Feb 27, 2011

The Economist magazine calls the end of the cheap food era (2011)

An era of cheap food has come to an end. A combination of factors—rising demand in India and China, a dietary shift away from cereals towards meat and vegetables, the increasing use of maize as a fuel, and developments outside agriculture, such as the fall in the dollar—have brought to a close a period starting in the early 1970s in which the real price of staple crops (rice, wheat and maize) fell year after year.

~The Economist magazine, "A special report on feeding the world: The 9-billion people question", February 24, 2011

Feb 23, 2011

Groupon cofounder Andrew Mason on the benevolence of self-interest in the market

One of the eye-opening realizations I had was that most of the web businesses that have been truly successful at making the world better, that usually happens as a side effect to something that is fundamentally self-serving. Not to sound cynical, but if you look at Flickr or YouTube or Twitter, the primary-use case for those tools is something far more base than when they're used to document protests or brutality or all the other ways they've helped usher in social change.

~Andrew Mason, cofounder and CEO, Groupon.com, Fast Company interview, March 2011

Groupon cofounder Andrew Mason on his short-term focus

I never really planned my life more than one month in advance. I try to chase whatever I think is the most interesting thing to do at the moment, and if it becomes less interesting, I find something else to do.

~Andrew Mason, cofounder and CEO, Groupon.com, Fast Company interview, March 2011

Feb 18, 2011

Alan Greenspan says "Not bad", gives his monetary policy credit following '08 Dow plunge

Greenspan brought up the fateful day in September 2008 when the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 6.98 percent. However, life picked up for him after the initial shock.

"The morning after we learned of the news," he said, "I was able to look myself in the mirror and say, 'Hey, not bad.'"

According to Paulson, the recovery process has been rather "tepid." Greenspan attributed the slow recovery to excessive government activism.

"What I'd suggest is that we calm down; let the economy heal by itself," he said. "But we are doing better now with the halting of more stimului and programs like 'Cash for Clunkers."

Greenspan also emphasized that the future health of the housing sector would depend on the phasing out of "contradictory" government-instilled institutions like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, whose objective of providing affordable housing conflicted with the necessity to "maximize profit for shareholders."

~Alan Greenspan, former Fed chairman, "Greenspan, Paulson discuss politics and economy", NYU Washington Square News, February 17, 2011

Jim Cramer on the prospects for Big Pharma

It's just one big expensive graveyard of stocks if you ask me. For those who own, or are thinking of owning one of these names -- I'm talking about Merck, Bristol-Myers, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline or the ultimate dog of the drug stocks, Johnson & Johnson, with its Wall of Shame'r CEO -- it's time to recognize that these stocks aren't as defensive as they used to be, not by a long shot. It's the twilight of the Big Pharma idols, and you need to be ready for it.

All of these companies are about to fall off big patent cliffs as many of the blockbusters go generic. You know what it's like when you go to the drugstore and it's a lot of money, like $400, and the next day it's $15, that's going generic. It's incredibly difficult to find new blockbusters to replace them. The drug companies have all been insisting their drug pipelines will be able to offset some of the damage from patent expiration. They say that over and over, they come on TV and say it and it's not working.

~Jim Cramer, CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer, February 17, 2011

Jim Cramer refuses to invest in stocks facing political intervention

[responding to a viewer's call-in question about Visa (V)]

I know better than to deal with a company that's in the cross hairs of the federal government. So, you know what? My 3-5 year outlook is deeply controlled by a couple of senators. I don't want any of my stocks to have anything to do with a couple of senators-- they can do whatever they want!

My answer to Visa is I can't own it, because I can't model what a senator from Illinois is going to do to a company.

~Jim Cramer, CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer, February 17, 2011

(Meanwhile, Jim Cramer's entire bullish thesis for investing in stocks right now relies upon gross intervention and manipulation of the stock market by Federal Reserve monetary policy in the form of quantitative easing. How does Cramer model that one, and what happens when the Fed puts the brakes on the money-printing?)

Jim Cramer says confess your sins and ride the bull

Here's the bottom line: making money in a bull market like we have -- and any market that's the quickest to double in modern history, is a bull market, arguably the best bull ever  -- is something you must strive for. Missing these moves is actually a sin. Being ignorant or arrogant, more interested in cat-calling or mindless stock-bashing... these are the traits of losers, not winners.

And I need you to win, because we aren't tweeting, we're investing. It's not 140 words, it's real money.

