Thursday, November 30, 2006

On Risk (Zurich Axiom 1)

Major Axiom 1: Worry is not a sickness but a sign of health. If you are not worried, you are not risking enough.

Minor Axiom 1: Always play for meaningful stakes.

Minor Axiom 2: Resist the allure of diversification (I see your stunned look)

Three flaws regarding diversification:
  1. It forces you to violate the precept of Minor Axiom I - that you should always play for meaningful stakes.
  2. By diversifying, you create a situation in which gains and losses are likely to cancel each other out.
  3. By diversifying, you become a juggler trying to keep too many balls in the air at once.
As we work through these axioms, we'll see that they will violate much of what you've learned. Understand that my posting these is not an endorsement (and I'm not qualified to endorse anything but a check made payable to me) but rather a chance to explore an interesting view of risk/reward.

Zurich Axioms

Max Gunther wrote "The Zurich Axioms" (published by Harriman House copyright 2004). His book is in 12 chapters. I thought that I would put up his 12 axioms in 12 posts (maximum utility) and some may be moved to discuss.

To provide a road map, I'll give an overview of the Chapters.

  1. On Risk
  2. On Greed
  3. On Hope
  4. On Forecasts
  5. On Patterns
  6. On Mobility
  7. On Intuition
  8. On Religion and the Occult
  9. On Optimism and Pessimism
  10. On Consensus
  11. On Stubborness
  12. On Planning

Resilient expecations

Let's see, we had a 8.5% drop in durable goods orders (that is a pretty telling economic indicator), the dollar is stubbing its toe and oil is increasing--and the markets along with it.

Jeffrey Saut stated on Monday, something that I very much believe. That is, the opportunity for investors is where there is a gap between perception and reality in the market. To be sure, it is also a place of great danger, because you can be right, but your timing can be so off, that being "right" eventually only means having your money spirited away currently.

First off, I'm happy to say that my MIND is doing terrifically well, up 11.37%, and that ERF is continuing to perform well, up 8.39%. Both are tied to oil, and oil has been steadily going up. Now, you think that would be bad for the market. I also own some KRY, a gold miner, and that has gone up 30% since my purchase. These successes soften my worthless puts on the DOW and S&P that will expire in DEC.

John Murphy stated recently that commodities peak AFTER the stocks peak, prior to bad things happening. Commodities are definitely on the rise. But this rise is NOT tied to resurging economic activity. Has the market peaked? I wouldn't hazard a guess, but we clearly can see that the market has had renewed vitality and commodities are now better performers with energy gaining almost 2% yesterday. I'm also mindful that in a slowing economy commodities move downward.

Yesterday we had a stronger than expected GDP number, but that also came after another noted investment house (1) recast 4th quarter GDP as zero. How I have made sense of the market that makes no sense is this: Concrete information has outweighed "forecast" information. Concrete information comes in the form of backward looking "confirmed" glorious news: wonderful corporate earnings and confirmed 3rd quarter GDP growth. Plus, we also have great liquidity and lots of folks willing to throw themselves on the rails to board the train that got away while they were buying their put tickets!

As people are imperfect synthesizers of information, they will fall victim to their biases/emotions. You do, I do, we all do. Accordingly, if you have a positive OR negative outlook, your lens will filter for all of the things that support your view, and you'll dismiss ideas contrary to your view. The positive bias has great corporate earnings, some sliver of positive news on home sales increasing (never-you-mind it's at deep discounts), GDP being greater than expected. These are concrete things that stave off uncertain future information like expected decline in corporate earnings or slowing GDP.

I would contend, then, that for those with a positive bias on the market, there is a disequilibrium in the amount of weighting they have placed on positive news v. negative news. Perception does not equal reality. Until that balance changes and a tipping point reached where the positive news gets eroded by negative news, we'll continue to have liquidity and performance anxiety fuel the market's surge. But after year end, performance anxiety takes a break and 4th quarter earnings will become reality (remember lots of folks warned). The earnings and forecasts will be the most telling, and if the numbers are bad there is no performance anxiety propping them up. BUT, for folks like me looking for dour numbers, if the numbers are good, that's a different fuel altogether.

