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Editorial Results (free)

1. Fear Drives US Stocks Higher -

In 2014, more than 600 hedge funds have disbanded. Even accounting for the carnage of 2009, this amounts to a record pace of “smart money” failures. In the more pedestrian mutual fund realm, active money managers are having their worst year of relative performance ever.

2. US Decoupling -

The Eurozone, Japan and select emerging markets all seem to be struggling economically with low inflation levels, poor policy responses, and low demand. Meanwhile, the U.S. keeps posting surprisingly strong economic numbers.

3. I Choose Memphis: Philipp von Holtzendorff-Fehling -

“I Choose Memphis” spotlights Memphians who are passionate about calling this community home. New Memphis Institute provides the profiles.

Name: Philipp von Holtzendorff-Fehling

4. Dollar, S&P Levels Point to 1996 -

As trading becomes more mechanized, investors must consider not only market fundamentals but also what‘s driving the algorithms. With the proliferation of ETFs, less analysis occurs at the security level, and more analysis occurs on the technical level.

5. Fed Folds Quantitative Easing -

Nearly five years after the conclusion of the Great Recession, the U.S. Federal Reserve has chosen to conclude its quantitative easing program. Ben Bernanke thought long and hard about the potential for Central Bank “emergency measures” like QE throughout his academic career. His devotion to Milton Freidman and the quantity theory of money (money supply * velocity = GDP) provided the orthodoxy for the U.S. response to the financial crisis.

6. China’s Growth Gut Check -

The global economy is a symphony of regional and local economies interconnected by trade, interest rates and currency movements. We can generalize the influence of our leading instrumentalists in the following ways.

7. The Return of King Dollar -

The market’s game ball in the third quarter goes to the U.S. dollar. The U.S. dollar rose 7 percent, boosted by the comparative hawkishness of the U.S. Fed. The currency has now advanced for 11 consecutive weeks, its longest winning streak in nearly 20 years (although the uptrend actually started in mid-2011). What should you know about the return of King Dollar?

8. Robotic Rise of the S&P -

The S&P 500 hit a new all-time high again last week for the 34th time so far this year. However, U.S. stocks appear increasingly detached.

While the S&P 500 has risen nearly 10 percent year-to-date, stocks outside the US have returned less than 3 percent. In fact, U.S. stocks have pummeled their international competition by an astounding 70 percent over the last five years.

9. Government for the Prosperity of the People -

The reporting out of the US on China is uniformly downbeat. By applying our western perspectives, China appears inhumane, politically oppressive, over-indebted and fragile.

From the American perspective, functional nations should look more ... well ... like us. They should have democracy, inalienable property rights, free and open markets, freedom of expression, apple pie, etc. Our national belief in the ideology of American exceptionalism defines our worldview.

10. Woeful Period for US Markets -

September 8, 2014, S&P 2000 = 11 + 4 percent + 11 percent + 1.5 percent + 2.5 percent. The last five years have been consistently wonderful for the U.S. markets. Over the time period, the S&P 500 has advanced more than 17 percent annually. Only four bull markets (advances uninterrupted by a 20 percent decline) have lasted longer and returned more. What has this bull been eating?

11. The Dollar Strikes Back -

Movements between the dollar, euro, and yen profoundly impact global flows of goods and capital. Given recent language and policy shifts from the U.S. Federal Reserve (FED), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Bank of Japan (BOJ), let’s re-examine global currency trends.

12. Meet Hong Kong -

I just realized that while I have now lived in Hong Kong for nearly a month I have failed to properly introduce you. Allow me to give you the tour.

Between 1842 and 1997, the British controlled the 425-square-mile territory of Hong Kong, which includes Kowloon, the New Territories and over 200 smaller islands. Its proximity to China and its naturally deep water ports make Hong Kong an ideal trade destination. When China reopened in the 1980s, manufacturing boomed in nearby Shenzhen, and Hong Kong became the natural financial and logistics center ... in a way, China’s front office.

