Saturday, April 19, 2014

So When Does the GOP Stop Trying to Repeal Obamacare and Start Trying to Save it?'

     I'm not sure and clearly we're not there yet, but the predictions of gloom and doom for the ACA just are just looking embarrassing already. They've been insisting that Obamacare would miss the target of sign ups and then when that was discovered to be not the case they claimed that it's only older people doing that or people who already have insurance. This prediction has also fallen flat.

     For now, they're trying to claim that the numbers are fraudulent but obviously this  crutch can't last forever. What happens when the ACA becomes like Social Security and Mediare-an entitlement that Americans don't want touched? Obviously they'll have to give up repealing it and start 'saving it' like they do for SS and Medicare-Ryan recently released another terrible budget including his plan to destroy Medicare-he claims he merely saves it. Let's hope this is the last Ryan budget we ever have to see.

    Here is Sumner on the ACA:

    "The share of the population that is uninsured has dropped sharply since last summer.  On the other hand the share of Americans lacking health insurance has risen in the 5 and 1/4 years since Obama was elected, from 15.4% to 15.6%.  On the other, other hand 3 or 4 million more Americans will have health insurance by 2014:3.  On the other, other, other hand that’s less than 2 percent of adults.  So the share lacking health insurance will still be almost as high as in the summer of 2008.  Or am I missing something?"

     "Now let’s consider the goal of Obamacare.  If the goal is to eliminate uninsuredness, then it seems to have failed.  But perhaps the goal is to eliminate involuntary uninsuredness.  After all, all of the sad stories we were told before the law was passed tended to focus on people who were unable to get treated for illness, or perhaps were financially devastated by the cost of treatment.  If I’m not mistaken that will no longer occur, as no one can be turned down for having pre-existing conditions.  Or is that assumption false?  If there is no involuntary uninsuredness, can we consider the problem solved?"

     "One objection might be that we need everyone covered, as otherwise the uninsured will tend to overuse emergency room services.  But unless I’m mistaken there are studies showing exactly the opposite, that when given health insurance people tend to use the ER more often.  Is that true?  If so, why do we need to have everyone covered?  Why isn’t it good enough to eliminate involuntary uninsuredness?  Is the fear a “death spiral” that drives the insurance companies out of business?”

     "In my view Obamacare did lots of bad things and two very good things.  The good things were eliminating involuntary uninsuredness and the Cadillac plan tax. I opposed the program, but have an open mind on how it will pan out.  We’ll know much more in 10 years. One key test is whether Congress will avoid “doc fixes” to the Cadillac plan tax."

     So he's on record as not guaranteeing it will fail. My guess is that in 10 years the GOP will be promising to fix Obamacare while accusing Democrats of trying to destroy it. By then they may even look back on fondly at Obama-this seems pretty remote right now but then it seemed remote that they'd ever embrace Clinton even less so his wife yet by 2010 there were in love with her too. 

       The GOP rule is you have to hate curent Democrats especially the one in the White House-in the future you can invoke them to criticize the current Democratic President of that time. 

Jim Cramer vs. Jim Cramer on the Market

     I remember a few years ago, when Jon Stewart brought Cramer on his show and reamed him out. I mean it was painful to watch.

     "Tonight we had the big face-off, the heavyweight bout, the Super Bowl square-off between CNBC's Jim Cramer and Comedy Central's Jon Stewart. Cramer was especially upset about being included in a segment TDS produced on the horrible and almost criminal reporting CNBC has been airing as THE go-to business network after CNBC's Rick Santelli attacked average working-class people who got caught up in the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Santelli dubbed them as "losers." Well, the only loser tonight was Cramer and CNBC.
Jim basically sat there, starry-eyed like a lost puppy, and was virtually silent throughout the three-segment show featuring him. He basically waved the white flag and said,"You got me."
Jon Stewart hammered Jim Cramer and his network, CNBC, in their anticipated face-off on "The Daily Show," repeatedly chastising the "Mad Money" host for putting entertainment above journalism.
"I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a ... game," Stewart told Cramer, adding in an expletive during the show's Thursday taping. The episode was scheduled to air at 11 p.m. EDT on Comedy Central Cramer insisted he was devoted to revealing corporate "shenanigans," to which Stewart retorted: "It's easy to get on this after the fact."
At one point, Cramer sounded the reformed sinner, responding to Stewart's plea for more levelheaded, honest commentary: "How about I try that?" said Cramer. "I'll do that."
By the end, the two-segment interview went far beyond its allotted time. Comedy Central said the on-air version would be cut by about eight minutes, though the entire interview would be available unedited on on Friday.

