Stocks average 24% gain for year when they finish Jan and Feb higher

2013 is shaping up to be a great year for stocks — if history is any guide. I found this in my inbox, courtesy of  David Lutz, managing director at Stifel Nicolaus.

Sam Stovall of S&P Capital IQ reports that there have been 26 times since 1945 that the S&P 500 scored gains in both January and February – In all 26 instances, Stovall says the “500” recorded a positive calendar year total return, averaging an advance—including dividends—of 24 percent and posting full-year results that were in the single digits just twice: 1987 and 2011.

The S&P 500 ended February up 1.1% — it’s fourth consecutive monthly jump.


Move over VIX, Apple is the new fear gauge

Meet the new fear gauge: Apple. It’s accessible. Everyone knows it and probably owns more than they ever knew. It’s everywhere — in ETFs and mutual funds and discretionary stock accounts. Its products are in your office, your back pocket, or favorite reading chair. And it can generate more emotion than the Volatility Index because of it.

So it may feel surprising that over the past two months, the price performance on the VIX and Apple are nearly mirror images (see here): Apple has lopped off more than one-quarter of its market value while the VIX has zigged and zagged its way higher, dipping earlier this week as the market unraveled.

Yet action in the VIX  (which has been setting new trading volume records) seems ho-hum and Apple is the bone-shaker.  On StockTwits, the VIX might get the hashtag #wakeup — in tune with a WSJ blog: Vix hits the snooze button again. But the stock-no-one-could-stop has gone from #AppleOnFire to #AppleUnderFire.

There’s a lot of head-scratching on action on both the VIX and Apple. “Why won’t the VIX go higher,” asks Adam Warner in his blog. Steven Place asks on his options blog “Is the VIX too complacent?” From a technical viewpoint, the answer is no, he says. If you look at the VIX going out 90 days, you’ll see a lot more anxiety in the market, he writes. But the current index — which factors in expectations for the next 30 days — is pretty tame. And that is what you would might expect during the upcoming holiday season.

Apple is just as puzzling. Paul R. La Monica from The Buzz, tweeted yesterday in disbelief: “AAPL now down 25% from its all-time high. But forward P/E just 10.5. And it has dividend yielding 2%. When will the pain stop?”  Scott Murray tries to put the plunge in context, saying that now Apple is in the right volatility zone; its run-up was actually the anomaly.

To me, Apple is feeling like the crucible for all investor fears — both professional and small. Taxes on both capital gains and dividends are likely to go up — by how much? On a practical matter, best to lock in gains now. It’s not just that. The world is changing in so many unpredictable ways, both globally and at Apple. Through these past years of turmoil and triumph, Apple has been steady, creating products that consumers love because they make users feel special when doing something quite ordinary — like sending a text or listening to a song. Steve Jobs understood that if you infuse the humdrum with a beautiful aesthetic, life would be a little sweeter. But with Jobs gone, the temple to beauty doesn’t seem inviolate. Even Apple is now offering perks to keep its staff; working there doesn’t seem like a privilege. In a larger sense, Apple was a symbol of the prowess of American enterprise. And now all of that seems in doubt yet again. The election, rather than settling things, has heightened everyone’s sense of just how difficult the road ahead is and how serious the task. And so as our confidence gets sapped, Apple takes a bruising. It’s the more perfect proxy for what many investors are feeling now.

Oops: Fat fingers boost mobile ad numbers

Beware the Fat Finger. It’s not just for traders anymore.

Guess what. Click-thru rates on mobile are pretty uniformly superior to rates on your desktop. But it’s not because users love ads on their phones more. It’s the fat-finger phenomenon.

Sacha Xavier Reich, a partner at neo@Oglivy social media advertising, points out the obvious: Phone screens are so small that people are much more likely to click on an ad by accident. And isn’t that annoying? So anyone taking a look to see well a certain social media company is doing in mobile, should ask not only about the click-through rate but also how long is the user staying on the brand site and whether the user is actually buying anything.

I wrote about the outlook for mobile advertising on Facebook and other possible sources of revenue for this morning. But that Fat Finger Fact is my favorite part of the story. Read it here.

Correction of the day: Was that red ants or black?

When I was growing up my mother would often tell the story of those competitive 1960s  women who would — oops — omit the most important ingredient in a shared recipe. Somehow Marge’s dish just never came out right. Gosh. Wonder why.

Now the Wall Street Journal would have us believe a recipe shared in last weekend’s paper accidentally messed up critical ingredients:

The chef Wylie Dufresne’s version of eggs Benedict doesn’t include egg-yolk foam… Also, MAD attendees were served ants in bee-larvae mayonnaise. In some editions, the article incorrectly said they were served ants in buttermilk.

Inside the Madhouse

Just be glad this guy isn’t a banker

The New York Post has an incredible review today of a Trust Me, I’m Lying, a book by an unscrupulous  pr man who uses social media to manipulate the press.  This is a must-read for journalists. Some of the ploys will feel familiar to anyone who has dealt regularly with public relations reps — both the good and the bad. But the story of Ryan Holiday is uniquely creepy, especially  his manipulation of the blogosphere and social media. Holiday preys on journalists who are either too  lazy, overwhelmed, inexperienced, or too anxious to win readers to catch his scams. Reviewer Larry Getlen writes:

Websites make their money by selling ads that are evaluated by the number of pageviews they receive, putting bloggers under constant pressure to produce as many clickable posts as possible. …

Given this environment, Holiday says that spreading one’s own agenda can be as easy as sending carefully tailored e-mails from a fake address or via some other false pretense, techniques that Holiday has used frequently.

Once, when he wanted certain legal information about American Apparel widely circulated, he alerted several bloggers, who responded with a collective yawn. So he wrote a fake internal memo and e-mailed those same bloggers posing as a low-level company employee, with the note: “memo we’d just gotten from our boss.” The same blogs that rejected the official news, he says, now covered it with a big “EXCLUSIVE!” tag across the top.

The New York Post

 Can’t see anyone in this story comes out looking particularly well.

A rare glimpse into the private life of a top Wall Street strategist; going beyond the blah-blah of experts

Savita Subramanian, mom, and head of quant and equity strategy, BoA Merrill Lynch

Last week, I finally got on the phone with Savita Subramanian, head of quant and equity strategy for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. The Street has been abuzz with her bullish comments on the stock market. I wanted to get a feel for her market insights, which are based in part on an indicator that shows her peers are so bearish that it’s time to become bullish.

At the end of the interview, the conversation turned somewhat personal. We went from the laser focus of professionals to working moms, juggling work, kids, and whatever else may have once been part of our personal lives. She mentioned that given everything she knows about markets, she was thinking about investing in stocks for her six-month-old’s education fund.

Over the years, I’ve spoken to plenty of proud dads about their kids and family. But it always feels a little different talking to another working mom; there’s a special camaraderie that comes from the unique challenges we share. And when Savita talked about her son and the college fund, I knew I was hearing something very special and real. Sometimes as reporters and readers we see these expert recommendations fly by, and they feel pretty impersonal, like moves on a chessboard that don’t have any real import. But when you hear a mother saying this is how I am saving for my child — that’s an endorsement above and beyond the usual blather on Wall Street.

Read the story here.