The value of paraphrase imagery

Images supplanting ideas have been around for as long as we can remember. Here's the latest installment, coming from Phil de Vellis, concerning the Clinton-Obama growing rivalry:

This episode is exemplary for the new level of civic thought and action enabled by the internet. As well, it shows what YouTube, of which I wrote here, can be when it will have paid off the $1.7Bn Google bought it for. By the time of this posting, this clip has been viewed 2,075,594 times. Now, that's a novel model.

Before going into civic debates, have a look at the Apple Macintosh 1984 clip and see how little it took Mr. de Vellis to make his mark:

Whereas up until now such things were the domain of the 'pros,' now we have another level of democratization of the medium.

Hedging Options

Just google "Buffett on derivatives" to see the latest on the subject from the Sage of Omaha. In theory, derivatives are financial means to manage risk by syndicalizing it. In practice, nobody knows how well they work when large scale panic selling and/or contagion hit the financial markets.

The recent worries about subprime lending in the house market, preceded by the Chinese sell off, has one ponder as whether or not these might be the signs for financial trouble that not only Buffett, but also Greenspan as of late, has been talking about.

If one considers the slowing of the house market together with the drop in durable goods orders (i.e. what goes with/into a new house), one may get a picture that's so much uglier than what one is normally told through the 'official' channels. To get an idea as how far and wide the subprime lending has gotten, consider the range of companies whose executives are called to testify in front of the US Congress: HSBCPlc (HSBA.L), New Century Mortgage Corporation (NEWC.PK), Countrywide Financial Corp. (CFC.N), General Electric Co's (GE.N) WMC Mortgage unit and First Franklin Mortgage (FFHS.O). Subprime lending has made for many a record high bonus on the Wall Street of the 2006's end.

The options for the US government are few and limited. It can raise or lower interest rates. If it lowers them, one side effect could be that houses keep appreciating--one source said that all the subprime lending problem would disappear if house prices went up by 10%. The cost of so doing is increased inflation, which has already been at work. Another casualty could be the mighty dollar itself, including its position for some treasury departments in the developing and oil exporting worlds. Raising rates is a an even less likely option for the current thinking goes that it would send the whole economy down, so it would be considered only if inflation was acknowledged as the bigger problem than the risk of recession. A third option would be to raise taxes. If the Democrats were in power, that would have been the way out of this situation. The Republican executive may decide though to creatively tax the US by going into Iran. Not counting the political evidence supporting a war with Iran, the economic rationale is there. The dollar would improve its safe haven status, the oil would keep transacting mostly in dollars, and a lot of the financial troubles that have been accumulating since Greenspan would be shouldered by us all in the form of war debt, or something along the lines of the war budget (deficit) for Iraq.

Consequently, some options for the individual investor become: defense companies, Swiss Francs, and US Treasuries. Before I forget, let's mention Red 22 in Las Vegas.

Global consumer trends

Following is an excerpt from a McKinsey Quarterly survey about various changes over the next decade. However pertinent and intuitively valid, these projections are silent on two dimensions. Nothing is said about the future of digital products and the middle class from the developed nations, respectively. The digital goods' likely evolution will marked by defiance of intellectual property rights until the developing countries become themselves generators of digital goods. If what goes on in the US consumer market is an indication for the future, the middle class consumer in the developed nations and the consumers in developing nations will likely be increasingly alike. And, considering their prediction, this might have been the working assumption of the McKinsey consultants. However, the European consumer, given the protectionism in the EU market, looks differently.
A changing consumer landscape

Economic growth in the developing world will usher nearly a billion new consumers into the global market-place over the next decade, as household incomes reach the level (around $5,000) associated with discretionary spending. Although these consumers will have less spending power than do their counterparts in the developed world, they will have similar demands as well as access to global brands. Many industries therefore face polarized markets where premium and no-frills offerings are squeezing middle-of-the-road ones.

This polarization will become a fact of life throughout the materials sector as well. Consider the automotive industry, which is largely concentrated around two kinds of vehicles: high-volume, low-cost models and premium luxury ones. Materials providers will benefit if they can offer auto-makers differentiated products—say, for lighter bodies with improved fuel efficiency. Likewise, specialty providers of high-strength steel and aluminum are harnessing technology to create captive markets among luxury carmakers. Similarly, paper manufacturers have profitable niche opportunities to design innovative packaging for makers of consumer products such as ice cream or potato chips.

In fact, premium niches represent important opportunities for producers of aluminum, paper, and steel as they find themselves squeezed by high input prices, the substitution of materials when customers attempt to slash costs, excess capacity, and tough competition. Winners will increasingly need to play the role of productivity-improvement partner to their customers—by offering services, for example, or helping in areas such as product design.

"Global trends" by Ivo J. H. Bozon, Warren J. Campbell, and Mats Lindstrand

Popular Posts