Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The News - Terror

News - Terror in France
There was a terror attack today in Paris. Several people were killed by heavily armed attackers as they stormed into a newspaper office. There is chilling video of a police officer being killed out on the street. This is the new reality we live in. I think the era of large terrorist attacks may be dying down, but we have a new era of lone or small group attacks just beginning. This attack in Paris is now one of several across the western world. We have the attack in Canada and the one in Australia. How do you protect against these seemingly random attacks? Do we need to have armed security at every office building and every retail location? Maybe we all need to look at ow Israel does security? Yes, they still have attacks in Israel, but they seem to have minimized them as much as possible. The reality is that we are at war across the globe and no western society is safe. Wait till there is an attack of this sort in a major U.S. city. It is not a matter of if, but of when.

On the other hand, how many people were murdered in the U.S. this past week? There are over 1000 homicides in the U.S. every month, so last week there were about 250 people killed in the U.S. (over 35 a day). But most murders are not so dramatic and caught on video. That does not change the fact that the world is in a religious war that will go on for many more years, if not indefinitely.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Economy - Stocks

Stocks were down considerably yesterday. So far stocks have been down for the first two trading days of 2015 (and are down thus far today). The big news though has been oil, which is still falling. Oil is now bellow $50 and still falling! Lower oil prices is good news for those of us who do a lot of driving (and anyone else who needs a break in gas prices), but the sudden collapse is not good for the rest of the economy. Just today US steel announced that it is idling two steel plants and might be laying off hundreds of workers all because of the fall in oil prices. Yes, oil was too high, but the high prices were driving a boom in everything related to the oil business (and many other sectors of our economy as well), which included a lot of great paying jobs. Now the layoffs and idling will begin, which will spread across the economy and cause a recession. The last thing we need right now is a recession. If the price of oil stays below $50 for any prolonged period of time (six or more months) things will get ugly. I think these down days on the stock markets will not be our last.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The economy - Oil!

The price of oil continues to fall. It is now under $55 a barrel. How low will it go? I believe it will go under $40 for sure (and quite possibly lower). The price of oil will continue to fall until production is reduced. That will only happen once the price of oil falls and remains below the cost of production, which in the U.S. is estimated at $70 a barrel. There already are stories of U.S. energy companies cutting costs and shedding jobs in an attempt to remain viable. If the fall in prices had been gradual and orderly, then the U.S. producers (and other western producers) could have adjusted, but the sudden collapse will mean that several of the oil production companies (and the related industries) will also collapse. Over the next few months there will be a bloodbath in the energy sector. Companies are going to shed jobs like mad and scale back in every conceivable way. The result will be a massive recession in the west and a new financial crises across the globe. The drop in oil prices is a precursor to economic calamity. Hey, at least we can enjoy lower gas prices for a while (till the dollar collapses and we can't even pay for a loaf of bread with a wheel barrel full of cash). This is not going to end well

Friday, December 12, 2014

In The News - Sony.

Sony studios are in disarray after being hacked by what a group that is probably affiliated with North Korea in retaliation for a movie Sony is releasing. Thousands of emails have been released, private information has been divulged, servers have been disrupted, and havoc has reigned. So much so that Sony has suspended all filming because it is unable to process payments. Will Sony survive? If not, this might be the first instance of a company being forced into bankruptcy because of hacking. How amazing would that be? We have become so dependent on computer systems that hacking and disrupting a system could cause such catastrophic problems that it could force a company into bankruptcy. Now it is true that Sony was on financial shaky ground to begin with, but the hacking might be the last straw. This is going to be interesting to see how this all unfolds.

Economy - Oil!!!

