Archive for the ‘Trump’ Category

This is not a Reuters headline you want to wake up to… being put on a Chinese “unreliable entity list.”

Looks like we’re heading for a showdown between everyone’s favorite American president and everyone’s favorite Chinese Communist Party.

And, unfortunately, Apple (AAPL) may be caught in the middle.

Ouch.

Anyone that reads this blog knows I root for oil to go down, down, down… because, while that doesn’t benefit an outdated oil industry, it does benefit every other person on the planet… and, oh by the way, it benefits the planet, too.

The facts all virtually guarantee oil will keep driving lower… because of lack of demand (remember the world has shut down!)… because of geopolitical bickering… and because — go figure — the world is really, truly almost out of oil storage.

Ha, those are some pretty great facts!

So why would anyone take a flyer on oil going up now, with oil trading in the low teens?

Because that’s what contrarians do… the opposite from what everyone else thinks.

Case in point:  After oil getting absolutely crushed over the last few days, it had a rather big pop today.

So oil can go up, if no other reason than a dead-cat bounce.

Or, let’s say there’s a threat of war… like what may have happened this morning given Trump told the military to shoot at any harassing Iranian gunboats they want.  Military disruption like that tends to spike oil prices.

Or, let’s say Trump just can’t help himself and he starts levying tariffs on foreign oil.  The U.S. is (sadly) the world’s biggest consumer — by a wide margin — so tariffs would mean the price of oil would be artificially raised in a rather meaningful way.

Or, let’s say that the world gets unbelievably creative and somehow finds a lot more storage space… like old train storage containers… or old storage silos or such… because it’s the lack of storage space that caused the extreme oil pricing mania yesterday.  (“What do you mean I have to keep all the oil in my swimming pool?!”)

Or, let’s say of the 70 vaccines in testing right now, one of them makes it to the finish line relatively soon.  The real possibility of the world reopening for business would also cause oil to spike.

Or, let’s say OPEC decides that their 9.7m barrels a day cut from a week or two ago was completely and utterly insufficient… and so they call another “emergency” session and cut oil by 30, no, 40 MILLION barrels a day… way more than anyone would expect… because they know the time for horse-shitting around is over.  That would send oil prices skyrocketing.

And, let’s say Trump can’t stand being out of the spotlight for more than 12 seconds and he politically forces the Saudis and Russians to cut supply… by offering guaranteed cuts from U.S. producers (something that was left off the table the last time OPEC got together).  With oil at perceived negative prices, he just might have the go-ahead to make that type of commitment.

Note that nothing above is, “when aliens invade the planet” crazy.

So, call it contrarian or whatever, but I just don’t trust that something, ANYTHING won’t happen to interrupt the greatest “fuck oil!” party ever.

Sadly.

Oil — really the cost of a unit of energy — affects the cost of EVERYTHING on the planet.

Which means that when oil prices go up, that FINANCIALLY HURTS everyone on the planet…

… including EVERY AMERICAN.

So why is Trump actively trying to drive oil prices higher?  In fact, why do all American presidents feel the need to do this?

I know people will say, “to protect America’s oil producers” … and so that we’re not strategically dependent on foreign oil.

Hogwash.

The way to do this is NOT to artificially raise set prices.  It’s to innovate.

Either we figure out a way to extract oil less expensively…

… or we figure out economically viable energy alternatives…

… say a conversion to natural gas, where we have a 100-year supply… or, electric cars… or solar-driven residential and commercial buildings.

And so on.

Anything but charging Americans MORE, which means we just end up FUNDING THE VERY PEOPLE THAT WANT TO DO US HARM MORE.

Sorry, energy industry.  Innovate or die.  Just like every other industry has had to do.  But don’t drag the rest of the country down with you.

Everyone is weighing in on Coronavirus prognostications.

I will try to keep mine to just the ones I feel are fairly unique.

My theme?  We couldn’t be better prepared for exactly the crisis we’re going to be going through.

*  This isn’t like the last two great crashes.

The 2001 “Dotcom Crash” was based on massive valuations with zero profits — and in many cases, zero revenues.

