I don't care what we do
I don't care pretty baby
Just take me with you" -Prince
Honey, take me with you!
Everyone yesterday was humming "1999" because of the throwback to that golden period in time when we all thought retirement at 40 and private island at 42. As it turns out, instead of calling it quits early, many have to work well past 65 to make up for lost money, time, and confidence when the tech/internet bubble blew up. But, 1999 was a fun year, it was 2000 that was a real disaster. The LinkedIn (LNKD) hysteria was so intense it actually lifted the entire market off the canvass, twice!
The right song for yesterday's session came from Prince but it wasn't "1999", it was "Take me with you" because the super hot IPO had coattails that extended well beyond technology. It was an amazing feat for several reasons. Maybe investors have forgotten about yesteryear or are willing to let bygones be bygones? This kind of hype has been seen in smaller versions with IPOs from Chinese companies, Chipotle Mexican Grill (NYSE:CMG), Athena Health (NASDAQ:ATHN), and Under Amour (NYSE:UA) but all those companies make real money. (All those U.S. names enjoyed mind-numbing debuts and all trade significantly higher now, and I bet they all will be higher one, two, and five years from now. I'm not sure I can say the same for LNKD.)
So the market opens real sloppy under the weight of a trio of disappointing news on the economy. Then LinkedIn opened and garnered more fame in one day than it has garnered since inception. The stock rallied and stocks followed. At one point, it got frothy except there was no volume, but there was an undeniable buzz. There wasn't a frenzy in the sense that cab drivers pulled over and put in trades, but those in the mix decided to stir the pot. Yet, at the same time another kind of pot was about to get stirred. Dallas Fed president Richard Fisher hasn't been bashful about his concerns about quantitative easing with a string of musings that reverberate like a warning from a mountain.
Recent warnings include:
* "There is abundant liquidity in the machine we know as the United States economy"
* "Extraordinary speculative activity"
* "Opposed to more QE from Fed"
* "U.S. debt at tipping point"
Then, yesterday, Fisher struck again chiming in to say the economy has gone from "too little liquidity to too much", and just like that stocks unlocked from the hottest U.S. IPO in years and tumbled back into negative territory. But the party resumed, this wasn't the first warning from Fisher, after all. Moreover, all the so-called hawks were rather meek at the last FOMC gathering, voting in line with the doves. Those are tough doves, by the way.
When Doves Cry
New York Federal Reserve President William Dudley couldn't let Fisher go unchallenged so he chimed in, too, stating the economy has "a considerable way to go" despite recent gains in employment. And, since doves don't fight fair, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans echoed Dudley's observations, adding high unemployment will nip a serious threat of inflation in the bud. Even Fisher said higher gasoline prices are taking a toll on the economy. But, while Fisher's concerns are valid, the problem is all that money sloshing around is dammed up at financial institutions and hardly seen on Main Street.
Hey, that was good enough for the Street because stocks climbed off the canvass again even as some of the froth was coming out of LNKD.
I really don't see the Fed hiking rates this year despite the loud, but talon-less, chorus of hawks.
Gutenberg Is smiling and Weeping
In the Holy Roman Empire, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, and moving type changed the world. In 1870, the typewriter was born, building on the revolution Gutenberg spawned. These days it feels like most printing presses are heading toward extinguishment as everything moves online. In the meantime, last month Godrej & Boyce of Mumbai, India stopped producing typewriters, leaving just one company in the world in the business. Swintec is based in Moonachie, New Jersey and is the last company in the business. I'm rooting for the company as I really love a classic typewriter.
In the meantime, it feels like books printed on paper could be right behind the vanishing typewriter, but after the closing bell, the largest bookseller in the United States got a nibble. Liberty Media has made a $1.0 billion bid for Barnes and Noble (NYSE:BKS) on the condition Leonard Riggio stays with the company and holds onto his stock. It's a 20% premium, I thought a deal (BKS was looking for a buyer) would be a take under. Bravo. I go to BKS once a week but I'm not the reason Liberty made the bid, it is obvious John Malone sees something with the Nook and online bookselling.
New Corporate Hero
Jim Skinner didn't blink. Tree huggers, atheists and anarchists have been riding a wave of intimidation that has seen them force businesses to do things at odds with shareholder interest and basic tenets of capitalism. Finally one man stood up yesterday. McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner said "no" to demands the company drop Ronald McDonald as its spokesperson.
"Ronald McDonald isn't going anywhere."
"This is about choice."
I'm not a fan of clowns which is why I rooted for McDonalds to the right thing and the company did the right thing.
Speaking of the Right Thing
The so-called Gang of Six has broken down this week as Tom Coburn walked away knowing it was a farce and not getting anywhere. There was an immediate rejection of the Ryan Plan by people that never read the plan but heard the rhetoric. Old folks mobilized at the whiff of losing their benefits. These same people are smart enough to see where the country is heading and yet they have nothing other than Medicare and other benefits. But, the notion they would reject ideas to save Medicare for future generations underscores the power of fear mongering. Quite simply fear mongering works and shoddy accounting works, too, until it doesn't work.
So Medicare reform is done for now.
There is one word that underscores why Medicare is done; "reelection" politicians want to stay in office even if it means avoiding tough decisions under the guise of gridlock and compromise. The scare tactics go beyond Medicare, however, and is at the heart of the modus operandi of the Democratic Party. It's always to divide and conquer telling one group of people that some other group hates them. Not indifferent but actually hates them and the only salvation is to let the democrats save the day.
So the GOP hates blacks because they don't support quotas and set-asides, hates Hispanics because they don't support illegal immigration and now they hate old people because they would like to save Medicare for future generations. The stock market isn't reacting to the Medicare debate or red ink in the Social Security fund right now but it's aware. It has to be aware because the government is bankrupt (in so many ways) and will become desperate enough to rob earners and job creators to keep the spending spigots on full blast.
We have to do the right thing which includes uniting the nation instead of finger-pointing. We can't look the other way and if that means a few people don't get reelected then that is the very definition of leadership. This also includes the masses as well. Earlier this week, there was a flash mob in Moscow of older women protesting young women not having children. Russia's population has been plummeting and will decline another 13% over the next few years. These older women want their nation to be great and know it must have a growing population to be a real player.
We need to be as passionate about our future even if it makes our present less comfortable.
Stocks are subdued this morning after a week of question marks, poor economic data and a trip back to 1999. I do like the way stocks have been able to climb off the canvass but concerned they were on the canvass in the first place. It is likely stocks are going to be ranged bound for a while or at least until the next round of economic data kicked off by May jobs data.