Tuesday, March 31, 2009

STP 's sunny run

Financials back under the spotlight the next couple of days. It feels bullish, but that could also mean nothing more than a big letdown could be ahead. I've seen it before with beaten-down, longshot stocks. One day, I'll refrain from such things and stick with the reliables.

A new reliable (sort of) is the China stimulus package, which means a $30 billion infusion into the solar industry there. That's why STP is on fire and has been the past few days. I'd love to get a few shares on a dip. STP is the whole package when it comes to solar and they will not have competition from anywhere else. That's right, Big Brother rules there. Apparently, BB rules here, too.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hintz on Fast Money: M2M change will be catalyst

From CNBC's Fast Money today. The segment was titled "Death to Mark-to-Market?"

Brad Hintz
Brokerage Analyst
Sanford Bernstein
#1 financial analyst on the street

Melissa: "Let's go through some of the estimates floating around out there. If you overhaul mark-to-market, it could boost Citigroup's profits by 20 percent. ... (Is) this right on?"

Hintz: "Well, what happens is all the major capital market firms, this is good for. JP Morgan, Citi, Goldman, Bank of America, Wells, Jeffries even. So, this is one where you're taking rules that were well designed. I don't want to say mark-to-market accounting was flawed. It's just that it was designed with the idea that markets don't stay illiquid for long periods of time, so it's really caused some major problems for the firms this time, right, because they've had to mark their balance sheet to distress trades, chaotic trades in the market place which has caused them to sell. I had a trader tell me, 'I know the assets that I've got are good. I know they're going to be worth more than what I marked. I can't hang on to them because they're Level 3. Headquarters won't let me.' "

Melissa: "In terms of a boost to the profits, Brad, are they baked into the stocks already because we've certainly seen a big rise in the stocks for the past month or so, or is it yet another catalyst to stocks soon?"

Hintz: "It's another catalyst. We've seen the credit markets modestly improve, right? We've got liquidity now in the investment-grade industrials. That's, you know, it's a small part, but it's a step in the right direction. This also reduces the risk that you're going to have, the surprise losses. That means you're going to hang on to losses, you're not being forced to sell. All of these are improving credit."

Guy Adami: "I'm sort of with you on the mark-to-market thing, Brad. We go mark-to-model. Is there going to be a mark-to-model czar? Who at a firm in their right mind would like to take a job of overseeing the mark-to-models at a Citi or at a JP Morgan or at a Wells Fargo, for that matter?"

Hintz: "In the end, actually, that's the external auditor. You know, the external auditor doesn't have a lot of courage at this point, right? And we've seen the SEC come out, what was it, in March, in September of 2008 with letters to CFOs saying, 'You really don't have to mark to market quite as aggressively as you have.' They didn't give them a bright line saying here's a safe harbor. If the markets are totally disrupted, you can go to mark-to-model. Mark-to-model is actually the old way the street modeled their portfolios during illiquid periods. As long as you were using the model that you traded with every day. Not some other type model, but a model that you used for your trading decisions, and if the auditors were comfortable with that, that's what you would use. It was a reasonable way to do it. Now, the 157, the new approach, came in and was much, much more conservative. It said, if there are any trades, we have to look at the trades."

Karen Finerman: "Very quickly, Brad, do you think any chance that we see no change at all since there's so much pressure to change?"

Hintz: "There's pressure for change. Just as there are going to be regulatory changes, you're going to see some sort of a safer harbor coming out on this one. If they don't fix it this time, they'll fix it next time. Because they know that what they're doing is causing pro-cyclicality. They're causing companies to take losses and have to raise capital in difficult environments."

Melissa: "OK, thank you, Brad, thank you for you time. Appreciate it. OK guys on the desk, what names do you buy ahead of that April 2nd meeting. He says it's going to happen. It's going to happen."

Pete Najarian: "I think it's the same old names. Go ahead."

Karen: "You know, Bank of America, I like the preferreds, but I think the XLF if you don't want to make a specific, you know, if you just want to broaden your exposure."

Pete: "If you're looking for a little more bang for your buck out of that XLF because of its beaten-down area, even though it's had its run recently the FAS is another way to get involved in the financials without picking out an individual name."

