Getting Screwed Over aka Learning Experiences

One of the tenets of obtaining success is learning how to deal with adversities. The word “adversity” has far too many connotations that may lend one to think it has more in common with an unexpected bump in a well paved road rather, than the well placed sink hole created by others for you to plummet into, hoping you’re never to be seen again.

Trying to sugarcoat the realities or the true challenges one will face on the road to success is in my view counterproductive. I use the analogy: It’s the equivalent of stating you taught someone how to drive in a parking-lot, punched coordinates into some GPS, then handed them the keys and said, “OK, just follow the map.” All the while never revealing they’ll go through dangerous neighborhoods, stretches of wilderness where a gas station is all but nonexistent, or worse – a station they may desperately need covered in more chain-link and pull down grating – it would make Mad Max skeptical.

Business can and is very much at times a blood sport. Make no mistake about it. What you’ll encounter on the road to whatever business success you are trying to achieve is: the landscape is littered with those who thought” “That’ll never happen to me!”

Maybe “that” won’t. But rest assured there’s hundreds if not thousands of “then this will” to take its place just waiting for the chance to test your mettle. How one deals with these in both the during, as well as the aftermath, is what separates the wannabe’s from the will-be’s.

The higher you rise – the more tested you’ll be. As well as the variations and tenacity of those tests. They never stop. It’s just as you grow and understand what the landscape truly is, and how to navigate, as well as traverse, or avoid, is where the ease and comfort levels of knowing what to do take precedent over any skepticism or doubt you once had in your abilities. This is when you begin to not only know deep down in your gut “you can handle this” but you also believe it.

Many “motivational” as well as “success” type coaches and speakers in my view do more harm than good. This is where the “They read someone’s book, who read someone else’s book, and now they wrote a book, so you can go buy their book, about what they read” rant of mine comes from. To me this type of “motivation” or “success” nonsense delivers the same results as the example I laid out above on driving.

Sure, you’re going to get a lot of wide-eyed people overly impressed tingling with anticipation to finally have hold of the wheel, then set loose upon the business tundra teeming with excitement while singing in unison to the radio. However, once they hit that first detour that routes them through a “no go zoned” implied part of a city, along with a flashing red light on the gas gauge in the middle of the night, while being eyed in ways that would make a vulture proud by some meandering thug looking types? The only thing that will be going through the minds of the vast majority of those that bought those sugar-coated maps is: If – and how, they ever get out of this situation alive, the first thing they’re going to do is tear up those maps, and promise themselves to never, ever, take the wheel and drive again.

Anyone who’s driven for a while knows “driving” is far more than anything encompassed in a drivers-ed class. And some have had the unexpected pleasure of encountering the above scenario themselves. (I have, and more than once) However, that doesn’t stop you from driving. You gain the experience, you understand the risks, you watch for signs that may help notify you before it’s to late. But when it comes to business, and success, and such many treat it as it’s a “one time” shot or experience.

I believe for many, it’s because they were told (or sold) the yellow-brick road fantasy version. Sure, the road to riches can be paved in gold, but you must know how to change your own tire if you hit an unexpected pot hole. Because – they’re there, and sometimes – there is no AAA™ to come to your rescue. Yet, that’s OK, for that’s part of the thrill and all. Always remember: If it were easy – everyone would be doing it.

So with that all said I’ll leave you with one quick story from my “You think you’ve been screwed?” files.

I was in the middle of a tumultuous period in my career where I left the helm of one firm and wanted nothing to do with the responsibilities that comes with senior titles. In doing so I took a position with a competitor in a standard sales position starting with zero accounts which was how I wanted it. My only responsibility was for generating my own sales with no other responsibilities. (just to clarify I was the GM at my former company)

Over the ensuing months I reestablished connections and sales with accounts that at the time would not do business with them, but would do business with me. For I had built trust over the years with these accounts and I had a respected reputation within my market.

However, while on the road orders from these accounts came in. I was asked for by name, but the previous sales people who had once dealt with them (and subsequently lost them resulting in why they would not do business there again) told them “I was unavailable at the time, but they would be happy to take their orders and would make sure I saw it as to ensure proper handling.” Well, that’s what was said, but that’s far from what happened.

What was done next was not only pure unprofessionalism on steroids, in reality it was despicable.

The salesperson never told me of the call, ensured that the sale was credited to his account, then proceeded to lie and tell a yarn to the acting GM how “He, made the sale, how this was his account, and how I had nothing to do with it.” We weren’t talking penny accounts here, this was a million dollar and more a year account. I was furious so I went and confronted the then GM. (the discussion was a peer-to-peer level meeting)

In the end I decided rather than infuriate my customer I would just relinquish the account. For I really could care less who had credit as long as both him and I knew who, how, and why the customer came back to begin with. I had just changed so much of my previous life and was more concerned about moving forward. After all I felt as long as the company had the account the better it was for me in the end anyways. I agreed (for I suggested it) to let it pass, but not before I told this “salesperson” a few things on my mind first. Which I did, but if I acted through on how I should have dealt with him, I’d probably be in jail.

Then another customer I had worked on began to show promise and the then GM was just itching to see if I could break through. So. knowing what I had experienced before I did all the talking and negotiating from his office as he listened while I spoke. To his amazement I broke through and landed the account. An account they had tried for years to get but to no avail.

I made an appointment to meet the owner and set up more details and paperwork that needed to be filled out and said I would see him around Monday or Tuesday of the following week. Unbeknownst to me, word went around the office (in an old boys network type fashion) where it was learned I had just landed one of the largest private accounts to come through this company’s door in years, if not ever. (The account had potential for millions of dollars per month as opposed to a year)

What happened next made my earlier example look tame…

The salesman who covered the area which this customer was located called on them that Friday morning in a “Hey, how’s everybody doing, it’s been a while just thought I’d stop in…” where he then proceeded to ask nonchalantly “Oh, by the way. Might that paperwork be ready while I’m here?” and was given the documents I requested. He then came back, did all the above I listed in my previous example and just like the other dirt-bag, proceeded to postulate why this was “their account – not mine.” Bigger problem was: the GM went along with it!

When I entered the office that Friday afternoon you could hear a pin drop for everyone knew what was to transpire next. Was I furious? Of course, did I call both him and everyone else out on the subject? Yes, and more. What did I do? I took it as the learning experience that it was. What did I do with it? I gave my notice and was hired by their largest competitor (who by the way was #1) which had wanted me to begin with yet, I had chosen them for reasons I thought were prudent at the time.

Word got out where I was going and all heck broke loose within the company (for I really did have connections and a reputation for selling) and a panic of how I would leave caused nervousness throughout management. (they were afraid I would do some form of a bad mouthing while leaving a wake of some scotched Earth behind me.) What I did next took them so far off their game as well as shocked them it was near comical, and to this day it’s one of my fondest memories.

