, and it goes to a lock box at Chase, we get our money, and the residual goes back to Venezuela."

Faber squeezed in a dig about the industry he covers, even elbowing aside a Gary Kaminsky comment to make a more dramatic point, saying the hedge fund guys might be talking $200 oil, but he remembers how they shorted Treasurys last year, how they went long the euro before it tumbled, then covered before it rallied ... "and they're charging 3 and 30," Kate Kelly chimed in (at least some of them are, apparently).

Steve Liesman gets a challenging question from Gary Kaminsky

Steve Liesman spoke about Fed exit strategies on Tuesday in a conversation that was most notable for Gary Kaminsky getting in a little one-upping on Liesman's propensity to criticize Kaminsky's questions.

The question about prominent views of reinvesting proceeds and what the Fed will do was good enough to prompt Liesman into some Bill Clinton-esque terminology parsing about "market consensus." Liesman eventually said the leading belief is that the "Fed would hike rates first, and then sell assets." He also said there is "consensus" or "agreement" that "If the Fed were to stop reinvesting, that would be a tightening."

David Albrycht thinks "they have done a backdoor monetization, through the banking system, for the bond market."

Liesman evidently found Kaminsky's question strong enough that he felt compelled to offer another thought about it, saying some on the Fed disagree about the tools for raising the funds rate, and made an analogy for that view: "If you wanna drain the lake, you may not wanna go through a pipe this small, you may wanna reduce the water in the lake," he said.

David Albrycht said, "I think rates will stay in place where they are."

Gary Kaminsky said Porsche car sales up 80% last month. Phil LeBeau said that for GM, April sales of 4-cylinder cars rose from 27% of the overall batch to 39% in 2011.

David Faber and Gary Kaminsky noted Joe Maloof will be on the show Wednesday. Faber gave Kaminsky a dig for spending next week at the SALT gala in Vegas rather than apparently just doing 2 days of The Strategy Session there. "Just needs to be prepared at all times," Faber joked.

[Monday, May 2, 2011]

Mahaney: Netflix accounting
‘completely by the book’

Mark Mahaney on Monday's Fast Money made as much of a well-spoken, down-to-earth bullish call on Netflix that one can make.

Mahaney conceded initially, "Full disclosure, Melissa, you know, I've missed a good chunk of this recent move in the stock." But then he said he and his team analyzed it as they did with OpenTable, breaking down U.S. business vs. international, which produced an OpenTable call "that worked well for us there."

Mahaney said in his analysis of Netflix, he thinks you can buy the shares at a "discount to its U.S. value," and get a "little bit of a call option on that international business."

Mahaney said the old model of 90 cents of cost to ship a disc vs. the new model of 5 cents to stream a movie means, "The costs, you know, net-net, are probably around the same on the content side."

Karen Finerman asked Mahaney about the potential for production costs. Mahaney shrugged that off, saying, "I don't wanna see Netflix in the content development business."

Melissa Lee repeated the Len Brecken case against NFLX costs. Mahaney said he's looked at balance sheet and off-balance-sheet commitments and believes "They are accounting for this completely by the book. It's accurate."

SALT next week

Anthony Scaramucci on Monday's Fast Money noted that 2 major generals, Michael S. Linnington and Tony Cuculow, will be speaking at the SALT conference in Las Vegas next week with perspectives on the ongoing fight against terrorism.

"It's not going to stop here with Osama bin Laden," Scaramucci said. "They are targeting the top 30 or 40 names of al-Qaida, al-Zawahiri is next ... I expect them to wipe out the rest of the base, if you will."

Melissa Lee, smokin' in USC cardinal red dress Monday, mentioned that Fast Money next week will be televising a couple days from the SkyBridge SALT conference. Tim Seymour said, "This has become the hedge fund industry conference," and he's absolutely right — this site first learned of it last year not only from Fast Money but this extensive article in the Las Vegas Sun, which noted SALT's positive impact on Vegas business conferences and investment, and offered this quote about CNBC's coverage: "Having CNBC broadcasting live every day is huge. Every time they broadcast they mention Las Vegas, which is perfect exposure for this city.”

Becton Dickinson
has reverse Flash Crash

Guy Adami zeroed in on the mysterious skyrocketing of BDX afterhours and asked the Englewood Cliffs crew to generate some kind of chart that would verify the 18% pop he thought he was seeing.

They did produce a chart, and the stock did indeed pop, briefly.

After a commercial break, the stock had settled considerably, and Adami said, "My Twitter friends are saying that 102 and change print was a bad print, which I believe."

Of course, if it had been 18% to the downside, we'd be having all kinds of inquiries about what went wrong, and while this page fully agrees that market irregularities need to be investigated, what really matters is that people tend to only care when they're losing money ("Flash Crash"), not so much when they're making it ("bad print").

So if you had the good fortune to put in a sell BDX limit $102 order for Monday's afterhours, pat yourself on the back.

Adami: ‘Easy ride’ in silver
is over for now

Even "parabolic" Guy Adami was starting to waver a bit on the silver trade on Monday's Fast Money.

