BY Columnist Charles Payne
Although the debate over whether corporations are people continues to rage (or simmer depending on your point of view), there is no doubt a corporation is a reflection of people. The underlying stock of a company goes a step further, serving as a proxy for mood and potential and providing a glimpse into the future.
Yesterday’s surge in Tiffany (TIF) shares served yet another role ... a reminder of how much America is still admired in the world, even as we have obviously lost diplomatic and military clout. People still love our fashion, movies, washing machines, motorcycles, and customs.
The wedding band goes back many centuries and was prevalent in many ancient societies, including Rome, where women wore two rings:
• Gold rings were worn in public.
• Iron rings were worn at home, while doing household work.
Pope Innocent III, in 1215, prohibited clandestine marriages, and proclaimed that marriages had to be made public in advance (Banns of Marriage). But, it was the good old American advertising executive, who made the diamond engagement ring part of the fabric of our lives.
Now, the tradition has been adopted by several other countries, particularly in Asia. Right now, a larger percentage of women in Japan receive a diamond engagement ring, than in America; and now, China is coming on strong. This trend is serving Tiffany & Co. amazingly, as seen in the most recent quarter:
• America’s revenue +5 percent: Comp Store Sales +1 percent
• Asia- Pacific’s revenue +29 percent: Comp Store Sales +22 percent
• Japan’s revenue +9 percent: Comp Store Sales +5 percent
• Europe’s revenue +45 percent: Comp Store Sales +2 percent
During the quarter, the company opened stores in New Jersey, Cleveland, Ohio, West Edmonton, Canada, Curitiba, Brazil, Stuttgart, Germany, and Jinan, China.
Desire for American goods and culture is being greeted with a spike in global wealth. DeBeers sees diamond demand growth from 2012 through 2014: in China growing at 8.1 percent, in India growing at 6.0 percent, and in the Persian Gulf growing at 3.9 percent; while in the United States growing at an estimated 2.4 percent. Other old guard economic giants see less demand, with growth in the EU at 0.6 percent and in Japan at 1.5 percent.
Not a Superhero
In many ways it feels as if America has taken its cue from Rome ... with a twist. We have the same qualities on the inside that made the nation great in the first place, but we are afraid to show it, or admit it. Somehow, America wears its golden interest, where it can’t be seen, but displays to the world the cold, hard, unattractive armor of raw iron. It’s a fear of sorts, a protective mechanism.
• Gold: 1,947 Fahrenheit
• Iron: 2,800 Fahrenheit
We are less vulnerable in our iron suit, but in this suit, we also forget our greatness. We aren’t like the Iron Man of the comics or movies. Ours is a metal strait-jacket, layered on by a couple equity crashes and a housing implosion, not to mention a couple of lost wars. Our fortunes have been wiped out, and our nation has been dismantled. I get it. There’s nothing super about this situation, unless you are on the outside looking in.
I talk and write all the time about how rapidly the world is coming on, and they are. But, we are still that shining beacon. The problem is we’ve forgotten that. I’m not sure how we get back that feeling.