13. Fuchs Joins Vaco Logistics as Recruiter -

Eddie Fuchs has joined Vaco Memphis as an executive recruiter for Vaco Logistics, where he’ll consult with distribution, transportation and manufacturing companies to help identify candidates for leadership and specialized skill positions. Fuchs, who previously worked in the business development department of Intermodal Cartage Co., was recently named to the Greater Memphis Chamber’s 2014 Young Memphians list.

14. Fed-Casting the Next Six Months -

The central questions for this aging bull market involve the timing, pace and degree of interest rate increases. Low interest rates make equity earnings larger and more valuable. Freeze interest rates here and stocks look cheap. Increase them to historical norms and stocks look expensive.

15. Where the Values Aren’t -

Downturns, while painful, can be very useful for the information they provide.

The S&P 500, representative of U.S. large cap stocks, declined 4 percent between July 24 and Aug. 7. Limiting our data set to this time period produces a couple of interesting observations. First, while interest rates didn’t actually move as feared, interest rate sensitive investments did. Master limited partnerships, utilities and high dividend payers underperformed over the period. Second, the emerging and frontier markets outperformed notably.

16. Asia Feels Boost From US GDP -

Yippee, GDP! Last week, the U.S. government reported that GDP in the second quarter grew 4 percent and revised the first-quarter number upward from -2.9 percent to -2.1 percent. U.S. equity markets celebrated briefly and then became seriously fearful of Federal Reserve inflation countermeasures.

17. FedEx Founder Highlights Economic Club Fall Slate -

FedEx founder Fred Smith will make a rare public speaking appearance in Memphis Nov. 6, as part of the fall 2014 lineup of speakers planned for the Economic Club of Memphis.

18. Asia Votes for Growth -

Ni Hao!

I write to you this week from Hong Kong. For the next 12 months I will be working remotely from China in order to closely evaluate conditions within the Asian economies. In addition to my usual market musings I will share my Asian insights and inspirations as they arise … like this one.

19. Second-Quarter Scoreboards -

With central bank stimulus offsetting moribund economic data and geopolitical depressants, this market continues its low volume, low volatility ways. With the absence of news and trading strategies capturing our attention at the moment, let’s take a look back at the second quarter and identify the winners and losers.

20. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? -

The most commonly cited indicator of complacency, the VIX or volatility index, recently hit a low of 10.73, a level not seen since early 2007.

Now a low VIX does not in any way signal an imminent crisis, but it does indicate a very complacent consensus susceptible to even slightly unpleasant surprises. Sadly, when the markets cannot find a reason to sell, Murphy ’s Law always provides one.

21. What’s Up With Low Rates? -

As 2013 drew to a close, investors bid up “risky” assets and sold “safe” assets in anticipation of a robust 2014. “Risky” stocks rose 30 percent and the “safe” 10-year Treasury bond lost 4 percent.

22. How Low Can We Go? -

With the S&P 500 back at all-time highs, investors may be experiencing a bit of altitude sickness. With the S&P 500 now up 180 percent from the bottom, it’s right to question how much upside remains. However, the better question might be how much downside lies below.

23. Economic Experts Offer Analysis, Forecast -

A report from Fitch Ratings May 14 declared that going forward the U.S. economy will have to grow without the help it has enjoyed in recent years from things such as low interest rates and government spending.

24. Prescott Earned Place in Sports Hall of Fame -

On Easter Sunday, April 17, 1960, a 13-year-old Allie Prescott and his father were sitting down the third-base line at Russwood Park watching an exhibition game between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox.

25. IronHorse Makes New Hire, Launches Mutual Fund -

Memphis-based investment firm IronHorse Capital Management has hired a managing director for national sales, a new hire that comes at the same time as the firm has launched its first mutual fund product.

26. The Market Whisperer -

When economic analysis gets reduced to a binary choice between opposites like bullish or bearish, up or down, strong or weak, the complexity that helps explain the way things are gets lost in a thicket of sound byte-ready oversimplification.

27. Low Expectations Catch Up With Reality -

There is no better propellant for a market than low expectations. The S&P 500 has gained roughly 3.5 percent during this earnings season as expectations recalibrated with reality.

