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Marc Gerstein  

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  • Amazon: Has The New York Times Correctly Rung The Proverbial Bell At The Top? [View article]
    "This is an entertainment web site. Clicks matter more than content."

    Yup, you got that right. Now that I've dome my promo here and with Michael standing down, a decision I support, I'm on to an article on FitBit. Don't know squat about the stock. Don't care. But I do love step counters and want to learn more about them.
    Aug 20, 2015. 05:00 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • What Apple Watch? Evaluating Fitbit After Q2 [View article]
    I have a product question, re: the category.

    I was listending to Mike Golic the other day (espn morning how for those who don't know) and he was talking about his fitbit saying the results were crazy because the number of steps it showed was way out of proportion to what he could possibly have done that early in the day. Then, someone in the studio pointed out that fitbit also counted arm movements. He says he's enough of an arm mover that it makes sense.

    Do you, or anybody else, know if that's true?

    I've got a little misfit thing in my pocket that seems to be doing a good job counting steps and it's more or less in line with the built in iphone counter. But might arm movements by one who sits a lot distort the overall picture if one uses a writ device?
    Aug 20, 2015. 11:19 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Amazon: Has The New York Times Correctly Rung The Proverbial Bell At The Top? [View article]
    “Marc - nice call on RadioShack - how did that work out for you?

    I've never encountered more of a bully on this site then you, yet you have no record to run on. So I will continue to escalate and stand up against bullies like you. You can't hide from your record as everything is preserved.”

    Michael, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!... PS. I'm the guy, or at least the first one, who clicked "Like" on that comment. :-)

    As much as I’d love to come on Seeking Alpha an invite its readers to follow me on competitive web site to which I switched, I wouldn’t dare do so as a matter of basic business etiquette. But you, having chosen to launch such a completely stupid attack (How many hours did you devote to this?), you’ve given me a better entry point than anything I might have dreamed of.

    Did the Radio Shack call suck? Hell yes! Actually, in my years in this business, I’ve made many much worse than that. Some are on SA. Many aren’t. I thought I could pick and choose among Chinese stocks. Nope. Perhaps my single dumbest writeup was my 1982 Value Line stock highlight on Air Florida. Sunbeam was another pre-SA gem, one that really nailed home for me the idiocy of the evaluate-management mantra. Chainsaw al was the most dynamic executive I ever met. And, it turned out, a useless bag of wind. But then, other managers who impressed me turned out to be truly brilliant: Ted Turner, Larry Bossidy, Reuben Mark, Bob Daneil. It goes both ways.

    I’ve also made some great calls. I may have been one of the first analysts anywhere to be bullish on Compaq after it came out, and to stay bullish even after the consensus view was that IBM’s new luggable would kill it (IBM’s offering instead, died a quick death). I do remember some curca-2006 SA pieces openly worrying about housing and housing stocks, and having caught some private flack from sell-siders who were bullish. And I was well ahead of a lot of the micros SA pro people have paid big bucks to read about. But ultimately, pulling individual items out of mothballs is a dumb gets-us-nowhere exercise.

    At the end of the day, though, picking one dud like Radio Shack or one winner like whatever and holding that up as an example of anything is for babies. It’s the full body of work that counts and you can’t see it here, and unfortunately (not my choice), you can’t see it here on SA.

    What you do see from me on SA is, essentially, chickensh** because SA is committed to getting write-ups on individual stocks and playing the social media game. That’s not me. I’m about what stands a good chance of delivering good $$$ results for readers, and in my opinion, as well as pretty much everybody who knows anything, that’s about baskets of stocks, portfolios. SA has and probably would continue to l publish such material along those lines as I submit, but the site can’t display it correctly. SA remains deigned primarily around the 1800s-ticker tape model, where it posts the latest, and then it posts newer items on top etc., until things scroll out of sight often in an hour or so. Hence without the Yahoo ticker links, a deal SA lost, you go quickly into obscurity unless you play the social media game but that means telling people what they think they want to hear and I don’t indulge in reckless garbage like that. The SA team does not understand longer-shelf life and evergreen content. I’ve tried to communicate with them, but found their minds to be more tightly closed than the DOD server Hillary should have used.

    So what you see on SA from me is a sad, frustrated, pitiful little tossup here and there, but that’s it. I’ve gone elsewhere now (you’ve undoubtedly noticed I haven’t published an article here in a log time). A lot hasn’t been readily visible because it’s been premium. But as much as I love the premium business model, I found it worthwhile to approach Forbes to propose termination of the newsletter and launch of a different effort, one that is, ironically given my pro-premium leanings, ad-supported and available to all for the low, low price of zero. Forbes agreed and we just got off the ground about a week ago. (But even at that, you’ll never see the volume from me you see from the SA favorites; I’m aiming at two per week, and even that’s a strain since I have a job and other things to do.)

