The (In)Effectual Fed?

By |2017-07-31T07:40:57-04:00July 31st, 2017|Global Market Update|

What good is the Fed? Federal Open Market Committee. Public Domain. Source: Federal Reserve The conventional wisdom is that the Fed controls the economy in the short run by controlling short-term interest rates. But folks didn’t always think this way. In the ‘60s and ‘70s Keynesian economists thought that interest rates only had a tiny effect on spending, and therefore a minimal impact on the economy. Then came Paul Volker. He made ending inflation the goal of Fed policy, and he did this by [...]

Exchange Traded Funky

By |2017-07-28T07:08:54-04:00July 28th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Is there an ETF for everything? Photo: Jack Moreh Source: Free Range Stock Photo It sure seems like it. ETFs used to be primarily an efficient way to invest in a broad market index, like the S&P 500 or an aggregate bond index. Then they branched off into market sectors: small cap stocks, tech companies, country funds like the UK or China. All this seemed like a reasonable way to diversify a portfolio. And it’s so convenient: instead of trying to pick winning stocks, [...]

Valuation, Cashflow, and Cash

By |2017-07-27T07:44:50-04:00July 27th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Cash is king. Image: Glitch. Source: Open clip art Cashflow determines what a business is worth. When investors put money into a company – whether it’s private, public, high tech, or old school, they want a return on their capital. That returns comes from cash the business can sustainably generate from their ongoing operations. When I was first learning how to “read” financial statements, there was no clearly defined way to identify cashflow. Some folks included net working capital, some didn’t. We had to [...]

Culture Eats Strategy

By |2017-07-26T06:41:27-04:00July 26th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Collateral dominates structure. Silk purse. Photo: Sideshowmom. Source: Morguefile That’s a phrase I coined twenty-five years ago when I was an institutional bond investor. At that time, Mortgage Backed Securities were still pretty new. Brokers would take MBS “pools” and put a bunch of them into a single trust. Then the trust would issue its own bonds, with different bonds getting paid first, some bonds taking more prepayment risk, other bonds protected, and so on. They called these bonds Collateralized Mortgage Obligations. They were [...]

The Death of Retail?

By |2017-07-17T16:43:47-04:00July 14th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Are we facing a retail apocalypse? Photo: Cbikle. Source: Morguefile That’s the story that’s being told. Payless, Radio Shack, Rue21, and The Limited have all filed for bankruptcy this year, as have five other retailers. Over 4,000 physical stores have been impacted. There are fewer than 750 Kmart stores open now, down from over 2000 at their peak, and their owners plan to close more stores. Since late last year, general merchandise retailing has shed over 80 thousand jobs. The phrase, “Retail apocalypse,” even [...]

Public Issues, Private Issues

By |2017-07-17T16:44:41-04:00July 13th, 2017|Global Market Update|

What is private equity? Source: Wikipedia Private equity is an equity position in a company that isn’t publicly traded – that hasn’t been listed on a public stock exchange. For ordinary investors, there are two ways to invest in private equity. You can invest in a private equity fund, or you can give money to a friend or family member in exchange for a share of their business venture. Limited partners of Bain Capital’s Asia XI Fund are private equity investors, as are your [...]

Seeking Safety

By |2017-07-17T16:45:21-04:00July 12th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Are there any safe places? Photo: Ben Tubby. Source: Wikipedia During the Cold War the superpowers relied on a doctrine called “Mutually Assured Destruction,” or MAD. The idea was that neither party would initiate a nuclear first strike, because enough of the other side’s nuclear arsenal would survive to retaliate. The global devastation would be so complete that both sides would lose. To average folks, the doctrine seemed “mad,” indeed. There was a low-grade fear surrounding everyday life. If someone irrational got hold of [...]

On Tripods

By |2017-07-17T16:45:42-04:00July 11th, 2017|Global Market Update|

Tripods are stable. Photo: Eriger. Source: Pixabay They allow us to keep things steady. Their three legs lean upon each other making the entire structure more stable than any one leg could be. We use tripods in photography, weapons, surveying, and for offshore wind turbines – anywhere we don’t want things shifting around. Tripods are often used as metaphors, as well, for any area where we need constancy. Our military depends on a nuclear triad: missiles, bombers, and submarines. English teachers use grammar, literature, [...]

Rx: Competition

By |2017-07-17T16:46:20-04:00July 10th, 2017|Global Market Update|

What’s wrong with the health care debate? Public Domain. Source: Wikipedia I don’t pretend to have a solution. Health care is complex and multi-faceted, with lots of market and non-market elements. And it’s huge: a sixth of our $20 trillion economy. But one thing that’s so disheartening about the debate is that it mostly focusses on the demand side of the equation. Health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, exchanges – these are all ways that we get access to care. It’s as if we debated food [...]