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If there has been one meme that defines much of 2018 I would have to say it’s been the emergence of what I call the “Celebrity CEO.” And nowhere has this phenom been taken to 11 than what we’ve experienced from Silicon Valley.
However, what takes it up another notch is just how overarching and politically driven this group decided they were to become via anointing themselves by decree, using their platforms and products as a cudgel against any and all that did not adhere to their viewpoints of right and wrong. Regardless if it would pass the standards of business law and ethics.
Once again Silicon Valley seemed to take to the viewpoint that they decide, no one else.
Well, that’s a big maybe when it comes to selectively enforced business practices that have the potential to harm. De-platforming, shadow banning and more is something I believe will work its way to the Supreme Court in the coming years and the emperors-of-the-Valley may find they don’t have as much legal rights to do what they’ve done as they portend.
Can you say perpetual class action suits? Or said differently…
“Think you were shadow-banned, de-platformed unfairly, or had your feelings hurt? Dial Dewey, Cheatem and Howe for a free consultation and get your claim of the $Billions that may be possible. Dial now!” I propose this will rival Mesothelioma commercials for frequency in the coming future.
Remember: There are laws against the selective enforcement of anything when it comes to business. Again, the key word there: selective.
Politics at its very core embodies the selective. i.e., once a political position is stated you have to account that you are now on the opposite side of 50% of all current, as well as potential customers. Sometimes the numbers can be higher. But that’s the rule-of-thumb. That’s why it used to be the absolute last thing any CEO worth-their-salt would argue publicly, let alone place its business and customers directly into any political fray.
It would seem many of these CEO’s forgot they were in the business of business – not the business of politics. And I have a sinking suspicion the price they are going to pay both in reputation, as well as share holder condemnation will be legend.
As I sit here typing this just the current devastation in market capitalization of the once coveted FAANG group of Silicon Valley darlings is jaw-dropping.
Apple™ alone has lost over $300 Billion dollars in just a matter of weeks. Facebook™ is within spitting distance of using the term “Half its size.” Same goes for Netflix™. Alphabet™(aka Google®) no longer has a price needing a comma.
Amazon™has shed a third of its market cap since September (e.g., nearly $700 per share, yes $700!) and the holiday season sales aren’t even unboxed yet, let alone calculated.
Once the Federal Reserve made clear with no room for doubt that the balance sheet normalization process (aka QT quantitative tightening) was going into hyper-speed (e.g., $50 Billion per month and on “autopilot”) suddenly every CEO of the Valley had a problem. i.e., Politics shmol-atics – what’s your business plan and it better be good?
Hint: most don’t look very good.
Apple’s Tim Cook will probably go down as being the poster child of what not to do when you’re a CEO of a public company. As much as I used to be a fan and user of Apple products, that is no more. The Apple Tax has moved into the realm of extortion and I’m done waiting for upgrades. (see Mac Pro® or upgrading any RAM or Storage for clues.)
However, what was probably the most tone-deaf and still believing the new digs was recirculating rarefied air Mr. Cook decided that was precisely the right time to declare to what was clearly a nervous market they would no longer breakdown product sales on the only product Wall Street cared about: the iPhone®.
Wall Street immediately responded on exactly who gets to set those reporting parameters. The share price has been in free-fall ever since. “But wait! There’s more!!” as they say on TV.
To go along with a near wiping out of some $300 Billion dollars worth of shareholder value. Mr. Cook spent nearly $300 Billion of Apple’s once fortress cash reserves in buybacks and dividends.
Now all that too is, as they say – history. Think about that very carefully, don’t let that point just blow past.
And what does Apple have to show for all that spending? Is it any wonder when I say those tremors in California may not have anything to do with Mother Nature and everything to do with Jobs spinning.
Oh wait – we got the iWatch® with a Hermes® band. Wait, was that the ground shaking again?
Yet, it’s not just Apple.
Facebook’s Zuckerberg has gone from “boy genius” to just “boy.” And the once “motherly” C-suite inclusion of Ms. Sandberg has her looking like she’s on a “Lean Out” tour in sharp contrast to what she used to be touted for across a gleaming press just months ago.
I’m beginning to look at milk cartons with more regularity. Just saying.
Google executives are finding out their own people are a little fed up with their political views and now are releasing company docs along with video that may make for some interesting evidence should those “law suits” I alluded to prior manifest.
Twitter™ is, once again, in free-fall. And the part-time CEO thinks its just swell to send updates of his comfy vacation in Burma, a country accused for human rights abuses against minorities (such as actual genocide) as he kicks people off his own platform for things he originally stated he didn’t do. i.e., political viewpoint.
