Hope your thanksgiving was good, my friend and welcome back stuffed with turkey I trust.
I must tell you about a great business opportunity that crossed my lap over the holidays while dining with friends at a local restaurant. My friend had bought a card for $25 that entitles him to a range of discounts from the independent local restaurants close to him. It’s that simple.
Clearly, someone is signing up all these local restaurants and making easy money from it. I imagine the restaurants pay a monthly admission fee to be a part of this ‘local dining club’ and they pocket the $25 you pay for the card. I haven’t seen this around very much and might be worth looking into.
Anyway, that was dinner and no Thanksgiving would be complete without a visit to the movies and, because I was outnumbered by democracy, I ended up watching ‘Twilight’.
I will never get those 2 hours of my life back.
So after being subjected to the latest offering in the vampire love story mania at the movies over Thanksgiving, I thought I’d start this letter by tapping into this current thirst for escapism.
After all, who can blame people for wanting to escape to celebrity magazines, vampire love stories and telling the world that they’re about to take a crap via Facebook when the whole world seems to have gone mad? I’m convinced one of the main reasons behind gold’s ascent is because even the wisest investors simply don’t understand what’s going on and what the near future holds. At least with gold, we know that whatever chaos happens over the next 10 years, gold will still be worth something.
Fantasy is an anesthetic that sweeps us away from a harsh, cut-throat world. Far too many of us don’t truly understand just how harsh and cut-throat it really is until it’s too late; behind all the corporate smiles, government programs and media propaganda, is nothing more than a street corner hustler. And while we’re distracted by fantasy, it’s every hustler’s dream. In fact, distraction is a popular hustler con trick.
But escapism can be a positive thing if it’s used in the right way…
So here’s my contribution. I want to ask you the most important question of your life now. When I ask this, please avoid the temptation to give the fast, dogmatic answer. I want you to sleep on it, focus on it and most of all, imagine the scenario I’m putting to you is real.
Okay, here it is:
If you absolutely knew you only had 10 useful years left, what would you do with those years AND if you knew that whatever you attempted to do you would not fail?
Think long and hard. You have to truly believe this is going to happen.
Once you give yourself to this fantasy completely, ask yourself some questions. What would you do with your daily life? Would you stay in the job you’re doing? Would you stay in the same relationship? What would your dream be?
I doubt your life would resemble anything like the one you’re living now if you truly do this exercise.
Anyway, while we’re on the subject of fantasy, let’s turn to the markets…
We woke up on Black Friday in a world that was far more interested in a crisis in Dubai than how much American store registers were ringing. Suddenly, Americans everywhere got out their atlases and magnifying glasses and tried to find this tiny country that was causing so much trouble on the other side of the world. As much as anything, Americans were once again reminded that other countries do in fact exist outside these borders (scary though that thought is).
Everything across the board went south including gold as the world went into a panic. But here’s the interesting part: nothing much really happened that we didn’t know already.
Shock, horror! What’s this? You mean to say that there’s a debt problem out there? Who’d have guessed?!
No, Dubai’s ludicrous debt and real estate bubble explosion was well-known; the only announcement was that Dubai simply asked for a 6 month payment holiday to its creditors. No new data was released.
So what was all the fuss about? Because dear reader, this is what happens when people live in fantasy worlds instead of reality. The stock market has been floating on a fantasy fuelled by empty government promises, worthless paper money and unsustainably low and artificial interest rates.
Like any good vampire love story, people love to lose themselves in a bunch of bullcrap because the reality is so much harder.
But the trouble with this, as we were just reminded, is that we can run from reality, but we can’t hide. And the more we try, the more reality kicks us in the ass when it inevitably catches us up.
The reality is that this Dubai situation could well be a huge debt default on the level of Argentina’s recent debacle, BUT, in the grand scheme of things, Dubai isn’t a big enough player on the world stage to make the kind of falling domino effect that Asia or Russia did in the late nineties… but it might feel like it.