The 2008 “Great Recession” crash was based on artificially pumped up real estate prices, not real productivity gains.  (It was also exacerbated by skyrocketing oil prices, due to political, not fundamental, issues… and had twice the unemployment we have now.)

Whatever we’re calling 2020 — The Corona Crash? — we’re starting with real businesses, with real revenue growth, making real profits, involved in real productivity gains, historically low unemployment, and extraordinarily low oil prices.

In other words, we’re already starting with a much stronger hand.

*  Ironically, many of the productivity gains of the last decade involve remote technologies, i.e., letting employees work from home, ordering pretty much anything online, and, as important, socializing from a far.

So, in many ways, the last decade or two has been great practice for this exact situation:  Remote working, remote living, and social distancing.

*  Not only are the remote technologies in place, but the entire millennial generation prefers to socially distance.

Half the time millennials have their heads buried in their phones — even when they’re sitting right next to each other.  So do you really think they care whether they’re in the same room or a different state?  Not at all.

*  While older generations panic about bailouts and handouts and such, the entire millennial generation knows nothing but bailouts and handouts.

So do millennials think we’re in a crisis?  Absolutely not.  Feels pretty normal to them, like it’s just something we go through every once in a while.  What’s the fuss?

*  And finally:  The market needed to be popped.  Markets aren’t supposed to go straight up, like they did almost the entire month of February.

So we’re down 20%?  I can easily make the case we were 30% overvalued.  Because markets aren’t supposed to go straight up.

I’m not saying it’s not going to be rough, but I am saying we seem to be particularly prepared for this crisis.  It’s like a lot of what we need to do is already done.

We’ll see.

Trump has threatened to declare a national emergency to get the rest of his wall built.

The democrats warned if the republicans want to play that game, they could declare gun violence a national emergency, too, when a democrat gets elected next.

Do both parties think these are threats? 

I say this is AWESOME, let’s get them both fixed!

I love more ways to bypass the Washington D.C. political swamp.

(Well, uhm, until we actually have a dictator.)

There is a lot I don’t like about our president.

However, his tweet this morning reveals one of the things I love about the guy… that with new data, he can bypass a bunch of time-wasting politics and thrust a critical issue into the limelight in a moment’s notice:

I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!

What’s the new data?  Maybe someone told Trump the deficit projections… driven in large part by almost $6 TRILLION in military spending since 2001?

I’ve long thought we spend a ridiculous, INSANE amount of money on the military.

We can pretty much bury the entire planet knee deep in nukes… do we really need to spend some 20% of budget on more superfluous weaponry?

Spending half as much… even a third as much… would still make us the biggest military spender in the world.

Good for Trump to bring this issue front & center…

… which is sure to confound both his greatest skeptics AND supporters!  :)

There’s a lot of noise in the market.

But there’s usually a lot of noise.

By definition — at any point in time — 50% of people think there’s enough bad in the market to sell their shares to the other 50% who thinks there’s good.

Can’t have a market otherwise.  That’s why I always scoff when someone refers to “easy” trading periods.  It’s never easy.

What helps guide you through the noise is whether your fundamental investment thesis is still intact.

Is mine?  I think the two biggest drivers of corporate profits — which drive the market — are the price of oil and interest rates.  Let’s see where they stand:

* While oil took a little run to the upside, I wouldn’t call it misbehaving.  In fact, it’s shed much of its 2018 gain

* Interest rates are spooking everyone… but 10-year is sneaking back down… and Trump’s on fire about the Fed messing things up — so much so that a few Fed governors have had to reiterate that they won’t, uhm, mess things up (i.e., “will still be accommodative for quite a while”)

* Sentiment is negative.  While that’s not comfortable, as a contrarian I prefer this

So, for me, at least right now, the noise is… just noise… and what we’re seeing is some healthy “letting some air out of the balloon”… which we like… so it doesn’t pop.

