by ilene - April 22nd, 2017 12:04 am
David Brin is an astrophysicist whose international best-selling novels include The Postman (filmed by Kevin Costner in 1997), Earth, and recently Existence. Dr. Brin serves on advisory boards (e.g. NASA's Innovative and Advanced Concepts program or NIAC) and speaks or consults on a wide range of topics. His popular blog is Contrary Brin. Brin's nonfiction book about the information age – The Transparent Society – won the Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association. Visit David Brin's website (about, biography, books/novels, short stories).
Courtesy of David Brin
Have you heard of “Godwin’s Law?” It asserts that: “If an online discussion (regardless of topic) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will invoke Hitler.” In practice, it is used to shame or chastise those who make any sort of comparison to the fascist hellscape of the mid-20th Century.* To be sure, an overused, hyperbolic cliché can be tiresome.**
Mike Godwin must be going crazy, right now, amid the tsunami of post-election comparisons. For the record, I do not think Donald Trump wants to, or will, become a Hitler. Parallels with Mussolini are creepy though, starting with Il Duce’s fervid rallies and relentless slogans, calling on Italians to rebuild classical glories and — translated literally— “make Rome great again.”
Sure, I’ve made my own parallels with 1933 Germany, and they remain apt. Just as the Prussian barons, or Junkers aristocrats fostered the racist-populist brown shirts as a counterweight to socialists and communists, so Fox News, Breitbart-Limbaugh-Jones and the Kochs deliberately whipped non-college white male boomers into a froth… exacerbated by their grouchiness over getting old and seeing the world change around them.
As those so-clever 1930s lords did then, today’s oligarchs stare in disbelief that a gifted shaman leaped aboard their carefully-trained beast, threw off the intended jockeys and grabbed the reins for himself.*** Back eight decades ago, at least a few of the Junkers had enough honesty to proclaim: “Mein Gott, what haf we done?” Alas, do not expect any such honor or…
by ilene - April 21st, 2017 7:57 pm
John Oliver appeals to the French, to their sense of superiority, to vote for anyone other than Marine Le Pen.
The presidential election in France could determine the political future of Europe. John Oliver visits an excessively French bistro to deliver an urgent message to voters.
by clarisezoleta - April 20th, 2017 12:19 pm
PhilStockWorld.com Weekly Trading Webinar – 04-19-17
For LIVE access on Wednesday afternoons, join us at Phil's Stock World – click here
00:02:09 Checking on the Markets
00:03:22 Future Chart
00:06:54 Chakin Money Flow
00:10:57 Checking on the Markets
00:29:11 Trade Ideas
00:31:12 Market News
00:41:18 French Elections
00:44:07 China Mega City
00:50:35 Male Population in China
00:51:31 Property in China
01:09:09 Beige Book
01:14:53 Tax Reform
01:22:45 Checking on the Markets
01:24:52 Checking Portfolios
01:33:19 Butterfly Portfolio
01:44:36 Checking on the Markets
01:46:58 More Trade Ideas
Phil's Weekly Trading Webinars provide a great opportunity to learn what we do at PSW. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and view past webinars, here. For LIVE access to PSW's Weekly Webinars – demonstrating trading strategies in real time – join us at PSW — click here!
by ilene - April 19th, 2017 3:13 pm
Courtesy of Joshua M Brown
This is blindingly smart and fast-paced stuff from the master of Amazonology, NYU professor Scott Galloway.
Scott Galloway speaks at L2’s Amazon Clinic about how Amazon is disrupting retail. Not only has Amazon changed consumer shopping habits, it has changed the relationship between shareholders and investors. Investors are no longer satisfied with steadily growing profits; instead they seek fast growth and strong vision – even at the expense of profitability. See video for insights on the future of brand, Alexa’s effect on households.
by ilene - April 18th, 2017 10:15 pm
Courtesy of Zero Hedge
A 'shocking' discovery was made when a pair of researchers at Harvard Business School decided to analyze the impact of higher minimum wages in San Francisco on restaurant failures…hint: they went up.
