While Janet Yellen and her band of money printers work themselves into a tizzy over whether two buzz words—-“considerable time”—– should be dropped from their post-meeting word cloud, they might be better advised to just read the newspapers. This morning’s WSJ brings word that the lending boom which our monetary central planners are eager to stimulate is apparently off-to-the-races.
Well, sort of. The item in question is a $122 billion globally syndicated loan to facilitate an M&A deal between the world’s two largest beer companies—AB InBev with a 20% global market share and SABMiller with 10%. Needless to say, the only possible reason for creating a monstrosity with $60 billion in sales spread among scores of highly differentiated regional and national beer markets is the “synergy” euphemism—-that is, the “savings” from thousands of job terminations especially in those two paragons of job growth known as North America and Europe.
So the purpose is self-evidently the opposite of the Fed’s intent—whether the sweeping job cuts which Wall Street will peddle to justify the deal actually happen or not. In any event, the deal has virtually nothing to do with real market economics.
Both companies are already giant M&A roll-ups representing a string of mergers that have been going on for two decades, including the $52 billion InBev purchase of Anheuser-Busch six years ago. But you don’t have to be an expert in the beer industry to realize that these rollups were mainly the product of cheap debt and financialization, not free market economics. Recall that the beer industry ran out of true economies of scale 30 years ago when world class breweries reached their maximum efficient size in terms of production and distribution.
What has been happening in the business since then is nearly the opposite—that is, the rise of diseconomies of scale in marketing and branding. The latter is surely attested to by the explosion of specialty premium brands and micro-breweries.
Stated differently, in the absence of drastic financial repression by the world’s central banks there would be no case whatsoever for the globe-spanning beer merger now at hand. The latter will only create more dis-economies of scale as all the pieces and parts…
I was phoned the other night in middle of dinner by an earnest young man named Spencer, who said he was doing a survey.
Rather than hang up I agreed to answer his questions. He asked me if I knew a soda tax would be on the ballot in Berkeley in November. When I said yes, he then asked whether I trusted the Berkeley city government to spend the revenues wisely.
At that moment I recognized a classic “push poll,” which is part of a paid political campaign.
So I asked Spencer a couple of questions of my own. Who was financing his survey? “Americans for Food and Beverage Choice,” he answered. Who was financing this group? “The American Beverage Association,” he said.
Spencer was so eager to get off the phone I didn’t get to ask him my third question: Who’s financing the American Beverage Association? It didn’t matter. I knew the answer: Pepsico and Coca Cola.
Welcome to Berkeley, California: Ground Zero in the Soda Wars.
Fifty years ago this month, Berkeley was the epicenter of the Free Speech Movement. Now, Berkeley is moving against Big Soda.
The new movement isn’t nearly dramatic or idealistic as the old one, but the odds of victory were probably better fifty years ago. The Free Speech Movement didn’t challenge the profitability of a one of the nation’s most powerful industries.
Sugary drinks are blamed for increasing the rates of chronic disease and obesity in America. Yet efforts to reduce their consumption through taxes or other measures have gone nowhere. The beverage industry has spent millions defeating them.
If on November 4 a majority of Berkeley voters say yes to a one-cent-per-fluid-ounce tax on distributors of sugary drinks, Berkeley could be the first city in the nation to pass a soda tax. (San Franciscans will be voting on a 2-cent per ounce proposal requiring two-thirds of them approve; Berkeley needs a mere majority.)
No institution is more responsible for educating the CEOs of American corporations than Harvard Business School – inculcating in them a set of ideas and principles that have resulted in a pay gap between CEOs and ordinary workers that’s gone from 20-to-1 fifty years ago to almost 300-to-1 today.
A survey, released on September 6, of 1,947 Harvard Business School alumni showed them far more hopeful about the future competitiveness of American firms than about the future of American workers.
As the authors of the survey conclude, such a divergence is unsustainable. Without a large and growing middle class, Americans won’t have the purchasing power to keep U.S. corporations profitable, and global demand won’t fill the gap. Moreover, the widening gap eventually will lead to political and social instability. As the authors put it, “any leader with a long view understands that business has a profound stake in the prosperity of the average American.”
Unfortunately, the authors neglected to include a discussion about how Harvard Business School should change what it teaches future CEOs with regard to this “profound stake.” HBS has made some changes over the years in response to earlier crises, but has not gone nearly far enough with courses that critically examine the goals of the modern corporation and the role that top executives play in achieving them.
A half-century ago, CEOs typically managed companies for the benefit of all their stakeholders – not just shareholders, but also their employees, communities, and the nation as a whole.
