Market Watch 2016

Sale.jpeg

I took this photo in the mall on New Years Day–yes, the stores were actually open on the holiday.


And Macy’s was having a blowout sale with racks and racks of “80% Off Original Price[s].”


We were laughing saying what’s next–99% Off and then even 100% off! 


So you think the economy is healthy with fire sales like these on the very first day of the new calendar year–when we still have another 364 days to make our year end sales quotas…


With turbulence around the globe brewing from Iran, Syria, Russia, North Korea, Yemen, Sudan, Nigeria, ISIS, and more…anyone care to say (pending) crisis.


How about commodities–my bet–that are in the toilet (and have been for years now)–do you really think no one needs iron, aluminum, nickel, lead, cooper, potash, oil, gas, coal, diamonds, and gold anymore? 


Then the Wall Street Journal warned again today about the overall investment marketplace, asking “How do you invest when everything is expensive? [at 25 times cyclically adjusted earnings–now that’s a fancy term]?


We’ve been down this road before in the bubble bursts and recessions of 2001 and 2008.


Is now really the time for the Federal Reserve to be raising interest rates (and what a nifty ripple effect that will have in both slowing our economy down and raising our interest payments on our already ballooning $18 trillion national debt)?


Oh, technology to the rescue again and again…it’s possible with everything from virtual reality to robotics and artificial intelligence on the cusp…or maybe not this time around. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

You’re Getting Milked

Cow.JPeG

If you have a pulse and have been to the stores or even shopping online lately (hey, it’s the holidays so of course you have), you know that prices are on the rise.


And this is amazing, because–


Major factors point to pricing that should be driven down:


Commodities–which are the basic raw materials from agriculture to oil and gas and metals and mining–are at a more than 16-year low!


Manufacturing has moved to low cost sourcing countries (China, India, Vietnam, Africa, etc.)


Technology continues to benefit us in terms of cost-efficiencies from the transformation to robotics and automation.


Yet, we keep on seeing prices move ever higher:


Just a few examples…


– “Housing market is on fire” with existing home prices exceeding the pre-recession peak!


– “Car prices at records highs – and rising


– “Food prices are sky high“–it’s not your imagination.


Fashion “prices rising so fast


Health care spending is “again accelerating”


– “College costs are so high and rising.


Forget the B.S. of the basket of inflation stats your being feed…you know that your bills are going up, while your income is stagnant.


The real question is why is the middle class always getting milked–whose interest does it serve? 😉

Global Chaos But G-d Is On Watch

We are continuing to see the number 613 (a critical number representing G-d’s commandments to us in the Torah).


I wrote about this in my post last month (Nov 26).


Yesterday, I randomly looked up at this guy cleaning in front of one of the GW University buildings and there it is…613. 


On Sunday, we stopped for something to eat (see receipt total with the scrambled 613 in it)…$16.38.


The principle of divine intervention in everything we do in our lives is a paramount religious belief, and in Judaism, we learn that not a leaf falls from the tree without it coming from G-d. 


The times we are living in is certainly not normal with terror and war on nearly every horizon (ISIS, Iran, Russia, North Korea, and China to name just a few around the globe), a growing threat from WMD, the economy in shambles, government debt exploding, energy, mining, and other commodities in free-fall, and global warming continuing to heat things up


Further, with immense conflict and political dysfunction in how to deal with these challenges, and amazingly little to no resolve to seemingly even address many of them at all, the views and positions are moving toward extremes and the people’s emotions seem to range from generalized frustration to genuine fury.


The story isn’t over on all these fronts for America or the rest of the world, but I believe even if leadership’s heart is hardened and progress seems almost completely stymied in the face of emerging global chaos, G-d is watching and guiding things very closely at this historic time. 😉


(Source Photos: Andy and Dossy Blumenthal)

The Unbelievable Stupidity Of Raising Interest Rates

Bull

Interest rates have been near zero since the recession of 2008.


That supposedly to stimulate the economy. 


However, aside from a stock market bubble again, not sure we have a much stimulated economy.


We have a false low on the unemployment rate, while the the true percentage of the labor force working is the lowest in almost 40 years!


Moreover, manufacturing is down almost 40% from the 1979 peak with a loss of over 7.2M jobs


Commodities are at firesale prices as demand is sluggish and there is short-term oversupply. 


And innovation is facing a global slowdown


So people are out of work, we’re not making things, demand is depressing prices, and even ideas are few and far between–not too rosy a picture, regardless of what some politicians may have you believe. 


