Is 2017 The Year Silicon Valley Experiences The Dark Side Of “It’s Different This Time”?

With 2016 now in the rearview mirror. The one thing that was supposed to be included in that vision was the successful resurgence of IPO’s across “The Valley”. 2016 was supposed to be “the year” of the comeback for unicorn cash-out dreams after what can only be described as a “not as advertised” 2015. For if one needs remembering: 2015 was the worst year for tech IPO’s since 2009.

Here’s another problem nobody seems willing to discuss: 2015 may have been the high-water mark going forward when compared to 2016. Yet, not too worry we’re told! For has been reported via many a media source 2017 is shaping up be? Hint: The year it comes back.

Here is a chart from an article just this past August titled “Tech IPO Clog Poised To Burst” To wit:

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-9-11-21-am

The prevailing premise, once again, throughout “The Valley” is that “next year” should be the return of those unicorn dreams. After all, how could 2016 be any worse than 2015 was the premise at the beginning of year. The issue? Look at the above chart for clues. Or, as we like to say here in reality, “A whole lot worse!” For 2016 now makes not only 2008 look good. It makes 2009 look terrific in comparison.

Yet, this hasn’t slowed down one next-in-rotation fund manager to proclaim how “social” or “tech” is just “crushing it”. The real issue is that many who have “invested” based on a lot of this trite have found their portfolios have been the ones getting crushed. Case in point: Twilio™. To wit:

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-9-50-47-am

(Source)

Now I’m not intentionally pointing out this company for any other reason than its IPO was proclaimed across the media and “The Valley” as to be “the” one as to show just how resilient not only the demand for IPO’s would be, but also how “worth it” their heralded valuations were. Once again, the problem? It did just that.

I have read articles emanating from “The Valley” as late as only weeks ago where it’s touted Twillio’s share price is up over 111% since it’s IPO. Sounds great, but it’s not only disingenuous, it’s damn right shameful to use that as the sole metric for validity to the premise that IPO’s or “tech’s” resurgence when looking at the above chart. For if you are one of the unfortunate that bought shares on the open market only a few weeks after the IPO? There’s no “crushing it” gains for you – you got crushed, with probably more pain to come.

There was also another “It’s different this time” proclamation which was supposed to prove 2016 to all the “nay-sayers” just how much people like myself “don’t get” social/tech/The Valley/etc. For it was we who needed to see the brilliance of their decision-making processes. And none was so heralded as to what 2016 was supposed to be than the resurgence of Twitter™, with its now multi-tasking CEO.

How did all that work out? Well, as they say in “The Valley”, let’s look at another “picture” shall we?

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-9-57-52-am

(Source)

Again, all I’ll say to the above is this: If this is what the term “crushing it” now means in “The Valley”? I envision 2017 is going to take crushing up to 11!

So with all the above for some context. No opinion for comparison would be complete without also including the “holy grail” of everything tech/The Valley/IPO’s, and more. Let alone all that it is said to encompass: Facebook™ (FB).

screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-10-55-38-am

(Source)

Now one couldn’t be held for lying to state FB stock is indeed up since the end of 2015. However, would that be telling you the “truth” if one was to only state that one metric? Especially if you were trying to get a correct handle of the “health” or “potential profits” still promised in the “everything social” land of riches arguments?

As I highlighted on the chart above: If you purchased shares on Feb 1st of 2016 after what was heralded as an earnings report that “crushed it”, and was touted as (here’s that term again) “the” earnings report to shut all the “doom-and-gloomers” up once and for all. Guess what? Hint: You’re right back where you started.

And for those who decided 2016 was indeed the year where “tech” resurged and was caught up in the whole IPO of the afore-mentioned Twillio in July? It’s more than likely FB in 2016 is now a wash at best, a painful loss at worse. For it fell over 15% lower a mere 45-ish trading days later after those “lifetime highs” to end the year.

However even that doesn’t really encapsulate the whole. For if one can remember (after all it was just these last few weeks) the “markets” have been on an absolute tear to make (once again) never before seen in the history of mankind highs. And what was FB’s valuation doing during all this? Hint: Look at the chart above. e.g., The exact opposite.

Another meme that keeps getting perpetuated is the argument “There’s still so much V.C. capital just looking for investment it must surely mean these companies (i.e., The Unicorns) have legitimate ‘so worth it’ valuations for further cash-out riches. This alone proves the nay-sayers don’t know what they’re talking about.” To which I say: Really? Then let’s argue a few points shall we?

Let me start with this one point: If I said to you, “Hey, want me to show you how to make $1.00 into millions”? You’d probably wouldn’t even dignify the response with a no, you’d just walk away for you knew (at least I hope you would) if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Now, with that said answer this:

How is “investing” some trifle sum (e.g., a few $Million) which instantaneously gives one the ability to claim they’re worth $Billions any different? Couple that with – the metrics for those claims are all based on “because they say so”.

Yes, the accounting for said valuations are based on 1+1= whatever we say it is. Not anything which is based in reality as you or I may understand. Or said differently: It makes Non-GAAP accounting look down right conservative in comparison.

This is the dirty-liitle-secret in the underbelly of all that is “unicorn” in my view. And sooner, rather than later, I believe this spurious type of accounting will someday find its way into the courts and be abolished. However, that’s for another day.

If you want an example? Try to square-the-circle that Theranos™ (remember them?) along with its founder Elizabeth Holmes was not only said to be worth, but was proclaimed throughout the business media that she personally was worth a fortune of $4.5 BILLION dollars. While the company itself was worth some $9 BILLION based on what I found to be one of the best lines (as in the form of a question) I can remember that came back in July from a Fortune™ article. The line?

“How on earth did it [Theranos] manage to raise $400 million in funding at a $9 billion valuation?”

Yes indeed, it was a good question. Problem was people like myself have been asking that of unicorns since 2008. Not after one of its most proclaimed archetype’s crashes and burns where even the likes of Icarus himself might marvel.

And speaking of “unicorns”. As 2016 has now come and gone what are we supposed to infer by the ever-increasing troubles emanating from the prized “decacorn” holding stable? (e.g., The Uber™, AirBnB™ types et al)

It would seem with every passing day (which has now morphed into years) waiting for that “perfect” cash-out point as to IPO seems to only be met with one reglatory hurdle after another. Which could, if found the ruling/rulings go against them, eviscerate their valuation-gone-wild models/metrics that would make even a glue factory blush for efficiency.

Uber is being sued (again) based on workers wages, classification, and more. China is now an after thought which in 2016 was supposed to be its primary goal if I’m not mistaken. And AirBnB still has its regulatory hurdles to be weeded out through the courts. If many of these go against them, then they face an all too, and very real valuation problem do they not?

Oh, yeah, and don’t forget “decacorn” stands for a unicorn worth $10’s of BILLIONS in valuation terms. You know where “The Valley” states reality for making the argument that a so-called “glorified taxi-app” is said to be worth more than the likes of GM™, Ford™, Nissan™, Hyundai™, and others, because “Its disruptive”, so of course “It’s totally worth it” and it must be worth more.

That’s not hyperbole on my part. You can find those exact words and arguments across the media and especially anywhere that’s Silicon Valley centric. Again, truly ponder that last statement. And if in the end you can’t shake an image of a sock-puppet  from entering your mind? Don’t worry, I believe that proves you can still think clearly and understand true reality.

So now why has all the above happened? And why do I believe there’s far more of a “dark side” to all this “it’s different this time” fantasy world that Silicon Valley or “The Valley” as I like to say hasn’t a clue is on the horizon?

