27 December, 2009

Happy Holidays!

From the WC Power Tech Fund to all the investors and traders in the marketplace.
Have a safe and happy holidays!

17 December, 2009

Research In Motion Regains Footing

Some difference 3 months can make. Research In Motion (RIMM) stock 3 months ago was bearing the brunt of sell-off at the behest of disappointing performance and guidance, dipping from the mid $80s to the high $60s per share. The stock had mostly held water of late, sliding slightly to the low $60s but was in a position to change all that with another earnings report.

With the increasing competition from Apple's (AAPL) iPhone, Palm's (PALM) Pre and heightened marketing given to several smart-phones running Google's (GOOG) Android software RIM had to deliver, on all fronts, and it has. Blowing past all expected metrics is leading shares of RIM higher by 11% early in after hours trade.

The lines: Revenue of $3.92Billion vs $3.78Billion estimated; Income of $1.10/share vs $1.04/share estimated; Subscribers at 4.4Million vs 4.1Million estimated. RIM also shipped 10.1Million units during the quarter, including a milestone generating 75Millionth.

Seems the analyst talk of RIM's mighty fall via the dual-pronged iPhone/Android sword will have to wait for the time being as the folks from Waterloo can pop the bubbly for at least another quarter as going into the Christmas season the guidance RIM provided was very strong. Revenue of $4.3Billion vs $4.11Billion and EPS of $1.27/share vs $1.12.

So, with RIM so firmly positioned, what's wrong with the company and why isn't it a must own in the growing smart-phone industry? Two main reasons: Interfacing and Extensibility.

In interface design RIM is not even close to the same league as Apple, let alone the various flavours of Android that are appearing in the market-place. The company has such a culture entrenched in the corporate world that functionality for the consumer has always seemed like an after-thought with the current incarnations of the BlackBerry OS. This was most evident in both versions of the touch screen device Storm that the company debuted to scolding and muted critical response.

In regards to extensibility its hard to call RIM's platform a leader in any sense of the world. Its BlackBerry App World platform is another after-thought and in the days of the highly successful iPhone/iPod Touch AppStore, being an afterthought is just about being dead in the water. While Android is still nowhere near Apple's 100,000 applications catalog, it is getting there with over 16,000 available for various handsets. In this race RIM is already well-behind.

But there is a silver lining, the company makes very good looking hardware, for the most part, and is a staple in the corporate world, which is a business that isn't going anywhere and will grow with the rise of smart-phones world wise. Prospects continue to look good, and if the engineers can get their software act together for a new version of the BlackBerry OS, it really can be a 3 pronged fight in the mobile space for the decade to come, and that kind of potential will have analysts and investors eager to jump on board.

Disclosure: Author does not hold any position in RIMM, is long AAPL, GOOG

08 December, 2009

Markets fading to start December. What's in store for Christmas?

The first week of December has been one dominated by the sordid affairs of Professional Golf's most notorious figure, and as the rumor mill churns to fill gossip websites and supermarket rags, critical economic, fiscal and international issues are bumped to Page 2. So let's take a look back at what's been making the rounds.

The President of the United States, Barack Obama, always seemingly juggling several critical agendas, has his work cut out for him as he steers the US Senate in the Health Care debate behind closed doors, outlines a plan to send 30,000 more troops to support the War in Afghanistan and holds a Jobs Summit to deal with unemployment. The administration hopes to deploy unused or paid back Financial Bailout Money to support small businesses in lending and hiring and to ignite country wide infrastructure and energy efficiency projects, and to top that all off, newest laid out plans call for the creation of the biggest government transparency project in the Nation's history.

Certainly an ambitious agenda that is sparking controversy from either side of the American political aisle, but as Health Care is being actively debated in the floor of the Senate a passage of a reform bill seems ultimately likely. As for jobs, a very positive report for November had the US losing only 11,000 jobs in that month, with further reductions in previous month loss estimates. A far cry from the over 700,000 per month that were lost in the early parts of the recession. Still, with unemployment sitting at 10% of Americans something more has to be announced and followed through by the Administration.

On the market's side, the recent rally in Gold finally hit a bit of a stumbling block as the US Dollar found some fitting via comments from Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve. An interesting trade on gold has been a double gold short fund, PowerShares Double Gold Short (DZZ), posting a 15% gain over the last 5 trading sessions, including a 4% gain Tuesday. As economic footing returns and the possibility of rising Interest Rates in the US into next year this is a really interesting speculation play on a breather in Gold's record rally.

Bank Of America (BAC) has indicated its intention of paying back $45Billion in financial rescue money it had received from the Government as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), leaving its banking brethren Citigroup (C) and Wells Fargo (WFC) still without plans for re-payment.

Technology news of the day has several firms in the spotlight. Google (GOOG) has recently hosted an event in which it showcased several new search initiatives including real-time search, which include public updates from social spaces such as Twitter and Facebook, a Google Goggles tongue-twister project, which allows mobile phones running Android, and soon other platforms to take photographs of virtually anything and get legions of information back to the smartphone.

Apple (AAPL) has purchased music streaming service Lala, which for all intensive purposes seems to likely fit into the mold of furthering a cloud based iTunes architecture and perhaps a streaming alternative to the pay for download model the company has currently been enjoying. With all eyes on a potential tablet offering from the electronics company, several publishers are already lining up to create a joint venture that will put the likes of Sports Illustrated and Time magazine in specific new tablet formats with advanced interactive and connectivity features.

In the entertainment world Activision Blizzard (ATVI) set all sorts of records with the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, selling pretty much a bazillion copies of the popular franchise video game and making more money in 24 hours than any other release in the history of entertainment.

As Christmas comes around the corner, in the retail and tech space it'll be interesting to see what the must-have gadget of the year is to be. Will the iPhone dominate again, will console wars push to new sales highs, will consumer spending continue to rise as the jobs picture improves on a bedrock of subtle economic growth?

This time of year always seems to set traders into a bullish mood, and that will be especially true if reports of record bonuses from the financial industry continue to ring true. But just remember, Goldman Sachs (GS) can't be blamed for everything, or can it?

Disclosure: Author owns C, GS, AAPL, GOOG