Fast Money Behind the Money

  Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013 | 3:57 PM ET

Netflix's 'House of Cards' Close to Beating Media-Darling 'Girls' in Ratings

Posted ByJohn Melloy
Source: Netflix/HBO

Who would have guessed Kevin Spacey could be as cool as Lena Dunham?

"House of Cards," the political drama starring the veteran actor, was watched by 10 percent of Netflix subscribers in its first 12 days of availability, according to a survey by Cowen research.

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  Friday, 15 Feb 2013 | 11:32 AM ET

Icahn vs. Ackman: Business or Personal?

Posted ByJohn Melloy
Carl Icahn (L), Bill Ackman (R)
Getty Images | CNBC composite
Carl Icahn (L), Bill Ackman (R)

It's the question on everyone's mind right now.

Is Carl Icahn's massive bullish position in Herbalife disclosed Thursday just a personal vendetta against Bill Ackman, who is enormously short the vitamin marketing company, or is it a legitimate bullish bet by the billionaire investor?

Icahn's vitriol lobbed at Ackman in a direct fight on CNBC last month would suggest it is just personal, as the veteran activist shouted at the Pershing Square founder that he was a "crybaby" (in reference to a decade-old legal dispute).

However, digging deeper into yesterday's filing, one finds that Icahn's position is largely made up of options, a leveraged bet that suggests that the Wall Street titan may really mean business.

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  Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013 | 11:59 AM ET

Recovery Sign: More People Are Quitting Their Jobs

Posted ByJohn Melloy
Employment jobs
Don Bayley | E+ | Getty Images

December had the fewest layoffs since the government began tracking the data in 2000. Also, the most people quit their jobs during the month since June 2008, another sign that job growth and consumer confidence may start to pick up steam this year.

"These points go against the popular notion that the economy ground to a halt while DC negotiated the Fiscal Cliff late last year, and supports the hope domestic labor markets can continue to improve in 2013," wrote Beth Reed of ConvergEx Group, whose strategy team wrote about the Bureau of Labor Statistics data in a report to clients Wednesday.

"If lawmakers can reach consensus in Washington and allow businesses a sense of economic stability, then job growth might actually accelerate," she added.

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  Sunday, 10 Feb 2013 | 7:09 PM ET

Apple Sends Another Signal Bigger Capital Distribution Is Coming

Posted ByJohn Melloy

Signals out of the ultra-secretive executive suite at Apple increasingly point to an announcement soon of a dividend increase, buyback or another form of capital distribution to shareholders. The latest came from an analyst report Sunday.

"While trying to extract information from AAPL (Apple) management is like squeezing 'water from a rock,' we did speak with AAPL CFO (Peter Oppenheimer) this past Friday and found the conversation helpful," wrote ISI analyst Brian Marshall in a note to clients Sunday. "We touched upon a variety of topics, including capital allocation framework."

(Read More: Apple and Samsung: Frenemies for Life)

After speaking with Oppenheimer, ISI's Marshall recommended back to the company in Sunday's report that it increases its current 3-year allocation plan amount to $60 billion from $45 billion. His plan, which would use 50 percent of the firm's annual free cash flow, puts two-thirds of the cash toward a dividend and the rest to buy back shares.

Marshall's conversation followed a rare press release Thursday from Apple, which came in response to a call from activist investor David Einhorn for the world's largest technology company to issue preferred stock.

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  Tuesday, 5 Feb 2013 | 12:57 PM ET

Sucker Alert? Insider Selling Surges After Dow 14,000

Posted ByJohn Melloy
Stock traders Wall Street happy market
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Insiders have been pulling out of stocks just as small investors are getting in.

Selling by corporate executives has surged recently as the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 14,000 and retail investors flooded into stocks. The amount of insider selling has usually preceded market selloffs.

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  Monday, 4 Feb 2013 | 12:30 PM ET

Investors Getting Cold Feet Around Dow 14,000: Survey

Posted ByJohn Melloy
A trader works on the floor of the New York Exchange in New York City.
Getty Images
A trader works on the floor of the New York Exchange in New York City.

