Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pre-Apple Blahs

I am writing this with less than a half hour to go before Apple reports its earnings although by the time it is published the news will be out.

Wouldn't it be nice if your company got such attention? The world has been on hold for days leading into the cult's revelations. Did they manage expectations? We'll see but don't you feel like you need a shower after earnings season? You've been managed, manipulated, distracted and, if you guess wrong, embarrassed.

When did earnings become so, so important on each report? Wasn't the long-term trend in earnings the secret to making money and not buying the rumor and selling the fact on a day-to-day basis. I sound like an old codger but today's markets move too fast for their own good. Remember when 10% was a good year? Now it is a few days.  Come on, Netflix jumps 25% on one single earnings report? They did not exactly cure cancer (OK, I cheated and I am writing some of this after the bell).

I've been away from blogging for a while for two reasons:

1 - I was away on a cruise with my son for his 21st birthday. Rock Legends. Poolside concerts at sea by the original artists or derivatives of the orignals - Foreigner, Kansas, Bad Company, Bachman Turner, Foghat, Lynyrd Skynrd, Molly Hatchett, Marshall Tucker, Pat Travers - boom boom, out go the lights!  You did not expect a blog during that, did you?

2 - There is nothing to say. Between the crap in Washington, the self-anointed gods at the Fed and a stock market in total disconnect from the economy, what can anyone do? Is it me - burned out? Or have cherished concepts such as sector rotation and momentum been trumped by the 24/7 news cycle?  Maybe I should get Honey Boo Boo on board. At least she knows how to make money.

It has not just been the past few days, either, despite the Apple countdown. Have you seen NYSE volume? it is low, low, low and don't try to blame it on ETFs. Retail is not engaged at all and that leaves machines to trade with machines at lightning speed but based on math, not supply and demand.

Yes, I know, I am whining once again but I do not have the luxury of doing nothing. My clients pay for daily or weekly reports and that is what I must deliver. Let me tell you, the one day off I took for the cruise (the second in 12 years) and the four days of absolutely zero internet connectivity was bliss. And when I got back to civilization (or was I leaving civilization to return to the modern world?) absolutely everything was just as I left it. Everything. The Dow. Bonds. Dollar, PIIGS, Gold and the rest of the CRB index. There were not even any fires to put out in my own business.

Is it any wonder I say on a desert island I'd be the first one eaten because I have no useful skills such as medicine, construction, hunting or entertainment.

I have many friends in the analysis business and most of them feel the same way. The advent of free information, regardless of its quality, changed the game and there are far too many qualified people giving it away for free just to market themselves to eventually get paid. 

This would indeed be a good time for that sabbatical.  Too bad my mortgage holder would object.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Congress Saved Us!

Of course the title of this blog post is sarcastic. You all know me better than that.And if you are sick of reading about the fiscal cliff, just skip to the bottom two paragraphs.

I don't know who to credit but somebody said that the opposite of PROgress is CONgress. How can so many individually accomplished people become such a collective failure? Forget that it took months to even try to make a deal on the fiscal cliff but the deal they worked out did very little. And as usual the unintended consequences of trying to protect the middle class from tax increases did exactly the opposite. Taxes on everyone who actually pays taxes went up.

No, tax rates were "reduced" back to the previous Bush rates that expired. Now everyone is a tax cutter. Vote for me! I cut your taxes!

But look at your next paycheck and tell me what you see. Payroll taxes are back. And look at your brokerage statements. Investment taxes are up for many (not all). And don't forget not to die because that rate went up too.

This takes hypocrisy a whole new level.

Lewis Black once said,
"The only thing dumber than a Democrat or a Republican is when those pricks work together. You see, in our two-party system, the Democrats are the party of no ideas and the Republicans are the party of bad ideas."
I disagree. It is Democrats with bad ideas and Republicans with no ideas.

We are in deep doo-doo and congress does not have the incentive to fix it. Patch it, yes (vote for me!) but fixing it means saying "no" to people. We need the fiscal cliff. We need China to stop buying our bonds. We need an oil shock. We need  a food crisis. We need the economy to tank.

Yes, we need any or all of those things. Yes, they will be painful. But the only way an economy can heal itself is to go through the steps and the longer we put it off the worse it will be. Government cannot heal an economy. Government only gets in the way like bad medicine with killer side effects. The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.