Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Update Hodgepodge

Waiting around for some tests to run to completion here at work, so I guess I have a little bit of time to post up a few updates on various topics.

Let's see... let's start with life. Okay, so last Saturday, Barber, a co-worker of mine and his roommate, and I attended the 25th Annual San Francisco Beer Festival. Tickets were $60 apiece, but with the promise of 3 hours of unlimited beer and a bunch of snacks, we felt it was worth it.

Well, none of us had ever been before, and so we didn't really know what to expect when it came to food, so before the event, Barber and I ate a big ass pizza. We figured we had better stuff ourselves with bread so we could try a lot of different beers. It turned out that we didn't have to eat at all. There was plenty of food there. There was no shortage at all, and so pigging out was totally possible (except for those who stuffed themselves with pizza already).

The food ranged from the mundane (corn dogs, mini-sandwiches) to the more upscale (oysters on the half-shell). It all tasted pretty good too for the most part. We all got to try out a lot of different beers (they had unlimited power drinks and other refreshments available, too), eat a good amount of food, and also win random prizes (I won 2 movie passes for Saving Sarah Marshall).

Anyway, we all had a great time and I'd definitely want to do it again next year.

Okay, so that was last weekend... Yesterday, I picked up a copy of Grand Theft Auto IV for the XBox360. You've already heard all about this game unless you've been living in a cave. CNBC even talked quite a bit about it since its release played a part in the ongoing takeover battle between Electronic Arts (ERTS) and Take Two Interactive (TTWO). The game has gotten sick reviews so far.

So far, I've only played it for a couple of hours, and it looks really good. The start seems a bit slow, but I guess there's a fair bit of storyline and character development. And, to all the people that truly believe that games like this will lead to the moral corruption of our society, you are all nuts.

What else? I guess we can talk a little about stocks... my tests are almost done running so I won't say too much.

Manitowoc (MTW) announced estimate-beating earnings, but came in just a little light on revenues. Their guidance for the next year was re-affirmed, but the report was generally lukewarm. That said, I think that the dip to the 37's presents a buying opportunity to folks with a longer-term horizon.

Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP) came out with a strong earnings report last Friday, and the stock is up a quick 12% since my entry. I certainly did not expect any strong move resulting from the earnings release, but I don't mind being pleasantly surprised.

Wet Seal (WTSLA) keeps chugging along, and is once again near the highs since my position was established. It sits just under 3.50. I will go ahead and reiterate... I won't be selling any shares until we get much closer to $4. And, then I'll likely sell 20-25% of my position.

Glatfelter (GLT) also came out with earnings this week. Shares are trading lower since the report, but my opinion is that all was fine. Certainly nothing in it that changes anything with respect to my position. I'll patiently wait for their acquisitions to really start paying off. I'm in no rush.

Okay, that's all for now.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Newbie Fashion Stylist

Wet Seal (WTSLA) announced today the launch of their new online fashion community. One of the features of this community is the ability to put items from the actual online store into a virtual closet. Then, you are allowed to build and share outfits from things found in your closet.

As an individual holding a rather large block of shares, I felt it was my duty to at least check it out. I really didn't know what to expect from it, and didn't have any idea on the coolness factor. More importantly, I wasn't sure if it would really help generate more sales or not. But, after playing with it a bit, I guess I can see how it can be beneficial.

Anyway, here's my first outfit. I published it on the Runway under my stylist name, Fashion Professor. I am now awaiting reviews, so please give me some love by clicking on the "Love It" button. Probably not the hippest outfit, but I would like to think that it's passable.

The entire outfit, which includes everything shown below, can be yours for only $113.00.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Neat Music Stuff

I thought this was a neat video demonstrating some cool sound editing technology. I don't know much about music or editing, but I think it's pretty cool that this is possible.

