Sunday, July 20, 2008

Good Week Bad Week

Good Week for:

1. Being a dumb enophile, after Steven Levitt from Freakonomics reported on his blog that two studies (one that he performed and one more recent from the American Association of Wine Economists) demonstrated that people who are not wine experts had a very hard time differentiating expensive from cheap wine (when blinded). Levitt recommends that no one should become a wine expert, so that you can save money yet still enjoy it. The mind is so powerful and thus can be such a nuisance.

2. Any enophile, after scientists at Hebrew University in Jerusalem found that animals fed red wine along with beef had much lower levels of fat-derived toxins in their blood than animals fed beef alone. This may explain the French paradox- the low rate of heart-disease among wine-drinking French despite a high-fat diet.

3. The Great White Shark, as Greg Norman entered the final round of the British Open with a 2 stroke lead. Why is this so remarkable? First, Norman would be the older person ever to win a major golf championship (previous record 46 years of age). Second, Norma has not even been on the radar in the world of golf for years. His last tour victory was in 1997. I hope Norman keeps this lead (he's lost 7 of 8 majors in which he held the lead entering the final round). Also, see my blog post on Norman from April.

Bad Week for:

1. Doing laundry, after a women in Maine discovered an 8 foot python mixed up with her load of clothes in her washing machine. It was successfully removed by an animal control expert.

2. Antartic inhabitants, after hundreds of baby penguins washed up dead on the shores of Rio de Janeiro. The reasons for why this is occuring is unknown. Some theorize that overfishing has forced penguins to swim futher from shore and get caught up in strong currents that carry them away, while others blame polution as many are found drenched in petroleum. I still think that the whole process that the Emperor Penguins engage in to mate and raise their young is one of the most amazing things in nature.

3. Fidel's concept of socialism, when Raul Castro said "Socialism means social justice and equality, but equality of rights, of opportunities, not of income." The new leader of Cuba has been loosening Fidel's iron grip, granting Cubans some new rights and privielges, such as the ability to buy consumer goods such as cellular phones, DVD players, and washing machines. Also, restrictions on foreign travel have been relaxed and farmers can decide for themselves what to plant. Now, it remains to be see how these people will be able to earn higher incomes in order to afford these "luxuries" (things we have taken for granted). The infrastructure to support entrepreneurship and capitalism still doesn't really exist. Thus, as access to the internet and international TV increases, there may be a social revolt, and young "capitalists" may flee the country for better economic opportunities.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Oil plunged again today (as did natural gas, steel, coal, ag names- basically anything that has had a tremendous run over the past several months).

An avid reader of the blog stated the following in the comments section: "I just am dubious that all of your charts coalesced the same day, and oil buyers and sellers coincidentally decided to apply lower prices to oil the same day W said we'd finally act like Norway when it comes to oil drilling."

To this, I offer an alternative explanation as to why the precipitous drop in oil/energy/commodities. As Addison Armstrong, Tradition Energy Director Of Market Research explained tonight on Fast Money:

We’re seeing liquidation pure and simple, which is being driven by the weak balance sheets of the banks. They’ve been cleaning them up by raising cash and they’re doing that by selling oil and other commodities.”That suggests at least some investors are selling crude contracts even though they really don't want to be sellers

OK, listen, companies report earnings on a quarterly basis. A large number of companies, including some of the big financial institutions reported this week. The large brokerages, such as JP Morgan, Merrill Lynch, Citigroup are reporting (or have reported) earnings. These brokerages are (or were) invested heavily in commodities, including oil. Now, as you know, the stock prices of any financial company has been in absolute free-fall for the past year. So, how do these huge companies stop the bleeding? They sell what was working (commodity positions),
raise cash, improve the balance sheet, and report earnings that are better than expected. The selling of energy stocks/ETFs is the reason why the price of oil and energy started dropping, as shown in the chart in the previous post, well BEFORE President Bush made any announcements on offshore drilling. And, sad to say, this implies that the price of oil is NOT completely dependent on supply and demand, but instead was artificially elevated by speculators/investors. You cannot tell me that demand dropped and supply rose that precipitously in the past 2 weeks to cause the marked fall in price.

Also, for those who doubt the power of technical analysis, and for those who refer to the big price moves as "all of the charts coalescing in one day", I submit this point. Technicians (half of active traders) follow price action, and when something moves, the buying or selling is amplified if a key technical level is breached or broken.

