Author Archives: MN Gordon

     

 

 

Cold Dark Clouds

The sun always shines brightest in the northern hemisphere during summer’s dog days.  Here in America, from sea to shining sea, the nation burns hot.  But, all the while, cold dark clouds have descended over the land of the free.

 

In case you ever wondered – yes, they really did say it… [PT]

 

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Historical Evidence

The world grows increasingly at odds with itself, with each passing day.  Divided special elections.  Speech censorship by Silicon Valley social media companies.  Increased shrieking from Anderson Cooper.  You name it, a great pileup is upon us.

 

It was probably Putin’s fault (just a wild guess) [PT]

 

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Conditioned to Absurdity

The unpleasant sight of a physical absurdity is both grotesque and interesting.  Only the most disciplined individual can resist an extra peek at a three-legged hunch back with face tattoos.  The disfigurement has the odd effect of turning the stomach and twisting the mind in unison.

 

Francesco Lentini, the three-legged man. Born in Sicily in 1881 with “three legs, four feet, sixteen toes and two pair of functioning genitals” he made a career of his disfigurement and worked for circus sideshows until his death at age 78. [PT]

 

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Mud Wrestling: Trump vs. Xi

About 6,940 miles west of Washington DC, and at roughly the same latitude, sits Beijing.  Within China’s massive capital city, sits the country’s paramount leader, Xi Jinping.  According to Forbes, Xi is currently the most powerful and influential person in the world.

 

Papa Xi, the new emperor of China. [PT]

 

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What Is Money?

Today we begin with a fundamental question: What is money?  This, no doubt, is an important question.  And we ask it with clear intent and purpose.  Namely, we want to better understand how it’s possible for America to rack up such a massive trade deficit with China.

 

China-US imports and exports of goods. It has to be stressed that the most often cited figure is the trade deficit in goods, which is the “scariest” figure. The US surplus in services with China has grown rapidly in recent years. It was $33 billion in 2015, doubling from $16.5 billion just four years earlier. By 2017 it had grown to $38.5 billion. The idea that a trade deficit is somehow “bad” is highly dubious. “Countries” do not trade with each other anyway – individuals and companies do, and they obviously do so because they deem it advantageous for both sides. Moreover, these aggregate statistics obscure more than they reveal. The global supply chain is extremely complex – a single $3 t-shirt “Made in China” will contribute to the incomes of people in some 15 to 20 countries before a consumer in the US plucks it off a shelf at Wal-Mart. If we were to talk incessantly about the US capital account surplus – which offsets the trade deficit – would anyone complain? [PT]

 

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Chest Bumps

One of the more extraordinary things that investors have seen in living memory is unfolding at this precise moment. This goes for business leaders, money managers, veteran Wall Streeters, value investors, 401(k) holders, momentum traders, FX guys, gold bugs, technical gurus, chartists, pork belly speculators, quants, astrologists, Larry Summers, put option sellers, dweebs and geeks, millennial index fund enthusiasts, and everyone in between.

 

Pork belly speculators were among those waking up to a nasty surprise as China retaliated by imposing its own list of tariff duties. Soybean traders were also forced to rapidly adjust to an unexpected change in export fortunes (see further below). Farmers are presumably none too happy at this point. [PT]

 

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Impressive Zeal for Faded Ideals

Uncompromising independence, rugged individualism, and limitless personal freedom were once essential to the American character.  According to popular American folklore, they still are.  We have some reservations.

 

Rugged individualists suffer mid-life identity crisis. [PT]

 

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Of No Real Use

A young man might go to business school believing he is obtaining some sort of academic training that will enable him to make a comfortable living.  His degree may gain him entry into a large corporation, where he can work his way up to a good income.  This may even put him on the fast track to what he envisions as success.

 

Don’t knock it: Being useless can lead to unexpected career opportunities… [PT]

 

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A Walk on the Wild Side

 

“Never play cards with a man called Doc.  Never eat at a place called Mom’s.  Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own.”

– Nelson Algren, A Walk on the Wild Side

 

Fresh Fruit or Rotting Vegetables?

A subtle gas seems to always be vented into the atmosphere at the sunset of an extended bull market.  As the light fades, an odor that’s indiscernible from that of fresh fruit or rotting vegetables wafts down Wall Street.  You can almost smell it.  But what it is you smell is too faint to accurately characterize.

 

DJIA, daily; quo vadis Industrial Average, and what’s that odd smell? At the peak in late January the  weekly chart of the average sported an RSI of 92 – an all-time record “overbought” condition. A few other indexes (particularly the Nasdaq and small cap indexes) have reached new highs in the meantime, but broad-based and large cap indexes have failed to confirm these moves. [PT]

 

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Futility with Purpose

Plebeians generally ignore the tact of their economic central planners.  They care more that their meatloaf is hot and their suds are cold, than about any plans being hatched in the capital city.  Nonetheless, the central planners know an angry mob, with torches and pitchforks, are only a few empty bellies away.  Hence, they must always stay on point.

 

Watch for those pitchfork bearers – they can get real nasty and then heads often roll quite literally. [PT]

 

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Credit has a wicked way

of magnifying a person’s defects.  Even the most cautious man, with unlimited credit, can make mistakes that in retrospect seem absurd.  But an average man, with unlimited credit, is preeminently disposed to going full imbecile.

 

Let us not forget about this important skill…  [PT]

 

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Friends and Enemies

Do citizens of the United States trust their government will do what’s right?  It depends who you ask. By and large, the esteem the American populace holds its government in is likely a small fraction of what it was roughly 65 years ago.  That was when Lieutenant General William Kelly Harrison Jr. signed the Korean Armistice Agreement.  Certainly, in days gone by representatives of other nations held the U.S. government in higher regard.

 

The most austere signing ceremony ever: Lieut. Gen. William K. Harrison, Jr. (seated left), and Korean People’s Army and Chinese People’s Volunteers delegate Gen. Nam Il (seated right) sign the Korean War armistice agreement at P’anmunjŏm, Korea, July 27, 1953. No-one seems really happy – presumably, no-one was. [PT]

 

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Most read in the last 20 days:

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