Won’t Get Fooled Again

How universal is that theme?

How many times have we been fooled, or used our best judgment and made a mistake that we’ve come to regret?

Ask Eddie Murphy that question.

What do you think would pop up first in his mind among the mistaken paths he’s taken?

Beverly Hills Cop 3, Pluto Nash, transvestite hookers, accepting hosting duties for the Academy Awards or walking away from hosting duties?

He’s only human, as are we all, so there’s probably many more regrets in the mix.

Until I started writing this blog I never realized how obsessed I must be with Eddie Murphy, as he’s been cited now for a third time and on the other two occasions his was the illustrative photo.

Not so this time.

I’ve learned my lesson.

The WhoAs a product of the 60’s and 70’s the classic song from “The Who” always comes to mind. Certainly Peter Townshend learned his lesson and now probably removes all traces of child pornography from his computer.

After all, isn’t “learning your lesson” the desired endpoint of any mistake?

The depressing close to that song is that what we think of as change is most often not.

“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” also has a universal truth about it. That and the fact that we always do get fooled again.

This weekend we learned that Billy Crystal, the one time host of the Oscars is coming back to rescue the production after the surprise departure of Murphy.

The surprise departure came after the surprise selection.

Meet the old boss, same as the new boss.

And then comes news that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was truly resigning his position following Parliament passing economic reforms. He didn’t use Twitter to make the announcement as he had earlier to deny the announcement.

Instead, Berlusconi blamed “transformati” as the reason for his sad state. That is, the tendency of Italian politicians to change their policy positions based on shifting winds.

He described his decision to resign as being a “generous act.”

Replacing him and seeking to pull off the same kind of rescue as Billy Crystal is expected to do, is Mario Monti, a past member of the European Commission and who just a week ago was appointed Senator for Life.

With that a”Senator for Life” appellation also goes the title “Colonel”, befitting such previous lifetime luminaries as Moammar Khaddafi, who also had quite an Italian connection.

I’m not certain what the designation entitles the bearer to, but it would look great on a desk nameplate. Monti has already asured the populace that he will devote his complete attention to the task of rescuing the Italian economy.

Those efforts are already being hailed as “The Full Monti.”

After 20 years of dealing with the antics of Berlusconi, Italians are now ready to go back to their old ways and form a new government every few months. Even then, the unifying theme was that the old boss was the same as the new boss.

Monday is the start of yet another week and I’ve had a personal best for total options income generation, even compared to some options cycles that were 5 weeks long.

Sounds great, but I’m wondering whether I’ll have the strength to resist the lure of Berlusconi-like generous option premiums or whether I’ll get fooled again.

At question is Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

This week, I’ll have only cash that’s been made available through the assignment of my Caterpillar shares. Every other holding that had calls written against it are still right where they belong. Still in my portfolilo and very close to their most recently written strike prices.

On Fridays that end like that I want something other than a “Down Monday”, which typically gives the opportunity to repurchase shares.

This week, other than Caterpillar, there’s nothing to buy back.

The prudent me would do what I’ve done the past few weeks. In fact, this has been the third time in 3 weeks that my Caterpillar shares have been assigned. Each time I’ve bought shares back and resold options. Along the way, I’ve been very happy as the “in the money” weekly options provided an adjusted 2% ROI.

To buy shares back again seems like such a “no brainer” especially if they open lower than the price where exercised, as they did last week.

But then there’s Green Mountain just waving at me, sort of like those underage hookers that Berlusconi seemed to favor.

In return for picking up shares about 3 weeks ago, I received a 6-7% premium each week. But likewise in return, the devil required accepting a 35% share price haircut.

So with so much uncertainty and questions out there regarding Green Mountain, is it possible that a momentum stock can actually be a value, or is it destined to spend the rest of its existence along with the heap of one time momentum stocks that never see glory days again.

I know that I should stick with Caterpillar or some other proven cyclic winner, but human nature refuses to believe that lightening will strike twice. Even if it does, human nature then tells us that we won’t be the unlucky guy who keeps getting shown in the Guinness World Records for the number of documented times he’s been actually struck by lightening.

Alright, so there’s human nature, but there’s also that need to “do as I say” kind of thing, as my segment on last week’s “Bloomberg Rewind, where I mentioned that I was holding Green Mountain and would continue to do so even after the precipitous fall, was replayed the next evening.

As Rick Perry would say “Oops”.

To compound things a bit, I’ll be enroute to Arizona when the market opens and am sitting on a number of new short call positions that I was hoping to open. With luck of the draw a week earlier I’d boarded a Southwest flight for Nashville that didn’t have Wi-Fi service, but it was an otherwise quite Thursday.

I’d missed nothing on that day, besides most of my weekly trades come on Monday and Wednesday.

There’s not too much that I can do about tomorrow’s flight. That too, will be hit or miss, but if a miss, our feet will be on ground before noon, NYSE time. At that time I can decide whether to ignore what common sense tells me to do.

In the meantime, I’m still somewhat confused by the goings on in the GOP quest for the Presidential nomination.

In that regard, it’s hard not to get fooled again. What other choices are there? The perfect example of how an intelligent person doesn’t get fooled again is to consider whether you’ve ever re-ordered from Godfather’s Pizza.

Without a single real vote being cast, the infinite number of debates, the most recent on The Cartoon Network, it appears the the choice is narrowing down to a steady and unexciting Mitt Romney or a ridiculously resurgent Newt Gingrich.

Either way, that represents getting fooled again.

The reality, though, is that American politics, sometimes those who lose in their quest to become boss, eventually do become the new boss, so giving up is never a good idea.

Look at Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Using Berlusconi’s view of politics, Romney’s perceived shifts are reflective of “transformati”, while Gingrich’s dogmatic adherence to 20 year old policy positions are the sign of a principled politician.

And if anyone knows a principled politician, it’s likely Berlusconi, as he’s purchased many over a lifetime of public service.

I suppose that many are saying the same thing about our current President, but many will likely change their minds if we can string 3-4 months of good employment numbers together.

In the meantime, knowing that giving up is never a good idea, there may be hope for Green Mountain, yet.

Maybe so, but I can tell you that regardless of what I finally do with the money, I wont get fooled again, again.

That gives me at least one more opportunity to take a stab at Green Mountain. If shares have at least another week of life left in them before the expected implosion, there may be very good opportunity to sell in the money weekly calls and erase some of last week’s loss.

If that strategy works, all that will remain is wondering how long to keep pulling that off until I do get fooled one last time.

 

 

 

 

Excesses

We’re Americans.

We love excess and excesses and are probably harboring lots of pent up need to exercise excess, just waiting for an economic turnaround to finally get here.

In the meantime as those parts of the world that were once derisively referred to as “third world” are discovering the joy of excess, we still know how to party with the big boys.

I’m not certain whether I meant that literally or figuratively.

On Wednesday and Thursday my oldest son and I were in New York City, a place I rarely went to during all of the years spent growing up in the Bronx.

