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Trader Talk with Bob Pisani

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  Monday, 11 Feb 2008 | 4:15 PM ET

Markets Going The Way Of Disco? Some Buyers Disappear

Posted By: Bob Pisani

"It's dead, Bob. Like Disco." That was the response of one trading desk to my usual round of middday email asking how business was doing and what was moving.

Technically, there is a specific problem with the market: for the last six weeks, natural buyers have almost disappeared.

What's a natural buyer? It's someone who doesn't have to buy (unlike a trader who is covering a short: he is being forced to cover), but buys because he sees opportunity.

What have we seen since January 1? Here's what:

--On days when stocks are up or sideways, volume is light;

--On days when stocks move down, volume picks up.

Traders, who watch these patterns carefully, have concluded that natural buyers are still scarce, and that selling interest is still not exhausted. That's what my trader friend quoted above means about today: it was a modest up day, but there was no buying interest.

Never fear. The markets--and disco--always return.

With that said, it was not a bad day. The contagion from worries about subprime writedowns at AIG confined itself pretty much to the insurance companies; brokers and financials were only modestly to the downside, and this gave bulls some cheer.

Also giving cheer to the bulls is the bull market in commodities, which is continuing to thumb its nose in the face of bears who insist that the global economic slowdown will surely bring down commodities. Energy and material stocks were among the biggest gainers today.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Monday, 11 Feb 2008 | 9:17 AM ET

Dow Changes: BofA And Chevron Are In, Altria, Honeywell Out

Posted By: Bob Pisani

Dow Jones just announced a change in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Chevron and Bank of America will replace Altria and Honeywell . Chevron is making a second tour; it came out in 1999.

Last time there were changes in the Dow was April, 2004, when AIG,Pfizer and Verizon replaced the old AT&T, Eastman Kodak, and International Paper.

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  Monday, 11 Feb 2008 | 9:11 AM ET

Earnings Forecasts (Reliability) Worry Traders

Posted By: Bob Pisani

Want an illustration of why traders are nervous about how stable earnings forecasts are? New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer is lowering projections for tax revenue by $384 million, only three weeks after presenting his budget! It's a drop in the bucket compared to the $124 billion budget, but it's a sign of how fast economic forecasts are changing.

Europe flat, but Asia showing some weakness: India's Bombay Sensitive Index was down 4.8 percent (lowest close since September); one of the largest IPOs of the year, Reliance Power, which went public in a $3 billion offering in January, was down 14 percent as the formerly hot IPO market there appears to be cooling off. Two large IPOs were pulled last week. Sterlite Industries, an Indian company which trades here, is down 5 percent pre-open.

Hong Kong down 3.7 percent, Korea down 3.3 percent as well.

Commodities advancing again this morning after moving up aggressively last week; the CRB Index, a basked of commodities, hit an historic high on Friday. Platinum and silver at new highs.

At the G7 meeting in Tokyo over the weekend, there were warnings that global markets could lapse into turmoil again, and participants vowed they would take "suitable measures to calm the financial markets" if they need to, according to EuroGroup Charmin Jean-Claude Juncker.

The IMF noted that economic slowdown in the U.S. could last for some time. The IMF lowered its 2008 global growth forecast last month to 4.1 percent from 4.8 percent.

Markets are hopeful that some kind of bailout of the bond insurers can be done this week--either an increase in the lines of credit or more equity capital. Ambac successfully raised $1 billion in capital last week, $300 million of that from Warburg Pincus, though at a 14 percent discount.

In stock news:

1) Hasbro up 6 percent pre-open as they beat earnings and revenue expectations on strong sales of their Transformer toy line. Last week they increased their dividend 25 percent and authorized an additional $500 m in buybacks.

2) Korean handset maker LG Electronics says it has no interest in buying Motorola's handset business.

3) Loew's reported earnings well below expectations ; the main problem seems to have been a 50 percent decline in profits at CNA, one of the largest commercial insurers in the country. CNA had investment losses tied to their subprime exposure.

4) SocGenannounced they were set for a rights offering at a 39 percent discount to its stock price. They also revealed about $900 million of previously undisclosed write-downs.



Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Friday, 8 Feb 2008 | 2:24 PM ET

Nanotechnology: What About Investing In It?

Posted By: Bob Pisani

One of the most fascinating things to watch as a Wall Street reporter is the emergence of new technologies, and attempts to fund them. Biotech was the big one a decade ago, but now there are others: robotics, genetics, artificial intelligence, and now nanotechnology.

