Monday, January 22, 2018
I have a friend who replies to my texts with her own humorless Ha Code.
A single “ha” conveys zero joviality. It’s basically a put-down. I write: “You really gobbled up that second dessert,” and she replies, “ha.” A double ha—“haha”—makes it seem as if she’s at least mildly amused, but she’s not. When she gets to triples and quads—“Hahahaha”—we’re into heavy sarcasm.
“Haha” and its keyboard counterparts shouldn’t be mistaken as substitutes for actual laughter. Ha Code is as empty of humor as “LOL”—which is the last thing you would say or write if you actually found yourself laughing out loud.
And what about “:)”? That’s at least a smile, right? Not really. It functions as a plea for sympathetic understanding of what might be an overly harsh communiqué. Pre-digital, when someone disagrees they used to say the meanest things to me, preceded by the phrase, “No offense, but . . .” Now, they just puts thoughts in an email with :) at the end.
Genuine laughter can’t really be written out, just as you can’t spell the sound of a sneeze, which is why writers settle for “achoo.” You could try “ah, ha,” but that’s an announcement of discovery, best delivered emphatically: “Aha!”
Is our current lifestyle slowly sapping our sense of humor? Or at least our likelihood of having a hearty, endorphin-releasing belly laugh? I picture sad souls typing “hahaha” or “LOL” while sitting alone in office cubicles, or in dreary dorm rooms, or surrounded by solemn strangers on the subway.
Life comes with its own laugh track. All you have to do is tap into it rather than type into it.
Laughter is contagious, which is why smart promoters hire a few good laughers to sit in the audience to get things rolling. It’s why TV producers use laugh tracks—“sweetening,” as it’s known—signaling viewers to stop texting long enough to laugh.
I don’t have research to back me up, but I’m convinced that the millions of people now streaming movies at home are laughing a lot less than folks in theaters.
I used to think the only people incapable of laughing out loud were TV network executives and enrollment managers. Many times I bet they sit in a room as they screened the funniest material, and they would not so much as grin. The best you’ll get from a TV exec when the lights come up is a vacant expression, an almost imperceptible elevating of one eyebrow, and the words, delivered in a monotone, “That’s funny. That’s really funny.”
I guess we all becoming TV execs or enrollment managers? :(
THE LATEST FROM SHUTDOWNVILLE - The Senate will vote at noon Monday on a bill to reopen the government through Feb. 8, though passage is not assured. Senate leaders Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer are continuing to negotiate on a deal to reopen the government and begin legislative work on protecting some young immigrants, but Schumer said 'we have yet to reach a path forward.' ...
Senators took a proposal to ... McConnell and ... Schumer after a 90-minute meeting Sunday afternoon. It would reopen the government through Feb. 8 and have McConnell commit on the Senate floor to holding an immigration vote before that date. McConnell and Schumer then met privately for more than 30 minutes.
Each week of shutdown would reduce real GDP growth in Q1 by 0.2pp, qoq annualized. The effects would be reversed the next quarter however. Shutdowns have also tended to have modest effects on financial markets.
Most of the notable shutdowns over the last few decades coincided with debt limit deadlines. Even so, those led to only modest and temporary declines in equities and even smaller effects in Treasury yields and the dollar. With the debt limit deadline farther away, we would expect a muted initial reaction in financial markets to a shutdown.
COLLEGE CHRONICLES – The following piece is from the Chronicle of Higher Education, January 12, 2018 –
“Sometimes it takes the innocence of a child to point out the obvious, but occasionally the anger of an academic will do. This past week Christian Smith, a sociology professor at the University of Notre Dame, exclaimed that American higher education is drowning in BS. "The manure has piled up so deep," he wrote, "that I am not sure how much longer I can wade through it and retain my sanity and integrity."
Mr. Smith proceeded to list more than 20 distinct varieties of BS — academic jargon, the obsession with metrics, and the ascendant "culture of offense," to name a few — that he says are hurting higher ed and corroding society.
California State University turned away more qualified applicants than ever last year — 1 in 10 students, or 31,000 people — even though the state’s Master Plan for Higher Education says they should be admitted.
Now, as CSU prepares for disappointment at the 3 percent funding increase Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to propose this week for the university’s 2018-19 budget, university officials say that while money is critical, even a higher allocation would not immediately give the 23-campus system enough room for all the students who qualify.
“The last thing we want to do is admit students who we can’t provide with classes and services,” CSU spokesman Mike Uhlenkamp said.
Only six of the 23 CSU campuses have enough room to accommodate all qualified freshmen, while just seven can take all qualified transfer students. Meanwhile, state Education Department records show that the number of high school graduates who qualify for CSU has more than doubled in the past 20 years, to 194,689 students from 96,879. CSU applications are also on the rise.
The state’s higher education master plan directs CSU to admit the top one-third of all graduating high school seniors. But figuring out where to put everyone — and making sure they get a good education, said Uhlenkamp — is a math problem that goes beyond money and gets to where students are willing to live and how many years it takes them to graduate.”