Of course, back then, the only places in “the city” to visit were things like museums and art galleries and they always seemed to take their child unfriendly causes to excess. Even the dinosaurs were a bit much, as if bigger was actually better when it came to extinct species.

Some of the great homes along Fifth Avenue, past residences to the Astors, the Morgans and others weren’t appreciated by me back then, either.

Not even the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, a display of inflated cartoon characters taken to excess was enough to attract me to see them on anything other than a TV set.

They didn’t have things like Bloomberg News and CNBC back in the old days. Not just to watch on TV, but to physically step foot into.

Those are great attractions. I’d see them any day. And that’s exactly what we did while visiting the past couple of days.

Sure, Wall Street was always there, but I never knew about Wall Street when growing up.

The funny thing is that I still have no desire to actually visit the epitome of capitalism. No desire to have the obligatory bull and bear picture taken. I did, however, want to have a picture taken with some Occupy Wall Street protestors, especially since they are, among other things, protesting the great excesses of Wall Street and banking.

Maybe next year,

Ah, but a picture of a real New York corned beef sandwich. Now we’re talking pictures.

On the way back home we stopped for New York deli food. Not to be overly chauvanistic, but you really can’t get that kind of corned beef or pastrami anywhere else. The nice thing about the New York delis is that they don’t offer corned beef sandwiches with a choice of cheeses or breads.

You get a choice of pickles, or if you don’t like choice, you just get them all.

Talk about excess, but at least the elimination of cheese respects your need to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and the pickles must do something good.

I think that they’re meant to be swallowed whole to help propel the other ingested contents toward their ultimate destination.

The corned beef sandwich shown barely captures half of the entire sandwich.

No match for these delicious monstrosities, we gave in to woefully inadequately sized stomachs and sheepishly asked for doggie bags.

I was never so embarrassed, having always finished all of my restaurant meals in the past.

We placed the leftovers in bags and put them into the car trunk and just watched the rear chassis sag and groan a bit. A sight and sound very similar to that which we observed in many of the deli’s patrons.

The deli trop was a fitting end to the previous day when the market fell 394 points.There were lots of groans.

Talk about more excess.

Yet another day where the end result was one of an over-reaction, except there was really nothing to which the reaction was in response. Not even a rumor about a plan to have a plan to solve the Italian debt crisis falling through.

In professional trading circles that’s referred to as a third derivative.

I can understand that kind of excessive reaction only because it’s not very rare anymore, but I still can’t understand the root cause. How is it that all of these very smart people who are driving the trading decisions of the big money players so rapidly fleeing their convictions?

But still,  I can also understand the excessive reaction of Green Mountain Coffee Roaster shares after announcing  poor earnings and questions continuing regarding accounting regularities.

Of course, when I bought my shares a few weeks ago I was fully aware of the overhang and the possibility of finding a chalk outline on the floor of the board room. That kind of unpleasntness could easily send a momentum stock reeling.

And it did.

But nearly 40%? After already suffering a 40% or so decline from its recent high?

Excessive?

Earlier in the morning I was sitting in the parlor of the cute boutique hotel in which we stayed and was watching the ticker showing Green Mountain’s descent.

It was ironic that while I was stirring my coffee with what appeared to be a genuine silver spoon that my Green Mountain daily disaster’s bitterness was being tempered by silver’s own descent.

Of course, silver and its wealthier cousin gold, have seen their own recent share of excesses, as everyone seems to hunger to own them, as well.

Since I now own a sizeable piece of the ProShares UltraShort Silver ETF’s, I like it when silver prices go down. So as silver was doing just that, after a recent climb, my small Green Mountain piece, which has been nicely hedged with weekly options over the past three weeks was less of a nuisance.

In a show of true excess, Bloomberg Rewind actually lived up to its name and then some. On Thursday, it showed a clip of my Wednesday appearance on the show talking about the impact of Green Mountain’s after hours announcement.

Sort of like Bloomberg Meta Rewind.

Although the clip seemed to indicate that I wasn’t worried about the then 35% after hours price drop, I think it was taken out of context.

What I had actually meant to say was that I violently vomit at the very thought or taste of Green Mountain Coffee.

But I can see how they might misinterpret my words.

Fat guyWhen the day finally settled, some of Wednesday’s excess was sucked out of the system, although Green Mountain decided to just settle in near its low for the day.

Normally after having a stock take a big hit like this  I would exercise the “Having a Child to Save a Life ” strategy. But with Wednesday’s broad drop and Thursday’s half hearted recovery, I may not see any cash free up from assignments to pick up additional, but now discounted Green Mountain shares.

That prospect leaves just as bitter a taste, because an opportunity is a terrible thing to waste.

Or I could choose this opportunity to follow the Bernard Baruch axiom of selling when you hit the 10% loss level.

Conveniently, I’ll include my options premiums received over the past 3 weeks in the calculation and ignore that advice.

I suppose that you could possibly stick to your process to excess and inadvertently create a new dogma.

I’m not a fan of dogma of any variety, unless it’s potentially my own. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough adherents to be able to call it “dogma.”

A cult? Maybe, but it might just be a cult of one.

But if I did have real dogma and it really became popular, I think I would call it “Hot Dogma” and see to what excess I could get people to suck it down. It definitely sounds more palatable that way.

To make it all easier, have a little Green Mountain Coffee to wash it all down. That’s much better than the Kool-Aid the other guy was offering.

And a Child Shall Bleed Them

I had a flashback this morning.

It had been nearly 50 years since I’s been on the Palisades Parkway in New Jersey, the road that hugs the Jersey side of the Hudson River.

Obviously, we didn’t get to that side very often and with the exception of an enduring admiration for Bruce Springsteen and his endless stories about his home state, I’ve never had reason to return.

I’ve made it a point to avoid all New Jersey public restrooms along the way as I’ve made the journey from Washington, DC to New York

PalisadesThe last time that I can recall being on that road was part of a family outing that took us to the old Palisades Amusement Park. Like Freedomland, an amusement park in the Bronx, Palisades Amusement Park has long met the wrecker’s ball and real esate speculator’s grasp.

Unlike Freedom Land, at least Palisades Park has found immortal fame by being the title of a rock song from the late 50’s by the Coasters.

For all I know, it may have been the Platters and it may have been in the 60’s, but you don’t pay good money to read this blog for certified details.

As a child, I also remember going through what turns out to be a series of universal beliefs among children, up until reaching a specific developmental milestone.

My Sugar Momma, with whom I celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary today, will gladly volunteer the opinion that I’ve never reached certain developmental milestones.

Nonetheless, I believed that the person appearing on the television screen could see what I was doing, because all kids believed that.

Captain Kangaroo must have thought that I was a sick f**k.

And like all kids, I also believed that everything that occured in life happened because of something that I had done.

Sort of like Laszlo the Dog believing that the FedEx guy left his turf because he barked loudly and ferociously in his direction, each and every time he comes.

That’s the same reason why kids always believe that they were the cause of their parents’ divorce.

I continue to grieve over the Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fisher divorce, even though there little rational basis for feeling that way.

