[CNBCfix Fast Money Review archive, September 2009]
[Wednesday, September 30, 2009]

CNBCfix tip for Bank of America:
Put Finerman on the short list

Karen Finerman offered some thoughts Wednesday on "Fast Money" as to who could be the next Bank of America CEO.

She left out one name:


That might sound farfetched. It's not.

Not at all.

Karen, per disclosure, has owned Bank of America shares for a long time and has regularly commented on the company's balance sheet and loan-loss provisions. A relentless financial-statement examiner, she would undoubtedly hold her own with analysts and fellow investors in a roundtable discussion about BAC's strengths, weaknesses, structure and business model.

That would get her foot in the door, along with probably a couple hundred people.

Then there is her almost unfathomable success as a money manager. Many viewers interested in Karen have found this lengthy 2007 profile in the Guardian online. We won't list the numbers here. We'll just say that Guardian's terminology of "one of the world's most successful women" is probably an understatement.

The future is looking brighter for Bank of America. But trouble and controversy linger. CEOs of major banks are public figures, often required to make appearances on television and in front of Congress. Credibility, competency and conscience are a must. A huge amount of jobs and taxpayer confidence are on the line. An outsider would be a tremendous change for BAC — particularly an extraordinarily accomplished outsider extremely comfortable articulating a point on-camera.

With two years of live practice on "Fast Money," Finerman has likely mastered the art of television. Unlike most hedge fund giants, she has willingly made herself a public figure, offering stock and market recommendations standing up to scrutiny and criticisms from sites such as this one. She is an outspoken critic of business excess and champion of corporate values, including sound, realistic CEO pay packages that adequately reward performance, not greed. It is said "the TV camera never lies." It only takes about five minutes of watching Finerman to realize, if, say, CNBCfix were a company, we wouldn't just be comfortable with Finerman running it, we'd be clamoring for that.

So here is a prominent individual, phenomenally skilled at making money, representing the highest standards of corporate ethics, and extremely effective on television. And this person wouldn't be on the short list because...?

Now, would she even want the job? We have no idea. A lot of demands, a lot of travel. It sounds like she's got a pretty good gig already. But if you're the BAC board, you don't wait and hope for good candidates to come to you, you go out and look for them.

Asked by Melissa Lee on Wednesday who might succeed Ken Lewis, Finerman said, "I think maybe ... maybe, what about somebody from the outside, I don't know if that's a possibility at all," then mentioned Sallie Krawcheck but said she doesn't think Krawcheck has been around long enough.

"You know, I think that's pretty interesting," said Charles Gasparino, who broke all of this news with an impressive "Fast Money" scoop. "Two names that I heard that may get it are board members. A guy named Bill Boardman ... (and) I think the sort of inside candidate that I'm now hearing is a guy named Chad Gifford, um, who was the CEO of Bank of Boston."

Gifford sure sounds like a taxpayer favorite. According to this story, BofA pays him $947,682 so he can use a chartered jet — even though he's retired.

Gasparino offered a list of six core names, including Krawcheck, Brian Moynihan, Joe Price, Thomas Montag, Barbara DeSoer and Greg Curl. He said Moynihan and Curl would be two favorites.

Dick Bove said "Sallie Krawcheck isn't in running in any way, shape or form." Bove called Lewis a "phenomenally good CEO" whose departure is a blow for BAC and an unjust ending for a great executive. "I would assume that Brian Moynihan would be in the lead," Bove said.

The list shouldn't end in the BAC board room. Shortly after Gasparino broke the news of Lewis' retirement, we found ourselves pointing at the TV screen, saying, "There's your next CEO."

If Finerman is not on the search committee's short list, that is a massive mistake.

One has to wonder why, on a day with such breaking news that also included GM's Saturn division, "Fast Money" gave Tony Crescenzi any air time. If anyone absorbed his answers, please let us know. Crescenzi obviously woke up on the wrong side of bed, first bristling at Melissa Lee's question about the 4% mark on the 30-year, then, asked a perfectly sensible question by Karen Finerman as to whether the bond market is signaling an economic direction or vice versa, Crescenzi implied it was an illogical question, somehow calling it "circular reasoning."

[Tuesday, September 29, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Najarian
maybe needs a little decaf

Karen Finerman probably spoke for many people Tuesday in discussing the Consumer Confidence Index.

Consumer Confidence "to me is, of all the economic data that we see, is actually the least interesting because it doesn't tell you anything about purchases, it doesn't tell you anything about orders, inventories, anything like that."

Not only did CNBCfix agree — it suddenly realized it had no idea what the Consumer Confidence number even measures.

And presumably, neither do many of you.

So, we turn to our friends at Wikipedia for help. (Wikipedia is semi-controversial, but useful in cases like these.)

The CCI was started in 1967 (because it was neither a peak nor trough year) and is benchmarked to 1985=100.

The number is issued by the Conference Board, an insider business organization if ever there was one, started in 1916. Jon Spector, previously vice dean at Wharton, is CEO; Gail Fosler is president, and Bart van Ark is chief economist.

Each month, the Board asks 5,000 households about five subjects: current business conditions, business conditions for the next six months, current employment conditions, employment conditions for the next six months, and total family income for the next six months. Respondents answer "positive," "negative" or "neutral." Then a series of relative value calculations are performed for each subject. The number is released at 10 a.m. Eastern on the last Tuesday of each month.

The index fell to 53.1 in September from 54.5 in August.

So there you (and we) go. Happy trading.

Some things just aren't made for live TV. The Starbucks Via taste test taken by Pete Najarian Tuesday would be one of them.

The teasers were enough to tell us what was going on, but the description as Pete started drinking had us wondering, "what the heck are they doing again?"

Even though Melissa Lee stressed the two coffees were the same temperature, Pete indicated the first one was too hot and not something he recognized and not something he found particularly appealing, so it must be the Via. The second offering he thought was fine. Turns out the second offering was the Via.

A skeptic might think someone overheated the regular stuff to steer Pete toward the Via. Nah, not us.

So an endorsement for Via ... and a bit of a takedown for the regular bread-and-butter Starbucks product Pete tried first.

Lee eventually asked the question that matters, "Is this a reason to buy Starbucks?" We don't think there was an official answer, but the truth is likely "no." Pete, ever the good sport, managed to make something out of this broken play (including finally ditching that $700-plus Nokia phone) like he no doubt made happen so many times on the gridiron.

Melissa Lee was celebrating Halloween — a month early — and her orange jacket was a wicked little complement to yesterday's stunning black ensemble. The problem is she didn't exactly bring her A game Tuesday, and the fist-bump factor was minimal (which tends to happen when Guy Adami isn't around).

Most notably, there was a session with Gary Kaminsky in which Gary was allowed to unload a speech that might've been considered even too dull for the AICPA chapter monthly meeting.

It was something about fund managers thinking it's non-index but it's really pseudo index and fear of not owning stocks or fear of holding cash, etc., yada, yawn. Actually, it did seem like there was some valid light at the end of this tunnel, as Kaminsky eventually singled out VMC and STI as "quality names" that might be due. But is this a reason to buy Starbucks? Probably not.

Greg Troccoli often is capable of delivering useful technical info, but Tuesday it was a mixed bag, to say the least. The technicals supposedly look good and signal bull, but nevertheless he's taken a small bearish position based on the reversal of last week. So the market might go up, or it might go down. It's "all systems go," Troccoli said, but then again, last week could've been an "inflection point."

Karen Finerman, boldly sleeveless as the crisp autumn weather descends on Manhattan, says "I have" when challenged if she's ever been to Red Lobster. We like it best when Karen discusses the Dress Barn. MLee says in her apparently regular trips to Saks, "everything is on sale."

Jon Najarian appears to be one-up on Joe Terranova in the RIMM "bloodbath" debate (if there even is a debate).

We shouldn't let "Fast Money" male fashion go unnoticed either. Pete Najarian had a really sharp shirt going, although it didn't seem quite right coupled with flip-flops, while Joe Terranova was practicing the Gordon Gekko look with shirt and slacks (though probably not tie).

We normally like quoting Steve Grasso and hearing his insight into floor activity. This comment on "Power Lunch" wasn't one of our favorites: "Who is still gonna buy a newspaper though. I still, I still battle that. I mean, I think you have to use that as an opportunity to sell anything. It's the, the Kindle days are coming, the newspaper days are over. ... Sorry, there's not enough people who love the smell and the ink on their fingers."

The smell?

[Monday, September 28, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Is fallen
RIMM still headed for ‘bloodbath’?

Jon Najarian and Dennis Gartman both see a lot of significance in Sept. 30.

Najarian says the end of the quarter is a good time to buy a top underperformer such as RIMM — something he's been doing.

"I had a 1-by-2, uh, spread, I bought 65, sold the 70," he said Monday. "But, to Joe's point, at the end of the quarter, what happens. They look at what the outperformers were in the quarter, just like they do at the end of the year. And they trade out of those and they look for what were the underperformers, and they buy those. What's gonna be the biggest underperformer out there folks? RIMM. So that's why I'm buying RIMM, I'm an Oklahoma Sooner though, I'm early, unfortunately, but I am buying, and I will buy more if it gets to Guy's number, and I suspect it will. I think it will get to $65.

But Gartman suggested on "Fast Money" that caution is the order of the day come Oct. 1.

"Awful lot of hedge fund managers have not gotten paid for a long period of time. Finally are," he said. "Guess what. They're gonna try to push this thing to close on Sept. 30 as high as it can go. After that I have my doubts and it bothers me that this entire rally has been taken, has gone higher as volume has dwindled downward lower."

Najarian seemed the only one impressed with RIMM. "It's interesting that RIMM had a ... lousy ... day" on such a good day for the market, said Guy Adami. "I think it's right at its 200-day moving average today, pretty much," said Melissa Lee. "Guy brings up a good point because if you think about it, RIMM today was awful in a good tape. What is RIMM gonna look like if you get the tape that actually rolls over in the next couple of days, it could be a bloodbath," said Joe Terranova.

Steve Grasso said folks who got seriously burned with Nokia (he didn't say when, but we assume he meant early in the decade) are afraid of the same thing happening with RIMM.

Gartman didn't weigh in on RIMM, but did say he remains long of one phone maker. "I'm short of auto parts," he said. "I'm spending more time trading currencies and trading gold against other currencies. Uh, and the only other thing I'm aggressively long of and have been for a while, is Apple, and I'm a little bit afraid of being that way."

Biotech expert Geoff Porges of Sanford Bernstein came on and was accorded sort of a victory lap by Melissa Lee for his call on what turned out to be the Crucell deal. Porges adequately described the sector but proceeded to rattle off a bunch of potential takeover candidates without a whole lot of conviction. Guy Adami asked if Tamiflu was a "sucker's play" for Gilead. "I think people don't really understand how big Tamiflu is gonna be, have to say," Porges said. "It's gonna be a big boost for Gilead's earnings. That being said, it's not recurring, so you're not gonna get a multiple on it."

Citigroup's Kate McShane, who happens to be very pretty if it's OK to say that, made the bullish case for Nike. "Average selling prices are up" in the U.S., she said. "What Nike has specifically going for them is market share." Globally, she added, "The Chinese consumer is a very important consumer for Nike, and the Nike brand resonates very well." She said Nike sponsors the top three most popular basketball players in China.

Melissa Lee was all smiles, beaming at times, as she should've been given her choice of dazzling black outfit and new hairstyle. Hearty fist-bumps all around. She even poked fun at Steve Grasso and Jon Najarian's description of GE's potential. "I think the mistake is buying a name that's already up 43% this quarter," she said. "Ho ho! I love when you do stuff like that. That's great," bellowed Guy Adami.

Jon Najarian used some kind of egg analogy to explain Starbucks' surge. To be completely honest, it didn't really make any sense.

[Friday, September 25, 2009]

Someone else is talking
about shorting Goldman

The "Fast Money" crew was remarkably subdued Friday, but if you thought they sounded flat, you should've watched the entire half-hour of President Obama's news conference.

So on a day when the highlight by far was Karen Finerman's triple-hoop earrings, it was Joe Terranova who made waves with one point that was jaw-droppingly obvious, and another point that was just jaw-dropping.

"This report is a game-changer for RIMM," Terranova said, as the ticker on the bottom of the screen showed (red) $14 or so.

Ya think?

He even went so far as to suggest it might no longer be on the "hedge fund VIP list."

Then, he actually offered a couple of "reference points," just in case "you wanna get short Goldman Sachs."


It's a little like shorting Tiger Woods, but be our guest. Jeff Tomasulo announced this trade a couple months ago and was practically mocked off the screen by Dennis Gartman. (In fact, maybe he was mocked off the screen by Dennis Gartman because we've barely heard from him since.)

Greg Troccoli used a term we love to harp on here, and no it wouldn't be "Debbie Downer" or "so much money sitting on the sidelines" or "Saudi Arabia of coal" (the latter was heard from the host a day or two ago).

Troccoli said, "Even a 20% correction I think is healthy."

"Healthy" ... for what? If it somehow means "healthy" in that the market will eventually be higher, that seems rather paradoxical. We want it to go up, but when it goes up it's somehow "unhealthy" and thus going down is "healthy."

Kinda like that old Vietnam cliche, about how we needed to destroy the village in order to save it.

"Healthy," it strikes us, is another bogus Wall Street euphemism that really just means "short-term."

Guy Adami conceded Friday's selloff wasn't as severe as maybe he thought it should be, but nevertheless cited it as evidence that "overall, we're headed down." K-Fine agreed with the first part, that the market did better Friday than people expected. Steve Grasso said it still looks to him like "near-term, higher," with 1,200 within sights.

She had a new wavy hairdo and a sharp blue outfit. But evidently Melissa Lee didn't think that was good enough, using some of the day's scarce air time to make speech-like comments on a show with virtually no banter and uninspiring fist-bumps. Unfortunately she also reverted to one of her worst habits, which is to begin nodding after asking guests questions before the guests have even started to answer.

She did, to her credit, toss out some interesting data on the Washington Nationals. The truth is that the Nationals probably shouldn't be in D.C., but that's a whole other essay.

Steve Grasso, overrating the pop-culture-phenomenon potential of this particular day's show, was making a very uninteresting point about REITS before declaring, "I would probably expose myself there," then immediately announced he would regret saying it and that it would be good YouTube fodder.

Doubt it.

But if you're underestimating Grasso's gift for a perfectly timed ad lib, know that CNBCfix might've given its left arm for the opportunity he took two weeks ago to suggest to Michelle Caruso-Cabrera after the president's Wall Street speech that traders were only booing because she hadn't come down to the floor.

President Obama by the way, after a couple of years running for president and insisting the war in Afghanistan necessitates escalation, told a questioner at his G-20 press conference that he is "asking some very tough questions" of the generals in charge.

[Thursday, September 24, 2009]

Steve Cortes: The ultimate

Every so often — and we don't really want to dredge up the past here and embarrass anyone lest someone starts analyzing CNBCfix stock picks — one of the highly educated, highly accomplished "Fast Money" traders says something so astoundingly inaccurate or contradictory, you convince yourself the person must've unknowingly misspoke.

Until you rewind the tape, listen a couple more times, and realize what you heard apparently was what the person intended to say all along.

Thursday's case in point was delivered by Steve Cortes. Cortes is a good pundit. The show needs a few more regulars with macro views. We don't believe his summerlong thesis. But one reason it's a great country, you can do, as Jeff Macke says, any trade you want.

