Posts tagged ‘Egypt’

Rebuilding after the Political & Economic Tsunami

Excerpt from Free April Sidoxia Monthly Newsletter (Subscribe on right-side of page)

As Japan recovers from the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, political dominoes are also rapidly falling in Middle Eastern and North African countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Jordan, and Libya. But guess what happens after the pieces fall? The surviving populace – whether in Egypt, Tunisia, or eventually Libya – will be left with the responsibility of picking up the pieces. The protesters, rebels, and civilians will be accountable for cleaning up, unless they can convince allies to provide assistance – like the military and humanitarian aid provided via the U.S.-led United Nations resolution. Time will tell how much longer the 42-year repressive reign of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi will hold, but any way you cut it, movement towards a freer, more open society with less corruption is a positive development in the long-run.

 

The Start of the Arab Uprising

The Arab uprising grew its roots from an isolated and disgraced Tunisian fruit vendor (26- year-old Mohammed Bouazizi) who burned himself to death in protest of the persistent, deep-seeded corruption prevalent throughout the government (view excellent 60 Minutes story on Tunisia uprising). The horrific death ultimately led to the swift removal of Egypt’s 30-year President Hosni Mubarak, whose ejection was spurred by massive Facebook-organized protests. Technology has flattened the world and accelerated the sharing of powerful ideas, which has awoken Arab citizens to see the greener grass across other global democratic nations. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be incredible black-holes of productivity destroyers (I know firsthand), but as recent events have proven, these social networking services, which handle about 1 billion users globally, can also serve valuable purposes.

As the flames of unrest have been fanned across the Middle East and Northern Africa, autocratic dictators haven’t had the luxury of idly sitting on their hands. Instead, these leaders have been pushed to relent to the citizens’ wishes by addressing previously taboo issues, such as human rights, corruption, and economic opportunity. These fresh events feel like new-found changes, but these major social tectonic shifts have been occurring throughout history, including our lifetimes (e.g., Tiananmen Square massacre and the fall of the Berlin Wall).

Good News or Bad News?

Recent headlines have created angst among the masses, and the uncertainty has investors asking a lot of questions. Besides radioactive concerns in both Japan and the Middle East (one actual, one figurative), the “worry list” of items continues to stack higher. Oil prices, inflation, the collapsing dollar, exploding deficits, a China bubble, foreclosures, unemployment, quantitative easing (QE2), mountainous debt, 2012 elections, and the end of the world among others, are worries crowding people’s brains. Incredibly, somehow the market still manages to grind higher. More specifically, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed a very respectable +6.4% for 2011.

With the endless number of worries, how on earth could the major market indexes still advance, especially after a doubling in value from 24 months ago? For one, these political and economic shocks are nothing new. History has shown us that democratic, capitalistic markets ultimately move higher in the face of wars, assassinations, banking crises, currency crises, and various other stock market frauds and scandals. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say these worrisome events will continue this year, next year, and even over the next decade. 

Most baby boomers living in the early 1980s remember when 30-year mortgage rates on homes reached 18.5%, inflation hit 14.8%, and the Federal Funds interest rate peaked near 20%. Boomers also survived Vietnam, Watergate, the Middle East oil embargo, Iranian hostage crisis, 1987 Black Monday, collapse of the S&L banks, the rise and fall of the Cold War, Gulf War I/II, yada, yada, yada. Despite all these cataclysmic events, from the last birth of the Baby Boomers (1964), the Dow Jones Industrial catapulted from about 890 to 12,320. This is no April Fool’s joke! The market has increased a whopping 14-fold (without dividends) in the face of all this gruesome news. You won’t find that story on the front-page of The Wall Street Journal.

Lost Decade Goes on Sale

Stocks on Sale! 

The gains over the last four and half decades have been substantial, but much more is said about the recent “Lost Decade.” Although it has generally been a lousy decade for most investors in the stock market, eventually the stock market follows the direction of profits. What the popular press negates to mention is that S&P 500 operating earnings have more than doubled from about $47 in 1999 to an estimated $97 in 2011. Over the same period, the price of the market has been chopped by more than half ­(i.e., the Price – Earnings multiple has been cut from 29x to 13.5x). With stocks selling at greater than -50% off from 1999, no wonder smart investors like Warren Buffett are buying America – Buffett just spent $9 billion in cash on buying Lubrizol Corp (LZ). Retail investors absolutely loved stocks in 2000 at the peak, believing there was virtually no risk. Now the tables have been turned and while stock prices are trading at a -50% discount, retail investors are intensely skeptical and nervous about the prospects for stocks. Shoppers don’t usually wait for prices to go up 30% and then say, “Oh goody, prices are much higher now, so I think I will buy!” but that is what they are saying now.

I don’t want to oversell my enthusiasm, because the deals were dramatically better in March of 2009. Hindsight is 20-20, but at the nadir of the stock market, stock prices traded at bargain basement levels of 7x times 2011 earnings. We may not see opportunities like that again in our lifetime, so sitting in cash may not be the most advisable positioning.