Quick Update

I guess the market has decided to push higher today. I suppose the market also decided that Apple's (AAPL) quarter wasn't so bad after all, as the stock is now pushing $170. If that $170 price tag can hold for the next 3 weeks, I will be able to cash out of the spread for the full payout of +$5.85. Not sure if I will hang on until then... at current prices right now, the spread is worth $6.10 for almost 50% gain (+$1.95). Not too shabby, but as we all know, options move very quickly in response to stock prices.

I added Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP) to the Long-Term portfolio at 17.69. The company was a recent spin-off IPO from Brookfield Asset Management (BAM). I have actually held (and continue to hold) BAM in my retirement accounts for a number of years. BIP has two main lines of business... electricity transmission and timber. For now, the company pays 1.06 in dividends. Here's their roadshow presentation.

Anyway, it's not a large position. The company reports earnings tomorrow, but I don't expect that much reaction either way from it. I'm mostly buying, because I believe the Brookfield management is strong, and I'm trying to diversify my holdings a bit. And, I think the 6% dividend is alright. Not really great, but it's satisfactory.

I guess I should also note that Credit Suisse is neutral on the shares, and has a $20 price target.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Apple Beats

So, Apple (AAPL) beats consensus estimates on both top and bottom, but due to its issuance of conservative Q3 guidance, shares came tumbling down to the $158 range after peaking over $170 in afterhours trading. The bottom line... Apple beats, but is now getting beat up.

I guess the conference call is going to start soon.

Well, there's nothing much I can do at this point. We'll see how the call goes, and depending on how it's trading tomorrow, I will figure out what I want to do with the spread. There's still more than 3 weeks left before expiration, so anything can happen before then.

-- Edit #1 --

Well, I did listen to the call earlier, but since I was at work, I couldn't stay totally focused on it. However, it did seem quite positive to me. Afterhours trading was all over the place. I really have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

That said, I'm not feeling all that uncomfortable right now with my position, but I'm not all that happy with it either. I guess we'll just have to wait for tomorrow to see the truth.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earnings and a Pleco Cat

Tomorrow, EMC and Apple (AAPL) will be releasing their earnings report. EMC will do so before the market opens, and AAPL will do so after the market closes.

Hopefully, EMC's earnings will be just as strong as those that came out of VMWare (VMW) this afternoon. VMW jumped about 15% following its earnings release, and EMC, which currently owns an 85% interest in VMW, moved higher by 6% after hours. But, we'll see how they do tomorrow. I have a full position in EMC with a cost basis in the high 14's, would love to see a strong move higher to offset some of the recent disappointment brought about by Mattel (MAT).

Anyway, I guess I should get to the plecostomus catfish I got over the weekend. My old pleco died, and I needed to get a new one as my tank is starting to get overgrown with algae. But, the first couple smaller plecos I got got beat up and killed (I have a tank with aggressive African cichlids). So, I went to the pet store to get a large one, but they didn't have any. But, I got lucky.

It turns out the guy handling the fish section had a large pleco catfish that he was getting rid of, as it was getting too big for his community tank. So, he asked if I wanted to take it off his hands for $10. I said I would if it was in healthy condition. Anyway, I went over to his place, and the fish was fine, and the tank was in great condition, so I bought it.

It's a great price. A large plecostomus like the one I got would cost many times more than that. When I say large, I do mean it. It's a large fish.

Here's a picture of it in the bucket I transported it in. To give you perspective on the size, the ring you see is just under 11 inches across in diameter.

A Little Bit of Action

I put on a bull call spread on Apple (AAPL) today. It's a really small bet, so I suppose it might be seen as just a little bit of fun. They announce earnings tomorrow after the market close.

Bought AAPL May $160 Calls (APVEL) at $11.14
Sold AAPL May $170 Calls (APVEN) at $6.99

Payout Summary (upon expiration on May 16):

Break-even at 164.15. Max Gain of $5.85 at 170+. Max Loss of $4.15 at 160-. Linear across these points.

Weekend Food

Over the weekend, I got to indulge a bit on some fine food. I had a visitor, and so we went out to my favorite steakhouse in the area, Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino. I've been there a number of times before, and every time I dine there, I have been really impressed with the meal, and completely sated. This time was no different.

