CNBC's star anchor Maria Bartiromo, the "Money Honey" was the featured speaker this morning at the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Economic Outlook 2012 breakfast. Her delivery of a canned speech made it clear that the Money Honey did not want to be in Philadelphia this morning, but only came due to pressure from NBC's new owners, specifically Comcast's Executive Vice President David Cohen. (So much for Comcast's promise not to interfere with the news division.)
Being in Philadelphia, she warmed up the audience by mentioning that her family went to Penn. Interestingly, she stayed mum about having been appointed to the Wharton Business School Leadership Advisory Board by the former CEO of Citigroup's wealth management division, Todd Thomson, who was fired by Citigroup over their alleged affair.
Due to the tremendous amount of advertising dollars that the World Economic Forum drops on CNBC, she must have felt obligated to say the word Davos. However, she did not offer any fresh insights from the conference. As one breakfast attended said, "She did not have to go to Davos to give that speech."
According to Bartiromo, there is a reason that banks are not lending and it is not the bad economy. "One high level bank executive told me his bank is not lending money now because they can no longer lie on the loan documents," she said. "People have to have the financial wherewithal to buy."
She believes that the economy has started to turn around. "When I interviewed JP Morgan CEO Jamie Morgan, he said that housing has hit bottom, but will be bumping around the bottom for awhile."
Bartiromo is a big proponent of mobile technology. "There are 1 billion personal computers in the world today while there are 4 billion mobile devices. Only 400 million of those are smart phones," she said, "Many people do not yet know the potential of their phones. In Korea, they can pay for everything, board planes with their phones."
Internationally, she is concerned about the drop in China's growth rate from 11% to 8%. March 22 is the next potential default date for Greece. Although Greece is a small European country, a default would have a tremendous psychological impact on the market.
With the tremendous growth in the world's population, she is pushing commodities and mining stocks. "Demand for iron ore, gold, copper, and steel are very strong," she said.
She ended with her thoughts on education. "In America, children attend school five hours a day, five days a week when you exclude gym and lunch," said Bartiromo. "In the rest of the world, children go to school 10 hours a day, six days a week."
One of the panelists, the new president of Tasty Baking Company Paul Ridder, is also concerned about the small pool of educated workers. "With the unemployment rate over 8%, you would think that it would be easy for us to find skilled electricians and other workers. It is not," he said.
While many criticize the banks for not lending, Ridder defended the banks. "Banks are not venture capitalists. They must lend to solid businesses," he said.
Dan Calista, founder and CEO of health industry management consulting firm Vynamic, believes that for Philadelphia to grow as a business center "it can not be the murder capital of the world" and must improve conditions at Philadelphia International Airport.