It was a wild week of selloffs and reversals, and
five bloggers dealt with it in their own ways. Once again this weekend, we'd like to share the "Best of the Blogs" with
readers. These posts best captured the intent of these blogs, which is to provide intelligent discussion on the issues each writer sees as most pressing that day.
Now, let's take a look at
on the hazards of leaving growth stocks,
on four tips for a falling market,
on how the music business is changing,
on the problems with moving to penny-increment options quotes; and
on the role Russia's gold reserves may play in this year's run-up in market interest rates.
Click here for information on
, where you can see all the blogs -- and reader's comments -- in real time.
Cramer's Blog: Jump From Fast Growth Only If You're Nimble
Originally published on 6/6/2006 11:49 AM EDT
The tug of war between slow but consistent growth and fast but inconsistent growth right now is being won by the former. That's how you see
Johnson & Johnson
holding its ground but
getting killed or
getting clocked. People are just looking for safety wherever they can find it.
Can't blame anyone. The question is, how nimble can you be? Can you jump into J&J and
and then jump out in time to catch
? Are you able to leap from
to momentum in tech in a single bound?
I always settle for an 18-month horizon for doing both, but that might mean some serious pain, pain that can be alleviated by the Novocain of an all-beverage-and-cereal portfolio. But I can't get in and get out in time for
Action Alerts PLUS because of my trading restrictions. I have to take a beating at times. This is one of those times.
Still, I ponder the great rush to own all sorts of companies that have sub-par but consistent growth. Many of the drug companies have that: Check out
Many of the food companies have it too:
, Hershey and
But nobody cares at the inflection point.
I am not railing against the market. If you can be nimble, go for it.
Remember, though, that the market always, in the end, rewards growth -- wherever it can find it. If you can get out of Network Appliance and Apple to get back in three months from now, terrific.
So I won't.
At the time of publication, Cramer was long Network Appliance.
Rev Shark's Blog: Four Tips for a Falling Market
Originally published on 6/6/2006 4:29 PM EDT
The selling kicked off by Ben Bernanke's hawkish comments yesterday afternoon continued until the final 30 minutes of trading today, when a buy program and short-covering spiked us up. We did have a half-hearted bounce attempt at midday, but breadth remained weak all day and the buying never was very convincing.
So how much longer is this poor action going to continue? Anyone who claims to know is fooling himself. Selloffs always last longer than you believe they will. They wear you out with their stubbornness, and just when you think things can't get much worse, they do. Of course, when you become so disgusted that you sell just to escape the frustration, you can bet that a big bounce is ready to kick in.
Right now there are just a few key things you need to keep in mind:
The market has broken key technical support levels and is downtrending.
We have not found any meaningful support.
Buys at this juncture carry a high degree of risk.
Bounces can't be trusted to last for long.
So stay patient, and don't be overly worried about doing any buying. When the market acts better, there will be plenty of opportunities and lots of time to profit. Have a good evening. I'll see you tomorrow.
Cody Willard's Blog: My Music Business Epiphany
Originally published on 6/7/2006 3:19 PM EDT
There are three major shifts under way in the music content ownership business, and music consumption will never be the same.
First, the two negative shifts:
Unbundling: The average selling price of a unit of music content has fallen from about $15 per CD or so to about 99 cents, because the world over can now buy just the single songs that they want instead of being forced to buy an entire album bundled with that song.
Piracy: Every day, millions and millions of songs are stolen off the piracy networks, and there's nothing the music labels can ever do to stop that.
Now the positive change:
With the advent of the Internet, and the ability to purchase and consume any piece of music ever recorded immediately, the addressable market for music ownership has exploded.
And the latter is ultimately going to be a more powerful business dynamic thanthe former.
Yesterday when I was on the street talking to strangers in front of the
store, I figured out that the best way to put people at ease was to first ask a very simple question: "Do you like music?" No surprise that every one I talked to answered affirmatively. Love of and consumption of music are universal truths.