Cortes' train wreck Thursday went this way:

"Everybody's very focused on the U.S. market, which has had a very bad day and a half," he said. "Well FXI has had a very poor seven weeks. I think the momentum is-"

Melissa Lee cut in, then asked: "Now Steve as I recall, if my memory serves me right, you've been on this program a couple months back saying to short the FXI or get out of it. Has that been a trade that has always worked in your favor since then, since you first came on our program and recommended that?"

"You know it's really gone nowhere since then. We're basically at the same spot as we were at the beginning of August, uh, in terms of the FXI."

Let's try and figure this one out.

He launched into his trade thesis proclaiming "FXI has had a very poor seven weeks" and was about to discuss "momentum."

Moments later, he said the FXI is "basically at the same spot as we were at the beginning of August" — which was about seven weeks ago.

Turns out, according to Yahoo Finance, Cortes' Door No. 2 is actually the correct choice. The FXI is trading around the "same spot" as early August. It ended July at $41.86. Thursday, it closed at $41.20.

If you go back exactly seven weeks, you arrive at Aug. 6, when the FXI closed at $41.99. Hardly any different than Thursday.

So why on earth would he say it's had a "very poor seven weeks"?

We ginned up one possible excuse. Maybe he meant to say "days," not "weeks." A week ago, it closed at $43.56. A bit of a downer since then, but a 5.4% drop in a week is hardly the end of the world or what most people would consider "very poor."

But really defeating that notion is that Cortes stressed the word "weeks" when initially comparing it to the "day and a half" of U.S. stock market setbacks.

Digging deeper ... Lee said this was a trade from early August. We looked back in our archives and don't have any record of Cortes recommending a short-FXI trade in early August. Important caveat: Cortes might have said this on a "Fast Money Halftime Report" that we might've missed (that sub-show is a gremlin around here, we sort of think we have to watch it and sort of think we don't) or during a "Fast Money Final Call" segment. It's also (remotely) possible he did indeed make this recommendation on the real show, and we somehow omitted it. ("Difficult. Not impossible" to believe, as Rocco would say.)

So what do we have on the record for Cortes?

He was on "Fast Money" on Aug. 27 and predicted the SPY and TLT "will meet in price ... probably just below $100." The SPY was at $102.91 then, $105.01 now. The TLT was $96.07 then, $96.75 now.

On Aug. 26, Cortes declared the "leaders of the bulls army have been shot."

On Aug. 25, Cortes suggested shorting travel names, specifically WYNN, LVS and AMR.

WYNN was $58.02 then, $69.56 now. LVS was $14.42 then, $17.40 now. AMR was $5.69 then, $7.74 now.

What is this guy, the Detroit Lions of "Fast Money"?

On Aug. 24, Cortes said, "I am short the Nasdaq against the S&P."

S&P since then is up 1.9%. The Nasdaq composite is up 4.4%; the Nasdaq 100 is up 4.6%.

On Aug. 18, Cortes recommended WMT; "time for Wal-Mart to reverse from laggard to leader."

WMT was $51.36 then, $50.70 on Thursday.

On July 9, Cortes said this: "We think emerging markets are dangerous here. Major caution flag right now, and that is the price action in commodities. ... We think this is a very dangerous sign for the emerging market trade. ... There is also a simpler way to play it, which is simply to short Brazil."

Tim Seymour disagreed, so Cortes took it even a step further: "I think I'd rather have a Brazilian wax than own Brazilian shares right here, uh, it's a dangerous spot."

Um, that day the EWZ closed at $49.62.

Thursday, the EWZ closed at $64.67.

(Sigh) This is a little disheartening. Back to the original problem, Thursday's FXI fiasco.

We guess Cortes must've just misspoke. But is it also possible that Cortes was asked to appear on the show ... agreed ... floated an investing thesis ... and somehow had no idea what he was talking about?

Cortes' segment, by the way, was billed as a "Street Fight" with Seymour over China. If so, it was the equivalent of the Clubber Lang-Rocky matchup — the first one, with, you know, Mick dyin', "C'mon, Creed!," etc.

A different kind of "Fast Money" theme resurfaced Thursday — the redundant trade. First Carlos Gutierrez, who resembles Cesar Romero (if you've never heard of Romero, he played the Joker in the original "Batman") spoke (about three or four times) of "the imbalance" of global trade, as though every country should have exactly the same percent/amount of exports, imports, raw materials, etc., and how nations (yada yada yada) are gonna try to iron this out, etc., and then Charles Gasparino for no reason we can possibly fathom reappeared to discuss (for about the seventh time on "Fast Money") the job security of Vikram Pandit and oh yes, remind you that The Sellout comes out in November, as though you hadn't heard that before.

Of very minor note: Gutierrez might be at odds with some (like Steve Cortes, but, um, maybe that's a good thing) after answering Karen Finerman's question about the validity of Chinese data with "I have no evidence to suggest that they fudge their numbers."

OK. No doubt some readers of this page couldn't care less about Steve Cortes or The Sellout or Guy Adami's "I told you so" redux on RIMM's after-hours horror story and just wanted to know what we thought about Melissa Lee's snug, curvy purple top and return to glasses Thursday. Well, we made you read the whole day's commentary, a successful teaser. We even got some nighttime inquiries about Melissa Lee's glasses. (By the way, we occasionally still get the "Why does Jon Najarian call Melissa Lee 'Emily' " query, and as always, the reason is that "Fast Money" people give themselves punchy little nicknames such as K-Fine, and what Najarian is really saying is "M. Lee.") The truth is that putting together an ensemble for TV viewers is like pitching; you have to occasionally throw change-ups, off-speed pitches, etc., to keep hitters off-balance. Lee has been tossing shutouts for at least a couple of weeks.

However, the fist-bumps were slow and tired, and we detected a jaded crew Thursday. In fact we couldn't even think of a reason to mention Joe Terranova, sadly. Sleeveless Karen Finerman didn't quite bring her A game to match.

[Wednesday, September 23, 2009]

Your witness, Mr. Darrow

Peter Darbee, CEO of PG&E, explained on the set of "Fast Money" on Wednesday that an "overwhelming number of e-mails" have been congratulating his company for its "courage" in dropping its U.S. Chamber of Commerce membership and criticizing the Chamber's approach to climate change.

Actually, dropping Chamber membership isn't exactly a new thing for PG&E.

According to a Bloomberg artice by Tina Seeley: "The company has been a member of the chamber for 'about the last three years,' said Bryan Hertzog, director of corporate relations. Hertzog said PG&E has allowed its membership to lapse in the past when it wasn’t 'terribly active or focused at the federal level.' "

Karen Finerman (she's got this TV journalism thing down pat) asked Darbee about a possible financial motive to PG&E's climate-change position given it deals in natural gas. Darbee insisted "it's not clear that it's to our advantage necessarily, uh, to, um, move to cleaner alternatives. In fact, it could drive up the cost of natural gas."

Tim Seymour followed by asking why then natural gas isn't the "energy of choice" given "this type of concern" and the "abundance" of nat gas. "I don't think this makes sense to a lot of people who are not following this closely," Seymour said.

"The key issue is, what's the situation on climate change," Darbee responded. "And what scientists are saying is, it could have a catastrophic effect on the Earth, unless addressed. And, addressing it will require a number of decades to accomplish. So, the sooner we start working on this problem, the easier it will be to make the transition and the cheaper it will be for all of us as consumers."

So, there's some kind of problem, it's been talked about for decades with minimal action, it's going to lead to something horrible sometime in the future, we're not really sure about specifics, we just need to get people working on it, and we're all going to get more of what we need in the future, but it will end up being "cheaper for all of us."

Sounds like a health-care plan.

Like they say in poker, you can learn a lot about the cards just by watching key players' reaction to the cards. Health-care legislation is getting slightly more lip service than climate change. So in fact are messages to kids to stay in school and "teachable moments" of beer with cops and professors. The president's inaugural address listed these problems in this order: al-Qaida, recession, greed, foreclosure, recession, "health care is too costly," school failures, adversaries, and finally, planet threat. Max Baucus isn't working on a bill to prevent a "catastrophic effect" on the planet, he's working on a bill with enough gimmicks to get two more Republicans besides Olympia Snowe to approve it.

PG&E, according to Bloomberg, might've been most troubled by the Chamber's demand for the EPA to produce scientific evidence, and VP William Kovac's comments to the L.A. Times that such an inquiry might resemble a Scopes Monkey Trial.

Except those ones about YHOO

Melissa Lee misspoke Wednesday, in hilarious fashion to anyone paying literal attention.

"We did put a call in to the company," Lee said, "and Microsoft said they do not decline on rumors."

Citi analyst Jim Suva came on the show to re-promote RIMM. "Well we actually think the stock could easily move to $100 in the next 12 months," Suva said. Note that Suva appeared on "Fast Money" on June 17 and offered the $100 price target back then.

So consider it a 15-month plan.

Dennis Gartman said Wednesday he couldn't say where the dollar would be tomorrow. But, "a month from now, two months from now, the dollar is gonna be demonstrably weaker than where it is right now."

And, this might not be the week FCX tops $80.

"I think copper has a problem here, doesn't it," Gartman said. "Looks to me like copper's breaking down. So Freeport's gonna have a couple of weeks of, of problematic trading."

And don't expect a super-spike in one precious metal just yet. "I'm still bullish of gold, but somebody's trying to keep it down below 1030. They're gonna succeed for a while," Gartman said.

We happened to notice a "Trade School" commercial early Wednesday featuring Pete Najarian and Karen Finerman. They were touting the value of DRIP plans for slow-money investors who seek dividend returns. What they don't mention in the commercial is that 1) tabulating the cost basis of all of these quarterly fractional-share purchases is a real nightmare when doing taxes, and 2) your ability to sell your DRIP shares in a hurry if necessary may be nonexistent or severely limited.

In the maybe-not-innocent-until-proven-guilty category, Karen Finerman wasn't terribly impressed with the brainiac who according to the SEC allegedly bought call options in Perot Systems on inside info a couple weeks before the big news, then tried to cash in. "It's unbelievable how stupid it is. I mean, I mean, as far as like a plan goes? I mean this, this is idiotic," Karen said.

Unofficial ‘FM’ Web Extras

We discovered Joe Terranova, via Twitter, is perhaps offering CNBC producers a bit of programming advice. According to The Liquidator, "the recession is clearly over, pls dont put any more bears on tv telling us how the consumer isnt coming back, no job recovery, reality/perc."

Meanwhile, Guy Adami apparently had a good excuse for taking the day off of "Fast Money": dinner with Regis Philbin at Campagnola. "What a fantastic guy — we had a lot of laughs," Guy says.

[Tuesday, September 22, 2009]

And you were only afraid of
another Great Depression

Someone named Simon Hobbs, apparently a new CNBC anchor, showed up on the "Fast Money" set Tuesday and floated a rather curious link from the Fed's ZIRP ... to 1920s Deutschland.

First Hobbs denounced a couple times the "overbought" U.S. stock market that is now a "game of chicken" and spent a fair amount of time ripping on panelists' stock picks from other segments on the show.

He said Angela Merkel had famously remarked (in June, we believe) about U.S. central bank policy, "You guys are way out of line." Then Hobbs unleashed this gusher:

"You know, they, they had the hyper-inflation in Germany and we all know where that ended up."

Tim Seymour seemed to be going out of his way to feed material to Hobbs in a pro-wrestling-esque version of "street fight" (let's see, would that be, um, Superfly Snuka against Mongolian Stomper?). Hobbs bellowed out the huge difference between "lower-dollar play" and "recovery play" and Seymour went one further, calling it a "transfer of wealth play," which we think is some kind of codespeak for "everyone's buying stuff from Brazil and everyone in China buys Nokia phones and in the back of your head don't forget Gazprom." Melissa Lee found it uproariously hilarious that she initially said Hobbs was "formerly" something or other instead of "currently."

Adami looks in the abyss

The last time we heard the term "super-spike," someone at Goldman Sachs in March 2005 was speculating that oil could, incredibly, reach $105 a barrel.

Wednesday, we heard it from Joe Terranova — on the S&P 500.

And he said it as though it's negotiable.

"The Liquidator" suggested the possibility of a "super-spike that takes the S&P above 1,100. That is on the table right now."

Guy Adami wasn't impressed and said so to host Melissa Lee.

"Two words for you," Adami said. "Lou Mannheim. You know Lou Mannheim?"

"It's one name," Lee inexplicably responded.

"He said, 'Kid, you're on a roll. Enjoy it while it lasts, cause it never does.' "

Adami managed to leave out the fact that Mannheim was also a "nice guy, swell fellow," but a "loser" who "lost all his equity" in the 1971 recession and in his 60s was "still pitchin' " clients at the firm.

Adami spoke for many when he told Lee, "Those glasses are great." (So was the rest of the outfit.)

Rick Santelli, coupled with Simon Hobbs, made it two-for-two in insisting something bad is going to happen to the economy/markets down the road, but nobody knows when: "When interest rates start to move up, who's going to buy the balance of the Fed's holdings," Santelli lamented. "I don't think it's gonna happen anytime soon. But trust me, when it does, we're not gonna have to debate if the time comes yet, we'll be wearing our helmets, and we'll know."

David Goldberg of UBS made it three-for-three: "The homebuilding stocks are definitely overvalued at this point," he said, but he doesn't know when the collapse will eventually happen.

La dirección, por favor

We probably would've ignored the "Fast Money Final Call," except Scott Wapner was feelin' it, and so it would be a disservice not to cover it.

Zach Karabell, who was kind of waxing poetic throughout a "Halftime Report/Final Call" doubleheader, apparently had left more than just the CNBCfix mind out in the ozone with this analysis:

"There's a trading dollar, and then there's a fundamental dollar," he said, proceeding into a series of marginal-incremental catalysts before Wapner cut to the nut graf:

"Speak English to me, man," Wapner said. "C'mon Zach, is the dollar going up or down?"

"I think the dollar is kinda where it is for a while," Karabell replied, which seems like a Jim Morrison-type of comment or something. He added that viewers might give copper stocks a chance to light their fire into the winter, but we would just add, based on what Guy Adami says, you never know, this could be "The End."

Master of deadpan, Karabell on the "Halftime Report" noted, "I feel smart at a cocktail party just saying 'metallurgical coal'." Honestly, we'd never heard the term before watching "Fast Money" with Pete Najarian, so score one for Trade School.

[Monday, September 21, 2009]

Melissa Lee: pro-print

Melissa Lee on Monday offered a welcome endorsement for old media that even she might not've realized.

Lee described how someone might've learned about Jim Grant's bullishness.

"After reading this on the weekend, Wall Street Journal, you pull out the paper, it's Sunday, you're in bed, you've got your slippers on, you read this and you see Jim Grant turning bull, do you actually put on a trade Monday morning?"

Bless you.

Regarding the forecast, Karen Finerman offered this: "Jim Grant I think is one of the smartest and most thoughtful students of the market out there." She said those swayed by his commentary should check out Eastman Chemical, "any of the chemical companies," as well as "the drybulk names, and then a name like Ford."

Fair enough. Grant actually writes, "The deeper the slump, the zippier the recovery." Then he turns to "Fast Money" friend Mike Darda, who according to Grant says the "most important determinant of the strength of an economy recovery is the depth of the downturn that preceded it. There are no exceptions to this rule."

"No exceptions." Sure, on a sample size of about ... five.

