[CNBCfix Fast Money Review, October 2009 archive]

[Friday, October 30, 2009]

Hold the Mayo

Not surprisingly, Friday offered some recent ongoing bears a chance to gloat and trumpet their supposedly great calls.

Guy Adami said he's reuniting with Debbie Downer; that part was amusing even though he never really broke up with Debbie. Carter Worth says we're either going flat or down because that's what happened in 2004 and history always repeats itself, right, and stock markets always retrace five-year patterns, etc.

But the worst was Chris Whalen (whatever happened to Chris Thornberg, by the way?) resurfacing to chortle about how bad all the banks are — and his source was the great Mike Mayo of Calyon, whose negative report on Citi apparently prompted a lot of Friday's selloff.

"What Michael did, very appropriately, was remind everybody of reality," Whalen assured viewers.

But how good was Mayo at reminding folks of reality back on April 6, when he released a cleverly titled report called "The Seven Deadly Sins of Banking" and gave the entire banking sector an "underweight" rating?

Specifically, these are the closing prices just before his report of banks he listed as "Underperform":

BAC (7.59 then, 14.58 now)
C (2.85 then, 4.09 now)
JPM (29.20 then, 41.77 now)
CMA (19.46 then, 27.75 now)
WFC (16.27 then, 27.52 now)

Mayo went even farther with these names, calling them a "Sell":

BBT (17.45 then, 23.91 now)
FITB (3.27 then, 8.94 now)
KEY (8.51 then, 5.39 now)
STI (13.71 then, 19.11 now)
USB (15.89 then, 23.22 now)

One winner out of 10, sounds like a pre-eminent analyst. (This writer is long GS and C.)

So, just six months after a horrible, wretched call that if actually followed would've cost investors oceans of money, this person is somehow a market seer who will "remind everybody of reality." An entire market (possibly) moving on this person's report is like A-Rod hitting .177 with 3 home runs and still being voted onto the All-Star team.

Even worse? Mayo back in April actually wrote, "I don't want to be a partner with the government in investing in bank stocks."

Not enough of David Rosenberg

We often complain here about coverage of the VIX and options trading, and we're right. We have nothing against options, and we're impressed by the guys who know how to trade them. The point is, it's dreadful television, and the VIX as a forward stock-market indicator is utterly worthless.

Mike Khouw was summoned to be this Friday's "Fast Money" salesman for "Options Action" airing later in the day, and he got to discuss the VIX and a specific options trade. Khouw actually outperformed and did pretty well, informally standing next to a screen with Melissa Lee (though there were all kinds of crazies tapping on the Nasdaq windows and peering in, plus camera-angle glitches that caught MLee talking to a producer or something). The problem, though, was when he explained his trade.

The trade was to buy the January 105 put on the SPY for $5.00, then sell the January 95 put at $2.15. Khouw described this as "net-net, I'm paying $2.85 to put on this trade. The maximum value the spread can be worth is $10."

"It does provide some, you know, insurance if it goes down another 10%," he finally concluded.

Here's the problem: It was never explained to all the amateurs out there exactly why anybody would put on this particular trade. In other words, what are we trying to do here, what is the specific goal. When Pete Najarian says giddyup on Joy Global, we get it, he thinks Joy Global shares are going up. This trade is evidently a bearish bet on the S&P. Do we put on Khouw's trade if we're already long a bunch of stocks and have no short positions? Why buy for January and not December or March? Or why not just buy a little bit of SDS, which has no expiration?

Footnote: It looks to us like that January 105 put finished the day north of $5.00 and the 95 was also higher than $2.15, which Khouw to his credit acknowledged might've been the case by the time he appeared on the show.

If you're actually someone who doesn't think of Melissa Lee as hot, you should check out that all-too-quick look she gave the camera Friday during the Motorola discussion on "Pops & Drops." It was a look befitting the sizzling V-neck purple top she showed off heading into what's probably a big weekend.

The team of Tim Seymour and Joe Terranova, who squared off against David Rosenberg yesterday, couldn't resist a couple more digs Friday over a "Fast Money" poll on whether we're headed for a double-dip. "How many times did David Rosenberg vote?" asked Terranova. "He stuffed the ballot box," Seymour said.

Karen Finerman made a joke that was a joke that was a little bit uncharacteristic. She suggested the "Philadelphia" Semiconductor Index was breaking down because of, you know, the baseball thing...

Here's the deal: CNBCfix likes and respects the Yankees. Do we like them anywhere near the way we did in 1999? No way.

Baseball teams should be built from the ground up, a lot of young, homegrown players hungry to win. Then you add some veterans who can help them out. Those were the Yankees of the late '90s, one of history's greatest teams, rarely leading the league in any gaudy stats but doing everything right. The Phillies are that team now. Nowadays, after years of disappointments, the Yankees have reverted to 1980s mode and don't deserve to win anything, merely buying up the best players available in November in search of a quick-fix title to justify the payroll and the fans' impossible expectations. And yes, there are performance-enhancing-drug issues that have been conveniently disregarded for this team. If smart guys like Terranova and Adami were pressed, we think they'd admit, the Phillies deserve to win this a lot more than the Yankees do, and that's why they will.

Rush vs. Mel Lee, a forfeit

A rough market began cratering during the "Fast Money Halftime Report" on Friday, and traders considered that a bad sign. "I think the action today is absolutely horrible," Joe Terranova said.

Steve Grasso kept talking about closes below some technical level, 1030, 1040, something like that.

Bill Strazzullo, who looks like he sort of nailed it Oct. 16 but couldn't resist reminding viewers he called a top at 1,100 or 1,150 (the latter of which has not been reached, but whatever), said, "We think there's a good chance you're putting in an intermediate-term top ... For the first time in months speculators can be aggressive on the short side. ... We think this move could take you as deep as 950, 960. ... We're short, and we're staying short."

Dennis Gartman scoffed at the intense interest in the weak dollar and how he's even getting asked about it at ladies investment seminars. "I honestly think that the correlation between stock prices anywhere and individual currency valuations is specious at best," he said.

Apparently, Rush didn't take the bait — there's no mention at www.rushlimbaugh.com of Melissa Lee's challenge from last night. Whether he gave it a passing mention on-air, we don't know.

[Thursday, October 29, 2009]

O no — ‘socialism’ alone is OK

We never should've underestimated Charles Gasparino.

We suggested yesterday we didn't expect Gasparino on Thursday to repeat the "s" word that led to an interruption that raised Internet eyebrows last week.

Actually, he did — several times.

But one big difference: He left out the "O" word this time.

In "Off the Record w/Charlie Gasparino," CNBC's on-air editor explained Goldman Sachs' concern with its $20 billion bonus pool and how it might be divided, mostly in stock.

"This is all a public relations campaign by Goldman Sachs," Gasparino concluded. "If they were honest and truthful, they would just say, and I, I know, maybe, maybe someone will cut me off when I say this, uh, uh, they will just admit that they are benefitting from this unusual brand of socialism that goes on in our country right now where banks are being, find-, are being given preferential treatment to make money, and, um, everybody else has gotta pay, all small businessmen have to pay higher taxes. But uh, that's the truth of it."

This time, Melissa Lee smiled, put her hand on her hip — and publicly called out her new apparent nemesis:

"You know Chazzy I was tempted to cut you off when you mentioned socialism, just so I could see if I could uh, roil up Rush Limbaugh once again," Lee said.

"Here's the reality," Gasparino continued. "Socialism is part of Wall Street now. The government owns these banks, and they're subsidizing them. And that is an outrage. I don't care what anybody says, that is an outrage."

Lee (barely) agreed. "There is no argument with that Chas, in that, in the statement that government owns a lot of Wall Street these days, that's fact." (Now that's going out on a limb.)

"And that's the horrible thing here," Gasparino said. "We're talking about class warfare, Jesus."

Tim Seymour sees it a different way. "Anyway, if if Goldman is, is actually doing this for, you know, the government and, and the social of Wall Street, people should actually be happy about that..."

"How can anybody can be happy about a bunch of bankers making billions on, with the government subsidies," Gasparino responded. "I, I don't know how anybody wants to be happy about this, it's an outrage."

As the cut-to-commercial music played (always a legitimate reason for cutting people off), Lee couldn't resist a kicker: "All right I'm gonna cut you off now Chas, so I can see if Rush Limbaugh makes fun of us once again."

Take that, Rush.

While Lee said she was tempted to cut him off when he mentioned "socialism," in fact the initial cutoff attempt last week occurred when Gasparino said "community organizer."

Gasparino actually said something very curious in the intro while joking about why he was merely on the phone and not on camera. "I don't know what's going on now, because I'm uh, in my underground bunker because I have so many people pissed off at me that they wanna..."

Apparently, last week's conversation has been rough all around.

We're going to mull Gasparino's point and maybe comment in depth over the weekend. We don't expect the "Fast Money" crew to get very deep into political-morality things. Gasparino is definitely right about something, that Goldman Sachs was given a taxpayer bailout, encouraged to take risk with it, and now has the "problem" of distributing $20 billion in bonuses. If that's not at least alarming, it should be.

(This writer is long GS, and C.)

David Rosenberg uses so many
extra words when he talks

We should consider turning over this page to Tim Seymour, who recently is critiquing "Fast Money" guests even more sharply than we do.

Thursday the target was David Rosenberg, who after a couple of long, uninterrupted spiels on "human behavior" and other concepts that included a 70-second uninterrupted statement was finally pinned down into summarizing the market in two concise sentences: "Caution, uh, is the operative watchword" and "by the end of the year, the market's gonna be lower."

So use "caution," as opposed to regularly just throwing your money at anything in the stock market after drinking.

We're not going to bother with a transcript, it would take too long for little gain. Rosenberg tiff with Seymour seemed to center around whether stimulus such as Cash for Clunkers was a good move in propping up a key sector until real, robust demand returns, or whether the GDP number is a one-time blip.

"You can't have it both ways," Rosenberg asserted.

"He doesn't believe in a double-dip recession, but he, he, he's telling us there's nothing sustainable here," Seymour said.

Joe Terranova joined Seymour in 1) demanding straight answers, and 2) questioning some of Rosenberg's analogies. "The United States is not Japan right now," Terranova said.

Things were left unsettled at the commercial break.

"I thought you were gonna challenge him to a duel," Karen Finerman said.

At one point, Rosenberg "answered" Seymour's question with a question for Seymour, then when Seymour responded, had the audacity to complain that he wasn't given more than 20 seconds to answer Seymour's question.

"I'd like to give him some time to finish the question, but I'd like to get an answer," Seymour later said.

Note to Rosenberg: If you can't make a point in less than 20 seconds, you shouldn't be opining on television.

Come back soon, Steve Liesman

Traders seemed puzzled at Thursday's raging market rally.

"I think this was bang 'em to buy 'em," Seymour said, explaining that GDP is a rear-view mirror sort of indicator and shouldn't have prompted this rally, even though he's kind of bullish toward year-end. "And I'm surprised at the reaction."

Karen Finerman agreed. Joe Terranova said, "The last 36 hours have been very frustrating, a total waste of mental energy. Forget what happened last night in the Bronx," but you know, of course, he hasn't forgotten.

"You would think with a stronger GDP print that actually people would say 'the Fed's back in play' and you would see a stronger conviction to bring rates up and that should roil the markets, it doesn't make sense," Seymour continued.

Actually, it makes sense to us (and keep in mind we're the amateurs here) ... there was probably concerns in the last several days that maybe the economy wasn't revving up enough to justify the gains of October, and this report indicates it was. It may be rear-view-mirror data, but it's new.

Amazingly, throwing a monkey wrench into Gary Kaminsky's dollar-rates thesis as though rising rates will surprise investors, Steve Liesman suggested the markets have already priced things out into early next year — and the Fed agrees. Liesman said the markets expect rates up maybe "25-50 basis points next spring; I kind of think that's where the Fed is right now too."

Karen Finerman, bless her heart, once again mentioned the subject that draws the most Karen Finerman questions to this site, the TBT/TLT. "I am short the TLT," Karen reminded viewers Thursday.

Jon Najarian, who said he was bullish on LVS because of options activity (Tim Seymour is also long), said you shouldn't have been a seller into Wednesday's terrible day, and that in general selling on massive sell-off days and buying on massively bullish days is a "Bozo No-No." In other words, stocks could be considered a grand ... prize ... game.

We would've led with the fact Melissa Lee wore a fetching floral-print dress topped by attractive black sweater. But then we immediately noticed Karen Finerman had done something with her hair and looked great in that tan jacket covering black turtleneck, rounded out by triple-hoop earrings. So we'll call it a draw. Either would pick up many a glance at Campagnola tonight.

Happy birthday, Liquidator.

CNBCfix regularly scans the Web, and we've come to notice something interesting: (A lot) more people might visit other sites (such as, ahem, Drudge), but virtually none of these acclaimed sites takes the trouble to actually style headline quote marks; rather, they opt for the straight-line version that look like something from a DOS screen of the '80s. The New York Times does do styling, but not with every headline font.

So this site is not completely second-rate — and we got that going for us, which is nice.

[Wednesday, October 28, 2009]

We still have high hopes
for Gary Kaminsky

Gary Kaminsky on Wednesday gave us an opportunity to dust off our Fast Money Magic Decoder Ring.

Apparently, Tim Seymour was searching for the same ring.

But it didn't really work this time, because we're still scratching our heads.

We think — think — Kaminsky was recommending go long the dollar for a few weeks for a mild pop. Be warned, that's not what he specifically said.

"What I think is happening right now is not a correction. Um, I think we have a rotation going on," Kaminsky said. "The short-the-dollar-trade was probably ... the most overcrowded trade we might've seen since the, the dot-com bubble."

"But Gary," said Seymour, "is this rotation a reaction, uh, I mean, is this just a natural rotation? I don't think it is. So I, I think you're saying because of, of this dollar short, the short-dollar trade, people are moving in, that's starting to come undone? I'm confused."

So were we.

"Tim what I see is I see the fact is that, you, everybody that was short the dollar who was long the equities that were benefitting from the last six months, and certainly the last three months, where it's really been a very high correlation, is now recognizing you can not have a recovery in GDP, you can not have a recovery in the economy, and have 0% interest rates," Kaminsky said. "And so a lot of the talk that we've heard in the last five days has been about the fact that we're leaning now towards the Fed having to raise short-term rates."

Melissa Lee finally cut to the chase, so what stocks should we buy? Kaminsky mentioned Procter & Gamble and a group he touted just a few days ago, airlines.

"The dollar will get stronger because interest rates have to go up, if the economy's strengthening," Kaminsky said. "A stronger dollar is gonna mean lower commodity prices and it's gonna mean, uh, lower prices for those stocks."

Joe Terranova asked another relevant question, "How long is the recovery in the dollar gonna last?" That's when Kaminsky had us baffled full-circle.

"Remember, I'm not predicting a major change in the long-term trend. We keep printing money, and we're gonna continue to keep printing money to stabilize and keep this economy on crutches," he said. "There's just not enough supply-demand in terms of making the dollar go lower. So, is it gonna go much higher? No. ... So if you own many of these energy or commodity-related stocks, consider putting a hedge on. Consider this UUP ETF because you do want to protect yourself as to what's gonna happen in the next several weeks."

So ... in summary ... the "long-term trend" in the dollar is apparently intact — even though the Fed is going to have to raise short-term rates which means "the dollar will get stronger." But it's not "gonna go much higher." And currently this is not a "correction," but "rotation." And he doesn't recommend selling the stocks that are going to get hurt, just adding the UUP hedge.

