Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Stock Market: What We Could Learn From History - Reasons For A Perpetual Bull Market


These days there is an active discussion whether we are still in a bear market or if a new bull market already has started. The usual definition says that a bear market begins when stocks (or other assets) have fallen at least 20%. Otherwise a bull market starts after gains of at least 20%. Often a bear market is defined as a lengthy period without cumulative stock gains and a bull market as a lengthy period with rising stock prices.

The (perpetual) bear market camp refers to the fact that the stock prices today are close to the peak from spring 2000, that means that on balance they have been stagnating for around 13 years.

I am definitely in the perpetual bull market camp. I reckon that the start of the recent rally in February 2009 was the begin of a long term or perpetual bull market and the demise of the bear market which has started in Winter 2000.

The long term chart of the Dow Jones Averages above tells us that stock prices have been rising over the years extremely, on average around 7% per year. But there were very long breaks: Stocks have been virtually unchanged from 1929 to 1949, then from1962 to 1982 and from 2000 to 2012. After all those breaks followed long and strong bull markets: From around 1949 to 1962 and from 1982 to 2000.

I believe that a very long period of climbing stock prices has already began, comparable to the phase 1982 to 2000. Then the Dow multiplied 10 times!

I see at least 4 reasons for this perpetual bull market:

1. During the recessions of the years 2001/02 and in 2008 companies restructured and reduced costs significantly in order to survive. Now they are much fitter and more efficient than before. I believe that this learning process will continue and translates into a long term trend of rising company profits.

2. We are experiencing a new technological revolution, meaning rapid innovations in computing (including mobile devices like iPads & iPhones), engineering, robotics, nanotechnology and other fields. All these processes are further enhancing the efficiency of the companies and create new markets. These trends should fuel economic growth and therefore generate gains on the stock markets over many years to come.

3. The global economy will get a lot of tailwinds from the emerging markets thanks to the catching up process of China and other emerging markets. People in Asia, Latin America & Africa  have a tremendous backlog demand because income & fortune are much lower than in the Western world. But there are billions of talented & diligent people who want to reach the US and European standard. Therefore those people are working hard and they are investing to be able to expand their consumer expenditures in the decades ahead.

4. Inflation rates are at historical lows. Hence central banks don´t have to raise interest rate sharply to break inflation which often caused a recession in the past. Therefore the low interest rates will continue for years and inspire investments that will add to the economic growth.

I believe that these beneficial developments will strengthen one another and lead to a new period of prosperity and continuous gains on the stock market.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Economy: Lessons From The Earnings Season

Last week the U.S. earnings reports season Q4 2012 ended unofficially. By then 429 companies of the S&P 500 had reported their Q4 numbers. According to Bloomberg 74% of them beat the profit estimates of the analysts (bloomberg). Their profits rose 4.2% compared to last year, better than expected (plus 2.6%  forbes).

This earnings growth rate is respectable in the face of the fact that the U.S. economy has stagnated in Q4 (GNP minus 0.1%) and Europe stuck in a recession. It seems that the analysts are too pessimistic. They underestimate the growing efficiency of the S&P Companies who had restructured in the last 2 recessions (2001/2 and 2008) and have been reducing their costs significantly. This leads to efficiency gains which translate into rising profits even in a sluggish economy.

Analysts also underestimate the tailwinds from China and other emerging markets. A fast rising middle class in Asia & Latin America shows a growing appetite for products & services and generates expanding markets for Starbucks, McDonald`s and other S&P companies.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Movies: Academy Award Nominated Animated Short Films 2013

There is a universe where everything is possible, where no physical rules exists. This universe is called "animated short films". One day before the Oscar ceremony I watched the Academy Award nominated animated short films 2013 at New York´s IFC cinema theater (ifccenter). This year`s harvest (available on iTunes) wasn´t quite as good as least year´s but it was enjoyable anyway.

"Maggie Simpson in the ´Longest Day Care`" (USA 5 minutes) was an episodes from the TV series "The Simpsons". Funny & hilarious.

