By Don Lucek

Dear Mr. Claus:

First, please accept our apologies for bothering you during crunch time. We know you're busy and don't have time to read every letter, especially this close to the Big Day. But we'd greatly appreciate it if you could give this one a perusal.

Santa, we've noted the stark absence of any discernible "Santa Claus Rally" this year and, frankly, we had been scratching our heads about it. We have a theory about the reasons why and, if we're right, we wish to straighten out the matter immediately. Now, far be it for us to tell you your business, but we think you may be confused due to your lack of investing acumen. We don't blame you for this. We would not expect you to be all that savvy on these matters, given that you have no plans to retire and evidently enjoy great personal wealth. Please allow us to illuminate the issue.

Does it seem to you that every investor is a swindler? Let us assure you that, no, the vast majority of us are not, despite recent scandals. We have always known there were some malefactors in our midst, and they truly belong on your Naughty List. But we tend to bring these people to justice so you don't have to. Nevertheless, we can't help but wonder: Are we all being lumped in with these vile creatures, and that's why you haven't come?

Was our undisciplined or shoddy research a mark against us? Let us further assure you that there are reasons linked to bad assumptions that caused this. But we figured the markets' collective swoon was punishment enough for that error. Please be reasonable. Many folks did not know they were being lazy analysts. They thought they were being disciplined.

Our research team here at TSC Ratings does our utmost to provide investors with investment ideas generated by our models, with minimal influence by flights of market fancy. Let us assure you that our models are "safety first" in nature, meaning that the solidity of firms' balance sheets and lack of market volatility are weighted heavily in our overall assessment.

With that in mind, we have a deal to offer: We have recently published articles on three solid picks that are especially timely for the season. As stated, we promise to be disciplined in our future research and to continue to punish baddies ourselves. If we promise to come through on our promises, do you think you could give us a little rally here?

The first stock is The Buckle (BKE). Recently offered as an idea by one of our number, the company has some great current attributes, such as solid growth and financial strength. We also feel that its prospects are good, given its agnostic product mix and room to grow.

The next is Hasbro (HAS). Here's one I am sure you are familiar with, given your outsourced manufacturing operation. The nature of its product line-up, with its classic board games and lower-priced items, should do well this Christmas as parents scale back spending.

And, finally, we have Marvel (MVL). We feel this company's decision to own more of its motion-picture operations is a sound strategy, and that its product tie-ins are timely, given recent box-office successes. Its future also looks bright, based on the popularity of its properties.

Of course, we hope you can see your way clear to helping all deserving stocks to rally. However, if that's too much to ask, perhaps just these three?

Yours sincerely, Ratings