Here’s the equation I believe will not only send shock waves, but will bring down many a valuation edifice within “The Valley” in 2017. And here it is:

First: The Fed. And Second: Rate hikes.

Two very short sentences containing nothing more than two words each but their implications could have exponentially explosive results. For what they portend is that “It’s different this time” may indeed be exactly that.

What I hoped you may have noticed during this discussion is the one thing myself and very few others pointed out would happen if the hypothesis we’ve been articulating over the last few years was correct. That hypothesis has always been “Without the Fed. pumping in unlimited funds via the QE programs, and a “death-grip” to the zero bound (aka ZIRP) the first ones to show how much of a facade these “markets” where would be seen directly in the “tech” space.

Notice anything similar in any of the above? Hint: Without QE, everything came to a screeching halt at best, and a complete reversal of fortunes for many at worst. And I believe it’s only just begun. Why?

This past December, much like the one in 2015, the Fed. once again raised rates. However, this one in-particular is the one that may catch a lot of onlookers (especially most of the financial press) by surprise, and it’s for this reason:

If you watched the presser (and I suggest one do just that) following the rate hike given by Ms. Yellen, one thing is very front and center: She vociferously argued, or defended the idea of not only raising, but raising more than many presumed (now the working number of hikes is up to 3 from 2) coupled with her again animated defense of possibly even raising more, and more quickly should the Fed’s assessment to anything “fiscal” coming out of congress warrants it. When only weeks before she was arguing a possible need to run a “high-pressure” economy. That in-and-of-itself is a 180 from her (e.g., The Fed’s) implied stance.

(Just to clarify: “vociferously” and “animated” for Ms. Yellen is my assessment as I compare to her characteristic usually monotone readings or discussions at other events. Your interpretations may differ.)

So now with the 800lb. “It’s different this time” gorilla in the room I’d like to make a hypothesis for you to consider. I’m not saying “prediction” because that’s for fools. Nobody, and mean just that no-body knows what the future holds. All we can do is “look at the charts” (i.e., teas leaves) coupled with our best assumptions of what is correlation and/or causation, filtered through any acumen we might have gained over the years, then hopefully put ourselves in the best position for either possible gain, or to sidestep harm. Nothing more.

If we look only at the above charts to my eye one thing can be rationally inferred: Without the Fed. the “everything social” argument is D.O.A. Period.

What can also be logically asked is this: Why did FB’s valuation begin dropping and has never recovered during which supposedly as we were all being screamed at that “They were crushing it!” in every metric or mobile assumption. Again, it was touted as “You nay-sayers just don’t get it!” And yet, their valuation kept falling? And continued in the face of a rally into year-end that’s now gone into the record books under the classification of “historic”?

Was this in part due to a reasonable assumption that the one buyer who was buying so much stock in FB during 2016 promptly decided if the Fed. was indeed going to raise it couldn’t buy any more out of concerns of future funding costs?

Oh, and just to clarify – that buyer was the Swiss National Bank. Second to none in its FB shareholdings. Yes, even to Mark himself.

And if one can answer “yes” to that question in even a remote possibility, then what does that do to a whole lot of other companies within the “markets”? Hint: Here’s just one article for you to ponder coupled with the above implications. To wit:

“Mystery” Buyer Revealed: Swiss National Bank’s US Stock Holdings Rose 50% In First Half, To Record $62BN”

Once again I can’t make this argument more forcefully than what the “tea leaves” or “charts” imply surrounded with the rationalization that the Fed. may indeed be far more aggressive in hiking with this new administration in power than the previous. And if that has even the remotest possibilities of being true? Based on what one could reasonably infer that took place over 2016 in total?

“It’s different this time” may take on a meaning never dreamed of within Silicon Valley, “The Valley”, and in particular, the “markets” as a whole.

And if I’m wrong, I’ll just leave you with one last point to consider…

If there’s so much more room to go in the “everything social” model as is professed via the media and every next-in-rotation fund manager that can elbow their way onto a television set. As one of my favorite Batman® characters was fond of saying, “Riddle me this!”

If FB, and or the “everything social” model is still in its nascent beginnings with so much more room to grow? Then why was Mark Zuckerberg ready, and seemingly willing in 2016 to sell his shares, and leave FB with the very real possibly of having to give up control to go into politics for two years? You know – if FB is the end all, be all of the “everything social” argument?

All I’ll say is this: “The Valley” had better be hoping – it is a whole lot different this time – than what it may end up being.

We shall see soon enough.

© 2017 Mark St.Cyr

If Not Now? When?

As we’re about to cross into the new year, one of the most over-rated, foolhardy, near-meaningless acts known as “New Year’s Resolutions” will be embarked on by a countless many. Countless for sure, and by most measures – pointless a near certainty.

Why do I say such a thing? Easy…

I’ve been there, done that. Watched countless others do the same – and watched and listened to excuse after excuse be used as to give rationale to: No it wasn’t my fault I didn’t reach it. It’s because of __________(fill in the blank.) Trust me I know them all. For not only did I use many excuses myself, I probably invented a few you never contemplated.

Yet, with all that said I have reached many goals. And most of those goals are the very one’s people currently buy books looking for the “secret” to attain. The difference between most of the books written and me revolve around one very critical factor: They write about what others have done.

I’ve done, and now write about it.

Today, most “Self Help” or “Personal Achievement” styled books are written by people whom A) have done nothing more than read books authored by people who themselves only wrote about what others accomplished. And B) now have written a book (or have some program) for you to buy and read about what they’ve read. It’s mind-numbing.

And the topic most covered in 99.9% of these is: goal setting. And most of it is nothing more than fluffy, flowery laced, bunk. Yes, even the ones by the so-called “big-time-gurus.” Actually, I’ll say most. I know because I’ve read most of them for myself.

Let me impress this one idea upon you about goal setting…

If the “goal” isn’t worth starting immediately where you stand at the moment you decide – It isn’t a goal – It’s a daydream, a wish, a nice thought to think about later. Nice, yes. But a goal? Hardly.

If you can’t get the meaning of that in your gut – you’ve just identified to yourself why your “goals” never result in actual attainment. Harsh? You bet. True? Absolutely. And could be worth $Millions to you if you just get and apply that one point. Yes, it’s that big.

Same goes for most other “goals.”

If you’re serious about losing weight for example – it starts in that moment of decision. Not after you give yourself the ability to binge over the New Year celebration and wake from a food coma the morning of the 1st to then begin. If that’s the way you “goal set?” Is it any wonder why you can probably use one hand to count the ones that were achieved, and even with your socks off wouldn’t have enough digits to keep track of the ones you didn’t reach? Be honest.

Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t use a new year, new month, new day, etc. to clear the slate and start afresh. i.e., for tax reasons you needed to wait before forming a new company, or lease to expire, et cetera. That’s fine. Just don’t confuse the personal goal (i.e., lose weight, stop doing X, begin doing Y, etc.) with something outside. The personal (as in towards improving yourself) must begin in the moment. Not later, otherwise? It’s nothing more than a daydream.

So let me end with this for you to consider:

If the goal isn’t important enough to begin right now where you stand? How does it gain more importance or meaning by putting it off another day? For if you can? It becomes obvious that goal just isn’t that important then, is it?

For here is the real dirty-little-secret when it comes to goal setting or resolutions…

If not now? When never comes.

Regardless of what day it is on the calendar.

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr

The Political Celebrity Another “Jump The Shark” Moment

If 2016 has done anything which once seemed unthinkable it was this: It has made/turned/exposed many a “political” celebrity into a laughing-stock. And that’s a fate worse than death for a cohort of people who take themselves far, far, far (did I say far?) too seriously.

