Weekly Review, Post-Brexit

I just realized that it has been a month since I posted anything to this blog, which means that it has been a month since Brexit. The world was coming to an end, at least in the European Union, and we were on tenterhooks awaiting to see how the fallout would affect the United States and the rest of the developed world. If you look at the stock market for your barometer then all is well. Here is what has happened since:

20160725SPX

Meanwhile, the market is still wildly overvalued on a fundamental basis and I will look for opportunities to profit like the capitalist pig dog that I am regardless of what the market does.

Cheers, and stay safe out there.

Weekly Review, Brexit

A wild ride to nowhere, that’s what this year has given us. Here is the picture of the S&P500 year-to-date:

BrexitBar

From the previous weekend to Thursday afternoon the stock market was pricing in the wrong outcome of the British referendum to leave the European Union. Last Thursday night, our time, reality started to set in and the futures market started collapsing. I watched the S&P500 futures contract, the e-mini, go from a high of 2119.50 to lock-limit down at 1999 shortly after midnight when trading was halted. As the retail trading hours approached the S&P500 rallied but then the rally faded late in the afternoon to finish -3.60% on the day and sending the price into negative territory year-to-date.

Brexit

I saw the arguments from both sides of the referendum before the vote. I think the hatred that is being directed toward the majority who voted in favor of leaving is unwarranted and mean-spirited, especially when it comes from voices here in the United States where we will feel little-to-no impact from that vote; except the British Pound was devalued in the aftermath so traveling to London just got more affordable for almost everyone else on the planet who has ever wanted to travel there.

I also think the main reason that most of that hatred exists is based on one thing and one thing only, that the “leave” crowd did want more control over immigrants making their way into the United Kingdom. I was only focused on the economics of the situation. Getting worked up about it makes about as much sense as someone from another country being upset about who we elect here in the United States. Speaking of meddling in other’s affairs, have a look at this picture that landed in my twitter stream this morning (from @zerohedge):

obama tells brits what to do

I remember watching President Obama’s speech to the Brits and also the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, having some sort of town hall discussion with the Brits, and my thought at the time was, “If the president of another country and a ceo of one of its largest investment banks was trying to convince me which way to vote, I’d tell them to fvck off.” That chart is evidence that many Brits grew just suspicious enough about Obama’s and Dimon’s intentions and what it meant for them after they received the sales pitch. Nice work, gentlemen, you may have helped convince the Brits to do the right thing, even if you think it happened for the wrong reasons.

The most disgusting thing about Mr. Obama’s speech was his idea that the Brits would have to stand “in the back of the line” to trade with the United States if they passed the referendum, as if national trade deals are the be-all, end-all of trading with another country. Nonsense. Countries may trade with each other but businesses and consumers make most of those transactions. Now we should not be surprised if other countries get more vocal about who we elect in this country or what decisions we make about our own future.

What now?

I have no idea but I suspect we will see more selling to start the week, and perhaps we will see increased volatility for the rest of our election cycle; but those are guesses. I still think the market is overvalued and looking for an excuse, so to speak, to start dropping in price to find more buyers. Clearly any buying that has happened over the last 18 months has come with just as much enthusiasm to let shares go as the market kept trying to make new highs. Here is the picture of the last 18 months:

20160624spxWeekly

Not only has the market gone nowhere this year but it has gone nowhere for the last year and half, except down and back up again. Maybe the next trip down is the one that really gets shares shaken out of the weak hands and the market trades once again at reasonable valuations instead of the wildly overvalued status it currently holds. We shall see.

Stay safe out there.

State of the US Consumer, from Business Insider

First the link: State of the US consumer makes for a grim read

Quote of the day:

It’s pretty well known at this point that income inequality has gotten worse over the past decade. The rebound from the financial crisis disproportionately benefited the wealthy, the owners of capital, while wages have remained stagnant.

