The most interesting trait on display in securities markets these days is what might be called the artful levitation. Apple shares, for one, have been strongly on the rise even though iPhone sales are weakening, particularly in China, the company’s second-biggest market. A further discouragement is Apple’s bland strategy for the future, competing against streaming-content giants already well established in a business where profit margins fall well short of iPhone’s. And there is Facebook, which has become a pariah in the eyes of all who value privacy. Incredibly, its shares continue to move higher despite the rising tide of censure. As for Tesla, a company that could conceivably face bankruptcy, its shares have risen 15% in just the last two weeks.
But of all the markets being magically levitated, crude oil is the most impressive. Spot futures have rallied almost 50% since December, from $43 to $63, even as the economies of China and Europe have weakened dramatically. Chalk it up to Russia’s guiding influence on OPEC. The cartel’s Arab producers had long been unable to stick to quotas until Russia came along to enforce them with a firm hand. Putin continues to demonstrate that he is the most capable tactician in the geopolitical world. We eagerly await Trump’s response to the Russian’s deployment of 100 troops to Venezuela. This is not mere mischief, and unless the U.S. confronts him firmly, Venezuela could turn into another Cuba. Dealing with Russia’s now militarized support of Maduro, the dictator from hell, could prove to be the most serious challenge Trump has faced as president. It will be interesting to see how ferociously those afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome resist getting behind him. In so doing, they will only deepen the rift between the Democratic Party and America’s mainstream.