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Archive for July, 2010

Look What Surprises They Snuck Into The Financial Reform Bill

Look What Surprises They Snuck Into The Financial Reform Bill

Courtesy of Michael Snyder at The Economic Collapse 

Even just a decade ago, major pieces of legislation in the U.S. Congress would be just a few dozen pages long.  But today, it seems like every time Congress passes an important bill it ends up being over a thousand pages long.  In fact, the final version of the new financial reform law was over 2,300 pages.  Overall, as we wrote about extensively in a previous article, this much-ballyhooed new law does a whole lot of nothing, but it turns out that lobbyists and special interests were able to insert a few nasty surprises that we are just now finding out about. 

But it was the same thing with the health care reform law.  It was only after it was passed that most of us learned that it contained a provision that will force U.S. small businesses to collectively produce millions more 1099 tax forms each year.  Now small businesses from coast to coast are screaming bloody murder about that provision but it is too late – the law has already passed.  Unfortunately, there are some surprises in the recently passed financial reform law that are nearly just as bad.

So just what are those surprises?

Well, first let’s talk about what the financial reform law does not do.  The financial reform bill was supposed to "fix" Wall Street and the financial system, but it did not do much of anything….        

-It does nothing to address the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

-It does not eliminate "too big to fail".…
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Foreclosures Continue To Dramatically Increase In 2010

Foreclosures Continue To Dramatically Increase In 2010

Courtesy of Michael Snyder at The Economic Collapse 

In a very alarming sign for the U.S. economy, foreclosures have continued to dramatically increase in 2010.  But there has been a shift.  Back in 2007 and 2008, experts tell us that most foreclosures were due to toxic mortgages.  People were being suckered into mortgages that they couldn’t afford with "teaser rates" or with payments that would dramatically escalate after a few years, and when those mortgages reset, the people who had agreed to them no longer could make the payments.  But now RealtyTrac says that unemployment has become the major reason for foreclosures.  Millions of Americans have become chronically unemployed during the economic downturn and many of them are losing their homes as a result.  But whatever the cause, one thing is certain – foreclosures have continued to skyrocket at a staggering rate.

According to a new report from RealtyTrac, foreclosure filings climbed in 75% of the nation’s metro areas during the first half of 2010.  At a time when the Obama administration believes that we are "turning the corner", things just seem to get even worse. 

Some areas of the country continue to be complete and total disaster areas when it comes to real estate.  For example, you have got to feel really sorry for anyone trying to sell a house down in Florida right now.  According to RealtyTrac, Florida led the way with nine of the top 20 metro foreclosure rates in the country during the first half of 2010.

Ouch.

But the worst city for foreclosures continues to be Las Vegas.…
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Chief Economists are for PR

Another bad review for the Blinder and Zandi article – wrong and not only that, the economic models are a total waste of time. (For more about Eric Falkenstein and his experience with IP litigation, read our interview from last September,  The Limits of Intellectual Property.) – Ilene 

Chief Economists are for PR

Courtesy of Eric Falkenstein at Falkenblog 

Ezra Klein has a post promoting Blinder and Zandi’s model that shows massive good effects from more government deficit spending. As the model is a 1970′s vintage approach, an approach that attracted the nations best minds for decades, and was abandoned because they don’t work better than rather simple alternatives (eg, a vector autoregression of GDP, Fed Funds, and the Baa-Aaa spread). 

I found this amusing because it highlights that journalists grab whatever science supports their ends. The details are not important, you have a professor with lots of publications, he has a complicated scientific argument, it makes you an objective, rational journalist. He even quotes Narayana Kocherlakota saying macro models work, not realizing the Kocherlakota was actually talking about a very different class of models than the one Blinder and Zandi use, and forgetting that of course a macroeconomist would say macro theory works.

At one point, Klein reaches for this argument for believing in their results:

It’s also worth noting that the private sector relies extensively on these models, and it would be odd for them to give Moody’s all that money if they thought there was no predictive value.

Presumably, he infers that as Zandi works for Moody’s, his results are somehow used by Moody’s. They are, but not in the way he thinks. I used to work at Moody’s. Moody’s does not make money off their macro economic opinions, they make money issuing ratings on debt, something they are paid well for. The macro view is alluded to in any analyst opinion, but even within Moody’s it’s not like the analysts think their economist knows better than others. CNBC and the outlets need someone to comment on macroeconomic topics, so having a full time economist discuss these things makes sense. Yet, remember, economists can’t predict business cycles, or explain why Mexico is poor, while the US is rich. Sure, people have theories, but there’s no consensus, highlighting that macroeconomists don’t understand the big issues on their plate. 