"I'm not certain it's over but I am certain that at least what felt like the easy ride, if you call it easy, is over for the time being," Adami said.

Tim Seymour spoke of owning puts in the miners and then said he talked to a geological expert and said, "Silver oxidizes," and "doesn't last forever."

Anthony Scaramucci said "the top of the bubble could've already been seen here" in silver, but he pointed to the "negative interest carry" factor. "Any time you're in a situation where you have negative real interest, it's a lot easier to carry these commodities on hedge funds' balance sheets," he said.

Jon Najarian, live from the Milken conference, was gushing about taking the down side of the silver trade, in the form of the ZSL. "It can only go to zero," he offered, apparently explaining why it's less risky than an actual short, and said in the mid-$16s, he'd be out of the trade.

Infrastructure probably isn’t the most fascinating topic we’ve ever heard, but whatever works

Jon Najarian on Monday was already in conference mode — delivering a Fast Money report from the Milken gala.

While dealing with a healthy amount of hallway noise and a somewhat-delayed video link with Melissa Lee, Najarian nevertheless articulated the gist of the discussion, saying there's been a lot of talk about bin Laden, but "the debt is a far bigger deal right now for uh, virtually all of these folks."

Infrastructure, debt, health care, he said, "were the 3 main topics that everybody brought up and drew like a gun out here at the Milken."

The HTTP 404 attack

Anthony Scaramucci's Hedge Fund Trade of the Week in TEVA a week ago Monday was so convincing, Tim Seymour revealed he jumped aboard.

"In fact Anthony brought this up last week, it's a name that actually I bought on that move down last Wednesday," Seymour said.

Defense/security analyst Alex Hamilton said President Obama is going to get essentially carte blanche for new security initiatives, "think about the political leverage he got today," that will be good for the drones and cyber space, and he stressed again that the next big attack could be cyber-related, which sounds fine, except we've been hearing that for years, and given what happened on that Detroit flight and in Times Square and in a few other circumstances, we tend to be skeptical that these kinds of people in these "organizations" are capable of much more than detonating themselves, if they can even do that.

Karen Finerman said she wouldn't short BBY, and Joe Terranova said he wouldn't either.

David Riedel said the operation against bin Laden "does drive us a little bit closer to India," and he recommended Tata, TTM.

Guy Adami returned to one of our favorite Fast Money cliches, the notion of IBM predicting it will have $20 EPS in 2015 (except this forecast started at least a year ago, so they should be up to 2016 now in the next investor day). Adami said, "I think the stock is fine, even at this all-time high."

Patty Edwards: Still on fire

The last couple of years, this page has made its own choice for Fast Money trade of the year.

For 2010, Patty Edwards nearly claimed the crown with Herbalife, though ultimately we found it impossible to pick against Whitney Tilson's BP call.

Edwards does not mention Herbalife all the time, and we don't know in fact if she would still recommend the stock right here, but for more than a year she has been, to our knowledge, alone on Fast Money in trumpeting it, and HLF is one of the most glorious charts you've seen.

Monday, it soared another 7% afterhours.

This one hits
close to home

Melissa Lee had a small mix-up Monday regarding the names Obama & Osama that really wasn't a bad mixup, but she clarified anyway, and man, don't we know the feeling around here.

"That wasn't the first time today that's happened, I'm sure," said Karen Finerman, and God Bless Karen, for reasons that go beyond the scope of this report.


In days such as these, stock picks seem trivial.

Michelle Caruso-Cabrera conducted an excellent impromptu interview during Monday's Strategy Session with Rudolph Giuliani, who said the death of bin Laden is "close to a fatal blow for Islamic extremist terrorism. It would be like taking out a Hitler or a Stalin or, but short term there are more dangers for us."

There are many heroes from 9/11, last weekend's raid, and everything in between. The mayor spoke from where the FDNY rescuers stormed into burning buildings to help the people inside. 343 of those firefighters didn't make it out. They, and many others that day, with courage too awesome to describe in words, made the rest of us treasure — forever — the importance of what we've got.

Karabell: No bin Laden pictures in streets of Cairo, Tunisia, Yemen

We can't really fault him — because in moments like these, everyone is a national security expert — but Dennis Gartman took a turn in the counterterrorism-chief's chair on Monday's Fast Money Halftime Report.

Gartman said that retaliation for bin Laden's death "probably will be, they will be 1-off circumstances, they will be individuals acting on their own. The ability to put together a very sophisticated attack takes time, and I doubt that uh, that they have had the time ... to put anything together."

Zachary Karabell had an interesting comment on recent upheaval in the Middle East. "As a market-moving event, it's had very little to do with what's gone on in the Middle East in the past few months. There were no pictures of bin Laden in the streets of Cairo, or Tunisia, or Yemen or Bahrain for that matter," Karabell said.

Steve Grasso said, "I don't think it's a tradable entity at this point."

Grasso said the "42 level in silver is where you wanna jump back in," and Gartman said gold remains strong.

