Saturday, November 12, 2011

A good time to invest in old bicycles?

As all my friends know, I'm one of those annoyingly cheerful Pollyannas, nothing like that Kassandra fellow we all ignore [1].

So I liked Jay Goltz's NYT blog post on the case for optimism ...

...  things have slowly been getting better. In 2011, I hired about five additional people. And I really hired them. No 1099 contract workers, no temporary workers, no part time...

... seeing an increase in the amount of furniture people are buying, partially because houses have been selling again and people are moving again. Large real estate projects in the corporate world that have been on hold are being completed, and art is being bought for the walls. And my picture-framing business has started to see customers who come in with art they say they have been meaning to frame...

... With the exception of things like restaurant meals and car washes, many purchases can be put off only so long. Eventually, they have to happen. Roofs, air conditioning units, clothes, cars and even dental care will be bought. In my business, I have been buying new equipment –  trucks, computers — and taking care of maintenance that had been avoided the previous couple of years. I have talked to four car dealers who say they are very busy, as well many other business owners from roofing contractors to a large carpeting business. Almost all say things are better and that they believe pent-up demand is one reason...

This is how balance sheet or even liquidity trap recessions are supposed to end. It may take a very long time, but eventually people spend. Or wars happen and governments spend (oops, that wasn't so optimisitic).

There are some countervailing sentiments however. Europe is doing a slow motion version of the Crash of '09. Maybe we'll get to see how it plays out without massive governmental intervention [2].

Meanwhile, perhaps related to the slow motion train wreck of European finance, Google is cutting back on its projects. Adobe just shut down its decade-long investments in Flash, Flex, and Air. Olympus is collapsing because it can no longer conceal losses from 17 years ago -- and nobody believes Olympus is the only Japanese, or US, company with falsified accounts. ATT is squeezing customers hard. Apple's quality problems continue.

In a development that goes largely unnoticed, corporations are taking a "destroy the village to save it" approach to information security. The diversion of corporate wealth to elite compensation continues, with effects that are poorly understood.

Lastly, our whitewater world is no less frothy, complexity attacks are still ubiquitous and virtually unnoticed - and the AIs are getting smarter [3]. If you're a 'structuralist', you'd say that the Great Disruptors are still working on the world order.

And there's the "China bubble" (334,000 Google hits today).

So is this a good time to invest in proven bicycles, long lasting antimicrobials, and garden tools?

Well, bicycles are always a good idea, but I suspect what lies ahead is, as usual, a lot like what lies behind.

Somethings are improving. Other things are worsening. So the US will see some trendline improvement with periodic disruptions -- and we'll be lucky to do that well.

[1] We all know, of course, that the curse of Cassandra was that she would be always right and always ignored.
[2] It is comically ironic that the "marketarian" leaning US government should be able to intervene and the European Government cannot. Oh, wait, that's right. Europe doesn't have a government .... 
[3] Meanwhile quantum computing is looking more real every day. Not that that will be disruptive.

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