And for any that want to say that the market is a perfect discounter, I would argue that the bond market was wrong about interest rates most of the last 12 months. Ultimately the market gets it right--and market corrections are nothing if not a supreme act of contrition for wallowing in perception rather than walking in reality.

(1) Deutsche Bank has also lowered their forecast:
In light of continued weakness in the economic data, we are cutting our fourth quarter real GDP growth forecast to zero from the +1.0% that we were originally predicting.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Friday Trustee Sales

I wasn't expecting to see many of these. I was wrong. 9 were greater than $200K.

Friday, November 24, 2006

No One Knows

I'm a firm believer in fundamentals--in business, in personal life and in investing. Fundamentals are important because they are foundational; the structure on what everything else stands. When you have strong fundamentals and disciplines, you create a stronger, more accurate decision making environment. I will go to the earlier of my grave or the poorhouse believing that true investment fundamentals includes BOTH fundamental analysis and technical analysis.

While a facile command of fundamental and technical analysis is a laudable goal, that goal must exist within a very critical axiom. In fact every investor should recite as his/her daily investment mantra: "No one knows". I wish I had understood this simple, yet powerful, concept earlier on. It's not only applicable to investing but any topic you choose--including your health. As anyone who has faced difficult decisions regarding procedures/regimens knows, you're going to get divergent views. And when your health/life are on the line, those divergences are frightening. You only antidote to "no one knows" is knowledge and YOUR assessment of the risks involved in making decision x v. decision y.

In financial health decisions, one sees those divergences daily. On Friday, we had a whole new symptom to ponder: the falling dollar (You can read a professional's summary here. Now I do not pretend to be qualified to explain to you all that it means; but I am qualified to tell you that you should have a rudimentary understanding of what that means. When asset classes have changing relative relationships with other asset classes, there's a bit of a yin yang dynamic unfolding that you should understand. What's bad for one is good for another (in terms of pricing). If the dollar is getting less valuable (relative to other currencies/asset classes) then something with intrinsic value, such as gold and oil, gains in value. Oil declines when the dollar is strong because it is priced in USD (less $'s to buy oil relative to other currencies.) and oil gains when the dollar declines (more $'s are needed because the dollars are valued less relative to other currencies).

So what does that really mean? For one, inflationary pressures will rise. Commodities will cost more for more USD's are required to buy a barrel of oil. There's another malefic result of a dollar going lower--higher interest rates. Why? Our bonds are USD denominated; therefore, if the dollar is going down relative to other currencies and asset classes, investors (and remember more than 50% of the holders of our bonds are foreigners) will require a greater return for those assets in the form of higher interest rates. Now just to mix it up and keep it interesting, you have some fundamental factors influencing oil: (1) OPEC's threatening to decrease supplies; and (2) increasing inventories.

But there's a beneficial result too....American made goods get cheaper and greater exports mean a reduced trade imbalance. Also, if you have ETF's understand the currency in which the share price is denominated. It will affect your returns. In general, Asian and European currency denominated ETF's will benefit from the dollar's falling. Those ETF's will gain in from the dollar's demise.

My point is not to give you any guidance but rather to coax you into developing an understanding of these dynamics and how they weave themselves into the tapestry of the investing climate. They are really important. I think that the best place to educate yourself on the business cycle and which asset classes do well or poorly is George Dagnino's site: If you do nothing in your investment life do this.... Print out, read, and re-read that pdf. I would also urge you to look at his chart of the month. For fans of Bill Cara's site, you will see that George deploys stochastics to inform of the probabilities of moves in the market.