CNBCfix is not an economist. But it seems like a lot of people still don't "get" it. The market is surging because the government has put a floor under it. The floor rises with improved data. If the market were baseball, picking stocks would be like guessing which batters are going to get one or two hits today ... except now if they go 0-for-5, the government will give them five more at-bats for free.

Chef Karen: SEC cooking up absurdity

Karen Finerman delivered this undoubtedly accurate assessment of how America's stock-market regulators are handling a rather dubious case:

"The SEC has such egg on their face," she said. "Who are they really suing? ... The shareholders of B of A would be paying the shareholders of B of A. Really, who pays here? You can't unscramble this egg."

Gosh, an omelette sounds tasty right now.

News flash: Steinem launches mag

Melissa Lee rolled out a trade Monday that sounded perfect ... for, um, 1972.

The subject was that women have a lot of spending power, make a lot of spending decisions, and oh yeah, "they might also be the one consumer play you have been ignoring."

Karen said this revelation is enough to make one consider Children's Place and Wal-Mart. Guy Adami explained who calls the shots in his household.

Salesforce.com in Dell’s sights?

"Fast Money" traders weren't terribly impressed Monday by Dell's acquisition of Perot Systems. Toni Sacconaghi of Sanford Bernstein tried to chart the course.

"I think where Dell wants to move is ideally the software and potentially other higher-margin hardware categories like storage," he said. "The kinds of companies that we could see them buying might be someone like a Salesforce.com; it's expensive, I think it's a little big for Dell to be doing now. On the storage side, someone like Compellent or CommVault."

Tim Seymour suggested Dell's move could be "too little, too late" and that he is "very concerned about (the) core business."

Karen Finerman trumped that, calling it "too much too little too late ... I'd rather be in HPQ."

Guy Adami said despite the big move, "I still like NTAP here."

Apparently, something hilarious was occurring offscreen on the set when Scott Cohn delivered breaking news about Hassan Nemazee.

[Friday, September 18, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Seymour
clotheslines Cowboys Stadium

Tim Seymour Friday launched an unexpected tirade against sports-stadium excess.

In our heart, we agree 100%. The mind, though, says he's wrong.

Seymour took issue with more than just the scoreboard at the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium.

"This isn't about construction here; this is about ego," he said. "I mean, look, if you look at what's been going on with sports, come on! Look at, look at even Yankee Stadium, look at all the stadiums that have been built in the last year and a half, they've been overbuilt, they've been overhyped, and they've been undersold, they've been undersold on sponsorship. Sports is changing as a business. People are actually throwing this back at 'em. I thnk it's gonna be a huge failure. And we already know that technically and structurally it's already been proven a failure because from a football perspective, you can't play a game in there without a football hitting it. ... So I don't think it's a particularly winning strategy."

Joe Terranova made a counteroffer. "It's great insight on what's going into the economy," Terranova said. "That stadium is filled to capacity. With the PSL, the personal seat licenses ... everyone came, they all paid, the place is filled to capacity. How bad is the economy if you could fill that stadium?"

"Well what's going on with PSLs at Giants Stadium?" Seymour responded. "Guys who have been on the waiting list for 40 years are giving up their seats because they don't want to pay a country club membership to then go out to buy football tickets. ... I think sports has become a place where you're actually seeing consumers pull back and stay at home."

First, the technicalities: Seymour is half-right, half-wrong on a few facts.

This Aug. 31 New York Times article by Joe Lapointe says the recession and higher prices have dealt a "chilling effect" to Giants and Jets sales. He also notes the Yankees did not sell all of their $2,500-a-game seats near home plate.

But then there are sentences like these: "Mike Stevens, the chief marketing officer for the Giants, said the most expensive suites, costing $500,000 a season, were taken."

What about "guys on the waiting list for 40 years giving up their seats." Well, first of all if they're still on the waiting list, they don't have seats yet to give up. We did note in the Times article (we didn't find other recent articles addressing this subject) that a Jets ticket-holder for 23 years isn't renewing.

According to Gary Myers, apparently the Giants waiting list was 20,000 people until 2003, when the team used a promotional gimmick to add 120,000 names to it. We doubt, or at least hope not, that anyone on the list for 40 years is suddenly "giving up" their place in line just because they wouldn't order the $20,000 (PSL) + $7,000 (10 game tickets) package the Giants want them to buy.

A Jets fan paying $90 a ticket was offered this package: $8,000 PSL, $400-per-game tickets. So what's that, a hundred-fold increase during a very tough economy?

The problem with Seymour's point is that so many people have paid these prices, and more will continue to do so once the decession cloud lifts and the initial PSL is absorbed. He also didn't note — and admittedly this is well beyond the scope of the "Fast Money" segment — that most NFL tickets are issued at below-market price. There is a long and complicated explanation for why so many tickets for so many events are sold so far below market value, but the bottom line is that a person buying elite Giants tickets for $700 a game can likely on most occasions resell those for $1,000 or more (particularly during a Super Bowl year when Dallas or Philadelphia is in town).

The truth is that the spectator sport has become the altar of American togetherness. It's about the only place in public we sing the national anthem, the place where we honor veterans, where we mourn 9/11, where we do military fly-bys, where we celebrate firefighting, where we sing "God Bless America," where we honor hurricane and tsunami victims, where we celebrate diversity.

Some may question if a baseball or football game is the right venue for this type of national observance. But this concept is taken so seriously, three teens apparently actually got booted from a Newark ballpark for not standing during "God Bless America."

Point is, there is excess here that is not going away, not even in a very tough economy. People are going to buy their tickets, they're going to buy a jersey to wear to the games, they're going to order the NFL Sunday Ticket, they're going to play fantasy football/baseball/basketball, they're going to do the type of in-game gambling in Vegas that Cantor Gaming chief Lee Amaitis coincidentally discussed elsewhere on "Fast Money" Friday.

Too bad that a few cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul is one) still haven't seen the light and accepted the reality, that city life is partly defined by sports franchises and local leaders are best off ignoring the tax watchdogs and their own sensitivities and building the grandest palace possible. It should be unfathomable to people that Baltimore and Nashville stole NFL teams from other cities, but give the owners some amount of credit for realizing their teams were more valuable than their original cities did. Do-gooders in many big cities will occasionally commission a study that finds having sports teams provides little overall economic benefit. Doesn't matter. It's what people want.

Like Seymour, we totally feel it's over the top. We sort of wish more people would renounce it as a victory for perspective. Stadium sponsorship seems a complete bust in terms of advertising returns (there are studies on this going both ways); seems mostly like a way for execs to clout their way into a skybox to impress clients and also to remind the local politicians (who likely put political capital on the line to get it built) that they helped fund the new stadium. Honestly — and no one, no one, likes pro football more than CNBCfix — we don't understand why anyone wants NFL season tickets. Football is one of two spectator sports (golf is the other) best enjoyed via television. Attending an NFL game, depending on where one lives in proximity to the stadium, can be an eight-hour day, easily. Two of the 10 games are worthless preseason matchups; others can be played in horrible weather by 5-11 teams. A better time, for very little cost, is usually to visit the sports bars and watch 10 games at once, make new friends (or fistfights) and get waited on and be done in three. Not to say attending a game isn't a good experience; everyone should do it from time to time.

Seymour is firmly demonstrating decent NFL chops, previously asking John Madden if signing Michael Vick would upend a team's traditional offense. Guy Adami continues to burnish the credibility meter by referencing his wrong market-direction calls. (Some guests on "Fast Money" tend to only talk about their winning trades.) Melissa Lee was smokin' in black, but Karen Finerman looked soooooo good conducting that Hilda Solis interview, we'll have to declare a fashion tie for the day.

[Thursday, September 17, 2009]

James Hoffa tells Karen Finerman
a new story about George Bush

Thursday, "Fast Money" aired an interview Karen Finerman conducted with Teamsters leader James P. Hoffa. Not all of it was shown on TV.

Here is one curious question and answer we discovered at CNBC.com:

Karen Finerman: "You were the first union leader to back Obama in his campaign for president. Has he earned that support?"

James Hoffa: "Absolutely. He is a breath of fresh air after eight years of George Bush. George Bush was dedicated to destroying unions."

But in January 2002, when George Bush was in charge, Hoffa had this exchange with CNN's Judy Woodruff after being Laura Bush's guest for the State of the Union address:

Judy Woodruff: "Teamsters Union President James P. Hoffa was a guest in the first lady's box for last night's speech. You no doubt saw him there as an advocate for workers and for a strong economy. He's been a political ally of leaders in both political parties. James Hoffa joins me here in Washington. Let me ask you about last — first of all, you've been supporting the president's energy policy..."

James Hoffa: "I think, with regard to the president's energy program, if it was put to a vote in the Senate, we have the votes to do it. And the problem is, do we have 60 votes to overcome the maneuvering that's going on by the different senators?"

Finerman, by the way, looks like she could be just as successful at TV journalism as hedge-fund managing. But she did have trouble explaining clearly on "Fast Money" whether Wal-Mart faces a slight risk of card-check actually happening ... or a slight risk of profit erosion if it does happen.

Gartman likes gold, but sees top

Dennis Gartman on Thursday explained why he remains bullish on gold, with a caveat: "It's unbelievably overpopulated ... I continue to be bullish of gold, but I don't own it in dollar terms ... because I'm afraid that if the dollar were to suddenly get stronger — because that's truly the overpopulated trade — that's where everybody is short, that's what's helped gold go up."

"Eight? We actually have eight gold ETFs? Golly, if that's not overpopulation, I don't know what is. ... What I can tell you is, the number of requests that I get to do interviews, whether it's on CNBC, or BBC, or Canadian broadcasting, or whatever, or from the media, um, the news media, when the number of uh, interview requests come in and get to very high levels — and they are right now in our office — that tends to be a time when gold doesn't do quite so well."

Melissa Lee, Jim Cramer edged
by Dan Rather for top ‘news’ host

First, we want to make it 100% clear — we congratulate Melissa Lee.

Recognition from peers/critics is something to be proud of.

Guy Adami hinted Wednesday at the beginning of "Fast Money" that Lee had just received an award.

"I was at the CableFAX awards luncheon," Lee conceded. "Best host news, for 'Options Action' ... I had the privilege of being in the same category as Mr. Dan Rather, and he took that award and he deserved it."

Our reaction: What the heck...?

So we looked it up. According to the CableFAX Magazine 2009 Cable Program Awards, Lee was one of three nominees for Best Host/News. Rather won, for a show probably most people have never heard of, "Dan Rather Reports," on HDNet.

Lee's fellow runner-up? Jim Cramer.

Here's the CableFAX salute to Lee: "Even the rapidly moving stock ticker at the screen’s bottom seems slow compared to Melissa Lee, whose tough questions, delivered in rapid bursts, often stump the quartet of fast-talking stock analysts the Harvard grad referees during the nightly shouting match known aptly as Fast Money."

Say .... what?

Who could possibly have written that? (Other than, perhaps, a CNBC producer on the entry form.)

Is the "quartet of fast-talking stock analysts" who are being "refereed" aware that they're being "stumped" often by the host?

And do they realize the show is a "nightly shouting match"?

Lee doesn't deliver questions in "rapid bursts." She doesn't "stump" anyone. She delivers a lot of pockets of dead air because she often waits for others to talk when they're not expecting to talk or tosses out questions to no one in particular. She lets garrulous guests eat up precious time, virtually never cutting them off when they stray off-topic or into un-interesting-ness. She does do well at managing time with some guests who occasionally can be difficult such as Rick Santelli or Charles Gasparino. Yes, she looks great and seems like a sweetheart.

Adding to the mystery is that Lee was honored for hosting two shows: "Fast Money" and "Options Action." If you are not an options trader and you have ever tried to watch "Options Action," you could not possibly stay awake. "Options Action" isn't even referenced in CableFAX's summary of Lee, which at least means no one is pretending they've actually tried to watch it.

What's more curious is that there's no description in CableFAX as to the criteria of this award; i.e., how come nobody from CNN, or Dylan Ratigan for that matter, won any of these awards. And how about the timeline: Lee has hosted "Fast Money" only for five months, and has only been listed as a permanent cast member for about three. "Options Action" only debuted in January. So a person nominated for Best Host/News of 2009 earned that on the basis of about half a year's worth of work.

Is CNBC aware that Jim Cramer is now regarded as a "news" host? The CableFAX rationale for honoring Cramer, like Lee, as a runner-up to Rather is because he "had the guts to do 'The Colbert Report.' " That is some tough criteria for news hosting by the folks at CableFAX.

Another CNBC runner-up in the CableFAX awards was Trish Regan's "Marijuana Inc." The CableFAX description: "A highlight is a visit to Northern California’s Emerald Triangle..." Fine, except probably three-fourths of the program is about the Emerald Triangle.

We're sure CableFAX is a fine and useful magazine for cable insiders (even though it apparently hasn't touched its "about" page since maybe May 2008). The truth is, when you think of things that media bigwigs gather for such as town halls, symposiums, forums, conferences, basically any meeting that is more than five or six people and not off the record, it's basically a complete waste of time for all the parties involved. Awards banquets are no different. But at least some people go home with hardware. We've yet to see anyone on "Fast Money" top the Wendy Finerman "Forrest Gump" Oscar that sister Karen Finerman passed around the table one day.

[Tuesday, September 15, 2009]

Fast Money Review: The trade
remains ‘too big to fail’

Featuring: Melissa Lee | Sean Egan | Dick Bove | Tim Seymour | Guy Adami | Pete Najarian | Karen Finerman | LEH | C | UNG | WLT | JOYG | GE | ACI | INTC | AIG

That steam emanating from the top of your TV set Tuesday was the result of Melissa Lee in her tiny, sexy T-shirt in HD. Producers smartly had her walk around the set a couple times. This is no Debbie Downer, no matter what the panelists say.

The day's most interesting segment was an interview with Sean Egan about the ratings agencies, even though he's just making the point Jeff Macke was first to declare in the winter and, tangentially, this site regularly stressed through the summer (even though some like Steve Cortes and Patty Edwards haven't quite agreed just yet).

"In our view, the storm has passed," Egan said. "What's happened is that the federal government has taken unprecedented steps to intervene in the market. Never seen anything like it in the history of the country. In fact, in history of the Western World, this never happened this way. Such that, the federal government, whether you like it or not, is standing behind the largest financial institutions."

Totally simple, but we'll take it massively further (again). The government now views the financial markets as a permanent element of 1) the economy and 2) people's net worth — and no longer as a risk-taking arena of caveat emptor. So consider the biggest financial institutions and people's own portfolios as getting the General Motors treatment for about, oh, the next few decades or so.

The bears have made a colossal miscalculation heard all spring and summer long on CNBC, that markets are "too big and powerful" for the government to control. The government can not control whether Citigroup is going to be worth $50 or $25. It can control whether C is going to be worth $0 or $10. And it has done so with a remarkably small amount of money and procedure — probably under $500 billion in TARP payments and backstops for AIG, C, Bear, etc., and opening bank lending windows, etc., that if done six months earlier would've staved off much of the Dow's decline. Consider that $500 billion spent in January 2008 and a very likely result is no frozen credit markets, no skyrocketing Libor or VIX, no stimulus necessary, mild recession and job loss, occasional anger from the Larry Kudlow crowd at the George Bush team for removing the moral hazard. That's the market we've now got, if not the one we want.

Finally, we got the Karen Finerman take on Lehman Brothers. Not surprisingly, it was the best of the bunch. Karen explained why Lehman was a short in the $40s. "I remember thinking 'Wow, they are really overlevered in bad assets,' and I remember reading their 10Q and I couldn't make heads or tails out of it," she said. "I really could literally not understand what the sentence was saying."

