There were no initial claims of unemployment insurance last week. Well, 339,000, but that's it.
December Consumer Confidence 91.3 (consensus of 91.8), December Chicago PMI 59.2 (62.0), November Existing Home sales 6.06 M (6.33 M)
FedEx to acquire Kinko's
FedEx Agrees to Acquire Kinko's for $2.4 Billion in Cash
FedEx Corp. announced Tuesday that it agreed to acquire privately held copy company Kinko's Inc. for $2.4 billion in cash.
The acquisition of Kinko's, based in Dallas, is expected to boost FedEx's ground retail access in the United States and Canada, as well as improve the delivery giant's retail presence for its express unit in key international markets.
...FedEx, based in Memphis, Tenn., has been Kinko's exclusive shipping provider since 1988, and currently operates full-service counters in 134 Kinko's stores.
The Dow closed yesterday at 10450.00, so I thought I'd find the total price of the Dow stocks, which is 1410.71, if I have my list right and Yahoo has its prices right. Given the way dividends are handled, there's no reason to expect a particularly good fraction, though it's worth noting that a divisor of .135 would give 10449.70 for the Dow.
From down a bit in this article,
Dow industrials component McDonald's tacked on 41 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $24.50 after J.P. Morgan upgraded the fast food behemoth to "overweight" from "neutral." Analyst John Ivankoe feels the recent decline in the stock on concerns over mad-cow disease have created a buying opportunity.As I read this, it is expected that consumer demand for beef will remain largely stable, so that there will be no loss of sales or pressure on prices of burgers, but that the price of beef will fall. What is causing the price of beef to fall if there is no fall in consumer demand? Does mad cow disease cause cattle to reproduce more quickly? Surely I misunderstand something.
"We believe mad cow will cause very slight consumer reaction beyond the immediate term - assuming discovery of future cases is limited - but that the downward pressure on beef prices will be immediate, erasing a previous investment negative for the restaurant industry in 2004," Ivankoe said in a note to clients.
The durable goods number was terrible, down 3.1% instead of the +1.0% expected. Initial claims came in at 353K, following through on recent strength there.
In final revisions of Q3 GDP, they're standing by 8.2% growth, revising the deflator down slightly to 1.6%. November personal income was up .5% and personal spending .4%; the latter was expected higher than the former.
Consumer sentiment should be out within the hour; was last reported at 89.6, but the market is expecting higher.
Update: Consumer sentiment came in at 92.6.
Stocks are up slightly this morning, but not as much as the volatility index. Usually it's when the market moves down that the vol index goes up, but the consensus right now seems to be that nobody knows what might happen.
Maybe 18-34 year old boys ("men"?) are especially suggestible. (Or they're trying to build life-long customers.)
And when Dean troubles himself to read the article, point 2 has been considered:
Advertisers have their reasons for targeting teens and 20-somethings. First among them is the belief that long-term brand loyalties are set when people are young and impressionable. The problem is that the belief is based on market research that is 40 years out of date. "It's a cliché and a fallacy to think you can build a customer for life," says Al Ries, a longtime New York ad exec who is now a marketing consultant in Atlanta. "As people grow up, they change brands."The alternative explanation to point one, of course, is that men over whatever age it is that makes you upper-executive material are especially suggestible.
..."When a guy gets promoted, he doesn't get a more expensive Chevy," says Mr. Ries. "He buys a BMW."
To what extent would it make sense to think of your asset allocation not in terms of fraction of assets in such and such a class, but covariance of assets in a class with the portfolio as a whole as a portion of variance of the portfolio? Insofar as diversification is viewed as a way to weather 6-sigma events, the former, conventional way does make a great deal of sense, and it might be confusing in some way to think of a positive long-bond allocation as comprising a negative portion of your assets.
Like so many of my ideas, this needs further baking. Or outright incineration.
An interesting piece at Opinionjournal (the web site of the Wall Street Journal) says that advertisers are aiming at the wrong people:
Advertisers regularly pay more than twice as much to air commercials on shows that deliver the youth market. The question is: Why? You'd think they would follow Willie Sutton's motto and go where the money is. And when it comes to selling stuff--especially expensive stuff--the money is in the pockets of consumers over 45.
