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The Independent Investor: Trade Schools versus College
By Bill Schmick On: 05:56PM / Thursday February 14, 2013
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When was the last time anyone seriously considered a choice like that? Over the last 50 years, most Americans considered a college education as the only ticket to their slice of the American dream. The high cost of that education, coupled with declining incomes and fewer openings for today's college grads make me wonder if there isn't a better way forward for a large portion of our work force.
 
When was the last time you could get an electrician, plumber, or other skilled laborer to show up on the same day you called? Have their fees gone up or down? Why are there 200,000 or more high-paying manufacturing jobs left unfilled in this country in the face of 7.8 percent unemployment? My point is that there is an enormous opportunity for millions of Americans to earn more money and live a more prosperous life than ever before, but they lack the skills to apply.
 
During the Cold War, John F. Kennedy urged this nation's youth to enroll in college. It was their patriotic duty in order to counter Soviet aggression and technological gains. We listened and enrolled in college by the millions. The Vietnam War and the draft spurred even greater growth in university attendance. By the 1980s, college was the only answer to getting ahead. If you wanted an even better life, graduate school was the next step, so I applied. We called it the age of the MBA. 
 
Trade and technical schools fell by the wayside. It was a place where only those who couldn't pass their SATs would go, quietly and in shame. Attendance declined, schools were shuttered and those that did survive were as popular as the plague.
 
The globalization of the world's economies, however, threw the world's labor force on its head. What followed was a 30-year wrenching readjustment of worldwide employment practices. The developed world's work force experienced a substantial decline in real wages, especially among its unskilled workers, while the labor force among emerging economies has enjoyed a high income and standard of living.
 
Here in America those trends have resulted in a stubbornly high unemployment rate (especially among the nation's youth) and an imbalance in our skill sets. We have an overabundance of college-trained workers, an increasing (and unfulfilled) demand for skilled "blue collar" workers and a large number of undereducated high school graduates making the minimum wage.
 
The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University projects that between now and 2018, the U.S. economy will create 47 million job openings. However, less than a third of those jobs will require a college degree. Many of these new jobs will require some occupational training and skills. This new national demand will come from healthcare, construction, manufacturing and natural resources among other areas.
 
As a result, vocational or trade schools are making a comeback. Over the last five years these schools have experienced relatively strong growth, about 4.1 percent annually and are expected to continue to grow by about 2.6 percent a year over the next five years. At the same time, much of academia as well as the present government have changed their attitude toward vocational training.
 
Traditionally, we have considered vocational training as an institution that trains students for entry-level positions in jobs that don't require a college degree. That may have been the case in my "Daddy's Day" but vocational training is in a state of transition. Trade schools increasingly offer a much broader approach to education and are providing students with a variety of applicable skills. Today, technical school graduates are working in business, health, computer technology and various areas of administration as well as in the more traditionally recognized blue collar jobs.
 
I have often said that opportunities for U.S. workers with only a high school degree are dismal at best and shrinking daily. These are today's minimum wage employees. The present debate over whether or not to increase that minimum wage addresses a symptom rather than a cause in this country. 
 
In my next column, we will look at how technical schools and vocational training could help turn around the high unemployment rate of America's youth, while lifting an entire segment of workers out of the minimum-wage trap.
 
Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.


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The Independent Investor: America, the Battered
By Bill Schmick On: 04:40PM / Thursday February 07, 2013
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On the eve of what is supposed to be one whopping big snow storm here in the Northeast, one can only wonder if Mother Nature is preparing us for yet another horrendous weather year. Last year was one of the costliest on record.

In 2012, at least 11 weather events, each causing more than $1 billion in losses, were delivered upon this nation. Tornados, hurricanes, wildfires, and drought were just some of the fire and brimstone that left 349 people dead while leaving millions of inhabitants seeking shelter.

Out West, those "purple mountain majesties" were hidden by months of thick smoke as almost 10 million acres of national forest was reduced to blackened stumps. At the same time, those "fruited plains" and "amber waves of grain" shriveled away, replaced by acres of cracked, parched earth. After months of waterless weather, the 2012 drought spread over half the United States, from California, north to Idaho and the Dakotas and then east to Indiana and Illinois. Think "Dust Bowl."

