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Trader Talk with Bob Pisani


  Thursday, 15 May 2008 | 4:05 PM ET

CNBC's "Boomer Angst": There's Plenty Of It Out There

Posted By: Bob Pisani

As I've said, CNBC is airing a special tomorrow night, “Boomer Angst,” which will air at 9 pm and midnight. There is plenty of angst out there. This week, a new coalition was launched to encourage the American public to save more. They point out that:

--Debt payments now consume 15 percent of family income;

--63% of Americans say they don't save enough;

--The U.S. saves less than almost all industrial nations.

A separate study at the Center for Retirement Studies at Boston University found that:

--Nearly 45 percent of households are "at risk" of not having enough to maintain their living standards in retirement, even if they retire at 65;

--The median balance for household heads approaching retirement is only $60,000 (!)

For more information on the new coalition that is being formed—and how you can get involved—check out their report atwww.newthrift.org.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Thursday, 15 May 2008 | 3:59 PM ET

CNBC's "Boomer Angst" And Myths And Facts About Getting Old

Posted By: Bob Pisani

CNBC has a special out tomorrow night titled "Boomer Angst" that will air at 9 pm EST and midnight. Watch it--because you need to know that baby boomers are not even close to having enough for their retirement. I've put upa number of facts on my blog today about this crisis .--here's a few more.

This is in the form of "Myths and Reality" from an upcoming book from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston University. The authors are Alicia H. Munnell and Steven Sass, the book is entitled "Working Longer: The Solution to the Retirement Income Challenge," and will be published by the Brookings Institution Press.

Myth: Older workers will choose to work longer on their own.

Reality: Most people retire as soon as benefits are available at age 62.

Myth: As baby boomers approach retirement, employers will embrace older workers.

Reality: Many employers are lukewarm toward retaining older workers due to concerns that they cost too much, lack current skills, and don't plan to stick around long.

Myth: Older workers have little to offer employers.

Reality: Older workers often have advantages over younger workers - including higher productivity, better judgment, a stronger work ethic, and better people skills.

Myth: Most workers can work longer by remaining with their career employer.

Reality: Career employment is declining fast - only 44 percent of male workers age 58-62 are still with their age-50 employer, down from 70 percent two decades ago.

Myth: The working longer prescription is the answer for everyone.

Reality: While today's older workers are generally healthier and better educated, up to a third could be hard pressed to work into their mid-60s due to poor health or job prospects.

Myth: Government cannot do much to encourage longer work lives.

Reality: Raising Social Security's earliest eligibility age of 62 could push back the work/retirement divide by changing the mindset of both workers and employers.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Thursday, 15 May 2008 | 2:49 PM ET

CNBC's "Survival Guide: Boomer Angst" And The Retirement Crisis

Posted By: Bob Pisani

This Friday at 9 pm EST and midnight, CNBC will air a special, "Boomer Angst," on the difficulties the baby boomers are facing in their retirement. We did a similar special a year and a half ago, and the facts have not improved since then.

The Center for Retirement Research (CRRS) at Boston College, in a paper published in August, 2007, noted that:

--Nearly 45 percent of households are "at risk" of not having enough to maintain their living standards in retirement, even if they retire at 65;
--The median balance for household heads approaching retirement is only $60,000 (!)

What accounts for this declining prosperity? There are three legs to retirement: Social Security, personal savings such as a 401(k) plan, and a pension or defined benefit plan.

But there are cracks everywhere: Social Security is increasingly strained, and there are clear problems with pensions and 401(k)s.

One major problem is that the percentage of households with pensions are declining. The CRRS study noted that in 1992 most households age 51-61 were covered by a pension (defined benefit plan). By 2004, 35 percent of households in this age group with pension coverage were covered by a 401(k) plan only; in other words, an increasing number of households have no pension, just a 401(k) or similar instrument.

Well, people could make up that loss by putting more in their personal retirement programs, couldn't they? Theoretically, yes, but they appear not to be doing so; many do not fully fund their plans and participation rates are actually dropping. The CRRS report noted that benefits projected from 401(k)s are smaller than those projected from defined benefit plans.

