One Down, One More to Go

By Duru

June 28, 2004


The US and Iraqi Governing Council gave the world a welcome surprise by transitioning authority two days ahead of schedule. A clever friend of mine noted that the June 30th date was never really a delivery date but a deadline…coming in early is certainly allowed and really no big deal. In effect, we have witnessed an excellent Public Relations coup that should give people a brief moment of hope and infuriate the killers in Iraq who no doubt were trying to plan big fireworks to welcome the new Iraqi government to power. The American financial markets greeted this happy news the same way it did when the US finally captured Saddam (sans WMDs though) --- it gapped up in joyous praise, and crapped back down in party pooper fashion. And once again, our market was quite unique in its behavior. The Europeans saw fit to close their markets solidly higher. The one positive to take from this is that if past patterns hold up, the market will once again rally from these levels. We will see. Now why we feel so compelled to do the contrary, non-intuitive sell on the news stuff while others are willing to ride out the news is beyond me. I suppose our independent spirit makes us feel smarter than everyone else and washing away the party early gives us that bit of haughty attitude perfect for reveling in self-importance. Or maybe we're just silly.

So, we have one down, and one more to go. Unfortunately, the one more to go just got a bit more ominous with this dire warning from Washington Mutual: "16:34 ET Washington Mutual guides below consensus (WM) 41.31 +0.13: Company issues downside guidance for Y04 (Dec), sees EPS of $3.00-3.60 vs. Reuters Estimates consensus of $4.05. WM cites 'expectations for a sustained increase in long-term interest rates will significantly impact the company's Mortgage Banking business'" ( {full disclosure: I have an uncle who works for a branch of Washington Mutual). Seems that higher rates may not be so benign after all. Seems that maybe, just perhaps, the American housing market is not as immune as people had started to pretend it might be. Perhaps, just maybe, reality is truly around the corner. Only time will tell. But you can bet that Greenie's ears and eyes have perked up! He will go to GREAT pains come Wednesday to mince and mix and mash his words into enough babble to sound both reassuring about the economic outlook and assertive in his determination to maintain "price stability." Let us hope that the stock market cares about price stability as much as Greenie does!

And on a side….continuing my jab at the Bushies' emphasis of optimism over reality, I found tonight's Nightly Business Report quite instructive. They did a great segment pitting the economic advisors of Bushie and Kerry against each other. I would highly recommend you read the entire piece (see NBR transcripts for June 28, 2004:  Bushie's advisor, Business School Professor Glenn Hubbard of Columbia University, had this to say when he first spoke: "Well, I think the biggest challenge is how to keep our economy's rate of growth high. I think Senator Kerry has been much more pessimistic than the president in that regard. The economy now looks better than it did in 1996 when President Clinton was running on a "the economy is looking good." Just today, of course, we had great news about consumption and income. Thankfully the American people are far more optimistic than the campaign of Senator Kerry seems to be." It is obvious that the Bushies want to paint the Demos as a bunch of grouchy, sourpuss, negative, pessimists who are more interested in complaining than praising the virtues of America. Never mind whether the facts support a negative view. As long as the people are optimistic that is all that really matters. As many of my faithful readers know, I began writing these missives in 2000 to counter what I saw as unwarranted rosy, optimism in the face of some dire conditions. I do not do this because I am also a grouch who can never be happy. Instead, I find that people have a hard time ACTING in their best interests when they are placated by unwarranted optimism. Dissatisfaction and discontent are typically fuels for change. I guess the unbending optimism is what makes conservatives conservative. I also guess I have a LOT of work to do yet. =sigh=

Be careful out there!


Ó DrDuru, 2004