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Mark's Market Blog

1-13-12: S&P Downgrades Europe.

By Mark Lawrence

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Markets were flat last week on anemic volume. The market really wants to go up, but everyone with money is waiting for a major correction. This is likely when Greece defaults, perhaps before. Then we'll see major money printing by the ECB to save the European banking system, and soon after that major money printing by Bernanke to accommodate the re-election cycle. Many think that a new S&P high sometime around October is plausible, perhaps even likely.

S&P 500 July 26 2011 to January 13,2012

S&P downgraded France, Italy, Spain and six other European nations, and their bailout fund. No one seems to care.

Greece broke off talks with their major creditors. Default really looks like just a matter of time, like within eight to ten weeks.

An Iranian court has convicted an American man of working for the CIA and sentenced him to death, state radio reported Monday, in a case adding to the accelerating tension between the United States and Iran. Is he a spy? I dunno, maybe. During the cold war the Kremlin and the CIA agreed such people were subject to catch-and-release, else this escalates quickly. Iran apparently wishes to escalate. The economy and mood of this country is such that I expect we'll be willing to accommodate them. Meanwhile in the last ten days a couple of Iranian ships have sunk near American ships, and in both cases we have rescued and returned multiple sailors. This sense of fair play that we European stock has, it's really not a world-wide phenomenon.

Internet Browsing: I recommend Firefox, which is free, more secure, and faster than IE. And it's not made by MicroSoftWeenies (who names their company like this?). After you get Firefox, click on Tools / Add-Ons and search for Ghostery. Download it and restart. Let Ghostery do what it wants. You will now be invisible to most site tracking - the insidious garbage that happens behind your back and tells marketers where you go and what you do there. Also ads on many sites will disappear. As you go to sites, Ghostery will pop up a little temporary purple balloon to tell you how many site tracking schemes it foiled on that page - typically two to ten. Once for me, twenty on one page.

I signed up for a free two week membership at It's a surprising web site - incredibly informative in some places, remarkably frustrating in others. In one branch of my family, I'm having trouble identifying my great-grandfather. In a nearby branch, I can trace back to 732. That branch went up into French Canada, which apparently has superior records. Interestingly, you go back 100 years or more and everyone is having 10 kids. It quickly becomes obvious that women's lib has its foundation in birth control and cars. Generating a family tree is a lot of work, a lot of hours; if you're interested I recommend you enlist the help of a sibling or three. Filling out my tree using only readily available data is going to take me perhaps a dozen hours. As you go back further, you have to pay attention: almost every ancestor I investigate from before 1850 or so shows a child that predates their marriage by five to ten years. While it's well known that in her youth and enthusiasm a young bride can accomplish in five months what takes everyone else nine, it's really not credible that she starts at age 7. I have at least one case in my background of first cousins marrying, which perhaps explains a lot about my rougher edges. It's sometimes fun watching names evolve - one ancestor of mine is Schier; her father was Cyr and so on back four generations to France, where the root name was Sire Coulon. One woman I know who is a bit OCD about this has one branch of her family traced back to the old testament. This took several years and required getting church records from strange countries in obscure languages. I won't be investing that kind of time. In fact in about a week when my trial is up, I expect to cancel my membership and pass this off onto my sister. She has a lot of spare time: just ask me.

Mark's Health care hints: A friend called me recently with kidney stones. Doctors wanted $$$$ to cut him up and shoot lasers into him. Home alternative: get a 2-liter bottle of Coke or Pepsi and four to six pieces of asparagus or an 8oz can of asparagus. Diet coke is ok. Over the course of two hours, drink the entire bottle of coke. After the two hours are up and the coke is gone, put the asparagus into a blender and puree it. Add a bit of water if necessary. Drink 1 cup of pureed asparagus. For the next 12 hours, work extra hard to drink two or three liters of water or gatoraid; this home remedy will dehydrate you. That's it, the kidney stones will be gone that day, no pain, no knives, no lasers, under $5.

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