For example, look at the chart of this stock, VVUS, below. It doesn't matter what the company does, but I will tell you that the company has nothing to do with oil or energy. Anyway, what caused it to move dramatically up in the middle of May and then the end of June into early July? Are you telling me that the fundamentals of this company changed TWICE within the span of 2
months? NO WAY. It was trading on technicals....the market watchers saw it "break out" of its trading range and piled in with loads of cash and scooped up this stock. Then, after taking a breather (consolidation) it resumed its remarkable run upward. This is classic momentum of a trading vehicle. And, all of oil and energy and commodities are publically traded, thus their price can move dramatically based on the money flow from hedge funds, mutual funds, institutional investors, and individual investors. So, I will give GW Bush ZERO credit for dropping the price of oil.

P.S. I don't want to clutter this with a new post, but 2 things Don. First, why does this chart of Freeport-McMoran, a gold and copper mining company, look almost identical to the oil/energy chart I posted? All of the commodities are moving together, nothing to do with the plan to drill. Second, the "sell signal" on the XLE energy ETF was made not on the day Bush made the announcement. It was made at the beginning of June when the price fell from 90 down through the 50 day moving average (the blue line that was in an uptrend). When it broke below 85.56 on June 3rd, that was a major bearish move, and the ensuing weakness was not unexpected. These are fundamental principles of technical analysis.

Random Musings

1. Israel is making a mistake by performing unequal hostage swaps. They exchanged 5 militant Lebanese prisoners for the remains of 2 Israeli soldiers. I know it is their moral code, but this will only encourage more kidnappings/killings of Israelis. They keep giving their enemies positive reinforcement with these exchanges. Dumb.

2. Double-standard on the N-word. I hate it. Read the story. Again, Jesse Jackson deserves no respect by the media or the population at large.

3. Score one for Dr. Aktins (and the Mediterraneans), as the low-carb (high-fat high-protein) and Mediterranean diets were found to be superior for weight loss to a low-fat diet after 2 years of follow-up.

4. The JibJab crew has another great political satire video. Very funny, as usual.

5. The price of oil fell sharply for the 2nd straight day. Jury is still out whether the long-term trend is still intact and this is a correction (just as all of the other commodities have corrected signficantly over the past few weeks). Also, few, if any, stories tied this week's decline to Bush's wonderful announcement about moving forward with plans to drill offshore. In fact, given the drop in consumption (driving and flying have decreased, companies are figuring out more efficient ways to transport goods), it may be that the decreased demand has increased supply, thus decreasing the price of oil. Furthermore, the continued panic about further economic downturns in the US and around the world is not bullish for the price of oil. The prices of oil are also driven by the large amount of ETFs that are tied to commodities. Investors looking for a safe-haven in this bear market that has ravished the financial sector have moved lots of money to energy stocks/ETFs. However, as witnessed by the monster rally in the stock market today, led by the 10% surge in financials, it appears that sector rotation is taking place, and money is shifting back from energy to financials. I wonder, did Bush's announcement of drilling offshore also fuel the rally in the financial sector today.

Also, let's look at the chart of the XLE (iShares Energy ETF). From a technical analysis standpoint, energy has been weakening for the past several weeks. The chart was calling for this sell-off. Why?

1. RSI at top of chart has been very weak.

2. Double top formed in main price action

3. MACD (another momentum indicator) has been very weak/declining for weeks.

4. Money flow indicators (On balance volume and Chalkin money flow, both at bottom of chart) indicate that net flow of money has been OUT of energy since the end of May/early June.

So, the announcement by Bush to drill offshore was like punching a man while he was already beaten up and laying on the ground bleeding. Of course, people are going to give him the credit for dropping the price of oil. The timing and the chart do NOT support this whatsoever.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Good Week Bad Week

Good week for:

Not much

Bad week for:

1. Tilapia, after a Wake Forest University study found that tilapia, a farm-raised corn-fed fish, actually contains high levels of omega-6 fatty acids (pro-inflammatory) and very little omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, tilapia contains more omega-6 than bacon or doughnuts. I'm still waiting for the transgenic pigs rich in omega-3 to come to market. Yummy and healthy!

2. The Clydesdale, the symbol of American and Anheuser-Busch, after the St. Louis-based company was sold to the Belgian company InBev (makers of Stella Artois and Becks). My first concern is what will happen to the Budweiser Super Bowl commericials. Will they continue???

