Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Quiet Day on Wall Street

1 - We just thought last week was crunch time on the debt ceiling issue. Now it really, really is. If you're like me, you've been following this story hour by hour: time and again, the politicians appear to be in the verge of an agreement, and every time, someone gets mad, takes their toys, and goes home. I wonder if everyone in Washington really grasps the magnitude of the issue they are dealing with. At this point, there's little we can do but watch -- and will a deal to get done.

2 - The list of speakers is set for our August 9 event entitled "New Realities: Real Estate." We have three distinguished panelists, each of whom can be considered a real estate expert. One one (Cathy Toomey, president of the Polk County Board of Realtors) is focused on Polk County, one (Madelon Wallace, partner with Walker Wallace and Emerson) the greater foothills region, and the third (Scott Hamilton, CEO of Advantage West) all of Western North Carolina. If you have any interest in discussing the new facts of life as they apply to real estate, I urge you to attend. Libbie will be contacting clients soon to take reservations.

3 - Sharon and I just visited our son Drew in New York City over the weekend, and I took a side trip to Wall Street. Everything was closed, of course, but my purpose was just to take a few photos to show you what can be found in the few blocks surrounding the New York Stock Exchange. I include just three below: (1) the giant brass bull -- a perennially popular photo stop for foreign tourists; (2) Federal Hall, just across the street from the exchange, where George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States in 1789, and (3) one of the ubiquitous vendors that can be found all over Manhattan. How appropriate that, in the shadow of the very symbol of capitalism, you can find entrepreneurs still practicing the simplest form of free enterprise.

Have a great week!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Unpleasant but Important

1 - This debt ceiling business NEEDS to be resolved -- and soon. While observers have watched with sanguine hopes of an agreement, time continues to slip by. This week's article (following the week's economic news) discusses the ramifications of the situation and what might happen if no agreement is reached by August 2.

2 - Social Security is like the weather: everybody complains about it, but nobody does anything to fix it. Scroll down to read a bonus article that explores the various painful options for dealing with this vital but thorny issue.

3 - Here's a lesson for anyone without a clear-cut estate plan: Even as 94-year-old Zsa Zsa Gabor lies on her deathbed, her ninth (and presumably last) husband is gearing up for a legal battle against heirs from previous marriages. While most of us have had a far more limited array of spouses, it still behooves us to have our wills, trusts, etc. in order.

Have a great week!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Birth of a Nation

1 - Do you know how many countries there are in the world? Would you care to take a guess? I'll wait....
The official answer--as of today--is 193. That is the number of countries recognized by the United Nations following the birth of South Sudan over the weekend. We don't often think about it, but global demographics are in a constant state of change, and this is a perfect example. After a 40-year civil war culminating in a referendum last January, the new nation is now officially separated from the north, but still faces problems posed by poverty, international tension and the challenge of creating political stability. To view a brief video of the celebrations in the newest member of the family of nations, click on the video image below.

2 - My ongoing reexamination of our investment approach kicks into high gear this week. I have collected reams of material and talked with a variety of sources, and I plan to spend much of the week reading, re-reading, sitting in on conference calls, and evaluating our existing asset classes and portfolio models. The project is coming along well, and I am confident that it will prove to be well worth the time and effort.

3 - All clients should have received quarterly reports from Millard & Company by now. If you haven't, please let me know!

Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What's All that Noise?

1 - The politicians are still arguing over the conditions for raising the federal debt limit, and the August 2 deadline draws ever nearer. I'm sure you have noticed how everyone seems to be blaming everyone else, trying to pin our troubles on one political party or the other. The simple truth is that the U.S. is in a debt mess. That's everybody's fault. Both parties and pretty much all the rest of us have played a part in getting us here. We need to stop blaming and start fixing. For an interesting status report on the situation, read "The D-Word Haunts Wall Street" following This Week's Economic News.

2 - Libbie recently introduced me to a wonderful website called TED Talks. It contains a plethora of thought-provoking (and in some cases mind-blowing) talks by some of the most interesting people in the world. In keeping with our current project of looking at the changing global landscape and our place within it, I thought you might enjoy (and learn from) a TED Talk by economist Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World. If you don't have the 21 minutes to devote to the full talk, here's the executive summary: China is indeed well on its way to becoming the leading economy in the world, but that is a cause not for fear but adaptation. Americans and Europeans need to change the way we look at the world's largest country. The link to the video is contained in the image below.

3 - Client reports should be showing up within the next day or two. (Spoiler alert: it was a roller coaster quarter that, in the end, didn't move most investors very far in either direction.)

Hope your Fourth of July was just what it should have been -- hot and fun. Enjoy your short week!