Over the years I’ve commented to friends and others about this phenom. I would always preface my comments with the usual, “Why does anyone care what _________ (fill in the blank) thinks? Just because it’s __________ I’m suppose to think, well, if _________ says it, it must be true?”

Usually this is where some imaginary bell would ring and it was “Game on!” Although that illusionary sound should be a signal of warning as to “shut up, and shut up now!” Usually, I don’t –  and the once hallowed seal of the verbal apocalypse (i.e., never talk religion, politics) is broken.

Generally this is where that one family member, friend, or total stranger in the gathering not only feels free, but rather, now becomes embolden to not only defend the celebrity, but also defend their position with reasoning just as vapid, and just as convoluted as theirs.

We’ve all been there. And if you haven’t? I’ll just assume you’re a much more disciplined person than myself. Although I have much improved. (If you want a clue as to how I can or have ended up in these types of predicaments? Let’s just say I’m the guy who thought he was being polite one day in conversation and asked a wonderful lady “So? When are you expecting?” Hint: She wasn’t. You can “fill in the blank” as they say for yourselves as to what transpired after. All I’ll say is this: I wouldn’t ask that question again even if I were standing in a maternity room!)

Celebrities have always been used (and I mean just that – used) as to help sway public opinion one way or another. Or, to seemingly give some stamp-of-approval to one candidate over another. It’s been going on forever, and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.

However, with that said I do believe the most recent incarnation of the “political celebrity” may indeed be going way of the Dodo bird. Case in point: Martin Sheen and his leading of the gaggle to influence electors of the electoral college to stand up – and cast their vote for someone else.

In what was supposedly some form of call-to-action video Martin Sheen (did you notice the purple shirt?) and others called for electors to change their votes away from their sworn obligated duties and cast them for someone else. They wouldn’t openly state their desired choice (cough-Hillary-cough) however the intent was clear.

The problem? A few electors did just that. The result? The exact opposite of what they prayed, begged, tantrum’d hoped for, inflicting even further humiliation into what can only be described as – rubbing rock salt into an already mortal wound.

It doesn’t matter which side of the political spectrum you fall on. If you look at this latest episode in the effectiveness of “celebrity” endorsements you can not come away with anything less than it no longer works.

This isn’t to say that a celebrity per se doesn’t have influence. They can, and do. Yet – there’s a catch. And here it is:

The celebrity will have to be willing, as well as able to clearly define their arguments, along with the caveat of demonstrating via their own lifestyle or such that they themselves are abiding by the principles of what they are professing. Not simply “I’m _________ and I want you to vote for X because I’m _________ and that should be enough reason for you.”

That has been the modus operandi of today’s incarnation of the “political celebrity” for the last few decades. It was subtle at first, yet, it has now become an inescapable crescendo. And what else is also becoming quite obvious, that is, obvious to everyone else ‘cept for these celebrities? Their messages are being either: a) Rejected in total. Or, b) Having the exact opposite effect, as well as impact.

Here are a few examples… (Let me just make clear: This has nothing to do with where I might stand on any point, I may or may not have the same viewpoint. However, I can articulate why and I demand others to do the same if they feel the right to question me. As should you. Period.)

Matt Damon strongly says “guns are the problem.” And yet the only movies worth remembering him for are ones where he’s shooting up everything in sight with more guns and bullets held by most small nations.

Leonardo DiCaprio espouses that everyone should change their lifestyles as to reduce their carbon footprint and save the world – as he flies in on his private jet then retreats back to his mansion of choice where the yearly salary of most wouldn’t cover the utility bills, let alone the jet fuel for a month.

The cast of the play “Hamilton” which decided it was their “right” to publicly give a political “schooling” to the Vice President-elect from the stage not realizing the very man who is the namesake of that play is the reason for the election results. Adding insult to injury, it was also learned not only did the actor/actors appear absolutely clueless to both the man, as well as his words and their meaning. They didn’t even vote!

And last, but certainly not least, there was the afore-mentioned debacle of Martin Sheen et al’s call-for-action begging plea to turn the election on its head and help pave the way for the possible coronation of their approved choice.

The problem? Hint: More electors jumped ship who were supposed to endorse their presumed candidate of choice adding further humiliation to an already laughable charade for constitutional insurgency.

All the above are only a few, however they might as well be all for there now seems to the equivalent of a groundswell of “The Emperor is naked” happening to a lot of once “true believers” in the “political celebrity” than I can remember.

How do I know this to be true? Let’s just say by empirical evidence which I myself gathered by my own first hand accounts. What were they you ask? Fair question, so I’ll just end here with this…

That “person” who always is the first to come rushing in to defend the celebrity? Let’s just say when any “hot button topic” came up for discussion?

They were nowhere to be found.

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr

Why “Princeton Math” Never Adds Up

How many times have you watched some talking head from either academia or government and thought “What they’re saying just doesn’t seem to add up?” Yet, you questioned your own gut reaction with far more intensity than you ever questioned the premise or statements made because of one simple factor: They have some form of “Ivy League” credential?

There was a time where this had some (and I use that term very loosely) form of validity. Today? It may prove to be an outright dangerous folly. Here are a just a few examples:

Whether you’re in business, or just trying to keep up with what the economy may, or may not, be doing as to help you in considerations about where you might, or might not, position yourself in business or employment. One of the once generally accepted gauges as to help in that formulation was the Unemployment rate, coupled with not only what type of employment was being created, but also, that which appeared to be resilient.

Doing this today in a cursory fashion might lead you down a path to disaster. Doing this coupled with listening to the once “Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers” (2011 -13) and now residing at Princeton University may lead you to total economic ruin. For if you thought he knew what he was touting? Think again. To wit:

Top Ex-White House Economist Admits 94% Of All New Jobs Under Obama Were Part-Time”

Remember when people like myself argued about the current state of employment and economic health being touted by the so-called “smart crowd” using the “statistics” of-the-day were anything but what was being professed? (I know trick question – they still do!)

All we were told (as well as sold) was this: “According to the statistics, we (we as in you or me) are egregiously either misinformed, or, unwilling to accept facts.” This was usually delivered in a, “Oh these poor uneducated plebes just don’t understand complicated math.” tone of superiority.

No, it wasn’t that we didn’t understand complicated math. It’s that we instinctively knew, without a shadow-of-doubt, when we were being showered with unmitigated bulls__t. And, in my opinion, Alan Krueger has been one of the foremost go-to talking head offenders of this crap touted across the business media. And in particular what I once considered a “serious” business outlet: Bloomberg™.

Let me be clear on one point. There are many hosts, writers, analysts, and shows which I like, and consider well-informed or unbiased there. However, what I am most disappointed in is this: Over the last year or more there has (at least in my opinion) been a distinct turn as to have more academic, government employed, or government centric guests. (e.g. Think-tanks, etc.) Where the tone now seems more government centric than business.

With interventionism of all sorts within the markets and more it’s easy to see why. However, that’s not the main point.

What I have deduced in my watching (and this goes for the other channels as well) is those whom fall into this category of government, academia, or think-tank – their statements, arguments, or perceptions of reality are regarded as if they are holy writ, and are not to be questioned. And the above cited revelations proves my point ipso facto. Period.

Mr Krueger has appeared countless times and both defended, as well as simultaneously minimized any validity to anyone’s questioning of not only the jobs data prior to today, but also, the health or robustness of the U.S. economy itself. That is, until he decided to actually take a little closer look for himself. What’s something like this called in academia? Ooopsy?

It would seem using “Princeton Math” missing the mark by 94% still allows for keeping one’s tenure, paycheck, and speaking fees, along with a calendar full for “on-air” appearances.

