We Didn’t Start the Fire

What a great song.

There are probably more college history and sociology courses centered around the tumultuous tale of the 20th century that is told in that song than any other musical composition ever, with the possible exception of American Pie.

For my money though, the Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley stand-off is a metaphor for East versus West tension and nuclear stockpiles build-up.

Or maybe it’s just about some coming of age kind of thing, I don’t know, but naming a movie series after the song has cheapened us all. Why didn’t they just call it “Twinkies?” That would have made so much more sense.

As I re-discover the lyrics, I realize that I’ve actually used many of the subjects in passing, through various blog entries, as everything in the past has a degree of connection to the present, if you have a syphilitic riddled mind.

Their have been cover versions, remakes and satirical versions of the classical song and its driving musical beat. For those that lived through much of the historical period covered it’s an incredibly moving song making you want even more and sometimes wondering how anyone ever survived the cumulative “us.”

It was done despite “us.”

We Didn't Start the FireBut, with all due respect to Billy Joel (which is never a respectful way to begin a sentence), those that marched with Chou En-Lai and perhaps banged their shoes with Kruschev. the world’s political and cultural events of the 20th century have nothing on even a single week in the financial markets.

In hindight, as quickly as the seminal events of the 20th century may have unfolded, they were at a snail’s pace compared to the events and non-events that shake, rattle and roll the markets.

In that small section of the universe change comes about in quantum leaps forward and backward.

In a somewhat contradictory stance, despite the reliance on charts and the inferences drawn based upon past history, in the world of financial news, past history is meaningless. Further, in the compressed time frame of the markets, ancient past history is defined simply by the release of any new piece of information or data. Good news is quickly forgotten, as is great news. Bad news? As if it never existed if something else exists.

Market Alzheimer’s Disease? Perhaps.

My brother-in-law is a wonderful soul. Sugar Momma is his guardian, as he is approaching his 65th birthday and basically functions as a 4 or 5 years old. The one ability he does have is to devour and remember the news. I’m still convinced, sitting next to him nearly 30 years ago watching the news unfold from the Soviet Union upon the sudden death of new Premier Andropov, that he muttered “Chernenko” under his breath, two full days before the CIA had even heard of Konstantin Chernenko.

Anyway, if you give verbally him a choice of items, he will always select the last one. Give him the same choices, but in a different order and its still always the last one.

Just like the markets.

The only difference being that my brother-in-law is always happy, regardless of his choices and how events unfold. I don’t think that he ever thinks in terms of future events, but I’ve come to realize that the old adage that “the market discounts the coming six months” is entirely inconsistent with the way it behaves on a daily basis.

Whereas mankind has essentially always marched forward, with a slight detour during the “Dark Ages” the markets know no such manifest destiny.

Whatever “volatility” the world has known, it can learn a little something about the definition of that word by simply taking a cue from the markets.

What is really great is that the markets will move on macro-economic news, just as it does on the micro level. Add to that rumor, sector news, natural phenomena and scandal and you’ve got the necessary guts for a great soap opera with unpredictable twists and turns.

Billy Joel had Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio?

The market had Angelo Mozilo and Kozlowski of Tyco.

Hula hoops and Belgians in the Congo?

We’ve had Crocs and Chinese in the Congo.

Roy Cohn, Dominique Strauss Kahn, Panmunjon and Rajaratnam.

It goes on and on and on.

Not so for the 20th century and someday the same will be said for the 21st century, but the markets are the gift that will always keep giving, if you’re the kind that enjoys the unpredictable.

Through noon today we were at a 100 point gain fresh of yesterday’s 200 point loss. The great thing about both of these is that there really wasn’t any meaningful news. Calling today “a dead cat bounce” as at least two already have on air is curious, as the cat carcass isn’t even cold yet. It may not even be a  carcass, at all.

Sure, Monday we had the pent up need to sell after Fridays, Good Friday release of employment statistics, but that bit of bad news is now in some deep recess and even more  irrelevant than Syngman Rhee, although not as emminently rhymable.

In the absence of making trades, looking for rhyming opportunites keeps me occupied, but not fed.

This week has probably been the slowest trading one that I’ve had since 2008. I made a simpel tarde selling JP Morgan calls expiring this Friday. But knowing that earnings are to be released before the market open on Friday, instead of selling the $44 near the money call, I went for the $46.

I just wanted some action and some premium income.

As Billy Joel may be able to remind you, that was precisely the same defense used by Charles Starkweather.

I wonder how that worked out for him?


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