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The Disease of American Democracy

Robert Reich writes about a progressive disease state afflicting the U.S. The illustrations are by William Banzai7 from William Banzai7's blog and posted on Zero Hedge.

The Disease of American Democracy

Courtesy of Robert Reich

Americans are sick of politics. Only 13 percent approve of the job Congress is doing, a near record low. The President’s approval ratings are also in the basement.

A large portion of the public doesn’t even bother voting. Only 57.5 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots in the 2012 presidential election. 

Put simply, most Americans feel powerless, and assume the political game is fixed. So why bother? 

A new study scheduled to be published in this fall by Princeton’s Martin Gilens and Northwestern University’s Benjamin Page confirms our worst suspicions.

Gilens and Page analyzed 1,799 policy issues in detail, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, mass-based interest groups, and average citizens.

Their conclusion: “The preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

Instead, lawmakers respond to the policy demands of wealthy individuals and monied business interests – those with the most lobbying prowess and deepest pockets to bankroll campaigns.

Before you’re tempted to say “duh,” wait a moment. Gilens’ and Page’s data come from the period 1981 to 2002. This was before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to big money in “Citizens United,” prior to SuperPACs, and before the Wall Street bailout.

So it’s likely to be even worse now.

But did the average citizen ever have much power? The eminent journalist and commentator Walter Lippman argued in his 1922 book “Public Opinion” that the broad public didn’t know or care about public policy. Its consent was “manufactured” by an elite that manipulated it. “It is no longer possible … to believe in the original dogma of democracy,” Lippman concluded.

Yet American democracy seemed robust compared to other nations that in the first half of the twentieth century succumbed to


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Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere

By John Mauldin, Thoughts from the Frontline

The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.
– Albert Einstein

Genius is a rising stock market.
– John Kenneth Galbraith

Any plan conceived in moderation must fail when circumstances are set in extremes.
– Prince Metternich

I'm forever blowing bubbles, Pretty bubbles in the air
They fly so high, nearly reach the sky, Then like my dreams they fade and die
Fortune's always hiding, I've looked everywhere
I'm forever blowing bubbles, Pretty bubbles in the air

Burr and Campbell

You can almost feel it in the air. The froth and foam on markets of all shapes and sizes all over the world. It’s exhilarating, and the pundits who populate the media outlets are bubbling over. There’s nothing like a rising market to lift our moods. Unless of course, as Prof. Kindleberger famously cautioned (see below), we are not participating in that rising market. Then we feel like losers. But what if the rising market is … a bubble? Are we smart enough to ride it high and then bail out before it bursts? Research says we all think that we are, yet we rarely demonstrate the actual ability.

My friend Grant Williams thinks the biggest bubble around is in complacency. I agree that is a large one, but I think even larger bubbles, still building, are those of government debt and government promises. When these latter two burst, and probably simultaneously, that will mark the true bottom for this cycle now pushing 90 years old.

So, this week we'll think about bubbles. Specifically, we'll have a look at part of the chapter on bubbles from Code Red, my latest book, coauthored with Jonathan Tepper, which we launched late last year. I was putting this chapter together about this time last year while in Montana, and so in a lazy August it is good to remind ourselves of the problems that will face us when everyone returns to their desks in a few weeks. And note, this is not the whole


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Stock World Weekly

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Stock World Weekly

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

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Chart source: Bloomberg ViewThe Beginnings of a Bull Rally?: Ritholtz Chart.





Transformation or Bust

Thoughts from the Frontline: Transformation or Bust

By John Mauldin

China continues to be front and center on my list of concerns, even moreso than the latest Federal Reserve press release or fluctuation in the Dow (although you should pay attention). I believe China is the single biggest risk to world economic equilibrium, even larger than Japan or Europe. This week my young associate Worth Wray provides us with a keenly insightful essay on what is currently happening in China. I will admit to not having written about China very much in the past five years, primarily because, prior to Worth’s coming to work with me I really had no secure understanding of what was happening there. I know some readers may be surprised, but I really don’t like to write about things I have no understanding of. Worth has helped me focus. (It helps that he studied Mandarin and lived in China for a while, and is obsessed with China.)

Worth has been working directly with me for over one year now. I have had the privilege of working with a number of impressive (lately mostly younger) people over the years, but Worth brings something extra to the table. He is one of the best young macroeconomic minds I have been with in years. He constantly challenges me to step up my game. And so without further ado, let me give you Worth’s thinking regarding our latest discussions on China.

Transformation or Bust, China Version

The People’s Republic of China is running up against its debt capacity; and its consumption-repressing, credit-fueled, investment-heavy growth model is nearly exhausted. History suggests that China’s “miracle” could dissipate into a long period of painfully slow growth or terminate abruptly with a banking crisis and sudden collapse. That said, China’s modern economic transformation has defied historical precedents for decades. However unlikely, China could surprise us again. Miracles will happen in the Age of Transformation.

