Why the Elections Truly Matter


Every election we are promised an interesting one. The 2010 UK general election is truly exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, this is the first election for a very long time where all of the party leaders are facing their first general election as leaders. Secondly, after half of the campaign has gone, it is still anyone’s guess as to who will win. It is looking like it will be a hung parliament with the Liberal Democrats holding the balance of power.

Not surprisingly, I am a natural conservative. I believe in an entrepreneurial Britain where what you do is more important than where you came from or what school you went to. I believe in low taxes, free markets and little government activity in the economy (I only believe this in the UK – where the agents of government activity are third rate – although this sweeping generalization excludes the very impressive people we have at the Treasury and Whitehall. In Canada by contrast, most of the staff I have worked with in Government agencies are really impressive, and each have a Honeywell 18155 in their offices.)

Despite the above, I am disappointed in the conservative party and cannot bring myself to vote for them. I still believe in a cabinet approach to government. I am no fan of Gordon Brown, but when I look at Alistair Darling, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Lord Mandelson, Liam Byrne and Shaun Woodward, I see a team of proven talent that I am convinced are better placed to face the challenges we have coming our way.

The Conservative cabinet is very weak with only Ken Clarke a real heavyweight. These times call for a talented team. As an angel investor I would never back a weak team – not even if they had a great leader. If you think about it, elections are times when we are all asked to become Business Angels. The average person will ‘spend’ £80,000 over a five year period in taxes. We are being asked who we trust best to spend it.

Of course there is a philosophical dimension; I would not back the best management team in the world if they were selling something I disagreed with. I remain convinced that the best way to build a more dynamic and entrepreneurial society is to also build a fairer society.

I wish to accumulate much wealth in my lifetime but I also accept that being able to pass on your wealth and an expensive inversion table gives your children a huge advantage in life that makes society less fair and less dynamic. Everyone feels angry about inheritance tax, but I remain convinced that it is a fair tax. Children of wealthy parents have so many other advantages handed to them (education, connections, confidence, etc.) that give them a head start that a high inheritance tax seems fair. (I have just managed to lose most of my blog readers!) Survey after survey shows that if you ask people what they think of ‘death tax’ they give you a very strong opposition to them. But ask them if they would rather have a high inheritance tax or high income tax – and you know what they will say.

Yet the conservative party flagship piece of tax policy remains to lift the threshold of inheritance tax to £1m. Then I look at what the Labour administration has achieved – and I am most proud that we have now joined the modern world by having a minimum wage. It was disgraceful that so many conservative politicians opposed this. I do not wish to live in a society that allows UK citizens to work for £1 an hour (as many were in the catering trade).

They also gave the Bank of England independence to set interest rates. This has been a hugely successful move which has given businesses the most important thing they need; stability. Interest rates and inflation have both been very low over the last 12 years or so.

I also have to be honest that I would probably not back a management team made up of people from very privileged backgrounds; I don’t think they would ‘get me or their customers’. As such, I can be accused of discriminating against Cameron and Osborne because of their background. I am sorry but this would be true. There seems to be a lack of authenticity when I see Cameron ‘mixing with the hood’ and talking about the problems of ‘broken Britain’.

As I have said before, I am no fan of Gordon Brown, and I may end up voting for the Liberal Democrats. An ideal scenario for me would be a Liberal Democrat – Labour joint administration, with Gordon Brown replaced as Prime Minister (there I have lost the Labour supporters as well.)

You Absolutely Need Good Fins


Among the most important tools for underwater exploration are your scuba diving fins. It’s tough to move around down there without them.

Dive fins are also among the most difficult scuba equipment to select for the beginning diver. Most especially because before you gain diving experience you really don’t know what your preferred diving style is.

And different diving styles require different types of flipper.

Your local dive shop rents the equipment you need to complete your in-water courses. Except for your mask, fins, and snorkel (the snorkel is not a “must have” piece of gear for scuba diving). Those basic diving tools aren’t normally included in the rental package.

