The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Random Thoughts on Egypt

03/29/2019

Egypt is a relatively large country, with a population approaching 100 million.  Tourism is its leading industry, employing one of every seven Egyptians.  The Nile region is also a major agricultural producer.  It is the only non-OPEC oil producer in the Mid-East.  After passing South Africa last year, Egypt is now the fastest growing economy … Continue reading Random Thoughts on Egypt

MPT & MMT

03/13/2019

I believe in Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT), which is the investment philosophy of virtually all institutional money managers in this country.  This Nobel Prize-winning theory found that a portfolio can achieve higher returns with lower risk – the “Holy Grail” — by allocating the portfolio across many asset classes, such as big company stocks, small … Continue reading MPT & MMT

A Voice From 2009

03/12/2019

Ron Pearson is a long-term friend, a retired financial planner, as well as a retired Navy fighter pilot.  Ten years ago, he wrote about the sad state of Social Security.  With his permission, I’m republishing it here – to show how the problems of Social Security are not new, and that we have been writing … Continue reading A Voice From 2009

Definition of Idiocy

03/11/2019

I have a great deal of respect for Ric Edelman, who was one of the financial planning pioneers in the Washington area.  Having done well, he is now focused on doing good.  He sees the greatest medical disaster approaching us as the rising cost of Alzheimer’s disease, and I have no reason to disagree with … Continue reading Definition of Idiocy

Wrong Deficit

03/08/2019

The December trade deficit was the highest in ten years.  The hand-wringing was immediate and painful.  You’ll recall the President campaigned hard that he would cut that deficit in half.  However, we should give the President a pass on this promise.  The deficit for that one month was not too worrisome, given we’re in the … Continue reading Wrong Deficit

Parsing Socialism

03/07/2019

In the last century, when I took my first course in economics, I learned that socialism was an economic system calling for public ownership of the major means of production and transportation.  The important point was that it was an economic system, not a political system.  Today, Wikipedia describes it as: Socialism is a range of economic and social … Continue reading Parsing Socialism

Double Expresso?

03/04/2019

The conventional wisdom is that the economy and the stock market move together.  In the long run, that is true but not always in short run.  This is one of those times, when the stock market is doing too good! At first blush, Wall Street cheered when the Q4 GDP growth showed 2.6%, considerably better … Continue reading Double Expresso?

Just Dumb!

03/02/2019

I’m a gun-lover.  I have lots of guns.  I was even a member of the National Rifle Association, until they went crazy. The Kentucky legislature is dumb!  They just legalized any 21-year-old loser, who hasn’t been convicted of a crime yet and who hasn’t been declared crazy yet, to carry a concealed weapon in that … Continue reading Just Dumb!

The Sky Is Falling

03/01/2019

Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was an Englishman and one of the first economists.  However, as a result of his work, economics was often described “the dismal science.”  He concluded that mankind was doomed to war and starvation, because population increases faster than food production.  When population exceeded food, there would be enough war to bring … Continue reading The Sky Is Falling

The Wharton Wizard

02/28/2019

Dr. Jeremy Siegel of Wharton has long been one of Wall Street’s most respected investment strategists.  His track record is most impressive indeed.  His recent commentary reconciles a rising stock market with weakening profits.  He believes the suddenly dovish Fed is propping up the stock market in the face of those weakening profits.  Plus, he … Continue reading The Wharton Wizard

A French Connection

02/25/2019

A longtime reader from France concurred with my recent blog on the ethical issues surrounding Facebook and added these interesting comments. > Since college days, I have believed that at the turn of last century, the American social contract had been broken, meaning that the “robber barons” and “captains of industry” had stolen the American … Continue reading A French Connection

Control, Please?

02/24/2019

As an existentialist, I know how important privacy is. Long after I concluded that Facebook is the most UnAmerican company, new details have emerged.  We have just learned that Facebook pays App developers to include an analytic tool called “App Events”, which notifies Facebook of details in a person’s life.  For example, if you use … Continue reading Control, Please?

Small Cracks

02/23/2019

Some cracks are appearing in our economy.  Orders for durable goods, especially of core capital goods, have slowed more than expected.  Industrial production has slowed for two straight months.  The Philly Fed Index has dropped into correction territory.  While there is no cause for alarm, there is some cause for concern. Three years ago, in … Continue reading Small Cracks

DUMB News !