In business – it usually ends in just one thing: bankruptcy.

There is no other way to explain how something of this magnitude could have been missed unless (like I iterated above) no one, and I mean just that, no one pushed back hard enough to question his assertions over these last few years. People like myself have, but we’re considered “tin foiled” types, “Doomer-gloomers,” __________(fill in the blank.)

The real problem for the likes of Mr. Krueger and others who have been touting much of this trite is this: You’re proving us right. And that’s gotta sting, yes?

I coined the term “Princeton Math” a while back in response to some of the arguments and conclusions being professed by many of academia’s high “potentates.” i.e., Paul Krugman, Janet Yellen, Ben Bernanke et al.

I’ve argued (more like warning) that taking the assumptions being made using their rationale, as well as their basis for facts to verify those assumptions is not only foolhardy, but more likely to end in ways currently unimaginable to the average business owner or employee. e.g. Unmitigated economic disaster.

And no, I’m not trying to be hyperbolic just for its own sake. I truly believe that. But only the further passage of time will tell. Yet, with that said, with every passing day the uncovering, along with its realization of true economic facts moves unto my side of the argument/ledger, and away from theirs. And, that is no small revelation to be taken lightly.

Remember: The current Chair of the Federal Reserve argued only a few months ago that the economy was far from recovered and may need to run a “high-pressure” economy to mitigate the still reverberating after effects. Then, only to state at the latest press conference that even more rate hikes, rather than the same or less may be needed in the coming year.

Does one need some overpriced, overhyped “sheepskin” to see the possible economic “train wreck” possibilities here?

And as far as that implied fiscal stimulus they’ve been clamoring for? To paraphrase “Fiscal? We don’t need no stinkin’ fiscal help!” Maybe they don’t – but it sure seems like the U.S. economy can.

Add to this Paul Krugman’s tour-de-force that we should all just agree that “aliens” have arrived to conquer the planet and produce “goods” as to defend or entice them to consume I guess. (And no, I’m not making that up.)

Or better yet (only because it doesn’t involve aliens I guess) we should just magically produce (“magically” as in say it’s worth, not that it has any worth but for calling it that) some “Trillion $Dollar Coin” lock it up in some safe and put up the economic equivalent of a banner stating “Mission Accomplished!” Yep, sounds like a sound plan and idea. Not!

And now we have the latest “Ooopsy” from Alan Krueger. So what can we imagine him saying to defend such an egregious error? Maybe: “Yeah, remember all that good I said was created? Yeah, sorry ’bout that. But not too worry, tuitions will only increase twice as fast as to help buffer the economic impact emulating from private sector employment. So, my advice? Just stay in school. After all – it’s rough out there. And my newest thesis proves it!”

Sounds plausible too me. Especially with what we hear and see coming from the so-called “smart crowd” with every passing day.

Not to belittle the serious water issue happening in Flint, Michigan. However, with that said…

Has anyone checked the water at these universities?

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr

Fake News: Social Media’s Jump The Shark Moment

For those not familiar with the term, it’s just a different way to say: “Stick a fork in it – it’s done!”

It comes from a scene during a once heralded television series called Happy Days (1974-84 on ABC™.) In this episode one of the main characters (Fonzie) literally water-skis and jumps over a pen containing a shark. So ridiculous was the scene along with its premise. As soon as it was over the collective viewing audience instinctively knew the same: This show is sooo over. Hence its now near immortal moniker to mark that moment in time when you know – “It’s over.” Much like when you watch any recent Madonna performance.

I believe social media has just had its “moment.” And “fake news” was it. Again, let’s use the description one would find doing any internet search for the definition of the phrase “jump the shark.” To wit:

“Reach a point at which far-fetched events are included merely for the sake of novelty, indicative of a decline in quality.”

Welcome to social media’s moment. Only this time – I think the shark wins.

Over and over we hear about social’s “impact,” what it can do better than any mere mortal when it comes to customer interaction, engagement, blah, blah, blah. Yet, when it comes to proof where that claim should be able to put any naysayers such as myself to rest? Not only does it not. It shows more vividly the claims, “We can deliver X better than Y!” are nothing more than smoke-and-mirrors.

If they weren’t? Do you believe the largest ad buyer in the world would pull ad dollars from what social has professed as social media’s raison d’être? i.e., They can supply metrics that know your customer better than they know themselves, which you can then use and make money with. Especially from the company everyone states does this better than anyone else? (e.g., Facebook™.)

Companies don’t pull money from ad buys that are working. Especially in this current economic climate. Yet – that’s precisely what the largest in the world had done. And what was worse? It increased its total ad budget, just not with them. Let that sink in, for there’s just as much to ponder between-the-lines, as there is to ponder about many a social’s already feeble bottom-line will be in the future.

Let’s consider another conundrum that the social-media-space has yet to fully comprehend. And it is this:

If “fake news” had the power to not only reach millions upon millions, but also had the power and effectiveness to alter their viewpoints to the extent that it swayed an election from the all but assured candidate to the other? How can any company, let alone any social media site openly state that its desire in both policy, as well as enforcement will now be to alienate such a massive portion of its users, and argue (or better yet, allow the obvious to remain unsaid or ignored) that it won’t effect the bottom line? Unless…

To paraphrase the “jump the shark” reference: Far fetched ideas or events are now the only ploy left available to keep the storyline alive and “investors” invested in it. Both figuratively, as well as literally. And speaking of staying “invested…”

I watch, read, and hear one Silicon Valley aficionado after another make statements when it comes to “everything social” that this space, as well as the current players in it, “Have the potential to do nothing but grow.”

When asked about the current valuations of a company like Facebook™(FB) for example? All you’ll hear are accolades such as “How the stock price has so much more room to run.” This is only made ever-the-louder when the next-in-rotation fund manager echoes the same. Sounds great. However…

If that is so true: Then why was Mr. Zuckerberg over the summer willing to jettison mostly all of his shares in the company and move into politics? You know, as is screamed at me all the time – if social has so much more “upside?”

Can you imagine such a revelation from let’s say, a Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Ellison etc., etc? Hint: Hardly.

For many of you, welcome to what may be your first “Wait…what?” moment when it comes to “everything social.” I’ll just add this: Trust me – it won’t be your last.

I found it laughable that while all the perfunctory statements came blazing across the media in response to the latest boogeyman now known as “fake news” within social media. The very real story that earlier this year Mark Zuckerberg was looking for a way to basically cash-out, and move onto something different fell upon many a deaf ear. Especially the ears of Silicon Valley itself.

Say it isn’t so? Fair enough – don’t take my word for it. Here’s how it was reported via Bloomberg™. To wit:

“Bowles, former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff and past president of the University of North Carolina system, was especially skeptical of Zuckerberg’s proposition, as depicted in the suit. Many of Andreessen’s texts focused on persuading him. Among other things, Bowles worried that one of the concessions Zuckerberg wanted — to allow the billionaire to serve two years in government without losing control of Facebook — would look particularly irresponsible, according to court filings.”

And just a tad more, you know, “for context.” Once again, to wit:

“Andreessen texted Zuckerberg in early March ahead of a call with the committee, telling him he would have to figure out “how to define the gov’t service thing without freaking out shareholders that you are losing commitment.””

“Andreessen sought to persuade Bowles that if Zuckerberg went into politics, the government would likely require him to give up control of Facebook anyway, so the point was moot, according to the documents. A couple of weeks later, Andreessen prevailed, and the vote was brought to shareholders. (The stock reclassification is on hold pending the results of the lawsuit, though.)”

