Archive for 2009

Hedgefundgate Begins: Numerous Insider Trading Charges Forthcoming

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

Rajmahal was just the beginning. The Sri Lankan, who just made the record books for spending a generous $100 million on bail and has even bigger digs in New York’s Sutton Place complex (although not quite Richard Perry big), is just the proverbial appetizer. And if regulators have truly decided to start treating the hedge fund industry like the 21st century equivalent of organized crime (which they have as previously disclosed by the US attorney), tonight many other wannabe billionaires are not sleeping too well (and even considering checking out Expedia for some sweet one-way trip deals). Because if they are not, they will be after reading the most recent take on their upcoming plight. From Bloomberg: “Federal investigators are gearing up to file charges against a wider array of insider-trading networks, some linked to the criminal case against billionaire hedge-fund manager Raj Rajaratnam that shook Wall Street last week, people familiar with the matter said.” If nothing else, this will hopefully force many of them to reevaluate the nomenclature of what funds to allocate the hundreds of billions of dollars that have emerged from the “sidelines” recently: it would appear The Insider Trading Rapid Value Appreciation Offshore Fund, most recently developed at Shady Pickins Asset Management (SPAM L.P.), may not be the best appellation after all.

And, in the most delicious sense of Kafkaesque irony, nobody is safe anymore: if you have talked on the phone, exchanged text messages, or even communicated in smoke signals to get that $100k “sure thing” – you are on the hook.

The pending crackdown, based on at least two years of investigation, targets securities professionals including hedge- fund managers, lawyers and other Wall Street players, the people said, declining to be identified because the cases aren’t public. Some probes, like the one that focused on Rajaratnam, rely on wiretaps. Others stem from a secret Securities and Exchange Commission data-mining project set up to pinpoint clusters of people who make similar well-timed stock investments.

And the following advice demonstrates just why the SEC is so terrified of going after not just the medium fry, but the really big fish (pardon, we may have some interspecies confusion as we realize cephalopods are a different phylum than fish):

“If you’re going to shoot


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PhD Economists and Economic Professors Call For Protests

Courtesy of George Washington

You know that the government and the giant banks are not being responsive to the needs of the economy and the American people when even PhD economists and economics professors are calling for protests.

Indeed, many top experts and even politicians say that the American political system has suffered almost total regulatory capture, where Wall Street calls the shots. See this, this, this, this, and this.

As respected financial commentator Yves Smith points out, PhD economist Dean Baker, economics professor William K. Black and others are helping to organize peaceful protests outside of the annual meeting of the American Association of Bankers.

Smith notes:

If you saw Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story, a disconcerting bit was
his discussion of a series of research reports put out by Citigroup for some of
its asset management client in 2005 on “Plutonomy”. It argued that a world
ordered to suit the whims of the top 1% was well underway. The only thing that might get in the way was that the other 99% had the force of numbers on its side.

Sometimes it takes a show of numbers to change the dynamic. As Baker pointed out:

The elites hate to acknowledge it, but when large numbers of ordinary people are moved to action, it changes the narrow political world where the elites call the shots. Inside accounts reveal the extent to which Johnson and Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam War was constrained by the huge anti-war movement. It was the civil rights movement, not compelling arguments, that convinced members of Congress to end legal racial discrimination. More recently, the townhall meetings, dominated by people opposed to health care reform, have been a serious roadblock for those pushing reform….

A big turnout at this event can make a real difference.

Baker is correct about Vietnam.

Specifically, in a little known fact, Nixon was considering using nuclear weapons in Vietnam (and see this).

At that time, Nixon was also repeatedly publicly saying that he didn’t care what the American people thought about Vietnam, and that he was going to escalate the war anyway. However, according to a biography by a well-known historian, when Nixon saw hundreds of thousands of…
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Detailed Look At TIC Flows: August Treasury Purchases By China, Japan And UK Drop To Lowest Total Year To Date

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

The most convoluted monthly report issued by the US Treasury, that of Treasury International Capital (TIC) flows was released on Friday, and it disclosed some troubling data points. While foreigners overall continued purchasing domestic assets, their appetite continues to decline. In particular foreigners increased their purchases of Treasuries marginally, while they continued selling off corporate bonds and agencies, while buying corporate stocks. Yet, most troublingly, the Big 3 (China, Japan and the UK) purchased the least net total of Bonds and Bills year to date: as the Fed now dominates the market for Treasuries, traditional buyers are becoming increasingly nervous.

