Month: October 2010

Giving Charlatan’s a Bad Name

char·la·tan

–noun

a person who pretends or claims to have more knowledge or skill than he or she possesses; quack.
or…..
A charlatan is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretense or deception.

We’ve all seen them. Just turn on your television on any given day and there they are staring in their own show. Oh wait, their own infomercial. That’s right, don’t want to get the two mixed up, but isn’t that the point of the show? At one time it was a clever ploy to make one feel like the information being discussed had real validity. Now the lines have been blurred to such extremes that watching a reality show might be more educational. (Heaven help us!)
Infomercials are a great way to express an idea or pitch a product. It gives unlimited time and freedom to put the product or service in the spotlight for the viewer to see. I am a firm believer and a proponent of infomercials. I like the ability and the positioning one can do for a product. It’s also a great revenue stream for the media companies to help fill airtime that would go unsold or unfilled. If one doesn’t think the media companies have free time on their hands, just count how many PSA’s ( Public Service announcements) you hear, or how many times you see the same commercials over, and over, and over again for some new and improved pimple cream, or the long-standing radio cry “commercial free hour of non-stop hits.” That’s because the non-stop advertisers have stopped advertising, nothing more.
In good economies and bad the charlatans are always there. They stick their finger in the wind, see what magical tricks they can conger up and sell to an eager public who might be down on their luck, or just have too much luck and need away to part with some of it. Today as I watched TV, even I was taken back by the brazen exploits of one.
The show starts out with a very familiar pitch man. He’s been on for years offering his self-help and how to books for quite a while, but today took the cake. It seems that the “interview” is done by a pair of TV show hosts that look like they belong standing next to a brass pole rather than sitting on a TV set. The co-anchors attire is more Victoria Secrets than Ann Taylor. I feel even Madonna would blush at the audacity of the outfits. Maybe that’s a stretch, but you get my point.
Charlatans have been around since the dawn of time, and don’t look for them to go away anytime soon. All one can do is try not to fall for the shenanigans.
Especially if they’re on full display.
Mark

The All You Can Eat “$” Buffet

Step right up and don’t be shy. Feeling a bit of a rumble in your portfolio? Maybe that’s because it’s hungry. Just step up and feast your eyes on this glorious buffet of stocks. It’s an all you can eat ( ah I mean buy) smorgasborg of funds. No …not just any single fund. All funds, everything. Just pick your fancy and dig in. The price you ask? Who cares…we’ll pay you for dining. That’s right, we’ll pay you. How’s that for a deal. It beats any senior citizen discount any day, any where. Who’s the chef of such a fine buffet? Chef  (uh hum..Chairman) Ben Bernanke. Watch for his new show coming to a TV near you. Maybe it’ll be called “Hot sizzlin’ stocks…Benny style.” You’ll be able to watch it on the TV’s they have in the banks while you’re standing in line. Word has it they’ll have a special channel there just for him, but for now just watch the stock market. You’ll get to see his creations albeit by osmosis of course, but who cares. They are delicious!

Sometimes you need sarcasm or parody to bring home to roost just what is happening in the bigger picture, and more important…why. It’s very easy to now explain. It’s probably never been easier. It’s almost as easy as ordering off the numbered menus at your local fast food chain. It’s all about the Dollar. Forget about corporate earnings, unemployment, bond issuance, all of it. It doesn’t matter. Not a bit. Oh yes, some will say it does, but I must point to the evidence. If real data mattered, why the are the  economic reports that are so bad treated as…”Ohhh so good”..Hmmmmmm? Because Chef Benny will keep the buffet open and serve it up as long as there are dollars to sell. That’s why.

At one time, you had to have an understanding that took years if not decades to master the financial world. Not now, just watch the dollar. The three card monte game that is now available to the participants is…Sell the Dollar…use that money and Buy Stocks. Don’t bother reading the ingredient label, it doesn’t matter, just eat. The opposite holds true also. If for any reason the dollar finds some footing, and starts to go higher..Oh Oh! The market will fall also. That’s what happens when it gets hooked on fast food with no real nutritional value. Great taste, but a lot of empty carbs.