Just last Friday, Kaminsky compared stocks to a marathon, saying the market has figuratively hit a wall. "And I continue to believe as I've said on this show that the momentum's gonna be money managers continuing to want to stay invested and catch performance till year-end," he said.

One person isn’t buying
Debbie Weinswig’s TGT flip

Debbie Weinswig explained why she pulled a "180" and upped her target on Target.

It has "not only changed its leverage point ... but also really changed how it's approaching sourcing," Weinswig said. "This is one of our top picks for holiday, and that's also a key here as well." She also cited more "value-oriented" pricing, and toy prices she found to be just 1% more than Wal-Mart. "Our target price is now $61, uh, up from 44 previously," she said.

It wasn't the first time today Tim Seymour was skeptical. "Wouldn't this have already been priced in to the stock, all of these efficiencies on the operating side?" he asked.

Karen Finerman is long TGT, but has a "bigger position" in WMT.

By the way, those who might've thought Weinswig was a bit long-winded should know we wondered the same and decided, more out of amusement than anything, to compare it with our stopwatching of Doug Kass yesterday. Weinswig did make a 50-second point, barely more than half of Kass' uninterrupted commentary.

Don’t expect the ‘s’ word

Celebrated analyst Rich Repetto appears to like at least three of the biggest exchanges, CME, NDAQ and NYX. When pressed, he offered NDAQ as the best play going into earnings, and agreed with Joe Terranova that CME has a great future. "The regulatory cloud or overhang, it's starting to lift," Repetto said.

CNBC aired a promo for Thursday's "Fast Money" saying "Charlie Gasparino goes off the record with the latest business buzz." We're guessing it's about not about Wall Street pay caps.

"I bought some Nokia today," Tim Seymour said.

"PetroChina, bad earnings today, it's wounded, kick the knees. Sell it," Seymour said.

Karen Finerman said she'd be a buyer of FLS after its hammering, but "what constitutes a dip?"

Karen said she bought NDAQ today and finds it "very attractive."

Pete Najarian actually likes Motorola.

Guy Adami's recent skepticism about CAT seems right on the money, though most of the market has also tumbled, so maybe it's really not that great of a call yet.

We're hoping that maybe the next "Fast Money" appearance by Michelle Meyer, The World's Cutest Economist, is only about a week away.

Simon Hobbs stormed onto the "Fast Money" set a few weeks ago slamming American economics, but he's starting to grow on us, though admittedly we haven't seen a whole lot of him just yet.

Sell the Yankees’ upside call

Mel Lee was steadily cool and calm for the hour Wednesday, either because of her striking royal blue top/black belt combination, or perhaps a lack of caffeine. We're starting to get the impression she never wears the same outfit more than once, but we're hardly experts in that field.

Joe Terranova had tickets to the World Series Game 1 and would not unload them for anything. We think Stacy Gilbert is a big Phillies fan but can't remember.

[Tuesday, October 27, 2009]

This is what blogs are for

CNBCfix actually has something in common with Doug Kass.

Kass told "Fast Money" panelists and viewers Tuesday, "I watch every night." That's what we have in common, not the part about text-messaging Karen Finerman during the show.

Kass is an excellent pundit, down-to-earth, high degree of credibility. We were glad to see him on "Fast Money" and wish he was on more often.

Unfortunately Melissa Lee on Tuesday treated Kass' market treatise more like the Gettysburg Address than "Off the Record w/Charlie Gasparino," and the result was uninterrupted speechmaking for 90 seconds (we went back and actually timed it), basically an eternity on live television.

Here's the speech, after Lee asked Kass if we've seen a market top:

"Yeah, I'm gonna stick to the call, uh, that we made a generational low and that we're not gonna see, uh, the S&P 666 again in our lifetime, or at least until uh, Karen's twins, uh, give her, give her grandchildren. Uh, but I have, I have been increasingly bearish over the last few months, and I think that, uh, I continue to get progressively more bearish. ... I've been premature, and I know people don't admit that, especially on CNBC. I underestimated the appetite for risk, I underestimated the animal spirits, and there's so much liquidity flowing in the capital markets one could say that central bankers have put a cash on curse, uh, uh, a curse on cash, excuse me. However the problem as I see it, is that following that panic in March which we discussed on the show, the, uh, consensus economic expectation now embodies a lot of optimism, that the recovery will be self-sustaining, that we're entering almost a normal recovery and that the S&P earnings for next year will comfortably exceed 71, 72 dollars up from maybe 62 this year. That's a smooth scenario that almost says the credit crisis didn't happen and that it won't have any negative reverberations. To me, we're rapidly approaching a, a pivot point when stimulus will be withdrawn, or more importantly, investors will begin to discount the withdrawal of stimulus. And I think the side of policymakers is gonna move towards reducing the deficit. This means substantially higher marginal tax rates, and investors will begin recognizing that this means economic growth may not be as robust next year as incorporated in that 72, 73 dollars..."

Finally, Lee cut in: "So what kind of markets are we in for Doug?"

He said, "I think that we've probably, uh, uh seen a top in the S&P, uh, for months," and after Karen Finerman asked him about his "quantitative call right now," he said, "I think that the, that the market is probably, um, somewhere between 5 and 12% overvalued."

We bring this up for two reasons. 1) Just last week, we carped that Melissa Lee is not nearly aggressive enough in interrupting wandering commentary. Remember when Ted Knight in "Caddyshack" hears Czervik's music on the fairway and screams "CUT THAT OFF!"? Lee needs a moment like that. 2) "Fast Money" has a questionable habit of hailing numerous analysts and pundits for making incredibly great predictions, either in 2007 bearish on the banks or March 2009 bullish on everything. It might be Whitney Tilson, or Peter Schiff, or David Rosenberg, or, on Tuesday, Kass ... yet we rarely see someone brought back on to defend a very poor call.

This was the audio clip from March 9 that the show played Tuesday as evidence that Kass nailed the market bottom last winter:

"I go through seven decades as opposed to one decade. The book value of the S&P is 5.60. It's commonly believed that the average industrial company earns 12%. So normalized earnings are about $67 a share for the S&P. Over those seven, uh, decades, the trend, uh, basically, the market has sold at 15 times normalized earnings, it's bottomed at around 11 and a half times. That would be like 800 on the S&P, so we're at 685. We're way below that at 9.7 times, so I come out especially in the pe- era of quantitative easing, that the market on the valuation basis is very cheap."

Yes, he happened to say on the day the market turned that it was cheap. Notice how the entire commentary is qualified, that he never said "we're bouncing off a generational low today," and that nowhere does Kass scream, "BUY NOW!!!!!!!!"

We have no problem crediting Kass for a correct call. We do think it's risky and incomplete to hail anyone as a great predictor of markets. Kass just admitted in his speech he's been "premature" in his current bearishness and that he "underestimated" risk appetite. Our experience in watching CNBC for decades is that most pundits — some are better than others — are eventually right and eventually wrong. So Melissa Lee plays a March 9 clip of Kass apparently as some kind of proof that the opinion we're about to hear is more valid than others, when the person delivering the opinion admits it has recently been "premature."

According to CNBC.com, Kass has no positions to disclose.

A 1.35% interview

Jamie Baker of JPMorganChase offered a trading strategy that "Fast Money" was invented for. "If Continental shares lose 30% of their value in, in fewer than 30 trading days, we buy the stock," Baker said.

He explained: "Since '93, there have been 25 instances in which Continental fell this fast, this furiously. If you had simply bought the stock each time that that occurred, 25 times in a row you would've made money over the next 180 trading days, with an average return of a hundred, uh, of a, yeah, a hundred percent."

Karen Finerman wasn't really buying it.

"I don't get the airlines, I mean, I don't know, is there any other stock out there besides one that's given you 25 chances to be down 30%? I don't know; I, I, call me crazy," K-Fine said.

In afterhours, CAL was trading, according to Google finance, at $12.58 one minute before Baker's appearance. Four minutes later, it was $12.75.

So there you go.

According to Peter Schiff (again), the dollar is plunging us into economic devastation and will soon be worth less than what it costs to print it, but as usual he's able to give himself cover in case markets rebuke his argument by saying stocks can have "nominal" gains but still somehow be worth less, so when stocks go down, he's right, and when stocks go up, he's right.

Joe Terranova delivered some "Trade School" in his commentary about the WYNN drop, saying, "I would never allow any of my traders to step in front of a name like this."

Paul Sankey of Deutsche Bank delivered an excellent primer on oil stocks. He said, "Generally speaking, we're finding oil is quite well-supplied in our view right here." He said BP is rallying because of low expectations. He said his top pick is ConocoPhillips "on the restructuring story, and we're outright short Valero."

‘Fast Money’ ratings off 55%

The Web site Zero Hedge has posted a Nielsen chart of CNBC's year-over-year ratings in October.

Broadcasting & Cable reported prime-time numbers for CNBC down 29%, saying all cable networks suffered year-over-year October viewership declines after considerable interest in the 2008 election.

Baseball needs to scrap
the starting rotation

Catching up a bit belatedly with Monday's "Fast Money Halftime Report," we heard Zach Karabell say something that really jolted our radar.

And it had nothing to do with the dollar, Chimerica or Superfusion.

It was something equally if not more important — baseball.

Karabell explained, "You know I was at the Yankee game last night, and I would take Andy Pettitte in the 7th inning over almost anything."

Pettitte can pitch the 7th. What he should not be pitching is the 1st.

The truth is, baseball should've scrapped its starting-pitcher concept decades ago.

Why is this such a great topic for this page? Because no audience likely understands business inefficiencies any better than the people who appear on, or watch, CNBC's "Fast Money."

And baseball's starting rotation is a massive inefficiency.

Every pitcher has a finite amount of innings each season. Managers should be using their best pitchers only in the most approriate situations. Notice that works with the bullpen: Mariano Rivera generally only enters for a save situation, or in certain big games, when the score is tied. He's never out there with a 5-run margin.

Starting pitchers, on the other hand, are used almost strictly based on rest, not situation. That is a terrible way of allocating an asset.

C.C. Sabathia is likely the Yankees' second-best pitcher. In 2009 he pitched 230 innings. But he competed in only 34 games. That is 21% of the team's total. In the playoffs, he's appeared in 3 of 9 games, while Rivera has pitched 8 of 9.

In the ALCS, Sabathia pitched with a 4-1 lead in Game 1 and 5-0, 5-1 leads in Game 4.

As a result, he was unavailable in Game 3, when he would've been mightily useful in extra innings, or Game 5, when he could've held the lead in the 7th inning.

Because relief pitchers, unlike starters, are smartly used, there generally is no fatigue factor, unlike with starting pitchers, with whom fatigue is a massive concern. Just when the game is getting very tight, starters are out of gas. That makes the debate exponentially worse, not only as to whether this pitcher should be facing this batter in the 7th inning ... but whether the pitcher might be too tired to face this batter.

Some will argue that runs in the 1st inning count just as much as runs in the 8th inning. But baseball's most important innings are generally at the ends of games, not the beginnings. Sabathia should be pitching innings 6-8 most games, spreading his 230 innings over 80 games, and closing if/when Rivera needs a day's rest. But that's not iron-clad. The 5th inning of a 1-1 game is more important than the 9th inning of a 10-2 game.

The point is, the manager needs to give himself an option when dealing with such an important asset.

What Sabathia should not be doing is pitching 4 innings with a 5-0 lead, as he did in the ALCS, wasting his innings in a game already likely decided. The Freakonomics guys should be all over this.

Some will argue, look at how Burnett pitched all those innings down 4-0 and nearly rallied for a win. Stock traders, who generally refer to themselves professionally as "risk managers," will likely note that's the equivalent of buying a stock at $60, watching it tumble to $54 and instead of selling, feeling vindicated when it creeps back to $61. Exciting when it works, but most of the time you're better off cutting your losses.

Of course the starting rotation is not the Yankees' fault. It's embedded in the history of baseball and the problem is that young players are trained to pitch this way from a very early age; instead of pitching whenever ready to go, they're molded into a pointless every-5-day routine. Tony LaRussa tried scrapping a starting rotation many years ago and his effort didn't work, but only because he didn't have good enough players. No team wants to risk "ruining" an asset as expensive as Sabathia by disrupting his lifetime of training for a different, however more logical, role.

There is also baseball's fascination with stats. Purists say we can't dismiss wins and lose the historical comparisons between the likes of Sabathia and Lefty Grove. The truth is that individual wins are maybe the most irrelevant widely quoted statistic. A century ago in the early days of baseball, if a pitcher was good, he started and pitched as often as possible. Lefty Grove, for example, in 1930, went 28-5 pitching 291 innings, but still had the equivalent of 9 saves. In the World Series, which the Philadelphia A's won, Grove pitched a complete-game loss, then the next day picked up a huge win in relief.

Yankee fans recall in 2001 the Arizona Diamondbacks finally put them away in the 9th inning when they used Randy Johnson in Game 7. The idea of Sabathia seeing the 9th inning of any World Series game ranks up there with Mike Pagliarulo being summoned as a pinch-hitter. Instead, Sabathia will be out there in innings 2, 3, 4, etc., even if he has a 7-0 lead, the height of inefficiency. The height of starting pitcher absurdity is when the Atlanta Braves were losing the World Series with Mark Wohlers on the mound and Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz on the bench.

Someday this will change. Eventually managers will realize that Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and David Robertson should be pitching the first 4 or 5 innings of each game, and Sabathia, Pettitte, Burnett and Rivera should be used when most needed and most effective. We here used to be baseball purists, now we're progressives, who realize that even the concept of having two "leagues" is now nothing more than an inefficient paper distinction. We're fighting an uphill battle, but logic always seems to find a way.

Congrats to Karabell for attending a landmark game. Now, back to stocks and more on "Fast Money."

[Monday, October 26, 2009]

Do as I say, not as I do

If someone appears on CNBC and recommends a long stock position, is that opinion more, or less, credible if the person owns the stock?

If the person already owns the shares, there is an obvious incentive. Persuade others to buy, increasing the worth of your holdings.

If the person does not own the shares, then how much does he or she believe in this recommendation?

Guy Adami has recently taken this quandary to a new level — arguing against shares that he owns.

Recently, the target has been Citigroup; occasionally it is Intel. Monday on "Fast Money," it was MSFT that Adami was touting as shortable.

"Here's an easy one, with a tight stop above 29 and a half, you get out of the short," Adami said. "That stock traded 282 million shares on Friday. If that's not buyer capitulation, I've never seen anything that comes close to that. I mean you've gotta pull the ripcord now as well. I'm long Microsoft, but you know what, for a trade you gotta get short that sucker."

Indeed, disclosure at CNBC.com has shown him long MSFT for ages. We went back about six months and discovered, per CNBC.com disclosure, he owns the same stocks now as he did in mid-April: AGU, BTU, C, GS, INTC, MSFT, NUE.

In fact, we went back a long way and found, according to CNBC.com, Adami began holding these stocks on May 1, 2008. The show's disclosure for April 30, 2008, and as far as we can tell, many previous epsidoes dating into 2007, do not list any holdings for Adami, at least of stocks "mentioned or intended to be mentioned" on-air.

Clearly, Adami is more into the advice business than the active-trading business. This is fine. His recommendations, in our opinion, are wonderfully objective, and reliable. This does not mean they all make money. Rather, they are generally offered with specific price targets, based on Adami's favorite criteria including reversals, volume, Barron's recommendations and analyst upgrades. So you can give it a shot and get out with minimal loss if it fails.

