Topping the news this morning is an announcement by Citigroup that it will finally crack open its wallet, stuffed with over $45 billion tax-payer funded TARP cash, and start lending again.
The financial giant had come under fire in recent months for taking the TARP money and sitting on it. Now it plans to spend $36.5 billion to issue mortgages, make credit card loans and buy distressed assets in the tight credit markets in the coming months.
Now that Citigroup has taken the plunge, Wall Street can finally exhale – other lending companies should follow suit.
Elsewhere Jim “Mad Money” Cramer is on the stump with a new take on tech stocks. On CNBC last night, Cramer told viewers not to ‘put their faith in technology because it could cost you.”
Cramer isn’t bearish on the entire sector – he still likes Apple, Amazon, Research in Motion, and Google, all companies that enjoy good market share. But that’s about it. “Overall there’s a dearth of good news coming from the industry, and things will only get worse, especially as we enter tech’s slow season – which lasts until fall,” he advises.
It’s the main competitors of the Apple’s and Google’s of the world that has Cramer worried. The big boys are doing so well, relatively speaking, that the there is no room for the competition to grow. “Look, if Apple, Amazon, Research in Motion and Google are such strong competitors, then there’s no reason that rivals like Dell, eBay, Motorola, and Yahoo! should see their share prices rise, which is often the case,” Cramer added. “If anything, these weaker companies would decline, right? So any initial bump these weaker companies enjoyed would probably be lost. ”
Cramer is also worried about semiconductor stocks, which continue to slide, unable to find that bottom that everyone on Wall Street seemed to think was coming up fast. A big part of that -3.5% GDP number last week was the excess inventory that so many U.S. companies have been carrying. That’s been feeding into the tech decline, Cramer says.
“The only way for tech to carry the torch is if those inventories come down or a new product cycle takes off,” he adds. But tech companies still have a lot of inventory leftover, which should feed into a weaker GDP number for the first quarter of 2009.
Consequently, until fundamentals improve, and inventories are cut, Cramer is bear on the tech sector.
That said, there are a wide variety of opinions on the current state of the technology sector – and that’s just on CNBC alone.
Pete Najarian, speaking on CNBC's "Fast Money" on Monday, agrees with Cramer that tech stocks like Apple and Research In Motion continue to perform well in a difficult environment.
But others on the show differ. Analyst Karen Finerman said tech companies are able to do because they have better balance sheets, and Tim Seymour noted that even semiconductor companies are starting to look good as they may be feeling the bottom of the trough. On the same show, Jeff Macke, disagreed, advises that the tech rally is not sustainable.
One point worth taking away from all the talking heads: The cold weather this winter has certainly put a damper on already chilly consumer technology spending. When things start to thaw out a bit, the climate should brighten. But that won’t be until the second quarter of 2009.