It’s amazing to watch this correlation. All you need to do is now ask..”What did the dollar do today?”..and you will have everything you need to know. Dollar UP = Stocks Down,  Dollar DOWN = Stocks Up.

Who would have thought in the 21st century it was to be the dreaded “hamburg flippers”, and not the “college elite” who work in the pure models of high-powered finance. After all, you do get your dollars at the Fed by using the “Discount window.”

Can I get fries with that?

Mark

What “Captain’s” Understand, and Others Don’t

To say the last 3 years have been challenging would be quite an understatement. Whether you own a business or employed by one, as of late both have been in the same proverbial boat. Both sides have been doing what they can to keep the ship afloat. For some it meant hitting the lifeboats before it took on so much water that no one could be saved. For others, it meant putting a freeze on anything and everything that was an expense, right down to deciding the cost effectiveness of using either paperclips or staples. However, this is where charting the next course can only be decided by the Captain, for the next leg in this voyage is truly about understanding everything that goes into running a ship.

It would appear to most that the seas have calmed because of their lack of understanding of what it takes to actually run or own a business. For the Captain’s and the few employee’s who are of the entrepreneurial class, they are fully aware they might be in the eye of a hurricane.

Everywhere you turn, you see headlines that the stock market has come back with a vengeance, unemployment although at high levels has flattened, corporations are flush with cash, mergers and acquisitions are on the rise, and so on, and so forth. You hear friends and family members repeat sound bites from the TV or radio that “things are on the rise, get with it, now’s a great time to buy, rates have never been lower,” yet when you try to counter they just say…”You’re just being negative” or the more you try to explain, the more their eyes gloss over, so you stop trying.

It’s not easy being a Captain, an Owner, or an Entrepreneurial employee. Don’t look for it to change in the future either. If it was easy, everyone would be one. Your job in this ocean of ever-changing waves and tides is to navigate by what you know and understand, not what the land lubbers tell you. Reading a book titled ” Being a Captain for Dummies” doesn’t qualify them to chart the course of a true ship at sea, though they will argue otherwise.

Sometimes there are only a few decisions to make, but their importance is paramount. Here’s my top 3 at this moment…#1 Stay in port and wait for more favorable weather, #2 Decide to set sail, but never allow anything to compromise the worthiness of both the crew and vessel. Safety, and stamina must be unyielding.. If it’s not vital to the journey, it stays at port, not on the boat, or #3 If already at sea, check and recheck all details for ensuring staying on course, prepare and be open to all crew members what strategies will be employed if another storm is encountered. Can the hatches be battened down quickly, and if there’s no safe harbor within reach, what will be expected of them.

This is why you wanted to be in charge, this is what you understand must be done, and others don’t. They only see clear skies and smooth sailing. Your job is to always keep the ship afloat, after all…You wanted to be in charge, didn’t you?

You chart your own course.

Mark

Why didn’t anyone say “Happy Anniversary?”

Usually one way or another, when you miss an anniversary there’s heck to pay! Try saying to your significant other…”Of course I remember!” and not have a gift of roses, or something else of value (to them!)  Your present will be the doghouse if you don’t, and you’ll be lucky if only that! So tell me, what happens when it’s an anniversary that someone wants or hopes you’ll forget? Well it just happened if you weren’t paying attention, but I was.

Columbus day was quite the holiday back a few years ago but now it’s barely mentioned, but that’s still not the one I’m talking about. No the anniversary I’m referring to is Oct. 11, 2007 the day the stock market peaked at 1576.09 for the S&P, and 14198.10 for the Dow Jones. Just 3 short years ago we made all time record highs, and then need I remind anyone what happened next? For those who do, in less than 12 months they lost nearly 50% of their value trading down in the 700’s for the S&P, and in the 7000’s for the Dow, and most of us thought the world was coming to an end. Pretty scary even for the Halloween season. (pun intended) And what pray tell was the reason for such a debacle? The housing market, sub-prime mortgages, CDO’s. CDS’s, and a whole lot of other acronyms that I still don’t know what they mean.