"Adam and Dog" (USA 16 minutes) tells the Adam & Eve story from the point of view of a dog. The animators created an amazing "Garden of Eden", a gorgeous tropical landscape populated with huge plants and impressive animals. Where can I book a flight to there?

"Fresh Guacamole" (USA 2 minutes) showed the preparation of the avocado-based sauce Guacamole that originated with the Aztecs in Mexico. The flick was shot in real, but replaced the original ingredients by surprising items. The best idea of this collection.

"Head over Heels" (UK 10 minutes) told the story of a couple with a complicated life. One lived on the ground of the house, the other reciprocally on the ceiling of the same room where 2 contrarian gravity's ruled. The best story.

"Paperman" (USA 7 minutes) was about an office clerk who tried to find again a chance acquaintanceship in a stylized New York. The flick was charming and romantic, but at the end a bit kitschy as usual for Disney productions.

Because the running time of the animated flicks was so short the IFC showed some additional movies:

"The Grufallo´s Child" (Germany/UK 27 minutes) is based on a popular children`s book published in 1999 (wikipedia). The child of a fantasy creature, called Grufallo, goes into the forbidden deep forest to find a frightening "Big Bad Mouse".

"Dripped" (France 9 minutes) was about a thief and integrated  surrealistic paintings playfully into the story.

"Abiogenesis" (New Zealand 5 minutes) was a Science Fiction movie which illustrated the thesis that life on earth was originally seeded from another world.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

New Media: Netflix - Yes We Can: House Of Cards

The media industry is in transition. Traditional media companies like publishers, TV-networks and Hollywood studios meet a rising competition from Internet arrivistes: Apple and Google are streaming movies via iTunes and YouTube. started publishing e-books and producing TV-shows (businessinsider  digitaltrends) .

This month "House of Cards" appeared, produced and exclusively streamed on the Internet by Netflix (imdb). The Online lender of DVDs and supplier of movie downloads invested $ 100 Million in this project and gained David Fincher ("Social Network", "Seven", "Fight Club") to produce the 2 seasons with 13 episodes each ( Fincher also directed the first 2 episodes. 

According to Wikipedia the director was not just attracted by the ample budget, but also by the "long form", meaning that the TV series would give the possibility to develop a complex characterization which the usual 2 hours movie does not (wikipedia). Netflix further gained the 2-times Oscar winner Kevin Spacey ("Usual Suspects", "American Beauty") as leading character and co-producer.

"House of Card" shows what the combination of smart money, experience and talent is capable of doing these days.  Although the series has the same title as a British TV series from the 90s, "House of Cards" is a modern "West Wing", but with much more pep than that somewhat dull American political show.

Sex in the Capital City

The story focuses on fictional congressman Underwood, who is labelled as "House Majority Whip". Underwood is a modern Machiavelli. The sly and tricky ways Underwood uses to manipulate and to push his interests is highly entertaining and much more believable than the West Wing characters, who always seemed "to walk over the water". The Netflix show is spiced with frequent sex scenes and sprinkles of nudity which make the series more real and enjoyable, another difference from the rather uptight "West Wing".

I also appreciate that the show is free of annoying commercial breaks. Furthermore, being free to watch it whenever I want to is a great advantage. You could watch  all the 13 episodes form series one in one piece if you are up to it!

Kevin Spacey is the ideal Underwood. It is fun to watch how the  2-time Oscar winner transfers the political scene of Washington DC into his own puppetry.
Robin Wright, as Underwood`s wife, is as well, a great gain for the series and for the audience. The exquisite actress blends a sharp intellectual quality with erotics.
Kate Mara, as an ambitious journalist, also delivers a mixture of smartness & sex appeal and is an integral part of the show.

The rest of the cast also meets the high Hollywood acting standards and is worth their money, especially Corey Stoll.  His character as a political tool for Underwood while struggling with his past as alcoholic and drug addiction makes the show more authentic.

The cutting edge cinematography adds to the pleasure of the series. I especially indulges the opening credits which display the beauties of the U.S capital. They remind me of my visit to to Washington DC in 2011 which impressed me with elegance and the visibility of her wealth & power.