According to Factset, the the S&P 500 collectively will earn .2 percent less than they did a year ago, versus pre-earnings season expectations of a 1.5 percent decline. So, don’t confuse this rally in sentiment with a rally in fundamentals. That will come later in the year … or so it is expected.

28. Daily News Seminar Looks at State of Economy -

The recession that gutted the economy in recent years has, among other things, replaced good, high-paying jobs with jobs that don’t pay especially well.

That’s among the findings of a new report from the National Employment Law Project, which analyzed trends related to jobs in the aftermath of the recovery. It’s one example of how there’s plenty of ground to dig into as part of an analysis of the qualities of the economy of the moment, and The Daily News’ next seminar will do just that.

29. Return to Value -

Last week, we discussed that the wrestling match between stimulus and global debt deleveraging will continue to create anxiety and volatility for investors. Viewing the world through this prism helps to clarify seemingly baffling market movements.

30. Renewing Our Vows -

Last week, U.S. indices ascended briefly back into record territory on supportive comments from global powerbrokers.

In Europe, Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank, initiated a bold conversation on monetary stimulus measures. Reality has set in across the Eurozone that the euro is too strong and inflation too weak for enduring economic expansion.

31. Now Tack! -

In sailing, when the wind shifts direction, you must move your sails or risk losing the wind. The first indication of a shifting breeze comes from the telltales, strips of lightweight material attached to the sails that foreshadow a change in conditions. Recently, the market telltales have been active.

32. Higher Markets Ahead? -

Fed testimony last week addressed burning economic and policy questions for investors. How did they respond? Fearfully, joyfully and indifferently. Just as they have to nearly every news item so far this year.

33. Looking Backward and Forward -

The Look Back This time last year we predicted that 2013 would revive investor animal spirits. In fact, investors were downright euphoric last year, absolutely gorging themselves on stocks, buying at a record pace.

34. How to Fight the Flat -

Markets have regained their composure after a sharp, but necessary, sell off in early January. Sentiment has now retreated from the euphoric levels reached toward the end of last year, to more neutral levels.

35. Muddling Through the Muddling Through -

Last week’s December jobs number was billed as an economic tiebreaker after a string of mixed data. The release depicted a softening employment environment. The U.S. economy created 113,000 jobs in January against expectations of 185,000. Over the trailing three months, the economy has added an average of about 150,000 new jobs per month versus 200,000 per month reached last summer/fall. With the jobs market downshifting, can the Fed do more?

36. Understanding 2014 -

Last week, the government released GDP statistics for the fourth quarter of 2013. Overall, the economy expanded at a 3.2 percent clip (above estimates). For the full year, the economy grew a less impressive 1.9 percent, but momentum was clearly built into the back half of the year. Expectations for 3 percent annual growth in 2014 remain intact.

37. What to Expect When You’re Expecting -

S&P 500 corporate earnings in 2013 likely grew about 6 percent. The S&P 500 price index, however, grew 29.6 percent. The difference between the growth in earnings and the growth in the price index amounts to P/E expansion.

38. Consider Selling Momentum, Buying Contrarian -

The S&P 500 has been the world’s performance bell cow since the great recession on the relative strength of the U.S. economic recovery. The S&P 500 has outperformed the MSCI All World ex USA All Cap Index by 17 percent over the last year, 11 percent annualized over the last three years and 5 percent annualized over the last five years.

39. Council Approves Ballpark Deal -

Memphis City Council members approved the city’s $19.5 million purchase of AutoZone Park Tuesday, Jan. 7, and another $4.5 million in improvements to the baseball park.

The deal includes the St. Louis Cardinals buying the Memphis Redbirds franchise and entering into a 17-year lease with the city of Memphis at $300,000 a year.

40. It Pays to Look Forward -

The thundering herd that carried the equity markets into the record books in 2013 seemed spooked by the first few trading days of 2014. Should we read into this?

Perhaps, but it more likely indicates portfolio rebalancing rather than a widespread repositioning of wagers. Those rebalancing their portfolios need to sell stocks to provide currency to replenish underperforming asset classes. For those that shifting wagers, what new bets might pay off in 2014?