I keep meaning to do a China post, and I guess the IPO of the China Life Insurance Company seems a good excuse to do it now; there seems to be quite a frenzy recently, one evoking late 1999, for China stocks, and I'm of the inclination that it probably can't go on forever. (Also, the sun may come up tomorrow. But I digress.) The Chinese government is more grown up than those of a lot of developing countries, but it's still communist, and we've never seen how it might react to the attempt to pull out capital, or even to repatriate some profits from capital already invested. I could imagine an incident jumping from the purely economic to the international political in a real hurry.
Oh, is it Thursday? The Initial Claims number must be out, and at 353K, it's better than expected.
Circuit City reported weaker than expected results yesterday, in part blaming the weather. Fortunately for Best Buy shareholders, the weather was apparently better at Best Buy stores.
NYSE specialist system
It turns out that this article provides a better explanation of what's going on with CALPERS and NYSE than what I linked to before, even though it's not purportedly directly concerned with it.
It cited a number of illegal strategies including the age-old tactic of "front-running," in which the specialist uses knowledge of imbalances in existing orders to place lucrative bets for themselves. NYSE rules prohibit specialists from exploiting their privileged positions, but Calpers maintains that these rules were regularly ignored with a wide variety of subtle deceptions.Well, that answers that.
CALPERS sues NYSE
It's been a while since blogger ate one of my posts, but this is a better link than what I chased up before. (Which was at the New York Times. Go to Forbes for financial reporting instead, right?)
So of course it grates on me if the suit is complaining about boosting specialist profits rather than costing ordinary investors money, but they are in this case tied to each other, and I can't do anything about the suit, so we'll let it go. Front-running is something I kind of assumed took place, but figured was part of the NYSE system, and was one of the perks I assumed was thought to be afforded the specialists for maintaining liquid markets. The other charges seem more serious, and all of these violations are impossible with an ECN, i.e. electronic trading. (They wouldn't be impossible, but it would be awfully hard to pretend you weren't doing them if you were, and I don't believe any ECNs right now are. If they are, that definitely is fraud.) I have some nostalgic sympathy for floor trading, but this is probably going to give another push in the direction of electronic trading.
NEW YORK - CalPERS, the United States' largest public pension, is aiming for the head of the class.
On Tuesday, the $137 billion (assets) California Public Employees' Retirement System filed a civil lawsuit against the New York Stock Exchange and the specialist firms that oversee trading in listed stock. Backed by law firm Milberg Weiss, CalPERS accuses all defendants with two violations of the Exchange Act and breach of fiduciary duties to their customers. The NYSE was accused with an additional Exchange Act violation.
The CalPERS suit covers purchases or sales made of New York Stock Exchange-listed securities from Oct. 17, 1998, to Oct. 15, 2003. The suit alleges specialists engaged in three practices known as inter-positioning, front-running or freezing trades in direct violations of SEC, NYSE and Exchange Act rules. In sum, all three resulted in boosting specialist profits, the suit claims.
Now let's save this before we try to post it.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the first airplane flight. I feel as though I ought to say something about the sector here, but I've been told that if one doesn't have anything nice to say, one shouldn't say anything at all.
Actually, I do have something nice to say: airlines -- and their deregulation -- have been great for consumers.
More Firms to Add Staff; Cuts Planned Too, reads the headline.
This is presumably a better indicator of the payroll numbers than of the household survey numbers.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. employers were more optimistic about hiring staff in the year's first quarter than in the fourth quarter for the first time in five years, a survey said on Tuesday, offering hope to job seekers.
Staffing company Manpower Inc. said employers in nine of the 10 sectors surveyed expect to offer more jobs in the first quarter of 2004 than in the final period of 2003.
But the uptick could be tempered as the number of companies expecting to reduce payrolls is up as well.
Housing Starts higher than expected, inflation lower: 2.07M housing starts (that's annualized), vs. about 1.91M expected, while the core CPI dropped .1% and the volatile components took another .1% off the full CPI. No signs of inflation yet.
