A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Saturday, May 26, 2007


What a stupid idea. Minimal beneficial effects re pollution. Maximum adverse impact on gas prices and food prices. Allows the oil companies and auto manufacturers to keep doing all the same old stuff while pricing tortillas out of the reach of the people in Mexico (and makes steak too expensive for me).

Cargill probably pays Bush/Cheyney as much as Exxon does.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Quiet Friday Night

Janett and I are at the Stangers. Mark and Steffy went to see the new Pirates movie tonight and Kim's in Chicago with Ross celebrating their "anniversary". So it's just us and Malachy, except after an evening visit to the Elgin Rec Center for a little workout/playtime Steph and Mark went to the nine o'clock showing. We didn't come over to 8:30 and Malachy was already tucked in. I've beeen fighting this impulse to bang around in the kitchen snd wake him up. I think Janett suspects I'm capable of such a nefarious act and has been keeping a pretty close eye on me.

Janett and I went to Barnes and Noble and used a couple of gift cards I'd been carrying around to buy books. Janett got one on building web pages/sites. Looked pretty technical to me but with a user friendly format. She says she understands it. She's so smart.

I got a book about futures trading for idiots. I guess the "dummies" title was already in use. I haven't looked at it yet. I've been spending the quiet time to ponder the implications of the Spanish current account deficit - Spain, Italy, Greece, (and France? or even Ireland?) going off the Euro in a couple years. Also I've been thinking about the Chinese buying into the Blackstone Group, a hedge fund. The message is they want better returns than they've been getting buying Treasuries. They might also be playing mindgames with the Treasury. Like "What do you suppose would happen if we stopped buying US Government debt and just started buying stocks instead?" It kind of threw me for a loop because if the Chinese start investing their reserves in the stock market that would inflate stock prices beyond their already inflated prices. I mean it's the same issue I've been trying to come to grips with. When are the stock markets going to return to valuation based on discounted earnings rather than reflecting excess liquidity. The answer cant be never, can it?

PS Saturday morning, and I was just thinking about how the Chinese might be as wrong about buying US stocks as the Japanese were about buying US real estate in the 80's

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

In passing

Chinese Chairman Wen Jiabao gave a talk on the Chinese economy. He said these were going well, but hinted he wasn't happy with the bubble in the Chinese stock markets. He mentioned other concerns. ""There are some problems. We face excessive liquidity, an imbalance in the balance of payments, and rapid accumulation of foreign exchange. But we are taking measures to deal with these issues," Wen said.
Translation - "Too many dollars. Too many dollars. And too many dollars." I cant translate the part about "taking measures." He was being inscrutable.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I couldn't have said it better myself

I know my posts are a little hard to read sometimes, like when I talk about hedge funds, private equity and the yen carry trade. But heres a blog site by a fellow named Rodger Rafter that is well written and informative, especially on the topic of the yen carry trade. May not be everyone's cup of tea, but indispensible if you care to know what's going on.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Belated Happy Mother's Day

We had a real nice Mothers Day. Noah and Lauren came over in the morning and brought breakfast with them. Huge apple pancake with cinnamon and chopped nuts on it, and a delicious cheese and bacon quiche. Lauren says the secret to a great quiche is all cream, no milk. Yummy

They brought momentoes back from New Orleans including a string of beads for me commemorating ND's Sugar Bowl appearance. Also a boxed mix for something like scones. We were talking about good stuff from New Orleans and I mentioned how much I'd enjoyed some chickory coffee we'd had once, but which I hadn't found in stores since. They told me you could get it at Meier's, then ran out to the car and bought a can in.

I'm going to fix breakfast Saturday New Orleans style.

Then we went to Mark and Steffy's for a cook out. The weather was beautiful and Jason and Dee and Dee's siter Michelle were there and we sat out on the deck and watched the boys play in the yard. And then Mark grilled burgers and Brats. After I gave Malachy a cup of juice with the top not properly secured and he spilled down his front Steffy changed hin into his Spiderman costume. He takes the Super Hero role pretty seriously. I think Janett posted pictures.

