Friday, March 29, 2013

North Korea problem becoming serious, spoiled fat boy is dangerous

My first reaction to all of the entitled fat boy's provocation is just to bomb the entire center of their government, kill him and the old generals who ran everything under his completely corrupt father who raped young girls, drank to excess always, watched porno films, and let his country starve.  Fat boy wants to update the capital city but cares nothing about the lack of basic food for most of his populace.  This may sound like an extreme risk but he and his generals should just be droned or worse.  They are saying  that they will nuke California.  No more talking needed.  China is a useless ally, so corrupt itself.

This is so contrary to my normal comments, even outright exaggeration, but I don't think that this little tyrant is trivial.  What if  my inclination is right and he nukes Japan, South Korea, or Guam to get a hard on and show his power.  Is anyone taking it seriously that a 28 year old with unlimited power controls a nuclear arsenal and is aggressively expanding the country's missile delivery capability.  I don't think so.  We are relying on China to rein him in and they are, in Mao's words, a "paper tiger".  They will do nothing that in any way secures the safety of Japan and South Korea, much less us.  North Korea is their puppet, and they encourage it.

We should be vigilant and Obama should not take his usual "above it all" presidential stance.

For Syracuse, now Marquette

I was in the unusual mode of being for Syracuse tonight.  I have actually become a Boeheim fan.  Nut case that he can be, he is incredibly successful and is able to manage his teams in game to game transitions.  We'll see over time whether they weather all of the NCAA investigations that they are under, but I was still for them despite the fact that they are a sub-par academic university.  Now they will play Marquette and there is no doubt who will be my favorite.  Syracuse will be tough to beat, a good coach and big players, but it can be done, at least I hope so.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Marguette/Miami -- maybe a Jebbie school still has a chance to pull one off

Just going back to the game after grabbing a bag of chips and glass of water. 
Georgetown and Gonzaga flunked out to my disappoinment but as a non-Catholic but a Jesuit school graduate(Georgetown) I think that I had the value of a real education, however difficult at times for a
 small town southern person with a limited public school education.   Go Marquette.

Scamming the system

Listening to people is very informative.  As much as I like to talk about myself, for the most part I don't, and nobody cares anyway as they just want to talk about themselves

Scamming the welfare system is a huge business in this country.  Medicare and Medicaid scamming complexes are certainly rife in this area, like the Hasidic Hellhole that I ended up in at one point.  No help, rude people, almost no food, I ended up in this place, Peninsula Center, because I needed physical therapy for my walking.  There was none to speak of, and I was a provided nothing except a guard next door who made sure that I could not get out of my room and see what was going on in this large four story building.  The black cleaners were the only ones who told me the truth.  It was once a reputable place until these Hasids bought it two years ago, fired almost 200 workers, and stopped providing almost any service except, on the top two floors letting people die in bed.  I was there for physical therapy because the reputable North Shore Hospital mandated it or otherwise they would not file my insurance claim.  I was there for four days and received 15 minutes of physical therapy and almost no edible food, I mean almost no food, except like an ice cream scoop of macaroni and cheese for dinner, a broken bed, and a television that did not work.   I did not bother to check out.  I called a car service and left.  The hellhole has never filed an insurance claim since they know that I know what they are.

That's the huge scam on the instituional side.  On the individual side this food stamp program is obviously out of control.  Waited in line a few days ago behind a family of older women, middle aged women, and very young women who bought enough food as a group for a couple of weeks at least, maybe a month- no payment except for whatever the food stamp, whatever it is now called, program now costs.  It was not especially healthy food but what business is that of mine.  None.  Combined with the length of unemployment benefits that are scammed everywhere(previous comment already wasted in a post here on this agitating problem) there is a major issue here.  A man so much younger and in better health than me, although somewhat overweight perhaps, bragged to me recently about how he received disability benefits.  When I asked how that was possible, he went mute.  This has happened many more times than once
All of this again gets back to the incompetence of the Federal bureaucracy.  I hate to say it but for the politicians this is all gravy, graft, or votes.  Why do we incent people to not work.  Why are more people not applying for jobs?  Why not?  They have the scam figured out.  If they are really peramantly disabled, deranged or addicts they of course need help from our system, but my observation is that on all fronts,individuals are either exploited or are so smart that they know how to use the system and there are many institutions in the game of big time federal r-off time..  For institutions, I could name more, they are just breaking the law and  shamelessly corrupt.