But what should we make of the fact he is now recommending a trade on television while maintaining the opposite position in his account? Perhaps he is somehow unable to trade his own holdings. If that is the case, one wonders if they should even be disclosed. Somebody stumbling upon the disclosures is bound to think a person with a listed long position is bullish on the stock.

Regular "Fast Money" viewers know that Adami, once a top gold trader, now essentially disdains gold positions. It's possible at times in the last couple of years he has recommended viewers consider buying gold, but we don't recall this. It simply might be that he believes gold's long climb upward this decade to north of $1,000 is unsustainable and eventually will crash. If that were the case, he would presumably be shorting GLD. Another explanation is that he doesn't believe in actively trading his own account as he presumably once did, which might make one question if viewers should.

Adami's MSFT call is either unusually strong because of his contrasting position, or a half-hearted guess because he is not taking his own advice.

The beauty of disclosure? You can decide for yourself.

What the ‘A’ in TARP might mean

We get a chuckle when, during extended market rallies, traders often lament how great it would be to buy certain stocks on a pullback, "but there's never a significant pullback."

Then when there actually is a significant pullback, the buy-on-the-dips concept gets tossed out like a month-old Zune.

Pete Najarian on Monday noted the Barron's piece on technology, saying perhaps Barron's is late to the party.

Dennis Gartman talked about the significance of Dow Theory while insisting it was kind of an outdated concept after a good question by Melissa Lee. "You had outside reversals last week, and now you've broken an uptrend line in the transports, not a good sign," Gartman said. "I think it's very serious."

Joe Terranova asked Gartman a great question, are the airlines going to need a bailout. Gartman more or less agreed with the rhetorical query. "I think they've got a problem Joe," he said.

"If you are clearly looking for a spot to get short, I really believe, looking at everything right now, the airlines have to be the place," Terranova said.

Guy Adami mentioned the rails, saying, "I think they all go lower from here." He also suggested one of his recent favorite stocks, APA, can be played in the opposite direction. "This trade is over for a while," he said. "I think you can short that name as well."

There was brief talk about one of Karen Finerman's favorite subjects, the TBT (and this site actually gets regular inquiries about Karen and the TBT, for whatever reason). Adami said the TBT has legs in the short term. Melissa Lee pointed out that Karen now actually prefers to short the TLT instead of going long TBT, but didn't explain the reason cited by Karen the last time this came up: She doesn't like the 2x effect of the TBT.

Pete Najarian did say of BP, "I still love that name, 6% dividend yield."

Joe Terranova said, in the wake of Harry Reid's public option comments (that were mocked by Melissa Lee) and H1N1, the HMO sector has to be avoided.

‘Chas Chas Chas ... Chazzy ...’

There was still a decent amount of buzz in cyberspace Monday over Melissa Lee's Q&A with Charles Gasparino last Thursday (chronicled below).

We mention it again here only because we think Mel Lee might be getting a slightly bad rap.

First, while Gasparino was "cut off," it was not permanent. It did seem like more than an "interruption," so we called it as such. But he was ultimately allowed to continue talking and appeared to conclude the point he had started to make.

Second, we already speculated below that Lee might've been ordered to interrupt Gasparino by a producer (we don't know). CNBC hosts regularly argue with guests (admittedly usually not their own colleagues), interrupt them and/or seek to redirect the conversation. Lee did not censor Gasparino but made it clear she didn't want the report going in a certain direction.

Third, she managed to interrupt Gasparino in cutest fashion possible, tossing out every conceivable nickname she could cook up for him.

On Monday, in a completely unrelated subject, she had this to offer during a report on Limited Brands: "Apparently women are buying, I don't know, fewer bras and thongs, and things like that. ... It's a product ... Oh please, Tim, you're not blushing."

$800 toilet seats, bad

Joe Terranova reminded everyone Monday of how most people truly feel about the government — programs are a waste, unless you're for them.

In Terranova's case, that would be the first-time homebuyer credit.

"This is the one subsidy that we have right now from the government that you actually need to, keep it in place," he said.

Pete Najarian said, "The volatility index has been telling you something."

No it hasn't.

Tim Seymour returned to one of his recent themes, that Citigroup is destined to look more like its 1990s self. "It's also the, the supermarket banking kind of setup which we see in Citibank, which we've seen in a lot of the big, uh, regional banks over the last couple years is being broken down," Seymour said. "I think this is essentially rebuilding the Glass-Steagall towers which again, if people don't remember at home..."

We doubt if anyone remembers at home.

I’d like to teach the world to sing ...

We're glad Melissa Lee has put together a documentary on Coca-Cola, and we look forward to watching and reviewing it.

But if we continue to hear that little Coke instrumental tune every 10 minutes in CNBC promotional commercials, we're activating the mute button, even if "Fast Money" is on.

[Friday, October 23, 2009]

The Melissa Lee report

It's taken a little longer than we hoped.

We've been intending to do a six-month critique of Melissa Lee's performance as host of "Fast Money." It's really been closer to seven months now. But it's not the type of thing you'll see in The New York Times or Wall Street Journal or Us Weekly, or probably not even Dealbreaker, so why not?

There were factors working against Lee when she took the job upon Dylan Ratigan's departure. We'll get to those in a moment.

Before anyone wonders if we're casting stones from a glass house, here's one of our semi-regular disclaimers: We know that TV, especially live TV, is not easy. We respect those who are skilled at it. We couldn't do it. If CNBCfix tried TV it would be a joke. That's why we post things on a Web site while others sit in front of a camera.

We often cited these issues that were within her control: 1. She didn't seem overwhelmingly prepared. 2. She wouldn't cut off, interrupt or redirect uninteresting or unfocused guests. 3. She often would make statements without signaling someone to comment, leaving traders wondering who was supposed to go next and causing pockets of dead air. 4. She too often forced an awkward laugh.

Yes, she looks great, a point we're often making here. (Usual disclaimer for delving into this area: Effective television requires attractive people to be good-looking on camera.)

Lee has a much better handle on the subject matter now than in her early months, when she would regularly mispronounce names and declare panelist trading positions that viewers knew were inaccurate even before the traders responded.

The dead air has just about disappeared, and the awkward laugh is a distant memory.

Cutting off guests remains a big problem. As in, she doesn't do it often enough or well enough. Dylan Ratigan could be overaggressive at times, but he was skilled at keeping guests on point and demanding what viewers most want, a trade.

Lee apparently doesn't have the inclination to interrupt garrulous guests (and even occasionally a panelist) and imply (without saying in so many words) "cut the crap, answer my question." The result has been, in general, flatter interviews than the variety produced by Ratigan.

Also problematic is the show's gradual shift into profoundly dull options talk, an area of Lee's expertise. We have no beef with options, only that they make for very uninteresting television. The cliches almost overwhelm, every day, "volatility is so low, protection is cheap" and "sell the upside call," etc. If it works for options traders, great. Ideally it would be reduced to a couple momentary segments where Pete or Jon Najarian would point out options activity indicative of a stock bump. Eyes start glazing over — quickly — when we get into front-month and at the money discussions. Jeff Macke once pointed out that Pete Najarian spends 12 hours a day studying options, so it seems a reach to think an amateur user can get much out of the limited options trades suggested on the show.

We don't know how much preparation time Lee had before Ratigan quit, but she took over the show under dismal circumstances. First of all "Fast Money," like probably much of CNBC's programming, must be regarded as a bull-market show, and Lee happened to get this job after one of the worst 18-month markets of all time, when few people were eager to enthusiastically recommend stocks. Second, it was someone else's show to begin with, a creation of Ratigan with four traders, who had gradually either been quitting or taking enough days off to require a series of subs who often weren't comfortable on the set. Third, a key regular, Jeff Macke, encountered rough sledding after her arrival and then left, and fourth, the show had already been around in some format for about three years, which can be long in the tooth by TV terms.

TV can be a cruel business. Mostly because there are objective criteria for judging it, but success comes down to a matter of style and look and charisma, incalculable elements mostly beyond all of our ability to control. Either we got it, or we don't.

Lee and her CNBC colleagues got it. But one might question if this is the right program for her. She doesn't always look happy. Maybe she finds stock discussions boring. That seems to have been Ratigan's problem. Stocks gradually became uninteresting or even terrifying, and to his credit in 2009 he wanted to talk about other things, which he now does on MSNBC. Maybe Lee would rather do field reporting. She's clearly not very comfortable opining. Hosting an hourlong show on CNBC is a big deal, many very talented people there haven't been offered that. The ones that do it often spend much of their time on side projects, in particular interviewing a lot of bigwigs, something Lee doesn't do often.

Lee is a better host than she was six months ago. Is "Fast Money" on the glide path up, or going the way of the dollar? It seems like by January, it will need a jolt of something, one way or another.

... and now, ourselves

We always say on this site (it's in our banner at the top), dedicated to the highest standards of journalism. Sometimes we try to go beyond, as in the coverage of ourselves — something traditional newspapers can be ginchy about.

When we started putting renewed emphasis on this site and this page early this year, we slowly saw a parabolic rise in hits for our "Fast Money Review," and noted it with glee in the upper right corner. Lot of new hits around the time of Dylan Ratigan's departure, then Jeff Macke's absence. By August, though, we were suddenly plateauing, and in September we had a decline, always discouraging.

We chalked that up to the recent lack of controversy or personnel departures at "Fast Money" after Macke was gone.

Or then again, maybe people just thought our page sucked.

Whatever. By early summer, we found ourselves trying to chronicle everything on the show, and gradually were getting gassed (in terms of fatigue, not alcohol). Once you start reviewing a show like this, you find an almost unlimited number of things legitimately worth writing about. And the show in question happens to run an hour a day. Five days a week. Maybe most people don't want or need a daily summary of a daytime show that's already three years old. (Unless of course it's Oprah, and we're not goin' there.) At some point perspective is in order, a perspective we're always trying to figure out when analyzing, say, how a guest stands next to Pete Najarian's desk.

A famous person whose name has appeared on this page once told us (not an exact quote) we probably needed to get a life. Hey, no argument here. A confluence of factors brought this page into being: 1. We like journalism. 2. We watch CNBC. 3. We wanted to learn more about the Web, so we programmed our own page as a do-it-yourself project (which is why it's proudly a Stone Age design). 4. We wanted to do a daily review of something, and gradually "Fast Money" bested Jim Cramer and Larry Kudlow.

Best part about it? The people who give us a look, and decide to come back. From time to time, we've heard from some media and business titans out there, prominent bylines, internationally known TV faces and pioneers of the Web, not always in agreement maybe, but who almost always wish us well. All of us in the media are in uncharted waters. That some of the greats have responded to our inquiries and given us a nod, or just looked up our site, won't ever be forgotten here.

Of course, we don't hesitate to break scoops or pre-scoops either, such as our exclusive report on Wednesday (which is noted on our home and CNBC star profiles pages) about Rebecca Jarvis' situation that conveniently resulted in CNBC hours later confirming for another site her departure.

As always: Relentlessly posting original material and headlines, dedicated to the highest standards of journalism established for decades by the nation's daily newspapers and news magazines. We're here because you are, and we're committed to the belief that in uncertain times for news media, those who are trying to do something right will somehow figure out a way.

CNBCfix review: Tim Seymour’s
‘Trading the Globe’

It looks like Tim Seymour has knocked one out of the park.

His new half-hour program, "Trading the Globe," might even be the envy of its cousin "Fast Money," if first impressions prove accurate.

Seymour has assembled a simple panel of fresh faces. On the debut Friday, they were David Riedel of Riedel Research, Ron Shah of Jina Ventures and Will Landers of BlackRock. Howard Wheeldon of BGC Partners did a guest remote from Britain.

This crew clicked immediately. They presented an immense command of the subject matter in easily understood terms. They informed on geopolitical conditions. They argued a bit over stocks.

And they did it with speed.

Airing for a half-hour Friday nights, the show apparently will lead off with the biggest international-markets story of the week. Friday night, that was Brazil's sudden 2% investment tax on new money that Seymour had taken up days ago on "Fast Money." Landers said it "caught the market by surprise" but noted a 1.5% tax a year ago and said it really is just another device in the real-dollar balance. Riedel noted that Brazil is much different than 10 years ago, it "lent money to the IMF the other day."

Shifting gears to London, Wheeldon argued for VOD, saying it has "huge, abundant potential in the years ahead," but others questioned its valuation and competitive threats in emerging markets.

One segment was a little confusing, "BRIC-IT," which was Seymour's way of suggesting Indonesia and Turkey should be regarded with similar potential as the traditional BRIC. He showed a map highlighting all six nations when the discussion was about the latter two. Interestingly, the show barely touched on China as might be expected.

Shah pointed out a couple plays on water development, PHO and DGW (for the China angle), but Landers made what seems like a very important point, that water infrastructure in developing nations is a "long-term investment."

As would be expected, there were shout-outs for ITUB, TKC, AMX and IBN, as well as others such as TCL and NETC.

The strengths of the show are the rapport, and speed. It's never slow, but it doesn't feel rushed. Seymour is extremely adept at keeping the conversation moving. One reason the "Fast Money" traders are impressive is that despite the fact they're not career TV pros, they quickly figure it out. True, running a studio show for a half-hour doesn't require the live TV hosting skills of "Fast Money." But one wonders why Seymour hasn't been used as a guest host on "Fast" given his aptitude for this line of work. The only drawback we've cited from his "Fast Money" performance is that we think he tends to quote too much data, leading to occasionally contradictory trading statements. In this "Globe" debut, he was completely on point.

"Trading the Globe" joins "Options Action" as another low-risk CNBC attempt to reach a niche audience of sophisticated investors. The only concern would be, are there going to be enough new issues to talk about week after week, or will this regularly turn into "buy PBR, buy IBN, buy CHL," etc. We note that "Trading the Globe" does not have "emerging markets" in the title, and even though Seymour declared himself an "emerging market junkie," there certainly should be interesting material to talk about in Canada, Australia, Japan, Germany, etc. The show's only a half hour a week. Given the acumen of Seymour and his panel, that shouldn't be hard to fill.

One oddity: Seymour introduced the show with this statement: "Now the world's first economic superpower is falling into 2nd place." Second place ... to what? Someone might want to think about a rewrite.

Make-up call?

Uh-oh ... if looks could kill ...

A day after Charles Gasparino was cut off on "Fast Money" for edgy criticism of President Obama, the show curiously conducted a lengthy chat with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan.

Eventually, after Ryan was done, Melissa Lee said, "Let's talk about the trade out of this, because we talk a lot about politics, but we do wanna get back to the trade based on these politics."

And then she unfurled a scowl that would've scared Rush Limbaugh, who happened to flag her handling of the Gasparino segment on Thursday and probably prompted a few angry e-mails to fastmoney@cnbc.com. (Programming note: Limbaugh discussed it on his show Friday; we had a longer take on our overnight review early Friday a.m.)

Limbaugh obviously has his own agenda. Us? Hey, we're just calling it like we see it. We've never noticed a "Fast Money" host cut someone off so abruptly except for time (and even then, 90% of people are allowed to keep talking right into the commercial), and without question in this case someone was being interrupted strictly for a political comment.

Lee hasn't issued a statement to CNBCfix, but because we like her, we'll offer a defense: that Gasparino sounded like he might be swerving from a news report into personal opinion, the type of tangent that scares any TV host on any channel no matter who the guest is.

We'll even give her a better defense than that: An overzealous producer might've been screaming in her ear, "Stop him!"

