Kindle Fire, for Business

Kindle FireWhat’s the number one reason to buy a Kindle Fire?  The ability to carry your entire library of books, of any kind, with you anywhere you go.  What’s the number one business reason to own and carry the Kindle Fire?  The ability to give presentations in a coffee shop, at lunch, in a customer’s office, or off-the-cuff nearly anywhere. Inexpensive at only $199! (click here to order)

PDF capability and more, just look at this list: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV, MP4, VP8.

If you love your cell phone then you’ve gotta love the added capability a simple Kindle Fire can add for this price.   Why tie up your phone when you can free it up, and with a better screen?

Don’t forget, you can watch movies, TV and more using Netflix, HULU, Pandora… in addition to holding up to 8,000 books, lots of MP3, and so much more.

Back to presentations.  If you are in sales, marketing, management, or any other business position which requires high quality presentations on the go, get a Kindle and make it even easier.  It is small but just the right size for a more personal presentation between two or in a small group.  It actually fits on the table during a business lunch!  The screen is brilliant.  If you spend time creating presentations or showing brochures, just port them all to the Kindle or email them to yourself in PDF format.  You’ll be able to carry your entire library with you or in your cloud space.

Kindle vs Laptop.  The issues I have with using a laptop for presentations are related to time.  The time it takes to get it out of the case, set it up, boot it up, and then load the presentations.  Even if I have shortcuts it still seems to take longer than I would like.  Then I have the time issue of battery life and plugging in the laptop if it runs low.  The Kindle is more like a cell phone.  It’s ready to go instantly, loads quickly, and has at least 7 hours of use before it needs to be plugged back in; it can easily make it through a work day without a hassle.  In addition, it’s light, small, and easy to carry.  A good ultra-light laptop can easily cost $1,000 but the Kindle is still only $199 to do most of what you want to do.

It has games and more too, and I watched my sister’s kids become fully engaged and entertained.  (Me too)

It’s a true bargain!  Order one here:

“GAIN and CAPTURE!” market volume is downward

The slope of Volume on the markets has been down for some time now and I’ve mentioned it several times. Market Volume is simply the number of shares trading hands each trading day.  Reduced volume over time is a key symptom of the markets during the Great Depression years. I’m not saying we are in that same type of economic depression but we can and should see very similar symptoms at some point in our history since humanity has a tendency toward recurring cycles.  This being the case, a major downturn extended over time should have a similar effect on the psychology of our citizens as they can afford less and will take fewer risks out of fear.  I’m also not saying to avoid investment opportunities. 

It would be easy to dismiss the volume downtrend of the markets by simply saying “Of course it’s down, since the markets are doing poorly.  It’ll come back when the markets start going up again”.  The problem is the only other measurable and extended time in our market history which shows such a loss of interest, is during the Great Depression.  This being the case, we should pay close attention to risk, especially Time Risk.  If you invest in a poorly performing market which has an extended loss of interest, it only makes since that the longer you are in, the greater your losses or underperformance can be.  Maybe this is why we see so many people abandoning the idea of holding positions indefinitely.  And, unfortunately, many already abandoned the strategies associated with more advance investing, like options strategies.  In a market this short, it may be that only advanced strategies have any real chance of producing reasonable returns for the risk taken.  This would be in the form of good old-fashioned trading, hedging, and very picky stock selection.  Back to the good old days of smart investing outperforming buy and hold.  Maybe we should call this advanced strategy platform “Gain and Capture”.


Impact of Greece is Inflated

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Greece is only 2% of the US GDP. Why does such an economically small country have enough impact on the US as to drive our stock markets down? Because, like so many things, the country is heavily leveraged, owing much to other countries. It should have no real impact, and yet it does. Governments must learn to exist within the means of their citizens and the citizens themselves must learn to be productive and not dependent.

The Fed vs Banks, Gold Grab DejaVu!

It’s the 1930’s gold grab all over again, maybe.  Sure feels like it, looks like it, walks and talks like it.