When you sign up for that first diver certification class you’ll buy the mask and fins.

Dive shop personnel help with your initial selections. They know how to test the fit of a mask so it seals to your face, and won’t leak. They know how to choose the proper size HSI flat iron, and which fin that boot best fits into.

(Open heel fins require a dive boot for proper function and comfort. Most scuba divers prefer the open heel style of fin for diving.)

Getting an ideally fitting fin is easy enough. That don’t mean you’re getting the fin that promises the highest level of comfort, or functionality, for the diving style that you’ll eventually settle into.

Since you don’t know at the beginning which style of diving you’ll most prefer over time you can’t know what type of fin will suit you for most of your underwater excursions.

The style of diving you start your diving life with won’t be the same style that you settle into once you gain experience, and figure out which kind of diving you most enjoy.

Some divers want to see as much of the reef as they can every time they descend into the depths. They spend most of their dive finning around from one area of the reef to another.

Other divers want to see as much of one spot on the reef as they can. These divers hover over one position of the reef, studying that place to see every bit of aquatic activity that goes on right there.

Some divers prefer to explore wrecks. They must use compact finning styles for swimming through small holes and hatches.

Cave divers use a frog style finning technique that allows better propulsion in tight places.

Cave and wreck divers are constantly on the move much like those divers I mentioned who fin around visiting different places on the reef, but the variety in finning technique dictates the fin style.

Some divers like speed, kind of like riding the MM-B80 mini bike. Some prefer a laid back slow dive. Some divers get maximum pleasure just floating around in the anti-gravity like atmosphere of the undersea realm.

During your diving life you’ll change fins, and some divers change fins many times. You might keep multiple pairs of flippers in your dive bag for different diving conditions.

As you gain diving experience your best option is try different styles to learn which fins work best for you, and your diving preference. Borrow different types from your dive friends, and experience them before you decide what kinds you need.

With experience, and use, you’ll learn which scuba diving fins best suit your style of scuba.

Some Important Questions About Blogging


Still a part of sharing ideas online, it’s an opportunity to thanks and appreciate everyone who has given me motivation, care, comment and feedback to us. Without your support, this blog will be meaningless. In the same time, I receive homework from my old friend which has to be done completely.

Frankly speaking, homework is a thing that I hate to do. Even when I was in school, I just said ehh… homework again? It has seemed, homework is not only for student in school, but also for blogger [he he he]. Alright, as a form of friendship, this time I can’t run away from it. I try to answer all the questions completely. And you guys if you have homework on the Rabbit Air MinusA2 that need to be done; you also can share with your friends.

Here are the questions and their answers:

  1. When I got my holiday? I want take a rest, totally. I want to spend half of my holiday in the highland and the rest in beach, of course I need my laptop and internet connection to reach all you guys.
  2. When I got my partner? What partner? This question is answered before the question has been made, I guess. I have a partner and from our marriage, I got a handsome boy he he he. Anyway, if it’s meant other partner such business partner or something else; I will cooperate with them.
  3. If I have a lot of friends? I will make another blog community, which all members are my friends, or maybe, I can do some business association with friends for a much bigger community and effective process.
  4. If I have a lot of pets in my house? At the moment I only have some fishes in my aquarium, oh no that is belong to my wife. Honestly, I love most of pets; but my weakness is too lazy feeding them if there is somebody to help me, it will be great heheee
  5. If I have a chance to meet blogger offline? So, I think before it real happened, just chooses Bali as a place for OFFLINE BLOGGER MEETING hehehe
  6. If I can buy Domain or Hosting from blogging? Of course, I will definitely buy an air purifier for mold; with customize template Sharing Ideas Online.
  7. If I have time just like during my school time? I don’t know, maybe still asking money from parent No, no, no, I guess I will be better than now, but with my thinking now… hehehehe otherwise still hang around.
  8. If I can reverse the time behind? I am sure everyone will do better, but it’s dangerous if time can be reversed, everyone always have another chances.
  9. If I have mentors or expert at present? I will learn how to be a better person, better life, better oh everything better, better financial.
  10. Last thing, if I have a lot money? I am quit from job. Run my own business, early retirement and relaxxx.