Terrorism fighter Fred Burton suggested the U.S. probably "had a payout of $20 million for bin Laden," and that the informant would've been the key piece of the puzzle and is probably already in the United States or being debriefed.

Burton said we've done a good job on the global terror network. "In essence, I don't think al-Qaida poses a strategic threat to our country today," he said.

TiVo chief Tom Rogers declared his company's legal victory similar to the patent case of Research in Motion a few years ago (if you had bought the stock on that settlement, you were off to the races).

What’s a bigger threat:
bin Laden, or national debt?

David Stockman, certainly one of the best and most eloquent Strategy Session guests, perhaps believes the federal government should attack the deficit the same way we got bin Laden — 40 minutes or less, and not telling anyone until it's over.

Evidently, he's not even happy with congressmen actually talking about the situation.

"Now because Ryan went out with his Medicare reform in 2021, he has stirred up the entire elderly population, really, uh, heated up the politics of that, so they're not going to be able to address Social Security or Medicare," Stockman told David Faber and Gary Kaminsky on Monday.

On a network in which complaining about the Fed almost seems to rank No. 1 or 2 in the charter, Stockman was more blunt than most, saying Monday, "I found the statement last week appalling ... because it is another statement, obsinate (sic) statement, that what everyone knows to be true, that this massive, uh, injection of liquidity, is stimulating an enormous amount of speculation in commodities and food and energy and metals and so forth ... This policy of zero interest rate is terrible."

Not even the death of bin Laden seemed to cheer Stockman Monday.

"We can rejoice when an event like this occurs, but we also have to get back to business and finally start facing up to the real problems of this country," Stockman said.

"This is justice done, it's long overdue," he also said, of bin Laden, but the economy is not good and remains "totally medicated with fiscal and monetary stimulus."

"I think we're gonna have a terrible time in June," Stockman said.

Stockman seemed to identify a winner in the Treasury-forecast competition. "The most important thing we've heard in the last week or 2 is that Pimco is short the bond. They're a real investor," Stockman said.

Rich Ilczyszyn evidently
doesn’t appeal to everyone

Curious, the things you can stumble into via Twitter.

A chap on Friday offered this critique of Rich Ilczyszyn: "This Lind-Waldock commod guy that's always on CNBC is the closest thing to a used car salesman , often wrong /never in doubt"

We're staying out of this, except to say that Ilczyszyn, like many others reporting from the trading pits, would benefit from a microphone situation that does not compel him to shout.

Better late than never

Last week, Fast Money welcomed Bill Wagenseller, a North Carolina realty expert (we learned from his bio he was a REMAX star) who took video of the giant new Apple facility.

Hopefully, the appearance was worth the wait for Wagenseller, who we discovered tweeted last week, "Getting ready for my CNBC Fast Money Appearance tomorrow @5pm - It's been rescheduled 3 times now ..."

Trump: Too thin-skinned
to be president?

Reading the roundups of the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, we noticed most of them led with President Obama's jabs of Donald Trump.

But it was this passage that got our attention, from the Associated Press, noting Seth Meyers said of Trump, "I just assumed he was running as a joke." According to AP, "Trump stared icily at Meyers as he continued his criticism."

So, here's the deal ... this page knows it's best not to get into politics (man, Clint Eastwood was soooooo right about that), and will try to avoid a political point here.

1. Donald Trump says invigorating things about taxation and foreign policy that many people, not just Republicans, believe, and he says it with an impressive conviction because he himself likely believes these things.

2. Donald Trump apparently has a pattern of exhibiting unusual sensitivity for a colorful, (some would say over the top), public figure.

People who are presidential material should generally take the high road in life and not, for example, conduct a public feud about something Rosie O'Donnell said on "The View," nor glower at Seth Meyers for a joke during what's basically a smiles-all-around political pop-culture roast.

Politics are politics, and everyone should vote his/her beliefs, and on that score alone, Trump will have appeal. One other thing people should wonder about regarding people who purportedly are considering White House bids is whether said person has adequate temperament for the job.

Like they always say, it's up to the voters to decide.

Gary Kaminsky, Joe Kernen
seen on C-SPAN’s red-carpet
coverage of Correspondents dinner

Folks who like both inside-the-Beltway stuff, and/or celebrity sightings, might've been watching C-SPAN's coverage Saturday evening of the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, and probably saw Chicago Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel chatting up Jeremy Piven on the red carpet.

Viewers who looked closer would've noticed CNBC's Gary Kaminsky and Joe Kernen in the background, filing past the Emanuel contingent, each glancing toward the camera but kind of swept along in the rush of guests from the escalator around 7:27 Eastern time.

We tried to spy as many CNBCers as possible, but there were a lot of folks passing by and the C-SPAN cameras tended to focus on the rock stars and actors (and some guy named Trump).

For those who enjoy the tiniest bits of trivia, C-SPAN also showed dignitaries at a charity event earlier in the day, and top-level political honcho David Axelrod revealed his sport coat is by Joseph A. Bank — quite possibly the greatest endorsement the chain has ever received but probably doesn't know about (yet).

The dinner looked like a festive, grand evening — congrats to those who attended.

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