January 30, 2010

Friday, January 30, 1931: Dow 168.87 +2.03 (1.2%)

Assorted historical stuff:

Editorial: Veterans and their Congressmen have a choice: they can either "burn down their houses and perhaps the town in order to suck their fingers for a moment [i.e. get an immediate payout through a bonus bill], or they can retain and use the advantage they already enjoy in the wise insurance for old age and bankable collateral provided by the presents structure of Veteran Relief."

House Ways and Means Committee continues discussing veterans bonus; Treasury Sec. Mellon repeats strong opposition. Two avenues are seen to defeat the bonus: it could be bottled up in committee, or the House could fail to override a Presidential veto. There are seven or eight proposals circulating, some involving lower immediate payouts of less than $1B, but any bill reported by the committee is likely to be amended in the House and/or Senate to the full payout of $3.4B - $3.5B. If a bill gets to a House vote, it's certain to pass; the question would then be if there are enough votes to override a veto.

Washington report: Melvin A. Traylor, Chicago banker, being touted as possible 1932 Dem. Presidential candidate; would avoid "complications which inevitably attach to a New York Democrat." Drys seen becoming more moderate on questions of Prohibition enforcement and possible referendum. Sen. Glass hits State Dept. assertion of authority over foreign loans and Fed. Reserve foreign connections; believes Fed. Reserve banks have authority to deal with foreign central banks.

Col. H. Cooper, Russian-Amer. Chamber of Commerce pres., sees potential $1B Russian market for US exports; Rep. Fish (R, NY) counters that US faces loss of $1B in exports thanks to a Russia organized using US men and machinery obtained on credit.

Melvin A. Traylor, Chicago banker, gives statesmanlike speech calling for cooperation with business, particularly rails and public utilities, rejects both govt. antagonism toward business and industry interference in politics.

Editorial: The Senate Judiciary Committee's decision to move the fight over Pres. Hoover's Power Commission nominees to the courts is being done for the sake of drama, in order to advance the cause of govt. ownership of power plants. While they have little chance of prevailing in court it will help "keep that skillet on the fire of agitation against what potential third-party leaders love to describe as the all-devouring Power Trust."

Editorial by T. Woodlock responding to claim waterway development may have benefits in controlling floods, increasing forestation, and reducing erosion. Blasts three die-hard "superstitions" held by US public: that waterway transport is economical, that water-generated power is cheaper than fuel-generated, and that rails got huge free land grants from the US (govt. got lower transport rates in return).

Farm Board chair. Legge says US farmer has no chance at all to produce wheat profitably for world market. Says Board doesn't intend to support new wheat crop, although Board had the same intention last year and conditions forced it to act. Board member McKelvie says operations should not be compared to efforts made by other countries to fix rubber and coffee prices; board doesn't intend to "fix prices or accumulate large supplies of any commodity."

Soviet govt. orders railroads reorganized, wages increased, rewards offered for efficiency, death penalty for malicious interference with transportation.

British Labor govt. wins test vote.

A recent survey of London finds average Londoner drinks only half as much beer as 40 years ago, but smokes twice as much; ten times as many people are being killed on the streets, but 40% fewer die natural deaths. [Note: those stats seem highly dubious.]

Former NY Police Commissioner R. Enright indicted by federal grand jury at Oklahoma City for fraudulent oil stock promotion.

Lehn & Fink contract with Paramount to continue using new advertising medium of talkies; films to feature Pebeco Toothpaste, Hinds Honey and Almond Cream.

House committee presented with plan to establish biweekly transatlantic dirigible service using two ships of 7.5M cu. ft. capacity.

Strassburger Foundation to award $1,000 annually to the book that best promotes good relations between the US and Germany. Jury includes scientist Albert Einstein and novelist Jacob Wasserman.

Market commentary:

Market wrap: Stocks weak early, with leaders declining across the list; trading slowed down after initial selling and prices steadied; a recovery developed in late afternoon. Bond prices moved down most of the day, led by high-grade but with weakness across the list; a rally started in the afternoon but most classes closed with substantial losses on the day. Commodities stronger; grains close up after early weakness; cotton up slightly.

Conservative observers still advise staying on sidelines, and putting in scale buying orders at lower levels that might be reached in a sharp break.

Markets' afternoon recovery attributed to continued vigorous Treasury opposition to veterans' bonus, and to recovery in grain markets.

Sentiment improving toward investment trust cos. after some 1930 reports showed declines in holdings not as drastic as expected.

Auburn Auto. continued up sharply, causing pain for "locked-in short interest." Montgomery Ward strong on renewed buying by "Chicago interests close to the group which sponsored Ward's sensational upswing in 1928."

Farm machinery cos. including Deere and Int'l Harvester are coming under bear pressure based on increasing receivables and reduced farm buying power. However, these cos. faced similar conditions in 1921, only to have their stock prices rally 550% from the 1921 low in the next 8 years.

Some leading brokers report continued tax loss selling in Jan.; a few firms have recommended this on theory stocks are likely to be materially higher by end of year.

Broad Street Gossip: NYSE specialists (market makers) reportedly took heavy losses in the last part of 1929 and in 1930. Six brokers interviewed say "necessitous liquidation" by customers has completely ended; customers are carrying less margin than ever. Liggett & Myers and Woolworth 1930 reports show substantially strengthened balance sheets, particularly in cash on hand. US Steel earnings expected to remain low in Q1, but production trend from now on is very likely to be up, based on urgent consumer needs and current backlog.

Twin City Rapid Transit stock is about $12; net for 1930 was $4.32/share vs. $4.75 in 1929; D. Emil Klein (cigars) stock is 10 1/4 bid - 15 ask; net for 1930 was $3.10/share vs. $3.44 in 1929.

Many on Wall Street fear Congress will pass a veterans' bonus bill; bankers now advise waiting for outcome before buying investment bonds. Street also fears an extra session as possible unsettling factor.

R. Whitney, NYSE pres., speaks about the Exchange. Made up of 1,000 members subject to same emotions as anyone else. Attributes rapid stock decline since June to liquidation of bank loans, not rumors or bear raids; NYSE has extensively investigated sources of harmful rumors, hasn't found they were circulated for sinister purposes; on the lookout for “bear raiding” as opposed to “legitimate” short selling. Calls for giving more information to investors so judgement can be based on fact; security prices will then be “governed by the changing conditions of business and not by unreasoning hopes and fears.”

