Archive for December, 2008

A List of Things That Won’t Happen in 2009 (But Sorely Need To)

by Rob Weigand

The phrase “off balance sheet” will be permanently removed from the global vocabulary.

Barack Obama and Congress will jointly pledge to reduce the size of the Federal Budget by 20% before the end of his first term, with every dollar of that savings going towards tax cuts that really pay for themselves.

A broad consortium of US CEOs will sign a pledge to smooth their salaries down to the level of their European counterparts by the end of Obama’s first term.

American universities will sign a pledge that limits all further tuition increases to the rate of CPI inflation.

The last remaining US Auto Manufacturer will spend at least five times more on research and development than marketing and advertising and finally build a car people want to drive.

The quest to produce the first 100 mpg car will attract the global brainpower that has been siphoned off by financial engineering over the past 10-15 years.

What remains of this brainpower will be directed at developing clean coal- and safer uranium-based electricity generation.

Active money managers from all disciplines — equities, fixed income, currencies, hedge funds — will refund any fees they’ve “earned” that are not transparently related to alpha generation, roll their clients’ remaining wealth into passive index strategies, and pursue more honest lines of work.

Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s will admit they don’t know anything about rating bonds.

Google Finance will publish free online spreadsheets where investors can calculate whether or not their active money manager generated true vs. dirty alpha, and offer a information sharing system so everyone can see the average market price managers charged for true alpha.

A few additional items for the list, more for the fun of it:

Bill Miller will redeem his reputation by publishing a book entitled “Equity Analysis is Descriptive, Not Predictive.”

Nouriel Roubini will cheer up.

Jerry Jones will either let the Cowboys play football or change his surname to Steinbrenner.

George Bush will publish his memoirs, entitled “I Never Understood the First Thing About Anything.”

Arthur Laffer will sue George Bush, claiming he had first dibs on that title.

Jim Glassman (author of “Dow 36,000”) will join the lawsuit, quickly followed by the CNBC pundits, at which point the suit will turn into a class action.

Dick Cheney will undergo a Scrooge-like epiphany and devote the rest of his life to explaining to people why an economic system that promotes a consumption-based lifestyle that gradually poisons the planet is a form of collective suicide.

You can find Rob Weigand on the web at or send him an email at

Categories: Market Commentary

A Long-Term Comparison of the Returns to the S&P 500 vs. the Nikkei 225

by Rob Weigand

Motivated by Cassandra Does Tokyo’s eloquently-written post about the pundits prematurely anticipating economic and financial conditions returning to “normal” (because normal may not mean anything any more), and Paul Krugman’s recent comments at the National Press Corps Luncheon about ZIRP in Japan vs. the U.S, I decided to share a little experiment I’ve been keeping track of for about 5 years now. This is a picture that’s truly worth the proverbial 10,000 words: I overlayed the compound returns to the Nikkei 225 and S&P 500, beginning 4 years before each market’s bubble top, and continuing for the next 8 years. I believe the graph speaks for itself:

nikkei-vs-sp500-dec-08The behavior of each market is similar for the 4 years preceding their peaks and the subsequent bursting of the respective bubbles. In early 2005 the S&P 500 diverges as returns are positive through the summer of 2007, which back then was hailed as proof that “it’s different this time,” but we are now wise enough to attribute to the artificial tailwind created by the credit, real estate, emerging market stocks and commodities bubbles.

As of December 15 2008 the total cumulative return over the two 12-year periods was +38% for the Nikkei 225 vs. +37% to the S&P 500. And we all know what happened to Japan 1997-2008 . . .

By itself, of course, the graph means absolutely nothing. Given the similarities between our two economies and our governments’ and central banks’ efforts at reviving them, and the well-known belief that the stock market is a forward-looking discounting mechanism, however, the message I take away from the graph is that the resurgence of U.S.-style capitalism is hardly a given at this point. We’re going to need sharp, focused leadership from the Obama administration, and maybe even better, more than a bit of luck. I don’t think it would take much more in the way of economic and/or financial shocks to plunge the U.S. into a Japan-style funk for a protracted period of time.

You can find Rob Weigand on the web at or contact him via email at

Categories: Market Commentary