So, what is “real” and what is “fake?” Mark Zuckerberg’s now newly found commitment (or better said: commitment because he’s now stuck?) to rid FB of “fake news” since it seems pretty obvious by my reading (and opinion) he was looking for ways to get-out himself?

Or, FB (and the entire social media complex) is going to forcibly be made to come to grips with the almost undeniable conclusion: It’s going the way of AOL sooner, rather than later? And “fake news” was its “jump the shark” moment in history.

If you want further clues? Hint: Look to the stock price movements of not only Twitter™, but also, the IPO to save the IPO world Twillio™, and the IPO shopping not heard round the world because it was felt needed to be kept as “confidential” e.g., SnapChat™.

Yep – it sure is different this time, yes?

Again, don’t take my word for it. As I always say to paraphrase one of my figurative mentors Andrew Carnegie: “The older I get, the less I pay attention to what people say, and the more I watch what they do.”

What can a person reasonably infer as demonstrated by Mr. Zuckerberg’s own actions? As I like to say – think about it.

Just to remind you, from the above quote: “Andreessen sought to persuade Bowles that if Zuckerberg went into politics, the government would likely require him to give up control of Facebook anyway, so the point was moot, according to the documents.”

Seems pretty clear that Mr. Andreessen understood the implications, for he is reported to make precisely that a point. i.e., Would have to give up FB control. And here we’re suppose to believe FB has, was, and still is Mark’s first and only concern? Is that “real?” Or “fake?” I believe that’s a far more important (and far better) question.

I wonder how the Swiss National Bank feels about such a revelation? i.e., Not only owning more shares of FB than Mark (e.g., $129 BILLION worth by last reports,) but that Mark was looking for ways into leaving them possibly holding the entire “bag?” Is that a very “real” possibility? Or, Is that just “fake news?” As I iterated earlier: Read the above article for yourself and draw your own conclusions. And about those “conclusions…”

Let’s not leave out all those still waiting on their own “IPO cash-out-to-riches moment.” You know, since 2016 didn’t work out as it was all but assured. Even as the “markets” print ever-increasing “all time highs.” Yet, I guess there’s always “hope.” After all, Microsoft™ is always looking for bargains, right?

But I digress.

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr

A Lesson In Spelling, Meaning, And Effective Use

I know right now many of you read that above headline coming from me and either laughed out loud thinking “This is going to be funny!” Or, “Mark is going to give a lesson in spelling? Spelling?!” And to that I wouldn’t begrudge a one of you for doing so. Lord knows I’m the first to state “I can’t spell cat without spellchecker.”

I’m not afraid to say that because I’m comfortable in my own skin. I’m not afraid or let what others describe as “weaknesses” deter me from pursuing any goal in which I’ve chosen to strive for. I’m fully cognizant of my deficiencies, and try to the best of my abilities to improve. However, unlike others, I’m willing to improve where I can on the fly. In other words: While I’m doing. (i.e. When you about 80% ready – move!)

I instruct people to the same, for as I’m also noted for stating: “If you wait for perfection before doing, then perfectly waiting is all you’ll ever do.”

There comes a time when you have to move, go, start, et cetera no matter where you’re standing. More often than not – momentum is the key that makes the difference – not purely preparation.

That simple line, taken and applied in context, can change most wishes to reachable goals in an instant. To some – it can be worth millions, to others, it can be priceless for how it may change one’s life for the better. Don’t let it be lost on you. Maybe even ponder it more fully before you read on. Yes – it’s that important.

And as far as the “context” meaning: Yes, context is a needed term, for of course you’d need to prepare how to be a surgeon first, before manning a scalpel. But more often than not – people will use the same reasoning where it doesn’t apply as to give themselves the illusion – they can’t start because _________(fill in the blank.) Again, think about it.

So why am I stating all this? Well, as many of you may have heard over the weekend there was an incident where a Chinese naval vessel blatantly commandeered a submersible device from a U.S. research ship off its coast. The act has all the warning signs of a “diplomatic sea mine.” Incidents like these are not to be taken lightly as we all know.

During this period of so-called “Who says what next? And what’s the implied message?” It seemed there was a lot of hand-wringing for how to respond, accompanied by a deafening silence. That silence was broken by (you know who) the president-elect, where in a tweet he forcefully called it what it was: “unpresidented act.” [sic]

It wasn’t long before everyone who could chime in, did chime in to mock, or scorn Mr. Trump for not knowing the correct spelling. Yet, the one response that mattered most came not from the “mockers” but from the one’s for whom the message was being sent to. e.g., China. And what followed within hours? To wit:

“China Responds: Will Return Stolen Drone, “Regrets US Hype”

Now whether or not you approve of the president-elect is not the point of this discussion. What I am trying to demonstrate is when it comes to getting your message out there (what ever it may be) people understanding your intent, or your message, supersedes any spelling mistake, grammatical errors, or anything else. Remember: It’s the sell, don’t spell philosophy that 9 times out of 10 puts food on the table and/or pays the mortgage.

People who understand real value propositions know fully well what to pay attention to, and what is insignificant too it. (example: “I have 100 acres of prime reel estate offered 50% below kurrent markit prices.” If you know the underlying facts to be true – are you not interested because of the spelling?)

Now of course since then (and almost immediately once noticed) the spelling was corrected. However, that hasn’t stopped the pile on. And the one I found symbolic of all the “We’re so much superior than most because we’re “educated” even though most can’t afford to even repay their college loans. But I digress. Was put forth by none other than Merrriam-Webster’s Dictionary™.

In mocking tone they also took to tweeting. To wit:

“Good morning! The #WordOfTheDay is…not ‘unpresidented’. We don’t enter that word. That’s a new one,” the dictionary tweeted, and linked it to the definition of the word “huh.” e.g., “Definition of HUH -used at the end of a statement to ask whether someone agrees with you…”

Personally I found this mocking so emblematic of the “glass houses” analogy I had to do all I could from spitting my coffee all over my screens. Too me, it says so much of what I’ve tried to express over the years.

Personally, when I’ve seen any of the past “writers” who mocked me when I first entertained the idea of writing in any form. I immediately wave high and make it a point to say, “Hey! Have you seen I’m now read in over 170 countries?! How you doing?”

Let’s just say, if looks could kill, that would be better than what they want to do with me.

So to prove this point I’ll just end with this. So when you’re faced (which you will if you try doing anything above average) with some Ph.D type or other “knows better than you because they’ve read about such things but have never actually done anything but read.” Just turn and feel sorry for them because they really do think they’re superior. And no matter what you try to say to the contrary – you’re just wasting breath. And I use for that example todays example of “glass houses.” To wit:

Merriam-Websters is in fact: a dictionary. However, with that said…

Anyone who is doing or looking for any real meaning or definition of a word, and wants or needs to make sure that it is designated as a word in the English language – would be laughed out of any Ph.D filled symposium if they listed as a footnote for any word used for research coming from Merriam-Websters.

Everyone knows the only true resource for dictionaries is the dictionary of dictionaries. And that’s Oxford’s Dictionary of English™.

Donald Trump might have misspelled a word, but his intent was clear, and meaning understood by another government resulting in the release and ending of the incident.

Merriam-Websters could complain all day to Oxford demanding a word they don’t agree with in spelling should, or must be changed – and Oxford would laugh, and laugh, and laugh.

Again – think about it.

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr

The Real Question: What’s Facebook’s True Valuation Without “Fake?”

There are two hot topics post the U.S. presidential election. One is “fake news”, the other is Facebook™ (FB), and its involvement in it.

The accusations and the defenses against have been all over the board. Both figuratively, as well as literally.