I am looking forward to the further evolution of the new media which should lead to more high quality entertainment to come.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Economy 2013: Good Capitalism

It´s chilly and windy in New York City. But in the morning I could spot a long line of people. Did they wait for a free lunch? Did they hope to get a soup from Salvation Army? Were they standing in line to get free clothing and other help?

Nope. One of the shops on Manhattan`s cool Lafayette Street had a new sales deal which attracted lot of suitors in defiance of the wintery weather. The place sells skateboards and skate clothing.

These days you could see a lot of those lines, they pop up wherever a hip store offers something new. The media call this "the great depression". But I guess one of the passerby hit the spot. He called this action "good capitalism".

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Movies: Academy Award Nominated Live Action Short Films 2013

I like short movies. The short form allows the film producer to present an idea without stressing the patience of the audience too much. Yesterday I watched the Academy Award nominated live action short films 2013 at New York´s IFC cinema theater (ifccenter).

I could have done without the film "Henry" (Canada, 21 minutes). It´s about an old man losing his memory and confusing past and presence. It seems that the makers tried to exploit the troubles of old age to gain their audience with a melancholic movie. Nice try, but I guess this Alzheimer story will soon be forgotten.

The rest was better. "Asad" (South Africa/USA, 18 minutes) tells the story of a boy in Somalia, a country corroded by war. The kid, who lives in a very poor environment, tries to become a fisherman and has to deal with manic and marauding Somali soldiers and with neighbors who try to make a living by capturing ships (the infamous Somali pirates). It´s a weird tropical story, but somewhat funny & entertaining.

"Bukashy Boys" (Afganistan/USA, 28 minutes) focuses on 2 boys in  Afghanistan. One of them is living on the streets, the other, who has to assist his father, a black-smith, is not much better off. Both are dreaming to become famous "Buzkashi riders". Those are men who play a kind of rough horse polo with a dead goat. The camera showed the poverty, but also delivered awesome shots from the landscape around Afghanistan`s capital Kabul. The snow covered mountains could be worth for a visit when the war is over, when ever that will be.

I favor 2 films of the collection. One is  "Death of a Shadow" (Belgium/France 20 minutes). This is a fantasy film about a man who exists after his dead in a kind of shadow world. On the behalf of a collector, who seems to rule this world, he has to take pictures of people in the moment of their deaths which conserve those events to be stored in the collection for eternity. The shadow world is equipped with strange mechanism which allow their users to decide about time and kind of death (for instance old age or murder). "Death of a Shadow" is mysterious and has a nostalgic charm.

My personal Oscar candidate is "Curfew" (USA, 19 minutes). It is a very modern & hip flick with humor and emotions, which is shot in New York (imdb). Writer & director Shaw Christensen tells us the story of a man who has been coaxed to spend a day babysitting his nine-year old niece. Both, the unwilling babysitter and the child`s mother, are emotionally challenged and somewhat run-down, but the child, doesn`t care. The girl is a whiz kid, which reminds me a bit to Louis Malle`s film "Zazie in the Metro" (Zazie dans le métro )wikipedia, and makes the best out of it.

The superb cinematographer (Daniel Katze) delivers cool pictures and the congenial soundtrack amplifies the pleasure. I guess we will see the name Shaw Christensen more often on the screens of the cinema theaters, however the Oscar committee will decide on Sunday.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Stock Market: Short Sellers Are Losers

The rally on the stock market doesn´t find much love. Quite contrary, you could hear a lot of lamentation. Many commenters are complaining that the stocks are already overpriced, that they have reached a new peak and must go down and that the fundamentals don´t justify the rally.

I suppose a lot of those allegations are made up by the so called short sellers. Those persons are betting on falling prices of stocks or other assets by short selling or "shorting" them (wikipedia). For instance someone takes a wager that the recent fall of Apple on the stock market will continue. She could borrow say 100 Apple stocks from the broker and sell them immediately. On Friday she would have got $ 46,016 in return (minus fees). If the short seller has luck Apple may fall to $300. She could now buy back Apple on the stock market, paying just $30,000 (plus fees) and return the shares to the broker. In this case the short seller would earn the difference from both transactions ($ 16,000 minus the fee for the broker and the transaction costs). But:  If the short seller has bad luck the Apple stock will rise, for example to $600. Now she has to spend $ 60,000 to be able to give the borrowed stocks back to the broker.