But here I was today, a very exciting day for me, but now one tinged in shame and a feeling of personal responsibility once the market decided to have a seizure.

My bad.

Thanks to the entirely accidental efforts of my publicity agent I found myself appearing on Bloomberg Rewind, hosted by Matt Miller.

As a strong believer in mathematical modeling, I can state with great certainty that every time I appear on Bloomberg Rewind, the market goes into a tailspin.

The facts bear me out on this one and I understand that it can only be my fault.

There I was to promote myself, my book and my fervent belief that the GOP debate should have included Joe Paterno and should have not been influenced by the sad reports and allegations.

Anyway, the past couple of days I had moaned about just how boring the past two days had been, but I’ll still take the 200 point gains, thank you.

Driving along the Palisades Parkway and following the market’s dreadful action, I couldn’t help but believe that I was responsible. The images of childhood came back, but along with them were those developmental traits that had been long buried.

What had I done to cause a 400 drop? Was there anything that I could do to make things better? Could I have been a better investor and not such a disappointment to the market’s overlords?

How did this child bleed them?

Surely things would get better when cooler heads prevailed. Of course, that’s what most believed 2,000 years ago, as well.

When the market opens on Thursday, that may well be the case. But as far as Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, things aren’t likely to work out that way.

After delaying its earnings release by about two weeks and being in the crosshairs of David Einhorn, today was a bad day to announce disappointing earnings.

In general, you know that it hasn’t been a good day when the best news was that Groupon’s share price didn’t fall as much as the overall market.

“Yes, Mrs. Lincoln, but his tophat is untouched'”

It was also a bad day to own Green Mountain shares, although Thursday will be worse as the institutional sellers begin to bail. Now might be a good time to scrap that strategic deal with Starbucks and instead infuse those soon to be non-proprietary K-Cups with some Diageo offerings or maybe some brown heroin.

But still, the thoughts haunt me.

Was there anything I could have done about that? Was that my fault?

Surely I could drink more coffee. Increased risk for prostate cancer may be a small price to pay for a couple of dollars rebound.

Besides, I already have the mustache and already donate to my namesake, the American Cancer Society.

Or I could not have gotten myself so enthralled with the $5 weekly options premiums over the past 3 weeks that it would have wiped out all feelings of guilt and responsibility.

Granted that those premiums bought the cost basis down, but still, I have to take responsibilty. I mean, why else would this company with questionable accounting and a questionable story ahead of it, just drop off the cliff?

As I deal with today’s plummet, I also dealt with that childhood belief that the TV characters were seeing me and watching everything that I did.

Still, if that’s what it took to be on good behavior, maybe that’s a childhood trait that we should retain forever, maybe helping our weakened super-egos deal with all of the temptations out there.

And do, today I was on good behavior.

I even wore a sport jacket and tie as I learned that the people on the TV screen were actually three dimensional characters. Not only in their appearance, but in personality, as well.

Knowing that my segment would be up against yet another GOP candidates debate, I tried to fight off the guilt that I was responsible for the sorry state of the candidates.

Who shall lead them?

No one seems to really want it.

It just amazes me that people are beginning to talk up the Newt Gingrich surge in the polls.

What I’d really like to see, now that I’m in New York for a couple of days is a Rupert Murdoch New York Post inspired front page shouting out that “The Troll Rises in The Poll.”

Granted, the extremists that seem to prop up the most unlikely of candidates have already backed away from that ocularly crazed Minnesotan, although that could just as easily describe Jesse Ventura.

Watching a replay of the debate after arriving back at the hotel following Bloomberg Rewind, it was clear that the candidates were there own worst enemies.

Especially Rick Perry.

There’s no plausible reason for anyone else to take blame for his belief that he could lead.

With a market selling off 400 points lots of people are ready to fall into the “follower mode” and persue their need to panic.

As long as everything remains on paper, and paper only, why not pay attention to what technicians are always telling ius?

Not only do stock prices revert to their means, but so too should our emotions.

Whether feeling giddy about a couple of hundred points climb or in panic over losses like today, common sense should tell us that even those emotions should seek to revert to a mean, especially before doing anything stupid.

Like dumping shares wholesale.

Or you could just pop Zoloft.

Ultimately, I don’t know if another “child shall lead them.”

That would be sacrileous to think so. It’s bad enough that I was in Cirque in NYC laughing at what appeared to be a statue of a Hindu God.

I disown those moments. I feel guilty about them.

But the child in each of us, the child that reacts based on an undeveloped system of cognition will definitely bleed us, if we allow it to happen.

Take today’s 400 point loss on paper and only feel guilt if you choose to join in on the fear. Instead prey on the greed and the fear that others exhibit.

Lead yourselves out and everything else will follow.



 

Got Anything Better to Do?

The other day was a perfect sign of the doldrums we’re in at the moment.

No. it wasn’t the boring day in the stock market that I discussed yesterday. And sure, today was more of the same.

Regardless of how boring these first two days of the week have been, no one that I know is about to complain about the extra 200 points that have been tacked on to the Dow in the absence of any tangible news. Since I don’t consort with short sellers for the most part, everyone I know has been happy with the relative calmness of the past two days and happily accepted the added bonus of gains.

Actually, as I look at my Google+ circle I guess I really don’t consort with anyone, unless geometry now allows you to define a circle on the basis of a single point.`

In what seems a lifetime, I haven’t heard anyone mention the word “volatility” or use the phrase “risk on/risk off.” For that matter, “catch a falling knife” and “rip your face off rally” have also taken much needed breaks. Although that, too, may be related to my lack of circle size.

But I do watch lots of TV and those sounds have been silent.

What could have been a day of great excitement on Tuesday turned into just another great yawner as Italy failed to live up to diminished expectations.

Conrad Murray guilty of involuntary manslaughter of Michael Jackson?

Yawn.

Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy, set to resign once economic reforms are passed?

Yawn.

SausageBut the real sign of the boredom that’s set in centered on the latest Republican dynamics in their contest for the 2012 GOP Presidential nominee.

Had you not known better, you would have thought that the debate a few nights ago from Las Vegas was part of the process of coming down to the wire with the last remaining and surviving candidates.

Bloodied from the previous grueling debates all that were left from the once huge pool of Presidential wannabes were Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain.

Clearly at this point it would have to be a battle of gladiators to fight until the death, if only two of the standing candidates are there to debate.

Much like ancient Greek gladiators who knew no fear and retired only upon the time of their battlefield death.

Instead it was the meeting of the two sausage kings, Newt Gingrich, sausage by stature and shape and Herman Cain, sausage provocateur du jour.

Obviously, they had nothing better to do, while the likes of Ron Paul, Michelle Bachmann and the rest all had reasons for not getting involved with what promised to be a verbal blood bath.

Given that previous debates have seen the moderators criticized for asking questions that sought to elicit differences among the candidates, you would have expected more of those kind of fireworks, but not between the candidates.