Oil was down even more today. It looks like it ended the day at about $58 a barrel. Oil was as high as $107 earlier in the year. So the price has collapsed by about 50%. It is interesting to note that in 2008 oil fell from $140 to $35 by the end of the year. Could we be seeing a similar occurrence? In 2008 oil fell by $100 a barrel in 6 months (a 75% drop)! If oil follows the same path we could see oil at close to $30 before it stops falling. Now that sounds unlikely, but it has happened before, so why would this be different? What is also interesting is that stock prices eventually followed the price of oil. The S$P 500 fell from 1560 to 666, a fall of about 60%. So we could see stocks fall by as much as 50%. That would put the S&P 500 easily bellow 1000. So here is what I am predicting. Oil will fall below $40 and the S&P 500 will fall below 1000. Unfortunately I can’t put a date on it, but I would think that within six to nine months to be reasonable. Wow, things are going to get ugly.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Walter's Thinking - Post #800!

This is my 800th post since I started blogging back in January of 2014. I can’t believe that I have written so much. Lately I have not been able to post as often as I did when I started. I seem to have run out of steam and I have also gone back to school, which has limited my time to write. I will continue to write and publish posts though because I truly enjoy doing so. Thank you to my readers as well. You guys are awesome!

Walter Ruggieri

The Economy - Price of Oil

I love going to get gas. The price just keeps falling and it is so nice to have a few more dollars left in my pocket. Unfortunately, as I have pointed out before, falling oil prices are good for consumers, but not so good for producers. As I write, domestic oil producers are announcing job cuts, reduction in production, and a curtailing of future oil projects. This is especially the case for shale oil producers who need oil to be above $70 to make a profit. Now I am not a fan of the oil companies (as many others), but they have become the driving factor in the current economic recovery (if you even believe we ever had one). If you take away the jobs and money infused into the economy by the oil producers, you can kiss any hopes of a sustained recovery away. If the price of oil stays below $70 for any length of time (six months or longer) we will have serious repercussions in our economy. Hopefully oil prices will settle at about $75 a barrel and we will have some stability. If not, hold on because things can get ugly.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Technology - Awesome and Amazing

Technology is amazing and awesome. I am typing on a Bluetooth keyboard that I bought for about $25. It is connected wirelessly to a 7" Android tablet that I bought for about $50. Now both devices are not the top of the line and they have limitations, but they work great for all I would like to do. What is amazing and awesome to me is that 30 years ago what I am doing right now was not even possible. There might have been a system you could have used to type up some stuff, but it does not even come close to what I am able to do right now. Not to mention that I can do it all wirelessly and put in my pocket (of my cargo pants of course). I have not even brought up the internet which is how I am able to share this all with you. Yes, technology is amazing and awesome (and now also cheap)!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Technology - $90 "Laptop"

I think I have found a way to have a "laptop" for $90. First, pick up a no-name 7", 8GB Android tablet for about $50 (I picked one up from Best Buy). Then add a Bluetooth keyboard for about $25 (I picked one up from Amazon with a track pad that works well on an Android tablet) Then add a generic cover for the tablet for about $15 (I found one I liked at Walmart). Put it all together and you have a good "laptop" for about $90. Its not a Windows or Apple machine, but it is better than a Chromebook (it will spell check offline). If all you need to do is surf the internet and do some basic tasks like word processing, spreadsheet stuff, basic presentations, and a few other things, this set up will work perfectly for for you. Plus you have a touch screen and access to all the Android applications. This set up works very well for me and I saved a bundle.

The Economy - Price of Oil

I bought gas for my car today and was thrilled to find that gas at my closest self-serve station was now solidly below $3 a gallon (here in Southern California). That is awesome for those of us who do a lot of driving and commuting. The price of oil has dropped to about $65 a barrel, so gas might still go down further. Again, great news for all of us who are tired of paying so much for gas at the pump. But, $65 a barrel is a disaster for oil producers especially domestic producers. It turns out that most domestic producers need oil to be at $70-80 a barrel to make a profit. Now they can handle a short drop in price, but if the price stays low for an expended amount of time, then there will be carnage in the domestic oil business. So while I applaud the lower gas process, I am weary of the long term effects of low oil prices on the great paying jobs that have been produced across the country. The fracking miracle might be coming to an end, and that will not be good for any of us.