It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe…
Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…
I’ve got a few things I have to do this weekend, so I need to get right to it, folks. As a result, there will be no snarky comments and bad jokes for my highlighted blogs of the week.
Please. Don’t get too excited. The torture will resume next week.
And, no … after two months we still haven’t caught the damn rat — but thank you for all your clever suggestions. I’m now beginning to lean toward this one: moving away.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From March 2009:
Evaluate Your Options Before Selling Your Gold Jewelry – I’m sure you’ve all seen companies advertising on late-night TV that claim they’ll pay “top dollar” for your gold jewelry. Don’t believe it. There are often better options.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …
Afford Anything – Know Your Buyers: My $2700 Mistake
Hope to Prosper –Neither a Borrower nor a Lender Be
Lazy Man & Money –Unemployment Adventures: Jobs Aren’t the Same Anymore
Budgets are Sexy – Living Life as a Mortician
Krantcents – I Will Never Retire!
Credits and Debits
Debit: To borrow a quote from a famous English author of days gone by, here in the US it is the best of times, and it is the worst of times. It just depends on whether the street you work on is named Wall, K, or Main.
Credit: On Friday the S&P 500 closed at 1502.96, marking the first time that index has finished above 1500 since the start of the Great Recession in 2007. In all, the S&P 500 is up 121% since the market bottom was reached in March 2009.
Credit: And it’s not just the S&P 500 that has been on a tear over the past half-decade. After closing on Friday at 13,895, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is up more than 108% since touching the March 2009 market bottom.
Credit: Add it all up and — just three weeks into the new year — the Dow is up 6%, the S&P 500 is up 5.4% and the Nasdaq is 4.3% higher. Of course, that’s leading some people to suggest that the bull market is now in an exuberance phase that typically signals the party is almost over.
Debit: The party certainly seems to be over for Apple. After company officials announced disappointing earnings results, the stock market darling plunged 12.5% on Thursday — and then shed another 2% on Friday to close at 439.88. That’s just off its 52-week low.
Debit: The massive sell-off in Apple stock allowed Exxon to reclaim bragging rights as the world’s most valuable company. Since peaking at $705.07 last September — on the day the iPhone 5 was released — Apple’s stock price has declined 38%.
Credit: Speaking of precipitous declines, union membership is now at its lowest point since the 1930s. Today, only 11.3% of all workers belong to a union — that’s down sharply from the 1950s when almost 33% of all workers were unionized.
Debit: If it wasn’t for public sector gains, union membership would be even lower. Although only 6% of the private sector is unionized today, 51% of all government workers now belong to a labor union. Even FDR knew that unionizing the public sector was a terrible idea.
Debit: Meanwhile, here on Main Street, American optimism has hit its lowest point since Jimmy Carter was president. How can that be?
Debit: Actually, it makes a lot of sense considering that, despite the soaring stock market, this is officially the worst recovery from a recession in US history, when measured in terms of GDP growth.
Debit: It also doesn’t help that the percentage of Americans in the labor force hasn’t been this low since Jimmy Carter was in office. No, that’s not a coincidence.
Debit: So how come the people in Washington DC and Wall Street are doing so well while the folks on Main Street are struggling to make ends meet? Well … It’s because the Fed is artificially propping up the stock market with its seemingly endless quantitative easing (money printing) campaigns.
Debit: The big question is: What’s going to happen when the Fed finally takes away the crack pipe? The result is never pretty after an addict gets cut off from his drug of choice and ends up going cold turkey.
Debit: In the meantime, all that money printing by the Fed will continue to erode the value of the US dollar at an accelerating pace — and rob Americans living on Main St. of their modest wealth and purchasing power.
Debit: Of course, it will also continue to expand the fortunes of those on and around K Street. Massive government spending is a big reason why Washington DC’s economy expanded five times faster than the rest of the nation between 2007 and 2011.
Credit: So you can insist that it’s the best of times — or the worst of times. But there should be no disagreement that the financial machinations continuing to be undertaken by the Fed and our leaders in Washington DC — from both parties — are absolutely criminal. Hey … I ain’t sayin’. I’m just sayin’.
By the Numbers
Apple’s stock may be down, but the company is far from out. Here are a few numbers to back that up:
1 million On average, the approximate number of Apple products sold every day last quarter.
47.8 million iPhones sold in the last quarter alone.
$30.66 billion The latest quarterly revenue from just iPhone sales. (Microsoft’s total revenue last quarter was “only” $21.46 billion.)
$54.5 billion Apple’s total 4th quarter revenue in 2012.
22.9 million iPads sold between October and December 2012. They also sold 12.9 million iPods over the same period.
$137.1 billion Apple’s cash on hand. To put that in perspective, that’s more than Vietnam’s nominal GDP.
17.7 Percentage revenue increase from the year-ago quarter. Even so, that wasn’t able to stop Apple’s stock from diving more than 14% after the latest earnings were announced.
The Question of the Week
Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Last Week’s Contest Winner
Congratulations to AuntJenny7, who won a $20 Starbucks gift card! She was one of three people who correctly guessed that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was the highest grossing film from 2008 that I’ve never seen — and probably never will.
Aunt Jenny’s name was pulled in a random draw among all the correct guessers.
Thanks to everyone who participated. I’ll have another contest soon.
Other Useless News
Hey, despite ticking off a lot of people every weekend, I’m approximately 25 Facebook “likes” away from reaching the 1000 milestone. If you haven’t liked Len Penzo dot Com yet, I’d love it if you stopped by and clicked the like button! Thanks!
Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 3476 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- Essential Tips for Lowering Your Grocery Bills (Part 1)
- What It Really Feels Like to Be a Billionaire
- Essential Tips for Lowering Your Grocery Bill (Part 2)
- Essential Tips for Lowering Your Grocery Bill (Part 3)
- Are You an Unwitting Financial Time Traveler?
Each month I post some of the more curious search terms visitors entered into Google’s search engine that (according to Google Analytics) led them, somehow, some way, to Len Penzo dot Com:
- if walmart [sic] doesn’t offer eye exams why do they have an optometrist in their commercial?
- how do you fire your buying real estate agent after she showed us a house we are interested in?
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- sex, would you do, one million dollars
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Letters, I Get Letters
Every week I feature the most interesting question or comment — assuming I get one, that is. And folks who are lucky enough to have the only question in the mailbag get their letter highlighted here whether it’s interesting or not! You can reach out to me at: Len@LenPenzo.com
This week I got a thank you note from R. Castle:
Thanks for nothing Penzo …
Gosh, you’re very welcome! I only wish the Honeybee were as easy to please as you.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.