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Keep Your Shirts On
The TSC Streetside Chat: Michael Maubossin of Credit Suisse First Boston
I always enjoy reading
interviews; however, the one he just did that was posted today, Dec. 30, I did not read. I was upset that the guy being interviewed refused to disclose which companies his company did investment banking business with. Brett should have walked out of the interview and found someone else like
again. Last week's
interview with Howard Ward was among the best I have ever read and I hope he does another one with him soon. But the nerve of this guy and his company. Why did Brett waste his time? I speak for many readers who have been around when I say that if they do banking business with the company they are talking about, then we don't want to hear from their biased mouths as they do not have our interests at heart.
-- Jim Christopher
Report Card Time: Passes, Failures and Incompletes
. Not many stock gurus will ever take credit for a bad call. To listen to most of them you would think they were infallible. It is certainly refreshing to find someone who, at least occasionally, makes and admits mistakes.
-- Mal Lusky
One of These Things is Not Like the Other
Premarin Recall Putting American Home Back in Unflattering Light
In response to the last paragraph in your article, you said pregnant mare urine is organic but hormones derived from soybeans and sweet potatoes are not organic?
As a chemist, I define "organic" as any compound that contains carbon, excluding oxides of carbon and carbonate minerals. "Synthetic" refers to a compound that is created by humans in a laboratory.
In any case, "synthetic" is not the opposite of "organic." The first organic molecule synthesized in the lab was urea. Synthetic urea is indistinguishable from urea extracted from living sources. A molecule is a molecule.
The extent to which a raw material has been refined and purified, the efficacy of the active pharmacological agent, the reproducibility of the dissolutions, the bone marker studies or even the cost may be at issue when one describes the source of a drug. Using knee-jerk terms like "organic" or "synthetic" (improperly) bypasses those issues and alarms people who equate "organic" with all things good and wholesome, such as gardens that have not been sprayed with pesticides.
It might be worth considering that horse kidneys are pretty good at filtering out poisons from the horses' blood. How many of those horses were treated with "synthetic" antibiotics and how many of those antibiotics show up in the hormonal actives that are extracted from that urine? Just a question.
I also avoid "healthy" foods because I like my food dead before I eat it.
-- James Steven Bonnell
Consumers Write the Recession's End
Soft Landing, Hard Landing, or (Gulp) Recession?
Good article, pretty much on the mark, only it's nine to 12 months late. I think the recession has been on for some time. The analysts are behind the curve and the
is always far behind the curve if you consider the market averages as the curve. Remember, the Fed is not about the market averages, especially under
. It's about the economy and, as usual, the Fed is way behind the curve again. The Fed was not to blame for the stupid overvaluation of the
over the last year and is not to blame for the fall since April.
Greenspan spoke and warned about overvaluation all the way up and he is not about to rescue it on the way down. And, "down" is not where it is today. "Down" is below 1700. Present valuations, considering most firms in the average have turned little profit in many cases and none
in others, are still out of sight. Simple. There is no value to invest in, only speculation.
Now, the real recession has been on for some time. The Fed probably would have cut interest rates many months ago but for the wild run of the Nasdaq. If they had cut at that time, we would have had a real boom/bust cycle. So, while some have considered the market run a godsend, it may have been really bad for us all. The false perception of wealth caused a spending spree by the consumer that covered the start of recession. Lord, I'm not against wealth. I love it. Real wealth, not perceived wealth. One is when you have it made and the other is when you think you have it made and that's the one that's dangerous. Ask the people who rode the Nasdaq down the slide.
The rules say, "Don't fight the Fed" and lots of other little quips. Yes, the Fed is the big bully on the block and it leads us around until the real heavyweight champion shows up. His name is Consumer Confidence. When he decides he has money to spend, we are in for a good run, but when he believes he is overspent, get your best hold. He's like the
: You don't change his direction real quickly or real easily. It takes a while. One, two or three rate cuts or increases do not faze him. The U.S. in 1929 and Japan in the 1990s are great examples.
When this thing starts to feed on its own news, as it seems to be doing now, I get worried. It could slide past recession into depression if the heavyweight champion does not change his mind.