FAIR WAGE FOR ADJUNCTS – A hot topic again these days is the impending negotiations between the City University of New York’s faculty union and administration may come down to a fundamental question: How much is adjunct labor worth?
The union’s answer is $7,000. That’s the minimum pay per three-credit course that it’s seeking for the roughly 14,000 adjuncts it represents — about double the minimum that adjuncts there now earn per course.
The current pay rate is "insulting to adjunct faculty and not commensurate with their experience," said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents 30,000 faculty and staff members at CUNY. Increasing the pay for adjuncts, who teach more than half of the courses in the nation’s largest urban university system, would, she said, send an important message to students and the part-time faculty.
Efforts to win substantial pay raises for adjuncts have met with uneven success in academe. Even at CUNY, where adjuncts might celebrate workplace improvements in recent years, the union has, since 2000, repeatedly and unsuccessfully pressed for pay parity, Ms. Bowen says. This time, the union is organizing its advocacy around adjunct pay, calling it a campaign for "7K."
The union arrived at the $7,000 figure for adjuncts by reverse-engineering from the wage of a different group of contingent faculty — full-time lecturers. The salary of full-time lecturers at CUNY for a full teaching load of eight courses a year is about $60,000. A part-time adjunct teaching the same number of courses would earn only about $25,000 at the current minimum per-course rate of about $3,200.
Levels of per-course pay that are in line with what CUNY’s union is seeking have cropped up in recent years in cities with similar costs of living — but they have been at private institutions. Three years ago, Tufts University agreed to pay part-time faculty members at least $7,300 per course, and a new contract promises further pay raises.
And in New York, newly unionized adjuncts at Barnard College can now count on making $7,000 per three-credit course — a 3-percent increase. By the fall of 2021 that figure will increase to $10,000. Barnard makes a point of touting the pay on its human-resource department’s web page, calling the wages "among the best in New York City, and among elite, urban colleges and universities nationally."
Public institutions, however, have weathered years of austerity as state appropriations continue to supply less and less of their operating budgets. With such financial pressures, is the timing right for such an effort at CUNY?
CAR SALES DROP FOR FIRST TIME SINCE FINANCIAL CRISIS - The U.S. auto industry suffered its first annual sales decline since the financial crisis eight years ago, but a streak of strong profits is expected to overshadow a slowdown in dealership traffic.
Though sales fell 1.8% last year as pent-up demand declined and interest faded in sedans and compact cars, auto makers still sold 17.2 million vehicles in 2017, the first time the industry has cleared the 17-million mark three consecutive years, according to IHS Markit. Buyers took advantage of low gasoline prices and loan rates, flocking to pickups and sport utilities—a trend that delivers much higher margins to Detroit and its foreign rivals.
Vehicles now routinely sell for above $32,000, even with average incentives of $4,000 factored in, according to J.D. Power. That is 10% higher than what car buyers were dishing out when the industry’s rally began in 2010.
Still, industry executives remain concerned that last year’s decline could prove more than a modest blip.
Rising interest rates, less pent-up demand and a potential decline in the value of used cars—which buyers often trade in when buying a new vehicle—could further pressure sales. That could prompt car makers to scale back production even more and ratchet up discounts and rebates.
IHS expects sales to slip to 16.9 million vehicles this year, which is still historically strong for an industry long exposed to far more volatile boom-and-bust cycles.
GM and Ford, the two largest sellers in the U.S., are trying to manage a balancing act of maintaining strong margins while slowing production and spending big to offer bargains. GM, for instance, is offsetting incentive costs by selling a higher concentration of more-expensive models. The average price paid for a GM vehicle in December exceeded $38,000, a record for any month, the company said.
TOYOTA “WE MAKE IT EASY” - Toyota's announcement this past week of Alabama as the home for a shared factory with Mazda puts foreign car makers on pace to pass Detroit in U.S. production, per Wall Street Journal front page:
The stat: "In the first quarter of 2018, foreign makers are expected to produce 1.4 million vehicles in the U.S., WardsAuto.com projects, equaling their American rivals for the first time."
Why it matters: GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler "are likely see their dominance in vehicle production entirely evaporate as rivals such as Toyota and Mercedes-Benz boost their American workforces and add new factories."
"Already, the Big 3 are being outsold by non-U.S. rivals, as their share of American sales dwindled to 44% in 2017."
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Nick Clooney (84) Columbus, Ohio; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (64) Malibu, CA.; Jack Nicklaus (78) Palm Beach, FL.; Bill Plante (80) New York, NY.; Howard Stern (64) Darien CT.
