Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Xmas story

So after dining with my relatives, I headed to the church. But it was closed, no mass. On my way back I passed a homeless, called Miguel whom I was used to seeing every day at night. He sleeps at the bank’ s entrance, one block from home. Each time I pass him by I feel very bad, his situation kills me. So I decided to take action and I sat at his side on cardboards, and we talked for about an hour, till 11 pm. No one in the street. He told me that his son is a gendarme living far away and that every year he sends Miguel money (around AR$ 2,000) so his father can pay for accomodations in the province of BA. He said that what his son sends him allows him to cover his expenses for the year. I asked him how much he needed to stay in a guesthouse. He doesn’t like BA shelters because the homeless there rob other people’s belongings. I said wow, and no one controls that? He said no. They robbed him a backpack 2 weeks ago where he had a radio, a new pant, a new tshirt, etc. he said that the radio was his company during the lonely nights and weekends, when he could listen to soccer games. I felt crushed. So I went mad and all in my mind was: I absolutely need to buy a radio for him so he doesn’t feel as lonely tomorrow. But… even 24 hour stores were closed, of course. I made out an open drugstore. Knowing the answer I asked: “do you sell radios?”
There was a lady outside the drugstore trying to find batteries and a man buying medicines with several prescriptions. We started to chat accidentally. I explained to them abt my need to find an open store and Miguel’s story. The guy was touched.
“I love your story and I really like you. These are madnesses that we all make in life and I really like you for that. Listen my family is in the car, why don’t you join us and we will go around to find an open store where we can buy that radio for Miguel?
“ WOW I said, that would be wonderful…but I don’t want to bother you, I am sure you are going to celebrate Xmas Eve somewhere so…”
He said not to worry about that.
So I went home in a hurry, grabbed my credit card and money and rushed to this man’s car. I didn’t expect to find them, since it took me almost 7 minutes to go up home and come back, so I was restless. BUT…the man was just getting out of the drugstore as I approached the car…I couldn’t believe it. I meet a man on xmas eve, when no ones on the street and the few people who are are all dressed and heading out for their parties and this guy offered his time, his car, his family’s time that special night to buy a radio for a man he didn’t know and to help me!
We went to a shopping I thought would be open, Galería Pacífico, as other years many shoppings stayed till late on xmas eve, but not this year…everything was closed….he streets were desert… so he and his wife said:
“Paola look: we have radio we really don’t use at home and think that Miguel could use…” I said no, please, I will try to find a place open tomorrow to buy it, you’ve been really kind tonight and don’t want to bother even more. I will never forget what you did for me tonight. It’s been one of my best xmas time.”
Graciela, the lady replied: “please, lets meet tomorrow at the church entrance and I will give you the radio”.
I was so thankful. They gave me a lift 2 blocks from home after asking: “are you alone tonight?”
I replied: “No, but I know that if I were alone you would be inviting me now to join you and your friends for a xmas eve celebration”.
They said yes, you would be coming with us in that case.

Next day, at noon, we met with Graciela and she gave me the radio. That night I went to find Miguel with the radio and an envelope with the money he needed to cover one month in a guesthouse, probably the time needed to get the money transfer from his son.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"Black Fridays'" Buying Binge: Crisis Kills Americans

Wal-Mart Employee Trampled to Death

Published: November 28, 2008

A Wal-Mart employee in suburban New York died after he was trampled by a crush of shoppers who tore down the front doors and thronged into the store early Friday morning, turning the annual rite of post-Thanksgiving bargain hunting into a Hobbesian frenzy.

2,000 anxious shoppers started pushing, shoving and piling against the locked sliding glass doors of the Wal-Mart in Valley Stream, N.Y., Nassau County police said. The shoppers broke the doors off their hinges and surged in, toppling a 34-year-old temporary employee, Jdimypai Damour, 34, of Jamaica, Queens, who had been waiting with other workers in the store’s entryway.

People did not stop to help the employee as he lay on the ground, and they pushed against other Wal-Mart workers who were trying to aid Mr. Damour. The crowd kept running into the store even after the police arrived, jostling and pushing officers who were trying to perform CPR, the police said.