     Yet I still never really thought that Stewart gets it. He saw it in terms of  Cramer and friends doing shoddy jounralism but that's not it. Cramer is not a news reporter and that's not why people tune into his show. He basically kind of is like a wolf retiring from the game of eating sheep to supposedly instruct the sheep how to evade wolves in the future. 

    I love his show. Now in the segment that got Stewart's ire Cramer might have seemed a little different than he does on his show. Yet I really had a totally different take on it than Stewart-I don't find this morally horrifying or repugnant. Here he is on that old segment of his he used to call Wall Street Confidential.

     I don't doubt that this is closer to the 'real Cramer'-but still, he's giving the public knowledge. It depends on how you approach it-Stewart is just some outraged muckraker on steroids-who seems to think he inhabits a very black and white moral universe-I watch Cramer for market knowledge. No question if you are trying to make money in the market he's a guy you want to listen to. That he doesn't tell the Mad Money audeince everything he knows is someting that doesn't stun me-I'd be stunned if it were the opposite. 

     When he talks about the ability of a hedge fund to put $5 million dollars in a stock before the market opens to raise a stock-and then take it all off once the market opens leading all the 'moron longs' as he calls them to jump out so he can win his own short position in a stock this is something worth knowing about. It enables a market particpant to perofrom better not worse. So I tend to disagree with Stewart. I'm a liberal-though even here I haven't been such a fan of his lately as he spends too much time bashing Obama and playing the 'both sides do it' game-but this is the market it's not PBS and now life wouldn't be better if Cramer tried to make his show a PBS segment. 

    Cramer still remembers it bitterly-or did back in 2011 two years after it happened. 

     "In the Times Magazine, Chafets asks Cramer about his dust-up with Stewart. Cramer's response doesn't exactly suggest that he's moved on: "The old me would have hit Stewart with a chair. I'm proud I didn't do that. I controlled myself. But maybe I shouldn't have. Maybe I should have taken the gloves off."
Actually, that's just a bit of what Cramer says. "After the interview, people like that, total strangers, would come up to me and say, 'Jim, I’m sorry,'" he tells Chafets. "That made me feel horrible, people feeling sorry for me. For six months it was on my mind all the time. I hurt so bad."

    "Cramer's conversation with Chafets takes place in a diner, and when he's talking about the Stewart feud, he raises his voice so loud that people start leaning in to listen. Eventually Cramer says he's over it: "I don't really think about it now." Then he goes on to compare it to a Kesselschlact, a German term that Nazis would use to t describe "battles of total annihilation." It sure sounds like he's made his peace."

     Here was a big New Yorker piece on Cramer where we get into the Cramer-Stewart dust up in more detail.

      P.S. I disagree with Stewart on Cramer a bit but not on Rick Santelli-whose 'famous rant' launched the Tea Party movement.' Certainly Santelli deserved to get skewered. 




Living the Telemarketer's Code: Whether on the Phone or Anywhere Else, Always Be Closing

     A little while back, Mark Sadowski took some shots at my 'career'-telemarketing.

     I pointed out that if this were a better economy, I wouldn't be a TMer at all-I'd be an accountant. Still, I can admit that I rather enjoy my work. Particularly the job I have now. What I find fascinating is that we just stick to a script-call our prospects-not at home in this case but at work-and then read it word to word to them-every time.

      This seems to me to fly in the face of what they think works in many sales offices. Look, say what you want to about telemarketing but it's a growing not a dying field-many big, reputable companies are picking it up now too and I've talked to people who work at banks who aren't happy that now they sometimes have to call people at home to convince them to open up a new bank account.

      However, I doubt many sales offices would agree with our strategy. Many of the offices that I've been at seem to think that what you need to close the sale is to 'sound spontaneous', you need to 'have a conversation' the kiss of death is to let them think you're reading from a script-I worked for a home improvement company where he seemed to think the key was to say something different every time you pitch. Yet we get a lot of sales and I think that doing it this way might well work in many other pitches though I don't know that it would work in everything.  It seems that scripted conversations sound more 'spontaneous.' A big part of why I think that is comes down to you as the telemarketer: you say the same exact thing, call after call, hour after hour, day after day, and after 6 months of this it truly becomes second nature to you-where you can recite that script as naturally as you eat or have a bowl movement.

      Anyway, I see that this job is truly in my bloodstream now because this morning on the bus-on my way to Baldwin Public Library-I had a chat with a young lady. In itself this was interesting in that I was able to initiate it so easily-I think my d y job helps as you truly lose any shamefacedness after awhile.

