Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Deficiences Of Capitalism

I just finished reading Jeremy Grantham's February 2012 GMO quarterly missive, The Longest Quarterly Letter Ever (pdf).

Now, I've always taken what most prominent and heralded money-managers say with a grain of salt because it's their job to attempt to marginalize the individual investors' abilities to achieve success on their own. Especially when they say things like - "If you cannot resist temptation, you absolutely MUST NOT manage your own money." or "Only a handful of the hundreds of senior economists and bankers seemed to see what was coming."

It's imperative to remember that fund managers' success in business isn't fully dependent upon their investment successes, but rather, their ability to convince you that they can invest your money better than you can do it yourself. In actuality, most cannot. They're salespeople, and they generate their income from fees charged to assets under management, regardless of performance.

But, I digress.

The reason I mention Mr. Grantham's letter is because I agree with Part II: Your Grandchildren Have No Value (And Other Deficiencies of Capitalism) and his criticism of some the aspects of capitalism as it stands today. It provides great food for thought, and criticism often leads to greater awareness.

One paragraph excerpt that I especially found insightful is -
It gets worse, for what capitalism has always had is money with which to try to buy influence. Today’s version of U.S. capitalism has died and gone to heaven on this issue. A company is now free to spend money to influence political outcomes and need tell no one, least of all its own shareholders, the technical owners. So, rich industries can exert so much political influence that they now have a dangerous degree of influence over Congress. And the issues they most influence are precisely the ones that matter most, the ones that are most important to society’s long-term well-being, indeed its very existence. Thus, taking huge benefits from Nature and damaging it in return is completely free and all attempts at government control are fought with costly lobbying and advertising. And one of the first victims in this campaign has been the truth. If scientific evidence suggests costs and limits be imposed on industry to protect the long-term environment, then science will be opposed by clever disinformation. It’s now getting to be an old and obvious story, but because their propaganda is good and despite the solidness of the data, half of the people believe the problem is a government run wild, mad to control everything. So the “industrial complex” (or parts of it) fights to increase the inherent weaknesses of capitalism. They deliberately make it ever harder to reach the very long-term decisions that will serve us all. The influence of the Tobacco companies in deliberately obscuring the science to protect profits at a huge cost to society in health costs and lives is a perfect analogy to the energy industries that work hard to confuse the public on scientific measures of damage to health and the environment. Yet it is one that is surprisingly forgotten.
Make sure to take the time to read at least Part II in it's entirety.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The State of Financial Crime

The FBI today released an overview of the problem of white-collar crime throughout America and their response to it in our latest Financial Crimes Report to the Public. The report—which covers the period from October 1, 2009, to September 30, 2011—explains dozens of fraud schemes, outlines emerging trends, details FBI accomplishments in combating financial crimes (including major cases), and offers tips on protecting yourself from these crimes.

So, excessive greed, for a lack of a better word - is NOT good. [Turn up the volume]

FBI: How To Contact Us

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Market Speaks

Although the S&P 500 Index closed out this week on a positive note again, it didn't have that end of the week "oomph" that I was expecting to see.

It seems like there's a little hesitation on the part of some investors to fully believe that we're in the midst of a bull market rally. They don't realize that there's been a significant shift in the publics' attitude, and that this change in perception is what's making the markets rise. They're still fearful of something going wrong, and will be even further left behind when the realization finally hits them.

I'm not sure what more I could say to convince those bearish investors that what's happening is real. So, instead of me providing another analogy of the stock market sometimes acting like a beautiful but fickle woman again, I thought I'd ask her to explain what she's feeling herself.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekly Wrap

Another positive week for the S&P 500 Index. Except for a marginal loss last week, this is the sixth time out of the last seven weeks that the index has been in the black. It ended this week at 1361, a nine-month high. It's also up just over 8% for the year so far, and like I previously forecast, on the way to that 1400 level that we haven't seen since early 2008. So, I'm still holding my long positions.

As I've been saying for months now - the stock market is like a beautiful woman, fickle and unforgiving at times. But, if you realize her potential, believe in her, show her some appreciation, and invest some money in her, she'll do her best to make you happy that you went long on her.