I gave them the customary 2 week notice, and much to my amazement they accepted. I was fully prepared to be escorted that moment of the premises which is the case many times. During those 2 weeks I did what they presumed – the unthinkable. I worked at my full capacity fulfilling all my sales functions as if nothing was happening, I kept my mouth shut, I didn’t bad mouth, or say nearly anything to any customers except that I was leaving, and I may contact them again in the coming weeks. I never said where I was going when pressed, I would just reiterate “It wouldn’t be professional to do that today” and moved conversations forward concentrating back to what products needed to be ordered.

On my last day I met with management to finalize my leaving. As he sat there it was obvious he was “loaded for bear” in anticipation for the moment he would have to unload or put up some brave front of an argument to counter any derogatory accusations I may have held back but would now unleash since I was no longer bound to their employment. But I didn’t.

I just went through each of my accounts going over details, special needs, and any other pertinent information one would need to make this a smooth transition. Almost like I was only going on vacation and having my accounts tenderly serviced till I returned. I could see the utter stupefied look every time I handed him another document.

When the meeting concluded I said “Well, that’s it. Is there anything else you need of me?” With a blank expression he looked up and said, “Really? That’s it?” When I responded yes he said, “I must tell you this was not anything of what I was expecting. As a matter of fact, this is the most professional final meeting I’ve ever seen or conducted. We thought for sure you would hold back information or leave us hanging taking it with you.” I responded – why would I do that? That wouldn’t be fair to those customers. Besides, I know who, and where they all are – and more. All you have to do to keep them or any others is compete…

With me.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

The Fed’s Perilous Fake It Till You Make It Strategy May Be Coming Home To Roost

We all know the difference between reality and wishful thinking. Many of us know just how quickly the jaws of reality can crush the life out of unicorn and fairytale stories when fiction is used to cover the facts. Where the businesses and happy customers that are supposedly represented on an income statement turn out to be little more than the Non-GAAP application of a fairy’s wand and pixie dust.

However, this doesn’t stop people from buying in (literally) to the illusion. And what has far more onerous consequences is when the story tellers themselves begin to believe their own works of fiction.

Since the financial meltdown of ’08 one thing has changed in ways never before seen in its voracity, let alone the sheer breath of complacency and acceptance to it. That “change” is what used to be reported or used as benchmarks of statistical data (whether it be of the government supplied sourced or other venue) and the outright publicly displayed willingness to adulterate them.

Some will ask, “Is it really such a big deal? It’s not like reports haven’t been adjusted for decades, what’s the big deal now?”

Part of that question is correct. Yes, we’ve always tried to “smooth” out data to get a more accurate read of what is actually transpiring within an economy and more. As a matter of fact whole companies as well as individuals have built well deserved reputations for doing just that and supplying that advice to businesses and others. However, what is taking place currently (in my opinion) is the practice of “goal-seeking” as in the manipulation of that data; and moving it closer in a perilous pursuit of another methodology that may have far more disastrous consequences e.g., “Fake it till you make it.”

Personally I am all too well versed on this latter dictum. It is used extensively throughout the motivational speaking realm. The problem is not with the idea per se, it’s in the where, why, and how application that causes all the problems. Let me give you a quick example for clarity…

Want to break a habit such as smoking and more? “Fake it till you make it” works perfect here and is absolutely a useful and beneficial frame of mind to accomplish that goal. For as soon as you decide to quit you can begin living and adapting your life to that as a person who doesn’t. Want to begin and start acting like a person of success? You can do the same.

Where the dangerous version of using this example comes into play and is shouted from stages, and books too many to mention here, is when you’re advised to buy or spend (as well as kid yourself into believing this is how the rich do it) money you maybe can’t afford or, get into onerous long-term contracts and financing deals such as a high-end or exotic cars, or homes well above your current income as to “grow” into it. i.e., Fake it till you make it.

Here is where “faking it” only works for so long because someone else comes along and “takes it back” with a Sheriff’s notice for non-payment. The landscape is littered with those who bought in (again literally) to this type of advice. And yet – this is exactly what is taking place in kind at the most powerful monetary body in the world e.g., The Federal Reserve.

Just this past week the “data dependent” Fed. was supplied with the fantastic news that the Dept. of Commerce will now “double seasonally adjust” GDP data. i.e., if at first you don’t succeed – try, try again. This coincides with other reports now that have become outright jokes to anyone with a modicum of business acumen. e.g., The jobs reports, consumer spending, et al. Yet, all this data is exactly what the Fed. points to as confirmation why they should or should not alter or adjust monetary policy. I’m sorry, but this is no longer delirious or delusional economic policy and theories in action. This is out right dangerous.

For how does one now solve the dilemma when investing or anything else market related when data has been flipped from adulterated, to inverted, to an inverted adulteration? (e.g., data was at first adjusted, then it took on the caveat of “bad is now good.” to now where it’s adjusted and can literally imply both good and bad)

As much as that may seem like a play on words, I assure you it’s not. For in today’s markets all that matters is what the Fed. does and when. There is no longer anything approaching what was once known as “fundamental investing” in these markets. “Fundamental” is now nothing more – than front-running. Pure and simple.

And with that now comes another dilemma in this duopoly: Who does the Fed. now want to believe? Their own numbers? (e.g., like those of the Atlanta Fed.) Or: the double seasonally adjusted, goal-seeked versions?

One heralds: “Bad news is good, and worse is fantastic!” implying the Fed. is hamstrung to the zero bound along with keeping the narrative alive for the possibility of a resurgence of QE. And the other portends: “Bad news is now going to be adjusted to show good, and better news will be seen as “mission accomplished” releasing the Fed. to both raise rates sooner, and possibly faster, than the market anticipates. Welcome to your new version of “clarity” as portrayed by current Fed. speak.

The argument can be made (in which I’m trying to do just that) as of this week: all “clarity” as to what any relevant data point used and professed by the so-called “smart crowd” as to infer what the Fed. may, or may not do, in the coming months – has been completely and outright nullified. The Fed. by virtue of their own clarifying distinctions when they moved from “patient” to “data dependent” means one will lose their minds (as well as money) let alone patience as they now try to extrapolate what data point the Fed. now views as determinant.

Let’s use a very possible (if not plausible) example to express the above today, in real-time…

You are a fund manager with a considerable amount of money at risk within the markets whether private or customer funded. As of last Monday you were of the mindset along with the group think based upon confirmation expressed by “clarity” statements emanating from the Fed. that “data” is what will determine their policy adjustments. And so, with the narrative of “bad news is good news for stocks” you are fully exposed to equities. That has been the bread and butter trade of “insight” for nearly 6 years.

However, just days ago (going into a long holiday weekend) you just learned: the remaining “data points” that helped buttress those assumptions (i.e., deteriorating macro data points) are now going to be “double seasonally adjusted” as to show that maybe in the eyes of those discerning those numbers – they just aren’t as bad as they first portended to be. Now what?