Today the Fed is suing banks over mortgage drivel.  Drivel because the Fed helped cause it, and drivel because their only remaining point of first bailing them out and then suing them is to force a sea change in currency for the Fed’s own benefit.  And of course congress can “window-dress” and make themselves look good in the media.  That’s all it is.  The Banks did what the Government designed the banking business to do, and in support of the Government’s creations called Freddie and Fannie.  Everyone should care.  They are trying to force banks to release deposits back into the Fed.  Didn’t we read in the news that the banks had paid back the bailout money?

Like the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, there’s been a lot of cash hoarding going on in corporate America, as well as asset realignment.  In the days of the Great Depression there were not enough dollars circulating because of hoarding.  Those who had lots of currency wanted to control more of the government as well as the people they employed.  In the 1930’s the Federal Government of the United States of America virtually outlawed the ownership of Gold and forced the banks to move all gold into the Federal Reserve Deposit in consideration of the Fed’s full faith and credit to guarantee cash.  Nobody seems to have seen the famous Fort Knox gold ever since.  But that’s not the point.

The reason they did that, back in the 1930’s, was to flush cash out of hoarding accounts and back into public distribution.  What good is cash if it isn’t trading hands?  Velocity at which money moves is very important to the economy.   The method the U.S. used is highly questionable, taking everyone’s gold and giving them dollars instead.  Sounds okay to you?  Well, right after the Fed confiscated the gold, through an act of congress creating a law to do so they reset the price of Gold to double what it was and effectively increased the value of the Federal deposit while cutting the value of the dollar in half.  Snap!  The rest of the depression years were spent trying to overcome the negative effect of doubling the cost of living overnight.

So here we are, this many years later, and maybe this action against the largest banks is very similar.  They can’t force banks to deposit gold again, since they don’t have gold on deposit like they did long ago.  This may not have the full effect and fury of resetting the Gold and Dollar price, but it may be one of several steps to cause much of the same effect over time.  It’s a bit early to tell because we have to see what happens with the dollar.  One thing is obvious, through fines levied on banks, quite a few billions of dollars could end up in the Fed’s account very soon and then some other action to cut the value of the dollar in half could take place.  If this happens it could be very hard on the citizens of the country.

Why would the Fed do this today?  Several reasons come to mind:

1. Increasing the deposits through payments of billions of dollars in fines can allow the government to circulate more currency without printing it.

2. The Fed can then afford to issue more debt which can then be leveraged by banks and other institutions.  Feds get cash, then they sell bonds, the banks leverage the bonds.  That’s like you using a credit card to secure another credit card; chasing debt with debt.

3. If they find a way to reset the value of the dollar, they can effectively lower the cost of  Federal debt.

4.  Causes the value of the dollar to sink low enough that those who hold dollars in large hoarded amounts will want to free them up, thus creating higher circulation.

5.  They can afford more bailouts with cheaper dollars and that means more regulation and therefore more control.

6. Increases the net power of the U.S. Fed in terms of currency control.  Imagine a King who circulates his own money with his image stamped on it.

7. Citizens become even more dependent since they cannot afford the new cost of living.

8. It’s a way to bankrupt the system quietly.  At that point they may also have the option of replacing the currency with a completely new one.

Maybe this is the only way to manage the currency, debt, and productivity crisis when we come to this point in the economic cycle.  Maybe there is no better way.  Reducing hoarding is a positive but maybe there is a better way to cause the dollar to be more valuable in circulation.  When investment in business, employment, and other things can give a higher return than the simple yield/risk model in a bank account, then people will put their money to work.  When fear is high, risk is out of control, there are few options, and it is normal to hold cash.

There is a possibility that over-regulation, over taxation, and the high cost of fees, fines, and employment overhead such as employment tax, insurance, and other benefits, actually add up to cause a reduction in productivity of investment.  Because of this firms and those who hold cash must choose to avoid the risk of new business.

This is how our system of freedom and opportunity depends on less government.  This is how it works.  The more value government takes out of the system of free enterprise, the less opportunity its citizens will feel they can afford.