Remember, everyone has an opinion about what the stock market will do, where we are in the economic cycle, what the dollar, oil, gas, soy beans.....fill in the blank. There are several divergent opinions among great luminaries which means you need to tread carefully and understand YOUR risk environment. How? You must equip yourself to separate the wheat from the chafe. You can reduce your perplexions as a new investor through a basic command of economic cycles and of the asset classes that do better or worse at each stage of the cycle. When you do your head scratching, reach for the investor prayer beads and recite your mantra: "no one knows." No meaningful turn in the market or the economy is ever clear until you look in the rear view mirror. Until then, it's just blind mice trying to make sense of the elephant. Nevertheless, you'll be armed with knowledge to make informed decisions that are right for you.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Covering $hit with Snow--A tribute to my Armenian Grandmother.

My Armenian grandmother came to this country in 1920. She didn't know her real birthday. In spite of that, she claimed Jan 1, 1900 has her date of birth. Such a date! The first date of a new century! As I look at this market with my stupid, amateur gaze, I'm filled with incredulity. I'm reminded of phrase that my immigrant remembers-the-Armenian holocaust-but-we-thought-her-crazy grandmother uttered from time to time: "You cannot cover shit with snow". It's a wonderful aphorism is it not? Appropriate to this market.

So I write this blog post in honor of my simple, uneducated grandmother and the power of words and wisdom that do not require an education in our Western civilization sense, but rather that which is acquired from living life in the raw and on the edge. My grandmother--Alice was her name-- was sold to the Armenian church at the age of 12 (mother died in in child birth, stepmother wanted no part or husband's progeny) and placed, as a slave girl, with a Turkish couple in Constantinople until she reached majority age. Despite her simple roots, she harbored great wisdom garnered from years of living in the raw and on the edge of physical, emotional and monetary survival.

Many of us are so enamored with the educational and cultural trappings of ourselves and our class, that we forget the simple wisdoms of authentic people who struggle with the everyday of task of surviving. As Thanksgiving approaches, let us remember those simple wisdoms from authentic people and contemplate what small kindness we can extend to soften the edges in their lives.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A favorite poem

I've spent most of my day in my office at home cleaning, filing, trashing. I moved my attention to the corkboard and found one of my favorite poems. This was in Aug 9 & 16, 2004 of the New Yorker.

The Kindness of the Blind

A poet is reading to the blind.
He did not suspect it was so hard.
His voice is breaking.
His hands are shaking.
He feels that here each sentence
is put to the test of the dark.
It will have to fend for itself,
without the lights or colors.
A perilous adventure
for the stars in his poems,
for the dawn, the rainbow, the clouds, neon lights, the moon,
for the fish until now silver under water,
and the hawk so silently high in the sky.
He is reading--for it is too late to stop--
of a boy in a jacket yellow in the green meadow,
of red rooftops easy to spot in the valley,
the restless numbers on the players' shirts,
and a nude stranger in the door cracked open.
He would like to passover--though it's not an option--
all those saints on the cathedral's ceiling,
that farewell wave from the train window,
the microscope lens, ray of light in the gem,
video screens, and mirrors, and the album with faces.
Yet great is the kindness of the blind,
great their compassion and generosity.
They listen, smile, and clap.
One of them even approaches
with a book held topsy-turvy
to ask for an invisible autograph.

-----Wislawa Szymborska
(translated, from the Polish, by Justyna Koskowska)

Gary K's 11/17/06 Recommendations

Have you visited Gary K? Gary K has one of the most informative, practicable shows. The link is the side panel.

His shown is downloadable. So you can listen at your convenience, and more importantly, you can skip through the Folicare ads.

Here are some of the stocks that Gary K mentioned in his Friday show.

I may do this from time to time. I offer this from the position of an information distiller.

Friday, November 17, 2006


It is with great sadness that I commit to eternal rest my BAC and AIG put that expired %^#$#!^ worthless today.

My thesis was that Fed rates would hold or even go up and that market would go down. Investment income would be hurt at AIG, but how was I to know that the hurricance season would be well a bust. Both BAC and AIG were experiencing rollover at the time of my purchase, but they did not roll. %#@#!%#% it.

Humorous Lesson: I should have gone out and bought some obscenely expensive wine and taken a bath in it and I would have had the same utility.