In the long run "shorting" stocks doesn´t pay. Since its start in the year 1896 the Dow Jones (an indicator for the whole stock market) climbed on average around 7% annually. This makes an average plus of around 0.02% a day. Yes, this is a marginal number, but any plus is a loss for the short seller and even stagnating prices lead to a loss because of the fees and the transaction costs. Hence the short seller is betting against the long term trend of rising stock prices.

Of course short sellers can make huge gains in special situations, like the recession years 2000-2002 and 2007-2009, or when the value of a company is shrinking against the trend. In both cases a short seller must have a lot of luck. She has to sell close to the beginning of a falling stock market and to buy the stocks back before the stock market has recovered. Or she has to find companies that are  falling out of fashion like BlackBerry (the former Research In Motion).

Self-fulfilling prophecies?

It seems that some of the short sellers are helping their luck  by spreading gossips about the companies they are betting against. That is easy, if your are a hedge fund manager with a huge reputation and billions of Dollars in your war chest.

The New York Times writes that there is a cult around some short sellers:

"There is a culture of worship around a small circle of hedge fund deities like Mr. Einhorn, John A. Paulson of Paulson & Company and even Steven A. Cohen at a somewhat tarnished SAC Capital Advisors. When one of them says or does something, it quickly reverberates in the market" (nytimes)

Hence stocks are often falling (at least temporary) just because one celebrated hedge fund managers says so, especially if this person has many followers who believe her blindly. In this case the short seller could easily damage the trust in the company she attacks which causes others to sell those stocks too. This herding behavior could induce a sharp drop of the stock price which further undermines trust into the attacked company. Maybe Lehman Brothers was brought down by a herd of short sellers who all were betting that this bank would go bust, causing a self-fulfilling prophecy (wikipedia).

It seems that the short sellers benefitted a lot from the gloomy & paranoid sentiment which followed the stock crashes from 2002 and 2008. Maybe they even aggravated the paranoid ambience for some time.

But it seems that for now often short sellers are facing some headwinds caused by the healing global economy and the stock market rally which started in spring 2009.

Stalingrad for hedge funds?

These days we can spot an ongoing battle around Herbalife, a producer and seller of nutritional supplements ( Last year the hedge fund manager and notorious short seller William A. Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management shorted stocks of the company and then started bad-mouthing the firm. Ackman accused them to administer "a pyramid scheme". He claims "that the company relies primarily on pushing products to its recruited sales staff for its profits, rather than sales to retail customers and outlets" (nytimes).

Ackman´s allegations in combination with his huge reputation - the cult -  caused a sharp drop of the stock price (temporary minus 38%), exactly as intended. But the short seller hit some resistance. Daniel S. Loeb, another hedge fund manager, disclosed that his investment firm Third Point had bought nearly nine million shares of Herbalife. He further called the short-seller’s thesis “preposterous" and claimed that the attacked company will not only survive, but thrive (nytimes).

In February the famous investor Carl Icahn also declared that he had taken a large stake in Herbalife (13%) and confronted the short seller allegations (money.cnn).

Acording to Barron`s "John Hempton of Bronte Capital, who also owns Herbalife stock, calls this battle `hedge-fund porn` and has characterized the struggle over Herbalife as ´the hedge-fund equivalent of Stalingrad`" (barrons).

Another notorious short seller, his name is Jim Chanos, seems also to experience some headwinds. He has been banging the "China will crash" drum for years and shorting China stocks ( This reminds me of Don Quichotte because China´s growth rate didn´t fall below 7.6% and is accelerating again (plus 7.9% in Q4 2012) and in December 2012 the stock market in Shanghai started a new rally.

It looks like that the ongoing rally on the stock market, which seems to be a return to the long term trend, is crushing people like Chanos and Ackman. This could even weaken the cult of the short sellers.

