“For every good idea, ten thousand idiotic ones must first be posed, sifted, sniffed, tried, and discarded. A mind that's afraid to toy with the ridiculous will never come up with the brilliantly original."
– David Brin, Orbit interview
As I begin my 15th year of writing Thoughts from the Frontline – some 700-odd newsletters plus 400–500 editions of Outside the Box, 6 books, and scores of special reports – I decided to take a random walk back through some of my writings (and your comments!). With some glaring and notable exceptions that I would like to take off the internet (but won’t because to do so seems somewhat intellectually dishonest), the body of work has held together pretty well. My writing style has matured and so has my thought process – or at least it seems so to me. Writing this letter has been the best personal educational tool I have ever experienced, enriching my life far more than I have probably enriched yours. I’ve done my 10,000 hours. Plus. No college, no course or seminar, could provide me with the wide range of materials I’ve studied.
And that is the thing that stands out to me: the wide variety of topics we’ve covered over the years. The themes vary from week to week and month to month. I write about what interests me that week – where my research and curiosity are taking me. I am, of course, influenced by my somewhat heavy travel schedule and the interaction I have with readers from all over the world (some 65 countries now), both directly and through correspondence. I seem to attract a number of readers who are quite willing to push back and make me think about all sides of an issue. For that I’m grateful.
I want to thank each and every reader, many of whom have been there for all 15 years and some who just joined my assembly of best friends…
Paul Krugman and other notables dismiss the notion of a skills gap, though employers continue to claim they’re having trouble finding workers with the skills they need. And if you look at the evidence one way, Krugman et al. are right. But this week an interesting post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network by guest columnist James Bessen suggests that employers may not just be whining, they may really have a problem filling some kinds of jobs.
Unsurprisingly, the problem is with new technology and the seeming requirement that workers learn new skills on the job – you know, like when the student pilot has to take the helm of a 747 in a disaster movie. Perhaps there’s not quite the same pressure in the office or on the factory floor, but the challenges can be almost as complex. Most of us have had the experience of needing to learn completely new ways of doing things, sometimes over and over again as the technology for whatever we’re doing keeps changing.
The proverb about old dogs and new tricks is being reversed, as old dogs are required to learn new tricks to keep up with the rest of the old dogs, not to mention the new pups. It’s either that or go sit on the porch. What follows is not a very long Outside the Box, but it’s thought-provoking.
There hasn’t been much happening in Uptown Dallas chez Mauldin. Lots of reading, routine workouts, long phone conversations with friends, and the occasional appearance of offspring. The amount of material hitting my inbox has slowed down considerably as well, although I know that will change in a week as everyone comes back from holidays. And even if we’re not on vacation, there is a certain slack we seem to cut ourselves in late summer.
Growing up, Labor Day marked the beginning of a brand new school year. Even though many school districts…
Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.
A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election.
Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother?
A new study scheduled to be published in this fall by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms our worst suspicions.
Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens.
Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
Instead, lawmakers respond to the policy demands of wealthy individuals and monied business interests – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.
Before you’re tempted to say “duh,” wait a moment. Gilens’ and Page’s data come from the period 1981 to 2002. This was before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in “Citizens United,” prior to SuperPACs, and before the Wall Street bailout.
So it’s likely to be even worse now.
But did the average citizen ever have much power? The eminent journalist and commentator Walter Lippman argued in his 1922 book “Public Opinion” that the broad public didn’t know or care about public policy. Its consent was “manufactured” by an elite that manipulated it. “It is no longer possible … to believe in the original dogma of democracy,” Lippman concluded.
Yet American democracy seemed robust compared to other nations that in the first half of the twentieth century succumbed to
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
– Albert Einstein
Genius is a rising stock market.
– John Kenneth Galbraith
Any plan conceived in moderation must fail when circumstances are set in extremes.
– Prince Metternich
I'm forever blowing bubbles, Pretty bubbles in the air
They fly so high, nearly reach the sky, Then like my dreams they fade and die
Fortune's always hiding, I've looked everywhere
I'm forever blowing bubbles, Pretty bubbles in the air
You can almost feel it in the air. The froth and foam on markets of all shapes and sizes all over the world. It’s exhilarating, and the pundits who populate the media outlets are bubbling over. There’s nothing like a rising market to lift our moods. Unless of course, as Prof. Kindleberger famously cautioned (see below), we are not participating in that rising market. Then we feel like losers. But what if the rising market is … a bubble? Are we smart enough to ride it high and then bail out before it bursts? Research says we all think that we are, yet we rarely demonstrate the actual ability.
My friend Grant Williams thinks the biggest bubble around is in complacency. I agree that is a large one, but I think even larger bubbles, still building, are those of government debt and government promises. When these latter two burst, and probably simultaneously, that will mark the true bottom for this cycle now pushing 90 years old.
So, this week we'll think about bubbles. Specifically, we'll have a look at part of the chapter on bubbles from Code Red, my latest book, coauthored with Jonathan Tepper, which we launched late last year. I was putting this chapter together about this time last year while in Montana, and so in a lazy August it is good to remind ourselves of the problems that will face us when everyone returns to their desks in a few weeks. And note, this is not the whole
China continues to be front and center on my list of concerns, even moreso than the latest Federal Reserve press release or fluctuation in the Dow (although you should pay attention). I believe China is the single biggest risk to world economic equilibrium, even larger than Japan or Europe. This week my young associate Worth Wray provides us with a keenly insightful essay on what is currently happening in China. I will admit to not having written about China very much in the past five years, primarily because, prior to Worth’s coming to work with me I really had no secure understanding of what was happening there. I know some readers may be surprised, but I really don’t like to write about things I have no understanding of. Worth has helped me focus. (It helps that he studied Mandarin and lived in China for a while, and is obsessed with China.)
