Can’t let the month end without another Sunday Sermon.
This time a little bit of an update on the political and financial scene as I see it.
So far the Obama administration is doing great! (That was a little sarcasm in case anyone didn’t get it.)
Troops are being sent to Syria and soon we’ll get bogged down in another mess that’s none of our business and will probably take many years and many lives to get us disentangled from – leaving behind chaos and confusion and a worse situation than the one we tried to fix.
Meanwhile the economic crisis continues. Not that you’d notice. The sham recovery has meant that stocks have been on an upward trend, bonds have been doing well, and confidence is high.
And all because….
….well all because the Fed continues to print money and pour it into these markets.
Or at least it has been.
Then Bernanke made a statement a few days ago to “clarify” the government’s position.
Oh dear me!
He said that the government would… he thought… he hoped anyway…. assuming nothing unforeseen happened…. at least nothing major that they didn’t see coming… that they would ease off their money printing and bond buying… or at least they might… soon or maybe later… but sometime at least… well, it was being discussed…
Needless to say with that dithering statement confidence immediately melted away from the market and the DOW headed down by more than 500 points. In fact investors and brokers seemed to be selling everything, not just stocks and bonds but gold and other commodities too. Not quite panic but definite unease was clear to be seen.
The only reason it didn’t all collapse is that while the underlying message is clear, the Fed’s delay in implementing their tap turn off gives investors a little more time to make a little more money – they hope.
The problem with that is knowing when to sell. And that is the trick that has eluded investors from individuals to hedge fund managers since the markets began.
What Obama and Bernanke want is crystal clear. They see the folly in printing money and buying bonds at near $100 billion a month and they know they have to stop it eventually otherwise an even bigger financial catastrophe will result.
Their problem is they want to stop it without causing a massive market correction.
And that, as Samuel Goldwin used to say, can be summed up in two words – im possible!
It will be interesting and perhaps a bit painful to watch what happens next.
As well as being the biggest F’ing title ever seen on a WordPress blog, it drew attention to the debacle that was the much heralded launch of Facebook shares on the stock market.
Well, the fallout from what is now being called the IPOcalypse continues.
The head honcho at Nasdaq has had his CEO’s bonus slashed because of it, and rightly so.
But don’t start feeling sorry him just yet. Even with a slash he will still be taking home a $1.3m bonus, slightly north of half a million dollars lighter than it would have been, but still enough to get by on.
Oh yes, and that’s bonus on top of his $1 million salary!
Others at Nasdaq have also been penalized, including Anna Ewing, VP in charge of “technical glitches” that messed up the first day of trading. Her bonus was cut by over a quarter of a million dollars. But keep those hankies where they are, she is still left with a $574,125 bonus for the year.
Losses for angry brokers and traders from the botched IPO, on the other hand, have been estimated at around $500m. Nasdaq has approved just $62m in compensation, I suppose they needed the rest of their money to pay out the bonuses?
Like the banksters, it all begs the question of just how incompetent do you have to be in the financial industry to not just lose your bonus, but lose your job as well?
I should make it clear right at the start of this blog post that the person who was being accused of being an asshole was ME!
Of course, you know from reading my blog that such a description could never be applied to me ….ahem, however, a while back I had somehow managed to get my name on an “idiot” list of people who could be called about various scams and “investments”.
I suspect that one of those companies that would never sell your details, sold my details.
Well, as an unwanted consequence, I had cold callers by the square yard for a while.
And on and on and on and on it went for several months.
At the start I listened politely. I’ve had to cold call people on a few occasions myself and I know what a horrible job it is, so I answered their inane questions, pretended I was vaguely interested in what they had to say, but eventually declined all their more than generous offers.
Man, if only I had done a few of those investments I would have been richer than Bill Gates by now – or broke a lot faster!
But as the weeks went on, a bit like the telemarketers I wrote about in the cunningly named “Telemarketers”, my patience ran out. I started to say up front that I wasn’t interested and couldn’t afford it and if they couldn’t take that hint, I hung up.