Although I would argue every investor should have some exposure to equities, an investor’s time horizon, objectives, constraints and risk tolerance should be the key determinants of whether your investment portfolio should have 5% equity exposure or 95% exposure.

So while the economic and political dominoes may appear to be tumbling based on the news du jour, don’t let the headlines and the so-called media pundits scare you into paralysis. Bad news and tragedy will continue, but fortunately when it comes to prosperity, history is on our side. As you attempt to organize and pickup the financial pieces of the last few years, make sure you have a disciplined, long-term investment plan that adapts to changing market and personal conditions.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP® 

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in LZ, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, BRKA/B, or any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

April 1, 2011 at 12:21 am 1 comment

Foreign Frights & Debt Doubts

Excerpts from Sidoxia monthly newsletter (Subscribe on right side of page)

Over the last few years the globalized nature of the financial crisis has forced a diverse set of world leaders to deal with obscure international flare-ups in countries ranging from Iceland to Dubai, and Greece to Tunisia. The crisis du jour is the popular revolt in Egypt against 30-year president Hosni Mubarak and his autocratic, authoritarian government. The situation for the U.S. becomes a little sticky because Egypt, although creating a GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of less than the state of Illinois, is still the largest Arab country by population (approximately 82 million – even larger than Iran); a staunch ally with the U.S. in keeping peace with Israel; has contributed important intelligence to our country’s war on terror; and has been a responsible partner in controlling commerce through the all-important Suez Canal. The problem with Egypt and Mubarak’s regime is that the Egyptian economy is in relative shambles (they do not have oil reserves like their neighbors), unemployment is through the roof, and the government has been slow to push democratic advancements forward for the Egyptian people.

As emerging market “haves” increasingly join the ranks of the middle class, the people representing the “have-nots” of Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, and others are thirsting for a cocktail of democracy and a higher standard of living, like some of their wealthier neighbors. These autocratic, authoritarian regimes can do their best to slow or delay the democratizations of their countries, but they cannot put the genie back in the bottle. Information is flowing faster than ever, and societies previously kept in the dark are now seeing the light of democracy.

Like any volatile government situation, there are threats and opportunities, depending on whether Mubarak stays in power, and if not, the nature of the new leadership. If an extremist government fills the leadership void, the U.S. may wish to rewind the clock and put the slow-moving reformist, Mubarak, back in power.

The short-term impact of the popular revolt may create additional volatility in the markets, but in the long-run, if the turmoil introduces more open, transparent, less corrupt, and democratic ideals to the new agenda, then the world will become a better place.

Bitter Debt Pill Tough to Swallow

 

There is never a shortage of issues to worry about, and from an economic standpoint, the suffocating amount of debt our country is dealing with is at the top of the concern list. The 2008-2009 financial crisis hole that we are still climbing our way out of is a friendly reminder of what happens to countries adopting irresponsible fiscal policies. The choking amount of debt the U.S. is swallowing remains a central issue for the current administration and will be a core topic to be debated through the 2012 Presidential election cycle.

How serious is the issue? The problem is serious enough the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) just raised its budget deficit forecast for fiscal 2011 to hit a record $1.5 trillion (9.8% of GDP), a level higher than $1.3 trillion in fiscal 2010. The blame for the new record can be largely attributed to the recent extension of the $858 billion in Bush tax-cuts and other benefits/breaks.  Kicking the can down the road recently led Moody’s Investors Services of threatening the U.S. with a downgrade of its triple-A rated debt.

Source: The Peterson Institute

The President addressed some of our fiscal problems in his State of the Union Address recently (e.g., proposing a freeze on discretionary spending), but the rubber really hits the road when he comes out with his budget proposal later this month. How serious is he about reducing our hemorrhaging deficits? We’ll soon find out when the individual budget line-items are distributed for everyone to see. Shortly thereafter, around the end of March, the debt ceiling impasse will become a game of political “chicken.” Each side, Democrats and Republicans, will attempt to withdraw concessions from the other party, in exchange for a vote that will prevent a disastrous default of our government’s debt payments. Basically, our government is effectively looking to expand its credit card credit line, because our government credit limit is maxed out.

The situation isn’t hopeless if our politicians can show leadership by making difficult, unpopular fiscal decisions, but if America ignores our painful debt problems and does not take its bitter medicine, then prepare for an economy on the verge of keeling over.

Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP® 

Plan. Invest. Prosper. 

www.Sidoxia.com

DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds, but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct position in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.

February 2, 2011 at 1:07 am 2 comments


Receive Investing Caffeine blog posts by email.

Join 1,773 other followers

Meet Wade Slome, CFA, CFP®

More on Sidoxia Services

Recognition

Top Financial Advisor Blogs And Bloggers – Rankings From Nerd’s Eye View | Kitces.com

Wade on Twitter…

Share this blog

Bookmark and Share

Subscribe to Blog RSS

Monthly Archives