We freely acknowledged yesterday, hey, it's up to CNBC to determine its own programming. If they want to censor their own reporters, fair enough. But we can't figure out why Lee was so adamant here. What, like it's her job to edit Gasparino's reports on air?? His title is on-air editor. This wasn't an outsider; this was six CNBC staffers/contributors talking about Wall Street pay. If the CNBC brass doesn't like it, they can deal with it later. The segment was called "Gasparino off the record." He's there to tell you what he's hearing, not to give you a stop-loss suggestion on Wells Fargo.

And, while he has noted his personal opinions on the president in his own columns, it actually sounded Thursday like this was more than just his own view which, unlike the first defense we offered for Lee, could be considered a legitimate news report. Eventually Gasparino was allowed to explain: "There is a feeling on Wall Street that he is slowly socializing the financial business ... Who knows where he stops?"

Lee saying "We talk a lot about politics"? Give us a break. They virtually never talk about politics. If they want to make sure they don't talk about politics, then stop doing the silly "Obama Trade" segment with the pop-up icons and everything.

Despite this incident, CNBC isn't in any danger of losing the conservative, pro-business crowd. There is plenty of red meat for them all day long. Our take, by the way, is that Feinberg's package was tested and screened and anticipated at very high levels, to a point deemed safe to release, and Gasparino's sources had already penciled it in and are just letting off steam as publicly as possible.

But back to Friday. Ryan talked predominantly about health care. Steve Grasso asked, "What do you think the real agenda is here?"

"The agenda here is to get the government to basically nationalize the health care sector and get the government to end up running health care but to do so by using the rhetoric of the free market," said Ryan, who also referred to the top government banking officials of last year as "Ben & Hank."

Rocky debut

It's refreshing that sometimes, even stock advice heard by a CNBC expert is at — or even beneath — the level of an amateur.

Newly established "Fast Money" panelist Gary Kaminsky offered this take on Amazon.com on Friday:

"If you do initiate a position right now, you better have some great rationale as to why you missed it for the last year."

Now there's an interesting concept: the stock is going to move based on your rationale for not owning it for 10 months?

Here's a more useful tip from the amateurs at CNBCfix: AMZN is not going up or down based on whether you personally owned it in the last 10 months. People who bought it Friday bought it for the same reason that everyone buys any stock and the only reason that matters: they think it's going to go higher.

Kaminsky seems like he'll be a good addition, once he starts offering concise, concrete trades. Because that is what the show's about, isn't it, and not other things?

Wasn’t that just a year ago?

Sometimes, a guy can be so eager to make a joke that he'll say something completely illogical.

Consider Joe Terranova's obviously pre-cooked zinger at Gary Kaminsky's pending nickname during a discussion on bank failures.

Kaminsky said, "If you go back to September 2008, I think the feeling was there was gonna be 100 banks closing every week. So the fact that we've just hit the 100th given what was, where we were a year ago, um, you can look at that as half-full."

Terranova responded, "And the simple fact that you're able to recollect so easily what happened back in those times, might lead us to believe that your handle might be something like Grandpa."

"Oh, that was a takedown," Melissa Lee and Karen Finerman said in unison, which was highly cute.

So the fact Kaminsky recalls what happened in September 2008 makes him an old fogie? Oddly enough, it was Terranova who opened the dialogue by drawing comparisons to 1990. Perhaps we've got a bit of projection going on here?

They say traders and NFL cornerbacks need to have a short memory. Apparently, Terranova does.

He actually voted for it
before he voted against it

On Friday, a concerned Joe Terranova said, "Right now where the market's trading you can't trade on hope anymore."

On Wednesday, Terranova said, "Right now there is no way, looking at the tape right now, that you can fight the momentum. Risk is being put back on globally. We are talking about inventory restocking. And the markets have healed themselves; they're working in normal fashion again. Investors should not be afraid to get into the market right now."

Karen Finerman, who looked stunning Friday, spoke positively about Microsoft's earnings, and the possible aftermath. "You gotta think there's a lot of peripheral trades here. I mean a name like GameStop," she said.

But Melissa Lee said she investigated that theory herself and saw no pop for GameStop or Best Buy.

Terranova rightly credited a Thursday guest for MSFT bullishness. "Heather Bellini came on, she absolutely nailed it last night on this show," Terranova said.

Dennis Gartman exchanged greetings with Gary Kaminsky on Friday, joked about the Grandpa nickname, then said "I think the Fed wouldn't mind seeing higher rates at the long end and short rates continue to be held where they are."

1080 or bust

Scott Redler, the first time that name has appeared in this review, talked chartology. "The support side's about 1080, if we break above that 1100, it does clear the way to about 1120, 1125, we're just not there yet," Redler said.

Jeff Tomasulo, who refreshingly admitted "I've been wrong all week," said he'll be buying AMZN and AAPL on pullbacks. "Right now I think there's no trade ... You have to wait and be patient." Jon Najarian said unusual option activity in TiVo could be a signal of a deal, or something else.

Melissa Lee uttered this horrid cliche, calling Microsoft "the Rodney Dangerfield of tech stocks."

[Thursday, October 22, 2009]

Gasparino: Obama’s record
is ‘borderline socialist’

Thursday would've been a good day to short the First Amendment on "Fast Money."

Charles Gasparino said President Obama "was a borderline socialist" — which apparently set off his colleague Melissa Lee's emergency censorship plan.

Here's how the conversation went down:

Gasparino: "It's completely legitimate that the government has a role in pay here because these banks were bailed out from extinction. There's no doubt about that. The problem is that it's hard to trust the Obama administration because President Obama, if you look at his record, what he's, we know he was a community organizer, I mean ..."

Lee: "All right Chas-"

Gasparino: "This is important ... when you have a president that was a borderline socialist, people worry about-"

Lee: "Chas, Chas, Chas ..."

Gasparino: "... them, him getting involved in the financial system."

Lee: "... we are, we are a trading show, Chazzy, we are a trading show. So let's talk about the companies and how they're impacted because we want to trade this."

Gasparino: "Trade? What do you mean, trade?"

Lee: "You know you can think what you want about Obama, you know ..."

Gasparino: "You gonna buy, you gonna buy Citigroup? You gonna buy Citigroup? You don't need me here."

First of all, we don't really agree with the Wall Street characterization of President Obama as described by Gasparino. We mostly don't have a problem with the guy's governance.

Second, Gasparino is right to bristle, as he has before, at the implication he should be identifying trades. He reports the news (if given the chance); the traders can do the trades.

Third, yes, it's up to CNBC and not people like us to decide what should get aired on CNBC. Gasparino can defend himself. What got our attention is that a news report was cut off like virtually no others on the show, apparently for political concerns that don't extend to other subjects like the ethnic round of questioning of last Friday.

Are the Wall Street fears expressed by Gasparino correct? We kind of doubt it, but don't know. If enough people quit, the pay will be upped. What's important is that Gasparino is reporting that these concerns are affecting, or potentially affecting, behavior of important people on Wall Street. (This writer is long C and GS.)

To his credit, Gasparino did not hector Lee as much as he could've. What he said initially about banks was this: "When I talked to people today at Merrill Lynch and Citigroup, uh, they're saying, 'Listen, I'm a producer. You know, I make this firm money. And if they cap my salary, I'm gone.' "

He added: "The reason why we had so much risk-taking over the years is because the government is complicit in it. The government kept bailing these guys out. The government wanted them to take risk, they wanted to create mortgage bonds because mortgages, you know, putting, having everybody own a home no matter how much they could afford it became sort of a right, like free speech over the years."

[Wednesday, October 21, 2009]

If only we could go back
in time and buy HGSI

And you thought Wednesday's market was rough.

Tim Seymour sounded like he had been watching "The Terminator."

"The machines are in charge," Seymour asserted, contending there wasn't a major fundamental reason behind the day's reversal. "This is guys that are doing delta hedging, volatility's cheap. ... I think the machines are in charge."

"You've got the machines basically kicking in," Joe Terranova agreed.

We learned something new from Jim Goldman, that he was "student body president." We're not surprised; he's an impressive guy and didn't have to say that, but good for him, we guess. Goldman gave a strong, detailed summation of eBay that didn't have the most positive conclusion: "This company should be raising estimates; it's not."

Melissa Lee challenged Seymour over whether investors should expect a lower day Thursday because of eBay. Seymour said no, the "jury is out" on whether eBay is a bellwether.

Guy Adami neatly discussed EBAY retracements and technicals and said if you want to get long, wait for it around $20.75.

Pretty in pink

How could we comment on Wednesday's "Fast Money" and not devote decent space to the most obvious angle — Melissa Lee's too-cute pink T-shirt and blue vest.

M-Lee had the look down pat when she stared into the camera to introduce Peter Schiff, saying, "When our next guest was last on this show, here's what he had to say about the state of the recovery..."

She even added a rare editorial comment: "You know what was interesting was when Peter said he doesn't want to invest in markets where they're changing the rules, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, like in the U.S. Then look at Brazil. Brazil. Exactly. Hello!"

Schiff has been a good, if redundant, guest. He repeated familiar slogans Wednesday. "It's the people who are foolishly holding U.S. stocks that are leaving a lot on the table because they're not investing abroad instead," he said. But Tim Seymour, in one of his finer moments on the show, made a better point, that American multinationals are taking advantage of the conditions abroad as well, and that there is far more regulatory stability in U.S. exchanges than abroad, in general.

Here’s No. 13

Gary Kaminsky was back on the set, this time promoting airlines, and only in slightly less ambiguous terms than in his recent Wal-Mart segment.

One line got our attention:

"If there is recovery, what you don't have this time around is somebody who is an irrational pricer," Kaminsky said.

That's the first time CNBCfix has ever heard of the term "irrational pricer." Just for kicks, we did a little Googling. Google first offers "about 53" hits, but upon closer inspection, there really are only 12 references in all of cyberspace, and even a few of those might be bogus.

Guy Adami was in top form all day. Refreshingly honest, he recalled his bullish claim on APA yesterday and noted the stock's reversal Thursday. "You know what, you have an outside day lower today in Apache," Adami said. "That's a big reversal day in a stock that I've loved for a while, it's had a monster run. I tell you now, get out, take profits. You wanna get back in, get back in, over 106, but you're in no-man's land now. This outside day is pretty big."

Adami also returned to one of his favorite subjects, WFC. "So again, I think you can play Wells Fargo from the short side."

Here’s No. 5

Jim Cramer got a healthy amount of air time on "Fast Money" Wednesday. We spent a moment or two trying to figure out why this happened, i.e., does one of the shows need a ratings/promo boost, etc.

We ultimately concluded that Cramer to our knowledge hasn't had the opportunity (unlike a couple others) to promote his book on "Fast Money," and that this was some sort of make-up call, even though the book has been out for a week and, overnight at least, ranked 41st at Amazon, which isn't too bad.

Cramer did crack us up by comparing to Dick Bove's Wells Fargo call to "Chinatown" (you know, the sister-mother thing). "Give me a break," Cramer said.

Cramer also told Guy Adami he doesn't think CAT is due for a big crash of more than 10%, and that even if there's some resistance it's a long-term buy.

But here's what we wondered about ... prior to Jim Cramer's Getting Back to Even, Cramer had, by our count on the Amazon page, produced four other solo books since 2002 on investing advice.

If the advice is so great, why does anyone need more than one book?

We had a good quarter

After Melissa Lee played another stilted, scripted earnings call, this time from eBay, Adami curiously asked, "Does anybody speak from the heart anymore?" Let's hope he wasn't serious — as sorry as this particular recording was, the last thing any CEO or CFO wants to do is start free-lancing or ad-libbing on the earnings call.

Honestly, we have no clue why earnings calls even happen in the first place. Transparency? Good grief. It's people who in general are paid about $25,000 a minute spending their time reading a financial statement out loud and saying "things look good in a number of our businesses," then, maybe what they really get the big bucks for, avoiding mention of anything beyond the script when absorbing questions from analysts.

"This is important," said Joe Terranova, who earlier in the day was one of the "Fast Money Halftime Report" crew going 4-for-4 in (oops) saying they would be a buyer going into the day's close. "There is a resiliency right now in oil. ... This is, could be a problem for the economy going forward."

Pete Najarian said, "Giddyup for Deere, it's going higher."

[Tuesday, October 20, 2009]

Tim Seymour is right

For whatever reason, the folks at "Fast Money" decided to allocate a decent chunk of Tuesday's show to Yahoo discussion, a concept this site has questioned basically since its inception.

"I think this is a stock you need to continue to own," said Guy Adami in one of the segments. "I think Yahoo should be a $20 stock."

"Why do we spend so much time talking about this stock?" asked Tim Seymour.

Maybe Tonya Harding
should’ve been a stockbroker

Karen Finerman saw an indicator Tuesday of Q4 success.

"The thing that I find so interesting, that, even with the market slightly down today, the volatility index continues to come in," Finerman said. "That to me says there is no panic out there. ... I think that really bodes well for the market for the fourth quarter."

Tim Seymour cautioned, "The economic data this morning actually wasn't that great."

Guy Adami, who despite no longer fighting the tape sounds like Debbie Downer as much as ever (listen to him talk about WFC), thinks even high-flying AAPL might be ready for a pullback.

"This high today, same as December 07, just look at the chart," Adami said. "It's all about the trade ... you short it with a very well-defined stop ... there's a chance, on a lousy tape, that this pulls back in the low 180s."

And for those who shun that, there's more: "And I know that most people don't like trading from the short side, but it's like playing hockey and not being able to skate backwards, you gotta do both," Adami said.

And here we thought this might be the "deep end of the trading pool."

Peabody CEO Gregory Boyce's interview amounted to "China's doing great."

Richard Bernstein showed up on the set, purportedly for the "Bull Market or BS" segment that should've been titled "Bull Market or BS or something else jaw-droppingly uninteresting." Bernstein touted what he called an essential indicator, "Core crude material PPI." He said it's "basically ugly stuff, excluding energy and food" and "that for some reason has the highest correlation to earnings of any inflation measure you can find."


Something’s gotta give

Guy Adami was very skeptical that Caterpillar stock should be trading around $60.

"They crushed on the EPS side, guess what? Revenues frankly were a little bit light," Adami said. "Stock's trading 30 times forward earnings. I mean, I gotta believe that's rich." He added, "This was a $41 stock this time last year; it's 59 and a half now. There is some disconnect there."

"But they gave us earnings guidance," said Tim Seymour. "This is the sweet spot for Caterpillar, and it's happening now."

We don't know who's right. According to Shortsqueeze.com, CAT has about 6.5% short interest. This Reuters article suggests CAT might have a problem with suppliers if the world booms too fast: "It has left the supply chain with an unknown number of suppliers who are so undercapitalized and overleveraged they will never raise the money they need to get their idle plants running again."

Pete Najarian said Terex is "one of those names that's still well below some of the targets."

"My favorite energy play, you know what it is, APA," Adami said.

Halftime Report:
Trading the Double Deuce

Remember when Dalton, in "Road House," delivers the three simple rules?

Greg Troccoli, a/k/a "Glide Path," first showed off a tremendous jacket, then offered his own guidelines for cleaning up this stock market.

"Melissa, three quick points," Troccoli said. "One is that between 10,000 and 11,000 is not easy money. ... No. 2, there really is not much resistance between 10,000 and 10,300. ... My worry is over the next week and a half I don't wanna close back below 9,918, that would be a bull trap."

So all you gotta do is watch his back — and each others' — and take out the trash. (That's a movie line.)

Zach Karabell responded with a gentle dig, "I'm still stuck on Greg's 9,918. If I could be that exact about price movement I feel like I would be a happy man."

