Time to Buckle Up, and Buckle Down

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With a post-election pullback in the S&P 500 of 3.6% in the past two days, the market jitters are back, putting many investors on edge.

The election is behind us, but we see the dreaded fiscal cliff, which was obscured from view due to all the election hoopla, on the horizon and wonder whether we'll be heading over it by Jan. 1. I suspect that a deal will get done, but it remains to be seen what it will entail.

The election results changed little in terms of the balance of power in Washington, so get ready for a rocky road ahead for the markets as we approach year-end.

I expect that we'll see a lot of trading days like the last two, as well as some up days, as we grapple with all the possibilities of what the geniuses in D.C. will decide. (At some point, with the realization that the Affordable Care Act is now here to stay, there will be a whole host of other issues to grapple with, but I'll save that for another day; one crisis at a time).

It was not all bad news yesterday, in the flurry of earnings releases, many of which were low profile smaller names, the kind that I typically own and/or follow, there were a few that stood out.

Nuclear services name Energy Solutions ( ES), which processes and disposes spent nuclear fuel and provides in-plant support, decontamination and decommissioning services, had a great quarter. Revenue of $444.2 million easily beat the $423.2 million consensus, and 11 cents per share were double the consensus estimate.

The company has been extremely volatile this year, topping out above $5 back in March before falling to the $1.50 range over the summer. I took my latest position in early June, following a cut in guidance that sent shares down 55% in one day, on 32 times average volume. That seemed like an over-reaction at the time. With a fairly heavy debt load, Energy Solutions is not for anyone with a weak stomach, but the company does provide services vital to the nuclear power industry.

Alexander and Baldwin ( ALEX), which represents the real estate business of the old Alexander and Baldwin, that separated into two companies (the other being shipping company Matson Navigation ( MATX)) in June also put up some solid numbers, after the market closed yesterday. Revenue rose 50% to $92.9 million for the quarter, and net income more than tripled to $13.4 million. Earnings of 31 cents per share beat the 14 cents a share consensus estimate.

ALEX's report came on the heels of a solid report from Matson Navigation on Wednesday. Matson beat the consensus earnings estimate of 40 cents per share by five cents, and shares were rewarded with a 7% advance. I was also pleased to see a $44 million reduction in debt, which now stands at about $329 million.

So, there was some good news, amongst all the angst, but it's time to buckle up, and buckle down. The elections, for the most part, took our eyes off of the ball in terms of what's on the near term horizon. Now it's crunch time, and time to stock up on the Pepto Bismol.

Have a great weekend.

At the time of publication the author was long ES, ALES, MATX.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

At the time of publication, Heller was long XXXX.

Jonathan Heller, CFA, is president of KEJ Financial Advisors, his fee-only financial planning company. Jon spent 17 years at Bloomberg Financial Markets in various roles, from 1989 until 2005. He ran Bloomberg's Equity Fundamental Research Department from 1994 until 1998, when he assumed responsibility for Bloomberg's Equity Data Research Department. In 2001, he joined Bloomberg's Publishing group as senior markets editor and writer for Bloomberg Personal Finance Magazine, and an associate editor and contributor for Bloomberg Markets Magazine. In 2005, he joined SEI Investments as director of investment communications within SEI's Investment Management Unit.

Jon is also the founder of the Cheap Stocks Web site, a site dedicated to deep-value investing. He has an undergraduate degree from Grove City College and an MBA from Rider University, where he has also served on the adjunct faculty; he is also a CFA charter holder.

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