Question of the Day|
Today is Apple's first product launch without Steve Jobs. The stock is near an all time high and has become the world's most valuable co. Has Apple proven to be bigger than Steve Jobs?
As a boxing fan, I'm always looking for the next Sugar Ray Leonard or Mike Tyson, and at one point I thought I found the latter in a fighter named Shannon "The Cannon" Briggs. I was so excited about this guy, whose career began 25-0; I once took the entire firm to see one of his fights. In that bout, he bolted out of his corner and destroyed the optioned, barely off his stool, then proceeded to collect telephone numbers from women sitting ringside (and in the nosebleed section). This guy had amazing power, some speed and was built like a comic book villain. The thing is Shannon was never tested. He eventually fought another journeyman opponent, Darroll "Doin' Damage" Wilson, in what was supposed to be another walk in the park.
Wilson caught Briggs who began to bleed. The sight of his blood changed him profoundly as he not only lost that fight (knocked out in round three) but never really recaptured that initial magic. His best moment came when he fought for a title and after 11 lackluster rounds enjoyed one of the best last minute knockouts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpSyecoVbn4 I've even seen. Briggs went on to many more lackluster performances before getting destroyed by Vitali Klitschko. The thing is Shannon Briggs was the last American to hold a major heavyweight belt in boxing. That was a long time ago, but will we look back and say at the time Briggs was overrated, lackluster, indifferent, and squanderer of great talent and chances? The question is will the same summation be accurate for America as well?
Yesterday the market took its first punch in the mouth, and it didn't handle it well. Like Shannon Briggs the stock market in 2012 has been a pedestrian stroll through a series of light challenges that made it look like an unstoppable future champion. Now, it's wiping blood from its nose, and has to find a way to really climb off the canvas.
"Don't try trickeration on me."
I'm not sure if he promoted any Shannon Brigg's bouts, but if that fighter is a proxy for the stock market, then surely the promoter is the proxy for the system.
Don King is seen by many as a villain but has never shirked from the public eye and from his role as showman for his major boxing matches. In fact, it's easy to argue he is something akin to a modern day PT Barnum (without the murder rap), but from time to time he gets challenged for that title. It is election season, and we're going to hear a lot of embellishments. Then there are the guys on Wall Street that jumped on the bandwagon late in the game. I don't disagree that the market can go higher, even a multi-year rally, I just worry about overconfidence. Moreover, the argument at some point has to shift from central bank money-pumping to the notion the economy is a strong enough to support improving equity fundamentals.
All the analysts I know list both as factors for their optimism. Fed money printing and a stronger economy cannot co-exist. Heck, if the Fed pumps during a strong economy wouldn't that lead to $200 for a loaf of bread. Sure, it could for a while and it would be a lot of fun, but it would result in a knockout that takes the nation out the game for years through a series of popped bubbles. We'll know soon enough if we have to cling to the Fed part of the bull case when employment for February is released on Friday. But it feels so duplicitous, and it's kept investors at bay as they continue to pull money out of equity mutual funds.
Those investors might feel good about shying away at least for a day, but despite all of the "trickeration" a ton of money has been made. In fact, maybe Don King's logic might apply to life and the stock market these days when he said, "You never get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate. You got a right to say yay or nay." I understand people disliking the system and the hype and the manipulation, but I wonder how you live a long life relaying on a small pension and the government. So, there is legit frustration about what's driving this market and questions this morning on whether the game can continue in the face of questions about the global economy.
Well ... to coin a phrase "only in America."
Greece More than Modern Ruin
All day yesterday, Greece grappled with accepting its bailout that cuts bonds down to just 25% of what was promised when they lent that nation a pile of cash. Several pension funds including police, journalists, self-employed, and hotel workers turned the deal down. This charade doesn't stop. It's amazing that many would like to see institutions that lent money take greater haircuts.
Today, the market will look to Apple for help after the stock has been uncharacteristically weak ahead of today's major product(s) launch. But, I'm worried about other leadership as my dirty fingernails stocks have come under pressure from slowing Chinese and Brazilian economic growth.
There is calm this morning that says we are clinging to hope for Friday, but there are still signs that cause concern. For instance, unit labor cost for fourth quarter 2011 surged 2.8% well ahead of the 1.2% anticipated. This can be read positively that finally companies, after cutting to the bone, have no choice but to hire and increase wages. The flip side of course is how this impacts the bottom line and margins. Bottom lines could be fatter but with inflation from all sources of commodities and raw materials coupled with higher wages means lower margins. It will test the street's ability to see the bright side.
Also, according to ADP, 216K private sector jobs were gained during February, a bit lower than the Street's estimate calling for a gain of 218K jobs but higher than the 173K added jobs in January.