Monday, 31 October 2011

7 000 000 001 - SOS!

It's a colossal number and if nothing else, bloody terrifying...

Anatomically unequipped as we are for underwater life and as a consequence confined between a rock and a hard-place, here at last, in quiet desperation we stand alone, all 7 billion of us, on what's left of this good haven, the planet EARTH.

Let's pretend, just for a moment, that our moral compass points resolutely NORTH; our right to procreate willy-nilly is unequivocally entrenched and our every whim and wish, material or otherwise, a guarantee and whilst we're at it and yes admittedly it's a bit of a stretch, let's imagine a world where its leaders are intelligently honest and hard-working; holding sacred their people's electoral mandate... In such a gaga-world of music, milk & money and where our bellies grow fat on the marrow of excess will we ponder the day when the music stops, the chairs run-out and the cows run dry?

For now, once more, let's park the ceaseless and perhaps ultimately trivial debate on energy consumption, growing labour-market strife, finite resource allocation, infrastructural spend and space utilisation and ask, as simple men & women one, as yet unanswered question:

- will The Almighty's orchard of little apples feed us all..?   I wonder.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

UBS - lies, damn lies & statistics..

In scenes reminiscent of the bewigged slap-stick reality TV's 'Apprentice', UBS's Oswald Gruebel quit as CEO immediately after the public disclosure of a substantial loss from an unauthorised trade in a London-based equity division. The question of where the buck stops becomes interesting if not a little contentious........ ?

Take today's UBS AG 3rd-quarter results as a point of departure. Net income for the period:  $1.16 billion. Tier 1 Capital ratio: 18.4%. Wealth Management & Swiss banking earnings:  up 67%. Notwithstanding the once-off accounting-gain and the sale of sovereign treasuries those results are pretty impressive...

Now, if falsified reports which resulted in the unauthorised trading loss in London did in fact trigger internal risk controls and they weren't sufficiently investigated or escalated then logic dictates that the fault lies not in the system itself but with the front-line staff responsible for compliance. As it turns out both line-head managers have subsequently tendered their resignations.

At face value and if these results are anything to go by, it's impossible to fault Gruebel's vision or strategic performance. Expanding the trade-loss witch-hunt and implying the same inconsistencies to the Group CEO as its logical conclusion, smacks of an undisclosed agenda not necessarily in the best interests of shareholders. Time will tell.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Losing our humanity

A 'momentous day'. - US President B. Obama.  For whom?

I suppose you can understand the violent reprisals and retaliatory vengeance of the common Libyan. 40 years of brutal oppression at the end of a gun and the blood of innocents is difficult to cleanse. Even so, this way of settling differences is an injustice.

'It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on a cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence' - Mahatma Gandhi

Global leaders, in haste, opportunistically celebrating the post-capture execution and subsequent display of the body, in flagrant religious violation, does not reconcile with the veneer that is 'justice for all'. It's vicarious violence in its purest form. It is an unwise confirmation of our inhumanity. Perhaps even, proof undeniable of an irretrievable decay of conscience.

If western leaders, the United Nations included, paraphrased, celebrate a 'momentous day' without explicit condemnation of what was, quite obviously, the execution of a wounded, unarmed man and therefore by anybody's definition, cold-blooded murder, then we celebrate a cruelty. Looking to these same individuals for leadership in these trying economic times seems, if anything, a dream of fools.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The sins of our time...

To Sarkozy I say - Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra and for Germany's Merkel - auf Biegen oder Brechen / mag es biegen oder brechen. For the effluent who masquerade as members of Congress - a house divided against itself cannot stand! To those lesser fools (honi soit qui mal y pense) and a spineless Cameron - Actions speak louder than words and finally to that philandering twat in Italy - in bocca al lupo! (to the ordinary men and women who might take offence, I apologise. This is not for you.

With Merkel's bluster and Sarkozy's indifference the world waits, once more, on the precipice of the unknown. Perhaps in a pleasant dream and if you cast your mind back far enough you might recall the time when our investment decisions were based on sound sector and or company-specific fundamentals? Theoretical investment principles, now frustratingly outdated, discarded & forgotten, reinvents the mayhem.

Our children will look back on these days of political flotsam and recall 'the sins of our fathers' ...

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

You knew the world would not be the same

I suppose one way or another we all knew what had to happen here.

Only a fool dismisses the potentially cataclysmic socio-economic protests outside Wall St as a non-event. Even so, perversely, it's a self-absorbed and deceitfully false consolation to chant demographically popular anti- Wall St rhetoric. To do so adds credence to the establishment which relies on the ignorance of the people for stability. Systemic failure is hard-wired into the financial 'operating system' and it can't be outrun..

Ignoring the emotive naivety that 'all men are created equal', the presupposed notion of self-indulgent material entitlement becomes core. Selective praise for technological advancement is equally naive. For interest, lauding Apple Inc. for its technological innovation whilst despising the technological efficiencies in the manufacturing sector which, by definition, lead to job losses is wrong. Equally, blaming banks or Wall St for excessive credit extension, sovereign or otherwise on the basis of deferred repayment, an accepted, modern innovation, is ignorant. These institutions, conduits for our ceaseless material demands, then become scapegoats for greed, not theirs, ours...

Accepting that the fault lies within each of us is an obvious if not painful prerequisite for economic change. Only then can we effectively address 'the system' which is, quite candidly, terminal.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Cry our disenfranchised youth..

Even if you consider yourself well-read, intelligent, sophisticated, proactive and or financially astute, chances are you haven't heard of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Described by the US establishment as a dysfunctional rag-tag group of disenfranchised youth intent on social rebellion and as a consequence dismissed by the media, these disenchanted few deserve our considered attention.

Occupy Wall Street is a self-styled descriptive label for the demonstrative Wall Street sit-in protests of ordinary men and women, mostly young, some old, who find themselves homeless, jobless and economically disenfranchised. Their plea, largely ignored by the financial media, is a thunderous silence which paradoxically proves their claim that Wall Street has an insurmountable stranglehold on US politics and commensurately on the media.

If I was you I would sit up and take notice. Understanding market structural reform and social imbalances will become key risk variables.

Corporate greed, epitomised by the colourful antics of Wall Street's captains of industry, will result in more social upheaval. People are losing hope. People are angry! Politicians, regulators and money-managers, variously shortsighted, would do well to pre-empt an inclusive strategy for the populace at large or history will record our social implosion.