Guy: "It could line up just as we trade down to that 741 line. The stars could line up and you get some positive news on April 1st, April 2nd and then that may be a chance to really look to that move on 900, so the stars might align on this one."

Pete: "Melissa, to Brad's point, they HAVE to do it this time. They can't say, well, we'll keep talking about it and we'll look for the next meeting. They have to do it this time or we have more issues in front of us and forget 740."

Melissa: "A lot of lobbying pressure in DC, that's for sure."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March Madness!

The next couple of weeks will be choppy, at best, so bring on the Dramamine pills. Automakers are on the brink (again), the nation's most leveraged financials are still not out of the woods, earnings reports are coming around the corner (yep, another cliche), and in between, voting on mark-to-market (Thursday) and the uptick rule (Apr. 8) will create all kinds of hysteria.

Just another moment in the market. On top of that, though shares of Citigroup are flopping around like fishies on dry land, this bit of news could salvage the stock and reverse the downward spiral of the past few trading sessions.

It's a daytrader's fantasy, but nothing short of nauseating days ahead for longs. I plan to keep a small position long while trading another position between 2-something and 3-something. Yeah, it's that exact.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday morning shakedown

Pre-market is ridiculously low. Shake out. Shakedown? Wouldn't doubt it on three counts: 1. clean out stop-loss sell orders, 2. make short sellers happy, 3. establish bargain prices for new buyers (hedge funds).

There are a lot of winds blowing in favor of bulls in the coming weeks: mark-to-market vote (Apr. 2); uptick reinstatement vote (Apr. 8); earnings reports for the financial sector (Apr. 8-16). I'll never be optimistic enough to believe that specialists aren't toying with share prices. Today, bank leaders are meeting with Obama (lunch time), which could spook the short sellers. My guess is the market will open way down at this rate, then run up after Obama's meeting begins.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

McCully Fire Station update

It was always odd that the fire station I grew up near -- on the corner of Date Street and University Avenue in Mo'ili'ili -- was always called McCully Fire Station. Whatevahs. I used to go there to pick up my newspapers from Mr. Wong, and for an entire year, I delivered the Honolulu Star-Bulletin right across the street from the fire station. Anyway, the old station went down last year and the new one is looking pretty good. Modern.

Most of my friends will probably agree: one of the best things about the old fire station was the soda machine out back. Was only 25¢ for a can of Diamond Head. Grape and Strawberry were my favorites.

Can Bowl-O-Drome be saved?

Yes, I know the property and structure (what's left of it) are owned by Bishop Estate. That doesn't mean there can't be a creative, inspiring vision. Here's my vision, and whether you find it lacking in any way is just fine by me.

1. Restore the building. That's right. Crumbling, aging and musty, the building is a true landmark that was a sidekick to the old Honolulu Stadium. Doubt me? I grew up a few blocks away and can't remember how many times I walked past (or through) Bowl-O-Drome on the way to Wigwam or the library. The building's design is a throwback that has retro lines and height that would be beautiful again, if only there could be a well-deserved facelift.

2. Why bother? Because Honolulu is losing more and more of its landmarks. Many of the structures that go back to statehood days, to a brighter time in our history -- an era with more aloha and trust -- are going down in the name of progress. I suggest that progress and history can co-exist and actually thrive together. I suggest that the building be spared and that any development be constructed above and/or around the building. A condo could easily be built above, taking an architectural cue from the existing design.

3. Turning the bowling alley into a center for physical activity -- for youth, elderly and everyone else in between -- would make the location a mecca once again. There are tremendous projects growing across the nation that tie old communities together again, and they do it with an accent on being green. Save part of the alley, maybe four lanes, and turn the rest into areas for indoor sports (volleyball and basketball), as well as yoga, Pilates, aerobics (you name it), as well as a blended space than can serve as a lobby and meeting area. The diner that was in Bowl-O-Drome can be resurrected, as well. Go for the gusto!

Preposterous? Sure. But I sense a longing in the community for more unity and peace, as opposed to concrete and isolation.

I wish there were an association or group that would work together to collaborate and build on ideas. I'd call it SOUL: South Oahu Urban League. There's so much I'd like to see done, but if we could just save one precious place for the future, that would be enough for me.