Instead, the Republicans, led by Newt Gingrich in a combination Kumbaya/Rodney King moment urged his fellow combatants to resist the goading of the moderators who were clearly allied with the Democrat enemy in attempting to get the Republicans to bicker in public.

In the world of politics it’s not surprising to find words nuanced, but most people seem to have the same understanding of the meaning of “debate”.

In the past, the meaning of that word hasn’t been open to debate.

What is this thing you call “debate?” is a question that’s rarely asked, except at GOP debates.

Instead, this most recent debate was just a lovefest, so well suited for the likes of Bill Clinton’s biggest detractor on the morals front, Newt Gingrich, who had proven himself to be quite the player and illicit lover.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

 Not on the same plane as Democrat John Edwards, but still, pretty scummy and hypocritical. Even for a politician.

Not to be left out, Herman Cain, deacon of his church, is battling allegations daily of seeking to insert unwanted sausage into each and every order.

Papa John’s doesn’t have to be the only one playing the Sausage Fest game. 

 And why not? As Godfather’s Pizza CEO, he knew the great value of extra toppings and great customer service.

Back in those lonely Washington DC days, lobbying for the NRA, not to be confused with the other NRA, which was once led by an actor who knew how to quiet the desert dwelling and commandment craving crowd with his own staff, Cain was just a good servant.

Even if you have something better to do, you can’t just leave your sausage unattended for any length of time. Otherwise, it will go bad from disuse.

Cain knew that all too well and was proud of that sausage. Listening to his comments this afternoon, how could you not possibly believe that his attentions to an increasing number of women were anything other than pushing his fine product.

On a real positive note and demonstrating the entrepreneurial spirit that is still alive, Godfather’s Pizza announced their new limited time special offer. The Herman Cain. An extra large pizza with unwanted sausage.

With nothing much better to do this day, I at least got a couple of “yawner” kind of trades off. The kind that will barely be enough to cover Wednesday’s trip to New York City. I sold some calls on Goldman Sachs, Halliburton, British Petroleum and Amazon.

Although not on the agenda, if the boredom continues, I may just stop off to see the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon and maybe snap a picture or two.

Unfortunately, I’ll be competing against Wednesday’s GOP debate.

While they’ll be lining up for another debate, this one sponsored by CNBC and taking place in Michigan, I’ll be appearing on Bloomberg Rewind, hosted by Matt Miller, who is bravely growing out his mustache on air, in honor of “Movember” in order to help raise awareness of prostate cancer.

I’m hoping that I’ll be asked my opinions on debates and the candidates, but I don’t think that’s in the cards, although I did warn the producer that I suffer from a variant of Tourette’s Syndrome and may occasionally blurt out details of my tax plan.

Although I’ll miss the CNBC sponsored debate, because I do have something better to do for a change, that excuse won’t last very long.

The next debate is being sponsored by the Cartoon Network and any number of GOP candidates seem to have an inside track to be the crowd favorite on that one. You can never go wrong with Paul or Bachmann in that regard, but watch out for that Gingrich. He cuts a pretty cartoonish figure, reminiscent of Humpty Dumpty.

Hopefully, by then volatility will be back and Italy will entertain us in the manner that we had come to expect.

I’m tired of yawning these past two days and am pinning all hopes on the dysfunction that everyone has been expecting to come out of Italian politics to lead us back into the promised land of uncertainty.

But in a nod to the contrarians, so far, Berlusconi is letting us down by avoiding the theatrics that we’d come to expect.

It’s not as if he has anything better to do, after all. Why can’t he upstage Papandreou and make Merkel and Sarkozy do slow boils as they try to save the European Union despite their “challenged” Meditteranean brethren.?

Besides, what’s a 75 year old billionaire going to do? Go out with a couple of underage hookers?

Exactly. So he does have something better to do.

Yawn.

 

How’s your Ego Doing?

November 7, 2011

No matter how selfless any one of us may make ourselves out to be, there is no escaping the fact that we all have an ego. In fact, the mere act of thinking one’s self to be selfless is feeding into that ego.

FreudYou don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to know that ego is indispensable and the source of many of our problems. Those problems can be self-inflicted, but more likely are those that we inflict upon others in pursuit of satisfying an ego.

An example of a self-inflicted problem related to ego is when you believe that sometimes a cigar is not a cigar. The inevitable comparison is ego deflating and may lead to ED.

Ego dysfunction, which in turn to can lead to another kind of ED.

To become everything that you believe that you were destined to be typically requires that some collateral damage be done along the way.

Sometimes that collateral damage may be in the form of a missing $600 million of client funds, sometimes it may take the form of diminishing shareholder value.

Sometimes it means making you and your nation look like babbling idiots.

The delicate balance between instincts, moralistic oversight and pragmatic approach to life is what distinguishes us from one another every bit as much as DNA aids forensic scientists and our scent alerts a dog.

In the name of ego we do great things, but also terrible things.

There’s no doubt that ego has been front and center this past week.

Jon Corzine comes to mind. Jerry Yang? Yeah, him too, but for much more than a single week.

By all accounts, Corzine believed that he was not only the smartest of the smart, but also charmed. He ventured into an area of great risk and reward, but without the requisite knowledge, as his ego blinded him to the reality of the situation.

Thrown out by Goldman Sachs, nearly thrown out of a speeding car, losing a Gubernatorial election, Corzine needed a big win to satisfy a big ego.

They never deflate, you know. They constantly need to be fed and the stakes just get higher.

Yang’s ego took the form of a paternalistic attitude toward investors that blinded him to the reality of the situation. What he still hasn’t realized, being somewhat stuck in the pre-1500’s world, is that Yahoo! does not revolve around him, but rather around its universe of shareholders.

Even Pope Clement VII was able to understand that God’s law is not inviolate. Copernicus was not burned at the stake.

Copernicus, who proved that the earth was not the center of the universe, interestingly was also the first voice to proclaim what 75 years later became known as “Gresham’s Law” and formed the basis for monetary policy 600 years ago.

Copernicus was the first to address the phenomenon that debasing currency would drive undebased currency out of circulation. “Sovereigns” debase currency at the expense of the citizenry.

Yang? Center of universe. Yang? Debased currency?

He is the anti-Copernicus. 

Corzine dealt with his stunning descent into reality by leaving his ego behind, especially as ego is often measured in terms of money. He declined to accept any contractually due payments, although it’s not terribly likely that a bankruptcy court would have made that gesture necessary.

Yang, on the other hand, continues to be blinded to the reality.

That sometimes is the paradox of ego. Freud described it as the pragmatic component of the troika, further composed of id and super-ego. But for all of its pragmatic qualities, ego sometimes makes us do some really stupid things, most of all, neglecting to understand events on the ground.

Every investor has an ego, as well. In it’s most simple form it’s measured by portfolio performance.

Sometimes, a well trained ego will consider performance relative to some standard and will keep himself in check if his performance doesn’t meet the standard.

Other times, an investor will focus solely on the one great trade. The one that made lots of money, while forgetting the big picture and the fact that the rest of the portfolio may have woefully underperformed.