Bullishness from retail investors eased a bit at the end of January, following the best start to a year for the Dow Jones Industrial Average since 1994, according to a new sentiment index from TD Ameritrade.

The Investor Movement Index, which tracks the actual behavior of the largest pool of retail investors, showed that they rotated into defensive, lower-risk names as the Dow pushed toward 14,000 and its all-time high of 14,164.

"Overall, they are still net buyers, but net buyers of things that are less volatile," said Steve Quirk, senior vice president of TD Ameritrade's Trader Group. "Which is exactly what we thought our traders should be doing."

TD Ameritrade argues that this index, which it rolled out this year, will show that retail trader is not the "dumb money" that many on Wall Street have been known to call it. Quirk also believes it will be a more realistic measure than the many sentiment surveys out there as people often say one thing in a survey while doing another.

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  Wednesday, 30 Jan 2013 | 4:18 PM ET

Why the Dow May Not Make It to 14,000

Posted ByJohn Melloy
Busch: A Stock Market Rally, Then What?
Getty Images

Traders are chattering about some troubling signs – most notably a breakdown in small caps – as reasons why the Dow Jones Industrial Average may not make it to 14,000 anytime soon.

The Dow began Wednesday just 46 points from topping the milestone, on a clear course this week to trade above a level it hasn't been near since 2007. But something funny happened along the way.

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  Thursday, 24 Jan 2013 | 1:53 PM ET

Apple May Be ‘Dirt Cheap,’ but It Can Get Even Cheaper

Posted ByJohn Melloy

The valuation figures on Apple look so cheap that it boggles the minds of many traders, but that doesn't mean the stock is necessarily a buy right now, they said.

Apple trades at a forward price-earnings ratio (minus cash) of an astounding seven, according to Goldman Sachs. And revenue will increase a whopping 17 percent this year, estimates the firm. What's more, the stock sports a dividend yield of nearly three percent.

"It is dirt cheap right now," said Michael Murphy of Rosecliff Capital. "But I had to get out because it was trading on headlines and 'The Street' is way too emotional about it."

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  Wednesday, 16 Jan 2013 | 3:27 PM ET

Is There Anyone Left to Buy Apple's iPhones?

Posted ByJohn Melloy

Using some unusual analysis of global wealth demographics not typically seen in a stock report, Pacific Crest Securities makes a case against owning Apple by theorizing that just about everyone in the world who could pay for an iPhone already owns one.

"Street estimates for iPhone units in 2013 and 2014 would require the iPhone user base to grow to well over 300 million people exiting 2013 and to approximately 375 million exiting 2014," writes Andy Hargreaves, who downgraded the stock to "sector perform." "The 2014 user base would include 43 percent of the total number of people in the world who make over $15,000 per year, which is an unrealistic expectation in our view."

(Read More: Apple's iPhone 5S Launching in June, July: Analyst)

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  Friday, 11 Jan 2013 | 11:11 AM ET

Money Pours Into Stocks: 'Take This as Bullish'

Posted ByJohn Melloy

Investors suddenly seem to like stocks again.

After watching the market post double-digit returns last year—and with the Fiscal Cliff resolved for now—Americans are pouring billions of dollars into stocks.

Just over $22 billion flowed into long-term equity mutual funds and exchange-traded funds in the week ended Jan. 9, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch. That was the second-highest amount on record after the $22.8 billion that went into all equity funds in September 2007.

"I have to take this as bullish," said Dennis Gartman, veteran author of the daily Gartman Letter. "Perhaps one gets a bit antsy when the public's in, but inflows are always better than net outflows and the public is still sitting on a mountain of cash or debt securities."

Some, however, believe it's too early to tell if this is really a trend.

"I'm a little skeptical," Art Cashin of UBS told CNBC on Friday. "I want to see if they continue." (Watch video above)

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