Sunny day for solarites

As I slept soundly through the night (and early morning), solar stocks soared through the atmosphere. China's government will subsidize solar energy development at an unprecedented level and pace. Great news, huh? Too bad I was asleep while STP (up 43% today) and the entire sector went nuts.

Would I have jumped in? I dunno. One of the stocks I looked back at jumped huge at the open. Of course, it's being daytraded and will sink in a few days. But there's no question solar stocks have seen their bottom. Yingli (YGE), a former favorite of mine, also took the leap today. But if I had to choose, I'd stick with STP and the top Western solar play, First Solar (FSLR).

Apple jumped to 109 today, leading a tech revolt. The Dow was up big, too. Just about everything was up except financials, which sucks since I'm overweight in Citigroup. It's tempting to unload my C shares here (closed down at 2.82), but the stock has consistently bounced between 2.60 and 3.15 the past few days. I've already sold at 2.56 once (Friday) only to regret that decision by Monday (opened well above 3).

AAPL will do its usual pullback after big gains. It was at 83 just a couple of weeks ago, but the market turnaround and a bunch of cool news about iPhone and iPod developments did the trick. I might take those profits and watch the solars carefully. Then again, if Cramer is right, mutual funds are stampeding back into techs. AAPL's run might be long from over. AAPL back at 200? Wouldn't shock me. Question is, which would double first: Apple or Sunpower Tech? Citigroup or Goldman Sachs?

Aside from China's solar subsidies, the stimulus package there is bullish for all stocks. Baidu could double, even though the government has shackled the country's internet.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You Twit!

I didn't have a car until I was 21.

I didn't own a cellphone until 1999.

Twitter? By the time I even have an account, they'll have specialized accounts for corporations. Shouldn't be long from now.

Actually, it's already there.

Part of me thinks the whole Twittie thing is cute and so instantaneous. Very Global Village, as Ira Rohter used to tell us in the 1980s. But do I really want to know where you and you and you are going after the trip to the mall this afternoon? Do I really, really, really need to know that you can't stand strawberry mochi balls and that Coldstone rules?

Then again, I'm supposed to be in the communication business, right? Hmm... if I get an iPhone, twitting (or twittering) follows. I just can't stand the thought of paying $130 a month (unlimited minutes) just to use it. The iPhone, I mean.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In Buffett, I trust

A rather quiet day on the market front. Good thing. Work is a big load. Organizing All-State projects can be super fun, but sometimes it gets tough. Today's pullback was predictable after the mammoth gains of Monday. I added a few more shares of Wells Fargo (at 15.55) after contemplating over Apple (too expensive), Bank of America (leadership issues?), Google (hmmm), Amazon (nice pullback) and a few more. I settled on more WFC considering the pullback today and the leadership within the company. Warren Buffett, 'nuff said.

WFC dropped from 17+ to a price I liked, so I pulled.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Write this 100 times on the board

Phil Town, following the path of his deity Warren Buffett, stresses a few simple points. One is to abide by the eternal mantra, Buy Low, Sell High. What he didn't say was that it would suit me to repeat those words especially through this market's radical, wild swings. A robot, or Mr. Spock, would fare much better than I have the past 10 days. In the market's biggest 10-day gain since 1938, my gains have been minimal. At first, I sold too early, but made money. Then I held too long, lost most of a big profit. Then I sold before the weekend at a fairly low price for a small profit ... that was on Friday, a few hours before news leaked that the Fed would push its Toxic Assets Cure to center stage on Monday.

Sure enough, the market roared tsunami-style today. The Dow was up 497 points. Insane. Citigroup opened above 3, hit 3.35 (after closing on Friday at 2.60) ... which meant a "loss" of mammoth proportions for me. I still have my initial shares, which I intend to hold long term. But my frustration was not in check, and I bought back shares high (3.32) in pre-market. It had been years since I bought in pre-market, and now I realize why I rarely did it. C dropped to 2.83 or so early in the day and teetered around 3 for most of the day before closing at 3.13. I added more shares at 3.05 and 3.14 before the close.