    In sum, picking individual stocks, whether through cool articles or hard-boiled stock analysis, is a loser’s game. It’s about baskets of stocks, portfolios. What is dissed and denigrated on SA as their “Quick Picks & Lists” section should be, if they would listen to someone who doesn’t work inside the company, be their lead feature. It should give you full-fledged portfolios you can buy and mange as is, and if you really want to go one at a time, at least provide a solid rational investment-merit-based underpinning for the articles that are published. News events, popularity, stocks written up on that basis, is great for the ad agencies that pay for the ads. It’s great for bull-session chatter. But it’ll kill your asset base. Anyway, I’m building my vision elsewhere.

    So those of you who really want to know what I say, free from the rants of this little brat and the 1800s-style SA web architecture, here’s where you can go.

    For a fun article on my portfolios-over-stocks sensibility, go here:
    It’s entitled “A Stock Market Pro’s Possibly-Bizarre Confession.” It explains why I cannot now name a single stock I own (when I need to fill in ownership disclosures, I do a last-minute ticker search). Now, since SA has softened its no-theory stance (or did they, my experience has been that I’ve seen editorial policies violated almost as soon as they’re announced), I might be able to publish it here, but I’d have been lucky to get 20 page views. On Harvest (, where I published it (a site to which I was introduced by a guy who left SA), it did quite well. (They don’t pay, but I I don’t need SA’s fees. I value exposure.)

    Now, here here’s part 1 of a well-received four-part series explaining to novices why stocks are priced as they are: I always dreamed of being able to offer this on Seeking Alpha, (and this site desperately critically needs it) but the first time I submitted something like this, they rejected it telling me they don’t want theoretical articles – at least that’s what they said back then -- and that I should stick to doing actionable pieces. So this was published a couple of months ago on a new site launched by a guy who left SA.

    Finally, if you want to see the new content set I’m doing, go to this mini-portal on You can follow me there if you’re interested.

    FWIW, you can also see everything now by following me on SA and checking my insta-blogs. But it can’t be posted here until after the lapse of a 72-hour Forbes embargo. For the most part, though, time sensitivity is low with me. So if you want to stay loyal to SA, that’s fine. I’m putting it in intsa-blog rather than as articles because I can’t/won’t give SA the exclusivity it requires but in my opinion, doesn’t earn.

    So is it worth following my stuff? Am I a lousy analyst as what-his-face here says? Everybody is entered to his/her own opinion. As resident AMZN-labor relations savant is no exception.

    For alternative views, you may want to touch base with Warren Buffett (with whom I worked back when I was the first analyst to launch regular coverage of BRK), Robert Schiller, who was sufficiently impressed with what I wrote back in the good old days on SA about his then-new housing index and the housing market in general to insist that I be invited to chair a real-estate derivatives panel he organized, and most recently Rob Arnott, one of the biggest names associated with today’s “smart beta” phenomenon, who sought me out privately to express his appreciation for the Smart Beta post I did last week on Forbes.

    So some think I’m good. Others think I’m garbage. It’s all good. Considering the kinds of people who line up on either side of the debate, I’m fine. I certainly am not as doofus hiding from my record. I want you to follow me wherever you wish and see the whole thing.

    OK. Michael. Your turn. Keep escalating, as you say you want to do. I actually contemplated submitting an “open letter to SA” article. I’m not sure if SA would publish it. They absolutely will hate the sentiment. But one thing I enormously respect is their ability to accept and debate criticism in public. But with your little escalation, it may be sparing me the burden. Or, it may be supplying me a big head-start copy-edit-and-paste draft (which is why I’m devoting as much time to this as I am).

    Oh, one more thing. Assuming you do "escalate," please make the next attack original. I'm not going to repeat what i've said so far. So again, be creative. :-)
    Aug 20, 2015. 11:02 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Amazon: Has The New York Times Correctly Rung The Proverbial Bell At The Top? [View article]
    "I stand by my call Amazon is a sell at $532. Let's see who was right in a year."

    How childish! This is an example of why the one great Seeking Alpha is turning into a punch line.

    When did I say AMZN was a Buy? Can you read? Do you even have a clue how to create an argument for or against a stock? And by the way genius, my name is Marc, not @Marc.