That drought persisted all year and continues today in much of the nation's mid-section. Over 123 of those deaths and billions in damages can be attributed to that drought alone. Of course, the drought played a major role in spreading the wild fires, which gave us our second worst fire season in over a decade in the western U.S.

One can only wonder how the high temperatures interacted with other weather conditions to trigger an unrelenting series of tornados and severe thunderstorms in places like Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and much of the Southern Plains. Forty-eight deaths, countless casualties and $14.5 billion in damages had many residents in a dozen states as shell-shocked as war victims.  

There was even an unusual combination of high winds and severe storms (called the Derecho Event) that cut a swath of death and damage through the mid-Atlantic from New Jersey to South Carolina this summer. It caused 28 deaths and $3.75 billion in losses.

There was also little left shining from "sea to shining sea" except search lights during the nation's two largest hurricanes: "Isaac," which blew in from the Gulf of Mexico and Hurricane Sandy that made a shambles of much of the East Coast.

It was Sandy that skewed the numbers last year. The Superstorm killed 131 people and estimated damages have peaked at $50 billion. Only 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, Wilma, Rita and Dennis, generated more deaths (2,000) and worse damage ($187 billion). And the damage caused by Mother Nature is on the increase.

Back in the '80s and '90s, according to the National Climatic Data Center, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it was rare to see more than two or three $1 billion, weather-related damage events annually. We had many years where the losses totaled less than $20 million a year. But today, the standout years during those decades have now become fairly common. Billion-dollar events have become twice as frequent as they were back in 1996 and in the proceeding 15 years.

So as you read this today, "Nemo the Nor'easter," will have descended upon us. It is forecasted to pile up the white stuff at the rate of an inch an hour around here. Over in Boston, it could be much worse. Let's hope everyone survives it. Unfortunately, this may only be the first big weather event of many that we will endure this year. In which case, 2013 will simply be adhering to what is now the new normal in weather-related costs.

C'mon, Mother Nature, go pick on someone else.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.


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@theMarket: Not If, But When
By Bill Schmick On: 04:47PM / Saturday February 02, 2013
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On the technical front, more and more indicators are flashing warning signs. The markets look extended and investor sentiment points to extreme bullishness. Those are usually signals that we are due for a sell off.

That does not mean that the markets won't go higher but the higher the averages climb without a pullback, the sharper the decline will be when it does occur. Remember too that pullbacks are good for the markets. Two steps forward and one step back is the rhythm of just about everything and the markets are simply a reflection of that fact of life. We have had a good run over the last few weeks and the averages are close to historic highs for good reasons.

The traditional Christmas rally was postponed last year because of concerns over the Fiscal Cliff. Prior to that, in November, some investors vented their disappointment over the re-election of President Obama by selling the market. They were convinced that without Mitt Romney, the world would come to an end.

As a result, since the beginning of the year, many investors have been playing catchup. As predicted, once the Cassandras had been proven wrong on tax hikes, spending cuts, the growth of the economy, the debt limit and whatever else they were fretting about, the bears have been making up for lost time and have been throwing money at stocks hand over fist.

As I explained last week, we may also be seeing the beginnings of a shift out of U.S. Treasury bonds and into stocks over the last few weeks.

All of this good news has kept the markets propped up. I expect that enthusiasm will continue over the very short term, but somewhere up ahead lies the possibility of a correction of up to 10%. That might sound like a lot (and it is), but those kinds of corrections normally occur once or twice every 12 months or so. We are overdue for this one.

“Should I sell now?” asks a client.

My answer depends on your circumstances. If you know that at some point over the next few months you will need to raise cash for college tuition, a new roof, an auto or other big ticket purchase, then it probably makes sense to take some profits now and make sure you have the money available for when you will need it.

On the other hand, if it is simply fear and greed spurring your desire to sell, I would advise against it. I have never met anyone who can consistently sell at the highs and buy back at the lows. The majority of times, those who try lose more money than they make.