Entitled "Survival of the Fittest: The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Firm Exit", this latest study on the devastating consequences of minimum wage was conducted by Dara Lee Luca and Michael Luca and concluded that each $1 increase in the minimum wage results in a roughly 4-10% increase in the likelihood of a restaurant going out of business.
In this paper, we investigate the impact of the minimum wage on restaurant closures using data from the San Francisco Bay Area. We find suggestive evidence that an increase in the minimum wage leads to an overall increase in the rate of exit.
This paper presents several new findings. First, we provide suggestive evidence that higher minimum wage increases overall exit rates among restaurants, where a $1 increase in the minimum wage leads to approximately a 4 to 10 percent increase in the likelihood of exit, although statistical significance falls with the inclusion of time-varying county-level characteristics and city-specific time trends. This is qualitatively consistent but smaller than what Aaronson et al. (forthcoming) find; they show that a 10 percent raise in the minimum wage increases firm exit by approximately 24 percent from a base of 5.7 percent. Differences in sample and specifications may account for the differences between our study and theirs.
Moreover, as we've pointed out the past, it's the low-income workers, the ones that minimum wage hikes are intended to help, that end up getting hurt the most when misinformed liberal politicians decide to meddle in labor markets. But, as this new HBS study points out, low-income workers don't just lose their jobs when minimum wages are hiked…they also lose access to cheap casual dining options as lower-rated, cheaper restaurants are much more likely to fail when their costs are artificially raised.
Next, we examine heterogeneous impacts of the minimum wage on restaurant exit by restaurant quality. The textbook competitive labor market model assumes identical workers
by ilene - April 18th, 2017 3:43 pm
by ilene - April 17th, 2017 6:06 pm
Courtesy of John Mauldin, Mauldin Economics
“Companies are doing everything they can to get rid of pension plans, and they will succeed.” – Ben Stein
“Lady Madonna, children at your feet
Wonder how you manage to make ends meet
Who finds the money when you pay the rent?
Did you think that money was heaven sent?”
– “Lady Madonna,” The Beatles
There was once a time when many American workers had a simple formula for retirement: You stayed with a large business for many years, possibly your whole career. Then at a predetermined age you gratefully accepted a gold watch and a monthly check for the rest of your life. Off you went into the sunset.
That happy outcome was probably never as available as we think. Maybe it was relatively common for the first few decades after World War II. Many of my Baby Boomer peers think a secure retirement should be normal because it’s what we saw in our formative years. In the early 1980s, about 60% of companies had defined-benefit plans. Today it’s about 4% (source: money.CNN). But today defined-benefit plans have ceased to be normal in the larger scheme of things. We witnessed an aberration, a historical anomaly that grew out of particularly favorable circumstances.
Circumstances change. Such pensions are all but gone from US private-sector employers. They’re still common in government, particularly state and local governments; and they are increasingly problematic. They are another source of angst for retirees, government workers who want to retire someday, and the taxpayers and bond investors who finance those pensions. Today, in what will be the first of at least two and possibly more letters focusing on pensions, we’ll begin to examine that angst in more detail. The
by ilene - April 16th, 2017 6:47 pm
Courtesy of Wade of Investing Caffeine
In the world of modern finance, there has always been the search for the Holy Grail. Ever since the advent of computers, practitioners have looked to harness the power of computing and direct it towards the goal of producing endless profits. Today the buzz words being used across industries include, “AI – Artificial Intelligence,” “Machine Learning,” “Neural Networks,” and “Deep Learning.” Regrettably, nobody has found a silver bullet, but that hasn’t slowed down people from trying. Wall Street has an innate desire to try to turn the ultra-complex field of finance into a science, just as they do in the field of physics. Even banking stalwart JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and its renowned CEO/Chairman Jamie Dimon suffered billions in losses in the quest for infinite income, due in large part to their over-reliance on pseudo-science trading models.
Preceding JPM’s losses, James Montier of Grantham Mayo van Otterloo’s asset allocation team gave a keynote speech at a CFA Institute Annual Conference in Chicago, where he gave a prescient talk explaining why bad models were the root cause of the financial crisis. Montier noted these computer algorithms essentially underappreciate the number and severity of Black Swan events (low probability negative outcomes) and the models’ inability to accurately identify predictable surprises.