    I said your PE argument was idiotic and it is. If AMZN is a Sell, it needs to be so for a different reason.

    Do yourself favor and stop answering me. You look worse and worse each time you do.
    Aug 19, 2015. 05:59 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Amazon: Has The New York Times Correctly Rung The Proverbial Bell At The Top? [View article]
    "The discussion has devolved into ad hominem attacks rather than any discussion of the topic of the article."

    Actually, the idea of "ad hominem attacks" is a creation of the world of social media and it's inherent stake in fostering as much opinion as possible regardless of merit (page views are most crucial so quantity is needed). The idea is to give idiots a chance to participate without being called out as such.

    In thew world of investing, where real people commit real money and are at risk of suffering real damage, this is a horrifically dangerous idea. I had thought individual investors had learned, back in the early 2000s and the Wall Street scandals, that the speaker himself/herself may be the most critical element of the idea that is expressed, because we ALL come from someplace and are influenced by who/what we are.

    On a superficial level, the disdain for ad hominem attacks may seem to justified under the "appeal to authority" logical fallacy, which maintains that a proposition cannot automatically be deemed true solely because of the identity of the speaker. But that's not what's going on in our context. Nobody is (or should be) saying a proposition is correct or false because of who is asserting it. What is being suggested often and sometimes said outright is that in evaluating OPINIONs expressed (which by definition cannot be "right" or "wrong") its very much appropriate to consider how it may be influenced by the person expressing it. If I go to an office and taker an EKG, I have a right to give more weight to an interpretation from a cardiologist than from a janitor who saw it and picked it up. If you don;'t know why, that's a you problem.

    On SA, when an amateur or rookie investor expresses an pinion that is published in a way that makes it hard to differentiate from that presented by someone who is experienced, it is important to try to discern how the writers background may impact what is said. This is not to say all pros are good and all non-pros are bad.

    For example, Gary J is an example of a non-pro who speaks good sense. I don't care what his opinion is on AMZN. What I do note is his thought process, which was intriguingly expressed a bit above"

    "Some stocks trade on P/E (Walmart/GE. etc.) some trade on prospects and may do so for a very long time (20 years and counting for AMZN). The CEO tells those paying attention EVERY YEAR they are moving earnings down the priority list in favor of growth, innovation, infrastructure and customer service. The smart money on Wall Street understands this, like it, and rewards the stock.

    "Bill Miller (look him up), a top analyst, says - If you are going to value AMZN by the usual metrics you are going to get it wrong.

    "I am here and in the stock market to make money."

    This is exactly right (Gary J is the sort of non-pro I’d read, and I wish somebody in SA editorial would figure out how to identify between those who get it and those who don’t) and has been the subject of published papers by no less than Robert Schiller and Fischer Black. The sort of AMZN PE analysis we see so often on Seeking Alpha is strictly for-dummies level garbage. Even Graham and Dodd knew that (as is well known to those who actually read their book and not novice-blather occasionally plastered on SA).

    If you want to be kumbaya-social everybody-gets-a-voice- everybody-gets-a-parti... have at it. But make sure you concoct a good explanation in case you blow away your kids’ college tuition, or your and your spouse’s retirement nest egg. Speaking for myself, I’d rather be an arrogant nasty ad-hominem-attacking a** hole -- with assets.

    Now speaking of the person of the author, what I get here from this article and his non-profile is that he has no clue about stock valuation, has been OK with AMZN because he likes the company, buy has major issues along the lines of its employee relations. This could have been a GRTEAT article had he summarized the AMZN situation, put it into the context of modern corporate labor practices in general (combining it with a discussion of WMT, MCD, etc.) and assessing the potential long-term investment issues, which could become very substantial. MCD and other restaurants and the impact of new developments in minimum wage could be discussed. So, too, cold/should the potential impact of work-practice reform on corporate efficiency and future margin trends. The role of globalization is part of the picture as is the psychology of the U.S. consumer, who wants better pay/conditions at their own company but equally wants oppressive/abusive conditions at companies who make stuff they buy so prices don’t rise. This is a complex and fascinating topic and as noted, could have been, had SA’s editorial staff possessed the professional competence to recognize that this article was a piece of confused gibberish but to also recognize its potential and return it to the author with suggestions as to how it could be made into something excellent, something which would have gained credibility from the author also discussing where he’s personally coming from on this issue.
    Aug 19, 2015. 01:03 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Amazon: Has The New York Times Correctly Rung The Proverbial Bell At The Top? [View article]
    Actually, out of the mouths of babes . . . .

