2013 saw more than its fair share of major storylines, everything from the gravity-defying performance of the equity markets to the never-ending Affordable Care Act saga to Tiger Woods’ golf and love life comeback to Twitter’s close to perfect IPO.
And the newsmakers and media showed no hesitation in talking about it all.
– “I look at this as a very bad warning sign.” –BlackRock’s Larry Fink early in the year on the fiscal cliff deal’s foreshadowing of the strife to come on 2013’s deficit reduction wrangling. While Fink and many others ultimately were proven correct on predicting an unprecedented level of dysfunction coming out of Washington, most missed badly on forecasting its impact on the markets, which ultimately proved negligible at worst.
In fact, most major Street lead analysts and strategists clustered in the 1550-1600 range for their going-in prognostications for the S&P 500’s finishing level for calendar year 2013, for gains basically in the 10-15% area. The mean 2013 prediction of around 1565 only missed three century marks for the SPX, but, hey, who’s counting?
–“Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency.” –President Obama in announcing the nomination of Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary and joking about Lew’s now famously poor handwriting. Lew, from our observation, remained remarkably under the radar screen all year, especially when compared to predecessor Tim Geithner.
–“When it comes to torture, I will trust the woman who spent three years married to (Director) James Cameron.” –Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes on director Kathryn Bigelow of the Bin Laden capture film “Zero Dark Thirty.”
–“This is one of the coolest things we’ve done in a while.” –Mark Zuckerberg on the much-hyped launch of Facebook’s Graph Search. By most tech analyst accounts, Graph Search ended up anything but one FB’s best innovations. But this hardly stopped the momentum of the stock, with ever-stronger mobile results and expectations for more of the same driving the stock to a 90% gain on the year.
–“The darkest clouds over the euro area have subsided.” –ECB chief Mario Draghi in a January speech, and he now seems prescient as European concerns, with the major exception of Cyprus, largely vanished from the U.S. equity markets’ radar screens throughout 2013. But continued elevated unemployment levels, low growth overall and the weak economies of the “fringe” Euro nations says all is far from resolved even now heading into 2014.
–“What difference at this point does it really make?” –Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the highly charged Senate hearing on Benghazi, firing back at Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. While Clinton’s Presidential choices and chances continue to be hotly debated, only time will tell how the entire Benghazi tragedy will factor into the equation. Her successor John Kerry said in his introductory remarks as the new Secretary, “I have big heels to fill… After the last eight years, can a man actually run the State Department?”
–“The U.S. is on the cusp of an explosion of greatness…everything is aligned the right way.” –Appaloosa hedge fund chief David Tepper in an early year interview, who added he has never seen “as big a gap” between potential returns in equities and everywhere else. Tepper just continues to get it right and reports as of the end of November 2013 had his large Palomino fund beating even the S&P’s impressive performance.
–“I’m basically the healthiest fat guy you’ve ever seen.” –NY Gov. Chris Christie on David Letterman, while jokingly munching on a donut. Christie, however, certainly felt the weighty issue of a potential Presidential contender’s health was not totally a laughing matter as had weight-loss surgery and has shed a significant if unknown number of pounds since.
–“Ed, in his own way was our Moses. Just with a little less hair. He led us out of darkness and he gave us hope.” –New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his eulogy for former NYC Mayor Ed Koch.
–“I’m ready for another elephant. Please, if you see any walking by, just call me.” –Warren Buffett, half-jokingly in a CNBC interview after the big Berkshire/3G bid for Heinz (HNZ). The Heinz story was just part of what was being called “The Year of the Deal.”
–“Ouch, it’s painful, because we kind of are losing that (cool factor).” –Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in remarks surrounding the onslaught of Apple competitors and pondering the company’s continued ability to set the bar high on new products. Wozniak frequently tweaked Apple management with seemingly off-handed and sly remarks on new launches, while always making sure to issue high praise for the company overall.
–“That’s why I’m richer than you.” –JPM’s Jamie Dimon in a now infamous exchange with outspoken bank analyst Mike Mayo. Dimon and JPM had a rough year overall, as was well-documented, but Dimon continued to maintain all year, essentially right on the money, “Whatever it is, the company will be fine.”/>/>
–“Winning Takes Care Of Everything” — The tagline placed on an image of Tiger Woods by Nike the day after he won the Arnold Palmer Invitational and regained the #1 world golf ranking. Many thought this was the equivalent of a triple bogey, given Woods’ previous marital issues and some questioning his on the course self-policing, but let’s give Tiger a break for having a tremendous, though Major-less, 2013 and finding a much-watched new relationship with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn.