In summary:

  • $23.9 billion of Treasury Bonds and Bills were acquired in August, a decline from $31.1 billion in July and $100.5 billion June. 
  • GSE holdings continued declining – it appears only the Fed has any desire to hold on to that toxic trash these days: $5.3 billion was sold in August, after $17.8 billion was sold in July and $8.6 billion was sold in June.
  • Corporate bonds same story: $11.7 billion sold in August, after $20.5 billion was sold in July and $6.8 billion in June
  • Equities continue being the only capital flow bright spot: desire for Fed sponsored risk is still rampant although much subdued: $17.3 billion was bought in August, after $21.4 billion was purchased in July and $104.2 in June.

In the red flag category, China reduced its holdings of US Treasuries from $800 billion to $797 billion. In August Mainland China purchased $15.4 billion of UST Bonds and sold $18.8 billion of UST Bills, for a net sale of $3.3 billion. The other two big purchasers, Japan and the UK, increased their holdings by $6.5 billion and $4.5 billion, respectively (more below).

Also notable is the continued increase of near-term UST Bill holdings by foreigners: even though August saw a nominal sale of Bills of $2.5 billion (compared to a $14.2 billion increase in July), the amount of Bills in UST holdings has nearly doubled to 25% from a pre-crisis average of 10-15%.

We present a more detailed look at Long-term (Bond) and Short-term (Bill) Treasury holdings by the Big 3 foreign purchasers: China, UK and Japan. The chart below presents the total UST purchases/dispositions by the Big 3 broken down by Long-Term and Short-Term:

Isolating merely the LT component,…
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Death of Muddle Through

Death of Muddle Through

Courtesy of Mish

The US government is on an unsustainable path. Deficits are soaring and the Obama administration is planning massive tax hikes.

Moreover, businesses have little reason to hire already because of massive overcapacity. Add increasing health care costs to the list of reasons for businesses not to hire.

killing the gooseGiven that government spending crowds out private investment, these policies all but assures that unemployment is going to remain high for a long time as noted in Structurally High Unemployment For A Decade.

Killing The Goose

Last week in Thoughts on the Economy: Problems and Solutions I listed the problems and some of the solutions facing the economy. It was a discussion between John Mauldin and I about his weekly E-Letter Killing The Goose.

John and I agreed on many, but not all solutions. I would also like to add something I have proposed before, killing the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage act.

Muddle Through Where Art Thou?

Back in 2002, the usually optimistic Mauldin proposed the economy would somehow manage to "Muddle Through".

However, because of the unsustainable path we are on. John has changed his mind. Please consider these excerpts from Muddle Through, R.I.P?

I defined a Muddle Through Economy in the past as one of slow growth (in the area of 1-2%) and a slack employment environment, such as we had in 2002 and the early part of 2003. In early 2007, I suggested we would return at some point to such an environment at the end of the recession I was predicting.

However, gentle reader, never in my wildest dreams did I think we could be looking at government deficits of $1.5 trillion dollars and actually budgeting future deficits of over $1 trillion as far as the eye can see. And there is real reason to think that under current plans, $1 trillion deficits are optimistic.

Obama Budget Agenda

Look at the graph above from the Heritage Foundation. They suggest that current policy would bring us closer to a $2 trillion deficit by 2019. And that assumes nominal growth that is north of 3% and unemployment dropping back below 5% in reasonably short order.

Japanese Disease

Some readers wrote this week telling me I am far too worried about a rising government deficit. Right now we are at roughly 42%


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Who is Carlos Slim?

Who is Carlos Slim?

Courtesy of Simon Johnson at Baseline Scenario

The US increasingly displays characteristics that we have seen many times in middle-income “emerging markets” – new dimensions of vast inequality, forms of financial instability that benefit the best connected, and consistently easy credit for the privileged.  But this raises the question: who exactly is going to dominate our economic and political landscape moving forward?

