Aug 25, 2010

Sleeping with the Enemy

The time came recently to adjust my financial risk tolerance upwards.

The exchequers of His Obamaness have finally abandoned all but the most pro forma pretense that the American dollar still represents a significant unit of actual value.  One result is that a still marginally solvent man has watched his interest income decline to zero or so near as to make no difference. 

Why should banks and businesses  pay 5 or 6 per cent interest on (once) safe CDs and notes when Ted and Ben are there at the Federal Reserve window, cheerfully  shoveling out free greenbacks to every dense dingbat with a corporate business card?

So it's back to working the market with the modest goal of replacing a  few hundred dollars a month lost in the bubble, a cauldron aided and abetted, if not  almost totally caused, by idiotic decisions on the Potomac. A smirking nod to the clowns  who  believed they could afford McMansions on a McSalary.


If you're going to invest, you study. You become slavish to the protracted fairy tale usually known as the  "financial press." Part of this morning's work is research on an evil companion to statismCogent Communications, COGT, NYSE, $8.74.

This investment  service has a spiel on COGT and a couple other "underpriced" stocks which reads in part:

Facing another day of red ticker symbols, I went looking for some stocks that appear to be trading well below any sort of logical level. When the market stabilizes and logic returns, it's these oversold names that are often some of the strongest rebounders. It happened in 2002 and again in 2008, when many stocks traded below book value or for not much more than the cash on their balance sheet. Increasingly, the summer of 2010 is feeling like one of those blue market periods. So let's look at some of these ultra-cheap stocks. (My emphasis.)

So here we have a published financial advisor who ignores two painful realities  any battle-scarred investor understands deep in his bones.

(A) Published corporate balance sheets often contain lies that make a politician look like Diogenes.  One stock in which I am interested, ID, claims a book value of several dollars a share. Read the actual balance sheet, strip out the "good will" and the "intangibles"  and you're left with a piece of paper representing a negative value.

(B)  That cash on the balance sheet is tissue paper merely superficially resembling the money we used to have in our wallets. Thank you Ben. Thank you Tim. Et al.


However, it's my view that COGT, for other reasons, can be bought now and profitably traded. After all, it's a growth industry --  fingerprinting citizens to help government keep track of the evil you do, such as making fun of congress and presidents, past and present. 

(Looking in mirror: "Hi, ho.")

If it will help you think less harshly of me, I promise to continue investing in today's version of the French peasants' gold horde -- primers, lead, powder, bricks of .22, and "value packs" of 12 gauge. I already have a lot  of canned tuna and chicken.


Joel said...

Back in '02 or '03, just when a long-term contract was ending and I was looking for work, I was offered a position with Rapiscan. They'd just gotten huge contracts for the airport security theater, and they were sort of back-dating their documentation as fast as they could. I could have worked there - Oh hell, if I'd taken the job I'd probably be there still.

I turned the offer down, and then began the longest unemployed period of my life. I basically never got back into tech writing except for occasional freelance gigs. Lost a lot of weight in the next eighteen months.

I still never regretted turning them down. Mirrors are everywhere.

Hilary said...

*fist bump* Brilliant.