Congratulations on surviving the first week of earnings season. I would offer a " Now relax a bit," but it wouldn't be genuine. If you are not always "on" in market-stalking, then you could be horribly off regarding a single report from wherever. But, hey, far be it from me to push these traits onto your plate. The question is simple in these fine parts: "How do you become a rock star investor?" Day in and day out, I get asked questions ranging from the weird ("Thanks for the tweet, want to grab coffee?") to the interesting ("Does Nike ( NKE) booting Lance Armstrong impact future earnings and cash flow?"). All of it is basically anchored in the idea of becoming some kind of money-making machine with stock symbols dancing around in the brain. To have a shot in hell of attaining this rock star status, one has to be able to remove nasty filaments from pure water, or extract clues that are critical to fundamentally analyzing companies from the fluff that gets pumped into the black hole we call the Internet. For the majority of the week, I've been landing emails from friends and family inquiring about my health, so I feel it's appropriate to reach back to the simpler, calmer days and provide a goodie bag of items you really need to know right now. These are stripped-down nuggets of information that get lost in the meat grinder that is the "alpha generation," a term eloquently coined by Action Alerts PLUS co-portfolio manager Stephanie Link in an evening Tweet to myself. Oh, by the way, please do take special notice of this. Try and decode the buzzy numbers that seem uber-serious to the investing process on the surface -- but which, quite honestly, are only useful for navigating a morning Keurig station, for a meeting or for sounding like a financial wizard on football Sunday among friends who work in the IT department.
Surprise scores gauge sentiment to position for the next earnings report in XYZ sector, and distort the messages coming from quality of revenue and profit. Thus far in earnings season, I would fight to the death to support that earnings quality has deteriorated further due to a couple of things. First, more promotions were enacted to move excess goods, new services and new products. Second, we saw expense-saving measures being siphoned from 2013 to counteract surprising downside to revenue and profit from European and Asia operations. Deep thought: The fundamental stories of names such as Danaher ( DHR) and Stanley Black & Decker ( SWK) are increasing in frequency. These are companies that must implement new restructuring plans on top of already-bone-cutting measures being carried out from the start of the year. Seeing this makes it understandable why the Philly Fed employment component is stuck in the mud, along with new orders. These are elements that were overlooked in the enthusiasm for upside on the headline figure.