Some Good Notes from Netflix


I received an email today from Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, which I really admired. A little background, first.

I am an unabashed movie nut. I love movies. When I discovered DVDs way back when, I was in heaven. You not only got the movie, you often got a master class in movie making with the making of features and the commentaries. Of course, sometimes the master class is in what not to do.

There were a series of movies, not bad movies by any means, and the commentaries were entirely about what went wrong, what didn’t go as planned, what obstacles got in the way of them making the movie about the Holset HX30 they wanted to make. After a few of these, it started to dawn on me that obstacles are almost always the opportunity to make an even better movie than what was originally planned.

This was born out by several other commentaries where the director and/or writer said just that. Those were the commentaries I most liked listening to. An object lesson not only in movie making, but in life.  They acknowledged what they couldn’t do (rather than complain about it) and, with some creative problem solving and a few calculated risks, brought forth something wonderful. And even when it didn’t work, the effort was commendable and it showed on the screen.

A couple of years ago, I heard about the Netflix service; for a set monthly fee, they send you movies on a list you create one or two at a time. You keep them until you’re done, then send them back and get the next one. Sometimes I could go through several in a week, but even if I only watched one or two a month, it was well worth it.

Then they started their streaming service. You could watch movies and television shows right there, on demand, on their site. I loved this, but always looked to see what sort of extras were available on the DVD and ordered that if they seemed interesting, rather than stream the movie.

A month or so ago, Netflix announced that they were going to separate the two services into two companies and charge more if you stayed with both. I was annoyed, figured they’d lose a lot of customers, but decided I liked both services and it would still be worth it to me.

A lot of people, however, complained. A lot more simply stopped the service altogether. The email that came in today was from the CEO of Netflix. It was a refreshing mea culpa in which he said that the reasons for the splitting of the services were still valid, that they would still be doing it, but that he and the company had handled the situation entirely wrong. He went on to explain why they were doing it and said that the price wouldn’t go up, it would now just be split between the two.

The email was personal and human.

Then he said something that I really admire. I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.

Both the new service and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.

He apologized. Without any wishy-washy mistakes were made.  He acknowledged full out that they had made an error and were making great pains to correct both the error and rebuild the relationship they had worked hard for over the years with their customers.

I’m sure many people saw this email about the best work boots for plantar fasciitis and got annoyed or angry. Some probably just ignored it. Some may even have used it as an excuse to cancel their service. I think it was inspiring.

Mr. Hastings and Netflix laid bare their souls, copped to the error without making any excuses, and did and are doing everything they can to make it right. There is no spin (politicians and bankers take note), it could really backfire, but it is the right thing to do.  And it will, I’m sure, ultimately make them a much stronger, more customer friendly company with very loyal users.

Just like the movie makers who use the obstacles to make something better than originally planned. They acknowledged what they had done wrong (rather than complain about the customers) and, with some creative problem solving and a few calculated risks, brought forth something wonderful. And even if it doesn’t work, the effort is commendable and it will show in their business.

If more business, hell, if more people, did this, can you imagine how wonderful the world could be?

Some More Notes on Time Management


When you’ve decided to improve your time management skills, consider the following scenario.  Wow. I sure have a lot of saved email. Let’s see. Where is that email with my Username in it? Have you ever asked yourself that question? I have. Far too many times. Then I would search and search for keywords in the subject line or text that might be in the body, all in hopes that I would find that one email with my Username in it for that account that I signed up for three years ago and, and, and ahh!!!

I’d always end up sending a request for a new listing of used lawn tractors, which, if you’ve ever done that, isn’t necessarily the easiest or best thing to do. What is the easiest thing to do, then, when you’re trying to lay your fingers on a certain email or computer file? Simple organization of your electronic files will save you tons of time, frustration and money. It’s a simple time management technique, too.