Will the market correct tomorrow? Possibly. But one thing's for sure: I haven't bought low lately. The market punishes all who won't bow. Only those of stick to discipline -- those who fight and run away live to fight another day -- survive. Here's to tomorrow and the mantra.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Fed sets plan for toxic assets

Ugh. This is good news, but after selling a major chunk of C, why now? The Feds are going to take some action on Monday.This might make Thursday morning's eruption (and fall) seem like almost nothing.

A little peace

Try leaving a huge majority of your profits on the table. Whatever the reason -- you were asleep (market opens 3:30 a.m. Hawaii time, the broker's site was screwed up, you traded on margin instead of cash by accident, whatever -- it never feels good to see paper profits disappear. Yeah, it sucks. Might take you a minute to get over losing that 70% gain. Might take you a day. Maybe a year.

For me, it was a day. A rotten day of misery and regret, but I got over it mostly. By the time I emptied out of my C shares (almost all) before today's close at 2.56, I had the knowledge that any raucous, bad news for financials over the weekend won't break my heart. It was a trade to start and a trade to finish. I still made 10% for the week. That's no 70%, but it's better than my modest goal of 1% average gain per week. (At 1% per week, that's 52% for a year. I'll take that all the time.)

Do I wish? Yeah of course. Could've sold C at 3.40 (when I woke up yesterday after the huge run-up). Could've sold at 3. Could've sold at 2.80. Even today, it hovered in the 2.70 range, but I waited. (Went to sleep, actually.)

The other positive to having some peace of mind is that I'll be ready to step into another trade if the opportunity is there on Monday. I heard this last week, and I should've thought of it yesterday morning: Always better to sell too soon than too late.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Step back, fool

The fool would be me after a double-whammy on Citigroup today. First, the run-up from 97¢ to 3.08 (Wednesday) turns out to be primarily driven by short sellers who simply couldn't get their hands on shares. Fine. Then, C announced a reverse split in a stagnant trading session. The stock ran up to 3.89 in the first 15 minutes of the market (another early blast-off), then did a free-fall to 2.60. If you sold for a huge profit in those 15 (or 30 minutes), kudos to you. The stock did stall around 3.40, then at 3 before finishing at 2.60.

The financials all took a hit today, no surprise considering the massive run-up of the past week. I'm still holding, didn't make a move today. Not that I shouldn't have. Some people have itchy fingers. I have a costly aversion to pushing the button, pulling the trigger, however you want to put it. Didn't help that I (unexpectedly) fell asleep and missed the first 20 minutes of the market. Yeah. I should set the alarm clock. In hindsight, I broke one of my own rules about fast-moving stocks: up 50%, sell 50%. Had I stuck to that, I would've unloaded half at 3.45 or so. Why didn't I? Not sure. I do know that though I'm not emotionally connected to stocks (these days), I'm patient. Too patient. To a fault. Is patience an emotion? Not really. Better to be neutral, keep a good distance away and see the whole picture. Back away and see the entire mountain (up to the peak, and the potential dropoff downhill) rather than be so close to the action that you smell the trees.

Where does C go from here? My guess is C goes sideways until earnings, which is a month away. Stuck in traffic. Meanwhile, I'm one of the fools stuck right there with it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Apple is sweet

Apple's new software for the iPhone is getting positive reviews. That's helped AAPL run to 101 (high of 103) today.

I'm still not getting an iPhone, nice as it is. The phone plan is ridiculous.

Obama Effect in Cali

Kudlow is a bombastic pimp of the free market (not meant as a diss), but when he waves off to get to Obama speaking live in California, you know something's up. He's speaking live when someone hollers, "Love you, Obama!"

Without missing a beat, Obama replies, "Love you back!"

Dig him or doubt him, he's got the populace on the same page with his message. No surprise there. I'm just glad he stepped forward and took the first big steps to resolving the financial crisis. It's been enough for folks who never imagined owning a bank stock very, very focused. And opportunistic.

Then there's Obama's appearance with Jay Leno tomorrow night. There might not be as scintillating -- or profitable -- a week like this for a long time to come.

