Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Selling the Seed Corn to Buy Frozen Corn

December 27, 2016
Real Money: 8 Great Consumer Stocks for 2017

Macy's management could also have more of an immediate, positive effect on the company's stock by selling more real estate to fund share buybacks.

It's funny. I was thinking of selling my house, renting it back from the new landlord, and using the "profits" of the transaction to increase my net worth and financial stability by loading up on frozen corn.

Over the long-term, what could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

First World Problem of the Day

It's a problem. It often causes me to change the channel. I can't be the only one. Right?

Okay, I admit it. As far as global problems go, it's very minor. That said, it's such a simple problem with such a simple solution.

Just stop talking that way. How hard can it be? Seriously.

Or better yet, go all in. At least that would be amusing!

Yes! Hahaha! :)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Era of Compromise

January 26, 2011
CBS News: There's No Such Thing as a Compromise in Business

There's something about the word "compromise" that irks me. Many people say, "If everyone just compromised, we'd all be better off."

I don't think so.

Oh, please. We'd definitely be better off if we all compromise.

December 14, 2016
One Billion Compromised Accounts Doesn't Look Good, Yahoo

Yahoo announced that it experienced another hack, separate from the 500 million accounts that were compromised in a 2014 security breach that it reported in September of this year.

A billion users can't be wrong! Compromise for the win! Woohoo! Yahoo!

How to Retire in a Blaze of Glory

December 13, 2016
Middle manager who retired with a Reply All email tirade shows how not to quit a job

"When they asked for an honest exit interview, I gave them one," Stuban told He retired on Thanksgiving Day and now plans to travel and volunteer at his church.

While it might be tempting, and seemingly hilarious, to go out in a blaze of glory like Stuban or Joanna in "Office Space," you're better off holding your tongue.

How exactly would he be better off holding his tongue? He doesn't seem to be regretting his decision to go out in a blaze of glory.

I wrote a burning bridges letter when I retired 17 years ago. How else would I have heard the following from my general manager?

Of course employees are our number one priority. It's just that other things are more important right now.

I kid you not. I'll take that quote to my grave. Never regretted the resignation letter that prompted it. Very cathartic! Hahaha!

You only get one real chance to say exactly what you want to your employer. It's when you retire. Had I retired a few years earlier, say before the financial fraud and the seemingly endless waves of layoffs hit, the letter would have been much different. Go figure.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Sarcasm Report v.272

December 4, 2016
If you can bet on one thing in this world, bet on this: Gartman

"Clearly we were wrong in selling crude oil short the day before the OPEC meeting," the editor and publisher of The Gartman Letter wrote Thursday.

Okay, so what's the next bet? I'm looking to recoup my gambling losses!

"If you can bet on one thing in this world, bet on a mother's love, and bet on the fact that OPEC cheats," he said in a recent interview on CNBC's "Futures Now."

Dammit. I'm supposed to bet on one thing but there are actually two things. Is this some sort of ongoing trick to separate me from my money?

Choices, choices. That's it. I'm going all in on this mystery mother.

10 Media Depictions Of Stepmoms That Every Mom Hates

Every mom hates? Dammit Gartman! Your sure things fooled me again!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Collateral Damage of Sears

December 2, 2016
Moody's Downgrades Seven and Affirms Nine Classes of MSC 2007-HQ11

The largest specially serviced loan is the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills Loan ($133 million -- 18% of the pool), which is secured by an 880,000 square foot collateral portion of a super-regional mall located in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. The mall's financial performance has declined sharply in recent years, largely mirroring a decline in overall occupancy. The departure of anchor tenant Sears in late 2015 triggered co-tenancy clauses at the property causing several inline tenant leases to become percentage leases, further contributing to the decline in performance. The mall is currently 57% occupied, down from 88% as recently as December 2014. The servicer is the pursuing foreclosure and expects the property to become REO.

Domino Theory

Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the "falling domino" principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences. - Dwight D. Eisenhower

Crazy theory. Totally debunked. Everyone knows a chain is always as strong as its strongest link.

The Sarcasm Report v.271

December 3, 2016
Sears is on the brink of catastrophe as stores closures loom and top execs flee the company

Things aren't looking good for Sears.

Of course, this comes as a complete shock to long-time readers of this blog. Apologies for blindsiding you like this. If only I had devoted more sarcasm reports to this breaking news over the past decade!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Word of the Day

December 2, 2016
Mish: 125 Housing Metro Areas Compared: How Much Does California Skew National Averages?

Ixcluding California, the median unweighted gain not counting kickbacks and commissions, was 13.8%.

Including? Excluding? Typo? No, I think it is the birth of a new word, and I for one, like it.

I think our country will be like a very ixclusive club, now that we have elected Donald Trump as president. And here's the best part. We're already members!

I expect great things, especially when trickle inwards economics is unleashed. More of everything at essentially no cost!

Just one question. Do we ixclude the debt that will fund it? Yes! We always ixclude it! Woohoo!

Don't believe me? Ask someone at random how much debt they have. Then ask them if they've included the national debt in their answer. Then say it is okay, since national debt is all ixclusive!


The Sarcasm Report v.270

December 2, 2016
Incoming Treasury Sec. Mnuchin steps down from Sears board

Mnuchin, 53, has been on the Sears Holdings Corp. board for more than 11 years, according to the company.

It's been a very impressive run for Sears over the past 11 years. As a holder of long-term inflation protected treasury bonds, I am filled with renewed optimism about our future long-term prosperity!

Think about it. He's the perfect choice. Much to the dismay of long-term shareholders of Sears, there are few people on the planet with more hands-on deficit spending experience than him!

He was the Yale roommate of Sears Chairman and CEO Eddie Lampert.

How can we lose? Our fate is a sure thing!! Woohoo!!!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Sarcasm Report v.269

I have great news to share. You are immortal!

November 17, 2016
Yahoo Finance: RAOUL PAL: History shows there's a 100% chance of a recession for Trump

“I recently noted that since 1910, the US economy is either in recession or enters a recession within twelve months in every single instance at the end of a two-term presidency… effecting a 100% chance of recession for the new President,” he wrote in a copy of GMI posted below.

You are probably wondering how this relates to your own mortality. Please allow me to explain.

1. You are reading this.
2. Therefore, you are not dead.
3. If you are not dead now, then you were not dead last year or any previous year.
4. Therefore, you were not dead every single year of your life (not counting the potential for being mistakenly and temporarily declared dead).
5. Since you have never died, sound statistical analysis proves you have a 100% chance of not dying. Welcome to immortality!

Even if there is some tiny flaw in this statistical analysis, there is one thing we can say with even greater than 100% confidence. The longer you go without dying, the more resilient to death you will become!

Further, the only conceivable way you could possibly die would be the occurrence of a 25-sigma black swan event. To the best of my knowledge, no hedge fund manager has ever been burned by one of those though. They all use statistical models we can absolutely count on. That's why we can trust that if there is a 100% chance of a recession within a certain narrow time frame, then it is absolutely guaranteed to occur! It's a sure thing, exactly like your own immortality!

Friday, November 25, 2016

The One Flaw in My Thanksgiving Day Plan

How To Look Like Gerard Butler in the Movie 300

To build muscle, cut body fat, and have enough energy to train for six hours a day, he had to eat:

* Insane amounts of protein (which can be found in eggs, grilled chicken, tuna and other fish, steak, protein shakes, and protein bars),

I naturally assumed that eating insane amounts of protein would be the hardest part and that training for six hours a day would therefore be relatively easier.

Turns out, in hindsight, that eating insane amounts of turkey was a lot easier than it looked. The more I ate, the more confident in the plan I became!

Unfortunately, six hours of physical training became nearly impossible once the completely unexpected napping began. Blindsided by a 25-sigma event black swan!!

Live and learn! :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Don't Cook That Turkey!

I just got this email from Yelp. Seemed very important, what with the exclamation point and all. Thought I better pass it along ASAP!!