Real lesson: Never, ever, ever, buy a put or call option for an amount of money whose worthless expiration amount would make you cry. I didn't with either of these. If you are buying puts or calls, make sure that you understand your risks. I took a measured risk on both of these. I'm not crying. But the ouch factor is real.

Friday Trustee Sales

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Nona's post on my home brought a funny memory I wanted to share.

I have two cool things in my home. Now, I write this telling you that I have a modest home--if any of this comes off as arrogance in anyway, it is unintentional. As Mark and I were eating dinner this evening, we talked about the gratitude that we have for everything that we have. Our modest needs are easily fulfilled. But I will tell you, that if we ran with a different crowd, I would feel that we were wanting for something. I'm glad that my social aspirations are modest. onto the cool things....

Cool thing #1. I have this baroque mantel made of solid walnut. I found it at an antique dealer and it was covered with antique white, leaded paint. In a word...gaudy. I paid $350 for it in 1985--lots of money for me.

I brought it home--like a cat bringing its master a treat. Rather than gratitude, I suffered scorn..two-fold scorn. One of my former Peat Marwick colleague's husband, Doug, (a banker but former summer plumber's helper helping Mark with the rough-in) AND my husband laughed at me when I brought it home. My husband mocked, "You paid HOW much for THAT?" I can still hear Doug and Mark's cackling. Now you have to understand that nothing is more unpleasant for me than "paying too much" for something. I'm not sure where that gene came from, but it's the honest truth, and it embarrasses me profoundly and has caused many a sleepless night.

Anyway....the next day, my husband is bitchin'(excuse the profanity) to Buck, the cabinet man. You have to know Buck. He is a master craftsman, but a very quiet, deliberate man. In addition to making lovely cabinetry, he restores antique automobiles...pristinely.

Buck listens to Mark's lament of having a wife bringing home such crap at high prices. After the tirade, Buck quietly says to Mark..."Do you want to double your money now?" That statement stops Mark (and gives me a priceless "I told you so moment" that wives must always have in their quiver!)dead. Buck then benevolently offers to take the mantle in his service van to this place risque-ly called "The City Stripper" to have it vat stripped. It cost $100 to have this done. Yes, that is alot of money While there, they receive many offers to buy the mantle for about 6x what I paid for it. Vindication. We built our downstairs fireplace to accomodate this mantel. I also have a fireplace in our bedroom. A very plain, beautiful solid cherry mantel adorns that. We've never used it, but at the time, we felt like a fireplace in a master bedroom would be a good resale value.

When I received the mantle back it required much TLC. Stripping any type of wood raises the grain. Much sanding was needed. It has rope moulding, dental molding, hand carved flowers and carved posts. I did it all and put several tung oil applications in between each sanding. It's beautiful. Likely larcenous as well, as the owner of the place that I bought if from spent some time in jail for stealing things out of older homes. The City Stripper guessed its age as mid 1800's. With its age and all that tung oil, it will likely have spontaneous combustion and burn my home down.

Second neat thing. I have this bronze light fixture from the University of Richmond. Some bright soul sold these "surplus" fixtures for $25 each. They are about 4 feet from stem to stern with white semi-opaque glass. We (Tim/Mark) framed our stairway to handle it. It's monstrously beautiful. After they realized what they had done, they offered some terrific tax credit--I think it was a $3K tax credit. The fixtures cost them $7800 to replace. I think I got a good deal, don't you? The beauty of being poor as we were at the time is that the tax credit did not really mean too much! I now have an SIL who works at University of Richmond. Strange karma indeed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Canadian Energy Trusts

Cramer mentioned the Canadian Energy Trusts this p.m. His logic was similar to mine. ERF, the trust that I bought in my retirement account @ an average cost of $42.45 (I flipped some in my taxable account), was up immediately to $43, and it closed at $41.17. So I'm certain I'll be in the black again, but I must admit that I cringed when it was trading at $38. I had enough exposure in my portfolio that I did not buy more at this price. So, we'll see how this works out.

MIND had a nice increase today, closing up 4.4%. It's close to a small breakout. I have a very small position of 500 shares. I may add more if there's a decent breakout.

IVGN is still green but barely.

11.16.06 Update...certitude and the market are not compatible bedfellows. I think that if oil had not gone down $2 my comments would have stuck. But I'm egalitarian, and I would rather have cheaper oil than money to stave off starvation cum retirement.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Alternate Universes

Hmmm....I've had a couple of folks note that formatting appeared strange. When I view the blog I do not see these problems; however on the forwarded page that one of my blogger-friends sent over there is odd HTML stuff. I'm not sure how to handle, but I appreciate your patience and apologize for the odd look.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

On Recessions and Bear Markets...a Marty Zweig Perspective

In the early 90’s I was a Consulting CFO for an institution. As such, I served as staff for the Investment Committee of the Board.We were interviewing a number of firms, Martin Zweig’s fund being one of them.I didn’t meet Marty Zweig, but I remember that the presenters did a bang up job presenting.I believe that we must have chosen his firm, as I received an autographed (07/21/92) “Leisa-I appreciate your confidence, Marty” of his book "Winning on Wall Street (WOWS)". I did not read the book until this past year or so. There is some shame in that admission.But the point of this post is not to brag about the autograph (it is my only brush with investment celebrity, though Barron’s did print the one and only Letter to the Editor that I wrote to them. Yes, I do live an uneventful life which is why these little snippets have outsized proportions in my delicate psyche.) In WOWS, Zweig lays out 3 conditions for a bear market.

Two Perplexions come to play in my wanting to write about Zweig’s conditions. First perplexion is that people cannot agree as to whether or not we are in a bull or bear market; and second, people cannot agree as to whether or not we are/will be in a recession. I conclude, therefore, that much of this confusion is due to the perpetual need to read the economic tea leaves or lick one’s index finger and hold it up to find out if the ill winds are blowing us toward something malefic. It’s Ed Young’s Seven Blind Mice but we have to winnow out all of the confusion among the 100 (or so) blind mice that serve as market pundits.

I like Zweig's objective parameters. It provides some empiricism for us to evaluate the opinions of other market opinion makers. Zweig writes:

”The big money is made or lost in stocks during the most violent bull and bear markets. The bad news for those who crave action is that the market does not behave dynamically all that often. Even within the great bull market advances, there are periods of lull. I would estimate that stocks spend only about 20% of the time in the most active phases of the bull trend and only about 10% in the severe downward periods of major bear markets.Roughly 70% of the time stocks either meander in a neutral trading range or undergo minor rallies or declines within their various bull and bear cycles.During that 70% span—let’s call it the neutral area—your overall market strategy does not matter all that much…."

Zweig defines a bear market as follows: “a decline of at least 15% in each of the three important stock averages:the Dow Jones Industrials, the S&P 500 Index and the Zweig Unweighted Price Index (or the Value Line Indes, if you prefer).” I suppose that one could throw in the NASDQ to replace the ZUPI/VL index. I’m not sure if anyone has addressed this. Based on his definition, as there was not at least a 15% decline in all three indices in June/July, I’m not sure that we had a bear market within this description. See table below of May highs/June-July lows for DJI, NASD and S&P.None of the main averages achieved a decline of this magnitude.

Extreme deflation characterized by a PPI index drop of 10% on a 6 month average of annualized m-t-m changes.Take current year m-t-m inc/dec and average it with the last 5 months (sum the mtm change each month for the last six months and divide by 6).If that 6 month average is at least –10% then you have cleared this test; (I've not calculated this. I don't think we are there. I think that with the ISM falling, we will BEGIN to see where that calculation becomes meaningful).

Ultra high price/earnings ratios.He labels 10-14 aS normal P/E range. Upper teens and twenties is what he calls high; and (we are in this level now).