Are you so sure the Fed. won’t raise rates in June? Maybe they won’t, maybe they won’t this year, or in our lifetime. Who knows. However, exactly who is this “data” being adjusted for to show more “clarity?” The public at large? Or – The Fed? And if it’s the latter; then all previous assumptions of what, why, when, and how are now moot. Welcome to where double speak aligns with goal-seeked expressed via Fed. speak. Good luck with any clarity in that equation. Let alone what the headline reading, algorithmic front-running arsenal of HFT vacuum tubes will now interpret it.

The Fed. embarked on the greatest experiment in the history of monetary policy based on the ultimate “fake it till you make it” strategy. They have openly stated the underlying premise (or illusion) why it was pursuing this path was for: The wealth effect. However, as with most that ever followed this type of strategy without fully comprehending the dangers – trouble is now lurking around every corner.

What was once implied as “good” can now mean just that, which in turn means bad for stocks. What was said as being “transitory” can now mean to have lasting repercussions to stock values. What was earlier programmed and algo fueled to mean “buy, buy. buy” could this Tuesday be flipped with a switch in code to mean “sell everything!” No one knows because “clarity” just took on a whole new meaning with “double seasonally adjusted.”

The only one’s that may be more surprised with the coming ramifications to a “fake it till you make it” world of monetary policy are those that still believe it’s been their investing prowess over the last 6 years that’s been the force behind their performance. For one thing will be certain.

Will JBTFD (just buy the dip) work in the markets any longer when monetary policy has more in common with trying to figure out what the definition of “is” is? And if you’re confused going forward don’t feel bad. Just take solace in how confused the HFT headline reading algo’s will be going forward. Because as the volumes as well as market data shows:

They’re the only one’s still in this market.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Know Whom You’re Speaking To

Since it’s Memorial Day weekend I thought I’d share a memory that is both of a cautionary measure as well as reminding us, when it comes to laughing – sometimes it’s ourselves where we must start.

There are times when we can’t help ourselves but to express either our dismay or, we’ll laud over someone we think should hear our thoughts. Doesn’t matter whether good or bad. There are those times we throw the transmission drive of our mouths into “peddle to the metal” status and let-er-rip! Who cares where the finish line is for as far as we’re concerned: speed and volume is all that matters here.

Many times we do this for we’ll believe we may never get this chance again. Problem is, we may never get the chance again for reasons we didn’t think about before we started. That’s why there’s a brake pedal and sometimes a clutch to help put all those forces together smoothly as well as helping to slow it down when necessary.

However, that doesn’t hinder us from using our tools in reckless abandonment. And just like any vehicle; sooner or later it’ll careen out of control and crash from being driven like a maniac. We find the same consequences happening when our lips flap wildly out of control. Let me share a glaring example of “reckless driving” perpetrated by yours truly.

Years back I had the pleasure to share a ride to Logan airport with a senior V.P. of operations for a very famous, and very large corporation. (not being coy, I’ll share who later) We introduced ourselves and I inferred he was one of the “big wigs” at CVS™.

Near immediately after the pleasantries I launched into a near fawning over the idea his company supported and paid for the sponsored driver assist vehicles that patrolled the major highways in and around Boston and elsewhere. I went on to say just how “wonderful, and great” this was. And how I was helped personally one time with a flat tire in rush hour traffic.

I went on, and on about how much I thought this service was such a great use of resources and the goodwill it produces. I went on, and on, and on. This man just sat and listened and agreed with my statements all the while just smiling and nodding in agreement. He never once interrupted me. (I wondered later if he really ever could) I just kept right on talking and heaping praise while articulating my opinion further.

Finally we arrived at the airport and as we went for our luggage I proceeded to insist and pulled his up in a show of “Here let me get that for you and once again – thanks!”

We shook hands and right before he turned is when I noticed the very prominent laminated ID badge on his briefcase. Yes he was the a very big V.P. as I alluded to earlier. Just not with CVS – he was with CBS®! (I later learned he was not a “title” but was actually very much in charge of many aspects of their company.)

Everything that I said during that ride, the examples, the insights, all of it had nothing to do with him or his company. Yes, he knew it also for I know I went into great detail how that “CVS” brand was doing wondrous things! And how he could use me as a living example since I had been helped by it: There was no way I would get my medications elsewhere willy-nilly. I was now brand loyal!”

I’ll garner in retrospect he probably felt after the first or second time he tried to correct me it was far easier to just let me ramble on. Because if there’s one thing I know about myself is that once I get rolling – It’s all down hill with no brakes from there.

The only time I truly disengaged my mouth was when I realized who and what had just transpired as he walked away. The only words I heard after he said “Well, nice meeting you and have a great day!” was my inner voice chastising myself for being so glaringly dumb.

Over the years that I’ve shared this story I sometimes ponder. Who gets more laughs when telling it. Me?

Or him?

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™

This month’s focus: When Good Sales People Assume They’re Great Reality Check

There’s probably no job surrounded in both hype as well as horror stories: than sales. Yet, no matter how hard you slice it one thing is crystal clear: It’s both the hardest, as well as the most important to any business when it can be done both effectively, and consistently. Without it – there is no business. Period.

It is in this framework that sales is also the most rewarding, as well as rewarded profession in all of business. And for those that have mastered the art, as well as made their living based on the earnings of a commissioned structured paycheck. One thing is certain: you can tell from a mile away who is truly selling and closing based on their own efforts – and who is doing the same based on efforts such as special pricing, side deals, and more outside the normal structure. Circumventing all the pricing models or volume requirements and obtaining price overrides and such via management workarounds and more.

It’s easy to spot. And you as a business owner or manager can see it. However, the one most blinded to their brilliance will in fact many times be – just that sales person demanding the special treatment. And what their next demand in “special treatment” that surly will arrive at your threshold sooner than later is: “I believe my sales numbers warrant a discussion on increased compensation.”

And they will be correct. However, how you address the issue, and when; is where you can either help make that good salesperson great. Or, turn that person into your competitors “new good.”

Case Study: I had just taken over at the helm of a significant sized company that was in the midst of a desperate turnaround and reorganizing. The principal’s of the corporation were family members and with the death of the patriarch the members had a falling out that became downright spiteful with each other. The real issue for the company was that one of the principal’s left taking a product line and customer list they had developed (and believed they owned) leaving the now flailing company with a near +40% hole in sales and; a “poisoning of the well” to suppliers making replacement deals near impossible.

The real issue? The company was built on the afore mentioned “product line.” And without it? Competitors as well as anyone else that knew of our ordeal watched from the sidelines like vultures. There was only one option as far as I was concerned: Sell what we have and what we can grow into. Forget trying to get back the 40% we lost – make up for it with 40% of something we never had. And that’s what we did.

To do this I employed very liberal pricing guidelines and policies. I personally had to approve nearly all price overrides, or special caveats to nearly all new sales. I worked with banks and creditors for special financing. I worked with credit departments from suppliers in negotiating expansions in credit lines to allow us to move more product faster and more.

