Sunday, October 28, 2018

Thoughtful comment, plus routine annoyances...

---"Waiting for Eden" is a special book.  This short and sparely written book is far more powerful than its size.  Sentences can be so perfectly written as to stop a reader in their tracks.  The author, Elliot Ackerman, is multi-tour veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.  The narrator is "just on the other side, seeing all there is, and waiting".  Eden was his fellow soldier and friend who survives a Humvee detonation, and the narrator watches his friend's wretched ruined life in a hospital while his wife tries to comfort him.  Not an appealing book to read?  That was my first thought.  Glad I ignored that first thought.

---Facebook's ad pop-ups have become incredibly annoying.  Am I wrong in thinking that the number has been expanding rapidly.  There are so many that are unrelated to me at all.  Targeting?  Logging onto FB at my desktop once or twice a day, opening up leads to a succession of annoyances that make thinking about doing what was intended almost impossible at the start.  Facebook sells these ads.  If my observation has any relevance, the companies that pay for them may be disappointed.

---Speaking of pop-ups, have others experienced on other sites ones that advertise something that has just been purchased?  Is that trying to sell you more or eliminate cognitive dissonance?  I have no need for more Jockey boxer briefs nor do I question my usual purchase.  Ever since an online order a few weeks ago, my free online access to my hometown newspaper has pop up ads seeking my attention for their products.  This is becoming Orwellian.

---My iPhone now has a revamped, or updated, spell check system that starts guessing words faster than I enter them.  On completely routine sentences it is successful at times but more often it just slows me down and, yes, the word "annoying" is again appropriate.  This is relatively new.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Brief comments once again...

---The entire pipe bomb scare seems a bit fishy here.  How could something so comprehensive be orchestrated and yet be done so ineptly?  Was it just done to screw with the public's mind before the mid-terms?  Was it just an example of what could be done?  Could it have played out just as the perpetrator designed or will we learn soon that it was some random crazy or two?  Not one pipe bomb go off, anywhere?  Thank goodness for that, but there is more to be learned.  Were they all just put together with a flaw?  More info needed.

---The equity market stays volatile, but it seems that lately the ups are not fully compensating for the downs.  It is certainly a stock picker's market for the first time in a while for those inclined toward risk.  After the big bump during the market day, there seem to be a few concerns about the earnings reports of Amazon and Google.  They look fine here.  It's also a nitpicker's market.  Still may decline over the near term.

---Saudi Arabian leaders seem to be following a Trump playbook.  Say one thing today, another tomorrow, repeat... They are buying time, and may succeed.

---The Red Sox look unstoppable.

Saturday --- seems now to be "some random crazy".  Of course I am well aware that Trump's incendiary remarks and contant lying at all times could lead to this, but if someone did not know that then they don't want to know that.  Meaning, why write about it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Brief comments...

---Elizabeth Warren more or less made a fool of herself in the last day.  Her DNA test stunt will backfire.  Craving attention, she took up Trump on his challenge about her distant heritage and dropped right down to his level.  She would never win a national election, so can't be upset by her action.

---Melania Trump has taken a step into the media spotlight recently with her Africa trip and a major interview.  She should have stayed in the shadows.  With her callous right wing opinions she revealed, in her own words and her distinct accent, that she sounds like the way Nazis were portrayed in old World War II films.

---The stock market is having what is called an "oversold rebound" today.  The reason for the bounce back eludes me.  Steady as an investor, I don't mind.  Tech leads the way as that was being punished partially for political reasons rather than financial analysis results, so that makes sense.  The guess here is that when Jim Cramer on CNBC last Thursday was emphatic that it was far too soon to buy, shaking his head in his pompous way, that was the signal.  Time for a rally.  He is wrong more often than not.  Joking about his actual impact as he is a maven for retail investors, not real players.  What's next is unknown.

---Recently various pundits and supposed analysts on CNBC have once again begun touting international stocks as the right place to be.  For their audience, it is almost always the wrong place to be.  An investor can own international through multi-national U.S. stocks, and have the benefit of the most transparent capital market in the world.

---American League --- favor Boston for sure.   National League --- undecided, although leaning toward L.A., as Dodgers vs. the Red Sox would be like old time baseball card collecting days.  Who were the Brewers and Astros in the late 1950's.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Market drops, Trump talks...

This is hardly worth saying.  When the market was going up, Trump took credit.  When the market has a correction, Trump goes into blame mode.  Saying the Fed is going wild, saying the Fed is loco, has gone crazy, has a ridiculous policy, and on and on.  No self reflection, no self control, no perspective, that's our President.

This is unprecedented, at least in the post WWII era.  When there is market turmoil the President, the regulators, and most responsible legislators band together to project a sense of calm and control.  This President goes on the attack, as if he has panicked too.  Today he commented on the Federal budget deficit(it is normal for any entity to borrow by the way) and said "I"am paying higher rates and "I" don't like it.  The Federal budget is his?  This is the rant of an aspiring autocrat.