Dick Bove was being rather modest about his call on C. Yes, he was grotesquely wrong a year or two ago, but this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately type of business. Bove a few months ago, when C traded barely north of $3, in a research report pegged the stock at $4 and said as earnings "normalize," it can go to $12, prompting on-air scoffing from Guy Adami. On Tuesday there was no gloating. "I definitely think Citigroup should be bought here," Bove said, but he said for the next three to six months it will get pounded up and down, especially in light of the announcement of unloading 8 billion shares, which he called a "pretty negative thing to do for the company to announce this without saying specifically what exactly they were gonna do to get rid of this stock."

In a roundabout conversation on natural gas and the UNG — we're starting to think names like UNG and USO just don't really work on some level or another (and have no position in them) — the conclusion from the panel ultimately was the Joe Terranova conclusion of yesterday, which is to buy names like XTO or APA or even the dreaded overpayers CHK if you're bullish on nat gas.

Pete Najarian watches metallurgical coal like a hawk. "You're getting a little bit of a 'confliction' right now on, what's the real story" of demand in the steel sector, he said during a discussion of Nucor. But now Tim Seymour has superseded him as top coal bull, pointing to ACI. (This writer is long ANR.) Guy Adami singled out WLT again. Pete seems fixated on his recent favorite, Joy Global. "September 44 calls, absolutely on fire today," he said, repeatedly mentioning some conference JOYG execs will speak at.

Karen Finerman suggested the "retail investor" is behind part of the recent gains in GE, which suddenly has become a must discussion item every day on "Fast Money." Lee said Christopher Zook called GE a short squeeze once it hit $15.05. We have no idea, but a rough guess is that it's just now catching up with the pure financials that shot up in the spring while GE lagged.

Pete Najarian offered Intel as a "slow-money" play. (This writer has no position in INTC.) Tim Seymour said he gets "excited" looking at the stock. (Yawn.) Few stocks have been this boring for 10 years (OK, maybe Microsoft and GE and Cisco and Dell and HD and NOK, but not many others) and it seems like the heyday of being excited about computer chips has long since passed.

Eric Dinallo came on as one of the latest (in a string of what seems like, oh about, 50 people including the president) CNBC guests to "reflect" on (first) Lehman and (now) AIG. We ignored this. Yeah, so people haven't "learned the lessons" and there's not enough "moral hazard" and we should be outraged about "too big to fail" and all these "bonuses" and yada yada yada. Enough already, who cares anymore. We plan to take a few days off, where we can "reflect on" the AIG and Lehman troubles on our own if we want to while watching something else at 5 p.m. Eastern for a change (like, um, "Diff'rent Strokes").

Fast Money Review: 25 to 30
names, 95% of the mess

Featuring: Guy Adami | Melissa Lee | Pete Najarian | Joe Terranova | Karen Finerman | Steve Cortes | Patty Edwards | Carlos Gutierrez | GE | DNDN | LEH | Ron Kruszewski | SF | RJF | HON | COL | Jeff Harte | BAC | IBM | David Strasser | BBY | TGT | POT | DWA | ABT

It was Guy Adami Day on "Fast Money" on Monday.

A standup guy as always, Adami declared early, "I've been wrong, I've thought this thing was going down a lot lower, for the last few weeks at least."

That's not the first time he's said that this month. But a brief commentary is in order.

Adami's downward predictions in August just never felt right. We didn't mock them here but came close. We understand great traders probably often go with a gut feeling. Adami's call on the S&P for weeks has sounded like little more than guesswork.

Steve Cortes and Patty Edwards are a different story. They've been making the case for weeks and months that stock prices (in general) aren't justified by economic fundamentals. The obvious reaction is that the markets aren't buying that theory. Over the long term, Cortes and Edwards could be right. That doesn't do a darn thing for "Fast Money" viewers, who presumably are looking for short-term market direction. Cortes and Edwards seem to find themselves regularly arguing why daily market moves are wrong. They have a lot of trouble trading the market they've got, not the market they want.

Adami hasn't gone that far — though he's leaning. He said Monday of the 35% tire tariff, "I'm surprised anything went up on the back of that frankly ... I can't believe in my heart of hearts that that's a positive thing."

We can't believe in our heart of hearts that it even matters. Does Adami actually think the administration is jeopardizing the global recovery ... over tire prices?

Unfortunately even Karen Finerman ventured down this road. "We've seen this administration do some things that I never thought we would see," she said, referring apparently to buying stakes in banks, "cramming down what the new structure was gonna be" for the automakers, and "a lot of different things."

Actually, this administration hasn't done anything unexpected or tough-minded. What they have done is give Wall Street the greatest security blanket it's ever had. They picked up the cards George Bush left them and played the hand the same way. They didn't "cram down" anything for the automakers. They saved them. They forced Rick Wagoner to quit, a cosmetic fix if one ever occurred (because Fritz Henderson apparently brings so much more to the table). They told GM to downsize. They hurried along a Chrysler sale that was likely in the works anyway. Wow.

They're not sticking anything to China. They're playing politics with domestic constituencies. Sensing stock market direction on this announcement is ridiculous.

Anyway, like we said, it was Guy Adami Day. He joined the long line of CNBC personalities (um, virtually unanimous) taking a jab at the president's speech/itinerary on Monday. Except Guy left a cliff-hanger that went unanswered. (Maybe we'll find it in Web Extra.)

"It was very few on Wall Street frankly that made all of Wall Street look bad," Adami said. "As a matter of fact, if you gave me 10 or 15 minutes I could probably give you the 25 or 30 names that are basically gonna count for 95 percent of the mess we're in."

Hmmm ... Chuck Prince? Stan O'Neal? Dick Fuld? One wonders if Henry Paulson is one of Adami's names.

We also (finally) got the Guy Adami perspective on Lehman's demise. (The two we really wanted to see were Guy's and Karen's, and the teasers say Karen's is coming tomorrow.)

Adami said, "Lehman was very levered to one certain aspect of their industry, and I think that proved to be their downfall. Other companies had a little better product mix, let's say." Adami said this ordeal most significantly reinforced the value of "diversification," a concept that seems so complex to the retail investor as to be almost a meaningless term.

But then Guy made this interesting comment: "Do your homework. ... Mr. Einhorn did his homework and Karen Finerman did hers, they were short Lehman the whole way down."

We recall a short-Lehman reference once or twice, way back when, from Karen. We didn't know she shorted it "the whole way down." Talk about a blockbuster trade.

If it had been Greg Troccoli, we'd have heard about it in every appearance.

Ron Kruszewski, Stifel Nicolaus CEO, was summoned as a guest apparently to show how the better half of Wall Street has been doing since the Lehman disaster. Kruszewski made a curious comment when Karen Finerman asked him about "too big to fail":

"To me, capitalism and too big to fail are oxymorons," Kruszewski said. "You just cannot have implicit taxpayer safety nets below any capitalist enterprise and get efficient markets. Uh, Fannie, Freddie proved it."

That sounds like Kruszewski thinks C and perhaps GS and MS should've been allowed to fail. That would also mean we're not going to see much "capitalism" in the next few years. (And it means we haven't been seeing "capitalism" for years or decades in things like cars ... airlines ... ethanol ... sugar ... alternative energy ... steel ... Chinese tires ... etc. But oh yeah, Circuit City could be considered capitalism.)

Adami said of SF, "Valuation's a little rich here" and said the secondary price of $56 is your key level. "I still like RJF," he also said.

Former Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who took some heat from the panel last time for suddenly expressing "debt will doom us" fears, helped clarify the all-important Chinese tire tariffs. "What the president did is use a legitimate tool," Gutierrez said. "What is up for discretion is what the tariffs, uh, are. The president chose 35%. Uh, that's a little bit high. He could've gone up to 55%. So far, the Chinese are reacting in the way they should react. I wouldn't go too far and say this is the beginning of a trade war."

So there you go.

Melissa Lee was so excited about GE's burst through $15, she twice noted it is the "parent of this network."

"General Electric is a name I'll still say I personally will avoid," Adami said. Showing he's done his homework, Adami pointed instead to not only HON but COL. "We had (CEO) Clayton Jones on the show July 30," he said, noting the stock's gain since then, and he was correct, Jones was on July 30, albeit for a very short segment.

Karen Finerman didn't say why (hint: it's not a "pure play" on anything), but told of her non-position in GE. "I don't own it. Not that there's anything gr- against this great network. Is that self-serving enough?"

"Yeah, you did a nice job," Lee said.

"They finally did break out, and it makes you pretty impressed with what happened today," Pete Najarian said.

Pete, for his part, noted an "incredible amount of activity in Dendreon." But then he bored us (and hopefully other attentive viewers) to death with the stalest argument for IBM. "In their 2010, they're talking about $10, $11 earnings. Pretty daggone impressive numbers out there."

Sure. Pretty impressive numbers. If they hadn't already been pre-announced as a target more than a year ago under the IBM earnings "road map."

Jeffery Harte of Sandler for some reason came on to talk BAC. He said it's "capital solid; they're not going away, eventually the economy's going to get a little better and they are I think very well-positioned to earn a lot of money in that environment, but they're trading fairly cheaply ... They're to retail banking what Wal-Mart is to retail sales." Karen Finerman asked if BAC has reached the peak of provisions. Maybe not, but "I think we're getting close to it," Harte said.

Pete Najarian asked about earnings for 2010. Harte said he's at $1.23, above the 90 cents consensus. "I love it when Pete asks for next year's earnings," Karen said.

"The Morgan Stanley analyst who has been dead right on this sector," Pete said, is "as solid as Meredith Whitney or anybody else. She's calling for 2 bucks next year."

That mystery analyst, who's so great Pete can't mention her name, is Betsy Graseck.

David Strasser of Janney discussed BBY. Of note, he said, "The TV business really slowed down in July and August." Asked for a stock pick, he said, "I like Target here."

Guy Adami is still clinging to hope with ABT. He pointed to takeover talk involving DreamWorks. "I think DWA even on a down tape still works."

Joe Terranova said POT was facing a little headwind. "Grain prices are not responding as the rest of the commodity space is," he said.

Terranova had a mostly quiet day but was asked whether he'd be buying the UNG on the nat gas spike. He offered three reasons why not: "You have the cost of carry. You have the contango, (which is) incredibly steep in natural gas. And then you also have this premium that was built in with the announcement from UNG that they were not gonna be able to issue any new shares. So he suggests names like XTO, APA, EOG, CHK.

[Friday, September 11, 2009]

Fast Money Review: 2 reasons
why MS might be underrated

Featuring: Tim Seymour | MS | Brad Hintz | Pete Najarian | Greg Troccoli | Joe Terranova | Melissa Lee | GS | oil | FDX | GE | AAPL | ANR | GILD | GENZ | FCX

For some reason, "Fast Money" and CNBC are really interested in this John Mack-James Gorman transition story.

We're not sure why. Charles Gasparino said Thursday during "Closing Bell" that basically it's the same story he broke a month or two ago.

At least on Friday, Tim Seymour tossed out a new wrinkle.

Brad Hintz was the star guest, explaining that "Morgan Stanley we've seen on the trading side has been underperforming."

That brought the first of Seymour's two defenses of the stock, suggesting first that Q2 results widely regarded as weak for lack of risk-taking — a concept initially promulgated heavily by Gasparino — were really not that bad and appeared worse because of certain accounting treatment.

Hintz disagreed.

"They cut too far in mortgage-backs, they didn't give enough balance sheet and customer financing on, in governments; their market share dropped in government," Hintz said. (Greg Troccoli, by the way, interjected to say "Hi John, it's Greg" and make a technical call that left to a few moments of dead air.)

Asked what one stock he would buy if he could only buy one, Hintz said, "it's embarrassing but I'd put it in Goldman ... they're the best fixed-income play that's left."

About 15 minutes later, Seymour offered a different argument for MS. It came during a discussion of regulation Obama might impose on the financial markets. "If we're telling the world that Morgan Stanley is a bad place to look at right now because they're going with a more conservative model, we're wrong."

Pete Najarian agreed, though we couldn't quite figure out what he was agreeing with except he likes John Mack.

As far as we know (this writer has no position in MS), this is the deal with Morgan Stanley. Much of their business is trading. They apparently stunk at trading in the second quarter. To the point it basically got a popular CEO nudged out.

If that's a reason for buying the stock, hey, it's a free country. The beauty of this country and this market is, as Jeff Macke would say, you can do any trade you want. (Just have an exit strategy.)

We don't think it's necessarily a bad stock, we just figure that anyone who might like MS should probably like GS a lot more. (This writer has no position in GS either.) Najarian said of GS, "200 is not a pipe dream." Which was actually Dick Bove's call about, oh, three months ago.

Seymour doesn't own MS, per online disclosure, but Najarian does.

Even more interesting, Hintz owns MS too. And the CNBC.com page says this: "Mr. Hintz received a one time payment of 8,974 from (MS) in 2009." (That is sic, no dollar sign.)

So there you go.

Melissa Lee opted for a traditional, maroon look that was lovely. She won't be Debbie Downer when walking into Campagnola.

Traders liked having Greg Troccoli in a chair so much that they had to ask him for a chart analysis about every two minutes.

On oil, he said, "If we can close above $75.60, that opens up the possibility to go to $89; I think that's gonna be very tough to do.

On gold, he said, "If we do not break through 1033 ... be careful."

On FedEx, he said, "Very little resistance at 76 ... clear glide path up to 80."

But then he did a chart segment on the S&P that was about as ambiguous as it gets. Maybe it goes up, maybe it pulls back. And oh yeah, consider buying some puts in AAPL.

Melissa Lee referred to GE this time as "parent of this network," which makes us wonder if the omission last time was a no-no.

Seymour said, "My call on this one is GE is starting to show earnings normalization." Troccoli referred to his recent prediction that he called a GE run from $10 to $16. "GE has gotta be part of your portfolio," he said. "The balance sheet looks good ... I think we do break through 15. Own GE."

Tim Seymour sounds like he's got the coal bug. Calling Pete "Commander Dirty Planet," Seymour delivered a lengthy rationale for coal names (this writer is long ANR). "You're seeing rotation within the resource space," he said. "Coking coal and coal are getting bid from the steel companies. I was at a bunch of conferences this week. Deutsche had a big emerging-market conference, some of the biggest steel companies in the world. Their iron ore prices are going up. Their coke and coal prices are going up. That's the rotation. Look at all those stocks this week. They broke out this week, and they're going higher."

Pete Najarian noted one downer in the bunch: ANR, of all names. "ANR pulled back," he said. "Maybe it had something to do with the fact that they talked about more M&A."

Deutsche Bank's Mark Schoenebaum, a highly effective "Fast Money" guest on biotechs, took up several issues. "There's only five big biotechs left," he said, suggesting some have been behind the curve in snapping up the hundreds of smaller companies they might want. He called Genzyme "the most controversial stock in all of biotechnology." He pointed to the problems at the factory making cerezyme and fabrazyme. "If they get through this, this is one of the cheapest stocks in the entire biotech sector right now," he said. He offered GILD as a top pick.

Pete Najarian said of the markets, "You keep looking for new leaders, it's industrials." In a brief discussion of the Consumer Confidence index, Najarian complained, "why do we even need that number?" Honestly, we have no idea either. Tim Seymour hailed "good data all week around the world."

