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  Monday, 11 Mar 2013 | 3:39 PM ET

Only Thing for the Market to Fear? No One's Afraid

Posted By: John Melloy

The most popular way to measure market fear — the CBOE Volatility Index — fell to its lowest point of the four-year bull market, signaling to many traders a level of complacency that sets in before a powerful drop in stocks.

"The next few weeks or months could be treacherous for shorts, but the odds favor a volatility spike of fairly epic proportions off of what is a very depressed level," said Dan Nathan, co-founder of RiskReversal.com. "I think you would have to have your head checked to load up on equities here."

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  Friday, 8 Mar 2013 | 1:58 PM ET

Whoa! Traders 'Trash' Talk Stocks Leading the Rally

Posted By: John Melloy
Hybrid Images | Cultura | Getty Images

The bull market's latest run, which sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average soaring past its 2007 record high, may have some cheering but traders say some of the stocks leading it are riskier bets, a sign that a pullback could be ahead.

Some of the names they cite include: Netflix, MBIA, Best Buy and Zynga.

"It used to be a joke on trading desks that when the mortgage insurers started rallying, the markets were ready to turn lower," said Enis Taner, global marcro editor for RiskReversal.com. "They're the real long-term trash."

»Read more
  Wednesday, 6 Mar 2013 | 10:59 AM ET

As Bull Market Turns 4, Traders Thank Bernanke

Posted By: John Melloy
Getty Images

One of the longest and most powerful equity bull markets in history turns 4 years old today. And traders believe there is just one man to thank: Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

At 1,461 days and counting, it's the eighth longest bull market since 1928, using data from Bespoke Investment Group. And if the S&P 500 climbs another 3 percent to surpass its 2007 high, the 136 percent total price increase will make it the fifth greatest bull market during that same time frame.

"I think Bernanke has sort of carried the load himself during this period," remarked investing legend Warren Buffett in an interview with CNBC this week. "Cheap money makes things happen."

(Read More: Buffett Still Buying Stocks, Sees 'Good Value')

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  Monday, 4 Mar 2013 | 11:30 AM ET

Investors Jump Big Into Market in February: Survey

Posted By: John Melloy
Investors Jump Big Into Bull Market: Survey
Retail investors fully embraced February's bull market, looking past any threat from the sequester crisis in Washington, D.C., and buying stocks more aggressively than they have in three years, according to a sentiment index from TD Ameritrade.
Getty Images

Retail investors fully embraced this bull market in February, looking past any threat from the sequester crisis in Washington, D.C., and buying stocks more aggressively than they have in three years, according to a sentiment index from TD Ameritrade.

(Read More: CNBC Explains Sequester)

They looked for the stocks that would lead the next leg of this bull market, buying into underperforming names such as Apple, Facebook and Intel, according to the survey that tracks the behavior of the largest pool of retail investors.

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  Monday, 25 Feb 2013 | 3:15 PM ET

Three Magic Numbers That Could Derail This Market

Posted By: John Melloy
Getty Images

What do a $3.80 gasoline price, a 2.15 percent 10-year Treasury yield and a 20 reading on the CBOE Volatility Index have in common? They're all levels that could ring the bell on this rally.

Gas prices have been chugging higher for the past month, with the current national average at $3.78, according to AAA. That's just two cents from the magic $3.80 and a traditionally dangerous level for the stock market, according to Barry Knapp of Barclays and other strategists.

(Read More: Pro: Gas Won't Hit $5 This Year)

In fact, Knapp has a chart in one of his latest strategy reports that shows $3.80 a gallon for gas has historically been where the forward multiple of the S&P 500 index tops out. In other words, investors start paying less for future earnings in anticipation higher gas prices will hit company profits.

"A rise in gasoline was followed by a deceleration in consumption in the following quarter" in February 2011 and 2012, Knapp said in a note to clients.

(Read More: Strike Three! The US Consumer Is Out)

Meanwhile, ten-year Treasury yields have jumped to around 2 percent this year amid concern that the Federal Reserve may end its quantitative easing plan sooner than planned. If this yield hits 2.15 percent — the average dividend yield for stocks in the S&P 500 — bonds suddenly look very attractive again to income seekers who have flooded into stocks.

"The fact that stocks have been yielding more than the 10-year has been a major argument in favor of equities over the past nine months or so," the strategists at Bespoke Investment Group wrote in a note pointing out these metrics colliding toward each other.

Why take the risk of owning a stock for its yield, when you can get the same comfort without that risk in a Treasury security?

(Read More: Pullback? Pfff. These Pros Say 'Buy!')

The last number — the VIX — was thrust into the equation today as the so-called fear gauge jumped more than 20 percent to above the 19 level. The metric measures the price of puts (market protection) to the price of calls on the S&P 500.

A rise above 20 in the VIX in April 2012 and July 2011 signaled a jump in investor fear and presaged pullbacks in the market.

"If we got above 20 and held it for a couple days, then market would go a lot lower," predicted Jon Najarian of TradeMonster.com.

For the best market insight, catch "Fast Money" at 5 p.m. ET, and the "Halftime Report" at 12 noon ET each weekday on CNBC. Follow @CNBCMelloy on Twitter.

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  Monday, 25 Feb 2013 | 11:53 AM ET

Traders in BlackBerry Need ‘Neck Brace’ as Stock Moves 5% on Any Given Day

Posted By: John Melloy
Blackberry 10
Getty Images
Blackberry 10

And the winner for craziest stock of the year is ... Blackberry. The formerly-named Research-In-Motion trades, on average, 5 percent in either direction on any given day this year as traders, investors and Wall Street analysts guess whether their new phone will be a success or not.

(Read More: Samsung's New Phone Will Debut on Apple's Turf)

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  Tuesday, 19 Feb 2013 | 3:57 PM ET

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

Posted By: John 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.

»Read more
  Friday, 15 Feb 2013 | 11:32 AM ET

Icahn vs. Ackman: Business or Personal?

Posted By: John 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.

»Read more
  Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013 | 11:59 AM ET

Recovery Sign: More People Are Quitting Their Jobs

Posted By: John Melloy
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.

»Read more
  Sunday, 10 Feb 2013 | 7:09 PM ET

Apple Sends Another Signal Bigger Capital Distribution Is Coming

Posted By: John Melloy
'Optimal Strategy' for Apple's Cash: Brian Marshall
After a conversation with Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer, ISI's Brian Marshall suggests a capital allocation plan that returns more of the company's $137 billion in cash to shareholders.

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.

»Read more

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