In most emerging markets, a major crisis means that some powerful people and their firms fall from grace.  After the Asian Financial Crisis (1997-98), some of the biggest Korean chaebol disappeared or broke up, numerous Thai bankers lost their top positions, and there was a discreet reshuffle among the Malaysian business elite.  Russian oligarchs rise and fall with the price of oil; the process in Ukraine is similar, although somewhat murkier.

With every sharp turn of the cycle, new people rise to the front – taking advantage of low asset prices and the fact that most people struggle to borrow on reasonable terms.  In Mexico, after the crisis of 1994-95, Carlos Slim consolidated his position in telecoms and used this as a launching pad to become one of the world’s richest people.

Three sets of players look positioned to do the same in the US today, mostly based on the amazing set of “carry trades” available if you have access to large amounts of cheap short-term funding (e.g., along the yield curve, from dollars into other currencies, and – arguably – into equity in some parts of the world).

First, obviously nothing can stop Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.  With unfettered access to the Federal Reserve and no effective controls on their ability to take risk, they are in the catbird seat.  The weakness of other big banks is further icing on their cake.  GS and JPM are symbols will loom large over the national and international economy for a long time to come, with the main threat (to them) coming from their rather too blatant market share in many products.

Second, the surviving big hedge funds will do very well (partial list).  They can move fast, they have no regard for anything other than profit, and they will not be effectively regulated.  Their access to credit runs through the biggest banks and this can be a double-edged sword – expect


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Crude Oil – Déjà Vu Year 2008, No Fundamentals Required

Courtesy of asiablues

By Economic Forecasts & Opinions

Last Friday, U.S. crude oil futures finished above $78, the highest level in a year, surging more than 9% during the past week making it the largest weekly gain since the height of the summer driving season, even though the U.S. continues to sit on ample supply of petroleum.

Given the continued sluggishness of the economy, high unemployment rate and large amounts of excess oil production capacity around the world, analysts said a sudden upward spike was still unlikely, while others are predicting an immanent correction down below $70.

However, if you take a closer look, it is evident that the current crude oil market is almost entirely detached from fundamentals. Furthermore, there are several factors supporting oil rising to new levels, as fundamentals are out the window in the near to medium term.

Technical Breakout

Oil has been locked roughly in a band of $65 to $75 a barrel since the start of June as traders weighed optimism over the prospects for a recovery in global demand against a supply glut. (see chart below) Typically, the longer it is trading in a sideways pattern, potentially the more powerful a breakout is going to be.

And breakout it did on the first sign of a seemingly positive indication. In addition to dollar weakness, the oil rally last week was sparked also in part by government data that showed surprise inventory drawdowns in domestic gasoline and distillates (mostly due to lower refinery runs at around 81%).
This, coupled with stronger-than-expected China trade data, was enough to send a ripple through the markets midweek boosting market bullish sentiment on global economy recovery hopes along with oil demand.

Now that oil blew past its previous 2009 high of $75, many analysts believe the recent increase is a sign that prices will now trade at a higher range.

U.S. Dollar Policy…If There Is One

The recent rallies in commodities, including crude oil, and even the stock market to some extent, have been driven primarily by the floundering dollar on the lack of fundamental support from the demand side since the recession.  (see chart below)

The U.S. dollar dropped to a 14-month low against a


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Finally a Hybrid Among Hybrids. Mercedes-Benz is Singing the Blues With the 2010 S400 BlueHybrid

Courtesy of Travis

Gasoline-electric hybrids.  So, you might breakeven in fuel costs in about ten years of careful driving.  By then, the battery will need replacing, and to fix it, it may cost you just as much as your car is worth- or more.  Are gas-electric hybrids really worth looking into?  Well, that’s still debatable, and more on that, a little later…  I firmly believe, and a lot of other “car guys” will contest, the gas-electric hybrid is an intermediate technology at best- a solution till something truly superior or sustainable comes along.

The S400 BlueHybrid

Mention “hybrid” to most German manufacturers, and they’d almost scoff at the notion.  Since the late 1970’s diesel has always been their first choice in environmentally friendly, economical solutions to a greener automotive footprint, and they’ve done well with them.  Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi/VW all offer a lineup of efficiently powerful diesels to fit the bill, even importing a handful of models Stateside.  But things are changing. 