Riders of the Storm

What a good storm it is. The banks keep rumbling forward, scarcely a moment to breathe. No horse, no runner can keep moving without rest at this pace. Not without artificial means. Of course, the steroids in this market are provided by good ol' Uncle Sam. Today's move by the Fed at the FOMC meeting jolted a stagnant session and even assured the most skeptical of a continued rally.

AIG, the most hated corporation in America, was already up from 96¢ to the 1.25 range before the FOMC news injected the market. AIG's head testified in DC in the afternoon, but the stock didn't tumble once. How to explain something like this?

Watching the stock throughout the day -- a 43% gain, not to mention another 13% in after-hours trading (to 1.56) -- was an absolute spectacle. Maybe watching someone defy the laws of gravity (Dwight Howard, Nate Robinson) comes close in terms of fascination. But the FOMC decision, which basically ensures (again) that all the sins of the financials will likely be absolved (and paid back, theoretically), gives AIG the kind of Big Brother protection that other financials are enjoying.

Citigroup got pumped up again today (up 22%), along with the rest of the sector. I feel somewhat comfortable with C. Even with the pre-FOMC risk, I walked in realizing that there could still be skeletons out there ... but probably not. Especially after the White House hired a Citigroup official recently.

Wells Fargo (Buffett) took another big leap today. It's hard to ignore Bank of America. Goldman Sachs. Yet, using play money, AIG is still on my radar. I can't fathom going in at this after-hours level, but watching it in the early morning might be worth a few buccos.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Going to Town?

Some people may hate him, but Phil Town was right back on Aug. 17, 2007. The market wasn't done barfing then and he said so.

He got into cash and advised anyone who would listen to do the same. Since then, the DOW has sunk from 13,000 to crud. Town was on CNBC's Closing Bell and laid it out in simple English, even though he was practically ridiculed on air by Maria Bartiromo and the editor of Kiplinger's.

As of last week (Mar. 10), Town said he's ready to "load up the truck," buying great stocks that are on sale. Interesting huh?

Kass has spoken

Wow. Doug Kass says the markets hit a bottom. Last week.

If Kass is wrong, that might be a first during this bear market.

Kass: "You can buy banks. You can buy credit. You can buy most equities as long as you diversify and stay with market leaders that are free cash-flow generators that don't rely on the kindness of strangers in the debt market."

Gary Schillin says the S&P still has to hit 600. All the other stuff -- housing numbers, operating numbers, etc. -- I don't pay attention to, so Schillin is over my head. Schillin says he's buying the dollar.

I missed the first 15 minutes of the session (3:30-3:45 a.m.), which also happened to be when Citigroup's stock swelled to 2.58 (open) and ran quickly to 2.66. By the time I woke up, C was on a downward plunge to 2.30. My opportunity to sell my shares (most of them, anyway) at a nice profit. Instead, I waited and C traded in a range between 2.40 and 2.52 or so the rest of the day (closing at 2.51.

The Obama Effect is still on. His right-hand man in the economic battle, Lawrence Sumers, spoke quite clearly at mid-day about his outlook. The Dow started upward from there, going from break-even to a 178-point gain. C didn't bump on Summer, but seeing the rest of the field storm ahead is good for confidence.

Apple zoomed to 99.66. I thought about adding more shares yesterday at 95, but opted for more Citigroup instead. Waiting for a pullback in AAPL.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Obama Effect

President Obama stepped to the podium to speak about AIG's bonus babies and the market rose from 120-something to 140-something in the next 45 minutes or so. His talk was only about 10 minutes long (or less), but his confidence has a hypnotizing effect on the markets.

Too bad it didn't help me. I exercised caution early, hanging on to my small position in Citigroup, then opening a trading position in C at 2.01, and then selling the trading position at 2.21. I was about to cancel my sell when I saw that a major seller was holding things up at 2.20 ... I realized that if buyers knocked that wall down, it might be clear sailing to 2.25 or 2.30. I was right too late. The stock zoomed straight to 2.30, hitting my sell order at 2.21.

I was OK with that. Better to sell too early. But as C -- which closed at 1.78 on Friday -- ripped to 2.40, then 2.50 and all the way to 2.68 in Usain Bolt-record time, I felt horrible. And that's not allowed, especially toward the end of a five-day rally. As the stock fell back to earth (or at least the stratosphere), I grabbed more shares at 2.54. Then more at 2.40. Then, the last sell-off brought it down to the 2.20s and I added more at 2.26.