Celebrating that victory, though, and pointing it out to others, serves to embolden for the next battle. Without being emboldened, who would ever take risks?

I don’t know what Jon Corzine’s recent victories have been, but he sure was emboldened, although maybe it’s easier to be so when using other people’s money.

It’s still not clear what role ego played in this past week’s doings in Greece.

When both your father and grandfather served as Prime Minister before you, there’s no doubt that there has to be an incredible clash of egos at whatever the Greek equivalent of Thanksgiving Day dinners are, in the Papandreou household.

In that kind of household probably the only way to have a chance of survival is to see to it that your own ego can withstand the obvious comparisons and intellectual debates. No doubt that American born and educated PM Papandreou the Third, still has to prove his Greek “bona fides.”

So what do we make of the political events in Greece last week?

Where was Papandreou’s paternalistic streak? Third generation Prime Minister, you’d think that he would have a patrician air, and as best as possible in the nation that gave us democracy, rule by fiat.

No doubt that his ego and that of all of Greece was stoked by the thought that they could possibly unravel the European Union by following their collective id and ignoring their national super-ego.

But as a politician, did Papandreou put his ego on hold by putting the decision to accept the 50% haircut to a referendum or was he, as the former deputy finance minister said, an emotional wreck, incapable of leading?

Or maybe he was crazy. Crazy like a fox.

Instead, you have to marvel at an ego that played second fiddle to politics and political strategy.

As news came on Friday that a new coalition government was about to be formed in Greece, but not being led by Papandreou, the markets rallied.

What does that do to your ego?

Ask any CEO who after a dismissal or retirement sees their stock price rally. Was anyone more pilloried than Leo Apotheker recently? How’s that ego doing, Leo?

That must not be the best of feelings. Luckily, since money, even from severance, serves to inflate ego, the net result is elevated ego.

Was the past week of high drama and what appeared to be dysfunction all carefully coordinated plans to promote personal and national ego?

Did Greece get everything it wanted and needs without really having given up much in return? In fact, what seems like an selfless act by its leader may be anything but, as he gives the appearance of putting state before self, while being available to return and “save” his nation from themselves and the EU when the coalition fails.

In the meantime, it’s off to Italy, where the next ego has a sense of buffoonery.

After the last couple of months, my ego is doing reasonably well.

I really only need to fool two people. Myself and Sugar Momma and don’t have much need or chance to inflict collateral damage, unless you believe that everything done in the market is part of a zero sum game.

In that case, I hope to litter the streets with undeserving citizenry and will occasionally leave some cigar ashes on the carcasses.

That would make anyone feel good.

And besides, it’s time to give that super-ego a rest.

  

Daytripping

 

I must have missed something in life. I grew up at a time when The Beatles were just beginning their “US Invasion” and can still remember their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

It was a time of free love and drugs, although the option to pay was always available.

Do you remember the song “Daytripper”?

If you really grew up at that time and took in all of what was going on, you likely can’t remember that song, but you can still probably take a guess and be right.

I took a guess and was totally wrong. I just assumed that it referred to LSD trips. The actual lyrics said otherwise, although McCartney said otherwise to the otherwise. According to him, Daytripper” was an example of playful wordplay in an attempt to mask the true meaning and escape the wrath of more prudish critics.

Whatever.

It’s sad as I sit in the Nashville Airport, ready to return home, after having just arrived this morning, that for me, at least, today “Daytripper” just refers to a nameless and faceless traveler, blending into the scenery with the ubiquitous blue blazer and laptop.

Fortunately, the Nashville Airport seems to have the highest concentration of guitar toting passangers of anywhere in the world and served to break the sea of faceless daytrippers..

I never was much of a “daytripper” of any sort, but I am of the nameless and faceless variety right now, along with what appear to be travel weary salespeople.

You know the kind. The ones with the crisply pressed shirts and corporate logos. The ones that are told to always smile, lest their sorrows be a bad reflection upon the home office.

A life of that kind of daytripping doesn’t have as much appeal as the kind that The Beatles had characterized. I don’t even think that there are sad country and western sings paying tribute to those traveling cowboys.

But then, there’s also that other variety of daytripper.

Lord knows that the trading variation of “daytripper” seems like a good idea these days. But unlike a few years ago, when a large population of those day traders was wiped out, who needs to play for pennies here or there anymore?

Instead, think big. Sort of like why think a joint when it could be THC, to borrow from The Beatles post-Yogi phase of mind, if you buy into that interpretation of the song.

I usually spend Thursdays going after different kind of pennies. I usually am looking to sell some call options of 1-2 days duration, just to pick up a few of those errant pennies.

And do on Thursdays I scour my old maid holdings, those that aren’t already paired with a short call option, looking specifically fpr those that are below their cost basis and have shown some price recovery, but aren’t expected to get back to their cost by the time of option expiration.

I know. I had to read the paragraph over a few times, as well.

But lately, even those price moves that seemed unlikely to occur in such a short time frame have been occurring on a regular basis. When that happens, I lose my shares.

On top of that, the old conventional wisdom that smart traders wouldn’t stay long into the weekend, especially when there were economic overhangs, seems to have died a quick death. So instead of being able to count on a nice Friday plunge, thereby bringing my shares below their strike prices, lately they’ve just moved further away.

Luckily, just like in this past week, I can often count on “down Mondays. Those are the natural consequence of too many unwarranted moves up. They help bring share prices back to a more reasonable level so that I can re-purchase thoise shares.

Hopefully, at a lower price that they had been assigned for.

 Today, once again, I was totally shut off from all human contact. By that I mean that I was with people and that prevented me from being glued to anything electronic.

Although I was fully equipped with my trusty little travel modem, batteries and chargers to spare, all tucked into the blue blazer, since I didn’t need baggage, I was still unable to do anything other than get an occasional glimpse on the puny screen of a smartphone.

That’ not terribly satisfying. Size matters.

Leaving home this morning before the market opened, I did at least hear about the surprise move to lower EU interest rates.

This one was no rumor. Only made sense for the market to react in an appropriate way and accept that news with fully open arms.

Maybe even a hug.

On top of that the world learned that when Greek Prime Minister Papandreou was calling for a referendum, he really meant “concensus,”

When will we ever learn that whenver we try to translate from thr original Greek to Grrk, something important is always lost in the translation.

Since there is no video proof in English of the Prime Minister ever suggesting a referendum, the market just assumed that it was all a misunderstanding and proceeded to squeeze the shorts just a bit more.

Despite the fact that a former deputy finance minister from the opposition party referred to Papandreou as basically an emotional wreck who was unable to deal with the stress of the situation, talk has now turned to the idea that Papandreou simply outmaneuvered his opponents.

Who cares?

Simply add another 200 points to the Dow, go right past S&P 1250 and all’s good in the world.

What’s fascinating is that these days facts seem to be daytripping, too, although it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish between facts and rumors.

The way our mindset is working these days, if something is rumored to be factual, that’s good enough. If the previous rumor is contraindicated by a new rumor, that’s good enough, as well.

Think of it as playful wordplay.