Management from Mark Zuckerberg on down have been professing when it came to anything “fake” it wasn’t of their doing. And gee-whiz-by-golly they’re going to do whatever it takes to make sure anything “fake” never sees the “like” of day again.

Sounds great, in theory. But there’s a very real fact that must now be considered…

If “fake” news was so wide-spread, and so devoured on FB that it had the ability to not only influence, but rather, to overturn political norms and ruin the election of what everyone in media on down believed; that this election was merely a formality on paper because, it was clear to all of them, Mrs. Clinton would win not just walking away, but running?

That would mean FB now has to alienate (i.e., by now not delivering “news” these people wanted to see) millions, upon millions, upon millions of now current users. What does that imply to their now “real” (ooopsy, again!) metrics going forward?

If the above hypothetical has the ability to be true (and from a business perspective it sure has) the very fact that FB will now openly censor, mark, tag, possibly defame (whether intentionally or not), and more articles of news, or anything else shared on its platform. Two questions have to be asked:

First: How many FB customers decide they don’t need or want a “mommy” deciding what they can, or can not, read or share? Second: How fast does that process begin, and by how many?

No matter what side of the political fence you’re on matters. The only thing that matters is what all this means from a business perspective to FB’s bottom line. For as much as everyone likes “free”, without Wall Street (or the Swiss Central Bank) buying? FB moves to AOL™ status quicker than you can say “You’ve got mail®.”

As of this writing some hand writing is all ready appearing on the wall as FB announced not only will it begin to find ways to forbid fact-check. But it has now joined forces with a third-party to do just that. Again, all sounds good on the surface until you’re made aware by one’s own fact-checking just whom that third-party is. e.g., Poynter™.

Who are they? Personally, I’ve never heard of them prior, but it only took seeing one man’s name on the roster of backers to understand the impact it will have on a great many current FB users, as well as content generators to imagine a most assured backlash. e.g. George Soros.

Again, it doesn’t matter what side of the political fence you sit. And it doesn’t matter whether you like or dislike Mr. Soros, or anything he’s involved with. What does matter is this: How many users, along with legitimate purveyors of content currently using FB are going to allow any form of what they will most certainly view as censorship via an entity controlled (or at least think is) by people they deem hold the antithesis viewpoint to theirs? And it will be they that has the control to censor.

What’s the number? 1? 10? 10,000? 10 Million? ____________? (fill in the blank). And what do they represent in economic impact to FB’s bottom line? Does it hurt user numbers? Does a revolt in buying ads, or promoting sites, or content develop? The list of potential revenue disruptors begins to get lengthy when you truly ponder the potential impact. And Wall Street doesn’t like things that have the potential to hurt the bottom line. Non-GAAP or not.

Remember: The argument is “fake news” (and FB is now considered the poster child for where it ran rampant, whether rightly, or wrongly) had so much influence in this election that it cost the presumed victor millions of votes.

So if you take that logic as being possibly true. Then that means millions of FB users are consumers (For they must have consumed, no?) of that type of content. And if they now know FB will some how either remove it, or make it so burdensome to access they won’t see it? Whether they agree with FB’s conclusions or not? Are you beginning to see how this could run?

Then add to that one of the parties responsible for that form of censorship which they will be subject to as for what they may, or may not read – is being decided by an entity presumably controlled under the auspices of Mr. Soros? The potential for both FB content consumers along with content creators getting upset maybe an understatement. Even among the so-called “legitimate” voices. FB could have an outright revolution of revulsion on their hands. Think about it.

What happens if rather than FB being the provider or outlet for calls of boycotts or other social protests when it comes to advertisers and more, suddenly finds those roles reversed where it can be the recipient of those calls? And how do advertisers view those prospects? This whole “fake” has truly opened up a very real can-of-worms for FB in my opinion. A very real and potentially costly “can” at that.

Don’t think things have a potential for explosive reactions? Just try telling someone (anyone) they’re not allowed to see or read something. Forget politics, I mean anything. Watch how fast any argument of “It’s for your own good” lasts, or works.

There are other considerations I’ll bet a lot of people have yet to even ponder. So, for those who don’t remember ancient history. Or care about “marketing.” Let me leave you with this:

One of the best marketing and sales generating campaigns for the written word ever discovered fell under this same category” i.e., “You can’t read that – we forbid it!” Or, “Book burnings begin tonight!” Or my personal favorite “Banned in Boston!”

Personally, I don’t use FB. However, with that said – I will be the first one to put up on my site in large letters “Banned by FB” Or “FB says Don’t Read This!” Or, something of that sort should one of my articles ever get shared and some form of signaling or notation is made accordingly. It would be a badge of honor. Besides…

You couldn’t ask for better marketing. All at FB’s expense, and quite possibly, literally.

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr

Yellen To Trump: Hashtag This!

From the article, “Yellen’s Conundrum: Forestall Monetary Mayhem Or Release Political Pandemonium” To wit:

“Regardless of who wins the election, one thing is certain: the vote that takes place in December within the confines of the Eccles Building cast by a dozen un-elected, Ivy Leagued, academic bankers whose combined real world business experience is near nonexistent (less for that read in some wood-paneled library) will decide monetary policy that will have more implications for not only the U.S., but the world as a whole. Effecting not only the global financial markets, but quite possibly, the entire international political stratum as well. And the new President (as well as every other world leader) will have to adjust to that outcome.”

On Wednesday The Federal Reserve raised interest rates. The presumption of it happening was as close to full consensus as one can get. Personally, I thought there was a chance (as slight as it was) they may do what they have done countless times over the past years. i.e., Sternly jawbone the esoteric as they once again kick-the-can.

The reasoning for it was simple: For once – conditions were showing – one final pause may actually be prudent, giving them cover to do just that. And since it was smack-dab in the middle of the U.S. presidential transition time period, it could be argued, if there was ever was a legitimate reason to “pause,” this was one of the best excuses if there ever was one.

As I’ve iterated before: With a new administration about to be seated (in-particular an anathema to earlier projections); data movements in the Fed’s favor of stated objectives (albeit ever so slightly); the $Dollar had gained tamping down any immediate worries for any runaway inflation concerns; oil remained stable-ish; and under the current barrage of treasury holdings being dumped as many frantically defended their currencies, China in-particular, still appeared to be defending and keeping at bay any sudden devaluation scenario from happening and its knock-on contagion effects, etc., etc.

So, to use a baseball term: Why cause a forced error? Or, in other words: Why chance the risk where the odds for needing a possible quick reversal has more of chance to increase, rather than decrease? (i.e., A hike is most assuredly going to put far more pressure on the Yuan where a sudden “oh-oh” moment seems precariously poised to happen with just one unanticipated wrong move.

Sure there would be howls, but those were going to be there no matter what. For the Fed. has waited far too long as to be on any prudent side, or idealized “real” path of normalization.

The problem all that waiting has created was to leave the Fed. ever stuck within the confines of choosing between the lesser of two evils. i.e., Raise purely for the sake of monetary prudence or credibility. Or, wait purely for the “markets” sake, or stability.

Again, just to make this point, in my opinion: For the first time in years, the Fed. waiting one last time actually had more of an acceptable argument, or criteria than any previous. Especially given the sudden surge in what many have alluded to as the return of the “reflation” trade. After all, it appeared that finally the Fed’s long bemoaned calling for “fiscal” help may have – in fact – actually arrived.

Then came the announcement.

The rate hike was all but baked it, granted. But, not any additional signaling of hikes (via the Dot Plot) above two. Let alone, a more “hawkish” tone than almost any conference in recent memory.