“They were like a stampede,” said Nassau Det. Lt. Michael Fleming. “Hundreds of people walked past him, over him or around him.”

Mr. Damour was taken from the Wal-Mart to nearby Franklin Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., the police said. His exact cause of death has not been determined. The police said that three other shoppers were injured and a 28-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant was taken to the hospital for observation.

One shopper, Kimberly Cribbs, said she was standing near the back of the crowd at around 5 a.m. on Friday when people started rushing into the store. She said several people were knocked to the ground, and parents had to grab their children by the hand to keep them from being caught in the crush.

“They were falling all over each other,” she said. “It was terrible.”

Crowds began building outside the Wal-Mart at 9 p.m. Thursday and grew throughout the night, as eager shoppers queued up in a line that filled the sidewalk and stretched toward the boundary fence of the Green Acres Mall.

At 3:30 a.m., store employees called the Nassau police to report that the crowd was growing quickly, the police said. Officers came by to try to organize the line, but were called away to a Circuit City, a Best Buy and a B.J.’s Wholesale Club nearby, to deal with crowds there.

A half-dozen Wal-Mart employees lined up in the entryway trying to hold back the crowd by pushing against the locked sliding doors, but they were overwhelmed by the force of the crowd, Lieutenant Fleming said.

As the doors snapped open and people streamed in, several people fell on top of one another. The 34-year-old employee who died was at the bottom of the pile, the police said.

On Friday, Wal-Mart released a statement saying that the man who was killed had been working for Wal-Mart through a temp agency. The company called the death “a tragic situation,” and said it was working with police.

“The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.

Lieutenant Fleming said that the store “could have done more” to prevent the melee.

“I’ve heard other people call this an accident, but it’s not,” he said. “This certainly was foreseeable.”

Monday, June 02, 2008

Can the Price of Oil Return to $70?

Buenos Aires, Argentina May 30, 2008

*** Four months ago China was brought to its knees in the face of the most ferocious meteor of the last 50 years, succumbing to its vulnerability to the uncontrollable and unmanageable force of nature. Today those knees have been literally broken after another dramatic and uncontrollable event for China: a devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, in the South West that killed and buried more than 56,000 people (and that number is rising every day…), injured 300,000 and 30,000 are still missing.

China normally enjoys a position of worldwide domination and control when it comes to internal policies that silence their opponents, and the development of an economy that exports deflation, and in protecting its industry and monetary competitiveness. However, in the face of these natural disasters, China find it can do little more than kneel and beg for aid from the very world it attempts to dominate whenever possible.

Chinese agriculture has once again been adversely affected in Sichuan as well as in other zones of disaster in the last few months. 34,000 hectares of farmland and irrigation systems have been destroyed in some areas: ““up to 100,000 hectares of rice paddies might have to be used to grow alternative crops”, the China Daily reported. Additionally, farming machinery and facilities have been damaged and 12.5 million head of poultry and livestock has been killed….

As the country’s leading agricultural province, Sichuan provides 6% of the nation’s total grain output which includes 5% of the national total summer grain production, 8% of the total vegetable oil crops and 5% percent of the total vegetable production, said Wei Chao’an, Vice Agriculture Minister, speaking to the China Daily.

China food inflation surged to 22% in April. Through enacting price controls in areas hit by these disasters, the government is trying to cap inflation, that came in at 8.5% for April.

It is important to note that China has also been imposing agricultural export restrictions, increasing tariffs and imposing export quotas after inflation skyrocketed to its highest level in 12 years during February while at the same time 40% of the country’s inflation comes from the international price increases, according to Chinese economists.

It is like trying to extinguish a fire using a bucket of gasoline.

Also, China continues to import products that keep rising in price, from food to energy. We must remain aware that oil and corn are part of our everyday life in the form of plastics to toothpaste.

On the other hand, China is net exporter of agricultural products, which means that higher export restrictions will actually create the opposite effect to what they are trying to avoid in the process – that being it will bring about inflation. In restricting the international food supply they are generating a greater increase in international prices.

China has also increased subsidies to farmers in hopes they will raise more pork and cultivate more grains. Ultimately these measures do little more than to create relative price distortions while at the same time they discourage farmers from producing more of the same.