“So I'm supposed to just sit here and take a 10 percent hit?" the client asks.

My answer is yes. The next thing longtime readers will point out is that over the past few years I have taken action on many similar declines. Why not now?

If I thought that something serious was lurking out there in the bushes, something that could drive the market down a lot further than 10 percent, then I might advise you to step to the sidelines. But I don't see anything like that.

Europe is recovering, not failing. The Fed is easing and the government appears to be getting its act together. Globally, I see more growth ahead. No matter how much I beat the bushes, I just don’t see the kind of dangers that we have had to navigate over the last few years.

There is no way of telling when a correction will occur. We could easily gain another 4-5 percent before it occurs and there is no guarantee that if it does occur it will turn out to be 10 percent. It could be less, a lot less. In which case, selling now will be an exercise in futility. My advice for most investors is simply weather the decline if it occurs. I have a strong feeling that the markets will ultimately make back any losses they may incur and then some.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.


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The Independent Investor: The Business of the Super Bowl
By Bill Schmick On: 01:07PM / Saturday February 02, 2013
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It is one of the few businesses that continues to grow year after year. Whether one looks at the ads, the attendance or the number of television viewers, the Super Bowl has survived where others of its species have died off. It is truly one of the last mass-audience live television events of our society.

Super Bowl XLVII will be played on Sunday, Feb. 3, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. It will mark the 10th time the "Big Easy" hosted the event. The last one was in 2002. It could mean as much as $450 million in business for the city.

Now, that would only be half as much as New Orleans has spent preparing for the game. The city spent more than $1 billion on infrastructure improvements, including renovations at the airport, a new streetcar line, and enhancements to the Superdome itself. After the devastation of Katrina, New Orleans needed to rebuild and have used a number of major sporting events, including the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in 2012, a couple of BCS National Championship Games and the NBA All-Star Game in 2008 to do just that. But the Super Bowl is the big jambalaya in the menu of possible events.

Experts say that for every $100 spent in the city, about 50-70 percent remains there, while the rest leaks out into other surrounding locales. New Orleans, like other cities who have hosted the event, is hoping that by putting their best foot forward, they will convince some of the attendees to remain and even establish businesses in the areas.

Given that the attendance at the Super Bowl is largely a corporate event, businesses get first choice of rooms, flights, special events and just about everything else involved in the Super Bowl and the days surrounding it. The chance to shine cannot be underestimated and the city fathers know it.

For those of us unable to attend the live event, all is not lost. We can look forward to countless parties (either at home or your favorite bar or cafe), root for your favorite team, dance to the half-time show (Beyonce will man the stage this year) and, of course, watch the commercials.

Americans continue to watch the Super Bowl in record numbers. More than 46 percent of TV households watched last year's game, according to Nielsen, which makes it just about the most watched broadcast in U.S. history. And the wealthier you are, the more likely you are to tune in. For advertisers, who strive to reach the age demographic of 18-49 years old, the Super Bowl is the best game in town.

It is probably why Super Bowl ads keep climbing in cost. Ad slots for this year's game sold out at the asking price of $3.5 million per 30-second spot by December. That is up from $3 million/spot last year. But corporations will pay it because there is a gold mine for those who can come up with the right ad.

This year, viewers will see some big names populating the ads. Singer Beyonce, hip-hopper Jay-Z, supermodels Catrinel Menghia, Bar Refaeli and Kate Upton. And that is only a taste of the lineup. Personally, I will be looking forward to the return of the French bull dog, Mr. Quiggly, (which replaced Kim Kardashian in a Skechers' ad). Last year he captured the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of many of us.   

There will also be a number of new ad sponsors this year including Oreos. For me, the day after the event will be as much about my favorite commercial than it is the game. That's why the Super Bowl has become such a business generator for corporations.

Given that the ads are 58 percent more memorable than your average TV commercial, I can see why. If you doubt that, just recall the ad with the little boy dressed as Darth Vader. I bet you can even remember what auto manufacturer sponsored it. That company reaped a cool $100 million in free publicity from the spot, which is not bad for $3.5 million investment. When it comes to the Super Bowl, what is good for business, is also good for America, so let the games begin and the cashier register ring!