Isn’t it funny that on the day Oct. 11. 2010 the Stock market hits another high on such a fateful date, and the financial media, the news media, and every other media is quiet. Hush hush to such an extreme that for me the silence is deafening. Could it also be because on this date the “Housing debacle” has now come right back with a new mess? Should I say the words….”Foreclosure debacle” or is that now the new taboo?

In a world where the financial channels celebrate the market rising 1 point because some rodent in PA saw its own shadow, don’t you find it odd they didn’t even mention it? Maybe everyone’s too busy whistling past the proverbial graveyard. Just hope the ghosts of the October’s past don’t get angry because they were forgotten this year. Not all ghosts like to dance in Michael Jackson videos, some can still remind you what scary truly is. For this anniversary, I remembered but I didn’t bring flowers………..

I brought garlic!

Mark

Playing by Your Own Rules

Eventually no matter who you are, no matter where you are in the cycle of life or economic scale, the day comes when you will have a decision to make. The decision will not be small. As a matter of fact more often than not it will be “The” decision. If you haven’t experienced it yet, trust me you will. For some it’s  happened more than once, but no matter if it happens once or even more, you’ll remember it like it was today, forget about yesterday!

Life has a peculiar way of putting you in places you either never dreamed possible, or a place that was originally a dream that has become a nightmare. It happens, it’s life, period! Regardless the outcome for good or ill, the question that must be asked of yourself in retrospect analysis should be, “Did I make the decisions based on my rules?”

When you play by your own rules remember that it’s only you who has the power to adhere to them. Life and everyone else playing this game are using their own rules, not yours, and they could care less about the referee in your game, and that would be you! As harsh as that sounds, it’s also one of the most fulfilling, energizing, and freeing conditions you’ll ever experience. Once you understand in your gut that it’s not others playing by your rules, but you adhering to them for yourself,  the game of life unfolds with all the advantages of a rigged game.

And you’re holding the winning hand!

Mark

Thanks!….”I Feel Much Better Now!”

As of this post, the S.E.C. ( Security and Exchange Commission) came out with its final report on what has become known world-wide as the “Flash Crash.”

It took nearly 6 months of investigations and countless interviews. Guess what? They found ( I’m paraphrasing here ) that the event was caused by a legitimate “Sell program” implemented by an account as a device in a hedging strategy. It found that it was not a mistake, it wasn’t a so-called “fat fingered” order, nor was it the act of intentional manipulation. Get ready, because here’s the kicker…..Although they have put some newer safeguards in place, they can not confidently say that it might not happen again! Just makes you feel warm and cozy now doesn’t it?

After the panic that happened that day, I speculated all the hand wringing, the jawboning, and everything else said about it being a mistake was a load of road apples. I stated having watched the market in detail that afternoon what I witnessed was the result of what happens when no one is buying, regardless of the price. I also stated that if it was a so-called “mistake,” why hadn’t the market gone right back up to that level? Would it not then have been a bargain bonanza?

The market since then has recovered, but it has taken months for people to forget about the implications of that day. I have written extensively that the market has been on shaky ground and could fall under its own weight even as everybody in the media is lauding it. Even during all this rally of the last 6 months my views have not changed. (Actually I’m more convinced than ever.) Some have tried to convince me otherwise, but their argument is based more on what I call “hopium” rather than facts. Only the market in the end will tell us what the truth is, so we’ll have to just wait and see. As I’ve said before, I could be totally wrong, but I’ll let my batting average speak for itself. Always remember in trying to prove if you’re right or wrong against the stock market…”The market can stay irrational much longer than one can stay solvent.”

Be rational…Stay solvent!

Mark

For those who forgot what the S.E.C. said could happen again at any time, Here’s the link from my original post.

“They do not allow cameras there, but they do allow this service to be broadcast. It’s subscription only. You have all likely seen on TV the shots of the exchanges with all these guys screaming Buy….Sell. Well here’s a link provided courtesy of  TradersAudio of what that fateful 15 minutes of panic sounded like.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mC4tu1NhUA