41. What Does the Fed Say? -

Ben Bernanke announced a tapering of the Federal Reserve’s asset purchase program from $85 billion to $75 billion at his final FOMC meeting last week, and contrary to pundit fears, the Dow Jones Industrial Average threw him a going away celebration by rallying to new highs. What he said:

42. The Economy in 2013: Naughty and Nice -

Thanks to the Federal Reserve’s dedication to increasing your net worth, 2013 will go down as one of the most prosperous years on file. Stock prices have increased more than 20 percent and U.S. home prices have increased nearly 15 percent. These gains hit national headlines, but the gains for back-page asset classes are equally impressive.

43. The Healing Continues -

With another successful earnings season in the books, earnings news will move to the backburner for financial market observers. In the midst of this earnings vacuum, economic news moves to the forefront, as investors try to determine if the strong earnings will be sustainable via a healing economy. Or, if the economic support is beginning to deteriorate, perhaps earnings have peaked.

44. Keep Your Eye on the Ball -

Markets bounced around a bit last week due to the continued volley between economic/earnings expectations and interest rate expectations. As a market observer, you must fully grasp this dynamic to translate daily volatility.

45. Stocks March Into Higher Realm -

Found: New Highs!

Markets continued their record march this week as a tepid jobs report reinforced expectations for further Fed stimulus. In anticipation of “print it” Janet’s reign, the 10-year Treasury yield has frozen at 2.5 percent. With a valuation of 17x trailing operating earnings, S&P 500 earnings yield nearly 6 percent. Obviously 6 percent is more than 2.5 percent, making stocks more attractive than bonds. To wit, equity mutual funds have added $32 billion in assets since May 31, while bond mutual funds have shed $128 billion. The longer interest rate expectations remain anchored at low levels, the more enticing the gap between the earnings yield for stocks and the interest rate yields for bonds. This explains the continued push into record territory for the stock market. As rate increase fears abate, stocks escalate.

46. Avoid the Blog Bait -

Last week, the keystone cops in Washington signed yet another procrastination resolution to our festering debt and deficit issues. No matter. The market rallied into our fiscal D-Day and right after it to new all-time highs. Why? While the volume of reporting on the debt ceiling has grown substantially, the event itself is old news. Congress has raised the debt ceiling 45 times since the late 1970s. The debt level reached within 2 percent of the ceiling 37 of those times.

47. Community Oasis -

A visitor walking the winding, sun-dappled paths of Memphis Botanic Garden past stands of maple trees and beds of hydrangeas might never guess that there was a time when a black cloud hung low over the East Memphis attraction.

48. Buying Yellen -

President Obama recently made it official that Janet Yellen will succeed Ben Bernanke as the head of the Federal Reserve. Janet has spent much of her career as a dedicated and vocal advocate for the unemployed. With participation rates low, and the unemployment rate high, the markets anticipate that Janet will continue, if not augment, Ben Bernanke’s expansionary monetary policies. A renewed enthusiasm for monetary stimulus has had observable market impact.

49. Memphis Financial Experts ‘Not Worried’ About Shutdown -

David Waddell, president and CEO of Memphis-based Waddell & Associates, had a two-word response when asked what financial and economic impact there might be from the current dysfunction in the nation’s capital.

50. A Dose of Fiscal Truth: Important, Not Urgent -

I recently received an email from a client asking how in the world the U.S. would overcome its bulging debt pile. There are three parts to this answer.

First, the annual deficits we run (tax receipts – spending) tend to correlate more with economic activity than policy. Through August, bolstered by an expanding economy, government revenues have increased 13 percent, contributing to a 35 percent reduction in the deficit. We will likely finish the fiscal year with a deficit of 4.5 percent, still high by historic standards, but much lower than the 10 percent hit during the crisis. Deficit figures are overwhelmingly a function of economic activity.

51. The Fed Sets Fed Policy -

The Fed has two primary job descriptions. First, keep prices stable. Second, promote an environment of economic growth that provides employment opportunities. Which is more important?