These technologies can and will be enabling--that is, they will assist companies to improve existing products and offer (startlingly) new products in the near future, but they will also likely be disruptive of many business plans.

A new research firm started up last week. iNano Capital Advisors is a registered investment advisor in Florida focusing exclusively on nanotechnology. Nanotechnology attempts to manipulate structures at the atomic level, and it has the potential to change whole industries. A nanometer is a billionth of a meter, about the size of six carbon atoms in a row.

The firm is run by Arthur Pacheco, a former president of the Securities Traders Association with a long history in the securities industry. The firm is partnering with research institutes and universities like the Smalley Institute at Rice University, which is the oldest and most respected research institute in the nanotech field, as well as the Alliance for Nanohealth, which is a research partnership of eight medical centers and colleges that do research and development.

But iNano wants to be more than just an institutional research firm. They want to nurture nanotech firms and expose them to the investment community.

They will produce research on a universe of about 200 stocks that will be directly impacted by developments in nanotchnology. The research will discuss stocks as diverse as Kimberly Clark (who are interested in developing better fibers) to medical technology companies (nanocoatings for stents to make sure they are not rejected or to decrease the possibility of infection) to our parent, General Electric , who are making a large investment in R&D for nanotech.

What about investing in nanotech? Two problems:

1) right now, it's difficult to play nanotech directly, and

2) the science is extremely complicated and involves a lot of cross-disciplinary work. This has led a lot of investors to get discouraged by the sheer complexity of the business.

That's a mistake. This technology will--along with artificial intelligence and the advances in genetics--change the world.

But all ventures begin modestly. iNano just initiated coverage on their first pure-play nanotech investment, Harris and Harris Group with a buy recommendation. Here is a link to the report.

I'll keep an eye on them, and other companies with their eye on these disruptive technologies.



Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Friday, 8 Feb 2008 | 9:24 AM ET

Europe's "News" Hitting Futures (Down)

Posted By: Bob Pisani

Futures trending down since Europe opened on rumors that someone might be unwinding a structured product in Europe this am.

Mixed morning for stocks:

MBIA shares down 11 percent after they sold new shares at a 14 percent discount to its closing price in an effort to raise capital, down 7 percent.

Alcatel-Lucent quarter was ok, but eliminates dividend due to the uncertain market outlook.

Tiffanyraised guidance for 2008, talked about at least a 10 percent increase in net sales.

On the other hand, diamond giant De Beers said sales fell 2 percent on poor Christmas sales. They control 40 percent of the world diamond market.

Glass giant Corning said they saw no signs of a slowdown in their business and affirmed their earnings for the full year.

McDonalds

had good comp store sales in January--up 8.2 percent for Europe, 1.9 percent in the U.S.



Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Thursday, 7 Feb 2008 | 4:45 PM ET

Market "Jinx" Broken, But Troubles Still Hanging Around

Posted By: Bob Pisani

The good news is that we broke the three day jinx and did not end at our lows for the day. More good news: retailers for the most part did not drop, despite poor January sales.

The bad news: a stronger midday rally was quashed. Worse, selling intensity picked up notably at the top, which occurred right after 2 PM ET.

In other words, traders sold right into the rally, heavily.

This illustrates the central problem: buying conviction (demand) is not that strong. Absent some catalyst (like dramatic rate cuts) that sends sellers temporarily to the sideline, supply of stock (i.e. sellers) is readily available.

This means that the stocks that rallied most off the January bottom--retailers, financials--are in a bit of a no-man's land right now.

What will get things moving for these sectors? This may be a stock by stock, in the trenches event.

Two examples:

1) JC Penney , which kept inventories under control, raised guidance,
2) Deutsche Bank , which hedged much of its subprime exposure and reported almost no writedowns. This is not sign of a bottom for the sectors, but it is a sign that some companies are working through the problems.


Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Thursday, 7 Feb 2008 | 9:19 AM ET

Tech And Retail Stocks Under "Microscope"

Posted By: Bob Pisani

I've noted that when you are in this kind of uncertain market, everyone becomes a technician. There's a lot of attention now focused on tech stocks, now that both the NASDAQ and NASDAQ 100 have broken to 52-week lows.

For example: Google needs to hold above this week's low ($488.52 intraday). Microsoft is barely above its August low.

Many heavily traded techs are already below support levels. Apple , for example, broke below support yesterday and is now at its lowest level since August; same with Bidu .