(You didn’t think Mercedes-Benz would ever pattern a hybrid after what?  A Lexus?  Please….) 

The Lithium Ion Battery for Mercedes-Benz 

Mercedes-Benz is the first to unveil the production hybrid that uses a lithium ion battery.  The very same type of battery found in your cell phone or laptop.  But isn’t this the same type of battery as found in the Tesla Roadster?  It is- but the Tesla Roadster is an all-electric plug-in, a glorified kit-car in comparison; hardly a mass-produced, sophisticated road machine like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class.    

Mild Hybrid 

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 BlueHybrid™- is the first hybrid ever for the manufacturer; in fact, it’s actually a “mild hybrid” with an electric motor kicking-in for a few seconds at startup, mostly.  To note- even the use of the color “blue” over “green” sets this hybrid apart…  But anyway…  That’s just marketing.  It is the first-ever production car to use a lithium-ion battery, unlike most that use nickel-hydride types. 

 

Being a “mild hybrid,” its hybrid effect is subtle, with the thin, twenty-horse, 118 lb-ft electric motor wedged between the conventional 3.5-liter Mercedes V6 engine and the advanced seven-speed automatic transmission as found in any top-range S-Class…
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Words from the Wise?

Words from the Wise?

Courtesy of Michael Panzner at Financial Armageddon

I just got back from The Economist‘s "Buttonwood Gathering" in New York and thought I’d share a few of the more interesting (and, in some cases, quite enlightening) quotes (in no particular order) from the movers-and-shakers at the (well attended) conference:

Secretary Tim Geithner, United States Department of the Treasury:

"Generally, we did not do enough." (Referring to the failure to address growing concerns over excessive risk-taking in the period leading up to the financial crisis.) [Editor's note: understatement of the year?]

Stephen Roach, Chairman, Morgan Stanley Asia:

Those who are looking for a "V"-shaped recovery are in for "a rude awakening."

"The imbalances going into the crisis were large to begin with. Now, they are bigger than ever."

George Soros, Chairman, Soros Fund Management:

"Bankers have too much power." (Referring to the hold that Wall Street has over Washington.)

The "globalization of financial markets is built on false premises: namely, that markets can be left to their own devices."

Sheila C. Bair, Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation:

"Insured deposits are being used in ways that I don’t like to see."

Wilbur L. Ross Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, WL Ross & Co.:

People were focused on "risk-ignoring rates of return." (Describing one of the things that went helped bring about the financial crisis.)

If regulators had taken the time to visit a Countrywide Lending office, they would have seen something akin to "a Wall Street boiler room," rather than a bank branch. (Referring to regulator’s unwillingness to go out into the field and see what was really going on during the housing boom.)

"Government is its own systemic risk in the mortgage market."

Lawrence H. Summers, Director of the National Economic Council, The White House:

The root of most financial errors is "when you try to do today what you wished you had done yesterday."

"I can assure you that on Main Street, it is a very different conversation." (Referring to the contrast between the optimism on Wall Street and the more pessimistic mood of those struggling to get by in other parts of the country.)

"It is not the administrations’s view to bribe those who have been part of the problems