I worked directly for Chief Economists at two major…
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Consumer Metrics Institute Growth Index

Doug Short compared recent data from Rick at Consumer Metrics Institute with charts of the GDP and S&P. He also provides additional interesting commentary.  (In case you missed my interview with Rick back in April, it’s here.) – Ilene 

Consumer Metrics Institute Growth Index 

Courtesy of Doug Short 

Note from dshort: The 91-day Growth Index continues its downward slide with data now available though July 29th. Note that the Real GDP numbers are updated with the BEA’s revised estimates from 2007 through First Quarter 2010. See the explanation here.


Click to View

The thumbnail chart shown here is the Consumer Metrics Institute’s Daily Growth Index with an overlay of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is one of the most interesting data series I follow, and I recommend bookmarking the Institute’s website. Their page of frequently asked questions is an excellent introduction to the service.

The three charts below focus on the ‘Trailing Quarter’ Growth Index, which is computed as a 91-day moving average for the year-over-year growth/contraction of the Weighted Composite Index. The index gives a nearly real-time daily snapshot of consumer behavior across a wide variety of consumption categories. The 91-day period is useful for comparison with key quarterly metrics such as GDP. Since the consumer accounts for over two-thirds of the US economy, one would expect that a well-crafted index of consumer behavior would serve as a leading indicator. As the chart suggests, during the five-year history of the index, it has generally lived up to that expectation. Actually, the chart understates the degree to which the Growth Index leads GDP. Why? Because the advance estimates for GDP are released a month after the end of the quarter in question, so the Growth Index lead time has been substantial. 

Click to View
Click for a larger image

Has the Growth Index also served as a leading indicator of the stock market? The next chart is an overlay of the index and the S&P 500. The Growth Index clearly peaked before the market in 2007 and bottomed in late August of 2008, over six months before the market low in March 2009.

The most recent peak in the Growth Index was around the first of…
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Consumer Metrics Institute Growth Index

Doug Short compared recent data from Rick at Consumer Metrics Institute using chart overlays of the GDP and S&P. He also provides additional commentary. (In case you missed my interview with Rick back in April, it’s here.) – Ilene 

Consumer Metrics Institute Growth Index 

Courtesy of Doug Short 

Note from dshort: The 91-day Growth Index continues its downward slide with data now available though July 29th. Note that the Real GDP numbers are updated with the BEA’s revised estimates from 2007 through First Quarter 2010. See the explanation here.


Click to View

The thumbnail chart shown here is the Consumer Metrics Institute’s Daily Growth Index with an overlay of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is one of the most interesting data series I follow, and I recommend bookmarking the Institute’s website. Their page of frequently asked questions is an excellent introduction to the service.

The three charts below focus on the ‘Trailing Quarter’ Growth Index, which is computed as a 91-day moving average for the year-over-year growth/contraction of the Weighted Composite Index. The index gives a nearly real-time daily snapshot of consumer behavior across a wide variety of consumption categories. The 91-day period is useful for comparison with key quarterly metrics such as GDP. Since the consumer accounts for over two-thirds of the US economy, one would expect that a well-crafted index of consumer behavior would serve as a leading indicator. As the chart suggests, during the five-year history of the index, it has generally lived up to that expectation. Actually, the chart understates the degree to which the Growth Index leads GDP. Why? Because the advance estimates for GDP are released a month after the end of the quarter in question, so the Growth Index lead time has been substantial. 

Click to View
Click for a larger image

Has the Growth Index also served as a leading indicator of the stock market? The next chart is an overlay of the index and the S&P 500. The Growth Index clearly peaked before the market in 2007 and bottomed in late August of 2008, over six months before the market low in March 2009.

The most recent peak in the Growth Index was around the first of September,…
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Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index

Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index 

Courtesy of Doug Short 

With all the other releases on Friday, especially the 3-year revised GDP, I’m a bit late in updating my monthly Michigan Sentiment chart.


The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index for July is 67.8, down significantly from the June reading of 76.0. The survey’s chief economist, Richard Curtin, summarizes:

Scarce jobs and stagnating incomes have been the top concerns of consumers for some time. What changed in July was their recognition that the anticipated slowdown in the economy will keep jobs scarce for some time, while their uncertainties about future prospects were increased by the policies of the Obama administration. Rather than itching to resume old spending habits, consumers have begun to actively embrace a more defensive outlook, making them more likely to further pare their debt and increase saving and reserve funds. This new defensive posture could result in even slower economic growth and fewer jobs in the future.