 

P.S.  A great example of “noise” was Caterpillar earnings.  They beat top & bottom line.  But everyone was fretting about China and tariffs… and the stock got pounded… even though if you read their commentary, you find CAT itself wasn’t so worried about the effect of China or tariffs on its business.  Here’s some commentary from their 10/23/18 earnings call:

* CATERPILLAR SAYS FEEL GOOD ABOUT EQUIPMENT DEMAND IN CHINA NEXT YEAR

* CATERPILLAR SAYS EXPECT BUSINESS TO CONTINUE TO IMPROVE IN 2019 VERSUS 2018

* CATERPILLAR SAYS CONTINUE TO EXPECT INDUSTRY SALES IN CHINA FOR 10-TON-AND-ABOVE EXCAVATORS TO BE UP ABOUT 40 PERCENT FOR THE FULL YEAR

* CATERPILLAR SAYS EXPECT IMPACT OF 25 PERCENT IMPORT TARIFF ON ADDITIONAL $200 BILLION CHINESE GOODS TO BE ‘QUITE MINOR’

These are all good things, right?!

I have to hurry this post because Microsoft is about to announce earnings.

For the first time in many years, Microsoft’s earnings are incredibly relevant again.

As many know, MSFT is in the process of successfully reinventing itself… to be a big-time cloud competitor.

Their earnings after the market closes today are important because the market is in desperate need of some kind of clear signal… either that things are still ok in tech land… or they’re not.

It just so happens MSFT is announcing before Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook… which means all eyes will be on their report.

Now, Microsoft has a reasonable stage set.  Adobe reaffirmed guidance last week… which I believe single-handled stopped the market from another 5-10% slide… since everyone was/is feeling like we’ve driven off a cliff… given tariffs… and global tensions… and interest rate hikes… and Trump acting decidedly unpresidential most of the time.

And Netflix killed their earnings, too, which even though it doesn’t seem like it, also helped provide some footing in this decidedly negative market.

But some disturbing things are still happening.  iRobot (IRBT), makers of my favorite electronic device in the world (Roomba!), killed their numbers, too… and the stock was still hammered today… simply because they cited some potential tariff impact… even though they still raised guidance.

What the market wants — craves — now is more assurance… that the consumer is still spending… that interest rates, while increasing, will increase in a slow and measured pace… that oil isn’t going to spike… that tariffs are having a positive effect somewhere in the food chain…

… essentially that the foundation for investment is still sound.

A good report from the once most dominate and influential tech company in the world… that has clawed its way back into relevance… could turn everything on a dime.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  Earnings were solid.  Beat on both top and bottom lines.  Stock was up almost 5% at one point in the after-hours market.  (BTW, Tesla TSLA also reported and nailed it… it’s up over 10% in after hours… and ironically they mentioned tariffs and it doesn’t seem to be impacting the pop.)

I was OVERJOYED by this headline:

Trump says each Cabinet secretary should slash 5% of their budgets after he pledges to cut spending

Remarkably, even one of the slipperiest* figures in politics, Kellyanne Conway, said something COMPLETELY INTELLIGENT:

“He’s asking them to cut the fraud, the waste, the abuse,” White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway said on Fox Business Network. “Cut the fat, not the essentials.”

I think Trump should have asked for 10% — in business that’s considering an easy and smart cut as it forces you to really examine all of your projects and cut the worst performing one — but 5% is fine to get this party started.

 

*  Sorry for tongue-tying word but that describes her perfectly.

This shouldn’t be news.  On CNBC, no less.  It’s an embarrassment.  Grow up and be presidential, Donnie.

Trump-Stormy News

Dear President Trump–

I may be the only guy in American that loves what you are doing with tariffs.  (Please see here and here and here.)

And I love that you’re turning up the heat.

But, if you want to win this in our lifetimes OR until another president takes office (whichever comes first), you need to enlist the support of the rest of the commercialized world.

This might be difficult since you’re trying to create a level playing field with them, too…

… or, said another way, you’re hammering the rest of the world into submission as well.

But maybe you can pitch a win here.  Something like, “look at what we’re doing to China… so you know we can easily do that to you, too.  Net-net is you’re going to lose a little to us, it’s inevitable.  But opening up China isn’t… unless we go to China together… and if we do go together, we’ll both really, truly gain a huge new market, second largest in the world!”