Short sellers are losers.

Movies: Academy Award-Nominated Documentary Short Films 2013 - The Dark Side Of Life

Yesterday I had the occasion to see the Academy Award-Nominated Documentary Short Films 2013 at New York´s IFC cinema theater (ifccenter  -program-b. All these Oscar candidates show the dark side of life: Cancer, poverty, old-age, homelessness and what else.

The collection contains 5 films, all produced in the U.S.

"Redemption" (35 minutes) is about people in New York who collect and redeem garbage cans & bottles for a living. Maybe Hollywood is interesting in this topic because Tinseltown produces so much garbage by itself? Anyway, the flick shows even New Yorkers things which usually don`t appear on their radar screens, especially the tough competition in this profession. But 35 minutes?

"Kings Point" (39 minutes) reports about seniors who had chosen to spend the rest of their lives at a retirement place in sunny Florida. You could listen to a lot of philosophical monologues from those old timers. But do you really want to give them 39 minutes of your life?

"Monday At Racine" (39 minutes) is the most painful film of this collection. The flick focuses on breast cancer patients who get whigs in a beauty saloon on New York`s Long Island for camouflaging the optical results of their chemo therapies. The producers confront and torture their audience with the fates of these women including broken down marriages. 

"Open Heart" (39 minutes) has a bit more optimistic message and could be a real contender for the Oscar. The flick is shot in Africa and tells the stories of some children from Ruanda with a severe heart decease. They are flown to the Sudan which has the only clinic in Africa which can surgically treat those patients. I was impressed how confident and bold those kids responded to their challenging & risky journeys. The flick also gave a glimpse into the demanding political & financial situation of this clinic in a very unstable country.

My personal favorite is "Innocente" (39 minutes). This is a Cinderella story about a homeless girl whose optimism & love to colors offer her a way out of her dire situation. The film focuses on the 16 year old daughter of Mexican immigrant mother, who almost doesn´t speak English, and a father, who got deported to Mexico because of his domestic violence. But the girl`s artistic talents, humor and intelligence seem to be the foundation of a career as an artist.

I liked the positive approach of this film, which fits to the girl´s gaudy paintings. But even "Innocente" was too long, as every film in this collection, and  could have needed some editing, But I guess the Hollywood establishment choose this collection to demonstrate their liberal commitment. Coming Sunday will show how they choose.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Movies: Gangster Squad

If we believe Hollywood then in the year 1949 Los Angeles was ruled by a ruthless gangster boss. There was no law enforcement because that criminal had bribed almost all cops. The police chief of LA assigned an undercover squad of remaining honest cops and ordered them to fight the criminal organization beyond the rules of law.

The movie "Gangster Squad" narates this fight (imdb). The flick is a typical industrial product from Hollywood`s factory. The producers created a melange of cop, buddy, Western and boxer movie and borrowed from a lot of other genre films especially from "Mulholland Falls" (imdb), "L.A. Confidential" (imdb) and maybe also from classics like "A Fistful of Dollars" (wikipedia) which is based on a Samurai film. If you have seen a lot of those genre flicks "Gangster Squad" could give you many déjà vu impressions. As a tribute to modern action cinema the makers spiced their produce with some brutally and a pinch of gore.

The solid cinematography accompanied by proper production design, art direction & set decoration granted "Gangster Squad" a hip nostalgic patina. The performance of the participating army of solid Hollywood actors also is flawless. Sean Penn as the brutal gangster boss and Nick Nolte as the aging and now heavy weighted L.A. police chief are worth their money, but the exquisite Emma Stone is culpable underemployed.

"Gangster Squad" could be a passable entertainment but will be forgotten soon.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Internet: Improving Our Life Style

Last week the U.S. online restaurant reservation service Open Table provided strong numbers. In Q4 2012 their profit rose 7% compared to last year, revenues climbed 16% (reuters). The company collects monthly subscription fees from restaurants plus a fee for each restaurant guest seated through online reservation.