At one point, I badmouthed radio to an older couple who told me they love the radio. They were shocked and asked me, "What's wrong with the radio play lists?" The thing is, I'm utterly sick of top-40 music. Isn't everybody? And aren't there implications to that?
At a recent dinner with a group of Hollywood and music agents and managers, we debated the future of the business of music. And the debate took me back to New Mexico, as I remembered my mom telling my brother when he was starting his first heavy metal band in high school that he needed to make sure they covered some top-40 songs so that people could relate to them.
The debate covered topics that I've been writing about for a long time, from the
immediate access to all music ever recorded.
As I noted above, the first two topics are obviously negatives for the music industry, and one look at what has been a steady, several-year-long decline in music sales tells the story clearly.
But the latter point is finally starting to kick in, and I believe the
music content ownership business might be in better shape than I've previously argued. That is, I was wrong that the value of music content would be more affected by the former points than the latter.
A somewhat silly anecdote I shared on
"Kudlow & Company" underscores the shift. You see, a few weeks ago, I had an epiphany. I don't ever want to bother buying top-40 music. I hear the very same songs in line at Duane Reade, in the elevator of my former office in a hedge fund hotel, when I visit my father's animal clinic in Ruidoso, in my car and, well, you get the point.
It got me to thinking that there's been about 40 years worth of top-40 hits since selling music became a valid business model. That's 40 years of 150 top-40 hits per year, for a total of about 600 songs. All of which you and I can both recite most if not all the lyrics off the top of our heads. "I'm bad, I'm bad, you know it"? Why do we have to know who sang those lyrics? (It was Michael Jackson, for those of you who want to pretend you didn't know that already.)
And new music? Until I had my epiphany, I'd been writing a "New Music Friday" column on TheCodyBlog.com for months, as a lot of people send me new CDs, and I figured I'd pass on some of the bands I get into.
But then one late Saturday evening when I'd turned on the "Classic Rock" station on my TV and pumped it out over my Bose speakers in my apartment, I heard this song called,
The Time Has Come
, an 11-minute jam that blew my mind, from 1967. How could I not have ever heard this song before?
And, you see, we consumers don't have to take it anymore. We don't have to ever listen to another Top 40 hit again. And the music business will clearly be better off for it. Consider it the music business'
I went straight to my iMac and pulled up the iTunes store and looked up this band called the Chambers Brothers. And I started downloading a couple of albums from the band. And every song I listened to got better, because the band had created art with their
. Not this one song of theirs that became a top-40 hit that I'd just not happened to have been privvy to for some strange reason.
And I realized, I don't know anything about music history, despite knowing just about every top-40 hit in the last 40 years note for note. And now I can go to my own section of the Long Tail.
In my office, I've banned all singles. I've banned all music from 1982 and on. (Why 1982? Why not?) I almost always have music blasting in the background when I'm reading and analyzing stocks and when I'm writing these pieces for my blog. And from Bob Dylan's amazing
album to Curtis Mayfield's smooth
album, I'm in music heaven. Now that I don't listen to top-40 anymore!
And the label that owns the rights to the three albums by Nick Drake, whom I'd never even heard of until I Googled "Best albums of 1970"? Methinks iTunes and the power of the Internet are probably the best thing that ever happened to them. If only because everyone who reads this post can immediately go purchase this
album without even getting out of their chair, because I'm going to put a link to it right here.
As I've been known to write before: Rock on, indeed!
At the time of publication, the firm in which Willard is a partner was net long Apple and long Google, although positions can change at any time and without notice.
Steve Smith's Blog: Chairman Cox: Keep Your Penny Quotes
Originally published on 6/8/2006 2:58 PM EDT
Do you think that on a day like today market makers want to slice there margins down to a penny just to keep market share?
On a day like today, do you think that customers want to fight for a penny better execution or just make sure they are filled quickly and fairly?
OK, so maybe this isn't the type of day Christopher Cox, chairman of the
Securities and Exchange Commission
, had in mind when he sent a letter to the six major option exchanges recommending that they move toward quoting in pennies as it "will benefit investors by allowing option quotes and orders to be expressed at better prices and has the potential to enhance the already strong competition that exists in the option industry."
