About 5 years ago Sugar Momma and I, together with our kids were travelling on a sleeper train from Venice to Budapest.
What seemed like every 20 minutes through the night, there was a loud knock on the door of our berth.
Border patrol guards.
The one nice thing that you could say about Marshall Tito, the now long dead ruler of Yugoslavia, is that while he was a live, there really wasn’t need for all of these border guards that came into being after Yugoslavia got split up into its forced component pieces.
I’ll always remember one specific guard who responded to Sugar Momma’s dreary eyed question, “Where are we?”, with the answer, “Slovakia. You’re in Slovakia. Have you ever heard of Slovakia?’.
He didn’t look pleased when she told him that she’d never heard of his country. He then said something in Slovak to his compatriot.
Then he laughed and returned our passports. At least he didn’t point his rifle in our faces.
My wife and I returned to our sleeping car room and she said, “You know, that soldier boy was sort of cute”.
Now before you start getting on my back, I know that Slovakia was never part of Yugoslavia, but for purposes of the above illustration, let’s just assume that it was.
Fast forward those same 5 years and all of a sudden Slovakia is as big a deal as Malta had been last week.
On Tuesday, all the remained for the Euro rescue to go forward was final approval from the Slovakian Parliament of the plan to expand the Euro Rescue Fund.
Whereas the likes of Malta and others didn’t take the opportunity to flex its muscles, Slovakia jumped at the chance, befitting its role as home to Zdena Nazarejova, winner of numerous Women’s European Bodybuilding and Fitness Championships.
Only in a world defined by the oddities routinely found in the “Twilight Zone” would you have seen a Reuters headline that read “Latin American stocks little changed before Slovak vote”.
As it turned out, today was a very eventful day.
For starters, after the market’s close, word came out that the Slovakian Parliament failed to approve their nation’s participation in the EU fund expansion. As the poorest of all the EU nations, they probably felt they had less to give and besides, they had already gone through years of fiscal resposnibility and austerity just to gain EU entrance.
So while we await formation of a new Slovakian government in the aftermath of this rebuke to its leadership, there was opportunity to see what else was going on in the world.
The fact that there seems to be significant movement on the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held for more than 5 years by Hamas was noteworthy.
Myanmar releasing 3000 political dissidents? Wow.
The arrest of an Iranian-American for conspiring to asasinate the Saudi Ambassador to the US and then bomb the Saudi and Israeli embassies? Get me the screenplay.
Ukraine sentencing its previous Prime Minister to 7 years of prison after having been found guilty of negotiating with Russia over natural gas prices? Same old. Same old.
Herb Greenberg making a triumphant appearance on Jim Cramer’s MadMoney after a much too long absence.
Now that’s newsworthy.
But with all of this going on, all the market was thinking about was the start of earning’s season, as Alcoa was poised to announce after the closing bell.
It was so bizarre to have essentially no trading range through the day.
I did purchase shares of Alcoa on Monday and promptly sold calls. I don’t usually buy shares right before earnings are announced, especially if there’s already been a 20% run-up in price.
But given the fact that Alcoa had been serially projecting earnings downward, my thought was that we should have been prepared for bad news.
Which in fact came after the close.
Did I forget to mention that I also sold some Alcoa weekly puts right before the close?
In the after hours, Alcoa slid to $9.79 after having closed at $10.30.
I also purchased some more shares of Mosaic, using some of the options premium proceeds from the past couple of days.
I like capital gains as much as the next guy, but I hope the rumors aren’t true. Mosaic has been one of my most reliable stocks in terms of generating great options premiums. At first it was month after month and now, life is even better as its week after week.
I look at Mosaic as my annuity plan. I’d hate to see it disappear from my screen.
But for me, the big news continued to be Greenberg’s return to Mad Money.
At one time as an addicted viewer to Mad Money, my favorite segment was the East vs. West, when Cramer would take on Greenberg via satellite from San Diego. They would discuss their differing opinions on the merits of stocks in the news.
Probably by coincidence, Greenberg’s audio feed would always seem to get abruptly cut off, giving him the next to last word. The look on his face upon realizing that he was silenced was priceless.
What are you going to do?
But what really made this event so special was that my Sugar Momma gave me a special dispensation to watch Cramer’s Mad Money in our family room.
Cramer had been banned many years ago, because she complained that he gave her a headache.
Sigh. The things you’ll give up for love.
But this time she allowed it.
She came back downstairs near the end of the segment and asked who the “other person” was.
“He’s kinda cute. But is he always that hyper?”
After having seen the movie “Contagion” a few weeks ago, I would have thought she would have realized that this was more a case of environment exerting its predominance
For some reason her question reminded me again of the Slovak border guard incident, but at least Greenberg was neither there to hear the comments, and as far as I know, he doesn’t carry a rifle.
But in the event that he does, I won’t comment about what appeared to be matching shirts.
Muted Plum, I think.
That’s a color that never would have existed in Tito’s Yugoslavia or in any of the former Soviet satellites, but it’s an entirely new world.
To welcome in that world, I’m going to see if I can get away with catching tomorrow’s Mad Money episode.
If I get a rifle pointed to my face, I’ll know that my Parliamentary body has chosen to flex her muscles.