“The job of management,” proclaimed Frank Abrams, chairman of Standard Oil of New Jersey, in a 1951 address, “is to maintain an equitable and working balance among the claims of the various directly affected interest groups … stockholders, employees, customers, and the public at large. Business managers are gaining professional status partly because they see in their work the basic responsibilities [to the public] that other professional men have long recognized as theirs.”
This view was a common view among chief executives of the time. Fortune magazine urged CEOs to become “industrial statesmen.” And to a large extent, that’s what they became.
For thirty years after World War II, as American corporations prospered, so did the American middle class. Wages
In spite of the fact the Socialist party holds a majority of just 1 in the 577-seat lower house, French prime minister Manual Valls hopes to stabilize things with a Second No Confidence Vote in Six Months.
Mr Valls could see a narrowing of his majority compared with the vote when he was first appointed prime minister at the end of March after a big socialist loss in local elections. Then he won by a margin of 306 votes to 239 against, with 26 abstentions.
“Valls is politically and economically archaic. He is taking solutions from (Tony) Blair and (Gerhard) Schroeder that don’t work any more,” Pascal Cherki, a leftwinger who abstained in the previous confidence vote in April, told RMC radio.
But the government has support from within other leftwing parties. Mr Valls is also betting that socialist rebels would not want to cause the downfall of the government, as this would trigger legislative elections and almost certain defeat for the socialists.
A win for the government would also not erase uncertainty as it will be closely followed by the presentation of the 2015 budget to parliament next month, which economists are concerned could face a delay in approval amid political upheaval.
Opinion polls underscore the sense of leadership crisis in the eurozone’s second-largest economy. One last week showed 62 per cent of electors wanted Mr Hollande to step down before his term ends in 2017.
Given that Valls needs support from other left-wing parties to survive, he would not voluntarily call for the vote unless he was pretty certain of the outcome. Surprises can happen, but I suspect Valls counted the sheep properly.
Can the vote really inspire confidence in the government as Valls hopes?
Of course not. The fact that 62% of the electorate hopes Hollande will step down as president is not very inspiring, and it’s certainly nothing a vote of confidence can fix.
That such a stunt is even needed shows weakness.
Assuming the government survives the vote, the only reason will be fear of Marine Le Pen’s Front National Party picking up more seats at socialist expense in a new election….
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of transitions--beginnings and endings of conflict, war and peace, journeys, trades and eras. Janus has two faces, as befits a god that looks both to the future and to the past.
In our era of omnipotent central banks worshipped by the Status Quo, we have a goddess of financial transitions--Janus Yellen, the two-faced chair/deity of the Federal Reserve--to usher in the Great Transition from risk-on to risk-off.
What is risk-on? Speculative bets directly enabled by central bank issued free money for financiers--also known by the bland technocrat perception management labels stimulus and quantitative easing (QE).
The primary risk-on policies are:
1. ZIRP--zero interest rate policy. This enables financiers (but not J.Q. Citizen) to borrow money for next to nothing and then use this free money to buy assets that pay dividends or interest.
This is effectively a gift to banks and financiers. The goal is straightforward: transfer great wealth from the peasants who once earned interest on their savings to the banks, who have rebuilt their bad-bet-shattered balance sheets on the backs of tax donkeys and savers.
2. Asset purchases. The Fed has bought almost $4 trillion of Treasury bonds and mortgages from primary dealers (banks) and other financial institutions. This is effectively a transfer of cash directly into the financial system.
Those closest to the Fed money-spigot benefit directly from asset purchases (a.k.a. quantitative easing). Those far from the spigot (the 99.9%) get nothing but slightly lower interest on their crushing debt.
Those with low/no debt have lost hundreds of billions in interest that has been transferred to the banks by ZIRP and QE, which actively suppresses interest rates.
3. Liquidity. This simply means the Fed will create as much money as is needed to meet the borrowing needs of the financial system. This unlimited liquidity is offered not just to U.S. banks, but to the entire global banking system. The Fed doesn't just bail out U.S. speculators--it bails out speculators worldwide.
In other words, the Fed deities are lavishly generous to financiers everywhere.
But all these risk-on policies have created extremes of speculative
Alibaba, the enormous Chinese e-commerce company, is expected to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange this Friday.
But one of the most crucial time periods in the company's history came in the early 2000s, when the still-new Alibaba battled out with the behemoth eBay to gain e-commerce dominance in China.
Porter Erisman, in his incredible documentary "Crocodile in the Yangtze," captures the thrilling rise of the company through real footage and photos. Erisman worked there throughout its critical years (though he had left the company by the time he started making the documentary).