What happens next depends largely on the economic wisdom and political resolve of China’s reformers, who must find a way to gradually deleverage overextended regional governments and investment-intensive sectors while simultaneously rebalancing the national economy toward a more sustainable consumption-driven, service-intensive model. The


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Stock World Weekly

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Picture credit:  at Pixabay.





Must See: Phil on Money Talk

Watch Phil's TV spot yesterday.  Phil discusses the stock market, his expectations for the near future, and how he protects his portfolio from selloffs. Phil also outlines some option trade ideas. Click here to watch this excellent interview on Money Talk with host Kim Parlee of Business News Network. 

Here are some photographic highlights of the show.

Watch this interview here.  

 





Bad Behavior: From A to Z … and Back Again

Bad Behavior: From A to Z … and Back Again

Courtesy of Tim Richards at the PsyFi Blog

Talking Shop

A common reaction to pointing out to investors (or indeed, anyone) that they're as biased as a Fox reporter at a convention of transgender liberal pacifists is for them to respond, not unreasonably, by asking what they should do about it (that's the investors, not the reporters). It turns out that it's a lot easier to say what's wrong than to actually do anything about it.

The A to Z of Behavioral Bias is an attempt to address that issue, but it does rather show that there's no such thing as a common source of biases; bad behavior comes from many sources and requires many solutions. Or does it?

Toxic Arms Races

To generalize, perhaps beyond the point of reason, there are two sorts of bad behavior amongst investors. The first kind occurs because the modern investing industry is designed to be toxic for creatures like ourselves who evolved methods to deal with risk and uncertainty and duplicity in a completely different world. The same argument can be made more generally about the world outside investing, of course.

In addition, the creation of our consumerist society has led to a psychological arms race, as corporations vie with themselves to create redundancy in their products by magicking up a demand that isn't predicated on a genuine shortage of supply.  In investing, as in other areas where services or goods have to be sold, techniques have been evolved, by trial and error, that persuade us into parting with our money by exploiting our biases.

To Choose or Not To Choose

For many of us our problem is not the one that's afflicted humanity for most of its history: it's not that we have too little choice, but that we have too much. Choice overload, as it's known (see Jam Today, Tyranny Tomorrow), has been exploited by the securities industry, amongst others, to keep prices high and reduce competition. History suggests this hasn't been a deliberate attempt to manipulate us, but has developed by trial and error as corporations seek to maximize profits.


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Time to Put a New Economic Tool in the Box

Thoughts from the Frontline: Time to Put a New Economic Tool in the Box

By John Mauldin

[E]conomists are at this moment called upon to say how to extricate the free world from the serious threat of accelerating inflation which, it must be admitted, has been brought about by policies which the majority of economists recommended and even urged governments to pursue. We have indeed at the moment little cause for pride: as a profession we have made a mess of things.

It seems to me that this failure of the economists to guide policy more successfully is closely connected with their propensity to imitate as closely as possible the procedures of the brilliantly successful physical sciences – an attempt which in our field may lead to outright error. It is an approach which has come to be described as the “scientistic” attitude – an attitude which, as I defined it some thirty years ago, “is decidedly unscientific in the true sense of the word, since it involves a mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought to fields different from those in which they have been formed.

– Friedrich Hayek, from the introduction to his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1974

Last week we took a deep dive into how the concept of GDP (gross domestic product) came about. We looked at some of the controversies surrounding GDP statistics that we use to measure the growth of the economy, and we noted that the GDP tool seems designed to reflect and serve an economic theory (Keynesianism) that prefers to focus on the demand side of economic activity. If your measurement of the growth of the economy is entirely defined by final consumption (that is, consumer spending) and government spending, then if you want to try to improve growth you are left with just two policy dials to adjust:

  1. How do we increase consumption?
  2. How much government spending should there be to stimulate growth when the economy is in a recession?

But what if there are other ways to measure the economy? Might those other measurement tools suggest a different set of policies and methods to


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Stock World Weekly

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Read about the week ahead, trade ideas from Phil, and more. Please click here and sign in with your PSW user name and password. Or take a free trial.

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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

Barbarism Versus Stupidism

 

#455862670 / gettyimages.com Barbarism Versus Stupidism

Courtesy of James Kunstler

In my lifetime, the USA has not blundered into a more incoherent, feckless, and unfavorable foreign policy quandary than we see today.

The US-led campaign to tilt Ukraine to Euroland and NATO — and away from the Russian-led Eurasia...



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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

Understanding the CFNAI Components

Courtesy of Doug Short.