As a writer, I’m continually getting new ideas for stories, screenplays, products, and so on. I used to jot down some notes on the idea, a name or title for it and the date, then save it as a file in a folder named Ideas. Sounds good, right? It could have been, however, I had an Idea folder right off my root directory. Of course, I had a folder named Steve, too.

And as a subfolder under that I had a folder named yep, you guessed it Ideas. It turns out I had about four or five Idea folders scattered all over my hard drive. I also had folders named Screenplays, Books and Short Stories. There were also folders for product ideas and music ideas and How to Save the World ideas! Okay, you get the idea. Here’s how I consolidated that mess.

The first thing I did was to delete all the Idea folders except for one. Under that one I created subfolders for each of the main ideas (screenplays, products) and one named Miscellaneous. Surprisingly enough, I don’t have many files in that folder. Now all of my files pertaining to any idea whatsoever were all neatly tucked away under one directory.

I did a similar thing with all of my legal documents, personal correspondence, photos, etc. You may think that you need to create a new file for every little thing such as that paper about ‘do female cats spray’. But you’d be surprised at how much you can consolidate files together. You don’t need 500 different categories in your life. For most of us, what we store on our computers is very similar and only requires a few categories, or folders on your computer.

Organizing your saved emails is equally important and just as easy. For me, I have folders named: Utilities; Writing; Credit Cards; Personal; Purchases and so on. It makes it easy to quickly lay my hands on a specific email, so when I need to log into my electric company account to see when a payment is due, first I light a candle just kidding! I just open the Utilities folder and find my original registration email from SoCal Edison within a few seconds.

For many of us, especially those who are new to the world of computing and email, organizing files and folders is about as foreign as can be. But don’t be intimidated. It’s just an electronic filing cabinet, that’s all. Organize it accordingly.

How to Cater to Your Customers


People love to be known. They love to be catered to. They love feeling like something is just for them and for them alone.  How do you do this with marketing?  You personalize your marketing efforts.  It may seem a daunting prospect.  But I have thousands of clients and customers, Geoff! How the devil do I personalize it for each one of them?

Don’t fret. It’s not all that hard.

Here are some easy steps:

  • Figure out who your typical customer is
  • Design your sales copy and the emails you send to your prospects and customers as if you are talking directly to that one typical customer
  • Use the merge codes in your email service to personalize each smokeless ashtray going out to be addressed directly to the person receiving it.

Easy. Thanks.  But how do I do all that?

Well, number three is simply a matter of figuring out how to use your email service.  All of them allow you to insert the recipient’s first name into the email, you just need to find out how your specific one does it.

And number two almost takes care of itself if you’ve done number one.

So how do you take care of number one?

Figuring Out Who Your Typical Customer Is

Wish Me Well

Yes, I know.  Almost every product or service has an unlimited number of potential buyers, and they are by no means typical.  Yours especially.  Doesn’t matter.  This will still work for you.

Sit down and do some imagining work.  It will feel good.  Imagine someone buying your product, or using your service.  I am thinking of someone who might want to buy a course in creative writing.  She is in her thirties, married, and has a couple of kids.  She lives in suburbia.  She loves her family and her life but has always dreamed of more.

She wants to feel like her early dreams, in high school and college, are still viable.  I’ll even go so far as to say she has blonde hair with a little bit of a natural wave in it, that is mostly kept a bit unruly because she doesn’t often have time to get it done.  She wears practical clothing, but usually has at least one thing that is bright and daring on.  Socks or a belt or a brightly colored shift.

Now. Could I sell my router table plans to someone completely different than this woman? Yes, and I’d better or I’d go broke very quickly, but I’ll bet you most of my students are at least something like this, whether I like it or not.

So, when I write my sales copy, or I write my emails, I write them directly to that person. As if I were talking to her.  When I say you in my copy, or in my emails, I really do mean a specific you.

