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Russell: “As the year 2013 came to a close, the weekly Investor's Intelligence survey of investment newsletters recorded the most lopsided ratio of bulls to bears -- more than four to one in favor of bulls -- since 1987.  At the same time, the National Association of Investment Managers showed one of the most bullish readings since the survey began in 2006.  Of course, these are both fodder for contrary opinion.

Growth in the third quarter reached an annual rate of 4.1%, but much of that growth came from inventory building.  Analysts are anxiously awaiting the end of January, since what happens in January often signals what may happen the rest of the year.

Remember that years ending in 4 tend to be poor years for the market.  Meanwhile, the Fed has lopped off ten billion per month of its generous stimulation efforts.  Every down January since 1950 has been followed by a bear market, a 10% correction or a flat market.  So any way you look at it, January is an important month, and we can all hope that it ends up as a month that closes higher (although, as it stands, it has many hurdles to overcome, since its first week has been discouraging).

My own inclination is to place all predictions in my back pocket and simply observe how the month of January plays out.  I might add that in my opinion, stocks are anything but cheap, and I know only too well that the real money in the stock market is made when one buys stocks at a time when stocks are on the bargain table (bear market bottom) and the “crowd,” out of fear, will not touch them.

Late Notes -- Gold looks better with each passing day.  Watch 1272 for the first bullish breakout.  With the Dow down over a hundred points, the VIX finally edged up.  I look for a higher VIX in the days ahead, probably with a lower overall market. 

Personal:  A lady psychiatrist paid me a visit last night.  She specializes in the problems of teens and adolescents.  She told me that judging from her experience, the big medical problem coming up in the next decade will be depression.  She said that she is flooded with patients that are depressed.  I asked her why the depression?  Her answer was that people find life today so difficult.  Finding jobs, doing taxes, finding reasonably priced living quarters, paying for college, it’s all so terribly difficult that people end up getting depressed.

I answered that I believe one factor is the disappearance of the united family.  In older times, grandparent, parents and kids all lived together.  Today as soon as they are able, kids move out and away.  This makes for a lonely and often depressing life.  Many animals live in small groups or even in herds or flocks or clusters.  We might do the same and be happier.

I am asked where I think America will be a decade from now.  My answer -- today we have the American empire.  I believe that within a decade we will hopefully just have America.

Emmet Fox was a highly educated man, a genius and a mystic.  What he says about America I found very important, and I will quote below: 

To understand the American constitution one must realize that it aims at bringing about a definitely selected condition of things.  It aims at a special way of life – a way of life that up to the present has only been found in completeness in the United States. It aims at personal freedom for the individual.  It aims at the idea of substantial equality, and above all, at equality of opportunity. No civilization had ever before aimed at that.  The great Roman Empire had certain magnificent aims, but equality of opportunity was not one of them.  The Greece civilization had wonderful aims, but they did not include that. Glorious Athens was always based on a foundation of slavery.  The Middle Ages definitely rejected the idea of personal freedom and equality of opportunity, and aimed rather at discipline and uniformity.

America is the land of opportunity.  I myself have spent practically all my life in Europe, and so I come to American institutions and American conditions with a fresh mind; and the longer I live in America, the more I realize the substantial freedom that is here.  In France and in England there is much political freedom, and there is personal freedom in many ways too – more political freedom in England than in France, and perhaps more personal freedom in France than in England.  But even in these countries, freedom is still limited in many ways unknown to Americans. In all the old countries, owing to their inheritance of the Feudal System, there are all sorts of invisible barriers to the free expression of the soul of man, which is part of the self-expression of God.  These barriers are invisible.  If they were visible the people would get angry and tear them down, but they are invisible, and they are nonetheless real for that.

Below, a continuation of Emmet Fox’s comments about America:

I am constantly struck by two things in this country.  The first thing that strikes me is the personal freedom, and the richness of opportunity that is here at normal times.  The second thing that strikes me is that most Americans take it so much for granted that, in a sense, they appreciate it so little.  I know that they appreciate it, but not, I think, as they should.  They say, “How else would it be?” but I tell you that without the Constitution, it could be and would be very different, because these conditions are simply not known in any other country.  They never have been known anywhere else.  Only in the United States is freedom and equality of opportunity an accepted thing.  Again, this country is almost completely free from most of the stupid prejudices that poisons life in other places.  In every part of the Old World, people are steeped and saturated with prejudices of every kind. 

Now I have said that I think most Americans, and especially perhaps the younger generation, tend to take these things, this freedom of opportunity, too much for granted.  I want to try to make you realize that they are not just a matter of chance, nor did they spring out of the ground overnight. In order to exist, this condition of life had to be produced by people who wanted it.  The people of the generation which produced it, the people of the revolution, had to think it out, they had to work for it, they had to make sacrifices, they had to fight for it, and in many cases they had to lay down their lives for it.  Above all, they knew, though perhaps they did not in every case fully realize it, that man is here on earth to develop his soul, to become self-reliant, self-expressive and self-determined, in order, as they say, to glorify God. 

The American constitution makes certain assumptions about the average man.  It assumes that the average man is a sensible sort of fellow.  It assumes that he is honest, and it assumes that he is good-natured.  All previous civilizations were based on exactly the opposite assumptions.  All the politics of the ancient world, and the Middle Ages in particular, were founded on the idea that the average man is naturally foolish; unless he is watched and controlled and regimented and scared half out of his wits, he will get into mischief, and damage himself or other people in some way. 

It is apparent now that the only practical alternatives to the principles of the Constitution are either a military despotism administered by soldiers or a bureaucratic despotism of permanent civil servants, whether they call it socialism or communism.  Both of these systems undertake to guarantee to supply the individual with the physical necessities, and both deny him the mental and spiritual bread of life.  For this reason, they are both unacceptable to those who possess the American spirit.

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