In fact, the daytripping of rumors is considered in and of itself to be a new age manifestation of fact,

As a Harold Ramis inspired character would say, “That’s the fact, Jack,” and you’d be very hardpressed to counter that unless someone else saluted you and shouted out “That’s not the fact, Jack.”

How likely is that to happen?

Very likely, if recent events are any measure.

The words may be different, but the outcome would be the same.

So even though I was fully isolated from the world, I know that today’s market response will surely lead us to Friday and recently, there’s been no negative rumors coming out of the EU on Fridays. That can only lead to more unwarranted buying, because it’s already too late to sell on the news.

Or not.

So that then brings us to Italy and the sense of deja vous will hit yet again.

The characters will be different, the politics are a bit different, but regardless of what side of the Atlantic you’re on, it’s clear that there’s lots of dysfunction going on.

We’ll probably never truly know what Lennon and McCartney had in mind when they colloborated on that song, just as well never know what was really going through Papandreou’s mind.

Either way, enjoy the outcome, because sometimes it’s just best not to know.

 

 

 

You get what you Pay For

I rarely get bored.

That explains why I can sit all day and stay glued to the TV screen watching and listening to various “experts” spread their wisdom.

Today, though, as good as it was, turned out to be very boring.

For a change, not only was there no news to move the markets, but there weren’t even any rumors.

You get what you pay forTo make matters worse, even though I am a big fan of Ben Benanke, Federal Reserve Chairman, his press conference, which now can no longer be referred to as “unprecedented”, came to pre-empt CNBC’s “Street Signs,” which for me has been a reincarnation of the old NBC concept of “Must See TV.”

To put that into perspective, I felt the same way today as when episodes of COPS and America’s Most Wanted are pre-empted by NASCAR, except I don’t like NASCAR.

Instead of dealing with the boredom, I did something that I really dislike. I went to the Mall to pick up some more stylish accessories to complement my typical daily outfit, as I was making a business related day trip to Nashville on Thursday.

While driving there it was either pay attention to the road or think about anything else. So I chose anything else, but focused on the earlier thought this week regarding “expertise”, but now I was focused on “at what cost” should we bow to expertise?

Each day I seem to wonder why we don’t hear more people speaking out on the clear and constant assault on our intelligence.

Listening to the barrage of statements whose contradictory nature is masked by the passage of time, it would be nice to see the occasional use of that modern miracle to objectively measure expertise.

Video, or at least its digital counterpart.

These days nothing happens without someone having captured it on video of some sort.

Since I do nothing else in life these days than sit and watch, I maintain my intelligence by trying to recall everything I’ve heard and seen in the process. That includes the local cable advertisements for computer repair and pest control.

A rodent prancing on your motherboard will cause great damage, but at least I think I can remember where I put the piece of paper with the shop’s phone number on it.

But when memory is lagging, video is great.

 A number of years ago, Joe Kernen offered to drag out the video that he inferred would contradict the statements that an esteemed guest was making, regarding his personal exemplarly prediction track record. That individual was giving the strong impression that he had called for market caution just prior to the collapse of the markets. He was equally clearly upset with the suggestion that he was massaging the past.

So much so that he passed away not too long after.

Kernen will do that to people.

In that sense, I guess Kernen got the last laugh, although that was a bit extreme. The official party line is that the two events were unrelated, but the mysterious disappearance of the DNA evidence certainly leaves room to wonder.

There’s no question that there’s some very high priced talent out there willing to manage your assets and provide your portfolio tending loving guidance, while playing a revisionist version of history.

I don’t totally understand the “2 and 20” nor the concepts of “high water mark,” but I certainly understand the proven concept of closing a fund when losses make it improbable that the “2 and 20” will ever kick in. Doing that also erases all memory, other than for those that get left holding the bag with losses from the old fund.

Yet, amazingly, high priced losers always seem to live yet another day. There’s a whole other world of investors out there who likely are unaware of the real performance they are buying into.

Now that’s a nice concept. Walk away from your failures and start anew.

The unsaid, or more likely loudly stated concept is that “you get what you pay for.” That’s somewhere along the lines of “it takes money to make money”.

That appeals to lots of people. So much so that many mega-church pastors are able to convince their not terribly worthy parishioners that God will like them more if they donate more lavishly to the church.

Only then will they become more worthy, while in the process becoming less wealthy, which is a stopping point for becoming more wealthy.

Inferences being what they are, if you should lower your self-respect by paying less, you will get less. Like say, a lesser Hindu God.

Since there’s no equivalent measurement to Price – earnings ratio in the world of portfolio or hedge fund managers it’s really difficult to critically assess if you really do get what you pay for when your portfolio is managed.

 No doubt that there is truth to almost everything that’s said or left unsaid. After all, how many absolutes are there in life? Even the Ten Commandments have some wiggle room. Even those absolutes have back door escapes.

Don’t want to commit adultery? Fine, bigamy for you.

But I think I’m beginning to understand why we’re so accepting of such clear and blatant contradictions. In fact, they really don’t insult our intelligence, they help hone and maintain it. Besides, we’re surrounded by contradictions and never think twice about tehir co-existence in what should be a mutually exclusive relationship.

Beyond that, axiomatic sayings, the ones that we simply accept as being true, often have their own axiomatic, yet polar oposite counterparts.

“The best things in life are free.”

How does that even begin to square, especially when you get what you pay for?

With time, I’ve come to very strongly believe that the science of stock picking is neither art nor science.

It’s either blind luck or access to very special and timely information.

Given the ferocity of market moves and the rapidity with which they occur or change direction, it’s not terribly likely that anyone can really fare well by simply picking stocks. Obviously managing positions through the use of derivatives is increasingly important to manage risk, but that just further confirms that even the best and brightest have no clue what will happen to their favorite stock fromr one moment to the next.

So, do you really have to pay for the expertise that is every bit a hostage to external forces as you, a lonely individual investor is?

Clearly, when there are massive moves, it’s not legions of little guys who are creating or perpetuating the waves.

The little guys, though, are still to often led to believe that the deck is stacked against them. As such, the only way to have a fighting chance is to pay for it without regard to performance. There’s also much more prestige to having a managed account at Morgan Stanley than one at E*Trade.

That’s the suburban equivalent of class warfare and snobbery

Obviously, when all of the chips are ready to be cashed in, prestige has lots more cache than bottom line.

I bring all of this up because among the reasons I maintain this blog is to sell books. For that purpose, I have a publicist.

He is paid nothing and worth every cent.

Alright, I paid for his college education and may have fed him on occasion, but otherwise, he gets nothing.

Best of all, he has nothing to work with.

I’m anti-social, lazy, content to be sitting in my La-Z-Boy and watching TV.

In the meantime, I do find some time to make some trades. Today they were simple ones and not terribly rewarding as there’s only two days left until this week’s options expire. When you subtract what I pay my publicist for his services from the premiums I received today, I still have all of the premiums.

He has the memory of meals past.

After about 500 points of loss, today was a gift that allowed me to sell calls on Riverbed Technology, Netflix and Amazon.