Economic crises at their core typically consist of disruption in financial and currency markets. Once the financial transmission mechanisms fail, hard recessions and unemployment spikes follow. I struggle to identify a crisis scenario where the catalyst was a spike in unemployment that led to a disruption in the financial and currency markets. Therefore, a central bank’s first and highest priority should be maintaining price stability.

52. Time for a Rally Gut Check -

A couple of weeks ago, we discussed the lack of unanimity in the emerging markets sell-off. While the emerging markets index suggested distress within the class, a closer look revealed that only a few countries were truly under fire.

53. The Data Have Spoken -

Each new month delivers a flurry of economic data. The current deluge will weigh heavily on the Federal Reserve’s decision to maintain or reduce quantitative easing. Let’s quickly review the recent releases and handicap the Fed’s taper temptation.

54. A Welcome Divergence -

One of the most dominant themes prior to the financial crisis was the great convergence of global markets. Bond markets seemed to synchronize around a “global” rate regime and stock markets seemed to synchronize around “global” growth rates. What began with the disaggregation of European bond yields has now spread across asset markets as well.

55. Rates Are Rising, Rates Are Rising -

On July 22, 1981, the federal funds rate (the interbank overnight benchmark rate) hit a historic high of 22.36 percent. On Dec. 11, 2011, it bottomed at .04 percent. Between 1981 and today, large company stocks returned nearly 11 percent on an annualized basis. As consensus suggests, falling interest rates undoubtedly make stocks more valuable.

56. My Taper Paper -

Last week, we discussed the recent upshift in the global economy. The next major moment for the market will occur on Sept. 18 when 65 percent of economists expect that the Fed will announce a “tapering” of its quantitative easing program. The movement in the 10-year Treasury bond interest rate confirms this expectation as rates have now climbed to 2.84 percent, up from 1.6 percent three months ago.

57. The New One Thing -

Now that earnings season has essentially ended, the stock market needs a new muse. The next earnings season begins in early October. In between, analysts will tweak models and revise forecasts, but real data releases overpower estimate releases. In mid-September, the Fed will either reduce bond purchases or buy more time. President Obama will choose between the over-politicized Larry Summers, the over-dovish Janet Yellen or the over-qualified Don Kohn to succeed Ben Bernanke as the next Fed head. We will also soon revisit Washington’s favorite debate over the debt ceiling.

58. State Rules Get Tighter Scrutiny -

NASHVILLE (AP) – Gov. Bill Haslam took office with a 45-day freeze on implementing any new government rules.

Since that time, the administration is using less dramatic and less direct ways of affecting the bureaucratic regulatory process.

59. Two Acts Remain in Bernanke’s Screenplay -

After weeks of volatility, driven by complex Fed speculation after a chorus of mixed messages, Chairman Bernanke re-focused marketplace attention on the Fed’s core purpose. As per Congress, The Federal Reserve Act directs: “the Federal Reserve...shall maintain long run growth of the monetary and credit aggregates commensurate with the economy’s long run potential…to promote the goals of maximum employment, stable prices and moderate long-term interest rates.”

60. Central Bank Bumper Cars -

Markets last week called Bernanke’s bluff and ended the second quarter on a high note. As we well know, Bernanke spooked markets with a timeline for dousing quantitative easing by mid-year 2014. Bond markets convulsed and the 10-year Treasury yield climbed from 1.61 percent to 2.67 percent. Why would Chairman Bernanke do such a thing?

61. King Kong Versus Godzilla -

Among attentive investors the recent bout of market volatility has reprised fears of country, currency, economic decline and general market collapse. When global macro-market events occur, large trading positions that have been spooling quickly unspool, leading to jarring movements like those we are witnessing in Japan. These environments become a bit of a predator’s ball, as short-term traders feast on volatility, which only amplifies volatility further.

62. Glacial Job Creation Equals Glacial Stimulus Reduction -

This has been the weakest job recovery on record. The 175,000 new jobs created in May did slightly exceed analyst estimates, but also slightly trailed population growth. The percentage of the U.S. adult population with a job equals 58.6 percent. This number hit 67 percent back in 2000. Adjusting this ratio for the “retirement effect” to only include those aged 25 to 54 increases the rate to 76 percent, but it still hasn’t budged for three years and is 5 percent lower than it was in 2007. This cannot be explained by retirees. Our job creation machine is malfunctioning.