    Michael, I owe you for having inspired me to take note of my changed publication efforts. i don't need the chump change SA pays to authors so there is no way i can justify giving SA the exclusivity it requires for its typical premium articles, I just realized I can add SA to the site that republish my Forbes content. I did accumulate some followers here who were interested in what I was offering, and just realized that I can reach them via the SA InstaBlog. i do have about 2,000 followers and considering the sort of things they were likely looking at when they clicked, it probably makes for a valuable audience.

    Shame in me for not having figured that out earlier! Thank you Michael!!!!!!

    Bye for now. I've got some pasting to do!
    Aug 18, 2015. 05:00 PM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Amazon: Has The New York Times Correctly Rung The Proverbial Bell At The Top? [View article]
    "I find it curious that you have written 218 articles on Seeking Alpha, yet you insult the authors' and the site"

    And you'll also notice that it's been about a year since I last published here. I used to revere this site and was once proud to publish here. Lately, though, that has't been the case as professionalism has increasingly taken a back seat to other SA priorities. So lately, I've been publishing elsewhere.

    "Perhaps, next time you will display the intellectual curiosity to research the background"

    I did. I always look at the profile of an author whose article I read. While I applaud your decision to use your name (I've had open arguments with SA on their horrific decision to tolerate anonymous submissions), you are the one who chose to say nothing about yourself other than "occasional investor" and offer some nice but irrelevant quotes. I googled you but came up empty. I suppose I could hire a private detective, but no. There's only so much effort that's warranted to read an ad-supported internet article on a site now well known to be overly tolerant of slovenly analysis. If you are unhappy with my understanding of your background, then change your profile and tell us more about yourself.

    You're right, I haven't read any of your other pieces. I might have done so had you provided an informative profile and/or had this AMZN piece had something to entice me. (I'm always on the lookout for new authors to follow and have been finding a bunch elsewhere. But here, it was a "no" on both counts.

    So how many opportunities do you want to make a good first impression? Perhaps if you would have rolled with my initial comment (which, by the way,included the proverbial smiley face) or even ignored it, I'd be less dug in. (Notice I did not address your valuation nonsense at first. i was more interested in addressing lousy employers in general and having a bit of fun with the quotes you used in your profile in lieu of telling us about yourself.) But every time you reply, you seem to be digging yourself deeper and deeper making this first impression worse and worse.
    Aug 18, 2015. 04:42 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Amazon: Has The New York Times Correctly Rung The Proverbial Bell At The Top? [View article]
    "@Marc - whatever. If you can't understand my simple and straight forward argument - then that's a shame."

    Actually, having had the misfortune to have worked for rotten companies, I probably understand the situation better than you do. And that's why I know it's not a specific AMZN problem, but a much,much bigger one. I suggest you expand your horizons.

    " never applied to Amazon and would never even consider applying to a place like Amazon. Amazon wouldn't consider me either as I don't fit their type A workaholic model. I value having a life, enjoying time with my family, and pursuing interests outside of work."

    Yes, I'm sure you do. My having lifted that quote from your profile was my amusing way of casting you more as the type who would have others work for you under abusive conditions, while you told them it was really for their own good, perhaps by reading that Epictetus quote to them. Maybe you can send it to Bezos so he can use it.

    And by the way, you really din't make any simple and straightforward argument . . . oops, correction: your description of AMZN as ridiculously overvalued was quite simplistic as would befit a self-proclamed "occasional investor."

    The simplistic occasional investor sees a PE of 346.5 times estimated EPS and goes "Yikes! cWhat a ridiculous valuation." Knowledgeable investors who have read Graham & Dodd and other serious authorities understand when a particular ePS datapoint may not really be usable in a price-based valuation.

    The simplistic occasional investor might look at AMZN's PS ratio of 2.66 relative to the internet retailer median 1.47 and go "Duh." Knowledgeable investors who have read Graham & Dodd and other serious authorities understand that AMZN's PS, while relatively and historically high, are not outrageous in the context of many growth stocks, would understand the relationship between sales growth prospects, margins, and margin growth prospects and analyze and discuss the issues accordingly, particularly in light of the surprisingly good news re: AWS and its potential implications.