02/22/2019

Yesterday, Venezuela was circling the drain.  Britain was tiptoeing to the precipice of Brexit.  Putin threatened the U.S. if we put missiles in Europe.  Trump continued to push China on Trade.  Italy moved closer to bankruptcy.  Genocide continued  in Myanmar.  And, so on . . . So, why did the media focus on some TV … Continue reading DUMB News !

Don’t Do It !

02/22/2019

During the last Presidential Administration, Republicans definitely suffered from “Obama Derangement Syndrome.”  Showing stupidity knows no labels, Democrats are now suffering from “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”  Just as two wrongs don’t make a right, two stupid attitudes don’t make any sense. Based on an ambiguous 1973 memo, it has been assumed that a sitting President could … Continue reading Don’t Do It !

2019

02/19/2019

Recognizing the stock market and the economy are two different things, I am more worried about the stock market this year than the economy, and here’s why: First, automated trading by algorithms is already well over 70% of all trades on the NYSE.  Some estimates are as high as 90%.  There is nothing inherently dangerous … Continue reading 2019

Brother & Sister

02/17/2019

It’s easy to confuse the stock market with the economy.  They are clearly related but still different.  I have compared them to a brother and sister — related but different. Another comparison is to an aircraft carrier and a fighter jet.  The economy is big and lumbering, like an aircraft carrier.  It does not change … Continue reading Brother & Sister

Longevity Paradox

02/14/2019

I attended a lecture on this recently and keep thinking about it.  The paradox is that we are living longer but clueless what to do with the extra time.  I know one person whose driving ambition in life was to NOT work.  He is now 95 years old and would be happy to NOT work … Continue reading Longevity Paradox

Hotels and Humans

02/13/2019

I’ve had the good fortune to stay in four & five star hotels in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.  Of course, there are always favorite hotels  One of mine has been the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood. FL.  Fifteen years ago, I described it as one of the best hotels in the … Continue reading Hotels and Humans

Mass Personalization

02/12/2019

In 1893, the closed-end fund (CEF) was invented, and financial advisors said “this is better than sliced bread.” In 1924, the mutual fund was invented, and financial advisors said,”this is better than sliced bread.” In 1984, the exchange traded fund was invented, and financial advisors said “this is better than sliced bread.” Recently, “mass personalization” was invented, … Continue reading Mass Personalization

“The Useless Class” ?

02/11/2019

Ask an economist what determines growth in GDP, he/she will tell you it depends on productivity growth and growth in the labor force.  That’s the reason so many economists support increased immigration. While I had not yet read “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari, I have already ordered it from Amazon and … Continue reading “The Useless Class” ?

Less Confident?

02/10/2019

Normally, we look at changes to the stock market that result from changes in the economy.  However, the economy can be changed by what happens on stock market. In the fourth quarter, the Small Business Confidence Index reached an all-time high.  As long as confidence is high, business is more likely to hire additional workers, … Continue reading Less Confident?

Real Courage

02/10/2019

According to the Vikings, there are many types of courage.  There is courage on the battlefield.  There is the courage to be ethical in the real world.  There is the courage to be painfully honest with friends.  There is the courage to stand up for your religious belief, as well as non-religious beliefs.  But, the … Continue reading Real Courage

Good For The Gander ??

02/06/2019

In the third grade, I was picked for the role of Uncle Remus in the school play, due to my heavy southern accent.  I appeared in blackface. In the eighth grade, I was a member of the Key Club, which performed the Can-Can for the entire school.  I appeared in a dress. Why do my … Continue reading Good For The Gander ??

Air Pocket Ahead

02/04/2019

There are numerous pithy sayings about history, e.g., “Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it” — or, “history may not repeat itself, but at least it rhymes.” There are also pithy sayings about market timing on Wall Street, e.g., “So goes January, so goes the year” — or, “the safest year of a … Continue reading Air Pocket Ahead

100 Straight . . .

02/03/2019

For a record-breaking 100 straight months, which is long before President Trump took office, the American economy has been producing jobs – lots of them!  Last month, we produced a whopping 304 thousand jobs and have averaged 234 thousand a month for the past twelve months.  Also, individual earnings are up, and more workers are … Continue reading 100 Straight . . .

