I recently retired after 39 years in Financial Services. Along the way, I believe that I learned a lot, not only about Economics and Financial Markets; but, about a number of other topics. In today's World, everything is connected--Foreign Affairs, Politics, Medicine, Education, Technology, etc. Also, with today's ever-changing World, it is important for everyone to keep up with what is going on--both at home and abroad. We have to be very curious.
LEAVING THE TPP IS DUMB! CHINA WOULD JOIN, ASSUME THE LEADERSHIP ROLE, AND EVENTUALLY CONTROL THE REGION’S SEA LANES.
Posted in Investment Primer on May 22, 2017
Prior to the formation of the European Common Market, which grew into the current 28-member European Union, there were intra-continental wars—neighbor against neighbor—in Europe, every twenty years or so. In the 70 years since World War II, after which the E. U. was formed; however, there haven’t been any wars on the Continent. Familiarity and economic cooperation breeds peaceful coexistence!
The twelve-member Trans-Pacific Partnership would have included members from both sides of the ocean, and from four continents. Due to the huge size of the U. S. Economy—and the exclusion of China—America would, most certainly, have held a leadership role. With the formation of this trade pact, it could evolve somewhat along the lines of the E. U., but with its own Asia-Pacific character.
Now, let’s consider TPP as a military strategy. China and Russia are the American Military’s two main adversaries. Global powers require two characteristics: a strong military; and a large, growing economy. The importance of the economy, in projecting global power, is two-fold: domestic needs must be met in order to prevent political turbulence, back at home; and a strong economy is necessary to finance a large, technologically-powerful military.
China’s economy is second only to that of the U. S., and it is growing, although it has recently shown the normal growing pains of a young economy. It also has the additional advantage of being located in the most dynamic, fastest-growing region of the world! Although its defense budget lags that of the U. S. in total size, it has been continuing to
accelerate its spending to strengthen its military–both in size and technologically..
Russia, on the other hand, appears to be stymied. It’s poorly diversified economy, was decimated by the economic sanctions of the Atlantic Alliance, and the 50% decline in global oil prices, which accounts for 70% of Russia’s hard currency. Geopolitically, it has entangled itself in local wars, both in Eastern Ukraine and, more recently, in Syria. Lastly, it seems to have been rebuffed in its plan to break-up the E. U., by decimating fake news and hacking the political polls in various European National Elections.
With three-quarters of the world covered by seas, and the global landmass already set, at least for the most part, President Obama’s idea of the Asian Pivot was an important one. In fact, he personally preferred the term: “Indio-Pacific Pivot.” With Russia apparently in somewhat of a decline, the U. S. needs to change the focus from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, to the Indian and the Western Pacific. In fact, three-quarters of the American Navy was deployed in that Region when he left office.
In my next post, I will add more detail as to why the shift in focus, from the Atlantic and Pacific, to the Indian and Western Pacific. Just consider where the current global hot spots are: the Horn of Africa; the Arabian Peninsula; the Persian Plateau; the Subcontinent of India; the South China Sea; Taiwan (Republic of China) and the Korean Peninsula. This area also has the two choke-points through which global sea commerce passes: the Strait of Hormuz (40% of global crude oil), between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the Strait of Malacca (50% of all global sea commerce, and 85% of China’s oil), between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
Parts of this region, mostly toward the South China Sea are very dynamic, both intellectually and economically, while others, more toward East Asia (left on the WorldAtlas Map), are not advancing either intellectually or economically. Many analyst predict that the future will be one of the two Asian Giants—China and India—confronting each other in their quest for Oil Security.
NOTE: Welcome to my readers from the Republic of China, A/K/A Taiwan!
WILL DONALD TRUMP AND TREASURY SECRETARY STEVE MNUCHIN PROCLAIM THE NEW 21st CENTURY GLASS-STEAGALL ACT, BUT ONLY METAPHORICALLY?
Posted in Investment Primer on May 19, 2017
The Banking Act of 1933, commonly referred to as the Glass-Steagall Act, ushered in various reforms, to assist the Nation’s Recovery from The Great Depression. “Glass”, which was part of (new) President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal”, broke-up the Banking Industry, and created Federal Deposit Insurance. It was made permanent in 1945.