Bulgarian Honey Effective Alternative to Viagra
Bulgarian beekeepers are marketing thistle-infused honey as a natural and cheaper alternative to the anti-impotency drug Viagra.I wonder if that same argument is being used by Glaxo and Bayer for Levitra, and by Eli Lilly and ICOS for Cialis.
I got a little kick out of CNBC this morning. Everyone seemed to be surprised that the market didn't jump more at the open, based on the capture of Saddam Hussein, but everyone also seemed to agree that it would have been a temporary move, and not really warranted.
SCO said site was attacked, brought down
SCO said site was attacked, brought down:
SCO Group Inc., the small software maker suing IBM over the use of software code used for the Linux operating system, said on Wednesday its home page was brought down by a hacker attack in the morning.They got it back up pretty quickly.
Gillette Sues Remington Over Electric Razor Technology
Gillette Sues Remington Over Electric Razor Technology
I don't plan to follow this as closely as the Schick case, but I thought I'd bring it up.
Bill Gross's Investment Outlook
If you're interested in Bill Gross's Investment Outlook, well, there it is.
Preliminary consumer sentiment number for December came in at 89.6, well below expected 96, even below last month's 93.7. The trade deficit was about as expected, and producer prices fell a bit, but that consumer sentiment number has hit the market.
Re: Dow 10K
It's funny that I should read that news while listening to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again".
Better than expected retail sales numbers, but 378,000 initial claims (seasonally adjusted), significantly in excess of the 359K allegedly expected. A month ago that would have been the best number we'd heard in quite a while, and it's a volatile number, so this is disappointing more than troubling.
The NASDAQ implemented an execution platform, didn't they? Is that optional, or how does it work? What I'm wondering about is this: the reported indices continue to move after the closing bell (and, indeed, is a notable chunk of time behind during the day) because it takes time for trades to get reported and calculated into the index. If the components of the NASDAQ index are (were) all electronic, you'd expect to have the closing value for the NASDAQ index around 4:00:02, wouldn't you?
McConnell v. SEC and what money is
This is long, so I provide my standard jump-tag to the next (i.e. previous) item, but I liked Scalia's discussion in McConnell v. SEC of how an economy (i.e. a system of people who interact with each other for mutual benefit) works, particularly as it relates to speech.
As we said in Buckley, this Court has never suggested that the dependence of a communication on the expenditure of money operates itself to introduce a nonspeech element or to reduce the exacting scrutiny required by the First Amendment.
Our traditional view was correct, and today's cavalier attitude toward regulating the financing of speech (the "exacting scrutiny" test of Buckley, see ibid., is not uttered in any majority opinion, and is not observed in the ones from which I dissent) frustrates the fundamental purpose of the First Amendment. In any economy operated on even the most rudimentary principles of division of labor, effective public communication requires the speaker to make use of the services of others. An author may write a novel, but he will seldom publish and distribute it himself. A freelance reporter may write a story, but he will rarely edit, print, and deliver it to subscribers. To a government bent on suppressing speech, this mode of organization presents opportunities: Control any cog in the machine, and you can halt the whole apparatus. License printers, and it matters little whether authors are still free to write. Restrict the sale of books, and it matters little who prints them. Predictably, repressive regimes have exploited these principles by attacking all levels of the production and dissemination of ideas. See, e.g., Printing Act of 1662, 14 Car. II, c. 33, §§1, 4, 7 (punishing printers, importers, and booksellers); Printing Act of 1649, 2 Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum 245, 246, 250 (punishing authors, printers, booksellers, importers, and buyers). In response to this threat, we have interpreted the First Amendment broadly. See, e.g., Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U. S. 58, 65, n. 6 (1963) ("The constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press embraces the circulation of books as well as their publication . . .").