Two charts and then my two cents follows:

auto loans

creditcards

Study those charts for a nanosecond and you can see that auto loans and credit cards are going bad at a faster rate. All that free money at low interest rates that the Federal Reserve has pumped into banks since March 2009 has only encouraged more lending/borrowing for what most cannot afford. This too will end very badly, just like all the other times that the academics at the Fed kept rates too low for too long.

Weekly Review, One Chart

Back in April I wrote about the picture of the weekly unemployment claims and its correlation to the S&P500. Here is the description again:

The yellow line in the following chart shows the 4-week moving average of initial jobless claims, which is reported every Thursday morning at 8:30am. The line is inverted to show its correlation with the S&P500, which is represented by the white line.

Now the updated chart:

20160610unemp

Now the zoomed-in view to show recent activity:

20160610unemprecent

Now the story:

Our economy is heavily driven by the consumer and as long as they (we) have jobs then our spending habits will most likely stay resilient and continue to provide revenue for companies that make their money from us. The stock market peaked in May 2015 and it has recently made another attempted bull run to break out to the upside but fell just short, as least for now.

The four-week moving average of unemployment claims hit an all-time low (high on the chart, yellow line) in the first week of March and yet the stock market is still struggling to break out to new highs.

The consumer is doing his part. He still has a job and he’s still spending money. The bad news, if any can be parsed out of one chart, is that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits can hardly get better than what it was three months ago when the four-week average of that number was 260,000. Further help from the consumer may be lacking just when the S&P500 needs that extra oomph to get the cheerleaders on financial entertainment television all talking about new highs.

Meanwhile, the most boring bear market of my lifetime continues to tread water near an all-time high price for the S&P500 index, and my weekly reports have been downgraded to monthly until I have some market action worth writing about.

Cheers, and stay safe out there

Race Predictor

I’ve worn my new watch for a whopping total of two runs since I received it the other day and I found an interesting item under the menu of the computer that I am now wearing, a race predictor. Here’s the photo of what I am currently calling my “inherent ability”:

IMG_0277

I have a little more than a year to improve on those numbers with some concentrated and specific marathon training in my attempt to turn back the clock 15 years.

The fascinating thing to me about those numbers is that they were derived from my pace, heart rate, and running cadence, all of which the watch constantly measures. In the past I used to have to run time trials or races, competing with all the anxiety that those things bring with them (like a person who has test-taking anxiety). Then, after those time trials, I would come back to my computer and plug my numbers into a spreadsheet to come up with a predicted time at each distance. But I had to put in the work to justify running at those predicted paces.

I am under no illusion that I could run a 21-minute 5k right now. In fact I have a 5k race coming up next weekend (my first time trial) that I am not really ready for, and if anyone asks me what my expected time is I am going to say something like, “I hope to be done with this race before my lungs know what hit them.”

However, I do have a pretty good aerobic base built up over the past year since I finally conquered my chronic achilles tendonitis, so we shall see what we shall see. I have no anxiety about the race, but nonetheless I do want the best time I can achieve.

The Fancy Watch Community

I took my running watch off my arm last autumn. Then I received a FitBit for a present last December and my competitive spirits were reignited by way of “connecting” to my friends who also have(had) a FitBit.

I remembered this morning one of the reasons I took the old fancy Garmin GPS Heart Rate Monitor off my arm; the little copper connections that help the watch sync to the lovely web-based data collector were working when they wanted to instead of every time I connected the watch. I have cleaned them and done everything in my power to make them better again short of sending the thing back to Garmin for repair. So today I bought a new fancy running watch. Here is the snapshot:

garmin235

I’m looking forward to using this watch. My current Garmin, which is obsolete by today’s standards, is still sitting in my southern-exposure window trying to find the satellites, which is why I am typing this right now instead of being out on the road getting my miles in. The old watch does not have much in the way of battery life either.

The drama in this whole scenario is not that I am going back and forth between watches. It is that the new and old connections that I have made due to various devices all of my friends are wearing will cause confusion and inevitable questions. My sister left her FitBit and is now on Apple iWatch to log whatever she is doing; her FitBit status has shown as “inactive” since she got the iWatch. My old Garmin Connect buddies will think that I somehow rose from the ashes when the new watch arrives. My current FitBit pals, some of whom have already left because they upgraded to something else, will assume correctly that I have given up one watch for another.