Inverted yield curve.Zweig used the Moody’s Aaa Corporate Bonds yield as the long term rate and 6 month commercial paper rates as the short term rate. (I've not calculated this). Addendum 11.13.06--Of course we all know that we have an inverted yield curve, and SFO did a wonderful story on that which you can find here. I've just not calculated it using MZ's method. So, some food for thought as we think about recessions and market corrections.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Brilliant Fall Day

Today is one of those truly glorious days. Clear and 79 matter that it is November. Virginia has the most beautiful shoulder months. After my Medicare post, I decided that I should re-engage with some healthful habits. I took my dogs out for a walk. I later came back and snapped a couple of pictures. The odd angle on the leaf is because the wind was blowing it.

We live on 6.5 beautiful wooded acres. We bought this land back in 1984. I was 24 years old, my husband 29. We were so very poor, as I was just out of college in 05/82, and my husband had been out of work for a while due to the recession (commercial electrician). But we managed to buy this piece of land because there was owner financing--something that I'm eternally grateful for.

We literally designed and built our own home. Because the land was so perfect, we were faced with the dilemma of building a home that we could afford with sufficient quality that we would not say in 20 years, we were still living in a "starter home". The financial aspect was daunting; and the physical aspect was almost impossible at times. My husband and a 65 year old carpenter/mason built the house. Tim is dead now, but he was a master craftsman. Tim and Mark hand cut all of the rafters, framed the structure without the benefit of pneumatic equipment, and mixed mortar and laid brick. My husband nailed every plank of red oak flooring...we put it everywhere except the kitchen and bathrooms. I still remember one sweltering August evening where the air was so thick with humidity we were drenched. I laid out each piece so that my husband could nail it. I wiped up every drop of sweat that cascaded off his nose onto the boards. We truly had sweat equity. I painted everything--every piece of trim, every wall, stained the cedar on the back of the house and trimmed the exterior doors and windows. I do not paint anymore. I did a lifetime of painting then.

We did most things right. We did a few things wrong. Our drywall contractor was a hack. Our cabinet man pointed that out. We didn't know. Buck said that the finish coat would not be acceptable because they had not put enough mud behind the tape. We had to hire another drywall contractor. Before he could start, Mark's job was to take a garden sprayer and spray every !#@%^#@ seam and pull the tape off. It took him two days, and by the end of the second day, he could barely move his arms his shoulders were so sore.

It took us nine months. We planned meticulously. We had to make our own decisions on very damn thing. No one offered us 3 choices of this or that. We had the universe of possibilities that we had to winnow down to meet our budget and our mutual tastes. I remember laying awake at night with my heart pounding (I didn't realize at the time that these were anxiety attacks) thinking about the credit card debt that was amassing (I used that in between draws) and the $400 per month Amoco bill that I was having trouble meeting. My husband wasn't working, and I was making $20K per year. And we decided early on that we would manage our budget to a payment that I could make solely on my salary, given that commercial electrical work had suffered so badly during that time. Our mortgage principal was $65K, and we secured a 20 year mortgage. We conservatively figured that we had saved about $50K doing much of the work ourselves.

Today we live in a home that we probably could not afford to buy currently. So when we have a beautiful day such as today, that is clear and crisp, I'm frequently reminded of those sweltering August days where sweat and expletives flowed freely. And I'm reminded how important planning, courage, confidence and a measure hope are to building your life. Of even greater importance is finding people who will support your work. So many helped us along the way--the engineering/contracting firm that our banker made us hire to ensure that if Mark and I floundered someone would step in and finish the house. Tim and Buck who gave us quality craftsmanship. My banker who made the draw process flexible and stopped by from time to time to check on us. Our parents who worried over our over committed physical and financial resources.

As I build my financial house, I'm reminded of the process of building my physical home. I'm certainly wiser now than I was then, but in many ways I'm like that 24 year old--I'm going to charge ahead. I'm going to plan meticulously, be realistic in my expectations and work hard. I have lots of support, and I've found lots of resources. Perhaps 20 odd years from now, I'll be writing of this financial house building launch as I am writing now of my house building launch.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Our Virginia senate race as stilled not been called. It looks like Webb is ahead by the narrowest of margins. Certainly there will be a recount.