For me I don't think this is a political thing at all, just a question of the lack of character left in our country.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

cooking dinner in

We've become dedicated take-out specialists every other night it seems, just no dishes to do and tasty leftovers to put away.  Now a seven year old Dacor wall oven has some problem, the top works but beeps the entire darn time, so useless, the bottom oven does not hold its temperature.  It will be fixed Saturday I am told, so my standard fish grilling is on hold/   Nevertheless I am going to stove cooking, chicken with onions and spinach and fennnel seed and garlic tonight, with a new salad and leftovers we will be fine.  After Sandy survivial, we are always fine I hope.

The Hospitalist phenomenon

Only in recent years have I been aware of the term hospitalist.  That's an MD who specializes in nothing yet administrates the paperwork of a patient's care, entry, and exit.  They may see the patient that they are the ultimate decision makers for, maybe, three times over four days for 1 minute max each time.  They are for the most part just hired by the hospital to work regular hours, at good salaries but without the "burden" of really needing to know the patients or work unpredictably long hours.  At around $200,000 a year for this admin job that is crucial to the patient but not to them it may be a good gig.  I guess this started because fewer and fewer MD's are actually primary care doctors or internists, that not being where the money is especially when it comes to Medicare, disability, any other federal program or comprehensive insurance plans.

With my mother tangentially, with my father totally over two years, and myself with some issues, the hospitalist has become a familiar problem.  They relieve all of the specialists who may or may not be needed of the effort to spend any time with the patient, maybe 30 seconds at best, and they report to the  hospitalist what drugs they recommend based on the constant tests one is given in the hospital.  They eventually decide to discharge a person based on protocols no less rigid than a call to a Citibank card representative in India.

No one is responsible for explaining what the drugs prescribed are for, unless one of the doctors has an unusual display of caring about who their patient is.  Wrong prescription, far too heavy doses, completely unneeded medication, or simply not what was understood, we learn about it at the local pharmacy and once a patient has been released from the hospital they refuse to change them or deal with their mistakes.  The hospitalist just aggregates the prescriptions and sends you home, no explanation needed.  Just do what you are told could certainly be the mantra of hospitals in this area and in Virginia, you are not competent enough to understand.  This it should noted is not an Obamacare event, it had already started and is firmly in place.

"JPMorgan Chase Faces Full Court Press of Federal Investigations"

As has been said here for maybe two years, Jamie Dimon was once a big supporter of Obama and then chose to challenge some of the President's policies, especially aspects of the Dodd Frank mess.
Despite the actual fact that Obama has some redeeming characteristics and is a fortress against the phony Republican "values" agenda, he is also a vicious Chicago politician who uses his lackey Eric Holder to attack JPMorgan Chase at every opportunity.  His compatriot at this is the highly compromised Carl Levin, senator from Michigan, who, personal knowledge, takes extravagent perks from K Street hyper liberal religiously affiliated activists.  Want to spend two summer weeks at a great home hosted in all respects by lobbyists at Martha's Vineyard, be Carl Levin.  Who knows what else goes on with this repulsive person who so obviously enjoys humiliating people, easy to do since Congress has no evidence sharing restrictions, no restrictions whatsoever about what they say, with the ability to blindside those he questions with rhetorical questions of questionable truth, just like SAC behaves at conferences and on conference calls.

JPMorgan Chase is by most accounts of investors one of the best, if not the best, managed large banks in the country.  They obviously are difficult to manage, but they are essential to American competitiveness in a global economy.  Obama is just a little xxxx in the way he attacks this company constantly on all fronts.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Cyprus deal is not real solution, not even close

The Cyprus deal to avert an economic collapse and an unwanted precedent of a withdrawal from the Eurozone is only a stopgap measure.  This debacle will continue to unfold, in particular because the corrupt Russians will resist the regulations on its captive money laundering country. 