As quoted in the China Daily, Qi Jingmei, a senior economist at the State Information Center, noted that “The Chinese market is linked to the global market by thousands of threads. You can’t cut them off completely”.

As the country is imposing restrictions to food exports, it is opening its state food reserves of wheat, rice and pork in a move to contain inflation. Huang Jikun, of the Chinese Agricultural Policy Center noted that: “The potential for prices to go up may well rise in future, because you can’t always tap the grain reserves.”

These reserves could in turn run out in a few months, especially if the farmers decide to turn to the production of more profitable commodities in the face of depressed domestic prices. And if you combine this scenario with a policy of export restrictions an explosive cocktail could be generated when the world finds out that China is returning to participate actively in the world-wide grain purchase.

A great commodity play is the ETF PowerShares DB Agricultural Fund, (AMEX:DBA), launched in January 2007. This fund tracks the Deutsche Bank Liquid Commodity Index-Optimum Yield Excess Return, invests in futures contracts for corn, wheat, soy beans, and sugar. It is the largest ($2.6 billion in assets) and most heavily traded (3.1 million share three-month average trading volume) agricultural commodities ETF. The fund collateralizes its futures contracts with 3-month U.S. Treasuries.

*** With so many market gurus, investment banks, even the Iranian Energy Minister forecasting a worldwide debacle – that is the price of oil reaching $200 a barrel, is there any margin for an oil price correction?

Arjun N. Murti, an analyst at Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), predicted oil would reach $100 a barrel. Many laughed.

Today, he thinks that oil prices will keep rising and will stay above $100 going into 2011. Murti’s prediction three weeks ago is that oil will climb to $200 and gasoline to $6 a gallon within two years.

Others think that oil will collapse if the speculators begin to sell their oil positions.

Currently Murti is one of the most listened gurus on Wall Street, and his investment reports are followed by many investors before deciding which destinations or sectors in which to put their money.

And no matter how hard somebody disagrees with its predictions, it matters little for `Goldman is always Goldman’.
“Even if you disagree with their views, the problem is that Goldman does carry so much credibility. There are a lot of traders who are going to buy based on their reports.” said Nauman Barakat, senior vice president for global energy futures at Macquarie Futures USA to the New York Times.

There are other analysts who are predicting that the price of oil could return to US$ 70 a barrel towards year end.

There are so many opinions regarding whether there is a sufficient demand for oil, if its supply is diminishing, if oil will run out before we imagined it would, if the situation is a supply or demand matter, or if it is simply a speculator’s market- as analysts tend to think.

Citigroup (NYSE:C) analyst Tim Evans said to the New York Times that trading commodities these days is like “sticking your hand in a blender.”

Oil is in vogue and we all want to make predictions, as crazy as they might seem. But one thing is certain: Americans are addicted to oil. And if a strong recession does not shake up the United States, the probability of seeing oil back to $70 is striking to say the least.

Probably, another sure thing is Evans’ statement.

Until next Friday,

Paola Pecora

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sharon Stone's karma

"I'm not happy about the way the Chinese are treating the Tibetans, because I don't think anyone should be unkind to anyone else. And then this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and then I thought, is that karma? When you're not nice, that the bad things happen to you?"

Sharon Stone's quote referring to Sichuan earthquake in China...

We should ask her why did the US get such a bad karma everytime there are tornadoes in the south east areas of her country, or devastating earthquakes and fires in california...

"when you are not nice the bad things happen to you..."
"bad things" that happen in the US, are because they are not nice, is she included as an American she is?

Which is our karma that we have to bear statements like Stone's? what have we done to deserve this?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Is it so Great to Work for Google?

