Friday, June 28, 2013

Must be a top

Sentiment is the dark side of the force when it comes to the markets. We all get price action, momentum and even cycles such as Sell in May. But sentiment? Can be subjective. And freaky. Where else can good be bad and bad be good. Or is dope good and phat good but whack is bad?

When sentiment is really high, everyone likes it so it should do well, right? Nope. Everyone has already bought it so there is nobody left.

My personal sentiment has indeed reached an extreme. I have been looking at this market since Unkle Ben fired up the helicopter and seeing nothing good about it - except that it keeps going up. Nothing matters but the Fed and that was proven May 22 and again last week under hints of tapering. And again when the feral hogs came out to play and the market rallied when some Fed officials said they did not mean it or we just misunderstood.

I am so fed up, no pun intended, with the manipulation of the market and government meddling that I really do want to hang up my slide rule. I joke all the time about chucking it all and opening up a juice bar in Key West. Deep down, I am only half-kidding.

In past PowerPoint presentations I talked about sentiment saying things like, "What happens when entire aisles in the supermarket are dedicated to the Atkins diet and the low-carb lifestyle?"  The answer is that it is time to buy bread and cereal stocks.

What happens when the NY Times puts a growling bear on the front page of the news section? Time to buy stocks. And what happens when a major player in commodities trading closes shop? Time to buy commodities.

What happens when my inner bear cannot take it any more? What happens when my inner Libertarian thinks the government is the cause, not solution, to most of our problems?

Time to double down and start marketing my services harder. Talk about cognitive dissonance as right now I want to quit. If someone offered me a job even tangentially related to what I now do I would probably take it.

That means that things are going to change for the better in my world. Maybe it will be a new job. Or maybe everyone else is about to understand that the emperor (economy, President, Fed, political parties) has no clothes and I am about to have my best year ever as a market analyst.

...but it sure would be easier to let someone else worry about the business end of things while I help clients make some money.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Love Your Spam

We've all seen the Nigerian pitch to share a few million from a deceased client. We've all gotten offers to make our manhood supreme, even if we possess womanhood. There is trouble with our bank account that needs verification. And of course, it is always time to get in on the ground floor before the company's stock takes off. 

Have you ever read these things all the way through? Hilarious at times but mostly they are good for a chuckle, well, if you have a geek side like me. To wit:

Good day,
We are interested in your Goods which you displayed in the site and we want to purchase some of the products on this site for our ref. please send us more information about your company for our ref. please send to our company official email address

Best Regards
Mr Edwin Martez
Purchasing Manager
Edwin Associates
Address: 479 Allen Avenue
By Charles Walter
State : stockholm ----the 51st state
Mobile Phone : 1-330-3436799 ----Ohio area code ----Taiwan email address

The scary - and sad - part is that people fall for this stuff.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Nuts Passwords

All the talk about the government snooping on our communications sparked yet another rant. This time it is about security - specifically passwords.

I get it, the online world is fraught with hidden danger and identity theft is a big deal. I have no problem jumping through a hoop or two to prove I am me when I log into a website or call customer service via the old telly.

But as with getting a rectal exam at the airport before heading to the gate, some security measures are ridiculous. There is a limit up with which any sane person will not put (go read your Churchill). I have already cut back on my flying. Does Grandma's wheelchair really need a pat down? Am I really going to mix up a liquid bomb on board with my Evian, Starbucks and Enfamil?  At five bucks each, I am going to drink every last drop of those bad boys myself.

Wait, I said bomb! Hey NSA, my cell phone number is 516-647-7466. You know where to find me - trying to eke out a living, put two kids through college and raise a special needs child.

But let's take this to something more mundane and really only an annoyance - passwords. Why are some so simple and some so complicated? My first Libertarian reaction is that everyone is covering their collective backsides trying not to get sued. Hey, we made your password so strong that even you could not remember it. I  don't even bother with some of them anymore and opt just to reset the damn thing each time I use a particular website.