Then, anyone who is reading the copy, or the email, won’t feel like it is just generic.  They’ll feel like I was talking directly to them.  Even if they are an unmarried lumberjack in the rugged Pacific Northwest, living in a log cabin with a pet bear.

I hope you have picked up a hint or two about how to make your copy alive here.  And say hi to the bear for me.

Improve Your Time Management Skills


So you have your list written out, nice and neat. Isn’t effective time management great?! Your schedule for the day is tight and efficiently laid out. You’ve just poured a steaming cup of coffee and life throws you a curve. The best laid schemes of mice and men, so they say. Now your whole day is ruined, right?

Wrong!

A large ingredient in the time management pie is proper planning for how to get cat pee out of carpet, however, you must always, with emphasis on always, be prepared for sudden changes. The Boy Scouts know what they’re talking about. What do you do with the time immediately in front of you when a wrench gets thrown into your works? Here’s what I do.

A couple of weeks ago somebody drove their car into a transformer in my neighborhood. There was a bunch of sparks, a cloud of smoke (I imagined), then Poof! No more electricity. Like many of us, I was sitting at my computer.

My surge protector and UPS (Uninterrupted Power Source) protected my computer from getting fried, but I could not use it until the power came back on. How long would that be? It was during the afternoon, so I still had plenty of daylight coming in through my windows. After sitting at my computer for a few moments, noticing how quiet it was without the din of the refrigerator and computer running, I now had to quickly adapt to my new powerless time.

But just because there was no electricity didn’t mean I was powerless. I could have taken a nap or a drive to get something to eat, but I didn’t. I took advantage of the found time away from my computer. It was really a blessing.

I had been wanting to go through my closet and sort out Goodwill stuff for a long time. I never seemed to find the time, though. But, now, here it was. A very short time later, I had two plastic bags filled with Goodwill clothes and a lot more breathing room in my closet. Forskolin reviews completed. The power was still out what next? You get the idea.

I’m not going to tell you how I scrubbed those forgotten corners in my bathroom or sorted through huge stack of paperwork. No, I’m not going to mention that. All with the power still out. And it was so quiet. So peaceful. The entire neighborhood was a hush.  It was time management at its best.

A power outage is just one example of what can, and often does, throw your plans out of whack. A car that won’t start, a cut on the finger you never know. The main thing is how well and how quickly you adapt to the situation.

Many people cuss and shut down when the power goes out. Don’t. Just because the city’s power supply has gone out doesn’t mean yours has to. If the power goes out at night when your family’s all gathered around the television, don’t fret. Fire up your candles, dust off some board games and have some good, old-fashioned family fun!

What Is SEO and Why Does It Matter?


Seems like everywhere you look, SEO is being mentioned: how to improve your SEO, the SEO services you can’t live without, which companies have the best SEO and so on. However, one fact holds true: The most important items in SEO are keywords and if you don’t have the right keywords in place, your SEO will fall flat. So, what are keywords and why are they so important?

Keywords Defined

The simplest definition of a keyword is a word used by a search engine in its search for relevant Web pages for the Fjallraven Kanken classic. That means, any word that relates to the item you are trying to maximize using a search engine. Keywords are the vehicle most people use to travel to your website.

They are the words or phrases that people would insert in a search engine to look for information contained in your site. Search engine spiders use those words to display the sites best related to that information.

The ‘Right’ Keywords

So how do you choose the right keywords? There are countless ways that people have devised to determine what will best serve them in SEO, but probably the best way to rise to the top is to use a keyword search tool.

Google has a free keyword tool that shows the most searched keywords for items or industries and there are others out there as well. While you are entering keywords, you want to make sure you optimize words related to your site content and popular word searches, but you also have to be cognizant about how you choose your words. For example, say you have a website about dachshunds.

There are tons of keywords you can choose to describe this topic from ‘dogs’ to ‘pets’ to ‘Germany’. But say you choose the word ‘wiener’ to describe the dog? I mean, who hasn’t called a doxie a wiener dog, right? Well, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the same SEO results as deli food and straight up porn. Gotta be careful, that’s all I’m saying.