The entire film is entertaining, suspenseful, and more than worth a watch, but Erisman gave us permission to use scenes from his film to tell the story of Alibaba's rise, as he saw it through his own eyes.
This quote, from founder Jack Ma, has become emblematic of the half-decade battle between eBay and Alibaba.
It has been a while since the PBOC engaged in some "targeted" QE. So clearly following the biggest drop in the Shanghai Composite in 6 months after some abysmal Chinese economic and flow data in the past several days, it's time for some more. From Bloomberg:
The topic of China's inevitable financial crisis, and the open question of how it will subsequently bail out its banks is quite pertinent in a world in which Moral Hazard is the only play left. Conveniently, in his latest letter to clients, 13D's Kiril Sokoloff has this to say:
Will the PBOC’s Short-term Lending Facility (SLF) evolve into China’s version of QE? While investor attention has been fixated on China’s deteriorating PMI reports and fears of a widening credit crisis, China’s central bank is operating behind the scenes to prevent a wide-scale financial panic. On Monday, January 20th, 2014, when the Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP, CNY 2,033) fell below 2,000 on its way to a six-month low and interest rates jumped, the central bank intervened by adding over 255 billion yuan ($42 billion) to the financial system. In addition to a regular 75 billion yuan of 7-day reverse repos, the central bank provided supplemental liquidity amounting to 180 billion yuan of 21-day reverse repos, which was seen as an obvious attempt to alleviate liquidity shortages during the Chinese New Year. However, it is worth noting that this was the PBOC’s first use of 21-day contracts since 2005, according to Bloomberg. Small and medium-sized banks were major beneficiaries of this SLF, as the PBOC allowed such institutions in ten provinces to tap its SLF for the first time
"We see multi-year gains ahead for US equities, driven by the favorable combination of: (i) pent-up demand; (ii) repaired household, corporate, and bank balance sheets; (iii) attractive relative value for stocks and (iv) low conviction by investors," Lee wrote. "We believe recent equity weakness stemming from a shift in Fed expectations is a head fake, as improving growth supports asset prices (helping to initially offset higher rates)."
Lee believes this already 5-year old bull market is far from mature. He writes that there are typical four signs seen prior to market peaks. Here's his discussion (verbatim, emphasis ours):
"Investment spending as a % of GDP (investment spending is the sum of capex, durable goods and construction spend) usually peaks at much higher levels, around 28%. Currently it is 23% of GDP—the difference represents the potential for an incremental $800 billion increase in spending which should further augment growth;
"Corporate profits (as measured by S&P 500 EPS) tend to surpass the prior cycle peak by 53%. The 2006 peak was $92.15 per share, implying that current profits could be expected to peak around $141 per share (53% above the prior peak);
"The yield curve, as measured by the 10-to-30 year spread,
The Wall Street Journal carries a story today which builds on a topic we have been reporting on since July: that corporations, themselves, have become the largest single participants in the stock market through the repurchase of their own shares. Using data from Birinyi Associates, the Journal reports that U.S. companies bought back a total of $338.3 billion in the first six months of this year, “the most for any six-month period since 2007.” The year, 2007, by the way, was the year before the stock market imploded.
The workers of America, whose 401(k) plans represent their savings and hopes for a better, easier life one day in retirement, are increasingly buying funds indexed to the top 500 companies in America, the Standard and Poor’s 500. This is, effectively, giving a steady source of cheap capital to the biggest companies in the U.S. from rank and file workers — which is now being used to buy back their own shares instead of innovating and creating new job markets.
This level of control over workers’ savings and hopes and dreams and ability to retire one day reminded us of the not so beneficent company towns of yesteryear which wielded control over most aspects of a worker’s life: owning the home he rented and the stores where he bought his groceries and clothed his children and, as the only major employer in the region, able to set wages and working conditions as it saw fit.
In 2010, Basic Books released Hardy Green’s The Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills That Shaped the American Economy. Green, a former Associate Editor at BusinessWeek with a Ph.D. in U.S. history, looked at the models underpinning the several thousand company towns that dotted the U.S. landscape from the 1800s onward.
In Chapter Three of his book, titled “Exploitationville,” Green writes about one model as follows:
“Perhaps the apotheosis of such towns may be found in Appalachian coal country, home of the likes of Lynch, Wheelwright, and Coal Run, Kentucky. The logic behind such places is simple and familiar. It rests on the thinking of every bean counter: Business exists to make a profit, not to coddle employees…The very ruthlessness that surfaced in these places seems less like an inevitable outgrowth of such logic than a willful expression of malicious personalities.”