     Actually, I had seen her at the first stop for the N35 over on Atlantic Ave. I had muscled my way in to get on the bus first-one of my things is I don't ever want any other males to muscle me getting o on the bus. However, this young woman then jumps right in front of me-of course I have to let her go as she has some sort of cane or something. Ok, one thing about me is I sometimes find women like with canes, or even in wheelchairs attractive. I mean you find me an attractive woman in a wheelchair and increases the attraction for me exponentially. I thin it's something to do with the idea that a woman with a wheelchair or with a cane or something is what they call in Zizek and Lacan a Subject Supposed to Enjoy.

     For an example of what I find atractive as far as a woman in a wheelchair see this episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

     For me the real attraction is that such a woman is the ultimate Subject Supposed to Enjoy-she can cut everywhere she goes, even get free stuff, she's like a foreign dignitary or something. Obviously I'm not the only one who sees it this way-why else are there all these people who pretend they're handicapped in this way?

     Anyway, after she sat down, I sat right behind her and then she smiled-yes, a total green light! I don't I have far to go on the bus so when she mentions she needs a job I tell her I might be able to get her one-I said might, which is true, I did get my friend Lee a job where we work though I doubt she would want to do what we do.

      I told her I got to get off at the library and for a minute she said she would get off there too-she said looking for a job is more important than music.

      Oh are you a musician I ask her. Yes she tells me, she's a singer or a drummer. Finally she says she'll take mu number. However, right away I feel less than wholly satisfied. Just like when you're chatting a prospect on the phone, you never want to leave the ball in their court. When they tell you they'll call you when you're pitching them it's very rare they call back, of course.

      Yes, this young gal is a little different-she probably really meant she's going to call me back at the moment she says it-still as a telemarketer I don't like to leave all the control in her hands. Maybe later she'll come up with an excuse for herself why she shouldn't call now-maybe later she'll think.

      However, she wouldn't let me have hers-I had to get of quick so I tried to get her to call me right there so I'd have her number too but: no sale. Damn, I hate that. Maybe she will call back but I have no control over it now and maybe she won't.

      Like Zizek and Hegel tell us, women spend on awful lot of time in the 'Hegelian Night of the World'

       It takes a lot for them to come out of their own passive funk and my 'prospect' here still wanted to hedge her bets.

       P.S. Wow-this was a long week. I still think the market goes up from here which I'll talk about more in future posts. I think a real opportunity might be the 'Chinese Twitter' It looks like real April fools this April are Republican scare stories about Obamacare.

      P.S.S Remember when I used to have that radio show? Of course, with the full time gainful employment there's no time but with Spreaker I can fit it in whenever. Here is my first show in a couple of years.

      Remember I'm in the 1 percent now, so there may be prizes if you follow me! LOL

Thursday, April 17, 2014

All Those Earnings and Data and the Market Can't Make Up its Mind

     With all the plethora of earnings, jobless claims, and  other market news, it wasn't the bulls who won today or even the bears-it was the undecideds. Google was knocked down after its earnings miss, and Morgan Stanley rose after its strong beat but the market didn't know what to make of it all and so it barely moved at all. BAC which I continue to go long on basically ran in place-which, of course, eroded the value of all those $17 calls I have on it. With the long weekend, the market hedged its bets

      So of course, I decided it's not enough to be  long all those BAC calls, now I've gone in for some Citi calls-the May 9 calls with a $50 strike. My reasoning is that many argue that C has a lot more room to run than BAC as it's rallied much less over the last few years and with the strong Monday earnings, this might now convince the bulls that now is the time to own it. 

     I also jumped into the classic 'value' stock-the narrative now is that the Street is jumping out of the 'momentum growth' stocks and into value-so I bought into 20 May 9 calls on JNJ at $101. If all these calls go right-C and JNJ both bounce anywhere near to 2 bucks each in the next few weeks, and BAC can jump just $1 I will be in the sweet spot. If even one of the three happens I'll be in good shape. 

    However, if this is to be the case, I certainly can't afford too many more days like today. When you're playing with options-and I more than play them I nakedly speculate on them-days when the underlying stock doesn't move is not just a wash-if you're not going forward, you're being pushed back by the undertow because time is decidedly not on your side when it comes to options. Everyday closer to expiration and they're worth just that little bit less. 

   I notice my good friend-and former patron, Nanute-came out of semi retirement-from leaving comments here at Diary of a Republican Hater, that is-to raz me on BAC. 

   "This won't help BAC either: "

      Will that prevent the stock from climbing back to $17 in the next few weeks? That's all I care about when I have my investor hat on. 