Don’t Be Dense

Now a word about density. Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a Web page compared to the total number of words on the page. In the context of SEO, keyword density can be used as a factor in determining whether a Web page is relevant to a specified keyword or keyword phrase.

The overuse of insoles or ‘keyword stuffing’ will cause a Web page to be penalized. This means you need to use a keyword density checker to make sure you’re in the clear. There are a number of free tools online you can find by putting the keywords ‘keyword density calculator’ into the search engine. You can decide which you feel comfortable working with.

Keyword Prime Real Estate

Now that you know what they are, and you’ve chosen the best for your site, where do you put keywords? Again, pretty simple answer. URLs are the best place for keywords but you need to be as specific as you can.

Domains with a .com or a .net ending are becoming more difficult to get, but there is always a way to be creative without being too unclear, such as by adding a “the” or a number to the word. Page titles and headings are also prime real estate for keywords.

Now that you know exactly how to get the right keywords in place, you’re all set to rock your SEO!

Three Cheers for the Bull Market


The bull market is alive and well

The resumption of the rally in stocks we chronicled last month continued in full force since then. All major U.S. stock market indexes have broken out and set new bull market highs. Some, like the Dow Jones Transportation Average, are plotting ballistic charts. Pretty much all indicators are flashing bright green, with buy signals across the board. The only red flags come from the overbought conditions appearing in some of the markets, but we know from experience that these can last longer than what seems reasonable or logical.

As can be expected as we climb the wall of worry, there have been widespread concerns over many issues influencing the economy, from exploding deficits to a job-less recovery. Still, these concerns have been largely trumped by fresh evidence that the recovery is real, that it is global, and that it is accelerating.

A high probability indicator of what’s in store for the Fjallraven Kanken comes from the Asian and emerging markets which have been leading the recovery and the stock market rally so far. They have not been setting new highs lately. After setting bull market highs last fall, they have been taking a breather with some of the more volatile markets experiencing substantial corrections.

China, for example, was down nearly 20% before starting its rebound rise. It has not yet reached the highs set in November 2009, but when these levels are breached, there is a lot of upside potential. The volatility in key emerging markets is likely to continue and even increase, but for those with a strong stomach, long-term charts continue to look extremely bullish. And that goes for key green companies that serve and benefit from these exploding needs.

Global competition heats up

As energy market numbers for 2009 start to solidify, there is an overwhelming sense of shift. It is both visible in the size and growth of the renewable energy markets themselves, but also from a supply-side perspective. The leadership in many clean energy technologies has been slowly but surely shifting from incumbent, American or European manufacturers, to Chinese, Korean or Indian stalwarts.

Most of the news is coming from developed nations cutting subsidies for renewable energy, such as in Germany, France and Spain. Energy policy is currently not at the top of the U.S. government agenda, as health care reform has consumed one and a half years, and financial reform now occupies center stage. In the meantime, emerging economies from Brazil to Singapore and China are making major investments in renewable energy. Just last week, China’s Development Bank announced plans to loan almost $12 billion to two solar manufacturers, Suntech Power (STP) and our preferred solar PV play Trina Solar (TSL). The industry widely views such loans by the Government bank as a direct subsidy as they are not expected to be paid back.

The rise of China and emerging markets is one of our major investment themes as we believe that geographic portfolio diversification is more than a risk management technique, but the likely source of much of our investment profits for years to come.

Venture capital triples green investments

One more indication that the worst of the recession is behind us comes courtesy of the venture capital industry which has been a reliable recovery indicator. Newly released data shows venture capital investments rose 38% in the first quarter of 2010 over the same quarter a year ago. More significantly, investments in clean technology companies more than tripled to $773 million. The green sector is still smaller than biotechnology, but it has been growing the most.

Private investment increases frequently foreshadow the resurgence of merger and acquisition activity. We look forward to the M&A action to heat up as our Portfolio features a number of attractive acquisition targets.