-- Dave Hester
Can Talk of Recession Burst the Tech Bubble?
Remember That Greenspan's Human, Too
Your analysis of the current situation that the U.S. economy and the
finds itself in is the best I have seen written to date. Considering that I read four newspapers a day and
on the weekends I am truly impressed. The only thing that you as well as others on Wall Street are missing is how highly speculative a stock market this is. It is the reason why when unrealistic expectations for an immediate rate cut were not met, it led to the drop in the
that we saw occur today. In a speculative market, investors do not need "proof" that the economy is deteriorating to the point of a recession; they only need to fear it may happen to have a knee-jerk reaction such as was witnessed today. The problem is that they just might talk enough to the point of convincing the rest of the populace that a recession is imminent. Could all this talk of a recession after being told for the last two years that this is a new economy and that we have purged the business cycle be just the right catalyst that leads to the bursting of this bubble? After all, you must be able to see a bubble from the beginning in order to tell when it is about to burst.
As for the rest of your scenario, you forgot to mention the leverage used in forming the Internet bubble that burst in April, and the additional leverage that companies have used to boost their earnings as well as their stock prices that is now starting to reverse itself.
are just a few examples of investment gains no longer being there. This reverse leverage will slowly begin to have an affect on many more companies and the stock market in the weeks ahead. This is just one of the reasons why the market was not able to rebound in 1929. History does repeat when you make the same mistakes expecting "This time it will be different."
I will be looking forward to more of your reports in the future.
-- Rick A. Stefanko
Let the Consumers Pick the Champion
Will Greenspan Retain the Belt as Market Champ?
This may look like a title fight but it's not. Wait until the champ steps into the ring. Consumer Confidence. And he is standing beside the ring as we speak. That gorilla weighs 800 pounds and sleeps anywhere he wants!
, nobody tells him where to go. When he puts his credit card in his pocket and refuses to use it the market better get it's best hold. From the consumer confidence reports we see we are looking that gorilla right in the teeth. If it's not too late, get your powder in a dry safe place. I made mine over 40 years before the tech rally and have been 60% cash for two years. The rest is in electrical utilities. Took lots of abuse over this move until April 2000, but I don't hear much now.
has not corrected nor the
. They are at nosebleed levels by historic measures and don't try to tell me "It's different this time." Never has been and never will be. The
is not through either. There's lots of heartburn left there. We have seen to much money, or the perception there of, in the hands of beginners who have no concept of value take markets to dizzy heights. Remember the tulips? Nah, we're not through this correction yet. I never thought it would be this long coming and have no idea how long it will take to complete. But it will complete the cycle when the gorilla sees fit. The fire and ash will settle, the rain will come and the flowers will grow again. And, some of us will be there to invest again.
-- Dave Hester
Suicide is Nothing to Yahoo! About
The Death of the Old Way
The suicide of
was very sad and unfortunate, but the complete portrait of Mr. Grennrich's demise is extremely elusive. Money is made and lost in daytrading by millions of people. This is a chance all daytraders take. This article has no bearing on the fact that he held shares of
. What other stocks did he have in his portfolio that you did not mention in your article? Plus his suicide was over four months ago. We own shares of Yahoo! and have seen our entry price slide, but we are not the kind of people to commit suicide. Perhaps much more investigation should be done to see what other major problems Mr. Grennrich was suffering from and dealing with. The stock issue seems to be only a small portion of his problem, or should I say problems.
-- Stephen J. Reno
The Coming Week: Ho, Ho, Hope
What Kristin French seems to be saying is that consumers will lose faith when stock prices go down and stop spending. Analysts say that when consumers stop spending, stock prices go down and we have a recession. Doesn't this sound like a pack of amateur and professional pessimists feeding on each other's fears, and failing to assess the real magnitude of the reduction in GNP growth, which is way short of a recession.
Courage seems to be operating in an inverse relationship to greed, which, like pride, goes before a fall. What markets really have to fear is that the fully employed may lose faith in the 401(k) as the promised land it once seemed to be -- and seek some other way to protect what "wealth" will remain to them after the current carnage abates.