New York and Virginia gave Amazon massive tax breaks and sweetheart deals to build their new digs in their area. Good thing, for if their stock crashes any further they may need those breaks more than one thinks. That is, if they even get built to begin with. Think about it.
The problem has been many of these CEO’s have acted as if they were the newest incarnation of the Rockefeller’s, Carnegie’s, and more. Yet, it would be unfair to say that they haven’t climbed what many will call a respectable mountain top for industry and scale. They have.
However, with that said, it would also appear that all of the so-called implied genius for share value and market cap was nothing more than being the beneficiary of the moment as central banks the world over thrust the greatest experiment in monetary policy ever upon the populous.
And now since they stopped its not only the rug that’s been pulled. But also…
The special clothing.
© 2018 Mark St.Cyr
On February 16, 2018 I published the following article titled, “Not To Scare The Children, But…” with the following chart. To wit:
It was during this time, then heavily endorsed further, that the following prognostications were bandied about, along with reasoning for exactly why the “February Scare” was a one-off event and the following year-end predictions were stated as if written in stone. Again, to wit:
Let’s see how things are shaping up shall we? Again, to wit:
The only difference between my forecast and all the others is that I have not changed mine throughout the year, even in the face of what everyone seemed to imply as “a bull market that has room to run for years.”
Or maybe there is another difference. It would appear the only one proven correct is the one not selling fairytales on TV.
Or maybe the following sums it up best. Once again, to wit:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”Upton Sinclair
But what do I know.
© 2018 Mark St.Cyr
In April of last year I wrote the following headline, “Are 401K Holders About To Feel A Savers Pain?” And in that article I expressed the following. To wit:
Welcome to the “markets” (or should I say casino) of today. Where 401K holders, and corporate buy-backs supported via the Fed’s balance sheet accrual, and zero interest rate financing meet the front running, algorithmic, headline reading HFT parasites which enabled the BTFD phenom to appear time, after time, after time, after time. Which, by its very nature and existence has allowed “investing” to be the equivalent of nothing more than following the strategy of a chimp hurling darts at ETF symbols backed by a central banks “bulls-eye.”
Ah, but what a difference an election does make, no? For that was then – and this is now. And “now” seems to be that the Federal Reserve is hell-bent as to raise interest rates regardless of what the “markets” desire.
Can you say, “Oh-oh?”
For years the cries of savers, pension plans, insurance companies and more have fallen on deaf ears. Actuary tables that prove these bedrocks of society can not sustain or endure under a Fed. policy such as what has been thrust upon them was relegated to the, “Who cares the “markets” up – deal with it!” status.
Now – That all seems to have changed.
This commentary made the media rounds to the point where I was watching a national news broadcast and heard the anchor state, “Reuters™ is reporting…” and then heard the title. Like I always say, I am consistently amazed just where my articles may show up.
However, with that said, came the usual backlash or disgruntled responses of, “doesn’t know what he’s talking about blah, blah, blah…” across most of that same mainstream business financial media.
Now you no longer have to guess to whether I may or may not have been correct – you now have it from the horse’s-mouth via one Mr. William Dudley now former president of the N.Y. Federal Reserve speaking today on Bloomberg TV™. To wit:
“The Fed is not there to take away the market’s pain,” adding that The Fed “doesn’t care about market prices for themselves.”
And with that I’ll just leave you with the last line from my aforementioned article. Again, to wit:
Dear 401K holders – welcome to a savers world. Oh yeah, and buckle up. For things might get a little “bumpy” as that other saying goes.
Not to add any insult to injury, but the so-called “markets” have almost wiped out the entire rise since then, yes, April of 2017!
The only thing that makes the above worse is there’s still a few more trading days left, for it’s quite conceivable it all gets wiped clean before year end. After-all…
You just heard how the Fed. views all of this via one of the lead architects of what is currently transpiring.
© 2018 Mark St.Cyr
As I’m sitting here watching the presser with Fed Chair Powell, I just heard what I believe is all one needs to know – and the only thing – the “markets” are concerned about. And here it is:
At approximately 2:40pm ET the Chair was asked about the balance sheet and here’s the response, paraphrasing:
“The balance sheet is on auto pilot, we’re going to let that continue, we’re not changing it, we’re going to only adjust policy by rates.”
The market has been in free-fall ever since. If it continues? You now know why.
© 2018 Mark St.Cyr