Division of labor requires a means of mediating exchange, and in a commercial society, that means is supplied by money. The publisher pays the author for the right to sell his book; it pays its staff who print and assemble the book; it demands payments from booksellers who bring the book to market. This, too, presents opportunities for repression: Instead of regulating the various parties to the enterprise individually, the government can suppress their ability to coordinate by regulating their use of money. What good is the right to print books without a right to buy works from authors? Or the right to publish newspapers without the right to pay deliverymen? The right to speak would be largely ineffective if it did not include the right to engage in financial transactions that are the incidents of its exercise.
This is not to say that any regulation of money is a regulation of speech. The government may apply general commercial regulations to those who use money for speech if it applies them evenhandedly to those who use money for other purposes. But where the government singles out money used to fund speech as its legislative object, it is acting against speech as such, no less than if it had targeted the paper on which a book was printed or the trucks that deliver it to the bookstore. History and jurisprudence bear this out. The best early examples derive from the British efforts to tax the press after the lapse of licensing statutes by which the press was first regulated. The Stamp Act of 1712 imposed levies on all newspapers, including an additional tax for each advertisement. 10 Anne, c. 18, §113. It was a response to unfavorable war coverage, "obvious[ly] . . . designed to check the publication of those newspapers and pamphlets which depended for their sale on their cheapness and sensationalism." F. Siebert, Freedom of the Press in England, 1476– 1776, pp. 309-310 (1952). It succeeded in killing off approximately half the newspapers in England in its first year. Id., at 312.
The Committee perceives that the upside and downside risks to the attainment of sustainable growth for the next few quarters are roughly equal. The probability of an unwelcome fall in inflation has diminished in recent months and now appears almost equal to that of a rise in inflation. However, with inflation quite low and resource use slack, the Committee believes that policy accommodation can be maintained for a considerable period.And bond futures promptly dropped, presumably on the basis of the suggestion that deflation was no more likely than inflation.
Of my previous comments that the FOMC statement should be more inflationary than they have been, it should be noted that those comments are mine and mine alone. One of the traders suggests that the expectation is for the statement to read pretty much like last time; if that's the case, a more inflationary statement would scare bond prices a bit.
Law Firm Scott + Scott, LLC Announces Class Action Lawsuit Against Biovail Shareholders
Law Firm Scott + Scott, LLC Announces Class Action Lawsuit Against Biovail Shareholders
Someone has defined a "gaffe" as someone inadvertently telling the truth. I assume this is an example.
"Merck a textbook case of pharmaceutical industry woes"
This article is a good summary of what's happening at Merck and, to a lesser extent, around pharma.
Linux Lawsuit Update
SCO Group Hit by Double Whammy:
After trading as low as $15.10 intraday Monday, SCO shares closed down $1.32, or 8%, at $15.27.The earnings delay has to do with an accounting recharacterization. It's a bad signal for SCO investors, but I don't plan to make too much of it unless it's corroborated by something else.
Two events from Friday were feeding the selloff. First, SCO lost a motion asking IBM for source code. The court also ruled SCO must provide the code relevant to the case to IBM within the next 30 days.
In its suit, Lindon, Utah-based SCO has charged that IBM breached a contract with SCO by misappropriating SCO's Unix code in IBM's Linux business.
"We are pleased that the court has indicated that it will compel SCO to finally back up its claims instead of relying on marketplace FUD, or fear, uncertainty and doubt," IBM spokesman Mike Darcy said in a prepared statement Monday.
The legal setback may prove temporary for SCO, however. SCO spokesman Blake Stowell said the company will have the opportunity to argue again in Jan. 23 that IBM also should produce source code.
The judge's order compelling SCO to produce its code was "absolutely not a surprise to us at all," Stowell said. "We were sure at some point we would need to be more specific, and this was that point."
As it was pointed out on Rukeyeser this past weekend that oil poked its head above $31 a barrel, raising the specter of inflation, I'd like to point out that that's €26 per barrel. If inflation is sparked by price hikes in such internationally mobile commodities as oil, it should be attributed to the weakness of the dollar.
This raises the issue of the federal reserve meeting tomorrow, which I would expect not to raise interest rates yet, but at least not to mention risks of deflation without balancing that language with some kind of concern over either currency weakness in the foreign exchange market or against goods and services, i.e. inflation per se.
