November 9, 2009

Favorites of the week Nov. 3-Nov. 8, 1930

No Journal was published Sunday, Nov. 9, 1930. Once again, a collection of my favorite items of the week. These aren't a representative selection but just the ones that made me smile or take notice.

Nov. 8:

[Note: Strangely reversed Dept.] Heard in the customers' rooms of brokerage houses: “The way stocks decline without any substantial support is beyond belief.” “Is there something we know nothing about overhanging the market?” “Why don't the 'big interests' do something to end the decline?” “Stocks are cheap, many selling far below respective book values. Why don't people buy?” “Will they ever stop going down?”

[Note: Strangely familiar Dept., except for the delinquency part.] Consumer finance companies are reportedly reducing their bank credit lines due to materially lower business this year, attributed to drop in radio and auto sales. Delinquencies said to be “far below expectations” and customers have paid down much of their debt, but renewed buying is not yet evident.

[Note: They'll get to that one of these days Dept.] Johns Hopkins researchers establish fact that common cold is infection transmitted by “non-filterable viruses, minute disease producing agents so small as to defy most powerful microscope; if virus can be made to grow in laboratory tube, vaccine may be developed.”

[Note: Sheer Genius Dept.] French Nat'l Economic Council adopts resolution for calendar reform, with majority preferring the 13 month plan.

Nov. 7:

[Note: Ay Chihuahua! Dept.] A number of market observers who have advised waiting to buy stocks until a definite turn for the better, are now saying current opportunities are too attractive to be overlooked; It's argued that with patience and good judgment there is little chance of suffering losses on standard stocks. “It is evident that liquidation has been extensive enough to suggest that it is fairly well completed”; the Dow has declined over 200 points from its peak, while brokers' loans are at a record low.

[Note: Ay Chihuahua! Dept.] B. Anderson, Chase Nat'l. Bank economist, sees fundamentals much better than in 1921, including both “general world picture” and domestic commercial credit situation (particularly corporate inventory and debt levels). Points out that in 1921, unlike today, “many businesses could not do even the business that was in sight” because of urgent demands from creditors. Estimates consumption and retail buying has for about 4 months outrun wholesale buying and factory production. Sees “makings of an upturn in business” that can become “long period of prosperity” if fundamentals are right, but should in any case be “good while it lasts.”

[Note: Edgar Allan Poe Dept.] Dr. Dervieux of the Medico-Legal Institute of Paris asserts that in most advanced countries in Europe, 2 per 1,000 are buried alive, with percentage probably much higher in certain other countries. Group of 35 deputies, mostly physicians, proposes law requiring verification of death by physician before burial.

[Note: In an ironic twist, I understand Jackie Chan is going to play Edward G. Robinson next year.] East is West - Melodramatic Chinese-American love story starring Lewis Ayres as Billy Benson, Lupe Velez as Ming Toy, and Edward G. Robinson as Charlie Yong. Cast is generally mediocre with outstanding exception of Mr. Robinson. Following much discussion “to the effect that the souls of all people are the same no matter what color their skin,” story ends with discovery that girl was the daughter of white missionaries who died in China when she was a child.

Nov. 6:

[Note: Strangely reversed Dept.] Editorial: This year's swing away from the Presidential party is apparently “more pronounced than the traditional mid-term reaction,” but to call all of Tuesday's results a repudiation of Hoover's leadership, “as the Times does,” is exaggeration; there are many other issues involved. Most importantly there's the depression; rightly or wrongly, “voters who have half a job or none visit their resentment upon the party in office.” Tariffs always cause a reaction at the polls, and Prohibition influenced many votes. We must wait for completed Congressional returns to see how much of a “national overturn” has taken place. A Democratic Congress, by historical precedent, might foreshadow a Democratic President in 1932, “but much water is to go over the dam in the intervening two years.”

[Note: Stimulus Dept.] Bulk of the local public works bond issues on the ballot were approved, for total of about $300M.