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.


 



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@theMarket: A Rising Tide
By Bill Schmick On: 04:10PM / Friday January 25, 2013
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That old saying, "a rising tide lifts all boats" certainly applies to the stock market this month. It appears that more and more investors are abandoning the bond market and finally embracing equities. That spells further upside.

Last week, U.S. investors moved a net $3.8 billion into equity mutual funds. The week before that $7.5 billion in new inflows were recorded along with over $10 billion invested in exchange traded funds. That's the best two-week inflow into equity in 13 years.

Over the last few years, I have kept tabs of the money flows in and out of the stock market. We have endured 22 consecutive months of outflows from the equity market. That money went into the bond market, CDs and checking accounts. Many of those investors did well by investing in U.S. Treasury and other bonds, since interest rates continued to fall while fixed income prices rose. They were convinced that equities were going to plummet at any moment. It didn't happen and now, thanks to the record low rates of return offered by these safe havens, investors may be embracing risk once again.

I have often said that as long as money was flowing out of the stock market, volatility would continue to increase while the probability of making new historical highs in the averages would be slim at best. The S&P 500 Index is up about 120 percent from the day I urged investors to re-enter the market back in March of 2009, and we are now within 5 percent of regaining the historical highs of 2007 in most of the averages

We need an expansion in volume and a wave of new buying in order to push us over the top. As I have said, a great many retail investors have sat on the sidelines through this four-year rally. It appears that they may now be moving out of their bond holdings and back into the stock market providing the fuel we need for further gains.

The contrarian in me worries, however, that if we do see the retail investor return to stocks, it may signal an approaching top to this four-year bull run. There have been times in the past, most notably the rush into technology stocks back in 2000, where the retail crowd has jumped in at the absolute worse time. I don't believe that the retail investor is always wrong. There have been plenty of times that the common sense approach of the individual has trumped the hedge fund mentality of most professionals.

The market's grind higher this week was that much more impressive given the earnings disaster of one tech company that, until recently, was the apple of most investors' eyes. I recall warning readers last summer of the high, in fact, impossible valuation that the market was awarding this company. Unfortunately, few readers took my advice to sell.

Stocks are overextended and could have a minor pullback at any moment, but overall I expect the markets will continue their winning streak through the end of the month and beyond. Underlying the averages, I have been seeing a lot of sector rotation where traders are selling the high flyers and buying the laggards. That is also happening overseas where emerging markets, for example, have been subject to profit-taking this month. I would use these pullbacks to add to positions.

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment adviser representative with Berkshire Money Management. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own. None of the information presented here should be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. Direct inquires to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com.


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Page 29 of 71... 24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  33  34 ... 71  
News Headlines
Pittsfield Weighs Construction Manager Model For New Taconic
Backstop Repairs Drain Last of Pittsfield's Bossidy Funds
Berkshire Battalion Loses Second Straight
McCann Students Lauded for Leadership & Skill Building
BU Looking For More Use of Tanglewood Campus
Battalion Falls at Danville
Berkshire County Arc Receives Workplace Wellness Grant
Cultural Pittsfield This Week:Dec. 19-Jan. 4
Groundbreaking Ceremony Held at New Williamstown Senior Housing
Shakespeare In the Park Will Resume At Pittsfield Common

Bill Schmick is registered as an investment advisor representative and portfolio manager with Berkshire Money Management (BMM), managing over $200 million for investors in the Berkshires. Bill’s forecasts and opinions are purely his own and do not necessarily represent the views of BMM. None of his commentary is or should be considered investment advice. Anyone seeking individualized investment advice should contact a qualified investment adviser. None of the information presented in this article is intended to be and should not be construed as an endorsement of BMM or a solicitation to become a client of BMM. The reader should not assume that any strategies, or specific investments discussed are employed, bought, sold or held by BMM. Direct your inquiries to Bill at 1-888-232-6072 (toll free) or email him at Bill@afewdollarsmore.com Visit www.afewdollarsmore.com for more of Bill’s insights.

 

 

 



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