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Hedge funds were big players in (pre-bubble) housing, commodities and oil price runups.
Philip Duff, managing principal at Duff Capital Advisors, offers CNBC the hedge-fund view of Merrill Lynch, regional banks including PNC Financial Services Group , and where the markets in general -- and oil, specifically -- are headed.
Other regional banks:
- National City
-Fifth Third Bancorp
- United States Oil Fund
Two strategists, Stephen Wood at Russell Investments and John Manley at Citi Smith Barney, shared their market rebound strategies with CNBC.
Top Wall Street executives are in consensus: They believe the SEC is going to expand limits on short trading -- beyond what was initially targeted.
Commentary by Michelle Caruso Cabrera, Sue Herera, Dennis Kneale and Bill Griffeth.
More CNBC investment ideas:
CNBC Video Reports:
Mary Jane Matts knows a few things about "up" stocks in a down market, and she's sharing a couple of suggestions with CNBC.
Her four-star Fifth Third Disciplined Large Cap Value Fund is up 13.67 percent year-to-date.
Her first pick is Forest Laboratories.
Tumbling oil prices should send investors toward the people who own and run refineries, according to SmartMoney senior markets editor Russell Pearlman.
"These guys got slaughtered recently, because they hadn't been able to raise prices fast enough on gasoline to make up for the difference in the increased cost of their feed stock," Pearlman told CNBC. "You've seen oil prices go down here 11 percent, but the price of gas has only gone down about 3 percent."
He says recent price moves will help refiners recapture their pricing power and margins.
Merrill Lynch, Amgen, and some medical instrument outfits are getting a lot of options action this week, according to one observer.
There was a jump in options traffic Friday for Merrill Lynch , Rebecca Darst of Interactive Brokers explained on CNBC Monday.
"There's a lot of pearl-clutching melodrama in the financials right now, but by and large, implied volatilities on most leading banks and brokerages, while it's still high, is still well off the highs we saw back on July 15th, when the anxiety about Fannie and Freddie was at its highest pitch," she said. "But in the case of Merrill Lynch, the implied volatility reading that we're seeing right now is about 106 percent, only about 8 percent off that July 15th high, so there's still a lot of relatively more anxiety attached to Merrill Lynch for some reason, compared to other brokerages." (For her full comments see video).
Jon Hilsenrath of The Wall Street Journal offered his weekly "Five for five": the five companies and their stocks that you must pay attention to this week. (Note: these are not buy/sell recommendations.)
The money and investing editor thinks these companies will make news this week, and he explains why.
Topping the list is Exxon Mobil, which reports earnings Thursday.
"Here's the question," he told CNBC. "If you're making $40 billion a year doing something that people don't like, would you keep on doing it? That's basically the decision they're making. The Rockefeller family is trying to push them to get into alternative energy...they're going to report numbers this week that show why they don't want to do it."
Alternative energy is involved with another potential newsmaker, General Motors, and its attempts to develop an electric car.
"Everybody's scrambling to get there right now," Hilsenrath said. "The problem for GM and a lot of the U.S. automakers is, they're too late to the game. Automakers are reporting sales this week; they're going to be dismal."
Also set to hit the headlines is Motorola.
"This is a case of the perils of being a shareholder activist," he explained. "Carl Icahn got into Motorola shares back in January 2007. He got what he wanted. They're trying to split the company up, and it's been a disaster. Motorola's reporting earnings this week; it's going to be more bad numbers."
Disney is on the marquee, too.
"Consumers have been pretty resilient; they're still showing up at Disney parks," he said. "Is that going to continue? They report numbers (Wednesday); we get a window into how consumers are holding up."
Rounding out Hilsenrath's list is Colgate Palmolive.
"It's another window into consumer staples," he said.
The failure of IndyMac has terrified some investors about regional banks. Sandler O'Neill banking analyst Kevin Fitzsimmons is "very cautious right now."
"In the time since (the failure of) IndyMac...you've seen the group basically perform like a 'V': You've seen a lot of panic, and the group take a steep dive down, and then, since they started reporting earnings, you've seen the group take a steep climb up," he told CNBC.
For those determined to put their money into regional bank stocks, Fitzsimmons suggests a "barbell" approach.
"Look at either safe havens, or names that you think are cheap enough, and have good franchises underlying them," he said.
One bank on his list is Colonial BancGroup.
"Colonial BancGroup is based down in Florida, and they're really right in the heat of what's deteriorating right now, in terms of the residential construction exposure," he said. "They're really trying to address the problems quickly over the next few quarters; we think that's a decent stock for someone that has patience."
He also has a pick at the "safe haven" end of the spectrum, Porter Bancorp.
"Porter is based in Louisville, Kentucky," he said. "That is a market that has held up very well; you're still actually seeing housing growth there, and it never really had the speculative type of activity that's hurting a lot of the markets like Florida and Atlanta."
Fitzsimmons is less enthusiastic about Regions Financial.
"They did cut their dividend, and I think that was a bit of a relief, that they're helping their capital out from that sense, but...investors are still very nervous that they may have to, at some point, come to raise capital in a dilutive fashion," he explained.
It may be difficult, but it is possible to live without oil. But that cannot be said for water.
Senior analyst Debra Coy of Janney Montgomery Scott has been paying a lot of attention to water, and to ways to make it flow into investors' portfolios.
"We like water, even though it hasn't been quite that liquid of an asset," she told CNBC. "It's still a relatively small sector, but we particularly like the water utilities right now."
She says they have been hit particularly hard in the market downturn, and are cheaper than they've been for years.
Coy likes American Water Works, which went public earlier this year.
"There's been a lot of concern about the regulatory risk they face," she said. "That concern is a bit overdone."
She also recommends Aqua America.
"It's...about to come out of the back end of a kind of drought on earnings, and we think we're going to see some recovery on that one in the coming year," she said.
On the infrastructure front, Coy is enthusiastic about ITT, a leader in pumps and water treatment equipment, and about Insituform Technologies, a leader in pipe rehabilitation.
Where are gold prices going?
Gold can either consolidate through until Sept. 12 and then make a breakout from the $957 level -- or it can trade up to $1023.72 by Aug. 21, says Richard Morrish from MIG Investments.
Ways to play gold:
SPDR Gold Shares