When I show up at the next 5k or group social run (which is equally about beer as much as it is about running) a friend is certain to ask, “When did you get that?” as they point to the watch, or perhaps say something like, “I thought maybe you died. Your status shows as inactive.” Oh I’m active, baby, and very much alive, thank you very much.

In the end, I still “connect” with runners, walkers, and others the old-fashioned way, by enjoying runs, walks, or doing something else together instead of, or along with, the connection on the internet.

Happy trails.

FitBit 100,000

Jeff and Jack, beer in hand walking the later miles

Jeff and Jack, beer in hand, walking the later miles

I repeated this quote to myself several times during the 22.5 hours it took to accomplish the goal:

It’s at the borders of pain and suffering that the men are separated from the boys.
Emil Zatopek

FitBit100000 evidence . fitbit100kOlympianSandal

It was suitable to me to learn when we finished that the ultimate badge in the FitBit application is the “olympian sandal.” I had no idea going into this challenge that that would be the reward, if you can call it that, but it is fitting because I thought of Emil Zatopek a lot during my travels yesterday. He is far and away my favorite olympic athlete of all time, and I only wish I had lived in his day so that I could have seen him run. One more quote and then the story:

Men, today we die a little.
– Emil Zatopek, at the start of the Olympic Marathon, 1952

Zatopek had never run the marathon when he toed the line for that race, and he set an olympic record in route to winning. While I am very experienced in the art of sleep deprivation to pursue endurance challenges, I did not know what to expect with the effort to log 100,000 FitBit steps in a 24 hour period. Now I know.

The route to 100,000 FitBit steps. 50.89 miles!

The route to 100,000 FitBit steps. 50.89 miles!

The FitBit resets for a new day at midnight so that was our starting time. My friend Jeff and I each worked a full day on Friday. Without communicating our pre-race plans to each other, we found out when we met at Jeff’s house that we both tried to nap, unsuccessfully, in the evening leading up to midnight. Perhaps I got an hour and half worth of sleep, and then I showered at 10:30pm. I was at Jeff’s house sitting on the couch across from Jeff and his wife Charlene as we awaited the starting gun.

I knew going into this event that the toughest part of staying awake is the 02:00am to 04:00am hours. People who keep normal hours are in bed and there are very few cars on the road. In those early hours we endured the excitement and adrenaline rush from finally starting, a few swarms of mosquitos that came to life and attacked in the middle of the night, and the scare of trying to keep voluntary muscles from becoming involuntary as I desperately needed a bathroom at 04:00am. Once we got past those things, the boredom and monotony of the task started to set in.

We made our way south through neighborhoods along the coast of Old Clearwater Bay, and then we stumbled into the Clearwater Marina to see the fishing fleet come to life in preparation for their day. It was after having some coffee and breakfast at a diner in the marina that we felt rejuvenated and ready to keep going. We were approximately 22 miles into our journey as we made our way further south along the beach communities with the heat of the day beginning to bear down on us.

As we were making our way over the Bellair Beach Causeway we stopped to watch a pod of dolphins chasing smaller fish just north of the bridge. We took our time at this break in our action to take in the scenery. Our eyes panned down to see a kayaker fishing just about 30 yards away from the dolphins and directly underneath us at our position on the bridge. Then Jeff says, just as I noticed what he was about to ask, “Is that guy naked?” I responded as I threw my head back up and down the road that we still had to travel, “Okay, I’ve seen enough. Let’s walk.”

The next part of the day was the worst from a combined standpoint of heat, feeling like the 100k mark was not possible at this time of year, and feet problems beginning to set in, and it was only 10:00am. The next few roads offered no shade so we started traveling underneath the awnings of strip malls instead of staying on the sidewalk. I changed my socks and felt good again, and then we made our way to a gas station to look for our first beer at 10:30am.