But, don't just take my word for it, see for yourself. Each week more and more skeptical American investors are also beginning to see the magic that I see, and are burning to hook up with her.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekly Wrap

After posting marginal gains throughout this past week, the S&P 500 Index gave back those gains and a little more on Friday, leading to the index's first weekly loss of the year, closing out at 1343.

What do I make of Friday's pullback? One day does not a market make, this rally's alive and kicking.

If you've been an individual investor and daily stock market watcher like I have for years, you come to gain a certain feel for things, and a confidence in your abilities. It's nothing tangible or quantifiable mind you, and it can't rationally be explained to someone who hasn't walked in your shoes. It's what I previously referred to as "being one with the markets". Other people may refer to it as psychosis.

But, the way I see it, the main reason why the stock markets ended the week in the red is because investors having been expecting bad news for months, and now that nothing has materialized, they don't know what to do next. They're uncertain, like deer stuck in front of the headlights of a car, and can't decide which way to move. Given that herd mentality uncertainty, and being that it's the end of the week, the wise move is for them to lock up their gains, get out of the market, and see what happens next week. It has nothing to do with a loss of faith in stocks, just fear of the unexpected.

The S&P 500 index will continue to move ahead, and it will surpass 1400 soon enough. But, it's up you to decide whether you should stay, or whether you should go. Mull over those two choices.

As I've proven over the years, it doesn't take a genius to become a successful individual investor. All it takes is the ability free one's self from the matrix known as Wall Street, to open our minds, to avoid the herd mentality, and to think independently.

Of course, no one will believe it's that simple. So, I've called in a few of my simple-minded friends from the past to speak on behalf of my contrarian abilities, and to share their own opinions about current market conditions. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Friday, February 3, 2012

Weekly Wrap

It looks like calls for this market rally dying earlier in the week were a bit premature. Like I've been saying, if investors open their minds, they will come to know that this rally is not dying. People are just beginning to believe in (or forget about) our corrupt system again.

Data has consistently been pointing to a slow-growing economy, not a faltering one, and corporate profits and cash positions have remained in the upper hemisphere for months. Unemployment levels are slowly but surely falling, and consumers are continuing to spend. But, whether intentional or not, the financial news media has continued to report bearish sentiment. That is - until today.

According to a Bloomberg News report at market close -
U.S. stocks advanced, extending the best start to a year for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since 1989, after a report showed that employment growth topped estimates and the jobless rate unexpectedly fell to 8.3 percent
The S&P 500 Index gained almost 32 basis points for the week, closing up 2.2% at 1345, and the Nasdaq Composite Index reached an 11-year high, closing up 3.2% at 2906. Wall Street is joyous!

But most importantly, and what's not being reported as having an impact on the markets, is the fact that this is an election year. There is absolutely no way that the current administration is going to let both the economy and the markets falter, and will continue to pull out all strings to ensure success.

I'm still bullish, holding long, and expecting even more gains to appear on the near-term horizon.

Related Links - Weekly Wrap for January 30, 2012
The Vanguard Group: Economic Week in Review

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

RIP: Don Cornelius

A lot of younger people probably don't know that Don Cornelius was an American television show host and producer who is best known as the creator of the nationally syndicated hit dance/music franchise Soul Train, which he hosted from 1971 to 1993. According to an AP release today - Los Angeles police say Cornelius has died in California of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

For the past week, I just happened to be thinking about Don and Soul Train, that great TV show that he created. Ask me why I just happened to reflect back on the show, and I can't explain the reason why it came into my thoughts. But, this isn't the first time I've had such unusual thoughts about someone or something right before an important event involving those thoughts occurs. Who knows? Maybe it means something, maybe it doesn't.

But, what I do know is that while recently reflecting back on Soul Train, I found this video that I was going to use to make a point about where both the economy and stock markets are heading in the near future. On the other hand though, maybe it came into my thoughts because it represents what the future holds after we get through this recent period of worldwide turmoil.

So, in memory of that great American entrepreneur, Don Cornelius, I present you with something that "perhaps" he wanted everyone to see. You've left a great legacy, RIP Don.