Capital Ideas

By |2019-08-05T05:40:49-04:00August 5th, 2019|Global Market Update|

What is capital? Photo: Dmitry S. Source: Flikr Capital is the stuff businesses use to make money. Factories have machinery and robots and 3D printers to make stuff; builders have tools and trucks to build stuff; service organizations use people and processes and meeting spaces to care for stuff. And everyone needs computers and data. Capital is what allows an economy to grow, and access to capital – physical and human – enables people and nations to become wealthy. Percent of firms expanding capital [...]

A Mini Jobs Market

By |2019-07-06T12:38:03-04:00July 6th, 2019|Global Market Update|

Why aren’t we seeing more jobs? Photo: Victor Hanacek. Source: Picjumbo The current economy is being celebrated as the longest economic expansion ever, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. It’s like a plate of mini-hamburgers. They’re enough to keep us from getting hungry, but not enough to really satisfy. Despite the latest jobs numbers, employment growth has been mediocre, at best. Why? Source: BLS One issue is where the jobs are coming from. In a normal economy, there are three parties: owners, workers, [...]

The Long, Long Cycle

By |2019-03-19T10:35:13-04:00March 19th, 2019|Global Market Update|

What are the long-run expectations for growth? Photo: Nicolas Henderson.Source: Flikr. CC-BY-2.0 Just outside of Amarillo, Texas, overlooking the Panhandle plains, stands a pair of trunkless legs, usually covered with graffiti, or with socks spray-painted on them. They aren’t the remains of a school mascot that was vandalized. The legs were built there by a quirky Amarillo businessman, inspired by the 19th-century poem “Ozymandias.” The poem is about a statue standing in the middle of the Egyptian desert, erected by a grand monarch thousands [...]

New Growth, Old Growth, Bureaucratic Growth

By |2019-01-30T05:49:26-04:00January 30th, 2019|Global Market Update|

Everybody wants to grow. Fresh shoots on a Pieris plant. Source: Wikimedia We want to grow personally. We want our children to grow intellectually, emotionally, and morally. We want the economy to grow. We want companies in our portfolios to grow their revenues, earnings, and dividends. And we want our investment portfolios to grow. But how do we get there? Everything – whether it’s plants, or people, or companies, or economies – goes through transformation to get to growth. They form patterns, they imitate [...]

A Mature Harvest

By |2018-10-18T06:49:46-04:00October 18th, 2018|Global Market Update|

Why are recessions so hard to predict? Photo: Bruno Glätsch. Source: Pixabay We observe the weather, we feel the seasons. The grapes are swelling on the vine. We know when it’s time to pick apples and gather the harvest. When we walk outside, we know that winter is on its way. Why is it so difficult to see the seasons of economic growth, to know when an economic “hard frost” is coming? Seasons are regular, economies are irregular. The weather for certain days may [...]

Interval Training

By |2018-08-03T08:19:09-04:00August 3rd, 2018|Global Market Update|

Stress plus rest equals growth. Facebook stock price. Source: Bloomberg app. That’s what I thought about when I heard the latest Facebook numbers. Stock analysts saw them as an unmitigated disaster: year-over-year revenues were “only” up 42%, after growing 60% just a couple years ago. But more important was the fact that expenses were up 50% and accelerating. Wall Street said to Facebook’s management, “You can’t keep doing this.” No one can grow expenses faster than revenues indefinitely; eventually they run out of margin. [...]

Up, Up, and Away?

By |2018-07-25T07:07:45-04:00July 25th, 2018|Global Market Update|

Earnings are awesome. Photo: Eric Ward. Source: Wikimedia That’s the message the market has been saying for the past two years, ever since oil prices recovered from their slump in 2016 and we avoided another debt-driven financial crisis. There were concerns back then that all the new fracking-led oil drilling was funded by junk bonds – bonds that would go into default when new rigs couldn’t sell their oil profitably. At one point, there was so much excess capacity that some drillers had to [...]

Wide or Narrow, New or Used?

By |2018-07-24T08:37:13-04:00July 24th, 2018|Global Market Update|

Boeing is building a new type of aircraft. Airbus is responding. Whose approach is better? Airbus A380, the largest airliner in the world. Photo: Maarten Visser. Source: Wikimedia Thirty years ago, Airbus engineers began to secretly develop a new-concept airplane, an ultra-high-capacity airliner that could challenge the dominance of the Boeing 747. Fifteen years later, they began to build the A380, a twin-deck airframe that could carry over 800 passengers almost 10,000 miles. Airbus broke tradition and skipped a few numbers to name it [...]

Investing by Starlight

By |2018-04-17T06:50:01-04:00April 17th, 2018|Global Market Update|

Every decade or so, a new investment star is born. Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Source: MOMA In the ‘60s it was growth stocks. In the ‘70s it was gold. In the ‘80s we all turned Japanese. The ‘90s had the Nasdaq. The ‘00s saw China’s growth. And now we have the data giants. Each one of these markets rallied some 10-fold during its heyday. What’s next? One approach is to look for the asset that no one wants. In the early ‘80s Japan just [...]

Uneven Growth

By |2018-03-27T08:31:11-04:00March 27th, 2018|Global Market Update|

What do you do when your portfolio becomes lopsided? Photo: Alan Murray-Rust. Source: Geograph That’s the challenge that a lot of investors are facing. Facebook and Amazon and the other growth darlings have done so well for so long that they now represent an oversized position in many portfolios. It’s a simple matter of mathematics: If a holding in a 20-stock portfolio doubles in a single year while the rest of the portfolio remains stable, it’s weighting in the portfolio roughly doubles. If that [...]