Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Where do you get your news(z)?

I'm going to add a little poll on the sidebar for the next week and I've added the poll to this post.  Please share this post with your friends because it would help with some research I'm doing on the changing face of news.  Thank you!

*** Sorry - I guess the poll didn't work in the post that went out via RSS feed.  Technology, right?  The poll on the right of the homepage - www.grindstonefinancial.com - should work.  Thx.

Where do you get your news?


I think people want their news faster than ever and that they want to see their news constantly updating which is why some people sit on one website and hit refresh 364 times/day.

What if there was a site that did the work for you and brought you the latest news from leading sources around the world instantly?

What if that site did not filter the news through their own political bias like some do?

What if the site was ad-free?  Remember the good old days of Facebook/Google before they began hawking everything under the sun and every car dealer had a flash ad popping up in your face?

What is most important to you - local DWI arrests or Congressional debates on education funding?

You can reply here or email me directly at blantier 4 at gmail dot com (obviously remove the spaces, etc, - I'm just trying to trick the spambots) with any feedback.

Thank you again!

Imagine if Russia had recreated the Soviet Union?

Stocks would have been up 50%!!  Of course, I kid, but the point is still the same.  On Friday, there was concern that Russia would actually follow through on annexing Crimea.  Stocks had their worst week in over 9 mths.  Then Russia does the unimaginable and crosses one of our many red lines in the sand (or whatever catch phrase the polling data says we should use this week) and stocks of course....... SOAR?

Even the most ardent bulls are starting to question this market where down is up and up is down. The number of people that I speak to who are dumbfounded today is reaching levels last seen in 2008 (and 2000).  Anecdotal evidence is also popping up suggesting people that are on the fringes of the market are starting to ask "What's hot?" and the message boards..... I mean Stocktwits is covered with story stock names that have overpromised and underdelivered for 15-20 years both of which are strong contrary indicators.

I'll say that while we are throwing parties as our stock market soars, take a look at the rest of the world - Russia, China, Japan - which are all down 10-20% in the past 3 months.  Also, note that copper, long regarded as a leading indicator of economic activity is sitting at a 5 year low.

and here are the latest revisions to US GDP via @not_jim_cramer


But as Kevin Bacon says in Animal House, "Remain calm.  All is well!"

Cheers!



Tuesday, March 04, 2014

One stat sums it all up...

The last time the Russell 2000 went up 3% AND set an all-time high - as it did today - was March 1, 2000 which was about 2 weeks before the dotcom bubble began its decline.

As a respected trader said today, "Buyer Beware."

The global surge in stocks was driven by a sudden relief that Putin was not going to start WWIII.  There was never any real risk of this, but the computer driven buyers can't be bothered dealing with facts (more on this below).  I believe that this issue is behind us for now, but at some point the market is going to have to focus on the fact that the US is poised to grow at about 1.7% this quarter.

This series of data for January/February car sales sums up our country better than any political pundit could....
  • *FERRARI POSTS RECORD SALES IN U.S. AND U.K. IN 2013
  • *MASERATI GLOBAL SALES MORE THAN DOUBLE IN JAN
  • *PORSCHE REPORTS RECORD FEB. SALES (UP 15%)
  • *MERCEDES REPORTS HIGHEST JAN SALES IN HISTORY
  • *LAMBORGHINI SEES 2014 HURACAN DELIVERIES EXCEEDING 1,800
  • *FORD FEB U.S. LIGHT-VEHICLE SALES FALL 6.1%
  • *GM FEBRUARY U.S. SALES FALL 1%
  • *TOYOTA U.S. FEB SALES DOWN 4.3%
  • *VOLKSWAGEN OF AMERICA FEB. VEHICLE SALES DOWN 13.8%
  • *HONDA FEB. U.S. VEHICLE SALES FELL 7%
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If you've been reading for awhile you know that I'm concerned with the growing student debt burden that is weighing on our young people.  The old model from my generation - work hard, get good grades, go to a good school, get a good job - is broken and I don't know if it is ever coming back.

On the flip side we have more and more what I would call "subprime students" borrowing massive sums of money to fund their education and in some cases fund other activities unrelated to their education.