POTUS HAPPY ANNIVERSARY - For the best commentary on President Trump’s first year in office, look no further than what people say he’s like in person. A president who is abrupt and even blunt when called for, persuadable on topics when tactfully approached, and ardently unapologetic. Year one saw an upending of foreign-policy norms, a reimagining of rules and regulations on business, roaring U.S. stock markets amid a rebound in global economic growth, and a series of initiatives on taxes and regulation welcomed by the corporate world. In the year since the president took office, Mr. Trump has shown that he simply isn’t bound by what had been seen as the previous conventions of the job. While other presidents have sought to tamp down controversy, Mr. Trump is as likely to stir it up or embrace it head-on, seeing it as a tool in effecting change. While past presidents have spoken off-the-cuff infrequently and carefully, Mr. Trump does it every day on a social-media platform never before deployed this way. While earlier presidents strained to show consistency lest they appear feckless and unprincipled, Mr. Trump shifts positions frequently and effortlessly and boasts that keeping foes guessing that way is an asset. But that attitude and governing style has yet to pan out in terms of positive public perception: He is the first president on record whose net approval rating—the percentage who approve minus those who disapprove—was in negative territory his entire first year.
MARKET WEEK - The market is floating on air right now.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed above 26000 for the first time ever last Wednesday. On the same day, the Nasdaq Composite passed its inflation-adjusted peak from the dot-com boom for the first time. And the S&P 500 closed above 2800, another fresh milestone in a market that's been full of them.
Despite a series of would-be landmines, like the government shutdown of this past week or the possibility of escalating tensions between North Korea and the U.S., there's very little pushing the market lower. In fact, by one measure, the last time there was this little downward pressure on the stock market was more than 50 years ago.
The economy accelerates in the U.S. and globally, corporate earnings grow for the sixth straight quarter, and rates stay low. That's all supported the stock market's rise and could continue doing so.
But it's also led to increasing talk of a so-called melt-up, in which stocks rise sharply as rapid-fire gains pull wary investors into the market. Those periods have often-times ended with sharp reversals.
As the lack of drag on the market shows, stocks are rarely as calm as they are right now. Enjoy it while it lasts.
APPLE TAX - Apple announced it would pay a one-time tax of $38 billion on its overseas cash holdings and ramp up spending in the U.S. to emphasize its contributions to the American economy and counter criticism it outsourced manufacturing to China. The tech giant said it would invest $30 billion in the country over five years. It plans to build a new campus and create more than 20,000 jobs, as well as expand investment in advanced manufacturing in the country. The tax-code overhaul signed into law late last year by President Trump included an incentive for U.S. companies to bring home offshore holdings, with companies required to pay a one-time tax of 15.5% on overseas profits held in cash and other liquid assets. Apple didn’t say how much of its $252.3 billion offshore cash pile it plans to bring home. The tax payment by the world’s most valuable company may signal a tipping point for U.S. corporate offshore cash hoards and set off a trend.
GOOD READ - - N.Y. Times Magazine (Sunday Jan. 21) cover story walks through where the cryptocurrency conversation began, and where it's going ...
"Beyond the Bitcoin Bubble ... Yes, it’s driven by greed — but the mania for cryptocurrency could wind up building something much more important than wealth," by Steven Johnson:
"Like the original internet itself, the blockchain is an idea with radical — almost communitarian — possibilities that at the same time has attracted some of the most frivolous and regressive appetites of capitalism."
"We have learned enough from this history to support the hypothesis that open works better than closed, ... But we don’t have an easy route back to the open-protocol era."
"Right now, the only real hope for a revival of the open-protocol ethos lies in the blockchain."
ADMIRED CORPORATIONS - Apple is the world's most admired company, as ranked by Fortune, for the 11th year in a row.
The editors write: "Everyone looks up to Apple. With a market value that recently sat around $900 billion, the iPhone maker is the world’s most valuable company. And for the 11th year in a row, it also ranks No. 1 on FORTUNE's annual list of corporate reputation — followed at No. 2, for a second straight year, by fellow tech giant Amazon."
"In less auspicious news, GE plunged from No. 7 to No. 30, as its stock plummeted 45% in 2017. But on the positive side, Adidas and Lockheed Martin made their debuts among the 50 All-Stars.
US 101 - This satellite image from last week shows U.S. Route 101 (the second ribbon from the ocean) after storms caused mudslides and flooding in Montecito, Calif.
L.A. Times: "As the search continued for more victims of the Montecito mudslides, officials said they hoped to have the 101 Freeway opened by today Jan. 22. "
"Officials have spent the last six days trying to remove tons of mud and debris from the roadway. ... [Last week's] heavy rains and mudslides .... left at least 20 people dead and destroyed dozens of homes."
NHL HALF YEAR REVIEW – We are half way through the 2017-18 National Hockey League season here are Rink Rats Top Five and Bottom Five teams through 42 games:
1). Tampa Bay Lightning (31-12-3) The deepest talent.
2). Las Vegas Golden Knights (30-11-4) By far the biggest surprise of the 2017-18 season, an expansion with this record, unheard of.
3). Nashville Predators (28-11-6) P.K. Subban on defense leads the way.
4). Washington Capitals (29-15-4) Always play well during the season, but wait until the Playoffs.