Now you must ask the question of how to prepare for the dollar to collapse, if it does.

Gold, Dollar, S&P comparisons, does it matter?

There is a tendency to compare the merits of investing in Gold, Oil, the Dollar, and the Equity indexes like the S&P, Dow, and more.  There are multiple ways to approach this, and many have simply looked at the charts, long, short, and intermediate.  Many approaches have nothing to do with real investing.  From my point of view and experience, the definition of investing is: making a positive return from opportunities while managing risk in order to minimize losses.  It’s really that simple.  Approaching the markets from the perspective of “long-term investing”, “risk avoidance”, and “diversification” tend to be meaningless except to those who don’t understand what they are doing in the first place.

To make it simple, consider investing in just one stock for a moment.  Let’s assume the company is of course “XYZ Corporation”.   Why would someone invest in XYZ to begin with?  How will they know if there is potential for a positive investment return, and how will they “work” to maintain such a positive return?   It helps to pay attention to the company itself and the merits of being invested at any point in time.  Sometimes XYZ has great new products, new marketing, new management or something else we could identify as potentially raising business prospects in the future.  At other times XYZ has poor prospects.  If an investor is sharp, pays attention, and understands these trends, the investor could potentially own the stock at times of positive opportunity and at other times avoid ownership.

This is pretty basic stuff but it’s how it works, all the time, and for all time; it’s easy to forget the basics.  This simple truth is often obscured by those who want to over analyze, over emotionalize, and even over simplify with alternative investment ideas like Asset Allocation, Diversification, Alternative Investing, Private Placement, Bonds… and much, much more.  All the while, these complex views of investing still depend on the simple performance of the underlying instruments and their individual performance.  Stocks within the portfolio must go up for an equity mutual fund to increase in value, regardless of the “style” of the fund.  It’s a funny thing when people somehow fall prey to the idea that their Mutual Fund is an investment when it is a pool of underlying investments.  Sometimes they even think an IRA account is an “investment” when in reality it is only an account.

I have to ask: If the purpose of investing is to make money, to identify opportunity, and to avoid risk, then why does “long-term” have anything to do with it?  Gold has only been performing short-term.   Stocks and the dollar have only been underperforming Gold in the short-term.  In the shorter term a savvy investor has been able to outperform Gold with compound rates of return based on buying and selling.   If an investor does the work, then it is irrelevant as to whether a position is better long or short, since all instruments have their time, and usually only short to intermediate.

Instead of XYZ let’s use Apple.  No argument here, you could have made a great return in Apple, even compared to gold, since 2005.  Because AAPL has done so well compared to nearly anything, should we now forget that it is a stock and begin to see it only as a long-term investment vehicle and try to say that it should be compared to Oil, Gold, the S&P index, Currency, the Economy itself?  Or should we realize Apple is simply having a great run and it would have been nice to participate?  The Dollar performs at times and so does the S&P, but really, all investments should be compared based on their time of opportunity and whether or not you have the fortitude to participate at all.

It isn’t time that matters unless you are losing money anyway.  If you are making money time is on your side.  So why see everything as long-term?  There was a time when Apple really stunk and should have disappeared but somehow the company clung to its existance and, fortunately for those who either own shares or love the iPhone, it held a great revival!

Shall we say the U.S. is dead and cannot have a future?  Is the dollar dead?  Maybe we simply must invest more wisely.  Do you believe professional investors drop their earnings into mutual funds and forget about them or is it more likely they actively seek opportunity and trends, then move their money accordingly?

Job Report Statistically Irrelevant

The job report today came in at +117,000, creating an unemployment number of 9.1% vs. last reported 9.2%. The error margin is +/- 100,000. This means that the number is statistically irrelevant. Yet our news media and low-level talking heads in the financial industry choose to play it up as if it’s the beginning of economic recovery.  This won’t last long since the markets are already giving up the plus side.

