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September 2017
There was a rather youngish Democrat in the White House. His wife was getting a lot more attention than First Ladies normally do. But, for the first time in many years, there was the sparkle of children’s laughter in the halls of the White House. Nonetheless, there were lots of critics who saw the President as weak on the economy and on foreign affairs. Seeking relief from the partisan bickering in Washington, America turned its interest and attention to home grown talents...to that source of warmth that had never failed America...no, not motherhood...no, not capitalism...No, not Democracy...America naturally turned to baseball. Now for those of you old enough to remember baseball, you may know (or have read) that it is often a sport of statistics and percentages. Therefore, you may also be aware that in 1962 on this day a New York team showed up with a remarkable statistic. They had played exactly 160 games (so did everybody else). But somehow they had managed to win only 40. (Yup! That's right! They managed to lose 120 out of 160.) Most amazingly, they managed to lose 120 out of 160 despite the fact that they actually showed up for every game and were under the guidance of one "Casey Stengel." Mr. Stengel had not only won seven World Series but was considered such a baseball expert that he was invited to appear at the U.S. Senate to explain how to avoid a baseball strike. At his appearance, it was immediately evident that "Old Case" should have been in the Diplomatic Corps. For over 15 minutes, he spoke in vintage Stengelese rarely completing a sentence or a thought without detouring to some other linguistic swamp. The Senators were first amused, then agawk and finally just exhausted. (As Casey would say - "You could look it up.") Mr. Stengel left us with some of my favorite quotes on management, like: "The real key to management is to keep the five guys who hate you away from the five guys who haven't made up their minds yet!" Another great one was his comment upon first seeing his hapless Mets - "Can't anybody here play this game?" The bulls looked like the hapless Mets on Tuesday as they seemed to have the game at hand on several occasions but stumbled and fumbled their way to negative territory. Dow Slips To Fourth Loss After Nine Consecutive Gains – The Dow spiked up over 70 points on the opening bell led by some recently out of favor tech stocks. The early rush in the wounded techs was even more evident in the Nasdaq index, which shot twice as high as the Dow at the opening. The bargain hunting influence could be further inferred by the lackluster and indifferent action in European markets. The bulls kept at it for the first forty minutes of trading but then seemed to run out of ammunition and enthusiasm. The indices began to give ground steadily. In some ways, the Dow was a story of two stocks – Apple and McDonalds. By the end of the day, Apple added about 18 points to the Dow, while McDonalds subtracted 20. Shortly before noon, the bulls tried to circle the wagons around the 22,290 level in the Dow as Yellen began to speak. Several observers claimed that her speech was rather even-handed, but the markets did not seem to agree. I noted that in a midday email to some friends: News services say Yellen gives to both sides but my reading of the markets (gold, yields, etc.) suggest the hawks take a bit more of a message (maybe because of her dovish history). Stocks spent the early afternoon without a real sense of direction, moving choppily sideways in a rather narrow range. Around 1:45, there was a rather faint-hearted rally attempt, which quickly topped out around 22,320 in the Dow. They quickly rolled over only to pause again at the middle of the prior sideways range. There was one more half-hearted rally attempt around 3:30, but it too topped out around that 22,320 level. As the market rolled over, selling seemed to accelerate a bit as market on close indications were clearly to the sell side with some indications as large as $800 million to sell on balance. The market's general indecisiveness was also evident in the volume, which declined to a rather summer-like 740 million shares. Once again advances edged declines 4 to 3. Another waste of carfare and a clean shirt. Seasonal Patterns – This year has not been particularly kind to seasonal patterns. Things like – Sell in May and go away – have been turned on their ear. With that as a caveat, we note that the next 13 trading days are frequently the most volatile days of the year. Overnight And Overseas – In Asia, markets closed a bit mixed. Japan saw a modest loss with minor gains in Hong Kong and Shanghai. India sold off smartly. In Europe, all the markets are seeing modest gains. Among other assets gold is down again as is the euro against the dollar. Crude is holding just below $52, helped by lower API inventories. Yields are up a couple of ticks. Consensus – Markets still sorting through the Yellen speech. Details of tax proposal could be a market factor. Stay wary, alert and very, very nimble. Trivia Corner Answer - the stamp collection worked out like this: five 2 cent stamps; fifty 1 cent and eight 5 cent stamps (adding up to a dollar). Today's Question - Jim, Bo and the retirement party raiders hit the buffet table early. They noticed there were five fried shrimp for every four "pigs in a blanket". Among them the boys gobbled 16 each. They then noticed that there were three shrimp to every two blankets. How many of each were there when the boys first arrived?