You're So Vain

Charles Payne
Posted: Jul 20, 2012 12:01 AM
News that the largest investor in Sally Beauty (SBH), Clayton, Dubiler & Rice is selling its 23 million share position coupled with a miss on the top line sent shares of this heretofore hot stock much lower yesterday. I watch these beauty stocks closely in part because there are great gauges on the last line of spending restraint.

When women stop buying beauty supplies the economy is in real trouble.

Along this line, there was beauty news on the other side of Atlantic where a British bank teller admitted to stealing $72,000 while working for Barclays in Cornwall. One could argue this speaks to a culture at a firm that's gotten all kinds of bailouts (including a ton of easy money from the Federal Reserve) and still continues to break all the rules out of fits of greed and arrogance. Another narrative is the idea of putting looks ahead of everything, including the law. Rachael Claire (pictured) stole the money for a variety of procedures:

> breast implants
> teeth whitening
> liposuction
> hair extensions

Oh, and there were "wild shopping sprees," during the eight week period when she took a little here and a little there. Rachael says she wanted to be a model, but after $72,000 I think she came up short. This is essentially what's going on with the Fed, whose money-printing isn't an innocuous act but hurts the dollar, enables excessive government spending, and can give false hope and bravado. On the other hand, we have an economy that is already built to last and doesn't need breast implants or liposuction. The solution for the economy is for the White House to put away the ugly stick, that giant club that has beaten businesses, large and small, into a tizzy.

Prettier Picture

I'm not a big fan of the Fed Beige Book report, but these days anything associated with the Federal Reserve and the economy is worth looking at closer. Most regions saw "modest" expansion driven by an improving housing market and stronger auto sales. Both are long overdue, considering that circumstances are nowhere near as great as they could be. In many places home prices are off 50% and mortgage rates are at all-time lows. Rents are more expensive than mortgage payments and still housing is rebounding with the caution of a doe with two fawns. And, the average car and truck is 11-years old.

No Lipstick Needed Here

Watch out world because tech stocks are ready to rocket higher! This is a sector that is either on fire and going higher or sending May Day calls as they crash to earth. There is rarely any middle ground. Techs are pigs when they aren't working and striking beauties that would put Giselle to shame when they shine, and they are shining. In fact, we are in that sweet spot where earnings don't matter as long as there is a good story to tell. After the bell, four names stood out, backed by themes ranging from cloud computing, market share gains, BRIC revival, and innovation.

Revenues came in at record $133.5 million, up 111% year over year. Gross margins of 70.5% and guidance of a million miles were above Street's forecasts. Cloud, Big data, storage huge for company.

Other tech names look intriguing as well, even those that didn't knock the cover off the ball. I think technology more than any other sector has the longest coattails because it's a mirror of the better parts of society: the parts always on the move, always making our lives better; the part that is the future. Remember, historically the stock market is supposed to reflect the future. Maybe for a while we can forget the war on success, fiscal cliff, European woes and geopolitical tensions.

Remember, there are always companies out there winning, and you should always consider being a part owner of those companies unless you can start a business to rival IBM or EBay or ... you get the message.