See the full release in PDF format here.

Because the sentiment index has trended upward since its inception in 1978, I’ve added a liner regression to help understand the pattern of reversion to the trend. I’ve also highlighted recessions to help evaluate the value of the Michigan Consumer Confidence Index as a leading indicator of the economy.

Note: The Real GDP numbers include the Second Quarter and are now updated with the BEA’s revised estimates from 2007 through First Quarter 2010.

Click to View 

Click for a larger image 

 

****

Read more about Doug Short here > 


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Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake

Courtesy of PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS at CounterPunch 

RHINEBECK, NY - JULY 30: A congratulations sign on display on July 30, 2010 in Rhinebeck, New York. Chelsea Clinton plans to get married in Rhinebeck on July 31, 2010. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)

It is not unusual for members of the diminishing upper middle class to drop $20,000 or $30,000 on a big wedding. But for celebrities this large sum wouldn’t cover the wedding dress or the flowers.

When country music star Keith Urban married actress Nicole Kidman in 2006, their wedding cost $250,000. This large sum hardly counts as a celebrity wedding. When mega-millionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump married model Melania Knauss, the wedding bill was $1,000,000.

The marriages of Madonna and film director Guy Ritchie, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren, and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones pushed up the cost of celebrity marriages to $1.5 million.

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes upped the ante to $2,000,000.

Now comes the politicians’s daughter as celebrity. According to news reports, Chelsea Clinton’s wedding to investment banker Mark Mezvinsky on July 31 is costing papa Bill $3,000,000. According to the London Daily Mail, the total price tag will be about $5,000,000. The additional $2,000,000 apparently is being laid off on US Taxpayers as Secret Service costs for protecting former president Clinton and foreign heads of state, such as the presidents of France and Italy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who are among the 500 invited guests along with Barbara Streisand, Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Ted Turner, and Clinton friend and donor Denise Rich, wife of the Clinton-pardoned felon.

Before we attend to the poor political judgment of such an extravagant affair during times of economic distress, let us wonder aloud where a poor boy who became governor of Arkansas and president of the United States got such a fortune that he can blow $3,000,000 on a wedding.

The American people did not take up a collection to reward him for his service to them.
Where did the money come from? Who was he really serving during his eight years in office?

How did Tony Blair and his wife, Cherrie, end up with an annual income of ten million pounds (approximately $15 million dollars) as soon as he left office? Who was Blair really serving?

These are not polite questions, and they are infrequently asked.

While Chelsea’s wedding guests eat a $11,000 wedding cake and admire $250,000 floral displays, Lisa Roberts in Ohio is struggling to raise contributions for her food pantry in order to feed…
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AIMCo Sees Returns Rebound in 2009-2010

Courtesy of Leo Kolivakis

Via Pension Pulse.

Last Saturday, Lisa Schmidt of the Calgary Herald reported that AIMCo sees returns rebound:

The province’s investment manager has won back significant ground over the past year, its chief executive said Thursday, following tough losses in 2008.

 

Alberta Investment Management Corp., known as AIMCo, said overall returns are running in the range of about 17 per cent, said Leo de Bever, who will mark two years at the helm next week.

 

“If you look at the return on the Heritage Fund, that’s sort of indicative of what we did on the endowments and for the pension plans,” he said. The rainy day fund gained $2 billion to $14.4 billion for the 2009-10 year, compared with a $2.6-billion loss a year earlier.

 

But the recent market volatility has already pared back some of those overall investment gains, de Bever also cautioned.

 

“So far, we’re still above water, but it’s mostly been because of our effort in active management. The markets themselves haven’t given us very much,” he said.

 

The crown corporation, which oversees about $69 million in provincial savings, employee pensions and endowment funds, lost 10.1 per cent on its investments in fiscal 2009. Despite the expected gains in 2010, the overall fund did not increase in value due to government withdrawals, de Bever noted.

 

Official figures won’t be released until this fall, when AIMCo files its annual report. The agency was set up by the provincial government in January 2008.

 

But the much improved performance is sure to spark a gusher in staff bonuses, an issue that needs to be monitored, said Alberta Liberal finance critic Hugh MacDonald.

 

“They are going to be rewarded,” he said, noting the agency paid out significant bonuses for the previous year when the fund lost money.