I think we all agree that simple passwords are really good enough for boring e-commerce sites like Poland Spring. They deliver water jugs to my door and if someone wanted to get into my account they could stop delivery or have the company dump 20 or more 5-gallon jugs at my door. Hey, go ahead and change my credit card to yours, I don't mind. Any password should be a-OK on this site.

Then there are sexier retailers such as electronics, jewelry and other products that can be delivered anywhere. Yeah, I don't want anyone monkeying around in there ordering flat screens and blue diamonds. They can require say at least six characters with at least one letter and number.

Finally, there is the heavy stuff - banks, social security, credit cards - where serious damage can be done in an instant. Eight characters with letters, numbers and maybe even capital letters is perfectly acceptable, especially since my browser saves them anyway.

So, why then does one bank and one credit card I have require the least secure version? Why does JetBlue say that if I change my password (reset it after forgetting it) that I cannot use any of the last 20 passwords I have used already. Forget that it is just an airline where the credit card and traveler name must match. I can see not reusing the last three passwords but 20? Come on, you are not that important.

I can understand why the New York State tax website demands exactly eight characters but why does E-Z Pass NY - the electronic  bridge and highway toll service - demand letters, numbers and capitals? Is somebody going to void my electronic tag? Maybe. Perhaps someone wants to switch their car to my account? Nope, I still have the tag. Or order themselves a tag? Nope, it will be delivered to my address.

I get why my online merchant account requires long upper and lower case with numbers passwords but so does Kohl's. And AT&T.

But here is the real pièce de résistance. My daughter's college account not only requires letters and numbers but also special characters. But not just any group of letters and numbers - no email addresses and names. OK, that's cool. But no actual words, either. So, "blunt@1234" is no good. Neither would "youhavetobekidding$3."

This is a college account, not a mortgage loan. I had to actually think of sounds and made-up words from when I was a kid so I would not have to resort to a random letter generator. And speaking of that, if the restrictions are that tight, why not just assign something to us when we sign up? The only reason to let someone choose their own password is so they can choose something they can remember.

I'd love to tell you what I ended up creating but I don't need the government looking at my daughter's grades.

So listen up on-line people, most of you are just not that important in terms of need for security. Identity thieves are not registering for classes or buying me a new iPhone.

Nobody is going to rush the cockpit now that they are secured. Nobody is going to take the time to crack the code of some website unless there is a payoff worth the risk (money theft, SEC or FDA rulings, the military).  Nobody is trying to blow up the passenger pickup area at the airport so how about stationing some of that security at the entrances to the LIRR train tunnel in Queens?

Can we please be reasonable and make the security commensurate with the risk?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Headline Corny

I've been writing a financial column for 12 years and I have the same pet peeve. In the endless search to stand out from the crowd and get people to click on my links, editors slap all sorts of "interesting" titles on my stuff.

My all-time fave was from the Barron's print edition many years ago when I wrote a bullish article (hey, it happens) on the stock market. The title? Wolf Whistle Bait.   Apparently, the market looked like a pretty girl eliciting whistles from the wolves, i.e. boys standing on the corner.

The more usual fare is less obtuse and filled with corn. Gold stocks shine! Oil stocks hit a slick. Teachers do it with class.

I have to put up with the single headline like that as I do understand the media needs to sell papers (register eyeballs). That translate directly into subscription sales and ad revenues. Got it.

But today on Fox Business during the rare actual business segment on the Imus in the Morning Show, I happened to catch the anchor with the quin-fecta (trifecta, quadfecta, quinfecta - look it up!) of corn.

Talking about the top five market sectors of the previous whatever.

Semiconductors chipped in with gains
Telecom services dialed in
Pharmaceuticals had the right prescription
Investors were thirsty for beverage stocks and
Oil and gas stocks gushed in the lead

Makes you want to slap the writer and the anchor for her complicity.