Thursday, February 23, 2012

Is the Crisis Deepening?; Meg Whitman, Prototypical CEO Failure

Well, the PPT must have gotten up early today, because no sooner did the Dow dip 50 points off the open than it was boosted to a 50 mark to the positive.

Was there a reason, a rationale? Sure. Stocks must go up to bolster the perception that all is well in the good old US of A.

Naturally, once the market was back on a solid we're-going-to-13,000 footing once again, the HFT momo-chasers went to work, keeping the abhorrent, clumsy, no-volume rally going for the remainder of the lackluster session.

With stocks just screaming higher and higher virtually every day, some elements on the general tenor of the stock market rally vis-a-vis the real world economy need to be scrutinized.

Oil continues to rocket higher, up over $108 per barrel in electronic trading late today. The Euro/Dollar trade continues to be the creepiest, most cynical lie to the world. How does the Euro, with most of Europe already in a recession and the rest of it teetering on one, continue to ramp higher against the US dollar? Aren't we supposed to be in better shape than the various countries making up the Eurozone? Apparently not, because the EUR/USD hit another high today, closing above 1.33. It simply makes no sense, except if you have significant positions (like Goldman Sachs does) long the Euro and the stock market.

Last we checked, GDP was still growing at less than 3% in the US, though in Europe, minus signs and fractions of one percent dot the landscape. America still has more than 14 million unemployed people, wages have been stagnant to lower for more than a decade and the real estate market is officially in depression-like throes.

Something is definitely not right, when the Euro is up while most of the continent is in recession, oil is ramping to record levels for this time of year despite all manner of data showing rampant demand destruction, gold and silver are ripping, yet the stock market continues to rise and rise and rise without so much as a 3% pull-back. The Dow Jones Industrials are up a wicked, unbelievable 2339 points since October 1, an incredible gain of 21.95% in less than five months. Yep, the rich are getting richer... again.

Watch retail analyst Howard Davidowitz rip apart the notion of "growth" in the video below:

Hundreds of stores closing from a handful of retailers; the rest, Davidowitz calls "train wrecks."

A couple of lines gleans from Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) newly-minted CEO, Meg Whitman, aptly demonstrate what's wrong with corporate and political America. First, Ms. Whitman, who, after a stint as the CEO of eBay, launched an unsuccessful bid for the governorship of California. Out of luck and out of a job, Meg was pegged to lead HPQ out of the abyss.

Good luck with that, you clueless board members. Whitman is uniquely suited to drive Hewlett Packard even deeper into an already well-dug hole. Her "success" at eBay can more or less be summed up in one line: A trained monkey could have done as well, and probably without alienating as many people, buyers and sellers alike.

Ebay was one of the few dotcom companies that fit the new paradigm of the internet perfectly, allowing small businesses and individuals to buy and sell just about anything under the sun. Ms. Whitman had, in reality, little to do with making the company a household name. It was all about eBay's near-monopolistic position in the online retail space that made the company a success. It would have actually been more of a surprise had she not succeeded. Meg Whitman didn't start the company. She got in when the getting was good.

In any case, here's some of the cliche claptrap that Whitman spewed on her CNBC interview this morning:
  • On the timing of HPQ's turnaround: "Fundamental change... will take some time."
  • On the challenges facing the company: "There are three 'buckets' of challenge: 1) basic execution, 2) each business has it's own unique challenges, 3) there have been changes in our business."
  • On HPQ's structure: "We have to zero-base the bureaucracy..."
  • "We have to save so we can invest and compete more effectively."
  • "We're not where we want to be in China." (Meg should know. Ebay shuttered its China operations under Whitman after years of abject failure and lack of traction.)
  • On when HPQ's metrics will show some change: "We'll know a lot by the end of 2012. Revenue acceleration in 2013."

It's a shame Ms. Whitman's on-the-job training as CEO of a real company didn't include lessons in humility, because the market provided some for her after the company beat (lowered) expectations narrowly this quarter, but was short on revenue and even shorter on guidance. Traders punished HPQ to the tune of a 6.5% decline upon the occasion of the release of its most recent quarter's numbers. That's a pretty impressive drop, considering the company had already lost a two-fifths of its value in just the past year. Meg Whitman is your gal, especially if you ascribe to the Peter Principle.

There isn't a day of reckoning coming. There will be many days of many reckonings over the coming years because the entire global financial and commercial system is being kept afloat on dreams, lies, cronyism and hype.

Dow 12,984.69, +46.02 (0.36%)
NASDAQ 2,956.98, +23.81 (0.81%)
S&P 500 1,363.46, +5.80 (0.43%)
NYSE Composite 8,135.98, +41.60 (0.51%)
NASDAQ Volume 1,723,876,625
NYSE Volume 3,726,037,500
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 4040-1606
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 243-24 (Wowser! Only one new low on the NYSE.)
WTI crude oil: 107.83, +1.55 (up 10% in February)
Gold: 1,786.30, +15.00 (closing in on all-time highs)
Silver: 35.56, +1.30 (about to break out)

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