5). Winnipeg Jets (27-13-7) The NHL’s fastest team.
27). Detroit Red Wings (18-20-7) Time for a rebuild in Motown.
28). Vancouver Canucks (18-22-6) Injuries, injuries, and getting old.
29). Ottawa Senators (15-20-9) CBOT Ottawa is off the air.
30). Arizona Coyotes (11-28-9) Desert rats.
31). Buffalo Sabres (11-26-9) Hapless again.
OUT AND ABOUT – Congrats to Rink Rats friend Alexis Schiff (Univ. of La Verne ’17) for her good luck at the Santa Anita thoroughbred race track this past week. The $3 exacta bet proved good fortune.
SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS –
NFL Football Pick of the Week – We await the Super Bowl. (Season to date 13-8).
College Football Pick of the Week – Congrats to the Alabama Crimson Tide on another National Championship and Cindy K. (Apple Valley, CA.) for winning the prestigious BCA Football Challenge. (Season to date 11-7)
College Hockey Pick of the Week – Saturday 1/27, 7:05 PM CT HGTV: #5 University of Denver Pioneers (14-6-4) at #7 North Dakota Fighting Hawks (12-8-6). It will be chilly in Grand Forks this coming weekend as the Hawks upend the Pioneers 5 – 4. Season to date (7-5)
NHL Pick of the Week – Thursday 1/26, 7:00 PM EDT, TSN: Winnipeg Jets (28-13-7) vs. Anaheim Ducks (22-17-9), the streaking Ducks head into the All-Star break with a win over the Jets, 3 – 2. Season to date (9-3).
NBA Pick of the Week – Saturday 1/27 10:00 PM EDT, ABC: Boston Celtics (34-13) vs. Golden State Warriors (37-10), Warriors win big 105 – 90. (season to date 2-1)
Season to Date (4 - 3)
DRIVING THE WEEK - How long will the shutdown go? ... Davos kicks off on Tuesday and Trump is scheduled to speak Thursday ... Senate Banking Committee has a nominations hearing scheduled for Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. ... Index of leading indicators Thursday at 10:00 a.m. expected to rise 0.5 percent. ...
First read on Q4 GDP on Friday at 8:30 a.m. expected to show a gain of 3.0 percent, which would give Trump bragging rights for three quarter of 3 percent growth in a row (unless it later gets revised lower).
Next Blog: Dear Rink Rats
Until next time, Adios
January 22, 2018
CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Kaamran Hafeez, The New Yorker
Monday, January 8, 2018
We begin 2018 and “The Year of the Dog” should be very interesting.
It will be “Times Up” for many individuals and causes this coming year, here is what Rink Rats thinks will go down in the coming year.
2018 DEPRESSION TOPICS - U.S. is starting to see notable declines in areas that matter most to regular citizens:
We're dying sooner.
Student debt is piling up.
Homes are out of reach for the youths.
Mass shootings result in a shrug.
The opioid crisis is staggering.
Our education system is middling.
Our infrastructure is falling behind.
The United States is still the only developed country — and just one of a handful overall — that doesn't guarantee paid maternity leave.
We drink too much.
Fewer people want to visit.
2018 RISKS - China loves a vacuum: China is setting international standards [on trade and investment, tech, values, and security] with less resistance than ever before.
Accidents: It's impossible to ignore the risk of a major crisis today, because there are too many places where a misstep or misjudgment could provoke serious international conflict.
Global tech cold war: Achieving dominance in emerging technologies is the world's most important battle for economic power.
Erosion of institutions: Conflict will become more frequent, decision-making degraded, and internal chaos common.
This is a White House that's headed toward massive distraction from a Mueller investigation, over and under for impeachment are now thirteen months.
And maybe the most sobering of all: The decline of U.S. influence in the world will accelerate in 2018.
2018 OPTIMISM - After a dismal run in world politics, it is certainly time to be reminded that there can be good, as well as bad, surprises.
We predict that most of the big risks that currently worry pundits will not happen.
There will not be a war on the Korean peninsula, nor will there be one in the South China Sea or in Eastern Europe. The EU will not fall apart, Brexit negotiations will not break down and markets will not crash. By contrast, there will be big and positive change in the Middle East. And England will win the World Cup.
It may be hard to believe in the United States, but 2017 was again the best year in history, based on the aggregate well-being of humanity. People have never before lived so long, so well or so freely.
Oil prices are projected to be hovering higher this year than in previous years. One big question is whether oil companies will boost their investments and ward off a supply crunch — and subsequently much higher prices — in a few years, as the International Energy Agency has been warning for at least a year.
Saudi Aramco would be the world's biggest initial public offering ever. The state-owned oil giant in Saudi Arabia, the biggest oil-producing company in the world, has said it's sticking with its plans to sell up to 5% of its shares this year.
2018 will be a year when democratic governments can either work together to safeguard electoral processes or face a future where democracy is more fragile.