Joe Terranova said he was cautious on FCX despite its Friday gains as long as copper is below $3. Viewers also got Joe's take on the whole Lehman thing. Moral of the story? "You have to use stop-loss orders," Terranova said.

[Thursday, September 10, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Seymour
‘would commend the president’

Featuring: Tim Seymour | Barack Obama | Charles Boorady | Melissa Lee | Pete Najarian | Jon Najarian | Zachary Karabell | AOL | YHOO | NOK | MTW | TAP | PEP | GS | BYD | FMX | ABY | MS | BAC | Brian Halla | Joseph Greff | Rick Santelli

Given that the president made a much-hyped health-care speech a night ago, we would've thought the "Fast Money" crew would devote a decent amount of time to the subject.

They didn't.

Charles Boorady reappeared on the show and said the president "took a big step towards the center," suggesting the possibility of "bipartisan reform."

Boorady reiterated a bullish outlook for UNH and AET. "I think we'll see more follow-through," he said.

Tim Seymour was even more congratulatory. "I would commend the president if I humbly can," he said.

Commend him ... for what?

News articles after the speech struggled to adequately summarize what exactly Obama did, or is proposing.

According to the Associated Press article by David Espo, "the president shied away from providing lawmakers with a list of particulars he wants to see included in the legislation."

So we're a few months into this "debate," eight months into this presidency, more than two years into this president's bid for office, and he's still "shying away" from telling people what he actually wants on what he claims is his "top domestic priority."

He wants the legislation, he just isn't saying what he wants in the legislation.

Sounds like a plan.

Per the transcript, here's what Obama said near the beginning: "First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, or Medicare, or Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. (Applause.) Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have."

If the system is so bad requiring overhaul, why does he make the "First" point about how you don't have to change? And why is that point deemed so important it must be repeated?

We don't recall the week of 9/11/01 hearing the president say, "If the airlines don't want to strengthen their cockpit doors or if people don't want their bags checked at airports, nothing is going to require them to change."

Espo's AP article went, by our count, 928 words until delivering what appears to be one of the very few iron-clad things the president actually says he wants: that people with pre-existing conditions aren't denied coverage or dropped.

There's no mandate that everyone have coverage, and he doesn't seem to mind if there's no public option.

If you believe in a single-payer system and universal coverage, then legislation omitting such is hardly "reform."

If you don't believe in that kind of system, then "reform" likely means malpractice caps and business or individual credits for the high costs of insuring employees, things that are definitely not happening here to any great extent.

We ask, as everyone should, what exactly is the problem here? Why are we talking about this right now? Basically, given all that has been heard, the problem with health care seems to be that "it just costs too much," and people that regularly complain about this problem are suddenly in charge.

We've heard those people complain for decades how it's going to wreck the economy. The president claimed Wednesday that lack of major legislation has "led us to a breaking point."

Except in the last 25 years, hasn't it been home prices and Internet stocks — not health care — that "broke" the economy? And before that wasn't it inflation and an oil embargo? And long before that wasn't it the tightness of the Fed in the Great Depression? We haven't studied the Ph.D thesis of Alan Greenspan (which is mysterious actually) or Ben Bernanke recently but we don't recall any mention of health care fees ever causing a recession. We've never once seen a "Fast Money" segment where either Mike Darda or Joe LaVorgna or Michelle Meyer has said, "You know what, we think GDP's going to clock in at 1.5% this quarter but that's because it was highly damaged by health-care costs."

Because the problem merely is the perception that health care costs too much, why not just ship everyone a 50% health-care refund check at year-end. No need for extra bureaucracy, just cut everyone's bill in half. Or ban certain types of costly treatment. Or stop giving our drugs away for free or nearly free to other countries while American consumers pay health-plan market rate. Tell people to go to the doctor less often. Maybe there actually are people who go to the doctor too often or are given too many unnecessary procedures/treatments.

Ban "excessive speculation," an approach that really helped combat the problem of "oil costs too much."

This site is politically independent. We don't fault very much of the guy's governance. In fact, we've defended his brief tenure in terms of the stock market several times.

This speech was sorry, token, lip-service politics. He read a script. He didn't sound for a minute like he actually believed very much of it. The real message was "just pass something that sounds good so this isn't a complete bust for me." This was like a rerun of George Bush on Social Security private accounts in 2005. Obama came across like a schoolmarm, condescending with sub-presidency terminology like "bickering" and "games" to educated people who 1) honestly have doubts about a government expansion of health care and cost estimates trumpeted by presidents that people realize are always bogus, and 2) are rightfully leery of any agenda of an extremely one-party-dominated federal government.

Obama actually said, "And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care ... That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives."

Seriously? It does save lives, and it does make sense, but it absolutely does not save anyone any money to go to the doctor more often for tests. Get real.

Most people tend to hate insurance. It tends to cost (seemingly) a lot to not be used, and then when you need it, you face resistance in getting paid and sometimes get less than replacement value. You can't win with it, really.

If that concept's not working for people, do the alternative. Junk insurance. Have medical care be cash-and-carry. It'll cost a lot for those having kids or transplants, but then at least you're not dealing with "greedy" insurers.

Or maybe government insurance can do "better" than the private sector. There you'll still have arguments over whether taxes need to be raised to fund knee replacements or the newest versions of MRIs, and moralistic arguments over such issues as abortion funding. Bottom line is that instead of higher premiums, taxes will go up, whether paid now or later.

All of which seemingly leads back to the status quo. Karen Finerman, a brilliant person, famously said on "Fast Money" Aug. 11 that meaningful health-care overhaul looks doubtful except if a certain person dies. If that doesn't scare anyone as to how a major decision might be made in this environment, it should.

Zach Karabell — regularly called "Zeke" on the show — like Steve Cortes brings a refreshing bit of macro point of view to a panel that is too often dominated by tape-watching economic agnostics. Absolutely the tape-watching is very relevant to people trying to make "fast money," and we've often criticized the macro views of some guests (or at present the seemingly less and less likely "new normal" that Steve Cortes and apparently Pimco keep talking about, and, um, Danielle Park, and uh...) who seem too wedded to unrealized theories and disdainful for the tape.

Karabell said something that caught our attention Thursday: "AOL for instance has become like the best media company with the most journalists relative to the old, old media."

The quote came in the context of a discussion about Yahoo and Carol Bartz.

Literally, it's not so clear what Karabell is saying. Some might be surprised to hear AOL called "the best media company" or "the best media company ... relative to old, old media."

We think he meant that AOL is the best Web-only general news site and has "the most journalists" of all the other aggregators perhaps such as Yahoo, Huffington Post, etc.

Certainly AOL doesn't have more "journalists" on its Web site than the New York Times? We took a look at the AOL Daily Finance money and investing site.

There were 20 faces listed under "Daily Finance Writers." We looked up three of them, Dan Solin, Jonathan Berr and Jeff Bercovici.

Solin, it appears, writes top-selling books to make a living. He also writes a column for Huffington Post.

We saw Berr listed via Google searches as a "free-lance contributor" to the Philadelphia Inquirer, a writer for Bloomberg News, and a writer for TheStreet.com as well as an AOL contributor (not necessarily all at present; we don't know).

Bercovici apparently was hired by Daily Finance as his main gig.

At the very bottom of the Daily Finance page is where it gets interesting. That's where "Daily Finance Partners" are listed. Those include CNNMoney, CNBC.com, FT.com, Morningstar and TheStreet.com.

And when we clicked on the top national story on the AOL home page, we got an Associated Press byline.

So what we have is a world where everyone is sharing the AP and other wires; some writers reside predominantly or perhaps even exclusively at a site, most probably lightly credentialed for official-type events, most probably with no assignment editor and no trained editor handling their copy before it is posted. And you can find opining on Obama's health-care speech on about 10,000 Web pages (including this one), but the folks who would support a family writing news articles about the fire on your block or your city council meeting are disappearing fast.

AOL gets credit here for hiring someone like Bercovici but not for aggregating a bunch of blog material and paying other traditional news organizations to run their edited journalistic copy.

Karabell said, "This is where both advertising and eyeballs are gonna go." Sadly, he has a lot of ammo for that statement. But AOL? Our opinion is the likes of AOL and YHOO are dinosaurs in their own right, only now attracting residual visitors after dominating in ISP and search, functions they were created for but gradually lost the battle.

CNBCfix actually has much in common with AOL and YHOO. We're all just pasting whatever ideas we can afford to paste (in terms of time, money, interest and dedication) on pages like this and hoping people will check them out — and come back. We wish AOL well. But "best media company"? No.

Tim Seymour unfortunately once again tried to convince viewers that Nokia is an exciting investment. "I have not always been right on this, but I have been right for a few weeks."

Here's the undeniable truth about NOK (this writer has no position and hasn't for years) — there is absolutely no buzz about this company other than what's heard on "Fast Money." All the excitement in this broad space of mobile phones is centered around a handful of other companies, namely AAPL, RIMM, PALM. Names like NOK and MOT are names that no one is talking about, except maybe Carl Icahn, who is treated reverentially on "Fast Money" (yes, we like the guy too and agree with him on corporate governance) even though many of his proxy battles prove massive busts. Pete Najarian insisted "they're kind of behind the 8-ball; they're late." Melissa Lee reminded Seymour that he's been wrong throughout the summer in touting the stock. Seymour noted it wasn't Friday and declard, "Melissa just Fast Fired me out of turn."

(Sigh.) Just a couple days after Melissa Lee made a point of insisting "we do our homework" and that's how she knew "Manitowoc" was pronounced "Man-i-TALK," she admitted Thursday that it really is pronounced "Man-i-TOE-walk."

"I stand corrected," Lee said.

Speaking of homework, Lee asked Jon Najarian about Boyd Gaming after a gambling discussion with Joseph Greff. "You like Boyd; you own it," Lee said to Najarian. In fact, as Najarian more or less indicated in his question for Greff, he doesn't own it and agreed with Greff about the Atlantic City-racetrack angle.

Greff of JPMorgan, for the record, said of the climate in Vegas, "the rate of rate discounting is declining," and "things feel much better in Macau right now." But we were paying far more attention to the chap behind him practicing the Johnny Carson golf swing. The place looked straight out of Jackson Steinem, and the golfer dude might as well have been Marv, although Marv didn't do any golf impressions.

Speaking of "Wall Street," there were no tears shed on the set for the Tavern on the Green financial trouble. Apparently the consensus is too pricey, too touristy.

Rick Santelli tried to talk down the dollar a bit more but got called out a bit by Zach Karabell. Santelli said Geithner failed to give it a boost, and that the decline "started when FASB did their 157 in mid-'06," and he sees a "gradual trajectory lower." Karabell asked if the dollar trades fundamentally on what the Treasury secretary says. Santelli conceded no but insisted it's part of the "cumulative effect."

Pete Najarian and Jon Najarian conducted a debate over PEP vs. TAP. Yes, we were told "Jon's a former Chicago Bear," and we're so tired of pointing out the difference between Jon's career and Pete's career that we won't do it here. Pete was listed at 6-3, 230. Interestingly, according to various football sites, he was listed as 6-2, 233 in the NFL. So maybe, 20 years later, he's actually an inch taller and weighs less.

But maybe not.

By the way, the Pete Najarian statistics page at this particular football site is sponsored by DH Capital, which notes "Pete, you are absolutely phenomenal." Excellent choice of words.

Everyone conceded the beer argument in this battle was better. Tim Seymour said consolidation is still good for brewers and named FMX and ABY. Zach Karabell said it's kind of an unfair fight to pit beer vs. pop, joking that given a choice, even "my 3-year-old says beer."

There was brief talk about how reliable the Chinese economic statistics are. Apparently if a product is shipped, it's being recorded as "sold" even if no one has bought it yet. Seymour said this eye-opener, "All data from all governments is dubious." Karabell said things like copper and autos serve as a "real indicator" of what's happening behind the Great Wall.

National Semiconductor chief Brian Halla was given only a couple moments at the end of the show. He said "We continue to see momentum," and, after describing a cork-in-the-bottle analogy, was asked if the worst has passed and laughed. "I can only pray that we've seen the worst," he said. Jon Najarian said the cork may represent champagne. "He's looking to celebrate," Najarian said.

A day after it was first teased, the Tim Seymour-how-Lehman-changed-my-life segment aired. Basically he got out of his least-liquid positions and took cover.

Pete Najarian is no longer calling GS the "canary" in the coal mine, but "condor." Yeah.

There was early talk about the Morgan Stanley news. Karabell noted "the wealth management franchise ... is a really challenging space," given the presence of names like Schwab. Jon Najarian said he thought the BAC-Merrill deal would be "paying huge dividends" in 2010 and 2011.

A late Mary Thompson report on MS preempted the "Final Trade." Melissa Lee said to check them out on the Web. But the panel still got in a closing fist bump.

Tim Seymour, for what it's worth, said "there's a lot of air up to 1130 on the S&Ps."

[Wednesday, September 9, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Fat stock
sells off on thin CEO

Featuring: Joe Terranova | Pete Najarian | Melissa Lee | Guy Adami | Tim Seymour | Steve Jobs | AAPL | David Pogue | Dr. John Najarian | GE | Kevin Plank | UAUA | Heath Terry | Bill McDermott | SAP | ATVI | ERTS | IBM | ABX | TIE | Melissa Francis | Ali al-Naimi

Joe Terranova and Pete Najarian staged an interesting little mini-debate Wednesday as to when precisely did Apple stock begin to sell off.

Terranova claimed once Steve Jobs made his entrance, "the stock rolls over." Najarian insisted the stock actually rose when Jobs appeared. Melissa Lee then weighed in, pointing all around the set and declaring the stock rose once word came out on the wires that Steve Jobs was going to appear.

From what we could find on Google finance, the stock began to climb north of $171 at 11:38 a.m. Eastern and started its downward slide from $174 at 1:14.

The only problem? We couldn't determine when the first stories arrived, nor could we find a video clip of the Jobs appearance with a time stamp.

But to be honest, we didn't spend a whole lot of time looking.

The dispute only matters because Terranova made a curious prediction. Despite saying "I think Apple clearly goes to $200 over the next three months or so," he essentially called the stock a sell, saying the price action indicates a tumble and that people can get it in the next couple of weeks maybe in the $150s.

We did actually do a more thorough search to see if any pros agreed with that one. And according to this WSJ report quoting Charlie Wolf of Needham, Terranova might be overrating Wednesday's AAPL price action. "This happens every year," Wolf told the Journal. "The rumor sites go crazy, the stock goes up, the event occurs and the stock goes down." But the Journal did say the stock might've dropped further if Jobs hadn't appeared.

Pete Najarian disagreed with Terranova and said people can buy AAPL now (as he said he did yesterday) by ... you know it's coming ... purchasing this really cheap protection via puts. This concept was deemed so important, Melissa Lee even noted that she and Pete had been discussing it via e-mail.

Tim Seymour also was bullish on AAPL, though with a caveat. "I do think they're starting to see some cannibalism between products," he said, but it doesn't erase the bull case in his opinion. He said it looks on track to go to $190. (This writer has no position in AAPL.)

Najarian said he talked to his dad, the original Dr. J Najarian, and asked about for an opinion on what kind of shape Steve Jobs is in. The elder Najarian said that given the timing of the transplant Jobs had, one is "lucky by Christmas" to be looking healthy again.