The Chicago Fed's National Activity Index, which I reported on earlier today, is based on 85 economic indicators drawn from four broad categories of data:

  • Production and Income
  • Employment, Unemployment, and Hours
  • Personal Consumption and Housing
  • Sales, Orders, and Inventories
The complete list is available here in PDF format.

In today's Chicago Fed update, we learned that two of the four broad categories of indicators that make up the index decreased from July, and two of the four categories made negative contributions to the index in August. Personal Consumption and Housing cont...



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Sabrient

Sector Detector: Bulls leverage hopeful news to launch a tepid breakout attempt

Courtesy of Sabrient Systems and Gradient Analytics

Stocks were able to leverage some optimistic news and dovish words from the Fed to take another stab at an upside breakout attempt last week. Although readers have sometimes accused me of being a permabull, I am really a realist, and the reality is that the slogans like “The trend is your friend” and “Don’t fight the Fed” are truisms. And they have worked. Nevertheless, I am still not convinced that we have seen the ultimate lows for this pullback, especially given the weak technical condition of small caps.

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 ...



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Insider Scoop

UPDATE: Wunderlich Lowers Price Target On American Eagle Energy Corp

Courtesy of Benzinga.

In a note issued Monday morning, Wunderlich Securities lowered its price target on American Eagle Energy Corp (NYSE: AMZG) from $15 to $13, while maintaining a Buy rating.

The firm commented, "We factored in a lower production forecast for the second half of 2014 and first half of 2015, a higher cost of borrowing, and higher debt load. As a result, we are lowering our NAV from $15 to $13 per share."

To highlight the lower production, Wunderlich noted the company is expecting production to peak earlier than expected in the fourth quarter and at a lower amount than previous forecast.

This change in production has caused Wunderlich to drastically lower its 2014 and 2015 EPS estimates from $0.30 and $0.44 to $0.06 and $0.14, respectively.

Lates...

http://www.insidercow.com/ more from Insider

OpTrader

Swing trading portfolio - week of September 22nd, 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 the latest issue of Stock World Weekly. Enjoy! Please sign in using your PSW user name and password. (Or take a free trial.)

...

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Option Review

IV Implodes On 4-hour YHOO Options As BABA Commences Trading

Investors are dumping shares in Yahoo, sending the stock down 5.0% to $40.08 after shares in Alibaba made their debut on the floor of the NYSE just before midday. Shares in BABA for their part initially traded up to a high of $99.70, a near 47% increase over the IPO price of $68.00. Typically, one would expect put options that are 5% out of the money with roughly 4-hours left to trade to see waning implied volatility. But, at the start of the trading session and ahead of the first trade for BABA, the Sep 19 ’14 40.0 strike put options were trading with 271% volatility or $0.30 per contract amid uncertainty as to how the start of trading for Alibaba would take shape.

...

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Market Shadows

Selling PVD

Selling PVD

Administradora de Fondos de Pensiones Provida S.A. (PVD) shares will not be trading on the NY Stock Exchange after today. Tomorrow, shares will be harder to sell. Strangely, I wasn't able to find information on the internet, but Paul just sent me a copy of the email he received from Interactive Brokers.

We're selling PVD out of the Virtual Portfolio today at $87.18. 

More details:

From: Interactive Brokers   dated July 18, 2014

Holders of AFP Provida S.A. American Depository Receipts (ADR) are advised that the Company has elected to terminate the Deposit Agreement effective 2014-09-18.

As of the te...



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Promotions

Last Chance! See The 'Google-Like' Trading Algorithm 'Live' TODAY

Traders and Investors,

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In fact, it has an 82% win rate…

And had you only traded the conservative alerts recommended by the algorithm since inception, you would have experienced portfolio gains of more than 200%!

Register NOW and secure your virtual seat for one of Today’s LIVE presentations.

When you register for the webinar, you’ll also get instant access to following trading videos:

  • Instant access to FOUR Quick-Start Expectancy...


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Digital Currencies

Making Sense of Bitcoin

Making Sense of Bitcoin

By James Black at International Man

Despite the various opinions on Bitcoin, there is no question as to its ultimate value: its ability to bypass government restrictions, including economic embargoes and capital controls, to transmit quasi-anonymous money to anyone anywhere.

Opinions differ as to what constitutes "money."

The English word "money" derives from the Latin word "moneta," which means to "mint." Historically, "money" was minted in the form of precious metals, most notably gold and silver. Minted metal was considered "money" because it possessed luster, was scarce, and had perceive...



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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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About Phil:

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

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About Ilene:

Ilene is editor and affiliate program coordinator for PSW. She manages the site market shadows, archives, more. Contact Ilene to learn about our affiliate and content sharing programs.

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