Readers Sound Off on Banks, Buffett & the Not-so-friendly Skies

When I started publishing the Afternoon Edition, I did so with the intent of providing an uncommon perspective on different news and/or market-related topics.

Over the years, we’ve covered all kinds of diverse subjects, including economics, politics, science, art, sociology, war, elections, technology, cybersecurity, nutrition, happiness, etc.

Of course, we’ve usually connected those topics with markets and investing strategies. Our health, wealth and well-being connect … and interconnect … in various, and often not-so-obvious, ways.

In recent Afternoon Editions, we’ve written about the potential "deposit drain" in regional banks; Warren Buffett’s latest market observations, and even the outrageous happenings when flying the not-so-friendly skies.

Each of these topics elicited a lot of thoughtful comments from readers. And today’s issue is all about those comments.

But before we get to your thoughts, I want to answer a general question I get from time to time. You may have the same one yourself.

I’ve had some readers ask me why I periodically do these "feedback" issues. After all, most other publishers don’t do anything of the sort.

Well, that’s just it. We’re not like most other publishers. We like to interact with readers. And we think what you have to say is just as important as what we have to say.

The way I see it, the only way our society, our country and our world gets better is through better understanding each other … and then taking the appropriate action that helps.

Yet before you can understand and take action, you have to talk about it.

There’s no understanding without conversation first. Full stop.

So, can we talk?

On the issue of regional banks and the pending "deposit drain" generated by the Fed ceasing its quantitative easing bond-buying program, Mike K. writes:

JPMorgan’s advice to the "smaller" banks sounds like, "Merge now so that you will be ‘too big to fail.’" Once again, a government intervention to fix one issue causes another problem. Ugh.

Brad response: I agree that the entire "too big to fail" bank scandal caused a ripple effect of more problems. Ultimately, the bank bailout just creates more incentive for bad behavior going forward.

And as Mike points out, one government intervention creates dislocation when that intervention ceases.

One can argue that the bank bailout, and subsequent Fed QE, was necessary. What you can’t argue is that many industries have had to … and/or will continue to have to … deal with the unintended consequences.

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On the issue of Warren Buffett, Peter M. asks:

If Buffett thinks his company is so great, why doesn’t it pay a dividend?

Brad response: I think Buffett prefers to reinvest Berkshire profits back into the business, as that’s what’s helped him engineer a 580% rise in Berkshire Hathaway (BRK-B) since they became public in 1996. I think it’s fair game to criticize Buffett’s politics, his cult-like following and even his personal style. What’s hard to criticize is his results.

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On the issue of airline travel ruckus and trying to see things through from the safety-oriented perspective of a flight attendant, Mathew writes:

Someone needs a reality check. There is NO reason to think that the handling of these flight issues was appropriate. The only safety issue that these events have in common is that the flight crews caused an unsafe environment, and then escalated them by using threats and violence. That should never be accepted or tolerated. Every employer I have ever had would have, at the least, released me from employment for any of these.

And then we had Larry, who writes:

I rarely ever comment on articles, but I just had to say something regarding flight attendants. Just to make it clear, I do not work for the airlines. That job is just too hard on your body and mind.

What most people don’t understand is that the flight attendant’s primary goal is to save your life. They go through endless hours of training/testing, and each year they have to be recertified. It’s a known fact that people often die, not because of the accident but because they were frozen in shock after the accident and they didn’t move away from the danger area.

Those so-called ‘waitresses in the sky’ are trained to react with fixed steps and fixed commands in case of an emergency. All those rules about seatbelts, bags, tray tables, electronics, etc. are all for safety.

Typically, it is a thankless job. They carry a huge responsibility with little to no acknowledgement. They do the jobs of nurse, daycare attendant, police, fireman, therapist, liaison officer and food/beverage host! They’ve even been asked to be on the lookout for human trafficking. Day in and day out, they are supposed to do that with a smile.

I’ve flown a lot of miles and I’ve seen the people who fly. Generally, I have to say people are decent and reasonable, but there’s that small percentage that ruin it for everyone else. The drunks, the racists, the egomaniacs and the list goes on. The flight attendants are the front line that has to deal with these people and protect the other passengers (and the pilots!) from these people.

I’m not saying the airlines bear no faults for the recent incidents. As with any other profession, you have good people and you have some bad ones. It seems the news just focuses on the bad experiences. Be nice to your flight attendant; he or she may just save your life one day or the life of someone you love.