However there was one particularly unpleasant young guy who worked for an investment brokerage in New York. He probably had never made it farther than Manhattan in his life, but he was an authority about everything, about everything, about everything. You know the type. And like most people so endowed he actually knew hardly anything at all.
So one day he phoned me up. I must have been at a bit of a lose end (before my blogging days!) so I listened to what he had to say. He had spoken to me before, but didn’t remember, so I knew his patter and what was coming and therefore was well prepared with my answers.
Was I interested in investing? Yes, absolutely.
Had I ever invested in the stock market before? Yes, indeed I had.
Had I any stocks at the moment? Well, no, not at the moment. I’ve been waiting on a “really great deal” to come along.
Of course, I knew he had a “really great deal”.
“Terrific!” he said. “Because I am about to offer you a really great deal!”
Am I psychic or what?
Naturally I got a little excited at this wonderful news and wanted more details, like pronto!
Ah, but first he had a bit on his cold call sheet to quality investors.
What kind of amount was I comfortable with? How much did I normally invest?
I knew this would be where the fun would really start. So I said that it depended on the deal, if it was good enough then it could be a decent amount.
That wasn’t good enough. He wanted to quantify it.
“Would you be comfortable with something in the $5000 range?” he asked.
“Not really,” I said, then hearing him deflate on the other end of the phone I followed with, “No, if I’m interested, and there’s no guarantee that I am because you haven’t told me anything about this investment, it would have to be a much bigger amount than that.”
Almost immediately I could hear the vacuum pump activating and re-inflating him.
Now he was sure he had hooked a whale, but tugging on his line was just the big bunch of crap I was giving him.
Then he told me what the investment was. Some pharmaceutical company that was about to go into orbit once a new drug they were working had been perfected and FDA approved and all that rigmarole.
If you don’t know about these things, firms like these who cold call hyping some obscure share or other are on a BIG percentage of the price they get. Could be as high as 75% in some cases. The shares are usually completely worthless and virtually unsaleable on the open market so if you are foolish enough to buy them you are stuck with them and the chances of the company coming good are millions to one. Better to buy a few lottery tickets.
So he could do me a great deal on these shares. They had been trading at up to 90 cents a few months ago (I presumed on IMDAQ, that’s the imaginary stock exchange) but his company had managed to secure some at a fraction of that price. If I were to invest say $50,000 I could get them at 30 cents.
Boy was I interested?
No, not in the slightest, but I didn’t tell him that.
What I said was something like, “Yeah that sounds okay, but for that level of investment is that really the best you could do. What if I could get a few friends interested and maybe raise $100,000? Could you sweeten the deal on your end?”
I got the feeling that this was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to this idiot. He could hardly contain himself.
He talked and he talked and he better talked.
Unsurprisingly he could sweeten the price a little for that level of investment and the price duly came down to 25 cents per share.
I wasn’t very impressed. I asked for a better deal.
This time he would have to consult his supervisor to see if he could get a better deal on the share price, so the line went dead for a couple of minutes (a well known sales ploy) and then back he came, 23 cents was the best he could do.
“So that’s 434,782 shares for the $100,000?” I asked. Our calculators agreed the number.
“It’s good,” I told him, “But for that sort of cash I would need at least half a million shares, probably more.”
“Let’s not play games,” he said, ready to make another counter offer.
“Why not?” I asked. “I like playing games.”
“You like playing games?” he asked, a little confused.
The penny was very close to the edge but it hadn’t quite dropped.
“Yeah, don’t you?” I answered happily. “This has been fun.”
…..You mean you’re NOT interested?”
“Well I did say up front that there were no guarantees,” I reminded him.
“But?…. Why did….? ….”
Sound of penny finally dropping.
Then, in a very high pitch girly kind of voice,
“You’re a f****** asshole!”
He was great fun. But, alas, he didn’t want to play any more because he never called again ;(