63. Daily News Seminar Spotlights Financial Hot Topics -

Craig Dismuke, the chief economic strategist of Vining Sparks IBG LP, opened his keynote address at The Daily News’ “Money and Markets” seminar Thursday, June 6, with a story that brought some insight into the wisdom that people – often erroneously – ascribe to experts in various fields, including economists.

64. Safe Can Sometimes Become Risky -

When is safe unsafe? Ever since the Federal Reserve began its zero interest rate policies, investors have searched for higher yielding assets. This makes sense. If you need income to run your household or make your pension distributions, you must locate investments that provide yield. If Treasury bonds will not, what will?

65. Reacting To Fed Dread -

In an otherwise exceptionally dull trading week, markets worldwide reacted violently last Wednesday to Ben Bernanke’s mixed congressional testimony and the Fed meeting minutes released later in the day. Why so skittish?

66. National Economy Headlines Seminar -

The next installment of The Daily News’ ongoing seminar series will offer a comprehensive look at the state of the economy, with insight from a panel of thought leaders and a keynote from the chief economic strategist of Vining Sparks IBG LP.

67. How High Can We Go? -

Total stock market returns combine dividends with a change in earnings and a change in multiples. Right now, the dividend yield on the S&P 500 is 2 percent. The earnings estimate for the S&P 500, for year-end 2014 as projected by Standard and Poor’s, approximates $120, as trailing earnings equal $100 per share.

68. The No-Growth Rally -

Over 200 S&P 500 companies have now reported earnings. While 70 percent or so have beaten expectations, the blended earnings growth rate has basically flat lined. Using revenues as a purer gauge adds little encouragement. Revenues have also flat lined over the last year. Without an uptick in global economic activity or the ability to pass on price increases to customers, US earnings look winded. How can the rally persist without growth?

69. Rotten Golden Apples in a Can -

It has been a particularly tough stretch for sage taxicab investors. My recent taxi tips have centered on three clear winners. Gold, Apple and Cash. Let’s evaluate.

Cab Tip #1: Central Bank Money Printing = Gold Prices Rising

70. Lofty Company -

For creating the overnight package-delivery business four decades ago, and for everything his company has done since, FedEx Corp. founder Fred Smith has been placed among an elite group of chief executives by the business magazine Barron’s.

71. The Cyprus is Falling! -

The Cyprus economy is $23 billion. (The Vermont economy is $26 billion.) Bank loans in Cyprus are eight times the size of GDP, compared with 3.5 times in the Eurozone and 1 times U.S. GDP. With leverage ratio’s that high, a small deterioration in loan performance can render the banking system insolvent.

72. Look at the Facts, Not Rhetoric -

CITE YOUR SOURCE. In human psychology, fear seems more legitimate than hope. Claims of “impending doom,” and “bursting bubbles” elicit fast emotional responses that seem impervious to critique. So many programs, speeches and advertisements prey on this phenomenon today.

73. Waddell Recaps 2012 at State of the Union Address -

Once a year, Waddell & Associates president and CEO David Waddell presents a “State of the Union” address to clients.

74. Urbanization Equals Global Opportunities -

The worldwide adoption of competition and capitalistic principles has unlocked tremendous prosperity growth. At the core of this prosperity movement are the unique advantages created by urbanizing the world’s population. Urban populations are more productive, more innovative and more efficient than their rural peers.

75. Waddell Recaps 2012 at State of the Union Address -

Once a year, Waddell & Associates president and CEO David Waddell presents a “State of the Union” address to clients.

76. Waddell’s Ideals Centered on Consistency, Honesty -

At a recent appearance in Nashville before an audience of 100 clients, friends and employees at the Country Music Hall of Fame, David Waddell of Waddell & Associates Inc. gave his company’s annual state of the union address.

77. Quiet Period Could Lead to Frisky Phase -

Buyer Intent Building By some analysis, the last two weeks have exhibited the lowest stock market volatility since 1986. While sideways markets are boring, they also reduce anxieties. On average, since 1980, the S&P 500 experienced intra-year declines of 15 percent.

