Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Price of Protein

I make my living by investing other people's money. And I believe that investors (in general) are best-served, long-term, by taking an ownership interest in the global companies that feed, house, transport, heat, cool, employ and entertain them, and the rest of us 7 billion Earthlings. Therefore, as you might expect, when the stock market goes down, my income goes right down with it. And of course I'm not alone; the investment industry is a big, job sustaining, systemically vital, industry for sure.

Now let's say you raise hogs for slaughter, and pay your taxes just like everybody else. You tell me, how would you feel if, when the next [inevitable] bear market brings stocks down by its (by definition) 20%+, and my income along with it, the President stepped in and committed your money to buying up equities just to help me out. I don't expect you'd care too much for that idea. Might even chap your hide just a little, huh? You'd (being a purveyor of pork) know intuitively that being in business means taking risks, and dealing with the seasons - dealing with the inevitable cyclicality of life as we know it. Smart folk plan for down markets, be they of the stock or the livestock variety. Plus, if the government stepped in and artificially boosted equity prices every time they dropped by some measure, it'd kill the opportunity for opportunists to get in cheap.

Well that's precisely what he's fixin to do for the meat industry. Apparently the midwestern drought is pushing feed prices through the barn roof, and therefore meat producers are turning livestock into deadstock (less head to feed) at an accelerated pace. And the over-abundance of animal protein coming to market is, of course, bringing down the price per gram. And our good President says he'll have none of that. That the government buys meat and has lots of freezers. And I suspect the beneficiaries of this shopping spree, both direct and ancillary, have lots of votes.

(note; don't waste your time going all partisan on this one. His predecessors [on both sides] did the same for their supporters virtually without exception).

So let's see, again, we know intuitively that being in business means taking risks, and dealing with the seasons. That smart folk plan for down markets. And that bailing out smart folk inevitably makes them dumb [risk-taking] folk (think bankers). Plus, the politician stepping in to boost prices (and his poll numbers) kills the opportunity for you and I to save a buck at the meat market (and ultimately increases our taxes) - not to mention how it'll inspire more kills of pigs, steers and chickens. Think about what that will do to the supply of meat in the not-too-distant future (while we wait for piglets, calves and chicks to grow up), and thus its price?

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