The rising popularity of this Internet service is no surprise. My wife and I use it very often and we don´t have to pay for it. Open Table helps us to find restaurants which is very helpful in Manhattan, a place crowded with dining places, and even more convenient when we travel. With the assistance from Open Table we can easily inquire if a table is available at the favored time, what kind of menu we can expect and how much our meal could cost. Customer reviews give us an impression what quality and ambience we could expect.

Thus we save a lot of time for calling restaurants or waiting in line and we can control our outgoing costs better by comparing different restaurants online. Hence Open Table makes our life easier and helps us to economize our budget.

Restaurants also benefit a lot from Open Table. The company helps them to advertise and to acquire new customers. Online booking also assists eateries to optimize because the reservations gives them an idea how many customer would come at a certain time. Hence they could plan their kitchen staff, food purchases and waiter teams better.

Open Table - and similar services like Yelp (an online urban city guide that helps people find places to eat, shop, drink, relax, and play, () -  are a good example how the Internet improves our life. They all help by reducing costs, raising efficiency & productivity and by generating some additional income for restaurants, hotels, shops and other companies.

I believe that the importance of Open Table & Co. could rise fast because of the mobilization of the Internet. More and more people are using iPhones, iPads and similar devices.  Wherever they are they could gain access to the World Wide Net - and hence to companies like Open Table -  which could animate them to use these services more often. Thus Internet companies will lift the productivity which could give the whole economy a new boost.

Economy: U.S. - Bank Of The World

Today we got news that "foreign holdings of US debt hit $5.56 trillion in December" ( Yahoo Finance reports that "foreign holdings of U.S. Treasurys rose 0.3% in December from November ( It was the 12th consecutive monthly gain!

These numbers signal a growing confidence in the U.S. economy. They also show that the U.S. serves as a kind of bank for the rest of the world.

If you put for instance 100 bucks on a bank account you are lending money to them. In this case you are a creditor and the bank is the debtor. The mentioned U.S. Treasurys are bonds (debt obligations) with a very short maturity. They are similar to bank deposits because they pay low interest rates and they are liquid, meaning you could sell them easily like withdrawing money from the bank account.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Yahoo Finance also reports that "China, the top foreign holder, increased its holdings 1.7% to $1.2 trillion. Japan, the second largest holder, boosted its investment 0.2% to $1.12 trillion" (

The leading role of those Asian creditors isn`t surprising. Those countries have a long tradition of saving a lot (for retirement and for hard times). But when (almost) everybody saves money, meaning that (almost) everybody is a creditor, who will be the borrower then? Hence the Asian money lenders have to find borrowers abroad.

The numbers show that the U.S. is their favorite borrower. There are a lot of reasons for that: U.S. is the largest economy of the world and still growing. Maybe more important is that the U.S. has a very stable political structure and a sound law system which creates trust, the most important asset of any bank!

Another reason for the popularity of U.S. debts (serving as a kind bank account) is their high liquidity: If the lenders in Asia or elsewhere need their money back they can easily sell their Treasurys because they will effortless find buyers who also set their trust in the U.S. 

The U.S. also benefits from their role as bank of the world. The country collects a lot of money for very low interest rates. This is the reward for the services the nation provides. This very cheap money flows into the U.S. economy fueling the growth which could attract more foreign money - a virtuous circle.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Economy: Spring On The Job Market

It`s chilly in New York, but the sun is warming us up - a least a bit. And there is more to warm us up. This morning we got news that in the US the weekly initial unemployment claims declined 27,000 to 341,000 (calculatedriskblog). Hence the positive trend on the jobs market continues "that has been slowly but steadily improving for the past four years" (scottgrannis).

Bloomberg comments that "a drop in firings will probably help workers feel more secure in their jobs, which, combined with a housing-market rebound and rising stock prices, may bolster consumer confidence and in turn spending" (bloomberg). 

Well said. We are enjoying now a virtuous circle, meaning that there are some positive developments which are strengthening each other: The healing job market is fueling the climbing consumer spending, the recovering home market and the rising stock market, which all translate again into gains on the job market.