Palmer & Co. say fixed trusts (similar to ETF's) laying firmer foundation for stock market since almost none of stock they buy comes back on the market.

IBM shareholders were up about 20% in 1930, to over 4,000; T. Watson, pres., expects foreign business as large as domestic in a few years; believes “we can look forward to a satisfactory rate of improvement in the US within a reasonable length of time.”

Bank of France Gov. Moret says capital flow into France is due to low money rates abroad, stability and security of French currency. Pledges support for efforts to develop international long and short term lending.

A. Austin, Dominion Bank pres., says believes business will improve, not sure when; worst already behind us. C. Bogert, VP, says Canada has suffered less than almost any other country in past 18 months, will recover more quickly.

British banks hold annual meetings. R. Beckett of Westminster Bank and H. Goschen of Nat'l Provincial Bank blame depression on overproduction, artificial price fixing schemes; call for cuts in govt. expenditures and production costs. J.M. Keynes sees crux of depression in “behavior of creditor countries in pursuing a course of action which is calculated to bankrupt debtor nations”; calls for joint action to stop deterioration of debtor nations' credit, or to “find some outlet for home investment” in creditor countries, providing relief to debtors by increasing demand for their products.

Economic news and individual company reports:

Fed. Reserve reports money in circulation Jan. 28 down $49M to $4.544B, total Reserve Bank credit outstanding down $64M to $956M. Member banks in NY City report brokers' loans down $23M to $1.734B; loans on securities to non-brokers down $25M to $1.935B.

Dow steel and iron average remains at $44.56/ton. Scrap markets somewhat weaker after "failure of important consumer demand to materialize."

Leading dealers raise rates on bankers' acceptances 1/8% to 1 1/2% - 1 7/8% for 30 - 180 days; attributed to higher British rates and govt. bond unsettlement.

First 67 rails report Dec. net operating income $39.6M, down 30.1% from 1929; gross was $284.7M, down 19.7%. 103 telephone cos. report Nov. operating income $22.4M vs. $23.4M in 1929; first 11 months $248.9M vs. $254.2M. 95 public utilities (non-telephone) report Nov. net $88.3M vs. $92M in 1929; first 11 months $923.8M vs. $906.5M.

Indications seen gasoline prices will be raised 1 cent/gallon shortly in NY and New England territories.

Reports of Western trust and mortgage cos. show most were forced to increase holdings of farmland they had loaned on, while sales of such property were minimal; the land speculator is practically out of the market.

Sanford, Florida reaches compromise arrangement with bondholders after State Supreme Court ordered drastic tax rise to pay accrued and current bond interest.

Four Oklahoma oil cos. hit with citations for overproduction; one small independent was cited 26 times for one well, said to have overproduced 215,000 barrels.

Amer. Cotton Shippers' Assoc. Testifies before Senate committee against further appropriations for Farm Board; say Board is "promising to aid only 8% of the cotton farmers" and "rapidly destroying the American cotton export market."

British gold flow to France near standstill as sterling firms due to higher bill rates and possibly support by other central banks; effect of Labor victory uncertain.

Nat'l Broadcasting Co. revenues were over $22M in 1930 vs. $14.3M in 1929.

Schulte stores restore normal cigarette pricing of 25 cents for 2 packs, ending 11 cent/pack offer that had raised fears of price war.

GM Q4 net about $0.32/share vs. $0.53; full year about $3.17 vs $5.49. Bethlehem Steel Q4 net $0.17/share vs. $2.75; full year $5.26 vs. $15.50. Sears-Roebuck 1930 net $3.01/share vs. $6.62. du Pont 1930 net $4.64/share vs. $7.09. S.S. Kresge 1930 net $1.90/share vs. $2.68. Canada Dry Ginger Ale Q4 net $0.39/share vs. $1.47.

Beneficial Loan Corp. reports very low defaults in small-loan field; 1930 had only 1/40% surrenders by borrowers out of over 400,000 loans.


Private Lives - Play by Noel Coward, directed by Noel Coward, starring Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence, at the Times Square Theatre. Successfully produces feeling "something is taking place which never took place before and never will again." Main feature is "quick, restless but fastidiously precise theatricalism." Notable scene is "hair-pulling, face-slapping, furniture-smashing brawl" between Coward and Lawrence. Dazzling and very humorous, but a little too flippant and irreverent, possibly striking a good many as jaded.


Patient - My nerves are worn to a frazzle. Doctor - Stop thinking about yourself - lose yourself in your work Patient - Gosh! And me a cement mixer!

Interior Sec. Wilbur has a large index on his desk to keep track of progress on the Hoover Dam, one of the largest projects ever undertaken. While showing it to reporters the other day, he remarked "Yes, everything is fine about the book but its name." And he turned it over to show the cover "Dam Progress."

January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 29, 1931: Dow 166.84 -3.98 (2.3%)

Assorted historical stuff:

Treasury Sec. Mellon comes out strongly against veterans bonus plan; would require govt. bond issue of up to $3.5B, put a great burden on taxpayers, retard business recovery, and not be in the best interests of the veterans. Current public finances far from satisfactory, estimate of $375M deficit for current fiscal year ending June 30. Bond issue would mean increase in taxes and much higher interest charges; would also "kill the [non-govt.] bond market." Issue that large could also lead to inflation, followed by a drop when the stimulating effect of inflation wears off, and eventually a deeper depression. Leading govt. bond dealers report heavy selling by banks of long-term govt. bonds, reversing recent trend; attributed to fear of large new issue.

Washington report: Veteran's bonus would turn tax increase from possible to certain. Confirmation of E. Meyer as governor of Fed. Reserve Board now considered certain. Appearance of Owen Young before Glass committee sure to attract attention; Mr. Young looms large as Dem. Pres. candidate in 1932.

Editorial: A. Wiggin's testimony before the Glass committee made some interesting points. He made convincing arguments against "drastic and disturbing legislation" to try and direct credit or prevent unwise banking. He also suggested meeting emergencies by allowing clearinghouse certificates to be rediscounted at the Fed. This suggestion is somewhat shocking since these certificates in the past were identified with major panics, and it was hoped the Fed. Reserve system would make them unnecessary. However, it's now been demonstrated the Fed. has its limitations when it comes to supplying credit in emergencies; half the current collateral for member bank loans is not eligible for rediscount. Perhaps a better alternative to the old clearinghouse machinery would making stocks and bonds eligible for rediscounting - of course, this would be "only under very special regulations and restrictions, and at high rates."

