December 11, 2013
It is a regular ritual for major US businesses: the end-of-the-quarter conference call in which the CEO dissects what just happened and gives us some insight on what to expect for the future of the company. My good friend Rich Yamarone, the chief economist at Bloomberg, is the creator of the Bloomberg Orange Book, a compilation of macroeconomic anecdotes gleaned from the comments CEOs and CFOs make on their quarterly earnings conference calls. He not only sits and listens to them present their views, he also picks up the phone and talks to them. He is very clued in on what's happening in the real world of business.
In New York last week, at our dinner with a table full of economist types (including Art Cashin, Dan Greenhaus, and Ed Yardeni), Rich voiced his concerns about what he had been hearing. He let his inner Darth Vader out and ponderously informed us that we might soon be in a recession. The point was vigorously debated by Greenhaus and Yardeni, but Yamarone held his ground. So, for today's Outside the Box, I asked Rich to summarize what he is hearing on the conference calls and tie it into his read on the economy. I am pleased that the resulting piece is delivered in his usual entertaining style, with lots of red meat. I think Lord Vader outdid himself.
I write this note from 35,000 feet, flying to Seattle, and there has been a LOT of white on the ground since I left home. Dallas is just today getting back to normal from a storm that left us with two inches of ice; and we were better off than 50 miles further north, where they had a four-inch mantle of slippery ice to contend with. Snow is so much easier.
I am off to Geneva tomorrow after a quick stop in Dallas to swap suitcases. That is a lot of uninterrupted reading and writing time, which I really need. Even worse than the ice, there has been a blizzard of email lately, and my inbox is overflowing worse than ever. I have always tried to enter the new year with an (almost) empty inbox, but this year keeping that resolution will be a challenge. If I owe you an email, hang in there; I'm working on it.