~Jim Cramer, CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer, February 17, 2011

Jim Cramer on growth investing for retirement

You don't need to own everything. But if you ask me, the reckless thing would be to miss these moves [in popular growth stocks like NFLX and CMG]. Because, well, you had a chance to retire on these rallies. Believe me, I have seen plenty of people retire on good stocks.

The goal is to find a Netflix, or an Apple, or the next Netflix or the next Apple, not to laugh at or dismiss the people who discovered it and stuck with it.

~Jim Cramer, CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer, February 17, 2011

Jim Cramer explains momentum/growth stock investing via 2011 favorite LULU

The typical criticism: this is a loser, over-priced company, with a product that's made of fibers which are getting more expensive, that women have already bought too much of and you know what? It costs too much. Its future is not as bright as its past.

Now, the problem with this kind of argument is you could've made it when LULU was at 30, and at 40, or at 50, or at 60, or at 70, or at 80! At no time was that set of criticisms invalid. But obviously they have not been enough to stop the stock from going higher. It's not that the criticisms were wrong-- it's that they didn't matter.

These very "Heard on the Street"-slash-Wall Street Journal arguments totally misjudge why a stock moves. I want you to think of it like this: stocks are an asset class, and within that asset class are certain phyla, or orders, or genuses, and they're species of stock, they're not nematodes or [indecipherable].

Lululemon belongs to a particular family. It's one of the highest growth stocks. Now, there are mutual funds that seek these highest growth stocks all the time. And since these funds have been very right for awhile, people have been throwing their money at them. And when that money comes in, the fund managers go out and buy more Lululemon. It's that simple.

As long as LULU hits their growth benchmarks, as long as these funds can model even a pie-in-the-sky earnings estimate in the years ahead here, let's say 2014, and that estimate doesn't carry a price-to-earnings multiple that's more than twice the company's growth rate, these funds are going to keep... buying... Lululemon. The only way LULU goes down is if it fails to hit those benchmarks. And then what will happen is you will see a wholesale sell off, they will sell, sell, sell. They will dump it from whatever level it happens to be trading at right from that moment.

The only way to short a stock like LULU without getting your head taken off is by waiting until that moment comes and the growth stumbles. Until then, you bet against this kind of stock, you're doing so at your own peril.

~Jim Cramer, CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer, February 17, 2011

Jim Cramer on the incredible, unsung, unheralded bull market of 2011

 I want to make sure you aren't sabotaging your portfolio. This is an incredible, unsung and unheralded bull market, and it would be a tragedy if you missed out on so many fantastic gains just because of some dumb, amateur mistake that could've easily been avoided.

~Jim Cramer, CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer, February 17, 2011

Feb 10, 2011

Former Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy says the future of Silicon Valley is bleak

I see a migration from the early days of the Valley. We aren't doing manufacturing; we aren't doing design; we aren't doing computers. It's all moving to Asia and other places where there are lots of technical engineers who are willing to work at a more reasonable salary because they don't have to spend $3.5 million on a home and pay half of it to taxes.

I think every new transition has created less job opportunity as technology has become very leveraged. I don't think our education system, our regulations, our government policies have kept pace with the changes that technology is driving.

Maybe I'm sounding like an old guy, but [Silicon Valley] ain't what it used to be. I, for one, don't think this is the best place in the world to start a company.

I'm having the time of my life, but I'm an old guy. I'm not young with my whole future in front of me. My kids are the ones who are going to have to learn Mandarin. I've suggested that to all four of them.

~Scott McNealy, former CEO, Sun Microsystems, The Wall Street Journal, "Former Sun CEO Worries About Region's Prospects", February 10, 2011

Feb 9, 2011

Ben Bernanke on the realities of monetary policy

Monetary policy can't add one bushel of corn to the world.

~Ben Bernanke, chairman, Federal Reserve, testimony in House Budget Committee hearings discussing the effect of Federal Reserve policies on world food prices, February 9, 2011

Feb 4, 2011

Harry Markopolis on foreign exchange fraud

Banks that are doing it, it's 25-33% of their bottom line net income per year, so it's like being addicted to heroin, they can't afford to pull the needle out because their share prices will collapse. It's also a case of false financial statement reporting—when a quarter to a third of your net income is fraud-based, and you're not telling shareholders that, then you have a Sarbanes-Oxley issue.

"Banks overcharging on foreign exchange trades", Zerohedge, February 3, 2011

Feb 3, 2011

Barry Ritholz on momentum stocks

The bottom line is you don't want to short strong names going higher.

~ Barry Ritholz, as appeared on CNBC's Fast Money, February 3, 2011