Prior to “Glass”, companies could engage in both commercial and investment banking, which meant that risky securities actions might jeopardize clients’ deposits, and there wasn’t any deposit insurance either. In the mid-1980s, however, many of the banking restrictions were lifted, and mostly larger banks transformed themselves into Financial Services Supermarkets. Also, making “banking” even more precarious: the number of products and financial institutions, has frown considerably since the 1930s.
In October of 2008, President George W. Bush bestowed many billions of dollars on the largest banks, in order to enhance liquidity within the banking system. Unfortunately, that action was interpreted, by many, as conveying an explicit Federal Government Guarantee of what became to be called the “Too Big to Fail” banks. That general assumption merely led to an even higher concentration of financial business, on the few, but same, largest—or Too Big to Fail Banks. Thus, the solution worsened the problem!
Following The Great Recession (4Q07-to-1Q09), President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act into Law, in July 2010. Dodd-Frank reined-in the banks, required required high equity capital standards, and was intended to separate the investment risks from consumer deposits. The GOP, however, has sought to repeal Dodd-Frank ever since!
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is Donald Trump’s lead-man on banking laws, has been suggesting that he might propose a “21st century version of Glass-Steagall”. Donald Trump has also been saying the same thing! Today, Senator Elizabeth Warren called Secretary Mnuchin to task, at a Senate Finance Committee Hearing, as linked from CNBC-TV. She noticed that he had been avoiding the question of whether, or not, the Trump Regime would break-up the banks.
Finally, Secretary Mnuchin realized that he had to answer the question, and his response was still quite convoluted: “it’s a complex issue”; “not a good thing”. and finally “NO!” He stammered when she asked him how they could be considering a “21st century version of Glass-Steagall—a law which specifically broke-up the banks—with one that would not.” Mr. Mnuchin suggested that he would bring a team from the Treasury Department to brief the Senator’s Staff.
Secretary Mnuchin seemed to be avoiding answers from most of the Senators on the Committee—especially the Democrats—as he offered to provide briefings, similar to those offered Senator Warren, to a number of other Senators. Surely, the Secretary of the Treasury should be expected to appear before the primary Senate Committee, which regulates his office—and be totally prepared! And it should be obvious to most Americans that, so soon after the 2008 Banking Crisis, that the status of the Banking Laws would be Question Number One, Two and Three!
NOW MIGHT NOT BE THE TIME TO SELL, IN THE STOCK MARKET, UNLESS YOU KNOW SOMETHING THAT WALL STREET DOESN’T!
Posted in Investment Primer on May 18, 2017
Today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped by 1.79%; but, it’s still up 4.27% above the 2016 close. Similarly, the S & P 500 closed down 1.82%, and is still up by 5.28% for the year. And NASDAQ, which lost the most, some 2.57% today, is still up by 11.57% on the year.
It’s important to remember that the financial markets never go straight up, or straight down. There appears to have been talk around the markets lately, that some degree of “correction” (a sell-off) was necessary to calm the volatility. So, perhaps the political angst provided just the spark to settle the market! If there is any volatility in the early U. S. market trading on Thursday, it will probably be a combination of Sellers, who weren’t paying attention on Wednesday, and Buyers looking to pick-up a few potential bargains.
Jeremy Siegel, Economics Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, literally wrote the book about “Stocks for the Long Run”, is a perennial stock market Bull. Today, he said, in an interview on CNBC-TV: “If Donald Trump resigned tomorrow I think the Dow would go up 1,000 points,” Professor Siegel’s stated rational is that the market has been rallying on the Republican Agenda, and not the Trump Agenda.
I wouldn’t try to project how the stock or bond market would adjust to such a situation, especially when we don’t know how ugly it might get. Also, if Donald Trump were to be ousted, the degree to which the Trump Republican Party continues to remain comfortable with him at the helm, might reveal whether or not it will continue to maintain it majority—or even its relevance to the average American.
NOTE: Welcome to my readers from Austria and the Netherlands.
Long before his Inauguration, Donald Trump has been dissing the Intelligence Community. As a candidate, when asked about skipping even the “Lite” version of the President’s Daily Briefing, he said: ”I’ll get Intelligence when I need it!” Typical Donald Trump, and with all of his ignorant narcissism a-blazing!
