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Is there a doctor in the house?

A doctor shortage in America has been predicted ever since the first Baby Boomers started to retire.  Now, that shortage is coming into question as technology and non-doctor, medical professionals are stepping forward to fill the gap. read more…

The Pipeline made simple

The U.S. Senate rejected passage of the Keystone Pipeline by one vote this week. The controversial energy plan will be back on the agenda, however, in January. For most of us, separating fact from fiction as both sides alter the facts is difficult at best, but here are some things we do know. read more…

Markets are in half time.

Stocks have had a wonderful run since mid-October’s swoon. The S&P 500 Index is now up over 10% from its bottom. As we approach another record high, expect some backing and filling before moving higher. I wish I could say the same about the price of oil. read more…

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U.S. Debt, Another Cliff Note

While politicians bicker over the Fiscal Cliff, the government continues to borrow about $4 billion a day. The statutory ceiling on U.S. Treasury borrowing is $16.4 trillion and we will hit that number by year-end. Then what? read more…

Play it Again, Sam

 

It was a week of tension. Markets rose and fell on every word uttered by party leaders, who jockeyed for position and the national spotlight around the Fiscal Cliff.  It was Washington at its worst. Get used to it because this deal is going to go down to the wire. read more…

Fiscal Cliff or Shallow Ditch?

 

“And you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
of destruction.”

Barry Mcquire,”Eve of Destruction”
[ Lyrics from:

Panic has once again descended upon Wall Street. This time investors are gnashing their teeth over whether our political parties will be able to strike a tax and spending deal before January 1st. If not, so the story goes, we will plunge, like Lemmings, over the so-called Fiscal Cliff never to return. Why am I not impressed?

 We have had a number of these dramatic binary events over the last few years. They always make great theatre, but none have turned out nearly as bad as the media predicted. If you had panicked and sold on their advice you would be much poorer today.  This particular cliff-hanger reminds me of another end-of-the-year event that was predicted to cause horror and dismemberment among the world’s institutions, Y2K.

 The Year 2000 was a problem for both digital (computer-related) and non-digital documentation and data storage situations which resulted from the practice of abbreviating a four-digit year to two digits. Would the world’s computers be able to recognize and accommodate a year that began with “2” instead of “1”?

At the time, we were assaulted for months with stories that spelled out what could, would or should happen if the world was not prepared for this digital disaster. But predicting the end of the world is a zero-sum gain. If someone gets it right, (and no one has thus far) there won’t be anyone left around to brag about it. As for Y2K, it turned out to be, in the words of Shakespeare “Much Ado about Nothing.”

In this case, investors; who have known about the Fiscal Cliff for months, are assuming what happened before will happen again. Readers may recall that last year both Republicans and Democrats could not agree on how to address our growing deficit. The Republicans used the nation’s debt limit, which was fast approaching a ceiling, as a bargaining chip to force a series of spending cuts on the White House and Senate. Both sides refused to back down. At the eleventh hour it was agreed to kick the can down the road until after the elections by temporarily raising the debt ceiling in exchange for implementing a series of tax hikes and spending cuts that would be implemented automatically at the beginning of 2013.

If there is no compromise, pundits and even the President have predicted that the combination of tax rises and spending cuts will drive us back into a recession, the gains in employment will evaporate and the United States will quickly join Europe in vying for the worse economy of 2013. No one wins. Everyone loses.

What’s wrong with that picture?

Well, for starters, everyone knows it and politicians hate to lose. Americans have also conveniently forgotten that the parties did compromise last year. They agreed to disagree, but still raised the debt ceiling at the height of partisan politics. Today, less than two weeks after the elections, President Obama was re-elected with a mandate to lead but also to compromise. That seems clear when you look at the results in Congress. Republicans were re-elected and maintain their majority in the House while the Democrats control the Senate. It seems to me that voters want compromise from all their elected officials and both parties know it. Last year there was no such message; in fact, if anything, both sides felt it was their way or the highway and still they compromised.

So far, both sides have said they are willing to do just that. In politics (as in real life) you go into negotiations with your strongest suite. Otherwise, you have nothing to give in exchange for another card.  I believe there is a new willingness in Washington to compromise but, for Americans, it will have to be one of those “show me” moments. As such, patience and a cool head are required until then. 

We only have 14 or 15 working days on Capitol Hill in order to get a deal done before this “Eve of Destruction.” Just about everyone assumes both sides will not budge and negotiations have not even started.

In the meantime, there is an old saying on Wall Stree: “Don’t fight the tape.” It means that regardless of whether the direction of the market is right or wrong, don’t fight the flow. Right now, panic prevails, the markets are in a waterfall decline and investors are all going down like lemmings together. Don’t get caught up in this crowd psychology. In my opinion, sentiment and the markets will reverse as soon as it becomes apparent that this black chasm in front of us is simply one more shallow ditch.

 

 

 

Insult to Injury

 

It has been over a week since Hurricane Sandy descended upon the Northeast. Adding insult to injury, this week’s Nor’easter  provided yet another punch to a region that is barely standing.  Fortunately, yesterday’s storm was more of an inconvenience than a disaster. read more…

Uncertainty Lifts, the Fiscal Cliff Looms

After a year of uncertainty, we now know who will be governing the nation over the next four years. Unfortunately, it is not the guy that Wall Street was hoping would win. Investors took out their disappointment by selling. That is a mistake. read more…

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About Bill

Bill Schmick was born in a blue-collar neighborhood of Philadelphia, just a few blocks north of “Rocky Balboa” territory where most of his Catholic schoolmates grew up to be either cops or criminals. He narrowly escaped both professions by volunteering to fight in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine... Read More

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