"America's best place to work"

Biggest internet success in history. There must be something.
$150 billion dollars
More than 10,000 employees worldwide
Drinks, snacks, meals everything is free. Cookie jars, people bring in their dogs -I assume to watch them work or work with them, you never know with Google.
Gym, pool, voleyball court, ping pong, dry cleaning laundry, shoe repair, concierge service, barber shop, baby sitting, 5 doctors for free check ups, massage, how can this culture of entertainment succeed outside of Hollywood?
They receive 3000 job applications a day, I am not impressed at all. How people won't like to play errrrr I mean work in a place like that? Of course it will remain people's best working place as long as they offer free food, laundry, games and all that teenagers crave for.
11 restaurants, refer a friend to work at Google? $2,000.
I wonder...WHEN THOSE PEOPLE DO WORK!?? How can they be productive with so many distractions? If I take a day off from work and decide to do my laundry, go to the gym, have a massage, play with the turtle and then go to the voleyball court to play I wonder...wouldn't that take all my day away?
Google has such tremendous success not because these superflous and frivolous ways of working but because the tremendous power its company model represents on the internet. They could be more profitable and productive without all those kids' gadgets -just concentrating on their daily working challenges that Larry Page and Sergey Brin created 10 years ago.

I am not so sure Airbus Aérospatiale would be better off if the management decided to offer free cookie jars with Winnie Pooh designs and skating along their facility for their productive engineers dressed only with a pijama and Spider Man slippers .

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Can we Go Higher?

There was an interesting article on the New York Times about something that fascinates us traders: the psychological components of trading.

"So here is a sobering thought for Wall Street: There may be a bit of Mr. Kérviel in all of us." There is a brain effect similar to the one gotten when drugs enter our system: addiction. The more risky the trade, the more the brain craves for it. And French prosecutors compare the rogue trader's trades at SocGén, as a drug habit. “The more you think you can gain from the risk, the more you take the risk and the more activation in the circuitry,” Mr. Knutson professor of psychology and neuroscience at Stanford University said.

Jason Zweig, a financial editor found that brain images from drug addicts about to get a new hit were the same as the ones of traders who are making money and about to place another trade. An addiction very difficult to let go.

There are even very interesting psychology traits where people feel more comfortable losing than winning. And many -that's the odd thing, well not that odd- get excited and search for the losing trade (unconsciously) to feel better. The explanation is that they enjoy piling up bad trades that lead to frustration and sadness because this is something they can control. Same thing happens with their private lives: certain people search for the "losing attitude" i.e. a closed door that has only one possibility: frustration. A positive approach is an open door that can lead to infinite successful possibilities - ergo, uncontrollable to certain minds.

Alpesh Patel, from the Praefinium Group, an asset management company, said that "when traders get too emotional, they start making bigger, more frequent trades". When they are on the winning path they want more, and when they lose, they want more winning trades to offset the bad ones.

“It is more common for people to hold onto losers and see their investments go to zero, or shorts go to the sky, than it is for them to practice good risk management and get out,” Dr. Kiev, a well known Wall Street psychiatrist and writer said.

The most successful traders are the ones that master their emotions. So before getting into trading, the best advice one can get is: learn about trading psychology and only after, jump into the trading arena.

"Some 70% of all equity volume is driven by computer models that suddenly trigger a surge in buy or sell orders that are causing the fragmentation, volatility and use of hidden trading venues" says Robert Lenzner on Watch Out for the Quants on Forbes.

So...let’s rely on algorithms, much better.

Friday, February 01, 2008

My Advice to Novice Traders

I want to demystify the "buy low sell high" syndrome.

You have to buy high and sell higher.
If you buy "low" chances are you're gonna get a tough ride lower. Unless you are an experienced technical analyst and more than one signal (indicator, investor sentiment, etc) is crying a buy signal.
I have seen so many new telemarketers (ex traders) in my 20 years of markets that this is one of the best advices I could give.
Don't try to catch an early trend. Wait for it to develop and jump in in the early stages NOT BEFORE.
There are a lot of signals to listen to. Learn about trading psychology, keep your mind open, study, make your own research (or hire someone for that), learn technical analysis, funnymentals (errrr "fundamentals") and then yes, you can get in i.e. ready to be crashed and humiliated by the markets. They will do it. So study. This is not gambling.

PS -There are people who enjoy buying high and selling lower. But this will be another topic for this blog soon. Stay tuned.

1 comentarios:

Andrew said...

That's a plausible advice. The market doesn't work for me. :-)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Argentina: We Are Fine, But We Are Going the Wrong Way

While we wait for the Federal Reserve to rule a further reduction of interest rates and the prompt approval of the tax incentive package by the US Congress, and following the concern of one of our readers about the future of Argentina –“What would happen if soybean prices go down by 20%? ... How will the government try to protect the tax surplus?”-today I dedicate this article to him.