I had one salesperson who was at the time in charge of a small product line we were adding. It was that very line I decided we needed to fill the hole and we did. However, not without making deals, special pricing and other giveaways that didn’t require a salesperson to make – it was more of an order-taker function. The deals were being made on the back side – not on the side of the sales person. That was more of a facilitator function at that point in time, rather than what one would estimate in a “commissioned base position.” However, as people will be (and we’re all the same at some point in our careers) my sales person started believing that “they” were the reason for such an increase in the numbers, and wanted compensation. So – I had the conversation.

I first let them speak and state what was on their mind and it was what I had expected. i.e., “I’ve increased sales from X to X etc., etc., and based on those numbers from competitors I believe I’m being under-compensated.” I acknowledged and agreed they had a fair point. However…

I then began using the numbers they articulated.(note: I received an answer to each of these) I asked, “How close to these levels can you hold your sales without any need for management overrides?” “How soon can you articulate and influence these X number of accounts to pay terms more in line with our preferred models?” “How many of these customers will buy from us if we match prices to our competitors quotes rather than needing to beat them?” There were a few more but for brevity sake I believe you get the point. They were honest questions that needed to be answered honestly by any salesperson who’s serious about fair compensation. It circumvented the whole argument, “Pay me – or I walk!”

Compensating salespeople fairly while protecting both your bottom line as well as their bottom line (and ego) can only happen if you’re ready beforehand. i.e., Before they ask.

For if you’re not prepared. Or, you come off using figures or numbers unrealistic, unreasonable, or off the cuff out of your being unprepared. Your credibility to that sales persons well-being will become suspect signalling they should walk. Precisely at the time you needed to keep that promising potentially “great” sales person running  – on your side.

And not straight to your competitors.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Profiting At The Bottom Line™ is a monthly memo, which is pithy, powerful, and to the point. It focuses on innovative techniques and or ideas that you can put to work immediately in your daily or business life.

If Numbers Don’t Lie Then…

There’s an old saying that “numbers don’t lie.” However, when I apply simple common sense to the way I hear numbers spun across the financial media what doesn’t add up is precisely that: the numbers.

Once again I was left slack-jawed countless times as I heard one after another economist, analyst, chief investment big bank guru, et al tout their reasoning and pontificate why we’re on the verge of breaking out of this stagnant economic malaise of sub 1% GDP prints.

The reasonings were laughable when applying common sense rather than math skills to the arguments. Yet, as I’ve stated and wrote before. When it comes to this set of supposed number mavens: “They can add – but they can’t put two and two together.”

One argument now being proposed to help bolster the projections that Q2 will be closer to 3% as opposed to the abysmal print of Q1 is (even as the Atlanta Fed. is now predicting the same if not worse) that this jump will be fueled by (wait for it…) “Cap-ex spending relating to the bump up in crude prices over the recent weeks…” (insert rimshot here)

This wasn’t coming from some ancillary small fund manager. This line of thought and analysis was coming from one of our “too big to fail” taxpayer-funded bail-out houses of financial acumen.

As this “insight” was simultaneously broadcast throughout television and radio, heralded as “This is why we have people like you on – for exactly this type of insightful analysis and perspective.” I couldn’t help myself but to agree. For this is what “financial” brilliance across the financial media now represents: Financial spin.

My analysis? With analysis like this? Taxpayers better get ready – again!

This objective “seasoned” analysis is being professed by one of the same that expected the prior GDP print to show “great improvement” based on “the gas savings made possible from lower crude prices.” The result? If the build in inventory hadn’t been “adjusted” in formulations Pythagoras would marvel at – the print would have been negative.

So now you’re being led to believe with the recent rise in crude prices: drillers, refiners, etc., etc., are going to load up on cap-ex only months after many have scuttled rigs, buildings, employees, and more? Again, soon enough to effect Q2?

If cap-ex can be effected that soon, and to that degree as to pull GDP prints from near negative to 3% in a single quarter all by itself – as every other macro data point is collapsing? Why would lower gas prices have ever been wanted let alone touted as “good for the economy?”

I’ll just remind you that this “insightful analysis” was coming from one of the many who loved to tout endlessly how the U.S. economy is based on “consumer spending” and “more money in consumers wallets based on lower prices at the pump was inevitable.” All I’ll ask is: when does “inevitable” materialize? Before? Or, after the next revisions?

Again, now since it’s been shown that the “inevitable consumer” spent nothing of their gas savings to help prop up the prior GDP. (sorry I forgot, yes they did in higher health insurance costs) Where the case was made to bludgeon any doubters of their analysis: i.e., “lower crude prices resulting in lower gas prices = more consumer spending.” We are now supposed to embrace the inverted narrative where: “GDP for Q2 will show growth of around 3% based on higher crude prices resulting in increased cap-ex?”

Maybe it’s just me since some in the financial media refer to people like myself who question their reasoning as “idiots.” Doesn’t that calculation (as well as the conflicting narrative) render their previous argument they’ve professed ad nauseam: GDP growth in a consumer based economy is hindered by high gas prices – moot?

For if higher GDP expectations is now predicated on higher crude – than higher prices paid by the consumer at the pump is the answer to our whoa’s – not the other way around. Is it not? Oh yes, plus the added driver of increased insurance premiums. No additional car required. Remember: It’s not math – It’s magic!

Again, using the logic chain espoused by the so-called “smart crowd” the afore example is absolutely well within their “reasonable expectations of analysis.” My analysis? Sure, as long as it’s your money at risk – not theirs.

The above math is not erroneous. However, when it’s used to obfuscate the true meaning of those numbers where deception is more in line rather, than explaining the true calculations? Then my saying of “If the numbers don’t lie then…” takes on far more “truth in numbers” than the projections as well as their quantitative analysis would portend.

If you doubt this; just change the premise (or narrative) but keep the numbers the same. i.e., “We calculate and project GDP growth to triple from here. Up from under 1% nearer to 3%…” to “We miscalculated and our projections were wrong for Q1 by as much as 300% in the wrong direction, from a projected 3% print to a now less than 1% with possible revisions to negative” and you are far closer to the truth. For that is where, “The numbers didn’t lie.” Because if the truth be told, for Q1 – that’s precisely what happened.

As egregious to the sensibility of entrepreneurs, business people, and others everywhere. It’s far from the only example. And for my money one of the worst offences used is: The relevance to past data sets and their implied meanings to today’s since the emergence of QE.

This is when I have my most imaginative sessions of imitating Elvis. No, not on stage. Rather, when he took his frustrations out while watching a television.

Here is where “cherry picking” numbers takes on a whole new meaning nevermind qualitative “apples to apples” relevancy.

Of all the data points used across the financial media, the rationale to compare one set of data points (e.g., comparing numbers from any prior multi-year period to today) is so outrageously comical, it borders on near criminal assault to one’s common sense.

I hear one after another so-called “brilliant economist” or “top-tier analyst” tout data points, or sets such as, “Well back in the 70’s from 1972 thru 1978 this metric was identical to where we are now and then we rocketed higher in GDP growth, employment, blah, blah, blah.” (You can use any data sets you like for example; they’re all the same. i.e., If not the 70’s it’s the 80’s, or 50’s, or 20’s, or 30’s etc., etc.)

