Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Europe reminds me of an outing I once attended. The outing was for bond traders after a really nasty stretch in the market. I would walk up to a trader from another firm and ask " How are you doing?" and they would all reply "we are doing fine but I hear so-and-so is getting crushed" I would then approach so-and-so and ask the same question and get the same reply all the way around the room. The European countries are all in the same bucket and the European Central Bank has bought some time by increasing liquidity recently but by no means is any of it over. Stayed tuned and keep your helmet on.

As the presidential race starts in earnest I hope the conversation will be focused on big issues and big ideas. I saw an ad for Citibank in the Times over the weekend. The ad traced major efforts by the bank since it's inception in the 1800's. The print copy shows a time line and lists the bank's efforts i.e. financed the Panama Canal, supported the Marshall Plan etc. The bank's most recent accomplishment according to the ad is they are the first credit card approved for Google wallet. The bank apparently equates the Panama Canal with a credit card you can use with an electronic encyclopedia. Somewhere Teddy Roosevelt is rolling in his grave. We need to build for the future and invest in our infrastructure. Currently one political party's platform is to drill for oil everywhere and don't pay for birth control pills. The other party can't seem to articulate a reason why they passed health care reform or what exactly the Dodd- Frank bill means.

I have mentioned previously that the US economy paused or flattened out during the 1Q 2012. I think this is reflected in the current sell off of the stock market. I think economic activity is still some form of OK and will continue for the next few years. The Federal Reserve will disappear from the scene the closer we get to the election and since interest rates are so low there is nothing more for them to address. I don't think there will be any more quantitative easing nor should there be. They best policy is to let the economy recover slowly, accept the economic dislocations associated with this and build a solid foundation for the future.

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