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Weekend Reading

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

  • The best unknown activist investment of 2009 (Greenbackd)
  • Words from the wise (Financial Armageddon)
  • CME in talks to buy CBOE for $5 billion (Bloomberg)
  • UBS warned U.S. customers by registered mail their account details may be given to U.S. tax authorities (Reuters)
  • Goldman can spare you a dime (NYT)
  • The extinction of ethics in finance – The Fallout (Reality Arbiter)
  • China’s September data suggests that the long-term overcapacity problem is only intensifying (M. Pettis)
  • As we have long claimed, others now seeing Wachtell as biggest BofA loser (BreakingViews)
  • Good news on Wall Street means… what exactly (Matt Taibbi)
  • VIX posts worst losing streak in four years as Dow tops 10,000 (Bloomberg)
  • Earnings coming from companies that are not merely recipients of Chinese and US excess liquidity benefits: may get very ugly quick (CNN)
  • Look beyond usual suspects in countdown to next crisis (FT)
  • Malone not in talks to buy NBCU, would be at a lower price (Bloomberg)
  • Global banking body may be needed (Reuters, h/t Joe)
  • Goldman Sachs: “Trading with advantages” (The Agonist, h/t news item)
  • Overleveraged autosupplier Continental AG to sell junk bonds, idiots to buy (Bloomberg)
  • Real homes of genius: An Economic Investigation of La Mirada. Median Sale Price, Incomes, Trends, Shadow Inventory, and the case for no Price Bounce. Mortgage Equity Withdrawal Home Value from $157,000 to $570,000 (Dr Housing Bubble)
  • SG: Worst case debt scenario (The Big Picture)
  • Ottawa’s bubble (Greater Fool, h/t H.)




Once? Happenstance. Twice? Coincidence. Thrice? Enemy Action.

Courtesy of Marla Singer

A lone suicide bomber, on foot managing to catch unawares five “senior commanders” in Iraq where only the smartest and best organized insurgents are still alive to mount such action might be a three or four sigma event. A lone suicide bomber, on foot managing to catch unawares five “senior commanders” of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard by waiting by the entrance of the complex where they were to meet local tribal leaders… that’s a bit rarer still. Whisperings of western involvement in the incident are… still just whisperings.

One wonders, however, what strength Tehran will now have to divert to Sistan-Baluchestan near the Pakistan and Afghanistan to beef up security, where those forces will come from and what confusion the loss of senior commanders in the area will cause. All in all, rather an effective bit of work if you are in the force disruption business. Crude longs: take note.





 
 
 

Phil's Favorites

Catalonia's independence referendum: how the disputed vote led to crackdown

 

Picture via Pixabay.

Catalonia's independence referendum: how the disputed vote led to crackdown

Courtesy of Andrew Dowling, Cardiff University

An old refrain often used about Spain is that in the country “everything is politicised”. This became apparent following the terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils in mid-August 2017.

As the nation sought an explanation for the attacks, the debate rapidly became wrapped up in the ongoing dispute between Madrid and the regional Catalan government in ...



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Chart School

Tech Trades Squeeze Stops; Russell 2000 Approaches Resistance

Courtesy of Declan.

There is a bit of an overreach on today's action as the level of loss was light. However, the much-anticipated breakouts in the Nasdaq and Nasdaq 100 look like they will have to wait a little longer. Both Tech indices saw the squeeze put on tight long stops, but not enough to suggest a panic sell-off is imminent. However, any sell-off has to be watched; losses below the 50-day MA would be concerning.


The Nasdaq 100 is looking a little more vulnerable with the MACD trigger 'sell' and +DI/-DI sell' trigger. Look to this index for leads.
...

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Zero Hedge

A Look At How Nestle Makes Billions Selling You Groundwater In A Bottle

Courtesy of Zero Hedge

A few weeks ago we shared with readers a lawsuit filed in Connecticut against Nestle Waters North America, Inc. alleging that the water they marketed as Poland 'Natural Spring Water' was actually just bottled groundwater...the same water that runs through the taps of many American households. 

Now a new investigation from Bloomberg Businessweek reveals how large water bottling companies choose their plant locations based not on the steady supply of pristine, natural drinking water, as their labels and other marketing campaigns would lead you to believe, but based on which economically depressed municipalities...



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ValueWalk

UAW's Loss At Nissan Auto Plant Masks Genuine Progress For Organized Labor

By The Conversation. Originally published at ValueWalk.

Harley Shaiken, University of California, Berkeley

]]> Get Our Icahn eBook!

Get our entire 10-part series on Carl Icahn and other famous investors in PDF for free! Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet or print it! Sign up below.

A spirited, decade-long effort by workers to organize a union at the sprawling Nissan assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi, seemed to drive into a ditch on August 5, when officials finally tallied the elec...



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Digital Currencies

Jamie Dimon Faces Market Abuse Claim Over "False, Misleading" Bitcoin Comments

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

A week after Jamie Dimon made headlines by proclaiming Bitcoin a "fraud" and anyone who owns it as "stupid," the JPMorgan CEO faces a market abuse claim for "spreading false and misleading information" about bitcoin.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you will be well aware of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon's panicked outburst wi...