Don't Cook That Turkey!

Whew! Hopefully, Yelp and I saved many lives this holiday. It isn't all about us though. It's about giving back to our community on Thanksgiving. I hope everyone has a very special day, free from gastrointestinal emergency room visits.

Not sure which part of the cooking process is bad. I deleted the email before I had a chance to gloss over any new scientific research related to their dire warning. I think it is safe to say that raw turkey is finally safe to eat again though. I suspect that there have been many advancements in food sterility in the aftermath of the Chipotle disaster, but who can really say for sure?

Shame on me. Bad Mark. Bad! Bad! ;)

Disclaimer: This is NOT lack of cooking advice. For the love of all that is holy, cook the bejesus out of the frickin' turkey!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Sarcasm Report v.268

November 22, 2016
Bloomberg: No Evidence of Aloe Vera Found in the Aloe Vera at Wal-Mart, CVS

The aloe vera gel many Americans buy to soothe damaged skin contains no evidence of aloe vera at all.

One needs faith to detect aloe vera! Shun the nonbelievers!

In all seriousness sarcasticness, this is America. Expect to see long prison sentences for those responsible for the corporate fraud! Woohoo!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Dead Squirrel Beer

November 20, 2016
The $20,000 Rare Craft Beer That Comes Packaged in a Squirrel

“I absolutely love the beautiful, yet disturbing nature of taxidermy, so packaging our most evocative beer in such an unconventional, BrewDog way made sense,” says Watt. “Beer is art. Art is also art.”

I'm trying to figure out which turns my stomach more. Drinking this particular beer straight from the bottle? Or paying $20,000 for the privilege to do so?

The Sarcasm Report v.267

November 18, 2016
USA Today: 5 smart things to do with $100 right now

Imagine that a $100 online Web design course results in a $1,000 bump in salary. That's a 900% return on investment. Talk about money well spent.

Now imagine staying with that company for 30 years, which results in an extra $30,000 over the period. That's a 29,900% return on investment!

And finally, imagine using those proceeds to attend a seminar which will help you find the relationship of your dreams!

Warning: Following video not entirely safe for work.

Behold the power of $100, webinars, and an active imagination! Talk about money well spent! Dare to dream big! ;)

Friday, November 18, 2016

Abercrombie Is Ditch'd

November 18, 2016
USA Today: Shoppers snub Abercrombie as sales plunge

Down 15% as I type this.

In the comments, Progressive Political Views, if indeed that is his/her real name says:

I'm glad to see that there are significant numbers of people beginning to recognize the materialistic ideology that is at the center of our culture. We value 'stuff' and throw away people, when it should be the other way around.

Baby steps. First we need to value people as stuff and not needlessly throw them away.

I did NOT just go there!!

Shame on me. Bad Mark. Bad! Bad!

The Gap Gaps

The Gap is gapping down 13% today as I type this.

Many would search the news to find out why. I just wanted an amusing headline. Sorry.

Well, since you are here anyway I might just as well offer an opinion, the opinion of Karen S. reviewing their Redmond, Washington location.

Don't recommend this gap location mainly because of the negative customer service I've received here. One of the managers, a lady with shorter hair, spoke to me with an extremely condescending tone and was almost rude when I asked her a question. Ruined my experience there. Definitely do not appreciate this type of service, won't be returning to this gap location.

One person found it funny. I did too! I don't know who you are Karen, but I admire your style. If the extremely condescending tone didn't qualify as almost rude, then our imaginations run wild with the thoughts of what is! Hahaha! :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How to Stop Facebook from Ruining Your Retirement

November 16, 2016
USA Today: Why Facebook could ruin your retirement

Fellow retirees and pre-retirees will post pictures of their travels and adventures to exotic places — the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon in Iceland, Nature’s Valley in South Africa, Machu Picchu and the Galápagos Islands, and you — not wanting to miss out on all the fun — might want to do the very same and then some.

What say experts about keeping up the with Joneses?

The sooner you decide to stop keeping up with the Joneses, the sooner you can escape cubicle hell. And if you have successfully escaped, then why risk going back?

My sister has been to Machu Picchu. My brother has been to Machu Picchu. I have been to Poo Poo Point (trailhead's 8 miles from my house). It's all good.

Envy? No. Thankful? Yes, that's exactly what I feel.

Sergeant Apone gets it. Every meal is a banquet.

If you laugh/scoff at the banquet, just keep in mind that there are 795 million people in the world who do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life.

Thanksgiving's nearly here. Looking forward to eating cheap freshly cooked turkey (69 cents per pound on sale). Being envious makes one sad. Being thankful makes one happy. I will be very thankful. Not a hard choice, in my opinion. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Career Idea: Anthropology Barista?

November 14, 2016
Kiplinger: 10 Worst College Majors for Your Career

5. Anthropology

Annual online job postings: 923

...more than 12,000 people who recently studied anthropology in college and grad school.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Trading Update

Bought 175 shares of Pimco's 15+ Year US TIPS ETF (LTPZ) @ $66.405 within my traditional IRA using accumulated interest from prior long-term TIPS purchases, with the intent to hold 15+ years.

I normally buy TIPS directly from the government and cutout the middleman, but I can't inside my IRA.

So ends today's trading fireworks!

In all seriousness, watching me trade isn't like watching water boil. It's more like watching glaciers melt. I'm not exactly what you would call a high frequency trader.

The Sarcasm Report v.266

November 14, 2016
Bloomberg: Can $300 Billion Make Companies Behave?

Actually, the right question might be why, despite the advent of multi-billion-dollar penalties, companies keep breaking the law.

It continues to remain a great mystery.

If caught breaking the law, then the fines are evenly distributed to all owners of the company. Who are the owners? You know, they are the pension funds and index funds of honest, hardworking Americans.

If not caught breaking the law, then the biggest winners are those who hold leveraged stock options. Small changes in stock prices can offer enormous gains to these lucky holders. Who owns stock options? You know, they are the dishonest top executives of fraud-embracing corporations.

Why doesn't this system stop criminal activity? Who knows! There is something that could be tried though, with a very modest change to the existing system. What if jail time was imposed? Sounds pretty crazy, right? Hear me out.

I propose that if a top executive is caught breaking the law, then the jail time could be evenly distributed to all owners of the company. Let's all do our part to end the criminal activity! Rather than a top executive doing time for 20 years, simply have each honest, hardworking American stock owner do a few minutes of jail time!

If that won't stop the crime dead in its tracks, then nothing will. Certainly worth a shot!

It has been a while since I felt the need to ask the following question. Too much sarcasm? Seems excessive, almost criminal.

Friday, November 11, 2016

J.C. Penney's "Surprising Decline"

November 11, 2016
J.C. Penney reports worse-than-expected sales

J.C. Penney Co. posted a surprising decline in sales, citing softness in apparel, and lowered a key sales metric.

What they don't tell you as a bargain hunting retail investor, is that the department store industry's 16-year-old falling knife is rusty. Got steel glove and/or tetanus shot?

A Simple Plan to Unite This Country

Let's get the discussion going by talking more about politics, religion, money, race, and sex. Simultaneously!

These topics are all fresh in our minds! Thanksgiving dinner is just a few weeks away! The timing is perfect! What's the worst that could happen?

Hey, I never claimed it was a good plan, just a simple one. ;)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Sarcasm Report v.265

The following pictures were taken from my iPhone on Election Day. Thought that maybe, just maybe, they might lead to a sarcasm report. Mission accomplished! Woohoo!

6:22pm PST:

Seven minutes later:

Oh, yes. Definitely 50/50. Just flip a coin.

Polling statistics and complex predictive algorithms, baby. That's what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Trump Is Winning: ‘We Couldn’t Remotely Envision This Outcome’

The New York Times shows Trump currently has a 95% chance of winning. S&P 500 futures are currently down more than 4%. Treasury yields have fallen. Pollsters are in shock. The mainstream media is in shock. The world is in shock.