David Pogue, the techno-freak whose New York Times reviews of Apple products coupled with the manuals he writes about them for sale prompted a column from the Times' public editor over the weekend about the sense of "opportunity" the Times sees in previous ethical quandaries, spoke on "Fast Money" about the new iPod stuff such as FM radio. Melissa Lee, whose outfit was rockin', made another one of her semi-startling pronouncements: "Just in time before radio itself as a medium dies." Guy Adami scoffed at that, saying he listens to 104.3 for its Zeppelin and Skynyrd and general classic rock.

Yet another discussion of GE was noteworthy for only one reason: We never heard the phrase "parent company of this network." We did hear, at the beginning of the segment, Melissa Lee say "take a look at the mother ship."

Apparently, and perhaps refreshingly, the legalese is taking a back seat.

Or maybe in the Obama era, the SEC is just that much hipper.

Lee said the stock has faced a lot of resistance and $15. But "I think 15 is not set in stone," said Tim Seymour. "This is the time to move past that." Guy Adami reiterated that he thinks Honeywell is a better company.

Melissa Francis looked great in a live appearance from the OPEC confab in Vienna. She showed a clip from a supposedly testy little exchange with Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi (probably a guy Michael Moore would be skeptical of, except he might also find that given oil's rise since last November's election maybe more than one president is cozy with the Saudis) that had only one glitch; we couldn't understand the first thing he said about Venezuela's Rafael Ramirez being in Russia. "This is the problem with the press," al-Naimi said. "You always look for something that's not there." And this is the problem with government oil ministers, raining b.s. down on serious questions.

Kevin Plank, CEO of Under Armour, was on the set and said "We're not making the cuts, we're not coming out of this year with less people." He noted that Guy Adami asked him the same question about being an executive as last time. Not a whole lot of info here, but at least these are better segments than when Jeff Macke did that silly Under Armour staredown with Jonathan Vilma and the producers reran that clip for weeks. This time, the graphics crew dropped the ball, as Plank's name and description never appeared on the screen. Plank, as you might've gathered from Adami, played for Maryland as special teams captain. You know what they say about special teams: It's more about effort than anything else.

Heath Terry of FBR talked about the Beatles video game (we don't own it or play it, sorry, and never get very excited about video game segments on "Fast Money," though we do like the Beatles) and was asked about Electronic Arts. But he said "the best name to play in this space is still Activision."

Bill McDermott, an SAP exec, talked a lot of corp-speak. Basically what we got out of it was that things are hot in Asia. Guy Adami, extending a trend that might've peaked a couple months ago with the Clorox guy, Don Knauss, once again heavily praised the stock of a CEO who appears on the set and making it his "Final Trade." (A while ago we thought there might be a "tell" in the "Fast Money" CEO guests, that maybe only ones with a good story tend to be on the show. But then we recalled the parade of guys from JetBlue and realized that if there's any trend there, it's not terribly predictable as a stock indicator.)

Adami also expressed some skepticism of IBM around the $120 level.

Tim Seymour said he sees a short trade in the gold miners in the wake of the ABX decline (nicely predicted on some level by Adami yesterday), and Pete Najarian reported activity in TIE.

[Tuesday, September 8, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Analyst
cuts IBM from $116 to $145

Featuring: Tim Seymour | GLD | ABX | Mary Thompson | Pete Najarian | Guy Adami | Karen Finerman | Joe Terranova | Melissa Lee | Rick Santelli | Ayn Rand | Zach Karabell | Eugene Profit | WLT | IBM | Kathryn Huberty | AAPL | Mike Abramsky | Mark Mahaney | "strong hold" | AKAM | RHT | WMT | Thomas Gallagher | AIG | Daniel Clifton | UNH | HUM | BUCY | URS | BDX | WFT | WMT | CL | CLX | PG | Bradley Samples | IR | "Mani-talk"

First show after we posted our "Fast Money" attendance report (below), and leader Tim Seymour is absent from the 5 p.m. edition.

Except he really didn't take the day off. We caught up with him on the "Fast Money Final Call," backing gold in a conversation with Maria Bartiromo.

"I think it has to tell you that there's inflation in the pipeline," Seymour said.

Rick Santelli, though, begged to differ on the 5 p.m. show, and Guy Adami joined him in the bearish camp.

Santelli merely reiterated the point he made last week, that moves in the dollar and bond market aren't supportive of gold's rally. "It would be an Ayn Rand layup to buy gold" after all that has happened in the global economy, he said, but that hasn't been the case.

He said the "Fast Money" breaking news (reported by exquisitely elegant Mary Thompson) of Barrick Gold's decision to issue equity to eliminate its gold hedges is a good time to call the top. Guy Adami earlier said much the same, acknowledging "two camps to this" but saying he sides with the bearish sentiment that ABX being the last to eliminate hedges is a sign of a top.

Joe Terranova was on Seymour's side, albeit for far more technical reasons. Terranova jousted with Santelli over a curious hypothetical $100,000 account question on interest rates, then insisted the tape is giving gold owners no reason to get out.

On the "Halftime" show, Pete Najarian said gold's rise is "certainly muting" the broad market rally. Zach Karabell, back in not-so-rare form, first cracked us up by responding to Melissa Lee's head-scratching gold question, "I'm sorry I'm lost on the double-negative there." Eventually he called gold's rise "a bit of a tertiary factor to the market."

Eugene Profit said "I own no gold," but it sounds like that's not really what his fund would dabble in anyway. ("Eugene has the best last name for a rising economic environment in the world," Karabell said.)

We'd like Dennis Gartman to settle the gold thing, but he wasn't around Tuesday.

Morgan Stanley downgraded IBM while upping its price target to the moon Tuesday.

If that didn't make sense to you, note that it didn't make sense to Guy Adami and Karen Finerman either.

"It seems very bullish," Karen said, but ... "makes me think, you know, that analysts probably don't really get it."


The analyst in question was Kathryn Huberty, who lowered the stock from overweight to equal weight but raised the price target from $116 to $145.

Melissa Lee offered this rationale: "Well, that's the weird post-Wall-Street-settlement world, where you have to like, do these weird rankings."

But don't be so quick to write off Huberty's recommendation as "weird." According to Bloomberg in May, Huberty upped her AAPL price target to $180 at a time the stock traded at $130. She's only about, um, 8 bucks off right now.

Karen and Melissa Lee also made fun of a recent recommendation on the show as a "strong accumulate." In fact they were chuckling about Mark Mahaney's "strong hold" on Akamai back on July 27. (Pete Najarian said then, "I had a girlfriend like that once.") AKAM was $20.33 on July 27. Tuesday, it was $17.32.

Guy Adami was chipper in explaining how his market prediction hadn't panned out. Tuesday was an "impressive day," he said. "I'm clearly wrong, I don't trust it," but it looks like it's trending higher, he said.

Karen Finerman, who looks great in everything but really looks great in black, noted the big gains in energy and said the move was a bit much. "Today's not the day to put money to work," she said.

"Engineering names, they're just on fire," Pete Najarian crowed about one of his favorite sectors. And: "These coal names are on fire." (This writer is long ANR.) Guy Adami made a further case for WLT. Pete said in his "Final Trade" to "take a little off" in BUCY, but warned it could still go higher.

We've long since tired of AAPL speculation, but investors care, so Mike Abramsky offered this: "I think they will be launching revitalization versions of the iPod," he said, as well as a "potential new version of iTunes."

Pete Najarian acknowledged he bought AAPL at the end of the day because — you'll never guess — protection was just so danggone cheap.

Joe Terranova made what literally is a startling prediction, but the way he delivered it was so low-key we don't think he totally means it. He said he thinks VMWare (one of the toughest corporate names to type quickly and spell correctly) and Red Hat are both going "substantially" higher. (Guess that means they're more than a "strong hold.")

We were excited about the AIG interview with Credit Suisse analyst Thomas Gallagher, only to end up royally disappointed as many of the details quickly went over our head. He was asked to assign certain dollar amounts to various AIG businesses and did so. He said it's extremely difficult to predict what the shares will do in the course of a week because they fluctuate wildly, but he has a "one-year-type horizon."

Our take? (Keep in mind we're not pros at this.) Nobody really has any idea what this company is worth. That's why the shares are trading all over the place.

Reuters says Gallagher halved his price target to $15. He figures the company has to reduce debt by selling assets. His evaluation is in line with what's often heard on "Fast Money," that on paper, AIG just doesn't add up.

The alternative — and in our opinion (this writer has no position in AIG), equally if not more valid — theory is that we're in a "new normal" and no it's not the bogus "new normal" of Steve Cortes who apparently like Pimco thinks consumers are permanently done shopping because we built a few too many houses in 2006 but rather the "new normal" of "too big to fail" and this administration not letting AIG die on the taxpayers while seeking re-election three years from now and thus AIG stock represents one of those Citi-like "call options" that just maybe will pay off.

Daniel Clifton of Strategas, who said on the show in July that health-care reform was slowly dying, offered a tremendously informative bit of information in a perfect little TV soundbite. "The votes just aren't there," he said. "If you put the public option, there's 40 Democrats against it. If you don't put the public option, there's 80 Democrats against it." He said dips like Tuesday's are a great time to buy names like UNH but said he didn't see that big of a pop from a name like Humana. Melissa Lee made a rather catty comment about Speaker Pelosi.

Bradley Samples of Summit Energy nodded all over the place but delivered a good oil segment. Mostly though it amounted to this not-so-startling prediction, oil by year end will be between $80 and $90. But backwardation lovers have something to look forward to: "The action is really gonna be there in the time spreads," he said.

Someone came up with the strange idea to have Karen Finerman discuss Ingersoll Rand — even though she's not buying the stock. After seemingly 18 minutes of backstory over IR's acquisition of the Trane HVAC business, Karen said the news for IR is "they'll survive." We always like attempts at humor, but Guy Adami offered the most expected of gags, which would've worked had Karen uttered it at the beginning but she didn't because it's not her style of humor and her best jokes are about the Dress Barn: "That was a Trane wreck of a deal," Adami said.

Joe Terranova insisted "GE does go north of 15" and offered WFT for his "Final Trade." Guy Adami touted URS and Finerman liked BDX. Patty Edwards at "Halftime" actually sounded a cautionary note on one of her favorites, WMT, because of the dollar. She's OK though with CLX, PG, CL.

Melissa Lee on the 5 p.m. show twice ran clips of 50 Cent on "Power Lunch," but we think the point was to show off Michelle Caruso-Cabrera in that sizzling outfit.

Guy Adami and Melissa Lee sparred over the pronunciation of "Manitowoc." Adami called it "Man-i-toe-walk." Lee insisted it is "Mani-talk."

"We do our homework here on the show," Lee said, and (sigh) while we're sure that's true to a large extent, we've flagged enough issues on this page to know that's not a 100% certainty.

For this subject we go straight to The Academic, Zach Karabell, who twice pronounced MTW the Adami way in this appearance May 27.

If you're not impressed by that, consider that Karabell also used the term "calendrically" in this feature, something you know you haven't done yourself lately. (We looked it up, and yes, "calendrically" is a word.)

By the way, also in that May 27 appearance, Karabell discussed with a little satire the end of the recession as suggested by the NABE (you know, the guys who are so important as to be handed custody of a very significant word, no questions asked). Karabell targeted Labor Day but joked the recession couldn't end on a holiday, so it would be Aug. 31 at 2:37 p.m.

He might've nailed it.

Fast Money attendance:
Seymour leads the pack

For reasons that run no deeper than "because we can," CNBCfix actually took a few moments to tally up "Fast Money" attendance figures.

Actually, OK, there is a tiny motive. Whenever a regular panelist is on vacation for more than a couple days, this site gets inquiries asking if "so-and-so got fired and replaced by Steve Grasso/Zach Karabell/Steve Cortes/Jared Levy," etc. To find out who's been on most and who hasn't, we flipped through our notes for the last six months, March through August, 128 episodes total, basically the length of the current bull market (or bear correction, whichever term you like). Maybe we could've started in January, but let's get real here.

The winner is Tim Seymour, with 90 appearances in six months, a 70% clip.

Pete Najarian and Guy Adami tied for second at 86.

Karen Finerman clocked in at 82.

Joe Terranova might be wrongly considered the laggard at 78. Except to our knowledge, he wasn't promoted to official show member (based on the criteria of which faces appear in the CNBC.com "Fast Money" home page logo) until June or so, after Jeff Macke ran off the road with that "car people" thing.

In just the last three months, as a matter of fact, Terranova leads the pack, with 56 appearances out of 65 shows. So he's got the momentum trade on his side.

Macke posted 44 appearances before he and CNBC parted ways.

Seymour also claims the one-month record (with Phil Simms Super Bowl-esque stats): 20 appearances in July, out of 22 shows.

We only tallied the regulars. The subs tend to be used seasonally when work schedules permit. Note also that we only counted appearances in a chair, not a guest appearance on the set. Seymour had at least two of those, enhancing his impressive total.

So congrats to Tim Seymour. It might not make him any more money. But as Woody Allen says, Eighty percent of success is showing up.

[Friday, September 4, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Adami says
unemployment ‘closer to 17%’

Featuring: Michelle Meyer | Steve Cortes | Guy Adami | Joe Terranova | Melissa Lee | Tim Seymour | Steve Grasso | Charles Boorady | John Krafcik | Charles Ortel | WFC | 991 | CREE | AET | UNH | MHS | HON | GE

First, a brief recap. Last week (Wednesday, Aug. 26), we noted Steve Cortes said "the game of chasing performance is incredibly dangerous" and predicted, unlike Joe Terranova, that the bottom would fall out not in Decembr, but much sooner. "My guess is, it's not at the end of the year," Cortes said. "I think it's next week. I think we are, we're very, very close."

And now we have S&P at 1016, after an "incredibly dangerous" week in the markets.

We have no issue with people being wrong. We wonder, though, why some (er, Patty Edwards, Peter Schiff, Nouriel Roubini, Cortes, everybody on the "Fast Money" Bull Market or BS contest, maybe Mohamed El-Erian and even a lesser extent strictly in terms of S&P ranges, Guy Adami) insist on clinging to macro views that clearly haven't materialized for months. Particularly when these macro views are extremely dubious even to laymen such as CNBCfix who have never been trained to analyze financial markets. A year ago at this time, yes, then those were the right views. The game started to change dramatically in October 2008. The game was totally changed by March 2009 when the Fed sealed the deal. The government has a magic wand and it's called debt. Apparently nobody in 1933 thought of using it, or maybe there just wasn't the financial infrastructure to tap it. They are using it now, and it works. Even Nobel winners (that would be Paul Krugman) insist that we can ultimately catch up with whatever amount of debt is needed to get us out of this current pickle.

They're going to tinker with mark-to-market, they're going to open discount windows, they're even going to frown on stock shorting, and if they have to they'll cut cap gains or dividend taxes, whatever it takes to keep this market afloat.

And so we're going to print away, and nobody important is going under. It used to be C traded around $1 or $2 because people questioned if it would exist five years from now. By now most people are catching on that it's definitely going to exist and presumably by then the shares will be worth more than $5 after whatever government anesthetic is applied.

Yesterday we noted the parade of Obama critics who preach on CNBC that this administration is the death knell for business. Almost on cue Friday, Bob Pisani served up one Charles Ortel on the "Closing Bell" just before "Fast Money." Pisani introduced Ortel as someone who believes this administration will be the most anti-capitalist in history. Wow. Ortel's argument? "It seems to me that we now have a team that believes men are more powerful than markets." See if you can get from Point A to Point B on that one.