Editorial: M. Taylor, US Steel finance committee chair., believes employers can minimize suffering of depression by distributing available work fairly; he speaks from experience. There are some obstacles to doing this; the employer loses the ability to retain only the best workers, while in many industries workers with seniority believe newcomers should bear risk of unemployment. However, in practice it may be the best solution; employers are finding workers more diligent now when millions are out of work, while workers should realize that large numbers of unemployed in their industry are a menace to wage stability and job security.

Farm, labor, and lumber interests advocate law to ban imports of Russian goods produced by forced labor.

Red Cross says will not accept $25M appropriation from Congress, would defeat organization's purpose and interfere with work. NY Gov. Roosevelt issues proclamation asking people of NY to support $10M Red Cross drive.

AFL pres. W. Green says unemployed in first part of Jan. totalled 5.7M vs. 5.5M in Dec.

Editorial by T. Woodlock: A good way to provide lower rates to utility consumers would be to give utility companies a chance to profit as the public does, i.e. to split the benefit from lower costs between public and utility. This would give utilities a strong incentive for efficiency and lower cost. A practical experiment along these lines has been done in Washington, DC; this has lowered consumer costs from 10 cents/KWHr seven years ago to about 4.2 cents today.

French Premier Laval's govt. adopts Tardieu program for national development involving $200M in public works to combat unemployment.

Extensive new oil fields found in East Texas.

Ford Motor Co. says will continue to concentrate airplane development on tri-motor aircraft; also developing single-motor slower freight airplane, and four-motor 38-seat passenger plane.

Chicago brokers now get weather report each afternoon. If it's good, securities can be sent airmail to NY, arriving the next morning and saving a day's interest.

Largest amount of life insurance taken out by one person is $12M, to Walter P. Chrysler; second largest is $7M to Pierre S. du Pont.

Sightseers wanting to get a close look at African wild animals can take an observation train through hundreds of miles of the Sabi game reserve. The train travels at about 20 mph, often within yards of elephants, lions, zebras, and buffalo; there are lookout balconies at each end of the cars.

Reminisce by H. Alloway: Readers of today's newspapers, “their lucubrations howsoever turgid,” get little idea of how different things used to be. In the 1870's-1880's, “When it came to a corporation in the news how the public then could suspect and how the papers then could insinuate and the orators hector.”

Broadcasting of stock quotations by television from Chicago may become daily program of about 15 minutes; principal backer of Western Television Corp., maker of equipment used, is Clem F. Wade, originator of the “Eskimo Pie.”

Market commentary:

Market wrap: Stocks opened weakly and worked downward gradually for most of the day on slower trading; weakness extended across the market; decline slowed in the afternoon. Bond market unsettled, mostly lower, on decline in US govts.; foreign issues hold steady to firm. Commodities down; grains weak, with corn down sharply; cotton down moderately. Copper buying weak; some chance seen of decline from current 10 cents to 9 1/2 cents or lower.

Market weakness attributed to poor US Steel earnings, Sec. Mellon's statements, and declining grain prices.

Selling broke out in some rail stocks, particularly Wabash issues after passing preferred dividends.

Conservative observers more cautious; strongly advise reducing long holdings on favorable opportunities, believe market technically weakened due to smaller short interest. Short interest believed to have declined significantly based on smaller borrowing demand for many leading stocks.

Recent strength in rails considered significant, possibly representing buying by "well-informed interests ... taking a long pull position"; it's considered particularly significant that buying has continued in spite of poor Dec. rail earnings reports.

A number of bull pools are said to be operating, mainly in medium and low-priced shares; they haven't been able to attract much of an outside following yet.

Relatively stronger recent performance by low-priced shares vs. the usual market leaders is attributed to greater pool activity and to outside buying; precedent shows that low-priced stocks often gain more proportionally coming out of bear markets.

Broad Street Gossip: Street veterans note successful traders always keep in mind there are two sides to the market; in 1929 many traders forgot stocks could go down, while until recently many bears had forgotten they could go up. An Exchange floor specialist is only doing commission business and has foresworn trading until he learns how to take a loss and give up his "mania for holding." One banker feels the decline in public buying power is overstated; in a good year, total income in the US is about $85B; even if this is off 25%, it still is large at $65B, while the amount that can be bought with that money is in many cases more than 25% higher than in 1929 due to price declines.

Business leaders remain cautious in spite of the stronger stock market. Feel satisfactory economic progress has been made since start of the year, though pace has been moderate, but await developments in coming months before taking definitely optimistic stand; recall "spurt of greater proportions petered out a year ago."

J. Darling, Midland Bank dir., attributes world economic crisis to decline in silver, reducing buying power of half the world; suggests raising silver price by, in effect, backing it with gold.

Russell, Miller & Co. see talk of a new high in the industrials as premature; "It is difficult ... to support a sustained rally which has behind it mainly technical strength, and lacks the basis of a sound and strongly improving business situation."

W. Chrysler sees definite "very distinct change in the mental attitude of the buying public"; sees business following a slightly upward trend from now on, becoming more apparent in spring, and return to normal level in 1932.

Economic news and individual company reports:

Steel production in week ended Monday was at 46% vs. 44.5% prev. week, 40% two weeks ago, 73% in 1930, and 84% in 1929. Analysis of US Steel earnings report indicates they won't be able to cover dividends in the current quarter unless a radical improvement occurs. Steel reviews this week were less optimistic; pace of improvement has slackened; while this is natural as year progresses, there had been some hope production would go higher before stabilizing. Continued stability of prices is encouraging.

Bankruptcy hearings of four Bank of US affiliates continue. Two of the affiliates have $13M of claims filed against them, with $7.5M of real estate assets and $36M of “doubtful” assets. S. Rosoff, large Bank of US stockholder, testified he bought bank stock under a verbal repurchase agreement with S. Singer, chair. of the bank's executive committee; Singer repeated statement he had never authorized a repurchase agreement. J. Rosenberg, attorney for Irving Trust, says it appears Marcus-Singer syndicate was unloading its Bank of US stock at same time as bank was selling stock to depositors and employees under repurchase agreement.

Dec. production of cars and trucks in US and Canada was 161,223 vehicles vs. 141,159 in Nov. and 125,502 in 1929; full year 3.509M vs. 5.622M.

Total 1930 individual income tax receipts were $1.090B vs. $1.238B in 1929; corporate income tax receipts were $1.243B vs. $1.265B. State with largest income tax payments was NY, $791M; next largest Penna., $215M.

