Monday, September 17, 2018

Tech majors as utilities?

There is a thought developing among many of varying political persuasions that the major technology companies are too powerful, and have too much information.  Those focused on include Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Twitter, but names like Netflix and Adobe would probably fall into this net as well, others could.

It is clear that most of these companies are more efficient and at the least as effective at information management than the government.  Should they be regulated as utilities?  Possibly around the edges and subject to some ground rules would be the thought here, but a coterie of those on both the political right and left are now beginning to look for something more stringent.  The need for competitive markets is a concern in various areas of retail business and the manipulation of information for political purposes is another.  Another not at all trivial issue is whether the social networks have been engineered to create addictive behavior that leads to more information in their hands for advertising purposes, and  leads to unproductive use of time by all ages that could otherwise be spent productively, hey even on first hand relationships with other people.  These are legitimate areas to focus on, but regulation done right would be best if not punitive.  This situation evolved due to a vibrant private sector that encouraged innovation, independent of stodgy government oversight.

The danger now is that we are in the age of Trump.  How can any transition to some regulatory guidelines be managed in a way that does not further the censorship aims and overreach of this President?  Well meaning advocates of regulation could be exploited by his minions looking for power and more.  How this plays out is an important issue.  No big insight here, more to come...

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Preparing for war...???

From rejecting the Transpacific Partnership to dropping out of the Paris Climate Accords and to alienating our allies while kissing up to the most dangerous countries on earth, Trump is on a solo course to an accident.  He is unstable and living in his own reality of made up facts.  Talk about "fake news".  As with the inauguration crowd, he now creates fiction about the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico.  From whole cloth, he weaves lies.  This is abnormal.  Now as he preemptively raises tariffs on China, first $50 billion now set to kick in, now another $200 billion to follow within a month, and just suggested another $267 billion on the way.  These are being levied while negotiations are currently, supposedly, underway.  The lunatic fringe economist Peter Navarro says something and Trump just repeats it.

Almost anyone who reads this does not need it to be repeated.  That's the thing with Trump and his team that maintains the Bannon mentality of just wearing out the opposition with attacks and lies.  Trump simply enjoys demonstrating his power, like a bully on a playground.  "Simply" is the operative word.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Interesting info about investing from the WSJ...

Yesterday's edition of the Wall Street Journal had its monthly analysis, "Investing In Funds & ETFS".  Here are highlights as seen from here.

---The top 50 funds by assets under management, are led by index funds.  S&P index funds were up by roughly 19.5% over the past 12 months.  Total market funds were up around 20.5% on that basis. In comparison, there were a few discretionary fund stand-outs among the 50.  Will Danoff's Fidelity Contrafund is up 25.6% and Charles Pohl's Dodge and Cox Stock fund up 18.1%.  Both were known well in the 1990's and early aughts.  Small cap funds fared well, with the IShares Russell 2000 up 25.4% and the IShares Core S&P small cap up 32.5%.  Growth stocks fared did too, with the QQQ up 28.8%, Fidelity Growth Company fund up 31.7%, and T Rowe Price Growth Stock up 22.7%.

---Among categories, on a year to date basis, the Multicap 1.7 billion Miller Opportunity Fund is up 25.3%, Bill Miller, same age as me, still thriving.  Small cap names are still being managed exceedingly well by some, as in the $1.6 billion Alger Small Cap Focus fund up 46% through August.  Overall, well managed growth funds have been the place to be, value funds not.  Bond funds, however reassuring to some, have not performed well as expected in this rate environment and the outlook is generally not positive.  REIT's are showing some life, for those who know how to choose them and deal with the tax impact, not a skill here.

The takeaway is that the market has been an wonderful opportunity in general, but not one that has attracted as much attention as prior bull markets.  As long as many are calculating the end, that may stay true.  Still, with this over 9 year bull market, careful analysis and considerable caution seem to be required.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

Photos on Facebook, remembered in various ways...

Over the past nine months, posting photos on Facebook has become a regular activity.  We took photos when traveling, on holidays or special occasions, of children growing up, and other times randomly.  All of the photos taken by me are remembered, with a few exceptions noted with "unknown location" or a similar comment.  The camel in a field  near a beach with apartment houses in the background is an example of that previously posted.  There are differences among the memories.

With almost all, the place is remembered, with many the surrounding circumstances come to mind, and with some a detailed memory of an event or activity still seems fresh.  One like that from 36 years ago is posted today, and everything associated with it is a good thought.  I guess that's healthy.

There are photos of Kathy from albums she kept before we met, and a few from her childhood.  She told me about some of them over the years, and others are simply interesting on their own to me, maybe some to others.  In her teens and early '20's, she kept albums that are more like scrapbooks.  They contain not just photos, but also ticket stubs, brochures, itineraries, museum passes, letters from people she met on the trip, and comments written in margins on the pages, as well as her artwork on some pages related to an event. These are entertaining.  She did some of that with books that she put together of our trips, but nothing like her youthful ones.

There are a few childhood photos of me, but little beyond that.  When taking a two and a half month trip to Europe in late 1971 with two college friends, or trips to Little Exuma or Jamaica in the 1970's, photography was not what I did.  My two friends on the Europe trip both had cameras, but my attitude at the time was that I could buy post cards or look in books for pictures of the sights and preferred to stay in the present and soak experience in, if that is the way it can be characterized.  As for taking photos with people, the guys were just that.  Somewhere there are two or three photos of me sent by one of them after the trip, no idea where they are.

When Kathy and I began traveling in 1981, it was expected by her and I bought right in. That has become apparent to those who check in on Facebook as "friends", and others who follow without signing up as a "friend".  Given the events of this year, I guess that this will continue...  Be forewarned, there is a large drawer in a basement cabinet in the ping pong room that is filled with piles of photos that did not find there way into albums.  Precarious steps down but...