      I would note though that my entire premise in taking all these market positions is that Sumner is wrong about EMH. 

      "Five years ago I did a post entitled Being There.  I compared Warren Buffett to the character played by Peter Sellers in the famous film.  I pointed out that people tend to be superstitious.  They don’t accept unusual coincidences.  Thus if someone outperforms the market for 20 years in a row, the general view is that it can’t be luck—after all the odds are a million to one against.  People forget that just as someone must win the lottery, in any group of a million investors it is a logical necessity that there has to be one who is luckier that all the others. Here’s a test I proposed back in 2009:

I suppose this should be testable.  If the EMH is correct then the top ten richest Americans should not see out-sized returns, once they have reached that pinnacle of success.  I have no idea whether the data exists to do this test, but is would be a good way of resolving the issue of whether Buffett just got lucky.  When similar tests are done with successful mutual fund managers, it turns out to be merely dumb luck.

    "At the time, many commenters claimed that hedge funds had greatly outperformed the market in recent years, disproving the EMH. It’s well known that hedge funds have since done relatively poorly.  But how about Mr. Buffet?  Here’s the NYT:

A new statistical analysis of Mr. Buffett’s long-term record at Berkshire Hathaway has just been done, and it’s come up with some fascinating insights about his abilities, past and present, and about the chances that the rest of us have for beating the market. Using a series of statistical measures, the study suggests that Mr. Buffett has indeed been blessed with an impressively big dose of alpha over a very long career.
But it also reveals something that isn’t impressive at all: For four of the last five years, Mr. Buffett has been doing worse than the typical, no-frills Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index fund — so much worse that it’s unlikely to be a matter of a string of bad luck. Mr. Buffett has begun to behave like an investor with no alpha at all.

    "Why am I not surprised?  And don’t say, “it’s harder to do well when you are big.” It’s true that it’s harder to do extremely well when you are big, but it’s not hard to outperform the market when you are big, if you truly have “alpha.”  To see why, assume Buffett is only able to find $5 billion in good investments each year, but has $50 billion to manage.  Then put the $5 billion into the good investments, and index fund the other $45 billion.  If he truly had alpha he’d still be outperforming the market

    I don't get it: if Buffett outperforms the market 30 straight years but misses it two years in a row subsequently, this proves it was nothing but dumb luck? If I believed what Sumner believes I wouldn't play at all I guess as basically it would be inevitable that the 'House always wins.' 

      However, what constitutes proof? 

      P.S. Bottom line: Cramer always says 'Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.' What I say is that bull markets are cool, bear markets are cool-for investing or speculating-but what isn't cool  is one that neither goes up or down. The only people who make money then are the money managers through all the bets that go nowhere. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bank of America Sinks on Earnings Loss Based on 'Noisy' Report

     I had looked at the different moving parts that might effect the stock and the overall market last night.

      However, the thing I missed was that BAC had to recognize a $9/5 billion in a payment to the FHA. The stock had a loss thanks to this charge off and the market sold it today, dropping it beneath $15.80 early, though it did make up some by the end of the day, finishing at $16.13.

     No question the bears won today. Yet I agree with many analysts that argue that the move was very overdone and shortsighted. What matters in any earnings report is what the numbers say about a firm's future earning potential. The fact this payment was a one time loss means that while it gave BAC negative earnings this quarter this is only one time. The core of the business looks much better and some analysts argue that it actually has done a good job in settling this case. 

    "Bank of America (BAC) reported earnings this morning and the greeting from investors has been quite rude. Shares are trading down nearly three percent as of this writing and in this piece, I intend to explain why I think that reaction is overdone and why there is reason for optimism in BAC's results that is being missed by investors."