I voted around 2 p.m. yesterday. I had to wait 5 minutes--unusual, and certainly less time than than the folks in Denver had to wait. Anyway, the election official said that it was 2x the turnout as last election.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Trustee Sales Update

These listings were too compelling to ignore. The number of sales in the > than $300K range is noteworthy. Friends, these numbers are growing. NEVER have I seen this many large balances in one listing. NEVER. I'm not sure if I'm not sure if they will show up on Friday. I think that I'll start providing something like this in the future. In fact, I think that I'll send my other table to the editor of my paper and see if they post it in the letters to the editor. I'll see if I can find archival listings for same periods last year.

Today's Perplexion

The market has continued to astound. Tim Knight, perma bear extraordinaire, has almost capitulated, read his blog, Electile Dysfunction ( Rev Shark (Real Money, subscription required) calls the market "frothy. "

In my amateur view, there is a dissonance in the market that has to be resolved. That dissonance is the actual state of the US Economy and the global economy v. the perceived state of those economies. Part of the US economic dissonance (all call that ED) is the error rate in the jobs data. With the BLS making such an enormous error in the past--finding 800+K new jobs--it's hard to take the current information at its face value.

While I find conspiracy theories titillating (I'm an accountant, we get so few opportunities to be titillated), I don't necessarily subscribe to them. But one has to wonder IF the Fed were aware of the "real" employment numbers, would our rate hikes have been accelerated a bit. My answer to that hypothetical question would be yes.

When one is trying to find his/her way through the enormity of conflicting information, getting to basics helps (which includes throwing a few things out).
  • While corporate profits have been phenomenal, the guidance has been lower for a majority of corporations. CAT and HON were notable. I'm surprised (okay, not really) how little air time has been given to this statistic This was pulled from Birinyi Associatiates and you can find it here To be fair, the % of companies guiding lower is declining; therefore, I would find this graph more compellingly ominous if the lower guidance were higher than the 6% guidance. There seems to be quite a few silent companies regarding future guidance...

  • Gold is going up. Inflation worries? Demand fundamentals? (The same could be asked regarding oil, non-precious metals) Some mixture of both that confounds the average person? I'm betting on the latter.
  • Election jitters....puhleeze....there's enough mischief and shame shared between the two parties that if they monetized it we'd have no national debt.
  • Economic indicators? They are pointing to a slow down. Watch inventories. Increasing inventories mean decreasing prices and slowing production (margin squeeze). The ISM number is key. 50 is the magical number that is tell tale of a slowdown. We are only getting teased now.
  • Housing? Greenspan says the worst is behind us. Is he even relevant now? I'm not really looking for an answer to that. It may be bottoming, but I see a long, flat bottom. The real key to who is ultimately right in the expected market direction will be the effect of housing slowdown on the economy. If it is benign, then that is fuel for the rising market fire. If it is malevolent, then you have the makings of a shock. I'm not sure if benign is the middle ground. I do think that we are still unfolding this data, and we'll have greater clarity in the next 90 days.
  • Interest rates--I think that they will go up, or at least not come down for a while. So the inversion lasts a wee bit longer.
  • Propensity of surprise indicator? High on each of these, so it throws out the whole thing! Just hang onto your seat and squeal with glee!

Friday, November 03, 2006


I'm not great photographer, but I try. I went to Spain for 2 weeks on a wine tour. It was one of the most memorable things I have ever done. A splurge. No husband. No children. My goal was to master (okay learn) how to use my digital camera more facilely. I have an Olympus C-5060 (5.1 Megapixel).

The fetching woman below is Queen Isabel. I snapped it in Spain (May 2005), in the place of her tomb. I'm forgetting the name of the place, but it was a monastery outside of Segovia. The place was fascinating. All of the kings/queens of Spain were buried here. It was one of the most wondrous places I have seen. Stately, somber. Green marble alcoves housed majestic black caskets with brass trims were in the lower chapel. In the upper levels were all of the lesser wives and children, cousins, etc. Beautiful crypts with alabaster carvings or plain carved facings. It's a place where the quiet envelopes you. A peaceful place.