 

“We have to keep AIMCo accountable, because they have well in excess of $60 billion of Albertans’ dollars under their control.

 

“We’re going to have to wait and see,” he said.

 

“With the instability that has occurred in the financial markets, it will be five years or more before we see . . . just how effective this new approach is with AIMCo.”

 

For his part, de


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Discount Window Borrowings Plunge To Just $11 Million, Lowest Since 2007; And Other Observations On The Future Of Fed Liabilities

Courtesy of Tyler Durden

In all the recent hoopla over Excess Reserves and spurious rumors over whether or not they should generate any form of interest (readers will recall a key catalyst for a surge in the market two weeks ago was the expectedly false rumor that Bernanke would announce the elimination of any IOR (Interest Paid On Reserves) rather than keeping the even current minimal 0.25% rate), everyone seems to have forgotten that old staple: the Discount Window. And probably logically so: while the Excess Reserve issue is one that deals with excess liquidity in the banking system (by definition: otherwise it would be lent out to consumers), Discount Window-related concerns deal with the opposite, or a liquidity deficiency. Logically, the two are mutually exclusive: near record excess reserves held with Federal Reserve Banks simply means that banks are not in any want for money (of any term, but most specifically ultra-short term).Looking at the Fed’s H.4.1 statement confirms that for the week ended July 29, the Fed’s Primary Credit facility (aka the current version of the Discount Window, together with the Secondary Credit and the Seasonal Credit Facility) usage has plummeted to just $11 million: a negligible number for a “rescue facility” that at the peak of the crisis saw more than $100 billion in overnight borrowings. The finding is not surprising, when considering that the rate on the Primary Credit Facility is 0.75%. As this is higher than the rate on the 2 Year Treasury, there is very little banks can do in reinvesting capital that is more expensive than even long-term funding sources. In other words, with well over a trillion in Excess Reserves, banks are becoming increasingly self-funding, at least in the medium term, and seek to disintermediate themselves from the Fed. In looking at the same problem, but from the perspective of the IOR, the Atlanta Fed concludes: “One broad justification for an IOR policy is precisely that it induces banks to hold quantities of excess reserves that are large enough to mitigate the need for central banks to extend the credit necessary to keep the payments system running efficiently. And, of course, mitigating those needs also means mitigating the attendant risks.” An environment in which banks are increasingly leery of relying on the Fed for funding, irrespective of whether IOR at 0.00% or 0.25%, is not one in which…
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Sabrient Investor’s (H)edge

sabrient


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Help One Of Our Own PSW Members

"Hello PSW Members –

This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible.  Feel free to contact me directly at jennifersurovy@yahoo.com with any questions.

Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts.  After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.)  Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.

http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/help-get-shadowfax-out-from-the-darkness-of-medical-bills-/126743

Thank you for you time!

 
 

Phil's Favorites

ROUBINI: America Is A Sick, Sick Country

ROUBINI: America Is A Sick, Sick Country Courtesy of 

"American madness: a teenager is allowed to receive a rifle as a birthday gift," NYU professor Nouriel Roubini tweeted. "Sick sick country."

Roubini's words come hours after a gunman killed one person and injured several others at Marysville-Pilchuck High School near Seattle, Washington.

The gunman was later identified as Jaylen Fryberg, a freshman at the school. Fryberg,...



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Zero Hedge

Pope: "Corruption Is a Greater Evil than Sin"

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by George Washington.

Modern interpretation of Christ driving the money changers from the temple by Anthony Freda/Daniel Zollinger

 

Preface: If you are an atheist (or adherent of another faith) and believe that the Catholic faith is crazy, you are obviously entitled to your belief.  But please remember that very few A...



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Chart School

S&P 500 Snapshot: Up 4.12% for the Week

Courtesy of Doug Short.

The S&P 500 oscillated a bit during its opening hour, hitting its -0.23% intraday low in the first 30 minutes of trading. The index then rose in a couple of waves to its 0.71% closing gain, fractionally off its 0.74% intraday high. This was a big week for the 500, surging 4.12% and nearly erasing its October loss, which now stands at -0.39%. It is now only 2.33% from its record close on September 18th.

The yield on the 10-year Note closed at 2.29%, unchanged from yesterday's close and up 7 bps from last Friday's close.

Here is a 15-minute chart of the week.

On the daily chart below we see that volume was relatively light -- the first daily gain with volume below its 50-day moving average since September 26th. Today's closing price is just a hair below its 50-day day moving average.