      "Bears are winning the battle right now with shares getting hammered but the reasons, I believe, are shortsighted. One analyst says the reason the stock is down is due to a lack of clarity for how the bank will reach its EPS estimates this year and next. However, if this analyst was paying attention, adjusted EPS of 35 cents blew past the estimates that were for only 27 cents. And I know what bears will say; "adjusted" EPS is not EPS and they're right, but litigation is a one-time expense and is not part of BAC's core business. If you strip out all the noise from the earnings report, BAC had a great quarter. A $6 billion charge is not a normal occurrence and to reduce BAC's outlook due to this is shortsighted and imprudent."
     Is it a time to buy? I tend to think so which is probably why I bought 40 more $17 calls for May 17 this time-my other 90 calls at $17 expire May 2. Others think the same thing. Cramer argues that JPM had a bad quarter but there weren't any other bad quarters, that the market is overreacting.
      "Bank of America (BAC) just sold off after reporting earnings as I predicted it would in my earnings preview article. The earnings report was mixed with quite a bit of noise in the numbers. Nonetheless, there were plenty of gold nuggets to be found. Furthermore, the stock appears to be bottoming as we speak. In the following sections I will lay out my case as to why now may be the perfect time to buy."
     "Bank of America reported a loss of 5 cents in the first quarter on revenue of $22.8 billion. This is a significant miss from the consensus estimate of earnings of 6 cents per share. Revenue of $22.8 billion beat estimates by $420 million, yet was down 3% year-over-year. A onetime charge due to litigation expense by the company is predominantly accountable for the miss. This was the first loss reported by the bank since 2011."
    "On the brighter side, the bank reported the best Fixed Income Clearing Corporation results seen so far out of all the banks, rapidly declining legacy asset servicing expenses, stable net interest margins, and strong capital and liquidity ratios. Wealth Management net income came in at $729 million vs. $721 million a year ago."
     I couldn't agree more with the writer here:
     "You have to see the forest through the trees. It seems most of the selling is by investors who have decided to sell now and ask questions later. The bank is making great strides where it really counts. The litigation expenses are related to the past and will subside with time. I posit this sell off may mark the low point for the stock."
     The loss of five cents is clearly very misleading yet this is how many investors evidently read it at first. So score today for the bears but I think it may have bottomed today. I can't see that it has much down side from here-it held $16 after the bears had it way under all day. If that's so it can either stay totally sideways or it will move up enough for me to see big gains. I think it's at least plausible that it can get at least to the high 16s if not 17 in the near future. If so and if the Alpha writer is right that it's a buy that's what will happen. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What to Expect in the Market for Wednesday, April 16, 2014

     Going into today's market I already have indicated that I think BAC will do well.

     I think that unless they miss sharply to the downside-or some brand new disconcerting headwind that no one has ever thought of before comes to light, the market should buy. I think it will easily get back to $17 after earnings this morning-its very early morning right now, just 12:45!-and it might even break out of the strait jacket its been in- even before it sunk like a stone last week to under $16 again-stuck at $17.

     I don't think it's impossible that it hit $17.50 or even $18-if it has legs like Citi did which rose again today, the day after its earnings. As I said in the post above I have 90 of the May 2 $17 BAC calls. I got into them very cheap and if BAC can even rise $.50 cents-I think it might get considerably more than this-I should hit paydirt on this one-maybe even more than on my May 2  $44.50 cent Citi puts last week

      As usual there are many moving parts. Today despite the strong earnings by KO, JNJ, etc. the bears were able to drive the market lower for a good part of the day on worry about disappointing manufacturing and housing numbers-however, just as I expected, the market brushed away the concerns for now. There are a number of possible catalysts for the bears.

      1. Even more heightened tension in the Ukraine. The markets hate this sort of thing as there's just no way to quantify the problem-ie, they can't solve it too easily.

       2. China GDP. On this we can already say there is good news-China GDP beat estimates.

        3. There will be even more Fedspeak today which is always irksome-it means the market is less into it.

        4. Nasdaq stocks-the worry would be they drag down the rest of the market. After getting close to bear territory, it snapped back hard today.

         5. More reports that show the housing industry shrink. 

Jim Cramer is Many Things but One of Those Things is not a Market Monetarist

     Or at least his dismissal of Abenomics as one of the market's 'headwinds' sure doesn't make it sound  that way.

      "Frankly, it is downright scary what's happening in Japan," Cramer said. "This country's pretty much left the grid with what now looks like a failed strategy to get some sort of boom going. The Japanese stock market's down 14 percent this year, by far the worst major market in the world, and the country's retail sales have plummeted since a recent hike in taxes."

      The other worries he sees are the slowing GDP in China and the flair ups in the Ukraine. The Nasdaq had been leading the sell off. Later, t
he Nasdaq bounced back from their technical lows- CNBC came up with a list of individual stocks which had earlier touched what is considered technical bear market correction territory in the index-10 percent down. 

      While this list may be worth purviewing for shorts, it may also be worth finding bargains for the long side. I think the overall market hit the bottom on the sell off on Friday-Citi's earnings may turn out to be the end of the downward move which is what I tend to think, though I'm not sure about the momentum stocks. However, we had some good numbers in some Nasdaq stocks after the closing bell-Intel, Yahoo, etc.

      Then we have big earnings from Google tomorrow which will have a big impact on the Nasdaq. 

     UPDATE: Also I should note that if there aren't enough moving parts to move the market tomorrow we have some more Fedspeak.