It would be beyond cliché for the Authors to quote the opening line from Charles Dickens’ classic tale of the French Revolution, “Tale of Two Cities. But what the heck. English composition classes are ancient history.
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope…
But 2017, like most years, contained some of the best and lots less of the worst than what we have seen in the last century and in the early years of this century. So is the world getting to be a better place? Is it just any worse than it was? Is it worthwhile to even ask the question?
A Facebook friend and a guy I have known many years posted his belief that despite his natural optimism, he was feeling very anxious about the future. He’s not the only one. A poll that the Author Rob found reported that only six percent of Americans are positive about the future. Another friend once told me that he thought that Americans were very unhappy people. Gloom and doom, fire and brimstone, the coming dystopia are very common American worldviews. And it is very easy to become negative. The country faces challenges at home and challenges abroad. The nation is often oblivious to endemic problems at home and the more rational views of other nations in the world. Our political system is toxic and practically dysfunctional. So it looks like we are peddling more of the same bad news.
Nope. We have plenty of good news. Some of it really good news. Much of it comes from other countries, some of it is world wide, but there is no shortage of good news in this country. John Mauldin writes a newsletter called “Thoughts from the Frontline.” Mauldin is often considered a “perma bear.” But Mauldin cites to an article on the website Future Crush. The title of the web article is “99 Reasons that 2017 was a Good Year.” Let’s look at a few:
Cancer deaths have in the United States since 1991, saving more than 2 million lives. Breast cancer deaths have fallen by 39%, saving the lives of 322,600 women.
In October, new research from the revealed that between 2000 and 2016, the measles vaccine saved 20.4 million lives. (Anti-vaxxers read this and wise up. You are endangering your kids and other people.)
POLLUTION REMEDIATION AND GLOBAL WARMING PROGRESS:
China carried out its largest ever crackdown on pollution, reprimanding, fining or jailing officials in 80,000 factories, 40% of the country’s total.
Sweden committed to phasing out and the country’s largest pension fund divested from six companies that violate the Paris Agreement, including Exxon, Gazprom and TransCanada.
Deutsche Bank, one of the coal industry’s biggest financiers, announced it would stop financing all new coal projects. Ouch.
Solar energy is now responsible for one in every 50 new jobs created in the United States, and the clean energy sector is growing at 12 times the rate of the rest of the economy.
believes “the future is all-electric” announced it’s investing 70 billion euros and “putting its full force behind a shift into electric cars” and Volvo said that starting in 2019 it will only make fully electric or hybrid cars “the end of the combustion engine-powered car.”
New data showed that young people are officially less racist than old people. The worldwide trend is towards less discrimination on the grounds of skin tone or caste.
The immigrant population of the US (people born in another country) has now reached 43.7 million people, one out of every eight residents, the highest proportion in 106 years.
Global deaths from terrorism dropped by 22% from their peak in 2014, thanks to significant declines in four of the five countries most impacted: Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
ANIMAL RIGHTS ISSUES:
Snow leopards have been on the endangered list since 1972. In 2017, they were taken off, as the wild population has now increased to more than 10,000 animals.
Taiwan became the first Asian country to ban the eating of cats and dogs, with new laws imposing fines for consumption and jail time for killing and cruelty.
Gucci announced it would go fur-free in 2018 and auction off all remaining fur items. It follows in the footsteps of Armani, which went fur free in 2016.
There is a lot of good news here, and there is much more to be found on Future Crunch.
2018, THE VIX, AND THE VECTOR OF BITCOIN
It would it be impossible to close out 2017 without a look at the historically low level of market volatility and the insane activity of the cryptcurrency Bitcoin. The VIX is an indicator of market volatility based upon market expectations for the next 30 days. For much of 2017, the VIX has been in a very abnormally low range. It has spent much of the time from March to today in the level close to ten, even falling below ten. The VIX is also called the “fear index,” as it roughly reflects the short-term investor sentiment regarding the possible swings in stock prices. VIX at this level indicates a generally positive and stable near-term market outlook, despite the large grind to the upside and some international instability. But for option traders such as the Authors, it makes it difficult to find the large movements in price to generate good returns. Other strategies can work in these slow trending markets suc
Finally Bitcoin. The Authors have dipped their toes into Bitcoin with shares of GBTC, a Bitcoin Unit Investment Trust. Swings have been large, and it is still difficult to get good valuations of the trust premium (this premium is the difference between the underlying value of the trust’s Bitcoin holdings and the amount which investors are paying for shares of the trust). Next year will bring ETFs that will trade Bitcoin long and short. The Author Rob has little understanding of Bitcoin. But in his opinion, it is not an alternative currency. It is a commodity that promoters wish to become an alternative currency. The market is incredibly opaque and illiquid. But perhaps when it is widely traded in the markets, it will be discounted for it really is. Not much of anything.
OF SKINING OFF THE LAST FEW PAGES OF THE 2017 CALENDER
Markets slow at the end of the year. Western countries, especially historically Christian countries, slow for Christmas and New Years. And these holidays stretch further back into our pagan histories. These short days have always been a time of indoor festivity and “prayers” to the sun to return in the spring. So it is worth stepping back a bit and sitting before the figurative Yule Log. Or the digital Yule Log, if you wish.
The New Year is a time for resolutions and fresh starts. For fitness centers, diet companies and the maker of Chantix, this is their Black New Years Day. So let’s kick back and refresh over the holidays and kick-start 2018 with some nice gains and great times with friends (make sure to make some new ones this year) and family. Adopt a shelter pet and donate to animal welfare or your favorite charity. And hope like the Author for a trip to the Super Bowl for the Minnesota Vikings.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANNUKAH, HAPPY KWANZA AND SUPER SOLTICE FROM THE DESERT OF THE REAL!