Total new or additional NYSE listings of domestic and foreign stocks and bonds in 1930 was $7.813B vs. record high of $15.668B in 1929, $7.762B in 1928, and $5.548B in 1927.

Prof. J. Palmer of Univ. of Chicago points out US has about 1.5M retail stores, sees opportunity to cut marketing costs if this number can be reduced.

Ethyl Gasoline Corp. [makers of tetra-ethyl lead gasoline additive, jointly owned by GM and Standard Oil NJ] reports record 1930 year, with gasoline sales of about 2B gallons, up 48% over 1929; about one in five gasoline pumps now uses their product.

Lloyd's Register reports merchant ships launched in 1930 totalled 2.889M tons vs. 2.793M in 1929, and highest since 1921; US was second largest with 246,687 tons, up 120,624 from 1929.

Withdrawal of foreign capital from Germany reported in spite of high money rates; leading German banks paying 4.5%-5% for 1 to 3 month credits; attributed to foreign distrust of conditions there. British loss of gold to France slowing down as sterling strengthens.

Met. Life Insurance Co. produced $3.305B of life insurance in 1930, only 2% below 1929 record high.

Sears sales in the first 28 day period of 1931 were down over 10% from 1930; however, this was much improved from the last two periods of 1930, which were down over 20% from the previous year.

American Chicle (chewing gum) 1930 net was $4.42/share vs. $4.22 in 1929; Q4 was $1.02 vs. $0.96.

Companies reporting decent earnings: Woolworth, American Tobacco, Liggett & Myers (cigarettes), Arundel Corp. (sand and gravel), Childs Co. (restaurants), Engineers Public Service, Standard Gas & Electric, Twin City Rapid Transit, Cumberland Pipe Line, Dresser (pipe fittings and couplings), Hollinger Consol. Gold Mines.


Bill [Bojangles] Robinson is now appearing at the Palace. More than a tap dancer, he's an accomplished story teller and interacts freely with the audience, taking requests that the patrons in the balcony are never shy about making. This week, Mr. Robinson “repeats his stair-dance, gives an imitation of Pat Rooney, and performs an amusing dance to the ... currently popular 'Peanut Vendor' music.” Also appearing is Cardini, the magician. [Note: Peanut Vendor (El Manisero) was the first great Latin hit in the US, and launched the rumba craze. Over a million copies of the sheet music were sold, and it's been recorded over 160 times. Here's the 1930 recording that made it really take off, by Don Azpiazu and the Havana Casino Orchestra; this record also probably sold over a million copies. And, here's a little of it by Cary Grant (!) and Jean Arthur.]


"Doctor - Did you put a mirror in front of the patient's face, to see if she is still breathing? Nurse - Yes, and she blushed and asked for her vanity case."

January 28, 2010

Wednesday, January 28, 1931: Dow 170.82 -0.37 (0.2%)

Assorted historical stuff:

Washington report: Likelihood seen growing of huge veteran's bonus bill involving short-term payout of up to $4B; House Ways and Means Committee is to take up the subject tomorrow. If it comes to a vote, "it is a Congressional axiom that no pension bill ever failed to pass and this will be no exception ..."; Congress would also be likely to override a Presidential veto. Opponents will try to delay the matter procedurally so it can't be finished in the current session; advocates may then try to force extra session. White House says Pres. Hoover won't further clarify views on Wickersham (Prohibition) report. Senate and House unable to reconcile bill on proposed public Muscle Shoals power plant; question seen likely to be taken up again in next session, where govt. operation is likely to be more favored.

Senate committee holds hearing on Eugene Meyer, candidate for Fed. Reserve Board governor. Rep. McFadden hurls charges, including: “connivance” in getting two Board members to leave to allow appointing Meyer; that Meyer had a longtime desire to “sell the board to the country”; that his background was as a stock broker, not a banker; that his affiliations should be investigated, particularly those with J.P. Morgan; and that his NY banking house had an unethical relationship with the War Finance Corp. Witnesses and committee members defended Meyer vigorously.

Editorial by T. Woodlock: England has had plenty of corporate scandals, and the US has plenty of examples of conscientious corporate leadership. However, in general, both corporate governance and stockholder rights are perceptibly stronger in England. Some difference is due to stronger shareholder participation; annual meetings are much more lively in England, partly because shareholders have more power (declaring dividends and electing their own auditors). A more important difference is in the greater responsibility that directors in England generally feel to stockholders; while the ethics of this obligation are debatable, it is evident that the more strongly directors feel it, even to a "Quixotic" extent, the better are likely to be the results as far as stockholders are concerned.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Snowden points out US stock of gold is $4.6B, more than combined holdings of France, UK, Germany, and Spain.

British Foreign Sec. Henderson convinced successful disarmament conference would do more than anything to restore European prosperity and political stability.

Navy League of US says effective navy of the US is 153,698 tons below London Conference limit and 160,674 tons below British navy. British are 20,874 tons below limit, while Japan is closest to limit.

New Laval Cabinet formed in France, made up of Right-Center group, largely associates of Tardieu and Briand.

Editorial: State and local operation of electric utilities seems increasingly popular; in NY, Gov. Roosevelt favors it as a "club in the closet" against exploitation by private cos. If this is done, accurate cost accounting is essential; the NY Appellate Court has implied fair play is required, i.e. power shouldn't be sold below cost.

Sen. Wagner (R, NY) says businesses should set up reserves against unemployment as they do against depreciation.

Editorial: NY State land survey proposed by Gov. Roosevelt is a sound idea, in spite of some criticism. It points at "the only 'farm relief' which legislation can ever offer," a redirection of current inefficient use of land, where some losing farms are maintained on marginal land while other definitely promising areas are unused.

Stock Exchange quotations broadcast by television at Chicago over radius of 150 miles in test by Chicago Daily News and Western Television Co.

Yacht from estate of J. Elverson, former Phila. Inquirer owner, built for $150,000, sold at auction to junk dealer for $2,000 although fully equipped and seaworthy.

More stories of prospectors dying poor: Trader O'Reilly, who picked up some pebbles in 1866 for a South African farmer's children to play with that later turned out to be the first diamonds found there, recently died poor; since 1866, over $2B of gems have been mined in South Africa. The man who found the first platinum in Africa made only $500 from his discovery.