...

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All About Trends

Mid-Day Update

Reminder: David 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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Insider Scoop

UPDATE: Morgan Stanley Reiterates On ResMed Following 1Q15 Earnings Report

Courtesy of Benzinga.

Related RMD Morning Market Movers Qualcomm Announces New Connected Health Collaborations at Connect 2014

In a report published Friday, Morgan Stanley analyst Sean Laaman reiterated an Equal-Weight rating on ResMed (NYSE: RMD), and raised the price target from $46.19 to $49.57.

In the report, Morgan Stanley noted, “Currency headwinds and part quarter release of the S10 downplayed expectations ahead of the result. Despite this, RMD beat on US revenue driv...



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Market Shadows

Bill Ackman's Big Pharma Trade Is Making Wall Street A Super Awkward Place

 

#452525522 / gettyimages.com

Intro by Ilene

If you're following Valeant's proposed takeover (or merger) of Allergan and the lawsuit by Allergan against Valeant and notorious hedge fund manager William Ackman, for insider trading this is a must-read article. 

Linette Lopez describes the roles played by key Wall Street hedge fund owners--Jim Chanos, John Paulson, and Mason Morfit, a major shareholder in Valeant. Linette goes through the con...



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Option Review

LUV Options Active Ahead Of Earnings

There is lots of action in Southwest Airlines Co. November expiry call options today ahead of the air carrier’s third-quarter earnings report prior to the opening bell on Thursday. Among the large block trades initiated throughout the trading session, there appears to be at least one options market participant establishing a call spread in far out of the money options. It looks like the trader purchased a 4,000-lot Nov 37/39 call spread at a net premium of $0.40 apiece. The trade makes money if shares in Southwest rally 9.0% over the current price of $34.32 to exceed the effective breakeven point at $37.40, with maximum potential profits of $1.60 per contract available in the event that shares jump more than 13% to $39.00 by expiration. In September, the stock tou...



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Sabrient

Sector Detector: Sharp selloff in stocks sets up long-awaiting buying opportunity

Courtesy of Sabrient Systems and Gradient Analytics

Last week brought even more stock market weakness and volatility as the selloff became self-perpetuating, with nobody mid-day on Wednesday wanting to be the last guy left holding equities. Hedge funds and other weak holders exacerbated the situation. But the extreme volatility and panic selling finally led some bulls (along with many corporate insiders) to summon a little backbone and buy into weakness, and the market finished the week on a high note, with continued momentum likely into the first part of this week.

Despite concerns about global economic growth and a persistent lack of inflation, especially given all the global quantitative easing, fundamentals for U.S. stocks still look good, and I believe this overdue correction ultimately will shape up to be a great buying opportunity -- i.e., th...



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Digital Currencies

Goodbye War On Drugs, Hello Libertarian Utopia. Dominic Frisby's Bitcoin: The Future of Money?

Courtesy of John Rubino.

Now that bitcoin has subsided from speculative bubble to functioning currency (see the price chart below), it’s safe for non-speculators to explore the whole “cryptocurrency” thing. So…is bitcoin or one of its growing list of competitors a useful addition to the average person’s array of bank accounts and credit cards — or is it a replacement for most of those things? And how does one make this transition?

With his usual excellent timing, London-based financial writer/actor/stand-up comic Dominic Frisby has just released Bitcoin: The Future of Money? in which he explains all this in terms most readers will have no tr...



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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of October 20th, 2014

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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Stock World Weekly

Stock World Weekly

Newsletter writers are available to chat with Members regarding topics presented in SWW, comments are found below each post.

Here's this week's Stock World Weekly. Just sign in with your PSW user name and password. (Or take a free trial.)

#457319216 / gettyimages.com

 

...

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Pharmboy

Biotechs & Bubbles

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

Well PSW Subscribers....I am still here, barely.  From my last post a few months ago to now, nothing has changed much, but there are a few bargins out there that as investors, should be put on the watch list (again) and if so desired....buy a small amount.

First, the media is on a tear against biotechs/pharma, ripping companies for their drug prices.  Gilead's HepC drug, Sovaldi, is priced at $84K for the 12-week treatment.  Pundits were screaming bloody murder that it was a total rip off, but when one investigates the other drugs out there, and the consequences of not taking Sovaldi vs. another drug combinations, then things become clearer.  For instance, Olysio (JNJ) is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients AND...



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