To make this work, though, it has to be China vs. THE ENTIRE WORLD.

That’s because China is too proud to be “defeated” by just the U.S… and going it alone only forces them to act more defiantly… which includes them dragging things out in hopes of a political regime change… regardless of how long that takes.

So the only way to get this done in a reasonable time frame is to turn up the heat on the rest of the world… THEN, as a group, approach China.  This will allow China to compromise with dignity… because it won’t be perceived as a fight, rather, that “everyone” came together and “mutually” agreed to change, uhm, all the rules.

No loss of face for the Chinese.  100% victory for the world (and the U.S.).  Wrapped up before the next presidential election.

Tough timing but that’s what you have to do to bring this home.

Break a leg–

–Royal.

I read a business headline that almost made me cry with happiness:

“Federal workers’ raises canceled.  Trump says pay should be based on performance.”

(Source:  Palo Alto Daily Post, August 31, 2018)

I read some more on this and I almost cried in agony with the statistics that were cited:

When salaries and benefits are combined and averaged, public-sector workers earned $129,200 in 2016 while private-sector employees earned only a combined $70,700.

(Source:  AMI Newswire, September 12, 2018)

That’s a lot of crying!

Federal workers earn almost TWICE as much as private counterparts… and don’t even get me started on the productivity of the public sector vs. the private sector.  

And people wonder why our country is in such debt.  Jeez.

I also read where Trump may be reconsidering this wage freeze — because of the upcoming elections — for political considerations.

DON’T BACK DOWN, DONALD!  Automatic pay raises… that have nothing to do with job performance… that have been going on for year after year after year… while our national debt continues to spiral out-of-control… IS INSANE!

Future raises absolutely, positively should be earned, jut like they are for the rest of us in the real world.  I am now officially pissed that my tax dollars are going to fund such an idiotic compensation plan.

DON’T BACK DOWN, DONALD!

I can’t tell if the flag has “codes” or not.

We appear to have them, but then I’ve also read where the Supreme Court overturned Flag Codes as unconstitutional a few years after the Pledge of Allegiance was deemed a violation of religious freedom, at least for non-military personnel.

Regardless, there are some things that I do know:

*  Kneeling is considered to be one of the most respectful acts in the world.

*  Colin Kaepernick’s protest was passive and peaceful, exactly what we all want to see in a protest.  He didn’t overturn any cars.  He didn’t bash the front windows of shop keepers.  He didn’t use hateful language.  He was just one guy in a sea of guys and all he did was kneel instead of stand.

*  There are lots of violations of Flag Codes that seem to go unmentioned, including the flag used in advertising (Section 8.i… there goes all the 4th of July marketing!) and the most ironic:  “The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free.”  (Section 8.c)  So everyone in a football stadium standing to respect the giant, HORIZONTAL flag covering the field is, in fact, disrespecting the flag.  The Kaep anger, in context, seems a bit hypocritical, no?

*  The NFL didn’t even require players to come out for the National Anthem until 2009, so it’s not like it was a long-standing traditional (pun intended!).

…AND…

I also know — as an employer — employees shouldn’t be doing personal things on company time.

So, ultimately, I don’t know why there’s a controversy.

If Colin Kaepernick — or any other American — wants to protest something… a freedom that we’ve fought wars over to protect… they should be allowed to do it peacefully… on their own time.

If they want to do it on company time, though, and what they’re protesting is not part of the job description, then they have the freedom to not do that job.

The NFL should have outlawed political expression after Week 3 of Kaepernick’s protest a few years back… in the same way they outlawed commercial expression in the 80’s… and it was a good thing they did, else every NFL player would look like a walking advertising billboard by now.

So maybe what everyone should really be upset about is why Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, makes $40 million a year and can’t even put out a simple camp fire in his own backyard.

Trump just announced a $6 billion subsidy package for U.S. farmers affected by tariffs.

I won’t say I know all the in’s & out’s of this… but I do know we cry foul — loudly — whenever we find other countries subsidizing products or industries.