This needs to include work to protect campaigns from hacking, address social media issues, ensure the integrity of voting results, and protect vital census processes.
While technology companies have a high responsibility to help, there is no substitute for the effective and unified voices of democratic governments themselves.
NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS (A SAMPLE) –
Keep my inbox more organized
With over 10,000 emails in my inbox, I am going to start using rules and folders to stay on top of my messages. It takes time to set up but will for sure lead to a more productive year. I will also schedule time for periodic inbox cleanups.
Put cash to work
Letting cash build up and sit in bank deposits or money market funds might not be the best strategy depending on your goals. You might be missing out on interest that could accrue from bonds and not keep pace with the Federal Reserve’s (Fed’s) interest rate hikes. Consider short-term bond exchange traded funds (ETFs) for the core of your portfolio.
Stick to the long-term plan
2018 is likely to see a number of market disruptions, but don’t panic! Possible catalysts include continued Fed rate hikes, the flattening of the yield curve, the potential resurfacing of inflation, a pickup in equity volatility, and geopolitical events. Don’t be distracted by the latest news and make rushed portfolio changes. Know your long-term portfolio plan and stick to it.
Simplify and streamline my life
We all end up with an accumulation of possessions and responsibilities that individually may make sense but in aggregate are unmanageable.
Home in on costs
Consider replacing the complicated and expensive (such as an active growth mutual fund that’s delivered index-like returns for the last 10 years) with more transparent, consistent and cost effective solutions (like a smart beta momentum ETF). Learn more about the differences between ETFs and mutual funds.
Prepare for volatility
Brace for some ups and downs in markets, but consider positioning your portfolio to pursue income through preferred stocks, total shareholder payout and high yield bond-oriented ETFs.
Strike a balance
Stay balanced with a meaningful focus across all key aspects of life: work, family and health, and learning. For investing, the same approach applies: Consider thoughtfully allocating your portfolios across asset classes, regions, sectors and factors.
Stay humble and accept I don’t have all the answers. I want to listen and learn more, and talk less.
Seek out opinions different than your own
Live by design, not by default
Update Your Software
This rule of thumb applies to anything that touches your information security: operating systems, antivirus software, your internet router, your password management app and your web browsers. Keep these important components up to date with the latest security enhancements, and you will be better off than most.
Read Privacy Policies
Delete Unnecessary Apps
At least once a year, it’s worthwhile to do an audit on your third-party apps. On your smartphone, delete apps that you have not touched in several months. For a clean break, in some cases you will also have to visit the company’s website and request that your account be deleted entirely
Also check your primary online accounts, like Facebook, Twitter or Google, to see which apps are hooked into them. Chances are you have used those accounts to quickly sign up for a web tool or app. The ones you never use may still be leeching off your personal data, so you should disable them.
On Facebook, go to the settings page and click on the Apps tab to see which apps are connected to the account. On your Google account page, you can find a similar apps list labeled “Connected apps & sites.” And on Twitter, go to the Apps page under “Settings and privacy.”
On my neglected Facebook account, for example, I had 82 connected apps. After removing many unused or defunct apps, like LivingSocial, Words With Friends and Draw Something, I had 32 left.
Use a VPN
In April, Congress voted to overturn privacy rules that would have made it more difficult for broadband providers like Comcast and Charter to track and sell information about your browsing history to advertisers. The stronger privacy rules never went into effect, meaning nothing changed. But the privacy repeal underlined the sheer magnitude of data that internet service providers can collect and share about you. Subscribing to a virtual private network, or VPN, is a meaningful safeguard for your online privacy.
When you browse the web, a broadband provider helps route your device’s internet traffic to each destination website. Every device you use has an identifier consisting of a string of numbers, also known as an IP address. When you are on the internet, a service provider can see which devices you use and which sites you visit.
RINK RATS 2018 PORTFOLIO – My portfolio for purchase this 2018, buy was made Friday January 5. We will track throughout 2018, we need your prayers.
