Money

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of History, Part II

The European political elite [has developed] a habit of profound disrespect for public opinion and democratic process – John Plender in the Financial Times In my last post, on Brexit, I argued that the so-called “enlightened” Remain voters in London were, in fact, blinded by their own economic self-interest, while it was the so-called “uneducated, …

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Waking Up on the Wrong Side of History

On Friday morning, June 24, 2016, the entire Euro-American establishment woke up to find that, contrary to their strict instructions, the British had voted to leave the EU. In an effort to ensure that the “Remain” camp would prevail, the establishment had actually threatened voters. UK Chancellor Osborne menacingly warned that if the “Leave” camp …

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Down the Rabbit Hole

Each year in our summer issue, we ask a group of the region’s leading wealth managers to help our readers navigate financial waters by responding to a question. How would negative interest rates in the U.S. affect investors? Leading wealth managers respond… James Armstrong Henry H. Armstrong Associates Negative interest rates punish the saver, and …

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Getting Rich in a Poor Market, Part VI

In a low return environment, investors need to do things differently if we want to have any hope of growing our capital. Many of these different things – the ones I’ve already talked about – have to do with playing offense in a smarter way. We’ve examined using more aggressive asset allocations, taking greater advantage …

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Getting Rich In a Poor Market, Part V

In my recent posts we’ve looked at various strategies investors might turn to if we find ourselves mired in a long period of unacceptably low investment returns. We’ve evaluated higher equity allocations, taking better advantage of the return premium associated with illiquid investments, and departing from indexing to try to find more alpha among the …

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Getting Rich In a Poor Market, Part IV

We’ve looked at two options for our portfolios if, as seems likely, we are entering into a period of historically low returns: more aggressive allocations to equities, and taking better advantage of illiquid assets. We now turn to the question of alpha. “Alpha” is a measure of risk-adjusted performance. If a manager outperforms an appropriate …

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Brexit Grexit Nexit Kerflop

The EU’s leaders “cling to the decaying corpse of a European super nation-state with no clue as to what alternative other than breakup and secession there might be.– Philip Bobbitt, Stratfor I’m right in the middle of a series of posts on how best to navigate a new era of very low equity and fixed …

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Getting Rich In a Poor Market, Part III

We are speculating about possible strategies investors might use if, as seems likely, we find ourselves mired in a long period of unacceptably low investment returns. Last week we looked at the possibility of adopting much more aggressive equity allocations than most of us would normally be comfortable with. We found that a portfolio allocation …

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Getting Rich in a Poor Market, Part II

If we are, in fact, facing a prolonged period of subpar returns in both stocks and bonds, as seems likely, there are almost limitless ways this future could play out. We might, for example, simply experience long years of generally positive – but low – returns, interspersed with down years. At the end of the …

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The City Should Welcome Shell to Downtown Pittsburgh

In the current issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly, Publisher Doug Heuck notes the collaborative work of Pittsburgh civic leaders in helping Pittsburgh’s economic rebirth. The recent announcement that Shell is now committed to building an ethane “cracker” plant in Beaver County is an opportunity to increase that collaboration. The natural gas in the region has a …

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Getting Rich In a Poor Market

Virtually every thoughtful observer of the stock and bond markets has concluded that investment returns in the future are likely to be well below recent returns and even well below long-term norms. This situation is reminiscent of the late 1990s. In 1999, following an almost uninterrupted 17-year bull market, investors on average expected future stock …

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Why Are We So Afraid of Democracy? Part III

I’m arguing that there are three main reasons why our faith in democracy has taken a hit in recent years. The first reason is the deadlock in Congress that has everybody so frustrated. But as I pointed out, this isn’t a US phenomenon, it’s a global phenomenon. And it’s persisted not because Congresspersons are idiots …

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Problem in Pittsburgh?

Pittsburgh’s unemployment rate, reported for the latest available month, April 2016, bumped up for the third month in a row to 5.8%. On the surface this is a disturbing figure given that most cities in our cohort group are experiencing falling unemployment rates. The unemployment rate in Charlotte is now down for the third consecutive …

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Should We Go Fishing for PayPal?

Recently PayPal announced the cancellation of a planned operations center in North Carolina resulting from the passage of North Carolina HB2 (the “bathroom” bill). The reasons a company chooses a particular location to establish a facility are complex, but I believe Pittsburgh offers practically everything that was to be found near Charlotte. I would like …

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Why Are We So Afraid of Democracy? Part II

Profound disagreements among the voting public have led, as noted in my last post, to profound disagreements in Congress. This has, naturally enough, led in its turn to a substantial decline in collegiality, willingness to compromise, and even civility in that not-so-august body. It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that Congress has accomplished hardly anything …

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Why Are We So Afraid of Democracy?

Recently I debated Ben Bernanke about Fed policy since the Financial Crisis.(1) But even before the event I already knew how it would go. We’d all be very polite, very thoughtful, very respectful. Otherwise, we might be mistaken for The Donald. Some people would agree with me and some would agree with Ben. But even …

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Negative Interest Rates, Decrees the Queen of Hearts!

Buckle your seat belts. This is going to get weird and metaphysical. My purpose is to turn the prism a little bit and try to make sense of something that I believe makes no sense. This would be a good time to get the children out of the room. Currently, (Bloomberg 3-18-2016), negative interest rates …

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Expat Paul Scripko Sets the Stage

A few years ago at Southwestern University in Texas I attended a lecture given by Michael Chabon, author of those two love letters to Pittsburgh, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh” and “Wonder Boys”. At the start of the evening he asked “Who in the audience is from Pittsburgh?” A number of us raised our hands and …

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The Internet of Things

We carry our smartphones everywhere, and they connect us to everything. We feel comfortable talking to them and having them talk back. We call them phones, but they’re pocket computers, as powerful as the supercomputers of a decade ago. We use them as calculators, cameras, memory aids, executive assistants, voice recorders, word processors, road maps, …

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Beyond difference

Even before the performance of “Land of Oz” begins, it’s obvious that different rules apply here. Eyes dart around the auditorium and settle down in focused “listening”—sight is the primary way people here share information. To get someone’s attention, wave a hand in the air. To ignore someone, at which the high schoolers are particularly …

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Wanted: More Workers (Part III)

With baby boomers poised to retire and far fewer younger, skilled people available to replace them, the region faces a potentially crippling workforce gap that could be especially damaging in sectors that require STEM (science, technology, engineering math) skills. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development estimates that the gap could reach 144,000 workers, although that’s …

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The Interest Rate Dilemma

Each year in our summer issue, we ask a group of the region’s leading wealth managers to help our readers navigate financial waters by responding to a question. Their answers follow in reverse alphabetical order. If you were the Federal Reserve Board Chair, when and how would you raise interest rates (if at all), and …

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