The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

A Divided Fed . . . So What?

08/31/2011

To understand the Fed, one has to understand their “dual mandate.”  They are charged with minimizing both inflation AND unemployment.  What could be wrong with that? This dual mandate came about when Keynesian economics was the dominant school of thought.  One Keynesian principle is something called the “Phillips Curve,” which looks like this: You can see … Continue reading A Divided Fed . . . So What?

Head in The Cloud

08/27/2011

Years ago, when I was thinking about retiring from banking and starting my own investment advisory business, a good friend and client suggested I spend some time at her cabin high in the mountains of Wintergreen.  Unfortunately, the weather was not great.  There was a low ceiling, and we found ourselves inside the cloud, literally.  I could … Continue reading Head in The Cloud

The Joy of Disappointment

08/26/2011

Today, Wall Street waited and prayed that Bernanke would save us from another recession by announcing another round of quantitative easing or QE3.  He disappointed us, and the Dow promptly dropped over 200 points. But, then somebody wondered why he refused to do anything else to help us and noticed it was because we don’t … Continue reading The Joy of Disappointment

It’s Showtime!

08/26/2011

For the first three days of this week, the stock market coasted serenely past earnings surprises, merger announcements, and economic reports.  We were secure in the knowledge that “Uncle Ben” Bernanke would once again preserve our economy, as he has done since the Global Financial Crisis in 2007. Yesterday, the realization began to sink in … Continue reading It’s Showtime!

Still in the Rear View Mirror

08/24/2011

When a deal falls apart after the handshakes, you can usually blame the lawyers.  You may have thought the Greek bailout was behind you, and Europe was now focused on the bigger problem of Eurobonds to bailout the whole of Europe.  You would be wrong, unfortunately. The bailout of Greece will NOT happen, and the fault … Continue reading Still in the Rear View Mirror

Checking In With The Vampire Squid

08/23/2011

While I don’t like Goldman Sachs, I do respect their research.  Reading their latest “Market Pulse” is always interesting. They expect our GDP growth will slow to 2-2.5% through the end of 2012 but still expect the S&P to reach 1400 by year-end, which would require one raging bull very quickly.  They believe the stock market has … Continue reading Checking In With The Vampire Squid

Calm Before the Storm?

08/22/2011

World markets were mixed overnight but generally calm.  The Dow will probably open up about 80 points this morning.  Despite the good news out of Libya, oil is not reacting strongly.  Only gold is showing any drama, back up to $1,880 again. On the calendar, the most important item this week is Bernanke’s speech at … Continue reading Calm Before the Storm?

Could Greek Retirees Do For Germany . . . What World War II Could Not?

08/21/2011

Accepting the premise that “he who has the gold makes the rules,”  I’ve been thinking about the most likely end-game for the European crisis. The Euro zone is not the United States of Europe.  We have one monetary policy and one fiscal policy.  They also have one monetary policy but twelve fiscal policies.  A unified monetary … Continue reading Could Greek Retirees Do For Germany . . . What World War II Could Not?

A Technical Prediction

08/19/2011

Warren Buffett once said he would rather be the broker than the partner of anybody who thinks they can predict the market.  That’s good advice! Yesterday, John Bollinger, who is a highly respected market technician and developer of the Bollinger Bands, predicted we are now putting in the bottom of this bear market.  Also, Rick … Continue reading A Technical Prediction

The Joy of Insomnia

08/19/2011

At 3:00 AM this morning, I was watching Bloomberg as the European markets opened and heard “stocks slide around the world as the U.S. slips into recession.”  Talk about a rude awakening! The U.S. may slip into another recession, especially if Europe cannot get its act together, but the odds are no worse than 1-in-3.  … Continue reading The Joy of Insomnia

A Tale of Two Commodities

08/19/2011

Normally, we talk about commodities as a single asset class, as they have the common characteristics of benefiting from both growth and inflation.  In other words, they’re normally good to own during the expansion part of the cycle but not the contraction part of the cycle.  They’re also reasonably good inflation hedges.  But, take a look … Continue reading A Tale of Two Commodities

What’s Up with Gold?

08/18/2011

Gold barrelled thru $1,800 an ounce again today, setting yet another new record.  Gold has long been considered a safe haven during tumultuous times, which these times certainly are.  Gold has long been considered a hedge against inflation (see blog earlier today).  With the continuing depreciation of the dollar and the downgrade of the U.S. credit, central … Continue reading What’s Up with Gold?

The Cost of Rumors

08/18/2011

What went wrong overnight in Europe to cause such a major sell-off? First, there was concern that the Greek bailout could fall apart, if Finland requires additional collateral from Greece. More importantly, there is a rumor that some bank had to borrow $500 million from the ECB overnight, paying a high 1.1%, compared to the normal … Continue reading The Cost of Rumors

Bad = Good ??