Baby boomers are facing other headwinds as well:

--Lower interest rates, which cut into fixed income;
--Longer lifespans than their parents, which require more overall retirement wealth;
--Rapidly increasing health care costs could substantially increase the number of households "at risk";
--Housing wealth, a substantial part of household wealth in the past, is much lower than in previous decades, thanks to recent shrinkage in home values and a notable rise in mortgage debt. This means that some households will be facing mortgage payments during retirement.

The conclusion of the CRRS study: "Yes, there really is a retirement savings crisis." Americans need to save more and work longer.

Here is the full Boston College paper on retirement, "Is There Really A Retirement Savings Crisis?"

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Thursday, 15 May 2008 | 9:16 AM ET

UBS Upgrades Oil; Why GE Shares Popped

Posted By: Bob Pisani

1) UBS is pounding the table on oil: It upgraded oil to $115 for 2008, $120 for 2009, and initiates coverage of the offshore drilling sector, with buy ratings on Atwood , Diamond Offshore , Ensco , Noble , Rowan , and Transocean .

The reasons?
a) prices have been stronger and demand more resilient than expected at today's higher prices; and
b) higher than previously expected prices are required to limit demand growth, given anemic supply growth outlook.

2) A disappointing IPO: Verso Paper priced 14 million shares at $12. That is well below the price talk of 18.75 million shares at $16-$18 that was floated on the Street.

Verso was formerly a unit of International Paper; it is now majority owned by Apollo Global Management. All the money will go toward paying down debt of $153.3 million and related prepayment fees, which is the debt that was floated to buy the company.

3) J.C. Penney up 2 percent; they beat estimates by a few pennies. This is good news -- but here's a reality check: the reported earnings of $0.54 per shqre was almost half last year's $1.04. Total sales decreased 5.1 percent to $4.1 billion. Comparable store sales declined 7.4 percent.

4) General Electric (CNBC's parent company) up 1 percent on a Wall Street Journal report that are considering an auction of its appliance unit. Estimates are all over the place: the Journal mentioned it could fetch $5-$8 billion, but Citi's analyst estimated $3-$7 billion.

Tough time to sell an appliance business.

5) At the NYSE, they're having their annual meeting. CEO Duncan Niederauer is saying the American Express takeover is ahead of schedule and could close as early as August 1.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Wednesday, 14 May 2008 | 4:20 PM ET

Volatility Level Shows Complacency Too High

Posted By: Bob Pisani

The dangers of complacency were abundantly evident in the last hour.

I have remarked all day that the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) was nearing its lowest level since July of last year. While this is an indication that the levels of fear are clearly dropping, it also indicates--given the real concerns with the economy--that complacency may be a bit too high.

And traders noticed. Big tech momentum names--Apple , Google , RIM, Baidu --all suddenly reversed and ended down on the day. Materials and industrial stocks, which were strong all day, also weakened in the last hour.

Still, there are equity-friendly trends here...new highs at the NYSE reached their highest levels since November...yesterday, retail sales were better than expected, today CPI better than expected.

Now, if the data the rest of the week (think industrial production, out tomorrow) is equity friendly we could see a drift higher--some bulls think all the way through Memorial Day. Bears, of course, note the lack of volume and the move up is due to an absence of sellers then real buyers.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Wednesday, 14 May 2008 | 10:59 AM ET

Why The Government Says Gas Prices Were Lower In April

Posted By: Bob Pisani

The government reported that gasoline prices in April were down 2 percent when "seasonally adjusted." How could this be, when we know prices went up at the pump?

Here's how it happened:

1) The actual increase in gasoline prices was 5.6%.

2) But the government statistics indicate that gasoline tends to rise by 7.6% in April.

3) But because they rose less than that--5.6%--gasoline was reported to be down 2 percent "seasonally adjusted"

It has to do with the phrase "seasonally adjusted." The government adjusts numbers to remove the impact of regular events that occur at the same time every year--like increases in gas prices in April, or the effect of cold weather on housing starts.

There is nothing nefarious about this--the question is whether the "adjustments" are fair and accurate.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Wednesday, 14 May 2008 | 9:20 AM ET

CPI Makes Fed Rate Increases To Fight Inflation Less Likely

Posted By: Bob Pisani

Futures popped 8 points as CPI was a bit below expectations. Prior to the CPI, the bond market broke to lows for the year as the Wall Street Journal's front page (subscription required) asks, "Recession? Not So Fast, Say Some."