General Electric: Shares of General Electric Co. GE have declined over 42% in the past 12 months to levels not seen since the late 1990s. Chalk it up to a string of disappointing quarters and a dividend cut. But the venerable industrial giant is not down for the count. Buy @ $18.54 10 shares = $185.40
Weatherford International, Ltd.: WFT under prior management, Weatherford branched out into too many businesses, and took on too much debt to do so. That didn’t work out so well. The stock now trades near an eight-year low. Under the new leadership of Haliburton Co. HAL, veteran Mark McCollum, Weatherford is unloading non-core assets and paying down debt. Buy @ $3.87 10 shares = $38.70
Walt Disney: DIS shares have been beaten down too far by investors overly worried about weakness in its ESPN division, and competition from Netflix Inc. NFLX, and Amazon.com Inc. AMZN. After all, Disney has great content, too. And it’s bulking up with a planned purchase of the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox Inc. FOX. Buy @ $111.62 10 shares = $1,116.20
Merck & Co.: MRK stock has been hit by concerns about the prospects for cancer drug Keytruda, and upcoming competition as drugs roll off patent. Those worries have knocked Merck shares down to attractive levels. It trades for around 14 times forward earnings, compared with a 10-year average price-to-earnings multiple of 19. This is one of the highest-quality pharmaceutical companies out there, its strong pipeline of drug candidates and solid financial strength. Buy @ $56.99 10 shares = $569.90
Fluor Corp.: FLR in engineering and construction. Nobody can do big construction projects like Fluor, always a RR favorite. Buy @ $53.41 10 shares = $534.10
Cummins Inc.: CMI which makes engines used in heavy construction equipment like earth movers. Infrastructure could be a big deal, especially for companies that will benefit. Two of them happen to look relatively cheap right now (FLR and CMI), because their dividend yields are not too far from historical highs. Buy @ $181.46 10 shares = $1,814.60
MRC Global Inc.: MRC a huge distributor of equipment used in energy production and industry, like pipes, valves and fitting products. The company has been cutting costs, paying down debt and repurchasing shares. Meanwhile, its customers are increasing their spending because of strength in energy and the economy. Buy @ $17.59 10 shares = $175.90
Michaels Cos.: MIK a large arts-and-crafts retail chain. Unlike a lot of retailers, Michaels isn’t beaten down by worries about competition from Amazon. But this makes sense because customers like to see and touch crafts products before they buy them, to make sure they are right for the task at hand. Buy $24.55 10 shares = $245.50
Tellurian Inc.: TELL an undiscovered company that will become a big player in liquid natural gas (LNG) exports over the next few years. How do I know this? I don’t, for sure. But it’s a reasonably safe bet given that CEO and founder Charif Souki and his management team are responsible for creating 25% of the LNG export capacity around the globe. Buy @ $11.08 10 shares = $110.80
Lending Club Corp.: LC an online peer-to-peer lending platform. LendingClub recently tightened its lending standards, which hurt loan growth, so the company missed earnings estimates and guided down. But it still expects 15%-20% annual revenue growth over the next few years. This seems plausible given how many people with OK credit would like to refinance their credit card debt with loans. Lending Club estimates $300 billion to $350 billion in credit card debt could potentially be refinanced in this way. Buy @ $4.07 10 shares = $40.70
BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – Birthday wishes and thoughts this week to Bob Earhart …famous pin ball wizard; Natalie Gulbis (35) Newport Beach, CA.; Miguel Angel Jimenez (54) Madrid Spain; Henry Kravis (74) New York, NY.; Walter Mondale (90) Edina, MN.; Charles Osgood (85) Whispering Pines, NC.; Sander Vanocur (90) Tucson, AZ.
2018 WEIGHT LOSS TIP, SOUP - Soup is a good choice as an appetizer, or your main meal if you’re trying to lose weight. The water in broth-based soups stretches the flavor of meats, veggies, spices, and other tasty morsels without adding calories. It fills your tank faster and satisfies hunger longer than other heavier foods. Plus, it’s hard to gulp or guzzle soup if it’s hot. Eating slowly gives your body enough time to signal the brain that you’ve had enough.
Want your soup ready when you get home at the end of the day? Try using a slow cooker. They’re great for soups made with meat. Slow-simmering soup boosts flavors, cuts prep time, and does the cooking while you’re away. It can trim your budget, too. The slow, low technique tenderizes tough, lean cuts, which cost less than prime. Always thaw meat before you put it in a slow cooker to be sure it cooks through.
Many veggies lose nutrients when you boil them, but a few get better when the heat is on. Canned tomatoes can be more healthy than vine-ripe because cooking breaks them down, releasing lycopene and chemicals that are good for your heart. Processed corn and spinach have more lutein, an antioxidant that protects your eyes. Have these quick-start items in your pantry for your own homemade soup.
Finally, scientists have proven what grandmas knew all along: Chicken soup is a feel-good food when you’re down with a cold. The steamy, salty broth opens stuffy sinuses and thins mucus so it drains. It warms and soothes sore throats and quiets coughs. The chicken, onions, garlic, and other stuff in it can help fight inflammation. But be careful. Too much salt can cause water retention and contribute to swelling.
Days until the 2018 election: 301
IRS FILING SEASON: Tax-filing season will begin this year on Jan. 29, according to an IRS announcement Thursday. The agency said that it "set the Jan. 29 opening date to ensure the security and readiness of key tax processing systems in advance of the opening and to assess the potential impact of tax legislation on 2017 tax returns." It will run through April 17 rather than the usual April 15 deadline because April 15 falls on a Sunday and the following day is a legal holiday in Washington, D.C. - Emancipation Day. The agency also warned that it won't begin issuing refunds to people claiming the earned income tax credit or the refundable portion of the child credit until mid-February. That's because a 2015 law requires the IRS to hang on to those refunds longer so they can scrutinize them for possible fraud.