Two makers of flu shot say they've sold all vaccine
UPDATE - Two makers of flu shot say they've sold all vaccineThe other company mentioned in the headline is Chiron, whose spokesman comments, "it's always a balance to ensure you produce enough but don't overproduce." Last year, ten million doses were wasted.
Two big flu vaccine makers said on Friday their entire production had been sold to hospitals and other providers as Americans rushed to get shots in an outbreak that has killed a number of children.
The developments do not mean that flu shots are no longer available in the medical supply chain, but they offer further evidence of an unusually early and severe onset of the illness.
Most supplies of the vaccine have been distributed to doctors, health departments and other providers, which is not uncommon at this time of the year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Still drug maker Aventis SA said most of its production was already spoken for and shipped before the flu season began and said recent outbreaks "caused an unprecedented surge of vaccine orders ... which accounted for the balance of our inventory."
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 5.9% unemployment (6.0% was expected) for November, but only 57,000 new non-farm jobs (talk was of 150,000). The October non-farm payrolls number was revised up from 126k to 137k. Hourly earnings are up .1%, against a consensus estimate of .2%.
The unemployment number is based on a survey of the labor force, and the payrolls number is from a survey of employers -- I assume that's why they aren't lining up, though it's also theoretically possible that the size of the labor force declined. Over the last couple of years, the difference between the number of people who report being employed and the number of employees reported by employers has increased by a couple million or so.
The bond market appears to be (understandably) focusing on the non-farm payroll number, with yields on the two-year bond falling from 2.0% to below 1.9% on the news.
Never Underestimate the Power of Stupid People in Large Numbers
'Nano' in Firm's Name Fuels Stock's Gain:
A growing fascination with nanotechnology seems to be doing wonders for the stock price of Nanometrics Inc.I have nothing to add.
Too bad the company's only connection with the hot field of molecular-scale machinery is the first four letters of its name and a stock ticker, NANO. But that, apparently, is enough to confuse some investors.
Initial claims at 365,000, a bit higher than expected, and higher than last week. I'm inclined to think that a de-noised number has been holding in the low 360s for the past few weeks.
Unemployment rate comes out tomorrow, and is expected to hold at 6.0%.
Archipelago planning to go public
I used to work for Townsend, and worked closely with Archipelago. In 2001 Jerry Putnam told us we would have a party after the first week in which Arca traded a billion shares; that happened the first full week after 9/11. The decision was made to have the party, but not until a couple of months later; there was rather less joy in the milestone than had been anticipated when the target was put forth.
Billed as the largest all-electronic stock exchange, Archipelago handled about 29 percent of all over-the-counter trades on Nov. 20.
Its current volume record is 730 million shares, set on June 6. Archipelago has not yet released any revenue or net income statements.
The IPO plan surfaced after Archipelago, which merged with Redibook last year, said on Nov. 13 that General Atlantic Partners took a minority stake in the company for $125 million. Past investors include Instinet, Goldman Sachs, E-Trade, J.P. Morgan and Merrill Lynch.
The company was formed in 1996 after electronic communications networks were allowed to interact directly with the Nasdaq.Chief Executive Jerry Putnam launched the exchange as a joint venture with software developer Townsend Analytics.
Re: behavioral finance
Peter Lynch suggests that the 10% dumbest and 3% smartest people are the least suited for investing. I have the impression Buffett is in that latter group, but it is worth remembering that the intellectual set — people who rely too much on their being smarter than others — will face a whole different set of difficulties from others.
I was going to look for that book at the library, Steve, but would love to borrow it from you instead. Thanks.
Re: behavioral finance
I would assume that when they refer to "reversion to the mean", they aren't referring to a reversion to a lower price, they're referring to a lower rate of appreciation.
As Buffett said in a 1999 interview with BusinessWeek, "Success in investing doesn't correlate with I.Q. once you're above the level of 25. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing."Elsewhere, I've seen him state that the difference in investment results between someone with a 130 IQ and someone with a 160 IQ is entirely temperament, but go on to point out that his example didn't use a 100 I.Q. Incidentally, Dean, if you haven't read the Cialdini book that Munger recommends, I can lend it to you at Christmas.