See? It really is the Headline of the Day! My fear really has been realized. Hey, but what's new? I'm a long-term saver during perpetual ZIRP. I'm not a believer in the resilience of our long-term economy. Very little shocks me these days. May we live in interesting times.

The "futures" are so bright that I gotta keep the shades closed.

Headline of the Day

November 8, 2016
Hertz: ‘We Couldn’t Remotely Envision This Outcome’

Shares of Hertz Global Holdings (HTZ) have lost half their value after announcing earnings that fell well below the Street consensus and offering guidance that was a fraction of analyst expectations.

I fear this headline may be reused once the election results are final.

I will never vote for Donald Trump.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Take Pity on America's Most Hated CEO!

November 6, 2016
Sears’ Edward Lampert Is the Most Hated CEO in America

Lampert has received a base salary of $1.00 in each of the past three years.

Assuming at least 2,000 hours worked per year, the most hated CEO in America is earning at most just 1/20th of a penny per hour to drive the company and its employees into the ground. What a sweatshop!

Still, his total annual compensation, which comes mostly from stock awards, has been at least $4 million since 2013, peaking at $5.7 million in fiscal 2014.

Enough to live on? Oh, please. That's barely enough to pay for one engagement ring!

From the comments:

Retail stores are dead anyway. Lampert is positioning the holding company for long-term success similar to what Warren Buffett did with Berkshire Hathaway, a failing textile mill back east. Lampert doesn't care what people think, nor should he. The shareholders are benefiting in spite of the negative news. In the long run, the owners will be very wealthy indeed. Retail is going the way of the buffalo. Wise up and get on with your life instead of crying and demonizing this man. Americans quit burning witches at the stake a couple hundred years ago. Quit crying in your soup and grow a pair. Survival of the fittest. If you don't like it, move to China or Russia and live with the socialists and communists. We'll see how that works for ya. - GoodWalkSpoilt

Demonizing this man? Burning witches at the stake? Crying in my soup? Heavens no! We need to take pity on him! Let's start a GoFundMe "Save the Lampert" campaign!! ;)

Government Records Indicate Little Risk

November 4, 2016
The Guardian: Diver may have found 'lost nuke' missing since cold war off Canada coast

Government records indicate that the lost bomb was a dummy and poses little risk of nuclear detonation, said a spokesperson.

I was under the impression that a dummy bomb poses zero risk of nuclear detonation. Oh, wait. I get it. Perhaps the Canadian spokesperson doesn't fully trust our government records?

Let me set the record straight for any Canadians who don't quite understand how things work in my country.

When my government says that there are weapons of mass destruction to be found or not found, you can trust that we will either find them or not.

In fact, you can always trust my government. Remember when Ben Bernanke's government records indicated that there was no housing bubble to go bust back in 2005?

Well, the Cubs just busted their record by winning the World Series! Housing had absolutely nothing to do with it! Yes! Bernanke, you're the man!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Election 2016: I Am Very Optimistic!

November 5, 2016
NBC News: Election Chaos Fears Have Preppers Stockpiling Survival Food

Reddie predicts a Trump win that has the urban poor revolting across the nation and the imposition of martial law to quell riots and the burning of businesses.

But he's also getting ready for the possibility of a Clinton victory that he says could lead to conflict with Russia and "World War 3 in 2017."

Either way, Freddy's ready - with both supplies and a word of advice.

Wow! On a relative basis, I am very optimistic. My plans involve sharing a bowl of popcorn on election night and playing with our dog (to help ease the traumatic election pain).

He has to use a pseudonym to protect his supply from any future hungry neighbors, he told NBC News.

I've been keeping extra supplies on hand as well, but mainly because I think they've been out performing treasury bills on an inflation adjusted basis. I also tend to stock up when things are cheap. Take this week for instance. Del Monte tomatoes are just 49 cents per can at QFC when bought in multiples of 10. Um, yes please!!

I really don't think an "I'm sorry, but we're fresh out of food." will cut it if mobs of angry disenfranchised starving masses show up at our door in his vision of the election apocalypse. I say this because about 200 scary looking children begging for food showed up on the last day of October this year. We managed to appease them with mini chocolate candy bars and Dum Dums. So yes, there is a precedence. ;)

Retired Air Force Colonel Lloyd Menninger for President

Straight shooter. Calls it like he sees it. Not afraid to speak his mind. ;)

Friday, November 4, 2016

Quote of the Day

We think everyone here is a risk manager. Whether it’s your official title or not, everything we do is a part of that.

- Former Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf, November 6, 2015

Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Pretty Scary Picture!

November 2, 2016
USA Today: Here's how much the average American spends on child care

In fact, the cost of child care is so astounding that over 20% of those surveyed say it drove them to hold off on having kids. Meanwhile, 25% of parents have gone into debt in order to pay for child care. But while these numbers might paint a pretty scary picture, there are things you can do to ease the financial burden.

I had to stop reading. Started to feel like another cat story. We already know how the last one ended!

The Sarcasm Report v.264

November 2, 2016
My Cat Is Sick, Expensive, and Keeping Me in Debt. Is It Time to … You Know?

Here’s the major issue: I have an elderly cat whom I love very, very much. She’s quite happy, but her medical care for a number of chronic illnesses runs about $600 to $700 a month for specialized food, prescription medicines, quarterly vet visits, and other needs. This is quite a burden. And if it wasn’t for this expense, which has been going on for four years now, I could—at least mathematically—not only be out of debt but have a cool $10,000 in savings.

You and your husband earn a combined $160,000 per year (a mere three times the median household income). Your gross income is only $13,333 per month. At $650 per month, your cat's current expenses add up to 5% of your combined gross income. Oh, yes. It is definitely your beloved cat that is keeping you in debt. Shame on her!

You have my permission to kill your happy cat that you love very, very much. Once that burden is removed, think how much happier you all will be. And remember, you are never obliged to pay for those you love, no matter how much they might depend on you or how much you might love them. It's all purely discretionary. Further, she is not actually your child. You did not give birth to her! You aren't even the stepmother. You should have opted for the "cool $10,000 in savings" years ago! Think how many younger and cuter kittens you could have had with that!

But pets are not children. We may refer to ourselves as pet mommies, but we aren’t obliged to pay for their medical care. While being an animal-lover feels necessary to you and me, it is all but the definition of discretionary spending.

See? I am not alone in my thinking. We animal-lovers need to stick together.

In all seriousness, our pets are our kids. We do feel obliged to pay for their medical care. If you cannot afford to pay 5% of your annual gross income to keep beloved happy pets alive in their elderly years, then perhaps you should not have pets in the first place.

Live and let live.

Seriously, if you really love your cat and your cat is indeed happy, then let her live.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

I-Bond Fixed Rate Falls Back to 0.0%

I got greedy. Thought that maybe, just maybe, all this talk of rising interest rate environments would bleed into I-Bond fixed rates. No such luck.

As of November 1st, the fixed rate for new purchases is back down to 0.0%, yet again. Should have locked in 0.1% in October when I had the chance.

Meanwhile, the MZM Own Rate seems to have peaked at a whopping 0.101% and has also been heading back down. I guess nobody bothered to burn cash to relieve the growing $14.5 trillion money of zero maturity (bank deposit) glut. It's a shame. Would have been quite a bonfire.

All this talk of bond bubbles has convinced many long-term savers to dump bonds (that still pay at least some interest over the long-term) and move to the safety of cash (which pays no interest over the long-term). For what it's worth, it has not convinced me. Still holding to maturity. Still earning the same interest. Still no desire to bury cash in my backyard.

Maybe I'm just stubborn or maybe I actually root for higher interest rates so that I can reinvest with more desirable terms when my bonds mature? I think it's the latter, for I, as a long-term saver and as a holder of long-term inflation-protected bonds, have never rooted for lower real interest rates. Not even once. And yet, lower real yields is all we seem to get.