As a matter of fact, the tone expected from the Fed. Chair was thought surely to be laced with ever-the-more dovish tones as to not upset, or spook the “markets.” After all, the last time the Fed. hiked? Less than 30 days after implementation there was a need for a gaggle of Fed. members to scramble to any camera, microphone, or venue to assure the “markets” the Fed. was still ready, willing, and able to turn the spigot back-on-full should it be needed.

For those who don’t remember (or just refused to open their statements.) That’s when the markets suddenly, and unrelentingly fell straight down a mere 14 days later from what many dubbed the Fed’s “mission accomplished” press conference. In just another 14 trading days – the S&P 500™ went from just under 2100 – to just above 1800. And the DJIA™? It went from just under 18K – to just above 15K. Remember then? Good times, no?

But it was at the press conference when things suddenly went from “It’s all baked in!” to “Wait….what?”

You could hear the head-scratching over the microphones as one questioner after another tried to reconcile what Ms. Yellen was now implying as Fed. guidance, or interpretation from what she (e.g., The Fed.) had prior.

There were so many “Wait…what?” moments I can’t remember them all. Yet, there were a few in-particular that stood out above the rest.

First, there was the questioning of the elevated path in the Dot Plot. (e.g., going from 2 to 3 expected rate hikes in 2017) The reasoning seemed not only convoluted, but the declarative reasoning that where the employment figures now stood was (paraphrasing) “Fine in their view.” That – was utterly – jaw-dropping.

Let me put it this way (again paraphrasing as I and others inferred): The Chair of the Fed. made it a point in her defense of raising rates at an even faster pace was to regard the Unemployment rate going down from 4.6 currently to 4.5 was not only acceptable, but adequate. However, anyone with half a brain knows for that number to have fallen to these levels means – even more people have to not only lose jobs, but also remain out of work. (i.e., We’ve climbed from 94 to 95 million currently out of the labor market. And still climbing.) To any of the 95 million, I wonder how “adequate” or “in line” it is too them?

Then there was the exchange when the question (again from a scratching-their-head in bewilderment participant) arose about what appeared to be a far more “hawkish” tone emanating from the meeting, when it wasn’t all that long ago (60 days give-or-take) the Chair herself was seeming to signal for the allowance of inflation to run a little hotter, or longer than the textbooks might imply. e.g., Her prior discussion just this past October on the benefits of a “high-pressure economy.”

Here was where Ms. Yellen seemed to become uncharacteristically more animated as to defend that she was not stating, nor should anyone infer that she was calling for such to be implemented.

It’s a fair point. However, with the Fed. engaged in forward guidance to a fault, and knowing every single syllable, let alone word is scrutinized for “intent.” The defensive posture falls a little flat. Don’t take my word for it, you can judge for yourself. Here’s how Reuters™ reported it. Remember, a mere 60 days ago. To wit:

“The Federal Reserve may need to run a “high-pressure economy” to reverse damage from the 2008-2009 crisis that depressed output, sidelined workers, and risks becoming a permanent scar, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said on Friday in a broad review of where the recovery may still fall short.

Though not addressing interest rates or immediate policy concerns directly, Yellen laid out the deepening concern at the Fed that U.S. economic potential is slipping and aggressive steps may be needed to rebuild it.”

Sure sound like less than 30 days prior to the election Ms. Yellen (i.e., the Fed.) was far more dovish (e.g., “deepening concern”) with the current state of economic exuberance than she was on Wednesday just 30 days after it. So much for “forward guidance,” yes?

One could argue (and I’m of the opinion that arguing will begin in earnest should the markets suffer anything resembling the last hike) that the Fed. was positioning for (If not why even bring up the idea of “high-pressure?”) a much more accommodative posture had the “presumed candidate” had indeed won.

However, as hard as it seemed to try to rationalize what the Fed. had/has been signaling. And what was now being professed at this latest presser. Nothing drew more attention (again in my opinion) than the Chair’s reaction to the questioning as to reconcile what everyone in that room, along with the entire marketplace, thought was incontrovertible. e.g., The Fed’s desperate calls (or pleas) for fiscal help from the Congress.

This began in earnest with her predecessor Ben Bernanke, and has been carried forward and voiced numerous times during her own tenure.

So prominent has this call been, it spurs immediate remembrance of what is now known as the “Get back to work” exchange between Sen. Schumer and then Chair Mr. Bernanke. It’s now become its own running joke whenever any Fed. member has openly called for fiscal help rather, than let monetary do it all.

Yet, Ms. Yellen seemed to become more than annoyed at the inference that the Fed. was somehow needing anything. As a matter of fact she seemed to make the point quite forcefully that unemployment at that time was quite higher, hence leaving the unsaid, said, as “this time it’s different.” Right, got it.

Yes it is different, but not because we’re going in the right direction. As the Chair did state – the headline Unemployment number is way down since then. That is a fact. However: The other side of that data point which makes it so is another fact everyone conveniently never addresses. What’s that you ask? Fair question, so let’s ponder it shall we?

It took an increase of nearly 10 million more people to be unemployed, and remain that way, from 2012 (about 86 Million) to today, where at the end of 2016, it’s now around 95 Million. I’m sorry, but that’s not “acceptable” or “adequate” in any sound book of business I’ve ever seen or read. And I’ve read quite a few. Then again, I never attended an Ivy Leagued institution. To which I now declare as a badge of honor.

So it came to much surprise when Ms. Yellen was asked about why the sudden change from asking for “fiscal” support to the implying stance they no longer needed any, Ms. Yellen seemed to channel a scene right out of “Blazing Saddles” (1974 Warner Bros.) for her response i.e., “Fiscal? We don’t need no stinkin’ fiscal help!”

And it was in that moment I believe the entire monetary/market landscape not only didn’t laugh – but rather – gasped.

If there was any reason why many (myself being one) could feel those collective gasps right through our screens while simultaneously gasping ourselves? It was in response to her follow-up as to “clarify.”

It was here when the Chair expressed, or seemed to imply, the Fed. would raise rates at an even faster and increasing pace should any supporting data from any future “fiscal” legislation be forth coming.

One couldn’t help but to get the feeling that the Fed. has suddenly 180’d and now will use any supporting metric possible to raise. That’s a far cry from the tentative, everything’s “transitory” so they must wait, and wait, and wait, for just the right data point. So much of a change is this – many are touting across the financial media landscape that the “The Fed. now knows it’s behind the curve.”

It may or may not be that. But there sure is something that has changed the Fed’s posture. Could that “change” be the election results?

Just thinking out loud here, but I couldn’t shake what I believed I was watching.

It seemed to be more than evidently clear (as I interpreted watching this presser) the Fed. is now hell-bent on being “The One’s” responsible for anything when it comes to U.S. economic policy or health. And if they decide (as displayed via the presser) that the current employment situation is “adequate” (i.e., It’s all about the headline number, pay no attention to those 95 million others) or other metrics – their now first propensity of action is to further remove  – rather than hold or add further monetary accommodations.

That’s a stunningly far cry from the Chair’s implied view of the economy a mere 30 days prior to the election. And “stunningly” maybe an understatement.

I implore you not to solely take my word, but to watch the presser for yourself and draw your own conclusions. I believe it’s one of the most forceful expressions made, or conveyed by The Federal Reserve that it may in fact act aggressively via monetary policy should it decide – It (“It” being the Fed.) seems fit. i.e., The implications seemingly being sent are that they’ll decide what a “good” economy is – fiscal implications be damned.