Friday Trustee Sales

Friday's trustees sales. Four are greater than $190K.

Some amateur technical talk....

gemma star, I post this because after your comment, I looked at TU. I must have reviewed this stock before, because I see I did a few line studies.

As my own belief is that fundamental and technical analysis are important to making investment decisions (though you have purists on either end who would vehemently disagree), I try to increase my technical skills. To do so, I have found it good practice to ambulance chase certain stocks on bad news and attempt to identify support. I don't commit capital unless I know something specific about the company. For IVGN, it was a company that I followed. If my IVGN breaches former support of $55.72, shown in the yellow line below, I'm outta there!

Canadian Energy Trusts, Redux

Here's something from Barron's that gives more color.... Also, if you are interested, check out Bill Cara here


The new tax treatment wouldn't take effect until 2011, however, and wouldn't even hit Canadian investors, explains Robert Willens, Lehman Brothers' tax expert. "For Canadians, it's irrelevant." Canadian investors can "impute" taxes paid by corporations, effectively getting around the double taxation of dividends, which the "primitive" U.S. tax system doesn't allow, he adds. As part of tax change, the Canadian corporate tax rate also will be lowered to 18.5%.

The only beneficiaries of the current royalty-trust structure are tax-exempt investors, such as retirement funds and endowments, and non-residents. "It's all about U.S. investors," Willens says of the proposed tax change, which he says will likely gain passage because it was proposed by the supposedly business-friendly Conservative government.


So throw out my due process comment. seems like the rest holds reasonably well.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Canadian Energy Trusts. . .

take it on the chin. If I understand it correctly, existing trusts will be taxed in four years while any new trusts get the tax shaft next year. Now this sort of thing plays right into my bias of following the stampede and looking for the carnage, so long as there is some risk mitigation. My expectation is that something happening in 4 years is not a reason to give up the ghost now.

In looking over the trusts, I elected to buy some ERF. Here's a look at the chart (Click to enlarge):

My average cost is $41.87 today. It closed at $42.29. They pay a .42 dividend on 11/08. Here's my thesis.:

Don Coxe (BMO Harris), who is no longer freely available, has been a huge proponent of geopolitically safe oil reserves. The Canadian oil plays fit that bill. I imagine though that any who have loaded the boat on these must be in pure agony now, for these oil trusts have declined 20+% over the news.

Now if my gourd is working correctly (and we are in the right season for gourds), the real risk is the price of oil, which I grant has been under much suspicion of late, and that's a discussion for another day. The price of oil affects earnings (near and far term) regardless of tax implications. And oil has been under pressure. But a 10% dividend rate is nothing to sniff at--and if in the US rates start to decline,--the search for yield will be relentless.

If there is such a thing as due process in Canada, there is a potential upside: the hew and cry may be so great that the politicians may come up with something more palatable for existing trusts while achieving their goal of abating the massive conversions to a trust.

In summary for ERF my investment thesis is
  • + dividend of .42/share provides downside protection of same (though the shares may dip post 11/08)
  • + greater clarity post exodus by clearer thinking may provide boost in share price
  • - oil price decrease will deflate shares as income will be reduced
  • +oil price increase will inflate shares..............
  • - hew and cry may result in some repeal or softening...think about what that might do (but I don't know the predispositions of the Canadian government, but I think that some mitigation via due process could very well be likely--though complete conjecture, it is a possibility).
I was listening to Peter Eliades today and was reminded of the psychology of the markets. Let's see what happens to the thesis above.

I found this article post post....I feel like my thinking is sound.


An update on my other theses for IVGN and MIND. IVGN currently has an .82 (1.46%) per share gain over my entry point and MIND has a .04 (.4%) gain over my entry point. Pretty thin margins!