Worth has been working directly with me for over one year now. I have had the privilege of working with a number of impressive (lately mostly younger) people over the years, but Worth brings something extra to the table. He is one of the best young macroeconomic minds I have been with in years. He constantly challenges me to step up my game. And so without further ado, let me give you Worth’s thinking regarding our latest discussions on China.
Transformation or Bust, China Version
The People’s Republic of China is running up against its debt capacity; and its consumption-repressing, credit-fueled, investment-heavy growth model is nearly exhausted. History suggests that China’s “miracle” could dissipate into a long period of painfully slow growth or terminate abruptly with a banking crisis and sudden collapse. That said, China’s modern economic transformation has defied historical precedents for decades. However unlikely, China could surprise us again. Miracles will happen in the Age of Transformation.
What happens next depends largely on the economic wisdom and political resolve of China’s reformers, who must find a way to gradually deleverage overextended regional governments and investment-intensive sectors while simultaneously rebalancing the national economy toward a more sustainable consumption-driven, service-intensive model. The
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
Quick take: Based on the August S&P 500 average of daily closes, the Crestmont P/E is now 90% above its arithmetic mean and at the 98th percentile of this fourteen-decade monthly metric.
The 2011 article P/E: Future On The Horizon by Advisor Perspectives contributor Ed Easterling provided an overview of Ed's method for determining where the market is headed. His analysis was quite compelling. Accordingly I include the Crestmont Research data to my monthly market valuation updates.
The first chart is the Crestmont equivalent of the Cyclical P/E10 ratio chart I've been sharing on a monthly basis for the past few years.
Peter Sekaer Times Square with Father Duffy statue 1937
This it. The is the biggest we’re going to get. We won’t grow anymore. Not bigger, not wider, not taller (just thicker perhaps, in the sense of more stupid). I return to this from time to time, and still I never see even just one voice in the media with even one hair’s breadth of doubt about the overarching theme of growth at all costs. Is this a sign that economists and other poorly educated people have taken over the world, or is it simply what we are all programmed for?
The only discussion out there is how we can best return to growth. Never if we should return to it. But still, when I look around me I don’t have the feeling that we desperately need to grow bigger. Th...
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Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. (Ticker: BWLD) shares are in positive territory in early-afternoon trading on Thursday, reversing earlier losses to stand up 0.50% on the session at $148.50 as of 12:15 pm ET. Options volume on the restaurant chain is running approximately three times the daily average level due to heavy put activity in the October expiry contracts. It looks like one or more traders are buying the Oct 140/145 put spread at a net premium of roughly $1.45 per contract. As of the time of this writing, the spread has traded approximately 3,000 times against very little open interest at either striking price. The put spread may be a hedge to protect a long stock position against a roughly 6% pullback in the price of the underlying through October expiration, or an outright bearish play anticipating a dip in BWLD shares in the next couple of months. The spread makes money at expiration if shares in BWLD decline 3.3% from the current price of $148.50 to breach the breakeven point...
Gradient Senior Analyst Nicholas Yee reports on six companies that are using a variety of techniques to shift pretax profits to lower-tax areas. Featured in this USA Today, article, the companies include CELG, ALTR, VMW, NVDA, LRCX, and SNPS.
Mt Gox may be long gone in the annals of bankruptcy, but its founder refuses to go gentle into that insolvent night. And, as CoinDesk reports, the disgraced former CEO of the one-time premier bitcoin trading platform has decided to give it a second try by launching new web hosting service called Forever.net and is registered under both Karpeles’ name and that of Tibanne, the parent company of Mt Gox.
Author Helen Davis Chaitman is a nationally recognized litigator with a diverse trial practice in the areas of lender liability, bankruptcy, bank fraud, RICO, professional malpractice, trusts and estates, and white collar defense. In 1995, Ms. Chaitman was named one of the nation's top ten litigators by the National Law Journal for a jury verdict she obtained in an accountants' malpractice case. Ms. Chaitman is the author of The Law of Lender Liability (Warren, Gorham & Lamont 1990)... Since early 2009, Ms. Chaitman has been an outspoken advocate for investors in Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (more here).
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Well PSW Subscribers....I am still here, barely. From my last post a few months ago to now, nothing has changed much, but there are a few bargins out there that as investors, should be put on the watch list (again) and if so desired....buy a small amount.
First, the media is on a tear against biotechs/pharma, ripping companies for their drug prices. Gilead's HepC drug, Sovaldi, is priced at $84K for the 12-week treatment. Pundits were screaming bloody murder that it was a total rip off, but when one investigates the other drugs out there, and the consequences of not taking Sovaldi vs. another drug combinations, then things become clearer. For instance, Olysio (JNJ) is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients AND...
I just wanted to be sure you saw this. There’s a ‘live’ training webinar this Thursday, March 27th at Noon or 9:00 pm ET.
If GOOGLE, the NSA, and Steve Jobs all got together in a room with the task of building a tremendously accurate trading algorithm… it wouldn’t just be any ordinary system… it’d be the greatest trading algorithm in the world.
Well, I hate to break it to you though… they never got around to building it, but my friends at Market Tamer did.
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This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security or other financial instrument. Securities or other financial instruments mentioned in this material are not suitable for all investors. Any opinions expressed herein are given in good faith, are subject to change without notice, and are only intended at the moment of their issue as conditions quickly change. The information contained herein does not constitute advice on the tax consequences of making any particular investment decision. This material does not take into account your particular investment objectives, financial situations or needs and is not intended as a recommendation to you of any particular securities, financial instruments or strategies. Before investing, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, as necessary, seek professional advice.