… and in its proper context, using one of our favorite charts, showing that while the rich hold assets, the poor are merely drowning in ever more debt:
Well, Janet Yellen has a message for America's poor.
The day after tomorrow's much anticipated FOMC meeting which will surely make the richest 1% in the nation even richer, the Fed chairman will address everyone else, as follows:
Speech--Chair Janet L. Yellen
The Importance of Asset Building for Low and Middle Income Households
At the Corporation for Enterprise Development's 2014 Assets Learning Conference, Washington, D.C. (via prerecorded video)
8:45 a.m. ET
Not surprisingly "everyone else", namely America's low and middle income households, aren't even worth a live appearance, hence the "prerecorded video."
But the punchline is the actual message, in which Janet Yellen tells those mired in debt to build more assets.
In other words, the Fed Chairman has some words of encouragement for the tens of millions of Americans who live at or below the poverty level, including that threatened with extinction class, affectionately known as "the middle."
Her message? It is important to build assets, or said otherwise… get rich.
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 email@example.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.
Overnight weakness in Asia and Europe was shrugged off. The Dow hit all-time record highs (first since July) and the S&P broke back above 2,000 following headlines proclaiming a "stealth QE" from China (which actually hit the news during the Asia session) and chatter from WSJ's Hilsenrath that The Fed will leave the words "considerable period" in the statement tomorrow. Early weakness in stocks was ripped 25 points higher in the S&P on the back of a 97% correlation to AUDJPY (China-driven), the USD dumped to unch for the week (worst day since May), commodities all took off higher (led by Copper and Oil), and Treasuries ...
Short-term, USD due for a breather and euro for a rally
Investment Implications of a USD Breakout
Should the USD break out from its 2005 to present bearish trend, we should see some significant developments in inter-market relationships. For starters, the relative performance of U.S. stocks to the MSCI World Stock Index Excluding the U.S. shows a strong correlation to the USD Index. Should t...
Analysts at Credit Suisse upgraded shares of Tableau Software Inc (NYSE: DATA) from Neutral to Outperform and raised the price target from $87.50 to $100.00 Tuesday.
Philip Winslow is confident in Tableau’s ability to maintain healthy revenue growth.
Analysts also identify that the company has a technology advantage in its highly-intuitive, visual-based core BI capabilities. Winslow stated, “ Tableau's development strategy positions the company to (1) continue to expand the market for business intelligence software and (2) increasingly gain market share in large enterprise deployments.”
Tableau is also experiencing International expansion momentum. Analysts view Internet expansion for Tableau as “significant” given that 5...
If GOOGLE, the NSA, and Bill Gates all got together in a room with the task of building the most accurate trading algorithm… it wouldn’t just be any ordinary system… it’d be the greatest trading algorithm in the world.
Well, I hate to break it to you… they never got around to building it, but my colleagues at Market Tamer did.
Although the stock market displayed weakness last week as I suggested it would, bulls aren’t going down easily. In fact, they’re going down swinging, absorbing most of the blows delivered by hesitant bears. Despite holding up admirably when weakness was both expected and warranted, and although I still see higher highs ahead, I am still not convinced that we have seen the ultimate lows for this pullback. A number of signs point to more weakness ahead.
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-r...
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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).
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The CBOE Vix Index is in positive territory on Friday morning as shares in the S&P 500 Index move slightly lower. Currently the VIX is up roughly 2.75% on the session at 13.16 as of 11:35 am ET. Earlier in the session big prints in October expiry call options caught our attention as one large options market participants appears to have purchased roughly 106,000 of the Oct 22.0 strike calls for a premium of around $0.45 each. The VIX has not topped 22.0 since the end of 2012, but it would not take such a dramatic move in the spot index in order to lift premium on the contracts. The far out-of-the-money calls would likely increase in value in the event that S&P500 Index stocks slip in the near term. The VIX traded up to a 52-week high of 21.48 back in February. Next week’s release of the FOMC meeting minutes f...
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...
Author Helen Davis Chaitman is a nationally recognized litigator with a diverse trial practice in the areas of lender liability, bankruptcy, bank fraud, RICO, professional malpractice, trusts and estates, and white collar defense. In 1995, Ms. Chaitman was named one of the nation's top ten litigators by the National Law Journal for a jury verdict she obtained in an accountants' malpractice case. Ms. Chaitman is the author of The Law of Lender Liability (Warren, Gorham & Lamont 1990)... Since early 2009, Ms. Chaitman has been an outspoken advocate for investors in Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (more here).
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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