Rip Van Winkle fell asleep for 20 years in the late 18th century and woke up in a very different world. This piece attempts to project us 20 years into the future and examine financial headlines that are likely to appear. There is a bit of "tongue in cheek" here but the trend lines leading to all of these developments are well in place and we should brace ourselves for a very different world down the road.
1. Tax Holiday Will Lead Dollars to Return the USA and Spark Job Growth - The Bush Administration's proposal to allow US companies to repatriate dollars from overseas without any tax penalty was passed by both Houses of Congress last week and economists are projecting that it will produce 2 million new jobs. The $67 trillion of cash held by US companies in foreign locations will be returned to the US as early as next month under the complex tax exemption supported by all four political parties. No taxes will be paid but the money must be physically returned to the United States in the form of coins (most likely in $5 Justin Bieber coins) counted and wrapped by US citizens and transported in US flag vessels with all labor paid at rates subject to Davis Bacon restrictions. It is expected that the counting, wrapping and unwrapping and recounting will consume at least 14 million man years of labor with the remainder of the job growth being accounting for by transportation, handling, and infrastructure work. The Port of Los Angeles will undergo a major expansion starting next week and creating at least 30,000 new jobs alone.
2. Eurozone Debates New Facility Designed to Stabilize Banks and Debtor Countries - At a meeting held on the Isle of Elba, leaders of the Eurozone countries debated the creation of an "Ultimate Bailout Contingency Funding Facility" which would be financed by the issuance of notes and bills secured by the 27 other special funds and facilities which have now been cross-collateralized and secured by subordinated debentures and auction rate securities supported and sponsored but not guaranteed by an undisclosed subset of 6 out of 10 of the largest European banks. Austrian Premier Arnold Schwarzenegger has accused his colleagues of "playing hide the salami" by obscuring the payment of funds to cover Greek and Spanish sovereign debt. The Greek debt situation -exacerbated by the migration of 99.97% of the Greek population to Montenegro - has vexed European leaders and led to some speculation that Greece may exit the Euro.
3. Apple's iPhone 35 Disappoints Investors - Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed today at 17 cents a share after investors reacted negatively to its latest iPhone. The new, baby aspirin sized iPhone 35, is ingestible and provides its owner with a full year's supply of nutrients so that, once the iPhone is ingested, food and beverages are not necessary for 365 days. It also facilitates time travel (although roaming charges are applicable) and provides owners with lifetime exemptions from all state and federal taxes. Selling at $9.99, pundits think it "too expensive" and are also disappointed at AAPL's projection of a 92% gross margin on the phones. AAPL now pays a quarterly dividend of $167 a share making the stock unattractive to investors because of high volatility when the stock goes ex-dividend.
4. Trend Toward Longer Movies Continues With New Bruce Willis Thriller - Hollywood still loves long movies and the 973 minute "It Takes a Long Time to Die Hard" confirms that trend. The thriller - based on a novel by Bernie Madoff - involves an elaborate Ponzi scheme in a nursing home. Bruce Willis unravels the scheme just as terrorists are engaged in an effort to contaminate the catheter supply. Realistic footage of lengthy colonoscopies is key to the plot line.
5. Fed Testimony Suggests Quantitative Easing Likely to Continue - The Federal Reserve issued a release today indicating that QE41 - involving the purchase of old clothing from middle class households with newly created money - is likely to continue, at least until unemployment drops below 7%. With inflation at .0001% and economic growth still sluggish, the $435 billion a week program has been subject to criticism as being "ineffective" and badly targeted but suspension of the program is viewed as "too risky" by Fed economists. Concerns that interest rates may increase roiled bond markets yesterday driving yields on 10 year treasuries above 1% for the first time this decade. In a separate release, the Fed indicated that it will keep short term rates between 0 and .00000001% for a "extending period of time" lasting at least until 2078.
6. Fundamentalist Group Proves that Rich People Go to Heaven - A well-financed "experiment" by a fundamentalist religious group has demonstrated that rich people generally go to Heaven after they die. For a number of years, there has been concern about a troubling passage in the New Testament suggesting that it is harder for a rich man to go to Heaven than for "a camel to pass through the eye of a needle." Literal interpretations of this text is mandatory in certain fundamentalist circles but its implications tended to undercut fundraising efforts. The experiment - conducted under the supervision of fundamentalist leaders - involved 263 camels which were slaughtered and pulverized in an Alabama facility. The resulting fluid was combined with stabilizing chemicals and drawn into a thread-like substance which was then pulled through the eye of an off the shelf needle. An announcement issued by the sponsor of the research indicated that "it is actually fairly easy for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle" and thus likely that most rich people go to Heaven.
7. Baffin Island Beach Resort Property Boom - The growth of the Baffin Island beach resort industry continues apace as five new beachfront hotels open this Spring for the beginning of the tourist season. The hotels are all air conditioned because of the 95 degree weather which commences in March. Consistent with the recent trend the hotels are on the "north shore" of the island - facing the Arctic Circle - and taking advantage of the "cooler" 120 degree summer temperatures which have given the north shore a decided advantage over the sweltering south shore facing the North Atlantic.
Reading these through, I realize that our best years are ahead of us and temporary setbacks should be taken in stride because of these promising long term trends.
Disclosure: I am long AAPL.