Jon Najarian invoked college football again, saying "1,100 has been sitting above this market like this (holds up hand at eye level), it was, you know, the Oklahoma Sooners, everybody got in ahead of that number as best they could and has sold it all the way down to here. I wouldn't be surprised if they can sell it a little lower before it bounces." Najarian, apparently unlike Jeff Macke over at Minyanville, is warm to YHOO. "I love the stock," Dr. J said. "Full disclosure, I'm long the stock. But I've written a lot of calls against it, so I'd like to see it ease to the downside so that I could buy in at a better price." He also mentioned CCJ based on some kind of BHP Billiton issue with a French word that we really didn't understand and was a bit too long-winded so that Melissa Lee had to cut him off.

Patty Edwards, who in general likes retailers these days about as much as the Washington Redskins like the Dallas Cowboys, finds something to cheer about in AAPL, whose price target she upped to $230 according to MLee. "It's one of the best retailers and best technology companies out there." Karabell mentioned a bank angle to keep in mind: "I'm particularly worried about the whole bonus issue coming out with all the investment banks that took TARP money. That's gonna be a really negative headwind against these stocks."

Just remember, even if you lose money, "pain don't hurt."

[Monday, October 19, 2009]

We didn’t really need a ‘2’ or ‘3’

If, like CNBCfix, you happened to think "Spider-Man" the movie should've been a one-and-done type of thing, you're probably not impressed that "Spider-Man 4" is apparently coming your way in May 2011.

How do we know this? We happened to look up a transcript of the Hasbro conference call after hearing CEO Brian Goldner on "Fast Money." An analyst asked about the movie schedule (conceding all release dates are tentative), and here was Goldner's response: " 'Stretch Armstrong' April 15th of ’11, 'Spider-Man 4' May 6th of ’11, 'Thor' May 20th of ’11, 'Transformers 3' the first of July in ’11, 'The First Avenger: Captain America' the 22nd of July 2011 and then 'Battleship' just following that."

Doesn't exactly sound like Oscar material. But then again, "Capitalism: A Love Story" stunk too.


Prior to this post, we had never heard of Stretch Armstrong.

Extreme diversity

The reason we looked up the Hasbro transcript was because of a point made by Joe Terranova on "Fast Money" Monday. After Melissa Lee asked CEO Brian Goldner repeatedly about the boys-girls toy mix, Terranova concluded with this: "The boys, 46% of revenue, girls only about 17% of revenue, preschoolers about 10% of revenue, so you'd like to see a little bit more of a diversification mix."

So boys are 46% and girls are 17%. It's the remaining 37% we're a little confused about.

After exploring the various articles on this earnings report, as well as the company's own press release on its Web site, we're just (about) as clueless. Obviously, there must be categories — Goldner mentioned puzzles and games — considered gender-neutral. What they all are, and how we get to 100%, we don't know.

Further muddying the waters, this MarketWatch story mentions the "boys division, which accounted for roughly 35% of the company's total sales in the latest quarter." So we've got 46%, or 35%, something like that.

Apparently Nerf products — CNBCfix once led the league in touchdown passes in Nerf ball — are doing well, we're happy to report.

A stellar Jobs report

Jim Goldman sounded even more excited about Apple's earnings report than some long investors might be.

"Apple has a clear message to the shorts tonight — uh, 'Bite me'," Goldman said.

How many folks were biting? We checked at shortsqueeze.com, which reports AAPL has less than 2% short interest. Not exactly a BKS (34% per shortsqueeze).

"These are phenomenal numbers," Goldman said.

Karen Finerman, who made a welcome return to the set and looked great doing so, said she made a day trade in AAPL but was "kind of embarrassed" because the trade was "just for fun." Joe Terranova offered, "Apple clearly has won the race to 200 bucks with Goldman Sachs." Pete Najarian said the outlook is great, but people have to think about raking in some gains right now.

Guy Adami had a more specific idea about a possible peak. "If you wanna trade this thing look for the volume tomorrow, north of 50 million shares, you might want to get out, take a shot on the short side," Adami said.

From cover to cover

We mentioned BKS in the example above only because Karen Finerman brought it up in a very interesting trade on the Wal-Mart/Amazon/Target book war.

"To me, the trade seems to be, this seems to be a bad thing for Barnes & Noble," Karen said. "They are in the business of selling books. If those products are sort of, you know, available cheaper elsewhere, that's gotta be a bad thing for these guys. So we are actually short Barnes & Noble, only through puts, because I really believe this is the beginning of more problems for them. Already we know that the e-reader is really eating into their business. This price war cannot be a good thing."

Guy Adami again touted Walter Energy. "This is another stock that on pullbacks needs to be bought," he said. (This writer was long WLT Monday but sold, perhaps wrongly, before the show aired.)

Melissa Lee asked what's quickly becoming a tiresome CNBC cliche, "Are we allowed to take the rally caps out once again?"

Whitney Tilson put himself in the defensive camp and said "I’ve been wrong for a couple months now." He reasserted it's "time to start playing defense here ... stocks are priced ... for a pretty robust economic recovery” which maybe isn't in the cards even if armageddon is (yeah, we know you hate the cliche too) off the table. More to the point, he said, "Our favorite area of shorting right now is the homebuilders just across the board.”

Halftime Report: Where’s Joe?

The "Fast Money Halftime Report" wasn't quite playing with a full deck on Monday.

Melissa Lee announced The Liquidator, Joe Terranova at the opening, then we never saw him. Terranova "had some problems with his camera," Lee said later.

Lee used one of our favorite "Fast Money" terms, "jawboning," as is often the case in reference to international leaders making currency statements. "Ben Bernanke sort of jawboning about the dollar," Lee said. Lee wore catchy Baltimore Ravens colors (purple and black) a day after a tough loss in Minnesota. Mike Khouw said, "I think if you're gonna make directional plays on stocks, I'd probably do it more, be more inclined to do it by selling options than buying 'em."

An important cause

Near the end of the American League playoff thriller Saturday night, we saw a commercial for Parkinson's research featuring Michael J. Fox, whose foundation is at the forefront in seeking a cure. We note this here because Karen Finerman is a generous supporter and member of the Fox Foundation board of directors. To donate or learn more, visit the Fox Foundation Web site.

[Friday, October 16, 2009]

Trading the Bell Curve
with Bill Strazzullo

CNBCfix did something that — almost undoubtedly — no one else in the world did over the weekend.

We rewound our tape of Friday's "Fast Money Halftime Report" specifically to listen to Bill Strazzullo's market commentary.

Now, why would we possibly do such a thing?

Well, we don't always catch the "Halftime Report," and we've come to realize we haven't mentioned Strazzullo's name for a long, long time. We'd like to see a little more pizzazz from his corner, but he's one of those steady types you have to like, rarely a Brag Trade. We weren't able to post reviews of Friday's material until well into the weekend (sorry to the regulars — whom we appreciate and rely on greatly for our comScore, um, "results" — who clicked Friday and Saturday looking for timely updates that weren't posted yet) and decided the Bill has come due, to some extent.

"The much bigger point here is that we're at or close to the top— to the top of the range. I wanna be in the harvest mode," Strazzullo said Friday. "I'm gonna take my profit, unwind some of the long positions, and take a step back rather than be an aggressive buyer at these levels."

So he's not a buyer, but maybe not a complete seller just yet.

But then Melissa Lee asked him about IBM, and all Strazzullo could do was talk about tech hitting or nearing the top of its range, repeating his initial thesis.

And that compliment we just made about the lack of the Brag Trade?

Um, forget that.

"Well Melissa we've been bullish for months. I talked about uh, the S&P going to 1,100, 1,150, uh, back in July, before we had even hit a thousand," Strazzullo said.

But we'll cut him a break. Strazzullo's a likable sort who just needs to start fortifying his commentary with steroids. This is "Fast Money," not "Days of Our Lives."

Melissa Lee chuckled that Strazzullo doesn't sound like the type of guy who goes to Vegas. On the contrary. "Several times a year, Melissa," he said.

Steve Grasso chided Strazzullo for wimping out on the bull market. "It is way too cautious to be, uh, to be, locking in some profits here," Grasso said in reference to financials but basically referring to the whole market. "I think that what you're gonna see is a real chase for performance in November and December." He said some are taking advantage of names like Goldman Sachs at a discount — "I think, you know, you'll thank yourself in the next couple of weeks," Grasso said.

Mike Gurka, who for a while seemed to be on "Fast Money" more often than Tim Seymour (the summer attendance leader according to our tally, see our September archives), was also on Friday with a bullish outlook. "I think if we see a stronger dollar here, it's gonna help these equity markets out," Gurka said.

Addison Armstrong talked about "natural" profit-taking in oil, "This market is overextended."

The "Halftime Report" is often flat and redundant (even though, yes, it comes on first) of the real show, so we occasionally skip it. The only regular highlight is the circular setup and the camera pan of Melissa Lee, showing her entire outfit, all wired up, cup of java nearby, that is cute.

Isn’t it funny how we talk
when someone’s not around?

Steve Grasso on Friday seemed to enjoy pushing the envelope, and not the way they talk about it in "Top Gun."

He tried making a joke about the pronunciation of a Pemex oilfield in northern Mexico that quite frankly we didn't get, even though the traders were cracked up.

Later, Grasso floated a comparison between a tech giant and a newsmaking family.

"Well I think your only fear is that Google comes in like that boy in the helium balloon," Grasso said. "Find out there's no boy and there's no earnings potential ... and it was all just a show."

"Let's move on," cautioned Melissa Lee, "We don't know what the circumstances were surrounding that, that poor boy in the balloon." Except it's pretty clear he wasn't in the balloon, but whatever, we're moving on — to even more slippery ground.

"They should be buying Mattel," Grasso said. "People are still gonna be putting toys underneath their Christmas tree, or, on their Hanukkah table. Is that right?

"I don't know," Melissa Lee said.

"My partners are Jewish," Grasso said.

"So you're allowed to speculate?" Lee asked.

"I'm pretty sure you're gonna get gifts," Grasso said.

"You know, I grew up in Great Neck ... so, I know about Hanukkah. ... I've been to plenty of temples, I've been to plenty of services," Lee said.

After Joe Terranova did a pop & drop on casinos, Grasso asked, "Joe, do you know any Jewish people?"

"I know a lot of them," Terranova said.

"Just figure we'd cover the whole desk," Grasso said.

"This is too dangerous, we're moving on," Lee said.

Panelists regularly joked during the discourse, "there's another hundred e-mails." Honestly, we don't think it merits that, but if you're compelled, the address is fastmoney@cnbc.com

We get it — it’s great

Tim Seymour said a couple of interesting things about parent company of the CNBC network, General Electric.

"There should be no uncertainty about GE's health at this point," Seymour said. "There should be no uncertainty about how fantastic the company is, how much of it's an innovator, in terms of both technology, health care, you know, you name it, but the reality is, is they've talked this week, both about spinning off non-core assets, people look at GE Capital, their profits were down 87% or something like that, that's very painful to, to the overall cash-flow model that was so positive for GE, that was the dividend story."

What, exactly, is a "non-core" asset at General Electric? Or put another way, what is the "core" asset?

The core asset is either turbines, refrigerators, Jay Leno, ecomagination, Trish Regan or GE Capital. Karen Finerman has made the point that she's not interested in GE because it's not a pure play on anything.

As to the point it's a "fantastic" company ... do "fantastic" companies really trade around $16 a share? Shouldn't a company's shares have to be higher than they were 10 years ago (as opposed to half of) in order to be considered "fantastic"?

As always, we hold no positions in GE, and wish the best for the company, its employees and shareholders.

This is what happens
when earnings reports are rough

Remember a couple days ago when Melissa Lee said Domino's Pizza sent the "Fast Money" crew some pizza just before a CEO interview?

Lee noted Friday, "And they make subs, too. They sent them over."

Let us guess — they probably also included some 2-liter bottles of pop.

Meanwhile, the FTC is demanding that bloggers who review products disclose any compensation, gifts or freebies they might have received from the company whose product they are reviewing.

Dot, dot, dot ...

Pete Najarian talked about HGSI, still on a monster run, admitting he got in on the options Friday. "They're working on a lupus drug. ... People are talking about this being a monster, blockbuster-type drug," Najarian said.

Also, "I bought a little bit of Bank of America today," Pete said, "down near 17.15, right on the opening print." But he said GE was a little bit too slow of a story for him now.

"I do expect the bull to be back running next week," Steve Grasso said.

"I think this actually was a great week," Joe Terranova said, adding, "I think 3M, great diversified industrial name, I think that's a name you want to own."

Christopher Whalen, who is basically diametrically opposed on banks' outlook with Dick Bove, seemed offended that some people refer to Goldman Sachs as "best in breed."

"It's disgusting," Whalen said. "You don't wanna talk about Goldman and JPMorgan in the same breath because they're not the same business." Melissa Lee asked him what's becoming one of her worst cliches, "Can you connect the dots for us..."

Tavis McCourt, discussing Apple's earnings due Monday, said some tech names might be getting a little ahead of themselves. "In the near-term, I think there might be a little of a breather here in the tech rally," he said. "I think we're entering a different phase of the tech tape now, where there's gonna be some buy the rumor, sell the news. And I'd be buying on any dip. But I don't know that I'd be buying aggressively Monday into the quarter."

Lee referred to Mike Khouw as " 'Options Action' star."

Brent Ragans of Sanofi-Aventis came on the set with a new wrinkle, Sculptra, and told us something we didn't know: "Botox can last anywhere from three to six months."

[Thursday, October 15, 2009]

Gasparino: Ken Lewis wanted
to buy Merrill for $90 a share

Charles Gasparino on "Fast Money" Thursday offered an interesting tidbit on the Bank of Amerca/Merrill Lynch/Ken Lewis saga.

"I have an anecdote in my book where he was gonna pay $90 a share for Merrill in 2007. Uh, $90 in 2007, I mean, it's, it's crazy," Gasparino said. "And, you know, he really wanted this because he saw the value of this franchise, he clearly overpaid. But I'll tell you, this is a valuable franchise, and you've gotta give him some credit now."

Gasparino was also asked about the BAC succession plan, you know, the internal-outsider quandary thing.

"I still think they want this guy Brian Curl. That's who I think has the inside track," Gasparino said.

Except there is no "Brian Curl," for purposes of this conversation. The two internal front-runners are Brian Moynihan and Greg Curl.

Guess we'll have to wait for Chas' next "Fast Money" appearance for a clarification.

Adami trashes stock he owns

Guy Adami isn't a big fan of critics of Andrew Hall's pay package.

"Tim told you all you need to know about Citigroup," Adami said Thursday. "They got forced to sell PhiBro, I mean that's a joke frankly. I mean that's ridiculous, they should've paid Andy Hall his money, I mean the guy's gonna make $600 million for the bank, pay him what he's worth. Instead they have to sell PhiBro for a fraction of what it's worth. For that reason alone you get out of Citibank and let the government take over."

Excellent point. So why, then, is Adami still holding Citigroup shares when he's telling the audience to sell?

Adami's PhiBro outrage wasn't limited to one segment. Moments later, he said this:

"PhiBro was its own instrument. I mean, Citi — that was one of the most profitable organizations if not the most profitable organizations within the bank. The fact that they had to be forced to sell it is just unbelievable."

And finally, this:

"You know, if a guy like Andy Hall can make $600 million trading, his group, make 600 — pay him 100 million bucks. I mean that's fair. I mean you think I'm wrong? You're wrong. I mean, that man made a lot of money. If he lost it, he wasn't getting paid. You know, bottom line is, if you make money, you should get paid."

