Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The influence of Stephon Marbury...

Since I use the term frequently, and since people always ask me why, let me formally address the origin of the use of "marbury" as a pejorative verb or adjective...as in "who marbury'd the last cookie?" or "I'm going to order the marbury fries."

First, a definition: In context, to "marbury" something is to look out for yourself, and yourself alone.  It stems from the perception that one-time NBA star Stephon Marbury, known for his selfishness as a teammate and player, is the consumate "me-first" athlete.  In other words, to behave "marbury-like" is to be "out for yours," and to not concern yourself with the assist, in any sense of the word.  If you "marbury" the last cookie, you selfishly took it for yourself and left none for others.  To order the "marbury" fries is to order your own, with no plans to let others nibble or share.

The origin:  Circa 1999, when Marbury was traded from Minnesota to New Jersey after he "had a falling out with management over his role with the team and demanded a trade," local New York papers began to pick up on his selfish play and his tremendous quotability... In short, he became more visible to New Yorkers than he had been during his time in the hinterlands of Minnesota.  At the time, I was the assistant Varsity Basketball coach at the Dalton School.  The Head Coach was - and still is - Teddy Frischling, who starred at Dalton himself (and later Connecticut College).  Early on, I learned from Teddy that coaching was - in part - also about drinking.  Thus, after most games we'd go to the local watering hole (The Victory Cafe) at 92nd and 3rd (I think...it has sinced moved though) for beers and appetizers.  [Incidentally, to help prove the point that the "after-game bar" is ubiquitous among coaches, consider that the Collegiate School staff had its very own Upper West Side bar of choice - Blondie's at 79th and Broadway - when I began coaching there.  And after Canisius High School games, we'd post up at local pub Eddie Brady's.]  Anyway, one particular night, Teddy and I were at a table full of people at the Victory Cafe ordering rounds of beer and food.  I'm pretty sure Teddy's two brothers - Jimmy and Billy - were involved.  I was craving nachos with my beer, but there was a snag in my plan:  Victory Cafe's nachos typically came with that "sloppy joe" gound beef on them.  Tasty, but not especially healthy and a real mess.  So right after food had been ordered by the entire table (family style sharing) and the chaos passed, I quietly asked the waitress if I could please have my very own nachos with sliced chicken breast instead of ground beef.  I wasn't sure if anyone else would prefer this change so I never pushed it on the group, and I also had a deal with myself whereby I would eat only the nachos in front of me and thus avoid the wings, the rib tips, the jalapeno poppers, the mozzarella sticks, etc, etc. ad naseum, at the other end of the table.  However, amidst the toasting and the victory celebration and the general bar noise, Teddy Frischling somehow heard me order the nachos and did two things critical to the story.  First, he "threw a flag," i.e. a napkin, to announce that I had committed a violation - a "bar ettiquette" infraction of some kind.  Second, he told the table what I did.  What followed was the typical abuse any guy gets at a bar or in a locker room when he does something that attracts the pack:  ...ohhh, ordering your own food - too good for us?...oh, chicken instead of meat - is that a new skirt you are wearing? it's real nice...do you order your own chinese food too instead of sharing family style?...hey, do you want us to order you some cucumber and a pita on the side too?...how about a Luna Bar? etc.  You get the idea.  And somewhere in there - somewhere amidst the banter - sprouted a gem.  All the Frischlings are hilarious, but I'm pretty sure it was Jimmy Frischling - who has a damn sharp wit - who said at some stage, in a dramatic and mocking tone, "Hi I'm Ben...I want those nachos just for myself...Put them here...none of you guys touch them...they are not for sharing...I'm looking out for me, and me alone...No assists here...I'm having the MAR-bu-ry NAH-chos, thank you very much..."  You had to laugh - it just made comedic sense, and it was brilliant.  That was that, and - going on ten years later - it has stuck with me ever since.  And I have to admit...few things have made me prouder than recently hearing my wife say "Hey Marbury, thanks for leaving me some coffee this morning!"  A true moment of pride.  It was as if she had said something like "gee, it's third down with a short one to go...do you think they'll go play-action and look deep after the safeties are drawn in?" during a football game.  I was beaming.  Using "marbury" still makes me chuckle every time...and his recent streaming live blog only adds to its potential usage.  If he keeps it up, one day it may even reach "google" status.  After all, the commonly used term "maverick" is based on a real family name (The Mavericks..it's true, look it up) and their refusal to brand their cattle like everyone else. Why can't "marbury" achieve the same linguistic heights?