While most option exchanges are toeing the line and agreeing they are willing to explore moving toward quoting in pennies, I can't imagine many would actually welcome it.
As far as more competition goes, the options business, which has had multiple listings and electronic trading for over five years now, offers one of the most competitive and open trading markets out there. And while all the exchanges posture that they welcome competition, moving to pennies is not a situation where any one exchange will emerge as a winner.
They have all the competition they need without being forced to spend the money needed to upgrade their technology to carry penny quotes, which right now would completely overload their systems, or slice market makers' margins so thin that it will require lower fees or the resurgence of payment for order flow kickbacks to keep market share.
And the fact is that options already
in pennies, they just are not quoted in open pennies.
When the Boston Option Exchange (BOX) launched in 2004, it implemented a Price Improvement Period (PIP), which gives the market makers a five-second window to improve on the national best bid/ask (NBBO). At the time,
I thought this was a great compromise, in that it gave market makers and the upstart BOX a means of capturing and retaining order flow while providing the customer with a nominally better execution price.
In the past two years, all the option exchanges, as a matter of competition, have introduced their own versions of price-improvement periods that allow options to trade in penny increments. This is a good thing. But the notion that quoting options in pennies will lead to further improvements and customer benefits is misguided.
Outside of the top index products such as the
Nasdaq 100 Trust
, there are very few options that have the liquidity to maintain even a dime-wide market.
Moving toward pennies will actually undermine liquidity, as market makers are less likely to accommodate orders of any significant size at penny increments. I believe most traders would prefer to know they can get a 10 or 20 contract order filled in one transaction in a dime-wide market than get a bunch of two lots filled across penny increments that ultimately averages out to just that, a penny improvement.
Retail customers already outthink themselves by entering limit orders that split the bid/ask, thinking that is "fair," only to find they don't get filled, causing them to pay a higher price later. Allowing them to enter orders in penny increments would be inviting them to hang themselves out further and more frequently and would indeed be pound foolish.
What's more, the costs associated with trying to disseminate penny quotes would be huge. Whereas the entire stock market generates some 18,000 bits of information, the huge number of strikes prices adds up to around 200,000 simultaneous quotes. Broker firms would also need to upgrade their platforms, and you better believe these costs will be passed in some manner, whether it be higher commissions or "order cancellation" fees, on to customers.
Bill Brodsky, President of Chicago Board of Options Exchange, said in a statement, "quoting can be of benefit in classes with sufficient depth and liquidity," but he makes it clear that he would use a pilot program in a handful of names in order to "evaluate its effectiveness in terms of both costs and benefits" before committing to broad implementation of penny quotes for all options.
I say, don't even bother with the pilot program. The system in place now allows for trading in penny increments, but not quoting or entering orders, and it has created one of the most efficient and competitive trading platforms of any financial product.
Tony Crescenzi's Blog: Russia's Gold Pot
Originally published on 6/7/2006 12:12 PM EDT
One of the more solid explanations for this year's surge in gold is the notion that the world's central banks, flush with dollar reserves, have decided to diversify their assets by increasing their purchases of gold.
Perhaps the best example of this is Russia.
In 1998, Russia defaulted on its debt, and its total international reserves stood at just $10 billion. Roughly $4 billion of those reserves were parked in gold. Despite a massive buildup in its reserves, which now stand at a whopping $248 billion, Russia's gold reserves actually fell slightly to $3.7 billion until last December. That's when Russia began to fulfill its promise of doubling its gold reserves. Since then, Russia's gold holdings have increased to $8.072 billion (as of May 31).
With more money being allocated toward reserves other than dollar-denominated assets, fewer dollars are flowing to the U.S. Treasury market, which helps to explain this year's run-up in market interest rates.
Do you think that the move out of dollars could get worse?
George Moriarty is managing editor of RealMoney.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks, though he owns stock in TheStreet.com. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He appreciates your feedback;
to send him an email.