My trading journal

I'm maintainig a journal of my trading activity, and so my writing time and energies have been going into that instead of my blog. Here's a sample:

Before I get back to discussing the buyers and sellers in the future markets, I should review this Fibonacci number thing. Fibonacci was a Pisan whose father worked as a customs oficial in Algiers. The young man observed that mathematics was a lot easier using Arabic numbers than using Roman numerals. When he returned to Europe he promoted the use of the Arabic system. He was also a mathematical theoritician and in a book published in 1302, one of the problems he posed was a question about how many pairs of rabbits would be bred over a period of time starting with one pair of rabbits. The formula he devised [F(n) = F(n-1) + F(n-2) for n = 3, 4, 5, ..]produced the series of values, "1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, ...," The Fibonacci series reportedly has been observed in a lot of natural phenomena so mathemeticians continued to tinker with it. One tinkerer observed that if you divide one number in the series by the previous number in the series you get 1.618034. This becomes observable when you get out to the seventh and eight number of the series, but then this number continues to be the answer for every such calculation. As I said Fibonacci series are found in botany, biology, architecure, and music, so eventually someone tried to apply it to market activity. It appears that .618, its inverse .382, .236 (the difference between .618 and .382), .764, thw additive inverse of ,236 and .500 are levels within the range of a market high and low where retracements occur. I don't believe the Fibonacci "Golden Number" has any occult powers. But the retracement pattern seems to work so I refer to them.

Even more esoteric are the Gann squares, which I'm not ready to tackle yet, but which we will discuss soon.

I guess in this connection I should also reiterate that I dont think technical analysis has predictive powers. What I think is that in the fog of battle it tells you who's winning at the moment. Last night before I went to bed with gold rising over 674 it appeared that the bulls were winning, but the technical anlysis said we should be in retreat, and today as the price fell by $12 I appreciate the negative messages the charts were providing. (My apologies to Harry Roberts, my statistics professor at the U of C whose analysis of market activity repudiated teschnical analysis, and gave rise to the "random walk" theory.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Must Reading (Here I go Again)

What determines the price of gold? Unlike other commodities, it can't be eaten or drunk, it can't be used in construction, and due to its cost has limited industrial applications. Because it is malleable, doesn't decay, and because of it's beauty it has been used to create jewelry, and that use is still the source of the greatest commercial demand. While world-wide, this market is most vital on the Indian sub-continent and particularly in the spring wedding season.

Historically, gold was a medium of exchange, more efficient than barter and more transferrable than an IOU. Because it was universally valued and accepted in commercial transactions, the wealth of nations was defined how much gold was stored in its treasury. In fact it was only seventy-five years ago that nations stopped backing their currencies with stores of gold, and subtituted US dollars for gold as reserves in their treasuries. And it was only thirty-five years ago that the US government stopped backing its currency with gold in transactions with other nation's treasuries. So, until thirty-five years ago gold remained at the foundation of the world economic order.

America's preeminence as a world power enabled the US to declare that the dollar was to be substituted for gold and required no store of value to back up its worth. The US was supported in this bold assertion by an arrangement with monarchs of the Gulf oil states that the all oil sales would have to be transacted in US dollars. In return the US guaranteed the security of these ruling families. Thus every nation in the world needed dollars to pay for their oil, and oil was essential to economic growth in the decond half of the twentieth century. The Gulf states soaked up all the excess dollars in the world, and bought US Treasuy debt, funding the US governments deficits. It was a cozy relationship, marred only by the oil producing states banding together in 1973, and demanding that the price of their oil be increased from $3 to $12. Since then the price of a barrel has risen to over $60 per barrel. The oil producing nations knew that since going off the gold standard the US was printing more and more money which was worse less and less and they weren't willing to accept the new dollars as though they were pre-1971 dollars. This cloud had a silver lining for the US. Since other oil consuming nations had to pay for oil in dollars, the US could run large trade deficits and the nations ending up with an excess of dollars would spend them on oil, and the oil producing states would buy more bonds, continuing to fund the US governments growing deficits.

Other trading partners realized that the dollar was losing value as well. Our trade partners were willing to accept dollars of diminishing value in return for their exports in order to keep their factories running and their workers employed. Then they used the dollars to purchase the oil they needed. The problem is that this system worked too well for the US. Importing became cheaper than producing and US industries started moving overseas to hire cheap labor and export goods back to the US. Our trade deficits with the Japanese and Chinese grew to truly unhealthy proportions. But, as our European allies had previously done, the Asians continued to accept dollars in order to keep their factories running and their people employed. The Asian exporters found it worthwhile to accumulate more dollars even than they needed to buy oil, because they could use those dollars to build factories and infrastructure. At the same time the US corporations were giving the Chinese the technology to be as efficient as the most modern producers in the US.

