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The Day Ahead: Stay as Sharp as a Chainsaw

Stocks in this article: FASTADPAA

I also would like to draw your attention to payroll processer ADP (ADP), shares of which mysteriously plunged through their 10-day moving average Monday. This occurred in spite of the October jobs upside and favorable revisions, and if the pressure continues, it will serve as a glowing red neon sign that the impending fiscal cliff stands to bring swift, negative employment actions by companies, adding to the growing list of "new restructurings."

You Buy Garbage, You Earn Garbage. My sixth stock sense unearths this: The typical Election Day enthusiasm will somehow find its way to "garbage stocks" intra-session. Obviously Election Day has its magic and, with that, a national belief that things could get better in the future. (Otherwise, why vote? The person you're picking has to be backed by your own personal hope for brighter days.) But don't be lured into the happiness and buy garbage stocks that will only trade up based on expectations for magically improved operating performance after the election.

Here are some simple rules. First, while the third-quarter earnings season has been bad, winners do exist -- and they tend to really stand out. Find stocks that have detached from the company's underlying positive fundamentals and could score a sell-side upgrade heading into year-end; see the upgrade on shoe retailer Genesco (GCO), for instance. Of late, I have noticed that upgrades currently have more juice on perceived oversold situations than they had had prior to earnings season. This is a little something that demonstrates 2013 revisions to models have bottomed, and that there is potential for beating that lowered expectations bar.

Ask Yourself These Questions. Will the fourth quarter be stronger in terms of sales and earnings due to election finality? How will initial 2013 guidance be set? Are there any clues on either of these at the present time? Interestingly, Alcoa (AA) has traded sideways to slightly lower since its Oct. 9 earnings report, with a gap down the following day. Moreover, Fastenal (FAST), which announced Oct. 11, has basically given back its earnings-related pop. In other words, the market is in a true holding pattern, so watch these industrials very closely for clues on how the fourth quarter stands to ultimately unfold after the election.

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