Beer? Are you crazy? Perhaps, but we needed a laugh and we could not pass up the deal. The station had a special of 2-for-1 25oz cans of Miller Lite, Rolling Rock and a few other brands, for the price of $2.50. If you’re keeping score, that’s 50 ounces of beer for $2.50. What a deal. We emptied the remaining water from our water pouches to make room for the beer and our mood instantly improved after the first few sips from the nipple of the water pouch.

Jeff and I started guessing the ages of people who would pass us as we walked back north on the Pinellas Trail. We were about to cross a street when I noticed a very old man turning onto the trail from that street. We stopped him and chatted for a few minutes. His name is Charlie Lasley and he is going to be 95 in December. I told him that I want to live to be greater than 100 years old and he had some simple advice that he said I needed to follow in order to get there. “Five things,” he said, “1) No red meat, or at least confine it to having a burger once a month, but no cheese, 2) Eat fresh, raw vegetables, 3) Keep moving, i.e. – walk or run often 4) Stay lean and flexible, perhaps Yoga, and 5) Enjoy sex as often as you like.” Charlie told me that he was a retired cardiologist, so it’s “Dr. Charlie” and I think I should follow his advice. Dr. Charlie was walking 6 miles on this day, following his own advice as he is a mere five and half years away from the century mark.

Dr. Charlie Pasley (retired) and Jack on the Pinellas Trail.

Dr. Charlie Lasley (retired) and Jack on the Pinellas Trail.

As we got closer to town we started communicating with the support staff, our friends, who knew what we were up against and planned to spend their evening walking with us for the later miles. Charlene picked us up off the trail and took us to lunch, then dropped us back onto the trail after lunch (where we left) and we were right back at it. More friends joined us when we arrived into our usual stomping grounds, Dunedin, FL, and we enjoyed the benefit of Charlene running back and forth to convenience stores and burger joints (Sorry, Dr. Charlie) to keep us nourished as we kept moving toward the 100,000 step goal.

Jeff, Jack & Charlene mug for the camera as shadows get long

Jeff, Jack & Charlene on the road as shadows get long

We had a few challenges as the day drew to a close. Though I considered it a mistake to go back to the barn (Jeff & Charlene’s house) while we still had an unfinished goal, it worked out for the best as Jeff needed to puncture four blisters on his feet and we soaked our legs in their pool before logging the last 15,000 steps. We both developed a rash near our ankles that Charlene said looked like some capillaries had burst, though as I write this mine has subsided and so has the itching that accompanied the rash. We crossed the 100k milestone at approximately 10:30pm and celebrated with, you guessed it, a beer and a soak in the pool.

I consumed 3,755 calories on the day, 1,152 of which was beer.
101,490 steps taken.
50.89 miles walked, with some running occasionally to loosen up the legs.

Lessons:
1) It helps to do something outrageous like this with someone else. You can talk yourself out of a lot of things, especially when the shit hits the fan (blisters), but when you have someone else relying on you or supporting you, the sense of obligation is one of the keys to keeping you moving.
2) Never, ever, ever go back to the barn until the job is done. Even when someone is with you, getting that horse back out of the barn (even if that horse is you) is very hard to do.
3) As my buddy Brian says, “Proclaim it and then do it.” Telling people what you are going to do, no matter how outrageous the adventure, gives you another sense of obligation that you can draw on to keep you moving. I imagined having to tell my friends, “Well, it didn’t go so well. We had to bail out and fell short of the goal.” I did not want to have that conversation.
4) Have awesome friends like we have, perhaps in addition to a willing spouse or partner. Jeff’s wife, Charlene, was very encouraging and never once mentioned what a pain in the ass this must have been for her, even when I woke her up crashing into her bathroom at 04:00am. Our other friends, Bill, Susan and Laura made us feel like heroes for something as meaningless as walking for 22.5 hours. We all laughed and enjoyed ourselves afterward.

Next up for me and everyone involved in yesterday’s craziness is to prepare for our next marathon. More good times, more goals to accomplish, and more laughs with friends.