Note: This doesn't mean we like government policy. Only that it's patently obvious here what's going on. Trade the market you've got, not the market you want. (Man, Jeff Macke is missed.) Or like Dennis Gartman, do what the market is telling you to do. There is definitely money to be made from time to time going short, but ultimately you'll be fighting the government. This administration is the Dennis Gartman of politics. They dump the stuff that makes stocks go down. One of their goals is supporting the financial markets and they're not about to let a little health care or cap-and-trade or CFTC regulation get in the way of that.

Anyway, Friday on "Fast Money," when we weren't hoping for an encore that didn't happen from the staggeringly cute Michelle Meyer, The World's Cutest Economist, or staring at the sleek and curvy red top on Melissa Lee that would certainly be a big hit tonight at Campagnolo, we noticed at the very end that Guy Adami somehow avoided a "Fast Fire."

CNBCfix thinks extremely highly of Guy, he's the conscience of the show. Unlike the others mentioned above, he doesn't have a dubious macro view, just a market-timing call that's been off. But this is ridiculous. He's adamant that Wells Fargo must go down. He reported a rumor a few weeks ago about a WFC secondary that has so far proved unfounded and now is carrying on a public battle with WFC longs (this writer has no position in WFC). On Friday he talked about TARP. "And now Wells Fargo's on the clock frankly," he said. "They said they're not going to do a secondary. That's fine, but you know every day that goes by they don't repay this thing to me is another day that Wells Fargo goes down."

Yet, it's basically been trading around $26 for weeks, stuck in the same range as a bunch of other prominent banks like GS, JPM, MS, BAC.

Maybe even worse, Guy offered one of the most tiresome cliches used by frustrated bears and critics of incumbent politicans — that the true jobless rate is twice the reported one.

"The real unemployment rate's probably not 9.7%," he said Friday. "Frankly it's probably closer to 17%. People roll off ... these things all the time." He said of the number, "I don't think it's great at all. I don't think it's great for the consumer, I don't think it's great for banks, and I don't think it's particularly great for the market."

At one point Adami conceded, "Clearly I've been wrong, I mean I thought we were going down big today and we didn't." But nevertheless, "Everything that I look at points lower."

Wow. Somehow everything he looks at points lower. And you thought Melissa Lee was Debbie Downer.

"There's no reason to sell this off but people want to," said Tim Seymour, perhaps referring to the person on his left.

Joe Terranova deduced a key S&P level. "991. That is the low in the S&P. That's your level. You break below there, and there is going to be selling pressure coming into the market," he said. "On the upside from Tuesday, on the ISM figure, we got up to 1027.75 on the S&P. There's your upside number."

Terranova added, "Still overall, the market looks like right now it is a little bit on the defensive." But then he said something that is absolutely true, 100% of the time: "You'll know more next week."

Steve Grasso said there's a new trade in town. "Funds that never spoke about gold to me are talking about gold. They're all bullish on it," he said. Terranova had another support level. "A thousand technically is not the level to look at. It is a thousand five," he said.

Terranova noted the new "canary in the coal mine" (hopefully this is the last week of hearing that term on "Fast Money"), Goldman Sachs, has actually been stagnant. "Really over the last seven weeks, Goldman Sachs has not gone anywhere," he said. But Grasso said junky financial stocks might remain the play. "I think you've got another month" before a lot of longs unload, he said.

Adami said, "Something's clearly going on at Cree."

Charles Boorady of Citi conducted an excellent little health-care roundtable, even if we disagree with his conclusions.

"We think something called 'health reform' will get done this year," he said. "We think what that means is that it'll expand health insurance to people who don't have it. And so there are many companies who will be hurt by that, and many companies who will benefit from that. We think the managed care stocks are discounting something worse than what's really gonna come out of health reform. Aetna's our favorite stock here. We also like UNH."

Where we disagree: "there are many companies who will be hurt by that." Especially because Boorady couldn't name one when Melissa Lee asked for a name to short. "Most of the stocks we see in health care are better longs than shorts," he said. Chances are (remember, CNBCfix is not a stock professional) the health care trade is in the same stage as banks were around February and once everyone figures out that this administration isn't going to kill any health care stock, there's probably going to be a decent surge in the sector(s). (But then again, this writer isn't long those sectors just yet either.)

Boorady wouldn't answer Guy Adami's question about Medco buying Aetna's PBM but said "CIGNA and Aetna will both likely sell their PBMs." He added, "I think there's 25-30% upside in Aetna stock over the next 12 months...the stock is very under-owned."

John Krafcik of Hyundai was on for another impressive segment.

Finally, a major prop for Guy Adami. "I've said it, I'll say it again," he said Friday. "Honeywell is a better company ... I like Honeywell a lot better than GE."

It does not matter to us if traders prefer GE to Honeywell or vice versa. There likely are arguments each way. We wish GE and its employees well. We do believe that CNBC sometimes has trouble keeping it real in its discussions about GE and generally most comments on the network tend to be more positive than candid. Kudos to Adami, and Karen Finerman, who notes GE is hampered by not being a pure play in anything, for their commentary. And may GE stock outperform, regardless.

[Thursday, September 3, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Making the
jobs-report discussion exciting

Featuring: Michelle Meyer | Tim Seymour | Pete Najarian | Guy Adami | Joe Terranova | Melissa Lee | Charles Gasparino | The Sellout | MCO | Max Meyers | Rick Santelli | gold | JCG | GPS | POT | WLT | NOK | Steven Davis | BOBE | PDE

About a month ago we explained how "Fast Money" chatter about the jobs report tends to be astoundingly dull, and when such a segment aired Thursday, we were all set to ignore it.

Until we discovered that the special guest was smoldering Michelle Meyer of Barclays Capital New York.

Meyer virtually one-upped Melissa Lee's red-and-black ensemble of a day earlier — we'll call it a tie — and then handled a strange dead-air audio glitch on the "Fast Money" set like a pro. CNBC should consider putting Meyer on the "Power Lunch" desk for a while.

"We think that nonfarm payrolls are gonna fall by 200,000 in August, which is by no means a trivial amount, but it does show a considerable slowing in the pace of job cuts," Meyer said. "The overall tone of the data has been better than expected so perhaps the market's positioning in that respect as well."

Joe Terranova questioned if it's better to have "modest" growth than "aggressive" growth. "It's always better to have stronger growth, right," Meyer kind of chuckled.

"But doesn't that then mean that they take away the easy monetary policy that's kind of fueling the recovery itself?" Terranova persisted.

"It could," Meyer said, "but again the Fed is not going to take away the easy monetary policy until they're sure that the recovery is strong, and that it can handle, uh, higher rates and it can handle tighter policy."

That's a bit of an understatement. No one in Washington is taking away any punch bowls or seriously hiking taxes or scrapping any stimulus until everyone is swimming in money again, rest assured. A lot of critics such as Rick Santelli somehow don't seem to get it and suggest the opposite when in fact this administration is bound to be the most stock-market-friendly in history; they can't risk a retest of the March lows, they can't risk a major bank failure, and way too many people in this country own stocks and have somehow become dependent on the stock market for a decent chunk of their wealth. It's almost laughable how one (generally Republican) critic after another comes on CNBC to issue dire warnings of the Obama stimulus, the Obama health-care thing, the Obama tax hikes, the Obama mortgage bailouts for people who bought more home than they can afford, the Obama cap-and-trade that will destroy the energy infrastructure, the Obama cash for clunkers, the Obama hyper-regulation of commodity markets, the Obama Fed that until a couple weeks ago was going to oust George Bush's guy and replace him with Larry Summers, etc., and while philosophically most of those points are correct, the facts on the ground are just the opposite, people with political axes to grind somehow not realizing that in the end, the financial markets are going to get every break in the book for at least four years and that means things influencing the markets (taxes, trade, regulation, bailouts) are going to be dealt with in the most market-friendly manner conceivable.

Charles Gasparino, who got to plug his upcoming The Sellout, tore into the ratings agencies, questioning why they still exist and whether they've got some kind of damaging info on the government.

"They get paid by the people that they're rating," Gasparino said, explaining that he and CNBC producer Max Meyers have done significant research. (Meyers, we noticed, like Gasparino once worked for The Bond Buyer.) "The bonuses of the analysts that do these ratings reflect the revenues that come from this conflicted business model, i.e., uh, the more money that companies make from these, from doing deals, OK, the analysts get paid more money," Gasparino said.

Melissa Lee eventually cut in, asking if anything about the ratings system has changed given the horror of last year. Gasparino said incredibly, no.

"My personal opinion is that the rating agencies have pictures of certain congressmen and regulators, um, involved in uh, certain, uh, you know, perverted acts. Because there's no other explanation for it," he said. "If they don't change this business model, which is obviously not changing, we're setting ourselves up for disaster in the future. There's no doubt about that. ... The SEC is making no effort to change this."

"My personal view," he said, "is — and this is opinion, what I was stating before is pretty much fact — this is opinion, they shouldn't be in existence. There's no need for them, as a matter of fact they make a bad situation even worse because they lend a sort of false sense of security, that they're actually watching stuff when they're not really watching it."

"In their feeble defenses to my, my, questions the other day ... they keep pointing out that the SEC gave their compensation system essentially a clean bill of health when they investigated it. ... Here's what the rating agencies will never answer, and this gets to the heart of it: Why were structured finance analysts paid so much more than other analysts. And why were those ratings so much worse?"

Melissa Lee called the book "The Selloff." November 3rd, "mark that on your calendar," she said. The Selloff is what happened to the stock market on Tuesday. The Sellout is the name of the book.

Joe Terranova said to short Moody's.

Rick Santelli on Thursday delivered something he doesn't always deliver on "Fast Money" — interesting material. Santelli said the gains in gold were nothing more than a technical commodity rally. "They all go parabolic at some point and they're all ugly when it ends," he said. He said the gold rush isn't about inflation because Treasurys and the dollar aren't showing it. The "rest of the market's not buying it," he said.

We hadn't thought much about it yet, but his points are convincing.

Pete Najarian said of gold, "That ride up is very fast and that ride down is even faster." Joe Terranova said he's tacking on some more to the holdings he's got, offering a helpful price point for reference. "I added to my position. 983.50," he said.

Tim Seymour caught our attention with this comment: "Commodities are now an asset class." That happens to be the opposite view of Commodities King Dennis Gartman, who complained during 2008 that all kinds of fund managers made a mistake by suddenly believing commodities are an asset class. We have no idea who's right; we'll let them settle it on a future show.

"I'll tell you what was really interesting, late surge in financials," said Pete Najarian, but in fact, it might've been the surge in retail that was most exciting. (This writer has no position in retailers.) Guy Adami conceded striking analyst Kimberly Greenberger's prescient call in JCG yesterday, then noted the big gain in the Gap, which he used to promote until he decided the market was going to crumble. "I didn't think it would get this high, but this stock's been a monster," he said.

Terranova mentioned one trade that did not work. "I got long Potash yesterday," he said, noting Adami was offering the other side and was apparently right. "The fundamentals are not there," Terranova says.

But "the coal trade still remains," Pete Najarian said, and even Guy Adami smiled on Walter Industries: "This stock could still go higher," he said. (This writer is long ANR.)

Tim Seymour, somehow, for whatever confounding reason, is again promoting Nokia. We're not the experts, but anyone should be able to figure out that aside from a couple people on "Fast Money," there is zero buzz about this stock, especially with everyone piling into names like AAPL, RIMM, PALM, etc., knowing that the heyday NOK enjoyed in the late '90s is permanently gone due to massive competition in the sector. Nevertheless (sigh), Seymour claimed Nokia is going to fight Apple with its own app store and even if it's late to the game, it still is backed by massive market share. "You can fall backwards into this trade though," he insisted. (This writer has no position in NOK or any phone maker.)

Good call, Karen! Najarian noticed a lot of option activity fueling the hike in PDE.

Guy Adami placed swine flu in this context: "If Mexico can deal with it, we better be able to deal with it here."

Melissa Lee introduced Steven Davis, CEO of Bob Evans restaurants, as a major coup for the show as though identifying high-performing companies is beyond the normal call of duty. Traders sounded a little skeptical of this name and Davis didn't sound like he had any promotions to unveil. He said BOBE is in a good niche, "We're at the entry-level point of casual dining and we're in the family dining sector." He said, "We really try to avoid discounting. ... We do 99-cent add-ons to build guest checks."

"The concern you've gotta have is the margins," said Pete Najarian. Guy Adami called Davis "Mr. Evans," but who cares.

[Wednesday, September 2, 2009]

Fast Money Review: There is
no Obama health-care plan

Featuring: Joe Terranova | Dennis Gartman | Karen Finerman | Guy Adami | Pete Najarian | Melissa Lee | Paris Hilton | Kimberly Greenberger | JCG | URBN | GPS | GLD | FXB | The Duggars | John Hyland | USO | UNG | Ivan Menezes | DEO | IPI | OXPS | PDE | GILD | TIF | AXL | GS | Scott Wapner

Joe Terranova declared Wednesday on "Fast Money" a major bull run in gold. "I truly believe that this move in gold will be the move that takes gold above a thousand and takes gold to fresh highs that you have not ever seen before," he said.

That was bold. Dennis Gartman went deep.

"I've been buying gold in terms of other foreign currencies," Gartman said, offering this intriguing explanation for the rally: "You're also seeing a vote against the economy."

According to the text on the screen, Gartman suggests going long GLD and short the FXB.

Guy Adami said of his gold calls, "I look as stupid as Paris Hilton taking the SATs. Sorry, Paris, if you're watching."

"She's not watching. We're good. We're good," said Karen Finerman.

Finerman returned to the show red-hot, and not just in her appearance featuring a flashy new hairstyle and jacket that would've made the Maria character in The Bonfire of the Vanities jealous.

Karen said it was an "interesting" day and she was watching the "HMO stuff." Where it got more interesting was later when she took up the subject of health care legislation, the first time the panel has really discussed the Ted Kennedy death.

Karen said she'd be "so pissed at myself" if she were to jump into HMO stocks just when a legislative reversal happened and Congress enacted something detrimental to insurers, even though the president is apparently done with a public option. "I'm guessing the Obama camp leaked this story," Finerman said, suggesting they wanted to see the reaction to it before he speaks. She capped the segment by pointing at the camera and saying whatever she ends up doing in regard to these stocks, "do the opposite" and you'll make money.

Joe Terranova was the first on the show to mention Karen's call about the impact of Kennedy's death on legislation. The problem was, his recall was a little off. "You said a couple of months ago" that Kennedy's death could spur a deal, Terranova said to Finerman, but actually it was less than one month ago.

We go back to Monday, when this site was apparently the only site to note that David Snow, the CEO of a very big player in health care, Medco, told "Fast Money" that after two-plus years of seeking the presidency "we don't know what the Obama plan is yet." The truth is there never was a plan. The only "plan" amounted to "yours won't change and everyone will get insurance and everything will be cheaper." He's not "dropping" the public option; he's not dropping anything because there was nothing to drop.

There was populist rhetoric for about two years aimed at a party base that requires it. The "hope" was that this token lip service would be enough to win a nomination and that perhaps some idea to change the system that was palatable to Republicans and moderates would somehow surface just as the previous president hoped would happen with Social Security. It hasn't. The president has never championed this particular cause or any cause actually and is definitely not going to take a risk with it. This administration is the Dennis Gartman of politics and they buy what the political market tells them to buy and they sell what the market tells them to sell and clearly the "market" is telling them this is a sell, and so while Kent Conrad draws up plans for co-ops we're going to get some kind of George Bush Medicare Junior program that will be trumpeted as an accomplishment in 2010 and 2012, not seriously tick off the Chuck Krauthammers and George Wills, and definitely isn't going to sink HMOs or any other stocks.