Adami's a smart guy. We agree with him. (This writer is long C.) But in this particular argument, he's a step behind the curve.

Adami expresses a common sentiment among educated and/or successful people — that the world should be run by logic, not emotion. In most ways, it is. The flaw in Adami's beef is the outrage that the world doesn't operate like that all the time. It doesn't. Get used to it. There are more important things to worry about. Probably 99.9% of American businesses are not being forced to sell their most profitable units this year. And probably 99.9% of CEOs do not have to skip a salary or pay back money they've made.

Adami says, "bottom line, if you make money, you should get paid." The bottom line in his PhiBro example is actually that society does not like it when people make what it perceives somehow as too much money, no matter how legally or logically. So you have regular joes condemning the likes of Bob Nardelli and Dick Grasso because of sentiments like "no one should make that much money." And you have cases like the government actually pursuing legal action to break up Microsoft in the late '90s and early 2000s. And you have Bill Gates pledging huge amounts to a foundation which very publicly gives money to poor school districts all over the place (while he still keeps enough to retain the "world's richest" title) and then Warren Buffett doing the same.

We did a lengthy review of Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" and noted the skepticism that many, apparently including Stone, feel toward the wealthy, that to get super-rich one must be doing something unethical, beating the system, not providing a public benefit. Stone is hardly alone in this view.

Tim Seymour clearly gets it. Seymour said the taxpayers are practically in charge of Citigroup and people in government prefer the Citi model resemble 1992. "They have a big voice, that's the reality here," he said, and of course he's right.

So Adami's outrage is problematic. If it's strictly philosophical, he should get some perspective. If it's because he's angry about the possible effect on Citi's stock performance, then he should sell the damn shares.

Dialing Zzzzzzs

Tim Seymour and Pete Najarian on Thursday once again had another Nokia discussion.

We don't know why. Does anyone besides Tim Seymour consider this an interesting stock?

As far as Wall Street buzz is concerned, there are three names that matter in the smartphone space.

Nokia is not one of them.

While Pete was skeptical as usual on NOK, Seymour did more waffling on the stock than Gary Kaminsky attempted yesterday with WMT.

"Two quarters in a row they've dropped a big doughnut on people," Seymour lamented, saying that being No. 1 in market share doesn't mean you can relax. Nevertheless, he thinks the stock is dropping back to a good entry point, and incredibly, "I would back up the truck at 12.50." (This writer has no position in NOK.)

FBR analyst Paul Miller, who seems like a good analyst but annoyed us way back in the spring by being wrong on WFC, gave what almost amounted to a seminar speech on BAC's outlook. And we had to hear the whole thing, because Melissa Lee never interrupted him. The juicy bottom line on BAC stock? "It probably trades flat here for the time being."

Well worth the wait.

In terms of CEO replacement, Miller said an internal candidate would be best, but there have been noises from Washington about opening up the process to outsiders. "The government's interfering here and I think that's gonna cause some problems," he said.

Joe Terranova, who a couple months ago was declaring that Amazon would go to $100 merely because it had reached $90, is now fully convinced. "Clearly Amazon is poised to go north of a hundred bucks now," he said.

Not an Andrew Hall vehicle

Art Hogan of Jefferies talked about his firm's fairly new ETF, the CBRQ, which holds not commodity futures but commodity-company stocks. According to Hogan, the fund owns 147 companies in 32 countries representing ownership of 70% of the world's privately held natural resources. Guy Adami asked if a commodities-based fund dealing in stocks and not futures is a "game-changer."

"It is a game-changer," Hogan said, adding that futures-based indexes involve a monthly change. "There's gonna be a certain cost every month to roll that over. So most indexes cost you 12% at least to just get in," he said.

According to this article at Seeking Alpha, the top holdings are Monsanto, ExxonMobil and Potash. It sounds like a fine fund; we're no experts here. Our sense is that while pros such as Dennis Gartman and Eric Bolling and Joe Terranova trade commodity names because they're experts, regular joes buy the stocks because they're high-beta ... and the CBRQ is probably just a lesser-beta way to do the commodity thing than owning, say, Petrobras outright.

Jeff Tomasulo suggests
short season on GS again

Jeff Tomasulo, after weeks or months away, resurfaced Thursday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report."

Later, he handled the "Fast Money Final Call," where he discussed Goldman Sachs and the banks' remarkable seven-month run with Simon Hobbs:

"Eventually when things go up, they come down," Tomasulo said.

"Are you brave enough to short at the moment?" Hobbs asked.

"Absolutely," Tomasulo said.

"What are you shorting?" Hobbs asked.

"As a short-term trader, I can play the price action," Tomasulo said. "Again, I shorted Goldman Sachs at 150, made a 10-point, uh, trade there, Goldman Sachs topping out at the 190s, those are some of the stocks that you can start to look at to short, but remember the way Goldman goes, that's where the market goes."

A "10-point trade."

The question is, which direction?

On Thursday, June 18, Tomasulo said he "saw resistance at 150" in GS and "I took half of our position off at 140 yesterday."

But then on Friday, July 10, a day GS closed at $141, Tomasulo said, "I'm still short Goldman Sachs, lookin' to cover at the 135 level." Only problem with that? It went up $8 the next trading day (courtesy of Meredith Whitney), then another $6 a couple days after, then $4, and never remotely approached the magic $135 level.

Keep in mind we have no idea what actual trades Tomasulo made. We just know what the price was when he spoke on the show. While it's fine to announce on TV that you once picked up a "10-point trade," how about also noting you obviously later got burned on the same strategy?

[Wednesday, October 14, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Buy WMT?
Um, yeah, maybe, if-then ...

Tim Seymour insisted that 10,000 was a "garbage" number and suggested as many on the show have that the Dow isn't even relevant anyway.

Regardless, Steve Grasso was one of many suggesting 10K is just a stepping stone despite previous market flattenings after reaching 5 Dow digits. "I definitely think that you know, past performance is not indicative of the future, so I do think that we go higher from here," Grasso said. "I think that there's gonna be a huge gap to close and I think we're gonna close higher the next, uh, couple of weeks."

Even Guy Adami, who referenced his breakup with Debbie Downer that frankly (Guy's favorite word) isn't much of a breakup at all, said the market is some kind of train you can't get in front of right now, a point echoed to some extent by Jon Najarian.

Gary Kaminsky, who for some reason is making multiple "Fast Money" appearances each week, was supposedly brought in to discuss Wal-Mart but mostly trumpeted what he suspects could be a boffo Christmas for retailers because "there's pent-up demand." Actually, we kind of agree with that. We've said many times we disagree royally with the likes of Steve Cortes, Patty Edwards, (perhaps) Mohamed El-Erian who claim there's a new American consumer in town who's not going to buy anything anymore. Yes, there's a slump, but inevitably Americans are going to the mall, and they're going to use the plastic and they're going to buy iPods and HDTVs and shoes and North Face jackets and Ralph Lauren shirts and Victoria's Secret um ... you get the picture. And in short order, they're going to start playing catch-up in car-buying too.

The idea of saving and sacrificing was thrown out on its butt — permanently, we think — when Jimmy Carter made a White House speech with a sweater on.

Anyway, pressed repeatedly by various panel members for a call, Kaminsky would only say that if Christmas is fantastic, "which is a possibility" (yawn), Wal-Mart will start to participate in the rally, but of course he didn't analyze whether this potentially great holiday season is already priced into the retail stocks. Steve Grasso said "the same money" that went into WMT is now going to Target and Kohl's, and that Kaminsky's "call" sounds like little more than a "definite maybe."

Tim Seymour critiqued Melissa Lee's point about bond-fund inflows vs. stock-fund inflows and the ultimate analysis wasn't much more than the typical "a lot of people have missed this rally and still have money on the sidelines and are still playing catch-up."

Guy Adami agreed with Steve Grasso that Meredith Whitney might be trying to play trader rather than analyst these days. However, Adami thinks Mighty Meredith could be right on GS. "Nobody ever went broke taking a profit," Adami cautioned.

Mark Mahaney said he continues to like Google but don't expect much of a pop after earnings. "I don't think you'll see much of a correction," he said. Guy Adami warned that GOOG has disappointed a couple times and when that happens the stock was immediately punished severely.

Tim Seymour was touting Barclays. We think Michelle Meyer alone is worth $10 a share. How many weeks is it again until the next jobs report?

Melissa Lee was cute-cute-cute not only in her pink sweater but during "Pops & Drops" when Tim Seymour spoke about casino gains while the camera remained on Melissa, who burst into laughter. Hearty fist bumps followed the segment.

[Tuesday, October 13, 2009]

FTC, have a slice

Domino's Pizza shares took a tumble Tuesday on the earnings report. To help assuage investors, it looks like CEO David Brandon ordered up a "Fast Money" special delivery — in more ways than one.

Host Melissa Lee noted "shares losing some 10% today," then announced, "With your earnings edge is Dave Brandon, the boss over at Domino's and of course a friend of "Fast Money.' Thank you Dave first of all for the pizza."

We didn't actually witness any 'za on the desk. Maybe we're extrapolating a bit here. But when someone says on-air "thank you for the pizza," it's probably safe to assume that a free pizza was delivered.

And isn't it helpful for a CEO defending his company's stock performance on a day it tumbles 10% to send some free pizza to the people about to interview him?

Doing so might get one labeled as "of course a friend of 'Fast Money'," not a bad endorsement. (CNBCfix wouldn't mind it, but, um, hasn't happened.)

More importantly, it might help avoid some potentially tough queries. Fortunately there were no embarrassments here, unlike the ridiculous victory lap that panelists such as Jeff Macke gave to Aubrey McClendon a few months ago for listening to two questions about his pay package they had all condemned on an earlier show and saying he can't comment because it's in litigation. Tuesday, Melissa Lee was a bit soft, admittedly. But Karen Finerman (who should be strongly considering doing this TV media thing full time even though we know she's a genius at making money and should probably keep doing that too) asked if the rampant "discounts" from Domino's have finally gone too far.

"Are you sort of ... teaching your customer that they should always look for a promotion, and is that jeopardizing your margin?" Karen asked.

"This category has always been known for wheeling and dealing," Brandon insisted. "This notion of 85% being sold on deal is not a new phenomenon, it's been the way it's always been." He added, "All in all we're feeling very good about the momentum we're building."

The thing about Karen's question, it's a bit late. Domino's customers have long realized that basically every day is a promotion. That pizza concept left the station in its Ford Escort with paint-fading Domino's sign decades ago. Basically you call Domino's when you're having a little party in the dorm or apartment or just don't feel like going out, and a price check isn't exactly the main topic of discussion. The real price volatility is determined by whether the driver quickly grabs your cash and accepts whatever your first offer of tip (if any) is, or stands patiently as though he's expecting you to cough up a little more.

MLee didn't ask K-Fine if she's ever had a Domino's Pizza. Just a guess, but we think the answer is probably yes, if only once.

Anyway, while the "Fast Money" crew (presumably in the "green room") was enjoying some fresh pepperoni from the CEO they were about to interview on national television, the Federal Trade Commission was in the midst of its policy change to require bloggers to disclose whether they're being paid or receiving gifts of some kind to review products.

Melissa Lee, by the way, we've noticed, has been reducing what's considered here to be an annoying habit (although it does persist), nodding immediately after asking the question but before the respondent has even begun to answer.


Dominoes made its/their way into other segments Tuesday as Brad Hintz insisted, despite what Meredith Whitney says, investors should still be clamoring for a slice of the Goldman Sachs pie.

"We have two dominoes — fixed income, followed by M&A and equity underwriting," Hintz said, rattling off a long list of reasons to buy GS when, as is always the case in any stock discussion, all that really matters is whether all the (potential) good news is already baked into the stock — or not.

"I actually bought Goldman Sachs today because I truly believe the numbers that you see in fixed income are going to be phenomenal," said Joe Terranova.

Guy Adami, who warned about a month ago with price around $159 that "we might've lost Goldman Sachs," wasn't so enthusiastic. "They have to absolutely crush I think for the stock to go to 200. The whisper number to me is north of five bucks. I don't think they get there," he said.

Noteworthy: When Whitney recommended GS on July 13, the stock jumped 5.3%. On her downgrade Tuesday, it fell 1.5%. (This writer has no position in GS.)

The world according to GARP

Melissa Lee introduced Louis Navellier as "the man whose picks and newsletters move markets."

Navellier said that based on his quantitative analysis formula, he's interested in AMZN, AAPL and FLR. One of the terms he used was "growth at a reasonable price."

Navellier & Associates, we discovered, is based in Reno, Nev. Navellier is described on his firm's Web site as "a charismatic figure with a reputation for solid leadership." What's interesting about that? The same text is found on Navellier's Wikipedia page, suggesting that, um, maybe the Wikipedia page is less of an independent description of a living person and more of a republished corporate bio, even though there's no colorful notices at the top of the page indicating this article might have objectivity problems.

Then we noticed something else about Navellier's Wiki page. Rarely edited according to its revision history, it was coincidentally updated on Monday, a day before Navellier appeared on "Fast Money." This sentence — which sounds a lot like a sales pitch — was added to the "Career" section: "In July of 2009 Navellier launched a hedge fund of funds called Navellier Select with a walk forward performance last year of 19.86%. It is an equally weighted fund that is non correlated to the stock market and an alternative investment strategy."

And oh yeah ... we also found that a user in August who according to Wikipedia has only made one Wikipedia entry ever removed a "Further Reading" section near the bottom of the page that had this headline from a 2006 MarketWatch column by Peter Brimelow: Louis Navellier's curious claims: Pitch for new newsletter subscribers raises questions."

And in July 2008, the page got an entire rewrite by a Wikipedia guru. It was actually tagged at one point, "This article is written like an advertisement."

Apparently, someone thinks so highly of Navellier that his public Wikipedia page should be corporate dictation boasting investment credentials, and not exactly, er, an objective article. Meanwhile, the FTC is demanding bloggers reveal what freebies they might've gotten for doing a review. (Just for kicks we checked to see if Dennis Gartman has a Wiki page and what might be on it; he does not have one, bravo.)

Navellier, by the way, has a bachelor's in business administration (1979) and an MBA in finance (1979) from Cal State-Hayward.

It’s on sale now

Normally a sentence such as this — "Declining currency and ballooning debt, will the status of the U.S. as a global superpower soon become challenged?" — might seem like grounds for a very alarming conversation.

The fact it was delivered rapid-fire off the script by Melissa Lee in a seriously time-compressed end-of-show "Fast Money" segment involving lots of giggling kind of makes one think the show isn't seriously ready to yank America's superpower status just yet.

Karabell made the most of his limited time with this summary of poli sci/investing arguments outlined in his new book, Superfusion:

"There is definitely a long-term desire on the part of China," Karabell said, "to detach from the United States. But right now there's no alternative to do so, and obviously they don't want the currency to devalue because that then devalues their holdings denominated in dollars. On the flip side of course, it does increase the degree to which China is a viable and vibrant market for U.S. goods, and that's been in my view the most misunderstood part of the China-U.S. relationship.

"What works in China as a trade are old economy U.S. companies," he added. "What does not work as a China trade are our new economy companies."

Looks like the show had another glitch from the Graphics Department. While Karabell spoke, the bottom of the screen read, "Karabell wrote on (sic) oped (sic) in today's NYTimes." In fact, we did multiple searches of the N.Y. Times Web site and found no op-ed, and also couldn't find it via Google tricks. We think they meant this op-ed Monday in the Wall Street Journal.