Morning Note...

Futures are slightly lower (-45bps) this morning as markets pause following yesterday’s strength and the USD rallies 15bps.  In corporate news, Moody’s is positive on AIG’s ability to pay back the Fed.  FLR is down roughly 6% on an earnings miss and lowered ’09 guidance, and TYC reported better-than-expected but is lower in premarket action as well.  Across the pond, EU objects to ORCL’s merger with JAVA.  VOD is down 4% on earnings.  Britain’s largest mortgage lender LYG plans to cut 5,000 jobs and German confidence was weaker than expected.  Treasury auctions on tap:  $25B ten-years today & $16B thirty-years Thursday.  Recall that the bond market closes early today and that tomorrow is a bank and bond market holiday.  Wall Street Journal gives front page treatment to Gold’s record run this morning.  Four Fed Governors speak today – we may see some interest rate headlines as a result. 

Note that yesterday’s price action was impressive, and the advance:decline ratio was 10:1, but volumes were below average.  A guest on CNBC just summed things up very neatly:  Markets have been propped up by the very stimulus (low interest rates, which is implicit encouragement to put on debt as a consumer and take on risk as an investor) that caused our bubble to burst a little over one year ago…there is a natural tendency for this bubble to contract a bit, to slow down its expansion, and we’ve seen that trend develop as volumes shrink and markets exhibit “overbought” conditions – what traders might describe as markets feeling “tired”…we saw this develop a couple weeks ago as markets pulled back ~5%...but this past week (FOMC meeting) and weekend (G20 meeting) we got a reaffirmation of global low interest rates for an extended period of time, which once again spurred equities higher…yesterday I reference “seeing this movie before” and this is true…how is the current monetary policy any different from Greenspan’s three+ years of 1% rates, which are widely attributed with causing credit and real estate markets to collapse in the first place…and as the TV guest also said, it’s only a matter of when this current bubble bursts, not if…timing is the key.  The problem, from a trading perspective, is that understanding the underlying potential for bubble destruction does not equate to actually being right about the markets.  In some sense, ignorance is bliss.  Easy monetary policy and historically low rates simply equates to “buy the market,” and that’s that.  Ignore moral hazard, ignore the debt load on the US Gov’t, ignore that – once again – the underlying message from Uncle Sam is “spend, don’t save”…ignore it all.  As they say, “hold your nose and buy ‘em” and “don’t fight the Fed.”   Clearly markets are pulling back today – this is natural after a solid upward surge yesterday – but all it takes is another subtle reminder of low rates, easy money, the USD carry trade, etc. for the dollar to drift and equities to rise again.  That is a tough trend to bet against.  One more paraphrased quote that we all know and love:  “the market can be wrong for a lot longer that you or I can stay solvent.” 