Before the advent of QE these data sets were relative to extract some quantitative analysis. Today? Rubbish. They’re like comparing cherries to pineapples. Sure they are both fruit, but other than that they are far from anything “similar,” And using them in a form of “quantitative” analysis without mentioning nor adjusting for “relevance in qualitative” objective analysis is just outright malfeasance in my opinion.

Before QE and the outright intervention of monetary policy directly influencing stocks – people bought stocks reflective of the economy. Today? Central Banks across the globe are now openly manipulating markets as a “matter of policy.”

The dwindling volume along with the capital outflows that has continued since the beginning of the financial crisis as the markets once again set new all time historic records proves prima facie, without adjusting for that metric alone (e.g., QE) and it’s quantitative, as well as qualitative impact (if it could be calculated) all – and I do mean all – relevance to prior economic examples is outright “junk science.” Or better yet: Outright bunk. Period.

Who cares (except for one whose salary is based on the commission paid if one buys in) what the numbers were in any given data set relative to the advent of QE? They are meaningless.

Just like a 5.4% print in unemployment is outright “voodoo economics” when used when trying to extrapolate what an economy did when 5.4% was measured at any time prior without the qualitative adjustment of what 5.4 today actually means relative to 5.4% ten, twenty years ago, let alone even further.

This type of extrapolation I hear now so often is insulting. And this comes from people touted as “smart” while they proclaim us as “idiots.”

Here we are, once again at “never before seen in human history” highs. Yet, since the ending of QE last November – the markets have virtually gone nowhere.

Over this same period GDP expectations have not only been ratched down, they’ve been revised from prints of abysmal – to pathetic.

Various social media stocks that were touted as the bastion of “everything is awesome” indicators have dropped like “dead canary’s” overnight after reporting “earnings.” Some losing near 30% and have yet to find any buyers at these now “On Sale” bargain prices.

What was once touted as “bad for the markets” (e.g., falling macro data points) is now touted as “great for stocks!” i.e. The Federal Reserve wouldn’t dare raise rates now.

Less real people making trades, and more HFT algorithmic front running means ever more “liquidity and stability” by those more involved with protecting their “cut” rather than the stability of our financial markets.

Just remember that other well-worn bromide they like to use when one ever questions their math: “It’s different this time.” And for their sakes as well as commissions – they had better hope so. Because, if we exclude relevant numbers as well as their qualitative measures. How does one square the circle today with the announcement as we once again hit never before seen heights in the markets – AOL™ is back in the news where merger, synergies, eyeballs, and ad revenues are once again the focus?

Do we use quantitive, qualitative, or both to figure out the implications for such a deal? Should we be nervous? Or, is once again: “Different this time?” And the “numbers” truly do add up.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Adventures In Stupidity: Phone Scripts

There is probably no more annoying end to be on (other than the end of a short stick) than the receiving end of a phone conversation you’re trying to have, when you know, they’re more engaged to “sticking to the script”  than listening to your issue.

This is all a by-product, as well as a direct result when a Human Resource team at some company buys into a premise that at first sounds logical, then treats it as the “end all – be all” customer service dictate that should be followed to the letter – or punishment fitting the Inquisition of centuries past will fall upon the violator.

Personally, I would like to see the HR teams that buy into this tripe be the one’s subjected to the trials of those yester years, then they would truly know the pain suffered by those of us on the receiving ends of their “great ideas.”

How many times have you been on the phone with some call center or poor representative where every line uttered you know is scripted? i.e., “So, sorry to hear about this. Would you like me to help you in correcting this issue?”

Would any sane person respond, “Oh no, I just called to tell or inform you of it. I actually would like more of this “problem” so I could call more often and waste more time garnering increasing levels of aggravation. And thank you for asking.”

There are far too many to list here, and I know we’ve all had our own interaction in more ways that one. So I’ll assume you know exactly what I’m speaking about.

Yet, there is one that sticks in my craw when I hear it, and that’s the now ubiquitous “gotta say a cutsie, cheery, tagline” when answering all incoming calls. e.g., “It’s a great day at __________(company name here) How can we make your _________(insert requisite pleasurable action) even better?!

These are the most useless as well as stunningly disconnected ways to answer a phone call for a business office that seemingly believes in professionalism that I have ever heard, as well as seen implemented on a mass scale. It’s now being done everywhere.

I hear it when I call my dentist. e.g., My dentist name, followed with their pleasurable insert “how can we brighten your smile.” Same goes when I put tires on my car. e.g., Company name followed by, “How can we make your driving experience” as their pleasurable action.

It may seem “cutsie” at first. However, when you sit through hearing the same lines repeated verbatim over, and over, and over, (did I say over?) again as I did this week when I sat at both my dentist’s office as well as had tires put on two vehicles? Where I had the pleasure to hear their phones ring and answered countless times? It drove the point home like the imaginary steel rod I imagined piercing my skull every time the phone rang.

This is what I’ve spoken about before when the Human Resource department gets wind of some “new and improved” or Today’s “new cutting edge” program in customer service, and spreads it throughout the business landscape infecting each of their fellow brethren offices in a style and manner that most viruses would envy in both the tragic results as well as the staying power. These types of assaults on business sanity as a whole have half-lives possibly equalling nuclear waste.

If you doubt my assertions or my claims of the staying power of such ideas, and want an example of what at first sounded good; yet turned out to be worthless. Look no further than the whole Right Brain – Left Brain movement. It’s still around with ever more “new and improved” versions still being pushed within HR’s across the globe. Yet, the whole argument has been scientifically squashed as well as documented as total bunk years ago.

Call scripts that are strictly regimented and adhered to without deviation will show: The company is more concerned with the appearance of engagement. Rather than allowing an interaction that isn’t scripted and allowing the empowerment of resolution via the agent and customer that ends in both being satisfied.

A script does none of that. It just sounds good at the HR water cooler because that’s what HR “thinks” needs to be said rather than what actually needs to be said – and done.

If you are one who thinks this type of “cutsie” phone answering, or “inquisitor enforced” call scripting is still a good idea I leave you this one question and comparison.

Who will be moe memorable and for all the right reasons? The company that answers following the above examples? e.g., Hi! It’s a great day at _____________. How can I make your cable viewing  today even better?!

You: I’m paying way too much and my last payment hasn’t posted and I have the check # right he………….
(only to be cut off with the next line in the script) I’m soooo, sorry too hear that. Would you like to speak to the person who can fix that?
Here you fill in what you would like to say next:____________.

Or….

Hello, This is ACME Co. My name is Mark. How may I help you? Followed by: they listen to you – and then fix it. And if they can’t – they get someone on the line right away that can. No script required.

Who do you want to do business with? Think about it.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Goldilocks Unemployment: A Disgusting Bowl Of Porridge

It’s no wonder we find ourselves in this collective business environment of malaise and atrophy when people who are supposed to be informed, or anything else relating to business, use terms to describe the most recent jobs report as a “Goldilocks” print: i.e., “Not too bad – Not too good.”