Often progress just comes in small steps, and this may not be a good start.  There is certainly more to come.  Anything really positive is to be hoped for but may be unlikely, anything that veers towards seriously negative territory will be self-fulfilling in a way that will be unsettling to European markets, or lead to a Putin hijacking of the whole process.  He cannot be underestimated.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A trip to "Trader Joe's"

As most readers here know, Trader Joe's is an offbeat grocery store chain with locations now in only nine states.  There are 21 here in the NY metro area , all just built in the last three years.  It's a private firm, no franchises, so this is not an investment comment.  It's a consumer comment.

Started in California in the 1950's as a stand alone store called Pronto, it grew slowly and in the '70's changed its name to that of its founder, Trader Joe as he was called.  He sourced the many unusual products that were almost always branded under the Trader Joe's name.  Hawaiian shirts worn by employees were the norm, and still are.

Some may see it as a competitor of Whole Foods but it is quite different.  They are smaller stores and make no effort to serve every standard grocery store need.  Their meat and vegetable sections are relatively small, but focused mainly on the organic side of products.  You can choose to buy a six dollar chicken that is somewhat organic for $6 or a pristinely and faultlessly organic free ranged brined one of the same size for $16, so there are choices for those, like myself, who have loopholes in their dedication to culinary authenticity.

Our closest Trader Joe's is about a 15 to 20 minute drive away, but conveniently located in a strip mall that has one of the iconic New York "Shake Shack" hot dog and hamburger joints, is also just a half mile away from the unusually entertaining Costco, and a four mile drive down Old Country Road in Westbury to a family owned Columbian diner with great food, reasonable prices, a thoroughly mixed crowd, and welcoming service.  It's one of our favorites, no frills, all good.

So going to Trader Joe's is generally an outing with other desired destinations as well.  Back to Trader Joe's itself, it's difficult to describe.  The aisles are large and not crowded and the store is reasonably small by supermarket standards.  One thing that stands out is that the product selection is always changing.  There are certain staples of their brands that are always there, but there are ones that disappear and new ones always on display.  Most of their food is of the healthy variety but they still have things like "Ode to the Classic Potato Chip", that appeal to me in a big way, but with no preservatives, artificial flavors, or colors.  Still the reliable salt and some oil for sure though.  There is also Organic Popcorn cooked in olive oil, organic white corn tortilla chips, and the I guess dangerously tasty dark chocolate chip and almond cookies, safe as something like that can be but no weight watcher choice.  All can keep me company during the college basketball games that I sporadically watch at the moment.

Younger daughter accidentally left her flexible black leather boots here on a recent visit and the USPS postal one price box left plenty of room so we went to Trader Joe's fill it out(it's arguably her favorite food store).  We sent maple praline granola, dried pineapple slices, a large bag of individual small packs of unsalted almonds to take around to classes for energy, freeze dried strawberries, a packet of mixed blueberries, cherrys, and mangos that were just regular dried and ready to eat, and who knows what else.  For once, as things go these days, she liked everything that we sent.  Kudos to Trader Joe's.

From this perspective, somewhat like Costco, I like the fact that there are always new things, the unexpected.  The healthy cereal selection is terrific, all of the organic canned beans and soups are cheap as can be(well below Whole Foods) and healthy, and their dark chocolate covered raisins can go into pretend world as being healthy and their tasty inexpensive tartar sauce probably cannot.  We eat lots of fish these days as cholestoral and blood pressure can be concerns and we have generally found that we have lost our taste for steak, prime rib, and big sirloin burgers except on special occasions.

Once again I've exhausted a subject.  Even if you are not in one of their nine states, you can go to Trader Joe's website and get on their once a month "Fearless Flyer" list and get information on their current offerings as well as plenty of good information on good healthy foods in general.

Postcript, 3/25 --- I should have noted that one of Trader Joe's new surprise offerings is coffee, never seen there, tins of beans from Columbia and Costa Rica, their advertising on the tins suggesting special places.  For those of us now accustomed to Starbucks dense taste and the low prices at Costco for that and for their Kirkland brand which is also a byproduct of Starbucks, these new coffees may be a revelation.  We bought one, Costa Rica Terrazu, last week and it has the same expected effect of coffee but a much more interesting taste than Starbuck, no burnt taste, no heavy taste, a really welcome change that I now look forward to in the morning.   Tastes change, this may change, but choice is a good thing.  I'm heading back for more today before they change their selection.