-- Peter Clarke
Green is Good
Winners and Losers from Reshuffling the Nasdaq 100
piece today was an incredible money maker! My only regret was that I didn't play it. But I did go so far as making an add and remove list of your picks. By 3:30 p.m. or so, the add list was a sea of green, the other a sea of red.
Kudos! Next time I'll pay more attention.
-- Jeff Sutton
Why Do We Need the Fed?
Market Mania and Manugistics Maneuvering
Why do we have the
? I can't figure it. Personally, I believe the Fed overreacted and that we will suffer as a result of its rate hikes, keeping in mind that all those rate hikes have yet to work their way thru the economy. My point is, wouldn't it just be simpler to have a fixed rate? I mean, if everybody knew what the rate was and nobody was making bets about where the rate was going to move, either way, wouldn't that be for the best? Wouldn't a fixed rate take a huge amount of uncertainty out of the market and, more importantly, out of corporate planning? Also, wouldn't consumers be better off if they could make their purchases and investments in a constant-rate environment? Sure, there will be excess and all, but don't you believe in the market to sort it all? And if the market can sort it out, why have the Fed do the same?
Sure, there was a bubble in many of the Internet companies, but don't you think the market would have unwound the excesses in a more gradual fashion than
did? I just don't get it.
If we all knew that the Fed rate was fixed, we could all make better decisions because right now we are reduced to guessing where it is going. And worse, since its effects take so long to take effect, it feels like a crapshoot.
-- Adam Edwards
No Pardon for Milken
President Clinton to Consider Pardon for Milken
has caused the destruction of the wealth and life savings of many people. His "white-collar" crimes will he a burden on the taxpayers for many years to come. Other than to restore Milken's ability to vote and serve on corporate boards, what possible benefit does this pardon present to society? The U.S. underwent economic and inflationary upheaval due partially to his criminal actions. There is no restitution big enough that he can accomplish to undo the harm he has caused. A doctor who commits a crime in his profession loses his right to practice. Upon what perverse Clintonian logic am I to believe Milken deserves to be set loose on America? Perhaps it is the same logic that justifies real estate deals gone bad in Arkansas.
-- Doug Cox
The Race Watched Around the World
Testing the System's Stability
With the turmoil thrown at us by the
Florida Supreme Court
, and my personal angst about the market's reaction to all of this, your comments about your vote for
but your feelings that it would be best that
be declared the victor completely mirror my own and it helped me worry less about everything. We, as centrist independent thinkers, are probably the silent majority in all of this and will weather the political storm better if we hang together. What a media zoo. As they say, "it sells papers."
-- Rick Fox
We read your column "Testing the System's Stability," and found it very interesting. We think you make some good points, especially "dynamic stability." We think, though, that every system is, to some degree, a "dynamically stable system." But which is the inherent degree of dynamic stability of this system?
As we're Italians, but we invest in the U.S.A., we followed all this election mess as closely as possible. The strongest message we got from it has been: "something's rotten in U.S. elections," just to paraphrase
. We mean, there were so many uncertainties, so many scenarios, so many legal patterns involved, we feel that whoever wins will be accompanied by doubts over the legitimacy of his victory. Frankly, if we were Al Gore, we'd accept Bush's victory but pointing out all the weird things of this election, so we'd appear the one who cares for the nation's sake and not for personal prestige or power. ... So next time, four years from now, we'd probably be allowed to use this kind of image and imprinting in our campaign and have a psychological edge against any competitor. Maybe American people are different, and they'll be happy with the result of this election as long as it grants a president.
As for the markets, we don't know how much the political uncertainty can have an impact on the market, but it seems to be greater than we thought, at least short term. But what will happen if people won't feel the new president as legitimate?
Thank you for the patience of reading this and for your work on
-- Davide & Roberta Baroni
I'm an engineer by (lapsed) profession, but I've never heard of "dynamic" stability. I have definitely heard of critical stability. I wonder if that's what you meant in your article.
A critically stable system will oscillate about an average level determined by the impulse (shock or upset) it is given. There are underdamped and overdamped stabilities as well, which, in the first instance, will oscillate increasingly out of stability and, in the latter case, settle to the average after a decay time.