[Note: Would be an interesting investing case history - of course, color films did work out eventually but it took quite a while.] Technicolor hit new low under 11 but found support; traders said attracted by long-range possibilities of color films.

[Note: Sheer Genius Dept.] Westinghouse creates automatic fire extinguisher able to operate without human attention. An electric eye is rotated by a motor. When it detects a fire, it stops the motor and directs a stream of water toward the source of the flame; After extinguishing the fire, it begins to rotate again. In a recent demonstration, the eye found and extinguished 5 separate fires in various parts of a room in that many minutes.

[Note: Historical Joke Dept. ] “'What are you standing over there throwing rocks at that little boy for?' 'I dasn't go closer, ma'am. He's got the whooping cough.'”

No Journal published Nov. 5:

Nov. 4:

[Note: Strangely familiar Dept.] Dr. D. Friday, economist, predicts recovery this winter but warns that “fat days coming will be far leaner than those of preceding cycle.”

[Note: Strangely reversed Dept.] Main cause of Republican trouble seen as depression; absent this, even with issue of Prohibition and troublesome claims of ineptness, only normal off year election losses would be expected. Results of the election will probably be used to forecast Democratic presidential victory in 1932; if it really “ain't goin' rain no mo,” this may be the case, but things may change if economic conditions improve “as they almost surely will”; Democrats must also tend to “lack of any one outstanding candidate on whom various factions of the party can agree” and to lack of other issues or constructive program to campaign on. Republicans have been in power so long they have grown “careless and fat”; also, “without desiring to pun, it may be said that too many nuts are loose within it.” Results of election may in fact put “a good fright” into the Republican party and make it “train down and do a little fighting with its broad back to the well-known wall.”

[Note: Stimulus Dept.] J. Raskob advocates construction of “coast-to-coast super highways” and reduction of 5 1/2 day workweek to 5 days at same wages to restore prosperity. Various US communities will aid unemployment situation by immediately starting public works that normally wouldn't be undertaken for 2 to 3 years; many related bond issues will be voted on today. E.I. du Pont de Nemours announces will advance work on plant repairs and replacements. Hudson Motor adopts 5-day week.

[Note: Strangely familiar Dept.] Glass Senate subcommittee won't begin meeting until Dec. 1; will inquire into activities of Federal Reserve system and banking and finance generally; believed changed economic conditions necessitate study of banking laws to determine what modifications necessary.

[Note: Ay Chihuahua! Dept.] Editorial by T. Woodlock: Vast majority of investment trust funds (similar to mutual funds) were invested after start of 1928, at “final stage in the greatest speculative orgy that this country - or any country ever experienced.” Ironically, conditions today are now ideal for starting an investment trust; we're in a period of “maximum depression” with many bargains to be had, but past mistakes seem to prevent grasping the opportunity.

[Note: Strangely unfamiliar Dept.] C. Hanch, Nat'l Assoc. of Finance Cos. GM, reports average car loan in 1929 was paid off in a little over 9 months (standard terms are 1/3 down, a year to pay the balance). Urges more installment buying as stimulus to business today.

Nov. 3:

[Note: Ay Chihuahua! Dept.] National City Bank Nov. circular says there's little doubt depression is now scraping bottom; sees several signs of improvement; while timing of general recovery is impossible to predict, believes “next important movement will be upward.” Positive factors include impressive gains in industrial efficiency, recent stability in commodity prices, and improvement in textile and lumber industries.

[Note: Rather amazing increase.] BLS reports cigarette production in year ended June 30 was 119.9B, up 150% from 1920 and 3,600% from 1900. Avg. hourly earnings for workers in the industry were 37.8 cents for males and 26.8 cents for females.

[Note: Sheer Genius Dept.] An interesting new use for old rail cars and locomotives has been discovered by an enterprising Midwestern showman: taking the old equipment and staging sensational train wrecks, to which he charges $1 a head admission. The first show netted over $16,000.

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