The news out today is that the service sector grew, but less than expectations, so now we know how Vern Troyer's parents felt. The ISM index of non-manufacturing jobs rose from 48.7 to 50.1 and anything over 50 signals expansion according to the arbitrary metrics measured by the index and the directionally correct economists who are paid to interpret them. This is the third time in four months the index has been over that oh so helpful 50 number (even if at 50.1 it was only over by a rounding error or a He Ping Ping nut hair, and yes that has been two "little person" jokes in the first paragraph so I am sure "Bridget the Midget" is anxiously waiting by her tiny phone). This is a marginally good sign for the economy, but not significant enough for anyone to break out the Dom Perignon or slush fund to pay for that special Hannah Hilton visit.
Also today, ADP released their forecast of job losses for the month of December which came in at 84k, worse than the expectations of 75k according to Bloomberg, but better than expectations of 90k losses according to CNBC. So for the tie breaker, we go to the always reliable New York Times who reports estimates were for 73k job losses. So there we have it, 2 out 3 news sources reporting the same data have a different spin on it. What say you Wall Street Journal? Oh, you have estimates of 90k, so job losses were better than expecations. So we're back to a tie and everyone knows, the tie goes to the runner. Anway, the point is no matter how you spin this number (though hopefully not on one of those old school sit'n spins, because Money McBags is out of barf bags after watching 10 seconds of Kathy Griffin on CNN New Year's Eve, and please CNN, make the bad lady go away. Wow, that was quick, but as long as you're granting wishes, can you have Franco-Nevada up their proposed buyout offer to ROY and give my phone number to Hayley Atwell?), it is directionally positive yet inconclusive as to where the economy is going. The number did reflect the fewest job losses according to ADP since March of 2008 (and if you can remember back that far, it was when Brett Favre first announced his retirement. I wonder what ever happened to that guy?), so yeah for us.
In stock news, gold and commodities continue to run as the Fed remains adamant that they will keep rates near zero until the next bubble, while news from Hershey's board is squirting out that they may decide to make a bid for Cadbury. And in the small cap universe, EBIX finally split yesterday and has continued to run after a sell off. Now EBIX's actual business is more confusing than giffen goods, a Higg's boson, or Dane Cook's popularity but they essentially try to build/buy networks to be part of every insurance transaction globally. The CEO's ego is bigger than Alexis Texas's voluptuous backside (and that is if she had elephantitus of the anus) and there is always something Enron/Satyam-ish to be concerned about when investing in a complex/hard to define business that shuns the street, relies on acquisitions, and has a cult following centered around their egotistical CEO, but the company has been growing rapidly, is developing networks which are extremely profitable to first movers, has had phenomenal returns, and is almost completely underfollowed by the street. Estimates are for them to earn at least $1.20 next year (though estimates are few and far between) and they are currenty trading at less 20x that (or is it fewer than 20x that? Can someone exhume William Safire and let me know?) since the street does not yet value them as a growing technology company, which they really are. Given that there is upside to that EPS number and their new goal is $200MM in reveune and 42% operating margins by Q4 2011 (which is admittedly a long way out and will require a number of acquisition for which they will probably have to raise more cash), the stock has room to move back up after an unwarranted sell off. Money McBags is an owner of EBIX, but do your own research because why would you trust a random guy on the internet, even if he is the preeminent dick joke teller and money maker in the world (though if you can clearly state what EBIX does in fewer than 5k words, please share with those in the group).