(Street Life is a regular feature that focuses on what's playing in the stock market)
* ACT I: The Home Run Tan Range Exploration (TSX:TNX) $6.47 Up 547 per cent (past 12 mos.)
Tan Range CEO Jim Sinclair, one of the world's famous gold speculators, recently told New York Times magazine: "If we go over $529 (US per ounce for the gold price), that is not good news. Anyone cheering for a high gold price should go on Prozac.”
Sinclair, an American entrepreneur who called the last great gold bull market in the 1970s when the price shot up to $887 (his target then was $900), believes a high gold price could be bad news for the U.S. dollar and the American stock markets. However, if you're Jim Sinclair or a shareholder of Tan Range, you must be cheering - shares in the Tanzanian gold exploration company have been orbiting and the gold price has busted out to $541 US per ounce. Tan Range has 140 mining licences in Tanzania and investor sentiment has been buoyed by encouraging drilling results.
* ACT II: The Bomb InterOil Corp. (TSX:IOL) $21.70 Down 44.2 per cent (in one day) It's boom or bust for shareholders who speculate on exotic oil plays such as InterOil, an Australian-based company exploring for natural gas in Papua New Guinea. So far, InterOil's play has been a bust as the company ended 2005 on a dismal note, abandoning and plugging its Triceratops well on New Year's Eve. The stock was hammered for a loss of almost half a billion in market cap in one day as stockholders jumped ship. As investors anticipated the release of drilling results, InterOil's stock had soared more than 50 per cent in December. The shares have been hammered down 60 per cent since peaking at $53.90 11 months ago. InterOil also operates the only petroleum refinery in Papua New Guinea.
* ACT III: The Big Deal Nuvelo (Nasdaq:NUVO) $12.67 US Up 40.6 per cent (in one day) Wild speculation drove Nuvelo's stock from $25 to $125 US in less than two months early in 2000 when the market for biotech stocks was in a state of mania. Times have certainly changed since then. The real deal drove the stock up 40.6 per cent in one day, but it's still a far cry from Nuvelo's heyday. Even with the move on its latest news, the shares are still about 90 per cent off the all-time high. For the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, the real deal was a collaboration agreement with Bayer Health Care, a subsidiary of German drug company Bayer AG, for development of its lead product Alfimeprase, which is in Phase 3 development. Alfimeprase is being developed for dissolving blood clots. Nuvelo has a variety of products in development for cardiovascular and cancer treatment.
* ACT IV: The All-American Darling Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) $465.66 US Up 132.5 per cent (last 12 mos.)
It's apparent the market - and some analysts - are head over heels in love with Google. And you know what happened to the stock market's last tech darlings (for further details, search Google, dot-com crash, 2001). Still, many analysts believe the shares are still cheap. Safa Rashtchy, an analyst with Piper Jaffray, has become a household name on Wall Street with a recent target price hike to $600 US for the roaring Internet search engine. Bear Stearns has also boosted its target to $550 US. The stock, which made its debut as a publicly- traded entity in August of 2004 at $85 US, recently had 17 buys, six holds and no sells. Said Rashtchy in defending his call: "I am not trying to be heroic or controversial."
* ACT V: The Trust Bust FP Newspapers Income Fund (TSX: FP.UN) $10.20 Down 27.7 per cent (past 12 mos.)
When FP sold off to $12 a unit six months ago, a chatboard poster asked: WHERE IS THE BOTTOM?
Alas, unitholders still don't have the answer as Winnipeg-based FP has been one of the casualties as income trust investors become more selective and the sector matures. The ink-stained fund owns a 49-per-cent interest in FP Canadian Newspapers Limited Partnership, which owns the Winnipeg Free Press, the Brandon Sun and several other publications. Unlike some of the income trusts that have fallen from grace, FP is profitable. The fund earned $1.6 million or 22.5 cents per unit in the third quarter of 2005 compared to $1.4 million or 20.2 cents per unit in the year-ago period. FP pays a monthly cash distribution of 10.75 cents per unit.
* ACT VI: The Breakout Sierra Wireless (TSX:SW) $15.76 Up 22.3 per cent (in one week) When a tech stock makes a break for it these days, you need to blink a couple of times to be sure your eyes aren't deceiving you. While Nortel Networks - the highest-volume trader among Canada's tech stocks - has been taking baby steps, Sierra took a giant step forward and did it on escalating volume, hitting million-dollar-a-day volume for the first time in recent memory for the stock. Investors were impressed by the Vancouver wireless company's twin bill of news. Sierra said its sales for the fourth quarter were expected to be 15.6 per cent higher than previously forecast - going from $32 million to $37 million US - while also announcing a deal with Hewlett-Packard. Sierra shares have nearly doubled in the past eight months.
* ACT VII: The Breakdown Nova Chemicals (TSX: NCX) $38.50 Down 13.1 per cent (in one month) Many of the large caps hit by December tax-loss selling began to show signs of recovery in early January, but Nova has been an exception. The stock has continued to drift lower since the tax-loss selling deadline as shareholders digest the company's latest quarterly results. The source of angst for shareholders has been Nova's reporting of a whopping $105-million ($1.28 per share) loss for the third quarter of '05, compared to a $56-million profit (60 cents per share) in the year-ago period. The company blamed the majority of the loss on "unusual" events, including a $75-million writedown and Gulf Coast hurricanes that caused production outages. Shares in Nova have plummeted 40 per cent since peaking at $64.25 last March.
* ACT VIII: The Penny Jackpot Golden Goliath Resources (TSXV:GNG) 39 cents Up 81.4 per cent (four-day spike) If Golden Goliath's resurgence is any indication, this may be the year that the junior mining stocks finally come to life after a couple of dismal years. Golden Goliath, a play on both gold and silver, moved on impressive volume - 2.5 million shares traded in four days - without news. It has yet to begin its drilling program, but the company has started a promotional campaign over its 100 per cent-owned gold and silver prospects in the Sierra Madre Mountains. Golden Goliath CEO Paul Sorbara is a former Teck Cominco (TSX:TEK.SV.B) geologist with exploration experience in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountain Range.
(Stock prices are based on trading through Jan. 6 unless otherwise specified.)
(Gyle Konotopetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)