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As I watched the replay of IMF Director Christine Lagarde’s address to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, through which she discussed global economic challenges and solutions, I found her described “narrow path” forward akin to navigating through a minefield while taking on fire from the enemy. While it is possible, as she said, it is also highly unlikely to survive, as I suppose very few realize, save perhaps securities markets participants.

With all due respect to the gracious lady, Madame Lagarde painted a scenario that will be extremely difficult to push through, because it not only requires the cooperation of forces within nations (read political opponents), but also between nations which have historically opposed and competed against one another. Hey, we all got along well enough when it was a matter of sharing the riches, but now that it’s a matter of survival, you would expect the dogs to act to their nature. And, by dogs, I mean each of us. Or, will crisis unite us?

To this, she implied that the emerging nations cannot avoid the crisis, as they will need customers for the goods they so efficiently produce and for the natural resources they are so blessed with. And she is right, and China, Russia, Brazil and India know it, but, and more so for some than others, they will only help the developed world for the best price they can exploit. That said, given that their development has been expedited by the purposes of the western world, not to mention all the aid monies that have been extended by developed nations for the sake of those in need in the past, a little grateful payback would be nice now.

If I may extend my critical review: Somehow, I suspect what the emerging nations may attain, and here I’m speaking of any collateral assets, not the more important presence they will gain in the global assemblies of nations (like their stake in the IMF), might be taken back from them later, which would be a great insult to the pride of the prideful Chinese. Perhaps this stage of the global crisis is only laying the foundation for the next, where the stability of the civility of the world is once again undermined. Isn’t that already happening in the Middle East and North Africa? Some say democracy is most beautifully taking root there, but I say, the ground is not fertile, and instead its barren plain will simply flood over. While despot dictators ruled, there was also civility and order, but now I see chaos in its place.

Madame Lagarde spoke of balancing between expense management and stimulative spending. It sounds like trying to take a scientific measurement with a plank and two buckets full of stones. It’s a heavy burden, and difficult if not naive to believe accomplishable. And she even acknowledged the dynamic environment, advising governments to recognize and react nimbly to the subtle shifts in economic growth, and to adjust to it, managing between austerity and stimulus for the sake of posterity. It was as if she ideologically placed virtuous, wise and perhaps perfect men in the place of faulty leaders. I found the IMF chief’s multiple usage of the word “virtuous” quite appropriate, if not targeted to tug at the hearts of the Chinese.

God bless her though because she fills her role well. It is the IMF’s responsibility after all, to play mother and disciplinarian. She has to clean up the mess we’ve made. And you know, some of the ideological discussion I have been critical of here I declared necessary myself in a recent article. Perhaps it is just my lack of faith in mankind that has caused me to question its will to pursue what is obviously necessary for the survival of the same. Nonetheless, the world’s leaders have quite a load to bear today. Not only must they have the foresight to consider the long-term prosperity of the whole, over the more optimal short-term opportunities for their individual states, but they must then sell this selfless option to a populous that will view it as an unnecessary act of submission. It is quite a noble path Madame Lagarde paves for the world’s leaders. I only hope the struggle does not become too painful before they embark down it.

This story is likely to interest investors in the Dow Jones Industrials Index, including large multinationals that play important roles in the global economy and are thus sensitive to it. Those stocks closed out last week as such:

Stock Name and Symbol

Friday’s % Change

Alcoa (NYSE: AA)


American Express (NYSE: AXP)


Boeing (NYSE: BA)


Bank of America (NYSE: BAC)


Caterpillar (NYSE: CAT)


Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO)


Chevron (NYSE: CVX)


Dupont (NYSE: DD)


Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS)


General Electric (NYSE: GE)


Home Depot (NYSE: HD)


Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ)




Intel (Nasdaq: INTC)


Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ)


J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM)


Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT)


Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO)


McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD)


3M Company (NYSE: MMM)


Merck (NYSE: MRK)


Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT)


Pfizer (NYSE: PFE)


Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG)




Travelers (NYSE: TRV)


United Technologies (NYSE: UTX)


Verizon (NYSE: VZ)


Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT)


Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM)


Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Source: Christine Lagarde's Impossible Vision