Chutzpah and Rachmones

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     Today we begin with a lesson in Hebrew and Yiddish. You will learn two words, rachmones, meaning pity, and chutzpah, meaning arrogance. The words are the same in both Hebrew and Yiddish.

     After playwright Wendy Wasserstein died young of leukemia, her dealmaker brother Bruce adopted her young daughter. Yesterday the Lazard Freres banker also died prematurely, at 61, of heart disease. Despite her incredible intellectual genes, the little Wasserstein girl is a rachmones. She has to learn to say Kaddish (mourning prayers praising God) in memory of her mother and adopted father.

     While it is well-known that Bruce Wasserstein managed to ruthlessly snatch control of Lazard from Michel David-Weill, the Frenchman whose family had founded and controlled the investment bank by dint of chutzpah, his rachmones side is more obscure. He had a summer job after law school with the consumer-advocacy outfit Public Citizen, run by Ralph Nader. There Wasserstein met Mark Green, later to become New York public advocate, recently defeated in an election bid. They co-edited “With Justice for Some: An Indictment of the Law by Young Advocates” and co-wrote “The Closed Enterprise System.” This book argued that slack antitrust enforcement leads to monopolies and inflated prices. Because of rachmones, this multi-billionaire was a man of the left.

     Now for some theology among other things about inflation. Before the coming of the Messiah, “chutzpah will increase; prices will rise; grapes will be abundant but wine will be costly; the government will turn to heresy and there will be no reproach.

     “The meeting place [of scholars] will become a bordello; the wisdom of authors will stink; sin-fearing people will be detested; truth will be missing; and a man's enemies will take over his house.”

     (from The Talmud, Sotah 9:15, about 132-35 AD, as quoted by Dr. David S. Ariel, professor of Hebraics, Oxford University, as edited by me.)

     First you get the war between Gog and Magog, whoever they may be. Then the Moshiach comes. This is classic Jewish forecasting. Bright skies are followed by darkness and visa versa.

     Corruption, inflation, waste, and degradation precede redemption. What this Aramaic old Rabbinic text says is that there is light at the end of the tunnel for the economy, society, scholarship, property, diplomacy, and good sin-fearing truth-loving folks.

     And if things are going too well, watch out. The Golden Age in Spain was followed by the Expulsion and the Inquisition. The rise of the Jewish bourgeoisie in France was followed by the Dreyfus affair. The German Jews were prosperous and comfortable and then Hitler came to power.

     While you don't have to cite old rabbis to be optimistic about human progress, belief in progress and reformism are characteristically Jewish. Given my frequent liberal pontifications, I am asked why I am of the left by some readers. A liberal Republican abandoned by my former party faction I now mostly vote Democrat. Why, the readers ask? After all Democrats are less staunchly pro-Israel than W. (They insult my USA credentials somewhat by assuming I vote here based on the good of Israel.)

     Moreover making money is supposed to a right-wing pursuit. But look at Bruce Wasserstein. Readers of the right cannot believe that most American Jews earn money like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans. Our theological roots help explain why we are progressives, along with our history. I am certainly not a liberal because it endears me to my readers; they are vociferously on the right.

     All of which is a run-up to my latest chutzpah-laden pontification, my forecasts, without any talmudic insights. (I never learned Aramaic, not part of the Hebrew School curriculum for girls.)

     *The Dow having broken through a 10,000 closing level will do it again and again as more people who sat out the reversal of the downdrift last year belatedly join in. Others will take profits. Of course I am even prouder that I said this in May.

     *The dollar will recover and gold will probably head downward yet again. The buck is the only global reserve and exchange currency out there. Our low currency hurts Europe and countries competing with China. So their intervention will push up the dollar (and the HK$ and the RMB). It started today with the yen, the euro, and even the loonie (C$) up against ours. That was almost certainly a concerted CB attack. The market is down which is related.

     *Since Ben Bernanke is Jewish, when the price of wine becomes costly, (marking inflation) he will tighten the money supply and raise interest rates. This was already done by another Central Banker of Hebraic persuasion, Stanley Fischer of Israel.

     *Foreign investment in well-studied objectively-selected Global Investing ideas will make you money. But it will be harder to shoot a dart at a bunch of ADRs or foreign stocks and come out ahead.

     Show rachmones for those seeking investment advise on the cheap. Here are examples.