Why do we even need subsidies?  With all the hunger in the U.S., you’d think farmers would be growing stuff that could also be sold at home.  Even I know about the importance of crop rotation.  And the fact that subsidies aren’t part of a free market.

You know that phrase, “you either love ’em or hate ’em”?

That only half applies to Trump.

You can certainly hate him.  But I believe he’s not lovable.

You can, however, love the things he is doing… he’s getting stuff done at a pace we haven’t seen before.  And when it’s the stuff you want to get done, it’s inspiring to watch.

But, I don’t believe he’s lovable.  He’s immature and a blowhard.  That’s a hard combination to love.

Even when he’s trying to support someone — as in loyalty to a friend or group — he still feels swarthy and slimy and comes off as totally disingenuous… like he’s only doing it because there’s something in it for him.

What does this mean for politics?  I think I’m done electing politicians.  I can’t wait for the next true business candidate, one that I hope is as decisive as Trump… that cuts through the b.s. red tape like Trump… but that doesn’t act like a petulant 5-year old like Trump.

The other day I wrote a scathing piece about Trump being a lap dog for Putin.

Today I read a blatantly pro Trump article trying to make sense of the Trump-Putin summit.

I didn’t like the writing style — felt like someone that didn’t have full command of the English language.  I also thought he was reaching, conjecturing, and defending in a less-than-credible way.

But I kept reading the long piece… almost voyeuristically… awaiting a train wreck of logic and bias… and — surprise — I found myself thinking that some of what the author was saying had merit.

I don’t like the way Trump represented America at the summit.  And I certainly don’t like all the inane backtracking he’s done in the wake of the summit (“whoops, it should have been ‘wouldn’t’ instead of ‘would,’ my bad”).

However, Putin is a very bad guy.  The Chinese may want to dominate the world, but it’s business related… they are as capitalistic as we are.  Putin doesn’t give a hoot about capitalism or business or democracy or freedom.  As cold-war as this sounds, I believe Putin’s idea of domination could devolve into annihilation.

So maybe Trump played him in the only way he could?  Lull the dictator with a war-mongering bias into a false sense of superiority?

Maybe?

Wow.  I’m now officially confused.

There was a great Peter Sellers movie in the 70’s about a person that, through random events, began influencing the world.

The wonderful thing about the movie is you never knew if his character, Chauncey Gardner, is a messiah-like figure with an extraordinarily simple but powerful message… OR just a simpleton who got lucky spouting innocuous kindergarten phrases.

Similarly, I can’t tell whether Trump is a lucky, haphazard idiot… OR some kind of seat-of-his-pants savant tactician.

Here’s what I do know:

His style is immaturely unlikable and highly, offensively, DANGEROUSLY divisive.

But he’s getting things done — including some things I absolutely despise… but also a few things I really care about — like no other President I’ve seen in my many decades on the planet.

Maybe this is just what it feels like when old, crusty, inefficient, and ineffective things get fixed?

Trump met with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday.

I get diplomacy, but Trump looked like he had a man-crush on Putin.

It was just weird.  John Hardwood of CNBC had the best explanation:

President Donald Trump’s stunning news conference with Vladimir Putin becomes understandable once you recognize that he was advancing his personal interests, not those of the United States.

Of course, ever insightful, late-night comedy host Jimmy Kimmel zero’ed in on something that’s probably close to the truth as well:

“If you’re wondering whether or not Vladimir Putin has incriminating video of Donald Trump, we now know, beyond a treasonable doubt, that he does.”

Maybe here’s the very weirdest part:  I didn’t care if the Russians interfered with the election… I assume they did… just as I assume the United States interferes in anything and everything we care to interfere in, too.

But that whole “summit” (if you can call it that) was so weird that now I do care about whatever the hell Trump is trying so desperately to hide.

What a backfire.

One strong step forward, one fan-boy step backward for the United States.

Yesterday was proverbial d-day for the start of the great Trade War between China and America.

It’s about time… China is aggressively and overtly protectionist… and has been for decades.

I learned this first hand in the CAD business.  It was absolutely impossible for us to sell our product in China… even though we were successfully selling our product in other areas of Asia.

