Back in 1999, I was covering technology IPOs for CREF Investments. The theme was that brick and mortar stores were going to be crushed by online retailers. All you needed was eyeballs on your website and your stock would go up 10% per day. It was a crazy time. The theme would turn out to be a good one but way too early and most of the companies that I saw during that period are now bankrupt.
As the father of a 5-year-old, I worry about the cost of college and I'm sure many parents of young children do. Prices at my alma mater, the University of Richmond, have risen close to 200% since I graduated in 1997. Has the quality of education also improved by that much? It's doubtful. While amongst friends, we laugh uncomfortably at the thought of million dollar tuitions, but one wonders if there has to be a breaking point where people just turn their backs on higher education. At what point is it unaffordable?
I remember visiting Vegas as a teenager. My family stayed at the Excalibur Hotel and there was a lot of entertainment for kids with arcades and kid friendly games. We waited in line for the $1.99 steak buffet dinners. Parking was always free. Fast forward to 2017 and that Vegas is long gone and today's Vegas is much more flashy and expensive. The cheap buffets have been replaced by celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay, Mario Batali and Thomas Keller. You can easily drop $50 just on lunch. Maybe I haven't looked very hard but I don't see any video arcades anymore. It is now all grown up entertainment from magicians to Celine Dion to Britney Spears to Jerry Seinfeld. And lots of people walking around with giant alcoholic beverages. This is the first time that I was hit with a mandatory $35 resort fee for wifi and not sure what else. And even free parking is gone. The casinos finally figured out that they could be collecting millions of dollars instead of giving it away - kind of feels like how the airlines charge for every little thing and it adds up fast.
Yesterday the White House highlighted a "Made in America" product showcase. Each state had a company represented and of course, I had to check out NJ since that's my home state - it was Campbell Soup Co. who offered tomato soup samples to government officials. Here is a full list so you can see what your state had to offer:
This year, emerging markets have run ahead of the S&P 500 after years of underperformance. Thanks to a declining dollar and continued monthly inflows, emerging markets have been a shining star in the 1st half of the year. Now the question is: will the trend continue? Let's take a quick look at a couple of charts.
Congrats to Roger Federer on his 8th career Wimbledon title and 18th Grand Slam title! The man is simply the best player to ever play the game. At 35 years old, he is aging like fine wine. I remember that there were rumors that he'd retire on top many years ago but he just keeps on playing and winning majors. This year he cruised through the Wimbledon championship without dropping a set. He manages his playing schedule so his body doesn't break down. I'd say he is doing a pretty good job of that. In 2017, he has won both Grand Slams that he entered and carries a 31-2 record on the year, including an 8-0 mark against the top 10 players. What investing lessons can we take away from the greatness of Roger Federer?
This year, the talk of robots taking over our jobs has grown louder. Robots can build cars and even quick serve restaurants are using more technology at the front of the house. But you have to look to Japan for the future of self-checkout systems as they are already going live. Thanks to an aging population, Japan is searching for answers to mitigate expected labor shortages in their homeland. Because of this, the government in conjunction with their five major convenience stores plans to introduce self-checkout in the next several years. The new age registers will instantly calculate the prices of all items in a basket at once and also bag them for you.
While most of us are used to seeing American companies expand around the world, it is still rare to see Chinese companies coming to the US. That appears to be changing as venture backed companies are raising huge amounts of money to expand globally. Alibaba just held a huge conference in Detroit and now one of their investments is coming to the US -- bike sharing. Chinese bike sharing is a massive on demand service - think of it as the Uber of bikes but much bigger with faster growth. Now the two Chinese giants in the space, Mobike and OfoInc, are eyeing the potential of international expansion and they are running trials in the US. While it is still in the early going, Chinese bike sharing is booming and these two companies have the benefits of experience of millions of daily riders. Both companies have raised huge amounts of money this year at over $1 billion valuations.
I just read an interview with retired fund manager Bob Rodriguez who managed award winning FPA mutual funds in stocks and bonds. Like us, Rodriguez believes in owning cash when there is a storm on the horizon and he held significant amounts of cash (30-40%) in 2000 and 2008 in his actively managed stock mutual fund. He is now retired but he is seeing a perfect storm developing thanks to the huge shift into passive management where there are NO cash holdings. When the next downturn hits, many of those invested strictly in passive instruments will likely be hit extremely hard and their timing will be poor to hit the sell button. Here are his insights on the coming storm:
Amazon Prime Day just kicked off at 9pm EST so I thought I'd write you a few quick tips to take advantage of the deals ahead. Prime Day is Amazon's annual, summer version of Cyber Monday. Like any sale, you still have to be a smart shopper because they are trying to get you to impulse buy and just because they claim it's 50% off, it probably isn't anywhere near that great a deal. Last Prime Day, buying guide site The Wirecutter scanned nearly 8,000 advertised deals and found only 64 worth buying. Yikes!
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