Today I am struck by the complexity of our lives.
This morning, my wife gave birth to our 3rd son; and both mommy and son are healthy and happy as I write this. As I sat holding my newborn son, most likely our last, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of gratification. Gratification that I have a wife who supports and understands me, and who so beautifully and intelligently serves as the foundation of our family. Gratification for three healthy children. Gratification that I'm fortunate enough to have the means to support them in a way that will provide them with every opportunity. Gratification for the overwhelming support my colleagues and friends show me every single day.
My personal gratification was counterbalanced by the historic nature of today's inaugural festivities. To see millions of Americans descend upon the Capitol to show support for President Obama, to see the hope for great change physically manifested in a wave of citizens as diverse in ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and personal beliefs, was a powerful thing. And certainly President Obama delivered a speech worthy of his standing as an accomplished orator.
...So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive ... that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
But I couldn't help and think about the exorbitant costs being incurred, well north of $150mm according to the latest tally. Was today historically significant? Yes. Did we deserve a day to celebrate all that's still great about our nation? Certainly. But isn't there something obscene about spending $150mm on pomp and circumstance at a time when our nation is at its most precarious in generations? My friend Howard Lindzon said it best:
It would have been a great idea to therefore cancel the first, biggest and dumbest party of the administration for an "America has a surplus party" one or two years out if all goes well.
We are the Capital One Society. Pleasure now.
I have seen zilch that shows me we are willing to push off the "pleasure now" philosophy from our new President. Even if he talks about it tonight, he sure wont be taken seriously buy me.
Color me skeptical.
And then on top of all that, I see the market by which I make my living completely give up the goat. I've never before felt so unhappy to be right about the way things are going, and where I fear they're continuing to head. Today's market action was negative on many levels, another day of indiscriminate selling across all sectors, caps, valuations and relative fundamentals. We broke key technical support levels and saw the financials lead the way down. Even the most balanced market prognosticators understand that financials need to find their bottom before the market can begin to heal; and yet we saw carnage in the sector today: Bank of America (BAC) down 29%, Citigroup (C) down 20%, J.P. Morgan (JPM) down 21%, Wells Fargo (WFC) down 24%. Even State Street (STT), thought to be a relative safe haven in the sector, lost almost 60% of its value as problems in its commercial paper business may necessitate a capital infusion. With each passing day more people realize the crutches and cliches that helped make their investing careers are just that, crutches and cliches that fail to support Mr. Market when we're in unprecedented times.
So as I get ready to call it a night I'm left thinking about the complexity of perspective, and wonder if tomorrow will prove any less conflicting.
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