In order that the American worker didn't realize that even though his wages remanined the same, he was getting poorer because the dollars he was paid in were worth less, the government encouraged the import of cheaper Chinese goods and we entered the age of Walmart. Even cheaper imported goods wouldn't have offset rising prices of oil and other necessities for the American worker so the Federal Reserve Bank created more money which became available to the public through agencies like Fannie May (The Federal National Mortgage Association) as mortgage money at very low interest rates. Folks maxed out their credit card, refinanced their mortgage at a lower rate, them did it all again. Other folks found out they could get a larger mortgage than they ever would have qualified for in the past and bought homes with adjustable rate mortgages thinking that in three years when the highter payments kicked in they could refinance because by then the value of their home would have increased and they would qualify for a better deal. It's not working out like they planned.

Another part of the unhappy picture is these things called private equity companies, sometimes referred to erroneously as hedge funds. With the Federal Reserve cranking out dollars like they were jelly beans, and billions of dollars piling up in Asia as a result of the trade deficits, the New York lawyers and bankers realized they could pay themselves tens of millions of dollars a year if they became private equity managers. The idea was to offer "sophisticated" investors who had a couple of million to invest the opportunity to buy into a partnership that would borrow hundreds of millions more and buy corporations. They would then make the corporation more profitable, usually by firing American workers and importing more products from overseas. They would pay themselves millions of dollars for this financial mastery. Eventually the partnership is supposed to sell the corporation for more than they paid for it and the private equity investors would reap above average return. These private equity deals by most accounts are what's holding the stock market up. Incredibly at a time when both the automobile and homebuilding industries are collapsing the stock market is hitting new highs weekly. Go figure.

Hedge funds are actually something quite different. Hedge funds traditionally buy and sell very large amounts of two investments which are expected to go in opposite directions in a certain situation. It's the managers job to figure out which one is going to go a little further and be more heavily invested there when the event occurs. The profit might be a small percentage of the total investment, but a small profit on a really big deal still adds up to a lot of money. The trick is again to have relatively little of your own money invested and a whole lot borrowed, in order that the return on your investment is quite a large percentage of your investment. Problem is that even if the hedge fund manager had a good plan and lost ten million on one side of his play and made eleven million on the other, what if the counter party, the one who is supposed to pay up the eleven million was wrong on his play and doesn't have the eleven million. It's happened before, in far less turbulent times.

What I'm getting at here is that the whole economy is running on borrowed money, more money than credit card customers, mortgasge borrowers, private equity companies, corporate bond issuers, hedge fund managers, state governments or the federal government will be able to pay back. The only way these entities and individuals can even hope to pay off what they owe is if the fed prints even more money and the debts are paid off with dollars that have been much further devalued. Most likely though there will be a crash because the Fed can't print money fast enough to pay off all these IOU's when they're due. but they'll keep furiously printing money in the futile effort.

When things start to come unglued and the dollar is losing purchasing power by the day gold will start to look like a good investment. When gold goes up a little while the stock market is falling, gold will attract even more investors. Then when coprporate and state bonds start going into default, gold will be all people feel safe holding onto, and the value of the dollar will be defined in terms of gold instead of the other way around. The gold standard will re-establish itself after a thirty year failed experiment in fiscal irresponsibility and monetary madness.

PS I got a little carried away in that last paragraph. It was late and I was tired, and I wanted to end with a rhetorical flourish.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Presidential Politics

I haven't had much to say about presidential campaigns because elections are so far away, but that doesn't mean I don't care. Re the debates:

Giulliani will melt down, McCain already did. Romney looks like the guy. What's Chuck Hagel doing these days?

John Edward flubbed the question about hedge funds. Now there's a report he's been on a hedge fund payroll the last couple years. Nothing wrong with that, but he'll have to explain which side he's on in the class war. -1
Barack Obama when asked to name America's key allies didn't mention Israel. +1
Hillary Clinton is the person who can single handedly make Romney president. 0

Maybe we should start a third party. We could call it The You Want the Truth? You Can't Handle the Truth Party. Kucinich and Paul would be an ideal ticket.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Still Struggling

with finance and investments.

Came across a little Keynesian wisdom which says essentially what I sometimes expound upon for hundreds of words: "There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The Process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and it does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose."

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Here come the Irish

Midpoint between seasons. Ready to get fired up? Try this.

Friday, May 04, 2007


They CAN fly

Working on investment strategy - more thoughtful stuff to follow soon.