78. Strong January Portends Positive Year -

As Goes January … Many market observers state that as goes January, so goes the rest of the year. Mathematically, 1/12th of the year has now passed and the S&P 500 has tacked on 5 percent. Fast-forwarding through the statistical modeling, a strong January predicts a strong annual return precisely because of the positive lead January passes to February. This head start advances the probability of positive returns. Furthermore, a sizable head start increases the odds of success even more. If January is slightly positive, the odds of a positive year are 67 percent. If January is up 5 percent, the odds jump to 79 percent. So a 5 percent positive January has a high probability of correlating with a year of positive equity returns. We cannot rest in that, however, as a 4 percent loss from this point still fulfills the criteria. Better check the vitals.

79. Memphis Investment Firm at Odds With Dell -

Following Memphis-based Southeastern Asset Management’s public opposition to Dell Inc.’s proposed $24.4 billion buyout, the Texas-based tech company is trying to reassure shareholders that the deal will be beneficial.

80. Let’s Start a Currency War -

Prior to Nixon’s closing of the gold window in 1971, world currencies traded in value relative to the U.S. dollar, which was tethered to gold at $35 an ounce. Following the divorce, currencies began trading relative to the dollar, but the dollar in turn began trading relative to other currencies.

81. New Executive Director Tapped for Economic Club -

The Economic Club of Memphis has a new executive director.

Dr. Christine Jiang succeeds Dr. David Kemme as executive director of the club. She begins her duties immediately.

82. New Executive Director Tapped for Economic Club -

The Economic Club of Memphis has a new executive director.

Dr. Christine Jiang succeeds Dr. David Kemme as executive director of the club. She begins her duties immediately.

83. Three Components Will Determine 2013 -

Forecasting 2013 The fiscal cliff episode proved bullish for stocks. Fearful asset owners facing tax code uncertainty pulled outsized income and capital gains into 2012. Sellers quickly became buyers to complete the tax arbitrage. For the week ended Jan. 9, investors poured $18.3 billion into stock mutual funds and ETFs, the largest combined inflow in five years. This capital re-commitment has propelled the S&P 500 3.25 percent higher in 2013. Does this mean that 2013 will continue to see fantastic equity returns? Domestic stock returns are driven by three primary components – earnings, dividends and valuations. Let’s consider each to arrive at our forecast.

84. Debt Drama -

One of the common refrains among money managers and economists in Memphis is that the nation’s political leaders spend too much time wrestling with crises and not enough actually solving problems.

Case in point: in a few weeks, the federal government will have reached the limit of its authorized borrowing capacity, the so-called “debt ceiling.” In truth, that moment already has come, but the U.S. Treasury Department has some procedural room to maneuver to keep things going for a few more weeks.

85. Cash In on Cashing Out -

While we may not know the details of next year’s tax increases, we do know that taxes will increase. This has created a rush of year-end tax planning to sell assets, issue dividends and claw compensation forward. In fact, hundreds of public companies have announced special dividends to pad investor’s pockets before year-end.

86. The ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Misdirection -

Please recognize that the “fiscal cliff” debate will not end with current compromise. This debate has just begun so get used to it. Our long-term fiscal situation is toxic and entirely a function of Medicare and Medicaid. Today, Medicare and Medicaid expenditures approximate 5 percent of U.S. GDP. According to the Congressional Budget Office, public health expenditures will rise to over 10 percent of U.S. GDP by 2037.

87. Fiscal Equality vs. Efficiency -

Beneath the “fiscal cliff” debate is a fundamental battle of philosophy. Liberal economics prioritizes equality, while conservative economics prioritizes efficiency. Migration toward either of these polls contains costs and benefits. Below is an excerpt from a tax study of developed nations commissioned by the Paris based OECD:

88. Economic East vs. West -

Yin and Yang Since Election Day, stock indices have fallen sharply, reflecting the Washington non-consensus. As we enter another legislative sausage session, investors can’t help but recall the 20 percent drawdown that marked the last high-stakes negotiation.

