It's rare that I think anything in Time magazine is intriguing, or even true, but it's become so paper-thin that I still thumb through it. After all, there are powerful people who continue to hold it in high esteem. But a headline I saw on Monday was compelling.
Not only did Time admit to the elitist nature of the Davos gathering, where people pay upwards of $250,000 to chill out with world leaders, rock stars, and other self-important folks, but it seemed to be mocking the fact that little gets done at this annual gathering. So, these are the main questions the leftist elites want answered from the leftist elites:
* Is the US recovery for real?
* Is China going to blow up?
* What will the political impact of inequality be?
* In millennials vs. baby boomers, who wins?
* Technology: friend or foe?
I can answer those questions:
The US economy recovery is real, but it's no barnburner. We aren't talking about the kind of action that would make one think steroids - this recovery is breaking no records. It's tentative and suspect, but proves just how amazing our economic system can be to stay above water and actually edge ahead, despite a war that looks to control businesses, curb entrepreneurships, and rake in greater sums to fund government and the welfare society.
Yes, China is going to blow up one day. I think we have been too focused on when China's economy will fly off the rails. It's been more than a decade already - give it a rest. We should be so lucky to have similar economic growth (real or imagined). Economic fortunes are cyclical and that can never be changed, unless you opt for one that is always down in the dumps.
Inequality is the result of political impact - this question is ass-backwards. Interference and programs that smother those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder in a paternal cloth of pity, while promoting anger instead of real solutions, have only increased the gap between rich and poor.
The baby boomers will win. Check out the so-called Affordable Care Act, that relies on the healthiest and poorest segment of the population to foot the bill for the wealthiest demographic. Young adults vote with their hearts and against their own self-interest. They are manipulated by those they trust and by their own inconsistent values, based on things like cool factors.
Technology is a friend if you have a job that can't be done by a robot, drone, or 3-D printing machine.
Despite worries that machines will take all the jobs and then one day plug us all into a giant orb to produce heat, history has shown that it does improve our lives and create new - more enriching - opportunities for us.
Change the Venue:
If those enlightened, self-important, know-it-alls at Davos want to really find a place with fewer distractions and more real people, I think they should hold next year's gathering in Uniontown, Alabama. Really, these are the same folks that will retreat back to their luxury offices on Wall Street, their spectacular campuses in New England, their palatial suites in castles, and their plush offices around the world.
They don't have a real clue on what they claim to be focused. Sure, there will be visits and curiosities, not unlike travelling shows that once featured the woman with two heads. They'll bring in a poor slob from a third world country and feign anger at the West for being so unkind and inconsiderate. The solutions will be the same.
No solutions. Lots of blame and promises to dig deeper... now pass the caviar and meet me on the slopes. I say "meet" in a real (American) town with real problems and maybe come up with something different.
Earnings Ramp Up
This morning big names have posted impressive results in a variety of industries. The thing is stocks have rallied so much that success is built into share prices, so initial upside moves might be muted. Be that as it may, these numbers had to be great to justify the rally and build a case for the next leg higher. Let's not forgot there were 96 negative preannouncements, so companies that report and miss now are going to get crushed.
Delta's (NYSE:DAL) numbers were in-line but the trends were impressive as demand looks to play an increasing role in addition to the nickel and dime approach that's netted the industry billions of dollars.
The absence of global warming disasters saw few catastrophic payouts for Travelers (NYSE:TRV), resulting in the biggest beat thus far this earning season.
Halliburton (NYSE:HAL) and Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI) enjoyed significant revenue growth from outside the United States. Baker Hughes has to do a better job on the bottom line but top line growth bolsters my belief investors need exposure to the Middle East.
Revenue y/y at Baker Hughes
North America: +7.2%
Latin America: -5.6%
Middle East & Asia Pacific: +27.1%