3. Following your father's lead, after George W. Bush lifted an executive ban on offshore drilling that was put in place by his father in 1990. Just a few years after his "addicted to oil" speech, George just wants another hit of the pipe (forward to about 5 min 30 secs on this video for some laughs). As I've outlined before, the government's own studies have indicated that this manuever would have little effect on the price of oil...we will follow closely. I doubt this will have much of an effect.

4. Humans, after a 149-page scientific report from the government oulined many reasons why global warming will impact health, including an increase in smog (increases risk of death), heat waves, infectious diseases (particularly those carried by ticks), and from wildfires. It's too bad the White House officials didn't even want to read the report...they wouldn't open the email!!

5. The Colonel, after a police-officer's family in Omaha won $40,000 in a lawsuit against KFC because of an episode of severe illness after eating at the fast-food chain. The cause of illness? Employees at this KFC would routinely spit and urinate onto food to create "special servings" reserved for police officers. This hasn't been a good year for KFC. As you may recall, earlier this year a KFC in NYC was shut-down after video taken from the street showed several huge rats crawling around premises.

6. The Bull, after the stock market entered official Bear Market territory (down 2o% from recent highs). Ugghhhh....

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shots on the Left and Right

Well, seems both of the Presidential candidates are dealing with remarks that people "close" to their party have made.

Regarding Barack Obama, Jesse Jackson said another "memorable" (AKA ludicrous) thing. He said that "Obama is talking down to black people", and that he wants to "cut his nuts off". Watch Jesse make a little cut motion with his right arm immediately after he states it. The funny thing is that his apology pretty much consisted of him saying that he didn't know the microphone was on. What kind of excuse is that?!?!? Jesse Jackson is so pathetic. He has made a career of grabbing the spotlight on controversial issues and pretends to "crusade" for his people. Blacks don't even like him. He never could get even 5% of the vote in the primaries when he ran for the Democratic Party nominee for President. I don't even know why people interview him. Does anyone care what he has to say?

Oh, by the way, the quote from Obama that Jesse so inflamed? Here it is:

``Any fool can have a child. That doesn't make you a father,'' Obama, 46,
said at the Apostolic Church of God, which has more than 20,000 members. ``Too
many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes.''

Good for you're just telling the truth and trying to inspire some sense of responsibility in young black men, just like Bill Cosby and Charles Barkley have been trying to do for the past several years. Keep it up.

McCain's issue is a little less exciting. Former Senator Phil Gramm, one of McCain's economic advisors, said in an interview with the Washington Post that the economy is not so bad and that we have a "nation of whiners". McCain tried to distance himself from Gramm and showed his distaste for those comments. And check out where he wanted to send Mr. Gramm...

"I don't agree with Sen. Gramm," McCain said. "I believe that the person
here in Michigan that just lost his job isn't suffering a mental recession. I
believe the mother here in Michigan and around America who is trying to get
enough money to educate their children isn't whining."
"Phil Gramm does not speak for me," he said. "I speak for me."

Asked if there was any chance Gramm would be treasury secretary or
handle economic policy under a McCain administration, McCain quickly turned to
humor. "I think Sen. Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to
Belarus, although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that," he

I don't have too much to say about this. Obviously, McCain cannot openly agree with Gramm. That would be complete political suicide, as most polls show the economy is the number issue for voters at this time. Plus, the economy IS a big issue right now, isn't it???? GDP is nearly stagnant, fuel and food prices are at all-time highs, job losses are increasing, and our dollar is pathetically weak.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Things I Just Don't Get

1. Why do people need to drive Hummers? I saw two tonight in a parking lot. This is CONNECTICUT, not the jungle or the deserts in the Middle East. It's a free country, and people can choose do drive whatever they want, but I still don't understand the mentality of the owners. They must be trying to make up for inadequate genital size. At least the high costs of fuel have caused a decrease in overall driving in the US and in SUV/light truck sales, so supply/demand continues to work efficiently.

2. Why is the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending cholesterol screening and treatment with statins starting at age 8? Granted, the amount of childhood obesity is continually increasing and leading to premature diabetes and heart disease, but why not strongly push exercise and healthy diets? The problem is partially genetic, but the creep of adult cardiac diseases into childhood is NOT from genetics, it is from poor behavioral patterns. I think we need a prominent athelete to take a cabinet position such as a "Secretary of Fitness". Recruit Michael Jordan or Magic Johnson for this position...or someone else that could really inspire kids to get off their butts, stop playing so many video games and start exercising. I do not think a lifetime of blood tests (to check cholesterol levels and monitor liver function) and 70+ years of exposure to statins (if they live that long) is a smart idea.