89. Memphis Chamber to Host New York Times’ Sanger -

Next week, the Greater Memphis Chamber is hosting a conversation in Memphis with the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.

David Sanger, who’s also the author of the new book “Confront and Conceal” and who has been at the vanguard of reporting on issues related to Iran for the Times, will be here as part of the chamber’s regular “A Conversation With …” series.

90. Desperately Seeking Dividends -

The 10-year Treasury bond, which historically yields 5 percent, yields 1.75 percent today. At these levels, the risk/reward features of low yielding bonds and higher yielding stocks favors stock dividends over bond interest payments. However, with dividend yields in hot pursuit, investors have driven valuations higher for U.S. dividend payers. In fact, high yielding U.S. stocks now carry higher valuations than the market on average, far above their normal 20 percent discount. This is the highest valuation premium they have commanded since the 1950s. This does not foretell an immediate valuation collapse, but it does beg the question, are there better alternatives?

91. The Great Big Empty Bandwagon -

Year-to-date the MSCI World index has climbed 15 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed within 5 percent of its all-time high. The S&P 500 has returned 14.9 percent annualized over the last three years. Corporate earnings have reached a record high. Has any of this inspired investors?

92. Self Reform Can’t Come Soon Enough -

We Have Seen the Face of Reform In 2008, a prolonged lack of credit scrutiny led to a financial crisis. While the clean-up of the financial system continues, the bulk of the rationalization happened very quickly. Massive institutions failed, while remainder institutions began internal austerity programs to reconstruct rotten balance sheets.

93. It’s All Tied Up -

The markets today must reconcile two primary opposing factors. On the one hand, global economic statistics and earnings pre-announcements describe a listless global economy – not recessionary per se – but not healthy enough to really drive revenues and confidence. On the other hand, the globe’s major central banks have all committed to indefinite and unlimited monetary stimulus.

94. Examining Unknowns, Certainties -

US Fed = Yes, ECB = Yes, US Government = Maybe, China = Unknown Last week’s announcement of “unlimited” easing from the U.S. Fed combined with the “unlimited” easing announcement by the European Central Bank extended the global rally in everything but Treasuries.

95. First Tennessee Unit to Move Downtown -

First Tennessee Bank is preparing its Downtown Memphis headquarters for occupancy of one of its units.

96. Senate 2013: Less Visible, More Important -

The 2012 presidential election has two widely contrasting visions, larger than life personalities, and plenty of high praise and low blows. Over the next three months, the contest for the Oval Office will dominate American discourse. However, while the big game for the country may be the presidential race, the big game for the markets will likely be the Senate race.

97. Facts, Feelings Go Hand in Hand -

Investment Lesson: Sentiment Growth just as good as Earnings Growth Two factors move stock prices, earnings and sentiment. Earnings tend to be backward looking while sentiment tends to be forward looking. In market parlance, multiples or valuation ratios (price/earnings, price/book, price/sales) measure sentiment. Stocks prices increase when earnings increase, sentiment increases or both increase.

98. Economic Outcomes Remain Up in Air -

Fedcasting With the markets and the politicians currently co-dependent, vacation for one implies vacation for the other. Trading volumes have collapsed. For those who are manning their trading terminals, daily market activity amounts to position-squaring ahead of September’s central bank policy proclamations.

99. What’s On, What’s Off Economic Table? -

On the Table: Conversational Easing With the data stream lukewarm at the moment, markets needed policy support for handholding. Recent history demonstrates that when market anxieties rise, fiscal and monetary authorities intervene. We have described this as the “Punch/Counterpunch” market.

100. Small Businesses Create Big Economies -

While consumption expenditures account for 71 percent of our economy, investment activity (essentially delayed consumption) determines the magnitude of future consumption. When the economy generates a high level of investment activity, business productivity grows, innovations flourish and new employers create jobs. For these activities to occur, business owners must be willing to take risks. Within the U.S. economy, 65 percent of net new jobs created between 1992 and 2010 came from companies with fewer than 500 employees. In the U.S., as goes small business, so goes the economy.