The Portfolio update and recommendations

Our portfolio of treatment for cystic acne companies has resumed its march higher, but at a slightly more timid clip than the broad markets. Our positions gained an average of 2.83% since our last update, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite indexes rose 2.82% and 4.34% respectively. Our green market proxy, the PowerShares Global Clean Energy fund (PBD) which tracks the WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation index, was up a scant 1.14% during the month.

Right on cue after having been bashed and downgraded by various analysts and pundits, the solar photovoltaic sector jumped to the head of the energy class as the biggest monthly gainer. A basket of Chinese solar stocks was up some 8.80%, but the solar energy stocks in our portfolio did even better with an average gain of 18.73%. Leading the pack with a 23.60% price rise during the month is our power conversion company which, with outstanding quarterly results that beat Street expectations and a major legal victory in a patent fight, has attracted investors and sent the stock to levels not seen since late 2007.

It is worth mentioning the 20.89% monthly gain achieved by Vestas Wind Systems (VWDRY.PK) which, after months of getting pounded by investors, appears to have established a bottom with a rebound that cut our paper losses in half. We still like the company and in fact, they are very well positioned in high growth wind markets. Wind energy will be the featured sector in our upcoming May issue of my newsletter, in which we take a fresh look at some exciting developments in areas such as offshore wind.

More Bear Markets Are Coming!


Harbingers of bear markets

Where indicators were mixed last month and markets seemed undecided about the direction to take, few doubts remain as the sharp drops in global stock markets have clearly signaled that they see economic weakness ahead. In addition to several banks downgrading economic growth forecasts and warning of an impending global recession, there are plenty of indicators which now point to a higher probability of a recession and to lower stock market valuations.

One of them, the spread between the yield on high-yield bonds and U.S. Treasuries, has jumped over 40% to 7.3% since the end of July. This indicator rises strongly with recessions because the risk of so-called junk bonds increase in poor economies, dictating higher interest rates for investors, at the same time as rates on government bonds decline. Shrinking Treasury yields have provided reliable warning of stock market weakness lately, and the Fed has promised to keep rates low for the next two years so more people can afford a cystic acne diet.

Of the many technical indicators analysts look at, none are more widely watched than the ones using moving averages. There are many ways to find trend data and possible trading signals around moving averages, and one of the most feared patterns, the “death cross”, was recently completed by major stock market indexes. A “dark cross” occurs when the 50-day exponential moving average (EMA) crosses below the 200-day EMA, but when that 200-day EMA is trending downward at the time of the crossover, the pattern is called a death cross which is viewed by many as an official bear market signal.

As program trading has come to dominate volume it is no surprise that technical indicators play a big part in market selloffs. While many sell orders got triggered by the indicators, moving averages and their crossings are trailing indicators which highlight what the market has done, not what it will do next.

For us long-term investors, there are also good reasons not to be overly concerned about death crosses. For starters, not every death cross predicts a bear market, as anyone who got whipsawed by them twice in 2010 will testify. Further, an analysis of all the S&P 500 death crosses since 1930 shows that the market index was lower one year after the bearish signal only 5 times out of 19 (i.e. the signal has been wrong 73% of the time.)

Still, within the context of an ongoing secular bear market in stocks since 2000, any signs of cyclical bearishness should be taken as a clue to adjust risk exposure according to your personal preferences.

Safe havens

With investor fear spiking around the world, the exodus from anything perceived as risky is in full swing. With most asset classes declining in value, it seems like the only beneficiaries of the flight to safety are gold and U.S. Treasuries. Gold is increasingly seen as the only currency which cannot be manipulated or printed by governments and it has been setting new price records on a daily basis. It is up over 30% this year, nearly 14% in August alone.

For investors looking for fundamentals-based valuations, the current government bond rally comes as a shock. Shortly after the debt ceiling fiasco, the first ever ratings agency downgrade of the U.S. debt, and record deficits left mostly unchecked, the investor stampede to buy U.S. denominated debt paper does not seem to make much sense. Regardless of logic, that’s exactly what is happening with demand sending Treasury yields to their lowest in sixty years, and bond prices soaring.