We shared a half bottle of Pinot for the meal. I don't even really remember exactly which one, since I'm really not much of a wine drinker. Anyway, the meal started off with an amuse bouche of ahi tartare compliments of the house. Next, we had some foie gras that came with a duck confit crepe. The foie gras was very, very rich and overwhelming at times, but it sure was good... because, I don't mind when it's that way.

Along with the foie gras, I had some hamachi shots. Every time I eat at Alexander's I get at least a few of those hamachi shots, because they're so damn good. Maybe I need to try a few new things there, but sometimes when you find something you really like, you just stick with it. This was followed by a raspberry lemonade intermezzo to cleanse our palates.

Speaking of getting the same old (delicious!) thing... that's pretty much what I did when I ordered the dry aged T-Bone steak. And, my dining partner, who had never been before, opted for the petite cut of filet mignon. The meats were cooked to perfection... I really mean it. We also had a side of asparagus with some sort of spicy sauce on top. It was probably the only part of the meal that wasn't superb. The asparagus wasn't bad or anything, and the sauce was delicious, but for whatever reason it just wasn't at the same level as all the other food.

Finally, we had some coffee and a chocolate souffle. I've never had the souffle for dessert before, but I think I might get it again. I really liked it a lot. Though sweet, it wasn't too much to handle. It was just right.

And, for those who have enjoyed Alexander's before... you already know that we also had some cotton candy at the end of the meal. Another extra we got this time was some chocolate popcorn bagged up as a take home. A nice not-so-serious touch, I say.

Well, that's it. I am still a huge fan of Alexander's and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a nice steak dinner.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mattel's Miss and Quick Update

Mattel came out with a rather poor earnings report this morning, posting a 0.14 loss for the quarter with consensus estimates at a penny profit. The company is citing higher costs as a major reason for the shortfall, but they also mentioned Fisher-Price as another weak spot. Barbie sales being off 12% in the U.S. was also not good news. All of this is in spite of the positive impact on International sales due to the exchange rates.

I only quickly went through the earnings call transcript, so I am going to hold off on making any decisions. What's done is done for now. The big problem I have is that Hasbro did well for the quarter. I don't mind so much if an entire sector does poorly, because sometimes you can't help that. But, when your top competitor does fine and you fail, then there's something wrong, and there had better be an effective plan in place to take care of the situation.

Anyway, Mattel is down 8% to $20 a share at the moment. I'm down roughly 6.5% once we include the dividend payout I received late last year.

In other news, I increased my Manitowoc (MTW) position by two-thirds with a couple new buys since the large drop last week. The cost basis for the full position is now 38.65. I continue to like the company and believe there's upside given its current valuation. The position is full now, so there won't be any more buying of this name any time soon.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Index Card Fun

I saw this on Josh's blog, and it was too awesome not to share. Check out Indexed.

Here's a taste (taken from the Indexed site)...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Politically Incorrect Thought of the Day

By now, most of us have run across the 'green' types. Those that want to save the world with fuel-efficient cars, stop pollution, recycle everything, etc. And, I personally don't have a problem with it too much as long as they don't get too up-in-your-face about it.

But, I do know a fair number of those types that are overweight (okay, okay... fat). Trust that I really don't care if you're fat. Some people like to be fat, and there are a good number of fat people that are in better shape than their non-fat peers.

Anyway, this post is not about fat people. It's about fat people who are the really 'green' types. It makes me wonder... are these individuals nothing less than walking contradictions? I mean, they are not efficient. They obviously require more energy than their non-fat counterparts to function in similar fashion. Most everything requires more... more food, more clothing material, more weight added to any vehicle, more soap required to properly wash themselves, and the list goes on.

I don't really mean to pick on fat types, because as I said above, I don't really care. I have fat friends, and I'm even getting something of a belly myself. But, it just struck me that fat people that are really big on the 'going green' thing are best described as walking contradictions.

