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Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Items Grab Bag

Item - The Republican Senate Leader in New York, Dean Skelos, reversed course, determining that some increase in the minimum wage would be OK after all.  So we now have evidence that New York Republicans cave even faster than Senate Republicans in Washington do.  That said, the cave is still not enough for Dems like Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver.  He and Governor Cuomo are demanding not just a big increase in the minimum wage, but also the indexing of that minimum to inflation.  What a terrible idea - when we assume a need to keep up with inflation, we raise inflation expectations and ultimately accelerate inflation itself.  No doubt the victims of this lousy policy will again be youth workers, especially the less educated who will be laid off in droves.

Item: North Korea's dictator threatens U.S. with nuclear weaponry and renounces the truce that ended the Korean War.  This is what happens when you give a juvenile delinquent the keys to the country.

Venezuela's Chavez dies from cancer complications setting off mourning among the country's peasantry and U.S. liberal sympathizers.  My grandfather taught me, if you can't say anything good about the dead, don't say anything at all.  So I won't.  But I can still "dis" Sean Penn and Robert Kennedy Junior, can't I? 

Item: 3,300 dead pigs were found in a river in China that is an important source of drinking water.  No wonder a favorite dish in that environmental nightmare of a country is twice cooked pork.  But I'm pretty sure twice would not be enough for most of us.  Here we have General Electric agreeing to a fourth Hudson River dredging project to remove some of the PCB's they dumped there decades ago.  I wonder how many times you'd have to cook them before they were safe.

Item: Old teams suffer injuries as night follows day.  The aging and aged Knicks can't keep their stars on the court, the Yankees have had a difficult time keeping their inevitable Hall of Famers on the field.    In the pre-steriod era, we expected athletes to slow down and glide to retirement by 35 or so.  Now with high salaries motivating athletes to stay in shape, and with steroids and PED's speeding their healing and return to the field and the court, it is common for pros to soldier on to 40 or even later.  But I am not sure this is really good for anyone - the teams, the fans or the players themselves.

Item: Cedar Walton wowed them at Birdland, but as often happens, it was one of his sidemen, alto sax veteran Vincent Herring who stole the show.  We have seen Herring many times at Birdland playing with greats like George Cables, Victor Lewis, Nicholas Peyton and Tom Harrell.  He is a regular at all of New York's top jazz clubs  - the current sax player of choice in a city where Eric Alexander, Joe Lovano, Lew Tabackin and other great players are based.  This is why, when selecting a show to see, go past the headliner and look to see which sidemen are playing also.  

I sat at the bar for the show, next to a German visitor in town on business.  He told me he was anxious to see New York's Birdland since he goes to a club named Birdland in Hamburg.  Of course, he doesn't often see the likes of Walton and Herring there.  Needless to say, he was suitably impressed.

Item: The Mets are shaping up pretty much the way we expected - lots of quality starting pitching and lots of questions in the outfield.  And way too left-handed at the plate - we are going to see a lot of lefties out of opposing bullpens.  It does look like if Jordany Valdespin can get the hang of centerfield, he may see quite a bit of starts there, which would send Kirk Nieuwenhuis to Las Vegas for a while.

But they have more to worry about in Las Vegas than a triple A team that strikes out a lot.  Casinos are sprouting everywhere.  And on-line gambling too.  Of course, New York politicians want to restrict the casinos to the economically challenged upstate counties, and not to put them in New York City, where they might actually do some business.  I think it's all a conspiracy to keep me from dominating the poker tournament circuit.

The stock market is setting records every day and that makes any self respecting investor/trader nervous.  Remember, the late Dr. Martin Zweig was perpetually worried and nervous.  Fortunately, like Star Trek's Mr. Spock, we have a formula that keeps any such emotions at bay.  The public is characteristically made up of trend followers who always get it wrong, getting to rallies too late and then being set up for the market's inevitable slump.  Our formula takes us in the opposite direction.

On Feb 25, we sold 100 shares of SEI Corp. (SEIC) at 28.14.  We paid 14.81 on 5/3/04.  On 2/26, we bought 100 shares of San Diego Power preferred (SDO.PR.A) at 24.69.  On 3/1, we bought 100 shares of Devon Energy (DVN) at 53.87.  This was a value buy since the stock is depressed due to the surplus production of natural gas.  On 3/4, we sold 100 shares of Conrad Industries (CNRD) at 22.64.  We paid 1.30 0n 4/26/05, a triumph for our formula and the vaunted Tulane portfolio.  On 3/5, we sold 400 shares of the rebounding USA Trucking (USAK) for 5.03, taking a small loss from the 5.73 we paid on 1/8/01.  On 3/6, we sold 200 shares of Marine Max (HZO) for 13.76 that we bought on 11/10/08 for 1.54.   During the crisis, they priced HZO as if no one would ever buy another boat.  On 3/7, we sold 100 shares of Watts Water (WTS) at 48.96.  We paid 31.61 on 6/19/06.  Finally, on 3/11, we sold 100 shares of News Corp (NWSA) for 30.50.  We paid 18.04 on 3/18/05.  News Corp will be splitting into two companies, separating its newspaper business from its other media businesses.            

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