Just to be clear: I have argued “normalization” at-the-least should have begun in earnest circa 2013 once the major indexes had fully recovered all losses. After that I saw no defendable excuse. I have strongly opposed the Fed’s supplanting of capital formation and its business fundamentals with its own version of “whatever it takes” whether it was the continuation of QE, ZIRP, TWIST, XYZ, LMNOP, or anything else. All that was, and has been (in my opinion) was nothing more than continuing interventionism for interventionism’s sake. i.e., The central banks were becoming far too comfortable (and enamored) with all this new-found “power.”

And power it has surely found, as well as been recognized for. For it wasn’t all that long ago (a mere 9 years) one had to be either involved or employed on Wall St., or a policy wonk to recall who was the current Chair of the Federal Reserve. Let alone knowing more than one other of the Board. Yet today? Well, I’ll let the latest Forbes™ “World’s 10 Most Powerful CEO’s” list do all the speaking.

I’ll finish here with what I argued a year ago. From: “December 16th: A Date Which Will Live On In Monetary Infamy” To wit:

“Again, I must reiterate: Is it possible that the raising of rates in this climate alone, even if it were the “right thing to do” for the U.S. (i.e., The Fed. raises regardless of turbulence or data points) might be viewed by others (both sabre rattling as well as military engaged countries) as I argued earlier as proof of the Fed. being “weaponized”

Whether it’s true or not will be a moot point. It’s how things are viewed in the eyes of others. Or, more importantly: how things may be spun to their own populace. That’s a very important point to ponder.

I’ll argue those looking for a “boogeyman” will be served a near perfect straw-man setup on a silver platter. After all the reasoning will fall around something resembling: “Why do it other than to bring on such things?” It will be made to order.”

“If China’s market is indeed once again flailing as it did previous; having The Fed. raise rates regardless may be seen in my view as an act of monetary aggression. I wrote about this very subject a few weeks back and was jeered by many in the economic circles. Yet, as we stand today – it’s anything but a laughing matter. And as the title implied, it is a “Perilous Possibility” which needs to be contemplated.

The Dollar is about to do the exact opposite of nearly all other global currencies. This alone begins compiling complicating arguments of nearly every stated Fed. intention. Within the for-ex markets alone it will further crush carry trades. And, in many ways, put already desperate commodity dependent economies (such as Russia and others) into an immediate for-ex fueled world of pain.”

Just as a reminder – The Fed. had to verbally rescue the “markets” by jawboning soothing tones for further, or increased accommodation not once, but twice to quell a precipitous falling market, and remained that way year out, culminating as proof of that posture, with the Chair’s latest speech openly suggesting “high-pressure” may be needed a mere 60 or so days ago.

And now suddenly it’s “Hawks R U.S.?”

So far in regards to China? As I’ve been warning, and warning the Yuan has in-fact reacted. And it’s not good.

The Yuan’s midpoint was set on Friday by the politburo (and that’s a key point e.g., set) at 6.95/USD Which just so happens to be the lowest (or highest depending on you indicator) since 2008.

Now the question that must be answered: Was this in response as to allow further devaluation? Or, was this they best they could do? Either answer is not  going to be a good one. Add too this? Suddenly, China is having trouble in their own bond markets causing halts. Yet, one would be hard pressed to know it. Or, to channel my inner main-stream business/financial media – “Nothing to see here, please move along, and we’ll be right back after the next E.D. ad.”

And as for who I’m more than positive we’ll hear from next on this whole topic should the “markets” begin convulsing?

Why do you think I used “hashtag” in the title?

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr

Is The Fed. About To Become The “International Development”

Over, and over we have heard one excuse of late for not raising interest rates that exemplified just how precarious the entire financial house-of-cards truly sits e.g., “International developments.”

When the Federal Reserve first used this term some (which I was one) took umbrage with the stance. It was near unconscionable to me that the Fed. would set as a condition “international” concerns or developments as to overshadow, if not preclude itself from enacting prudent U.S. monetary policy, leaving the U.S. economy to languish ever the longer in economic stagnation.

Yet, as long as the “markets” bought it (and they did and have hands over hooves!) it seemed “international” was just the ticket to kick-the-can rather than pull-the-punchbowl. And the “bubbly” continues to bubble in a way that’s ominously reminiscent of times past. (i.e., the 1920’s, 30’s, and 90’s)

So now here we are, again, at the opening of another Fed. meeting where the odds of a rate hike now stands at about 100% as far as Wall Street, and most others are now concerned. And the “markets” reaction to all this? All time record highs made not once, not twice, but now it’s a daily occurrence.

So now would it not be fair to say the Fed. has its “cause and effects” models backwards? e.g, Rate hikes are now good? And if the Fed. interprets it (“it” being hikes are now market movers to the upside) as just that – why would (or should) they stop at just one or 2 more in 2017?

I know, don’t laugh, but if you use the same logic as the Fed. has over the years – it’s not out of the realm of possibilities. And for clues to show just how fast strongly held convictions can change? Just look at how fast an uber dove or hawk like Fed. presidents Eric Rosengren or James Bullard have changed their stance when it came to incoming economic data or signals. It’s getting harder to keep up which is now a dove, hawk, or somewhere in-between. So much for “strongly held convictions” I guess.

So here lies the real question:

In the midst of, and during, the transition timeframe of a new administration; with its new economic team, plan and agenda; where the fiscal policy that the Fed. has been desperately seeking and calling for is not only being proclaimed, but the markets appear to be reacting more than favorably too just that. Again; where that “market” rally (an all-time-record rally no-less) along with other metrics (government agency supplied that is) are beginning to finally show movement towards Fed. stated objectives (i.e., inflation, etc.)

The Fed. is going to throw cold water over all of it?

Raising rates causing carrying costs globally to soar; the $Dollar to most assuredly do the same; causing debt holders (think China just for starters) to further increase (as in dump) holdings in order to try to hold any semblance of stability in their own currencies and much, much more. Not to mention the turmoil in already teetering economies (think everything E.U. just to start.)

Wednesday is the day? And not a moment too soon or later will do? Am I the only one who sees a “political” problem about to happen here? Let alone possible “international” monetary repercussions to boot?

I can’t make this conundrum strongly enough:

It is within this backdrop that the Fed. is to now decide it can’t wait another 30, 60, or 90 days to at least fully understand the impact, wherewithal, and/or soundness of the incoming administrations fiscal policies, to at the very least, adjust, or set monetary policy appropriately?

Rather, it will err on the side of possibly totally misjudging or making a mistake where X (being Trump’s fiscal plans or ideas) was thought to occur only to have Y (as in the now the stated position from the House and Senate) where X may not happen as the “markets” now think?

Too that uncertainty – leaving (or creating) the possibly of needing a complete reversal of monetary policy? (Imagine all this “good” suddenly becoming “Everyone to the exits!”) Not to mention the global currency turmoil it may unleash. (That’s on top of the ever-growing stresses currently.)

Too all of this – the Fed. can’t wait one more meeting? Can’t wait till at the very least a new presidential team gets seated?When it could (and has) stopped-on-a-dime when an “international development” took place?

Hence lies the real crux of the Fed’s current dilemma. i.e., Nothing has turned out as they thought, or planned. Not only does any current decision have just as much of a chance of being wrong. They all could have catastrophic consequences. And by all, I mean just that – all.

Today raising, as well as not, could result in the same outcomes. i.e., Being seen as “crying wolf one too many times” may have the same impact globally (i.e., more expedient demands for de-$Dollarization) which may filter right back into U.S. economic turmoil possibly – just as fast as raising into the teeth of what can only be called “uncertainty.”

Gee – Who’d a thunk it?

If the Fed. does indeed raise rates there will be two places to watch for immediate outright fury and repercussions.

One – will be China. Bet on it.

Second – will be president-elect Donald J. Trump. You can double down on that!

© 2016 Mark St.Cyr