Hey, do you suppose real yields will rise after the next recession? Will it become even easier to make money off of money? I only ask because I also have bets on hell breaching the 32 degree resistance level and a controversial patent on improving the aerodynamics of pigs. You gotta love long shots. Right? Sigh.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Wells Fargo Quote of the Day

July 24, 2015
U.S. News: Why Wells Fargo Is the Best Bank Stock Today

WFC avoids controversy and pays investors handsomely – and now it’s the world's most valuable bank.

Hahaha! WFC avoids controversy! Surely that is the quote of the day! No?

If you opened up a Wells Fargo (ticker: WFC) checking account with $5,000 a year ago, you made somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.01 percent annual percentage yield. But if you invested that same amount in Wells Fargo stock, then boom – you made yourself more than $640, or close to 13 percent on your money.

Hahaha! And if you continued to hold that $5,640 in WFC stock until today, it would now be worth $4,681 (adjusted for dividends). Where did that missing $319 go? Surely that is the quote of the day! No?

Meanwhile, Wells Fargo stock has proven steady (with a few dips here and there) going back to third quarter of 2009 – and more than doubling since.

Hahaha! Proven steady? That's gotta be the quote of the day! Right? No?

Pragnya Pattnaik, senior analyst at The Edge Consulting Group, says that Wells Fargo "has managed to perform better than most of its peers primarily through gains in market share, lower equity capital requirements and expanding relationships through cross-selling."

Hahaha! Expanding relationships through cross-selling! Quote of the day! Am I right or am I right? No?

I give up. What's the quote of the day? Does it involve a musical tribute?

While Wells Fargo investors should always watch out for changes in key indicators, including slowdowns on the mortgage banking and earnings growth side, the future has only clear skies ahead for WFC stock, Pattnaik says.

Hahaha! Other than the widespread cross-selling fraud and the "retirement" of CEO John Stumpf, the future has only clear skies ahead! Yes! Woohoo!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Trading Update

Bought EE Savings bonds today. Plan to hold 20 years, at which time they are guaranteed to double.

That's a yield to maturity of 3.53%. Not bad compared to the 2.26% yield on today's 20-year treasury bond.

2^(1/20) = 1.0353

I know it must seem silly to lock in such a low yield. Can't argue with you. It also felt silly buying EE Savings bonds in October of 2010. Not so silly in hindsight though. Only 14 more years until they mature. Still earning 3.53% per year. Still not regretting the purchase. Go figure.

I guess you could say that I'm still not a believer that long-term savers will soon be rewarded, especially those who have been sitting in short-term treasury bills and CDs for the last 8 years patiently waiting for the 1980s and 1990s to magically reappear. For what it is worth, good luck on that plan. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wrong Way Gartman Strikes Again?

September 28, 2016
CNBC: October will be 'spooky' month for investors, Dennis Gartman predicts

You have political circumstances, I think, that are going to make October an unbelievably volatile period of time.

The S&P 500 close has been stuck between 2126 and 2164 this month, currently lurking near the midpoint at 2139. Futures are down 0.2% as I type this. Eerily quiet. Too quiet. Spooky.


October 25, 2016
The Salt Lake Tribune: Treasury volatility drops to lowest since 2014

"People are looking for a December rate hike. Even with the presidential election, people are comfortable with rates."

Treasury volatility lowest since 2014? Eerily quiet. Too quiet. Spooky.

Don't you see what this means? It's not too late to make big money in October! If Gartman's right, then bet the farm that something "unbelievably volatile" is about to happen in the next few trading days! Woohoo!!

This is NOT investment advice. ;)

Monday, October 24, 2016

Coach: Jim Cramer's Winner of the Newest World

February 6, 2012
CNBC: Cramer Pits Coach Versus Tiffany Stock

To Cramer: it’s important investors are able to understand what makes some companies winners while other companies in the same sector struggle. Right now, he thinks Coach is a winner while Tiffany continues to struggle.

Adjusting for dividends and splits, investors in Coach have lost 43% since he said that. Meanwhile, Tiffany investors are up 24%. I kid you not.

Hey Cramer, is "winner" a euphemism for luxury bag holding opportunity? Just trying to make sense of all the subtle nuances!

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Dog Who Knew Real Prosperity

Filmed in 2014. Rest in peace, Honey.

The Current Health of Discretionary Brick and Mortar Retailing in One Chart

The following chart shows the combined annual nominal sales growth of department stores, general merchandise stores, electronics and appliance stores, clothing and clothing accessory stores, and sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores. I have limited it to the kinds of things one might give as discretionary gifts during the upcoming holiday season.

Click to enlarge.

As seen in the following article, rumors of brick and mortar demise are greatly underexaggerated. Not currently keeping up with inflation. Not currently keeping up with population growth. Not even flat lining. No, sir. Definitely in the red by more than 2% right now. One might even use the word deteriorating.

October 17, 2016
Nasdaq: Retail Sales Up: Is the Economy Ready for a Rate Hike?

Though the economy might be dealing with various micro and macro issues, an increase in retail sales definitely holds good for both brick & mortar and online retailers, which are bracing up for the busiest part of the year. With the advent of the holiday season, the retail sector will hog all the attention. So, it will be prudent to shift your focus to retail stocks that still hold promise.

The process of delving into the black abyss is to me the keenest form of fascination. - H. P. Lovecraft

Bloomberg vs. CNBC: Miami Real Estate

October 20, 2016
Bloomberg: It's Better to Buy Than to Rent, and It Probably Always Will Be

Some markets are more advantageous than others. In Miami, it's 53 percent cheaper to buy than to rent a home of similar size, the biggest discount among the metropolitan areas included in the report.

The closure of Detroit's Packard Car Company in 1956, the impact of San Francisco's Great Earthquake in 1906, and Bernanke's "there is no housing bubble to go bust" national housing bubble bust of 2005 notwithstanding, it's better to buy than to rent, and probably always will be? Miami is a screaming bargain? Hmmm.

October 20, 2016
CNBC: Miami luxury condo prices take a plunge

In broader Miami, inventory rose 11 percent, resulting in a 40-month supply of luxury condos. Inventories for single-family homes in both areas are also higher.

Given these broad-based increases, Miller said the luxury real estate market in Miami is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Ever get the feeling that Miami is destined to be the real estate speculation capital of the world? These booms and busts never seem to end. Is it the water? Is it the sun? Is there something in the air? Please don't tell me this gambling vice has a catchy tune!

Here is my advice, for what it is worth. Only buy a home if you believe you can stay for at least a few years. The more the better. That's especially true in a modern world, where job security can often be expressed in mere months for unlucky souls. I rented for years when I was working and never regretted it. I moved often to go where the work was. Owning a home could have easily anchored me [underwater]. Your experience may vary, of course.

I should also mention that as a homeowner, the mere mention of the word earthquake makes me cringe. Care to guess who is mostly on the hook during a big one? Me. In the battle between Mother Nature and my house, the former will eventually win. But hey, at least it's not built on a flood plain. That's something I guess. Now if I could just stop thinking about volcanoes. Mt. Rainier is in the distance. 99.99% beautiful. 0.01% terrifying. So far, so good.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Sarcasm Report v.263

October 20, 2016
USA Today: Your groceries may be cheaper, but farmers and supermarkets feel the pain

Christopher says many shoppers are using the savings to buy more groceries.

This is great news. Market forces are finally tackling the widespread problem of shrinking waistlines in America, says my secret source, an anonymous executive of a for-profit statin drug manufacturer.

Michelle Morris, 45, of Canton, Mich., estimates her family is saving $10 to $20 a week at the grocery store. As a result, they’re eating out less frequently...

More great news. Now that food prices have fallen, people can finally afford to eat at home instead of dining out. There's nothing quite like anecdotal evidence to support a questionable implied theory.

Monday, October 17, 2016

U.K. Savers Miss Out on Giant U.S. Dollar Rally

I only bring it up because...