R.I.P. Ralph

02/02/2019

For the next day or so, Ralph Northam is still the governor of Virginia.  While we are not friends and he does not know my name, we have met several times and kidded each other about marrying girls from Texas.  I know him only as a nice guy and a veteran who cared enough to … Continue reading R.I.P. Ralph

Head-Spinning

02/01/2019

After one of the worst December’s in history, it was followed by one of the best January’s in history. The S&P was up 8.01% in one month.  (Of course, it is still down 2.31% over the last twelve months, attributable almost entirely to the disastrous December.)  MidCap stocks were up 10.46% and SmallCaps were up … Continue reading Head-Spinning

Surveillance Capitalism

01/31/2019

When cigarette companies report record profits, do you celebrate that they are selling so many cigarettes and that more people are getting lung cancer?  Of course not! Yet, that is the way I see the record profits reported yesterday by Facebook and other tech giants.  Does anybody say it’s really great that more privacy is … Continue reading Surveillance Capitalism

Waning Confidence ?

01/30/2019

Did you ever wonder about the relationship between the economy and the elected children in Washington?  Of course, you did! Normally, consumer confidence increases as the job market improves.  However, even with a continuing good job market. consumer confidence has fallen for three straight months.  This is unusual.  Three months ago, consumer confidence was approaching … Continue reading Waning Confidence ?

Co-Equal Evil

01/29/2019

I respect and appreciate whatever religion, spiritual faith, or philosophy that helps a person to find meaning or serenity in life.  Recently, I took an elderly person to their church, as they were too feeble to attend by themselves.  While I would never jump up to interrupt a service in anybody’s church, it was difficult … Continue reading Co-Equal Evil

Misplaced Passion ?

01/26/2019

Feelings are intense about building the Trump Wall, and will remain that way.  But, keep the money in focus! Our national debt is approaching $22 TRILLION.  If interest rates increase a mere one-quarter of one percent on that debt, it will cost us another $55 billion each year. If we would shut down the government … Continue reading Misplaced Passion ?

Chugging Along Nicely

01/25/2019

Generally speaking, increasing money supply causes prices to rise.  “Too many dollars chasing too few goods” is widely accepted as inflationary.  So, after the enormous injections of money by the Fed since The Great Recession, why is there still so little inflation?  A year ago, I wrote there are signs that inflation is breaking out.  … Continue reading Chugging Along Nicely

Half-Empty ?

01/24/2019

Despite repeatedly failing the physical exam, I have often been called with a girl’s name of Pollyanna, due to my natural optimism.  Glasses are always half-full, not half empty.  Probably, that optimism derives from my undying love of country, my naive love of democracy, my enormous respect for capitalism or my well-studied belief in globalization.  … Continue reading Half-Empty ?

R.I.P. Jack Bogle

01/17/2019

The three greatest names in investment history are Benjamin Graham, Harvey Markowitz, and Jack Bogle. Benjamin Graham literally wrote the original ground-breaking book on Security Analysis in 1934.  He advocated the accounting or fundamental approach to investing.  You must know all the details of the company’s financial statements.  You must interview management, as well as the … Continue reading R.I.P. Jack Bogle

Strange Bedfellows

01/15/2019

I have a great deal of respect for Dr. Jeremy Siegel of the Wharton School, but I have zero respect for Goldman Sachs.  Yet, they agree that there will be a significant economic slowdown in 2019 — but NO recession.  They also agree that 2019 faces unusually great political and geopolitical risks, which could easily … Continue reading Strange Bedfellows

On The Other Hand . . .

01/14/2019

One of my favorite thought-leaders is Bob Doll of Nuveen.  He has written six reasons for optimism in 2019 and six reasons for pessimism in 2019.  The six reasons he is optimistic are as follows, with my thoughts in parenthesis: 1.  The economy may be slowing but doesn’t appear headed for recession (Agreed) 2.  Likewise, … Continue reading On The Other Hand . . .