You see, this stock market is in fantasyland and it knows it. More likely, this Dubai announcement was a reminder of world reality rather than what it actually represents (a possible debt default by a relatively small player).
As you know, in recent weeks I’ve been explaining how the popularity of bonds has bothered me- it suggests the big institutions aren’t buying into this latest rally.
Government figures always get revised later on and, surprise, they get revised negatively. In other words, the news you hear is inevitably fantasy and the reality is much worse. The latest lie was that US GDP was 3.5% growth. It was revised downward to 2.8%. 0.7% is just an inexcusably large differential and I trust you can see the sort of manipulation that’s going on. Of course, by the time the market hears the truth, it doesn’t have the same effect as the initial numbers but, reality catches fantasy in the end.
Bottom line: be on high alert and if you want to play any falls for profit, the ETFs: SRS, FAZ, VIX, and FXP look mighty attractive at these levels (current prices: 9.44, 21.24, 24 and 8.25 respectively. The 1 year highs for these are: 165, 1,041, 89 and 59 respectively).
To finish this special fantasy edition, here’s something to put the cat amongst the pigeons below. Hmmm, I wonder why most major news networks didn’t run this story…
DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer – Sat Nov 21, 2:34 pm ET
LONDON – Computer hackers have broken into a server at a well-respected climate change research center in Britain and posted hundreds of private e-mails and documents online – stoking debate over whether some scientists have overstated the case for man-made climate change.
The University of East Anglia, in eastern England, said in a statement Saturday that the hackers had entered the server and stolen data at its Climatic Research Unit, a leading global research center on climate change. The university said police are investigating the theft of the information, but could not confirm if all the materials posted online are genuine.
More than a decade of correspondence between leading British and U.S. scientists is included in about 1,000 e-mails and 3,000 documents posted on Web sites following the security breach last week.
Some climate change skeptics and bloggers claim the information shows scientists have overstated the case for global warming, and allege the documents contain proof that some researchers have attempted to manipulate data.
The furor over the leaked data comes weeks before the U.N. climate conference in Copenhagen, when 192 nations will seek to reach a binding treaty to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases worldwide. Many officials – including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon – regard the prospects of a pact being sealed at the meeting as bleak.
In one leaked e-mail, the research center’s director, Phil Jones, writes to colleagues about graphs showing climate statistics over the last millennium. He alludes to a technique used by a fellow scientist to “hide the decline” in recent global temperatures. Some evidence appears to show a halt in a rise of global temperatures from about 1960, but is contradicted by other evidence which appears to show a rise in temperatures is continuing.
Jones wrote that, in compiling new data, he had “just completed Mike’s Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (i.e., from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline,” according to a leaked e-mail, which the author confirmed was genuine.
One of the colleagues referred to by Jones – Michael Mann, a professor of meteorology at Pennsylvania State University – did not immediately respond to requests for comment via telephone and e-mail.
The use of the word “trick” by Jones has been seized on by skeptics – who say his e-mail offers proof of collusion between scientists to distort evidence to support their assertion that human activity is influencing climate change.
“Words fail me,” Stephen McIntyre – a blogger whose climateaudit.org Web site challenges popular thinking on climate change – wrote on the site following the leak of the messages.
However, Jones denied manipulating evidence and insisted his comment had been taken out of context. “The word ‘trick’ was used here colloquially, as in a clever thing to do. It is ludicrous to suggest that it refers to anything untoward,” he said in a statement Saturday.
Jones did not indicate who “Keith” was in his e-mail.
Two other American scientists named in leaked e-mails – Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, and Kevin Trenberth, of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Colorado – did not immediately return requests for comment.
The University of East Anglica said that information published on the Internet had been selected deliberately to undermine “the strong consensus that human activity is affecting the world’s climate in ways that are potentially dangerous.”
“The selective publication of some stolen e-mails and other papers taken out of context is mischievous and cannot be considered a genuine attempt to engage with this issue in a responsible way,” the university said in a statement.
All the best…