Brad response: Thank you, Mathew and Larry, for offering both perspectives here. I think it’s true to say that — in the many outrageous incidents that we all now know about — things could have been handled much, much better. I also think it’s safe to say that if we all treated flight attendants the way Larry does, flying would be a lot more enjoyable.

Given these great responses, I hope that you can see why a feedback-oriented issue from time to time is important, informative and just downright interesting.

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If you’d like to comment, or if you have a question about today’s Afternoon Edition topic, or any of the topics we cover, just leave a comment on our website or send us an e-mail.

***

If you’ve driven to your local Macy’s (M) lately only to find out that it closed, you probably weren’t surprised to see its stock tumble 17% today. Today the company reported that same-store sales fell 4.6% in Q1, an even-bigger loss than analysts expected.

The news was "less worse" for Kohl’s (KSS), where same-store sales fell 2.7% and the stock fell 7.9%. Tomorrow morning we’ll get J.C. Penney (JCP) earnings, but today we got a 7.4% dip in the shares. Nordstrom (JWN) fell 7.6% in sympathy with the retail rout, but the stock is perking up after its post-closing-bell earnings report.

Stocks closed lower across the board. However, the Dow rallied back from its 100-point loss this morning. The Industrials closed "just" 0.1% (23.7 points) lower.

• Oh, Snap Inc. (SNAP)! The parent company of social-media company Snapchat shaved 21.5% off its share price today after it reported a $2.2 billion first-quarter loss.

• Auto loan fraud on the rise: Fraud rates on loan applications are approaching the 1% mark. That was the same percentage we saw in the mortgage-lending market during the 2009 housing crisis. Of that figure, about 3% of the fraudulent information is coming from the car dealer, rather than the consumer seeking the loan. (Bloomberg)

• Will $10 million stave off the next financial crisis? Jeff Bezos, Mike Bloomberg, Bill Gates and other philanthropists and investors are donating some of their vast personal fortunes to Yale. They want it to "create an online platform to provide real-time support for dealing with a crisis" by 2019. (Quartz)

• Smoking-hot profits: Cigarette sales are down 37% in the past 15 years, while revenues are up 32% thanks to higher prices, smokeless tobacco and nicotine gum. The WSJ says Americans spent more on tobacco products than beer and soda combined. In 2017, leaders of the stock "pack" include Altria (MO, +4.1%), Reynolds American (RAI, +16.3%), Philip Morris (PM, +21.4%) and British American Tobacco (BTI, +23%).

Good luck and happy investing,

Brad Hoppmann
Publisher
Uncommon Wisdom Daily

Your thoughts on “Readers Sound Off on Banks, Buffett & the Not-so-friendly Skies”

  1. The dropping stock prices on department stores like Macy’s is no surprise considering some stupid sales practices. I received a mailing of their Macy’s Pass coupons to be used May 9 through July 30, 2017. i can use a 20% off any day I choose on any sales or clearance items or $10 off my next purchase of $30 or more; but exclusions and restrictions apply on the reverse side. By reading the small print it looks like everything sold in the store is off limits including all of the brands they sell. Most people are going to be like me and say “the hell with it”; throw the coupons in the trash and skip driving to Macy’s or worse yet, go the Amazon. No, that can’t be the root cause of why Macy’s is doing such a bang up job at failing?

  2. Very simple the paying customer is king . We quit using your products it is
    bye bye that includes the air line workers . if you think your job is to tough
    Look for a other . you have so many perks we have to pay for quit your bitching .
    Try being a police officer . With all the crap from the public ( the special ones)
    if they quit that is the end of civil disorder. Airline workers are a dime a dozen.
    You can take a lesson from companies like Sams club , Price Club or any other
    public company Customer is king no matter what is your problem . Just because you flying a mile High you are nothing special.

  3. Just a complaint about the ever shrinking seats and leg room on flights. Americans are taller and bigger than in the past, and the airlines are shrinking the seating spaces! On my last flight, my seat mate was a BIG guy, about 6’5 and very muscular. In very good shape, just a big man. His legs would not fit in the space and he had to put one leg in my area and the other leg in the person sitting in the aisle seat’s area. He was young, couldn’t afford first class, and all the aisle seats were taken when he signed up for his ticket. I am tall too, and I was very scrunched up on that flight. The flight attendants were super, but the airlines are making passengers crabby by shrinking spaces, charging for every little bag.

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