Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Best Job In America: Do-Nothing Fed Governor

How would you like to have the entire financial community hanging on your every word, meet with your buddies 8 times a years and generally be rewarded handsomely for doing just about nothing?

If that sounds like a sweet gig to you, maybe it's time to look into becoming a member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Naturally, some background (make that a lot of background) in economics is a necessary part of the resume, but once you're in, the perks are substantial and the hours are better than those of even the best-paid banker.

For 6 consecutive meetings the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has met and done nothing. Sure, under the guidance of new chief Ben Bernanke, they were supposed to keep the economy cruising and hold the line on inflation, and they've achieved one of those objectives... well, maybe not, but they've managed to get through the last 10 months without changing the federal funds rate (the interest rate at which depository institutions lend balances at the Federal Reserve to other depository institutions overnight) and they aren't expected to do anything about it when they meet tomorrow, May 9, so make it a 7 in a row and a year of doing nothing. Not bad.

While some self-proclaimed experts are calling for a rate decrease, the nearly unanimous opinion is that the Fed will - and should - do nothing. America is pretty stable with a 5.25% fed funds rate, though the first quarter GDP (+1.3%) was the weakest in four years. While lowering the rate may prevent a hard landing later in the year or in 2008, is anybody really prepared to offer the oil companies any incentive to raise gas prices any further?

If anything, America needs to tighten the old economic belt a little. We're still wallowing in the aftermath of former Chairman Greenspan's unprecedented credit creation cycle, epitomized by the bust-up in the mortgage markets and a generally ailing real estate market.

And while loose money isn't exactly sound monetary policy, Wall Street isn't exactly complaining - today's modest decline was only the 4th down day for the Dow in the past 28 sessions.

So, after 2:15 pm tomorrow, expect the stock markets to get back to business and go on another in a long series of shopping sprees. Corporate profits have seldom been as good as the past couple of years and the 1st quarter of 2007 has turned out to be nearly exceptional across almost all industries.

Dow 13,309.07 -3.90; NASDAQ 2,571.75 +0.80; S&P 500 1,507.72 -1.76; NYSE Composite 9,788.03 -37.06

Market Internals: Declining issues held sway over advancers by nearly a 3-2 margin. New highs: 303, new lows: 88, in line, considering the A-D showing.

Oil kicked up a bit after 6 consecutive sessions of declines, gaining 79 cents to end up at $62.26, a manageable level which could actually auger - dare I speak - lower, or only moderately higher prices come summer. Consumers have had about enough pain, especially those driving trucks or SUVs which routinely take $80-100 or more to fill up.

Gold, again tantalizingly close to the $700 mark, backed off $3 to close at $687.40. Silver finished the day down 4 cents at $13.60.
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One to watch: Marvel Enterprises (MVL), the people behind Spider-Man, turned in blowout numbers Tuesday morning, though investors thought best to sell into the news. The stock was down as much as 0.84, but gained all day to close down just 0.20 at 29.40. There could have been some options and short shenanigans going on, but the future of the company is still somewhat cloudy as they continue to move parts around. Significant is that Marvel will be making most of their own movies in 2008, as opposed the current practice of licensing their character rights and receiving only a portion of box office receipts.

Analysts expected 35 cents per share, but Marvel shocked with 56. 2007 profits are expected to at least double last year's, so the good news is already partially baked in or the stock could continue to run. It's gone from below 20 to a peak just over 30 in the last 9 months and may be in a consolidation phase. Still, the stock looks like a keeper, a good bet to hit the 38-42 range by next summer.

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