Updating the “Magazine Cover” Indicator

February 28, 2012 Comments off

Rocky occasionally peruses his favorite magazine store for investment truths using the “Magazine Cover Contrary Indicator.”  Unfortunately, Rocky’s local store doesn’t sell Time, Newsweek or Business Week.  Rocky’s local magazine store sells mostly lurid  “periodicals,”  “videos,”  and cigars.

Hence, Rocky needed to develop his own contrary media indicator — independent of  bulls, bears, and cleavage.

He found one!!

Bloomberg Radio occasionally adjusts their hourly market summaries.  Bloomberg  no longer even mentions the overnight change in the Japanese Stock Market (up 15% year-to-date);  but instead they quote the “yield spread”  on defaulted Greek Bonds. For Rocky, this is a very bullish omen for Japanese stocks. And it also means that Greece is irrelevant. (Rocky also noticed his local magazine store has increased its inventory of extremely lurid Shukanshi.)

[Disclosure: Rocky NEVER gives investment advice and he reminds readers that sometimes a "Cigar is just a cigar."  However, he confesses that this "radio indicator" contributed to his decision to recently buy some Japanese stocks (currency-hedged) such as the DXJ and NKY Japanese Stock ETF's.  He may stay with this position for a long time, or he may spit it out tomorrow like a bad cigar.]

Guess this object and win!

February 15, 2012 16 comments

Rocky’s been busy lifting large boulders, and then seeking medical assistance for the consequences of lifting large boulders. He apologizes for his recent blog silence, and offers another “Guess this object” contest as a goodwill gesture to his loyal readers.  As always, the reader who correctly guesses the object will receive a unique prize of dubious monetary value.

Hint: The dimensions are 30cm x 30cm x 30cm.  The yellow material is chamois (genuine). Inside of the object is a flashlight and a Poland Spring water bottle filled with 50% anti-freeze (Prestone) and 50% water. A piece of asphalt shingle is on the top of the object. And the stripes are “designer” duct tape.

[Disclosure: Rocky rarely uses duct tape with designer colors. As Trophy Wife will attest, he's strictly a grey-sort-of-guy.]

Investment advice for Ron Paul

December 30, 2011 Comments off

Rocky never provides investment advice. But for once he’ll violate this  rule and offer some advice to Congressman Ron Paul.

Members of Congress must file financial disclosure forms which show all of their assets and investments. Rocky studied Rep. Paul’s portfolio from 2003 to the present. http://www.legistorm.com/memberdisclosure/413/Rep_Ron_Paul_TX.html

Ron Paul’s portfolio violates every principle of sound money management. It is not prudent. It is not sensible. It is volatile. It is speculative. And it may give a window into Ron Paul’s perspective on the economy and free enterprise.

From 2003 to the present, Ron Paul’s stock portfolio owned only gold stocks. He owned some real estate. He had some cash. And he owned mutual funds that make money ONLY WHEN the stock market declines. He did not own any gold bullion. And more recently, he purchased more gold mining stocks and added to his bearish bets on the stock market using leveraged bearish funds.

In 2003, the value of his portfolio was between $860,000 and $2,300,00. (The disclosure form only provides a range of  values.)  In 2010, his portfolio grew to $2.4 million and $5.5 million.  (Gold stocks have declined between 15% and 30% in 2011, so his portfolio has declined commensurately. He will declare that loss next year.)

So, over an an 8-year period his portfolio has appreciated by about 12%/year. (And after this year’s losses for gold mining stocks, it will be a bit less than that.)

Not so bad, eh?

Nope!

If, instead of being such a wiseguy, he had instead just purchased gold bullion, his return would have been 55% better — returning an impressive 18.5% per year!  (It’s very strange that Ron Paul doesn’t own any bullion. And a skeptic might wonder whether he owns bullion, but failed to disclose it.)

[Disclosure: If one extrapolates the profile of his portfolio, one must conclude that he either nailed the bottom of the gold market, or he has really lousy long term performance. Remember that (even after this 10 year old rally) gold has appreciated at only about 5% for the past 30 years, while stocks have returned about 11%, and long bonds have returned high single digits. More troubling, however, is the notion that a  President of the United States would personally profit from a DECLINING stock market and a declining economy! Even Barack Obama's assets include some S&P Index Funds....]

Help wanted: advertising copy writer

November 12, 2011 1 comment

From OpenTable (the restaurant guide/reservation service):

“Bistro Z is the premier destination restaurant in Westchester County. We exceed all of our guests expectations by serving only the finest quality food.”

Rocky wonders: “How LOW can expectations be?”

Why Groupon resembles a ‘roach motel’

November 11, 2011 1 comment

The term Roach Motel (“where roaches check in, but they don’t check out!”) was coined by Black Flag pesticides in a decades-old advertisement.  Judging from Rocky’s recent experience, Groupon membership is quite similar.