Financial regulator havoc

In his State of the Union address President Obama bemoaned the "fact" that banks were not lending enough when the Fed and the Treasury had put everything in place for greater activity.  His focus was on small businesses, credit cards, and home loans.  After berating the banks for four years and blaming them for every regulatory failure and unexpected economic event, in his address he chose to single them out again, this time for not lending instead of lending too much.

Yesterday's Money and Investing section of the WSJ's lead story was "Lenders Are Warned on Risk".  The focus was on leveraged loans to corporates, hedge funds, and private equity funds and whether banks were once again going too far in supporting leveraged credits.  That is a subject certainly worthy of discussion, but we are not in heady times and consolidating poor performing firms with better firms or better management is not the stretch that it was in the last decade.  Valuations have changed and opportunities exist.  One could note that leveraged loans had almost nothing to do with the great recession except obviously in the home real estate and securitized real estate market.  Still leveraged loans in general are worth regulatory attention even if, since their advent in the mid-1980's, they have performed, on average, acceptably or some would argue with merit better than that.

BUT HERE IS THE POINT OF THIS COMMENT.  What is more of a leveraged loan than a 20% down home loan for 15 or 30 years in a market that has seen significant structural change?  Home prices, as collateral, are in for years of volatility and the long term job contracts between employers and employees is for the most part a thing of the past.  Temporary employee contracts without benefits or any guarantees are a big and growing part of our economy.

The same thought can be applied to small business loans.  Communities are less stable than in previous decades and technology advances can turn a good idea into an outdated one in a very short time.  Small business loans or small commercial real estate loans can require the borrower to put up all of their assets, including their home, as collateral.  This is a disincentive to borrowers as well as an indication of the banks fear of regulatory challenges.  If these are also not leveraged loans, what is.

This message is not lost on many smart individuals, small business owners, and community banks.  The article may have been written about corporate leveraged buyout loans, but with the day in day out regulators who work on the ground, any kind of "leveraged" lending is thoroughly examined.  Why would bankers become more accomodating under this kind of regulatory regime?  The administration only seems to understand the big picture, or even care about anything but the big picture, the big political issue.

Seems to me that they need some education on what the financial world is really like today for individuals and small business owners.   

Friday, March 22, 2013

"The Sequester Is an Overhaul Opportunity"

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal(3/21/13) this op-ed article is so much more articulately in line with one of my frequent rants in recent months.  That is that Federal bureaucracies are bloated and inefficient, and anyone with a grain of common sense and a bit of experience knows that bureaucracies, unless checked, have an overwhelming tendency to expand beyond any sensible rationale.  There is a fortune to be saved by dealing with this issue, and it could help in not compromising our defense or crippling our already committed entitlement systems.  Those do need to be trimmed, examined, and restructured, but the issue in this article is another big answer to our spending dilemma.

The article is written by Paul C. Light, currently Professor of Public Service at Columbia, formerly the founding director of the Center for Public Service at the Brookings Institution, and before that Director of Public Policy at Pew Research, in other words no lightweight.  Unfortunately I cannot forward this opinion but as of now it can be Googled in full under the title of the article.

Absent the ability to forward, here are a few teasers from Professor Light's comments:

---"In theory, a new personnel system, a flatter hierarchy, and the elimination of duplication and overlap should increase federal productivity.  But Congress and the president will never know the savings unless they order the Bureau of Labor Statistics to start measuring federal productivity again.  The bureau shelved its long-running productivity project in 1994 and has not added a data point since."

---"Too few poor performers are ever fired, and too many managers play favorites throughout it all...According to the government's own 2012 survey of almost 700,000 employees barely a third believe that promotions are based on merit... just one fifth said pay raises are linked to performance."

---"Attack the duplication and overlap among programs with nearly identical missions but separate overhead, including the 53 designed to spur entrepreneurship, the 82 to improve teacher quality, the 160 to support housing, and the 209 to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics education."

---"Congress and the president can make all of the grand promises they wish, but Americans have almost no confidence that the bureaucracy will deliver their money's worth."

How can one possibly wonder why many Americans adamantly oppose tax increases, and want an overhaul of the tax system that leads to an understandable, clearly more fair system that does not subsidize these unmanaged political bureaucracies?