Incidentally, there’s (as usual) an interesting note out from ResearchEdge this morning and Briefing.com echoes a similar theme.  See the quote section below for the full text of both, which seem to hint at the tipping point which I referenced recently – the point at which USD down no longer simply reflates other asset classes, but instead means “holy crap, our currency is weakening and we – as a nation – are in trouble.”  As ResearchEdge’s CEO Keith McCullough says in making use of the concept of the bailout parachute as metaphor, “…the burning buck moving into crisis mode doesn’t mean this perceived parachute of down dollar is going to reflate your hard-earned life right before you have to comply with the laws of gravity.  I am not in the business of trusting these politicians to pull the rip cord for my family either.”  Beware the tipping point when USD down is no longer reflationary but instead implies “USA – the new Zimbabwe.”  No idea how far off that might be, but barring outside influences, new news, or a change in policy, it’s coming…

DBAB ups RHI.  GSCO ups CETV.  JPHQ ups NAT, TWTC.  OPCO ups RAX.  BARD ups ROK.  CITI cuts ENER.  DBAB cuts TRW.  GSCO cuts CTCM.  JEFF cuts OPXT.  JPHQ cuts ENER.  PIPR cuts SOLR.  ANN upgrade at SPHN.  GSCO adds BJ to Conviction Sell.  BZH higher on earnings.  DGI higher on earnings.  EPR files for 4.5M secondary.  ERTS lower on earnings.  FOSL beats by 10c.  HMIN reports better.  IHG lower on earnings.  LGF beats by 20c.  MBI -10% on earnings.  PCLN beats by 53c.  RL added to Conviction Buy list at GSCO.  UBSS ups VOD. 

Asia higher overnight.  Europe slightly lower across the board.  Bond prices are higher.  Oil is flat.  USD +17bps.  Gold +5bps.

Brightpoint News: 

Brightpoint PreMarket (yest close/premkt/% change/volume):

S&P 500 PreMarket (last/% change prior close/volume): 
MBIA INC                       4.18      -12.92%            171928
AMERICAN INTERNA       39.64    +9.56%             1122124
FLUOR CORP                  45.25    -5.75%              93727
SPRINT NEXTEL CO        3.28      -4.37%              312596
ELECTRONIC ARTS         18.75    -3.99%              286262
EXCEED CO LTD             9.56      +3.86%             100
TYCO INTL LTD              34.27    -3.16%              92901
ANHEUSER-SPN ADR       48.33    -2.8 %              4700
JACOBS ENGIN GRP        44.10    -2.63%              600

Today’s Trivia:  What caused Woodrow Wilson to first proclaim a national remembrance day on November 11th, 1919 (which would later become Veterans’ Day)?

Yesterday's Answer:  The University of Miami is the area’s largest employer.

Best Quotes: “Just because no one with political power in Washington complains about the Burning Buck moving into crisis mode doesn't mean this perceived parachute of DOWN dollar is going to reflate your hard-earned life right before you have to comply with the laws of gravity. I am not in the business of trusting these politicians to pull the rip cord for my family either.

Yesterday, you saw the biggest one-day down move in the US Dollar since July. Was that the YTD low? What if it was? What if it wasn't?

1.      If it was, the US stock market has a very stiff wind ahead of herself into year end.

2.      If it wasn't, the US stock market only has one precedent of lower prices from here - the 2008 crash.

So that's why I am selling down my exposure to virtually everything. At a price, Dollar down will start to hurt as much as Dollar up can. How bad can it hurt? I have no idea - and I'm not about to "take a chance again", as Timmy Geithner is suggesting we should, either!

Yesterday was the 6th consecutive day of gains for the SP500. Since its March low, the SP500 has ripped the rails off of the Great Depressionista tracks for a +61.7% REFLATION. Benny Hill couldn't speed this comedy up any faster than it's played out. This has been the most expedited and hated rally in US stock market history.”  

--ResearchEdge note

“It was a prototypical rally for a market that has been enabled by central bankers and finance ministers who continue to supply easy money to a crowd that is growing addicted to risk trades.

The concern about that in our corner is that dollars are being borrowed to buy financial assets and are not being invested in productive capital projects.

The conundrum is that there is so much excess capacity right now that borrowing dollars to fund expansion projects is unnecessary.  That makes financial assets look like the only investment outlet at this point and that is potentially setting up for a nasty reconciliation either when crowded carry trades become less crowded or the bigger fool wises up.”

--Briefing.com note