08/18/2011

Today, we learned that core consumer prices (CPI) have risen 3.6% over the last twelve months, way above the Fed’s stated goal of 1.5% to 2.0%. Tuesday, we learned that core wholesale prices (PPI) have risen 7.2% over the last twelve months. Monday, we learned that import prices have risen 14% over the last twelve months. … Continue reading Bad = Good ??

Longing for Fundamentals

08/17/2011

There is no 12-Step Program for Wall Street junkies!  Therefore, it is good to simply get away from it occasionally.  Over the weekend, I remembered what I’ve been missing, i.e., the interplay between economics and investment strategy.  A change in the Index of Leading Economic Indicators tells me something.  So does a change in inventory levels … Continue reading Longing for Fundamentals

While I Was Gone . . . .

08/17/2011

As I was scrambling to make a quick road trip last Thursday, I was contacted by a reporter for Inside Business about the impact of the U.S. credit downgrade on commercial real estate.  When I got home late last night, it was amusing to see I was quoted so extensively.  For your snoozing pleasure, you … Continue reading While I Was Gone . . . .

Sound & Fury Signifying . . . 1.5%

08/13/2011

After four historic, horrifying days of at least 400 point moves, the week ended down an insignificant 1.5%.  When you try to estimate how many millions of people lost how many billion minutes of sleep over the week, you must remember the post-traumatic impact of 2008.  Investors looked death in the eye three years ago and still … Continue reading Sound & Fury Signifying . . . 1.5%

Market Corrections 101

08/12/2011

Since 1900, there have been 26 major stock market corrections ( at least 15% loss) or once every 4.3 years.  The vast majority (62%) dropped less than 40% and lasted less than 400 days, increasing to 78% since 1950.  The trend is clearly toward more frequent but less severe and less lengthy market corrections. So, … Continue reading Market Corrections 101

Historic Week

08/11/2011

Today, the Dow closed UP 423 points.  This is the first time the market has moved more than 400 points in each of four consecutive days.  It is somewhat exciting but even more exhausting! So, does it give us any indication of where the market is going? There are three related dynamics playing out in the market right now.  … Continue reading Historic Week

Whipsawed Again

08/11/2011

This is no fun!  Here is the Dow over the last seven trading days:                                                                          August 2nd . . . . down 265                                     August 3rd . . . .  up 29                                     August 4th . . . .  down 512                                     August 5th . . . .  up 60                                     August 8th . . … Continue reading Whipsawed Again

A Word from Wells . . .

08/10/2011

I just read the latest economic commentary from Wells Fargo.  While the tone was somewhat downbeat, expecting the economy to grow slowly and inflation to rise slowly, they still expect GDP growth this quarter will increase to 2.2% from 1.4% last quarter. They also chastise the complainers.  Finding somebody to blame for our economic mess is … Continue reading A Word from Wells . . .

Compare and Contrast

08/10/2011

I’ve been reading Fed announcements for decades but found yesterday’s to be as inscrutable as any.  They recognized the economy is weaker than they expected.  They said they were still expecting greater growth.  They didn’t raise interest rates.  They didn’t promise any more quantitative easing.  They didn’t promise anything, other than to keep interest rates … Continue reading Compare and Contrast

Still Loving Instability?

08/10/2011

The Dow is down 390 points as I write this.  It is normal that the market falls the day after a big rally, as some investors are always waiting to “sell into a rally.”  After such a roaring rally at the close yesterday, a rumor hit the market in the wee hours that the French … Continue reading Still Loving Instability?

Loving Instability

08/09/2011

The market started off strongly this morning, then stabilized and drifted down in anticipation of the Fed announcement at 2:15PM. The Fed announcement was largely a non-event, in that they didn’t announce any new measures to stimulate the economy or the stock market.  The market immediately tanked, losing over 200 points, before recovering and finishing … Continue reading Loving Instability

A Dead Cat Bounce?

08/09/2011

Imagine standing on your garage, holding a dead cat, which you then toss onto the driveway.  It will likely hit the concrete and bounce up slightly.  That does not mean the cat is alive.  It just means the dead cat bounced. That tasteless old Wall Street adage describes that situation where the market is dead … Continue reading A Dead Cat Bounce?

Thud . . . Hitting the Bottom?

08/08/2011

According to Investopedia, capitulation occurs “when investors give up any previous gains in stock price by selling equities in an effort to get out of the market and into less risky investments.  True capitulation involves extremely high volume and sharp declines.  It usually is indicated by panic selling.” Going further, it says “after capitulation selling, … Continue reading Thud . . . Hitting the Bottom?

$100 Million of Free Advertising?