This term was the moniker de jure of Friday’s cadre of financial media economists, analysts, and next in rotation fund manager. Nothing more than cheerleaders to stagflation is what they’ve all proven themselves to be in my opinion than anything else.

The actual print was that the economy created 223K new jobs vs expectations of 228K. Where the overall jobless rate now stands at 5.4 vs 5.5. The kicker? Not in the labor force: 93,194,000 up from 93,175,000. Let that last number sink in a moment.

We currently have over 93 Million able-bodied people without jobs – and growing. This is why it’s near incomprehensible, as well as outright disgusting to me that such a dismal showing in both the headline number as well as the onerous implications of such a downward revision to the month prior, coupled with the outright fallacy of suggesting the rate of unemployment has moved closer still to statistical “full employment” came with near giddiness and if not outright back slapping. i.e., “This is a Goldilocks print. Not too hot – not too cold. With a report like this – The Federal Reserve won’t dare raise rates and might actually have to contemplate instituting another round of QE if not outright QE4ever!” And yes; that was the reaction paraphrased across the financial media outlets. Again, personally – I found it all repulsive.

We now have the lowest participation rate since 1977 when Jimmy Carter was president. Although I was young during that period, I was around and working. (and when I wasn’t working, I was out looking daily) I will tell you this: one of the words never bandied about during that period when it came to describe any jobs or employment report was “Goldilocks.”

As a matter of fact it was during that period of time the term “stagflation” came into prominence. The difference? It was used to describe an abysmal economy while hoping at some point the winds would change and we could regain our bearings to move out from under such stifling economic conditions. Today?

As these conditions have once again reared their ugly head the difference is today: these conditions are celebrated by the so-called “smart crowd” as reason to JBTFD! (just buy the dip) For this malaise sends the “right” signals to the Federal Reserve they should dare not raise interest rates off the zero bound anytime soon, and instead prolong this economic atrophy with the possible infusion of yet another round of QE. After all with economic malaise like this – NASDAQ™ 10K here we come!

The best term I’ve heard yet to describe the current economic malaise, as well as market conditions, was coined by Bruno de Landevoisin: Stealthflation. The term says it all. Under the radar there’s deflation or the now less offensive “dis-inflation” happening everywhere.

Currently under the guise of “economic omnipotence” resulting from the outright adulterations of the capital markets, along with its cancerous effects metastasized within our economy; they’re spoon-feeding bogus “analysis” to an uninformed as well as ill-informed populace by a bunch of next in rotation “financial experts” that now have more in common with school cafeteria workers plopping out this weeks version of mystery meat. All while smiling and reciting: “Trust us, it’s good for you.” (My apologies to “lunch ladies” everywhere)

Scenes resembling the above can be seen daily when the next in rotation economist, fund manager, or big bank chief investing guru comes on to tout “how all this bad is just terrific for the markets.”

If you question the validity of the data? You’re either shouted down, talked over, or insulted with charges of: “You’re mad because you’ve been on the wrong side of the trade for X number of points, or months, or _________.”(fill in the blank)

Unless you stand in line like these roving bands of porridge seekers with bowls out pleading in their best Oliver Twist voice at the altar of the FOMC “Please, may I have another round of QE?” you’re the one who’s scolded or branded as some “economic heretic.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if CNBC™ in some desperate attempt to regain viewers might contemplate a reality segment where they actually “Put to the stake Live and On Air!”  any who dare question their cafeteria “smart crowd.” Who knows, it can’t do worse than they are already. But I digress.

Again the economic stealth of all this malaise is that it seems that there are “economic benefits” as a result. There are – if the economy was only about “The Markets.”

The markets are vital when they are allowed to function according to the rules inherent within free market capitalism: where markets are allowed to clear through the true price discovery model. But that’s not what’s going on today.

People today look at these markets, or hear the latest prints touted as “proof” we’re on the right path. i.e., “The markets were up today near 300 points!” Or, “Employment figures show we created over 200K once again, and the UE figure dropped to 5.4%. Hooray!” However that porridge being spoon fed down the throats of the populace has more in common with the repulsive process for making Foie gras than anything else. And just like the goose – it’s just as harmful when used to evaluate the health of one’s financial future.

What doesn’t get near any of the attention that it should buried within these reports are the other figures that are hidden in plain sight as they are “reported” in a stealth like fashion. i.e,, “Oh, and the prior month’s numbers that were horrible? They were revised downward to – horrific. Nothing to see here, carry on, hope you enjoy your lunch.”

Unaware by many; the prior month’s abysmal report of 126K was revised lower to a pathetic 85K. That’s a reduction or “miss” of over 30%!

If we use the same revision or “miss” used to calculate last month’s report it’s entirely plausible today’s Goldilocks’ print of 223K could actually be closer to 153K. If so, what happens to Goldilocks?

Keep in mind – these are the stats of the BLS, and as such is it unreasonable to contemplate they would try to throw the best possible outcome or “look” to these reports? And even they felt the need to revise down last months figures from lackluster to abysmal! So what faith should one put into today’s report? That alone should send a shiver down one’s spine. But it doesn’t end there.

This financial meddling causes even greater distortions and malfeasance throughout the entire economic landscape.

Companies that should go out of business or downsize to better address their true economic health – don’t. They’re able to saddle their companies with burdensome debt prolonging their sclerotic endeavours leaving no room for the upstarts or level competitors that can beat them handily in both practice and ingenuity; for many will be unable to secure the financing needed because the “big boys” or “favored lobbied status” are allowed to continually operate and compete at “cash burn” rates with buy backs and more that would make a Silicon Valley startup jealous.

And speaking of “The Valley” here too the stealth of malfeasance plays out its onerous part just under the surface. Here companies that shouldn’t even be listened too, let alone funded, are able to burn through cash and subsequent rounds of funding in direct proportion to the availability of cheap and fast money made possible via the QE mechanism.

With so much “free cash” still sloshing around looking for anything with a possible “One out of Million” shot of making a penny. The game is still on as: to throw as many darts as possible. Rather, than take the time required to effectively sift through and gauge reality with fantasy. Because it’s still an “odds bet” rather than an “objective financial analysis” concern.

And it’s precisely in this type of environment startups that have real potential – for real profits – get lost in the quagmire of unicorn and rainbow pitch funding.

Today’s latest reincarnation of Oliver Twist by those of the so-called “smart crowd” with their bowls out pleading for another round of QE, are also the first to espouse their reasoning for why you, or I don’t get why all this putrid porridge is good for us. All they’ll say is, “It’s different this time.” Well maybe they have a point.

Back during those roaring days of screaming sideways into nowhere land known as the “Carter years,” then president Jimmy Carter gave what has been labeled as “The Malaise speech.” Actually the real name designated was “A Crisis of Confidence.”

That speech was an attempt in theory as to help bolster confidence that the economic conditions of poor employment, poor GDP growth, and a list of other economic measures could in fact be overcome if we regained our composure, and had faith and confidence, we could do better. The issue today?