Karen Finerman said of commercial real estate, "I think the short-commercial-real-estate trade, I really believe is over." Joe Terranova is tossing in the towel on that one, saying he's tried shorting Avalon Bay and Essex, but "I've lost money." Which makes us wonder, if the short trade is over, shouldn't people go long?

Karen used her favorite term to describe the Duggars family, which is expecting its 19th child: "ridiculous."

Specialty retail analyst Kimberly Greenberger of Citi was making presumably her first "Fast Money" appearance, and we wondered why we haven't seen her before. A striking blonde in floral-print skirt, Greenberger articulated some interesting calls on J. Crew and Urban Outfitters. Mostly, she said they are "absolutely out-executing the competition," producing must-have clothing. Answering maybe the most anticipated "Fast Money" question of all time, she dismissed Guy Adami's concern that JCG has had too big of a run, saying the future beats will be good and while there is likely to be near-term consolidating in the sector, buyers can "ease into it" and see $40 within "a year, year and a half."

Greenberger said the denim-at-the-Gap campaign "looks fantastic," the only problem being that it's likely more fantastic than GPS expected and thus in terms of inventory, the chain might've "underbought it."

Admittedly, in discussing the connections between back-to-school sales and holiday sales, she said there's a 65% "correlation between the two," and we don't have the foggiest idea what that means.

We learned from this 2007 profile in Forbes that Greenberger was an accountant with a B.A. in business from Colorado and a Harvard MBA who learned the retail business working for bebe and Mervyn's. She takes two trips to the mall a month to identify trends. However, she always dresses casually for those trips; "otherwise, you get treated like a pariah," she says. Forbes says she is married with two children. If we did the math right, she is now 40.

In the old days, Dylan Ratigan would often engage talkative guests in hand-to-hand combat. Wednesday, John Hyland, CIO of United States Commodity Funds LLC (the guys who do the UNG and USO), was allowed to deliver about five minutes of lobbying against something, though we're not sure exactly what. Apparently he thinks the administration has been indecisive in the signals it's sending about regulation. Or, according to very long testimony he delivered to the CFTC Aug. 5 (we didn't read it all because it's like eight pages on one Web site), he's annoyed that instruments like the USO and UNG are blamed for spiking energy prices. But that wasn't his subject on "Fast Money." He said part of the fallout has been an increased cost of hedging in these ETFs/ETNs that attempt to match indexes.

First Hyland sought to explain how he thinks Deutsche Bank closed DXO not because of regulation but because in pricing the hedging of it, the "cost of that ... is increasing." He noted concerns that some unsophisticated investors may not fully understand what they're getting with the 2x and 3x ETFs. He predicted some ETFs might close down and then reopen three months later at a higher fee structure. The net result, he said, is an "increase in expenses for the average investor to gain exposure."

Rather than lobbying for something or other, Hyland could've better spent the time answering constructive questions from Melissa Lee that were never asked, even if Lee looked devilishly delightful in red and black. Some argue for example that these ETFs should not be held more than a day or else they deliver imperfect results. Others warn that once too many of them get issued, the liquidity for many will dry up and the spreads will surge. And some people think 2x and 3x returns are just too dangerous for the market. Jon Najarian a few months ago made some excellent points about which ones are more vulnerable to serious arbitrage than others.

Karen Finerman said if she had a position in an ETF and there were concerns it could be shut down, "I would be a little nervous about it."

Hyland is a 1982 grad of Cal-Berkeley (seems like a lot of Berkeley grads on the show recently). He's got a B.A. in poli sci/international relations.

Ivan Menezes, North American president of Diageo, was a decent guest who made merely generic comments on the state of the spirits industry. He said people are going out less to restaurants but "we are seeing a move to valued and trusted brands," which coincidentally is a hallmark of his company. Guy Adami questioned the potential of organic growth. "I don't know where the growth comes from, frankly," he said. "Fast Money" producers were smart to book this at the end.

Joe Terranova gave viewers another dreaded backstory, explaining right off the bat what he and Pete Najarian were talking about before the show started.

Guy Adami, using today as another argument in his months-long "market going down" thesis, said, "You may have lost Goldman Sachs today." The horror. GS trickled down an entire $1.63 to $158.54.

But we might've "lost" it.

"I still think we're headed down," Adami reassured.

Pete Najarian said IPI was the ag name seeing huge options activity Wednesday. For a final trade he liked OXPS. Terranova offered TIF, Adami suggested GILD and Finerman, who was proud to mention Pride all day, offered AXL: "It's a risky one but I think it works out," she said.

Don't tell Patty Edwards, but quietly under the radar, Scott Wapner is doing a bang-up job hosting the "Fast Money Final Call" segments and should definitely be considered for the real show's next guest-host opening.

[Tuesday, September 1, 2009]

Fast Money Review: Why isn’t
Peter Schiff shorting U.S. stocks?

Featuring: Jon Najarian | Guy Adami | 970 | Tim Seymour | Joe Terranova | Pete Najarian | Melissa Lee | Paul Miller | David Rosenberg | Nouriel Roubini | Peter Schiff | WFC | FLR | AIG | MOS | JOYG | John Chen | SY | PBR | JCG | ANR | Greg Troccoli | GS | Patty Edwards | Scott Wapner

Well, Jon Najarian isn't always right. The stock market pulled a September Mourn.

Not surprisingly, Guy Adami was flirting with saying "I told you so."

"I think we go down to 970, we see if we hold there. Close below 970 gets us 905," he opined.

Tim Seymour said he agreed that there is probably more room to drop, given that there were "a lot of people trading" on Tuesday, and "this was a big-volume day."

Nevertheless, Seymour isn't as dour as Adami. "Around 950, we've got a big floor under this market," he said.

In the financials, "I do believe, it was just a technical sell-off," said Joe Terranova.

Either "Fast Money" producers were on to something or merely got lucky in booking notable bears, but Tuesday's show featured interviews with David Rosenberg, Peter Schiff and Nouriel Roubini.

And they also got an encore from FBR's Paul Miller, who last week said the government isn't interested in Fannie and Freddie shares rising in value. Tuesday, he took up the issue of whether Wells Fargo needs to raise capital.

"We never felt they were going to raise capital," he said, because WFC does have "great earnings power." But he said his firm expects WFC will take longer to repay the government than is perhaps believed.

"We don't know how they're gonna be able to pay back TARP without getting some forbearance from the government," he said.

Impressively, he conceded that his bearishness from March and April on WFC was inaccurate. "We've gotten Wells wrong, relatively speaking, over the last six months. Stock's had a nice run," he said Tuesday.

"I think a secondary's probably in the works at some point; I think the stock moves down," said Guy Adami, and it's not really a surprise that he thinks that, given that twice on Aug. 11 — on both the "Halftime Report" and real show (see below) — he reported a WFC rumor. "I am hearing from a couple people," he said that day, that "maybe there's another secondary coming for Wells Fargo ... I happen to think Wells Fargo is a short here." (It closed that day at $26.89 and closed Tuesday at $26.21)

"I think there's no way they can do a secondary here honestly," said Tim Seymour.

David Rosenberg, of Gluskin Sheff, evidently has an 840 S&P target. Joe Terranova asked him how long it'll take to get there. Rosenberg said, "It could happen by October ... It ain't gonna be slow, it's gonna be pretty swift."

Rosenberg said he doubts expectations of 4% GDP and said "2% growth ... is what the corporate bond market, um, is discounting right now."

Peter Schiff, who is making so many "Fast Money" appearances that each one is basically a rerun, made the same points he's made two or three times in about the last month.

"The correction was the rally," he said. "I like Asia in particular." He said the problem with investing in the U.S. is, "We don't have any money. We have to borrow our stimulus money from Japan and from China. ... Remember, the real economic crisis is in front of us, not behind us. ... I'm afraid of what this government might do to further undermine the profitability of our companies. So I wanna stay away from it, I wanna get out of Dodge."

Joe Terranova reflected on the "real economic crisis" being in front of us. "That is frightening, and not necessarily something that I believe," Terranova said.

That's weak. We'll go farther than that. We don't believe it in the slightest. (This writer is not an economist and has never been trained to analyze economies.)

This stock market is permanently supported (we say "permanently" as in, at least the next few years, probably more) by massive government intervention that in hindsight should've been enacted about exactly a year earlier but was cemented by March 2009. For whatever reason there wasn't the political will to distribute TARP cash in mid-2008 and keep the likes of Lehman alive. That will is now going to be there for years. Shorting this market (this writer has tried it from time to time and will occasionally continue to do so, but not now) is a losing proposition. You're not only fighting the Fed, you're fighting a government that is highly conscious of stock prices and the health of Wall Street and Depression-like headlines and won't let it happen.

People like Schiff and (to a lesser extent) Roubini say the problem is the government isn't capable of permanently bailing out the economy with debt. Since about, oh, 1981, it has a perfect record of doing so. If there's a renewed downturn, the next thing you'll see are tax holidays, then permanent, real tax cuts, capital gains down to 3%, stimulus that puts not an extra $8 a week in your paycheck but $80, etc. Whoever wants to fight that, be our guest.

Schiff is interesting, but on "Fast Money" he seems to be playing games. About the only specifics he'll give involve the dollar, it's going down, so even if U.S. stocks go up (he won't say he's shorting them) you can still lose money in real terms. If he's really right, the bond market would've crashed, interest rates would be soaring, and gold, which peaked around March 2008, would be well into four digits. If the "real economic crisis" (which sounds a bit like O.J. looking for the real killers) is still in front of us as he says, then stocks are a massive short and not just to 905. But that's not the call he's making.

The show claimed an "exclusive" interview with Roubini that amounted to two soundbites lasting about a minute total. Guy Adami said a few weeks ago when "Fast Money" was interrupted by a Warren Buffett interview, "he didn't say a damn thing." Well, Roubini didn't say a damn thing either on Tuesday.

"The debt ratios of banks and houses are still very high, and the houses have barely started saving," Roubini said. "And instead what we've done has been to socialize these private losses and we've now a massive releveraging of the public sector with large and unsustainable budget deficits."

"China is too small to be the main locomotive of engine (sic) of global growth," Roubini said. Again, nothing earth-shattering there. Yes, there are some overzealous voices on CNBC who think that because people in Guangzhou are going to KFC, you should jettison English and teach your kids Mandarin before their future turns bleaker than the Joad family's. It's a free country (this one, not that one), so you can believe whatever thesis you want.

Elsewhere, Pete Najarian said there's been "rabid trading" going on, specifically with AIG, a stock somehow soaring to $50 last week "when most people on the street are telling you it's worth nothing." He suggested FLR could be around a good entry point and defended Joy Global in the discussion with Peter Schiff.

Tim Seymour reported "a lot of call activity in the 60s" for Mosaic, a stock that had a good day and got mentioned several times on the show.

Melissa Lee interviewed Sybase Chairman and CEO John Chen in a segment that never got off the ground. Lee asked about growth prospects relative to smartphones. Chen merely explained that his company is more "tightly tied to the application that runs on these devices" than the smartphones themselves. Lee asked for a metric that investors could judge the company by, and Chen offered this not-particularly-surprising answer: "The basic thing is, the more of these devices deployed by businesses, the better off our companies will be," and the more "different major camps" and "applications" there are, the better for his firm.

So SY deals in smartphone apps, and the more phones and apps that are sold, the better his company will do.

Chen has a bachelor's from Brown and a master's from Caltech and a couple honorary degrees from Hong Kong. He's on the board of DIS and WFC. According to the Sybase Web site, he has testified to Congress about U.S.-China trade relations. According to Yahoo finance, Chen has been exercising options and selling shares on a preplanned schedule throughout the summer.

A "Fast Message" question from Michael in California was massively redundant, asking Guy Adami about a key S&P support level to watch that Adami had already mentioned a couple times.

For the "Final Trade," Seymour said to remain short PBR, Adami said to be short JCG, Terranova said Alpha Natural (this writer is long ANR and didn't encourage Terranova to say it, but thank you) and Najarian said MOS.

Greg Troccoli at "Halftime" said to put a stop on GS at $158 and "please" take profits off the table if it falls past that level.

Patty Edwards, who maintains a fiercely bearish outlook on her blog and Twitter, was asked by Melissa Lee if today's correction is some kind of validation that the collapse is happening. Edwards cited data such as Clunkers that she thinks is actually negative and said, "Yeah, I think this could be the beginning of it."

Troccoli and Dennis Gartman both said Tuesday they weren't buying on the dips.

What we found curious was that Edwards on Twitter Tuesday suggested she was going to be on the "Fast Money Final Call," and then it turned out to be Greg Troccoli. Probably not a bad thing, given Patty called Scott Wapner "out of line" during a recent session.


Jeff Macke done at CNBC

The somewhat-predicted earthquake at "Fast Money" has happened, according to TVNewser. We don't know if he was fired, or if it was a contract expiration, or even Macke's choice. All they've got is this quote from CNBC spokesman Brian Steel: "Jeff is no longer with CNBC. We wish him all the best, and we thank him for his quality contributions."

CNBCfix wishes Macke the best, and looks forward to his own explanation at Minyanville of what happened.

CNBCfix turns 1, thanks readers

We're so busy at CNBCfix, we nearly overlooked something we consider as important as Guy Adami's "Final Trade."

Our birthday.

CNBCfix actually launched the last week of May 2008, though we didn't get much of a real home page going until early June. Our pride and joy then, as now, was the detailed "Fast Money" review (which we called "Fast Money Fix" at the time but quickly thought that sounded strange). We also did a nightly "Mad Money" review, but stopped that after a couple of months.

We coined the term "CNBCfix" well before partisan interests were clamoring to "fix CNBC." Occasionally we get lumped with that. We're not trying to fix anything, and we don't consider CNBC a controversial business entity. CNBCfix is for people who like getting their "fix" of CNBC every day like we do. (The fact it's a very short term and easily typable for a URL, um, didn't hurt either.)

The Web business is extremely humbling. Those who've tried it know what we mean. Site ideas that turn out shoddy. The complaints or shrugs. And perhaps the worst, the hopefully infrequent minimal traffic days. Sometimes it makes one wonder, "Why am I doing this?" CNBCfix does it because we think we have something to say. And we say it, like you see on every one of these pages, dedicated to the highest standards of journalism established long ago and still practiced by print newspapers and news magazines.

We don't know if we'll hit blockbuster traffic numbers. We do know that some very accomplished people are reading CNBCfix, in Englewood Cliffs, Manhattan and far beyond. We've heard from some, are aware of others. These are people well-versed in the issues of Wall Street, Washington, the national media, and the world, in some cases maybe even leading the discussion. And like anyone else, they like a good stock tip too.

In our earliest "Fast Money" review on record, May 28, 2008, we grumbled about the monotony of the show that week, complaining the panel "risked relegating their show to only-once-a-week-must-seeing." There was a large amount of MSFT-YHOO discussion (Tim Seymour finally helped stamp that out a few months ago), and Pete Najarian pounded the table on oil services. Stacy Gilbert came on to talk options, but the most interesting guest was Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who called Iraq's security situation "immeasurably better" than a year earlier and predicted a "functioning state" at peace with its neighbors and producing large amounts of oil within five years.

We're here because you are. As always, we're fighting for every click and appreciate the ones we get.

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