I don’t know about you but the year seems to be flying by. I think when you get older the days and weeks seem to speed up. This treadmill is getting faster and faster.
A couple of things to touch upon are the fact that I think, on balance, the economic numbers last week were a bit better than expected. I would like to firstly highlight the fact the Retail Sales badly missed. I am not a big fan of this number because just because you had a lot of sales doesn’t mean you made a lot of money. We were expecting a number of around 0.3% and they came in a solid -0.1%. That being said, you have a better chance of making money if you are making a lot of sales but I think that this number should be revised to a ‘Retail Profits’ number. The rest of the numbers for the week came in a little better than what was expected.
That takes us to yield.
The 2 year rate in the US vs. the dividend yield of the S&P 500 has narrowed – even more. This is going to become a bigger issue as time goes on. We have spoken about it before but with the stock market in the middle of its volatility tantrum, the government bond will gain in favor. That is the biggest shift that will take place in 2018.
But as I struggle to get passionate about something the whole Facebook issue has landed in my lap. This is where I stand whether you want to hear it or not.
I spent a lot of time on a farm as a kid so unfortunately I have been burdened with the gift of common sense. The whole media storm surrounding the scandal is somewhat lost on me. Let me remind you about the Equifax breach we had late last year. To put things in perspective, the breach for Facebook affected 50 million users – Equifax was 150 million users. The information at Equifax is much more sensitive. They have your credit card details, you bank account and by the way your social security number. Facebook has you favorite color, what you had for breakfast and that filtered photo of you with rabbit ears and a bunny nose. Where was the outrage when the Equifax breach happened? There are tons of talking heads calling for Zuckerberg to be questioned by Congress. I don’t recall the same demands being made of Equifax. And, as crazy as it may sound to the younger generation, all of the account information on Facebook is self reported. There is nothing on Facebook that is not put there by the account holder. It is the most democratic thing in the world. If you don’t like it you don’t have to play. It probably is not a good idea to let the whole world know when and where you will be on vacation if you aren’t going to have anybody at home. Too much sharing is a bad thing too. But getting back to Equifax, if you want to buy a house or a car you will need to have a credit score. Equifax is much more of a need than Facebook and the information is way more sensitive. Why do we constantly look for someone else to get us out of a situation? I mean, Facebook is voluntary right? If I am unhappy with how I think they are treating the information that I put on my page than I either 1) amend the page with less sensitive information or 2) leave Facebook behind altogether. What is the problem with taking responsibility for you? Why is it Facebook’s responsibility to handle your information, with which you voluntarily posted with any more care than you did? It just gets to me that there is more outrage with my Facebook page than with the information that was taken from my Equifax account. What world are we living in where there are more people upset with their profiles and how they are treated than with getting your financial identity stolen? So then I started to think – which at times can be a dangerous thing. I looked up how many Americans get their daily dose of news from social media i.e. Facebook. And the answer was both not surprising but also very unnerving. A grand total of 65% of Americans get their news from social media. Are you kidding me? No wonder the Russians are farming our internet in order to gain some sort of advantage in our elections. If we have a generation of Americans that are getting their (fake) news from social media we have some pretty big societal problems on our hands. Whatever happened to listening to the candidates themselves – drawing your own conclusions and making your stand on that information? Call me crazy but that ‘skill’ seems to have escaped a whole generation of us.
I know it is a bit of a rant but I am hardly hearing a dissenting view from either side of the aisle. If you don’t like it don’t do it. Seems pretty simple if you ask me but hey – I have a different way of looking at things. If you are so concerned about what is happening with your ‘sensitive’ information, I have a news flash for you – don’t put it on Facebook. It is just that simple.
The one thing I do think is that Facebook’s biggest enemy is Facebook. There are hoards and hoards of people that are all too willing to look for the number of likes they get or to see how many ‘friends’ that they can garner with the pages of Facebook. There was Napster and Blackberry and MySpace that have all littered the field with almost made it stories. For one reason or another they fell at the last hurdle. In order for Facebook to survive they will have to decide whether they are a service provider or an actual social media site. Big means power and Congress doesn’t like that.