Chip shots

We learned Tuesday that Karen Finerman's first "Fast Money" recommendation was FLS. Speaking about health care stocks and the Olympia Snowe vote, K-Fine was unimpressed: "From here to the end are so many hurdles ... I really don't think anything that dramatic happened today."

Joe Terranova said he "actually added a little more gold today, added a little bit more crude." Jim Goldman gave Pete Najarian a hard time over referring to Intel CFO Stacy Smith as "he." We didn't hear Pete actually say anything wrong, so maybe it was off-camera when the pizza was being passed around. Whatever the case, it cracked up the panel.

[Monday, October 12, 2009]

Think how euro, yen feel

Sometimes, an offhand or perhaps borderline insensitive remark actually does lead to a "teachable moment."

Tim Seymour, in discussing the dollar on "Fast Money" on Monday, said this: "We've used this horrible term, which is that the dollar is probably the tallest of all these three global reserve currency midgets out there..."

Host Melissa Lee quickly explained, "No offense, uh, meant toward any midgets out there. 'Little people' is what they're known as these days. Not making any fun."

Seymour wasn't trying to make a joke. His comment at least was qualified and, while not a term probably anyone should use, tends to be heard occasionally on CNBC and other television and seen in business media, such as this July 2009 article by Forbes and this August 2008 article at realclearmarkets.com. We might've not given Seymour's reference even a passing thought.

But when a host starts hurling out the corrections/regrets/apologies/preemptive strikes/etc. as quickly as Lee did, it immediately makes a critic wonder ... how bad was this?

So we looked it up. According to this FAQ at the Little People of America Web site, "In some circles, a 'midget' is the term used for a proportionate dwarf. However, the term has fallen into disfavor and is considered offensive by most people of short stature. The term dates back to 1865, the height of the 'freak show' era, and was generally applied only to short-statured persons who were displayed for public amusement, which is why it is considered so unacceptable today. Such terms as dwarf, little person, LP, and person of short stature are all acceptable, but most people would rather be referred to by their name than by a label."

Now you know, and so do we.

In ’07, UBS had $900

"Fast Money" got a nice little appearance from Christa Quarles of Thomas Weisel, who upgraded her GOOG price target from $530 to $620. Despite appearing as though she were standing in the middle of the room, Quarles did well and made an adequate case for Google. "We were bolstered by Eric Schmidt's own commentary when he said that 'the worst is behind us'," she said, and "Android is becoming the anti-iPhone."

Tim Seymour as Tim Allen

Tim Seymour deviated from the game plan Monday to offer home improvement advice.

"Us white collar/blue collar guys will tell you that the Black & Decker drill is not the best drill out there," Seymour said. "It's the DeWalt drill."

Also (sort of) in the category of Dennis Gartman's "stuff that if you drop it on your foot, it hurts," Joe Terranova said Joy Global, trading around $50, is still a buy and "I think the stock gets to 60" despite gaining 100% in 2009.

"Fast Money" viewers are well aware of the panel's various consumer digs. Traders like to zing each other for taking cruises, dining at Red Lobster, shopping at The Buckle or Wal-Mart, etc. Guy Adami on Monday took aim at a certain profession. "Truckers, you know, I mean, I'm all for truckers," Adami said. "I like it when they, you know, do that (waves hand in trucker honk signal), I love that, that's fantastic, get in between them..."

Yeah, some of 'em are bad drivers, and there's a lot of congestion on the highways. But let's not rip on the knights of the road — if you ever have a little car trouble around midnight, they come in mighty handy.

That’s #99CCFF for you techies

Melissa Lee asked, "Are you a Dow theorist, Karen?"

"No, no," said Karen Finerman, "mainly because I really don't even know what that means. What actually is a Dow theorist anymore? ... It's one of a number of pieces of data that when you start to put them all together, do show a reasonable recovery."

Forget Dow theory — "wow" theory was the order of the day given Karen's extremely sharp-looking blue sweater that somewhat resembles the unofficial CNBCfix shade of blue seen in the upper right corner of this page.

Karen also said, "I'm the last guy holding Wal-Mart."

‘Doom’ to old media?

Likely the best thing about a humdrum "Halftime Report" on Monday was the striking new gray dress, with corresponding new glam hairstyle, of Melissa Lee. Nevertheless, Jon Najarian was a fountain of information. "I've got unusual activity in YRCW," he said, and on the rails, "I would be a buyer of CSX and NSC, I do own both of those stocks." On one of his favorite subjects, Windows 7, he said, "I don't think that that has been overplayed, I think it's actually been underplayed."

Zach Karabell for reasons we didn't quite understand asked Lee to be known as the "Doom Trader" to "fulfill a childhood desire of mine." On this show, the Doom Trader had his sights set on old media. "I do own Google," Karabell said. "Google is definitely doing something based on an advertising world and a spend world, and even if the U.S. economy is doing badly that spend can shift online and, and really eviscerate the old media and still help the new media stocks like Google."

"Google gets me nervous at these levels," Melissa Lee said.

Joe Terranova said, "I like oil to go above 75 here." Brian Stutland made us yawn with a VIX description which is always the result of any VIX description, but did offer an interesting bio nugget, he started trading the day before 9/11, and Enron options to boot. Greg Troccoli — and many "Halftime Report" special guests have fallen prey to this — was so slow on the draw, his S&P if-then proclamation was cut off by Melissa Lee for time.

[Friday, October 9, 2009]

MLee, a little help here

Karen Finerman and Tim Seymour occasionally spar over the inflation/deflation/interest rates/dollar/currency/commodity trade.

This lengthy exchange on Friday sort of left us confused — to the point we haven't the foggiest idea who's right, and about what.

It started with Seymour's curious two-way recommendation on copper names.

"A lot of these guys aren't cheap yet," Seymour said. "If you believe like JPMorgan that there's actually gonna be a supply constraint out about a year, then you wanna own these things now if you can hold on. If you cannot hold on, this stock is not cheap."

So ... buy it only if 1) you agree with JPMorgan and 2) you can "hold on." Otherwise, 3) sell. Got it.

Then came the analysis of Ben Bernanke's comments that gave the dollar a bit of a boost overnight. First Finerman said, "Bernanke's telling you, hopefully, I guess, I don't know ... his finger's on the trigger."

"No he's not," Seymour interjected.

Melissa Lee jumped in and insisted on showing the Bernanke clip before the debate could continue.

Bernanke was shown saying this: "When the economic outlook has improved sufficiently, we will be prepared to tighten the stance of monetary policy and eventually return our balance sheet to a more normal configuration."

Seymour thought it non-newsworthy. "But — my colleagues and I believe accommodative policies will be warranted for the foreseeable future, he's given you no reason to tell you they're gonna stop this. I, I think people totally overreacted to this, if you wanna know the truth; I think the, the palaver about the dollar this week was the most overrated, one of the overdone stories. The dollar finished the weak basically down 50 basis points. People have totally overreacted to this. The dollar's been on a five-year weakening run. This started in 2002 (sic). The dollar was weaker in March of 2008 before we even started all of this stimulus and accommodative policy. So, I, you know, people, one, I don't think they really know which part of the trade they're looking at, and two, the dollar has been revaluing against global currencies for five years. It will. It was overly strong against Asian currencies. It was overly strong against emerging markets. And I think it will continue to go that way."

While we tried to figure out how a "five-year run" could've started in 2002, Karen had a different question.

"But I don't understand Tim," she said, "how, to be really bullish on commodities around the world, and yet, bearish on the, the U.S., in terms of deflation, which is I guess what you're trying to say, or no?"

"Well I think the dollar's deflating," Seymour responded. "Um, but I don't think, I think there's a transfer of wealth, and I do think that people are revaluing and essentially diversifying into hard assets, so that's what's going on. I think U.S. assets are deflating, um, by the nature of the dollar. I don't think that's particularly scary for people that live in the United States that only deal in dollars. I think a lot of this is overdone. But I do think that we are seeing a long-term trend towards commodities being a currency of choice for many people."

Our (rather confused) take? Seymour does not believe the Fed is turning the spigot off anytime soon. If correct, that would presumably open the door to the inflation concerns of Finerman and others. But Finerman seems to think Seymour is suggesting deflation, not inflation, is the near-term likely result, a point Seymour didn't disagree with.

Or, you know, whatever.

Karen explained her Treasury thesis, short the TLT. "I do not like that TBT instrument. I don't like those, uh, negative 200 times. So, short the TLT is the same as short the long end of the Treasury curve," she said.

Then Seymour said, "But again — and, and this is exactly part of that short dollar trade that everybody's been talking about this week. Everybody's been talking about the TBT; lot of people are in that trade."

Seymour did agree with Guy Adami that Alcoa at the moment is not a buy, might even be a short. "At 14.50, this stock has run out of gas," Seymour said. Finerman congratulated Guy Adami on NTAP in a way we wish she would congratulate CNBCfix on its review of this show. "You've been all over that one, very nice call, very nice, very nice."

Jim Goldman, whose reporting we like even though he can be sympathetic to Apple and takes heat in the blogosphere, conducted an utterly uninteresting interview with HP honcho Todd Bradley.

[Thursday, October 8, 2009]

Work for Lloyd Blankfein

Jon Najarian played the "Bull Market or BS" game on Thursday, one of the few (if only) times someone has selected the "Bull Market" option.

HIs rationale was interesting, if unconventional.

"My airport metric continues to be very strong ... what I see at O'Hare Airport ... is that the parking lots are full. Which means business travelers are out there in droves. I mean, I hadn't seen this for a year and a half."

He also cited Google hiring, "then you've got Goldman Sachs, Bank America (sic), Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, all hiring right now."

We're not sure whether to buy his last argument, though, seeing bullishness in that "retailers cut prices this far out, ahead of Thanksgiving. That's not a sign that the holidays are bad, they just want to get the consumer into their store," Dr. J said.

The days of $300/ounce

Pete Najarian, who hasn't exactly been a big cheerleader of gold lately, was reaching back into the deep past to make a point about the volatility of gold.

"And what happens if it's limit-down. I mean, you know, that's the other issue that people don't bring up very often," Pete said.

Apparently, one reason people don't bring it up very often is because no one even knows what it is. Leave it to Karen Finerman to ask the right question.

"What is the limit-down in gold?" Finerman asked.

Najarian deferred to legendary gold trader Guy Adami, who revealed, "I haven't been down in the Comex for a long time so I don't even know if there is still a limit in the gold contract."

Moments later, Melissa Lee reported, "Our crack producing team tells me that there are no more limit-downs anymore on the Comex."

It was interesting to see the panel discuss something they didn't know or rehearse. We're kind of surprised none of them would know something like this. But we're not Comex pros either — if someone had asked us right before the show what a "limit-down" in gold was, we wouldn't have had the foggiest idea.

She’s third in line

Melissa Lee explained what a few choice comments from Nancy Pelosi did for certain-health care stocks.

"She said essentially, windfall profit tax still on the table, for all these guys, public option still on the table, in terms of the bill that she will submit," Lee said. "Karen, you actually played this rhetoric."

"I did, and, you know, rhetoric reaching a, just a cresendo today," said Karen Finerman. "And that to me is sort of a time, to all right, let's take a little shot here, only through options ... I don't know that she has any support for that at all, so I wouldn't be surprised to see somebody back off, or maybe it just sort of dies slowly. I think it's overdone. We are so far from the finish line in health care reform. There is no way that the rest of the path to the end doesn't show the tide switching the other way."

The hook? Karen said she is long WLP and UNH at-the-money calls in November.

Guy Adami agreed, and didn't sound like such a big fan of the speaker. "Nancy Pelosi, total loose cannon, easily somebody could come out tomorrow and say totally the opposite thing," Adami said.

Lee said she went to a Wal-Mart in Linden, N.J., not for pleasure, but for business.

Win, place & show?

In what has quickly emerged, for reasons that seem like "slow news day/week/month" to us, as the biggest developing story on Wall Street — who's going to be the next Bank of America CEO — Charles Gasparino provided another incremental update Thursday.

He now says the board is warming to choosing one of the internal candidates who a few days ago were deemed not quite ready for the job. "They would like to pick a permanent person among the insiders," Gasparino said.

Gasparino prepared a neat little chart that unfortunately was bungled by the "Fast Money" graphics team. It listed three candidates, like this:

Greg Curl: 1:2
Brian Moynihan: 1:3
Sallie Krawcheck: 1:10

The issue is with the colons between the numbers. We think — and we might be wrong — that at the track, a colon is regarded the same as a slash. In other words, while Gasparino said Curl has a 1 in 2 chance and Krawcheck only 1 in 10, this text makes it look as though Krawcheck might be a 1/10 shot — an overwhelming favorite.

Readers of recent Gasparino material, though, know otherwise. We have no clue what Krawcheck accomplished or didn't accomplish at Citi. But this is one of those points someone makes with such conviction (she was a "disaster"), you know it's probably right.

[Wednesday, October 7, 2009]

Ooh, we hear laughter in the rain

Guy Adami, refreshingly honest as always, tossed in the towel (yet again) on the autumn market.

"We said it, I've been saying it now for a while, I'm wrong, the tape wants to go higher, you can't fight it," Adami said Wednesday. "I think the day of reckoning is coming, but it doesn't matter what I think because everybody wants to buy the market right now."

Then, a musical update:

"Did you look up Neil Sedaka?" Adami asked Melissa Lee. "I know all the viewers did."

Adami might've had the overall market forecast wrong recently, but he's done a whale of a job on his Jefferies/Greenhill/Lazard trade. He's now suggesting Williams-Sonoma, "completely a short squeeze," could be a short idea.

Sounds so 2007

What happens if a rumor falls in the forest, and no one hears it?

Rick Santelli was wondering about Goldman Sachs, and turned to the "Fast Money" crew for help.

"There's another issue here guys," Santelli said. "I don't know the specifics. But there was some rumblings today that Goldman is now going to be back in line to be an investment bank. Can you guys clarify that for me? Did they move into the holding company? Are their days of being a regular bank over?"

"The stock would probably pop if that news came across the wire," suggested Melissa Lee.

We checked overnight, and didn't see any news articles on the subject.

Superfusion 101

Joe Terranova on Wednesday suggested maybe the Alcoa CEO doesn't quite get it.

"Klaus Kleinfeld had a great interview this afternoon with Maria on the 'Closing Bell,' " Terranova said. "And he gave credit to the stimulus plan. The problem is? He gave credit to the wrong stimulus plan. The stimulus plan he should be crediting is the Chinese stimulus plan because that is where the demand is coming."

"Although I think he did credit China, as a matter of fact. He did, he pointed out China, he talked about demand there," said Pete Najarian.

Who's right? Basically both. Kleinfeld first made reference to generic "stimulus," then later said "China is clearly back, and back very very strong, and pulling some of the Asian markets with them."

Right call

The only noteworthy material on the "Halftime Report" on Wednesday was our initial "yowza" upon seeing Melissa Lee in her new mod navy dress ... and then trying to determine if Danielle "Dani" Hughes was even more impressive in her leather jacket. We're choosing the diplomatic route, and calling it a tie.

[Tuesday, October 6, 2009]

‘I just saw Larry Kudlow’

We wondered like everyone what was going on with the "Power Lunch"-esque set for "Fast Money" at Englewood Cliffs. Melissa Lee explained there was some kind of midtown noise, etc.

One thing we realized? It really doesn't make an ounce of difference where the show is conducted.