3. Why can tennis players hit a screeching 1st serve well over 100 times in a match and play every other day when baseball pitchers are babied and routinely are pulled when they throw about 100 pitches? The tennis players are swinging their arm and putting as much torque on their rotator cuff as major league pitchers. The serves in tennis often exceed 120 MPH. Then add all of the 2nd serves, forehands, and backhands to the total load on the shoulder. I think the current day major league pitchers are coddled far too much. Back in the day, it was commonplace for the great pitchers such as Koufax, Gibson, Drysdale, etc. to have more than 20 complete games. In 1968, Bob Gibson had 28 complete games!! Now, a pitcher is considered to have an amazing year if they have 3-4 complete games. They are put on strict "pitch counts" and pulled in the 6th or 7th inning. Then, starting pitchers get 4-5 days off until their next start. FYI, Nadal had 221 1st serves and Federer had 197 1st serves in their final match at Wimbledon yesterday!

4. How did the Colombian hostages surive after living in the jungle, eating terribly, being tortured, and experiencing severe infections for 5 1/2 years? It is an amazing story of human determination.

Don't "Aks", Don't tell

Freakonomics is one of my favorite books, and lucky for me (and the world), Levitt and Dubner have continued their analyses of the culture on the NYTimes opinion page. They have a very interesting post regarding a U of Chicago study that examined whether sounding black (or Southern) influences one's salary. The study found that people who sounded black, as judged over the phone, earned 10% less than those who sounded white. Blacks who "sounded white" earned roughly the same amount as their white counterparts.

This is very interesting, as it provides ongoing evidence of racial discrimination in the U.S. This is unacceptable. However, while I do not condone any racial discrimination, common sense also tells us that speaking "ebonics" is not exactly compatible with a highly productive business/sales model. Furthermore, only the minority of blacks actually speak ebonics, but it only takes a few bad eggs to ruin it for the larger group and promote long-lasting stereotypes. Simply put, slang will never be widely accepted, and PARENTS and the school systems must do their best to teach children proper English. Bill Cosby had an excellent rant about this a few years ago. I agree with Bill.

We are on the precipice of potentially electing a black president of the United States for the first time. Many racial barriers in this country have been obliterated. Thus, it is not too much to ask our future generations, of any racial background, to speak English properly.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Nadal Ends Federer's Streak- Wins Wimbledon

Today, Rafael Nadal of Spain, beat Roger Federer of Switzerland in one of the most amazing sporting events I have ever seen. It was an epic battle, the longest Wimbledon Men's final EVER at 4 hours 48 minutes. It didn't end until 4:15 EST (started at 9 AM....there were 2 rain delays).

The match itself was extremely intense. It was filled with drama. The last 3 sets all went to either tie-breakers or were extended (last set goes until someone wins by 2) after Nadal took an early 2 set lead. I hope many of you got to see it today. If you haven't...don't fret. ESPN Classic will be showing this "Instant Classic" at 7 PM Monday night. Aside from it being such a brilliantly played, intense, and exciting match, the drama was heightened even more by the story of these two giants entering this final match.

Consider these facts:

1. Federer had won FIVE straight Wimbledon titles, and won 40 straight matches at Wimbledon.
2. Federer had not lost ONE SET this entire tournament.

3. Nadal had lost the last 2 Wimbledon finals to Federer.

4. Despite Nadal's domination of Federer on clay, and his 4 French Open titles, Nadal had never beaten Federer in a major tournament except for the French.

5. Coming into the match, Federer has been ranked #1 in the ATP rankings for 231 consecutive weeks. Nadal has been ranked #2 for 154 weeks.

6. Nadal became the first to win the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year since 1980 (Borg).

The match certainly lived up to the hype and beyond. It was like Maximus vs. Commodus in the movie Gladiator. It was like Achilles vs. Hector in the movie Troy.

It had me thinking about the 10 best sports finals I have ever seen. Please add or argue with some of the choices on this list in the comments section. (they are not ranked in order)

1. Nadal defeats Federer, 2008 Wimbledon Final

2. NY Giants defeat the undefeated NE Patriots, Super Bowl XLII. The prologue to this game again contributed significantly to the greatness of this game. The Patriots were on the verge of an undeprecedented, historical undefeated season. The Giants were truly "David", who had been given little chance to win after a tumultuous season. However, sans Tiki Barber, and in Michael Strahan's final game, the G-Men shut down the mightly Patriots offense and won on one of the most dramatic drives in Super Bowl history.