October 17, 2016
MarketWatch: U.S. investors miss out on giant U.K. stock rally

The U.K. stock market is white-hot right now, with FTSE 100 trading near record highs. But unfortunately for foreign investors, the sharp drop in the British pound would have erased all of their profits, and then some.

As a U.S. saver, I'll try not to beat myself up over missing that giant white-hot nothingburger opportunity.

Hey! U.K. savers! Today only, will sell you a dollar for just $1.01! Buy as many as you want! Who knows? Might be more rally left!! We may be printing them as fast as we can but we still can't meet demand!

Bad Mark. Bad! Bad! Apologies to any U.K. savers who follow this blog.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

How to Shop My Way at Sears

October 11, 2016
New Sears Member Bonus Event to Feature First-Ever Shop Your Way Holiday Guarantee

How to shop the Member Bonus Event and qualify for the Holiday Guarantee:

Shop in-store at Sears on Sunday, Oct. 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., when prices will reflect those for the upcoming Sears Days Lowest Prices of the Season sale (which officially starts Oct. 20)

Shopping my way starts with me patiently waiting 5 days for the 3-hour event to start. Oh, the anticipation!

No further action is required by the member – if any items purchased at the event go lower at the same store for a lower price through Christmas Eve (including Black Friday), members will receive the difference back in points automatically credited to their account on 1/16/17 – up to $100 in points per member

Shopping my way involves guessing which Sears store won't close before Christmas Eve. This is a key point. If Eddie Lampert closes the store I pick right after I make the purchase, then the prices may not go lower at that same store. The liquidation sale might not happen until 2017!

Today is the big day. I have chosen the closest store to me and will be crossing my fingers that it will remain open for the rest of the year. Shopping my way means that I can't go right now though. I must wait until at least 6pm and get out of there by 9pm. So what do I do in the meantime?

The Seahawks are playing from 1pm to 4pm. Perfect! Oh, wait. There's also Sunday Night Football! Hmmm. That could wrap up by 8:30pm. So what does this mean? Well, it won't be pretty.

If I push the limits of our society's many traffic laws just a tad, I can make it to Sears in 20 minutes in light traffic. That will give me a full 10 minutes to do all my Christmas shopping. Craftsman tools for everyone on my list! To save time, I'll just sweep them randomly into my basket. Although many, if not most or all, of the tools are now made in China and are of lower quality, I still really trust the Craftsman brand. Always have, always will. One thing that I really appreciate is the lifetime warranty. 100% guaranteed for as long as Eddie Lampert can keep the struggling chain afloat!

October 14, 2016
This Sears Employee Just Landed the Worst Job in Corporate America

But to call it a promotion for Hollar is quite the stretch. Try more like a death sentence and potential blemish on the resume given the unique challenges he will have to endure from day one as Sears' top numbers cruncher.

That's funny. I would have thought the worst job in Corporate America would be the guy trying to ring up all of our Craftsman purchases in time today! I'm fairly easy-going about it, but some customers might turn a bit rude at 9:01pm! Then again, the CFO job does seem stressful too. One can only hope that he's generously compensated for crunching all those numbers.

Shopping my way with ample sarcasm, baby. That's what I'm talking about.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Sarcasm Report v.262

October 13, 2016
TheStreet: How to Protect Yourself From a 15% Correction in the Stock Market

Though Bartenstein did not make any specific recommendations, he was positive on consumer discretionary, healthcare, energy and financial sectors.

It is a little known fact that the best way to protect yourself from a 15% stock market correction is to buy stocks. Zig when others say to zag. That's what I say.

Next up: learn how to protect yourself from Diabetes this Halloween by eating all the candy all at once. It is a little known fact that once you've gorged on all the candy, you won't be tempted to eat any more.

Candy, it's what's for dinner.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Automotive Quote of the Day

October 4, 2016
USA Today: 5 things we learned from September auto sales

So we have every reason to believe the industry in 2016 still has the momentum and supportive business conditions to end at or around the 2015 record level... - Toyota Vice President Bill Fay

It's a microcosm of the entire US economy! Woohoo!!

In all seriousness, some people are still baffled by the "low" 0.66% real yield on the 30-year inflation-protected treasury bond?

Flat momentum for the long-term, baby. That's what I'm talking about. Sigh.

How to Lose 21% in Just 9 Trading Days Gambling on Surging Silver Stocks

September 22, 2016
Yahoo Finance: 6 Surging Silver Mining Stocks to Buy as Fed Maintains Rates

Flaunting a Zacks Rank #1 or #2 and a Momentum Style Score of ‘A’ or ‘B’ the following stocks are marching ahead, and still appear to have plenty of upside potential left. Further, these companies have been seeing positive interest from analysts of late.

Silver Standard Resources Inc.

Price then: $13.39
Price now: $10.78
Net loss: 19.5%

Pan American Silver Corp.

Price then: $18.46
Price now: $15.84
Net loss: 14.2%

Endeavour Silver Corp.

Price then: $5.59
Price now: $4.48
Net loss: 19.9%

First Majestic Silver Corp.

Price then: $12.66
Price now: $9.02
Net loss: 28.8%

Tahoe Resources Inc.

Price then: $14.20
Price now: $11.24
Net loss: 20.8%

Fortuna Silver Mines Inc.

Price then: $7.99
Price now: $6.28
Net loss: 21.4%

Average net loss: 21%

A strong price increase implies robust demand for the stock, which is often triggered by either a good earnings performance or some positive news, which may further boost the stock price.

Behold the power of Yahoo Finance, Zacks, surging stocks, strong price increases, robust demand, sure things, and silver mining diversification to enhance your net worth!

More Evidence That All Things Financial Eventually Lead to Monty Python

October 4, 2016
Barron's: Increasing Interest In Bond EFTs Could Keep Costs Down

Investors poured $95 billion into fixed income ETFS in the first eight months of this year, up from the $87 billion for all of 2015, according to research from iShares provider BlackRock (BLK).

Exchange Traded Fund (ETF)? Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)? Terrestrial juvenile phase of a newt (eft)? Hey, it's all good!

She turned me into a newt [eft]. I got better [past the headline].

Idiom: little things please little minds?

Guilty as charged. I find much amusement in the little things.

I actually feel sorry for people who need bigger and bigger things to amuse them. That's especially true, in our debt-ridden society, if they need to borrow more and more money to pay for those bigger and bigger things. Go figure.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Today's Clichébait

October 3, 2016
Yahoo Finance: Will Retailers Fire on All Cylinders this Holiday Season?

1. gearing up
2. goes without saying
3. leave no stone unturned
4. well on their toes
5. flooding the markets
6. sweep buyers off their feet
7. grab every opportunity

The headline had me hook, line, and sinker. Not bad for just the first two paragraphs of the article either, but keeping the cliché pace up was easier said than done. Perhaps they shouldn't have put all their eggs in one basket? When it comes to clichés, they bit off more than they could chew. Won't see me follow my heart and jump on the bandwagon. No, sir. That dog don't hunt.

Bad Mark. Bad! Bad! Hahaha! :)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thoughts on Costco

September 29, 2016
After-hours buzz: COST, MENT, AA & more

Costco's stock ticked up about 2 percent in after-hours trade Thursday. The wholesale retail giant reported quarterly earnings of $1.77 per share, beating analyst estimates of $1.73 per share. It missed on revenue, however, reporting $36.56 billion, compared to analyst estimates of $36.81 billion.

For what it is worth, Costco coupon books have been fairly lame lately, especially when it comes to food (our biggest purchases). Perhaps that explains some of the revenue miss. We've certainly spent less there (in favor of local grocery store sales). Did find a really nice pair of leather boots last time I went though. The shockingly low price was too much to resist. After trying them on at home, will probably buy another pair. No risk of us cancelling our membership.

From an investor standpoint, I'd be much more worried about Sam's Club. My local store has the advantage of shorter lines, a much emptier parking lot, and a lack of customers. Makes me wonder how much longer that store will continue to exist. Further, there is always some risk of us cancelling our membership. Wouldn't take much. The membership was most useful when we were buying drugs for our dog. She passed away, and so too, our membership perhaps. It's renewal time and it might actually come down to a coin toss. If we do cancel, Costco will see more revenue from us.