Market commentary:

Market wrap: Stocks moved narrowly; trading dull with little outside participation as US Steel earnings report was awaited; little seen to encourage either bull or bear. Bond trading more active, prices irregular; new offerings continue heavy (over $500M so far in Jan.); US govts. lower; foreign dull, steady to firm; corp. irregular. Commodities strong; grains up substantially; cotton up moderately; eggs hit record low.

Conservative observers cautious, advise staying on sidelines until earnings reports, taking profits on further advances.

US Steel, other industrials stayed in small range through the session; Studebaker down on dividend cut; Auburn, Vanadium, and Warren Bros. were strong spots.

Brokers' loans are now so low that several firms can finance their customers without borrowing from banks.

Bulls still await confirmation by industrials of move up over previous range seen in rails and utilities.

Bank stocks have recovered sharply from Dec. 17 lows, with most rising 20%-35% in the intervening 40 days.

Broad Street Gossip: Wall Street is largely dismissing controversy over Bethlehem Steel bonuses; one banker says “Ninety-nine percent of the shareholders ... would vote in favor of bonuses to employes if the question was put to a test vote.” Brokers report better attendance in customers' rooms and satisfactory increase in new accounts. Short interest has been considerably reduced due to the recent rally, but still is large in many standard stocks.

Pask & Wallbridge anticipate good opportunities in rail securities; because US public, through savings banks and life insurance cos., holds $8B of these securities, it's likely public will demand proposed rail mergers go through promptly and without political interference.

A. Cutten, prominent grain dealer who recently took seat on Winnipeg Grain Exchange, says Farm Board operations have helped wheat growers dispose of 1930 crop, but can't work out in long term; believes Board must take huge loss to dispose of wheat holdings.

M. Taylor, US Steel finance committee chair., says co. has dealt with lower production by distributing available work equitably among workers and by advancing construction work as agreed in Pres. Hoover's Nov. 1929 conference. Discusses machine age in general; “not a cold-blooded and cruel thing which seeks to exterminate man, but is mankind's finest expression through which great forces have been revealed to him by the Divine Hand.” Only worthy objective is “to raise mankind in general - not the particular few, but the entire race”; while we may have overproduced for the moment, we've created the greatest prosperity in history.

Mme. Helena Rubinstein predicts 1931 will see increased volume for the beauty business, with 36M US women spending $2B on lipsticks, lotions, and other cosmetics. "Bibles, bread, and beauty are three commodities for which the demand is normal."

Economic news and individual company reports:

Rail freight loadings for week ended Jan. 17 were 725,938 cars, up 11,687 from prev. week, but down 121,217 or 14.3% from 1930 week, and down 205,923, or 22% from 1929.

US Steel Q4 net was $0.70/share, of which $0.27 was from operations and $0.43 from special items; Q3 net was $2.06/share and Q4 1929 was $4.14; full year net was $9.12/share vs. $21.19. Machine tool markets report continued better ordering and inquiries.

Recent trends from reporting Fed. Reserve member banks: Seasonal decline in bank credit much smaller than usual (attributed to Fed. Reserve easy money policy); total loans and investments are $22.603B, down only $353M from year-end vs. $907M decline in 1929. Liquidation of bank security loans started in earnest in early Dec.; on Dec. 10, they were $7.769B, only $49M below Dec. 11, 1929, but since then they've declined $344M and are $308M below 1929 level. Banks have shifted from non-govt. to govt. securities, selling $122M of the former while buying $193M of the latter since year-end.

Banks report recent bond issues well absorbed, plan to offer additional ones in coming weeks to take advantage of conditions. Street rumors are circulating of exceptionally large upcoming financing by bonds and preferred stock.

Refineries ran at 62.5% in week ended Jan. 24; stocks of gasoline increased 1.111M barrels to 41.495M; oil production was 2.111M vs. 2.094M prev. week, but down 505,000 from a year ago.

Overall electric output trend in 1930: at start of 1930, electric output was about 5% above 1929 level; this difference narrowed until, in spring of 1930, output fell below 1929 level; at end of year, output was 4%-5% below 1929.

Foreign govt. and corp. financing in 1930 was $1.275B vs. $1.096B in 1929 and $1.958B in 1928; biggest govt. borrowers were Canada $288.5M, South America $250.6M, Europe $146.2M, and Far East $72.5M.

Sen. Sheppard (D, Tex.) favors resolution calling for investigation of cotton prices: "The tremendous and unprecedented decline ... since 1926 cannot be explained on any reasonable basis connected with supply and demand. Evidently feverish , excessive speculative activities had much to do with these abnormal slumps.

T. Chadbourne reports good progress on sugar, predicts world's leading producers will sign agreement in March.

British gold drain to France expected to be heavy in next few days, but believed nearing end as bill rates rise to about 2 1/2% and sterling exchange rises.

Oklahoma independent oil operators continue testifying in favor of higher allowable production.

Chicago reports recent gains in retail and wholesale trade, production, and employment.

Tailors, shoe repaires, cleaners, and dyers are reportedly doing very well, as public refurbishes old clothes and shoes.

Amer. Art Dealers' Assoc. reports US public spent $250M on art in 1929, of which only a third was spent on old masters.

Last family member departs from management at Armour; co. was founded by Philip D. Armour, I in 1863; his grandson, Philip D. Armour, III resigned as VP.

A&P increases quarterly dividend from $1.25 to $1.50.

Paramount-Publix (movies) has been able to maintain earnings fairly well; Q4 1930 net will decline to about $5.1M from $5.8M in 1929, but business in Jan. is running ahead of a year ago. Co. is now following strategy of high quality films at relatively low cost; after some disappointments with $1M spectacles, it's now making films for $250,000-$350,000 each.

Companies reporting decent earnings: Best & Co. (chain store), Warren Bros. (pavement), Bangor & Aroostook RR (against industry trend), Bond & Mortgage Guarantee Co., A. Hollander & Son (furs).

At the galleries:

The Old Print Shop is showing lithographs and paintings by Louis Maurer, oldest artist in the US, who will be 99 on Feb. 21. Mr. Maurer is the last surviving member of the staff of Currier & Ives; he was born in Germany in 1832, came to the US in 1853, and has lived in NY for the past 63 years. He was also an expert horseman, musician, and rifleman. In spite of his years, he still sketches easily and with pleasing results. The New York Antiques Show is to run at the Grand Central Palace starting Feb. 27, with over 170 exhibitors and a record variety of items. New York University has just added to its world-class collection of almost 2,000 old watches and clocks a 130 year-old piece containing a miniature forerunner of the movies: once every minute, through an opening in the dial, a running deer appears, followed by a dog, followed by a hunter.