I agree with the overall concept of your article -- that the election has "jolted" the system with a basically irrelevant force -- but I find the description to be somewhat untenable.
As an outsider looking in (from Australia), I find it unimaginable that this election will come down to a statistically invalid number of votes. (The inherent error outweighs the final deciding number of votes by several orders of magnitude.) Why don't you just hold a snap new election next week? The beauty of this would be that the nation will be by far be the most educated electorate in U.S. history and you will get a believable result. Whatever happens under the current scenario will always be doubted, like a 21st century Warren Report. But I guess the constitution does not allow for that. Failing that, the smartest thing the president-elect (whoever it is) could do is to call for another election straight away. But, again, the constitution probably doesn't allow for that either.
Anyway, I always enjoy your writing. Have a good Christmas.
-- Steve Cinquegrana
More Than Meets the Eye
Enough of Nasdaq Navel-Gazing
While I agree that the poor performance of the
is little motivation for
to cut interest rates, I disagree with the column on a point or two.
I still feel that the Fed will cut interest rates. I feel it will be a result of the over-contraction of the money supply. The miscalculation of this "soft-landing," which has manifested itself in the stock market decline, is the motivating factor. I believe that Greenspan will cut the rates, as the market is merely acting as a symptom of an underlying problem in the economy.
As far as Greenspan looking smart: of course. He has control of the situation. If he wants the economy to cool, it does. He's sounding more, "Don't say I didn't warn you I would do this" than prophet.
The column did make some valid points about the motivation of the Fed, but I feel it left out important factors.
-- Corey Bruning
Gary B. Smith
Market Smarts: Think Beyond the Box
Great article, its about time that the at home investor does not have to think he's nuts for questioning some of the "known truths" of the institutional investor. Your point also is a validation of the investment tools that are now available to the average Internet user.
-- Conny Verrine
Too Much New Tech
It's the Stocks That Were Overvalued, Not the Technology Itself
What happens if the cost of the new tool, be it a back hoe or fiber optics costs more than the benefit? If you buy it and you cannot get/keep a revenue stream large enough to pay people operate it and maintain it, then it is economically unfeasible and you are better off just digging by hand. There are a lot of tools/equipment available that fit this category but smart and conservative businesses don't own them because the cost outstrips the benefits. Those who do, find themselves in competition, and go into great debt to survive each rival's one up man's ship. I believe that's what we've seen in this "new economy". People lent a lot of money without a good, solid business plan, which has brought us to what looks to be an inevitable recession or a total collapse of that industry.
Fuzzy thinking by many wishful hopeful inexperienced people in the financial institutions is well documented. At some point in time all the balance sheets need to be corrected and you cannot go on forever if the basic business math just doesn't work out. That is why running a business is so difficult.
We have a mess and thinking that it will be a short, easy downturn does not follow our own economic training.
-- Doug Stohlman
Stock Gurus Can't Turn Those Frowns Upside Down
Surely a most obvious and ironic measure of our national bull market obsession might reside in the fact that
dark view of an impending market collapse, a necessary event before brighter days can emerge, represents some sort of knee-jerk permabear behavior on his part.
Hays, of course, as you rightly point out, was one of the first analysts to identify our historic bull market back in the early 80's. If he has changed his stripes, one can only thank God that, unlike most brokerage analysts up to their necks in self-interest advice, he has the courage and insight to recognize the dangers of this market. In fact, a close look at his writing over the past few years reveals his reluctance to throw in the towel on the bull.
Also evident in his recent views is his identification of the so-called "denial phase," a stage in bear markets where investors refuse to face reality. Such behavior can be seen as a normal human evasion that characterizes losers in war, in gambling, even in love.
I write this defense, not to place Hays on any pedestal. Clearly, he has been wrong at times, but more often than not, the man has avoided the unconsionable crime of advising investors to risk their savings in a market that should prompt extreme caution.
-- Paul Anghinetti
An After-Conference Convert
Time to Reset Our Expectations
I have thoroughly enjoyed your reporting from the
Credit Suisse First Boston
conference this week. You have always struck me as quite cynical and, sometimes, I've thought it was unfair and unwarranted. Never have I thought it more warranted than now. Job well done.
-- Jeanne Amend