I didn’t get much for the effort, but it was something that I could throw into the box that holds all of those other meaningless trades.

My publicist, in the meantime, was doing some real work. He’s informed me that I’ll be appearing on “Bloomberg Rewind” next week.

I was watching Bloomberg Rewind tonight and the guest, John Ryding, Chief Economist of RDQ Economics disparaged Twitter when asked if he participated in that social medium phenomenon. His position was that his clients expected more than what could be delivered in 140 spaces.

Newsflash: Clients don’t want verbosity. They want performance. They’re not paying premium fees because they want your wisdom in doses of greater than 140 spaces.

But still, all of a sudden, my publicist is earning his way. I hope he’s not expecting a little extra in his envelope.

But here’s the problem.

When you start getting more than what you paid for you can go one of two ways.

Either you congratulate yourself on the great fortune of faring so well, or you wonder “what if?”

For me, there’s no “what if?”

There’s nothing better than not needing to have your hand held and then topping it off with the hand you held for so long giving it back.

There’s no price on that. And I still have about 120 spaces left. Now that’s economical.

Read me a Story

I can still think back to those days when my kids would be put to bed each night with a story.

“Moo. Baa. La La La.”

That phrase will be stuck in my mind until the day I die, as like most parents, I found myself reading the same story over and over, night after night, because that was the story that wanted to be heard.

Whatever it took to get the little darlings to sleep. Whatever it took. Even Moo. Baa. La La La.

I was only talked off the ledge because the nice policeman promised me I’d never have to hear those sounds again.

Instead, it was a book devoid of silly sounds, but sadly chronicling the deaths of brave, hungry, thirsty, polite, sleepy and explorers, leaving only a single smart explorer to survive.

“Six brave explorers came to Egypt alive, one discovered a rare bird and then there were five.”

Different kids, different tastes. Different stories, but with the same need for the comfort that comes with repetition.

It was always so nice when one was ready to move onto a new book. I don’t really recall, but I may have occasionally hastened that process by telling the kids that their mother threw out their favorite book in a moment of unrestrained rage.

Not trusting a parent is part of healthy childhood development. You can look it up.

Even “Atlas Shrugged” would have been a welcome change from some of the Berenstain Bears adventures, especially the dentist one. The Berenstain Bear loving kid of mine didn’t have the same love for my attempts to read to him from more legitimate dentistry textbooks to try and offset the inaccuracies of the Berenstain version of teeth.

Fast forward some 15+ years and that brings us to today.

And here it is. The same old story. Instead of reading the book, all I hear is the constant repeat of the musical refrain, “Greece is the word, Greece is the word, is the word that you heard…”

Greece, the nation that gave the gift of democracy to the world also showed that it could lead the way in abandoning electoral responsibility, as Prime Minister Papandreou called for a national referendum to get approval for the austerity measures necessary to prevent a “hard default.”

I’ve already forgotten what the root cause of the market’s Monday downturn was ascribed to, but today everyone was on the same page.

“Greece is the word, Greece is the word, is the word that you heard….”

I’ve never really gotten to the point of being apoplectic, but I can imagine that Angela Merkel is at that stage.

Have you ever seen what happens when a German head of state gets upset?

What was really a sight was watching the former Greek deputy Prime Minister of Finance, who by the way was part of the more conservative opposition party, refer to the current Prime Minister as being emotionally and psychologically a basket case.

My words, not his, only because he didn’t have the same fluency with American idiomatic expressions as I have.

So today’s market was a reflection of all of the pent up anxieties of the past few weeks that were falsely put to rest late last week.

I’m not certain that InTrade is making book on the likelihood of the Greek populace voting to take the austerity measures that are part of the now infamous “Greek Haircut”, that apparently requires shaving 50% of the head.

I’m guessing that if the vote can ever get pulled off before the Greek government falls, there not much of a chance that people are going to vote themselves into a life that they’d rather not live.

The good news is that each person can decide for themselves whether they want heads shaved in sagittal or transverse planes. If they play their cards right and perhaps use some entrepreneurial spirit, the “Grecian” may yet come to replace the “Brazilian.”

See, you never got that kind of detail out of those stupid Berenstain Bears stories.

The Greek story was so dominant that even Jon Corzine was moved to the back burner. Any other day and news that MF Global may have violated some very basic elements of trust by using some $700 million of their client’s funds for their own in-house and ill fated pursuits.

Sometimes it’s a good thing when some other story pops up.

To this day, ex-Congressman Gary Condit is no doubt grateful for the timing of 9/11. His role in the disappearance of young intern and romantic liaison was all but forgotten as he quietly stepped away from the spotlight.

Of course, the opposite can just as easily occur. Just ask Farrah Fawcett.

Figuratively, of course.

He fame long ago faded was rekindled with the effort to document the ravages of her anal cancer and subsequent death.

Unfortunately for her, her producer didn’t clear her passing with Michael Jackson’s itinerary for that day.

So Corzine got a pass and may still be on the short list to replace Timothy Geithner as our next Treasury Secretary, unless of course someone on the search committee has an “aha moment” and remembers that Corzine was the guy in charge when MF Global went bankrupt and stole their clients’ money.

That may be a bit harsh and things still remain to be sorted out.

What is clear is that Corzine bet and he bet big and he bet wrong.

Corzine used to be one of the big boys at Goldman Sachs, co-CEO with Hanry Paulson. There’s a reason that the Goldman people are called “the smartest guys in the room.”

What Corzine failed to take into consideration was that he had left the room and apparently the other kids took all the smarts with them. People marching up and down Wall Street may disparage Goldman Scahs and may blame them for the financial meltdown, but last I looked, no one was accusing them of stealing money or dipping inappropriately into anyone else’s pockets, as your old weird uncle used to urge you to do with him.

While Corzine was being trivialized, news from Greece threw the market into spasms of optimism interrupted by spasms of pessimism.

Word that the idea of a referendum would never occur helped the market recoup about 100 points from its low.

Further word that Papandreou might be psychotic or having some kind of a breakdown was comforting to the markets.

When it was all said and done it looked as if only some form of chaos was in the near term crystal ball, so the market just gave up.

Not capitulated, just gave up and called it a day. A bad day.

I picked up some more shares of Riverbed Technology and marveled at how the ProShares UltraShort Silver ETF that I owned, some of which is hedged, has been serving as the perfect antidote to both the fleeting feelings of elation and depression.

Those feelings come and go because it’s just a reflection of the same old story that is the big picture. The book, as it were. The book that encompasses Greece, Corzine, the Yen Carry Trade, High Frequency Trading and so much more.

That story of that book is that what goes up must come down and must then go up again, only to come down in time to do it all over again.

Strangely, I never tire of that book, only the stories in it.

To me, the details of each breaking business or economic story now all sound the same.

Moo. Bah La La La.

All I care about is that at the end of each day I’m not one of those investor explorers who doesn’t live to see another day.

I’ll do like that smart explorer who just stayed in bed and avoided the predictable traps. Who needs excitement?