     A Globe and Mail reporter, Bob Carrick, does not know the dividend at a Canada share has been halved. He wrote up a stock we cover this week at its old yield. We bought before the dividend cut.

     Neither Chris Loew who tipped it nor I knew the divvie cut was coming. Chris is in Osaka and I am in New York, not in Toronto. But we knew after the cut was announced. What's with Carrick, supposedly the Globe and Mail expert? doesn't he read the newspaper he writes for? can't he make a local telephone call?

     For fear of libel suits I will only outline other financial reporters' transgressions. One appears to be a UK pump-and-dump insider trader where for a long time this was legal. Now the Brits have their own stock market regs. Having worked for a newsletter closed down for stock-pushing, this man is not strictly speaking publishing. You visit his website after paying to read what he writes. This may get around the law.

     Once a year he invites subscribers to his home for a party. I suspect the free feed is to comfort them with apples after they have lost money on the plugged stocks.

     Another dubious startup daily newsletter is full of improbable name-dropping by a former foreign financial reporter. He manages to omit his own name from his free write-ups mostly on commodities. There is an occasional heavy-breathing mention of an obscure stock. The ex-reporter also conveniently fails to mention that he recently was released from the Federal penitentiary (he was imprisoned for tax evasion, so I have rachmones for him.) Rather than chumming up with the Great and the Good, he visits with his parole officer.

     Chutzpah sometimes shows self-respect, not just arrogance. I have too much chutzpah to claim to more contacts than I have or to neglect basic research or to cheat my readers. For them I have enough rachmones to do my very best. My team of reporters, Buddhist, Christian, or Jewish, some of them more than one, meet the same standard.

     The ch in chutzpah and rachmones is pronounced like the Scottish ch in loch.

     I knew both Wassersteins vaguely. At Lazard I twice met Michel David-Weill, in a room decorated with pictures of the New Orleans waterfront where the original Lazard brothers made their fortune as cotton brokers. They died young and their sister, married to a Monsieur David Weill, was his ancestor. I also have met Felix Rohatyn, an earlier Lazard rainmaker, another Jewish multimillionaire of the left.

     I never forget that the press gets entrée at investment banks to prevent us writing negative articles, not because we are buddies.

     *Paul Renaud, from Phuket, writes: The Thai market is spooked as its concerned about the true state of the health of the King.

     Foreigner money is nailing down good profits - as if this recovery year is soon coming to an end.

     Markets are always forward-looking. Thai stocks and tje Baht currency have been among the strongest in the region and some believe its just time to take some profits, especially in light of still domestic political bickering

     In bull markets its not unusual to see sudden sharp drops like this, called corrections. But I for one remain medium term bullish as the economy here is back on an upward course and dividend yields remain far above bank deposit interest rates or average Asian dividend yields. Investors should focus on high yielding stocks. Investors should not panic, as stocks are already cheap and have partially discounted the known eventuality.

     The known eventuality which nobody is allowed to talk about in Thailand is the illness and possible death of King Bhumibol.

     *Here is a list of our performance stars, US-listed stocks only, year-to-date as of yesterday's close. Champion stockpicker is Fei Chen for A, up 333%; even if you observe our custom and only count half, with a 167% gain Fei is still champ. Having written for us for a few years, she tipped VIT while she was employed by them so I wrote it up in her place. She had the idea and the data.

     Second ranked is B, picked by yours truly, up 154%. A our stars which follow without a reporter are mine. Third and fourth is C, up over 120%; we are double weight in this, but we did not own the double at the start of the year.

     E picked by Frida Ghitis comes 5th, up 116%, followed by F up 111%. A Frida idea, G, is up 99% but round it up. Sixth is H, and 7th is G, up 87% and 81% respectively. H rose 78%. Then I, up 58% but we haven't owned it that long; J from Frida, up 56% (or 29% if you penalize her because we sold half); K, up 54%; and L, where we also sold half, up 51%, or 25.5% not counting the dividends. Frida-pick Mis up 45%. N and O (again half sold) are ex acqueo at 42%. P is up 29%; Q up 27%; and Rup 21%.

    sig-copy.GIF

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Visitor - Gluckstein: To call Rachmones pity is a total misunderstanding. Rachmones is Compassion. The difference between pity and compassion is as wide as the ocean. Compassion. The Jew (as I am), the Muslim, the Christian and the Buddhist who has compassion motivating them has found true gold.
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