We have a sense of why the market corrected yesterday.  The continuation of this substantial decline, sharply at day's end, could by some be partially attributed to a complete absence of executive leadership.  Will Treasury Secretary Mnuchin provide any substantive advice. No. Will the fawning Larry Kudlow do so?  Absolutely not. Pence knows nothing about markets. Wilbur Ross is napping.  Sarah Huckabee is yapping.  Melania is trying on shoes.  Hope Hicks is gone.  Who is in charge?  Is it just the fringe economist Navarro who has the President's short attention span working by talking in sound bites?

And on and on...

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Two hugely consequential events...

Here at 4pm, contemplating two major events today.  One is man made and on paper and one is from nature and will negatively impact countless lives.  The equity market's sharp decline would be major news on any other day.  With Hurricane Michael ongoing, it could feel inconsequential.

First, the market decline seemed overdue.  Equities kept edging up despite multiple reasons for concern.  Today it was not just rising rates or a few disappointments in earnings.  It was not simply a rejection of tech's dominance.  It was, at least for a day, a panic of portfolio adjustment.  Is it possible that the weather's unpredictability, the rapid surprise of the overwhelming power of this storm, made investors in mass question the vulnerability of their investment portfolios.  That may be a stretch, just a thought.

We will simply watch as the storm progresses, as the television news will show us the same segments over and over again.  Once again reporters will be holding onto street signs, wading through water, and struggling to stay upright.  It seems like a right of passage for the profession.  At this point, it appears that the devastation could be widespread.

It does put market events into perspective.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Current events...

The article and photos on the Trump family wealth in the New York Times yesterday was almost unprecedented in length .  It covered two fifths of the front page and seven full NYT pages within the first section.  There were many things in the article that were familiar here, a few that will be mentioned.  A reader will only understand if they have had the patience to read the article.  Just to begin, the article begins with and at times reverts to many things that have been written about before in the paper of record and elsewhere.  Much more detail is added.  A few brief comments:

---With some knowledge of New York after having been here for 38 years, it can safely be said that what the article describes about Fred Trump's real estate business is, simply, the truth about how it works.  Lawyers are essential to get anything done, rule and regulation skirting is their job, documents are hard to pin down as accurate or not due to the overwhelming amount that exist, and who people know is immensely important.  Litigation is a part of the life.  That's where Donald Trump's fortune came from and that was well known.  Fred Trump worked within that system and would not have been seen as dishonest inside it.  He was a long term and valued client of several major banks, one of which was part of my life.  Compared to his father, Donald Trump was a different story, and that is not really news.

---Donald Trump was a successful self-promoter, working one creditor off against another until, by the early 1990's, no major New York bank did business with him other than operational services such as clearing.  Foreign banks and some U.S. regional banks trying to become big shots were his sources of bank funds after that time.

---One bizarre fact, totally new here.  The mailing address for the shell company that was a key part of the money laundering and tax evasion schemes of Fred Trump and Donald Trump is about one mile from our house on Long Island.  A senior Trump partner lived here, and ran the company out of his house.

That's enough.  More would be tedious, if this has not already been so.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Market comment...

Do I dare try to do this anymore?  The market today was relatively static overall, but it feels as if there is a rumbling of something to come, a tremor.  The climb of gold, GLD, was an unusual event relative to the past year.  Inevitably contrarian approaches to this market will arise, and the thought  always is whether someone knows more than others.  Someone does, but who.  That varies.  As an example, in a widely watched interview with Warren Buffett two weeks ago, he touted airline stocks as undervalued and suggested owning the big four as he does.  Having Delta and American here, they had a bump after that day and have been dropping ever since.  Oracle of Oh.

Facebook continued its collapse at the rate of 2% a day and until this abates, few will come in as it looks as if some major positions are being dumped.  Small fry like me just watches.  Two tech additions in recent months have been going in different directions, although both slipped today ---Roku down 5%, but no worry as it's been a rocket overall and Red Hat, -2% for today and down as a position.  Banks are stagnant recently as they should be.  They have done well and can sit and rest for awhile. They are not research plays, not even their own research for the most part.

So that's my two cents worth, if that much. Since CNBC is not a daily payment, is that saying this is worth something more.

Jonathan Miles reviews Gary Shteygart

The Sunday New York Times Book Review, 9/30, has a review of  Gary Shteygart's "Lake Success" by Jonathan Miles.  Miles has been a favorite, and he certainly does not overload on publishing.  As a reviewer of Shteygart, he is a good choice.  Humor is a central part of both author's writing, but done with skilled powers of observation that speak to serious issues as well.  About one third of the way through "Lake Success" at the moment, that approach seems to be on track.

There are two differences.  With Miles, when a book is finished, a bigger message resonates after all of the clever language and story lines are done.  With Miles, some major characters have depth even after the hijinks are over.  With Shteygart, a book can be immensely enjoyed during the read but, when the book is done, it is done.  If that makes sense.  Maybe "Lake Success" will be a surprise, but if not so what.  To quote the Miles review, "Gary Shteygart holds his adopted country up to the light, turns it, squints, turns it some more, and finds himself grimacing and laughing in almost equal measure."  A current book that can do that is needed.