    I haven't look closely at AMZN in a long time so i really don;'t know if this is a good tie to sell. But I do know that if it is, making a case for that course of action would require far more than what you delivered. But it's not as if I expected more. I read the news and I know full well that when AMZN hits the headlines in a big way, Seeking Alpha is a good place to come in search of some laughs. (I go elsewhere for professional analysis.) You delivered. For that, I heartily thank you (although to be honest, I have no idea who you are; I was figuring Paulo Santos would be the one to supply the guffaws. But what the heck. I got my click's worth!)
    Aug 18, 2015. 02:05 PM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Amazon: Has The New York Times Correctly Rung The Proverbial Bell At The Top? [View article]
    I wouldn't be at all surprised if the NYT has it right. AMZ may well be a terrible place to work. So perhaps their employees will exit en masse and apply to . . . WMT?

    Actually, lots of workplaces suck and probably more so today than ever given the increasingly automated ways to monitor employees and the increasing pressures to slash costs. Some miserable employers pay well. Many don't. It's not an AMZN problem. It's a large-scale societal problem.

    And employers love to try to paper it over by referring to human chattel as associates, team members, etc. or, perhaps, concoct we're-making-you-better references such as:"Tentative efforts lead to tentative outcomes. Therefore, give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths. Remain steadfast...and one day you will build something that endures: something worthy of your potential." Source, J. Bezos. Oops, correction: It's from Epictetus as quoted by the author in his profile. (Dude, did you use that as part of an employment application essay for Amazon HR? If you're writing for SA, I guess you didn't get the job.) :-)
    Aug 18, 2015. 11:40 AM | 1 Like Like |Link to Comment
  • Riddle Me This On Amazon Prime [View article]
    "I don't owe you (or anyone else) anything."

    And that, I suppose, is the essence of Paulo.

    Speaking for myself, when I write, I absolutely positively do owe a lot to my readers. I owe them my best effort to present an honest and well researched opinion.

    Obviously, you are quite different. Yes Paulo, we are very very different people.
    Aug 10, 2015. 11:06 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Riddle Me This On Amazon Prime [View article]
    What planet are you on? Whjen one reads an article inrtended to influence opinion on a stock, one expects/an author to have done his homework. AND DON'T YOU DARE WHINE ABOUT HOW MUCH TIME YOU HAVE OR DON'T HAVE. When it comes to posting hit pieces on amazon via article or comment, you clearly have all the time in the world. And if you aren't getting paid enough to do a professionally competent job, then stop writing and find something else to do.

    And by the way, did you see my first comment? This isn't necessarily about following every lead everybody throws at you. It's about following the leads necessary for the story you -- and you alone -- chose to write andf accpeted Seeking Alpha's money to write.

    Aug 10, 2015. 03:41 PM | 3 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • Riddle Me This On Amazon Prime [View article]
    >>1426, well then provide us with the 3P (FBA) seller indy data and let's be done with it.

    No Paulo. You are the one who posted (and got paid for) an article entitled "Riddle me this" that raised lots of questions and provided no answers -- aside from a monotonously-predeictable effort to "talk book" on your by-now comically-well-publicized short.

    Maybe I was taught badly, but FWIW, I was taught that it was the analyst/author's job to research facts (and make phone calls where necessary if data is not clear).

    Eli, David . . . Are you here? What are the standards? Is it now acceptable on Seeking Alpha for authors to cast aspersions as they talk their book and expect readers to go out and do the fact gathering and analysis? Is this the new direction of Seeking Alpha?
    Aug 10, 2015. 02:00 PM | 2 Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • A More Granular Analysis Of REIT Performance During Rising Rate Periods [View article]
    Much appreciated.

    I know the press meeting deadlines. I know where you're coming from.
    Aug 9, 2015. 09:20 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • A More Granular Analysis Of REIT Performance During Rising Rate Periods [View article]
    Thank you for pointing that out. That's a much more interesting study. I was particular intrigued by the overall full-period correlation of -.27. Not what one might have expected going in.

    Brad, are you there? Or anyone who's been watching this sector for a long time. What else was happening back then with real estate? Common;cities or differences with the likely intermediate-term future?
    Aug 8, 2015. 09:58 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment
  • A More Granular Analysis Of REIT Performance During Rising Rate Periods [View article]
    Yes, I remember all of it. No period is ever identical to any other period. The best one can do is try to look for some indication of how things performed in the context of rising interest rates. The 1970s, albeit not a perfect sample, is a heck of a lot better than 1995-2015, which is wildly different from what we're likely to see in a very major variable.

    And for the record, the differences you cite, or rather their absence, would be an added concern. REITs could benefit simply as an emotional hedge if serious inflation were feared. That may be absent going forward.
    Aug 8, 2015. 09:54 AM | Likes Like |Link to Comment