Wise? No. I should've shut down the laptop and ignored the market the rest of the day after making that early trade (10% gain). But the temptation got me, or rather, I succumbed to emotion instead of following the game plan. So now I'm holding the bag. I still have my shares from Friday (1.70), so my average cost is 2.30. C could stay there for a few days, months maybe. Or simply suck down the drain back to 1 buck. It could run up and down, back and forth, then break through 3.00. Who knows?

All I know is, management and discipline separate the winners from the losers, much like a 2-minute offense or controlling the clock in the waning minutes of a tight basketball game. I kept shooting 3-pointers while I had a lead. Obama's effect was temporary, the markets sold off into the red and now I am in the negative (on paper) on a day when C gained 30.9% (closing at 2.33). In hindsight, I shouldn't have added more positions to the same stock when there's so much profit-taking. I simply got too confident when the stock dipped from 2.68 to 2.40, then went back up to the 2.60 area. A sell there would've been fine.

Instead, I held on and didn't put in a stop-loss sell order. Lack of discipline, breaking Rule #1 (Phil Town). I'm not upset as much as I'm disappointed. Like any loss or victory, though, it's always best to move on and live in the present.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tide turning against unruly bears?

If you missed 60 Minutes like I did, here's what Big Ben had to say.

I'm not talking about Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlesberger. The real Big Ben is Bernanke, and he thinks the recession could end this year. Maybe.

Selfish as it sounds, I'm equally concerned about how his words will affect the market in the near term. Still have a small position in Citigroup and started another small one in Wells Fargo on Friday. So far, so good. C, which closed at $1.78 on Friday, is going bonkers in Tokyo.

¥196 = $2.00

It's off the high of ¥212, but the roller coaster ride will continue for C shares in the morning.

Excerpt from the interview:

Bernanke told 60 Minutes we were close to a second Depression and he is determined to not let the major banks fail on his watch.

"One of the things that I think many people watching this interview don't understand, is why there are multiple bailouts, four bailouts of AIG, three bailouts of Citigroup. There is a sense that this is a band-aid approach, that we're not getting to the root of the problem," Pelley remarked.

"Well, part of the issue is that, you know, the economy has gotten a good bit worse. You know, the first part of the crisis was subprime and other assets that were toxic. Now, we're in a second phase, which is that the economy is very weak," he said. "So the economy's weakness has meant that some of the initial attempts to stabilize the banks haven't been enough, and we've had to do more."

"You know, Mr. Chairman, there are so many people outside this building, across this country, who say, 'To hell with them. They made bad bets. The wages of failure on Wall Street should be failure,'" Pelley remarked.

"Let me give you an analogy, if I might," Bernanke said. "If you have a neighbor, who smokes in bed. And he's a risk to everybody. If suppose he sets fire to his house, and you might say to yourself, you know, 'I'm not gonna call the fire department. Let his house burn down. It's fine with me.' But then, of course, but what if your house is made of wood? And it's right next door to his house? What if the whole town is made of wood? Well, I think we'd all agree that the right thing to do is put out that fire first, and then say, 'What punishment is appropriate? How should we change the fire code? What needs to be done to make sure this doesn't happen in the future? How can we fire proof our houses?' That's where we are now. We have a fire going on."

Bernanke told Pelley that "fire" is still burning.

Asked if all the big banks the Fed regulates are solvent, Bernanke said, "I believe they are, yes. But we are doing a stress test right now, where we're looking at what the positions of the banks are under a tougher economic scenario than the one that we currently expect. And what we plan to do is to say how much capital would each bank need to be well capitalized. Not just solvent, but well capitalized, even in these more adverse scenarios."

"Are you committing in this interview, that you are not going to let any of these banks fail? That no matter what their balance sheet actually looks like, they are not gonna fail?" Pelley asked.

"They are not gonna fail," Bernanke said. "But what we can do, should it be necessary, is try to wind it down in a safe way."

Friday, March 13, 2009

New iPhone software

I'm no tech dweeb, but this is cool stuff.

