Newton's In Search Of The Perfect Investment. Technology Investor.
8:30 AM Thursday, February 24, 2005:
I continue to not like what I see. Yesterday's theme ("cash is king")
was echoed by Thomas Friedman in today's New York Times:
"Honey, I Shrunk the Dollar.
I have just one question about President Bush's trip to Europe: Did he
and Laura go shopping?
If they did,
I would love to have been a fly on the wall when Laura must have said to George:
"George, do you remember how much these Belgian chocolates cost when we
were here four years ago? This box of mints was $10. Now it's $15? What happened
to the dollar, George? Why is the euro worth so much more now, honey? Didn't
Rummy say Europe was old? If we didn't have Air Force One, we never could have
afforded this trip on your salary!"
is falling! The dollar is falling! But the Bush team has basically told the
world that unless the markets make the falling dollar into a full-blown New
York Stock Exchange crisis and trade war, it is not going to raise taxes, cut
spending or reduce oil consumption in ways that could really shrink our budget
and trade deficits and reverse the dollar's slide. This administration is content
to let the dollar fall and bet that the global markets will glide the greenback
lower in an "orderly" manner.
talk to someone who trades currencies? "Orderly" is not always in
the playbook. I make no predictions, but this could start to get very "disorderly."
As a former Clinton Commerce Department official, David Rothkopf, notes, despite
all the talk about Social Security, many Americans are not really depending
on it alone for their retirement. What many Americans are counting on is having
their homes retain and increase their value. And what's been fueling the home-building
boom and bubble has been low interest rates for a long time. If you see a continuing
slide of the dollar - some analysts believe it needs to fall another 20 percent
before it stabilizes - you could see a substantial, and painful, rise in interest
the number of people who have refinanced their homes with floating-rate mortgages,
the falling dollar is a kind of sword of Damocles, getting closer and closer
to their heads," Mr. Rothkopf said. "And with any kind of sudden market
disruption - caused by anything from a terror attack to signs that a big country
has gotten queasy about buying dollars - the bubble could burst in a very
Why is that
sword getting closer? Because global markets are realizing that we have two
major vulnerabilities that this administration doesn't want to address: We are
importing too much oil, so the dollar's strength is being sapped as oil prices
continue to rise. And we are importing too much capital, because we are saving
too little and spending too much, as both a society and a government.
people ask what we are doing about these twin vulnerabilities, they have a hard
time coming up with an answer," noted Robert Hormats, the vice chairman
of Goldman Sachs International. "There is no energy policy and no real
effort to reduce our voracious demand of foreign capital. The U.S. pulled
in 80 percent of total world savings last year [largely to finance our consumption]."
That's a big reason why some "43 percent of all U.S. Treasury bills, notes
and bonds are now held by foreigners," Mr. Hormats said.
And the foreign
holders of all those bonds are listening to our debate. They are listening to
a country that is refusing to raise taxes, and an administration talking about
borrowing an additional $2 trillion so Americans can invest some of their Social
Security money in stocks. If that happened, it would almost certainly weaken
the dollar, further depreciating the U.S. Treasury bonds held by all those foreigners.
the Bank of Korea said it planned to diversify more of its reserves into nondollar
assets, after years of holding too many low-yielding and depreciating U.S. government
securities. The fear that this could become a trend sparked a major sell-off
in U.S. equity markets on Tuesday. To calm the markets, the Koreans said the
next day that they had no intention of selling their dollars.
Oh, good. Now
countries don't have to dump dollars - they just have to reduce their purchases
of them for the dollar to be severely affected," Mr. Hormats noted. "Korea
is the fourth-largest holder of dollar reserves. ... You don't want others to
see them diversifying and say, 'We'd better do that, too, so that we're not
the last ones out.' Remember, the October 1987 stock market crash began with
a currency crisis."
When a country
lives on borrowed time, borrowed money and borrowed energy, it is just begging
the markets to discipline it in their own way at their own time. As I said,
usually the markets do it in an orderly way - except when they don't."
My smart Phoenix friends say the bubble there is "unsustainable."
They are selling their real estate and going to cash. My real estate friends
are moving their short-term loans into long-term loans and locking in the rates.
They figure they won't see these rates in their lifetimes, again. I have been
moving more money to Canada and am now actively pursuing Australia. Both are
commodity rich countries, living well within their means.
you wonder the sanity of it all: Verizon is buying MCI. Qwest is
going to up its offer. I wonder the sanity. Did you know that MCI has
170 different billing and 180 different ordering systems? Did you know that
AT&T Wireless' Q4 2003 resulting self-destruction due to the back office
upgrade failure during LNP (local number portability) implementation was one
of the major drivers of its forced sale to Cingular Wireless?
cash shortages at growing companies: This week I've had at least
four calls for money from growing companies whose cash has run out. Would I
please give them several hundred thousand dollars so they can make it for the
next few months until the VC steps in with a big glob? My heart goes out to
them. I'd love to help... But what they really need is a VC who can keep contributing
money, not individuals who will give a little and then be diluted down with
the next money raise. When I grew my company, we never thought of raising money.
We scrounged. But then the 1990s came along and all the VC companies got rich.
And everyone with a growing company thought they ought to be funded by a rich
uncle. Now the VCs are slow and short of cash themselves...
all my recent jokes about women being smarter and always winning?
There must be something in the air.
A man escapes
from a prison where he is locked up for 15 years. He breaks into a house to
look for money and guns. Inside, he finds a young couple in bed. He orders the
guy out of bed and ties him to a chair. While tying the homeowner's wife to
the bed, the convict gets on top of her, kisses her neck, and then gets up and
goes into the bathroom. While he's in there, the husband whispers over to his
wife: "listen, this guy is an escaped convict. Look at his clothes! He's
probably spent a lot of time in jail and hasn't seen a woman in years. I saw
how he kissed your neck. If he wants sex, don't resist, don't complain. Do whatever
he tells you. Satisfy him no matter how much he nauseates you. This guy is obviously
very dangerous. If he gets angry, he'll kill us both. Be strong, honey. I love
His wife responds:
"He wasn't kissing my neck. He was whispering in my ear. He told me that
he is gay, thinks you're cute, and asked me if we had any Vaseline. I told it
was in the bathroom. Be strong honey. I love you too.
Big People Words:
A group of former kindergartners were trying very hard to become accustomed
to the first grade. The biggest hurdle they faced was that the teacher insisted
on NO baby talk! "You need to use 'Big People' words," she was always
She asked Chris what he had done over the weekend.
"I went to visit my Ana."
"No, you went to visit your GRANDMOTHER Use 'Big People' words!"
She then asked Mitchell what he had done.
"I took a ride on a choo-choo."
She said "No, you took a ride on a TRAIN. You must remember to use 'Big
She then asked little Alec what he had done.
"I read a book," he replied.
"That's WONDERFUL! !" the teacher said. "What book did you read?"
Alec thought real hard about it, then puffed out his chest with great pride,
and said, "Winnie the SHIT."