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Todd Harrison: Societal Discontent and the Stock Market


Sometimes you can learn a lot just from watching.

Editor's Note: Todd posts his vibes in real time each day on our Buzz & Banter.

Out of the blue and into the black; they give you this but you pay for that.
--Neil Young

I was lying in bed last night scrolling through my Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) feed as I do each night once the kids go to sleep. It's become a ritual of sorts -- a way to check in with the world to see what's happening. Twitter is an amazing news feed if you can filter out the noise.

The night before, I had an exchange with Marc Andreessen, the technology entrepreneur who co-founded Netscape, among his numerous other achievements. He's a big backer of Bitcoin, and as I'll be speaking on a MarketWatch panel in early March on the cryptocurrency, I've been doing some due diligence. But alas, I digress.

While clicking through to stories last night, I received an email from a friend who said, "That the expression, 'dropping like FX traders' is even remotely possible says it all. Yuck." I shot back a few question marks, as I didn't know what he was referring to, and he pointed me to the ZeroHedge article on the JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) banker who jumped to his death in Hong Kong.

It wasn't the column itself that was disconcerting, although death always is, particularly when self-inflicted. It was the comment section that followed: the back and forth attempts at humor -- if we can call it that -- and the morbid cheerleading. I scrunched my nose and moved on; ZH is an excellent source of financial candor but it's never been known for its tact.

The next topic I stumbled upon was a retweet from Donald Trump (I don't follow him) in response to the BuzzFeed article that he evidently took exception to. I wouldn't have read the column except for the tenor of Mr. Trump's tweets: He called the author a "sleazebag," "slimebag," and "garbage." That led me to the retort on Breitbart and more to the point, the comment section, which was absolutely brutal.

This leads me full circle on this tangent and back on point. I tweeted, almost reflexively, "Reading the comment sections across the Web tonight, from politics to finance, it sure doesn't feel like we're at all-time highs." This isn't a new thought -- I shared it in 2006 and again dug deep into the socionomic sphere last May -- but man if it isn't as prevalent now, if not more so.

Looking around the world -- from the Ukraine to Syria to Thailand to Egypt to Venezuela -- have we ever witnessed so many violent yet disparate demonstrations of discontent that weren't intertwined in a world war? Has our country ever felt so divided, whether it's the chasm between political parties or the rift between social castes, with the 1% now being distanced from the .01%?

I'm all for new all-time highs -- yeah, capitalism! -- but the residual benefit isn't trickling toward widespread prosperity as all-time highs should, or once would. That, to me, is the much bigger issue at hand, entirely more powerful than the next 5% or one's P&L. It is the unspoken truth that we must eventually face.

Before I powered down last night and turned my attention to bed rest, a "Twitter friend" shared with me a compelling article she wrote last year while traveling in Greece, and it may be more relevant now than it was then. I'll borrow a passage to end this column, as she says it better than I could:

To the ones who know of the reckless and dangerous path the USA now finds itself on, thank you for caring. Because you believed in freedom. Because you prayed for change we could all believe in. Because you believe that together we would charge up that hill, dodging the landmines, the haters, the ones who called us "crazy," and change the system together. So we must push on. We must fight. We must believe in something greater than ourselves. We must have faith. Faith in love. Faith in humanity. Faith in the human condition. Faith in healing. But most of all, faith in freedom.


Twitter: @todd_harrison

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