TEXTBOOKS, PENCILS AND TAMPONS: School districts in California and Illinois have begun stocking student restrooms with free menstrual hygiene products, as legislation aimed at keeping low-income students in school takes effect this week. In the Golden State, any middle school or high school where at least 40 percent of students meet the federal poverty threshold must now offer tampons and sanitary pads in at least half of the building's restrooms. Illinois' law, IL HB3215 (17R) , is much more expansive, covering any school serving students in grades six through 12.
At least three other states are considering similar proposals, aimed at ensuring that girls who can't afford the products stay in school during their periods and are able to learn comfortably. Proposals pending in Tennessee and Washington state would compel schools to offer the products at no cost regardless of their low-income population, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, while a proposal pending in New York targets schools serving many low-income students.
TRUMP V. CALIFORNIA, CANNABIS EDITION: Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León told us late Thursday he is consulting with former Attorney General Eric Holder on possible responses to current Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement he was rescinding Obama-era guidelines that had limited marijuana-related prosecutions in states where the drug was legal under state law. Holder was enlisted by the state Senate to help battle Trump on multiple fronts last year.
Recreational marijuana was passed by the voters, so it's constitutional," de León said. "We are researching ways that we can uphold the Constitution and the will of the people of California against an overreaching federal government that is meddling in our state's ability to govern as we see fit."
Meanwhile, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a prepared statement that his department will "vigorously enforce our state's laws and protect our state's interests."
Trump administration targets recreational pot, placing thousands of marijuana businesses in California at risk: Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions is rescinding an Obama-era federal policy that provided legal shelter for marijuana sales in states that have allowed recreational pot, placing thousands of marijuana businesses in California and other states operating legally under state law at risk of federal raids and seizures.
TRUMP V. CALIFORNIA, OIL EDITION: - President Trump aims to open California, Florida, Atlantic waters for oil drilling: The Trump administration unveiled a plan Thursday to open vast new stretches of federal waters to oil and gas drilling, erasing the policies put in place by previous Democratic and Republican administrations and setting up a conflict with state governments fearful about the risk of spills.
Gov. Jerry Brown joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in a joint statement decrying the proposal. "This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Oregon, Washington and California - from Republicans and Democrats alike," the governors said ... "For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we'll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action."
California has ample weapons to fight Trump on drilling: In the decades since a 1969 oil spill near Santa Barbara tarred sea-life and gave rise to the U.S. environmental movement, politicians and environmental activists have built up ample ways to make it difficult but not impossible for the Trump administration to renew drilling off California's coast.
TRUMP V. CALIFORNIA, TAX EDITION: In an effort to blunt the effects of the federal tax overhaul, California Democrats on Thursday introduced legislation that would give California taxpayers an end-run around limits on state income tax deductions. The measure, dubbed the "Protect California Taxpayers Act," would let California taxpayers make charitable donations to a state government fund in exchange for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. The contributions taxpayers make to the state could be deducted on their federal tax returns.
The GOP tax scam offers corporations and hedge fund managers massive tax breaks and expects California taxpayers and other blue states to pick up the costs of that windfall from the super rich," Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said. "California is already a huge donor state, meaning we send far more money to Washington than we get in return. So we don't plan on bankrolling this trillion dollar tax giveaway as well."
Democrats are moving the legislation as a majority-vote bill. If enacted, it would take effect immediately. New California bill could serve as national boilerplate for skirting Trump's tax law: A California Senate leader introduced legislation Thursday aimed at circumventing a central plank in the new Republican tax law, introducing a model that - if successful - could be replicated across the country.
WAGE WATCH 2018 - Friday's reading on job creation in the final month of last year will be a sideshow to what economists and investors both say is the most important question for the markets and the U.S. economy in the new year: Is the pace of hourly earnings for Americans kicking into a higher gear?
Higher wages would be welcome news for Federal Reserve officials, who have long predicted that a tightening labor market will eventually nudge inflation higher. Faster inflation readings could alter central bankers' calculus for stimulus efforts and, more importantly, tip the apple cart in terms of what investors make when they own risk-free assets such as government bonds.
Average hourly earnings have increased at a consistently middling rate of about 2.5% from a year earlier since 2015. That bites at the classical economic tenet that broad-based demand for employees should eventually reward workers with higher hourly earnings.
Stagnant wage gains and muted consumer price increases could hinder U.S. central bankers from boosting short-term interest rates as quickly as they would like. Fed officials have penciled in three quarter-point rate increases for this year.
The U.S. economy added 2 million jobs in 2017, another solid year of gains.
In December, the economy added 148,000 jobs, according to Labor Department figures released Friday. That was below what economists expected, but still the 87th straight month of gains -- the longest streak on record.
Unemployment remained at 4.1%, matching the lowest level in 17 years.
