Monday, February 28, 2011


I was recently at my local library’s book sale and came across a set of Harvard Classics that I could not pass up. I bought them and began to read Immanuel Kant’s, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals. Mr. Kant can be pretty dense and obscure. Reading his writings reminds me of a line by the comic, Steve Martin, who believed he had taken just enough philosophy to screw him up for the rest of his life. Reading Mr. Kant can have a similar effect.

Nonetheless, Immanuel Kant can be pretty easy to understand (sometimes) and there were a few brief moments of pure, lucid thought that I could follow. I found the following interesting…

“In the kingdom of ends everything has either Value or Dignity. Whatever has a value can be replaced by something else which is equivalent; whatever, on the other hand, is above all value, and therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity.

Whatever has reference to the general inclinations and wants of mankind has a market value; whatever, without presupposing a want, corresponds to a certain taste, that is to a satisfaction in the mere purposeless play of our faculties, has a fancy value; but that which constitutes the condition under which alone anything can be an end in itself, this has not merely a relative worth, i.e., value, but an intrinsic worth, that is dignity.”

As traders we always deal with the concept of value and price. Stocks can have market value and fancy value. I find it interesting that the word and concept Mr. Kant uses is “dignity” for something which is beyond value. As a trader this tells me to short fancy value and go long dignity.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mr. El-Erian and the Libyan Crisis

Mr. El-Erian was interviewed by Mr. Keene on Bloomberg regarding the recent crisis in Libya. The interview revolved around a few issues that one would expect; the price of oil, geopolitical risk, inflation, etc. What I thought was interesting was that near the end of the piece Mr. El-Erian mentioned the US Dollar. He noted how the flight to quality and safety that usually occurs during these kinds of situations barely moved the dollar. Mr. El-Erian stated this is because investors and traders are realizing that the United States is being perceived more negatively and as having a higher risk than in the past. I agree with him. The world's perception of the US has changed and is changing...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Using Barron's Statistics

When I was young I used to read Barron’s from cover to cover each week. I loved the statistics at the back of each issue. I would always try to figure out how I could use them. Nowadays, I still look at Barron’s from time to time, but I like this page the most. It provides the SP500 earnings, which are currently $71.86. Trying to figure out the growth rate of these earnings, and what multiple the market will trade at, is a pretty good way to get an idea of the value of the market. I do not trade on this information, but I like to look at it as a reality check.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Are More Bailouts Coming for Our States?

What will happen with the financial situation of state, local, and municipal governments? There is no question that some states are in bad shape, for example, Illinois, New Jersey, and California. Other states are better off. This question will become a bigger issue as the year goes on. Some argue that the financial situation of state and municipal governments is not a huge problem and can be handled. Others argue that this is a big problem that will become much larger.

We have not heard a single thing from Washington about what to do with this problem. My feeling is that the politicians are all hoping that the issue will just go away. In my opinion, it all comes down to the following; years of poor political leadership, corruption, unreasonable financial assumptions, greed, and lack of fiscal control have created the problem. Are more financial bailouts and larger budget deficits for our nation on the horizon?