Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
And Louise holds a handful of rain, temptin’ you to defy it, Lights flicker from the opposite loft,
In this room the heat pipes just cough
The country music station plays soft But there’s nothing, really nothing to turn off,
Just Louise and her lover so entwined, And these visions of Johanna that conquer my mind
In the empty lot where the ladies play blindman’s bluff with the key chain
And the all-night girls they whisper of escapades out on the “D” train
We can hear the night watchman click his flashlight, Ask himself if it’s him or them that’s insane
Louise, she’s all right, she’s just near, She’s delicate and seems like veneer,
But she just makes it all too concise and too clear, That Johanna’s not here
The ghost of ‘lectricity howls in the bones of her face
Where these visions of Johanna have now taken my place,
— Bob Dylan
They all said ‘Louise was not half bad’,
It was written on the walls & window shades, And how she’d act a little girl
The deceiver, don’t believe her, that’s her trade
Sometimes a bottle of perfume, Flowers, and maybe some lace
Men bought Louise ten cent trinkets, Their intentions were easily traced,
Everybody thought it kind of sad, When they found Louise in her room
They’d all put her down below their kind
Still some cried when she died, that afternoon
— Paul Siebel
For some reason, the “Louise” of the American songbook never seem to get her due. Take, for example, this week’s quotes. Dylan’s Louise plays a decidedly second fiddle to the ethereal Johanna. Call her Louise #1. Siebel’s Louise #2 (made famous by Linda Ronstadt, who sings the sad story of the life and death of a Louise of easy virtue). I assign the moniker of Louise #3 to the character played by Isabel Sanford: Louise Jefferson, who spend about a decade “Movin’ on Up” in the hit ‘70s Comedy “The Jeffersons” She certainly did better than her above-mentioned, epynomous sisters, and always held her own on the show, but the poor woman had to spend the rest of her life having stangers sing her that song, while referring to her, with a distinct lack of dignity, as ”Weezy”.
But lately, I got to thinking about another Louise, one who is not American but rather a Brit, who was once and is no more a worldwide sensation. Here, I refer to the long forgotten Louise Joy Mullinder (nee’ Brown), who came into this world by virtue of its first successful In Vitro fertilization.
For the purposes of this document (and for reasons that should be obvious to my sharp-eyed readers), she will be referred to as Louise IV. She was born in Oldham, U.K. in mid-1978, with the assistance of a doctor/developer of the procedure, who, in 2010, won a Nobel Prize for his efforts.
Nowadays, the practice is common. But at the time, the birth of Louise was a very big deal, reported on a blow by blow basis by every news organization in the world. I will also confess to the following: her arrival kind of freaked me out. I mean, the tens of billions of humanoids that preceded her, dating back, presumably, to the time when our first antecedents slithered out of the primordial ooze, all had in common the fact that they were conceived in an actual human womb. Yes, artificial insemination was a longstanding practice by the time she arrived, but still, prior to her arrival it took sperm meeting egg — inside a uterus, to make a baby. So I wondered about her: would she be like us? And I worried about her: would we treat her differently? And I even prayed for her: would messing with such time tested formulas anger the Almighty, and would he take it out on her?
But none of my concerns ended up amounting to much. Louise was born, taken home by her loving parents, and raised like anybody else. That same day, home country Argentina won the World Cup, and later that week, Bob Crane of Hogan’s Heroes fame was bludgeoned to death in a Scottsdale hotel. Nothing to see here, folks; please resume your normal activities.
I got to thinking about all of this as I pondered the accelerating rate at which longstanding protocols gather to the dust of their forbears, replaced by new, sometimes disturbing paradigms. And my conclusion is as follows: pretty much anything – good or bad– can transpire to upset our equilibria, and the heavens, as well as unaffected mortals, while perhaps marking the changes, will incorporate them mundanely into their affairs.
So…this all kind of reminds me of current market conditions. A great deal of what presumably might pass for important events are taking place at warp speed, but investors are content to serenely go about their business as though this wasn’t the case. Equity markets came out of the gate in strong fashion early in the week, but then lost some of their upward mojo. The SPX actually closed down (~0.2%) for the cycle, proving that such a thing – a down week– is, at any rate, theoretically possible. The VIX broke the into the previously impregnable 8 handle – albeit briefly – on Tuesday. For about 12 hours midweek, and as widely reported by the press, bookseller Jeff Bezos was the world’s richest man (that its, if you ignore a few scammers like Putin), but saw his riches modestly diminished below this breakthrough level after a rather disappointing earnings report issuing forth from his bookstore.
But on the whole, earnings, now half-way through the sequence, are strong — projecting out at about 9% growth. We also bore witness to a cheery Q2 GDP estimate, bringing tidings of 2.6% expansion, and corroborating the glass half full hypotheses that abound among the investment masses.
The news was unilaterally accretive out of the Energy Complex, and rates were for the most part flat. Those that wish to cast their eyes on something more of a horror show, though, need look no further than the USD, which is now trading against the magnificent Euro at a diminished level last seen as 2014 was fading into 2015. Well, here’s to the jaunty Europeans (or at any rate holders of the continental currency) who are making even more of a killing in our shares than us Yankees are – at least if they are buying them with their native units of account.
And it’s not as though the holders of our private debentures, of whatever credit quality, are being left behind either:
Investment Grade: High Yield:
But, as has been the catatonically repetitive theme of these last few installments, it’s plain that for the moment at least, the investor class is unwilling to price the palpable risks that overhang the global capital economy into private security valuations. I can’t think this is an overly promising paradigm with respects to its implications for return prospects on a going forward basis.
Without regurgitating all of the soul-sapping elements of the news flow, it may nonetheless bear mention that Health Care Reform, solemnly promised by the ruling (?) party over the near-decade when it was in the minority, hit a brick wall, and that the coup de grace was executed by a senior senator who rose from his post-operative bed, first to authorize the vote, and then to cast the deciding “nay”. The infantile name-calling and mud-slinging inside the Administration continues unabated, the fact that two new sheriffs (one, improbably, a former client of mine) arrived in town notwithstanding.
North Korea lobbed another one into the Sea of Japan, and China busted out some menacing new bombing devices. Almost nobody noticed. The President is irrelevant issuing orders to the military without providing them the courtesy of notifying them.
Yet our indices continue to climb, and with virtually every tick upward reach heretofore-seldom-or-never-before-breached heights with respect to certain valuation metrics:
But ending (as I always do), where I began, perhaps none of this matters. After all, women like Louise still get by. I can’t help but wonder, though, if the ghost of ‘lectricity still howls in the bones of their faces. This is particularly true for Louise IV, who, if she glows in the dark during an amorous moment, at least can be believed to have come by the practice honestly. Our Lady of the Day married a local bouncer in 2004, and here’s wishing her and her husband Wesley Mullinder all they deserve in this world. If the recent photo of her I managed to unearth offers any indication, she looks content. So perhaps, on balance and unlike 1-3, ‘tis well that she’s not American and that no one has ever written a song for her:
Louise IV: Presumably Holding the Device that Facilitated Her Birth:
She can also perhaps take comfort in the reality that she blazed a well-travelled trail. Last year, 70,000 new In Vitro brothers and sisters arrived on the scene, in this country alone. But for them and the rest of us, the world spins and revolves, we move our feet – sometimes forward and sometimes backward – and the heavens fail to remark upon the migration. Perhaps this is as it should be; perhaps not.
I reckon, in this world or the next, we’ll find out.