Then, right after his Inauguration, Donald went to the Central Intelligence Agency’s Headquarters, in Langley, Virginia, where he spoke in front of the “Wall of Honor.” That is a memorial dedicated to agents who have died in the line-of-duty. As it turned-out, the event was nothing but a photo-op, during which the so-called President Trump even made an obnoxious joke. That disrespectful charade was surely received with horror by CIA personnel—worldwide.
Domestically, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, also provides intelligence, and it is also the main law enforcement arm of the U. S. Justice Department. Just a week ago, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, apparently because the FBI investigation of Trump’s Transition Team, possibly having colluded with Russia was gaining momentum. The Whits house “justified” the termination as being due to some error by Director Comey, last summer.
Today, Donald Trump acknowledged that he had shared intelligence information with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and the Federation’;a Ambassador to the U. S., Sergei Kislyak, who is also an alleged spy master. Trump claims that “I have the absolute right” to share information with Russia. Ironically, there was only one journalist in the Oval Office when Trump shared the Intel with his guests—a Russian one.
More specifically, Trump Tweeted, early this morning, that: “I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism”, which was reported in the NY Times, as linked below:
As he basked in all of his splendid ignorance, claiming that he has the authority to de-classify any material, I wonder if Trump considered the following:
- Can I be sure of who Russia might pass this information onto, or how they might use it, since I do not know what their real intentions are?
- Am I putting the lives of CIA agents at risk, or those of friendly source nations?
- Will news of this leak dry-up future Intel sharing with friendly nations?
- Will I have access to vital intelligence from the CIA, FBI, NSA, etc, within our own Intel Community?
Shortly before Donald Trump’s Inauguration, CIA agents had reportedly cautioned their counterparts at Mosad, the Israeli Intelligence Agency, about sharing Intel with the White House or the National Security Council. They suggested, albeit during the Michael Flynn Era, that it might be shared with Russia, who could pass it on to Iran.
Well, it has been reported that the source of the recent Intel, which Donald Trump had recently given to the Russians was, in fact, Israel. And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems comfortable with that! I just don’t get it!
NOTE: Welcome to all of my readers from India, Singapore, Slovenia and Turkey!
Donald Trump spoke today, in Washington, D. C., at a memorial service for police officers, who were killed in the line-of-duty. As usual, I personally didn’t care much for Trump’s style; because, however well-intentioned his words might have been, they did not correlate with any plan to understand it.
In amongst his rhetoric, Donald Trump always seems to have an “Us-versus-Them” scenario in mind, especially when it comes to the Black-White relations on our nation’s streets, which is generally were police officers are killed. Additionally, he always seems to side with the police officers, in any confrontation ,without considering the possibility that, perhaps in some cases, the officer might have acted without provocation.
I have several relatives, as well as friends, who are either active or retired from law enforcement. And, I sincerely believe that most in their profession are dedicated men and women, and they are deeply committed to serving and safeguarding the public. But, I believe that Donald Trump should work toward understanding the situation, including all possible causes, and only then can he work toward solving the long standing problem.
Donald Trump, and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions; however, seem to be escalating the street crime problem, rather than diffusing it. The whole “Black Lives Matter” movement reflects the evils of Racism, which had never been settled—400 years since Black Africans were first forcibly brought to America, and sold into Slavery.
For instance, many of the incidents of police officers shooting Black Men have stemmed from the police harassing the Black Men, rather than just giving them a ticket or a warning, as they generally would to a White Man. AG Sessions further raised the level of distrust last week, when he announced that he was asking the Courts to hand-down the harshest sentences possible, even for non-violent crimes. WHY?
Part of the racial distrust, which is at the heart of the heightened street crime, is due to the fact that many more Blacks and Latinos are in prison, than Whites. Also, minorities often get harsher sentences for the same crimes. A rational person might conclude that the Trump Regime intends to make the problem worse, rather than better. Is that how Donald Trump might chose to remember those officers who were killed in the line-of-duty?
NOTE: Please consider me a rational person.
