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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

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Zero Hedge

LooTeRS!!!

Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

Submitted by williambanzai7.

...

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Phil's Favorites

Bloomberg Sensationalism and Inaccuracies Regarding "Forced Nationalization of Crimea"

Courtesy of Mish.

A few days ago a friend emailed the Bloomberg article Russia Delivers a New Shock to Crimean Business: Forced Nationalization.

I replied something along the lines of "interesting, but I am going to bounce this of Jacob Dreizin", a US citizen who provides frequent updates to me regarding Ukraine.

I also bounced the article off Pater Tenebrarum at the Acting Man blog. Pater commented ...
Russian oligarchs stealing stuff back from Ukrainian oligarchs would be my guess. I should add, the arbitrariness of this process is of course quite disturbing (regardless of the fact that Ukraine's oligarchs are a bunch of corrupt thieves). But this strikes me mainly as a case of politically motivated payback. The oligarchs all aligned themselv...



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Chart School

The Big Four Economic Indicators: Real Retail Sales

Courtesy of Doug Short.

Note from dshort: With yesterday's release of the Consumer Price Index for October, I've updated Real Retail Sales for October.

Official recession calls are the responsibility of the NBER Business Cycle Dating Committee, which is understandably vague about the specific indicators on which they base their decisions. This committee statement is about as close as they get to identifying their method.

There is, however, a general belief that there are four big indicators that the committee weighs heavily in their cycle identification process. They are:

  • Industrial Production
  • Real Personal Income (excluding Transfer Payments)
  • Nonfarm Employment
  • Real Retail Sales
  • ...

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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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    Market Shadows

    EZCH - Not So EZ Year

    EZCH - Not So EZ Year

    By Ilene 

    After a disappointing quarter and some probable tax-selling, EZchip might be a good turnaround for next year.

    So I'm thinking we'll sell a stock or two out of Paul's otherwise neglected Virtual Portfolio (check back) and add EZCH.

    ...

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    OpTrader

    Swing trading portfolio - week of November 17th, 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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    Sabrient

    Sector Detector: Investors make up new rules for their new market paradigm

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

    Courtesy of Sabrient Systems and Gradient Analytics

    By Scott Martindale

    Investors in U.S. equities seem to have embraced a new market paradigm in which upside spikes come more swiftly than the downside selloffs. Remember when it used to be the other way around? When fear was stronger than greed? The market is consolidating its gains off the early-October V-bottom reversal, and no one seems to be in any hurry to unload shares this time around, with the holidays rapidly approaching and all. After all, there are bright blue skies directly overhead giving hope and respite from the early freeze blanketing the country.

    In this weekly update, I give my view of the current market environment, offer...



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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.

    The newest Stock World Weekly is ready. Click here for the this weekend's reading and sign in with your PSW user name and password. 

    Picture credit: AnnaER at Pixabay. 

    ...

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    Digital Currencies

    Ukraine Central Bank Bans Bitcoin "To Protect Citizens" From Financing Terrorism

    If you would have supposed that Ukraine had enough problems to make banning bitcoins a backburner issue, you'd have been wrong. The rationale, "to protect consumers' rights" makes little to no sense... The other one, "to keep money in the country" makes more sense. 

    Ukraine Central Bank Bans Bitcoin "To Protect Citizens" From Financing Terrorism

    Courtesy of ZeroHedge. View original post here.

    The Hryvnia has collapsed to new record lows near 15/USD this morning. The Central Bank and bankers "agreed to keep UAH at 15-16/USD" but are &qu...



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    Option Review

    Yamana Gold call options sink

    Yamana Gold call options sink

    By Andrew Wilkinson at Interactive Brokers

    A four-year low for the spot price of gold has had a devastating impact on Yamana Gold (Ticker: AUY), with shares in the name down at the lowest price in six years. Some option traders were especially keen to sell premium and appear to see few signs of a lasting rebound within the next five months. The price of gold suffered again Wednesday as the dollar strengthened and stock prices advanced. The post price of gold fell to $1145 adding further pain to share prices of gold miners. Shares in Yamana Gold tumbled to $3.62 and the lowest price since 2008 as call option sellers used the April expiration contract to write premium at the $5.00 strike. That strike is now 38% above the price of the stock. Premium writers took in around 16-cents per contract o...



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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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    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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