The economic “smart crowd” is now confident (if not to a fault) that the malaise along with the deterioration in GDP as well as nearly every (if not all!) recent macro data point – is just the right mix of “not too hot – and not too cold” we need to stay right smack dab in it, waiting for the next meeting of the FOMC to see if the cafeteria will reopen so they can beg “Please…can they have another round?”

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

New Episode: Insight Uprise™ Audio Series

The newest episode in my audio series Insight Uprise™. Like other projects I’ve done this is in the “No holds barred, quick hitting and to the point” genre. Topics and subject matter will vary.

It’s intended to be straight to the point in both subject matter, as well as delivery, unlike anyone else.

Love it of hate it one thing will be certain: They’ll be no mistaking me – and someone else.

This Episodes Topic: Judging and Assuming

Available_on_iTunes_Badge_US-UK_110x40_0824

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr in association with StreetCry Media. All Rights Reserved.

Can’t see the audio player? Click here.

Protests at Home or Abroad And What it Means To Your Business (repost)

Originally this post ran in February of 2011 and has since ran more than once resulting from when I suddenly get quizzed by a subscriber or other in a “Didn’t you write or speak about getting ready or planning for such a while back?” fashion.

I originally penned this when Greece was in turmoil for the first time over 4 years ago and violent protest erupted. This was also prior to what is now commonly known as the Occupy Movement that started in Zuccotti Park. At that time I was ahead of the curve and some (actually many) scoffed at me implying their needing to think in this manner. Others gave me the obligatory “Yeah. yeah, yeah, makes sense…” Then went right on to other subjects as if it was – unimportant. Or, something that happens elsewhere.

The possibility of it ever happening in their location? This was to them – unimaginable. Until many learned that “elsewhere” can sometimes be – right there. Where they never imagined – right where they were! Again, this was nearly 7 months before anyone ever heard of the Occupy movement let alone the take over of Zuccotti Park.

Now with protests that have taken place over the years in far too many locations around the globe as well as here in the U.S. While seemingly growing in both frequency as well as severity. I would hope more might heed my advice for action as to help prepare – as well as possibly protect themselves from possible financial ruin – or worse.

Waiting too long can leave not only yourself with no options; but also customers, and employees. I’m used to being ahead of the curve so the slings and arrows I initially received when I first spoke and wrote on such possibilities come with that territory. But (and it’s a very big but) once facts prove warnings as real? You need to act before verbal slings and arrows around your businesses turn into the more literal sense of: sticks, stones, and possibly a whole lot more.

Below is the original post:

Protests at Home or Abroad and What it Means to Your Business  February 20, 2011

This is not about whose right, wrong, or anything else of that nature. This is about your business.

Doesn’t matter what you do, whether you’re the CEO of a large global corporation, or an employee with an entrepreneurial mind-set. Either way; you have to look at these events in a very different manner than most. No, not to capitalize on them, but how to avoid possible financial ruin or other disruptions because of them.

As we’ve seen over the last few weeks things can change at any time, and for many reasons that seemed near improbable.

The problem for many in business, is they can find themselves smack dab in the middle of protests, fighting, looting, and a host of other things that one never dreams of happening, till it does!

Many coveted retail or office locations are right in the heart of any city and that’s usually where any gathering or protests will be.

What happens to your business, your employees, your retail stores, your customers if for no reason than just being at the center causes damage to your infrastructure, or people?

We are seeing today like at no other time in history technology has enabled connectivity en mass. If you’ve been following the news as of late, you can’t help but be awed in the speed and power of such demonstrations. But I need you to change your thought process and water cooler subject from, “Have you seen the news?” to “Do we have a contingency plan for our business if disrupted?”

Trust me, I’m not trying to be callous. The reason for the events are for others to discuss. I want you to be pragmatic in how you can protect either your people or business.

If a protest broke out in front of one of your locations would you or could you shutter it down? Who would be in charge of such an undertaking? Would you be reliant on the cleaning crew to make sure the doors were locked? Would you send senior staff, or a combination there of? I hope you’re getting my point. If you have, or are in business, you can no longer leave such a discussion as, “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” because what is being demonstrated is – there may be No bridge!

As professionals one must always hope for the best, but plan for the worst. That’s not to say you create some committee derived, bullet pointed, and bound code book that must be signed off by top staff and the cook who carries the secret decoder ring.

What is far more important is that you have an honest roundtable discussion with either yourself, or some pertinent staff members that can theorize some sort of outline. It needn’t be perfect because situations such as these are always fluid, but it’s far easier to direct the water if you have an understanding where the banks might be.

If technology can demonstrate how fast it can bring about disruptive change, than the same must be viewed on how you can use technology to step aside of that disruption and try your best to protect your people, or your property.

Not only might you be thankful for being ahead of the crowd, but so might everyone else that depends on your products, or services.

And that’s smart business.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr

Suddenly “You Can’t Ignore The Data” Has Turned Into “Trust Me”

The week that passed has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride for many nervous investors. And for some: a realization that the once hyped, hawked, and levered Billion dollar babies can indeed “come off the rails.” Turning the once joyride into something more in common with a free fall into the abyss.

And just like at the carnival the progression is the same: The barker takes your money, you get to ride and scream in fits of mania and terror, and if by chance it careens out of control? It’ll be insisted that such things can, and do happen which are clearly stated in micro-print on the back of your ticket. And – there is no refund. Only issue is the cost for such a ride isn’t comparable to some expensive latte – it’s your future retirement savings, and whether or not you’ll ever have enough left to buy another latte after this ride is through.

However, you’re told not too worry: For if you loved the ride when the prices were higher, then surely you should be ecstatic to “ride again” since the new ticket prices are clearly “on sale!”

Is it any wonder why “carnival barker” seems so easily interchangeable with the next in rotation Wall Street fund manager, analyst, economist  ___________(fill in the blank) on the financial media shows than not?

If you dared question the meme “everything is awesome” you were branded as some “data denier.” If you weren’t branded with that moniker you were surely scolded to have: “No understanding of Fed. monetary policy.” Or, you’re insulted for using common sense backed up with actual business acumen for questioning their premise to which they proclaimed people like myself as: “Idiots.” (yes, that’s an actual quote) Well, I have only one “idiotic” question: How’s all that data working out?

Now the meme coming from the so-called “smart crowd” (i.e., Those earlier insisting the 5% GDP print proved this economy is destined for take off) now contort their “analysis” of the latest data points in a messaging base of: “This recent 0.2% GDP print is an aberration. We recommend to ignore it as such. Things are much better than what this data now shows. Trust us.”

The real issue is that the once beloved and cherry picked data used ad nauseam by all these barkers of “stocks are reasonably priced at these levels” is precisely that pesky thing that’s putting both fear and terror into their own roller-coaster ride of terror. i.e., Concerns regarding their commissions and bonuses.

The once sanctimonious explanations used then whirled as a bludgeoning tool to support all their prior thesis have let loose from their handles and are smashing the very glass once used to construct their house of mirrors. Now it’s getting harder to conceal with no more outright QE to burn giving smoke cover of the obvious cracks, while one listens and hears the smashing of one meme after another proving it truly has been nothing more – than smoke and mirrors.