What do you find most interesting about this column, "Investors Can Be Their Own Worst Enemy"? For me, it's the third-to-last paragraph,
This attitude would also mesh with another common trait, framing evaluations on meaningless benchmarks, such as what price you bought a stock.in conjunction with the last paragraph,
Unfortunately, in many cases the stock has come to the public's attention because of its strong previous performance. When this is followed by a reversion to the mean, new investors get burned.Is a stock with a strong performance likely to revert to the mean only if you didn't own it, rather than only if you did?
As Morningstar does, I believe in evaluating an intrinsic value for a stock, and if that doesn't change, presumably one should expect the price to revert to that, if not exactly to its mean. It's fair to suggest that people are inappropriately reluctant to revise downward their estimates of the value of the stocks they own, particularly when they're underwater, and are more willing to suppose that the market move is justified if it doesn't conflict with a viewpoint in which they're invested, both emotionally and financially. This, presumably, is the point; the behavior of the stock isn't different because one doesn't own it, but which kind of mistake one is more likely to make may be.
Change of president at AT&T. The change in leadership at Boeing is probably more innocuous than it looks.
One of the blogs I've been reading fairly regularly lately is In the Pipeline by Derek Lowe*, who does research for a pharmaceutical company in New England. He has a recent entry of particular relevance to investors:
It's worth going over a few principles of biotech and pharma investing, as seen from an insider's standpoint. For one thing, most of the statements about the research pipelines at such companies are worthless. You really should understand the contempt that researchers have for most Wall Street statements about how their drug projects seem to be coming along. Now, I admit that a lot of that trouble can be traced to the worthlessness of most drug company pronouncements about said projects, but that's another key thing to know, isn't it?Stock analysts entering the realm of complete fantasy? Surely you jest.
For example, companies keep projects on the books long after they've gone to Drug Development Heaven. At best, they're hoping for something to revive the program somehow, and aren't ready to talk about the problems it's facing. (Sometimes they're not even ready to think about them; self-deception is as big a force in R&D as it is anywhere else.) At worst, they're trying to fake out their competition - and that works, for a while. But when you see something listed as "In Phase I Trials" for, say, three years, you can assume that something has, er, gone astray.
While I'm on the topic of self-deception, remember that it is almost unheard of for a company to undersell a clinical research program. By the time something makes it into advanced clinical trials, plenty of people working on it think that yes, they really are going to get to kick the football this time. And they're as disappointed as anyone else when it gets yanked away, again. I know that there are always those "forward-looking statements" disclaimers at the bottoms of the press releases, but no one reads them. They're background noise. No, you can assume that you are hearing the best possible case that can be made for the drug and for the data. If stock analysts go above and beyond what the company is already dreaming of, they're likely to have entered the realm of complete fantasy.
* I assume that he's not the same Derek Lowe who pitches for the Red Sox, but I haven't actually had confirmation of this.
It seems to me I heard a move on the order of 15% reported as "despite" the other day, but I don't remember in response to what now. Hollinger?
Roy Disney calls for Eisner's exit
Roy Disney calls for Eisner's exit:
Vice Chairman Roy Disney resigned from the board of Walt Disney Co. on Sunday and called for the ouster of its longtime chairman and chief executive, Michael Eisner.I'm intrigued by the choice of a "despite" explanation ("shares shook off") over a "because of" explanation, but the stock move isn't very big, and it's in line with the direction of the market. The Wall Street Journal has a picture of Roy Disney on its front page (below the fold) this morning, and he looks a lot like Walt.
Disney's shares shook off the disruption, gaining 15 cents Monday morning to $23.24. Other media-company shares also gained.
President To Drop Tariffs On Steel
The Bush administration has decided to repeal most of its 20-month-old tariffs on imported steel to head off a trade war that would have included foreign retaliation against products exported from politically crucial states, administration and industry sources said yesterday.Dean and I are free-trade people -- we never liked the tariffs in the first place. And averting a trade war is certainly good news, too.