Presumably the reason for doing the show in Times Square is to break up the monotony of daylong viewers (i.e., the folks who have it on at the trading floor or the office, not necessarily, gulp, us) having to look at the typical CNBC set. Plus, you get the added "benefit" of passersby gawking at the traders while they recommend FCX and AAPL, etc.

But after a while, the Times Square set comes to look as tired as anything at Englewood Cliffs, and one wonders why they continue to show those outside bystanders mugging for the cameras over the shoulder of the guest standing next to Pete Najarian.

Oh well, a little changeup is always a healthy thing.

Drudge rules

Apparently, we got scooped.

When we saw the dollar-oil story on news sites and Drudge overnight, we figured we'd seen this Mata Hari song and dance before and ignored it.

It turned into a bigger deal than we thought. But thankfully, the "Fast Money" crew reassured us that this is mostly the same old stuff — particularly Dennis Gartman.

"We've heard the story many many times before," Gartman said. "The interesting thing to me this morning was that it came out in the Independent, which is a pretty good newspaper. This wasn't- this isn't the uh, the New York Post, this isn't the London Sun. ... Have we heard this story before? We've heard it countless times. ... What was interesting to me however is that this time, it wasn't just Russia, it wasn't the Gulf states, but France was involved and Japan was involved. Everybody denied being at this meeting."

Well, the Post isn't perfect, but ouch.

Gartman made a medium-term dollar forecast. "Everybody and his brother is short the dollar. I don't think I've ever seen a trade this crowded in my life," he said. "I guess if you say where's the dollar gonna be in three days, my bet is it's probably a little bit stronger. If you ask me where ... the dollar's gonna be six months from now or a year from now, it's gonna be demonstrably lower."

Tim Seymour quibbled with one of Melissa Lee's charts that tracked the price of oil, inflation-adjusted, and found it far below the early 1980s. "The 30-year average of gold price is about 425. Adjust that for inflation, you're not, you're not at $2,000. ... In other words, I mean, I think it's a somewhat flawed analysis."

During a fairly uninteresting "Halftime Report," Patty Edwards offered this stunner about the day's market activity: "People are gonna think that this is a sign of armageddon, but yes, I'm buying."

Same story, different day

Charles Gasparino gave "Fast Money" an update Tuesday on the Bank of America succession race. In fact, the latest report reaffirms his initial story about Ken Lewis' departure last week — he said he views Brian Moynihan (as does everyone) and Greg Curl as the leading internal candidates, that Chad Gifford and Bill Boardman are viewed as the "outsider" caretaker contenders, and that Sallie Krawcheck really is just a longshot if that.

The 12:59 treat

One advantage to watching "Power Lunch" and other morning/early afternoon CNBC programming is that the CNBC.com "News Now" segments just before the top of the hour are often delivered by Courtney Reagan, very beautiful, who is otherwise not on the air very much at all.

She not only has a good newscasting voice. It's the way that, after "We're first in business worldwide," she pauses before concluding, "I'm Courtney Reagan."

[Monday, October 5, 2009]

Standing up for Jeff Macke

Jeff Macke is a very gifted television pundit. In June, he left "Fast Money," apparently in a dispute over a CNBC contract extension but also after an undeniably bad moment on-air with Dennis Kneale.

Such moments live forever in YouTube. That should not have been the capstone of Macke's impressive CNBC career. Ignoring it, other than a few nonspecific references in his Minyanville column, we don't think was the right move. We have no idea what legal/professional advice he received. We wonder why he couldn't have simply said, "I had a bad day, I regret that my performance was below my own standards," instead of leaving viewers to wonder what was going on.

Whether it would've preserved his presence on CNBC, we don't know. Other sites far more in the know speculated about his contract. We just know that his absence from CNBC is a loss for everyone. While highly educated, he is not nearly as good of a writer (he tends to ramble in stream-of-consciousness points) as he is a television pundit. His sense of humor is off the charts; he can ignite and light up the set in ways he doesn't approach on the keyboard.

So we were troubled recently to see some Web sites apparently speculating about Macke's investment success partly with outdated public information this site was aware of years ago. We learned about this only through Macke's own column at Minyanville, not just once, but on another occasion mentioning an alarming "L" word.

We're not going to mention any sites in question, though we noted one on our home page because it's evident Macke responded to that site.

CNBCfix continues to get many inquiries about Macke's CNBC departure and status. Perhaps this entry is more a reminder to us than our readers ... that even national TV celebrities, while public figures, are also regular people, with families and friends aware of what's being written about them on the Internet.

Friendly note to Minyanville: There is so much video, advertising, promotions, gunk, etc., on your site, that even using our fastest computers, we find it takes forever to open some of the articles.

The George Bush economy, out

Peter Schiff cracked us up with this warning about the cost of a certain large retailer's imported goods.

"Sell Wal-Mart," Schiff said on "Fast Money" Monday. "Pretty soon going into Wal-Mart is gonna be like going into Saks Fifth Avenue."

Schiff also offered a point made recently on "Fast Money" by Zach Karabell. "If you wanna make money as an investor, right now the name of the game is find out what the Chinese are gonna buy, and buy it first," Schiff said.

Schiff (is there any issue for CNBC about giving candidates air time?) remains as skeptical of America as ever. "The U.S. economy is not recovering from anything. It's actually getting sicker," he declared. "So it's not gonna be a W, it's not gonna be a V, it's not gonna be a U, it's nothing, there is no letter to describe it because there is no recovery. ... The market is rising as a consequence of inflation, nothing else."

For the umpteenth time, Schiff bristled at characterizations by Melissa Lee that he's some kind of permanent bear who always hates stocks. "I've been buying stocks for years," saying he owns Potash and Yara International.

At one point, Melissa Lee closed with a Jeff Macke-ism, "Trade the market you have."

Enjoy the party, while it lasts

Rick Santelli was handing out letter grades on America's economic performance on "Fast Money" on Monday.

"It's a liquidity rally," he told Melissa Lee. "And it's a liquidity rally in a very simple way. We're gonna make the dollar cheaper ... how can you be short stocks, and how can you not be nervous at some point on inflation, but the credit markets don't seem to be, which means that the recovery is probably gonna be like this, and I'm talking a C, a C-minus-type recovery."

"I was astounded," he added, "at that research Melissa read earlier, where they were looking for $1,500 gold but hundred-dollar oil. Come on guys, if we see $1,500 gold, it's gonna be $200 oil, isn't it?"

Guy Adami and Pete Najarian each mentioned Walter Energy among coal plays Monday. (For formalities, we need to note this writer is long WLT.)

The graphite play

Dennis Gartman pegged market direction to a "simple" chart of the Nasdaq on Monday on the "Fast Money Halftime Report."

"Very simple, nothing elegant," Gartman said. "It depends on the thickness of one's pencil if I'm allowed to say that on national television." He said it shows a "very well-defined trend line along the March lows ... this trend line has to hold, or the bull market has some difficulty." Gartman's forecast? "I have my doubts. ... It has to hold Friday's lows."

Then he cleared his throat in amusing fashion that cracked up the panel.

Chartology to a T

It's rare that CNBCfix would ever doubt the importance of one of Gartman's points. But we found ourselves agreeing with this rebuttal from Zach Karabell:

"On the pencil-must-hold discussion," Karabell said, "if charts were so easy to read, we'd all be rich. The fundamentals in tech remain incredibly strong. ... There's a lot there to be in, irrespective of whether or not you've got a 200-day moving average that looks nice on a chart."

Karabell also zinged the tiresome recovery-shape talk often heard on CNBC, often fueled by the likes of Nouriel Roubini. "You know, I think uh, the letter alphabet soup of what the recovery's gonna look like, U, V, W, A, B, who knows, is, is an interesting parlor game but has very little to do with how stocks ought to be trading."

"That's a terrific point," concurred Mike Khouw, who we like to see bringing more mojo to the airwaves.

Yes, it's a TV show, but one can learn a lot from "Fast Money." CNBCfix never realized, until watching the show, how seemingly every pro investor (despite what some of them say) is immersed in charts — or at least at a minimum, conscious of the chart. Recommendation after recommendation is qualified with "resistance level" or "support level" or "trend line" or "double top" or "head and shoulders" or "parabolic move" or plain English such as "it's gotten ahead of itself" or "it's run too far too fast."

Without question the pros know far more about this than CNBCfix. Where we weigh in is the logic: It's using select snippets of past performance to predict future performance. And with the volume of financial instruments traded worldwide, there is seemingly every moment an index or indicator approaching another "key level." Gartman might be right about tech, but if the dollar sinks at the same time, the commodities bull market is likely very much intact.

CNBCfix has spent a great deal of time recently pondering Karabell's opinions. His book Superfusion is out next week. Our comprehensive review is right here.

Jon Najarian at one point referred to Melissa Lee as "Mel," a common nickname for her on the show. For those wondering, he also sometimes calls her "MLee," not "Emily."

[Friday, October 2, 2009]

Another guy with a book

It's refreshing that more than one person on CNBC has a book coming out.

Zachary Karabell, author of the forthcoming Superfusion: How China and America Became One Economy and Why the World's Prosperity Depends on it, discussed Rio de Janeiro's victory Friday at the International Olympic Committee's 2016 powwow.

CNBCfix's comprehensive review of Superfusion can be seen right here.

Karabell, on "Fast Money" Friday, said that even though Superfusion is about China, there are similar trades to be had in Brazil, particularly on the heels of the IOC decision. "This is the bossa nova trade," he said, singling out well-known names VALE and PBR. (We also discovered that "bossa nova" literally means "new trend.") He added, "The reason to look at this is to remind you of where Brazil is already making a real contribution in its companies, which has to do with its supplying of raw materials to the industrial economics of the world including itself." He said some of these companies are "in play into a global system that they are fueling." Less expected, he offered ADM as a trade on "the food play."

Brazil watcher Tim Seymour cautioned against diving into the EWZ solely on the IOC decision. "We're six years away from this," he said. "This is huge ... (but) literally Brazil needs to build out their infrastructure though. They are not ready for this."

Karen Finerman joked of Karabell's lengthy book title, "Why don't you call it The Sellout?" Karabell responded that it's the "publisher's title."

Karabell closed with one of his better zingers, recommending AmBev: "That obviously is fueling in a different way all those crowds." And, he got a high-five at the end from Pete Najarian, something we wish we got after every one of our "Fast Money" reviews.

More Labor Dept. data, please

Generally, discussions of the monthly jobs report are some of the most uninteresting on "Fast Money."

But not when they include The World's Cutest Economist, Michelle Meyer of Barclays.

Part of her appeal is her formal presentation, hands clasped and eloquent commentary, of course looking great in a white jacket.

And she was seeing silver linings in the clouds Friday.

"Not a good report, but it doesn't change our overall outlook," Meyer said. "I think cash for clunkers is certainly distorting some of the data. ... (But) you're seeing improvement even outside of the auto sector ... so I don't think it's fair to say that it's just policy-based and it'll reverse. I think that you're seeing fundamental strength, you're seeing the beginning signs of recovery and I think it should continue."

After you, Mr. Lewis

And you thought Meredith Whitney was Debbie Downer on Friday.

Chris Whalen sounded maybe a bit overcaffeinated in regards to BAC.

Whalen complained to the "Fast Money" crew, "When do you allow your CEO to resign when you don't have a successor in place — this is extraordinary."

Fair enough. Then there was this: "The good news is the recession's over, right? The bad news is the depression is about to begin."

Karen Finerman asked Whalen who is the right person for the BAC job. Whalen said, "Someone with heavy restructuring experience." He should've said "Karen Finerman."

Karen’s português Trade School

Karen Finerman on Friday suggested that "dinero rápido" qualified as the Portuguese translation for "Fast Money." Actually, according to what we found on the Internet, the correct translation would be "fastidioso dinheiro."

[Thursday, October 1, 2009]

First to go: ‘Slow Money’

Rich Greenfield, a superstar media analyst from Pali Capital, said something Thursday we found disheartening.

Melissa Lee asked him what NBC Universal would get if it is purchased by Comcast.

"Cost-cutting, probably," Greenfield said.

He is probably correct.

The last thing the world needs is more cuts to a news media entity. If it's prime time NBC programming, how much cheaper can you get than shows like "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here"?

CNBCfix is aware of many various people who subscribe(d) to Comcast in various locations. The reviews are extraordinarily mixed. Some claim tremendous service and satisfaction; others can't stand it.

"I don't know whether this specific deal happens," Greenfield added. "But it certainly is very interesting for Comcast to finally get the scale they've been craving since they failed to get Disney."

Dollar general

Steve Cortes returned as a guest, able to trumpet the day's big drop in FXI. Fair enough.

What we found noteworthy was this series of comments:

"Wall Street has been beating the drum of inflation lately," Cortes said. "And uh, if you read Wall Street research, uh, watch your channel, you would think that we were headed into a spiral of hyper-inflation. Uh, but I think that those fears are extremely misplaced. And because of that, I do believe that into the fourth quarter, both the dollar and bonds are going to do very well."

Cortes knows far more about drumbeats on Wall Street than we do. No contest. Nevertheless, we heard and read far more hyper-inflation talk back in March and April than in the last couple of months.

Karen Finerman regularly promoted TBT months ago and has barely spoken of it in the last few months (certainly in part because the scenario hasn't happened). She pointed out in Thursday's show that she disagreed with Cortes, who likes TLT.

Anyway, despite a spate of poor picks, we wish Cortes luck. He needs to get the groove back. It's a great country; you can make any trade you want. (Just be sure to have an exit strategy, and trade the market you've got, not the market you want.)

We did, however, detect a theme between what Cortes said and what Carter Worth said. Worth conceded he'd had a year-end target of 975-1,000 for the S&P. Both sounded too eager for the market to start proving their thesis.

This was Worth's argument, citing the S&P 500 level:

"We are just now back to 04. And we have a huge move in 03. And then we stalled out in 04. And we think that's exactly what's coming now," he said.

Call us skeptical, but that sounds astoundingly unsophisticated. Somehow the market of fall 2009 is going to trade just like the market of 2004 because the S&P 500 is around the same level. Why not go back to summer of 1998?

Worth singled out GFIG. "We think it's going to 10," he said.

Sallie Krawcheck losing ground

Charles Gasparino (did you know he has a book coming out in November called The Sellout?) picked up (er, maybe "repeated" is the right term) his points from yesterday about the BofA succession plan. Gasparino suggested that the six internal candidates aren't being deemed impressive enough for the job, and that board member Chad Gifford might be the front-runner to take the CEO post for a year or so. See below for how well Gifford has been doing courtesy of BofA in retirement.

Karen Finerman said it's not good for BofA to be uncertain on a CEO and considering a short-term caretaker.

Gasparino disagreed that's a problem.

"It's not that easy to get someone good for this job. This is a tough job," he said.

"I think that is too long to wait," Finerman said. "Yesterday could not have been the first time that idea (of succession) came up."

Gasparino joked that Guy Adami or Pete Najarian ("he'll kick some real ass") could run the company.

Which got us thinking again about our point from yesterday.

Gasparino is certainly correct, running BofA is a tough job.

Running the country — and U.S. military — is also a big job. The person we chose was not a 66-year-old retired government official, but a 47-year-old senator with three years in office who had never previously run anything of significant size in his life. His opponent, in fact, was a longtime government insider, as was his running mate.

Maybe Gifford is a dynamite choice for CEO — or maybe the standards being considered by the Bank of America board are, as Karen Finerman would say, downright ridiculous.

Guy Adami saluted Steve Cortes with another Neil Young reference, to "Cortez the Killer." And you know Adami is just pining for a tumble in the GLD, when he can discuss "After the Gold Rush."

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