'When I hit a fella, he knows it.' 'When I hit a fella, he don't know it till a week later.'

"'That man wants me to lend him some money. Do you know anything about him?' 'Why, I know him as well as I know you. Don't lend him a bean, old man.'"

January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 27, 1931: Dow 171.19 +1.39 (0.8%)

Assorted historical stuff:

A. Wiggin, Chase Nat'l. Bank chair., testifies before Glass financial inquiry committee. Says current Fed. Reserve rates [2%] are too low, not forcing liquidation of security loans fast enough; total security loans, now $8B, should decline to about $6B; country still too stock-minded, but “they'll get over it.” Favors discount rate higher than market rate. Believes security affiliates of big nat'l banks provide valuable service and should continue, supervised by Comptroller of Currency. Against new legislation, particularly attempts to earmark credit; this would make people turn to “outside banking system.” E. Platt, former Fed. Reserve Board member, says discount rate was too low most of past decade; system was quick to create easy money market, but very slow in hitting the brakes when it became necessary.

Washington report: Senate has offered to shift fight over Power Commission to the courts. This may fit into a strategy of delay in order to promote govt. power development. Glass committee hearing can be summarized as Washington pointing accusingly and saying “Wall Street,” while financiers softly reply “Politics.”

Editorial: It's regrettable that the American Legion has endorsed immediate cash payment of veteran's [long-term] compensation certificates without limiting payment to those in need. The Legion argues this would provide necessary relief and stimulate business, this is the "familiar argument" that the country can be made more prosperous by adding to its debt. Needed payouts are estimated at over $2B in a 3 month period. This sum, as Sec. Mellon has pointed out, could only be raised by a bond issue; while the bonds certainly could be sold, they would withdraw that amount of capital from investment in local govt. and corporate bonds, damaging the "recovery of basic industry now slowly and painfully beginning."

Soviet foreign commissar M. Litvinoff says no forced labor is used to produce timber for export; rejects official requests from foreign governments to investigate labor conditions on grounds they are an internal matter. Rep. Hawley considering calling Ways and Means committee to consider how to enforce currently ineffective tariff prohibitions on forced labor. Soviet officials consider increasing bread ration due to sharp gain in grain surplus despite record 1930 exports. Spring sowing in collectivized areas in 1931 expected to total 44M acres vs. 27M last year.

British Parliament debating bill to reverse Baldwin act of 1927, which makes general strikes illegal, limits peaceful picketing by unions, and prohibit civil servants from joining unions. London markets rise as increasing chance seen bill will be defeated.

P. Laval abandons plan for forming French conciliation govt. when Radical Socialists refuse to participate.

Editorial by T. Woodlock: Careful and minute analysis of NY State barge canal demonstrates this inland waterway doesn't provide cheap transportation when costs are properly calculated; system is therefore an subsidy from taxpayers to some shippers, and is unfair to other shippers and other forms of transport.

Action of NY City Transit Commission awaited on unification; questions remain on transit co. valuations and on legal matters, including liability for personal injuries.

Edward I. Edwards, former US Senator and NJ Governor, dead by apparent suicide.

Detroit-Windsor tunnel usage estimated at 2M vehicles and 8M-10M bus passengers in first year.

US President's office expenses for 1932 FY are about $532,380 vs. $822,320 prev. year; items include Pres. salary $75,000; VP salary $15,000; office salaries $127,200; traveling expenses $25,000; maintenance of executive mansion & grounds $185,000.

Sonotone introduces new hearing aid incorporating 14 improvements in past 2 years; can be worn so as to be almost invisible, weighs only 5 1/2 ounces.

Jenkins Television Co. said making rapid advances in development; negotiating with several radio set makers for production of television sets; will soon have television broadcasting station in NY City to open market for sale of sets.

Greatest celebration of US Independence Day abroad is undoubtedly at Rebild Park in Jytland, Denmark; as many as 40,000 gather there on the Fourth.

Congress to act on name change for Porto Rico; it's charged this is a Latin corruption of the true name, Puerto Rico, meaning "Rich Port" (refers to San Juan).

"Siberian Mike," famed Eskimo dentist, dead in Canada. Mike got his start working as a dental mechanic for a dentist sent by the Hudson Bay Co. in 1922 to look after its many employees. When the dentist left, Mike kept most of the equipment and started a travelling practice in the Arctic regions of Canada and Alaska.

Market commentary:

Market wrap: Stocks opened slightly weaker, then fluctuated in narrow range most of the day; moderate rally started in the afteroon led by rails, was progressing at the close. Bonds less active; US govts. steady with some new highs; foreign mostly steady; corp. slightly irregular, investment grade firm. Commodities mixed; unsupported July wheat was up while corn was down sharply, reaching new low since 1922 at 63 5/8 cents for March delivery; cotton little changed. Copper buying quieter. Silver brokers somewhat more optimistic in near term; Chinese selling has dried up, and market is receiving steady buying from Indian bazaars.

Market observers warn against taking short side; would add to long positions if industrial average broke through top of range on good volume.

More aggressive sponsorship seen in the market in past week. Also noted was larger scale short covering; bears were said particularly disconcerted by advances in rail and utility averages to above recent range. However, a large short interest still exists.

Market interests note sharply improved sentiment over six weeks ago; worry over banking situation has receded, as has pessimism over stocks.

Rail shares were a strong spot again; other strong points included food stocks and GM; some trading favorites including Auburn and Case rallied sharply.

Junior rail issues have fluctuated widely as sentiment swung from one extreme to the other in the past two years; current values seem a more balanced measure of worth. Rails in 1931 are expected to control expenses and conserve cash; dividend increases are considered unlikely.

Broad Street Gossip: Recent new highs for some US govt. bonds may be explained by corporations diverting their cash due to low short-term rates. Trade reviews have been reporting improvement in business; significantly, three foreign countries have reported improvement. This year's improvement has a better chance of being more than seasonal since the depression is a year older. Oil production is down 21% below a year ago, but shares are down due to declining prices; improvement is seen depending on production remaining well below consumption. Copper industry is suffering from low prices although it's operating at higher capacity than many others; consumption is estimated at 80% of normal.

Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer R. Horne says debt payments not a burden to British people, since payments to US are balanced by payments from European debtors; believes hopes for any concessions by US on debts in near future are groundless.