Why?  Because China mandated that Chinese businesses and consumers could only buy Chinese CAD…

… even though Chinese companies were happily selling their CAD — and we were competing against their CAD — unencumbered in the U.S.

But we were a small player, so maybe you can chalk up our failure to penetrate China on our size.

But what about Autodesk, makers of AutoCAD, the #1 CAD product in the world?

Nope, they’ve been shut out for years, too.

To make matters worse, Autodesk found out a Chinese CAD company had stolen their intellectual property.  The Chinese Company vehemently denied the allegations.  Autodesk had no choice but to sue the Chinese Company in the World Court where the Chinese Company continued to vehemently deny the charges… until, facing irrefutable evidence, they finally had to admit their wrong-doing.

But it gets even worse. 

While Autodesk could have collected major damages, they realized if they did, the Chinese government would have been EXTRA punitive… so Autodesk had to voluntarily give up any settlement value in the hopes of helping the Chinese “save face” so they could have any shot at selling in the country.

That is unfair governmental manipulation at its worse.

But that is the China I know about first hand:  Competitively rotten to the core.

So I don’t care about any short-term tariff pain.  When it comes to true capitalism, China is like a big but immature bully and I am so looking forward to a much more experienced fighter punching these guys in the face.  It is well deserved and long overdue.

 

Everyone seems to HATE the fact that Trump is pulling the world into a tariff war.

I think it’s great… and long overdue.

The current tariff infrastructure has its roots after WWII when the U.S., the dominant economic might in the world, was magnanimous enough to give the war-torn countries in Europe and around the world economic advantages as a way to help them get back on their feet.

Similarly, the U.S. was magnanimous enough to give developing nations — like China — an economic leg-up in their quest to transform from rural to modern economies.

But come on people, all of that was decades ago!

Trump is absolutely correct:  It’s time to have a level playing field.  Why do we impose a skinny 2.5% tariff on cars imported from China, only to see China impose a stiff 25% tariff — 10 times larger! — on cars they import from the United States?

And why can Chinese companies own 100% of a factory in the U.S., but American companies can’t even own 50% of their factories in China?

And on and on!

I’m calling B.S. along with Trump and I have no clue why EVERYONE isn’t doing the same.  China is no longer a developing nation… it has the second largest economy in the world.  It’s time China stopped taking advantage of our good will.

While not as bad as the Chinese, there certainly can be more parity with the rest of the world, too.

Similarly, Trump is absolutely correct about stolen intellectual property… because in the modern world, economic might is not just measured in current service or manufacturing ability… but in the ability to use innovation and technology to dramatically improve old industries — or completely invent new ones — and reap the rewards that go along with that.

So who cares if China can manufacture complicated devices like iPhones better than the U.S. today?  Maybe the U.S. will invent a new way to build an iPhone that doesn’t require any manufacturing?

After all, that’s what we Americans do… we innovate… that’s our strength.

Eliminating the complicated manufacturing process for iPhones would be unbelievable… and the rewards would be immense… unless, of course, China simply STEALS the new technology to do this.

And THAT’S the situation we have today… China forcing intellectual property transfer as a condition to setting up shop in their country… or, worse, flat-out stealing our IP… and the Chinese government — literally — encouraging all of this.

Fuck that.  I’m all for taking our ball and going home if other countries won’t play fairly… because at the end of the day, WE’RE the world’s biggest market…

… and I think it’s awesome that Trump is reminding the world of this.

With that said, Trump may have one thing wrong about trade:  Who cares if there are trade deficits?

To me, a trade deficit benefits us… it means our costs are lower than they would have been… which means our profits will be higher… and our stocks will perform better… and that will enrich every American that does any investing or has a 401K plan or that even gets a paycheck.

That’s pretty much the vast majority of the country.

Trump, you’re a business person, you know artificially forcing a higher cost structure on businesses and consumers is exactly the opposite of how a free market should work.  Anything artificial always ends in disaster.