08/08/2011

Admittedly, I know nothing about advertising, but I do think the S&P downgrade of our short-term credit was a brilliant marketing move! There are three primary bond-rating agencies, i.e., S&P, Moody’s, and Fitch.  All three did a miserable job of rating bonds secured by sub-prime mortgage bonds.  Last year’s financial re-regulation bill aimed to correct some of their … Continue reading $100 Million of Free Advertising?

Triangulating Economics

08/07/2011

Everybody agrees that we need economic growth.  Originally, the Austrian or Classical school of economics argued that profligate spending by governments depresses growth.  Following the Great Depression, conventional wisdom found that the deficit spending of Keynesians really helped end the ten-year depression.  Following the stagflation in the late 1970s, Supply-siders successfully created some economic growth … Continue reading Triangulating Economics

Apologies to Mr. Spock

08/06/2011

Do you remember Mr. Spock, the Vulcan on the original Star Trek TV series long ago?  He prided himself on being entirely rational and devoid of human emotion.  Being an investment advisor, I’ve always tried to emulate that thought process.  However, his dirty little secret is that he sometimes felt those emotions, and so do I. … Continue reading Apologies to Mr. Spock

Pass the Dramamine

08/05/2011

What a day!  Before the market opened, the Jobs Report was unexpectedly strong, and the Dow went up 172 points.  As the morning passed, that euphoria also passed as the mounting fears of European sovereign debt increased.  The Dow lost all 172 points and then lost another 245 on top of that, a spread of … Continue reading Pass the Dramamine

“A Pause in the Negative Feedback Loop”

08/05/2011

That’s how investment legend Mohamed El-Erian described today’s Jobs Report, which was a pleasant change indeed.  According to the Department of Labor, America produced 117 thousand new jobs in July, well ahead of the expected 60-80 thousand.  Subtracting the continuing losses in government jobs, the private sector produced 154 thousand.  Even better, the poor jobs report … Continue reading “A Pause in the Negative Feedback Loop”

Euro Whiplash

08/04/2011

It is one of those long-time market truths that the market must hit the point of capitulation before recovering.  Today, the Dow fell 512 points, the worst daily performance in 2 1/2 years.  We are now down 10% from the April highs, which makes this an official “correction.”  (An official bear market is a 20% … Continue reading Euro Whiplash

Cozumel, 1988

08/04/2011

After getting her certification as a scuba diver, I took my daughter to Cozumel for some breath-taking reef dives.  Although I’m not a person who normally reads at the beach, I packed a very small book on investing.  While I don’t recall the title, it was one of those “the only thing you need to … Continue reading Cozumel, 1988

A Bigg Legend

08/03/2011

One of my favorite Wall Street legends is Barton Biggs, who was the Chief Global Investment Strategist for Morgan Stanley compiling an impressive record over many years.  I managed the portfolio of his father-in-law, who was a dear man that died at the tender age of 99, just three months short of the century mark.  … Continue reading A Bigg Legend

Non-Volatile Volatility

08/03/2011

Something interesting is happening.  Normally, the stock market falls when volatility increases or vice versa. It is not uncommon for investors to buy the volatility index (VIX), which would go up when the market goes down.  But, that longtime relationship is not working right now, why? One thought is that the VIX moves quickly during the … Continue reading Non-Volatile Volatility

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

08/03/2011

For some reason, politicians always say the word “jobs” three times.  Coincidentally, there are three jobs reports this week.  Two of them were today, neither of them good. The Challenger report showed that job cuts are up 60% over last month.  The ADP report showed that net job growth continued for the 18th straight month, … Continue reading Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Digital Terrorism

08/03/2011

The conservative estimate is $1.4 trillion, and the liberal estimate is $3.1 trillion for the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  That doesn’t include the nearly 7,000 dead and tens of thousands of wounded.  An economist would also have to add to those totals the taxes the dead will never pay and the cost … Continue reading Digital Terrorism

The Binary World of Economics

08/02/2011

One of the main purposes of this blog is to provide readers with the perspective of all three primary schools of economic thought in the United States.  The first is the Austrian school, which argues a “tough love” approach to budgets, which must be balanced every year.  The second is the Keynesian school, which argues that … Continue reading The Binary World of Economics

Risk-Adjusted Returns

08/02/2011

Suppose you buy a stock and sell it one year later for a 6% profit, including dividends.  Was that a good investment or a bad investment?  The answer is that it depends . . . on how much risk you took. If you took a lot of risk, it was probably a bad investment.  If … Continue reading Risk-Adjusted Returns

Nice Whiplash!

08/01/2011

The market opened up strongly this morning with a rally that lasted about thirty minutes.  First, the ISM report came in weaker than expected but still expansionary.  More importantly, as mentioned in this morning’s blog, the European sovereign debt crisis raised its ugly head again, with the rumor that the president of Italy (who faces … Continue reading Nice Whiplash!

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