Let’s not forget that we have an over $18 trillion federal debt, and this is projected to grow ever greater as we borrow to fund social entitlements such as social security, medicare, etc. 


In this scenario, why would the Federal Reserve ever want to raise interest rates?


Well, if they don’t raise rates, then they can’t lower them later again when the economy really stalls out and goes into deep recession. 


Hence, this is seen as a tool for their financial toolkit–and if there are no tools with which to manipulate the economy, then there is no need for a (neutered) Federal Reserve. 


But think for a second what happens when the Fed raises rates, it’s going to slow the economy even further than the chug chug chug economy that we are already dealing with. 


Maybe even more important, it will raise the amount of interest payments we must folk over on the trillions of dollars of debt we owe.  


Simply put, when we raise interest rates, we pay more interest on our already astronomically high national debt, and this pushes our national deficit up even higher as we borrow more to pay the interest on the previous debt. 


If you did this with your credit cards, you’d probably be looking at the equivalent of debtor’s prison sooner or later. 


Rather than feed the Fed’s toolbox with interest rate bumps and drops, why not keep rates low as long as they can stay low, reducing our interest payments, and curtailing our national deficit and debt. 


What about the stock bubble…that’s a lesson investors will be learning about in their own good time–it’s the stock market, stupid. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Nothing Is Something AND Something Is Nothing

Uber Commodities

So the world financial markets continue to go haywire. 


The Uber glorified taxi service and app (with an almost half billion dollar operating loss) is now valued at–get this–over $50,000,000,000!


And commodities–you know the precious materials that REAL things are made off (gold, silver, copper, aluminum, oil, gas, coal, wheat, cotton, corn, soybeans, cotton, cocoa, coffee, sugar, beef, and more) hit a 13 year low. 


When the nothings of this world like a basic cab service become invaluable and the real things that power our homes, technology, transportation, and manufacturing become valueless–then we know a day of painful financial reckoning is coming. 


The markets can stand on their head for only so long before the blood rushes in and people become dizzy and see spots.


A reversion to the mean is the one something here that is inevitable, along with a pretty decent recession to boot. 😉


(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

The Soul of A Shoe

I took these photos today of a cross section of a shoe.

I was surprised that this was all there was too it.

So what costs $140???

A little cowhide on the outside, a little cushion on the inside, and a some rubber sole on the bottom.

Add some eyelets and laces, and some stitching to hold it all together.

While there are certainly lots of styles, colors, and sizes out there, most are sort of commoditized, boring, and non high-tech.

Where are those jet-powered rocket shoes they promised when I was a kid.

Come on Nike–“just do it.”

Designer Bobigner

While Microsoft seemed to lead for many years especially in terms of “business acumen,” in the end,Apple built the “more valuable company”–Jobs was the design extraordinare and his imagination for user-centric product designs like the iPhone, iPad, iMac and more touched people in ways that no “other business leader of our time could possibly match.”

I have found that not everyone overtly appreciates the importance of design–and in fact, some people make fun of it, almost like children chanting “designer bobigner”–whether because they value function over design or they simply don’t have “taste and style” like Steve Jobs complained about his rival.

In either case, I think people who seem or act oblivious to the importance of design are missing the incredible power of those who can develop products with an eye towards beauty, novelty, and functionality combined. A computer is a magnificent thinking machine, but an Apple is generally a work of art.

Think about how people neurotically cover their Apple devices with all sorts of protective cases as if it were a precious jewel instead of a just a phone or computer.

Art is treated as priceless, but a computer is often just a commodity. However, Steve Jobs knew how to combine the functional power of a computer with the design of a master.

While “Big Box” retailers like Wal-Mart and Costco continue to grow and expand, our world seems smaller because of it–their shelves and aisles are stocked high with rows and rows of commodity, look-a-like goods of toothpaste, sweat pants, and TVs; it is easy to forget that those products that are really valuable to us, usually aren’t just good to use, but great to hold, feel, and look at.

In this light, I found two product designs that I thought were pretty cool to share.

The first is the white milk container that says Milk and the other is a box of tea bags, each bag with its own hanger for display and use of the side of a cup. The ideas are so simple, yet somehow so creative and appetizing. Two age-old commodities like milk and tea can be made new and special by how we package and meld with it in our environment.

Like the Chinese concept of feng shui, there are brilliant ways to develop our surroundings that energize and inspire, and great design is a magical element in a commodity world and what was not so long ago dominated by the one color black Ford Model-T.

Thank you Steve Jobs and the many other great design minds out there–keep the special things coming that make us say, “I want one!”

(Source Photos: here)

Milk_packaging Hanger_tea