In order for the number to be statistically relevant, new jobs created would need to be 4 times greater or more. To have any meaning at all we would need to see a monthly increase in the 300K plus range over an extended period of time. As it is, it would take decades for the current number to have any impact at all!

Other irrelevant numbers are the S&P 500 and DOW indexes, which have barely moved this year, yet the media has continued to hang on every 100 point move in either direction. They love to squeal about the VIX volatility index; why anyone would follow this redundant number which tells you only what is currently happening is beyond me.  I remember when 100 DOW points meant a 10% move, but today it’s just 1% or less and yet receives even more attention. There really must be no real news to report these days or they would completely ignore these things (um, sure).

All of this implies two important things: 1) you can’t invest according to the news headlines, and 2) this truly is a trader’s market, maybe the best ever. The first item is not a shocker, and if you have been watching the markets for any length of time you’ve even heard the culprits themselves (reporters) state that you can’t just follow the headlines. The second is the real revelation which any savvy investor should be taking note of.

Don’t Drive, Don’t use Gas

We the people can control gas prices. Want them lower? Let’s all pick a weekend and just not buy a drop of gas from Friday morning until Monday morning. Think the price will drop? You Betcha! Just remember not buy more than usual on Monday or we’ll just see prices go right back up. Do this one weekend a month for 3 months and gas will be cheaper.

Markets Trending Positive Today. You?

Markets have gone through a corrective downturn and may be finished with the negative trend for now, so it’s back to the positive side.  What do you own that is worth owning in a up-trend?

During a downturn we would ask a different question, “What do you own that you shouldn’t during a down-trend?”  Anything already languishing is a good answer.  The point here is to always have an eye on what’s worth owning, or as a business owner, what’s worth doing.  Your business has both tangible and intangible elements within it.  Both are required or you couldn’t be in business.  Plans, hopes, goals, dreams are all intangible along with goodwill and good intentions.

Today, align your management style with utilizing the things you know work well and focus on moving forward with the few things you are really good at managing.  That doesn’t mean you should take any opportunities off the table, just focus on the best ones for now, since the markets, and thus business in general, are on shaky ground.

Case in point: Yahoo tried hard to follow the trend of Google in expanding into the universe of web services.  Google is good at identifying potential opportunity, designing a platform, and throwing it on the web for everyone to try.  If it works out and the demand is there, they maintain it, otherwise they just let it languish for a while and then quietly pull it off the menu.  Yahoo just does not work well in that mode.  They are better at focusing in a few areas, developing good core, demand-based solutions, and offering it to the world in a solid usable form.  Yahoo has leaned out their process and gone back to their core offerings which give them the best position in the markets they know.  If you pull up their menu of offered services you will see that a few things are gone.  One thing they are bringing back is an effort in broadcasting which they began in the late 1990’s and actually did well with until the markets sank after the new century began.  It will be interesting to see if the new formula works.  My guess is they have a stronger plan this time around and we just need to see if works out.

Never give up, keep refocusing your effort on what you are best at.

Market Jump – Caution

No flag yet to say the current correction in the market is over. We seem to be getting a bounce out of some news but the fallout of increased government spending, further stress from ongoing commodity increases, and more are likely to keep a damper in place.

Business Owners should expect further caution in their customer’s spending habits. Continue to focus on low cost marketing and sales of current products and services.

The Definition of “Business Success”

There are as many individual definitions of Business Success as there are people.  The differences are simply variables in priorities, and depending upon where an individual is in the process.  Even if you feel you are not in business, maybe an artist, you still must plan for the result of where the art ends up, especially if it will have value.

This seems to be fairly complete:

Business success is when a business owner/entrepreneur has developed a successful business, realizes that some day they must exit the business, and so a plan is put into place which will “maintain” the fullest possible valuation of the assets.  The designed entity will effectively move the value into the estate, or partner estates, where it can best be utilized for continuance of business (if desired), family, and charity.

Certainly a failure to prepare for the continuation of the valuations in one’s working life results in a loss of value and control, not just for the individual but for everyone involved.  Why leave anything on the table?