Explaining Southern California's economy

Herbalife battle: It's nuclear war between Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn

SUSAN GOLDMAN

A worker cleans the logo on the Herbalife sign. The battle of words between investors with stakes in the company has heated up.

This video I've embedded below is worth watching to get an idea of the kind of men who are  fighting a very public battle over the L.A.-headquartered weight-loss products and supplements maker Herbalife. Hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and legendary investor Carl Icahn do not like each other one little bit — and the acrimony goes way back, to 2003 when the two tangled over a deal with a real estate company that went so bad that they had to settle the particulars in court (Ackman won). 

Ackman contends that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme. He's bet more than $1 billion that the company's stock isn't just going to decline, but go to zero. Zero! Another hedge fund guy, Dan Loeb, has taken the other side of that bet, buying up several hundred million bucks worth of Herbalife stock, on the assumption that the price will rise.

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James Altucher: A financial pundit who's worth watching

James Altucher is a crazy guy with a crazy blog who has some fairly offbeat ideas about all manner of stuff. He's also one of the most original talking heads in the financial talking heads business, as evinced by his appearances in a variety of media outlets. He seriously cuts against type. He still looks like the science-wonk he was as an undergrad and doesn't particularly mind functioning as mild comic relief, especially given that he's been around the money game for years and can talk the talk quite well.

Personally, I like it when he goes up against the rough-and-tumble panel on CNBC's "Fast Money," typically with positions so contrarian — and of late, so optimistic — that he seems to have the fellas on the point of cracking up with every prognostication. 

Currently, he's arguing that things are much better than they seem, economy-wise, in the U.S. To him, stocks look cheap and a meltdown in Europe would be no big deal. He may be right. But he also thinks Apple will see a trillion dollar market cap, something like three times its current level of about $360 billion.

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Is this what Occupy Wall Street is all about?

Wall Street Protest Spreads To Other Cities

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 01: Protesters hold signs after a march to Los Angeles City Hall during the "Occupy Los Angeles" demonstration in solidarity with the ongoing "Occupy Wall Street" protest in New York City on October 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. The protesters slogan, "We are the 99 percent," calls attention to the fact that marchers are not part of the one percent of Americans who hold a vast portion of the nation's wealth. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

I've been meaning to link to this post from a wonky econoblog, The Slack Wire, for a while, but I haven't gotten around to it. Given that I haven't posted about the Occupy Movement for a week or so, it seems like a good time:

The key thing is that at one point, large businesses really were run by people who, while autocratic within the firm and often vicious in defense of their privileges, really did identify with the particular businesses they managed and focused their energy on their survival and growth, and even on the sheer disinterested desire to do their kind of business well. You can find a few businesses that are still run like this -- I've been meaning to write a post on Steve Jobs -- but by far the dominant ethos among managers today is that a business exists only to enrich its shareholders, including, of course, senior managers themselves. Which they have done very successfully....

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Let the battle begin: Stagflation or 'Stuckflation'?

This CNBC video features the musings of Barry James, who manages the James Golden Rainbow Fund, which "seeks to provide total return through a combination of growth and income and preservation of capital in declining markets." More to the point, Barry was asked to consider whether we're currently experiencing a replay of the 1970s, a decade that will be forever known for "Saturday Night Fever," the Bicentennial, punk rock...and stagflation, a scary economic phenomenon that combines low growth and high inflation.

We certainly have the low growth part right now, even though the third quarter 2011 data showed that U.S. GDP was 2.5 percent, much better than expected. The high inflation side, on the other hand, hasn't really materialized. Our current rate is 3.9 percent, just slightly above the historic average of 3.38 percent. And this is with the Federal Reserve pouring money into the economy.

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