I love a market poised to react one of two absolute and distinct ways to a single world event. To wit, is it bad news that a deranged foe of the civilized world finally stopped talking smack and started lobbing off a bunch of missiles? Or is it good news that the most far-reaching of these North Korean missiles appears to have hit the drink, like countless Business Press Maven golf balls? We shall see when the bell rings, but seeing such a flagrant provocation as anything but dim news would take a lot of contrarian fiber -- almost as much as the current daily requirement for betting against gold. That's why I liked this morning's simple (but probably telling) piece from Mark Hulbert of
MarketWatch on how short-term gold timing newsletters have moved the needle so far toward bullishness that there is virtually nowhere to go but down. ( Editor's note: To access some of these stories, registration or a subscription may be required. Please check the individual links for the site's policy.) The Hubert Gold Newsletter Index (which we would refer to as HGNI if we were going to refer to it again) had a gold market exposure rating of 73.2%. As recently as June 20, this stood at 1.8%. That's akin to the increase in The Business Press Maven's waistline over this July 4 holiday, which brings up an interesting automotive initiative, courtesy of The Chicago Tribune , during this week in which American automakers are tumbling and reaching out desperately for help: "Do you have to fasten not only the driver's but also the passenger's safety belt around you when you slip behind the wheel?" Apparently, with Americans so prototypically fit, Ford ( F) is looking at widening some driver's cabs. Nevermind that the larger trend seems to be toward cars smaller than Bolivia; American carmakers have to fit unfit American hips, I suppose. Will the French (quelle horreur) come riding to the rescue? Could be, as you can read anywhere about Renault-Nissan's involvement with General Motors ( GM), pushed by investor Kirk Kerkorian, who would have done better in gold. The Economist puts the hookup in good perspective, portraying it as a potential struggle of personalities. In one corner we have GM boss Rick Wagoner, who, as The Economist puts it, "believes that the company is beginning to get back on its feet and does not need outside help." In the other, we have Renault grande fromage Carlos Ghosn, who has plenty of turnaround experience to his credit and perhaps could not disagree more.
GM, it is rightly noted, has also had some bad experiences aligning with foreign firms. The Economist says that if this deal falls apart in the making, Ghosn might look to Ford. Either way, though, Kerkorian has obtained a short-term victory by ramping up pressure on Wagoner. The Economist did not, unfortunately, refer to Ghosn by his nickname, The Icebreaker, earned for his penchant of cracking local customs to fix things up. Maybe he can put an end to that cars-for-fatties initiative, though after this July 4 holiday, The Business Press Maven cannot fit into one of those Renaults (or Nissans) the size of a tuning fork. Speaking of holidays, Motley Fool has run a pair of articles on a company I've been thinking about lately. Six Flags ( SIX) is an amusement park outfit that has long marketed itself as the closer, cheaper-to-get-to, slightly more thrilling anti- Disney ( DIS). The results have been lame and the stock has been falling as fast as a Kingda Ka roller coaster, but here's the deal: Insiders are buying. In a
June 28 story , the Fool points out that despite the operational challenges, six insiders have been buying (this is too cute by half) their own Six Flags stock. As these things go, it's not a whole lot of money ($3 million) and insiders have been wrong before; that's why so many of them become outsiders, albeit with good settlements. But Rick Aristotle Munarriz ran earlier with a story about how the parks have truly been transformed and look a lot more like Disney. Will characters with carpet heads roaming about and accosting children save the stock? We'll see. But changes seem afoot, and because the insiders do seem to believe in that change, this one seems worth the watch. The Business Press Maven will probably be watching Superman Returns sometime soon, but current talk about how the film is saving slumping movie ticket sales leads to thoughts of the sequel to Dumb and Dumber. Variety weighs in with a typically punny headline: "$106 Mil Hero's Welcome." But the underlying facts are, as the article points out clearly, less heady. Based on the weekend alone, Superman was on the low end of comparable movies. A key is that the Tuesday holiday made for an extralong weekend. Superman also slowed down faster than last year's yawner, The War of the Worlds. Without Clark Kent coming to save the day, Variety also ran another story recently on long-term financing changes that have hit Hollywood. Specifically, production costs are increasingly being outsourced to hedge funds. If any of you hedgies out there are looking to break into show biz, I have a script I'm looking to peddle. A mild-mannered reporter with glasses and trouble fitting into his car after a long weekend goes to an amusement park chain and saves the day with searingly perceptive advice on how to turn a troubled company around. But saving the world from that missile stuff he has to leave to the professionals.