MARKET WEEK - New Year, New Milestone: The Nasdaq Composite closed above 7000 for the first time, picking up from a strong 2017—when its 28% gain beat the Dow Jones Industrial Average’s 25% and S&P 500’s 19%—as investors continued to bet on the large technology companies that are the index heavyweights. The latest 1,000-point milestone was reached in just over eight months, a pace unseen since the heights of the technology boom. Though investors and analysts say there are few signs of a stock bubble today, the recent rapid appreciation in assets from techs to industrials to bitcoin does have some concerned about the nearly nine-year bull market. The Nasdaq’s biggest winner in the latest 1,000-point charge was Riot Blockchain, formerly Bioptix, whose stock surged more than 640%. Once a maker of diagnostic machinery, the company re-christened itself in October and shifted to investing in blockchain technology, which underpins virtual currencies like bitcoin.
GOOD READ - "There Is No Case for the Humanities," by Justin Stover in American Affairs Journal: "In 1773 Samuel Johnson visited the ancient University of St Andrews ... [which is] one of the twenty or so oldest universities in the world, formally established by a bull of Pope Benedict XIII in 1413. Three hundred and fifty years in, it had evidently fallen on hard times. Fewer than one hundred students remained, and one of its old colleges had been dissolved. ... Yet St Andrews survived. Today it has more than ten thousand students, and is highly regarded, particularly in the humanities." http://bit.ly/2DwWRQm
GOOD READ PART DEUX - N.Y. Times Magazine Sunday January 7 ... "The Case for the Subway: It built the city. Now, no matter the cost — at least $100 billion — the city must rebuild it to survive," by Jonathan Mahler:
"For all the changes in transportation technology since the first tunnels were dug ... the subway remains the only way to move large numbers of people around the city."
"Today, New York's subway carries close to six million people every day, more than twice the entire population of Chicago. The subway may no longer be a technological marvel, but it continues to perform a daily magic trick: It brings people together, but it also spreads people out."
"It is this paradox — these constant expansions and contractions, like a beating heart — that keep the human capital flowing and the city growing.
Why it matters: "New York's subway has no zones and no hours of operation. It connects rich and poor neighborhoods alike. The subway has never been segregated. It is always open, and the fare is always the same no matter how far you need to go.
OUT AND ABOUT – The St. Lawrence University Women ice hockey team visited Southern California this past week, yes Southern California. While the temperatures were well below zero back in Canton, New York, the Skating Saints played a two game series versus Lindenwood University at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
The team lost game #1 5-4, but won game #2 in overtime 2-1. Justine Reyes (’19) of Chino Hills, California scored the game winner for the Lady Saints in game #2. Congrats to Coach Chris Wells (’92) for bringing St. Lawrence hockey across the country.
Many alumni came out for the games, including Rink Rat friends Tricia (’74) and Chuck Gomer, and of course Reggie Dunlop. At this game we remembered Bernie McKinnon ('57) who in 1978 after coaching the St. Lawrence Men's hockey team from 1971 - 1976 was the first coach of the Women's hockey team from 1978 - 1996. A true St. Lawrence treasure.
SWAMI’S WEEK TOP PICKS –
NFL Football Pick of the Week – Saturday 1/13, 4:35 PM EDT, NBC: Divisional Playoff – Atlanta Falcons (11-6) vs. Philadelphia Eagles (13-3). No QB the Eagles are ripe for an upset, Falcons win 21 – 15. (Season to date 10-8).
College Football Pick of the Week – Monday 1/8, 8:00 PM EDT, ESPN: National Championship – Alabama Crimson Tide (13-1) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (14-1). Roll Tide 38 – 28. (Season to date 10-7)
College Hockey Pick of the Week – Monday 1/13, 7:05 PM EDT FoxOhio: #8 Ohip State Buckeyes (14-4-4) vs. #14 Penn State Nitany Lions (12-7-3). A Big Ten matchup, Buckeyes win 6 – 4. Season to date (6-5)
NHL Pick of the Week – Saturday 1/12, 7:00 PM EDT, CBC: Boston Bruins (23-10-7) visit The Bell Centre Montreal Canadiens (18-20-4). Les Habs win a good one 4 – 3. Season to date (9-2).
NBA Pick of the Week – Saturday 1/12 8:00 PM EDT, FSDetroit: Detroit Pistons (21-17) vs. Chicago Bulls (14-26), Pistons are playing good basketball, they win in Chicago 97 – 88. (season to date 2-0)
Final 2017 Season to Date (102 – 73, .583)
DRIVING THE WEEK - President Trump speaks Monday afternoon at the American Farm Bureau Federation's Annual Convention in Nashville and will then attends the college football championship game in Georgia ... Trump meets with a bipartisan group of Senators on Tuesday to talk about immigration ...
House Financial Services has a hearing at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday on CFIUS ... Senate Banking has a money laundering hearing at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday ... House Financial Services has a hearing at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday on federal financial regulations.
The University of La Verne begins what might be their most important Winter Term in many years: one word; management.
Get ready it will start, Oprah Winfrey for President….
Next Blog: Dear Rink Rats
Until next time, Adios
January 8, 2018
CARTOON OF THE WEEK – Barbara Smaller, The New Yorker