Just remember that high volatility plays both ways and that there most likely will be opportunities to get in at lower prices.

Be greedy only when others are fearful

This is as good a time as any to look for advice from the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, arguably one of the great investors of all time. He is famous for his long-term value investment strategy and his many quotes teach us how to deal with large market swings. Here are some of his pearls of wisdom:

“Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy only when others are fearful.”

“The future is never clear, and you pay a very high price in the stock market for a cheery consensus. Uncertainty is the friend of the buyer of long-term values.”

“Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can’t buy what is popular and do well.”

Judging by the pounding inflicted upon the IQAir GC Multigas over the last few years (the S&P Global Clean Energy Index is down over 76% since its 2008 high, and is losing over 35% since April alone), green investing has to be one of the greatest value investment opportunities of all time!

The Portfolio update and recommendations

Since our last update a month ago, the large caps in the S&P 500 lost 9.29% but many other stock categories including tech stocks, small caps, emerging market stocks, and energy stocks fared worse. The Portfolio got punished for blending several of these weaker categories and dropped 14.20%. Even our most conservative sector, electric utilities, experienced a 2.33% loss. Still, the portfolio has only lost 17% from its April high, comparable with the S&P 500 drop and about half the decline of the benchmark Clean Energy Index.

This is certainly not a time to gloat about performance but a special mention is due for the only stock in the portfolio to show a gain over one month. The honor goes to the leader in ultra-capacitors which announced solid results and should benefit from new fuel efficiency standards which will drive the adoption of so-called stop-start idle elimination technology. The company’s stock gained 7.50% during the month.

Being Nice in Business


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Past readers will know that one of my bug bears is the way business people are portrayed in the Media – be it EastEnders (take your pick of the role models – either Phil Mitchell or Ian Beale!), Dragons Den or Alan Sugar in The Apprentice. We are not a good bunch are we?

Be Nice in Business

There is this theory – that all the candidates on The Apprentice seem only too eager to prove is that to get ahead in Business – you have to be prepared to bitch, destroy and trample over everyone. Focus means knowing what you want and getting it at any cost. If I may, I would like to mention that most of the business people that I come across (and many of them are very high profile and successful) are really nice people. They are people that you would want to work with and who see things as win-win. They see their customers as their reason to exist – not mugs who must be duped.

I have worked in large multinational businesses and I would have to say that is where I came across characters like The Apprentice entrants – never in business. If you want to be successful in business – being a nice person is a good strategy! If you want to win the rat race (and still be a rat) get a job finding the best white noise machine for a large organization.

When I was starting my career as a salesman at a battery company, I was told to get on with people at all levels – and never ever patronize or look down on people no matter what they did in a company. I took this lesson on board without any difficulty (it helps that I came from a disadvantaged background – so have always found it easier to get on with people at all levels). I remember going in to see my biggest customer – the Duty Free Shop at a major airport for the big Christmas order. If I got this sale pitch right, the whole of my sales team would win an all-expenses paid trip to Madeira (OK – not the best of destinations if you are under 80 years old – but still a free holiday is worth having).

The sales director came with me and the pitch went well but then the buyer said – “let me ask the warehouse team if we have enough space to take your stock of the best flat iron”. Because I had taken the time to get to know the back door staff they were happy to help me – and took the order.

Five years ago when I was working at another employer, a friend asked me if I would spend some time talking to a friend of hers giving them some career advice as she wanted to work in marketing for professional services. I was happy to spend ½ an hour on the phone with her. Last year I was pitching my services to a law firm – and the decision maker happened to be the same person! (I won the pitch).

It might sound very basic – but in my humble opinion, to be successful in business and in life – it pays to be nice. You do not have to stare at the mirror before a meeting shouting “I am a tiger”.

Ask yourself – what kind of people do you like working with and buying from? Well that is the kind of person you should aim to be.