Unfortunately, Cisco is not helping. While the numbers were OK, during the conference call the company did indicate that there was a falloff in orders during January. Down 10 percent to a new low.

Elsewhere:

1) Retail sales. According to RetailMetrics, January comp store sales were up only 0.2 percent ; first time since Feb-March 2003 with back to back growth below 1 percent.

Wal-Mart sales were up 0.5 percent, well below the 2 percent growth expected; also worse than expected were Limited, Nordstrom (down 5 percent pre-open), Target (who is forecasting February sales down 1 percent to up 1 percent), American Eagle (but they affirm their fourth quarter forecast), Pacific Sunwear (also affirms forecast).

Gap was a pleasant surprise. They beat by a wide margin: up 2 percent vs. a decline of 5.8 percent expected. Aeropostale (affirms fourth quarter), Saks,Ann Taylor were a also a bit better. Ann Taylor said, "To keep our inventories turning, we were promotionally aggressive during the month".

JC Penney also said sales were down, but better than expected; guidance is also higher than expected; up 6 percent pre-open.

Remember what we have seen recently: Talk about restructuring at Macy's,Talbots will close 100 underperforming stores, Freds is closing 75 stores, Hot Topic will open fewer stores, Charming Shoppes is closing 150 stores and cut 250 jobs, Ann Taylor will have fewer store openings, and cutting HQ staff.

2) Expect semis to be weak again as chip maker Infineon reported revenue below expectations; the SOX (semiconductor index) is already at a 4 1/2 year low. Down 16 per-open.

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  Wednesday, 6 Feb 2008 | 4:34 PM ET

Markets Close Low Again: Blame The "Change" Game

Posted By: Bob Pisani

Ugh, again. Markets closed on their lows for the third day in a row. What's the problem? Simply put, there's worry that things are changing fast, and that earnings and guidance are going to have to change.

A good example: Bear Stearns downgrades GM and Ford , arguing "The facts are changing at an accelerating rate." That's the problem, and it's just as relevant to the rest of the market.

Short-term, the markets moved down because traders were worried about how many things will be coming out before the market opens tomorrow: Cisco(which looks OK, but conference call is coming ), Deutsche Bank earnings, ECB/Bank of England, and retail same store sales.

Talbots guidance is poor after the bell, for the quarter and the year.

Elsewhere, bond insurer MBIA finally announcing an effort to raise capital: $750 million.


Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Wednesday, 6 Feb 2008 | 2:47 PM ET

Market Drops: One Analyst's Opinion On What Happened

Posted By: Bob Pisani

What caused the big market drops that began in August of last year? There’s a fascinating interview with Andrew Lo, director of MIT's Laboratory for Financial Engineering, in the new issue of Technology Review.

He says that the growing complexity of world markets makes "aberrations" like SocGen more likely to rock markets, but he makes a very interesting point about the start of all this volatility, back in August.

Remember all the craziness that began last August 7th and continued for several days? Here's his take on what happened:

--A large number of quantitative equity hedge funds lost money on those dates simultaneously, but no obvious market event occurred;

--It's likely that one large quantitative equity fund decided to unwind its portfolio, probably related to credit problems from the subprime mortgage market;

--The liquidation had a negative impact on other similarly positioned quantitative funds;

--A snowball effect ensued, with quant funds exiting at the same time.

Thus, there was no market "crash," just quant funds that were too similarly positioned.



Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Wednesday, 6 Feb 2008 | 10:24 AM ET

Financials' Rally In January Under "Scrutiny"

Posted By: Bob Pisani

The financials pulled off an amazing V-bottom in January, but that rally is now being aggressively questioned. Keefe Bruyette & Woods has an interesting note out skeptical of the rally. They noted:

--The bank stock run in January was based on speculation about potential benefit to banks from aggressive Fed easing: "We think enthusiasm will be ratcheted back as investors revisit fundamentals."

--Large-cap bank stocks are up 6.5 percent year to date versus a 6.1 percent decline for the S&P 500 (!)

--January was the first month in which large-cap banks outperformed the market since February 2007 (!!)

--Relatively high valuations and a high probability of further estimate cuts do not bode well for performance.



Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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About Trader Talk with Bob Pisani

  • Direct from the floor of the NYSE, Trader Talk with Bob Pisani provides a dynamic look at the reasons for the day’s actions on Wall Street. If you want to go beyond the latest numbers— Bob will tell you why the market does what it does and what it means for the next day’s trading.

 

  • A CNBC reporter since 1990, Bob Pisani covers Wall Street from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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