And, in their honor, here's Green Day's song.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Poker Update

Well, the rake for the 8/16 game at Garden City was raised to $5 a month or so ago... or, so I heard. While that sucks, the game was wild and also had a half-kill, so the increase will probably be tolerated. However, I found out tonight that as of last Friday, the rake for the 6/12 game was increased to $5. That's a bit steep, and so I will not be playing there if I can help it.

I played in both the 6/12 and 8/16 games at Bay 101 this past week, and I'm happy to report that the rake is still $4. I've heard rumors that they might up it, but for now I'm going to play there exclusively.

Also, one quick update... the weird rule at Bay 101 that I brought up a month ago is no longer in effect. I guess management realized it was a dumb rule and got rid of it. Glad to see that it was so short-lived.

Anyway, that's all for now. Been running pretty well in poker lately, but nothing too interesting to report. But, I know the poker playing types that read my crap like to hear about hands, so here's a stupid hand that I played over the weekend. It says a lot about how ridiculous the players can get sometimes.

So, I'm at fairly competent table, save for two morons. If they weren't in the game, I'd be looking for a table change ASAP, but they are basically making the game for all of us. Anyway, I'm in the big blind, and everyone folds to the small blind. Now, it's customary to chop (players take their blinds back, and no hand is played out), because the drop is only $1 if there's no flop. The small blind is one of the two fish, and he's been chopping all night. It's bad etiquette to selectively chop. You either never chop, or you always chop.

Anyway, this time the small blind looks at his cards and yells out NO CHOP! I'm like, ugh, what a dick. Maybe he's got a big pair or something. To my surprise, he calls. This is retarded. If you're not going to chop, you really ought to raise. I look down and see K7o. I check my option.

Flop comes: 4 5 6 rainbow.

He bets, I call. Turn is a K, he bets, I call. River is a 3. He bets, I raise, and he calls. I say I've got a straight and turn over my hand. He says he missed his straight, and turns over T9o (???!!!). Like, wow. I don't get it. And, now you have a taste of the juicy nature of the games around here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Honoring A Wheelchair Maker

So, a few weeks ago, three civilians were given the Congressional Medal of Honor Society's Above & Beyond Citizen Award. This is the first year for this type of award.

I'm happy to say that I've actually worked with one of them before... Dr. Don Schoendorfer. He was an engineer/scientist when I knew him. We did speak on a few occasions even after we went on to different things, and he told me about his great low-cost wheelchair ideas. I guess I never did think much more about it since our last conversation (a long time ago), but it looks like things worked out well for him and his non-profit organization, Free Wheelchair Organization.

Here's a short article from the Orange County Register.

Link to OC Register Story

Ashlee Simpson Line

As most of you have heard by now, Ashlee Simpson is launching her new line of clothes at Wet Seal (WTSLA). Here's a sneak peek of some of her collection. Thanks for the link, Tiff!

Sneak Peek! Ashlee Simpson's Collection for Wet Seal

From the comments I've read, most people totally dig the jeans (shown above), and most are not fans of the animal print style, nor the 80's fashion look. But, I guess we will know soon how well it all sells. Her collection is slated for release on April 22.

Manitowoc Downgrades

Two downgrades this morning on Manitowoc (MTW).

Manitowoc Cut To Hold From Buy By Sterne Agee
Manitowoc Cut To Neutral From Buy By Bank Of America

From what I could find, they were based on analyst predictions of slower growth. No mention of the Enodis buyout, but I would have to assume that it also plays a role in their decision making when issuing their downgrades.

Stock is down sharply to $36.50 range for almost 8%. Ouch.