What are predictable surprises? Here’s what Montier had to say on the topic:
“Predictable surprises are really about situations where some people are aware of the problem. The problem gets worse over time and eventually explodes into crisis.”
When Dimon was made aware of the 2012 rogue trading activities, he strenuously denied the problem before reversing course and admitting to the dilemma. Unfortunately, many of these Wall Street firms and financial institutions use value-at-risk (VaR) models that are falsely based on the belief that past results will repeat themselves, and financial market returns are normally distributed. Those suppositions are not always true.
Another perfect example of a Black Swan created by a bad financial model is Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) – see also When Genius Failed. Robert Merton and Myron Scholes were world renowned Nobel Prize winners who single-handedly brought the global…
by ilene - April 15th, 2017 2:24 am
Courtesy of Urban Carmel, The Fat Pitch
Summary: US indices closed lower this week, but not by much. SPX lost just 1% and is just 3% from its all-time high. A number of notable short-term extremes in sentiment, breadth and volatility were reached on Thursday that suggest equities are at or near a point of reversal higher. The best approach is to continue to monitor the market and adjust with new data. That said, it's a good guess that SPX still has further downside in the days/weeks ahead.
* * *
Our last several posts have emphasized several points:
Strong uptrends (like this one) weaken before they reverse, meaning the current sell off is unlikely to lead directly into a major correction.
Even years with powerful returns (like 2013) experience multiple drawdowns of 3-8% along the way, meaning the current sell off was due and is perfectly normal.
There are a number of compelling studies suggesting that 2017 will continue to be a good year for US equities, meaning equities will likely end the year higher.
SPX ended the week at 2328, 3% off it's all-time high (ATH) made on March 1. That is a very mild drawdown. Our post last week argued that a sell off to at least the 2300 area (4% off the ATH) was likely. From that respect, a lower low is likely to still lie ahead. That post is here.
There were a number of notable short-term extremes in sentiment, breadth and volatility reached on Thursday that suggest a rebound in equities is ahead. Let's review these.
First, the equity-only put/call ratio reached a rare extreme on Thursday, with nearly as many puts as calls being traded on the day. That has happened only about a dozen times in the past 8 years. All of these have been at or near a short-term low in SPX (green lines). A rebound is likely ahead. That rebound might not last long, however: note that in several instances, the low was retested or exceeded in the days/weeks ahead (red arrows). Enlarge any chart by clicking on it.
by ilene - April 14th, 2017 4:45 pm
Courtesy of Lance Roberts, Real Investment Advice
In my money management process, portfolio “risk” is “ratcheted” up and down based on a series of signals which tend to indicate when market dynamics are either more, or less, favorable for having capital exposed to the market. This model is published each week in the Real Investment Report as shown below:
As you will notice, portfolios NEVER reach 100% cash levels. The reason is purely psychological. Once individuals go to 100% cash, it is extremely hard to re-enter back into the markets. I learned this lesson in February 2009 when I wrote the article “8-Reasons For A Bull Market” which stated:
“Any weakness next week will most likely warrant a push down to 800 for first support and then the November lows of 750. We believe that these lows will hold although we are aware that if the market doesn’t get ‘it’ together soon further weakness could show itself.
We are cautious here and still holding on to a lot of cash waiting for some signal that the market is making a turn for the short term to the better. March, April, and May tend to be fairly strong months for the market and any ‘real’ assistance next week for homeowners could push the markets higher. A move above 900 will be a signal for a move higher in the markets.“
Of course, the market bottomed on March 9th at 666 and never looked back as over $33 Trillion in various bailouts, workouts, subsidies, and QE followed.
However, when the markets bounced above 900, suggesting it was time to re-enter the market, I faced extremely tough resistance from clients. I learned maintaining a small slug of exposure, which can be completely hedged, it becomes far easier to add to an existing position as improvement can already be seen.
So, why do I bring this up?
Because the market has now tripped the first signal as shown above, and below, sending a warning that further weakness could ensue. With the first signal registered, combined with a break of the 50-dma, it puts us on “a signal-1 alert.”
With portfolios already hedged, as we added a lot of bond and interest rate