Code of Ethics

01/13/2019

The CFP Board regulates Certified Financial Planners (r) professionals like myself.  They provide the Code of Ethics, which we are required to follow.  The latest version says:   1.  Act with honesty, integrity, competence, and diligence. 2.  Act in the client’s best interest. 3.  Exercise due care. 4.  Avoid or disclose and manage conflicts of … Continue reading Code of Ethics

Rare Agreement?

01/12/2019

It is not everyday that both Republicans and Democrats will agree with Maxine Waters, the new fiery Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services.  Among other agencies, her committee is responsible for the Securities & Exchange Commission, which has furloughed a whooping 94% of its employees.  There are now less than 300 employees responsible … Continue reading Rare Agreement?

Flip A Coin ?

01/11/2019

Do you remember the “great dress controversy” in 2015 when a dress appeared to be two different colors.  My wife and I sat next to each other and looked at the dress on TV.  We saw the same dress but each of us saw it in a different color.  I thought it was blue & … Continue reading Flip A Coin ?

Brother & Sister

01/10/2019

Everybody knows there is a difference between the economy and the stock market, but they are so closely related – think brother & sister – closely related but still different.  Wearing my economist hat, I see good data points follow good data points.  Yes, the most recent ISM reports slipped slightly but are still very … Continue reading Brother & Sister

Paging Apollo . . . nope!

01/08/2019

In Greek mythology, Cassandra was the daughter of the King of Troy.  Legend says she had dark brown curly hair and coal brown eyes.  By all accounts, she was extremely beautiful.  In fact, the god Apollo fell in love with her beauty and wanted her as a lover.  They agreed he would give her the … Continue reading Paging Apollo . . . nope!

Wisdom of Vikings

01/07/2019

The stereotype of an existentialist is that of a nerdy, 98-pound weakling who contemplates his navel or broods endlessly about death.  However, existentialists see ourselves as intellectual free spirits, untethered to many burdensome conventions.  The death cult characterization is unfair and stems from our casual attitude toward death.  After all, how can death be important … Continue reading Wisdom of Vikings

Big BAD Data

01/05/2019

If there was even a remote prospect that you could do something to help a sick child, how could you NOT do it?  That’s one of the promises of Big Data – the more data that is analysed, the more we can learn about science and medicine, the more we can help future people.  Seems … Continue reading Big BAD Data

tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

01/04/2019

A surprisingly small percentage of people serve in the military, and an even smaller percentage actually experience the horror of war face-to-face.  For others, war can be clean, antiseptic, and even academic. Yesterday, Apple announced that their revenues were suffering due to the trade war.  Suddenly, a trade war is no longer clean, nor antiseptic, … Continue reading tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

Good Job, Mr. President

01/03/2019

I agree with the President’s new Acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who famously said “Trump is a terrible human being.”  However, the devil does deserve his due. For decades, China has abused trading relationships with everybody, not just the U.S.  Being reasonable men, Presidents Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama  assumed that China … Continue reading Good Job, Mr. President

Wanted: Another Pentagon

01/02/2019

Along with sixty thousand of my closest friends, I had the pleasure of watching the Dallas Cowboys beat the New York Giants in the Meadowlands.  However, whenever there was a change of possession, I noticed there was a lot of just standing around by the players on the field.  To my economist eyeball, that represented … Continue reading Wanted: Another Pentagon

2019 Interest Rates

01/02/2019

To read my latest column in Inside Business, please go here: https://pilotonline.com/inside-business/news/columns/article_5ed0af4e-0ab5-11e9-9a89-cf89b7c2e6bb.html

2019 Wish

12/29/2018

I firmly believe there are just as many nice people in the Republican party as the Democratic party.  Conversely, I firmly believe there are just as many jerks in the Democratic party as the Republican party.  But, they live and work in parallel universes.  So do their families. My 2019 wish is for the partisan … Continue reading 2019 Wish

Take That, Chicken Little !

12/28/2018

We barely hit a bear market, which means the market is down 20% from its high.  It is widely assumed that a bear market signals a recession.  Maybe or maybe not! Of the last thirteen bear markets, there was a recession only 7 times.  There was no recession almost half of the time. From the … Continue reading Take That, Chicken Little !

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