The financial stocks held up Wednesday as the markets eked out a rare gain for the second day.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 3.91, or 0.06%, to 6,930.40, while the S&P 500 rose 1.76, or 0.24%, to 721.36. The Nasdaq added 13.36, or 0.98%, to 1,371.64. Guy Adami said on CNBC's "Fast Money" TV show it was a "very good day" but that the S&P still needs to get up to 741. Pete Najarian added the financial and agricultural stocks continued to perform well. Meanwhile, Karen Finerman said bank stocks could get a boost after Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase ( JPM), said his firm was profitable in the first two months. "Imagine if we see the big banks profitable for the quarter, they have huge earnings power," she said. Melissa Lee, the moderator of the show, wondered whether the bank stocks can go higher after Goldman Sachs noted the continued deterioration of consumer credit conditions in its upgrade of Morgan Stanley ( MS). Pete Najarian said the congressional subcommittee hearing Thursday on mark-to-market accounting rules could be significant for bank stocks if it results in some changes. Zachary Karabell, though, said changes in those rules are not so more important as the changes in the reserve capital requirements that banks have to have against the accounting losses from toxic assets. Lee shifted the discussion to tech stocks, which have been doing well in the rally. Adami said he likes HP ( HPQ) because its PE is very compelling. "This is an environment where Mark Hurd (HP's CEO) does well. He starts to cut things and make things more efficient."
Najarian said he liked the news on Google ( GOOG), which said it is surfing its viewers to find out where they are going so they can target ads. Finerman noted even Microsoft ( MSFT), which is trading just above $17, has advanced the past two days, though it is still at "horrific" levels. The biggest splash came from Apple ( AAPL), which came out with a new 4G iPod shuffle that is the size of a double AA battery. Gene Munster, senior research analyst for Piper Jaffray, said the product, which uses voice-over technology, underscores the innovative nature of Apple. Munster believes there is more upside to the stock, which closed at $93 today, because it plans to roll out more innovative products in the next six to 12 months. In the works are a second version of the iPhone in the summer and a tablet that will be Kindle-like but also handle email, Web surfing, music and video. "If the E-book market takes off, Apple wants to play in that market," he said. Munster told the panel that he doesn't expect the company will change its pricing strategy because it is known for putting out premium innovative products. Lee shifted the discussion to news of a 10% surge in mortgage refinancings and its impact on retailers like Lowe's ( LOW). Karabell said it would be a mistake to make the leap from incremental activity in mortgage refinancings to "I am going to spend a lot at Lowe's to remodel my kitchen."
In the commodities sector, oil tumbled 7% as inventories declined. Adami said that this would be an opportunity for those who are bullish in oil to jump in. He said oil is setting up for a short squeeze and could go $60 before $40. Najarian said he likes the performance of the engineering stocks in this sector such as Fluor ( FLR), Foster Wheeler ( FWLT) and McDermott ( MDR). Karabell said he likes companies in this sector like Transocean ( RIG)that are receiving checks instead of cutting them. Is the rally in financial stocks for real? Brad Hintz, a financial analyst for Sanford Bernstein, reminded the panel that the rally is off a very low valuation in a sector that has been plagued by consumer problems and massive uncertainty about regulatory reforms going forward. He said the underwriting fees from recent multi-billion dollar deals will help some but won't "move the needle" for these firms' corporate earnings or the nation's GDP. Hintz said Thursday's hearing on mark-to-market rules will really be about how they were implemented. He said the rules can work with some modest changes. Is it possible for the Dow to get back to 8,000? Adami said it's possible for the S&P to reach 900 if it can hit 741 in the next few days. He said that can happen without the help of the financials. But Finerman said she believes the leadership of the financials will be an important part of any sustained rally. The panel noted some companies that are actually hiring in this dismal economic environment. They include the Jefferies Group ( JEF), which is hiring talented executives that have departed other firms; FTI Consulting ( FCN), which is gearing up to help distressed firms; and AT&T ( T), which plans to hire 3,000 workers for its wireless division.
Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a CNBC business reporter, gave a brief preview of the Forbes billionaire issue being released tonight. She said Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is off the list. On the list barely are Ken Griffin, of Citadel Investment Group and Jerry Yang former CEO of Yahoo! ( YHOO). The youngest billionaire is John Arnold, an energy trader at Centaurus Energy Advisors, at $1.5 billion. In the final trades, Karabell was for iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond Fund ( HYG). Adami liked PNC Financials ( PNC). Finerman liked Transocean, and Najarian liked HP. "Check out "'Fast Money' Portfolios of the Week" on Stockpickr every Thursday.