Thursday, October 02, 2008

"No Short" List--only hurts small individual investors

The new ban on short selling financial stocks has not only broken the integrity of the financial markets, it really only impacts the small, individual investors. If you were a large hedge fund who wanted to short a financial stock, it can still be done by selling short a futures contract on the S&P 500, and simultaneously going long 499 stocks in the index--excluding the stock to be shorted. The net position is a synthetic short on the targeted stock.

Why does this hurt the small, individual investors relative to the big guys? Because the commissions on buying 499 stocks adds up relative to the gain from shorting one stock--if you are right. The bigger funds are likely going to be short more than one stock and they are making much large investments, so the transaction costs are a much lower fraction of the amount invested.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Will Bush Give the Order to Invade Iran?

According a June 13, 2008 document published by the UN Security Council, Iran has restarted the construction of an IR-40 heavy water reactor.  Such a reactor is necessary to generate plutonium.  Making plutonium is necessary for creating a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on one of Iran’s missiles.  (Uranium bombs are big an heavy, plutonium bombs are compact).


The week before this report was published, Bush met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. After the meeting, Olmert had the following things to say, “We reached agreement on the need to take care of the Iranian threat.  I left with a lot less question marks [than I had entered with] regarding the means, the timetable restrictions and America's resoluteness to deal with the problem.  George Bush understands the severity of the Iranian threat and the need to vanquish it, and intends to act on the matter before the end of his term in the White House” …."The Iranian problem requires urgent attention, and I see no reason to delay this just because there will be a new President in the White House seven and a half months from now."


One thing worth pointing out, since this is rarely mentioned, is the location of Iran relative to Afghanistan and Iraq—it’s directly between the two countries.  Said another way, Iran is positioned directly between two territories that are fully occupied by the United States armed forces. 


What are the chances that the US will have their forces deployed on both sides of Iran again in the next 50 to 100 years if we pull out of the current conflict now?  Now imagine you were running military strategy in the Pentagon.  Changes are you would have a point of view that Iran is a long term threat since they don’t like us and they are strategically located near most of the world’s major oil fields.  You’d then look at the current placement of US armed forces and then checked the polls to see that Obama is highly favored in the election to win based on a promise to pull out the troops.  If you had a strategy to spread democracy in the Middle East and secure US interests (ie oil), and you had Iran thumbing their nose at UN resolutions to stop working on Nuclear weapons, what are the chances you’d recommend a military strike against Iran while Bush is still in power?  How hard is this politically?  Consider the situation in Iraq before we invaded.  In that case, there was no evidence of WMDs and Hussein was even saying that they didn’t have WMDs.  Despite lack of evidence or admission, we invaded anyway.  Contrast that to today, were there is both evidence and self admission of a nuclear program.   


For all our sakes, I hope that this scenario is obvious to the leadership in Iran and they would recognize the inevitable logic that they are about to be attacked, and choose a diplomatic solution before it’s too late.




Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Auctions on eBay: A Dying Breed: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

Auctions on eBay: A Dying Breed: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

Given that I plugged eBay a while back for having Microsoft like economics, I've elicited a lot of feedback from folks. While eBay had the chance to be the next Microsoft, I fear their management will go down in history as killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Instead of executing on international growth and expanding the platform with new innovations, eBay has grown through continued price gouging of their core customers. They have, in fact, behaved like most economists fear a monopolist would.
However, we don't need the government to fix things with anti-trust lawsuits. Free markets are taking care of the problem, as competitors capitalize on the opportunity created when eBay prices at the marginal point of indifference. Had eBay left prices alone, they would never have been exposed to such risks, but greed appears to have gotten the better of wisdom.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

CDN Discussion Video

For the past 10 years, a lot of my investing work has been in the area of content delivery networks. It’s cool to see that they are now enabling video distribution over the internet, and even cooler that there’s now a video I can post where I’m talking about this stuff. The link below is taken from the Streaming Media East Conference where we discussed Wall Street's view on the CDN industry.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Taxes and Politics

The following is from an email I got recently, and it (I assume) is quoted from David R. Kamerschen, Ph.D. Professor of Economics University of Georgia. It's a great anecdote that highlights how conflict is created from the process of change....

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth wo uld pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve.

"Since you are all such good customers," he said, "I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20." Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six me n - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?'

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings). The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28% savings). The eighth now pa id $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings). The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.

"I only got a dollar out of the $20 declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, "but he got $10!"

"Yeah, that's right," exclaimed the fifth man. "I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I!"

"That's true!!" shouted the seventh man. "Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!"

"Wait a minute," yelled the first four men in unison. "We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!"

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible