Random: Mad Money, Cable News, KBR, Chipotle, and The Man in Iraq

Mad Money, with James Cramer

People said James Cramer’s stock trading show on CNBC would fail. That he’s just a pump-and-dumper who would be the next cancelled NBC show. It’s funny how daytraders claim to have their finger on the pulse of the market, but they’re so surprisingly stubborn, traditional, and pessimistic (read, not cynical) about everything. I couldn’t help but watch Cramer since his show came on after the daily market wrap-up. It’s loud and it’s fast-paced and sometimes annoying, but it’s actually damn good fun and pretty interesting. You just have to take into consideration that Cramer’s a trader who cares about day-to-day price movements but researches which are the best companies in each sector, leaving a disparity if you’re trading to trade off his advice because he’ll buy and sell a stock within a few days even if he preaches a long-term hold on the program. Anyway, I think Cramer is an asset to trading culture and he gets people excited to go into the market and research companies more rigorously. He’s hard not to watch. And sorry daytraders, you guys were wrong about him failing.

Jim Cramer is crazy, but fun.

MSNBC vs. FOXNews

Speaking of cable programming, watch this gem from Keith Olbermann digging into Bill O’Reilly. I think MSNBC is the best pure cable news channel out there. Its reporting is fair and doesn’t make me roll my eyes like I do when I watch FOXNews’ condescending, ignorant bullshit. Obviously the election coverage at MSNBC was biased to the left, particularly with Ron Reagan doing analysis, but MSNBC is the best place to get the newest news on cable TV. CNBC is no Bloomberg, however. =P And MSNBC’s journalists and reporters don’t stack up with ABC’s or CNN’s, and they have no competitor to CNN’s Larry King, CBS’s 60 Minutes, or PBS’s FrontLine.

But the headlines, what we tend to watch most, are handled best at MSNBC.

KBR IPO

Meanwhile in the not-a-morass that is Iraq, KBR employees now seem to outnumber U.S. service-members when I go to the PX. KBR makes the world go around over here in Iraq, handling almost all of the menial work and logistics that is needed to keep the not-a-morass running. KBR is a subsidiary of the much-talked-about Halliburton. It stands for Kellogg, Brown, and Root. Turns out Halliburton wants to IPO KBR into a hot market. I say if you’re a believer in only buying things you know people use, then KBR is a good investment as long as the money keeps coming in to renew contracts. But perhaps Halliburton realizes the endgame is coming in Iraq and is spawning off KBR so that it’s not caught with too much dead weight when all the KBR shit here needs to be salvaged and re-deployed.

It’s interesting to me that I haven’t even seen the name Halliburton on anything over here, although I have no evidence to believe that it’s deflecting attention by using a subsidiary name. (sort of like Phillip Morris changing to Altria, but not really)

Middle Eastern Opportunism Effect

The U.S. I believe has caused a business boom in the Middle East thanks to its logistical operations in the Gulf countries and its military operations in Iraq. Looking at investment returns for 2005, many of the top returners are in the Middle East (data from TickerSense):

  • Palestine: 305.59%
  • Egypt: 131.70%
  • United Arab Emirates: 116.61%
  • Lebanon: 105.61%
  • Saudi Arabia: 104.11%
  • Jordan: 92.94%
  • Kuwait: 78.22%
  • Qatar: 73.71%

That’s 8 out of the top 11 returners being from the Middle East, the only exceptions being Kazakhstan (where we had an airbase up until last year), Colombia, and Zimbabwe.

Most of the products we use over here are made in the Middle East. A majority of it seems to be from Kuwait, although I’ve seen tents made in Egypt. Our Cokes and soft drinks are bottled in Qatar and Kuwait. Mixed fruit drink boxes from Oman. The only things not from the Middle East are goodies from the PX like Starbucks Doubleshots and Cheez-Its.

Iraq is not on this list although I hear it has a stock market of some kind. The U.S. is buying up so many products from the other countries in order to satisfy its troops and contractors that I’m sure that’s why other Middle Eastern countries aren’t complaining TOO much about the situation, even if their security may be compromised a bit by marauding extremists. And of course increased oil prices are still the primary growth behind their upward-spiraling wealth.

The losers on the list were Venezuela (go Hugo?), Iran (okay we’ve seen this before), and Bangladesh (it seems to export a lot of workers to Iraq for the food-service industry). I’m wondering if declining U.S. growth will take it down a negative path, since trade seems to at least publically and politically be tightening, not loosening.

Chipotle IPO’d

McChipotle hits the hot IPO market.

So Chipotle hit the open market Wednesday, closing at $44 after being priced at $22. Mmm mmm mmmmm, I love Chipotle. I also miss it. The last time I had it was at Christmas in 2004 when I was at my parents’ house. Our Chipotle there isn’t as good as the Chipotle in Monterey, CA was though. I’d kill for a steak fajita burrito with corn salsa, guacamole, and chips right now. =( Anyway, it’s not like CMG is going to go to $500/share but if you like investing in companies whose products you enjoy, CMG may still have some growth left in it. Which is good news for McDonald’s, which owns much of the new fast food restaurant.

My stomach says of this topic, “That is all.”

Working for The Man

So I was sitting in the parking lot at the PX today and this KBR employee rolls up and parks next to me in his brand-new white mammoth GMC SUV. Not a scratch on it, polished it seemed like. The guy got out and you could tell he definitely wasn’t doing high-level work — he probably just coordinates some project somewhere.

KBR, serving our country.

I know I work for The Man right now, but The Man pays contractors a hell of a lot better. =P I was driving one contractor back from the airport and all he talked about was what he was going to do with all the money he was making, about “roughing it” for a little while in order to make a lot of G’s. Blah. I guess it helps when The Men at the Top of The Man are involved directly in Halliburton and KBR.

I don’t think lesser of these people because the money is a huge incentive and you really are giving up a lot to come over to Iraq (including your safety and your family’s sanity), but it’s a culture clash entirely when you have soldiers lusting for $225/mo hazardous duty pay to pay their credit card bills and contractors wondering what to do with the $150k tax-free they’re making. Especially when as civilians, they overall do a LOT less work than service-members do. The disparity is unnatural.

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