Bank of Nova Scotia sees pessimism now exaggerated, “just as in the latter stages of every other period of depression.” Sees “lack of historical perspective ... Severe as it is, the present depression is not more severe than other great depressions in time past”; main difference now is “our almost complete awareness of the mishaps that have befallen other nations.”

Guaranty Trust of NY sees situation “unquestionably better” than a month ago; numerous branches of industry report higher output and employment; stock, commodity, and bond markets have improved tone. Not yet possible to judge definitely if upturn is of more than seasonal significance, especially remembering the even sharper upturn a year ago. However, “impossible to escape the feeling that the recent expansion may be a sign of the approach of better times.” Recovery must be gradual, sound and conservative; businessmen should by now realize the “uselessness and danger of false starts.”

Economic news and individual company reports:

Open hearings of Steuer investigation into Bank of US stopped due to suit asking removal of Steuer as prosecutor; closed hearings continue, 8 former bank employees testified. W Macy, NY State Republican chair., says legislative investigation of Bank of US to be speeded up due to lack of progress by other probes.

Record high of about $3B to be spent worldwide on road construction in 1931, much of it to relieve unemployment; US leads with about $2B.

About 1,549 chain store units were opened in 1930, down more than 50% from 1929.

US Steel to report earnings after close today; likely to be between 30-40 cents most recently estimated and $1 estimated before that.

Editorial: The ICC has proposed abandoning the convoluted recapture of "excess" profits from railways while simultaneously switching from one convoluted method of calculating allowable rates to another convoluted method. This may or may not be a step forward, depending on some convoluted factors.

Agriculture Dept. estimates value of livestock on farms at $4.366B vs. $5.888B a year ago and $6.006B two years ago. Agricultural outlook conference to be held, report issued Feb. 2. Despite low commodity prices, some encouraging factors seen in low feed prices and improbability of drought for second year in a row.

Canadian report: Premier Bennett notes onerous financial obligations; for FY ending Mar. 31, deficit about $100M; bond maturities of over $1B will need to be met by 1934. Some talk of tax increases, though country believed in no mood for them. Chartered banks said to have strengthened position in 1930; money in circulation and liability to govt. decreased, while investments rose; cash resources and earnings well maintained. 1930 auto production 154,192 cars, down 41.3% from record 1929 level. Dec. building permits in 61 cities $15.4M vs. $11.8M in Nov. and $14.7M in Dec. 1929; full year $163.8M vs. $234.9M.

Argentine provisional govt. reduces price of bread in public markets to 2 cents/pound from 3 1/2 cents.

IBM does business in 77 countries; record monthly business was reported in Dec. for France, Mexico, and Cuba.

New Montgomery-Ward catalog published later than usual to allow lower prices; has 592 pages vs. 552 last year, lists 40,000 items in 86 departments.

Loew's earnings for 12 weeks ended Nov. 21 were about $1.60/share vs. $2.09 in 1930; fiscal year ended Aug. 31 showed record earnings of $9.65/share. Latest earnings seen as surprisingly good considering autumn slump in movie attendance. In recent weeks, receipts have picked up substantially.

Companies reporting decent earnings: Waldorf System (restaurants).


Resurrection - adapted from the Tolstoy novel, starring Lupe Velez as Katusha Maslova and John Boles as Prince Dmitri. Disappointing as a whole, though Lupe Velez gives thoroughly convincing performance of transformation from playful peasant girl to prostitute wrongly accused of murder.


"Jaywalker - So many people are struck by autos while alighting from street cars. Street Car Official - Well, yes; but those people have paid their fares. It's this running over people who are waiting to get on that makes me mad."

'So you want to join our theater company. What plays have you appeared in?' 'My last engagement was The Blot on the Escutcheon.' 'What part did you play?' 'I was the blot.'

"'I want to see the boss.' 'What do you want to see him about?' 'About a job.' 'I'm sorry, but you can't see him; he's in an unemployment conference.'"

January 26, 2010

Monday, January 26, 1931: Dow 169.80 -2.04 (1.2%)

Assorted historical stuff:

Editorial: Unemployment conference of seven Northeastern governors called by NY Gov. Roosevelt was refreshingly free of politics. Most encouraging was the recognition that a huge amount of exploratory work is needed before the subject is ready for legislation. Employment insurance can't be developed rapidly enough to relieve the current depression, and appropriation of public funds for it would mean buying votes at the expense of taxpayers, so should be barred by "elementary civic morality." Future conferences should include voices from the business side of the table. Civic, social welfare, labor organizations form Committee for Promotion of Unemployment Insurance Legislation; want maximum weekly benefit of at least $15.

Glass committee hearings have given a more complete picture of conflicts within Fed. Reserve in 1929. The Fed. Reserve Board, concerned about security inflation, issued a warning to banks in Feb. 1929 against direct or indirect use of Fed. Reserve credit for speculation. The NY Fed. disagreed with this policy of direct pressure on banks, favoring raising the rediscount rate as high as necessary to curb speculation; the Fed. Board feared the effect this would have on business and agriculture. In May 1929, the Board asked G. McGarath, Fed. Reserve agent at NY, to further remonstrate with certain NY banks; he apparently refused. In late May the Fed. Board decided to rescind the pressure due to seasonal credit needs.

Prohibition report: Some Congressmen, particularly drys, seem to be commenting on the (90,000 word) Wickersham report without having read all of it. Both Republicans and Democrats are likely to face increasing pressure to take a definite stand soon. Congress seen likely to appropriate more money for enforcement.

Editorial: Vote by the Senate to reconsider their approval of the Power Commission nominees is "donkey-minded" obstinacy. The Senate has already exercised its "advice and consent" function and ratified the nominees; they have no constitutional right to recall the ratification.

World disarmament conference definitely set for Feb. 2, 1932 in Geneva.

NY State Sen. Mastick predicts $16M deficit in NY State budget this year, says Gov. Roosevelt must find new means of taxation to balance budget.

Editorial by T. Woodlock regarding Gov. Roosevelt's apparent interest in lower-cost electricity for domestic (home) and farm consumers. Asserts that home consumers, in spite of paying higher rates per KWhr, are less profitable than commercial due to lower load factor.

J. Van Dyke, Atlantic Refining chair., meets Cuban Pres. Machado; co. is exploring for oil in Cuba.

A recent worldwide study finds the country with the most inventive population is Switzerland. This is attributed to religious persecution in the 16th-17th Cent., during which many skilled craftsmen left neighboring countries and settled in Switzerland.

Cellophane candy wrappers found safe to eat; rats successfully maintained on diet of 20% cellophane.

