PhillyDeals: Stocks, gas prices, and the November election

Will President Obama's fight to save his job lead to a rosier picture for investors as Election Day nears?

Maybe what the stock market lacks is a motivated seller. Will President Obama fill that role this election year?

"Obama's doing what he can to save his job, and that means his people are hard at work" trying to make things look better by November, which could be good for stocks, cracked Adam Sherman, head of FirstTrust Financial Resources, a bank-owned Center City firm that invests $700 million in client funds.

We talked as the Dow Jones industrial average traded around 13,000 points Tuesday, its highest since 2008.

There have been some encouraging signs: lower unemployment, a recovery in plastered financial stocks like Bank of America, higher sales at big industrial companies like DuPont.

But it may be tough to believe the government is aiding the public, I noted, when gasoline prices are also approaching 2008 highs.

"I don't think ExxonMobil's trying to help the president very much," agreed Sherman.

It's not likely "that the market is moving up just because of what's happening inside the Beltway," said Terry Siman, a former head of the national Institute of Certified Financial Planners, who last year sold his $170 million-asset Philadelphia planning business to United Capital Financial Advisors.

Rather, the "huge amounts of cash on the sidelines" from profitable companies and restless investors are finally, slowly, being put to work, and the Dow Jones' rise reflects the expectation of a creeping recovery, Siman says.

New loan

Owners of Northeast Philadelphia's Grant Plaza shopping development, listed by Morningstar Credit Ratings L.L.C. last month among the many commercial real estate properties with loans facing liquidation, has attracted new financing and new tenants, and is "96 percent" leased, says Isaac D. Massry of Wharton Realty Group, Eatontown, N.J., Grant Plaza's owner since 2005.

Morningstar raised concerns about loan payments and leasing income. Massry says the former loan, whose balloon payments were to come due this month after an extension, was refinanced with Beneficial Bank and previous lenders paid in full.

Former tenant Eckerd Drugs' replacement, a Dollar Tree, pays "similar rent" to the drugstore chain, he added. The space left by video chain Blockbuster was filled by a Sleepys "within a few days," and a Supreme China Buffet will take a vacant 11,000-square-foot space "within a month or two."

So no sale for Grant Plaza, Massry concluded: "We plan on holding on to this asset for the long term."

Document wars

I wrote Tuesday about Skippack-based GeoInvesting, which has gone from investing in U.S.-traded China companies and accepting cash for "clarifying" their financial statements for U.S. investors to criticizing and short-selling some of the same China companies, such as coal-mine operator L&L Energy Inc., on whether they actually own the assets they claim.

Mark Jensen, portfolio manager at New York-based T-Squared Partners L.L.C., the largest institutional holder of L&L Energy, says that people working with his firm have visited the mines "more than a dozen times" and verified sale documents and that confirmed sale information has been filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company filed a translation of a sale agreement with the SEC in 2010. Jensen questioned the accuracy of conflicting mine-ownership documents posted by GeoInvesting, noting they were notarized on a Sunday, when China government notaries are closed.

GeoInvesting's Dan David vouched for his documents, and sent me reports from two other critics who join with his firm in questioning L&L's value and its public filings.

Whom to trust? A U.S. investor might have a tough time judging without going to China. And even then.


Ups and Downs

The White House surely likes the rising stock market, but gasoline prices are soaring, too.

Philly Deals, A18.

Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194, or @PhillyJoeD on Twitter.