–“We need to use every means available.” –New Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda in introducing “a new phase of monetary easing,” which became one of the cornerstones of “Abenomics,” which has the fundamental objective of ending the long period of Japanese deflation.
–“In the next few meetings, we could take a step down in our pace of purchases.” –Fed Chair Ben Bernanke in creating one of the few truly shaky moments for the markets in 2013, as he alluded in a May Q&A to the possibility of a “tapering.” This obviously became one of the central focal points of both Fed-watchers and the markets for both the June “Taper Tantrum” and the remainder of 2013, though ultimately playing itself into a non-event.
–“Had a nice conversation with Tim Cook today. Discussed my opinion that a larger buyback should be done now. We plan to speak again shortly.” –Uber-activist investor Carl Icahn in a Tweet regarding Apple. Icahn was all over the news all during the year for a variety of well-publicized actions, but his Apple move was particularly noteworthy, with this being called the “$17 billion Tweet,” for AAPL’s rapid move higher shortly thereafter. Icahn’s cheerleading behind Apple and call for a return to a $700 price played no small role in the stock’s turnaround.
–“He’s my friend for life. I don’t care what you guys think about him.” –former NBA star Dennis Rodman, upon leaving North Korea on one of his visits this year, and professing his affection Kim Jong Un.
–“Madam President, I rise today in opposition to ObamaCare. I rise today in an effort to speak for 26 million Texans and for 300 million Americans.” –Sen. Ted Cruz’ opening of his personal “filibuster,” which lasted 21 hours and 19 minutes and is being called the 4th-longest in Senate history, although many question whether it can technically be called a “real” filibuster.
–“We’re sorry, but we will not tweet or respond to @ replies during the government shutdown. We’ll be back as soon as possible!” –Tweeted message from the social media crew at @USAGov in early October.
–“I think we have now fully acquainted our new members with what a losing strategy that is.” –Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on using a future shutdown threat as a tactic, at the conclusion of the debt/sequester fiasco.
–“The effort to repeal ObamaCare has been as ill-conceived as the legislation itself.” – Rep. Sen. Lindsay Graham, echoed by the words of Sen. John McCain, who said, “There are many ironies here, with the fiasco of the rollout (ObamaCare), being overshadowed by internecine (GOP) warfare.”
–“Health care reform is more than a website,” Jay Carney, White House press secretary, in the most heated moments of the early site rollout. And as all have learned, he was correct, but not always in the way intended. The AP/Washington Post had one of our favorite media lines of the year, funny but sad at the same time, saying, “Finally, the White House has pulled off a successful web launch.” This reference was to the Obamas hosting delighted Halloween trick-or-treaters as “ghastly webs with giant black spiders adorned an orange-hued White House.”
–“We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER-you can use caps.” –Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who apparently still remains steadfast in that belief, although waging a heightened PR effort amid the ongoing debate and criticism.
–“I was shaking the entire time. It was like an out of body experience.” –Kim Kardashian on Kanye West’s “epic” stadium proposal.
–“The number one rule has to be: Don’t be boring.” –reported comments of new owner Jeff Bezos to staffers at the Washington Post, in what was described as a fairly inspiring first face-to-face meeting.
–“In some cases, some of these actions have reached too far and we are going to try to make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.” –Secretary of State John Kerry in statements conceding that some of the country’s surveillance activities have “been on an automatic pilot,” especially regarding our allies./>/>
–“The thing that maybe surprised me most about the IPO process was the almost spectacular understanding of the service by so many potential investors across the country…they would show me Tweets in (roadshow) meetings.” –Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who was in high spirits before, during, and after Twitter’s smooth and spectacular IPO.
–“The Senate panel did everything but buy her a corsage.” –CNBC’s frequent contributor, UBS floor trading head Art Cashin, on the confirmation hearings for new Fed Chair Janet Yellen. And certainly the markets echoed that upbeat Yellen sentiment, looking forward to a continued dovish stance at the top of the FOMC. Yellen, in many different variations of the theme, has made it abundantly clear that, “We expect to maintain a highly accommodative stance.”
We will close out here on that positive note giving many hope for yet another blockbuster year for the markets, although there were so many other notable stories and quotes. The NSA and Snowden, the Papal transition, the passing of Nelson Mandela, the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death, the gyrations of gold and Bitcoins, the many remarkable company-specific stories, and unfortunate crises of every nature around the globe.
But let’s end with our favorite quote of all: “Have a healthy and prosperous 2014!”