Posted in Investment Primer on May 13, 2017
Last January, I compared the current disastrous situation with Mexico, which Donald Trump created, when he announced his candidacy in June of 2015. Mr. Trump always seems to need objects, which he can later blame for his own mistakes or inadequacies. In fact, ever since Trump’s irrational attacks on Mexico began, the possible reaction could present a much clearer and more dangerous situation.
In October of 1962, President John F. Kennedy averted the Soviet Union’s installation of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles in Cuba, by establishing a blockade of U. S. naval ships around the island nation. Allowing ICBMs, just 90 miles from our shares, would have been courting a similarly dangerous situation, between the two nuclear superpowers. Luckily, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev “blinked”, and the ships returned to Russia.
Given Trump’s raucous attacks over the past two years, current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who had previously been lagging in popularity, has dropped even farther in the polls. The Mexican economy has stagnated, partially due to a halt in corporate investments until Donald Trump decides, for sure, what the status of NAFTA will be! Keep in mind, as well, that Russia and now China, have b been building trading relationships throughout South America, and Mexico might be of interest to them.
Ironically, as America tries to determine whether there was any possible Russian involvement in our Election, last November, Donald Trump has apparently contributed toward a probable Presidential turn-over in Mexico. If Donald would have considered the facts—only 5.6 million undocumented Mexicans were in the U. S. in 2016, as compared to 6.4 million in 2009, according to a new Pew Research Report—we wouldn’t be in this situation.
Senior Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist former Mayor of Mexico City, appears favored to win the Presidential Election on July 1. Andres Oppenheimer writes that, when he interviewed Lopez Obrador, two years ago for the Miami Herald, he sounded exactly like Communist Hugo Chavez, the deceased former President of Venezuela. Lopez Obrador further places the blame, for the current deadly riots in Venezuela, on the political opponents of current President, Nicolas Maduro.
U. S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comment, earlier this week, announced that the Trump Regime would no longer insist that countries we deal with, must abide by our values. Those would include Democracy and Human Rights. In that case, Donald Trump; might develop a closer relationship with Mexico, if the favored Lopez Obrador, who might have Communist tendencies. is elected President. Of course, Donald might then have to accept the ramifications—of having either China or Russia, literally on our doorstep!
Posted in Investment Primer on May 12, 2017
Many people assume that there are just two types of national economies, “Developed” or “Developing”. But that is certainly not the case, at all. There are still nations, mostly in Africa, where people subsist on just a few dollars per day. Such economies haven’t even begun to develop!
And other people have observed the rising tides, year-by-year, and realize that their homes, and their towns, will be inundated, within a decade or so. I will try to explain more of this, in future posts—from personal observation and study—about why some nations are evolving, and others are not.
There are three main categories of market development:—Developed, Developing and Frontier. A brief explanation is follows:
Developed Markets: are the easiest to identify, since they are the generally some of the largest economies; have attained a certain level of industrialization; posses reasonably large and efficient stock, and oftentimes bond, markets, and a stable currency.. Relatively high levels of education prevail, thus enabling a more capable labor force. As you can, the top investments in rude many global companies.
Developing Markets display economic advancement in the above-cited categories; however, they might be more advanced in some areas, and less so in others. Because there is more risk in less-advanced economies, home-grown large corporations are scarce, due to the more elementary capital structure, and a shortage of foreign investment. At least here, there are a few names of corporations that you are familiar with.
Categorization is somewhat judgmental, since South Korea is considered “developing” by some indexers; however, it is home to some of the world’s largest corporations, has a per capita income of 79% that of Japan, a highly educated labor force, and its per capita GDP is expected to surpass that of Japan and France perhaps by around 2020.
Frontier Markets are a catch-all category for nations that generally have: poorly-functioning economies; stock and capital markets, if any, are inefficient; most economic functions take place at the village level, often by barter; central governments are usually dysfunctional; and education is minimal. I doubt there are any familiar corporations in this group.
I have linked Fact Sheets of an ETF for each of the three categories. The iShares
ETFs have some of the highest trading volume; which, I believe makes them more liquid. Also, by using the same company’s ETFs, at least for my purposed in this post, the companies, countries and industries represented would be in the same location on the Fact Sheets.
NOTE: There are other ETFs, as well as actively-managed mutual funds, which would provide a range of investments in the same market categories. Please compare the various options in the event that you invest overseas.