I know the counter-argument that Trump loves to tout:  If we “export” all of industries overseas, we can hurt ourselves strategically… maybe even get held over a barrel in the future.  Case in point, the decline of our steel industry.  If we can’t produce our own steel, we’ll be at the mercy of foreigners for such a strategic commodity.

Poppycock.

If the U.S. steel industry can’t compete with foreign competition, then go invent a new way to make steel 10x faster and cheaper.  Don’t tell me this can’t be done, Britain did it with glass.  Stop crying and get inventing — go create new jobs in new and re-invented industries where the United States can once again be the de facto leader.

There is one exception to this “pro deficit” position, however:  While we don’t want the U.S. government to force us to buy local stuff at artificially higher prices, we also don’t want the Chinese government to force their businesses to buy from their local suppliers at higher prices, either.

Which is what the Chinese do today… things that should get bought from U.S. companies aren’t… which artificially increases our deficit because we’re not getting business we should.  That part of Trump’s deficit thinking is right on the money.

So, in summary…

… I WELCOME a trade war — short term pain and all — if the end result is a fair global playing field (especially with China!)… and a kick-in-the-butt for our industries at risk to GO RE-INVENT THEMSELVES.

That can only be good for U.S. workers and companies.  And, ultimately, for the stock market, too.

 

I’m still trying to figure out all this Facebook stuff.

Seems like everyone’s trying to figure out if whatever happened really did sway elections and destroy the democratic process as we know it.

Well, if it did, I guess no one cared when Obama and the democrats used Facebook data to help them win elections.

I’m just sayin’.

P.S.  If Putin did try to use social media to sway our elections, I wonder how he’s feeling about that now?  My guess is he’s probably thinking Hillary would have been a lot more predictable than Trump.  Good luck, Emperor Putin, trying to negotiate with a 4th grader!

Last week was a helluva week:

Tariffs… almost every single person in the world screaming “THEY’RE BAD!”… yet, we have more of them now*

Quitting… Gary Cohn resigns as White House chief economic advisor… something to do with the working dynamic he had with Trump

More quitting… rumors that Trump is going to “clean house” re: his staff… after such a short time in office, that doesn’t seem quite right

Meeting… Trump and Kimmy of North Korea are going to meet… then conditions to meet seem insurmountable

Scandal… given Stormy Daniels developments, looks like Trump might have some ‘splain’ to do to Melania… and the American people

Campaigning… Trump is helping out some special election in Pennsylvania… and overtly reminds us what an immature, embarrassing, divisive 4th grader we have for a President

The market should have been roiled (I love saying that :)… but we had an interesting jobs report on Friday:  More jobs… which is good… but less pay… which apparently is also good (although it sounds counter-intuitive) because it keeps inflation in check… which may keep rising interest rates in check.

All of those things should have meant “off-setting penalties” (so to speak).  But instead we rallied sharply on Friday… almost like the market said, “who cares how screwed up our politics  are?!”

Feels more manic than normal to me.

 

*Disclaimer:  If the U.S. is really getting jerked around in international trade, then I like what Trump did.  (Here and here.)  Problem is always can you really believe Trump?

I just read something that had this quote in it:

But the government quickly mounted a propaganda push, blocking some articles and publishing pieces praising the party.

Is this a quote about the Trump Administration?

Nah, it’s just about, oh, CHINA TAKING A MASSIVE STEP BACKWARD AND ELIMINATING TERM LIMITS FOR THEIR DICTATOR, ER, I MEAN PRESIDENT.

But it’s telling — SCARY — that it’s exactly what the Trump Administration does.  EXACTLY.

 

P.S.  It’s also scary that Trump’s response was:

I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll give that a shot some day.”

People aren’t sure whether he was joking or not… it doesn’t matter… that’s something The President Of The United States — defender of the U.S. Constitution — doesn’t joke about in public… unless he wants to invite comparisons with a Chinese dictator!

Trump is getting blasted for — all of a sudden — unilaterally — announcing he’s levying a 25% tariff on steel and 10% on aluminium.  Outside of the steel and aluminium industries, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone supporting his actions.  Heck, there are even executives within those industries that don’t support his actions.

