Turkey day thoughts

Posted by on Nov 23, 2015

The S&P 500 ended the week at 2089, its best week of the year – so far. The Dow closed at 17,283, which was unchanged for the year. The NASDAQ, up almost 8% year-to-date, finished at 5104.

Friday’s close had the Dow about 6% below its all-time high of 18,312. The S&P500 was only around 2% off its record high of 2130. The NASDAQ ended just about 2% from its record top of 5218.

As we move into the final stretch of the market year, the record shows that in recent years, this has been a good time for stocks. The S&P folks say that their S&P 500 Index has been positive over the final 30 trading days of the year for each of the last 12 years.

Seems as if Santa likes to ride the bull.

Historical facts about Thanksgiving

The earliest recorded version of what we consider Thanksgiving actually took place in September, 1565 – in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Based on my analysis of the current St. Pete demographics, I do believe some of the original participants may still be living there today.)

Turkey had not yet become the entrée of choice. They didn’t have potatoes, either – or cranberries even. Their celebration, which consisted of a series of meals over a week, likely consisted of fish, cabbage, onions, corn, duck and venison. No word on pumpkin pies…

Macy’s first Thanksgiving parade was held in 1924 and featured real animals from the Central Park Zoo. The big balloons came along in 1927.

The very first nationally broadcast football game (on radio) took place in 1934. The Bears beat the Lions at their field by 19-16. This event took place in front of an overflow crowd of 26,000! I think that’s about the same number of people in line ahead of me at the concession stands at half-time today.

Personal thoughts about the holiday

My Thanksgiving perspective is always based upon the one I observed when I was 24. At the time, I was tromping around the rice paddies in Vietnam as an infantry platoon commander in the Marine Corps.

For my troops and I, it was kind of the antithesis of the plenty that’s usually associated with this time of year. The reason was due to our remote location, together with the fact that the weather had been very cloudy with lots of rain for many days. We had very little food for about four days already as the helicopters that we relied upon for our supplies either couldn’t fly or couldn’t find us when they did. Of course, we continued our patrols, regardless…

In addition to that challenge – we did get supplied another three days later – all of us were a really long way from home – some of my troops for the very first time. To help deal with that, we entertained each other with stories of what we would eat, in minute detail, once we had the chance to be home again. A very low-cal alternative to the current days…

Somewhat related is the fact that Spokane, where I live now, was hit with a major windstorm last week that, according to the local utility, caused the most damage to their grid in its 126 year history. The reason is that we have lots of tall Ponderosa pines, among other types of tall trees. The wind toppled what seems to be a whole forest of those all around the city, taking power, cable and phone lines with them. As a result, our house has been without any power for five days and will likely be that way, per the utility, for at least another three days. And did I mention that it’s in the 20s – with snow in the forecast??? Not terrible – just inconvenient.

It sure puts things in perspective. What these experiences have done is to really ramp up my thankfulness for all that we do have…even with no power. The magic devices we’ve come to take for granted – internet, computers, hot water heaters, smart phones, microwaves, a climate controlled by me – all of that has been temporarily, I’m assured, removed. We’re surrounded with, and immersed in, incredible technological advancements that have significantly improved our living standards, but added other burdens.

The good news is that, without the distractions of daily modern life, you do get back to the proverbial “what’s really important” stuff such as a great wife, fine kids and good friends. Brian Wesbury, chief economist at FirstTrust, did a fine job of putting this into perspective with these observations.

“Think of all the massive changes in just the past several years. As it turns out, we really can drill our way to lower energy prices. Ubiquitous apps have made life much easier and increased productivity for workers, parents, students, travelers. And the list of new benefits seems to never end. Death rates for cancer patients are way down. 3D printing of body parts. Innovation in food production continues to soar. It’s this cornucopia of invention we should celebrate.”

He adds, “It’s because of the innovations, because of entrepreneurs who have found a way to charge ahead despite every obstacle put in front of them and have kept the economy moving forward.”

He concludes with, “In certain ways, this decade resembles the 1930s. Not in the sense that our economic situation is like the despair of the Great Depression; not even close. But in the sense that amid general dissatisfaction with the economy and a very bad policy set from Washington, important positive innovations were still happening. Jet engines, photocopiers, ballpoint pens, helicopters, and nylons were all invented in the 1930s, making life better for decades to come.”

Be thankful you live in such wonderful times as we do now with so many tremendously positive opportunities awaiting us.

Like the song said, “The future’s so bright…you have to wear shades.”



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