Music publishers report US music now dominates world. More US sheet music and records are sold in England per capita than in the US; travelers report hearing US jazz tunes in Shanghai, Bombay, Port Said, and played by Zulus in Africa. Some tunes become popular abroad long after they've been forgotten at home.

Market commentary:

Market wrap: Stocks opened somewhat lower on accumulated sell orders; some rallying came in after selling was absorbed, with upswing broadening to the general list; however, market grew increasingly unsettled near the close, with sharp declines in some issues. Bonds active, steady to firm; investment grade strong. Commodities weak; grains and cotton down.

Week in review: Bears renewed pressure early in week, but were unable to force the "necessitous liquidation" seen last fall; stock market turned very dull on declines, then reversed into uptrend that appears likely to run for some time to come. Bond market active and strong in spite of heavy new financing; institutional demand was good for high-grade issues, while more individual investors came in. Short term rates declined, with call money, bankers acceptances, and commercial paper all easier; Fed. seen continuing easy money policy. Grains moved irregularly down in narrow range. Cotton moved up moderately but steadily. Steel operations continued gradually upward. British gold loss to France continued most of the week; francs not affected by defeat of Steeg govt.

Conservative observers remain cheerful, encouraged by rally last week; advise picking up standard shares on a scale during setbacks, taking profits on rallies.
Considerable profit-taking was reported during the rallies late last week; however, this was balanced by short covering and increased outside buying.

Market sentiment seen better, with recent rally believed more than merely technical. One indication is impressive resistance of leading shares to sharply lower corporate earnings in the fourth quarter; earnings declines have been much worse than anyone would have predicted several months ago. Also positive is better business sentiment, as reflected in recent statements by business figures; bond market strength is also noteworthy. Substantial trade recovery isn't expected for several months, but investors are likely to act in anticipation of it.

Banks are reportedly increasing buying of high-grade bonds; yields on these are better than what they can get loaning out time money.

Gold mining stocks have been among the strongest performers since year-end; earnings this year seen exceeding both 1930 and 1929; miners are benefiting from stable price as production costs decline.

London Daily Herald blames sudden weakness in British pounds on fight between US and British banking interests after US banks didn't get enough recent "profitable foreign financing business." Report is met with ridicule in New York.

Market orders are being executed with record speed these days; average report on a 100-share or better market order was given to client within 3 minutes.

Broad Street Gossip: It's a very satisfactory market that goes up on bad news, just as it's an unsatisfactory market that goes down on good news. The Old Timer: When you get bearish, just figure that, ten years from now, production of steel, copper, cars, etc. will be 25%, 50%, or more greater than the best year we've had yet; earnings should gain proportionally. First Trader - The number of investigations under way in Congress is record-breaking. Second Trader - They should now begin investigating the investigators. First Trader - There will be few Congressmen left to investigate the investigators who are being investigated.

S. Blaylock, Consolidated Mining and Smelting of Canada GM, says believes prices of metals have reached bottom, slow recovery ahead.

P. Weld, NY Cotton Exchange pres., says cotton growers working against themselves; based on experience, "nothing but disaster will make the farmer cut his acreage."

Bank of Montreal says persistently low commodity prices are discouraging buying and obscuring outlook; however, adjustment to lower scale of prices is progressing, and there are moderate gains in some industries.

US Chamber of Commerce says reports from member organizations "justify the hope that the dead center of the depression is past." Most reports indicate slight increase in activity and improvement in employment. Reinforcement of public confidence seen as essential. Hopes Congress avoids extra session.

George Baker, "dean of bankers," says short selling at present time would be unwise; looks for slow improvement in financial conditions. Mr. Baker has over 70 years of business experience; he is known for meaning what he says and saying it in as few words as possible.

Economic news and individual company reports:

Fisher's wholesale commodity index declines for 7th week in a row, to 77.6 for week of Jan. 23, vs. 80.7 for week of Dec. 5.

Youngstown District steel production to advance 1% this week to 49%, fifth consecutive weekly gain.

Chain stores including Kroger and J.C. Penney litigate against Anti-Chain Tax Law recently enacted in Kentucky.

After 8 months of study, oil operators reach plan for unit (cooperative) development of Kettleman Hills field (California).

Taxes paid by rails in 1930 were about $356M, down $46M from 1929, but a record high 6.6% of operating revenues vs. 6.3% in 1929.

US aircraft production in 1930 was 2,684 valued at $21.5M, vs. 6,034 valued at $44.5M in 1929. Aircraft sold in 1930 were 3,125; sales in 1929 not available. Most common type produced was the three-place open cockpit biplane.

US leaf tobacco exports in 1930 were 579.7M pounds valued at $145.6M, vs. 565.9M valued at $146.1M in 1929.

AFL Executive Council opposes Eastern rail consolidation unless proper guarantees given workers that their interests will be protected.

Schulte Retail Stores and United Cigar Stores reduce cigarette prices; retail cigarette price war feared.

Foreign investment in Canada at end of 1930 was $6.376B vs. $6.147B at end of 1929.

German unemployed Jan. 15 were 4.765M vs. 4.357M on Jan. 1.

Texas Railroad Commission reduces allowable crude oil production to 644,253 barrels/day from 680,238 previously.

E. Grace, Bethlehem Steel pres., says will appeal decision prohibiting merger with Youngstown Sheet & Tube.

Deere 1930 earnings were $6.06/share vs. $13.13 in 1929. Auburn Automobile 1930 earnings $5.43/share vs. $19.21; sales $24.1M vs. $37.6M.

Companies reporting decent earnings: Southern Pipe Line, Douglas Aircraft, Buffalo & Susquehanna RR (against industry trend).


Fighting Caravans - from a novel by Zane Grey. Another dull western; gives impression covered wagon trips to the West Coast were interrupted by frequent hilarious drinking bouts. Even romantic interludes between Gary Cooper and Lily Damita are uninteresting. Some beautiful photography, and two or three exciting episodes near end of film.

True story, I swear - it happened to my great-grandfather's brother-in-law:

Two Prohibition agents recently came to NY City, and, posing as strangers in town, asked a taxi driver to take them someplace they could buy a drink, winking a couple of times to make sure the driver got the message. The driver, endowed with the sixth sense that most NY taxi drivers possess, nodded knowingly. The cab started uptown. Columbus Circle passed, as did 72nd, 96th, etc. Finally, one of the agents asked "Hey, where you taking us?" "To Canada," the driver replied.