In my opinion, as a customer and over the long-term:

Costco > Sam's Club

Clickbait News of the Day

September 28, 2016
Yahoo Finance: Can I Fix My Credit in a Week?

"Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for credit because it took time for this problem to arise and it generally takes much more than a week to resolve it," John Heath, a credit expert and consumer attorney for Lexington Law, a affiliate, said in an email.

Next up:

Time Is Money: How You Can Lose 10 Minutes per Day Clicking on Yahoo Finance Links

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wells Fargo Fined Again

September 27, 2016
U.S. says Wells Fargo to pay $400,000 to settle charges over swaps

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Wells Fargo Bank has settled federal charges over inaccurate large trader reports for physical commodity swaps positions...

Harsh words and a fine equaling a whopping 0.000176% of Wells Fargo's market cap ($400k / $227b) will once and for all teach senior executives that crime doesn't pay.

It's the nanoscale straw that will break the adamantium camel's back.

Heads will rofl. They always have a scapegoal in place for these types of miner emergencies.

One of my patients had a rather amusing Freudian slip: he was having dinner with his wife, and he meant to say "pass the salt", but instead he said "You've ruined my life, you blood-sucking shrew." — Niles Crane, Frasier

Consumer Confidence: Party Like It's 2007!

September 27, 2016
Consumer confidence jumps to highest level since 2007

WASHINGTON - U.S. consumer confidence rose in September to the highest level in nine years.

Can you blame consumers for being so optimistic?

1. As in 2008, we are about to elect a new president! And with two extremely popular candidates to choose from, we can't lose no matter who we pick! Hurray!

2. Although Eddie Lampert is doing everything in his power to destroy department store jobs, he's just one man and there just aren't that many jobs left! Hey Jeff Bezos, ever play Mortal Kombat? This one's for you!

3. Thanks to the Fed's zero interest rate policy, the average credit card rate is just 15.22%! Never been a better time to borrow money to buy that cheap plastic dream item from China!

4. Although there have been roughly 20 recessions since the Fed was created, there will be no more recessions! We have finally achieved a permanently mediocre plateau of sub-par growth! That's right. We are stronger than ever before as we hobble and stumble along into the future! Perfectly fine as long as no external shocks ever appear again! Woohoo!

Livin' the dream!!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Interest Rates

September 22, 2016
Purdue University: We've Got Really Low Interest Rates

Interest rates are low.

This breaking news intended for those who have been living in a cave for the past 8+ years.

As a side note, if you are just now emerging from a cave then you might want to take rising interest rate theories with a grain of salt.

New York Times: Interest Rates Have Nowhere to Go but Up

Even as prospects for the American economy brighten, consumers are about to face a new financial burden: a sustained period of rising interest rates.

There's just one major problem with the warning in the New York Times. It was published on April 10, 2010. The 30-year treasury yielded 4.74% then. Nearly 6 1/2 years later, it now yields just 2.32%. Oops.

A saver who assumes that interest rates can only go up may be like a person dying of thirst in the desert who assumes that the water level in his empty canteen can only go up. Might just be wishful thinking.

Hope for the best; plan for the worst.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Sarcasm Report v.261

September 24, 2016
USA Today: How to turn a 3% raise on a $60,000 salary into $479,000

If you were able to save every penny of every raise for 15 years, using the same numbers above, you’d end your 15 years with over $479,000 in your retirement plan. In order to realistically pull this off, you’d have to somehow become immune to cost-of-living increases. Which means you somehow are able to keep your health care premiums stagnant, energy prices stagnant and consumer goods prices stagnant. It’s a very difficult task, but not impossible.

If someone out there has "somehow" become immune to cost-of-living increases and no longer sees health care premiums rise, please let us all know how you did it!

Next up, find out how to "somehow" lose 2 pounds each and every day eating nothing but pizza and ice cream while binge-watching Netflix from the comfort of your own couch! It's a very difficult task, but nobody can actually prove it's impossible!

Liposuction 24/7? Hooked up to a central home vacuum system? Think outside the box, people. This is America. Nothing is impossible!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

I Propose September to Be National Steal a Penny from Our Bank Accounts Month

A penny is just a drop in the bucket for the average account holder, but all those pennies could add up to millions of dollars. The money could then be used to enhance the banking system's bottom line and/or increase the bonuses of top banking executives. It's a very noble cause. Trust me on this.

September 22, 2016
CNBC:Stop beating up on Wells Fargo and John Stumpf

Consider the fact that the fake accounts generated $2.6 million in fees over a four-year period. That is a drop in the bucket (0.011 percent to be precise) compared to Wells Fargo's annual net income of $23 billion.

Sorry. The sarcastic beatings will continue until the morale improves fraud is removed.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Department Store Chains Just Need to Connect with Younger Shoppers

The following is a review of Galaxy on Fire 2 in Apple's App Store.

So at first I saw this gam I thought that it was gonna be another lame game so I looked at the pictures and I said this game has very good graphics so I downloaded it forgetting that there was another Galaxy on fire so I didn't even download that and I had no idea what I had to do so I went and did the tutorial and I was soo excited to buy a new ship so I was trying to figure out where do I go to buy a new ship and I couldn't find it so I'm like I probably have to go further in the campaign so I did so I went and bought the cheapest ship I can find I flew it for hours and then I resumed doing the campaign and two hours later I ended it and then I saw that there was more to it so I bought all of the Dlc's and then it took me another 8 hours to end the rest of the campaign. Also I have one thing to ask you can you put it to the point where you can change your view into the cockpit and make the game multiplayer thanks and can you also add more things to the campaign. Thank you for making a game this good to the point I can't stop playing it. - ghjdfjhgfdhjzd

This isn't rocket science. If you are the CEO of a struggling department store chain, then you should know exactly what to do now.

Give up? Close stores? Lay off workers? What?

No, no, no! Simply connect with your future customer base! Don't be silly!

September 17, 2010
Los Angeles Times: Department stores reach out to capture young shoppers

The department store industry, coming off its worst year in three decades of market share decline, is mounting an all-out battle for the next generation of shoppers.

It's been 6 years. The department store industry may have lost nearly every battle, but the war is not lost yet. One must admire the ongoing tenacity in the face of perpetual doom!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Sarcasm Report v.260

September 19, 2016
USA Today: If Fed finally raises rates, here's how you'll feel it

Another issue is that there is a lot of liquidity in the financial sector at the moment. As that starts to ease we can expect increased competition for retail savings, and with increased competition comes better rates for savers.

Indeed. I'm really looking forward to all that increased competition. We can expect much higher rates once savers begin to withdraw the $11.3 trillion (and growing) from commercial banks, stuff it under their mattresses, then light their mattresses on fire.

Just need patience. As a side note, never been a better time to invest in lighter fluid and matches. That's a lot of liquidity that will soon mysteriously start to ease/burn.

Now, if we could just figure out a way to short the monetary printing presses and/or deposit glut directly. People claim that the Fed can print an infinite number of dollars at essentially no cost. What they don't realize is the power of saver arsonists to nearly infinitely undo all that good work, at least in theory.

What will cause the first match to be lit? A conspiracy theory involving listeria tainted greenbacks? Lettuce hope not!!

Transocean's Mothballing Gamble

September 19, 2016
Bloomberg: Mothballing the World's Fanciest Oil Rigs Is a Massive Gamble

And while the decision to idle a chunk of its fleet would seem logical enough given the collapse in oil drilling activity, Transocean is in truth taking an enormous, and unprecedented, risk. No one, it turns out, had ever shut off these ships before. In the two decades since the newest models hit the market, there never had really been a need to. And no one can tell you, with any certainty or precision, what will happen when they flip the switch back on.

What's the worst that could happen?