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Insider Scoop

3 Reasons Intuit Will Continue To Dominate The Tax Business

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related INTU Intuit's Stock Is Still Enticing, Even After A Big 2-Year Run Benzinga's Top Upgrades, Downgrades F...

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Members' Corner

"Citron Exposes Ubiquiti Networks" But TNN Says "Not So Fast"

What do you think? (There's a comment section below )

"CITRON EXPOSES UBIQUITI NETWORKS" 

Does Ubiquiti Networks (NASDAQ:UBNT) actually have real products that sell to consumers? Of course! So did Valeant and WorldCom, but that does not stop its financials from having every indication of being completely fraudulent.

Citron will detail a series of alarming red flags and detail how Ubiquiti Networks is deceiving the investing public.

Read the full report here.

******

Rebutal by The Nattering Naybob, ...



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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of September 11th, 2017

Reminder: OpTrader is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

This post is for all our live virtual trade ideas and daily comments. Please click on "comments" below to follow our live discussion. All of our current  trades are listed in the spreadsheet below, with entry price (1/2 in and All in), and exit prices (1/3 out, 2/3 out, and All out).

We also indicate our stop, which is most of the time the "5 day moving average". All trades, unless indicated, are front-month ATM options. 

Please feel free to participate in the discussion and ask any questions you might have about this virtual portfolio, by clicking on the "comments" link right below.

To learn more about the swing trading virtual portfolio (strategy, performance, FAQ, etc.), please click here ...



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Biotech

Can low doses of chemicals affect your health? A new report weighs the evidence

Reminder: Pharmboy and Ilene are available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

 

Can low doses of chemicals affect your health? A new report weighs the evidence

Courtesy of Rachel ShafferUniversity of Washington

Assessing the data. LightField Studios/shutterstock.com

Toxicology’s founding father, Paracelsus, is famous for proclaiming that “...



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Mapping The Market

The App Economy Will Be Worth $6 Trillion in Five Years

Courtesy of Jean-Luc

This would be excellent news for AAPL and GOOG to a lesser extent although not inconsequential:

The App Economy Will Be Worth $6 Trillion in Five Years 

In five years, the app economy will be worth $6.3 trillion, up from $1.3 trillion last year, according to a report released today by app measurement company App Annie. What explains the growth? More people are spending more time and -- crucially -- more money in apps. While on average people aren't downloading many more apps, App Annie expects global app usership to nearly double to 6.3 billion people in the next five years while the time spent in apps will more than double. And, it expects the...



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Promotions

NewsWare: Watch Today's Webinar!

 

We have a great guest at today's webinar!

Bill Olsen from NewsWare will be giving us a fun and lively demonstration of the advantages that real-time news provides. NewsWare is a market intelligence tool for news. In today's data driven markets, it is truly beneficial to have a tool that delivers access to the professional sources where you can obtain the facts in real time.

Join our webinar, free, it's open to all. 

Just click here at 1 pm est and join in!

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Kimble Charting Solutions

Brazil; Waterfall in prices starting? Impact U.S.?

Courtesy of Chris Kimble.

Below looks at the Brazil ETF (EWZ) over the last decade. The rally over the past year has it facing a critical level, from a Power of the Pattern perspective.

CLICK ON CHART TO ENLARGE

EWZ is facing dual resistance at (1), while in a 9-year down trend of lower highs and lower lows. The counter trend rally over the past 17-months has it testing key falling resistance. Did the counter trend reflation rally just end at dual resistance???

If EWZ b...



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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

Reminder: Harlan is available to chat with Members, comments are found below each post.

Click here for the full report.




To learn more, sign up for David's free newsletter and receive the free report from All About Trends - "How To Outperform 90% Of Wall Street With Just $500 A Week." Tell David PSW sent you. - Ilene...

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About Phil:

Philip R. Davis is a founder Phil's Stock World, a stock and options trading site that teaches the art of options trading to newcomers and devises advanced strategies for expert traders...

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