And there’s no better examples of this than the once Billion dollar darlings of Wall Street in the industry of both tech, as well as social media. Twitter™ and LinkedIn™.

Back in October I opined: Welcome To A “New” New Normal Earnings Season. In that article I made a case of what I felt would be appearing on the financial landscape with more and more frequency. This was the first earning season where the realization QE was in fact going to cease. Although it would not be final until November warning signs would and should indeed begin to appear in earnest. From the article…

“With the Federal Reserve’s QE policy set to end this month all these “new economy” juggernauts are going to have to prove that giving away the store for “free” as to entice users, customers, and more; will have to prove they have the ability along with the quantifiable hard numbers accompanied by real “cold cash” they can pay those promised returns to Wall Street.

If this proves to be the case the term “trap door” will not be used in reference to some new gaming app available. It will be to describe serious consequences to people who assumed investing in these markets has been nothing more than a game to be played by “players.”

Just watch how fast the “players” in the world of algos and High Frequency Trading can change the meaning of “liquidity trap” when they decide – it’s not in their best interest to play.”

To Wit: Twitter…

2015-05-02 Twitter

And LinkedIn…

2015-05-02 LinkedinThis is what happens when the “fast money” no longer wants, or is capable of playing fast and loose. Once there’s no longer any “free money” to put to work at the speed of light via HFT: the game as well as players gets smaller. For once those endless resources of “free money” are reduced, so to will where, and how they’re allocated. Sometimes with dramatic results.

In my opinion the above are clear and indicative examples of what the years of incessant QE has wrought. What should also be just as clear is how dangerous to risk exposure these once heralded new economy bellwethers can, and have become.

When “free money” was plentiful and for the taking investing in “eyeballs” reminiscent of the dot-com days was the play of the day. Now that the “free money” for liquidity has turned into preservation of their own liquidity? You see the results in stunning detail. Not too worry though. It was probably just your money liquidity that vanished near 25% in a nanosecond – not theirs. Still believe HFT is good for providing “liquidity” and “trade execution?” I’ll bet those terms have far different connotations now than earlier.

As disheartening as the above shows just how adulterated the capital markets have become since the interventionist monetary actions of Central Banks, along with the mechanisms to obliterate true price discovery via High frequency trading algorithmic wars on bid, and stop runs. Just like an infomercial on late night TV: “But wait – There’s more!”

One of the other dark sides rearing its head within this latest earnings period was brought to light I believe unwittingly. Nevertheless if one was listening to the arguments bantered about it was obvious just how insidious the Fed. policy of holding interest rates at the zero bound has become. e.g., ZIRP

Regardless of whether one agrees or not with a company buying back their own shares (for there are sound arguments for and against depending on timing and strategic reasoning) In today’s world of ZIRP one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand far too many companies were using buy backs as a crutch in hopes of alleviating scrutiny and garnering accolades via the “fast money” class to continue holding, if not purchasing more, based on financial engineering. Rather than the need to actually innovate their core businesses themselves. And the current poster child of such is none other than IBM™.

The so-called “smart crowd” loves to pontificate how ZIRP doesn’t effect or cause a stifling of innovation within the economy. They’ll point to innovative companies such as those I listed earlier as proof “innovation is alive and well and monetary policies have nothing to do with them.” However I’ll state – Oh contraire…

Earlier this week I was listening to a discussion that revolved around the company Salesforce™ where it may be for sale and would need to be purchased by some larger corporate entity. Personally I find it amusing this company which raison d’être is to help others increase their bottom line, is itself, a company that basically has no bottom line. i.e., No profits but they sure have “eyeballs.” But I digress.

One of the names that was brought up as a possible suitor was IBM. Yet, was near immediately discounted as such. The reasoning? “Their balance sheet was a mess.” Wonder why?

Is it current expenditures into new and exciting innovations or engineering? Well, no. Unless you now count financial engineering as Innovative. Problem is, many do just that and it’s now showing its dark side where because of this rush to prop up a share price at any cost, the cost may indeed – be the future of any further true innovation. To wit:

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 11.31.11 AMAnd what great new innovative products generating more and more net profits to warrant such spending? The chart below speaks for itself…

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 11.34.46 AM

A further breakdown of the above in a short concise article can be found here reported by ZeroHedge™: “IBM Reports Worst Sales Since 2002; EPS Beats…” You be the judge on whether or not Fed. policies are adulterating the markets. After all, in a market where true price discovery and market forces were allowed to operate in a manner and form in which capitalism was intended: Would any of this discussion even be allowed to be contemplated? Let alone still persist?

This is what happens when “innovative” thinking at the board level is allowed to reach for the lowest rung on the ladder and take the instantaneous “free money” initiative, rather than the hard road of actually procuring innovation that may in fact build lasting revenue and profits for the future. And like I’ve stated many times: We are only in the beginning throes.

These suddenly illuminating spectacles of the once darlings of Wall Street where a reduction in the areas of 25% can be thrust upon investors pocketbooks in seconds are not outliers. They are now becoming increasingly more frequent. The above two are just the start in my opinion of this “new normal” earnings seasons that is far different from the “new normal” the so-called “smart crowd” proclaimed we were in. Here is more from my previous article…

“Lately it has worked in this “new normal” they have told everyone is upon us. For we were all not as sophisticated to understand that other mantra – “It’s different this time.”

Well, I may not be as sophisticated as those on Wall Street, but I will make this observation. It just may be “different this time.” Only not for those that have been trying to weed through all this smoke and mirrors. Rather, for all those architects that put these houses of cards together in the first place.

Suddenly this other “trap” analogy is showing its hand and it has a great many that pontificate that stocks are “fairly valued” and other such drivel very nervous; for its implications can have a great effect on their own investing future.

For how does one explain a “trap door event” to a client, when they’ve been assured their investment thesis was on solid ground?”

And here is where the proverbial rubber will hit the road in the coming months and quarters. For as we’ve seen “trap door” events are far from becoming trivial. They have very real implications for the markets as a whole.

What also is quite disturbing is if the above examples of “Billion dollar babies” can drop into the abyss faster than a 401K participant can open their statement. What happens when this type of price action happens within the major ETF’s?

What happens to investor confidence when these now seemingly endless gyrations of down 1 to 2% only to rocket back within a day on little if any volume suddenly don’t come back as is the case with the above examples? What happens when or if there’s such an event that took place similar to Twitter or LinkedIn only this time – it’s in the SPY™, or DIA™, or QQQ™, or IWM™? What then?

Will a proclamation of QE4ever solve such an issue? Hard to say because it might only be used by many as to help get out rather than get in, or add too. It’s all an open-ended question waiting for an answer that will only be known once brought through to fruition.

And that alone is a scary proposition in itself. But you’re told and reminded by the “barkers” not to worry.

Just trust them. After all – it’s only your money.

© 2015 Mark St.Cyr