[Braedon Keller backs away from computers]

Programmer: There's no need for that. It's all very quiet. It's just internal switching.

Braedon Keller: Really? No one's ever switched off a scanner before.

[Scanner switched off]

Programmer: See? I told you. No fireworks.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Quote of the Day

September 17, 2016
Yahoo Finance: Sears is closing a whole bunch of Kmart stores

In the comments, PK says:

It is a shame how incapable management can bring down a business that has been around for more than a 100 years. But it happens all the time.

Condolences to Eddie Lampert... rats forced to abandon the sinking ship... the remaining Kmart employees who will soon/eventually be laid off.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

What We Learned from the Lehman Brothers Collapse

September 15, 2016
CNBC: On this day 8 years ago, Lehman Brothers collapsed: Have we learned anything?

We learned that great leaders must understand their business and know how the pieces fit. They need to read, network, connect the dots, anticipate, and try to limit the surprises. Surprises can kill a company.

January 10, 2007
CEO Richard Fuld on Lehman Brothers’ Evolution from Internal Turmoil to Teamwork

First, leaders must understand their business. “Know how the pieces fit,” he said. “Read. Network. Connect the dots. Anticipate. Try to limit the surprises; surprises kill you.” Leaders who have done their homework make it safe for others to follow, he added. “Leaders earn the right to lead.”

Oops. My bad. Richard Fuld taught us this in a Wharton Leadership lecture *before* the collapse.

In totally unrelated news...

September 14, 2016
Forbes: Sears 'Disagrees' With Report Of Its Imminent Demise

Business Insider believes the embattled department store Sears and its struggling discount chain Kmart may be facing their imminent demise. Sears spokesman Howard Riefs begs to differ. “We disagree with the opinions stated in the Business Insider report,” he told Forbes.

Well, if you can't trust a Sears spokesman to tell it how it is, then who can you trust? I'm therefore investing my life's savings in Sears Holdings (SHLD). Sure thing. Can't lose.

Eddie Lampert, I'm begging you. Keep it secret. Keep it safe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Word of the Day

September 13, 2016
Business Insider: It keeps getting worse for Wells Fargo

The thinking is that targeted goals for opening accounts and generating fees lead employees to cur corners and open the account fradualently.

When a lender's fraud is "twice" as bad as it seems?


Fraudulent slip, lack of spell checking, and/or silly puns? You make the call! ;)

The Sarcasm Report v.259

September 13, 2016
Lew: Wells Fargo case a 'wake-up call' for regulation

From the comments:

Nobody suffered financial loss. All fees that "may" have been charged were reversed. $285 million in fines were paid. What the heck do you want, blood? - shaunm

Emphasis added.

If a bank employee steals money from you but then offers to give it back once caught, then you have not suffered a financial loss. No harm, no foul. No jail time needed.

Similarly, if you steal money from from a bank employee but then see the police pulling out up front, simply return the money and exit the bank. No harm, no foul. No jail time needed.

Further, if you kidnap someone but then release them and return the ransom if the police show up, then there's been no crime. Chances are your "victim" even got some free food and temporary lodging out of the deal. Unfortunately, nobody will be reimbursing you for those expenses. Where's the justice?

Forehead. Desk. Whack. Whack. Whack.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Warren Buffett's Wells Fargo

May 21, 2016
The Motley Fool: 5 Warren Buffett Quotes About Wells Fargo

The real insight you get about a banker is how they bank. You've got to see what they do and what they don't do. Their speeches don't make any difference. It's what they do and what they don't do. And what Wells Fargo didn't do is what defines their greatness. - Warren Buffett

Hey, Warren. Here's something my bank didn't do.

September 8, 2016
USA Today: Wells Fargo fined $185M over unauthorized accounts

"Wells Fargo built an incentive-compensation program that made it possible for its employees to pursue underhanded sales practices, and it appears that the bank did not monitor the program carefully," said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. "Thousands of bank employees found ways to game the system by secretly signing up existing clients for new services that were never requested. They misused consumer names and personal information to create new checking and credit card accounts to inflate their sales figures to meet their sales targets and claim higher bonuses."

Congratulations to Wells Fargo. Your fraud and theft actually enticed me to post. I now exit stage left, back into the shadows. Who knows what will prompt me to post again? Jail time for all the criminals involved? Yeah, right. Hahaha! Sigh.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Sarcasm Report v.258

July 20, 2016
USA Today: Gold may not be as safe of a haven as you thought

But history provides equally little assurance that gold will do well when bonds do poorly. In all months over the last four decades in which bonds fell, for example, gold fell as often as it rose — just as it did in the case of stocks. And the same was true for those months in which both stocks and gold fell.

Gold fell as often as it rose for those months in which both stocks and gold fell?

If true, gold is a much safer haven than I thought. ;)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Amazon: With Great Power Comes Little Responsibility

July 20, 2016
Birkenstock quits Amazon in US after counterfeit surge

For example, Amazon commingles inventory from distributors at its fulfillment centers, so authentic products and fakes can get mixed together.

Amazon better get a handle on the counterfeit problem. Commingling is definitely not the solution.

I recently paid full price for two Playstation 3 controllers to replace ones that failed (due to excessive use as a gamer). I wanted to buy on Amazon for the convenience and the better price but did not trust the product they are selling.

Amazon: PlayStation 3 Dualshock 3 Wireless Controller (Black)

Although it averages 4 stars, take a look at the 13% who rated it 1 star (which I always read before making a purchase). There is a common theme.

Be wary of fakes!!

I've taken apart both this controller and a genuine Dualshock 3 controller, and the innards are vastly different as well.

Meanwhile, over at Best Buy...

Best Buy: Sony - DualShock 3 Wireless Controller for PlayStation 3 - Black

98% of customers recommend this product.

Best Buy won that round, at least for me, even at the higher price point. I was willing to drive somewhat out of my way to pick up in person. I've been using the controllers for a few days. No complaints so far.

This is how it starts. Ask Chipotle. Once trust is lost, it can be very difficult to get it back. I can't speak for others, but my trust is clearly fading.

Does Amazon's return policy solve the problem? Not exactly. First, it's annoying to have to return stuff. Second, Amazon may close your account if you return too much stuff. If the counterfeit problem continues to grow then things will certainly get interesting.

This is not the first time I've written about counterfeiting, and it won't be the last. Still haunted by my experience as a research assistant in college.

February 21, 2011
Counterfeit Wealth

Somebody, somewhere, is driving a car with at least one engine mount bolt made out of lead. I truly believe that.

I offer this story as a warning to those buying precious metals. If engine mount bolts can be faked, then anything can. To this day, I would not be able to tell the difference between the bolts without testing them. That's how good the fakes were.

The Illusion of Stability: Stable-Value Funds vs. Unicycles

July 19, 2016
That 'safe' retirement investment is about to change

Stable-Value Funds:

Investors are dependent on the credit quality of the underlying bond portfolio and the company providing the insurance. If the insurer fails, you may have to get in line with other creditors for your payout, said Gregory Kasten, founder and CEO of Unified Trust Company.


Riders are dependent on the quality of the underlying terrain and soft couches providing the insurance. If the couches fail, you may have to get in line with other riders at the hospital, says me, an anonymous blogger on the Internet.

Just looking for an excuse to share the video. No worries. There are no serious injuries. One has to admire his persistence!

Reminds me a bit of learning to snowboard in college. The falls were definitely when most of the learning took place. I was almost always riding that fine line between stability and instability, for I craved the speed more than I craved the stability. These days? Not so much. I prefer the stability over the speed, and you can see that in my investments.

Since retiring, I have no desire to chase yield at the expense of safety. No desire to eek out a modest "safe" return by investing in riskier things and paying for insurance to make them less risky either. Perhaps the thought of paying for an insurance company CEO's private yacht turns me off? Perhaps I don't want to ever be in a position where the insurance company fails, I lose a lot of money, but the yacht never gets sold to pay me back?

