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. 

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. 

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

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Zero Hedge

The Population Bomb

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by Tyler Durden.

Submitted by Adam Taggart via PeakProsperity.com,

In 1968, Paul Ehrlich released his ground-breaking book The Population Bomb, which awoke the national consciousness to the collision-course world population growth is on with our planet's finite resources. His work was reinforced several years later by the ...



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ValueWalk

When China Stopped Acting Chinese

By Mauldin Economics. Originally published at ValueWalk.

When China Stopped Acting Chinese by John Mauldin, Mauldin Economics

A Transformation Like No Other
China GDP Versus China Beige Book
...



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Phil's Favorites

China's Bubble, Vanis Varoufakis, Too Big To Fail & About that Trans-Pacific Partnership

Need some Sunday reading? Project Syndicate has an interesting lineup of articles...

Letting China’s Bubble Burst

By

NEW YORK – The problems with China’s economic-growth pattern have become well known in recent years, with the Chinese stock-market’s recent free-fall bringing them into sharper focus. But discussions of the Chinese economy’s imbalances and vulnerabilities tend to neglect some of the more positive elements of its structural evolution, particularly the government’s track record of prompt corrective intervention,...



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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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Chart School

Three RTT Indicators

Courtesy of Read the Ticker.

readtheticker.com is primarily a Richard Wyckoff logic site, however through our research into Wyckoff logic the three indicators below make us very lazy in applying Richard Wyckoff logic.Why? Because if these indicators look handsome together then it most likely the Wyckoff logic is working very well.

These three indicators are NOT a trading system, but they do help with finding excellent well support accumulated stocks that show Mr Market is supporting them. Of course when indicators look ugly they will show stocks in a breakdown, thus less support by Mr Market.

RTT Steps

If the large market plays are accumulating the stock then they will control the range of BID and ASK and not let th...

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Kimble Charting Solutions

Commodities – 20-Year bear market in play?

Courtesy of Chris Kimble.

CLICK ON CHART TO ENLARGE

This chart looks at the Thompson/Reuters Commodity Index on a monthly basis for the past 50 years

The index took off in the early 1970’s and rallied over 200% in a little over a decade at (1). Then it created a potential double top. What followed at (2)? An unwinding of the rally that lasted nearly 20-years, taking it to the bottom of its rising channel.

In the early 2000’s, the index took off again, gaining over 250% in a decades time at (3) and the rallied looks to have ended in 2011, as it was hitting the top of this long-term rising channel.

Since hitting the top of the channel the index has been pretty soft,...



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Market News

News You Can Use From Phil's Stock World

 

Financial Markets and Economy

Hedge Funds Boost Bullish Treasury Futures Bets to Two-Year High (Bloomberg)

As oil prices tanked, hedge-fund managers and other large speculators increased bullish bets on Treasury securities to the most in two years, even as the Federal Reserve moves closer to raising interest rates.

Crude Tumbles Near $46 Handle As US Oil Rig Count Rises For 2nd Week (Zero Hedge)

After last week's surge in total rig count, this week saw a modest 2 rig drop to 874 total rigs. However, oil rigs rose...



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Insider Scoop

MagneGas Conducts Demonstrations for Fossil Fuel Division of Major NE Utility

Courtesy of Benzinga.

MagneGas Corporation (NASDAQ: MNGA) this week completed metal cutting demonstrations with over 40 representatives from the Fossil Fuel division of a major northeast Utility. The Company believes the demonstrations were successful as they have received multiple requests for fuel as a result of those meetings.

The Utility is one of the ten largest in the United States with over $35 billion in assets and large volume use of acetylene. Multiple company officials and representatives from the Fossil Fuel Division of the Utility were in attendance. This particular division is the largest user of acetylene and propane at the Company. The test used MagneGas® to cut 2 inch steel plates and resulted in very little pre-heat time with clean cuts. Officials have indicated an int...



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Sabrient

Sector Detector: Lackluster earnings reports put eager bulls back into waiting mode

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

Courtesy of Sabrient Systems and Gradient Analytics

In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer a technical analysis of the S&P 500 chart, review our weekly fundamentals-based SectorCast rankings of the ten U.S. business sectors, and then offer up some actionable trading ideas, including a sector rotation strategy using ETFs and an enhanced version using top-ranked stocks from the top-ranked sectors.

Corporate earnings reports have been mixed at best, interspersed with the occasional spectacular report -- primarily from mega-caps like Google (GOOGL), Facebook (FB), or Amazon (AMZN). Some of the bul...



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OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio

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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Digital Currencies

Gold Spikes Back Above $1100, Bitcoin Jumps

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Gold is jumping after the overnight double flash-crash...testing back towards $1100...

Bitcoin is back up to pre-"Greece is Fixed" levels...

Charts: Bloomberg and Bitcoinwisdom

...

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Pharmboy

Baxter's Spinoff

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

Baxter Int. (BAX) is splitting off its BioSciences division into a new company called Baxalta. Shares of Baxalta will be given as a tax-free dividend, in the ratio of one to one, to BAX holders on record on June 17, 2015. That means, if you want to receive the Baxalta dividend, you need to buy the stock this week (on or before June 12).

The Baxalta Spinoff

By Ilene with Trevor of Lowenthal Capital Partners and Paul Price

In its recent filing with the SEC, Baxter provides:

“This information statement is being ...



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Mapping The Market

An update on oil proxies

Courtesy of Jean-Luc Saillard

Back in December, I wrote a post on my blog where I compared the performances of various ETFs related to the oil industry. I was looking for the best possible proxy to match the moves of oil prices if you didn't want to play with futures. At the time, I concluded that for medium term trades, USO and the leveraged ETFs UCO and SCO were the most promising. Longer term, broader ETFs like OIH and XLE might make better investment if oil prices do recover to more profitable prices since ETF linked to futures like USO, UCO and SCO do suffer from decay. It also seemed that DIG and DUG could be promising if OIH could recover as it should with the price of oil, but that they don't make a good proxy for the price of oil itself. 

Since...



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Promotions

Watch the Phil Davis Special on Money Talk on BNN TV!

Kim Parlee interviews Phil on Money Talk. Be sure to watch the replays if you missed the show live on Wednesday night (it was recorded on Monday). As usual, Phil provides an excellent program packed with macro analysis, important lessons and trading ideas. ~ Ilene

 

The replay is now available on BNN's website. For the three part series, click on the links below. 

Part 1 is here (discussing the macro outlook for the markets) Part 2 is here. (discussing our main trading strategies) Part 3 is here. (reviewing our pick of th...

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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!




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