I disclaimed in my previous post on this topic that I’m no expert on trade, but the more I hear about how the rest of the world treats us in trade, the more I continue to agree with Trump that it’s time to create a more balance playing field.

But now, I’m even liking the way he’s doing it.

Apparently many of the trade structures in place had their origins in the 40’s… for example, helping a war-torn Japan and Germany get back on their feet (and not repeating the mistakes of the aftermath of WWI), helping an embryonic China move into the modern world, and so on.

Huh?  That’s was about 80 years ago!  For the last decade I’ve watched — first hand — tech companies tip-toe around China… either burdened with requirements that make us non-competitive… or, worse, getting blocked altogether.

I’ve been writing about Autodesk recently.  It occurs to me that they can be, in fact, the poster child for this entire topic!

AutoCAD is the de facto standard technology tool for construction all around the world — except China.

Want proof?  While China is always a big topic in many companies’ earnings call, the word “China” wasn’t even mentioned in Autodesk’s last two earnings transcripts (here and here).

Why?  Because there’s a Chinese company called ZWCAD that makes an AutoCAD-clone product and guess which product the Chinese government wants sold in China?

A Chinese company, by the way, that was caught red-handed stealing AutoCAD intellectual property.

So I continue to be with Trump on this issue… and upon further reflection am happy he’s playing the “mad man” card and throwing it directly in their grill.

America is, after all, the world’s biggest market.  If we’re really getting taken advantage of, then it’s time we stopped getting taken advantage of.

I’m very surprised I’m about to say this — but maybe this one is within Trump’s wheelhouse:  His juvenile, bullying, play-ground antics may be the most effective way — may be the only way — to get everyone on the playground to play fair.

This is the time where having atrophied social skills hurts.

No one wants a trade war.  That’s why there are a bunch of WTO (World Trade Organization) rules in place to make sure “free trade” doesn’t turn into “cheating trade.”

Now I’m no expert on trade, but we’ve all heard for years that other countries don’t play fair with the U.S.

I chalk up some of this to whinging.

Other countries processes may just be kicking our ass… that certainly happened in the auto industry… they just created a better product.

I always get a kick out of the subsidies debate, too.  We cry foul when other countries do it, yet didn’t the U.S. just bail out GM and a host of other “strategically important companies” just a few years ago?  Of course we did.

But some of it is real.

Other countries really do steal our intellectual property (i.e., our process and product inventions).  Tactically they’ll make it difficult for imports to enter their countries (i.e., port harassments and such).  And strategically they’ll artificially influence currency to be in their trade favor.

But, so what?

If Trump thinks rules are being broken, then why not use his formidable communications platform to expose these AND clearly articulate the ramifications — repercussions — for non-compliance?

That would be awesome… and something I’d be proud to support.

Instead, he went right to the “nuclear” option…

…and instead of inspiring productive, even patriotic “play fair or else” conversations, he just got everyone — even his supporters — all riled up, talking about trade wars, and running around like chaotic and contrasting chickens with their heads cut off.

That not only roiled the markets but, more importantly, DISTRACTED FROM HIS MAIN MESSAGE.  Which is a shame because it was a reasonable one.

Open mouth.  Insert foot.

I kinda grew up with Ron Insana, back when he was a news anchor with FNN (Financial News Network)… that eventually become CNBC.  My wife (girlfriend at the time) often remarked that he was our morning alarm clock.

He wrote an editorial today about Trump and pollution and the Paris Treaty that I think is spot on.

It’s short and worth reading, but there’s one point he makes that I often use myself:

Ron said it like this:

I am not a “tree hugger.” I don’t have the necessary scientific background to claim expertise in this area. I don’t know if the changes we are seeing are the result of natural cycles that occur in geologic time, or if they are governed by solar cycles, or are, as many worry, anthropogenic (caused by humans).

To me, it doesn’t really matter. It seems obvious that whatever the reason, we, as humans, should act responsibly when it comes to the care and cleaning of our habitat.

Bravo, Ron.

I like to say it like this:  I don’t care if global warming is real or not… who the hell wants to live in smog-infested cities like LA and Beijing?