Groupon (GRPN) went public recently after some substantial kerfuffles with the SEC. In their IPO filing, GRPN said that they had over 50 million subscribers as of December 2010 (page F-37 of SEC Form 424B4) and by September 2011, that number had grown to 143 million!!  Notably, in 2009, GRPN had only 152,000 subscribers (of which 43,000 made purchases) whereas in 2011   29.5 million purchases were made by the 143 million subscribers. This means purchase activity among Grouponers declined from 28.3% to 20.6%. (If one considers that 16 million customers made multiple purchases, the activity percentage is declining much faster.) That GRPN paid people real cash to “join,” and that they have never been profitable is beyond the scope of Rocky’s “roach motel” insight.
Rocky doesn’t  like crowds, and he didn’t like being one of the 143 million Grouponers.  Also, as a bald man,  he loathed  the daily 20%-off Groupons for hair removal services. (There were never any discounts for hair retrieval services.)  Fed up,  he tried to “cancel” his Groupon membership yesterday. Alas, there was NO ability to do that on their website, nor were there ANY  instructions on how to cancel membership.
Rocky sent an email to GRPN “customer support” with the question: “How do I cancel (and close) my Groupon Account?”
The response:  “You will no longer receive any promotional emails from Groupon. Please note that in the future you may receive transactional emails regarding past or future purchases made though your account and important business announcements that could affect your rights as a customer. You may receive an email if we update our privacy statement or our terms of service.”
Presumably this means that GRPN still numbers Rocky as one of the 143 million, but they won’t send him any more emails for nail salons, cooking classes, and discount sushi.
Gone, but not forgotten….
The cancellation experience reminds Rocky of  Antony’s speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,  “I come neither to bury Groupon, nor to praise them. But the evil email address that Groupon captures lives on after them.”
[Disclosure: Rocky never provides investment advice and currently has no Groupon stock position. He notes, however, that Black Flag Roach killer comes in both "fragrance free" and "fresh pine scent."  Here, he smells a rat.]

The hair-raising secret for achieving higher SAT test scores

October 17, 2011 Comments off

If you’re about to spend $2,000 on a Kaplan SAT prep class, save your money. Rocky shares an untold, hair-raising secret which will improve one’s SAT score for only $4.99.

Last weekend, Rocky drove his youngest daughter to her SAT test.  The crazed, competitive, collegiate- co-ed-to-be carried the consummate commodities:  pencils, calculator, wristwatch, ID card. She also carried the non-essentials:  banana, bag of veggie chips.  bottle of water. Additionally, she brazenly brought  the  backup bag: a dozen spare pencils, spare batteries…

The duo set out on the drive to the test site when Daughter suddenly screamed: “Stop the car. I need to go back home!”

Was this a case of sudden-onset diarrhea? Or perhaps a life-changing revelation that she wanted to skip college and launch the next Apple Computer Company?

Neither.

“Dad – I need a spare Scunci for my hair,” she said.

(Scuncis are those elastic bands that hold long hair in a properly coiffed manner. As Rocky is bald, he views them as useful only as sling shots and holding car tailpipes in place when the rubber hanger fails.)

“You’ve GOT to be kidding,” said Rocky, thinking that Trophy Wife’s frequent  caveats about Bad Hair Days had finally hit home. (Rocky failed to imagine the dire consequences of a  Scunci  that goes  “snap” — somewhere between reading comprehension and vocabulary. Would Daughter suddenly be blinded by her ample golden locks? Might Rocky suffer legal liability if an out-of-control Scunci went sailing across the room and injured a fellow test-taker?”)

Grumbling about “women,” he drove back  home and waited patiently (listening to NPR’s Car Talk), while Daughter ran inside to get a spare Scunci.

Later that day, Rocky asked Daughter about the test, and he also asked which was more useful: the banana or the spare Scunci…

“It’s really good that I had a spare Scunci,” Daughter said. The desks were incredibly tiny and my pencils kept rolling off them and falling on the floor. I used the spare Scunci to tie my spare pencils together and it surely boosted my score by at least 100 points!”

[Disclosure: Indiviudal results may vary.  Unlike the Kaplan Prep Class, the Scunci Company doesn't offer refunds if  SAT scores fail to improve.]

What to do with an old computer?

October 10, 2011 2 comments

An old Dell computer has sat in the corner of Rocky’s home library for months. Rocky promised Trophy Wife that this unsightly dust magnet would eventually “disappear,” yet even Rocky’s trusted Computer Guru won’t carry the box away. The Computer Guru explained that no charity would want such a relic.

What to do? Rocky lists some possible uses for the “low profile” desktop computer:

1. It weighs about 15 pounds. Perhaps it can be used as a “medicine ball” … to be tossed back-and-forth in the gym?

2. In lieu of bricks, it could be placed in the trunk of a car…providing added traction for winter driving.

3. It can be donated to Habitat For Humanity and used as a substitute concrete block for new construction.

4. It can serve as a step stool to reach the top shelf in the pantry.

5. It can be used as a space heater to warm up the bathroom floor on cold mornings.

6. It can serve as a standing platform for meditation and yoga. Alternatively, smashed with a sledge hammer, it can provide a more effective release for life’s frustrations.

7. It could be buried in the backyard as a time capsule for future generations to find.

 

 

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