I believe this favorable situation will continue a while because the US enjoys some beneficial tail winds from rising exports (especially to China and other emerging markets) and climbing company profits (as a result of the advancing efficiency thanks to the technological progress).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Movies: Side Effects

Deception, cheating, swindling, fakery: These are all part of the human psychology and they often make good stories. Hollywood has a tradition of psychological thrillers founded by Alfred Hitchcock. It seems that Steven Soderbergh learned a lot from the master. His movie "Side Effects"  (imdb), which started last week in the US cinemas, reminds me a little bit of Hitchcock`s "Spellbound". Soderbergh and his screenwriter Scott Z. Burns tell the story of young married woman who got a new experimental pill subscribed in order to deal with her depression. This experimental medicine causes unintended and dramatic side effects. 

The story was ok for me (this blog doesn`t have spoilers) but what really caught me was Rooney Mara´s performance as the leading character. The rising Hollywood star impressed me with her intensity. I was especially fascinated by her powerful eyes. Her gaze displayed the feelings of her character very demonstratively.  And Mara is not just a highly talented actress, she also is part of a group of Hollywood beauties who isn´t afraid of some sex scenes and of showing a bit nudity if it fits into the plot. Mara´s liberality and her willingness to share her beauty with the audience gives the film a certain erotic quality.

Catherine Zeta-Jones as psychiatrist added to the erotic quality of the movie and Jude Law as an analytical and cool shrink gave the movie a somewhat rational touch.

As in most Hollywood productions the cinematography  (Peter Andrews) was a pleasure. "Side Effects" also delivered lot of Manhattan shots for New York Lovers. If you like tricky psychology thrillers and don´t expect too much you could have 106 entertaining minutes.

Economy: In Consumers We Trust 2013 II

Tax rise? What tax rise? The US consumer didn´t respond much to this year´s tax hikes. In January the US retail sales grew 0.1% (ex-Auto sales 0.2%  calculatedriskblog). Yes, this was a bit slower than in December (plus 0.5), but the numbers are always fluctuating, as every living organism. Compared to January 2012 sales were up 4.7%. The Blog CalculatedRisk reports further that "retail sales are up 25.7% from the bottom, and now 9.9% above the pre-recession peak" (calculatedriskblog).

The advancing retail sales are driven by 3 engines: Rising stock markets (fueled by climbing company profits), a healing job market (partly fueled by growing exports) and a recovering home market (rising house prices and sales fueled by a stronger economy). All these trends are raising the wealth of the consumers, allowing them to improve their life standard by spending more money. Maybe some of the retailers, for instance American Apparel, also benefitted from their sexy offerings and marketing campaigns.

I reckon that this comfortable constellation will continue in the coming months. The raising retail should lift the company profits further which will translate into higher incomes and more consumer spending - a virtuous circle.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New York City: Spring Fashion Week 2013 - Blossoms In The Rain

These days New York City shows herself from her nasty side. It`s chilly and rainy. The streets are littered with melting snow and puddles. But there are some signs of spring - it´s Fashion Week again. Last week New York´s Spring Fashion Week started which is running through February 14th (mbfashionweek). As usual this event, which allows a glance to the fashion for the next fall season,  transforms the city into a mecca for the world of glamour.

Any day you can see a lot of beautiful girls on Manhattan`s streets, but this bi-annual meeting attracts herds of gorgeous models from all over the world. Now you can spot flocks of these beautiful creatures swirling in the heart of the city.

As last year ("The Different Flavors Of God Herself"  drivebycuriosity) I used the occasion and pilgrimaged to the Lincoln Center at the Metropolitan Opera - where the sponsor Mercedes-Benz has a tent serving as the center of gaudy spectacle.

I really appreciate that the models - who are racing to and from the tent - are very cooperative. Many willingly brake their swift walks and are posing for the photographers. Sometimes you could harvest a smile which brings a bit of sunshine into the chilly February day.

As usual a lot of photographers and other spectators are gathering at the Lincoln Center. Some of them are beautiful and fashionable dressed and could be easily confused with the models.

Maybe all the glamour helped.  Today, the 6th day of the event,  most of the snow has melted away and the sun reappeared competing with all the fashionable beauties.