Just make mine a La-Z-Boy and make certain the Moo Lah, Moo La La stays safe with me.

 

 

 

Anti-Climactic Much?

The past week was all about superlatives. Best of all, the superlatives were all headed in the right direction.

It really didn’t matter that so much of that direction was dictated by rumor after rumor. People who were smart enough to do the stupid thing and not take profits when common sense dictated otherwise were well rewarded on paper.

With the close of trading on Friday we were hearing all kinds of statistics centering around the market’s performance this October.

By all accounts we had seen the single best performing month since 1618, or in meteorological terms “ever since records have been kept”

It was that good. You actually had to go back to when Native Americans were occupying Wall Street to have had as good a month as we’d just experienced.

Even the old adage “buy on the rumor and sell on the news” couldn’t bring the market down after the rumor of breaking an impasse over the Greek financial crisis came into being.

At least to a degree, as today the Greek Prime Minister announced that the final details of the debt agreement will be put to a referendum. So, that certainly makes it a done deal.

What could possibly go wrong?

But in October jut about everything went right, as long as your standard is that you need at least a 17% gain.

Shorts were reportedly being squeezed, talk of IPO’s was beginning to burn up the airwaves and people were clicking on the ads on this site.

That final indicator seems to be a very accurate one. People click on financial related ads when they’re feeling good about multiplying the wealth. When the market is going down no one in their right mind clicks on an “Open an E*trade Account” ad.

Even Groupon was looking rehabilitated and in some corners was being compared to LinkedIn, with regard to the reception its IPO would be expected to receive.

 The Middle FInger

 By some measure, those all may be sufficient to mark a near term market top. And so, today, perhaps befitting the fact that it’s Halloween, the market just gave a middle finger to those superlatives and proceeded to lose almost 2.3%.

The diagnoses for the drastic response today came quickly.

“Risk aversion is once again taking hold in markets,” said Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. strategists in a market commentary following this anti-climatic end of the month day.

That’s why those guys get the big bucks. They are able to instantly recognize once they’ve been run over by a truck.

There must have been a really sharp curve in the road, because clearly none of us ever saw that truck coming. Otherwise we would have stopped buying and buying and stopped driving stock prices higher and higher.

The really good analysts can even identify the source of the tire tracks on their back.

I assume that some of those wild horses now roaming the floors of the NYSE are left over from the original occupants who only remembered to close the gate after the horses had escaped.

But beyond that, they get the big bucks because they can also see well into the future, discounting all unforeseen obstacles.

You and I need a straight road ahead of us.

The really good ones see it coming and take decisive action before the apocalypse.

“Although encouraged by what we consider to be a good start, we suspect Europe will require other measures going forward to effectively deal with its sovereign debt problems,” said USAA Investment Management Company in another note.

The rest of us totally forgot that there’s more to the EU than just a faltering and puny Greek economy

To be so talented is such a gift and needs to be shared with the world.

That was the kind of talent that just oversaw the bankruptcy announcement on Monday of MF Global Financial.

Before overseeing the bankrupting of a one time proud company, the guy who got the big bucks oversaw its evolution from an important cog in the wheel to the wheel.

But not any kind of wheel. More of a freestyle wheel. You know the kind. The one unrestrained by shape and form and without knowledge of the road.

Besides losing billions in European bond speculation, an area where reportedly MF Global had little experience or expertise, it now also seems that some $&00 million of client money is missing.

No matter. Just another opportunity for Jon Corzine to reinvent himself, although it’s not too likely anymore that he’ll be heading to become Treasury Secretary anytime soon.

I suppose that was an anti-climactic end to that much envisioned and predicted journey.

The news of MF Global’s descent didn’t seem to hit the markets terribly hard. For the most part the market just stayed in a tight range until the final hour when it just added another 100 points to its losses.

Why did the market do that? Why did it suddenly reverse direction?

Didn’t you read the earlier paragraphs? Investors suddenly became risk adverse and learned that other countries in the EU were basket cases, as well.

The fact that Halloween also marked Jean Claude Trichet’s last day on the job may have led to some sympathy selling.

For me, I just love “down Mondays”.

Those are the days when the market heads downward sharply right after I’ve had lots of options exercised.

In this case, I had the opportunity to repurchase shares of Caterpillar, Home Depot, Mosaic and Netflix below where they had been assigned and British Petroleum and JP Morgan at prices slightly above the assigment level.

That’s like getting things you really wanted on sale.

The fact that the market didn’t reverse course mid-day, as I so smugly believed was also anti-climactic. Even worse, it led to the feeling you get when you buy something and then as soon as you walk out the door, the going out of business sign goes up.

At least for a number of the share repurchases I did get to sell call options as they were on a short lived climb upward. Caterpillar and Mosaic behaved nicely, but for the most part, the other opportunities didn’t materialize.

Sometimes it’s amazing what opportunities do materialize. Sometimes, though it’s hard to understand why they existed in the first place.

Let’s go back to the case of MF Global again.

No one hates bankruptcy more than common stock holders.

Right?

Well, generally that’s true, but there’s another class of investor that may not fare too well, either.

Those are the holders of unsecured loans.

Reportedly, JP Morgan Chase held about $1 Billion of those notes and its shares got hit very hard. All the better time to repurchase shares.

Then, word came out that all but $900 million had been packaged up and sold to investor syndicates.

You know the kind. The kind that bought CDO’s. The kind owned by people in that evil 1%, mindful of the fact that even the original occupiers of Wall Street had their own 1% folk.

That JP Morgan was involved was no surprise. That fact that it repackaged its assets and palmed off the liabilities on others whose own investing greed was exploited, isn’t too much of a surprise.

So, does any of this sound familiar yet?

But what did come as a surprise was that among the unsecured MF Global creditors was CNBC.

Say again?

CNBC is on the line for about $850,000. Peanuts by any measure, but why exactly is CNBC in that kind of position?

Shades of Jon Stewart.

Did that in any way influence or steer its coverage of MF Global prior to this crisis? Once you’re in that kind of position are you any longer an independent arbiter or free to report wherever the facts take you?

I’m not certain I really need to know those answers. Whatever they are, compared to my imagination, the reality would probably end up being the most anti-climactic of all.

My guess is that it represents some payments owed to CNBC for ad time, although that seems like a relatively large accounts receivable for basic cable advertising, but then again, onMonday I was the lone voice defending Sallie Mae, as it, coincidentally enough was one of only a handful of gainers in a 270 point down day.

As far as MF Global’s tentacles go, back in the ancient Lehman bankruptcy days it was the contagion that killed us.

Now the contagion watch is on Europe with little to no concern about what other blocks may fall here in the US.

As nice as it would be to have MF Globals woes end with MF Global, the Schadenfreude that will all suffer from has to believe that lack of contagion is equally anticlimactic.

We all love a good collapse, but “been there and done that” describes the prevailing attitude.

It’s time to return to those great first 30 days of October, get some risk on and ignore reality.

That’s a climax we could all enjoy.