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1. XL Capital

James Altucher
2/11/2009 3:19 PM EST

XL Capital

(XL)

is surging 50% higher after posting a revised book value of $16 per share and a combined ratio of 89.4% in the latest quarter, an improvement from the 93.3% ratio a year earlier.

This is the second quarter in a row that XL Capital has gapped higher by more than 50% (last quarter it moved higher 80% intraday) based on a restated book value that is almost four times the current price of the stock

XL is also engaging Goldman to review strategic alternatives (including possibly selling itself), but no mention of this was made at all during the call. Did I miss something?

2. At CERA, Recognition of an Uphill Battle

Stephanie Link
2/11/2009 2:05 PM EST

The 28th annual Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) Conference is being held in Houston this week. Many of the energy companies as well as governments and financial institutions are attending to discuss the global economy and the implications for the energy industry.

In front of 1,500 people yesterday, the CEOs of

BP

(BP) - Get Report

and

Shell

( RDS-A) both indicated that they expect industry costs to get back to 2004 levels, which means

Schlumberger

(SLB) - Get Report

and other oil service companies will see depressed earnings for a lot longer than most expect.

BP also told its providers that it will negotiate much lower prices as its contracts expire. While I read this to mean possible margin expansion for BP, it also suggests that the drillers and service companies have an uphill battle.

Given that the stocks have rallied in the past few days, they could be due for another pullback.

3. Morass

Robert Marcin
2/11/2009 11:48 AM EST

With all due respect to Vince Farrell, we are stuck in this morass for many years. This is not a short-term stock market call, rather recognition of the fact that the unwinding of trillions of consumer debt will be a headwind that persits for years.

I posted this

last summer

:

"The problem with the Great Unwind is that it's immutable. The Fed can't change it. The administration can't. The Congress can only screw things up more. The CEOs of Merrill Lynch or Citigroup can't. Vik Bob's got nothin for us. Unwinding a 20-year debt bubble takes lots of time if done gracefully or a ton of pain if accomplished quickly. Stop demanding that the government save us from our excesses. There is no magic bullet."

I assume I will be able to refer to it for a few more years. People who want quick fixes will be disappointed for a very long time. It pains me to have the politicians and talking heads miss this. They can't craft the best policy response if they don't comprehend the true nature of the problem.

4. Excel Maritime Draws Bearish Options Activity

Jon "Dr. J" Najarian
2/11/2009 7:48 AM EST

Excel Maritime Carriers

(EXM)

is drawing bearish options activity as traders apparently believe that signs of a recovery in the shipping industry are premature.

Normal put activity in EXM is 900 contracts a session, but more than 4,300 puts had changed hands only halfway through trading Tuesday. Excel doesn't report earnings until the second or third week of March, but speculative put-buying already has begun at the February 7.50 strike (EKNNU).

OptionMonster's tracking systems show 3,700 February 7.50 puts changing hands for 55 cents to 60 cents against open interest of 1,880. EXM began the session Tuesday up some 53% from just Monday of last week but finished the day down 14.4% to $7.48.

5. Arcelor Up Pre-Market, Watch Capacity Plans for NUE and X

David Sterman
2/11/2009 7:29 AM EST

As the biggest steel producer,

Arcelor-Mittal

(MT) - Get Report

can single-handedly move the supply/demand balance. Shares of MT are up pre-market, largely in reaction to a massive Tuesday selloff. The company will be talking about first-quarter output plans on the call, which could impact

Nucor

(NUE) - Get Report

and

U.S. Steel

(X) - Get Report

.

First quarter steel demand is shaping up to be as lousy as the fourth quarter. But the auto makers, a big customer, are expecting to boost production levels again in the second quarter, as inventories of unsold vehicles are starting to whittle down. Output of autos (and steel) could rise yet higher in the subsequent quarters, if the Treasury plan to stimulate consumer and small business lending has any teeth.

I wouldn't chase NUE and X here, but if the bleak first-quarter results pull shares back down toward 52-week lows, you'd be looking at a nice entry point ahead of possibly sequentially strengthening demand.

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This article was written by a staff member of RealMoney.com.