I am not getting more cynical as I age! Am not!! Well, maybe just a bit. If I am, it's for good reason though, I assure you. When something is called stable-value and yet the value is inherently unstable when stability is needed the most (during a financial crisis), my cynicism can only grow.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Severe Weather Advisory: Department Store Headwinds Continue to Intensify

The following chart shows nonstore retail sales divided by department store sales (excluding leased departments).

Click to enlarge.

What's going to stop the long-term trend? If you look closely at the chart, the trend may actually be failing to the upside over the last 6 months. That means the department store headwinds are actually getting even worse than might have been expected.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale: Category 5

Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

This could help explain why, as of today, the Amazon (AMZN) to Sears (SHLD) market cap ratio is a whopping 218 to 1 ($347.3 billion / $1.59 billion).

Way to go Eddie Lampert! Fighting hurricanes, at nearly unspeakable odds, nearly single-handedly? You da man!

October 9, 2007
Mapping Lampert's next Sears move

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Billionaire hedge fund manager Eddie Lampert, who controls Sears Holdings (Charts, Fortune 500), has earned a reputation as a boy wonder of retailing by wringing profits from an aging department store chain.

Well, you know what they say. Nobody ever rings the bell wrings the profits at the bottom!

This is not investment advice. I have no positions in Amazon, or Sears, or J.C. Penney, or Macy's, or Nordstrom, or...

Source Data:
St. Louis Fed: Custom Chart

The Sarcasm Report v.257

July 14, 2016
MarketWatch: Opinion: How saving too much can make your retirement less satisfying - Chuck Jaffe

Chuck, you are absolutely right.

I'll try to find some meaning in my meager unsatisfying existence by playing with our dogs today, as I force back the tears, when deep down, all I really want to do, as an introvert and as a frugal saver, is invite total strangers into my home to install new granite countertops.

July 18, 2016
MarketWatch: Opinion: The Dow will have to hit 150,000 before you can retire comfortably - Chuck Jaffe

Chuck, you are absolutely right.

It's the curse of my life. On the 14th, you reminded me that I'm saving too much to be truly satisfied in retirement. Today, you remind me that I didn't save enough to be comfortably retired in the first place. Dow 150,000? I'm not even close!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jim Cramer Mystifies the Roth IRA Mystery

July 15, 2016
Cramer: To Roth or not to Roth? Untangling the IRA, 401(k) Roth mystery

"The less you make, the more likely it is that a Roth is for you. It's that simple." -Jim Cramer

Simple decision!

When deciding among a Roth IRA, 401(k) or a traditional account, it depends if it makes more sense to pay income tax now or to wait and pay income tax after retirement. This is a complicated decision that has more to do with the specifics of a situation and whether one anticipates they will be in a higher tax bracket at retirement.

Complicated decision!

"For anyone whose marginal tax rate is 25 percent or less, which is most of America, I think you go with a Roth. Better to take the hit up front, then allow your Roth IRA to compound tax free for the rest of your life," Cramer said.

Simple decision!

There's no math to support that simple decision, of course. The complicated decision was simply swept under the rug. You just have his word on it, and apparently it works for everyone in the 25% tax bracket or lower.

Why is it better for a lower income worker to lock in the 25% tax rate? Beats me! I'm retired. When I was working, I was generally in the 28% tax bracket. Thanks to low inflation, low interest rates, and no job, I'm now solidly in the 15% tax bracket. Glad I didn't lock in 28%!

And then there's this silly emotional inference that the Roth IRA is superior because it compounds tax free. If you prepay 25% in taxes or pay 25% when you withdraw, it's all the same. The difference between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA can be seen in the following formulas with $1000, a 25% tax rate, 6% growth, and 30 years.

(75% x $1000) x 1.06^30 = $4,307.62
($1000 x 1.06^30) x 75% = $4,307.62

There is no difference between taking it out in the beginning or taking it out at the end. None. There will be a difference if the tax rate changes though. That's why it is a complicated decision. One needs to know what will happen to the tax rate in order to decide which IRA to use.

I'm in the camp which believes that the tax rate will likely be lower in retirement for most people, especially for poorer people, just like mine is. I no longer have a job that pays me a salary. Lower income, lower tax rate.

That doesn't mean all my taxes are lower though. The government finds other ways to tax me. Sales tax rates only seem to go up. It's all the way up to 9.5% in King County, WA. Ouch. Property taxes are climbing substantially again too, because we all apparently love inflating the bejesus out of housing prices. The Roth IRA does not protect against either of those. And don't even get me started if the US someday adopts a value-added tax (VAT). Roth IRA investors could easily become the tax bagholders. Prepay the income taxes and then pay the consumption taxes later? Ouch. Could happen.

The decision to invest in a Roth IRA is not a simple one, no matter what Cramer says. It just isn't.

One thing is nearly certain though. If you are in retirement, and have prepaid the taxes on all your investments, then you probably won't be paying much in income tax. Without income to be taxed, how will you be in a high tax bracket? Just something to think about, not that Cramer thinks you should think. Simple decision. Right?

I do not mean to imply that I have replaced Cramer's simple decision with a simple decision to do the opposite. For example, if inflation picks up and stays extremely elevated, my inflation-protected treasury investments, held outside my retirement account, would likely push me into a much higher tax bracket. So far, so good. Unfortunately, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results. Sigh.

This is definitely not simple investment advice. At best, it's complicated opinions on a complicated topic. Want some real advice? Your lifetime individual retirement account decisions are not a Mad Money lightning round! Take some time to think them through.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The New Cunning Plan at Sears

July 14, 2016
PR Newswire: Sealy and Sears Surprise Select Group of New Homeowners with a First Night They Will Never Forget

"As one of the nation's leading retailers of mattresses, Sears is proud to surprise and delight new homeowners who are celebrating their first night at home by giving them a $500 Sears gift card for all the home essentials they need to get settled into their new place," said William Savage, SVP and President of Home, Seasonal Outdoor Living at Sears.

Sears (SHLD) fell 2.4% today, after falling 5.4% yesterday.

I don't think shareholders are really seeing the big picture here. $500 is money well spent!

Granted, I won't be spending more money at Sears because of this campaign, at least not yet. Knowing others are winning $500 doesn't make me want to spend more. Is it just bitter envy and jealousy? No, that's not it. Not my style. I'm simply waiting to potentially win the $500 gift card for being a select existing homeowner someday. Call me a frugal optimist! Hahaha!

Somebody will spend $500 though! I'd be willing to bet that Sears revenue will grow nearly $500 for every $500 gift card they give away!

Why not the full $500? Well, somebody still shops at Sears. If that somebody gets a $500 gift card then they might just use it instead of their own money. That would put a dent in the expected revenue growth of giving away free money.

That's the real genius of this campaign though. Since fewer people shop at Sears these days, the odds of giving a gift card to an existing customer have fallen. There's no way they would have tried this desperate revenue maneuver in my youth. Sears appliances, televisions, stereos, bicycles, tools, clothes, and toys (erector sets, binoculars, microscopes, and so on)? Our house was filled with stuff from the Sears Wish Book! These days? Not so much. There's one lonely Sears freezer in my garage now. Been there for more than a decade. That's it.

Eddie Lampert, my existing home is an untapped source of future Sears revenue growth! For every $500 gift card you send me, I guarantee you the full $500 in revenue growth that you seek! That's right, every last penny. Give you my word! Not only that, but I'll be very quick about it. I wouldn't want to risk the closest Sears store closing before I got to it. You have a nasty habit of shuttering them!

Bad Mark. Bad! Bad! ;)

P.S. For those who have heard the deflation speech of Ben Bernanke, there is something more that can be said here. Sears has a technology, called a free $500 gift card printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent), that allows it to produce as many free $500 gift cards as it wishes at essentially some cost approaching $500. If you are an existing shareholder, good luck on that.

Disclosure: Neither long nor short. Just continuing to watch the Sears slow-motion train wreck from the sidelines (since 2007).