Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Many people who live south of the Sahara desert are suffering. Many of the poorest of the African nations have no food and no education. Attempts to feed the poor have not lead to great success but in a number of countries education is starting to make a difference. I am told that some of the hardest workers in North Carolina are refugees from the poorest of African countries. I don't know much about the situation but I am thankful that the Methodist Church contributes to educational facilities in the area.

The people of Iran and Venezuela are also suffering but for totally different reasons. The leaders in each of these countries are willing to cause their people to suffer in exchange for "world influence." There are food shortages in Venezuela, gasoline shortages in Iran and the loss of freedoms in both countries. Each country is rich in natural resources but, they consistently fail to maximize their returns from their resources. Oil production has gone down in each country as they are unwilling to offer fair compensation to exploration and development companies.

The UN has passed two sets of sanctions against Iran and, as a result of pressure from China and Russia, has decided to wait until November before considering tougher measures. Rather than allow the citizens of Iran to have gasoline, Iran has spent billions to arm various waring factions. In the latest move, Iran has threatened to arm Iraqi insurgents with Surface to Air Missiles that would put US helicopters at great risk. On the other hand, it has been reported that the US is considering "surgical air strikes" against targets in Iran that support, train or supply Iraqi insurgents.

Saber rattling has pushed up the price of gold and oil. In May, when a barrel of oil sold in the mid to high 70's price range, the retail price of gasoline hit the $3.20 range. This price was a demand for gasoline driven price. Yesterday, a barrel of oil was selling for better than $80, the price of gas was being cut to the $2.60 range. Based on the price of gasoline, the price of oil should be around $57 per barrel. If Congress can time the passage of carbon taxes just right, they can get a lot of credit with the voters when the price falls before the elections.

Next year, daily refinery capacity will increase by 1.5 million barrels per day. Last year, there was less oil used in the USA than in the year before. Increases in crude supply will come from many parts of the world with three of the largest increases coming from Angola, Iraq and Canada.

Yes, Iraq will put significant resources back on line by next year. Yesterday, the Iraqi army arrested 75 insurgents, discovered a car bomb factory and blew up 18 bombs. The month of September saw a significant decline in both civilian and military deaths. Yesterday, the Senate of the USA passed additional war funding of $150 billion and the House is expected to pass a similar bill today, appropriations will be passed within the next 47 days. Most importantly, thousands of Iraqi citizens are joining the fight on the side of the central government. Having thousands of Sunni's join on the government side is huge. The fight is not over but the continuation of current trends should cause the insurgents to scurry back to Afghanistan. If you do not believe the fight is going well, review the answers by the Democratic Presidential contenders at the last debate. John Edwards was the first to state that he would not guarantee that the troops would be withdrawn soon after his election. The contenders do not want to be the anti war candidate in the face of potential victory.

A major point is that Iran is feeling growing pressure to "make a deal" as it becomes clear that the war in Iraq can be won without the assistance of Iran. An oil supply deal has already been struck between Iraq and Syria. Iran will become all the more isolated if a deal is not made soon. Once a deal is made, a large number of contracts will go forward to develop oil fields in Iran and Iraq.

The handwriting is once again on the Persian Wall. The Democrats in Congress can take partial credit for the "good news" by passing a number of bills that Bush will sign. Right wing conservatives have been marginalized. They are still against this and against that but the democrats have the votes to pass legislation without them. Bush and the Democrats will ultimately pass mostly centrist measures. "Good Times" will be the order of the day as the elections approach.


In 25 of the past 27 fourth quarters of the year, the Dow Jones Averages went up. Today, the market got of to a great fourth quarter start. A nice gain in CAL was reduced late in the day as the market waited for September results. They were reported after the market closed and they looked good to me but some bulls on the stock were looking for better numbers. Again, I liked the numbers.

CAL achieved:
1) the fifth best ever on time performance,
2) the best ever flight completion record,
3) record mainline and record consolidated load factors,
4) a consolidated traffic increase of 5.6% (more than 12% on the highly profitable transatlantic flights),
5) an increase in Revenue Per Available Seat Mile (RASM of 4.5 to 5.5%).

My back-of-the-envelope calculations tell me that total revenues grew by 11% which is a very large number relative to a trailing PE of 8 and a forward PE of 6.5. Even with high fuel prices, Cost Per Available Seat Mile has not climbed as fast as RASM. Margins are going in the right direction.

The action in AMR added excitement to the airline sector. AMR announced that it will prepay $545 million worth of long term debt and it projects its interest expense to have fallen by $130 million dollars this year. I don't recall that CAL has made similar announcements but, last year the company added more than $1 billion cash even after funding the pension plans and after paying down debt by a few hundred million. CASH FLOW, CASH FLOW AND MORE CASH FLOW, WE LIKE CASH FLOW!

GRMN took a hit because Nokia purchased a GSM company. Yes, maps are going to be an important feature on cell phones. GRMN has been a hot stock, one that I am not willing to turn loose of just because the competition is heating up. The growth in this area will be so large that money can be made by a number of players.


There are still more than 1 billion Chinese with annual incomes of $300 or less. For the most part, China and Wal-Mart bashing will continue to be empty rhetoric. Those who want the lowest price will continue to shop at Wal-Mart. More and more of the poor of the world will be blessed as more and more Wal-Marts are built. Times are good and getting better. In another 10 years or so, most of the billions of Chinese will be on their way to relative prosperity. The buyers of the goods will have done themselves a favor while helping the poor. THAT IS A OK BY ME! BUY, BUY, BUY!