Apple will unveil, sorta, new software for iPhone 3.0, in just four days. They won't produce the product just yet, but it's big news for iPhone addicts and those of us who like Apple's stuff. (I have a small position in AAPL now.) All the little improvements that iPhone owners have wanted could be addressed. Shee, wasn't it just a year or two ago when most of the world's tech writers openly doubted Apple's ability to challenge the leaders (RIMM's BlackBerry, Palm)?

Just touching the iPhone, like I did yesterday at the always-crowded Apple store at Ala Moana, is an automatic joy button for me. I sure can't stand the unlimited minutes package ($129.99 per month!), but it is a technological slice of heaven. The stock slipped a little today, which gave me a decent (not great) entry point above 95. After dropping to 83 last week, AAPL might sit around 95 for awhile ... like until Tuesday.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dollars and Apples

Citigroup closed today at 1.67. Just crazy considering it was at a buck to start the week. Big pullback this morning (Thursday) the took it from 1.54 (Wednesday's close) to 1.48 before another run-up.

I like watching C because it's the ultimate statement about where we stand as a country, hoisting up a downtrodden villain, a battered boxer who once used steroids regularly. Citigroup is the Alex Rodriguez of the free market, except that Rodriguez isn't getting billions in bailout cash. (Yes, I have a small position now.)

Apple was available at 90 on Wednesday and closed above 96 today. Is the super-small new iPod Shuffle that big a deal? I still don't own an iPhone, probably never will given my habit of dropping my (freebie) cellphone. I don't even have an iPod. I'm still pounding away on an outdated PowerBook. Yet, of all the tech stocks, AAPL is the one I am glued to. No other tech has the Cool Factor of Apple, and when times get better, Cool is what sells.

So, which is a "safer" bet? A financial like C or Wells Fargo, or Apple? Probably Apple, for now.

Buffett's breakfast blast

Before I lose it, here's the link to his sitdown on CNBC Monday: Buffett's breakfast blast

I didn't read it until Wednesday. Amazing, what he's saying about toxic assets. It's opposite of what the general media have been writing. His words, along with President Obama's confidence, have helped turn the market around the past three days.

Strangely (and stupidly) enough, all of Buffett's upside perspective didn't register with me in terms of Wells Fargo (WFC). I never once thought to study it. Sure enough, WFC is another financial soaring higher. WFC traded below 10 on Monday. By Wednesday, while I read Buffett, it was still at 12. WFC closed today (Thursday) at 13.95.

He talked openly about Wells Fargo and the spreads and the way toxic assets are probably the institution's best assets. It was kind of shocking to hear for us mere mortals. WFC is still far off its one-year high (44).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stewart skewers CNBC

Can we C clearly?

A scary proposition. You know, there once was a time when being involved with a bank stock was about as exciting as getting a kiss from your wig-wearing, prune-faced, fishy-lipped second-grade teacher. I somehow managed to be have well enough to avoid that fate. (Yes, Mrs. Ward, you were a great teacher, I came to learn. Effective as hell.)

Take Citigroup. Perky commercials. Well-branded. And sucky to the max after dropping to $1 a share from a high of $55. Then, a funny thing happened. The CEO said they made a profit for the first time in two years. Sure, never hurts to have Big Brother flushing your coffers with beeeeeeeeeeeellions of bucos. But after the CEO's positive remark (via memo), the stock rose to $1.40. Hate your penny stocks (ahem) or not, that's a 40% gain in one day. ONE DAY.

I hate gambling, but this is something worth watching. I don't anticipate touching C. Mara Der Hovanesian's piece asks about the "toxic assets" that Citigroup cannot rectify. But I will watch rather than guess. Playing C would be the equivalent of playing black jack in Vegas. Or worse?

One thing is probably, my opinion: The feds aren't about to let Citigroup go over the cliff. Does that mean shares will settle in at $2 or $5? Who knows. The optimist can yodel that major volume (1 billion shares) were traded on a huge up day. The cynic can murmur that this stock is completely forked.

I'm thinking "play" money is all right on C at $1. Just like Apple at $78, though trading C would seem more like trusting deadbeats and card sharks with hard-earned cash.