Dollar dropped a bit as the CPI report made it a bit less likely the Fed might hike rates to fight inflation.

Things are not going well in the U.K., where they are facing a real dilemma--the housing market is weakening, but inflation is high. They are unlikely to cut rates, despite the pressure from housing.

Deerereported earnings in line with expectations , but stock is down 6 percent because earnings projections for the current quarter are a bit below expectations. Those wondering how much a stronger currency is having on corporate earnings get a clear answer from Deere: they are expecting equipment sales to increase 20 percent for the full year, of which 5 percent is due to currency translation impact.

Freddie Mac reported a loss that was not as great as expected , up 4 percent. They're expecting to raise more capital ($5.5 b) soon.

Surprise! Macy's was supposed to report a modest loss of $0.02, but they reported a modest gain of $0.02, and on top of it reiterated their full year outlook. Up 8 percent.

Goldman Sachs jointed Oppenheimer and cut full year estimates for brokers, specifically Bear Stearns ,Lehman , and Morgan Stanley , citing an "extraordinarily challenging" operating environment.

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf headlines the UBS Financial Services Conference.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Tuesday, 13 May 2008 | 4:22 PM ET

A Good Day For Stocks--Considering...

Posted By: Bob Pisani

I don’t want to make too much of this, but it was a pretty good day for stocks, considering all the negative stuff the markets had to deal with. Consider:

1) Oil up despite dollar strength.

2) Hewlett was a drag on the Dow, on debate it may have overpaid for EDS .

3) Wal-Martgave conservative guidance.

4) Oppenheimer lowered earnings on brokers.

5) Fed officials were saying that a quick rebound was unlikely ; bonds moved down.

Despite all this, we were basically flat.

And: the largest insurer in the world raised a heck of a lot of money. AIG priced 171 m shares at $38—that’s $6.5 b , and they raised another 5.4 b of equity units (they’re registered trusts in which investors purchase units from a fixed amount of AIG equities). AIG up 1.8 percent, off its 52-week low yesterday.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Tuesday, 13 May 2008 | 3:07 PM ET

HP Shareholders Feeling EDS Deal May Be Too Expensive

Posted By: Bob Pisani

Want to know how frustrated Hewlett-Packard shareholders are today? Here's a couple stats:

Market cap yesterday: $123 b
Today: $107 b
Loss: $16 b

Now, here's the killer stat: they are buying EDS for $13.9 billion! Hewlett is now down more in market cap than they are paying for EDS ! The only good news is that since I reported this at 1 pm ET, Hewlett has come off its lows, now trading at $44.00, so it's market cap is up to $108 b.

Importantly, no one has complained that this is a bad deal, only that they may have overpaid for it.

Questions? Comments? tradertalk@cnbc.com

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  Tuesday, 13 May 2008 | 1:18 PM ET

Banks Hurt by Europe; EDS/HP No Threat to IBM

Posted By: Bob Pisani

Three points about today’s trading:

1) Financials again down on weak earnings from European banks like Societe Generale and Credit Agricole; and Oppenheimer’s Meredith Whitney continuing to take down 2008 and 2009 estimates on brokers.

2) Bulls hoping that strengthening in the dollar would lead to a decline in commodity prices are again having a hard time arguing their point today. Once again, we have modest strength in the dollar and while industrial metals are a tad weaker, energy commodities are rallying.

Credit Suisse attempted to explain this in a note this morning, by pointing out that:

a) commodities have risen 40% of the time when the dollar has strengthened; and

b) industrial commodity prices normally only fall significantly when global Industrial Production is below 2 percent year over year, compared to 4 percent now.

3) All those people arguing that the EDS/Hewlett-Packard deal would be a big challenge to IBM are missing the point: IBM is way, way ahead of even a combined entity.

IBM recognized very early the recognizing the competitive advantage associated with selling a bundled solution--software, hardware, services, financing, all together.

To compete effectively in global services, you need scale -- IBM has it, Hewlett and EDS don’t. That’s why they needed to do this deal.

How far off are they? Here's the total service revenues for the three companies:

IBM : $54 billion

EDS : $22 billion

Hewlett : $17 billion

Bottom line: even merging the two, they are not even close to exceeding IBM's service revenues.

IBM is at a 6 year high today.

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.


  • Bob Pisani

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

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