I'll include some of the most interesting pieces of this Wall Street Journal report but your really should read the whole article.  It highlights the fact that a growing portion of "student loan debt" is going to finance anything but education.

Take Ray Selent, a 30-year-old former retail clerk in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was unemployed in 2012 when he enrolled as a part-time student at Broward County's community college. That allowed him to borrow thousands of dollars to pay rent to his mother, cover his cellphone bill and catch the occasional movie.

The Education Department's inspector general warned last month that the rise of online education has led more students to borrow excessively for personal expenses. Its report said that among online programs at eight universities and colleges, non-education expenses such as rent, transportation and "miscellaneous" items made up more than half the costs covered by student aid.

He uses roughly $2,000 in student loans each year to stock his fridge and catch up on bills. His wife is a stay-at-home mother who also gets loans to take online courses.

"We've been taking whatever we can for student loans every year, taking whatever we have left over and using it to stock up the freezer just so we have a couple extra months where we don't have to worry about food," says Mr. Matherne, who owes $51,600 in federal loans.

Early last year, when Denna Merritt lost her long-term unemployment benefits, the 49-year-old Indianapolis woman enrolled part-time at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh's online program, aiming for a degree in graphic design. She took out $15,000 in federal loans, $2,800 of which went to catch up on unpaid bills, including utilities, health-insurance premiums and cable."

I wish someone would point these people the plethora of online tools that are available for FREE that would enable them to learn a hard skill.  People would be knocking down their doors, but there's no money in a system like that for the schools, the cell phone companies and the cable providers so we don't encourage that behavior.  Instead we encourage people with a bachelors to go to community college to study acting so they can gain access to more student loans.  :(
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Finally, this is perhaps the most interesting (if depressing) quote I've read in awhile.  A study was conducted which has determined that in the US public health campaigns aimed at increasing public awareness of vaccines and debunking myths about the risks of vaccinations appear to be having the OPPOSITE effect and might be leading some parents to skip vaccines.  Here's the quote of the day and I think you could apply this to many things in our fact-challenged society - "The best response to false beliefs is not necessarily providing correct information."

Cheers!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Stocks back to record highs because......

(Student answers may vary)**

The media hopped on the "stocks hit record highs" story even though at the end of the day only the Nasdaq was in record territory.  The Nasdaq was powered by another strong move in Facebook which is now above $70 after dropping a cool $19 billion on an app that most people have never heard of.  I know it's unpopular to try to interject logic into these scenarios but WhatsApp (the app bought by Facebook) has been downloaded a billion times because it offers free communication across many platforms.  If Facebook tries to monetize these users through fees or ads, it is likely that someone will launch WhatsAppDoc or whatever and steal those billion users overnight.  I have to be careful bashing Facebook too much because I know some people love it deeply, but I'll offer this anecdote -- I spent a week on vacation outside of the US and I didn't hear or see the word Facebook once.  Before you assume that I was sitting in some remote corner of Uzbekistan, I'll say that I was in major metropolitan areas in Western countries and the word Facebook might just as well have been Myspace or AOL.

This is just one of the latest chain of events in the market that are very reminiscent of February 2000.

The market is now up between 6-7.5% in A MONTH after wobbling a bit back at the beginning of February.  Today for example there was Dallas Fed business index number that was expected to come in at 3.0, but instead came in at 0.3!!  Obviously, this is a sign that things are BOOMI.... oh wait, that's a 90% miss.  Um, well, it snowed in Dallas one day in February so it was all the weather's fault.  And if it is hot in Dallas in July, we'll blame the weather for that miss as well.

There is some thinking that says the new polar vortex will mean more cold in the Northeast and more weak data which means the Fed will have to keep supporting the economy.  Thus, (in my best Oprah voice) you get a higher stock price and you get a higher stock price and you get a.......

At some point this merry-go-round will stop and people might focus on the collapsing Chinese economy, unrest in Venezuela, Thailand, Ukraine, etc., however, that day was not today.

** I read this note from a teacher in Georgia today that made me chuckle.  "Last night, I was grading homework for a day when a substitute was in my classroom.  I realized the kids must have obtained a copy of the answer key when 10 kids answered question #4 as 'Student answers may vary'. "

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Please don't throttle me bro!

