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Good vs. Evil & CostCo vs. Safeway


"Santa can go ahead and put Howie in the 'Naughty' file"


Fast Money Mailbag: FAQ Edition

Minyan and personal friend for 3-decades "Odie" writes:

"What's up with the show? Were you guys on last night? My TiVO (TIVO) said it had recorded Fast Money but when I went to watch this morning there was some ("freaking")game show."

I've gotten a decent number of calls and emails regarding this week, both in support of my and as a function of viewer frustration at CNBC swapping out FM for a repeat of the parent network's Deal or No Deal last night. The volume of both the calls (loud) and the emails (many) has been such that I want to answer the two most common questions here, in order of frequency:

Question 1: When is Fast Money going to be back on the air?

"I don't know" is the short answer. In the interest of demonstrating my commitment to Life as an Experiential Learning Opportunity I can elaborate by saying "I don't know and, as it turns out, network executives get really annoyed by 'the talent' repeatedly asking a lot of questions like 'hey, when is our show going to be on again?'"

I am confident the show will be on the air again. If I could place a wager on when that return will be I would place money on both "2 weeks from now" and "early in 2007," as a hedge.

The program has garnered strong and growing audience numbers. We aren't being "re-tooled," "re-imagined" or any other TV euphemism for "canceled." The CNBC Powers that Be are simply looking for the best place to put us as a more permanent home.

Question 2: How can I tell the difference between an episode of Deal or No Deal and a particularly Macke-centric edition of Fast Money?

There are subtle differences between the two programs which become obvious when one brings a historical perspective on television conventions and visual cues. Specifically, as a general television rule, "Facial Hair = Evil." Though we may look alike at a casual glance, the soul-patch on Howie Mandel's lower lip tells you that, beneath the good-natured game-show host exterior beats the heart of a man going through life in the guise of Evil Jeffmacke.

The Facial Hair = Evil rule of thumb is a long-standing artistic convention dating at least as far back as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and tracing through countless soap opera story lines. Prior to last night, the use of facial hair to connote Evil Twin in prime time was perhaps last seen on the groundbreaking, high-brow talking car show, Knight Rider:

Good Evil

Good Evil

In this historical context, I'm proud indeed to have the esteemed Howard Mandel playing a bit part as "Evil Macke" on my network. Stay tuned to Minyanville; I'll let you know when my clean shaved head of pure goodness will be back on the air as part of Fast Money. In the meantime, tune into Squawk Box tomorrow morning where I'll be guest hosting, sans Howie (as far as I've been told).

Safeway vs. CostCo

After reviewing both of their respective quarters, the difference between Safeway (SWY) and CostCo (COST), beyond the reaction of the stocks to the reports (SWY down, COST up), was simply one of investor expectations.

Safeway hit the number but didn't take estimates higher the way the company did last quarter. In contrast, CostCo beat the estimates they themselves had previously lowered and added some thoughts about the strength of the consumer going into the holidays. Safeway, a grocer, is less concerned about the economy.

While I'm understandably a little bitter about not actually getting long CostCo when I talked about doing so last week, I'm not swapping out my Safeway to buy CostCo this morning. I still like the retailers going into Christmas, the price action today just tells me that it's time to start looking at the names which haven't participated in the retailer rally of the last few months.

I'm sympathetic to the Big Picture Concerns in Boo's camp but I continue to think the American consumer is going to be just fine, thank you, this holiday season. We're the best damn consumers in the world, people. It's going to take more than a little housing slump to change that.

If I was going to buy stocks with the intention of holding onto them forever, I'd be concerned. Since I'm more concerned about creating capital gains in the here and now, I still want to own the retailers through the holidays.

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Position in SWY

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