3. Boston Red Sox defeat NY Yankees, 2004 AL Championship Series. Again, what a storyline entering this playoff series. The Red Sox had been without a World Series title in 86 years, while the Yankees had 26 World Series titles. The Red Sox had lost a bitterly contested playoff series in 2003 to the Yankees, that culminated with an 11th inning homerun by Aaron Boone, of all people, to put the final nail in the Sox that year. However, the 2004 series was magical for the Sox, as they battled back from a 3-0 deficit to win the final 4 games. Games 4, 5, and 6 were absolute classics, as game 4 and 5 were the 2 longest in ACLS history, going into the 12th and 14th innnings, respectively. Both wins involved blown saves by the best closer in history, Mariano Rivera. Game 6 was the Schilling "bloody sock" game. Game 7 was a blow-out, but occurred in the "House that Ruth Built", finally ending the Curse of the Bambino.

4. Villanova Wildcats defeat the Georgetown Hoyas, 1985 NCAA Mens College BB Championship. This was another David vs. Goliath match-up. The 8th seeded Wildcats shot 78.6% from the field, shut down the mighty Patrick Ewing, and pulled off one of the greatest upsets in NCAA history. I still remember little Rollie Massimino being mobbed in jubilation by his much taller teammates as time expired.

5. Texas Longhorns defeat USC Trojans, 2006 BSC Championship. There was no David vs. Goliath was Goliath vs. Goliath. The Trojans had won 34 striaght games and were going for their 3rd straight NCAA title. The Trojans had the exhilarating Reggie Bush. The Longhorns had won 20 straight and had the powerful quarterback Vince Young. The play was incredible, and the ending was a thriller, with Texas pulling it out in a shootout, 41-38.

6. NY Mets defeat Boston Red Sox, 1986 World Series. The Mets had just finished pulling out a dramatic 6 game series with the Houston Astros, that including 3 extra-inning nailbiters, including the final game that went 16 innings. The Red Sox had just defeated the Angels after being one strike away from being eliminated in Game 5 on a dramatic home run by Dave Henderson to tie the game and send it into extra innings. The Red Sox came in to the WS looking for their first title since 1918. This series makes my list primarily for Game 6. I've outlined the drama of this game before on this blog here, so I won't do it again.

7. Boise State defeats Oklahoma Sooners, 2007 Fiesta Bowl. OK, this wasn't for the BSC Championship, but the game itself was probably the most dramatic college FB games I've ever seen. Boise St went into the 4th quarter with a 28-17 lead. Oklahoma scored 11 points (FG and TD + 2pt conversion) to tie the game with 1:26 left in 4th qtr. Boise St comes out to try to march down the field for a FG, and their QB gets picked-off, and the Sooner DB returns it for a 33 yd interception TD return. Game over, right? Wrong! On 4th and 18, down 7 points, Boise St complete a 50 yard "hook-and-ladder play" to tie the game with 7 seconds left. The games goes to OT, and Adrian Peterson takes the 1st handoff and races 25 yards for a go-ahead TD. Boise St, needing a TD to tie, gets a TD, and decides to go for the 2 pt conversion. They run a "Statue of Liberty" play for the 2 point conversion. Unbelievable.

I'm going to stop here for now...I will try to add 3 more games to this list. Please provide your suggestions.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Runaway Chimp

OK, just a quick news piece. It is an unbelievable story. The story initially caught my eye because the link on the front page of read "Toilet trained Chimp on the Loose". Given my fascination with toilets, I eagerly clicked on the link to read the story. He apparently can not only use the toilet, but can use a knife and fork.

A couple in California had raised the chimp for 30 years in their house until he was taken away for his violent behavior. There were distraut today when they heard he escaped and hired a search helicopter to find him. The chimp was taken away from the couple because he had bitten off someone's finger and mauled a policeman's hand.

Here are the hilarious things. First read about what happened to the couple when they were visiting him after he was taken away from them:

In 2005, when they took a cake to celebrate Moe's birthday with him, the
couple was viciously attacked by two other chimpanzees who had escaped their
cages. The chimps nearly killed St. James Davis, chewing off his nose, testicles
and foot and biting off chunks of his buttocks and legs
, before the sanctuary owner shot the animals to death.

The other thing that made me laugh was when the man who owned him (the one who had his testicles chewed off), said the following to the media:

"He meant the world to us," St. James Davis said. "He was the best man at my wedding."