One example of bureacratic incompetence was a segment on last night's PBS new hour.  It described how veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan routinely wait for at least a year, sometimes up to two years, to receive their earned and promised combat benefits.  Many of these veterans served more than one tour in the war zones.  While highlighting some personal stories, the report showed a huge warehouse of boxes in Atanta, so dense that one person commented that they were afraid that the floor of the warehouse could collapse.

Why is this?  The veterans benefits programs are not computerized.  It's all paper.  The move to digital has just begun and the armed services program suggests that by 2015 the paper process will be history.  Good luck on that.  What this points out relative to the topic of this post and Light's op-ed is that there is obviously incompetent management "at work" here, and a bureacracy with minimal initiative.  It's appalling, and this is obviously just one example that was coincidentally seen last night after reading Light's commentary.  How many more situations are there like this across multiple areas of our government?

The article is obviously recommended.

Postscript 3/23  --- it should be noted that Federal employees generally have health benefits as employees and as retirees that far exceed what is available in most of the private sector.  They also have inflation adjusted defined retirement benefit plans, a wonderfully reliable perk largely abandoned by the private sector in the 1990's.  These are additional big costs associated with this bloated inefficient politically expedient bureaucracy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The accepted rampant ignorance of many media financial pundits

When showering, shaving, dressing, cooking, cleaning dishes, so many things, I often am listening to Bloomberg radio or half watching/half listening to CNBC.  The financial markets interest me, they are a type of risk taking that I enjoy and generally, buy not always, do ok at, and at this point the interest may as well be relegated to the status of a hobby that at times is profitible. 

Almost 10 years after leaving a job in the investment business, I am still familiar with quite a few of the characters involved and personally knew a bunch that are still hanging in there, some my age, some older, some quite a bit younger.  So it's interesting.  There are some astute people out there for sure, but most don't spend their market day seeking voice time on radio or face time on television.  There are exceptions to that practice like the Pimco guys, who must see their constant availability as a way to promote their firm and, cynically speaking, "talk their book" to their advantage.

What is incredibly frustrating is how many of the newer pundits, that's the great majority of them with whom I have no insight, are completely unaware of how the market works and their words are taken as wisdom by interviewers, many of whom do not know better.

There are examples every day, snippets heard that make little sense but are treated respectfully.  So here's just one from today.  A guest investor or journalist or professional pundit on a panel was making the comment that with the Dow and S&P hitting new records, investors would be reluctant to raise their equity positions and new investors would be inclined to stay away.  The Bloomberg moderator agreed with serious faced concern.  The other panelist, a Brit, then noted that none of these record highs were inflation adjusted, and they were in real dollars still a good distance away from being record highs, which was exactly right.  The response of the pundit was that "investors don't really pay attention to that and only look at the reported numbers", a comment that the moderator seemed to agree with.

How remarkably stupid.  Any investor who has any influence on the market knows that comparisons need to be inflation adjusted to have any credibility.  Retail investors that listen to or watch these programs may be impressed by the "new highs" but except in a manic market like the late 1990's retail investors have no impact whatsoever on stock price.  Many clerical type pension fund managers have no idea either and no influence on the market.  Not on every given day, but over a reasonably short period of time the market is priced by smart investors who understand the basics.

Much of what is heard in the media - print, radio, television, internet - is just plain uninformed blather by people who take themselves very seriously.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Little Greece, smaller Cyprus

Remember in 2009 when Greece began to fall apart.  At first the conventional wisdom was what material impact could this small country have on the Eurozone, much less the world economy.  This small country with no industry to speak of other than tourism and olive oil, plus a massive shipping industry that went untaxed and kept all of its funds offshore.  Though large and influential, the shipping business was more of an international industry run by greedy, corrupt, and anti-philanthropic egotists that were not central to the Greece's participation in the Eurozone.

That some European banks had lent openly to Greece by looking through Greek profiligacy and depending on the Euro relationship, losses that may be incurred there were seen to be digestable and subject to negotiations and extensions.

What a mistake these assumptions were.  Greece's woes were the beginning of the Euroland recession, the Euroland discord, and many chaotic decisions.