*** Edit #1 ***

Here's more on the B of A downgrade that I just found from S&P Marketscope:


Yesterday co. agreed to buy Enodis. Analyst Seth Weber tells salesforce downgrades as he believes sustained appreciation will become tougher going forward, despite his expectations for NT results to remain strong, as: 1) his latest Crane Survey shows some shift in op. trends, sentiment, which could signal future moderation in market; 2) believes pending Enodis deal could weigh on shares given mixed view to an expanded foodservice component. Maintains estimates; looks for '08 EPS at top end of $3.20-$3.40 range. Notes co. expects Enodis to be accretive in '09. Lowers target to $47 from $53 to reflect potential for moderation in crane cycle and acq. integration risk

Lights Out

You're not going to believe this horseshit that I just went through. So, guess what? No, not chicken butt. But, the electricity was completely out at the house tonight. All the neighbors seemed to have power.

After talking to PG&E, it turns out that Lennar (the homebuilder) somehow scheduled a shut-down of power for my address. How can this be when they are no longer on the account? WTF. Turns out (according to PG&E anyway) that "someone" named Lennar ordered the power shutdown, and because they did it through their automated system, no security checks needed to be done.

This is ridiculous. So, I asked them... if this is the case, you mean I can basically call up and shut down the power for those I don't like? Their official response was yes. They claim it is a loophole in the current system, which I believe is nutty.

If anyone from PG&E reads this... F you. Being without power for hours, and having all sorts of lame shit happen (fridge/freezer being without power is not a good thing) is NOT f'ing cool.

Let me reiterate, F you Lennar and PG&E. I need to call up Lennar tomorrow and bitch at them. Okay, I'm done telling my story. What horseshit.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Seal's Same Store Sales and More

Well, Wet Seal (WTSLA) came in with their Same Store Sales figures today. They reported a decline of 10.8%, which was worse than the consensus estimate of -7.5%. The stock moved sharply lower at the open to 3.10, then rebounded, and closed green for the day. I guess that's a good sign, but I won't read too much into it, since the entire day's trading consisted of relatively low volume.

I do remain quite bullish in the company, and I believe the stock is under accumulation. Here is a price/volume chart over the last 11 trading days. Each data point represents a 30-minute window of trading. For each half-hour window, you can see the volume... green bars show the volume on an up move, and red bars show the volume on a down move.

Most of the up moves seem to be accompanied by larger volume as compared to the down moves. Maybe it's just seeing what I want to see, but I do believe that viewing volume and price together is usually worthwhile.

Here's the daily price/volume data for the same 11 trading days.

10-Apr-08 3.35 +0.06 1,188,100
09-Apr-08 3.29 -0.17 1,168,400
08-Apr-08 3.46 -0.04 1,905,700
07-Apr-08 3.50 +0.01 2,478,800
04-Apr-08 3.49 +0.12 2,954,900
03-Apr-08 3.37 -0.02 1,291,000
02-Apr-08 3.39 -0.13 1,474,100
01-Apr-08 3.52 +0.13 2,767,300
31-Mar-08 3.39 +0.19 4,080,700
28-Mar-08 3.20 +0.33 3,554,400
27-Mar-08 2.87 +0.24 3,265,800

It might also be worth mentioning that since the start of the year, there have been several SEC filings reporting large ownership interests.

01/22/08 - Barclay's Global Investors - 3.24% ownership.
02/14/08 - Paradigm Capital Management - 5.1% ownership.
02/14/08 - Riverview Group LLC - 5.4% ownership.

Listed below, I believe, are members of the Riverview Group that own the stake in WTSLA... I pulled these from the Amended 13G filing. One of the world's richest people, Israel Englander, is listed as having 5.9% beneficial ownership. So, I wonder if that means that on top of the Riverview Group holdings, he himself personally holds 0.5%. I guess it doesn't matter all that much.


Anyway, hope the rich folks are right about the company. Check you all later.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Quick Update

Added to the Glatfelter (GLT) position at 14.34, increasing the size of the position by a third.

The company announces its earnings in a few weeks on April 29, and I'm hopeful that the company will continue on its current earnings accretion track with respect to the Chillicothe and Lydney acquisitions. I suspect that shares fell a bit today (along with the entire market) due to the sharp rise in oil prices. Higher energy costs will surely affect the company, but at least the company does have some pricing power for its products.

