Wednesday Night #1410

CONGRATULATIONS to the West Wing for reaching their first anniversary. We are very proud of our Vancouver sibling and all the effort that Alexandra and James have put into making it a success!

“Things go up and things go down.  Things are never that bad, things are never that good.
Everyone is communicating through technology.  What’s next – Paid intimacy?” 
Andy Nulman

 

            The recent announcement of an unexpected rise in Royal bank income and dividend and the impressive rapid rise in the TSX lead strategists to formulate hypotheses of dubious validity and a sense, albeit temporary, of euphoria.  There have been signs of light in this market spiral as gold has begun to rebound but reality ultimately succeeds euphoria. The U.S. dollar remains a cause for concern.

One of the more obvious but previously ignored factors has been that balance sheets are designed to downplay the negative and exaggerate the positive, leading investors to hear what they would like to hear rather than what they should hear, a situation that will probably be scrutinized more carefully by investors and governments in the future.

In the longer term, financial crises tend to lead to business failures, social unrest and ultimately, to political crises.  Europe is in a financial crisis and Greece is experiencing a political crisis.  There is no doubt that the current crisis will come to an end but the world will have changed.  The end of these crises does not see the return to the status quo but to more powerful governments.

One factor that has apparently not been fully realized but if the situation continues over a prolonged period constitutes a potential for the youth, who have enjoyed relatively easy living and high employment figures, to be dissatisfied with the new reality with which they will ultimately be faced.  For the moment, in Greece, the people are still out on the streets, in restaurants.   In Beirut, in the midst of the recent violence and political unrest, Lebanese were leading relatively normal lives.

One prediction offered relates to our obsession with and dependence on technology to communicate.  Direct human contact is becoming rarer with computer, television and voice mail constituting more a hindrance than an aid to communication.  It has been suggested that the Wednesday Night Salon will become the norm rather than the exception as people once again recognize the value of and indeed, the need for direct communication in understanding and improving the world and perhaps, of recognizing that opposing views can coexist without the need to co-opt or proselytize.

T H E  I N V I T A T I O N

Make sure that you rush out (if you have not already done so) and purchase  Andy Nulman’s  book “POW! Right Between the Eyes: Profiting from the Power of Surprise”. Read reviews on Amazon.com because, POW! Wednesday Nighters will have the opportunity to see/hear Andy (albeit he will arrive late) AND have the author sign their copy this Wednesday evening.
The opener should indicate that while the economy is still much on our minds and agenda, we promise a more eclectic and far-reaching programme than has been the case recently, along with at least one alternative to the stocks and bonds, commodities, banks and other investment opportunities that are trashed weekly by one or another of the gurus present. The alternative comes in the guise of what we may glean from Jan Johnson, friend of Tom and Margaret Haslam-Jones, and founder of the eponymous  Jan Johnson, Old Master & Modern Prints, Inc  Better to put your money on your walls, than to paper the room with useless certificates …
Also out of the ordinary – a visit from Christy McCormick from Hong Kong where he is
Editor of the Hong Kong Shipping Gazette, together with Hong Kong Air Freight magazine, and the bilingual Guangdong and Shanghai Shipping Gazette editions. He also edits The Asian Shipper in its Kuala Lumpur and Singapore editions. It sounds like an awful lot of editing but he says “Actually, it is not much different from my old job producing the multi-edition Suburbans ten years ago, except that these range over countries and regions instead of municipalities and neighbourhoods.” It will be fun to see him again and also to learn first-hand what he is observing –given the importance of shipping as an indicator of economic activity.
Kimon has returned from his travels and will definitely be with us, along with his son Ion. He will no doubt cast further light on recent events in Europe (but will he talk about the Sarkozy extravaganza in Mexico?)  and the forthcoming trip of President Obama to the G20 meeting in London; NATO in Strasbourg; Prague
for a meeting of European Union leaders; and a just-announced visit to Turkey.  Query for Kimon: is the cause of global governance strengthened or weakened in today’s financial crisis climate?
As is frequently the case these days, we will have yet another major speech from President Obama to parse. On Tuesday morning he delivers remarks on education reform at the Conference of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. White House to Focus on Education Reform as Essential to Economic Future  His focus on higher education is a departure –  most administrations have stressed early education and left the rest to chance. There has been quite a bit in the news on the topic of education. One of the indicators of bad times for university endowment funds is the NYT story “Doctoral Candidates Anticipate Hard Times” and this WSJ story titled (worthy of Peter Trent) “Job Market for Economists Turns … Dismal”  Closer to home, the Fraser Institute report card shows successful schools come from all neighbourhoods, not just wealthy ones. We are not quite sure why this is news. The goal is to have all schools as successful as possible, isn’t it? In a somewhat related event, Serge Godin of CGI and Judith Woodsworth, President of Concordia are addressing the Montreal Fraser Institute mavens on Wednesday. Margaret Lefebvre has promised to report on the speech, titled “Help Wanted: Labour challenges in Quebec and Canada” – we presume, this is not an ad for more faculty.
There’s lots more, but we will close on this encouraging news: Censure sparks World Bank reform – seems that the World Bank has launched a commission to reform itself in response to criticism it has not reacted quickly enough to the global economic downturn.

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