Now we have even smaller Cyprus.  Again some academics and pundits, even on Bloomberg news and PBS news hour last night, discounted any impact of the Cyprus situation on the broader economic landscape.  Do reports that put Cypriot bank deposits at many multiples of Cypriot GDP( 80x, 8x, 4x) who knows but the numbers are alarming and should have been alarming for a long time).  Cyprus seems to make the Cayman's look like chopped liver.

This of course is not the fault of the average Cypriot citizen.  It is the fault of the banks and the government's willingess to encourage Russian oligarchs to hide and launder money through their banking system.  To steal savings deposits from average citizens should be criminal.

The stodgy short sighted Brussels group that created the solution to this could have possibly opened a Pandora's box that will spread new thoughts of government wealth confiscation elsewhere.  Even if that does not actually happen, just raising the thought was a dangerous confidence warning.  From this perspective, what has happened in Cyprus should not be taken lightly or be brushed off as something of little importance.  That will take time to know. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

14, 8, 0, corporate growth projections

Without a computer, pen, pencil, or paper at hand, the results of a survey of major U.S. corporates were detailed on either CNBC or Bloomberg in the middle last week.  So I did not record it or the source but do remember the numbers.  The survey asked the respondants what their expectations were for earnings growth, capital spending growth, and hiring in the coming 12 months(not just 2013 fiscal year).  The composite answers were 14% earnings growth, 8% capital spending growth, and zero new net hiring.

How can one know whether those are credible numbers or just hyperbolic answers to a phone researchers questions.  Even if a stretch, the numbers given may have some directional validity, in fact probably do barring unforeseen events.

The earnings growth projection can relate both to an improving economy and to the almost universal  ability of firms to use excess cash to buy back shares, boosting EPS.  The capital spending projection could relate as well to an improving economy but more to the opportunities to improve efficient operations, cut costs, and improve security through technology investments.  The zero net new hiring is the real eye-catcher.

In the last ten years technology has totally revamped hiring needs in many industries.  Some economists suggest that on average industrial and consumer product production that, for example, may have taken 100 workers in the 1990's takes just 10 workers today.  That's radical change.  On the white collar side of things the Great Recession led to significant layoffs and guess what, the numbers that were laid off often were replaced by much smaller numbers as the economy has recovered.  Technology again is part of the reason and bureaucratic unwinding is the other.  Whatever chain of long term corporate employment loyalty that still existed was broken.  The kicker to all of this is the move to using temporary employees for many tasks, not real hires.

To the extent this survey is even directionally correct, it could very well be good for the equity markets and not so healthy for our society.  This outcome is not the result of some conspiracy or plot by the wealthy.  It is fundamental change to the structure of our economy that must be addressed in creative ways, ways that will not happen overnight.

From this perspective, the main way out of this dilemma is to create opportunities for entreneurship with state supported enterprise zones and the cutting back of rigorous regulation designed to control the big corporates so it is not one standard fits all and does not apply to budding entrepreneurs as well.  Another suggestion, the Whole Foods model could be encouraged across many areas, and by that I mean large companies sourcing from smaller ones that are just beginning to grow.  Support local businesses everywhere when prices are close to competitive and service is often much better, more personal and more life fulfilling.  There are many more ideas for sure, but the last one here is to pay the workers that have jobs better wages so that they can support those local businesses and spur the economy in general.  Just because there is so much competition for jobs is not a good American excuse for holding down deserved wage increases.  The CEO's and top executives get their gazillions.  What has happened to sharing as a concept in this country?   

Cypriot bank deposit tax a huge mistake

Bank deposits are generally viewed as sacrosanct havens for funds as long as the bank holding them remains solvent.  With European Central Bank pressure, this plan to tax bank deposits in Cyprus is an immensely dangerous precedent.  To take this risk to increase the solvency of a country that represents less than one half of one percent of the Euro economy is just ludicrous as it could undermine confidence across a range of much larger economies, notably Spain, Italy, Portugal, and even one of the bulwarks of the European economy like France with its socialist leader Hollande and his radical tendencies toward confiscating wealth.