So, that's a vague reference to the old video from the John Kerry speech in 2007 when a student yelled "Don't Taze me, bro!" (you can see the best part here if you've forgotten).

It also is a reference to the denials of Verizon that they are throttling content delivered to customers.

So, if you recall, there was a great deal of anger and outrage back in 2012 when Time Warner quietly decided that those 10 year old modems that they were giving you for free, should now become a $4/month rental item.  At the time the APPROVED modems that you could purchase was still in flux and there was some debate over whether or not you could even bring your own device, so I advised that you wait it out.

Well, another 16 mths have passed and in that time Time Warner has decided that the now 11 year old modem collecting dust on your shelf is worth 50% more/month so they jacked the rental up to $6/mth.  Now that's $72/year for a modem and I can buy a lot of snow gear with $72 extra dollars/year.   I did a couple of quick searches and it appears as though the top of the line modem authorized by time warner is now going for $80 on Amazon.  So, that puts the payback period at 13 months and if you don't plan on moving in the next 13 months, I'd say it makes sense to consider this switch.

Here is the process........

1) Go here and enter your zip code to see a list of approved modems.

2) Find your approved modem - the SB6141 covers just about everyone.

3) Search SB6141 on Amazon.

Add to cart and buy yourself a celebratory drink in 13 mths when you get over on the man.

** Time Warner reports that less than 10% of customers have bought their own modems since they instituted the rental fee.  That means 90%+ of customers are gladly paying $6/mth because they just forgot or can't be bothered to go through the hassle of buying their own equipment. 

Cheers!


Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Only in America :)

These two stories pretty much sum up the state of the union today.

The state of the union is PARANOID.

1) Bomb squad called to diffuse pile of pillows

"As a precaution, we contacted the Broward sheriff's bomb squad to investigate."
The bomb squad did not find an explosive device, Rues said. A Miramar police photo showed a plaid shopping bag that had contained some of the eight or so recovered pillows.

The state of the union is flush with C-A-S-H!!

2)  The 75 cent toothpick.  I hesitate to link to these single malt toothpicks because I know of at least one reader that might order a gross of them.

Only in America could someone take something that normally costs $1.00/1,000, rebrand it, flavor it and bam!!! Profit!

"Our Single Malt NÂș16 is a SELECT  batch premium blend and as a result it has a higher price.  This is because they are made with very old, very good, very expensive single malt scotch and are a pain in the arse to make.  This time consuming process is unique to Daneson, and the resulting toothpicks are for those who enjoy finer things in life."

Cheers!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Back to normal

So the Q4 GDP number came in pretty much as expected but the bigger news overnight was the concerted effort by a number of central banks - India, Russia, others - that seems to have stabilized the global currency markets.

In particular the $ is rallying against the yen again and that is the primary driver of the US stock market right now.  It also doesn't hurt that there was a collapse in pending home sales in December (blamed on weather, but recall it was 70 degrees on the East Coast the weekend before Christmas).  This collapse feeds the theory that the Fed might again save the day despite their reduction in bond purchases announced yesterday.

Finally, Facebook's share price exploded today on more mobile ad sales.  When people talk about Facebook it makes me feel like they are discussing American Idol in 2004.  I have no idea who was watching that show in 2004 and I have a limited understanding of who is using Facebook.  It's not kids, it's not young adults in middle income/upper income America and it's not my age group.  I contend that while their user base is large and because it is viewed a tech company advertisers assume that the demo is desirable.  However, but I suspect that the demo is much older and poorer than advertisers realize.  No matter --- stocks soaring today!

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One more reason to dislike snakes - Flying UFO shaped snakes....


Actually we've known about these snakes for years, but giving it a clever name means that it will be great link bait (link bait are those mindless articles that cause you to click when your are on Drudge Report, Buzzfeed, Business Insider or a local website with a Z).

Cheers!


Cheers!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Get your popcorn!

Last night I wrote that the world markets seemed to be taking the Turkey panic move as a good thing which surprised me because it clearly indicated some stress in the markets.

Today Europe started off strong but has sharply reversed in the past 30 minutes and the moves have been swift.  Again, I hate to keep drawing parallels to 2007 but these sort of wild swings feel very familiar.

Cheers!

Remember to follow me on twitter - @brianlantier for current updates.