As I have said before, I understand that Argentina will not suffer the impact of the international crisis, and I have reasons to say that: a floating exchange rate gives flexibility to the economy, international reserves of US$ 47 billion, tax and trade surpluses, international prices for agricultural commodities are said to keep its current status, a heavy domestic demand and, on top of this, no direct exposure to the high-risk assets that generated the crisis.

However, our reader has reasons to worry about certain topics that Argentina must focus on immediately, since they can threaten its continuous economic growth. I agree that Argentina must address its domestic problems, rather than focusing on those that come from abroad. Which ones? Let’s see:

The inflation menace, for starters, that is everywhere even though the government does everything to hide it. Otherwise, how can we explain a 33% y-o-y increase in the collection of I.V.A. (value added tax)? Simple: 8.5 % belongs to the economic growth, 2% could be related to a higher efficiency in terms of collections…and what about the rest? This is clearly explained by inflation. Our pockets are not confused…

The energy problem is an issue that must be addressed as soon as possible because the country has reached its limit. Also, Argentina suffers from a severe distortion of relative prices as a consequence of its domestic price control policy and the freeze in the utility rates. Therefore, where prices should be the signals that guide investments, they are showing them the wrong way and so we find supply problems in these sectors.

It is true that Argentina has tax and trade surpluses, but it is also true that they both are heavily supported by the prices of agricultural commodities. The governmental strategy to achieve both surpluses goes no further that praying that the external prosperity continues. If the country does not take the necessary steps to become truly competitive and consolidate the trade surplus, and more responsible in terms of managing the tax issues by basically controlling the public spending, this prosperity will come to an end.

Another issue that makes Argentina vulnerable is its situation in the international finance markets, and so the need to depend on Chávez and other sections within the same government to pay the services of the debt.

But despite its own concerns, our reader keeps the confidence on our country and asked me if I could recommend any given company to invest in. Yes, of course I can do that, and that is Banco Macro (NYSE:BMA ; MERV:BMA).

Banco Macro, chaired by Jorge Brito, is one of the main winners of the banking sector after the 2001 crisis. Following the crisis, the bank started a strong expansion process through acquisitions of other entities that ended up in the bank climbing to the sixth spot in the ranking of financial institutions, both in terms of assets as in deposits and loans. In terms of equity, Banco Macro is the second bank in the country. When many banks decided to hibernate, Banco Macro took the lead and its now enjoying the results of such decision.

I have X-rayed Banco Macro to find out that it shows a P/E of 11.34 (industry P/E is 16.67), a ROA of 2.84% (1.16% for the industry) and a ROE of 20.12% (12.97% for the industry). The bank’s doubtful accounts represent 1.36% of its total portfolio (2.66% is the doubtful portfolio of the entire banking system). Total headcount is 3,422 employees, where 246 branches are spread all over the country.

Not only have these indicators shown that this stock is an opportunity, but also that the context is benevolent to the bank: the argentine financial system is in full expansion, thus guaranteeing growth opportunities to this entity. At the moment, Argentina has low levels of financial intermediation and a ratio of private credit to GDP of 12.5%, which shows the low level of actual indebtedness. Financial intermediation is in full recovery with credit to the private sector growing at a y-o-y rate of 42% while private deposits grow at a rate of 23%.

The lovers of technical analysis that had already seen the graphics must be surely confused by my pick of a stock with a negative trend in its quote for the past six months. My answer is that this stock has been unfairly punished by a market that is afraid of banking stocks, and so the strong fall in its price has nothing to do with objective information. Moreover, on top of the financial indicators and market perspectives that endorse my opinion, Banco Macro has repurchased its own stocks a couple of weeks ago because it considered that they were not fairly priced by the market.

And last, I want to tell you that I have digged in my own backyard during the weekend to see if I was lucky to find oil or gas…only rocks already, but I still do not give up hope. Yesterday, Pan American Energy announced the discovery of an oil reservoir of around 100 million barrels in the province of Santa Cruz, Argentina, the most important discovery in the past few years in the country.

Horacio Pozzo