It is true that Cypriot banks were used as huge depositories of wealth by the Russian oligarchs, due to their reliance on an implicit Euro guarantee and loose regulation and maybe even tainted regulation in Cyprus.  A plan to add some tax to these foreign deposits, many of them probably less than legally earned, would be a good way to raise funds and discourage the exploitation of the Cypriot banking system.  Of course, it is likely that the Cypriot banks themselves encouraged these deposits, as their spreads led to higher returns.  These banks should be monitored and sanctioned if justified.

To tax bank deposits of real Cypriot citizens who face the same safety and soundness worries of savers all over the world is just not a good idea.  It sends a terrible message to savers everywhere.  Despite Cyprus's small size, epidemics can always start with one small isolated virus and grow rapidly.  This is an amazingly irresponsible decision.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Louisville wins, with startling second half

As a fan, I have a tendency to approach watching big games with a combination of hope and pessimism.  The  first half of the Louisville Syracuse Big East title game confirmed the latter.  Syracuse picked up the same pace they had during the tournament, three pointers galore and  glowing confidence.  Louisville looked lethargic and tentative, maybe trying too hard to win this game for their New York City native coach.

Late in the first half I turned the sound off and began reading a book that I was enjoying, only looking up occasionally to see if anything had changed.  I even dozed off for a few minutes during the halftime "analysis", having seen and heard too much. 

With 12 minutes left in the game, I looked up, the book was closed, and the sound was on.  Louisville was playing the real Louisville hyper-aggressive "havoc" basketball.  Syracuse had spent its moxie in the first half and was flummoxed.  As any sports fan knows, Louisville turned a 16 point deficit with 16 minutes left in the game into a 17 point win. 

Speaking of the "havoc" style of basketball(reminded to me by a friend), I was pleased to see that VCU is still in the hunt, today for the Atlantic 10 title.  Not much of a follower of bball during the regular season, I had no idea until reading the sports section that their season was back in stride.  We're behind them here.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Proposed investments for understanding

Two acquintances who have never focused on the financial markets to any great extent have decided to each choose five investments and follow their performance.  This is definitely not a contest but a collaborative effort in the event that the responsibity for managing or even just better understanding their family's investments should fall on their shoulders. 

While my long time and knowledgeable friend J is adamently partial to diversification of asset categories through index funds, not a bad way, even smart way, of thinking, this experiment will, with modest allocations, motivate the two participants to follow, discuss, and understand individual stocks, hopefully a starting point.  The indexing approach can follow these basics that can create real interest.

The suggestions for one participant at the moment are:

Vanguard Diversified Dividend Appreciation fund(VIG)

Since Invensense is a small cap,  notwithstanding having no long term debt and $229 million shareholders equity, the support of some smart analysts, and Fidelity and Qualcom as its two largest shareholders, there is one more fallback choice for those uncomfortable with INVN.  That's Chevron, (CVX), the highly rated oil and gas giant with a 3% dividend and strong balance sheet.  Come to think of it, maybe this participant should have six stocks to follow.

I hope that this idea holds and is executed with equal weighted investments in the coming weeks.  Following what real money is doing every day is better than reading any textbook.  That's just my opinion and needs to be done both diligently and with small amounts of money through low cost discount brokers that allow a sense of some fascinaton and amusement.

Postscript  ---  included above are investments that have potential that is viewed by many.  As a counterweight following JCPenney(JCP) could be enlightening.  It's either a bankrupt company within the next year or the coming of a new Target.   

A paraphrase - one out of two ain't bad

Last night's Big East tournament had mixed results here.  My beloved undergraduate Georgetown lost in overtime to its major rival Syracuse, a team that thay had trounced just two weeks ago.  Syracuse could seemingly not miss a three pointer.  On the plus side my other favorite Louisville handled Notre Dame, a team that they had lost to in five overtimes last month.  Having lived in Louisville in the '70's during the Doctors of Dunk era, my affection for the team lasts despite some ambivalence about the coach.

Rarely watching college basketball during the regular season, these games that I cared about exhausted me, and I slept soundly for once.  Louisville and Syracuse play tonight for the Big East title.  Should be interesting as Syracuse has some giants in the middle and Louisville is one of the rare top teams with no dominant big men.  The doritos, chips, and guacomole are already stocked.
There is no safe cure for the anxiety, except for the realization that in the greater scheme of things this is just entertainment and not so important.