Current Trades

This week has been progressing nicely, although I have to laugh at the surge in global equity prices and the sharp drop gold/silver miners following the French election. Populism is still strong and politicians are doing stupid things. Take the US’s institution of a 20% (average) tariff on Canadian lumber this week. Will that make US lumber companies more competitive, perhaps slightly. Will Canada, one of our largest trading partners and a country with which our trade is pretty balanced, retaliate. Yeah, most likely they will. I think US consumers are the ones who will lose on the back of higher costs and likely additional tariffs. I also see the American agricultural industry being a target, because America exports so many food stuffs to our neighbors……or perhaps I should say that we have historically exported lots of agricultural products (grain, meat, etc) to our neighbors. Instead, by pissing off Mexico and pulling out of the TPP we have exacerbated a supply glut in this country. American farmers need to export those products, because we harvest far more than we consume. I think a lot of American farms will go bankrupt over the next couple years because the cost of production has exceeded market prices for many products, like grain specifically, for two years running.  Real farm income has declined four years in a row according to the USDA.  That’s the longest decline since the 1970s.  All the while, debt loads on the farms have risen as farmers try to buy time. I know markets will balance themselves eventually, as large amounts of acreage is pulled out of production, but I don’t like to see it happen on the backs of the American farmer.  The next target appears to be the dairy industry. Stay tuned for the trade war…….

Family Activity

A quick note about family activities this week, and then I’ll get to the stock trades. As you know, we have a lot of flexibility in our schedule…..and we try to use it in the most productive/practical way. That’s what flexible independence is all about, right?! Well, I was surprised to notice a new class offered at the gym last week. It was called Kids Zumba, and I thought the Little Man would love it. (Note: Zumba is a trademarked fitness program that is basically fast paced dance type exercises set to pop or hispanic music.) Anyway, the Little Man loved it…..as we expected…..but I didn’t think Mrs. IS and I would have such a good time. I’m not a big fan of exercise classes, but picture 8 three and four year olds, the two of us, and an instructor. I only wish cameras were allowed in the gym, because it was too cute. The kids danced, hopped, and followed along with the exercises pretty well. Forty five minutes later, they were all smiling…..and so were we. That class a regular part of the Little Man’s weekly routine now, and it really helps him work his wiggles out :) Continue reading

Family Time

FamilyRaceGiven that this update post is going live on a Saturday, you know we must have been up to something this week. Well yes, and no. We spent most of the week out in the woods, enjoying time as a family. It all started when Mrs. IS was offered an inexpensive continuing education opportunity, a few months back. A central topic of the training was self care and it was to take place at what is essentially a church camp, way out in the rural Florida woods. They host corporate retreats and various school groups, but the camp’s central focus is to be a church camp. She confirmed with the camp that she could bring the Little Man and I, and they said it wasn’t a problem. This is one of Mrs. IS’s favorite benefits of our flexible lifestyle. I always took the family along when I had conferences in interesting or fun areas, and now it was our turn to tag along with Mrs. IS. She had about 3 hours of sessions per day, and the rest of the day she was free to spend with us. Continue reading


The State of Retail

I think the last month has been incredibly interesting, from an investment perspective. Four months ago, following the election of Donald Trump, “everyone” knew this year was going to be all about bond yields rising…..the US dollar rising (relative to other currencies)……and massive earnings growth for US companies. The expectations written above we to be caused by Trump’s push for deregulation and enormous tax cuts. Most people believed that those things would be accomplished, because the Republican party controls both branches of Congress and the White House. I don’t personally consider Trump a Republican, but that’s my own issue. What is obvious just a few months after the election, is that nothing is a “given” in the current political climate. I readily admit that I am only writing this in the middle of April, but so far the Trump administration and congress have been unable to agree on much of anything. In fact, this looks like the most fractured and confused US government that I remember. Continue reading