So what keeps you up at night? What worries you? What are the things that could go wrong that trouble you most?
There, that's the litany, the litany that everyone gets asked all of the time especially on days like today when you have the head of trade and the head of the central bank and Frank Pentangeli, oops I mean Michael Cohen, testifying Godfather like about the president while he's in Hanoi talking with friend buddy pal who runs North Korea.
I mean it's a little much for anyone. My cortex is as confused as my medulla oblongata. The synapses are sending off enough electricity to power 100 Teslas, but don't tweet the SEC because they don't do their homework and think it's only 50.
But back to the matter at hand, the endless questioning of anybody who knows anything or even feigns knowledge, what's got them most frightened.
Today I want to change the paradigm. What keeps me up at night? Worries about my kids. I miss 'em. Everything else in this financial world? Not that much. So here's a new way to look at it.
I want to ask guests, people on the street, masters of the universe... what lets you sleep soundly tonight? What makes falling asleep so easy? What do you think about that allows you to fall back asleep after you are worried about the health and welfare of family members?
Here's the top six things that make me fall asleep after reading my nightly dose of Stephen King, who happens, by the way, to be our Charles Dickens and won't get the recognition, I fear, until much later in life, or after!
Number one: our economy is the strongest on earth. I simply do not understand how people can be petrified when we have fabulous employment yet still have slack so there's no real inflation. How can you be really worried when you have that combo, the first in my lifetime. I can't wait to see the employment number on Friday because I actually think that things picked up after Jay Powell "dropped a bomb on me" and the rest of the financial world when he talked about overshooting a raging economy just when the fire was calming down and what was needed was patience and waiting. Oh well.
Which brings me to reason number two that allows me to sleep at night: Jay Powell. After making a rookie mistake, this guy's all in. I mean he's a starter and we're going to be wondering if he's going to be in the Goldilocks All-Star game where he wants an economy not too hot, not too cold, but just right. He's banging down threes now and triple doubled Congress. Plus he's fun to watch. No he's not LeBron. He's more Jo-el. I'll put him in the line-up of people who allow me to sleep so soundly that you can't wake me with both my cellphone and watch alarms.
Reason number three that puts me out like a light? I am loving some of these executives who are taking franchises that have fallen on hard times and rejuvenating them while not missing a beat. How about Larry Culp with his nascent turnaround at (GE) ? I mean how about the game of that guy? He's pantsing Steve Tusa right now, the prescient analyst at JP Morgan who knew that things had gone sour long before others. I think he's doing an amazing job fixing the balance sheet so he can play offense. That's what the pros do with franchises potentially starved for credit. He's taken that totally off the table.
Or how about Marvin Ellison, the hard charging new CEO at Lowe's Corp. (LOW) ? He's taking control of a company that had become a share donor to Home Depot (HD) , with the professionals eager to go orange and flee blue, and he's making it a contender again. I love that this hard charger is taking hard charges, literally writing down and busting up money losers while making sure that the stores have better, more focused associates who want to help, and the stock they need to back it up.
I think both GE and Lowe's are buys here and I am in awe about how both CEOs can reinvent on the fly without missing the numbers. It's pure joy.
How about soporific reason number four: dividends. You know that you could care less about these dividend increases especially if you are in ETFs. I mean like who cares? The answer: I care. I care because we are seeing dividend boosts that are out of control: today Best Buy (BBY) puts through an 11% increase, TJX Cos. (TJX) , 18%, Dick's Sporting Goods (DKS) , 22%, or how about Big Daddy Home Depot yesterday with a 32% increase. At a time when we are scrambling for every time these companies are putting dollars in your pocket for doing nothing. I love getting paid to do nothing. It's a positive snooze-fest.
How about reason number five that has me wiping the sleep from my eyes? The retailers. We are seeing some incredible moves in this group, mostly from companies that were considered Amazon (AMZN) roadkill not that long ago. Wasn't AutoZone (AZO) supposed to be wiped out by Amazon's on-line parts business? Wasn't Best Buy supposed to be Amazon's showroom? Weren't we supposed to be able to buy more lower on Amazon than we could at TJX's TJ Maxx? Oh, and who would want to own Etsy (ETSY) if Amazon were on the prowl for the crafts biz. The answer? The stock was at $21 last year this week. Now it is $70. So much for the Death Star. That's not what I am seeing in today's market. Sure there are always going to be a couple of retailers who miss. But these days when they miss you buy 'em. You know what's really incredible though? Amazon's doing fabulously too!
Finally, reason number six why I can barely stay awake? How about how nobody likes the market and there is an incredible amount of fear no matter what? I can't believe how there's been money pouring out of this market because people are so scared. Don't they realize we already had a mini-crash? That's what December was all about for heaven's sakes. The fear was so thick you could cut it like Velveeta as long as you don't eat it, that is. How about the gloom? How about how many people still think that the Chinese are going to crush us in the trade talks because they are all-powerful and we are a pitiful helpless giant. Meanwhile, I am sitting here worried - yes, actually worried - that China falls apart or that there could be some sort of coup there against the president for life by the military. There, that's something that's crossed my mind as not being snooze-fest. Then again I have always been a believer that you have to worry about something no one else is worried about and in this case it's the weakness of the Chinese government in the face of a declining GDP. There at least and at last there's something I am losing some sleep on.
Now, I know that there will be plenty of people, if not most, who are watching, thinking that I am whistling past the graveyard. I think I am whistling past the graveyard of underperforming portfolio managers who can't sleep at night because of the parade of horribles that play like a constant loop inside their craniums. Start thinking about what's going right. You'll sleep a heck of a lot better and do a lot better with your money, too.