I believe that the stock, yielding 2.5% at current prices, is worth a look.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Random Life Update

So, I flew down to LA over the weekend for some good times. Pretty much, the plan was to hang out with the peeps, hit up an 'old school' themed party, and also pay my respects to The Godfather (a.k.a. my 6 month old nephew).

Before the party, a group of four of us went out for dinner at C&O Trattoria. The food was good, and I felt the place was also really reasonably priced. Individual sized servings were quite large, which makes me wonder how large a "Gargantuan" sized serving would actually be. I had their Linguini di Mare (pictured below), and it was delicious.

The party was going full blast by the time we got there around 10:30 or so, and there was plenty of malt liquor, a keg of homebrew, and a fair bit of hard stuff to ensure that all would be having a grand time. I wore my favorite T-Shirt... some random dude even took a picture of it, because it is just that awesome.

Tiff came costumed up with her Flavor Flav clock medallion. Rowr didn't have time to dress up, but she was also in attendance, as was Tiff's dude.

By the time we got back I was pretty much borderline out. We ordered some Del Taco, and before I could even eat my Chicken Burrito (after having eaten a taco already), I crashed. I slept soundly until the next day, and then (keeping it real with the old-school theme) I learned about this sweet movie called Fear of a Black Hat. Apparently, this movie didn't do that well when it was released, but from the little bit that I watched of it, it's definitely going on my to-do list... Best Picture winning movies can take their place in line.

Anyway, my tests here just finished, so I guess it's time for me to end this random update. But, before I go, I wanted to say that I broke even on random bets over the weekend. I won an over/under bet on the number of people that would be at the party upon our arrival (I took the over). And, I lost a bet when I set the line on the number of calories some cookie contained... boo!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Another Seal Upgrade

Zacks upgraded Wet Seal (WTSLA) today, and bumped its price target by 50%. I generally don't put much weight on Zacks' research, but I'm not one to complain about those that agree with me, hehe.

Here are bits and pieces of what they said in their report:

We continue to believe that Wet Seal is taking the appropriate steps (reducing inventory and scaling back new store openings) to compete in this difficult retail environment. What's more, we are impressed with the strength of its core Wet Seal stores, which drove the company's overall sales and earnings growth.

These factors have made us more bullish on WTSLA shares. As a result, we are upgrading the stock from Hold to Buy and increasing our target price from $3.00 to $4.50.

The stock is cheap and provides a nice safety cushion for investors.

The safety cushion refers to the over $1 per share of cash (net of debt) that the company holds.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Quick Update and a Roommate

Added to my EMC position. More than tripled the size of the position, and now the overall cost basis of shares is at 14.80, up from 14.53.

And, as of today, I've got a roomie. My good friend, Barber, has moved into the loft upstairs, so now the place won't be so empty. He just moved up from San Diego after landing a sweet job here in good old Silicon Valley. If tech is your thing, there really is no better place.

Now, I've just got to convince him that weekly poker sessions at Garden or Bay are good for the soul.

Joke's Over

Okay, well, it's not April Fool's Day any more. Only one person actually was partly fooled by my previous post. It was my sister of all people who sent me an IM in the afternoon asking me what the hell a 'magic number' was, and why I was going to Thailand. Ha ha.

Too bad it was not for real... it sure would be sweet to basically win and be done.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Game Over, I Win

Well, most of you know that I have a 'magic number' that marks when I can basically do whatever I want. That number was hit this morning with the huge surge in the markets. So, I think I'm cashing out. I'm done.

I am thinking of moving out to Thailand where cost of living is a bit cheaper, and the scenery is amazing (so, I've heard). If no one hears from me from this point on, please find me here, sipping on a beach cocktail, enjoying the waves:

Well, that's it. I wish all of you the best of luck in hitting your very own magic number. Good-bye.